Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nyotaimori, or "Naked Sushi." You've Been Warned.

WARNING: This post should be rated ... at least PG-13. NC-17 maybe.
If the thought of eating sushi off an almost-naked woman offends you, I'd suggest you stop reading this.
Oh, and of course: NOT SAFE FOR WORK!

I'd like to say I did it out of journalistic duty, but in the end it was mainly because I was curious.
(And maybe this is a good time to point out that I'm a girl, so you don't get the wrong ideas about my intention :p )

I had read about nyotaimori (a.k.a naked sushi, a.k.a body sushi) before, then again on Deep End Dining's post about it at Hadaka Sushi (now closed).

The thought of it is definitely wrong. Can one objectify women even more than using a woman's naked (well, almost naked) as a plate?

Still, when a certain friend asked if I'd like to go try it, I was curious enough to say yes.
No restaurant I know of is offering nyotaimori, so the event offered at something called the Asianmodelpalooza (for unknown asian models to break into the biz, from what I can gather. That biz.) seemed to be a rare chance.
Apparently though, it was provided by ... let's say a very specialized catering company, simply named Naked Sushi Entertainment. Subtle.
The person in charge said that you can actually get these services starting from $65/ person depending on the menu, the model you chose, and um, how nude you want her to be. Anyway ...

Sushi served on banana leaves on an almost naked girl (she was wearing a g-string).
Earlier I wondered if we were allowed to talk to her, but she (I believe her stage name was Akira Lane) was actually quite talkative and lively. That made me feel better since she seemed less of an object.
Getting close-up shots of the food was rather dangerous, though...

Food porn takes on a new meaning.
The sushi itself was surprisingly not bad. It was better than I had expected although I wasn't expecting much at all. Yes, a lot of rolls here and it's no Mori.
It's sushi that you can expect at a standard sushi restaurant and I actually enjoyed the spicy hamachi roll. The sushi was provided by Queee Sushi in Chinatown, although of course, at these events the sushi isn't made right there on-site, so it isn't as fresh as sitting at a sushi bar.
But, really, does anyone expect this to be about the food?

Now I can at least say "been there, done that."
OK, stop staring.

If this is your thing, now you know where to get it (I'd imagine it'd make a great bachelor's party.)
Me, I'm bracing myself, waiting for my mom to read this and call and scold me, for people I've offended to leave hate comments, etc etc.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Laksa, Santa Monica Night Breeze (Chef Amy's Underground Dinner)

As we walked to the home in Santa Monica Hills on that breezy evening, I fell in love with the modern house. One of the coolest things about some underground dinners is the locations that they are held (of course, some are smaller in scale and are held at the chef's house). The sleek and spacious house that night's dinner was held at belongs to the brother in law of Chef Amy Jurist of Amy's Culinary Adventures.

Al fresco dining in their large backyard.

The decoration was provided courtesy of Jonathan Fong from Clever Floral Decor.
I like the colorful fortune cookies, and the embroidered chinese take-out floral arrangement!
Yes, I took one home. What?

Chef Amy Jurist and her team were furiously preparing the food. Thankfully, the house had a pretty big kitchen.
When we walked in, I noticed Joshua Klapper of La Fenêtre wines, whom I had just met for the first time at his fifth anniversary tasting. Coincidentally, he had met Chef Amy and he was doing the wine pairing for this dinner.

The night started with a sweet, fruity blended cocktail made with Filipino calamansi juice, mango, vodka.
This went down very easily, I had to be careful not to gulp it down as it was a smoothie.

Salmon and asparagus yakitori, Ahi tuna tartar with wasabi tobiko, Chicken and shrimp lumpia, Grilled beef satay with thai peanut sauce

Laksa (curry coconut) with rice noodles and shrimp
Wine: 2008 La Fenêtre A Cote Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County
I haven't had laksa since my last visit to Singapore. I've been looking for a good version of this dish in Los Angeles but hasn't succeeded. Chef Amy's version was surprisingly good. The flavors are not as rich and bold, but the essence was there. There's no squid or cockles but the shrimp was nicely cooked.

What it looks like to prepare food for 80 people at once:
Pupu Platter: Coconut shrimp, Thai cucumber salad, crab & shiitake dumpling, Peking duck in green tea sesame crepe. For this dish they also served a glass of Thai iced tea.
Wine: 2008 La Fenêtre A Cote Pinot Noir, Central Coast
I enjoyed everything on this plate except for the Thai cucumber salad which I found to be too vinegary for my taste. The green tea sesame crepe was a great unique touch to Peking duck.

