Sunday, July 31, 2011

Black Market Liquor Bar

Had dinner there last night, it was a Saturday evening and we arrived shortly after the place opened. We were seated immediately, they only take reservations for parties of six or more.

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I had read some reviews about the place and many of them mention the excess noise level. That's definitely not a problem if you arrive early. The menu has a wide variety if ingredients and flavors. They also have a nice variety of cocktails listed in order of heaviness.

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We started with a few cocktails and the Dill Chips, served with Malt Vinegar Aioli. My cocktail was the City Fizz (gin, absinthe, lime, cucumber, mint, egg white), it was a nice a refreshing drink and not overly sweet. We also had the Red Hot and Bothered (Jalapeño-infused vodka, strawberry, blood orange, agave, ginger beer), which ridiculously good. The chips were very good, not greasy and the dip was great.

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We decided to order our food in waves, three dishes at a time. Our first round included Mussels, Deviled Quail Eggs and Soft Shell Crab Po boy. The mussels were delicious, the broth was buttery and aromatic. I liked the fact that they served the dish with three slices of bread, one for each person at the table.

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The Soft Shell Crab Po Boy was served on a Brioche Bun the size of a slider. The crab protruded from all sides of the bun. It was fresh and perfectly fried. The cabbage and Sriracha sauce were nice complements. This dish reminded me a lot of the Fried Chicken Sandwich at Son of a Gun.

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The Deviled Quail Eggs were good, but nothing special. There was a strong taste of dill which was not mentioned on the menu. The flavor of the tuna was masked by the dill and egg.

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For round two, we ordered the Burrata panzanella with onion, olive, roasted pepper and mint pisto, Crispy Collard Greens with Benton Ham, Cheesy Grits and Soft Egg, last but not least the Fried Cauliflower with Lemon Aioli.

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The Burrata was delicious, the sliced olives added a nice salty touch. This is a interpretation of a panzanella salad, the bread is more like croutons and the items are not tossed together. But the dish is really good and a nice combination of flavors.

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The collard greens with soft egg and ham, really good. There should have been more grits, but the dish was simple. Maybe a bit of acidity would help out, but that's getting picky.

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Fried cauliflower, cooked perfectly, the lemon aioli nice complement. For dessert we ordered the Deep Fried Fluffernutter. For those of you that don't know, a fluffernutter sandwich is marshmellow fluff and peanut butter between two slices of bread. BMLB adds banana to this sandwich and deep fries the whole thing. I didn't taste this, but judging by the reactions of my dinnermates, it was good.

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All the dishes were served on wood blocks with the Black Market name, smart move. The service could have been quicker considering how bust it was, but overall it was attentive. I do look forward to coming again and enjoying the nightlife. Congrats to Chef Antonia, great food.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bouchon - Bastille Day 2011

Celebrating Bastille Day at Bouchon, I like it!

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The courtyard outside Bouchon is beautiful. We arrived early to enjoy some drinks at the Bouchon Bar. The patio was full of people enjoying classic French dishes, oysters, steak tartar, escargot, etc...

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We walked up to the restaurant located on the second floor and we were seated immediately. I had been to the Bouchon in Las Vegas, the design and layout of the BH location is similar, but quite a bit smaller.

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We ordered several starters escargot, foie gras terrine with sauterne gelee, heirloom tomato salad, goat cheese with frisee salad and oysters. Each dish was simple, but had amazingly fresh ingredients. My only criticism would be that the sauterne gelee was too sweet for me.

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Our table did an amazing job of ordering a variety of dishes and it wasn't even planned. I had the a Bastille Day special Truffle Risotto, which was piled high with shaved white truffles over a rich risotto. It was a bit too thick, but the rice was not overcooked. Other dishes were the Moules au Safran, Gnocchi à la Parisienne, Truite aux Amandes, Steak Frites and Salmon served with vegetables. I sampled the dishes and everything was good. But because it's Bouchon, the expectations are high and so are the prices. The experience with friends is priceless, but similar to my experience at Bouchon Las Vegas, I was expecting the food to have a "wow" factor and it was just good.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Lazy Ox Canteen - Brunch

Enjoyed my dinner experience here, so I was excited for brunch. Brought a group of friends, all first timers. It was carmageddon weekend so I didn't think there would be a need for reservations. Took the Metro Red line and a short stint on the Gold line.

