August 2014

There are times when your body needs a refresh. I had all the intentions of living up to my carnivorous nature, but sometimes, one just needs to give the delicious meat a rest. That is where Samosa House and Bharat Bazaar comes in.

I ordered the combo plate. The pakora curry had yogurt cream with cauliflower. The cauliflower taste was masked by the curry and yogurt mixture. The barbecued soy protein nuggets was delicious as well. In a pool of spicy (not really spicy) barbecue sauce, the protein nuggets had full of flavor and all the characteristics of actual meat. My favorite was definitely the jackfruit curry. It was a bit salty and sour, but the texture was quite interesting. It was like nature’s meat. Not really sweet like a fruit, but more like a artichoke flavor and texture wise. All were delicious with the basmati rice and naan.

The garlic naan was just ok and nothing special. It didn’t have the pliability and tenderness as other good naan is. Theirs was more stiff and a bit burned on most spots. A little less time in the tandoor would have done wonders. Still though, I enjoyed sopping up the curry and sauces on the plate.

Samosa House and Baharat Bazaar was a nice place to enjoy the vegetarian side of eating. I always enjoy some meat with my meals, but experiencing all these meatless dishes wasn’t that bad. The flavors really stood out and the textures were really meat-like. They did a great job getting all the flavors and textures to represent meat in a positive way. I would probably dine here frequently if I were vegetarian.

Samosa House on Urbanspoon

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Mikawaya Mochi Ice Cream – 2 Buck Chuck

by Franklin on August 26, 2014

Something about mochi ice cream is so satisfying. That soft dough-like mochi on the outside, and the cold flavorful ice cream on the inside just hits the spot. Its cold, chewy, and delicious. The best part is, you don’t need a spoon — you eat it with your hands and there is no mess.

Little Tokyo’s Mikawaya has them for a dollar each. At those prices, you can scarf them down like popcorn. I got the mango and green tea mochi ice cream. I literally sat there, looked at my two treats, and carefully determined which one to eat first. Mango then green tea, or green tea, then mango… Hmm. Like I don’t have any other more important life decisions to make. In the end, I ate the mango first, then green tea second. That just seemed like the logical order to eat it. Either way, I was happy.

Mikawaya on Urbanspoon

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Themed restaurants are cheesy. Public School is literally a school themed restaurant/gastropub. They have composition notebook lookalike menu and a clipboard with the beer menu. Other than that, the restaurant decor is pretty much like any other. What I don’t get is why the theme? I guess it’s a good thing that the “school” theme isn’t just all in your face. I suppose the little hints of the school theme is fine. They should however have the food speak for itself.

The Cutting Board featured a selection of cured meats and artisan cheese. The cheese included a gouda, swiss, and cheddar. The meats were prosciutto and a chorizo of some kind. I liked the addition of the marcona almonds. It gave the whole experience a nice crunch. Eating the different cheeses with the honey and fruit preserves was delicious as well. Though it came with a large variety of items, I would have liked a more variety of meat or just a larger quantity.

The wild mushroom and taleggio lavash was quite delicious. It was probably my favorite of the night. The extra thin, almost cracker like crust was light and crispy. The mushrooms and the creamy taleggio mixture almost mimicked Campbell’s cream of mushroom. It was savory and rich. The mix of the arugula and parmesan shavings gave it an extra depth of flavor. This pizza like dish was quite delicious.

I am a sucker for anything fried, and of course, calamari is one of my top fried delights. the fiery calamari was exceptionally good here. Using a mixture of flour and cornmeal for the batter, it gave it an extra crunch. Though the crunch from the cornmeal seemed to be a fake “crunch” and would liked it to be more fried to a crisp. Dipping these in the togarashi and ginger aioli gave it a nice zing and spice, but not too spicy. A spicier variation in the sauce would have made this calamari stand out more.

