Corazon y Miel (Bell, CA)

Corazon y Miel
6626 Atlantic Ave
Bell, CA 90201
Dining date: 4/5/14

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Corazon y Miel opened just about a year ago and has been well-received in its short life. Located about 10 miles southeast of downtown in Bell, California, it’s not exactly in a part of town I think about for dining destinations. But chef Eduardo Ruiz is crafting modernized interpretations of Latin cuisine that has the whole city (and more) taking notice. Mentioned in a number of best new restaurant lists, Ruiz was recently named a semifinalist for the 2014 “Rising Star Chef of the Year” James Beard Award.

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The restaurant’s menu is broken up into small and large plates, many meant to be paired with drinks. A full bar, including a unique cocktail list and a carefully crafted beer list, is available. We picked a handful of both small and large plates to share for this dinner.

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Studio (Laguna Beach, CA)

30801 Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Dining date: 3/29/14

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I’ve known about Studio for a while and always figured it to be a good option if I was ever in need of a nicer restaurant in the southern part of Orange County. Just recently I found myself on a weekend trip to OC and decided it was time to try it. The restaurant is located on the Montage Laguna Beach property (which is beautiful, I might add), right on the edge of the resort by the water. I’d recommend a pre- or post-dinner walk to take it all in, including the garden where the restaurant grows much of its own produce and herbs.

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The chef here is Craig Strong, who came to Studio four years ago after helming the kitchen of the Ritz-Carlton/Langham Pasadena (and was replaced by one Michael Voltaggio). Strong’s modern Californian/French cooking is available in a six-course tasting menu ($125), but we elected to do a la carte on this evening.

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Scratch Bar (Los Angeles, CA)

Scratch Bar
111 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Dining date: 3/15/14

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Scratch Bar opened almost a year ago, a relatively young entrant to La Cienega’s Restaurant Row. The menu, created by chef Phillip Frankland Lee, has been described as modern American yet in a fun and whimsical manner. Something a bit different.

An a la carte menu is offered as well as a few different tasting menus (all the way up to a 14 course at the chef’s counter). We went somewhere in the middle with a 9 course tasting priced at $85pp, adding on a supplemental dish.

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Chi Spacca (Los Angeles, CA)

Chi Spacca
6610 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Dining date: 3/14/14

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Chi Spacca opened last year and is the latest restaurant to join the Mozza corner at Melrose & Highland. It replaced the Scuola di Pizza, yet in a way is a permanent extension of the restaurant. Chad Colby, who used to helm the Scuola kitchen, is also managing the Chi Spacca menu. The restaurant’s probably best known for its house salumi program and catering to a primal way of eating – large slabs of meat cooked over fire. Think 36 ounce veal racks and 42 ounce tomahawk pork chops and beef porterhouses. My kind of place.

I’ve been wanting to try Chi Spacca for some time, but it really felt like a place to try with a large group. We rounded up five for this evening and came hungry. A holdover from the Scuola di Pizza, a completely open kitchen offers visibility into all of the cooking being done between the large steaks on the grill and items coming out of the wood-burning oven.

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Vegas Uncork’d Preview @ Bourbon Steak (Los Angeles, CA)

Bourbon Steak
237 S Brand Blvd
Glendale, CA 91204
Dining date: 3/27/14

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Bourbon Steak is Michael Mina’s return to the Los Angeles restaurant scene since the closure of XIV in 2011. This is Mina’s fifth location of the steakhouse, a restaurant blending a traditional steakhouse with modern touches, joining San Francisco, Scottsdale, Washington DC, and Miami. Located right next to ever-popular Din Tai Fung, the duo has created a dining hotspot at the Americana at Brand.

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This meal served two purposes – to sample Bourbon Steak and to serve as a preview for Bon Appetit’s Vegas Uncork’d in May. I’m a huge fan of Vegas Uncork’d and thus was very excited for this one. The festival has turned into one of the largest of its kind in the nation and Mina, who has four restaurants in Vegas, is a big participant each year.

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Fifty Seven (Los Angeles, CA)

Fifty Seven
712 S Santa Fe Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Dining date: 3/28/14

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Located in between popular daytime options Bread Lounge and Stumptown Coffee and just around the corner from always-popular Bestia, Fifty Seven is the latest restaurant opening in the red hot Arts District. The restaurant, which opened this past week, is to me one of the more intriguing recent concepts. The format has been compared to the old Test Kitchen and its revolving door of chefs creating their own menus. Whereas Test Kitchen stints typically lasted just a few days, Fifty Seven will welcome a new chef every few months to come in and create an entirely new menu. To me, the success of Fifty Seven will ultimately be dependent upon the quality and excitement of the chefs they are able to bring in.

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David Nayfield is the chef in residence and the first chef to craft their own menu. Nayfield has a strong pedigree, most recently coming from the highly acclaimed Eleven Madison Park. He brings his progressive American cuisine in the form of a $48 three-course menu with a handful of additional a la carte snacks available. Three different options were available for each course; between the two of us, we were able to sample two-thirds of the options and added on two snacks for good measure.

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