Father’s Office – 5/8/10

Father’s Office
3229 Helms Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Father’s Office is one of the best (in my opinion – the best) gastropubs in Los Angeles. In my opinion, they also have the best burger in the city. Granted, I haven’t tried a number of the chief competitors (Umami Burger , Rustic Canyon, 8 oz., Foundry come to mind), but this burger has so far been my #1 – taking into account the Counter, Lazy Ox, 25 Degrees, Pie ‘n Burger, Back Abbey, and Golden State. This was the first stop in a mini tour of burgers/gastropubs with Golden State.

Father’s Office is an extremely popular spot, with those seeking chef Sang Yoon’s gourmet fare for reasonable prices, top-notch beers,  or just a place open late with food and drink. Yoon, who comes from a fine dining background, is one of the first in the trend of fine dining restaurateurs opening up burger joints.  While the menu consists of a number of great dishes, the biggest draw is the burger.

Office Burger – dry-aged strip steak, blue cheese, arugula and bacon-onion compote on French bread

The patty was a nicely cooked medium-rare – so juicy that the bottom of the bun was getting a bit soggy. I don’t think the French bread bun is anything special, and would maybe prefer a brioche-type, or something softer. The caramelized onions add a nice sweetness to counteract the arugula’s bite, and really go well with the beefy meat. A very rich burger – it’s definitely the best I’ve had in LA.

The sweet potato fries are also a big draw and are delicious. Nicely crisp, with a soft, moist interior.

TO paid with my burger, I had one of my favorite beers – Pliny the Elder. Father’s Office is one of only a handful of bars in the city to offer Pliny.

Father Office rarely disappoints. The biggest drawback, however, is that it gets so damn crowded all the time. Given the quality of the food, the impressive selection of beers and wines, and the relaxed atmosphere – it’s no wonder why it’s so popular.

The Golden State – 5/8/10

The Golden State
426 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036

After visiting Father’s Office, the second stop in our burger/gastropub mini-tour was The Golden State.  Similar to Father’s Office, The Golden State’s claim to fame is their beer selection, their burgers, and, uniquely, their beer floats (made with Scoops ice cream). I had to give their burger a try, to compare to FO’s.

The Burger – Harris Ranch beef, Fiscalini Farms cheddar, glazed applewood smoked bacon, arugula, housemade aioli and ketchup

The burger was not as pink as FO’s, but it was medium rare. The meat also wasn’t quite as beefy, and not as moist. However, make no mistake – this was a good burger. The patty was nicely thick, and the bacon was fantastic. I love arugula on a burger, and this was not an exception. The cheese was fairly mild and somewhat hidden. The bun also was rather un-extraordinary, being a fairly standard burger bun. This was a lighter burger – not as much as FO’s. Depending on what you want, this could be a good thing. We got sweet potato fries along with the burger, which I thought were way too charred…burnt..on the outside.

To drink with the burger, we got a Deschutes Jubel 2010. The deep, malty flavor was mildly sweet, and was actually relatively light. I tend not to prefer dark beers, but this wasn’t a bad one.

Also, we had a Stone Cali-Belgique. This Stone IPA, made with Belgian yeast, was pretty good. However, I think I like Stone’s Ruination better.

I’d come back to Golden State. The burger was good, not exceptional, but the beer list is quite good. I still need to come back to try one of their beer floats.

The Dining Room at the Langham – 4/30/10

The Dining Room at the Langham
1401 South Oak Knoll Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91106

I had been to the Langham a little over a year ago, when Craig Strong was the chef. I had a good meal at the time, but I’ve been really looking forward to going back to try Michael Voltaggio’s cuisine. Voltaggio, as you might know, won last season’s Top Chef, beating out his brother. Voltaggio helped open the Bazaar, Jose Andres’ highly-acclaimed eatery in LA.  Blending modern, molecular gastronomy with classic French technique, Voltaggio creates some really creative, beautiful dishes – thus, why I’ve been wanting to go for so long.

The restaurant is located in a very, very large hotel in Pasadena – formerly a Ritz Carlton. The menu offers two options – a 4 course a la carte menu, or a 7 course tasting menu. Naturally, we went with the tasting menu. Click for a larger version.


First up was an amuse bouche of a gougere and a tomato jelly.


The gougere was good, however very similar to the others I’ve had at Cut or French Laundry.

First course:
Langoustine
White asparagus, tiny eggs, fried calamari

Perfectly cooked langoustine. Mmm…that’s all that was really necessary, but the poached eggs and yolk added a very nice richness to the dish.

Foie Gras Terrine
Strawberry-yuzu, arugula cake, Minus 8 vinegar

This was a very interesting dish. A foie gras terrine, mousse-like in texture, was covered by a layer of strawberry, served with fresh strawberries, arugula, and arugula cake. The interplay of the sweetness with the rich liver was very nice. The arugula cake was somewhat sweet as well, but rather mild in flavor.

Halibut Cheeks
Red curry, coconut rice, baby leeks

This dish was really delicious. The fish was very moist, tender and flavorful. It wasn’t quite as dense as the typical halibut filet, which I enjoyed. The puffed rice added some crunchiness.

Veal Sweetbreads Tempura
Kale, buttermilk, mustard, potato puree

Sweetbreads fried tempura style – not something I’ve had before. I enjoyed this dish as well, with the tender sweetbreads lightly fried. It was almost scallop-like in texture.

Four Story Hills Farm Suckling Pig
Banana polenta, morels, ramps, red onion

The polenta here was way too sweet. The pork belly was cooked quite well though, and nicely fatty. The skin was crispy – just the way it should be.

