Showing posts with label tasting menu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tasting menu. Show all posts

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Patina Toasts 10th Anniversary With Build-Your-Own Tastings For $10/Dish

On October 10th, Patina Restaurant in downtown LA will be celebrating their tenth anniversary in a big way. On that day only, guests can design their own tasting menu for just $10 per dish. For Patina, that's an amazing deal!

I was lucky enough to taste a few of the dishes that will be served on October 10th during a lunch preview.

The man behind the food at Patina now is Executive Chef Charles Olalia who was previously Chef de Cuisine, with experience at French Laundry and Guy Savoy. 
My lunch started with an Amuse bouche duo of Paradise Cove oyster topped with caviar and vichyssoise, and a Scallop and potato chip sandwich
What a decadent start to a weekday lunch! The scallop "sandwich" was a unique combination.
Bread service: olive bread
Big Eye Tuna Tower, soya onion, avocado, oven dried tomato, yuzu granite.
Paired with Albarino from Galicia, Spain. 
I thought this tuna and avocado combination would be like any other tuna tartar-like dish, but I was wrong. The flavors here were surprising and delightful and the tuna was fresh and almost melted in my mouth. The Albariño was a great wine, crisp, lightly sweet. This was my favorite pairing and wine of the day.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Willows Inn (Lummi Island, WA): An Unforgettable Experience

My favorite meal in 2012? Easy. Willows Inn at Lummi Island is a small inn on a small island in Washington, with a restaurant helmed by Chef Blaine Wetzel, a young native of the area who had worked at Noma (you know, the world's best restaurant). When they talk about local ingredients, they really mean it. It isn't just produce from the state, but really local. Chef Wetzel forages around the island. A lot of the fish used are caught in the waters around the island, just five minutes from the restaurant.

Willows Inn is a 2-hour drive from Seattle plus a 10 minute ferry ride, and it's not only worth it but the journey adds to the experience.

There's only one seating every night which is at 6:30. The ferry only runs every hour and we didn't want to be late, so we took the 5PM ferry and ended up with time on our hands when we got to Willows Inn. Time to sit on the patio staring into the sunset while sipping cocktails. The cocktails here had quite a few interesting ingredients. I loved the Pacific Gin Fizz (gin, wild pineapple weed, egg white - $14)

What is wild pineapple weed, you ask? I didn't know it then but apparently it's wild chamomile. Whatever it was, it was my favorite out of the cocktails we tried. We also had time to peek into the kitchen as they were prepping.

Finally we got called and seated in the small dining room.
The dinner is "five courses" with a lot of "snacks", which meant way more food than five courses. Our meal started with a small wooden box.

As you open the treasure box: a whiff of smoke, and baked sunflower root

Next is a Crispy crepe with salmon roe, sandwiched between green onions. The crepe was a thin crisped salmon that held everything in a perfect bite-sized morsel.

Pickled oyster with sorrel was beautifully presented on a bowl of rocks

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Korean Royal Cuisine at YongSuSan (Koreatown, Los Angeles)

I've always wanted to try Korean "royal cuisine" ever since I stayed up all night for weeks watching Dae Jang Geum, so YongSuSan has long been on my radar, but I never actually went until very recently. 

Their prices have increased from what they listed on the website, but since this was a long anticipated visit, I went with the most expensive tasting menu, the Royal Court Table D'Hote for $49.99 ("table d'hote" means a prix fixe set menu, a phrase that is rarely used in the US)
YongSuSan is one of the fanciest Korean restaurants we have in town, as you can see from the entrance.
There's no grand dining room inside though, as they have several private rooms and a small dining area for those not requiring a private room. The dining room is not particularly "fancy" compared to restaurants in West Hollywood, but I like its quietness and the service.
The Royal Court menu changes seasonally. For mine, it starts with a "soft creamy porridge".

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tasting Menu at Shunji (West LA)

Shunji is one of the hot recent restaurant openings, with Chef Shunji Nakao's serving his "contemporary" omakase in an inconspicuous stand-alone building on Pico Blvd. There are only a handful of tables and a few seats at the sushi bar, and the chef prepared most of the dishes personally (some get fired in the kitchen).

His printed menu looks like the standard Japanese restaurant, but we had read about his omakase (the omakase was not printed on the menu) and just asked for that.

As an amuse bouche, a small bowl of jelly with cucumber and vinegar sauce


Next is a plate of small bites of vegetables, ankimo topped with caviar, a ball of purple potato with blue cheese and persimmon, and sweet potato with feta and truffle
Unsure if we were supposed to eat these in a particular order, we moved in one direction and it moves from rich (ankimo) to the palate cleansing, crisp, unadorned vegetables to the creamy potatoes

The scallop sashimi, topped with arugula flower, was so fresh

Monday, April 26, 2010

SF: A Mini Degustation at Masa's

It was an unplanned visit to a one-Michelin-star, James Beard award-winning restaurant.
Road tripping to SF to run experiments, I didn't plan on doing any fine dining and was only armed with jeans and tennis shoes. But scrambling to a "really good place to eat" that's kinda nearby and is vegetarian friendly somehow led us to Masa's Restaurant's website.

