Dan Moody @ Batch (Culver City, CA)

Dan Moody Pop-Up
Batch Restaurant & Bar
8631 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Dining date: 3/1/12

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Dan Moody is probably best known in the food world for being sous chef to Ludovic Lefebvre through LudoBites 6.0. Since then, he’s been doing his own thing, showing up here and there with his own iteration of a pop-up. I missed Moody’s Relate stints in San Diego and Arizona, but I did catch him at a dessert night at Scoops Westside last July. His latest venture was this pop-up at Batch in Culver City for just a 5-day period. I gathered up some of my coworkers and dropped in right in the middle of the run.

The menu was fairly concise and very well-priced; 13 dishes were available, all within $15. We ordered one of everything and doubled up on some of the ones that sounded most interesting.

Although Batch’s regular beer/wine/cocktail list was available, one of my coworkers brought in this bottle for us to enjoy. Thanks Yury!

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SWEETBREADS VOL AU VENT Blood Sausage, Creamy Veal Jus

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The light and flaky puff pastry was a highlight, as was the crispy, tender sweetbreads. Blood sausage and veal jus really added some heartier savory flavors as well. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

BEEF TARTARE WITH MUSTARD ICE CREAM NY Strip, Pickled Red Onion, Chopped Parsley, Mustard Ice Cream, Guinness Gastrique

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This was one of the highlights of the meal. The beef was tender with just a slight chew, showing off good texture. The mustard ice cream made the dish, adding a cool heat to the plate that really rounded out each bite.

FOIE AND EGG, BREAKFAST STYLE 63C Egg, ‘Foiellandaise’, Sauteed Mushrooms, Foie Powdered Donut, Coffee, Mushroom Ash

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Now this was pretty interesting. The perfectly cooked egg was rich and runny, while some chanterelles and a mushroom ash added an earthy depth of flavor. I do like the mushroom-egg combination; the foie hollandaise and coffee beignet brought some added complementary flavors. If only my breakfasts could be so decadent!

ROASTED BABY BEET SALAD Golden Beet Vinaigrette

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Cool, refreshing and ultimately a very simple salad featuring the root vegetable.

COLLARD GREEN VEGAN TACOS

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This one didn’t work as well for me, though vegan tacos typically aren’t my thing.  Strong earthy flavors came through, but I was looking for something a bit more dynamic. 

CEVICHE AND A COLD BEER Spicy Ceviche, Cilantro, Jalapeno, Beer Carbonated Grapes, Citrus

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There was something spicy in here…almost too spicy for me. Luckily, it was tempered by some cool grapes, and I was able to hone in on the fish and citrus flavors in the dish. I’m not sure I got the beer part of the concept though.

SAUTEED LOCAL ROCK COD Vadouvan Beets, Coconut Curry Hollandaise, Fried Spinach Salad

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The rock cod was cooked well leaving a rather moist and flaky fish. A little bit of a curry in the sauce added some extra flavor, also accented by the vadouvan. Fried spinach was a nice touch.

SAUTEED CHICKEN WITH SPINACH GREMOLATA Sous Vide Pasteurized Chicken Breast, Mediterranean Quinoa Salad, Spinach Gremolata, Caramelized Feta Cheese

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Although the chicken was cooked sous vide, I found it a touch on the dry side. Spinach gremolata added much of the flavor and color, while quinoa added some extra earthy notes.

SEARED ALBACORE Sushi Rice Crème Anglaise, Nori & Shiso Leaf Pesto, Wasabi, Pickled Ginger

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I enjoyed the nice pieces of albacore with the Japanese accents; sushi rice in a creme anglaise was a fun interpretation. Something had a very floral essence (I couldn’t pinpoint it) that was a bit odd to me.

MARKET VEGETABLES Created Daily

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This was a simple plate of roasted vegetables with a natural sweetness brought out by oven. I particularly liked the charred parts. Nothing special, but it wasn’t trying to be.

SLOW-ROASTED PORK Potato Gnocchi, Baby Carrots, Pork Jus

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The pork clearly displayed a welcome savory depth both from the meat and the jus. The couple of bites I had were sort of gristly and fatty, but I think that was more of a function of what the rest of my table left me (I had the last bites of this one). The potato gnocchi quite good.

