Monday, May 4, 2009

Reasonable & Chic Sushi at K-Zo

K-Zo's decor can be described as chic. Hip. It seems like there's even a bar in the front, though I do think they only serve shochu cocktails. But unlike what comes to mind when I think of "hip sushi restaurant" (*cough* Katsuya Hollywood, Sushi Roku *cough*) it isn't crowded and loud and, as K-Zo has been known for, the prices are quite reasonable.
But really, my main reason for finally checking K-Zo out is a Yelp review that mentioned their sinful molten chocolate cake. I've long been searching for a good sushi joint that also offers good dessert (I mean, beyond your mochi ice cream and tempura ice cream).

But I'm ahead of myself. Let's start from the beginning.

We started with a "seafood salad" ($16) - Tuna, yellowtail, salmon, whitefish, shrimp, and albacore on a bed of lettuce with soy mustard dressing
A bit heavy on the dressing, but otherwise good. Fish and green ingredients are good and fresh and the dressing works well for both.

Wakame (seaweed) salad - $8 (hey we wanted our greens and minerals)
Nice, light and healthy. Unlike the previous salad, the dressing here is not heavy and was just perfect.

Besides the standard sushi menu, K-Zo also has a specials menu featuring the rarer/seasonal fishies. I ordered some wild salmon.
The color is much darker than your regular salmon, and as you can probably tell from the lack of thick white stripes, this is a much leaner piece of fish. It was fresh, the fish/rice ratio was just right. The fish cuts are narrow so the portion isn't huge, but it's fair and big enough for a bite. A nice first impression of K-Zo's sushi.

As a comparison we also got the regular salmon sushi ($5/2pc order)
A fattier cut (but I like fatty too). Again, a good and fresh piece.

Speaking of fatty, I of course got my o-toro fix. I was very happy with the prices of toro here, which I think was only ~$10.
That long tail just means more fish for me ... This was a pretty fatty and smooth, melt-in-your-mouth toro. While not the best o-toro I've had, this was definitely one of the good ones, and at this price point, I was perfectly happy.

We like to end our sushi meals with some eel. This time to compare we got both the freshwater and seawater eels.
Freshwater Eel/Unagi ($5/2pc)
Seawater eel/Anago ($6/2pc)
Most Japanese people seem to prefer anago, and it is also higher priced. The unagi tends to be sweeter, which kind of provides a nice end to the meal, IMHO.

The chocolate molten cake I was looking forward to finally came. It was pretty small though! As you can see, it was only the size of an ice cream scoop.
It's small but packs a punch. Definitely rich and sinful. I also like the sesame ice cream quite a bit, but by itself. In this case the whole is less than the sum of the parts ... This small ramekin dish of chocolate cake is definitely enough. For one person, that is. As we were sharing, we're glad we had another dessert coming.

The lychee tart's portion was also pretty small.
Richer and denser than what I was expecting for a lychee tart, as it was a bit eggy. An enjoyable dessert, though I thought the taste and freshness of the lychees got lost in the rich eggy tart base.

Overall a very reasonably-priced sushi dinner with high quality and fresh ingredients. The dessert selections are much more interesting and varied than most of its counterparts (especially with the disappearance of Jinpachi's famous desserts). The dessert portions are on the small side, but might as well ... I shouldn't be eating so much anyway :P
Add on top of that free parking in the public structure right next to the restaurant, K-Zo is winning lots of points with me!

K-Zo
9240 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 202-8890
K-Zo Japanese on Urbanspoon



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Friday, May 1, 2009

May Events!

Sunday, May 3. AMMO kicks off their Farm-to-Table series with a four-course dinner featuring Jerry Rutiz of the Rutiz Family Farms, famous for their Frais du Bois strawberries. $55 per person. 1155 N. Highland Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90038
www.ammocafe.com


Saturday-Sunday, May 9-10. LA BBQ Fest comes back to town. To be frank, I didn't fully enjoy last year's event. Stood in line for about 2 hours to get my 'cue and most of the good beer ran out in the first 2 hours or so. But this year they did promise shorter lines, more BBQ, more beer. So it maybe worth checking out? Santa Monica Beach (next to the Pier). http://www.labbqfest.com/

Sunday, May 17. 5x5 Chef's Collaborative continues at Melisse, featuring guest chef Gabriel Kreuther from The Modern (New York). $150 pp.

