Wednesday, March 31, 2010

La Cachette Bistro: Salmon Sausages and Rum Brunch

La Cachette was a long-standing restaurant in Century City, where chef/owner Jean Francois Meteigner served California-influenced French dishes for fifteen years. Now the restaurant has found a new home as La Cachette Bistro on Ocean Avenue, where you can take in the ocean breeze on the patio.
They wanted to promote their lunch prix fixe deal, so they invited me over for lunch. It was impossible for me to make it there during the weekday, however, so I ended up coming in for a Saturday brunch instead.

The lunch prix fixe on Monday-Friday gets you Soup of the Day or House Salad, One of Three Entree Choices, and Dessert of The Day for just $15. Pretty good deal, no?

Soon after we were seated, Marc Danays, the bartender came over to greet us and offered some libations. I had brought 0ne of my roommates with me. She's originally from Cambridge and she and Marc noted their common accent and the two of them hit it off immediately (Marc worked at major clubs in London).

We decided to let him make whatever he wants and these are what we got:
"Bubbly Love" (gin, lime, pomegranate liqueur, topped with champagne) for me.
"Deep South" (rum, OJ) for my roommate (who told him she liked rum lots and lots).
Both drinks were sweet and refreshing, but I ended up liking my roommate's drink more. Mine was a little bitter, perhaps the combination of the herbal gin and the rosemary was a bit much for me. There's also that whole "drink OJ during brunch" habit hardwired into my brain.

Some eggy bread with a sweet crust to start.
We really wanted to sit outside and enjoy the sun and breeze, but since it ended up being a rather windy day, we both started with some soups.

My roommate got the Smoked Tomato and Shiitake Mushroom Soup ($6)
The chunks of shiitake were very good and brought the dish up a notch. The soup had a nice smokiness (in the words of my roommate, it reminds her of when she puts bacon in tomato sauce).

Lightly creamed Lobster Bisque, served with Rouille ($7)
No lobster chunks here, but you can definitely taste the lobster. A thin but flavorful bisque.

At first I went for a standard brunch fare:
Organic Egg Benedict on Brioche, with House Smoked Salmon (or Ham), served with Baby Mixed Greens ($18)
The smoked salmon used here was on the meatier side and had a good smoked flavor. The brioche was nicely flaky and the egg was poached well - runny without being too much so.

My roommate never had a croque before so that's what she ordered.
Croque Monsieur on House Baked Bun with Bechamel, Swiss Cheese, Organic Ham ($14 + $2 for egg). She got the egg- so technically she got a Croque Madame.
I tried a bite and it was a pretty good although a heavier version of the croque, given the thicker, richer buns used in it. Even so the bread was pretty air so the dish was not overly dense. The ham was also smoked in house and was great. My roommate loved it and it was her favorite entree from the table.

Chef Meteigner decided to send out another dish that he wanted us to try:
Scrambled Eggs Wrapped in House Smoked Salmon, with House Made Salmon Sausage, Capers, Onions, served with Mixed Greens ($17)
The wonderfully moist scrambled eggs are indeed wrapped inside the salmon:
I'm glad he sent out this dish as it turned out to be my favorite. The lemony frisee complemented the salmon very well. I loved the moist and runny scrambled eggs. Most notably though was the salmon sausages made from smoked salmon, fresh salmon, and a bit of white fish. The sausages were light yet flavorful.

Instead of a normal palate cleanser, Marc sent out one in alcoholic liquid shot form. A palate cleanser cocktail? I think Marc's on a mission ... to get us drunk :p
This was made with thyme, lemon, and a rather special vodka: Zubrowka, a bison grass flavored vodka from Poland. Sweet and smooth. Dangerous.

Then came desserts.

Floating Island w/ Caramel & Hazelnut Pistachio Almond Nougatine ($9)
This was a fluffy meringue sitting on top of a pool of Crème anglaise and topped with pralines. We both absolutely loved the praline.

Homemade Rum Baba with Pressed Pineapple and Creme Fraiche ($8)
After biting into just the rum baba, we thought it was definitely a good rum baba, but it wasn't until we found out what was in the little tin jug that this dessert become amazing. No, not maple syrup.
Jamaican dark rum. Just a spoonful of dark rum ... and a little piece of baba. Oh yes.

Maybe it was the overflowing libations we had but we both really enjoyed our experience here. The patio had a classic French bistro look with the added bonus of So Cal sun and sea breeze. Chef Meteigner's food was good, especially the delectable house made salmon sausages, as well as their house smoked salmon and ham. Both of the classic desserts we had were more than solid. Give me some eggs, salmon sausages, and a rum-soaked baba, and I'm good. If only I can make it here during the week for their $15 three course lunches.

