DTLA: Nightshade in the Arts District
I first heard about Nightshade sometime mid year last year. I started seeing beautifully plated dishes and kept track of its opening. It is officially open in the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles. And I’m almost certain it’s in the old R-23 Sushi spot, one of my favorite sushi spots. Back when R-23 was open, the Arts District was a sparsely populated place that seemed so far the other sushi spots nearby in the much more friendly Little Tokyo. It was hard to describe how to get to it unless you knew what you’re looking for. These days, just follow the valet signs next and it’s next to Manuela.
We made last minute reservations for a Friday and were seated promptly. The dining room never filled up and the bar was empty. But I suspect things will change as more people discover Nightshade and Chef Mei Lin (who won Top Chef season 12).
I settled on No 718 for a drink. The strawberry in a rum and Fernet drink intrigued me. And it did open my palate up beautifully. My friend had the No 888 which was almost like a whiskey neo-tiki drink. It was delicious. If you like pina coladas, this is a much more adult and modern variation.
No 718 – rum, Fernet-Branca, roasted strawberry, ginger, byrrh, lime
No 888 – bourbon, falernum, toasted coconut-kaffir, sherry, lime, bitters
We got the Baja bay scallops even though I tend to not like bay scallops as I like big meaty scallops. However, the delicate bay scallops went well with the pert coconut vinaigrette which they pour table side.
The beef tartare was my favorite dish. The flavors were very Korean and if you ever had Korean tartare (yukhoe), this is an outstanding version.
There’s been much said about the lasagna which should probably be noted is spicy. That’s because it’s mapo tofu in lasagna form. The menu simply states a pork ragu with tofu cream. This was my second favorite dish.
We wanted to order another dish meat dish but that notion that drives me to order veggies opted for sunchokes. This was a great side. They were perfectly roasted.
I’d like to try the shrimp toast, congee and Szechwan quail next time. And desserts! The photos I’ve seen look quite amazing- very modernist.
Although the dining room is beautiful, I didn’t quite feel comfortable staring at the plain walls and I didn’t like the lighting. Nightshade looks like a fancy farmhouse with sparkling white walls (that restroom!) but it also felt like a cold room where the lights had gone out. Service was also rushed. We were never asked if we wanted more drinks but we asked if we wanted more food quite often (sigh, upsell). The menus were left on our small two-top which got in the way often. We were in and out under an hour. I didn’t quite understand the rush. All the dishes came at once. Why weren’t the dishes coursed? If we had gotten more drinks, maybe we would have been inclined to get more food or dessert. Overall, I would return though my dining companion doesn’t feel the need to return.
Perhaps next time I’ll just drop into the bar. I find sometimes eating at the bar garners better service.
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