[RESTAURANT REVIEW] Perfectly Complex and Calibrated Wolfdown Quietly Revs Up Rowena

instagram: @wolfdownla

In the four years since Nicky D’s stopped serving pizza on Rowena Ave., Silver Lake has changed a good bit. Restaurants have upped their game, and real estate prices have climbed. Maybe because of its understated Rowena location, the five-month old Wolfdown, which replaced Nicky D’s, has flown under the radar.

Wolfdown, comes from Jason and Chrissy Kim, the owners of Forage, the Sunset Junction cafe that incorporates produce fresh from neighbors’ gardens.

The Kims freshened up the funky bungalow and the woodsy patio now sparkles with twinkly lights.

Like Forage, the menu highlights bright bits of acidity and crunch that put the spotlight on startingly fresh produce.

There are shareable plates like tangy citrus and radicchio salad textured with crispy wontons, or grilled calamari with lemon and mayo. Coconut black rice ($13) melds deeply flavored oil-roasted vegetables, nutty rice and fresh pea tendrils.

That chicken and shrimp dumpling is not a plate of pot-stickers: it’s more of a large pancake with a delicious dumpling filling on the inside. The presentation is unexpected.

Vegetables are complex and fascinating in a way that completely escapes some of the local vegan restaurants.

Main courses include Korean fried chicken with spicy chili or soy honey butter and slaw ($25); noodles with beef cheeks; or a $45 Prime New York steak with herring butter. Braised black cod ($25) arrives in a ceramic bowl in which pieces of buttery fish alternate with chunks of purple daikon, swimming in a lightly sweet and spicy sauce with a side of fragrant Mori’s rice.

Pan-Asian restaurants often get a bad rep for covering everything in sickly sweet soy-based sauces. Luckily, Wolfdown’s much more nuanced dishes include plenty of tart notes to balance the sweetness.

Desserts are creative too, like the black and blueberry compote with dense, creamy peanut butter semifreddo.

Overall, Wolfdown’s setting is relaxed and the cooking is perfectly calibrated.

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