Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wakasan: One of Westside's Best Deals

Wakasan is one of my favorite recent discoveries. Why? Well, 1) they're open late - 11:30PM M-Th, and 12:30AM F-Sat (they close at 10:30 on Sundays). I don't know if you remember my ordeal on finding late night places on Mondays, but, well, this about fixes it all! 2)It's a great deal. They prefer you to do their prix fixe menu that's $35 - when I did, I ended up getting 12 items and was stuffed - probably too much so for 11pm on a Monday ...

Thanks to Mattatouille for pointing this place out to me!

1. Cold bean sprouts

2. Bean curd - before it's formed into tofu with vegetables, and
3. Ankimo with ponzu sauce, cucumbers and salmon eggs
The tofu curd had a very interesting texture and the dish overall was great.
The ankimo was also good, and I really like the combination with the cucumbers!

4. Sashimi: Tuna, old yellowtail, red snapper

They're not the best quality sashimi, although it wasn't bad. I wondered why the "old yellowtail" - because, yes, it tasted pretty "old". Anyway it wasn't bad and for $35 for this and a lot more I wasn't going to complain.

5. King crab legs
Yum. They're king crab legs, I don't know what else you want me to say O:)

6. Grilled items: Miso salmon and green beans wrapped in wagyu beef
Pretty standard, salmon's a bit overcooked and hence, dry, for my taste, but overall everything was solid, even though not remarkable.

7. Braised Skate wings
This was my first time having skate. It was pretty fishy, but also pretty meaty. The braising has made it tender, so it was quite tasty - although I wasn't able to finish it because I was full and also because it was too fishy for my taste.

8. Shrimp with sweet potato fried rolls
This was served with cocktail sauce, which I wasn't too keen about. Overall this was pretty bland in my opinion, although it did have nice textures.

9. Chawanmushi
With ginkgo, small shrimps, etc, this was one of the best chawan mushi I could remember having.

10. Miso soup

11. Chirashi with tuna, scallops, uni.
Again, the fish quality is not the best, but the uni is not bad. I didn't really like the scallops as they were not fresh, but I thought the other two were decent.

12. Vanilla ice cream
I can't say for sure but this tasted very much like Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream. Which meant it was good :)

Overall we had a great variety of dishes, and some of them very interesting ones I've never had before, and all for $35. Plus they're open late daily. I'll be back here, and I think you know when :P

1929 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 446-5241

Wakasan Food Service on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 24, 2008

Royal/T for Light Lunch, Art, and Maids - but No Sweets

Royal/T in Culver City is known for its servers' maid uniforms, inspired by maid cafes in Akihabara in Japan, and the use of its space for art exhibits.The maid uniforms themselves are much tamer compared to maid cafes in Akiba with their dark brown and white color scheme. And no, they don't call you "Master" here.
As far as their brunch offerings go, you'll find light fares such as salads, sandwiches, rice bowls and "baked eggs" (more on that in a bit).

The tea selection is fairly interesting featuring "modern brews" on top of classics like sencha and darjeeling. Tea selection was fairly small though. It seems that most of their "modern brews" is supposed to be better iced, so I asked for a yuzu sencha iced. Pretty solid, but not particularly memorable for me. The yuzu flavor was not as strong as I would've liked and the tea itself was slightly overbrewed.

I decided to just have a simple salad: Shrimp with Asparagus, Avocado, and Tomatoes ($10)
Their prices are pretty reasonable, the ingredients used are good. The shrimps were good, and the salad overall is pretty good, although the combination didn't work 100% for me. Regardless it was enjoyable.

My friend also got some sort of egg scramble with tofu, served with salad.

Their baked egg dish was interesting and actually pretty good. It's literally baked.
I only had a bite of this but I think I'll get it next time - with something more than tomatoes though. There were only 2 slices of tomatoes in it, but the baked egg itself was good.

For a supposed "tea" place, Royal/T unfortunately has a very limited selection sweets and pastries - besides croissants at the bar area, they had three items on the dessert menu. Their online menu certainly boasts much more, but they were nowhere to be found that day.
I decided to try the chocolate banana bread.
The bread was good, but not enough to satisfy my cravings for sweets. It was pretty light and not that sweet, and I have no idea what whipped cream was doing next to a bread.
I tried ordering their brownies, but they were out so I had to settle for the lemon tart.
The lemon tart was good- the whipped cream was entirely decorational and superfluous. But again ... not quite enough for my cravings. But that was all that they had as far as desserts go - such a shame!
I headed to Boule and splurged afterwards.

I didn't get the afternoon tea set this time but now I'm not sure if it will even be worth it. No scones? No pastries? What's the point?? I would still go to Royal/T because their simple food is good enough and the space is cool, but until they fix this lack of sweets problem I won't be there too often.

8910 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 559-6300

Royal/T on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quick Soup/Salad Lunch at Clementine's

Clementine is a small neighbourhood place on Ensley, just off of Santa Monica (more or less right across from the Century City mall). They typically feature ingredients from local farmer's market.

