Monday, March 19, 2012

LQ@SK-Los Angeles

After much anticipation, the day finally came!  I couldn't wait to try Chef's Laurent Quenioux's whimsical dishes.  With 2 other in our party, our trio arrived with time to spare, and waited a few minutes until the first sitting was through.

I'm not embarrassed to admit that I am a sort of late bloomer in the foodie world, and only a few months ago learned about Chef LQ, so imagine my surprised when I learned that I had landed reservations to one of the last events of LQ@SK (Before he moves locations, or decides what his next endeavor will be).

Also very very excited the male in our trio brought one of my favorite wine's from the Mendoza region, which by the way, its been a bit difficult for me to find it so points to Gus for that.
Achaval Ferrer Quimera 2005! Oh, how I love thee... Let me count the ways!
Ok, too poetic for a wine, but I was super excited!

I brought another red from the other side of the pond that I bought in Paris a few years back.  Lighter bodied than the Achaval Ferrer, but still very good.
You see our pattern here right?  We are not big on White Wines... What can I say!

We started out with our AF Wine as they brought out some delicious bread with a very aromatic Olive Oil.  I'll tell you, the wine was flowing as the was the bread & Olive Oil...

A few minutes later, our playful, yummy & whimsical Amuse Bouche arrived.

I thought it was tasty and well combined with the little shot of Mustard Greens Artridge, a cute little bite that sort of took you back to your child days.  I didn't mind that it was after all Vienna Sausage, Points for Chef LQ for introducing some playfulness and fun onto a menu, it doesn't always have to be over the top and so avant garde. Life's too short... enjoy!

Amuse - Pretzel bite, Vienna Sausage, Mustard Greens artridge

Some more bread, some more wine... nice laid-back ambiance, great company and conversation...more Achaval Ferrer... the arrival of each course was spaced out a bit longer than I'm accustomed to, but we really didn't mind, as the mood lend itself for such a laid-back evening.
Finally, our next course arrives and it's beyond spectacular.

An explosion of flavors from the soft mild buttery, perfectly presented Hamachi, nicely complimented with the acidity burst from the Lemon Curd, the luscious creamy Avocado and that intense sweet smoky flavor from the Soy Gel all together in 1 amazingly intense bite.

The Sesame Cremeux was airy and creamy with obvious but subtle sesame flavors as not to overpower the soft fish. We also really enjoyed the tiny Tobico Caviar pearls which burst and pop! as you bite into them..Pretty fun!

Hamachi, Lemon Curd, Black Sesame Cremeux, Soy Gel, Avocado Smear, Tobico, Uni Air

Next was one of the favorites of the night... and although a safe choice for Mr. LQ, Its not easy to pull off something as simple as "Fish & Chips" and make it memorable... but he did!
The fish was just beyond amazing and cooked perfectly, Soft, mild but flavorful and flaky with a nice light & crispy tempura coating, cute little baby chips infused with Sour Cream Flavor!, Chorizo and Lime for some added intensity to this amazing dish.

Skate Fish and Chips, Chyote, Argan Oil, Epazote, Chorizo, Lime, "La Ratte"

Next was the tender soft Rabbit Albondigas, well flavored and paired nicely with a bright Miso Dashi Broth... a nice kick of spiciness there, crunch from the Ramps Tempura and the creamy,buttery and fatty deliciousness that was the Foie Gras with the Teriyaki Glaze.

At this point you should notice a trend here, these are all "Comfort Foods" re-invented or re-done in in a more "Adult" & "Upscale" manner, but comfort food nonetheless...and our trio couldn't have been happier!
Rabbit Albondigas, Terryaki Foie, Miso Dashi Broth, Red Tosaka, Ramps Tempura

At this point the skinny gentleman in our group who usually could eat up a storm, couldn't believe he was getting quite satisfied with such "small" portions... LOL it was funny!

Next came the best grilled cheese dish I think I've ever had! It was so good and gooey, , I'd probably rate it "R" just so the kids couldn't eat it! ... This is definitely an Adult Grilled Cheese with Comte as a very nice replacement for your typical and ordinary cheddar!
Combined with a very tender and flavorful Oxtail, its little bit of broth would get all soaked up by the grilled cheese and add to that the House-Made veggie pickles for some brightness and crunch! Oh Man! This was The Grilled Cheese you wished your mom would have done for dinner, you know what I mean?

