Anyone know where to get mini brioche slider buns? I know Trader Joe's makes slider buns but they are dry and dense. Any help would be appreciated!
One of the most pleasant surprises about the entire Portugal trip was how reasonably priced (if not downright cheap, in a lot of cases) everything was. After spending a few days in Ireland, it was definitely noticeable- we'd take 15 minute cab rides that were $10 or cheaper, grab dinner and a bottle of wine and pay no more than $45.....very nice. This dinner- 7 course w/ wine pairing for two people, PLUS 2 bottles of wine to go (we loved the late harvest and a red one so much we asked if we could buy them and he made a nice offer in terms of price) and it totaled around $200 USD- pretty much unheard of here in Los Angeles where I live. So definitely go for it- Foz Vehla is the more high-profile place and is, in my opinion, much more experimental- I'd go for Pedro Lemos. Or why not try both? If you do go, please follow up with a report- would love to hear it!
Pics here: http://tokyoastrogirl.blogspot.com/20...
I’m going to jump ahead a bit in our trip, because I am eager to tell you all about a wonderful restaurant we had the pleasure of dining at in Porto, Portugal. I’ll start off by telling you that we both fell in LOVE with Portugal- both Lisbon and Porto-the people, food, scenery, culture, everything really. To me, Portugal holds all of the charms of other popular European destinations like Italy and France, but doesn’t have the high prices. I’ll be blogging more about this fantastic country, but I’d like to introduce you to Pedro Lemos to start off.
Pedro Lemos is the name of the restaurant where J and I had our one “splurge” meal, when we decided to break from the casual meals we’d been eating thus far on the trip and give fine dining a shot. After doing some searching on the internet, we decided to go to Pedro Lemos, the namesake restaurant of the chef, who, from what we read, was taking food from his Portuguese upbringing and elevating it to another level. Needless to say, we were very excited.
After a short taxi ride from our hotel, we came upon the beautiful space, with downstairs dining room for nonsmokers, an upstairs gilded dining room for smokers plus a bar, and an outdoor patio on the roof for those who prefer to dine al fresco. The greeting from Sommelier/manager Eduardo Neto couldn’t have been warmer- he expressed his delight in our visit and showed us to a candlelit table in the main dining room downstairs. Off to a great start!
The restaurant offers a varied a la carte menu as well as two different prix fixe menus- one five course, and one seven course. We wanted to go with the seven course but J isn’t crazy about foie gras (because he’s crazy, ha!) which was the first course, but after Eduardo assured us that the chef would replace J’s foie with something else, we decided to go for it, including the wine pairings. All of the wine (with the exception of champagne) on the list are from Portugal, and not having had much Portuguese wine knowledge, we were really looking forward to trying many kinds.
The meal started off with freshly baked bread, served with a fresh, soft cheese- similar to homemade ricotta- studded with fresh chives which was delicious. We also had the option to dip our warm bread into local, Portuguese olive oil, which was green and bright. We tried to eat the bread slowly, but tell me- what’s better than freshly baked bread…with cheese…and olive oil? What could be more appetizing?! If we didn’t have seven courses coming I think we would have been perfectly happy to sit and eat that bread all night.
Vieira corada numa cigala espetada- A sea scallop in a spit with masala
Codorniz de capoeria, cogumelos, espargos e macas moribundas- The farm raised quail, mushrooms, asparagus and baby apples
Corvina de anzol, em tranche num engaco abafada- The meagre fish, stilfed in rake.
O Leitao da nossa interpretacao- The suckling pig, from our interpretation
Crème fresco de limao com mousse de queijo- Fresh lemon cream in a cheese mousse.
Baunilha “Bourbon” e framboesas- Bourbon vanilla and raspberries in a sponge cream.
Each course was paired with wine chosen by Eduardo who carefully explained the origin and properties of each one as we went along. The standout for me was the late harvest wine he served with dessert- the smell of it (similar to a muscat wine) literally made my mouth water, and it was so good that I actually purchased a bottle to take home. He was kind enough to line up all of the bottles once we were finished, so I could take a photo:
After our meal, Chef Pedro Lemos came out and spoke to us about his culinary journey to finally realize his dream of owning his own restaurant. He’d had a successful career in engineering, but decided to leave it behind (much to the dismay of family and friends) to follow his passion for food, which he’d had ever since he was a small child. After studying and working with numerous master chefs, he spent a few years in Lisbon before returning to his roots and opening up a restaurant in his hometown of Porto. If I remember correctly (we did have a bit of wine!) he said he’d only been cooking professionally for a few years, which just shows if you have a passion that strong for something, you can succeed. Although his food is very refined, every dish is created from one he ate growing up and is his personal interpretation of the Portuguese food he loves.
Both Chef Pedro and Sommelier/manager Eduardo Neto are extremely committed to showcasing local ingredients and wine, and are two of the most passionately devoted people I’ve ever met. It was very clear that it is their mission to introduce people to Portuguese cuisine done on a fine dining scale, and if you ever have the good fortune of being in the beautiful city of Porto, I highly recommend you pay them a visit. It’s a culinary journey through the best the country has to offer, created by one of the country’s most promising and talent young chefs.
We were very lucky to have had the experience and will remember our meal for years to come.
Do they serve wine and beer? Do you know the corkage?
Trying to figure out where to dine tonight but friend doesn't drink wine...he's ok wtih beer. I want to have wine but wasn't sure if they served it.
How's the atmosphere?
Also, is there anything new/good in the area ?
Looking for a good restaurant for me and a friend to go to Saturday night....must be close to the convention center. Looking for good ambience and good food, wine, cocktails. Would perfer to stay away from something too amusement-park-like. We won't have Disneyland tix so nothing inside the park, but I guess Downtown Disney is accessible.
