Lawry’s (Beverly Hills, CA)

Lawry’s The Prime Rib
100 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Dining date: 8/12/12

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Lawry’s an institution in L.A., nestled in the middle of La Cienega’s ‘restaurant row’ since 1938. That location was the first of many for the chain, which now has restaurants internationally. Growing up in San Francisco, I visited the House of Prime Rib a number of times and always heard comparisons when I moved to Los Angeles. I first came while in college with my dad and found the restaurant eerily similar to my S.F. comparison. For what it’s worth, Lawry’s opened first.

The food at Lawry’s is not complicated or fussy. Sure there are some fish and other meat options, but most people opt for a slice of prime rib (sizing varies from a petite boneless cut to an almost obscene bone-in chunk of meat), served with horseradish, Yorkshire pudding, and mashed potatoes. Sides such as creamed spinach, creamed corn, sauteed mushrooms, baked potatoes, and asparagus are extra.

One of my favorite parts about Lawry’s is waiting for a table (imagine that!). In the waiting room are meatballs in a marinara sauce and house-fried potato chips. I must say they’re pretty tasty and it’s always a struggle not to eat too much. I always end up with a couple of small plates, though.

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Famous Original Spinning Bowl Salad crisp romaine and iceberg lettuce, baby spinach, shredded beets, chopped eggs and croutons, tossed with exclusive vintage dressing

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A large salad bowl is put on ice and literally spun, as dressing is poured into the bowl from high above.

Whipped Cream Horseradish grated fresh horseradish and seasoned whipped cream

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When it’s time for the main course, large silver carts are wheeled around filled with racks of prime rib. Yes, please.

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Five ‘sizes’ of prime rib are available ($35-$53); below are the three largest.

The Lawry Cut traditional and most popular cut

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The Diamond Jim Brady Cut an extra-thick portion that includes the rib bone

prime rib

The Beef Bowl Cut a double-sized cut with the rib bone

prime rib

A large slab of beef is put on each plate, topped with au jus, and served with the sides of choice. It’s quite a sight, for sure. I think the cooking temperatures were pretty spot-on and consistent (easier to do with prime rib than steaks), and I found the prime rib to be tender and juicy. There was a good beefy flavor and I particularly liked their au jus (ask for extra on the side). Total comfort food for me, particularly with the creamy mashed potatoes and gravy.

Lobster tails were available to add to the meal – $16 for one and $24 for two.

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While I thought the lobster tails were reasonably priced, I didn’t think they were anything special. You get what you pay for, I suppose. Save the money and upgrade for a larger cut of beef.

Similar to previous visits, I left my meal at Lawry’s content and full. Prime rib and mashed potatoes happen to be two of my favorite foods, so it’s hard to go wrong. However, prime rib is a relatively easy thing to make at home and I wouldn’t say the beef here is that much better than what a typical home cook can do. But hey, it’s still pretty delicious, good for large groups and has a sense of timeless nostalgia; for that, I’ll be returning here for many years.

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5×5 Chefs Collaborative @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

5×5 Chefs Collaborative Dinner
Bouchon Beverly Hills
238 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 8/20/12

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I attended the first 5×5 dinner of the season at Melisse, but have unfortunately missed the last two due to some conflicts (Providence & Angelini Osteria). I was glad to be able to attend this latest one, which happened to be one of my most anticipated L.A. meals of the year. Having an all-star cast of L.A. chefs was part of it, sure, but there were four other opportunities for these 5×5 dinners. The difference-maker for me was the rumor that Thomas Keller (one of my favorite chefs, duh) would be around to survey the kitchen and meet & greet guests.

The guest chef for this dinner was Richard Rosendale of The Greenbrier in West Virginia. Rosendale will be representing the U.S. at the upcoming biennial chef competition Bocuse d’Or, something Thomas Keller has been strongly involved with. In preparation for the competition Keller has been taking Rosendale around the country to broaden experience and exposure. This was their latest stop (Rosendale revealed the next would be a stint at The French Laundry).