Oxtail, Comte Grilled Cheese, Pickled Vegetables, Tarragon

Next up was the much anticipated Cheese Cart!
We only chose to try 5 among the 3 of us because we were more than satisfied at this point and we still have dessert.
Although I don't have pictures of all of them, and my memory for French words could improve, here are some that I do remember and or have pictures!

Blue D'Tuvergne, Comte, Cavet and 2 others that although pungent and delicious, no power on earth will make me remember those names :(

Saving the best for last and this is not just a pretty face! (Or dish), the Tonka bean infused Tres Leches Cake with a Cajeta mousse, rich creamy Guava Gel and a refreshing Blood Orange Sorbet this was a hit all around!
I'm not usually a ice cream (or sorbet for that matter) person, but this was incredibly flavorful, and the slight acidity did an excelent job at cutting through the rich sweet cake.

It was an event! more than just a nice dinner... Hopefully Mr. Chef LQ will stick around L.A. for a long, long time!

Tonka bean Tres Leche, Cajeta, Guava Gel, Blood Orange Sorbet, Serrano Lime Thai Basil Seeds

Thursday, March 15, 2012

On the Plaza Cafe-Pasadena

Thought I would write a quick little review about this cute little cafe in the Gateway Plaza on Lake where I work.
They have really fresh and yummy lunches and I appreciate the dedication to always keep changing the menu just a little bit, but always keeping the favorites... as is the Chorizo Burrito for Breakfast!
Yum! The only downside: They always run out! :(  but I guess that's a good thing, right!

Here's a picture of the Famous Chorizo Burrito... (sorry about the quality of the picture, it was taken with my ipod)

Chorizo Burrito with Eggs, Salsa & Potatoes

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

La Creperie Cafe-Long Beach

It's Saturday night, you have kids, sisters with their own kids, and really don't want to drive down to L.A. for some french bistro if the French mood were to strike you... what do you do?..
Well, we found this little place on Pine St. in Long Beach and gave it a shot.

The decor is very Sexy French, probably a nice place for a date, but mind you our kids are very well behaved so bringing them was not a problem, however be forwarned that the music, albeit nice, its a bit too loud... at the end we couldn't wait to get out of there, it was so loud.

Started off with their Lobster Bisque which according to our waiter, was made in house... ( I ask because you never know).  It was quite tasty, well seasoned, with minimal amount of actual lobster, but good.  By far not even close to the best one I've had and a bit too thick, still good though.

Also in the soup department, we couldn't go to a French Bistro without trying the required: French Onion Soup.

La Crêperie Café on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pizzeria Mozza-Los Angeles

I've heard so much about this place and the amazing pizzas, I was so excited to finally make it out to their L.A. location with my mom and my son... (the best, pickiest critics ever!)

We had reservations and were seated right away, pretty good for a weekend, right?? I will say, I did have high expectations, maybe due to all the love it gets on Chowhound and amongst my own family members...

The place was busting at the seams with people, but service was attentive and rather efficient.
Nice starter with the bread stick, although pretty dry mouth feel since they do not bring you any accompaniment.

I had asked a very trusted source about Mozza (the Pizzeria) and recommended dishes, which in turn they answered ..."everything is so good, there's usually nothing left on the plate, and if there was... I would rub it all over!" LOL
Sadly, I did not feel like rubbing it all over :) ok, maybe the meatballs! but that would be gross! LOL

We started with the meatballs which turned out to be amazingly tasty,very tender, with great seasoning  paired nicely with the must have traditional red Italian sauce, which by the way, I loved that it was not sweet!( I hate when that happens)... this one had a very nice acidity to it... but not over the top and really well balanced in flavor, really tasted like it cooked all day. Great Start!
Meatballs al forno

Another hit dish! The octopus was extremely tender (and we all know how easy it is to get over-cooked rubbery calamari) and well seasoned, beautifully balanced with the fragrant olive oil,acidity from the red wine vinegar, creamy white fagioli beans, a touch of herbaceousness from the oregano with a light sweetness and freshness added by the tomatoes.
Calamari al forno with fagioli, tomatoes & oregano

Ok, here things start to go down hill... I hate to say this, because I'm sure I'm the only one in the world that thinks the following dishes are really not much to talk about and I may just be thrown out of Chowhoud and every foodie worthy .com place for the following comments LOL!

