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I hope you never lose your sense of wonder, get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger…..

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I do my best to give places a chance to fix problems and make improvements, especially when a restaurant is going through growing pains with new management and a new chef. I have known Bob for over three decades, so when he took over at Crossroads BBQ / Bubba Diego’s in June, I went in for an early taste, gave him my feedback, and waited for his new chef Kelly to revamp the menu.

The improvements have been amazing (and yes, I am as harsh of a critic towards my friends as I am towards strangers, just ask Bob about the pie crust I would not eat because it was undercooked). Kelly has Southern roots, and it shows with her light and deft hand at everything from the marvelous fried catfish sandwich to her crab cakes, served here with a side of black beans and collard greens. Both the sides were classic versions done old school style and the crab cakes were full of crab, not filler, nicely livened up with some chopped red peppers and onions.

When some of my friends see chicken fried steak on the menu, they begin to salivate, but it is not high on my list of favorites, so when Robin insisted that I taste this dish I was shocked at how much I liked it! The chicken fried steak is double battered with a second coating of panko to give it a lighter crisp texture, and the steak is not overdone. The haricots verts and sausage gravy elevated this dish beyond diner food to fine dining in disguise.

Will wanted to try all three kinds of ribs (Baby back, Kansas style, and Beef) so he got a sampler with both sweet and hot BBQ sauce on the side. Since Will is a Cordon Bleu graduate, his pronouncement that the ribs had perfect smokiness and tenderness was noteworthy. I tried the Kansas style and loved the flavor and consistency.

We packed up about half our meals to go so we could try dessert. On an earlier visit I tried the mudpie but was not as impressed as my friend who loved it, so we went for three different desserts this time. Robin ordered the lava cake and found although the basic cake was good, it was not spectacular; if you love chocolate you will probably love this cake, but there are better versions elsewhere.

I ordered the apple tarte and I realized after a bite that I may just have bad luck with desserts. Although the flavors were fine and the ice cream was perfect, my tarte was cold, straight out of the refrigerator cold. I wish I could have tasted it warm or at least room temperature.

Will’s creme brulee was the dessert winner with a smooth vanilla bean taste that would have satisfied the pickiest of sweet tooths. The only improvement would have been a bit more brulee crust.

All of this food with two soft drinks was under $80 for three of us, a great deal for very good food. They have a happy hour at the bar where all the appetizers are half price, so even if you order all ten appetizers (I recommend the hot wings and the fried okra) your bills would be only $50 and you would be stuffed!

Go in and tell Bob that Elaine sent you in to annoy him (and since you’re there, go ahead and order some of Kelly’s food:)

IMPORTANT NOTE: I just learned that the owners let Bob go after four months in which time he hired and trained the staff, revised the menu, and started promoting the restaurant on social networks. I would NOT recommend that you support this place with your business in light of how they do business with their employees.

Crossroads BBQ on Urbanspoon

As I promised last week, here is another post for Bottega Louie with more of their delectable dishes and desserts. This time I went at 10:55pm instead of am, literally five minutes before they close, and I am happy to report that they are as gracious with late night guests as they are with the morning crowds. Most of the pastries and all of the breads were already put away or sold out by they time we got there, but the dining room was full of late night diners and we never felt rushed to eat and leave. Dani had a glass of the the Coppola Riesling for $10, and I had a glass of the Ravenswood Zinfandel for $8. They serve their wine in a smaller “pour” for half the price of a glass so you can have a different wine with each course, so you are free to literally match each dish with a wine.

Having just arrived from the East Coast, Dani wanted something light to eat, so she ordered the poached egg on perfectly cooked asparagus that was served with a balsamic that must have been at least 8 years old, for $10, this was a steal.

We also ordered the Diver Scallops for $12 which were served on a bed of lentils. I am allergic, so I did not taste this dish, but my friends said they had a perfect sear and retained their moist interior.

Since everyone loved greens, we got a side of sauteed spinach which was a fresh and fragrant as this picture looks. They do one of the best spinach sautees I’ve had in many months here for $8.

With all the light fare, we had room for dessert, so we chose the butterscotch budino, a creamy sweet rendition with a miraculously lighter bottom layer than top!

The beignets were the best I have EVER eaten. Yes, I include those at Cafe Du Monde in that statement. These are lighter, fluffier, and home made (not from a mix). Heaven on a plate. the raspberry sauce was tart and freshly made, so it was a perfect compliment to the rich fried dessert. I would go back just for the beignets any time, day or night. Who wants to join me?

Bottega Louie on Urbanspoon

Fellow food lover Phil now works downtown so he told me about Bottega Louie a few weeks ago, saying that it has become his go to place. As fate would have it, my friend Realtor Georgia Seid, wanted to meet for lunch downtown, so today I combined both a place I wanted to try with a friend I wanted to see and got a fantastic afternoon of food and friendship.

