By now, the accolades and testimonials have established Smorgasburg LA as a hit culinary platform for creative and innovative chefs to gather — every Sunday at the Alameda Produce Market — and share unique and daring flavors with urban foodies. The West coast edition of the wildly popular NYC food fair opened in June with plenty of breakout hits including Ramen Burger (exactly what it sounds like) and Highland Park gem, Donut Friend. With dozens of food vendors serving everything from fusion to traditional, healthy to indulgent, savory and sweet, deciding where to start your food journey can be a daunting task, if not downright overwhelming. Luckily, we’ve cherry picked our favorites from Smorgasburg LA so you can get your fill without getting (too) full.
RAINDROP CAKE® This visually stunning algae-based dessert is the brainchild of Darren Wong, whose background in advertising set the groundwork for introducing this traditional Japanese confection to American palates. “In creating Raindrop Cake ®, having a fun name and logo was very important to me. I think it makes this dessert accessible. The American palate tends to approach jelly foods with skepticism, so it needed to be friendly and approachable,” says Wong. And what exactly does it taste like? Reactions range from “mild” to “nothing,” the latter of which leaves heads scratching due to the general lack of sweetness (albeit for the soybean flour and molasses it’s served with) most American desserts are known for. Still, cutting into this elegant crystal-clear sphere in unlike anything you’ve tried, which in a time of over-saturation, is an achievement in it of itself. @Raindropcake
AMAZEBOWLS Rarely is a super-food popular for being healthy and aesthetically pleasing, but one glance at Amazebowls’ Instagram leaves little doubt of how popular these Açaí bowls are. Served inside half a coconut and topped with a selection of berries and flowers – Marigolds and Dianthus on our visit – the signature offering has managed to bank on the health-crazed Southern California market and the Instagram era. And it’s no coincidence. “We went through a bunch of variations. How to cut the fruit? How to present the fruit? What coconut shreds to use? We wanted color distribution. Exactly how to place the flowers. It is very thoughtful,” explains co-founder Bryan Leong. The strategy works with 50% of Labor Day weekend business coming from Instagram alone. But the real draw is the taste which forgoes the typical fruit juice in favor of pineapples, blueberries, grapes, bananas, and of course, açaí for the base. So popular in fact, it has fueled the expansion from food truck to locations in the Arts District and now Venice Beach. @Amazebowls
WE HAVE NOODLES While visual components can definitely be part of a chef’s culinary expression, We Have Noodles is about cooking the food you like. Drawing from a fine dining background in New York City, chef Darren Sayphraraj is now on the West Coast elevating street style comfort food into a modern rotation of dishes like Korean Cold Noodles with Pig Trotter Chashu (Naengmyeon), or in the colder months: Pho with braised brisket and beef tendon chicharron or Curry Khao Soi with clams and king oyster mushrooms. We suggest the cold Japanese soba noodles with a glass of the strawberry mint lemonade. @Wehavenoodlesla
Written by Ivan Navarro
Photographed by Rozette Rago