DineLA – Chaya Brasserie (Summer 2014)

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

14-LAT-SaveTheDate-Instagram

With each passing season, dineLA manages to make its Restaurant “Week” longer and longer. This summer, hundreds of restaurants across Los Angeles are participating in the 14-day event (July 14-27) featuring prix fixe menus that showcase their best offerings. dineLA feels quite a bit different for me this year, working among the chaos on the other side, but on our shared day off, we just had to participate as diners! To celebrate Martin’s mom’s birthday on our double-date, we selected Chaya Brasserie, just off the main hustle and bustle of Beverly Hills.

Chaya Beverly Hills is a tiny hole-in-the-wall with a gorgeously decorated interior that includes (real!) bamboo plants reaching to the sky. A print of Van Gogh’s portrait hangs on the wall opposite a series of large framed mirrors, opening up the small space and making it seem much less claustrophobic than it would have otherwise been. The white tablecloth-clad tables and attentive but friendly service let us know we were in for a special treat. For just $45, Chaya offers a three course dinner and a wine pairing for an additional $20. Martin opted for it and we shared the 3-ounce tasting pours (a white cotes du rhone for the first course, a red blend for the second, and a sweet riesling for dessert).

Table Bread

Table Bread

Even the table bread was a delicious start — freshly warmed, the crunch of rustic bread with a warm fluffy center, slathered with softened butter. I always appreciate places that take the time to warm their bread, so Chaya was already getting brownie points from me.

Coconut Chili Soft-Shell Crab | Summer Squash, Cilantro.

Coconut Chili Soft-Shell Crab | Summer Squash, Cilantro.

Appetizer (M): Coconut Chili Soft-Shell Crab | Summer Squash, Cilantro. As food lovers we are well aware that it is currently soft shell crab season! I could not believe that Chaya had it on their dineLA menu, and Martin snatched it up, though I made him promise to share. Dipped in a tempura batter, deep fried, and served over a bed of zucchini and yellow squash, the soft shell crab was absolutely succulent with its sweet meat and an oh-so-edible shell.

Tricolor Sashimi Carpaccio | Tuna, Salmon, Tai Snapper, Ooba Pesto, Yuzu Jelly.

Tricolor Sashimi Carpaccio | Tuna, Salmon, Tai Snapper, Ooba Pesto, Yuzu Jelly.

Appetizer (A): Tricolor Sashimi Carpaccio | Tuna, Salmon, Tai Snapper, Ooba Pesto, Yuzu Jelly. I’ll be honest, I think twice about ordering the same menu item as someone else when dining out in a group. Though it was inevitable with a party of four and three menu options from which to choose, I noticed that no one was getting the sashimi. I’m so glad I did because I love yuzukosho and its presence in the ooba (shiso) pesto totally made the dish, aside from the sexy plating of course. Crunchy watermelon radishes, tart yuzu jelly, and an assortment of microgreens were excellent garnishes to the fresh raw fish.

Spicy Lobster Risotto | Edamame, Grilled Corn, Asparagus.

Spicy Lobster Risotto | Edamame, Grilled Corn, Asparagus.

Main Course (M): Spicy Lobster Risotto | Edamame, Grilled Corn, Asparagus. Martin immediately gravitated to this dish and I could see why — the risotto was perfectly cooked (not too dry, not too runny, with al dente rice) and the plating was a show stopper with a massive lobster claw adorning the center of the plate. Don’t worry though — it’s already peeled and ready to extract for easy eating! I stole a bite or two and though I would not call it “spicy” it was full of spices and had a bit of a kick.

Steak & Frites | Prime Hangar Steak, Wasabi Chimichurri.

Steak & Frites | Prime Hangar Steak, Wasabi Chimichurri.

Main Course (A): Steak & Frites | Prime Hangar Steak, Wasabi Chimichurri. We just celebrated Bastille Day with homemade steak frites last week, but spotting it on the menu, I wanted to try that wasabi chimichurri. The steak arrived just the right temperature (rare as requested), tender, and absolutely flavorful. The frites were crispy and a generous portion, plenty to share with my snacking companions.

Strawberry Mochi | Coconut Sorbet.

Strawberry Mochi | Coconut Sorbet.

Dessert (M): Strawberry Mochi | Coconut Sorbet. It was Martin’s turn to be “different” and he opted for the strawberry mochi. Sticky rice flour wrapped around a whole strawberry, it would be more accurate described as daifuku. The coconut sorbet on the side was refreshing and reminiscent of the milk and pulp straight from a young coconut. Despite the “girly” plating (as he put it), Martin really enjoyed this dessert, especially the flakes of strawberry-flavored white chocolate which reminded him of his favorite Pocky.

Flourless Chocolate Cake | Caramelized Banana Gelato, Hazelnuts.

Flourless Chocolate Cake | Caramelized Banana Gelato, Hazelnuts.

