Pasta

Drago Centro – Celestino does DTLA

by Franklin on May 14, 2017

My meal at Drago Centro was quite memorable. Celebrating your better half’s birthday is no easy task. The restaurant and food has to be on point. The mood: romantic with a touch of elegance. Drago Centro was a perfect spot to celebrate a birthday. Filled with business people and those who work in Downtown, it wasn’t crowded. It was quiet, secluded, and the huge windows made for great light for pictures. Chef Celestino Drago, the Sicilian native knows what people want — authentic and high quality Italian food. This is what I got.

The bread was definitely house made. Instead of the traditional bread and butter, they gave us olive oil to dip the bread. Though not a fan of just plain ol’ olive oil, it was pretty clean tasting.

We ordered the burrata and charcuterie place to start. The burrata plate had artichokes, tomatoes, balsamic, with a side of crostini. The burrata was fresh and silky. It was great eating it with the charcuterie.

The charcuterie plate was a favorite (il tagliere di affettati con gnocco fritto). The house selection of charcuterie was fresh and amazing. My favorite of course was the prosciutto. It was my first time trying gnocco fritto, and I fell in love. The fry breads were so airy and not at all oily as one would think. Opening up the warm bread and stuffing it with salted cured meats and burrata was perfection. I mean, at this point, I was pretty stuffed and ready to go home.

The il risotto ai funghi was a treat. Perfectly cooked with a little I bit of a bite, the arborio rice was starchy and coated with sauce. The wild mushrooms gave a good bite as well and the parmesan cheese was nicely utilized in the dish. I know risotto has a rep for being just a creamy rice dish, but this was classic and perfectly prepared.

There were amazing reviews regarding the i garganelli. Unfortunately, I had to have the waiter take it back. That dish was way too salty. Mind you– I never complain about food. If it’s a bit off, I’ll just suck it up and eat it. I also love and don’t mine salty snacks and food. If it’s salty for most, it’s probably perfect for me. For me to have sent it back to the kitchen, it was definitely a mistake on the kitchen. I mean, this pasts dish had everything going for it. The pork sausage, parmesan, and fennel seeds all were great, but the sodium level was off the charts. At the end, I was very happy with my choice below–I paccheri.

Amazingly, I was very pleased with this dish. The squid ink paccheri had such a delicate seafood flavor. The bay scallops and sea urchin cream all played a role. It had nice complexity from the sea urchin and the scallops gave the dish the protein it needed. The black paccheri pasta was warm and cooked perfectly al dente. This pasta dish was definitely my favorite of the night.

This was quite a memorable experience. The food wasn’t inventive/creative like other popup restaurants out there. This is actually a good quality. All of their dishes came out to perfection, minus the garganelli. The quality of ingredients used and the preparation were all of the best kind. With the downtown cityscape outside and the sunset slowly turning into night, the evening was certainly most memorable.

Drago Centro on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

I went to Bestia for my 29th birthday. My fiancé’ asked me where I wanted to go for my birthday. Instead of the boring, but oh so yummy steak house, I wanted something lively, fun, and delicious. I didn’t care about the waiters coming around every second filling the water. I didn’t care about a romantic setting with candles and ambient music in the background. I just wanted the tastiest food possible for my birthday. Bestia in the Art District of Downtown was on my radar. Executive Chef Ori Menashe, former Chef of Angelini Osteria, pumps out regional Italian dishes. He even cures his own meats from 60 different kinds of charcuterie, and he also raises his own yeast for bread. With all of this love and care to do everything himself, the food has to be good. With his pastry chef wife, Genevieve Gregis making desserts, the duo is creating a huge buzz around Los Angeles. I could confidently say, I had one of my best meals of 2013 here.

You order everything first, and the dishes come out as they are prepared. Items are meant to be shared with the table.

We started things off with the grilled beef tongue crostino. I am huge fan of beef tongue. I like the texture of beef tongue that has been cooking for hours and hours. The pure beef flavor is unmatched to any other part of the cow. Sitting on top of a huge slice of bread was a garbanzo bean puree, purslane, pickled eggplant, and salsa verde. The beefy beef tongue and garbanzo bean played well with the picked eggplant and salsa. The purslane did a good job in grounding all the flavors. I felt the dish needed more acidic flavors to it. A chimichurri of some kind or picked onions would have balanced it out better. The pickled eggplant was a nice touch, but wasn’t tart enough. Nonetheless, this was still a great start.

