2015-02-04 19.15.27

Scratch Bar – Beverly Hills, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Last month, Chef Phillip Frankland Lee caused a positive stir in my industry by announcing that he would offer any back of house (BOH) employee a free six-course tasting menu throughout the month of February and 50% off for any accompanying guest or additional food ordered. This meant a lot to line cooks like me who make little money (or took a severe pay cut) in order to pursue their passion in the culinary field. He called it Back of House Appreciation Month and boy did I feel appreciated!

2015-02-04 19.22.08

Our romantic date night started off with drinks: Martin had the Piraat Belgian ale, which reminded him of his favorite Trappist ale, Chimay. I selected the Supplies! – a cocktail of unfiltered sake, pineapple, and lemon. It was so good that I had two. It was so refreshing and reminiscent of something I’d want in my hand as I lay out tanning by a pool.

2015-02-04 19.37.21

Scratch|Board – smoked goat cheese, gravlax, air dry cured beef, pork pate, beet dijon, prunes, pickled onions, house sourdough. The pork “pate” was SO GOOD. It was not a country pate but rather bore more resemblance to the headcheese terrine i made during my time at Waterloo & City. And the beet dijon? Our server Mark phrased it profoundly accurately — “The beet dijon is money!” Get this.

2015-02-04 19.50.03

Course 1: Green Mussel and Sea Urchin Sake Shooter – I usually don’t like being told how to eat my food, but this shooter was a fun exception. First, eat the pick with ceviche green mussel, pickled onion, and serrano. Then, shoot the unfiltered (nigori) sake and lemon. Finally, spoon out the uni and avocado mousse at the bottom. Delicious!

2015-02-04 19.55.11

Course 2: Pork Belly & Raw Oyster – braised (?) pork belly topped with raw oyster and coconut-chamomile foam with chamomile dust. This single bite was a surprisingly hearty rendition of surf & turf.

2015-02-04 20.01.11

Course 3: Roasted yet Raw Prawns – raw prawns topped with a lime and fish sauce (?) vinaigrette, toasted nuts, and shaved smoked white onion. It tasted exactly like the meat served in the Vietnamese vermicelli bowls (bun thit nuong) that I grew up eating. The super charred nuts gave the dish a pleasant “roasted” flavor even though the shrimp themselves had not been cooked at all.

2015-02-04 20.11.26

Course 4: Blackened Cauliflower – cauliflower puree, roasted cauliflower, lemon, chip made from cauliflower stems. This dish is 100% vegan which is unbelievable because the puree tasted so rich and silky that I thought it had to be mounted with obscene amounts of butter and/or cream. Martin loves cauliflower so this homage was perfect for him. We were pleasantly surprised to find bits of romanesco in there as well.

2015-02-04 20.23.34

Course 5: Prime Hangar Steak – mashed potato puree, roasted asparagus and mushrooms, sugar blistered cherry tomatoes. OMG THE TOMATOES. So freaking sweet and juicy. This puree was smooth and decadent as well, though with the help of animal fat, and the steak was a perfect medium rare.

2015-02-04 20.33.07

Course 6: Dark Chocolate & Cayenne Candy Bar – sugar cookie, cayenne-infused dark chocolate, raspberry jam, house made whipped cream, chia seeds. The cayenne aroma was intoxicating and I was worried it would be too spicy for Martin, but the spice was barely perceivable on the palate. Beautifully composed.

At this point, Mark came back to our table to see if we wanted to order any additional supplements. “Didn’t we just have our dessert?” I teased. As if he had read our minds, that’s when he pointed out the savory-but-sweet foie gras s’mores.  Why not?

2015-02-04 20.43.49

Foie Gras S’mores – cinnamon-nut “graham cracker,” seared foie gras, house made marshmallows, tangerines, tangerine vinaigrette (?), chives. Sweet, savory, sour, bitter, plus just the right amount of fatty (I know that’s not one of the “tastes”). Sure it’s not a conventional dessert but it was still a worthy way to end our meal.

Thank you again to Chef Phillip Frankland Lee for this opportunity to spend $100 on a dinner that would have easily cost (and rightfully so) $200-300. It was a dinner that we will not soon forget.

#DropFlavorNotBombs

———————

Check out Scratch|Bar: scratchbarla.com

111 North La Cienega Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

See their Yelp reviews here!

2015-01-11 18.54.48

Sakura Japanese Restaurant – Del Rey, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

One of the best parts of living in LA is that there are just so many dining options it would be nearly impossible to eat at them all. In an effort to explore our immediate surrounding neighborhood (yes, we have lived here for over two years and still haven’t tried everything), we decided to have an impromptu date night at a local favorite – Sakura Japanese Restaurant.

