Showing posts with label media dinner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label media dinner. Show all posts

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rivera's New Menu Connects Miles and Millennias

John Sedlar had a vision when he first opened up Rivera in downtown Los Angeles. Now, he's finally putting his vision into practice. Chef Sedlar and the team of Rivera don't want to just cook food, they also want to delve into the question of why we eat what we eat today. That's why Rivera's new menu traces Latin food back 3000 years.

The menu at Rivera is divided into three menus, each specific to the different dining rooms/areas and connected together by a main menu called Conexiones. The Sangre room's menu focuses on the Iberian roots of Latin cuisine, and the Samba room follows with South American, Central American, and Caribbean influences. The Playa room offers a seafood-heavy cuisine of modern Mexican influences.
Including the dessert menu "Azucar", there are four menus.

To launch the new menus and 'Conexiones' menu that ties them together, the restaurant invited some friends and also some media for a full-on tasting. While waiting for our food, I had a cocktail, of course, since this is where one of the best bartenders in LA, Julian Cox, works.

The meal started with a bang. The cabeza de oro was literally served on a golden head and consisted of layers of your most coveted delicacies: foie gras, scallop, truffle, jamon iberico, and caviar (from the Playa Bar menu - not cheap, $50).
If you've never had it before, make sure you try the Argentine Mushroom Carpacchio (king oyster, bluefoot, and chanterelle mushrooms with chimichurri spices and combava lime) - Samba, $11
This was no doubt inspired by a meal at La Querencia on one of the trips Chef Sedlar took to Baja. It reminded me of the beet and squash carpaccios I had there and I'm glad he's taking that Baja Med concept across the border.

In the same spirit, the dish was followed by Equadorian Crudo (hiromasa, kumquats, fresno chiles, chives) - $14

As a weakling when it comes to spicy food, I loved the burrata here in the Chile Relleno (ahaheim chile with martian red corn salsa, burrata cheese, cherokee tomatoes)
Not only did it adds a nice creamy texture, it really cuts the heat while the corn adds a welcomed sweetness.

Within the Playa's more modern offerings, you can find some asian influences as well, like their
Chile Guero Relleno (tempura chile, crab, corn, soy, ginger, scallion) - Playa, $12

Every now on then, you'll encounted dishes garnished with spice dusting which forms a message of sorts, like the "Bravo Gustavo!" on the Venezuelan Arepas (traditional fried corn cakes) with softshell crab (in the style of Cartagena, Columbia) - Samba, $14

Corn is a central part of Mexican cuisine and the team at Rivera does wonders with it.
Clam Tamalli (pismo clam, poblano chiles, sweet corn, garlic, oregano leaf, blistered chile verde meuniere) - Playa bar, $10

Flan de Elote (corn custard, black quinoa, squash blossom sauce)
It may seem like such a simple dish but this was definitely one of my favorites: creamy yet delicate, I can eat this lightly sweet corn custard all day long.

On the entree side, everyone seemed to enjoy the Parilla (rib-eye fillet, habanero chimichurri, yucca chips)

The next dish was another of my favorite: Brazilian Feijoada with Lamb - Samba, $24
They have brilliantly captured the essence of feijoada and turned the rustic "peasant fare" into a refined dish that is accentuated even more by the tender lamb chop.

Desserts here aren't too be missed either. Try the aptly named "Hielo y Fuego" (Poblano sorbet, port reduction)
A spicy cold sorbet that cleanses and tantalizes your palate at the same time.

Pan de Santa Teresa with Spanish peanuts, cherimoya ice cream
Named after St Teresa of Avila, this seems to be a traditional Catholic dish in Spain and is similar to the French Toast.

Xochimilco (chocolate guajillo cake, avocado mousse with lime, sugared sunflower seeds)
The creamy avocado mousse rounds down the spiciness in the guajillo cake yet the lime kept it from being too heavy.

You can get the Conexiones menu anywhere in the restaurant (dishes aren't labeled by the menu origin above are from the Conexiones). You may have to visit Rivera multiple times though, as there are some "musts" in every menu. Do not miss the mushroom carpaccio, the flan de elote, and the feijoada.
Wonder how a particular dish fits in to the picture? In another spin to the dining experience, guests can now dial 310-464-6884 to hear Chef Sedlar himself explain the story behind a dish.

