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Why is Everyone Raving About Kali on Melrose?

Kali opened its doors on Melrose near Larchmont Village earlier this year and has been received with near universal praise. There have been plenty of hot new restaurants this year in Los Angeles but the buzz around Kali seems to have been building more and more since their grand opening so I finally decided to make a reservation and find out what all the talk has been about.

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Kali began as one of those signature LA underground pop-up restaurants by chef Kevin Meehan. Meehan has quite the resumé, first cooking under the young Ludo Lefebvre at L’Orangerie, then at places like Bastide, Patina, and Café Pinot. For his brick and mortar location of Kali he is joined by Drew Langley, a fine dining veteran himself who used to run the wonderful wine program at Providence. It would be an understatement to say that my, and all Los Angeles’s foodies, expectations were high.

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Let’s start, of course, with the cocktails at the bar. The first thing you’ll notice is that all of the cocktails are made with California base spirits. We had the Burn Zone Gem – Bowen’ Whiskey with Corbin Cash sweet potato liquere and the New Pad Thai with St. George Green Chili Vodka, agua perfecta, lime, and coconut ice. The New Pad Thai was particularly refreshing on what a hot, hot evening.

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Once our table was ready for us I noticed how relaxing the decor is. Sleek, yet warm and inviting.

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One of the most charming aspects of Kali is that if you are seated at just the right tables, you can see Chef Kevin in his kitchen in action. And Drew goes from table to table recommending wine pairings for each dish. If you’re a wine lover like I am, you’ll love listening to his enthusiastic knowledge about the vineyards, grapes, and vintages. Needless to say, all of our wine all night was perfectly paired.

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We started with three salads. Yes, three. Each sounded so unique and delicious we couldn’t decide. First up was the asparagus tips with duck egg, tarragon, and cracklin. When mixed altogether along with the crispy duck skin it was a really nice and refreshing start to our meal.

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The yellowtail with cucumbers, melon, and cilantro is equally delightful.

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But the real standout, both looks and taste-wise, is the berries and tomato salad with burrata, pistachio, and vine oil. I mean, look at that! We felt almost guilty eating something so colorful and beautiful.

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And then as the night began to cool, we moved on to warmer dishes. The wheat berry “risotto” with black garlic and burnt cheese has been perhaps the most discussed dish from Chef Meehan. Love it or hate it, like the chicken liver crostone at Alimento in Silver Lake, it’s a dish you simply have to try at least once. The wheat berry “risotto” had a firmer texture to it than regular risotto. The dish was aromatic, perfectly cooked, and had an earthiness to it. I loved it but my friend said, “It just tastes too healthy!”

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The Cavatelli Pasta comes surrounded by a bed of crispy charred arugula. This was a really excellent touch because it made the cavatelli feel at once both decadent and light and airy.

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Because we didn’t get any of the main entrees we definitely had room for dessert. And you should too! You have to try the now famous in LA Meringue Gelato with candied yolk shavings. It is possibly one of the stranger sounding desserts I’ve tried. The candied egg was shaved by the chef himself table side and at first I wanted to urge Kevin not to ruin a perfectly good gelato. I’m glad I didn’t. Like a lot of the dishes at Kali, the meringue gelato sounds as if it would never, ever work but somehow it does, and beautifully.

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Kali is located at 5722 Melrose Avenue. For reservations, go here.

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All photos courtesy of Kali.


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