Umami Burger, Scoops – 6/20/10

Umami Burger
4655 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Scoops
712 N Heliotrope Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90029

Umami Burger is currently one of the more popular burger chains in LA – founded in 2009, its success has allowed it to quickly expand to four locations already in the LA area (and one more coming to the SF Valley later this year).  Being a fan of a well-made burger, and hey – with a name like Umami Burger – naturally, it was only a matter of time until I paid a visit.

This location offers 9 burgers – we decided to give the signature ‘Umami Burger’ a try, as well as the truffle burger. But first, the sweet potato fries and french fries.

The sweet potato fries were solid – nicely crisp on the outside and sweet and tender on the inside.

The potato fries were another story. These thick, block-cut fries were lacking crispness on the outside, and were a bit undercooked inside. In addition, they tasted rather plain and undersalted.

Umami Burger

This burger, their signature, was just okay. The meat and bun were both good, though they did not really stand out. I will note that meat was cooked to a very nice medium-rare, however.  This burger is topped with the housemade ketchup, mushroom, and tomatoes – the mushrooms were a bit too much for this burger, as they were overpowering.

Truffle Burger – italian truffle cheese, truffle glaze

The Truffle Burger, on the other hand, was delicious. Again, the meat is cooked a nice medium rare, and topped simply with a truffle-scented cheese. I really liked the subtle truffle flavor in this burger and gobbled it up pretty quickly.

We saved room for dessert and went to Scoops to fill that void. I’d never been to Scoops before for some reason – with it being one of the more popular ice cream joints in the city, a visit was far overdue.

Scoops offers only a few flavors each day, but they’re usually pretty unique.

The first one we tried here was the espresso coffee and salty chocolate. Both of these were very rich, with a good, deep flavor.

This second one is the coconut Thai iced tea ice cream and chocolate. The Thai iced tea was delicious – refreshing and really reminiscent of the drink.

Lastly we had the brown bread and peanut butter toffee. The brown bread was very interesting – mildly sweet with small bits of crispy cereal. The peanut butter tasted very much like peanut butter. Given that, it was good for the first few bites but got tiring rather quickly.

Most of the ice cream came out a bit softer than I would like, so they melted pretty quick too. I’m not sure if it’s always like this, or if the freezer temperature was just not as cold this day.

Grace – 6/19/10

Grace
7360 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036


Tonight was Grace’s last night of service in their current location, before moving to a larger space downtown. I was invited by Kevin of kevinEats for their last night, and joined Austin of Living to Eat, Mike of Right Way To Eat, and my friend Diana. Having been established for a number of years, Grace has become a staple in LA’s fine dining scene, winning numerous accolades this year. Chef Neal Fraser was even a challenger on the second season of Iron Chef America (defeating Cat Cora in Battle Pork). My previous three trips to the restaurant, however, have been ‘just okay.’ This last meal would be the best of them all.

We  put ourselves in the chef’s hands and went with the seven course chef’s menu.

Sashimi of Japanese Hamachi fennel, radish, California olive oil, sea beans

A nice, light dish to start out with here – the hamachi was very tender, and I liked the combination with a little crunch of the radish. I could’ve used a little bit of acidity (a few drops of lemon juice would suffice), but overall this was a good dish.

Sauteed Day Boat Scallop English pea risotto, morel mushrooms, asparagus, basil nage

The scallop was perfectly cooked, and equivalent in quality to the one I had at Providence the other day. The English peas provided some nice texture, though I wouldn’t call that preparation a risotto.

Olive Oil Poached Halibut brandade, horseradish cream, sherry gelee

The halibut was cooked well on top, and the brandade provided an extra dimension of fish. The sherry gelee provided nice acidity to balance out the fried brandade.

Sauteed Channel Island White Sea Bass white beans, artichokes barigoule, pistoue

I really enjoy light white fish, seared with a crispy skin. A prime example is the one above. The skin was very crispy, and the flesh really moist.

