Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fraiche - Not So Fresh

This is a long overdue post on Fraiche in Culver City, the reason being I wasn't really crazy about it. Disclaimer first, I only went here for an office holiday party, and we had a pre set menu etc, so it may well be I didn't get the representative dishes to convince me that Fraiche was as awesome as I had heard.

It was a three-course menu, and for starters I ordered the beets with goat cheese and pistachios. I have to first say I have heard many many good things about this dish, which was why I ordered it. Upon first glance, the beets weren't as colorful as I am used to. But I won't judge based on that, bright colors may not be everything.
The first few bites of the beets were good and enjoyable, but I could not finish the dish. As I was eating each bite made me feel somewhat ... queasy? It was like the beets were, well, anemic! The beets were a bit bland than I would like, and to top that off with loads of also-rather-bland goat cheese was too much. I stopped eating so I won't feel sick. Is this normal? Or is it one of those let's-give-the-office-party-ppl-second-rate-ingredients?? Maybe it was just us, maybe some people like it way better that way. Dont' know. But no one around my seat finished their beet dish. It was 'good' at first few bites, then 'okay', then on to 'ugh' ...

For the main course I had the duck with black rice. This dish was pretty good but the duck was overcooked and, hence, dry. I did like the black rice though.

I had the chocolate bread pudding for dessert. This was also a bit dry, especially as far as bread puddings go.

The other choice for dessert was the lemon meringue pie. I tried a bit from someone else's plate, but it was way too sweet even for my sweet tooth.

For all the hype I've heard about this place, I was rather disappointed. Is it just because what we got were not as good as a normal Fraiche meal? Tell me, should I go back and give it another try?

9411 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 839-6800

Fraiche Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Another trendy sushi spot

Last Friday I took a lawyer friend of mine to dinner, to thank him for all his help in some matter against BofA (if you're interested, see this post).

He suggested we go for sushi, and requested that the place also serve martinis. I figured that would limit me to the trendy sushi restaurants. I decided to try a place I have never been to, and since Hokusai had some good reviews on citysearch, I thought I would give it a try.

The place was loud, as expected. We arrived on time but the table wasn't ready, so we waited about 15 minutes. They did have a list of martinis. I ordered a cantaloupe martini and he ordered a lemon drop martini. The martini was very strong, and not sweet enough for my personal taste.

They had something called a 90211 roll that I really wanted. It had wagyu beef, foie gras, and black truffles. Unfortunately, they were out of wagyu beef :( so I settled for other things.

We got some sashimi/carpaccio dishes. This was the tuna wasabi
I thought this was pretty good, although too spicy for me! (I'm weak sauce). The tuna was pretty fresh and the sauce was delicious. Again, spicy though.

They mistakenly placed this tuna carpaccio that was meant for another table on ours:
They said it's ours now and on the house since it was their mistake. Underneath all those stuff are slices of tuna. I really like this dish, since it had lots of mayo-based sauce and I love mayo. It is quite different from other carpaccio dishes I've had before and it's quite a refreshing change.
And free is always good too! :)

We also ordered some regular sushi. Some salmon, salmon belly, hamachi belly, etc
The fish itself is not bad although not comparable to real sushi places like Sasabune, Asakuma, Mori etc. The slices were small though and they put too much rice.
This place was definitely better for the carpaccio/appetizer dishes than the sushi.

We got the chocolate moelleux for dessert. Good, standard chocolate souffle:
Better than what a lot of places dare to call "souffle", though not the best.

All in all, I liked the appetizers and the creativity in the dishes, but sushi and the fish itself is subpar.

Hokusai Restaurant
8400 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Hokusai on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 18, 2008

Journey for Legendary Ramen

Yesterday we made a day trip and met up with a friend in Costa Mesa to go to the legendary ramen fair in Mitsuwa Costa Mesa.
It was super crowded and they even had valet parking. Valet parking at Mitsuwa??
We ended valet-ing anyway, though, since we couldn't find parking.

On the way in, we saw carts selling sweet potatoes and roasted chestnuts. We bought a sweet potato, which was very moist and sweet. It did have an aftertaste that we couldn't quite place. It might have been the charcoal? At any rate, it was still tasty to me.

