Braised Pork – 4/25/10

There’s nothing quite like a slowly braised piece of meat. Cheaper cuts of meat (brisket, chuck, shanks, short ribs from a cow) are slowly simmered in a liquid, creating moist, tender meat, and a rich sauce. Restaurants can charge $20-30 for a dish such as braised short ribs, which only costs a few dollars a pound. It’s actually pretty easy to make it at home – it just takes some time and patience.

Today I went with pork shoulder (the cut of meat for carnitas and pulled pork). Five pounds of it. This cut of meat usually sells for less than $2 per pound, making it very economical. In addition, it’s one of the most flavorful parts of the pig, yielding really moist and succulent meat without needing much skill at all.

raw meat 500x335 Braised Pork   4/25/10

I decided to first brown my meat in a large stainless steel pan, since there’s more surface area than in my dutch oven. I planned to brown the meat, saute my aromatics, and then transfer to my dutch oven for the braise.

browned meat 500x335 Braised Pork   4/25/10

After browning my meat on all sides, I was left with a pan full of browned bits – perfect. This is where a lot of the flavor is developed.

browned bits 500x335 Braised Pork   4/25/10

I sauteed my onions and garlic in the pan, and added  my white wine, scraping up the browned bits in the process. Adding chicken stock, carrots and celery, I put everything into my dutch oven and was ready to put it into the oven for a few hours.

begin braise 500x335 Braised Pork   4/25/10

After about 2.5 hours, I removed the meat to allow it to rest, and reduced the braising liquid.

resting 500x335 Braised Pork   4/25/10

At this point, the pork was evidently tender, as it was easily falling apart. I put a few chunks on a plate, spooned over some of the braising liquid, and garnished with some fresh parsley and rosemary.

plating 500x335 Braised Pork   4/25/10

Ta da! The pork was really tender and moist, and the braising liquid was both rich and flavorful. I’d definitely consider this a success and would make it again. I think it’s also a great dish to make for large groups of people, as the time and effort involved remain relatively the same no matter how much meat is used (as long as it fits in the pot, of course).

Melisse – 4/22/10

Melisse
1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401

I’ve been meaning to try Melisse for a long while now. I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews from friends over the years, and that’s probably part of what’s been holding me back (that, and not having anyone interested in going). However, the restaurant continues to receive very positive reviews all-around. With my friend down to go, it was time to finally try it.

exterior3 500x335 Melisse   4/22/10

interior1 500x335 Melisse   4/22/10

Last year, Melisse celebrated its 10th anniversary. To celebrate, they offered a 10-course “signature dishes” menu in July 2009. Luckily and oddly, they are still offering that menu (click for larger size). What better way to try the restaurant than with 10 of their signature courses?

menu 224x335 Melisse   4/22/10

Amuse #1 – red grape two ways: goat cheese with pistachio and reconstituted grape with cheese and oil

amuse 500x335 Melisse   4/22/10

These were both interesting starters. I liked the goat cheese and pistachio better, with a nice texture (crunch from pistachio) and sweetness from the grape.

Amuse #2 – Hokkaido scallop with radish and scallions

amuse2 500x335 Melisse   4/22/10
Hmm didn’t like this dish. The scallop was sliced very thin, and topped with the scallions, radish and salted. It tasted…soapy for some reason. And kinda fishy. Just not good.

Egg Caviar – lemon creme fraiche, American Ossetra caviar

egg caviar 500x335 Melisse   4/22/10

This was a great dish. The egg was poached slowly, so there was a warm gooey center inside, which really went well with the caviar. Warm and comfortable.

Duo of Hamachi & Tuna – celery, meyer lemon, black truffles

duo of hamachi and tuna 500x335 Melisse   4/22/10

The duo resembles a piece of sushi, which was a nice touch, and chopped tuna taking the place of rice. The celery adds a nice fresh crunch, and the lemon went well with the fish. I couldn’t taste the hamachi and tuna individually in each bite, however. The black truffle flavor was rather mild. Overall, I enjoyed this dish.

White and Purple Asparagus – white asparagus veloute, crispy purple asparagus roulade, truffle mousse

asparagus soup 500x335 Melisse   4/22/10

This was a really nice soup. There was a good asparagus flavor, and it really went well with the truffle mousse mixed in. Brilliant.

