LA Market (Los Angeles, CA)

LA Market
900 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 3/1/11

I was invited to try LA Market, Kerry Simon’s (the “rock n roll chef”) restaurant at the JW Marriott at LA Live. I’ve had experience with some of Simon’s food before. I dined at Simon LA at the Sofitel during a dineLA a few years ago. Even further back, I had some of his cooking at Prime Steakhouse at the Bellagio in Las Vegas (though it’s not solely Simon’s food – it’s a Jean-Georges Vongerichten establishment). My meal at Prime was one of the best steakhouse meals I’d had to that date, and I still remember it fondly.

The restaurant recently named a new chef – Hell’s Kitchen season 8 winner Nona Sivley. You see, the prize for winning the show was the head chef position at LA Market. Sivley, who is from Georgia, is bringing some Southern influences to LA Market’s menu – surely an interesting mesh with Simon’s “rock n roll” style.

seared mild shishito peppers sea salt, chili, lime

I’m always hesitant about eating shishito peppers – sometimes they’re very mild in heat, sometimes I find they burn like hell. This time, they were the former, showing off more of a sweet, roasted flavor.

wok charred edamame ginger sea salt

Similar to the shishitos, these edamame were heightened by a little by of smoky, charred flavor; I thought this was a nice complement.

crispy pork belly jicama, fennel and frisee salad, candied pecans, pickled beets

The pork belly – as advertised – was nicely crisped up, and I particularly enjoyed the fennel flavor along with it. A little bit of jicama and candied pecans provided some texture, while the beets added some acidity to pair with the rich pork.

iceberg wedge ranch, crumbled Point Reyes blue cheese, applewood smoked bacon

local burrata virgin olive oil, grilled farm bread, marinated tomato

This was a pretty simple dish, showing off some of the fresh flavors. The burrata was nice and creamy, and married well with the oil, tomatoes and crusty bread.

tuna dynamite lump crab, tuna, sushi rice, red chili aioli

This was one of the more signature Kerry Simon dishes. This was pretty similar to a glamoured-up spicy tuna roll, in my opinion, with the chili aioli providing the heat.

gnocchi and jumbo lump crab truffle parmesan cream

One of Nona’s new entrants to the menu, and I loved it. The gnocchi were light, while the lumps of crab were sweet and had a nice, clean flavor. The cream sauce really brought things together.

pan seared cod roasted corn, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower puree, shaved artichokes

This was another solid dish; the cod was cooked well, leaving it tender and moist. I really liked the sweetness of the roasted corn accompaniment.

grilled ribeye gorgonzola polenta, wild mushrooms, braised collards, fried capers, red wine reduction

This was a thinner steak; I typically prefer my steaks a little thicker, as it provides a larger area of medium rare meat (as opposed to the grayed edges). However, this was cooked well, and the cheesy polenta was a nice, rich pairing.

braised short rib soft potato puree, asparagus

Perhaps not the most exciting dish on the menu, but it was one of the tastiest. It’s hard to go wrong with short rib, and this one was very tender and flavorful. Mashed potatoes are a creamy pairing.

sushi pizza wasabi rice, tuna, crab, avocado

This is one of Chef Simon’s signature dishes – definitely unique. It was a warm, baked pizza dough topped with this “wasabi rice,” tuna, crab and avocado. I’d probably prefer these components in a traditional sushi roll, but I found it to be an interesting take.

brick organic chicken organic farro, braised beet greens, citrus jus

I thought this was a good roasted chicken, though not particularly special. There was nothing wrong, but it wasn’t that memorable compared to some of the other dishes.

taste of georgia banana custard pudding, pecan ice cream

This was one of Chef Sivley’s entrants to the dessert menu, inspired by her southern roots. I liked this pudding – it didn’t have an overwhelming banana flavor, yet was rich and creamy. The pecan ice cream was a nice touch.

junk food platter

This was one of the most fun and playful desserts I’ve had in a while. It’s Simon’s housemade renditions of classic junk food including Hostess cakes, cookies, caramel popcorn, Rice Krispies, Fruit Loop Rice Krispy treats, and cotton candy. These were really close to the “original,” and a lot of fun to share.

Lastly, we got some macarons and a chocolate chip cookie to take home.

