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There are a few general rules to follow when trying to trying to decide if a place will be good:

1) Is there a line when nearby places have none?

2) If it is an ethnic cuisine, are there people of that ethnicity eating there?

3) Has a friend with a discerning palate eaten there and liked it?

Mama Lu’s answered all these questions yes, but aside from one dish out of four, I can not say it was good.

They are known for their dumplings, so we ordered some to test out their signature dish. They were surprisingly bland with a heavily cilantro based filling and even with some doctoring with tableside black vinegar and chili oil, the three of us only ate one and left the rest.

I am still on my quest for great beef chow fun. The presentation made me hopeful, because it was not greasy, but once again it required doctoring with several of the tableside condiments to flavor these noodles. Again we left half food on the plate.

The clear winner of the evening were the pea sprouts sautéed in garlic, which we all loved and which needed no doctoring of any kind! This was the only plate we finished completely.

The clear loser of the evening were the clams in black bean sauce which were cloyingly sweet and which none of us wanted to eat after a few bites. We were amazed at how full the restaurant was and how disappointing the dishes were, especially since two of my friends had eaten there before and enjoyed their previous meal. It may have been a change of chefs that night, but I am not keen to venture for another try with their poor batting average on flavors.

A better choice for Chinese is Phoenix Food Boutique, a small outpost of a small chain, catering mostly to take out customers. Their $7.95 shrimp and pork wonton noodle soup was a hearty bowl with wonderful wontons and fresh bok choy. I found the soup itself lacking in depth of flavor, but the ingredients were tender and tasty enough to merit ordering this bowl.

The $8.50 beef chow fun was big enough for 2 people, and chock full of tender slices of beef, crunchy bean sprouts, and tender spring onions. If it were less greasy, this would have been perfect!

Seoul Sausage has been one of my favorite spots ever since they opened a brick and mortar shop near Sawtelle. I’ve been to their Little Tokyo location before, but this time I brought friends for Happy Hour. Since my friends are adept beer drinkers, our wonderful waiter provided us with tastes of several before we placed our order. We shared the Sausage Party platter and all agreed that the sweet and spicy chicken and the kalbi pork were our favorites,

so we followed up with two full sized sausages of both.

One of my friends ordered the Da Rapokki, pork belly spicy ramen, but didn’t like the lack of liquid, but I loved the spicy noodles and pork belly.

I couldn’t come to Seoul Sausage without making my friends try Korean Fried Chicken aka KFC, which was the hit of the evening 🙂

Meeting someone in Los Angeles can be a daunting task, especially when you must drive across town to do it. Even choosing to meet halfway in the middle of the day can still lead to chaos. People say there are no accidents or coincidences, so when I was supposed to meet a friend at noon at the Hotel Angeleno, traffic and rain conspired to have me enjoy the views and food alone.

It was my first time in this circular building, although I’ve driven past it numerous times on the 405 going in and out of the San Fernando Valley. I will definitely stop by the next time traffic is crawling and I want to be above the mess rather than in it. If you stop by during Happy Hour, they have nice bites and drinks with the view and a $7 parking fee.

Since I was there in the afternoon, after the normal lunch hour, there weren’t many people and I had a choice of seats with a view. I chose the ones with cushions a bit further away from the windows, but there were hotel guests who chose otherwise. I had a glass of Pinot Grigio as I waited for my friend, but as I got updates that the trek from the airport was going to take at least 90 minutes, I decided to order lunch.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had the classic salad Crab Louie, and I was happy to see the large portion of crab and vegetables arrive. For a hotel, this was a very correct dish, with real crab (canned), and local vegetables, including heirloom cherry tomatoes. The dressing was a green goddess instead of the traditional Louie, but it was tasty enough for me to use it all with some additional salt and pepper to perk it up. Lunch was fairly priced for a hotel with a view; with my wine and tax, my total was $38; this is a non tipping hotel, so everyone is paid a living wage by the hotel from the maids to the waiters and bartenders.