Rivera Restaurant
1050 S Flower St #102
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 749-1460

Disclosure: This was a gratis tasting hosted by Rivera.
I also have to thank Wandering Chopsticks for driving out of her way to lend me her camera since I stupidly left mine! :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Pizza Fusion: Going Vegan and Gluten-Free for a Night

Pizza Fusion is NOT a vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free place.
It does, however, carry options for all of the above, and is pretty well-known for their gluten free crust, giving those with celiac disease the rare opportunity to eat a pizza. So when the owners of Pizza Fusion invited me over to taste the food they offer, I decided to try these vegan and gluten-free stuff for myself.

DISCLAIMER: I went for an invited tasting, so we ate for free.

I went with LA & OC Foodie, the perfect partner in crime since he was doing a Meatless April (and I guess now he's attempting a Meatless May too ... tsk tsk.)

I don't know if Pizza Fusion is the first sustainable chain, but this franchise that started in Miami not only serves organic and sustainable products but also didn't stray from their environmental mission in building their locations. Even their floors, walls and toilets.

Pizza Fusion carries some microbrewery beers on taps and also a selection of organic wines. LA & OC Foodie ordered a flight of 4 beers (20 oz total, %10).
I don't remember what beers he ordered but I remembered I liked the Unibroue Blanche de Chambly the best.

I opted for the lemonade instead ($3.00) at first... I gave in and got a beer later - the Blanche de Chambly. Uhm.
The lemonade is not too sweet like most others, which makes it even more refreshing and thirst quenching.

The owner recommended the stuffed zucchini, "Zucchini al Forno" ($6.99), so we got an order of those too.
Roasted zucchini stuffed with walnuts and vegetarian stuffing. We definitely didn't miss the meat or the chicken/turkey broth in this, the stuffing had plenty of flavors already. Perhaps too much actually. I thought the zucchini didn't need so much stuffing and less would actually balance the flavors better. I did enjoy the texture that the walnuts gave to this.

Because those flip-up menus and ads sometimes do work and this looked good, we got a half order of the Pear & Gorgonzola salad ($5.99)
Using great fresh products, can't go wrong with this salad.

We ended up getting a non-vegan (but vegetarian since LA & OC Foodie is doing his meatless April!) on a gluten-free crust, and a vegan pizza (with vegan cheese) on a normal crust. Hedging our bets, so to speak.

Here's the Farmer's Market Pizza with Gluten-Free crust (personal size, $9.99)

As you can see below, the gluten free crust is noticeable thinner than a normal thin crust. It's rather cracker-like also, probably what one would expect from a non-gluten crust.

For the vegan cheese at Pizza Fusion, you have 2 options: either the Follow Your Heart soy cheese, or the Daiya cheese for a bit extra - $0.50-$1, can't remember. Because Quarry Girl raved about the Daiya cheese (which she then asked Pizza Fusion to carry), we opted to try it.

We got this cheese on the Very Vegan pizza (personal size, $8.99+extra for Daiya).
Upon first taste, Daiya cheese certainly had strong flavors, one that you wouldn't expect from a vegan cheese, and one that you wouldn't get from the Follow Your Heart soy cheese (according to LA & OC Foodie)

I ended up liking the normal-cheese-gluten-free-crust pizza better but LA & OC Foodie liked the vegan-cheese-normal-crust better.
It's certainly wonderful that those with celiac disease can have things they normally wouldn't be able to at Pizza Fusion, like the pizza, and also brownies. We tried a gluten-free vegan brownie ($4.99) a la mode (with vanilla gelato - not vegan).
The brownie was surprisingly chocolate-y and decadent, almost reminiscent of fudge though not as rich and thick. It was moist but the flavors are there, although the texture was just a little bit off. Not necessarily bad, but I definitely noticed a difference between this gluten free version and others.

I have some vegan friends and I also know a couple of people with celiac disease. It was really nice to find this place so I can take him later and let him have some pizza and brownie. Personally though, I'd still go with the bbq chicken, sinful cheese, and gluten crust :P Luckily, Pizza Fusion has all that, too. Something for everyone.

