Saturday, February 28, 2009

Wurstkuche: Those Delish Exotic Sausages and Beers

When Wurstküche opened in the downtown arts district, it created quite a buzz. Not only do they offer gourmet and exotic sausages, they also boast 20+ beers on tap (mostly German and Belgian)! So when I had to pick a place to hang out with my friends, I thought this is the perfect chance to try it.

It was 8PM Saturday night and we were greeted with a line out the door. It looked like a small regular hot dog stand in the front, well-lit and cramped. We placed our order and headed to the back room and -voila!- a PUB! Complete with the loud talking, music, and beers on tap lining the wall. Waiting for a table on a Saturday night can take a while, but lucky me I was late and a couple of my friends have grabbed a table :P

After a while, our food came. We had ordered the Sun Dried Tomato & Mozzarella (smoked chicken and turkey):
Topped it sweet peppers and sauerkraut - I've never had peppers on my sausages/hot dogs before and apparently I've been missing out. Delicious! Loved the extra flavor that the sundried tomatoes added - this is in the running for my favorite of the night.

We also got the Apricot (also chicken), which are smaller sausages but each order had two pieces.
These were also very good, the apricots gave it a slight crunchy texture and a tangy flavor.

We also got the Rabbit, Veal & Pork sausage. All of the ones we got tonight were all pretty light. This was quite tender and the meat had a very nice flavor. These sausages were moist, the juices were nicely sealed inside.

Overall, great food, and just perfect with beer. May be a bit pricey for "hot dogs". It's kind of loud, or you could say "lively pub atmosphere" plus they have a great beer selection.

I was later told that the Rattlesnake and Duck were actually the best ones. I didn't get them this time since they had Jalapenos and was afraid it would be spicy. But I will definitely come back and try them next time around! (Hey, if it is spicy I can just chase it down with a beer, right?)

800 E 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 687-4444

Wurstküche on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Upcoming Foodie Events!

Foodie events are starting to get lined up again this year, whoohoo!!

There are some really impressive ones coming up very soon:

Tomorrow, Friday Feb 27, Locali is having their official launch party. Between 5-8 pm get free samples of organic tamales from La Guera Tamalera and grass-fed hot dogs from Let's Be Frank. 5825 Franklin Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028.

Sunday, March 9. Jonathan Gold has lined up 30 of his favorite restaurants for the LA Weekly Gold Standard. Restaurant lineup includes Animal, Sona, the two Mozzas, Providence, Loteria Grill and Jitlada, among many other great ones. Tickets are $60 and include all food and drinks (wine/beer). 3-7 pm.

On the more "educational" side, on March 11, Zocalo is holding a discussion on "Can Food Really be Authentic?" Featuring Mozza's Nancy Silverton, Jazz from Jitlada, and Roy Choi from Kogi BBQ truck, the event is moderated by Jonathan Gold. 7:30 PM, Skirball Cultural Center.

Thursday, March 12. The Planned Parenthood L.A. Guild is holding a fundraising Food Fare, featuring an array of restaurants such as A.O.C, Anisette Brasserie, Clementine's, Joe's Restaurant, Pink's Hot Dogs, Pitfire Pizza, and XIV. Chefs Suzanne Goin (Lucques), Nancy Silverton (Osteria/Pizzeria Mozza), and Jon & Vinny (Animal) will also be there signing their cookbooks! Tickets are $125 for the afternoon and $175 for the night, but everything above $60 is tax-deductible.

Also, as part of ongoing deals and steals, The Park in Echo Park is offering $15 3-course meal every Tuesday. This upcoming Tuesday they are featuring gumbo, jambalaya, and banana bread pudding. 1400 Sunset Blvd.

Hakata Ramen at Shinsengumi and How I Devoured the Whole Bowl

Ramen! Like I said pre-French Laundry, I'll be eating lots of ramen after that gorgeous meal. I'm slowly making my way through the South Bay eateries (though this weekend I'm planning a full-blown marathon!!). Since for some reason I always get my chance to go down on Sundays, my only ramen option in the area was Hakata Shinsengumi in Gardena.

