Osteria Mozza – 9/26/10

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038

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A concept by restaurateur Joseph Bastianich, celebrity chef Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery fame, Osteria Mozza serves a more upscale Italian meal than its sister pizzeria. However, both have been very popular since their inception a few years ago.

My family is a pretty big fan of Pizzeria Mozza, and we’ve had some good meals at Bastianich/Batali’s offerings in Las Vegas and New York. So, a dinner at Osteria Mozza was a must-try.

The menu is extensive, offering a variety of appetizers including a wide array of fresh mozzarella dishes. There are enough pastas to appease anyone, and the entrees are heavy on the meat, with some fish options. We started off with a treat from the kitchen.

Fresh ricotta, black olive tapenade on crostini

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The ricotta started strong with a preview of the excellent cheeses served here. The flavors were good, and the olive tapenade, which can sometimes be overpowering, was not.

Tripe alla Parmigiana

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The tripe had a very supple texture, tender and not at all chewy. You don’t get a ton of flavor from the tripe; much of it comes from the spicy tomato-based sauce. It was just right for me, but others in the party thought it was too spicy.

Burrata with speck, pickled shallots & pane pomodoro

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I love Mozza’s burrata – creamy and smooth yet light, it’s complemented well with the saltiness of the speck and acidity of the pickled shallots.

Bufala Mozzarella with prosciutto di Parma

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This was a pretty simple, classic combination. Each component was good on its own, yet having both the cheese and proscuitto in each bite was even better.

Caprese with bufala mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and basil

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Mozza’s take on the standard caprese did not involve any molecular gastronomic tricks – they keep it simple and with tradition, showcasing their mozzarella and some great tomatoes.

Coach Farm Goat Cheese Ravioli with five lilies

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When this dish came out, it looked pretty damn good. Its flavors did not let me down with its al dente pasta and delicate, smooth filling. Delicious.

Orecchiette with sausage & Swiss chard

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This was probably my favorite pasta of the night. The pasta, similar to the others, was cooked perfectly with a nice chew. The sausage was delicious as well, and the breadcrumbs added a terrific crunchy bite.

Tagliatelle with oxtail ragu

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The meaty ragu, with chunks of oxtail, worked well with the flat tagliatelle pasta. The tomato-based sauce was rich with a deep, meaty flavor.

Agnolotti burro e salvia

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These agnolotti were filled with a variety of meats (including chicken and mortadella). The smooth filling and pasta resulted in a good bite each time.

Pan Roasted Pork Loin with fagioli alla Castelluccio

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The pork here was surprisingly tender and very juicy. The flavor was very good as well. The beans, adding a bit of starch to the dish, were a welcome addition.

Duck al Mattone with pear mostarda & corn

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Here we had half of a duck, fried quite well with a crispy skin. The pear mostarda was crucial to add another dimension of flavor and some sweetness, though this was not my favorite dish.

Grilled Quail wrapped in pancetta with sage & honey

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The quail was exceptional, juicy and tender, with just enough smoky grill flavor. The pancetta and herbs were just enough to complement the flavors without overwhelming the quail.

Veal Breast Stracotto with carrots

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The veal was exceedingly tender, succulent and tasted quite good.

Grilled Beef Tagliata rucola & Parmigiano with aceto balsamico

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The beef, in this case hanger steak, was cooked a nice medium rare. However, its flavor wasn’t quite as exciting as some of the previous courses.

To go with our entrees, we split three side dishes:

Polenta with Parmigiano Reggiano

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The polenta was creamy and smooth. Not a ton of flavor here though, I probably could’ve used a little more salt. The cheese wasn’t too apparent in the dish, either.

Sauteed wild spinach with crisp garlic

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The sauteed spinach was solid, while the strips of fried garlic added a little bit of texture and garlic flavor.

Fried potatoes with rosemary

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I really enjoyed these potatoes. They were smashed and fried to a crisp with some rosemary. Crisp on the outside, with a soft and fluffy center, these had the perfect consistency.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for dessert since my family had a flight to catch. My favorites from past visits have been the bombolini and rosemary olive oil cakes. This was another well-executed meal here at Mozza; the dishes have just enough excitement to keep them interesting, while not overwhelming less-experimental diners. The strengths continue to be at the mozzarella bar and pastas, though the entrees hold their own. It’s easy to see why the restaurant has been popular ever since opening.

Bouchon – 9/26/10

Bouchon Bistro
235 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

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As the first meal post-American Wine & Food Festival, my family and I wanted something reliably good. Enter Bouchon. Thomas Keller’s LA outpost serves some well-executed, comfortable French bistro fare. The brunch menu shares some of the popular dinner dishes, such as the steak frites, trout, and roast chicken, as well as some brunch-only items. Given our party of nine was mixed between Bouchon veterans and Bouchon newbies, the varied offerings would fit well.