Slow Cooked Egg spring onions, pork belly, chanterelle mushrooms, white asparagus

This was an interesting dish, as all of our others featured a fish or meat. Here, the perfectly poached egg was the centerpiece, complemented by onions, asparagus and chanterelles. There was a small piece of pork belly as well, which probably was not even necessary. It was a little bit on the dry side for pork belly, largely due to the uncharacteristic leanness of this pork belly.

Oven Roasted Suckling Pig potato gnocchi, chanterelle mushrooms, white asparagus, pork jus

Next up, suckling pig. The meat was mostly cooked well, though it wasn’t tremendously juicy. The corn succotash that came with it added a delicious sweetness.

Next up was a sampling of desserts. Unfortunately, our take-home menu did not clearly detail which of the 5 we got. However, we were able to determine which desserts were which, outside of the donuts.

Honeyed Pain Perdu lavender ice cream, meyer lemon curd, pistachios

My first bite into this reminded me of something like fried tofu, oddly enough. The texture was rather mushy, with a crispy exterior. The meyer lemon curd was a nice compliment.

Chocolate Soufflé Cake Affogato vanilla malt ice cream, toasted almonds, espresso syrup

This was probably my favorite – I like chocolate cake and I like affogato…how could it fail? Essentially, this was a good chocolate cake topped with vanilla ice cream, but the espresso syrup added a deep coffee flavor that really worked well.

Next up were two donut dishes paired with ice cream.

These were both very good, though unfortunately I’m not sure which flavors the donuts or ice cream were in particular.

Sticky Toffee Pudding bruléed bananas, toffee sauce, hazelnut gelato

The pudding was rich, and had a deep caramel/toffee flavor. I did not think the bruleed bananas fit in that well, however. They seemed a little out of place.

Given that this was Grace’s last night for a while, tonight’s meal gave diners a reason to come back when they open up their new location. My meal on this day was easily the strongest of the four I’ve had at Grace.


Petrossian – 6/18/10

Petrossian
321 N Robertson Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Petrossian has been a hot restaurant around town since chef Benjamin Bailly took over the helm of the kitchen. Best known as purveyors of caviar, Bailly has elevated the restaurant to become a dining destination as well. The restaurant has been very popular in the food blogging world, but outside of that, I don’t think it has really caught on. As of the date of this writing, its Yelp review has a measly 60 reviews – an indicator that people simply aren’t paying a visit (though when they do, it’s favorable, given the 4-star review).

The decor is very sleek, clean, modern with stark black-white contrasts.

I was rather surprised that the restaurant was not very crowded at all on a Friday night. Less than half of the tables were occupied. Note the above picture was taken at the end of the night when they were closing.

We decided to try a number of dishes off the menu, which (obviously) emphasizes the use of caviar in a number of its preparations.

Wild mushroom cappuccino

This dish was a playful rendition of a cappuccino, except it was a frothy, rich mushroom soup. I’m not a mushroom lover, so I enjoyed the first few sips but kind of got tired of it.

Crispy Egg cipollini onion soubise, smoked salmon, caviar

This is an interesting course, of a poached egg in a crispy exterior.

When broken, the rich yolk escapes all over the plate. This was yummy – runny egg yolks typically are – and the saltiness of the caviar cut into the rich yolk nicely.

Black Truffle “Mac ‘n’ Cheese” orechiette, bacon, parmesan

This dish was seriously delicious. Loved it, and I typically don’t really even like mac and cheese. Nice al dente orechiette pasta is mixed in with a rich parmesan cream sauce, with black truffle and bacon. That combination is hard to beat.

Petit Petrossian 12 gr. Transmontanus caviar, classic accoutrements

Since we’re at Petrossian, some caviar tasting was in order. This Transmontanus caviar is from California white sturgeon, served here with blinis, creme fraiche, and crumbled hardboiled egg.

The caviar was, of course, salty, seafood-tasting, and a little but nutty. The fresh warm blinis were great as well.

