Thursday, March 5, 2015

Culina at the Four Seasons

I could not contain my excitement when I read that Vito Mollica from the Il Palagio at the Four Seasons in Firenze was coming to Los Angeles at Culina to showcase his cuisine. This is all due to the 5th anniversary of the Four Seasons. We could only sample his cuisine from February 28 to March 4th (2015).

I talked 2 of my friends to come with me. The night before our reservation, I called and spoke to someone at the restaurant and made sure they had the Cavatelli Cacio e Pepe with baby calamari and marinated prawns. She must have looked at the menu, did not see it and came back saying "No, we don't." I asked her to speak with the manager or chef because it was advertised that it would be available for lunch from Feb.28 to March 4th. She came back on the line after checking with someone and happily told me they would have it for sure.

I drove the 3 of us to the Four Seasons Hotel and was impressed by the ambiance of the restaurant. Even their outdoor seating was impressive. We were handed the menu and I didn't see the special prix fixe nor did I see the Cacio e Pepe. I had to ask our waitress about it and only then did she give us the special menu. They must have had limited copies as she gave us 1 to share. I still did not see the cacio e pepe so I asked her about it. She looked at me like I was from Mars, then finally said she would ask the chef. As she turned to leave I gently grabbed her forearm as I wanted to ask her something else. She gave me the dirtiest look as if saying: "How dare you touch me".  My two friends were shocked at her behavior. Could that have been sexual harassment, I wonder.  She came back with the Italian Chef as she probably didn't want to deal with us anymore. Sous Chef Allasio was the nicest man, asked us how we would like our cacio e pepe. Mertz didn't want any seafood, Sandi only wanted the shrimp and I told him I would have it the way he normally prepares it with baby octopus and shrimps. He was more than happy to oblige.

We also decided to order from the regular menu. Caesar salad and the beet salad would be a good introduction to our pasta. At this point, a very nice gentleman named Jorge was all of a sudden our waiter. He took our order and he was the total opposite of Ms. Prissy. I asked him what Ms. Prissy's problem was and he just told me not to worry about it. He was also diplomatic. The three of us ordered a glass of Prosecco which made put us in a merrier mood. We did enjoy the salads.

We got Chef Vito Mollica's specialty dish; the Cavatelli Cacio e Pepe with baby calamari and marinated prawns or at least, I did. Mertz had hers without any seafood and Sandi had hers with shrimps. The cavatelli was absolutely delicious. We all loved our respective cacio e pepes.  I was blown away by the most tender and succulent shrimps and baby calamari which was equally tender. Sandi and I both thought that the cavatelli was a perfect choice of pasta instead of the traditional spaghetti. It could have had a bit more pepper but that's better than having too much like I had at Osteria Mozza recently wherein too much pepper ruined it as I could hardly taste the cheese or the pasta. Like I always said, it is not easy to perfect this simple dish. Chef Vito Mollica nailed and perfected this dish!

Everyone was full but it was unanimous that we had to order dessert. We could not agree on what to share so we all ordered our very own dessert. Mertz had the Tiramisu with meringue,  I had a bite and it was as good as the ones we had in Rome. Sandi ordered something else but got the Chocolate Molten Cake. Jorge apologized and was going to get her what she ordered but since it looked good, she decided to make a sacrifice; it is Lent after all. She ended up liking it (not much of a penance).
I ordered the Affogato with cotton candy. We were all impressed with the presentation of this affogato. Jorge poured something on it and the cotton candy flattened like a souffle. It was divine. All that strong coffee, probably espresso with vanilla gelato. It was served with 2 cookies studded with pine nuts. Even the cookies were super delicious, chewy and nutty. FYI, the desserts were all from the regular menu.

Chef Allasio came out one more time to ask us if we liked our dishes. We were too full to give him a standing ovation. He was nice enough to sit next to us and pose for a picture. He was sure to let Chef Vito know how very pleased we were with the Cavatelli.

A note to the manager, Mr. Vahdani, Director of Food and Beverage: Jorge our server was gracious and professional, in our opinion a very valued employee. He should be training other servers. When we come back I will make sure he is working that evening.

Culina at the Four Seasons Hotel is located at 300 South Doheny Drive in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Birthday Dinner at Osteria Mozza

We had a nice birthday celebration at Osteria Mozza recently. We all got there early before it opened and as we waited with anticipation, little Maisie entertained us all. The restaurant actually opened a few minutes early and let us in, unlike a bank or post office where they would not open a minute before.

As usual, I find it hard to make decisions on appetizers, pasta and entrees. After a long discussion with each other we finally made some decisions. For appetizers, the celebrant ordered Baby Kale with pine nuts, ricotta salata and marinated anchovies. Alma who was next to me had the Burrata with bacon, marinated escarole and caramelized shallots. That is one of my favorites so I was happy when she shared one of her 2 pieces of toast with the burrata. My niece had the Tagliatelle with oxtail ragu which I also have had in the past and liked it very much. Someone had the Garganelli with Ragu Bolognese which was wonderful. Before anything else,we were served a choice of bread with butter. They also brought a plate of bruschetta with what tasted like an olive tapanade.

