Archive for February, 2010


February 24, 2010

Is it just me or does the cover of Gastronomica’s 10 year anniversary issue remind you of the DEVO energy dome hat?


I’m Back From New York

February 23, 2010

(Photo by Max Wanger)

This month Saveur dedicated an entire issue to Los Angeles’ food. I’m a native Angeleno so obviously my bias toward my hometown is strong. I do believe LA is a great food city. However, when it comes to restaurants, New York city spanks LA, unequivocally, with the fervor of Ben Affleck in Dazed and Confused.

This is simply because of proximity. In a few short days and even shorter blocks, I ate a world of first class food with service and ambiance to match.

As Spanish food is at the center of the culinary universe right now, so too was it the center of my trip to Manhattan. I had both sides of the spectrum; a luxurious lunch at Mario Batali’s Casa Mono and a quick bite at the exquisite marketplace/cafe Despana.

(Photos by The Wandering Eater / Robyn Lee for Serious Eats)

I also went to Minetta Tavern for the famed Black Label Burger, Belcourt for a biscuit and bacon-abundant brunch and Murray’s for bagels and cream cheese.

One of the standout meals was surprisingly on Valentine’s Day. Normally the worst night to go out to dinner in America, we opted for Sakagura, a less traditional, less romantic restaurant.

This izakaya located in the basement of a big midtown office building is a gem offering outstanding sake, small plates and fresh fish.

Our secluded table in the big Japanese-adorned room was quiet and peaceful on a night when we knew others were suffering overbooked, prix-fixed menued catastrophes all over town. We started off with a gift bottle of sake, Daishichi Minowamon, which was an immensely kind gesture by our New York city family/friends.

The first dish we ordered was the FLUKE CARPACCIO : Thinly sliced Fluke Sashimi Drizzled with Olive Oil Topped with Plum Paste, Salmon Roe and Shiso Leaf $10.00. This was a great, light starter. The plum paste was a nice, subtle added touch.

ONSEN TAMAGO : Soft Boiled Egg Topped with Sea Urchin and Salmon Roe in Cold Soup $9.00. This was the highlight of the night. The broth was superb, egg was perfectly cooked, the roe was salty and the uni was sweet.

MENTAIKO : Spicy Cod Fish Roe Imported from Japan $7.00. Another standout. The texture and flavors are so rich, but not overpowering. Great balance, great color.

EBI STICK : Deep fried Shrimp Roll with “NORI” Seaweed and Oba Leaf Served with a Miso Sauce $8.50. Simple and effective with perfectly cooked shrimp and no grease at all.

YUBA SHUMAI : Minced Pork Dumplings with Shrimp and Lotus Roots Wrapped in a Thinly Bean Curd Sheets Served with “Ponzu” Japanese Citrus Sauce $8.00. These look terrible, with the thin bean curd skin exposing the visually unappealing innards. The flavors, however, were spot on. From an aesthetic perspective, using only shrimp might make these nicer to look at.

BUTA KAKUNI : SAKAGURA’S SPECIAL Stewed Diced Pork $4.50 (Per piece). This was a weak dish. Too saucy, bland.

SANMA ONIGIRI : Cooked Rice Balls with Shiitake Mushroom, Pickled Radish and Mountain Vegetables Wrapped with Whole Baked Pike Mackerel [3pcs] $9.50. Another miss, the rice balls were huge, the fish was too pungent and it was a cumbersome mess.

Sea Salt Chocolate sorbet $6.00. I can say nothing bad about savory sweets.

They also have a miniature sake and sashimi set for dieters.

So without Momofuku, without Corton, without Motorino, without Boulud- without any of the places that really make New York stand out, it still brought its A-game. Luckily the Gold Standard on Sunday will remind again how great LA is, and I can go back to saying it’s the best food city in America.

I’m In New York

February 11, 2010

(Photo by Max Wanger)

Chocolate for Valentine’s Day?

February 10, 2010

This is not your typical Valentine’s Day post. Yes, it’s about chocolate and yes, it’s about a beautiful woman, but this one is not about my girlfriend.

Chocolate is a Tarantino-approved Thai martial arts film starring Jeeja Yanin.

She plays the autistic daughter of a mob boss’ ex-girlfriend and must collect her dying mother’s debts in order to pay for medicine. While it’s typical in terms of martial arts movie story lines (replete with ladyboy gangsters), it’s rare to see a female lead that’s so badass. She’s smaller than the waitresses at Royal/T, yet more powerful than King’s Road Cafe’s coffee.

