Showing posts with label los angeles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label los angeles. Show all posts

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Erven Gives Los Angeles Its Best New Vegan Restaurant

I've always enjoyed Chef Nick Erven's cooking from his previous restaurant, the now-shuttered Saint Martha. I wasn't expecting him to open a vegan restaurant in Santa Monica, but I looked forward to it just the same, especially after hearing all the glowing reviews!

Erven is divided into two parts: the Marketplace side which serves sandwiches, cookies, juices, and such. Then there's the dining room which is open for a casual lunch, but the highlight is of course, the dinner service (although the vegan sandwiches are also great).

We started with a bowl complimentary fried chickpeas - the amuse bouche seems to rotate based on the other reviews.
Erven
The savory portion of the dinner menu is divided into "Snackables", "Shareables", and "Principles".
We tried a couple of the snacks including the Black garlic chickpea fritters with yuzu and Aleppo pepper ($5)
Erven
The chickpea fritter is a good way to start and gives you an idea of Chef Erven's cooking.

Purple sweet potato rice roll with avocado and Korean chili ($5)
Erven
Vegan kimbap, anyone?

From the Shareables section: Tiny Beets with avocado mousse, curry-almond streusel, and cilantro ($12)
Erven
The beets weren't really "tiny" but regardless this was a wonderful and interesting take on beets, with the crispiness of the streusel, combined with avocado mousse.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Vegan Donuts Worth Trekking To at Donut Farm

I'm sure you know that I'm not vegan. Not even close! So when I say Donut Farm's vegan donuts are good, I'm actually saying they are good even compared to normal, non-vegan donuts.

Donut Farm, also known as Pepples Donut Farm, started in Northern California, but has since opened a location in Los Angeles. Silverlake, to be exact. The Silverlake shop is small, but there are seats so you can enjoy your donuts with some coffee while admiring the fun bunny mural from street artist Bunnie Reiss!
Donut Farm
Donut Farm's donuts are not only vegan, they are also 100% organic. They have both raised and cake donuts with a variety of interesting flavors and fillings - and did I mention, they were delicious??

One of my favorites was the Philz Coffee glazed donut. Donut Farm also serves coffee (hot and cold brew) so you can double the caffeine.
Donut Farm

Saturday, December 3, 2016

21 Square Bar + Kitchen (Torrance, CA)

by @bstunoda

21 Square, named because the city is approximately 21 square miles, is the latest addition to the Torrance food and beverage landscape. It is located inside the Torrance Marriott Redondo Beach. A lot of attention was placed on creating a cool coastal vibe. I liked the uniqueness of the interior decor - the walls featured the city of Torrance in a creative way. The venue extended outdoors with a beautiful fire pit and adjacent seating.

The “21st Mule” is their version of the ever popular cocktail with Tito’s® vodka, ginger beer and fresh squeezed lime. I enjoyed both the presentation and the taste of “El Dude”. This is their house-made creation of Fugu Horchata vodka and Kahlua.
 IMG_2043
In addition to the their cocktails, they feature wine and ten beers on tap. They’ve partnered with Absolution Brewing to create their own exclusive brew and that’s only available at 21 Square. It is a smooth ale and probably a great beginner’s entry into craft beer. In fact they make their delicious fish & chips using this very brew!
  IMG_2038
The LYB (Loosen Your Belt) is a shareable dish consisting of tater tots, capicola, mortadella, salami, sausage, cheddar, mozzarella, chopped scallions and topped with a poached egg. It’s is the perfect item to share with a draft beer.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Lola's Mexican Cuisine (Long Beach, CA)

by @btsunoda

Two friends of mine both suggested that I try Lola’s Mexican Cuisine in Long Beach. Since I highly respect the opinions of both, I was happy when I was invited to this restaurant.
IMG_1604
Lola’s Mexican Cuisine is family owned and operated. They acquire organic local meats, sustainable seafood and local produce to prepare quality fresh food. “Modern Mexican Cuisine” is probably the best way to describe their cooking. The interior has a nice mix of different seating: booths, communal tables, and seating by the bar. Bold colors and eclectic Mexican folk art almost make it seem like you are inside of a restaurant in downtown Guadalajara.

Their Mexican Street Corn is an upscale version of elote.
IMG_1590
Fresh heirloom corn is removed from the cob, toasted and mixed with crumbled cotija cheese. Garlic aioli is drizzled on the top and chile powder is then applied. It is served in a small cast iron pan and was bubbling when it arrived at my table. Gone was the worry of biting into a corn on the cob only to see corn flying after you bite into it!

