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San Franciscan's trip report

Robert Lauriston Mar 17, 2008 10:32 AM

My requests for recommendations:

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/489476

  1. Robert Lauriston Mar 24, 2008 02:25 PM

    For dinner, a friend met us and we walked to Joe's. All three of us got the longer $75 tasting menu:

    - "chico": fresh English pea soup in a Tequila-type glass (double shot, more or less) with saffron lobster, wonderful, went great with the Müller-Catoir Rieslaner we started with.

    - Amuse: tiny sashimi sort of a thing.

    - Tartare of Kona kampachi and some other fish not mentioned on the menu, with a tomato, avocado, and spring onion salad, very nice. Off to the side there was a thin black sauce that included among other things coconut and bacon, didn't really relate to the rest of the dish but was great with bread. At some point around here we switched to a light Wenzel Kleiner Wald pinot noir.

    I didn't much the business of having a server come around and offer a choice of three breads, one brioche and two flavored. None of them had the right crust or crumb for mopping up the nice sauces etc. Come to think of it they did exactly the same thing at Mozza. Weird trend, I hope it doesn't head north.

    - Butter poached ocean trout with wonderful crisp skin served with pork-belly pot stickers, a pickled pineapple relish, and a few bok choy leaves: really delicious, especially the trout.

    - We saw a great-looking lobster a la vanille appetizer ($19) go by so we ordered it as an extra course. Good.

    - Grilled filet mignon and braised beef short ribs with "sprouting broccoli, carrots & wild mushrooms, black bean emulsion." Very good, especially the ribs. Went well with the Anguera Finca L'Argata we had with it.

    - "Amuse dessert": I'd call this an entremet, a tart apple sorbet. Nice palate cleanser.

    - Apple poached in red wine on a vanilla panna cotta on top of a shortbread? disk, all topped with a delicious sweet-tart sauce of red wine and what might have been choke cherries or reconstituted dried amarenas (forgot to ask the server; they used the same fruit as a garnish in a Manhattan one of my companions had before dinner). Went well with a Cazes Rivesaltes ambré.

    Overall, a great meal. I'm generally dubious about that sort of complicated French fusion, but the dishes worked well. Great and unusual wines, great service, nice atmosphere on the back patio. We spent a pile but the bill seemed fair given the quality and quantity.

    -----
    Joe's Restaurant
    1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291

    1. Robert Lauriston Mar 24, 2008 11:33 AM

      Saturday lunchtime, we didn't feel like getting in the car, since we were going to be in it all day Sunday, so we rented bikes and rode out the Ballona Creek path to Ford's Filling Station, which a friend had recommended. Sat on the front sidewalk patio so we could enjoy the sun—lots of seats open, though the shaded side patio / deck was full.

      They had what looked to be a complete selection of Fra'Mani (Paul BertollI) cold cuts, or at least much larger than anyplace we've found at home, where they're made (fashion here is to make your own in-house). The mortadella was nice but not as good as the best imported. The salametto picante, a spicy Spanish-style chorizo, was wonderful. The platter came with a generous bowl of great green olives and mediocre black ones. Huge helping for $15, way more than enough for two people as an appetizer.

      A porchetta toasted sandwich ($14) with Fontina and caramelized onions on extremely flat bread, slightly thicker than lavash, was a really nice dish.

      Buttermilk fried chicken ($18): execution was a bit amateurish, crust was pale, greasy, and tended to fall off. Satisfying in a sort of fast-food way (we ate the whole thing), but if you want fried chicken I think Honey Kettle next door's the place to go. Accompanying succotash was great.

      Cocktails were good and there were some nice wines. Great people-watching. Overall, really pleasant brunch spot and totally unlike anyplace at home. I'd go back.

      -----
      Ford's Filling Station
      9531 Culver Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90232

      1. Robert Lauriston Mar 22, 2008 09:16 AM

        Friday dinner at both Mozzas.

        We were going to a play with a friend, and had reservations at the pizzeria afterwards. We had some time to kill, so we decided to get a snack at the osteria. Got there 45 minutes before it opened, so we went to the pizzeria. Had the caprese, eccentric with roasted small tomatoes and pesto but good; bone marrow, simple and excellent; platter of speck, seemed a bit dry to me.

