Sunday, December 27, 2009


It was a cold Christmas Eve night, Jitlada was our location of choice. We showed up at 6:30, the restaurant was mostly empty. The neon sign outside says Spicy Southern Thai, that's what we came for a family of Chiliheads.

We reviewed the menu and ordered some standard Thai dishes and some items we had never had before. For starters we had the Papaya Salad and the Thai Toast. The salad was delicious and refreshing, a bit spicy. The Thai toast wasn't what I expected, it looked like fried plantains, but tasted like some sort of deep fried seafood cake, tasty and it came with a sweet dipping sauce.

Next up, the Spicy Sweet Pork and Spicy Seafood Padthai. The pork dish was really good, the sauce was a nice combination of sweet and spicy. But like the salad, the portion size seemed a bit small. The Padthai was good, but too sweet for me.

We had the Chinese watercress, Spicy Fried Rice and Steamed Whole Seabass with Spicy Lemon sauce. All of these dishes were good, but none of them were spicy enough. We requested the condiments too late, because they added the kick I was looking for.

To finish off the meal, we split a Mango Sticky rice. Jitlada has gotten a lot of praise for being one of the best Thai restaurants in LA. Our meal was good, but I was expecting a lot more spice and balance of flavors. The price of some of the dishes also seemed too high.

Next time I will request Thai spicy when ordering.


Oh Animal, Oh Animal, Thy Food is so delicious!

Yes this place did live up to the hype.

Our reservations were for 6:45, we arrived about ten minutes early and were seated immediately. The restaurant was about 80% full. Our server explained to us the different ways we could order, all apps, no apps, a lot of apps and entrees, etc...But we had to make sure to order all at once versus piece meal. That wouldn't be a problem.

We ordered a bottle of the house Cabernet to start and perused the menu. We decided to go heavy on the apps and split an entree. For our apps we had the Chicken Liver Toast, BBQ Pork Belly Sliders, Melted Petit Basque and Chorizo, Sweetbreads, Poutine and the Pig Ear with Fried Egg.

The Chicken Liver Toast was amazing, so simple, but so well balanced. The liver puree was so smooth. The BBQ Pork Sliders were good, but there was too much sauce for my taste. The pork belly was so unctuous and the slaw was not too sweet. Melted Petit Basque was not bad, but the flavor of the Chorizo was lost.

The Sweetbreads were amazing, it was served on top of creamed spinach, with Hen of the Woods mushrooms, capers and lemon segments. When everything was eaten together there were so many flavors that all worked well together. The Pig Ear with Fried egg had a nice spice, but the pig ears could have been a little crispier. The Poutine was the only dish that I thought was unsuccessful. It was too salty and I thought the gravy was too thin.

For our entree we decided to split the Quail Fry. Another well executed dish. The crispy fried quail went well with the slab bacon and creamy grits. The quail was cooked perfectly.

I was looking forward to the donuts for dessert, but they had taken them off the menu. We ordered the Bacon Chocolate Crunch bar. It was nice and chocolaty, but the bacon part of it just brought a little smokyness no bacon flavor.

Animal is casual and the atmosphere is very minimal. The service was excellent and the price is not bad. The standout dishes were the Chicken Liver Toast, Sweetbreads, and Quail Fry. I hope to go back and try some of the other dishes soon.

Monday, November 9, 2009

David Burke - Las Vegas

Our reservations were for 7:30, party of three. I had never been to a David Burke restaurant, but heard a lot of about his cooking style and creativity.

The restaurant is located among many of the other fine dining establishments in the Venetian. The interior has a modern feel with some whimsical lamps and art. Humpty Dumpty artwork displayed throughout the restaurant.

The menu is divided into three parts, starters, soups/salads and entrees. There are also a la cart side dishes for the entrees. Our server was very helpful with explaining the dishes and offering suggestions.

Before our starters were served, bread was served. The bread is a Brioche pop-over served with butter and Hawaiian sea salt, good stuff. Fresh and warm and so buttery.

For starters we ordered the Grilled Octopus, Angry Lobster and Day Boat Sea Scallops Benedict. The octopus was served with chickpea puree, celery, confit tomatos, olives and chili oil. The octopus was a tiny bit overcooked, but the dish itself was successful. The lobster had nice flavor, it could have had more meat, but it was good. The scallops benedict, was definitely the star, the chorizo oil, lobster foam and quail eggs combined to make a delicious dish.

