Showing posts with label small plates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label small plates. Show all posts

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)
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?)
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.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Viento Pop-Up at Hyatt Regency Century Plaza

by guest blogger @btsunoda

With the exception of Las Vegas, hotels usually don’t make an effort to attract diners that aren’t already guests of the hotel. There are only a handful of hotel restaurants that I can think of that I dined at without being a guest. The Breeze Restaurant in the Hyatt Regency Century City Plaza Hotel is attempting to change that perception. The Breeze kitchen has experimented with a few different themes and I had a chance to sample their new pop-up restaurant located just off the lobby.

I learned that the Hyatt Regency team will rotate the kitchen in six month pop-up efforts, each one operating under a different name. I had the opportunity to attend the initial pop-up named “Viento”, a Latin small plates concept.
During the dinner hours, Viento serves tapas such as pork belly sliders and mini duck sopes, alongside larger dishes like mole platters and Achiote Salmon. They also change the restaurant’s interior design by swapping out tables, chairs, and decor elements as needed. DSCF7723

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Modern Meze at Sarma: Worth the Trek (Somerville, MA)

Boston isn't all about seafood and Italian food, there are a few special places that add a big diversity to the available food in town. Sarma is one of those few special places and I have to say it's only a type of restaurant I won't be able to find in LA, making Sarma one of my favorite spots in Boston so far.

Located in Somerville, Sarma is the sister restaurant of Oleana in Cambridge, both specializing in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food, but Sarma focuses on meze /small plates and is more casual.

Go to Sarma with many people, so that you can try a lot of dishes - and trust me, there are a lot you'd want to try. Sarma also changes a big part of their menu regularly, so even if you're a regular, you'd always find something new to try. Here's what I had at Sarma over two different visits:

Lamb kofte sliders, tomato, brown butter, pickles ($10) - one of the must gets!
It may look simple in the photo, but these are seriously some of the best sliders ever. The patty - made with lamb kofte - was really good and the buns had the perfect texture.

Corn cakes, goat cheese, salty date butter, cilantro, pecans ($10)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ciccheti Brunch at Bacari PDR (Playa Del Rey, CA)

Brunch at Bacari PDR in Playa Del Rey lets you try many different dishes with their chiccheti format. Each dish is a small plate that costs $7 each, or 3 for $19. On top of that, you can make it a boozy brunch. Get one hour's worth of bottomless pitchers of mimosa, bellini, or sangria for $15.

Since the chef, Lior Hillel, grew up in Israel, I wasn't surprised to find on the menu a Shakshouka (rustic tomato sauce, bell pepper, garlic, sous-vide egg, parsley)
Bacari PDR
Yes, I love my eggs in tomato sauce. The shakshouka is only slightly spicy so it's accessible to more palates. The bold flavors are great with the sliced bread.

They sometimes also have fun specials. That day's special: crab cake with poached egg, grapefruit hollandaise
Bacari PDR
This ended up being my favorite savory dish of the day, I hope they put it on the regular menu! The chef had put a generous amount of crab meat in the dish.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bacari PDR (Playa Del Rey, CA)

by guest blogger @btsunoda

I was delighted to see Bacari PDR take the place of what used to be Bistro Du Soleil in Playa del Rey. Even prior their occupancy, the location was pretty much known for its casual Sunday brunches. Bacari PDR was started by the team of Bobby Kronfli, Daniel Kronfli and executive chef Lior Hillel. The Kronfli brothers and Hillel also collaborated on Bacaro LA as well as Nature’s Brew. Both are located on Union Avenue near the University of Southern California. DSCF4775
 After occupying their Playa del Rey location, they decided to gut out the interior and add a rich dark wood look. The effective use of windows gave the interior a lot of natural light which gave the restaurant a classy casual feel. Actual wine bottles from their customers line the top of the ceiling of the restaurant.
Executive chef Lior Hillel, who also crafted the Bacaro L.A. menu, brings to Bacari PDR his takes on Mediterranean-inspired cicchetti, or small plates. After I had a chance to speak with him, I discovered that he takes feedback quite seriously and he blends his vision with the tastes of his local clientele. After seeing the small size of the kitchen, I was truly amazed to see the number of items on their menu. Our group had quite a bit to taste that evening:

The rainbow beet salad was full of color: red and yellow beets mixed with chevre goat cheese and freshly chopped tarragon with a roasted black peppercorn vinegar salad dressing. This was both tangy and sweet.
Crab crostini consisted of crab claw meat and charred poblano peppers with Chef Hillel’s dressing.
The crostini had plenty of fresh crab meat mixed in a creamy pepper dressing.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Freddy Smalls Bar and Kitchen (West Los Angeles, CA)

One of the early cocktail bars with a full food menu that opened in West LA was Freddy Smalls. Situated in a part of Pico Blvd I rarely visit, the bar was crowded despite being a weeknight.