There was a waiting list and we waited for about 15 minutes.

For $7.95 at lunch you can get a bowl of chashu ramen and one of a selection of small sides. I opted for the gyoza.
The gyozas are small but they're great. I like the thin, crispy skin and the fillings aren't fatty and greasy.

My friend got the chicken onigiri as a side dish.
I did like the onigiri itself, but I don't think I actually got any chicken.

I ordered the "normal" ramen (medium level of oil, etc) but with extra chashu (as you can see below, I ended up getting lots of chashu) and egg for extra charge.
A bit of info on the Hakata variation of ramen: The broth is a rich tonkotsu (pork-bone) broth, and typically topped with some beni shoga (pickled ginger). The noodles in the Hakata ramen are thin and straight (as opposed to the curly, thicker noodles).
I personally like this type of noodles better (and the texture makes it easier to slurp too! ;) ).
So how was the ramen, you ask? I'll say this: I cleaned up the whole bowl. Yes, after devouring the noodles+chashu+egg, I picked up the bowl and drank the broth.
Maybe I was just starving. But it just tasted sooooo good to me.

For dessert: yogurt mousse ($4)
Pretty rich but the tartness and the fresh fruits make it refreshing. Like a mousse-y Pinkberry actually.

A different style, but definitely one of the best ramen places in the LA area. I can't speak for their other locations, but the Gardena location is definitely worth a try!

Hakata Ramen Shinsengumi
2015 W Redondo Beach Blvd
Gardena, CA 90247
Hakata Ramen Shinsengumi on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

NOLA: Grand Final Dinner at Cuvee

In honor of Mardi Gras, I decided to do one of my New Orleans post! Cuvee was my very last meal there - the conference had booked the entire restaurant, open bar and all! The place was small that our group occupied the whole space (about 60 of us or so?).

Amazing hors d'oeuvres were being passed around like this duck rillette:
(I had like 2 ... or 3). Very flavorful and tender. We only had 30 minutes at the bar so on top of eating these rillettes I also quickly went through a Sazerac and a French75.

Apparently that might not have been such a good idea. I wasn't aware that a 6-course wine paired meal was ahead of me! (No, really, I always thought these conference dinners were capped at 100/person!)

The first course was a choice of two:
Course #1, Choice #1: Foie Gras Torchon (apple, honey chutney, cinnamon brioche)
Dr. Loosen Riesling, Mosel Saar-Ruwer 2007, Germany
There was no way I wouldn't choose foie gras! It is not the best foie gras I've ever had but it was pretty good and I liked the apple & honey chutney. I also thought the Riesling was a pretty good pairing.

Choice #2: Blue Crab Boudin

Course #2:
Taste of North&South Pasta (scallop + fresh ricotta ravioli, butter poached lobster & sweet corn puree, shrimp tortelli with sauce etouffee)
Tegernseerhof "T-26" Gruner Veltliner, Wachau 2006 Austria
The highlight of this dish was the butter poached lobster with sweet corn puree. The lobster was fresh and nicely done and although both the lobster and the puree were on the sweet side they worked quite well, both texture and flavor - wise.

Course #3: Basil-crusted Sea Bass (parmigiano reggiano polenta cake, vinaigrettes of citrus and sweet pepper)
Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Macon 2007 France
The seabass was just a tad overcooked, but I loved the polenta cake.

Course #4:
"The Duck" (confit-walnut-blue risotto, cured smoked breast)
Greenhough Pinot Noir, Nelson 2005 New Zealand

Course #5: Black Angus tenderloin. At this point I lost my menu notes ... probably too much wine or something silly like that ..
The meat was not bad, and it was cooked pretty well, but it was a little on the dry side, although the sauce definitely helped a lot with it.

Dessert: Pineapple beignets. This was served with your selection with dessert wine/liqueur/coffee/tea, so I opted for some Nocello (hazelnut liqueur).
This was not really like the beignets I "normally" have, like Cafe du Monde's all dusted in sugar. This was crispy and filled with pineapples.