Dessert (A & M’s Mom): Flourless Chocolate Cake | Caramelized Banana Gelato, Hazelnuts. The presentation was stunning, and the first thing I did was grab one of the bits of hazelnut brittle. So good! The cake itself was rich with a thin layer of ganache (?) holding it together. I particularly enjoyed the ice cream as I am a big fan of the chocolate-banana combination. A great way to end the meal!

Sticky Toffee Pudding | Bourbon Ice Cream.

Sticky Toffee Pudding | Bourbon Ice Cream.

Dessert (M’s Dad): Sticky Toffee Pudding | Bourbon Ice Cream. I was glad he ordered this as I wanted to see how Chaya’s interpretation of this British classic holds up. The sticky toffee pudding here (as our server had warned us) is more like a dense banana bread and is drizzled with a light bourbon sauce. I liked that it wasn’t too sweet or heavy but it was not quite what I think of when I think of sticky toffee pudding. Not a bad thing, just different.

There is still a week left of dineLA, so if you’re looking for a great deal and a beautiful venue for date night, consider Chaya Brasserie!

We also have plenty of write-ups for previous dineLA restaurant weeks, though the menu may vary:

– Piccolo Venice (Venice)

– Catch American Seafood (Santa Monica)

– Blue Stove (Santa Monica)

– Stefan’s at LA Farm (Santa Monica)

So get out there and enjoy the many awesome restaurants in our City of Angels!

———————

Check out Chaya Brasserie: thechaya.com/beverlyhills

8741 Alden Drive
Los AngelesCA 90048

See their Yelp reviews here!

DineLA Summer 2014 – $$$ ($45/person) dinner

Parking: $6.50 for valet.

Food Pic Friday: Sushi Central (Re-visited)

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

First, a personal update for NomNomCat Readers (if you’re just looking for drool-worthy photos on this Food Porn Friday, scroll past this paragraph): WE’RE BACK! Our deepest apologies for our three month long hiatus. For those who are interested, here’s the reason for it — as you may well know, life offline can get in the way of blogging. And boy has 2014 already been a crazy adventure… With this food blog about to celebrate its third birthday, it should come as no surprise that food is a huge passion in our lives. So much so, in fact, that I decided to change my career trajectory to the culinary arts; I currently work in a professional kitchen as a line cook, having jumped head-first into Kitchen Life. Working sixty hours a week in a physically strenuous, mentally challenging, and emotionally stressful environment leaves little time to sit down and write about the latest LA hot spots three times a week like we did before. But I still love to write, and I sincerely missed this forum for communicating my (and our) love for celebrating life through eating and cooking. And so I make this promise to come back with new content once a week. The format will likely be different though; gone are the days of 1,000-word entries. Instead, the focus will likely shift to local food news and events, photos from new and new-to-us dining experiences, and, if we can manage it, make-at-home recipes now and then. Thank you all for your understanding and support these past (almost) three years! We’ll definitely have to do something fun for our blogiversary!

And now for the food.

Back in 2012, my bff S and I celebrated her birthday with affordable but delicious omakase at a tiny hole-in-the-wall in Palms (West Los Angeles): Sushi Central. The sheer variety and quality of the fish and the expertise of Chef Phillip Yi behind the counter blew away all of my preconceived notions about strip mall sushi. Recently, Martin had a sudden and insatiable sushi craving and we decided to pay a visit to this neighborhood gem.

Maguro (Tuna) Sashimi

Maguro (Tuna) Sashimi

IMG_0704

IMG_0705Forgive me, I generally pride myself on being able to remember details about my dishes, but this dinner took place back in March and I have since forgotten which fish above is which. I believe they were halibut, snapper, and sea bream (not necessarily in that order) but please let me know if YOU happen to know and I will happily edit this entry.

Ono (Escolar)

Ono (Escolar), super juicy with a smoky char from being oh-so-briefly torched.

IMG_0710

 

IMG_0712

Liver(?) from the Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp)

Liver(?) from the Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp)

Amaebi (Live Sweet Shrimp)

Amaebi (Live Sweet Shrimp)

Broth made from the shells of the amaebi

Broth made from the shells of the amaebi

Crispy Fried Amaebi Heads

Crispy Fried Amaebi Heads

Sushi Central offers my all-time favorite amaebi preparation and I say that with full confidence. Where else could you get a tasty shooter, an umami-rich broth, a well-seasoned piece of nigiri, and a crispy fried head all from one little shrimp? Chef Phillip puts forth a great deal of effort to showcase the beauty that is amaebi and it is certainly appreciated.

