Mariscos Chente – Del Rey, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

I know what you’re probably thinking. Where the heck is Del Rey? That’s okay. We didn’t know either until we moved here. And it took over a year of living in this teeny tiny region bordered by Culver City, Mar Vista, Marina Del Rey, and Venice to finally discover the wonder that is Mariscos Chente. At this hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant specializing in mariscos (seafood), the small menu boasts two pages of shrimp dishes, a third of fish dishes, and a final page dedicated to ceviche.

Camarones Borrachos - shrimp in a tequila garlic sauce

Camarones Borrachos – shrimp in a tequila garlic sauce

We’ve returned on multiple occasions since our first fateful visit less than a month ago. It’s that good. The camarones borrachos (above) were like a “drunken shrimp” dish packed with a strong tequila punch. A bit too strong for me, but Martin enjoyed it.

But first, the chips and salsa... and our drinks

But first, the chips and salsa… and our drinks

Shortly after we place our order, the friendly waitress brings out a basket of freshly fried tortilla chips and a small bowl of salsa verde. Tangy from plenty of limes and tomatillos, with just the right amount of kick, this snack is the perfect way to whet our appetite for the delicious meal to come, especially when paired with Mexican Coke and tamarindo Jarritos.

Camarones a la Diabla - shrimp in a spicy red sauce

Camarones a la Diabla – shrimp in a spicy red sauce

As I’ve mentioned on this blog, I LOVE spicy food. Absolutely love it. If I’m not sucking in air and making that hissing sound by the end of my meal, it was not done right. Of course, I had to try the camarones a la diabla, so spicy that it even bears the devil’s name. Full of garlicky, salty, spicy flavor, this dish definitely wowed me.

Camarones al Mojo de Ajo - shrimp in butter and garlic salt

Camarones al Mojo de Ajo – shrimp in butter and garlic salt

Swimming in a sauce that’s bright red from all the tomalley hidden in the succulent shrimp heads, these camarones al mojo de ajo are excellent in their simplicity. I think this dish is the best way to really taste the shrimp… and butter. Martin and I both love it, so when we’re struggling to venture out and try something different on the menu, we’ll usually order one of these and one of something else to share.

Suck the goodness out of those shrimp heads!

Suck the goodness out of those shrimp heads!

The best part is that the shrimp are served head-on. Each order comes with 12-15 shrimp (about a pound I’d wager), which means 12-15 delicious shrimp heads from which to harvest tasty, tasty brains. The good stuff that tinges the sauce a brilliant crimson. My favorite part is the “thigh” of the legs. Sweet shrimp meat covered in a thin crispy layer of (edible) shell, it’s totally worth the crunch.

The Graveyard

The Graveyard

Let the heads pile up as you devour the entire platter. For $15, the portion is generous, especially for lunch. Sometimes I even push a shrimp or two onto Martin’s plate to help me finish.

Camarones al Mojo de Ajo - shrimp in butter and garlic salt

Camarones al Mojo de Ajo – shrimp in butter and garlic salt

As you can see in the background, each plate comes with a mound of rice. The garlicky rice is deceptively, impressively flavorful and the texture is fluffy but chewy. So good! From the shrimp to the shrimp to the shrimp to the rice, Mariscos Chente is definitely worth a visit. If you remember to call ahead, you could even order an awesome fried fish by the kilo (the pescado sarandeado) which takes at least 30 minutes to prepare. We honestly lack the foresight, but someday we’ll definitely try it and update this post. And if you go here for dinner, there are plenty of cerveza offerings on the menu to pair with the camarones¡Salud!

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Check out Mariscos Chente:

4532 S Centinela Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90066

See their Yelp reviews here!

