At SpireWorks’ newest location in Eagle Rock, you will experience a döner – meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie similar to the Arab shawarma, Greek gyros and Mexican al pastor. I met the founder and CEO Bob Kaufman and COO Jeff Rosenthal last week at their grand opening, as they gave away free meals with a dessert and beverage to guests.
Kaufman introduced himself and shared his story about how he grew up in Encino and now lives in Sherman Oaks. After graduating from Birmingham High School and UC Santa Barbara, he worked as a VP for Tower Records and later The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, which enabled him to travel the world. Along the way, he enjoyed the flavors from countries like Taiwan, Turkey, Japan and Thailand.
It was in Turkey that Kaufman discovered döner. He found a particular restaurant in Istanbul that had the flavors he was looking for and obtained the recipe from the chef. With the help from the food innovation and development company Pilot R+D, and Chef Kuniko Yagi as a consulting chef (she has worked with Chef David Myers as Executive Chef at Comme Ça and Hinoki and the Bird), they realized that the cattle in Turkey is raised differently than in the United States, and affects the beef’s taste. Together they worked with Glen Rose Meats to create the most delicious beef döner. It took 18 months to perfect. They also came up with a spit-roasted rosemary chicken.
To cater to vegetarians, they created a unique köfte, similar to a large falafel ball, yet moist and not as crispy on the outside. Chef Kuniko helped build the menu with seven different traveling destinations – Mexico, China, Italy, New York, Thailand, Turkey and the deep South offering pleasing flavor profiles.
Kaufman led me on a tour of his wilderness-themed café. Above the entrance, it appeared as if we were walking under trees. The tables are decorated with colorful flowered tops, and the green flooring tiles look like grass. On the walls are cork board and birch tree wallpaper representing wood. What stands out in the dining room is the handmade tree branch chandelier. “We found the branches and made our own light fixture,” Kaufman said. The room evokes a camping trip with whimsical retro photo of people standing in front of their VW Westfalia camper.
Kaufman encouraged me to try three different döner dishes. First you select a base of either their unique bread, multicolor wild rice or salad greens. I chose the fresh bread made only for SpireWorks. It’s a baked sesame seed bread similar to Ciabatta on the outside and a Turkish bread inside. It’s split to form a pocket for stuffing the fresh ingredients. Then I had a choice of three proteins – their special roasted beef, chicken or vegetarian option. “Both the beef and chicken are antibiotic and hormone free,” Kaufman said. I chose the sliced spiral chicken and had it made Peking style with hoisin sauce, green onions, crispy onions, angel hair carrots, cucumber spirals, and Rayu shaker. The spice reminded me of the aromas of the Chinese Night Market in Hong Kong.
The seasoning mixtures were developed by Chef Kuniko. She created the Japanese shaker Furikake, offering a seasoning that is popular to sprinkle on cooked rice from her native Japan. Kaufman wanted me to taste the New York shaker on the twice cooked baby Dutch yellow potatoes. “It tastes just like the breadboard crumbs after cutting into a double baked rye bread,” Kaufman said. “With Russian dressing and sauerkraut, this is a winner with the döner beef.” The potatoes were warm, soft and creamy and brought back memories of a New York deli.
Enjoying the flavor, I ordered a New York style mixed greens bowl topped with beef. Russian dressing, sauerkraut, shaved parmesan, cucumber spirals, angel hair beets and a few New York shakes were added to uplift the flavor profile even more.
Last I ordered a bowl with wild rice and vegetarian köfte balls made with cubed carrots, mushrooms, peppers and onions bound with chickpea flour and urfa briber – dried Turkish chili pepper. I had it made Bangkok style with Tamarind chutney, yellow curry aioli, green onions, pickled red peppers and a delightful crunchy Thai coconut curry crumble. It was a brilliant combination.
“The perfect bite is a combination of hot and cold, salty, sweet and sour, squishy and crunchy.” Kaufman said of my selections.
You can design your own bowl or sandwich with a variety of sauces that include tomato jam, zaatar labneh, yellow curry aioli, Russian dressing or hoisin sauce. For crunch there are options of pickled cauliflower, red onions, red peppers with Sambal or sauerkraut.
Coffee beverages are from Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Nitro Brew Coffee. The iced latte is made with cream, Okinawa raw sugar and sea salt to create a satisfying beverage. They also have a Stubborn soda machine with a variety of flavors that include a root beer with no artificial sweeteners, no high fructose corn syrup and full of natural flavors.
For a sweet treat, SpireWorks offers slices of roll cakes in flavors of banana cream pie, dulce de leche, honey mascarpone, tiramisu, strawberry shortcake and chocolate ganache. These bite sized delights hit the spot, without being too sweet, heavy and filling.
Excited to try other destinations, I visited the Westwood Village SpireWorks before going to the UCLA basketball game. This was the first SpireWorks location and resembles a train depot with guests having the option to dine in a train car to mimic traveling around the world.
SpireWorks is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. 4945 B Eagle Rock Blvd. (323)895-7888 and 1061 Broxton Ave. (424)220-6299.
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