Clementine's is simple lunch fare: salads, sandwiches, and soups. Their cold deli case usually features a wide variety of specialty salads and more. This time around we got some edamame with king salmon, caprese, and chicken soba noodles. A plate of 3 items like this is $11.95.
All were fresh - refreshing and quite delicious, even the soba noodles that I was originally skeptical of (I'm skeptical of Soba from a non-Japanese place).

They also have made-to-order salads. Can't remember what I ordered that time (that day's special), but it had shrimps and white beans
The ingredients used were all great, although I'm still not sure about the combination with the beans.

My favorite part of Clementine's is actually all the soups, which you can buy frozen by the pints! You can also eat it there, or get a sandwich/soup combination.
Their egg salad sandwich was delicious. I got a pint of frozen chicken tortilla soup to go - made for a few delicious lunches throughout the week!

1751 Ensley Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 552-1080

Clementine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Grace's OpenTable Appetite Stimulus

Among OpenTable's restaurant lineup for its Appetite Stimulus Plan, Grace is one of the few ones I was excited about and last night I managed to try it out with Mattatouille and his girlfriend.

Besides the 2 choices for each of the three courses, Grace also offered other courses for $6-8 supplemental charge, but we all stuck with the $35 three-course choices.

The first choice for the appetizer was the Fall Squash Soup with duck confit and pistachios.
A delicious and rich soup! The duck confit went very well with the sweetness of the squash soup itself and the pistachios provide a nice crunchy texture along with the smoothness of the soup. Everyone on the table loved it.

The other appetizer choice was House Cured Salmon with roasted beets, heirloom tomatoes, and horseradish creme fraiche.
I thought the presentation was gorgeous - I felt bad destroying it but you gotta do what you gotta do. This again was a hit - the salmon was delicious, and the sweet beets and tomatoes combination worked very well.

Instead of the sand dabs that the website mentioned, the first entree choice was actually Petrole Sole. The preparation and accompaniments are still the same with potato gnocchi, hazelnuts, haricots verts, and sage brown butter.
I only had a bit of this and thought it was solid. The fish wasn't particularly flavorful but Mattatouille seemed to love the brown butter. I loved the potato gnocchi which were very tender.

I had the oven roasted Leg of Colorado Lamb with Byaldi confit and olive infused lamb jus.
The Byaldi confit reminded me of the dish from the movie Ratatouille :) (doesn't it? doesn't it?) (oops, not Rattatouille ... It's all Mattatouille's fault)
The confit may be our favorite part of the dish. The lamb was flavorful but somewhat on the tougher side. Still good, just harder to eat - if only they had given us steak knives.

For dessert the choices were the Apple Upside Down Bread Pudding with buttermilk ice cream, apple cider syrup, cranberries, and brown sugar walnuts
A great dessert. The cranberries didn't add anything for me and I think it even distracted from the rest of the dish, but after putting that aside, I liked everything else.

The other dessert choice was Boca Negra Cake Affogato, which is a dark chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream, brandied orange slice, then soaked in espresso.
Very rich! The cake itself was amazingly dense. Delicious but take small bites, it really gets to you! You'll need some hot tea or black coffee to cut it later.

The other thing I love about this restaurant is the small touches they put into their wares. The container for the honey that comes with their tea is a great example:
What a cute bee-shaped honey container! I want to take it home ...

Just like its DineLA menu, Grace's Open Table Appetite Stimulus was a hit for me. I'm glad they continue to participate in these prix-fixe weeks and continue to deliver a solid, worthwhile menu that people can really appreciate (unlike some other restaurants we talked about last night *cough*).

7360 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036-2501
(323) 934-4400

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Bazaar: Grand Opening

Tonight was the Grand Opening of Jose Andres' The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel. I was going to sleep but I bumped into KevinEats and Tangbro and decided to beat them to a post while they're still making their drive down to OC O:)
You guys will read their posts anyway with their 48-dish reviews ... I'm certainly going to read it.

The Bazaar is separated into different sections including the Patisserie, Bar Centro, private dining area Saam, a retail area Moss, and dining areas Rojos y Blancos.

My seating area features light colored wooden tables and leather couches, along with this light bar seating where guests can see their food being prepared.At 10 pm it wasn't crowded and I hope it won't get too crowded later on, as I've found that I adore this place!

Our waitress was very courteous and knowledgeable (enough) about the dishes and had some great recommendations.
The menu is divided into "Rojos" - more classic, Spanish tapas, and "Blancos" - more modern tapas, lighter, smaller dishes. We ended up ordering mostly from the "Blancos".

We started with some "Olives Ferran Adria"
These are olive juice capsules. Ferran Adria was Jose Andres' mentor and hence the name and influence. I did love the olive juice but these olive capsules were, well, expensive!

