Chi Spacca (Los Angeles, CA)

Chi Spacca
6610 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Dining date: 3/14/14

13710952735 e53ce07bae z Chi Spacca (Los Angeles, CA)

Chi Spacca opened last year and is the latest restaurant to join the Mozza corner at Melrose & Highland. It replaced the Scuola di Pizza, yet in a way is a permanent extension of the restaurant. Chad Colby, who used to helm the Scuola kitchen, is also managing the Chi Spacca menu. The restaurant’s probably best known for its house salumi program and catering to a primal way of eating – large slabs of meat cooked over fire. Think 36 ounce veal racks and 42 ounce tomahawk pork chops and beef porterhouses. My kind of place.

I’ve been wanting to try Chi Spacca for some time, but it really felt like a place to try with a large group. We rounded up five for this evening and came hungry. A holdover from the Scuola di Pizza, a completely open kitchen offers visibility into all of the cooking being done between the large steaks on the grill and items coming out of the wood-burning oven.

13710907865 1e0e4d288d z Chi Spacca (Los Angeles, CA)

13711313324 70cc3e92d0 z Chi Spacca (Los Angeles, CA)

Continue reading

Gordon Ramsay Steak (Las Vegas, NV)

Gordon Ramsay Steak
Paris Hotel
3655 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/11/13

8906877111 0b8af55bf6 Gordon Ramsay Steak (Las Vegas, NV)

Gordon Ramsay Steak has been high on my list of Las Vegas restaurants to try since it opened last year, when I sampled Ramsay’s delicious beef wellington at the Vegas Uncork’d Grand Tasting. Ramsay has more than two dozen restaurants around the world now, ranging from Michelin three-star to mediocre. However, his steakhouse has garnered consistently strong reviews over the past year, so I anticipated a meal closer to the former (not that this restaurant has 3-star ambitions though). My dad’s dined here before and enjoyed it, but this would be the first trip for the rest of our family.

Located just off the casino of the Paris Hotel, the restaurant’s entrance was inspired by the Channel Tunnel, transporting diners to the UK.

8907513758 5f391e3709 z Gordon Ramsay Steak (Las Vegas, NV)

8906906509 b1f377ce73 Gordon Ramsay Steak (Las Vegas, NV)

The USDA Prime steaks are from noted butcher Pat LaFrieda, dry aged a minimum of 28 days in a Himalayan salt room. The marbling (and pricing) moves up from there with a selection of both American wagyu and true Japanese wagyu. Each cut is on display at the onset of the meal, with the exception of the Japanese wagyu. If asked though, they will bring out the beautifully-marbled piece of cow.

8907471786 f4b82a5061 z Gordon Ramsay Steak (Las Vegas, NV)

8906843077 63b8eecc93 z Gordon Ramsay Steak (Las Vegas, NV)

Continue reading

Sous Vide Steak

Dining date: 4/13/13

8669243739 907d42b8f7 Sous Vide Steak

While the most profound sous vide application may best represented in long-duration braises of the tougher cuts, breaking down connective tissues while keeping meat a medium-rare temperature, its applications for “simpler” cooking can be just as rewarding. For example, a steak can be prepared very well either on the stove top or seared and finished In the oven/broiler, but I often like to prepare one sous vide. There are a few reasons why.

Continue reading

Alexander’s Steakhouse (San Francisco, CA)

Alexander’s Steakhouse
448 Brannan St
San Francisco, CA 94107
Dining date: 11/25/12

8256043199 300e8aa7b3 Alexanders Steakhouse (San Francisco, CA)

I’ve wanted to try Alexander’s Steakhouse for some time. I love a good steak and Alexander’s is one of the more highly regarded steakhouses on the West Coast (and perhaps country). The original location, in Cupertino, garnered a Michelin star in the inaugural Bay Area guide and has maintained it ever since. A San Francisco location opened up in 2010 serving up the same American steakhouse fare with a bunch of Japanese influences. I tend to think my favorite steakhouse is Beverly Hills’ CUT, but figured Alexander’s would be a strong competitor to that.

