Wolvesmouth @ Beer Belly (Los Angeles, CA)

Wolvesmouth
Beer Belly
532 S. Western Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90020
Dining date: 6/28/11

6202495821 4bd5ffe573 Wolvesmouth @ Beer Belly (Los Angeles, CA)

I first went to a Wolvesmouth dinner in January and have been itching to return. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to – it continues to get more and more popular and, thus, seats are even harder to come by.

As a way to reach more people, Wolvesmouth (Craig Thornton) and team did a one-night dinner at new Koreatown bar Beer Belly. It’s an ideal match – the bar is closed Tuesdays (i.e. an available kitchen), and there’s plenty of brews to pair with the food. The set-up: two seatings of 28 people each sold first-come, first-served online; 6 courses for $50.

6202495943 10be3342d7 Wolvesmouth @ Beer Belly (Los Angeles, CA)

In addition to the beers offered at the bar, a unique set-up wherein wines purchased from Domaine LA were discounted and delivered straight to the bar, waiting upon arrival. Pretty sweet.

6202496261 3f5a9a0f86 Wolvesmouth @ Beer Belly (Los Angeles, CA)

Bread from Bread Lounge started off the meal, as well as a barley malt butter.

6202496007 775c8dd1e4 Wolvesmouth @ Beer Belly (Los Angeles, CA)

Corn Soup crab, corn fritter, jalapeno, cilantro, buttermilk, lime

6202496109 38d7e76fd5 Wolvesmouth @ Beer Belly (Los Angeles, CA)

I do not hesitate in saying this was the best corn soup I’ve had. Probably the best corn-centric dish I’ve had. Seriously. The corn lent a mild sweetness, as did the crab. The lime, paired with the crab, really elevated the dish for me by adding some light acidity – a perfect complement to the creamy corn soup. Really well-balanced, for sure.

Black Truffle Risotto chive, parmesan

6203009748 fe98836498 Wolvesmouth @ Beer Belly (Los Angeles, CA)

I had heard rumors of this dish and was really looking forward to it. For a six-course meal at $50, I wasn’t sure this could really be pulled in.

The rice was al dente, while the onions gave a slightly acidic taste to it. The risotto itself was executed well. The truffle flavor was fairly subtle; if anything, I would have preferred to pay a little more for some additional truffle flavor to bring it to the forefront.

Blue Lake Beans yellow wax beans, summer squash, peach, cider, salted yogurt, granola

6203009882 e00cc26f2e Wolvesmouth @ Beer Belly (Los Angeles, CA)

Craig made it a point to note these were not French haricot verts; rather lesser-known blue lake beans. These had a buttery flavor; all of the vegetables were warm, contrasting the cool fruit. Speaking of fruit, the peach was notably juicy and delicious. I thought the tart yogurt did a good job of counteracting the sweetness inherent in the fruit, while the granola added a sweet, earthy flavor.

Lamb potato puree, dill, horseradish, lingonberry

6202496503 53f2113689 Wolvesmouth @ Beer Belly (Los Angeles, CA)

6202496415 c176ea1368 Wolvesmouth @ Beer Belly (Los Angeles, CA)

Maybe the most anticipated dish of the evening – this did not disappoint. The lamb was very tender (cooked rare/medium-rare) and not at all gamey, while the horseradish and lingonberry added a spicy and sweet accompaniment, respectively. The potato puree was excellent as well, with a little bit of a tart note (creme fraiche or sour cream added?).

Cornbread Ice Cream fig, brown butter short bread

6202496577 fb80676d9c Wolvesmouth @ Beer Belly (Los Angeles, CA)

This tasted exactly as advertised, with just a little sweetness. I thought this was pretty tasty with the crunch of the brown butter shortbread, while the fig added a slightly sweet, fresh flavor.

Creme Fraiche Vanilla Panna Cotta strawberry, vanilla pound cake

6202496669 51072e808a Wolvesmouth @ Beer Belly (Los Angeles, CA)

I was disappointed for this dish to come since I didn’t want the meal to end. The pound cake soaked up much of the sweet strawberry juice, working well with the mildly sweet panna cotta. A little bit of pop rocks added an extra fun texture to the dish.

