Archive for the ‘Food’Category

Bring back the pho burrito at Komodo cafe

Komodo cafe's Phoritto

Komodo cafe’s Phorrito

I’m just going to cut to the chase: Komodo cafe should bring back its special Phorrito, its Mexican-Vietnamese fusion of pho soup components rib eye, lime, bean sprouts, jalapeno, onions, Thai basil, cilantro, hoisin, Sriracha and rice noodles all wrapped up in a tortilla. It’s almost like a huge spring roll, but better (because I’m not a big fan of spring rolls).

So what’s the deal with Komodo cafe? A food-truck-turned-brick-and-mortar restaurant, Komodo offers a mash-up of Asian, Latino and Californian (which, let’s face it, has a lot of Asian and Latino influences as it is) cuisine. So even if you can’t get the Phorrito (bring it back!), the cafe has a lot of other tasty dishes for you to try.

Komodo tacos

Komodo tacos

Komodo cafe shines in its taco menu. My favorites are the ones that come topped with an egg — because everything is better with egg, right? — as well as those that feature carb-on-carb action. The Loko Modo with seared ground Angus beef, green onions, a sunny-side-up egg, white rice and pineapple-teriyaki sauce is one of these, and I normally don’t like teriyaki sauce. The other is the MP3 with top sirloin steak, tater tots, a sunny-side-up egg, garlic aioli and cilantro. The crunchiness of the tots are key in this taco.

Other tacos that I enjoy are the Asian Marinated Chicken with grilled chicken, jalapeno stir-fried rice, green onions, mandarin oranges, sesame seeds and a sweet soy glaze, as well as the Java with Indonesian pork rendang braised in coconut milk, tomato cucumber salad, green onions and fried shallots. One of the strangest-sounding combinations — the Fish n’ Grapes with deep fried Alaskan cod, concord grapes, roasted almonds and a sour cream salad — is also one of the tastiest.

There are two restaurant locations, in addition to the truck, for Komodo cafe, one on Pico Boulevard near Robertson Boulevard and one in Venice. The newer Venice location just launched a beer program and will be introducing a brunch menu in February.

There’s something for everyone on the Komodo cafe menu, including healthier plates and salads, as well as naughty dishes such as the Brutus Salad, dubbed the “ultimate anti-salad” with tater tots topped with steak, bacon, cheddar cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo, jalapeno aioli and cilantro. But you can’t go wrong with the tacos, which kicked off the menu back in Komodo’s food truck-only days.

Note: This meal was hosted.

Further reading:

Komodo: Los Angeles Food Truck by Behind the Food Carts

Los Angeles Tacos: Komodo Truck’s New Brick-and-Mortar Cafe on Pico by serious eats

26

01 2015

Travelogue: NYC’s Estela restaurant

Beef tartare at Estela

Beef tartare at Estela

Named No. 3 Best New Restaurant by Bon Appetit in 2014, Estela restaurant is a self-described “beverage-driven” eatery from the minds and palates of beverage director Thomas Carter (Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Essex House) and James Beard Award-nominated chef Ignacio Mattos (Isa, Il Buco) in New York City. With shareable plates, an interesting wine list and solid cocktails, Estela focuses on “American food with European influences.”

I visited Estela restaurant earlier this year in the fall, and enjoyed its famous beef tartare with fried sunchoke chips, which give the dish a welcome variety in texture and subtle sweetness.

My dining companion, my cousin Phillip who is studying to become a sommelier, chose a funky white wine for us to drink, as well as the burrata with salsa verde and charred bread, one of the dishes the Obamas ate during dinner here less than a month earlier.

Burrata

Burrata

We also had the razor clams, which come topped with tons of freshly grated horseradish. I’ve never had a dish like this before, and I liked its spiciness, especially because it didn’t overpower the delicacy of the clams.

Razor clams

Razor clams

Since Estela restaurant is beverage-focused, we of course got cocktails. The Il Vittelone, with whiskey, sherry, amaro and vermouth, and the Tuxedo #2, with gin, white vermouth, maraschino, absinthe and bitters, were both winners. Il Vittelone is the bolder of the two — a “real” drink — and the Tuxedo #2 is a smooth operator.