I was pleasantly surprised by the food here! We started with some deviled eggs as appetizers. These are Buffalo Deviled Eggs with crisp chicken skin. point reyes blue cheese, hot sauce, and celery ($4)
Deviled Eggs
I've heard good things about their brussel sprouts and wasn't disappointed. The Fried Brussels Sprouts were served with smoked goat cheese and apple cider glaze ($8)
Unlike some I've tried at other places, the brussels sprouts weren't too salty or overwhelmed with sauce. It was flavorful with the sweet glaze that's tempered by the creamy goat cheese. This is probably one of my favorite brussels sprouts dishes out there.

The cocktail menu here is small and though fairly conservative, you can still find some interesting drinks. I started with the Star-Crossed Lover, made with Smith & Cross Jamaican rum, kaffir lime. simple syrup ($10)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dim Sum Carts, Liquid Nitrogen, and Canned Cocktails at The Church Key

The Church Key brought the "dim sum cart" concept to Sunset Blvd, except instead of the classic grouchy dim sum ladies pushing their metal carts, the servers at Church Key are dressed in PanAm stewardess outfit pushing airline carts (one said PanAm while another cart said Delta). Various small plates, canned cocktails, and liquid nitrogen cocktail otter pops can be found on these carts.

Just like at dim sum, they stamp your card with the dishes or cocktail you received. Unlike Chinese dim sum, the restaurant is large, spacious, and sexy.
You won't find Chinese dim sum here, though. Instead, look for one of our favorite dishes of the night: Crispy pork belly, gojuchang glaze, cashew butter, radish, sesame ($14)
Word of warning: this was a bit spicy, but I love the crispiness! Everyone raved about the pig's ear cheetos but unfortunately I didn't get to try them as they were sold out.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Stanton Social (New York)

The lounge on the second floor of The Stanton Social turns into a hopping party at night. I don't usually go to these types of places for the food, but The Stanton Social was featured on Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate for their French Onion Soup Dumplings. French onion soup what? Yes, dumplings.

The kitchen at The Stanton Social is helmed by Executive Chef Neill Howell and Chef/Partner Chris Santos, and their menu definitely looks much more promising than other lounge-y types.

Of course, we had to try the French Onion Soup Dumplings ($12)

French Onion Dumplings
(sorry for the flash. It was impossible to take photos without it!)
The dumpling is covered with melted gruyere and topped with croutons. Bite the chewy dumplings and hot french onion soup will come spurting out. It's not "the best thing i ever ate" but it was pretty damn good and addictive. I'm also bookmarking Habeas Brulee's recipe for it. Who knows, perhaps one day I'll actually attempt to recreate it.

The cocktails ($13 each), while couldn't stand up to Milk and Honey's which were still fresh on my mind, were pretty good and interesting. The Blood Orange Jalapeño Margarita is made with jalapeño-infused Milagro Reposado, blood orange juice, fresh lime, and Cointreau. Even though vodka has a bad rap among cocktail enthusiasts these days, I still enjoyed the Basil-Lime Gimlet made with Belvedere Vodka, muddled basil, lemon syrup, and fresh lime (I'm curious if it'll be better with gin though).
The Stanton also features some locally distilled liquors. Try the Brooklyn Lemonade made with Brooklyn Gin, lemon syrup, lemon juice, muddled cucumber, and ginger beer.

OK, moving on to more of the food.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fleming's: Annual Wine Tastings, New Small Plates

Every September, Fleming's revamps their "Fleming's 100" wine list. Now, what that means for you is that every September, there are multiple wine tasting/pairing events at Fleming's! That included a series of "Opening Nights" on Fridays, where guests can taste 25 wines from their list of 100 for just $25! Not only that, this year we also got a sampling of their new small plates menu.

The first three weeks showcased the same wines across all Fleming's, while the last week featured wines chosen by the local Wine Manager. I made it to this last night to Fleming's at LA Live in downtown LA.

Fleming's Wine Tasting
The wine selection included Kelly Fleming wines from Napa Valley which is owned by Fleming’s cofounder’s wife.

