SUGARFISH Beverly Hills
212 North Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 5/18/13
SUGARFISH, the streamlined sushi concept from Nozawa, has been rapidly expanding across LA since opening its first location in Marina Del Rey five years ago. This Beverly Hills location is the 6th in the chain (a 7th in Calabasas is already planned with rumors of a NYC project next year), though this one’s not quite like the others. This location is home to something called the Nozawa Bar, a reservation-only 10-seat sushi bar in the back of the restaurant serving an omakase-only menu of various sushi/sashimi. Whereas SUGARFISH focuses on more of the “typical” cuts of fish, the Nozawa Bar promises a more adventurous foray into sushi with its ~20 course meal. Another big difference is that the sushi is prepared right in front of the diner (like a typical sushi bar) rather than in the back (something all SUGARFISH locations share).
Lunch and dinner reservations are taken online only (here), at $130 and $150 per meal, respectively. Having never been to Nozawa I was excited to dine here, which seems like the closest thing still in existence (though, a completely different concept). This would also be my first true omakase sushi experience since returning from Japan late last year.
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/9/13
Jose Andres is probably known best for his whimsical, molecular gastronomy creations at The Bazaar (including Saam Room) and Minibar, but he does cook a lot of more traditional fare as well – Jaleo is his version of the Spanish tapas restaurant of his homeland.
There are four Jaleo restaurants across the country, though this Las Vegas branch is the only one not in the Washington D.C. area. Located in The Cosmopolitan Hotel, it sits on the same floor as Scarpetta, STK, Estiatorio Milos, Blue Ribbon Sushi, Comme Ca, and the “secret” pizza place.
The menu is vast, covering over 75 items across meat and cheese plates, land, sea, fried items and paella. Paella are made in a separate paella pit within the main dining room, allowing all diners to watch an impressive display while the paellas cook. Apparently the ventilation system alone cost $1 million, preventing all of the smoke from suffocating diners. Clearly, paella is serious business.
I’ve dined at restauarant-within-the-restaurant é by Jose Andres and left impressed. This would be my first visit to Jaleo proper.
Vegas Uncork’d Grand Tasting
Caesar’s Palace: Garden of the Gods
3570 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/10/13
Each year, Vegas Uncork’d is one of the largest food and wine events on the West Coast. Las Vegas is an ideal place for one of these festivals, given its high concentration of notable chefs with a presence in the city. Granted, Las Vegas is rarely the location of their flagship restaurant, but a large-scale event such as this one really seems to bring in these chefs from across the country (and some internationally).
Vegas Uncork’d, presented by Bon Appetit, spans almost 30 individual, unique events. Intimate dinners and cooking demonstrations make up the bulk of the events, but the one I’ve gone to the past couple of years is the Grand Tasting (and my extended family has been going for many years now). This year, the all-you-can-eat/drink event brought together 100 different restaurants/wineries/spirits for a $225 admission. It’s definitely not cheap, but the food is typically of high quality and the event provides the unique ability to see and interact with many of these chefs (many of whom are elusive, hopping around between restaurants so often). Some of the bigger-name chefs I spotted this year (I’m sure there are others I missed) were Joel Robuchon, Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay, Michael Mina, Guy Savoy, Michel Richard, Francois Payard, Masaharu Morimoto, Hubert Keller, Graham Elliott, and Charlie Palmer. Yep, a lot.
800 W Coast Hwy
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Dining date: 5/5/13
After running 13.1 miles in the OC half marathon, a number of options were debated in which to offset our caloric deficit. Oxtail pho and Brodard’s famous nem nuong spring rolls were leading contenders, as well as dumplings and other comforting Asian soup noodles. However, in the end, Newport Beach’s own location of one of LA’s favorite pizzerias was the choice.
Much has been written about Pizzeria Mozza and its original location on Melrose & Highland in LA continues to be very popular. Opened in 2011, it’s actually the third location of the mini-chain, with the second being in Singapore.
Decor and menu are both very similar to the original, with the latter featuring a bunch of antipasti, a handful of meat, salad and panini dishes, and about a dozen pizzas.
727 N Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 5/3/13
The street food-slinging Kogi food trucks are undoubtedly what chef Roy Choi is most known for, but Chego may be my favorite of his restaurants (I haven’t been to A-Frame yet though). Chego shares the same in-your-face, full-flavored approach as Kogi, but primarily in the form of rice bowls and within a brick-and-mortar format. I’d been to the Westside location a couple of times and enjoyed it both times; the cross-town location just didn’t often justify a trip for me. However, the expiration of their lease a few months ago prompted a move to a very unexpected location – Chinatown.
Douglas Keane (Cyrus)
The Strand House: Culinary Masters Series
117 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Dining date: 4/29/13
For just over a year now, Manhattan Beach’s The Strand House has been doing a monthly dinner hosting notable chefs from across the country. The Culinary Masters Series presents a unique meal; local chefs prepare something different from what they’re serving at their restaurants and out-of-town chefs provide an opportunity to try their food without having to travel. Past chefs have included Walter Manzke, Michael Cimarusti and Josiah Citrin locally, as well as Jonathan Waxman and Jose Garces from the out-of-town category.
On this evening, Douglas Keane (of now-closed 2-Michelin star Cyrus in Healdsburg, CA) came to The Strand House. I’ve dined at Cyrus once before a long time ago (I think it was 2006) but don’t remember all that much from it. I was very excited to get a chance to sample more of Keane’s food. 5 courses were $100; wine pairings (Opus One, La Sirena, Seghesio, Byron) were an extra $50.
One cool aspect of this dinner was the fact that the winemakers (from each winery) showed up to discuss their wines and stories. Below, Michael Silacci of Opus One Vineyards.