Friday, August 29, 2008

Eme's Little Bunting

I have heard rave reviews about Ortolan, so I finally decided to give it a try. Ortolan's chef, Christopher Eme, probably has two claims to fame: 1)He was a chef at L'Orangerie and 2)he is married to actress Jeri Ryan.

We were there on a weekday for an 8 o'clock reservation and the restaurant is almost empty - only two other tables in the front dining room, which had these really nice white booths. After my dinner that night I was undecided about their service, and I'll tell you why...

We were seated immediately and were asked if we would like any wine or champagne. We don't really drink so we declined and just asked to tap water. It seems like after this we were ignored ... For about 15 minutes in such a practically empty place, we were not given any menu. After 15 minutes someone came by and asked if we were ready for order. "I'd like to see the menu" was, naturally, my only response. (I wanted to add "Uhm, helloooo???!" to that).

Anyway, after that, the menu came immediately. We ordered crispy langoustine and seared foie gras for appetizers. Maybe because these were big ticket items, maybe because the guy could see that I was *unhappy*, or maybe because I were taking photos of the food and they figured out I'm a blogger - whatever it was, the service from then on was impeccable.

The first amuse bouche were two types of soups (warm) served in test tubes with straws.

The orange one was a carrot soup - good (I don't like carrot soups ...).
The red one was a tomato soup, and I don't remember what the green foam was. This was delicious!

The second amuse bouche was different than most other places - a pretty big bowl of eggplant caviar, to share for the whole table.
I loved it. It was unique and delicious. The flavors worked very well together and it has a nice, rich, creamy texture. I also loved the presentation in the stacked bowls.

The crispy langoustine appetizer was supposed to be one of their signature dishes:
It was okay ... From a signature dish I was expecting flavors dancing around in my mouth, but that didn't really happen. It was good langoustine and all, but overall didn't really stand out in my mind. Three pieces of langoustine - $24 ... hmm, I didn't think it was worth it.

So moving on to my seared foie gras:
Now this is more like it!!! This wasn't on the menu but was suggested to me by the server when I told him I like foie gras but not terrine. The seared foie gras was served with cherries - a sweet combo! One of the better foie gras dishes I've had and my favorite dish of the night.

So the chef (Eme) comes out to each table to explain all the main entrees to everyone. I thought it was nice to maintain some personal interaction like that.

One of the entrees we got was the Cod with Paella:
I thought the paella was a bit bland for a paella and the sausages being on the side was rather hard to cut and thus to incorporate into each bite. The cod, on the other hand, was perfect. In other words, it was cooked perfectly and had just the right tenderness and flakiness. And by "right" I meant "ooh, I never knew this is how cod could really be!"
So, 100/100 points for the cod, but the dish in its entirety needs to be tied together better.

For my entree I got the Pork "Maine-et-Loire" three-way.
Interesting presentation. The best part of the dish is the pork confit hidden under the spaghetti carbonara. The bulk of the dish was the two pieces you see to the left. They are, unfortunately, a little dry :( I loved the spaghetti+pork confit and the stuffed bell pepper, but the rest was just okay ...

I got the "Lime Gelee, Coconut Emulsion" dessert because it sounded interesting.
I was kind of disappointed ... It wasn't really anything special and it was also pretty small.

We also got the chocolate tart (with raspberry and vanilla ice cream)
Much better! A rich and dark-chocolatey chocolate tart. The raspberries and the vanilla ice cream helped cut that richness perfectly. Yummy.

Oh, and I didn't take pictures, but one of the highlights of our meal was the chocolate truffles that they gave us at (near) the end (before the petit-fours)!! They brought a tray with jars of chocolate truffles with different flavors: coconut, lime, earl grey, praline .. mm what else...
Anyway, these chocolate truffles were very2 good. I didn't know how many we can have, so we just asked for two flavors each. They were so good that I asked them if I can buy some to take home!! After asking the pastry chef, they agreed. I chose the flavors I wanted and brought home a box of about 8-10 truffles. They charged me for an additional dessert, which was $12. It ended up being a great deal! Cheaper than, say, Chuao (or Leonida's, even?) and much better truffles!

Chef Eme held the door open for us as we left the restaurant! This made us leave the restaurant feeling happy and important and that the restaurant gives amazing service (but then I remembered their initial blunder - which left me undecided ... I guess overall they do give really good service).

8338 W. 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048.
(323) 653-3300

Ortolan on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hainan Chicken Rice Hunt

A friend of mine told me that he'd found the best hainan chicken rice place in LA (although he did say the place had also gone downhill :/ ), so for his birthday I told him I would treat him to a meal there - two birds with one stone!