Italian, tapas, siting at a nice bar and eating............all ideas that sound good.
need to get one today- where? Fruit tart, lemon tart, whatever.
Sorry, that I do not know. Hopefully!
Lil' Parlor Pizzeria, South Pasadena
I’ll be totally honest and say I’ve never been a fan of Steven Arroyo’s restaurants. I never “got” Cobras & Matadors after several trips there, and my two visits to his South Pasadena wine bar 750 ml never did it for me either. I haven’t heard a lot of positive things about his downtown place, Church and State, so I thought maybe it best for me to stay away from that one as well.
So why did I try Lil’ Parlor Pizzeria, the new pizzeria opened in the old 750 ml space by this very same restaurateur? There is no real thin-crust, wood-fired pizza in my neighborhood, and the 7 minute drive from my door to the South Pasadena restaurant made it easy to at least give the place a shot. Other than sushi, Italian is my favorite food on the planet; thin crust, lightly dressed pizzas are near the top of that list along with a pile of al dente parpadelle clinging to some sort of slowly braised ragu.
J, my friend Ikea (not his real name but it’s a nod to his Swedish heritage) and I strolled in at around 7:30 PM on Friday night. We were warmly greeted and I immediately noticed the giant leg of prosciutto that sat on the counter, ready for me to dive into. Ok, maybe it wasn’t waiting for me but it was a good sign that maybe, just maybe Steven and I have a future together (as restaurateur and customer, of course).
We sat down, placed our orders and the wine was quickly brought to the table. Although J’s glass was filled well to the middle with his white wine, my glass was filled less than a third. Ikea suggested I take a sip, look at the waiter and say “Mmm, good, I’ll take this one!” and then give the glass back as if I was simply given a taste and that I wanted more. Although the idea was appealing, I figured I’d just sit this one out and hope that my next glass was more half full than half empty.
Appetizers: J ordered the heirloom tomatoes w/ burrata, and although I thought it a bit late in the year for the tomatoes I didn’t say anything. I should have. Look, you can spread burrata on a rusty iron and it’d still be divine. But even the rich creamy heavenliness that is burrata couldn’t save the grainy, bland heirlooms. We left most of it untouched.
Ikea fared far better with his baked ricotta w/ peppernata, aged balsamic and olive oil. The slab of baked ricotta was extremely mild and could have used some salt, and although J dubbed it as “tofu,” Ikea seemed happy with his choice.
I ordered the charcuterie plate – a nice selection of salami and prosciutto plus some pepperoncinis, olives and cheese. Very good, nice portion and nice selection.
Now for the pizzas:
Ikea went for the “Old School,” a pizza topped with pepperoni, tomato sauce, mozzarella and oregano. He deemed it delicious and thoroughly enjoyed every bite.
J was the real winner here- his “The Woods” pizza looked so bare upon first glance that I was worried, but powerful flavors coming out of the fresh chanterelles, smoked onions, fontina and rosemary were unbelievable. We kept looking at it, then tasting it, just wondering how such minimal toppings could pack such a punch. Truly delicious. I’m craving one as I type this actually.
I, unfortunately, lost the pizza battle with my Margherita pie. The “roasted tomato sauce” was bland and as grainy (oddly!) as those heirlooms and there was barely a smidge of mozzarella. Yeah, I know, I said I liked minimal toppings but, in the words of Oliver Twist, “Please sir, may I have some more cheese?” (minus the cheese part). Luckily I had some of the prosciutto and these incredibly sweet peppers left from my charcuterie plate so I doctored it up and it was fine.
I have to say, even though it was a hit and miss, I’d definitely go back to Lil' Parlor Pizzeria. The crust is the key- it’s tasty, it’s perfectly thin, it’s beautifully crusty without being too hard and the yeasty flavor of good bread runs deep. As always, I’d take into consideration that the restaurant is still fine tuning since they’d been opened less than a week when we went. All things considered, the pies are good and that’s what I want- a good pizza place near my house. I hope the margherita gets a little better and they stop serving mealy tomatoes, but that mushroom pizza alone is worth making the seven minute drive for……….heck, it’s worth making an hour drive for. Oh, and my second glass of wine was indeed more of the "half-full" variety.
Lil' Parlor Pizzeria
Complete review with photos here:
I’d done a bit of research on restaurants before we left for our maiden voyage to Bogota and I had one place on the brian: Leo Cocina y Cava, a contemporary, Colombian-fusion restaurant owned and run by Leonor Espinosa- a groundbreaking female chef who has been a leader in ushering Colombia into the world of international fine dining. Although there were other restaurants that I’d heard good things about, I wanted to make sure to hit one high end restaurant that focused on Colombian food, not French or Italian, so I asked my new friend Carolina to make the reservations on our second night there.
A group of six of us sat down in the modern yet warm space and sipped on their signature cocktail (sorry- I can’t remember the name but it resembled a cosmopolitan) while perusing the extensive menu. There were multiple seafood offerings in addition to some lamb, beef and rice dishes, but I quickly decided on the Filete de Róbalo – a white fish (snook?) resembling grouper coated in a rich sauce and set on top of some black coconut rice and enclosed in a plantain leaf. I’d heard raves about the restaurant’s coconut rice so I wasn’t going to miss out.
I have to say that since Bogota was the first of three cities on our trip, I can't remember the actual names of each dish but will describe them the best I can. Sorry! Taking notes while taking photos and drinking lots of wine just doesn't work for me:).
We opted to order a few appetizers to share:
A whitefish ceviche that was absolutely perfect- just tart enough, the fish was tender and fresh.
Seafood empanadas: Crisp little discs filled with shredded seafood, these were one of my favorite appetizers.