This dinner exceeded expectations. I try not to rave about a meal unless absolutely warranted, but I really liked this one. I was afraid that maybe it would be a “diluted” version of Wolvesmouth for the masses, but it wasn’t. It was true to the Wolvesmouth style, just abbreviated to six courses. Perhaps not quite as creative as my last meal, but I didn’t mind (the restraint was welcome). It was unique enough, executed well and quite delicious – again, I’m already craving a return visit. Given the success, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is just the first of many Wolvesmouth meals at Beer Belly.

L’Epicerie (Culver City, CA)

L’Epicerie
9900 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Dining date: 6/21/11

exterior2 500x335 LEpicerie (Culver City, CA)

L’Epicerie opened in December, a French restaurant/marketplace in Culver City from Thierry Perez (Fraiche). There’s a little bit of everything on offer in the marketplace, from wine & cheese, to oils and vinegars, charcuterie, and pre-made meals. On the restaurant side, the food is rustic French.

marketplace2 300x201 LEpicerie (Culver City, CA)marketplace1 300x201 LEpicerie (Culver City, CA)

Just three months ago, a chef change brought in Sébastien Archambault to redesign the menu. Archambault was previously cooking at RH at the Andaz where he garnered pretty strong reviews. I never made it out there, but an invitation to L’Epicerie would be the perfect opportunity to try some of his cuisine.

Egg Cocotte creamy mushrooms

egg cocotte 500x335 LEpicerie (Culver City, CA)

Yummy. The mushrooms were tender and tasty, while the runny egg added a nice richness and creaminess to pair with the crusty, buttered bread.

Beef Tongue sauce diable

beef tongue 500x335 LEpicerie (Culver City, CA)

The tongue was really tender, with that distinctive ‘tongue’ flavor. A little bit of heat in the sauce made things a little more interesting, but the beef itself was delicious.

Chicken Wings Confit

chicken wings 500x335 LEpicerie (Culver City, CA)

Nothing too special about these wings, but they were good.

Braised Beef Cheek risotto arborio, red wine sauce, arugula, parmesan cheese

beef cheeks 500x335 LEpicerie (Culver City, CA)

I had to order this given the description. Braised beef cheeks over risotto? Sold. The beef was extremely tender, rich and flavorful. I liked the risotto as well, though I found the parmesan to be a little strong. Still, very comfortable flavors that mixed well.

Niman Ranch Pork Chop green peas, heirloom potatoes, garlic confit

pork chop 500x335 LEpicerie (Culver City, CA)

The pork was tender and moist, though not overly so. It was cooked a nice medium, but just wasn’t quite as memorable as our other entrees.

Perigord Cassoulet garlic sausage, pork belly, duck confit, white beans

cassoulet 500x335 LEpicerie (Culver City, CA)

I liked the crispy duck, as well as the rich creaminess of the white beans. The pork belly was deliciously tender as well. A really savory, hearty dish.

Crêpe Suzette citrus caramel, vanilla ice cream, Grand Marnier sauce

crepe 500x335 LEpicerie (Culver City, CA)

Finally, we split one dessert. I was glad this was rather light (given all the food prior), with a bright citrus flavor from orange rind and the Grand Marnier.

This meal exceeded expectations. The marketplace is rather unassuming, but the food coming out of the kitchen was actually very good. For the most part, the menu stays within a comfort zone of French classics and does them well. I found it to be very comforting and sort of homey, and quite tasty. 

Note: This was a sponsored meal.

Picca (Los Angeles, CA)

Picca
9575 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Dining date: 6/23/11

exterior1 500x335 Picca (Los Angeles, CA)

Picca has been a long time coming. Ever since Test Kitchen closed its doors, we’ve been waiting for Sotto (downstairs, opened March) and Picca (upstairs). Although Picca’s grand opening is technically Saturday the 25th, there have been a number of preview dinners this week. I attended one of the “Test Kitchen” previews.

Ricardo Zarate is the chef behind Picca, popularly known for the restaurant Mo-Chica and for being named a 2011 Food & Wine Best New Chef. I’m pretty familiar with his cuisine, between a number of visits to Mo Chica and samplings of his food at Test Kitchen and various food festivals, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting this opening.

The menu is split into five sections: appetizers, causa sushi/ceviche/tiraditos, anticuchos, entrees and desserts. During this preview, we selected one from each to create our own customized five-course meal.

As with all of the other Test Kitchen sister-restaurants, Julian Cox is the man behind the bar. Here, the cocktails feature pisco, a brandy-like alcohol from Peru.