Here are some of the highlights for me:
1. Il Conte d’Alba, Moscato D’Asti, Italy, NV. This sparkling moscato is made from the Moscato di Canelli grape, the sweetness is just right for me.
2. La Croix Gratiot, Picpoul de Pinet, Coteaux du Languedoc, France 2010. Very crisp and clean.
White Wines

3. Meyer Syrah, Mendocino county, 2006
4. Rombauer Zinfandel, Napa Valley, 2009. Suprisingly pretty sweet. Smooth.
5. Justin Cabernet, Paso Robles, 2009. Always a crowd pleaser. Fruity, a bit of tannin for a bright finish.


The middle table was also consistently refilled with a tray of their new small plates items. They had started with some flatbreads then moved up to scallops (these ran out quickly), Filet Mignon Skewers with gorgonzola bacon fondue, ...

.. to New Zealand lamb chops with pistachio-mint pesto!
Lamb Chop
Even when preparing a whole tray of them, they still managed to get the lamb chops medium rare and so tender.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Allston Yacht Club: Refining Echo Park Neighborhood Dining

The recently opened Allston Yacht Club offers something quite different from other places in Echo Park. A small-plate restaurant combining American, Asian, and African influences with a wine bar and an inventive cocktail program. All the plates are priced under $10, making it quite the affordable neighborhood destination.

Not that Echo Park is my neighborhood, so it wasn't like I just meandered over there one day.

AYC has gotten some buzz recently since the owners have started blogging about their restaurateur-ing experiences (Apparently they left their careers in the entertainment industry to open up a restaurant. You know, something more relaxed. Ha :P ). So when their PR person contacted me and invited me to check out the food, I took up the opportunity.

As soon as I entered my eyes were drawn to the yellow backdrop and the giant Hokusai waves. I want that for my room, please.
My friend and I started the night with cocktails. She got the Lena's Holiday (vodka, St Germain, cucumber, pear & ginger - $9)
The drink was on the sweeter side, though not overly so.

The server brought out a plate of cheese (Istara, Sheep, Basque) and saucisson sec by mistake instead of our brandade gratin. Oh well, we are not about to turn down cheese.

I quite enjoyed the firm and smooth Istara.

We never did get our brandade gratin, but there was more than enough food anyway.

Duck Confit with BBQ sauce and green papaya salad ($7)
The duck confit was tender and moist and the sweetness of the bbq sauce was balanced quite well by the tart green papaya. The duck confit preparation here changes daily, and at this price point it's very doable to come regularly and check out what's in store.

The next plate we got was the Merguez Sausage ($8)
Our favorite dish of the night. The lamb sausage was very flavorful and had a great texture that's complemented by the melange of vegetables.

AYC also offers side dishes to go along with your small "plates". We tried the Brussels Sprouts with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and bacon ($6)
This was my only disappointment of the night. The balsamic vinegar made the dish too salty and covered up the taste of the brussels sprouts themselves. We liked eating the bacon bits by themselves though, they were quite good.

We also tried the Spinach Tian, cooked in savory rice custard ($6). A warm and comforting dish, although the egg flavor came through much more than the rice.

The PR person came and talked to us and told us how much she loves the grilled cheese sandwich here. The sandwich preparation changes regularly and seasonally, sometimes incorporating truffles or apricots.

Of course, we had to order one.
No truffle in sight today, but the aromatic melted cheese on the warm, crisp, and buttery bread was very satisfying. My friend did note that it was a bit too greasy for her usual fare, but you know I do not mind it.

For dessert, I tried the Amandine, a South African almond-based cake
A light dessert that's prepared well with a strong almond flavor and crunchy texture.

I was waiting for my friend to finish her drink, so I tried a second drink too, the Ultraviolet Martini (gin, vermouth, lemon, violet syrup - $9)
A very well balanced drink and the aroma and subtle flavor of the violet syrup made this quite a unique drink. Loved it.

Instead of doing my own recap, here's a summary of AYC from my friend and dinner companion (who has her own blog Whiners n Diners):

" Enter the warm, inviting Allston Yacht Club and you will experience a variety of tastes as richly colored as the decor itself. Imagine a great blue Hokusai wave against a vibrant yellow backdrop as you sip delicately crafted cocktails like the UltraViolet martini, the Echo Park Mule or the Allston Sunrise. You can nosh on anything from an assortment of small plates to savory entrees influenced from a variety of world cuisines. Our favorites include the merguez sausage and barbecue duck confit with green papaya. You can also find the tastiest grilled cheese - it is known to take on different forms at times- from plain to truffle infused. The staff is welcoming, and with prices between $7 and $9 for large plates, why not just make AYC your go-to place? "

Allston Yacht Club
1320 Echo Park Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 481-0454
Allston Yacht Club on Urbanspoon
Allston Yacht Club in Los Angeles

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