A very satisfying meal (as I drank the last drops of my Nocello). If you're in New Orleans and looking for a nice place for some Creole-influenced continental food - I recommend this place!
Happy Mardi Gras!

322 Magazine St
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 587-9001

Cuvee on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 22, 2009

More LateNight Westside Option: Tokyo Table

OK, so Tokyo Table is kind of a chain. But I've been going there quite a bit that I figured I should blog about it. Not only are they open later at night than most places, the food they serve is pretty solid and the prices quite reasonable. Late at night (though not *too* late) during the weekdays when I used to be stuck with burgers or Denny's, now I may be able to get something healthier.

I've been back quite a few times just to get their Tofu salad ($8.95)- when I'm craving tofu and something healthy-ish.Their tofu is homemade and is pretty good and smooth. The tofu salad is served with sesame dressing, which can be a bit salty so mix your salads carefully. I love eating the tofu with the crispy wontons and nori and the greens. The texture play is fun and the sesame dressing brings the different flavors together.

Tokyo Table offers various sushi rolls, your typical ones such as rainbow roll etc, and some more 'interesting' ones. Below is the Cohiba roll ($11.95) which is just California roll wrapped with salmon with ginger sauce.
I don't have much to say for sushi rolls in general. These were good, nothing special.

They also have a couple of Ishiyaki (hot stone bowl). Pictured below is the Unagi rice ishiyaki ($9.95).
I like eating the burnt rice from the sides of the bowl at the end :P. I've also had the garlic shrimp rice ishiyaki -- WARNING: very, very garlicky.

We usually like getting the Banana Flambe ($7.95) for dessert - since it's not too heavy and it's also fun watching it sizzle :P (what? I'm easily entertained)

Their most famous dessert is their Honey Toasts (Original $6.95, Chocolate etc $7.95)
It's just honeyed toast, the inside is diced up into small cubes and then toasted, making each cube nicely crispy. It makes for a nice breakfast too the next morning :P

The Beverly Hills branch is open until midnight every day and until 1 am on Fri/Sat, so it's a pretty good late night option and a good place to go to with a bunch of friends. Their selection is big enough to keep most people happy.

Tokyo Table
50 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Tokyo Table on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mario's Peruvian: Great Seafood

After my trip to Peru last summer, I fell in love with Peruvian cuisine, but I haven't managed to try many of the Peruvian restaurants in LA. One of the ones I've had my eye on is Mario's but since it's kinda far it's hard to drag someone there. When I finally had the chance to do so, I immediately went. There was a wait and the small restaurant was packed. We waited about 30 minutes - since it was cold I waited inside but felt kind of in the way of all the servers bringing food/dishes in/out.

By the time we got seated, we already knew what we wanted to order.
We wanted something light with seafood, so instead of going with the deep fried stuff, we went with the Siete Mares soup ($13.00)The seafood was fresh, and the broth was very delicious! The name siete mares means "seven seas" so I tried counting the number of seafood types: squid, crab, shrimp, clam, mussels, fish, octopus. This is a relatively light dish - again, I Loved the broth. Do give it a try sometime!

I ordered the lomo saltado ($11.25) since I've been craving it for a while! Lomo saltado is beef sauteed with onions, tomatoes, and french fries.
The meat was a little tough, but the flavors were excellent. I love the fries also and kept eating them with the fragrant rice! Next time I might try out the seafood version, saltado mariscos, so I can avoid having my beef overcooked and yet still get to taste the delicious flavor of saltado.

For good measure we ordered dessert: Crema volteada/flan ($3.00)
This is a pretty heavy duty flan! Rich and dense - a bit too dense for my taste although it's still tasty. Eat in moderation :P

Overall I loved Mario's. The food was excellent although I would stick with the seafood as the meat can be tough and overcooked ... The line can be long during dinner time, so go early or just prepare to wait! (It's worth it!!)

Mario's Peruvian & Seafood
5786 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Mario's Peruvian Seafood on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Giveaway+Review: Pineapple Jerky!!

