Thursday, October 1, 2015

Unforgettable & Incredible ink

I have blogged about this restaurant and previously described it as unforgettable and incredible. I also described the food as "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". Here was my experience the last time I was there in 2012.

I took a friend that has never been there and all I could think of was, she was in for a treat. At least, that was what I had hoped as she is a foodie like myself. I asked her if she would bestow the honor of ordering the food unto my care; she promptly said "yes".  Though she was not a fan of Steak Tartare, she agreed to try it. She ended up loving it. The 1/2 dozen Oysters in mignonette ice was really to die for. They were fresh and almost ice cold with a bit of vinegar flavor and sipping the juice as you gulped the fresh oyster was such an incredible treat! The Octopus was delicious as well and I was happy that she too liked octopus since most of my friends will only eat it when it is deep fried.

Always have to order the Salt & Charcoal Potato with homemade sour cream and black vinegar served with a dropper so you could monitor your own briquette. Then came the Corn with housemade ranch fritos. Everyone is guaranteed to fall in love with this dish. (Tom?) Then came the Egg Yolk Gnocchi. Gnocchi with an egg yolk inside so when you bite into the whole gnocchi in your mouth, the yolk promptly explodes and like my friend Jody once said: " I wanted to cry."

Believe it or not, we did not finish everything even if they came in small plates. We had to leave room for dessert.  I had to order my favorite dessert; the Apple, Caramel, Shortbread, burnt wood semifreddo and since my guest likes chocolate, we decided to try the Chocolate, with raw milk, hibiscus and wild rice meringue. The white meringue was the center of the apple dessert. You had to crack it with the back of your spoon and all hell broke loose; as if you would want to say: "Let's party." What a wonderful combination! The chocolate was very good and interesting. It had a bit of a tartness inside the big swirl of chewy chocolate; different textures and flavors.

My friend was impressed with the food. Like she said: "It was all delicious from beginning to the end."  Unlike most restaurants, they would have just 1 or 2 perhaps 3 things that are good but dessert stinks or vice versa. Michael Voltaggio still has it and I was happy to see the menu mostly unchanged; because why change something if it works well...... at Ink, it is hard to improve on perfection.

Ink is located at 8360 Melrose Ave #107 in Los Angeles.

Monday, September 28, 2015

A-1 Chinese Restaurant

Appropriately named; as the food is A number 1. This hole in the wall has been in operation for more than 30 years. Since the change of ownership, I have gone there more often as they are a lot friendlier.  I have not had their Peking Duck for the longest time since it seems a waste to order that if there are only 2 in your party. Last night was perfect; party of five.

We ordered the Peking Duck. They still do know how to make it. It was perfect. The skin was real crisp and the meat very tender. This was served with a white dough bread called Frozen Gwa Pao. They are steamed just before they are served. You stuff the gwa pao with the duck meat and the crispy skin, add the scallions and the Hoisin sauce. It is delicious and also filling as the gwa pao is heavy when it makes it's landing in your stomach. Believe it or not, 5 of us could not finish the duck.

We also ordered the A1 House Special Fried Rice and the A1 House Special Pan Fried Crispy Noodle. These noodles are so crispy when it gets to your table. You would enjoy it better if you mix everything so the sauce in the bottom of the plate gets incorporated with all the noodles and it no longer is crispy but nice and soft. This had all sorts of seafood and vegetables. My only complaint was that the octopus was not tender but rather chewy and rubbery.

The Sauteed Shrimp is always a must. They do know how to get this 100% perfect every time. The General Tao's Chicken was supposed to be spicy (had 2 chili peppers before it) but was not at all. It had a hint of spiciness. We all loved it. We were not sure if we ordered enough but as it turned out, we had leftovers.

A1 Chinese BBQ has an extensive menu. We will have to go there many times in order to try the many other pork, seafood, beef and vegetables dishes. A1 is very small and it is best to go as soon as they open at 5 pm for dinner. They are also open for lunch.  It is not a place to take someone to impress as far as ambiance but if you want REAL Chinese food without leaving the South Bay, this is the place to go. They are located at 2014 Pacific Coast Hwy. in Lomita, California.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Chi Spacca

Gary invited 4 of us to Chi Spacca last night. This is the "meat haven" that the trio, Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Nancy Silverton have brought to Melrose between Osteria Mozza and Mozza to Go. Gary was our guide as he has dined here before. We entrusted him to do the ordering for us. The place is small compared to Osteria Mozza and the star of the show is the kitchen  where you can see first hand the big hunks of meat on the grill.

Our first course was the Focaccia di Recco. Recco is a commune in the province of Genoa, a region of Liguria. We've never had focaccia like this before. This was very thin and quite salty which we all loved. We also had the Affettati Misti (cold cuts) which included an array of pork wonders, from pate to certain salami. Our favorite was the pork pate.