Wednesday, May 20. Top Chef's contestants Fabio Viviani and Stefan Ritcher will have a friendly cook-off at The Grove! This event is FREE and will start off with cooking demos and food samples from the restaurants at The Grove. RSVP is required. http://lamag.com/promotions/detail.aspx?id=14854

Friday, May 29. Perhaps one of the most unique and exciting food events in Los Angeles, Tables of Ten is coming back for its fourth year!
Fifteen tables of ten will be manned by one designer and one chef each, who will create a unique experience for each table. This event is so much fun because each designer creates an exhibit out of the dining table (and of course, the tabletop!). Plus you'll be seated with both the chef and designer! The lineup includes chefs Neal Fraser (Grace), Evan Kleiman (Cafe Angeli), Mark Peel(Campanile), Mirko Paderno (Cecconi's) and David Lefevre (Water Grill).

The experience doesn't come cheap. A seat goes for $750 and a table goes for $5000, but it does benefit Inner City Arts, and when else would you get to dine with the chefs while sitting around an art piece? Pacific Design Center. http://www.avenuesartdesign.com/access_39.php

Sunday, May 31. Let your inner child out with the Gourmet 5 Year Old Party. We're talking 'mac n cheese with lobster, ... sloppy joes made from Kobe beef" and lots of "juice" (wine!) and (of course!) a magic show! Benefiting Meals on Wheels. The website says $60pp but brownpapertickets says $40pp, choose your poison. 1-4 pm. The Renaissance Hollywood Hotel, 1755 N Highland Ave. http://www.drinkeatplay.com/fiveyearoldparty/



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Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Night We Braved Death, aka The Blowfish Feast

Fugu. Blowfish. Pufferfish. By any other name a poisonous fish. The poison, tetrodoxin (TTX), that's contained in the organs and skin, is a sodium channel blocker that causes muscle paralysis and can eventually cause death by asphyxiation (since your respiratory muscles similarly are paralyzed!!).

Who would eat such a dangerous thing? Well, we would, of course! Organized by the ever enthusiastic Choisauce, a group of daring foodbloggers+friends, arrived at Dae Bok to confront their (not one, not two, but TEN) blowfish dishes! Alas, we could not have all ten. We were divided into three tables so each table got different dishes.

On my table were veteran foodbloggers whom I met for the first time that night, Deep End Dining and Rameniac.

As is usual at Korean restaurants, the night started with some banchans.
Don't be fooled, though. Not all of them are mere banchans. They include a dish of blowfish skin salad!
I did just say the skin is where the poison is. But apparently if you take out all the spikes then you can eat the skin. So we took a bite.

And waited.

Hmm. Am I feeling dizzy? Or maybe that was just the shochu. Rameniac claimed his lips were getting a bit numb ... Meh, seems like we're still alive. Time to eat more!!

This chewy skin salad was perhaps my favorite blowfish dish of the night.

Each table got a blowfish jjim, a steamed fish dish with bean sprouts in chili paste.
So, yes, the blowfish. It was meaty. A real meaty white fish. Other than that it doesn't have a distinct taste. Most of the flavors of the dish comes from the chili paste. The meat's pretty tough in this jjim so we didn't eat too much of it, especially with something else cooking in front of us.

One of the other tables got the blowfish bulgogi which I heard was good ... They didn't share!

The main attraction of the night, however, was the spicy blowfish stew or mehwoontang (you can order it non-spicy, aka jiri). Prepared on the stove on your table, the blowfish is cooked with beansprouts and minari (which I found out thanks to Choisauce's post)

Spicy, garlicky, fish broth. Talk about flavorful! The fish was also much more tender in this preparation. Definitely a win over the jjim.