        At 5:30 we moved over to the mozzarella bar at the osteria. It was fun to compare the Basilicata burrata with the Gioia, the imported is much richer but I think the local is just as good. The Gioia with prosciutto and fresh (raw?) peas was good but I would have preferred a simpler presentation. Crispy pig's trotter was great but a tiny portion compared with Incanto in SF. Got a platter of salumi, the lardo (housemade?), finocchiona and agrumi from Salumi (Armandino Batali) were spectacular. Incredible wine list, though too high a percentage of >$100 bottles. Friendly and professional service.

        Went back to the pizzeria for dinner. Shockingly loud bad rock music, they turned it down after I complained but it was still a bafflingly lame selection.

        Arancine were very good though why serve crispy fried things in a wet tomato sauce? Meatballs excellent. Salame and chiles pizza was not very impressive: nice toppings but the crust didn't have much flavor, both toppings and crust seemed undersalted, and the crust wasn't very crisp, got soggy before we finished it. Fennel sausage pizza had better flavor and texture, maybe since it didn't have tomato sauce, but still the dough could be better. Butterscotch pudding was great, cannoli were tasty but heavy, New York-style rather than Italian. Overall, not very competitive with the Bay Area's best (A16, Pizzaiolo, Dopo).

        I'd happily go back to the osteria for a real dinner sometime (though probably not when it's not 85 degrees out). Would not return to the pizzeria except maybe to have some wine at the bar while waiting for a table next door.

        -----
        Pizzeria Mozza
        6602 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038

        6 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          daveena Mar 22, 2008 02:46 PM

          I'm really surprised you didn't like P. Mozza! I wonder if you hit it on an off day - when I went, I found the crust comparable in texture and flavor to that of Pizzaiolo (immediate crackle to the tooth when the pizza's hot, good char, very developed gluten, tendency to get very chewy as the crust cools) and the quality of the meat toppings (sausage, in particular) superior. Also they had a long-cooked broccoli with caciocavallo topping that I've never seen in the Bay Area. For me, though, Mozza shines in its appetizers - the range and execution of the ones I tried were exceptional.

          1. re: daveena
            Robert Lauriston Mar 22, 2008 05:35 PM

            I liked it well enough—that's one of my favorite types of restaurant—it's just that I can get the same sort of thing done better at home. We'd have been wiser to go back to Koreatown or to an Armenian or Oaxacan place.

          2. re: Robert Lauriston
            Porthos Mar 22, 2008 06:20 PM

            I actually thought that the crust would be too crisp for you at P.Mozza and not neapolitan/soft enough in style! When I went it was very crisp and chewy (hence some claims that it's not pizza, but more like bread. The areas under the tomato sauce held up much better than A16. Definitely more NY style (or maybe more LA style given the toppings) than italian.

            1. re: Porthos
              Robert Lauriston Mar 24, 2008 10:33 AM

              Definitely California-style in terms of the relatively light bake and lack of scorching. Sort of defeats the purpose of having a wood-burning pizza oven.

              I appreciate a variety of pizza styles. Mozza's style reminded me a lot of Pizzeria Delfina's. Mozza should have the advantage since Delfina has only a gas deck oven.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                Porthos Mar 24, 2008 03:04 PM

                It sounds like your pie was taken out a touch early if you're describing it as having a light bake. Though mine did not have the nice scorched pockets of a NY style coal oven pizza, the crust was definitely browned and crispy. That would also explain why you described the crust as soggy (may be the first time anyone has called the crust at Mozza soggy) and unremarkable. What a shame.

                Perhaps we can convince you to swing by again for an afternoon snack before you leave LA? Perhaps ask them to brown it a little more for you this time?

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  daveena Mar 24, 2008 03:10 PM

                  All of mine had good, Pizzaiolo-level scorch - I agree that yours were probably taken out too early.

                  But I think that if you do give P. Mozza another chance, double or triple the number of appetizers, and order only one pizza. While we get comparable pizzas in the Bay Area, I have yet to find a restaurant that can compete in the breadth and execution of Mozza's antipasti.