Rabbit empanadas: need I say more? Crispy, tear-drop shaped dough filled with tender stewed rabbit.
Plate of mixed seafood. Whoa- this octopus was transcendent. Life-altering. It was so tender while still retaining a bite and we all scratched our heads in amazement wondering what cooking method the chef used.
Tartare with local avocado: Very good, although the local avocado is not as creamy as the Haas variety we're used to here in SoCal.
Now for the main courses. Although everyone had their own, we all reached across the table numerous times tasting each other's plates.
Mine: the aforementioned fish in plantain leaf. We declared this "the winner" of the night- the rich, slightly sweet sauce and tender fish was perfect with the black coconut rice. Not the best looking dish but the best tasting for sure!
The Carne Puyada - slow cooked beef over risotto.....I think the photo says it all.
Grilled prawns over cilantro risotto. The prawns were perfectly cooked but the real star was this risotto. It would never have occured to me to make a cilantro risotto (since I always use cilantro as a fresh, not cooked, garnish to dishes) but I'll have to get in my kitchen and try to re-create this. WOW.
Another prawn dish swimming in a succulent broth, displayed by my friend Manny who seems to think you need to present your dishes with a hand gesture.
Grilled, pepper-encrusted tuna. Fresh, delcious.
We polished it all off and sat there, quite satisfied, when the waiters started bring out desserts we hadn't ordered. Thinking it was a mistake, we tried to wave them away but they sat these right in front of us:
Miniature beignets filled with chocolate, served with Helado de kola Roman - an ice cream made from a popular pink cola. Yes, it really IS that pink. The ice cream has a heady, almost chemical-like flavor so you might love it if you're 8 but I wasn't too crazy about it.
Carrot cake with coconut ice cream- this was subtle and lovely.
Flan with crispy rice. Whoa. Not only was the flan creamy and rich but it sat on a bed of....cake? And was topped with crispy rice which I'd never think to do but went so well with all of the creamy elements. Note to self: top all flan with crispy rice!
So it turns out that the soux chef saw us from the kitchen and recognized Carolina, whom he used to work for at her family's old restaurant. Thus the dessert parade which followed our main courses. He came out to introduce himself to the rest of us and I was amused to see that his first name was Disney. Seems his parents were fans of Walt Disney and bestowed the last name onto their son as a first name. We chatted with him for a bit, told him how remarkable the food was, and he said that it was unfortunate he hadn't seen us earlier since he would have simply done a prix fixe of recommended dishes. He then said "Can you come tomorrow?" Hm, lemme think for a millisecond.....YES! So we all decided to return the next night, this time to experience Leo Cocina y Cava in the way that Chef Disney felt we should. Score!
The next night, our party of six turned into a party of nine (word spread fast among band and crew about our delicious eats from the night before) and we once again found ourselves in the cozy restaurant. First up? A bowl of Hormigas Culonas (big fried ants available only in the region known as Santander). Yup. Honestly, I had heard of these ants and expected to see little fried mini ants on a plate but the bowl of big, black balls totally threw me for a loop. It was a bowl of just the bottom third of the ant, and talk about big butts! I ate one and it was fine- crispy, tasted like protein......nothing gross yet nothing wonderful. Some of the guys had fun chomping away but I think once was enough for me. Glad I tried it though!
Right then, we spotted Leonor Espinosa walking around, inspecting every flower, every wine glass, making sure everything was operating smoothly. We stopped her to tell her how much we enjoyed her food, and she was very kind and even let us snap a photo with her. I was oddly starstruck and didn't say a whole lot but made sure to thank her for the delcious food!
Chef Disney started us off with sea snail ceviche drizzled with herb oil- it was so fresh, briny and the perfect way to start off our six course meal.
We had a few of the dishes we'd had the night before- prawns with the cilantro risotto, grilled langoustine, etc. Next up, we had a pile of tartare over which the waiter poured the richest, most succulent broth I'd ever had. It was slighly gamey and extremely savory.
The meat course was New Zeland baby rack of lamb cooked medium rare, piled on a knob of creamy mashed yucca and drizzled with au jus. It was divine.
We had several different desserts (including the flan which was asked for) and then had a chance to peek into the kitchen. It was quite small and I was amazed that the chefs could turn out so many dishes out of the tiny space.
We finished off the evening with an aperitif of Aguardiente, Colombia's national alcoholic beverage. It has a strong, anise flavor which I normally hate but somehow the sweetness and warmth of this liquor sat quite well with me. I'd definitely have it again.
So - two nights of mindboggling food with great people in a city I'd never been, plus a surprise visit from the famous chef and a peek into the kitchen- wow! It was a fantastic experience and I would recommend Leo Cocina y Cava to anyone visiting Bogota.
Leo, Cocina y Cava:Ubicado en Bogotá ( Calle 27 B No 6-75
Photos here: http://tokyoastrogirl.blogspot.com/20...
I rarely eat dinner out west of Los Feliz, which automatically leaves out many of this city’s best restaurants. I wish I felt more motivated to make the drive from my Eastside home, but my love of wine and non-love of a DUI pretty much keep me close to home. Call it lazy, call it lushy, call it whatever- it’s something that, as a food lover, I’m a little embarrassed to admit and I spend way too much time trying to find new restaurants to hit on the Eastside instead of driving the 10 extra miles to go anywhere beyond Silverlake.
Well, a visit to Tasca Wine Bar has changed all that- not only because I must return multiple times to that establishment, but also because it ignited the motivation to get off my butt and explore another area of town.
