You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘restaurants’ category.

Little Sister in DTLA is across from Bottega Louie on 7th Street, but unless you are looking for it, you will miss the discreet signage and miss the mouthwatering flavors hidden inside this small space. My mouth has been dancing in joy ever since I found this place and I look forward to every meal there just as I look forward to every trip 🙂

I asked my server her favorite dish and I ordered it; grilled prawns, cabbage mix, mango, cucumber, onion, cashews in a lemongrass cilantro dressing. It’s a much bigger serving that it seems and it could easily have been my lunch with the complex and layered flavors and textures.

The pork, shrimp, and crab dumplings with a spicy black vinegar dressing, chive, spinach, and peanuts was so  tender and savory especially with the extra sauce on the side that I didn’t want to share any with my dining companions.

 The sauce could be a  savory cocktail 🙂

The rice paper pho banh cuon beef and beef tendon, herbs, lettuce, pickled onion was a melody of textures and flavors that combined like an accomplished band, bringing in elements of silky rice paper, with sweet spice and chewy tendon.

My least favorite was the spicy lemongrass chicken with garlic and dried chilies which had depth but not to my taste for the combination of spices.

Very little on the menu is over $15 and they have sandwiches, rice and noodle dishes, as well as congee for those who want more starch. It will take awhile to eat my way through their menu, but it’s a challenge I would like to accept!

Les Niçois hosted a Yelp Elite Event and thanks to Marine B., the Paris Community Manager, we got a taste of Nice in Paris. It was perfect timing, just as the train strikes were ending, the summer solstice began, and people were beginning their summer vacations!

Niçois is the French term for people and things from Nice, so all that you think of when you think of the South of France along the Mediterranean, is here, including pan-bagnat (sandwich made with ingredients you would put in a salad Niçoise), socca (a savory snack made from chick peas) and pissaladière (onion pizza). You can come for a snack or a full meal every day except Monday, which was the night we had the event, right after the Music Festival over the week-end, so the wonderful staff hosted our event after a very long and busy week-end (they have live music downstairs even when it’s not a music festival week-end). The only thing missing is a terrace, but the big windows make the space light and airy.

 Many bottles of rosé, beer, and

frozen cocktails made with pastis (of course) were served. Even though I’m not a big fan of the anise flavored drink, their specialty cocktail blended juices with it to make it delightful on a hot day. A non alcoholic cocktail was served alongside it and I mixed half of each into my glass to make sure I found my way home:)

My favorite taste was the socca, a pancake like savory snack made from chick peas that I could have eaten all night long it was so addictive. I missed taking a shot of the pissaladière because people were grabbing bites faster than I could whip out my camera, but it was thick with onions and so good that no one minded having onion breath because we all did!

They have a fun area downstairs with a pétanque space, so of course we played:) After playing for the first time last week in the southwest, I learned to throw over handed and placed second in my group of six! It’s basically like playing horseshoes, except that experts can throw balls to knock out others and get closer to the tiny target.

 Winners got a set of three boules, and second place got water bottles!

Prices are all very reasonable, under 20€ ($28) for entrée/plat or plat/dessert, but the best feature here is the easy going friendly attitude of the people who somehow served good bites with a sense of humor and a smile on a day when they would normally get to rest.

Spring showers soaked Paris for a week. On Monday, the rain was so heavy that at times people literally hid in storefront alcoves. I meant to take pictures of the new canopy over Les Halles, but the brief moments when it wasn’t pouring were so rare that I didn’t want to risk ruining my new camera. The only outdoor shot I got was this “canopy” in the five minutes it cleared enough to take a shot.

With weather like this, we literally just ran into a restaurant nearby, the chain from Brussels, Léon. My friends who live in Brussels say that they eat there, so caught between the downpour and flooded streets, we decided to try it. They are famous for their mussels, guaranteed fresh and inspected, and they offer an incredible lunch menu of salad, mussels, coffee and dessert for under 12€ ($15 US). Being in France means a nice selection of wines, and being a Belgian chain means their beer selection is equally good. My friend ordered the menu and I ordered the regular portion of mussels marinière. They offer many varieties from creamy to curry, and if you’re not a fan of mussels, they also have pasta, burgers, chicken, and fish, but why come here for a burger? The salad wasn’t particularly inspired, but decent and fresh.

