Rutt’s Hawaiian Cafe – Culver City, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Anyone remember the scene in 50 First Dates when Lucy hangs out at the Hukilau Cafe building cabins out of waffles? That was the first thing that came to mind the very first time I walked through the yellow screen door of Rutt’s Hawaiian Cafe. We frequently stop by on lazy Sunday afternoons for one thing — the royales.

Kalua Pork Fried Royale

Kalua Pork Fried Royale

Royales are basically a Hawaiian style mixed rice — generous mountains of rice mixed with bean sprouts, strips of egg omelet, green onions, and your choice of meat ranging from kalua pork to Portuguese sausage to the Hawaiian staple SPAM. Even better – you can order them fried! They come in three sizes: the junior (one scoop of rice & two eggs), the regular (two scoops of rice & three eggs), and the king (three scoops of rice & four eggs). Don’t be fooled – each “scoop” is giant. The one pictured above is only a junior!

A closer look - kalua pork royale

A closer look – kalua pork royale

If I am ordering takeout or otherwise intending to have leftovers for the next day’s lunch, I would order a regular sized royale. Otherwise, the junior is more than enough especially when paired with the (free – just ask!) Hawaiian sweet roll that comes with it. The kalua pork is my favorite as it is always juicy, flavorful, and reminiscent of luaus (no matter how touristy).  An artistic drizzle of sriracha and I’m set!

The Original Royale - fried, no bean sprouts

The Original Royale – fried, no bean sprouts

Martin’s usual is the Original Royale fried with no bean sprouts. Though his plate is always sadly devoid of vegetables, I think the chef sometimes makes up for it with extra meat. That or the Original Royale is like the Meat Lover’s Pizza of mixed rice dishes. Chopped slivers of Chinese BBQ pork (char siu) and rounds of Portuguese sausage add savory flavor to this royale. (PS: Martin only asked for that Hawaiian roll so I could have it. Isn’t he the best?!)

Filet of Sole

Filet of Sole

Occasionally I’ll stray from the Royales section and try something different. The plate specials are good (especially the mixed plate special that features a combination of kalbi, kalua pork, and teriyaki chicken for only $8!) but my latest discovery was the filet of sole. A football sized, 1/2-inch thick filet of white fish breaded in panko (?) and grilled to perfection. The fish was flaky and moist, barely opaque. It comes with two scoops of rice and (of course) macaroni salad.

To round out my island adventure, I sometimes splurge on either a can of ice cold UCC Kona Coffee or, if I spot it on the specials menu, a manapua (BBQ pork bun or cha siu bao). On my first visit, I also ordered the haupia for dessert, but I don’t think I have seen it recently. A traditional Hawaiian dessert, haupia is essentially a coconut pudding, and the one at Rutt’s was topped with extra toasted coconut shavings. Yummy coconutty goodness.

As if the food weren’t enough reason to swing by, the prices can’t be beat! About $10 will usually get me enough food for two meals. The parking is rarely a hassle with plentiful metered street parking immediately in front, and the service is so friendly. Do yourself a favor and hula on over to Rutt’s! Alooooooooha~

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Check out Rutt’s Hawaiian Cafe: ruttshawaiiancafe.com (recently redesigned!)

12114 Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90066

See their Yelp reviews here!

Father’s Office – Culver City, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

On Monday we posted our how-to for making your very own Office Burger. And as I mentioned, it certainly will not be putting Father’s Office out of business any time soon but it will be a great addition to your next barbecue and possibly impress your food-loving friends. But I’ll be honest – we did not quite give Sang Yoon’s gift to the LA gastropub scene the proper introduction. The Best Burger in LA is a prestigious title with gourmet burger joints popping up left and right. The Office Burger takes the lead on many of these lists, and rightly so — it’s delicious!

The Office Burger

The Office Burger

A brief introduction to Father’s Office. It’s hard to say if Sang Yoon could forsee just how big of an impact his decision to install a small kitchen in the back of the (first and original) Santa Monica location on Montana would have, but it transformed F.O. from a dime-a-dozen dive bar to one of LA’s most popular watering holes and arguably revolutionized the bar food scene in the US.

The Bar

The Bar

Sang Yoon went on to open a second F.O. in Culver City’s Helms Bakery District, once home to an actual bakery that would deliver bread to local residents like the milk man and his glass bottles on neighborhood doorsteps. This location is newer, larger, offers ample (for LA) parking, and frankly, it’s closer to where we live so this where you’ll likely find us.

