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.

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.

Red O – 5/30/10

Red O
8155 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90048

When it was announced what Rick Bayless was going to be involved in a restaurant in LA, it was a big deal. No one knew what exactly his involvement would be or what the concept would be of, but the notion that the most famous American chef of Mexican cuisine would be coming to LA was exciting news.

I remember watching Bayless’ Mexico: One Plate at a Time on PBS a while back, and that show lasted a number of seasons. While already a notable chef, Bayless’ big boost into prominence was his win on Top Chef Masters last year.

While not officially a Rick Bayless restaurant (it’s not part of his restaurant group), he is a chef-consultant, and helped create the menu. My understanding is that this is his food, with his name on it, but he doesn’t have a significant equity stake in the business.

The menu features a large number of small plates to share, as well seven entrees. As my friend is vegetarian, we did not order a large number of plates to share; instead, I sampled some of hers, and ate my own.

Classic Guacamole – freshly made, chunky, with warm chips & salsa

Guacamole is a simple, classic dish. Bayless does it well. It is slightly chunky, and extremely fresh tasting. The chips weren’t quite as warm as expected – I suspect they had been sitting for a little bit as they were only moderately warm.

Mazatlan Blue Shrimp Ceviche – mango, red onion, chipotle-chile

This was a great ceviche. The shrimp were “cooked” perfectly, and again, the ingredients were very evidently fresh. They have to be for a good ceviche. This came with thin slices of fried plantains which, honestly, weren’t even necessary.

Slow-Cooked Sonoma Duck Taquitos – tomato-arbol chile sauce, arugula

For the most part, my taquito experiences have been from fast food restaurants, with often-overcooked and dry results. Obviously, this is a different kind of restaurant, and a different kind of taquito. These were cooked very well, and the duck was really moist. I really liked the mild heat of the sauce, as well as the fresh, peppery taste of the arugula.

Fresh Corn & Goat Cheese Tamale – roasted poblano chiles, corn husk

A delicious tamale! This is what it should taste like, with a very nice, moist interior and good corn flavor. The poblano chiles add an extra depth of flavor to this otherwise-simple dish.

Savory Beef Short Rib Tamales – smoky chipotle chiles, corn husk

Surprisingly, this tamale disappointed a bit, especially after having the vegetarian version. The beef was rather dry on the interior, and even the corn tamale was a bit drier here than in the previous version.

Roasted Garlic Mushroom Tacos – shitake, oyster, cremini & wild chanterelle mushrooms, caramelized onions, garlic mojo, spinach, black beans

This came with a side of small flour tortillas for you to make your own soft tacos. A medley of mushrooms were included here, and they were cooked well, as well as the spinach. A tasty vegetarian dish.

Pollo en Mole Poblano – grilled Mary’s young chicken, homemade mole poblano, black beans, watercress salad

I just had to try the mole here. Just had to. There’s 27 ingredients! And it was good, with a really deep flavor. The chicken had a really crispy skin, and a nice smoky grilled flavor. However, the breast meat was just a tad dry.

Veracruz-Style Bunuelos – salted caramel ice cream, warm Kahlua chocolate sauce

Deep fried dough with ice cream. Every culture has this dish. I was just ‘okay’ on this one. The Bunuelos were crunchy and chewy, but just weren’t that appealing to me. Loved the salted caramel ice cream though – haven’t had this since Bi-Rite in San Francisco.

Overall, this was a very good meal. I was excited for Bayless’ arrival, and, as a whole, it did not disappoint me. There are a number of traditional Mexican dishes executed very well, and some more modern Mexican dishes also done well. I think this restaurant, already looking to be a hotspot due to Bayless’ celebrity, will do well in the foreseeable future.

LudoBites – 5/26/10

LudoBites 4.0 at Gram & Papa’s
227 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015

I was lucky enough to be able to make a return visit to this incarnation of LudoBites – Ludo had changed up the menu a bit since then, so there were a good number of new dishes to try. Of course, there were some “old favorites” I wanted to re-visit as well.

Once again, we started the meal off with the Tartine Plate.

Tartine Plate “Warm Baguette” Honey-Lavender Butter & Smoked Lard

Delicious again, I really couldn’t get enough of the honey lavender butter – superb!

Veal Tartar, Oysters, Almond Oil, Lemon, Seaweed, Tonnato Sauce

This was the first of the ‘new’ dishes this go-around – I enjoyed this dish, but I didn’t love it. The tartare resembled a ceviche, interestingly, with the veal marinating in the lemon juice. I thought the veal’s texture was a little chewy, but the flavors were good.

