Monday, March 30, 2009

Sushi Komasa: Cheap and Good Spot in Lil Tokyo

Recently made my first visit to Komasa in Little Tokyo. I've been missing out! This place has good quality fish and is cheap! Now a quick sushi meal doesn't have to cost me at least $50! The only drawback: Parking ...

The place is small and has a traditional japanese look. When we were there the place was packed with Japanese blue collar workers- good sign. Since there were 6 of us we had to wait about 20 minutes for a table, but we walked around and they called us when they were ready.

The salmon sashimi plate was $13 for 8 generous slices.The quality was not at all bad, they're very much comparable to the typical good sushi joints, but it's much nicer to the wallet.

The yellowtail that we also got was even better though, also at $13
These slices of hamachi were quite fresh and quite fatty! They made me happy :)

Sushi prices ranged around $4.80 per order. I had ordered halibut and anago.
The halibut was okay - decent. The anago was quite good though!

The best deal of all at this place might be the chirashi though. For $13 you get this big box of fishy-goodness!
I see salmon, hamachi, tuna, squid, ebi, and uni! Here's that quick, inexpensive, sushi meal, all in a box!
Sushi Komasa, I'll be back!

Sushi Komasa

351 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 680-1792
Sushi Komasa on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 27, 2009

New Functionality on Gourmet Pigs!

Psst. Guys, Gourmet Pigs now has a new functionality powered by OpenTable! w00t w00t!

This means, that for all applicable restaurants you will see this "Reserve Now!" button next to the restaurant's name on each review page:

Clicking on the button will lead you to that restaurant's OpenTable reservation page!
So when you read a review of a restaurant you want to go to, you can just click and reserve! No need to open a new tab/new window or pick up the phone.

Hopefully this will be useful for all of you! :)


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Craving Otak Otak in Westwood

I've had a lifelong affair with otak otak. Otak otak is spiced fish cake, steamed and grilled in banana leaves, and eaten (usually) with slightly spicy peanut sauce.

My favorite otak otaks are the ones from Jakarta, and when my relatives come visit, I always ask them to bring me some, and an otak otak fest would proceed for 2 days!
But now that I"m stuck in LA ... well, one of the best options seem to be Ramayani in Westwood.

The dishes at Ramayani can be hits and misses, but this seems to be the case at all Indonesian restaurants. The 'sop buntut' here is not bad. My gotta-have dish is naturally the otak otak:At $7.50 for 10 pieces, these aren't cheap compared to back home (but what is?). The otak otaks though has the right consistency and texture, and *almost* the right flavor. More spice, grill it some more, and we'll be set. The peanut sauce is the problem here. Not spicy enough, not even peanut-y enough, this one actually tastes like it was partly made with peanut butter - a common practice here in the U.S.

With all that said, these are pretty tasty things and I urge you all to try them here at Ramayani.
They can't compare to the ones back home, but what's an Indonesian girl stuck in LA to do?
They're still really good and definitely worth a try!

1777 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 477-3315

Ramayani Westwood on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pho Filet in El Monte

Pho with filet mignon. At first it sounds a bit strange. Pho = cheap. Filet mignon = pricey. But at these Vietnamese restaurants from San Gabriel to East LA, the result is still a cheap bowl of pho, kicked up a notch by the high quality of meat!

This was my first time meeting Wandering Chopsticks, who took Pleasure Palate and I to Pho Filet in El Monte.

Wanting to be adventurous and all, I ordered some pennywort shake (on the right). Wandering Chopsticks ordered the pennywort juice (on the left).
The pennywort shake also had mung beans in it, making it sweeter and less 'grassy'/'herby' than just the pennywort juice. WC said I should probably get that one, me being a pennywort-noob :P

This time we forgot to ask for the filet mignon on the side. Why would you want to do that? Because otherwise the filet mignon would get overcooked by the end of your meal, but if you order it on the side, then you can put it in one by one and you'll get a medium rare piece of filet mignon everytime!
The broth here tasted of more spice than most, which I really liked. And yes, you can definitely tell the upgrade on the meat!
Delicious, filling, and cheap. A bowl of pho here ranges from $5.50-$6 (depending on the type and number of different meats you get). For filet mignon? That's cheap! You can step up to a large bowl for $0.50 more.

