Salt & Straw, Venice CA

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Salt & Straw

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Samples – Avocado & Strawberry Sherbet, Roasted Strawberry & Toasted White Chocolate, Stumptown Coffee & Compartes Love Nuts

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Salted Caramel Cupcake – “salty and sweet, packed full of soggy, crumbly, mushed up cupcake bottoms and handfuls of perfectly-cut-cubes of indulgently frosted cupcake tops” / Pots of Gold & Rainbows – “After meticulously sorting hundreds of pounds of lucky marshmallow “charms” from their less lucky whole grain counterparts, we steep the cereal in cream overnight to get that yummy cereal base. Then, we stir the mallows back in so they can bask in the greatness that is this ice cream!” / Coconut with Petunia’s Salted Caramel Bars – “Creamy coconut ice cream is studded with chunks of Petunia’s salted caramel bars, swirled with streaks of hand-burned caramel and dotted with house-made chocolate ganache”

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Continuing a “PDX via LAX” walk down Abbot-Kinney, the line at Blue Star Donuts now rivaling that at Gjelina, it was for March’s selection of throwback flavors that I stood in the fifteen-minute line at Salt & Straw Ice Cream, So. Cal’s second location continuing to yield nothing but industry leading results.

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Continuing to offer longterm favorites, the menu slightly different from the Pacific Northwest entirely as a result of local sourcing and unique partnerships, those visiting either Los Angeles storefront are encouraged to investigate options featuring Strawberries and although the Avocado based sorbet surely offered temptation the creativity of specials was simply too strong to be resisted, a three-scoop selection soon nestled in a freshly baked waffle cone.

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Cheerful and trendy, scoop-slingers surprisingly well informed while offering sample after sample to the slowly moving line, it should seem obvious that Salt & Straw puts a lot of thought into each batch created given the lengthy descriptions of not just the included ingredients but their purveyors and inspirations, first tastes of “Pots of Gold & Rainbows” more smile-inducing than many any as the laborious process of cereal sorting yields a flavor reminiscent of Saturday Morning Cartoons in the 80s.

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Told by a friend that “Salted Caramel Cupcake” should not be missed, the owner’s fondness for soggy birthday cake in pools of ice cream an inspiration for the flavor, suffice it to say that fans of Sprinkles Sundaes are sure to be impressed by this mashed-up iteration, those with dietary restrictions given a tasty bite of their own as silky Coconut Milk finds willing dance partners with salted caramel and chocolate chunks in “Coconut with Petunia’s Salted Caramel Bars.”

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www.saltandstraw.com

Posted in California, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Los Angeles, Salt & Straw, Salt and Straw, Vacation, Venice

The Rose Cafe Restaurant, Venice CA

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The Rose Café Restaurant

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Coffe

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Pistachio Croissant – raisins / Almond Croissant / Turkey and Cheese Croissant – mustard / Blueberry Kouign Amann / Kouign Amann / Pistachio and Candied Lemon Donut / Milk Jam Beignet with Cocoa Nibs

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Gioia Burrata – golden grapefruit, smoked prosciutto, olive bread crouton, mint

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Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Biscuits – country gravy

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Beet Hummus – naan, crispy chickpeas, sumac, feta, mint, pickled chilies

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Roasted Carrots – salsa papanteca, fresno chiles

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French Toast – whipped creme fraiche, maple syrup

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Spaghetti- – tomato sugo, smoked mozzarella, herbs, parmesan

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Killer Bee Pizza – mozzarella, pickled chilies, honey, tomato, parmesan, pepperoni

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Buttermilk Pancakes – blueberry star anise marmalade, strauss butter

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Beet Sugar Red Velvet Cake – cream cheese, cocoa nibs

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Brioche Bread Pudding – chocolate chunks, strauss butter

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Mixed Berry Tart – almond paste, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries

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Originally opened to feed the people of Venice in 1979, and doing a fine job of just that until early 2015, it was under new direction of former Superba Snack Bar Chef Jason Neroni that a substantial three hour brunch was enjoyed with four friends on Saturday morning, the expansive all-day space showing Neroni to have more than just refreshed the restaurant but also to have grown his ideas by several degrees.

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For years a champion of California cuisine rooted in ideas meant to serve the community and tourists from far and wide, the refreshed Rose Café features the same open airiness of the first Food + Bread and divided into sections including bakeshop, barista bar, open kitchen and covered patio the feel is modern yet fitting while the soundtrack ranges Beastie Boys to Pearl Jam at a volume common to Los Angeles’ dining trends.

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Admittedly a bit stretched in service, the restaurant at capacity by ten o’clock, it was at a table across from the bakery that our party was sat on entry and having laughed off the $8 valet charge in favor of free street parking that money was put to good use with eighteen items spread over four courses.

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In many ways taking notes from Superba, while Gjustsa’s popularity also seems referenced by the popular pastry counter up front, it was with two wooden boards of baked goods that our meal duly started and although a bit hit n’ miss as a result of occasionally getting *too* fancy, the Milk Jam Beignet and Blueberry Kouign Amann each warrant mention largely due to the quality of their respective fillings.

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Eating with a few that harbor dietary restrictions, but not really “avoiding” anything except a pricy Carbonara, first courses from the kitchen were selected to incorporate “Bites, Snacks, Apps” plus “Farmer’s Market” sections and beginning with creamy local Burrata helping to meld smoked pork to citrus the Beet Hummus proved even better as warm Naan provides a pillowy delivery device for the earthy spread punched up with crispy chickpeas, sumac, pickled peppers and feta.

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Impressed by the sizable portion of Fried Chicken and Biscuits, equally so by carrots roasted until wrinkly and sweet, course two could best be described as “Italian Breakfast,” as thick flapjacks were delivered too late to be properly enjoyed while the French Toast fell far short of the high standard set by Superba, Canele or others, the housemade Spaghetti garnering favorable comparisons to Scarpetta or Union thanks to the Tomato Sugo while “Killer Bee” Pizza was blistered, bold and balanced with pepperoni, pickled chilies and honey.

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Noting a transition from Breakfast Pastry to dessert at eleven am, six new items joining the fray, there another $20 was invested on a to-go order packaged carefully after photographing, the Bread Pudding allowed to warm in the car with dark chocolate chunks gently melting while neither the all-natural Red Velvet Cake nor the crusted tart lasted long, the former rich with cocoa and far less sweet than others while the later literally melted into pools of creamy almond notes around bursting berries.

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http://rosecafevenice.com/

Rose Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, California, Coffee, Croissant, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Italian, Los Angeles, Pancakes, Pizza, Pork, Rose Cafe, The Rose, The Rose Cafe, The Rose Cafe Restaurant, Vacation, Venice

Blue Star Donuts, Venice CA

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Blue Star Donuts

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Buttermilk Old Fashioned

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Orange Olive Oil

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Marionberry Black Pepper Jam with Peanut Butter Powder

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Contreau Crème Brulee

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Hard Apple Cider Fritter

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Seemingly a logical extension of the brand following a successful Tokyo debut after starting strong in Portland, Blue Star Donuts has nonetheless seen a mixed response since opening its doors in trendy Venice, and although locally-born Sidecar may indeed offer the sort of competition none in the Pacific Northwest have yet provided there is little doubt that creativity and quality remain several steps above the vast majority, prices notwithstanding.

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Proudly pronouncing it’s small-batch ethos, the 18-hour leavening of organic flour, hormone-free milk plus cage-free eggs just the start, visitors to Blue Star are greeted by several signatures plus an equal number of daily creations and ranging from $3.25 to $4.50 the only real question is where to cut-short an order…and whether the playlist will feature Alice in Chains or Soundgarden.

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Having already investigated the PDX location four times in eight days mere weeks after they opened their doors, the Venice visit was largely focused on new options created over the two-years intervening and starting off with a simple old-fashioned the feeling was “love at first sight” all over again as light tangy notes peaked forth from melted butter and Brioche all beneath a smooth sugar glaze.

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Arriving early, several fried treats still warm as bakers visibly mixed, folded and hand formed rings in back, tastes two and three took a look at citrus and using the small pipette to infuse liquor to crème beneath a crunchy sugar topping the flavor of “Contreau Crème Brulee” outperformed any previous custard donut by several degrees, the Orange Olive Oil not far behind as it ate like a grown up version of my childhood favorite Orange Hostess Cupcake with Olive Oil powder providing a smooth and mild finish.

