PUB 1842 [2,] Las Vegas NV

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PUB 1842

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LAMill Coffee

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BBQ Chicken Drumsticks – Carolina BBQ Sauce, Blue Cheese Dressing

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Calamari – Fried Point Judith Calamari, Smoked Marinara, Lemon and Garlic Aioli

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1842 Nachos – Heritage Pork Chili, Cheddar, Black Bean and Jicama Relish, Fresnos, Crema

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Hot Soft Pretzels – ‘Merican Beer Cheese, Poached Egg, Bacon

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Chilled Beets – Charred Radicchio, Spiced Pecans, Gorgonzola Fondue

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Chinese Pork “Chop Salad” – Shredded Cabbage, Char Sui Pork, Shitake Mushrooms, Carrot, Daikon, Pickled Fresnos, Peanuts, Ginger Vinaigrette

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Slider Sampler – Double Smoked Bacon with Smoked Gouda, ‘Merican Cheese, Lettuce, Secret Sauce, Bacon and Bacon / Peanut Butter Crunch with Bacon Jam, Potato Chips, Pimento Cheese / The 1842 with Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms, Truffle Aioli / Korean BBQ Salmon Burger with Cucumber Kimchi, Ginger Aioli

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St. Louis Ribs, Pulled Pork Sandwich, Beef Brisket, Half Chicken – Dry Rubbed and Smoked Over Apricot Wood – Served with Jalapeno Cornbread

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Pub Mac n’ Cheese – Five Cheeses, Caramelized Onion

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Roasted Butternut Squash – Brown Butter, Sage, Hazelnut Streusel

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Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts – Granny Smith Apples, Apple Cider Syrup

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Kale Caesar – Baby Kale, Parmesan, Garlic Streusel

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Baked Beans – Heritage Pork, Kansas City Sauce

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Chocolate Sticky Toffee Cake – Chocolate Bundt Cake with Hints of Bourbon and Coffee, Warm Spiked Caramel, Lightly Salted Caramel Corn

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Apple Cobbler – Spiced Apples, Vanilla Ice Cream, Caramel Sauce

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Salty Caramel and Chocolate Malted Shake Tasting

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At one time proclaiming Michael Mina my favorite American Chef it was with gusto that I made my way to PUB1842 shortly after its debut, but clearly suffering an identity crisis as a restauranteur attempting to turn casual it was that experience followed by the disaster of Stripsteak that suddenly caused me caution – questions as to whether Mina had “sold-out” and whether his concepts could ever again be as innovative or well executed as before thankfully answered affirmatively by the 2015 launch of Bardot Brasserie, thus providing the impetus to investigate past impressions once more.

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Now in its third year of operation, long past the days of lobster corn dogs or confit duck with an all-in focus on American eats like burgers, wings and ‘cue, PUB1842 continues to occupy a sizable space within The District of The MGM Grand and although Chef Tony Schutz may not be a household name amongst tourist or locals a tasting of the menu shows the work of someone with more passion than most would imagine from mere *bar food*, each and every item not only “better than it has to be” but a labor intensive investment in quality ingredients treated with both care and skill.

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Arranging the tasting through Josh Smith of Bardot, a fixed price giving Tony carte blanche to serve as he’d like, it was just after PUB1842’s 11:30am opening that myself and three friends were greeted by Assistant General Manager Dana Hostmeyer and led to a table, the nearly-two dozen menu items to follow offered in sharable portions with beverage service coordinated by a staff that is friendly, timely and well informed.

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Declining beer flights, none of us imbibing but instead opting for iced tea and coffee from LAMill, it was following greetings from Chef Schutz that the the afternoon got underway and kicking things off with meaty drumsticks alongside lightly battered calamari the quality of accompanying sauces showed good attention to detail, the same to be said of an enormous “half portion” of PUB1842’s signature nachos tinged in Fresno peppers balanced by a cheesy blend and chili made from slow-roasted Heritage Pork.

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Amused by the “Celebrity Chef” endorsement stamped on a menu substantially overhauled from day one it was not long before a duo of salads was delivered by Tony and Dana, the vibrant beets accentuated by cheese and spiced pecans while the Chef’s Special Chop Salad looked eastward with chicharones and Char Sui liberally tossed in a bed of Napa cabbage, shredded carrots, and Shitake mushrooms along with pickled peppers, peanuts, and a tangy ginger sauce.

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Requesting the Beercheese pretzels outright, the longtime menu staple with a poached egg still a highlight from visit one, little has changed as the sauce remains spoon-worthy long after the soft batons are finished and moving on to a quartet of sliders one would be hard-pressed to name a “best of” as all were well crafted with bronzed buns perfectly amenable to copious toppings, the Peanut Butter Crunch warranting praise for both the housemde Bacon Jam as well as Pimento Cheese while the Korean BBQ Salmon was surprisingly craveable thanks to the quality of the meat and fermented flavors complimented by ginger aioli.

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Lamenting the quality of barbeque in Las Vegas, much like most who have properly investigated the genre across the land, it was with admitted skepticism that I approached Schutz’s loaded silver tray, but setting aside pulled pork that trended more Kansas City style sweet than my preferences for Carolina vinegar the answer to “where to find good BBQ in Las Vegas?” was quickly answered, the sticky ribs easily sliding from bones with a rich, porky sapor while the fatty brisket melted across the palate with uncompromising smokiness accentuated by salt and pepper, even the chicken noteworthy as crisp skin clung to juicy flesh beneath.

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Not particularly sold on the side of Kale, though Butternut Squash and fried Brussels Sprouts with Apples scored high marks along with pepper-spike cornbread that necessitated extras served with smooth honey butter, it is somewhat disappointing that low sales have set limitations for Mina’s ever-strong pastry program, but doing their best with what is offered it should be assumed that any shake made with Ice Cream from Straus Family Creamery is a safe bet, as too is the simple apple cobbler while the Sticky Toffee Cake puts a cocoa and coffee spin on the British classic beneath boozy caramel sauce and salty popcorn.

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FOUR STARS: A bit more pricey than some would expect for ‘bar food,’ though no moreso many Las Vegas Boulevard properties offering a similar bill of fare that is likely far less well-crafted, PUB1842 has clearly matured nicely under the care of Chef Tony…now if only they could compliment that Barbeque with some Pecan Pie or Banana Pudding.

RECOMMENDED: Hot Soft Pretzels, Cornbread, Korean BBQ Salmon Burger, Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts, BBQ Brisket or Chicken, Chocolate Sticky Toffee Cake.

AVOID: Pulled Pork Sandwich, Kale Caesar.

TIP: Boisterous around the bar, with dozens of televisions and a rock n’ roll soundtrack, those looking for a more sedate experience are encouraged to sit on the makeshift ‘patio’ overlooking the district where keg-tables and booths both seem to be in high demand.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.

http://www.michaelmina.net/restaurants/las-vegas/pub-1842/

Pub 1842 by Michael Mina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Cornbread, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, LAMill, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Pub 1842, PUB1842

Twist by Pierre Gagnaire [6,] Las Vegas NV

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Twist by Pierre Gagnaire

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Canapes – Mascarpone Pan Souffle, Green Apple Tuille, Parmesan Gruyere Puff, Black Rice Tartlette with Radish, Butter Crackers, Nori Crackers, French White Sauce, Dirty Martini Gelee

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Salted and Unsalted Echire Butter, Baguette, Cranberry Multigrain Toast, Cherry Walnut Roll

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Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras – Chestnut Veloute, Julienne Celeriac, Tumeric Chips, Frisee Salad, Black Truffle

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Sunchoke Soup – Julienne Truffle, 68 Degree Poached Egg, Winter Greens, Zezette

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Sea Bass and Scallop – Endive and Leek Fondue, Black Truffle

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Twist Poached Eggs – Grand Veneur Sauce, Bellota Ham, Melba Toast, Spinach Sabayon

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Smoked Haddock and Scallop Souffle – Crunchy White Cabbage, Black Truffle, Sweet Truffle Butter

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Palate Cleanser – Spiced Wine Gelee, Grapefruit Sorbet, Esplette Pepper, Celery, Yogurt

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Tarte Tatin – Vanilla Ice Cream, Baileys Infused Caramel

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Orange Marmalade, Exotic Fruit with Dragon Fruit and Orange Blossom Ice Cream

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Latour – Manjari Chocolate Biscuit, Coconut and Praline Mousseline, Hazelnut Crunch, Black Currant Sorbet, Sicilian Pistachio, Caramelized Pear

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Olive Gateau – Dacquoise Biscuit with Olive Oil Ganache, Fresh Lychee, Golden Raisins, Kirsch Cream

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Basil Lime Sherbert, Clementine Syrup, Almond Meringue

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Chocolate Souffle – Guanaja Chocolate, Coffee Ice Cream, Amaretto Chantilly

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Chocolate Lemon Water, Pistachio Ice Cream, Caraibe Ganache, Dulce Chocolate, Golden Streusel

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Grand Dessert: Pistachio Panna Cotta, Pears Soaked in Passion Fruit, Pistachio Crumble / Lychee and Pineapple in Clementine Syrup, Vanilla Cream, Dulce de Leche Chocolate / Apricot, Raisins, Figs in Kirsch, Saffron Jaconde, Lemon Cream, Almond Paste / Gianduja Ganache, Bailey’s Caramel, Coffree Meringue, Coffee Parfait / Huckleberry Compote, Coconut Gelee, Cassis Sorbet, Hazelnut Nougatine

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Mignardises – “Froot Loop” Macaron, Chocolate Cup with Almonds and Quince Paste, Apple Tart with Whipped Cream

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Reloading the kitchen in the wake of Ryuki Kawasaki’s departure for Thailand in early 2015 it was again to a former Sketch Chef that Pierre Gagnaire turned in Autumn, and sitting with three friends for dinner at Twist in The Mandarin Oriental for the first time since the turnover one could not help but wonder whether the giant of modern gastronomy had perhaps gone to the well once too often, the room and pastries from Chef Vivian Chang – formerly of Yardbird – ascending to levels befitting the rarefied air above The Strip while Frederic Don’s plates oftentimes seemed as out of place as the restaurant’s more ‘casual’ style of service.

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As yet the least heralded of the French Masters calling Las Vegas home, Gagnaire’s high-risk/high-reward style and location in a hotel not offering comps to high-rollers like MGM or Caesars’ potentially dissuading all but those in-the-know, Twist 2016 sees many familiar faces floating about a dining room dressed in glowing baubles with pop-music admixing with French tunes overhead, and starting at the podium guests are offered a warm welcome followed by escort to the table, captains quick to offer cocktails plus the wine list while thrice pushing up-charged bottles of water as though poison were present in Lake Mead.

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Admittedly known to the house, this my sixth visit as others possessed familial or industry ties far more notable, it was after greetings from several staff members that menus were offered and opting to go a la carte, with some ordering as little s one entree, it was almost immediate that warning flares were fired, the potentially low tab seeing runners and back servers largely take over with subsequent tongue-in-cheek platitudes dominating “all-time-favorite” presentations of items only last week added to the menu.

