You know people really love food when they start accidentally start a business selling food out of their apartment to their friends and friends of friends, and then get popular enough to get shut down because it's all illegal. I guess that also means the food must have been really good.
And it still is. That was the story of the beginning of Starry Kitchen, headed up by self-professed foodies Nguyen and Thi Tran. It all started from their apartment in North Hollywood, but now they're legally and officially set up right in downtown in the Grand Performances Plaza, mostly serving up for lucky businesspeople in the area for lunch. But due to even more popular buzz, the restaurant started opening up for dinner on Thursdays and Fridays.
So with great hype comes great expectations, but I'd have to say Starry Kitchen passes the test. It's Asian (Vietnamese) soul food at its simplest -- it's mainly a lunch joint and you shouldn't expect more. But the attention to the food is admirable, and the flavors work in all the right places. Get ready for a great comfort meal here.
The menu, the staff warned us, changes every week, so stay tuned to the website for the latest dishes. But overall, the process is the same: pick a protein, a vessel (banh mi sandwich, salad, or wrap) and a side, and you end up with a boatload of food. My date and I were able to enjoy what seemed like regular favorites, including the lemongrass chicken and pork belly, both in banh mis and with pineapple fried rice and glass noodles. I don't even like lemongrass chicken that much, but the Trans totally hit the right spot with it, and the pork belly was super flavorful.
Simple, friendly, and full of good food. Just like home.
Starry Kitchen is located at 350 S. Grand Ave. in the Grand Performances Plaza in downtown. Open for lunch every weekday 11am-3pm, and for dinner on Thursdays and Fridays 6pm-9:30pm.
-- Chau Tu
Photo credit: the BEAT