Hakkasan (Beverly Hills, CA)

Hakkasan Beverly Hills
233 N. Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 9/28/13

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Hakkasan’s Beverly Hills location opened last week, the latest of three West Coast openings in the past 10 months. This location didn’t open with nearly the splash as the last one (club/lounge/restaurant in Las Vegas), but with the same standards in food that’s awarded the chain Michelin stars in New York and London. I dined at the Las Vegas location in May and thoroughly enjoyed it; I’ve been awaiting this outpost’s opening in order to try more.

Hakkasan’s always sought a fine balance between serious dining and a hip, trendy culture. Its Beverly Hills location, across from Scarpetta and Bouchon, promises to be fairly scene-y already attracting the attention of celebrities around town. Even on this evening, paparazzi were hanging out outside the restaurant awaiting glimpses of anyone worth taking pictures of. I’m always skeptical of the see-and-be-seen restaurants, but Hakkasan seems to have the pedigree to meet the needs of those who are there for the atmosphere and those that just want a delicious meal.

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Lobster Roll

Dining date: 9/1/13

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A lobster roll is one of my favorite things to eat at casual seafood places. Lately, I feel like it’s been popping up more and more in local Los Angeles restaurants becoming fairly hip. Renditions from Hinoki & The Bird and Son of a Gun have received national attention, while we have trucks/restaurants (Lobsta Truck & Cousins Maine) dedicated to the sandwich. We even have our own lobster roll event called the Lobster Roll Rumble. It’s such a simple thing – really, at its simplest, all you need is lobster, butter or mayo, and bread. Perhaps that’s why it’s spreading so quickly from menu to menu.

Being primarily made up of a rather expensive ingredient, a lobster roll is frequently the most expensive item on a menu. Easily reaching into the mid-$20s and, sometimes, low-$30s (I’m looking at you Water Grill!) I often think twice about ordering something so common that is not likely to fill me up. Appearing easy to make at home, I’ve often thought about making my own for much cheaper…and finally did.

I have a pretty good idea of what my ideal lobster roll is. A warm, buttery and toasted bun is key. Of course, perfectly cooked lobster lightly covered in butter (I’m not a cold mayo lobster roll kind of guy). And, I like little to no filler – just the lobster for me. To me, the keys to success were finding split-top hot dog buns (a relative rarity here) and perfectly cooking the lobster. No one likes overcooked, rubbery lobster.

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Connie and Ted’s (Los Angeles, CA)

Connie and Ted’s
8171 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Dining date: 8/4/13

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Connie & Ted’s was one of the most anticipated restaurant openings in LA this year, opened in June. Having made a name for himself at downtown’s Water Grill and his Michelin two-starred Providence, Michael Cimarusti’s name has become synonymous with high-quality seafood in the fine dining space. With Connie & Ted’s, Cimarusti takes his upscale cooking background and relationships with high-quality purveyors into a more casual, more approachable restaurant inspired by New England seafood shacks.

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Maru (Santa Monica, CA)

Maru
12400 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Dining date: 8/15/13

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Maru opened a couple months ago in Santa Monica (on the border of Brentwood), a relocation of a restaurant in Valencia. The man behind the food is chef Jason Park, who mixes the Japanese/Korean influences of his childhood into his classically trained cooking background. A wide variety of sushi and sashimi is offered (which the restaurant self-describes as ‘world-class’), as well as an extensive menu of his Asian-influenced Californian cooking. Desserts are a big part of the menu as well and could stand on their own (as Park’s recent opening of dessert shop Ramekin in Los Feliz earlier this year is proving).

I’d heard good things about the restaurant early on and was invited in for a tasting. On the menu on this evening was a small sample of sushi and sashimi, as well as a good glimpse into Park’s cooking.

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Uni Risotto

Dining date: 8/1/13

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I’ve chronicled a number of risotto dishes on this blog, but I’ve been meaning to prepare a sea urchin (uni) risotto for a while. I was recently inspired by a meal at Mexicali Taco & Co., in which an uni-diving friend brought pounds of fresh urchin to top off our tacos. With some of the residual uni and its juices, I went home to finally prepare this risotto.

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Shibucho (Los Angeles, CA)

Shibucho
3114 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90057
Dining date: 7/24/13

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My friend and I decided to get dinner together with two particular stipulations: that it be sushi-centric and that it be a place neither of us had been to. Finding it difficult to find the ideal restaurant that fit these needs, we turned to Yelp for help. Shibucho ended up being the choice due to its 4-star rating and proximity to downtown. While we should’ve been suspicious of the only 52 Yelp reviews at the time of dinner, Shibucho sounded like a pioneering hidden gem. It’s been serving traditional sushi (no California rolls) in a very unexpected location (Westlake) for 37 frickin’ years (pre-dating Matsuhisa by over a decade). We figured it had to be doing something right. Wrong.

After the meal, my friend said it was the worst meal of the century. I’m not ready to make that claim, but I haven’t yet thought of a worse combination of experience and cost in the past 12.5 years. It was that bad.

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