Il Vittelone, left, and Tuxedo #2

Il Vittelone, left, and Tuxedo #2

Estela restaurant is pretty small and gets crowded, but we were able to walk in on the early side of dinner on a Friday night without a problem. It’s kind of great, actually.

Further reading:

25 Things to Do When Traveling Solo to NYC by Diana Takes a Bite

29

12 2014

Status Kuo brings neighborhood rotisserie to Mar Vista

Status Kuo isn’t just a good pun, it’s also a good restaurant.

From the minds of Executive Chef and owner David Kuo, his wife, Maki, and Chef de Cuisine Keith Silverton (Messhall, La Brea Bakery), Status Kuo is a neighborhood joint serving up solid dishes with a focus on rotisserie.

Located just off Venice Boulevard on a trendy stretch in Mar Vista, Status Kuo is designed for no-fuss dining and takeout with flavorful and often healthy meals. Some dishes include Asian elements, reflecting Kuo’s heritage.

The rotisserie chicken is perfectly cooked with herbs and nicely rendered skin while still maintaining its juiciness inside. Served with a salad of mixed greens, fruit (this time it was persimmon) and edible flowers, this is a healthy and tasty dish. And at $14 for half a chicken that can feed two, this is a deal.

Rotisserie chicken

Rotisserie chicken

Kicking things up a notch is the whole roasted branzino with lemon, fried capers and rayu (Japanese red chili paste). At $28, this dish is a splurge for this menu, but it’s well worth the higher price tag.

Mediterranean seabass

Mediterranean seabass

The most interesting dish I tried was the Taiwanese Sunday Gravy, Kuo’s modern interpretation of classic Taiwanese flavors. I was expecting long, Chinese-style noodles, but what came to the table was more of an Italian pasta dish flavored with braised pork, pork belly and pickled mustard greens. I’m familiar with Taiwanese food and had just returned from a trip to Taiwan, so I was curious to taste Kuo’s version. While it was kind of strange to have these flavors coupled with short, European-style pasta, I enjoyed the dish. Though I did wonder where the “gravy” was.

Taiwanese Sunday Gravy

Taiwanese Sunday Gravy

Status Kuo is also making its own sodas and desserts, both admirable. While the hibiscus and blood orange soda was just OK for me, the baked apple hand pie — a healthier version of McDonald’s famous pies — was top-notch, as was the house-made frozen custard that accompanied it.

Kuo has plans for whole roasted suckling pigs and to hold roasts at the nearby Mar Vista Farmers Market on Sundays. After failing to open a restaurant in Culver City last year after investors pulled out at the 11th hour, Kuo hopes Status Kuo will become a mainstay for the Mar Vista neighborhood.

“I wanted to put my name on the restaurant as a guarantee,” Kuo said. “You know who is behind the restaurant and who will be in the kitchen cooking for you. The menu is designed around food I would serve my family.”

Note: This meal was hosted.

Further reading:

Status Kuo by hoopLA

Spit-tacular by Clean Plates

Status Kuo–New Rotisserie Restaurant in Mar Vista by Nosh With Me

22

12 2014

Holiday gift guide for foodies

Still working your way through that holiday gift list? If you’re shopping for someone who likes food more than your average Joe, then check out these goodies in this holiday gift guide for foodies.

Pretzel necklace from Food52

Pretzel necklace

Pretzel necklace

Food52 also carries necklaces with pendants shaped like whisks, rotelle pasta, crawfish claws and more. All are adorable. All should be on holiday gift guides. Because food jewelry.

The Chef Says book

The Chef Says

The Chef Says

Chock full of funny and insightful quotes, The Chef Says makes a nice gift for that person who is really into what his or her favorite chef may have to say, even when not in the kitchen.

Clean Plates book

Clean Plates

Clean Plates

For the healthful eater, there are the Clean Plates books, which bills itself as “Zagat with a healthy twist.” So far the books are available in Los Angeles and New York City versions, and are also able to be personalized.

Huckleberry cookbook

Huckleberry cookbook

Huckleberry cookbook

From the creative mind of Zoe Nathan, pastry chef extraordinaire at Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe, comes the cookbook of the same name. This is great for the baker on your list, as it contains recipes of many of the bakery’s favorites, both sweet and savory.

Anthropologie gold monogram mugs

Anthropologies gold monogram mugs

Anthropologie gold monogram mugs

Because who doesn’t want their initial in gold?