This was a solid meal from LA Market. Located right under the lights of LA Live, it has an energetic feel to it – especially when there’s an event or basketball game. I think Chef Sivley brings a fresh perspective to the menu, and it’ll be interesting to see how her Southern roots blend with Chef Simon’s modern fare.

Note: This was a sponsored meal.

Gold Standard 2011

Gold Standard 2011
Petersen Auto Museum
6060 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Dining date: 3/6/11

I came. I saw. I left full. That pretty much sums up my experience from this year’s Gold Standard, the third annual event presented by LA Weekly and LA food critic Jonathan Gold. Last year was my first time attending, and it was one of the best food events I went to. I bought my ticket early this year, getting an early-bird discount of $10 off the regular ticket price ($60 GA, $80 VIP). The VIP ticket gets you in an hour earlier, but I didn’t think it was necessary – thus, I went with General Admission.

The event featured over 40 of Jonathan Gold’s favorite restaurants, as well as an impressive number of wineries represented. The restaurants represented cuisines of all kinds, casual restaurants to high-end, and locations all over the city – it was an interesting picture of the LA dining scene.

The first thing I saw was the line to get in, which was long. However, once we hit 1pm, the line moved pretty quickly in.

A long row, with tables on both sides, served as the “wine bars.”

Scallop Tartare

Compressed pineapple and curry petit four

Our gameplan was to hit some of our “musts” early – this was one of them. The scallop tartare was a highlight, wrapped in a leaf and topped with popped rice. The fish was tender and tasty, while the popped rice added a nice crunch. In a bite, this dish represented the restaurant’s clean flavors, emphasis on seafood and Japanese influences. The pineapple and curry petit four came out later in the afternoon – I liked the interplay of the sweet pineapple with the curry.

Whipped brie, honey balsamic frisee

This was another of the “musts,” and one of the most crowded booths…for obvious reasons. This dish was reminiscent of one I had at LudoBites 4.0, with a very creamy brie chantilly paired with crostini. I’m not really a big cheese person so this wasn’t my favorite dish. However, I appreciated the acidity from the balsamic and the sweetness from the honey in tandem with the rich, creamy brie.

Maison Giraud
Ham & cheese croissant

Almond & vanilla blanc – manger, blood orange gelee

Alain Giraud was serving up a couple of choices here. Since it was early on, I passed on the croissant, thinking it was too heavy at this point. I was hoping to take one home later, but they ran out quickly. The dessert was really good though, with almond, vanilla and citrus flavors melding well together in the custard.

Char siu buns

I’ve always seen Jar serve their signature pot roast at food festivals such as this one, but they opted to serve another regular on their menu, the char siu buns. The buns had a flaky exterior, but I found the barbecued pork interior to be a little dry.

Tonkotsu ramen

I was impressed with the ramen here. I was afraid I might find lukewarm broth or soggy noodles – not the case, the execution was spot on. The noodles had a great al dente chew, complemented by a savory, milky broth. Really good. I visited this booth at least 5 times throughout the afternoon…sounds like I will have to pay a visit to their restaurant soon.

Kobe short rib

Cut is my favorite steakhouse in LA. Here was a really delicious preparation of short rib – tender, moist, beefy. It was served with a sort of tortilla, which made this easier to pick up and eat; however, I found it a bit chewy.

Furikake kettle corn

Rum, hibiscus, lime, orange bitters

I haven’t had a chance to try A-Frame yet, but I’ve wanted to. I wished they presented something more savory, but this kettle corn was some of the best I’ve had. Sweet, spicy and full of flavor, these were a definite hit. They also served a refreshing cocktail, which was quite nice as it became warmer and warmer in the tent.

My friend brilliantly recycled his glass from the Singha Beer table.

Pork rillete, pickled red onion, frisee

I didn’t think there was too much going on here. The pork rillete was good, but not something that stood out.

Waterloo & City
Chicken liver & foie gras mousse

I found this mousse to be really good, with flavors of the chicken liver and foie gras both present. I would’ve preferred the bread to be toasted, but I’m just being picky.

Park’s BBQ
Bulgogi, kimchi rice

Park’s dish was comfortable, homey. I thought the bulgogi was a little salty, but had good flavor.

Manila Machine
Pork belly & pineapple adobo, lumpia shanghai

Manila Machine is one of the better food trucks I’ve tasted, and I’m glad they were able to showcase some of their food here. The pork belly was really tender and flavorful…well done. The lumpia were pretty good too.

