A detailed update following our second visit to LA’s best Chifa restaurant.
A detailed update following our second visit to LA’s best Chifa restaurant.
Restaurant: Kato Restaurant [1, 2, 3, 4]
Location: 777 S Alameda St Building 1, Suite 114, Los Angeles, CA 90021. (213) 797-5770
Date: October 13, 2022
Cuisine: Omakase Asian
Rating: Even better, but too far
In late 2021 Kato, a longstanding modern Asian omakase/kaiseki in Santa Monica shut up shop and moved downtown to a larger, far more glamorous space. Erick and I were bummed because there are so few unique places on the westside — and well the Row is FAR!
The nominal excuse for tonight’s dinner was the rare appearance of Reisa back in LA, so Eve organized this dinner. She’s an investor (and caviar supplier) for Kato.
Kato is right around the corner from Hayato.
The interior is sleek.
We had this nice large sized table.
The minimalist menu (not much in the way of descriptors).
I think we bought this off the list. Despite Eve being very tight with Kato, no one senior was in and she had forgotten to arrange something with regard to the corkage — and they have that idiotic 2 bottle limit. What sense does it make that a 2 person table and an 8 person table can open the same number of wines? The Kato list is decent, but it’s young, small, and pretty marked up. Plus we just have way too much wine to be buying off LA lists. After a while they forgot about us and our wine hijinks and we manged well enough.
Chicken Liver, genmaicha, date. Super yummy “liver macaron” style bite.
Sweet Shrimp, seaweed, shaoxing wine. Very interesting blend of flavors being part Japanese and part Chinese. The Shaoxing wine is very distinct.
Scallop, soy preserves, doubanjiang. Yummy little scallop tart with nice textures and a bit of heat to finish.
Sea urchin, Iberico ham, brown butter. Basically a puff pastry/donut hole stuffed with uni and wrapped in ham.
2017 Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Großes Gewächs. Probably. Loosen has so many cuvees it was hard to tell which dry Ürziger Würzgarten this was. I picked it off the list.
Black throat sea perch, Tomato and tomato water jelly, shiso. Awesome dish with very pleasant tomato flavors and a bright acidity. I don’t even like (raw) tomatoes and I loved it.
Caviar, dungeness crab, garlic. This is more or less a Kato classic and I’ve had it a bunch of times but it’s still creamy and delicious.
Milk bread. Awesome sweet and fluffy bread. Addictive in fact.
Normandy style butter. Bread was even better with this nice butter.
From my cellar: 2009 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. BH 93. Subtle wood sets off aromas of flowers, oyster shell and tidal pool that complement perfectly the racy, pure and strikingly well-detailed medium plus weight flavors that brim with minerality on the delicious, mouth coating and impressively long finish. This beautifully vibrant and concentrated effort should drink well young and age well too plus it’s more classic in style than many wines from this vintage. (Drink starting 2016)
Tilefish, fish fragrant sauce, Szechuan peppercorn. This is like that French seabass dish with the crispy scales but with a sticky numbing sauce!
1985 Faiveley Latricières-Chambertin. BH 92. Some bricking. The nose is a complex mixture of Gevrey earth, spice, game, underbrush and an evident nose of minerality followed by powerful, intense and still moderately structured flavors with plenty of punch and length. The finish is still firm though by no means hard and while this is certainly approachable now, I would give it 45 minutes or so of air. Note: another recent bottle was similar in character but did not possess the same degree of freshness and in particular, the finish seemed somewhat light and diffuse.
Duck, menegi, duck sausage. Great duck. Super tender, a bit sweet and delicious. The spring rolls off to the side with the sausage were even better.
1999 Domaine Marquis d’Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Ducs. VM 96. Good dark red. Seriously rich, deep aromas of black cherry, currant, tobacco, chocolate and sexy soil tones, plus a whiff of leather that adds complexity. Wonderfully rich, deep, tactile Volnay with a remarkably chewy texture and outstanding dimension to its flavors of strawberry, redcurrant, mocha, tobacco and cocoa powder. The salty, monumental finish features huge, mouthcoating tannins and outstanding rising length. This very complete wine boasts uncanny depth of flavor, particularly in light of the vintage’s healthy yields. By far the best bottle of this wine that I have tasted to date. (13.45% alcohol; September 24 harvest; 41 h/h; 3.37 pH) (Drink between 2019-2039)
A5 Wagyu, beef tendon, sour Chinese mustard. Super tender and rich. Quite nice.
2011 Jean-Claude Boisset Echezeaux. BH91. A ripe, spicy and violet-inflected nose of primarily plum and cassis gives way to opulent, rich and pliant medium-bodied flavors that possess very good depth on the attractively well-balanced finish where a touch of wood can be discerned. In much the same fashion as several other wines in the range this isn’t a great 2011 but it manages to avoid any shortcomings of the vintage and indeed about the only nit is a slight touch of warmth. Note that this could easily be enjoyed now if desired though it should also be capable of rewarding up to a decade of cellar time. (Drink starting 2018)
Freshwater eel, rice, cucumber. More or less like a Japanese rice, but without that Japanese flavor.
Cucumber with a bit of Szechuan peppercorn. I really liked the pickles and was munching them for a while.
Off the list grappa.
Passionfruit, buttermilk, guava. I love passionfruit and I love custard, so this “pot ‘o creme” with passionfruit was an easy sell.
Creme Puff, salted egg. Fine.
Hazelnut, caramelized white chocolate. Like a sweet spaghetti with a white chocolate meatball hiding inside.
Double Mint Oreo — Base made with Fresh Spring Mint infused milk and then laced with Crushed Mint Oreo Thins and Chopped Valrhona 70% Chocolate! — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — lovely strong mint flavor and color is all natural — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #dessertgasm #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #mint #valrhona #chocolate #oreo ///// Triple Chocolate Cruch Gelato – The base is made with Valrhona 62% Satilla Chocolate and then layered with Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese Ganache and chopped Nestlé Crunch! — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #Valrhona #chocolate #creamcheese #ganache #icing #NestléCrunch
Eve brought several tubs of bonus Astrea Caviar! Yummy!
Take home gift.
Almond sesame “cookies.”
Food at Kato is better than ever. It’s just as cryptic, but there are perhaps slightly more courses and a few of them are slightly larger. The net effect is that it’s not completely necessary anymore to go for second dinner. Back in Santa Monica, even with all the supplements, it always required something else. Now it’s a full meal, and surprising and delicious at that. But it’s also a trek to downtown. And that whole wine thing dragged out what was like a 8:30pm start into a 9:30pm start and we got home at about 2am.
Still, awesome and unique food, and highly worth checking out if you haven’t been.
For more LA dining reviews click here.
Restaurant: Bistro Na’s [1, 2, 3]
Location: 9055 E Las Tunas Dr #105, Temple City, CA 91780. (626) 286-1999
Date: October 9, 2022 and January 7, 2023
Rating: Upscale Chinese, solid kitchen
Chinese Restaurants in the SGV are slowly going more upscale in a way that’s different than the Cantonese palaces of Monterey Park of yesterday. I’ve been here several times before, even celebrating a birthday, but Jeffrey wanted to go, and we figured we’d check it out post pandemic (10/9/22) and then not long after Arnie wanted to try it too, so we went back (1/7/23).
And one of the latest is Bistro Na’s located on Las Tunas near this cool:
The interior is very elegant Chinese, almost traditional but in a new way typical in China today. Ornate wood carvings, lanterns and antique music instruments abound. Technically it bills itself as “Imperial Cuisine”. Maybe there is some of that, but it’s also a bit of Chinese greatest hits. Still, it’s a different cuisine than nearly every other place in the SGV with more ornate plating.
The menu is a hardcover thick paged photo tome!
We reserved the private room again. You basically HAVE to do this at Na if you want a great experience. The regular area is just too cramped and restrictive. Food somehow seems better in here too. But they have annoying policies with the regular room. It has a minimum, which isn’t THAT high, so it’s okay, EXCEPT for the fact that you can only reserve at either 5 or 7:30pm and you only get 2 hours. So if you want a different time, say 6:30pm, you need to PAY for both blocks!
In contrast on 1/7/23 about 10 of us were smushed into this booth out in the main dining room as that was the largest table they had. Yarom hovered as usual.
The menu. A lot of dishes at Na are bland so Jeffrey and I spent hours in advance plotting the best things to order.
Chili Tofu Skin Salad (10/9/22). Very nice texture and a little bit of heat.
Na’s Spicy Chicken (10/9/22 and 1/7/23). The classic Sichuan cold dish. Super tasty with a nice balance of salt, tang, and heat. Some numbing as well. Very tender chicken.
Celtuce Jellyfish Salad (10/9/22). A combo dish of smashed cucumbers and jellyfish. Now while it’s expensive ($42!) it was a fabulous jellyfish (and cucumber) dish with a great tangy/sweet soy.
Jellyfish Salad (1/7/23). Not bad, although not much jellyfish — and it replaces the now discountined Jellyfish with Cucumbers (above) that was amazing. Poor direction to go in.
Chef Su’s Pork Feet Jelly (1/7/23). Kind of bland, although the pork meat part was okay.
Smoked Pork Ribs (1/7/23). Bleh. Kind of like lame ribs at a lamb American BBQ joint.
Beijing Zhajian Noodles (10/9/22). They are served all mixed up. It’s very mild but plesant. The meat and mushrooms add some heartiness. The bean sauce is subdued.
Alaskan King Crab Typhoon Style (10/9/22). Spectacular version using the crab body. Shell was cooked down to be very tender and the crispy garlic was awesome.
Alaskan King Crab Legs, Steamed. Simple but delicious.
Alaskan King Crab Egg Custard. Pleasant texture and mild flavor.
Crispy Shrimp (10/9/22 and 1/7/23). This is Na’s signature dish and for a reason. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and the shells completely candied and edible. Delicious, if a touch sweet. They remind me somehow of cicadas escaping their shells.
3-4 lb Lobster “Typhoon Style” (1/7/23). Lobster itself was a little over cooked and the Typhoon was oddly soggy without the crisp and stong garlic flavor. A bit meh.
2.5lb Turbo steamed with Ginger and Soy (1/7/23). Okay but a bit bland. Nowhere near as good as the Chang’An version.
Braised Abalone and Sea Cucumber (10/9/21). Pleasant brown sauce. This dish is all about the texture. The Sea Cucumber had a nice mouth feel.
Black Pepper Lamb Chops (1/7/23). We asked for rare and got medium plus. Okay, but a bit too overcooked. These also replace the crispy lamb which was great.
Na’s Braised Pork Belly (10/9/22 and 1/7/23). Great version of this classic Shanghai dish. The pork was super succulent and the sweet brown sauce had a nice depth of star anise.
Crispy Pigeon (10/9/22). Fine, but actually one of the weaker dishes tonight as these were slightly dry.
Stir Fried Angus Beef with Garlic (10/9/22 and 1/7/23). Really interesting. The beef itself was tender and good, even if the piece size felt a little bit thick, but the real killer was the crispy candied chilies. These were incredible! Actually fairly spicy.
Braised Brisket with Quail Egg (1/7/23). Kind of sweet and savory, more or less a beef stew. Not bad though.
Stir Fried Pea Sprouts with Mushrooms (1/7/23). Excellently cooked. Could have used a touch more salt (or “flavor”) but otherwise nice.
Chili Pork with Cauliflower (10/9/22). Very tasty vegetable with nice crunch and a good porky flavor.
Stir Fried Cabbage with Dried Shrimp (10/9/22). The dried shrimp give this version of the dish a quite significant pungency. Weirdly they removed it from the menu by our return in January!
Fried Mixed Mushrooms with Rice Cracker Bites (10/9/22 and 1/7/23). OMG these were like potato-stick crack. They felt “hollow”, crispy, and coated in an almost candied shell. So good!
Shrimp Fried Rice with Bonito (10/9/22). Nice complex fried rice with a distinct bonito flake flavor.
Pan Fried Beef Buns (10/9/22). Very nicely flavored beef and chive filling. Pretty temperature hot at the start and could have used a little vinegar/dumpling sauce to balance the hot fat.
Fruit (10/9/22). I guess you only get this in the private room!
Key Lime Pie Gelato — base is a key lime egg custard, layered with house-made Graham Cracker and covered with house-made Torched Meringue — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #KeyLime #lime #custard #meringue #GrahamCracker #cookie
Overall, a complicated place (for the SGV) to review.