While I’ve had many variations of tacos, the “El Trio” taco combo sounded like something I would enjoy.
IMG_1602

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fig and Olive (West Hollywood, CA)

by @btsunoda
IMG_1527 West Hollywood is one of LA’s hotspots for new cutting edge restaurants. As a result, I’ve been traveling to the area on a more frequent basis. This time it was to experience Fig and Olive on Melrose Place. Fig and Olive’s menu is largely influenced by its founder, Laurent Halasz, who grew up learning Proven├žal cuisine. They are probably best known for using exceptional olive oils.

Fig and Olive selected 22 of the finest olive oils and use them as a foundation for all of their their dishes. For them, gourmet olive oil is a central ingredient and it displaces their need for butter.

The interior of Fig and Olive is impressive. They have a huge split-level space with double-high ceilings. Instead of showing off their wine collection, they have an impressive wall display of their olive oils. Other dining areas within the restaurant are available such as their semi-private indoor patio with olive trees and rosemary plants.

Complimentary fresh rosemary focaccia bread was served with three distinctly different virgin olive oils: two were from Spain (Manzanillo and Picual); the other was a Fig Koroneiki from Greece. Of the three, my wife and I both favored the Greek olive oil. The Picual was very earthy and I was extremely surprised at the differences in taste between the three olive oils.

We began with the three crostini starter.
 IMG_1509
The first was a prosciutto with ricotta, olives, chopped walnuts and topped with a fig. Burrata with a cherry-sized heirloom tomato and pesto was the second one we selected. Of course, I selected the octopus with hummus which was dusted with paprika. All three crostinis were tasty, but I was surprised at how well the octopus paired with the hummus.

A number of dishes were calling my name and I ended up selecting Paella del Mar.
IMG_1516

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Brunch at Napa Valley Grille in Westwood (Los Angeles, CA)

Ah, Westwood. This neighborhood sure has changed since my college days as a Bruin, but Napa Valley Grille is still there and going strong as one of the only higher end restaurants in the neighborhood. They just renovated their restaurant, as well, and it's looking sleek.

I went back a couple of months ago to try out their then-new brunch menu.

For daily breakfast, I typically have a pastry or a coffee cake like this with coffee. The coffee cake was deliciously buttery and I enjoyed the crumbles on top.
Napa Valley Grille
Brunch, however, calls for eggs, like this Cast iron frittata with California wild mushrooms, smoked sardo, caramelized pearl onions ($14)
Napa Valley Grille

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Preview: Taste of Italy in Los Angeles on October 1

by @btsunoda

The Taste of Italy is an upscale food and wine event which features some of the best regional Italian cuisine, food products and wine LA has to offer. This year is the 8th annual event and I had an opportunity to preview food served by Celestino in Pasadena.

Celestino has been in business for over 17 years, originally located in Beverly Hills. It is owned and operated by the Drago brothers, known for their quality Italian cuisine since the 1980’s. Celestino’s cuisine is mostly Sicilian and some other regional dishes such as squid ink risotto or osso buco.  
IMG_1421
One of the starters was a squid ink arancini filled with seafood. These were triangular black rice balls served piping hot and very crispy. It was one of my favorite dishes that evening and I hope they serve that at The Taste of Italy.
IMG_1425
Porcini mushrooms are more earthy and woodsy and for that reason they make an excellent foundation for soup. Celestino’s porcini soup was topped with shaved black truffles. Taking a bite of the truffles with the porcini soup was the marriage of two great flavors.
IMG_1427
The third dish was a veal carpaccio topped with grated pecorino cheese and shaved truffles. By this time, I was grateful that everything was paired with truffles. The veal was very delicate in flavor and didn’t overpower the remaining ingredients.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Preview: The Chicken or the Egg in Playa Vista, CA

by @btsunoda

I recently attended a pre-grand opening party at the Chicken or the Egg in Playa Vista. If you haven’t been to Playa Vista before, it’s an interesting mixed-use development situated between Westchester and Playa Del Rey.
IMG_1350
The concept is the creation of Hunter Pritchett (Waterloo & City, Mendocino Farms, Son of a Gun) and Sean Krajewski. The name, Chicken or the Egg, represents a restaurant that serves breakfast egg sandwiches, salads and dishes that include fried chicken. In addition, their ingredients are sourced locally from suppliers that have sustainable processes.

The restaurant interior is urban with a clean minimalist appearance. The design fits in well with the office buildings situated nearby. Both bar and table seatings are available. There were a couple of indoor trees which offset the stark interior.

I was able to sample a few items that evening.