He told me to meet him at Savoy in Alhambra. A place named Savoy in Alhambra? And it's Chinese? That's a new one ... I'm more used to Phoenix-Royal-Ocean-Seafood-Star-Palace type names. But I guess Savoy was kind of a "fusion" place (they serve pizzas - Asian style), although they are apparently still known for the Hainan chicken rice.
Savoy is a small place - they have about 5-6 tables inside, and a few chairs at the counter. Then they also have a few tables along the sidewalk. We put our name down and waited about 10-15 minutes and got a table inside.

We both ordered the Hainan chicken rice of course! this was taken with my phone camera, so the quality is not that good, sorry.
The rice was fragrant, almost the way I remembered it from back home. The chicken was tender and pretty juicy, and not too fatty. So the rice was just a weee bit dry, but if you just dump a lot of ginger on it, it's all good :)

We did both have to ask for extra ginger, but they gave us a big dollop with no hassle.
I haven't had a lot of hainan chicken rice in LA, but the one at Savoy was pretty good! It was as good as I would expect from places back home, and I think I wouldn't really expect much in terms of better ones in LA. I really enjoyed it and remember it fondly. I'll definitely be back often for it!

Savoy Kitchen

138 E Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 308-9535

Savoy Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 25, 2008

CozmoDeck: May Be A Good Deal!

I found out about CozmoDeck not too long ago - a friend of mine got them for free from a shopping event and gave me a few cards.

So what is a CozmoDeck? It's a promotional tool for restaurants - each card in the CozmoDeck is a gift card that gives you $15 off a meal ($50 or more minimum order on FOOD ONLY).
Not bad, not bad ... since an uncustomized CozmoDeck is only $30 apparently. You can also get a customized one for $65 - this lets you get multiple gift cards from just the restaurants you want - 52 cards total, hence a "deck".

I got one for James Beach, Ciudad, and Pink Taco from my friend, Kat (and they were free! Even betta! Thanks Kat!)

You can see the list of participating restaurants on their website.
They have The Wilshire, Tagine, and Luna Park among others. It's actually a pretty good deal I think. $50 is pretty easy to do even with just two people at these places if you order dessert.

Oh, another note though! I won't recommend buying them now, since they expire December 29th, 2008! If the price remains the same next year, I may get myself one.

2008 Sri Lankan Festival

So I read on a fellow LA foodblogger (Eating L.A.) that this past Saturday was the Sri Lankan festival at Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade. I've never had Sri Lankan food before, so I took this opportunity and went.

They've set up tents all along the promenade. One of the popular booths was this Curry Bowl, that lists a Tarzana address (in case anyone is interested in going there).Seeing someone preparing the food really attracts a lot of attention. We saw them making this "kottu roti" and, of course, decided that we should get some.
Kottu roti is made from 'roti' (flour dough), chicken, and vegetables, all chopped up. "Ready to eat!" was what they were aiming for. This somewhat reminds me of pad see ew and the like, but a slightly spicier version (not too spicy though). The roti is very doughy in comparison also, a lot more doughy than what I'm used to and it made it very filling.

We also got the String Hoppers (also $10)
The yellow stuff on the top left is coconut, then to the right is some fish - according to the girl it was salmon although it sure doesn't look like it to me - a little spicy but not too bad. The strings were again, kind of doughy. I guess that's the way they like it?

I also got some Falooda, a dessert beverage from "the Indian subcontinent" (says wikipedia):
This particular one is made with milk and rose syrup, and tapioca seeds, then served with a dollop of ice cream.
Talk about Sweet. This was actually too sweet and too ... fragrant ... for my taste. You can really 'taste' the fragrance of the rose syrup. I liked it enough and drank about 1/3 of it but I was also already really full from all the food and couldn't finish it.

I was stuffed so I decided to "walk it off" in the shops and spent even more money ... *sigh*
Anyway, it was a pretty interesting festival, with a lot of new and interesting food (for me), plus it's free and right on the promenade, so if I'm free next year I may hit it again.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Those Japanese ...

They sure know how to entertain themselves :P

Going through the candy/cookie section at Mitsuwa or Nijiya is always fun! Because, well, you never know what you'll find. Like this one!F cup cookie ??? What does that mean? And the cookies are rectangular shaped, so they're not referring to the cookies ... 58.7 kcal ... I wish I can read Japanese. Maybe if I eat a lot of these I'll be an F cup ?_?

Oh and then these:
Couque D'asses .... uh huh. Did I miss something? Does "asses" actually mean something in French? I actually went to the French dictionary online and found nothing, so .. yeah, anyway :P

Can't wait for my next trip to Nijiya or Mitsuwa :O

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sona's Little Pleasures

So I finally decided to give Sona a try since overall I've heard positive reviews about it. It was hard getting a reservation through OpenTable although when I arrived the restaurant was practically empty. Kind of sad, but at least his Comme Ca is doing well (they did have more tables filling up as the night went on, although still wasn't packed).

