Chinatown is the new downtown.
That’s what it certainly feels like, with newcomers such as Chego, Starry Kitchen and General Lee’s making their way into the historically low-income neighborhood just north of its rapidly gentrifying big brother, downtown Los Angeles. And now comes 643 North, a restaurant and bar from Los Angeles native and owner of Michael J’s Catering, Michael Ourieff.
643 North, named for its address at 643 N. Spring St., is a new concept for Chinatown. It serves non-Asian food, for one. But unlike its neighbor across the street Spring Street Smoke House, which specializes in barbecue, 643 North offers a full menu ranging from a pickled beet salad and a lamb burger to a roasted eggplant pizza and ossobuco ravioli. And there’s a full bar with a decidedly drinkable cocktail menu.
Chef Oz Ramuco (Dar Maghreb, Caffe Opera and Bistro, The Roosevelt Hotel) helms the kitchen here, and Bar Manager Adam Acuff (Blue Palms Brew House, Far Bar) designs the cocktail program.
Some menu standouts include the mini grilled cheese sandwiches with roasted pears, white and yellow cheddar, wild arugula, honey mustard and white truffle oil, which thankfully aren’t heavy on the truffle oil. The beef sliders come perfectly cooked — which is no small feat, mind you — and are made with grass-fed beef patties, pickled red onions and white cheddar on brioche. When it comes to the mains, the seared diver scallops are buttery and come on a bed of parmesan farro and asparagus tips.
Do not skip dessert here; get the butter cake, which arrives at your table warm, topped with vanilla sugar, chantilly crème and raspberry coulis. So simple, yet so good.
As for the cocktails, first and foremost I have to applaud Acuff for having a menu dedicated to building your own martini or manhattan. This is brilliant. On the regular drink menu, try the Don’t Drink This (pictured above) made with Evan Williams Single Barrel bourbon, maraschino liqueur, Dolin sweet vermouth, Fernet Branca and fire. The seasonal Go Figure, with Avion reposado, Benedictine, Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, fig thyme syrup and pinot noir, is an interesting combo, especially with the addition of the wine.
There’s also a happy hour available Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6:43 p.m. (cute, huh?) with discounted bites, including the beef sliders, and $3 draught beer and $5 wine, martinis and manhattans. How can you beat a $5 manhattan?
So next time you’re in the area on your way to a Dodger game or just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown proper, pop in to 643 North. They’ll treat you right.
Note: This meal was hosted.