Morimoto Napa – 8/28/10

Morimoto Napa
610 Main St
Napa, CA 94559

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Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s first venture on the west coast is in the small town of Napa in the heart of wine country. Given the slower, leisurely pace of this small town, I was expecting a rather quaint restaurant. I was mistaken. The restaurant is bustling – the lounge, bar and dining room were packed to the brim with customers, with staff carving dizzying paths through these three areas and the kitchen.

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Before I look like an idiot, these images were taken at the end of the night.

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Morimoto Napa is not a traditional Japanese sushi house….kind of like how Morimoto not a typical Japanese chef. This place is trendy – the decor and crowd instantly reminded me of something like Geisha House, Koi or Katsuya in LA. Considering Morimoto’s background of being head chef at the famed Nobu in New York, I could see the parallels in decor.

The menu features a wide array of hot and cold appetizers, salads, entrees, and (of course) an extensive sushi menu. We opted to order a variety of dishes instead of the omakase, in order to sample a variety of hot and cold dishes.

Toro Tartare wasabi, nori paste, sour cream

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This was presented in a grand fashion, in a large bowl of ice. This has to be one of Morimoto’s most famed dishes – chopped up toro with a selection of accompaniments to help yourself to.  From left to right, these were: nori paste, wasabi, creme fraiche, chives, avocado and rice crackers. It’s a fun and playful dish, and each of the accompaniments were quite good. However, my favorites were the nori and (surprisingly) the avocado – the rice crackers were perfect to add a bit of texture.

Morimoto Sashimi seared toro, salmon, eel, tuna, hamachi, five sauces

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Layers of smoked salmon, hamachi, eel, chu-toro, eel and oyster mushrooms were combined to make these sashimi bites. Accompanying them were a number of sauces including arugula oil, yuzu vinaigrette, eel sauce, and red and yellow pepper sauces. I’m often not a big fan of maki rolls that combine a variety of fishes, as you can’t distinctly taste any one fish. This dish followed those same traits, however it was pretty tasty.

Tuna Pizza anchovy aioli, olives, jalapeno

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A pretty unique dish here with tuna as a featured ingredient in this raw “pizza.” The flavors were pretty good here; the jalapeno, while prevalent, wasn’t overly spicy.

Ramen morimoto chicken noodle soup

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Did I mention we were sitting outside with the temperature in the low 50s? A bowl of ramen soup was in order. This ramen was really more like a Vietnamese pho ga, with its hearty chicken broth, shredded chicken, and rice noodle (not a common type of noodle for ramen, as far as I know. Having said that, it was a deeply satisfying and comforting bowl of chicken noodle soup.

Rock Shrimp Tempura spicy kochujan sauce, wasabi aioli

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I remember this dish from my trips to Nobu, but this variation is a little different. Plump and juicy pieces of perfectly-fried shrimp were served in two sauces. Both sauces were good with just the right amount of heat – I preferred the more complex flavor of the kochujan over the wasabi.

Whole Roasted Lobster “Epice” garam masala, lemon creme fraiche

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This whole roasted lobster was an impressive thing on a plate. However, I found the tail meat to be rather mealy, though the claws were succulent and delicious. I thought the garam masala was rather one-note; the lemon creme fraiche was good in tempering the mild heat of the curry, while adding some acidity to the dish.

Braised Black Cod ginger-soy reduction

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Most fusion Japanese restaurants seem to have some sort of variation of this dish on their menu. This cod really reminded me of Roy’s (Yamaguchi) version…which is a good thing. The fish was moist and flavorful with a really melt-in-mouth texture.

Crispy Whole Fish spicy tofu sauce, papaya sauce

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I love the presentation of a whole fish, especially when deep fried. The fish was very moist with a rather mild flavor. The spicy tofu sauce was rather overpowering, though, for such a light fish.

