Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hironoya (Gardena, CA)

I got an email from Utopia, a South Bay-based Japanese-focused gift certificate store offering discounted certificates for South Bay and Japanese local businesses like Gaja (the okonomiyaki place), Robataya on Sawtelle, and Izakaya Bincho. They asked if I wanted to try using one of their certificates to visit a restaurant, and I do love Japanese food so why not! I was tempted to go back to Bincho but I figured I should use it to visit a restaurant I've never been to before so I opted for Hironoya in Gardena.

Hironoya sits in Tozai Plaza and seems to be visited by mostly Japanese. When I was there there was a reunion for some university in Japan and they proceeded to sing their alma mater song. Hironoya serves sashimi, sushi rolls, tempura, udon and various other dishes, but no nigiri sushi.

They did have some fresh fish, though so I tried their blue fin tuna toro sashimi ($18 for 4 pieces). Not as fatty as some other toro I've had but definitely fresh.

Also tried sea bream sashimi ($9) and a salmon roll, which were both pretty good. I haven't had sushi rolls in a while but enjoyed this one.
You can get almost everything tempura'd here it seems, from broccoli and eggplant ($1.95, 2pcs each) to sea urchin ($12.95) and oyster ($4.95, 2pcs)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Must Try: Allumette (Echo Park)

Allumette started as a weekly pop up in Echo Park's Allston Yacht Club, which the 24-year old Chef Miles Thompson (or is he 25 now?) called the Vagrancy Project. After a while, the AYC owners decided to redo the whole restaurant with Thompson in charge. So Allumette was born, and it is inarguably one of the best new restaurants in LA!

To start my hosted dinner, the chef sent out a house-made focaccia with potato mascarpone butter, which was so intriguing my mouth couldn't decide if it was potato, cheese, or butter.

Potato Mascarpone

Be sure to start your meal with one the crudos. There seems to always be a touch of sweet fruit to his dishes. The Pink snapper with kanzuri (Japanese chili paste with yuzu) and white soy is enhanced by cherimoya ($15).

I loved the live scallop tartare, strawberry, truffle, elderflower ($17)
Other than the strawberry, there were also small pieces of organic lime in the dish, sweeter with a more subtle tartness than what I was used to. Both lovely accompaniments to the scallop.

The bar program at Allumette should not be overlooked. Serena Herrick, formerly of Harvard and Stone, has devised a wonderful cocktail list to please a range of palates. Fans of strong aromatic drinks should try the Negroni Sbagliato #2 (Punt e Mes, Aperol, Graham Beck brut, sage leaves) - $10

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Beachwood Cafe: Charming Local Spot in Hollywood

If you've never been, check out Beachwood Canyon, a quaint, quiet neighborhood in Hollywood. Here you will find Beachwood Cafe. Unlike the typical Hollywood places you might think of (clubs, lounges, seedy diners?), Beachwood Cafe is cute, charming, with comforting food that offers a little something extra.

I love the bright colors and the fun wallpaper and tiles here. Do check the different dioramas around the restaurant, too, they're a lot of fun!

OK, food. I started with a plate of Red Hawk cheese with homemade blueberry jam, blue cheese, rye crackers
The rye crackers are quite unique and the blueberry jam complemented the red hawk nicely.

They don't have a full liquor license but do have a wine and beer license here. There are a couple of interesting wine cocktails and I just had to try the pickled pear champagne cocktail ($7). This was a really refreshing, lightly tart champagne cocktail, great for whetting your appetite.

For the appetizer, you have to try the Corn and orzo braised in cream. The vegetarian version is $9 or you can add bacon for $12 (do it!). This was like a very good yet healthier version of mac and cheese! So addictive, although it's best when still hot.
Orzo Corn

Thursday, April 18, 2013

LA Turns Into Tacolandia on June 23

If there's one guy who knows his tacos in LA that would be Bill Esparza, also known as Street Gourmet LA. While you and I whine about how hard it is to get from the east to westside, he's been known to scour the county for new gems, trying out places in Sun Valley and beyond.