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Uncertain regarding richness of the last two, *Hard* Apple Cider and Marionberry-Black Pepper Jam each offering naturally-rooted creativity without going over the top with gimmicky stuff, fans of the West-Coast style of crispy fritter are likely to be impressed by both texture as well as the robust yeast flavor of the former while the jam-filled pocket was a “game-changing” sort of pastry that tasted more like a plated restaurant dessert than something from a seatless storefront, light spiciness licking the palate amidst the richness of peanut butter and jelly.

www.bluestardonuts.com

Blue Star Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Blue Star Donut, Blue Star Donuts, Breakfast, Califonia, Dessert, Food, Los Angeles, Vacation, Venice

Knead & Co. Pasta Bar and Market, Los Angeles CA

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Knead & Co. Pasta Bar and Market

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Lamb Sugo on Papardelle, Peas, Mint, Crème Fraiche

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Spicy Fennel Sausage on Spelt Cavatelli, Koda Farms Chick Peas, Rapini

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Animal Style Cannoli

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Chocolate Chip Cookie

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Recently opened in the Grand Central Market, Pasadena Chef Bruce Kalman bringing his passion for rustic Italian Cooking to the DTLA dining scene, Knead & Co has been met with mixed reviews largely as a result of location, packaging and presentation for its pricepoint, though negative comments about the food itself are rare to be found.

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Located behind a long wall-side counter and kitchen, Kalman himself actually promoting a new Executive Chef at Union so that he can focus on making Knead excel from the start, the idea of a “Pasta Bar and Market” is really not all that different from many indoor markets where housemade noodles and sauces are sold, but taking the idea to a new level by not only making the items on site, but also selling cooked-to-order meals the scene at Knead is at once controlled and frenetic, a limited bar area allowing diners to watch the process while tables nearby provide shared seating with those eating Salads, Pastrami, Barbecue and Tacos.

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Completely impressed by a lone visit to Union, one of my best meals in 2015 despite internationally seeing more than fifty Michelin Stars, Knead & Co sees Kalman and team in their comfort zone as creators, purveyors, teachers and servers, an Easter special of Lamb Sugo joining nearly dozen hand crafted pastas typically found amongst the daily offering while panini, starters, salads and breakfast all take a similar hand crafted and made-to-order approach.

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Obviously not looking for Union’s ambiance, biodegradable take-out packaging replacing plates while plasticware serves for steel, pricing at Knead trends high for a “Market” setting, but taking into account the likes of Eggslut and Belcampo, the $50 exchanged for two pastas plus two desserts and bread should not really seem all that unfair.

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Citing top quality purveyors for everything from organic grains to meats, it was (unfortunately) as a solo that Knead was visited on late Saturday afternoon and with Bruce present as a teacher at both the hand-cranked pasta station throughout the majority of my visit it was at the Chef’s suggestion that first bites were taken of curly Spelt Cavatelli with crumbled housemade Fennel Sausage and a vegetal broth of spices, chickpeas and papini, the dish eating as much like a soup as it did a pasta and as rustic as it was satisfying.

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Topping twenty-dollars for the special, a price not so different from Colorado where the lamb is raised, Kalman boldly opted to pair thick sugo with crème Fraiche atop fresh ribbons of Papardelle along with more traditional condiments like mint and peas, the flavors an across-the-bow shot of flavor that nonetheless ate lighter than most would have suspected, though less so when all the remaining sauce was soaked up with a soft roll.

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Limited to just three sweets, the filled-on-order Cannoli no-different than that at Jon & Vinny’s with an “Animal Style” ode speaking to the narrow yet immensely crunchy shell around sweet cheese, a Chocolate Chip cookie may not seem like something worth ordering from an “Italian” restaurant, yet with a soft center and immense chunks of dark chocolate the execution was as good as would be expected and more befitting the “Bar and Market” concept than was the daily market tart that I now regret not ordering.

www.kneadpasta.com

Knead & Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, California, Dessert, Food, Italian, Knead, Knead & Co., Knead & Co. Pasta Bar and Market, Los Angeles, Pork, Vacation

Musso & Frank Grill, Los Angeles CA

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Musso & Frank Grill

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Sourdough Bread

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Spumoni Slice

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Brioche Bread Pudding with Blueberries and Vanilla Ice Cream

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Musso & Frank Strawberry Torten

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Doing the bulk of the day’s eating before noon, mid-day reserved for rest before a concert at Hollywood Bowl, friends had frequently half-joked that a visit to Musso & Frank Grill was an ‘essential’ Los Angeles experience, words that a dinner-turned-“just desserts” largely proved, at least historically, to be true.

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Laid out much like San Francisco’s Tadich Grill, the focus at Musso & Frank more steak and pasta than the North Bay’s home of Cioppino and Sand Dabs, those entering the 1919 restaurant at 6667 Hollywood Blvd. will immediately appreciate the old-school nature of low bar seating as high-backed booths form enclaves to the left of the doors, and persistently jammed during peak hours all the way to a second room unseen from the entrance only one option for seating is offered without reservations, the far end of the bar where swinging doors offer an occasional glimpse of the kitchen.

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Cliché professional in service, the staff proper but almost intentionally stiff in a 50s sort of way, a red-vested middle-aged man quickly dropped a knob of sourdough plus butter soon after I was seated, and with a menu already present for perusal I quickly debated the “Original Fettuccini Alfredo” as well as Chicken a la King before deciding such things were unlikely to offer any insight beyond the typical, a few steak specials ignored much like my request for Flannel Cakes (that, unbeknownst to me, apparently cease to be served at 3pm) with the end result a request of three desserts, served in courses over the next 45 minutes.

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Humorously priced with regard to savories, though chock-full of tourists undoubtedly generating more than enough revenue to offset the costs of such an enormous space on the Walk of Fame, it was after a short delay listening to upsells of ‘famous cocktails’ to a couple at my right that course one arrived and although at first too hard to eat the Spumoni Cake quickly warmed to spoonability, the layers of ice cream not really different from many classics seen elsewhere, though the thick ribbon of ganache atop a graham cracker crust admittedly did add an pleasant textural contrast.

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Describing the difference between Diplomat Pudding and Bread Pudding simply as “one is cold, the other is hot” it was not particularly amusing when the latter arrived only modestly warmer than room temperature with texture not dissimilar to a wet sponge and Vanilla Ice Cream no creamier than Thrifty, a few bites taken before the rest was rejected and all-in-all a good choice providing both time and capacity to enjoy the cream-meets-crunch juxtaposition of Musso & Frank’s famous Strawberry Torten.

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www.mussoandfrank.com

Musso & Frank Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, California, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Los Angeles, Musso & Frank Grill, Musso and Frank Grill, Vacation

Kali, Los Angeles CA

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Kali

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Strawberry Shrub

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Chicken Salad – Baby Kale / Almonds / Smoked Eggs / Blue Cheese

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Charred Avocado – Shaved Vegetables / Pistachio / Ash / Kale

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Asparagus Tips – Duck Egg / Preserved Lemon / Cracklin’

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Rosemary Brioche with Housemade Butter

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Prawn Chowder – Potato / Chantilly Cream

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Wheat Berry “Risotto” – Black Garlic / Toasted Cheese

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Pork Loin – Preserved Lemon / Celery / Salsify / Ash

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Duck Breast – Carrots / Honey / Lavender

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Strawberries – Crème Fraiche / Shortbread / Geranium

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Meringue Gelato – Candied Yolk Shavings

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Told independently by three local gourmands that Kevin Meehan’s Kali was veritable ‘must’ considering plans that were intended to stay in the area for a concert later that night, it was with a local Chef and friend that I sat down for lunch at the chic space at 5722 Melrose Avenue on Friday afternoon, the pop-up turned brick-and-mortar offering up a four-course feast featuring Southern California’s bounty presented at its very best.

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Only recently opened for lunch, the menu not especially different from dinner – though perhaps better suited to business lunches for the likes of John Legend who ordered a salad at a table to my right – Meehan is known to many for his fondness of simple yet elegant plates of seasonal local produce and although prices trend higher than some may consider ideal the cost of superior ingredients is undoubtedly justified by the flavors sent forth from the kitchen as flavors seem to explode from each bite.

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Recently a new father of twins, the Chef’s wife and Mother-in-Law stopping by for lunch with the room less than one quarter-full, dining began with a housemade strawberry shrub served by the beverage director formerly from Providence and launching quickly into three sizable piles of fresh produce a smile quickly crossed my lips, the loaded “chicken salad” still substantially lighter than most thanks to a lack of mayonnaise while the signature “charred avocado” featured a whole fruit sliced lengthwise around curls of kale, pistachio and shaved carrots plus radishes all slicked with fruity olive oil.

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Given a chance to taste the dinner-only Asparagus tips, a chilled salad with egg yolk married to citrus with crispy duck skins lending texture plus a smack of salt, second courses featured two hot bowls best enjoyed with a spoon, and while the “Risotto” of Wheat Berries ate a touch too “stew-like” for Spring with heavy whiffs of Black Garlic the piping hot Prawn Chowder ate light and frothy due to the use of whipped cream Chantilly as a boiled crustacean shells provided a briny yet balanced base to the stock.

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Offering Chicken at lunch but Duck at dinner it was with a simple request that the rich strips of ruby red breast were prepared by Meehan at a slightly higher cost, and although some may like to pretend that sous-vide is some sort of ‘hack’ or ‘gimmick’ there is little doubt that in the right hands it can be downright brilliant, as was the case when fowl was served lacquered with honey atop carrots beneath a crown of Lavender, similar sentiments applicable to slowly-softened Salsify in ash served as an accoutrement to batons of pork.