For reviews of more dishes, and more food porn, filet mignon-style, check out Wandering Chopsticks' blogpost.

Pho Filet
9463 E Garvey Ave #A
South El Monte, CA 91733
(626) 453-8911

Pho Filet on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

FIG in Santa Monica: Quiet Spot for Meal and Drinks

FIG, a restaurant focusing in seasonal and local ingredients, has as its namesake the 100-yr old fig tree that sits in front of the Fairmont Miramar hotel (where the restaurant is located).I heard from LA&OC Foodie that FIG is on the list- where you can buy a $25 gift certificates for $10 ($35 min purchase), and oftentimes they will have a 80% off sale! That's $25 for $2 people!! I bought 3 ...

Psst! Now til 6/25/09 they're having a 80% off sale! Just enter code: DISH.

We came late, past 9:00 PM. The restaurant was pretty quiet overall (except for a table of 4 drinking ladies that were quite ... lively), and I liked the decor and ambiance.
The menu is divided into Snacks, Salads, Appetizers, and Entrees. At the bottom of the menu is a nice touch - a list of currently in-season ingredients, and also what will be in season soon.

The bread at FIG is served warm, each in its own paper bag, and accompanied with arugula butter.
Never had arugula butter before, it was quite a nice touch.

Our first orders were from the Snacks section: Tarte Flambee (fromage blanc, blue cheese, lardon) - $6
This was nothing special, more like a mini, less-cheesy pizza.

Roasted Tomato Soup (mascarpone, basil) - $9
Pretty good and hearty, with a nice smokey flavor from the roasted tomatoes. Actually, this reminds me of the tomato soup at Nordstrom's cafe - when it's done right!

Young Beets with Santa Barbara Pistachios - $8
Very good and light and refreshing, but the portion is pretty small.

I thought the portions from the Snacks section were pretty small and doesn't seem to be really worth the price - especially in comparison to the other dishes I had later from the Appetizers section.

Although the next dish I had was called the Mushroom Fricassee ($12), it seems that the focus of the dish was in fact the sweetbreads.
Do share this dish with another person. The mushroom fricassee itself is a bit heavy and add on top of that the pieces of fried sweetbreads and it would make it hard for one person to finish this dish by itself. The mushroom fricassee was delish, the sweetbreads were decent but were a bit on the tough and dry side. They were not the best quality sweetbread, but then again this whole dish was only $12...

Warm Quinoa Salad (chard, butternut squash, toasted almonds) - $13
Delicious, and healthy too! It wasn't so much like a salad rather than a rice bowl - except that the quinoa instead of rice gave it that extra firm texture and a nice flavor. The toasted almonds were also a great addition.

Braised Tongue (tomatillo, breakfast radish) - $11
This was one of the rare occasions I enjoyed tongue in the US. Most tongues I've had in this country were tough, but this one was tender, just like how my family prepares it! The tomatillo sauce is a little spicy, but even I can still eat it so it's not too bad :P I really enjoyed this dish.

Both the braised tongue and quinoa salad made for a great lunch the next day too!

After all this food, and especially the spicy tongue at the end, I wanted something light for dessert, so I just ordered the sorbet. You get 3 scoops, and I just asked for 2 blood oranges and 1 pomegranate.
A bit denser and heavier than your usual "sorbet" but good nonetheless!

The bar at FIG boasts fresh seasonal ingredients and it's currently a great and quiet place to just sit, have a drink, and talk. And of course, eat. I want the restaurant to do well, but hopefully it won't get too crowded!!

Also, with the way we ordered, the $25 certificate didn't put as big a dent as I had hoped. Skip the snacks, just go with appetizers/ entrees and you'll do much better!

