Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bottle Inn Riviera

A lot of people were excited to hear that the Old Bottle Inn in Hermosa Beach opened a branch in Redondo Beach. I have always loved the Bottle Inn but I haven't been there in probably 15 years. I used to order the Scalone Adriana which was a blend of scallops and abalone cooked in a lemon butter and white wine sauce. A friend of mine who has recently been there told me I had to order the carrot fries for appetizer, the ossobuco with the fettuccine and the bolognese.

We made a reservation for 4:30 p.m. (they open at 4:00 p.m. for dinner). We got there around 4:20 p.m. We had a table by the window. This place in unlike the Hermosa Beach restaurant; you would not call it romantic nor cozy. That's perfectly fine; after all this is in the heart of Redondo Beach on S. Catalina Avenue. The ambiance is "beachy". They believe in recycling from the candle holders, to the glasses to the light fixtures; I know because I have that gadget that cuts used wine bottles.

Three or four people arrived after us that settled in the bar. We were the only ones crazy enough to eat dinner that early; usually that equals better service. We ordered our appetizer. Carrot fries which looked absolutely delicious with an olive oil dip that had garlic and herbs. Looks were not deceiving in this case; they were wonderful although we both thought the dip did not do it justice. It needed something to make it pop. I asked our server if they had an aioli sauce, ranch or anything creamy. She went to ask her manager if they had something of that nature. She came back and informed us that the manager could give us a combination of ketchup and mayonnaise. I got excited....perfect.  Well, it was just what it needed. I suggest you ask for this sauce as it brings the carrot fries to another level......heaven!

For our entree, we ordered the Fettuccine Bolognese which was just o.k. If I had this dish years ago, I am sure I would have thought it was very good but times have changed and I have had much better Bolognese at Osteria Mozza, Il Pastaio, Vincenti, or Valentino's. The Ossobuco Di Vitello was tender and had a lot of flavor. Cooked in a Barolo wine and tomato mushroom sauce, this went well with the fettuccine.

Before our meal, we were entertained by one fly which I captured with my napkin against the window. I handed the napkin to our server and asked for another one. A few minutes later, the relatives of the dead fly came to pay their respects. I surrendered and just concentrated on my food.

I wanted to thank the manager for his suggestion on the sauce for the fries but he never came by nor did he make any eye contact or show concern for us. I thought it was odd since we were the only ones there for sometime before another party came in. He just spoke with his staff and occasionally to the 3 people at the bar. I don't know about the rest of the people but I always like to feel welcome at the restaurant like I welcome my guests when I invite them over for dinner at my home ...... and they don't even have to pay me!

I might still go and try my one time favorite Scalone but I will do so at the old establishment in Hermosa Beach.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Trois Mec

If you haven't heard of Trois Mec; Ludo Lefebvre's restaurant on Highland and Melrose, listen up...... we celebrated my brother Gary's birthday there last night. It took about 2 weeks to get a reservation and before that you have to register online.  You have to be patient and keep calling and when you get the reservation, you feel like you hit the jackpot except you end up paying for a non-refundable ticket of $75 which isn't that bad.

There were 6 of us and 3 people in our party have been there previously. If you just go by their address, you will probably blame your GPS for sending you to the wrong place. You end up on a strip mall which includes Yum-Yum donuts, a cleaners and a French place called Petit Trois and Raffallo's Pizza. Raffallo's Pizza is Trois Mec.  We were all there before our reservation time of 6:00 p.m.  We were warned that they do not wait for anyone, they start serving with or without the rest of your party. As we waited for the doors to open, Gary tried to peek at Petit Trois which had shades on the window so he couldn't really see inside. While he was investigating, the Great Chef Ludo came out to check on something outside. Gary asked him if this was going to be a wine bar and he curtly answered: "Different Concept" and went back in. I don't care care who you are but in my book, there is absolutely no excuse for rudeness. Oh well, I was there to eat and not to kiss Chef Ludo!