Japanese Kuroge Beef
Fried bearnaise, young turnips, bordelaise

The beef here was clearly a high-quality wagyu, with lots of melt-in-your-mouth fat marbling. I really enjoyed this piece of meat, but the accompanying red wine gelee did not do much for me.

Chocolate Caramel Ganache
Chocolate sorbet, salty hazelnut praline, cocoa tuille

This dish was a bit of a disappointment. First, the sorbet was kind of melted (see in picture) when it came out. I figure it might have been waiting just a little while for the other dessert. The caramel was rather jelly-like – this dish was not memorable.

Baba Au Rhum
Textures of coconut and pineapple, compressed papaya

This dish was a little bit better. The cake was dipped in liquor, topped with sorbet, and served with papaya and pineapple jelly.

Finally, the mignardises. Dark chocolate lollipops with pop rocks, mini macarons, and a passion fruit jellies. These were all pretty good.

In all, the meal at the Langham was good, but disappointing. Admittedly, I had very high expectations coming into this meal, and thus why the meal fell a little flat. I was optimistic that this would be one of the top 5 restaurant meals in LA – but I can’t say that it was. I really enjoyed the halibut cheek, but outside of that, none of the dishes were outstanding. However, none of the dishes were terrible either.

Melisse – 4/22/10

Melisse
1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401

I’ve been meaning to try Melisse for a long while now. I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews from friends over the years, and that’s probably part of what’s been holding me back (that, and not having anyone interested in going). However, the restaurant continues to receive very positive reviews all-around. With my friend down to go, it was time to finally try it.

Last year, Melisse celebrated its 10th anniversary. To celebrate, they offered a 10-course “signature dishes” menu in July 2009. Luckily and oddly, they are still offering that menu (click for larger size). What better way to try the restaurant than with 10 of their signature courses?

Amuse #1 – red grape two ways: goat cheese with pistachio and reconstituted grape with cheese and oil

These were both interesting starters. I liked the goat cheese and pistachio better, with a nice texture (crunch from pistachio) and sweetness from the grape.

Amuse #2 – Hokkaido scallop with radish and scallions


Hmm didn’t like this dish. The scallop was sliced very thin, and topped with the scallions, radish and salted. It tasted…soapy for some reason. And kinda fishy. Just not good.

Egg Caviar – lemon creme fraiche, American Ossetra caviar

This was a great dish. The egg was poached slowly, so there was a warm gooey center inside, which really went well with the caviar. Warm and comfortable.

Duo of Hamachi & Tuna – celery, meyer lemon, black truffles

The duo resembles a piece of sushi, which was a nice touch, and chopped tuna taking the place of rice. The celery adds a nice fresh crunch, and the lemon went well with the fish. I couldn’t taste the hamachi and tuna individually in each bite, however. The black truffle flavor was rather mild. Overall, I enjoyed this dish.

White and Purple Asparagus – white asparagus veloute, crispy purple asparagus roulade, truffle mousse

This was a really nice soup. There was a good asparagus flavor, and it really went well with the truffle mousse mixed in. Brilliant.

Seared Foie Gras – carrot cake, pineapple compote, vanilla-balsamic reduction

The foie gras was seared perfectly, with a nice crust and soft, tender interior. The carrot cake did not add much to the dish, and fell apart reather easily. I liked the pineapple compote and orange rind, as the sweetness and acidity cut through the fattiness of the liver.

Lobster Bolognese – fresh cappelini, truffle froth

This was my favorite dish of the night. Fresh pasta, wrapped in a lobster bolognese, and topped with a truffle foam. Delicious. The pasta may have been a TEENY bit overcooked (I prefer it a bit more al dente) but the flavors were spectacular, memorable.

John Dory Filet – chinese broccoli, kohlrabi, pinebut-cornichon jus

John Dory has a firm flesh, which was nice with the crunchy broccoli and kohlrabi. The fish was cooked pretty well, but just was not too memorable.

Cote de Boeuf – potato and braised short rib galette, fava beans, porcini mushrooms, herb jus

Like the fish, this dish wasn’t too memorable either. The rib-eye was very tender and had a decent flavor. The galette, with layers of potato and short rib, wasn’t as successful as expected. It was a little dry, perhaps overcooked. The same was true with the piece of short rib.

Le Fromage Truffee – black truffle, poached pears, balsamic gelee

I don’t really like the cheese course and tend to avoid it whenever possible. However, I had it here. The cheese was very mild, and I did not get a truffle flavor from it. It came with a warm toasted brioche.

Chocolate and Caramel Fondant  – hazelnut crumble, chocolate sorbet

This was a pretty good dish. The chocolate sorbet was nice and rich, and the fondant (with layers of rich mousse) was excellent. I enjoyed the hazelnut crumble as well, as it added some great texture to the dessert.

Strawberries and Creme – strawberries, creme fraiche, brown sugar

An interesting rendition of ‘strawberries and creme’ here, with creme fraiche instead..and sugar to sweeten. The strawberries were ripe and sweet, and the combination worked.

Mignardises – assorted cookies

These were just okay. The chocolate peanut butter cookies were actually pretty good with a nice crispiness, but the caneles weren’t anything special.

Melisse lived up to its expectations in my opinion. Outside of the scallop amuse, the execution and imagination were present in each course. While some of the dishes weren’t really memorable, I attribute a lot of it to personal taste. On the other hand, the Egg Caviar, White and Purple Asparagus, Lobster Bolognese, and Chocolate and Caramel Fondant were clear hits. Definitely a very solid showing – I think Melisse is one of the top five restaurants in Los Angeles.

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.