Sea Urchin Carbonara smoked bacon, udon noodle, crispy shallot

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This was definitely a ‘fusion’ dish – here, Morimoto is putting a Japanese spin on the classic Italian pasta. Interestingly, the udon noodles weren’t very thick (thinner than a linguine), and closely resembled those in the ramen. The creamy carbonara sauce was rich and delicious – a solid take on the classic. There was only one small piece of uni included, but it added a nice briny flavor to the rich pasta.

Chef’s Combination Sushi

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Full as we were, we couldn’t leave without trying some sushi. We opted for one of the “chef’s combinations” which included spicy tuna, sake, kanpachi, chu-toro, hamachi, maguro, unagi, ebi, mirugai, and aji. What a disappointment. The sushi was rather pedestrian – it didn’t have the glistening sheen of fresh-cut fish, and had almost a dry mouth feel. I was missing the tender, melt-in-mouth feel from most of the pieces.

Doughnuts

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For dessert, we had doughnut holes with a variety of dipping sauces, including molasses, lavender honey, lavender sugar, soy sugar, powdered green tea and ginger sugar. These bites were warm and fresh out of the fryer, and the sauces brought back some of the playful customization we saw in the first few dishes.

In all, this was a solid meal. Good, but not great. I did not expect to have a mind-blowing experience here; rather, I wanted to try some of the interesting non-traditional dishes Morimoto has to offer. Outside of the surprisingly poor sushi showing, the dishes demonstrated some creativity and strong execution. I can’t say I anticipate being back (there are so many other places I want to try in the Napa Valley), though I do look forward to trying Morimoto’s new venture (his first non-Asian one) in Los Angeles.

Benu – 8/27/10

Benu
22 Hawthorne Ln
San Francisco, CA 94105

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Just over two weeks ago, Corey Lee opened up Benu, one of San Francisco’s most anticipated restaurants in a while. You see, Corey Lee was chef de cuisine of The French Laundry for four years, before leaving in 2009 to set out on his own. That pedigree alone brings with it a lot of hype and high expectations.  The resulting restaurant is Benu, focusing on Asian-inspired flavors, French technique, and local, seasonal ingredients.

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The kitchen has two large windows open to the street, allowing passerbys to peer into the kitchen. As you walk up to the restaurant, you are greeted by a small outdoor patio/waiting area.

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Benu offers two menus; an a la carte option, as well as a tasting menu (of around 16 courses) that changes daily. We opted for the latter, as it allowed us a whole range of dishes to try.

The first thing to come out was the ‘bread,’ in this case, a lavash with sesame and nori.

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It’s a very thin cracker with Japanese accents from the sesame and nori. Rather addicting, these did a good job of getting your tastebuds going early.

tomato, dashi, summer blossoms

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thousand-year-old quail egg, ginger, celery

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These first two dishes came out as a pairing. We were instructed to eat the egg first – the salty and rich flavor was accented by a little hit of ginger for an extra burst of flavor. The dashi broth was cool and cleansing; the tomato and summer blossoms added a ‘summer’ flavor to this dish.

geoduck clam, seaweed, raspberry ponzu

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caramelized anchovy gelée, peanuts,lily bulbs, chili, basil

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The next two courses also came out as a pairing. The geoduck had a fresh and clean flavor, slightly salty of the sea, with a nice ‘chew’ to it. The seaweed, however, was a little overbearing, bringing even more “sea” flavor into the dish. The anchovy gelee was wonderful – not overwhelmingly salty or fishy, and complemented by the textural elements of the peanuts and the lily bulbs.

veal sweetbreads, yuzu, pickles, mitsuba

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Next came sweetbreads, which were very delicately fried. The sweetbreads had a meaty, somewhat creamy texture, and the fried batter added a nice crispiness. The yuzu and pickles added some acidity to level out the richness of the dish, which was a definite success.

eel, feuille de brick, avocado, crème fraîche

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Here we have eel and avocado wrapped in dough, for a cigar-like pastry. The avocado was not too noticeable, however the creme fraiche did a good job of adding some light sourness and acidity to go with the fried roll. However, one person found an eel bone in their food! Being someone that spent some time in the ER earlier this year for an eel bone-related incident, this was really disappointing to see.

risotto, sea urchin, corn, lovage, black truffle

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Risotto with black truffles and…what, sea urchin? Yes, sea urchin. This was my favorite dish of the night. The risotto was simply delicious and rich, and I thought the urchin held its own, adding a clean sea flavor, to go along with the earthiness of the rice and truffles.

monkfish liver torchon, apple relish, turnip, sorrel, mustard, brioche

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The monkfish came with a delicious, light and buttery brioche. The torchon was very spreadable, though a little fishy. The apple relish added some fresh flavors and crunch to the dish.