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Quiche du Jour leek and Roquefort cheese quiche, with mixed greens

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The quiche is so smooth, almost custard-like. The flavors of the leek and Roquefort shine through, and the blue cheese is not at all overpowering.

Plat de Cotes de Boeuf Hache braised short rib hash with piquillo peppers, caramelized onion & a hen egg served sunny side up

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This was a brunch-only dish, and it was a good one. The short ribs were tender and delicious. Roasted potatoes are combined with this dish to create a really hearty, almost stew-like dish. The caramelized onions and piquillo peppers added a little bit of sweetness, while the egg with its runny yolk (I love runny yolks!) engulfed the dish with its richness. This one sat pretty heavy in the stomach, but it was pretty easy going down.

Steak Frites pan-seared prime flatiron, caramelized shallots, maître d’hôtel butter & French fries

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The classic bistro dish. The flatiron was extremely tender and had some pretty good flavor. The fries are consistently some of the best in the city, and you get a heaping pile here. Can’t go wrong ordering this dish.

Truite aux Amandes pan-roasted trout with haricots verts, almonds & beurre noisette

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Stepping away from the “comfort” of the steak, we have a whole trout. It’s interesting that the head was kept on, as I don’t see that very often outside of Asian restaurants. The fish was moist and cooked well, while the almonds and green beans rounded out the dish and lended some texture.

Poulet Rôti roasted chicken with sweet corn, currants, pickled red onions, lardons & chicken jus

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Bouchon makes one hell of a roasted chicken. Exceedingly moist, the chicken has a lot of flavor as well. Combined with the chicken jus and a little bit of bacon flavor, and you’ve got an excellent dish. I recommend some fries for dipping into the chicken jus!

Bouchon offers their full dessert menu during brunch. I had mentioned that the profiteroles was my favorite dessert here, so we got a few orders to share.

Profiteroles vanilla ice cream & chocolate sauce

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The pastry is light and the vanilla ice cream is excellent. However, what separates these profiteroles apart is the Valrhona chocolate sauce.

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Rich, not overly sweet, and with a deep chocolate flavor, I love the vanilla-chocolate interplay. A simple dessert done very well.

I always have a solid meal here, and Bouchon’s brunch menu did not disappoint. Combining some of the favorite menu items from dinner with some brunch items, the menu is appealing and approachable. Given the soaring windows and ample natural light, it’s a great place to spend a weekend morning or afternoon.

American Wine & Food Festival – 9/25/10

American Wine & Food Festival
Universal Studios Backlot
3900 Lankershim Blvd
Universal City, CA

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If there’s one food event I look forward to each year, it’s this one. I’m not the only one – my family flies down from San Francisco each year for this experience. For the most part, the festival works similar to many others; food and drink stations are scattered throughout the venue, and you are free to go and sample whatever you please.

In its 28th year, this annual event is hosted by Wolfgang Puck and ex-wife Barbara Lazaroff on the Universal Studios backlot. It always features a “who’s-who” of chefs from around the country, this year including (just to name a few) Thomas Keller, Nobu Matsuhisa, Jose Andres, Scott Conant, Charles Phan, Julian Serrano, Nancy Silverton, Mark Peel, David Myers, Francois Payard and Sherry Yard. To go along with the food, an impressive list of 80+ wineries and spirits is offered. All you can eat, all you can drink. Need I say more?

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Of course I will! Some pictures of the backlot from top left – the red carpet that greets you at the entrance; top right – stations and tables are set up throughout the whole venue; bottom: Spartacus Square is one of the main sections featuring live music on stage and a silent auction.

From 5-6pm, Wolfgang Puck hosted a cooking demonstration for VIPs. We caught the tail end of it as Paul Prudhomme was cooking.

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The first restaurant we hit was Bouchon…because, well, Thomas Keller was there.

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Similar to last year, Bouchon offered a variety of chilled seafood. Kumamoto oysters, Prince Edward Island mussels, Shiny Sea oysters, Luna oysters, shrimp and crab were all laid out for you to eat as many as you wanted. On a frickin’ large ice table. Seriously. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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I tried a piece of each and everything was good. Fresh, clean flavors on each one – my favorite was probably the shrimp.

The soon-to-open Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas showcased a number of their restaurants, and their booths were nearby – we gravitated there next.

Milos Estiatorio is a Greek restaurant opening its second American location in December.

Ionian Sea Lavraki Crusted in Handpicked Sea Salt Finished with Greek Olive Oil and Capers

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Stunningly presented in its salt cast, each piece was carved to order. Moist and meaty, this was a pretty damn good piece of fish.

Next to that was Blue Ribbon Sushi, which was offering customized hand rolls with a variety of fishes to choose from. I got a blue crab handroll with some avocado.

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The crab was in nice chunks – sweet, really good. I wish I could’ve kept ordering more rolls, but I had to save room.

