Ad Hoc Fried Chicken – 8/1/10

I purchased the Ad Hoc Fried Chicken kit from Williams-Sonoma a while back. I saw it in the store and immediately had to get it. Nevermind the fact that I had never made fried chicken before, and am slightly averse to frying in a big pot of oil at home – it was Ad Hoc fried chicken, and I had to have it.

The kit comes with enough brine and seasoned batter for two uses, and I first made the chicken pre-blog. Because I would be using so much oil to fry the chicken, I figured I might as well cook as much as I could, and invite some fried chicken-appreciating friends over and turn it into a bit of a potluck.

First, the chicken. I was able to fit 24 pieces of thighs and drumsticks into the brine, which sat overnight. They were dried, and allowed to come to room temperature.

Ad Hoc’s method is to batter the chicken in the seasoned flour, dip in buttermilk, and then dip again in the seasoned flour.

When the chicken was battered, we let it sit for a few minutes to let the batter set.

After that, they went into the oil. I started with oil that was approx. 350 degrees, subsequent batches were frying at around 330 degrees.

After about 12 minutes, the first batch was done!

After about 5 batches, all 24 pieces were fried. I continuously put in sprigs of thyme to flavor the oil, as well as to act as a garnish.

The chicken was pretty damn delicious, if I do say so myself. The exterior was a golden brown; very crispy. But what made the difference was the very flavorful, juicy interior – definitely a result of the brine. Easily some of the best homemade fried chicken I’ve had. While it was a lot of work, and involved a lot of cleanup (all that oil!), it was worth it…though it will probably be a while until I do it again.

Heather baked some jalapeno cornbread as an appetizer/side – luckily, it wasn’t too spicy…but had just the right kick.

Kristen brought some watermelon, which was quite juicy and delicious.

Angelo brought a couple of salads, and James put on his chef’s hat, making baked corn and a homemade crab dip. Unfortunately, I did not get pictures of these. As I wasn’t sure we would have enough food, I had also made a beef stew ahead of time.

I’ve posted enough times about braising dishes at home, so I didn’t do a step-by-step pictorial. I roasted some cauliflower and broccoli as well.

These were cut up, and roasted in my cast-iron skillet with salt, pepper and olive oil.

I also made some mashed potatoes using russet potatoes, butter, beef fat (from the stew) and heavy cream. Unfortunately though, I didn’t get a picture.

Mike and Lilly of LA Beer Hopping were in charge of the beer.

The selection included Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Allagash White, Alesmith X, BridgePort IPA, and a Ninkasi Spring Reign. I threw in a Pliny the Elder for good measure. I thought this was a pretty good selection. The IPAs would satisfy the “hopheads,” and the Allagash White, Alesmith X and Ninkasi beers attracted those that wanted a less bitter, perhaps lighter, craft beer.

For dessert, we had a couple of options. Heather brought a homemade peach/blueberry/raspberry cobbler served warm.

And I made a tiramisu.

This was actually fairly simple. I whipped up some cream, adding vanilla extract, marscapone, and sugar once it reached the ‘soft peaks’ stage. I layered lady fingers (dipped in a mixture of coffee and kahlua) and the cream mixture, with grated chocolate at each layer.

I was pretty pleased with the meal. It was a lot of work cooking so much (especially all that chicken), but it was a good opportunity to get some people together and enjoy some good food and good brews.

Hatchi Series – 7/29/10

Hatchi Series: Makoto Okuwa
Breadbar

10250 Santa Monica Blvd
Century City, CA 90067

Breadbar is probably more famous for LudoBites and its Hatchi series, than for its bread and rather unspectacular food. The Century City location hosts the Hatchi Series, in which chefs around the city will pop-in for one night and prepare a menu of 8 courses for $8 each. On this night, Makoto Okuwa was in the kitchen under the theme The Power of Miso. Okuwa is the chef of Manhattan Beach’s Sashi Restaurant, and recently appeared on Iron Chef America, challenging Michael Symon.

I would say my expectations going into this meal were “cautiously optimistic.” Many of the reviews I’ve heard of Sashi have been mixed, but this meal at Hatchi would be a different type of meal. Our party enjoying this meal consisted of Holly of The Michelin Project, Kevin of kevinEats, and Ila of I Nom Things. Given that the menu consists of only 8 courses, each of us decided to order one of each.