Chilcano de Anis

chilcano de anis 500x335 Picca (Los Angeles, CA)

Ginger and anise flavors help balance the alcohol in this drink, with a nice mint flavor towards the end. Loved the copper cup.

Maracuya

maracuya 500x335 Picca (Los Angeles, CA)

Kind of like a kicked-up mimosa. Fruity and citrus notes from the passion fruit and lemon juice balanced the cava and pisco.

Tuna Tartare tuna, lemon soy dressing, wonton chips

tuna tartare 500x335 Picca (Los Angeles, CA)

Tuna tartare is a little played out in my mind. However, there was something about this version that really piqued my interest. The tuna was good, and there was a touch of wasabi for some heat. The wonton chips were a good way to get some light texture into the mix.

Chicharron de Pollo marinated crisp chicken, salsa criolla, rocoto sauce

chicharron de pollo 500x335 Picca (Los Angeles, CA)

Pieces of marinated chicken breast were fried up and topped with a salsa. The chicken wasn’t dry at all, though it did not have a ton of flavor. The bulk of the flavor came from the fresh salsa, as well as the sweet rocoto sauce.

Shrimp Causa Sushi pickled cucumbers, yuzu kosho guacamole

shrimp causa 500x335 Picca (Los Angeles, CA)

Zarate’s play on nigiri sushi are these causa sushi. Instead of rice, a soft and creamy potato is the base for all sorts of seafood – here, shrimp. Accented by some bright yuzu kosho, I thought this was really tasty.

Ceviche Mixto mixed seafood, sweet potato, choclo

ceviche1 500x335 Picca (Los Angeles, CA)

This ceviche is pretty similar to the version at Mo-Chica. Given all the accolades that this dish has won, I’m glad Zarate has kept it true to his original. Chunks of fresh sea bass, scallops, squid and shrimp are mixed up with onions and sweet potato in a citrusy marinade. Really delicious.

Beef Filet Anticucho sea urchin butter, garlic chip

beef filet 500x335 Picca (Los Angeles, CA)

The sea urchin butter really elevated this dish. The beef was tender and juicy, very good on its own. But the sea urchin butter added a little more richness and depth of flavor…really nice.

Santa Barbara Prawns Anticucho lemongrass yuzu kosho pesto

sb prawn 500x335 Picca (Los Angeles, CA)

This was a must order for me, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a rather simple dish, allowing the prawn to stand out. Lightly cooked, the prawn was very moist, sweet and tender. A little bit of lime juice was perfect.

Arroz con Erizo peruvian paella, mixed seafood, sea urchin sauce

arroz con erizo 500x335 Picca (Los Angeles, CA)

The seafood was cooked well, my favorite were the plump mussels.  The rice was really rich and flavorful, with a definite seafood flavor to it.

Chanfainita braised oxtail, mote and potato stew

chanfainita 500x335 Picca (Los Angeles, CA)

One of my favorite dishes at Mo-Chica is the braised oxtail, so this was something else I wanted to try. I thought the flavors were on point, with a little bit of fresh acidity from a salsa topping. However, the oxtail was served lukewarm (the sauce and potatoes were hot, though).

Tres Leches Cake

tres leches 500x335 Picca (Los Angeles, CA)

Light and flavorful, with a good pairing with the fresh fruit. I thought the sweetness of the fruit really went well with the milk-soaked cake.

Churros

churros 500x335 Picca (Los Angeles, CA)

The churros were filled with, I think, a passion fruit filling. Nice. They were served warm, lightly crispy and sweet – exactly what I was looking for.  A trio of dipping sauces were available; chocolate was definitely my preferred sauce.

Service was slow and inconsistent (even as soft openings go), which was unfortunate given that the food was a hit. The table next to us actually got up and walked out…I’ve never seen that before. However, I suspect those issues will be ironed out quickly, and the diner’s focus put back onto the food.

Even with the diversity of LA, I don’t think many people are really familiar with Peruvian food (myself included). Asian and European influences are both evident in Peruvian fare; maybe that’s why the flavors that Zarate works with taste really familiar. While the ceviche was expectantly good, the causa and anticucho (love meat on a stick!) really shined as well. None of the food disappointed. I’ll likely be back soon to try more of the menu.