Next was a duo of stations, Jose Andres’ two new restaurants in the Cosmopolitan, China Poblano and Jaleo.

Jicama Crab Siu Mai

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These siu mai are Andres’ take on the Chinese dim sum, filled with crab. I thought these were enjoyable, however the station next door kept distracting me. There, a whole jamon iberico was presented and being carved, and topped with caviar (what!).

Jose’s Taco Jamon Iberico and Caviar

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This was Jaleo’s dish. Two decadent components, that’s it. The briny saltiness of the caviar, combined with the richness and more subtle saltiness of the jamon made a nice bite.

Next was Scarpetta which, technically speaking, was representing its upcoming LV location, though it will be opening up in LA next month.

Raw Yellowtail with Pickled Onions, Flaked Sea Salt, Olio di Zenzero

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Good piece of fish here. Fresh with good flavor, the salt and oil add just a little bit more to the fish.

Moving away from the Cosmopolitan’s area, we found ourselves by Redd’s booth where Richard Reddington was serving a duo of tacos – halibut and spicy carnitas.

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At first, I thought to myself “why is this Yountville restaurant coming to LA and making tacos?” However, these were exceptional. The shells were crisped nicely, and added some great texture to both the delicate fish and the subtly spicy carnitas.

Next we stopped by the Nobu station where, conveniently, Jose Andres came by to talk to Nobu.

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Beef Tataki in Lettuce Wrap

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Steamed Sea Bass

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Both of these dishes were solid; however, the sea bass stood out most to me with its moist and delicate meat.

Next, Las Vegas staple Picasso’s Julian Serrano was plating up peekytoe crab cakes with a spicy gazpacho coulis.

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I would have preferred a little more body to these crab cakes, as it broke apart fairly easily. The gazpacho coulis was nice and lended some nice acidity to the dish.

Next, Charlie Palmer was representing his South Coast Plaza restaurant with an avocado gazpacho with shrimp.

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A welcome dish considering it was still pretty hot outside, the soup’s flavor was quite good and the sweet shrimp and crunchy nuts rounded out this nice dish.

Nancy Silverton of Mozza was offering chocolate-dipped frozen bananas, caramel corn, corndogs and hot dogs.

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Palate Food & Wine served a pork terrine with spice melon, radish, and pickled shitake.

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I’m not a huge fan of terrines, and this one did not break me out of that thinking. The texture was a bit too mushy for me, and the chunks of fat in this terrine, I thought, were too large.

Next was one of the best stations of the night for me – Marinus of Carmel, California.

Monterey Bay Red Abalone gravenstein apple, pumpkin agnolotti, black truffle vinaigrette

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This was a good portion of fresh abalone, and it was very tender. The pumpkin agnolotti was good as well, with the pumpkin’s autumn flavor adding a bit of sweetness.

The Slanted Door (SF), where I had eaten just a few weeks ago, was serving a braised pork belly bun.

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I was a little surprised as this dish was not necessarily original in any way. I would have preferred the pork seared to add some crispness, as the meat itself was rather limp.

Another standout dish came from Ame (SF)/Terra (Napa). Uni, lobster, okra, shimeji mushrooms and a slow-poached egg were surrounded by a dashi broth.

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Seemingly random in combination, each of the components were quite good on their own. However, the runny yolk and dashi broth added a richness and depth of flavor that really brought this dish together.

Boston’s Summer Shack presented fried Ipswitch clams with a coleslaw and tartar sauce.

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The clams were delicious – I’m glad Summer Shack decided to bring their local clams out to LA to give us a sample.

Stephan Pyles restaurant in Dallas showcased some Tex-Mex flavors with a short rib with barbecue sauce and a tamale.

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Next we went into the “Wolfgang Puck area” where his restaurants were located. First, Spago Las Vegas.

Hamachi and Crispy Rice

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I’ve seen this combination of fish and crispy rice a number of times, but this one was well executed. The ratio of rice to fish was excellent.

Spago Bachelor Gulch served up sake-braised Colorado short ribs.

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Rich and tender, these short ribs were quite good. A yuzu gremolata added some tart acidity to cut into the richness of the meat.

Next, an impressive scene here – Spago Beverly Hills was roasting a whole lamb in the background.

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As host Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant, they have to be serving up something good, right? Right. Here, a lamb chop and lamb tagine.

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Excellent dish here. The lamb was a generous portion, extremely tender and juicy with great flavor and a nicely seared crust. The tagine provided a tender and flavorful lamb as well.

Next, Spago Maui.

Pineapple and Seafood Curry

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I had high expectations for this dish, but wasn’t exactly impressed. The curry lacked the depth of flavor I was looking for. However, nice chunks of fish and scallops were cooked well.

WP24, Puck’s newest Chinese eatery, served a trio of dim sum items: lobster and shrimp spring roll, shrimp & chive dumpling, and a pork belly bun.

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All of these were solid, consistent with my recent visit to WP24.

