Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Birthday Dominique's Kitchen

It's hard to believe it has been 3 years since Dominique's Kitchen landed in Redondo Beach, California.  The restaurant business is very hard and anyone can tell you that. You have to serve good food, provide good service, have reasonable prices etc. etc. Dominique has done that consistently.

Elliot and I had dinner there a few days ago. We naturally had to start with their fantastic Cheese Fondue with the nice French bread but also had to order Truffle Fries to dump in the hot fondue. We could have eaten than all night with champagne or wine. Liza sent us 2 glasses of Kir Royale which we enjoyed with our Fries.

For dinner, Elliot had their famous Short Ribs which is always tender and has lots of flavor. The creamy, yummy mashed potatoes went well with the meat. I on the other hand ordered something I have not had in a long time. Their famous Chicken with truffle fries. I hardly ever order chicken because chicken is chicken....blah blah blah. Dominique's chicken is to die for. I recently watched a show: "I'll Have What Phil is Having", ( a great show on PBS, Monday nights) the segment was on Paris. He talked about the delicious chicken the French would make and he could not get over how great it tasted. I smiled to myself and thought: " I know where I can get that without another trip to Paris", and that's at Dominique's Kitchen. It really is the best, especially if you ask a little extra au jus to pour over the chicken and fries.

Elliot was too full for dessert but I didn't want him to leave without sampling Dominique's desserts. He settled for the Chocolate Mousse. I ordered the Floating Island so Elliot could try it since he has never had it before. That dessert is so light, a bit sweet but not too sweet. It was perfect to end my chicken dinner.

Thanks to Liza and Dominique. This is why the restaurant is doing well. The food alone won't do it. Both of them always treat their customers like they were truly guests at their home. Congratulations to you both!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mono Inn Restaurant

The Mono Inn in Lee Vining, California was built in 1922 and owned by Wally and Venita McPherson. In 1996, the inn was bought by Ansel Adams family and run by Sarah Adams for 10 years. Though still owned by the Adams family, the building is currently leased to Lonna and Debbie Hergert and they now run the restaurant.

I can remember the excellent food and the freshly baked bread they served. Great food while you looked out the window and admire the beautiful Mono Lake that starts out blue and as the sun sets, you see blue reflection of the sky on the lake which later turns into shades of pink.

I was very excited to go back and introduce my friend to this experience. It has been at least 15 years since I have been there. We were the first to arrive and had our pick of the table. We positioned ourselves by the window. We looked at the menu and questioned our server if we could split the bowl of  Butternut Squash Soup. She politely said no. I thought that maybe there was cheese on top so it might be difficult to split. She informed us that she would bring 2 spoons. That did not work out too well because the soup was set between the two of us so almost every time the spoon made it's way to our mouths, it left a trail of drip, drip, drip which made us look like sloppy eaters. I couldn't see the big deal why they could not furnish another small cup. While we ate our delicious soup, we thought it would go well with bread which we did not get. I waited for our server who got busy with the other table. I ended up going to the bar and asking her if we could have some bread. Her response was, "Oh, do you want bread?", Yes please, I replied. A few minutes later, a basket arrived. Sandi started laughing when she peeked in the basket. She couldn't wait for my reaction. I looked and saw 4 thin slices of bread. It's almost as if they only had 1 baguette and had to make sure they had enough to feed everyone. BTW, we noticed the other tables didn't get the bread basket.

We decided to split two entrees:  the Bison Short Rib; braised with red wine demi glace until it falls off the bone, served with truffle gratin and fresh seasonal vegetables. The other entree was the Filet Mignon; bacon wrapped with bordelaise sauce and caramelized shallots, served with herb roasted fingerling potatoes and vegetables.

The food arrived and it looked promising. Unfortunately, it broke it's promise. The Filet was supposed to be cooked medium and it came rare. The Bison which was supposed to be falling off the bone did not fall off. It hung on the bone for dear life. It was chewy. The flavor and sauce was very good. When our server came to ask how everything was, we told her what we thought and she just apologized.  After about 10 minutes, she returned and asked us again how everything was. Nothing has changed in the last 10 minutes so I told her again we were not very happy. In fact, I suggested she tell the chef what we thought; she gave us a puzzled look and apologized again. We did not finish our meal so we had lots of room for dessert but decided to skip it. We didn't want to take any chances and be further disappointed.

Sorry, sorry, sorry.  We were really sorry we did not like the food nor the service. Mono Inn is still riding on the old reputation of being a great restaurant. I understand that sometimes the meat may not be tender, or something may not be cooked right and these are all fixable problems. I think the chef could have come out to apologize and offer to bring something else or at the very least, the manager if there was one, could have come up and offer a discount like they do in any fine dining restaurant especially if they want you to come back.

