Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cafe Pierre: Gourmet Pigs Eat Gourmet Hog in Manhattan Beach

There were a few restaurants that I regretted missing out on when they closed. L'Orangerie was a big one, then Bastide. Another was Citrus at Social. So when a media invite came from Cafe Pierre in Manhattan Beach bearing the name of Remi Lauvand, formerly of Citrus at Social, I was quite happy to accept.

On a weeknight, the small restaurant was packed (even without our crew's help) so I was at first surprised that they bothered inviting us for dinner, but they pointed out that most of their clientele consists of an older crowd and they want to reach out more to the youngsters.

To start off the dinner, we started with a huge spread of their housemade jarred goodies. Our table was filled with mason jars of foie parfait with pain d'epices and black mission figs ($7), pork rillete with cornichons and crostini ($10)

hand-cut prime bavette beef tartare and shelling beans ($14), head cheese with frisee and mustard dressing ($8), pig trotters ($8), and sardines.

I really liked the pig trotters (so fatty and tender!) and the beef tartare. The foie parfait was also very good, smooth and rich complemented well by the sweet gelee on top.
The sardines we all had trouble deboning on the table so that although we liked how they tasted they were rather difficult to eat.

Apparently we shouldn't have stuffed ourselves with the jars since those weren't even appetizers. Again, we all shared an assortment of appetizers.

Stuffed baby calamari, sweet pepper, saffron, wild arugula ($14).The two bites I had of this were pretty good but a bit bland for me. The texture of the stuffing didn't seem to quite work with the chewiness of the squid.

Roasted bone marrow, pickled radish, red wine onion compote ($11).

House-cured Tasmanian trout, lemon, serrano, honey mustard ($13).
I was very happy to have a light and healthier dish to balance all the other rich appetizers with! The simple looking dish became one of my favorite appetizers with the amazing house cured trout and the fresh greens.

As fas as the entrees go, I do believe all of us agreed on a favorite dish: Jude Becker's Acorn fed Hog duo (sausage, short rib, brussels sprout, wild mushrooms)
The sausage, made with the shoulder and belly meat, was divine. I couldn't stop munching on the brussels sprouts drenched in pork fat.

Making this dish even more special is Sinosoul pointing out that Jude Becker is the farmer featured in Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma. He finished feeding a portion of his hogs on acorn, and this time Remi Lauvand got 50 lbs of it. FoodGPS also counted this as his favorite pork dish that week.
Now, I did say the dish was a special but if you want to try it, Cafe Pierre will be serving it again next Tuesday, March 9!

Some of the other dishes we had:
Veal sweetbreads, roasted carrots, parmesan jus ($28).
Before asking Remi directly we had a debate on what kind of sweetbreads this was. We thought it couldn't possibly be veal since it was so big! This dish managed to showcase the texture of sweetbread yet somehow tasted less "offal-y" than most.

We had another veal dish, equally good: Veal breast, shelling beans, arugula, jalapeƱo veal jus ($24).

Another dish I enjoyed very much was the 70 hour braised short ribs. I don't care if short ribs had gotten a bad rep for being a cheap cut among foodies, I love them all the same and I'd pay for that 70 hour cooking time. The short ribs were meaty yet tender enough and held so much flavor.

We similarly shared all the desserts they offered. On the lighter side were Poached pear and shortbread cookie with pistachios and dark chocolate mouse, and the Remi apple tarte with See Canyon Ranch Winesap apples

There were also a duo of bread pudding, Baba au rhum, profiteroles, and tiramisu.
My favorite was the baba au rhum (and sounds like LA&OC Foodie and WeezerMonkey agree). It's just the combination of the tang from the slices of poached pineapple hidden inside, that cream, and of course the rum-soaked dough.

I'm glad I finally got to try chef Remi Lauvand's creation, and glad that Manhattan Beach now has a dining destination of this caliber. With Remi helming the kitchen, Cafe Pierre not only is worthy as a Manhattan Beach favorite, but stands up to restaurants in LA and makes Manhattan Beach worth the drive.

Especially next Tuesday, March 9. You know ... when chef Lauvand gets more acorn fed hog and feeds it to you as part of a 3 course menu ($50).

Cafe Pierre
317 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 545-5252
Cafe Pierre on Urbanspoon
Cafe Pierre in Los Angeles

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bali: Indonesian-style Ribs at Naughty Nuri's

Sweet soy sauce. Kecap manis. To Indonesians, that is the perfect combination of the sweet and the umami. We like our food a little sweeter. Back in college, it was the only condiment I kept in my kitchen at all times.

While living with my aunt in South Carolina, I easily picked up their sweet soy sauce habit. We put it on scrambled eggs. We put it in grits.

