Craft – 1/5/09

Craft
10100 Constellation Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Craft is probably best known for being one of Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio’s restaurants.  Tom Colicchio was a renowned chef before the TV show, making a name for himself in the New York restaurant scene with Gramercy Tavern. While many TV-celebrity chef restaurants are pretty underwhelming, I think Craft is one of the better ones. It’s located in Century City with a concentrated business crowd, especially during lunch. The interior is full of natural light, a slick and modern space.

 Craft   1/5/09

 Craft   1/5/09

On my last trip to Craft during the October 2009 DineLA series, each member of our party of 5 received a $10 dining certificate to join them another time. As I was the only one who actually lived in LA, I found myself with $50 to use at Craft on my next visit. We elected for the 3-course  prix fixe lunch. The first courses were an option of a soup of pasta. Below is the celery root purée.

soup1 Craft   1/5/09

I didn’t really care too much for this soup as it tasted too much like celery. I know, that’s the point right? But I had one at Bouchon recently and I enjoyed that one, as it brought about a much more subtle celery root flavor.

pasta Craft   1/5/09

The other appetizer was a chestnut agnolotti. Definitely tasty, with the dough having a nice chew. The pasta dough was a little bit thick, however. A relatively smaller portion made you want one more bite.

steak Craft   1/5/09

The first entrée was a hangar steak. Nothing extraordinary about it, but it was good – cooked well with good flavor.

lobster Craft   1/5/09

The other entrée was Maine lobster with lima beans and spinach. I liked this dish. Having had some pretty good lobster recently, I was kind of picky and thought the flesh was a little chewy. However, it was cooked well, and I enjoyed the accompanying spinach and beans.

Next up were desserts. The first was a cranberry crisp with cajeta ice cream (a Mexican caramel). I like that most of Craft’s desserts are served warm with ice cream, and I’ve had a couple of cobblers here before and enjoyed them. The crisp was good and warm with a nice crust, and the ice cream was definitely interesting – in a good way.

dessert1 Craft   1/5/09

The other dessert was a sort of banana upside-down cake with banana ice cream. This dessert was definitely banana overload. The cake was nice and warm, and the ice cream was not overwhelmingly banana. However, I probably preferred the first dessert.

dessert2 Craft   1/5/09

Craft is a pretty decent restaurant. I wouldn’t mind having another lunch or dinner here. Prices can be moderately high, however, so one might be better suited trying other restaurants first before coming back. This is my second time for lunch, and I’ve been once for dinner, and they’ve all been pretty enjoyable. The highlight to me are the meats – there’s a wide array of different meats on the menu.

Aziza – 12/27/09

Aziza
5800 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94121

Aziza is a Moroccan restaurant – the only one I know of that has a Michelin star. As a result, I thought this would be a pretty interesting place to try as I don’t eat Moroccan food too often. It’s located in a residential neighborhood in the Richmond District of San Francisco, an unassuming area where you would not expect to find such a highly-regarded restaurant.

 Aziza   12/27/09

The interior is colorful and comfortable.

 Aziza   12/27/09

 Aziza   12/27/09

The menu is a la carte, but the restaurant also offers a 5-course tasting menu which showcases some of the specialties of the restaurant, and also allows the diner a chance to choose some of the dishes on the menu to build their own. We went with this tasting menu, and steered it towards some of the dishes we wanted to try.

The first course was a soup of chicken bouillon with a Medjool date puree and farro.The soup had a rich chicken flavor, and the puree added some texture and substance. Good, hearty soup, but nothing special.soup Aziza   12/27/09

The second courses were:
beets
bibb lettuce, shallots, citrus, tarragonbeets Aziza   12/27/09

chicken wings
brussels sprouts, rosemary, almond, applechicken wing Aziza   12/27/09

I enjoyed this dish, as I do like boneless chicken wings. However, I found the meat a bit soft, there was not a lot of texture to the meat.

meatballs
grape, jícama, herb vinaigrette

meatballs Aziza   12/27/09

The meatballs were spiced nicely, but were rather small. I got hints of it, but there was not enough in each bite – larger meatballs would have allowed a little more chewing time in the mouth.

The third course:
basteeya

chicken, almond

basteeya Aziza   12/27/09
I had high hopes for this dish, as it resembles a sort of chicken pot pie.  Interestingly, the size of the basteeya is the same whether you have two people or three (and the price of the meal is the same), so you are much better off sharing this in pairs. The dish did not really come together as expected. The meat was a little dry and got lost in the dough a little bit.

Next were the fourth courses, or the entrees:
atlantic cod
vadouvan, marble potato, leaves

cod Aziza   12/27/09

A nice looking piece of fish here. It was cooked well with a nice sear and a moist interior.

lamb shank
barley, prune, cranberry, scallion

lamb1 Aziza   12/27/09

The lamb shank was one of the dishes I read a lot about going in. First of all, I could’ve done without the prunes – they were overpowering. The barley was made into a sort of barley risotto, which I don’t recall ever having before. It was rich and delicious, something I hope to see again. The lamb’s presentation was nice, and was a pretty large size. However, I thought the meat was falling off the bone almost too easily – it was lacking some of the texture that meat should have and was almost..dare I say..mushy. I think it was perhaps just cooked too long.

seafood
puntarelle, baby leek, saffron, hon shimeji mushroom

seafod Aziza   12/27/09

This dish was tiny compared to the cod, and especially the lamb (even though this was the most expensive on the menu). It’s really kind of an appetizer-sized dish with two sea scallops and some clams. The dish was good, but was rather unfulfilling due to the size.

