Venezuelan born chef Gisela Salazar-Golding, together with Javier Perez, have brought the unique flavors of Grain Traders from Singapore to its first U.S. location in the heart of West Hollywood. The new all-day cafe, coffee shop and market in a repurposed auto repair shop on Fairfax is open for takeout and delivery and focuses on plates composed of whole grains, fresh vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, lean proteins and a flurry of fermentation.
The long building with two different outdoor seating areas pays homage to its previous life, with cavernous ceilings and the old garage doors. Inside the light and airy space there’s a market counter, dessert bar and coffee shop. Art from Argentinian muralist Franco Fasoli adorns the walls as well as antiques from local L.A. stores.
The dining concept for Grain Traders is composing your own original plate with a base layer from a grain selection that features a variety of organic whole grains like tricolor quinoa Hainanese style and forbidden rice with caramelized leeks and onions. Top that with a choice of one protein, side and two vegetables, along with a variety of house-made pickles, sauces and toppings. Menu items can all be ordered a la carte as well.
One of Salazar’s signature plates represents many of the ingredients and flavors the chef discovered during the years she worked in Asia, Spain and France. It’s a grain base of Nasi Lemak brown rice with coconut milk, grilled salmon with lemon and curry leaf dressing nestled alongside a warm baby carrot salad with spiced lentils and feta crumble and heirloom tomatoes and spring onion with yuzu dressing. That comes with two sides – in this case Japanese cucumber and kaffir lime pickle as well as mixed mushrooms and seaweed pickle. It all gets topped off with activated mixed nuts with turmeric and black pepper. Sauces include coconut curry and beetroot feta yogurt.
“In terms of nutrition, this is a balanced plate where you can find all your macronutrients, carbs, protein and fats for a complete and concise meal,” Salazar tells L.A. Weekly. Dishes are rotated seasonally, catering to all types of dietary preferences and sensitivities.
It’s a pretty mind-blowing dining experience and combination of textures and flavors unlike anything else available right now, and an inspiring break from the current usual takeout and delivery suspects like pizza, fried chicken and burgers. There’s a diverse selection of vegetables including green curry eggplant casserole, roasted root vegetables with caramelized onions and grapes as well as roasted miso and ginger butternut squash with basil and pepitas pesto. All the dishes travel well and can be served safely at room temperature.
The pickle selection alone – like the spiced radish pickles or cauliflower, carrot and curry leaf pickle – is a gut lover’s dream and the pineapple kimchi is a perfectly spiced crunchy mouthful. If you like jackfruit, their Char Siu pulled jackfruit might be one of the best versions in L.A. and the bakery also offers sweet jackfruit empanadas.
If you’re looking to keep up your immunity, go with your gut on this one.