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Told that Meringue Gelato offers far more than meets the eye a total of two desserts were ordered to round out the afternoon, and as much as it may seem unbelievable, the seemingly simple frozen quenelle topped tableside with sugar encrusted yolk was indeed every bit as delicious as its billing, the seasonal Strawberry tart certainly not a distant runner up as the farmer’s market was again presented at the peak of freshness atop Shortbread with a floral notes of Geranium finding their foil in tangy creme fraiche.

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www.kalirestaurant.com

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

Posted in Bread Basket, California, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Kali, Los Angeles, Pork, Vacation

La Monarca, Los Angeles CA

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La Monarca

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Chocolate Butter Cookie, Walnut Butter Cookie, Mexican Wedding Cookie, Polvoron

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Capirotada Bread Pudding – Coconut, Agave, Golden Raisins

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Taco de Crema

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Pan de Elote

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Cuernito de Cajeta

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Dulce de Leche Cake

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Tres Leches Cake

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Expanding from one store to several through a strategy that appears to focus on diverse communities where diners are less likely to enter a traditional Panaderia, La Monarca has been described by purists as “Mexican Panera,” and although the space undoubtedly does trend commercial in many ways with standardized recipes as well as menus the feel is somehow a bit less ‘contrived’ than similar eateries while the staff is just as gracious and eager to please.

Admittedly underwhelmed by several Mexican sweets, cornmeal and bleached flour bases often lacking the textural elegance of European pastry, or even “American” baked goods, La Monarca utilizes Industrial ovens in most of its craftsmanship while producing cakes at one central location, the staff of three left to the duties of customer service such as answering questions and constructing all-day sandwiches, many of which seem quite popular as a grab n’ go breakfast or lunch bites.

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Personally sticking to baked goods, ten options including four 50-cent cookies tallying just twenty bucks, it was at one of two counter seats that I laid out my bounty while browsing in-house Wi-Fi and with free parking an added benefit first bites of Bread Pudding were unexpectedly shocking, the base neither creamy nor overly softened, but offering crispy cubes soaked in agave with toasted coconut and plump raisins instead.

Moving quickly through the cookies, each a mere bite with both butter cookies and the Mexican Wedding round reminding me of the sort of things traditionally made at Christmas time, La Monarca’s Cornbread would provide the next menu highlight as whole kernels helped to fortify the base beneath a moist and savory crumb, the laminated “Cream Taco” a bit too pasty in its filling while the caramel horn ate like a croissant with far less levity due to a core piped full of caramel that was expectedly both sticky and sweet.

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Rounding out the sampling with two slices of cake, Tres Leches a personal favorite that is well executed at La Monarca without being *too* soggy or sweet, the Dulce de Leche is unfortunately far less compelling in part due to a dry sponge like that of stale Angelfood, but also as a result of frosting that was more granulated-sugar in texture than it’s name would lead guests to think.

http://www.lamonarcabakery.com

La Monarca Bakery & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Breakfast, California, Cornbread, Croissant, Dessert, Food, La Monarca, La Monarca Sunset, Los Angeles, Vacation

Winsome, Los Angeles CA

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Winsome

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Banana Bread

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Olive Oil Cake – Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting, Cava Cava Oranges

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Duck Egg Toast – rustic toast, nduja, raclette, oregano

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Buckwheat and Semolina Pancake – yeast risen pancake, quince preserves, chestnut honey

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Brown butter chocolate chip cookie

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Buckwheat ginger oat cookie

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Bruleed caramel rye brownie

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Blondie

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Continuing the evolution of Echo Park as a hip sister community to Silverlake it was with high expectations based on a menu that seemed to be thinking outside the box that the twenty-five minute drive was made from Hollywood down Sunset, and although 75-seat Winsome is a pleasant place to sit, chat or linger over pastries the breakfast plates are – in a word – underwhelming, and at the same time exorbitantly priced.

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Located in the basement of what appears to be an apartment complex with business suites previously within, Winsome is demarcated only by small signage to those coming from the East and although free parking is generally plentiful on nearby hillsides special attention should be paid to Street Signs as rules about Street Cleaning and ‘Zones’ abound.

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Not particularly familiar with the restaurateurs involved, though Pastry Chef Leslie Mialma’s skills honed at Republique paired with Coffee from La Colombe should be enough to generate a local’s sort of crowd, it is those baked goods that greet patrons entering front doors adjacent an outdoor dining space and if one were to stop at the counter, place a to-go order and simply exit the experience would be excellent, those dining in likely leaving far poorer and still with room for something more.

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Seated by a young woman who was pleasant though largely absent as I dined, water glass frequently falling dry, it was after lengthy perusal of the pastry case that two options were requested prior to officially ordering, the Banana Bread well spiced with plenty of natural sweetness while the Olive Oil cake was toothsome and compelling with light citrus notes juxtaposing mellow cream cheese.

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Waiting perhaps twenty minutes for plates from the kitchen, beverage issues addressed by a back server while the first young lady seemed perplexed by computer issues, it was almost comical when the air-pocketed pancake arrived with a modicum of pastel fruit compote that did little to add much sweetness while the $16 “Duck Egg Toast” was no bigger than a deck of playing cards, the markup past cost easily 300% even if Winsome was using the very best imported products from Calabria and France while also incorporating in-house bread baking.

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Admittedly impressed by the spiciness of the open-faced sandwich, but still shaking my head at the portion despite many Michelin Starred meals that cost several-times as much, it was almost begrudgingly that the decision was made to invest another $15 on exiting, bringing my total breakfast cost just shy of $60, yet in all reality it was this choice that proved the meal’s saving grace as Mialma once again showed her talents with two delicious cookies plus a Peanut Butter square that was as elegant as it was rich, the same to be said of the glistening Rye brownie.

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http://eatwinsome.com/

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

Posted in Breakfast, California, Dessert, Food, Los Angeles, Pancakes, Pork, Vacation, Winsome

Avec Nous, Beverly Hills CA

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Avec Nous

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Warm Baguette and Butter

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French 75 – Gin, Absinthe, Meyer Lemon

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Charcuterie Degustation – Pork Shank Rillettes, Bresaola, Lardo, Duck Prosciutto, Housemade Mustard, Pickles, Pickled Mushrooms, Rhubarb

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Escargot – Wild Burgundy Snails, Persillade Butter, Bread Crisps

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Foie Gras A L’Orange – Grilled Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Local Orange

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Sea Scallop – Mushy Broccoli, Turmeric Chermoula, Squid Ink Crisp

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Jidori Chicken – Roasted Organic Chicken Breast, Leeks, Hen of the Wood Mushrooms, Parisian Gnocchi, Vidalia Onion

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Japanese Style Cold Brew Coffee

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Cheese Board – Clothbound Cheddar, Fourme D’Ambert, Tomme de Savoie, Crottin de Chavignol, Morbier, Marcona Almonds, Quince

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Amaretto Floating Island – Soft Meringue, Crème Anglaise, Praline

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Chocolate & Caramelia Mille-Feuille – Crisp Pastry, Chocolate Mousse

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Sugarfina Candy Cart – Champagne Bears, Peach Bellini Gummies,Single Malt Scotch Cordials, Kir Royale Cordials, Sour Watermelon Sugarlips

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Arranged through a friend in Las Vegas as a way to see Beverly Hills’ most recently renovated Hotel and Dining Room it was as a guest of the house that I sat down to dinner at Avec Nous by Olivier Quignon on Thursday night, and although service is still working out a few minor issues there is little doubt that the kitchen is ready to challenge diners with a well-culled menu of elegant entrees, desserts and small plates.

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Located in Viceroy L’Ermitage on Burton Way, a tour of the property showing no shortage of crystal, polish and posh whether one selects a $650 suite or the $9,000 Presidential space complete with a Den and Treatment Room for massage, Avec Nous lies directly off the main lobby and divided into a beautiful pewter bar alongside the more formal dining space the feel is best described as ‘Bistro by way of the Coast’ – the eighty seat space maintain its intimacy through soft lights and low ceilings without feeling ‘precious’ or pretentious at all.

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Serving both breakfast and dinner, the challenge of providing accessible cuisine to hotel guests as well as elegant plates to gourmands something Chef Quignon undoubtedly encountered during a stint in New York with Daniel Boulud, it was with deference to the Kitchen that a nine-plate degustation unfolded under the careful watch of Hotel Manager Nicholas Rimedio and aside from one overcooked scallop the cuisine was mostly remarkable while also trending far lighter than most.

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Not the sort of property to cut corners, a Mixology and Beverage Program developed through relationships rooted in Chicago under former heads of Alinea and Charlie Trotter, it was with housemade baguette slices plus a French 75 spritzed in Absinthe that the evening got started and soon receiving a small sample of handcrafted Charcuterie one can tell Chef Quignon is passionate about his craft, the Rillettes and cured Duck shining stars of the board as too were classic Wild Escargot served plump and hefty with garlic from a scalding hot slotted plate.