It took a couple of years, but my family and I finally dined at the restaurant for my grandmother’s (surprise!) birthday. Over the years, this birthday dinner has become a bit of a tradition with previous birthday dinners at The French Laundry, Masa’s, Quince, Murray Circle, Cyrus, and The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton. Alexander’s seemed to be the ideal choice for our carnivorous family, and the large restaurant was able to accommodate a private party for our extended family and friends.

8257108668 b36c94fa46 Alexanders Steakhouse (San Francisco, CA)

Continue reading

Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

Kaika
Kojun Building 4F
6-8-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
Dining date: 11/13/12

8259963308 d869ce78ef Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cuisine centered around an iron griddle, where chefs prepare a number of courses right in front of the diner. It’s not exactly a style steeped in tradition (it began in the 20th century), often incorporating a number of Western ingredients into the cooking. The most famous teppanyaki restaurant in America has to be Benihana, which introduced the style; as a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve been to a teppanyaki meal outside of Benihana. Well, until now.

8258888307 7262acc7bf Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

Often nicknamed “Japanese steakhouses,” a teppanyaki restaurant was an ideal place for me to get my hands on some wagyu – Japanese beef. The super-marbled breed of beef has been almost impossible to get in America, given it was banned from U.S. imports almost three years ago (though the ban was recently lifted!). I’ve only had true Japanese wagyu a handful of times (the most memorable being at CUT on my college graduation day), and it’s unmistakable richness really differentiates it from high-grade USDA Prime or even cross-bred American wagyu beef.

Kaika was selected by a few Tokyo locals for a dinner in Ginza. Expectantly, a meal centered around this type of beef wasn’t cheap with set menus ranging from ¥12,600 to ¥25,200. I would’ve been content with some steaks and a bowl of rice, though the prix-fixe menus didn’t really allow that. I went on the low-end of the range and elected to upgrade my beef option to the highest one available – a sirloin from Kagoshima.

madai (red snapper) sashimi

8258885937 0171023ec0 Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

The first course was a sashimi course of red snapper marinated in kombu (kelp). It had a very mild flavor, complemented by seaweed and the earthiness and texture of small kernels of popcorn, still on the stem.

At this point, the raw beef came out to be displayed at the counter. It was quite a sight, displaying the rich veins of marbling characteristic of the breed. Even the filet (on the right) had fantastic marbling.

8258884043 7fd57ca441 Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

sweet potato puree

8259950300 484afc9b80 Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

A sweet and creamy sweet potato soup arrived next, nicely displaying the in-season root vegetable.

A seafood course was next.

8258880029 da994338b5 Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

tiger prawn in brain sauce; suzuki (sea bass) with tomato and couscous

8259944564 549c97f896 Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

8259947056 35f38e4251 Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

I enjoyed the prawn with the crunchy head, though found the brain sauce to not be as flavorful as expected. The dense, meaty sea bass was cooked pretty well, and I enjoyed the tomatoes and what I think was Israeli couscous that came along with it.

onion chawanmushi

8258873943 6bfd37fe0f Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

The delicate sweetness of the onion came through in the light custard.

Awaiting the next course, we could see the meat being cooked on the teppan.

8258872013 4a6673ec94 Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

salad of cherry tomato, burdock root, lotus root

8259936180 945e1a96b7 Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

Refreshing cherry tomatoes, romanesco and some root vegetables came with a sesame dressing, plain and simple.

wagyu sirloin with sauteed vegetables

8259934298 dd9aaf92b2 Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

8258904281 e8134aaf23 Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

Finally, the pièce de résistance. The meat was as I remembered from years ago, exceedingly fatty and rich though still with a good beefy flavor. It was kind of ridiculous how rich it was; I could only eat this in relatively small portions and definitely not a big steak of it. Marbling-wise, it was truly a step up from New Zealand wagyu or any of the American wagyu found domestically. Texture-wise, it was similar to a seared foie gras in its succulent melt-in-your-mouth richness.

fried rice with fish; japanese pickles

8259969530 5cf86a0911 n Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)8258902987 5feb4601c7 n Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

The final savory course was an under-seasoned fried rice with tiny dried fish served with miso soup.

azuki bean ice cream, black sesame chiffon cake

8259965284 d8e0589581 Kaika (Tokyo, Japan)

Lastly, we enjoyed a pretty solid dessert with a subtle sesame flavor in a light and airy chiffon cake. The ice cream was a little overly icy, but had good red bean flavor. The fruits were pretty tasty too.