            2. Robert Lauriston Mar 22, 2008 08:47 AM

              Friday lunch at Jitlada. Funny that it's surrounded by Armenian places.

              Stuck to the southern menu. Jazz made some suggestions and I think changed one dish arbitrarily, no matter, we had no idea what we were ordering anyway.

              #14 wild tea leaf with catfish, very nice

              #16 spicy fish kidney curry with minced shrimp (she took this back and made it spicy to her taste when she saw we could handle it): amazing, more like a condiment for rice than something to eat in quantity

              #20 "dry" pork curry: nice but probably should have been spicier, least interesting of the four dishes

              #36 rice salad (again remade spicere): loved it

              The pork was the only dish that was much like anything I've had before. Great meal. With two Chang beers, an iced coffee, and a delicious warm coconut and pumpkin pudding, came to $48 for two before tip.

              Looking forward to going back on my next trip, if not on the way home (they are open Easter Sunday).

              -----
              Jitlada
              5233 1/2 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

              3 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                Local Mar 22, 2008 09:05 AM

                go for the mussels in green sauce- and the curried soft-shelled crab - both spicy and since Jazz knows your octane level, you'll get a nice kick from both.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  susancinsf Mar 22, 2008 10:02 PM

                  was there for lunch today, had the wild tea leaf with catfish, pumpkin custard and rice salad, all outstanding...one question on the rice salad though: it is my impression that it isn't really intended to be spicy(?), though it is tangy. It certainly had a lot less heat than the catfish. To me, it was a nice contrast.

                  1. re: susancinsf
                    Robert Lauriston Mar 24, 2008 10:05 AM

                    The second version of the rice salad we got was about as spicy as the catfish. The second version of the fish kidney curry was spicier.

                2. Robert Lauriston Mar 21, 2008 08:40 AM

                  Thursday lunch at Magic Carpet. Loved the spiced coffee, best babaganoush I've had in a restaurant, delicious zatar mallawah. I'd write a more detailed report but according to the server the owners are retiring, Sunday's their last day in business. Glad I got a chance to try it.

                  Went to Jin Patisserie to get some dessert to take to dinner at a friend's house. Got sesame-peanut butter and lavender-almond cookies, green apple jellies, walnut butter cake. Pricey but great stuff.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    Robert Lauriston Mar 21, 2008 09:05 AM

                    Promised llink didn't show up.

                    -----
                    Jin Patisserie
                    1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      k
                      kevin Mar 27, 2008 11:49 AM

                      Say it ain't so.

                      Magic Carpet is closing.

                      Now once again LA has no melawach joints.

                      1. re: kevin
                        Robert Lauriston Mar 27, 2008 12:21 PM

                        Not closing, closed, unless they changed their minds or the server was lying to me.

                        You might try a malabar paratha at Tirupathi Bhimas in Artesia. Have to bring your own zatar or zhug, though.

                    2. Robert Lauriston Mar 20, 2008 09:47 AM

                      After Dan Sung Sa, we went wandering up 6th St. to check out the hopping Koreatown bar-and-restaurant scene.

                      Ice Kiss, which is one of those coffee / smoothie / dessert sort of places, had clam chowder and corn dogs on the menu, so for a laugh we tried them. No particular Korean influence, except maybe that the corn dog was already dressed with ketchup and mustard. Didn't finish either.

                      After walking around for an hour or so checking out 30-odd restaurants, we went upstairs to see what was in this amazing old bell-towerish second-floor loft space in the building at the northwest corner of 6th and Kenmore. Turned out to be a very slick modern upscale Japanese-looking place, the host said the English name is Gaam. Apparently used to be a coffee shop and before that a billiards parlor.

                      Anyway, four moths ago it reopened as a Korean-style Asian fusion place, which is to say the menu combines Japanese and Korean dishes with random other items such as a quesadilla. Menu is bilingual and everyone spoke good English. Music was boring generic downtempo techno / disco / whatever but not intrusively loud.

                      Yakitori items were all very good: scallops wrapped in bacon, beef intestine, pork, garlic cloves, beef, best of all nearly raw asparagus wrapped in crisp bacon. Fried spider crab was good but the onion rings that came with it were fabulous. Korean spicy rice cake and fish cake stew, fish cakes (like thick wide flat noodles) were great, rice cakes were those finger-sized noodles, didn't need all that. Kimchi and seafood "pizza" was sort of mushy, not a good idea.