Lucky for you, though, he's bringing them to Hollywood in June. That's 30 restaurants from all over LA, OC, and even Baja. And thanks to tacos being cheap, this all you can eat dealio is only $20! It's not just cheap taco stands participating though, even famed Chef Laurent Quenioux is set to participate. And if you want all you can drink tequila on top of that, then it's $40.

A much better deal than a $60 dim sum crawl ...

Tacolandia will be on June 23 from 12-5pm at the Hollywood Palladium. Mark your calendars and buy your tickets here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Vietnamese Brunch Pops Up on Melrose with BEP Kitchen

Every other week starting this Sunday (April 21), you can get an awesome Vietnamese multi-course brunch on Melrose. Connie Tran's BEP Vietnamese Kitchen will be popping up at Franco on Melrose. There's only one seating at 11:30 am where you'll partake in an 8-course brunch, mostly served family style, for $37.

Boiled Peanuts
I attended a media preview last week, starting my morning with some spiced boiled peanuts. I remember as a kid I loved boiled peanuts and would buy them at the zoo (I think they were meant for the elephants). I just love the texture! Here, suck on the shells a bit to get the flavors!

Chef Connie Tran explained to us the philosophy behind a Vietnamese meal. She said there is always a "water" component, which in our meal was the chao sang: rice porridge, lardon crisps, poached egg, sage brown butter


This one was not served family style but a small individual bowl for everyone. Egg lovers will rejoice over the high egg:porridge ratio here.

After that there will be 1-2 proteins but one of them will always have vegetables. More on that later, though, as she modernizes and expands things a bit with her own take.

Our second course was a beautiful salad of starfruit, fennel, burrata, bibb lettuce with lemon balm dressing

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Palm Springs Restaurant Week Preview: Dish Creative Cuisine (Cathedral City)

Dish was opened in October 2012 by Joane Garcia-Olson, a former trial lawyer who has loved cooking since she was a kid. Tired of the life of a trial lawyer, she threw in that towel and picked up another to serve up some of the most creative food in the Palm Springs area in a small restaurant in Cathedral City.

During my media trip, we had a preview of the menu for the upcoming Palm Springs Restaurant Week (May 31-June 16), plus a few small bites in between. Dinner at Dish typically starts with some sort of donut. We had some savory donuts with butter and sunflower seeds

Savory Donuts

Because it was a media dinner, the chef sent out quite a few amuse bouche to show off what she does, including pressed watermelon with golden tomato tartar, 18 year old balsamic, and pistachio crumble. I personally liked the Arancini made with cauliflower cooked risotto-style.

The $38 three course Restaurant Week menu starts with a choice of three "conversation starters", of which we tried .. well, all (in taster portions, though):
Mesquite smoked tomato bisque, goat cheese and white truffle oil foam
Red and green baby Romaine leaves, bacon buttermilk dressing, deep fried goat cheese
Black-eyed pea falafels, roasted garlic aioli, red rooster "caviar"
The falafels were perhaps the most interesting one, although I also enjoyed the bisque.

Another small bite was sent out, and this one was quite intriguing: Green grape filled with blue cheese semifreddo, port wine glaze, walnut.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Celebrate Summer Italian-Style: Sorprendente at Oliverio on April 25

Cooking station, a truffle tasting station (the awesome, aromatic kind), an al fresco bar, wine tasting, learn to make pasta from scratch, sample Italian spirits and dishes from their new Osteria. All this for $55 when you buy pre-sale tickets to Sorprendente at Oliverio, the Italian restaurant inside Avalon Hotel.

The event takes place on Thursday, April 25 from 6-10pm. For the $105 VIP ticket, you get VIP access to the lounge, a seafood bar hosted by Santa Monica Seafood Company, more/better wines, and a VIP open bar. For more info:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

June 29: LA Street Food Fest Summer Tasting Event

The 4th Annual LA Street Food Fest is back on June 29 at the Rose Bowl! As usual, your ticket will be all inclusive. Inclusive of what? Well, all of these awesome things:

1. Food from 100 food vendors ...
Since the vendors from Baja were so popular 2 years ago, they brought even more last year! La Guerrerense, kraken tacos from Kokopelli, tacos de Camaron enchilado from El Mazateno are but a few.