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Similar to previous 5×5 dinners, each chef prepared one course, while the home restaurant’s pastry chef created a seventh.

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We started with a few cocktails (left to right).

Moscow Mule 
Basil Basil Basil Hayden Bourbon, Normandin Mercier Pineau des Charentes, Fever Tree Soda, Fresh Lemon, Fresh Basil, Basil Simple, Highball
Blackberry Bramble Nolet’s Gin, Lucien Jacob Creme di Cassis, Fresh Lemon, Fresh Blackberries, Rocks

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We generally found the cocktails to be fairly watered down, which may have been partially caused by us waiting until all three were served (it took some time for the last one to come).

“Gougères” sauce Mornay with preserved black winter truffle

“Gougères” sauce Mornay with preserved black winter truffle

The first thing to come out of the kitchen was this strong amuse bouche. The gougeres were similar to one of the signature starters at The French Laundry, albeit this one had a strong truffle flavor that really separated this bite. Hard to go wrong with cheese and truffles.

Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar Vidalia onion soubise, Hobbs Shore bacon, rye panna cotta & red ribbon sorrel (Rory Hermann, Bouchon)

Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar Vidalia onion soubise, Hobbs Shore bacon, rye panna cotta & red ribbon sorrel (Rory Hermann, Bouchon)

Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar Vidalia onion soubise, Hobbs Shore bacon, rye panna cotta & red ribbon sorrel (Rory Hermann, Bouchon)

Next was home chef Rory Hermann’s dish. The caviar and sweet onion flavors were what stood out most, and I found the rye panna cotta to be very interesting – essentially a rye bread in smooth custard form. The flavors came together pretty well in this light starter.

A trio of breads were available this evening: the signature epi, brioche and multi-grain. I went with the first two; the epi was reliably good but I enjoyed the soft, buttery brioche even more.

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Cuttlefish Salad sea bean-green goddess, espelette, cuttlefish cracklings (Michael Voltaggio, ink.)

Cuttlefish Salad sea bean-green goddess, espelette, cuttlefish cracklings (Michael Voltaggio, ink.)

Voltaggio’s dish featured a duo of cuttlefish – one in pasta-like ribbons and the other as fried “cracklings.” I really liked the texture between the delicate chew of the cuttlefish, crispy fried cuttlefish and crunch of the dehydrated dressing. The spring peas added a welcome sweetness to the overall plate.
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Santa Barbara Prawn roasted rosa bianca eggplant, shellfish & green zebra tomato jus (Josiah Citrin, Melisse)

Santa Barbara Prawn roasted rosa bianca eggplant, shellfish & green zebra tomato jus (Josiah Citrin, Melisse)

Perfectly cooked spot prawns, clams and mussels were smothered in a complex broth with earthy olive tones and a duo of sweetness from the tomatoes and raisins.

Pave of Leek & Halibut spiced “carrot”, truffle ribbon, sea cress, crystal lettuce, raisin purée & smokey leeks (Richard Rosendale, The Greenbrier)

Pave of Leek & Halibut spiced “carrot”, truffle ribbon, sea cress, crystal lettuce, raisin purée & smokey leeks (Richard Rosendale, The Greenbrier)

Guest chef Rosendale’s dish was a major disappointment. The layered halibut and  leeks was a good pairing, but way over-salted. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the accompanying carrot, tomato and “truffle ribbon” were rather bland and tasteless. While I hoped that the over-seasoned and bland would offset each other to create a perfectly seasoned bite, this just wasn’t the case.