Black Foie Gras Croque-Monsieur, Cherry-Amaretto Chutney

Nom nom nom. I love this dish – complex yet simple at the same time. It’s basically just a croque monsieur, but with foie gras. Oh and the bread is dipped in squid ink. It’s a really nice chunk of duck liver in the sandwich, which creates a melt-in-your-mouth bite.

Crispy Soft Shell Crab Cone, Mango, Red Spicy Mayo, Corona Granite

This was another dish new to me, and had a fun presentation. Without looking closely, it kind of resembles a few scoops of coffee ice cream in a waffle cone, drizzled with fudge. In actuality, this was soft shell crab fried tempura-style. mixed with spicy mayo. and put into a sesame waffle cone. Served with a Corona granite – haha fun! I found the crab to be a little chewy here, though.

For the entrees, we shared (at least) one of each.

Squid “Carbonara,” Pancetta, Poached Egg (63 degrees), Parmesan Snow, Chive Flowers

Calamari rings were the “pasta” in this Carbonara, and were cooked perfectly. That was integral to the dish, as all-too-often the squid is chewy. Essentially, squid must be cooked very quickly or very long in order for it to be tender. In this case, it was cooked quickly and tossed in a Carbonara. The sauce was rich, yet not overpowering to the subtle squid. The egg added a nice richness, and the pork belly lended a nice salty flavor.

Monkfish, Baby Carrots, Orange-Carrot Cake Coulis, Exotic Spices

The monkfish was cooked well, but is a really dense fish. It may be  due to personal preference, but none of our party really liked the fish here – the black sea bass used in the last visit was definitely preferable.

Braised Beef Cheeks, Escargots, Red Wine Butter, Leek Salad, Roasted Eggplant

Admittedly, the picture doesn’t look too appetizing. The cheeks were braised well, however, with a rich and deep flavor. Very tender, as well.

Rack of Lamb, Goat Cheese, Artichoke, Potato Mousseline, Mint

A holdover from our previous visit, and I was glad to see it. The lamb here, again, was very tender and flavorful. A little gamey in a nice way. I’d eat a whole rack of this.

The potato mousseline that came with it was delicious.

The last entree, of which we ordered three, was the chicken.

“Pepittes” of Fried Chicken, Coconut Polenta, Grilled Baby Corn, Bok Choy, Diablo Sauce

I first tried LudoBites’s fried chicken at the LA Street Food Fest in February, when I waited three hours. I tend to regard this as one of the best “bites” in LA, so I was glad to see it on the menu here. It did not disappoint. Crispy on the outside, and very moist and tender on the inside. The seasoning with herbs is very evident, both inside the chicken and outside within the batter. Simply delicious.

For dessert were the two usual suspects:

Dark Chocolate Souffle, Vanilla Whipped Cream, Hot Chocolate Cream

I love this souffle. The dark chocolate adds some nice depth, and a little bitterness, which goes really well with the whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

Strawberry, Macaron, Lemon-Verbena Meringue

I think this dish is slightly overshadowed by the souffle because, well…everyone loves chocolate. This dish is more original, more creative. Sweet strawberries and macarons are topped with a meringue. Light and sweet, I really enjoyed this dish.

Another visit to LudoBites, and another really satisfying meal. I’m really glad he put the fried chicken on the menu, as I just love that stuff. Ludo continues to create some great dishes, and I’m already curious as to where and when his next LudoBites will pop up.

Daikokuya – 5/18/10

Daikokuya
327 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Syrup Desserts
611 S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90014

Daikokuya is my favorite ramen shop in Southern California. I’ve been so many times I’ve lost count. I first went when I was in college, and the rich, murky, pork fat-laden broth really opened my eyes. Having grown up in San Francisco, we didn’t have any of this – ramen was served in a miso or shoyu broth. While these were tasty in its own right, a pork tonkotsu broth was on a different level. Daikokuya simmers kurobuta pork bones for almost a full day as the basis for their broth – how can you miss with that? I’ve been coming back ever since, each time braving the seemingly ever-present lines.

On a random Tuesday evening, the wait outside the restaurant was in full force. After about 40 minutes, we were seated at the bar.

Daikokuya is a typical ramen shop, with a few tables and a bar around the kitchen. While the ramen here is obviously the main draw, Daikokuya does a number of other dishes well, including their rice plates. Their gyoza is rather unique in style, and we got an order of those.

Flat noodles are wrapped around the filling and pan-fried. The shape really allows for maximum crispiness, as there’s a lot more surface area for browning. Good stuff.

The rice dishes are quite good here, but my favorite is the fried rice.

Chunks of pork belly, egg, corn and green onions are stir fried with the glutinous rice, making for a really delicious dish.

Next up, what everyone comes for – the ramen.

