Monday, February 8, 2010

Kabuki: Sake, Sushi, Hollywood.

When a media invite came from Kabuki Hollywood came in my mailbox, I had doubts. It wasn't their fault because I had never been, but because my last experience at a popular/hip sushi place in Hollywood involved a bone in my toro (*cough* geisha house *cough*). But the desire to meet their sake master sommelier Yuji Matsumoto outweighed any reservation, and so I went.

Despite the swank interior, Kabuki's price point is actually cheap, especially considering it's a sushi joint in the Hollywood/Vine area (their rolls start at $3.95).

Photo courtesy of Kabuki Hollywood

Kabuki's sake list isn't extensive but had something for everyone. For our meal Yuji Matsumoto prepared three types of chilled sake.
We started with the lightest body sake (from right to left): Kikusui 'Junmai Ginjo' Niigata, Mizbasho Ginjo Gunma, Nanbu Bijin 'Tokubetsu Junmai' Iwate.
I loved loved the Nanbu Bijin, which probably meant I like heavier body sake. Or maybe that the Nanbu Bijin is just awesome.

Our meal started with their five new dishes which have been around in Kabuki in Las Vegas and Arizona but are new to the LA locations.

I was happily surprised to see a plate of ahi poke as the first of these new dishes.
This Hawaiian dish is somewhat hard to find in Los Angeles, especially among not-so-fresh version at Whole Foods and not-quite-the-poke-I-remember versions at various places around town, but Kabuki's version is fragrant with the sesame oil and seeds, complemented well by the wakame and is actually quite like what I remembered from Honolulu.

The yellowtail carpaccio is a rendition of Nobu's original yellowtail carpaccio, but at probably half the price (although with thinner slices of fish).
The jalapeno slices make the dish. Don't eat a slice of fish without a jalapeno.

Because some of the new dishes came out of the Midwest location, we see major influence from the Mexican cuisine in their new Baja Roll.
California roll topped with spicy sauce and salsa, pretty interesting.

They also had lasagna sushi: california roll topped with melted cheese. Some of you will probably balk at the notion of cheese on top of sushi, but seeing that cream cheese in sushi like Philadelphia rolls had become so mainstream, I guess why not cheese?

After trying out their new items, we got some nigiri sushi, including some toro.
I actually thought the pieces of fish themselves were not bad at all, they are pretty fresh, good quality fish for the price. What's lacking for me was their rice, though. Too dense, too cold, too hard for my taste. Although not every piece had cold rice, I did get a couple of the inconsistently cold ones, if I had to do over I'd probably order the sashimi platter like another blogger did.
The sashimi comes with a special condiment that I actually really liked and thought as quite unique: chopped wasabi stems. This has a nice texture and fragrance to it on top of the kick.

For my main entree I got one of their signature dishes, the Koshou Beef
A bit overcooked and so the beef was a bit tough, but the flavors were good.

Kabuki has won awards for their Kid's menu, and their choices of kids' sushi, teriyaki, bbq ribs, or tempura are printed on a fun playbook that teaches them about sushi and sea creatures. I dare say it's healthier than the chicken nuggets on my kid's menu. Oh, and they get Calpico soda, too.
Photo from Kabuki Hollywood

As you can imagine, Kabuki has a much more extensive dessert menu than most Japanese restaurants. Between the almost-dozen of us there, we tried pretty much a bit of all of them from the Chocolate Pyramid Anglaise that has more of the consistency of ice cream, to the "Freddo" which is pretty much a bowl of asian shaved ice with all the usual toppings - can't go wrong with that.

My favorite dessert was the coconut sorbet in the shell, complete with bits of coconut inside.

With their low price point, it's easy to see Kabuki as the better dining options in that area (in fact, the place was pretty busy for a rainy weeknight) and I was pretty happy with the quality of the food we got for what it was. Granted I haven't really eaten sushi rolls in years (except for that time I was stuck in Los Alamos for 2 weeks and ate a sushi roll with green chile - new menu idea for Kabuki?) but I certainly know people whose idea of a sushi meal equals creative, westernized rolls. They do have pretty good fish on hand, if they work on their rice a bit they can be much better.

1545 Vine St
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 464-6003
Kabuki Japanese on Urbanspoon
Kabuki Japanese Restaurant in Los Angeles

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bid and Eat for Haiti! Announcing a Fundraising Online Auction

Starting Friday Feb 5, 2010, I will be holding an online silent auction to benefit CHF International and Operation USA for their Haiti relief efforts!

