Mo Chica – 4/20/10

Mo Chica
3655 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90007

Mo Chica is one of those restaurants that I wonder ‘if I had not heard anything about this place and walked in, how surprised would I be at this food?’ Located in kind of a grungy marketplace food court just east of USC, it’s not exactly a place you’d just stumble into. However, there’s been a lot of buzz around this place ever since it opened, and for good reason. Mo Chica offers a pretty great ceviche, as well as homey, comfortable Latin dishes such as lomo saltado, arroz con pollo, and a braised lamb shank – for very reasonable prices.

Ceviche of the day – sea bass

I like the large chunks of fish – they lend a nice  meaty chew. Definitely a very fresh fish, and not overcooked at all. The popped corn gave a really nice crunchy texture to go along with the fish.

Arroz con Mariscos

I’m a big fan of dishes where the meat/fish is cooked along with rice in a flavorful sauce. Paella and jambalaya are classic examples. Here we have a paella-like dish with shrimp, clams, mussels and squid. The shrimp and squid were cooked well, but the clams and mussels were a bit overcooked. The tomato-heavy sauce was a bit one-note, I thought.

Arroz con Pollo – organic chicken breast, salsa Madre, sauteed rice with cilantro sauce

A pan fried chicken breast + drumette served over rice. Often times when I have this dish, the chicken is cooked with the rice, which I like better. However, the rice (here in a cilantro sauce) had lots of good flavor. The chicken was flavorful too, but not too moist. I don’t really think it was overcooked, just not that impressive.

Seco de Cordero – lamb shank. cilantro beer stew, Peruvian canary beans, salsa criolla

The lamb here was cooked pretty well, falling off the bone. It had a nice chew to it, but was somewhat gamey…just a little too much for my liking. However, still a very solid dish with a very flavorful stew/sauce.

Oxtail risotto

The dish of the day was an oxtail risotto. The oxtail was very good, braised in a rich sauce until fork-tender. Really good flavor. The barley risotto was pretty cheesy, and had a nice al dente texture. Good mix of flavors and textures – my favorite dish of the night.

Mo Chica is a solid bet. Not all of the dishes were complete hits, but none were bad, either. For $11-13 per entree, it’s hard to beat. The ceviches are a must, and ordering a few entrees to split will likely leave you satisfied.


Bouchon – 4/16/10

Bouchon Beverly Hills
238 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

It’s been a little while since going to Bouchon. Since going twice on its opening weekend, I hadn’t been back until now. I was interested to see if the food and service still held up to what I remembered from the first weekend. My friend and I came on this Friday night at 8 without a reservation – and were able to be squeezed in outside under the heat lamps.


I have said that Bouchon is one of my favorite casual restaurants. It’s simple French bistro comfort food done well. The execution, as expected at any Thomas-Keller restaurant, is top-notch. The first dish we ordered was one of the daily appetizer specials: salmon tartare.

The salmon tartare was topped with lemon juice, and accompanied by shallots, capers, chives, eggs through a sieve – and topped with creme fraiche. The crostini that came with it provided the crunchy texture, and the salmon and creme fraiche the bulk of the flavor.

Poulet Rôti – roasted chicken with riz rouge, Michigan sour cherries, wilted spinach & chicken jus

I’ve had the roasted chicken at Bouchon before, and it really is top-notch. The skin is very nicely browned and crispy, and the meat (both white and dark) is superbly moist and flavorful. The chicken jus is rich and delicious, and I almost like the accompanying red rice/spinach/cherries mixture, adding some extra heartiness to the dish. A really well-executed dish.

Steak Frites – pan-seared prime flatiron served with maître d’hôtel butter & French fries
Bouchon’s fries are delicious. Wonderfully crispy, perfectly salted. Add a tender, perfectly-cooked steak with a compound butter, and you’re set. The flatiron steak was very tender and cooked a beautiful medium-rare.

Profiteroles -vanilla ice cream & chocolate sauce
Probably my favorite dessert at Bouchon, these profiteroles are wonderfully simple. The valhrona chocolate sauce sets the tone here, as a rich chocolate flavor that’s not overly sweet. The interplay with the vanilla ice cream is just wonderful. The pasty adds some crisp – in all, a very satisfying dish.
The food tonight was good – on point. However, service was not. Entrees came out before we were finished with the appetizer, and even before our next set of silverware was placed down. We were totally devoid of bread service the entire night. When we inquired about this after finishing our entrees, we were given a pair of loaves to take home. This was definitely nice, though never should’ve happened in the first place.
Is Bouchon still my favorite casual eatery in LA. Possibly.  I think the food was still consistent; however, the service on this night was definitely lacking. I’m still a fan of the place, but it’s not the slam dunk that it was when it first opened.