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Citing two celebrities in the dining room, as well as a well-known local restaurateur with serious accolades of his own, Foie Gras could have perhaps been a bit more ornate than the Avec Nous serving atop candied local oranges, though the quality of both the liver and its sear were certainly not for lack.

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Acknowledging that most of the plates sent to the table were portioned down for tasting, the $32 list for Scallops usually netting three U-10s, the first served to me unfortunately showed up during a rush that saw service team scrambling and was thus delayed, over-cooked and dropped off without description – a mere mention of the issues seeing another arrive just one course later that was virtually raw beneath the exterior and thus prepared ‘just right’ besides broccoli given an English makeover and a rice cracker with Squid Ink.

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Abruptly veering back to his French roots with a flawless Roasted Chicken Breast served with a few tender potato dumplings plus Hen of the Wood Mushrooms and Leeks atop Onions sautéed till clear but not yet caramelized, Chef Olivier smartly followed such richness with a well-sourced plate of cheeses highlighted by Crottin de Chavignol and blocks of Quince Jam.

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Having honed in on the Japanese Coldbrew system en route to the restrooms, those favoring boldness in their brew are encouraged to partake and although Avec Nous’ dessert menu is a bit small for my preferences the concept of executing a few things perfectly instead of the “buckshot” approach is embraced here just as it is with savories, the Mille-Feuille a shattering chocolate version while the meringue is made ethereal via hot steam before being floated tableside in housemade Amaretto Crème Anglaise.

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Ending several evenings with a cart of imported candies that include boozy truffles as well as watermelon “Sugar Lips” that are bound to make one pucker up, a quick trip through the kitchen shows Quignon and his team to be working in a spotless Modern environment, the Chef already hard at work planning what will thrill guests next.

www.avecnous.com

Avec Nous Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Avec Nous, Beverly Hills, Bread Basket, California, Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Foie Gras, Food, Gnocchi, Los Angeles, Pork, Tasting Menu, Vacation

The Coolhaus Shop, Los Angeles CA

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The Coolhaus Shop

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Samples – Bulletproof Coffee, Red Velvet, Pistachio Black Truffle, Cookies & Sweet Cream

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Snickerdoodle Cookie / Balsamic Fig and Mascarpone / Bananas Foster / Easter Egg Cookie

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Peanut Butter Cap ‘n Crunch Cookie / Salted Caramel / Candycap Mushroom / Ginger Molasses Cookie

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Told by pals that Coolhaus was only a few blocks from Lukshon it seemed only appropriate that I at least stop in for a look after Thursday lunch in LA…and by look I clearly mean a $10 order that included two made-to-order Ice Cream Sandwiches following several samples.

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At this point a known entity, the brand’s prominence cemented by a place on Umami Burger’s Menu plus retail availability in several Supermarkets across the States, it was merely an oversight that had precluded a previous visit to Coolhaus and with a menu that is prone to change daily the decision process is one that requires much deliberation, the Sunny So. Cal. weather always good for ice cream and thus also likely to generate a small line.

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Humorously decorated with Balloons and Cardboard Cutouts, the service equally fun with a smiley young woman slinging sample after sample and scoop after scoop, personal preferences were discussed prior to samples of signatures as well as novelties and although Brown Butter based “Bulletproof Coffee” purported no ‘health benefits’ it was exceedingly tasty, as too was the Pistachio Black Truffle that walked a tightrope between flavors savory and sweet.

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Eschewing the White Cheddar Popcorn and crushed Doritios “Netflix” in favor of things more sweet, a focus on flavors that would be complimentary without overwhelming cookies was the target of my final order and disassembling sandwiches after pictures the baked goods surprisingly showed minimal signs of sogginess, the Cinnamon Snickerdoodle and Ginger Molasses both awash in spices while the Pastel Sugar Cookie and Peanut Butter Cap ‘n Crunch were more crispy than might be expected, though perhaps intentional given their typical Coolhaus usage.

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Moving onto the Ice Cream, most sampled in store before making a choice, the Coolhaus Ice Cream base comes across rich and thick with an obvious attention to detail in terms of freezing as well as storage, while flavors are all true to their constituents, the Salted Caramel’s sweet ribbons playing well next to the funky Candycap Mushroom originally seen at Salt & Straw in Portland while aged Balsamic enlivened chopped figs just as it always does beside a scoop nearly spot-on to the tableside flambé made famous by NOLA’s Brennan’s.

http://eatcoolhaus.com/

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

Posted in California, Coffee, Coolhaus, Culver City, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Los Angeles, The Coolhaus Shop, Vacation

Lukshon, Los Angeles CA

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Lukshon

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What the pho? – brisket dumpling, pho consommé, traditional garnishes, smoked sriracha

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Kurobuta pork ribs – spicy chicory coffee bbq sauce

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Steak bao – chinese black beans, asian pear, kohlrabi, kimchi vinaigrette

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Larb sliders – peanut bun, larb seasoning, green cabbage slaw, green fire aioli, taro chips, tamarind pickled carrots

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Sichuan dumplings – kurobuta pork, spicy ma-la vinaigrette, sesame, peanuts

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Lobster roll “banh mi” – pig ear terrine, spicy green papaya slaw

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Chicken rending – malay spices, red chile lemongrass rempah, coconut cream, sticky rice cakes

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Crispy rice cakes – shiitake mushrooms, yu choy, chinese black vinegar, sweet soy

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Chinese eggplant – fennel raita, tomato sambal, eggplant “fries”

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Crab fried rice – blue crab, jasmine rice, egg, pea tendrils, serrano chile

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it’s like apples and oranges – orange financier, green apple jam, tamarind cider, blood orange sherbet, sichuan peppercorn

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Warm banana toffee cake – banana custard, spice toffee sauce, chocolate graham cracker soil, black tea ice cream

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Masala chai donuts – dark chocolate green cardamom sauce

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Chocolate biscotti – cranberry, walnut

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Opened by Sang Yoon in early 2011 and celebrated as the Chef’s return to a more refined form of dining than his famed burger at Father’s Office, Lukshon has been subject to mixed emotions from diners ever since opening largely as a result of prices some seem to feel outstrip portions and quality – those issues not without warrant, all things considered.

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Presented as “Asian Fusion,” the overused descriptor perhaps more appropriate here than anywhere else in the United States as the menu weaves a wide path ranging Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and even Indian, lunch at Lukshon sees many options also offered at dinner and with clean lines plus high ceilings paired to comfortable booths in the dining room in addition to a patio and communal high tops there is no lack of intrigue to be found regardless of one’s predilections, though alterations are frowned upon, as are most substitutions.

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Dining with one omnivore and one selective pescetarian, though the latter is far from picky and happy to pay her share, it was just past the restaurant’s 11am opening that indoor seating was selected and ordering in rounds with an eye towards diversity a baker’s dozen plates eventually crossed our paths, the first a succulent brisket dumpling in pho consommé poured tableside with “heat” from smoked sriracha, though the broth was tepid at best.

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Admittedly thinking “What the eff?” in regard to the temperature of our first plate, dishes two and three quickly corrected the course as spicy pork slipped from bones while tender steak graced bao with Asian Pear providing a deft foil to fermented cabbage vinaigrette, larb sliders avoiding the trap of being too spicy for enjoyment through the clever pairing of peanut buns plus coleslaw, and all the better for it.

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With my friend surprisingly taken aback by the spice level of the ribs, my mild Midwestern palate actually not the meekest for once, Sichuan dumplings were thankfully more mild than the condiments would lead one to believe and although the $17 lobster roll was indeed steep considering the 3-bite portion one would be hard to fault any other aspect of it, the melted smear of pork adding an incredible amount of sapor to the butter poached crustacean’s mayo-soaked meat.

Not skimping when it comes to rice or vegetables, the sticky cakes with smoky chicken “rendig” more than necessary for soaking up all the sauce, “Crispy rice cakes” were a polarizing dish thanks a gummy interior that I found more intriguing than my did my tablemates, no such issues noted in the complex eggplant cubes mixed with crispy straws, nor the chock-full-of-crab fried rice.

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At this point already $200-in, $10 desserts a bargain compared to savory plates, it was with passion fruit passed-up that 3/4 of the menu was selected and although Masala Chai donuts were an interesting idea with cardamom infused chocolate sauce they were nonetheless far less memorable than moist Banana Bread with a curd that tasted identical to Runts candy, let alone the slightly more expensive “it’s like apples and oranges” that looked like something out of Red Medicine or Alinea with multiple variations on both fruits well executed and highlighted by sour apple jam plus peppercorns and tamarind.

http://lukshon.com/

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

Posted in California, Crab, Culver City, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Lobster, Los Angeles, Lukshon, Pork, Vacation

Copenhagen Pastry, Los Angeles CA

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Copenhagen Pastry

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Romkugle

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Napoleon Hat

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Almond Mazarin

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Apple Pastry

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Chocolate Pastry

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Raspberry Pastry

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Spandauer

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Kringle

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Copenhagen

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Nougat Crown – Almond Paste, Custard, Hazelnut Cream

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Cinnamon Loaf

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Sticking close to Culver City for more sweetness, four-year old Copenhagen Pastry still looking virginal as relates to its cleanliness and shining baked goods behind glass, it was largely the seatless shop’s 5-Star accolades on Yelp! that led myself and a friend to investigate, results well priced for the quality of the product, not to mention the pleasant nature of the Staff.

