A Look into the Allure of Underground Dining with Starry Kitchen's Nguyen Tran

Pop-up restaurants have recently begun appearing in more and more cities, offering chefs a venue to explore cooking dishes outside of their own restaurant or to test culinary concepts that may one day be transferred into a brick and mortar.

Yet another restaurant concept has also been been making headlines: underground dining. These illegal restaurants operate without proper licensing and are often times run in personal homes or other non-zoned locations.  

One of the best known underground restaurants was Los Angeles’ Starry Kitchen, run and operated by Nguyen Tran and wife Thi Tran. Thi and Nguyen pursued cooking as a pastime, posting a number of photos of their dishes to Facebook before food photography became en-vogue. After Thi lost her job, the two were encouraged by their friends to give their cooking a go and the duo got together and opened an illegal restaurant in their tiny apartment. With just a few folding tables on the patio and a donation box at the front, the first few dinners were comprised mostly of friends of the Trans, however down the road, they began leaving flyers in neighboring apartments and news about their tiny restaurant began to spread.

Learn more about Starry Kitchen here

Underground Dining: The Allure of Illegal Pop-Up Restaurants for Chefs and Diners Alike

Underground Dining: The Allure of Illegal Pop-Up Restaurants for Chefs and Diners Alike

By Courtney Walsh, West Coast Editor

Pop-up restaurants have recently begun appearing in more and more cities, offering chefs a venue to explore cooking dishes outside of their own restaurant or to test culinary concepts that may one day be transferred into a brick and mortar.

Yet another restaurant concept has also been been making headlines: underground dining. These illegal restaurants operate without proper licensing and are often times run in personal homes or other non-zoned locations.  

So what is their allure amongst chefs and diners alike? Read on to find out.

Starry Kitchen

One of the best known underground restaurants was Los Angeles’ Starry Kitchen, run and operated by Nguyen Tran and wife Thi Tran. Thi and Nguyen pursued cooking as a pastime, posting a number of photos of their dishes to Facebook before food photography became en-vogue. After Thi lost her job, the two were encouraged by their friends to give their cooking a go and the duo got together and opened an illegal restaurant in their tiny apartment. With just a few folding tables on the patio and a donation box at the front, the first few dinners were comprised mostly of friends of the Trans, however down the road, they began leaving flyers in neighboring apartments and news about their tiny restaurant began to spread.

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Unit 120 Launches Culinary Incubator in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza

Unit 120 Launches Culinary Incubator in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza

By Courtney Walsh, West Coast Editor

Pop-up restaurants are all the rage in Los Angeles, allowing for chefs to test a number of culinary ideas without the potential risk of a brick and mortar. Yet finding the right space for these pop-up events can be time consuming. Enter Unit 120, the culinary incubator launched this year by Eggslut’s chef Alvin Cailan in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza.

Meant as an arena for chefs to be able to experiment, play with, and test out their burgeoning food concepts, the space became an instant hit for local foodies always seeking to be the first to eat at the next big culinary concept. More importantly, however, was the space’s impact on Chinatown, and Los Angeles’ culinary scene as a whole. By providing a theatre to showcase the emerging culinary talent, Unit 120 has effectively leveled the playing field allowing young, emerging chefs the same opportunities that chefs working in larger, more well-known restaurants are.  

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Chef Ricardo Zarate Returns to the LA Culinary Scene With Once Pop-Up

Chef Ricardo Zarate Returns to the LA Culinary Scene With Once Pop-Up

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Chef Ricardo Zarate first made a name for himself in Los Angeles when he opened Mo-Chica inside Mercado La Paloma in Downtown Los Angeles in 2009. Known for his inventive interpretation on Peruvian cuisine, his star quickly rose as he opened Picca, a second Mo-Chica and Paiche. Zarate was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s best new chefs in 2011 and Picca was also named one of GQ magazine’s best new restaurants that year.

Last year, rumors started swirling as Zarate left all of his restaurants in October 2014. Regardless of what happened, he and his food were missed. But, now he is back!

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Some Foodable Highlights to Get You in the Valentine's Day Mood

Valentine's day is the second most popular holiday for dining out (first being Mother's day) and about 25% of Americans dine out on this day, according to the National Restaurant Association. Not to mention– restaurant gift cards are the preferred gift for the holiday.

So in honor of this Valentine's day, we have hand-picked some especially romantic episodes and editorial features to get you in the mood. 

On Foodable– Side Dish: Secret Garden Dining Experience [Video]

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Brew Expert Insights: Chocolate & Stout– A True Love Pairing

Brew Expert Insights: Chocolate & Stout– A True Love Pairing

Table 42: Social Pairings in South Beach [VIDEO]

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