Syrup Desserts – 3/25/10

Syrup Desserts
611 S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90014

Syrup Desserts is a relatively new dessert shop located in the arts district of downtown LA. After our meal at Wood Spoon, this was a convenient walk for a dessert stop. Known largely for their waffle creations, Syrup also serves a variety of ice creams, crepes, pastries and even grilled cheese.

syrup exterior 500x335 Syrup Desserts   3/25/10

The waffles are the most well-known item on the menu here. Below see the chocolate banana liege waffle.

waffle1 500x335 Syrup Desserts   3/25/10

Below is the Syrup Signature, strawberries and banana.

waffle2 500x335 Syrup Desserts   3/25/10

The waffle was fairly inconsistent from bite-to-bite. Some bites were crispy, sweet and sugary, some were doughy and bland.  The strawberries were sweet, bananas good, and the ice cream and whipped cream solid. However, the showcased waffle was a little disappointing this time around.

My trip to Syrup Desserts this time was a little underwhelming. On my first trip, I thought the waffle was pretty good, but it didn’t live up to expectations this time around.



Wood Spoon – 3/25/10

Wood Spoon
107 W 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015

I first heard about Wood Spoon on “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” probably my favorite show on TV today. On it, Giada De Laurentiis talked about the best chicken pot pie she’s ever eaten, at a place in downtown LA. I had never heard of the restaurant before, so I was shocked to hear about this place in my own backyard. Recently, the restaurant has gained a lot of buzz on Yelp as well. Being a fan of chicken pot pies, I had to try this one out.

We started out with the Mix Plate – Coxinha (chicken-filled dumpling), Potato Croquette, Portuguese Croquette (potato with salted cod), Pastel Portuguese (dumpling stuffed with shrimp) & Kibe (dumpling of bulgur wheat, mint & ground beef).

mixed plate 500x335 Wood Spoon   3/25/10

These were delicious and a great way to start the evening. The Pastel Portuguese, filled with shrimp and coconut sauce, was my favorite. The Coxinha was rather disappointing, as I found it rather dry.

Next came another dish highly recommended on Yelp: Pork Burger – roasted cabbage, onions on toasted potato bread and yam fries.

burger 500x335 Wood Spoon   3/25/10
Pork Burger. Not something you see every day on any menu. I thought this had potential to be like  lot of turkey burgers – tough, dry, flavorless. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Tender and moist, the burger had a lot of flavor as well. The potato bread was very soft – the whole bite was great. Definitely eye-opening.

Next is what I was anticipating most: Brazilian Chicken Pot Pie – hearts of palm, olives & roasted corn.

potpie1 500x335 Wood Spoon   3/25/10

The pie came out hot from the oven with a simple side salad to go with it.

potpie2 500x335 Wood Spoon   3/25/10

Breaking over the pastry crust, it was filled with a creamy gravy, chunks of white and dark meat chicken, corn, hearts of palm, potato and a subtle olive flavor. Comfort food at its finest – it was rich and savory, full of flavor. I love a bite of crispy crust with savory gravy.  The best pot pie I’ve ever eaten? Quite possibly.

Wood Spoon did not disappoint in the least. The Pork Burger may have been the most surprising dish of the night, but the pot pie lived up to my very high expectations. I am very often disappointed with the pot pie I get at restaurants, but this one really fit the bill. I’ll definitely be back.

Sushi Sasabune – 3/15/10

Sushi Sasabune
12400 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Spontaneously, my friend and I decided to get our sushi fix at Sushi Sasabune on the westside. I’d never been here before, and it was a good opportunity to try something new since I had gotten off of work early.

exterior1 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

The interior was surprisingly large, with dozens of tables, a long sushi bar, and an open kitchen.interior 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

As with most well-regarded sushi restaurants, we decided omakase was the way to go in order to sample a lot of the restaurant’s specialties and freshest fish. Amusingly, we were offered the ‘American’ option or the ‘Japanese’ option. The ‘American’ option is directed towards that exact clientele, with more typical sushi. If you’re not averse to eating anything, the waitress recommended the ‘Japanese’ option. So, we told the restaurant to give it all to us and went for the ‘Japanese’ omakase.

First, housemade pickled ginger and fresh wasabi was presented.ginger wasabi 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

The first course was ono sashimi, marinated in soy. This was very tender, and the soy was not overpowering.ono sashimi 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

Next up was a sashimi of Japanese razor clam (Tairagai). The flesh was pretty firm, kind of chewy, and a little sandy. Not my favorite dish.

