LA Vacation (long report)
Took the week off & Mme Grubbe & I played tourist in our home town. We grubbed only in places we had either never eaten or had eaten so long ago our collective memories had faded. A brief report:
TSUKASA: A splendid sushi bar. Not highest shelf, but dignified, gracious--dare I say friendly--with caring & skillful chefs. Ankimo (monkfish liver) par excellence; salmon steamed between what appeared to be aspen leaves. Moderate. Mitsuwa Plaza, enter from Alemeda, Little Toyko.
888: Strongly representative chiu chow seafood palace, site of recent hound dinner. Not dazzled overall, but steamed whole fish (skulpin this nite) superior, live scallop sauteed in a soy-based sauce & shark's fin soup above average. 888 Valley Blvd, Rosemead.
BAHN-MI'S 'R US (or something): Credible bahn mi, charbroiled pork vermicelli & popa (boba) for something on the order of $7. In Valley Blvd minimall with Best Szechwan & Lu's just east of Del Mar.
LUCQUES: Sunday prix fixe. Solid meal, good value. Again not the dazzle of our Grub dreams, but sparkling winter greens salads, perfectly balanced snapper with saffron rice & dill sauce & fairly uninspired veal pouillard with soggy polenta. First seated in rear patio, we noted the crammed tables & were moved to front room. Great move, later trip to restroom in back exposed Grubster to a noise level in the patio equal to--no exaggeration--speedmetal at the Roxy. Lucques v. Rosie--slam-dunk, Rosie. Melrose, just east of La Cienega.
LA TRATTORIA: Small, righteous joint. Straightforward & surprisingly well-prepared trattoria food. Wonderful carpaccio. Unusual paparadelle w/lamb sauce. Happy, happy little place. Inexpensive to moderate. 3d St, nr La Cienega.
JOE'S: Like Johnny Mathis says, "Wonderful,Wonderful." Grubman put off visiting Joe's because so many hounds raved, was afraid couldn't live up to expectations. Wrong! Terrific prix fixe at $48. Every dish a rave, with the one exception. Roasted beet salad (some of the beets weren't all that roasted), duck leg confit salad (large,tender pieces of duck), beet risotto, tuna w/foie gras (a dish to dream about), venison wrapped in bacon, duck breast. Topper was a chocolate "souffle" cake w/ice cream--a bombe-shaped dark-chocolate cake filled w/the richest, darkest fudgey chocolate sauce on the planet. Great service, accessible wine list. Aston Martin, Austin Powers, Albert Finney ... Abbot Kinney, Venice.
SALADONG SONG: Great Thai in Pasadena? Can that be? Well, yes. Thx, hounds, everything you said about this place was true, too. Green curry--best in show. Delightful rambotan, a menu rarity. Try with the limed Thai iced tea. Inexpensive to moderate. Fair Oaks.
PHO HA-HA MAY FLOWER II BBQ SEAFOOD: Droll tho it might be, that is its name. A new storefront nr. Mon Kee on Spring in Chinatown, this dazzlingly clean joint is a dazzler in every respect. Grubs grubbed--no lie--one respectably sized Dungeness crab ($8), one whole lobster ($10), one bowl of crab soup ($8.50), & a plate of snow peas & water chestnuts. The crab, lobster, & crab soup were specials taped to the windows, not on their regular menu of--no lie--402 items. Living on the edge & using seemingly bad judgement, Gruborita insisted on the lobster in the "spicy" sauce. Wow. Somehow, the delicate flavor of the lobster came through the intense flavors of the very spicy sauce. Not best in show, best in universe. Crab in ginger sauce was excellent as well, if somewhat difficult to deal with. If you are offended by eating with your hands--pls stay away. It's the only way. No liquor yet, but whatta feast for under $50 for two big eaters.
REED'S: Once one of Joe Miller's places, now different ownership (& even eponymous chef Brendan Reed has departed), Reed's still delivers the goods. Cheek-by-jowl to Ralphs in the Manhattan Village Mall, this small restaurant featuring a rather sophisticated feel (cloth tablecloths at lunch) in the dining room & a few patio tables overlooking the parking lot & bank serves up very good Franco-Cali grub. Grubbies' Chilean sea bass in a creamy lemon & caper sauce & slab of pork loin in a rich green peppercorn sauce were admirable. IMHO, the best bet in South Bay. Moderate. Sepulveda at Rosecrans.
On the cultural side of tourism, won't bore you with details, but.... If you haven't been to the Norton Simon Museum lately, go there. A rather dazzling representative collection of paintings from the 14th thru the early 20th centuries in a viewer-friendly Frank Gehry-designed interior space. All this plus a lovely little garden where one can meditate to the roar of the freeway. Some free (!) parking within steps of the front door on Colorado near Orange Grove.
Mr Grub, I always love reading your detailed and humorous reviews. I have one question. When you went to Tsukasa, and had what you described as "salmon steamed between what appeared to be aspen leaves": was that when they would take the salmon, place it on a leaf, then top it with a red bits (red bell pepper??) and green bits (green onions???) then placed it in something that looked like a toaster oven for a couple of minutes. Then took it out, and discarded the leaf. When eaten, the leaf must of infused a salty tang onto the fish. Because that's what I had at Tsukasa a few months ago, and never had fish prepared in such manner. It was so delicious, and didn't know what kind of leaf that was. We thought it was a banana or pickled plum leaf. I'm not even sure what the topping was.
Thanks for your review!
Kevin, sounds like the same sushi, but in our case, it seemed the chef had the same leaf top & bottom, somewhat sealed, when "steamed" in the toaster oven. He then removed the top leaf, added a miniscule dollop of an intensely fragrant herb, then served to us. His English was severely limited, so he couldn't provide a translation for either the leaf or the dollop. In any event it was a uniquely delicate pleasure to the palate.
Mr Grub-I thouroughly enjoyed your review and I too have one question. I have a resv at Lucques for my b-day and I am intrigued by your suggestion of Rosie (Melrose E of La Cienega). I thought that was Lucques location . Do you have any other info about this place (phone #-nothing with 411, what you recommend, etc). I have never heard of it and would be interested. Sorry for the late reply.
Sorry for the confusion, Grog. Lucques, the subject of the capsule review, is on Melrose. Josie (not Rosie as I addlemindedly misnamed it, doh!) is actually at 2424 W. Pico in Santa Monica. The recent thread, linked below, says it all about Josie. You can also Google to the Josie website for more info.