Fruitesse

Fruitesse

Let’s start with the “-pub” in gastropub. F.O. features 36 craft beers on tap, ranging from local microbreweries to imported genuine Belgians and more. I think this is the only place that served my favorite Lindemans sweet Belgian lambics on tap, switching from the peche lambic to the framboise and back. Their selection rotates with the seasons but variety is the constant. (Now their resident fruity brew is the Liefmans Fruitesse.) Martin knows his beers better than I and typically partakes in German hefeweizen or Belgian witbier, among his usuals being the Allagash White from Maine. Not sure what to order? Never even heard of these breweries? Just ask the guys and gals behind the counter – they know their stuff and can help you find something you like. They’re like… beer sommeliers, if you will.

Spanish Mushrooms

Spanish Mushrooms

On to the appetizers (or appeteasers… Big Bang Theory anyone?). Though let me say now that the burger is definitely a must-have, there are some noteworthy Small Plates on their menu that you’ll want to check out, especially if you’re hanging out in a group and can share. First, the tried and true – Spanish tapas style mushrooms, served warm and dressed in garlic thyme, sherry vinegar, and olive oil. Delicious moist little flavor bombs, I found myself picking up my fork over and over to spear yet another unsuspecting mushroom despite trying to save my appetite for the burger.

Sonoma Lamb Skewers

Sonoma Lamb Skewer

The show-stopper – Sonoma lamb skewer. The presentation of the kabob over the stunning green yogurt sauce definitely caught the attention of everyone at our table. The spiced meat was flavorful though sadly a bit dry the last time we had it.

Uni Crostini

Uni Crostini

The unique – Fresh Sea Urchin Crostini. Don’t forget to check out the LED monitors at each cash register; they often have a small list of daily specials. If you spot the uni crostini, GET IT. Grilled slices of baguette topped with sauteed fennel and generous pieces of fresh uni, probably locally sourced from Santa Barbara. Hot and cold, crispy and creamy, this juxtaposition of flavors initially confused me, then intrigued me, and finally, it won me over and delighted me. And now I crave it but sadly, it has gone under the radar… for now.

The Frites

The Frites

Torture, I know, but before we talk about the burger, let’s briefly go over the sides. Our favorite are the regular ol’ frites. You can add them to your burger basket for a $2.50 charge, or for $5 you can spring for a whole basket. We opted for the latter because we just can’t get enough of these crunchy, thin shoestring fries tossed in salt and parsley, paired with an addictive garlic aioli. Some people say the frites are too thin, but Martin and I are the type to dig all the way to the bottom of a French fry carton to find the extra crispy teeny-tiny bits. These are perfect.

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

Ahh… the ever-popular sweet potato fries. Thick, hearty strips of crisp-on-the-outside, sweet & soft on the inside goodness. These only come by the basket, but have no fear – you will run out and contemplate ordering another…

The Main Event!

The Main Event!

Okay, okay, now for the burger. The infamous Office Burger. The patty – dry-aged ground chuck, juicy and charbroiled to the perfect temperature (the one thing that can vary on their notorious no-substitutions menu). This isn’t your ordinary backyard barbecue, slather it with ketchup and relish sort of burger (although I adore ketchup and relish). No, this gourmet burger is topped with Maytag bleu and gruyere cheeses, caramelized onion & applewood bacon jam, and a mound of arugula, all sandwiched on a toasted French roll. A-MAY-ZING. Each satisfying bite tantalizes the taste buds with the sweet, sweet onions, the rich meat, the sharp cheese, and slight spice of the arugula… This burger is full of flavor and decadence.

Always room for dessert!

Always room for dessert!

I was so excited when Father’s Office added desserts to their menu. Back in 2011, long before Foiehibition, Father’s Office debuted one of their first ever desserts – the foie gras ice cream sandwich. It was house-made hazelnut and foie gras ice cream smooshed between two oatmeal raisin cookies. So good. The foie gras flavor was really delicate but detectable. Unfortunately the sweetness and strong cinnamon flavor of the cookies overwhelmed it a bit. Still, the cookies were moist but substantial enough to make this handheld dessert delicious down to the very last bite.