Tasca………..where do I begin? For frequent readers (all three of you) of this blog, my love of small plates and tapas is a familiar theme throughout Tuna Toast. I almost always prefer to share a few appetizers than to order one main plate of food for myself. I am on the constant lookout for fantastic hors d'œuvre or inventive mini foods on menus and have been constantly disappointed at the lack of anything resembling a tapas bar near my home. Vertical Wine Bistro is one of the few shining examples, but there’s only so many times one can go to the same place each week.
Ok, back to the review. Tasca Wine Bar is located on West 3rd street in the cluster of many beloved restaurants. We walked in and were immediately struck by the cozy atmosphere and friendly staff. There’s a long bar and the instant I laid eyes on it I knew I wanted to sit there instead of at a table. We took two seats at the near end of the bar and looked over the menu. Ah, the menu………..I couldn’t have written a more Tuna Toast Fantasy Menu myself. Lots of small plates dominated the menu and J and I spent quite a bit of time trying to narrow it down to a non-gluttonous number. Our friendly bartender poured us some prosecco, we finally put in our order and waited for the tapas parade to start as we munched on thinly sliced bread dipped in pungent olive tapenade.
We started with the ceviche, which came nestled on a bed of micro arugula and topped with a generous slice of avocado. J took one bite and immediately stated that he loved it. It was perfectly balanced and with just the right amount of acidity and not a hint of fishiness. It was mild, mellow and the perfect way to whet our appetites for the dishes to come.
Next came the Gambas Al Ajillo- sautéed shrimp in garlic sauce. Six large shrimp came swimming in a pink-hued sauce that just demanded bread to sop up all it’s delicious garlicness with. All I can say is that this dish should be on every tapas menu in the city. Savory, perfectly cooked and just mouthwateringly, bowl-lickin’ good.
Our next dish was courtesy of our bartender who, when I ordered the Croquettas de Pollo (chicken and bacon croquettes, romesco sauce), recommended that I get the Arancini (wild mushroom risotto fritters, truffled sauce) instead. She was so confident that we’d be blown away by the arancini that we obliged, and thank goodness we did. Two perfectly round, deep fried balls of risotto came out and they were heavenly. Light and creamy on the inside, they were what I had hoped my dense and unflavorful risotto balls I had made a couple weeks back would taste like. The only downside is that now I dream about them.
The Moules Frites were good, but we didn’t find them to be anything special. J wasn’t keen on the fries which he found to be not of the skinny, shoestring variety which often come with mussels. Being a fan of anything deep fried and salty, I munched on a few but wanted to save my room in my stomach for the next course.
We ordered one thing off of the specials menu- handmade gnocchi with a rabbit ragu as well as a couple glasses of red. The gnocchi were light and airy pillows of soft potato pasta- I just love homemade gnocchi and they are so much better than the store bought variety. The rabbit ragu suffered slightly from too much salt, but we polished off the entire plate anyway.
Wanting to end the meal on a sweet note, we had the chocolate mousse. Dense yet airy at the same time, the dark chocolate concoction caused J and I to once again display our gluttony as we pretty much scraped every last bit of it from the glass. The tawny port J ordered was a nice compliment to the bittersweet dessert.
So here I am, writing about this a few days later and I feel a tinge of heartbreak that such a restaurant doesn’t exist near my house. Don’t get me wrong- Tasca will be visited again and again by yours truly- but I live between two areas (Eagle Rock and Pasadena) that need a place like this. I’ve pretty much given up on Old Town with its chain restaurants and yogurt shops, but maybe Eagle Rock could be the birthplace of a truly good tapas and wine bar? I hear rumblings of something in Echo Park so there’s hope, but I would love nothing more than to see a few more of these kinds of places pop up on the Eastside.
Speaking of tapas- I am leaving for my very first trip to South America in a week. We will be in Bogota, Buenos Aires and Santiago. If anyone has recommendations – tapas bars specifically—I’d love to hear them!
Tasca Wine Bar
I couldn't agree more. Being a small plates/appy/hors d'œuvre person meself, I feel the love. Here are my faves, in no particular order:
Pizzeria Mozza: Chicken livers, capers, parsley & guanciale bruschette
Osteria Mozza: Grilled octopus w/ celery leaves. Tender and refreshing.
Parkway Grill: Cocoa crepe w/ sauteed lobster, lobster cream
Vertical Wine Bistro: Mini grilled cheese sandwiches w/ radicchio, walnuts & honey
Tasca Wine Bar: Arancini- wild mushroom risotto fritters, truffled sauce
Z Sushi in Alhambra: Japanese style fried calamari w/ spicy mayo- SO good.
Cube, Hollywood: Their selection of cheeses/meats always good, as is the black truffle pizza which I guess isn't an appie but could be if you shared. To. Die. For.
Terroni: The charcuterie & cheese platter here is also perfect
Ford's Filling Station: White shrimp, rosemary flatbread w/ micro arugula and white bean hummus.
Damn. Now I'm hungry!
I like Hatfield's tasting menu and cozy atmosphere- just make sure you ask for a table inside. Everything is fresh and seasonal.
The no cash policy was pretty irritating....I bought some of the fresh guacamole which was good but needed one major thing- SALT! Also had a mini fried burrito which was bleh and I should have known better. Friend had the Brazilian chicken plate which I tried and thought was quite good. The music was good but I'm biased so won't get into it. Overall, I thought the festival was just ok.
Thanks for the rec. Went to Tokyo Table and had a great time. So many of the items on the menu were so nostalgic for me.....I used to order mochi cheese gratin in Tokyo all the time! The hamachi carpaccio was insanely good, they do a very good version of the crispy rice/spicy tuna and their karaage was very good. And oh......the honey toast. Man....I don't think I ever had it even when I'd see the plastic versions in the display cases of many restaurants in Japan. I don't know why I waited so long. Thick, Japanese toast that I LOVE on it's own, melted butter, a scoop of vanilla ice cream all drizzled with honey? Heavenly.
