Hatfield’s (Los Angeles, CA)

6703 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 2/5/11

I had been wanting to have dinner at Hatfield’s since they opened last February. I did have a chance to come for lunch in November, and that strong meal only piqued my interest more. So finally, I found myself at dinner with Christina of food, je t’aime and Daniel of effing dericious.

Menu options available were a four-course seasonal prix fixe, a la carte, and a nine course spontanee tasting menu. We opted for the tasting menu.

The first dish to come out was an amuse bouche of house-cured salmon, cucumber yogurt and crispy potato.

This was a good way to start the meal with some light flavors of salmon, accented by the tart yogurt. I thought the potato crisps added some nice texture.

Bread was fantastic – served hot, with a crisp exterior. I also liked that the butter was presented with a little bit of chives; it’s a nice change of pace from the normal “plain” butter.

Raw Marinated Hiramasa anaheim chile, endive, meyer lemon creme fraiche, crispy shallot

I liked the fish complemented by a little acidity from the lemon crème fraiche, and some heat from the chile. The crispy shallot was a nice touch, adding texture and junt a hint of shallot flavor.

Warm Cuttlefish Salad artichoke, maitake, arugula

This next dish was a standout. The cuttlefish was very tender, and I loved the flavors of the fish with the artichoke and mushrooms, as well as the spicy arugula.

Butternut Squash Flan coconut soup, hon shimiji mushroom, crispy sweetbreads

I really liked this dish as well, and it was probably the most interesting of the night. The dish had two layers: butternut squash flan on the bottom and a coconut soup on the top. An odd combination to think about, but I thought the two flavors really melded well together. The sweetbread was fried in a ball – moist inside and crispy outside. Quite tasty.

Pan Roasted Scallops braised celery, salsify puree, apple froth

The scallop was cooked well and had a good, crisped exterior. The salsify and celery added a little bit of sweetness and vegetal quality. Good, but not quite as imaginative as the last two courses.

Buttermilk Steamed Chicken Breast foie gras, royal trumpet mushrooms, cauliflower puree

This was another interesting dish with pieces of chicken breast and foie gras paired together. I thought each of the chicken and foie gras components were quite good on their own, but they didn’t really complement each other as much as was intended. I would’ve loved to have seen some crispy chicken skin topping this too.

Braised Pork Belly smoked white bean puree, roasted baby broccoli, meyer lemon confiture

I loved the smokiness from the white bean puree, which added some extra flavor to the pork. The lemon was crucial, adding some acidity to cut through the richness of the pork and beans.

Wagyu Flat Iron Steak creamy swiss chard, pickled red onion, chiodini mushroom

I thought the steak was pretty tender and flavorful, bathed in a rich pan sauce. The onion rings were a nice touch, too.

We wanted to sample as much of Pastry Chef Karen Hatfield’s creations as possible. The kitchen obliged by sending out three different palate cleansers and three different desserts for the last two courses.

Goat’s Milk Cheesecake citrus, tarragon, lemon sorbet

This was a great dish. The graham cracker crust was perfect, and the cheesecake was creamy and tasty – the goat cheese was not at all overpowering.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta blood orange sorbet

The panna cotta here was pretty smooth and rich; however, the flavors were muted by the overpowering citrus flavors.

Tangerine Granita prosecco sabayon, graham streusel

The graham streusel was probably my favorite part of this dish. The tangerine flavor was bold and vibrant, but I’m not sure all of the flavors worked well together.

Next were the three desserts.

Chocolate Caramel Semifreddo salted peanut crunch, bitter chocolate sorbet

I liked the caramel and chocolate flavors, while the peanut crunch added the texture.

Cocoa Dusted Beignets Venezuelan chocolate fondue, Mexican chocolate milkshake shot

I was pretty excited to see this arrive – it’s hard to beat a warm beignet. The dough was perfectly soft yet supple, but I thought the cocoa flavor, along with the chocolate fondue and milkshake, was a little redundant.