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The brunch menu was impressive. A nice variety of small plates and entrees. We had a party of six, so getting a taste of several dishes would not be a problem. We ordered the following:

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fried eggs with crumbled sausage, semolina & salsa verde
bellwether farms ricotta fritters with saffron honey
turkey and pork belly sandwich with bacon & yuzu aioli
8 oz lazy ox burger with cantal cheese & green peppercorn mustard
roasted shell on fava beans with mint
pig ear "chicharon" with pickles, radish & horseradish
crispy surf clams with caper & pickle aioli
grilled green cabbage salad with piquillo pepper, caper & shrimp
roasted cauliflower with chile, mint & pine nuts
pork & beef ragu with egg pasta & fried egg
butterscotch pudding

There were several highlights in this list. But the pig ear "chicharon" was my favorite. The crispy exterior and the slightly chewy interior, the horseradish and pickles add a nice acid and heat.

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My entree was the turkey and pork belly sandwich. The sandwich itself was a bit dry and bland, more aioli would have helped. But the worst part about the sandwich was the fact that it arrived 10 mins after we had eaten all of the other dishes.

Overall brunch was delicious, besides a few execution issues.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Village Idiot


It was July 4th weekend and I expected lunch here to be crowded. It wasn't, got seated right away. A DJ was playing some good tunes and the menu looked interesting.

One dish jumped out at me, it was a sandwich. The ingredients were as follows: cannellini beans, goat jack cheese, pickled jalapenos, arugula and a chipotle tomato sauce for dipping. All of these ingredients sound good together and very different from anything I've had before. I asked how the beans were prepared and they told me it was like a "patty". I decided to add a fried egg to this sandwich.

When the sandwich arrived the first thing I noticed was the bread. It wasn't a crusty artisan style roll, but more like the hoagie rolls you can get at the market. I prefer a bit of a crust. The cannellini beans were more like a spread than a patty. But the overall taste wasn't bad. I could have used more pickled jalapeno, but I liked the unique flavors and creativity behind it.

The atmosphere is nice during the day with large windows and the service was attentive. The cocktails we had were also decent.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Malibu Seafood

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A beautiful summer afternoon and fresh seafood, these are the things that bring me to Malibu seafood. It had been awhile since my last visit, so I was excited.

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We arrived just after it opened and most of the tables were already taken. I made the mistake of ordering a healthy option, Grilled Albacore Tuna with salad and fries. My friend did the smart thing and ordered the fish and chips. We got lucky and nabbed a seat in the lower area. Our food didn't take long either.

As I grabbed the tray, I looked at my food and my friends food. It was too late, I chosen the wrong path. Oh well, I really do like grilled tuna and I did get fries, so I was hoping for the best. Unfortunately, I felt the fish was overcooked, especially for a place selling fresh fish. I expected it to be more rare. There was also no seasoning at all. But it definitely tasted healthy.

I looked over at the table next to me and the fish sandwich looked delicious. My friend loved her fish and chips. Gotta stick with a smart game on my next visit.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Taste of the Nation

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It seems like there is a food event every other weekend in Southern California. Some of these events are worth trying and some of these events should be an annual pilgrimage. Taste of the Nation is a food event that should not be missed and maybe LA's best. This was my first time attending and I can't wait till the next year.

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My plan was not to over indulge, but that would be tough. I headed straight to most visually appealing food first and that was Nona Sivley and Kerry Simon's lamb lollipops with hibiscus glaze on fava bean puree. It was nicely cooked and a great start to the day.

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What happened next was a complete blur. The Bazaar/Tres served their signature olive spheres, a burst of pure unadulterated olive flavor. They also served a delicious grilled octopus tacos, served in bib lettuce with flowering cilantro. The octopus was tender, the taco itself was good, but could've used some acid.

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Then came Campanile's olive oil fried egg served on grilled bread with olive tapenade and a tomato concasse. Putting a fried egg on top of perfectly grilled bread, is not fair. Simple but delicious.

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Chaya restaurant group was the next food tent and I was not sure what to expect here. But Chef Shingefumi Tachibe really impressed me, as a matter of fact, my favorite single bite of food was the Hamachi Mole Pressed Sushi. Clean, great texture and perfectly seasoned. Their Sukiyaki short rib with porcini mushroom puree was also delicious.

