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Eating Out

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Weekend with Mom

consumed 5/9 – 5/12/12

Mom came to Los Angeles for a visit and we did lots of good eating…

Thurs AM: Woke up early and made mom Maple Bacon Pancakes – a great and easy mix from Bacon Freak.

Thurs PM: Scored last minute dinner reservations at Mozza. Our awesome waitress steered us right, starting off with burrata, leeks & charred bread and affettati misti with gnocco fritto: prosciutto wrapped around breadsticks packed with truffle butter, beautiful cuts of house-cured speck, pancetta, and sopressata eaten with pillow-y, fried potato puffs. For mains we had a delicate, light & buttery halibut with ramps and Ricotta & Egg Raviolo with browned butter.

Fri AM:  Loteria Grill  at Farmer’s Market: CHILAQUILES in poblano mole with eggs. What? Yes.

Fri PM: Kyochon Fried Chicken, pickled daikon, orange butter rice (made in my donabe), and a mango/strawberry galette.

Sat AM: Beautiful, light and crisp fish and chips at Malibu Seafood.

Activity highlights included: RadioLab @ UCLA, Felix in Hollywood walking tour, and sea lion watching at Point Dume

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Good Girl

Whenever I’m anywhere near (or even not-so-near) Highland Park I have to stop in at Good Girl Dinette. Their Galangal Chicken Bahn Mi is amazing.  This one comes with tender dark meat chicken marinated in soy and galangal and a slaw of daikon and carrot.

They also make other things that are quite good:  Vietnamese Pork Confit (below), Curry Chicken Pot Pie, Rice Cakes with Crispy Scallion Tofu and special homemade sodas.

Good Girl Dinette on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Kogi Truck

My friend invited me to TRANSMISSION LA: AV CLUB, where I finally got to eat at the infamous Kogi Truck. It was a happy scene, eating on rainbow-colored tables in front of The Geffen.

We ordered short rib and chicken tacos, which were quite good, but the blackjack quesadilla with spicy pork was amazing. Caramelized onions and sweet / spicy pork layered between crisp flour tortillas. Heaven.

Roy Choi was there handing out free sriracha bars; caramel & ganache over crisped rice, with subtle heat that hit at the back of the tongue.

Oh yeah, there also was a pretty awesome art exhibition curated by Mike D (back from the dead).


Kogi Korean BBQ on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

An Incredible Feast

consumed on 8/23/09

Hmmm. Trying to write from memory over a year later? Not the best idea. But I’m having an OCD moment of needing to finish all my old draft posts before starting a new.

This was a beautiful day at the “Incredible Feast” event in the University District with my girlfriends. But three things stand out:

1. Mini Cows – ADORABLE little (alive) cows, mulling around in their trailer available for petting.

2. Bacon Dogs from the Swinery – Not those wussy hot dogs wrapped in bacon, these are homemade kielbasa-like sausage with bacon INSIDE. OMG.

3. Beef tenderloin poached in olive oil, with arugula pesto on faro cakes. So many good ideas here. Beef treated almost like a confit. Faro ground up and cooked like polenta, formed into cakes and fried in olive oil. This is begging for a remake at home.

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Momofuku Ko

consumed on 4/23/09

I’m in NYC visiting my brother and, per usual, he has a list of restaurants he wants me to try–with Momofuku Ko at the top. He warns me that it’s crazy hard to get a reservation, especially since they only have two seatings of 12 per night. Luckily, checking at 10pm on a Friday night turned up three open spots. Go economy!

On the night of our reservation we meet up in the East Village and find the restaurant on an unassuming street, marked only with the trademark peach. I sneak a shot of the door, as they have a strict no photo policy. Once inside we are greeted immediately and led to our spot at the counter. The restaurant is very small and centers around an open kitchen where three chefs are at work.


We decide to splurge on the $100 (per person) wine pairings, justifying it with “when in Rome.” We start out with three amuse-bouches, all beautifully plated. The braised fennel on quark with hazelnut oil is a nice bite of fresh, but forgettable. The chicharon with togarashi is downright bad and akin to gas station pork rind snacks. Our last bite of biscuit with honey and black pepper is the best of the three, but overwhelmingly oily, sweet and dense.