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Still focusing on his signature multiple-plate style, canapes presented as a series of seven nibbles from which the brisk gelee and sweet green wafer were most memorable, bread service was surprisingly quick to follow and with the room at only perhaps 25% capacity for the 7 o’clock seating it was over two plates gilded with Echire butter that conversation flowed freely, the Cherry Walnut Roll easily one of the best complimentary table breads in the city.

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Opting to focus on the seasonal Black Truffle menu for both appetizer and entree it was with a small slice of Foie Gras featuring a good sear that the proper meal began and with elevated expectations based on a similar soup in 2015 it was unfortunate that the version suggested online had been replaced by one featuring bitter celeriac and turmeric plus a warm salad, the sparse shavings of black truffle added in the kitchen offering little-to-no depth to an already rich and earthy composition.

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Generous in a way, but at the same time clearly not doing due diligence to the ticket when sending out a complimentary course, a 2 x 2 offering from the tasting menu was presented before entrees and although half were offered the “Twist Poached Eggs” with vibrant greet Sabayon plus thinly cut Spanish Ham the others were presented a dish described as “Sea Bass and Scallop,” the flavor and texture identical to my entree minus the cabbage and thus not really a ‘bonus’ at all.

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Presenting a spicy citrus sorbet to cleanse palates between similar savories, the complex flavors a good sign of things to come, it was in small bites that I slowly enjoyed a smoky fish souffle that unfortunately once again saw truffles muted amidst background ingredients before the meal transitioned to works from the pastry kitchen, all five menu items sent out at once, quickly flooding the table with plates.

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No doubt likely to benefit from a new mindset when it it comes to sweets, the program previously a bit tired outside of the brilliant White Truffle Souffle offered under Kawasaki’s toque, suffice it to say that Chang’s skill set has already begun to flourish under the tutelage of Gagnaire and his love for exotic ingredients, conformity challenged at every turn with classics such as the low-souffle punched up by coffee and Amaretto plus a Martini glass sidecar of lemon, pistachio, and chocolate plus the elegant Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Ice Cream and boozy caramel, a cup of Orange Marmalade, Dragon Fruit and Orange Blossom Ice Cream unexpectedly complimenting flavors bite-for-bite.

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THREE STARS: A touch perplexed by Gagnaire’s choice in Don, the previous Eastern influence of Kawasaki a better fit to the Chef’s recent inklings and likely to play better to Mandarin Oriental guests, perhaps it will take time for the savory half of the kitchen to reach previous best-in-the-city standards, the better bet for now being to take in the view while nibbling on bread and cheese followed by dessert.

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RECOMMENDED: Twist Poached Eggs, Bread Service, Tarte Tatin, Guanaja Chocolate Souffle.

AVOID: The Black Truffle Menu shows little of the luxury ingredient’s characteristic complexity despite upcharges seeing appetizers starting around $45 each.

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TIP: Peak seating appears to be 8:30pm on weekends, after which the room was over 80% full and quite loud with slowed service often seeing water glasses empty and even more casual cliches offered when delivering plates. Previous experiences, three with Gagnaire present in the restaurant, have never lacked in professionalism or catering to guests need, no matter the circumstances.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.

http://www.mandarinoriental.com/lasvegas/fine-dining/twist-by-pierre-gagnaire/

Twist Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Macaroon, Nevada, Souffle, Truffle, Twist, Twist by Pierre Gagnaire

Sofrito Rico Authentic Puerto Rican Cuisine, Las Vegas NV

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Sofrito Rico Authentic Puerto Rican Cuisine

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Alcapurrias – Fried Taro Root filled with Pork

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Empanadas con Pollo – Chicken in Puff Pastry

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Rellenos de Papa – Potato Balls filled with Ground Beef

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Surullitos – Fried Corn Sticks

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Maduros – Sweet Plantains

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Carne Frita con Tostones – Fried Pork Chunks with Fried Plantains

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Tostones al Ajillo – Fried Plantains with Garlic Sauce

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Bacalaitos – Fried Cod Fish Fritters

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Chuletas Fritas with Arroz con Gandules – Crispy Pork Chop with Puerto Rican Fried Rice

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Mofongo – Fried Mashed Plantains

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Arroz con Dulce – Cinnamon Rice Pudding with Raisins

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Tembleque – Coconut Custard

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Still a favorite of First Fridays and Local Markets, but now turned brick and mortar in the Food Court at 6475 West Charleston Boulevard, Sofrito Rico Authentic Puerto Rican Cuisine is a family run business from the husband and wife team of Jason and Susanette Sandoval, the duo looking to bring the food of their ancestors to local natives but equally happy to spread the wealth to all of Las Vegas with everything handmade in house and plentiful portions to share.

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No doubt the definition of an “Under the Radar” location, the indoor counter one of many in a dingy space seemingly made specifically for folks attending a nearby community college, Sofrito Rico presents a variety of authentic Puerto Rican options on laminated menus as well as an overhead flatscreen television and with a deceptively large working space that appears sparkling clean from the window the service offered is equally spotless, suggestions provided as requested and all questions answered with a smile.

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Modestly priced across the board, appetizers mostly $3 or under with proper meals rarely crossing into double digits, dining at Sofritio Rico is offered both dine-in as well as take-out and with Grubhub delivery plus over-the-phone ordering offered for those in a hurry it warrants mention that wait times are entirely dependent on time of day, the made-to-order freshness leading to a twenty minute delay to delivery of our sizable four-person order.

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Not particularly a “light” style of cooking, the majority of items either fried or served with sides of bean stew or Puerto Rican-style rice, approximately one-half of the Sofrito Rico menu focuses on streetfood classics and whether one opts for Empanadas in one of three varieties, well-seasoned Potato Balls stuffed with Ground Beef, or enormous fritters of briny shredded salt cod tastebuds are likely to be pleased with the resultant flavors as well as textures, all three virtually oilless and most portions sharable by two.

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Less so “finger food,” but no less delicious or worthy of cost, those seeking something sweeter to start the meal are encouraged to investigate either the Alcapurrias that match tender taro with shredded pork or intensely sweet pan-seared Maduros, the elongated Surullitos something like batter-dipped polenta but not quite as creamy, the sort of thing that required dipping sauce to be truly enjoyable – something provided by the Sandoval’s in the form of ketchup mixed with Mayo.

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Doubling up on Tostones, the weighty fried pressed Plantain discs offered alongside cubes of fried pork and then as a side dish dressed in Garlic it was with mashed Mofongo that the meal marched onward, the rustic presentation starchy but soft with a surprisingly complex depth of savory flavors.

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Undoubtedly over-ordering, an $80 tab yielding enough food to satiate a group nearly twice our size, the meal’s final savory featured a pair of crispy bone-in Pork Chops lightly fried next to bean and potato stew plus Puerto Rican Fried Rice, the later far better than expected while the former possessed an odd pungency that saw most cut themselves off after just one bite.

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Told by the server that desserts were “great” it was with four small cups that the meal would end, and although generally not usually impressed by coconut it was a welcome surprise that the creamy Coconut Custard called “Tembleque” was every bit as spoon-worthy as the sticky rice pudding teeming with cinnamon and raisins plus coconut cream and ginger.

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FOUR STARS: Limited only by the sketchy dining room and fixed seating that puts adjacent diners knee-to-knee Sofrito Rico Authentic Puerto Rican Cuisine offers great food at an equally impressive pricepoint considering both quality and portions with smiling service that seems as eager to educate as it is to please.

RECOMMENDED: Bacalaitos, Alcapurrias, Carne Frita con Tostones, Tembleque, Arroz con Dulce.

AVOID: Bean Stew, Chuletas (at least compared to the Carne Frita,) and Dining Solo.

TIP: Not particularly well demarcated from the street, look for the baby blue “Campus Commons Food Court” also featuring Korean BBQ, Boba Tea and Mexican Food, Sofrito Rico merely labeled as “Puerto Rican Cuisine” on the sign.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.

http://sofritorico.com/

Posted in Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Sofrito Rico, Sofrito Rico Authentic Puerto Rican Cuisine

Nine Fine Irishmen, Las Vegas NV

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Nine Fine Irishmen

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Beer n’ Cheese Dip – Smithwick’s Ale and Irish Cheddar with Bread

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Irish Nachos – Fried Potato Slices, Beer Cheese Sauce, Chive Aioli, Green Onion

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Fish & Chips – Beer Battered Fresh Alaskan Cod, Irish Chips, Tartar Sauce

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Horseradish Crusted Mahi Mahi – Lemon Butter Sauce

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Parmesan Crusted Rack of Lamb – Jameson Peppercorn Demi

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Green Beans / Grilled Asparagus

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Mac n’ Cheese

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Guinness Chocolate Bomb – Warm Guinness Chocolate Cake with a Soft Chocolate Center, Vanilla Ice Cream, Bailey’s Whipped Cream, Guinness Chocolate Ganache

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Bread and Butter Pudding – Buttery Baked Brioche with Golden Raisins topped with Whiskey Cream and Caramel Sauce

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Not particularly a Casino for “destination” dining, America a serviceable 24-hour spot with good doughnuts and Gallagher’s certainly not without its fans, it was with two local writers that lunch was enjoyed at New York-New York’s touristy Nine Fine Irishmen on Saturday, the results mostly in line with what might be expected from a Las Vegas Boulevard “theme” eatery, though several signatures actually proved quite well made.

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Located just off the gaming floor with a patio available to those simply looking for a place to smoke and grab a pint, Nine Fine Irishmen is presented as a True Irish Pub and featuring lavish decorations including everything from Lady Justice to gnarly looking taxidermy the two-story space additionally offers no lack of seating options, a hefty wood table found in one alcove while our table sported a throne.

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Open from 11a-11p seven days a week, Irish Folk played overhead by day with Live music on stage by nine, the menu at Nine Fine Irishmen entails a highly varied experience clearly intended to suit the interests of any sort of guest, even Vegetarians and the Gluten sensitive likely to find something worthwhile amongst the extensive bill of fare.

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Dining at the odd hour of 3pm, dinner options available to our group despite the technical start-time of five, it was on the heels appetizers that I arrived to meet the rest and although well sated from a prior dining engagement I could not help but sample the now-somewhat-congealed Beer Cheese signature, the depth of flavor actually quite impressive despite the tasteless white bread.

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Treated to pleasant service that thankfully dresses the role without putting on a fake accent like other “Pubs” in town, it was a touch perplexing that neither tablemate had opted to order any of Nine Fine Irishmen’s green-box-highlighted menu classics and although the health-conscious Mahi-Mahi was well cooked with great flavor complimented by horseradish alongside fresh vegetables the hefty plate of lamb chops was severely compromised by a pungent crust that buried the lightly cooked meat’s intrinsic gaminess, the dark brown sauce adding a unique bit of flavor, but at the same time seeing natural flavors further lost.

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Debating Shepherd’s Pie and Bangers before finally opting for Fish and Chips it was alongside the surprisingly crisp and well-executed “Irish Nachos” that two planks atop a pile of fries arrived, the tartar sauce cast aside in favor of malt vinegar plus ketchup with both parts of the plate quite good even when compared to some of the stuff in London, the Cod itself moist and meaty while the golden shell was virtually oilless and faintly accented by beer.

