Herringbone (La Jolla, CA)

Herringbone
7837 Herschel Ave
La Jolla, CA 92037
Dining date: 6/15/13

herringbone exterior

Brian Malarkey’s been a busy man in San Diego, having opened six restaurants in the area over the last two and a half years (with one closing recently). Aside from being a young chef/restaurateur, he’s probably best known for his appearance on Top Chef (season 3) and for being a judge on ABC’s The Taste alongside Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre, and Nigella Lawson. Herringbone is his lone restaurant in La Jolla (which was convenient considering my family and I were there for UCSD’s graduation weekend), while fellow Top Chef alumnus (and former Water Grill executive chef) Amanda Baumgarten is the executive chef at this seafood-centric spot.

The restaurant is large and kind of beautiful, with huge windows providing a glimpse into the kitchen and whole trees playing a part of the interior decor.

herringbone interior

herringbone interior

The menu features a raw oyster bar, a handful of hot/cold small plates, pizzas from a wood-burning oven (sort of unexpectedly), and about a dozen large plates balanced between land and sea.

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Estiatorio Milos (Las Vegas, NV)

Estiatorio Milos
The Cosmopolitan
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/10/13

entrance

Estiatorio Milos, with five locations around the world, specializes in Mediterranean (particularly Greek) seafood. Located in the same foyer as Jaleo, STK, Comme Ca, Blue Ribbon, and the secret pizza joint, it’s one of the fine dining options within The Cosmopolitan’s restaurants. Before this meal, my limited experience with the restaurant has been its stellar dishes at each Vegas Uncork’d Grand Tasting (and the last American Wine & Food Festival). In each of the past few years, they’ve served a salt-encrusted fish that was one of the highlights of each event. That dish’s simple approach to high-quality seafood is something I expected to be echoed throughout Milos’ menu.

I hadn’t read a lot of reviews before dining at the restaurant, but what I did know is that it’s expensive. As expensive as dinner can be, Estiatorio Milos offers what I think is one of the best lunch deals on the Strip – a 3-course, $22.13 menu. Six appetizers are available to choose from (two with supplemental pricing), six entrees (two with supplemental pricing), and three dessert options. The tempting pricing supplements, which range from $10-15 extra, can quickly drive the prix-fixe up, but there are attractive options when sticking to the $22 menu as well.

interior

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Water Grill (Los Angeles, CA) (2)

Water Grill
544 S Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Dining date: 7/25/12

water grill interior

Recently, we welcomed a couple of new team members at work. To celebrate the addition, a group of us went out to dinner downtown. Given that many of my co-workers enjoyed Water Grill the last time we went, it was a fairly easy choice for a return visit. This would be my second visit since the remodel (the first visit was captured gorgeously by gastronomyblog), in which the restaurant closed from Dec.-Jan. to change its look. What resulted was a more open layout with a clear view of the kitchen; I think they succeeded in making the restaurant appear less stuffy and a little more approachable.

kitchen

For such a classy establishment, I was surprised to see they served beers by the pitcher. They had a brief but good beer list, highlighted by Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA. Sculpin by the pitcher? Score!

sculpin pitcher

Coincidentally, it was dineLA restaurant week, $45 for 3 courses. I thought it was a pretty good price point; about half of us ordered this menu with the rest going a la carte.

CRISFIELD, MARYLAND BLUE CRAB CAKE

CRISFIELD, MARYLAND BLUE CRAB CAKE

The crab cake was pretty well done with a crispy crust and sweet, moist crab meat. A little bit of heat permeated the crab, making for some pretty delicious bites.

KONA KAMPACHI TARTARE japanese mustard, green apple

KONA KAMPACHI TARTARE japanese mustard, green apple

This tartare was a little bland and the texture seemed a bit on the mushier side. Mustard and green apple tried to spruce up the kampachi, but I don’t think it was enough.

NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER manila clams, applewood smoked bacon

NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER manila clams, applewood smoked bacon

I don’t think this recipe has changed much throughout my visits, something I consider a good thing. The soup was rather light with more of a milky, broth-like consistency with tasty plump clams. Tender carrots and potatoes, as well as smokey bacon rounded out the flavors.