Service on 10/9/22 was good, better than before. They brought us wine glasses (not great ones, but they have them). We handled the wine service. There was a good amount of plate changing. Took a while to get going even though we had the pre-ordered menu. They seat all the private rooms in two seatings at 5pm and 7:30pm so all 5 of them were sitting at once (not to mention the limited time thing and the minimums). That doesn’t make it easy on the server. All in all it’s excellent service for SGV Chinese.
On 1/7/23 service was fine, but a bit different as we were smushed in outside. I was also annoyed with them because they had removed several of their best dishes from the menu and replaced them with even blander alternatives.
Food is interesting. Beautiful plating. Not the most flavor forward of the Chinese cuisines. Pretty good if you order very very carefully, but also expensive in a relative fashion. Ended up over $200 a person all in with a good tip because of the King Crab. If you go to a Top Island or the like you can get that much cheaper too. Still a novel and fun experience. Gorgeous room.
While a bit pricey for the SGV, the atmosphere is lovely and the plating much more elegant. Some dishes were excellent, some just pretty good, and some outright bland. I’m not really sure what regionality of Chinese it is. Sort of Beijing/Shanghai maybe? They say “Imperial.” It does feel very contemporary Chinese and is certainly not aimed at white folk. I have a general problem here with their “under-seasoning.” A lot of dishes just seem too sweet or too bland. On Oct 9, 2022 meal we ordered really carefully and leaned toward their more spicy (not actually spicy) dishes. This helped a great deal. On 1/7/23 the meal was considerably inferior. We weren’t in the private room and the “crowd” I was with wanted to order some of their meatier dishes that just fall a bit flat.
Hangry Rider made this excellent video summary of our 10/9/22 meal.
For more LA Chinese dining reviews click here.
Restaurant: Maude [1, 2, 3, 4]
Location: 212 South Beverly Drive. Beverly Hills, CA. (310) 859-3418
Date: October 6, 2022
Cuisine: French Californian
Rating: Great Theme
When it opened several years ago, Maude was a big deal on the LA restaurant scene. For quite some time they had a unique “one ingredient, one month” theme. I had gone in late 2014. But that was back several chefs ago, and then they moved to a “season” (of 3 months I think) with a wine theme and food to match. After the pandemic they pivoted yet again to a different chef and a different thematic style.
With its small indoor dining room, Curtis Stone was forced to pivot the space to Pie Room by Gwen during the bulk of the pandemic, focusing on savory and sweet pies plus a slew of other well-done baked goods. Now, he’s shifted back to the Beverly Hills space’s original purpose, marking yet another restaurant of note in busy Beverly Hills.
Stone has brought on fine dining veteran Osiel Gastelum, who trained at Dominique Crenn and was the chef de cuisine at Somni before coming to Maude, to take on the same title overseeing Maude. Gastelum will be infusing the tasting menu with ingredients like nopales and masa, reflecting his upbringing in Sinaloa and Southern California.
Testing the camera on the napkin.
2008 Veuve Clicquot Champagne Brut La Grande Dame. CW 90-92.
Welcome Cocktail (in jelly form). Delicious.
Potato Requeson Caviar. Mild but yummy.
Infladita. A powerful whallop of herring!
Mushroom Sfogliatella. The laminated mushroom pastry puff is dipped in the white puff of whipped cheese. Hard to manage, but tasty.
2001 Pierre Morey Bâtard-Montrachet.
Nopales, Jicama, Avocado. Lily’s Eggs, Farm Nopales, Jalapeno Cucumber Aguachile. This had a very lovely fresh “crisp” taste and that gloppy egg white texture from the cactus. The plating was so elaborate with the little cut bits and tweezered elements that they had to do part of it in advance of service.
Crisps to settle the tastebuds after the zing.
Corn Caviar and Corn Truffles. McGrath Farm Young Corn, Smoked Creme Faiche, Tamal, Egg Yolk Jam. The left hand thing with the caviar had a sort of tartar sauce texture but tasted of corn and caviar. The pretty thing on the right was a sweet corn custard with a smoky flavor and absolutely delicious.
Pescado Zarandeado. Tomato, Green Olives, Escabeche. More elaborate plating! The flish was very tender and lovely while the tomato thing with the carrots on top had the majority of the flavor.
Tomatoes & Oyster. Valdivia Farm Tomatoes, Morro Bay Golden Reserve Oyster. The center tasted like… oyster. There was a lovely tomato jelly underneath and very sweet little tomatoes around.
From my cellar: 2001 Mongeard-Mugneret Echezeaux. JG 90. I quite like Mongeard’s 2001 Echézeaux, which offers up lovely nascent complexity and fine balance in a medium-full format that simply needs a few more years to fully blossom. I most often cross paths with the Vieilles Vignes bottling of Echézeaux from this domaine, but the younger vine version is no slouch. The nose on the 2001 is a blend of cherries, red currants, raspberries, venison, herb tones, a bit of vinesmoke, a fine base of earth and a topnote of cedar. On the palate the wine is fullish, complex and tangy, and while rather closed on the attack, offers lovely length and grip on the bouncy, moderately tannic and complex finish. There is just a touch of wood tannin currently uncovered on the backend of this wine, but there is clearly sufficient stuffing here to absorb it with a few more years bottle age. Good juice. (Drink between 2011-2030)
House Made Bread and Butter. The butter was house made from Straus cream and very “cultured.” Tasted almost like Vacheron or some other mild cheese. Awesome actually. The bread was very chewy and lovely too.
Abalone. Suncoast Farm Beans, Clams, Ham Hock. One of the most tender abalones I’ve ever had had. Nice bit of bite. Pretty awesome dish actually.
1993 Domaine Joseph Roty Charmes-Chambertin Très Vieilles Vignes. BH 95. Incredible spice, earth and game aromas are framed by still noticeable (but not dominant) oak notes that lead to powerful, wonderfully textured and precise flavors that offer incredible depth and simply superb extract plus length to burn. While the wood is somewhat stronger than I personally prefer, this has so much style and sheer breadth that it is virtually impossible not to be wowed by it. The wine also possesses near perfect balance, which should enable it to age for years, perhaps decades as this is one stunner of a wine. Multiple, and consistent, notes.
Duck. Figs, Mole, Hitlacoche. Duck was a bit undewelming. Duck might have been a bit overcooked. The mole was good but overwelms the meat.
Cheese. Brillat-Savarin, Pepitas, Ritzy Cracker. Sort of cheese and caramel? Interesting.
Down the Rabbit Hole. Wheat, Spiced Yogurt, Fair Hill Farm Plums, Praline.
Memories of Summer in LA. Champagne Mango, Jasmine, Coconut Tapioca, Herbs. Super creamy and quite lovely, although I would have liked a bit more punch to the flavors.
Peaches and Cream. Cajeta Mousse, Peaches, Sage Butterscotch. Textures were a bit disjointed as it fell apart when trying to eat it.
Mignardises. An incredible coffee truffle and a little s’more thing. Great.
The wine lineup.
I found this new format for Maude the best of the three. The food was good, the Mexican vibe was interesting. Some dishes were excellent, really good, and some just solid. The service was fabulous. Food still, for all its “fancy” is still slightly underwhelming. I mean it’s good, but things didn’t stand out in my memory — other than meeting James for the first time (in the pink between Erick and I). But it was certainly way better than some of the previous cerebral meals here. We don’t have that many high end tasting menu western style restaurants in LA, and it’s great to have Maude still going, but it’s never seemed up there with Melisse, Providence, or even some newcomers like Manzke.
Our wines were underwhelming as well. Not the restaurants fault in the slightly. We just didn’t have luck tonight with bottle variation.
I again loved the 2 locations thing and the loungey location upstairs. All in all a super fun evening!
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Location: 435 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036. (323) 782-9225
Date: September 29, 2022
Cuisine: Modern American
I’ve been meaning to try Animal for years and somehow never have — until now.
Space is narrow and fairly spartan.
The menu with my markups.
A Jura white.
prawns, roasted garlic, chili lime sauce. Nice juicy shrimp with a very distinct wood fire taste.
chicken liver toast. Tastes like chicken liver on toast. A bit of grainy quality. Pleasant.
sugar snap peas, ponzu, green garlic, sesame. Very fresh and delicious “salad.” There was a bit of mint in here. Quite lovely.
From my cellar: 2001 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. JG 94+. The 2001 vintage is one of the recent favorites of Signor Pepe, and he is convinced that this will be a classic in the fullness of time. The bouquet is still quite primary in its blend of dark berries, black cherries, Cuban cigars, a bit of cherry pits, dark soil, botanicals and a nice touch of nutskin in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and quite a powerful young vintage of the Pepe Montepulciano, with a rock solid core of fruit, lovely, nascent complexity, chewy tannins and excellent length and grip on the focused and still quite youthful finish. Today, the fine 2003 accessible, but with sufficient bottle age, the 2001 is going to be a reference point vintage of this great wine. (Drink between 2020-2050)
crispy pig ear, red chili, lime, market egg. This was mixed up to eat. Tasted like crispy bacon and eggs. Hands down the best pig ear I’ve had. Delicious.
double corn anson mills cheese grits, tomatillo, crèma. Very creamy with a sharp tomatillo flavor. Quite pleasant.
piri piri chicken wing, aioli. Small and a bit boney but very juicy with that wood char flavor.
Some grilled bread for dipping.
2011 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Château d’Ampuis. VM 93. Vivid ruby. Spicy red fruits, incense, violet and botanical herbs on the flamboyantly perfumed nose. Vibrant, mineral-tinged black raspberry and bitter cherry flavors show impressive depth and vivacity and a seamless texture. Juicy, precise and appealingly sweet on the youthfully tannic, incisive finish, with the berry and floral notes echoing. The blend of fruit intensity and tension here is quite suave. (Drink between 2016-2033)
barbeque pork belly sandwich, slaw. Tasted like a Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich. Absolutely delicious. Rich and the slaw really helped make the dish by cutting the fat.
This was a great little “slider.”
dolma fried rice, chicken confit, tzatziki. Not that crispy, but did actually taste like a dolma. Enjoyable and interesting.
roasted bone marrow, chimichurri. The best bone marrow I’ve had. Very thick and succulent and the chimichurri added some zesty flavor.
duck confit, heirloom beans, collard greens, porchetta spice, fennel. Salty but spectacular. Lots of meaty duck notes.
sweetbreads, spinach, hen of the woods, caper brown butter. Not the biggest sweatbread fan.
tempura soft shell crab, green curry, coconut caramel. The crab itself was beautifully fried and delicious. The curry didn’t actually taste fully curry-like. I think it would have been better with a more punchy Thai-style curry.
creme brûlée gelato. A little boring by itself but incredible with the toffee pudding.
sticky toffee pudding, boysenberry sorbet, creme fraiche cream. Delicious. Tasted like sticky toffee pudding. Not sure the sorbet added much, but the rest was awesome.
tres leches, strawberry. Absolutely fabulous tres leches. Moist and creamy and the slightly candied strawberries totally took it to the next level.
Fun little night at Animal. We were pretty late, but it wasn’t crowded at all on this random weekday night. Such is the fickle life cycle of LA restaurants. I was not super impressed by the atmosphere. It felt like the standard kind of 3′ wide city retail space just kind of turned into a restaurant.
Food was very good though. However, somehow it isn’t the type of thing I crave and I kinda feel like I’ve “been there done that.” Hmmm. But many of the dishes were quite good. Maybe just not crowd pleaser style exactly. But that pork belly sandwich, that I could crave.
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Restaurant: Mother Wolf
Location: 1545 Wilcox Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028. (323) 410-6060
Date: September 27, 2022
Cuisine: Roman-style Italian
Rating: Really good, really salty, total carb bomb
Mother Wolf was one of LA’s most anticipated 2022 openings, being the first “post Felix” restaurant from pasta master Evan Funke.
Chef Evan Funke is a highly respected and accomplished chef in the culinary industry. He is known for his passion and expertise in Italian cuisine, particularly pasta-making. Funke has worked in some of the most renowned kitchens in the United States, including Spago and Rustic Canyon in Los Angeles. He also trained under Italian pasta masters in Italy, which sparked his love for traditional Italian cooking techniques. Funke is also the founder of the popular Los Angeles-based restaurant, Felix Trattoria, which has received numerous accolades and recognition for its exceptional pasta dishes. In addition to his work in the restaurant industry, Funke is also an author, having published his first cookbook, “American Sfoglino: A Master Class in Handmade Pasta,” in 2019. He is widely regarded as one of the top pasta makers in the world, and his dedication to preserving the traditional techniques of Italian cooking has made him a beloved figure in the culinary community.