                      Tried bek se ju, an herbal rice "wine" flavored with herbs, very nice, lower in alcohol than sojo (13% vs. 20% and up). Total bill with two bottles before tip was $81, very reasonable given the fanciness of the place and the amount and quality of the food. Huge space, seats around 150 (was less than half full when we left). Apparently they have validated parking in the lot in back.

                      -----
                      Gaam
                      3465 W 6th St Ste 300, Los Angeles, CA 90020

                      1. Robert Lauriston Mar 20, 2008 09:25 AM

                        After hours of sightseeing, it was the middle of rush hour, and we wanted to kill some time in a pleasant spot until the traffic died down. We weren't far from Koreatown, so we went to Dansungsa, a soju bang that Jonathan Gold said "may be the friendliest place in Koreatown."

                        The atmosphere was great, all rough-hewn wood, felt like we'd been suddenly transported to Korea (a bit like Toyose in San Francisco). Somebody has a great record collection: Korean soul, funk, rap, all good stuff, not the usual lame pop.

                        No English menu (everyone else in the place was Korean) but the friendly server was a native speaker. Ordered hot dried squid, kimchi, Chamisul soju, large Hite, also received celery with Tabasco mayo and a bowl of peppery clear broth with some potatoes, all tasty. Squid was unusually tender and still a bit moist, though on the other hand, no peanuts. Needed something to help polish off our second beer, so got some fried chicken wings--really good, crunchy, huge.

                        Bill for two was $48 before tip. I'd go back any time.

                        -----
                        Dan Sung SA
                        3317 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020

                        1. Robert Lauriston Mar 20, 2008 09:19 AM

                          For a break while sightseeing on foot around downtown we stopped at Traxx, the bar in Union Station. The tables "outside" in the huge hall have to be one of the prettiest places to have drink in the world, great view of the incredible ceiling. Good drinks, bartender heard one order wrong so gave us the mistake free.

                          The Traxx restaurant across the great hall unfortunately does not have the same view.

                          -----
                          Traxx Restaurant
                          800 N Alameda St Ste 122, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            susancinsf Mar 21, 2008 04:14 PM

                            IIRC there are a few tables sometimes set up in the 'outside' hall outside of the restaurant....but yes, tables in the restaurant proper don't have that view. However, the courtyard behind the restaurant (which really is outdoors) is very pretty also in its own way...

                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/47793...

                          2. Robert Lauriston Mar 20, 2008 08:55 AM

                            Wednesday, visited the Santa Monica farmers market. Tried a sourdough roll from Bezian's (the booth with the sign about the Roman legions and Alaskan prospectors), blech, undercooked, tasted like starter. Got a piece of custard square, strawberry-rhubarb something, bran muffin, and multigrain scone from I think Rockenwagner, all very good.

                            Lunch at Izayoi, ordered off the dinner izakaya menu, everything was great: warm edamame, cold ankimo, broccoli salad with roe, both kinds of pork belly, grilled sardine stuffed with roe, hot ginkgo nuts, vegetable tempura, squid legs tempura, I forget what else. Forgot to order the dried stingray.

                            Compared the cheapest versions of barley, potato, and rice shochu, potato was the worst, barley and rice were both good, preferred the barley. Compared that with the next-cheapest barley, the more expensive one had less flavor.

                            Lots of food for four plus three pitchers of beer and five glasses of shochu came to $90 before tip. Good value, I'd go back.

                            -----
                            Izayoi
                            132 S Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                            Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers Market
                            2nd St and Arizona Ave, Santa Monica, CA

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              Robert Lauriston Mar 24, 2008 11:49 AM

                              I forgot another stop in that neighborhood: Ross Cutlery. Biggest selection of chef's knives I've ever seen, fair prices.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                SauceSupreme Mar 24, 2008 12:33 PM

                                And a popular stop among chefs, too, from what I hear.

                              2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                omotosando Mar 26, 2008 04:45 PM

                                I have to agree about Bezian's. I just picked up a loaf of Green Olive sourdough today at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market and thought it was terrible. Wish I had seen your post first!