After you're done with your blowfish and veggies, they'll come add some dumpling-like dough into the boiling pot.
Chewy dough that are flavorful after cooking it in the fiery broth. Delish! Al Dente or not though depends on when you take it out yourself ;)

It still doesn't stop there. After making sure that we were done with the dough and most of the soup, they came bearing rice and beans and veggies.
Yep, it's time for the fried rice!

All these + oil are mixed in together with a bit of that fiery blowfish soup. I got excited just watching her stir it in the pot!
Wait a bit until the bottom and sides are crispy. Yum yum.
Crispy fried rice filled with the flavors of that spicy fish stew. A great way to end it!

We washed down our meal with some shikhae (cold rice drink) which I absolutely love (got 2 seconds) but apparently forgot to take a picture of ...

Having survived this challenge, we celebrated in style with a 5000cc bong at Crazy Hook and some karaoke. I must say, Deep End Dining and rameniac both are quite the karaoke singers!! We're still demanding that Pepsimonster destroy all evidence!

Dae Bok
2010 James M Wood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 386-6660

Dae Bok on Urbanspoon



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Friday, April 24, 2009

South Bay Japanese Food Marathon, Part 1

The South Bay has rapidly turned into a Japanese food mecca, with the likes of yakitori-turned-izakaya Bincho, etc in the area. I haven't been there much. Why? It's really not that far. There should be no reason! So why not go and hit em all, food marathon-style? I was joined by Food Destination + 1, Pepsi Monster, the nascent Kung Food Panda, Mattatouille, Choisauce, Teenage Glutster, and Rumdood.

Our first stop: some okono and monjayaki at Gaja in Lomita.

Which one do we want to order? Do we want to cook 'em ourselves or have them prepare it for us?
Luckily Food Destination(a.k.a Gilded Palate)'s Japanese gf was there so we could order properly.
Look at her skilfully whip out our okonomiyaki on the teppan!

This time we also had something I haven't tried here before, the monjayaki. We ordered the one with mochi and spicy roe.

You also grill this monjayaki on the teppan, but it doesn't quite solidify like the okonomiyaki.

Okay, you got me, I just love eating it with the cute lil spatula they gave us!
The monjayaki might look weirdly gooey and runny, but it's actually a creamy mochi-like concoction that's pretty flavorful with the spicy cod roe.

Gaja Japanese Restaurant
2383 Lomita Blvd Ste 102
Lomita, CA 90717
(310) 534-0153

Next we went right next door to one of my favorite patisserie, Patisserie Chantilly. Communist-style, we each put in $3 and got a bunch of stuff. Except that the ones below are bought separately by Pepsimonster and added into the pot ...

We had almost everything, including their popular cream puffs (popular because Mr J Gold raved about it) - all three flavors: Chantilly cream, chocolate, and sesame.

One of our favorites was the souffle fromage - which is kind of like the love child of a rare cheesecake+souffle.
Light and fluffy, Food Destination claims it's like eating clouds. Agreed. A sweet, cheesy cloud.

Maybe you're thinking that we were sitting nicely around a table, taking a small bite of each cake and passing it around ... well, I wouldn't want to mislead you. When food bloggers share teeny cakes like these, our approach is to ...
ATTACK!


P√Ętisserie Chantilly
2383 Lomita Blvd
Lomita, CA 90717
(310) 257-9454
P√Ętisserie Chantilly on Urbanspoon

The day had just started. Next stops: a detour from Otafuku and Hakata Ramen to Ichimiann, and a grand finale at Izakaya Bincho :)
In the meantime, you can read about it on Food Destination and Pepsi Monster's blogs.



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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

La Casita Mexicana: Authentic Mexican Food 102

La Casita Mexicana was an eye opener. Thanks to Teenage Glutster, I was included in the dinner that the two chefs of La Casita, Jaime and Ramiro, had planned for a number of bloggers. We were joined by Pepsi Monster, Food Marathon, Food GPS, Pleasure Palate and other members of her dining group, Oishii Eats, Eat Drink & Be Merry, Professor Salt and Will from FoodDigger.

Jaime and Ramiro's mission is to educate Americans about Mexican food. Authentic Mexican food. And no, it's not just tacos and burritos and quesadillas. This city has at least seen some mole, but there are so much that we have not really been exposed to, as this meal will attest to!