Having dinner with out-of-town friends Sunday night- they have two children, about 5 and 8 years old, both world travelers so we're not talking Dennys or Chuck E Cheese. Everyone is interested in either Japanese or Mexican as they are visiting Los Angeles from Canada. They are staying near The Grove so I'm sure they will have plenty of opps to eat in the Grove- so NON-Grove recs would be nice. Think nicer than a Pasta Pomodoro but not AOC.
Oh- you're right- I completely forgot about Daisy Mint. The food is consistently fresh and delicious...the beef salad is one of my favorites as is the steamed fish w/ fresh ginger. I also really like Siena but again- you're totally right about the service. I hope they get that side of the business together because Pasadena needs a place like that. I didn't mean to offent Boardknot- my "get the hint" was my lame attempt at humor. Gourmet bar food at Mike and Anne's would motivate me to go there once a week. Little Flower Co has amazing sandwiches- you'd never guess it but her pulled pork is awesome.
The only one I can't get on board with is Fattys.....after several experiences of downright rude service and flippant attitude, I haven't been back. It seems to be a common experience with other posters. Has it changed management? How's the service? What's your favorite thing to order? I love the space and it's nice they have a wine list but I'm almost afraid to go back.
I've always wondered about a few places that I just haven't gotten around to visiting and was hoping you could fill me in:
Eagle Rock- Ernie Jr's Taco House across from the Eagle Rock shopping center. What's the story with this place? It looks huge from the outside, kind of like it used to be a Denny's....and has been there ever since I moved into the area eight years ago. Anyone ever been?
Mia Sushi- went only once when it first opened and thought it was a bit on the expensive side. I guess I'm a sushi snob- only in that I want the fish to be fresh, the rice to be on the smaller side and the selection to have some variety. Anyone love it?
Auntie Em's for brunch- again, went once ages ago and felt it just served up fairly plain food. I have tried the cupcakes and yes, they are good, but what about the breakfast or brunch offerings? Any faves?
Far Niente in Glendale....was always curious about this spot. Is it authentic Italian?
I agree with the others- "cool" just isn't a word used to describe 99% of Pasadena's restaurants these days. It's unfortunate but true. Vertical is great- the small plates are easy to share and it's extremely consistent on both food and service. I also like Green Street Tavern and sit at the bar, order a few appetizers and chat with the bartender. Everytime I go in there it seems to have one obnoxiously loud party, but otherwise it's been good.
South Pas-wise, Firefly just doesn't cut it, but Briganti is good Italian, cute patio area. Mike & Anne's is also quite good but I wish they would create a bar or tapas menu for their newly opened bar area. I keep asking if they have a bar menu and they always answer no....so I keep asking hoping they will GET THE HINT ALREADY. Jeez. 750 ml in my two visits has been bad for me but others say it's greatly improved so I'd give it another go. E Rock-wise....still not much in terms of evening dining that would fit the bill.
Hope this helps!
And not of the chicken wings/onion ring variety. I know I know- I'm looking for wine bar food at a place that also serves the hard stuff! You see, I like wine bar food but friend needs cocktails (and sho-ju doesn't count!). Pasadena (uh, good luck right?!), Eagle Rock, Silverlake, Los Feliz, Glendale, Highland Park..........
Thank you everyone- 26 Beach sounds good.
So no comments on Figtree??
Looking to grab a bite in or around Venice on Saturday........any opinions on Figtree Cafe? Would like to go somewhere GOOD that has some healthy options. I think Joe's is only open Sundays for brunch. Anywhere around Venice, Santa Monica, Culver City would be great.
Need to pick a place for special occasion, but after searching these boards, I'm more confused than ever! What's the consensus on the Spago tasting menu? Anyone experienced it recently? We've already done the Providence one so would like to try something different. Should have good wine pairing as well, nothing in a "clubby" atmosphere (read: Apple).
Looking forward to your detailed recs!!
OK- I didn't see any of these in time and we decided to go anyway. I gotta say......it still stinks. To be fair, I didn't order any of the things you listed above, but at this point I don't know if I can go again. First of all, when we asked what the cheeses were (menu only says cheese selection) the waitress rattled off about five French-sounding cheeses, giving zero description and assuming everyone would know what those are. I'm not Julia Child but I think I'm pretty well versed in the world of cheeses, at least more than the average Jacques, but I hadn't heard of a single one. When my sister and I stared back at her, waiting for more info, she just looked at us blankly as if to say "so, which one do you want?" We asked her for descriptions and she couldn't really give us any. It just came across as being so pretentious.
We opted out of the cheeses and ordered, to share, one smoked squab salad, the smoked trout with beets and the chicken liver mousse w/ port and grilled bread. I'd say about 2 ounces of squab came on a mini pile of undressed frisee and was pretty undercooked. I like meat rare but the undoness made it chewy, although the flavor was good. The smoked trout looked and had the texture of mealy canned tuna and after one bite, I couldn't take another- it was so off putting. The chicken liver mousse was just alright- too sweet and had an odd, blue-cheesy flavor to it so we left that too. I'll just chalk that one up to a difference in preference- I like my chicken liver mousse to be more savory.
I saw that most patrons had ordered entrees (where we chose to share a few appetizers) and they did look good, but after two visits and almost inedible meals, I'll just have to cross 750 ml off my list.
I WANT to like it but I guess I just have to say, I'm just not that into you, 750 ml.
I couldn't bear to give it a second chance after our diasterous first visit soon after it opened, but I sooo want to like the place and I hear they have a new chef, lower prices and a new, more wine-friendly menu. Is this true? Any accounts of the new and improved 750 ml?