We were seated as soon as we got in. It is a small, clean and a very casual place. They started bombarding us with the snacks which were amazing. I asked if they could slow down as there was not enough time to savor each one. We were told that this was the way the snacks were to be served. (wham, bam, thank you ma'am..). There was the Buckwheat Popcorn which tasted like chopped chicharon with vinegar, then came the Garlic Bread which was the most incredible garlic bread we ever had! It tasted like it was soaked in butter for 24 hrs. then topped with melted cheese and topped with green onions and maybe basil; not sure what else was in or on it but it truly was the best. The other snack we all loved was the Crispy Tapioca with passion fruit and parmesan. It was an OMG moment! Then there was a miniature salad that was just as edible.

As we literally inhaled the devoured the snacks, our first "plate" arrived.   Crab Ceviche with thin slices of creamy avocado, citrus and buckwheat popcorn. This was very good. I think this would have been a great entree. This plate was followed by a Jamon Iberico with tomato pulp, charred eggplant and smoked tomato; also very good; of course how could it not be when you have the finest of hams.
The next dish was Radish with burnt bread, fromage blanc and furikake. This impressed me as it is hard to make radish exciting and  this would have been a vegetarian's delight.

We did order the supplement for the evening. The supplement for an extra $15 could only be had if the whole table orders it.....and so we did.  This was Confit Squid with white asparagus, caper puree and mascarpone.  Milena is allergic to squid so I had to sacrifice and consume hers. The mascarpone was a nice touch as it went very well with the squid.

The last plate was Veal Belly with crispy artichokes and parmesan. This was a bit of a disappointment as this veal could have used some liposuction. We all understood that it had to have some fat but this was too fatty and was even hard to cut. I might have enjoyed it better if it was crispy, but to eat soft fat was not appetizing. The artichokes were crispy alright but it didn't do anything for me. In fact, I would not have know they were artichokes. Fried kale would have been better.

Dessert was quite delicious. Strawberry cake with meringue and chantilly. The cake was very moist and light. It was a good finale. After dessert, they brought out a serving of caramel and cannelle for each of us.

In summary, I was happy to experience the food at Trois Mec. The staff was attentive to our needs though we thought that they lacked the passion on the explanation of the courses. They often rattled the ingredients of a dish like reading from a script. We had to ask them to repeat what they recited. Adam, the manager was friendly and professional. My experience might have been a lot better if I didn't see Chef Ludo hanging around with absolutely no concern for any of his customers. I expect a chef/owner to be a little more gracious and welcoming to his customers. Everyone said he is really that way on T.V. etc. etc. This is not T.V. nor is this a show. This is the real world and I think he should lose the attitude.

In the parking lot, there was this sign which I thought was funny when I saw it first...............but at the end of our meal, it took in a new meaning: no longer a joke as this was truly a sign of the chef's attitude and arrogance.

Note:  I have met some of the best chefs like Guy Savoy, Yves Camdeborde of Le Comptoir, David Myers, Nancy Silverton, David Feau and one thing they have in common aside from talent is humility. This is probably why they are still around.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Gourmet Dinner at Sandi's

Sandi loves to cook. When she's happy, sad, stressed, name it: she cooks.  I am lucky to be her friend because I'm the resident guinea pig.

Last night she decided to cook some pork tenderloin with fresh raspberry sauce.  Before our main entree, she served a nice salad with fresh strawberries and blueberries with parmesan crisp in a jalapeno and lime dressing. She's also been wanting to try a recipe of macaroni and cheese with Gouda cheese and so she did.  For vegetables, she roasted some fresh beans, peppers and squash she got from the Farmer's market. The end result was a beautiful presentation of a wonderful meal. It looked like a $45 entree from a fine dining restaurant except for the fact that I had a second serving with no extra charge.

For dessert, she served a cherry chocolate strudel she had in her freezer which she baked. It was baked perfectly per instructions (crisp and light) especially when served with some whipped cream. I had forgotten how good these strudels are from Mishi's Strudel in San Pedro. I was unable to take pictures as we were all excited to try it but, not to worry as I am already planning a trip to Mishi's to get a few of the strudels this week.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Gramma's Country Kitchen

On the way to Palm Springs is a "not to be missed" country restaurant that's no nonsense home cooking good. My friend Sandi mentioned to me that there was this place called Mothers on the way to Palm Springs that was very good and served hearty meals. Upon intense investigation, Mothers turned out to be Gramma's.

