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Starry Kitchen: the secret sauce

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

I've been hearing about Starry Kitchen (aka the underground eatery in a NoHo apartment) even before I arrived in this country. When all my friends' pictures end up in Facebook at this spot, one wonders, "What's going on here?"

Apparently, it's culinary magic with a little covert suspense to spice it up. Rogue restauranteurs Nguyen and Thi Tran have turned legit just this February with the opening of the downtown spot on South Grand.

The simple orange and white interiors (plus their cheery star logo and typeface combo) remind me of Taiwanese pop-up eateries with good reason. Co-owner, host with the most (energy) Nguyen Tran explains the idea for the name was because of his wife's passion for Asian soap operas.

Starry Kitchen serves up Pan-Asian fusion food meant specifically for comfort. There are no fancy dishes here with unpronounceable names and hoity-toity explanations. Instead, what customers get is fusion food concocted by "Kitchen Ninja" Thi Tran that changes week to week.

On the board last week was Free-range Lemon Grass Chicken, an entry-level order meant for newbies, says Nguyen. But the gold mine is really the Braised Coconut Pork served with hardboiled egg. True to hype, the Coconut Pork did hit the spot, more than the Lemon Grass Chicken. Its taste, a sweeter version of Filipino adobo, was light on the tongue and went well with the white rice we swiped from another dish.

Though, the meals are comfort-perfect, what gives Starry Kitchen (SK, to loyalists) its edge is definitely its owners. Nguyen can be seen regularly pacing the restaurant, engaging visitors and creating a colegial ambiance. At the kitchen is his wife, serving up savory dishes to fuel the tummy and jumpstart conversation.

Nothing to do tonight? Catch the adults only puppet show for free at Grand Performances and hang out at Starry Kitchen to sate your appetite. Lemon Grass Chicken and Coconut Pork are still on the menu, but Nebraska Angus Japanese Meatball Curry sounds like a great third alternative.

Starry Kitchen
Lunch: Monday - Friday: 11am - 3pm
Dinner: Thurs and Friday 6-9pm

California Plaza
350 S. Grand Ave
Phone: 213-617-3474
Parking: Get there before 7 pm and have your parking validated for 2 hours by Starry Kitchen. Otherwise, find street parking.


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