To start with, we had Breadbar’s Epi bread with a trio of miso butters.

This was a pretty good Epi bread, served warm. The butters were made of a white miso, red miso, and a mugi miso (barley-based). Each had its unique characteristics; I enjoyed the mildly sweet white miso most.

Miso Butter Poached Loch Duart Salmon, Feta Cheese, Micro Basil, Tomato Foam, Pesto Powder

The salmon was great – extremely moist, flaky and tender. Just perfectly cooked. The tomato foam added a nice touch, as well as the strong pesto powder.

Asian Donuts Peach “Taco”, Smoked Lobster, Miso Frozen Yogurt, Paddle Fish Caviar

This was a pretty unique dish. The miso added some sweetness to the frozen yogurt; combined with the smokiness of the lobster – I thought this pairing went well.

California Baby Squid and Tuna Sashimi “Nuta” Style, Pickled Scallion, Wakame Seaweed Chips

I enjoyed this dish, even though it had a lot of components. The squid was nicely cooked, with just a little bit of “chew.” It is filled with sweet blue crab – as its consistency is a little mushy, I was looking for something with a crunch. The wakame seaweed chip provided that great crunchy texture. The squid ink miso was not overpowering in any way, and added some depth of flavor.  The tuna, topped with wasabi, was delicious as well.

Sushi Rice Salad “Shikai Maki” Cucumber, Prosciutto, Tuna, Fontina, Miso Emulsion

The “Shikai Maki” is one of Okuwa’s signature dishes – a beautifully-rolled square-shaped roll; in this case filled with tuna, fontina and cucumber. I found the fontina to be a little overpowering, as I did not get a lot of tuna flavor. I loved the slices of prosciutto adding some richness to the dish.

Taiwan Miso Ramen Soup, Ground Steak, Bean Sprouts, Red Hot Chili, Crispy Egg Noodle

This was one of my favorite dishes of the night, and probably most surprising. Reading the description, one would not think this is essentially a “soup and sandwich (burger)” dish. The noodles, instead of being in the soup, were fried and became the “bun” of the burger. The burger, cooked to a medium, was quite good – and the noodle “bun” worked quite well.

The miso soup was delicious with a deep, clean flavor. It was fairly spicy..almost too spicy for me..but I tend to have a low heat tolerance.

Dengaku “Trio” Braised Wagyu with Summer Truffle, Crispy Tofu with Kinome, Polenta with Chorizo

The wagyu beef (I think this was a short rib) was incredibly tender, as expected. It was flavorful, but I was missing some of the truffle flavor. The polenta and tofu additions were nice.

Caramel Miso Cream, Almond Cinnamon Crumble, Apricot Sorbet, Butter Milk Foam

The first of the desserts was an interesting caramel miso cream. I quite enjoyed this – both the caramel and miso were evident in a light pudding-like dessert. I really enjoyed the almond cinnamon crumble in adding some texture, and the buttermilk foam lightened the dish out.

Pliable Yuzu Curd, Candied Raspberry, Chocolate Sponge, Dry Miso Powder, Sweet Miso Chips, Coconut Sorbet

The final dish of the night focused on a yuzu curd. Somewhat tofu-like in texture, it was definitely very tart, a characteristic of the yuzu fruit.  I enjoyed the coconut sorbet to go along with the yuzu, and the chocolate cake added some sweetness.

I was quite pleased with the meal. My expectations were largely based on what I have heard about Sashi, and Chef Okuwa explained that this meal was very different. His Manhattan Beach restaurant has to, in some respect, cater to its clientele; the Breadbar meal gave him free reign to craft a menu that was representative of himself as a chef. I’m glad he was able to show off what he has to offer, and look forward to trying more of his cuisine in the future.

Bouchon – 7/24/10

Bouchon
The Venetian
3355 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Bouchon has become an ‘old staple’ – the restaurant consistently serves up delicious and comfortable food. So, being in Vegas this past weekend with a big group, Bouchon was a good choice to provide some good food that would appeal to everyone.