“shark’s fin” soup, dungeness crab, cabbage, Jinhua ham, black truffle custard

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Shark fin would be a pretty controversial ingredient for this type of restaurant in San Francisco. That doesn’t mean you can’t make a dish inspired by it. The soup has a very rich and deep umami flavor..which really did resemble a shark’s fin soup. The custard (at the bottom) was so velvety smooth, adding an earthy truffle essense. Really superb dish.

abalone vol au vent, cabbage, onion, roasted chicken jus

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The abalone, which is a nice big piece, was quite chewy, somewhat tough. That was a little disappointing. The flavor was good, though, and the pastry added a crispy and flaky component that meshed well.

pork belly, fermented pepper, cucumber, perilla

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A beautiful piece of pork belly was presented next. Though it was relatively lean, it was tender, juicy and flavorful – made even better by its crisped skin. The small balls of cucumber and shiso helped add some lighter flavors to balance out the dish.

beef rib cap, crispy maitake mushrooms, lettuce, scallion, garlic

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The beef was sliced thin and grilled. It was disappointing, as it was neither juicy nor had the same succulence that meat typically has. In addition, it was served somewhat lukewarm, so the fat in the meat had solidified a bit. The mushrooms were tasty, and the lettuce had a nice, crisp flavor – but the centerpiece of the dish fell flat.

sweet rice sorbet, asian pear, pine needle-infused honey

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Soothing and refreshing, the asian pear and sweet rice flavors were both evident. I really liked the cookie as well, adding some texture. There was an overarching floral flavor from (I think) the pine-needle infused honey, which was almost too strong.

strawberries, vanilla soymilk, buckwheat shortbread, jasmine pearl tea

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The strawberries and strawberry sorbet were both good, but the crunchy shortbread and vanilly soymilk foam made the dish for me. The foam was eerily like a vanilla soymilk and went well with the strawberries, and the shortbread added some delicious texture to the dish. However, the jasmine pearl tea gelee on top did not taste like anything, even by itself.

chocolates, coffee, tea

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Lastly, chocolates are presented for the table. On this night, we had a lemon creme brulee, toasted sesame chocolate, walnut chocolate, and simple chocolate truffle. Oddly, for a party of 3, we were given 2 of each. My favorite of these was actually the basic truffle (with the gold flake) for its really silky chocolate interior.

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Service was exceptional. While most would say that it’s expected at an establishment like this, I agree that it is. But very often, it’s not.

As for the food, it was a very solid meal, but not without some disappointments. So much of one’s satisfaction of a meal is based on expectations going in and, admittedly, mine were very high. Deservedly so, I think, given Corey’s background, and the amount of buzz surrounding the restaurant. Many of the dishes were very successful in my opinion – sweetbreads, risotto, pork belly, and “shark’s fin soup” come to mind. The beef dish was very disappointing, but outside of that, there were no big missteps, save for the eel bone.

The menu is well-crafted, showing a pretty diverse range, and the tasting menu has a really good progression of courses. I will likely be back to try again, not too far into the distant future.

Test Kitchen: Walter Manzke – 8/25/10

Test Kitchen: Walter Manzke
9575 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035

I knew Test Kitchen’s devilish business plan would keep me coming back for more! As a recap, the kitchen opens its doors to various chefs and restaurateurs to allow them to try new dishes and menu concepts…and for us to sample these new creations. I first went to the Test Kitchen on Sunday to try Red Medicine‘s take on modern Vietnamese fare, and here I found myself again; this time, to sample Walter Manzke’s cooking. One of the two most notable “homeless” LA chefs (I would count Voltaggio as the other, Ludo doesn’t want a home), I first tried Manzke’s cuisine at Church & State and enjoyed it. I jumped at the opportunity to sample more of what he has to offer, outside of the French bistro fare Church & State patrons were accustomed to.