That's the one!! I see that the chef has shaved his head since those other photos were taken, but that's Picchu for certain.
Photos here: http://tokyoastrogirl.blogspot.com/20...
I am back from my Japan trip, and it was a trip, to say the least. I’ll leave out the gory details but J ended up with a badly twisted ankle on the second day of our vacation; I decided to sprain my foot a few days after. Toss in a visit with the police (did not involve me personally but I had to play interpreter at 5:00 AM) and an earthquake which scared the living daylights out of me (I was in my high rise hotel room) and you’ve pretty much figured out that this wasn’t exactly the trip of a lifetime. However, a wacky Japan experience is better than no Japan experience, so I’ll spend the next couple of posts relaying the highlights of our trip.
One our very first day in Sapporo, we strolled around Nijo Market, famous for their bounty of locally caught seafood. We gawked over some of the biggest crabs I’d ever seen, piles of whole salmon and an array of a conch-like shellfish stuck to sides of large tanks. Almost all of the shops had lots of other local specialties like dried squid with squid ink, crab miso and even canned seal (please do not write me emails about this- I am simply making an observation!). One of the fish mongers offered to crack open a live uni (sea urchin) for us to eat and I was giddy since I’d always seen this on TV but had never tasted fresh-from-the-shell uni before. O M G- it was fresh, slightly briny and totally rich and J loved it as much as I did.
As we were walking around, J spied a teeny tiny restaurant with a sign that read “Picchu.” We peered inside to see that, at 2:00 PM, it was closed but gathered from the display of good olive oils and balsamic vinegars on the counter that it was an Italian restaurant. There was something so compelling about the bar-only restaurant that, even though it was our first day in Japan, we tossed our plans to eat sushi aside and vowed to come back for dinner.
On the way back to the hotel I picked up a few interesting food items to bring back to my friends. Sapporo is known for their food, particularly seafood, dairy, corn, ramen and potatoes. Each little shop carried the most unusual snacks showcasing these famous foods and I couldn’t resist. I bought four different flavors of caramels- corn, milk, potato and shio-ramen and decided that the corn and milk work, the other two definitely do not.
We returned to Picchu at around 7:00 PM and found the 10-seater bar half full. Since the space was so small, it was quite warm but once we opened an additional window it was quite comfortable. There was one lone chef- I’d say mid-30’s- working behind the bar in plain sight of all the customers. One very capable and polite waiter was the only other employee so he doubled as a dish washer as well between orders. We spied the specials written on a chalk board but since my Japanese reading ability is mediocre at best, we simply asked the chef to give us a tasting menu of what he recommended that highlighted the local ingredients. J went over the extremely reasonably-priced wine list and selected a bottle of Prosecco to start, then a half bottle of a red from Montepulciano.
The chef worked very steadily but calmly, and in no time we were both handed a plate with a small fish that the chef described as a tiny salmon. It was in a light broth and slightly grilled, very tender and extremely delicious. Topped with a thin slice of marinated konbu (seaweed) and a dollop of caper relish, it was the perfect compliment to our sparking wine. J and I knew at that point we were in for a treat.
The next course was a piece of homemade crab sausage made almost entirely of pure crabmeat. It, too, was lightly grilled and placed in a reduction so tasty that I almost picked up the bowl and drank every last drop. It was just so pure and beautiful in it’s simplicity and we both knew the chef was there to showcase the ingredient, which is did better than anyone I’d seen do in a long time.
I was very happy when a plate of spaghetti was the next course, since I’d been hoping for some pasta. The noodles were tossed with some good olive oil, salt & pepper and was peppered with chunks of local conch and edamame. The slight crunch of the conch came through and was mellowed by the sweet soy beans.
What came next was another dish I’d seen here and there but never eaten- uni risotto. You can only imagine how good his version, using the best local uni, tasted and I wanted to make sure to savor every last bite. This was a “wow” dish, and once again it was simple, beautiful and not overly rich.
The first of two main courses was a braised lamb, wrapped in caul fat and perched on a bed of dark green mashed local potatoes. Tender doesn’t even describe the softness of this meat that still somehow retained its meatiness. The basil-infused mashed potatoes were so fresh with herb flavor that I only wished I had more. I know, I’m gushing at this point but every single bite of every single plate to this point was so profound that we just sat there and ate in silence. I can still taste the basil in those potatoes they were so prominent yet completely melted with the flavor of the lamb.
Think it doesn’t get any better? Feast your eyes on this plate of local wagyu beef sitting in a garlic and potato puree and topped with watercress. Yes, it was as good as it looks if not even better and we both agreed that this was the absolute best thing of a fantastic meal. It was juicy and tender and everything I’d hoped real wagyu beef would taste like.
At this point one word kept popping into my head that explained clearly what this chef was all about- he was an expert in restraint. Nothing was over-sauced, over-garnished, over-thought or over-produced. It wasn’t even over-plated……..the places in which he held back made each dish perfect. Talk about an exact opposite experience of the one I had at Tojo’s in Vancouver. This chef was quiet in his perfection but modestly so- he wasn’t standoffish and answered questions we had but focused on the food and let it speak for itself. I mean, isn’t this what every food loving person in the world HOPES and dreams they will experience? The fact that we stumbled upon this nondescript place that ended up being one of the best meals we’d ever eaten made it even better. I mean, who would have known that such a small restaurant in the back alley of a fish market would be the location of what was most definitely one of the more profound dining experiences of my life eating Italian food in Sapporo?? Mind boggling, isn’t it? When I asked the chef if he’d been to Italy, he answered “No….but hopefully one day I will get the chance.” I swear it made me want to run to the local travel agent and buy the guy a ticket- I mean, if he is THIS good already could you image the insanity he would create after his maiden voyage to the country to which he pays such wonderful tribute to through his cooking?