The cauliflower and cheese dish was well received. As an avid cauliflower hater (I blame Yoshinoya), the only way I would eat them is if its fried, or covered in cheese. In this case, the cheese sauce did a good job in making the bland cauliflower edible. The addition of the bacon bits on the side and the bechamel made this a rich dish.

Public School is you everyday bar / eatery. They don’t have the outstanding dishes and selection as the other restaurants. School Food is more of a safe choice — better than most, but still generic. They have locations neatly separated — 310 in Culver City and 805 in Westlake Village. All they need is one near Hollywood and they have LA pretty much covered.

Public School 612 on Urbanspoon

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Playa Provisions definitely has an identity crisis. The restaurant is separated into 4 different sections — Dockside, Grain, Small Batch, and King Beach. Dockside is a high end dining space for seafood. Grain is a back room whiskey bar. Small Bach is their ice cream shop. King Beach is their casual breakfast and lunch spot. Honestly, the concept is interesting and confusing. Top Chef runner-up Brooke Williams and husband run the show. The woodsy, artsy, and earthy tones of the decor was very attractive. Honestly though, I came here just for the ice cream.

The ice cream was a treat. The chocolate malted crunch was full of bits and was quite nice. I usually don’t like chocolate malted crunch, and I don’t quite know why I ordered this flavor. The bits of malted balls were nice and the chocolate was rich and flavorful. My favorite was the milk and coffee ice cream. It had a nice subtle coffee flavor and was so clean tasting. This mixed in with the chocolate malted crunch was a perfect match. All of this with their addicting house made waffle cone, and I was a happy little kid with an ice cream cone.

In second thought, the concept here at Playa Provisions is kind of interesting. I wish they did a better job in integrating everything together. The new restaurant in Playa del Rey is turning heads though. I originally thought it was a casual sandwich shop that also had delicious ice cream. I was in shock when I walked in and there were all these different compartments. Back-room whiskey bar? Who would have thought? I will definitely be back for that. Maybe even a sandwich and seafood fare is in order also. For #icecreamtuesdays though this will definitely do.

Playa Provisions on Urbanspoon

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While this blog post goes live, I’ll probably be in Hawaii for work. I know work and Hawaii don’t really go hand in hand, but trust me, I’ll be working. It will be my first time in Hawaii, so Hawaiian food to me would be the same here or there. I would assume an authentic Hawaiian restaurant would be exactly like Rutt’s Hawaiian. I walked in here, and the vibe was totally old school Hawaiian. Literally everyone there was a local. Then another guy came in for s pick up order and it seemed like he was a regular. I knew we were in for a Hawaiian treat.

The Kalua pork with egg was quite delicious. The eggs were just regular — nothing really special here. The Kalua pork though was exceptional. It was salty, but not too salty. The pork wasn’t dry or overly seasoned. The pork flavor was present and the mixture of fat and lean meat was perfect. This beats any carnitas or pulled pork that is out there.

The royals fried rice was quite nice as well. I am a fried rice lover, and anything mixed with rice is always delicious and convenient. This fried rice wasn’t just all rice with bits and pieces of the good stuff. It had plenty of char sui, Portuguese sausage, eggs, and sprouts. The addition of the green onions gave it a nice savory taste and evened out all of the fatty flavors. This was really a plate of comfort.

The Kalua pork was awesome, the Royale was comforting, but this French toast was something else. There are some crappy French toasts out there, and there are some decent once. This French toast is literally the best in Los Angeles. The bread they use is Hawaiian bread — fitting and genius. This made for a very pillowy bite. Dipping it in some Aunt Jemima, this was equally comforting and delicious. Seriously. Put this on your to do list. In hopes of not overhyping this simple French toast, I will have to try it again soon.

What’s up with Hawaiian food and why is it so comforting for me? Am I part Hawaiian? Some people look at me and always ask me if I am from Hawaii. Maybe I need to have a serious conversation with my mom and really figure out where I’m from. I think it isn’t just me. Something about Hawaiian food is so simple and comforting. Rutt’s really surprised me with their down to earth offerings of classic Hawaiian fare. Trust me when I say I’ll be back for that Kalua pork and French toast.

