Javier Plascencia & Tim Hollingsworth @ Petty Cash Taqueria (Los Angeles, CA)

Javier Plascencia & Tim Hollingsworth with Petty Cash Taqueria
Petty Cash Taqueria

712 S Santa Fe Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 8/12/15

Petty CashI’ve never been to mid-city’s Petty Cash, a modernized taqueria from chef Walter Manzke and restaurateur Bill Chait. The restaurant has been pretty popular since opening two years ago spawning this second location in the red hot Arts District of downtown.

The restaurant recently soft opened with a number of ‘Test Kitchen’ dinners. Night one included a mashup of Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria and Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos. Night two, the one recapped here, featured Javier Plascencia (Tijuana’s Mision 19 and San Diego’s Bracero Cocina) and Tim Hollingsworth (The French Laundry, Barrel & Ashes, Otium) pairing up with the Petty Cash team to cook up some tacos.

Kitchen

I’ve seen and heard about Plascencia’s cooking for some time and have never tried it so this was a great opportunity to get a taste of his Baja-Mediterranean cuisine. I’ve been a fan of Hollingsworth since his days at The French Laundry so I’m always in for a peek at what he’s cooking. This served to be a sort of preview of his forthcoming concept Otium at the new Broad Museum downtown.

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Ad Hoc Fried Chicken @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

Bouchon Beverly Hills
238 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 5/30/11

bouchon exterior

Thomas Keller’s fried chicken is one of the most memorable dishes I’ve ever eaten. I had carefully planned a trip to Ad Hoc and came in with very high expectations. The crispy crust and juicy, flavorful bird did not disappoint at all.

Served just once every two weeks at Ad Hoc in Yountville, it’s not something I can enjoy with any regularity. It is possible to make it in the convenience of one’s own home, but the whole process takes a while and is pretty labor intensive. While the results are delicious, I don’t think I’m making it again anytime soon.

Given all this, I was super excited to hear that Bouchon Beverly Hills would be serving this very chicken on Memorial Day. Served family-style, the chicken came with a few sides (biscuits & gravy, collard greens, and macaroni & cheese). This was their first time serving it here, but given its popularity, I have a feeling it won’t be the last.

bouchon sign

French Onion Soup

french onion

The soup was very rich, almost syrupy at times. The flavors were deep and beefy with a nice sweetness from the onions. I would’ve preferred this to be a little lighter though, for a starter.

Fried Chicken

fried chicken

fried chicken close

The fried chicken arrived just as it does at Ad Hoc, in a stainless steel serving platter covered with fried herbs. A beautiful sight. The dark golden crust is the same as I remembered, light yet very crispy. The meat was flavorful, though I remember it being a little more moist. Not that it was dry at all, but previous experiences have yielded a surprisingly juicy bird. Still, excellent fried chicken – some of the best I’ve had in the city.

Macaroni & Cheese

mac cheese

The macaroni pasta was still slightly al dente, which I enjoyed, while the cheese sauce was good. I thought this singular side was kind of small to share family style for six people, though.

Braised Collard Greens

collared greens

As expected, the collard greens were cooked to the point that there was no resistance. I think there was some bacon or ham in here too, adding some saltiness and subtle pork flavor. Again, also rather small to share with six people.

N.Y. Cheddar Biscuits & Gravy

biscuits gravy

The biscuit was a little more dense than I would’ve liked, but the flavor was there. Especially with the rich and meaty gravy, these were a hit.

We passed on dessert at Bouchon, instead opting to drop by a local ice cream shop for some ice cream as they were closing.

Beer Floats brown bread ice cream, vanilla bean ice cream, almond mocha ice cream

beer

beer float

I had some Young’s Double Chocolate Stout on hand, which would pair nicely as a beer float – here with three different ice cream flavors (vanilla bean, almond mocha, brown bread). All three of these worked pretty well, with the classic vanilla bean combo being my favorite.