Chaya Downtown (Los Angeles, CA)

Chaya Downtown
525 S Flower St
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Dining date: 6/16/11

chaya signage 500x335 Chaya Downtown (Los Angeles, CA)

Given that I work downtown, I’m no stranger to this place. Chaya Downtown is one of my favorite happy hours in the area, largely for its well-priced food and the outdoor patio. In the summer, they have a ‘Japanese Beer Garden’ theme, featuring yakitori grilled on the patio, as well as a number of other Japanese-inspired dishes. I hadn’t yet had a chance to try it out; so when I was invited to come give it a spin, I couldn’t resist.

grill 500x335 Chaya Downtown (Los Angeles, CA)

Sake Flight Rock Sake (Junmai Ginjo), Gekkeikan Haiku (Junmai), Gekkeikan Horin (Junmai Daiginjo)

sake flight 500x335 Chaya Downtown (Los Angeles, CA)

Sake Sangria

sangria 500x335 Chaya Downtown (Los Angeles, CA)

Soju Cape Cod

soju 500x335 Chaya Downtown (Los Angeles, CA)

We started with a couple of drinks. The sangria was pretty refreshing, especially on the outdoor patio. The fruit was evident, as well as a little bit of acid from the citrus. I don’t know my sakes well at all, but I found all three of these to be very drinkable.

Fried Oyster with Cilantro Aioli

fried oysters 500x335 Chaya Downtown (Los Angeles, CA)

This was the first dish to come out – the oysters were juicy and plump, while the batter was perfectly light. Really nice.

Grilled White Corn with Feta Cheese

corn feta 500x335 Chaya Downtown (Los Angeles, CA)

Not really something I expected to find at this beer garden, nonetheless it was a tasty ear of corn with a tangy mayo-like sauce.

Spicy Tuna Shishito Pepper Tempura

tuna shishito 500x335 Chaya Downtown (Los Angeles, CA)

The peppers were pretty mild (thank goodness!), fried in a light tempura batter. I thought it was a pretty fun vessel for the tuna, while the pepper added an interesting sweet/spicy to the dish.

Albacore Tuna Poki

poki 500x335 Chaya Downtown (Los Angeles, CA)

The albacore was pretty tender, while the slight acidity (ponzu?) of the sauce really helped. Nothing really special, but done well.

Sea Scallop Miso Gratin

scallop gratin 500x335 Chaya Downtown (Los Angeles, CA)

Even though this dish seemed to continue to cook at the table, the scallops were cooked pretty well. The miso provided a rich and creamy sauce – I would’ve liked just a little bit more acidity or citrus to cut through the richness though.

Coffee BBQ Pork

coffee pork 500x335 Chaya Downtown (Los Angeles, CA)

The pork had a nice, sweet glaze on the outside, but I found them to be rather lukewarm on the inside. Unfortunate. My guess is that the restaurant didn’t fully reheat what they had prepared ahead of time, ruining an otherwise tasty dish.

Soy Braised Short Rib Sukiyaki Style

sukiyaki short rib 500x335 Chaya Downtown (Los Angeles, CA)

The short rib was really tender. Even as short ribs go, it was surprisingly tender. The flavorful broth was a nice accompaniment

Yakitori – Shiitaki Mushroom, Chicken Breast, Beef Tongue, Beef Short Rib, Shrimp, Bacon Wrapped Dates

yakitori1 500x335 Chaya Downtown (Los Angeles, CA)

yakitori2 500x335 Chaya Downtown (Los Angeles, CA)

All of these were solid variations. I’d be lying if I said this was akin to some of my favorite yakitori spots in the city, but they were pretty good, especially for the price and in Downtown. My favorite was probably the beef tongue – tender, meaty, tasty.

I was pretty happy with this meal. Over the many visits I’ve had, I’ve found the  happy hour service and food to be pretty consistent. One thing to note is that many of the ‘normal’ happy hour items are also really good, including the oysters (seasonal special, $1 a piece) and the fish & chips. The fish & chips is one of the best I’ve had in LA. Seriously.

Note: This was a sponsored meal.

Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Urasawa
218 N Rodeo Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 6/18/11

Urasawa was the perfect meal to cap off an already-memorable food week, starting with Taste of the Nation, and including a dinner with Thomas Keller at Bouchon. I love this restaurant, and it’s always my response to people who ask what my favorite restaurant in LA is.

6193121019 dc5027d4b3 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

I’d been planning a return trip ever since my last visit in September. Even though the price has since climbed to $375 (spurned by the strength of the yen) and worries of radiation persist, it doesn’t look like there’s been a significant slowdown in business. Hiro assured us a couple of times that the Japanese fish he uses comes from the southern part of the country, only. Some varieties come from other places in the world, notably the tuna from Spain.

