Showing posts with label Restaurant Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Restaurant Reviews. Show all posts

Monday, May 4, 2015

Los Angeles Restaurant Recommendations for a Friend who Lives in New York

Sometimes out of town friends ask for restaurant recommendations. The restaurants I love in Los Angeles are spread all over town and they usually aren't ones that are famous. 

I just emailed a short list to a good friend who wants to give a present to an old friend who has just completed a difficult film project.

I thought I'd share the list with you.


Adana Restaurant
6918 San Fernando Road, Glendale 91201 818/843-6237
Delicious food. Written about by me, Mark Bittman and Jonathan Gold. We all love it. The chef, Edward Khechemyan, is a hard working, inventive man. The food is freshly made. Affordable. Delicious.
Here are links to reviews:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/28/magazine/this-armenian-life.html?_r=0
http://www.latimes.com/food/la-fo-0307-gold-adana-restaurant-20150307-story.html
http://menwholiketocook.blogspot.com/search/label/Adana%20Restaurant





Yabu 
11820 W. Pico Blvd
LA CA 90064
 (310) 473-9757
The best affordable sushi, tempura, udon and soba in LA. An intimate, cozy, friendly space. (There are two Yabu restaurants. The one in West Hollywood is good but the one on the west side I love.)
Here is my review:
http://menwholiketocook.blogspot.com/2011/08/yabu-in-west-los-angeles-authentic.html

Liquid Kitty

11780 W. Pico Blvd

Los Angeles CA 90064




























Half a block east of Yabu, on the same side of the street is Liquid Kitty, possibly one of the coolest bars in LA with very large, well-made drinks, walls painted black and soft-core porn or 70s melodramatic movies showing silently on a screen in the back. Out front there is a neon martini glass that changes into a burning cigarette

My favorite evening is a massively large dirty martini up at Liquid Kitty, then dinner at Yabu (tendon (seasoned rice with tempera shrimp & vegetables), uni sushi with a quail yolk, crab handroll, tamago sushi, yellow tail sashimi, black cod with soy sauce). Yum.

La Fiesta Brava
259b Hampton Drive, Venice, CA 90291
310/399-8005, open 7 days a week 10:30am-9:00pm
A hole in the wall restaurant owned by a family. When you walk through the front door, you enter what used to be the living room of a home. This is as close as you’ll get to eating in a Mexican family’s home without going to a Mexican family’s home. The chicken mole is fantastic. Michelle loves the pepper shrimp in the shell with beans and rice. The fish taco is actually a whole grilled fish filet on a handmade tortilla topped with creamy salsa. The food is really good. Unfortunately Rose Avenue is undergoing very rapid redevelopment, with upscale restaurants and shops taking over the neighborhood. The days are numbered for La Fiesta Brava. It is really worth experiencing as many times as possible before it is forced to leave. The restaurant relocated earlier this year. The food is just as good and the new location is bright and airy.
http://menwholiketocook.blogspot.com/2014/09/la-fiesta-brava-delights-with-old.html




Monday, February 13, 2012

Special Menus at La Sandia and Zengo at Santa Monica Place

If you live near Santa Monica, you have already visited the open air Dining Deck on the top floor of Santa Monica Place. For anyone who used to visit the old mall, what a difference!
The old food court was on the bottom floor of the mall. Dark and airless, the fast food restaurants weren't especially inviting.

The remodeled mall improved in many ways, most notably with the elevation of the food court to the top floor. For restaurant patrons, free valet parking is available with validation at the Second Street entrance.

Recently I participated in a tasting for food writers at the side-by-side restaurants, La Sandia and the fusion restaurant, Zengo, both owned by the prolific chef Richard Sandoval.
A side note: if you are ever in a restaurant and you see a group of diners all taking photographs of each course as it is placed on the table, you are probably watching food writers doing "research."
During February at La Sandia, chef Sandoval celebrates the regional variations of the Mexican tamale with a "Tamal Festival," featuring two seasonal blanco tequila cocktails (a fresh pomegranate margarita and a passion fruit Mexican mojito) and eight tamals.
The tamal, as described by chef Sandoval:
From Mayan origin, meaning ‘wrapped;’ A traditional Latin American dish made of stuffed masa wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves, that is steamed or boiled. Viewed as a comfort food, tamales are enjoyed throughout all parts of the day. Dating back to 1200 BC, tamales have traditionally been prepared for feasts and celebrations. Mexican tradition states that on Dia de Reyes, all enjoy a special bread, containing a hidden doll. He who finds the doll hosts a Tamal Party in February. Over time, tamales have taken on regional influences, resulting in hundreds of varieties of fillings and wrappings found throughout Latin America. 
My favorite was the Torta de Tamal, in the style of Mexico City. Shredded chicken is tucked inside a corn tamal which is placed inside a biscuit-like bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, salsa verde and a spicy chipotle aioli. Speared by the long toothpick holding the sandwich together was a slice of radish, pickled in salt and lime juice.