Mother Wolf is “Roman” themed — not ancient Roman, despite the obvious Romulus and Remus logo — but reflecting the food of the city. Most specifically his own take on those foods, particularly the pasta.
The interior is huge and gorgeous. It’s located right next door to Mes Ami (RIP) and part of the same management group.
2004 Dom Pérignon Champagne P2. VM 97. The 2004 Dom Pérignon P2 is precise and wonderfully refined, just like the first release. There’s a hint of reduction from extended time on the cork as well as a feeling of effusiveness that is so appealing. Readers will find a super-classic DP. Dried flowers, brioche, apricot preserves, sage, mint and chamomile are seamless in the glass. The 2004 can be enjoyed now or cellared for another decade plus. Some editions of the P2 series have been pretty austere in the early going; the 2004 is not among them. (Drink between 2022-2034)
PIZZA ROSSA. salsa di pomodoro, sea salt, olive oil. Gift from the kitchen. Nice texture and char taste to the dough. Chewy. Great for being such a simple pizza (I like them more complex).
SUPPLI AL TELEFONO. risotto croquette, guanciale, pomodoro, mozzarella di bufala, pecorino romano DOP. Classic Roman risotto balls (supplì). Cheesy center. Very temperature hot. Suppli are like the pizza flavored arancini. Basically a tomato soaked risotto and some melting mozzarella. It’s battered with egg and deep fried.
From my cellar: 2020 Capichera Bianco Capichera VT Isola dei Nuraghi IGT. Awesome high salinity Vermentino that I bought at the winery in Sardinia.
FIORI DI ZUCCA. squash blossoms, ricotta romana DOP, parmigiano reggiano. Very nicely fried and soft ricotta inside. Like many dishes at MF, this is a Felix transplant.
RUCHETTA. wild arugula, parmigiano reggiano, lemon, black pepper. Bracing and refreshing salad, perfect with all the fat and carbs.
2019 Paolo Cali Vittoria Mandragola. We bought this off the wine list at the Somm’s recommendation and I LOVED it — bought a case on my phone while we sat there.
LA MORTAZZA. mortadella di bologna, ricotta fresca, pistacchio di bronte, agrumato. A pizza version of a bologne sandwhich? Really good mortadella actually with a lot of nice very fresh ricotta. TONS of crust.
GAMBERI IN SALSA VERDE. blue prawns, green garlic salsa verde. Head sucking good. Salsa brightened things up. These are pretty much a Felix thing too.
SALSICCIA PIZZA. mozzarella di bufala, salsiccia, sweet peppers, spring onion, pomodoro, origano selvatico. This was pretty much my perfect classic sausage pizza. Great char and chew to the dough. Soft and chewy in the middle. Really liked the sausage and cheese offset along with the classic oregano vibe. Like a fancy version of those New Jersey pizzas.
SPAGHETTI CON BOTTARGA. aglio, olio, bottarga di muggine. Simple but perfectly al dente and with good botarga flavor.
1954 Marchesi di Barolo Barolo.
TONNARELLI CACIO E PEPE. pecorino romano DOP, black pepper. This probably would have been very good if we hadn’t also had the gricia (which was stunning and had that extra porky flavor). Pretty heavy but very al dente.
SPAGHETTONE ALLA GRICIA. guanciale, black pepper, pecorino romano DOP. One rarely sees this fourth pillar of the Roman pizza quartet and this version was absolutely perfect. Such seductive porky flavor! Insanely good pasta.
MEZZI RIGATONI ALLA CARBONARA. guanciale, egg, black pepper, pecorino romano DOP. Unusual pasta type but very “creamy” and incredibly rich. I liked it a lot but it was making me very full.
From my cellar: 2004 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano. VM 95+. The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano is powerful, deeply colored and still carrying a considerable amount of tannic heft for a twelve year old wine. Dark cherry, plum, smoke, tobacco, scorched earth and licorice give the wine much of its distinctive virile personality. The Madonna del Piano is one of the bigger, brawnier 2004s readers will come across. As such, it needs to be served alongside similarly rich, hearty cuisines. (Drink between 2016-2026)
RIGATONCINI ALLA VACCINARA. oxtail ragu, guanciale, peperoncino, pecorino romano DOP. Solid meaty rigatoni.
PUTTANESCA. sugo di pomodoro, pomodorini, acciughe, green and black olives, basil. This wasn’t Puta enough. It was solid, and perfectly cooked, but I couldn’t really taste the anchovy. I wanted to be bowled over by the pungency.
ARROSTICINI. new zealand lamb belly, insalata di cipollina, lemon. Interestingly middle eastern. The mint “salad” was really good for offsetting the fat.
The dessert menu.
TORTA DI CIOCCOLATO. letterpress chocolate, arancia candita, gelato di pistacchio. Lovely rich tart and I really liked the candied orange and pistachio.
MARITOZZO ROMANO. monterrey strawberries, crema chantilly. Like a nice donut with strawberries and cream. Hard not to like as it was very soft and fresh.
Overall, this was a great meal. It was heavy though. It didn’t seem like it exactly, but I slept terribly. Everything tasted great, but it was extremely well seasoned (aka salty) and between the massive carb overload and the salt it really through my system out of whack. But of course I have no one but myself to blame as I did the ordering. And do notice that with four people I ordered three pizzas (actually one was on the house) and six pastas! That’s half a pizza and 1.5 pastas each, not to mention the other stuff. But really I probably ate about 2.5 pastas myself. haha.
And Mother Wolf, like Felix before it, is all about the pasta. They were darn good, particularly the carbonara and the gricia. I was almost tempted to order all 9, but I had to draw the line somewhere. They make good pizza here too, very good, but not totally mind blowing. The pasta is better. And they do have all 4 of the sacred 4 Roman pastas: cacio e pepe, amatriciana, gricia, and carbonara. They are all Southern Italian. The appetizers and mains are fine, but more forgettable, and not even totally regional.
Too bad MF is so far from me and reservations are so hard to get. Six months later you can get them, but only for 9:45pm. lol. And it’s a big restaurant. I guess Los Angelenos don’t mind $25-30 rustic pastas if they are good enough! I don’t.
Restaurant: Chi Spacca [1, 2, 3]
Location: 6610 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038. (323) 297-1133
Date: September 13, 2022
Cuisine: Italian Steakhouse
Rating: Rich but delicious, a carnivore’s paradise
The little Mozza empire on Melrose now includes the Pizzeria, the Osteria, Chi Spacca, and Mozza 2 go. They do a great job with all their restaurants but their annoying corkage policy (2 bottles per table!) has limited my ability to attend. I only go to this sort of place with my wine groups (my wife being a near vegetarian) and so the limits make it near impossible. But anyway they do have a good (if pricey) Italian wine list and so it’s workable with 3 people, but no more.
Jeffrey loves this place — it’s one of his favorites in the city in any genre — and so he “muscled” us into this dinner (twist my arm!).
The small room.
The smoky in the room grill.
Jeffrey is obsessed with sitting at the bar. It’s a front row seat to the grilling action, but it is warm, smoky, and “linear” in that having more than 3 people here means you can barely talk. In general I prefer tables.
From the list: Floral and mineral at the same time.
FOCACCIA DI RECCO. stracchino, extra virgin olive oil. Very salty but super delicious. Extremely hot. Crispy, but not as crispy as Jeffrey remembers.
PICKLED PEPPERS & ANCHOVY. Peppers stuffed with anchovy. Salty but delicious.
WARM ROASTED SQUASH BLOSSOMS. Tomato vinaigrette, basil. These could have been better. They were fine, but muted. I did like using the tomato sauce on the focaccia however.
SALANOVA LETTUCE. fines herbes, lemon vinaigrette. Salted, but a lovely fresh salad with nice hits of dill. I might have liked even better with a bracing more acidic (and less salty) take.
GRILLED OCTOPUS. pureed and fried ceci. Good, but the double chickpea stuff wrecked my gut.
From my cellar: Spectacular. Nose, middle, and finish. Lots of fruit.
GRILLED LAMB SAUSAGE. Peppers, onion, calabrian chile. Really nice char on the sausage and a bit of heat. The salad offset the fat a bit, but it was, you guessed it, a bit too salty.
Big! But round.
BEEF & BONE MARROW PIE. beef cheek, cippolini, funghi. Rich and delicious. Crust is really rich and there is that dark meat pie thing.
Look at all that meat!
PORCINI RUBBED SHORT RIBS. scallion, salsa verde. More or less Korean-style short ribs (except for the salsa verde). Maybe a touch chewy.
GRILLED SPROUTING CAULIFLOWER. bagna cauda, crushed lemon. Jeffrey didn’t like these, but I thought they were fine. I liked the butter thing, the char, and the crunch.
SPACCA ONION RINGS. garlic aioli. Absolutely great onion rings. Pretty much perfect. Flakey fry.
garlic aioli. This was good. And useful for jazing up other dishes besides the rings.
MILK ROASTED PORK LOIN. fennel pollen, crispy sage. Nice flavor but so fatty.
GRILLED MAITAKE MUSHROOMS. garlic, mint, lemon. Nice and smokey.
PEPPER STEAK. bacon, scallion, peppercorn, chive. Way, way too salty.
BUTTERSCOTCH BUDINO. caramel, Maldon sea salt, rosemary pinenut cookies. Close to a perfect dessert.
BANANA CREAM SLAB. cocoa nib and caramel jam. I ate around the banana itself enjoying the cream and crust.
Overall, I thought the food at Chi Spacca was quite awesome, if not exactly authentically Italian. Certainly more to my taste than any normal steakhouse. They should import some pastas over from Mozza though :-). We really went to town tonight as all that food was for just 3 people! It was salty though. Extremely salty. And rich, of course.
Service was great too, and the atmosphere fun. My only complaint is with the bottle limit. The corkage is fine. But the 2 bottle hard limit, apparently strictly enforced, is quiet annoying. It totally breaks down for wine dinners. Their list has interesting Italians, but the wines are too young so it’s very difficult to order reds. Plus I just resent having to buy off wine lists altogether (beyond the occasional white or rose). If they priced a fixed $30-50 markup, and had my kind of wines, it would be fine, but they always use a multiplicative markup. I’m not paying $400-600 for a $200 bottle!
Restaurant: Pine & Crane
Location: 1521 Griffith Park Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026. (323) 668-1128
Date: September 8, 2022
Cuisine: Taiwanese Chinese
Rating: Blech! So bland
PINE & CRANE is a fast-casual Taiwanese restaurant located in the heart of Silver Lake. Their goal is to bring authentic, delicious Taiwanese fare in a comfortable, modern setting. They say they are passionate about what they do, and take pride in preparing their food using simple, fresh ingredients. In addition to Taiwanese staples like Three Cup Chicken 三杯鷄 and Beef Noodle Soup 牛肉麵, they offer a variety of small plates, traditional cold appetizers, and vegetarian/vegan options. Their beverage list includes a “curated” selection of premium loose-leaf teas sourced from Taiwan and a rotating craft beer, wine, and sake list.
I’ve been wanting to try Pine & Crane since it opened, being the Chinese Food fiend that I am. It’s location in annoying (aka far) Silverlake and its casual nature prevented me. It’s not worth driving to the ends of the earth and fighting for parking for something too casual. But when we finished up a dinner at Causita next door I figured we should hit it for Second Dinner.
A cute enough fast casual interior.
The very short menu.
Chilled Garlic Pork Belly. Salmon creek pork belly, garlic soy sauce, chili crisp. Very soy sauce and garlic forward. No spice. WTF is up with this dish? It looks like Sichuan Garlic Chili cold pork belly, but it tasted like cold raw bacon with soy sauce.
Pork Potstickers. Kurobuta pork, Taiwanese cabbage. One of the better dishes. Very crispy with nice pork center. Just good gyoza.
Basic but important sauce components.
Shrimp Wontons. Filling was good but the sauce was just salty, not much else going on. The stuff that looks like it might be chili oil — no heat.
Dan dan noodles. Sesame-peanut sauce, chili oil, cucumbers, cilantro, crumbled peanuts. Very mild and sesame forward. No spice or vinegar at all. Tasty, but basically sesame noodles. I always find these Taiwanese “watered down” variations on Sichuan dishes to be a total disappointment.
