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Comedian-turned-chef Alex Thomopoulos is one lucky woman. She recently toured around Los Angeles with Graham Elliot on Going Off the Menu, scarfing down butter-garlic shrimp at Smorgasburg LA, eating fresh uni harvested from the ocean just minutes earlier, and crashing a crazy tiki party with flaming cocktails and live entertainment. Sounds like a blast, right?
Not so fast. While she called the Hawaiian-style garlic butter shrimp at Smorgasburg's Shrimp Daddy "mind-blowing," she actually isn't the biggest fan of uni.
"I'm a big texture person, so uni is not my favorite," Alex admitted recently in an interview with The Feast. "I'm not an uni fanatic like most people."
But the uni she sampled that day—freshly harvested from the Pacific by diver Matt Kim and served minutes later right on the beach—was exceptional. "The uni that he pulled out of the ocean that was so fresh, it definitely was an experience," she said. "I mean, you can get over the texture when the story is that cool about food."
Graham and Alex with diver Matt Kim and some of his spoils
Speaking of cool, the Coconut Club—an over-the-top tiki party hosted twice a month in the historic Clifton's restaurant—caught both Alex and Graham off guard. "It was just off the wall and crazy. I mean, I totally got into it," Alex said. "Graham had a little bit of a hard time getting into it, but I think he definitely did at the end. I got a few cocktails in him and he was fine."
Those would be flaming tequila pineapple cocktails, by the way. And they came with an unusual garnish. "They put a coffee-rubbed steak skewer in there, and I go, "That's going to be disgusting.' And I was actually kind of upset when it came to the table," she explained. "I go, 'This is going to be disgusting, this is gross' and I s*** you not, it was one of the best, not only steak skewers I've ever had, but mixed with the cocktail I was blown away."
Alex, who recently became the chef at Great White restaurant in L.A., was super impressed by the food overall, which wasn't your typical retro tiki fare like crab rangoon or glazed spareribs. "I thought the food would be super kitschy and kind of disgusting and it was really, really well done, really inventive, and thoughtful," she enthused.
Getting into the Polynesian spirit with the Coconut Club hosts
And hanging out with her pal Graham is always a good time. The two have known each other for years, but usually only see each other at festivals and events. "I love his insight about food. I can be eating something and think one thing and then he says something and I'm like, 'oh my god, yes, that's what I was trying to get,'" she gushed. "He definitely lets me make him the butt of the joke sometimes, which I appreciate."
Alex's Going Off the Menu experience inspired her to dream up her own underground supper club, which would start with a treasure hunt to gain entry. Intrepid wanna-be diners "would have to go to different spots and get different clues. You can't just walk into my restaurant. Sorry! You're gonna have to work for it. And every clue would give you a different—like a fork, or a knife, or a plate that you actually have to bring to the restaurant."
And once you've gained access to her super-secret location? "I would probably want to surprise everybody and do Vietnamese food, 'cuz that's my favorite, like Southeast Asian?" Alex mused. "So I'd be down there with like three Vietnamese grandmothers, cooking up a storm and just having a full Southeast Asian, Indonesia-Thailand-Vietnamese-type of experience in the middle of a big city. Did I just totally give away that I'm a total weirdo?"
Not at all. And if Alex opens up her dream underground supper club, we're totally in—utensils and plate in hand.
Bravotv.com’s digital series Going Off the Menu takes viewers on an exclusive culinary adventure as host Graham Elliot uncovers the most delicious offerings within Los Angeles’ underground food scene. From a secret supper club serving smuggled cheeses to an eight-course liquid dinner, join Lance Bass, Cheryl Burke, Reza Farahan, and more as they give fans the secrets to unlock these extraordinary food experiences.
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