I ordered the Pumpkin Soup, we also had a Spinach Salad and a Caesar Salad. The soup was poured into a bowl with a piece of Jerk Chicken and a dollop of Maple Cream. It was smooth, rich and hearty. The spinach salad was delicious as well, the goat cheese, bacon vinaigrette and he candied pecans were a great combination. The caesar salad was pretty average, a few anchovy filets served with the salad were delicious.

At this point we were all pretty full, but we still our last course coming up. I ordered the Grilled Double Pork Chop with bourbon smoked beans, bacon, apple-celery slaw and onion fondue. We also had the Seared John Dory and "Bronx" Style Veal Filet Mignon. My pork chops were overcooked and very dry, the accompaniments were good, but the pork seemed like it rested too long. I don't know if they brined the pork chop, but if they didn't they should have. My friends John Dory was also overcooked. The veal filet was perfectly cooked.

Along with our entrees we also ordered a couple of a la cart items, the bacon fat fries and cavatelli pasta. The fries were incredibly crispy and well seasoned, but the bacon flavor was absent. The fries were much better then the fries we had the night before at Bouchon. The cavatelli pasta was delicious, it was served in a mushroom sauce, I couldn't stop eating it.

The meal was pretty darn good up until the entrees. But the service made up for that. Our server Jeffery was terrific. He and the food runners were very attentive and could not have been more helpful. After we mentioned that the pork and the fish dishes were overcooked, he went out of his way to have the fish removed from the bill and offered us a complementary dessert.

We weren't planning on ordering any dessert and I don't really have a sweet tooth, but this dessert was phenomenal. It was called the "Egg" streme Chocolate. Caramel, Milk Chocolate Cream, Vanilla Panacotta, Cookies and Cream ice cream, all served in a dark chocolate egg shell. An amazing dessert.

With all of the options in The Venetian, David Burke's restaurant is great one. With an eclectic menu and a friendly staff, I would recommend trying it out if you haven't.

Beijing Noodle #9 - Las Vegas

Okay, so I understand this place isn't going compare to any of he excellent Northern Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. But, I so hopeful after speaking to the staff, many of which were from China. They described the food as being excellent.

The first problem with the place were the prices. I expected the place to be overpriced, but this was ridiculous. I guess the lease in Caesars Palace doesn't help, nor does the beautifully decorated interior. All that being said, I expected the quality of the ingredients and the quantity of each dish to be much better.

We ordered the Pad Fried Dumplings(Gyoza), Braised Baby Bok Choy, Mapo Tofu, Beef Noodle Soup and Pan Fried Pork Pancakes. None of these dishes were spectacular. The Bok Choy was okay, the gyoza were very small and the quantity was pitiful. The highlight was the Beef Noodle soup, it was good and the chunks of beef were nicely braised. The mapo tofu was terrible, nothing like what it's supposed to be.

The service was good and they have some interesting beverages, but this place definitely caters to the American tourist. Like many of the other reviews you can get all of the dishes served here for half the price in any Chinatown.

Bouchon - Las Vegas

I was expecting so much more from a Thomas Keller restaurant. The night started off poorly when we had to wait almost 30 mins for our table, party of three at 9PM.

As we waited for our table we scanned the menu and decided we would order dishes to share. Our server started off being very helpful, but slowly lost interest as the meal progressed.

For starters we ordered the Assiette de Charcuterie and the Salade de Frisée aux Lardons et Oeuf Poché. Before the starters arrived, bread was delivered, it was nice, but not impressive. The starters took a lot longer then they should've, considering there was minimal cooking involved. The salami was okay and should have been served with more bread. The salad was good and the egg was well poached, the vinaigrette was delicious. The toasted Brioche served with the salad was amazing. As our plates were cleared, our table was covered in crumbs. The crumbs were never cleaned from our table. I noticed several other tables being crumbed between each course.

For our entrees we decided to split the Croque Madame and the special of the evening, a Pan Seared Duck breast served with roasted Sunchokes, Satueed Chantrelles, Chestnut Pain Perdu and a Huckleberry Gastric.