Mapo Tofu. Organic Silken Tofu, Kurobuta Pork, Spicy Doubanjiang. I couldn’t taste ANY spicy or any Doubanjiang (which is spicy). It was basically very nice tofu in salty brown sauce. It looks good. The texture was good. But it’s fake Mapo. No spice, no Ma!
Pine & Crane is a waste of space for a Chinese Food fan like myself. I’d just go to the SGV, which is quicker to get to and much better. There are tastier places on the Westside. I guess I have a bit of a problem with Taiwanese versions of mainland Chinese food — I find them bland and unbalanced. They lean heavily on salt without spicy, numbing, or sour. This is my problem with DTF too. But DTF is much better than Pine & Crane. Maybe Pine & Crane is also watered down for the whiteness that is Silverlake. Hard to say.
I also don’t like fast casual unless I’m alone. Annoying and stressful format. I’m very glad I hit this as a Second Dinner (first one is here at Causita). If I had come out here for lunch just for this I would have been really pissed.
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Restaurant: Causita [ CLOSED ]
Location: 3709 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026.
Date: September 8, 2022
Rating: Tasty, but issues — and out of biz
I’ve really enjoyed a long string of Ricardo Zarate restaurants, all the way back to Picca and Paiche etc. Others followed like a stint at SOS, Rosaline and Pikoh. Sadly, while the food is always really good, they do not last long. Not exactly sure why. But the Foodie Club and I were excited to try Causita, his latest in Silverlake. The past proved true of the present and it closed not too long after we went (despite very tasty food).
Located in that busy stretch of Sunset in Silverlake — hate that area because it’s just so far from my house and a real pain to park in. Maybe I’m also jealous that trendy new places open here where they are super inconvenient.
Interior is modern.
Initial champagne. We had to negotiate with them to allow any kind of corkage at all. They did yield fortunately.
kanpachi & uni tiradito. yellow tail, coconut leche de tigre, rocoto pitaya dressing. The white sauce was basically coconut milk with lime juice and chili. Incredibly zingy almost pucker inducing, but good.
chocolatas clams. chalaca style, charapita, leche de tigre, apple criolla. The chocolate bit is just because of the color of the clam shell (milk chocolate brown). The cerviche style mix inside was also super acid forward. Pucker up baby!
Mostly we brought Spanish wine.
summer gazpacho. heirloom tomato, peach, aji limo. Almost like a salsa. Very good though with a touch of sweetness. Super refreshing.
bluefin otoro. tamari, fresh wasabi, leche de tigre, black truffle. I didn’t like this as much as I expected to. It was good, but maybe a bit too much truffle flavor. At least it was decent truffle though, not rancid.
charred snap pea. charred jalapeno oil, labneh, mint, garlic chip. Very nice with a bit of creaminess and a great snap (bite) to the peas.
lobster dumpling. charred jalapeno oil, ceviche aioli. Strong flavor from the squid ink actually. Inside was a tiny bit dry.
Always a great Spanish red.
Pan con Chicharron. Crispy Pork, sweet potato, salsa criollo. Like a pork belly slider. Bread was nice for mopping up sauce on other dishes. I enjoyed this “burger.”
lamb ragu. fromage blanc dumpling, szechuan peppercorn. Soft with a nice meaty and creamy texture. Quite nice.
octopus. octopus, goat cheese-chorizo mousse, gotija olive, ceviche aioli. The peppers had great flavors and the octopus was very crispy.
Grilled Artichoke Hearts. avocado mousse, jalapeno, popped quinoa, charapita glaze. The texture and flavor of the artichoke was great.
udon noodles. shiitake, peruvian pesto, wasabi tobiko, roasted onion jus. Pesto flavor was awesome. Noodles were thick, and maybe a touch soft, and there was a very “leafy” basil quality offset nicely by the cheese. Overall a fabulous dish.
Oh, and a Bordeaux slipped in.
crispy rice. seared steak tartare, egg, parmesan sauce. Interesting and I liked it.
The egg and soy and beef tartare was mixed in. The parmesan sauce (which was a bit punchy) was left on the side.
Lomo Saltado. Steak Filet. Onion Confit. Potato Petals. Fine, but less interesting.
The dessert menu.
Churros Bomboncito. Caramel, berry sauce. These were great with caramel centers. And on the left, Tres Leches Sorbettto, which really tasted like Uni Leche Sorbetto.
The damage wasn’t so bad.
Food was actually great at Causita, some of Ricardo’s best since Paiche. It was very bright. Not every dish was perfect, and there were relatively few things that were incredibly memorable, but it was very tasty — and zesty. Corkage issues were a bit of a thing. Somehow his restaurants never last. There also seems to be a curse on this strip of Silverlake. New things open constantly, but they shuffle and close rapidly too.
Because we were right next door we decided to try out Pine and Crane for second dinner as I have been wanting to for years.
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Location: 2500 W 8th St #103, Los Angeles, CA 90057. (213) 375-7095
Date: September 1, 2022
Cuisine: Korean Fusion
Do for “Round 2” of tonight’s Double Dinner, after Kinn, Erick picked Hanchic which is a more casual (Izakaya style) Modern/Fusion Korean eatery.
This is a hipster mini-mall installation if I ever saw one.
The theme continues inside. Very casual, oriented toward 2 and 4 tops.
The menu is short and covers sharable comfort items.
An amuse of Korean vegetable pancake with tangy sauce.
Yukhwe with rice cracker. A kind of spicy, sweet and sour beef tartare you mixed up with the egg and ate with the seaweed crusted rice cracker. Delicious.
Mixed up and enjoyed.
Raw shrimp cured in a seasoned ‘Jang’ 간장soy sauce over “purple (bean) rice.” The marinate is similar to that used in Korean raw crab.
Chamchi toast with sweet and sour gouchujang. Really delicious. Hard to even tell it was toast, just seemed like some crispy fried shrimp + sweet and sour thing.
Risotto with bulgogi and cheese. Yummy, like a comforting beef/cheese rice.
Galbi Jjim with assorted Ssam. Super tender and smokey meat with lettuce wraps and ultra-flavorful sauces of ascending spice level. The serrano based max was VERY hot.
Jjapaguri with pork belly and egg. You mix it all up. “Creamy” and delicious sticky noodles with a rich quality offset slightly by the spicy/sweet pickles.
Overall, a great “second dinner” at Hanchic (first dinner was at Kinn). I really enjoyed the playful and creative take on Korean “snack” items. Between the casual atmosphere, late hours, and carby/fat forward sharable foods, this is a perfect post drinking spot. Great way to finish out a great evening.
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Location: 3905 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020. (213) 291-0888
Date: September 1, 2022
Cuisine: Korean Fusion
Rating: Really tasty & a great deal
Erick and I decided to visit some of LA’s top “Korean Fusion” places as just a small (the two of us) Foodie Club dinner. Since these spots are aimed at young Asian-American millennials they tend to have serve tiny tasting menus (by our gluttonous standards) and so we just booked a straight up Double Dinner (two dinners in one night)! Second Dinner was at Hanchic.
The Michelin Guide (which lists Kinn) describes it as follows:
Chef Ki Kim delivers something special with Kinn. Tucked along a main artery of K-town, the slim, modern space is fitted with a blonde wood counter and tables. Whether preparing dishes or presenting them, the chef and his team deliver an exclusive experience. Chef Kim’s experience in upscale restaurants informs his menu which features dishes retooled with a Korean bent. Case in point? The K-corn dog, made here with Dungeness crab and a bechamel filling. Confit hen of the woods mushroom conceals a briny and sweet surprise of uni, along with Asian pear. Pyongyang naengmyeon is a delightful combination that embodies the art of simplicity with beefy and savory broth filled with buckwheat noodles, paper-thin slices of brisket, cucumbers, Asian pears and radish kimchi.
We got there early (Double Dinner, round 1!) and it were the first in the door. The space is very narrow, with tables along one side and a “sushi-like” bar on the other.
Tonight’s menu. We got all the supplements, Double Dinner be damned.
2010 Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc Clos des Carmes Brézé. 93 points.
Raul Pérez Rías Baixas Sketch.
Steamed Abalone. Potatoes, squid ink. You slurp the contents out of the shell. Essentially it’s like a “abalone chowder.” Quite nice if a bit potato focused.
Perilla Salad. Tomatoes, Ikura, burrata, Perilla Sorbetto, Jelly. This was an amazing salad with a fantastic balance of sweet, herby, and tangy elements. The centerpeice was the Perilla (shiso) Sorbetto which seemed to be a properly formulated intensely shiso-flavored sweet sorbetto balanced with a bit of lemon juice.
Supplement of Confit Hen of the Woods Mushrooms and Uni. The mushrooms had a nice smokey “charcoal grilled” flavor and great texture.
Supplement of Spanish-Style Crispy Octopus. The sauce is a creamy aioli with Korean Chili Paste. Perfectly cooked octopus with a crispy outside and tender inside, I was able to cut it easily with a spoon. The aioli, basically a Korean inspired take on Bravos Sauce, was very thick and “creamy” with an egg, oil emulsion. Lovely take on this classic Spanish dish.
Rock Cod with a Fish Broth. The Crispy Topped fish was perfectly cooked, served with a Fennel Salad, and underlayed with a delicious Korean Fish Bone Broth spiked with Serrano Chili and Tarragon Oil. Really lovely.
Charcoal Grilled Wagyu Shortrib. The succulent beef was topped with kimchi spicy greens, a bit of potato puree and a dust made from sweet potato skins. Really lovely beef dish and I very much enjoyed the contrast with the spicy and bracing greens.
Pyongyang Naengmyeon. An iced buckwheat noodle with beef, pickles, and radish.
It’s deconstructed and you combine the elements like these toppings.
And the noodles.
To get the whole. Very refreshing, mild, and clean. Noodles had a great snappy texture. This was an “extremely” calm take showcasing the noodles unlike some of the more bracing chili paste, mustard, and vinegar Korean noodle dishes.
Corn Bingsoo with cheese. Corn and cheese in a dessert? Well this totally worked. Basically it was a shave ice with mild sweet corn flavors. It wasn’t massively sweet either but was cool, refreshing, and quite lovely.
The bill wasn’t bad at all, even with all the supplements.
Kinn was awesome. Not only was it intimate and the chef extremely friendly and interesting, but these were big bold flavors and quite novel. The cooking techniques are heavily “modern French” or “modern European” (some dishes like the Octopus are pretty Spanish) but a lot of Korean ingredients and flavors have been melded in. It’s simultaneously comforting and novel.
We immediately discussed setting up a larger format special dinner with the chef for later in the fall.
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Restaurant: Mes Ami [ CHEF LEFT SUBSEQUENTLY ]
Location: 561541 Wilcox Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028. (323) 410-6200
Date: August 25, 2022
Cuisine: French Bistro
Rating: Excellent — but closed
This summer a couple trendy new Hollywood places opened and of course the Foodie Club had to go try them out, tonight consisting of Erick, Jeridan, and myself.
Quoting from Eater:
There seems to be renewed optimism around Los Angeles’s robust restaurant scene, particularly as the state prepares to open up more broadly next week. The latest bit of promise for LA comes out of Hollywood, as chef Lincoln Carson makes his long-hoped-for return to the city with a brand new project called Mes Amis.
As the name implies, Carson’s newest restaurant will lean into French flavors by way of Paris and Lyon’s many cafes and brasseries — though Carson says his menu will be a more California “reinterpretation” of the classics, using Southern California produce from the nearby Hollywood Farmer’s Market. While specific dishes are still being worked out for the menu, expect Mes Amis to exude an upscale casual elegance and offer a strong dessert program, in addition to cocktails and wine.
It has a gorgeous new interior in a classic building.
Bread and butter. Bread was nice and crunchy, butter was fine, but no Normandy butter (at least as far as I could tell).
The menu is small and focused, quite French in its way.
Our wines tonight, plus the Grande Dame we bought off the list.
2008 Veuve Clicquot Champagne Brut La Grande Dame.
PETITE SHELLFISH PLATEAU. 6 east and west coast oysters, 4 littleneck clams, 4 new caledonian prawns, 1 maine scallop crudo. The shrimp and oysters were great. The clams were a bit fishy and the scallop lacked the acidity I was looking for.