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I dined with my friend Lilly (who has recently started a craft beer blog, LA Beer Hopping), and also spotted fellow bloggers Kevin of kevinEats, Holly of The Michelin Project and Ryan of Epicuryan. Also, Jason Bernstein of the Golden State also happened to be dining, who I am a big fan of.

Manzke is cooking for four nights only (8/25-8/28) with a menu of 5 dishes, which seem to have a lot of Asian inspiration. In addition, there were a few tapas options as well, and we tried two of them – the calamari and the bread & butter.

Bread & Butter Vermont butter, sea salt, foie gras butter with lavender honey

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The bread was freshly baked; crisp on the outside and warm and fluffy on the inside. The foie gras butter was much more interesting than the fresh Vermont butter, with a rather subtle foie gras flavor. The sea salt worked to bring out some of the flavor of the lavender honey as well.

Local Calamari grilled and fried, backyard arugula, black aioli

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I really enjoyed this dish and the interplay of crunchy calamari with bites of the tender, grilled calamari. Both preparations were cooked just right; I preferred the grilled calamari with the aioli featuring…squid ink. How fitting!

Hamachi avocado, green apple, yuzu, jalapeno

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This was the first course of the regular menu. Small pieces of hamachi were placed on top of equally small pieces of avocado. Both of these had a really melt-in-mouth texture, and the acidity from the green apple and yuzu really brightened up the dish without overpowering the subtle hamachi flavor.

Thai Curry-Carrot Soup Maine lobster, coconut tapioca

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The Thai curry and the carrots were both distinctive in this dish – though, they did not clash with each other. Small chunks of lobster were cooked beautifully; the sweetness from the lobster and tapioca helped to temper some of the mild heat of the curry.

Loup de Mer Sungold tomatoes, mole verde sauce

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Loup de mer, also commonly called branzino, is probably one of my favorite fishes with its light, flaky and moist flesh. This piece was a little bit firmer, but was still moist and delicate. The skin was crisped nicely, adding some texture. The tomatoes were outstanding – perfectly ripe, juicy and sweet. The mole verde was very mild in flavor, but the fish didn’t need much. This dish really reminded me of summer and light, vibrant flavors.

Beef Tenderloin chanterelle mushrooms, Katsuo Bushi broth

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This last savory dish was another good one. The tenderloin was cooked a nice medium-rare and was quite tender, served with a nice poached egg. On its own, it may not have been anything spectacular, but I loved the Katsuo Bushi broth. Like a much richer dashi broth made from bonito flakes, it has a really deep, salty flavor. I never know how to describe what umami tastes like, but this had it..and a lot of it!

There was also a little bit of yuzu kosho to go with the meat – made of yuzu and chili peppers, the Japanese condiment gave just the right amount of heat and bitterness to take the dish even further.

Strawberry “Creme Brulee”

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This was Manzke’s take on the classic dessert. Strawberries were topped with a strawberry sorbet, a light cream and caramelized sugar. The result was a much lighter interpretation, but still containing the flavors of a traditional creme brulee. I thought this was a pretty nice way to end the meal, and not leave you with something too heavy.

I was very pleased with the meal. The service and pace of the meal were both much better than my prior visit. I don’t think there were any significant missteps, and Manzke really shined in displaying some new flavors, particularly Asian. I think this is a worthwhile meal to take part in during Manzke’s short stay; but be warned, it may leave you wanting more of his food…with nowhere to get it!