Napoléon Tartare Hand sliced steak tartare with layer of caviar

This dish is a steak tartare, with a layer of caviar running through it. Mixed greens and crostini came along for serving.

This dish was deceivingly large, as the steak and caviar (a generous portion) are pretty densely packed. I think we went through 16-20 crostini before just finishing off the tartare straight. I was a little disappointed by this dish, I thought the flavor was fairly monotone – that of Worcestershire sauce? Also, I got a number of bites of raw steak gristle, which weren’t pleasant.

We didn’t feel like dessert as the whole meal, which didn’t seem like a ton of food, was really filling (notably the mac and cheese and steak tartare). My overall impression of the restaurant is positive, and I’m still surprised more people aren’t coming in.

Providence – 6/17/10

Providence
5955 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038

While I had been to Providence only a month earlier, the restaurant’s anniversary promotion brought me and some friends in. During the month of June, the restaurant is offering their 5-course menu for $65 to celebrate their anniversary.

Unfortunately, the menu was hardly different from my last trip. The tasting menu is to be shared among the table, and we were a little pressed for time, so I stuck with the 5-course with one supplement (spot prawns).  The following was the meal, with some of the courses from the vegetarian tasting menu:

amuse bouche – gin and tonic, margarita, cured tasmanian sea trout

This amuse has been a Providence staple for some time. The “cocktails” are always a fun bite, and the cured sea trout, while kind of an odd pairing with the two “cocktails,” is fresh tasting and a good starter for the meal to come.

japanese kanpachi crispy rice crackers, coriander, soy crème fraîche

The kanpachi is a denser fish, and a bit chewy. The rice crackers added a nice crispness, and I thought the coriander really brightens up the flavors.

The vegetarian course was hearts of palm wrapped in asparagus with rice crackers and topped with a tomato.

bobby’s block island scallop japanese eggplant, ramps, reduction of vadouvan and sauternes

This was one of my favorite courses in my last outing, and I was happy to see it again. The scallop is perfectly seared, and fairly rare in the interior. The mild curry sauce, and subtle crunch from the bell peppers and eggplant, really separate this dish from other scallop dishes.

The vegetarian course was a carrot soup/grilled cheese combination. A curry foam and creme fraiche is added to the carrot soup.

salt roasted santa barbara spot prawns live spot prawns roasted in salt, served with spanish olive oil and lemon

We ordered this course a la carte to supplement the 5-course. A pan full of salt comes to the table, and the prawns are carved tableside. Three prawns are carved for each person, and topped with lemon and olive oil. Very simple.

The presentation is pretty impressive for this course. While not overcooked, the shrimp was a little more cooked than I would have liked it (I would call this a medium, compared to a preferred medium rare). I had this dish two trips ago, and it was more closely a medium rare on that trip. However, these were very fresh prawns – clean flavors and a nice sweetness made this dish.

wild halibut smoked paprika, squash, basil bread crumbs

This piece of fish was cooked really nicely.  The halibut was very flavorful, and the basil breadcrumbs were unique and really went well with this dish.

The vegetarian course was a poachaed egg over polenta, topped with black summer truffles, a tomato-bell pepper compote, and a frisee salad.

marcho farms veal tenderloin sweet peas, bacon, almond, and morel mushrooms

This is an exceptional veal dish – extremely tender, and somewhat mild in flavor considering it’s from the tenderloin. The peas, bacon and almonds complement and bring out the flavors of this dish. However, my top piece appeared to be cooked a bit more than the bottom piece. Each of the other diners had a really nice pink in the center, while this was brownish. I’m not really sure why this was, but it was rather irritating, though I don’t think it affected the flavor or tenderness much.

Comparatively, this is what the veal looked like on the previous visit.

yuzu curd, meringue raspberry sorbet, jasmine

The yuzu curd was fairly tart, and the raspberry sorbet added additional tartness. Though, there is a nice crunch from cookie crumbles. However, I find I’m more of a sweets type of dessert person.

Finally, the mignardises.