It looked good.
I mean, it looked really good.

And then my friend said she doesn't mind the $$$ splurge. Oh man. So in a sweater, jeans, and beat-up tennis shoes I went (she was more dressed up than me). The only thing I had going for me was my purse I think. Oh and we had no reservation.

We went by Muni to a JBF-winning restaurant and walked in at 7 PM on a Saturday night. The restaurant was about 70% full. Can you take 2 for dinner?

No fuss about my tennis shoes in a white tablecloth place either.

Executive chef Greg Short trained for a long time under Thomas Keller at the French Laundry, and he even sent him to stage at Taillevant.

While the menu listed a 5 course menu and a 9-course tasting menu, it also stated that they can do just 3 courses upon request.
I already knew I'd be late for another friend's party so we asked for the 3 course menu.

To start off, warm gougeres with 6-month-aged cheese.

For the bread I asked for a cheese-coated focaccia.

Canape: Grilled aji, cucumber, paprika.

For my friend they prepared a vegetarian Canape: Potato blinis, banana

Asparagus- Green-Purple
easter egg radishes, pea sprouts, perigord truffles, asparagus jus
Texturally the crisp radishes stood out, but what I was inhaling was the delightfully strong aroma of the Perigord truffles. The earthiness was not something I would think about combining with the clean and crispness of this vegetable-based dish but it turned out to be quite lovely.

For my vegetarian friend:
Composition of Early Spring Vegetables
roasted purple and white cauliflower, fava beans, brussels sprouts, baby spring leeks, rapini, maitake mushroom "cream", pine nut "dust"

My main entree:
Pan Roasted Paine Farms Squab Breast
braised swiss chard, pickled field rhubarb, "confit" leg, grenadine gastrique
Discounting my Alinea meal (since Masa's actually happened before), this stood out to me as one of the best squab dishes I've had in a while. The breast is very tender and full of flavor. The meat is a little gamey and just overall amazing. The leg confit had a nice crispy skin but the breast is the star here.

The main entree for my vegetarian friend:
Baby Artichokes
russet potato gnocchi, fermented black garlic, roasted vegetable stock, reggiano parmesan

For desserts we just got the two that our server suggested:
Strawberry Hazelnut Shortcake
Chantilly, black pepper ice cream.
This was a nice and light dessert with a soft and crumbly shortcake. The black pepper ice cream worked quite nicely here, adding depth to the sweetness of the strawberries and the chantilly. A delicious pacer before I hit our second dessert:
Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tart
Cafe au lait ice cream.

We're not done of course. Upon entering the restaurant I had already noticed the mignardise cart sitting on the side.
I didn't want to seem greedy so we only got lychee pate de fruit, fleur de sel caramel truffle, chocolate covered canele, etc.
It was a leisurely meal and of course I was late to my friend's party, but I had a great dinner with great food and gracious service, so no complaints or regrets on my part. The three courses were enough food, but I also can't wait to come back and do a more extensive tasting, hoping that most of his dishes would be as strong as what I had this night.
My friend also really enjoyed her vegetarian menu (fyi: non-meat-eaters).

Oh, we left by taxi instead of Muni. That's classier, right?

Masa's Restaurant
648 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 989-7154
Masa's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


No play-by-play "my take" of the dishes for you, just those that stood out for me. No need for me to play the food critic, who am I anyway?
Alinea's is a meal worth experiencing, and I'm just going to share my experience.

A nondescript door. If it wasn't for the valet parking sign, you wouldn't notice the place. Down the hallway a sliding metal door to your left.

We were led to the second floor and these "flags" of flower-pressed rice paper were placed on our table.
"Don't eat it yet. Just sit and admire them for now."

English Pea (iberico, sherry, honeydew)

Shad Roe (shallot, mustard, bay aroma)
Bayleaf stemmed out of the fried shad roe, but it's only for the aroma. Eat everything else in one bite.

A pair of two shrimp courses:
Yuba (shrimp, miso togarashi) - the shrimp is wrapped around the dried yuba.

Chao Tom (sugar cane, shrimp, mint) - "Chew but don't swallow."

An extra napkin was provided for you to spit out the chewed sugar cane gracefully. Or try to.

Distillation of Thai Flavors
I saw the video about this "flavored water" and totally thought it was an April Fool's joke. No joke. This glass of water was absolutely spiced with thai spices.

This shot of 'water' is just a primer for the next course.

Pork Belly (curry, cucumber, lime) - a DIY spring roll.
This was paired with: Abbazia di Novacella Kerner, Valle Isarco, Alto Adige 2008.