“Risotto alla Milanese” stewed ossobuco & lemon pistachio gremolata (Gino Angelini, Angelini Osteria)

“Risotto alla Milanese” stewed ossobuco & lemon pistachio gremolata (Gino Angelini, Angelini Osteria)

Angelini reliably creates something rather simple and delicious in meals like this, and this was no exception. An al dente saffron risotto was topped with a tender piece of veal shank, while the gremolata provided a little bit of fresh citrus to counter the richness. A great balance of flavors – I just wish the portion wasn’t so tiny.
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Liberty Farms Duck Breast gratin of Weiser Farms tromboncino, smoked tromboncino purée & black mission figs (Michael Cimarusti, Providence)

Liberty Farms Duck Breast gratin of Weiser Farms tromboncino, smoked tromboncino purée & black mission figs (Michael Cimarusti, Providence)

Cimarust’s duck dish was the final savory course. The duck was cooked a nice medium-rare and Cimarusti was able to imbue it with a pretty strong smoky flavor. It was complemented by sweet figs and some frisee; I’m not sure if the tromboncino squash made it to the plate.

“Le Vacherin aux Pêches Verveines” Frog Hollow Farms peaches, lemon verbena & chamomile bubbles (Allen Ramos, Bouchon)

“Le Vacherin aux Pêches Verveines” Frog Hollow Farms peaches, lemon verbena & chamomile bubbles (Alen Ramos, Bouchon)

Dessert was a very simple, yet satisfying dish. Sweet peaches were paired with a meringue and a foam with floral and lemon flavors. Light and refreshing.

As a parting gift, we were given earl grey and pistachio macarons as well as a canele.

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I thought the food overall was good, but not great, and didn’t meet the expectations suggested by previous 5×5 dinners or the $150 price tag. I just didn’t think anything really stood out, and flavors didn’t quite come together as well as anticipated. I understand that even with an all-star cast of chefs, dishes often don’t come out as refined during a one-night special event in a foreign kitchen – it won’t detract me from attending future 5×5 dinners. Plus, my experience was definitely made up for by the fact that Thomas Keller was there working the dining room. I just hope that leek & halibut dish doesn’t make its way anywhere near the Bocuse d’Or judges’ table.

Chef Keller signing an apron. An apron with a bunch of notable chef signatures happens to be a great conversation-starter.

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Sushi Kimagure (Pasadena, CA)

Sushi Kimagure
220 S Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105
Dining date: 8/8/12

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I first heard about Sushi Kimagure in an LA Weekly article from Jonathan Gold earlier this year. He called it “the best sushi bar Pasadena has ever seen,” not that Pasadena has many notable restaurants. Still, I’m always looking for good Japanese east (or north) of Little Tokyo, and Kimagure sounded like it had great promise.

Sushi Kimagure opened last year, when chef Ike-san departed his long-standing (since 1985) Sushi Ike in Hollywood. The new location is very different from the Hollywood Blvd. location in a more quaint Pasadena train station complex shared with La Grande Orange and The Luggage Room. Many of the regulars at Sushi Ike seem to have followed as well, as many of the other parties this evening had developed their relationship with Ike-san at the old location and were eager to share their memories over the years.

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Tables are almost exclusively via reservation and the menu is pretty much omakase-only. There are two different options, an $80 one and a $60 one. The $80 omakase has more of a focus on cooked foods, while the $60 menu is primarily a sushi omakase. We didn’t really know that at the beginning (and it’s not particularly clear on the menu), so we ended up with the $60 meal.

albacore with scallions and white onion

albacore with scallions and white onion

Our first dish was this light starter with tart, refreshing flavors featuring crisp onions and fish. Scallions and fish are such a great combination.

yellowfin tuna
yellowtail

yellowfin tuna

The sushi began with a pair of tender pieces of fish. I thought these were both good.

kanpachi (amberjack)

kanpachi

Next, the kanpachi had a clean flavor with a delicate chew.

sweet shrimp

sweet shrimp

Usually one of my favorites – sweet shrimp was broken down right and sliced right before serving. I noticed some inconsistency in the rice on this piece as it seemed to be packed a little denser, as well as have a little more texture.

mushroom chawanmushi

mushroom chawanmushi

Pork, scallops, shrimp, and mushrooms were distributed throughout this light custard. Kind of soupy at the bottom. Warm and comforting, I found this to be a welcome intermediary between sushi courses.

red snapper

red snapper

Similar to the kanpachi, this one had a delicate chew too, with a clean flavor of the sea.

