Phenakite by Porridge and Puffs

The Pandemic has been ravaging restaurants. Being flexible and having the ability to pivot has been essential for anyone to survive —from mom and pops, chain, to Michelin Starred restaurants. But to open a fine dining tasting menu concept during this time Is just freaking bold and gutsy and frankly, against all the odds. Phenakite by chef Minh is such a place—and it’s aptly named after a mineral that is born from heat and pressure.

We all know chef Minh from Porridge and Puffs, the comfort food favorite among many. She does however have fine dining experience and it’s her ace card to use those techniques to make the thoughtful and soulful dishes we know and love. Speaking to her on the 3rd night of service, we got the sense that this concept came together really quickly during the pandemic—they don’t even have a phone number! An opportunity came up and she jumped on it with maybe several months of planning and execution. This is not your typical fine dining restaurant with big investors and huge expensive build out.

Phenakite is in a spacious open air patio of Second Home LA, a new co working space right behind the target in Hollywood. Its a beautiful patio space with string lights lining the trees and a fountain in the middle. There’s plenty of room for social distancing and diners are very widely spaced—easily at least 6 to 10 ft away from anyone else.

They could definitely pack more in but, but I think keeping it sparse is the goal as safety is very much a concern. Temperatures were taken.

We have been cautious during this time and have been doing mainly take out—this was our first extended outdoor dining and honestly even leading up to the dinner we felt a tad nervous. But upon seeing the social distancing and the the precautions taken (shields/mask) by everyone including the diners (we noticed most placing the masks back on when not eating) we felt better about it.

Both alcohol free and wine pairing available as well as a la carte.

Menu for the evening. So how was the food? How would chef Minh’s food translate to tasting menu format? Will it lean technical with tweezer components, or will compose of unexpected delights (typically ferments and pickles) that we come to recognize and love?

Won’t go into a blow by blow of each dish but, I’m happy to say you will definitely recognize her thoughtful and soulful style of cooking we all know from porridge and puffs–but it’s not just an extended menu of PP. Yes, there are a few ingredients that we recognize (the watermelon rinds and shrubs abalone porridge to name a few) that are similar but most of the dishes are new and apparantly changing with each menu. Phenakite really does give her a much more creative space physically and broader license to create artistically.


I think 8 months into this pandemic my view of dining out has changed.

Restauranteurs and workers are putting themselves at risk for earning a living AND they have a new burden of keeping the diners safe. As such, I’m willing to pay more for these reasons. Phenakite does an outstanding job of making the diners feel safe–something that is just as important as the outsanding food and service.

14 Likes

They’re also taking part in the Gelinaz dinner in early Dec. Bunch of guest chefs including Daniel Patterson (Coi, Alta Adams)

https://phenakite.square.site/#aPKFDt

2 Likes

So glad that you enjoyed it too! Did you get any drinks or do a pairing?

I’m still thinking about the cornsilk NA cocktail I had.

Yes we did get both the wine and nonalcoholic pairing. The wine pairing was really enjoyable and they did nice job using many California varieties.

The alcohol free drinks were also really delicious!

I totally forgot you posted about Phenakite but wanted a separate thread for it! It’s amazing how smoothly it went considering how young it is.

1 Like

It absolutely deserves it’s own thread! I love to see Chef Minh working out some other muscles, and I hope they continue to gain steam. Even in this uncertain COVID climate it seems like they’ve got the rhythm of cooking out of Second Home now and the bonus of that flexibility not being locked into a long term lease.

phenakite to-go

5 Likes

They’re back for dine in with Lunar New Year/Valentines!

https://www.instagram.com/p/CLDBUeuDNhX/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

4 Likes

This was the most safe outdoor dining we experienced so far. Also, really spectacular food and service to go along.

2 Likes

I’m going to try and convince the wife to do this but as of now she doesn’t feel safe eating at any outdoor dining.

1 Like

Hear you–we were hesitant too, but was def put at ease when we saw the space and how few people they seat and the protocols used! Good luck!

2 Likes
4 Likes

We only have 6.5 months left in the year but ok.

6 Likes

I was lucky (or psychic?) enough to snag a reservation before Chef Minh and team were awarded restaurant of the year. Whereas reservations were wide open before the announcement, Chef Minh relayed that now their waitlist is thousands of people long (with only two seatings per weekend and about 20 people per night, it is pretty exclusive still).

Hearing about the waitlist though is absolutely thrilling and so well deserved.