Steamed Date Cake roasted pineapple, pecan toffee, rum vanilla ice cream

This made a moist, sweet cake, and the rum vanilla ice cream went very well with it.

Lastly, we were presented with some blood orange gelees.

These were good – sweet, with a strong blood orange flavor.

The “palate cleansers” were stronger than the desserts, which were a little underwhelming, especially compared to the standouts I had last time (the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Truffle Cake). However, overall I thought the Hatfield’s meal was very good. Nothing was bad, and there were a number of really good dishes as well. Hatfield’s displayed a combination of creativity and sound execution – while the flavors were familiar, the kitchen prepared them in ways imaginative enough to keep them interesting. I’m sure I’ll be back in the near future.

Playa Rivera – 2/10/11

Playa Rivera
7360 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Playa is John Rivera Sedlar’s (Rivera) new Latin-inspired restaurant, which has taken over the old Grace spot on Beverly. Interestingly, I dined at this location on Grace’s last night of service, so it was fun to come full-circle and check out the the new spot. Members of the mailing list for the now-defunct-but-soon-to-return Test Kitchen were invited to come try out Playa a day before the official opening. Luckily, I was able to join a reservation with Christina of food, je t’aime, Matt of Mattatouille/Scoops Westside, and Caroline of Caroline on Crack.

The space is rather small, though strategically-placed mirrors actually made me think it was much larger at first. The bar is stunning with its wall of spirits; cocktails are crafted by mixologist Julian Cox.

A variety of cold/warm small plates and big plates were on offer, as well as some sides. We opted to stick with the small plates, giving us a few more tastes to try.

Octo-Palm grilled octopus, palm hearts, scallions, oven-dried cherry tomatoes, oven-dried red onion

A couple of people had recommended this dish, so we had to try it. The octopus was a little bit chewy, but not overly so, and were complemented with the dried red onion and palm hearts. The oven-dried cherry tomatoes were juicy and delicious…and almost stole the show.

Lipsticks sweet peppers, crab, corn, olive oil, sorbet morado, rosemary oil, sal de colima, citrus-beet pintura

Loved the presentation here. This dish was cool, flavorful and refreshing. I enjoyed the crab and corn stuffed in the chiles, which was a delicious interplay of three sweet ingredients. The sorbet and rosemary oil added extra herb flavor, while giving the dish a cool crispness. Nice!

Flor de Calabaza tempura squash blossoms, Spanish bacalao, veal reduction, chorizo jus, capers, castelveltrano olives

I love fried squash blossoms. The creamy bacalao filling worked well with the crunchy squash blossoms. The olive and chorizo flavors came through as well, though the whole mouthful was a little salty.

Maize Cake Breakfast 63° egg, pan-seared potato, espuma de queso, black trumpet mushrooms, truffle cheese

This would make an excellent breakfast/brunch item…which isn’t to say it wasn’t also good for dinner as well. The earthy flavors of the mushrooms and truffle cheese were most evident; combined with the perfectly cooked egg, this made a delicious and savory bite. Roll this up, and you’ve got a heck of a (messy) breakfast burrito!

Arroz con Pato duck confit, baby vegetable pickles, arroz blanco jus, fresno chiles, chives, micro cilantro

I love arroz con pollo so I was eying this dish beforehand. The duck was succulent and tender, and the rice was good too. The tiny baby vegetables added a nice crunch and acidity as well. I just wish I could’ve had this dish by myself!

Tamalli Chateaubriand wild-mushroom duxelles dumpling, filet mignon, chipotle béarnaise

Here we had, essentially, a tamale and slices of tenderloin. The beef was very tender, with some added flavor from a savory béarnaise. The tamale was a little bit dense, but did have an earthy flavor imparted by the mushrooms.

Cauliflower oven-roasted, indian spices, green chiles, chana crisp

We tried one side – this cauliflower. The roasting provided a nice char to the cauliflower, adding extra flavor. However, the dish was a little bit mushy for me.