Test Kitchen: Red Medicine – 8/22/10

Test Kitchen: Red Medicine
9575 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035

This past Sunday was the last night in Red Medicine’s run at Test Kitchen, LA’s new “pop-up” restaurant. Drawing upon the success of the now-nationwide famous LudoBites’ pop-up concept, the restaurant is well…a test kitchen. There’s no permanent chef; rather, the space is rented out for short periods of time by chefs (typically of upcoming restaurants) who will showcase dishes of a new concept. And somehow, we’ve all nurtured the desire to be their guinea pigs.

The format is unique and could be wildly successful. As long as the restaurant can continually schedule chefs people want to see, the restaurant will be ever-changing, fresh, and most importantly, will  keep people coming back for more. The debut chef for the restaurant is Jordan Kahn, who will helm the upcoming modern Vietnamese restaurant Red Medicine.

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12 dishes were served family style, in “no particular order.” We had an early reservation, and really felt rushed – all 12 courses came out in one hour.

radishes, coco-butter, lime, dried soy

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Crunchy and crisp, these were a good starter. I enjoyed the clean flavors.

cured amberjack, lime leaf, french melon, nuoc cham, bird chili, mint

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The melon was sliced into pieces, and topped with the fish. Slightly spicy from the chili, though sweet from the cantaloupe, the flavors worked pretty well.

green papaya, crispy taro, rau ram, fried shallots, peanuts

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I can’t say I’m an expert in papaya salads, but this was a pretty good rendition for me. Cool and refreshing, with a nice ‘crunch’ in every bite from the papaya, peanuts, and taro. I could eat this all summer.

tomatoes marinated in an infusion of their vines, silky tofu, crunchy tofu, herbs

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This dish was one of the most interesting of the night for me…kind of an Asian caprese salad. The tomatoes were ripe, juicy and sweet, and the tofu had a very cheesy consistency and texture. The herbs added some more complexity of flavor to the dish.

brussels sprouts, caramelized shallots, fish sauce, prawn crackers

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This was probably my favorite savory dish of the night. The brussels sprouts were addicting – crispy and light, with a mild sweetness from the caramelization. I’d love to buy a bag of these and eat them like potato chips!

saigon tartine- pork belly, pate, coriander, carrot pickle, green chili

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These were essentially mini banh-mi. I got a nice crunch from the pickled veggies; initially, I was thinking there should’ve been more meat. However, I think a traditional banh-mi is supposed to be less meat-heavy, and this was more along those lines. I wouldn’t say there was any ‘modern’ spin to this dish, other than it being miniaturized.

caramelized chicken dumplings, lemongrass, scallion, bibb lettuce

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These dumplings, more like meatballs, were a bit dense and dry for me. I think white meat was used; I would have preferred a dark meat to lend more fat and juiciness.

baby carrots, fermented black bean, star anise, coconut, tarragon

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As the dishes come out in “no particular order,” I don’t think dish order was a big focus. However, as I felt like we were gearing up into the “entrees,” I would’ve preferred this dish earlier in the meal. I like black bean sauce, however I’m not too sure it worked with me on this one. Black beans have a sweetness to them, and so do the carrots; and it just didn’t meld too well for me.

bay scallops, pomelo, young ginger, tamarind syrup, puffed tapioca, charred friseé

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The tamarind syrup was all overpowering in this dish. The small bay scallops didn’t hold up very well to the strong sauce. I appreciated the texture from the puffed tapioca, but it didn’t add any flavor notes. I loved the charred frisee however, reminiscent of the brussels sprouts.

beef bavette, bacon X.O., chinese eggplant, chinese celery, lime, palm sugar, sesame

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As long as you cook it medium-rare to medium, I find it’s hard to mess up a flank steak. This was no exception with tender chunks of meat and good flavor. I appreciated the eggplant as well. It was mushy, and I like it that way.

peaches, crème de cassis, raspberry, condensed milk, tonic water sorbet, violet

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I thought the peaches were delicious in this dish, alone. Outside of the creme, I don’t think the ingredients added too much to the dish. But I loved the sweet, ripe peaches.

coconut bavarois, coffee ice cream, thai basil, peanut croquant, chicory

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Jordan Kahn made his name as a pastry chef, and it really showed in this dish. The peanut croquant was really reminiscent of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but crispy. The chicory has a coffee-like flavor; combined with the coconut, peanut and touch of thai basil – the flavors and textures were really good.