Read the reviews from LA&OC Foodie and Carolineoncrack!

FIG Restaurant
101 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 319-3111

FIG Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 23, 2009

The York Gastropub

I never knew there was such a great gastropub so near Pasadena! The York is located in Highland Park, in between Pasadena and downtown LA. Now I don't have to necessarily go to Father's Office (although the draft beer selection at FO is significantly larger!) to hang out.

The place was packed when I went there. It was a weekday but on the other hand it was also St. Patrick's day! Complete with green beer for the special day, The York offers a small but adequate selection of draft beers (Craftsman, Telegraph, Kronenbourg, etc), a larger selection of bottled beers (Arrogant Bastard, Unibroue, Chimay, etc). On top of a full bar, they feature a small list of specialty drinks.

I loved the dark, industrial look, including the bird-cage lights hanging from the ceiling (LATimes called it 'edgy'). Despite that, the place is actually spacious and airy - although the front and the bar still gets really packed.
Waiting for a booth can take a while, and all orders must go through the bar. We got our drinks first (a Craftsman 1903 Lager for me) and scouted around. Luckily we caught a booth as the people sitting there were just getting up.

A friend of mine told me she might like the burger here better than Father's Office, so I ordered one. The Cheddar Burger ($13) comes with pickled onion, arugula, and (most importantly) spicy harissa aioli!
The patty is very juicy and flavorful, the buttery buns are great, and just as in the FO burger, the arugula works very well. But what really did it was the spicy harissa aioli! This bit of creamy spiciness really added a kick to the burger and every bite was a burst of flavor. This burger is at the very least comparable to the FO burger (if not better!) but unlike the FO burger which some ppl can still argue whether or not it's a 'burger', this one is inarguably a 'burger'.

Good meat + great buttery buns + arugula + spicy harissa aioli = 1 rockin' burger.

My friends had the fish n chips which apparently were good but nothing special. I have yet to try other items here, but the burger alone would have me coming back.

The York
5018 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042
(323) 255-9675

York on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Newly Revived Pondok Kaki Lima in Duarte

Pondok Kaki Lima in Duarte Inn was close to being a mecca of Indonesian food - then it got shut down by the local authorities. After negotiation with the city, they finally managed to get back up on their feet and reopened in January 2009.

The Indonesian food fair is held behind the Duarte Inn every Saturday afternoon.

A bit of background, Pondok Kaki Lima literally means Five Feet Hut (Pondok=hut, kaki=feet, lima=five), but don't let that confuse you. Pondok kaki lima is the phrase we use to call street food vendors.

So, as you can expect here, tents of street vendors occupy the lot in Duarte Inn, sellling food items from satays, rendang, to drinks and desserts.

I've been wanting to hit this place again since its reopening and finally had my chance when Wandering Chopsticks said that she was free. Off we go!

Right in the same complex there is an Indonesian restaurant also an Indonesian grocery store - so in case you found yourself there when the PKL is not operating, you can still get your indonesian fix. The Indonesian restaurant is a bit misleadingly named Chicky BBQ & Grill. I have yet to try it but it is apparently one of LA&OC Foodie's favorite lunch spots.

The more common options here involve getting a rice plate with three or so items. We got a plate of nasi kuning (literally, 'yellow rice') which is turmeric rice, with rendang (slow cooked beef in coconut milk and spices), tendons, and sayur lodeh (vegetables in coconut milk curry).
As you see, almost everything involves coconut milk (aka kentan). We love our coconut milk!
The rendang here is pretty good. Rendang is supposed to be slow-cooked and thus should be very tender. Many places are lazy and just cook it with spices or ready-made seasoning that results in tough beef cubes. Not here. The rendang was tender and spicy.

The turmeric rice was fragrant. I liked the lodeh, although WC did not. Maybe it's an acquired taste? I thought it was a pretty good, albeit milder, rendition of Indonesian lodeh.