A delicious assortment of baked good awaited us. These were just baked and were warm and tasty.
IMG_1344

Chicken Cobb Salad
Photo credit: The Chicken or the Egg

Friday, August 26, 2016

Simbal is the Vietnamese Izakaya You Need to Try (Los Angeles, CA)

Simbal is a bit of a sleeper gem in Little Tokyo, which opened last summer and has since gotten plenty of critic accolades. The space is tucked away in Little Tokyo mall, but it's worth finding the place for Chef Shawn Pham's truly wonderful Southeast Asian food.

Simbal has been dubbed a "Vietnamese izakaya", so the small plates menu certainly has plenty of dishes that are meant to accompany drinks, like the Yin's wok fried seasoned nuts, anchovies, seaweed ($5)
Simbal
Chef Shawn Pham is doing some fun takes on Vietnamese classics, like he does with the Banh mi salad, with pickled daikon and carrots, Vietnamese sausage, head cheese, cucumber (banh mi, low-carb style?)
Simbal
Chef Pham has worked in some powerhouses such as the shuttered Sona, Craft, and The Bazaar, and Simbal's menu marries his fine dining experience with his four years in Vietnam. You'll see this in dishes like the beef tartare, larb seasoning, served with a puffy sesame bread.
Simbal

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fritzi DTLA: A Game Changer in the Arts District

One of the newer restaurants I was excited to try was Neal Fraser's new Fritzi in DTLA's arts district. I've been seeing a lot of instagrams of their rotisserie chicken, and most importantly, waffle tots, aka potato waffles.
Fritzi
Yes, waffled tater tots. Get it with cheese, always.

The potato waffles can be ordered as a side, or you can get them with an order of the rotisserie chicken
Fritzi
You can order the rotisserie chicken as 1/4 chicken for $15 or 1/2 chicken for $19, and it comes with your choice of fries, tots, or potato waffles, and a choice of vegetables of the day. You can also order one of their dipping sauces starting from $0.50 and includes options like green harissa, black garlic aioli, Louisiana aioli, or Vermont beer-cheddar (I love the harissa).
DSC02576
I typically don't order chicken, especially chicken breast, but that's because many times restaurants make them too dry. That won't happen with Fritzi's rotisserie chicken, though, with its perfectly tender and juicy meat.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Food Tour de Venice, CA by Avital Tours

by guest blogger @iam_robot

I recently got the chance to check out a one of the walking food tours by Avital, who took us on a tour around the Venice neighborhood.
_H5A5785
 This Venice food tour took us deep inside the center of the old city and allowed us to explore real stories of this beachfront neighborhood.  Snippets of lifestyles, cultures, and rich history came into light through bites of puff pastry, savory pizza, and sugary donut. Personally, I think it’s almost impossible to scour best places to eat by driving around aimlessly. A feast of this magnitude must only be countered with serious walking feast – worry not, we all walked ‘kind of’ leisurely. Without the guidance of Avital, I never would have ventured to some of these restaurants (at least not all at once) and certainly wouldn’t have ordered many of the things I tried. So if you decide to join – make sure to bring a hearty appetite, comfortable shoes, and strong sense of humor J

The tour begins with 2 shots of craft beer at Venice Ale House. Located strategically on the boardwalk, you can’t help but watch hipster and westsiders going about with their weirdness.  Moving along, we walked couple blocks to one of the narrow alleys to encounter a sleek, minimal storefront called as Dudley Market. 

IMG_2584
Dudley Market Interior
IMG_2588
Gnocco fritto, with Calabrian chili salsa and scallops at Dudley Market
After couple of beer shots at The Ale House, I thought we were getting greasy food to wash down the alcohol bloat. To my utmost surprise, a plate of Puff Pastry with scallop and Calabrian Chili Salsa came to sight within 5 minutes. I pretty much inhaled them with sips of fine Cava. I was amazed with Chef Jesse Barber’s (formerly of Barnyard and The Tasting Kitchen) creation – it’s simple, honest, and ingredient-centric. Definitely not the prototypical dish you’d find on beachfronts.
IMG_2596
Plant Food and Wine Interior
IMG_2599
Carrot Ginger Soup by Plant Food and Wine

Monday, February 8, 2016

Ticket Giveaway! LA Weekly The Essentials, Feb 20

LA Weekly's annual food event of the year is coming! The Essentials is returning on February 20 to California Market Center in downtown LA, featuring more than 40 restaurants. Curated by LA Weekly's food critic Besha Rodell, you can expect LA's top restaurants at this event. Among them are: Animal, AOC, Broken Spanish, Bestia, Connie and Ted's, ink, Jitlada, even Kiriko Sushi. Been wanting to try Curtis Stone's Maude and can't get in? Don't want to make the trek to SGV for Szechuan Impression? Come here instead. 
The VIP tickets are already sold out, but there are still general admission tickets available for $70 per person which includes unlimited samples of food, beer, wine, and cocktails starting at 6pm. Part of the proceeds go to benefit Food Forward.