The cost of this near-perfect, six course meal? A mere 5000 yen each for food. That's just under $50 each. It's almost a crime to eat all of the above and pay just that, don't you think?
There isn’t a shred of this restaurant on Google or anywhere online that I could find, and I don’t have the business card on me but once J gets back from his tour I’ll post the address.
Photos here: http://tokyoastrogirl.blogspot.com/20...
I adore Anthony Bourdain. I’ve been a longtime fan of his, from Cook’s Tour to No Reservations to his frequent appearances as a guest judge on Top Chef. The guy is smart, insightful, bold and, most of all, honest. He’s given me some of the best television moments I have ever witnessed- I practically cried at his personal joy at going back to his childhood home in France with his brother, and couldn’t believe it when he spent hours in a stinky, sweltering bat-poo-filled cave in Jamaica. I love that he loves Japan and have watched his Osaka episode of No Reservations 10 times. The look of sheer ecstasy he had on his face after eating at Koyoshi Sushi is one of the main reasons I plan to hit the sushi bar next week when I’m in Japan.
So, imagine my surprise when I unintentionally found myself living out Bourdain’s Vancouver No Reservations episode. I went last week to catch a few off days with J who is on the road, and I didn’t have my normal list of restaurants handy since we weren’t going to be there long and I wanted to be spontaneous. After checking into the hotel, we decided to take a walk and what should appear right in front of the entrance but the infamous “Japa Dog” cart that was on the Vancouver episode?! Nari, one of Bourdain’s producers, had introduced him to this wonderful world of Japanese-style hotdogs that drew long lines daily. It looked the same, the food smelled terrific and, just like Nari said, there were people lined up at all times of the two days we were there.
Japa Dog offers several kinds of Japanese-style dogs. First, you can choose what kind of dog you want, and in addition to your normal beef dogs they have tofu, turkey and even kurobuta (black hog) dogs. Toppings include nori (dried seaweed), wasabi mayo, teriyaki sauce, daikon and other “perkily perfect” options. We ordered one “miso mayo” dog which is a turkey dog topped with daikon sprouts, miso-sesame sauce, Japanese mayo and miso. Like Bourdain, we loved it and only wished we had ordered one each instead of sharing one.
For dinner, J got tied up with work so my friend Jesse and I decided to go to dinner. He had his heart set on a place called Tojo’s which I hadn’t ever heard of (or so I thought) so I did a little googling and the comments I found were not positive. People across the board made comments about how it was a rip off, not worth the price, good but insanely expensive, etc etc. One commenter in particular was livid and (referring to the restaurant's website which features a photo of Tojo laughing), "See Tojo laughing on the webpage? He's laughing at YOU." So I was worried, mentioned this to Jesse but he had tried Tojo’s food which was catered in the past at some event and had loved it. So I called the restaurant, asked if there was room at the sushi bar and was told yes, come in, but that the bar is omakase (chef’s choice) only. When I asked for a ballpark price, it was much higher than I’m used to spending, but we decided we’d go for it anyway.
We arrived to a half-empty restaurant at 8:00 PM on a Saturday night. The host was friendly and lively, expressed his surprise at my Japanese (it seems a lot of people don’t see any Japanese in me, even though I am half) and took us straight to the bar where we were greeted by a smiley sushi chef who looked very familiar. He welcomed us, and as he was speaking I kept trying to put my finger on where or when I’d seen this person. After another five minutes or so, it came to me- this was Tojo, owner and chef and Bourdain’s good friend who also appeared on the same No Reservations episode as Japa Dog! In fact, Bourdain probably sat in the exact seat that I was in, and once I realized and recalled the fabulous food he’d been served, I was excited to be there.
Tojo started off by telling us that he would prepare us food we’ve never had before- amazing, different things that would surprise us. “Bring it on!” we thought, as we ordered some cold sake and settled into our seats. First up- chunks of tuna dressed with a ponzu sauce swimming in grated yamaimo (mountain potato) and topped with fresh uni. Delicious, fresh, subtle. Similar to dishes I’ve had but a fantastic version. The next dish would definitely count as something neither Jesse nor I had ever experienced before- morel mushrooms that size of golf balls, stuffed with a mixture of shrimp and scallops, flash fried and topped with a sauce. First of all, I’d never seen morels so large in my life- the ones here, if and when you can get fresh ones, are tiny in comparison. They were slightly crispy on the outside and the tender filling was the perfect foil.
Things just got better with a bowl of barely-cooked, thinly sliced octopus. Minus one suction cup at the very top, the slices were smooth and clean so it was hard to tell that it was octopus at all. Each piece was super tender and lightly dressed so the flavor of the seafood really came through. We were pretty happy at this point, but oddly getting kind of full.
Here’s where things started to go downhill, at least for me. No, the quality of the food didn’t fade (save for one soy-paper roll that was just inedibly soggy- we left it). Our sushi was all fresh, the toro was the best I’d ever had, the sweet shrimp succulent and tender. The problem was Tojo. Smiling, beaming Tojo. What could I possibly have against this sushi master? Here it is- his constant banter about what a sushi master he truly is. Between each course he couldn’t help but mention how people travel from far and wide to eat his food. Oh yes, he was on “No Reservations” of course. Isn’t this the best (fill in the blank) you’ve ever eaten? “Tojo’s food is the best! Tojo creates dishes like no other!” Look- I can appreciate when people have pride in their work, but this was too much. I started to feel obligated to give some over-the-top reaction and roll my eyes back in ecstasy every time I took a bite of something.
