I tend to try to make myself at home when I travel. As a former and current resident of tourist destinations, I quickly learned that sticking to the normal tourist trappy activities can leave me spending too much money on subpar experiences. I mean, NY residents, would you recommend a restaurant in Times Square? Unlikely.
Luckily, a very close friend of mine in Brooklyn, grew up in LA, so during my first (yea, took awhile) trip to La La Land, we were able to attend a very intimate pop-up dinner. A growing concept of her close friends, brothers, Chase and Chad Valencia, second generation Filipino-American, LASA, the pop-up restaurant, is inspired by Philippine Cuisine and influenced by Southern California’s seasonal farmers’ markets.
In Tagalog (Filipino), LASA means taste and flavor. Appropriately. Chad and Chase both come from impressive food and beverage backgrounds. Chase, co-owner and GM, developed a passion for food and memorable experiences working at a variety of places such as mom and pop shop, Owen’s Bakery, popular Silverlake spot, Sqirl, and taking care of huge events for the likes of SONY and Beats By Dre with Wolfgang Puck’s Catering in a variety of managerial roles. The other half, Chad has 12 years of restaurant experience. In the last five years he’s cooked under Chef Corine Weibel at Canele where he learned about seasonality in Southern CA. He then spent time creating seasonally driven, traditional Spanish dishes at Contigo in San Francisco before returning to LA and working at Sqirl with Chase and close friends, Chef Meadow Ramsey and Jessica Kosklow. It was then that LASA was born.
Pictured, Chad and Chase Valencia. On inspiration for LASA, Chad says “In this time in America, where there is the highest concentration of second generation Filipino Americans, it only makes sense to represent my culture through what I do best, which is cook food. Otherwise aspects of our culture will be forgotten which is inevitable in a sense, but this is our effort and appreciation for our motherland. Also to learn more about my culture and its food history. There is more I don’t know than what I actually do know within Filipino food and to me this means this journey is life long and that I can be excited about learning throughout this journey.”
In 2013, before the LASA it has matured into, the brothers started with summer, backyard dinners, then moved to a bi-monthly pop-up dinner and now has become the quarterly, seasonal dinner that I attended last week. This winter, January’s edition sold out just under 100 available seats inside the event space Elysian, in less than two hours. Game killed.
Check the pics below (food from Jill Tuttle and others from their Facebook):
Pictured, from top left, Pork Rilette, Soy-Vinegar Braised Octopus, Mung Bean Dip, Scallops Kinilaw, Red Grouper & Manila, Coconut Milk Champarrado.
So on top of an innovative, cohesive and delicious menu, everyone working at LASA was super welcoming and the music selection consisted of songs I need to know or have already written about (so I’m extra bias), creating a wonderfully warm and comfortable atmosphere. When I asked Chase, “What is something I need to tell people about LASA?”, he offered a response perfectly in line with how I felt leaving that evening. He said “To us, LASA means food and community, eating and experiencing an honest meal with loved ones. We are thankful for the opportunities we have had to put ourselves out there and how receptive people have been with our concept.”
As for something, I believe you need to know about LASA. The next one is in March and a little birdie told me they are getting closer to the goal of opening their own brick and mortar in Los Angeles. Follow them on Facebook and keep track of them on their website so you do not miss the next one!