Rutt's Hawaiian Cafe & Catering on Urbanspoon

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Every time I drive near Beverly Hills, I always yearn to live in this neighborhood — it is the perfect neighborhood. You imagine having that large house with the gated parking lot. Of course you have a nice Ferrari in the front to go along with your other expensive cars. The best part? You have some of the best restaurants just a stones throw away. For DineLA, we went to Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. To me, it seemed like the best bang for your buck. For $25, you get a 3 course meal, not a 2 course like these other restaurants are doing now. we got to see the garden and the beautiful property that is the Hotel Bel-Air. The food was delicious and the sights were stunning.

Bread Service was good. There was a cream cheese filled focaccia and ciabatta roll. Both were delicious, especially with their salted butter. The bread was quite unexpected and just a nice pre-appetizer snack.

Before our 1st course, we were brought an amuse-bouche of compressed water melon. It was topped with curry salt which accentuated the sweetness of the watermelon.

The roasted Frog Hallow Farms apricots and the mozzarella burrata was delicious together. The natural sweetness of the fruit and briny, saltiness of the cheese was a nice contrast. I especially like the touch of lavender. The crispy pancetta was good, but paper thin. Chunks of the pancetta would have made this dish perfect. It would have went well with the shaved fennel.

The Tamai Farm’s white corn salad was my favorite. It was so light and crunchy — the ingredients were so fresh and stood out on their own. Mixed with sugar snap peas, fava beans, cherry tomatoes, and dressed with tzatziki dressing, this salad was so flavorful. I liked the addition of the feta cheese.

The fresh fettuccine pasta was a nice touch. A mix of chanterelle mushrooms, melted leeks gave it the flavor, but this dish really lacked salt. It’s almost tasted like nothing but pasta and oil. A sprinkle from the salt shaker, which I rarely do did wonders. I kind of wish I had some truffle salt in my pocket. That would have been a perfect addition to this “blank slate.” The amaranth greens though rounded the flavors well.

I had the Sonoma lamb meguez pita. Inside was falafel, baba ganoush, and lamb sausage which I did not really care for much. The falafel though was as quite delicious. It was fluffy and the spices used to make the falafel was quite strong and nice. The side of lebanese salad helped balance the flavors. A douse of harissa spices gave the pita pocket a little kick.

We shared a plate of house made cookie. We had the classic chocolate chip, and a white chocolate caramel. These cookies were addicting and I could have easily ate a whole bunch of them. They were warm with the chocolate melted and not too sweet. They were ever so soft and chewy. All I needed was that glass of milk!

The apricot sorbet was a refreshing dessert. This was the perfect dessert for a hot day. The apricot sorbet was so fresh and subtle. It wasn’t sour or sweet — it had the perfect amount of fruity sweet flavor. The hard French meringue on the bottom was a nice place holder for the quenelles.

We had such an amazing time at Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. The last time we were at a Wolfgang Puck establishment was at Spago, also during DineLA. Read why it was such a magical moment then. Somehow, the magic kept going here during lunch. The food was tasty and the restaurant itself sits on such a beautiful piece of property. I’ll probably never be able to stay at this hotel, but I’m glad I got to experience a piece of it.

Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air on Urbanspoon

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Craft LA – A Very Special 5 Year Anniversary

by Franklin on August 7, 2014

I made reservations here through Open Table four our anniversary. The earliest slot was for 9PM, and it was for DineLA, so I took it. Getting to the actually restaurant is a mission. You have to park on huge adjacent parking lot, take some escalators, go outside and then walk to the restaurant. It is a nice stroll through the Century City buildings. Upon walking in, we were greeted with smiles and were shown what true customer service is. The host wished us a happy anniversary. After seating us, the waiter and servers wished us a happy anniversary. Even our menu was custom printed and said happy anniversary. We felt so special and taken care of. The little things really made a difference. The rest of the night, we just sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the evening.