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More impressed by the Macaroni and Cheese here than by others gussying it up with all sorts of junk it was onward to sweets that the meal progressed, and with only two items sampled thanks to the limited sweet-tooths of my companions the results were split right down the middle – my steamy Bread and Butter pudding turned from cup tableside with a pillowy texture not dissimilar to Monkey Bread with two excellent sauces while the “Bomb” selected by others lived up to its billing by failing completely, the center most certainly not ‘soft’ and the dried out exterior only saved by slowly melting ice cream.

THREE STARS: No worse than other upscale Irish Pubs speckled around the country, Nine Fine Irishmen is precisely what one might expect walking through the door and although a bit more expensive than some might consider acceptable the price is mostly right for its execution of the classics…not to mention the service, location and décor.

RECOMMENDED: Fish and Chips, Mahi-Mahi, Macaroni and Cheese, Bread and Butter Pudding.

AVOID: Rack of Lamb, Guinness Chocolate Bomb.

TIP: Downstairs seating trends exceptionally loud at peak times while the upstairs offers a far more laid-back vibe.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.

https://www.newyorknewyork.com/en/restaurants/nine-fine-irishmen.html

Nine Fine Irishmen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Nine Fine Irishmen

Chef Series #1 at Naked City Pizza on Paradise, Las Vegas NV

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Chef Series #1 at Naked City Pizza on Paradise

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Pizza Logs – Hand Rolled Egg Roll Wrappers, Pepperoni, Mozzarella, Red Sauce

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Chicken Wing Dip – Chopped Chicken, Blue Cheese Dressing, Mozzarella, Hot Sauce, Ciabatta

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Meatball Skillet – Grandma’s Meatballs, Red Sauce, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Fresh Basil, Ciabatta

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Guinea Pie – Grandma’s Meatballs, Spinach, Ricotta, White Garlic Sauce, Mozzarella / Rebel Pizza – Pepperoni, In-House Italian Sausage, Ham, Salami, Marinated Tomato, Fresh Basil, Red Sauce, Mozzarella

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NY style Pizza – Mozzarella, Red Sauce

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Bacon Candle – Bacon Powder, Olive Oil Powder, Sweet Balsamic, Sicilian Sea Salt, Crusty Bread

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Tuna – Crudo, Calabrese Chile, Fennel Pollen, White Truffle Oil, Fried Herbs

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Crostini – Smoked Tomato, Smoky Pork Smear, Parmeigano-Reggiano

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Seafood Pot – Shaken Herb-Shellfish Butter

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Pork & Egg Salad – Pig Ear Ribbons, Shaved Pickled Egg, Ramp Preserve, Greens, Sour Vinaigrette

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Pappardelle – White Seafood Bolognese

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Cavatielli – Headcheese Sausage Ragu, In-House Ricotta

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Goat – Osso Bucco Mop Sauce

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Melon Gelato – Sweet Balsamic Lonza, Mascapone, Fried Mint

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Cannoli Sandwich – In-House Sweet Ricotta

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Now two-years a resident of Las Vegas and well acclimated to a dining scene that too frequently overlooks the talented men and women of the kitchen it was January 1st that 2016 Strip openings were sworn off in favor of creating #chefseries, a collection of Carte Blanche tastings meant to gather like-minded diners with a focus on dedicated Chefs serving our city, the first installment featuring Christopher Palmeri of Naked City Pizza.

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Known to many from his pizzeria tucked inside Moondoggies on Arville and more recently a family-friendly location on Paradise the choice of Chef Palmeri stemmed from not only his Buffalo-transported place in the community but also talents stretching far beyond Pizzas and Bar Bites, three prior meals showing a passion for pickling and pasta making in addition to artisan breads and even housemade charcuterie.

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Self admitted to become restless with creativity, weekend specials occasionally an outlet but soon to launch a Naked City Tavern concept that will really give the young man room to stretch, menu planning for a group of fifteen was left entirely in the hands of Chris with a prix-fixe cost of $35 per diner and opting to truly go “all-out” with sixteen courses including five classics plus eleven original creations the results were even better than expected, everyone having a great time with old standards still inducing smiles and new creations often outright thrilling.

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Truly a diverse cast of tablemates, everyone from a well-behaved child to a veritable pizza legend represented with several writers, Yelpers, and food enthusiasts all bellying up to the long table it was after a brief introduction from Chef Palmeri that the degustation got started, Naked City’s famous “Pizza Logs” proving as crisp and oilless as ever with a crunchy golden shell shattering to yield molten red sauce and melty mozzarella.

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Surprisingly a first visit for some, the Meatball Skillet and whimsical Wing Dip both impressing newbies and veterans alike with bold flavors a tribute to people and places important to the Palmeri Brothers’ past, it was next to two trays of Pizza that the group was treated and although “deep dish” may not tickle the palate of certain local critics there is little doubt that the care put into both the meaty Rebel and garlicky Guinea Pie far exceed Midwest/Northeast standards, the latter’s DDD feature literally the dish that put Naked City on the map.

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No doubt inspired by recent history, a trip to Manhattan seeing Naked City represent Las Vegas in the Caputo Cup, course six featured the restaurant’s debut of New York Style pies currently being offered in a limited number of twenty per day and opting to go “old school” with nothing but crust, cheese, and tomato sauce a strong case was made for the best foldable Slice in the city, a nice bit of yeast rising to the palate from the crisp yet light crumb.

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Transitioning now to the Tavern, ideas not yet set in stone but clearly showing an evolution in style that those who’ve tasted Christopher’s specials will not find hard to believe, suffice it to say that the Chef’s modernist take on ‘oil and vinegar’ is likely to get people talking while the follow-up of Crudo was as well sourced and sliced as its flavor was balanced, the sort of plate that even at Guy Savoy or Le Cirque would not seem out of place.

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Again citing the Big Apple as an influence for Crostini with smoky tomatoes and a “schmear” of pork before moving on to a seafood-laden cookpot complete with butter made in-house through the laborious process of shaking a bottle till set it seemed almost unthinkable that the *best* was yet to be seen, that plate featuring marinated pigs ears alongside housemade pickled ramps and shaved eggs, the included leaves of lettuce encouraging diners to enjoy each bite like a Thai-style wrap.

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Acknowledging that some did not prefer the collagenous texture of the aformentioned plate while others happily tucked in on even more swine plates twelve and thirteen saw the kitchen send forth two family-style bowls of pasta, residual seafood stew from the pot a tad underseasoned despite admirably complimenting perfect ribbons of starch while the headcheese and ricotta mixture delivered a rich sapor that clung to tiny hollow pasta shells with ease.

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Looking back to the short-lived Desnudos Tacos previously occupying the space next to Naked City on Arville with a fatty slab of goat braised to the point of literally melting on the tongue beneath a black sauce akin to mole without the chocolate notes it was with most diners waving the white flag that sweets were finally presented, the cannoli sandwiches clever though not as good as Palmeri’s best-in-the-city classics while prosciutto and melon sorbet found enlightenment in an elegant sorbet topped in mint and crispy Lonza brushed with balsamic.

Undoubtedly a memorable meal, Christopher having worked late into the night and arriving early that morning to offer a glimpse of the future while also providing delicious plates from the past, suffice it to say that Chef Series #1 will be difficult for anyone to trump, though I look forward to some trying while eagerly awaiting a visit to Naked City Tavern just as soon as it opens its doors.

RECOMMENDED: All the Classics, New York Style Pie, Pork & Egg Salad, Headcheese Sausage Rague, Goat Osso Bucco, Melon Gelato.

WORKS IN PROGRESS: The “Shell” on the Cannoli Sandwiches is a touch too close to a rice cracker for my liking while the Seafood Bolognese could have used some more salt.

TIP: Those interested in getting an early look at the Tavern menu should follow Naked City Pizza on Social Media, the Chef currently offering a series of “Tavern Thursday” menus at a bargain Prix-Fixe with the first occurring this week.

http://www.nakedcitylv.com

Naked City Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in #chefseries, Bread Basket, Chef Series, Crab, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Italian, Las Vegas, Lobster, Naked City Pizza, Naked City Pizza on Paradise, Nevada, Pizza, Pork, Tasting Menu, Truffle

Kitchen Table [4,] Henderson NV

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Kitchen Table

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Pina Colada Muffins

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Raspberry Almond Oat Muffins

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Carrot Walnut Muffins

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Cinnamon Twist / Lemon Loaf

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Glazed Donut / Pecan Pie

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Pistachio Donut

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Thrice impressed by the cooking at Kitchen Table and seeing an evolution in the pastries from Michael Russ II each and every time it was eschewing thoughts of store-bought doughnuts or Panera that I suggested the young man’s pastries as a treat for voluntary Saturday clinic, over two dozen items picked up before the restaurant’s opening with Chef Nunez and two others already hard at work.

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Having already sampled many of the selections, a few novel items taking the place of others from the mind of a team that never seems to rest, it was within moments of the 8am start time that the first of several medical assistants, nurses, desk staff, administrators and physicians entered my office and reading descriptions the lone Lemon Bar disappeared quickly as did the elongated Cinnamon Roll, a half-dozen Pina Colada Muffins that were moist with Pineapple and notes of Coconut also soon to see an empty plate with myself fortunate to snag just a half.

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Breaking off bites of the best English Toffee I’ve ever tasted, a gift from a diabetic patient who acknowledged the fact that he loved to make the stuff even though he no longer indulged in its intake as much as he’d like, a lone glazed donut was selected by one of my colleagues arriving late and although “healthier” options including Carrot Cake with Walnuts and Raspberry with Oats plus Almonds went more slowly for unknown reasons, both were every bit as good as the ingredients would suggest, those not getting a taste unfortunately committing an unfortunate oversight.

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Presumably saving the best for last, a case of the early bird…or delivery man…getting first choice it was after a few patient encounters that tastes were taken of Chef Russ’ Pistachio Donut that several had already raved about, the weighty brioche pockets stuffed with mildly sweet-yet-natural custard easily amongst the most well crafted Donuts in The Valley while a personal-sized Pecan Pie turned up the sweetness significantly, the toasty top crackling to the tooth with a nearly-liquid brown sugar center oozing forth the golden, buttery base.

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RECOMMENDED: Pistachio Donut, Pecan Pie, Carrot Walnut Muffin.

AVOID: N/A.

