Saying Farewell to The Spice Table
By Lesley Balla
December 30, 2013
The end of 2103 brings the end of one of the most unique, and by our calculations, delicious, restaurants in Los Angeles, The Spice Table. Bryant and Kim Ng have to close the restaurant due to a planned Metro line addition, announcing that December 31 is the last night of service. We slipped in for one last plate of fried cauliflower, piping-hot puffed balls of molten vegetable, bowls of spicy-sweet peanuts with anchovies, creamed kale with house-made paneer, and black-pepper crab toast while we could. These, along with other specialties like lamb belly or chile prawn satay, cod in silky curry custard steamed in banana leaves, and crispy quail stuffed with rice and egg are all dishes we haven't seen in Los Angeles, at least not done to this degree - flavors inspired by the Ngs' cultural backgrounds, created by a chef who worked at Campanile, Pizzeria Mozza and Daniel Boulud's Restaurant Daniel in New York. The space is as much a part of the experience as the spiced, curried and sambal-ed dishes - a cool old building, exposed brick, high ceilings, bird cages, flickering candles and the grill right in the bar constantly fired up for seafood and meats. The staff was always on point, friendly yet professional; just the right speed for a Singaporean-Vietnamese restaurant in Little Tokyo. In short, it will be missed.
Although the Ngs hope to reopen The Spice Table again someday, for 2014, they'll be focused on their collaboration with Rustic Canyon's Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan. The four will open a new Southeast Asian-inspired restaurant in Santa Monica this summer, where the flavors will be similar but for a broader audience. Things like the steak special we had, a perfectly grilled hangar steak seasoned with anchovy salt (from the Red Boat Fish Sauce people) and pepper, served with crab fries and Asian-spiced Bearnaise. It's familiar yet done with a twist, a new look at an old favorite cooked with the utmost skill.
"Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Korean cuisines have made the most significant inroads in American dining culture, which has taken decades and centuries," Ng recently said. "This is just the beginning for Southeast Asia cuisine and I hope to be a part of that dialogue."
We're sad to see The Spice Table go but look forward to the new restaurant from a talented crew. There is still time to grab one more bite of Ng's menu at the Little Tokyo spot, including the AYCE blowout bash set for New Year's Eve. Call 213-620-1840 for reservations.