After becoming a food blogger, the pizza as I know it changed. I don’t seek the gooiest cheese, cheese stuffed in the crust, overload of 5 kinds of meat, or a snowy layer of parmesan cheese. To me, if I finished the crust, the pizza was good. I can’t count how many crusts were thrown back into the pizza box. Pizza crust is the worst — probably why Pizza Hut and Dominoes has been stuffing them with cheese and sprinkling garlic butter on them. My friends, the dough is the most important part of the pizza.
The dough at Fuoco was quite decent. With flakes of char and crust on the outside, warm chewy center on the inside, this is what a pizza dough should be. Though I expected a little more rise and fluff on the outer crust, the dough with toppings were kept at bay and wafer thin. I wasn’t expecting much from this Downtown Fullerton spot, but I was quite happy with it. The Margherita was classic, and the cheese, though not as fresh as I’d like, was still pretty good. The tomato sauce was impressive, and quite delicious. My Funghi e salsiccia had good mushrooms, but the slices of sauces were uninspiring. Ground pork with spices and lots of fennel would have been perfect!
Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana has something special. Their dough is better than most, and the toppings are fresh. With a pretty legit brick oven stove, I could only dream of owning one of those bad boys. Tweaking of my own pizza dough is all for nothing without the 500 plus degrees of burning embers. Honestly, it was a good time eating pizza with a knife and fork and enjoying the crust. It sure beats the cheese stuffed crust variation.
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!
Echo Park is getting there. In the past years, the sub city has been making strides to beautify and clean up the mess. Echo Park in the 80′s and 90′s was terrifying. As a child, I remember visiting my grandparents who lived in Echo Park. Those were some rough memories, but still fun. Today, the remnants of that era still linger, but in a beautiful way. Boutique shops and restaurants popped up all over Echo Park — on Sunset, west of Alvarado at least. One such restaurant, Mohawk Bend is one of many that turned something ugly into something amazing. Owner Tony Yanow turned the 100-year old Vaudeville Theater into what Mohawk Bend is today. For awesome pictures and to learn more about the architecture, check out Freshome. Mohawk Bend is a restaurant and bar that sources everything locally. They appeal to meat eaters like me, to vegans and vegetarians. It opened it’s doors on August 1, 2011, and has been a popular spot of the neighborhood ever since.
A good buddy of mine and co-worker decided to catch happy hour — beer was in order. My buddy, @joeschai had the Victory Golden Monkey, a Philadelphia brew that he is more familiar with. It was full bodied and had a great taste. It made my beer seem like water.
Nachoes were on the happy hour menu and it was a great start. The nachos were quite standard though, and the pico de gallo and guacamole were fresh. I’m glad it didn’t have any chili or beans in it, but the cheese could have been more gooey. I am a fan of more of a cheese sauce than just melted cheddar on my nachos. That way, the cheese won’t harden and make it nearly impossible to enjoy. Other than that though, the nachos were quite nice.
The Buffalo-style Cauliflower was interesting. I felt we were ordering everything standard bar food. Beer, pizza, burger, and nachos? I wanted something to spice up our regular items and this seemed interesting enough. For a guy who hates cauliflower, this was a gamble. The cauliflower was a great blank vessel for the buffalo sauce. The most interesting part of this dish was the vegan “bleu cheese” dressing. Blue cheese was made of some kind of soy cheese. It tasted like plastic blocks, but the dressing itself was good. The dish was salty, zesty and full of flavor — not a bad veggie dish, fit for a vegetarian looking for some buffalo wings.
I appreciate a good pizza with a balance of flavors and textures. This flatbread had an amazing balance. The short rib and blue cheese gave the pizza a rich flavor to it. All was countered by the red onions and greens. The kicker was the smoked grapes. This gave it a nice subtle sweetness that this pizza needed. The balsamic reduction on top finished it off perfectly. The crust was decent — not all that great actually. The toppings helped with masking the shortcomings of the dough.