NV Krug Champagne Brut Rosé Edition 26eme. JG 95 The soon to be released Krug Rosé “26ème Édition” is from the base year of 2014. Given the long history of Maison Krug, sometimes it seems impossible that this beautiful bottling of Rosé has only seen twenty-six renditions. The blend this year includes one-third of reserve wines, running back to the 2005 vintage. The cépages is forty-four percent pinot noir, thirty percent chardonnay and twenty-six percent pinot meunier and the wine is once again its very pale, salmon color. It offers up a beautifully refined nose of tangerine, white cherries, wheat bread, chalky soil tones, a touch of citrus peel, gentle notes of brown spices and a discreetly smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is young, full-bodied and displays excellent depth in the mid-palate, with elegant mousse, lovely focus and grip, bright acids and a long, complex and very well balanced finish. Fine, fine juice, but this is still a puppy and deserves at least a few years in the cellar to blossom. (Drink between 2027-2060)
CHICKEN LIVER MOUSSE NAPOLEON. puff pastry, prune gastrique. This was really lovely. It actually looked, felt, and tasted like a dessert. The pastry was a dessert mille-feuille with the foie acting more or less like a pastry cream.
DUCK PÂTÉ EN CROÛTE. black truffle, frisée, pickled rhubarb. Very nice decadant French pate.
“Everything” lavash for the pate and tartare.
PRIME CREEKSTONE STEAK TARTARE. egg yolk jam, crispy shallot, “everything” lavash. Very nice tartare with great texture.
BLACK TRUFFLE RISOTTO. ibérico ham, black trumpets, preserved truffle. Rich and subtle. Quite enjoyable.
1998 Domaine des Lambrays Clos des Lambrays. VM 92. Good bright red-ruby color. Knockout nose combines cherry, raspberry, redcurrant, underbrush, licorice, flowers and earth. Penetrating and quite fine; offers a three-dimensional texture but is not really showing its underlying fat today. Intriguing note of cinnamon in the mouth. Finishes very long and complex, with dusty tannins and compelling sweetness. This should be superb with eight to ten years of bottle aging.
STEAK AU POIVRE. potato millefeuille, prime shortrib, peppercorn jus. This was a great steak. It was salty (in a good way) and very tender. The pepper was subdued but present and the crispy potatoes were awesome.
SMOKED LIBERTY DUCK BREAST. swiss chard, parsnip, wild huckleberry jus. Really fabulous duck breast. Extremely tender and full of flavor without being either chewy or gamey. The berry sauce complemented perfectly.
ROASTED LAMB WELLINGTON. pastry crusted lamb loin, thumbelina carrots, shell bean ragoût.
Quite lovely looking and tasted nice as well. Certainly not the lightest dish.
SHELL BEAN RAGOÛT.
POMMES FRITES. Excellent, albiet salty. Perhaps the two are related.
Our awesome server Christian
2005 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. BH 94. This is a mild step up in overall class and elegance with a gorgeously perfumed white flower fruit nose introducing linear, precise, intense and powerful medium full flavors that remain splendidly focused on the stunningly long finish that drenches the palate in dry extract. This is a striking 1er and one to buy as it easily delivers grand cru quality. (Drink starting 2012)
The dessert menu.
PEACH PAVLOVA. rose geranium, yellow peaches, blackberry, white verjus. Bright enjoyable peach and merignue combo.
ST. HONORÉ. pecan mousseline, pâte feuilletée, caramel. I love a good proper St Honore and this was a somewhat modernized or deconstructed variant. It did fortuantly retain the basic elements and flavors of the original. I liked it a lot, although I’m not sure it was actually “better” than the classic form.
CHOCOLATE SOUFFLÉ. valrhona chocolate, green chartreuse, génépy gelato. Pretty classic and lovely.
The chef, Lincoln Carson.
Overall, the food at Mes Amis was fabulous. It was sophisticated, a bit different, quite French, and delicious. Most of our foodie friends went — often several times — during the restaurant’s brief tenure. One of my friends even tried to go weekly. But it was indeed a brief tenure, maybe 6 months. The chef left and they are rebooting with a new concept and chef. At the moment they are only open for breakfast and lunch.
Even when we went there was a bit of a mismatch between the location and crowd and the kitchen. This was good cooking. But outside the restaurant was one of those “Hollywood crowds” of very young people undressed to kill. The music was loud. The default service seemed to revolve around the idea of bringing you a small number of dishes all at once — which is sort of a Hollywood mode for non-serious eaters nibbling while taking in the scene. We had to carefully produce the timing of our meal (aka slow it down and stage it). Anyway, it was an opportunity and a fine chef wasted, but I’m glad we got to go during the brief glory days.
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Restaurant: Providence [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]
Location: 5955 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038. (323) 460-4170
Date: August 16, 2022
Cuisine: Cal French
Rating: Best meal I’ve had at Providence
I usually make it to Providence about once a year, and so we return with the Foodie Club for another Chef’s table dinner in the little back room.
The space used to be Patina in the 90s.
While the colors are different, Providence still looks a lot like Patina to me — as the layout is basically the same.
This is the view from the chef’s special tasting room — adjacent to the kitchen in it’s own little nook.
The Chef’s table has its own little room by the kitchen.
1982 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon. VM 97. Both 1982 Champagnes are utterly spellbinding. It is amazing to taste these wines at 30 years of age and see that their signatures are all very much intact. Of course, the magnum format is so ideal for Champagne. The 1982 Krug Vintage is warm, toasty and totally expressive, with gorgeous exotic orange peel and white truffle overtones. This is one of my very favorite Krug vintages. Although fully mature, the 1982 is going to continue to develop at a glacial pace. The 1982 Dom Pérignon is just a little more focused and vibrant in style. Here it is the wine’s salivating minerality that really sings. It, too, is quite youthful and vibrant for its age. What a flight.
1990 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon. BH 95. This is a wine that I know extremely well from 750 ml and it’s one that is beginning to tire though I hasten to point out that it’s still enjoyable and just beginning to show signs of fatigue. However there are no such concerns with the same wine from magnum that remains magnificently fresh and while it’s clear that the aromas are mature, that’s not at all the same thing as describing the yeasty and baked apple suffused nose as tiring. There is equally good depth and vibrancy to the beautifully delineated flavors that are supported by a fine and firm mousse that allows the texture of a well-aged Dom to be easily appreciated. For my taste this has arrived at its peak though note well that it should easily be capable of effortlessly holding for years to come. (Drink starting 2015)
Showing off the Australian Winter Black Truffles.
House cured king salmon with horseradish cream, dill, and pickled red onion on a rye toast. This was an incredible bite. It had great textures between the soft but stretchy fish and the crispy cracker. And the flavor was much like a Wolfgang Puck “Jewish Pizza.”
Hiramasa with rhubarb and avocado. This had the appearence of a crystaline tart. The falvor was mild and fruity with really interesting textures.
Super fatty Wagyu Tartare with oyster aioli and lime puree all nestled in a minature tart. Very rich but balanced by the punchy notes of the aioli. The softness of the beef was equally contrasted with the crispy/flaky tart.
A warm lobster mousse with a disc of Austrailian Winter Black Truffle a sliver of chive, and a palette shapped cracker. Another great bite!
MACADAMIA, golden kaluga caviar, caramelized shallot, nori. Very rich and mellow.
SASHIMI, heirloom tomato, shiso. The tomato made me wince a bit (raw tomato hater) but the combo was delicious. Everyone has these strong Japanese influences these days.
SALT-ROASTED SANTA BARBARA SPOT PRAWNS, rosemary, lemon, extra-virgin olive oil. Superbly cooked (and salty) prawn with a bit of roe as seasoning.
2014 Jean-Claude Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Ruchottes. BH 93. The wood treatment isn’t shy, indeed today it fights somewhat with the otherwise cool and very pretty floral, pear, apple and soft petrol nuances. There is fine density to the sleek, sophisticated and utterly delicious medium-bodied flavors that possess good punch while offering excellent length on the balanced finish where the only nit is an unexpected touch of warmth. It’s sufficiently slight however and I suspect few readers would find it off-putting and with age, it may actually become less noticeable. Ramonet rarely misses with this wine and they certainly didn’t in 2014 though I would point out that this is going to need time in bottle to develop further depth. (Drink starting 2024)
From my cellar: 1985 Nicolas Potel Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes. BH 91. A very fresh yet mature nose of citrus, white flower and lightly toasted nut aromas combines with round and vibrant middle weight flavors that possess a seductive and rich mouth feel, all wrapped in a sappy and mouth coating finish. This is really a lovely effort with complexity and ample finishing punch and is a wine that will continue to hold well if not improve. (Drink between 2007-2009)
Supplement of UNI EGG, sea urchin, champagne beurre blanc, brioche croutons. This is a Providence classic and for good reason. Absolutely delicious.
Cheesy Omelette with Austrailian Winter Black Truffles. Nice fluffy texture to the eggs.
NORWEGIAN KING CRAB. dwelley farms sweet corn, fermented radish. This was a stunningly good dish. Very moist bit of giant king crab.
Red fife sourdough. Great chewy bread. Particularly good with the butter.
HOKKAIDO SEA SCALLOP, chanterelle, toro de oro pepper. Lovely scallop and I liked the texture on the mushrooms.
2008 Gaja Langhe Chardonnay Gaia & Rey. VM 91. One of the very few Italian Chardonnays that can be considered world class. The 2008 vintage, famous for very classic Barolos, has also delivered a taut, varietally accurate white that is more Chablis than Meursault in its definition, with a laser beam of mineral-inflected green banana and vanilla tones. It matched heavenly with the cotechino, by the way, and it didn’t overpower the delicate, heavenly soft carne cruda that followed my amuse-bouches.
agavin: Jeffrey swore by this Italian Chard — I wasn’t that impressed.
GOLDEN EYE SNAPPER (Kinmedai) with GEODUCK in Beurre Blanc. Fabulous fish prep. The snapper was perfectly cooked and classic with the butter sauce and the geoduck had a good bit of awesome chew.
PORCINI RISOTTO, Sierra Porcini, Black Truffle. Extremely buttery in the best way.
From my cellar: 2003 Gros Frère et Sœur Grands-Echezeaux. BH 92. This too is very toasty but the spicy black fruit nose manages to transcend the wood and complements powerful, dense, borderline massive flavors of superb depth, all wrapped in dusty, firm and ripe tannins. This is a big wine and while it’s no model of elegance, one has to admire the muscle and sheer concentration. This will take its time coming around. (Drink starting 2011)
CALIFORNIA KING SALMON, black truffle, pommes allumettes, pickled ramp. Soft and delicate “rare” salmon.
LIBERTY FARMS DUCK BREAST, poached fig, fig compote, fig leaf oil. Classic and perfectly cooked. The fried confit thing on the right was of course the best.
Black Truffle Brie, rodolphe le meunier brie, black truffle, salty herb salad. The brie was very nice but I particularly liked the bright salad. Sadly the grand cheese cart is a covid casualty 🙁
Aged Comte Cheese with fresh shaved black truffles. Nice grainy texture to the cheese.
Crispy bread for the cheese.
MANGO, MINT, THAI BASIL, mango sorbet dusted with Espelette pepper, dried mango, and mango nectar. Bright and refreshing.
HOUSE-MADE HAWAIIAN CHOCOLATE, banana, barley, okinawan black sugar. Chocolate ganache inside a flourless chocolate cake with chocolate merignue, rum raisins, banana, a cacao tuile and barley gelato. Fortuantly I couldn’t detect the banana. The ice cream had nice texture. It’s probably from a pacojet.
Cacao husk tea. Bitter. There was a syrup which helped.
Peaches poached in rosé wine with lemon verbena and thyme. Like a fancy awesome version of canned peaches.
Mignardises. chocolate ganache bonbons, vanilla caramel tarts, chocolate panels with pistachio. My favorite was the caramel tart which was much like the awesome caramel tarts I found recently in Paris.
The wines. I don’t think we opened the Rhone. Can’t remember.
This was probably the best Providence meal I’ve ever had, maybe even better than the one last year in the main dining room (which did have better white burg). They had just recently reopened post-lockdown and had clearly spent the time well retooling the menu. Service was exceptional as well which was very nice, particularly in contrast with so many “middle end” places that are short staffed right now. We had a ton of food tonight too with a lot of variation and many memorable dishes. The Chef’s Table is the best as it’s cozy, quiet, and we can get up to our antics (including flash photography) without interruption.