“RED VELVET” Chocolate Cake, Beet Ice Cream, Cream Cheese Mousse

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I liked the presentation of this dessert with the layers of chocolate cake and sweet cream cheese mousse. Both of those layers were good on its own, but I thought the beet ice cream added some much-needed pizzazz to the dish, bringing both color and a strong beet flavor that went pretty well with the chocolate.

BANANA BREAD PUDDING A LA BOURBON PECAN PIE Caramelized Pecans, Bourbon Custard, Vanilla Cognac Crème Chantilly

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I thought this was easily the best dish of the evening. The bread pudding was served warm (almost hot) with a balanced banana flavor, topped by a rich bourbon sauce and light Chantilly cream. I thought the flavors were spot on between the banana, bourbon and vanilla, while caramelized pecans added some texture and nuttiness. Not too sweet. So good.

I thought Moody’s food was pretty good.  The menu was approachable yet interesting, and execution was largely on point. Plus, the price was right; food was under $50pp. Highlights for me included the sweetbreads, beef tartare, rock cod and of course the bread pudding. I’ll be interested to see what Moody does next. I know I’m not the only one…one of my coworkers returned for both of the remaining nights after this meal.

Le Saint Amour (Culver City, CA)

Le Saint Amour
9725 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Dining date: 10/4/11

I’ve been hearing a lot of positive things about Le Saint Amour, a French bistro in Culver City. What really got this restaurant on my radar was that Walter Manzke (whom I am a huge fan of) was brought on as a consulting chef late last year. Granted, the involvement of a ”consulting chef” varies widely (couldn’t any restaurant on “Kitchen Nightmares” boast Gordon Ramsay as a consulting chef?), but my interest was piqued. A BlackboardEats 30% off deal was exactly the tipping point I needed to come in.

The menu is classic French – think charcuterie, escargot and moules/steak frites. Our party of four decided on four appetizers and five entrees.

Chef Bruno’s Charcuterie Plate assortment of housemade pâtés and terrines

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I don’t appreciate charcuterie as much as I’d like…I’d almost always prefer a cooked slab of meat. However, of all of the meats on this plate (most of which I don’t recall), I enjoyed the duck prosciutto the most (bottom left).

Escargots de Bourgogne Burgundy snails, garlic, parsley, puff pastry

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A great example of the classic dish here. Strong garlic, parsley and butter flavors complemented the tender and chewy snails. The puff pastry was done well too, flaky and served hot.

Steak Tartare hand cut hanger steak, mesclun salad

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I liked the presentation of the tartare, particularly the uniformity of the chop and the colors. Unfortunately, it didn’t taste as good as it looked; there was something in here that was overly acidic and tart, overshadowing the beefy flavor. I did like the textures in the tartare, but that wasn’t enough to save it.

Crispy Veal Sweetbread braised mustard greens, roasted grapes, mustard, bacon

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Probably the best of the appetizers we ordered. The breading was light and crispy, while the sweetbreads was moist. I thought the mustard greens added some body, while the roasted grapes contributed welcome sweet and fruity accents to the dish.

Chef Bruno’s Housemade Sausages (Lyonnaise, Toulouse, boudin noir) summer shelling beans, tomatoes, kale

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Advertised as three different sausages and explained as such when it came to our table, we were surprised to find that we actually got only two variations – one boudin noir and two of the Toulouse. Only once we inquired were we told that they were out of the third sausage. I thought this was a bit dishonest of the restaurant, feeling as thought they tried to slip one past us.

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We were supplemented by some merguez sausage, which may have been the best of the bunch. I’m just glad we didn’t get extra boudin noir. It was undercooked, leaving a chewy and difficult-to-eat casing, as well as a pudding-like sausage that bled out of the casing when cut (pun intended!).

Steak Frites prime beef flat iron steak, beurre MaȊtre d’Hotel, french fries

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Adding to our entree drama, we were informed their fryer broke – french fries were no longer available. Sounded like this had been a frequent occurence lately, given one person at our table had the same thing happen less than a week prior. I think the fries are an integral part of steak frites or moules frites, so I wasn’t too enthused to hear the options were a salad or sauteed vegetables. After some back-and-forth, we got a substitute side of kale with bacon, shallots and lemon.

