photo credit: Jessie Clapp
Not everyone can pull off a double life. It works for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but politicians? Not so much. Silver Lake’s Tet-A-Tet makes harboring an alternate persona look easy, though. You might know it as All Day Baby, the cozy daytime spot on Sunset that serves milkshakes and flaky biscuits with a slice of old-school Americana. Once nighttime rolls around, however, it transforms into a Vietnamese restaurant: Tet-A-Tet. For the most part, this genre-bending space pulls off its nightly transformation with style and a bit of flair. As long as you order strategically.
The only atmospheric difference between All Day Baby and Tet-A-Tet is that they dim the lights for dinner. Yes, it sets the mood, but they’re not really fooling anyone. You’re still in All Day Baby. During the day, you'd probably would have no idea Tet-A-Tet even exists. There’s no shiny marquee or sign spinner directing traffic to the dinner menu. All of this makes the experience of eating here feel like you're in on a secret. And we like the sharp contrast of eating Vietnamese food next to a pastry case of cookies and banana cream pies (which, by the way, are still available at dinner).
Tet-A-Tet is primarily Vietnamese, with some added miscellaneous Latin influences. These happen in all the right places: chicken wings are tossed in a smoky salsa macha, and oxtail stew comes with hominy to give it a pozole feel. If this ingenious mixing of flavors feels familiar, Tet-A-Tet is from the same people behind Here’s Looking At You, a Koreatown restaurant that we love very, very much.
We suggest focusing your attention on the second half of the menu, where there's a silky jidori chicken liver pâte with sweet mango jam, tender pig trotters in a salty black vinegar sauce, and fried rice with generous amounts of blue crab meat. The whole fried fish sitting in green curry is also a non-negotiable, regardless if you’re dining solo or with lucky guests.
But not everything is a homerun at Tet-A-Tet. Some of the smaller plates—like the spicy beef salad and the “refreshing salad” with vermicelli—are potential skips. These dishes are tasty with their tangy, chili-infused vinaigrettes, but they're also not the most interesting things on the menu. We'd rather focus our attention (and appetite) elsewhere.
The novelty of eating at a restaurant within a restaurant is just one part of Tet-A-Tet’s appeal, and certainly not the most exciting thing about this place. The food is genuinely very good, despite a few forgettable dishes. Its creative spins on Vietnamese food combined with a casual but lively atmosphere make for a good time with friends, or a date you actually want to last a while. So don't just call it a pop-up inside of All Day Baby. Its name is Tet-A-Tet, or at least on Wednesdays to Saturdays after 6pm.
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We appreciate the creativity in Tet-A-Tet’s cocktail program, but we’re not too crazy about the current selection of tiki-esque drinks. The Pleasing Smile featuring two types of whiskey was way too strong, and the overly sweet Queen Kasu with pineapple juice and grenadine reminded us of our college spring break trips (make of that what you will). We prefer All Day Baby’s cocktail program, which is still available at dinner and includes a fantastic honeydew mint margarita.
Spicy Beef Salad
There's a chance half of our taste buds have been seared off by now anyway, but we didn’t find this spicy beef salad to be spicy. But we did find the meat cooked to a beautiful medium rare, with a great peanut crunch and pretty standard chili vinaigrette. There is some heat here, but it's more of an afterthought.
Jidori Chicken Liver Pâté
This pâté is silky smooth. This is one of the best dishes on the menu and doesn't pack a strong liver aftertaste (if you’re not an organ meat fan). We also love the fresh Thai basil and mango jam on the side that helps cut through the rich spread.
Crispy Imperial Rolls
These mushroom and chicken spring rolls are crispy, salty, a little spicy, but they aren’t the most interesting things on the menu. They’re two pleasant bites that you'll quickly forget about once you see the next course.
Blue Crab Fried Rice
Few things can beat a delicious fried rice, and this one delivers. Not only is it the right balance between crispy and chewy, but it's loaded with lots of tender blue crab meat that takes this dish up several notches. Decadence.
Smoked Half Chicken
We got asked if we could handle spice when we ordered this supposedly spicy half chicken. Spoiler alert: it's not spicy. Instead, it has a pleasant savory smokiness, but tough skin and even tougher meat. We'll give special recognition to the very tasty house pickles, though.
Smoked Whole Chicken Wings
We're trying to think of another word besides "smoky" to describe these incredibly delicious wings, but it holds a double meaning here. You get that smoky, charred chile heat from the salsa macha in your first bite, but the meat has a chickory-smoke flavor that comes through after. So, yes, lots of smoke.
Whole Fried Huachinango
This dish delivers the biggest wow factor the moment it hits the table. It's a beautifully fried red snapper coated in a golden, crackly crust of crispy fried shallots. The green curry brings tons of heat and lemongrass to the fish, and we love the sweet and salty fish sauce caramel that rounds everything out.
This vanilla wedding cake was unfortunately a lackluster finish to a delicious meal. It definitely tasted like wedding cake, but the dry leftover slice you eat the day after in front of the fridge.