The second part of four parts, please start here with Part One, also please continue to next part by clicking the hyperlink below
So in Chef Susan Feniger’s restaurants, Border Grill and Street, with her respective business partners, Mary Sue Milliken and Kajsa Alger, the menus take these exciting dishes that these three have tasted on their respective travels (that may or may not be familiar) and bring them back here to Los Angeles. They think these items are great and most suitable for their customers’ palates. The kaya (coconut jam) toast, the Singapore hangover cure, one of the most talked about items on Street’s menu, is just one example of such an item. When Street opened four years ago to the best of Feniger’s knowledge no other restaurant in the country had that dish on its menu. Now two other restaurants in Los Angeles are doing kaya. So for Feniger, and her respective business partners, they translate dishes sometimes authentically, sometimes not, to what their customers want often pushing boundaries with what’s unfamiliar, but not necessarily bizarre.
Since Feniger’s restaurants have globally inspired food and street food on their menus translated for American palates and presented in restaurant environments, price points are adjusted to reflect better ingredients as well as the higher level of ambiance and service. Higher food costs for many exotic or unusual ingredients like lime and pandan leaves are also factored into establishing price points since many of these unusual ingredients can be quite expensive here in Los Angeles. Lime leaves for example are nine dollars a pound, which is quite a bit for produce. In Los Angeles though with its many ethnic markets, Feniger is able to source most of the ingredients she needs for her cuisine.
To keep her staff on its toes, account for seasonality, and keep her regular customers coming back, menu changes, specials, and special events are frequent. Up to eighty percent of the menu may change every few months. Special events are advertised via social media. One recent event at Street, a vegetarian dim sum brunch featured versions of many of Feniger’s favorite dishes she experienced on her trip to Shanghai.
One item Susan found really interesting in Shangai were pancakes made of rice flour, water and baking soda steamed between garbage can lids fed by a steam pipe until the pancakes were all puffed up. However the American pallet doesn’t connect with just a rice flour pancake. According to Susan, for the American pallet, items need to be either savory or sweet. So for her dim sum brunch Feniger took that gluten free rice pancake and served it as a breakfast pancake with coconut cream in the center and black sesame syrup.
End of Part Two, please continue to Part Three