If you want to see Mono Lake, you can drive to the museum in Lee Vining and see the vast lake with a very nice exhibit. If you want good old fashion delicious food and great service, head on to the old Carson Peak Inn in June Lake. The croutons alone will be worth your visit.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Carson Peak Inn

Carson Peak Inn Restaurant is located in the June Lake Loop just below the magnificent Carson Peak in June Lake, California. If you don't like the hustle and bustle of mountain city life like Mammoth, you will love June Lake. It is more like a small European town nestled in the high mountains. The restaurant has been in existence since 1966. My husband and I used to always make it a point to eat there every time we were in June Lake. A good and old friend Art Ronci introduced us to Carson Peak Inn. The last time I was there was at least 20 years ago!

My friend Sandi and I went to June Lake this past weekend and I told her we were going to have dinner there our first night. The restaurant has not changed. I was so happy to see a bowl of croutons on our table. I dreamt about their croutons so many times. I don't know how they make them but I suspect it has a lot of fat; and this is why they are so delicious and addicting.

There were so much to order from the menu. I knew they were famous for their steaks, chicken and ribs but since we were in the high country, I thought it was best to order Trout. They served us garlic bread, salad and Beef Barley Soup. All that came with the entree. The soup was outstanding. The trout was fresh as can be. The probably just caught them earlier in the day. It was so simple yet with lemon and the tartar sauce, it was unbelievably delicious.  The baked potato was not bad either, especially after I had put a ton of butter, sour cream and fresh chives.

Service was great. By the time we left, the restaurant was full. Note that when we got our entree, I was too excited to attack the trout that I forgot to take a picture of it. I had to call the restaurant the following day and spoke with Phillip to ask if he would be so kind to take a picture of the trout. He had to ask Nina, a co-worker to do it and she emailed me the picture the following day.

I thank the staff at the Carson Peak Inn for the best service and excellent food. Please keep up the good work.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Yesterday, I was with relatives from Chicago and after doing business, they decided to have dinner at Lawry's. We got to Lawry's in Beverly Hills and was told the wait would be at least 1 hour. I suggested we go across the street to Scratch Bar and since they have never been there, they agreed. So we crossed the street and was disappointed to see a sign by the door that said, "Due to unforeseen circumstances; we are closed for the day."  Though we were sad they were closed, our sadness immediately turned to happiness as next door was Matsuhisa, as in Nobu Matsuhisa.

We started with a bottle of Overture which was a very good wine. It was time to order. I was talked into ordering what they all wanted to order; the Wagyu Beef. They were prepared 2 ways and after talking to our server, we all decided on the Toban-yaki Wagyu. Toban-yaki is a method of cooking on a ceramic plate.  It was cooked with several kinds of mushrooms and onions. Wagyu beef was served by the ounce. FYI, an ounce is $28. So, before you say you want 6oz., make sure you do a quick calculation in your head so you don't end up with buyers remorse. I ordered 2 oz. but someone insisted I have 3oz. I also ordered the Rock Shrimp with creamy spicy sauce. I have had that at Nobu and remembered how good it was. These shrimps were crispy, creamy, and spicy which went well with the Japanese white rice. In addition to the steak, Alma had the Soft Shell Crab Spring Rolls. She was nice enough to give me one. It was delicious. We were all stuffed that we were not even interested in looking at the dessert menu.

You can't really go wrong at this restaurant. The food is always excellent. Matsuhisa is at 129 N.La Cienega in Los Angeles.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

El Pollo Inka

The old Marmalade in Rolling Hills Estates was replaced by El Pollo Inka, a Peruvian restaurant chain.  Though there is one not too far from it on Hawthorne Blvd. in Torrance, this would be a big convenience to the people in Palos Verdes so they would not have to go down the hill. Not too many good restaurants last on this hill.

A friend and I happened to be in the area so we decided to go for it. We had no idea what was good so we just studied the menu and ordered our food very scientifically based on the mouth watering pictures.

Lee ordered the Vainita de Pollo; lean chicken sauteed with French cut green beans, onions and tomatoes, served with rice. It looked a bit too healthy for me. She did like it though. Her entree included an Aguadito soup which is chicken & rice with cilantro, also very good. I had the Bisteck Montado; steak topped with fried egg and plantains served with rice. It was a good choice. I loved the flavorful steak and the sweet fried bananas. They did serve us some rolls with butter. Nothing special but we were happy since we both were starving.