The main entree: Miso glazed black cod with green tea soba and Asian vegetable melange
Wine: 2008 La Fenêtre Sierra Madre Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley
Miso black cod is a pretty common dish and probably for pretty good reason: It's a good combination. Cook your cod propery and everyone will enjoy it. That was the case here. The texture of the cod was spot on. There was too much sauce on the soba though, making it too sweet and a little soggy.

Dessert: Turon Saba (Banana and jackfruit springroll with macapuno banana ice cream) - Philippines
I had to google it but apparently macapuno is what kopyor in Indonesia is: a mutant coconut with more tender and crumbly meat. The macapuno banana ice cream was definitely the highlight of the dessert - now I have to wonder where I can possibly get more.

The other aspect of this dinner that we enjoyed very much was meeting interesting people from all walks of life both during the cocktail hour and sitting next to them at the big communal tables.

These underground dinners aren't exactly cheap at around $100 (depending on the dinners and when you purchase the tickets) though it does include all the pre-dinner drinks and wine pairing, but I like how her dinners are held at cool locations like this house, or art galleries. You won't know where it will be until a few days before though, and you won't know the full menu either. Since the themes of dinner change every time, from Asian to Cheese to Bacon, choose the one that's enticing if you're planning on trying Chef Amy's underground dinner for the first time.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Giveaway: Tickets to Pasadena Wine Festival

The second Pasadena Wine Festival is coming to the Los Angeles Arboretum on Saturday, October 9 from 2pm-10pm.

There will be wines from many regions in California, Spain, and Australia (see the participants here).

To soak up all that wine and fuel you up for a walk around the arboretum there will be samples and food for purchase from World Fare Bustaurant, The Dosa Truck, The Grilled Cheese Truck, Crepe 'N Around, Border Grill Truck, and Sprinkles.

I really wanted to go, walk around the arboretum while drinking wine myself but alas, I'll be out of the country. YOU can go though!

They're giving away FIVE PAIRS of general admission tickets ($28 value per ticket) to the festival which gets you:
admission to the arboretum to enjoy a tram tour (usually arboretum admission and tram tour would cost you $12), live music, food samples from the vendors, and you can sample wines from all the participating wineries for $1 each.

To win a pair, just leave a comment below with your email.
Get extra entries by tweeting: "Win tickets to Pasadena Wine Festival @PasWineFest via @gourmetpigs"
Leave another comment letting me know you did so though, so I can keep track!

Contest ends on September 30. There are five pairs to give away so you have pretty good chances. Good luck!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mariscos El Teto's: A Gem of a A Seafood Trailer

Mariscos El Teto's isn't a food truck. It's a food trailer.
Parked throughout the day in front of a floor demolition store on Lankershim Blvd in Sun Valley, a couple of foldable chairs and table sit at the edge of the curb.

Street Gourmet LA has shared his find months ago and brought plenty of bloggers here, including me, to enjoy the amazing Ensenada-style seafood (I just never got around to blogging until now).

The real reason I made the trek to Sun Valley was this: the sea snail (caracol). I haven't had sea snail since my first trip to Baja where we encountered La Guerrerense. El Tetos will cook your sea snails concha preparada (in the shell) many different ways and they were well worth the drive.

The manta ray tacos with black olives, octopus, cilantro, onions are another reason to visit El Tetos. A meaty, seafood experience in your hands.
A table on the curb holds all the salsa and condiments, onions, and lemons.

El Tetos have a "large" menu though for the most part they are different preparations of the same protein.

The fish taco here can truly stand up on its own, challenging Ricky's as the best Baja fish taco in town - perhaps the only one around who can.

If manta rays aren't your style, they also have a solid carne asada ...
... and crispy empanadas rather overwhelmingly topped with chopped tomatoes and cabbage.

Bill and I were just talking about this amazing marlin "ham" he had in Baja, and all of a sudden, what did they bring out? Marlin ham!
This "ham of the sea" was like nothing I had tasted before. Its meaty and flaky, like you would expect from this type of fish, with a whiff of the ocean naturally, but it was the smokiness that made it so very special. I think this was a rare treat for Bill and I was lucky enough to be there. I'm not sure how often they'd have something this special there again. Hopefully I'll get to have some more in the near future.

For most of us, Mariscos El Teto's is far, but it is undoubtedly worth a try. As always, props to Street Gourmet LA for driving all over the state finding gems like this.