Salmon Belly

Salmon Belly

Live Scallop (and the crew - Chef Phillip on the right and Seiji on the left)

Live Scallop (and the crew – Chef Phillip on the right and Seiji on the left)

Live Scallop Nigiri Sushi and Sashimi

Live Scallop Nigiri Sushi and Sashimi

An Artist at Work

An Artist at Work

"Dirty Rice" made from the hinge muscle and innards of the scallop

“Dirty Rice” made from the hinge muscle and innards of the scallop

Ankimo (Monkfish Liver) - my personal favorite

Ankimo (Monkfish Liver) – my personal favorite

Spanish Mackerel - a fishy, oily bite to end our meal

Spanish Mackerel – a wonderfully fishy, oily bite to end our meal

At $100 a head (we originally aimed closer to $50 but added on the live amaebi, live scallop, AND ankimo), it was a splurge for a weeknight meal but definitely well worth the expense. Chef Phillip had even stayed overtime by a full hour just to show off more of his freshest and most interesting fish. Don’t dismiss this place if you’re deterred by the online menu full of California Rolls and Dragon Rolls. Bypass all of those run-of-the-mill offerings, pull up a seat at the counter, and let Chef Phillip do what he does best. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Crazy Sushi Fever – Atascadero, CA

Central Coast, Food Adventures

What had initially started out as a joke turned out to be an awesome dinner date. To celebrate our three-year anniversary, Martin and I took a few days off work and drove up to the Central Coast. Searching our Yelp! app for a place to eat near our hotel in Atascadero, we noticed a distinctly odd and kitschy name – Crazy Sushi Fever. You’ve got to be kidding me. But the reviews were great, the photos looked appetizing, and it was a mere half mile away. We looked at each other and decided, let’s go for it!

Crazy Sushi Fever - Pismo Boat

Crazy Sushi Fever – Pismo Boat

After an abysmally long walk (GPS, you lied to me), we arrived at this humble sushi joint exhausted. Fortunately, our spirits were immediately lifted by the welcoming smiles of the chefs behind the counter. We grabbed seats right in front of the main counter and ordered a pair of Asahi Kuronama to quench our thirst.

Asahi Kuronama (Asahi Black)

Asahi Kuronama (Asahi Black)

We typically enjoy Asahi Kuronama with yakitori, but it paired surprising well with our sushi as well. Noticing the prices of the a la carte nigiri sushi ($4+ per pair), we decided to share a boat – the Pismo Boat, an omakase creation of 10 pieces of nigiri sushi and 20 pieces of sashimi. All for $60. Meanwhile, we admired the gleaming slabs of salmon and maguro sitting in the refrigerated case. I couldn’t wait.

Ginger, Wasabi, and... Banchan?

Ginger, Wasabi, and… Banchan?

Okay, so it turned out that the chefs behind the counter were actually Korean. On the bright side, that meant that our customary dish of wasabi and gari (pickled ginger) was served alongside generous mountains of cucumber sunomono and wakame (seaweed salad)… suspiciously reminiscent of the variety of banchan at the start of any Korean meal. No complaints from me!

The Pismo Boat

The Pismo Boat

At last, the glorious boat was proudly presented to us. From left to right: maguro (tuna), hamachi (yellowtail), sake (salmon), shiro maguro (albacore), and ono (escolar). All of which looked stunning and tasted wonderful. We dug in, nigiri first. After just one or two pieces, the chef who made our boat caught my attention by waving a mysterious white packet.

Fresh Wasabi

Fresh Wasabi

“Would you like to try some fresh wasabi?” he offered. Of course I said yes! I think I remembered to say please… In any case, he hooked us up with a dollop of chopped wasabi root marinated in a bit of salt. OMG SO GOOD. It’s infinitely better than the pale green paste from the tube or can, and though some may say it’s not the same as fresh grated wasabi root, I think the salt really makes a difference in this prepared version. It pulled out some of the liquid and made this saucy, spicy glaze that tasted amazing on the fresh fish. I’m now on a mission to track down this elusive pouch of kizami wasabi.

Back to the Boat

Back to the Boat

I’m usually not a huge fan of maguro, but the one here was a gorgeous bright red. The hamachi was buttery and shimmered with fat. Salmon is always our favorite, and theirs was sweet and melt-in-your-mouth good. We were thankful for the ridiculously thick sashimi slices of all of the varieties, but especially the salmon! Finally we moved on to the sauced pieces – shiro maguro and ono. Typical preparation on the shiro maguro, with a drizzle of ponzu and sprinkling of negi (green onions). The ono, which I had only seen served at Sushi Central here in West LA, was drizzled in a ponzu and chili oil dressing and topped with a mound of masago (Capelin roe). By the time we polished off the last bite, we were both completely satiated… although, they say there’s always room for dessert…

Tempura Green Tea Ice Cream

Tempura Green Tea Ice Cream

Tempura green tea ice cream is my guilty pleasure. A perfect sphere of matcha ice cream dipped in tempura batter and rolled in panko bread crumbs, then deep fried to a golden hue. The artsy swirls of chocolate syrup really brought the dessert together and we enjoyed each decadent bite. They also have a tempura cheesecake on their menu… talk about avoiding temptation!

If you ever find yourself in the Central Coast / Paso Robles area with a craving for sushi, we suggest stopping by Crazy Sushi Fever. Peculiar name aside, they are a great place with prompt, friendly service and delicious sushi. And if you ask nicely, maybe they’ll share a bit of their fresh wasabi stash.

———————

Check out Crazy Sushi Fever:

8050 El Camino Real
Atascadero, CA 93422

See their Yelp reviews here!