So if you’re looking to unleash your inner carnivore or perhaps celebrate a long day’s work with a cold craft beer or two, head on over to F.O. and order The Office Burger with a side of frites and a tall glass of whatever tickles your fancy (there’s even a cute fire hydrant tap for pouring water). Have your IDs out and ready (sorry kids, it’s 21+ even if you’re not drinking) and be sure to delegate: group A scopes out seating while group B gets in line and picks up the first round of the night. It helps to have a game plan.

Cheers, my friends!

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Check out Father’s Office – Helm’s Bakery: fathersoffice.com

3229 Helms Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034

See their Yelp reviews here!

Copenhagen Pastry – Culver City, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Ever since we moved out of Palms and into the Mar Vista area, we have been spending less time on Venice Boulevard and more time on Washington Boulevard. One day, a few months ago, a quaint little bakery caught our eye. A very small storefront with a modern look, hardly more than a display case of pastries followed by a cash register. We made a mental note to look up Copenhagen Pastry… and boy, were we impressed! Few places on Yelp manage to maintain a solid 5-star rating over 150+ reviews, so Martin and I knew we just had to check out this adorable little bakery that had recently opened so close to home.

Photo courtesy of Copenhagen Pastry

Photo courtesy of Copenhagen Pastry

We were welcomed by the women behind the counter as soon as we walked in and they kindly offered us samples of their two most popular must-try pastries: the Copenhagen (a flaky pastry topped with vanilla custard and chocolate – no nuts!) and the Kringle (a similarly flaky pastry but topped with an almond paste & custard blend). On our first visit, we ended up taking home a Kringle, a Chocolate Pastry, and a Cinnamon Pastry… all for just over $5 (which is perfect since we needed to meet the $5 credit card minimum). We have since purchased the “party kringle” on multiple occasions, which, for just $10, feeds 6-8 people.

Cinnamon Pastry, Chocolate Pastry, Kringle

Cinnamon Pastry, Chocolate Pastry, Kringle

The Copenhagen is a teeny bit on the sweet side for me, but I love the smooth texture of the custard. The Kringle stole my heart at first bite with its garnish of toasted almond slices and crystals of granulated sugar shielding a silky and creamy almond filling underneath. The Cinnamon Pastry (which has no nuts or dairy) resembles a cinnamon roll in appearance with its dollop of white frosting in the center, but it is flaky and crunchy like a cinnamon twist. Another favorite is the Chocolate Pastry — an adorably round ball of puff pastry topped simply with a round dollop of chocolate ganache. The puff pastry is so incredibly flaky that I could hear the layers crackling as I remove it from its paper bag. While all of the pastries are excellent in flavor, I have to say the Chocolate Pastry is the most satisfying to sink my teeth into! The ganache is dark and velvety but not in the least bit grainy or bitter. Perfection!

Kringle, Raspberry Pastry, Copenhagen

Kringle, Raspberry Pastry, Copenhagen

Martin has worked Copenhagen Pastry into his morning routine, relentlessly making me jealous with his picture texts of his beautiful flaky breakfast. They are open from 7AM to 5PM on weekdays (closed on Mondays) and 8AM to 4PM on the weekends, and they are definitely worth squeezing into your busy schedule. I’m already looking forward to my next visit – and to working my way through the beautiful display of pastries.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Copenhagen Pastry!

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PS: Check out this awesome mini-documentary about Copenhagen Pastry: vimeo.com/61140766. As if the pastries themselves were not enough reason to plan a visit to Copenhagen Pastry, hearing how passionate owner Karen Hansen and head baker Henrik Gram are about high-quality, authentic, nostalgic Danish pastries made with love definitely seals the deal.

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Check out Copenhagen Pastry: copenhagenpastry.com

11113 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

See their Yelp reviews here!

DineLA – Libra Brazilian Steakhouse (Summer 2012)

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Some of the best Restaurant Week opportunities have to be the Brazilian churrascarias that offer their usual all you can eat fare at the discounted pricing. We’ve taken advantage of Fogo de Chao’s deal a few times, but our friends Helen and Edmund invited us to double date in Downtown Culver to check out a pretty awesome churrasco joint in our backyard — Libra Brazilian Steakhouse. During DineLA, Libra is rated $$ for dinner  – only $35/person for the salad bar, hot bar, endless meat, and dessert!

Pao de queijo!