I skipped the appetizer since I knew I would be having part of the Kale Salad which was delicious. I ordered the Bavette Cacio e Pepe as my primi. I was disappointed in it because it had too much pepper that I hardly could taste the Romano cheese. It is not easy to make this very simple dish right. I can say this because I consider myself a very good judge when it comes to cacio e pepe.  I have made the dish myself which was pretty good but not even close to the ones I had in Rome a month ago. Naturally, I had high expectations. Oh entree made up for it. I had the Grilled Beef Tagliata rucola & Parmigiano with aceto balsamico. This was cooked to perfection and had a nice flavor.

The other entrees included the Duck Al Mattone with pear mostarda and Brussels sprouts and Wild Striped Bass alla Livornese. The duck was crispy as can be and the fish was nice and tender. Elliot had something big but even he couldn't remember what he ordered. He seemed very pleased with it.

At least 2 people ordered the Torta della Nonna loaded with pine nuts, including the birthday celebrant. I had a bite of that and totally loved. It might have been the best Nonna I've ever had. Someone just had ice cream and I ordered the Bombolini with huckelberry marmellata and lemon mascarpone. Though it looked like I would not be able to finish the 3 large balls (like mini donuts)
with the ice cream, I surprised myself and inhaled them.

Dinner was very good; it was a nice birthday celebration and I thank Elliot and Aimee for the invitation.

Osteria Mozza is still a good place to have good food. The service was also commendable. Osteria Mozza is located at 6602 Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles.

Criss-Croissants at IHOP

For a limited time IHOP has introduced the Criss-Croissants.These supposedly croissant dough cooked in a waffle iron. Sounds fantastic! I had to try it so my friend and I went last week. There were 2 versions: Strawberry Rhubarb which is filled with sweet cream topped with the strawberry rhubarb and the other which we had; Blackberry Lemonade filled with lemonade cream topped with blackberries. We split one and also ordered the bacon and eggs with hash brown.

Thank God for the bacon, eggs and hash brown. The so called croissant looked like a waffle, rightfully so since it was cooked in a waffle iron. It was not flaky and there was no sign of it being made from a croissant dough. The overcooked "thing" was terrible. It was hard to cut and just plain bad! We were grateful we only ordered one to split. In short, do not waste your time and money. You are better off ordering one of the numerous crepes which is always good.

In this case, "limited time" is a good thing. I hope they take it off the menu before it's time as I don't want people to waste their money!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Original Roadhouse Grill

On our way to Bakersfield to visit a friend we stopped for lunch at the Original Roadhouse. We looked for the restaurant specifically since it was recommended by Aaron. We were a bit leery since our taste buds differ at times. (o.k. most of the time)

The restaurant was a typical "hee haw" kind of a place. It was big inside with a juke box and peanut shells all over the place. We got seated and were handed the menus. It was extensive. We immediately decided we would have the steaks as they sounded great.

While waiting for our orders to be taken, we took a bucket of peanuts and had a few. That was not too exciting as I like my peanuts boiled. We decided to split 2 kinds of steak. One was the Original Roadhouse Grill Bourbon Tri-tip; steak marinated in bourbon glaze and basted with their original BBQ sauce. The other was the Jim Beam Rib Eye marinated in Jim Beam brown sugar and pineapple sauce topped with Hay Bale onion rings. We also ordered a Caesar Salad to start. The rolls they served were warm and came with honey butter.

We liked the salad. a no nonsense Caesar which was quite edible. We were both impressed with the steaks. The tri-tip and rib-eye were so tender that we could not believe it. Sure, it's not the best steak we've ever had but it was not bad at all. If you crave a good steak ala BBQ, I guarantee you will not be disappointed. In fact, we both agreed we would go back the next time we visit our friend.

Not everything is perfect; the dessert was their downfall. Unless of course you order ice cream which can't be bad. We had the apple crisp. First of all it was hard to eat so we dumped it on the plate. The oatmeal crisp was nothing more than something powdery and sweet. The apples were firm but it just did not taste good so we ended up just eating the ice cream.

Roadhouse Grill started out as an Italian deli 40 years ago. Two brothers, Larry and Ralph Cimmarusti owned the restaurant. They have multiple locations in Los Angeles and Oregon. I just found out there's one closer to my home; in Long Beach. A Roadhouse Bar and Grill was listed closer to me in Torrance but they have nothing to do with the Original Roadhouse Grill.

I thank Aaron for a good recommendation. There is hope  for him!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Aliotta's Via Firenze

I had nothing but praises about Aliotta's Via Firenze. The last time I was there was when we celebrated a birthday and the evening could not have been better. See previous blog:

Last night, we decided to go back with someone new to the restaurant. We wanted to have good Italian food in our area and there was no question Via Firenze was the only place to go. We got there before our dinner reservation for 7:00 p.m.  It was busy but we still had a choice of table so we picked the corner; nice and cozy. We were given the menu and long after we had decided what to order, I kept looking at the waiters hoping to make eye contact. The man that brought us the bread and water could not take our order so I informed him we were ready. It took a good 15 minutes for our waiter to get our order. We got our bottle of wine in another 10 minutes and the antipasti took awhile. One of us commented: "How long does it take to slice the meats?" The food took forever to come.