BLT Steak – 4/10/10

BLT Steak
8720 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069

At last year’s American Wine & Food Festival, my dad bid on a number of items in the silent auction. One of the items he won was a gift certificate to BLT Steak, which he gifted to me for Christmas.

BLT Steak is a trendy spot on the Sunset Strip of West Hollywood. Opened by fame chef Laurent Tourondel, it’s known mostly for  its steaks (of course) as well as the complimentary bread (a popover). See menu here: BLT-dinner-menu

The server had recommended a number of dishes; surprisingly, a number of them were fish. There was no way we were ordering fish. Instead we went with some big meat options, the 40-ounce porterhouse for two and the 22-ounce bone-in ribeye. Pretty sizable for two people, but I was pretty sure we could do it.

One of the complimentary dishes is a chicken pate. Interesting. It’s served with a toasted ciabatta.

The pate was just a little warm, and was delicious. There was definitely a very present liver flavor in the pate.

The bread, which is a signature of BLT’s, is the popover. These are pretty large, though hollow on the inside. A nice crust is on the outside, with a subtle cheesy, moist interior. The flavor of the interior was not unlike CUT or French Laundry‘s cheese puffs. Unique and very good.

Next came the steaks. Here, the 40-ounce porterhouse.

And below, the 22-ounce bone-in ribeye. I thought it was a great idea to have roasted bone marrow come alongside. Both steaks came with a whole roasted garlic bulb as well.

The meat, here the strip portion of the porterhouse, was cooked pretty well for the most part. The ribeye was cooked flawlessly, and the strip portion of the porterhouse was great too. A nice pink interior with minimal browning from the sear. However, the filet portion of the porterhouse was uneven, lending to about one third of it being well-done (the thinner side).

To accompany the steaks, we had smashed fingerling potatoes and grilled asparagus. The smashed fingerlings were a little disappointing. There needed to be more “smash,” more salt, and maybe some herbs. The grilled asparagus, however, was perfect.

We passed on dessert, as the food was a bit more filling than expected. My overall impression was very positive. The only major misstep was the cooking of the filet portion of the porterhouse, and maybe the fingerlings (though they weren’t bad, just unspectacular). The quality of the beef was clearly very good, and the popover was very memorable.

Dean Sin World – 4/10/10

Dean Sin World
306 N Garfield Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754

Dean Sin World is a sort of hole-in-the-wall Chinese spot in a Monterey Park strip mall specializing mainly in baked goods and dumplings. I wouldn’t say it’s yet in the collective conscience, but is well-known among food bloggers and Yelp.

The interior is spartan, as you can see below. Hey, an A rating!

The menu has a pretty wide array of baked goods, noodles and dumplings. You can also buy many of their dumplings frozen by the bag of 50.

After our order, we were served complimentary peanuts with seaweed. I think this simple dish is actually pretty good, and would make good snacking.

Another complimentary dish that came out was this fried tofu and bamboo shoots. I didn’t really care for this dish.

The first dish of our dishes that came out was this spicy wonton. This is the same wonton that is served in their ge-chai wonton soup, but served with a chili oil instead. I wouldn’t call this spicy, but the chili oil provided some nice flavor.

The next has to be one of their most popular items, the xiao long bao. These juicy pork dumplings are quite delicious, and quite a bargain at 10 for $5.

Another popular dish is their beef noodle soup. It’s a heaping bowl of egg-y noodles in a very rich beefy broth. A generous portion of tender braised beef shank is added atop.

The bowl is filled pretty much to the brim with a lot of noodles. I tend to prefer the noodles a bit more al dente here, but they’re good nonetheless, and held up well even when sitting in the soup for a while. I tend to prefer brisket in my beef noodle soup, as the meat is easier to separate from the tendon (with shank, the tendon is interspersed throughout the meat).

Next was the pancake with beef.

This is a crispy pancake/crepe wrapped around layers of beef and greens. Pretty good.

This was my third trip here, and it was as satisfying as the last couple. There’s some really great food here, comforting to the soul. The owners are very warm and hospitable, and the prices can’t be beat. I’m surprised this restaurant has not really caught on yet, but I figure it’s only a matter of time until this small restaurant has lines out the door.