One of my favorites of the night was the pan-seared octopus and calamari salad. The mix of fennel, mixed mushrooms and arugula was the base. Atop was some of the softest and tastiest octopus I ever had. The flavor was so delicate, and the texture was so soft which could only be achieved by using a sous-vide. The aged balsamic gave this dish so much tartness and acidity. The flavors were so lively. In hind sight, this would have been the perfect acidic factor for the beef tongue crostino. Too bad I already munched that up by the time this salad came out.

The roasted marrow bone was quite innovative and different. Most restaurants serve it with a side of toast of crostini. Chef Ori instructs us to mix it within the spinach gnocchetti. This way, it makes a little fatty sauce and coats the pasta completely. Each bite of the gnocchetti was perfect. Chewy and dense, the pasta was coated in bone marrow and salt. The aged balsamic on the marrow bone gave the dish the perfect zing to counteract the rich beef fat. This was one memorable dish.

Pizza is all about the dough, hands down. You can have some of the best ingredients on a pizza, but if your dough sucks, then the pizza suffers. Chef Ori is serious about his pizza dough. I can just talk about the pizza dough for days. I tried many times, trying to make pizza dough from scratch — I can never reach this kind of caliber, especially with an over that doesn’t even get above 400 degrees. It is hard stuff. The pizza dough at Bestia is near perfect. It has a nice chew, it is thin as can be, and there are black char marks like spots on a Dalmatian. To me, this is a sign of a true pizza. I ordered the salsiccia. This had housemade lamb sausage which was ridiculously mellow and flavorful. It also had ricotta, spinach, and breadcrumbs. The size isn’t that bad too. I always hate paying 15 bucks for a personal sized pizza. Theirs was quite large for the price.

It was my birthday, and my fiancé wanted to spoil me. Heck, I myself wanted to spoil me. We went ahead and ordered the spaghetti rustichella. This was their rendition of the sea urchin spaghetti. Mixed with calabrian chile and garlic, the dish had a subtle tinge to it. To me, the squid ink bottarga was the kicker. It gave the dish such a depth of seafood flavor. It was creamy, and full of the ocean’s goodness. Some mentioned that the pasta was too al dente, meaning, it was undercooked. To me, the pasta was cooked exactly al dente and had a nice mouth feel. Perfectly cooked noodles with a creamy sea urchin mixture is heaven. This was a great dish to end on.

Though I was stuffed, it had to end on a sweet note. It was my birthday after all. We ordered the chocolate budino tart. The salted caramel down the middle was good, but I wished there was more. The cacao crust cookie was a great crunch with the smooth budino. The olive oil was a head scratcher though. Nonetheless, it was a great dessert to end all things.

To start off my 29th year in this world with Bestia, I can tell this year will be a good year. From pastas to pizzas and other Italian dishes, Chef Ori is the man to see. With painstaking details from curing his own meat for charcuterie and raising his own yeast, the food is nothing but excellent. It isn’t about the location — Bestia is in the middle of nowhere in Downtown Arts District. They made best of what they have in one location and is pumping out some high quality foods. I wish to come back again soon and see what the chef has in store. Bestia is something to look out for in 2013. It is a beast!

Bestia on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

Osteria Mamma – Food and Family

by Franklin on June 21, 2013

What better way to bring family together than with food? More specifically, what’s better than Italian food to bring the family together? It was my cousin’s birthday and my other cousins were back in town for a little visit. Perfect time for a family gathering over food! Growing up, all I had were my cousins. All of my aunts and uncles congregated within less than a mile away from each other. This meant that I grew up hanging out with my cousins almost daily. Some of my fondest memories as a child included my cousins. Now, we are all grown up. Double gulps from 7-11 turned into conversations over coffee, and ordering pizza for birthdays turned into dining out as a family, namely Osteria Mamma.

To start, we had bread, butter and Frittura Mista. The frittuta mista had fried calamari, shrimp, zucchini, and carrots. The calamari was cooked nicely and not rubbery. The zucchini and carrots were good in this dish, but the moisture made the whole plate kind of soggy — not good for something that is fried. The shrimp though was nice and flavorful. It was a perfect starter for a large group like ours.

