Posts Tagged ‘Asian food’

East Borough brings amped up Asian food to Culver City

Daikon rice cakes at East Borough

Daikon rice cakes at East Borough

East Borough, which recently opened in downtown Culver City, brings something new to the fast-growing area: Asian food. And not just any Asian food but amped up Vietnamese. John Cao and Chloe Tran, who own a more casual version of East Borough in Costa Mesa, teamed up with Paul Hibler, owner and creator of Pitfire Pizza and Superba Snack Bar, and Jason Neroni, executive chef of Superba Snack Bar, to create this new concept, which focuses on traditional Vietnamese flavors and dishes while also re-imagining some of them.

The menu starts with appetizers familiar to those who know Vietnamese cuisine. The Imperial Rolls made with pork and taro and fried to a bubbly crispiness are flavorful and well-balanced, as is the banh xeo crepe, which in this case is stuffed with lots of crab.

Imperial Rolls

Imperial Rolls

Banh xeo

Banh xeo

The daikon rice cakes (pictured above) served with eggs, shiitake mushrooms, cilantro and spicy soy sauce are dense and kind of a mouthful, but the flavors are nice. Actually, there is a lot of richness at East Borough. The nuoc mam sauce reduction makes the cauliflower and long bean vegetable dish really strong, and the Phocatini, a playful take on Vietnamese pho and Italian bucatini, is almost too rich. The oxtail, hoisin and Sriracha combination nearly make for too much flavor, but it’s still one of the most interesting dishes on the menu.

Phocatini

Phocatini

The cocktails here are serviceable, but I wouldn’t say they were some of the best I’ve ever had. The Mo Bourbon, with bourbon, Averna, St. Germain and apricot was on the sweet side for me, but I do like the mix of bourbon with stone fruit. At least the drink prices are reasonable: $9-10.

Mo Bourbon, left, bourbon sour and The Golden Axe

Mo Bourbon, left, bourbon sour and The Golden Axe

Note: This meal was hosted.

23

02 2014

A tiki bar to end all tiki bars: Tonga Room San Francisco

Pineapple Royale at the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar

Pineapple Royale at the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar

If you’re a fan of tiki bars and haven’t been to the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar in The Fairmont San Francisco hotel, then you don’t know tiki bars.

This Polynesian paradise, or “the greatest place in the history of the world” per Anthony Bourdain, is the perfect combination of kitsch and upscale dining. Not only can you get a ridiculously large, sugary and potent drink — preferably aflame — but you can also get contemporary takes on Asian and Polynesian cuisine while dining alongside a pool, periodic rain showers and a live band on a floating stage.

When it comes to strong drinks, this is the place. The Pineapple Royale, a huge portion of aged rum, brandy and fresh pineapple juice served in a hollowed out pineapple, is dangerously good (and fun!). You could easily share this with someone, and you might want to just to split the $17 cost. The Singapore Sling ain’t no slouch, either, with Tanqueray gin, Cointreau, cherry Heering, fresh lemon and pineapple juices, Angostura bitters, and a Benedictine mist.

The Quintessential “Pu Pu” Platter, with BBQ Kona pork ribs, shiitake egg rolls, chicken skewers, and coconut prawns, is a good bet, and the restaurant’s inventiveness comes out in dishes such as the Forbidden Blend Fried Rice, which features forbidden black, white jasmine, Bhutanese red and jade pearl bamboo rices.

Quintessential Pu Pu Platter

Quintessential Pu Pu Platter

Forbidden Blend Fried Rice

Forbidden Blend Fried Rice

The well-known Huli Huli Chicken — boneless fire-roasted chicken, grilled pineapple, red onions, sweet peppers and scallions — was too sweet for my taste, but it was cooked nicely.

Huli Huli Chicken

Huli Huli Chicken

Check out Bourdain and Chef Chris Cosentino’s visit to the Tonga Room for “The Layover” to see some of the tiki drinks and the rain storm in action.

Note: This meal was hosted.

29

07 2013

New delectable food and drink at Asia de Cuba

Tunapica at Asia de Cuba

Tunapica at Asia de Cuba

The Mondrian hotel in West Hollywood is known for its sleekness, especially its ultra-stylish Skybar. What else would you expect from Sunset Boulevard? And its Asia de Cuba, a Philippe Starck-designed Latin-Asian fusion restaurant, is no exception. But this sleek eatery isn’t just all style; there’s substance behind that pretty face.

Asia de Cuba has always been a destination restaurant, but with a new cocktail menu and a revamped dinner menu by Chef Troy N. Thompson, there’s even more reason to visit.

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02

04 2012

My Prix Fixe Mondays returns to Roy’s

Mushroom-dusted shrimp at Roy's

Mushroom-dusted shrimp at Roy's

Like prix fixe prices but not prix fixe menu choices? Roy’s, the restaurant that introduced Hawaiian and Asian fusion food to many, has brought back My Prix Fixe Mondays to address this very issue. For $35.95 on Monday nights, you can choose any appetizer, entrée and dessert from the regular menu.

On a recent visit to Roy’s in downtown Los Angeles, I tried out my own prix fixe combination. I enjoyed my potato croquettes, shrimp dusted with mushrooms and pappardelle, and pineapple upside down cake. The shrimp entrée was interesting — I’ve never had shrimp “dusted” with mushrooms, and the sauce the pasta came in was thinner than I expected, but it was satisfying. My dining companion chose the lobster potstickers, braised short ribs and bread pudding for her meal. The bread pudding took us by surprise — it was really spicy, though the menu didn’t describe it as such. Turns out the bread pudding contains cinnamon and dark chili powder, and the dark chocolate ice cream served alongside it has pacia peppers, cinnamon, dark chili pepper and cayenne peppers. The dish was tasty, but perhaps Roy’s should warn its diners of the spicy hotness in it!

