Sampa: Where Filipino-American Cuisine Meets Mixology Magic in the Heart of LA’s Arts District

Tucked away in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles, a culinary renaissance unfolds within the intimate, dimly lit walls of Sampa. What began as a mere pop-up within the chic environs of Kaviar Restaurant has now blossomed into a full takeover, thanks to the overwhelming success and the innovative vision of Chef Josh Espinosa. After a decade at the renowned Crustacean in Beverly Hills, Chef Espinosa brings his wealth of experience to the evolution of Filipino-American cuisine, reimagining familiar flavors with a global flair and advanced culinary techniques.

 

 

Sampa is more than a dining destination; it’s an immersive experience where the ambient lighting casts a dark, sexy glow that beckons the stylish and the discerning. It’s a place where the avant-garde meets tradition, where each dish served is a piece of home, artfully deconstructed and reinvented. The interiors speak volumes of its clientele—hip, fashionable, with an unmistakable air of good taste.

Cuisine

Chef Espinosa’s menu is a gastronomic tapestry, weaving together threads of traditional Filipino dishes with unexpected textures and tastes. 

At Sampa, the menu is an ode to Filipino culinary heritage, ingeniously redefined through the lens of modern gastronomy. This is where tradition meets innovation on a plate.

The Crispy Rice Salad is a vegan’s delight, combining the fresh, citrusy tang of calamansi vinaigrette with the earthy crunch of kale and garlic-roasted peanuts. It represents the lighter, yet flavorful side of the menu that caters to health-conscious diners.

Seafood aficionados can dive into the Filipino Ceviche, an appetizing mix of gulf white shrimp, oysters, and wonton chips. This dish is a zesty testament to the country’s rich aquatic fare, presented with an upscale twist.

For those with adventurous palates, the Kuhol beckons—a luxurious take on escargot, bathed in coconut butter and paired with pandesal crostini, which add a comforting, homely touch to the indulgent snails.

Vegetarians are again in for a treat with the Coco Shoots. It’s a vibrant ensemble of bamboo shoots and crispy purple sweet potato, showcasing the versatility of vegetables when crafted with imagination.

The Crispy Pasta is a hearty serving for the soul, featuring crispy confit pork hock mixed with the silken strands of spinach tagliatelle—a testament to the hearty and rustic flavors Filipino cuisine is known for.

Sampa’s Crab Fat Fried Rice is a bold dish, rich in the umami flavors of crab fat butter, with the tender garlic crab stealing the spotlight, satisfying those with a penchant for decadent, savory delights.

The Lamb Shank Kaldereta is a remastered classic—a generous portion of braised lamb shank swimming in a rich, savory kaldereta jus, capturing the essence of Filipino fiesta fare.

Octopus Adobo, another standout, offers a novel take on the Philippines’ national dish by featuring Spanish octopus and crispy confit potatoes, marrying local ingredients with global culinary techniques.

For the dessert, the Calamansi Key Lime Pie is a playful fusion, with a polvoron crust and calamansi caramel that dance on the tongue, bridging Filipino flavors with American dessert traditions.

Lastly, the Ube Cheesecake continues the theme of fusion with its vibrant hue and taste, resting on a polvoron crust and topped with jackfruit whip—a true celebration of Filipino sweets, reimagined.

Sampa’s menu is thus a canvas of bold flavors and inventive pairings, where each dish tells a story of Filipino-American evolution, crafted with care, creativity, and cultural pride.

The Drinks

Sampa’s cocktail menu is a collection of concoctions that are as inventive as they are delightful, each with a twist that pays homage to the Filipino-American fusion theme of the restaurant.

The Strawberry Coconut Necroni is an imaginative take on the classic Negroni, featuring a coconut-washed gin that’s infused with sweet vermouth and aperitif, then garnished with strawberries for a sweet, tart finish that’s utterly refreshing.

An Old Fashioned, aptly priced at 20, is re-envisioned with rye whiskey and the unique addition of banane du brésil, lending a tropical note. Amaro brings a hint of bitterness, balanced by lemon sugar, and the drink is further enhanced with the unusual inclusion of lion’s mane mushrooms and a dash of chili tincture for a subtle kick.

The Daquiri at Sampa is not your standard fare. It uses rum and apricot du roussillon for a deep, fruity flavor, complemented by a touch of aperitif and lime to cut through the sweetness, making it a sophisticated choice.

The Buck, another innovation, mixes vodka with jackfruit and cinnamon for a fruity and spicy blend. The addition of cardamom and nutmeg, along with lime and ginger beer, gives this cocktail a complex profile that’s both exotic and familiar.

For a drink that truly encapsulates Sampa’s spirit, The Banger is a must-try. Tequila is the base, but it’s the blend of cucumber, pineapple, coconut, and lemon, topped with vanilla salt air, that makes it a standout — a drink that’s as playful as it is nuanced.

Ube Sour is a testament to Sampa’s commitment to redefining Filipino flavors. This vibrant purple drink takes the classic sour to new heights with coconut-washed gin, mango, lemon, and vanilla. It’s smoothed out with coconut milk and given a unique texture with aquafaba. A sprinkle of strawberry dust on top ensures that it’s as much a treat for the eyes as for the taste buds.

The beverage offerings extend beyond cocktails to include a curated selection of beers, sodas, and even a hot teapot with an herbal selection, offering something for every palate. The wines are available by the glass or bottle, featuring a balance between accessibility and quality, while water options like aqua panna and San Pellegrino hint at the upscale nature of the establishment.

In essence, the cocktail menu at Sampa is a perfect mirror of the restaurant itself: inventive, sophisticated, and deeply rooted in a Filipino-American narrative that’s both nostalgic and forward-looking.

Sampa’s tale is one of transformation and triumph, where a humble pop-up venture has become a staple in the Los Angeles food scene, much like the district that houses it—a blend of the raw and the refined, the nostalgic and the new. It’s a place where every sip and every bite tells a story, and that story is one of Filipino-American heritage, reborn and relished in every visit.

David Christopher Lee

Editor-in-Chief

David Christopher Lee launched his first online magazine in 2001. As a young publisher, he had access to the most incredible events and innovators of the world. In 2009, he started Destinationluxury.com, one of the largest portals for all things luxury including 5 star properties, Michelin Star Restaurants and bespoke experiences. As a portrait photographer and producer, David has worked with many celebrities & major brands such as Richard Branson, the Kardashians, Lady Gaga, Cadillac, Lexus, Qatar Airways, Aman Hotels, just to name a few. David’s work has been published in major magazines such as GQ, Vogue, Instyle, People, Teen, Men’s Health, Departures & many more. He creates content with powerful seo marketing strategies.

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