The girlfriend and I shared the Pappardelle al Fumo. The thick Tagliatelle did a grreat job soaking up all that gorgeous pink sauce. The bits of pancetta added a nice smoky and salty element to the dish. Scamorza cheese and oregano topped this dish off to make it quite delicious. I might regret saying this, but the pancetta was too overpowering in this dish. A little more green herbs or less smoky bacon would have been a better fit.

I had a taste of their lasagne and wasn’t really impressed. I know here in America, “Lasagna” ends with an “a”, but everyone else spells it lasagna. Anyways, the noodles were a bit soggy and I felt the dish needed to be seasoned a lot more. It may be that lasagne to me is a boring dish, but I really did not enjoy this one. To me, it needed to be more robust with meat sauce or herbs. Theirs was kind of plain with noodles, marinara, and cheese — simple and dull.

The Tri Colori pasta dish was interesting to see. So colorful with red and green, it looked so festive. I had a taste — it was creamy and the noodles were so al dente. The texture, color and flavor was so pleasing. I also snagged a bite of the Gnocchi ai Porcini. Tossed in a light cream sauce, the porcini mushrooms in this was so full of earthy flavor. The pillowy gnocchi balls were so smooth and delicious. Not really a fan of gnocchi, I was hesitant about this dish. Osteria Mamma really knows how to make this dish delicious.

My favorite dish of the night was the Reginette della Mamma. Reginette, basically a ripple edged tagliatelle, was a perfect pasta for any sauce. The way the cream sauce clung onto the ripples, the pasta had great flavor and mouth feel. With pieces of guanciale and sausage, this was a meaty dish without being too pronounced. The Treviso radicchio helped round out all the rich flavors in this pasta dish. Each bite was creamy and unctuous in flavor. This is what a good pasta dish should be, and is.

Being a food blogger, my friends and family look to me for restaurants suggestions. I figured, Osteria La Buca is a trendy spot, Osteria Mamma will be more of a down at home kind of experience — perfect for a family gathering. The night was filled with amazing pastas with great company. I always see massive gatherings of Italian families around the table. There, the grandmother makes her signature pasta dish and everyone eats together. That to me is the happiest moment in our lives. Though we didn’t have our grandmother in the kitchen, “Mamma” was our grandma for the night. We gathered, we talked, and ate. This will forever be in my memory as our family.

Osteria Mamma on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

C & O Cucina – Carbo-Load at the Beach

by Franklin on April 14, 2013

Is it just me or is Italian food the ultimate comfort food? You got carbs galore from pasta and pizza dough, and with melted cheese or sauce on top of all that, it’s the ultimate “good feeling” food. Though this will mean more time at the gym, sometimes pasta and bread is all a guy needs. C & O Cucina knows this and their restaurant in Venice / Marina Del Rey is as popular as ever. Always a wait, though not as much as C & O Ttrattoria, it is well worth it. This is an Italian food standard for anyone in the area.

As you already know, the garlic knots are sometimes the main attraction here. This time around, they weren’t as soft and luscious as I remembered. I know. What the heck are you talking about? It was a bit too crunchy on the outside and not as chewy on the inside. The strong herb mixture flavor was nice and was still a great start for our meal.

I tried the pappardelle with wild mushroom and chicken apple sausage. The wide noodle was cooked perfectly and made for perfect bites. With porcini, portobello and champignon mushrooms, the mushroom trio was the best part of this dish. To top it all off, the shallots in white wine tomato cream sauce gave this pasta dish its richness. The creamy mushroom sauce with pasta was classic comfort food. Topped with a showering of cheese made this unforgettable.

My lasagna bolognese was a treat as well. The best part was the rich meat sauce. There was a lot of large pieces of meat that was refreshing. It wasn’t left to a puree of meat and sauce. Coupled with perfectly al dente pasta, it was a perfect lasagna. I rarely order lasagna at restaurants, because they all taste the same to me. And really though, if its made right, they all do. Sometimes comfort food requires a plate of hot lasagna. Where are all my Garfield fans at? If you aren’t a lasagna fan, go for one of the pastas.