16

12 2014

Bruce Kalman elevates dining with Union Pasadena

Spaghetti alla chitarra at Union Pasadena. Photo courtesy of Union.

Spaghetti alla chitarra at Union Pasadena. Photo courtesy of Union.

Chef Bruce Kalman’s Union Pasadena in Old Town is good — not just good for Pasadena, but good for anywhere. That’s good news for Pasadena, but not so good for those of us who live nowhere near there.

No matter. You’ll want to try Union Pasadena’s food in any case. The menu by Kalman (The Misfit, Urbano Pizza Bar, The Churchill) is described as a “seasonally Californian interpretation of Northern Italian cuisine,” but all you need to know is you want all the pasta. Yes, the other dishes are tasty, too — pork meatballs with San Marzano tomatoes, lardo and caper berries, and wild mushrooms over Grist & Toll polenta topped with Pedro Ximenez sherry vinegar — but Kalman’s house-made pasta is where it’s at.

The spaghetti alla chitarra (pictured above), with San Marzano tomato, garlic and fresno chili pepper, is a classic kicked up a notch with a Californian ingredient. It’s simple and satisfying.

But when Kalman starts getting creative, that’s when he really shines. The squid ink garganelli served with lobster, fennel, meyer lemon and truffle butter is holy-moly good. The toothsome pasta sucks up all the flavors, including the richness of the lobster.

Squid ink garganelli

Squid ink garganelli. Photo courtesy of Union.

In keeping with the seasonal theme, some dishes in the pasta section change periodically. One of these seasonal dishes is a duck agnolotti with pickled fiddlehead ferns, another rich dish featuring expertly crafted pasta and two of my favorite ingredients.

Duck agnolotti

Duck agnolotti. Photo courtesy of Union.

When it comes to mains, don’t overlook the pork chops. It’s not a sexy cut of meat, but boy are Kalman’s juicy (that sounded really dirty, didn’t it?). The version I had with mushrooms, root vegetables, Marsala sauce and sage was the best I’ve had in recent memory.

I really wish Union Pasadena were closer to where I live, but that would just be selfish. I guess now I have a reason to make the “trek” to Pasadena.

Note: This meal was hosted.

Further reading:

Bruce Kalman Ups the Ante at Union Pasadena by estarLA

Pasadena’s Union is not your same ol’ Old Town by Los Angeles Times

07

12 2014

Travelogue: The Pepper Pot cafe in Dublin, Ireland

Soup, salad and bread at The Pepper Pot in Dublin

Soup, salad and bread at The Pepper Pot in Dublin

Conveniently located just off the main shopping drag of Grafton Street, The Pepper Pot in Dublin, Ireland, is the perfect place to rest those weary feet with some lunch, tea or sweets.

I ate here twice last fall during a week-long trip to Dublin. Must have been good, right? The main reason my husband and I decided to return was for the brown soda bread, an Irish staple. Pepper Pot’s version is the best I’ve had: thick yet fluffy, with a nutty flavor that comes from the baked-in whole nuts and seeds.

The restaurant, which is located inside the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre on the second floor underneath a large, airy skylit roof, serves seasonal salads, soups, sandwiches and tarts, as well as cakes, teas and all-day breakfast. I had a salad of field greens, figs, almonds and burrata that was light and fresh. Rory had an apple and parsnip curry soup that hit the spot on a chilly fall Dublin afternoon. The adorable mismatched plates and tea cups don’t hurt, either.

Enjoying a spot of tea

Enjoying a spot of tea

I also had a breakfast dish, housemade granola with yogurt and berry compote. While the flavors were great, this was a lot of granola for me at once. I would have preferred more yogurt, but my sister-in-law said she liked the dish as it was. To each her own! Also, Pepper Pot offers various toppings for its organic porridge — not just the usual single option.

Granola and yogurt

Granola and yogurt

It’s worth nothing that the restaurant makes gluten-free and dairy-free bread for those who request it. Angelenos should have no problem finding something they’ll like here.

The Pepper Pot

The Pepper Pot

24

11 2014

Brunch gets fancy at Tanzy in Westwood

Tanzy Westwood

Tanzy Westwood

Tanzy, the Chef Bryan Podgorski-helmed restaurant housed inside the iPic Theater in Westwood, conveniently offers brunch to go along with your weekend matinee (there is an express menu available inside the movie theater, too).