                              3. Robert Lauriston Mar 19, 2008 08:18 AM

                                Tuesday dinner at La Casita since it was near where a friend is staying in Bellflower.

                                Given the "alta cocina" claims I was suprised there was no wine or even beer. Lemonade with chia seeds was good. Horchata was as always too sweet for me but had good flavor.

                                The chips with mole negro and pepian verde and rojo were good though messy and they got soggy. Pepians great, mole below average, too sweet and one-dimensional.

                                The tortillas may be made in house, but they didn't seem particularly fresh.

                                Queso Azteca (vegetarian queso fundido grilled in plantain leaves): very good. Fun how it varied from bite to bite depending on the mix of cheeses and vegetables.

                                Ensalada de nopales: the cactus was well-prepared and firm, but the salad seemed to be totally unseasoned. Out-of-season tomatoes shouldn't have been included. Bland and boring.

                                Pozole: best I've had in the US. Corn had the right texture, broth was complex and deeply flavorful.

                                Pepian verde with pork (or chicken) & the daily special of pork (or chicken) with mole negro and pepian verde and rojo: the waiter should have warned us that these were almost the same dish. The pepians were great, though we'd already tasted them on the chips. The pork was lukewarm, undersalted, and didn't have much pork flavor. The meat was wet (seemed it it had been boiled in plain water) so the sauces didn't adhere or sink in. Very disappointing, left a lot on the plates.

                                All in all, disappointing. $55 for three was a pretty bad value compared with Antequera. We should have gone to Artesia.

                                -----
                                La Casita Mexicana
                                4030 Gage Ave, Bell, CA 90201

                                13 Replies
                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  b
                                  Babette Mar 19, 2008 10:07 AM

                                  I would have been interested to hear your opinion of Babita.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    sbritchky Mar 20, 2008 01:53 PM

                                    You missed the best dish at La Casita -- chiles en nogada -- and you don't mention the (generally wonderful) soup that comes with the meal. Perhaps you skipped it because of the pozole. You liked most dishes and thought the pozole was the greatest in the country but didn't care for the salad or the pork. You finish your review by complaining about cost, which came to less than twenty bucks a head, and characterizing the experience as "[a]ll in all, disappointing." I recommend focusing on the chips, house soup, and chiles en nogada next time. You'll go slightly over $20.

                                    1. re: sbritchky
                                      Robert Lauriston Mar 21, 2008 08:33 AM

                                      They didn't give us any soup.

                                      I didn't order chiles en nogada because pomeganates are out of season. Seems like a bad sign that they offer it year-round.

                                      I wonder if the cook wasn't off that night? Everything was made ahead, the daily special was a minor variation on dishes from the regular menu, and the watery pork was a very amateurish mistake.

                                      The price would have been fine if the quality hadn't been so spotty.

                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      Eat_Nopal Mar 21, 2008 08:48 AM

                                      Good note to others coming to L.A..... Babita has been around for at least 5 years... and has been very consistent... with just a few bad reports... La Casita is relative new.... so if coming to L.A. is a rare occurrence, Babita should be a first choice.

                                      Hell, this meal at La Casita sounds worst than Frida.

                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal
                                        k
                                        ks in la Mar 21, 2008 10:38 AM

                                        La Casita has been open since 1999.

                                        It's too bad about the poor meal, I've always really enjoyed my visits there and like it better than Babita.

                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal
                                          susancinsf Mar 21, 2008 02:03 PM

                                          haven't eaten at La Casita, but still must concur. And they aren't offering the chiles en nogada at Babita right now, because pomegranites are out of season, but the seafood was wonderful, and they had a Lenten special of Capirotada, which was just the best...hmmm guess I should have mentioned that sooner...not much time to go check it out..

                                          so while I am on the topic, there is also Capirotada on the Lenten menu at Tacomiendo...I need to get over there tomorrow and try it ( strictly for comparison purposes, of course, as to how different it is in an upscale vis downscale spot. though I admit it, only a few weeks in LA off and on and I am developing an addiction to the tacos de carnitas at Tacomiendo. But that is a topic for another post...)