With a mixture of white bread and a pumpernickel type bread, the complimentary bread service a wonderful. The butter was so high quality and tasted so “buttery.” I can’t explain it, and without sounding even more idiotic, I’ll just stop talking about how buttery tasting the butter was.

We we’re given an amouse-bouche of tomato gazpachio. I love getting an amuse-bouche because it is so unexpected. The tomato gazpacho was light and delicious. It was the perfect sample to get out taste buds ready.

The heirloom tomato panzanella was fresh and bright. The ponzu mixed with hearts of palm gave it a nice zest and crunch. This would have been perfect to eat with our meats, but we just couldn’t wait.

The baby gem lettuce salad was good as well. I like the creamy avocado and crunchy radish. The peanuts were interesting in this salad. It was coated in a sugar crust that gave the salad some sweetness.

The smoked cauliflower hummus was surprisingly good. I, for one hate cauliflower, but the smokey, creamy hummus was delicious! Eating it with the thing crisp of sesame and sunflower was especially nice.

The Mugifuji prok was quite delicious. It was cooked perfectly to a medium well. I wouldn’t trust pork cooked like this at just any restaurant. The pork was so soft and had a nice chew/bite to it. It was nice with the grits which had an interesting flavor to it. The turmeric mixed in with broccoli was nice. The pork though was probably the best pork I ever had at a restaurant.

The pot roast of beef short rib was especially good with the other sides. Honestly though, it was a bit boring. The beef shredded nicely and the flavors were so succulent and rich in beef flavor. I just can’t see myself eating this all the time or yearning for this dish. Maybe it needed some more sweetness? The sweetness from the shallots came through nicely though.

This above all things was a perfect dessert and might be one of my favorite panna cotta dishes in LA. The Creme fraiche panna cotta was so creamy and indulgent. It tasted so pristine and perfect. The addition of strawberries and pistachios gave it nice dimension of flavors and textures. Without the help of the almighty caramel or chocolate, this dessert does well for itself. This is a must order for sure!

Speaking of must orders, the cinnamon sugar doughnuts were divine. The round donuts were warm, sugary and delicious. Dipping it into the Valrhona chocolate ganache was almost cheating, and not to sound so much like Emeril Lagasse, it brought it up a notch. The warm, donuts and the chocolate sauce was just too perfect.

Oh there’s more food? They brought us out some snicker-doodle cookies, as if they just appeared from nowhere. But I just had my perfect last bite of cinnamon sugar donuts with chocolate sauce. How am I supposed to eat this regular looking cookie? “Ok, you got me. I’ll eat it.” The cookie was a nice touch and dang right I dipped that into the chocolate ganache as well.

Oh, so it was indeed our 5 year anniversary, so they brought out a chocolate cake and candle. It was such a sweet moment, literally and metaphorically. The chocolate cake was so rich and chocolaty, as a chocolate cake should be. The frosting was indulgent and creamy, and the cake was just full of flavor. I would say it was a cross between a cake and a brownie — the elegance of a cake, with the decadence of a brownie. Spectacular!

Oh what is this? Is that a bag of home made granola for tomorrow morning? Yeah, Craft LA gave us some awesome granola to take home to eat the next day. I thought that was a nice touch. The granola was indeed enjoyed the next morning. The pumpkin seeds was nice and the granola was perfect.

Craft LA really knows what good service is. Dinner service was near perfect from start to finish. Everyone smiles and greets you. I think if I asked the waiter to drop and give me 20 push ups, he’d be a bit confused but would end up doing them. They are just that caring. From the custom anniversary menu to the complimentary dishes, they really know how to make people happy. They aim to please, they definitely hit their mark.

Craft on Urbanspoon

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Walking around the Beverly Grove area after an early dinner, we were in the mood for some ice cream. We could have easily went to Sweet Rose Creamery and be happy. We decided to go to Carmela Ice Cream. It really came down to, try something I haven’t had yet, or something I know is a for sure thing. Being a food blogger, I have to try something new all the time. Carmela started selling their treats at local farmers markets from 2007.