I was recently approached by Doug from to review their products and hold a giveaway on my site!
I checked out their website after that, of course. has a wide variety of beef jerky but I was most excited to see Venison, Elk, Buffalo and Ostrich jerky sections!

Apparently they are coming out with their own brand of jerky in March, but in the meantime they are holding this giveaway for some Pineapple Jerky. Yes, yes, pineapple jerky! I was originally expecting some beef jerky marinated in pineapple juice or something when I heard "pineapple jerky" but it truly was Pineapple, marinated in honey.

When I opened one of these bags in the car, the aroma just permeated the air and my friend who's driving just turned around and said "Whoaaa! That smells good!"
The pineapple jerky is chewy with a pretty concentrated pineapple flavor, but it's actually quite sweet (probably due to the honey). I love how this is not that tart, as the tartness of pineapples usually leave a bad aftertaste in my throat.

I can't really say I've had pineapple "jerky" before so if I were to say "this is the best ..." that wouldn't really fly would it :P ? Well, as far as "preserved pineapple of some sort" goes, this is the best one I've had.

I did check out the price afterwards and currently a 1/4 lb bag is going for $9.99 (retail $14.99) on their site - not cheap indeed, but the superior quality definitely shows. This would tend towards the higher end snack splurges for me.

In the meantime, though, you guys can win a bag for FREE! (who doesn't love free stuff, huh?)

So just leave your email address (or just some way to contact you) in the comments below, or if you don't want to leave your contact info, you can also just email me at

Monday, February 16, 2009

Jungle Food Marathon Part 2: Cambodia and Vietnam

Continuing on my report of the Jungle Food Marathon with FoodMarathon, LA&OC Foodie, FoodDestination, DigLounge, Teenage Glutster, Mattatouille, and Choisauce (who in between this and the first post, has started her own blog!!).

After our nice Peruvian meal, we went further south to Long Beach to Siem Reap, a Cambodian restaurant with Cambodian music videos playing on the background. I know DigLounge in particular *really* enjoyed this song Dhoom Dhoom ...

We ordered quite a variety of dishes including the Beef and anchovy saladSome Beef lok lak (they didn't have venison) - marinated square chunks of meat cooked with some peppery sauce.
These are pretty basic, but delicious and particularly tender. I can see how they can be a staple food.

Another "typical" Cambodian dish is the fish and sadao leaves salad
Definitely different/interesting. The sadao leaves were, yes, bitter.

We also got some pork curry (pictured below) and fish paste that you eat with various raw veggies
I actually enjoyed this pork curry quite a bit - a tad spicy but not too much so even for me.

The Fish Paste stunk of rotten meat to me and I really could not eat it (I can't believe you guys ate this but can't handle durian! :P )

Siem Reap
1810 E Anaheim St
Long Beach, CA 90813
(562) 591-7414
Siem Reap on Urbanspoon

Next we ventured down to the Westminster area, to a Vietnamese bistro called Quan Hop. Prices here are slightly higher than usual for VNese food, but it is a bistro with a nice ambiance and probably caters to the younger crowd.

We started off with these small appetizers called Banh Beos, which are steamed rice pancakes with dried shrimps, scallions etc in the middle, served with fish sauce.
Really enjoyed this - the toppings were delicious and savory. The rice pancake itself is pretty light and nicely chewy.

We also got a vegetarian version of these, but they tasted and looked pretty similar, so no extra photo/description.

Next we had some banhitram: fried glutinous rice flour filled with shrimp, pork and mushrooms
This is the dish that really stood out in my mind from this particular stop - different and delicious. Chewy mochi-like rice cakes - these were bordering on 'dessert-y' for me (even with the shrimp/pork inside), but they are delicious little things and I definitely recommend you guys try them!

The other dishes we tried that night were all good, although the ones I remembered well were the ones noted above. The others include a jackfruit salad:
and tu tiu hop dai, a vermicelli dish with pork and shrimp
Quan Hop definitely has some interesting selections I don't normally see elsewhere and has a nice bistro ambiance.