A meal at Bouchon always starts with their famous epi bread. Oddly, we received two loaves – one underbaked and one overbaked. The juxtaposition of the two loaves made that fact more evident.

With the bread came a simple cup of pistachios, lightly salted. These were actually quite tasty.

I ordered a French Onion soup, reminiscing on the strong effort from Daniel Boulud Brasserie on my last Vegas visit.

This soup was another very good rendition, with a hearty beef flavor. The onion was not overpowering, and provided a nice sweetness. Great soup for a warm day. Granted, it was 110 degrees outside on this day – and this was still good.

Carré de Porc kurobuta pork loin with summer stone fruit, field greens & whole grain mustard sauce

This looks like a very simple dish, and the pork looks rather plain and dry. However, this was not the case. The pork was quite moist and flavorful, and the peaches added a sweetness that went well. The portion was rather inconsistent with many of the other entrees on the menu, which tend to be on the large size.

Roasted Veal Costalleta Chop glazed Tokyo turnips, whole grain mustard spatzel, bing cheeries, Forestiere butter

This dish was the entree of the day, and came highly recommended by the server. The veal, served bone-in, was cooked perfectly, leaving a very moist and tender piece of meat. The turnips and cherries were great accompaniments, along with the al dente spatzel.

Gnocchi à la Parisienne sautéed gnocchi with a fricassée of vegetables & beurre noisette

Bouchon makes some very good gnocchi. The gnocchi are very light and pillowy, and the vegetables add a vibrant, fresh flavor.

Pommes Frites

You can’t come to Bouchon and not order the fries. You just can’t. These are quite simple, and seasoned just with salt. But the execution is flawless, with a consistently crisp exterior and fluffy interior. Beautiful.

Next we were on to the desserts. For me, many restaurants fail to have desserts that live up to the appetizer and entree. At Bouchon, this is definitely not the case. If I had to make a meal out of the dessert menu, Bouchon would be a pretty damn good choice.

Bouchons vanilla ice cream & chocolate sauce

Their signature dessert, which is always an off-menu “special,” are these cork-shaped brownies made of valrhona chocolate. Usually they have a selection of ice creams, but it was only vanilla on this day. I love the interplay of chocolate and vanilla, and this dessert hits that spot on.

Profiteroles vanilla ice cream & chocolate sauce

What a pretty dessert. The profiteroles are brought to the table and then topped with a chocolate sauce. Again, the vanilla and chocolate flavors meld very well together – really a simple and delicious dessert.

Beignets pastry cream filling & vanilla ice cream

This was the daily special dessert of the evening. The first thing I thought of when I heard “beignets” was the coffee & doughnuts dessert at The French Laundry. I loved that doughnut, and I loved this one too. Light and fluffy, this beignet was filled with a light, sweet pastry cream. It was kind of reminiscent of a lighter version of a Krispy Kreme cream-filled doughnut. Excellent. I wish we had a different flavor ice cream, however, as this was the third of three desserts with the same flavor.

Overall, a very good meal at Bouchon. I’ve come to expect well-executed, comfortable food at each location, and Bouchon seems to always come through.

LudoBites – 7/21/10

LudoBites 5.0 at Gram & Papa’s
227 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015

I was lucky enough to score a reservation to the opening night of this fifth incarnation of LudoBites. The husband-and-wife team of Ludo and Krissy Lefebvre continues to dramatically grow in popularity, clearly indicated by the reservation system crashing once reservations were available this time around. 3000 people tried to log on to the reservation system when it opened up at 5pm on July 7, more than it could handle.

Ludo is one of the most unique chefs around, with his pop-up restaurants giving the public just a brief taste of his ever-changing modern take on French cuisine – before it goes away again. The venue for this iteration is the same as LudoBites 4.0; perfect for me considering I live and work in downtown.

Given that this was LudoBites opening night, I expected to recognize some people, whether it be other chefs, celebrities or bloggers. My expectations were warranted, as Kevin of kevinEats and Ryan of Epicuryan sat down at a neighboring table, and Ludo superfan food writer Jonathan Gold was present as well.

We tried most of the dishes offered, starting with the naan.