Ah, carbo inside carbo, the definition of comfort food. Delicious. The heat from the spicy aioli and salsa verde countered all that starchy creaminess in the right way.
Vegetarians will enjoy the tamals with the tamal de frijol con queso. Sweet black beans and melted cheese fill this tamal, which is topped with an entomatada salsa--the result of sautéing Roma tomatoes, onions, garlic, fresh oregano and chipotle peppers--and poblano crema.
If you are a pescaterian, you can have a filet of mahi mahi cooked perfectly in the tamal de pescado a la Campeche. The fish is topped with a slab of moist masa, seasoned with the herb epazote, tomatoes and spiced with cilantro and Serrano.
Myself, I'm a meat eater and I thoroughly enjoyed the shredded chicken in the tamal frito Toluca and the pork tamal estilo Oaxaca.
For dessert, chef Sandoval offers sweet yellow corn tamales wrapped in corn husks and topped with masticated raisins. The dessert tamales were good but the crispy churros were excellent.

La Sandia's sister restaurant, Zengo feels like the men's club you always dreamed about. A wide deck wraps around the dining room with views to the Promenade below. At night a refreshing ocean breeze gives the deck the proper amount of romance. With heat lamps a blaze on cooler evenings, the deck is the perfect spot to enjoy drinks, appetizers and a meal with your significant other and friends.

The dark wood and low lighting take some eye-adjusting. A long bar divides the restaurant into an inside dining room and the outside deck. Our waitress explained that "Zengo" means "give and take," which she suggested meant that the courses are supposed to be shared so everyone can have a taste of the varied and innovative menu.

Of course, "give and take" also refers to the fusion that is the menus focus. Latin American and Asian cuisines are mashed up in the most elegant way. From February 15-March 31, chef Sandoval brings together ingredients and techniques from Brazilian (Sao Paulo) and Chinese (Shanghai) cooking.
One of the best appetizers, the crispy Shanghai spring rolls look like traditional Asian fried spring rolls and they taste like very good ones indeed. Adding to the success of the spring rolls are the Brazilian tempero baiano spice mixture and juice from the acai berry added to the ginger dipping sauce.
The salt cod fritters, popular in Brazil, here called coconut crusted bolinhos de bacalhau, are delightfully crisp on the outside, and soft, warm and sweet inside. The sweet and sour sauce, Chinese in spirit, is better than you've probably had in an LA Chinese restaurant. If you have been to Brazil, the bolinhos de bacalhau will bring back sense memories of women from Bahia, cooking their fritters on make-shift set ups on the beach.

I'm happy to say my wife and I have when we visited our older son, Franklin, when he was studying in Rio.
We enjoyed days on the beach, eating the delicious snack food carried by vendors who walk up and down the sandy beaches selling fried shrimp, crisps, fresh fruit and ice cold drinks. We also ate at dozens of restaurants as our son showed off his Portuguese and treated us to his favorite restaurants.
During February and March, at Zengo you can enjoy the national dish of Brazil, feijoada, a meat, bean and vegetable stew. Cooked low and slow, the flavors of pork, beef, bacon, black beans and a dozen herbs combine into comforting deliciousness.
Zengo's version is refined and well-made. The black beans are cooked perfectly. Their sweetness blanketing the salty pork sausage and braised beef. Be sure to order rice with the feijoada. The salty sauce would benefit from the neutral rice.

The traditional Brazilian drink is the caipirinha, a stronger version of the Cuban mojito, made with cachaça. Zengo makes a very good caipirinha. The special drinks for the Shanghai-Sa Paulo festival are also worth trying: the pomegranate kumquat cocktail and the coconut caipirinha.
For dessert, the Shanghai-Sao Paulo menu offers a coconut tapioca with a mix of mango, kumquat, lychee, coquito nuts and shiso. All that is a mouth-full and you'll definitely enjoy every mouthful of tapioca, the perfect way to finish your tour of Brazil by way of China.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Surprise in Nearby Palms: Latin American Cuisine at La Cocina del Gagaguey

Speeding down Venice Blvd. heading to the 405, it's easy to miss La Cocina del Cagaguey

Open for less than a year, La Cocina is tucked away in the back corner of El Camaguey Meat Market (10925 Venice Blvd, Palms, between College and Midvale; a mile east of the 405). Much more than a butcher shop, El Camaguey has a wide selection of packaged goods, beverages and produce that are Latin American favorites.
Strictly for take-out, La Cocina del Cagaguey has an extensive menu of Latin American dishes, some familiar like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), some like encendido (braised oxtail) sound exotic.
Call ahead (310/839-4037) and Ilonka Garcia, chef and owner, will have your order ready for you by the time you park in front.