The ambiance is totally "country" and this very busy place seemed like THE stop for everyone traveling through the Moreno Valley Freeway (60) unto the (10) which is the Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway.

Their menu was extensive. They have anything and everything you can imagine from Chicken Steak with biscuits and country gravy to pancakes, salads, sandwiches, etc. etc. etc.  It was hard to decide what to get. We finally decided to get the Chorizo Scrambled Eggs with country potatoes and refried beans and Corned Beef Hash with country potatoes and fried eggs. Both of them were very good. It tasted as good as it looked. Sandi ordered their hot chocolate which came with a ton of whipped cream!

This place is not to be missed. This will definitely be a sure stop for us the next time we travel to Palm Springs. Gramma's Country Kitchen is at 2868 W. Ramsey St. in Banning, California.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Il Pastaio Catering

I recently blogged about this restaurant wherein we were very happy with the food but not the service. I was in charge of ordering food for 15 people for my niece's baby christening reception.

I ordered some Caesar Salad, their Cacio e Pepe, Fettucine Bolognese and Chicken Piccata. See previous blog:

Everyone loved the food especially the Cacio e Pepe. We were a bit concerned because reheating it might have dried it up a but we did not have that problem because as soon as the food came, we immediately served them. The Bolognese had a lot of meat which complemented each strand of fettuccine.  The Chicken Piccata was surprisingly delicious. I have had that in numerous Italian restaurants but this is by far the best. The chicken was tender and juicy. The sourness of the sauce was offset by the the salty capers. The chicken came with some nice fresh and perfectly cooked vegetables.

For dessert, I had ordered their Tiramisu. I was a bit nervous as I didn't get a chance to try it before and wasn't sure if it would be worthy of being served to a group of foodies! The verdict was in; everyone enjoyed the light and strong espresso flavor; everyone except the baby who looked like she wanted to try anything!

I ordered everything through Nina Chua,  who was in charge of their catering department. She brought lots of bread, extra piccata sauce and pecorino cheese. Believe it or not, the pasta was really aldente.  Nina arrived in time and I couldn't have been happier with the service and delivery. I am looking forward to going back to Il Pastaio and I hope we get better service than the last time.

Il Pastaio's address is 400 N. Canon Dr. in Beverly Hills.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Nothing Like Nobu

If I were Sandra Bullock or someone who had tons of money I would do my body good by eating healthy twice a week  at Nobu.  The last time we were there was 6 months ago. We usually just let our server know we are game for anything; no diet restrictions with the exception of one vegetarian and one that had a touch of gout plus a stress fracture!

There were 10 adults in our party and one very well behaved Maisie Mireille.

We had Shima aji ( Jack fish) with Jalapeno, Kanpachi  and Yagara with truffle dry miso. Then we had Albacore and some fish topped with caviar. They ALL just melted in our mouths. Alma had a Squid pasta which wasn't really pasta, it was just shaped like pasta. Ross could not eat most of the stuff so he ordered Fish and Chips. This was no ordinary fish and chips; the enticing presentation itself posed a challenge likened to the game of jenga.

We had a variety of Tacos; wagyu, tuna and veggie. They were all delicious. I remember having these on our last visit. I was impressed with the taco shells as they were the light, crispy and tasty.
We had to have the signature dish which was the Black Cod with miso. I have tried to make this several times and could never get it right. For the finale, we had the Japanese Wagyu Flambe which was absolutely wonderful. It was so tender that it almost seemed like you were eating sushi.

We had several desserts to share. Banana Caramel Soy Tobanyaki, Claudis Carrot Cake, Bento Box and the Kamameshi Halo Halo which is unlike the Filipino Halo Halo. This was served warm with the ice cream. Once you've had the "real" halo halo, you wouldn't settle for any imitation. Well, everyone is entitled to make their version.

Like I said before, Nobu is the only place I will eat anything raw as they know how to it right. Nobuyuki (Nobu) Matsuhisa is truly a magician!

Nobu is located at 903 N. La Cienega Blvd. in Beverly Hills.