This huge receptacle for our leftover mussel shells was in the shape of a mussel 🙂

My regular size portion was 800 grams, nearly two pounds, and yes I happily ate it all! The lunch menu portion is 400 grams since you get salad and dessert. My French friend taught me how to use the shells as “pinchers” to grab the mussels and I had fun playing with my food as I ate it 🙂

Fries accompany all the mussels, and this is one of the only things that I’ve ever seen here served with as many refills as you wish. They were obviously previously frozen, but not bad.

The dessert with coffee was a crème brulée and a very sweet rich chocolate mousse. All in all, a very decent meal for the price and our waitress was wonderfully friendly and efficient, so much so that my native French friend tipped her (usually no one tips here since service is included on the bill). They have locations all over the touristy areas, so if you are on the Champs-Elysées and looking for a decent place to eat, this is a safe bet; it’s like going to a Cheescake Factory in the US, nothing spectacular, but you won’t walk away hungry or angry.

My favorite “dessert” is a clear sunny day, when you can actually see La Défense instead of hazy pollution

and when the only water spouts come from fountains 🙂

 

No, Industriel is not a misspelling, it is a restaurant serving “Urban Farm Cuisine” in downtown Los Angeles. The interior is definitely a playful mixture of industrial “decor” like the metal chains & pulley by the stairs, combined with a rustic farm feel as they show off their home made pickled carrots, tomato jam, and pickles for sale. Everything that can be made in house IS made in house here and the quality ingredients are skillfully used in all their dishes.

The Quinoa, with roasted mushrooms, pecan, kale, and a caramelized shallot vinaigrette was one of the best dishes using quinoa which I have ever tasted. The textures and flavors each complimented each other and gave the dish a hearty yet fresh taste.

The Red Snapper Nicoise was a delightful variation on the usual tuna. The perfectly cooked snapper was served with barely blanched green beans, olives, tomatoes, and the most perfectly done boiled eggs I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant, I could eat this dish several times a week. The bottarga dressing lightly coated the greens and gave a well balanced acidity to the fish.

The only reason I would not come here for lunch more often is the location in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. If you work in the area, this spot is a treasure, but if you don’t live or work in the area, coming here can be a bit of a challenge with traffic and parking, so I would suggest you make a reservation for a week-end and enjoy the pleasures of having a lazy day at Industriel.

Note: Underground parking at the One Wilshire building, about a block away, is only $5 on week-ends (cash only).

Industriel on Urbanspoon

Zinc in the Shade Hotel has a prime location only a few blocks to the beach and pier in the heart of Manhattan Beach. It’s a rare treat to find great food in a great location, but add to that combination some very affordable prices, and you’ve got a formula for success. Zinc seems to have mastered the formula. With a $16 lunch menu that includes an appetizer, entree and dessert every weekday between 11-4pm, this is a great place to enjoy a lunch at the beach without breaking your piggy bank.

I started with a tomato bisque drizzled with basil oil. It was a good rendition, not as flavorful as Bottega Louie’s or Bouchon’s, but a solid starter.

For my main course I chose the Steak Frites, hanger steak with brown butter, red wine demi-glace, and shallots, served with hand cut fries. I ordered it rare and it came as ordered, but because it did, the quality of the meat showed and it was not pretty. The sinewy piece was so tough in places that I could only eat about two thirds of the steak. The sauce was good and the crispy shallots were wonderful accompaniments. I would definitely choose another main course, like the King Salmon burger (which was sold out).

The fries needed salt, but unfortunately adding them after they arrived was a little too late since it would not stick after they had cooled.

I chose a berry sorbet for my dessert, a refreshing finish, not too sweet or tart.

Would I go back? Sure, but I would pick another main course and try the chocolate pot de creme for dessert next time. With a location like this, I want to find food good enough to go back for next time.

Note: You can park under the Mettox shops in covered city metered parking, so bring plenty of change or buy a cash key.

Zinc on Urbanspoon

Ever since Antica Pizza closed, I’ve been searching for a pizza place to love. Bravo does a very good job, but their pizza is more New York style than Napoletana style, and the closest VPN member is in Pasadena, so I tried nearby Sotto.

Located downstairs under the wonderful Peruvian restaurant Picca, Sotto has a slightly speakeasy feel, as if you need a password to get a seat. No need to worry, your name is enough of a password if you make a reservation. You should definitely reserve a table, the place was packed in the middle of the week in the middle of the day.

