Syrup Desserts – 3/25/10

Syrup Desserts
611 S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90014

Syrup Desserts is a relatively new dessert shop located in the arts district of downtown LA. After our meal at Wood Spoon, this was a convenient walk for a dessert stop. Known largely for their waffle creations, Syrup also serves a variety of ice creams, crepes, pastries and even grilled cheese.

The waffles are the most well-known item on the menu here. Below see the chocolate banana liege waffle.

Below is the Syrup Signature, strawberries and banana.

The waffle was fairly inconsistent from bite-to-bite. Some bites were crispy, sweet and sugary, some were doughy and bland.  The strawberries were sweet, bananas good, and the ice cream and whipped cream solid. However, the showcased waffle was a little disappointing this time around.

My trip to Syrup Desserts this time was a little underwhelming. On my first trip, I thought the waffle was pretty good, but it didn’t live up to expectations this time around.



Wood Spoon – 3/25/10

Wood Spoon
107 W 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015

I first heard about Wood Spoon on “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” probably my favorite show on TV today. On it, Giada De Laurentiis talked about the best chicken pot pie she’s ever eaten, at a place in downtown LA. I had never heard of the restaurant before, so I was shocked to hear about this place in my own backyard. Recently, the restaurant has gained a lot of buzz on Yelp as well. Being a fan of chicken pot pies, I had to try this one out.

We started out with the Mix Plate – Coxinha (chicken-filled dumpling), Potato Croquette, Portuguese Croquette (potato with salted cod), Pastel Portuguese (dumpling stuffed with shrimp) & Kibe (dumpling of bulgur wheat, mint & ground beef).

These were delicious and a great way to start the evening. The Pastel Portuguese, filled with shrimp and coconut sauce, was my favorite. The Coxinha was rather disappointing, as I found it rather dry.

Next came another dish highly recommended on Yelp: Pork Burger – roasted cabbage, onions on toasted potato bread and yam fries.


Pork Burger. Not something you see every day on any menu. I thought this had potential to be like  lot of turkey burgers – tough, dry, flavorless. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Tender and moist, the burger had a lot of flavor as well. The potato bread was very soft – the whole bite was great. Definitely eye-opening.

Next is what I was anticipating most: Brazilian Chicken Pot Pie – hearts of palm, olives & roasted corn.

The pie came out hot from the oven with a simple side salad to go with it.

Breaking over the pastry crust, it was filled with a creamy gravy, chunks of white and dark meat chicken, corn, hearts of palm, potato and a subtle olive flavor. Comfort food at its finest – it was rich and savory, full of flavor. I love a bite of crispy crust with savory gravy.  The best pot pie I’ve ever eaten? Quite possibly.

Wood Spoon did not disappoint in the least. The Pork Burger may have been the most surprising dish of the night, but the pot pie lived up to my very high expectations. I am very often disappointed with the pot pie I get at restaurants, but this one really fit the bill. I’ll definitely be back.

Sushi Sasabune – 3/15/10

Sushi Sasabune
12400 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Spontaneously, my friend and I decided to get our sushi fix at Sushi Sasabune on the westside. I’d never been here before, and it was a good opportunity to try something new since I had gotten off of work early.

The interior was surprisingly large, with dozens of tables, a long sushi bar, and an open kitchen.

As with most well-regarded sushi restaurants, we decided omakase was the way to go in order to sample a lot of the restaurant’s specialties and freshest fish. Amusingly, we were offered the ‘American’ option or the ‘Japanese’ option. The ‘American’ option is directed towards that exact clientele, with more typical sushi. If you’re not averse to eating anything, the waitress recommended the ‘Japanese’ option. So, we told the restaurant to give it all to us and went for the ‘Japanese’ omakase.

First, housemade pickled ginger and fresh wasabi was presented.

The first course was ono sashimi, marinated in soy. This was very tender, and the soy was not overpowering.

Next up was a sashimi of Japanese razor clam (Tairagai). The flesh was pretty firm, kind of chewy, and a little sandy. Not my favorite dish.

Next began the sushi, and what better way to start than with tuna and fatty tuna, toro. The tuna was good, though not melt-in-your-mouth tender. The toro was a little disappointing as it was very tender but a little mushy. Both had good flavor.

Snapper and halibut came next. Both of these were quite good.