shrimp heads

shrimp heads

I thought this was an interesting presentation for the shrimp heads. The interior of the head was removed and plated separately from the shell, leaving the meat without the crunch of the shell. Very different from the fried version.

halibut with kelp

halibut with kelp

The halibut had a little bit of chew to it, while kelp provided a different dynamic of sea flavor.

ikura and uni

uni ikura

The ikura was a good, albeit typical, example of the eggs, but I found the cool sweet uni to be a top-notch one. Excellent! We ordered another order of the uni later in the meal.

japanese scallop

scallop

Tender, soft scallop from Japan came next. I liked the scallop, though the shiso leaf underneath was a little overpowering for me.

seared salmon

seared salmon

This was a unique bite, something I don’t think I’ve had before. The salmon was seared, providing smoky notes to complement the fatty piece of fish. Fresh scallions provided a nice bite to counter the richness – excellent!

mountain yam and masago hand roll

mountain yam and masago hand roll

I thought the textural interplay was nice here, between the slimy mountain yam, bite of the eggs and crisp sprouts.

snow crab

snow crab

The sweet, succulent crab meat went really well with the soy. I don’t often see large crab legs in sushi form – I wish I did more often.

sea eel

sea eel

Tender and almost falling apart, I usually prefer freshwater eel but I liked this one quiet a bit. Just a little bit of the sweet sauce complemented the fish.

assorted fruit and red bean jello

dessert

To finish, we had a simple plate of fruit and a red bean jello.

Seconds of salmon, uni, red snapper

Sushi Kimagure was a good meal. I wouldn’t consider it in any ‘Best of LA’ lists, but I could see how it would be tops in Pasadena. I’d rank it a tier below the likes of second-tier options Sushi Zo and Mori; given the price point though, I think it’s a very attractive sushi bar. For 60 bucks, it’s one of the better sushi meals. The highs were quite high (seared salmon and uni), but the overall meal suffered from some inconsistency. Still, the bad wasn’t really that bad. I’ll be back.

LA Food & Wine: Saturday Grand Tasting (Los Angeles, CA)

Saturday Grand Tasting
Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival 2012
L.A. Live
800 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 8/11/12

While this past weekend’s LA Food & Wine festival offered a host of options in its 40+ events, the ones that piqued my interest most were the tastings. Food is the centerpiece of almost every event, but there are a few events (Saturday/Sunday Grand Tastings, Live on the Plaza) that offer food from dozens of different restaurants from around the country.

Saturday’s Grand Tasting featured around 30 chefs/restaurants and many more wineries (100+) in all-you-can-eat-and-drink fashion. The event was held during the day at LAFW’s “base” – LA Live. A huge tent shielded patrons from the searing sun, though the AC was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people (and makeshift kitchens) during one of the summer’s hottest heatwaves. Given the heat, water, champagne and cold beer seemed to be in strong demand to go along with the food.

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Each chef/restaurant had its own booth, with many of them serving multiple tastes.

Perfecto Rocher (Lazy Ox Canteen) watermelon gazpacho, jamon iberico, caviar

Perfecto Rocher (Lazy Ox Canteen) watermelon gazpacho, jamon iberico, caviar

jamon

Gabriel Ask (Montage Beverly Hills) corn panna cotta, bacon chips, uni

Gabriel Ask (Montage Beverly Hills) corn panna cotta, bacon chips, uni

Floyd Cardoz (North End Grill) mangalitsa pork, chutney

Floyd Cardoz (North End Grill) mangalitsa pork, chutney

Ernesto Uchimura (Plan Check) fried chicken, smoked milk gravy, pickled okra

Ernesto Uchimura (Plan Check) fried chicken, smoked milk gravy, pickled okra

Mark Estee (Campo) blood pudding, crispy polenta

Mark Estee (Campo) blood pudding, crispy polenta

Andre Bienvenu (Joe’s Stone Crab) popcorn with lobster, shrimp, crab, pork belly; seared ahi with merlot sugar