Luna Mezcal chocolate cake, chocolate glaze, mezcal ice cream, caramel popcorn, spanish peanuts, hibiscus sauce, blackberry basil, sorbet

Dessert number one. The chocolate cake was good – dense and full of chocolate flavor. I don’t have a lot of experience with mezcal, but the ice cream provided a subtle welcome sweetness. There was another sorbet on top of the chocolate which was reminiscent of raspberry, and countered some of the sweetness.

Pastel Café mocha sponge, espresso crème, toffee honeycomb, colombian chocolate ice cream

Dessert number two. The sponge was just kind of weird..it was dry without feeling too dry, but full of coffee flavor. The chocolate ice cream created one of my favorite dessert combinations (coffee and chocolate), and they melded well as the sponge soaked up some of the melting ice cream. Toffee honeycomb added some texture and extra flavor. Delish!

In all, I thought this was a good meal. Sedlar continues to use Latin flavors in interesting, modern “twists” – and, most importantly, they taste good. I actually enjoyed my meal here over my experiences at Rivera – the vibe is a little more energetic and communal.

Border Grill Downtown – 2/3/11

Border Grill Downtown
445 South Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071

I work in the same building as Border Grill, but I can count the number of times I’ve stepped in on one hand. It just hasn’t been too much of a draw for me and my co-workers; it’s a bit pricey for a casual bite and just not quite as appealing as, say…Drago or Chaya for a more upscale meal.

Formerly Ciudad, it was re-branded a Border Grill in October – honestly, I’ve found it to be pretty much the same restaurant. When dineLA came around, the restaurant offered a $16 3-course lunch with a variety of choices. I figured it was as good a time as any to give it a try.

Every table starts with some warm tortilla chips and a trio of salsas. This is a really nice way to start with fresh tortilla chips, and my favorite salsa is the green tomatillo.

My co-workers ordered the empanada/tamale and soup, while I opted for the ceviche.

Plantain Empanada and Green Corn Tamale roasted plantains, black beans, poblano chile, cotija cheese, sweet corn, sour cream, salsa fresca

Tortilla Soup roasted tomato chipotle, panela cheese, avocado

Baja Ceviche lime marinated sustainable seasonal fish, shrimp, cilantro, jalapeño, crispy handmade corn tortilla, cilantro aioli, avocado

I snuck a taste of the tortilla soup. I didn’t think it had too much flavor, though it was welcome on a cold day. The ceviche, on the other hand, had bright fresh flavors with the lime, cilantro and avocado complementing the fish. A little bit of jalapeno provided the heat, while the fried corn tortilla added some texture.

My co-workers went for the pork taco and enchilada, while I had the Yucatan pork.

Chuleta de Puerco en Pipian Taco shredded baby back ribs, roasted poblano, cactus slaw, pipian sauce

Chicken Poblano Enchiladas slow roasted chicken, handmade corn tortillas, poblano hoja santa cream, grilled corn, wild mushrooms, roasted poblano peppers

Yucatan Pork achiote pork roasted in banana leaf, grilled onion, orange, cinnamon red rice, black beans, plantain orange salsa, handmade corn tortilla

The pork was pretty tender, though not as flavorful as I expected from a piece of pork shoulder. I liked the variety of sides, though, and the guacamole was excellent.

Next was dessert.

Capirotada warm bread pudding, caramelized apples, cream cheese, roasted pecans, vanilla bean ice cream

This bread pudding was lukewarm. A little bit of cinnamon spice was apparent, and it had a good apple flavor. Not bad, but nothing special.

Goat Milk Cajeta Flan caramel sauce

The flan was much richer than I anticipated, with a strong but not overwhelming goat cheese flavor. I liked the caramel, which added a welcome sweetness.

