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.
8400 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Dining date: 3/30/13
Red Medicine is easily one of the city’s most controversial restaurants and it doesn’t really have anything to do with the food. Indeed, I think the outing of LA Times food critic S. Irene Virbila and the public admonishing of no-show diners has brought the restaurant nationwide attention, but it has likely overshadowed the food. More quietly, I’ve heard that the food coming out of Red Medicine’s kitchens are some of the more interesting, beautiful and delicious in the city, finding an ideal balance between Vietnamese influences and more modern American cuisine.
I first sampled Red Medicine at the debut of revolving pop-up Test Kitchen in 2010, just before its opening in November of that year. Soon after the opening I stopped in for lunch, but it took me just over two years after that last visit to stop in for a proper dinner meal. I’ve been many times for dessert, but a full dinner was long overdue.
429 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Dining date: 3/22/13
Colori Kitchen has been a popular spot downtown for as long as I’ve been living in the area. It’s popular with the Yelp crowd and been one of the lone noteworthy Italian restaurants in the area up until recently (Drago Centro, Bestia, Maccheroni Republic have now entered the fray). I dined here once a long time ago for a private event and remember almost nothing from it; a friend convinced me to return after a meal at Maccheroni Republic.
The success of this original location spawned a second one (Colori at Figueroa) just a few blocks away, meant to satisfy the downtown lunch crowd in particular. The original has a much more extensive menu covering just about anything Italian one would want. Portions are generous and they have a no-corkage BYOB policy (I have heard it’s one bottle per two diners, though I’m not sure how strictly this is enforced). Food-wise, we stuck to a few of the house favorites.
13488 Maxella Ave
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
Dining date: 4/10/13
Paiche opened this past Friday, the newest venture from the Mo-Chica/Picca team of Ricardo Zarate and Stephane Bombet. I’d been to Paiche the week before for the collaborative dinner with Naomi Pomeroy (of Beast in Portland), but this would be my first look at the restaurant in its true form. The restaurant opened up for a Friends & Family night to celebrate the grand opening and get a full night’s service under its belt.
Overall I would say the style of the food is very similar to Picca and Mo-Chica, but the izakaya approach presents a few differences. Portions are tapas-sized, sized to be able to share a lot of different flavors. The menu is, by far, the most vast I’ve seen from the team with over 50 items on the menu. The drink side of the menu is equally as large, with almost 20 cocktail options on the menu and dozens more in terms of wine/beer/spirits.
Son of a Gun
8370 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 4/9/13
Graham Elliot might be best-known for being a judge on MasterChef (alongside Gordon Ramsay and Joseph Bastianich), but he first made a name for himself in the kitchens of Chicago. He’s opened three restaurants in the city with his flagship being the eponymous Graham Elliot, which was awarded two Michelin stars in the latest guide. Elliot was in town to do some MasterChef tapings and decided to cook a two-night pop-up dinner, 5 courses for $100. Much cheaper than a flight to Chi-town. A wine pairing was available for $40 but we decided to go with the $30 cocktail pairing instead.
329 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 4/5/13
I’ve always been surprised that Little Tokyo (or LA really, for that matter) didn’t have any udon specialists. Ramen is big here, of course, but there aren’t any shops dedicated to the thick, white noodle (I have heard there are a couple in Gardena/Torrance though). Whereas ramen is typically served in a richer, fattier broth (pork-bone tonkotsu, soy sauce shoyu, miso, and salt shio are most popular in LA), udon is usually served in a much lighter dashi-based clear broth.
Of course, most of the jack-of-all-trades Japanese restaurants serve their variation of the noodle soup, but it’s typically in very basic form using frozen or dried noodles. In fact, it was in one of these do-all Japanese restaurants where I fell in love with the thick, chewy noodle at a young age. Tempura udon (tempura on the side) was one of my favorite dishes growing up, back when I thought ramen came in packages of dehydrated noodles with an oh-so-addicting salty seasoning packet.
However, just in the past couple of months, two udon specialists have opened up shop in Little Tokyo featuring fresh, handmade noodles and a menu centered on (if not exclusively on) the noodle. Tsurumaru Udon opened in February in the quiet Little Tokyo Galleria Mall, serving a cafeteria-style menu often seen in Japan. You pick a base udon, a size, and customize toppings and are usually eating within 5-10 minutes of entering. It’s cheap, quick and they make a very satisfying bowl. Marugame Monzo, next door to ever-popular ramen joint Daikokuya, replaced Fat Spoon last month with a sit-down affair.
Marugame Monzo’s menu features about a dozen hot ramen and half-dozen cold ramen with even some ‘salad udon’ options. Not really sure what that last one is. They also have a handful of rice bowls (which I’ve heard are quite good), but I was here for the udon.