Though the menu is nearly identical C & O down the street, I feel the restaurant is quite different from each other. Trattoria felt more Italian — there was sining involved, rustic seating and you just had the feeling that you were eating dinner with everyone in the room. Cucina had more of an intimate feel with less character. Depending on what you are looking for, the food at both restaurants is quite delicious. From a comforting bowl of penne to creamy pasta dishes, any bad day can turn to a good one here. And yes, do fill up on the garlic knots.

C & O Cucina on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

Italian food used to be my favorite food. With the introduction of sashimi and the all mighty carne asada fries, Italian is a close second? Third? Definitely a top 5 contender of my all time favorite foods, Italian food is one of my loves of food. Osteria La Buca, easily one of the best in Los Angeles, was a fun experience. The food was perfectly done and ingredients tasted as they should — fresh and vibrant. Literally the first ones here for dinner service, I had the whole restaurant to myself. Perfectly timed at just before sunset, with the addition of all window walls and a class ceiling, the pictures came out just as I liked (though I still need a lot of work). I had fun eating the tasty food and taking just as many photos as bites.

We started off with their house made bread. The bread was soft and fluffy. It was a bit single noted, but the marinara helped give it some life. It was simple and all, but a little more texture would have made this perfect.

I absolutely love their calamari fritti. Battered in semolina flour, the outside was crisp and light. Cooked perfectly, the squid inside was tender and had a nice bite. It wasn’t at all chewy or fishy. The flavor was mild and fresh, and the batter shined throughout the dish. Dipping it in the marinara sauce was good, but the lemon aioli was my favorite. The rich aioli and crunchy calamari went well with the hint of lemon and creaminess of the aioli. This definitely hit the spot and should be ordered all the time.

The fried egg pizza was the choice for the pie. Cooked in a high heat oven, the crust was thin and chewy — not perfect, but still delicious. The fried egg in the middle was enough a reason to order this pizza, if not, do it for the smoked prosciutto. Topped with tomatoes and mozzarella, this pizza was classic with a little twist. Topping this was a great amount of arugula. Nearly a salad on top of a pizza, the arugula and prosciutto went perfectly together. The egg, though not helping the dish, was still welcomed. Surely, the crust needed something to sop up, and egg yolk is pretty much the perfect thing.

My all time favorite pasta is carbonara. I love the simplicity of it all with the creamy sauce and salty cheeses and pancetta. Their bucatini carbonara was almost perfect. The sauce was creamy and salty. Topped with an poached egg to finish the sauce, it surely was a creamy pasta. Mascarpone was added to the mix to make everything even creamier. The black pepper was prominent as all carbonara should and the pancetta was crispy and salty. One thing I did not like about the dish was the pasta. I do love an al dente pasta, but this was slightly under cooked. Maybe even just 30 seconds longer in the boiling water would have made this a perfect pasta dish. Other than that, this was and is a house favorite. I saw a guy just walk up to the bar and order a bowl for himself — Nobody to bother him — just him and his bowl of perfect pasta carbonara.

The tiramisu was an afterthought, and overstuffed on pasta and pizza, the dessert had to be taken to go. The cake and cream inside was perfectly balanced and rich. The distinct coffee taste mixed with the cream was the best part. One thing weird about this tiramisu is that it didn’t have a cinnamon layer on top. Though it didn’t add that extra depth in flavor, the basic necessities and pure tiramisu flavors came through to make this dessert order worthy.

Osteria La Buca, once a small, and still a relatively small restaurant has a lot going for it. The inside’s minimalistic design is fresh and comforting. This once, hole in the wall Italian joint bloomed into a modern and trendy destination for “new” Italian food, namely pizzas and pastas. Their flavorful rustic pastas and proper pizzas keep this place busy. Osteria Mamma just down the street stemmed from once head chef “Mamma” and Son. Though they are doing their own thing there, Osteria La buca is pretty much a new restaurant inside and out.

Osteria La Buca on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

Ciao Deli – Clams on my Pizza Please

by Franklin on February 19, 2013

I came across Ciao Deli when I was in Newport Beach / Costa Mesa. It was late, I was hungry, and nothing was around. I found Ciao Deli online and noticed they had garlic knots, just like the ones at C & O in LA. For the time being, Ciao Deli had to do. Entering the restaurant, the ambiance was relaxed and casual. Pictures and memorabilia plastered the walls of this small joint.

