Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NOLA: The Beignet Hunt

I stopped at almost every cafe on the streets of the French quarter featuring beignets, hunting for the best ones and encountering disappointments.

In the end, the best beignets are that of the well-known commercialized brand. I guess there was a reason for its commercial success after all (sorry mom and pop shops).

Cafe du Monde's beignets are puffy, fluffy precious things, "lavishly covered", as they say, (shake the bag with the beignets and powdered sugar to cover em up) with powdered sugar. Their beignets are nice and fluffy, while the other places' beignets are too dense for my taste.
They're perfect, really.

Cafe du Monde
Various locations in New Orleans, LA

Cafe Du Monde on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 29, 2008

Getting My Ramen Fix at Santouka LA

The Santouka in Costa Mesa has garnered quite a bit of fame, but when the LA outpost opened I was still skeptical whether or not it will be quite as good. However, as the reviews come flooding in, it seems like the LA Santouka is pretty good after all, and even more consistently so than the other outposts.

I've tried both the miso (pictured below) and shio ramen, which were both good, but yes, the shio ramen's broth stands out.
The noodles themselves were nicely done, although compared to the broth and the meat, this is not Santouka's strongest point. Pork slices were nice, tender and flavorful. The meat was actually quite sweet. There were only two pieces, alas ... I think three would've been perfect :)

The broth at Santouka is very flavorful without being as fatty as Daikokuya - and indeed has more 'depth' than daikokuya or chabuya's. You can actually still see some of the spices they've put in. All in all I loved it and won't mind going there every other day!

They also have ramen sets which come with hardboiled egg and either natto or ikura with rice.
The only bad part about Santouka is that because it's inside Mitsuwa it closes fairly early (7:30 pm) :/ I rarely can make my way there in time if it's not the weekend.

Santouka (inside Mitsuwa)
3760 S Centinela
Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 391-1101

Friday, December 26, 2008

Matsuhisa: Overpriced "Omakase"

I suggested Matsuhisa to my friend Kat for a lunch get together once, because she wanted to go to a sushi place she had never been to before.
I previously had a good experience at Matsuhisa when I ordered their upper-priced omakase, but alas, our experience this time around felt like such a ripoff and none of us has been back since then.

I ordered a la carte this time around and started with the crab taco.
This was good as the crab was fresh and meaty, and the crunchiness of the taco shell made a great combination.

I also got the eggplant dynamite as it seemed interesting.
Interesting and pretty enjoyable, though nothing special.

I also got the mushroom buckwheat risotto (since I wasn't full)
Risotta is al dente and mushroom tasted good, but to eat by yourself this dish gets boring.

But enough about my meal, let's move on to my friend's disappointing omakase meal.
She had chosen the least expensive omakase, which I believe was about $70.

They started off the omakase with some hamachi tartar
Kat enjoyed this and the hamachi was pretty fresh - so far the meal is starting off decent.

Second item was salmon carpaccio.
Again, fresh salmon. My friend was complaining a bit that salmon is pretty cheap, though.

Then they served the hamachi salad. Wait. Hamachi, again?
Okay, so the hamachi sashimi was actually good, but two hamachi dishes in an omakase? It seems to be pretty poorly planned - or they just didn't really care at all.

Next she got the oyster fried in filo dough.
Although my friend did enjoy this, the dish was only $5 on the regular menu, so getting this as part of a $70 meal is kind of ... a ripoff :(

The other cooked item was the miso cod.
The cod was good and well prepared, but this dish can be easily found at many japanese restaurants.

I didn't even bother to take a photo of her sushi plate, as it was quite disappointing. She basically got the most ordinary, cheapest selections such as salmon (yes, more salmon), ebi (no, not ama ebi), unagi ...
$70 would have gone a loooot further at Sushi Zo. And he definitely wouldn't keep repeating hamachi and salmons throughout the meal!

The dessert they had for this "cheapest" omakase is pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. My friend got fried bananas with vanilla ice cream.

I won't argue that the food at Matsuhisa is of good quality, but the omakase she got that day was such a ripoff and disappointment. We really don't think all the items she got are really worth (or even actually added up to) $70, and the repeated fish just suggested that they put very little thought into planning the omakase!

Neither of us has been back ever since, and probably never will.

129 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 659-9639

Matsuhisa on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

SFO: Blue Bottle from the Non-Avid-Coffee-Drinker POV

I don't really drink coffee.
But I still wanted to know what all the rave surrounding Blue Bottle Coffee is all about, so since I had time to wait around for a friend after landing in SFO last time, I took the BART down to Blue Bottle.

I had a hard time finding it since Mint is this tiny street that leads into a plaza and furthermore the entrance is not actually even on Mint (just go around the corner!)

The cafe is small, with a big rectangular table in the middle where people can sit on stools and enjoy their drinks (and no, there's no wi-fi).
You can see their fancy machineries, chemex filters etc through a glass divider.

