Starry Kitchen Nights @ Tiara Cafe – Downtown LA

Crispy Tofu Balls
Crispy Tofu Balls

Review By: Pam Alterio –

Starry Kitchen Nights at Tiara Cafe was my first experience with the pop-up trend surrounding the restaurant industry.  Pop-ups are literally doing just that, exploding onto the restaurant scene.   The Tiara café resides in a rather vacant dining area with an open kitchen in downtown Los Angeles.  I did some research about the restaurant online before our visit, which described their cuisine as Asian Fusion and noted the Singaporean Chili Crab as the menu item to try.

We arrived on a Saturday night at 7:30 and to our surprise the space was nearly empty.  We were greeted by a very cheerful hostess/waitress and she guided us through the menu.

I knew in advance to reserve an order of their Singaporean chili crab as they need 24 hours preparation to make this wonderful shellfish.  The chili crab alone was worth the visit, but be prepared to work for the meat.  The crab is bathed in a spicy chili tomato sauce and comes with fried beignet balls in a beer batter. These balls are great for soaking up all the sauce that doesn’t really cling to the crab. I guess they’re enjoyed so much that there is a chalkboard stating “MAY THE BALLS BE WITH YOU.” I can’t imagine they’re referring to the bland crispy tofu balls we tried.

The crispy tofu balls were an average starter and if it weren’t for the spicy aioli on the side I could have done without it.  It appeared they were rolled in rice krispies and fried delicately but they were lacking flavor.

Other dishes we tried were the pork chili oil wontons with Szechuan style shredded potatoes and garlic noodles. Our waitress recommended these side dishes and we trusted her choices.  The wontons were a pleasant surprise as the contrast in texture between the crunchy potato and soft wontons played off each other well. The garlic noodles were dry and needed another ingredient.

We washed everything down with beer, cold sake and their cucumber infused water which was incredibly refreshing. The pricing of the dishes was all over the board, though mostly ranging on the pricier side.  I would have liked to try the desserts but I was too full to bother.

Starry Kitchen Nights left me intrigued and still wanting more as they have a well varied menu featuring fried chicken with waffles and even a bacon loaded poutine.

Starry Kitchen Nights @ Tiara Cafe on Urbanspoon