For more LA dining reviews click here,
Restaurant: N/Naka [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]
Location: 3455 S. Overland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034. 310.836.6252
Date: August 12, 2022
The Foodie Club returned to N/Naka (again) with the (brief) return of remote member Fred. This meal is part 1 of a 3 big wine meals in 24 hour extravaganza. Woah!
The busy street corner on National.
The empty interior.
Our table — before we got to it.
Welcome drink. Sake mixed with juices.
Sakizuke. Hokkaido Scallop, oyster aioli, fermented asparagus gelee, scallop roe “dust”, beets, carrots, caviar, sunchoke chips.
The sunchoke chip is presented a minute after. I accidentally stuck it on “backward” so as to not maximize the sunflower and leaf motif they intended.
Tomato Okra Salad.
Abalone, uni, tosazu gelee, shiso.
Unagi, duck liver terrine. This had that PB&J quality that certain foie terrine creations do.
Watermelon lime “mojito”.
Shisito, minced wagyu. Very savory.
Corn, squash, yuzu ponzu, thai basil.
Homemade tofu, edamame, ginger soy. Very mild.
Modern Zukuri. Summer Tuna, pickled fennel, yamaimo, uni shoyu.
Uni shoyu for dipping. The instructions were to take some fish, a bit of pickled fennel and dip it. This was quite good. The Yamaimo yam was a bit slimy.
Owan. Shiromi, eggplant, junsai, hasu imo, ume. Very mild dashi-type soup.
Otsukuri. Traditional Sashimi. Ocean trout (looks like salmon), toro, and a white fish.
Yakimono. Binchotan Roasted Unagi, sudachi butter vinaigrette, yuzu pepper, lotus root “kabayaki.” This was actually quite “spicy” with the hefty amount of yuzu-combined pepper. This gave it an almost green coconut curry-like vibe.
Mushimono. Kegani, California Box Crab, egg (tamago), sakura mochi rice, dashi ankake.
Shiizakana. Spaghetti, abalone, pickled cod rod, truffles. The classic N/Naka pasta, double size. Awesome as always, but still small (even doubled).
Niku. A5 Miyazaki Wagyu Beef, arugula, baby corn, roasted peach, citrus fern, onion crumble. Very melt in your mouth beef.
Sunomono. Cucumber, grapes, tomato, shiso cucumber ice. Shot of yuzu juice.
While it tasted like sunomono, the ice gave it a very interesting texture and temperature factor.
Shokuji. Traditional Sushi.
Blue Crab Handroll (as bonus to “fill us up”).
Mizumono. Watermelon Lime Sorbet, compressed watermelon. Very watermelony.
Peach Panna Cotta, peach sorbet, nata de coco, red beans, shiratama, anmitsu. Had that mild, soft, and sweet thing like a Filipino dessert.
Hojicha Latte Gelato – Ceremonial Hojicha Roasted Green Tea base, topped with 70% Valrhona and house-made Hazelnut Brittle — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato –#dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #matcha #Hojicha #GreenTea
Passionfruit yellow bean paste “candy“.
Take home blueberry muffin and tea. Muffin was very gooey and mild — not my taste.
Old Grand Cuvee.
2000 Coche-Dury Meursault 1er Cru Caillerets. BH 93. Awesome and bright. This has now peaked and is drinking beautifully with a fully mature nose of honeysuckle, peach, apricot and very subtle spice notes that can also be found on the enveloping flavors that possess a wonderfully seductive mouth feel and ample dry extract that both completely buffers the still firm acid spine and coats the palate on the long, lingering and strikingly perfumed if ever-so-slightly warm finish. One character that Coche seems to consistently be able to achieve is how his wines are at once generous yet retain a fine sense of focus and precision and this wine certainly displays this. Lovely stuff that is perfect now. Tasted thrice with consistent notes. (Drink starting 2016)
agavin: Nice nose even.
From my cellar: 2001 Coche-Dury Meursault 1er Cru Caillerets. VM 90. High-pitched, high-toned aromas of peach and minerals. Quite dry following the Rougeots, with less texture and pliancy. This is very closed today (my sample from barrel a year ago was far more accessible and giving), but does not seem to have the depth of the Rougeots. Perhaps a bit rigid. This needs at least a few years in the bottle.
A touch closed and “bitter” at first, but opened up to become lovely.
1990 Coche-Dury Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. BH 93. An utterly beguiling nose of smoke, minerals and crushed herbs leads to big, muscular, rich and gorgeously nuanced palate staining flavors that offer huge length and real power plus class and breed to burn. I have had wonderful luck with this wine and while it is now fully mature and, it must be said, no longer what it used to be, it should still continue to drink well for another 5 to 10 years, perhaps even a bit longer.
1992 Coche-Dury Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. VM 98. The 1992 Meursault Les Perrières 1er Cru from Coche-Dury is a brilliant wine – period. It has a refulgent silvery hue that belies its age. The aromatics are perhaps more Puligny-like than Meursault in style: taut at first with subtle melted butter and yellow flower aromas. It is blessed with astonishing delineation and returning to my glass after 90 minutes…wow…popcorn, roasted almond, beeswax, linseed, certainly more Meursault-like in character. The palate is crisp, fresh and tensile at first, with wonderful salinity. This just gets the taste-buds going and there is tangible mineralité. Like the aromatics, it becomes more Meursault-like with aeration, gaining complexity with rondeur, hazelnut and smoke towards the mercurial finish. This is utterly sublime. Two bottles tasted at Tour d’Argent with consistent notes. (Drink between 2018-2035)
Also very fresh and nice.
2000 Domaine G. Roumier / Christophe Roumier Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses. VM 90+. Good medium red. Complex, very floral aromas of strawberry, cinnamon and rose petal. Sweet but also juicy and precise, with the strong floral character following through on the palate. A precise, perfumed wine with lovely cut but no shortage of texture. Stylish, flavorful and quite long.
Some great juice tonight!
Chef Niki comes out to say hi.
Fred and his lovely fiancé (now wife) Maria.
The setting is elegant, minimalist, and very Japanese. N/Naka really is a very special place. All the meals I had here were spectacular. Plus we even did an amazing all foie gras meal here once. The place keeps getting better and better. This is thrice wonderful because often one finds a slight bloom to come off a place on repeat meals. At N/Naka everything is seasonal and constantly rotating.
Coming back to N/Naka after the pandemic I thought they were really firing on all cylinders. This was the best meal I’ve had there since the incredible Foie meal. I think her sushi has gone from “okay” to “great” and with regard to other dishes she has toned down a bit of the “theatrics” slightly but really upped the flavor balance and intensity. There weren’t some of the more interactive dishes of years past, like cooking your own item on hot stones, but the cooking was even more on point.
Service is also spectacular, highlighted all the more by the extremely low understaffed standard currently found in LA.
Click here to other LA Japanese restaurants.
Restaurant: The Brothers Sushi Santa Monica
Location: 1008 Montana Ave #1, Santa Monica, CA 90403. (424) 330-0270
Date: July 28, 2022
Cuisine: Modern Sushi
Rating: Awesome (and close)!
Our Foodie Gang has been going to the incredible “The Brothers Sushi” in the valley for some time now, and it was with much glee that we welcomed in the brand new (and somewhat delayed) Montana Santa Monica location.
The space used to be the repulsive Louise’s Trattoria, serving not exactly Italian for decades. But Brother’s has given it a major new makeover.
This particular visit was during their soft opening and Chef Mark Okuda was there to personally handle our omakase.
The build out is gorgeous. Here the bar is for omakase only and the tables are for à la carte only.
Chef Mark Okuda on the left and his chef de cuisine Moriyuki Kanamaru.
2014 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Saint-Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly Cuvée Nicholas et Mathis. 93 points. Flinty nose, but not very giving. Lemon infused palate, crisp and acidic with lemon rind elements and a chalky texture. Much more closed than the very open 2013.
What better way to inaugurate a new sushi bar than with coche night!
2008 Coche-Dury Meursault. VM 91. Peach and white flowers on the nose; a real essence of Meursault perfume. Then creamy-rich and sweet, with soft citrus flavors dominating. Finishes with lovely lingering sweetness of fruit. Ridiculously sexy village wine.
2011 Domaine & Selection Meursault Coche-Dury. 92 points.
2012 Coche-Dury Meursault. 94 points. Sexy aromas of orange oil and brown spices. Bright and penetrating, with peach and soft citrus flavors firmed on the tactile back end by saline minerality. Really excellent texture and length for village wine. (Incidentally, don’t hesitate to snap up Coche’s 2012 Bourgogne Blanc if you can find it. This ripe, fruit-driven wine, from rocky soil around Coche’s house, is as good as most Meursault village wines. The very rich, tactile, classic Meursault Narvaux, which is usually sent to the U.S., was just at the beginning of its malo, and the Rougeot hadn’t even started at the end of May.)
2013 Coche-Dury Meursault. 93 points. Pale, bright yellow. Stone fruits and a honeyed nuance on the inviting nose. Concentrated, ripe and dry, conveying a musky complexity to the flavors of peach, pear and minerals. Finishes with excellent energy and a positive phenolic edge. (Burgundy lovers who routinely snap up the Coche-Dury Bourgogne Blanc when they’re lucky enough to spot it in a retail shop or on a restaurant wine list will love the very sexy 2013 version, which offers intense white peach and lime flavors framed by lemony acidity and finishes with noteworthy refinement for its humble appellation.) (Drink between 2017-2023)
2016 Coche-Dury Meursault. 93 points. A cooler and more restrained nose features notes of spicy green apple, acacia blossom and the hallmark hazelnut wisps. There is excellent density to the finer and more mineral-inflected flavors that possess almost painful intensity on the focused, powerful and strikingly persistent finish. This too is a seriously good performance for a villages level wine that should age effortlessly for at least a decade. (Drink starting 2026)
Marinated Seaweed, Scallop, and Okra. Sunomono sweet and tangy quality with beautiful textures.
2 week aged King Salmon, Marinated Momotaro Tomato, Ponzu Jelly, and Ice Plant. Delicious.
Smoke infused dry aged medium Chu Toro with wasabi. The smokey flavor is lovely.
Chawanmushi with Dungeness Crab and Santa Barbara Uni. A very lovely sweet and briny custard.
Maryland softshell Blue Crab, lightly fried and marinated with pickles. The acidity served as a nice offset to the grease of the fry.
5 day dry aged Amberjack.
Shima Aji from Kushu Japan.
Golden eye snapper. Had a touch of char as he blow torches some charcoal over it.
Marinated Maguro (blue eye toro).
Sweet Ebi from Japan.
Special brined Ikura over rice and topped with wasabi.
O Toro. Some of the softest, fatiest otoro I have yet had.
Anago Sea Eel from Kushu. Lovely soft texture.
Another round of chu and o toro
Clam miso. Lovely briny flavor. Very satisifying.
Hokkaido uni “wrap”.
A5 Wagyu nigiri.
Toro Takuan Handroll.
Ngawa. Haven’t heard of this fish but it was super tender and delicious, almost unctuous.
Seared Chu Toro “Zule” with homemade soy sauce.
Leche Quemada Gelato — “burnt” some milk with Cinnamon and Vanilla and then cooked into the mix a light Water Caramel. I didn’t have any Animal Crackers so I decorated with Stroopwafel — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato –#SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #cookie #cinnamon #vanilla #BurntMilk #stroopwafel #caramel
Chef enjoying some gelato.
Overall, another perfect night of sushi and white burgundy!
Instantly Brother’s Santa Monica has leapt into the top tier of westside sushi bars along with Miyagi and Shunji. It’s combination of perfect nigri and very refined “other dishes” are really great. It’s slightly different from woodland hills in personality, with some dishes in common and some specific to each — just enough to keep things interesting.
For more Italian dining reviews click here.
Location: 923 E 3rd St Suite 109, Los Angeles, CA 90013. (213) 626-8888
Date: July 14, 2022
Cuisine: Modern French Bistro
Rating: Great fusion of flavors
Camphor is a modern bistro located in DTLA’s bustling Arts District led by Co-Executive Chefs Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George. It seems to merge French style with some Indian flavors.
Jeffrey and Erick and I, collectively the Foodie Club or Bottom Feeders, set off to try it out — and of course ordered almost the entire menu (as we are wont to do).
They are located down in the Arts District — ugly location, but a nice build out. It’s the same space that used to house Nightshade, another place I liked that shut down during the pandemic. Some of the owners and/or staff have carried over.
The interior. It doesn’t look that different than Nightshade did.