As she sauteed fresh green tomatillos in a giant cast iron skillet, she explained, "The market started out being mostly for Cubans and Spaniards, but over time expanded for a larger clientel. Now you can find food that appeals to Brazilians, Peruvians, Argentianians, Venuzalians, Mexicans."

She learned her craft cooking for Cuban, Dominican and Puerto Rican chefs.  When she was thinking about opening the cafe, she explained, “I was in between cooking Cuban or Puerto Rican dishes. I knew someone would get upset whichever way I went, so I decided to cook them all."

Coming from the Dominican Republic, the three islands have many cooking similarities. All use grilled onions and cook with beef, chicken and pork.
But she doesn't limit herself to island cooking.

“A little bit of something for everybody. Colombian tamales and empanadas use cornmeal. Every country has their own version of empanadas. They’re all different. Dominican empanadas are fried, using a special dough that doesn’t absorb the oil so they are crisp without being soggy. The empanadas are filled with beef or cheese.”
Venuzalians like the ropa veja (shredded beef), which I tasted. The tender, moist meat had lots of succulent flavor, kicked up a notch by her fiery, vinegary jalapeno salsa--which has almost no tomatoes just finely minced red onions, jalapenos and cilantro leaves.

Asked about which dishes are her most popular, she looked at the photographs of the dishes on the wall above her head and went through the list. The shrimp salad, chuleta encebollada (pork chops with grilled onions), fried plantains, camarones al ajilo (shrimp in garlic sauce), camarones en salsa de coco (shrimp on coconut sauce), alcapurrias (stuffed fritters) and mofongo con chicharon y ajo(mashed plantains with crispy, fried pork rind and garlic) are all good.

The bacalao con papas (salt cod with potatoes) is also very popular. She makes fried chicken, but with "small pieces with batter so the flavor goes into each bite.”

The portions are large and priced affordably. The two dozen entrees are priced between $7 and $11. The appetizers and side orders cost from $1.50 each for the empanadas and bulgur meat pies to $7 for the fried chicken and fried green plantain dumplings.

The daily special, including a generous helping of rice and beans is an amazing bargain at $5.99 + tax.
Every day she makes a different kind of rice and beans. She likes making arroz con gandules (yellow rice with pigeon beans). The pigeon beans are like lentils, she told me, but different. “Sometimes I make black eyed beans, white, black, garbanzo, and, another day, lentils. I change the beans daily. It’s an adventure to see what kind of bean I have.”

Even when a bean is popular, like the pigeon beans, she'll change to another bean the next day.  “I get to choose. I hate to get stuck with one item.”

Recently she was reviewed in the LA Times by Bill Esparza on April 7: The Find: La Cocina del Camaguery with the result that she's been even busier than usual.

During the short time I was at the cafe, a constant stream of customers came in to pick up their orders. While some cooks can hardly wait to get out of the kitchen, not Ilonka.

“There’s always something going on here. I like a lot of invention in my kitchen". She and her helper cook all day long because she says food tastes better if you make it in small batches.
All of her meat, poultry and sausages come from the meat market behind her. All of the meat is fresh, never frozen. Because the customers come from different Latin American countries, they want their meat  cut differently. That's no problem. The butcher will give you whatever cut you like.
Even difficult to find Brazilian picanha.

The sausages are made in the market with the exception of the morcilla Argentina. They have even started making chicken chorizo.

She takes a break from sauteing the green tomatillos to describe the recipe. “I almost burn them, then add them along with garlic and cilantro and puree them and then add to braised pork ribs which have been cooking for two hours. After I add the tomatillo puree, I only cook the ribs another twenty minutes. I like the smoky bitterness of the tomatillo.”
In addition to the fresh cooked rice, she cooks her beans, whichever kind, "so they are creamy, with onions and two peppers [red and green], garlic and a lot of love. We cook with a lot of love here.”
And it shows.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ask the Locals Guide: The Sundance Resort and Park City, Utah

The Sundance Film Festival screens hundreds of films from January 20-30. Local insiders know that during the festival, the slopes are less crowded than usual. While filmgoers crowd the theaters, restaurants and bars, skiers enjoy shorter lift lines and uncrowded runs. I don't ski but I do eat. For those who are going to watch films, here are some suggestions about where to eat. 
With heavy snow falling in Atlanta and New York City where it isn't wanted, there's comfort knowing that snow is also accumulating on ski slopes, where it belongs.

