While West last weekend for the Quadron show, we were wondering where some good places to get a bite in Little Osaka were. We sent out a Tweet to get some suggestions and we received a resounding response pushing for a visit to one place: Plan Check. The place has been buzzed about since it opened a little over a year ago and was on everyone’s list of “places to eat right now.” Taking the advice of everyone and their mother, we stopped in to the no reservation restaurant around 9:30PM on a Friday night and had one of the best and worst dining experiences in the city.
The place is a woody sports bar-like space that very much fosters the community atmosphere. You can sit at the bar or at a communal table or a few of the booths inside or at the tables outside: you have a lot of options. It’s fairly big, all things considered, and is one of those places that is nice but doesn’t dress itself up nicely. You do catch one little note that is a bit of the neighborhood seeping into the walls of the space: the influence of Japan does make itself known. This mainly manifests itself in the bar area (AKA a wall of Japanese whiskeys) and in the food, which is done in a subtle but very American way with a dash of Asia (or vice versa , etc.).
That pairing is great, too. There are interesting additions to classics that represent this mashing: there are beer nuts flavored with wasabi, crab dip with nori added to it, pastrami with kimchi mustard, and more. The only area that didn’t really see this connect was the bar service which, surprisingly, wasn’t laced with sake and rice wine and more. There was a wall of Japanese whiskeys but the beer and wine (which we had) were totally normal. This left a little bit to be desired but totally not a big deal.
We sat at the bar that overlooks the kitchen, a preferred place because you get to stare at people making things instead of other couples eating. The service started off on an extremely fine note and only went downward from here: we weren’t greeted for approximately ten minutes, there was no water in sight, we had to grab our own place settings from the (kitchen) line, etc., etc., etc. Sitting in our placement was convenient as we were within eyeshot of the expediting manager…but we were also sitting next to the impromptu waiter cash-out/tip-out area. That was literally happening next to me for the latter half of our meal. Nothing quite amps up ambiance like watching a gaggle of servers laughing and tossing dollar bills at each other from the corner of your eye. Friday nights, y’all.
We started the meal off with a sampling of small plates. We side-stepped the temping but too easy meats and cheeses for PC’s take on Beer Nuts, their Pork Craklins’ special, and a surprise gift of English Pea Edamame. The beer nuts were an interesting mixture of the salty and the sweet with a tiny wasabi kick on the end. There was some sort of umami action lingering at the bottom of the flavor note that definitely made it an intriguing snack. After a few handfuls, you move away from it because they are extremely salty. The cracklins were delicious and are just really nice pork rinds (which is great because–fact–I love pork rinds). They give you a little hot sauce to dip the chips in which add a delightful kick. So long as you do not go overboard with dipping your chip too far, you’ll love the flavor combination. The “English pea edamame” was a gift to us after asking the manager what they were: they were a special for a private party. He fired an extra serving to give to us, which was super nice. These were amazing: they are buttery with lots of wasabi and are literally finger licking yummy. The English pea also lends itself better to edamame because they are heartier. We had no idea!
After waiting a good twenty more minutes for our server to clear our plates and ask us what we wanted for dinner and to ask him if we could get water, we continued our dining experience. We got both the Spicy Chicken Sandwich special and the Truffle Burger special along with a small side of fries. The chicken sandwich is a little leggier version of their normal chicken sandwich and kind of tasted like a fancy version of Jack In The Box’s Spicy Chicken with pepperjack cheese. The heat is nice and the chicken is nice and it isl like you are eating the most elegant of drunk food. The burger was a masterpiece. The truffle is so laced into the integrity of the burger that you cannot escape its presence. They did an ace job with the added mushrooms and everything about this burger was perfect. This was a triumph of a sandwich. The fries were nice and some of the most potatoey fries we’ve ever had. There is a beefy undertone and the kimchi ketchup is a perfect dipping friend.
We absolutely fell in love with the food at Plan Check: it’s extreme casual comfort food elevated to a fancy level and twisted through an Eastern funnel. It’s also not too expensive and, save for our bad and lax Friday night service, everything about Plan Check is great. We’ve heard that our service was rare and it may just be because we were eating later on a Friday night. Regardless, your richest customer and your poorest customer, your first customer and your last customer (which we were not) should all be treated with equal care. That’s just good service! It also helps not to spill water all over a patron’s place setting, too.