                                          1. re: susancinsf
                                            Eat_Nopal Mar 21, 2008 02:38 PM

                                            Ah... you like those Cloves in the carnitas don't ya?

                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal
                                              susancinsf Mar 21, 2008 04:00 PM

                                              yes, maybe that's it, though the tortillas are pretty darn good too: I've been trying to figure out this need to get my fix, which I consider just a bit irrational given that tacos are one of the few decent types of Mexican food I can get in SF as well, and I keep thinking I should go get more albondigas or such while I am here, and the car steers itself to Tacomiendo. Indeed, it was the very first place I hit when I came back into town yesterday! (nice that it is so convenient to the 405 :-))

                                              Of course, it is only a few blocks from daughter's place, the tacos come with grilled cebollitas, the salsa bar has zanahorias, and parking is either free if the lot isn't full, or only 25cents an hour if one is forced to use a meter (these Angelenos don't know how lucky they have it when it comes to cost of parking meters!)....so I guess my new addiction isn't totally irrational :-)

                                              1. re: susancinsf
                                                Eat_Nopal Mar 21, 2008 04:49 PM

                                                Have you tried the Chile Relleno there?

                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal
                                                  susancinsf Mar 21, 2008 08:39 PM

                                                  nope. besides tacos, only thing I have had is the chilaquiles, which were very disappointing: I think they used the chips (not their tortillas) and they were very soggy, drowned in way too much green sauce that had a strange aftertaste....huge portion, but I didn't finish it.

                                                  The lengua is also very good; carne asada is a bit oversalted for my taste....hubby was down with me last weekend, and said the shrimp fajitas from the lenten menu were very good (what can I say; I wouldn't order fajitas there and thus didn't try them, but he did enjoy them).

                                                  -----
                                                  Tacomiendo
                                                  11462 Gateway Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                                  1. re: susancinsf
                                                    Servorg Mar 22, 2008 05:53 AM

                                                    The great thing about Tacomiendo on Gateway is that they are about 40 feet from one of the top 4 or 5 sushi places in all of LA, Sushi Mori.

                                                2. re: susancinsf
                                                  k
                                                  kevin Mar 27, 2008 11:47 AM

                                                  theyy're not always 25 cents an hour. if you mean gateway and pico where the meters are a quarter an hour, i'll buy that.

                                                  but not necessarily other locales.

                                                  how's the fish dishes at tacomiendo? thanks.

                                                  1. re: kevin
                                                    Eat_Nopal Mar 27, 2008 12:28 PM

                                                    The fish is usually grilled to a great texture (seared, slightly crunchy exterior... very tender interior)... I am not thrilled by the actual fish used (frozen farm raised Tilapia or Pacific "Snapper" and other Rock fish)... but appropriate given their prices.

                                        2. Robert Lauriston Mar 18, 2008 07:06 PM

                                          Tuesday breakfast at Rose Cafe since it was close and on our way. Nice patio. Oatmeal was good though a bit expensive even considering they threw in a couple of strawberries and a little of their delicous granola. Eggs "San Pietro," I'm not sure that eggs Benedict are improved by using Bearnaise instead of Hollandaise but it was nicely done.

                                          Lunch at Malibu Seafood since it was close to where we'd gone hiking. Fried fish sandwich and fried calamari exceeded expectations. Clam chowder was fine. Cole slaw was a bit sweet for my taste. Wrong place to order a fish taco. I'm sure we would have eaten better if we'd ordered some of the beautiful fresh fish grilled, but it was a classic seafood shack experience.

                                          -----
                                          Rose Cafe & Market
                                          220 Rose Ave, Venice, CA 90291

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                            Robert Lauriston Mar 18, 2008 07:09 PM

                                            Bug, trying again:

                                            -----
                                            Malibu Fish & Seafood
                                            25653 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              n
                                              NAspy Mar 21, 2008 07:25 PM

                                              Yes, the grilled fish is the way to go. Prepared the simplest way possible, I think an herb rub with some butter was what I had. I agree the place is mcuhbetter than one might think it will be.

                                            2. Robert Lauriston Mar 18, 2008 06:57 PM

                                              Monday dinner for four at A.O.C.

                                              Pork rillettes a bit eccentric, had a smoky flavor rather than usual quatre-epices, but great on warm grilled toast.