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SPECIAL THANKS: From the Southwest Medical Associates Saturday morning Subspecialties Clinic Staff to Michael, Antonio, and Javier for providing us with such a bounty and for continuing to raise the bar in Henderson and the Southeast Valley.

http://www.kitchentablelv.com/

Kitchen Table Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Henderson, Kitchen Table, Las Vegas, Nevada

Ferraro’s Restaurant & Wine Bar [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Ferraro’s

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Garlic Focaccia, Bread Stick, Roll with herbs and Olive Oil

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Borgoluce Valdobiadene Brut Prosecco Superiore DOCG

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Ricotta with Langoustine and Blood Orange

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Arancino di Carne e Caciocavallo

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Tartare di Avocado – Pomodoro – Melanzana

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Venica Ronco del Cero Collio Sauvignon Blanc

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Polipo Siciliano – Marinated Octopus, Capers, Black Olive, Potato

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Vitello Tonnato – Seared Beef Tenderloin “Fagottino,” Light Tuna Mousse, Pepper Coutons, Mini Lettuce

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2013 Terlan Pinot Grigio DOCG

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Risotto di Animelle – Spinach Risotto, Garlic Sauce, Marsala Glazed Veal Sweetbread

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Raviolini di Ricotta – Housemade Small Pocket Ravioli with Sheep’s Ricotta, Zucchini, Guanciale

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2009 Librandi Dulca Sanfelice DOCG

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Lasagna alla Gino – Housemade Pasta Sheets, Bolognese Sauce, Bechamel, Ricotta Cheese, Tomato Sauce

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Taglitelle N’duja – Smoked Calabrian Sausage, Fresh Sea Urchin, Caciocavallo Cheese

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2010 Bruna Grimaldi Camilla Barolo DOCG

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Trippa Satriano – Tripe in Spicy Tomato Sauce

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Brasato – Braised Prime Short Ribs, Soft Polenta, Hen of the Wood Mushrooms, Castelmagno Fondue

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Osso Bucco – Veal Shank Braised in Red Wine Reduction with Farro

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Polpettine – Housemade Meatballs, Finger Fried Polenta, Red Sauce, Parmigiano

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2007 Castello di Meleto Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOCG

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Rosalba’s Cookies – Lemon, Amaretto, Chocolate, etc.

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Pastiera Napoletana – Warm Italian Ricotta Cheese and Rice Cake, Orange Marmalade, Crème Anglaise, Ricotta and Candied Fruit Ice Cream

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Pistacchio Passion – Layered Pistacchio Cream, Cream Cheese Custard, Whipped Cream on Walnut Crust

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Double Espresso

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Family owned and operated since 1985 it would be difficult to call Gino Ferraro’s family legacy anything less than iconic in Las Vegas, and sustaining three decades in a city where implosion and reconstruction are common both locals and tourists should be happy to know that much like the many fine wines in their cellar Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant has only gotten better with time.

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Now operating under the toque of Francesco Di Caudo, Gino’s son Mimmo involved in the day-to-day operations of two Pizzeria Forte locations on the East side of The Strip, it was at the invitation of the family’s patriarch that I sat in the same chair I’d visited during the summer of 2015 and joined by a native Las Vegan Chef and an Italian-American server from New York a carte blanche four-course menu was offered, the sixteen plates ranging from time-honored classics to those just recently launched.

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Greeted by Gino at the door and later shown the planned menu to which additions were graciously allowed it was at the suggestion of a longtime Sommelier that wine pairings were offered, a dry Prosecco proving brilliant alongside light opening bites amongst which the shrimp with housemade ricotta and parcels of veal with creamy tuna were elegantly executed standouts.

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Talked through each presentation by servers that make the faux-Italian display of hospitality at Carbone seem borderline offensive it was with the taste of tender octopus tossed in briny accoutrements still lingering on the lips that crisp Pinot Grigio made way for the first of two pasta duos, and beginning with a Grinch-green risotto the results of top tier ingredients and careful attention were readily apparent, a sliced sweetbread both supple and rich offering a lovely bridge to the poignant pork flavor imbued in a light broth surrounding hand formed pockets of cheese.

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Offered another white along with Gino’s famous family lasagna recipe before raising eyebrows skyward to the thrilling presentation of pasta ribbons slicked in spicy spreadable sausage with creamy urchin and Caciocavallo cheese each adding to form a flavor even more complex than the sum of its parts those fancying bread will no doubt find themselves requesting a second basket for requisite sopping, spotless plates returning to the kitchen without a drop of sauce going untouched.

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Switching to Red with entrees, the first simply not my style while the 2010 Barolo proved to be the best I’ve tasted of its kind, suffice it to say that there is a reason Ferraro’s Osso Buco is ordered at almost every table and although perhaps not *quite* as tender, those desiring something a little less hearty would be well advised to take a look at the braised short ribs over polenta with mushrooms, the best Tripe in Sin City and Meatballs with crisp polenta fries no less compelling.

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Still rooted in tradition in the desserts department, many of the offerings predating the restaurant and served with anecdotes about Gino’s mother and his children’s enjoyment of the cakes and cookies during their youth one would be hard pressed to name one dish “best” amongst the trio offered, the chef at our table particularly fond of Rosalba’s Amaretto and Lemon Cookies while I was particularly taken by the hybrid cheesecake/rice pudding/tres leches reminiscent Pastiera Napoletana with ice cream and orange marmalade, all three of us also smiling at the forgivingly light Pistachio Passion that tasted as rich as a cannoli with a fraction of the weight.

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS: As time tested an experience as one will find in Sin City, Ferraro’s is perhaps even more relevant today than when it first opened its doors, and limited only by the fact that a menu rooted in tradition is less flexible than some may like it seems that Chef Francesco Di Caudo may be just the man to shake things and make the restaurant worthy of frequent repeat visits rather than just special occasions, even though the service and classics continue to show well.

RECOMMENDED: Osso Bucco, Vitello Tonnato, Taglitelle N’duja, Trippa Satriano, Rosalba’s Cookie Plate, Pistachio Passion.

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AVOID: If one were to offer any critique of this meal, the avocado tartare would have benefited from a bit more seasoning while the white dinner rolls could be replaced by something housemade with a better surface area for dipping.

TIP: Those looking for a bargain would be well advised to investigate the Happy Hour menu offered from 4-7pm seven days per week, or the late night menu that is similarly priced. Daily specials are also offered, but available only in the dining room on a supplemental menu not found on the restaurant Website.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.

http://www.ferraroslasvegas.com/

Ferraro's Restaurant & Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Ferraro's, Ferraro's Restaurant, Ferraro's Restaurant & Wine Bar, Food, Ice Cream, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Octopus, Pork, Sweetbread, Tasting Menu

Bardot Brasserie [3,] Las Vegas NV

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Bardot Brasserie

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Rose Champagne

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Baguette and Butter

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Frisee aux Lardons – hearts of frisee, escarole, radicchio, warm bacon, soft poached egg, sherry vinegar

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Pate de Campagne – traditional housemade pate with heritage pork, veal, pistachios and country bread

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Prime Steak Tartare – ground to order, sauce verte, egg yolk, gaufrette potatoes

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Foie Gras Torchon and Aged Foie Gras Terrine – crème de cassis-black currant aspic, petit brioche

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Foie Gras Parfait – ruby port gelee, grilled country bread

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Seared Foie Gras Lyonnaise – le puy lentils, caramelized onions, prune confiture

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Oreilles de Cochon – crispy breaded pig ears, sauce bearnaise

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Escargots Bardot – toasted hazelnuts, chartreuse butter, puff pastry shells

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Duck a L’Orange – wood grilled wings, orange glaze, sauce maltaise

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Veal Sweetbreads – baby turnips, wild mushrooms, sauce verte

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Maine Lobster Thermoidor – asparagus, fines herbes, mushroom cream, sauce bernaise

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Heritage Chicken Roti – 1/2 free range chicken, mushroom bread pudding, green beans, sauce vin jaune

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Chickpea Frites – eggplant caviar, basil pistou, pickled vegetables

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Macroni & Mimolette Gratinee – bechamel

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Oak Smoked Duroc Pork Chop – bacon lardons, baby carrots, horseradish potato puree, grain mustard beurre blanc

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Parisian Gnocchi – black trumpet mushrooms, celery root, goat cheese, roasted garlic, cream

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Double Espresso on Ice

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Teurgoule – caramelized rice pudding, cassia cinnamon

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Chocolate Macaron – french chocolate cookie, dark chocolate mousse

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Crème Brulee – vanilla bean custard, turbinado croquant

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Lemon Meringue Tart – raspberries, gold leaf

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Apple Tarte Tatin – warm caramelized apple tart, puff pastry, vanilla bean ice cream

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Frozen Paris Brest – hazelnut ice cream, chocolate cremeux, salted caramel sauce

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Mille Feuille – caramelized puff pastry, vanilla crème patissiere

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Coupe Glacee – earl grey ice cream, cointreau-orange marmalade, toasted meringue

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Impressed by two brunches at the now year-old Bardot Brasserie at Aria it was finally with nine friends that dinner was arranged early Saturday evening and requesting Chef Josh Smith simply cook ‘Carte Blanche’ with a pre-arranged price but no other restrictions the resultant meal unfolded over three memorable hours, a total of two-dozen plates presented with spotless service in the gorgeous, near-capacity space.

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Essentially resurrecting my opinion of Michael Mina from day one with a style and menu that renders Bouchon moot for all but a weekday breakfast, the idea to revisit Bardot was originally raised by Jonathan Pluvinet of Rosallie, whose Laguiole-hailing parents were in town for a visit, and gathering others with little effort for such an event it was at a long table that all were sat and presented with a complimentary glass of Brut Rose plus greetings from the kitchen it was not long before the festivities began, first bites invested in a crunchy bronzed baguette and high quality butter from France.

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Fortunate to be visiting during the midst of an anniversary celebration that allowed Smith and team to offer even more than what is featured on a sizable dinner menu of reimagined Brasserie cuisine it was with plates coursed out slowly that the evening got started, the Lyonnaise salad excelling as a result of both lardons and the light vinaigrette amidst crispy cold lettuce, a follow-up of housemade pate poignant with porky sapor while the steak tartare served with crisp potatoes found uncharacteristic levity in an herbal sauce verte.

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Uncertain as to whether the Chef knows my affinity for Foie or whether the young man was simply showing off it was with opening plates cleared that the menu launched into a quartet of duck liver preparations, the jar of mousse beneath gelee as pleasing as ever while a silken seared slice atop toothsome lentils was a favorite for those hailing from overseas, both the au natural torchon and aspic-laced terrine equally as elegant.

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Using the aforementioned foursome to seamlessly transition cold-to-hot, plates seven through nine perhaps representing the very best ‘bar bites’ on The Strip, those lamenting the loss of Pigs Ears at Therapy. are encouraged to stop into Bardot for a crunchy limited-time-only upgrade served with smooth Bearnaise while those looking for a more bit more whimsy are well served to explore the duck wings “a l’orange” or garlicky snails snuggled in puff pastry.

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Getting heavier as the night rolled on course ten offered a sweetbread the size of a toddler’s fist seared just a touch longer than would have yielded maximum creaminess, and moving on to mains along with sides as first groans of satiety were uttered to my right these statements ceased immediately on arrival of two cream-covered plates of Lobster Thermoidor plus a crisp golden chicken, mushroom bread pudding, and thoroughly addictive panisse.

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Not finished yet, two more entrees joining the vertical macaroni now topped in Mimolette, personal distaste for horseradish was severely tested by potatoes served alongside a far more enjoyable pork chop while the pan-seared choux was an earthy experience that found tangy chevre offsetting shredded black trumpets and celery root cream.

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Acknowledging my fondness for sweets and much discussed ability to eat more than some would think, it was after a small break and invigorating double shot from LAMill over ice that a two-of-each flurry began to celebrate Bardot’s oft-overlooked pastries; six “classics” including the Macaron, Mille-Feuille and both Tarts all impressive with even more stunning bites offered by two more recent developments, the Frozen Paris Breast a spot-on ice cream sandwich rendition of the classic while the special-soon-to-become-staple rice pudding was unlike any previously experienced, the base smoother than congee with sugar just moments shy of caramelization as Indonesian cinnamon pulled on the reins to prevent the bowl from being *too* sweet.