La Cachette Bistro
1733 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 434-9509
La Cachette Bistro on Urbanspoon
La Cachette Bistro in Los Angeles

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sneak Preview of Radio Room #2: Tonight at The Edison!

Radio Room at The Edison is back on tonight (Tuesday, March 30).

Last night we got a sneak preview of the drinks, seafood, and talk to the bartender (the night wasn't just for Radio Room, it was also for The Edison to announce that they are opening another Edison - in New York City!)

Before you head over there at 8 PM, here's what you can look forward to:

1. Cocktails from some of the best bartenders.

"Wild Orchid" - Giuseppe Gonzalez
(gin, almond, elderflower, red wine)

"Infante" - Giuseppe Gonzalez
(tequila, lime, orgeat, orange blossom water, nutmeg)
I think this was my favorite

Don Lee (Momofuku, NY) & Zane Harris (Rob Roy, Seattle)

Giuseppe Gonzalez (Dutch Kills/Painkiller, NY)

Simon Ford of Pernod Ricard (London/NY)

2. Fruity absinthe shots and "martinis" from the Green Fairy.

Mini "potion" bottles of absinthe-pineapple and absinthe-pom shots.
(Yes, I kept the bottle. She said I can and it was so cute!)

3. And last but not least, treats fresh from the sea from Maitre Ecailler, Chef Christophe Happillon. Last Radio Room had oysters, this time he's also adding crab claws!
Crab Claws

Fanny Bay Oysters from British Columbia
(with an awesome cocktail sauce!)

Radio Room at The Edison
Tuesday, March 30
8 PM
108 W 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Monday, March 29, 2010

Saturday, SNL, Sam Adams Spring Brew.

What do you do when you get a six-pack in the mail? You bring it over to your friend's house with the big TV on a Saturday, of course!

That's exactly what I did with the 6-pack of Samuel Adams Noble Pils - their new spring seasonal beer that's brewed with all five of their Noble Hop varieties. This Pilsner replaces the White Ale as Sam Adams' spring beer. We kicked back with some korean omelet rice that my friend's roommate made and watched SNL.
The beer: a pale yellow/straw pour. Citrusy aroma. Crisp and light but still has a malty character. Hoppy finish - but not too bitter. Very easy to drink. Definitely a good inexpensive beer to drink with friends in front of a TV.

I also thought my friends can give me some input about the beer that I can incorporate into the review. Alas, I miscalculated.

These statements were the extent of their contribution:

"It's good."

"It's ... uh ... citrusy?" (me: Stop reading the label!")

"It reminds me of something. But I don't know what."

Good job, guys. Good job.

-- update 3/30/10 --

One of my friends actually came up with a great review after all! It was a bit late but I decided to append it here since it was a well-written and thorough review:

"Sam Adams' Noble Pils, brewed in time for Spring, can make for a pleasant seasonal alternative to the more mainstream beers.

A first sip and you notice that the beer is not as carbonated as expected. Another sip and you realise that this allows you to taste the hops that much better. The beer has a surprisingly watery feel in the mouth, which can be a nice change from some of the 'drier' beers.

Taking a look at the green colours on the label, you might think of citrus, and you'd be right - in theory that is. Whilst the blurb on the label mentions the 'lively, citrus hop character', the taste of the citrus is barely noticeable. This is a pity, as it would have made a positive contribution to the flavour of the beer, particularly given that it seems to be intended as a spring beer. However, there's plenty of taste there - the 'Noble Pils' is so-named because, as the label informs us, it was made with all five Noble hops.

Whilst those accustomed to heavier lagers may not be so interested in Sam Adams' latest offer, it makes for a welcome alternative to those who are used to lighter beers and are looking to try something with a little extra taste to it."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sashi Sushi+Sake Lounge, Manhattan Beach

When I was invited to a dinner at Sashi in Manhattan Beach (extended thanks to Glutster), the name Makoto Okuwa was somehow familiar to me. Upon hearing that he worked under Iron Chef Morimoto and was also among his crew in the TV show, I finally remembered seeing him in a cook-off against Top Chef contestant Betty Fraser at the LA Mag Food Event back in 2008.

