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ROC KITCHEN - WEST LA - LISTOMANIA!

Aww, sorry I hurt your little feelings about ROC. Please keep patronizing it. I was agreeing with you about the ludicrousness of the ABC process, by the way. It's called subtext. Enjoy.

Feb 12, 2013
falkfood in Los Angeles Area

ROC KITCHEN - WEST LA - LISTOMANIA!

Ah, yes, "soft opening" mode. A nice euphemism for no signage and no liquor license. Going on 4 months now. Or is it 5? Makes it doubly important that they get their shit together in the front of the house, while they wait it out with the Bev. Commission. Dumplings with no Tsing Dao? So sad.

Feb 12, 2013
falkfood in Los Angeles Area

ROC KITCHEN - WEST LA - LISTOMANIA!

Okay, heard a lot about the soup dumplings here, and they are indeed good. Of course, any time a restaurant gets "hot" the problem isn't what is coming out of the kitchen, it's the capacity of the place (too small) and the staff at the front of the house (too clueless) that screw ya.

I went there with the wife and kids, early on a Saturday night. Yes, Saturday, which means waiting a bit, I know. But the kids are old enough to cool their heels without whining, and the friendly vibe of the good old "put your name and arrival time on the list yourself" thing gave us that warm and fuzzy feeling of communal purpose.

But then the VIP's started rolling in. Anyone who understands the restaurant biz knows that the owner and managers have friends, and these friends get to be seated before everyone else, list or no. But this was a bit over the top. It was pretty much a steady stream of (not surprisingly, Chinese) people jumping the line and getting seated while us mere mortals fogged up the plate glass window with our expectant breath.

Then, when a 4-top that was behind us on the list magically got seated and I complained, I was told that there was ANOTHER LIST inside that was the real state of things -- not that bottom-feeder list upon which I had saddled my hopes. Similar to the walk-sign button at the street corner: it beeps only to make one feel some progress, while the walk-sign arrives on its own damn time.

Anyway, finally seated (just under an hour). Had a variety of soup dumplings. All were delicious. Glass noodles too. Broccoli and kale both were really flavorful. And washed it all down with -- water. Huh? Either they're still waiting on the booze license or the VIPs are Mormons. I'm guessing it's the former.

Feb 11, 2013
falkfood in Los Angeles Area

The Yard - Santa Monica

The restaurant biz is nothing if not cyclical: one day your joint is jumping, the next day you're telling the wait staff to seat the table at the window to make your pathetically empty place look popular.

So, The Yard. Apparently before I moved out west, it was a bit of a ho-hum, one among the many choices a stone's throw from Santa Monica's famous 3rd Street Promenade. Then former Top Chef CJ Jacobsen took over and re-tooled the gastropub menu and voila, awesome fish tacos, etc. Then CJ left in January (did I say that the restaurant business is cyclical?). So, now what? Well, their website seems to be offline -- still advertising this past February's Oscar party.

Not a good start.

Went there on a recent Wednesday night with a buddy for a few beers and some grub. We, of course, had the fish tacos. They were very good. Not a home run, but a solid stand-up double. The puffy tortilla (deep fried) was a nice touch and not overly oily. Fish was fresh. I prefer crema to salsa on my fish tacos, but otherwise fine.

Of course, the beers were good. And the hostess, who also waited on us (it was a Wednesday night, so limited staff) was knowledgeable about the beer selection.

I did notice (as many other reviewers have) that the prices do seem a bit high for food positioned as gastropub fare. Betting that happy hour is probably the ticket for most -- as $10 apps magically become $7 apps. Amazing.

Jul 27, 2012
falkfood in Los Angeles Area

SPEAK EASY COCKTAIL - SANTA MONICA

Its name screams "dive bar," and its location screams "dive bar," (next to a gas station, across from a used car dealer on Pico blvd). Luckily, this windowless joint does not disappoint.

From the basement rumpus-room wall paneling, to the crappy pool tables, to the big-haired post-cougar tending the bar, Speak Easy is a great place to knock back a few. Only two gripes: (1) no draft beer, just cases of beer stacked behind the bar as if someone popped over to Ralph's with a pick-up truck. But, hey, PBR in cans supports the vibe, and (2) not a morsel of food, although hard to fathom anyone would want to eat anything that came out of a kitchen here. Of course the real downside to the lack of grub is that, while Speak Easy is one of those rare Santa Monica watering holes that has an honest-to-goodness parking lot, it's much better to walk, cab, or ride your bike (as I did). This is a place to get loaded and lip sync Bon Jovi, not set yourself up for a DWI.

Apr 23, 2012
falkfood in Los Angeles Area

NEXT DOOR by JOSIE - Santa Monica

Dined there last night with my wife. Although the flat screens above the bar earned an eye roll from the missus (and although I love sports, this is not even remotely a sports bar, so I have to agree.). Don't we all get enough screen time? And if you want to follow March Madness, The Daily Pint is two blocks away.

We arrived at 7:15p, and it was packed. No rezzies, so we were told it would be a 25 minute wait. Grabbed a drink at the bar (bar tender was a bit overwhelmed), and were seated within 10 minutes, but who's counting.

We had a lot of little plates. The highlights were the deviled egg with duck "cracklings" and the duck confit version of a Banh mi sandwich. Delicious. Seasonal veggies in a broth and baby kale salad were ho hum (still trying to find the perfect kale salad), the "booze-cured" salmon had not even a whiff of its curing. Basically lox, capers, cream cheese. Flavorful and satisfying, but if you're going to provide a dish description with a big wink like "booze cured" you had better deliver something memorable. We had three cheeses, all cow. Presentation (with fig, a single date, toasts) pretty standard, as were the cheeses.

