Hatfield’s (Los Angeles, CA)

Hatfield’s
6703 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 2/5/11

I had been wanting to have dinner at Hatfield’s since they opened last February. I did have a chance to come for lunch in November, and that strong meal only piqued my interest more. So finally, I found myself at dinner with Christina of food, je t’aime and Daniel of effing dericious.

Menu options available were a four-course seasonal prix fixe, a la carte, and a nine course spontanee tasting menu. We opted for the tasting menu.

The first dish to come out was an amuse bouche of house-cured salmon, cucumber yogurt and crispy potato.

This was a good way to start the meal with some light flavors of salmon, accented by the tart yogurt. I thought the potato crisps added some nice texture.

Bread was fantastic – served hot, with a crisp exterior. I also liked that the butter was presented with a little bit of chives; it’s a nice change of pace from the normal “plain” butter.

Raw Marinated Hiramasa anaheim chile, endive, meyer lemon creme fraiche, crispy shallot

I liked the fish complemented by a little acidity from the lemon crème fraiche, and some heat from the chile. The crispy shallot was a nice touch, adding texture and junt a hint of shallot flavor.

Warm Cuttlefish Salad artichoke, maitake, arugula

This next dish was a standout. The cuttlefish was very tender, and I loved the flavors of the fish with the artichoke and mushrooms, as well as the spicy arugula.

Butternut Squash Flan coconut soup, hon shimiji mushroom, crispy sweetbreads

I really liked this dish as well, and it was probably the most interesting of the night. The dish had two layers: butternut squash flan on the bottom and a coconut soup on the top. An odd combination to think about, but I thought the two flavors really melded well together. The sweetbread was fried in a ball – moist inside and crispy outside. Quite tasty.

Pan Roasted Scallops braised celery, salsify puree, apple froth

The scallop was cooked well and had a good, crisped exterior. The salsify and celery added a little bit of sweetness and vegetal quality. Good, but not quite as imaginative as the last two courses.

Buttermilk Steamed Chicken Breast foie gras, royal trumpet mushrooms, cauliflower puree

This was another interesting dish with pieces of chicken breast and foie gras paired together. I thought each of the chicken and foie gras components were quite good on their own, but they didn’t really complement each other as much as was intended. I would’ve loved to have seen some crispy chicken skin topping this too.

Braised Pork Belly smoked white bean puree, roasted baby broccoli, meyer lemon confiture

I loved the smokiness from the white bean puree, which added some extra flavor to the pork. The lemon was crucial, adding some acidity to cut through the richness of the pork and beans.

Wagyu Flat Iron Steak creamy swiss chard, pickled red onion, chiodini mushroom

I thought the steak was pretty tender and flavorful, bathed in a rich pan sauce. The onion rings were a nice touch, too.

We wanted to sample as much of Pastry Chef Karen Hatfield’s creations as possible. The kitchen obliged by sending out three different palate cleansers and three different desserts for the last two courses.

Goat’s Milk Cheesecake citrus, tarragon, lemon sorbet

This was a great dish. The graham cracker crust was perfect, and the cheesecake was creamy and tasty – the goat cheese was not at all overpowering.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta blood orange sorbet

The panna cotta here was pretty smooth and rich; however, the flavors were muted by the overpowering citrus flavors.

Tangerine Granita prosecco sabayon, graham streusel

The graham streusel was probably my favorite part of this dish. The tangerine flavor was bold and vibrant, but I’m not sure all of the flavors worked well together.

Next were the three desserts.

Chocolate Caramel Semifreddo salted peanut crunch, bitter chocolate sorbet

I liked the caramel and chocolate flavors, while the peanut crunch added the texture.

Cocoa Dusted Beignets Venezuelan chocolate fondue, Mexican chocolate milkshake shot

I was pretty excited to see this arrive – it’s hard to beat a warm beignet. The dough was perfectly soft yet supple, but I thought the cocoa flavor, along with the chocolate fondue and milkshake, was a little redundant.

Steamed Date Cake roasted pineapple, pecan toffee, rum vanilla ice cream

This made a moist, sweet cake, and the rum vanilla ice cream went very well with it.

Lastly, we were presented with some blood orange gelees.

These were good – sweet, with a strong blood orange flavor.