Chef Makoto Okuwa grew up in Nagoya and eventually moved to New York where he worked under Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Now he has his own place in Manhattan Beach: Sashi.
After Mattatouille, Glutster and I lounged on the chilly beach for a while and reminiscing about our Bali trip(the last time we were all at a beach!), a family-style tasting menu at Sashi began. We were joined by Pardon My Crumbs, Kevin Eats, Sushi Lush, and Active Foodie. We had so many dishes I will not be able to go through them all here, so I will just give you about the top 80% of what we ate that night.

We all love to start with some bubbles. Luckily even for this japanese food/sake dinner we can still get our bubblies with the "Flower Sparkling" Hana Hou Hou Shu. A bit sweeter than champagne, but otherwise crisp and easily drinkable. I, for one, appreciated having a sparkling to start.

For the amuse bouche: "New England Clam Chowder"
A playful rendition of the classic clam chowder using a small air bread (a la The Bazaar) infused with the chowder and topped with manila clams and some truffle oil. It's a nice introduction to Chef Makoto Okuwa.

Crispy asparagus (lightly beer battered tempura asparagus served with nori aioli) -$7
A simple dish, but we all liked this. The light batter did not hide the texture and flavor of the fresh asparagus.

Lemon oregano mushroom (char grilled shitake mushroom with oregano pesto) -$8
Whether such a strongly flavored dish is a good appetizer before all the oysters and sashimi I'm not sure, but that aside I love both shiitake and pesto and while I never thought of the combination of the two I decided I loved it.

Kumamoto oysters (half dozen) - $18
Each of the fresh oyster was dressed differently.

Sashimi wrap (butter lettuce, asian herbs, gochujang sauce, wasabi soy, and miso aioli. Choice of 5 fresh fish) -$26
For us the 5 fish were: salmon, aoyagi, hamachi, tai, and tuna.
They serve very high quality sashimi here at Sashi. The lettuce wrap is supposed to be a nod to the Korean ssam wraps and surprisingly I did like the sashimi with the gojuchang sauce and the lettuce wrap, although I think I still prefer soy sauce and wasabi.

Gindara (alaskan wild black cod marinated in sweet miso) - $5 (per skewer)
This robata take on the famous Nobu dish had a slight smokiness and nicely charred crispy bits around the edges. The rest is sweet and fall-apart tender.

Steam bun (roasted kurobuta pork belly, pickled cucumber, kewpie slaw, scallion) -$13
A fatty pork bun that was made even richer by the kewpie mayo (and I'm all about kewpie mayo). A pretty good rendition of pork steam bun that is somewhat of a combination between Momofuku's and Ippudo's. The bun is a bit thick here but overall still good.

Toro tartar with caviar (chopped medium fatty tuna served in soy dashi broth with freshly grated wasabi and paddlefish caviar) -$28
Toro with caviar? How indulgently exciting. The tartar had a good texture but the flavor was dominated mainly by the scallions. Since it was colder than I think it should've been, I couldn't taste the toro as much as I would've liked.

Black tiger prawn tempura (tempura battered black tiger prawns mixed in wasabi aioli sauce served on a baby frisee salad) -$16
For the Chinese in the group, this is probably reminiscent of the walnut shrimp minus the walnut. In any case, you can't go wrong with crunchy battered fresh shrimp in aioli.

Tai with uni (thinly sliced japanese snapper topped with sweet sea urchin, yuzukosho and shiso salad) -$18
An interesting combination of two from opposite ends of the spectrum: the lean tai with the creamy uni. (though, it left me wanting more uni. I can use a whole uni for myself.)

King crab claws "corn dogs" (lemon thyme, sea salt and served with a lemon grass dipping sauce) -$17
An interesting dish and while I liked both the batter and the crab meat, I still prefer my crab prepared simply roasted or boiled. I do believe frying dries it up a bit.

Wagyu "hot rock" (thinly sliced japanese wagyu beef prepared "table side") -$28
These Japanese wagyu slices come with a certificate of authenticity. These amazing slices of meat are yours to cook yourself tableside. There's no way to screw this up, delicious all the way.

Tuna sashimi pizza (tuna carpaccio, cilantro, cherry tomato, red onion, black olives and jalapeno) -$14
Besides this we also had a chicken teriyaki pizza ($15). Both were fine but I can't get that excited about pizzas at a Japanese restaurant.

Even though we were all stuffed at this point, most of us opted to try out one of Makoto's unique Nagoya-rooted offerings:
20: taiwan ramen noodle (nagoya style spicy noodle soup served with beef and pork, asian chives, and dried red chili) -$11
OK so we were expecting a small tasting-size bowl, not a full-sized portion, but regardless this ramen turned out to be the night's favorite for many. And, yes sir, it was quite spicy.