Mariscos El Tetos
8854 Lankershim Bl.
Sun Valley, CA
Mariscos El Tetos on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Padang Food 101(Sari Nusantara, Surabaya, Indonesia)

Padang is the capital of West Sumatra (which is mostly known for the earthquakes and tsunamis that happened nearby).
When you go to a Padang restaurant, an array of dishes will be placed on your table. Rendang (beef curry), curried vegetables, egg balado, and many more.

It's not all you can eat, though. You pay for what you take and eat, so if you don't think you really want to eat a particular dish don't touch it.

Padang cuisine is known for their spicy dishes and a variety of curries can always be found. Rendang is so popular everywhere now, including in LA. Simpang Asia's rendang actually won the curry competition a couple years back. Padang food is usually cooked once a day and mostly served at room temperature. That's why when you go to a Padang restaurant, they will display everything and let you do the pick and choosing at the table.

When Mattatouille and Glutster visited my home town, we went to Sari Nusantara, a Padang restaurant in Surabaya, for their first Padang meal.
That day the three of us plus my friend and my dad pretty much ate all the dishes. The tour de force: fish head curry
The body of the fish was grilled but in my opinion the fish head curry is superior with its much more tender meat.

When I was little and couldn't eat spicy food (still can't today but I'm getting way better) I used to eat ayam pop, chicken cooked with garlic and butter. I loved ayam pop but I'm not sure if it was because now I can eat spicier food or because the version at Sari Nusantara wasn't that good, but the one we had that day was pretty bland. I would have to try ayam pop at Rumah Sederhana again to see which it really is.

daun singkong (cassava leaves)

To calm my palate down, I had a glass of kopyor. Kopyor is actually a coconut with a genetic defect. Instead of the smooth, meaty flesh in a regular coconut, the flesh of kopyor is tender, easily peels off from the inner layer of the skin, and is crumbly. There usually isn't much water inside kopyor, and the flesh is made into a drink using syrup. Es kopyor is a very popular drink in Indonesia and costs more than regular coconut.

There's a folklore that says that when there is a lunar eclipse, the moon comes down to earth and eats coconuts. The leftovers of those eaten coconuts become kopyor.

If you are in LA and want to try Padang food, I'd suggest Raso Minang in West Covina.

Sari Nusantara
Jl. Gubernur Suryo No. 24
Jawa Timur (East Java)
Phone: 031-5348638

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Taste of Santa Fe 2010: Gala Dinner

Returning to the Santa Fe trip that I took along with some bloggers for Taste of Santa Fe, the annual fundraising gastronomic event for the New Mexico History Museum...

The gala dinner was actually held inside the New Mexico History Museum. The wall facing the entrance bore a quote from Abraham Lincoln:

We cannot escape history. We ... will be remembered in spite of ourselves.
The cocktail reception was delayed a bit by a short thunder storm (the locals told us this happens pretty much every day around 5-6 pm. Wow!) but once that ends attendees mingled, ate, and drank on the damp grass.
A tequila cocktail made by mixologist Daniel Gonzales from Secreto Bar at Hotel St. Francis was garnished with a parmesan crisp.
Chef John Sedlar of Rivera Restaurant in LA was a guest chef at both the gala dinner and the main event the next day. As appetizers at the gala dinner, chef Sedlar prepared his famous tortillas florales. Here he infuses flavors from the other Indian cuisine. You know, the one with the dot. One of the tortillas were topped with cucumber raita.

Chef Mick Hug from Buffalo Thunder Resort started the night off well with some appetizers:
Seared scallops served alongside crispy goat cheese with dried cherries poached in a spice wine.
During the gala dinner they had chefs from four restaurants prepare a couple of dishes each, and attendees will vote for their favorite.

We grabbed food from the different stations and went to find a table. There were quite a few people in attendance, occupying both the first and second floor of the museum.

I loved the creative centerpieces they had made with celery stalks and red chile.

The highlight of the meal was the Chile Relleño del Cielo from Hotel St. Francis’ Tabla de Los Santos Restaurant. The green chiles were stuffed with mushrooms and served in a pinto bean-garlic sauce.

For desserts: chocolate cupcake with local wild cherries from Embudo Station was so good, I think I had three (what? they were small!). The flavors of the cherries really came through even among the chocolate and frosting.