Again, I'm not really a coffee drinker, so I ordered the mocha - made with Recchiuti chocolate.
Just before this I finally tried out LaMill's (LA Mill? which is it?) mocha, made with Valrhona chocolate!
Both are very good. I prefer the richer taste of the Valrhona, but coffee-wise? I can distinguish between bad coffee and good coffee, but not the variations of good coffee, so ...

I was merely enjoying time to myself on a cold day, and can't tell you much about their coffee!
Their pastry selection is limited and pricey. When I was there the wait was not too bad until this group of coffee businessmen from overseas came and placed a giant order!
Their staff is very friendly and helpful. Overall it was a great experience!

Oh I did finally take my laptop out into the plaza - where they have free wi-fi :)

Blue Bottle Cafe

66 Mint St.
San Francisco, CA‎
(415) 495-3394‎

Blue Bottle Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 22, 2008

Kiriko: Fresh Sushi and More

Someone suggested Kiriko on Sawtelle to us for great sushi. Actually, it was (one of) my hairdresser(s), who is Japanese and know a lot of places and Japanese chefs - including Totoraku!

When we went Kiriko was fairly empty with only two other patrons there. They actually had quite a nice selection of cooked items both on their regular and their specials menu.

We browsed through the specials menu for the night and got the blue crab sunomonoNice flavor and refreshing, although it did mask the flavor of the blue crab a little, which is kind of a shame. I did like the flavor and texture combination with the cucumbers though.

As for the sushi, I started with pretty much my standard, including salmon and hamachi (below)
The sushi here is fresh and they gave me pretty fatty hamachi pieces, which made me happy :)
Good fish/rice ratio too.

I also got some hamachi kama (yellowtail collar)
Delicious. Tender fatty kama - very flavorful. I especially loved the parts near the bones, as usual :)

I also ordered a sushi from the specials menu and .... since I don't take notes, and this is a backpost (I need to start taking notes! Seriously!)
Anyone? Anyone?

For some reason I was craving a kani maki, so I finished off my meal with one.
The crab roll was quite nice! Overflowing with sweet crab with a nice texture. A nice way to end the meal.

The sushi at Kiriko was pretty good and they also have some great cooked items. Definitely one of the gems on Sawtelle blvd. I wonder why they are not as busy as I think they should be! But I'll be back to give them more business.

11301 Olympic Blvd #102
West Los Angeles, CA
(310) 478-7769

Kiriko on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Dinner?

Eating out on Christmas? Where will you go?

Providence restaurant is again hosting La Vigilia - The Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. The dinner costs $115 per person ($165 with wine pairing).

Crudo di Ricciola
Amber Jack

Capesante al Tartufo Nero
Sea Scallops and Black Truffles

Triglia alla Griglia (Rouget)
Olio di Oliva, Carciofi, Finocchio, Limone

Una Don Strazza
Risotto with Japanese Eel, Truffle and Nori

Tai Snapper all’Acqua Pazza
Calamari, Octopus and Mussels

Spiced Chocolate Bread, Gianduja Ice Cream


Not sure yet if I will go to this, but for Christmas day itself, I am opting for one of the cheaper options. Gino Angelini's La Terza is offering a 3-course menu for $40 from 3pm-8pm.
Here's the menu:
First Course
Mixed baby green salad with grapes,celery,
pecorino cheese and saba dressing
Lentil soup
Second Course
Cappelletti in brodo
Chicken cappelleti in capon broth
Grilled salmon with sauteed spinach
Brasato al Barolo
Braised beef short ribs marinated in barolo wine with polenta
Ricotta Frittelline
Ricotta fritters with chocolate sauce and pears
Torta della Nonna
Pinenut tart with vanilla bean gelato
Coffee, tea and soda included

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mondays after 10PM : Where to Eat?

Half of LA pretty much shuts down on Mondays, and the other half seems to shut down at 10 PM.

Here are a list of the places I've found (so far) that are open past 10 pm on Mondays - on the westside (ish)

1. The Bazaar
465 S. La Cienega Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA

Open until midnight.

2. Riva
312 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA

Open until midnight.

3. Wakasan
1929 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 446-5241

Open until 11 pm.

4. XIV
8117 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 656-1414

Open until 11 pm.

5. Gjelina
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd.,Venice, CA 90291
(310) 450-1429

Open until midnight

6. BCD Tofu House
3575 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 382-6677

Open 24 hours.

7. Loteria! Grill
6627 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 465-2500

Open until 11 pm

8. Father's Office II
3229 Helms Ave.,
Los Angeles 90034
(310) 736-2224

Kitchen open until 11 pm (bar until 1 am).

9. Simpang Asia
10433 National Blvd #2
Los Angeles, CA 9003

Open until midnight daily.

10. Cecconi's
8764 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(310) 432-2000

Open until midnight M-W, 1 am Th-Sat, 11pm Sun.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Riva: Travi's New Baby

Jason Travi's (of Fraiche) new restaurant, Riva, sits near the Third Street Promenade and is open all-day, probably to accomodate the shoppers. In addition, though, they are also open until at least midnight every day, Mondays included. So there you go, one of my late Monday night dinners!