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FIVE STARS: A truly memorable meal, both as a result of the people at the table and a front of house staff that accomplishes the rare task of matching the kitchen’s quality here in Sin City, Bardot Brasserie remains a “Must” for visitors and a veritable destination for Americans looking for great Lyonnaise cuisine without flying overseas.

RECOMMENDED: Aged Foie Gras Terrine, Pate de Campagne, Chickpea Frites, Lobster Thermidor, Teurgoule, Frozen Paris Brest.

AVOID: The Potatoes with the Pork Chop are excessively Horseradish-y.

TIP: Several items listed were part of the Anniversary Menu and may not be available.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.

http://www.michaelmina.net/restaurants/las-vegas/bardot-brasserie

Bardot Brasserie -ARIA Restort and Casino Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bardot, Bardot Brasserie, Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Food, Gnocchi, Ice Cream, LAMill, Las Vegas, Lobster, Macaron, Michael Mina, Nevada, Pork, Sweetbreads, Tasting Menu

Herringbone [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Herringbone

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Double Espresso on Ice

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Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Ice Cream

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Rare to visit a restaurant for one item, but told by a trusted source that Chef Geno Bernardo’s in-house pastry ladyhad created a “butter cake that will make you see Jesus” it was almost as if good fortune was smiling double since plans were already in place for dinner at Bardot that evening, the ‘pre-gaming’ dessert actually described by the Chef as a bread pudding, but otherwise largely living up to the rumors.

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Having already been wowed by Herringbone a week prior, Geno’s beautiful presentation of peerless ingredients well worth investigating for those who favor great fish and produce, it was with some surprise that I was informed that the four sweets previously experienced were actually crafted by the downstairs bakery at Aria, and yet as good as they all were none stood a candle to the “weekly special” I was about to indulge in.

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Described simply as “Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Ice Cream,” but clearly more involved than that considering the cream, streusel, and molten bourbon caramel it is actually somewhat difficult to explain ‘why’ Herringbone’s Bread Pudding is so remarkable but getting down to basics the answer is really one of texture, the cubes of bread somehow remaining almost as light as if they weren’t custard soaked despite the obvious buttery richness while contrast is provided by similarly sized chunks of seared bananas, some pudding soft while others have just started to caramelize.

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FIVE STARS: Apparently just a ‘special,’ but definitely living up to that title – and then some – this should be a must on the radar of everyone with a sweet tooth in Las Vegas whether at the end of a meal from Geno and his team or as a destination in and of itself.

DEAR GENO: Put this on the menu and hire that woman to get started on the rest of the desserts stat.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.

https://www.aria.com/en/restaurants/herringbone.html#/Menu

Herringbone Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Pudding, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Herringbone, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kitchen Table [3,] Henderson NV

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Kitchen Table

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Biscuits and Jam

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Blueberry Clafoutis

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Carrot Walnut Muffin

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Lemon Loaf

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Blueberry Kugelhopf

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Ducky Cristo (my naming, per request) – Duck Confit, Gruyere, Parisienne Ham, Maple Gastrique, Caramelized Apples

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Foie Gras Apple Pancake – Skillet Pancake with Foie Gras, Caramelized Apples, Streusel

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A veritable lightning rod for praise since opening its doors in late 2015 it was just after eight on Saturday morning that a return visit was paid to Kitchen Table and once again finding the small restaurant jammed-packed with locals as Chefs Nuniez and Chavez commanded the kitchen it seems difficult to believe that the restaurant has gotten even better, yet with four new pastries plus two plates and a biscuit as my witness I swear the statement is true.

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Admittedly a known entity on entering, Antonio having suggested I stop by to see a new concept soon to debut and even allowing me to go “off menu” and create a plate reminisced of from a visit to Montreal’s Au Pied de Cochon, it was with big smiles that I was greeted at the hostess podium on entry, a two-top at the pass giving me the opportunity to chat with the Chefs about upcoming menus and partnership with a local charity as I dined.

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Introduced to Michael Russ II during this visit, the lean young man defying any notions of “Never Trust(ing) a Skinny Pastry Chef” by continuously reinventing the bounty of baked goods situated to tempt diners on entry, it was with wide eyes that I perused new interpretations of European Classics alongside all the “usual” suspects, warm gobs of Monkey Bread soon seen landing at almost every table around me with good reason as it is undoubtedly amongst the city’s very best.

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Opting to invest my appetite in only new items, many prior favorites still available while the sizable menu has been trimmed of others to make way for things to come, it was with the first of several cups of coffee poured by a pleasant young woman that breakfast kicked off and sinking teeth into a freshly made buttermilk biscuit served with housemade jam the flaky layers separated cleanly with ample notes of butter cascading forward, the cast iron clafoutis offering a stark textural contrast with a rich custard base dotted by bursting blueberries not far from the quality seen during recent trips to France.

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Assuredly finding footing with daily muffins, the carrot walnut version a moist morsel that eschews sweetness in favor of more natural spicy notes, those looking for something innovative are encouraged to indulge in Chef Russ’s jam-centered Kugelhopf, the ridged pastry a sort of Americanized take on Austrian tradition with a texture akin to poundcake and not dissimilar to that of the dainty lemon loaf topped with freshly candied peel and brightly acidic glaze.

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Showing stronger than ever in terms of service, Antonio taking advantage of rare lulls to touch tables and make sure all were well, a forty-five minute wait for indoor tables by 9:00am spoke to the likely benefits of warm weather and patio space, plates emerging from the kitchen with impressive rapidity including my first, a slightly modified version of Kitchen Table’s best-in-show Monte Cristo, this one the very picture of decadence gussied up with Gruyere, pan-seared apples, and a generous helping on housemade confit duck.

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Having already seen much of the current menu and happy to see a pair of Chefs not yet ready to sit back and rest round two from the kitchen arrived hot on the heels of the hefty sandwich and with first look generating an audible “wow” at both the size as well as the presentation neither compared to the taste or complimentary textures, the cake itself a toothsome masterpiece not dissimilar from the Apple Pancake made famous by Original Pancake House while a slice of silky duck liver added richness amidst streusel and even more hot cinnamon apples.

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FIVE STARS: Comparable to any of the best breakfast spots in Brooklyn, Portland, or Wicker Park with a down-home feel as welcoming to seniors as it is to “gourmands” and folks into trendy foods, Kitchen Table continues to excel in a city long felt to be behind the culinary times, a tribute to a truly dedicated team of chefs and front of house staff.

RECOMMENDED: All the previous recommendations stand, and the Clafoutis and Skillet Pancake should be added to the Monte Cristo, Croque Madame, and Monkey Bread as musts.

AVOID: Arriving late, unless you want to wait.

TIP: Those who have not been, or those who need to return, are encouraged to do so between 1/25/16 and 2/1/16 as Kitchen Table partners with Stick a Fork in Cancer, 10% of all sales benefiting The American Cancer Society: http://news3lv.com/news/videos/stick-a-fork-in-cancer

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.

http://www.kitchentablelv.com/

Kitchen Table Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Food, Henderson, Kitchen Table, Las Vegas, Nevada, pancake, Pancakes, Pork

Chef Flemming’s Bakeshop, Henderson NV

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Chef Flemming’s Bake Shop

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Cinnamon Roll

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Seven Little Sisters

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Apple Frangipane Tart

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Walnut Brownie

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Blueberry Crumb Cake

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Pecan Pie

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A staple of Water Street years before artisan baking became a ‘thing’ in Las Vegas, let alone Henderson, Chef Flemming’s Bakeshop has grown its reputation largely on the legs of locals yet in a city where flashy Strip-based celebrity Chefs continue to hog headlines the old-world craftsmanship of Chef Flemming Pedersen still seems underrated, a recent Saturday visit continuing to show a tireless dedication to timeless technique and friendly customer service.

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Danish by birth, but essentially native to Southern Nevada after twenty-plus years including more than fifteen leading the pastry department at Downtown’s Golden Nugget, a quick perusal of Chef Flemming’s work speaks of time-honored Scandinavian recipes and with over fifty items in rotation each and every day the space itself is as enticing as the products, a veritable step back in time compared to the modernity of recent Henderson openings with cozy chairs, wood tables, plus all sorts of tchotchkes and signs.

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A bit offputting in its soundtrack, the R&B from a bookshelf boombox not befitting any aspect of the concept or space, the choice of whether to dine-in or opt for items to be boxed largely comes down to diner preference and timing, a self-selected six-pack taking into account some suggestions from a middle-aged clerk who possessed great knowledge of ingredients as well as technique plus a bright smile on her face.

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Disappointed that, for the second time, bread pudding was not ready for a 7:05am arrival, it was nonetheless that $17 was exchanged for a box plus a plate and sitting down in the cozy cafe first bites of a pastry entitled ‘Seven Little Sisters’ proved exceedingly interesting as sweet cinnamon bread encircled a core of cream cheese, pecans and raisins, the follow-up cinnamon roll also well crafted, though perhaps a bit ‘pedestrian’ when compared to such a complex taste.

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Planning to take the rest for later, but opting to open the box in favor of pictures right away, it was perhaps in folly that I assumed I’d be able to resist tasting items as the photo shoot progressed and within one bite of the petite Pecan Pie I knew any thoughts of restraint were hopeless, the all-butter crust and brown sugar filling offering a great contrast to the toasted nuts while the Apple Tart was equally impressive with naturally flavored fruit resting on a smooth bed of almond.

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Managing to contain myself and save the rest for later it was just past noon that the final two treats were enjoyed and although the brownie was par for the course when compared to others in The Valley a round crumb cake spoke far more loudly to my culinary inklings, the loose crumb unfathomably light considering the butter in each forkful with the whole thing eating like a streusel-strewn muffin top rife with plump blueberries.

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FOUR STARS: At one time the only place for great pastries in Henderson but recently seeing strong competition from the likes of Mothership, CRAFTkitchen and Kitchen Table Chef Flemming’s continues to be a standard bearer for old-world European quality with a setting unlike anything else in the area.
RECOMMENDED: Seven Little Sisters, Pecan Pie, Blueberry Crumb Cake.

AVOID: The Brownie was dull and there are better cinnamon rolls to be found.