FRITTO MISTO mixed fried seafood with smokey marinara and tzatziki

FRITTO MISTO mixed fried seafood with smokey marinara and tzatziki

I had high hopes for a fried seafood platter here at Water Grill. Filled with fish, shrimp, squid and zucchini, this one fell far short. The seafood was overcooked (making for some particularly chewy squid) and the batter felt somewhat uneven. The zucchini was the highlight of the dish, with its juicy, flavorful interior.

WILD BAJA CALIFORNIA YELLOWTAIL blackened with sweet curried cauliflower

WILD BAJA CALIFORNIA YELLOWTAIL blackened with sweet curried cauliflower

This was a denser fish with a fishier taste, cooked well. The blackening spices provided a good depth of flavor as well as a bit of spice. The sweet cauliflower was a nice pairing, counteracting the spice and richness of the fish.

WILD MORROW BAY KING SALMON pan sauteed with asparagus chutney, raw asparagus salad

WILD MORROW BAY KING SALMON pan sauteed with asparagus chutney, raw asparagus salad

WILD CALIFORNIA WHITE SEABASS roasted herb quinoa, grilled macerated peaches

WILD CALIFORNIA WHITE SEABASS roasted herb quinoa, grilled macerated peaches

My coworker Andrew, who eats at his fair share of restaurants in seafood-centric Seattle, found the seabass a little overcooked. I had to agree; the dense fish was still fairly moist but not as much as it could’ve been. Still enjoyable though, particularly with the sweetness of the peaches and the earthy quinoa accompaniments.

Three desserts were available off the dineLA menu, and we were able to try all three.

WHITE MINT FUDGE PARFAIT crispy cocoa

WHITE MINT FUDGE PARFAIT crispy cocoa

KEY LIME PIE pomegranate seeds

KEY LIME PIE pomegranate seeds

CARAMEL BREAD PUDDING alaea sea salt

CARAMEL BREAD PUDDING alaea sea salt

The key lime pie was fairly standard, perhaps in a good way. There was an interesting ice cream alongside, the flavor of which I couldn’t place. The sundae-like parfait had nice chocolate and mint flavors with texture from the cocoa. My favorite of the trio was the bread pudding with croissant and brioche breads being used in the warm, moist dessert. Really comforting and not overly sweet. The cold ice cream was a welcome contrast, as was the rich salted caramel flavor. Quite nice.

There were a number of ups-and-downs in this meal but overall I thought it was pretty good. However, given the price point of a typical meal here, I’d expect more…a similar sentiment to some past meals. Still, for a seafood-centric meal on the company’s tab (or maybe just a pitcher of beer), Water Grill’s probably not a bad way to go.

L&E Oyster Bar (Los Angeles, CA)

L&E Oyster Bar
1637 Silver Lake Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Dining date: 5/29/12

l&e oyster bar exterior

Recently, my friend Diana was craving a lobster roll. Rather then splurge on the $32 version at Water Grill, we wanted something a little more casual and reasonably priced in the area. L&E Oyster Bar came up and, while they don’t offer a lobster roll, the menu intrigued us enough that we decided to go.

Yelp warned of long waits at the no-reservations spot in Silver Lake, and indeed it was pretty busy on a Tuesday evening. Our party of three got one of the last tables available, squeezing into a table for 2.

l&e seating

True to its name, L&E Oyster Bar offers up a host of oyster options – there were 9 varieties of fresh oysters available the night we went. In terms of preparation, these oysters were served raw, grilled or fried with steamed and smoked options for other seafood. About 4 larger plates were available too.

hush puppies

hush puppies

A complimentary ‘amuse’ came out of the kitchen – these fresh, hot hush puppies. There were two layers of sweetness between the cornbread and honey with a nice crispy exterior. A pretty good starter.

the daily dozen sun hollow, phantom creek, beausoleil

the daily dozen sun hollow, phantom creek, beausoleil

Of course, we had to try some of the fresh oysters. The daily dozen offered 4 pieces of 3 of the oyster options – ideal for sharing amongst the three of us. I enjoyed all 3 varieties, though had a hard time picking out the subtleties between them.

oysters casino butter, paprika, thyme, shallots, neuske’s bacon

oysters casino butter, paprika, thyme, shallots, neuske's bacon

We also tried some grilled oysters on the shell; here, a classic oysters casino. I found the oyster to be cooked well, but there was a very strong grassy flavor that I found overpowering. I think it was parsley.

grilled oysters of the day chipotle, pickled onion, Mexican cheese

grilled oysters of the day chipotle, pickled onion, Mexican cheese

We also tried one of the grilled specials of the day. I found this one to be much better balanced, flavor-wise with a bold chipotle BBQ-like sauce and some spicy notes coming through.