Seared Foie Gras – carrot cake, pineapple compote, vanilla-balsamic reduction

foie gras 500x335 Melisse   4/22/10

The foie gras was seared perfectly, with a nice crust and soft, tender interior. The carrot cake did not add much to the dish, and fell apart reather easily. I liked the pineapple compote and orange rind, as the sweetness and acidity cut through the fattiness of the liver.

Lobster Bolognese – fresh cappelini, truffle froth

pasta 500x335 Melisse   4/22/10

This was my favorite dish of the night. Fresh pasta, wrapped in a lobster bolognese, and topped with a truffle foam. Delicious. The pasta may have been a TEENY bit overcooked (I prefer it a bit more al dente) but the flavors were spectacular, memorable.

John Dory Filet – chinese broccoli, kohlrabi, pinebut-cornichon jus

john dory 500x335 Melisse   4/22/10

John Dory has a firm flesh, which was nice with the crunchy broccoli and kohlrabi. The fish was cooked pretty well, but just was not too memorable.

Cote de Boeuf – potato and braised short rib galette, fava beans, porcini mushrooms, herb jus

cote de boeuf 500x335 Melisse   4/22/10

Like the fish, this dish wasn’t too memorable either. The rib-eye was very tender and had a decent flavor. The galette, with layers of potato and short rib, wasn’t as successful as expected. It was a little dry, perhaps overcooked. The same was true with the piece of short rib.

Le Fromage Truffee – black truffle, poached pears, balsamic gelee

cheese 500x335 Melisse   4/22/10

I don’t really like the cheese course and tend to avoid it whenever possible. However, I had it here. The cheese was very mild, and I did not get a truffle flavor from it. It came with a warm toasted brioche.

Chocolate and Caramel Fondant  – hazelnut crumble, chocolate sorbet

chocolate fondant 500x335 Melisse   4/22/10

This was a pretty good dish. The chocolate sorbet was nice and rich, and the fondant (with layers of rich mousse) was excellent. I enjoyed the hazelnut crumble as well, as it added some great texture to the dessert.

Strawberries and Creme – strawberries, creme fraiche, brown sugar

strawberries creme fraiche 500x335 Melisse   4/22/10

An interesting rendition of ‘strawberries and creme’ here, with creme fraiche instead..and sugar to sweeten. The strawberries were ripe and sweet, and the combination worked.

Mignardises – assorted cookies

cookies 500x335 Melisse   4/22/10

These were just okay. The chocolate peanut butter cookies were actually pretty good with a nice crispiness, but the caneles weren’t anything special.

Melisse lived up to its expectations in my opinion. Outside of the scallop amuse, the execution and imagination were present in each course. While some of the dishes weren’t really memorable, I attribute a lot of it to personal taste. On the other hand, the Egg Caviar, White and Purple Asparagus, Lobster Bolognese, and Chocolate and Caramel Fondant were clear hits. Definitely a very solid showing – I think Melisse is one of the top five restaurants in Los Angeles.

Mo Chica – 4/20/10

Mo Chica
3655 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90007

Mo Chica is one of those restaurants that I wonder ‘if I had not heard anything about this place and walked in, how surprised would I be at this food?’ Located in kind of a grungy marketplace food court just east of USC, it’s not exactly a place you’d just stumble into. However, there’s been a lot of buzz around this place ever since it opened, and for good reason. Mo Chica offers a pretty great ceviche, as well as homey, comfortable Latin dishes such as lomo saltado, arroz con pollo, and a braised lamb shank – for very reasonable prices.

Ceviche of the day – sea bass

ceviche 500x335 Mo Chica   4/20/10

I like the large chunks of fish – they lend a nice  meaty chew. Definitely a very fresh fish, and not overcooked at all. The popped corn gave a really nice crunchy texture to go along with the fish.

Arroz con Mariscos

mariscos 500x335 Mo Chica   4/20/10

I’m a big fan of dishes where the meat/fish is cooked along with rice in a flavorful sauce. Paella and jambalaya are classic examples. Here we have a paella-like dish with shrimp, clams, mussels and squid. The shrimp and squid were cooked well, but the clams and mussels were a bit overcooked. The tomato-heavy sauce was a bit one-note, I thought.

Arroz con Pollo – organic chicken breast, salsa Madre, sauteed rice with cilantro sauce

pollo 500x335 Mo Chica   4/20/10

A pan fried chicken breast + drumette served over rice. Often times when I have this dish, the chicken is cooked with the rice, which I like better. However, the rice (here in a cilantro sauce) had lots of good flavor. The chicken was flavorful too, but not too moist. I don’t really think it was overcooked, just not that impressive.