We tried the Baby Romaine Salad. This baby was fully grown in flavor especially with the anchovies; super delicious. Then came the Bistecca Fiorentina, a 50 oz. dry-aged black porterhouse. This was one of the best steaks I have had. Unfortunately for some, it came medium rare....or more on the rare side. We were not asked how we preferred the meat. I imagine they prepare it the way it should be eaten. No one complained. One even commented that though it was rare, it did not taste rare if that even makes sense. It fed all 5 of us. For side dishes, we had the Grilled Broccoli di Cicco with a garlic lemon vinaigrette dressing which was surprisingly very good. The Roasted Cauliflower looked a lot better than it tasted; we all thought it was tasteless.

Since all 5 were foodies, we all had to have dessert. We ended up sharing 2 kinds. The Butterscotch Budino which had sea salt & rosemary pine nut cookies and the Seasonal Gelati & Sorbetti. If I recall right, the flavors were olive oil, chocolate chip mint and melon. We liked the Budino but not the cookies. The olive oil and melon were much better than the chocolate chip mint.

Chi Spacca's address is 6610 Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles. One has to dine there and experience it at least once. After that: Si vuolo tornare presto!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Tsujita LA

Some say this is the best ramen restaurant. The last time we tried to go, there was a long line of people waiting to get in so we ended up at Plan Check. After seeing a movie at the Laemmle Royal yesterday, we found ourselves close to Sawtelle. It was past 1 p.m. and the traffic at Sawtelle was slow. We did find Tsujita but the next problem was finding a parking spot on the street.  We finally found a spot. Excitement started to build.

We went in and was surprised to see it was a small place and the first thing we saw was a booth with 3 Asian teenagers all busy playing with their phones. It was a funny site though more and more common these days.  The ceiling looked like wooden pegs that needed some legos. We were seated and given the menu. We had no idea what to order so I humbly asked our server what was the best ramen to order. She suggested the Char Siu Tsukemen. Tsukemen (cold ramen noodles) served with Tonkotsu soup which is slowly simmered no less than 60 hours, topped with slices of barbecued pork. There are rules and instructions on how to eat the noodles. First you squeeze some lime, then take some of the noodles with the chopsticks and dunk it in the hot soup. It was delicious. The fat noodles were chewy and had a very nice texture. The pork was tender as can be and full of wonderful flavor. There was a whole egg that was very soft boiled so when I puncture it, the orange yolk drifted into the soup.

My only suggestion is to eat fast as the soup gets cold faster since you keep dipping the cold noodles in it. I absolutely loved it. My friend Lee has never been to Tsujita either and though she liked it, she did not clean her bowl like I did. She finally told me was a bit too salty for her. Ahhhh, this is probably why I loved it!

Tsujita LA Artisan Noodles is located at 2057  Sawtelle. There is also Tsujita LA Artisan Annex at 2050 Sawtelle and a Sushi Tsujita at 2006 Sawtelle in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Lunch & Brunch at Trump National Golf Club

Four of us ended up having a late lunch meeting at the Cafe Pacific at the Trump National Golf Club. We have been there numerous times for dinner and Sunday brunch. The last time I was there was when I got there at around 2 p.m. to get a gift card.  I was feeling absolutely famished and  all I could think of was fresh oysters and champagne which I did indulge.

That was 6 months ago and this time I could think of nothing else but my last experience so this is what I ordered for lunch; 1/2 dozen fresh oysters and some calamari. My girlfriend ordered a Caesar Salad. She noticed that it did not have any anchovies so when she asked our server, it was not a problem at all, he came and handed her a little plate full of anchovies; now that's service. For her entree, she decided on the Seafood Pescatore; linguine pasta with mussels, clams, shrimps cooked in white wine tomato and basil. Her husband had the Seared crab cakes for appetizers. That had pancetta, chickpea & leek cassoulet and remoulade sauce. I was forced to have one of them and it was delicious. For entree, two of my friends had the Marinated Tempura of Lobster. The lobster tail was fried to a golden brown crisp and sauteed with napa cabbage, bell pepper and an very nice coconut curry sauce. It was super delicious. I think I may have to order that the next time. We were all too full to order dessert so we ended up sharing one: can't remember what it was called but it was a white and milk chocolate mousse with flourless chocolate cake inside the mousse. The mousse was encased in a dark chocolate shell topped with a strawberry, whipped cream and more (colored)chocolate.