The Foundry
Grilled cheese sandwich

Chef Eric Greenspan was proclaiming to everyone that this would be the best sandwich they ever ate. I’m not sure how many agreed with that statement, but it’s a very good sandwich as far as grilled cheeses go. I really enjoyed the peppery arugula in the sandwich, helping to contrast the rich Taleggio cheese.

The Gorbals
Chicken gizzards, romesco sauce

I was excited to see Ilan Hall serving some gizzards here. I like them, but I never see it in restaurants. They were very tender, so I think they were perhaps braised. The romesco sauce did a nice job of adding some extra flavor to the dish.

Tacos Baja Ensenada
Shrimp taco

I thought the shrimp was nicely fried, leaving a moist interior. However, the tortilla was really greasy.

Bludso’s BBQ
Pulled pork, beef brisket

I’m always down for some good barbecue. Here, Bludso’s prepared a duo of meats, slathered in a sweet, savory barbecue sauce. Both of the meats were really tender, with a smokiness that was complemented by the sauce.

Drago Centro
Foie gras panna cotta

Drago Centro served this light, creamy panna cotta with a good foie gras flavor.

Mo Chica
Peruvian-spiced chicken skewers

There were some oysters here as well, but I just missed them. Still, I was able to get one of these skewers, which exhibited a nice char fresh of the grill. I’ve had some of Chef Zarate’s anticucho before and really enjoyed them. No different here, with a mildly spicy rub adding a lot of flavor to the chicken.

Father’s Office
Stout braised pork ribs, spicy orange blossom honey glaze

I was really curious about what FO would serve. Would they make slider versions of their famed burger? Not quite – the restaurant opted to showcase some of their other dishes with these ribs. These were very tender and had a nice sweetness, presumably from the stout braise and the honey glaze. I didn’t think the glaze was spicy as advertised, but I wasn’t complaining.

Susan Feniger’s Street
Vietnamese crepes

I thought this crepe was okay – I just didn’t think there was much to this dish.

Bistro LQ
Hare terrine and stuffed duck neck, pickled huckleberries

I liked the terrine and duck – it was meaty and tender, and had a creamy polenta to go along with it. I also heard some good macarons were coming from this table, but I wasn’t able to get one.

Starry Kitchen
Malaysian chicken curry

I work downtown and Starry is in my regular rotation of restaurants. I had this curry a couple of weeks ago, and it’s a pretty good one with just enough spice to keep things interesting. Supposedly, a stash of their tofu balls was available somewhere.

The Slaw Dogs
Spring fling holly roller, spicy chipotle mayo

As it was getting later into the afternoon, I passed on taking a bite of this as it seemed pretty heavy.

Chichen Itza
Banana leaf braised pork

Red snapper ceviche

I enjoyed the ceviche here. It was a generous portion of tender fish, sitting in a citrus-y marinade. The tortilla chip was key, as well, for texture and as a scooping mechanism.

Loteria Grill
Corn esquites

I found the corn here to be deliciously sweet, with a hint of tart lime juice and a little creaminess from mayonnaise.

Old Fashioned

This was a long line throughout the afternoon. No french dips here – just an old fashioned cocktail. It was a good one too, though I wish the serving size was larger given the lengthy wait and size of the glass (this picture was before any of it was consumed).

Good Girl Dinette
Curry cauliflower pot pie

I tried these pot pies last year and found them pretty good. This one was the vegetarian version, which exhibited a comfortable curry flavor with chunks of vegetables and a flaky crust.

Chicken curry, spicy beef

I opted to stay away from the beef here, saving my tastebuds. It kicked my ass last year.

Palate Food & Wine
Pig ear banh mi

Palate often serves banh mi at these festivals, and this was a more creative one. I liked the flavors, but I’m not a fan of the cartilage in pig ears in general. Personal preference.

I was able to try almost everything I wanted to; Mozza was one that I missed. I thought this was another really successful Gold Standard. For $50 I had an all-you-can-eat-and-drink ticket to some really good food and drinks. Heck, I’ve spent more on a meal at Cheesecake Factory. One of the biggest issues with similar events are the lines, and somehow this event has largely avoided that problem. There were a few tables that had some good lines throughout the afternoon, but for the most part, I think people were able to get what they wanted in a timely manner. There were some tables that ran out of food relatively quickly, though.

I’m already looking forward to next year!