At the foot of Utah's Wasatch Mountains, dozens of world-class ski resorts are within easy driving distance of Salt Lake International Airport.

The mountains make an impression the minute visitors land at Salt Lake International Airport. In summer or winter, the white capped peaks are evidence that this is rocky mountain country or, as the state logo has it, "Life Elevated."  Salt Lake City itself is over 4,000 feet, so don't be surprised if you are a little light-headed until you acclimate.

It is no surprise that an area devoted to active winter recreation also has good restaurants where visitors can cozy up to a warming fire and a good meal.

At Robert Redford's Sundance Resort, the only stand-alone ski resort in Utah, the pleasures of the mountain aren't limited to the ski slopes. Staying in one of the ninety-five cottages or in a mountain home puts a visitor up close and personal with the native spruce and pine trees growing close to the buildings.

Even the recently completed Redford Convention Center all but disappears in a thicket of trees, which makes it an ideal location for corporate retreats, weddings, and family celebrations.

Skiers riding the ski lift to the back mountain can stop at Bearclaw Cabin, a warming hut with a panoramic view of the Wasatch Mountains and the Heber and Utah Valleys below. The menu is limited to hot drinks, soup, and sandwiches but given the setting, that seems perfect.

Having completed their runs, skiers visit the Owl Bar, kick back and listen to country music, have a round of drinks and enjoy freshly made snacks, including the house cured pickled eggs and beef jerky.

For full-course, sit-down meals there is the upscale Tree Room and the more informal Foundry Grill, with a fireplace and wood-burning pizza oven warming the room.

Knowing their customers want well-prepared, comfort food, both menus offer dishes that feed the body and warm the soul, like mustard rotisserie chicken, crusted pork on the bone with mashed potatoes and broccolini, braised black cod in carrot miso broth, halibut with rice and vegetables, roast loin of Utah elk flavored with blackberry jus, baby back ribs and cole slaw, and ratatouille with vegetables and quinoa.

With the meal finished and the table cleared, there's no rush to leave. The desserts will hold diners a few minutes longer before sending them off to bed, dreaming not only of sugar plumb fairies but about Executive Chef Mark Shoup's dessert menu of caramel apple pie with mascarpone ice cream, pear cobbler with almond crumble, or banana split with bricks of chocolate and vanilla ice cream topped with a melange of strawberries, walnuts, caramel and chocolate sauce on a plate coated with Chantilly cream and, oh yeah, a split banana.

For anyone achey from too much physical exertion on the slopes, massages are available at the Spa. At the Sundance Resort, fireplaces seem to be everywhere, including the Spa's quiet room, where it is easy to get lost staring at the logs, crackling and hissing as they are consumed by the flames. In the warmth of the quiet room, visitors sit and calculate the comparative benefits of another day of skiing weighed against the pleasures of a late breakfast in the Foundry Grill and relaxing with a good book in front of the fire.

Traveling between Sundance and Park City, locals know to leave time for a stop in Heber City to time-trip back to the 1960s at the Holiday Lanes (565 N. Main Street) to bowl a few games and have a burger, fries and shake. Come early enough and there may be homemade pie.

The Dairy Keen, "Home of the Train," is also on Heber's Main Street. Hamburgers are the specialty but the menu also includes fish and chicken with lots of treats for kids who love watching the model train that circles the inside of the store.

Park City has restaurants to satisfy just about anyone's budget or taste. Affordable family-owned restaurants serve pizza, hamburgers, salads, Mexican food, sandwiches, barbecue and sushi. If you crave fast food, you can find Macdonald's, Burger King and Subway.

Half a block from the Park City Town Ski LiftHigh West Distillery & Saloon advertises itself as "the world's first and only ski-in gastro distillery." Taking advantage of the recently liberalized liquor laws, High West offers tastings of wines and spirits in a converted three-story house, with a spacious, family style restaurant on the ground floor in what was once a garage for horses and, later, automobiles.

The spirits served at High West are highly rated by whiskey aficionados. Although High West does produce some of their spirits in the 250-gallon copper still near the entrance, the aged whiskeys are not distilled on the site but are blends of whiskeys sourced from other distillers.

What is distilled at High West are clear spirits, ones not aged in oak barrels. The result is Silver Oat Whiskey and Vodka 7000, both of which are worth trying for their smoothness and unique flavor. In addition to drinks served in the saloon, bottles of spirits can be purchased in the small package store near the entrance.