The Dine LA menu is a steal at only $20 for three courses. I started with the shaved beet and mixed lettuce salad, composed of wheatberries, lemon vinaigrette, and Fiore Sardo. The beautiful rainbow beets added an unusual visual dimension to this salad, and the thinly shaved Parmesan added a nice sharp and slightly salty enhancement without overpowering the greens. I loved this salad and could probably eat it several times a week.

But I came for the pizza, so I chose the classic margherita, made with tomato, mozzarella, basil, and extra virgin olive oil. The ingredients were all high quality and the crust was chewy and thin in the center, but somehow the center was soggy! The pizza was also a bit too salty since they salted the dough and the tomatoes (salt one or the other, but both is overkill). It was still a very tasty pizza, although after eating at Antica Pizza, they fell short on the texture and flavor of the dough.

Dessert was a cannolo Siciliano, made with riccota, orange marmalade, pistachios and chocolate. I didn’t taste any chocolate (unless they were tiny chocolate chips hiding in the filling), but this was one of the few cannoli I’ve ever liked. The crunchy exterior was as great container for the light and flavorful filling.

Service was very slow (more the fault of a full Dine LA onslaught than the server), so be prepared for a leisurely meal. My search for my perfect pizza continues, but Sotto is a nice local option.

Sotto on Urbanspoon

It’s one of my four favorite times of the year; Dine LA week started (again) yesterday and it was time to revisit Blue Stove since it’s been over a year since I last tried their menu. The Dine LA dinner menu for $25 includes three tapas and three pours of wine pairings, one for each plate.

I started with the Ahi Tuna Poke with fried wontons, which was paired with a 2009 Kenneth Volk Viongier. There was a bit too much soy sauce in the Poke, which not only made it a bit too salty, but made it a bit runny (as you can see on the plate). This composition of seaweed, avocado, and mango would have been delightful otherwise.

My second wine pairing was a pour of 2009 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir, which was my favorite wine of the night; light enough to pair with poultry or even seafood, yet full bodied enough to enjoy with my red meat course.

I ordered my skirt steak with romesco and balsamic onions rare, and I was thrilled to see that they actually cooked my steak “blue” (cold in the center)! The onions were a zesty counterpoint to the rich meat and romesco sauce and aside from the meat being a bit stringy, this was a great dish.

I had them wait to deliver my dessert because I was so full after my first two “small” plates, but when I finally felt I could take another bite, I had the berry cobbler with a pour of 2010 Catena Malbec. I managed to taste this HUGE dessert so I could write about it (the sacrifices I make for this blog:). The berries were wonderful and the ice cream was a good quality vanilla, but unless you are a cow (with 5 stomachs) there is no way anyone I know could finish this 8″ dessert after two courses!

Dine LA is a great excuse to revisit old places and try new ones, so I’m heading over to try a new one (Sotto) tomorrow since today I revisited an old one.

P.S. For those who don’t already know, you can valet park free for 3 hours at Santa Monica Place if you eat here (just remember to get a validation at the restaurant).

Blue Stove (Nordstrom) on Urbanspoon

Happy Bastille Day!
Since I was not in France this year, I had to “make do” with celebrating La Fête Nationale in Beverly Hills. Yes, I know I live a rough life 🙂 I put on my Philippe Adec navy and white striped T shirt and jeans and headed over to Bouchon, which had an all day Happy Hour with drinks, food and balloons! The house wines were only $5 a glass (and decent), spirits only $7, and beers only $4, alors santé!

The daily soup special was a fresh pea soup which was as light and fresh as summer would taste in a soup.

The regular soup was tomato basil, and this is probably my favorite version (ok, maybe tied with the one at Bottega Louie). If you love tomatoes, this will have you licking the bowl:)

The bakery next door makes the incredible epi that comes with your meal (and I took a warm baguette home from the bakery just because it’s one of the best baguettes in Los Angeles). If you have never been to France, come here and have some of the bread so you will get an idea of why peasants stormed the Bastille because they could not afford bread.

The Happy Hour menu included a tomato and burrata crostini for only $4. I’m not a big burrata fan and didn’t taste this, but the tomatoes were ripe, lightly dressed and allowed to simply shine.

I could not resist the $2 oysters. I started with 8 and ended up eating 4 more for an even dozen. Absolutely fresh, served WITHOUT being rinsed, and with a simple squeeze of lemon, this was a perfect meal for me.

The pork belly sliders with home made cole slaw and cornichons were delightful to the eye and stomach. They serve TWO for $8 but I didn’t get a chance to snap the photo before one was already devoured!