Moules Marinieres

Appetizers and Starters, Main Dishes, Recipes

Martin and I love replicating our favorite restaurant dishes in our own kitchen. Last week, we finally attempted a dish that is one of my all-time favorite to eat yet we had never realized just how easy it would be to make at home — moules frites. Inspired by our brunch at Meet in Paris, we wanted our first batch to keep it simple with garlic, shallots, butter, thyme, and white wine. We managed to find Prince Edward Island (PEI) mussels at our local supermarket chain, though the size of the flesh was nowhere near as gigantic as the ones we had at Meet. This classic mussel preparation is known as mariniere, French for “mariner’s style” but defined in the culinary world as a dish that is prepared by cooking in white wine.

Moules Marinieres

Moules Marinieres

Storing the Mussels: Odds are, the guy behind your grocery store’s seafood counter will toss the mussels into a plastic bag, tie it up, and wrap the whole thing in butcher paper. As soon as you get home, be sure to properly store the mussels. Most importantly, either take them out of the plastic bag or poke holes in it so that they do not suffocate. We transferred ours onto a metal tray, covered them with a damp paper towel, and kept them in the refrigerator until dinnertime. Here’s where it got a little tricky (to me anyway): BEFORE COOKING — the mussels should be tightly closed. Any open ones should close if you tap or otherwise gently disturb it. If the shells are agape and it does nothing, then it is dead and should be discarded. AFTER COOKING — all of the mussels should pop wide open. Any that remain shut are dead and should be discarded. Dead mussels are no bueno.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

2 lbs mussels (PEI ones are great)

1 shallot, finely diced

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pinch of salt

A few sprigs of fresh thyme (or a small handful chopped fresh parsley), optional

2 cups dry white wine (any drinkable but well-priced white wine will do; we found a 2012 Beringer Chardonnay for $3/bottle — do NOT use “cooking wine”)

Crusty bread or baguette, warm or toasted if desired

Cleaned Mussels

Cleaned Mussels

First, clean the mussels under cold running tap water. Our mussels were pretty clean, but if needed, you’ll need to remove the beards from between the shells. Set aside.

Sauteing the Garlic and Shallots

Sauteing the Garlic and Shallots

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Saute the shallot and garlic until softened and translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Season with a sprinkling of salt.

Adding the Wine and Mussels

Adding the Wine and Mussels

Add the herbs, if using, and pour in the wine. Turn the heat up to high and add the mussels, arranging them in a single layer if possible.

Cover and Let Simmer

Cover and Let Simmer

Cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes. You’ll notice that they will gradually pop open. Start toasting off crostini-style slices of bread, if desired.

Almost Ready

Almost Ready

Stir the mussels and continue to boil, covered, for another minute or two. Remove the cover and serve immediately.

Beautiful Mussels!

Beautiful Mussels!

Yields 2 servings (the typical serving is about 1 pound of mussels per person).

Serving Suggestion: alongside wine and crusty bread

Serving Suggestion: alongside wine and crusty bread

Serving suggestion: in a large bowl alongside crusty bread and French fries (to complete this dish as moules frites). Provide a spoon, if desired, but I think the best “spoon” is the discarded shell of one of your eaten mussels. Savor the flavorful broth.

Pair with a glass of the same white wine used for cooking or a better Chardonnay if preferred. Bon appetit!

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. I love to eat moules marinieres, but this was our very first time making it at home and boy, is it easy! I never would have imagined that we could recreate a gourmet dish like steamed mussels; light some candles and whip up a batch of these for your next date night at home for a boost of fanciness and romance.

This month is hosted by Leah at Sharing the Food We Love.

Cheers!

DineLA – Catch American Seafood (Summer 2013)

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

It’s that time of year again — summer dineLA restaurant week! A time for great deals, checking out new restaurants, and going out in the middle of the week for more than just happy hour. Last week, Martin met up with his best friend at Le Ka in Downtown LA while I had a girls’ night out with Cass at Catch in Santa Monica. And what a catch it truly was – located in the lobby of Hotel Casa del Mar, the beach-front view was gorgeous and the ocean breeze reminded us of why we love LA.