But one American expat and his Javanese chef-wife in Bali had an even better idea. Let's put it on barbecued ribs, baby.
They opened Naughty Nuri's Warung in Ubud, serving the carnivorous natives and tourists ribs, steaks, lamb chops and more, marinated in "Indonesian-style marinade." That is, it's sweet soy sauce based. Yes, Bali has the suckling pig "babi guling", ikan lilit, bebek bengil, what have you. But my brother and all my cousins (ok, well, all my male cousins) claim Naughty Nuri's is their favorite eatery in Bali.

A warung is meant to be a low end eatery and while the ambiance at Nuri's is undoubtedly casual, the prices are pretty high for the country's GDP. Bali is, after all, a tourist hotspot. $7 is a steal for New Zealand lamb chop, but a pricey meal for your regular native.
If you're reading this, though, you're probably a tourist, so go there and splurge on fall-off-the-bone tender ribs and juicy lamb chops. But please, don't ask for ketchup or A1 sauce. You won't be needing it.

Naughty Nuri's Warung
Jl. Raya Sanggingan (Across the road from Neka Museum)
Ubud, Bali
Phone: (361)977547
8am-10pm daily

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mariscos Chente: Getting Borracha on Seafood

When Street Gourmet LA found out that Gastronomy Blog and I hadn't been to Mariscos Chente before our winter menu tasting, he promised he'll come with us again and introduce us to their biggest hits, so to speak.

Mariscos Chente is a Sinaloan seafood haven that garnered an extraordinary amount of buzz in the past year.
We all met up for lunch on V day for a major seafood feast.

Street Gourmet LA said that while traditionally different people specialize in manning the grill, preparing the raw seafood, cooking the soups or the tacos, Mariscos Chente's chef Sergio Penuelas seamlessly moves between the disciplines and produces excellent dishes across the board.

As a starter (and the first of a slew of shrimp preparations that day) was Camarones aguachile- ("chile water", $11). These are raw shrimp flash marinated with lime, salt, and a chile (Sergio uses jalapeno).
What a start. The shrimp flesh was wonderfully chewy and the combination of the tangy lime and spiciness works very well. I can see this being too tart for some people, so do keep that in mind (although I personally loved it).

The owner/mother, Maddalena, travels to Nayarit every few weeks to get seafood and brings them back to LA on a bus so she can prepare these dishes with the traditional ingredients, and as we eat the camarones aguachiles that long trips seem to be so worth it.

Camarones a la pimienta ("Peppered Shrimp", $11)
Most of the dishes were garnished with cucumber slices, which according to Street Gourmet LA is a signature Sinaloa/Nayarit garnish and make up your vegetable consumption!
This was also the only shrimp dish to come with rice, as it had such bold flavors that needed to be cut with some rice.

Chicarron de pescado ("fish skin", $15) chunks of tilapia panfried with the skin on in worcestershire sauce and lime.
Being the first time I had a non-pork chicharrones, this was rather interesting. The blackened skin is crispy as chicarrones should be yet the rest of the chunks are meaty.

Camarones a la diabla ("Deviled shrimp", $12) is cooked in a blend of chile de arbol (tree chiles), and nuevo california dried chiles.
A bit of heat in this one, but luckily I can still handle it since it would've been sad to miss out on this great dish. Fresh, sweet shrimp in the spicy chile sauce was a great example of why the Nayarits garnish their dishes with the cool cucumber.

Soon came the impressive tour de force:
Pescado Zarandeado ($20/kg) - this is a whole grilled snook and is the state dish of Nayarit and Sinaloa.
This perfectly butterflied grilled fish tasted so fresh and sweet, especially the tender and fatty cheeks. The edges are wonderfully crisped, highlighted that grilled flavor.

The traditional simple marinade consists of either olive oil, mayo, or butter, with lime, spices, and garlic, but there are many recipes for this marinade and of course Sergio has his own secret recipe.

This is served with a side of worcestershire sauce.

Camarones Borrachos ("Drunken Shrimp", $12) is cooked in a tequila based sauce with garlic, cilantro, spices, and margarine.
This was my favorite dish of the day. With the most subtle sauce (compared to the other three), I can really appreciate the freshness and the flavor of the shrimp itself, yet enhanced even more by the amazing buttery, garlicky tequila sauce.

Street Gourmet LA claimed that he had gone to every Sinaloan seafood restaurant in LA, and that Mariscos Chente was hands down the best. I certainly haven't made my rounds, but I can believe it that this is the best. Well, it doesn't matter anyway as Mariscos Chente's food will speak for itself. I don't know why I took so long before going there, but if you're one of those who are taking even longer, get yourself there already.

Mariscos Chente
4532 S. Centinela Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 391-9887
Mariscos Chente on Urbanspoon
Mariscos Chente in Los Angeles

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