We were served white chocolate macarons, salted caramel and a chocolate pepper marshmallow. These were all good, and I really enjoyed the macaron. The marshmallow was interesting, with a very subtle peppery kick.

In all, another fairly solid meal, though not quite as good as last month’s. Part of that is probably attributable to having a very similar menu. Service was a little less polished this time around, as bread only came around once (we had to ask a second time) and water and drinks weren’t filled up as quickly as anticipated. Having said that, Providence remains one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I’ve become very critical because I’ve had some really great meals here.

Pot Roast – 6/13/10

For anyone that is a semi-regular reader, most of my home cooked meals have been braises. They’re just really satisfying dishes that do take some time, but yield some really delicious, tender meat and creates a good sauce at the same time. Plus, they’re usually pretty inexpensive to make, as ‘cheap’ cuts are typically the cuts of meat that are braised.

My desire to cook a pot roast was somewhat inspired by an episode of Barefoot Contessa that I recently watched – the revelation came to me as I was looking at a stack of leeks in my local Bristol Farms. They had a really nice chuck roast in the meat department; thus, my mind was made.

I didn’t actually look up the actual recipe before cooking; I largely did it from memory and made it my own. However, this is what Ina Garten’s is for reference:

Ingredients

* 1 (4 to 5-pound) prime boneless beef chuck roast, tied
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* All-purpose flour
* Good olive oil
* 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
* 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
* 2 cups chopped celery (4 stalks)
* 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 to 4 leeks)
* 5 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
* 2 cups good red wine, such as Burgundy
* 2 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
* 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes in puree
* 1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
* 1 chicken bouillon cube
* 3 branches fresh thyme
* 2 branches fresh rosemary
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Pat the beef dry with a paper towel. Season the roast all over with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Dredge the whole roast in flour, including the ends. In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the roast and sear for 4 to 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Turn and sear the other side and then turn and sear the ends. This should take 4 to 5 minutes for each side. Remove the roast to a large plate.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the Dutch oven. Add the carrots, onions, celery, leeks, garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper and cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned. Add the wine and Cognac and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, bouillon cube, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Tie the thyme and rosemary together with kitchen string and add to the pot. Put the roast back into the pot, bring to a boil, and cover. Place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is fork tender or about 160 degrees F internally. Turn the heat down to 250 degrees F after about an hour to keep the sauce at a simmer.

Remove the roast to a cutting board. Remove the herb bundle and discard. Skim off as much fat as possible from the sauce. Transfer half the sauce and vegetables to a blender or a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree until smooth. Pour the puree back into the pot, place on the stovetop over low heat, and return the sauce to a simmer. Place 2 tablespoons flour and the butter in a small bowl and mash them together with a fork. Stir into the sauce and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring until thickened. Taste for seasonings. Remove the strings from the roast, and slice the meat. Serve warm with the sauce spooned over it.

I bought a three-pound chuck roast, already tied with butcher twine.

With some salt, pepper and flour, I browned this on all sides.

Then I added my aromatics – onions, celery, carrots and leeks.

I cooked these down a little bit, then added some red wine, chicken broth and a can of tomatoes. Finally, I put the roast back in for the braise.

I put this in the oven for about three hours to let the braise do its work. When it came out, I took the meat out to rest, then cut it up into slices.

While cutting it up, I could tell it was pretty tender, but not quite “falling apart” tender. I added these slices back into the sauce to warm, and topped with chopped parsley.

I needed something to serve this with, so I whipped up some yukon gold potatoes into a mash, with fresh chives from the garden.

I was ready for plating!

Overall, my dish was a little bit of a disappointment. My mashed potatoes were slightly lumpy, and not on purpose. Some of the larger potato chunks were a little undercooked, so they left some small chunks. The pot roast itself wasn’t quite as tender as I thought it’d be. It was a little dry too. Hmm. I think I may have cooked it a little too long. In addition, my sauce wasn’t really as thick as I would’ve liked – I should’ve added some flour or corn starch to it at the end…unfortunately, I just totally forgot to do this. Overall it was definitely something I’d eat, but my execution was a little off today.