Two days later, we were invited again to Cafe Pacific but this time, it was for the famous Sunday Brunch. Currently, this fabulous brunch cost $75.95. What can you eat for $75.95 is the question. Well, you start with unlimited champagne (sparkling wine) and fresh orange juice. The high ticket items are the fresh oysters, crab claws, succulent shrimps, and caviar. Lucky for me, I love all of them so I did concentrate on those. Aside from the seafood, they have the usual omelet, prime rib, sushi, pasta stations. One must not forget to try their short ribs as it is most tender and just plain wonderful. They also have all sorts of salads, beets, pears with Gorgonzola, roasted vegetables and a calamari, crab, and lobster salad which I loved.

Dessert was endless; a full table of assorted pastries, a chocolate fountain for the fresh strawberries, and marshmallows. They had a tower of Croquembouche and for your information, not too many people know that they have different flavors inside. I found myself in the Crepe station. I had a concoction of banana, strawberry brown sugar, cinnamon and chocolate chips with banana liquor and another type liquor. When she was done with the flambe, I added some caramel, strawberry syrup and whipped cream.

Cafe Pacific at the Trump National Golf Club is a beautiful place to spend your Sunday; the view is spectacular since your are right by the ocean. Dinner is also a good time to go, though you would not have the view unless you are there to witness the sunset. The ambiance is truly cozy and classy. Cafe Pacific is located at 1 Ocean Trails Dr. in Rancho Palos Verdes in California.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

La Frida at Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach

This Mexican restaurant located at the Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico is the best Mexican restaurant I have ever been to. The all inclusive resort we stayed at; Pueblo Bonito Pacifica had an extensive list of  restaurants where we could dine with a few exceptions wherein we would have to pay an additional $35/person. This was well worth it! We ended up going twice on our 4 night stay. The restaurant has earned AAA Four Diamond Award for excellence in cuisine.

La Frida is named after Frida Khalo. You see paintings and memorabilia of the great painter all around the restaurant including beautiful characters from Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead).  The dining room is elegant and you have a choice of indoor or outdoor seating. It was too hot outside so we opted for the indoor. As soon as we sat down, we were handed the menu and a mobile bar came rolling in explaining their special drinks. The special Margarita sounded good as the tequila they had were all high end and since I have had the worst margaritas at our hotel, I thought it would be good and at $14, it better be great! It was great. They then served us some Mexican beer on the house. I am not a beer drinker so I can't really comment on that. Our amuse-bouche was a delicious chicken mole. I was happy sitting next to someone that did not like mole so I ended up with her share.

We all varied on our choices of appetizers. My husband had the Mushroom Soup 2 nights in a row. It had lemongrass and a lamb meatball. I had the best Tortilla Soup; smoky-tomato chicken broth and avocado ravioli with cream, cheese and a crisp tortilla nest. I too had it both nights. A Shellfish Chowder made it's way to our table; rich with shrimps, clams, fish and smoked tomatoes and poblano peppers. The grand prize winner had to go to the trio of  Crab Tostadas; cooked crab tostadas with tomato, olive & caper sauce on a crispy corn tortilla and an onion salad and jalapeno to give it some kick. Alma, Raymond and I could have eaten 6 of those! Another appetizer that was ordered was the Don Guillermo's Crepe that had cream of shrimps with arugula and homemade bacon and truffles. Someone had the Chicali Roll; crispy shrimp fingers with grilled flank steak wrapped in soy paper with a spicy peanut sauce. I had a bite of that and it was delicious. We ordered the Trio of Gordas; corn tamale with mole, pressed pork rind empanada and codfish and potato gordita; also delicious. Before our entrees came, we were served a Hibiscus sorbet to cleanse our palate. It was refreshing.

For our entrees, Raymond and Alma had the Crispy Red Snapper seared in garlic butter served with fingerling potatoes, mushroom ragu, smoked oysters and celery root with basil and lemon salad. Alma had that same entree the night before. I had the Traditional Mole Sea Bass the night before. This was pan seared with the traditional mole sauce. Their fish were all fresh and delicious. On our last night, I had the Rib Eye Strip with the black truffle butter. Otto had the "Impossible" Double Pork Chop; grilled sealed pan and finished in the oven with vegetables. Someone else had the Grilled Prime N.Y. Strip served with mushrooms and mashed cauliflower and a veal glacee. Joma had the Don Augustino's Empanadas; pressed pork rind with green sauce and our cream gelee.

Dessert had to be the the Banana Split. This was not your typical banana split. This was fried plantain nestled between a puff pastry with sweetened strawberries, cream and 3 flavors of ice cream. Most of us had that since we previously had the pleasure of having it the night before. Someone ordered something else which I do not recall since all my attention was on the banana split.

If I ever go back to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, I know that La Frida will be in my itinerary. We loved this restaurant.