The “palate cleansers” were stronger than the desserts, which were a little underwhelming, especially compared to the standouts I had last time (the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Truffle Cake). However, overall I thought the Hatfield’s meal was very good. Nothing was bad, and there were a number of really good dishes as well. Hatfield’s displayed a combination of creativity and sound execution – while the flavors were familiar, the kitchen prepared them in ways imaginative enough to keep them interesting. I’m sure I’ll be back in the near future.

Masa’s – 12/29/10

Masa’s
648 Bush Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

I posted a little while ago about The House, where my cousins and I took my grandmother for her birthday. My father also organizes a birthday dinner for her (and my aunt), typically at a little bit more of a “special occasion” restaurant. Prior year examples have included The Dining Room, Cyrus, Murray Circle and Quince.

Masa’s has been in San Francisco for over 25 years; as a pioneer in the early fine dining scene, it helped launch the careers of numerous notable chefs. Past chefs have included Julian Serrano for 14 years (Picasso, Julian Serrano in Las Vegas), Ron Siegel (The Dining Room), and Richard Reddington (Redd, Yountville). Gregory Short, a French Laundry alumnus, currently mans the stoves, maintaining the restaurant’s one Michelin-starred rated food.

Masa’s is the only restaurant in the city that requires jackets for men, a dress code I tend to greatly dislike. I understand that they’re trying to set the atmosphere, but the food better be damn good.  The main dining room is pretty nice – fresh pink roses are the centerpiece for each table.

Crispy Escargot and Parmesan Gougeres


We started with this amuse bouche from the kitchen. The escargot had a crispy texture and tender meat, but there wasn’t a whole lot of flavor.  The gougeres, however, had a great cheesy flavor contained in the light, airy dough.

Tuna Tartare lime segments, hearts of palm

We actually had a second amuse here. I thought the lime wasn’t really ripe, and it overwhelmed the dish with its tartness. I couldn’t taste the tuna at all.

Dungeness Crab “Cannelloni” celeriac, tomato fondue, shellfish bisque, parmigiano-reggiano

This was kind of an interesting dish. The ‘cannelloni’ wrapper was actually celery root, cooked to an al dente texture. The crab was sweet and tender, though I thought the parmesan wasn’t necessary.

Sauteed Filet of Pink Snapper fennel ‘cuit sous vide,’ golden chanterelle mushrooms, navel orange emulsion

This snapper was first cooked sous vide then seared to a crisp.  It was moist with good flavor, though the chanterrelles were a little bit strong for the dish. I thought the fennel was a good accompaniment though.

Seared Ahi Tuna hard-poached quail egg, kizami wasabi, black lava salt, tamari pudding, aji amarillo

This wasn’t a visually stunning piece of ahi – it almost looks too cooked. I didn’t order this and did not try it.

We supplemented our meal with a couple orders of this special winter dish.

White Truffle Risotto carnaroli rice, white truffles from Alba

I haven’t had a white truffle risotto since The French Laundry’s amazing version.  This one paled in comparison. The cheese and onions were rather strong in the risotto, which was overly creamy to me. In addition, the white truffles weren’t very apparent in the rich risotto – a big disappointment.

Sauteed Breast of Paine Farms Squab “croquette de saucisse de pigeon,” melted leeks, celery root puree, perigord truffles, confit leg, squab sauce

The squab was very tender, moist and quite delicious. If cooked well, it’s really hard to go wrong with squab.

Roasted Ribeye of Colorado Lamb ras el hanout spiced potato gnocchi, king trumpet mushrooms, roasted sweet turnips, lamb sauce

The lamb was tender, flavorful and perfectly cooked. The sauce was very rich and tasty, and I thought the mushrooms and gnocchi both worked well here.

Pan Roasted Ribeye of American Wagyu Beef green leek and potato confit, vegetables “a la grecque,” aged sherry vinegar

The beef here was surprisingly not too tender. It was fairly unremarkable and I don’t think it was cooked too well. The gray area (which tends to be dry and flavorless) took up too much of the meat and was clearly concentrated on one side (the right of the picture). An inexcusable preparation for such a high quality piece of meat.