"Pick up the glass and place it in front of you"
Salt, fried shallots, bananas, basil seeds, cashews, onions, chili paste, etc.
Then we had to arrange the metal contraption and they placed the flower-decked rice paper we've been admiring all this time.
Topped it with deliciously creamy and fatty looking pork belly.
Add all the condiments in (yes, ALL), and wrap.

Lobster (parfait, salad, soup)
Paired with: K Vintners Viognier, Columbia Valley, Washington 2008.
The Parfait (chilled lobster consomme, greek yogurt, grapefruit cells, ginger pate de fruit, poppy seeds and pistachio-butter powder, topped with quenelle pistachio ice cream and poppy seed nage).
"Don't touch the bottom part, it'll burn your hands."
Confused (because the parfait is chilled), we asked, what could possibly make it so hot.
"Oh, I can't tell you something like that."

Upon finishing our parfait, the servers lifted the top, revealing, voila! the Salad (Eggplant confit and Poached Lobster).
Sneaky, sneaky.
The server poured lobster bisque over the salad and it traveled down the slits on the bowl. "For aroma," he said.
Again the bowl at the top is removed, this time revealing various spices soaking in the poured lobster bisque.
Lobster bisque meets Masala chai? Yes, please.


Duck (morels, asparagus, chamomile)
Paired with: Casar de Burbia, Bierzo, Spain 2006.

Barhi Date (maple sap, lemon, cognac)

Bacon (butterscotch, apple, thyme)

Kumquat (rye, peychaud's, demerara)

Foie Gras (pear, white wine, allspice)
Paired with: Reinhold Haart 'Piesporter Goldtropfchen' Riesling Auslese, Mosel 2002.
A three-layered dish. The pink/orange crumbles you see on top are the foie gras.
A nice pairing with the late harvest Riesling that cuts the richness and sweetness.

Green Almond (yuzu, wasabi, basil flower)
Sushi rice gelee topped with the above.

Sturgeon (potato, leek, smoke)
Paired with Avanthia Godello, Valdeorras, Spain 2008
Smoked sturgeon topped with leeks and potato-sauce-sheet.
This dish was created by sous chef Andrew Graves and apparently the first dish in Alinea history to be introduced on the menu before Chef Achatz being on hand to see the final prototype.

Hot Potato (cold potato, black truffle, butter)

At this point my wine glass was switched out to this gorgeously decorated antique wine glass. This was filled with the wine for the next pairing: Albert Morot Beaune-Toussaint 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune 2006.
The sommelier explained Burgundy has been making "ready-to-drink" wines to compete with new world producers. Though I didn't really think it was "ready to drink" (drink-able, but much too tannic), I'm hopeful for the pairing.

Our next silverware was also noticeably antique.

Filet de Boeuf (godard) - wagyu tenderloin, black truffles, mushroom cap, sweetbreads, cockscomb (yes, cockscomb - see it? right hand side), quenelle of beef mousse.
Alinea has been introducing an "antique" dish, "interrupting" their typical meal with an iteration of a classic recipe from Auguste Escoffier's 1903 cookbook, Le Guide Culinaire.
The pairing ended up working pretty well too as the astringency of the wine and the richness of the dish balance each other out.

Black Truffle (explosion, black truffle, butter)
A ravioli filled with black truffle "tea", topped with a slice of black truffle and butter.
Lots of truffle essence here. Love it.

Squab (charred strawberries, lettuce, birch log)
Paired with: Anima Negra "An", Mallorca, Spain 2005.
Probably the most memorable dish, the heated birch log was emitting this wonderful aroma. We stopped and smelled for a few seconds before proceeding with our food.

Lemon Soda
Since I had to take this in one shot and can't place it on the table, taking a photo was impractical. No photo for you, lemon soda for me :p

Bubble Gum (long pepper, hibiscus, creme fraiche)
"Hold it level, and take it in one go from the red end."

Transparency of raspberry, yogurt

Earl Grey (lemon, pine nut, caramelized white chocolate) - served on a pillow containing earl grey aroma (!)

Chocolate (coconut, menthol, hyssop)
At this point our table is cleared and a silicone cover is placed over it.
The ingredients for our final dessert is placed on the side.
I had seen the chef de cuisine came out and prepared this dessert for another table that night, so it wasn't a total surprise. Still, I was hopeful ... and lucky me, Chef Grant Achatz himself came out to our table and prepared our table-top dessert.

Coconut milk, chewy coconut, menthol cream, frozen coconut mousse, warm coconut mousse.
(by the way, I was also curious why the menthol cream turned into squares on the silicone. Anyone knows? Chemists?)

The clear cylinders were then removed revealing the now-solidified warm chocolate mousse.
And voila. We attacked it and turned it into a Pollock.

So there you have it, the Alinea Tour for $225 per person (and $80 for my "mini" wine pairing that was not so mini after all), a truly unique dining experience.

1723 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 867-0110
Alinea on Urbanspoon

Gourmet Pigs   © 2008. Template Recipes by Emporium Digital