The Bottom Line
Since its opening in 2008, RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen has been a crowd pleaser. Its eclectic décor, clubby yet comfy vibe and accessible menu draw fans of Southeast Asian food as well as trendy imbibers and Century City mall shoppers. The restaurant features the cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and India. Co-owned by Executive Chef Mohan Ismail and David Overton, founder of the Cheesecake Factory, RockSugar’s extensive menu was updated with six new items in early 2012.
- Emphasis on quality and value
- Wide variety of cuisine and menu items
- Casual, chic atmosphere
- On busy (weekend) nights, the scene may be more hustle-bustle than quiet and relaxing
- RockSugar celebrates Thai New Year on April 13 by offering complimentary dessert samplers to all tables during lunch and dinner
- Happy Hour daily from 4-6:30 p.m.
- Chef’s prix-fixe lunch menu: $12.95 per guest (two courses) and $14.95 per guest (three courses)
- Chef’s five-course tasting menu is $38 per guest
- Open for lunch: Mon.-Sun., 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; dinner: Sun.-Thu., 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
- Meat/seafood dinner entrees run from $13.50-$32.50
- Parking is available at Westfield Century City mall (three hours free) or complimentary valet
Contributing Writer Review – RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen in Century City, Los Angeles
For inspiration in the kitchen, Chef Mohan Ismail often turns to his mother, Aisah. She taught him how to cook when he was a kid growing up in Singapore, frequently telling him: “Eat your food while it’s hot!”
That’s a key aim for Ismail as he oversees RockSugar’s 7,500-square-foot space (plus an 1,850- square-foot dining patio) full of guests ready for piping hot plates. It’s a room with much to catch the eye--oversized red wooden doors, high ceilings, gold-leaf-overlaid columns, and Burmese Buddha statues. RockSugar is a fun spot for cocktails (the Asian pear martini and passion-fruit cosmo are excellent) and nosh. Dishes are served family style, making it easy to share.
Memories of Ismail’s own family, spurred by a recent trip to Malaysia and Singapore, influenced many of his 2012 additions to the RockSugar menu. For example, Indonesian beef rendang is Aisah’s signature recipe, which she made on special occasions. Ismail seasons his version with lemongrass, pandan, galangal and kafir lime, and serves it with turmeric rice cakes. Similarly, the kumquat roasted chicken, marinated with lemongrass and palm sugar, reminds him both of snacking on kumquats as a child and visiting Bangkok.
There are two flavorful shrimp items on the updated menu. The delicious six-grain Hainan hotpot with shrimp combines grains, shrimp, wok-fried ginger, garlic, green onions and cilantro. The shrimp toast comes as balls of shrimp, water chestnuts, jalapeno, chive and sambal mayonnaise encased in Vietnamese croutons. It’s tasty and, while there’s plenty of shrimp, the croutons were a little heavy for me.
Not to be missed is the claypot caramel snapper made with pea shoots, chilies, white soy beans, lime juice, sweet rice wine, coconut water, cilantro and ginger. Snapper can be tricky to get just right but Ismail has nailed it–-a lovely balance of flavors and firm, yet tender, texture. Mango sticky rice is a staple on many Thai restaurant menus; Ismail serves his with coconut sauce, which gives this traditional dessert a little extra panache.
Apart from the newer menu items added in early 2012, there is a vast selection of classics such as Thai noodles with chicken, tofu, crushed peanuts and egg; shaking beef (beef filet, red onions, garlic and watercress) and princess shrimp (tempura tiger shrimp, chilies, cilantro, peanuts and palm-sugar glaze). In addition, there’s princess chicken, which is usually a good choice for kids. I also enjoyed the spicy ahi rolls and veggie spring roll appetizers.
For dessert, along with the mango sticky rice, I tried the caramelized banana custard cake with milk chocolate ice cream, malted crème anglaise and nut brittle. Heavenly.
RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen
10250 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Jacqueline Fitzgerald is a Los Angeles based writer who runs her own website Film Noir Blonde.