A bit stunned by AP (analysis paralysis), we asked our sushi chef if he could arrange an omakase for us with a modest budget of $60. He said sure and put on his number-crunching thinking cap. Martin pointed out that he seemed relieved to see a change of pace from the many veggie rolls we had seen him assemble in just the short time we had been sitting at the counter. This is the progression he created:

2015-01-11 19.23.22

Yellowtail (hamachi) – A sushi staple, this piece of hamachi spoke volumes of the quality of the meal ahead. The neta (the slice of fish atop nigiri) was a generous portion in all its dimensions.

Blue fin tuna (maguro) – Far from the generic dull-red fish we find at cheap sushi places, the blue fin tuna here was gorgeous, tender, and just wonderful.

2015-01-11 19.25.50

Monkfish Liver (ankimo) – I love ankimo but every other time we have had it, it was served gunkanmaki-style (mashed into a paste and scooped atop a mound of rice that had been wrapped in seaweed to form an oval-shaped vessel, like uni or ikura nigiri). This was the first time we’ve ever tried it in its most pure form — large fatty morsels simply garnished with scallions and ponzu and served with a sunomono-style salad of cucumbers, seaweed, and strings of daikon. Decadent and a steal at $8!

2015-01-11 19.39.02

Albacore (shiro maguro) – Definitely not to be missed, this albacore was served in its typical style with ponzu, scallions, and a hint of garlic. The fish melted in our mouths!

2015-01-11 19.41.23

Halibut (hirame) – A mild white fish that has a firmer, slightly chewy texture, it is always interesting to have sashimi-grade versions of fish that are more frequently served cooked.

2015-01-11 19.43.50

Spanish Mackerel (aji) – The most mild mackerel I’ve ever had, not a single hint of oily fishiness that usually comes with aji or saba. Beautiful!

2015-01-11 19.48.37

Sea Urchin (uni) – Super creamy and smooth, this Santa Barbara delicacy was among the best we’ve had at any sushi restaurant.

As many others have mentioned before us, Sakura Japanese Restaurant is a hidden gem on the mini restaurant row of Centinela Avenue of our humble piece of the Westside and we’re happy to have finally tried it for ourselves.

———————

Check out Sakura Japanese Restaurant:

4545 South Centinela Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90066

See their Yelp reviews here!

2015-01-26 13.47.26

DineLA – Mistral Restaurant (Winter 2015)

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

So first, a quick update: I’m a bit sad to report that Cookie Con was a bust. The event itself was great, I’m sure. It was just such a highly sought-after event that the entry lines wove out into the surrounding neighborhood and the wait was hours-long. We did not miss out completely, however, as the event organizer Nancy was kind enough to send us a small swag package that included The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie from Call Me Cookie (cookies delivered to your door, what?!) and an adorable popsicle necklace from Bakery Charms (so freaking cute I want to collect them all!). Sweet!

2015-01-29 22.04.02 copy

There was one happening that I just had to take part in last week and that’s dineLA Restaurant Week. I met up with a dear friend in her part of town, the Valley, to check out this quaint French bistro for lunch. Situated right on Ventura Boulevard (of course), Mistral has a classy, intimate vibe with warm, inviting service.

2015-01-26 12.56.51

We selected the same appetizer — baby kale and arugula salad, avocado, parmesan shavings, lemon-olive oil. It was a well-composed salad, and I’m an especially big fan of the combination of bitter arugula and fresh lemon. The parmesan added just the right touch of saltiness to season the greens.

2015-01-26 13.18.21

For my entrée, I was pleased to see that the printed menu included an option that I had not seen on the dineLA website — boeuf bourguignon, pearl onions, carrots, turnips, mixed rice. I love a hearty, classic beef stew. The meat was amazingly tender and the wafting aroma of red wine was intoxicating.

2015-01-26 13.18.40

My dining companion chose from the sea — crispy skin imported branzino, red grapes, heirloom cherry tomatoes, sweet basil. It was a beautifully plated dish and I could tell the fish was cooked perfectly.

2015-01-26 13.47.29

They say that great minds think alike, so it came as no surprise that we both selected the same dessert as well — miniature chocolate soufflé. The adorable ramekin arrived piping hot with a molten, airy middle and a nice rise of about one inch above the rim. A smaller ramekin carried its sidekick of creme chantilly. I generally dislike whipped cream so I was surprised to find that this was absolutely delicious, not too sweet, fragrant with vanilla, and certainly not from an aerosol can.

After a leisurely two hour lunch of chatting and catching up, we ate this course in silence, savoring our little moment of bliss accompanied by a cup of hot black coffee for me (green tea for her).

This is the life.

