Showing posts with label santa monica place. Show all posts
Showing posts with label santa monica place. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Peru to Malaysia Test Kitchen at Zengo

Richard Sandoval's Zengo at the Santa Monica Place does a different "Test Kitchen" menu every once in a while, and the latest is a Peruvian Malaysian take. Malaysian food is very similar to Indonesian so I wanted to check this out! The Test Kitchen items are indicated with a "TK" to the left of the item's name on the menu.

I like the entrees on this TK menu. Try the Char roasted halibut, ginger chile marinade, crispy lentil rice cake, sambal butter sauce, charred banana leaf ($25)

The halibut was nicely cooked, sitting atop the aromatic banana leaf, and I liked that sambal butter! It's not that spicy as far as sambal goes but definitely packed some spices.

I also enjoyed the Arroz con Mariscos, mussels, scallops, calamari, shrimp, yellow curry, Malay rice, Thai basil ($14)
This seemed more Thai than Malaysian with the curry broth, but nonetheless it's a flavorful and comforting dish for the cold weather. The two dishes above are probably my favorites of the TK menu.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Playing at Zengo's Test Kitchen

The term fusion has been thrown around for many years and the boundaries have been blurred. At Zengo in Santa Monica, they play around with a changing Test Kitchen menu, combining flavors from specific countries. I tried the Test Kitchen menu combining Hong Kong with San Juan, Puerto Rico flavors, which included items like Chicarron-plantain mofongo shumai, ground pork, chicharron, black vinegar, XO sauce

Mofongo Shumai
This was quite an interesting combination. The dumpling skin was nice and thin and while there were traditional Chinese flavors here, the mofongo was very distinctive.

The Adobo sweet n sour BBQ pork ribs were quite tender. They were served with papa rellena, bacon, Jack cheese, chayote slaw

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February: Tamal Festival at La Sandia (Santa Monica)

"Tamal." It's a Mayan word meaning ‘wrapped’. This traditional Latin American dish is also one of my favorites, made of masa (usually stuffed with chicken, pork, or cheese) then wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves and steamed.

Apparently, Mexican tradition states that on Dia de Reyes (Day of the Kings), people partake on special bread which may contain a hidden doll. Just like King Cakes in New Orleans tradition, the person who gets the doll hosts a party! In the Mexican tradition, this party is a Tamal Party in February. Well, seems like Richard Sandoval found the doll, since he is holding a Tamal Festival throughout February at La Sandia.

During this Tamal Festival, Sandoval explores the diverse regional varieties of tamales throughout Mexico. I was invited to a media tasting recently and, as it turns out, there are way more tamale variations that I had anticipated, and they go way beyond the stuffing and the salsa!

Kumquat Cocktail
While waiting for the others to arrive, we were served a refreshing (and strong) welcome cocktail made with kumquats and prosecco.

Chips were served with a freshly made guacamole served in a moljacete. I enjoyed the guacamole so much I didn't want them to take it away. But I suppose I should save room for the dinner.
Our first course is good indication just how creatively they have used tamal in Mexico (just a note, we got tasting size portions during this dinner, not the full size you will get when you order):
Torta de Tamal Mexico City
Mexico City style sandwich, chicken tamale, lettuce, tomato, onion, chipotle aioli, salsa verde
Tamal Torta
Yep, carbs sandwiched in carbs! I liked the buns which were almost like biscuits, but lighter. I had thought this might be bland with both buns and corn masa tamal, but there was enough shredded chicken inside the tamal and it was pretty flavorful with the chipotle aioli.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

True Food Kitchen (Santa Monica, CA)

Vegetable Crudites
Local Vegetable Crudites
True Food Kitchen which recently opened at Santa Monica Place has a mission of serving sustainable, healthy food without sacrificing flavor. They center their menu around Dr. Andrew Weil’s "Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Food Pyramid" (not that I knew about it before coming here).

Before they officially opened to the public, they held tastings and trial runs for friends and some media. I came for a lunch during these test runs. While waiting for my friend I ran into Pleasure Palate and her friend. We ended up joining her table and got to sample many more things.

Do try the Banana, espresso, pistachio, and date muffin ($3)
While I'm usually not a big muffin fan, this one is a must try! The muffin is really moist and loaded with pistachio and other goodies.

They have a pretty big list of cocktails (with fruits with alleged antioxidant properties, of course), wines, and beers, many of them organic. I didn't want to start drinking so early, though so I went with one of their non-alcoholic "elixirs": the "Red Moon" ($4): pink grapefruit, yuzu, agave, and soda.
I also like the Medicine Man ($6) made with olivello juice (more on olivello later), pomegranate juice, cranberry juice, black tea, soda water, and blueberries.