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I had to grab a beverage, so I headed over to The Spare Room and they were offering the Nantucket Sound. Boy have cocktails come a long way, this drink included the following: chamomile and lemon balm infused Plymouth gin; Bianco vermouth; and cantaloupe juice, served over spiced ginger sorbet. So refreshing, but back to the food. Up till this point there really weren't any lines, but at Go Burger, had a line, all for a burger? This better be good. I grabbed a lamb slider with minted goat cheese and grilled fava relish. If grading on looks, this burger would get an A, but for flavor this burger got an A+. Perfectly cooked medium rare, well seasoned and just great lamb taste. I want another one right now.

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I'm still pacing myself at this point and skipping any dishes that I may have tried before. So I decide to head over to the VIP tent to try out what Chef Michael Voltaggio had to offer. Wagyu beef tongue cold cuts with pickled red onion, pumpernickle bread and mustard snow, the tongue was perfectly cooked, super tender and all together the dish was delicious. He also had an ice bar, with micro-cones, ice cream flavors included olive oil, bacon and blueberry pancake. I tried the olive oil and it was really good, so rich and creamy with a subtle olive oil finish. They also had my favorite cocktail of the day, their version of a Pimm's Cup using gin, sweet vermouth, Triple Sec, orange bitters and Peychaud's bitters; he combined it with fresh lemonade and garnished it with cucumber, mnt, borage, freeze-dried apples and strawberries.

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AFrame served their signature pop corn, Buttered furikake kettle corn topped with Benton's bacon, dried pineapple, and fresh shiso. Lukshon served chicken pops, The Red O, had pork belly sopes and grilled blue mazatlan shrimp served on fresh jicama "chips". All of these dishes were good.

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Okay, so this was just one side of the venue, I had yet to visit the other side. Next up, Osteria Mozza served porcini rubbed barbecued short ribs with salsa verde. This reminded me of kalbi, but a touch too sweet for me.

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I missed the king crab chive dumplings at WP24, but I did get a taste of their chow fueng roll with braised beef short rib. This was a successful interpretation, but it just doesn't compare to the delicate chow fueng made at most dim sum restaurants.

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The torta de lengua from FIG restaurant was another amazing preparation of beef tongue. And the escabeche served with the sandwich was awesome. Border Grill's offerings were Cold poached Alaska salmon on a jicama tostadita, topped with tomatillo herb salsa; Alaska crab and quinoa fritters with aji amarillo aioli, piquillo pepper romesco. I enjoyed the crab on the quinoa fritter, but the salmon was pretty bland.

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All of this food and I only had about half of what was available. So much for my plan. I expected the food to be amazing and it was. But the surprise was the amazing cocktails being served at this event. Some of the best I have ever had. Thanks to everyone that contributed and donated their time for this event. You did an amazing job.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hunan Chili King

Los Angeles magazine listed this place as #2 on the Top 10 Chinese restaurants list. With so many places to choose from in SGV, that's quite a statement. I was with my parents and my mom is the Simon Cowell of Chinese restaurant reviewers. But to her defense, shes an amazing cook and has great taste.

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We arrived on a Saturday at about noon, there were plenty of tables available. As we were seated, a plate of boiled peanuts and spicy pickled daikon was placed at our table. If this dish was a barometer of the heat level we were to expect, our mouths were in for a challenge.

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A great thing about this place is the menu, it has pictures and English!! Yes English! But with my parents there that didn't matter, for future tho, it's going to be importante.

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We ordered Cumin Lamb, Sauteed Frog, Spicy Chicken, some type of fried fish and a sauteed bamboo like vegetable. See even with a English menu, I couldn't figure out half of the dishes we ate. The frog dish tasted a lot like the chicken dish, surprise, surprise. Both were good, but trying to eat meat the with all little bones was challenging. The cumin lamb dish was my favorite, subtle cumin flavor, tender thinly sliced lamb with a ton of cilantro, chilis and scallions.

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The bamboo dish was a nice contrast from all of the oily spicy dishes. The fried fish dish would have been good, but they were over cooked, bordering burned. The prices of the dishes were on the high side, but as far as authentic Szechuan cuisine goes, Hunan Chili King has that covered. The spice level is high and the service is decent.

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