Cut is my favorite place for a steak in LA, and they always have one of the best booths at this festival. When we got there, four American Kobe New York roasts were slowly roasting over a fire.

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These were cut up, added with Maine lobster atop a corn succotash, and topped with shaved black truffles. Yes! Tender and juicy, the meat was great. The truffles added their distinctive earthy flavor to the entire dish. It didn’t even need the lobster to be successful, but I was happy to have it nonetheless.

The last of Puck’s restaurants that we tried was Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill. Here, we had marinated and grilled skirt steak with a frisee salad.

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Rather unexciting in comparison (seriously, after just having Cut’s dish), there was nothing bad nor exceptional about this dish.

As we exited Puck’s area, we stopped by Valentino.

Eggplant Parmesan, Chicken Sausage, Polenta

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I was a little disappointed by their offerings. The polenta was nice and creamy, but the sausage was extremely dry – something hard to do with sausage.

Campanile was serving BBQ baby back ribs, smoked pork sausages, sweet corn succotash, and stone fruit cobbler.

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I was pretty full at this point, and unfortunately did not give this a try.

Former Iron Chef Yuji Wakiya (now-closed Wakiya in NYC) served up a few Chinese dishes. Spicy chicken, string beans, rice and lobster spring rolls were on tap.

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The spicy chicken wasn’t spicy and too closely resembled orange chicken to me. The lobster spring rolls, however, were very good with a light flaky wrapper.

One of my “strategies” at a festival like this is to eat a bit before starting with the alcohol. Two reasons for this: one, because I’ll get tipsy too fast; two, because I only have two hands (plate, fork, wine glass…camera?).

Consistent with past years, Patron served a number of cocktails (I think there were four) on top of a huge ice-sculpted table.

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Ultimat Vodka offered a number of delicious and refreshing ice-blended cocktails on top of (again) an ice table.

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We can’t forget about the wines. It is a “wine and food festival,” after all.

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Stags’ Leap and Silver Oak were just two of the dozens and dozens offered.

The dessert section (yes, there’s a section dedicated to it!) opened up at 8:30. A number of pastry chefs whip up their creations – the most notable is probably Francois Payard.

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A master of chocolate, he offered up a variety of chocolates and desserts including a tiramisu.

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Sophie Gayot and host Barbara Lazaroff happened to stop by at the same time. From left to right: Gayot, Payard, fellow pastry chef and fiancee Fernanda Capobianco, and Lazaroff.

Perhaps the most impressive display of the night was in the dessert area, where Ben Spungin of Marinus (Carmel) created an “edible dessert garden.”

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In the garden were carrot cake cookies with cream cheese filling, oak tree custard with mint puree, peanut butter chocolate truffles, caramel and fleur de sel truffles, and lemon verbena truffles. Beautiful!

Thus concludes another successful American Wine & Food Festival. Unlike other festivals, the AWFF, in its 28th year, operates relatively smoothly. Lines are not extreme, and food and drink booths are spaced out enough so that the venue feels expansive, yet not overwhelming. Being able to see and talk to various chefs from around the country and sample all of these restaurants and wineries is a pretty unique and memorable experience. I look forward to next year!

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WP24 – 9/1/10

WP24
The Ritz-Carlton
900 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015

I’m often skeptical about “upscale Chinese.” Many of my favorite Chinese restaurants are very reasonably priced, so I have to think twice (or a few times) about spending triple-digits on a Chinese meal.  WP24 is Wolfgang Puck’s latest foray into Chinese cuisine, located on the 24th floor of the new Ritz Carlton in downtown LA. I had been to his now-legendary Chinois on Main maybe seven years ago, and I found it somewhat unimpressive.  However, reviews for WP24 have been very strong, and I’ve had an urge to try it.

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The restaurant offers some of the best views of downtown LA. Unfortunately, the skies were really cloudy on this day, but you get the picture.

Two tasting menus are offered; one at $130 and a “Dynasty Menu” at $160. An a la carte menu is an option; however, since there were only two of us, we thought the tasting menu would be the best way to sample what the kitchen has to offer. This tasting menu was a ton of food – the waiter even admitted that it was too much, and the “Dynasty Menu,” at two more savory courses, was just plain ill-advised.

“Several Tastes of Good Fortune”

We first started with a number of amuse bouche-like small bites.

Santa Barbara Spot Prawn Toast with Sweet Ginger Chili Sauce

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This was delicious, and reminded me of these shrimp toasts I eat every Thanksgiving.  The crispy toast and moist shrimp make for a great bite, with the chili sauce adding a subtle sweetness and spiciness.

Spring Rolls of Lobster and 10-Spice Santa Barbara Prawns

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I enjoyed these as well. The rolls were densely packed with the lobster and shrimp, yet it was still very moist. Nicely cooked, the crispy exterior added some great texture.