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Having never personally been to Denmark, though my pal was just there in late 2015, Copenhagen Pastry logically focuses on baked goods popular in Nordic culture and although many of the items trend similar in their construction the subtle differences can be appreciated by those more discerning, sips of coffee to refresh the palate recommended but best ordered elsewhere as items are only available to-go by bag or box.

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Perhaps a bit less rarified than the French in terms of ingredients or construction, most of the products soft to the tooth and filled with some sort of cream or almond paste, Copenhagen Pastry offers several samples to whet the palate and selecting eleven items at a total of just $23.50 the tasting began with “Danishes” ranging from fruit to chocolate, each admirable if not amazing though one did have to smile at the lack of Americanized regional naming for something the Danes would likely just call a pastry.

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Progressing next to several squares, the namesake “Copenhagen,” Kringle and Cinnamon Loaf all rather similar in texture with subtle differences in filling and level of sweetness the only way to separate one from the next, a more interesting bite was found in the Nougat Crown with a trio of creamy fillings and moving on to chilled-selections the best bites of the morning were suddenly realized and admittedly quite unexpected with the soft nougat “Napoleon Hat” and lightly boozed Chocolate “Romkugle” leaving equally favorable impressions.

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www.copenhagenpastry.com

Copenhagen Pastry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Breakfast, California, Copenhagen Pastry, Culver City, Dessert, Food, Los Angeles, Vacation

Lodge Bread Company, Los Angeles CA

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Lodge Bread Company

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Cinnamon Roll

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Chocolate Chip Miso Cookie and Oatmeal Cranberry Cookie

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Nut Butter and Date Syrup on Whole Wheat Sourdough

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Avocado and Radish on Country

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Cinnamon Sugar on Country

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Cultured Butter and Jam on Country

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Gaining a lot of attention from its inception with a “Do one thing, do it right” concept focused around making Los Angeles’ very best Artisan Breads, Lodge Bread Company was selected as the first of three stops with a local friend and personal Chef, the results across-the-board excellent with the team surprisingly willing to tell their tricks of the trade.

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“Bigger than a breadbox,” to borrow an old adage, but certainly snug with just a few tables lining the narrow interior plus a few extra seats at the bar, Lodge Bread Company sits on the far end of Culver City’s expanding dining corridor and featuring a well-culled menu of Baked Goods and Loaves the ‘hipster’ dismissal “Expensive Toast” espoused by critics may at first seem appropriate, but a closer look will show prices to be not far-off from the average breakfast pastry elsewhere while the commitment to quality is advanced several fold.

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Taking an approach that entailed most everything offered, a daily egg special and smoked salmon eschewed for sweeter things, first tastes of Lodge’s bread is striking in the robustness of its crust surrounding soft wisps of sourdough – the starter really the store’s only secret weapon as the bakers discuss everything from proteins and water content with great openness to those willing to inquire, their passion and knowledge never in doubt.

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Starting savory with robust Country Bread, the mellow sours and bitterness a fine pairing to crushed avocado and a veil of radish that may have benefitted from something pickled or perhaps a touch of salt, further tastes of toasted bread proved far the more compelling with cultured butter and housemade jam thickly spread yet still elegant while the housemade peanut butter and date syrup was a better choice for those seeking something less sweetened on a different platform, the simple Cinnamon Sugar largely forgettable in the face of the others, though no less delicious for those with fond childhood memories of the stuff.

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Moving on to baked goods, the sizable Cinnamon Roll already an Instagram darling with sweetness traded for oodles of butter and spice beneath the lightest of creamy spreads, it is surprising that little has been said about the quality of Lodge Bread Company’s cookies as the duo of options are each amongst the best in the city in terms of both texture as well as flavor, the Oatmeal Cranberry version essentially a grab n’ go breakfast given its weight and density while Chocolate Chips meld with the salinity of Miso to form a flavor that tiptoes the fine-line of savory without ever crossing it with a nearly-raw center and edges that are crisp.

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http://www.lodgebread.com/

Posted in Breakfast, California, Culver City, Dessert, Food, Lodge Bread Co., Lodge Bread Company, Los Angeles, Vacation

Running Goose, Los Angeles CA

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Running Goose

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Salt Cod Churros – Brandade, Masa, Saffron Aioli, Lemon, Nori

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Ricotta Masa Gnocchi – Wild Mushrooms, Kale, Sage Brown Butter, Lemon, Queso Seco

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Doughnuts – Strawberry Hibiscus Jam, La Rosa Peanut Butter

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Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding – Spiced Chocolate, Pistachio, Fresh Berries

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Located just a few doors down the block from Birch, a “gastropub” sort of space that toys with concepts of Sustainability and Healthy eating by way of an Organic herb garden and wooden patio out back, Running Goose was tabbed for a few more bites before a show at The Fonda on Wednesday evening largely as a result of location combined with one menu item, both things happily meeting expectations while several other aspects of the meal lacked.

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Established in 2015 and known, in-part, for $3 Tostadas and an Eggplant Pocket of which they were inexplicably sold out, it was on the patio near a speaker playing everything from Radiohead to Bowie that seating was offered and although the al fresco SoCal seating was obviously quite pleasant the service was almost so aloof as to be non-existent, water glasses prone to fall empty while plates seemed to crawl from the kitchen after long delays sitting at the pass.

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Not at all busy on arrival, the patio half full with inside empty when I left at 8:00pm, it was in a total of four plates that remaining appetite was invested and beginning with Salt Cod Churros the object of my desire was as delicious as it was well crafted, the creamy brandade fritters virtually oilless beneath a jacket of seaweed and cornmeal while Saffron Aioli was appropriately fragrant, though perhaps unneeded.

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Underwhelmed by Ricotta Dumplings that were tough with Masa and done no favors by raw kale that overwhelmed mushrooms rendered soft in Brown Butter, it was after some delay with dirty plates still in place that dessert was selected, the “brand new” Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding overcooked to the point of dryness alongside a smear of Mexican Hot Chocolate while the golden doughnuts were almost devoid of flavor on their lonesome, a bit better with hosemade Peanut Butter and Jelly of which there was unfortunately not enough.

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http://runninggoose.weebly.com/

Posted in Bread Pudding, California, Dessert, Food, Gnocchi, Los Angeles, Vacation

Birch, Los Angeles CA

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Birch

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Arancini with Cauliflower Puree, Truffle Oil, Young Parmesan

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Monkfish Tikka Masala with Basmati Rice Cracker

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Rabbit Baklava with Carrot, Mustard Seed, Honey

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Pork Shank with Palm Sugar, Black Garlic Hoisin, Butter Lettuce, Pickles, Sriracha, Za’atar Flatbread

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Sticky Toffee Pudding with Burnt Sugar Ice Cream

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Bourbon Glazed Beignets with Pear Compote, Housemade “Cool Whip”

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Located just off Hollywood Boulevard, the North Cahuenga garage door blending right into its environs – and likely passed by thousands who do not even know it to be a restaurant every single day – Birch by Brendan Collins seems to have recently gotten lost in conversation thanks to ever-trendy local dining customs, though a recent Wednesday visit showed the cooking to still be amongst the best in LA.

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Smallish in size from the exterior, a canapé overhanging the outdoor podium offering only minimal protection of a hostess in the glare of setting sun, it was exactly at 5:15pm that I arrived for my reservation and as the only diner present for the bulk of my meal the service could not have been more pleasant, a water bottle graciously offered for refills while Chef Collins and the GM also took time to make my acquaintance.

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Born in Nottingham, but no stranger to SoCal diners thanks to acclaimed stints in kitchens including Waterloo & City, Collins describes Birch as “a combination of old-school and new-school cooking,” the decoration Nordic-minimalist without feeling IKEA while the soundtrack roams all the way from The Rolling Stones to P.Diddy.

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Seating around fifty when accounting for the bar, another fifteen or so via al fresco patio in back, Collins and his kitchen staff can be seen working diligently through the windows of a glass box at the far end of the restaurant and having already created a few signatures spruced up by seasonal innovations the focus of my meal was on the former, a four course tasting served at a perfect pace for just over a hundred dollars, all-in.

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No doubt benefitted by early arrival, the kitchen literally cooking for just one until seconds before dessert, the meal began with a complimentary rice ball fried crisp atop smooth cauliflower before diving into clever Monkfish Tikka Masala unskewered tableside beneath a curvaceous Basmati cracker, the orange pool of sauce fragrant but not particularly spicy and thereby not overwhelming the meaty fish’s flavor.