We lined for the shio ramen. They had closed down the udon place to make room for the ramen in these few days. The other eating places were still busy like usual though.

They gave us numbered tickets and after a brief wait got our ramen. The main hurdle is finding a place to seat! We had our eye on this table but the couple sitting there, although done with their meal, just kept talking ... and talking ... Eventually they left! Yay!

Now I can enjoy my ramen. This is the Asameshi Maeda Honten shio ramen:
Al dente noodles. Very very flavorful broth (a bit too salty for two of my friends, though). Tender (almost) melt in your mouth pork.
Is it legendary? Is it the best ramen I've ever had? I don't know if it's legendary, but it's pretty f-ing good. Way better than ramen places on Sawtelle, better than Daikokuya even.

We were gonna go to Torrance on the way home, but we ended up at Boomer's and since we didn't want to leave until we did 5 rounds of go-karting, I had to say bye bye to the other ramen *sob*

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Things to Slurp: Soba!

Right now I prefer soba to, say, ramen or udon, and my favorite place right now is Yabu on Pico! If you guys know other good soba places, please let me know :>
My only gripe about yabu is that they don't have soba with beef or pork (I like my red meat).

This time I ordered the Tori Toji Soba (chicken with eggs).The broth is soo tasty. This time around I didn't find much chicken though, bummer, but everything inside that bowl is so good (organic eggs, chicken, fish cake, green onions). I was mainly going for the eggs anyway. It would be good to have more meat/other things inside though, I think. Maybe tempura.

Their soba is handmade fresh daily (their claim to fame?) and was quite al-dente.

My friend got the broiled black cod, which was also good, but a bit salty. The veggies, especially the mushrooms, go really well with the cod , though.
11820 W. Pico Blvd
W. Los Angeles, CA 90064

Yabu on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 15, 2008

Chinese New Year! Hot Pot!

For the first time, I went to a gathering of all the Indonesian students at Caltech! There were more of them than I expected :P
We went to Mon Land Hotpot city in San Gabriel to celebrate Chinese New Year. The place was actually right by the 99 Ranch on Valley, I was surprised I never noticed it before.

We got there about 17 minutes late and they had given our table away to another big party, so they ended up putting us in a private room. Even better!

The reason we picked mon land is that we heard they had a non-spicy option that is more than just regular plain broth or water. As we were ordering they asked if we wanted spicy or non spicy. We asked for both. This is what they brought:As you can see, the pot was half spicy and half not. What makes it special is of course, all the spices you can see floating around in the broth. Chicken broth with lots and lots of garlic, ginger, cardamom, green onions and other things we don't even know what they are. The smell was amazing. We couldn't wait to dump the meat and veggies in it.

The meat and all other stuff had to be ordered a la carte. We didn't really see an option for big portions or group packages. So we got 3 orders of beef, 3 pork, etc etc. Also some veggies, enoki mushrooms, and dumpling.
They also have, if you guys so desire, fish intestines, etc.

I didn't touch the spicy broth, of course (if you know me, you wouldn't expect me to). But the non-spicy broth that I did eat, wow ... yummy. This was the first time I went to hot pot and actually kept drinking the broth and was maybe even more excited about it than the meat.

The meat and such were fairly standard, good quality. (the broth-infused meat was yumm ... hehe)

At the end they gave us a plate of red bean mochi. Free dessert is always good :)

Mon Land Hot Pot City
251 W. Bencamp Street
San Gabriel, CA 91776

Monland Hop Pot City on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cozying Next Door for Brunch

I've heard many good things about Little Next Door, but hearing that Boule's old pastry chef has moved to little next door made me decide I just had to go. I actually went quite some time ago, but just now got around to writing it up ...

We went for a weekend brunch, so the wait was quite, quite long ... About 30 min or so. But I love my weekend brunches, so oh well.