Once inside and embraced by the wrapping tree branch decor, you’ll find sweet and savory on the brunch menu from Podgorski (The French Laundry, Bouchon Bistro Las Vegas). My favorites are the brioche French toast, which is served bread pudding style, and the bacon and eggs raviolo with a soft poached hen egg, ricotta cheese, wilted spinach and bacon vinaigrette. Both are decadent options sure to satisfy. Getting the orange currant scone would also be a good choice.

Brioche French toast

Brioche French toast

Bacon and eggs raviolo

Bacon and eggs raviolo

Other items didn’t quite hit the mark for me when I visited Tanzy. Dishes were either too salty (corned beef hash, hash browns) or suffered from poor execution (pistachio shells in the Cali Colada). But these are easy fixes that hopefully have been made by now.

Another thing to note: bottomless strawberry mimosas for $14, and any fresh juice concoction on the menu can be turned into a cocktail. Sounds like a good time to me!

Note: This meal was hosted.

11

11 2014

Waffles and beer at The Iron Press in Orange County

A beer flight at The Iron Press

A beer flight at The Iron Press

The Iron Press in Costa Mesa is the food party lovechild of co-founders Jeremy Saenz (Lucky Habanero Salsa) and Leonard Chan (California Shabu Shabu). Tucked into the once furniture store-dominated shopping plaza South Coast Collection (SOCO) next to the 405 freeway, the restaurant specializes in waffle sandwiches and top quality, California-brewed craft beers. Whether you come for the beer or come for the waffles, you’ll stay for both.

Let’s start with the waffles.  Most items on the menu are waffle sandwiches. I was very tempted by the prosciutto and gruyere waffle sandwich and the country madame, but elected to order the country style buttermilk fried chicken. This actually wasn’t a sandwich at all, but rather fried chicken tenders topped with gravy, sitting on a freshly pressed Belgian waffle. Being the breakfast food fan that I am, I threw on extras of bacon and a fried egg on top. Traditionally, this comes served with a side of maple syrup (it did), but to kick it up a notch, I was also given jalapeño maple syrup to pour on my chicken and waffles dish. Even though there’s just a subtle difference, the spiced up version is definitely the way to go.

Country Style Chicken and Waffle

Country Style Chicken and Waffle

Though everything works together, if I had it all to do again, I would have elected to forego the gravy. It’s fine in and of itself — smooth and creamy — but I would have liked to let the crispy texture of the fried chicken get more appreciation. This was no fault of the dish; I can only blame my mind for adopting the attitude of “did somebody say gravy!?” The egg yolk didn’t run as much as I usually expect from fried eggs, but then again how much liquid does one want on his waffle?

On the side and begging to be shared were the Imperial IPA Irish Nachos. A beer lover’s take on one of the heaviest snacks ever, the Iron Press version actually tastes light and fresh. The cabbage, prosciutto and jalapeño are simmered in an imperial IPA before being placed on waffle fries and topped with lager cheddar sauce and sliced avocado. Between the sauce and the simmering, they actually manage to sneak almost a whole beer into these nachos. What makes the dish feel lighter are the crisp waffle fries that aren’t overly oily as their drive-thru counterparts usually are. The cheddar sauce is used sparingly so as to not make the fries soggy, and everything is fresher when you add avocados! Ketchup is provided on the side, but you won’t need it.

Imperial IPA Irish Nachos

Imperial IPA Irish Nachos

If you’ve conquered your waffle sandwich and skillfully shared your nachos, you’re ready to move on to dessert. There’s a Cap’n Crunch Berries-infused waffle and a S’mores waffle just ready to complete your ascension into food coma heaven. On this occasion, the Wookie called to me and I answered. Using the in-house cookie dough, a waffle-shaped chocolate cookie comes warm off the iron and is topped with ice cream. Again going the extra mile, I got mine topped with strawberries and bananas and drizzled with chocolate. Say what you want about me being fancy, I have no shame. This dessert can feed a bigger group than one might expect, though it gets a little tricky gathering your bites together on the plate. The cookie is crunchy rather than chewy, since it’s cooked thin on the waffle iron, so it’s brittle and breaks apart easy.