Andre Bienvenu (Joe's Stone Crab) popcorn with lobster, shrimp, crab, pork belly; seared ahi with merlot sugar

Andre Bienvenu (Joe's Stone Crab) popcorn with lobster, shrimp, crab, pork belly; seared ahi with merlot sugar

Hector Ramirez (Ruth’s Chris) mini filet oscar style; crabtini; sweet potato casserole

Hector Ramirez (Ruth's Chris) mini filet oscar style; crabtini; sweet potato casserole

Hector Ramirez (Ruth's Chris) mini filet oscar style; crabtini; sweet potato casserole

Hector Ramirez (Ruth's Chris) mini filet oscar style; crabtini; sweet potato casserole

Fabio Viviani (Firenze Osteria) pasta with duck sausage and fennel

Fabio Viviani (Firenze Osteria) pasta with duuk sausage and fennel

Anthony Meidenbauer (Holstein’s) pork belly slider

Anthony Meidenbauer (Holstein's) pork belly slider

Joachim Splichal (Patina) summer corn pudding, crab salad, lobster espuma

Joachim Splichal (Patina) summer corn pudding, crab salad, lobster espuma

Rick Tramonto (R’evolution) BBQ shrimp and grits

Rick Tramonto (R'evolution) BBQ shrimp and grits

Jeremy Berlin (Church & State) heirloom tomatoes, balsamic vinegar

Jeremy Berlin (Church & State) heirloom tomatoes, balsamic vinegar

Stephan Pyles (Stephan Pyles) scallop escabeche, red corn, spiced chicharron, huitlacoche foam

Stephan Pyles (Stephan Pyles) scallop escabeche, red corn, spiced chicharron, huitlacoche foam

Ricardo Zarate (Mo-Chica, Picca) grilled paiche miso

Ricardo Zarate (Mo-Chica, Picca) grilled paiche miso

Kerry Simon and Nona Sivley (LA Market) snickers, chocolate peanut butter cups

Kerry Simon and Nona Sivley (LA Market) snickers, chocolate peanut butter cups

Justin Everett (Murray Circle) saison ale peach preserves, oat financier, brown sugar creme

Justin Everett (Murray Circle) saison ale peach preserves, oat financier, brown sugar creme

Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (Border Grill) summer bean salad tostadita

Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (Border Grill) summer bean salad tostadita

Hasty Torres (Madame Chocolat) assorted chocolates

Hasty Torres (Madame Chocolat) assorted chocolates

Hasty Torres (Madame Chocolat) assorted chocolates

Magnolia Bakery banana pudding, cupcakes

Magnolia Bakery banana pudding, cupcakes

Magnolia Bakery banana pudding, cupcakes

Mark Ainsworth (Pastry Smart) chocolate cremeaux

Mark Ainsworth (Pastry Smart) chocolate cremeaux

Ryan Morrison (Towne) pig in a blanket with lobster and smoked sausage

Ryan Morrison (Towne) pig in a blanket with lobster and smoked sausage

Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier (Arrows) lobster fried green tomato sandwich

Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier (Arrows) lobster fried green tomato sandwich

Paul Shoemaker (Savory) ribeye, kimchi, umeboshi

Paul Shoemaker (Savory) ribeye, kimchi, umeboshi

Duane Owen (Pechanga) pan seared lobster and crispy pork belly, savoy cabbage slaw, chardonnay reduction, micro greens

Duane Owen (Pechanga) pan seared lobster and crispy pork belly, savoy cabbage slaw, chardonnay reduction, micro greens

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Cold champagne was a popular choice in the muggy tent, and I had more than my own fair share.

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Highlights for me included the dishes from Patina and Lazy Ox Canteen. Patina’s corn pudding and crab salad provided two layers of sweetness in some delicious, cool and refreshing bites. A little bit of lobster flavor provided some extra depth of flavor. Lazy Ox’s dish featured a duo of decadent flavors between the jamon iberico and caviar; the cool, sweet watermelon was a welcome accompaniment to bring it all together. Plan Check’s fried chicken was one of the most popular booths all afternoon and for good reason – the smoky fried chicken was very juicy and flavorful with an addicting crunch from the crispy batter. Finally, Fabio Viviani’s pasta with duck sausage was simple yet well-done, with an al dente pasta and rich duck ragu. I’m always a sucker for a good pasta, and came back for couple more portions.

Aside from stronger air conditioning, I’d like to see more national representation from the chefs and restaurants next year in this event. One of the things that separates LA Food & Wine (and Pebble Beach Food & Wine) from a lot of the other festivals in LA is the fact that it can draw chefs from outside of LA, allowing patrons more of an opportunity to try something new.

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Note: This was a sponsored event.

LA Food & Wine: Asian Night Market (Los Angeles, CA)

Asian Night Market
Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival 2012
Nokia Plaza
800 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 8/10/12

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Los Angeles Food & Wine is in its second year, already one of the largest (if not the largest) food festivals of the year in LA. With 40+ events over 4 days, it seemingly has something for everyone from tasting events to cooking demonstrations to wine tastings to some strong power lunches. It’s a sibling festival to Pebble Beach Food & Wine, one of Northern California’s marquee food festivals (which just completed its fifth year).

This year I attended two of the events: Asian Night Market and the Saturday Grand Tasting. Night markets seem to be all the rage in this city recently, with the 626 Night Market and Lucky Rice Night Market also happening in the last few weeks.

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Tickets were $75 ($125 VIP), inclusive of all food & drink, with almost 30 chefs/restaurants represented and dozens more wineries/spirits/bars. While more expensive than competing night markets, this event uniquely offered access to a number of non-LA chefs, including Ming Tsai, Edward Lee, Susur Lee, and Charles Phan.

The event was largely outdoors, somewhat a concern in the midst of a sweltering heat wave. However, the sun set pretty soon after the event opened and I didn’t think it was that bad. Plus, it was particularly night being out under the lights at night.

Keep hydrated was key all evening, and smartwater was well-stocked all evening (seriously, I’m amazed how often events like these run out of water). This is exactly what I dream of when I’m hungover.

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Each chef/restaurant had their own booth, serving up their interpretation of an east Asian street food dish.

Ming Tsai (Blue Ginger) tea smoked sirloin with mala oil

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Ming Tsai (Blue Ginger) tea smoked sirloin with mala oil

Roy Yamaguchi (Roy’s) chicken, jade pesto, cherry blossom rice

Roy Yamaguchi (Roy's) chicken, jade pesto, cherry blossom rice

Jet Tila (The Charleston) five spice pork belly bun

Jet Tila (The Charleston) five spice pork belly bun

Bryant Ng (The Spice Table) skate, sambal, coconut rice

Bryant Ng (The Spice Table) skate, sambal, coconut rice

Roy Choi (Kogi)

Roy Choi (Kogi)

Sam Choy (Sam Choy’s, Pineapple Express) loco moco

Sam Choy (Sam Choy's, Pineapple Express) loco moco

Robert Magsalin (Fukuburger) honey sesame fried chicken, okinawan donut holes

Robert Magsalin (Fukuburger) honey sesame fried chicken, okinawan donut holes

Mohan Ismail (RockSugar) short rib rendang sliders

Mohan Ismail (RockSugar) short rib rendang sliders

Edward Lee (610 Magnolia) kimchi rice cakes

Edward Lee (610 Magnolia) kimchi rice cakes

Jorge Mijangos (Nobu LA) tuna tacos and wagyu tacos

Jorge Mijangos (Nobu LA) tuna tacos and wagyu tacos

Hiroshi Shima (Sushi Roku) fluke sashimi

Hiroshi Shima (Sushi Roku) fluke sashimi

Thi Tran (Starry Kitchen) malaysian chicken curry, lychee panda cotta

Thi Tran (Starry Kitchen) malaysian chicken curry, lychee panda cotta

Fluff Ice 18 hour lamill cold brew, condensed milk, raspberries, espresso beans

Fluff Ice 18 hour lamill cold brew, condensed milk, raspberries, espresso beans

Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods) pork ribs, spareribs sliders

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Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods) pork ribs, spareribs sliders

Ricardo Zarate (Mo-Chica, Picca) grilled tuna, asian pesto, camote al hilo

Ricardo Zarate (Mo-Chica, Picca) grilled tuna, asian pesto, camote al hilo

David LeFevre (MB Post) green tea soba, lotus root, shiitake mushrooms

David LeFevre (MB Post) green tea soba, lotus root, shiitake mushrooms

Huge Tree Pastry beef roll

Huge Tree Pastry beef roll

Michael Ginor (Lola) duck slider

Michael Ginor (Lola) duck slider

Charles Phan (Slanted Door) banh nam, dried shrimp and pork

Charles Phan (Slanted Door) banh nam, dried shrimp and pork

David Myers chili crab wontons

David Myers chili crab wontons

Yu Bo (Yu’s Family Kitchen) sichuan pork dumplings

Yu Bo (Yu's Family Kitchen) sichuan pork dumplings

John Lechleidner (WP24) malaysian chicken feet, dan dan chicken dumplings, peking duck roll, ovaltine fudgesickles, passionfruit push pops, watermelon rose icies, galia pandan icies

John Lechleidner (WP24) malaysian chicken feet, dan dan chicken dumplings, peking duck roll, ovaltine fudgesickles, passionfruit push pops, watermelon rose icies, galia pandan icies

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Eddie Wong (Mr. Chow) walnut shrimp, red bean sauce noodles

Eddie Wong (Mr. Chow) walnut shrimp, red bean sauce noodles

Eddie Wong (Mr. Chow) walnut shrimp, red bran sauce noodles

Duff Goldman (Charm City Cakes West) ginger cake, green tea ice cream

Duff Goldman (Charm City Cakes West) ginger cake, green tea ice cream

A host of wines and spirits were involved, but I especially appreciated the lineup of cocktail bars serving up ice cold drinks all night long.

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If I had to choose one main highlight, it was probably one of the most unassuming dishes I tried – the 18-hour cold brew Taiwanese shaved ice from Fluff Ice. The rich, deep flavor of the coffee really came through; almost like a really good coffee ice cream, albeit much lighter. Condensed milk provided some creaminess and sweetness, while whole espresso beans added additional coffee flavor and texture. While it was the perfect thing for a warm evening, I would’ve eaten this anywhere.

Jet Tila’s pork belly bun consistently had one of the longer lines and for good reason. Tender pork belly with a sweet glaze was sandwiched in between an exceptional warm, delicately crispy bun. Sam Choy’s loco moco was another highlight for me. It was a huge portion of hamburger patty, rice, gravy and a fried egg that tasted very well together with a good balance of flavors.  Susur Lee’s puff pastry with duck sausage (unfortunately I forgot to take a picture) was another good one, with a very light, flaky pastry being a difference-maker. Host Andrew Zimmern’s pork ribs were huge, meaty, delicious things that I wanted to rip into teeth-first (though I expected something a little more bizarre, I don’t think he or I were ready for, say, stinky tofu).

I thought this was a lot of fun and probably a good deal as one of the more approachable LAFW tasting events at the $75pp price point. Yes, it’s more expensive than an evening in the San Gabriel Valley, but it’s a whole different type of experience altogether. Though I have one request: can someone please make boba milk tea next year?

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Note: This was a sponsored event.

Water Grill (Los Angeles, CA) (2)

Water Grill
544 S Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Dining date: 7/25/12

water grill interior

Recently, we welcomed a couple of new team members at work. To celebrate the addition, a group of us went out to dinner downtown. Given that many of my co-workers enjoyed Water Grill the last time we went, it was a fairly easy choice for a return visit. This would be my second visit since the remodel (the first visit was captured gorgeously by gastronomyblog), in which the restaurant closed from Dec.-Jan. to change its look. What resulted was a more open layout with a clear view of the kitchen; I think they succeeded in making the restaurant appear less stuffy and a little more approachable.

kitchen

For such a classy establishment, I was surprised to see they served beers by the pitcher. They had a brief but good beer list, highlighted by Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA. Sculpin by the pitcher? Score!

sculpin pitcher

Coincidentally, it was dineLA restaurant week, $45 for 3 courses. I thought it was a pretty good price point; about half of us ordered this menu with the rest going a la carte.

CRISFIELD, MARYLAND BLUE CRAB CAKE

CRISFIELD, MARYLAND BLUE CRAB CAKE

The crab cake was pretty well done with a crispy crust and sweet, moist crab meat. A little bit of heat permeated the crab, making for some pretty delicious bites.

KONA KAMPACHI TARTARE japanese mustard, green apple

KONA KAMPACHI TARTARE japanese mustard, green apple

This tartare was a little bland and the texture seemed a bit on the mushier side. Mustard and green apple tried to spruce up the kampachi, but I don’t think it was enough.

NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER manila clams, applewood smoked bacon

NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER manila clams, applewood smoked bacon

I don’t think this recipe has changed much throughout my visits, something I consider a good thing. The soup was rather light with more of a milky, broth-like consistency with tasty plump clams. Tender carrots and potatoes, as well as smokey bacon rounded out the flavors.

FRITTO MISTO mixed fried seafood with smokey marinara and tzatziki

FRITTO MISTO mixed fried seafood with smokey marinara and tzatziki

I had high hopes for a fried seafood platter here at Water Grill. Filled with fish, shrimp, squid and zucchini, this one fell far short. The seafood was overcooked (making for some particularly chewy squid) and the batter felt somewhat uneven. The zucchini was the highlight of the dish, with its juicy, flavorful interior.

WILD BAJA CALIFORNIA YELLOWTAIL blackened with sweet curried cauliflower

WILD BAJA CALIFORNIA YELLOWTAIL blackened with sweet curried cauliflower

This was a denser fish with a fishier taste, cooked well. The blackening spices provided a good depth of flavor as well as a bit of spice. The sweet cauliflower was a nice pairing, counteracting the spice and richness of the fish.

WILD MORROW BAY KING SALMON pan sauteed with asparagus chutney, raw asparagus salad

WILD MORROW BAY KING SALMON pan sauteed with asparagus chutney, raw asparagus salad

WILD CALIFORNIA WHITE SEABASS roasted herb quinoa, grilled macerated peaches

WILD CALIFORNIA WHITE SEABASS roasted herb quinoa, grilled macerated peaches

My coworker Andrew, who eats at his fair share of restaurants in seafood-centric Seattle, found the seabass a little overcooked. I had to agree; the dense fish was still fairly moist but not as much as it could’ve been. Still enjoyable though, particularly with the sweetness of the peaches and the earthy quinoa accompaniments.

Three desserts were available off the dineLA menu, and we were able to try all three.

WHITE MINT FUDGE PARFAIT crispy cocoa

WHITE MINT FUDGE PARFAIT crispy cocoa

KEY LIME PIE pomegranate seeds

KEY LIME PIE pomegranate seeds

CARAMEL BREAD PUDDING alaea sea salt

CARAMEL BREAD PUDDING alaea sea salt

The key lime pie was fairly standard, perhaps in a good way. There was an interesting ice cream alongside, the flavor of which I couldn’t place. The sundae-like parfait had nice chocolate and mint flavors with texture from the cocoa. My favorite of the trio was the bread pudding with croissant and brioche breads being used in the warm, moist dessert. Really comforting and not overly sweet. The cold ice cream was a welcome contrast, as was the rich salted caramel flavor. Quite nice.

There were a number of ups-and-downs in this meal but overall I thought it was pretty good. However, given the price point of a typical meal here, I’d expect more…a similar sentiment to some past meals. Still, for a seafood-centric meal on the company’s tab (or maybe just a pitcher of beer), Water Grill’s probably not a bad way to go.