The menu and our marked up version.
1996 Robert Ampeau & Fils Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes. 92 points. Best attribute is a long finish, with good balance. Notes of white flower and tree fruit.
From my cellar: 1996 Robert Ampeau & Fils Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. 94 points. When they are on the wines are really incredible, this bottle was flinty and completely alive and delicious, everything you could want but the success rate is pretty much 50% on these wines for me so as long as you are comfortable with that reality they are worth seeking out, I’m not sure I’m going to be buying anymore myself. Even at 2x the average retail price on these which is basically what the cost is when you have to pour out every other bottle, they are still a relative bargain compared to any other older White Burg but it’s a frustrating experience opening them.
Amuse in the form of a light delicious foam in a chickpea shell. Very nice refreshing bite.
Saucisson with brown pepper. Tasty thin salami.
Baby shrimp “gunpowder.” Incredibly tasty little salty crunchy shrimp with a hint of curry and/or lemongrass and basil.
Clam barbajuan. Tasty, but the ratio of fry made it taste like there could have been anything in there.
Clams with garlic parsley butter. Quite tasty.
Tartare of beef with an herb tempura. This was a fabulous “creamy” tartare and particularly delicious on the crispy herbs.
Herb tempura to put the tartare on.
A5 wagyu otoro carpaccio. Also creamy. They like the sacues here.
Barbajuan of Dungeness crab. There was also probably spinach in there. I thought there was a nice (but subtle) crab flavor. The shell was great.
Sauces for the barbajuan of a creamy butter sauce and incredible pickled sweet Peruvian peppers.
Special onion tart with anchovies. This was very good, but not as good as Jeffrey wanted.
From my cellar: 1989 Daniel Moine-Hudelot Clos Vougeot. Amazing!
Special dover sole with brown butter beurre blanc with capers and bread crumbs.
They like to sauce at the table. Very soft and rich and delicious fish.
Lobster with coral bisque. Super tender lobster tail with a sauce that was basically lobster bisque.
The lobster claws in a ridiculously rich and delicious hollandaise-like foam.
Lentils and Lamb. Under this foam was a lentil soup with a hint of curry and a touch of lambiness. Not much meat but it was delicious.
1993 Domaine Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge.
Chicken with Thyme and chicken jus. This was a soft log of chicken and super delicious. The sauce was vaguely curry-like and so we called it the “curry wurst.”
Asparagus and béarnaise. Salty and good.
Special of layered crispy potato. This was great and the sauce beneath had a complex sweet and sour flavor that reminded me of chaat puri (the Indian street food).
Special of ribeye from a special source with a slightly different bearnaise sauce. Very nice meat but I was very full.
Soft sweet bread.
Chocolate and hazelnut. There was icecream and crunch underneath. Quite good.
Special of strawberry and cream in a crispy shell. Fabulous. Again, too bad I was full.
This was a super fun dinner, one of my favorites of the year, and I loved Camphor. First of all, I really enjoy these small Foodie Club/Bottom Feeders outings to new restaurants. They are free of drama and chaos of some larger dinners. Then I really enjoyed the food. It’s precise, and very very saucy — but I like saucy. Be prepared for it. Everything is sauced. Béarnaise, beurre blanc, reductions, it’s all there. But sauce adds fat, salt, and flavor to otherwise plain proteins. And I really enjoyed the precise French style paired with bolder more assertive Indian flavors, without getting too heavy. The DNA is mostly French.
Oh and our Burgundies turned out very well tonight. The 1989 Clos Vougeot was one of those magical wines. So lucky when those happen. Some people have complained that Camphor dish size is too small. This is actually a plus in my book and just an opportunity to order more dishes. Look at how much we got through with just three gluttons!
Restaurant: Tata’s Cafe
Location: 12627 Hawthorne Blvd, Hawthorne, CA 90250. (424) 675-4168
Date: May 27, 2022
Cuisine: New American
Rating: Great ingredients and a lot of fun
Our friend Jeff Bovon owns and operates this unusual restaurant in Hawthorne. He’s part chef, part food importer and supplier, being a purveyor of super high quality seafood and meats and he basically took over this little cafe and turned it into a very unusual destination. We setup a big custom group dinner.
The interior is basically a little Hawthorne cafe that’s been mildly scaled up.
NV Henriot Champagne Brut Souverain.
Erick and I brought almost all the wines for this dinner as most of the guests aren’t collectors.
2017 Costaripa Valtènesi Rosamara.
The place setting.
Our special menu tonight.
2013 Prager Riesling Smaragd Achleiten. VM 93. Clarity and primary juiciness emerge from the present collection of Rieslings only when we get to this point. A shimmering interaction of crystalline stony suggestions with white peach, raw almond and bittersweet liquid floral perfume plays out on a subtly satin-like if also fundamentally firm palate. Bright lemon and its pips lend refreshing vivacity and piquant counterpoint on the vibrant, long finish. (Drink between 2015-2025)
Hokkaido Scallop and Uni Crudo.
1997 Verget Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume Vieilles Vignes. VM 90-92. Exotic tropical fruits, apple, honey and a whiff of caramel on the nose. Superripe honey and apple flavors are almost too ripe; in a Show Reserve Australian chardonnay style. Finishes with a note of butterscotch. This has more impressive material than the above, but I’d find the regular Fourchaume easier to drink.
Toast with Egg Yolk and Caviar. Creme Fraiche, celery root puree, chives. This was really yummy.
2005 Cantina di Santadi Shardana Valli di Porto Pino IGT. VM 94. The 2005 Shardana is an awesome Carignano endowed with exuberant dark fruit, smoke, licorice, sage, rosemary and tar. This is a fairly big, masculine wine with great intensity, depth and roundness. It needs another year or two in bottle for the tannins to settle down. The Shardana is formidable, though, and a terrific choice for hearty cuisines. (Drink between 2013-2021)
Roasted Bone Marrow with sea salt and peppered crostini. I don’t really like bone marrow dishes like this. There is basically no “marrow” on the bone, so you scrape a thin layer of fat and collagen onto a toast. Not really my thing. The pickles were good though.
New world juice.
2014 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. VM 94. Pale, bright yellow. Fresh yellow peach, apricot, lemon and toast on the nose, accented by a subtle spearmint note and a whiff of oyster shell. Densely packed, intense, saline and penetrating; tightly wound yet somehow pliant, this wine offers considerable charm owing to its early balance and sweetness but is built for a graceful evolution. Superb, seamless wine with enlivening saline minerality carrying the finish and giving it terrific grip and lift. (Drink between 2020-2032)
Heirloom Tomato Salad. Compressed cantaloupe, Bulgarian feta, pine nut salsa verde. I think for tomato lovers this would have been great. I can handle the little tomatoes, but the big ones have too much “tomato gut.”
2011 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Valbuena 5°. VM 94. Inky ruby. Sexy, high-pitched dark berry and floral pastille aromas are complemented by suggestions of oak spices and smoky minerals. Shows a surprisingly light touch on the palate, offering sharply focused blackberry, bitter cherry, licorice candy and floral pastille flavors that deepen and become sweeter with air. Harmonious tannins add grip to the extremely long, sappy finish, which leaves behind notes of dark berry preserves and candied lavender. (Drink between 2021-2032)
Whole Roast Suckling Pig!
So soft he cuts it with a plate.
We each got this much meat!
2010 Domaine Lignier-Michelot Gevrey-Chambertin Cuvée Bertin. VM 91-93. The 2010 Gevrey-Chambertin Cuvée Bertin is rich, dark and sensual. Black cherries, plums, spices and minerals are some of the notes that are woven into this generous, textured wine. The Cuvée Bertin finds a higher, brighter register on the mid-palate and finish. This is a beautifully poised, elegant Gevrey. The Cuvée Bertin was made with 40% whole clusters. (Drink between 2015-2025)
Crispy Duck Breast. Cherry sauce, purple cauliflower & King Trumpet croutons. This was a good dish. The brown mushy stuff under the duck was very savory and delicious.
2014 Compania de Vinos del Atlantico Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz Vara Y Pulgar.
Porcini Crusted NY Steak. Getting full here.
Yuzu Tart. Very nice little “meringue” pie.
Strawberry Margarita Sorbetto! — like a frozen cocktail — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — Strawberries from Avignon, blended with fresh lime, Reposado Tequila and Cointreau –#SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #sorbetto #strawberry #Margarita #cocktail #Tequila #Cointreau
We had a very fun time. Big group and diverse wines with a LOT of food.
Restaurant: Heroic Deli and Wine Bar [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]
Location: 516 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 490-0202
Date: May 17, 2022
Rating: Awesome wines and time
In Spring of 2022 friend Jeffrey, owner of Heroic Italian, hosted a series of old wine dinners. This one is (mostly) old Barolo. These things are immortal and some of my favorite accessible old wines.
To complement Jeffrey prepared an almost ludicrously rich and copious amount of food. Pay careful attention as the plated courses are INDIVIDUAL.
The street view.
We situated ourselves in the back of the main dining room. This was an epic dinner. Not only were the wine’s crazy good — these last forever.
From my cellar: 2015 Azienda Agricola Valentini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. VM 93+. Good bright yellow. The pure, complex nose suggests lime, yellow apple and botanical herbs. Then very precise, intense and penetrating, if still youthfully unevolved, conveying a powerful, three-dimensional impression of extract and a deep, textured, multilayered mouthfeel. The wine closes very long and juicy, with herbal and saline elements that titillate the taste buds. Another outstanding wine from Valentini, who never misses a beat with his Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. (Drink between 2022-2033)
Jotas Jamon brushetta. Special piggy toasts.
Scallop with Uni and Caviar.
Walker manages the wines.
From my cellar: 1958 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva. Unfortunately flawed. Tasted like old dry sherry. Really really good dry sherry.
The 1958 is on the left next to another wine of similar age. Uh yeah, it’s gone. Had to open a backup 58 (below).
One old Spanish “snuck” in.
Praise Cheezus. Jeffrey concocted this whacky take on fried mozzarella served with spicy sauce, garlic aioli, and pesto.
We demonstrate how cheesy the interior is!
1947 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo Riserva. 94 points. Wild strawberries with balsamico was mentioned by one at the dinner, and I completely agree. Also the slightest hint of nail polish. Also leather, rose hip, rose petals and “old” scents like an aged book or an old style library.
1955 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo.
Lobster Claw “prequel.” Served before the main lobster event.
My backup: 1958 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo Riserva. 96 points. Very light color in the glass, but the wine got better and better with air. Overall it was consistent with my previous experience. Complex nose of dried flowers, caramel, quite a bit of red fruit, tar, and cherries. Good structure with present tannins and fruit notes that picked up weight with air. Long finish. Amazing experience.
Spicy Calabrian Sausage Pasta. This is an awesome dish with great al dente pasta and quite a lot of heat. Sort of a wine killer, but delicious all the same.
Lobster “Thermidor.” Mayhaps there is a “reaction” to this joke.
Farmer’s market asparagus.
1964 Fontanafredda Barolo. 93 points.
1967 Francesco Rinaldi e Figli Barolo. JG 94. 1967 is one of my absolute favorite vintages in the Langhe for current consumption and the ’67 Francesco Rinaldi e Figli Barolo is a stunning example of this very underrated year. The celestial nose offers up a complex and classy mélange of black cherries, licorice, pungent roses, road tar, spit-roasted gamebirds, complex soil tones and a topnote of bonfires. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and absolutely à point, with a great core of pure fruit, melting tannins, bright acids and simply stunning length and grip on the focused and impeccably balanced finish. Just a great bottle of fully mature Barolo at its zenith! (Drink between 2010-2040)
1970 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo.
Heroic’s amazing garlic bread. So good, so carby.
Pan seared foie gras “Estilo Hoffman.” Larry likes his foie.
Herbed Kurobata Pork Roll. aka porchetta.
The porchetta served with smashed potatoes, liver sauce, and creamed spinach (below). The meat was amazingly flavorful with that perfect crispy exterior. The smashed potatoes are very sexy as well.
Old Amaro and Etrusco — cool stuff!
Holy Cannoli. Good cannoli, but the shell needs that bubbly flakey quality from adding the wine to the dough and the ricotta, while good, wasn’t made fresh that morning in a small Sicilian village.
Overall, another amazing meal. So much food and so good. And the old Baroli… Except for my dead solider there were so many good ancient grapes. I really like old baroli as they have this lovely dried fruit quality that just keeps going and going!