Lucky you, though, LA Weekly is generous enough to give away a pair of tickets through my blog!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Thai-Inspired Poke at Okipoki (Downtown LA)

If you hadn't noticed, there's been a lot of poke shops opening in LA last year. I mean A LOT. I love poke and all, but some point you think to yourself, do we really need another poke place? Among all these, it's great when you encounter one that does things a bit differently. Mix it up a little.
Okipoki in downtown LA does just that, in my opinion. Instead of the usual traditional poke bowl (they have that, too), I believe the point of Okipoki is the way they infuse other cuisine's flavors into it. The chef is Thai, so you'll see some Thai influences in some of these poke bowls.

I started lunch with the Nani Moana Shooter (uni, tuna tartare, scallop, roe, creme fraiche, $6) - a great bite filled with my favorite things.

Okipoki

Another appetizer: Shrimpin Ain't Easy (shrimp, masago, nori, togarashi, hawaiian roll, $4.50)
Shrimp Roll

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Brunch Menu at The Oinkster Hollywood

by guest blogger @iam_robot

Ever since Andre Guerrero opened the first Oinkster in 2006, it immediately became one of the most sought haute burger and shake joint in Eagle Rock and beyond. By now, many of their popular burgers range from Pork Adobo Burgers to Northeast Bacon Cheeseburger are becoming daily Los Angeles staple.
IMG_1894
Living of the ethos “Slow Fast Food”, The Oinkster seeks to whip up multi-ethnic and contemporary cuisines utilizing the finest ingredients. They currently have two locations in LA andt hese days, their Hollywood location is changing the breakfast game in the area, better fast food without the high-price or infinite long-lines. Breakfast price ranges from $6 to $11.50, and there are many great options for just $6. You can have 2 versions of equally delicious breakfast sandwich, egg with applewood smoked bacon or egg with fry chorizo hash.

Moving up the ladder at $6.50, I thought the breakfast burrito is the best one I’ve had in a long time.
IMG_1902
I like how much filling they wrapped inside the tortilla: Belgian fry chorizo hash, scrambled eggs, sharp cheddar, and bacon. Burrito felt like the perfect to go food – easy grip with no mess or greasy fingers. Finally, the cream of the crop of breakfast menu is the Cluckster Chicken and Waffles w/ Belgian fries.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sidecar Doughnuts and Egg in a Donut, Now Open in Santa Monica

Sidecar Doughnuts in Costa Mesa was one of those places on my list for my few visits beyond the Orange Curtain, but now they opened another location in Santa Monica! The new location is certainly way easier for Angelenos to try Sidecar's beloved donuts.

Sidecar Donuts

What should you get at Sidecar? Well, I've gone to the Costa Mesa location and I've tried a few items there, from seasonal flavors to their popular Huckleberry (made with real Oregon huckleberry) or Butter and Salt donuts. These donuts are good, but they're cake doughnuts. Cake doughnuts are good, but my heart lies with raised donuts. On that note, meet my very favorite donut at Sidecar: Country Ham & Eggs
Sidecar Donuts


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Preview: Taste of Italy

by guest blogger @iam_robot

The Taste of Italy will be back for its seventh year, and this year’s food and beverage participants include food-scene mainstays like Drago Centro, Valentino, Rao’s, Locanda Del Lago, Pedroncelli Winery, and Peroni, among others. Benefitting The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, these restaurants will feature finest Italian cuisine and wines on October 10th in Little Italy’s iconic 1869 Pico House, right across from the Union Station. And let’s not forget about cooking demos from some of the most revered Italian Chefs such as Chef Peppe Barone (director of the Mediterranean School of Food and Wine in Italy) and Chef Gianfranco Minuz (Locanda Del Lago). Slated to open later on in 2015, the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles will showcase the history and ongoing contributions of Italian-Americans to Southern California and the U.S. In addition to historical exhibitions, the museum will host film screenings, language classes, and a variety of cultural public programming.