Quan Hop
15640 Brookhurst St
Westminster, CA 92683
(714) 689-0555
Quan Hop on Urbanspoon

We ended our day(night) on a sweeter note: sugar cane juice from Nuoc Mia Vien Tay (just down the street from Quan Hop)! The sugar cane juice here is freshly squeezed (is that the write verb here?) and enhanced by kumquats, as you can see below:
Nice, cold, refreshing, and cheap! The kumquats definitely add a nice citrusy note and helps get rid of the aftertaste that tends to bother people about sugar cane juice (although i never minded it).
It was 7 pm, we ended our journey and started heading home, satisfied. I think we paced ourselves well and thus did not completely stuff ourselves (Mattatouille apparently could still handle two Double-Doubles).

Nuoc Mia Vien Tay
14370 Brookhurst St
Garden Grove, CA 92843
(714) 531-9801
Nuoc Mia Vien Tay on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Finally. The French Laundry.

I finally got the call. It was so unexpected I didn't even answer it for the first 2 times (hey, I didn't recognize the number). But there it was. They had a cancellation for a Sunday lunch, would I like to take it? Mmmm (do I want to spend the money right now, do I want ...) YES. So there it was. I was going to The French Laundry!! The aspiration that had seemed so elusive before is now coming true! :)

I decided to fly up Saturday and along with some friends hit up Chez Panisse, Ad Hoc, and then finally French Laundry. But I'll talk about the other ones later on .. :)

Sunday afternoon, we drove up the long, windy roads through the mountain to Yountville.

The host led us up to the second floor and into one of the dining rooms there. It was such a nice day out and they had the windows open.Since this is a special meal after all, I got a couple glasses of wine (no pairing - hey it's still early). I got a red: Martinelli "Jackass Vineyard" Zinfandel, 2004 Russian River Valley which is actually a special bottling exclusively for French Laundry.
For the white I Got a 1998 Rioja Blanco: Lopez de Heredia "Vina Gravonia" (Spain, of course).

For starters, we were served a small choux pastry filled with gruyere cheese.

Next is their salmon cornet, that you're supposed to eat like eating an ice cream cone.
The whole cone shape made the salmon to cone skin ratio vary as you eat it ... but the salmon itself was great and flavorful.

The celebrated Oysters and Pearls was not on the menu that day, so I asked if I could pretty please substituted it in. The waiter graciously said they would check with the kitchen and shortly after informed me that yep! No problem at all, oysters and pearls for moi!
Such an excellent dish, I can definitely see why this is Thomas Keller's most famous dish. The oysters were small because they were trimmed down, but they were definitely of great quality. In fact, everything in this dish was excellent and work together amazingly.

Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Island Creek Oyster Glaze and White Sturgeon Caviar
This was good, although after having the oysters and pearls, I just wanted more of the first one! :)

All the bread served here are, naturally, from Bouchon bakery. We had two different types of butter, one salted and the other sweet and unsalted, from a local dairy.

For the second course, we also had two options, #1: Salad of French Laundry Garden Broccoli (sunchokes, Marcona almonds and Perigord Truffle Coulis)

The broccoli, and probably many of the other vegetables, came from their own garden, located across the street from the restaurant. You can see it from the balcony of the 2nd floor (where many people go out to take pictures from).
Right across the street, how local can you get? :P Broccolis were excellent - freshest and sweetest ones I've ever had (well, minus the same broccolis I had at Ad Hoc the night before, where we got to have much more of em - more on that later).

Choice #2 ($30 supplement): Moulard Duck "Foie Gras en Terrine" with Hawaiian hearts of palm, Piedmont hazelnuts, Hosui pear, Mizuna and white honey.
I had anticipated this after reading other reviews and opinions, but yes, French Laundry's foie gras terrine is the best foie gras terrine I have ever had.

The terrine was served with a toasted brioche bread and three different salts on the side (they said this is to add texture). One salt was from the sea of Japan and the other (the pink-ish one) was some million-year moon rock salt (OK, I'm not sure abt the million year ...)
Terrine on brioche toast, spread a bit of the white honey, then sprinkle a teeny bit of salt - delicious!!