We started off with the cheese knots. Though they were not as good as the ones in C & O, they were still tasty. The blanket of melted cheese was well received. More like cheesy bread than anything else, it had a nice flavor. Dipping it in the marinara sauce helped bring everything together. The acidity helped balance out the fatty cheese. These were a good start, but the cheese knots were easily forgettable.

I normally don’t order spaghetti at restaurants, of course unless its Spaghetti Factory. I was surprised at myself for ordering this dish. For the most part, I was quite pleased with this dish. The noodles were cooked perfectly and the spaghetti sauce was better than most. The meatballs in this dish made this a perfect pasta dish. It was meaty and delicious, just like a home style spaghetti should be — Simple and delicious.

My favorite of the night was the clam pizza. The picture really doesn’t display the clams, and the picture isn’t lying. There really wasn’t a lot of clams on it. I was expecting the clams to be plenty and meaty, enough to have a good bite to it. Though there wasn’t much, the flavor was all there. It was salty and cheesy, and the crust was thin — a perfect recipe for a pizza. I think clams should always go on pizza.

Writing about this meal, I realize how vegetables and fruits are lacking from my diet. Good think I am juicing here and there. That way I can have more meals like this that consist of bready, cheese, and pasta. I guess the tomatoes in the spaghetti sauce counts as vegetables. Right? In all honesty, this Orange County restaurant made me happy. The food was down to earth and tasted great. They even deliver if you are in the vicinity. Places like this keep food humble — nothing fancy here. It is just good food the way it is supposed to be.

Ciao Deli & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

C & O Trattoria is one of those go to spots when you are in Venice, Marina De Rey area. The food is affordable and the selection is plenty. The best part is, once you enter, you feel like you are family. The staff is friendly — they even offer you garlic knots while you wait for a table. The wait for a table can be a while. Being right next to Venice Pier, you can walk around and shop around while you wait for your table. Once you take a seat, you are transferred to Italy and you are no longer at the beach.

C & O Trattoria and Cucina are all about garlic knots. Garlic knots, garlic knots, garlic knots. I think people come here just for these morsels of drug infused bread. It is warm, buttery, oregano-y (dried parsley?), and of course, garlicky, and you can get as much as you want! They even server it to the hungry patrons outside awaiting a table. I ordered mine with the tepenade– a bad idea. The garlic knots on their own are tasty. The olive tepenade just made things complicated and actually overpowered the simple goodness of the bread. You can easily fill up on garlic knots and you would have ordered your pasta dish for nothing. Eat sparingly. For the sake of garlic knots, I will try to write “garlic knots” as many time as I can along this post. Garlic knots? Yes. Garlic knots.

I ordered the fettuccine prosciutto. I know it sounds heavy, but it was quite delicate and balanced. It had prosciutto, mushrooms, roma tomatoes, and shallots in a brandy cream sauce. The prosciutto was a bit lacking — I was greedily expecting nice shavings of this stuff. I wished for so much prosciutto, I can make a prosciutto and garlic knot sandwich. Anyways, the fettuccine wasn’t home made by any means, but it was still delicious. Covered in the rich brandy cream sauce, this pasta dish was carb and cream heavy. The nice crunch of the shallots and tomatoes helped offset the richness a bit. With a blanket of Parmesan though, this was definitely a great heavy pasta dish. Add garlic knots to the equation and you got yourself a carb on carb overload.

Oh my garlic knots! I know with that cheese blanket it is difficult to see, but this indeed isn’t the same dish. The seafood pasta for me was taasty, but I am particular about seafood pasta. Using Penne is a good start, but an angel hair or even plain spaghetti would have been nice too. The mix of brocolli and tomatoes gave it nice color. The seafood though, that is where it all counts. The shrimp, salmon, and calamari were cooked surprisingly well. Expecting rubber bands, the calimari was actually soft and cooked to a near perfection. The shirmp was cooked decently and the salmon did a good job not being so over fishy. Though the seafood was prepared nicely, I still am not a fan of seafood and pasta together.

