1) First & Hope: This week SIV is intrigued by newbie First & Hope. She loves the cocktails and mostly enjoys the food, handing out a full two stars for chef Shelley Cooper's Southern-inspired cuisine: "First & Hope is retro with a sly wink, more playful dress-up than dogged revival of a supper club from the '30s or '40s...despite the oddball location on the inner corner of a strip mall, with the help of a Southern-accented menu from an L.A. newcomer, a svelte bar and a separate cabaret room, the partners have pulled it off...The mood and the setting calls for cocktails, and First & Hope takes them very seriously...[with] tweaked classics such as brandy Alexander and Pimm's cup...I'm thinking they just may be better than the originals ever were." As for eats, "this is [chef Cooper's] first opportunity to create a menu of contemporary comfort food with a Southern edge, and she's having fun with it, working up whimsical presentations and coming up with quirky names for her dishes... I enjoy the Southern touches...Of course, with any new restaurant, there are glitches. One night, friends reported the kitchen ran out of a number of items. The portion sizes are sometimes off, either too stingy as in the dull trio of vegetables or dauntingly large as in the otherwise terrific Moonshine meatloaf laced with gin and a little foie gras...And a few dishes just aren't very good...I suspect it's a case of too many ideas and trying to do too much at once. Bottom line, though: Cooper can cook..." [LAT]
2) Siam Sunset: The Goldster, today, revisits an old famous boat-noodle parlor called Sapp Coffee Shop, though the name and presumably management has sifted over to Siam Sunset. Here "strong-smelling bowls of noodle soup are emptied, and everywhere, hot Chinese crullers swish through saucers of sticky, condensed milk....Siam Sunset commands perhaps the least promising location in Hollywood, a tiny, L-shaped diner attached to an America's Best Value Inn, which looks like the kind of place the fugitives might shack up in toward the end of a Coen brothers flick...The strength of Siam Sunset may lie in its ordinariness, the way that its meals are structured to glide into routine rather than to dazzle with the virtuosity of its kitchen...Pasted onto the front cover of the menu, a smeary photocopy lists $3.95 specials, and many of the dishes are among the best food in the house, especially the soft rice "spaghetti'' with spicy green curry; the gooey leek-stuffed, fried rice cakes; and a kind of rolled noodle served with ong choi, a deeply flavored braise of ground pork and dried mushrooms, and a sprinkling of crisp minced Chinese sausage that could be the Bac-O- Bits from Valhalla...The most popular dish in the morning is probably the jok, thick, white rice pap you can order with roast duck, soured pork meatballs or thin filets of fish that cook in the heat of the porridge...Is Siam Sunset's jok the best in town because it is the thickest, the plainest, the most accommodating? In an odd way, it may be." [LAW]
The Elsewhere: The Find tries 85C in Irvine, Diana Takes A Bite hits up Campanile, Kung Food Panda sips soup at Breadbar's Yatai Ramen Twist, Food GPS recounts a dinner at Sashi, Exile Kiss visits New Chong Qing in SGV, and Refined Palate choses Langer's.