TIP: Arriving too early…or too late…apparently affects availability of some items. Those interested in specifics may be best to call in advance.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.

http://chefflemmings.com

Chef Flemming's Bake Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Chef Flemming’s, Chef Flemming’s Bake Shop, Dessert, Food, Henderson, Las Vegas, Nevada

Broken Spanish, Los Angeles CA

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Broken Spanish

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Patron Saint – Old Grand Dad 100 Bourbon, Ancho Teyes, Lemon, Tamarind, Egg White, Bitters

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Heirloom Corn Tortillas

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Rebanada – Pan Dulce, Foie Gras Butter, Piloncillo

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Crudo – Diver Scallop, Apple, Cucumber, Serrano

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Queso Fundido – Bacalao, Quesillo, Roasted Tomato

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Tostada – Marina di Chiogga, Cauliflower Escabeche, Pomegranate, Chile Cascabel

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Tamale – Spinach, Sunchoke, Pawlet, Chile Ancho, Salsa de Fruta

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Tamale – Lamb Neck, King Oyster Mushroom, Queso Oaxaca

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Chochoyotes – Masa Dumplings, Potato, Green Garlic, Pasilla

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Rabbit – Nopales, Bacon, Cherry Tomato, Chipotle

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Camote – Sweet Potato, Pig Tail, Trompa, Chile de Arbol, Verjus

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Quesadilla – Oxtail, Plantain, Habanero, Salsa Quemada

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Pulpo – Alberjones, Chorizo, Crema

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Beet Pibil – Yellow Beet, Achiote, Pickled Onion, Bitter Greens

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Red Snapper – Leek, Green Clamato, Clams, Avocado

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Duck – Sesame, Mole, Persimmon

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Chicharron – Elephant Garlic Mojo, Radish Sprout, Pickled Herbs

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Cabeza – Lamb’s Head, Pickled Onion, Cabbage

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Frijoles – Heirloom Ayocote Beans, Tomato, Cilantro

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Empanada – Honey Crisp Apple, Requeson, Sherry Vanilla Ice Cream, Crema Mousse

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Abuelita Hot Chocolate – Ancho Chocolate Cake, Alpaco Ganache, Candied Cocoa Nib, Milk Ice Cream, Abuelita Broth

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Arroz Con Leche – Arborio Rice, Roasted Pear, Huckleberry Jam, Warm Tres Leches, Canela

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Mil Hojas – Piloncillo Puff Pastry, Meyer Lemon Curd, Grapefruit Mousse, Lemon Balm

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Chile Mango – Mango Panna Cotta, Habanero Caramel, Passion Fruit Curd, Cayenne Meringue

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Told by a respected local Chef that Broken Spanish was perhaps the most interesting spot for upscale Mexican dining in all of Southern California while friends cited experiences that ranged from “there are some good plates” to generally underwhelmed it was late Sunday evening that I entered the bustling DTLA restaurant for what would, in fact, turn out to be a nearly three hour degustation of over 2/3 the menu without a single plate that proved less than delicious and well composed.

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Owned and operated by Ray Garcia, a youthful Chef whose accolades include a 2015 Chef of the Year nod, it was just after 8:30 that four of us were seated at a long table amidst the noisy confines and perusing a well-culled enu while sipping cocktails it was not long before decisions were made…and subsequently tossed out the window as the kitchen sent out almost twice as much as ordered in a truly audacious display of generosity.

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Still nursing a foamy drink of Bourbon and bitters, the warm Heirloom Corn Tortillas signaling the first of several courses to come, dinner began with toasted sweet bread topped in a thick smear of duck liver and refreshing the palate with a spicy bite of raw scallop tempered by apple it was onward to spice that the meal lunged forward, a pronounced earthiness found below smoky heat on a crisp Tostata while the Queso Fundido saw the brine of salt cod boldly utilized to punctuate creamy cheese and roasted tomatoes.

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Told that Chef Garcia’s Tamales are not to be missed but only ordering the supple Lamb Neck version with fibrous mushrooms it was with good fortune that Ray opted to send out his vegetarian option topped with bright and fruity salsa as it was amongst the most memorable bites of the meal, a bold contrast to the richness of the lamb while equally opposite to the spicy rabbit cooked tender in a stew presented tableside and tender corn dumplings called “Chochoyotes” that ate like gnocchi in an a broth that reminisced the flavors of Spring.

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Not as sold on Octopus as some, Broken Spanish’s version a little overcooked at the end of the tentacle while thicker cuts tasted great with spicy sausage and cream, better bites from round three were found in the Quesadilla sandwiching shredded Oxtail with Plantains while the Beet Pibil offered needed acid to cleanse the palate before digging into the offal-topped Sweet Potato that saw eyes wide and jaws on the table, the undisputed “best” plate in a meal where several others challenged largely as the result of a sweet/savory balance one rarely associates with off-cuts of meat.

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At this point feeling the effects of quite a bit of food it with even more to go it was to a mixture of delight and shock that the kitchen sent forth every entree on the menu and although the crispy-skinned fish as well as the half Lamb’s head were undoubtedly visual showstoppers, the best flavors were found in the rich duck beneath aromatic mole piqued up by persimmons and the deep-fried porchetta that offers melt-in-the-mouth flesh beneath shattering skin in a portion large enough to feed a family of four.

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Not to let the savory half of the kitchen outshine his team in the department of sweets it was perhaps a bit of “be careful what you wish for” that saw Luis Ayala and company offer up all five of their creations to send us off into the night, and although some may say that the use of herbs and vegetables in dessert has become cliché the team at Broken Spanish never seems to let novelty compromise flavor in any of their creations, the fruited rice pudding and citrus Napoleon particularly compelling while both the panna cotta and chocolate cake cup dialed up the spice profile carefully without drifting astray.

http://brokenspanish.com/

Broken Spanish Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Broken Spanish, California, Dessert, Foie Gras, Food, Ice Cream, Los Angeles, Octopus, Pork, Tasting Menu, Vacation

Viviane, Beverly Hills CA

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Viviane

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Iced Tea

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Ragout of Winter Greens and Shelling Beans, Creamy Grits, Chili Vinegar

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Ricotta Ravioli, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Delicata Squash, Brown Butter

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Country Fried Half Chicken, Buttermilk Brined, Savoy Cabbage Slaw, Spicy Ranch Dressing

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Buttermilk & Scallion Biscuits, White Cheddar Cheese Sauce, California Chili

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Slab of Brioche French Toast, Dark Chocolate Ganache, Cranberry Compote

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Meyer Lemon Tart, Huckleberry Fennel Compote, Sable Breton

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Riesling Poached Pear, Almond Frangipane, Brown Butter Anglaise

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Sweet Potato Toffee Pudding, Compressed Asian Pear, Ice Milk, Warm Spices

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Located in a narrow space at The Avalon in Beverley Hills, a hotel whose best days are at least a decade in the past, Viviane Restaurant popped up on the radar largely as a result of Stephane Bombet’s involvement, a four-person brunch failing to achieve at the high level of Terrine but nonetheless offering quality food in a very pleasant environment.

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Cal-American in concept with cuisine from Michael Hung, Viviane occupies the space adjacent the Lobby at the iconic boutique space and stretching onto a patio where celebrities including a famous Foo Fighter are prone to be seen lounging the service is professional with a side of aloofness, the sort of place where empty glasses may go unnoticed…unless refills can increase the tab.

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Having admittedly reached out to M. Bombet prior to making reservations, the dinner-only dessert menu coveted in addition to the brunch bill of fare, it was in two-rounds consisting of eight plates that the afternoon unfolded, a carved out enclave overlooking the hourglass-shaped pool our home for the duration with chairs and temperatures that made any-pace-but-fast perfect with lingering not only appropriate, but pleasant enough that it would have been a nice place to take a nap.

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Beginning savory before veering sweet, the biscuits nothing worth writing home about beneath “California Chili” that confusingly refers only to dried flakes in the cheese fondue, Ricotta Ravioli were equally decent though a touch overpriced considering the thickness of the packets and four-piece portion while the aromatic ragout atop creamy grits was the clear winner amongst vegetarian plates.

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Thrilled by the fried chicken, a bath in buttermilk and spices giving the flesh plenty of nuance beneath an adherent golden shell that crackled and shattered to the tooth, it was onward to dessert that the meal soon progressed and although the teensy Lemon Tart was not particularly noteworthy both the Almond Butter Cake and Sticky Toffee Pudding were beautiful riffs on tradition, the former eating almost like warm pudding while a “Slab” of Brioche was indeed enormous, so much so that custard barely managed to penetrate thus leaving it to eat more like chocolate honey toast.

http://vivianerestaurant.com/

Viviane Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Beverly Hills, Breakfast, California, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Ice Cream, Los Angeles, Vacation, Viviane

Maple Block Meat Co, Culver City CA

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Maple Block Meat Co.

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Smoked Sausage, Pimento Cheese Sandwich

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Turkey, Brisket, Chicken, Beans, Greens

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Brisket, Ribs, Pork, Slaw, Mac & Cheese

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Wonder Bread, Challah, Pot of Pickles

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Still considering myself a Barbecue novice despite making way through Texas, The Carolinas, Memphis and Georgia over the last three years it was with cautious optimism that I approached Culver City’s Maple Block Meat Company along with four friends and fortunate to arrive even before the parking lot opened it was immediately at 11a that doors unbolted, familiar wood smoke soon permeating the nostrils while sleek décor and beats from Tupac seemed as odd a choice as serving Challah, but “Hey, this is LA.”

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Highly touted by friends, locals and media – including some of the most reputable in the Lone Star State – the menu at Maple Block features all the right parts and with daily specials complimenting a menu of meats, sides, and combos the process is streamlined to ordering at the counter before seating, table service fast to follow with the young woman working the register during our visit exceedingly sweet.

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All wood tables and benches, the meats cut to order in plain view of the room, Maple Block invokes the use of smokers imported straight from Texas and with an undisclosed wood blend fueling controlled roasting temperatures all of the proteins feature a deeply set smoke ring while sauces including are mild with restrained sweetness, the Alabama White particularly impressive compared to versions offered elsewhere while the pulled pork took a somewhat North Carolina route with a light acidic zing.

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Admirable in their adherence to crafting all but the Wonderbread in house, sides not particularly innovative but touching on all the usual suspects with quality ingredients prepared well, a daily special of smoked sausage proved thoroughly enjoyable with a robust spice profile while both chicken and turkey were about standard for smoked poultry, the later perhaps a bit drier than would be preferred by some.

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Holding the “best for last” in terms of discussion, though it was without hesitation that all five of us tasted the Brisket the moment trays were sat down, suffice it to say that Texas Monthly’s Barbecue critic Daniel Vaughn did not mince words when naming the beef as best in California and nor should anyone else, the fat perfectly rendered allowing meat beneath a deep smoke ring to cut like butter with the edge of a plastic fork while the flavor was rich despite minimal seasoning, each bite slowly savored with a pot of pickles refreshing the palate and “dessert” offered in the form of housemade pimento cheese.

http://www.mapleblockmeat.com/

Maple Block Meat Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, California, Culver City, Food, Los Angeles, Maple Block, Maple Block Meat Co, Maple Block Meat Company, Pork, Vacation

Superba Food + Bread, El Segundo CA

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Superba Food + Bread

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Americano

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Nitro Cold Brew

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Latte

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Quince Turnover – Quince Butter

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Nutella Banana Pop Tart – Nutella, Banana, Hazelnut Crisp Icing

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Bombolini – Brioche, Vanilla Cream, Vanilla Sugar

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Almond Croissant – Bruleed Frangipane and Almonds

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Nutella Pretzel Croissant

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Guava & Cream Cheese Croissant

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Kouign-Amann – Vanilla Pastry Cream

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Avocado Tartine – Pickled Onions / Radishes / Chives / Olive Oil / Salad

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Hangtown Fry – Soft Scrambled Eggs / Oysters / Mushrooms / Onions / Bacon / Potatoes / Chilies / Crispy Oyster

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Croque Madame – Ham / Gruyere + Raclette / Toad in the Hole Egg / Tomato Bechamel / Salad

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Bacon Lardon

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Croissant French Toast – Golden Syrup / Crème Fraiche / Spiced Walnuts

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Lots of Grains Hotcake – Vermont’s Finest Maple Syrup

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Hazelnut Macchiato – Hazelnut Cookies / Hazelnut Pudding / Espresso Chantilly

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Impressed by the soon-to-shutter Snack Bar and wowed by the work on display at Food + Bread on Lincoln it was without a second thought that plans were made to visit the new Superba on South Sepulveda in El Segundo, the breezy million dollar space bathed in sunlight with all sorts of fun details including pullies, chains and levers while both the baked goods and made-to-order menu speak to quality craftsmanship and a team looking to do big things.