We ordered the Pappardelle Via Firenze which I have had numerous times. Fresh ribbon egg pasta with mushrooms, mascapone in beef ragu. The pappardelle was not aldente but almost mushy, overcooked. The Orecchiette Teresina, ear shaped pasta cooked in garlic, prosciutto in a vodka cream sauce had a nice flavor but also overcooked. I don't know if the private party in the other side of the restaurant had anything to do with the terrible service and the fact that Chef Michael was not around but it was inexcusable. Needless to say, the person we brought for the first time has no intention of going back ever.

The dessert we ordered to share was also a favorite. Cliff, who was not there last night used to make this crepe by our table. This time, it came out already assembled and though it was edible, it was not the same.

Hopefully, this was just a fluke because last night was a disaster.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

La Bruschetta Ristorante

Sandi was the recipient of a gift card for this restaurant in Westwood. She has had it for a long time so we finally made it there last night for dinner. We were there before our reservation for 5:30 p.m. Since we were early, we were lucky enough to get a parking space on the street.

We were the first to arrive so we had all the attention of our very nice server Silvio, an Italian who was was very personable and conversed with us about his wanting to go back to his home in Rome someday with his family. The atmosphere took us back to Rome where the server was there solely to make sure you eat and enjoy the food.

We started with a Caesar Salad which came underneath a big slice of Parmigiano cheese. Oh yeahhhh, loved it already. For appetizer we ordered the Involtini Di Melanzane Al Caprino which was grilled eggplant wrapped around goat cheese with roasted bell peppers. We enjoyed both. Just the right amount of everything. Before our salad, they served us bruschetta of course (name of the restaurant) and a basket of bread to start us out.

For our entree: We tried the Rigatoni Bolognese and the Fusilli Amatriciana, corkscrew pasta with pancetta, onions and tomato. It was bold of us to order pasta since coming from Rome just a few weeks ago, we did not want to be disappointed in the pasta. Let me tell you that from our first bite to the last, both of us were deliriously happy with our order. They were aldente and just delicious.

We had a little room left to sample 2 of  the desserts. Profiteroles and Tiramisu. Again, both were delicious. We could not believe our luck!

The owner, Angelo came to our table and we complemented him on the food and the service. A very nice man, so like Gen. MacArthur once said: "I shall return", and so will we.

La Bruschetta is located at 1621 Westwood Blvd. in Los Angeles. They are open for dinner 7 days a week and open for lunch Monday to Friday.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sunday Brunch at Trump National Golf Club

As always, the Sunday Brunch at the Trump National Golf Club is a fabulous way to spend a Sunday especially if one is celebrating a birthday. Yesterday was my niece's birthday and we were invited by her parents to the brunch. This time they had a harpist that played "heavenly" music while we dined; a very nice touch to add to the beautiful ambiance of the dining room and the spectacular ocean view.

Aimee brought her daughter Maisie who just turned one last month. Though she was very good, she wanted to explore and walk around which her parents did not allow her to do (thank God) but instead, daddy, grandpa and myself took turns in carrying her/walking with her so mommy can eat in peace.

The food was glorious as ever. When you go to these buffets, one has to have a strategy. You can't just eat everything or you will get sick. You have to first case the joint, then decide what you really want then get small portions as you could always go back for more. Since I have been to the brunch numerous times, I already knew what to go for. I started with the seafood station with the succulent shrimps (already peeled of course), crab claws, fresh oysters and caviar! These are the high ticket items so you want to get your money's worth ($75.95). Then I went to the omelet and pasta station to have pasta with mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes and lots of Parmesan cheese. I didn't waste my time on an omelet which I can get anywhere. I also got a selection of cheeses to go with my pasta. A good port would have been perfect to go with them but had to settle for the sparkling wine which  was constantly being refilled along with fresh orange juice.

I was almost full but I knew I had to have some of the delicious Korean short ribs and crab cakes. I didn't have room for the prime rib as I had to leave room for dessert. I sampled some of the desserts. Some were better than others but I wasn't ambitious enough in trying everything because I ordered a birthday cake ahead of time which they presented to Aimee after we all had our desserts. I was surprised as the cake was not bad at all! Usually, when something looks so pretty, the cake turns out to be dry and tasteless. I was glad that this was an exception.

Sunday brunch at Trump National Golf Club is still a place to experience though I think it is getting to be too expensive. I remember when they first started at $45-$50 and they served Tattinger champagne. Now we are down to sparkling wine. Trump National Golf Club is located at One Trump National Dr. in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

Great way to celebrate another birthday. Happy Birthday dear Aimee and may you have many more to come.