Curried Seafood Turnovers

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The small bites just kept on coming at this point! These turnovers were flaky, with an interior flavored of mild ginger and curry.

Duck Liver Buns with Hoisin Sauce

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At this point, I was wondering when the “first course” would end – however, I was excited to have them keep coming! I initially had mistaken this for foie gras, but it’s actually “regular” duck liver (without the force feeding). The seared liver was paired with these buns, instead of Peking duck or pork belly – which is typically seen. The foie gras had a nice, melt-in-mouth texture, with the cucumbers adding a fresh crunch to the dish. The hoisin sauce added just a little bit of sweetness to round it out.

Early Summer Sweet Corn & King Crab “Hot & Sour” Soup Sweet Prawn Wontons, Roasted Sweet Corn, Thai Basil, Fried Ginger

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This was a pretty solid soup. A good variation on the traditional hot & sour soup found in Chinese restaurants is heightened with the sweetness of roasted sweet corn and lumps of fresh crab meat. I enjoyed the shrimp wonton as well.

Today’s Dim Sum Plate Chive Crystal Dumpling, Dan Dan Dumpling, Tiny Dumpling, Beef Chow Fueng, Suckling Pig with Plum Glaze

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Next we were presented a sampling of dim sum. From left to right, these were a chive crystal dumpling, sichuan dan dan dumpling, crispy suckling pig, beef cheek chow fun, and a potsticker. The chive and shrimp dumpling was perfectly cooked, though I thought the mustard was a little strong for it. The dan dan dumpling was good as well, but the suckling pig was phenomenal. Some of the best roast pork I’ve had in fact. The meat was succulent, moist and exceedingly tender. The skin was very crispy, making this an extraordinary piece to this dish. The “chow fun” (somewhat inappropriately named, as this was more of a “cheung fun”) and potsticker were also very solid renditions. Overall, I was rather impressed, especially with the pork.

Live Maine “Angry Lobster” Spicy Szechuan Chilies, Fried Garlic, Calamansi Lime, Black Bean Dust, Lop Cheung Sausage Fried Rice

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The lobster was presented whole, then carved tableside. The lobster meat was cooked very well, keeping it juicy and succulent. The sauce was not too spicy, and the dish came with a fried rice that was very good. It was a pretty significant portion too, with each person getting a full bowl.

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Whole Roasted Duckling “Peking Style” with Traditional Garnishes Summer Harvest White Sweet Corn, Fresh Chilies, Scallions, Basil

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Next was this Peking duck, a classic dish. For the most part, this stuck to the traditional preparation. The duck was brought over whole, and then the breasts were carved. The skin was crispy and the meat perfectly cooked. However, I thought the sauce was rather strong. Good duck is hard to beat, though.

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The duck was accompanied by the traditional soft, warm buns, as well as a myriad of options to fill the buns with, including scallions, cucumbers, radish and hoisin sauce. The fresh vegetables were critical in cutting the richness of the duck and sauce.

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This roasted white corn came with the dish. Excellent.  The corn was very sweet and, combined with some spice from chilies, made for a great side dish.

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I loved the touch of having a hot towel after this dish!

Grilled Lamb Chop Lacquered with Ginseng Honey & Chinese Mustard Coriander-Pickled Ginger Sauce, Fresh Chilies & Aromatics, Hunan Spicy Eggplant

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The last savory dish of the meal was this lamb. Tender and flavorful, the meat was cooked perfectly. A good crust formed on the exterior, which was really nice.

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The lamb came with a spicy eggplant dish. I found the eggplant to be cooked well, though fairly flavorless…which I found surprising.

Plum Sorbet with Coconut “Explosion”

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This was the first dessert. Pineapple crisps were at the base of the sorbet, providing a nice textural element to go along with the fresh, strong flavor of the plum sorbet. The coconut “explosion,” with its jelly-like exterior and liquid interior, was refreshing and a great burst of flavor. It reminded me of something I’ve had at the Bazaar and Providence.

Warm Yellow Peach Fondant Crumble Market Raspberries, Madagascar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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Next was this warm crumble with a really good, strong vanilla ice cream. I loved the warm-cold interplay of this dish, as well as the textures of the crumble with the ice cream.

Lastly, we finished the meal with a plate of roasted almond crisp and almond cookies.

roasted almond crisp 500x335 WP24   9/1/10

We were pretty full by this point (seriously, it’s a ton of food), but the crisp was quite light and mildly sweet. I would say the same for the cookie – I wouldn’t have minded a bag of these to take home!

I was pretty satisfied, impressed even, by the meal. It was by far the most expensive Chinese meal I have had, but each dish was executed well and, most importantly, was delicious. I wonder if the restaurant would ever consider opening on the weekends for dim sum and small plates, as I think it could be pretty successful in doing that. I would totally come back for the suckling pig! Having said that, the more entree-like dishes were very good as well, and I would come back for that…however, probably only if there was a BlackboardEats-like discount (or if someone else was paying), as the price is definitely steep. I think the restaurant would benefit from doing a lower-priced tasting menu with less food, as this menu was more than enough for me.