By the time my friend finally arrived, it was time for Happy Hour and since I had only eaten a salad, I got the ceviche. It was a bargain for the ingredients and the unusual green chips made me think it was St Patrick’s Day, but it could have used some tapatio or zesty spice.

I got to see my friend’s room that had a view overlooking the condos on the other side of the freeway.

The bed looked comfy with modern touches like a lit headboard and USB plug in ports.

The desk area carried on the same modern theme and included numerous ports built into the wall. There was a safe and mini fridge hidden behind the placards, water and snacks at reasonable for hotel prices. There was even a little coffee/tea maker with Wolfgang Puck coffee and Numi organic green tea.

 

The bathroom had several nice amenities, including a robe, toiletries, and three sets of towels for one person!

 

 

I think the coolest part of the hotel is the emphasis on them doing things a bit differently, from the non tipping policy to the unusual shape of the building; they definitely are not square 🙂

Sometimes an intention is all that is needed when you head towards a goal. My intention was to eat lunch at a nearby place which served local or organic ingredients in creative and tasty combinations. I’ve been meaning to try Gratitude Cafe and Superba Snack Bar for quite awhile, so I simply parked on Rose and walked around figuring I would choose a place to eat lunch once I got to the area. Superba was closed and Gratitude was just a block too far to walk to in the 90 degree heat.

Serendipitiously, I ended up at Cerveteca. They have a large enclosed patio, so you can enjoy sunny Southern California beach weather even when the beach (six blocks away) is overcast.

This marvelous place serves some of the best Latin inspired food I’ve ever eaten. They use free range chicken, wild caught salmon, and organic mixed greens for their salads, so quality is paramount. The fact that they use handmade tortillas speaks volumes about how much they care about their food. It’s the equivalent of using bakery bread rather than using cellophane wrapped supermarket bread when you are making a sandwich.

Since their Happy Hour lasts from 3-7pm, you can get here earlier for drinks and appetizers before your dinner, or make your dinner from the Happy Hour menu which offers smaller bites of the menu items.

Mama’s ceviche, made with lime cured fish, tomato, cilantro, radish, jicama, mango, and cucumber for $9 at Happy Hour ($16 regularly) is a fresh citrusly medley of ingredients. We added some of the pickled relish from the table to perk it up with some jalapeno, but for those who want no heat, it is good by itself. The accompanying chips are made from the handmade tortillas, so they can be addictive.

Since we couldn’t decide whether to get the barbacoa beef or pulled pork slider, so we got one of each for $6 at Happy Hour ($14 regular). The five spiced beef was the clear winner of the two with a marvelously subtly smokey spice (but not hot) flavor.

The Baja taco was the best fish tacos I’ve ever eaten. Period. For $4 at Happy Hour or $12 (for three) on the regular menu, the beer batter dipped and fried cod with slaw, crema, salsa, and aji sauce was the perfect combination of soft, crunchy, warm, creamy, and  spicy (if you add the sauce served on the side). If anyone you know does not like fish or tacos, I would bet that after a bite of this taco they would change their minds (and I’m not a gambler).

The special of the night was seared Diver scallops on a bed of Romesco sauce with grilled and raw asparagus. The scallops were perfectly seared and slightly under done, so it was almost sashimi. The Romesco sauce added a nice flavor with a counterpoint of creamy texture to the scallops and asparagus. If this is on special when you go and you like scallops, make sure you save room for this dish.

I chose the Herb and Garlic Basted Game Hen for $18, made with achiote, tomato, thyme, rosemary,  arroz ajillo, with a side (I chose the brussel sprouts with bacon), and tortilla. This game hen was one of the best versions I have ever eaten, with the skin and meat both infused with achiote and perfectly roasted. The brussel sprouts had incredible chunks of thick bacon, but it was a bit overwhelmed by the cider finish. The Arroz Ajillo was delightful, with just a hint of flavor that complimented the game hen perfectly.

Serendipity is defined as a “lucky coincidence”; I’m glad my luck was good enough to end up at Cerveteca.