Simpang Asia had these mini versions of nasi bungkus, how adorable!
The higher end LA restaurants could also be found here. Some of the highlights were the fried pig's feet from Chef Neal Fraser, cannolis from Sotto

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Flavor Del Mar With Brian Redzikowski (Del Mar, CA)

I first encountered Chef Brian Redzikowski's talent at BondSt in the Thompson Hotel in Beverly Hills (the hotel has now relaunched the space as Caulfield's Bar and Dining Room). Redzikowski didn't have full freedom to serve the food that he wanted as there were "signature" dishes that had to be kept on the menu but he certainly had fun, creative takes on sushi and sashimi. After leaving BondSt, Redzikowski now joins Flavor Del Mar just north of San Diego. I hadn't realized that's where he had gone to until I saw his name and the restaurant recommended in a magazine article by a San Diego chef as the place to go.

At the entrance of Flavor Del Mar is the bar and lounge area, but thankfully we were then led to the spacious, quiet dining room in the back.


As we sat, they brought out an amuse bouche of Cherry tomato, pistachio, fried shallots and pickled radish

For the most part his menu caters to his new audience. Seafood is well prepared without the molecular bells and whistles that I've seen at BondSt. There are plenty of Asian flavors like the Sesame seared salmon sashimi, lemon soy, ginger, chive, hon shimeji mushrooms ($15) or the Thai coconut soup.
Every now and then you find some surprising and exciting flavor profiles, like in this Scrambled farm egg, charred broccolini, pine nuts, tomato confit, Humboldt Fog goat cheese ($12)
If you love the strong flavor of goat cheese, try this. The runny scrambled egg is a great vehicle for the bolder flavors of the tomato and goat cheese.

After the appetizers, Chef Redzikowski sent out a special dish! Locally caught California spiny lobster with green curry foam and kaffir lime.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Build Your Own Bento at Chaya Downtown's Cherry Blossom Festival

Now until April 19, Chaya Downtown is celebrating Cherry Blossom Festival with a build-your-own hanami bento. You can choose among ten items ($22 for 3 items or $28 for 4 items) including vegetable tempura served with pink salt, maple leaf duck confit spring rolls, or snapper temari sushi.

Chaya Bento
I would recommend the Coffee BBQ mini pork shank with chipotle miso, or the salmon gravlax with sakura creme fraiche and vegetable pickles (both pictured above).

For $4 more you can also substitute the items with a Koji Marinated Black Cod with bok choy and soy balsamic ginger broth (this and the pork shank were probably my two favorites!)

You can also substitute for the grilled Black Angus flat iron steak with wasabi butter and haricot vert.
Steak bento

Sakura Bellini
There are also two cherry cocktails for the festival. We all preferred the refreshing Sakura Bellini (cherry sorbet, luxardo, champagne, $12), perfect to wind down after a day of work. They also have a Cherry Manhattan with Tullamore Dew, sweet vermouth and cherries.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Travel: Tour The San Andreas Fault with Red Jeep Tours (Palm Springs,CA)

One thing I love about Palm Springs Restaurant Week is the Eat.See.Stay deal they have going on. It's not just deals on restaurants but also hotels and attractions like museums, the Living Desert zoo, and tours of the San Andreas fault. During the Restaurant Week, Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours is doing a combo package with an Indian Canyon eco-tour and lunch at select restaurants ($125), or a San Andreas Fault stargazing/nightwatch tour with dinner ($150).

During our media trip to Palm Springs, we got a chance to experience the San Andreas fault tour.

The red jeeps taking us on the tour
Our tour guide has been with the company for a long time and was very knowledgeable. Our first stop was the oasis. Oasis in the middle of the desert? Yep, apparently there's over 40 billion acres of water underneath this desert and there are palm trees everywhere in this oasis.
Palm Springs Oasis

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