Service-wise, there was a large disconnect on this night between what we ordered and what actually came out of the kitchen. I’ve been here a number of times without a hitch, so I think that was just a fluke. I’ve been a fan of Bouchon since it opened, and the fried chicken just gives another reason to come back. In fact, I think it definitely proves worthy of a return trip alone. Of course, that’s only if they bring it back as a recurring special, but my hunch is that we haven’t seen the last of Ad Hoc’s fried chicken here.

Related posts:
Fried Chicken at Ad Hoc
Making Ad Hoc Fried Chicken at Home

Breadbar Japan Benefit Dinner (Los Angeles, CA)

Ibaraki, Japan Benefit Dinner
Breadbar Century City
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Dining date:  5/16/11

menu

This was one of my most anticipated meals in recent memory. Urasawa. Cimarusti. Manzke. Three of my favorite chefs in one place?! No way! Breadbar and Comme Ça teamed up to feature two benefit dinners with 100% of the proceeds going to Japan earthquake/tsunami aid. It was set up as a collaborative meal with 6 courses, each prepared by a different chef. The impressive lineup consisted of Noriyuki Sugie (Breadbar), Hiroyuki Urasawa (Urasawa), Michael Cimarusti (Providence) Walter Manzke (formerly Church & State, currently popping up), David Myers (Comme Ça) and pastry chef Ramon Perez (Sona). Appropriately, the menu was strongly Japanese-influenced.

Needless to say, I was super excited for this meal – great chefs, great cause. Joining me were Diana and Kristen, as well as Daniel (effing dericious), Christina (food, je t’aime) and Danny (Kung Food Panda).

First up was a selection of breads. For a place called Breadbar, I’ve never been impressed with the bread.

bread

Noriyuki Sugie: pumpernickel, aged lard, artichoke barigoule, caramelized eel, sansho pepper
NV Jean Philippe, “Brut, Blanquette de Limoux,” Languedoc, France

eel

artichoke

We started pretty strong here with a trio of bites. I first had the eel with pineapple – sweet and savory. The pumpernickel with aged lard really reminded me of Chinese sausage…which I thought was just really weird, in a good way. Lastly, the artichoke barigoule was cool and refreshing, in a way, with a light artichoke flavor.

Hiroyuki Urasawa: duo of tartar hokkaido scallop and marinated salmon roe, wasabi, shitake mushroom, toro, osetra caviar, takuan, scallion
Hananomai Sake “Katana” Junmai Ginjo, Japan

urasawa2

urasawa1

For a number of reasons, this was my most anticipated dish of the night. Hiro Urasawa never does events like this, so this was a most opportune time to try some of his food without dropping half a grand. The scallop/salmon roe combination was cool and had good flavor, though there was something in there with a mushy texture. I liked the toro/caviar combination even better – savory and salty, rich yet light, very good.

Michael Cimarusti: soymilk panna cotta, santa barbara sea urchin, geoduck clam and fresh wasabi
Epiphany 2009 Riesling Santa Barbara County, California

cimarusti1

cimarusti2

This was one of the most beautiful dishes I’ve seen in recent memory…and it tasted as good as it looked. The soymilk panna cotta was silky smooth with just the right amount of soy flavor. Both the uni and geoduck were cool and tasty, not fishy at all. Finally, some cucumber and Japanese puffed rice added some texture. One of the best overall plates I’ve had in a while.

Walter Manzke: santa barbara prawns, thai curry, spring pea
Jean-Marc Brocard, 2009 Petit Chablis, Burgundy, France

manzke1

manzke2

I’m a huge fan of Manzke and can’t wait until he finally opens a permanent restaurant. The prawn was so delicate here, cooked perfectly leaving a soft and supple piece of fish. A little bit of lemongrass was an excellent accompaniment to the shrimp, and I liked the creamy Thai curry as well.

David Myers: charcoal akage beef, maitake tempura, tsukemono
Fat Monk 2009 Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California

myers

This dish looked burnt when it came out. Like it was stuck in someone’s chimney for the duration of a cold winter.  This was on purpose, but I’m not sure I enjoyed the charcoal maitake tempura. Mushroom flavor was present, but it was really, really crispy and broke apart. The meat was good but not really anything special.