Concord Grape Terrine tahitian vanilla panna cotta, grape gelee, golden raisin verjus, peanut butter powder, peanut shortbread

The grape terrine topped a vanilla panna cotta. It was very smooth, and I liked the vanilla-grape combination.

Chocolate-Caramel-Walnut Tart fleur de sel, chocolate-orange sauce, chocolate-walnut crumble, earl grey ice cream

Here we had a chewiness from the caramel, some crunch from walnuts, and decadent, rich chocolate flavor – all in a tart. Hard to go wrong with that. I really enjoyed the earl grey ice cream as well.

Masa’s was fairly disappointing. There were a few very good dishes (lamb, squab) and some pretty good (snapper, crab), but a number of disappointments as well (wagyu and risotto). It was especially disappointing that the risotto wasn’t good because it had so much potential…and were the most expensive things we ordered. I was a little shocked to find the execution of the menu to be so poor – given its Michelin starred status, I thought this would be a strength. I don’t know if this was an off-night, but I likely won’t be back to find out.

Coi – 1/7/11

Coi
373 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133

exterior

Coi is currently San Francisco’s only Michelin two-star restaurant (and one of two in the Bay Area, Manresa being the other). It’s been open since 2006, and somehow neither I nor my parents have yet paid a visit. A large part of it is due to my mother’s negative experience at Daniel Patterson’s former venture Elisabeth Daniel. However, it’s consistently received numerous accolades and is considered one of the best restaurants in the city. It was time for a visit.

The 11-course, $145 tasting menu is the only option available in the dining room (a la carte is available in the lounge). Interestingly, the menu is devoid of any of the usual suspects one might expect to find at a restaurant like this; lobster, foie gras, caviar, and truffles are nowhere to be seen. Instead, the restaurant’s focus is largely on local and seasonal produce of the highest quality. Only 3 of our 12 dishes would contain any meat or fish.

bread

Bread and butter were both made in-house. The bread came out nice and hot each time – very good. The butter’s presentation was odd; the rough shards lacked the neatness and deliberateness of the rest of the food.

FROZEN MANDARIN SOUR angostura bitters, kumquat, satsuma ice

mandarin sour

This first course was an apertif of sorts. A vodka mandarin gel was topped with satsuma ice. This was slightly salty and slightly tart; the citrus was definitely strong, and some kumquat/satsuma rind added a little bit of texture.

OYSTERS UNDER GLASS marin miyagi oysters, yuzu, rau ram

oysters

Two large oysters were placed underneath this “glass,” which was a yuzu flavored gelee.  The oyster was good, and the citrus (a classic accompaniment) was applied in the form of this gelee, which had a little bit of an almost al dente texture to it. Pretty interesting.

PASTURE beets roasted in hay, fresh cheese, wild sprouts and flowers

pasture

Colorful presentation here. Beets roasted in hay? Hm, never heard that one before. The beets were mixed in with cheese, creating a slightly sweet, yet savory combination. The sprouts provided just a little bit of welcome texture for this interesting and enjoyable dish.

CRAB MELT, CALIFORNIA STYLE steffan’s lardo, wheatgrass

crab melt

Next was this California style crab melt. Dungeness crab was placed on a thin, crispy piece of toast with some wheatgrass and pea shoots. The crab was tasty and worked well with the earthiness of the pea shoots and wheatgrass, while the toast added just a bit of crunch. However, we stumbled upon 5 pieces of crab shell within 2 of the portions – definitely a problem; this took away a lot from the enjoyment. Nevertheless, this was a delicious dish.

SUPPLEMENTAL DISH olive oil, brussels sprouts, broccoli, fennel, preserved lemon

supplement

Because of the crab shell error, we were given an extra dish here. If you’re ever indecisive about ordering soup or salad, this might be the dish for you. This was kind of a soup/salad combination – various vegetables were placed in a warm, soup-like vinaigrette. The waiter spoke at length about the quality of this olive oil and how it was the first pressed oil of the year. The bold, fruity flavors of the oil were apparent, and I enjoyed the variety of textures from the vegetables – fresh, clean flavors.

FARM EGG cauliflower, nettle-dandelion salsa verde

farm egg

farm egg2

Next up was this dish highlighted by the slow-cooked farm egg. The yolk was beautifully runny and gushed out when broken. It was a tasty egg for sure, and I liked the mini croutons for their texture.