The place is well decorated with a sleek, minimal style.

We started with an amuse bouche: a shot glass of watermelon "gazpacho". The shot was chilled and was actually sweet, almost as sweet as pure watermelon juice.

They had 4-5 different types of bread, including an interesting Earl Grey one which I tried.

One of the great things about Sona is that when you order their Chef's tasting menu, they will try and serve each person a different dish - but along the same line - giving you even more opportunities to try out different dishes!!! (This was one of the reasons I can't remember all that I ate - there were so many different ones!)

The chef de cuisine was Japanese and so they have been serving a lot of Japanese-influenced dishes. Tonight, also, we started with a couple of sashimi dishes.
One of them was a kanpachi (i wuv my kanpachi):
The pieces were nice and fresh and I really enjoyed the sauce and garnish.

The other fish was I think, albacore? I can't really remember anymore, it's been a while.

Then we had the veal sweetbreads and lobster ravioli (!!!!)
How much goodness can you fit in one dish? I haven't had that many sweetbreads in my life, but this was the best one I've had so far. The lobster ravioli and its broth was pretty light and managed to cut the richness of the sweetbread very well.

The roasted corn soup was also a great dish:
It was served with a braised pork belly. The pork belly was just a wee bit dry, but overall good, and the corn soup itself was amazing.

We then moved on to the fish dishes. One was the seabass.
The sauce for this dish was great, but as far as the fish itself goes, I've had better seabass. This one was a little overcooked/ a little dry.

The other was a halibut. Now, this was delicate and delicious.
It was cooked just right, flakey and juicy. I believe it was served with english pea puree.

Then came the meat dishes. This one I believe was Venison.
Cooked perfectly medium rare, it was a very tender piece of meat.

One of us got the roasted squab, which was delectable!
I liked this better than the venison, personally.

Then they proudly presented the Seared Wagyu Beef
It was definitely delicious and well-prepared, but I'm not sure if I'm that big on it ... it was very fatty - you can see the marbling! I somehow felt like I was eating fat (yes, I'll devour foie gras any day), so it was a bit weird ... although again, it was delicious.

A mint-cucumber granita was served as a palate cleanser. I always love these granitas as they are always so refreshing, and mint is a love of mine :)

We were offered a cheese platter, which I accepted (they charged extra for it though, which I wasn't aware of before :( ... Providence didn't charge!)

Again, couldn't really remember ... there was goat cheese for one ...
The three cheeses were served with: 1) balsamic vinegar, 2)hazelnuts and 3) sea salt caramel (yum!)
Now, on to the desserts: I don't really remember what this dessert was - I think there was some passionfruit in it.
Anyway, it wasn't anything memorable.

Next was some sort of panna cotta with coffee gelee. This dish was really small. The gelee and panna cotta were ti~ny, not even bite sized.
It's hard to say how this was, the little bites barely allowed for any taste, especially since Panna cottas themselves aren't exactly bursting with flavor.

My favorite dessert that night was the Chocolate Beignet:
Melted dark chocolate inside a rich chocolate dough with a crispy outer layer. This was also served with ice cream which I didn't take a picture of.

All in all it was a wonderful, leisurely meal. On the whole everything was well done with quite a few of very memorable dishes. Everything was very beautifully presented of course. Compared to Providence, the dishes are less innovative, but on the upside it provides a certain 'comfort level' for both chef and customer ... (the salt and pepper ice cream from my last Providence visit for example I found ... strange). Anyway, I really enjoyed my meal and will definitely be back another time. Maybe rotate with Providence now? Or Ortolan?

401 North La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90048
310 659 7708

Sona on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 22, 2008

Beach's Comfort Food

I've been making quite a few runs to LAX, and Venice area is always a nice place to stop for dinner, so I've been trying different places. This is a backpost from a few weeks ago, when I hit James' Beach for the first time.

The place was pretty hopping outside on the patio, where you first come in, but is pretty quiet inside the dimly-lit main dining room. We sat inside on a booth. James' Beach offers a consistent special entree every day and on Tuesdays it was chicken pot pie. I actually wanted to try the Monday's Special (Short Ribs), but I guess not this time a round.

We ordered a smoked duck salad (from the specials menu) as appetizer:The smoked duck was good, but we thought they didn't give quite enough. The peaches added a really nice flavor and goes well with the blue cheese. There was too much blue cheese for us, but since you can easily pick those out it wasn't a problem. Overall a light refreshing salad.

