Xian Wei

Xian Wei, brainchild of Chef Luther Bob Chen and General Manager Kenny Lui is nothing short of breathtakingly ambitious. When 20 year old Luther says he’s “always had a 12 year plan” you can be assured that the future, when realized, will be big!

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Now a unique pop-up supper club, soon to be artisan street food truck and then a “couple” of fine dining restaurants, Xian Wei explores the complexity, history, and flavors of Chinese cuisine. The supper club, based around seasonal menus, operates from a private home in San Pedro. Limited to 8 guests, the 9 courses are an elegant homage to Chef Luther’s background and passion.

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Diminutive, deconstructed, and visually stunning, they travel the gamut of texture, taste and region and with a couple of amuse bouche provide well over 4 hours of delicious dining and conversation.

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Strangers become friends and fans with Luther joining the table to talk, answer questions, and share stories. Both Luther and Kenny grew up in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles with a lifetime of “xian wei”, meaning fresh flavor or what the Japanese call umami under their belts. After school “cheffing” and the decision to attend CIA in New York placed Luther on his trajectory early, followed by a solo expedition to China and Taiwan, visiting relatives and soaking up food and cultural treasures. Xian Wei the business was born.

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Kenny Lui, who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur, is responsible for developing the vision and direction of the next phase: the Shao Kao BBQ food truck and leading the team in execution and business operations.

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This menu is based on skewers and categorized into REDS (meats such as lamb, hangar steak, poussin wing), BLUES (seafood options like whole squid, oysters, pike, prawns, and fish balls) and GREENS (eggplant, mushrooms, young bamboo, sweet potato) Permitting for the truck build has just been ticked off the list and the team hope to be serving food first quarter in 2015.

http://www.xianwei.com

http://www.shaokaobbq.com

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The world is your oyster.

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I thought when I started writing this blog that I would be mostly sharing stories about food.
What I mocked. What I cooked. What I loved or loathed. Maybe my adventures in the food industry, off and on for 30 years.

However, it seems people or poems or places occupy me and it made me ask myself, “what food DO I love?”

The answer came in a long, tedious and still not completed transfer of photos from my old to new computer.

What treat is documented every time I indulge?
How many photos do I have of oysters in my files?!
Guess what I could eat every day??

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As a kid I was mystified by my dad’s love of oysters… straight from the rocks, opened with his penknife and slurped down immediately. We would walk for miles along the river just hoping to find a renegade, a freebie not on an oyster lease, waiting to be devoured.

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Second best, a jar of opened: squirrily looking jars of grey floaty gobs in brine.
Mum would turn them into Oyster Vol au Vents. Oysters in a rich creamy sauce and baked in the oven until we couldn’t wait any longer… nothing like a cheesy sauce and buttery pastry shells to turn doubters into lovers.

On those rare nights out at a restaurant (probably the RSL Club) we would be allowed to share a plate of Oysters Kilpatrick.

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Broiled with a little bacon and Worcestershire Sauce, it’s still a favorite: freshly shucked and perfectly “just cooked” with crispy, salty, smokey bacon.

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My first fall into oyster oblivion (heaven) came one weekend at college when we camped at a friend’s place on the coast. His family owned oyster leases so we gathered buckets full, threw them on an improvised grill over a fire and waited as they popped open. Warm and juicy. No frills. Accompanied by hoots, hollers, beer and wine.

A favorite from then on.

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2 years ago, bored with the Thanksgiving routine we drove downtown to Los Angeles Fish Co, struggled out with as many as we could afford and set to opening, in-between turkey prep, household art direction and cooking chores.
2 oyster knives and 2 chain mail gloves from the kitchenware store and we were ready to go.



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Slow to start, our speed picked up and by the time thursday afternoon arrived we had platters of Oyster Rockefellow and Oyster Kilpatrick ready for the oven as well as iced trays of Kumamoto and Malpeque.
Some mignonette dressing (re wine vinegar, shallots and onion), some lemon, sweet chili for the beginners, and it was time to celebrate.

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And did you know Oysters were served at the first Thanksgiving? Justification indeed!

Dustin Trani

To many San Pedrans, Dustin Trani is still the kid who grew up in the restaurant – a 4th generation chef with 20 years experience (he’s 30) in the kitchen.Image 1crop dustin

But many were surprised to see his impressive win on Esquire Networks “Knife Fight” where he made fast work of the task, the ingredient, and Chef Vartan Abgaryan of Cliff’s Edge in Silver Lake. And then there’s the inclusion in many “Top Chefs to Watch” type lists in the foodie press.

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Now Executive Chef at DOMA, he partners with Sonja Perencevic (owner of the iconic Dan Tana’s) to create a classic Beverly Hills gem of a restaurant – to quote Huffington Post “sophisticated and beautiful”.

His food continues to be inventive, massively flavorful and somehow old and new at the same time. Time spent in Asia informs lovely combinations of Thai textures and tastes, and often the simplest plates surprise with an extra crunch or contrast or combination of ingredients.

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The good news for those who have tracked Dustin’s career is a remarkable pop-up menu some Mondays at J.Tranis on 9th Street in San Pedro.

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Just a few dishes, some appetizers, and small dynamic mains: these are some of the best plates in Los Angeles and well worth a phone call to check if Dustin is in the house, and if so, to make a reservation!

http://www.jtrani.com

http://www.domabh.com