Written by Joshua Lurie | Photographed by Shane O’Donnell
Styled by Kara Mickelson | Illustrated by Christine Georgiades
We live in an Instagram age where diners are driven by foods that are flashy and new. In an area like the Valley, which has been flooded with new eateries, it’s become tougher to attract and retain clientele by simply serving straightforward dishes. Now dishes like the California roll and spaghetti & meatballs have become building blocks. Chefs are going out on limbs—creating culinary mash-ups that (sometimes) capture the best of two distinctly different dishes. Discover five “Franken-foods” along the Boulevard that are fully fused and uniquely flavorful.
The Ultimate Cupcake
Big Sugar Bakeshop in Studio City offers several mash-ups, but Boston cream pie cupcake is their stand- out item. Co-owner Mary Odson took trips to New England’s unofficial capital. Repeated tastes of Boston’s classic dessert inspired a supple, vanilla cake topped with rich chocolate ganache and filled with a silky surprise: vanilla pastry cream. Big Sugar was also an early adopter of the donut muffin, which several bakeries now offer. This buttermilk muffin comes coated with cinnamon sugar—available with or without chocolate chips.
Imagine an oozing chili cheeseburger, but instead of a bun, picture a golden donut. Boneyard Bistro chef-owner Aaron Robins had that tantalizing vision in 2009. The resulting Kobe Beef Chile Cheese Donut served at his Sherman Oaks eatery is a no fuss flavor bomb with ground Kobe-style beef, spicy roux and mustard. On top of three sliced, judiciously sweet donut holes, Aaron adds classic chili burger accouterments: yellow cheddar, tangy pickles, and crunchy red onions. These savory delights make a great beer-friendly starter or bar bite.
The Carving Board in Tarzana features plenty of thoroughly satisfying sandwiches, none more creative than the spaghetti & meatballwich. Juicy beef meatballs are sliced and sandwiched between griddled Parmesan spaghetti patties with zesty house-made marinara sauce and melted mozzarella. Eat with your hands or use a fork and knife, depending on how messy you want to get. Dip in a marinara sidecar. This is still a classic pairing, just in a new form, unlike the unholy, utterly trendy ramen burger.
Next Level Hand Rolls
Sidle up to Crave Sushi’s counter in Sherman Oaks and you won’t find a menu limited to standard Japanese items. The restaurant sells nine different “Crave burritos,” essentially sushi-grade seafood and rice wrapped in either nori or soy paper wrappers. Versions riff on dragon rolls and California rolls, but the one dubbed “Baby Lobster” is the main draw. The lobster is actually a blend of sweet crawfish and lobster tail. The delectable mix joins creamy faux crab, crunchy gobo, avocado, julienne cucumber, shredded lettuce, eel sauce, and white mayo in a savory nori wrapper that still feels exciting by the time you reach the last bite.
Chef Peter Chantarasereekul, who hails from Bangkok, takes great pride in creating curries. At Spice Season, his family’s modern bastion for “Asian fusion cuisine” in Studio City, they’re willing to stray from tradition with dishes like a satay quesadilla. A toasted flour tortilla cradles melted mozzarella cheese, chicken breast marinated in satay-style turmeric sauce, peas, carrots and corn, and comes with peanut dipping sauce. His wife Sunita, who works alongside him, says, “This [dish] is Thai and fusion. We don’t want it to be exactly Thai, so we mix everything.”