EARTH AND SEA steamed tofu mousseline, mushroom dashi, yuba, fresh seaweed

earth sea

The steamed tofu mousseline was topped with a delicious mushroom-dashi broth that screamed ‘umami.’ The tofu mousseline had ginger and lime overtones, and the custard-like consistency was nicely balanced by the pickled radish and slight chewiness of the yuba.

SAVORY CHANTERELLE PORRIDGE crisp root vegetables, cress, sherry

porridge

root chips

Best dish of the night. This porridge took on a risotto-like consistency with the bold flavor of chanterelles. Absolutely delicious. The cress added a slightly herbaceous quality, while the crispy root vegetables added texture. Superb.

PRATHER RANCH BEEF potato, coastal grasses, monterey cypress

beef

This was the lone meat dish of the night. The beef was perfectly cooked, leaving it tender and rather flavorful for tenderloin. I enjoyed the potato puree accompaniment as well as some of the leafy greens; however, the vinaigrette was a little overbearing with the vinegar.

SALAD wild chicories, aged sherry vinaigrette

salad

We substituted the cheese course for this simple salad. It was fine.

LIME SHERBET frozen yogurt, pomegranate, mint

lime sherbet

This was the first of two desserts. More of a palate cleanser, the lime sherbet was pretty good. I didn’t need the tartness of the frozen yogurt as there was already enough with the lime.

BREAD & CHOCOLATE brioche ice cream, pistachio, tarragon

bread chocolate

The chocolate had good chocolate flavor which paired well with the brioche ice cream and pistachio pudding. The pistachio crumbles were fantastic, adding some nuttiness and texture. The caramelized brioche, like sweet croutons, were another source of texture, and were very good on their own too.

Lastly we were presented with a few petits fours. Pinenut bread with chocolate and firethorn berry jellies were on offer this night. I thought the bread/chocolate combination was a little repetitive given the last course, but the jelly was very good. It had a very supple texture and a gingerish, tangerine-like flavor.

mignardises

Coi put together one of the most interesting and unique menus I’ve had in a while. It’s sure to expand horizons and definitely give anyone something they’ve never had before.  For the most part, the dishes were pretty light and “healthy” feeling – I was waiting for something meaty, rich and filling for much of the meal. However, no one left hungry.

The execution of the dishes was spot on, except for the glaring error of the crab shells. Coi is a very different restaurant from Gary Danko, which is what I feel is the most popular choice for “best restaurant in the city.” Coi is much more innovative and produce-based, while Danko is much more comfortable and meat/fish-heavy. Both are good.

Luce – 12/27/10

Luce
InterContinental Hotel
888 Howard St
San Francisco, CA 94103

One of the chefs I was most highly anticipating at Test Kitchen was Dominique Crenn. Unfortunately, her sole Dec. 5th appearance conflicted with the finale of LudoBites 6.0, which is where I ended up dining. However, I stumbled upon a happy coincidence – BlackboardEats had a 30%-off promotion to Luce (where she is executive chef) just as I would be in town. Score!

Luce was named as one of the best new restaurants in America by Esquire when it opened in 2008, and first garnered a Michelin star in the 2010 guide (which it retained in 2011). With a victory over Michael Symon on Iron Chef America, the buzz surrounding Crenn has never been greater. As a result, she’s opening up her own restaurant (Atelier Crenn) in mid-January, leaving her position at Luce in doubt.

This may be one of the last meals Luce serves with Crenn as executive chef, and it was a strong one. We started with an amuse from the kitchen.

Lobster, Citrus, Beets

I enjoyed the slightly tart citrus (clementines and grapefruit) paired with the sweet lobster – promising start to the meal.

No tasting menus are offered on Sundays or Mondays (something I didn’t see publicized anywhere, not even on the menu), so we opted for a selection from the a la carte menu.

Abalone, Pork Belly, Yuzu Kosho and Enoki

The abalone was cooked perfectly, leaving it quite tender. The pork belly was pretty lean (which I like), yet tender with a crispy exterior. I enjoyed the pork-abalone combination. The broth, with yuzu kosho and enoki mushrooms, was just…in a word…addicting. Excellent dish.