Baked green mussel and oyster.

Salmon and yellowtail were next. The salmon, topped with marinated kombu, was tender and flavorful. The yellowtail was just as good.

Next came what was likely my favorite dish of the night: two kinds of sweet shrimp, the large one from Alaska, and the smaller one from Boston. The larger shrimp had a great bite to it, was a little juicy, and mildly sweet. Very good. The shrimp from Boston was a little bit slimey, and didn’t have the great bite that the larger one did.

Spanish mackerel and regular mackerel were next. The regular mackerel was topped with the marinated kombu, while the Spanish mackerel was topped with a ponzu sauce. I thought the Spanish mackerel was much better here, tender and more flavorful.

Uni and salmon roe – a great pairing.  The uni here was delicious, very fresh and not fishy at all. The roe was also tasty.

Next, we were served jumbo clam and orange clam. Clams aren’t my favorite sushi options as I find them too chewy or dense for my liking. These two were no exception.

Next we were served a fried fish head and marinated fish roe served in its body – definitely not featured on the ‘American’ menu.

The fish head was great, as it was perfectly fried and had a nice shrimp flavor. The shrimp roe is definitely an acquired taste. I don’t think I’ve had it before, but it was marinated in a citrus sauce that was a little overpowering.

Seared monkfish liver and golden snapper were the final nigiri preparations. Both of these were quite good, especially the monkfish liver. It had a fantastic melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Lastly, we had blue crab and toro cut rolls. The crabmeat was sweet and tasty, and the toro was good as well.

Lastly, we finished with an assortment of mochi: green tea, mango, and strawberry. I’m pretty sure these were not made in-house as the strawberry one tasted particularly artificial.

Overall, the meal was a pleasant experience, and a little cheaper than anticipated. I wouldn’t say the best sushi in the city is here, but there is a lot of high-quality fish that is more than suitable for a sushi craving.

Old Vine Cafe – 3/6/10

Old Vine Cafe
2937 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

On a rainy day in Southern California, I found myself at Old Vine Cafe in Costa Mesa, the first leg in a day of eating in Orange County, which would include Old Vine, A & J, 85 Degrees Celsius Bakery, Andrei’s and Pizzeria Ortica. Located in a unique shopping center called the Camp, it serves seasonal American food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant fits in with the rest of the theme of the Camp with a woody cabin-like exterior.

We decided to order a small sampling of the dishes across the breakfast and lunch menus, starting with:

Caprese of Mozzarella Buratta – Imported Buratta, flash fried Arugula, Grape Tomatoes & Citrus Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A beautiful dish here with the burrata and tomato base, a large handful of fried arugula and on top, and a drizzling of olive oil. The interplay of the colors was just fantastic. I thought the burrata could’ve been a little creamier, but it was good. The tomatoes were excellent, as well. However, I thought there was kind of a lot of arugula, and the fried flavor of it overpowered the dish if you took too much in one forkful.

We tried something from the breakfast menu, which was quite simple and well executed.

Gourmet Sausage & Eggs – Eggs Cooked Any Style with choice of Natural Sausage: Spicy Santa Fe or Chicken Apple

As I mentioned, this was a really well-executed dish. The eggs were perfect, and the sausage was delicious. We had the Santa Fe sausage, which had a little bit of spice and a lot of flavor. The Spanish style potatoes were good as well, well seasoned, but maybe could’ve been a little crisper. Really a very good breakfast dish.

From the lunch menu,

Beef & Truffles Panini – Thinly Sliced All Natural Rib Roast & Italian White Truffle Cheese with Garlic Aioli

This dish was a bit disappointing. The meat was cut pretty thin and small, so there wasn’t a lot of meat chew to this – no texture. The truffle was included as part of the cheese, and was pretty mild here. The homemade potato chips were good, but not spectacular.

Old Vine Cafe today was a bit hit-or-miss. I like the homey feel to the restaurant, with a lot of simple, seasonal cooking. I’d definitely come back for breakfast if I was in the area, or maybe to try it for dinner, as I’ve heard good things about their dinner as well.

Pizzeria Ortica – 3/6/10

Pizzeria Ortica
650 Anton Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

I had high expectations for Pizzeria Ortica, which, to me, resembles an Orange County rendition of Pizzeria Mozza. The restaurant serves a number of Italian specialties, focusing on pizzas and pastas. As always, I love an open kitchen and being able to the kitchen at work.