I can’t say I’ve tried a lot of sushi outside of California, but from what I have had, Urasawa clearly stands above the rest.

We started with a bottle of NV Veuve Clicquot Brut.

6193121261 57c60e5ca9 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Temaki – seaweed, half cooked shrimp, shiso leaf, plum sauce

6193121363 3214f0b2df Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

The shrimp was left still raw, leaving a soft spongy texture. The plum sauce lended both sweet and tart flavors.

Seared toro, monkfish liver, caviar, yuzu dressing

6193121471 97782ac830 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Urasawa always has some rendition of this dish. Some of the best things of the sea are combined with terrific results. The richness of the liver and toro are complemented by the cool, acidic yuzu and salty caviar.

Yuba, sea urchin, wasabi, bonito, soy sauce

6193637844 b53f3a20db Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

This was a completely new dish for me. Delicate, with a nice blend of flavors – earthy soy and sesame, as well as bonito and sea urchin from the sea.

6193637928 f9c385b2db Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Sashimi – toro, red snapper, spanish mackerel, red cabbage, nori

6193638024 25b007b122 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

6193638116 66c9260433 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

As usual, sashimi comes on carefully crafted ice sculptures, complete with pink or blue flowers (differentiated for male or female diners). This was the first dish where the quality of fish was at the forefront. Really nice examples of each, with the toro being my favorite.

Chawanmushi – italian summer truffles, russian caviar, bonito, gingko nut, shiitake mushroom

6193121961 d16cc4e50b Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Earth and sea flavors were showcased here, with the truffle and caviar flavors the most prominent. I really liked the silky smooth egg custard too.

I was sitting directly below the A/C so I was freezing during the first few dishes. Unlike the water, hot green tea is “free,” so I went to town on this.

6193638304 572edcc2f0 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Tempura squid

6193122259 b369a29e25 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

6193122173 325b224781 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Here was Urasawa’s version of fried calamari, in a way. The tempura batter was expectantly light, and the tender piece of squid was delicious.

Hoba yaki – scallop, prawn, abalone, hoba yaki leaf, egg yolk and miso-based sauce

6193122449 80b3823ab7 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

<6193122345 3792c46d05 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

I’m always fearful of food that continues to cook in front of you, as I often find the pieces I eat last have been overcooked. Somehow, that wasn’t a problem here – the seafood was perfectly cooked. However, I found the delicate fish to be somewhat overwhelmed by the mildly sweet, rich sauce.

Shabu shabu – foie gras, king eel, red snapper

6193638710 e4fda78df9 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

6193122607 336325fc25 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

The foie gras was extraordinary. Really…more so than in previous visits for some reason. Urasawa also demonstrated that the king eel is actually eaten bone-in, but that he cuts the bone so thinly you can’t tell. Good for calcium, he says. Afterwards, we sipped on the soup we created.

A green plate and a dish of ginger signaled the start of sushi service, made and eaten one at a time.

6193123483 906f013192 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

The wine transitioned to a Beringer 2008 Private Reserve Chardonnay. Really liked the upfront oak flavors of this wine, with a sort of vanilla-like finish.

6193122691 4d1a00cbc3 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Toro

6193638982 0cb6465077 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

We started with a heavy hitter – Urasawa’s toro is the best Ive ever had. Rich and fatty (the color says it all), it was silky smooth and melted in my mouth.

Seared toro

6193639110 f0e53c2f8f Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

This was similar to the previous, though from the collar portion. Again, really tender with a subtle smoky flavor.

Spanish mackerel

6193123029 6a28afb0d1 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

A little bit of resistance in this mackerel, but still tender and flavorful.

Red snapper

6193639330 900a6dcaba Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

I thought this red snapper had a brighter, cleaner flavor. Again, teeth not required.

Bluefin tuna

6193123287 c18331888c Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Mmm bluefin tuna.

Skipjack tuna

6193123397 aaaf9c4fb6 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

A little bit of chew here, and mild in flavor.

Squid

6193639724 343e7baa15 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Similar to the tempura version, there was a delicate chew here, and the fish was brightened by some yuzu citrus.

Shiitake mushroom

6193639834 1dafdc6aba Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

I liked the shitake on this visit better than previous ones. Deep, earthy flavor and good change of pace.