The restaurant was big but at late Monday night was fairly empty - 3 or 4 tables filled.

We started with some salmon belly crudo with homemade mustard
The salmon belly was smooth and delicious. I have to say I really, really enjoyed this dish. I didn't see it on the online menu afterwards and was pretty bummed :/ I definitely would've ordered it again if I see it!

Next we had the hachiya persimmon with speck ham and arugula
This was again another dish that would make me come back! The persimmon was sweet and ripe - some of the best persimmons I've ever had. They pair very well with the slight saltiness of the speck ham and the arugula provided a nice texture contrast. I think I would come back to Riva even if just for this dish (I'm very partial to persimmons though).

Since the portions thus far were fairly small, we also got the roasted quail with farro and fall squash and pistachio pesto
The quail was decent, but not the best I've ever had. Not as meaty or gamey as I normally like.
I'm also uncertain about the farro combination.

The other main thing Riva offers that Fraiche does not is pizza. The pizzas here are around $15 - not cheap and actually about the same price as Pizzeria Mozza. So how were they?

We had the pignoli pizza (pine nuts, tomato, smoked pancetta, reggiano)
I liked the thin crust and thought that the whole tomatoes were great. The sage leaves added a very nice aroma and flavor. Overall I enjoyed this pizza (although it's expensive).

We also had the eggplant parmesan pizza.
Literally an eggplant parmesan, baked on top of a pizza crust. Quite an interesting dish - hard to eat as a pizza though since the 'topping' was very heavy. This filled us up quite a bit and was pretty enjoyable.

For dessert we went with the sweet potato cheesecake.
An extremely rich cheesecake, especially so since it is sweet potato and also topped with melted marshmallows!
This was actually too rich for my taste - once the ice cream to cut it is gone I couldn't eat any more of it.

Overall I thought Riva was pretty good with a couple dishes that really highlighted the meal and that I would go back for (the salmon belly and the persimmons with ham!).

312 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA

Riva on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 12, 2008

Whole Suckling Pigs and Foodbloggers at Ford's

Two whole suckling pigs and a bunch of foodbloggers.
I'm probably the last of the foodbloggers to write my report up, but at least most of you would've read it on everyone else's blog!

Sometime ago, right after all of us drooled over the Los Angeles Bizarre Foods episode where Andrew Zimmern eats suckling pig at Ford's Filling Station in Culver City, Fooddigger invited some of us foodbloggers for that very same meal at Ford's!!
LA&OC Foodie, iNOMthings, Teenage Glutster, Mattatouille, Matt from Diglounge, Food Destination, KevinEats and Tastespotting were all there, along with our hosts from Fooddigger.Link
Chef Ben Ford personally came bearing our platter of suckling porky goodness - head and all - which have been prepared for the past two days, just for us (feeling special!).
The platter consisted of different preparations including porchetta, confit of pork shoulder, pork loin, etc ...
(photo courtesy of Mattatouille)
The head is not there just to scare you - you're supposed to eat the cheeks which are supposed to be the best part of the pig :)

We also had a variety of side dishes including brussel sprouts with bacon and cavalo nero (kale):
Another side was the kabocha squash risotto:
The other side was roasted carrots with pomegranates.

I didn't think the sides worked too well with the main entree. Both the risotto and the brussel sprouts were pretty good individually, but very heavy, and so were the other vegetables. Too heavy to accompany an already-heavy suckling pig dinner! That was why my favorite were actually the pomegranate ...

Since we were eating whole suckling pigs, we of course had to have some offals (or close to it!).
One was the tongue salad with crispy pig's ears
This was one of the highlights of the meal for me. Loved the crispy pig's ears and the texture of the tongue. Having the salad was a nice refreshing change from all the ... well, pork.

As far as "offals" go we didn't stop there. We also had deep fried PIG'S EYES.
There were only 6 eyes (4 + a couple extra he took from other piggies), so we had to share .... All I can say was that the texture was ... interesting :)

For desserts each section of the table shared two desserts:
1. Hawaiian bread pudding with vanilla bean ice cream
Moist and refreshing - the sourness of the kumquats and the fruitiness of the bread pudding itself was great after this heavy meal!

2. Chocolate Walnut Torte
The chocolate torte is unfortunately a little dry. Despite my completely biased preference for chocolate, I have to say the hawaiian bread pudding wins hands down that night.

Somehow I ended up with half of the leftovers. The pork loin made for great lunch/dinner along with the pork confit sandwich :P
This was a very special treat, since chef Ford does not normally make this unless by special request, and we all had a blast! Dining with other foodbloggers is a completely different experience - thanks to Fooddigger for getting us together for this special

Ford's Filling Station

9531 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Phone: (310) 202-1470

Ford's Filling Station on Urbanspoon

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