We finished with desserts by pastry chef Kei Hasegawa (formerly from Nobu).
Bamboo cup (chocolate orange mousse, cinnamon crumble, green tea ice cream, cointreau foam) -$8
Though you can't tell from this photo, the bamboo cup held layers of the mousse, the ice cream, etc. This had a nice light tartness to it.

Japanese frozen yogurt (calpico flavor yogurt and mango passion fruit sorbet served with fresh berries) - $8
This was also light and tart but I found that the tartness overwhelmed the berries too much for my taste.

Toban yaki (bananas, pineapple, and fuji apples baked in a toban pot served with a passion fruit white chocolate sauce and coconut ice cream) -$16
Easily my favorite dessert. These fruits cooked in the creamy passionfruit chocolate sauce were the perfect ending for that chilly night for me.

Perhaps my initial expectation was biased by the fact that I was in Manhattan Beach (though I recently had some pretty good eats there), but I was happily surprised by Chef Makoto Okuwa's food. Most of the dishes are variations of familiar and popular fusion dishes, but they were well executed and he has sourced good quality ingredients. Though it would be great to see more of the chef's own personal flair on the menu as he demonstrated with the amuse bouche, Sashi provides a solid meal. And a bowl of that taiwan ramen noodle would do one well after a cool night on the beach.

Sashi: sushi+sake lounge
451 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 545-0400
Sashi: sushi and sake lounge on Urbanspoon
Sashi Sushi + Sake Lounge in Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

NYC: Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu

The best dinner of my last NYC trip? Easy. Eleven Madison Park.

"Taste of Autumn" menu - $125 (yes, this was back in late November - a belated post) in a art deco dining room with magnificently high ceilings. It's quiet, it's classy. Frank Bruni gave Executive Chef Daniel Humm's food four stars before leaving NY Times, so I came with high expectations. Luckily, they were met.

Warm gougeres to start the meal that will be marked by courteous and professional service.

A plate of pretty and whimsical amuse bouches came immediately after: beet marshmallow, foie gras pate, fried sweetbread mini come (and another which escapes me at the moment).

Hawaiian Prawns Roulade with avocado, lime, and yogurt
First impression: gorgeous. Lasting impression: a delicious play of crisp prawns and the smooth and creamy avocado, both of which were so fresh their flavors scarcely needed the yogurt.

Sea urchin cappuccino with Peekytoe crab.
The uni here contributed to a rich creaminess, but the flavor did not come out as strongly (to the delight of my companion, who didn't like uni all that much).

Dover Sole. Slow cooked with Matsutake sabayon and Nasturtium.
Firm yet moist and tender, the Dover Sole's texture was little overwhelmed by the creamy sabayon, but the flavors worked quite well.

Four Story Hill Farm Suckling Pig Confit with spiced plum chutney, cipollini onions and cider jus.
Tender confit topped with crisped crunchy skin. The spiced plum chutney was both interesting and had nice flavors, but was perhaps unnecessary for this confit. The combination was a bit too rich and sweet. Regardless, the confit itself was excellent.

Millbrook Farms Venison, herb roasted with gingerbread puree, porcini, and black mission figs.
See how pink it is in the center? Loved it. It's tender, it's almost rare, it's a little gamey, it's perfect. The venison and the figs were a winning combination.

As a palate cleanser, "Kir Royale" on a ceramic pillow. Cassis, meringue, champagne emulsion.
A light palate cleanser that did its job nicely.
Oh and that ceramic pillow almost fooled me. Good thing I didn't break it :P

Araguani Chocolate Ganache with Sweet Potato Dauphine and Chestnut Honey.
A rich and decadent Valrhona ganache will get my vote anytime, but the sweet potato dauphine was surprisingly good for me who was never all that big on sweet potato (I like it but I don't love it like many people I know).

Mignardises involved macarons and chocolates.
Some of the macaron flavors were almost as whimsical as the amuse bouches: violet, peanut butter and jelly, black sesame.
The chocolate truffles also involved me going "Ohh, hmm ..." when they asked me which flavors I wanted.

A box of fruit jelly for the ladies to take home. My snack for the next two days.

It wasn't just the food. It was the space, the service. After rushing around the city, I felt calm and relaxed dining here, but never were we waiting too long for the next course slightly annoyed. The food itself deserved three or four stars. One Michelin star? If you ask me I'd give them at least two.

Eleven Madison Park

11 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-0905
Eleven Madison Park on Urbanspoon
Eleven Madison Park in New York

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