The view  from the dining room at Catch

The view from the dining room at Catch

We each ordered the same crafted cocktail: The Perfect Pair – hendricks gin, fresh muddled pear, lemon juice, pear juice, thyme. I love Hendricks and as Cass pointed out, this mixed drink was refreshing and naturally sweetened with plentiful fresh pears. Highly recommended!

The Perfect Pair

The Perfect Pair – hendricks gin, fresh muddled pear, lemon juice, pear juice, thyme

In retrospect, the table bread was definitely an indicator of the quality of the meal to come. A basket full of hot, panini-pressed slices of fresh bread perfect for dipping into the California olive oil adorning each table. It was so good we asked for a second one! I love when a restaurant serves their table bread warm and Catch took it to the next level.

Even the table bread was awesome!

Even the table bread was awesome!

For my first course, I selected the Grilled Spanish Octopus – smoked potatoes, paprika, merula olive oil. I don’t think I have ever had octopus that tender before. The texture was absolutely incredible, and the flavors melded so well together, especially with the garnish of lemon zest and fleur de sel.

Grilled Spanish Octopus

Grilled Spanish Octopus – smoked potatoes, paprika, merula olive oil

Cass’s appetizer was the Marinated Beef Carpacccio – pine nuts, arugula, garlic chips. The beef was paper-thin and the toppings (especially the garlic chips!) added a great mouthfeel with the variety of textures.

Marinated Beef Carpaccio

Marinated Beef Carpacccio – pine nuts, arugula, garlic chips

My primary reason for selecting Catch was the entree: Cioppino – mussels, clams, scallop, shrimp, seared fin fish, saffron-rouille crostini. The fascinating part was that the broth was poured in tableside. Traditionally a fisherman’s stew of assorted seafood in a tomato and white wine broth or sauce, cioppino is one of my all-time favorite dishes, and this was the first one I have eaten where the components were prepared separately. This method had its perks — the fish was crispy, the scallop had a beautiful caramelized sear, the head-on prawn was smoky, and the bivalves were all perfectly cooked. The portion was generous and incredibly satisfying — with my discard bowl piled high with shells and every last drop of broth scraped clean, I was a happy camper. Delizioso!

Cioppino

Cioppino – mussels, clams, scallop, shrimp, seared fin fish, saffron-rouille crostini

At our server Jeremy’s recommendation, Cass had the Mustard Marinated Black Cod – roasted shiitake, sunchokes, green asparagus. I don’t know where Catch sources their asparagus from, but these were massive! The fish looked tender and flaky, and the silence that fell over our table as we both focused intently on our entrees told me that she really enjoyed it.

Mustard Marinated Black Cod

Mustard Marinated Black Cod – roasted shiitake, sunchokes, green asparagus

Of course, there is always room for dessert! It was a tough decision, but I ended up choosing the Chocolate & Espresso Tart – warm salted caramel sauce. It was like a blast from the past – at first glance, it bore near-identical resemblance to the dessert that Martin and I had while aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train.

Chocolate & Espresso Tart

Chocolate & Espresso Tart – warm salted caramel sauce

After just one bite, however, the difference was clear — the tart crust was crumbly, the ganache filling was velvety, the fluffy homemade whipped cream could not have been further from the canned stuff, and the DIY (drizzle it yourself) salted caramel sauce was simply stellar!

Chocolate & Espresso Tart

Chocolate & Espresso Tart (post-drizzle)

Cass weighed her options and finally settled on the Market Strawberries – short cake, pistachio streusel, creme fraiche ice cream. The strawberries looked so fresh and the short cake biscuits were adorable. The pistachio streusel added a lovely splash of color that made the dish shine. A refreshing way to end the meal!