Our next course of fluke with buttermilk, poppy seeds and chives arrives and our taste buds perk up. We both confess that the rocky start had us worried. The fluke is raw, thinly sliced and melts in the mouth. The combination of sour buttermilk and crunchy/nutty poppy seeds is intrinsically strange, but marries beautifully with the fluke.

The sea urchin with pea vines in dashi is gorgeous: bright orange urchin against dark green pea vines and cleverly disguised cucumber shaped like peas. I briefly wonder if they make a melon-baller that small or if someone cut them by hand. My brother and I are not fans of sea urchin texture, taste or smell, but this is creamy-sweet and wonderful with the cold, savory dashi broth and bright taste of  shiso. I look at my fork then back to the bowl of broth, wishing they served spoons with this course. I turn to my brother to comment and watch with abhorrence and jealousy as he tips the bowl to his mouth and slurps the remaining dashi. He sheepishly gives me a shrug that implies it was too good to waste.

Next comes hand-ripped pasta with snail sausage and crisped chicken skin in butter sauce. I think snails are repugnant and I don’t find them redeeming in the garden or on the palate. However, I learn that if you grind them into a sausage, mix them with spices and drown them in butter they can be quite tasty. The sauce is like a beurre blanc but without the wine or shallots; yeah, basically like a stick of emulsified butter on the plate (not complaining). This dish is rich, rich, rich and the added treat of crispy chicken skin garnish sends me over the top. Someone should market crispy chicken skin snacks. I would eat them morning, noon and night.

I’m overwhelmed with tastes, smells, sights and drink, but we plow on with a smoked egg with caviar, potato chips and sweet potato vinegar.  The egg has a wedge cut out of it, with caviar spilling out, like the egg has eggs. It’s so beautiful that we pause to ooh and ah… possibly a bit louder than intended. I think the chefs are smirking. The smoky egg splits open and barely cooked yolk combines with vinegar and crisp potato the size of garlic chips. It’s oddly comforting, like eating sunny-side eggs and crispy hash browns. I contemplate licking my plate.

I watch the chef prepare our next course:  pan-fried soft-shell crab with birred onions, celery noodles and fresh hearts of palm. I see him pull the apron off, snip the legs and slide the still moving crab into the pan. I hope my brother hasn’t seen this, but he casually asks if I’ve ever read “Consider the Lobster.” I don’t feel like debating the ethics of crustacean pain, so I change the subject until the dish arrives. According to the dictionary, birred means: “To make or move with a whirring noise, as of wheels in motion.” As far as I can tell the bed of onions on this plate are cooked down and “whirred” with a ridiculous amount of butter. Delicious. The celery noodles are long shaves of celery that resemble fettuccine. The fresh hearts of palm are miles better than the canned version, but kind of bland. I am usually disappointed with soft-shell crab; rarely is it crisp enough to mask the chewy shell. This fared better than most, but it’s my second least favorite dish on the menu.

Here is where I start counting how many dishes we’ve had, what’s left to come, and how much more I can eat without exploding. But it’s my favorite dish of the night: foie gras over lychee nuts, pine nut brittle, and riesling jelly. I have a thing for foie gras, my brother doesn’t. I offer to eat his portion; he declines. The foie gras is formed into a torchon, which is then frozen and finely shaved over the top of fresh lychee nuts and a sweet, crunchy brittle. Very odd, not in flavor, but in texture and temperature–chewy, crunchy, cold. Addictive. Giddy from wine, we affectionately refer to it as “meat sundae,” again rather loudly.

I flat out sigh when we get deep fried spare ribs with lots of different kinds of onions. I write “lots of different kinds of onions” because at this point I’m drunk and so full that my brain has stopped functioning and I can’t tell the difference between ramps, green onions, or Walla Wallas.  Is it good? Unfortunately yes, so I eat the whole thing.

Before the next course comes I visit the restroom to see if emptying my bladder will make more room for my stomach (it doesn’t). I return to find the beautiful and technically inventive guava ice cream with cream cheese crust. They make a quenelle of ice cream and dip it into a liquid cream cheese mixture, which evenly coats the oval and forms a semi-hard shell. I take only one bite… apparently, I do not like guava.

Our final course is black sesame ice-cream with lemon coconut curd and funnel cake. Eating black ice cream is a bit strange. It tastes dark, earthy and sweet. Not unpleasant, but it taxes the brain because the flavors are so diametric. The funnel cake is delicious/sweet/fried goodness. And also about the size of my head, so I only manage about a quarter of it.

