Three-month-old Noir Wine Bar marries the best of Asian cuisines – Bulgogi Jap Chae, Poke Tuna, even an off-the-menu Kimchee Sushi Roll – at Happy Hour prices from 3-7pm.
Located on La Brea just south of Wilshire, Noir sits quietly on the block with black & white awnings & black wooden signs. But step inside and a fiery red wall greets you on the left, while a lofty brick wall says hello on the right. The center 8-seater bar is brimming with 49 Wines, 17 Beers, 8 Sakes, and 4 Soju-tinis, which during happy hour are discounted from $2 to 50% off. And the Happy Hour portions are some of the biggest I've seen at an Asian restaurant, priced at 2 for $12.99 and 3 for $18.99.
- might as well be a meal, sesame 'n soy, smooth yet crunchy Beef Bulgogi Jap Chae
- the almost bottomless Martini Glass of light 'n chunky, fresh 'n peppery Poke Tuna
- the whole Avocado, the whole Mango, but not the whole citrusy sweet Salmon Salad
I've been wanting to try Noir Bar for quite some time now. When the hand model and I showed up 15 mintues 'til happy hour ended, the bartender/waiter (thankfully) said, "No Sweat" and proceeded to give us a "Grubdown" of the most filling items on the menu.
We started with the Salmon Salad. The Salmon is fresh, cured in Yuzu Citrus Sauce, and decorated with tiny black & red Flying Fish Roe that pop in your mouth. However, the huge portions of delicate, Sesame Seed-sprinkled Avocado & Mango (probably a whole piece of fruit each) overshadow the Salmon – a.k.a. I wanted more of the fruity fish.
The Poke Tuna, on the other hand, is bursting with bounty and flavor. Served in a heaping Martini Glass, the Tuna is dusted with salty Nori Flakes, kissed with a Red Peppery Bean Paste, tangled up in Seaweed Salad, and swimming in Yuzu Cucumber Sauce. When I got to the bottom, I was tempted to drink up every last delicious drop – you will, too.
The biggest, most wholesome & filling plate of the bunch is the Beef Bulgogi Jap Chae with Cellophane (Glass) Noodles that are stir fried in Sesame Oil & Soy Sauce. The sliced Cabbage & Carrots give it some major crunch. The Beef is spicy & sweet, but a little chewy.
While these 3 dishes were enough to fill us up, I couldn't resist ordering the bartender's favorite Hot Night Roll ($11.50) from the main (not Happy Hour) menu. Of course I spiced things up (pun intended) by customizing it, exchanging the imitation Crab Meat for Kimchee. This special order is not for the weak-at-tongue because it literally lights your mouth on fire. Served with Spicy Tuna on the outside and Tempura Shrimp on the inside, the Kimchee adds more heat, a touch of sweetness, and warmth (temperature-wise.) We let the bartender have a bite and he was impressed. The chef was equally too, so much so that by the time you visit Noir it might already be on the menu.
Noir also serves some Asian-American fusion Desserts, like Green Tea Ice Cream Shakes ($5.50) and Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies ($6.50).
As for Sake recommendations, order the Okunomatsu Tokubetsu Junmai. As the owner states, "it's a best seller in Japan." The subtle, sweet 'n smooth melon flavor is probably why.
801 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036. 323-933-3229.