Seco de Cordero – lamb shank. cilantro beer stew, Peruvian canary beans, salsa criolla

seco 500x335 Mo Chica   4/20/10

The lamb here was cooked pretty well, falling off the bone. It had a nice chew to it, but was somewhat gamey…just a little too much for my liking. However, still a very solid dish with a very flavorful stew/sauce.

Oxtail risotto

oxtail 500x335 Mo Chica   4/20/10

The dish of the day was an oxtail risotto. The oxtail was very good, braised in a rich sauce until fork-tender. Really good flavor. The barley risotto was pretty cheesy, and had a nice al dente texture. Good mix of flavors and textures – my favorite dish of the night.

Mo Chica is a solid bet. Not all of the dishes were complete hits, but none were bad, either. For $11-13 per entree, it’s hard to beat. The ceviches are a must, and ordering a few entrees to split will likely leave you satisfied.


Bouchon – 4/16/10

Bouchon Beverly Hills
238 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

It’s been a little while since going to Bouchon. Since going twice on its opening weekend, I hadn’t been back until now. I was interested to see if the food and service still held up to what I remembered from the first weekend. My friend and I came on this Friday night at 8 without a reservation – and were able to be squeezed in outside under the heat lamps.

exterior2 500x335 Bouchon   4/16/10
I have said that Bouchon is one of my favorite casual restaurants. It’s simple French bistro comfort food done well. The execution, as expected at any Thomas-Keller restaurant, is top-notch. The first dish we ordered was one of the daily appetizer specials: salmon tartare.

salmon tartare 500x335 Bouchon   4/16/10

The salmon tartare was topped with lemon juice, and accompanied by shallots, capers, chives, eggs through a sieve – and topped with creme fraiche. The crostini that came with it provided the crunchy texture, and the salmon and creme fraiche the bulk of the flavor.

Poulet Rôti – roasted chicken with riz rouge, Michigan sour cherries, wilted spinach & chicken jus

chicken 500x335 Bouchon   4/16/10

I’ve had the roasted chicken at Bouchon before, and it really is top-notch. The skin is very nicely browned and crispy, and the meat (both white and dark) is superbly moist and flavorful. The chicken jus is rich and delicious, and I almost like the accompanying red rice/spinach/cherries mixture, adding some extra heartiness to the dish. A really well-executed dish.

Steak Frites – pan-seared prime flatiron served with maître d’hôtel butter & French fries
steak frites 500x335 Bouchon   4/16/10
Bouchon’s fries are delicious. Wonderfully crispy, perfectly salted. Add a tender, perfectly-cooked steak with a compound butter, and you’re set. The flatiron steak was very tender and cooked a beautiful medium-rare.

Profiteroles -vanilla ice cream & chocolate sauce
profiteroles 500x335 Bouchon   4/16/10
Probably my favorite dessert at Bouchon, these profiteroles are wonderfully simple. The valhrona chocolate sauce sets the tone here, as a rich chocolate flavor that’s not overly sweet. The interplay with the vanilla ice cream is just wonderful. The pasty adds some crisp – in all, a very satisfying dish.
The food tonight was good – on point. However, service was not. Entrees came out before we were finished with the appetizer, and even before our next set of silverware was placed down. We were totally devoid of bread service the entire night. When we inquired about this after finishing our entrees, we were given a pair of loaves to take home. This was definitely nice, though never should’ve happened in the first place.
epi 224x335 Bouchon   4/16/10
Is Bouchon still my favorite casual eatery in LA. Possibly.  I think the food was still consistent; however, the service on this night was definitely lacking. I’m still a fan of the place, but it’s not the slam dunk that it was when it first opened.

BLT Steak – 4/10/10

BLT Steak
8720 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069

At last year’s American Wine & Food Festival, my dad bid on a number of items in the silent auction. One of the items he won was a gift certificate to BLT Steak, which he gifted to me for Christmas.

BLT Steak is a trendy spot on the Sunset Strip of West Hollywood. Opened by fame chef Laurent Tourondel, it’s known mostly for  its steaks (of course) as well as the complimentary bread (a popover). See menu here: BLT-dinner-menu

The server had recommended a number of dishes; surprisingly, a number of them were fish. There was no way we were ordering fish. Instead we went with some big meat options, the 40-ounce porterhouse for two and the 22-ounce bone-in ribeye. Pretty sizable for two people, but I was pretty sure we could do it.