The bread with olive oil: Ok, I know that is what we ordered, and you really cannot tell from the picture, but trust me that this was drowning in Oil! waaaayyy too much oil... Sadly that really ruined the experience of this otherwise amazing bread.
Pane bianco with olio nuovo

Let's start with the crust:  They bring you a butter knife to cut your pizza... Butter Knife?? really? Yes, really! LOL (I could have asked for a steak knife, but couldn't really find our waitress and I made due, but they should know that their pizza's cannot really be cut with butter knifes)
I had this notion that the I would take my first bite and this extreme crunch sensation would begin to fill all my senses. instead, it was sort of average...well cooked, not burned per se, but missing that extra umph! However the nice puffy edges were crunchy and very good. 

This really could have benefited from a bit less cheese (although my cheese loving fanatic mom would argue against this) and a little bit of bechamel so its not all bread & cheese... A creamy element would have really saved this.
Bianca with fontina, mozzarella, sottocenere & sage

Our second and last pizza made our mouth water... until it came to the table. Sad, I know, but true.
The Prosciutto was cold and placed onto the pizza after it was baked & cut, thus warming portions of it by the heat of the pizza while other portions of the prosciutto were still cold. This temperature unevenness and the fact that the rucola was not even dressed with a little olive oil, lemon or vinegar..nothing! made it almost inedible.

However, once home, we placed it in the oven, let the Prosciutto get nice and warm and a bit crispy (the prosciutto crispy) but also the pizza... oh man! waaayyy better! IMHO, that's how they should serve it... Please Mozza...??

Overall above average experience (barely), but I really would not do the drive all the way to L.A. just to go to Mozza, if I'm in the area, I might give it another try.
Prosciutto di Parma, rucola, tomato & mozzarella

Pizzeria Mozza on Urbanspoon


As the day come closer that all California Foodies will have to cease the consumption of Foie Gras (As this becomes Illegal in July 2012) I had to have another try at Animal's famous "Seared Foie Gras, Biscuit, Sausage Gravy & Maple Syrup.... and did so in amazing company!

It was, as always, a full house.. even on a Sunday Night!  
Our quartet arrived without a minute to spare, since we were busy with our pre-dinner gathering of delicious appetizers and a wonderfully refreshing Orange-Cucumber Martini! (Thanks Juli!)

The boys in our party had brought some delicious Malbec to complement our meals, and I thought that was a great idea since Animal allows you to bring your own, albeit a $20 corkage fee, but a much more cost effective option IMO, since we finished 2 bottles!

Staff as always very courteous and the atmosphere was well... loud! That was absolutely no problem for "some" in our party, as they speak loud anyways! ha ha

We were not sure how many dishes we'd end up ordering but in the end, ended up trying 11 dishes,
and highlight of the night was the Polenta & 6 Hr bolognese sauce.. which Julio politely ask the waiter if he could have a bucket of it!
The Citrus Dessert was also a very nice way to finish of a rather rich and somewhat heavy meal, it was combined with Sable crumbles and and a very creamy fresh sauce (maybe yogurt?) I thought all the components in this dish went rather well together. I was very sad though that they no longer had the Sticky Toffee Pudding... oh well! That was my favorite, more so than the Bacon, Chocolate Crunch.

I started by trying the very reasonably priced ($3) Chicken Liver Toast: Very good for the price, with a semi-strong liver taste and a nice fruity marmalade on top.
No one else was game to accompany me on this one... I think the fear of the strong liver taste puts people off sometimes... but come on... be adventurous!