Last week I had a chance to sample many of the wonderful bites and wines to be featured at this premier food event. There were many memorable bites but my favorite was the Baked Little Neck Clams with Italian Breadcrumb Stuffing from Rao’s.
IMG_1666[1]
This dish is the ultimate comfort food – It reminds me of Thanksgiving. Maybe in a better way! Clams were pleasantly supple yet the stuffing didn’t mask the inherent brininess of the shellfish. Stuffing was equally delightful - breadcrumbs were warm, moist, and crunchy. I could eat a tub of these!

My other highlight was Rao’s Fiocchi Ravioli Filled with Ricotta Cheese and Bartlett Pears.
IMG_1660[1]
Initially I was quite thrilled with the buttery flavor of brown butter but as I chewed through I loved the creaminess of the ricotta cheese and the sweet finish of the pear and dried cranberries. All the flavors meshed beautifully in right proportion.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ramen Champ is Back with New Owner and Revamped Menu

by guest blogger @iam_robot

A few weeks after closing for a much needed “vacay”, Chinatown Far East Plaza’s ramen joint Ramen Champ will reopen with new owner and new menu on October 2nd.
Yoshimasa Kasai, former director of Ramen Yokocho Festival and famed founder of Ramen Iroha, took over the shop from one of Eggslut co-owners, Alvin Cailan, and would bring his vast experience (winning 5 Tokyo Ramen Championships among others) to this already popular noodle shop.
IMG_1600
Alvin Cailan will stay on board as consultant while Kasai will keep the outlook of the shop, which includes a Robot Ramen interior mural by New York artist Mike Houston. IMG_1603
The tiny soup noodle joint started earlier this year as a partnership between Eggslut co-owners Alvin Cailan & Johnny Lee along with Men-Oh-Tokushima Chef Nathan Asamoto. Kasai revamped the entire menu and would start with 3 different bowls of ramen. Tonkotsu Ramen will be the main star with noodles, chashu, mushrooms, green onions and sesame oil; Tonkotsu Tan Tan Men will be the Chinese fusion flavor with noodles, greens and a Sichuan peppercorn paste; and Vegan Ramen will be the healthier options with spinach noodles and broth made with kombu & dried shitake mushrooms.

Last weekend, I had the chance to taste the broth for the Tonkotsu Ramen and a full bowl of the Tan Tan Men.
Tonkotsu Ramen
IMG_1604
I was quite speechless when I tried the Tonkotsu Ramen broth, thought it was the most savory broth. It was rich but it didn’t feel overwhelming or overly salty, just felt right with the medium soft noodles and strong toasty flavor from the sesame oil.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Terrace at The Forum Offers More Pre-Show Eats

Heading to The Forum for a show? You can now come early and have dinner and drinks before the show at The Terrace, now open with more food vendors like Loteria Grill and Pink's Hot Dogs. I was recently invited there to check out The Terrace and watch a show with REO Speedwagon and Boston.

IMG_4410
The Terrace wraps around The Forum and you'll find stations serving food and drinks along the way. I went around until I found Loteria Grill.
The Forum
Yes, my favorite pick of what to eat here would be Loteria Grill's tacos (they also have quesadillas).
The Forum

Friday, July 31, 2015

New Cocktails and Old Favorites at The Factory Kitchen (Downtown Los Angeles)

I recently returned to one of my favorite Italian restaurants in LA, The Factory Kitchen in downtown, to try out the new cocktail menu from bartender Andrew Gustafson (you can read me gushing upon my first visit to the restaurant here).

The Factory Kitchen tries to change their cocktail menu seasonally. I was running late so my friend was already having this season's best seller, the Mezcali with Xicaru mezcal, lemon, serrano, muddled tomatoes, and strawberry. It's easy to see why this drink sells so well, since not only has LA been a big spicy cocktail kick lately, this was a well balanced drink that's also not too sweet, with a more complex aspect thanks to the tomatoes.

I started my tasting with a DT-LAst Word (chamomile infused Slow Hand white whisky, Galliano, Maraschino, lemon, $12)

The Factory Kitchen

As the name hints, this drink is their version of the Last Word. Slow Hand white whiskey is an unaged whiskey from Greenbar Distillery in downtown LA. Andrew infuses it with chamomile tea; as you can see below, the bottle on the left with the yellow-ish liquor is the one infused with chamomile. I tried it by itself also and it had a really nice aroma - I'm partial to tea cocktails so I really liked this one.
The Factory Kitchen

Vinny's Backside (Amaro Meletti, lime juice, ginger beer, rosemary, $12)
The Factory Kitchen
A riff on a mule, but this drink has everything I love: amaro, ginger beer, and rosemary. I can drink this all day.

Gourmet Pigs   © 2008. Template Recipes by Emporium Digital

TOP