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Walking into Terra Cotta located in the historic Pellissier building, next to The Wiltern Theatre, I recognized the pretty General Manager Susie Moon. She used to work at Otis and Penelope, and is now smoothly running this newly opened restaurant.
As she walked us to a table, I asked why the restaurant is named Terra Cotta. “After the signature blue-green exterior terra cotta tiles on The Wiltern Theatre,” Moon said. “Also, in the Korean culture, we cook a lot with clay pots.” Even though Terra Cotta is located in Koreatown, it’s not a typical Korean restaurant. It’s much more global.
As we sat down, I admired the visually-stunning room with multiple touches of glamour. Elegant chandeliers hang from the high white ceilings. Three coveted large tufted black booths and communal dining tables provide seating in the dining room with gold details throughout. The dark grey walls complement the ceramic Spanish tiles, wood flooring and textured Venetian-plaster columns.
Opened in November 2016, the restaurant attracts groups and couples on dates. Others gather to socialize, drink and dine before a night of karaoke or a show at The Wiltern.
Our server Juliet welcomed us and recommended a crafted cocktail. “The cocktails are king here and our bar offers 46 different whiskeys,” she said. The Ginger Rodriguez is made with mezcal, averna, ginger lemon and nutmeg. The enormous ice cube in the glass prevented a fast dilution of the earthy flavors. Cocktail designer and beverage manager Michael Nemčik is a respected sommelier and mixologist and has worked at Osteria Mozza and Terroni.
The executive chef Danny Ye used to be at Nobu NYC. His menu offers Korean elements, and Japanese and Latin American influences in his dishes.
We started with a plate of Korean fried cauliflower – a popular dish that appears on almost every table. Cauliflower florets are flash fried in a light batter and doused with a red cho-kochujan sauce to offer a slightly tangy and uniquely spicy-sweet red chili pepper essence. There is a little heat to this dish topped with sesame seeds.
Next we shared the signature and delicate toro tataki. Tataki is a Japanese preparation of pounding thin uncooked fish. Chef Ye arranges the fish on a plate to look like flower petals before garnishing it with with a truffled amazu ponsu, avocado and curled shitake mushrooms.
Another popular dish is the squid ink fried rice served in an elegant black skillet. We ordered it, and realized this colorful dish could easily be shared with two to four diners as a meal. Similar to Spanish paella, the dish is loaded with black kimchee and garlic fried rice topped with dayboat seared scallops, clams and eight Argentinian prawns. The prawns were still in their hard shell, yet easy to slip off to reveal their succulent and sweet white meat.
Nemčik came to our table with two glasses of 2015 Suavia Soave Classico to pair with the salty seafood dish. It was an excellent crisp and bright white wine offering the aromas of pear and almond with an apple finish.
We continued with a surf-and-turf experience of Australian wagyu filet mignon drizzled with a white truffle soy-mirin sauce. It’s served with mashed potatoes and a colorful array of seasonal vegetables. Next arrived a plate of Scottish salmon with miso butter and a side of roasted Brussels sprouts that were enhanced with flavorful sliced chorizo.
Plates of chef Ye’s spatchcock chicken were delivered to nearby tables that have been roasted and fried to create a crispy skin. The chicken is served with ramekins of aji verde salsa, aji amarillo mayo and pickled white radish, called Korean Moo. It’s also known as daikon or Chinese white radish. We made a note to try it on our next visit.
Pastry chef Jason Licker makes five exquisite treats that include a rich, thin puff pastry filled with green matcha buttercream and assembled into a mille-feuille. It arrived with a scoop of tropical coconut ice cream. Licker makes a K-Pop made of frozen chocolate cream with banana-caramel and rolled in chocolate crunch, offering a perfect balance of flavors, textures and temperatures.
I’m excited Terra Cotta opened along the Wilshire Corridor. It’s an ideal dining spot pre- or post Wiltern shows, or for group dinners, birthday celebrations, romantic date nights and after-work happy hour.
Terra Cotta is open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., except on Sunday, when the restaurant closes at midnight. $$ 3760 Wilshire Blvd. (213)365-1077.
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