Market Strawberries

Market Strawberries – short cake, pistachio streusel, creme fraiche ice cream

The dineLA 3-course dinner was a $$ – $35.00 per person. The food was well worth it, but what really made our evening was our server Jeremy. He was considerate without being overly attentive and he humored our requests for pictures, even counting off in 日本語. I’ve found that some dineLA experiences can feel rushed because of the sheer volume of diners, but Catch embodied the laid-back beach lifestyle while serving elegant, delicious dishes.

Santa Monica Sunset

Santa Monica Sunset

Hurry, only 5 days left to participate in dineLA restaurant week!

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Check out Catch American Seafood: catchsantamonica.com

Hotel Casa Del Mar
1910 Ocean Way
Santa Monica, CA 90405

See their Yelp reviews here!

Bacchanal Buffet – Las Vegas, NV

Food Adventures, Las Vegas

Las Vegas really has something for everyone. This is especially true at the Bacchanal Buffet in Caesar’s Palace, which recently underwent a $17 million renovation to its 25,000 square foot dining area. Featuring over 500 dishes prepared daily, some of which are made to order, this buffet is the hottest and newest in town.

Rainbow of macarons!

Rainbow of macarons!

It was literally and figuratively difficult to digest that two hour eating marathon, but as they say, pictures say a thousand words. If we missed any descriptions or details, let us know in the comments and we can try to fill you in!

Based on what we could see from the main dining room, there was an extensive seafood section (both hot and cold) and Mexican food with an impressive variety of freshly prepared salsa. Prioritizing, we decided to visit the seafood section first.

Cocktail Shrimp

Cocktail Shrimp

Giant shrimp, conveniently peeled down to the tails, piled over ice. The shrimp were sweet, tender, and plentiful. Don’t miss the sauce bar next to it – there’s plenty of tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, and drawn butter to be had.

Green Mussels

Green Mussels

These steamed cuties propped up in ice were a unique find in a cold bar. The mussels were a bit chewy and probably would have been better hot.

Speaking of hot…

Seafood Guys

Seafood Guys

Just behind the counter of mollusks and crustaceans on ice, these friendly fellows loaded steamed crab legs into large pots of boiling water to reheat. Occasionally one will leave his post to shuck fresh oysters for patrons wandering by.

Mmm snow crab legs

Mmm snow crab legs

Plenty of cold crab legs lay over beds of ice, but if you prefer them hot, just hand an empty plate to one of those friendly guys and grab yourself a nice pile of legs. We took a break from exploring to enjoy our first few plates of noms.

Enjoying the crab legs at the table

Enjoying the crab legs at the table

The glass panes in the newly renovated dining area let in beautiful sunlight. What a beautiful way to spend a summer evening in the desert!

Centerpiece

Centerpiece

Even the centerpieces at the table looked stunning. The head-to-toe renovation, and even little touches like the table decor, truly made this whole experience beautiful.

And now for more food…

Crawfish and paella

Crawfish and paella

Next to the cold seafood bar was a selection of  hot seafood dishes like cajun-style crawfish, paella, sauteed fish, and more.

Oysters and Shooters

Oysters and Shooters

At the very end of the cold bar, fresh oysters are shucked to order. Some are served raw on the half shell (my favorite!) and others are destined to become part of these delicious oyster shooters (pictured above, top right). Basically like a non-alcoholic mix of tomato juice, cocktail sauce, and tabasco, the shooter had a great kick immediately soothed by the silky oyster. Another great addition to the cold bar was the ceviche (pictured above, top left). With lots of lime and chopped peppers, the fish was tender and deliciously tart.

Prime Rib

Prime Rib

While I moved on to more plates of hot crab legs, Martin went to check out the terrestrial offerings. He came back with this succulent, inch-thick slice of rare prime rib. The generous slice would fit right in at Lawry’s, although it did look a bit lonely without the jus, yorkshire pudding, and mashed potatoes.

Roasted Goods

Roasted Goods

Alongside the prime rib were roasted kielbasa, double-chops of lamb, and rotisserie chicken. Yum! Also on this side of the buffet were pizzas, pastas, and Southern-style barbecue complete with brisket and ribs.