Oscar's Cerveteca on Urbanspoon

I was invited to try 31 Ten Lounge, so this is one of those rare posts where everything I ate and drank was provided by the management and delivered to me by the chef. More than 95% of what I write here is based on experiences where the owners, managers, and chefs do not know that I write a blog. On the rare occasions when that is not the case I will always let you know, and I promise that regardless of whether or not I paid for my meal and drinks, my comments will always be honest.

31 Ten Lounge becomes a club later at night, but if you go earlier than 10 pm, you can enjoy a few drinks and bar bites in their beautiful patio.

The open kitchen and bar.

The creator of all the tasty bites, the chef, Michael Wilson.

I asked the chef what he recommended to drink with the assortment of bites I would be tasting and he suggested the Diablo Margarita made with jalapenos, cucumber, and a nice blanco tequila. It was supposed to be spicy, but since they use fresh jalapenos, the heat varies and mine was not hot at all and overly sweet. When I told Joseph, the manager, he promptly replaced it and the second version was much better. Since I don’t like sweet drinks, I’m looking forward to their new martini menu debuting Thursday, April 18 with drinks like the Poison Ivy, made with Finlandia Grapefruit Vodka, Grand Marnier, Pomegranate Juice and a Rosemary infused Simple Syrup, and the Remedy, made with Jameson Irish Whisky, Honey & Ginger Infused Simple Syrup & Lemon Juice ($14-$16).

One of my favorite items was the grilled and raw asparagus with fennel, button mushrooms, and grana padana cheese for $13. The contrasting textures and tastes of raw and grilled worked well with just enough cheese to add a slightly salty richness. I would gladly order this as an appetizer again.

One advantage to being invited is that I got to chat with the chef about his creations. An intriguing menu item is the tempura avocado taco which is a perfect choice for vegetarians and all the Californians who love this local fruit. They make their own tortillas and the usual serving is two for $8, but since I was tasting, I asked the chef to make mini portions so I could taste more dishes. I loved the crisp batter and the soft texture of the avocado with the cabbage, salsa and sour cream, but I found the tortilla underwhelming. It may have been made in house but the texture was heavy and it was oily.

They serve two kinds of ceviche ($13 each), so I got mini tastes of both the diver scallop and calamari (on the right) and the shrimp (on the left). I definitely preferred the diver scallop and calamari for its wonderfully light ocean flavor, but if you are not adventurous, you have a tamer choice available. If you go to sushi bars and order California Rolls, order the shrimp ceviche. If you order sashimi, get the diver scallop and calamari ceviche.

The grilled romaine with seared Hamachi in a yuzu Caesar dressing (regular portion size is $17) was another one of my favorite bites. The slightly tangy yuzu with the creamy Caesar married the grilled fish and warm romaine like a Unitarian preacher joining a Northern and Southern Irish couple together.

When I saw smelt fries on the menu, it was the first thing I wanted to try. Served with a sriracha mayo and lime, these tasty bites are great finger food for any fish lovers. If you want some creamy spice, dip them in the sriracha mayonnaise which adds just a bit of heat. A normal size portion is $13 and if it was available all year round I would always order it.

I thought I was done with the fish and vegetable tastes when chef Michael brought out this seared diver scallop in a taleggio cheese sauce. I would never have put a cheese sauce with a seared scallop, but that is why chefs are truly artists at heart (as you can see from the plating, food can be art). The scallop was perfectly seared and not overly cooked (think of seared ahi tuna), not cooked through, not raw. I was undecided about whether the taleggio sauce worked with the scallop because I thought the richness of the cheese and scallop combination was a bit too much together, but I loved the scallop by itself.

The chorizo Bilbao and fingerling potatoes was one of the chef’s recommendations and I LOVED the chorizo Bilbao! I gave the chef a card for Lindy & Grundy so he could taste their handmade chorizo; maybe the chef will create a chorizo flight!

Since I couldn’t decide between the wild boar meatball with creamy cheesy polenta or the wild boar slider, the chef made me a mini plate of both 🙂 My favorite was the wild boar meatball (normal portion is $15) because the tomato sauce perked up my palate, but since they grind all their own meat, the texture in both offerings was perfect.