Every bar, gastropub, whatever you want to call it needs a burger. From all of their selections we opted for the one with bacon, short rib, and cheddar. The beef was nicely seared cooked to a medium. The beef was the star — the pure beef flavor from the patty and short rib shined through the burger. The bacon and everything else seemed like an afterthought. The bun was actually better than I thought. Though a burger isn’t a must order at Mohawk Bend, you wouldn’t be doing wrong by it.
I hate to say this, but the concept and interior design of it all is the most impressive part of Mohawk Bend. For them to have carried out a great interior with all of the amenities in a such a rundown property is amazing. Sorry to say though, the impressive interior is not reflected onto the food as well. Nothing I ate was amazing. The only thing that really stood out was the burger, and maybe their selection of beers. Other than that, their dishes were uninspired and boring. This may be a gem in Echo Park, but in the grand scheme of the City of Los Angeles, they are just “okay.” It was still great to catch up with my friend and coworker. Good company always makes things better.
I remember whan I was a kid, pizza was my favorite food. When I spoke of pizza as a kid, I meant the every day Dominoes delivery kind of pizza — the kind that my childhood idol, Michaelangelo from TMNT liked. As an adult now, my pizza pallate has evolved into something more. Before, the crust was just an obstacle for the good stuff, also known as the meat and cheese. Now, the crust is most important component for a good pizza. At Pizzeria Mozza, you can have your adult pizza. The crust is uber thin, and the toppings are of the highest quality. Masterfully baked in their woodfire oven, their pizzas are some of the most coveted in Los Angeles.
Pizzeria Mozza is a power house. Not only do you have Nancy Silverton, the bread baking extrodinaire who founded La Brea Bakery, you have Mario Batali in the mix. With the help of restauranteur and tv personality Joe Bastianich, Pizzeria Mozza was bound to thrive. Gourmet pizza nowadays is easier to find in Los Angeles — they are everywhere! Pizzeria Mozza is special and is one of the few who started the gourmet pizza trend in Los Angeles. Backed by the Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton also doesn’t hurt either. Do to it’s popularity, reservations are a must. Luckily, there were a couple of seats available at the bar. I was ready to have my pizza!
Instead of traditional bread, they served grissinis. The crunchy bread sticks in the form of long pencils were a nice light snack before dinner. Having not much flavor and a lot of crunch, it was still fun to munch on these bread sticks.
One of Pizzeria Mozza’s most famous and most expensive pizzas is the squash blossoms pizza. Though I would rarely shell out 20 bucks for a pizza, I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. At first bite, the mixture of the tomato and burrata was pristine. The tomoato flavor was subtle and the burrata had a gentle milky flavor. Delicate in texture, the burrata was silky smooth. Married with the flavors of the squash blossom, everything came together nicely. Texurally, the dough was perfectly chewy and airy on the inside and crisp on the outside. The squash blossoms roasted in the oven made it light and crisp. This brought out the flavors quite nicely. For a meatless pizza pie, it was pretty dang good.
For my meat fix, I ordered the fennel sausage pizza. Topped with house-made sausage, the subtly sweet yet savory sausage was the star. Pops of fennel really brought out the flavors nicely. The herbiness of the red onions and scallions balanced out the fatty sausage nicely. I don’t quite know if this was better of the two pizzas. The sausage on this was perfect, almost life changing, but the squash blossom pizza as a whole was better. Get both!
To end things, I ordered their butterscotch budino. A play between a sweet and decadent budino and savory rosemary pine nut cookies was teasing the senses. The caramel and butterscotch was quite sweet, but the help of Maldon sea salt helped intensify the taste. The cookies alone were a bit bland and not sweet. The elements of the rosemary in the pine nut cookie and the budino was a match so complex and delicate. This was a beautiful dessert.
Everyone knows that Pizzeria Mozza is the LA standard when it comes to artisinal pizzas. The service is near perfect and the pizzas are exceptional. You have Nancy Silverton for the crust, and Mario Batali, true Italian at heart. With these two, a perfect pizza is bound to be born. The restaurant is casual and well-appointed. Though I only had the pizza there, I’m sure the other items are just as good. As a child, pizza was my favorite food. Now as an adult, Pizzeria Mozza made pizza one of my favorite foods again.
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.