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At this point easily one of the most recognizable dishes in the city, Collins placing a Frenched Rack atop flaky layers of phyllo layered with braised saddle and loin, the Rabbit Baklava comes through both sweet and savory without being overwhelmed by mustard seeds, the *Must Eat* Pork Shank an equally balanced dish in terms of richness cut by sugar, the skin itself as shattering as puff pastry while the meat was supple without being too fatty with nuance added by Bahn Mi styled condiments.

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Citing the Chef’s British heritage as a reason to order Sticky Toffee Pudding, a personal favorite I’d have greedily gotten regardless of pedigree, the presentation of the dish was unfortunately quite tiny beneath Burnt Sugar Ice Cream in a deep pool of sauce prone to wasting, the more “American” Bourbon Glazed Beignets a far more sharable dessert with soft pillows of warm dough atop Pear Compote with whipped cream, the best bite actually using the doughnuts to sop up all the mixed caramel and melted ice cream left over from the pudding.

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http://birchlosangeles.com/

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

Posted in Birch, California, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Los Angeles, Pork, Truffle, Vacation

Niu Gu, Las Vegas

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Niu Gu

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Tea Services

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Crab and Tofu Soup

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Organic House Made Tofu Crumble with Scallion Oil

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Beef Tongue Salad

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Fresh Seafood Salad

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Lightly Steamed Garlic Oysters

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Spicy Asian Cucumbers

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Spicy Double Chili Shrimp Stir-Fry

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Slow Roasted Angus Beef Short Rib

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Rack of Lamb with Cumin

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Chinese Yam Stir-Fry with Black Fungus

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Original Beef Noodle Soup

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Fried Bao

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Taro Milk and Fruit Dessert

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Looking to up the ante in Chinatown with a spotless dining space plus a tea collection set to leave even The Strip’s formal fine dining spaces in the dust, Niu Gu from Chef Jimmy Li has been quietly making noise amongst Las Vegas most in-the-know diners, a Saturday evening visit showing signs of something special happening even though there remains some room to grow.

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Actually open since the late 3rd quarter of 2015, but undergoing upgrades since the start of March through consultation with local beer and wine aficionado Joe Muscaglione, Niu Gu has recently dropped “Noodle House” from its name in favor of becoming a full-fledged Asian Kitchen, the menu not one of those hundred-item hodgepodges intended to please universally but instead focused on freshly made plates comprised of only the finest components, even the wok-fried items taking the time to individually cook ingredients one-by-one.

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Taking service far more seriously than the rest of the restaurants on Jones, an important thing to note considering the fact that the same plaza contains China Mama, Chada Thai and Hachi Japanese Yakatori plus several more, those arriving at Niu Gu are greeted professionally at the podium before being led to seats, the space itself literally gleaming from the recently decorated walls right down to the bathroom floor.

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Admitting a friendship with Mr. Muscaglione that includes several meals across The Valley, it was with menu deferred to he and the chef that the evening soon got started, an impassioned discussion of the teas followed by Organic Housemade Tofu topped tableside with Scallion Oil plus Crab and Tofu Soup that ate something like Egg-Drop with far more flavor, each bite smooth yet complex and compelling enough to want just another spoonful…and then “just” one more.

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Presenting plates slowly, partially due to the presence of other tables but also so that our four-top could focus on flavors individually as well as when paired with tea, course two offered thinly sliced Beef Tongue marinated in soy, onions and peppers, the texture like velvet beneath poignant heat while “Fresh Seafood Salad” was unfortunately a bit sweeter than necessary, the plethora of berries unfortunately overwhelming the cream-coated Lobster meat.

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Shocking me with the quality of a plump Oyster, the lightly steamed Bivalve bursting with brine atop a bed of shredded Daikon as Garlicky broth stewed beneath, a plate of spicy Asian Cucumber proved a refreshing bridge to bolder flavors, the Double Chili Shrimp deveined and delegged with shell split for peeling, though the better choice was eating them crispy with the carapace still in place.

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Taking a Sichuan Spin on Lamb, the meaty Rack divided tableside by Joe with just enough time on the fire to render fat clear without turning the meat from pink, Niu Gu’s namesake Slow Roasted Short Rib was served up simultaneously, those opting for only one left to a tough choice as to which is better since each would undoubtedly top my list of “Must Haves.”

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Seeing it unfit to leave without trying Li’s Noodles, in this case a classic Beef broth served chock-full of tender meat and baby Bok Choy with just enough spice to tingle without burning up the mouth, Chinese Yam Stir-Fry with Black Fungus was an elegant vegetarian dish for those opting for milder flavors, the deep fried Bao served as a side dish apparently common in some parts of China and delicious with a sidecar of lightly sweetened mayo.

Still; a work in progress as relates to dessert, the Taro Milk and Fruit certainly pleasant but actually less sweet than the Seafood Salad or the Bao, dinner ended with long discussion as ambient Asian music mixed with 80’s Pop-Standards, “More Than Words” by Extreme playing its third spin of the evening but mostly ignorable in the face of “Monkey Picked” Oolong with dramatic floral notes an almost buttery feel on the tongue.

FOUR STARS: Still a work in progress, the lack of liquor license notable while the dessert menu is perhaps a larger concern for me than others in town, Niu Gu represents a wholesale shift in culture for the restaurants on South Jones and Spring Mountain, Li’s cooking and Muscaglione’s guidance seemingly ready to go ‘all-in’ with an Strip-rivaling yet accessible Chinese Fine Dining approach.

RECOMMENDED: Rack of Lamb with Cumin, Lightly Steamed Garlic Oysters, Crab and Tofu Soup, Slow Roasted Angus Beef Short Rib.

AVOID: Fresh Seafood Salad was a touch too sweet while dessert was forgettable.

TIP: The full tea list is available in store with details on individual farms, tasting notes and leaves-to-cup concepts – service on average ranging $9-$12 with tableside steeping and service.

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

http://www.niugunoodlehouse.com/location.aspx

Posted in Crab, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Lobster, Nevada, Niu Gu, Tasting Menu

Mrs. Williams Diabetic Delights, Las Vegas NV

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Mrs. Williams Diabetic Delights

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Cinnamon Horn

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Marble Cookie

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Peanut Butter Cookie

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Chocolate Chip Cookie

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Lemon Cookie

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Oatmeal Walnut Raisin Cookie

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Dark Chocolate Walnut Cluster

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Milk Chocolate Honeycomb

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Dark Chocolate Caramel

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Milk Chocolate Nougat Nut Cluster

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Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter

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Cherry Cheesecake

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Banana Cream Pie

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Cinnamon Cruller

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Fudge Walnut Brownie

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Chocolate Glazed Cream Éclair

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Strawberry Cream Cheese Danish

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Only recently brought to my attention by a patient, though apparently a staple of the city for over twenty-five years, it was largely for the sake of research that I turned off Spring Mountain Road to visit Mrs. Williams Diabetic Delights, a long chat with head baker Pepe Medina showing an impressive understanding of the issues facing those with glycemic issues as well as the limitations of ingredients used in his craft.

Owned by Janet Prusinski, neither she nor Pepe themselves Diabetic though the disease has undoubtedly touched both of their lives, Mrs. Williams Diabetic Delights is located at 3466 South Decatur Boulevard and although limited in size with both interior and signage showing signs of aging the prices and customer service both speak of a special bond between owners and clients, the prices far lower than one would expect considering specialty ingredients with most far cheaper than even those at “Big Box” retail stores.

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Ironically encountering a young woman that I take care of during this visit, herself also only recently made aware of the tiny storefront with more than two-dozen daily baked goods plus handmade sugar-free chocolates and a collection of mass produced treats available by the bag, conversation with Mr. Medina provided a great deal of insight into the process involved in making each product, ingredients such as mannitol cautioned due to unfavorable effects in some, though a sizeable sampling did not in any way alter my gastrointestinal tract.

Deciding the best idea would be to sample at Pepe’s recommendations, a total of seventeen items including a few free cookies boxed or bagged before being taken elsewhere to enjoy, first bites were intentionally invested in those very cookies, most of them tasting far more like their namesake ingredients than those sold at traditional bakeries with both the lemon and marble particularly enjoyable while the oatmeal raisin, cinnamon horn and peanut butter all ate more like a biscuit than the softer sort of cookie that usually catches my eye.

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Acknowledging a substantial sweet tooth, though certainly not opposed to cutting calories provided taste is uncompromised, hand-crafted chocolates show an excellent eye for detail and although milk chocolate is not as sweet as many the darker options are virtually indistinguishable from the stuff at Sees or Ethel M’s, the Walnut Cluster and Caramel both equally well crafted while the crisp Chocolate Honeycomb is something I’d glady consume as an alternative to the “real” thing.

Offering a menu that includes calorie counts as well as net carbohydrates, sugars and suggested portion sizes too, it was with a half dozen pastries that the tasting continued and although the Cinnamon Cruller was unfortunately a bit dry and flavorless both the Strawberry Cream Cheese Danish and airy Fudge Brownie were very well formulated, the laminated pocket both flakey and well-flavored at a cost of less than $2 while deep chocolate notes filled the latter’s moist, cake-like interior.