They also have the following weekly specials, in case you're planning a visit!
Vegan Monday- Free Daiya Cheese Upgrade on Any Pizza or Free Vegan Strawberry Sorbet on any Large Vegan Pizza Soy or Daiya
Wine and Dine Tuesday- Up to $20 off Organic/ Sustainable Bottles of Wine
Draft Beer Wednesday- $1 off Any Draft Beer
Gluten-Free Thursday- Free Gluten-Free Vegan Brownie with Any Large Gluten Free Pizza

Pizza Fusion - Hollywood
7950 W. Sunset Blvd.
Suite 104
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 375-3390
Pizza Fusion on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gyenari: Korean (and Cocktails) for the Masses

Gyenari is that Korean-fusion restaurant in Culver City backed up by Debbie Lee of the Next Food Network Star. The result of two long lost cousins finding each other and opening up a restaurant (true story) and is also one of the very few Korean bbq joints on the westside (the only one if you take out West Hollywood).

I've heard of quite a few bloggers liking their happy hour and the food here, so when a press invite came from their PR person, I took up the chance to try the place out.

I actually got to Culver City in time but since I missed the turn for the parking structure (right behind BofA, 2 hours free) and the no-u-turn-everywhere I ended up being late after all. Bah.

The night started out on the patio for cocktails and skewer appetizers.
I believe I had the ginger soy beef which turned out to be pretty spicy. I don't know how the rest of the skewers are since I came in a bit late and they were all gone.

While on the patio we also got some Duk Boki (pan fried rice cylinders in onions and korean chile paste)
I was surprised to find this item since I don't think their typical clientele would order dukbokki. The version here is not spicy but flavorful enough, and the rice cylinders had a good texture. I wonder if they ever get new customers trying this out?

Gyenari also has a surprisingly good selection of cocktails, with an Asian slant, priced pretty reasonably at $9-11.
A couple of the cocktails I enjoyed were the Soju Caipirinha (though it shouldn't be called a caipirinha w/o cachaca ... Caipisoju?) and Mango Mojito
Between all of us, we managed to try almost the entire cocktail menu. Another one that I liked a lot that I managed to get a sip of was the St. Gyenari.

After the appetizers, we moved inside for our dinner. We were seated in front of a series of lighted panels depicting "gyenari", a yellow Korean flower.

Assorted Jeon Plate (mung bean, shrimp, fresh vegetables)
I liked these as they used fresh ingredients and the batter wasn't as greasy. I particularly liked the shrimp.

Apparently their bbq dinners typically comes with some porridge which we also got that night:
Pumpkin Porridge (toasted pine nuts, soju sauteed dates)
The porridge (more like a soup) was a lightly sweet, smooth, and creamy.

Pear and Shiso salad with Flashed Rib Eye and Shabu Sesame dressing
There was talk amongst my table-mates about why Gyenari decided to use the word shiso and not the Korean word, but if you ask me salad isn't really that Korean anyway, right? I like this salad and especially the use of the pear. Flashed rib eye was also good (although I can't help but imagine how good it would be with steak tartar!)

We were served the G1 set from the menu which came with japchae
The japchae was most definitely sweeter than usual and I think we all missed that garlicky oniony that is japchae.

The G1 meat selection included Gyenari Galbee, bulgogi, aged pork belly, and Gyenari Flower Chicken
Table-top grill, of course.
All the meats were good quality, much fresher than what you'd find in an AYCE place, naturally, and the marinades were pretty flavorful.
I was missing the rice paper or even the lettuce to wrap my grilled meats in, although I did love the rice they had here.

The banchans also did not disappoint. Kimchi was pretty good, and I love the bean sprouts and could not stop munching on them.

To finish off the savories we had a stonepot of Kimchee Chigae
The kimchee chigae was rather bland and the tofu was also unflavorful. I thought they definitely could've made this richer and spicier and cook the tofu inside the broth. Even though they're perhaps trying to appeal to a Korean-food-beginner audience, they're not doing the food justice in this case. Considering their skewers were spicy, why tone down the spice here?