Our meal at Border Grill was okay. Nothing really stood out strongly in the positive or negative, but I think the meal was a pretty good deal at $16. However, with so many stronger dining options in downtown, I’m not sure when I’ll be back. Maybe for happy hour.

Lukshon – 2/4/11

3239 Helms Ave.
Culver City, CA 90232


Father’s Office is my favorite bar in LA. It’s probably best known for having one of the top burgers in the city (by far their most popular item on the menu), but the rest of the gastropub’s menu is pretty strong as well.  Oh, and their craft beer selection is top-notch; it’s been a pioneer in that movement in LA.

Given the popularity of Father’s Office and chef/owner Sang Yoon’s cuisine, I’ve been curious as to why there hasn’t been more rapid expansion – surely, Yoon (who has a fine dining background) would like to step outside of the ‘upscale bar food’ arena. So when Yoon announced he would be opening up an Asian concept almost two years ago, I was all over that. Lukshon finally opened up this week.


Make no mistake from the pictures (taken at the end of the night), the place was packed.  As a result, we waited an hour past our reservation time of 8:45 to be seated. Not cool – but there’s a lively bar to help with the wait. The drink menu is not nearly as beer-centric as Father’s Office; rather, a variety of wines and handcrafted cocktails are the focal point (Fujian Cure was my favorite). Once we were seated, service was pretty on-point. I expect the kitchen and service staff to continue to improve, however, as the restaurant gets a little more experience under its belt.

The menu is a mix of small plates and large plates, with some noodle, rice and vegetable sides.

malpeque oysters (prince edward island) sudachi long pepper mignonette


We started with these oysters. There was a nice sweetness to them, and they weren’t fishy at all. The pepper gave just a little bit of heat.

spanish mackerel coconut vinegar, jalapeno, lemongrass, green papaya


Next up was this dish. The mackerel had a mild flavor, complemented by the lemongrass and papaya, with a little heat from jalapeno. A good dish, and reminiscent of something one may find at a Japanese kaiseki.

shrimp toast rock shrimp, cilantro, chiles, tiny croutons

shrimp toast

This was a must-order, since it’s one of my favorite items at Thanksgiving and Christmas family gatherings. This had a light, crispy exterior and a moist interior with some good shrimpy flavor. I like.

baby monterey squid chiang mai pork sausage, candlenut, mint, rau ram


This was one of the standout dishes of the night. The squid was tender and full of flavor from the stuffing of pork sausage and herbaceous rau ram.

spicy chicken pops shelton farms drumettes, garlic, kecap manis, spicy sichuan salt


I thought the flavors here were a little muddled. The chicken flavor didn’t come through, and the texture was a little bit chewy.

whole steamed fish (loup de mer) taiwan spinach, black bean ghee, sambal ijo

whole fish

Next up was the first large plate. A loup de mer (Mediterranean sea bass) is not exactly typical in Asian cooking, but its moist, white flesh fit in well here. The flavors were very southeast Asian with a little bit of chili heat, and I liked the spinach accompaniment, which added some body.

chiang mai curry noodles yellow curry, lemongrass, pork belly, prawn, rice noodles

curry noodles

This was one of the noodle dishes. The curry was kind of rich and a little milky, which I liked. The pork belly lended just a little bit more richness and depth of flavor to it. Great blend of flavors, while the deep fried noodles added a crispy texture.

heirloom black rice lap cheong, onion, roasted garlic, fried egg

black rice

The black rice had a heartiness not present in white rice. A little bit of Chinese sausage added some savory saltiness, while the fried egg provided an oozing yolk that really brought everything together.

x.o. rice jasmine rice, house-made x.o. sauce, long beans, egg

xo rice

This fried rice was a bit typical of a Chinese restaurant. It was a good version, and a little less greasy than what I’m accustomed to.

wok charred baby eggplant panch puran, tomato sambal, mint


The eggplant was fairly unmemorable. It was cooked to a nice tender texture, but did not have a lot of flavor.