I eat. A lot. And sometimes I even feel full. But this is I’ve-never-been-this-full-in-my-life-and-I-want-to-die full. I roll to the subway station and pass out happily on a cold, orange plastic-moulded seat.

biscuitsea urchin

smoked egg shaved foie gras

For $100 each (not including the wine pairings), this dinner felt like a steal; basically $10 per course. Ko also serves a $160 lunch, which is more tastes / smaller portions, but I bet you’ll still have to let your belt out a few notches. If you go, I recommend not eating anything else for the entire day. And if you’re planning on wine pairings, do not, I repeat, do not stop for cocktails before dinner.

P.S. Due to the no photo policy, my brother kindly re-enacted some dishes for your viewing pleasure.

Momofuku Ko on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

Vios Cafe & Marketplace

consumed on 9/29/05

There are many reviews about Vios Cafe and they all have a similar consensus: a tragic story, good food and lots of kids. Before visiting Vios I thought it was odd how many of the reviews mentioned the presence of kids, but seconds after walking in I realized what they meant: there was a literal mosh pit of screaming kids at the back of the cafe. Other than that Vios was a pleasant, large, open space with lots of windows. The casual dinning area was scattered with shelves of imported pantry items for sale, up front there was a deli counter, and in back (near the mosh pit) were refrigerator cases filled with more goodies for purchase.

I ordered the lamb picadillo ($13.50) and when it arrived I was shocked at how small the portion was: two teeny peppers stuffed with lamb on a bed of greens. In the back of my mind I was thinking “what a rip off” and then the flavors hit my tongue and those thoughts quickly melted away. This was the best stuffed pepper I’ve ever had. The lamb stuffing was beyond tender, heavily spiced with rich, savory-sweet Mediterranean flavors and the soft red pepper was a perfect piquant foil.

For dessert I tried the galakto cake ($5), which was a bit of a departure for me since I’m not a fan of polenta cake. Galakto is made with semolina (as opposed to cornmeal) and has a slightly grainy, but wonderful, texture. It was served warm and topped with a hot, sugary syrup that made me swoon. I instantly thought of my mom (who loves polenta cake) and made a mental note to bring her here ASAP.

This is definitely a place I will return to—although probably not for a romantic date or with those that are hard of hearing.

Vios Cafe & Marketplace on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 27th, 2006

Red House Beer and Wine Shoppe and Tapas Bar

consumed on 9/29/05

In writing this post, it struck me how ridiculous the name of this restaurant is: Red House Beer and Wine Shoppe and Tapas Bar. For the sake of staving off carpal tunnel another year I’ll refer to it as “RHBWSTB”. On second thought, let’s just make that “Red House.”

Red House is hard to find. And if you follow Mapquest’s directions, you will end up at the airport. Trust me. Through a stroke of luck, we managed to find Renton. Through a stroke of genius, we found a red house, which just happened to be the red house we were looking for.

Red House’s name says it all (and then some); it’s in a red house, they sell beer and wine, they serve tapas. What I wouldn’t have guessed is that you have to physically go pick out the beer and wine you want to drink with dinner. The catch is that the wine selections are stored in the dining area—and there isn’t much room to maneuver.

We wanted champagne, but the bubbly section was wedged into a corner behind an occupied table. My conversation went a little like this: “Excuse me ma’am, I’m not grabbing your husband’s ass, I’m just reaching for this bottle that happens to be located near his rear end.” I retrieved the bottle, brought it back upstairs, waited for our server to return, then handed it to him for chilling. I assumed that Red House would have one of those rapid cooling thingies, but no. Thirty minutes later we were drinking slightly less warm champagne.

I’m sure that some (or even most) people would find this system charming or quaint, but I’m just not one of those people. I’m too pragmatic to find it anything other than inefficient, and therefore annoying. But the menu looked good, so I turned my attention elsewhere.