The steak was tougher than I expected but had good flavor and was cooked well. Expectanctly, the butter added a welcome richness and some herbal depth of flavor. The kale was quite good too, with the lemon and bacon being key flavor profiles.

Roasted Jidori Chicken ratatouille Provençale, chicken jus

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I was expecting a portion of a traditional whole-roasted chicken, but this variation was a half-chicken pounded thin and pan-roasted. This allowed for a very crispy skin while the meat was delicious. The ratatouille provided some bright flavors that I thought paired pretty well with the chicken.

Moules Frites mussels, saffron, white wine, tomato, basil, french fries

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Potatoes au Gratin

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Our substituted side for the mussels was potatoes au gratin. I found the mussels to be tiny, but the broth was excellent. It really benefited from the saffron, which added a subtle aromatic characteristic to the broth. The potatoes were solid, but I was really missing some crispy fries to dip into the broth.

Boeuf Bourguignon red wine braised beef cheek, bacon, butter noodles

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Tender chunks of beef cheek were smothered in the rich braising liquid. Very flavorful and very good. The butter noodles (finally, an appropriate starch) were good as well, sopping up the rest of the sauce.

We ordered quite a bit of food, so we opted to split just one dessert.

Profiteroles au Chocolat vanilla ice cream, hot chocolate sauce

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Pretty good profiteroles here. Kept simple, I thought the ice cream and chocolate sauce were both solid, while the choux pastry was light. Always love the hot-cold and vanilla-chocolate tandems.

Overall, my experience at Le Saint Amour was disappointing. Maybe my expectations were too high, but quite frankly, I’m glad we didn’t pay full price. There were clearly some highlights to the meal, offset by some lows too (boudin noir, steak tartare). Plus, the sausage and french fry issues really detracted a lot from the food. I’ve been told I need to try their brunch out, but I’m not in a hurry to do that.

Lukshon (Culver City, CA)

Lukshon
3239 Helms Ave
Culver City, CA 90232
Dining date: 9/27/11

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I first went to Lukshon when it opened in February and really enjoyed it. I even had random cravings to come back, but for some reason it took 8 months. The restaurant recently started lunch service; I thought it would be a good time to bring the parents while they were in town.

Lukshon does a surprisingly good job of using flavors throughout Asia. While a traditionalist wouldn’t say the dishes are authentic to any particular region, I think the flavors are authentic – just used in some different ways. But what do I know, I’ve never been to Asia.

I really like the sleek, modern look of Lukshon, and it looks even better in the daytime.

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We first started with some drinks. A wide variety of wines, beers and cocktails were on offer but we opted for some of the non-alcoholic options.

wenshan baozhong oolong spring 2011 (taiwan) floral, melon

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An iced oolong tea seemed ideal for lunch on a sunny day. It was pretty mild in flavor but refreshing. I loved that it was kept unsweetened too.

rau ram lime soda

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My mom opted for this housemade soda showcasing the eastern Asian flavor of rau ram (Vietnamese coriander). I thought the herbal flavor really came through and, with the addition of the citrus notes, made for another refreshing drink.

vietnamese coffee

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After ordering drinks, I heard someone in the background mention “Vietnamese coffee” and instantly remembered the great one I had the last time I was here. I also remembered I was up until 4am that night. But hey, this was lunch and I was on vacation, so I opted for an extra caffeine fix here. Subtly sweet with a very deep, bold coffee flavor, I enjoyed it just as much as the first time.

shrimp toast rock shrimp, cilantro, chiles, tiny croutons

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Small pieces of flavorful shrimp were packed in and breaded, making for some nice bursts of flavor in each bite. I enjoyed the textures of the delicately crispy exterior and the moist interior. While different, I think I liked them better than the ones I had at WP24 just three days prior.

spicy chicken pops shelton farms’ drumettes, garlic, kecap manis, spicy sichuan salt

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I remembered not caring for these the first time I had them, though I think this must be one of the most popular items on the menu. I was able to pick up more of the flavors this time, and I’m glad the heat is pretty subdued…though still not one of my favorites. I just can’t appreciate the spice, but I think my dad really enjoyed them.