The polenta, as mentioned earlier, was really the star of the night.  I know, its a simple dish, and with so many other (perhaps more creative combinations) dishes, why was this the star of the night?  Well, first I will tell you my family as a whole is extremely selective and persnickety and they all cook amazingly, and second,we come from an Italian background, so we know most places do not do justice to this dish as grandma could! LOL.
So it was much to our surprise that a mere simple ingredient such as polenta could really get us so worked up... in a good way! It must have had 1LB of butter! but I don't mean that in a bad way... it was soo good, creamy and not at all gritty, as most other restaurants. Until this moment, my mom by far... made the best polenta in the world! but Butter makes it Better! It WAS missing the little hole in the middle my mom makes to hold the sauce "in".  
Creamy, buttery Polenta with 6 Hr. Bolognese Sauce

The balsamic pork ribs were good, although in the picture they do look as if they've burned, they were not at all, in fact the nice char on the outside gave them a nice smoky taste, although we could have done without so much balsamic, they were very good and tender.
balsamic pork ribs, delicate squash, arugula, pecan

Next came the petit basque melted cheese with chorizo and grilled bread.  The bread was your standard french bread, sliced and nicely toasted, but this bread, as I came to find later, is much better than the bread served with the Foie Terrine dish.  At first we noticed a very strong, stinky smell coming from a nearby table... first we thought someone must have taken their shoes off? ha ha! JK... but seriously, it stunk! Ohhh, its the Petit Basque!... Ok.. we had to have it!.  It was as delicious as yes, stinky. Not rocket science obviously, but still very nice.
melted petit basque, chorizo, grilled bread

My Foie Gras Terrine came along with the previous two dishes and do you notice what I noticed when I saw my plate?????? Julio said: "Is that Wonder Bread?"... Come on guys... you cannot serve me sliced Wonder Bread along such a delicious, buttery Foie!
Besides the bread disaster, the terrine was very nicely done, very mild in taste (no strong liver notes) and nicely accompanied by a sweet fruity & acidic orange marmalade.  My sister thought "it taste like dessert!" Yeah!! that's my Sis!! Foie for Ever!!
However, the steamed endive... what?? I didn't get it! maybe for some added texture... but really did nothing for the dish, in fact.. just leave it aside as I did.

Foie Gras Terrine

I feel the dishes were being sent out of the kitchen at a nice pace, giving us plenty of time finish our 1st round, unlike my first visit.

2nd round of dishes:

Grilled baby broccoli, crispy egg, smoked trout, mustard, hatch chili.  I only tried the baby broccoli which was nicely cooked (I hate when you get vegetables so raw still that you're afraid you'll break a tooth!) and seasoned, along with the crispy egg which was basically a soft boiled egg with a nice crunchy breading on the outside.  It was nice to have something "green" in a sea of "Animal" dishes.  Oh, and the romesco sauce was amazing!

grilled baby broccoli, crispy egg, smoked trout, mustard, hatch chili

Veal Tongue:

The Foie Gras Semi-Freddo/Mousse was spectacular with distinct smoky notes and plenty of rich,lush,creamy,buttery goodness. This is a new menu item, and a true winner in my book.
Veal Tongue, Smoked Foie Gras, Pastrami Spices, Crab Apple

I was a little hesitant when we ordered this dish due to the mixed reviews... but sounded amazing and we took a chance.  Happy to say, it was cooked to perfection, well seasoned, but not they didn't go sodium happy on it. The Parmesan fondue made this a truly decadent dish. the potatoes were good too, but really, who notices the potatoes when you have an amazingly well cooked piece of meat with lots of parm truffle fondue on top, right??
flat iron, potato hash, truffle Parmesan fondue

Next but not least, the Quail:
Grilled to perfection, nice char, super tender and tasty without that strong "meat" taste. I didn't try much else from this dish, so I cannot comment on the apple and yogurt and how that would combine with the quail, however, the plum sauce was amazing!
grilled quail, plum char-siu, apple, pear, yogurt

Our first of our dessert duo was the Citrus with Sable crumbles which was deliciously creamy, buttery notes from the sable, and of course totally refreshing from the various citrus, pink pomelo being the most prominent on the dish.
I'm glad we gave it a try, because I was so disappointed they no longer had the Sticky Toffee Pudding that I have loved so much!

Citrus, Sable crumbles

Our last dessert was of course the Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar.  As I'm my first review of Animal, still rich and chocolate-y with nice hints of the salty bacon for an amazing contrast.  I wish the bacon was a bit more generous as the chocolate really takes over the whole dish, the saltiness of the bacon is there, but very very subtle.

Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar, Salt & Pepper Ice cream

Overall, am amazing evening, not only the food, but the company and ambiance of the place!
Can't wait to be back! Animal on Urbanspoon