Lazy Ox Canteen – 4/9/10

Lazy Ox Canteen
241 S San Pedro
Los Angeles, CA 90012


Lazy Ox Canteen has been a pretty hot restaurant since it opened up a few of months ago. The reviews have been very good, especially from LA Times critic S. Irene Virbila and her three-star review. In it, she had a lot of praise, even boldly proclaiming the “Ox burger, which, to my mind, is now the best burger in town.”

I’ve been three times, and they’ve all been very good. Today, thanks to the tremendous line outside Daikokuya, I came again. Unfortunately, this fourth visit was easily the least pleasing of all of my visits. It wasn’t so much due to the food or service, but their lunch menu is very limited. The chalkboard specials, which comprise most of the available dishes on a given night, are not available. Thus, only the basic lunch menu is available, offering three entrees (one of which was the pork frites, which they were out of).

brick roasted mussels with basil, white wine, house made sriracha & french feta

A small portion here, but the mussels were as plump and juicy as the clams had been on my last visit. Some of the best I’ve had in LA. The sauce was nice and a little spicy due to the housemade sriracha.

Lazy Ox Burger

The burger comes with fries, tossed in fresh herbs and salt. Good. Not great, but good.

The burger here is beautiful. It’s a great lunch portion as it’s somewhat petite. The meat here was cooked a nice medium-rare all around, topped with arugula, red onions, housemade aioli and carmody cheese. While I probably haven’t tried enough burgers in LA to say which is best – this is definitely a good variation. I might prefer the Father’s Office burger, however.

Other dishes I have enjoyed here on other visits include the salt cod brandade croquette, dashi marinated yellowtail, hand-torn egg pasta, and pork frites (exceptional).

Service has just been ‘okay’ on most of my visits.  Even somewhat mediocre when it gets busy, which is unfortunate. I will definitely be back here, as I am a fan, but probably not for lunch anytime soon.

Haven Gastropub – 4/8/10

Haven Gastropub
190 S Glassell St
Orange, CA 92866

I’ve been meaning to try this place for a little while now, since my friend (who is a regular) has been talking about it for some time. Located just off the Chapman University campus, Haven Gastropub draws a lot of students, as well as locals in the area. As a “gastropub,” Haven offered a very extensive wine and beer list, as well as gourmet foods to pair with the alcohol. We decided to share a number of dishes to sample the menu.

Pommes Frites with truffle oil – house-cut french fries, fresh herbs, housemade ketchup

I had high expectations for these. I had the Wustkuche truffle fries the prior night, and I love those. These are thinner, and I thought they would have just the right ratio of crispiness:fluffy potato texture.  However, I was wrong.  The fries weren’t too crispy at all, and actually rather soggy. How disappointing! The truffle essence was perfectly subtle, and delicious.

Roasted Spaghetti – spaghetti squash, marinara, cheese

This was kind of a unique dish. Spaghetti squash is peeled to yield spaghetti-like strands, and prepared to mimic a spaghetti pasta. This was quite good, and really was kind of like a pasta with a crunch. A guilt-free pasta. The marinara and cheese went well with the squash and was not overpowering.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken – jumbo drummettes, orange-habanero BBQ sauce

I’ve been on a fried chicken kick lately, so we had to try these. The “jumbo” drumemttes (they weren’t that jumbo) were cooked well, but rather bland. They needed more seasoning here, especially when it’s only white meat. The orange-habanero BBQ sauce was not spicy at all, but lended some of the missing flavor.

Pulled Pork Sliders – chipotle aioli, warm apple-cabbage slaw

These were delicious. The pork was moist and flavorful, and the slaw lended a bit of texture to the sliders.

Arrogant Mussels – black mussels, tomatoes, fresh herbs, Arrogant Bastard broth with a splash of cream

The mussels, named for the Arrogant Bastard ale that they are cooked in, were a disappointment. A little bitter, a little sandy, and rather small, these were just a letdown. In addition, there were at least 5 in the bowl that were still closed. Not good.

Roasted Neck of Lamb – braised kale, gremolata

I really enjoyed the presentation of this dish, with the greens brightening up the dish. The gremolata was somewhat deconstructed, with whole leaves of parsley and minced garlic on top of the lamb. Unfortunately, the lamb meat was a bit bland and a little dry. This was quite a surprise, since I’m pretty sure this was braised, and I expected a rich, flavorful sauce. The parsley and garlic were a nice accoutrement, and added some fresh, vibrant flavor.

I had mixed feelings with Haven. Some of the dishes were clear successes (sliders and spaghetti) while some others fell flat (lamb and mussels). The beer and wine list are both great, so I could see why this place is popular. I think you just have to know what to order, as it can be fairly hit-or-miss.