I made the reservation because my folks were in town visiting and Porridge + Puffs was one of their favorite restaurants in LA. When we’d have brunch there, they’d question me if I was sure this place didn’t have any Michelin stars between bites because they were absolutely blown away with flavors and techniques they hadn’t experienced elsewhere.

The restaurant is completely staffed by people that work both the back of house and the front, meaning that they’re all able to expertly describe the dishes and how they’re made. The service is warm, but not smothering, and expertly professional. I can’t say enough how wonderful the service was,

It’s been months since my first visit, and the situation has changed a bit. Instead of starting with an amuse in the garden, we were quickly whisked away to our table where our first course was already waiting.

Black Sesame Vichyssoise - black sesame vichyssoise, rambutan, fermented green figs, mindy’s buddha’s hands, lemon verbena oil, ume-rose crisp, rose geraniums, baby shiso

A cool and refreshing start to the meal that also is a great tone setter–letting you know what kind of adventure you’re about to go on.

A brief intermission while a couple of the shrubs hit the table: the juju berry and elderflower hibiscus. If it’s your first time, I’d recommend getting a couple of the NA beverages to try (along with the wine pairing) because they’re quite inventive.

Long Life Beans - haricot vert, kumquat oxymel, haw berries, fermented chili + beans, opal basil

Another light course, but with some added numbing heat from the chili.

Surf + Turf - dill crab cakes, nasturtium mochi with lardon, makrut jam & Radishing Brassica Friends - miso-butter poached radishes + asparagus with meyer lemon aioli, fresh brassica + umbellifer salad, romanesco, rainbow cauliflowers, numbing yuzu ponzu

Presented together on the same plate, the surf and turf were on the right and left respectively, while the pickled vegetables and poached radishes were at the top and bottom. This course is a subtle flex, where it’s made clear that they make complete use of every ingredient, recycle as much as possible, and turn simple vegetables into flavor packed pickles. The crab cakes were probably the highlight here, but the makrut lime jam was absolutely astounding.

Fish - seared swordfish, baby lotus, jicama-apricot watermelon rind + passionfruit pickles, chrysanthemum smoked fig leaf

Another holdover from the opening menu and it’s easy to see why. This is the best cooked swordfish I’ve ever had in my life. It’s incredibly simple, but comes with a show and some killer pickles.

Intermezzo: Dance Party - season pickles, spice, and everything nice

A palate cleanser that can be done in one or two bites between the two more substantial courses

Meat + Potatoes - jujube + cranberry braised shortribs, buttery satsuma potatoes, bok choy, rose-geranium pickles, enoiki anemone, citrus leaf fairy dust

Silky potatoes and rich meat make a bit of a play on a well worn dish.

Gratitude - brown butter abalone liver porridge with pan smoked abalone, nori caviar, pickled goji + ginger, radish sprouts, arugula flowers

With Porridge + Puffs still paused, Phenakite is the only place to get this and it still slaps. The abalone was wonderfully cooked and delicious on its own as well as mixed into the porridge.

Cleanse - purslane + stem jam granita, blood/cara cara oranges, candied ginger scraps, stem jam (made from the scraps of all fruit and herb trimmings)

The first part of the dessert course is another dish that shows off how Phenakite can turn scraps and what other restaurants might throw away into some powerfully flavorful bites.

Sweet - fennel cremeux, carrot ice-cream, rose-geranium infused loquats, jujubes, buckwheat, oats, tart cherries, phenakite

Chef Minh know what’s up with the loquats. It’s a wonderful ending to the meal that’s not too heavy and also encapsulates the team’s vision on California fine dining.

Who knows when reservations will open back up again–but can confirm Phenakite absolutely deserves restaurant of the year.

16 Likes
5 Likes

Holy f*ck. Good for her.

5 Likes

That was what Chef mentioned to me back in June—thousands of people on the waitlist. It’s great to hear that months later it is still going strong!

2 Likes

I’m gonna have to go try it. It’s gotta be good if this many ppl r waiting lol

1 Like

I’ve had four friends in the past two weeks go and they all said the food was terrible. They sent pictures of over cooked meat or low quality gristley meat. Seeing the pictures and their testimonials I was kinda confusing to see given all the accolades.

My brother and his wife had their first date night out since having their baby and they were pisssssssed last night.

3 Likes

Wowww thanks for the heads up that’s really sad esp since it was their date night.

I’ll def report back if I decide to go.

as part of the chef’s philosophy, they bring in a completely new staff for each season. not sure how that impacts the overall consistency…