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Almost thirty miles from the hotel in Burbank, an early Sunday morning circumventing any traffic even when accounting for a stop in Santa Monica, it was just before 8:30 that I entered the large corner lot of a recently opened outdoor shopping venue and as an expected guest of Chef James Trees it was at a cozy two-top that I was seated, the restaurant manager soon stopping by to introduce himself before delivering a bold Americano as I waited for a friend.

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Sporting a decidedly “So. Cal” vibe, the laid-back nonchalance not to be mistaken as a lack of professionalism as the staff runs like a well-oiled machine with ever present smiles, daytime diners at Superba Food + Bread are offered a broad range of Breakfast and Lunch options along with pastries delivered fresh from the in-house bakery in Venice, the options spanning from classics to things far more intriguing, neither featuring less than the very best ingredients prepared in often unique ways.

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Mostly self selecting the menu, though advice was assuredly taken into account, it was with a latte for my friend plus a foamy coldbrew for myself that the dining got started, seven pastries served on a large platter first photographed and then dissected with lamination consistently yielding the sort of textures rarely found outside of Europe, the turnover and almond croissant both reference standard while the Kouign Amann and Croissants ringed in color “turned it up to eleven” in terms of creativity, the pastry cream somehow helping to mellow the former while a lye-bath gave the “Pretzel” its unmistakable taste around caverns of creamy hazelnut filling.

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Smiles induced by a bag of delicate bombolini while the “poptart” was as close as I’ve ever seen to replicating the original texture with flavors that were far more natural and robust, it was almost as if the kitchen staff read our minds in sending out a palate cleansing salad with two slices of toast topped in Avocado puree plus pickled vegetables, a follow-up of two savories soon to come.

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Nearly filled to capacity by 9:30am, the Superba phenomenon clearly stretching South despite a demographic far more “family” than trendy Venice, it was with cranks lifting pastry cases skyward that shades were raised as music grew softer, both the “toad in a hole” Croque and coveted Hangtown Fry offering unique twists on old classics, the former finding levity in tomato infused Hollandaise and creamy raclette while the later incorporated the oyster’s liquer atop fried and smashed fingerlings to impart an oceanic flavor that went well beyond the typical chopped bivalve, smoky bacon and eggs.

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Requesting a taste of the thick-cut lardon used in the Fry and finding its layers of crisp skin and melting center as special as Pork Belly gets in an era of near ubiquity it was not long before the Chef and GM stopped by with “the best looking pancake we’ve made in a while” the top-shelf salty butter and 100% Pure Maple Syrup applied liberally with each resultant bite hovering somewhere between a skillet flapjack and cornbread in texture, no doubt heavy but good enough that I happily finished more than my half.

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With my dining partner not yet ready to throw-in the towel, but at the same time certainly beginning to slow down, it was to wide eyes that a requested plate of French Toast was presented next and described as being cut from a custard infused loaf of “laminated scraps left over from making croissants” the two slices were precisely as rich as would be expected, the ample notes of butter still poignant under spiced walnuts and golden syrup plus a liberal dollop of crème fraiche.

Asking to peruse the dinner menu, a matter of curiosity as all three Superbas seem to garner more attention for meals served earlier in the day, the GM almost could not help but show off when asked about the dessert concepts, a “Hazelnut Macchiato” forgivingly light with crisp cookies sandwiching a creamy hazelnut pudding topped with espresso tinged cream, chocolate tuille, and whole sugared nuts.

http://www.superbafoodandbread.com/

Superba Food and Bread Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, California, Coffee, Croissant, Dessert, El Segundo, Food, French Toast, Los Angeles, pancake, Pork, Superba Food + Bread, Vacation

Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee, Santa Monica CA

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Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee

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New Years Cake – Vanilla Cake, Silver Jimmies, Madagascar Vanilla Bean Glaze

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Persimmon Cake – Persimmon Cake, Brandy, Candied Ginger, Sultanas, Persimmon Glaze, Maple Sugar Roasted Pecans

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Brennan’s Bananas Foster – Raised Ring, Muscavado Sugar and Dark Rum Bananas, Roasted Banana Cream

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Salty Caramel – Raised Ring, House Caramel, Jacobsen Sea Salt

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Choc A Lot – Raised Chocolate Ring, Callebaut Chocolate Glaze, Cocoa Nibs

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Saigon Cinnamon Crumb – Saigon Cinnamon Cake Doughnut, Sweet Glaze, Cinnamon Crumble

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Country Ham & Eggs – Raised Doughnut, Poached Egg, Benton’s Ham, House Made Basil Hollandaise

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Buttermilk Drop – Buttermilk and Nutmeg, Sweet Glaze

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Fortuitously “discovered” during a trip to Costa Mesa years prior, the inconvenience of driving to the area really the only reason every visit to Southern California has not returned to Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee for another handcrafted treat, it was with great anticipation that the GPS was programed to Santa Monica en route to El Segundo, the first expansion of the artisan purveyor of fried rings only a few minutes out of the way.

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Far more modern than the original Stipmall storefront, an airy space at 631 Wilshire Boulevard mere seconds from the Pacific, Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee II takes a similar approach to doughnuts as its older brother and with bakers clearly visible cracking eggs, rolling dough, and hand forming each of a dozen options the only “problem” is deciding where to draw the line as the ever-changing lineup is boundless in temptation.

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Assuredly not you Grandpa’s place for pastry, doughnuts all hovering around $3 with some priced north of $5, servers at Sidecar are mostly of the friendly 20-something beach bunny variety but exceedingly pleasant and efficient despite “everything is yummy” answers regarding favorites…though in reality that answer did prove appropriate.

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Eventually proving incapable of limiting the order to a half-dozen, a total of six rings, one filled, and a tangy little Buttermilk Drop tallying $26, it was at an outside hightop in front of Mendocino Farms that treats were unboxed and indulged in, four still warm-to-touch including the lightly sweetened yeast pocket containing a runny free range egg, ham and pleasant notes of basil.

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Impressed by the steady stream of traffic, a rare sight at 7:15 on a Sunday morning anywhere around LA, bites were next placed in the airy circle glistening with housemade Caramel and flakes of Sea Salt before turning to the “signature” chocolate-on-chocolate-on-chocolate equally light despite its bittersweet decadence, a Bananas Foster tribute to it’s New Orleans origin featuring a similar yeastiness beneath a boozy bounty of seared fruit and cream.

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Turning attention to cake, admittedly my doughnut of choice, one would be hard pressed to name a better take on the crunchy cinnamon classic than this aromatic version topped in glaze plus adherent streusel, the toothsome January special celebrating 2016 dialed up by metallic sheen and sprinkles for texture while the Persimmon base studded with Golden Raisins and candied nuts was so elegant it could have been served with cheese and wine.

www.sidecardoughnuts.com

Sidecar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoDSC08247

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Los Angeles, Pork, Santa Monica, Sidecar Doughnuts, Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee, Vacation

Quenelle, Burbank CA

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Quenelle

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Samples – Cookie Butter Oreo, Banana Split, Concord Grape, Vanilla Mascarpone, Black Sesame

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Snickerdoodle / Oatmeal Cherry Cookie

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Blueberry Pie and Strawberry Shortcake

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Unable to abide by a single dessert at Scratch Bar and having already eyeballed Quenelle on the way out of Burbank earlier that day it was just moments before 9pm that I entered the small parlor on West Magnolia Boulevard, the service from a young woman smiling and extremely helpful while flavors offered ranged from typical to almost absurd.

Owned and operated by John Park, a man whose frozen confections had generated more than a little buzz at the short-lived XIV as well as Lukshon, Quenelle focuses on small-batch craftwork and offering both scoops as well as popsicles plus a small number of pastries there is little doubt that a lot of thought goes into the offerings, a varying menu occasionally leaving patrons lamenting lost favorites while something new prepares to take its place.

Small in storefront, though the kitchen in back seems to extend far further than one would guess, it was with a small tasting of daily spoonfuls that I acclimated to Park’s creamy base and slowly melting dairy-free sorbets, the pickle passed over for fear of blowing my palate while truly delicious bites were enjoyed of both mild Vanilla Mascarpone and juicy Concord Grape.

Expectedly a bit picked over considering the time of night, it was eventually with a double-scoop cone plus two cookies that modest tab was settled, the dessert inspired duo each offering a spot-on representation of their namesake with chunks of fruit aplenty, the baked rounds no less impressive as crisp rim gave way to soft center, the Snickerdoodle dancing with Cinnamon while the Oatmeal was moist and toothsome around pockets of brown sugar and dried cherries.

https://www.facebook.com/quenellespoon

Quenelle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Burbank, California, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Los Angeles, Quenelle, Vacation

Scratch Bar & Kitchen, Encino CA

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Scratch Bar

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Hibiscus Passionfruit Tea

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Eat – Shoot – Scoop – (Green Mussel – Serrano Ham – Pale Sake – Uni Mousse)

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Grilled Cheese – Caviar – Chive (Housemade Brioche – Housemade Butter – Housemade Cheddar)

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White Prawns – Cabbage – Pistachio (Seared Raw Prawn – Smoked White Onion – Chermoula Sauce)

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Pork Belly – Oyster – Chamomile (Flowers – Emulsion)

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Oysters – Garlic – Squid Roe (Misty Point – Old Bay Butter)

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Scallops – Apple – Jalapeno (Watermelon Radish – Apple Skin)

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Escolar – Sunchokes – Sweetbreads (Amaranth – Dehydrated Vegetables – Beurre Blanc)

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Camembert – Cashew Curry – Veggies (Fresh Arugula – Pistachio)

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Beef Tartare – Egg Yolk – Toast (***** Salmon Tartare Alternate Not Pictured *****)

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Chorizo – Mushrooms – Salmon Roe (Housemade Chorizo – Cremini – Pistachio)
***** Salmon Collar Alternative Not Pictured *****

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Squash – Tomato – Spinach (White Onions – Pecans – Yellow Bell Pepper Mustard)

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Branzino – Carrot – Arugula (Shallot Brown Butter Pan Sauce – Onion)

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Salmon – Greek Yogurt – Vegetables (Roe – Brioche – Dehydrated and Fried Broccoli – Carrot Frond)

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Foie Gras – Sea Urchin – Red Caviar (Brioche Crisps – Lemon Vinaigrette)

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***** Carrots – Old Bay – Pistachio (Soubise Red Onion – Bayaioli) *****

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Steak – Potatoes – Mushrooms (Hangar – Braised Kale – Demiglace)

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***** Sea Urchin – Pickled Vegetables – Sushi Rice *****

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Homemade Cheeses and Charcuterie (Filleto – Pork Belly – Russian Style Salo – Camembert – Triple Cream – Ash Rind Triple Cream)

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Cookies – Ice Cream – Caramel (Chocolate Chip – Smoked Vanilla)

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Reopened in Encino after one of the strangest restaurant stories of 2015 there was no doubt that Phillip Frankland Lee’s Scratch Bar would receive a primetime spot on my next visit to Los Angeles and although the young Chef himself was uncharacteristically absent during the course of a three hour meal the results were almost universally impressive, a “chefs as servers” concept the only real cause for concern.