To me, pasta is all about the cheese and the noodles. Any meat that goes well with cheese (beef, sausage, prosciutto, chicken, meat balls) is a good thing. Seafood, the ultimate don’t-eat-with-cheese food worked alright in pasta, but for me, not so much. I will gladly take chicken fettuccine alfredo over shrimp. A bit off because, well, I love seafood. In fact, I would like to know where the best place to get a seafood pasta. That would truly be a gem. C & O Trattoria keeps a decent amount of authenticity to the feel of Italy. Not saying that the food is 100% just like you will find in Italy, but the atmosphere seems to work. I mean, I’ve never been to Italy, but I’ve been to The Venetian in Vegas a bunch of times — and I hear that’s practically a carbon copy. From the city, to the beach, to Italy — that is the natural transition I found myself in. The food was decent and the service was even better. They even sang “That’s Amore” in the middle of dinner service. All the waiters, servers, and hosts stopped what they were doing, walking around with their wine glasses and touched glasses with everyone. For those without an imagination, there is a video clip for you above. The experience was fun and the food was decent. It wasn’t the best pasta or Italian I ever had, but the experience was great. Garlic knots!

C & O Trattoria on Urbanspoon

{ 1 comment }

Cafe Bizou – Escargot Finds its Way to the Top

by Franklin on August 12, 2012

Pasadena in itself is big enough that you don’t feel a need to leave the city. They have Arclight for movies, Old Town for dining, and Target for everything else. When Restaurant Week came around, Cafe Bizou caught my eye. Their menu was robust and was only one dollar sign ($25 for dinner). Interestingly, if it weren’t for Dine LA, I would have never heard of this restaurant. Tucked away near Pasadena City Hall, the entrance was small and could be driven by unnoticed. The inside was a bit dated, but seating arrangements were quite comfortable. The servers were quite attentive and helpful and knowledgeable about the menu.

When I saw escargot on the menu as an appetizer, I had to order it. The escargot, burgandy snails were drenched in a garlic butter and topped with parsley. If you are scared or if the thought of eating snails is a bit off putting, don’t be. Though a land creature, think of these as sea creatures. I mean, the snails are similar to mollusks. They have a squishy center and hard shell — yes, to a non scientist, non biologist, that is my criteria for a mollusk. The taste and texture is like any other mollusk as well. It tastes kind of like clams, but chewier like a mussel. Either way, the garlic butter really helped mask any funkiness of the escargot. It was delicious and I would order these again.

Their baked mushrooms were interestingly tasty. Stuffed with chicken and spinach mousse with a side of balsamic vinegar sauce, the appetizer was meaty. With endive on the side, everything came together nicely. The chicken was a chicken meatball and the flavors were robust. It was tasty and all, but I wish it was more creamy and warm. The whole dish was kind of single noted and was asking for more of a sauce than the balsamic reduction. A nice bubbly cheese covering would have been perfect.

I ordered their seafood pasta — it had almost every seafood I could imagine. Filled with lobster, shrimp, and sea scallops the pasta was a treat. The black tagallini pasta was a first for me. Literally black in color, I was interested in how it was that color. I am guessing it was maybe squid ink? The pasta itself felt a bit reheated in some way and kind of crumbled, but still delicious. Covered in tomatoes and mushrooms in a lobster sauce, the pasta was quite heavy. In some way, the seafood lightened it up a bit. There was plenty of lobster and shrimp inside and the scallops were cooked perfectly. Nothing was overcooked — everything worked well in the dish.

Their surf and turf on the menu was amazing at this price point. The petit filet minon was in a brandy cream and cooked perfectly medium. Their pan seared sea scallop was buttery and tasted so clean. My favorite, the jumbo shrimp was cooked with so much flavor — the crust on the shrimp was delicious. With a baked potato and grilled tomato, the dish was complete. My only gripe about the dish was that the dish was all over the place. Plating made the dish look very mediocre, as if we got each individual item from a buffet. Despite the looks of the dish, the taste was what mattered.

It isn’t restaurant week if it didn’t include dessert. We opted for the flourless chocolate cake and tiramisu. These two together was a perfect dessert in contrast. One was rich and chocolaty whereas the the tiramisu was light and creamy. The flourless chocolate cake was moist and not too sweet — it was kind of boring though. It was just a wedge of chocolate tasting cake. The tiramisu on the other had was my favorite. It had a subtle coffee flavor and the creaminess was to die for. In hind sight, ordering two tiramisu would have been alright with me. I am still glad to have tried the chocolate cake. These two desserts were a perfect ending to a great dinner date.