Ramon Perez: sakura cream, black okinawa sugar, alpine strawberry, cherry blossom-yogurt sorbet
Mizbasho Sparkling Sake “Pure,” Gunma, Japan

perez

Dessert was outstanding. I’m not really sure how this was done. The base was sort of a gelatin/custard hybrid. Sweet but not too sweet, with bright fresh fruit flavor and floral accents from the cherry blossoms.

mignardises: chocolates, marshmallows, green tea macarons

mignardises

These were pretty good. I liked the mini macarons best – good matcha tea flavor.

I found this to be a rather strong meal. I was really excited about this one, but tried to temper expectations knowing that one-night collaborative dinners such as this one are often not as strong as the lineup would suggest. I had no disappointments here, really. Good food, good company, and a good cause – you can’t beat that.

group shot

Bistronomics 2.0 @ Breadbar (Los Angeles, CA)

Bistronomics 2.0
Breadbar
8718 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 4/17/11

This is the second iteration of the Bistronomics pop-up (the first occurred in March) featuring Jet Tila (Wazuzu) and Alex Ageneau (The Royce) preparing seasonal, modern bistro fare. For this meal, Ageneau was the main driver behind the food, while Tila served more of a host role. However, I’ve been told the food will be more of a 50/50 collaboration for the next iteration of Bistronomics (July).

The dinner’s set-up was interesting. I found it to be a rather intimate affair, as the chefs had an introduction and clear explanation of the concept at the beginning of the meal, as well as a closing recap at the end. Titled “Play with Your Food,” the meal was utensils optional (and actually discouraged). The hosts sought to foster a sense of playfulness and comfort throughout the dinner. Of course, a no-corkage BYOB policy would help that too.

We started with some sliced baguette and butter.

foie gras / rhubarb / bread raw radishes, foie gras butter, rhubarb marmalade and toasted bread powder

The foie gras here had the texture of a soft butter, and I liked the textural interplay with the crisp, crunchy radish. The foie gras flavor was somewhat subtle, but definitely evident.

We took a peek into the kitchen as the next course was plated.

asparagus / rice / bonito charred green asparagus, asparagus coulis, rice espuma and bonito flakes

I really liked how this dish came together. The asparagus was very good – the light grilling gave it a nice char, complementing the flavor well. The soup, a combination asparagus and risotto flavors, was homey and comforting with just a little bit of lemon zest brightening things up.

brandade / zucchini / mussels croquettes of cod brandade, zucchini puree, mussels ”au four”

The brandade, fried until crispy, was light and fluffy on the inside with the tasty, characteristic salt cod flavor. I loved that it was served nice and hot too. I liked the zucchini puree and mussels as well, but the star for me was definitely the fried brandade.

lamb / kumquat / carrot confit grilled lamb chops marinated with cumin and sumac, kumquat yogurt, carrot confit with ginger and saffron

The lamb was amazing. I liked being able to pick this up and carnivorously bite into the succulent, juicy meat. The yogurt’s tart acidity aided in cutting through some of the meat’s richness, while dehydrated olives added another flavor dimension. Kind of wish I had a whole rack of these.

strawberry / chocolate / chantilly cream marinated strawberries , chocolate cake , and chantilly cream

A rather simple chocolate cake, but done well. I often find chocolate cake to be too sweet for my tastes, but that wasn’t the case here. The light chantilly cream worked well with the chocolate, while fresh strawberries and raspberries helped to balance the richness.

I thought the meal was a success; Bistronomics did exactly what it intended. The food isn’t exactly cutting-edge, and it isn’t trying to be. It was well-executed, tasty and successfully showcased the ingredients. For the most part, each dish only had three or four main components, allowing the produce to show through.