Uni

6193639940 ed3cb815f5 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

So good. So soft, with a clean sea flavor. Interestingly, Urasawa used Hokkaido uni for kaiseki dishes, and Santa Barbara uni for sushi preparation.

Chu-toro

6193123933 12f7bf6686 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Back to more tuna with some medium-fatty toro. Silky, soft and delicious.

Giant clam

6193124033 ecddbaf0ea Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Chewy but not overly so, and not fishy at all.

Shrimp

6193124127 7608d9d562 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

There were probably over a dozen of these small shrimp that make up one piece of nigiri. Soft, sweet, and delicious.

Gizzard shad

6193640328 2d1163b58e Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Tender, with a mildly fishy, oily flavor.

Toro, scallion, pickled radish

6193640420 6cdf7d5aa1 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

I wish I had a hand roll of this. The delicious toro was heightened by some fresh scallion and crunchy radish.

Abalone

6193124383 772e823acf Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Chewy and sweet.

Sweet shrimp shrimp brain soy sauce

6193640604 6632c5ddd9 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

6193640690 2eddcc28ee Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

One of my favorite pieces, prepared fresh from the tank. A delightful mouthfeel with these shrimp, chewy and springy and very sweet.

Chopped spanish mackerel, ginger, scallion, miso, shiso, ginger

6193124667 6ff9326b52 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

A lot of complementary flavors and really tasty.

Sea eel

6193640886 2d28469b88 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

So tender, with a nice rich, sweet sauce.

Sponge Cake

6193124855 8ce0f149e9 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Like a very moist cake, this is a nice transition out of the savory sushi and into dessert.

Grapefruit jelly, goji berry, blueberry, blackberry, strawberry, raspberry, papaya

<6193641072 48e19e57a8 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Light, refreshing, and tart. I would have liked something here to be a little bit sweeter, though.

Sesame ice cream, black truffle, red bean, gold flake

6193641246 76e4a013d1 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Holy crap. Wow. I’d never seen this before, and it was amazing. The rich, creamy nuttiness of the ice cream really paired well with the earthy black truffles, with just a little bit of sweetness from the red bean. It kind of reminded me of the chocolate sauce that hardens into a shell when it touches ice cream. Except way better.

A bowl of bitter matcha green tea was a perfect pairing.

6193125025 4931d53630 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

6193125179 afa99bef55 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Hojicha

6193641410 042d631086 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Finally, a roasted green tea to finish off the meal.

This meal at Urasawa was another fantastic one. Is it worth the money? I think so, at least once in a while. The food is simple and traditional, letting the high quality of the ingredients speak for themselves. Urasawa’s serious dedication to the craft and affable, humorous personality creates a memorable experience in itself. I’m already planning a return visit, hopefully in January for hairy crab season.

6193641480 d4040d0bf2 Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

KCET Uncorked!
Bouchon Beverly Hills
238 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 6/13/11

6325313020 015e4ed568 KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

Anyone who knows me (or has read their fair share of posts from this blog) knows that I’m a huge fan of Thomas Keller. Huge. Borderline obsessive. So, when I was invited to a seven-course dinner (with wine pairings) at Bouchon with a chance to sit down and dine with Chef Keller, this was truly an invitation I couldn’t refuse.

The dinner was a fundraiser for KCET, the public broadcasting network with shows such as America’s Test Kitchen and Simply Ming. The company I work for is a sponsor for the network, and had 4 seats at the $2,500 a plate dinner. Somehow, I got one of the seats. Can I say…best work perk EVER?

The benefit dinners spanned two evenings – one catered more towards the public (on the 12th, $250pp) and a more intimate affair (on the 13th, $2,500pp) catered to businesses and other large donors. Due to the nature of the event I didn’t bring my camera in, but I did take some quick shots of the food with my crappy camera phone. However, I did have my camera for the second half of the meal.

Before dinner was served, hors d’oeuvres were passed around, consisting of gougères, caviar and smoked trout crostini, some sort of mushroom tarts, and cups of French onion soup.

We started off with a few things at the table as the first formal course.

Olives

6325313724 a6d6757ff4 KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

Rillettes aux Deux Saumons fresh & smoked Scottish salmon rilletes, served with toasted baguette croutons

A really well-balanced blend of fresh and smoked salmon, this was delicious with the toasted slices of baguette.