After experiencing Cafe Bizou, I don’t know if I liked it or not. The service was spotty and the overall experience at this restaurant could be forgotten, with the exception of the escargot and shrimp. I always think to myself, “If this restaurant were in Los Angeles, would it be considered something marvelous?” It is hard to say, especially with Los Angeles’ growing number of gastronomic eats — it would be safer left in Pasadena. I guess that is what you get. If you want more than mediocre, but not amazing, staying in Pasadena is fine. It is when you want that extra step above, the amazing and unforgettable — that is when you need to venture outside into Los Angeles. At any rate, Cafe Bizou was an awesome experience, again, in Pasadena standards. In Los Angeles terms, it will get blended in with the rest.

Cafe Bizou on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

Campanile – Eating Lunch With A Celebrity

by Franklin on February 5, 2012

It is that time again. Dine LA is in full effect. Though probably over by now, it gave patrons like me a chance to support Los Angeles restaurants and eat like a king for relatively cheap. After doing much research and investigation, I came across Campanile. What got to me was the history of it all. The interior was a bit dark like the medieval times, mixed with European tones. The fountain near the entrance sets off the whole old school feel of the interior. A trip to the upstairs restrooms give you a birds eye view of the secondary dining area. The building in itself is historical. Built in 1929, it was originally built for Charlie Chaplin. After the building was acquired by Mark Peel in the late 80s. By 1989, La Brea Bakery was formed, and the restaurant followed right after. After all of these years, Mark Peel, the executive chef as well as the restaurant received numerous awards. Naturally, this was a good choice to try for Dine LA.

Upon sitting down, the chairs were uncomfortable. The wicker chairs mixed with the uneven tile flooring was just a bad combination. Surprisingly, Tim Allen walked in the restaurant and sat right next to us. His first reaction after sitting down was “Man, these chairs are uncomfortable.” Right then and there, I knew I wasn’t crazy. It was kind of cool to have a childhood idol agree with me.

The Duck Confit Salad was delicious. The baby arugula and carrots mixed with the meyer lemon vinaigrette was zesty. The duck was cooked perfectly tender, and the crispy skin was amazing. The acidic dressing perfectly cut the richness of the duck — a perfect pairing.

The pasta carbonara was good, but not great. The spaghetti was a bit over cooked and wasn’t al dente. The pancetta was nice and chunky, and the gruyere made for a rich thick sauce. The richness was too much for me.

The grilled hangar steak sandwich was again good, but not spectacular. The provolone melted nicely, and the wild arugula, tomatoes, and aioli played nicely. This sandwich, though was a bit one noted. I would have liked to see some kind of acidic note inside, maybe some picked onions to give it a nice contrast of textures and flavors.

I preferred the southern fried chicken. The warm fingerling potato salad made with bacon lardons was exceptional. The gourmet aioli and mustard made for a nice coating on the potatoes. The bacon and onions all melded together to make a perfect side to the juicy and crispy fried chicken. Though a little under-seasoned, the chicken was tender and wasn’t dry at all.

My chocolate black currant pot au creme was rich, but the chocolate taste was lost. It almost tasted like a very thick chocolate pudding with the texture of cheesecake. The creme fraiche helped to keep it interesting, and the pistachio short bread was a nice touch. The dessert wasn’t sweet, which could be a good thing or bad thing.

The apple brown butter tart was great. The caramel drizzle helped keep it sweet. The whipped creme fraiche played well with the tart apples and dense crust. A scoop of ice cream would have topped this dessert off nicely.

Though some of the food was exceptional, some items were just lacking. The sandwich’s lack of complexity and chicken’s lack of flavor cannot be overlooked. A 3 course meal with only the sides and appetizers tasting good, and both main dishes missing the mark left me unsatisfied. For a restaurant with this caliber to have had this happen is unfortunate. The seating was off, the main course was off, and unfortunately, the meal didn’t seem worth the price point. It’s possible that the dine LA menu was a miss and their normal items are hits. A lot of people were ordering normal brunch items. Definitely next time.

Campanile on Urbanspoon

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

{ 0 comments }