Friday, May 21, 2010

Starry Kitchen - Tofu Balls are Back, Adios Malaysian Curry Chicken

Starry Kitchen opened three months ago in California Plaza downtown as a lunchtime option offering a rotating choice of four proteins in wraps or sandwiches with flavorful pan Asian flavors (think Malaysian curry chicken). The downtown location represents a migration from an operation that founders Nguyen and Thi Tran originally ran in their North Hollywood apartment last fall. Note that dinner service begins next Thursday.

The Trans have gone legit and they have a menu that changes every week. In order to showcase the extent of the menu and to provide variety to their customers, a dish is rotated off of the menu each week, and a new one rotated on, with the departing dish to return after a few months vacation. Today is the last day for the popular Malaysian chicken curry and the accompanying coconut rice, so hurry downtown if you want to try it, else you will have to wait a few months.

The Malaysian chicken curry (pictured above) was tasty and came with Korean glass noodles, a sesame slaw and coconut rice (a $1 upcharge from standard rice). The chicken was flavorful and I added some sriracha sauce to give it an added kick, which made it even better. The sweetness of the coconut rice tends to mute the spiciness of the curry. If you want additional spicy, the pickled chilies pictured at the bottom of this post are available to add to any dish. The japchae were well cooked and complemented the chicken and rice well. I really didn't need the slaw, but then again I don't get excited by slaw.

The infamous crispy tofu balls (pictured above) returned from a long hiatus this week and demand was high for these neon green crispy treats. Customers had been clamoring for their return and their wishes were granted. On Monday when I had lunch at Starry Kitchen, perhaps half of the customers ordered the tofu as Nguyen excitedly told people in line about its return. I preferred the Malaysian chicken to the tofu balls. The crispy exterior was fun to crunch on but it was just not as flavorful as the chicken.

At Starry Kitchen you order at the counter, receive a number and one of the staff will bring your food to your table. The staff and owners take pride in their product and are excited evangelists. The menu is on the blackboard (pictured above with Nguyen in the yellow shirt) and the crowd of eager lunchers can stretch out into the plaza at peak meal times. On Monday they were having a free soda day, which was a fun and unexpected bonus to the adventure of eating at Starry Kitchen. The genuineness of the proprietors comes through in their cooking, menu, and attitude: they want to feed you and make you happy. Starry Kitchen is what Chego should be, but fails to be.

Starry Kitchen is a feel good story but more importantly a happy belly story. To get the full backstory, read about their origins in LA Weekly.

Starry Kitchen is open Monday - Friday 11 am - 3 pm and will begin offering dinner on Thursday & Friday nights starting on Thursday May 27th.

Parking: Starry Kitchen will validate so parking is only $3 for 2 hours, which should leave you plenty of time to check out nearby Angel's Flight. $3 is a huge bargain downtown and is even less expensive than parking on the street at a meter.

Starry Kitchen is located at 350 S Grand Ave (California Plaza). Phone: (213) 617-3474. Website:

1 comment:

  1. Hi folks,

    I am back again with another review and this one is not good. The Starry Kitchen is one the worst experiences I have ever had, (and as you all know I have had some bad ones), poor design, disorganized, terrible service, food incorrect and one of the most rude and disrespectful owners I have ever had the displeasure of meeting.

    I was yelled at for a mistake the kitchen with my order and it was my fault I did not let the bus boy know and brought it back to the counter.

    How many places do you know where the bus boy takes back your food. I would not go to this place if was the last and ONLY lunch spot in downtown. There are SO many other places in downtown to go to so don’t go to this one.