Caribbean cuisine served tapas style is the concept at Sunny Spot, Roy Choi’s latest addition to his arsenal of soulful restaurants. Here Choi, who revolutionized the food truck movement with his Kogi trucks and Korean-fusion tacos, has gone in a different direction and created dishes bursting with flavors from Jamaica and the Philippines (with the occasional Korean influence).
On the menu at Sunny Spot, you’ll find island specialties such as jerk chicken, brown sugar short ribs and mofongo (mashed plantains with smoky bacon bits), a traditional Dominican and Puerto Rican dish.
At night, the atmosphere at Sunny Spot is a party scene buzzing with a high volume of noise and people. Daytime is completely different: the sunlight streams in through the windows showing off the blue-washed walls and floral seat coverings. Catch an island breeze and dine al fresco on the bright and airy patio. An indoor, more formal, dining room is also an option, but I prefer the outdoor seating. The bar area is quite spacious and opens onto the patio as well.
I started my meal with the skillet coffee cake with brown sugar, rum cream and fresh berries. It arrived at our table in a small skillet (cute!) and was sweet and toasty on the outside and moist within – exactly what I wanted with my latte. Who says you can’t start out with dessert? I was tempted to order the Savory Festival Bread, served with goat’s milk butter, guava jam and rum honey for dipping, but I had to pace myself for many other delicious choices.
I was hoping to find an egg dish for vegetarians on the menu (the Sunny Spot Egg Plate comes with Korean-style confit eggs, jerk fingerling potatoes and mojo glazed grilled pork belly and/or hangar steak), but the kitchen was able to put together a plate of eggs, potatoes, black beans and toast, per my request. The black beans were very flavorful and similar to the black bean soup with ginger and coconut milk.
My dining companion’s favorite dish was the salt code brandade benedict with poached eggs, coconut hollandaise, topped with a cherry-tomato vinaigrette. The portion was just right and the flavors were unique.
What would a trip to the islands be without a signature Pina Colada to drink? Sunny Spot’s version is special with Antigua rum, pineapple and ginger-coconut sorbet. This is the perfect indulgence – smooth, sweet and creamy and complements the salty/spicy dishes perfectly. Another refreshing drink from the tropics, sans alcohol, is the Islander Smoothie with a blend of mango, orange, pineapple, cracked pepper and coconut milk.
I was also tempted to order the Johnny Cakes with smoked-spiced maple syrup, grilled corn and butter, but there’s always next time. We decided to order a refreshing, palate-cleanser: the hearts of palm salad in a pineapple vinaigrette, with pickled shishito peppers, melon, carrot-coconut puree. The pineapple lollipop is simple but does the trick as well, with a hunk of pineapple sprinkled with a bit of chili lime salt.
The smoked baby back ribs were a popular menu item that day and the kitchen ran out of them just as we were about to place an order (another reason to return). I’ve also heard that the two-fisted burger is the bomb, extremely juice and tasty. Both the sweet and salty fried plantains and yellow salty rice would pair well with the ribs or the burger.
End your meal with a scoop of coconut-ginger sorbet (or another Pina Colada!) It’s light and refreshing and will get you as close to an island-experience as possible.
Weekend brunch only menu served: Sat. – Sun. 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Liz Laing is a writer, web designer and photographer who lives in Los Angeles. Her latest projects may be followed on Liz Laing.