In all, there were some hits and some misses but overall, my impression of the food was positive. Where I probably disagreed most was with the portions and the insanely quick pace to the meal. I’ve never had 12 courses in the span of one hour; I felt like I was just trying to keep up for most of the meal, so that they could fill the table for a 7:30 reservation (we sat down at 6). Most of the dishes pictured were for a party of 5 – thus, dishes were good for one or a few bites. At the end of the meal, I felt like I was still waiting for the entree to come. However, I can’t fault that $40 is a pretty good price to try 12 different dishes, but we weren’t allowed to order additional dishes of anything once the meal had run its course.

Animal – 8/21/10

Animal
435 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90048

I’ve been wanting to try Animal for a while, and finally got the chance. Founded by Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Two Dude Catering (Food Network) fame, Animal has been a consistently popular restaurant since it opened in 2008. Every time I’ve tried to make a weekend reservation (I admit – usually with short notice), I get a response such as “the earliest table we have available is 10:30.” Or 11:30. What! I didn’t even realize people were seated that late (the restaurant is actually open til 2am on Fridays and Saturdays). They offer the full menu for first-come, first-served walk-ins at the bar, and this is what we opted for.

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Obviously, this place is not for vegetarians, as the menu is meat-centric, offering various meats and cuts that are rarely found all in one place, including oxtail, rabbit, sweetbreads and octopus.

boudin, rooster aioli, gherkin

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This boudin was made of chicken liver and rice, then fried in bite-sized balls. It was actually pretty light, and nicely crispy – a good way to start the meal.

pig ear, chili, lime, fried egg

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Here, pig ears are sliced thin and fried. Combined with lime and chili peppers, it’s topped with a fried egg. Honestly, the fried egg really makes this dish for me. The spiciness of the peppers was slightly mellowed out by the runny egg yolk, which really brought everything together. However, I could’ve used two egg yolks here.

barbecue pork belly sandwiches, slaw

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First off, the pork belly was melt-in-mouth tender. It probably helped that it was a rather fatty piece of pork. The meat was succulent, with the barbecue sauce adding a slight sweetness and smokiness that was not overpowering. Too often I see BBQ pork sandwiches that are dredged in a thick BBQ sauce, and this was not the case. The coleslaw added just the right amount of acidity and lightness to this dish. Bravo!

poutine, oxtail gravy, cheddar

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I remembered seeing a picture and description of this dish when I first heard about Animal and was like…this is a total must-order. I love oxtail. Here we have braised oxtail and its gravy (presumably the braising liquid), on top of french fries and a mild cheddar cheese.  I think the fries were fried extra crispy, in order to add more texture, and combat sogginess from the gravy. Really delicious – definitely a fan.

foie gras loco moco, quail egg, spam, hamburger

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Here’s a play on the Hawaiian staple dish of loco moco which, at its base, usually has rice topped with a burger patty, spam, fried egg, and gravy. Animal steps it up a notch with a lobe of foie gras. Completely decadent and rich! I first tried pieces of each of the components separately and found them good on their own. Combined, it made for something quite tasty (though, it can be hard to taste the foie gras with all those components, since it’s a pretty thin slice). This was probably my favorite dish of the night.

bacon chocolate crunch bar, s&p anglaise

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Of course, a restaurant named ‘Animal’ would have a dessert with bacon in it. I’ve heard a lot about this dish, and it’s the must-try dessert on the menu. Layers of rich chocolate and hazelnuts is topped with bacon bits. I like salty things with chocolate, and the bacon lended this saltiness and the “crunch” in this bar. While good, I wouldn’t particularly say it was ‘great,’ however I was pretty full by this point.

peach and raspberry pie, whipped cream

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Animal serves a daily pie topped with freshly whipped cream. Today’s pie was peach and raspberry. The peaches were nice and sweet, and the raspberries were tart (a little too tart for me). The pie crust was quite nice though, and the whipped cream was a nice accompaniment. I began to actually eat the cream with the bacon chocolate crunch bar, which made for a pretty good combination.