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At this point inhabiting an unlabeled space on the second story of a outdoor shopping center, the cozy confines consisting of little more than a few tall tables and a Chef’s counter overlooking glowing embers, burners, and a total team of around ten it was with five friends that I sat just minutes after the restaurant’s 5:00pm opening and listening to a bearded Chef describe the a la carte vs “Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced” tastings one could not help but opine for the later, a few dietary discretions at the end of the table yielding a total of 21-courses including alternates while minor ingredient adjustments were accommodated for other plates.

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Wowed by The Gadarene Swine, Lee’s modern vegetarian bungalow in Studio City, and finding a similar degree of creativity at play in a restaurant unwilling to settle for anything less than “Scratch made,” it was with a clever three component shot that the meal got started, the process as interesting as the diversity of flavors with the palate immediately primed for a gooey grilled cheese sandwich topped with briny salmon caviar – an ingredient we’d all soon learn to love.

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Starting out light, some plates plated individually while others were delivered per duo, lightly seared prawns next shined amidst a kiss of smoke and spicy Chermoula, the followup of pork belly unfortunately not as fatty as one might have expected while the oyster atop paled in comparison to the briny giant offered up on the half-shell with bold aromatics of old bay and garlic butter.

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Scaling back a bit with scallop sashimi resting beneath flavors bitter, spicy and sweet it was with another raw fish preparation that the meal stretched forward, the delicate Butterfish finding new light atop nuggets of crisp offal as creamy sunchokes provided an earthy backdrop to crisp vegetables and a dusting of amaranth.

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Global in its influences, a deep clay bow that appeared to be little more than a simple salad actually one of the meal’s best plates as housemade cheese melded with a curry of mixed nuts and vegetables one only wishes the popping egg atop raw beef would have been nearly as flavorful, the meat underseasoned with silly crisps not nearly plentiful enough to use for scooping, the grilled chorizo to follow a far more impacting flavor atop mushrooms, though salmon eggs both here and on the alternate fish dishes seemed a bit ‘forced,’ especially with several more plates featuring the ingredient to come.

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Temporarily standing up to check out the curing room and cheeses as a wide woman knocked my oft-empty water glass over as a result of tables spaced too close it was on return that the menu revved into high gear, a vegetarian friendly bowl of charred squash showing as well as anything at The Gadarene Swine while a crispy skinned filet of Branzino served at the center of a sunburst was elegantly accented by aromatic onions and brown butter pan sauce.

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Impressed by salmon served soft with yogurt and dehydrated florets of broccoli, though others thought far less of the texture and use of more roe, a followup of foie gras and uni was only offered after a reminder to the kitchen that it was promised as part of the meal and although not particularly plentiful in terms of either ingredient the flavor was quite pleasant, an alternate of roast carrots with Bayleaf Aoili actually proving even more impressive…even without adding *more* caviar.

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Rounding out the savories with a relatively straightforward Steak and Mushrooms dish for the boys while ladies received a warm cylinder of rice topped in pickled vegetables plus several tongues of urchin it was next to a board of housemade cheeses and charcuterie that each of us were treated, both Triple Creams quite literally eating like butter while the spicy Filleto offered the best bite of cured meat, others seemingly in need of a little more time aging.

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Served only one dessert, the quickly melting ice cream subtly imbued with smoke that offset salty caramel, it was with tax and tip already added that the bill was split by six, the price more than fair for a meal so wide-reaching, and a bargain that seems almost destined to disappear as the menu and service really get dialed-in considering the crowd waiting for tables as we exited, Chef Lee’s star deservedly on the rise.

http://www.scratchbarla.com/

Scratch Bar & Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in California, Dessert, Encino, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Los Angeles, Pork, Scratch Bar, Scratch Bar & Kitchen, Scratch Bar and Kitchen, Sweetbreads, Tasting Menu, Vacation

Pitchoun Bakery, Los Angeles CA

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Pitchoun

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Bread Pudding

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Rice Pudding

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Almond Croissant

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Religeuse

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Canele

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Said by some to be the *best* French Bakery in Greater Los Angeles, or at the very least the best in DTLA, it was just before 4pm that a visit was made to Pitchoun on South Olive Street, the results not only failing to confirm such exultation but actually failing to show almost any sign of craftsmanship or competency, tough the setting and staff were quite nice.

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Labeled as ‘Artisan,’ a word that seems to get thrown around far too often in an era where even McDonald’s has used it once or twice, Pitchoun occupies a sizable footprint decorated in reclaimed wood, brick and wine bottles, the open kitchen allowing patrons to watch the staff at work while a menu of soups and sandwiches hangs above glass cases containing sweet as well as savory breads.

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Having already dined well that day and with dinner plans yet to come it was after significant perusal of the options that a couple questions were directed to a young woman with a French accent, the eventual five part order ringing in at $18.00 after tax and a modest tip.

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Sitting down at a table to unwrap the items, careful packing giving me hope of good things to come, it was immediately on extracting a spongy canele which I’ll admit did not even look good in the case that warning shots were fired, the texture not even forgivable when accounting for my late hour of arrival with a flavor that was equally unpleasant, the blandness carrying over to a slab of bread pudding that warranted just one bite before being deposited in the trash.

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At this point rather certain that a place incapable of making bread pudding would similarly fail to generate a praiseworthy croissant it was with utter horror that my index finger actually poked * through * the bottom when extracting it from the bag, the Frangipane having thoroughly soaked through and thus rendering the base inedible while the top at least preserved a small degree of shatter.

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Spotting a small jar of rice pudding before settling the tab, bites here at least sweet though the base had started to congeal despite being purchased two days before the designated “expiration date” on bottom, it was finally to the Religeuse that I turned for any sign of redemption, the choux thankfully still holding up to the custard though the exterior rings of cream were not at all light, but rather like buttercream frosting.

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http://pitchounbakery.com/

Pitchoun Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Pudding, California, Croissant, Dessert, Food, Los Angeles, Pitchoun, Pitchoun Bakery, Vacation

Jon and Vinny’s, Los Angeles CA

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Jon & Vinny’s

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Raspberry Bombolini

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Warm Banana Bread with Salted Butter

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Rosemary Pinenut Tart with Heavy Cream and Custard

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Honey Date Scone with Salted Butter

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Nutella Toast – Pain de Mie, Nutella, Olive Oil, Sea Salt

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Crispy Potato, Parmesan, Black Pepper

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Olive Oil Fried Eggs, Grilled Tuscan Kale, Crispy Potatoes, ‘Nduja, Preserved Meyer Lemon

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BLT: Grilled Gjusta Cuiabatta, Bacon, Fried Egg, Tomato, Arugula, Aioli

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Buttermilk Pancakes, Berries, Salted Butter, Maple Syrup

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Anson Mills Polenta, Olive Oil, Parmesan, Fried Egg

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LA Woman – Local Burrata, Tomato, Basil, Olive Oil, Sea Salt

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49th Parallel Espresso Soaked Tiramisu

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Chocolate Budino, Caramel, Olive Oil, Sea Salt

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Sal’s Cannoli

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Maple Apple Bread Pudding with Soft Maple Cream

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Missed out on during a September trip to the City of Angels when a fire behind the oven temporarily shut the small shop on Fairfax down, it was almost a similar fate that befell a visit to Jon & Vinny’s during a more recent trip westward thanks to a fully-booked Friday evening, last-minute scrambles rescheduling a party of four for a brunch rolling into lunch that once again showed the guys behind Animal and Son of a Gun striking paydirt – not one item out of fifteen less than delicious though auto-grat service charges once again seemed to bring staff’s motivation to exert additional effort down.

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At this point sort of a known entity, the narrowness of the space and loud music from days gone expected and actually conducive to happy smiles and spontaneous bouts of sing-along, Jon & Vinny’s sees the reigning kings of Los Angeles ‘cool kid’ dining take on an Italian Pizzeria concept and offering breakfast from 8:00-11:30am daily before transitioning to a lunch/dinner menu served continuously till closing the concepts of locally sourced, top-tier ingredients and in-house baking are proudly promoted both on the menu and by staff, the pastry case itself a reason to visit even in a city where modern upscale bakeries are not for lack.

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Seated in a slick wooden booth, the expandable tables along the wall paralleling a Chef’s Counter and open kitchen allowing larger parties when need be, it was just past 10:15am when the full party was seated and perusing both menus before an order was placed it was only after a perplexing delay that coffee was served along with four pastries, the $1 per refill after one upcharge a bit offputting considering the fact that it was drip with a $5 up-front price.

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Not a breakfast for the thrifty, though certainly not pushing the upper edge in a city with occasionally laughable cost:quality ratios, it was with four pastries from the glass plus one toasty slice of Gjusta Brioche slathered with Nutella, Olive Oil and flakes of Salt that the meal got underway and whether one starts with a light pocket stuffed with Raspberry Jam or the dense Banana Loaf there really is no ‘wrong’ choice, the scone brought to life by butter as good as most found in Europe while the Tart eats like an Italian ode to Gateau Basque with aromatics offered by Rosemary sandwiched by Custard and Whipped Cream.

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Moving on to the proper breakfast menu, four “entrees” and a side of crispy smashed potatoes rife with pepper and parm selected, Jon & Vinny’s offers options intended to please fans of both sweet as well as savory and although items like a BLT that entirely eschews “L” or Olive Oil Fried Eggs may not seem all that ‘exciting’ the quality of the ingredients and care in preparation more than make up for such simplicity, the spicy ‘nduja particularly memorable as were the buttery bowl of polenta heavily shaved with Parmesan and light-as-a-feather yeast-leavened Pancakes.

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Saving room for the lunch menu, though service delays would inevitably prevent ordering meatballs, chicken, or pasta it was after nearly thirty-five minutes that one of Jon & Vinny’s signature pies would emerge from the oven and featuring just the right amount of blister amidst a crust that was cracker thin the “LA Woman” proved as perfect as all the rumors would have one believe, the burrata quite literally the texture of butter while tomatoes were bright with acid complimented only by flakes of sea salt and olive oil, whole leaf basil adding its characteristic herbal tinge.

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Requesting desserts to be expedited, a hockey game at Staples beginning at 1:00, it was with another quartet that the meal would end and although the budino was a relatively straight forward chocolate pudding both the unthinkably light Tiramisu and Maple Soaked Brioche with roasted apples were nothing short of reference standard, a similar compliment paid to a filled-to-order cannoli with a shell so robust that it actually proved difficult to crack without making a mess, the chocolate chip studded filling hovering somewhere between mascarpone and ricotta in texture without being overly sweet.

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http://www.jonandvinnys.com/

Jon and Vinny's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, California, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Jon & Vinny's, Jon and Vinny's, Los Angeles, Pancakes, Pizza, Pork, Tiramisu, Vacation