Wednesday, August 10, 2011

One Year Old, Santa Monica Place Celebrates with a Restaurant Tasting

The newly remodeled Santa Monica Place has hit its one-year anniversary. As part of the celebration, eight of the mall restaurants are offering tasting menus for lunch and dinner until Aug. 14.
For anyone who hasn't yet visited the remodeled Santa Monica Place, you are in for a surprise. The old school, enclosed big-box mall has had a remarkable make-over.
The top of the old mall was literally peeled off, creating a three-story, open courtyard. On the top floor, a Dining Deck with fast-food restaurants has seating both indoors and outdoors with views of the ocean—provided you stand on tippy-toes and peek above the building to the west.
In the afternoon, cool ocean breezes add to the pleasures of being on the deck. If you happen to visit at the end of the day, you can watch the sun set as you enjoy your plate of fish tacos from Pinches Tacos or Charlie Kabob's rotisserie chicken with humus and rice.
In additon to the Dining Deck, the rennovated mall has ten sit-down restaurants offering a great variety of cuisines.
As part of the anniversary celebration, most of the full-service restaurants on the top deck and in the Market are offering tasting menus for lunch ($20) and dinner ($30) through Sunday, Aug. 14.
Personally, I love tastings. At a reduced price, a selection of dishes from the menu are offered as a way of introducing diners to the restaurant.
The Taste of Santa Monica Place is the perfect opportunity to try out the varied cuisines of La Sandia, Ozumo, Zengo, Sonoma Wine Garden, and Xino on the upper deck, the Blue Stove inside Nordstrom and Primi Al Mercato and The Curious Palate in the Market.
What a great variety of local and global cuisines. From the Curious Palate's farm-to-table American comfort food to Ozumo's authentic upscale Japanese cuisine and sake bar, one could satisfy just about any craving.
With two hours of free parking and valet service available on Second Street, Santa Monica Place makes it easy for visitors to come for shopping and dining. Check in at the concierge stations on the first and third floors about other special events, reduced parking rates, as well as gift bags offers.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Yabu in West Los Angeles - Authentic Japanese

Living in Southern California, we enjoy rich ethnic diversity. Those of us who explore culture through cuisine are very happy about that.
Located in West Los Angeles, a good example of a neighborhood Japanese restaurant, Yabu (11820 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064; 310-473-9757has a devoted following.
Because Yabu has a much larger, sister restaurant in West Hollywood, when you call to make a reservation, you will be asked to confirm that you want to eat at the Pico restaurant.
You do.
There are lots of chain restaurants with Japanese names, but Yabu is the real deal. The kitchen prepares authentic Japanese comfort food, not unlike what you would eat in Tokyo or Kyoto.
Serving lunch (Mon.-Sat.) and dinner (Mon.-Sun.), the restaurant is perfect to drop in for a quick bite at the sushi bar or with family and friends to hang out at one of the tables tucked into the corners of the room.
Order cups of hot green tea, ice cold bottles of Japanese beers or hot (or cold) sake and try out new dishes as you enjoy easy conversation and good food.
The sushi selections are always fresh and made with precision. Affordable—unless you go crazy—sushi and sashimi can be ordered individually or as combination platters.
The beef tataki, a Japanese version of carpaccio, and the albacore tuna tataki are especially tasty (our son Franklin's favorites). The ponzu dressing is spicy enough to bring out the best of both.
In no particular order, here are some of the dishes we order whenever we visit: fried tofu, stir-fried lotus root (kimpira renkon), edamame, ten don (tempura shrimp and vegetables over seasoned steamed rice), eggplant, spinach in a miso sauce, miso soup, shishito green peppers, black cod and soboro don (finely minced chicken cooked in a ginger soy sauce with a bit of heat and served over donburi rice).
Come at lunchtime and try the combination of noodle soup (soba or udon) and sushi. Affordable and freshly made, the soup is light and flavorful, the noodles chewy and delicious. 
One of my favorites is the tempura udon. Inside the large bowl of soup are chewy udon noodles, slices of fish cake, vegetables and tempura. Ask for the vegetable and shrimp tempura on the side so they stay crisp and crunchy.
Yabu's tempura may be some of the best in Los Angeles. Light and fresh tasting, the shrimp, seaweed square, lotus root and sweet potato have their flavors enhanced, not overwhelmed, by the batter.
Everyone has his or her favorite sushi; mine are tamago (egg), baked crab in a hand roll (on the dinner specials menu) and spicy tuna.
For a small restaurant with a kitchen about the size of a Mini Cooper, you'll be surprised at the plentiful menu.
Make reservations by calling 310-473-9757 and be sure to mention you want to dine at the Pico location. Valet parking is available. Pay in cash and receive a 10 percent discount.

Pickle Me Up! It's Thanksgiving!

Pickles are delicious anytime of the year. For Thanksgiving they are especially good. Their crunch and acidity counterbalances the delicious...