The list of tapas was fairly large, so it was a good thing we had a large party; I think we ordered one of almost everything on the menu:

Red House Salad with Gorgonzola Cheese ($6)
Farmers Market Caprese Salad ($7.50)
Warm Wild Mushroom Salad with Pancetta and Goat Cheese ($8)
Fried Artichoke Hearts with Caper Garlic Aioli ($7.95)
Side Order of Grilled Rustic Bread ($2)
Lamb Meatballs w/ Smoked Paprika Tomato Sauce ($7.50)
Chicken Kebabs with Saffron Rice ($7.50)
Red House Meat Platter ($9.50)
Clams with Garlic, Lemongrass & Coconut Milk ($8)
Hot and Spicy Garlic Shrimp ($7.50)
Chipotle Deviled Eggs ($4.95)
Yam Fries ($4.50)
Jamaican Spiced Chicken with Pineapple Salsa ($9.95)
Beef Souvlaki with Pita and Cucumber Sauce ($8.50)
Crab Pasta ($12.95)

I would give the food a solid “Good” rating. Nothing was great or outstanding, but everything was reasonably priced and Red House doesn’t skimp on portions; these were the first tapas I’ve ever had where each plate looked more like an entire meal.

Would I make the drive out to Renton to eat there again? Probably not. If Red House were in Seattle would I eat there again? Maybe. Would I have a different opinion if they didn’t make you hunt for your wine? Probably. Does that mean I’m just incredibly lazy? Uh… no comment.

Red House Beer and Wine Shoppe and Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 6th, 2006

Brouwer’s Cafe

consumed on 9/22/05

A friend of mine is a rep for a wine import company that specializes in French and South African wines. This means that he spends his day visiting restaurants, chatting and drinking with wine buyers. Nice job, right?

A big part of his job appears to be schmoozing—he schmoozes so much that I rarely get to see him anymore. After complaining about this, he invited me along on an informal drop-in to check up on a customer. I was a little shocked when he took me to Brouwer’s Cafe in Fremont, as the cafe is owned by Bottleworks (a.k.a. beer fanatics); I was surprised to hear they served wine as well.

It was my first visit to Brouwer’s Cafe and I liked the place. The patrons seemed subdued (for Fremont anyway) and the decor was dark with a medieval bent. The heavy use of stone and metal seemed both Gothic and modern at the same time. I found this a bit disorienting at first—it was definitely not like any other restaurant I’d been in.

Brouwer’s Cafe has a really appealing menu. I would call it European pub food with a high-end twist, complete with high(er)-end prices. Pomme frites and Belgium stews abound. I suspect that what made the menu so appealing was the use of beer in nearly every dish.

We both had a glass of Chateau Lamartine Cahors and split an order of Mussels & Frites ($14). The mussels were incredibly plump and tasty steamed in a light cream and Hoegaarden beer sauce. The dish had excessive amounts of thyme, which was surprisingly good with the mussels. The accompanying aioli didn’t seem garlicky enough—until I stopped eating and realized my mouth had gone numb from all the garlic.

I really wanted to try the endive gratin ($6) which was layered with pancetta, gruyere and breadcrumbs. Unfortunately, I am in the habit of asking waitstaff for their opinions. When I asked about this dish the waitress screwed up her face and said it wasn’t good because the endive was undercooked. Undercooked? Can you undercook endive? I like to eat it raw. I should have just ordered it anyway, but after her reaction I felt like I would be insulting her if I ordered it. But it’s a good excuse to go back.

Brouwer's Café on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 16th, 2005

Dim Sum @ Monsoon

consumed on 9/11/05

After reading Viv’s write up and then Laura’s review about Monsoon’s new dim sum menu, I was excited to check it out. It’s been years since I last ate at Monsoon, but I can still vividly recall their incredible wok-fried Dungeness crab in spicy, garlicky, black bean sauce. I’m not sure why Monsoon fell off my radar—especially because it’s only a few blocks away, but it was high time for a reunion.

Monsoon’s website said they opened at 9am for breakfast service, so I arranged to meet some friends there at 9:30am. Unfortunately, Monsoon doesn’t actually open until 10am. We sat across the street at Fuel to wait. It felt a little bit like stalking.

At 10am we rushed back across the street to claim a table front and center. I had forgotten how cute the place is—very stark and modern, but in a comfortable way. I was feeling a little groggy from the night before, so we ordered a round of green apple mimosas. They appeared to be “fresh squeezed” and the green apple was sour and bright (i.e. not artificially flavored). Something in the apple made the champagne foam up in a strange way, but they were delicious.