For more LA dining reviews click here.
Restaurant: Toku Unagi & Sushi
Location: 1106 N La Cienega Blvd #201, West Hollywood, CA 90069. (310) 854-7285
Date: May 12, 2022
Cuisine: Japanese BBQ Eel
Our Foodie Club / Sushi Series group decided to hit up this Unagi (Japanese freshwater eel) speciality spot.
Unagi or Japanese freshwater eel, has been consumed in Japan for centuries. Unajyu and Ohitsu are couple of the staple dishes and the recipes for these ever-popular Japanese traditional foods is said to have been around since the Edo period (1603 ~ 1868).
Their restaurant was founded in 1909 as an Unagi market in one of Japan’s renowned Unagi locations, Hamamatsu in the Shizuoka prefecture. Their special Unagi sauce has been carefully passed down from generation to generation and to this day, they continue to offer our original flavor. Toku Unagi and Sushi opened its door in the fall of 2019 on La Cienega Blvd, one of Sourthern California’s premier dining areas. Their specialty, the Unagi, are directly imported from Japan every week and continuing the legacy of their founder, Toku Unagi & Sushi is proud to offer Unagi using the same cooking method and the special sauce created over a century ago.
Big menu actually.
2008 Bollinger Champagne La Grande Année. VM 97. Bollinger’s 2008 Grande Année is rich, ample and full-bodied, with all of the pedigree of the vintage on display. Dried pear, dried flowers, chamomile, red plum and mint develop as the 2008 shows the breadth and creaminess that are such signatures of the Bollinger house style. A whole range of brighter, more floral and chalky notes appear later, adding translucence and energy. The 2008 is 71% Pinot Noir and 29% Chardonnay taken across 18 crus, and it is the Pinot that very much informs the wine in both flavor and texture. More importantly, the 2008 is one of the best Grande Années I can remember tasting. Bollinger fans won’t want to miss it. Disgorged November 2018. Dosage is 8 grams per liter. (Drink between 2020-2048)
2008 Dom Pérignon Champagne. VM 98. The 2008 Dom Pérignon is a huge, powerful Champagne and also clearly one of the wines of the vintage. This is one of the most reticent bottles I have tasted. So much so that I am thinking about holding off opening any more bottles! The 2008 has always offered a striking interplay of fruit and structure. Today, the richness of the fruit is especially evident. Readers who own the 2008 should be thrilled, but patience is a must. (Originally published in May 2021) (Drink between 2028-2058)
Amuse of macaroni salad. Delicious, actually.
Sunomono. Very “prepared.” A little bit of chili heat to the marinate.
Monkfish liver. Great sunomono-style kelp underneath.
Cold Tofu. Nice. Great silken texture.
Ago-dashi tofu. Great.
Some of the tofu pulled out.
Yuzu Cervice. Nice and bright.
Unagi liver. Bitter and not that pleasant. This is a traditional dish Eel BBQ restaurants in Japan and I’ve had it there many times — still not my favorite.
Unagi Chawanmushi (egg custard).
2002 Louis Jadot Latricières-Chambertin. BH 90-93. This sample displayed heavy oak and was largely “un-Jadot-like” in style, which again makes me wonder about how the cask sample was pulled. The full-bodied flavors however are round, supple, sweet and wonderfully intense with obvious minerality and a long, pure and beautifully balanced finish. The overall impression, aside from the wood, is one of power and grace and my score offers the benefit of the doubt with respect to the oak influence. (Drink between 2009-2017)
2002 Domaine Launay Chambertin. BH 94. This is extremely ripe and aromatically forward, offering notes of game, leather, tea, spice and plenty of Gevrey earth plus big, intense, muscled and robust yet supple flavors that are structured and deep on the powerfully long finish. The tannins are pronounced if ripe and the supple mid-palate makes this wine seem deceptively approachable yet it should age for years. A great effort. (Drink between 2012-2022)
Unagi Terrine. Jelly-like texture. Not that much flavor.
Unagi Yanagawa. Delicious. Some very fibrous vegetables.
Rib Eye. Not that much flavor.
Unagi (and vegetable) Tempura. Quite nice.
Eel box. Unajyu. These eel meals come as sets with the eel, rice, and pickles.
Pickles. I love Japanese pickles.
Grilled Eel. This is the classic and it was lovely. There is a great combination of the char, the sweet sauce, and the fatty texture of the meat. The textural and flavor contrast with that great Japanese rice is fabulous too.
Special soup. More or less a dashi.
Ohitsu eel with tea. You pour the tea over the eel and rice.
Here is the eel, “pre tea.” You just pour the tea right over it, helps cut the fat.
Macha Cream Brulee.
Vanilla Cream Brulee.
This was a super fun evening. Like most traditional Japanese restaurants Toku has great service. The best part was the eel. I always love BBQ eel and while even cheap BBQ eel is kinda enjoyable, this was some of the best I’ve had in the US. It’s nice to have a specialty shop here in town. We didn’t try anything from the sushi side tonight.
The wines were awesome, of course.
Restaurant: Gucci Osteria
Location: 347 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. (424) 600-7490
Date: May 5, 2022
Cuisine: Modern Italian
Rating: Amazing — and foamy!
Over a decade ago I had an amazing meal at Osteria Francescana in Modena, one of the most respected and highly rated restaurants in Italy. So, I was very excited, but cautious, to hear that Chef Massimo Bottura partnered with Gucci (of all things) to open a restaurant in Beverly Hills.
It has it’s own door right next to the store on Rodeo.
Here’s the main Gucci store. I can’t help but visualizing Al Pacino demonstrating some loafers.
The dining room is upstairs above the store and has a lovely and stylish greenhouse vibe. It’d be great for power lunch as well.
This is all serious tasting menus. We got the “Chef’s Experience” but added SEVERAL signature dishes off the other menus.
Erick proudly sporting the menu.
Truffle and Cheese Foam Tart amuse.
One “problem” at Gucci Osteria is that they don’t allow any corkage. But it turns out that their “regular” wine pairing is actually all interesting Italian wines, which I do love. They also have a premium pairing which has some nice Italian wines, but is corrupted by a bunch of French (fine but not necessary given how many great wines Italy has) and — gasp — new world wines. Why would they do that? Anyway, we got the (almost) all Italian set.
NV Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige Brut. VM 91. Pale straw-yellow with a strong mousse. Bright, perfumed apple and pear aromas and flavors. Closes long with very good lemony cut and bright floral lift. One of the freshest, prettiest versions I can remember of the Cuvée Prestige, a sparkler that in my experience is often a little too heavy on sweet dosage. Disgorged fall 2017. (Drink between 2018-2023)
Lavash bread and raisin/fruit bread.
Normandy style butter.
Whipped Ricotta. Really light and delicious. Cough, cough: foam!
American Breakfast. Eggs, potato foam. Really smooth and luxurious. Notice the foam / velouté thing going on, you will see it again.
2020 Passo delle Tortore Fiano di Avellino Bacio delle Tortore. Fiano is a super dry and acidic white wine from the more volcanic coastal regions of southern Italy (in this case, Eastern Sicily).
From Japan & Italy to LA. Shigoku oyster. Nice oyster.
Prosciutto consommé. Cold and mild and porky. Not my thing.
2018 San Michele Appiano (St. Michael-Eppan) Sauvignon Sanct Valentin. VM 92. Bright straw. Aromas and flavors of passion fruit, green fig, sage and rosemary. Fresh and juicy with glyceral sweetness giving an impression of residual sugar. Closes long and focused with lingering hints of gooseberry and sage. A lovely Sauvignon Blanc. (Drink between 2019-2025)
Fish Tartare – Smoked and Crispy. Rock fish, potatoes, shiso.
2016 Cantine Bonacchi Brunello di Montalcino Molino della Suga. 92 points. This Sangiovese is starting to mature- pale garnet in the glass with thick legs (14% ABV). Pronounced aromas of cherry, leather and strawberry with hints of clove, rooibos tea, garigue and dried herb. The palate is dry and quite tannic. I get lovely crushed cherry, cranberry, pomegranate, strawberry coulis and earthy leather. This wine has juicy acidity and a full body- it’s just now starting to become drinkable. It is a very young wine with great structure and potential for aging that will allow tertiary flavor development. Right now it is still relatively primal. Delicious stuff that has a long finish and rather astringent mouthfeel right now. It will drink beautifully till 2030 and pair well with Italian fare, grilled ribeye or game. 93 points from me for this $40 wine makes it a 5 star effort.
Welcome Home. Polenta, taleggio, beef ragu. Super “creamy” and delicious. More foam!
2017 Monteraponi Chianti Classico Baron’ Ugo. VM 92. The 2017 Chianti Classico Baron’Ugo is a dark, potent wine. A rush of aromas and flavors hits the palate as this full-bodied, heady Chianti Classico offers its substantial richness and pure power. A wine of density and volume, the 2017 screams with character. Red cherry, spice, mint and blood orange saturate the palate. In 2017, warm, dry weather pushed ripeness to the edge. The Baron’Ugo is decidedly eccentric in 2017, and yet all the elements are so nicely balanced. (Drink between 2022-2037)
Risotto Camouflaged as Pizza. Tomato, Basil, Stracciatella. Incredible bright pizza Margarita flavor.
Bowl licking good.
NV Dante Garuti & Figli Lambrusco di Sorbara.
Tortellino Truffle. Parmigiano Reggiano sauce. This is a Gucci Osteria classic.
2018 Cascina Fontana Barbera d’Alba. 94 points. Rich, complex aroma with elements of black fruit, dried leaves, and red hots. Sappy flavors of huckleberry and fresh oregano up front, burst of acid laced cherry fruit in the finish. Smooth by Barbera standards, but with firm acids underneath. Lovely and distinctive wine.
Cod as Milanese. Farmer’s market tomato terrine.
2016 Giorgio Pelissero Barbaresco Nubiola. VM 88. The 2016 Barbaresco Nubiola is a powerful, dense wine. Black cherry, spice, menthol, licorice and leather are all amped up in this potent, concentrated Barbaresco from Giorgio Pelissero. Nubiola is typically a bit more refined, but in 2016 it is especially powerful and clenched, with huge tannins that need cellaring to soften. Time in the glass brings out the attractive floral upper register that is typical of Nubiola, but the textural richness and depth remain. (Drink between 2021-2031)
Bollito. Wagyu, apple mostarda, warm zabaione. Again creamy and rich. Woah, more foam!
2016 Val Delle Rose Maremma Toscana Aurelio. 88 points.
Chicken Skin Fries.
Balsamic Mayo for the fries. Super aioli texture.
Pastry chef Tamara Rigo chats with us.
Mini Me. Beef ribeye, cotechino, salsa verde, balsamic mayonnaise. Super yummy mini-burger.
Chibi Zumo ‘Little Sumo’ Junmai Geenshu Sake, Hyogo Prefecture.
Cool Vibes. Pistachio gelato, lime, mint, sake.
2014 Azienda Agricola Prà “Passito Bianco Delle Fontane”. 88 points. A lot of white flowers. Acacia being the most dominant. Orange peel, overripe apricots, nectarines, yellow peaches. Full bodied; but some lift to it.
Honey comes in this cool bee!
Milk & Honey. Milk, honey, coriander.
Puff Pastry, Passionfruit Jelly, Chocolate.
The bill — for 1 — gulp!
We closed them out.
Then hung out in the kitchen with two of the chefs! They were super nice. The chef on the right is pastry chef Tamara Rigo (she’s Italian — and yes Italians can be redheads). Not pictured is Chef Mattia Agazzi who has garnered a lot of press.
Overall, this was an amazing meal. It’s really the only meal I’ve had in America that reminds me of my many many 2 and 3 star meals in Italy. Now, that being said Italy, and to a much lesser extent LA, has tons of lovely more “casual” or “homestyle” Italian restaurants. In fact it’s hard to go wrong in Italy and casual places are amazing. But these fancy places have a style unique all to themselves and Gucci Osteria really delivers on that. Its particular style is rather rich and opulent with an incredible bounty of foams, veloutés, and fatty emulsions. I happen to love these kind of smooth textures, and I can handle very rich, but not everyone does. Still, to my taste it was delicious.
Service was amazing also and I actually really enjoyed the creative and offbeat Italian wine pairings. Italy has so many stupendous wines in every possible style, so there is no reason to eat Italian food with wine from anywhere else.
The idea of going back again leaves me “foaming” at the mouth!
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