A big bowl full of broth, noodles, bamboo shoots, a soft-boiled egg, and slices of kurobuta pork belly are topped with green onions and sesame seeds. It’s a beautiful sight.

The broth has a deep, rather intense flavor to it. While the fat content is rather high in the soup, it doesn’t taste overly fatty. I really like the noodles too, curly with a nice chew to them. The pork belly really meshes well with everything – I used to try to avoid the fat and just eat the meat, but now I just eat the whole thing. Just a very delicious and satisfying bowl of noodles.

Feeling like a some dessert, we dropped by Syrup Desserts, which is nearby in the Arts District off-downtown. I’ve posted about Syrup Desserts before, trying out some of their waffles. This time, we would try their crepes.

Banana and Nutella – Fresh bananas, Strawberry ice cream, Nutella, toasted walnuts

It took a ridiculous amount of time for the dessert to arrive, but when it finally did, it did not disappoint. The crepe is light with a Nutella filling – hard to fail with that combination. The whipped cream was good as well, though some of the strawberries were sweet and some were tart.

Brazilia – ripe bananas, vanilla bean ice cream, mozzarella cheese, cinnamon and sugar

I’ve never actually had cheese in a sweet crepe, and this worked out pretty good. The warm, melted cheese melded with the chocolate, bananas and ice cream.

I had been craving an ice cream sundae all day, for some reason. I ended up with a sundae with vanilla bean ice cream, hot fudge, nuts, brownie bits, whipped cream and a cherry. The sundae was pretty good and hit the spot, was wasn’t anything special.


In all, we had a pleasant meal with enough calories to last a while. Daikokuya is consistently satisfying, and Syrup Desserts is a great place to get a comfortable, gourmet dessert treat.

Providence – 5/14/10

Providence
5955 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038

My friend is graduating from law school next week, and she’s been meaning to come here for a while.  We made the reservation and were on our way!

I first sampled Michael Cimarusti’s cooking when he was at Water Grill. Soon after, he would set out on his own, opening up Providence in 2005.  It became a hit instantly, garnering numerous accolades – currently, it’s one of four restaurants in LA with two Michelin stars (none have three). I’ve considered Providence the second-best restaurant in LA (behind Urasawa) and hadn’t been in a  number of months – another visit was in order.

The first thing to come out was the amuse bouche trio of a gin & tonic, margarita, and a dish made of trout, spiced cream and puffed rice.

This two “cocktails” are the same amuses that Providence has had for a little while now, and I like them. They’ll definitely remind people of the Bazaar, for it’s molecular gastronomy-like preparation.

Japanese Kanpachi – crispy rice crackers, coriander, soy crème fraîche

Providence is primarily known for seafood – and this was the first dish that really presented some fresh, flavorful seafood. The kanpachi was good, thought not a really soft, tender piece of fish. The crispy rice crackers lended some texture, but may not really have been necessary.

Bobby’s Block Island Scallops – Japanese eggplant, rhubarb, cashews, reduction of vadouvan and jurancon

What a delicious scallop this was! Nicely browned with a perfectly cooked interior. The sauce was a curry-type sauce, and had a really nice depth of flavor. Surprisingly, it did not overpower the scallop, but rather complemented it quite well.

Spaghetti Alla Chitarra – Santa Barbara sea urchin, spot prawns, English peas, green onions

Beautiful dish again here – I love pasta and seafood together, and this was no exception. the prawns were very sweet and perfectly cooked, and the spaghetti was al dente.

Wild Pacific Halibut – smoked paprika, Weiser Farms potatoes, grilled local squid

The fish here was cooked well, again. The halibut was moist and flavorful, and the squid provided some chew, but wasn’t overly chewy.

Foie Gras Ravioli – Italian black summer truffles, aromatics, parmesan

The ravioli was brought out, and black truffles were shaved on it at the table. The ravioli was good too, with a great chew to it. Flavors were great, between the rich foie gras and the earthy truffles and parmesan.

Marcho Farms Veal Tenderloim – sweet peas, bacon, almond, morel mushrooms

The veal here, cooked sous vide, was extremely tender. A butter knife could’ve easily sliced through it. The almonds and morels were good with it too, but the bacon was missing.

Yuzu Curd, Meringue – blackberry sorbet, jasmine

This dessert was okay. The yuzu curd was, thankfully, not too sour. However, nothing really shined on this plate.

To finish, we got a plate of mignardises of vanilla macarons, caramels and passion fruit gelee.

These were all pretty good, with the macaron being my favorite.

In all, we had a very solid meal, definitely solidifying its status in my top 2 restaurants in LA. The seafood was all cooked very well on this day, and the flavors and execution were definitely there. I look forward to my next time at Providence.