We also got some pork satays from "Sate Babi Heidi" (pork satay Heidi), served with some lontong in peanut sauce. Lontong is rice cake made with tightly packed rice cooked in banana leaves and most commonly eaten with peanut sauce. When you eat sate (satays), the lontong accompaniment is a must.
The sate was tender and sweet like the chinese chashu - delicious! The lontong however, while it would otherwise be very good, was cold. Lontong is never meant to be served hot or warm - but I do believe it should be room temperature. I think they need to sit them out and defrost them a bit more :<

Duarte Inn
1200 Huntington Dr
Duarte, CA 91010
Saturdays, 10am- 2 pm

Friday, March 20, 2009

Church & State - Simple and Solid

Color me silly but when I ordered "roasted marrow" at Church & State I wasn't expecting a giant whole piece of marrow cut in two, bone and all.
OK. Maybe I should've, it says 'roasted marrow' after all. But I was surprised. And yes, apparently one can have too much bone marrow. The marrow on toasted bread was quite satisfying at first, but after eating half of first section, I was already overwhelmed by fat ...
Do share this dish with more than one person!

The rest of the relatively short menu at this lively bistro newly manned by Walter Manzke offers other indulgence, like escargot and foie gras, but you can also go healthier and lighter with a salad mesclun.

I, however, not realizing how fat-stuffed I'd be after all those bone marrow, ordered the duck confit: Confit de Canard a la Montmorency (French lentils, pickled cherries) - $15
This seems to be one of the cheaper duck confits out there, and it's quite good. The skin is crispy and the meat is pretty tender. It's simple, yet satisfying. Nicely paired with the pickled cherries.

Loup de mer (seabass, ratatouille provencale) - $24
Flaky and moist fish - it was done pretty well, again with nicely crispy skin. As you can see from both entrees, there's nothing 'frou frou' here. Everything is simple, but solid.

During my meal I saw a waiter bring the dessert tray out to another table, and knelt down to show them the selection. Hot frenchie kneeling down in front of me with a tray of desserts .... Yum ....

Alas, my companion immediately ordered dessert, not giving the chance for the waiter to come by. Booo.

Anyway, we got a special dessert of the day, a strawberry apple tart.
Pretty good, not too sweet, nothing too special either.

The chocolate cake was a better match for me.
More like a chocolate mousse cake, it was dense and rich. Got my sweet tooth and chocolate craving fixed right here.

A hopping downtown bistro with simple and solid food and nice lively atmosphere for a night out on the town. There was nothing in particular (so far) that would make me crave it and go back, but I was happy and satisfied with everything and can definitely see picking this place to hit the town with some friends.

Plus, I need to try them escargots.

Church & State
1850 Industrial St
Los Angeles, CA 90021
(213) 405-1434
Church & State on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

2009 5x5 Dinners Announced!

Five of Los Angeles top chefs gather together each year and hold five dinners at five restaurants, each of them, along with a guest chef, would prepare their own dish. This 5x5 Chefs Collaborative not only give us foodies a wonderful dining opportunity, it also promotes camaraderie among chefs and also benefit the Southern California Chapter of Special Olympics.

Come on, what more do you want?

This year's participating chefs are: Michael Cimarusti (Providence), Josiah Citrin (Melisse), David Lefevre (Water Grill), Gino Angelini (Angelini Osteria), and Neal Fraser (Grace) -- Fraser a new addition this year, replacing Walter Manzke.

This year's 5x5 dates have also been announced! And it will start with a dinner at Providence featuring Alex Stratta (from Alex, at the Wynn in Las Vegas). Here's the full lineup:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009: PROVIDENCE with Alessandro Stratta of Alex
Sunday, May 17, 2009: MELISSE with Gabriel Kreuther of The Modern
Monday, June 15, 2009: GRACE with Sean McClain of Spring
Sunday, August 23, 2009: WATER GRILL with Curtis Duffy of The Avenues
Monday, September 21, 2009: ANGELINI OSTERIA Guest Chef to be Announced

Prices for the dinners remain the same from last year at $150/year or $215 with wine pairing.