Asanebo – 9/12/10

Asanebo
11941 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604

exterior1 500x335 Asanebo   9/12/10

Asanebo would be the last stop of a Japanese-food filled weekend with my dad (see Urasawa and Sushi Zo). Asanebo’s emphasis was more on their appetizer-like small plates, and less on the sushi. Whereas the previous two restaurants had 20+ courses of sushi in their omakase, Asanebo had one course of five pieces.

The menu offers a variety of cold and hot appetizers and entrees. In addition, three tiers of omakase were available: $75-100, $100-125, and $125+.We went with “Omakase B,” which is the mid-tier choice.

Homemade Sesame Tofu with Snow Crab

tofu and crab 500x335 Asanebo   9/12/10

This was the first course. The tofu was very dense, creamy, with a fairly subtle sesame flavor. The crab was good – fresh, and added a nice sweetness to the dish.

Baby Spinach and Portobello Mushroom with Seared Scallop

spinach scallops salad 500x335 Asanebo   9/12/10

Next up was this salad of baby greens with portobello mushrooms and a sliced, seared scallop atop. The spinach was crisp, the scallop cooked nicely, and the shreds of deep fried gyoza wrappers really added a nice crunch to each mouthful.

Golden Snapper and Seasonal Vegetables

snapper 500x335 Asanebo   9/12/10

The snapper was lightly smoked, imparting just a hint of smokiness in the fish, which I enjoyed. Shimeji mushrooms and a dashi broth rounded out the dish, adding a nice savory flavor to it.

Halibut, Black Truffles, Marinated Cherry Tomato

halibut and truffle 500x335 Asanebo   9/12/10

I’ve never had truffles with fish before. Would the earthy, truffle flavor be too overwhelming? The chefs at Asanebo know better than that – the answer is ‘no.’  The flavors worked very well together in an interesting combination of the earthy truffle and the lighter, delicate seafood.

Momotaru Tomato with Albacore, Grapeseed Oil Dressing

tomatoes and albacore 500x335 Asanebo   9/12/10

This would be my second foray into these tomatoes, after my trip to Totoraku. The chef tending to us at Asanebo, as well as Hiro Urasawa, both agreed that this is the best kind of tomato available in the US (they also agreed that there are tomatoes in Japan that are vastly superior). These tomatoes are very sweet, and the savory albacore fits in well in tandem. The grapeseed oil was nice, and brought some nice flavor without being overly acidic.

Japanese Potato with Green Tea

potatoes1 500x335 Asanebo   9/12/10

This was an interesting next dish, pretty similar to french fries. These potatoes were far more starchy and had a very creamy interior, which I thought was pretty interesting. I couldn’t taste any of the green tea flavor though.

Japanese Clam, Quail Egg, Shitake Mushroom

clam 500x335 Asanebo   9/12/10

The presentation on this dish was lovely. Clams, shitake mushrooms, seaweed and a quail egg were put into this shell with a broth. For me, the broth was the best part, taking on the flavors of all of the components of the dish.

Grilled Alaskan King Crab Legs

king crab 500x335 Asanebo   9/12/10

We were served a generous portion of king crab legs next, grilled and cracked for easy eating. I found the crab to be fairly waterlogged and it did not have much texture, which was disappointing. As a result, a lot of the sweetness and flavor was drowned out.

Sushi – Bluefin Toro, Yellowtail Belly, Halibut Fin, Bonito, Octopus (left to right)

asanebo sushi 500x335 Asanebo   9/12/10

The last savory course was this selection of sushi. The toro was very good, as were the yellowtail belly, halibut fin and bonito. However, something (I think it was a yuzu kosho) on top of the octopus was far too spicy – easily overpowering the fish and anything else for 5 minutes.

Miso Soup, Snapper Collar

miso soup 500x335 Asanebo   9/12/10

The sushi came with this miso soup, filled with pieces of collar from a snapper. This soup was very nice, with the fish adding a little bit extra flavor.

Homemade Ice Cream – Chocolate and Black Truffles

truffle choc ice cream 500x335 Asanebo   9/12/10

The omakase does not come with dessert – we were presented with the menu and had to try this – black truffle and chocolate ice cream! The combination was pretty interesting – both flavors were distinct on their own, and created a tasty concoction together.

Asanebo’s strength definitely lied in the small plates, though the sushi was quite good (except for that octopus). Having dined at Urasawa the previous night, we were a little apprehensive of how the restaurant would hold up. Though there was a disappointment in the king crab, Asanebo held up pretty well. However, I would probably want to try some of the other Japanese stops in Studio City before returning here.