Many of Park City's better restaurants, coffee shops and popular bars are located on Main Street, the center of the city's commercial life with stores selling tourist souvenirs, clothing, native crafts, the work of local artists, and the fun, interactive Park City Museum.

Insider's Tip: In the lobby of the Park City Museum, pick up a copy of the restaurant coupon book with discounts for local restaurants and attractions. Don't overlook the Park Record which sometimes has an even better selection of discounts.

At the bottom of Main Street, Robert Redford's Zoom specializes in large plates of hearty, well-prepared food. Ribs and coleslaw, herb roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, burgers, sandwiches, grilled fish, risotto, Caesar salads, mac n' cheese, onion rings, hot soup, and fresh salads fill out the menu.

Half way up Main Street, the Java Cow Cafe & Bakery is a local favorite for breakfast pastries, espresso beverages, sandwiches, and crepes. In summer, the homemade ice creams are a big seller, along with the hundreds of t-shirts featuring the Java Cow logo.

Nearby, Cafe Terigo, an intimate restaurant, has a wine bar in the inviting entrance way, a main dining room and two upstairs dining rooms, which are mostly used for parties, receptions and family celebrations.

The menu sticks to basics: soups, salads, sandwiches, grilled meats and fish, pastas and desserts. Run by husband and wife, Ed (he's the chef) and Debbie (she's the maitre d') Axtell, Terigo, as locals refer to it, is a family affair. The dining room has the friendly feeling of your home, only better, because someone else is doing the cooking. Save room for their most popular dessert, the bread pudding with butter rum sauce, pine nuts and dried cranberries. It's a keeper.

350 Main, a sprawling restaurant-bar, is a gathering spot for locals and tourists alike. Taking a global approach, chef Michael LeClerc is influenced by the cuisines of Mexico, Indonesia, India, Italy, Japan, France, and the American Southwest.

Locals crowd the bar ordering from the $6.00 tapas menu, focusing on the Ahi and Hamachi Tower, a tasty treat that goes well any of the drinks on the signature martini and cocktail list.

Something of a local legend, Bill White owns half a dozen popular eating establishments, as varied as one can imagine. Upscale Grappa, at the top of Main Street in a converted house, is well-known for quality meals in a homey setting. While the Windy Ridge Cafe and Bakery zero in on perfecting a salad-pasta-sandwich-comfort food menu in a cozy, unpretentious, country cafe setting.

Given the mountain setting, Wahso is an unexpected treat--an Asian grill. Wahso doesn't so much fuse Asian and Western cuisines as it respects both, pulling the best out of each tradition with the result that Duck Breast "A L'Orange" gets the Peking treatment and ginger scented lentils accompany the Morgan Valley Lamb.

Another, different kind of fusion happens at Chimayo where French and Mexican cuisines embrace as happily as a newly wedded couple. In many of the dishes, Mexican heat enlivens classic French sauces. Pan seared sea scallops are enveloped with a Blood Orange and Jalapeno Beurre Blanc sauce. A rack of lamb eschews mint in favor of the sweet heat provided by a guajillo chile and cumin demi-glace.

A good wine list is supplemented with a selection of quality tequilas and imaginative riffs on the margarita, including one flavored with pomegranate, which might have been too sweet but proved to be light and flavorful.

Park City is cowboy country, so it's natural to expect to eat some barbecue. But only at Chimayo are spareribs marinated all day in a chipotle marinade As with many restaurants in the area, local game animals are proudly served as bona fides of locally sourced meat. In the hands of chef Arturo Flores, elk, which can be chewy, is meltingly tender and flavored with bacon, peppercorns, sesame seeds, and a green chile Béarnaise.

For the appetizers, soups and salads, there are Italian-Mexican combinations in the fried calamari served with lime cilantro and lemon chipotle aiolis and the goat cheese and mozzarella chile relleno with a poblano pumpkin seed pesto. But mostly the starters menu focuses on familiar Mexican favorites which are prepared with the freshest of ingredients: ceviches, queso fundido, duck enchiladas, guacamole and shrimp, tortilla soup, avocado salad with papaya and vegetables with a pasilla chile vinaigrette.

All too often culinary combinations mean propping up the weakness of one cuisine with the strengths of another. When a chef has classic cooking skills and a great palate, fusion means discovering the best of each and bringing new awareness to old favorites. That's what happens at Chimayo.

So if you are spending time around the Wasatch Mountains expect to enjoy great scenery, world-class skiing, and excellent meals.

Ready, Set, Infuse - It's Time to Make Homemade Umeshu, Japanese Plum Wine

If you love umeshu , Japanese plum wine, and you want to make your own, the race is on. Ume are only available for three-four weeks in the ...