The real bummer came with this story that he not only told in detail but actually kind of acted out. He told us about one of his regular customers who was recently diagnosed with cancer. The customer called Tojo and said he wanted to eat his last meal at Tojo’s, so of course Tojo complied. Tojo then looks at me and Jesse, pretends to be this dying guy and motions with his hand like he’s picking up a piece of sushi, slowly brings it to his lips, puts this pretend sushi in his mouth, closes his eyes, sighs, then says “I can now die a happy man.” He then followed with “A LOT of people want to eat their last meal at Tojo’s.”
For the love of God, if someone is THAT good at what they do, is there any need to constantly run around telling everyone? It didn’t bother Jesse as much, but being Japanese I was stunned to witness such bravado from a fellow countryman. The melodramatic reenactment of this man’s last meal was enough to make that one meal at Tojo’s MY last meal there as well. I mean, what would Bourdain say? I guess I’d like to hope that he have a sarcastic comment up his sleeve for this sort of behavior but then again he’d probably tell a no name blogger (aka ME) that everyone has their quirks and the guy can cook so who cares?
For the record, the meal was the most expensive I’ve ever had at any restaurant- sushi or otherwise- other than Urasawa. No joke. Yes, the food was good, but certainly not worth the price. Nor the commentary.
Japa Dog Stand
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Photos here: http://tokyoastrogirl.blogspot.com/20...
Having planned my Mexico City trip in advance, I’d made reservations at Izote de Patricia Quintana for our first night in the city. I’d read a lot about this restaurant whose chef has helped put Mexico City on the gourmet map by drawing heavily on indigenous ingredients and was very excited to try it. The restaurant was very colorful and was filled with fashionable men and women- it is located in Polcano, which many call the “Beverly Hills” of Mexico City. We ordered drinks (tequila for my friend, a dark beer for J, margarita for me and “Coke Light” for my friend LS who doesn’t drink) and looked over the English menu. There were so many interesting options that it was difficult to make a choice, but after consulting each other on what we were getting (to make sure there were no duplicates!) we ordered our food.
We were given a basket of large, crispy tortillas made with blue corn and a trio of salsas. All were very tasty, with the salsa verde being everyone’s favorite. They were the perfect accompaniment to our drinks- my margarita was perfectly tart and strong, while JI’s tequila shot came with a second shot glass filled with a savory, spicy tomato juice. It was so delicious I would have drank it as a soup had it been served to me in a bowl. I also loved that the waiters would bring your glass to the table and then fill it up with the tequila of your choice. Ditto if you ordered a tequila and tonic- they would pour the tequila into your large glass until you said to stop, then top it off with the tonic. I’m not really sure if they would keep pouring if you just sat there until the tequila filled your glass but I imagine they would.
We had decided to share a couple of appetizers to whet our appetites. The shredded venison with achiote and picked onions was my favorite- it had a very chewy texture that was strange at first, then became addictive….each rope-like piece was so flavorful and, when rolled in warm, handmade corn tortillas, was pretty much all you needed with any cocktail. The four small tamales were also good but so tiny that it was really a challenge to split them all up between the four of us. Since they were each a different flavor we wanted to try them all, and the one with huitlacoche (black corn mold) was definitely the winner. It was slightly pungent in the way a truffle is and added a nice contrast to the slightly sweet masa surrounding it.
After those plates were cleared, our main courses arrived and so many different scents wafted through the air I could hardly wait to dig in. J had a beautiful fresh chile stuffed with sweet, tender chunks of salmon ceviche. It wasn’t tart like most ceviches but just slightly tangy and mellow- I definitely tasted pineapple juice in there somewhere- and was so perfectly cooked in the acid. JI’s chile and cinnamon rubbed steak was so flavorful and aromatic- it’s something I’d love to try at home- and we noticed that a lot of people had ordered it as well. L ordered the rib eye with an apple and sweet potato puree which was less sweet than you may think and a wonderful match to his juicy steak. I went with the lobster enchiladas with pumpkinseed sauce which, quite honestly, was the best I’d ever had. The pumpkinseed sauce was sweet and creamy at first bite, but that sweetness slowly evolved into a mellow yet fiery heat in the back of my throat. It was so deep in flavor and, had I used a few pieces of bread to sop up the sauce after I’d eaten the enchiladas.
Being vacation and all, we had to order dessert (of course) and the four we chose were all very impressive. J went with a trio of sorbets- the guava being the best one- which came with a Florentine made with pumpkin seeds. L had to go with the chocolate box with chocolate truffles, blackberries, raspberries, and a vanilla custard sauce which we all pretty much dug into once we saw the creamy custard literally spilling out of what looked like a paper bag made of chocolate. Talk about over the top! JI’s crepes filled with a hazelnut chocolate filling and a vanilla custard sauce were voted our favorite, and my crème brûlée of mamey (a melon that looks kind of like a mango and I saw everywhere at the Mercado) had a golden, crispy topping and hid a pile of warm berries at the bottom of the dish. I took a couple of bites and couldn’t eat anymore but the rest of the table ended up making a pretty big dent in it.
We rolled ourselves out of Izote with full bellies and big smiles. I saw Patricia Quintana wandering around the dining room but was too shy to say anything to her. I think it’s cool that a female chef is making such an impact on the culinary world, and we certainly enjoyed her unique creations.
Izote de Patricia Quintana
Get the halibut. Just get it. Yes, the lamb chops are tender and juicy, yes the steak frites is excellent. But just Get The Halibut. You can have the lamb next time. The halibut is one of the more perfect dishes in the universe. And don't forget to get a bit of the candied orange peel in every bite. I know, sounds like it may not be your cup of tea but this is everyone's cup of tea. Just trust me.