———————

Check out Mistral Restaurant: mistralrestaurant.com

13422 Ventura Boulevard
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

See their Yelp reviews here!

LA Cookie Con 1st Annual

One Week till Cookie Con!

Desserts and Sweets, Food Adventures, Los Angeles

That’s right, folks. Los Angeles has a Cookie Convention and it’s coming to the Pasadena Convention Center next Sunday! We were floored by this news and quickly went to their website (lacookiecon.com) to get our tickets to this sure-to-be-awesome event. (I believe our exact reaction was “Cookie Con?! How did we not know about this?!”)

Reality TV buffs will appreciate the celebrity lineup of guests from Food Network’s “Sweet Genius” and Next Food Network Star, Fox’s MasterChef, and more. There will be fondant rolling classes, candy apple making for the kids, and demonstrations for new tools and equipment. But most importantly, the website highlights “hundreds of delicious free samples from national and local vendors, offering an extravaganza of cookies, candy, chocolate, coffee, ice cream, beverages, and unique baked savories too.” SIGN US UP!

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies by our friend CCU at Go Bake Yourself!

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies by our friend CCU at Go Bake Yourself!

After our chocolate filled adventure at Indulge LA, we know we have to develop a game plan to synchronize our (precious and limited) stomach space and our (ravenous and unrelenting) sweet tooth. Luckily, we will be attending with a pair of friends with whom to share the bounty. I know Martin is going to keep an eye out for the best chocolate chip (his favorite) while I am always game to try unique variations on the traditional cookie (like our limoncello and semolina version).

VIP tickets are already sold out, so grab your GA passes soon if you want to attend the first annual LA Cookie Con! (Psst — sign up for their e-newsletter for a 10% off coupon code!)

As if you needed more convincing, a portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. You definitely won’t want to miss out on this chance to stuff your faces while helping to support a great nonprofit. (But in case you can’t make it, stay tuned for our post-event recap with plenty of mouth-watering cookie photos!)

cat eated cookie

Disclosure: We were not compensated for this post; however, we did receive discounted press tickets to the event for the purposes of our review. All opinions are our own and were not influenced in any way.

2014-09-28 13.19.28

Farsi Cafe – Westwood, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Happy 2015, dear readers! We hope one of your New Year resolutions was to keep eating good food because that’s definitely what we plan to do. One distinct advantage of living in Los Angeles is its proximity to ethnic cuisines from around the world. Here on the Westside, we’re just a stone’s throw away from Little Persia – the stretch of Westwood Boulevard that is affectionately known as Tehrangeles for its prominent Iranian immigrant population. Waking up with an inexplicable craving for crispy rice one lazy afternoon, we decided to get lunch at Farsi Cafe.

The first thing I noticed when we walked inside the dining room was that it was set up to primarily accommodate large parties; the two of us settled in at a table meant for four. Throughout our lunch, we understood why — there were families of all sizes coming in through the door to share a leisurely meal.

2014-09-28 13.14.50

Our server brought out a basket of flat bread (lavash) along with the traditional plate of butter and raw onion. (We were perplexed but a quick Google search taught us that the onion is meant to accompany the grilled meats and the butter could be either spread on lavash or melted over rice). He also surprised us with a bowl of mast-o khiar (yogurt and cucumber) compliments of the chef. Similar to Greek tzatziki or Indian raita, this cool refreshing dip was the perfect accompaniment to both the plain flat bread and to the spiced grilled meat I ordered for my entree.

2014-09-28 13.19.11

Speaking of entrees, I selected my usual Persian food go-to — the koobideh (ground beef kabob) with rice. The generous portion came with two skewers and a giant mound of rice topped with a smaller pile of saffron infused rice (my favorite!). The typical garnishes of grilled onion, tomato, and bell pepper added that extra smoky charred flavor. The beef was well seasoned, and did I mention how huge the serving was? I got three meals out of it!

2014-09-28 13.19.34Our journey to Farsi Cafe started with the desire for crispy rice so of course, Martin went with the house special tahchin. Each order is served a “slice” of a large “pie” made of crisped saffron rice and shreds of chicken. The slice is then topped with zereshk (barberries), tart little dried currants that pair excellently with chicken (think turkey and cranberry). I stole more than a few bites of his meal and just could not stop myself. It was so good — the crunchy rice, the spiced chicken, the tart berries!

If you’re trying to choose from the many delicious offerings all along Westwood Boulevard, we suggest coming in to Farsi Cafe to try their tahchin, mast-o khiar, saffron rice, and koobideh. And then wash it all down with Persian ice cream at Saffron & Rose just up the street afterward!

———————

Check out Farsi Cafe: farsicafela.com

1916 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

See their Yelp reviews here!