Although largely ignored during the Downtown LA redevelopment boom of the mid 2000’s, Chinatown has begun to show new signs of life. The recent opening of Chef Roy Choi’s Chego at Far East Plaza, the near completion of Jia Apartments (Chinatown’s first market rate rentals), and the groundbreaking of Blossom Plaza, a new mixed-use “gateway” to the historic neighborhood for transit riders, have all instilled a new sense of optimism in Chinatown’s future.
Nestled on an unassuming stretch of North Spring Street adjacent to El Pueblo, 643 North is the latest in a string of new businesses to call the area home. The restaurant, owned by Michael J. Ourieff who also owns Michael J’s Catering, features a simple, yet comfortable interior with an eye catching outdoor/indoor bar space that injects new life onto the street. A modern neighborhood bistro, 643 North offers a diverse menu of salads, sandwiches, tapas-style smaller bites, pizzas, and a nicely curated selection of larger entrees.
On my most recent trip, we made a point of sampling a range of dishes from the menu starting with the Ahi Tuna Nicoise. Perfectly seared, the tuna was nicely presented on a bed of green beans complemented by tomatoes, red onion, soft boiled egg, new potatoes and a tasty mustard citronette. Happy with this first course we vowed to try the pickled beet salad on our next visit, which was highly recommended by our wonderful server Patrick.
Moving onto the small bites portion of the menu, we came away impressed by the Charred Broccolini and Braised Pig. Top with a fried egg and served with parmesan and chili oil, the broccolini offers a great combination of flavors while the tender braised pig provides a tasty combination of sweet and spicy in a broth that’s addictive, especially when combined with the pickled onions that top it.
Eager to sample a selection of larger bites we opted for the Jumbo Prawns, Seared Diver Scallops, Lamb Chops and Ossobuco Ravioli. Beautifully presented on a puff pastry stuffed with ratatouille, the jumbo prawns, brushed with a lemon butter sauce, were absolutely delicious and became one of our favorite dishes of the evening. In fact, we found all of the larger bites we tried to be some of the best we’ve tasted. The scallops were seared to perfection and well complemented by a tasty parmesan farro, while the lamb chops served with mint jus were incredibly tender and juicy. The ravioli was cooked al dente with a flavorful filling of tender veal, while the parmesan broth was light enough as to not overpower the pasta.
Although satisfied, we knew we couldn’t end the evening without trying at least one dessert. We decided on the Butter Cake, which tastes just as it sounds and is served with crème chantilly and raspberry coulis. We didn’t regret our selection. The cake was fantastic and well, buttery, which is always delicious, especially when combined with vanilla creme and raspberries.
All said, we came away very impressed with 643 North. It’s a great addition to an evolving neighborhood offering a friendly, relaxed atmosphere that’s accessible and informal. This section of North Spring Street is increasingly becoming a place to watch both for food lovers and urbanphiles alike.
For more info, please visit 643 North online.
All photos by Brigham Yen