Vadouvan Naan Bread, Salted Coconut Butter

The bread was a bit on the salty side, but a decent rendition of naan. The salted coconut had a good coconut flavor; but overall, this ‘bread course’ didn’t stand up to the baguette with honey lavender butter of LudoBites 4.0 – which I really enjoyed.

Grilled Squid, Heirloom Tomato Salad, Black Rice, Yuzu Red Onions, Umami Broth & Seaweed Tartar

I really liked this dish. It screamed “summer” with its fresh, perfectly cooked seafood, and light vibrant flavors primarily from the tomatoes and yuzu red onions.

Raw Wagyu Beef, Dried Miso, Somen Noodle, Peanut Vinaigrette, Candied Watermelon, Mint


Our server, as well as Krissy Lefebvre herself, raved about this dish…and it did not disappoint. Raw slices of wagyu beef topped cold somen noodles. I love beef with noodles, so this was right down my alley. The beef was not too chewy, and provided some great flavor, complemented by some mint and watermelon. The peanut vinaigrette provided just the right amount of acidity to cut through the rich meat. However, I’m not sure I could tell that this was wagyu beef if someone hadn’t told me.

Poached Egg, Potato Mousseline, Santa Barbara Spot Prawn, Chorizo Condiment

This was probably my favorite dish of the night. A silky smooth potato mousseline sat atop a nicely poached egg, on top of some chopped pieces of spot prawn. Great combination here. The potato flavor was subtle, but the combination of the richness of the egg and the sweetness of the prawns was just perfect.

Grilled Octopus, Oregano, Grilled Hazelnut Polenta, Pineapple Aioli, Piment D’Espelette Gelee

I don’t think I’ve ever had octopus in this sort of presentation, with a large grilled tentacle on the plate. The octopus was cooked very well – moist and tender with a great, charred grill flavor. The gelee, a combination of a number of spices, was strong and really brought out some of the flavors of the octopus.

Next on to the entrees – four were offered on this night.

Hot Foie Gras, Chinese Barbecue Sauce, Miso Eggplant Terrine

A very generous chunk of foie gras was presented, perfectly seared. Chinese hoisin sauce was a prominent flavor – I never imagined foie gras with hoisin sauce – but I thought these flavors went well together. In addition, it came with an eggplant terrine, a really unique preparation. Often when I have eggplant, it’s fairly mushy, but that was not the case here – it was more of an al dente texture.

Day Boat Cod, Torched Uni, Ratatouille, Red Bell Pepper Pickles, Black Curry

I enjoyed this dish. The cod was cooked well and was really moist. The ratatouille was fantastic as well. I didn’t think the uni was really necessary though – tasty, but not adding much extra to the dish. I found the black curry to be very overpowering in this dish though, and stayed away from it.

Confit Pork Belly, Raw Choucroute Thai Style, Guiness, Emulsion

What restaurant doesn’t offer pork belly nowadays? This was an excellent rendition, with moist, succulent pieces of pork. The choucroute’s acidity provided a nice balance to the fattiness of the pork.

Steamed Duck, Lemon Verbena, Crispy Skin Puree, White Peach, Radish, Balsamic

This dish was a little underwhelming for me. The duck, while cooked well, was steamed, and I was missing some of the complex, deep flavors that come with searing the meat. The crispy skin provided some nice textural crunch, but it wasn’t quite enough for me.

Next we were on to the desserts.

Campfire Smoked S’mores, Guacamole Sorbet

The smore was a nice treat, and beautifully presented. However the guacamole (primarily just avocado) sorbet combination just didn’t work for any of us at the table.

Caramel Souffle, Blanco Grapefruit, Fleur De Sel Ice Cream

The last iteration of LudoBites featured a very popular dark chocolate souffle. This time around it was caramel – and I think it’s even better. The amount of caramel flavor was just right, and I really enjoyed the Fleur De Sel ice cream, effectively making this a ‘salted caramel’ souffle. Yum.

In all, we were all very satisfied with the meal. It was very solid from start to finish. Do I think it was better than LudoBites 4.0? Hard for me to say; they were both very, very good. I’ll probably have to make a return trip soon in order to make a judgment like that. Service was pretty good this time around..and as usual, Krissy and Ludo are very gracious hosts.