Here are some reviews from last year's 5x5 from around the blogosphere:

my review on the 5x5 at the Water Grill.

From Only Eat What Feeds Your Soul: Providence, Water Grill
From KevinEats: Providence, Water Grill
From Food Destination: La Terza

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sunday Supper and an Old Fashioned at Lucques

3 PM Sunday and we decided on Lucques Sunday Supper for dinner. The $45 3-course prix fixe Sunday suppers at Lucques have been constantly popular and booked. Luckily they can still accommodate us at 6:30 PM.

We were initially seated at a small table inside but after requesting a patio table, they kindly moved us outside.
The bread was served with butter, sea salt, and almonds and olives.I quite enjoyed the almonds and olives (they were under the almonds). I've never thought to pair them together but they go well.

I debated whether or not I should drink tonight ... but since they really reccommended this drinks, I got the Lucques Old Fashioned: Maker's Mark with muddled amarena cherry, blood orange and housemade tangerine bitters
A strong drink. A better bourbon would've made this that much better, but Maker's Mark isn't bad ... The muddled cherries and blood oranges made this a tad sweeter than a classic old fashioned.

Our meal started with a salad: blood orange and arugula with parmesan, dates and crushed almonds
A light and refreshing salad. The blood oranges were so good! The dates were also really sweet and delicious - by themselves. I'm not sure about putting them together in this salad though. I ended up eating them separately.

Slow-roasted lamb sirloin with roasted carrots, dandelion, chickpea puree and tapenade
An incredibly tender lamb sirloin and very flavorful already even without the tapenade etc. With the tapenade and chickpea puree this dish is quite heavy but luckily the dandelion leaves help cut the richness. Overall a very well prepared dish!

The other entree option was: Tasmanian salmon with english peas, fingerlings, meyer lemon and chive creme fraiche
This was also good, the salmon was moist and the skin was nicely crisped. The sourness from the meyer lemons balanced the dish quite well.

For dessert: hazelnut brown butter cake with coffee ice cream and bittersweet chocolate sauce
This dessert was simple and good. Nothing mind blowing or special, but good nonetheless. the cake could've been a bit more moist.

A satisfying meal in a relaxing patio with great music (Cat Power!). I don't know why I haven't been back here for years til now. The well-thought out preparation and and the focus on in-season ingredients make the food here more than just 'solid'. While it isn't a meal to Wow you with in-your-face creativity, it's definitely an extremely satisfying, relaxing meal to end your Sunday.

8474 Melrose Ave
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(323) 655-6277
Lucques on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 16, 2009

NYC: The Dessert Truck

Gourmet desserts on wheels. Warm sweets to grab-n-go on the streets of cold New York in November.

I read about the dessert truck on LA&OC Foodie's blog, and as it turns out, my hotel in NYC was 4 blocks away from their afternoon stop! Score!

Walking down 55th Street, I quickly saw the truck as I approached their location: 55th and Lexington. Whee!
Although their daily menu is small, it's quite sufficient and changes regularly, and all dessert items are easily priced at $5 with the exception of the warm molten chocolate cake at $6.

Since I'll be walking around, I wanted something easy to eat with my hands, so i got the warm brioche doughnuts (vanilla cream center, cinnamon sugar) - $5
Warm, fluffy, sweet creamy center. These are some tasty donuts to come off a truck!

Hot chocolate (Valrhona and Guittard chocolates) - $5
Rich and pretty dark and intense. The hot chocolate is better than what you can get at most restaurants in LA. I only wished it had kept the heat better against the blistering NYC wind :< style="font-weight: bold;">

Dessert Truck
M-F, 12-3PM E. 55th St, corner of Lexington
M-Sun, 6PM-12AM St. Mark's Pl (8th St) and 3rd

Dessert Truck on Urbanspoon

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