Urasawa – 9/11/10

Urasawa
218 N Rodeo Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

6193628824 586dcb124e Urasawa   9/11/10

Urasawa. This is typically the first word that comes out of my mouth when someone asks “what’s your favorite restaurant in LA?” I first came in 2008 – I had heard all the stories, but could not justify the then-$300 price point until I graduated college and started working. My expectations were high…very high – and it was everything I imagined and more. The food is fantastic, yes, but it’s an experience as well. Every detail is so meticulously thought out from the sushi bar (sanded daily) to the elaborate ice sculptures, and to the fish (of course). Watching Hiro Urasawa work is a show in itself – his actions are so deliberate and exacting, embodying years of tradition. He truly enjoys what he does.

A sushi weekend with my dad (see: Sushi Zo and Asanebo) would be incomplete without a visit here. What follows is my third visit, and it was just as special as my first.

The restaurant itself is largely just a sushi bar – there is one table off to the side that is rarely used.

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Above: behind the sushi bar; the sushi bar itself, sanded daily (it was SO smooth); wasabi root and yuzu – few restaurants in LA actually use real wasabi, even the Michelin-starred ones; turtle chopstick holders.

We brought a bottle of champagne to go along with our meal – very dry, this bright sparkler with slight citrus notes would do well in this meal.

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Seared Toro and Radish Wrapped Around Monkfish Liver topped with caviar

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We started off with this pretty dish! Instantly, I noticed the superb marbling in the toro – it’s a beautiful thing. The whole package is very tender; all of the flavors are distinct, and the caviar gives it just enough saltiness to bring out the flavors of this bundle.

Edamame Tofu with Shrimp topped with salmon egg

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The tofu is velvety smooth, and evident of the edamame used to produce it. The salmon roe adds a lot of complexity and flavor to this dish, and really is a good combination with the richness of the tofu. Delicious!

Japanese Eggplant

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Interesting dish. This eggplant, from northern Japan, is lightly pickled. It’s incredibly juicy and tastes, well, like a good eggplant.

Sashimi amberjack, toro, spanish mackerel

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I always love the presentation of this dish. The fish rests upon an ice sculpture…so ornate! The fish, from left to right, are amberjack, toro and Spanish mackerel. I got my first taste of the night of the fresh wasabi – it has noticeably less heat than its powdered counterpart. All of these pieces of fish were so tender and uniquely flavorful. The toro, especially, was like wow.

Wagyu Beef Tartare and Caviar topped with radish

6193113165 e115f9ff89 Urasawa   9/11/10

Here we have wagyu beef tartare on one side, caviar on the other, and topped with pieces of radish. This reminded me a bit of the beef tartare with caviar dish at Petrossian, but is completely different. A high-end “surf -and-turf,” it’s a very savory bite combining the richness of the beef with the brininess of the caviar.

Shark Fin Chawanmushi

<6193113281 dc86a52135 Urasawa   9/11/10

Yum, shark fin! This chawanmushi contained gingko nuts, shrimp, shitake mushrooms and shark’s fin. The egg custard was really light, and all of the flavors really melded in this cup. Shark’s fin has a really distinct flavor, and it was the star of the show here without being overwhelming.

Stone-Seared Toro

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This dish has been on the menu each time I’ve come. A really hot stone (you can feel it from your seat!) and two pieces of raw toro come out first. Then, the toro is seared on the hot stone and dumped into this sauce for you to enjoy. This is one of the best bites I’ve had in recent memory. “Bite” isn’t even the correct word here, because you don’t even need teeth to eat this. A very well-marbled piece of fish, it melts like butter in your mouth, and tastes just so damn good. My goodness.

Sea Eel Tempura

6193113875 49e4547160 Urasawa   9/11/10

The batter is light and very crispy. The eel is tender, rich and savory. Combine these together and you have some great tempura.

Shabu Shabu foie gras, king eel, sweet shrimp, red snapper, fresh seaweed

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6193114047 c0bd8a2809 Urasawa   9/11/10

Since my first meal here, Urasawa has always offered a shabu shabu course. On this night, red snapper, king eel, foie gras, sweet shrimp and fresh seaweed were offered. The swishing of the food is done for you – you just do the eating, and the drinking of the soup afterward. Everything here had fresh, clean flavors – and made for a really nice soup afterwards!

Ginger

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A plate of ginger is brought out – thus, you know it’s time for the sushi. The sushi comes from all over the world, wherever Hiro-san thinks is best. Almost all of the fish we had on this night was from Japan – the exceptions were the tuna from Spain and the shrimp and sea urchin from Santa Barbara.

Hiro-san makes each piece of sushi himself in order to ensure control, and sauces them appropriately. If he doesn’t like something about the fish as he’s preparing it, he will discard it – we saw him do this a few times throughout the night. Per his instruction, each piece should be eaten within 10 seconds to ensure optimum freshness. If you don’t, he’ll surely call you out on it (in a nice way, I promise!).

