American

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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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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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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It had been quite hot these days. Spring is here, and it is making us forget all about the cold winter. Hot days means nice walks on the beach and sunsets. Corona del Mar is by far one of my favorite beaches in Orange County. You have nice homes to look at on one side, and a beautiful seaside sunset on the other. Stumbling across Side Door, the concept of it was what drew me to this place. Just adjacent to the uber expensive restaurant, Five Crowns, Side Door is literally a side entrance to the restaurant. They both share the same space. Side Door, being more relaxed, less expensive and less stuffy, it looked like a good fit. The English-style gastropub specializes in cheeses and charcuterie — just my kind of place.

We started off with the shishito peppers. Blistered, then topped with manchego, the peppers were a good start. It had a nice mild flavor, and the blanket of cheese just finished it off nicely. The peppers were kind of bitter and earthy. Thank goodness for the manchego.

Of course, we went for the charcuterie and cheese. For the meats, I had to go for the prosciutto. The flavor was delicate and buttery. One of the cheeses, La Tur from Italy, was a nice “funky” cheese. It was strong, creamy, and quite delicious. A little went a long way. Eating it all with the prosciutto and fruit preserves was a delight. I also had a sample of some cheese from Vermont, and that was quite good as well. I am a sucker for cheese and cured meats. The selection at Side Door was quite impressive.

When I saw avocado mash, I immediately thought guacamole. This was very much a guacamole, but very much not. Not tainted with any lime, cilantro, or other over bearing ingredients, this one allowed the avocado to shine. To me, this was nothing special. The baked pita chips were a good match with the avocado, but nothing was screaming deliciousness. A tasty and healthy snack — I’ll give it that.

This must have been my favorite item of the night. Ironic that it’s a salad. The combination of some of the best tomatoes ever and balsamic reduction wasn’t enough, they had a nice micro green salad to go with it. To top it all off, they put it besides some of creamiest and smoothest fresh mozzarella slices ever. Everything together, yes, I mean with the tomato, balsamic reduction, cheese, and even some of that prosciutto, each bite was fresh and fantastic.

Have you had really good prime rib? I mean the stuff from Lawry’s or Summit House. Now, slice that up, and put a heaping pile inside a French roll. That is what we have here at Side Door. The prime rib was cooked so perfectly medium rare, and each bite was easy to tear off. The meat was fatty, juicy, and delicious. Dipping it in the au jus and the horseradish made it even tastier. I wasn’t expecting much from this sandwich, but the simplicity of the ingredients and the legit prime rib was all it needed. This is a must order.

I dig the concept of this place. The back door from a more expensive restaurant is all I really need. Less expensive, more casual, and probably better tasting, the Side Door restaurant has it all — a nice beer selection for those coming for drinks, a nice selection of cheap eats for those who come for food. This little corner in the upscale part of Corona del Mar is indeed a gem.

SideDoor on Urbanspoon

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