Lastly, the fifth courses (dessert):
quince
buckwheat crêpe, apple fritter, ginger ice cream

quince Aziza   12/27/09

There was a warm crepe filled with apple and quince, with ginger ice cream. This dessert was pretty good, and the ginger ice cream was subtle enough to not overpower everything.

hazelnut
dacquoise, pear, burnt honey ice cream

hazelnut Aziza   12/27/09

I loved the presentation of this dish. It just looks pretty..however, the dish was just okay.

chocolate
sesame mousse, cocoa spice cake, cranberry

chocolate Aziza   12/27/09

The ‘chocolate’ was a mousse cake, but was rather light in flavor.

In all, Aziza was an interesting restaurant, but it fell a little under expectations. It’s a casual restaurant with a reasonably priced tasting menu ($62) and a flexible wine pairing ($20-40 depending on how much you want to spend). It’s definitely a good way to try a Michelin-starred establishment while trying a cuisine that isn’t mainstream. However, none of the courses really stood out as exceptional, and none were bad. I felt that a number of courses had potential but was just missing something.

Christmas 2009 – 12/25/09

Since before I was born, my family has gathered at my aunt’s place in Alameda for lunch and at my grandmother’s for dinner (a very similar setup to Thanksgiving). This year was no different.

tree Christmas 2009   12/25/09

LUNCH

First off, was lunch in Alameda. The food is served buffet-style, and my aunt makes most of the dishes.

There are a number of finger foods served, including egg rolls, meatballs, shrimp toasts, and chicken wing ‘lollipops.’ The latter was one of my favorites, and is a chicken wing and drumette folded up into a lollipop shape and deep fried.

finger foods Christmas 2009   12/25/09

A wide array of dishes are also served. One of the staples is chow mein.chow mein1 Christmas 2009   12/25/09

A new side dish this year was a curried rice dish, with cashews, raisins, peas and chicken.curry rice Christmas 2009   12/25/09

Caesar salad.salad2 Christmas 2009   12/25/09

Another new dish – quinoa with tangerines and peanuts.quinoa Christmas 2009   12/25/09

Another classic is fried wontons. I tend to snack on these throughout the day.wonton Christmas 2009   12/25/09

Pan-seared shrimp.shrimp Christmas 2009   12/25/09

A new dish this year was pork belly. My uncle’s creation – it had a very crisp skin and was not overly fatty.pork Christmas 2009   12/25/09

Another dish my uncle made was pork ribs.ribs Christmas 2009   12/25/09

ribs close Christmas 2009   12/25/09

Desserts included a cake from Schubert’s Bakery in San Francisco.cake1 Christmas 2009   12/25/09

And a cake from Sweet Stop in San Francisco.cake2 Christmas 2009   12/25/09

Homemade apple turnovers.apple turnover Christmas 2009   12/25/09

As a take-home, my cousin baked these treats.treats Christmas 2009   12/25/09

It is always a challenge to find room for dinner after all this food. We end up eating throughout the day, with the main lunching coming around 1230 and desserts coming out at 2-3. Dinner tends to be early, around 6, so there’s a brief window to work up an appetite.

DINNER

dom Christmas 2009   12/25/09

For dinner, I brought an extra special bottle of bubbly to celebrate with.

My grandmother made a soup of a chicken and pork base with mushrooms, dates and dried bean curd.soup1 Christmas 2009   12/25/09

The centerpiece of our meals is always a beef roast. Traditionally, this has been a New York roast, and this year was not an exception.beef roast Christmas 2009   12/25/09

beef roast2 Christmas 2009   12/25/09

Another meat option this year was whole roasted squab, which is stuffed with a Chinese sticky rice.squab1 Christmas 2009   12/25/09

squab2 Christmas 2009   12/25/09

My grandmother makes a huge pot of this sticky rice, and it is served as a side (as well as stuffed in the squab above).rice Christmas 2009   12/25/09

My grandmother also stir fried some fresh crab. The crab was broken down, cracked, and stir fried with ginger, green onion, and some whiskey.crab1 Christmas 2009   12/25/09

crab2 Christmas 2009   12/25/09

crab3 Christmas 2009   12/25/09

For sides, there were yams,yams Christmas 2009   12/25/09

asparagus,asparagus Christmas 2009   12/25/09

mashed potatoes,potatoes1 Christmas 2009   12/25/09

and gravy.gravy Christmas 2009   12/25/09

The dinner table, as shown below, was just totally full of food.table Christmas 2009   12/25/09

There were a number of desserts available, including the cake below, which is a duplicate cake from the one served at lunch from Sweet Stop. Interior photo below.cake3 Christmas 2009   12/25/09

St. Honore cake from Victoria Pastry in San Francisco.cake4 Christmas 2009   12/25/09

A homemade chocolate pie.choc pie Christmas 2009   12/25/09

This was a pie with an oreo crust, rich fudge filling, and homemade whipped cream. At first glance, it looks like a lot of whipped cream. But it’s very light, and a generous amount really goes well with the rich and dense fudge. Delicious.

choc pie2 Christmas 2009   12/25/09

This Christmas, as in past years, did not fail to be full of food. For me, Thanksgiving and Christmas (as well as the American Wine & Food Festival) have to be some of the highest caloric intakes of the year.