Fatty Tuna (Toro)

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We start with a glistening piece of toro. Not messing around, we go straight to the piece that is often the best cut of fish in any sushi house. Urasawa’s is so delicate, with a barely yielding texture and superb flavor. The light pink color is really indicative of the amount of marbling in this fish. Urasawa easily has the best toro I’ve had.

Seared Toro

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Here we have toro, lightly seared. Again, extremely tender with a very nice slight char to it, bringing even more flavor to this bite.

Amberjack

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Next we have kanpachi, or amberjack. Very tender (though not quite as tender or fatty as the toro) with a lighter flavor. An excellent version of this fish.

Pike Mackerel

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The fish is seared with hot metal skewers before being cut up. The searing enables a little bit of a crust to form, helping to develop the flavors.

Spanish Mackerel

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This piece had a little bit more of a chew than the previous cuts (which was welcome) and was delicious.

Red Snapper

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Grated yuzu rind was added on top of the fish. I really enjoy red snapper, and this one did not disappoint. The citrus flavor of the rind really brightened up the fish as well.

Bluefin Tuna

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Every sushi place has tuna, but this one was different. The color was  a nice crimson red, and was one of the most tender, succulent pieces of tuna I’ve had to date. I think this could compare favorably to toro at some other establishments.

Striped Jack

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Another tender piece of fish, with its own unique flavor.

Squid

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The yuzu rind was grated on this piece of squid. Characteristically chewy, yet still tender, its texture was wonderful. Of course, a great example of the fish.

Giant Clam

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There was a distinctive chewiness with this clam, yet a rather sweet flavor came out when I began to chew. Nice!

Sea Urchin

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No need for teeth on this one, I just moved it around in my mouth with my tongue. Silky smooth, the sea urchin breaks apart and releases a flavor that screams the ocean.

Medium-Fatty Tuna (Chutoro)

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We went back to the tuna’s belly with this medium-fatty piece. At Urasawa, medium-fatty is still pretty damn fatty. This was a delicious piece of sushi.

Shitake Mushroom

6193632606 8db19f7608 Urasawa   9/11/10

I’d personally never order a mushroom sushi – it’s not my thing. However, this mushroom was lightly cooked and presented a nice, earthy flavor.

Sweet Shrimp

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Sweet shrimp is typically one of my favorite things to have as sushi. Here, the prawns were taken out alive and broken down in front of you. The head was probably still moving as the body was eaten. It doesn’t get much fresher than that! The shrimp was deliciously sweet with a succulent, yielding texture.

Toro and Cucumber Roll

6193116375 94c6fed436 Urasawa   9/11/10

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This was the only roll of the night – simply cucumber and toro. The ratio of toro to rice was perfect, and the very thinly sliced cucumber added a really nice crunch.

Abalone

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Next was a nice piece of abalone. Chewy and not at all fishy, I enjoyed this one.

Small Shrimp

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This piece of shrimp was much more tender than the previous, and less sweet. However, its own flavor was distinctive and tasty.

Sea Eel

6193633282 a3c2bf6ec1 Urasawa   9/11/10

This sea eel was tender and had a really nice, meaty flavor.

Egg Custard

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The egg custard signaled the end of sushi and the beginning of dessert. Really moist and light, this made a very good bite.

Pear Jelly

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The jelly contained pieces of pear in it, and was made with a little mango as well. This dish was refreshing and not overly sweet.

Sesame Ice Cream with Matcha Green Tea

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I love green tea. Matcha green tea is good stuff. The bowls of tea were prepared fresh and had a beautiful green color. Rather mild in flavor and not at all bitter, I could drink this all day. The sesame ice cream was so rich and creamy, with pronounced sesame flavor. I enjoyed this as well.

Roasted Green Tea

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Lastly, we have never-ending cups of this roasted green tea. I say never-ending because you will get another one if you finish it. The cups are so small, I felt bad because the waitress kept fetching me another. Again, I love myself some tea.

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So ends another meal at Urasawa, as remarkable as the first time. My experiences here have been uniquely memorable, and I’ve always walked out of the restaurant a little bit sad, wondering when my next visit would be. Service is top-notch; Hiro-san will point out errors to the waitstaff in Japanese to be immediately fixed. I don’t know how he sees everything, but I bent down to put my camera down once, he said something in Japanese, and someone was there to replace my napkin, thinking I had been bending down to pick it up from the floor. I don’t mean to point Hiro-san out as a mean character; he actually has a very warm personality and loves interacting with his customers.

Is it worth the price tag of $350? Yes, it is. The majority of that $350 goes to Urasawa’s premium ingredients; when shopping for fish, he’s not looking for the best value – he’s looking for the best fish, period. And that may come from anywhere in the world. He’s willing to pay whatever it takes so that he can serve it to you, thus the high price tag.  Obviously, it’s not a place you go to on a routine basis, but when you want something really good, something special, Urasawa is the place.