sonoma lamb chops market spices, herb butter

lamb chops

The lamb had a nice seared crust and was pretty tender. Not too gamey. A good dish, though nothing special.

skirt steak sichuan “au poivre,” shishito peppers

skirt steak

I really enjoyed this dish. The steak was cooked perfectly, leaving it very tender. Skirt steak is a pretty beefy cut, and the peppers (which I didn’t find too hot at all) added a nice savory heat to the dish. Nice colors too.

dandan noodles kurobuta pork, sesame, preserved mustard greens, sichuan peppercorns, peanuts

dan dan

This is a little embarrassing, but I’ve only had dandan noodles once before – at P.F. Chang’s, which means I’ve never really had it before. No one in our table of 7 had any experience with it, so we weren’t expecting the minty-metallic taste and odd, numbing sensation of the sichuan peppers. We didn’t enjoy it. However, I found out soon afterward that’s pretty typical of those peppers. Oh well.

banana cake, mango panna cotta, kiwi soup


Desserts are always complimentary at Lukshon – I think that’s a nice touch. Here we had three different desserts which were all pretty solid. The mango panna cotta (middle) was my favorite for being light and smooth, with just the right amount of mango flavor.

Overall, Lukshon was a success. Sang Yoon blends traditional flavors from throughout Asia in some familiar and some new preparations. I think the flavors are authentic enough to ring home with traditionalists, while still satisfying Americanized palates as well. Along with Father’s Office and the Spanish concept replacing Beacon, Lukshon adds another good option on Helms and to the plethora of good restaurants in downtown Culver City. Given the buzz around the restaurant and its strong food and drinks, I expect Lukshon to be a popular stop for a while.

First & Hope – 1/26/11

First & Hope
710 West 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

I’m always looking for new and exciting lunch spots downtown. When dineLA came around again, First & Hope struck me as a potential place. I’ve been for dinner, but until now had not realized they were also open for lunch.

First & Hope opened to a lot of fanfare in April of last year. The response, largely, has been somewhat underwhelming for the food, which might be overshadowed by the decor and cocktails. In its short life, it’s gone through two chef changes already – most recently, Yuji Isawa took over kitchen duties in January.

The appetizer options were two salads.

A “Modern” Waldorf Salad with Pt. Reyes Blue Vinaigrette

Scarborough Farms Hearts of Romaine with Caesar “Vinaigrette” & Shaved Parmiggiano

The croutons were nice and crispy, adding a good textural counterpoint to the romaine. The parmiggiano added a richness and nuttiness as well.

Mary’s Chicken Pot Pie with Market Vegetables

I liked the presentation of this pot pie. The crust was light and flaky with a fresh herb topping, but I thought the dill was a little strong. For a lunch entree, I thought this portion was a little light because there just wasn’t a lot of chicken or vegetables. However, it was good.

Hope Burger & Fries with Bacon-Onion “jam” and Montgomery Cheddar

This entree option was much more substantial. Juicy and meaty, the burger was quite good. The onions added a welcome sweetness, and the accompanying fries were good as well, though they were a little bit denser than I would have liked.

Next, we tried a trio of desserts.

“Milk & Cookies”, Baked to order with chilled Clover Farms Cream Top Milk

My first two bites of this cookie were delicious. Warm and soft, with just a little bit of chew – a fresh cookie is hard to beat. However, the center of the cookie was rock solid and inedible. Weird.

TCHO Chocolate Bread Pudding with Caramel & Bourbon Sauce

The pudding had a mild chocolate flavor, but was really moist. The caramel was a nice touch in tandem with the chocolate.

Butterscotch Pudding with Sea Salt Caramel

This was a pretty good butterscotch pudding. The butterscotch was really nice, while the sea salt added just a little bit of saltiness to bring the flavors out. The best of the desserts.

My visit to First & Hope was just okay. There were some hits and more misses. With a lot of other more exciting dining options in the downtown area, I’m not sure when/if I will be back.