This is a long overdue blog entry about one of my favorite joints in Los Angeles, The Curious Palate. It’s a very special and sacred place that my friends Mark Cannon and Elliot Rubin opened in Mar Vista last December. Constructed with reclaimed material and ‘green’ engineering, and designed with eco-friendly paints and antique flea market decor, this farm-to-table concept eatery represents everything that I love about food. They can tell you exactly where they got all of their ingredients, whether from the local farmer’s market, a select fishmonger, a certain butcher, or a specialty cheese producer. Their menu changes to incorporate seasonal specialties and flavors. They offer an incredible selection of gourmet chocolates, oils, jams, cheeses and sodas. They will welcome you with a warm smile and give you the best personalized loving service you could ever dream of.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Mark’s cooking. I’ve known Mark for many years now, as he is married to one of my childhood friends Emi who I’ve known since the 6th grade. I could tell that he had an electic and refined taste in food by the dishes he ordered at our outing to Grand Sichuan when they still lived in New York City many years ago. I was impressed when he cooked an elaborate 10 course meal for 14 people in their Brooklyn apartment. I was touched when he roasted a delicious leg of lamb for us at his wife’s mini slumber party. I was intrigued by the selection of exotic seafood that he bought during our stroll through Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo when we met up over one winter break. So you can imagine, I was ecstatic when Mark and Emi decided to leave New York to move back to Los Angeles a couple of years ago to open a gourmet market and kitchen.
The Curious Palate is the brainchild of best friends Mark and Elliot. The Curious Palate offers a wonderful selection of salads, some of which are dressed with Elliot’s famous balsamic vinegar dressing. The vegetables soups and hearty double pork chili will nourish your soul. The signature dish here is Mark’s Famous Mac and Cheese. It’s made with Gruyere surchoix, goat cheese, blue paradise and sharp vintage cheddar. Beware- it’s highly addictive!
They offer several main courses, of which I am a huge fan of the Bratwurst with cumin carrots and onions, and the Lamb Lasagna with spinach, roasted tomatoes, ricotta and fresh mozzarella. They’re both absolutely delicious. Next on my list of items to try are the Yucatan pork stew and the Miso braised short rib stew, but they always change up their menu to offer new innovative flavor combinations using fresh seasonal ingredients.
The Curious Palate is perhaps most famous for their wonderful sandwiches. They have about 20 to choose from, and it is always a huge dilemma for me every time I step into that restaurant. I’ve tried pretty much everything on their menu, but every time I go to the restaurant, it seems like their list of menu items written on big hanging blackboards keeps expanding. My favorites are….
The Cubano: slow roasted pork, Fra’Mani ham, house cured pickles, cheese and mustard which they sell in the store, on a pressed rustic roll. The succulent slow roasted pork and Fra’Mani ham give the sandwich a wonderful smokey flavor. The house cured pickles are just incredible. This used to be my favorite sandwich until they introduced the pastrami reuben.
The smoked salmon sandwich: locally smoked salmon (they can tell you the names of the people who smoked it!), avocado, cucumber, sorrel and mustard seed oil on 5 grain bread. The thick slices of smoked salmon are extremely tender and simply melt in your mouth. I love the slight kick of the mustard seed oil and the citrus tanginess of the sorrel. A wonderful play of flavors!
Sloppy Giuseppe (Italian version of the Sloppy Joe): slow braised lamb shoulder ragu and white bean puree on a brioche roll. Absolutely tender and melt in your mouth good. I’m actually a bigger fan of the Sloppy Jiao (asian version of the Sloppy Joe) with slow braised pork, scallions, shiitake mushrooms and spinach in a soy ginger sauce on a brioche roll. It’s not currently on the menu, but I will start a petition to bring it back. Here’s a photo of that delicious Sloppy Jiao that I so dearly miss:
Another wonderful sandwich is the BBQ Pork: Berkshire pork braised overnight, with BBQ sauce on a brioche roll. It paired nicely with their homemade coleslaw. Succulent tender pulled pork with its savory juices and drippings penetrating into the soft buttery brioche bun. Mmmm…divine!
Other sandwiches that I recommend are the prosciutto panini (prosciutto, mozzarella, baby artichokes and red peppers on a pressed rustic roll), the meatloaf burger (their signature housemade meatloaf to die for, lettuce, caper mayo on brioche), and the blue paradise (flat iron steak, arugula, pickled scallions, blue cheese spread on a baguette).
For dessert you can try the chocolate chip cookies, scones, choco vivo brownies, or tarts made with house made pate-sable dough and organic custard with farmer’s market berries. Accompany it with Intelligentsia espressos, lattes and teas freshly brewed in-house. My choice beverages at The Curious Palate are their freshly squeezed orange juice and strawberry juicy. Afterward, browse through the market to see their amazing selection of gourmet goods. They have chocolates from Eclipse (12 types, including sweet basil-mint, sea-salt nib and blackberry sage), Lula’s, Bovetti, L’oven, Chocovivo, Michel Cluizel, Michael Mischer, Coco luxe, Café-Tasse and Kshocolat (try the Orange Cardamom). Their fridge is stocked with drinks like Vignette wine country sodas, Fizzy Lizzy fruit sodas, Mill Road apple cider and flavored Kombucha. Go home with any of the Breakfast in Paris preserves or Vila Vella honeys. Or better yet, try the Curious Palate housemade raspberry, blueberry and strawberry jams.
Press your nose up to the cheese and charcuterie glass cases and admire the selection. What will you have tonight with your bottle of wine? Angelo and Franco ricotta and mozzarella? French Brebirousse, Italian Blu di Langa, or Canadian super sharp vintage cheddar? Shall we pair it with Fra’Mani salamis, guanciale, bresaola or Bratwurst? And don’t forget the balsamic glazed strawberries, marinated beets, and marinated artichokes, all made with love and care by Mark.
The Curious Palate is now open for breakfast, and the citrus perfumed French Toast and smoked salmon omelette are to die for.
12034 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles
Random trivia: Rou Jia Mo is China’s version of the Sloppy Joe. It’s chopped stewed pork stuffed inside ‘mo’, a type of flatbread. Rou Jia Mo could be the world’s oldest sandwich or hamburger, since the history of the bread dates back to the Qin Dynasty (221 BC – 206 BC) and that of the meat to the Zhou Dynasty (1045 BC to 256 BC).