smoke.oil.salt (Los Angeles, CA)

smoke.oil.salt
7274 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Dining date: 4/27/14

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Spanish cuisine has gotten a lot of attention on the global scene in recent years; as diverse as Los Angeles is, we haven’t seen a lot of new Spanish eateries open up. Except for, of course, the megahit Bazaar; opened almost six years ago, it’s still one of the go-to spots for tapas in the city. smoke.oil.salt aims be another premiere Spanish option in LA.

Opened by Adam Fleischman/AdVantage Partners in the old Angeli Caffe location, the food is tapas-style focused on a lot of traditional flavors. Perfecto Rocher is the chef here, who most recently brought his Spanish influences (and resume including stops at El Bulli and Martin Berasategui) to Lazy Ox Canteen. I visited Lazy Ox a couple of years ago when Rocher was cooking and enjoyed it, so was excited to check out his next stop.

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Maude (Beverly Hills, CA)

Maude
212 S Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Dining date: 4/12/14

Maude Opened in February, Curtis Stone’s Maude was one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of the year. It’s still one of the most popular restaurants in the city, packing tables for its seasonal, monthly tasting menus. The concept is rather unique; each month, the restaurant chooses one ingredient/theme to showcase throughout its entire 9+ course tasting menu (there is no a la carte option). This April dinner was centered around peas ($80).

Reservations are available at 10am on the 1st of the month for the following month (e.g. April reservations were available on March 1). On March 1, we placed hundreds of calls to get a busy signal…and finally secured a table in the early afternoon. Definitely one of the more difficult reservations to obtain in a while.

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Vegas Uncork’d 2014: Michael Mina’s Pig Roast and Beer Garden (Las Vegas, NV)

Vegas Uncork’d 2014: Michael Mina’s Pig Roast and Beer Garden
MGM Grand
3799 South Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/9/14

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There was a lot of variety across the 31 events during this year’s Vegas Uncork’d. Of course there are the tasting events, cooking demos and exclusive sit-down meals, but this year stretched to cocktail demos, a golf event and even a night clubbing at Hakkasan. Somewhere in that spectrum was this event at the MGM Grand’s pool area, hosted by chef Michael Mina. Dubbed a pig roast and beer garden, it featured a whole roasted pig and BBQ favorites with a handful of side dishes prepared by Mina’s own Pub 1842. Heineken, Newcastle, Dos Equis, and Goose Island brought the beer while Don Julio, Grey Goose and Doña Paula winery completed the drink offerings. $125 purchased a ticket to the all-you-can-eat/drink event.

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Vegas Uncork’d 2014: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Vegas Uncork’d Grand Tasting
Caesar’s Palace: Garden of the Gods
3570 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/9/14

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This weekend marked the eighth annual Vegas Uncork’d wine and food event. Spanning 31 events over 4 days, it continues to be one of the largest of its kind in the nation. I’ve mentioned it before, but Las Vegas is an ideal city for such a festival. Event spaces and hotel rooms are plentiful, and the city’s hunger for “celebrity chef” restaurants has created such a conglomeration of high-profile chefs in one city. They may never actually cook in their kitchen, but they’re well-represented during Uncork’d week.

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The Grand Tasting is the singular event that allows the most variety of food, wine and chef access for one ticket of admission ($225). Over 50 restaurants were represented with many more vintners and spirits. It’s truly a sight to behold. This would be my fourth year attending the Grand Tasting (also see 2012 and 2013 posts).

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Night + Market Song (Los Angeles, CA)

Night + Market Song
3322 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Dining date: 5/2/14

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Night + Market has been a hit since opening in 2010. Popular for Kris Yenbamroong’s interpretation of Thai street food, it’s been consistently drawing nationwide attention for its bold, oft-spicy flavors and celebrity clientele. Its success has spawned an offshoot in Silver Lake; Yenbamroong realized many of his customers were driving from the Silver Lake area to the original West Hollywood location. With this more easterly location, it’s now within quick reach of downtown residents (like me!). Having enjoyed the original a few times (but hating the drive to WeHo), I was very excited to hear it was coming to Silver Lake.

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This location is currently serving an abbreviated menu without any alcohol (the license is in the works). Still, there are plenty of options on the menu to choose from. We dove into some old favorites and some new dishes.

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Yamakase (Los Angeles, CA)

Yamakase
10422 National Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Dining date: 4/8/14

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Yamakase has been on my radar since I first heard about it a couple of years ago. The restaurant is an invitation-only (request one here) “secret” Japanese spot serving high-end Japanese. The meal may be best described as kaiseki, but it’s not really; it’s moreso a progression of sushi/sashimi and small plates of whatever the chef wants to serve. The courses are definitely Japanese-centric but there are a handful with clear Western influences. As expected, the meal is omakase-only with around 20-25 courses; the price varies somewhere in the low $200s. It’s a BYOB only affair.

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The chef here is Kiyoshiro Yamamoto (Yama-san) formerly of Santa Monica’s The Hump which closed amidst a ton of controversy. Yama-san is a one-man show and the ten-seat bar curves around the kitchen giving everyone a full view of the preparation of the meal from start to finish. For the food-enthused, it’s as much a show as a meal. On this evening, Yama-san began by expertly breaking down a huge bluefin tuna loin, proceeded to prepare two Japanese hairy crabs for the steamer, then grated fresh wasabi root and shaved some truffles. It promised to be an exciting meal even before the first bite.

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