I lusted after every cone of french fries which arrived to other tables, so we decided to order one and I ended up eating more potatoes than I have in a year! They were a bit thin for my taste, but they remained crisp even when cold and I couldn’t stop eating them!

My favorite plate here is the lentils with duck confit and poached egg. It is my ultimate “old lady” comfort food (soft chewable food)! I only managed to eat about half of my bowl ($15.50), but the leftovers warm up superbly and I know I will have at least another comforting meal tomorrow!

The lemon tart is the must have dessert here, with a meringue top and a shortbread crust, it is just tangy enough to make you forget this is a sweet dessert. Served with buttery cookie crisps, this is a wonderful way to end an evening.

Bastille Day was a great excuse to go to my favorite French bistro and enjoy people watching from the outdoor cafe overlooking the first public garden built in Beverly Hills in the last decade. Marie Antoinette may have said, “Let them eat cake” but I would rather eat bread and oysters at Bouchon.

Bouchon Bistro on Urbanspoon

When someone like Amelia at Lindy & Grundy recommends a place, I make a mental note; people who make good food, know good food. It’s taken me awhile to get to Cook’s County, mainly because I tend to eat during restauranteur hours, i.e., between 3-5pm, and many restaurants are closed (because that’s when staff members eat). One day I was actually awake and coherent during “normal” lunch hours, so I finally got to try the lunch at Cook’s County and now I will gladly set my alarm so that I can be there in time for a meal!

My friend ordered the grass fed beef burger, brioche bun, grilled onion, white cheddar & aïoli ($13) and enjoyed it very much, saying it ranked in the top percentile of burgers in restaurants.

Of course burgers must have fries, and these were great, lightly salted, crisp and succulent.

I ordered the Idaho trout, lentils, marinated beets & cumin yogurt ($19), which was such a wonderful lunch, that I think I am now addicted.

The sautéed pea tendrils, shallot & lemon ($6) were so delicious that I wanted an order to take home after eating the entire plate for lunch. The greens were fresh, lightly dressed, and absolutely divine! If anyone you know does not like vegetables, this dish could convert them to vegetarians!

The chocolate shortcake, seascape strawberries ($8), was a surprise. The shortcake was actually SOFT and moist, not at all dry and hard as the picture suggests (goes to prove you should never judge anything based on appearance)! The strawberries were sweet and luscious, and the whipped cream was the perfect compliment to this dessert.

I can’t wait to come back for dinner one night when I can get to Cook’s County before they close!

Cooks County on Urbanspoon

Sometimes you have to live in a neighborhood to find the gems hidden behind the fast food chains and drugstores. My friends David & Krista discovered Red Hill as they walked around, and it has become their favorite spot (and it is literally hidden behind a fast food chain and a drugstore). The area is called Red Hill because in the 1950’s many artists and left wing liberals congregated here, and back in those days, they were called “Reds” or Communists. Whatever your political views, your palate will thank-you for a foray into this wonderfully welcoming place which features inventive and market driven plates for very reasonable prices (average $40 per person for 2-3 plates with drinks & gratuity).

The starter plate of house made pickled vegetables and home made butter was a harbinger of great things to come from the open kitchen. All the vegetables, from the red onions to the spicy cauliflower had a slightly different pickling mixture that ranged from spicy to slightly sweet. The home made butter was so good we asked for more of the dense chewy bread so we could finish it.

Krista had the burrata salad with pesto, beet greens and carrots. The burrata was freshly made and the combination worked well as the burrata added a smooth mellowing counterpoint to the spicy greens and strong pesto.

Four of us split two orders of the venison meatballs and all of us loved the flavors of this appetizer even though a few bites had nearly too much red pepper, we all ate like addicts, unable to stop regardless of any pain we experienced. If they would have mixed the red pepper in more evenly or simply used less, we would have been even more addicted.

The only disappointing dish of the evening was the salad with radishes, Marcona almonds and Meyer lemon dressing. It was actually only the vinaigrette which weakened this dish; it was too salty without any complexity and a bit too much acidity.

Everyone loved Krista’s choice of main dish, the pappardelle with pork ragu and goat cheese agnolotti. The light pasta was perfectly done, and the fresh zucchini, peas and pork all contributed their own texture and flavor to this perfect dish. If you order only one thing here, order this dish!