                                              Salt cod fritters with aioli, moist, excellent.

                                              Gnocchi with lobster, pancetta, and truffle butter, just as good as it sounds, dumplings were nice and chewy.

                                              Arroz negro with squid, ink, and saffron aïoli, fabulous, as good a version of this as I've had.

                                              Wild mushrooms persillé, aromatic, buttery, excellent.

                                              Long-cooked cavolo nero (dino kale), great concentrated flavor.

                                              Farro and black rice with pinenuts and currants, nice al dente texture, good balance of flavors, only barely sweet.

                                              Roasted dates stuffed with parmesan and wrapped in bacon, nice (could easily have missed this since it's at the bottom of the cheese page).

                                              Lamb skewers with sunchokes and Niçoise olives, not very memorable.

                                              Grilled skirt steak with roquefort butter, good though the blue cheese didn't make a lot of sense with the wine we were drinking.

                                              Two cheeses, with no pointless accompaniments: Italian buffalo-milk blue cheese, amazing, super-ripe, creamy, funky rind, similar to Stilton; and Brebirousse, nice, ripe, reminiscent of Livarot.

                                              Food for four came a very reasonable $130 before wine, tax, and tip.

                                              Wines: great list. We had a Touraine sauvignon blanc ($30), Austrian zweigelt ($42), Valle d'Acate Cerasuolo 2004 ($50), Chinon ($32). All delicious. The French wines were very good values.

                                              Great service, nice atmosphere, quiet. Back patio had tables open all evening, so I guess this isn't quite the scene it was a few years ago, though our friends who live nearby said it's packed on the weekends. Reminded me a lot of À Côté, probably my current favorite restaurant in the Bay Area.

                                              -----
                                              AOC
                                              8022 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                Porthos Mar 18, 2008 08:03 PM

                                                Glad you ended up going to AOC despite the occasional nay sayer. The arroz negro is rich and delicious with that aioli. Just out of curiosity, which wine did you have with that dish?

                                                I agree that the meats are probably a weak link in the experience. Too bad you didn't try the brioche with prosciutto, gruyère and egg. It was one of my favorite dishes of the evening next to the grilled boneless trout stuffed with nettle.

                                                1. re: Porthos
                                                  e
                                                  Ernie Mar 18, 2008 08:22 PM

                                                  I need to try that gourmet Egg McMuffin very soon! I think AOC's grilled beef and lamb dishes can be hit-or-miss, but they do best with pork and seafood

                                                  1. re: Porthos
                                                    Robert Lauriston Mar 19, 2008 08:01 AM

                                                    The arroz was on the table for a while (maybe due to the dark dish people couldn't see that there was some left), I had it with all three reds.

                                                    If we'd noticed that brioche we'd have ordered it for sure. The menu's a bit confusing, easy to miss things.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                      Porthos Mar 19, 2008 10:24 AM

                                                      Which red did you think went best with the arroz?

                                                      Also, don't try to make up for the AOC miss by ordering the "Egg, guanciale, radicchio, escarole & bagna cauda" pizza at P. Mozza. You'll be tempted but it's too busy and has so much radicchio and escarole on it that it resembles a salad.

                                                      Go with the salumi with fresno chile and consider the bianchi and adding fennel sausage to it.

                                                      Also, don't forget to order lost of antipasti.

                                                      Looking forward to your P.Mozza post.

                                                      1. re: Porthos
                                                        Robert Lauriston Mar 20, 2008 08:34 AM

                                                        That arroz is pretty wine-friendly, I think it would be good with any wine with a decent amount of acid. Went well with all three of those, anyway.

                                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                    notmartha Mar 19, 2008 07:36 PM

                                                    Interesting. The time we got the cavolo nero it was pretty heavy duty. When we nuked the leftover the next day it left a puddle of olive oil.

                                                    I also had better squid ink risotto at Enoteca Drago, fwiw. Nothing like in Italy or Croatia, but cheaper than a flight to Europe. Nice thing about AOC is that since the portion is small, you won't get to eat that much of the stuff you don't care for anyway. Thanks for the review.