fried oysters with sauce gribiche

fried oysters with sauce gribiche

More cooked oysters – this time fried. Simple and rather satisfying, the batter was light and crispy with plump tasty oysters on the inside.

clam chowder farm-raised clams, neuske’s bacon, weiser farms pee wee potatoes

clam chowder farm-raised clams, neuske's bacon, weiser farms pee wee potatoes

I thought this was a very strong bowl of clam chowder. It was rich and creamy with soft potatoes and a bunch of tasty clams; the smokiness of the bacon was present but not overpowering.

lobster spaetzle & cheese maine lobster, house-made spatzle, english peas, bread crumbs

lobster spatzle & cheese maine lobster, house-made spatzle, english peas, bread crumbs

We also tried this rendition of a lobster macaroni & cheese. I had high hopes for it but thought it fell a bit short. I thought the lobster could’ve been better incorporated since I got the flavor from the piece sitting on top, but not in the interior of the dish. The spaetzle and cheese sauce itself were pretty good, though.

blackened local sea bass sweet corn succotash, blistered shishito peppers

blackened local sea bass sweet corn succotash, blistered shishito peppers

This may have been the most disappointing dish of the night since the sea bass was flat out dry. The sweet corn succotash was a nice counter to the spices of the blackening seasoning, but it wasn’t enough to recover from the piece of overcooked fish. Boo.

fries with aioli

fries with aioli

Lastly we had a side of fries, which was probably the most filling thing we had all evening. These were quite good – crunchy with a complementary herb flavor. Perfect for dipping into the chowda’.

L&E Oyster Bar had its ups and downs but overall was somewhat of a disappointment. The quality of their oysters were definitely a strong point as expected, but the larger plates fell flat (lobster spaetzle and sea bass). Given the consistent crowds, I wonder if I was just there on an off-night or if I’m just missing something; regardless, I’m not in a hurry to return.

Son of a Gun (Los Angeles, CA)

Son of a Gun
8370 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 4/18/11

I had wanted to try Son of a Gun for a while. Rave review after rave review, this restaurant is still one of the most popular in LA since it opened at the end of February. Finally, I had my chance. Diana, Ryan, Daniel and I had an early dinner at the Cafe Boulud pop-up at Animal and were still hungry. What to do? Enter Son of a Gun, the seafood-centric eatery from the guys behind Animal.

We still waited about 20 minutes for a table on Monday night. It’s a pretty small place, but clearly still very popular. Arguably, I was more excited about this meal than the last (okay there was no argument, I was really excited for this one).

lobster roll, celery, lemon aioli


I had read much about this lobster roll. Even though this was the first dish, we ordered one for each person. Good idea. The lobster was perfectly cooked, leaving it sweet and flavorful, with just a little bit of bite. I really liked the addition of the potato chips, adding some welcome saltiness and texture.

shrimp toast sandwich, herbs, sriracha mayo


This was perhaps my most anticipated item of the night. It didn’t disappoint, with the crispy toast melding really well with the sweet shrimp, complimented by a little heat from the sriracha. With the shrimp, the hoisin sauce may have been a little more sweet than I preferred, but the textures and flavors were really on point. Another good idea to order one for each person.

fried chicken sandwich, spicy b&b pickle slaw, rooster aioli


This was another highly anticipated item, though I didn’t like it so much. Contrary to the other items we tried, this was a beast – this sandwich was fitting for one person’s entire lunch. I thought the chicken was good, crispy and rather moist for breast meat; too much mayo and coleslaw was the issue for me.

geoduck sashimi, lemon, olive oil, sea salt


The geoduck was rather mild in flavor, but there was something about it that made me think to myself “oh yeah, this tastes like geoduck.” Really simply prepared with a little bit of citrus and salt.

linguine and clams, uni aglio-olio, chili, breadcrumbs


I had high hopes for this one, but found both the saltiness and the raw garlic flavor be overwhelming. The pasta and clams were both cooked well, but unfortunately were overshadowed by the other ingredients.

cod, pho fumet, herbs, lime, bok choy


I thought this sounded pretty interesting. The broth definitely had some flavors reminiscent of a beefy pho and the fish was cooked well. This tasted pretty much as advertised, though I’m not sure the pho and cod flavors really came together as well as expected.