I chose the bone in pork chop which was served with pureed squash and sauteed greens. The flavors of the accompaniments were all perfect, and the presentation was beautiful, but my pork chop was a bit overdone and dry. It was not bad, but it was not great either. David said that when he ordered this dish, his chop had been thicker and less dry, so perhaps I will try this again some other night.

Robin ordered the roasted chicken, which was moist, full of flavor, and served with some of the best collard greens I have ever tasted.

David’s duck with cherries was spectacular, with crisp skin, moist meat, and beautifully tart cherries. If you love duck, order it here, and if you have never tried duck, try it here.

Somehow we managed to find some room for dessert, so we chose to share two of them. The meringue and sorbet with tart cherry sauce was a refreshing way to finish a meal. The meringue was not baked long enough to give structure, so the texture was a bit rubbery, but overall, this very nice.

The favorite of both the dessert connoisseurs was the orange flan with chocolate dipped candied orange peel. It was a thick smooth rendition of a classic with a slight twist.

Whether you want to explore a historically famous neighborhood, visit friends, or simply eat a great meal after a Dodger game, head over to Red Hill and you’ll hit a home run.

Red Hill on Urbanspoon

Red Medicine is the infamous restaurant where famed food critic Irene Virbila was outed  (i.e. photographed) and refused service. While I agree with many opinions on both sides of this incident, I had not been keen to go to this restaurant until a fellow foodie friend said it was high on his list of places to try.

Fortunately I am not famous enough to be either recognized or refused service for my “power” as a food critic, so I was seated and served without incident with two of my friends who are both as critical of food as I am. 

Since the menu is meant to be shared, we ordered several small plates, the first one to arrive was the brussel sprouts with caramelized shallots, fish sauce, and vermouth for $9. The crunchy chips on top were a nice way to present this dish and some of the brussel sprouts were fabulous, while others (especially at the bottom of the dish) were overly salted. When using fish sauce, it is very important to use a light hand when salting and apparently the kitchen didn’t understand concept yet.

We also tried the beef tartare for $15 which was made with water lettuce, water chestnut, nuoc leo (peanut sauce), chlorophyll, and peanut. This was such an unusual version of beef tartare that we all said “Whoa!” after the first bite. But we all took second and third bites until we finished the dish. Combining all the ingredients on the rice chips was essential to getting the full flavors this dish incorporated. I’m not sure I would order this again, but I was glad I had tried it.

The most disappointing dish of the entire night was the white asparagus with fried burdock root and coated in tapioca salsify, with spot prawn roe, on top of almond milk. It was completely tasteless, with no seasoning whatsoever, and the asparagus was so stringy that we had trouble eating it (or even biting through it). It was a shame since we all loved asparagus, but none of us wanted to eat this.

It is hard to tell from the photo, but the sweetbreads under the charred cabbage were wonderful. This was one of our favorite dishes of the evening, with perfectly crispy and tender nuggets. Once again the salt was a bit overdone on the charred cabbage, but the sweetbreads made this dish a winner.

For our final hot course, we chose the rice porridge with the uni supplement for $27 made with egg yolk, hazelnuts, ginseng, butter and Santa Barbara Red Uni. This was a very rich dish which we all loved. The combination of flavors made this the ultimate comfort dish of all time. This was definitely not your run of the mill home made or even restaurant quality rice porridge. It should definitely be shared unless you want to eat only one dish here.

For our desserts we shared the Green Gage plum with frozen cream, sorrel, elderflower, wild chervil. It was an interesting (as in neither good nor bad) alchemy of flavors both tart and sweet, but no one like this enough to finish it.

The dessert winner of the evening was the birch ice. It was THE most unusual dessert I have ever tasted and it beckons me to come back to Red Medicine with it’s scintillating composition of textures and flavors. The presentation was beautiful.

But upon cracking open the crunchy top layer, the cold, sweet, and creamy secret treasures below were absolutely addictive. Made with birch ice, almond praline, red currants, green almond, and jasmine, this was a palate pleaser. 

I’m glad I was not on their “hit list” and able to taste their unique fare. Although I loved all their presentations, I was not impressed with all their flavors, especially since over salting food is a big faux pas that was repeated in two of their dishes. At prices that hovered around $60 per person, this kind of amateur mistake should have happened even once. People care more about tasting their dishes than looking at them, so the execution of recipes must be precise to elevate the food to the same level as the plating.

We all remember a flavorful dish long after it is eaten, but no one will remember a beautiful plate after they have seen it.

Red Medicine on Urbanspoon

Categories

%d bloggers like this: