The Taste: Field to Fork (Los Angeles, CA)

The Taste 2012: Field to Fork
Paramount Pictures Studios
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 9/1/12

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This past weekend, The Taste returned to LA.  In its second year, it’s one of the biggest food festivals in the city, stretching over the three day Labor Day weekend. It was a slightly slimmed down version this year with less events (5), one location (Paramount Studios), and a more approachable ticket price ($65 in advance, $75 at the door, $50 via a LivingSocial promo).

Similar to last year, the five events each had a different theme. Each featured its own lineup of cooking demonstrations, wine seminars, chef panels and book signings. Of course, unlimited food & drink tastings were included in the ticket price as well, making this one of the most complete (if not the most) food event packages for 65 bucks.

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The first event of the weekend, ‘Field to Fork’, reflected the farm-to-table concept that we’ve been seeing more and more of around the country. In addition to the ~30 restaurants whipping up dishes, there were a number of farms showcasing their produce, as well a panel on the ‘State of the Farmers Market.’

Tender Greens freekeh, gazpacho sliders

Tender Greens freekeh, gazpacho sliders

Tender Greens freekeh, gazpacho sliders

Rocio’s Moles de Dioses grasshopper cream soup

Rocio’s Moles de Dioses grasshopper cream soup

Ombra Ristorante farro salad

Ombra Ristorante farro salad

9021PHO chicken pho

9021PHO chicken pho

FigOly spicy gazpacho with crab

FigOly spicy gazpacho with crab

Ray’s & Stark Bar roasted pork belly, watermelon

Ray’s & Stark Bar roasted pork belly, watermelon

Good Girl Dinette corn and tomato hand pie, peach hand pie

Good Girl Dinette corn and tomato hand pie, peach hand pie

Valerie Confections basil panna cotta with blenheim preserves

Valerie Confections basil panna cotta with blenheim preserves

Bistro 45 za’atar dusted duck, honey dates, goat cheese polenta

Bistro 45 za'atar dusted duck, honey dates, goat cheese polenta

Locanda del Lago puree of market vegetables, micro arugula; eggplant sorbet, ricotta, red onion, golden raisin saute

Locanda del Lago puree of market vegetables, micro arugula; eggplant sorbet, ricotta, red onion, golden raisin saute

Locanda del Lago puree of market vegetables, micro arugula; eggplant sorbet, ricotta, red onion, golden raisin saute

Scarpetta porchetta, smoked brentwood corn, pickled mustard seed vinaigrette

Scarpetta porchetta, smoked brentwood corn, pickled mustard seed vinaigrette

Mr. Chow chicken satay; shanghai cucumber

Mr. Chow chicken satay; shanghai cucumber

Sysco sterling silver roasted new york

Sysco sterling silver roasted new york roast

Sysco sterling silver roasted new york roast

La Casita Mexicana dry white corn soup; bean salad

La Casita Mexicana dry white corn soup; bean salad

Casa Azul Cantina/Frida mexican corn snack

Casa Azul Cantina/Frida mexican corn snack

Guelaguetza oyster mushroom & cactus tostadas

Guelaguetza oyster mushroom & cactus tostadas

BLVD 16 heirloom tomato & watermelon gazpacho; strawberry & piquillo gazpacho

BLVD 16 tomato & watermelon gazpacho; strawberry & piquillo gazpacho

BLVD 16 tomato & watermelon gazpacho; strawberry & piquillo gazpacho

Creme Caramel LA vanilla and emerald plum almond creme caramel; vanilla and upside down summer peach bread pudding

Creme Caramel LA vanilla and emerald plum almond creme caralem; vanilla and upside down summer peach bread pudding

Terranea lobster rolls; peach blueberry oat streusel pie

Terranea lobster rolls; peach blueberry oat streusel pie

Terranea lobster rolls; peach blueberry oat streusel pie

Canele mixed bean salad

Canele mixed bean salad

Lexington Social House grilled peaches with burrata and crispy pancetta; rice pudding with pineapple

Lexington Social House grilled peaches with burrata and crispy pancetta; rice pudding with pineapple

Red O pork belly sopes

Red O pork belly sopes

Soleto Trattoria & Pizza Bar chopped salad; salmon scallopini, tiramisu; strawberry shortcake

Soleto Trattoria & Pizza Bar chopped salad; salmon scallopini, tiramisu; strawberry shortcake

Wood & Vine chicken liver & foie gras pate

Wood & Vine chicken liver & foie gras pate

The Blvd at Beverly Wilshire Hotel quail breast, chayote jicama slaw, guajillo vinaigrette

The Blvd at Beverly Wilshire Hotel quail breast, chayote jicama slaw, guajillo vinaigrette

Cook’s County spretzel with mustard dipping sauce; grilled sausage salad with pickled onion

Cook’s County spretzel with mustard dipping sauce; grilled sausage salad with pickled onion

Cook’s County spretzel with mustard dipping sauce; grilled sausage salad with pickled onion

Drinks were also plentiful, perhaps moreso than the food itself. One of my favorites was Veev pouring drinks (mojito or lemonade) into these mason jars.

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I probably stopped by the Vita Coco stand a dozen times throughout the weekend.

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And tasted my way through several pours of scotch and tequila…

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in between other cocktails and wines.

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I was also able to catch a few minutes of one of the wine tasting seminars and the tail end of a cooking competition between David LeFevre (M.B. Post) and Ray Garcia (Fig).

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This was a fun event. Given it was outdoors and pretty damn hot out, shade and anything cold (cocktails!) were in high demand. Food-wise, I didn’t think there was anything spectacular, but some of the highlights were Scarpetta’s porchetta, Valerie Confections’ basil panna cotta, and Wood & Vine’s chicken liver & foie gras pate. Scarpetta’s porchetta, which seemed to actually just be roasted pork belly, was lucious, tender and delicious. Served with a smoky corn puree and a light vinaigrette to cut through the richness – it was a winner. Valerie Confections brought a couple of my favorite bites of the weekend; here, the panna cotta was smooth and creamy with a subtle basil flavor. Paired with a sweet apricot preserve, this was another hit. I thought Sysco was an odd inclusion in the ‘restaurant’ lineup, but I’ll never complain with large roasts of strip loin beef. Lastly, I appreciated Wood & Vine taking the opportunity to give away some foie gras, in a duo of tasty livers (chicken and foie) on a crispy crostini.

Being one of the more reasonable ticket prices in the LA food festival arena, The Taste presented quite a bit of value with its considerable array of food/drink-related activities. I’m excited to see how The Taste evolves next year.

Note: This was a hosted event.

Patina (Los Angeles, CA)

Patina
141 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 8/23/12

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Patina is one of those restaurants that seems like it’s been around forever and always will be. I first ate here on my 21st birthday; I don’t remember much specifically but I remember it being a good meal. Even though I’ve lived within walking distance for the past four years, it took me just over six years to return. I never had a sense of urgency, perhaps because the first meal did not leave a very strong impression.

A couple of my coworkers recently had a private dinner at Patina to kick-start the launch of their new nonprofit (see: Edo Foundation). Coincidentally, it was also around the time of a chef transition, as outgoing chef Tony Esnault was replaced by sous chef Charles Olalia. My coworkers loved the meal and raved about it; six years was far too long – I was ready for a return visit.

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A la carte as well as a three or four-course promotional market menu (which may or may not be extended) are available, as well as a seven course tasting menu. It’s not cheap by any means, but its $115 price point was less than I thought it’d be.

Le Citron Rose absolut citron, chambord, lemon sour
Bourbon Brillant bourbon, grand marnier, fresh grapefruit

cocktails

We started with drinks; I swear they tasted kind of watered down, not unlike a meal I had earlier in the week.

Sweet Corn Soup crostini, corn, chive oil

corn soup

We began the meal with this amuse bouche, a chilled soup showing off the natural sweetness of corn. Chive oil provided a little bit of the grassy herb flavor while tiny bits of toasted crostini provided the texture.

A trio of breads were served: wheat, olive and baguette. The first one I had was the baguette, which I found to be very chewy and rather hard to eat, kind of terrible. The olive, which came hot out of the oven later, fared much better displaying a crispy crust, airy interior and subtle olive flavor.