One of the complimentary dishes is a chicken pate. Interesting. It’s served with a toasted ciabatta.

chicken pate1 500x335 BLT Steak   4/10/10

The pate was just a little warm, and was delicious. There was definitely a very present liver flavor in the pate.

chicken pate2 500x335 BLT Steak   4/10/10

The bread, which is a signature of BLT’s, is the popover. These are pretty large, though hollow on the inside. A nice crust is on the outside, with a subtle cheesy, moist interior. The flavor of the interior was not unlike CUT or French Laundry‘s cheese puffs. Unique and very good.

popover 500x335 BLT Steak   4/10/10

Next came the steaks. Here, the 40-ounce porterhouse.porterhouse 500x335 BLT Steak   4/10/10

And below, the 22-ounce bone-in ribeye. I thought it was a great idea to have roasted bone marrow come alongside. Both steaks came with a whole roasted garlic bulb as well.

rib eye 500x335 BLT Steak   4/10/10

The meat, here the strip portion of the porterhouse, was cooked pretty well for the most part. The ribeye was cooked flawlessly, and the strip portion of the porterhouse was great too. A nice pink interior with minimal browning from the sear. However, the filet portion of the porterhouse was uneven, lending to about one third of it being well-done (the thinner side).

cut steak 500x335 BLT Steak   4/10/10

To accompany the steaks, we had smashed fingerling potatoes and grilled asparagus. The smashed fingerlings were a little disappointing. There needed to be more “smash,” more salt, and maybe some herbs. The grilled asparagus, however, was perfect.

potatoes asparagus 500x335 BLT Steak   4/10/10

We passed on dessert, as the food was a bit more filling than expected. My overall impression was very positive. The only major misstep was the cooking of the filet portion of the porterhouse, and maybe the fingerlings (though they weren’t bad, just unspectacular). The quality of the beef was clearly very good, and the popover was very memorable.

Dean Sin World – 4/10/10

Dean Sin World
306 N Garfield Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754

Dean Sin World is a sort of hole-in-the-wall Chinese spot in a Monterey Park strip mall specializing mainly in baked goods and dumplings. I wouldn’t say it’s yet in the collective conscience, but is well-known among food bloggers and Yelp.

exterior1 500x335 Dean Sin World   4/10/10

The interior is spartan, as you can see below. Hey, an A rating!

interior 500x335 Dean Sin World   4/10/10

The menu has a pretty wide array of baked goods, noodles and dumplings. You can also buy many of their dumplings frozen by the bag of 50.

menu1 500x335 Dean Sin World   4/10/10

menu2 500x335 Dean Sin World   4/10/10

After our order, we were served complimentary peanuts with seaweed. I think this simple dish is actually pretty good, and would make good snacking.

peanut 500x335 Dean Sin World   4/10/10

Another complimentary dish that came out was this fried tofu and bamboo shoots. I didn’t really care for this dish.

tofu 500x335 Dean Sin World   4/10/10

The first dish of our dishes that came out was this spicy wonton. This is the same wonton that is served in their ge-chai wonton soup, but served with a chili oil instead. I wouldn’t call this spicy, but the chili oil provided some nice flavor.

wonton 500x335 Dean Sin World   4/10/10

The next has to be one of their most popular items, the xiao long bao. These juicy pork dumplings are quite delicious, and quite a bargain at 10 for $5.

xiao long bao 500x335 Dean Sin World   4/10/10

Another popular dish is their beef noodle soup. It’s a heaping bowl of egg-y noodles in a very rich beefy broth. A generous portion of tender braised beef shank is added atop.

beef noodle soup1 500x335 Dean Sin World   4/10/10

The bowl is filled pretty much to the brim with a lot of noodles. I tend to prefer the noodles a bit more al dente here, but they’re good nonetheless, and held up well even when sitting in the soup for a while. I tend to prefer brisket in my beef noodle soup, as the meat is easier to separate from the tendon (with shank, the tendon is interspersed throughout the meat).

beef noodle soup2 500x335 Dean Sin World   4/10/10

Next was the pancake with beef.

beef pancake1 500x335 Dean Sin World   4/10/10

This is a crispy pancake/crepe wrapped around layers of beef and greens. Pretty good.

beef pancake2 500x335 Dean Sin World   4/10/10

This was my third trip here, and it was as satisfying as the last couple. There’s some really great food here, comforting to the soul. The owners are very warm and hospitable, and the prices can’t be beat. I’m surprised this restaurant has not really caught on yet, but I figure it’s only a matter of time until this small restaurant has lines out the door.