Moving on we had the Jamon Iberico with Pineapple and fennel sherry dressing
Delicious. The jamon iberico is of course amazing, and the thinly shaved pineapples somehow retain their juices and the combination was really great! Refreshing. Loved it.

Next we had the sauteed cauliflower couscous with vegetable harissa broth
The harissa broth was divine. This dish as a whole was just divine. Probably our favorite of the night and we'll be getting this over and over. Plus this one was one of the cheaper dish at $9.

Japanese baby peaches with yogurt and olive oil
To me this was more like a dessert but it was delicious. The yogurt was pretty rich and thick, but the combination with the slightly sour baby peaches were great.

The Bazaar also does something cute - since (so they claim) Spain is the best canned foods producer in the world, they serve "canned" seafoods - that's really made fresh daily.
We had the king crab with raspberry vinegar
Loved this one too. Fresh meaty king crabs went well with the raspberry.

Next we had Japanese eggplant with yogurt, soy caramel, and bonito flakes
The flavor combinations were good, but the eggplant was much firmer than what you'd normally get with miso eggplants and such. You might or might not like it.

The last dish was from the "Rojos" part of the menu and was the biggest one yet. This was the Rossejat de fideos: "Traditional paella-style pasta with monkfish, shrimp, in seafood broth".
The pasta was small angel hair pasta cut into small pieces. It was cooked so that some were crispy which I really liked. A simpler, heartier dish than the rest, but one that I felt we needed.

The dessert menu is similarly divided into Rojos and Blancos. There's no chocolate item though ... but hopefully the Patisserie which would be open later this week can satisfy that craving.
From the Rojos side we had Apples Carlota, bread pudding
Nice and simple. The ice cream was great on this, but I thought the apple bread pudding was a wee bit dry without it. Tasty, though.
From the Blancos we got the Beet Meringue with pistachio, pistachio foam cake
Beautiful presentation. The taste was ... interesting. The ice cream with the pistachio foam cake I liked. The pistachio sauce and the beet meringue had a bitter aftertaste which I can't quite get over ...

Overall a really great meal with great service and ambiance (hope it doesn't get too crowded later!). I'm loving this place so far.
This meal would've been $111 without tips originally - each dish was about 8-15$, average 12$. We got 50% off for today only since they had to reschedule us from last Monday (their original opening date). The 50% definitely made this meal that much more awesome, but I'll be back regardless :)

The Bazaar
465 S. La Cienega Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA


The Bazaar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A.O.C.'s Great Big Small Plates

AOC Wine Bar, another child of Suzanne Goin's, has become one of the most popular restaurants in LA, offering a selection of charcuterie and other dishes to share.

It's a wine bar so I had to get some wine - I ordered a Castilla y Leon which was very flavorful although not quite ready IMO.

Bread at AOC Wine Bar is served with these delicious spicy olives and tapenade. Most of us like it so much we just chow down on these olives by themselves.

The menu is quite varied, with a selection of charcuterie, fish, vegetables, meat and also items from the wooburning oven. We only had room for a small samplings of it this time around.

For veggies we ordered the Beets, Baby Carrots, preserved lemon and cilantro
Interestingly, the sweetest and most flavorful of the beets were the white ones! I thought the reds were just okay but the white ones were delicious. It was also a really nice change from all the beet-goat cheese preparations all over the city.

hamachi crudo, avocado, and pomegranates
Great crudo. I loved the combination with the avocado and pomegranate seeds here, all the contrasting textures playing around. The hamachi itself was also great and had just the right amount of fat. I'll definitely get this again next time.

Pork rillettes with pickled onions
Great pork rillette, albeit a bit fatty. The olive oil-drenched toasted bread was similarly delicious. The portion is actually quite big, but it made for an excellent lunch the next day!

Clams with garlic, cherry tomatoes, and vermouth
Great fresh clams with a delicious broth. I'm convinced garlic is the best thing to happen to clams. Or just the best thing period.

Marketfish (salmon) with braised cabbage, bacon, and apples
I wasn't crazy about the cabbage but the salmon was nicely done - tender, not overcooked- and goes very well with the apples.

Grilled skirt steak with black olive aioli
Delicious skirt steak with bold flavors. It's a skirt steak so tougher and a little chewier for some people but I actually love it, and the one at AOC is actually pretty tender. The black olive aioli is delicious! It did made the whole dish a bit rich, but hey, wine will cut that ...

Hosui pear and huckleberry crisp with vanilla ice cream
This may seem strange, but I actually like the crust part of crisps/cobblers/whatnot, so this one for me barley had enough of that. I also ended up eating the pear and huckleberry separately - not so sure about both combined.

Mexican chocolate pot de creme with caramel cream and spiced almonds
I think this was my favorite of the two desserts. I loved the flavor of spicy mexican chocolate. A bit on the small side compared to the crisp, but it's yummy.

AOC definitely deserves its popularity with its great selection of wine and delicious food.
I'm looking forward to coming back and trying more!

8022 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 653-6359

A.O.C. on Urbanspoon

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