Decor is better than average. A bit loud, but table spacing is good (a big pet peeve with me), and by 8:30 the place was starting to empty (ah, LA) and it got much quieter. If you can stand to wait until 8:30 or 9 to eat, it's the perfect time at Next Door.

Mar 23, 2012
falkfood in Los Angeles Area

Alex & Ika - Cooperstown

Located on the other end of Main Street from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY, this restaurant scores where it counts: farm-to-table ingredients and an inventive preparation that stops short of the culinary esoterica that turns off the locals. The funky converted-house vibe with amateur art on the walls has become a cliche, but the food makes up for the eye roll-enducing decor.

My wife had the "BAT" a play on the BLT (Apple smoked bacon, arugula, and tomato), which was flavorful, fresh and delicious. I had the fish tacos (deep fried cod, a delicious corn relish, avocado, and an aioli that had me licking my fingers. We tried sides of kimchee (good, but I like my cabbage cut a bit coarser than this), and the black beans (which smelled amazing and were just as delicious).

Nestled alongside Cooperstown's faux pub grub and high-cholesterol cuisine, Alex & Ika is a great find.

Farmshop: Farm to Table to Soju-love to Austerity

Good call. Definitely a "beer and wine only" place. I'm a recent NY transplant, but duly noted on the CA loophole.

Oct 03, 2011
falkfood in Los Angeles Area

Farmshop: Farm to Table to Soju-love to Austerity

Had a much ballyhooed dinner at Farmshop last Friday night. The hostess station's cool ipad with a multi-colored reservation app made me wonder why the actual tables aren't outfitted with the same technology. After all, when it's a fixed menu and a very limited cocktail list, the waiter/waitress is almost a glorified delivery person anyway.

Speaking of the cocktail list, someone there made the mistake of falling in love with soju, which is a Korean spirit that you might kinda like once in awhile, but will always be a bridesmaid to more popular liquors. The list is loaded with soju concoctions, a beer "cocktail," and a couple wine "cocktails." Each comes with a stifled yawn at no extra charge.

The fixed-menu meal was good but not a knockout (heirloom tomato salad, nicely prepared salmon over seasonal vegetables - including Romanesco, one of my favorites -- a precious little cheese course with precious little cheese, and a serviceable shortcake dessert).

My table mates and I had wines by the glass from a pretty limited list, but we all found something we liked (after a rejection or two).

But my main complaint was the public-restroom austerity of the place which seems to tonally play against the whole farm-to-table family-style serving vibe of the menu. Those compound adjectives usually go with "warm" and "rustic," and Farmshop is anything but. And backless benches aren't rustic, they're just uncomfortable -- unless you're in a German beer hall.

At $60 per person for the 4-course fixed, not including drinks, it ain't cheap. But replacing the staff with ipads will definitely lower operating expenses which could be passed on to patrons. Hmm.

Oct 03, 2011
falkfood in Los Angeles Area

Help for Cooperstown Stay?

Located on the other end of Main Street from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY, this restaurant scores where it counts: farm-to-table ingredients and an inventive preparation that stops short of the culinary esoterica that turns off the locals. The funky converted-house vibe with amateur art on the walls has become a cliche, but the food makes up for the eye roll-enducing decor.

My wife had the "BAT" a play on the BLT (Apple smoked bacon, arugula, and tomato), which was flavorful, fresh and delicious. I had the fish tacos (deep fried cod, a delicious corn relish, avocado, and an aioli that had me licking my fingers. We tried sides of kimchee (good, but I like my cabbage cut a bit coarser than this), and the black beans (which smelled amazing and were just as delicious).

Nestled alongside Cooperstown's faux pub grub and high-cholesterol cuisine, Alex & Ika is a great find.

Help for Cooperstown Stay?

Just dined with my wife at the main dining room at the storied Otesaga Resort in Cooperstown, which is an all-inclusive hotel (if you stay there, you are obligated to pay for breakfast and dinner). Jacket required at the main dining room, but feel free to leave your taste buds at the door. The 5-course meal was mostly flavorless, the wait staff whipped through the service in less than an hour (remember, it's 5 courses), and all the dishware hit the table piping hot (when one person receives a hot plate it's about timing in the kitchen, when BOTH people receive hot plates, they've pre-made and plated the food, and are reheating for service).

To be specific: Course 1: pita points with hummus (passable but very bland). Course 2: Crab Involtini for her, mushroom ravioli pour moi. The involtini (shredded crab wrapped sushi-style in a slice of zucchini) was served alongside two jumbo shrimp that were clearly from a bag in the freezer section. The ravioli was served with a red sauce that was heavy on tomato paste, light on flavor. Course 3: Gazpacho (the best savory dish of the night) and a turkey corn chowder that was screaming for salt. Course 4 (main): a half-duck, served with water chestnuts and small asian corn (both canned) and red peppers for her. We laughed out loud about the canned veggies. Swordfish steak for me, which was overcooked, (it was probably perfect before the hot plating -- see above), served with a passable lemon cream sauce. Course 5: Dessert. The highly touted chocolate creme brulee had a strange mouth feel. Lumpy is the word that comes to mind. The key lime pie was nice and tart. If you're stuck eating here with your crazy old aunt, go for the key lime pie and skip the other 4 courses.

The saving grace of the evening was the hotel itself, which is beautiful and well maintained, has a huge porch with rocking chairs and a charming view of the lake. Since they rushed our meal, we still had a half bottle of zinfandel which we took to our chairs and emptied while listening to a 50-piece volunteer brass band from the town. Charming as can be.

Hard to understand why the main dining room is using canned, frozen, and generally non-indigenous produce in the middle of the Summer, when squash and tomatoes and corn are at their flavorful best in Upstate New York. It's a bit sad, really, and in desperate need of a farm-to-table chef to shake things up.

One of my two stars is for the porch and the band. The other one is for the restaurant.