Black Ink Trofiette “Carbonara,” Baby Squid, Smoked Pancetta, Egg

I found this dish to be strong as well. The al dente pasta was combined with tender calamari, the meatiness and smokiness of pancetta, and the richness of an egg. We were instructed to stir everything together – the result was a layering of distinctive and delicious flavors.

Lobster, Heirloom Carrots, Fennel, Cumin, Quinoa and Uni

The lobster was cooked well, and I enjoyed the fennel’s complementary flavor. The quinoa was executed well, and served as a nice accompaniment.

Venison Mosaic, Fall Vegetable, Coffee and Grains

The venison was cooked sous vide yielding a very tender piece of meat. The mosaic of daikon and beets was a nice presentation, though I didn’t think it added a whole lot of flavor. However, the bulgur salad and coffee did add a lot of flavor – yes, coffee. I thought the coffee-venison combination was pretty bold and worked well.

Chocolate Semifreddo, Raspberries, Hazelnuts

This was the classic chocolate and raspberry combination. The semifreddo was smooth and creamy with a good chocolate flavor. I didn’t think this was outstanding really, but was a little bit of a letdown considering the strength of the previous courses.

Coconut, Mango Sorbet

This was a really light dessert, which I appreciated. The coconut was like snow – light and airy, and the coconut and mango flavors were both evident and paired well.

I thought this was a pretty strong meal. The desserts were just okay for me, but the appetizers and entrees were very good. The restaurant was surprisingly rather empty on this night; it’s unfortunate that more people aren’t enjoying this cuisine. The restaurant will undoubtedly change as Crenn transitions to her new project (whether she stays at Luce or not), but I’ll be interested to see what she’ll be cooking up there.

Frances – 11/27/10

Frances
3870 17th St
San Francisco, CA 94114

While just under a year old, Frances has already received so much attention and critical acclaim that it can’t be ignored. Bon Appetit, Esquire and Forbes have all named it one of the best new restaurants in America in 2010, while the James Beard foundation named it a finalist for Best New Restaurant. Restaurant critic Michael Bauer had another rave review, awarding it 3 stars; to cap it off, Frances received one star in the 2011 Michelin Guide.

Chef Melissa Perello’s background is fine dining (Aqua, Charles Nob Hill, Fifth Floor); but Frances is something different. Inspired by and named after her grandmother, Perello’s Frances uses her formal training to prepare California cuisine in a comfortable, casual setting.

Some persistent OpenTable stalking yielded an available reservation, and I quickly snatched it up.

We started off with this amuse bouche of sorts.

Rosemary Lavender Almonds

I found these to taste like regular almonds, with no trace of rosemary or lavender. Odd. I thought it was just me until my dining companion agreed too.

Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets – maple creme fraiche and chives

Warm and fluffy, these beignets had a strong, but not overwhelming, bacon flavor. They were a little denser than I had expected, but were still good.

Salsify and Pacific Oyster Chowder – creamed leeks and creme fraiche

There weren’t any chunks of oyster in this soup, but the flavor was evident. Light and creamy, the soup had a deep “sea” flavor, with some sweetness from the leeks and a little tartness from the creme fraiche. Very enjoyable, especially on a very cold night.

Parmesan and Ricotta Gnocchi – Boccalone pancetta, chanterelles, napa cabbage

The gnocchi were pretty dense, though very soft. The chanterelles were fantastic and, in tandem with the pancetta, added the bulk of the flavor to this dish.

California Black Cod – roasted winter squash, melted leeks, chanterelles

The fish was very moist, flaky, and had good flavor. I liked the creamy squash, as well as the return of the wonderful chanterelles.

Braised Liberty Farm Duck Leg – Italian butter beans, chicories, Sicilian olives

This duck was very tender with a crispy skin. The meat was moist and flavorful, and I thought the creamy butter beans worked really well alongside. The rich and deeply flavored jus really brought everything together quite nicely.

Creamed Winter Greens – broccoli di ciccio & red russian kale

I was pleased to find that these vegetables weren’t soaking in a thick and heavy cream sauce; instead the cream was quite light and did not overpower these delicate greens.

“Lumberjack Cake” – bartlett pear, medjool dates, maple-walnut ice cream

I’m not really even sure what was in this cake, other than the bits of pears and dates. It looked rather plain, but was surprisingly moist and sweet. The maple-walnut ice cream (from Humphry Slocombe) was delicious.