Porterhouse Bistro – 6/10/10

Porterhouse Bistro
8635 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036

I’d been to Porterhouse Bistro a few years ago, and my lasting impression was generally “okay, good value.” My friend is getting his wisdom teeth taken out tomorrow, and he wanted a steak. Combine that with a Groupon, and I have my second visit.

Porterhouse Bistro doesn’t hide the fact that they serve USDA Choice grade steaks – they actually brag about serving some of the best Choice grade steaks, promising you won’t know the difference between Prime and Choice. They’re well known for offering these steaks as part of a 4-course prix fixe menu for a very reasonable price ($43 currently).

Instead of the prixe fixe, the two of us opted for a la carte. We wanted the extra flexibility, and didn’t want dessert – we would be saving room for Mozza afterwards.

Warm La Brea Bakery baguette served with a medley of accompaniments, including our house tapenade, tomato bruschetta, a whole roasted garlic flower, and butter

This is actually the first “course” of the prix fixe menu as well, even though you get it free when you order a la carte. Kind of a cop-out course if you ask me. The bread was served warm, but it was reheated a little too long, as the exterior was a little chewy.  The accompaniments were okay though.

We went with two different appetizers.

Crab Cakes – House Cole Slaw and Tartar sauce

These were fried a bit longer than ideal, but good. The crab flavor was evident, and the exterior had a nice crunch to it.

Ravioli of the Day – Mushroom ravioli in a rich cream sauce

The ravioli was pretty good. The pasta was al dente and had a good flavor. The sauce was pretty rich, but good in small amounts. I probably wouldn’t want an entree of this.

40 oz. Porterhouse


We went with the 40 ounce, as the 24 ounce wasn’t gonna be enough for us.  The steak comes out pre-sliced in a sizzling pan. I’m a pretty picky eater when it comes to steaks, and here are the issues I had with this one:

1. The steak wasn’t really cooked a medium rare. The cooking temperature was too high and, as a result, the exterior half of the meat was a greyish well done, and the interior half was fairly rare.

2. The steak lacked a really beefy flavor, and the strip portion wasn’t too tender. I wasn’t expecting the best steak I’ve ever had, but the quality of the strip loin was pretty unimpressive. It wouldn’t be too hard to beat this at home. The filet, on the other hand, was much better – it was a generous portion and very tender.

As an overall observation, it was kind of odd to notice that the steak had been cooked, at least partially, after cutting. The meat around the bone was well-done, and the slices were lightly cooked on the sliced ends as well. I’m not sure what they did or how this affected the meat, but I thought it was odd.

Porterhouse Fries

The fries were nicely thick cut. However, they add some sort of batter to these fries and overfried them. In addition, they were underseasoned.

Sautéed Spinach

An additional side of spinach rounded out the meal and made us feel a little less guilty about what we were eating.

Having finished our meal at Porterhouse Bistro, we were ready for dessert. My friend had never been to Pizzeria Mozza, so what better way to cap off a meal than with a couple pizzas?

Ipswich clams, garlic, oregano, pecorino & parmigiano

The Ipswitch Clam pizza is one of my favorites. Not too salty and not at all fishy, the clams are a tender and flavorful topping to this pizza with just the right amount of garlic and oregano.

Bacon, salami, fennel sausage, guanciale, tomato & mozzarella

The all meat pizza. Yum. Also one of my favorites, it happens to be a greasy mess of meaty goodness. There was a little less cheese this time than I typically find, but the combination of meats is fantastic. There was also a nice smokiness with one of the meats.

I had ordered two pizzas in the hope of having some leftovers for lunch the next day. Unfortunately, we did eat both and I felt (still feel) like a fatass. Our meal at Mozza was far more satisfying than our meal at Porterhouse Bistro. Overall the meal was a bit of a letdown, but I still think it offers a great value, especially to someone not as picky about their steak.