Tairagai 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

Next began the sushi, and what better way to start than with tuna and fatty tuna, toro. The tuna was good, though not melt-in-your-mouth tender. The toro was a little disappointing as it was very tender but a little mushy. Both had good flavor.

sushi1 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

Snapper and halibut came next. Both of these were quite good.sushi2 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

Baked green mussel and oyster.

oyster mussel 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

Salmon and yellowtail were next. The salmon, topped with marinated kombu, was tender and flavorful. The yellowtail was just as good.

sushi3 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

Next came what was likely my favorite dish of the night: two kinds of sweet shrimp, the large one from Alaska, and the smaller one from Boston. The larger shrimp had a great bite to it, was a little juicy, and mildly sweet. Very good. The shrimp from Boston was a little bit slimey, and didn’t have the great bite that the larger one did.sushi4 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

Spanish mackerel and regular mackerel were next. The regular mackerel was topped with the marinated kombu, while the Spanish mackerel was topped with a ponzu sauce. I thought the Spanish mackerel was much better here, tender and more flavorful.

sushi5 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

Uni and salmon roe – a great pairing.  The uni here was delicious, very fresh and not fishy at all. The roe was also tasty.

sushi6 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

Next, we were served jumbo clam and orange clam. Clams aren’t my favorite sushi options as I find them too chewy or dense for my liking. These two were no exception.sushi7 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

Next we were served a fried fish head and marinated fish roe served in its body – definitely not featured on the ‘American’ menu.

fish head 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

The fish head was great, as it was perfectly fried and had a nice shrimp flavor. The shrimp roe is definitely an acquired taste. I don’t think I’ve had it before, but it was marinated in a citrus sauce that was a little overpowering.shrimp roe 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

Seared monkfish liver and golden snapper were the final nigiri preparations. Both of these were quite good, especially the monkfish liver. It had a fantastic melt-in-your-mouth texture.sushi8 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

Lastly, we had blue crab and toro cut rolls. The crabmeat was sweet and tasty, and the toro was good as well.sushi9 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

Lastly, we finished with an assortment of mochi: green tea, mango, and strawberry. I’m pretty sure these were not made in-house as the strawberry one tasted particularly artificial.mochi 500x335 Sushi Sasabune   3/15/10

Overall, the meal was a pleasant experience, and a little cheaper than anticipated. I wouldn’t say the best sushi in the city is here, but there is a lot of high-quality fish that is more than suitable for a sushi craving.

Steak – 3/14/2010

To me, there aren’t many things better than a good steak. A couple of months ago, a new butcher shop opened up in the Los Feliz area called McCall’s Meat and Fish Co. Owned by a husband-and-wife team with experience at restaurants such as Sona in LA and Daniel in NYC, it appeared to be a very promising place to get some gourmet meat and fish. I finally went, and was not disappointed. They offer a pretty good selection of meats (dry aged steaks and roasts, quail, kurobuta pork cuts, and anything else they find that’s good) and a vast selection of  fish. I came away with a 21-ounce dry-aged Angus ribeye. The whole roast is shown in the display, and it’s cut and trimmed for you upon order.

steak raw Steak   3/14/2010

As usual for a steak, I kept the seasoning simple, with salt, pepper, garlic powder, a little rosemary, and olive oil.

steak seasoned Steak   3/14/2010

I got my cast iron pan as hot as possible, and seared the meat.

steak sear Steak   3/14/2010

On both sides, in order to develop a nice crust.

steak sear2 Steak   3/14/2010

I finished the steak in the oven to an internal temperature of 130 and let it rest. Beautifully browned, the steak really developed a nice crust.

steak Steak   3/14/2010

While it rested, I blanched some broccoli and finished it in the cast iron pan in the meat drippings. As the pan was still really hot, I was able to get some good caramelization quickly.

broccoli Steak   3/14/2010

Time to eat! I was happy to see I got a very nice juicy pink with the steak, and a crusty, seared exterior.

steak cut Steak   3/14/2010

The steak was very tender, as I expected. Even better, it had a nice beefy flavor, no doubt enhanced by the dry-aging process, which draws moisture out, and condenses the flavor of the beef.  This process had the effect of a noticeably more-developed flavor to the steak. At $27 per pound (bone-in), it wasn’t cheap – but I do think I got what I paid for. The quality of the meat, including the dry-aged process, really separated this steak apart from the common supermarket variety, and was also better than what many steakhouses serve.

steak cut2 Steak   3/14/2010

In all, I was very pleased with my buy. Likely the best steak I’ve ever cooked, I can’t wait to get back to McCall’s to try out more of what they have to offer!