First, the cheese bread! I love pao de queijo; they are such wonderful little balls of cheese dough that’s crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The ones here, while not quite as amazing as the ones at Fogo, did not disappoint. On to the salad bar! Martin walked right past the entire setup, but I snagged some small portions of shrimp cocktail (chilled and sweet), grilled asparagus (nice char and good to pair with the meat), smoked salmon with creme fraiche and capers (arranged in cute little flavorful bundles), and prosciutto (a bit dry). Somewhere along the way, the salad bar ends and the hot bar begins. We only tried the caramelized bananas, which were literally bananas in a caramel sauce; it was a bit too sweet for us and a different style of preparation than we’re used to. Helen remarked that the “mashed potato wannabe” (mashed yucca) was good, although she got it on two separate occasions and it was a different texture each time… how peculiar.

From top left corner: filet mignon, lamb chop, pork rib, picanha

Finally we all settled back in at our table and it was time for the main event to commence. Flip over the little round cards and green means go! The gauchos stopped by our table one after the other, armed with sword-like skewers of meat. The first few visits were exciting in their own ways, but what really made our evening was that not just one but just about all of the gauchos learned our preferences and favorites and really brought out the good stuff (but more on that later). We had the lamb chop which, while more cooked than rare, was juicy and flavorful with a swoosh of garlic butter brushed on at the end. Martin was most looking forward to the filet mignon. He polishes off three or four whole filets when we go to Fogo. Here they prepare the meat in smaller cubes (similar to Vietnamese bo luc lac) and alternating on the skewer with onion slices. Martin’s eyes lit up when that particular gaucho came by our table. Here’s how it went down:

Martin: “I’d like some.”

Gaucho: “Four?”

Martin: “Mm… I’ll have three.”

Gaucho: “Take four.”

After he was done with those and had stepped away to get more bananas, the same guy made his rounds with a fresh skewer. I knew Martin would appreciate it if I got some for him, so I held out his plate.

Me: “He wants more!”

Gaucho: “See? He was trying to be all fancy asking for only three…”

Me: “How about five more?”

Gaucho: “I like even numbers. Here’s six. He’ll be fine.”

Way to hook it up!

Chicken hearts! (Sorry the picture’s a little blurry — blame it on the sangria!)

Our server Diego and all of the staff were incredibly attentive. About halfway through our meal, we noticed the distinct lack of chicken hearts and decided to inquire. Not five minutes later, a friendly gaucho came out with an entire skewer of chicken hearts just for us. Martin and I each took about half the skewer, sparing a few for our dining companions to sample. We usually eat chicken hearts prepared yakitori style at Japanese joints, like our local favorite Nanbankan, but the ones here were covered in minced garlic and had a wonderful texture. We shared a second skewer and would like to thank the 50 chickens that gave their giblets for our meal.

Stunning picanha slices. The gaucho had every right to be proud of these!

As I mentioned earlier, by the end, the gauchos knew what we liked and hooked us up with the rarest beef. We partook in some beautifully rare, barely warm but wonderfully seared picanha that was garlicky, salty, and super flavorful. The gaucho looked so excited about its temperature that I seriously wondered if he ran back to the kitchen and snagged that skewer out of the fire just for us before it overcooked.

Among other items that we tried were the ribeye (juicy as it should be), prime rib (it was a “reject piece” as Edmund called it, so it was too dried out and sad looking), pork ribs (a little dry and as Helen said “not cow”), and the sausage. We were so stuffed but as they say, there’s always room for dessert!

Caramel flan!

Three of us ended up getting the flan. It was yummy and eggy and arrived in a generous pool of caramel sauce. The flan had a lot of bubbles (intentional?) which added a nice light airyness to the otherwise dense custard. The perfect palate cleanser after that onslaught of meat.

The service was ridiculously friendly. They really took the time to get to know our preferences and favorite meats and (for better or worse) egged us on to keep eating. We will definitely be back for the great value (even during non-dineLA, it’s about $40/person for dinner), the great food, and especially for the exceptional service. Thank you, Libra, for an awesome date night!

DineLA Summer 2012 runs through July 27th. Only 3 days left to check out Libra, Libra’s sister restaurant M Grill, Wilshire Restaurant, Waterloo & City, and other awesome local restaurants!