We had a hard time deciding what to order, but I opted for the Maryland blue crab melt. Why? The melted mimolette cheese, of course! Plus it's blue crab!
The blue crab melt was yummy!! It is loaded with crab meat that cheese! Oooh! The portion is smaller than some other places but the price is not too bad. Anyway, smaller portions are good for my "diet" hehehe.

One of us ordered the smoked salmon benedict.
This was a standard, but very well executed eggs benedict. Smoked salmon was fresh and flavorful. The other ingredients were also very high quality. I should also mention that I liked the salads that come with these dishes.

Now, back to the rumor of the boule pastry chef ... of course we had to order dessert!
We had the apple tart tatin (it fell apart on the plate, but the taste was good :P )
Again, standard, but well done.

The next one is more interesting: the cinnamon pear tart.
I love spices! This tart was very good, we all really liked it. A bit dry though, I think more cream or even maybe ice cream would be good?

The couple with us also bought some other baked goods , like some financiers, which were also very yummy :)

Although I would have liked to see more unique/interesting items on the sweets/bakery menu, I did think what they have were all very well done.

Little Next Door
8142 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Little Next Door on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 10, 2008

DineLA 08: Ruth's Chris Steakhouse

My friend convinced me to go with her to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Beverly Hills on the last dineLA night. I had read on Chowhound that the dineLA menu is actually a good deal, so I gave it a try.

All four of us ordered the Ahi Tuna for appetizer:

I was pleasantly surprised by the generous portion. The dish itself was not at all bad. The fish was pretty good - it was not the freshest but not bad by any means. I was expecting three slices like what I got at other places for dineLA.

Got the petite filet mignon, medium rare. Someone had warned me that steaks at Ruth Chris is drizzled with lots of butter, and so it was.

The meat was medium rare, not overcooked, but it was rather fatty - it was not the best quality meat. My piece had too much fat for my taste, my friends' were supposedly better.

The portion of the side was also very generous (it was a regular sized side). We had both the creamed spinach and mashed potato. The mashed potato was fairly standard. I liked the creamed spinach more.

I really like bread pudding, so I opted for that instead of the chocolate sin tart (which also looked very tempting).

The bread pudding had a crunchy crust and is moist on the inside. Overall I liked it, it was rich and well done. I took it home and heated it up the next day - it was better then in my opinion, since it's warm and moist :)

I also tried a bite of the chocolate cake.

I really liked the chocolate cake. It was very rich and dark. I loved the espresso taste.

Overall, I thought it really was a good value for the dineLA price, but I probably wouldn't go back on a regular day. The quality of the meat that I got was not that great.

Ruth's Chris Steak House
224 South Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

Ruth's Chris Steak House on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 8, 2008

Urasawa: Splurging once every 3 years

Sorry, I haven't had time to write it up completely. But everyone knows how amazing Urasawa is anyway, right? So for now, just enjoy the pictures and the brief reviews...

Hairy crab salad.Toro tataki, with yuzu, crysanthemum leaves, and gold flakes.
This dish has uni underneath. Urasawa's uni really is the best I've ever had. Nothing else is quite like it. Very sweet and the freshness is undebatable.

Sashimi ice sculpture. The one at the very left is of course, toro. The one furthest to the right is some great hamachi.
This was is a sort of chawan mushi, but potato-based.

Cod sperm sac tempura. (Sperm sac?? Yep .. Hey, it was GOOD)
Hairy crab, with hairy crab brain, topped with uni.

Seared wagyu beef. Yumm ...
This was what we got for the shabu shabu dish. It has live lobster, scallop, toro, and foie gras (in that order).
I spent a good part of the night just gawking at him while he does his stuff.

Hiro's apprentice killing a lobster.

Fresh lobster sushi.
We had so many different types of fish that night. Including needle fish, fresh kuruma shrimp, mirugai ...

Seared toro. The best sushi ever ... I had like 5 of them that night ... *sigh*
Hiro-san kept asking me if I was full. And all I kept saying was "I'll have more toro." What? I'm getting money's worth :P

Negi toro maki.
Ripe persimmon for dessert.
Azuki (red bean) with sesame seeds and gold flakes.

218 N Rodeo Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 247-8939

Urasawa on Urbanspoon

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