Roasted Chicken

Dining date: 2/26/11

It’s been a while since I posted some home cooked food. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I haven’t been cooking (I still cook maybe four times a week),  it’s just that I’ve had a lot of restaurant posts to catch up with. Anyway, this past weekend, I felt like roasting a chicken for some reason. I think part of it was the cold winter weather, and part of it was my ongoing effort to develop and perfect a recipe that I like.

Everyone seems to have their own roasted chicken recipe. I consulted a number of recipes including Cook’s Illustrated, Thomas Keller and Ludovic Lefebvre. I kind of just combined certain characteristics from all three of them into mine.

I started a few days in advance by starting my brine. I find that brining a chicken, while a little time-consuming, really pays off by ensuring a juicy result. Always looking for ways to add flavor, I added fresh thyme and rosemary, as well as garlic and a bay leaf to the salt and sugar brine.

I let the chicken sit in this brine overnight, then rinsed well, patted dry, and let sit in my refrigerator for another day to dry the skin even more. This is something I especially like to do with steaks, as it ensures the exterior is completely dry to maximize browning.

Finally, I was ready to start cooking. I removed the wishbone with a paring knife (another step that’s more work upfront, but paid dividends later), which would help carving and the presentation once cooked. I stuffed the cavity with garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. I also put a ton of soft butter on the top, something I took from Ludo’s recipe.

I was ready to put the chicken in the oven – I had an onion on-hand, so I figured I’d roast them as well. In the end, they didnt really add anything.

I roasted at 450 degrees until the drumstick/thigh reached 160 degrees (about 50 minutes) and let it rest. The browning wasn’t quite as even as I would’ve liked; I’m not sure if this was just the oven or me.

While letting the chicken rest, I finished some fingerling potatoes that I had parboiled earlier. I sauteed them in a skillet, crushing them slightly, with salt, pepper and fresh rosemary.

While cutting into the chicken, there was no shortage of juices on the cutting board (yay the brine worked!)

The resulting chicken was pretty moist and flavorful and I was happy about it. While the browning wasn’t perfect, the skin was still pretty crispy. I ended up smashing the potatoes a little more than I should have, but it still tasted good.

I’m still debating what to do with the chicken stock I just made from the resulting bones.

Angeli Caffe (Los Angeles, CA)

Angeli Caffé
7274 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Dining date: 2/12/11

Angeli Caffe has been around for more than 25 years, a remarkable achievement in an LA dining scene that has vastly changed during that time period. Its founder, Evan Kleinman, is a notable personality in LA – she’s the host of KCRW’s Good Food. I’ve been to Angeli once a few years back, and I thought it was just okay. However, we were looking for Italian options in the area, and this popped up as a suggestion.

Half of our party was vegetarian, so we were heavy on those dishes.

Insalata Forte locally grown organic baby greens, fennel, Belgian endive dressed with a garlicky parmesan vinaigrette

Penne with Ricotta chile and parsley

This is typically with pancetta, but we “veggie-fied” it by omitting it. The pasta was a nice al dente, and still had some good flavor from the ricotta and chile. The pancetta would’ve given it a nice depth of flavor and saltiness, I’m sure.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Pollo Arrosto famous succulent half chicken, marinated w/garlic, fresh rosemary and lemon, then roasted

I found the chicken to be pretty moist with decent flavor. Nothing special, but a decent chicken. The accompanying beans and potatoes seemed steamed and rather plain.

Risotto with Shrimp and Lemon Zest

The risotto was good, creamy with an al dente texture. The shrimp was overcooked, though, leaving it mealy. I liked the lemon zest, which added a little bit of brightness to the dish.

I had ordered a lasagna which never came out. The food thus far had been mediocre, but I was still hungry so I was up for another dish. Weezermonkey had been raving about the gnochetti (as well as many Yelp reviews) on Twitter after I had ordered, so I figured I’d give it a shot. Two options were available – a tomato basil sauce and an herb butter.

Ricotta Gnocchetti of the Day tomato basil

As I ate the first piece, I thought to myself “holy crap, this is one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while!” Perhaps part of this was a factor of expectations from the previous dishes, but I found the gnochetti to be so light, fluffy, pillowy – delicious. The tomato basil sauce had just a little bit of sweetness that really complemented the dish. So good.

I had to try another order; this time with the herb butter.