Hoboken special


Chocolate ice cream and pineapple Fanta. I’ve never been to Hoboken and had no idea what this was, but it was pretty interesting. I thought the sweetness and acidity of the pineapple soda worked well with the rich chocolate, but I was too full to enjoy it at this point.

Son of a Gun was a solid meal. While most of the dishes were pretty good, I wasn’t particularly moved by the meal – maybe I was getting full, or maybe my expectations were too high (or a combination of both). Still, we were only able to try seven dishes, so I’d like to come back to try some of the others. I’m just not in as much of a hurry to do so.

Bartolotta – 7/3/10

Bartolotta
Wynn Las Vegas
3131 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

I first sampled Paul Bartolotta’s cuisine at the American Wine & Food Festival a couple of years back, and was really impressed by some of the seafood he prepared. Specializing in Italian preparations of seafood, Bartolotta offers a ton of different fish and shellfish, line-caught wild and shipped almost every day. Most of the fish are available served whole family-style.

It seems everything that the Wynn does is very elegant and grand, and this two-level restaurant is no exception. As you walk down the stairs, the main dining room is in view, as well as cabanas encircling the restaurant’s private pond.

We sat at one of those cabanas, which may have proved to be a mistake, since it was blistering hot outside.

We did not try any of their whole fish preparations, opting to sample more of their dishes a la carte.

risotto ai frutti di mare risotto with clams, scallops, shrimp, lobster, calamari

I love a seafood risotto, so this dish was a must. The risotto was creamy and al dente – just the way it should be. The seafood was plump and juicy, also cooked pretty well. A pretty good rendition of the dish in my opinion.

sauté di vongole sautéed tiny clams with tomato sauce, garlic, white wine, parsley

This dish had a surprising amount of clams, as we had been told the appetizers were somewhat small. The clams were perfectly cooked, and the tomato-based sauce was light and flavorful.

Grilled saberfish

Bartolotta offers a number of fish, “simply grilled” as an appetizer. Here we have saberfish, nicely grilled and juicy. The restaurant consistently served some very fresh and well-cooked fish.

insalata di campo arugula, raddichio, frisee, Belgian endive, red wine vinaigrette


The only dish we ordered with vegetables – the salad provided a lighter alternative, but wasn’t anything special.

spaghetti all’ astice spaghetti with rock lobster, spicy tomato sauce, white wine

Pasta with seafood is something else I really enjoy – spaghetti with rock lobster? Why not? This dish was delicious. The pasta was cooked perfectly with a slightly spicy, light tomato sauce. The lobster was probably cooked a little more than I preferred, however, as they weren’t as plump and juicy as I’d expect. They were still good though. The crushed cherry tomatoes added a bright, fresh flavor to the pasta.

penne con scorfano e melanzane penne with Mediterranean scorpion fish, eggplant, tomato, basil

Compared to the spaghetti, this dish was a bit of a letdown. The penne was not cooked quite as well (a little overcooked), and the eggplant and firm scorpion fish did not provide the same exciting, vibrant flavors.

pollo alla Riviera Ligure Ligurian style roast chicken, artichokes, asparagus, porcini, taggiasca olives, lemon herb sauce

Bartolotta is a primarily seafood restaurant – make no mistake. But, they do prepare a very nice roasted chicken. The skin, all around, was superbly crisp. The meat was moist and flavorful, and the accompanying greens and herb sauce were a nice complement.

Pescato Del Giorno Con Carciofi E Origano Oven baked imported Mediterranean fish, artichokes, oregano

The fish in this case was a Mediterranean snapper. I love light, white fish, and I loved this dish. The fillet was really moist with a light and delicate flavor. The tomatoes and artichokes provided extra flavor, but were mild enough to not overpower this fish.

torta Ligure al limone, gelato al rosmarino, balsamico dolce Ligurian lemon cake, rosemary gelato, sweet balsamic syrup

A moist and tart lemon cake was topped with a rosemary gelato. I thought the cake was nice, but the rosemary gelato did not stand up too well to it. A bite of every component was largely flavors of the lemon and balsamic.

In all, I was pretty happy with the meal at Bartolotta. It’s a beautiful looking restaurant, and the food stood up to it. Seafood is done very well here, and in a variety of preparations. Some of the highlights were the risotto and lobster pasta,  as well as the chicken and snapper. Next time, I will have to try one of the whole fish.