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Mixed in feelings about the Éclair, both the choux and chocolate frosting pleasant while the interior tasted like little more than Reddi Whip – which is indeed low carb – any misgivings were instantly forgiven when teeth sank into the graham cracker crusted Banana Cream Pie and subsequent fruit topped cheesecake, the former half the price and calories as that at Drago Sisters with twice the quality while the latter capitalizes on the dish’s already low-sugar nature with indulgent creaminess and light tangy notes that would keep all but the most devout fan of heavier styles such as Junior’s satisfied.

FOUR STARS: Capable of pleasing even an ardent devotee of sweets despite targeting a crowd that should be trying their best to limit their intake of refined sugars and carbs, Mrs. Williams lives up to its “delightful” signage in all but a few instances with the sort of prices that make it worthwhile for everyone to investigate for themselves.

RECOMMENDED: Cheesecake, Banana Cream Pie, Milk Chocolate Honeycomb, Lemon Cookie, Dark Chocolate Caramel.

AVOID: Cinnamon Cruller, Chocolate Chip Cookie.

TIP: Free samples of several items are available in store while those looking for a bargain should check out restaurants.com for certificates of $10 off $20. Frequent Customer Cards and 10% off coupons are also available in-store for subsequent purchases.

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

http://www.mrs-williams.com/

Mrs Williams Delights Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Williams Diabetic Delights, Nevada

Naked City Pizza on Paradise [4,] Las Vegas NV

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Naked City Pizza on Paradise

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Bacon Candle – Basil Powder, Olive Oil Powder, Sweet Balsamic, Himalayan Pink Salt, Crusty Bread

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Carpaccio – In-House Cured Bresaola, Crispy Caper, Shaved Egg, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Rocket, Shaved Parmesan-Reggiano

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Bacon Risotto – Sorrel, Five Minute Fifteen Second Egg, English Peas, Chicaron

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South Buffalo Breakfast Sandwich – Cured and Smoked In-House Pastrami, Sharp Cheddar, Sunny Side Egg, Naked City Mustard, Brioche Bun

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Hot Mama – Egg Bread, Salami, In-House Lonza, Provolone, Alfredo, Sunny Side Egg

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Breakfast Porchetta – Cured Pork Belly, Maple Sausage, Sage, Basil, Rocket, Lemon

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Small Pizza – Half Pepperoni

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Nutella Donuts – Apple Berry Compote

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Cookie Milk & Cookies

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Poo-Poo’d by some for a longtime divey location inside Moondoggies on Arville, even though the Pizzas, Appetizers and Cannolis were amongst the best of Las Vegas from the early days, there is n doubt that Christopher Palmeri and his brother Michael have grown their concept substantially since opening a second Naked City on Paradise where a newly launched brunch once again provided an opportunity to see ideas soon to come.

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Admittedly a fan of Palmeri, his skill set and work ethic far more substantial than one might presume for a “deep dish pizza” man hailing from Buffalo, it was with two friends and a child that we sat down to the sounds of Motown and Sinatra with deference to the kitchen for service, the restaurant slowly filling to half-capacity as the NCAA Tournament played on a pair of televisions above.

Slightly less aggressive than the Chef Series event put on by Palmeri in January, but still comprising nine total plates from which seven were new and one was an update, Brunch at Naked City began with the Chef’s soon-to-be-signature Bacon Candle and by adding a bit more balsamic along with a touch of salt the flavor is now far more robust and addictive, the notes of Basil coming through on the end and well utilized both as a starter and to cleanse the palate between plates as the flame was allowed to burn until the two hour meal’s end.

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Now curing several meats in house, not to mention making his own pasta and hand-shaking butter, course two featured smooth slices of Bresaola with lightly seared Capers and shaved Egg plus Arugula, a light plate with substantial flavor that suited transition to Rice cooked tender with bacon, a soft-poached Egg Yolk giving the plate a Carbonara spin with fresh Sorrel, Peas, and crispy Pig Skin.

Sourcing Sandwich buns from Great Buns, though the possibility of bringing the baking in house once the new location opens have been suggested, plates four and five saw Palmeri once again focus on House-cured meats as the “South Buffalo Breakfast Sandwich” was presented stacked in fatty Pastrami draped in Sharp Cheddar plus a runny Egg and Naked City Mustard, the “Hot Mama” going one step further as the “most decadent thing I’ve ever created,” per Palmeri, an Italian Croque Madame that may define “food porn” with thick-cut Challah toasted around In-House Lonza, Salami, and Provolone beneath a Sunny Side Egg and Alfredo.

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Unable to leave Naked City without a Pizza, in this case a simple Cheese and Pepperoni six-slice ordered to appease a rambunctious youngster in our midst, the meal’s final savory saw Porchetta presented with crisp skin and fat nicely rendered, the Housemade Maple sausage stuffing unfortunately a touch dry but bolstered by a drizzle of syrup and pan juices as the bright aromatics of Sage shined beneath bitter Arugula that helped curtail the rolled meat’s heft.

Still a work in progress as relates to dessert, the old-school Cannoli and Bag of Bombolini a tough duo to top, “Cookie Milk & Cookies” is a cute concept that may be better off converting the “milk” into a shake as the texture runs a touch gritty while the fresh-fried Nutella Donuts do not need a bit of tweaking, nor does the Apple Berry Compote which would have been equally great atop French Toast, Waffles or Pancakes.

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N/A: Difficult to “Rate” since almost everything served was a work-in-progress plate, Christopher Palmeri remains one of Las Vegas’ most hard-working Chefs and anyone who has not been to either Naked City location owes it to themselves to visit.

RECOMMENDED: Pizza, Bacon Candle, Bacon Risotto, Hot Mama, Nutella Donuts.

AVOID: The “cookie milk” with the Cookies was not particularly necessary, nor delicious, and one can make the same thing simply by dunking.

TIP: Brunch is 11a-3p Saturdays at Paradise. Follow Naked City on Facebook for up-to-date menus, as well as Thursday evening sneak-peaks at upcoming Naked City Tavern concepts.

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

http://www.nakedcitylv.com/

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

Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Italian, Las Vegas, Naked City Pizza, Naked City Pizza on Paradise, Nevada, Pizza, Pork

T-Bones Chophouse & Lounge, Las Vegas NV

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T-Bones Chophouse & Lounge

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Banana Nut Bread Martini – Frangelico, Banana Liquer, Sugar Island Spiced Rum, Egg White, Fresh Sour Mix, Cinnamon-Sugar Rim

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Bread Basket – Cheese Lavash, Pretzel Bread, Bacon Cheese Roll, Walnut & Raisin, Sourdough, Butter with Hawaiian Sea Salt and Olive Oil

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French Onion Soup – Sweet Texas Onions, Swiss, Gruyere, Parmigianino Reggiano, Toasted Bread

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Shrimp Tempura – Spicy Yuzu Mayo

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Crab Cake – Jumbo Lump Crab, Cajun Remoulade, Baby Frisee, Citrus

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Perfect Poutine – Hand Cut French Fries, Duck Confit Gravy, Crispy Duck Skin, Maytag Blue Cheese

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Steakhouse Salad – Romaine, Avocado, Tomato, Apple Wood Bacon, Gorgonzola, White French Dressing

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Buttermilk Fried Chicken – Traditional Fried Chicken Breast, Homestyle Sage Gravy

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New York Steak Supreme Oscar – Niman Ranch 28-day Wet Aged Prime Beef, Day Boat Maine Lobster, Asparagus, Béarnaise

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Hash Brown – Russet Potatoes, Caramelized Onions

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Au Gratin Potatoes – Smoked Cheddar, Bacon, Poblano Peppers, Crunchy Cheddar Gratinee

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Crimini Mushrooms – Red Wine Braised, Fines Herbs

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Cream Corn – Sweet White Corn, Parmesan Crumbs

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Double Espresso on Ice

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Chocolate Soufflé – Crème Anglaise

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Cheesecake – Traditional New York Style, Cream Cheese

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Carrot Cake – Cream Cheese Icing, Pecans

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Warm Butter Toffee Cake – Toffee Sauce, Crème Fraiche Ice Cream

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Ricotta Beignets – Cheesecake Ice Cream, Yuzu and Orange Curd, Toasted Oat Crumble

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Chocolate Macaroon, Lemon Financier

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Toqued by Chef Mike Deas with input from Red Rock Assistant Executive Chef Joseph Kudrak, formerly from Glutton, T-Bones Chophouse & Lounge is one of those places easily overlooked by Las Vegas visitors as well as locals, a recent dinner on an early Friday evening leaving one to wonder exactly why, and how to get the word out?

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More tucked away than Hearthstone, Lucille’s or The Buffet and Grand Café, a nearly 200 seat footprint overlooking the Red Rock pool with high ceilings, fireplaces and plenty of polish, T-Bones Chophouse & Lounge both looks and feels like many On-Strip casino Steakhouses, but taking a few more risks with the menu than several the experience is presented as one also more affordable, the price-point not dissimilar to nearby Andiron, Fleming’s or Morton’s.