Pate de Campagne country style pate with watercress, cornichons & radishes

6325313706 ef22c92f92 KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

I don’t often like pates, but I enjoyed this one. Knowing many courses were to come, I abstained from eating too much of it though.

Grand Plateau Maine lobster, oysters, shrimp, little neck clams, Prince Edward Island mussels & dungeness crab
Chardonnay, Rusack Vineyards, Santa Barbara County 2009

6325313752 3d53be3231 KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

6325314096 5c7fa555ea KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

6325314266 6f273c6c17 KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

I’m no stranger to Bouchon’s raw seafood bar (see: American Wine & Food Festival), and it’s hard to go wrong with a tower full of ice and fresh seafood. Everything was good; my favorites were the clams and the lobster (particularly the claw). The clams were plump and had a nice chew, while the lobster was really sweet and delicious. Loved it.

Salade de Fenouil et Abricot young fennel bulb, apricots, Bellwether Farms ricotta cheese & garden sorrel
Chardonnay, Rusack Vineyards, “Reserve”, Santa Maria Valley 2009

6324561845 20eaacf52d KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

I enjoyed this salad. It incorporated a couple of in-season ingredients (fennel and apricot), and really came together with the rich ricotta.

“Carnaroli Risotto Biologico” summer truffles, English peas, sweet pea shoots & parmesan mousse
Pinot Noir, Rusack Vineyards, “Reserve”, Santa Rita Hills 2008

6325313110 732afb82d5 KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

This was probably my favorite dish of the night. One of the best risottos I’ve ever had was the white truffle version at The French Laundry; while this wasn’t quite on the same level, it was executed just as well. Again, seasonal produce was showcased in the form of the pea and pea shoots, lending a lighter, cleaner flavor to this risotto. Little bits of black summer truffles made the dish extra special. Best way to get my veggies and carbs in one spoonful.

Throughout the meal, Chef Keller moved from table to table, eating one course at each.

6325313170 16bfbb91a9 KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Rib-Eye “Cuit Sous Vide” fricassee of fava beans, butter poached morel mushrooms, caramelized cipollini onions & natural lamb jus
Syrah, Rusack Vineyards, “Ballard Canyon Estate”, Santa Barbara County 2008

6324560791 149c9aa7a3 KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

The lamb was prepared a nice medium-rare, leaving it very tender. I also enjoyed the addition of the morels and fava beans. I thought the rich, savory lamb jus really made the difference, bringing everything together. Really enjoyed the syrah with this dish.

Selection de Fromages Artisaneux beemster gouda, marisa & fourme d’ambert with honey comb, candied nuts, cranberry currant campagne & walnut bread
Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot, Rusack Vineyards, “Anacapa”, Santa Barbara County 2007

6325313260 f902ca37df KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

During the cheese course, a live auction was held, featuring trips ranging from across the street (Montage Beverly Hills) to Europe (Monte Carlo).

6325313334 e42c5eaaf2 KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

As the savory courses came to an end, two desserts came out. I was a little surprised they didn’t serve their signature chocolate bouchons though.

Tarte au Citron lemon tart
Semillon, Rusack Vineyards, “Soul of the Vine”, Santa Ynez Valley 2009

6325313450 39ac702dd7 KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

I’m not a huge “sour” person, so I found this lemon tart to be a little bit too sour for me.

Ile Flottante meringue with vanilla creme anglaise, almond & caramel

6324561045 16a0d73893 KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

I liked this dessert better…kind of like a marshmallow, but more complex. It was light, airy and sweet, with the bulk of the flavor coming from the accompanying vanilla creme anglaise. I thought the almonds and caramel worked really well with this dessert.

Mignardises nutter butters, TKO, cookies, macarons, jellies, chocolate tart, lemon meringue

6324561135 82f785c0b9 KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

6325313564 3cf43cd49d KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

Of course, we had the requisite kitchen tour.

6325313686 63aa743de8 KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

I knew coming into this dinner (experience) that I’d probably remember it for the rest of my life. After all, being able to meet and spend some time with Chef Keller was such a unique opportunity for me. I would have to say he was a little less easygoing than in prior meetings, but it was still very cool to spend some time with him.

As for the food, I would call it an excellent Bouchon dinner. I was hoping the food would have glimpses of the cuisine at the French Laundry level, but that wasn’t the case here. Still, similar to previous Bouchon experiences, the dishes were really well-executed and pretty delicious.

6324560965 e66a837030 KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)