Jaime and Ramiro set up a table filled with the various ingredients they will be using that night, including numerous varieties of beans and chiles!

The night started with some refreshing drinks: Aguas Frescas of Alfalfa and lemonade with chia seeds
I really loved the alfalfa agua fresca. I thought that it might be too herby at first, but after tasting it, it really wasn't and it was nicely refreshing. The Mexican alfalfa sprouts are different than the ones we normally see here as the leaves are bigger and the stems green. Not sure how it would taste if I try to make it with regular alfalfa ...

White fish soup with hoja santa.
It's been a while since I've encountered hoja santa in the US. Nicely spiced soup (some said it is reminiscent of tom yum soup) and the fish is moist and tender.

Chile Relleno (Pickled jalapenos with tuna filling)
Although I've had stuffed peppers before I've never had one filled with tuna.

Queso Azteca: a blend of 4 cheeses, mushrooms and cactus strips.
Definitely my favorite, and perhaps also most interesting dish, of the night. Full of flavors, especially with the mushrooms and slightly spicy cactus strips, and had a very interesting texture.

Enchiladas in 3 moles(a la bandera)in the colors of the Mexican (the menu said chicken but I was pretty sure they were filled with tuna ... anyway, not the point. The point is the mole sauce!)
The 3 different mole sauces: poblano, pepiano verde, and pepiano rojo. My favorite: The pepiano verde. I think. Hmm. They were all so good.

Tamalitos de huitlacoche (Corn Fungus Tamales)
Corn fungus eh? As Michael Pollan pointed out, we Americans loove our corn (too much even!). And apparently corn fungus is a delicacy and quite expensive in Mexico. This gave the tamales a nice earthy flavor.

Cotija cheese enchiladas from Michoacan in the recipe of Ramiro’s grandmother
This simple dish was delightfully delicious. Apparently they lightly dip the tortillas in hot oil and then chile. The chile flavor was perfect for the dry, crumbly Cotija cheese. Be careful, this is like one of those addicting snacks ... If 15 or so more courses weren't on the way and I wasn't sharing with 4 other people, might've kept eating this.

Cochinita pibil with cebollas escabeche(Pork roasted in plantain leaves with pickled onions)
I tried the seemingly harmless "pickled onions" and man these onions are packed with heat!!! I downed my agua fresca + FoodMarathon's glass of water + another glass of water and was still dying! (I have looow tolerance to spicy foods)

Pollo en mole blanco: white mole sauce with dried fruits and white chocolate over chicken
The first time I've had white mole! I didn't know they use white chocolate also.

Pork almendrado (Pork in almond sauce)

Cecina with chile japonese : thinly sliced beef cookd with a very hot chile.
Reminiscent of a beef jerky, this is full of flavor and slightly spicy.

Bacalao with tamarind sauce


Puerco adobado(pork in a spicy red sauce)


Chile en Nogada (Chiles in Walnut sauce) - a specialty of Puebla.
According to Cecilia Fabulich, this dish is apparently typically served around Christmas time(?). The colors are again those of the Mexican flag, but also rather Christmas-y, aren't they? An interesting and almost dessert-y dish due to the creamy walnut sauce.


Churros with sweet cajeta (caramel) filling
Nice crunchy churros, and the caramel filling was not overly sweet. This blows any of those Disneyland churros out of the water.

Mexican chocolate paste with crystallized grapefruit.
Chunky, rich, and slightly spiced mexican chocolate paste. Perfect with the candied grapefruits.

Flan de castilla
To end the night was this giant sheet of flan, too much for 20 people, especially at the end of the 17/18- course meal! Apparently they also had the zucchini flan floating around. I guess I was too full to catch and grab it.

Thank you Teenage Glutster for including me in this amazing meal, and especially to chefs Jaime and Ramiro who had put so much care into everything. The best Mexican meal I've had, by far.

La Casita Mexicana
4030 Gage Ave
Bell, CA 90201
(323) 773-1898
www.casitamex.com/home.html

Read OishiiEats' review here and Teenage Glutster's here.

La Casita Mexicana on Urbanspoon

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