3rd course, Choice #1: Grilled Pave of Kindai Bluefin Tuna (Potato, radish and cucumber salad, jidori hen egg and preserved lemon "Aigre-Doux")
A great meaty piece of tuna. The middle part is still nicely rare. As far as grilled fish go, this one was excellent.

3rd course, Choice #2: Sea of Japan Bigfin Squid (Globe artichokes, Satsuma mandarins, red mustard leaves and thyme vinaigrette)
Squid was firm and chewy. The combination with the satsuma mandarin was nice and interesting both taste and texture-wise.

4th course: Sweet Butter-poached Maine Lobster Tail (Fennel bulb, "Panisse," Nicoise Olive, sweet pepper essence, and Noilly Prat emulsion)
This lobster tail was absolutely amazing. It's poached perfectly and had an incredible texture that I can only aspire to taste from time to time. I didn't care much about the fennel etc on the side there. I just wanted to slowly devour and enjoy this perfect lobster tail.

5th course: Thomas Farms Squab with Belgian endive, glazed cranberries, red beets, and watercress.
A very game-y (and very lean) squab, as we had expected from FL but on the other hand wasn't so expecting from a "Farm" squab.

6th course: "Blanquette" of Marcho Farms nature-fed veal (Hen-of-the-Woods mushrooms, Nantes carrots and green garlic).
The blanquette includes veal tongue (left) and sweetbread (upper right)

7th course: "Tomme du Berger" with Cipollini Onion, Musquee de Provence pumpkin coulis, brussels sprouts and Maple-pecan Sable.
I liked the cheese with the maple-pecan sable but the rest of it was not sweet enough to go with the cheese, IMHO. The cheese was semi-hard and on the mild side, so I didn't think the brussels sprout and onion were good pairings. Something sweeter/saltier would've been better.

8th course: Ruby Red Grapefruit Sorbet, with pistachio "Pain de Genes" and Mascarpone.
The sorbet was great, light and refreshing. Perfect palate cleanser. I'm ambivalent about the pistachio cake though, since it make the whole thing a bit heavier and hence not quite as refreshing.

9th course/Dessert option #1: Braised Golden Pineapples, with spiced sweet rice beignets, dark raisin coulis, and long pepper sherbet.
The spotlight here is on the pineapples, which are sweet and delicious, but didn't seem like there were enough of them :P It wasn't very 'satisfying'.

9th course/Dessert Option #2: "Mousse au Chocolat Amedei" with Gros Michel banana ice cream, candied cashews and curry "Arlette".
A nice rich chocolate mousse. I guess I needed a good amount of sweetness at the end, but anyway I thought this one was more satisfying than the first!

We'd seen everyone else getting this next dessert although it's not on the menu, so when they asked if we wanted to try their "coffee and donuts" we said "sure, what's another dish!"
Apparently the "coffee" was coffee mousse! Good thing I hadn't tried to pick it up and sip it! That would've been embarassing :P Donuts were good - nice and light. Since it wasn't actual *coffee* I decided to get some mint tea to get with the rest of my desserts/mignardises.

As the last part of our meal, we were presented with the mignardise, presented in a beautiful layered tray.
Oh oh but wait, there's MORE! We also got a small dish filled with crunchy chocolate macadamias. And while we're munching at those, one of the servers came bearing a silver tray of gorgeous chocolates. From left to right they were: banana, yogurt, coconut, mm ... something?, passionfruit, and peanut butter. Sigh ... you guys want me to choose? What torture ...

Having felt pretty good and full after the 9th course, they managed to completely stuff me with chocolates :P

BTW, we witnessed a proposal and the other ladies in the dining room started tearing up and one of the waiters dashed around with a tray of Kleenexes (for the ladies first, and then jokingly to everyone else after :P ).
This meal was definitely quite an experience.
Everything from ambiance to service to food preparation were excellent. With the nice breeze coming through the windows - relaxing in Napa over amazing French food was quite the luxury.

The French Laundry
6640 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 944-2380

French Laundry on Urbanspoon

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