duck confit spring roll cabbage, woodear mushroom, herbs

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Unfortunately, I thought the cabbage and mushrooms overpowered the duck here. Couldn’t taste the meat at all; instead there was a very strong earthy flavor. In a blind taste test, I probably would’ve guessed these were vegetarian.

softshell crab green mango, chile sambal, shallot lime gastrique, peanuts

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A standout dish here. The crab was fried to perfection, leaving a crispy light batter and an exceedingly moist meat inside. Surprisingly moist. I thought the flavor of the crab itself was nice, but the green mango and lime gastrique really added some nice acidity and sweetness to complement the crab.

x.o. rice jasmine rice, x.o. sauce, long beans, egg

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A solid fried rice – I liked the small bits of waxy (and slightly crunchy) long beans dispersed throughout.

chiang mai curry noodles chile, tumeric, lemongrass, chicken, yu choy, rice noodles

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I thought this bowl of noodles was very well balanced between the lemongrass, citrus of the lime and the heat of the curry. Very comforting and full of flavor. Chunks of dark meat chicken made this a more substantial dish, while the large cracker-looking things were actually fried chicken skin…very cool.

brown sugar butterscotch brownie

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As always, dessert is complimentary at Lukshon. I wasn’t particularly enthused by the dessert; I found the dinner desserts last time to be infinitely more interesting. Still, pretty good bites of brownie (served cold), exhibiting a dense butterscotch flavor.

Lukshon provided another good meal, and I think my parents and I unanimously agreed it to be the best lunch (over Scarpetta and Marche Moderne) on their trip. It might be my favorite of the “upscale Asian” restaurants in LA (it’s difficult to compare to WP24, but definitely over Red Medicine and Spice Table). Outside of the duck spring rolls, the dishes were tasty and well-executed. I’ll definitely be back…hopefully it won’t take 8 months again.

L’Epicerie (Culver City, CA)

L’Epicerie
9900 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Dining date: 6/21/11

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L’Epicerie opened in December, a French restaurant/marketplace in Culver City from Thierry Perez (Fraiche). There’s a little bit of everything on offer in the marketplace, from wine & cheese, to oils and vinegars, charcuterie, and pre-made meals. On the restaurant side, the food is rustic French.

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Just three months ago, a chef change brought in Sébastien Archambault to redesign the menu. Archambault was previously cooking at RH at the Andaz where he garnered pretty strong reviews. I never made it out there, but an invitation to L’Epicerie would be the perfect opportunity to try some of his cuisine.

Egg Cocotte creamy mushrooms

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Yummy. The mushrooms were tender and tasty, while the runny egg added a nice richness and creaminess to pair with the crusty, buttered bread.

Beef Tongue sauce diable

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The tongue was really tender, with that distinctive ‘tongue’ flavor. A little bit of heat in the sauce made things a little more interesting, but the beef itself was delicious.

Chicken Wings Confit

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Nothing too special about these wings, but they were good.

Braised Beef Cheek risotto arborio, red wine sauce, arugula, parmesan cheese

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I had to order this given the description. Braised beef cheeks over risotto? Sold. The beef was extremely tender, rich and flavorful. I liked the risotto as well, though I found the parmesan to be a little strong. Still, very comfortable flavors that mixed well.

Niman Ranch Pork Chop green peas, heirloom potatoes, garlic confit

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The pork was tender and moist, though not overly so. It was cooked a nice medium, but just wasn’t quite as memorable as our other entrees.

Perigord Cassoulet garlic sausage, pork belly, duck confit, white beans

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I liked the crispy duck, as well as the rich creaminess of the white beans. The pork belly was deliciously tender as well. A really savory, hearty dish.

Crêpe Suzette citrus caramel, vanilla ice cream, Grand Marnier sauce

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Finally, we split one dessert. I was glad this was rather light (given all the food prior), with a bright citrus flavor from orange rind and the Grand Marnier.

This meal exceeded expectations. The marketplace is rather unassuming, but the food coming out of the kitchen was actually very good. For the most part, the menu stays within a comfort zone of French classics and does them well. I found it to be very comforting and sort of homey, and quite tasty. 

Note: This was a sponsored meal.