                                                  3. Robert Lauriston Mar 18, 2008 09:52 AM

                                                    Monday lunch at Antequera de Oaxaca.

                                                    Fabulous smoky smooth red salsa with normal chips came with menus. Didn't order chapulines since they don't serve beer.

                                                    Shared the botanas platter for two. Best chicharrón ever, asked if it was house-made, they said no but the secret is it's very fresh. Great chile relleno de pollo and enchiladas in the best mole rojo I've ever had,. Excellent simple guacamole. Memelitas (thick handmade masa patties) good but didn't really need six of them! Chorizo a bit dry and bland, tasajo (carne asada) a bit boring but great with the salsa and string cheese.

                                                    Chicken in mole negro, some of the best I've had, only slightly sweet and that's balanced by nice acidity. One leg-thigh piece.

                                                    Amarillo de puerco, most subtle of the three moles, exceptional balance of different kinds of chiles. More of a soup than a sauce. Small serving (maybe four big chunks of pork, 7-8 chunks of potato and chayote, some green beans) was reasonable after the hefty appetizer platter.

                                                    Very friendly people. Total bill with tax $33, more food than we really needed to order, good value considering the quality.

                                                    -----
                                                    Antequera De Oaxaca
                                                    5200 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                      kare_raisu Mar 19, 2008 11:59 PM

                                                      Yes! You went to Antequera de Oaxaca.

                                                      I love the amarillo de puerco! Probably one of my favorite dishes in LA. Was the chile relleno the one with the chicken picadillo and reconstitued dried chile?

                                                      1. re: kare_raisu
                                                        Robert Lauriston Mar 20, 2008 08:33 AM

                                                        Seemed like rehydrated dried red chile, yes. Great dish.

                                                    2. Robert Lauriston Mar 17, 2008 10:41 AM

                                                      Didn't want to get back in the car last night (Sunday), none of the places on my list were close, so we walked over to Abbot Kinney. Had dinner at Lilly's because Joe's had run out of food by 9pm! Funny how the place looked deserted from the street even though the inside and outside dining rooms were both packed.

                                                      Good old-school French / "Continental" (demi-glace, etc.), a style that hardly exists in the Bay Area any more. Mushrooms and asparagus in puff pastry was lightened slightly by having thin rounds of puff pastry rather than a thick bowl but still classic. Salade aux lardons was clearly adapted for local tastes, lots of salad, not much pork, only a few croutons. Onglet and rack of lamb were excellent. Good cheese plate, came with walnuts, grapes, and a green salad (huh?), no stupid jams or honey. Great wine list, nice how everything's available by the glass, had a chilled Brouilly and a superior Saumur. Fun atmosphere, good service.

                                                      The bill was significantly cheaper than a similar meal in a similar place would be at home. Probably helps that they don't (have to) use organic / sustainable / humane ingredients.

                                                      -----
                                                      Lilly's French Cafe & Bar
                                                      1031 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                        Servorg Mar 17, 2008 10:53 AM

                                                        Lilly's has always had a very "French" feel to it. I have found the food to be good and the price point verging on the expensive side for what you get.

                                                        Robert, are there more reviews to come? Or am I not looking in the right place?

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                          pikawicca Mar 22, 2008 05:53 PM

                                                          Are you claiming that all upscale restaurants in SF exclusively use local/organic/sustainable ingredients? Many use some, but few use only. I imagine that many good restaurants in LA use local ingredients, when available. I haven't dined in SF in about 6 months, but I don't recall seeing many mentions of "humane" practices, other than (maybe) Chez Panisse.

                                                          On the Salade aux Lardons front, when I've had this dish in France, the lardons were definitely a garnish and not the main event.

                                                          1. re: pikawicca
                                                            Robert Lauriston Mar 24, 2008 10:03 AM

                                                            I'm not making any absolute claims. In SF, when I see a wine list as sophisticated as Lilly's, the menu invariably lists provenance for some of its ingredients and/or includes a vague claim such as, "We use local, sustainable, and organic ingredients whenever possible."

                                                            Re the salade aux lardons, Lilly's had maybe 20% the amounts of croutons and lardons that I typically get in France. Also the egg wasn't runny enough (though there is a California law about that and I didn't think to specify).

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