Old Vine Cafe – 3/6/10

Old Vine Cafe
2937 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

On a rainy day in Southern California, I found myself at Old Vine Cafe in Costa Mesa, the first leg in a day of eating in Orange County, which would include Old Vine, A & J, 85 Degrees Celsius Bakery, Andrei’s and Pizzeria Ortica. Located in a unique shopping center called the Camp, it serves seasonal American food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant fits in with the rest of the theme of the Camp with a woody cabin-like exterior.

exterior Old Vine Cafe   3/6/10

We decided to order a small sampling of the dishes across the breakfast and lunch menus, starting with:

Caprese of Mozzarella Buratta – Imported Buratta, flash fried Arugula, Grape Tomatoes & Citrus Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

caprese Old Vine Cafe   3/6/10

A beautiful dish here with the burrata and tomato base, a large handful of fried arugula and on top, and a drizzling of olive oil. The interplay of the colors was just fantastic. I thought the burrata could’ve been a little creamier, but it was good. The tomatoes were excellent, as well. However, I thought there was kind of a lot of arugula, and the fried flavor of it overpowered the dish if you took too much in one forkful.

We tried something from the breakfast menu, which was quite simple and well executed.

Gourmet Sausage & Eggs – Eggs Cooked Any Style with choice of Natural Sausage: Spicy Santa Fe or Chicken Apple

bkfst Old Vine Cafe   3/6/10

As I mentioned, this was a really well-executed dish. The eggs were perfect, and the sausage was delicious. We had the Santa Fe sausage, which had a little bit of spice and a lot of flavor. The Spanish style potatoes were good as well, well seasoned, but maybe could’ve been a little crisper. Really a very good breakfast dish.

From the lunch menu,

Beef & Truffles Panini – Thinly Sliced All Natural Rib Roast & Italian White Truffle Cheese with Garlic Aioli

panini Old Vine Cafe   3/6/10

This dish was a bit disappointing. The meat was cut pretty thin and small, so there wasn’t a lot of meat chew to this – no texture. The truffle was included as part of the cheese, and was pretty mild here. The homemade potato chips were good, but not spectacular.

Old Vine Cafe today was a bit hit-or-miss. I like the homey feel to the restaurant, with a lot of simple, seasonal cooking. I’d definitely come back for breakfast if I was in the area, or maybe to try it for dinner, as I’ve heard good things about their dinner as well.

Pizzeria Ortica – 3/6/10

Pizzeria Ortica
650 Anton Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

I had high expectations for Pizzeria Ortica, which, to me, resembles an Orange County rendition of Pizzeria Mozza. The restaurant serves a number of Italian specialties, focusing on pizzas and pastas. As always, I love an open kitchen and being able to the kitchen at work.

interior1 Pizzeria Ortica   3/6/10

We tried just a few dishes, as we had dinner at Andrei’s just prior. To begin with:

Pappardelle al sugo d’agnello – Pappardelle pasta, braised lamb ragu, sheep’s milk ricottapasta Pizzeria Ortica   3/6/10

Disappointing. The pasta, made fresh in house, was good and prepared al dente. The lamb shank was a little gamey, but just mildly so. However, I was really missing the ragu here. I was expecting a rich  sauce to bring everything together, but instead it seemed like just chunks of lamb on top of pasta on top of ricotta. As a result it was a little bit on the dry side.

Salsiccia – House-made sausage, caramelized fennel, mascapone, red onion, buffalo granapizza1 Pizzeria Ortica   3/6/10

Sausage is probably my single favorite topping on a pizza. The sausage was good here, but the pizza disappointed. The crust was rather chewy instead of crispy, and the cheese did not really stand up to the rest of the toppings

Milanesa – Fontina, asparagus, Parmigiano Reggiano, fried eggpizza2 Pizzeria Ortica   3/6/10

The Milanesa was a little more unique, topped with asparagus and a fried egg. The toppings were pretty good, but I found the pizza a bit salty, and it struggled from the same crust problems as the above.

Pizzeria Ortica was rather disappointing in general. What really shocked me most is the pizza and the crust. Perhaps it was an off-night for the dough/kitchen? Whatever it was, it didn’t live up to the pizza at Mozza or Bottega Louie of the week prior.