Before you pronounce the star dish at Culver City's East Borough aloud, check that there aren't any small children around.
All clear? Okay, go for it: Ph?catini.
Fittingly, an expletive might be the best way to describe this ingenious pasta dish available during dinner service, in which chewy smoked bucatini noodles--made over at Venice's Superba Snack Bar—are combined with soft strands of braised oxtail.
Phôcatini and chef Chloe Tran
"It was a no-brainer combination," explains chef Chloe Tran, who collaborated with Superba chef Jason Neroni to create the menu for her sophomore project, a more upscale cousin of her restaurant of the same name in Costa Mesa.
To make ph?catini ($17), Tran reduces a five-spice-spiked oxtail stock and seasons it with hoisin sauce and Sriracha. That acts as a sauce for the bucatini, which is then topped with the namesake soup's customary accoutrements: wafer-thin onion slices, Thai basil, cilantro, mint, lime and bean sprouts.
"We didn't wanted to be known as just a ph? restaurant, so we developed something that took all the flavors of the soup and condensed them."
Brisket banh mi with phô sidecar
That's not the only twist East Borough puts on Vietnamese standards. The ph? baguette ($13), a juicy brisket sandwich served with a sidecar of broth for dipping, has already become a lunchtime favorite of the local film studio set.
Further fruits of Tran and Neroni's creative teamwork show up during on the dinner menu, including tamarind-slicked lamb ribs ($15) and grilled head-on shrimp ($15) swimming in funky crab butter and bitter pomelo juice.
Some traditions don't need altering: The sweet caffeinated kick of café sua da ($4), better known as Vietnamese coffee, brought us back to life after a flavorful, knock-out meal.
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