Daniel Boulud Brasserie – 7/4/10

Daniel Boulud Brasserie
Wynn Las Vegas
3131 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89136


We came to Daniel Boulud’s sole Las Vegas restaurant on what would be its last night of service. The Daniel Boulud name just did not attract enough people to the restaurant – evidenced by the restaurant being only half full on its final night during July 4th weekend.

We ordered variations of the “Taste of Wynn” fixed menu, as well as a supplemental burger.

DB’s Onion Soup – cheese, beef shank, guinness

I really enjoyed this soup. Good onion flavor, with a hearty, deep beef flavor imparted by the beef shank. The mixture of the cheeses was delicious as well.

Duck Terrine – foie gras, pistachio, country toast

The terrine was nice, with chunks of duck and foie gras mingled throughout. The pistachio added some crunchy texture, which went well in the terrine.

Scottish Salmon – asparagus, english peas, sauce bearnaise

The salmon was cooked perfectly. However, I thought the rich bearnaise sauce was a little overpowering for the delicate salmon.

Steak Frites – 8 oz. sirloin, watercress, french fries

The steak was great. Tender, flavorful and cooked well. The fries were also delicious, as they came out hot and crispy.  The watercress provided a nice counterpoint, adding a light peppery flavor.

Original BY DB Burger – 9 oz. sirloin burger stuffed with braised short ribs, foie gras, and black truffle, on a parmesan bun with french fries

Considering we had been to Burger Bar earlier in the day for lunch, we wanted to try this as a sort of comparison. Boulud was one of the pioneers of the high-end burger trend, so I really wanted to give this a try.

You can see the burger is just completely stuffed with beef, foie gras and short ribs. Very rich and decadent, you can pick out the beefy flavors of the sirloin and short rib, as well as the foie gras, but I felt the truffles were a bit muted. However, this was still a very good burger, but probably too rich for one person to enjoy.

Chocolate Hazelnut Fondant – nougatine crunch, coffee ice cream

I really enjoyed this dessert, however full I was after that burger. The coffee ice cream was delicious, to start, with a deep coffee flavor. The chocolate cake was fairly dense and richly chocolate – chocolate and coffee are a great pairing.

Meyer Lemon Tart – candied lemon rind, thai basil ice cream

This was a really pretty dessert. The tart was quite sour, indicative of the meyer lemon,  but the sweet lemon rind provided a nice sweetness. The thai basil ice cream was really delicious, and I thought it went pretty well with the strong lemon flavor of the tart.

In all, the meal was very solid. Nothing exceptionally creative, per se, but comfortable food executed well. I don’t think it deserves to close (there are a ton of restaurants that are worse), but people just weren’t coming. Rumor has it that Boulud is looking for other places in Vegas to have a restaurant. Considering the strip’s heavy emphasis on name-brand chefs, it’s probably only a matter of time.

Burger Bar – 7/4/10

Burger Bar
Mandalay Bay
3930 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89119

When I first tried Burger Bar, it was instantly one of my favorite burger places. Created by Hubert Keller of Top Chef Masters and Fleur de Lys fame, Burger Bar offers a number of “signature” burgers, as well as completely customizable burgers. Their most notable burger is probably the Rossini – a kobe beef patty topped with foie gras and shaved black truffles. However, my favorite has been the lighter surf & turf, topped with lobster.

Surf & Turf Burger – black angus, grilled half lobster, grilled green asparagus on a plain bun

I really like how Burger Bar uses a nice, thick patty on their burgers, allowing for a nice medium rare to be cooked.

The burger was cooked perfectly with a nicely seared crust and pink throughout. However, the burger wasn’t quite as juicy as I would expect. The lobster also was a little bit drier than I remembered, but the combination still works well.

Other burgers we had were customized:

Angus beef patty topped with portabello mushroom, grilled onions and guacamole and an onion bun

Vegetarian burger topped with mozzarella and eggplant.

In addition, we ordered some sweet potato fries.

These were simple, good. Often I find sweet potato fries are cut a little thicker than french fries, but these were the same size – which was good. Crispy on the outside with a moist, fluffy interior.

I was satisfied with my burger, but I feel the execution has slipped a notch, somewhat reminiscent of the mediocrity of the San Francisco Burger Bar location.