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Dungeness Crab FraÎcheur champagne mango, avocado, tomatoes

Dungeness Crab FraÎcheur champagne mango, avocado, tomatoes

Crab and avocado were wrapped in thin slices of mango in a beautiful display. I thought the flavors were pretty well-balanced, though the mango may have overshadowed the crab a bit. Tomatoes provided a different kind of sweetness to pair with the mango and crab, while bits of crostini (soaked in tomato juice) provided the texture.

Poached Farmed Egg peas, kalamansi, arugula

Poached Farmed Egg peas, kalamansi, arugula

Poached Farmed Egg peas, kalamansi, arugula

Hard to go wrong with a perfectly poached egg; here it was paired with a duo of peas in puree form and freshly shucked. The runny egg yolk brought everything together, adding a welcome richness, while arugula provided a little bit of a countering bite. For the third course in a row, the same small pieces of crostini provided the texture.

Fancy decanter.

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Seasonal Glazed Vegetable Mosaic ”jus de cuisson,” lemon oil

Seasonal Glazed Vegetable Mosaic ”jus de cuisson,” lemon oil

Seasonal Glazed Vegetable Mosaic ”jus de cuisson,” lemon oil

A signature dish of former chef Tony Esnault – this was the lone course kept on the menu through Chef Olalia’s transition. It was a beautiful dish, featuring whatever was fresh at the market, and each vegetable was cooked separately to coax out their natural flavors. Indeed, I think each vegetable’s flavor stood out on its own while the savory jus and lemon oil brought everything together.

Black Cod Confit tarbais beans, piquillo pepper, green almond

Black Cod Confit tarbais beans, piquillo pepper, green almond

I think this was my favorite course of the evening, with a black cod that was first steamed then poached in olive oil. The cod itself was cooked perfectly, moist and succulent, while tarbais beans provided some earthy creaminess. Waxy green and yellow beans, sweet piquillo peppers, and a warm sauce rounded out the plate.

Colorado Lamb Loin courgette, porcini, farro, lamb jus

Colorado Lamb Loin courgette, porcini, farro, lamb jus

Colorado Lamb Loin courgette, porcini, farro, lamb jus

The last savory dish was a duo of lamb, presenting a roasted loin portion and a basteeya preparation. Both pieces of lamb were delicious, particularly with the jus – I wanted more. The basteeya, a savory Morrocan pie of sorts, featured tender confit lamb in a crispy, flaky pastry. Quite nice. However, the accompanying piece of eggplant was terrible, having an off-putting astringent flavor that was shared among all four of us dining.

Harry’s Berries Strawberries crème fraîche, buttermilk ice cream, basil granité

Harry’s Berries Strawberries crème fraîche, buttermilk ice cream, basil granité

The first dessert featured the well-known and reliably sweet strawberries from Harry’s Berries. Seriously, those berries are always delicious. Here, they were paired with a buttermilk ice cream, chopped nuts, and creme fraiche custard. The balance of tart and sweet was a successful one, while basil provided some depth of flavor.

Chocolate Moelleux dacquoise, passion fruit, hazelnut sorbet

Chocolate Moelleux dacquoise, passion fruit, hazelnut sorbet

The last course of the evening had a few chocolate presentations. Chocolate in a meringue and crisp paper form were accompanied by extra chocolate in the form of a nutella sorbet. A passion fruit sauce really brightened things up.

Peach and Cassis Pate de Fruits, Peanut Butter Fudge

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Lastly, some sweets were brought out to finish the meal. Both were good; my favorite was the fudgey peanut creation.

I found Patina to be a good meal, meeting expectations. Execution was mostly on point with a broad array of colorful and flavorful presentations. Having said that, I’m not sure I would rank Patina in the top few restaurants in the city. There weren’t any dishes that particularly wow’ed, and a few bad missteps (baguette and eggplant come to mind) really didn’t help. Still, it’s one of the few real fine dining restaurants going strong in this city, so I suspect it won’t take me quite as long to return next time around.

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

prime rib

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.

lobster tail

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

cocktails

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

kimagure signage

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.

kimagure door

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.