No dessert was ordered since we didn't have time for it. There's always a next time unless of course this restaurant vanishes before it's time! (I should hope not as the peninsula needs restaurants badly.)
El Pollo Inka is located at 550 Deep Valley Dr. in Rolling Hills Estates in the Promenade in the Peninsula.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Another Birthday at Ink

O.K. I have blogged about this restaurant numerous times. In fact, I was just there 12 days ago! Here's my last blog:

It was Jody's birthday and this was her 2nd birthday at Ink. We ordered the same things so I won't bore you with the details, especially if you take a look at the previous blog.  This time we brought Sandi who is not crazy for oysters unless it is fried. When the oysters were served, she announced that she would not have any. Like a typical mother talking to her child, I told her I would not take her to eat at restaurants anymore if she does not at least try one. Like a good little girl, she did try it and ended up having more than one! I have always loved them so I ordered another one. Some of them had little pieces of the shell which was not good; I had one of them but Jody had them in 2 of her oysters.

We also had the Salt and Charcoal Potatoes which is always a hit; the Corn with Foritos ( I always called them Fritos) which we loved but noticed that we didn't have enough of the Foritos. There were 3 of us and there were only 2 1/2 of them. The last time I was at ink, there were 2 of us in our party so it was perfect. We asked if we could have just a bit more which they happily supplied a bunch. Well, the bunch was $4.00. This may not seem much but I thought it was overkill. In my opinion, they should have included 3 of them so we each get one. When we asked for more, they should have informed us that there was an extra charge. We didn't need a lot of it; one would have sufficed. We had to order the Egg Yolk Gnocchi. This made Jody almost cry the last time. It is phenomenal and yes, out of this world! Before I could take a picture, one gnocchi already made it's way into Jody's mouth!

I thought it was time to order something different. We went for the Branzino with roasted cauliflower, caper and fermented grapes. This was excellent. The Lobster with Carolina gold rice, sea beans and lobster jus was like a risotto. It didn't lack lobster but somehow we all thought it was just o.k. For $28, this should have been outstanding.

Dessert had to be the Apple, caramel with shortbread. Everyone loved that one; who wouldn't? The chocolate was a bit too rich for my 2 friends.  It is really meant to be shared which we did. At the end we were all pleasantly full.

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

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Drago Centro

This restaurant in downtown Los Angeles is a good place to have dinner. Come early in case you get caught up in traffic or your GPS experiences lapse of dementia. If you get there earlier than you reservation, take a walk around and enjoy the vibe. The impressive see-through wine vault takes center stage and you can't help but admire this work of art.

Since our party got there before it officially opened, they were gracious enough to seat us at our table as we studied the menu. They started us with some bread and we could not help but comment on how the olive oil was super good.  We all decided to have our very own salads. Mertz and Sandi had the Insalata di Mela; pink lady apple salad w/arugula, candied walnuts, bacon in a champagne vinaigrette. I had the Insalata di Cesare; romaine lettuce with Caesar dressing and shaved parmesan and garlic crostini. We all liked our salad, though I would have been happier if mine included some anchovies.

We did not the have the traditional Italian meal where we would have ordered a primi and secondi piatti (first and second course); something I always do when in Italy. My friends are not as big eaters as I am. Mertz ordered the Gli Agnolotti for her main entree; roasted butternut squash, ricotta agnolotti, parmesan sage with brown butter foam. Mertz announced that she is not a fan of foam. I too am not, in fact it does not look appetizing. It looks like soap suds but it seems chefs think it is the "in" thing to do. Nevertheless, it was outstanding even with the suds. Sandi and I ordered 2 pasta dishes to share. Le Fettuccine; cacio e pepe, black pepper, pecorino and the Il Fazzoletto; handkerchief pasta with jumbo lump crab, arugula pesto, chile flakes and lemon. The Cacio e Pepe was not the traditional cacio e pepe as it had a white sauce. It was very good and we did like it but not what we expected. We very much preferred the ones they serve at Il Pastaio who's owner is Giacomino Drago;brother of Celestino who owns Drago Centro. We did not enjoy the Fazzoletto as it smelled and tasted too fishy. In fact, we had a large portion as left over and they asked if we wanted to take it home and we declined and explained why not. Our server was kind enough to not charge us and informed us that he would let the chef know.

All 3 of us splurged on desserts. Instead of having 1 or 2 to share, we had 3 to share. We tried the Bomboloni; mini doughnuts with lemon cream, black currant jam with white gelato. These doughnuts were light and delicious. The second dessert was La Terrina; chocolate and olive oil terrine with salted caramel gelato, also delicious and not too sweet. The third one was the best. La Torta Al Formaggio; cheesecake tart with balsamic caramel and basil gelato. Two of us are not cheesecake fans but this was an exception, creamy and just yummy. We all raved about the basil gelato. It sounded weird but we all loved it.

The manager, Malick Gueye came by our table and we had a nice visit with him. We learned that he lived in Italy and he spoke several languages. He gave us his card and told us when we decide to go back there, he would put us in contact with people which is always a great idea as you see the country with their eyes so to speak.

Note that by the time we left, the restaurant was packed. Drago Centro is located at 525 S. Flower St. in Los Angeles.

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.