The Croque Madame was delicious, the mornay sauce was rich and bread was so buttery. The fries served with the sandwich were under seasoned and very ordinary. We were so excited for the duck dish, but it couldn't have been more disappointing. The duck was over cooked, the entire dish was cold and bland.

Our server seemed very distracted and forgot to bring over items we asked for and never really checked on us. For the cost of the meal and the reputation of the chef behind the restaurant, I expected the food to be well executed and the service to be on point. None of these things were true.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dean Sin World

After reading about this place and seeing all of the positive reviews, I was excited to finally try it out.

The place is very small, it seats maybe 12-15 people, max. They specialize in Northern Chinese dishes which are mainly dough based. So you will find the standard potstickers, wonton soup and green onion pancakes. But I was there to try the Shen Jian Bao (pan fried buns), argued to be the best in SGV. We ordered two orders of the pan fried buns, eight come in an order. The buns were served screaming hot, the bottoms were crispy and the dough had a great texture sprinkled with black sesame seeds. The filling was okay, but there could have been a bit more. Overall, the buns were good, but I'm not sure they were the best.

We also ordered a variety of baked pastries that just came out of the oven. One was filled with ground pork, another was filled with green onions and they gave us a complimentary sesame filled pastry. The pork filled pastry was great, the filling was similar to the filling used in the pan fried dumplings, but the ratio was much better.

The staff is very friendly, the prices are reasonable considering the work involved with making these items. We talked to one of the owners about the handmade filling she used for the sesame pastry and she told us everything was made from scratch.

I'm looking forward to trying out the wonton soup and the xlb.

Mastro's Steakhouse - Thousand Oaks

If you're looking for high quality meats and great service in the Conejo Valley, then Mastros is your best option.

The dimly lit dining area is quaint, but feels very exclusive. The menu is straight forward and beef is the main attraction. Everything is A La Cart and the portions of the side dishes are enough to share. There is a nice assortment of bread, there is a full bar with a nice wine list.

Our meal started off with an order of Fanny Bay and Blue Point oysters and a couple of wedge salads. The oysters were served with fresh horseradish, cocktail sauce and lemon. The oysters were delicious, the wedge salads were typical, nothing to write home about.

For our entrees, I had the Veal Chop, we also ordered the Bone-In Filet and the fish of the day, which was Halibut. For our side dishes we had, Lobster Mashed Potatoes, Macaroni Cheese and the Sauteed Asparagus. The meats are served unadorned, there are no sauces and no garnishes. My Veal chop was cooked perfectly and the seasoning was on point. I had a taste of the Filet and it was delicious. But the side dishes always seem to steal the show. I love their mac and cheese, made with five cheeses and browned nicely on top. At this point I'm completely stuffed. But the dessert selection is pretty good.

We ordered the Vanilla Gelato and Creme Brulee, our declared that this was not enough. And since it was my birthday, he said he would bring out something special. So in addition to the gelato and brulee, he brought out Mastro's signature dessert, the Warm Butter Cake. The plate was decorated nicely with a birthday message written in chocolate. If you go to Mastro's, you have to try the warm butter cake. It's ridiculous and I don't even like sweets.

The service at this location is impeccable. Our server Bobby, answered all of our questions and offered many great suggestions.

In my opinion Mastro's Steakhouse is a great option. I like it better the other "chain" steakhouses like Ruth's Chris and Flemings. Though it may not be at the level of CUT or Wolfgangs, the prices are much more reasonable.

Friday, October 9, 2009


2.5 Stars

So this was my first visit to Bellavino. I was having dinner with friends and they decided on the location. I arrived on time for dinner reservations at 6:30 on a Thursday evening. The restaurant wasn't very busy, probably about a third full. I was first to arrive and waited at the bar. The ambience is very nice, casual yet sophisticated. There was live music and a full bar.

We were seated on the patio next to the fireplace. One side of the menu consisted of charcuterie and cheese, the other included appetizers, salads and entrees. We started off with a three cheese selection, we selected Purple Haze, Manchego and the Eppoises. Unfortunately the Eppoises was not available and neither was our second selection, the Explorateur. They probably don't get a lot of orders for these cheeses. We settled on the Fromager D' Affinois and creamy Brie. Considering this was a cheese plate, it took awhile for it to arrive. The portions of cheese were a bit small and it was served with sliced baguette and water crackers, there was also some dried fruit.