I ordered the pot roasted briskets:
The briskets were a bit fatty and the sauce a bit salty. It's definitely "comfort food" and hit the spot, but wasn't anything special.

My friend ordered the Sand Dabs and it was actually really delicious!
I liked it better than my brisket. It was light yet flavorful and the spinach, and especially the golden raisins played really well together.

Now, I didn't know what sand dabs were prior to this, so I looked it up and according to

"Alan Davidson, author of The Oxford Companion to Food and one of the world's foremost authorities on seafood, refers to the sand dab as a European fish, found in the North Atlantic. It is a flatfish, with a brown back, and can reach 16 inches in length, although is often closer to 10. He says it is "a good fish, with a pleasing flavour, well suited to being fried.
It's so great when you find out about some new food and liking it :)

The Summer Peach Crisp from their Specials' menu was pretty good - noticeably fresh peaches that are still crisp upon biting.

But, the one that takes the cake (or pie) for me was their Cherry Pie:

It wasn't too sweet, the whole cherries they have in there were awesome and it also had a nice crust. As far as cherry desserts go, this was one of my favorites. I would definitely get this again next time around (if they're still serving it)!

The service at James' Beach is kind of slow and the noise level depends on whether you're sitting inside or outside (way quieter inside), but it has solid food. I'll probably be coming here again when I have to make a run to LAX.

James' Beach
60 North Venice Boulevard
Venice, California 90291

James' Beach on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Best (Instant) Noodles

I'm not just saying this because I'm Indonesian ... but we Indonesians make the best instant noodles out there (although no I've never tried the Japanese $3 instant noodle packages because with that kind of money I'd rather go to a food stall and eat a fresh bowl).

Indonesian's "Mi Goreng" literally means "Fried Noodles". The most common one is the one produced by the company "Indomie" :Just like the name suggests, you're supposed to be getting "fried noodles" so you're supposed to drain the water after boiling the noodles, and THEN put the sauces in and mix it. (I've given it to a friend who didn't read the instructions .... and then asked why the soup is so bland ...).

Now, my favorite way of devouring this is with one sunny side up egg:
Go get one and try it! In LA you can get one pack for about 33 cents and they sell them at 99 Ranch Market :)
It's bold in flavor and probably has a lot of sodium ... but it's good >_< !!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Chickens and Cobblers

Have you noticed I keep ordering cobblers (crumbles/crisp) for dessert? If not, you probably soon will as I make more backposts :P

This is a backpost of my visit to Cynthia's on Third Street. I've been hearing good things about their blackberry crumble and that's pretty much my main reason for this visit.
Cynthia's was pretty quiet - we came early and were the 2nd table in the house - and has a casual/ homey feel. The music was definitely noticeable and they have a note on their menu saying that they will not turn it down ...

Piping hot bread was served.
Bread was decent and since it was hot it tasted even better.

We shared the crab cake appetizer from the Specials menu.
It was served over a bed of mangoes and the sourness really complements the crab cakes. Overall a good dish, though I would've loved more crab in the crab cakes.

I, of course, ordered their infamous fried chicken. I usually do not order chicken at restaurants (especially breasts) because they tend to be dry and overcooked. But I do love fried chicken and was curious after all the reviews. Then came three big, crispy, fried chicken breasts:The mashed potatoes and greens weren't much - I guess they were good but how can they be special in the first place?
The fried chicken on the other hand, really was good! Althouth they were chicken breasts, they were tender and juicy since they were cooked properly. The skin was crispy and had a nice texture. If only they didn't put it on top of the mashed potatoes - that made it soggy over time.
Definitely a memorable fried chicken dish!

I unfortunately can't really remember what kind of fish my friend ordered ... I think it was a barramundi, but sorry can't guarantee that that's correct. It was off of their specials menu.Whatever it was, it was delicious! I had a few bites and really liked it. The fish is tender and flavorful and juicy. The flavors were bold, which I like in my fish dishes. It was served with some orecchiete which was also done well. A great dish overall, I wish they would offer it again and again.

And now it's time for the blackberry crumble! First of all, it was HUGE. Definitely enough for two:
It was indeed a great crumble. The crust was oat-based and was nice and slightly chewy. The flavor was right on though. Whole fresh blackberries inside. It was more watery than normal crumble/cobbler, but it tasted great and at least you know you're not just chowing down a whole lotta syrup... (although that wateriness does make seem like I'm missing something)
I'm generally that a huge fan of blackberries (go blueberries!) but I did really like this crumble. Don't know if it's the best in LA but definitely up there somewhere.

Cynthia's Restaurant3

8370 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 658-7851

Cynthia's Restaurant3 on Urbanspoon

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