Los Angeles

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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The build your own pizza fad is he re to stay. An original fan of Pieology ever since it opened in Fullerton, I feel like I was an early adopter of the build your own pizza thing. Pizza Rev in El Segundo seemed to be pretty much the same thing. You choose your dough, sauce, toppings, and they bake it within minutes. Think, Subway, or Chipotle, but with pizza. The fact that you can essentially build your own pizza with anything you want excites me.

I am a lover of anything salty. I was pleased that they had anchovies and all kinds of olives. Capers too! Excuse my excitement, but when you have olives, anchovies, and capers all on the same pizza, it turns into something so salty and delicious. The other toppings from the meats and cheese were fresh as well. The dough was the same as every make your own pizza spot. It was thin, crispy and not really inspired by anything.

The build your own pizza is genius. It’s cheap to make, and it’s relatively quick to make. I’d like to take it even further and have the customer actually make the pizza. Give us a pair of plastic gloves, and let us go at it. That would be interesting. If something like that takes off, I’m using this blog post to copyright that idea. Does that work?

PizzaRev on Urbanspoon

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I have been on a burger craze these few days — more like weeks. I’ve been ordering the burger everywhere and anywhere I go. When it came to ordering the fried chicken or the PCB at Plan Check, I chose the burger. I know they were known for their fried chicken, but the power of the almighty burger was much too strong. And ketchup leather? Need I say more?

The Check Burger has Americanized dashi cheese. This to me sounds like American cheese with MSG inside it somehow. The flavor wasn’t any different and entire unnoticed. The ketchup leather and schmaltz onions really took over in the flavor department. Caramelized onions is one of my favorite burger toppings, and ketchup is my least favorite. Interestingly, the ketchup leather gave a nice sticky tang flavor whereas the onions were nicely sweet and savory. The mixed pickles were nicely welcomed. The beef patty was perfectly cooked medium rare. As a matter of fact, this is where the PCB shines. The beef was a so pure and delicious. Ithe unalterated beef stood out so perfectly in this burger. My only gripe about this burger was the bun. It was plain and boring. With a little care for an artisan crafted bun, this would be a perfect cheeseburger in Los Angeles.

Plan Check has lots going for it. Being one of my favorite restaurants on Sawtelle, the somewhat small bar and kitchen is popular amongst locals. The staff is some of the friendliest I have ever seen. Extra care is taken in the food by the chefs in the kitchen. Only the best of the best is used. That, I respect greatly, and hope other restaurants follow suit.

Plan Check Kitchen + Bar on Urbanspoon

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