Dim Sum

Dim Sum

Around the corner and past the cheese, charcuterie, and honey bar lies a taste of the East. Stir-fried Chinese dishes, dim sum style dumplings, glistening nigiri sushi, barbecued charsiu pork and Peking duck, and even soups.

Chinese Goodies

Chinese Goodies

Martin brought back a dim sum variety of xiao long bao (soup dumplings), egg rolls, fried gyoza, and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf. (If you look in the background, there’s a peek of a little salmon nigiri.)

Tonkotsu Ramen

Tonkotsu Ramen

I wove my way to the noodle soups and gleefully ordered a bowl of tonkotsu ramen. The chashu was fatty and the bowl was full of menma (bamboo), so that was awesome. Unfortunately the broth was a bit grainy, so I ended up setting this aside and heading to the desserts.

Artsy slider and macarons

Artsy slider and macarons

Our friend set up an artsy plate of a single slider and some colorful burger-like macarons. We just had to snap a quick photo before proceeding to…

Candy (for decoration only)

Candy (for decoration only)

The dessert section is amazing. Like a grownup version of frolicking through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Display Case

Display Case

Nearly all of the desserts come served on either a colorful square plate or in cute shot glasses.

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake

Even the cakes come nearly bite-sized. The red velvet cake was moist although the frosting was a bit too sweet.

More sweets

More sweets

One of our other friends grabbed the Oreo dome and marveled at the surprise inside (hint: the mini Oreo garnish isn’t the only Oreo in town…)

Shot Glass Desserts

Shot Glass Desserts

The chef’s special, the taro panna cotta, and blueberry cheesecake. It was hard to resist grabbing one of everything!

Gelato and mochi

Gelato and mochi

The pastry chefs here even make their own gelato and sorbets. Also available at the frozen goods section are mochi ice cream like the ones made by Mikawaya here in LA.

Cake Pops

Cake Pops

Perhaps one of the cutest bite-sized desserts are cake pops. The pink ones above are strawberry cheesecake while the conical ones are triple chocolate.

Dessert Variety

Dessert Variety

Perhaps the most interesting was the taro panna cotta. The flavor profile almost exactly replicated halo-halo. The chef’s special turned out to be a spongy raspberry shortcake in a custardy creme anglaise. Yum! Lastly, the shot glass dessert on the right was the tiramisu. Chocolate mousse layered with espresso dipped lady fingers and topped with a mascarpone creme. So good. The macarons had a crispy shell that shatters when you look at it, and the ganache fillings added a great flavor.

Dessert Variety #2

Dessert Variety #2

Sitting next to the cake pops are these cute crispy chocolate cones filled with a chocolate mousse. A fun and cute little treat! In the background, you could see I also went back for seconds  of the tiramisu. And who could miss those chocolate covered strawberries?

Chocolate covered strawberries dipped in pop rocks

Chocolate covered strawberries dipped in pop rocks

The grande finale – chocolate covered strawberries dipped in Pop Rocks. That’s right, my friends. Pop Rocks! Take a big bite out of these juicy sweet berries and the sprinkles immediately fizzle on your tongue. These are incredibly fun to eat and wonderfully delicious. We made sure everyone at the table got to experience it!

A brief look back..

A brief look back…

After indulging our gluttony for about two hours, we finally stood up and with our belly full of noms and our faces lit up with smiles, we walked out of the Bacchanal Buffet knowing we would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting and looking for the all-you-can-eat experience. The price is comparable to other higher-end buffets (here’s looking at you, Wynn) and the variety of and quality of the dishes (especially the desserts) is fantastic. Come hungry.

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Check out Bacchanal Buffet: caesarspalace.com

Caesars Palace
3570 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV 89109

See their Yelp reviews here!

For weekend dinner, $50 per person. Bacchanal is available with the 24-hour Buffet of Buffets Pass with a $15 supplemental fee.