Wookie waffle

Wookie waffle

Opening in 2012, the place quickly became known for their events and evenings focused on breweries and craft beers. Every month, the bar hosts a Tap Takeover Tuesday with local brews, including many exclusive and limited varieties. In October, the bar featured Mother Earth beers from Vista, California. This is the night where the beer big boys bring their A game.

The Iron Press recently opened a newer location at the Anaheim Packing District, spreading its loaded waffle point of view across Orange County.

Note: This meal was hosted.

02

11 2014

SunCafe ups the ante for vegan fare

SunCafe

SunCafe

ShopEatSleep was invited to try out the expanded menu at SunCafe’s new location in Studio City. Being a total novice to vegan food — my experience with veganism was limited to a vegan burger that I had a great many moons ago — I was curious to see if the meatless offerings at SunCafe could satiate my usually insatiable appetite.

Known for serving up imaginative plant-based cuisine, SunCafe operated out of a modest Studio City storefront for five years before moving to its current home on Ventura Boulevard. With more than triple the capacity, including a spacious outdoor patio, the fully renovated 1920s-era ranch-style house delivers a good blend of old and new, lending itself to a cozy and relaxed ambience.

Keep reading

12

10 2014

Get ready for Barberia restaurant

Expanding from the Barbershop Ristorante pop-up into a permanent space in downtown Los Angeles named Barberia restaurant, Chef Walter el Nagar (Il Grano, La Botte) has been hosting a run of tasting menu evenings to preview what is in store for the new restaurant. As the location on Hope Street downtown nears completion, these tastings are being hosted in Brakeman Brewery, a gallery space off of Jefferson Boulevard along the Metro Expo Line.

Barberia preview at Brakeman Brewery

Barberia preview at Brakeman Brewery

With a wonderful sound system, cozy bar and golden sunsets to die for, we recently dined on the outdoor patio area at dusk.

After being greeted by a bar inside, a carefully prepared meal was our treat outside. First up to say hello was duck tartare with shaved foie gras and anchovy on sailor bread. The laws in California don’t prevent consumption of foie gras, but the ban on the sale of foie did make this dish a pleasant surprise for many at the table. The theme of pairing these items together is appreciated, but let’s be real: you’re excited about the foie.

Duck tartare with foie gras

Duck tartare with foie gras

In a nod to the sea and barbershop, up next was an uni sponge cake in tomato broth presented in a sea urchin bowl atop a stone with a barbershop pole etching. The taste was subtle, as most of the dishes in the evening would be, and was a refreshing follow-up to the tartare on a warm evening.

Uni sponge cake

Uni sponge cake

The prawns aguachile was quite interesting. It was like a prawn enchilada in green sauce but wrapped in avocado slices instead of tortillas. I would probably prefer this as a snack rather than a dinner course, but I definitely enjoyed it. As always, avocados remind you that you’re in California.

Prawns aguachile

Prawns aguachile

The linguine alle vongole was my favorite dish of the evening. Using wheat germ pasta cooked in clam juice and fresh clams, there’s a kick at the end of each bite thanks to the chili in the spicy sauce that the pasta sat on rather than being coated in it. I could have had three more helpings of this dish, gladly.

Linguine alle vongole

Linguine alle vongole

The abalone and porcini mushroom risotto was a real hit, and for many their favorite dish of the tasting menu. Everything combined perfectly, and each bite had a great taste to it. Seaweed was also used for flavoring in this dish, and it was spot on.

Abalone and porcini mushroom risotto

Abalone and porcini mushroom risotto

Dessert came with a message: “Tomato is a fruit.” That’s literally what the dish was called. A sweet tomato in a bowl with strawberry syrup, topped with white chocolate ice cream and vanilla foam, the message was loud, clear and delightful. This wasn’t a decadent dessert, full of sin and scandal; it was more like a peaceful agreement between good looking people who never really wanted to fight each other. This will be a popular dessert for the summertime.

Tomato dessert

Tomato dessert

Overall, this peek at what’s to come for Barberia restaurant definitely shows promise. You can experience this preview (last pop-up takes place Oct. 17) and decide for yourself by making online reservations on the Barbershop website. No word on when Barberia restaurant will open, but there will be quite a few people in the food world interested to see how this joint venture with Adam Fleischman, of Umami and AdVantage fame, will turn out.

Note: This meal was hosted.

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29

09 2014