Even with the surprise spiciness, Roy’s $35.95 prix fixe is a good deal — this is considered Hawaiian fine dining, after all.

Note: This meal was hosted.

12

12 2011

The Spice Table heats up Little Tokyo

Photo by Brian Goodman

The Spice Table in downtown Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo is a welcome distraction from the neighborhood’s Japanese food. The restaurant at the corner of 1st Street and Central Avenue combines Singaporean and Vietnamese flavors, the culinary heritages of chef and owner Bryant Ng and his wife Kim, respectively. Ng, a former Mozza chef de cuisine, serves Southeast Asian-inspired sandwiches by day and all kinds of grilled satays, fried vegetables, noodles and more by night.

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12

10 2011

Bar bites and drinks at Raphael in Studio City

On a rare visit to The Valley, I recently stopped by Raphael, a Studio City restaurant with a focus on international fare. The menu has been revamped with Asian influences by Chef Adam Horton (most recently of Saddle Peak Lodge), who spent some time not long ago traveling the region.

The items I liked best from Horton were the Asian ones. The Crispy Pork Belly, a kind of deconstructed banh mi made with house-made French sausage, nuoc mam fish sauce, capsicum, herbs and pickles on brioche, was my favorite item off the Bar Bites menu, where nothing tops $12. The different layers of flavor were very satisfying, not to mention pretty.

Crispy Pork Belly at Raphael

Crispy Pork Belly at Raphael

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03

08 2011

Real modern Korean cuisine in Culver City: MoKo

The new kid on the block in Culver City, MoKo, quietly slipped in to town in late April when it took over the former Gyenari space. The switch happened in a matter of about two weeks, when a truly modern Korean (get it?) restaurant replaced one that tried to be forward-thinking but ended up being stagnant. That’s why Gyenari owner William Shin made the change, along with partner Chris Heyman (Table 8, 8 Oz. Burger Bar) and Chef Gary Robins (formerly of The Biltmore, The Russian Tea Room and Aja in New York), who created a menu that’s contemporary without being overwrought.

We were recently invited to check out the new menu, which features updated versions of Korean ban chan, ssam, jeon and many other traditional Korean favorites. Don’t worry — the grills from Gyenari are still in place, so you can get your barbecue fix, too. And the cocktail list includes some nicely crafted drinks, too.

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23

06 2011

Fresh eats in West Hollywood: Fresheast

Lanterns light up the tables at Fresheast

Fresheast in West Hollywood is a newish fast-casual concept featuring a healthful pan-Asian menu. Located in a Pavilions shopping center – which means free parking, a rarity in WeHo – Fresheast offers dishes with Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai and Indian elements, but with a decidedly L.A. flair (quinoa, anyone?).

We were recently invited to sample Fresheast’s dinner menu conceived by Executive Chef Jonathan Schwichtenberg. We appreciated the many options – you can choose from white or brown rice, baby greens or the fluffiest quinoa ever made to go with your proteins, which include the common chicken and beef to the less-common lamb, paneer cheese and tofu.

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21

02 2011

Food and drink with a view: Vu Restaurant

Let me preface this post with this statement: This restaurant is in Marina del Rey. Unless you live in Marina del Rey or really close to it, you probably don’t frequent the area much. I know I don’t. But I may start now that Vu Restaurant has opened at the waterfront Jamaica Bay Inn, which just underwent an extensive makeover.

Vu (pronounced “view”), which just opened this month, turned out to be a pleasant surprise for me, despite some hiccups at the bar (make sure head mixologist Jolie Klein makes your drinks, and you’ll be golden). The food’s origins are all over the map, literally — there’s Asian, Italian and good old American, among others — and even some molecular gastronomy thrown in. A bit confusing, but somehow it works. Here are some of the highlights from my dinner there last week.

The pork belly sitting on a crispy cake of grits and topped with root beer gelée was my favorite bite of the night. As Lindsay William-Ross, editor of LAist, noted, the flavors were reminiscent of chicken and waffles. I liked this because the root beer wasn’t overpowering but lent just the right amount of subtle sweetness to complement the dish.

Pork belly on crispy grits topped with root beer gelée

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20

12 2010

Where modern meets traditional: CHAM Korean Bistro

I was skeptical of CHAM at first. Whenever there’s a contemporary take on Asian food, I wince a little. Not because I’m against the idea, per se, but because such a feat is usually poorly executed. Not so at CHAM, which offers a mix of traditional Korean dishes, such as bulgogi and japchae, and Korean-inspired dishes, including a persimmon salad and fried calamari tacos. OK, so the execution is decidedly for American palates, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Actually, CHAM’s food would be a great introduction to Korean food for those not familiar with it.

My favorite dish of the night was actually a non-traditional one. The watermelon salad with arugula, watermelon, feta cheese, figs, mint and a mint vinaigrette was refreshing and all kinds of delicious. My only complaint was the large watermelon cubes, which made it a bit hard to eat, but the combination of the juicy fruit with the other juicy fruit of figs, along with the saltiness of the feta and spiciness of the arugula, made me overlook that. This is a must-order salad.

Watermelon salad

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08

11 2010