We tried just a few dishes, as we had dinner at Andrei’s just prior. To begin with:

Pappardelle al sugo d’agnello – Pappardelle pasta, braised lamb ragu, sheep’s milk ricotta

Disappointing. The pasta, made fresh in house, was good and prepared al dente. The lamb shank was a little gamey, but just mildly so. However, I was really missing the ragu here. I was expecting a rich  sauce to bring everything together, but instead it seemed like just chunks of lamb on top of pasta on top of ricotta. As a result it was a little bit on the dry side.

Salsiccia – House-made sausage, caramelized fennel, mascapone, red onion, buffalo grana

Sausage is probably my single favorite topping on a pizza. The sausage was good here, but the pizza disappointed. The crust was rather chewy instead of crispy, and the cheese did not really stand up to the rest of the toppings

Milanesa – Fontina, asparagus, Parmigiano Reggiano, fried egg

The Milanesa was a little more unique, topped with asparagus and a fried egg. The toppings were pretty good, but I found the pizza a bit salty, and it struggled from the same crust problems as the above.

Pizzeria Ortica was rather disappointing in general. What really shocked me most is the pizza and the crust. Perhaps it was an off-night for the dough/kitchen? Whatever it was, it didn’t live up to the pizza at Mozza or Bottega Louie of the week prior.

Bottega Louie – 2/26/10

Bottega Louie
700 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Bottega Louie has been extremely popular since it opened up almost a year ago, just recently being called a “Best New Restaurant 2009” by many publications, including Los Angeles Magazine. This is a large restaurant, and the lines can be hours long, a testament to the popularity of the establishment. So what’s the draw? It’s trendy, has a nice decor, and offers a menu with a wide array of dishes. And of course, the food is good too. It keeps within a fine balance, being both a nice and casual restaurant, housing people dressed to go out, and people in a t-shirt and shorts.

The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and also contains a marketplace, bar, and patisserie on their own. The pastries offered is seemingly endless with many different cakes, tarts, breads, cookies and candies available for purchase.

Cupcakes, macarons, croissants, as well.

The decor is minimal. High ceilings, white walls with gold trim, and large windows letting in a lot of natural light. It’s lunchtime, and a line has already started to form.

The exposed kitchen is towards the front of the establishment. I love being able to see the kitchen at work.

The menu is wide-ranging Italian with salads, soups, pastas, pizzas and a large selection of ‘small plates’ and various entrees. Click on the image for a larger version.

We were told by the server that the portobello fries are one of the most popular items on the menu, so we had to give them a try.

Although I really don’t like mushrooms too much, these were pretty good. The portobello was battered, fried, and tossed with herbs and parmesan cheese.

Next up, the sausage pizza. Earlier in the week, I had read an article from someone who claimed that Bottega Louie had the best pizza in the city. The pizza was wonderful, and pretty authentic Neapolitan. It had a light, thin crust, a tangy and sweet tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and a delicious fennel sausage. The only thing I didn’t like was that it was a little wet towards the middle of the pizza. Potentially the best pizza I had all week, and I had Mozza this week.

Mussels and claims in a white wine broth. A very generous portion here, with some nice crusty bread to sop up the broth. The seafood was very fresh, and the broth was delicious as well.

10-layered Lasagna with a lamb and veal bolognese. I like a lot of noodle in my lasagna, so when I heard “10 layers,” I was totally on it. However, this dish was just okay. There was probably just too much noodle, and not enough meat and cheese for me . Another generous portion.

Although we were quite full, we weren’t leaving without the souffle. It’s a chocolate souffle, made-to-order, with a side of creme anglaise. To me, there aren’t made dessert combinations better than chocolate-vanilla, and hot-cold. This is a really good souffle.

I had a very pleasant experience at Bottega Louie, and could easily see why it’s so popular. The first time I came, the service was rather mediocre, and they knew it (complimentary dessert came at the end). However, that was when they first opened, and they’ve really streamlined the process. While I think some of the dishes can be hit-or-miss, as there’s just so many options on the menu, there are probably more ‘hits’ than ‘misses.’ I’d definitely just come back for the pizza.