For dessert we tried their Spicy Chocolate Creme Brulee with bacon shortbread and almond cream, and the Green Tea Beignets with chocolate mint drizzle.
Although the spicy chocolate creme brulee was a pretty good brulee, it was nowhere near spicy. The creme brulee would definitely benefit from more spice to make it more interesting. The green tea beignets had a stronger green tea flavor but was too dry (I did hear some of us got firmer ones). I wonder if the ones on the regular menu are bigger and more moist inside ...
As they were, though, vanilla ice cream or something would be good.

Overall I had a good meal (complimented by some tasty cocktails): the shiso and pear salad and pumpkin porridge stood out, and the barbecue meats were all good. On the other hand they need to be bolder with their traditional korean menu items like japchae and kimchee chigae. I would be interested in trying some of their fusion "Seoulful" items later though since they were supposed to be Debbie Lee's specialty. Galbee pot pie, anyone?

9540 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 838-3131
Gyenari on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sushi on Sunset (Press Tasting)

Sushi on Sunset brought a new chef (Tetsuro Ahn) on board just last month and a few of us "media" people were invited to check out his new creations. Since it's on Sunset, I of course expected fusion food, but I was curious to see what they do here.

Sushi on Sunset is a small restaurant with a rather unassuming black on white sign, but the decor inside is a modern, classy wooden look.

Their cocktail list is pretty short and not particularly exciting, so after trying one, I then opted for one of their green tea selection, the Madame Butterfly (green tea with white peaches and something -- sunflowers, IIRC?)
I loved this tea. The scent of the white peaches was very apparent and very pleasant and calming. I wish I can get some of the leaves to take home.

tossed in sweet soy and sesame sauce
A nice touch to the usual edamame, adding layers of sweet and savory.

served with white & red onion, celery, bell pepper, carrot, garlic chips & gobo chips in an oyster ginger shoyu dressing
This was our first real taste of Sushi on Sunset, and we were very pleasantly surprised. The fish was pretty good quality, and you can tell even among the sauces and garnish.

with chili caramel glaze & peppers
Another pleasant surprise. These were all deep fried white meat chicken, and as you may have noticed I am not a big fan of white meat as they tend to be dry and bland. The firecracker chicken had a pretty impressive moistness to it. The sauce was sweet and slightly spicy. The dish had a pretty nice kick to it and easily enjoyed.

MATSURI (Chef Tetsu's signature dish ). As some of you may know, matsuri means festival and this dish is rightfully called so. From the left:
1. Blue crab, Avocado & eel in oyster shell
2. Salmon,Crab & Shrimp with shiso leaf in a Radish Wrap
3. Spicy Toro with Wonton Chips
4. Tuna, Shrimp, Octopus, Seaweed & green onion with Nuta Sauce

Nice renditions of crab/eel dynamite, tuna tataki, etc. All four items were quite enjoyable, with quality ingredients. The spicy toro with wonton was perhaps my favorite here.

with lime pepper sauce
The meat was very tender - to be expected from kobe beef (though there are some restaurants who managed to screw up even that) ... The beef was a little stringy but the tenderness and the nice flavors make up for it.

topped with an oyster ginger sauce
A step up from most rolls with real crab.

deep fried roll (spicy albacore inside) with fresh vegetables on top in a ginger dressing
All fusion sushi places will have some sort of crunchy roll. Sushi on Sunset has a pretty good one with a nicely done spicy albacore inside.

with nutella dipping sauce
Think chinese donuts, but crispy like churros due to the shape.

caramelized apples stuffed in a filo dough cup with five spice caramel sauce topped with green tea ice cream
Delicious apples, and nice crispy filo dough for the crust! I'm not sure about the pairing with green tea ice cream, but the apple pie itself was quite good.

our lava cake with vanilla ice cream
Pretty rich dark chocolate lava cake - pretty satisfying.

Chef Ahn has some pretty creative take on these dishes, and uses good quality ingredients. Fusion and sushi rolls have lately been regarded as "food for those who can't take real sushi", but when you encounter a place like Sushi on Sunset that holds its food quality to a high standards, you're reminded it is really a separate category with its own art form that still deserves some attention.

Sushi on Sunset
8264 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(310) 613-2773
Sushi on Sunset on Urbanspoon

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