Upon entering Carmela, it was full of light and the white decor was bright and pretty. It definitely isn’t a manly man’s kind of spot. The decor and design of the whole place was dainty and feminine.

All of their ice creams are made with Clover Organic Dairy ingredients and the flavors are inspired by herbs, spices, flowers, and seasonal fruit. After trying some of their different flavors, I chose their salted caramel and rose petal. I was a bit worried about the flavor combination, but chose those two to eat separately. The salted caramel was smooth and had a nice burnt sugar flavor. The saltiness was a bit lacking, but not missed. The rose petal was more of the interesting flavor. It had a very soapy, floral taste. It tasted like soap ice cream. I really liked the flavor a lot. In a way, if a girly girl was made into an ice cream flavor, it would be the rose petal — floral, soapy, and clean. Similarly, if a guys guy was made into an ice cream flavor, it would be the salted caramel — a bit burnt and dirty tasting, and salty.

Carmela Ice Cream was a nice spot to share ice cream with friends. The flavors were in your face and delicate at the same time. The decor, though a bit girly was pleasing. I can’t wait to try this spot again and try their other flavors. Catch them if you are in the Beverly Grove area, Pasadena, or your local farmers market.

Carmela Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

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Gourmet grilled cheese? Is that a real thing or something hipsters made up? Just give me some white bread and Kraft American cheese, grill that with some butter and I’m happy. Heywood takes the grilled cheese to a new level indeed. I’m just not quite convinced yet. Yeah, I suppose you can use artisanal cheeses and really hearty bread, but is that necessarily better? Even then, where do you draw the line of grilled cheese, and a straight up sandwich? Add bacon to a grilled cheese, and is that still a grilled cheese? Maybe. But then add some other ingredients and avocado. You can’t tell me that’s a grilled cheese, can you? I suppose Heywood does a good job balancing grilled cheese and the sandwich.

The Heywood was a natural fit. I wanted something that accentuated the cheese. Made with aged cheddar, caramelized onions, confit spread on whole grain bread, the sandwich was cheesy as can be. The bread was a bit blocky and brickish, but did a good job in holding everything together. The whole grain bits inside gave it a nice mouth feel. Dipping it in the piping hot tomato soup did nothing but just re-melt the cheese. The tomato soup was nothing but just hot tomato puree. It didn’t really taste like anything.

I definitely loved the decor inside. Filled with little trinkets and wood finishings, the inside was well suited for the Silver Lake crowd (read: hipsters). The menu is full of interesting grilled cheese variations, but unfortunately, I am a traditionalist. All I need is some good toasted white bread and a slice or two of American cheese. I guess I can vary a little with some different cheeses, but that is it. Heywood tries to heighten the grilled cheese so much and succeeds in some ways. There is a fine line between a grilled cheese and a cheesy sandwich and I suppose Heywood walks that line quite nicely.

Heywood: A Grilled Cheese Shop on Urbanspoon

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Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro is located inside Caesars Palace, right across from Bacchanal Buffet. French pastry master and chef François Payard is behind all of the treats and confections. The small shop offers everything from pastries, drinks, ice creams, and sandwiches. Known for their chocolates and candies as well, the patisserie satisfies everyone’s needs, especially with the bistro next door. This would be a great place to have breakfast or brunch if you don’t want to wait in that line for Bacchanal.

We just got the almond croissant. It was sweet, flakey, and had a sweet filling inside. The almonds on the outside were toasted perfectly and the crunch from this thing was unbelievable. Im sure I had powdered sugar all over and bits of almonds stuck to my face. This was perfect to hold me over until late lunch.

Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro is a nice spot to just relax and have whatever you feel like. You can have a pastry and coffee. You can have eggs and toast or a sandwich, or you may just want some ice cream. Whatever it is, the beautifully furnished bistro has it all. I hope next time to try their dishes and breakfast/brunch menus. Until then, I guess.

Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro on Urbanspoon

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