Various Los Angeles restaurants, coffee shops, and chefs have generously donated gift cards and other items that you can bid on via Bid and Eat!

All proceeds from this auction will go to the two charities mentioned above, so please take the time to peruse the item and bid on this website!

About CHF International’s Efforts in Haiti:

CHF International responded to the earthquake immediately. We have a team of around 170 staff in Haiti, including many infrastructure and construction experts, who have been undertaking one of the largest USAID funded infrastructure rehabilitation and job creation programs in Haiti since 2006, and who have been responsible for repairing vital infrastructure damaged in the 2008 tropical storm season.

CHF is assisting relief efforts in the immediate aftermath, and then we will focus on the needs of the people as they transition from basic survival to recovery. This includes some of CHF’s areas of greatest expertise such as building ‘transitional shelters’; temporary homes that meet international standards where a family can live during the recovery period; helping to generate livelihoods, by employing people in the clean up of their community; and aiding reconstruction efforts by creating earthquake resistant buildings.

About Operation USA:

Operation USA helps communities alleviate the effects of disasters, disease and endemic poverty throughout the world by providing privately-funded relief, reconstruction and development aid. We provide material and financial assistance to grassroots organizations that promote sustainable development, leadership and capacity building, income generating activities, provide education and health services, and advocate on behalf of vulnerable people.


This auction will start on Friday Feb 5, 2010 and runs until midnight of Tuesday Feb 9, 2010 , so you can only bid on items between those times!

This should give you plenty of time to browse and bid.


A big thank you to all the generous donors!

All of the donors are listed below:

Allston Yacht Club

Bond St. Beverly Hills
iHerb, inc.
Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea
Jian BBQ
Petrossian West Hollywood
Pizzeria Ortica
Rush Street
Wine Detective
... and a little something from moi ;)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

DineLA 2010 Quickie: Fogo de Chao

When I saw Fogo de Chao on the Restaurant Week list and their price point, I was immediately interested. I had never been there but I knew that their lunch regularly costs $34.50 and dinner $56.50. And that doesn't even include dessert. During dineLA Restaurant Week, weekday lunches cost $28 and dinners cost $44, both include a choice of dessert (although not all choices are available).

I thought this was a really good deal and I had been wanting to check out this place for years now. Since the meat selection is the same for lunch or dinner, I scheduled a lunch with Wandering Chopsticks here.

I had the same problem I always have on buffet lines: I get everything. The veggies were fresh - I was impressed considering it was a "buffet".

Fresh spinach, big and sweet asparagus, juicy tomatoes to go with your burrata. Nothing outstanding, but definitely meets the standards.

Their pão de queijo were warm, big, and nicely cheesy. These were much better than what you may get at a random chain store in Brazil (especially if you're at the airport ...).
I could eat a lot of these, if only I didn't need to make room for meat.
Flip your card to the green side and the men will come bearing skewers of various meats to your tableside.

Fogo de Chao offers a variety of cuts and meats - 15 to be exact. Besides your typical sirloin, rib eye, beef ribs, pork ribs, they also have bacon wrapped pork and chicken, etc etc. For more details, you should check the dine LA's Fogo menu here.

Among our favorites were the picanha (prime sirloin flavored with sea salt and garlic) and the lamb chops.
Not that I've gone for all-you-can-eat Brazilian bbq that much before, but this is definitely one of the best I've had. Just make sure you ask for it to be cooked the way you like it - that's medium rare for me. I couldn't eat that much so towards the end I ended up sticking to just my two favorite cuts above.

With the meats came three sides: mashed potatoes, fried polenta, and plaintains.
This is the one place where WC noticed the difference between restaurant week and a regular experience - we got all our sides, but she said that usually they refill your sides when you get low or run out. Not these 2 weeks, apparently.

Today's selection of desserts were only the papaya cream or the key lime pie. WC got the key lime pie.
The key lime pie was actually pretty nice - rich and tart.

I got the papaya cream, which is papaya pureed with vanilla ice cream, topped with creme de cassis.
Yeah, okay, so it's a pretty simple dessert, and it tastes exactly as it's described: papaya pureed with vanilla ice cream, but I liked it since I like papaya and rarely gets it in the US.

To recap the deal: Lunch $34.50+dessert $10 = $28 during dine LA week, you do the math. Even if the service isn't as good, I'll live with it for the savings.

Fogo de Chao
133 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 289-7755
Fogo de Chao on Urbanspoon
Fogo de Chao in Los Angeles

Gourmet Pigs   © 2008. Template Recipes by Emporium Digital