The menu had a short but sweet selection of dim sum items ($4 per basket) along with a few more traditional breakfast plates. We were here for the dim sum and ordered practically one of every item on the menu:

  • Vegetable potstickers – A traditional pot sticker, perfectly steamed and sautéed, although not very interesting unless dipped in its salty, tangy sauce.
  • Steamed bbq pork buns (hum bow) – These looked beautiful, but tasted off. I prefer the sweet and savory hoisin-based “bbq” filling, but this filling tasted bean-based and was dry and chalky.
  • Shrimp dumplings – Perfectly formed dumplings with translucent skin. The shrimp filling was sweet and fresh, but the skins were undercooked or too thick. The result was terribly sticky and chewy dumplings.
  • Pork shui mai with dried shiitake mushrooms – There were very pretty and topped with some sort of roe, but they tasted somewhat bland and non-descript.
  • Crispy shrimp Chinese chive wontons – Large, round patties of minced shrimp and chives, wrapped in a rice dough and fried until crisp and lightly browned (nothing like Chinese wontons). These were savory and juicy; by far my favorite item we tried.

We also ordered one breakfast from the non-dim-sum menu: Duck Eggs with Shallot and Chanterelles ($11). In theory, this sounds amazing. In practice, it was somewhat bland. The duck eggs were creamy and fluffy, but I wanted them to taste more exotic. I also wanted more Chanterelles in the eggs.

Overall, the breakfast left me wanting for a trip to Sun Ya. I missed the noisy, crowded room with the carts of steaming goodies rattling by. I missed the sometimes fatty and sometimes grisly dim sum. More than anything, I missed the flavor. Monsoon dim sum seemed a bit toned down and flattened for the American palate, but it would be a great place for dim sum beginners… or the culinarily squeamish.

Which isn’t to say that I wouldn’t go back. I really do want to try the pan fried daikon cakes (which looked amazing), the duck congee and the Vietnamese soups (pho). Also, for dessert we happened to have one of the best (coconut) flans I’ve ever tasted. That alone would be worth a trip back. Plus Chef Eric Banh is very, very sweet. And smokin’ hot.

Actually, what I’d really like is to return for dinner; this seems to be where Monsoon excels.

Monsoon on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

Whidbey Pies Cafe

consumed on 8/6/05

I was visiting my mom this weekend and she suggested that we have breakfast at Whidbey Pies Cafe. In the spirit of full disclosure: My mom works at Whidbey Pies. She has been working there for a while now, but this was, oddly enough, my very first visit. I remember hearing that they were serving breakfast and lunch, but part of my brain just insisted that Whidbey Pies Cafe only made pies and I already get to eat those at least once a month because mom stocks a few in her freezer. So, no reason to visit the cafe, right?

Even though I was predisposed to like Whidbey Pies Cafe, I liked it even more than I thought I would because:

  1. It was a beautiful, sunny morning on the island and
  2. the cafe was comfy and cozy with a picturesque view of the pond and
  3. despite it being 10am, they were serving lunch in addition to breakfast and
  4. there was bacon on the menu.

It felt weird ordering salmon chowder ($5.50/bowl) in the morning, but mom highly recommended it. Jan apparently smokes her own salmon out back from the cafe (over Alder wood, I think) and it was stellar. The salmon was smoky and salty and went well with the other flavors in the soup: corn, celery and dill.

Mom ordered a “make your own omelet” ($6.95) which came with a choice of three fillings. Today, she requested spinach, salmon and gruyere. The omelet was gigantic, light and fluffy with a good proportion of fillings scattered throughout. On the side were tender pan-fried potatoes, which were surprisingly good (considering that I’m a hash browns kind of girl). It also came with a selection of Screaming Banshee bread. From what I hear, people either love or hate this bread. It’s made locally on the island and the trademark signature of the bread is that it’s… for lack of a more technical term… burnt. I ordered the BLTini—a bacon, lettuce and tomato panini ($5.75). It came on crisp bread layered with lots of mayo (I’m one of those people who unconditionally loves mayo, so this was a very, very good thing), a few thin sheets of lettuce, the obligatory tomato slice, melted, gooey Monterey jack and lots of crisp, meaty bacon. It was just what I was craving and it was delicious.

We didn’t save room for pie, which was unfortunate because their Marionberry pie is the best pie I’ve ever had. Luckily, my mom bakes one up for me every time I come up for a visit.

Whidbey Coffee Cafe on Urbanspoon