Today's Raw Fish ($12): Yellowtail
A bit heavy on the sauce, but the fish was fresh.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How to Blind Date at The Market

You meet for coffee at the newly opened The Market at the Santa Monica Place. It's bright and spacious. Maybe you meet at Groundworks or get some Austrian coffee from Rockenwagner and chat over pretzels and danishes.
Rockenwagner Bakery
You want to spend more time with her so you ask if she wants to have dinner at The Curious Palate. You find out she loves craft beers and has good taste in food and you think it's awesome. After dinner maybe you take her for some ice cream at N'Ice Cream or ice cream sandwiches from Beachy Cream. Maybe you share a chewy chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven from the Cookie Guru.
Sample-bearing girls from Beachy Cream
Fresh chocolate chip cookies from Cookie Guru
You want to impress her so you decide to take cooking classes at the Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories. You buy a bottle of wine at Venokado, some cheese and cured meat (maybe one of those truffled ham?) from Norcino Salumeria Cheese Bar and invite her over for a romantic dinner.
Classroom at Gourmandise
Your anniversary rolls around and you ask her to meet you at the place you first met. You get to The Market 15 minutes early and buy some beautiful flowers at Magical Blooms, some truffles and macarons at L'Artisan du Chocolat and you're all set. It's a one-stop-shop.
Macarons at L'Artisan du Chocolat
Orchids at Magical Blooms

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tasting the Revamped Santa Monica Place: La Sandia and Zengo

Do you remember the old Santa Monica Place? The mall at the end of the Third Street Promenade used to be an afterthought. Now it has undergone a massive revamp and face lift that I didn't even recognize it anymore! I went there recently for a media dinner at the two new Richard Sandoval restaurants there, La Sandia and Zengo.

On my way to my first stop, La Sandia, I was so surprised. What used to be an old, dying mall is now a sleek, open-air center.
It's so fancy now!

I was impressed by La Sandia's dining room. The middle area was spacious and airy with a fountain at the center.
Since we're having our media dinner at Zengo, we only sampled some cocktails and tried some appetizers here: enchiladas, taquitos, ceviche. These are dishes you would expect from other Mexican restaurants, and they are done pretty well here.

We sampled four cocktails (sharing the flutes so we don't get too drunk) which were surprisingly well made and interesting.

The Dos Agaves was made with mezcal, agave and rimmed with chapuline salt. Another mezcal drink contained cucumber, pepino, and chile pequin. I enjoyed the passionfruit caipirinha and the hibiscus margarita which uses hibiscus syrup made in house.

La Sandia
395 Santa Monica Place
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 393-3300
La Sandía on Urbanspoon

We then moved to Zengo for dinner (and more cocktails).

Overall we liked the cocktails at Zengo better. I ordered the Prickly Pear Caipirinha ($9) and the Mekhong Pina Horchata made with Mekhong thai rum was an interesting creamy concoction. We also tasted the tamarind margarita and cucumber mojito - all of them were good.

The XO sauce edamame was quite addictive. Do give it a try, unless you're vegetarian since the XO sauce contains dried shrimp and scallops.

Many of the dishes are the familiar asian fusion dishes with a twist like beef and hamachi tiradito, sushi rolls, and a miso black cod with chipotle, but you can also find some unique ones worth trying:

Achiote-hoisin pork arepas (corn masa, avocado crema fresca) - $9
This dish combined the sweetness of hoisin pork with the great texture of fried arepas - chewy with a crunchy texture. The creamy avocado is icing on the cake.

Peking Duck-Daikon Tacos (duck confit, curried apple, orange-coriander sauce) - $12

This was another of my favorite.
It's a lighter and more refreshing take on both peking duck and taco. No tortilla or thin chinese pancake here, just the crisp freshness of daikon radish. Unfortunately the duck confit itself was a little on the dry side. Just a little more moist and juicy and it would be perfect.

Not knowing anything about La Sandia, Zengo, or the food of Richard Sandoval before, I was pleasantly surprised. There were a few dishes that I thought were creative combination of flavors I have not seen before. Now that the new Santa Monica Place definitely has some good food and cocktail options, I wouldn't mind the mall so much.

395 Santa Monica Pl
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 899-1000
Zengo on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: This was an all-blogger dinner hosted by the restaurants' PR.

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