Cafe Boulud @ Animal (Los Angeles, CA)

Gavin Kaysen & Cafe Boulud
Animal
435 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 4/18/11

I had dinner at Cafe Boulud the last time I was in New York. I found the food to be quite good; the core concept is traditional French technique, but with modern American touches. Don’t pay too much attention to the name, it’s easily the most refined “cafe” I’ve ever been to (even garnering a Michelin star). Given that the restaurant carries the Daniel Boulud name, I suppose this isn’t too much of a surprise.

Cafe Boulud’s executive chef is Gavin Kaysen, a young chef who represented the U.S. in the Bocuse d’Or in 2007 and won the James Beard for Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2008. Surely, the restaurant has some big names attached to it.

A five course tasting menu was the lone option, paired with a surprisingly-reasonable $25 wine pairing.

Sweet Petits Pois Arancini Bed of Pea Shoots, Coleman Farms Radishes
2009 Gruner Veltliner, Obere Steigen, Huber


These arancini came out nice and hot. I thought they were quite good, with a well-cooked rice filling and light, crispy exterior. The radishes were a nice cleanser in between bites, though the parmesan crumbles didn’t add much to the dish.

Hiramasa Crudo Compressed Watermelon, Fried Garlic, Ponzu, Cilantro Flowers
2008 Vouvray, Demi Sec, Foreau


Another solid dish here – the watermelon’s sweetness really paired well with the fish. The fish’s flavor was quite subtle, and the ponzu + garlic actually worked nicely as a complement, while not overpowering. I liked the texture of the fried garlic as well.

Spaghetti Nero Fra Diavlo, Prawns, Squid, Tarragon
2007 Barbaresco, ‘Loretto,’ De Forville


The spaghetti strands were interesting. One side of the pasta seemed to be colored with the squid ink, while the other appeared not to be. Not sure how that worked. Perfectly cooked and slightly chewy, it topped a slightly spicy tomato sauce. Though…not quite a sauce, it resembled a chunky salsa. Pretty interesting and I thought it worked. The seafood was good too, but the pasta was the star.

Caper Crusted Lamb Loin Weiser Carrots, Fava Beans, Pearl Onions, Mint Infused Lamb Jus
2009 Domaine Gramenon, La Sagesse, Cotes de Rhone

Potato Risotto


My lamb here was prepared well, though the pieces may have been a little inconsistent since one person found theirs dry. However, I was pretty happy with mine, tender and cooked a perfect medium rare. I thought the fava beans, chopped into a risotto-like texture, were wonderful. The lamb was served with a side of “potato risotto,” which I thought was also awesome. The potatoes had just a little bit of bite to them in a rich, creamy sauce. Risotto meets potatoes au gratin.

Mousse au Chocolat Hazelnut Gateau, Blood Orange, Lavender Crumble
1999 Riveslates Ambre, Domaine Fontanel


This final course was a pretty good one. The blood oranges were a little tart, but contrasted well with the sweet chocolate mousse. The lavender crumble was a nice touch too, adding some crunchy texture.

I was pleased with this meal. Kaysen showcased some spring produce in a refined, focused manner. The execution was on point, and the flavors melded together well. I wasn’t blown away by any of the individual courses (though the potato risotto was very memorable), but I wasn’t disappointed with any either. The wine pairing was quite good, and a steal at $25.

If there was one issue, it was the portions. The five courses were all on the small side – as a result, we ended up eating the next seven courses at Son of a Gun.

Magnum: Pal Cabron (Los Angeles, CA)

Magnum
Pal Cabron

3337 1/2 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005
Dining date: 2/16/11


The Magnum pop-up is the brainchild of David Haskell and Joseph Mahon. Haskell is one of the city’s more notable wine personalities and handles the alcohol pairings, while Mahon (who handles the food) is a chef with a fine dining background, most recently at Bastide. This is their second version of the pop-up, with the first being focused on Korean cuisine. While the location is technically in Koreatown, the focus of this iteration is on Mexican.