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Retaining several of its well-mannered Captains from early on, the restaurant’s professional-friendly service style reportedly a focus of the Fertitta family who own Station Casinos and visit often, dinner was served in a Prix-fixe fashion and with Chefs Kudrak as well as Deas present that evening the meal was nothing short of a feast for the senses, a $300 tab for sixteen appetizers, entrees, sides and desserts plus one heck of a cocktail and a bread basket that bests any seen recently on Las Vegas Boulevard.

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Acknowledging a friend’s two-hour time limit, tickets to the UNLV Opera requiring departure just before Seven o’clock, it was at a large semi-circular booth that the meal got started and with greetings from GM Christopher Jurchenkoit was not long before service was underway, the opening trio seeing lightly battered shrimp given a Chinatown treatment while steakhouse staples of French Onion Soup and Crabcakes were as good as any in the city, the former faintly sweet with plenty of bubbling cheese while the “cake” was almost pure crab with bright aromatics of paprika, onion and cayenne in the binder.

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A bit off-put by the noise emanating from the bar, a combination of March Madness revelry, Friday Happy Hour and music piped in from the Gaming Floor, round two followed quickly and although fresh-cut potatoes could have been more crispy, “Perfect Poutine” was quite a bargain at just $10 when taking into account all the confit, cheese and skin, the Steakhouse Salad equally well constructed as chopped Romaine blended nicely with Avocado, Bacon and Gorgonzola beneath creamy French Dressing.

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Not even 1/3 finished at this point, course three a six-piece exposition of two entrees and four sides, gone are the days of piddly portions at CUT or PRIME as Au Gratin Potatoes, Hashbrowns, Mushrooms and Creamed Corn are all built for sharing, as too is the two-piece Fried Chicken with Sage Gravy while the Beef selections range from American Wagyu to New York Prime from Niman Ranch, the latter in our case served Medium with a topping of fresh Lobster, Asparagus and Béarnaise.

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Bathed by the setting sun with blinds offering only modest relief as a result of floor-to-ceiling windows that give the room part of its grand appeal, dessert was taken to the patio as music turned live in the Lounge and although admittedly already quite sated none of the five options proved less than worth the temptation, the Carrot Cake and Soufflé both straight forward classics alongside Cheesecake that trends far lighter than most followed by indulgent blueberry donuts and a frozen parfait plus Sticky Toffee Pudding that falls just short of Gordon Ramsay’s for best in The Valley.

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FOUR STARS: Easily overlooked in a city where Steakhouses rule the day, T-Bones Chophouse & Lounge is a great spot for those inhabiting Summerlin to grab a Cocktail or snacks at Happy Hour and an even better one for al fresco patio dining, the price point more favorable than spots on The Strip while the menu outpaces other places nearby in terms of both creativity and quality of sourcing.

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RECOMMENDED: Bread Basket, French Onion Soup, Tempura Shrimp, Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Crimini Mushrooms, Cheesecake, Ricotta Beignets.

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AVOID: Hash Browns and Carrot Cake were both fine, while better can be found elsewhere. As mentioned, French Fries could have used a bit more time in the fryer to withstand the gravy.

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TIP: Happy Hour 4-7pm daily, dinner starts at 5:oopm. MyVegas users can play to win “Spend 60, Get 30 off” certificates.

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

https://redrock.sclv.com/Dining/T-bones-Chophouse

T-Bones Chophouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Crab, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Lobster, Macaroon, Nevada, Pork, Souffle, T-Bones, T-Bones Chophouse, T-Bones Chophouse & Lounge, Tasting Menu

Chef Series #2 at Inyo Asian Restaurant, Las Vegas NV

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Inyo Asian Restaurant

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sparkling sake and shiso

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kanpachi sashimi – sliced amberjack with serrano chili, yuzu kosho, tobiko & house ponzu

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28 day dry aged wagyu carpaccio – aged stilton blue cheese, honey soy mustard seed & micro chives

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smoked foie rinds – crispy togarashi pork rinds with yuzu honey & shaved smoked foie gras

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drake duck jam – confit duck leg “pho flavor” with fresh herbs, bean sprout & sesame cracker

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kurobuta pulled pork – cherry smoked with watercress, pickled red onion, bao’s & kentuckyaki bbq

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scallop “dynamite” – live scallop, spinach & mushroom baked in house masago sauce

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octo-cargot – broiled spanish octopus baked escargot style with garlic, shiro miso & herb butter panko

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shumai – house made black tiger prawn & bamboo dumplings with spicy soy mustard

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yari ika squid – char-grilled whole sword squid with garlic soy butter

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squid ink & uni fried rice – squid legs & santa barbara sea urchin sautéed with garlic, lemon & squid ink

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whole crispy fried sea bass – chinese style with ginger, scallion & soy

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green tea & uni – green tea panna cotta & uni white chocolate gelato, cigar coconut cola tuille, nori rice cracker & sake ponzu reduction

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Selected for the second installment of Chef Series, a group formed at the start of this year with the intention of bringing like-minded local diners together at restaurants justifying more attention in a Las Vegas dining scene often clouded by those touting “new is best,” twenty-four persons sat down at Inyo Asian Restaurant on Saturday evening where owner Peter Chen played host and server while Chef Gregg Fortunato sent forth a twelve course spread.

Lengthy in size, though the kitchen itself is quite small, Inyo has dropped the “Asian Variety” naming since a first visit one year before and although easily lost amidst so much Spring Mountain Road competition there is little doubt that the menu remains both unique and aggressive, a board of daily specials joining printed favorites to comprise the meal our group encountered Carte Blanche.

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Garnering some accolades from the local media, most recently a glowing article in The Review-Journal, Inyo’s dining area remains stark but tasteful and although the beeps and buzzes of overhead techno can play on nerves after a while the service certainly ups the ante on other nearby places, as to does the ingredient quality used.

Starting out with sweet sake plus a warm towel it was just past 7pm as the whole group was seated that course number one arrived, and with all plating done family style several slices of tender kanpachi immediately enlivened the palate beneath sliced peppers and light ponzu, the flavors no less impressive than that at places like Nobu while a follow-up of dry-aged Wagyu upped the intrigue significantly with Stilton adding a bit of funk mellowed by honey-glazed mustard seed, soy sauce, and diced chives.

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Using the rich beef as a springboard to several more hearty plates, the focus here certainly not sushi and sashimi as some may assume, courses three and four presented crispy pig skins topped in shaved foie gras and confit duck, respectively, the makeshift ‘pho’ marred by not enough rice crackers for sharing while Pig Skins made believers out of those not particularly sold on the concept through the use of creamy liver helping meld sweet heat to smoke.

Again doing a disservice to diners by presenting Cherrywood smoked Kurobuta Pork with too few Bao to be tasted without overloading each steamed bun with meat, a sixth plate saw “Yum-Yum” Scallops given a substantial upgrade by using fresh Mollusks beneath a tangy sauce teaming with mushrooms, a bit of white rice dearly desired to assist with soaking up the flavors, but not provided as a rush to plate seven left little time to consider such things.

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Wishing the “octo-cargot” would have been as well crafted as it was clever – the garlic, miso and breadcrumbs completely overwhelming broiled octopus that could have just as easily been snails, fish or even tofu – housemade shumai saw the menu once again righted, black tiger prawns lightly wrapped with great flavor even though many chose to eschew spicy mustard.

Next presenting tender, charred Yari Ika generously brushed in Soy Butter before offering a bowl of black rice that unfortunately saw little added by a tongue of uni, although great texture was imparted by small bits of scallop dispersed amongst the grains, savories were rounded out by a whole Sea Bass served with beautiful simplicity, the dessert crafted by Gelatology’s Desyree Alberganti full of fun and creativity as salinity gave way to sweetness atop varied textures with a finish that was both light and refreshing.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Planning the menu over a month in advance with most of the items served on regular rotation, Chef Series #2 at Inyo Asian Restaurant was a great chance to take a look at what Gregg and Peter are trying to create, a whole lot of great stuff with even simple plates thrilling, though small issues in presentation indicate kinks that still need to be worked out.

RECOMMENDED: Smoked Foie Rinds, Wagyu Carpaccio, Scallop Dynamite, Yari Ika Squid.

AVOID: Octo-Cargot and Squid Ink Uni Fried Rice were misses while, as served, the Kurobuta pork and Duck Jam were also compromised.

TIP: Open Tuesday to Sunday 5pm to 2am, Happy Hour Tuesday to Sunday 5pm to 6pm + 9pm – 1am, Closed Monday.

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

http://www.inyolv.com/

Inyo Asian Variety Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in #chefseries, Dessert, Foie, Foie Gras, Food, Gelatology, Ice Cream, Inyo, Inyo Asian Restaurant, Inyo Asian Variety, Inyo Asian Variety Restaurant, Las Vegas, Nevada, Octopus, Pork, Sushi, Tasting Menu