More coverage of Taste of Santa Fe:
TravelLady Magazine (with a lot more on the history of New Mexico and Santa Fe)

My post on the main event.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tasting the Revamped Santa Monica Place: La Sandia and Zengo

Do you remember the old Santa Monica Place? The mall at the end of the Third Street Promenade used to be an afterthought. Now it has undergone a massive revamp and face lift that I didn't even recognize it anymore! I went there recently for a media dinner at the two new Richard Sandoval restaurants there, La Sandia and Zengo.

On my way to my first stop, La Sandia, I was so surprised. What used to be an old, dying mall is now a sleek, open-air center.
It's so fancy now!

I was impressed by La Sandia's dining room. The middle area was spacious and airy with a fountain at the center.
Since we're having our media dinner at Zengo, we only sampled some cocktails and tried some appetizers here: enchiladas, taquitos, ceviche. These are dishes you would expect from other Mexican restaurants, and they are done pretty well here.

We sampled four cocktails (sharing the flutes so we don't get too drunk) which were surprisingly well made and interesting.

The Dos Agaves was made with mezcal, agave and rimmed with chapuline salt. Another mezcal drink contained cucumber, pepino, and chile pequin. I enjoyed the passionfruit caipirinha and the hibiscus margarita which uses hibiscus syrup made in house.

La Sandia
395 Santa Monica Place
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 393-3300
La Sandía on Urbanspoon

We then moved to Zengo for dinner (and more cocktails).

Overall we liked the cocktails at Zengo better. I ordered the Prickly Pear Caipirinha ($9) and the Mekhong Pina Horchata made with Mekhong thai rum was an interesting creamy concoction. We also tasted the tamarind margarita and cucumber mojito - all of them were good.

The XO sauce edamame was quite addictive. Do give it a try, unless you're vegetarian since the XO sauce contains dried shrimp and scallops.

Many of the dishes are the familiar asian fusion dishes with a twist like beef and hamachi tiradito, sushi rolls, and a miso black cod with chipotle, but you can also find some unique ones worth trying:

Achiote-hoisin pork arepas (corn masa, avocado crema fresca) - $9
This dish combined the sweetness of hoisin pork with the great texture of fried arepas - chewy with a crunchy texture. The creamy avocado is icing on the cake.

Peking Duck-Daikon Tacos (duck confit, curried apple, orange-coriander sauce) - $12

This was another of my favorite.
It's a lighter and more refreshing take on both peking duck and taco. No tortilla or thin chinese pancake here, just the crisp freshness of daikon radish. Unfortunately the duck confit itself was a little on the dry side. Just a little more moist and juicy and it would be perfect.

Not knowing anything about La Sandia, Zengo, or the food of Richard Sandoval before, I was pleasantly surprised. There were a few dishes that I thought were creative combination of flavors I have not seen before. Now that the new Santa Monica Place definitely has some good food and cocktail options, I wouldn't mind the mall so much.

395 Santa Monica Pl
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 899-1000
Zengo on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: This was an all-blogger dinner hosted by the restaurants' PR.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rose Garden Tea Room at The Huntington Library (San Marino, CA)

The Rose Garden Tea Room is one of the few places to get food inside the sprawling Huntington Library & Gardens but it's also one of the relatively few places in the area to have afternoon tea.

While afternoon tea here is usually not cheap ($27 per person plus tax - that's on top of the admission to the library itself I think - please double check) I got lucky and made it to the list to attend Caltech's Annual Huntington Tea. For $20 or so, I get enter the library AND have afternoon tea at the Rose Garden.

The sandwiches and sweets here are served buffet-style, displayed in the middle of the room.

Standard sandwich selections: egg salad, cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon.

The scones are served warm in a basket though and I quite enjoyed them, both the plain and the chocolate chip.
They're warm and moist. If you're averse to scones because you think they're hard, bland, and dry, then don't worry because these are not.

The Tea Room does have special blends of tea, which unfortunately are served in tea bags. The tea isn't bad at all, though, especially as far as bagged teas go. The desserts? They are the standard mini fruit pies, chocolate cake, and other petit fours. Nothing special, but nothing to complain about.

All in all, it's a mediocre afternoon tea. I enjoyed the scones and since I didn't pay the full price I had no qualm. Should you go visit? Only if you're visiting the garden itself and wanted to eat, drink tea, and relax.

I mean, the tea room is right next to this:
and this:
Since it will take at least two hours of walking to see a sufficient portion of the gardens, you might as well do it on a full stomach.

Rose Garden Tea Room
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, CA 91108
(626) 683-8131
The Rose Garden Tea Room: Huntington Botanical Gardens on Urbanspoon

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