Pal Cabron is a self-described hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant specializing in cemitas and clayudas (kind of like Mexican burgers and pizzas). It was interesting seeing the juxtaposition of having very refined dishes being served in an atmosphere without tablecloths or linen napkins.

Onion Apple Custard Poached Shrimp, Chicharones

I liked this starter – the shrimp was plump and sweet, while the chicharones provided some nice crunch.

Pozole Romaine, Mint, Radish, Lime
2008 I Favat: Fiano di Avellino, Italy: Fiano

I also liked this soup – perfect for the cold, rainy weather we’ve been having. The soup had a deep and hearty meaty flavor, which went well with the mildly sweet corn.

Roasted Beet Salad Crispy Veal Tongue, Wild Arugula, Pumpkin Seeds, Creamy Feta Dressing
2009 Luigi Giusti “Le Rose di Settembre”: Marche, Italy: Lacrima di Morro

The veal tongue was great here, adding a little bit of meatiness and crispiness to this dish of beets. The arugula was a good addition as well, adding its characteristic pepperiness.

Scallop Crushed Avocado, Chickpeas, Spicy Tomato-Mussel Broth, Cilantro
NV Drusian: Valdobbiadene, Italy: Prosecco

The strong dishes continued with this large, perfectly-cooked scallop. I liked the meatiness of the avocado pairing, as well as the tomato-based broth and prosecco pairing to cut through the richness.

Chilled Poached Shrimp Cabbage, Grated Horseradish, Tomato-Ketchup Sauce, Orange, Peanuts
2009 Valle Isarco “Südtirol-Eisacktaler”: Aldo Adige, Italy: Pinot Grigio

The shrimp was cooked well, leaving it nice and plump. This was similar to a “constructed” shrimp cocktail, essentially. I liked it, though it wasn’t quite as interesting as the others.

OG Foie Gras Cemita
Oaxacan Mezcal

Haskell poured this next pairing, a mezcal, out of a plastic gas can. The mezcal had a strong, smoky flavor which paired brilliantly with the rich foie gras and avocado, as well as the barbecue sauce. Very nice.

Poached Egg Fried Pig Ears, Black Beans, Scallion Creme
Francesco Rinaldi: Grignolino d’Asti, Italy: Grignolino

It’s hard to beat a perfectly poached egg. Here it was paired with some flavorful beans and scallion cream, which made a very nice combination. The fried pig ears added the texture – but too much. I found them too hard and chewy to be enjoyable.

Kevin had the clever idea of ordering some toast (typically for the cemitas) to mop up the sauce. The bread here was money.

Squid Chorizo, Cucumber, Jicama, Sesame Seeds
2005 Tenuta Badia di Morrona “Vinsanto”: Terricciola, Italy: Trebbiano, Malvasia Bianca, Colombana

The squid was cooked perfectly, yielding a very tender texture. The chorizo had a strong flavor, almost overpowering the squid, but I thought it worked well. Finally, the cucumber and jicama adding a little texture and freshness to the dish.

Flank Steak Cactus Salad, Chilies, Grilled Corn Sauce
Valle Dell’Acate “Il Moro”: Sicily, Italy: Nero d’Avola

I think flank steak is a very underutilized cut of meat. It’s a relatively reasonably-priced cut of beef, but it packs so much flavor. No exception here, and I liked the sweet grilled corn sauce pairing. The cactus salad was interesting; it had a sort of slimy feel to it, similar to okra.

Flan Pineapple, Vanilla-Carmel Sauce
Hakutsuru Brewing Company “Sayuri”: Nigori Sake

This was a little bit of a richer, denser flan than ones I’ve had before. However, I liked the sweetness of the pineapple and caramel sauce to pair. Lastly, a milky sake was paired with this dish, which I enjoyed.

I thought my first meal at Magnum was a large success. I enjoyed the food – it was refined, imaginative and executed well. The wine pairings did not disappoint either, and I had high expectations given Haskell’s pedigree. However, I did think the cost of the food ($92 before tax/tip) was a little higher than I expected in this setting.