Ricotta Gnocchetti of the Day herb butter

The gnochetti was just the same as before, but I didn’t care for the herb butter as much. I appreciated the acidity and sweetness of the tomato basil sauce with the dumplings – here, the rich butter didn’t do the same thing.

My meal at Angeli was kind of whatever, except for the late-entry gnochetti. They were definitely memorable; still one of the best bites I’ve had in 2011. I’m not sure when/if I’ll be back, but I’m definitely sticking to the gnochetti – it’s highly recommended.

Cafe Pinot (Los Angeles, CA)

Cafe Pinot
700 W 5th St
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Dining date: 2/22/11

To me, Cafe Pinot is one of the oft-overlooked dining options downtown. I literally work a block away, but I can’t think of a single instance in which a co-worker suggested we come here. I think, because it’s been around for a while, it’s been overshadowed by the buzz of numerous other downtown restaurant openings in the last few years. But it shouldn’t be.


I was invited to come dine at Cafe Pinot – joining me was Diana. I had been twice before; both for recruiting events. It was almost impossible to focus on the food during those meals, so I was glad to be able to sit down, relax, and enjoy the food and company this time.

The chef is Kevin Meehan, who’s worked in the kitchen of many of LA’s notable past and present restaurants (L’Orangerie, Bastide, Patina to name a few). He’s a character too, with a fun personality – I recommend chatting him up when visiting the restaurant.

We started off with some housemade potato chips.


I think these were just potatoes, oil and salt, and they were really done well – perfectly thin and crispy. Addicting.

Pepper Rubbed Yellowfin Tuna smashed avocado, tomato mousse, soy onions, yuzu granita
3 Stones Sauvignon Blanc


First course. The tuna was tender, and was delish with a bit of peppery bite. I really liked the avocado, which added body, as well as a little bit of the citrus yuzu. The stunning presentation atop a block of Himalayan pink salt was really cool, though a bit salty if I scraped my fork too hard against the block.

Wild Mushroom Risotto truffle shavings, parmesan frico, chantilly cream
Eola Hills Pinot Noir

black truffle risotto

This was the dish I was anticipating most. I’ve read much about this dish being a stellar example of risotto in the city, and it did not disappoint. It was creamy and luxurious, with a subtle sweetness from onion. The rice was a perfect al dente and the truffles, shaved tableside, added its characteristic earthy flavor. I did not think the parmesan frico was necessary, however, as it added too much crunch to the delicate chew of the rice.

Loup de Mer squid, chorizo, pimenton
Marc Bredif Vouvray

loup de mer

This next course had a bunch of components on the plate centered around the loup de mer. The fish was excellent – really moist on the inside with a crisp skin. The squid was tender and flavorful on its own, but everything was brought together with the smoky chorizo and pimenton.

Duo of Beef filet mignon, pinot noir braised short rib, potato gâteau, wild mushrooms, bordelaise sauce
Rosenthal Cabernet Sauvignon

beef duo

I love myself some beef, so I was pretty excited to see a dual preparation here. Both of them were executed well, and I preferred the pinot noir braised short rib for being oh-so-tender without being mushy. Really good depth of flavor. I thought the confit potatoes were superb as well.

Lastly, we were presented with a trio of desserts.

Chocolate Mousse Gateau hazelnut crunch, cocoa soil, bitter chocolate paint
Jorge Ordonez Victoria #2

chocolate gateau

There were a number of chocolate components here – very rich and chocolatey. The classic combination of hazelnuts and chocolate worked well, and I enjoyed the hazelnuts for some nutty crunch.



The dough was light and barely chewy – these were served warm (the only way to serve them, really). A subtle rosemary essence really made these stand out.

Butterscotch Panna Cotta candied butternut squash, pepita seeds, ginger bread streusel, chantilly cream


This was a pretty good custard – not too sweet, which was good. I thought the gingerbread streusel was a fantastic touch, adding a delightful texture to the dessert.

My meal at Cafe Pinot was a pleasant surprise. Sure, I knew the risotto was going to be a show-stopper, but this was a well-rounded menu from start to finish. Given it’s so convenient to me, I’ll be back. And guess what – the restaurant doesn’t charge a corkage fee. And there’s also a spacious outdoor patio surrounded by the Central Library and downtown skyline. On a warm summer evening, this will be hard to beat.

Note: This was a sponsored meal.