The beautiful jewel box pastry shop and cafe sparkles like a precious stone in the middle of the salt mines of downtown Los Angeles. There is reasonable parking just 1 block away for only a $6-$7 flat rate, and Metro and bus stations surround the place if you want to use public transportation.

Depending on which entrance you use, you will be greeted with either an array of freshly baked breads or lovely macaroons displayed as beautifully as they would be in Europe.

They will make a gift box of macaroons in any size you wish.

Since the kitchen is open and the selections were plentiful, we wanted to sample several of the small plates instead of a pizza or full plate. We watched nearby tables devour the pasta dishes, pizzas and soups, so no matter what your preference, there is something on the menu for your mood.

They don’t take reservations, so get here early or late if you don’t like waiting for a seat. Once you are seated, they offer complimentary flat or sparkling water and tables have pink salt as a condiment!

The bread was so good that I bought a loaf to take home.

To get as many tastes as possible, we chose three small plates. We chose the roasted beet terrine for $10 which was a lovely generous serving on watercress with fresh burrata. If you love fresh flavors and or beets, this is a definite must order plate. The beets in the terrine were finely chopped, but there were small quartered golden and red beet accents. The crisp fennel and peppery watercress added nice textual elements and the dressing was light enough to allow the natural flavors to come through.

We also chose the the brussel sprouts with pistachios for $8 and found it a complimentary side for our third small plate.

Our “main” small plate was the sausage and beans for $12. It was a hearty plate of fennel sausage that served as a lively counterpoint to the smooth and tender beans. This was a very filling dish and my favorite of all our small plates.

Our three small plates were plenty for two of us at lunch, so we had no room for dessert. Georgia took some pastries home to her husband so he could feel as if he had lunched with us. My heart fluttered a bit when I saw the exquisite pastries, and even though I am usually not a big dessert person, if I were going to indulge, I would do it here.

I will definitely be back for more tastes here, so my next post may be a part 2 to this post…..in the meantime I will leave you with a tempting taste for your eyes 🙂

I was early for my appointment with Akiko at Taka Hair Salon on Sawtelle, so I went across the street to try the newly open Tsujita for their famous Tonkostu Ramen. Since this location is the first US outpost of an international restaurant, either go early or be prepared to wait at least 30 minutes for a seat. Note that they are a cash only restaurant, so make sure that you stop by your local ATM before coming for lunch.

Comparing Tsujita’s Tonkotsu Ramen is to instant ramen is like comparing tap water to Champagne, about the only thing they have is common is that they are both liquids. Let’s start with a few definitions for those who only know the prepackaged supermarket soup. Tsukemen is served with the noodles in a separate bowl from the very rich broth. You eat it by dipping about a third of the noodles into the broth and then adding a squeeze of lime and or condiments to the broth and dipping the rest of the noodles. The flavors change as you eat, so that your taste buds get to experience a variation on one dish. Some of the condiments available are hot leaf mustard, red pickled ginger, sauce, and sesame seeds.

If all this sounds too complicated, you can also order Tonkotsu Ramen, which has the flavors blended together in one bowl, which is what I did. The broth for both soups is cooked for 60 hours, so no matter which way you prefer your soup, the luscious reason for coming here will be in your bowl.

The menu is very simple, you only have four choices, plain ramen, which has 2 slices of Char siu pork, Negi ramen, with spring onions, a version with egg, or what I ordered, the Char siu ramen with about 10 pieces of slices car siu pork for $13.95. The tonkotsu ramen are the thin variety, so you can specify how you like your noodles cooked when you place your order (they will come medium if you do not specify).

This bowl was a melody of flavors, the intense broth, the fresh green onions, the crunchy wood ear mushrooms, the roasted seaweed, and the silky pork belly slices, all performed like an orchestra of virtuoso musicians. Every ingredient complimented the others, so you could enjoy all the single notes or simply enjoy the concert.

Bravo, encore!

Monday may be the start of the work week for many, but it is also one of the days off for most people who work in restaurants, clubs, hair salons, and spas. Whether it is the start of your work week or your days off, there are some good deals if you want to go out on Monday night.

Delphine has Raw Bar Mondays from 5pm-10:30pm with deals like $1 oysters and shrimp or $2 clams and mussels. An eatery in Hollywood would not just entice you with food and not offer drink specials, so you can get a glass of either sparkling Rose or Pinot Grigio for $5 a glass. With prices like this, your parking may cost more than what you eat and drink.

Chaya has an “Industry” after hours deal that begins at 10pm and goes until 1am the first Monday of every month, with $3 small plates and $5 drinks.

You could start the afternoon at Delphine and end the night at Chaya. Mondays may become your favorite night of the week!

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