Her agility means she can perform tricks like a running slide under a coffee table.

Chocolate is for those of you who aren’t sold on the flowers and Hallmarkness of Valentine’s Day. It’s currently on DVD.

While my girlfriend still loves chocolate (dark chocolate, frozen, specifically), she agrees that Chocolate (the movie) makes for good holiday counter-programming.

Marathon-Worthy Seafood Links

February 7, 2010

In anticipation of the forthcoming raw fish marathon here are some seafood links from a few of LA’s best food bloggers:

Recently legal Teenage Glutster got shrimp balls at Mariscos Martin

Recently lighter Rants & Craves adds octopus to her Sunomono

The Roaming Belly rocks the lobster at Newport Seafood

Snack Stadium Battle

February 4, 2010

Last year Holy Taco built an impressive 25,000 calorie snack stadium to celebrate the Super Bowl:

This year their parent company Break decided to one-up them with a much larger 100,000 calorie snack food stadium and accompanying video:

Whether this is proof that necessity is the mother of invention or that internet dorks have too much time on their hands I’ll leave to your judgment. Here is the side by side comparison:

The Pigskin Food Marathon

February 1, 2010

The Super Bowl is a time for eating. Although football is the main attraction, we all know the chips, dips, pork, beef and beer are what brings Americans together by the millions.

Now before we start it should be noted that my grandparents don’t eat pork for religious reasons. Jules from Pulp Fiction doesn’t eat it because “pigs are filthy animals”:

But I’m gonna have to side with Vincent Vega on this one, “Bacon tastes gooood. Pork chops taste gooood,” and as footballs once were made of inflated pigs’ bladders, what better way to celebrate the Super Bowl than with a pigskin food marathon. We didn’t limit ourselves to just the pork skin, for there are so many other delicious pig parts to partake in.

Before we even left house we started in on the frozen Dean Sin World pork soup dumplings and potstickers we’d been saving. These gems hold up so well, that it’s a wonder anyone would ever eat the watery frozen Trader Joe’s frozen versions.

Next we hit the Nom Nom Truck for a bbq pork banh mi.

This actually was the least impressive of my Nom Nom visits. The pork was fattier, drier, and not as hot as we’d previously had. An average banh mi is still a banh mi, however, and because they’re a fantastic combination of ingredients it’s only a matter of time before Subway starts serving them.

Third we hit LA’s newest upscale gastropub, The Lazy Ox. (Note I’m not including a picture of the damn ox that’s already been photographed more times than Paris Hilton). As it was 2pm the place was empty upon our arrival, except for Jeni (Oishii Eats) and Dylan (Eat Drink and Be Merry). Some people use Zagat or the LA Times to know if a restaurant is good- Jeni and Dylan’s approval is enough for me.

We went straight for the pig’s ears, which were phenomenal. The batter was light and airy, the meat was tender, the crunch was satisfying. As the waiter suggested, they should be sold by the bucketful at the movies- popcorn be damned.

Next we were gonna go to Spring Street Smoke House in honor of Meat Week, but parking was annoying so we kept moving to Pa-Ord (per Dylan’s referral). We ordered a small tom yum (which has pork slices, pork meatballs and crispy pork rinds) and a small boat noodle soup with pork. I’ve only had Ord and Sapp, so my boat noodle experience is limited. Pa-Ord’s were damn good- spicy, rich, savory, sweet and not too much star anise.

The Tom Yum didn’t compare to Ruen Pair or Jitlada as the broth is thinner, there’s noodles and it’s a different overall take on the dish.

Last but not least we hit up the meatiest of all LA restaurants- Animal. Our second pig’s ear dish of the day was good but not as good as Lazy Ox’s. Animal’s pig’s ears were crunchier and a bit tougher- they weren’t executed as well as The Lazy Ox’s. (Side note, Animal puts an egg on their pig’s ears, which never hurts any meal except ice cream, but it wasn’t quite enough to  help them win the battle).

We also had baby broccoli with pancetta, parmesan and soft egg, because after all that pork we needed our vegetables…

To end the meal and marathon we ordered the foie gras loco moco with quail egg, spam and hamburger. I’m not sure there’s even pork in it, but it had to be done for the sake of good old American gluttony.

So this Sunday revel in your fatness, America. Drink your empty calories, eat your cholesterol and corn filled finger foods. Slather on the creamy sauces and sink into a food coma. That New Years diet you barely are keeping restarts Monday, February 8th.