If you have never tasted wild boar before I would recommend you try the slider, made with oven tomato, taleggio, and arugula for $7. You will never want a boring beef slider again.

Even though I am not a big dessert eater, I know many of you are, so I tried the molten chocolate cake with gold leaf and an orange blossom cream. As a non dessert eater, anytime I eat more than one bite of a dessert, it is a great sign. I ate nearly all of this (even after all the other bites I tasted)! The warm molten center of the cake was addictive, and because none of the components were overly sweet or rich, this was a satisfying way to end my meal and evening. The edible gold was a beautiful touch and fresh berries with the fresh cream gave the dessert a lighter mouth feel.

Thank-you Joseph and Michael for providing me with a varied tasting of your menu 🙂

31Ten Lounge on Urbanspoon

Sunny Spot is an aptly named eatery in Marina Del Rey with an expansive enclosed patio which allows glimpses of blue skies even during the grayest of Southern California days. Our weather this week has been overcast skies with temperatures that have hovered in the 60-70 Fahrenheit range. Fortunately the smiles and the Caribbean ambiance here would brighten even rainy days, and they have indoor seating if the rumor is true that it truly rains in Southern California.

I am always impressed when the service team works together, but I am absolutely astounded when a manager steps in to take orders and clear plates. Matt, the manager during a prime time Sunday brunch came to take my order, gave it to my waitress, came back, cleared my plate, and asked how everything was, all with the grace of a symphony conductor who was filling in for one of the musicians in his orchestra, never missing a note.

I learned that one reason that brunch is so popular is that they offer bottomless mix and match cocktails like Mimosas and Bloody Marys for $10, so people come and stay all afternoon. I tried a Bloody Mary and it was delicious, with enough spice and kick to rival another brunch hot spot, Joe’s, in nearby Venice. Although it was VERY loud, several people came with children in strollers, so this place is a kid friendly for brunch. Hopefully the kids in the strollers all had a sober driver to get them home…..

My waitress recommended the “Cash Money Calamari” for $9 ($6 during happy hour) and when it arrived I was disappointed with the color, which made it look undercooked. It was perfectly tender and lightly salted, but for aesthetics I would have preferred a more golden appearance. The spicy cocktail sauce and lemon helped, but it lacked flavor that would have made it special.

Since I wanted something spicy, and they are known for their wings marinated in habanero for $9 ($5 during happy hour), I segued on to their jerk wings. At first bite, I didn’t feel any spice, but as I kept eating the warmth glowed like an ember, a bit stronger with every bite. If you are in the least bit sensitive to heat, do NOT get these because although I loved the flavor, by the end of my second wing I was looking for some milk. If you love heat, go for these. They are not super crispy even though they are double fried, but they are not mushy or greasy either.

The “one fisted” slider was adorable, about 3″ in diameter, on a brioche bun with tomato jam, arugula, cheddar, herb mayo, and the perfect bar bite at $3 during happy hour or you can get the “two fisted” burger for $13 which is “normal” sized.

The brunch menu had a “Sunfire chicken salad” which is their Sunfire Salad, made butter lettuce, radicchio, arugula, cauliflower, grapefruit, goat cheese, a chili lime vinaigrette, made with the addition of jerk chicken for $13. This was my least favorite item because the jerk chicken was barely spiced, the greens were overly dressed, and it was not tossed well, with nearly all of the ingredients at the bottom of the plate under the lettuce. Because I ordered this during their Brunch and they were literally jam packed, I might try this again when the kitchen isn’t slammed.

When the hostess, wait staff, bus staff, and manager all work together as a team during the height of a holiday brunch and manage to stay upbeat as they do their work, they bring a bright Sunny Spot to the gloomiest days in Marina Del Rey.

Sunny Spot on Urbanspoon

Sourdough Pizza? Yes, you read that correctly. Wildcraft has combined a Neapolitan style pizza place with gastropub ingredients to create a hybrid that works. With a wood oven that heats to 900 degrees Farenheit, the pizzas are literally made to order and delivered to you in minutes. For those die hard fans of authentic Napoli or New York style pizza, this is neither, but it is a nice fusion stepchild of both. This is the latest venture by the people who created Abigaile in Hermosa Beach, so it’s nice that I get the same food talent now closer to home.

Located in the heart of Culver City, it is easy to access with two free parking structures and is walking distance to both the movie theater and Sony studios. Whether you are watching a movie or making one nearby, this is a convenient place for lunch, happy hour, or dinner.

I could make a meal out of the appetizers here. The fried green olives wrapped in fennel sausage, topped with grated parmesan and almonds for $8 ($5 during happy hour) are the perfect small bites to share for those who want a bit of meaty substance to a bar bite.

When I ordered these I thought the olives were stuffed WITH the fennel sausage, but the olives are stuffed IN the fennel sausage. It actually tastes better this way because it tastes more like meat with a surprise filling, and how often do you find that?

For vegetarians, there are several pizzas and menu items like the baby spinach salad with salt roasted beets, walnuts, goat cheese, and avocado in a balsamic dressing for $9-14 depending on the size. You can add chicken to this and make it a heartier dish if you wish for $3.25. The one pictured is the large size and I recommend this only for a full meal unless you are a a large rabbit! The flavors were superb, but the dressing was a bit excessive, so if you like your greens lightly dressed, ask for your dressing on the side.

Another one of the appetizers I could eat as a meal by itself is the tuna crudo with veggie couscous, pistachios, and pea tendrils for $14 ($10 during happy hour). This is a light and filling dish that would please any pescatarian. What other pizza place would have this on their menu?

I had to try one of their pizzas, so I went with the white pizza with pork belly, fresh Manila clams, oregano, and red onions for $17 (I could not find nor taste any of the chilies nor fried sage that was supposed to have been on this pizza). I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I liked the slightly sourdough crust and that the toppings worked well together. I would have liked more toppings and the missing chilies and fried sage would have added a nice complexity that I found lacking in this pizza, but I enjoyed it enough to take half of the 12″ pie home.

Go for their “Rest & Relaxation” happy hour from 4-7pm when you can get a Cabernet or Pinot Gris for $5, or one of their micro brew ales for $4. They offer complimentary flat or sparkling filtered water, and if you want a full meal with dessert, they also have espresso and tea.

Sometimes Californian hybrids work, and they do in this case.

Wildcraft Sourdough Pizza on Urbanspoon

Plan Check celebrated their first year in business last week, and after tasting several of their dishes, it looks like they will be around for many years to come.

The table seated next to me lived in the neighborhood and as regulars, they insisted that I try the sweet potato fries with peach ketchup, and after one bite, I was glad that they were seated next to me. These were the best sweet potato fries I have ever eaten! A perfectly crispy exterior with soft centers and perfect salt, they were good by themselves, but a dip in the peach ketchup made this a hot, sweet, salty, tangy combination that was addictive. Available for only $6 a plate, this is an affordable addiction.

The exotic vegetable chips were the fresh version of the chips you can buy in a bag at the supermarket, but just as fresh popcorn tastes completely different from bagged, these were an elevated snack which came with an avocado dip. This was also $6 and a great crunchy munch.

The fries come fried in beef tallow (yes, beef fat), but you can opt for vegetable if you prefer. I did opt for the vegetable oil with my sweet potato fries, but for the regular fries my friend wanted the full beef fat flavor. They came with freshly made ketchup and smoked salt. She liked them, but loved my sweet potato fries.

The neighboring table had ordered the Caesar Kale salad and it looked so good I had to get one. For $8, this was a great light meal combining two of my favorite flavors, and I was glad to find a pronounced garlic taste in the Caesar dressing.

The dish that made me come to try this place was the fried jidori chicken thighs with sweet potato jam, smoked milk gravy and pickled okra for $13. It is a greasy, creamy, sweet combo which was not at all my preference for fried chicken, but I can see how it would appeal to those who like their fried foods with a sweet and creamy accompaniment. My favorite part of the dish was the pickled okra because it cut through all the grease. The chicken was very moist and had a nice flavor but as Roux said in “Chocolat” to the various chocolates offered, “Not my favorite”.

The freshly made crullers with freshly whipped cream and sliced bananas ended the meal on a wonderfully sweet note for $6. If you love churros, imagine 3 huge round cinnamon sugar churros on a pile of cream. These crullers were actually the reason I tasted the sweet potato fries because I swapped with the neighboring table since there is no way to eat more than one unless you either eat nothing else or have a huge capacity for sweets!

Since one of the partners of Plan Check created Umami Burger, there are of course numerous burgers on the menu ranging from the pastrami burger with swiss cheese, kimchi mustard, pickles and sunny side up fried egg, to the blueprint burger with smoked blue cheese, pig candy, fried onions, roasted garlic steak sauce, and peppercress. All burgers are less than $13, and beers, wines and whiskeys range from $6-$50 a glass.

They have flights of whiskeys starting at $20 and going to $100, so this can be a pure bar experience after a meal elsewhere, or the place to come before heading home if you can get here for Happy Hour between 3-6 for a bite and some drinks. I would recommend coming for a bite with your drinks since it’s never a good idea to drink without food 🙂

Plan Check Kitchen + Bar on Urbanspoon

After trying Muddy Leek during Dine LA last week, I went back with a friend for lunch today. The house salad with arugula, baby beets, pistachios, and goat cheese is a fresh way to start your meal for $10.

Today’s salad special was made with avocado, mandarin orange segments, radishes, candied almonds, and arugula with a citrus dressing. No matter which salad you prefer, each is made with farm fresh produce and prepared with a light dressing which enhances the ingredients instead of masking or drowning them.

The special soup was chicken with a fermented cabbage (think of a mild version of kimchee). It’s a wonderfully hearty dish and I could have easily made this my meal. If you like hot & sour soup, you would probably enjoy this milder version made with chicken thigh meat. They also had a turnip puree and a sweet potato rosemary soup if you prefer other more vegetable based soups for $5.

I chose the leek and potato tart for $12 which came with a nicely dressed arugula salad. The tart needed some salt, and the crust was a bit underdone, but overall it was a pleasant vegetarian dish.

The hit of the meal was the grass fed sliders with wasabi aioli on brioche mini buns and sweet potato fries for $14. We asked for extra rare and got it 🙂 The excellent buns with just the right amount of aioli to slider ratio made this the perfect small bite (two 4 oz sliders). Sweet potato fries were a nice creative variation on the standard fries that accompany burgers.

The warm chocolate cake with freshly made whipped cream for $7 was such a delight that I actually ate more than one spoonful! The consistency of the warm cake with chocolate sauce and freshly whipped cream made this about as close to perfection as I have eaten in a chocolate dessert. Not too sweet and not too rich, but sweet and rich enough to satisfy a dessert lover (my friend the former pastry chef)!

The decor is modern with music by Nina Simone, and outdoor seating on warmer days makes this a perfect spot for a lazy afternoon, especially if you can stop by for happy hour between 4-6pm when they serve bites like pizzettes and merguez “hot dogs”.

Eating in a place which embraces local organic and sustainable ingredients with servers like Sergio providing the paradigm of excellent service makes Muddy Leek a wonderful stop next time you’re shopping at nearby Surfas for that must have gourmet spice or gadget.

Muddy Leek on Urbanspoon

Trying new places is one of the most fun aspects of DineLA. Even though the location has housed other places, Brick + Mortar has moved in and completely renovated both the interior and the menu. The new tenant is a welcome addition to the neighborhood with fresh and creative brunch, lunch, happy hour, dinner, and late night dishes.

If you can’t decided what to order, you can get the chicken and waffles, with a slightly spicy fried chicken breast and honey butter for $14. This was a substantial plate (about 12″ long), but so perfectly done that my friend finished every bite with a huge grin. The combination of crunchy, spicy, sweet and savory was a delight to the palate and the micro greens added a nice visual appeal to the plate. The next table saw the dish on our table and said, “We’re getting that next time”!

I was more in the mood for lunch so I tried the Caesar salad with poached egg and crispy prosciutto for $8. It was a decent version of the classic and the poached egg was perfectly medium. I would have preferred more garlic and more anchovy in the dressing, but I loved the crispy prosciutto bits. This is probably the closest thing to a “breakfast” salad I’ve ever had!

To go with my salad, I ordered the wild mushroom pizza with gruyere, shallots, truffle oil, and parsley for $15. The toppings were great, but I found the crust more of a flatbread crisp than a pizza dough. If you like flatbread pizzas, you would like the pizza here, if you’re looking for a pizza, I would go across the street to Bravo. Like the waffles and chicken, this was a large portion (about 15″ diameter), so after three slices I had the rest wrapped to go (yes, it was good enough to take the rest home).

After polishing off her chicken and waffles, my friend ordered the chocolate lava cake for $8 which she demolished with a smile.

With a Happy Hour from 4-7 week days and a late night menu (they stay open until 1 AM), you can come for a snack of cheese and charcuterie, or bigger bites like burgers or mussels any time. This place will surely be packed during the Super Bowl, so go early if you are planning to eat here this Sunday!

Brick+Mortar on Urbanspoon

Sometimes I feel like Goldilocks tasting food across the city; some dishes are bad, some are just bland, and I keep searching for ones that are just right, hoping to find the best ones. Unlike the notoriously bad review by the New York Times of American Kitchen and Bar, I do my best to post something likeable or hopeful about every place I go, unless something happens so beyond good taste or good manners that I remove a review, which has only happened once (for exceedingly bad manners).

So with all this being said, I will begin with the bad. Jinya Ramen recently opened on Sawtelle and I was looking forward to good broth to rival the excellent Tsujitawhich has lines around the block for a table. Unfortunately when their own press release says the broth is “pumped up with industrial quantities of dashi and dried fish” it means INDUSTRIAL, which a is distinctly different than QUALITY. As a franchise, I did not expect much, but I was appalled to see them using a MICROWAVE to heat up some ingredients! The spicy pork miso I ordered was presented beautifully, but after a few spoonfuls, I could not eat this exceedingly sweet slightly foul smelling soup.

Later that night I had an upset stomach and I woke up with the horrible consequence of having eaten an industrially produced soup stock. It is well worth the wait to eat at Tsujita.

After that experience I had to go get a bowl of something good to put into my system, so I headed over to Urth Cafefor their marvelous vegetarian chili. It is on their menu everyday and my favorite vegetarian chili (besides the one I make myself).

The quality of the ingredients and the blend of perfect spices, make this a filling and savory bowl of comfort food for any cold or rainy day.

After trying something new and something old, I wanted to try something different, so I went to Vino and Tapas in the Valley before a movie screening in the area. They have a Happy Hourfrom 4-7pm with drinks ranging from $4-7 and tapas for only $5. Since they open at 4pm the place was empty, but that was fine with me since that meant I could get in and out before my movie with ease.

I ordered a Kaiken 2009 Malbec which was quite nice, but ended with the much nicer DeLoach Pinot Noir, both $6 each during Happy Hour and served in the perfect glassware for the varietal!

I hardly ever see chicken livers on any menu, so I had to order them. They were a bit overcooked and a bit bland, so I asked for some salt, but even adding seasoning could not save this dish.

I also ordered some mushrooms with garlic, herbs and a Chardonnay sauce which were so delectable that I ate the sauce with slices of bread to soak up every last bite!

To get rid of the taste of the chicken livers, I ordered the meatballs in tomato sauce which had a nice basil flavor and decent tomato sauce. It was not an outstanding dish, but it was executed well and a nice rendition of the classic.

It was wonderful to end on the excellent flourless chocolate cake dessert for $8 with vanilla ice cream and a chocolate sauce. It is a very rare event when I finish a dessert and I finished this one!

I am very grateful to have a happy sweet ending to this week before Thanksgiving, and I am very grateful for all of you who read my blog and for all that I am able to share with you!

Vino Wine & Tapas Room on Urbanspoon

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