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Check out Libra Brazilian Steakhouse: librabrazilianbbq.com

3833 Main Street
Culver City, CA 90232

See their Yelp reviews here!

Farewell to Foie – The Last Supper at Waterloo

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

What better way to spend June 30th than with a double date with our friends Cassandra and Brian! Together we bid farewell to foie at my and Alice’s favorite local gastropub Waterloo & City with a 6-course menu entitled “The Last Supper.” Unfortunately by the time this entry is posted, SB-1520 would have passed and these dishes will be a fond memory. But without further ado, here is the play-by-play of The Last Supper:

Ahi Tuna & Foie Gras Torchon

The most eye-catching explosion of colors of the entire meal, the ahi tuna and foie gras torchon was an attention-grabber of a dish early on in the tasting menu. We were expecting Chef Brendan to balance all the fatty foie with other sweet and tart flavors and he did just that in this dish. A generous chunk of foie on top of the lean slice of ahi with the pork gelée and prune jam was one delicious bite after another. The micro greens provided a much-needed textural contrast between the foie and ahi. Well-rounded dish and tied the chicken liver and foie gras mousse as my favorite dish.

Chicken Liver & Foie Gras Mousse, Toasted Petit Pain

Second course consisted of a foie gras addition to the charcuterie menu’s Chicken Liver Mousse, which gave it a smoother texture. Again, Chef Brendan kept in mind the richness of the foie and included a sweet potato jam to balance the dish. However, it was a little too sugary. Also, the ratio of toast to mousse was a little off to me – I could’ve used another pair of toast (although the mousse was delicious on its own as well).  The plate was completed with a caper berry, cornichon, pickled onion.

Foie Gras Ravioli, Duck Broth, Wild Mushrooms

Third course is a foie gras ravioli and wild mushrooms in a duck broth. Alice was a huge fan of the broth which reminded her of a favorite Vietnamese dish she had as a child (mì vịt tiềm). For me, the broth was a little too salty and we both agreed that the pasta was undercooked. We were both a fan of the mushrooms which provided an additional umami flavor. The explosion of foie gras out of the ravioli was especially pleasant to the palate. Unfortunately, one of my raviolis was missing a filling but that was promptly rectified by Cecily, the Maitre D that night.

Halibut, Manila Clams, Foie Gras Sauce

Fourth course consisted of a beautiful piece of halibut, perfectly seared and served with manila clams, potato cubes, peas, and bacon (or pancetta?) in a foie gras sauce. The sauce had great depth of flavor with the rich foie and the smoky bacon. The halibut was beautiful and delicious but as the star of the show we really wanted to see the sear on the halibut so it was confusing as to why the clams were placed on top of the halibut. Nevertheless, the combination of the halibut, bacon, and foie sauce all in one bite was heavenly. It was one of Cassandra’s favorites.

Slow Roast Duck Breast, Seared Foie Gras, Plum Jam

The fifth and main course was a generous piece of seared foie on top of a slow roasted duck breast and complemented with micro greens and a plum jam. We’re always a fan of dishes that compose of different parts of an animal and this dish was exactly that. The duck breast had its own jus but also worked surprisingly well with the plum jam. The seared foie definitely needed the plum jam to cut the fat and the ratio of foie to jam was perfect. This dish serves to only reaffirm my belief in the duck. All hail the duck!

“Twicks”, Chocolate Panna Cotta, Butterscotch Mousse, Shortbread, Caramel

The sixth and final course is something we haven’t seen on the menu before, although Alice had seen it mentioned as a new menu addition. The “twicks” is kind of like a deconstructed Twix candy bar when eaten all together. Individually, I was a big fan of the chocolate panna cotta and the shortbread. We did not recognize it at the time, but we later found out that it was topped with foie gras ice cream. As delicious as this dessert may be, we almost regret not finishing the meal with the bourbon glazed donuts as we usually do.

All in all, we were very pleased with this last farewell hurrah for foie. We popped in to say hi to Chef Brendan at the pass, and he seemed to be having a great time going all-out to work with this delicacy before midnight. Waterloo & City never fails to disappoint, and even though it was Cassandra and Brian’s first visit, they’re already looking forward to coming back and trying dishes off the regular menu.

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Check out Waterloo & City: www.waterlooandcity.com

12517 West Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066

See their Yelp reviews here.

Follow them on Twitter @WaterlooandCity!