The Boozy Affogato

This affogato was an amalgamation of two of San Francisco’s more notable gourmet purveyors: Humphry Slocome (for the ice cream) and Blue Bottle Coffee (for the espresso). I enjoy myself an affogato – add a little liqueur, and you’ve got something pretty special.

Frances was a very good meal, though I found it a little underwhelming. Granted, given all the critical acclaim, I had very high expectations coming in. While I thought the food was definitely strong, it didn’t really stand out in any way. The entrees (the cod and duck) were probably the highlights for me, as both were perfectly cooked with spot-on flavors.

La Botte – 10/15/10

La Botte
620 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

I first went to La Botte during the last DineLA “season” and I really enjoyed the meal. La Botte is one of the few Michelin-starred restaurants that participates in this promotion (Spago and Ortolan also come to mind), giving just one more reason to go (though, lately, I’ve been less and less enthused about what Michelin has said about the LA dining scene). While I think the tasting menu is often the best way to go when trying a restaurant of this caliber, I don’t think the DineLA menu takes too much away as long as the menu offers some attractive items. Thus, I found myself back here during this DineLA tenure, and I was glad I came.

UMIDO DI COZZE & VONGOLE CON PASSATO DI MELANZANE Carlsbad Aquafarm’s clams and mussels and Weiser Family Farm’s Calliope eggplant

This was a pretty interesting dish, and wasn’t quite exactly what I thought it would be. I was expecting the seafood in some type of lighter broth, but this was actually in a soupy pureed eggplant. It had an earthy and herbal flavor, but I thought it was too muddled. The seafood was a little overcooked as well.

CONFETTURA DI ANATRA AFFUMICATA Slightly smoked Healthy Family Farm’s duck confit with honey mustard dressing

This was a pretty good dish, and a sizable portion of duck, considering it’s an appetizer. It was lukewarm (not sure this was on purpose or not), though exuded a nice smokey flavor. The meat was pretty tender too.

RAVIOLI DEL PLIN CON TARTUFO DI STAGIONE Traditional Piedmontese ravioli with Fontina cheese, truffle-butter sauce and fresh Burgundy truffle

This was a great dish. The ravioli were perfectly al dente, with a nice creamy filling of fontina cheese. The shaved black truffles on top added the characteristic earthy flavor, which worked well with the pasta.

FILETTO DI BRANZINO ALL’ORIGANO SICILIANO Filet of Mediterranean sea bass with Coastal Organics farm’s heirloom tomatoes and Sicilian oregano

My last trip to La Botte was memorable for having one of the best Branzino’s I’ve had. I can’t quite say the same about this one, but it was very good. The fish was very moist with a little bit of this very bright and vibrant oregano. The heirloom tomatoes were also wonderful.

RAVIOLI DI BRASATO SU SALSA DI PORCINI Homemade ravioli filled with braised beef filet mignon served in a bed of porcini mushrooms and topped with butter and sage sauce and parmesan

This was not part of the DineLA menu, but we ordered this extra entree to try. According to the menu, it was made with braised filet mignon. That makes absolutely no sense to me as I don’t know why you’d ever braise that cut. Whatever meat was inside the ravioli was rather plain, though the pasta itself was quite nice. The browned butter sauce was a nice accompaniment.

GIANDUIOTTO CROCCANTE CON FOGLIA D’ORO Crunchy Gianduia with gold leaf

This was a rich, chocolate dessert with bits of hazelnut inside. It was kind of like a hard mousse in consistency, and had a nice chocolate-hazelnut flavor..a classic combination.

PANNA COTTA ALLA VANIGLIA Tahitian vanilla flavored panna cotta with rosemary cookies

This was wonderful. Not too sweet, and with a strong vanilla bean flavor, this smooth panna cotta hit the spot. The rosemary cookies didn’t really have a noticeable rosemary flavor though, and were a bit soggy. However, that didn’t overshadow the panna cotta, which was really delicious.

I enjoyed this meal. There wasn’t anything terribly exciting, per se, but the food was tasty and well executed…save for the first dish. My experience has piqued my interest in a return trip to try the tasting menu.