For our main courses, we had the Filet Mignon, Grilled Ahi and I had the Pasta Provencal with Prawns. My pasta dish was okay, it lacked seasoning and the individual ingredients did not stand out. The Filet looked a bit over cooked, but I was told both of the other dishes were good. The highlight of our meal was the 2006 Morgan Pinor Noir, we had two bottles. Surprisingly enough the vineyard is in Salinas. The service was good.

Overall not a bad place for some wine and cheese. I would like to go back with they are fully stocked with cheese.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sushi Yusho

A last minute decision to go out for sushi in the Conejo Valley and we ended up at Sushi Yusho in Newbury Park.

I had been here a couple of times before and had decent experiences, so we decided to try it again. The first round of items included Spanish Mackerel, Red Snapper, and Albacore, all ordered nigiri style. Also had a spicy scallop hand roll and green mussels. All of the fish was decent, the green mussels were prepared a lot differently then I'd had them before, they weren't very good. I think they were broiled and just has some type of miso sauce ladled over the top.

Our table also had a variety of cut rolls, all of them were decent, but nothing special. The star of the night was the Sho Chiku Bai Junmai Nigori Sake. This sake is unfiltered and has a great sweetness. With a few of those the sushi became the supporting cast.

Santouka Ramen - Torrance, CA Mitsuwa Market Food Court

4 Stars

Finally made it out to the Torrance Mitsuwa market and go to the try Santouka Ramen. There are a lot of options in this food court, but Santouka is definitely one you should try first.

I ordered #31, which is the regular sized Hot Miso Ramen. Their trademark shio ramen was perfectly cooked and the spicy miso broth was delicious. The ramen is served with thick slices or roasted pork belly, green onions and naruto. This was a superior bowl of noodles.

I look forward to visiting the West LA location and trying another version of their delicious ramen.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A.O.C. Tuscany Flights and Bites on Monday Nights

It's that time of the week again! Monday is just a few days away and this week we are flying to Tuscany. We will be featuring two flights of Tuscan wines paired with an assortment of complimentary small plates.

monday, august 31, 2009: tuscany

flight 1...chianti

2007 poderi del paradiso, chianti colli senesi
2005 podere il palazzino, la pieve, chianti classico
2006 dalla pancia, chianti

flight gerla

2006 la gerla, rosso di montalcino
2004 la gerla, brunello di montalcino

*two cheeses
*pancetta wrapped market fish with yellow tomato sauce and aioli
*marinated eggplant and roasted pepper antipasto with prosciutto

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Los Angeles Grand Central Market

Being a foodie in LA, you would wonder why I haven't been to the Grand Central Market. I have no excuse. But I was in downtown to get my knives sharpened at Ross Cutlery and the market is located directly across the street, so here was my chance. I had heard of a place specializing in pupusas, so I thought that would be my go to spot.

The market has mostly Mexican food stalls, but there are also Chinese, Japanese and a few other types of foods available. With many of the visitors being Hispanic, the Mexican food had got to be good. After wandering around the market staring at all of the customers enjoying their food, I decided this would be a multi-course tasting trip. I ordered a spinach and cheese pupusa from Saritas Pupuseria. Pupusas are made of masa and filled with cheese, other ingredients may include beans, chicharrón or vegetables. All the pupusas are made to order and may take a bit of time. I sat at the counter of the food stall when I got my order, they offer a side of pickled cabbage. The pupusa was not bad, but definitely lacked flavor. The hot sauce added some flavor, but the cheese and masa were very subtle. Spinach may not have been the greatest accompaniment, should have gone with the chicharrón.

Before deciding on the pupusa, I saw quite a few foods stalls serving traditional Mexican fast food, Gorditas, Tortas, Tacos, Stews and Ceviche. I stood in front of one particular stall called Tacos, Tumbras and Tomas. The first thing that caught my eye, was the large crowd, the second thing were the huge tortas they were making. I love tortas and they made a version I had never had before, torta milanesa. The tortas have everything, avocados, beans, lettuce, tomatos, a white sauce and the milanesa, all of that on a nice fresh roll. I ended up ordering the carne asada and could only eat half. It is definitely the food stall I plan on visiting next time.

All in all the Grand Central Market is a place all Angelenos should visit at least once, it's part of the LA culture. The prices are great and the food is delicious.

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