In all, Animal met my (high) expectations. The food is a little different, with innovative takes on comfort food and some new dishes altogether.  The food is very rich, and you’re likely to leave full and sleepy. At least, I did. I would come back, especially for the pork belly sandwiches and loco moco, as well as to try some of the rest of the dishes on the menu.

Another restaurant from Shook & Dotolo is in the works on Third Street in West Hollywood, which will be a different concept from Animal. It will be exciting to see what these guys come up with.

LudoBites Truck – 8/14/10

LudoBites Truck aka LudoTruck
Locations around the city

truck and view 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

I don’t typically review the food trucks I visit, but the LudoBites truck is a little different from the typical food truck. Based on the now-famous fried chicken served at previous LudoBites engagements, the truck serves a few varieties of fried chicken, as well as a number of sides that compliment the chicken. Not yet ready for regular day-to-day service, it “pops-up” at various locations and events around the city with relatively minimal advertising – a way to limit the masses from overwhelming the truck (see: first LA Street Food Fest). Given the buzz currently surrounding everything LudoBites-related, it’s understandable that they are easing its way into normal service.

I was taking a gardening class at Cube LA’s downtown offshoot (Yes – I do have a small home garden), knowing that the truck would be paying a visit at noon – coincidentally, the class’ end time. I’ve had the chicken twice before, at the aforementioned LA Street Food Fest, as well as at LudoBites 4.0, and I was eagerly anticipating a third taste. Given that I was already on the scene as the truck arrived, our party was first in line to order!

truck arrival 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

The truck’s menu features chicken prepared three ways, with a number of sauces, sides and desserts.

menu1 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

menu2 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

Provencal Pepite “Chicken Ball” with Herbs de Provence, Crunch Buttermilk Strips, Honey-Garlic Glazed Wings and Coleslaw

chicken assortment 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

The chicken strip and wing are relatively new, with the ‘chicken ball’ being the staple. These were all quite good – the chicken strip was moist and tender, though the breading was a little thick. The wing was also moist with just the right sweetness, and the ‘chicken ball’ was as tasty as ever, though smaller than in previous incarnations. Served piping hot, the juices literally run all over once you bite into it.

Of the four sauces, I was able to try the honey whole grain mustard, piquillo, and Ludo’s hickory smoked BBQ (from left to right).

sauces1 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

I’m familiar with the piquillo sauce from prior visits; while good, my favorite was probably the hickory smoked BBQ sauce. Smoky, tangy and sweet – it really complemented the chicken, especially the fried variations.

“Perfect” Three-Day Fries

fries 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

I’m not sure why these are three-day fries, but they were relatively simple for Ludo’s standards. And that’s definitely not a bad thing; the fries exhibited a very nice crispiness while keeping a fluffy and moist interior…and hey, who doesn’t love fries with their fried chicken?

Honey Lavender Biscuit

biscuit 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

Ludo’s honey lavender butter served at LudoBites 4.0 was one of the best butters I’ve ever had. Using this butter to create a moist, yet flaky biscuit – voila! A really great biscuit, and it was great to see Ludo’s take on this southern classic.

To wash this all down, the truck offers soda, water and two agua frescas. Pictured below is the strawberry-watermelon.

aqua fresca 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

I really liked this. More watermelon than strawberry, it provided a very refreshing cleanser on this summer day.

The only other truck present was the Coolhaus truck, which offers some really good (and unique) ice cream sandwiches.

coolhaus 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

I really enjoy their ice cream sandwiches, and is there a better way to cap off a meal on a warm summer day in LA? Well, yes. I opted for another helping of the “chicken balls.” I couldn’t help it.

fried chicken 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

I was really happy to be able to enjoy this chicken once again; in fact, I had been looking forward to it for most of the week. It did not disappoint one bit, and I can’t wait for the LudoTruck to begin regular service!