I’m glad I was able to experience the over-the-top fatty richness of the beef; food-wise this was one of the highlights of my trip in Japan. The rest of the courses were pretty decent though nothing special (not that I was expecting them to be). Similar to the sushi/kaiseki/tempura meals I had, the counter experience was exciting. It was fun to be able to watch everything in action, and the chef spoke pretty good English allowing us to have some dialogue.

Lawry’s (Beverly Hills, CA)

Lawry’s The Prime Rib
100 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Dining date: 8/12/12

7865483638 c22e453e26 Lawrys (Beverly Hills, CA)

Lawry’s an institution in L.A., nestled in the middle of La Cienega’s ‘restaurant row’ since 1938. That location was the first of many for the chain, which now has restaurants internationally. Growing up in San Francisco, I visited the House of Prime Rib a number of times and always heard comparisons when I moved to Los Angeles. I first came while in college with my dad and found the restaurant eerily similar to my S.F. comparison. For what it’s worth, Lawry’s opened first.

The food at Lawry’s is not complicated or fussy. Sure there are some fish and other meat options, but most people opt for a slice of prime rib (sizing varies from a petite boneless cut to an almost obscene bone-in chunk of meat), served with horseradish, Yorkshire pudding, and mashed potatoes. Sides such as creamed spinach, creamed corn, sauteed mushrooms, baked potatoes, and asparagus are extra.

One of my favorite parts about Lawry’s is waiting for a table (imagine that!). In the waiting room are meatballs in a marinara sauce and house-fried potato chips. I must say they’re pretty tasty and it’s always a struggle not to eat too much. I always end up with a couple of small plates, though.

7865480352 b7f9c8d215 Lawrys (Beverly Hills, CA)

7865476170 95251ffccb Lawrys (Beverly Hills, CA)

Famous Original Spinning Bowl Salad crisp romaine and iceberg lettuce, baby spinach, shredded beets, chopped eggs and croutons, tossed with exclusive vintage dressing

7865468594 e10833ac5e Lawrys (Beverly Hills, CA)

A large salad bowl is put on ice and literally spun, as dressing is poured into the bowl from high above.

Whipped Cream Horseradish grated fresh horseradish and seasoned whipped cream

7865516050 6c33f7e372 Lawrys (Beverly Hills, CA)

When it’s time for the main course, large silver carts are wheeled around filled with racks of prime rib. Yes, please.

7865514484 d0238f4938 Lawrys (Beverly Hills, CA)

Five ‘sizes’ of prime rib are available ($35-$53); below are the three largest.

The Lawry Cut traditional and most popular cut

7865506752 97f0483246 Lawrys (Beverly Hills, CA)

The Diamond Jim Brady Cut an extra-thick portion that includes the rib bone

7865499104 c8aa8cc89a Lawrys (Beverly Hills, CA)

The Beef Bowl Cut a double-sized cut with the rib bone

7865510706 4050dbec78 Lawrys (Beverly Hills, CA)

A large slab of beef is put on each plate, topped with au jus, and served with the sides of choice. It’s quite a sight, for sure. I think the cooking temperatures were pretty spot-on and consistent (easier to do with prime rib than steaks), and I found the prime rib to be tender and juicy. There was a good beefy flavor and I particularly liked their au jus (ask for extra on the side). Total comfort food for me, particularly with the creamy mashed potatoes and gravy.

Lobster tails were available to add to the meal – $16 for one and $24 for two.

7865494866 b610975375 Lawrys (Beverly Hills, CA)

While I thought the lobster tails were reasonably priced, I didn’t think they were anything special. You get what you pay for, I suppose. Save the money and upgrade for a larger cut of beef.

Similar to previous visits, I left my meal at Lawry’s content and full. Prime rib and mashed potatoes happen to be two of my favorite foods, so it’s hard to go wrong. However, prime rib is a relatively easy thing to make at home and I wouldn’t say the beef here is that much better than what a typical home cook can do. But hey, it’s still pretty delicious, good for large groups and has a sense of timeless nostalgia; for that, I’ll be returning here for many years.

7865492070 fa2db3dbe1 Lawrys (Beverly Hills, CA)