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.



darn, would have liked to go to this. since my mom is traveing now, i need to get my laksa fix elsewhere!


Oh your mom makes laksa? Lucky ...
My mom does too but she's 9000 miles away :(


Magnolia Ice Cream is a Filipino ice cream brand that makes macapuno ice cream and you can find Magnolia at 99 Ranch and Seafood Market, which is specifically a Filipino market.

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