Trés – Lunch Fantastique

Restaurant: Trés [1, 2]

Location: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.246.5555

Date: October 31, 2011

Cuisine: Modern Spanish

Rating: Fantastique

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My brother and I were in midtown and decided to check out Trésfor lunch. I’d already hit it for weekend brunch a couple months ago, and figuring as I’ve recently hit everything else Jose Andres (é by José Andrés and Jaleo in Vegas and a recent Saam meal), stopped in.


The room was dead at 11:45am, but the food wasn’t.


The lunch menu.


“Octopus tacos. Hydroponic bib lettuce, maggie’s farm baby greens, smoked heirloom cherry tomatoes.” Very nice octopus treatment. Succulent grilled meat and a zesty limey vinaigrette on the whole thing.


“Hawaiian bigeye tuna ceviche. Coconut ginger soy, plantain chips.” Not your typical cerviche as the lime flavors weren’t that blast you Peruvian type. But that meant you could taste the fish, and it was good. The plantain chips were tasty too.


I’m nuts over Jose’s Gazpacho. I’ve even made it from his recipe a number of times at home.


And with the soup itself. Yum yum!


“Herb roasted ham and cheese. Tomme de savoie cheese, carmelized onions, herbs.” This was like a Spanish Croque Monsieur. I love this kind of grilled ham and cheese.


Some good fries too with a spicy ketchup.


“The SLS Burger. House made brioche bun, lettuce, tomatoes, onions with cheddar.”


“Lemon tart. Raspberry sorbet.” Not your typical version, but really good. Bright bright flavors and some pate de fruits thrown in there too.


“Hazelnut pear clafoutis. Coffee ice cream.” Like a bread pudding. The ice cream was really good too.

And this crazy zesty lemonade, which served nicely as an aperitif.

Overall, this was a very tasty lunch. It was a little expensive — as you’d expect from a hotel restaurant – but it was very good, which I’ve come to expect from the SLS offerings.

A review of Trés for brunch can be found here.

Click here to see more LA dining, or reviews of The Bazaar and Saam (also at the SLS).

Jer-ne to the center of the Marina

Restaurant: Jer-ne

Location: Ritz-Carlton. 4375 Admiralty Way. Marina del Rey, California 90292 USA. (310) 823-1700

Date: October 29, 2011

Cuisine: Californian

Rating: Solid

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When the Ritz-Carlton Marina Del Rey renovated and opened its new restaurant in the early 2000s the naming committee was obviously inspired by Steve Martin‘s classic LA Story (and its 80s restaurant, lee-dee-oh — spelled l’idiot). In any case, the original Jer-ne actually served up top notch California Asian Fusion when it opened. Like most hotel restaurants, there has been chef turnover — who knows how many times in the last decade. I hadn’t been in a few years (except for the pretty amazing Sunday brunch) and when an old friend from High School Facebook IMed me that he was in town, we headed on over.


The menu is mean and lean, all streamlined modern Californian.


From my cellar. Parker 96 points. “The 2008 Flor de Pingus offers up an enticing nose of smoke, Asian spices, incense, espresso, black cherry, and blackberry. On the palate it displays outstanding volume, intensity, and balance. Rich, dense, and succulent, it has enough structure to evolve for 4-5 years and will offer prime drinking from 2015 to 2028.”


The Ritz always had good cheesy cracker things.


caesar. organic romaine, santa barbara olives, tomatoes, crouton.”


oyster. pacific oysters, crispy potato, spanish ham, sambuca hollandaise.” The sauces were really good, but the oysters had that bitter note that fried oysters often have. Every time I have them I’m reminded that I like my oysters raw.


halibut. sautéed leek, double smoked bacon, corn, potato, clam chowder sauce.”


salmon. green bean, glazed carrots, potato puree, parsley butter.”


lamb. sirloin, heirloom tomato, organic ratatouille, tomato mustard chutney.” Some very tasty and relatively lean lamb. The sauce was one of those meaty jus reductions that I love.


The dessert menu.


greek yogurt panna cotta. slow roasted market stonefruit, corn praline, thymje.”


spiced peanut butter mousse. crunchy peanut butter chocolate, candied ginger ice cream, spicy caramelized honey.” This was a nice dessert. A good interplay between the fluffy peanut butter, crunch, and the ginger ice cream.

Overall the food at this new Jer-ne was good. It didn’t blow me away or anything, and it’s very different than it used to be 8 or so years ago (full of Japanese influenced dishes), but it was a very solid take on conservative but well executed the New American. Even the desserts show plating influences that are very contemporary — what I think of as geometric and dust — the use of cubes, spheres, and ovals in a sort of post war art kind of arrangement, often dusted with granular flavor components. Red Medicine’s desserts are typical examples, but I suspect it’s really a Ferran Adrià thing.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Loving Lukshon

Restaurant: Lukshon

Location: 3239 Helms Ave, Culver City, CA 90034. 310.202.6808

Date: October 20, 2011

Cuisine: New Asian

Rating: Pretty damn tasty

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A couple of years ago my office was in Culver City, and the restaurant revolution there was already well under way. But the trend continues apace with Lukshon, a sort of re-imagined southern Asian (vaguely Chinese — sort of) joint opened by the same owners as adjacent Father’s Office. I’ve been itching to try it for better on six months and we finally got the Foodie Club together for an impromptu meeting.


The modern interior space. There is also a generous and attractive patio.


The menu. We ordered about two thirds of it, for eight people, all family style.


“atlantic fluke  pickled watermelon, black sesame, cucumber, kinh gioi.” Light flavored, but tasty. The black sesame lent it a pleasant gritty texture.


Lukshon does not allow corkage. I didn’t know that and Foodie Club co-president EP and I hauled four bottles to the table. I was skeptical at first of the small wine list too, as it’s devoid of big name offerings. But with some help from the Sommelier we put together what turned out to be a very enjoyable trio.


We had the 2010, but the 2009 got 92 from parker, “Ollivier’s 2009 Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie Clos des Briords is as perfumed and lusciously-fruited a wine of its genre as you are likely to encounter, though that by no means precludes depth of mineral character. Scents of pear, clover, Persian melon, and fennel inform the nose and migrate to a buoyant yet expansive, mouthwateringly juicy palate tinged with a shimmering crystalline sense of minerality characteristic for this cuvee. This sensational value finishes with an uncanny combination of soothing refreshment and vibrancy. It is apt to be even more ravishing in another year or so and be worth following for at least 3-4.”


“shrimp toast  rock shrimp, cilantro, chiles, tiny croutons.” These are little fried balls with a sweet and spicy sauce. They tasted pretty fried, with an understated flavor.


“baby monterey squid!! chiang mai pork sausage, candlenut, mint, rau ram.” Really tasty. The fried tentacles in the center were pretty straight up calimari. The bodies were stuffed with the yummy sausage.


“duck popiah.  cilantro stems, pickled jicama, hoisin chile sauce.” With the texture of a Saigon Roll, these duck rolls were packed with meaty flavor inside. Plus, being a sauce guy, I love hoison. One of my favorite dishes.


“spicy chicken pops!! shelton farms’ drumettes, garlic, kecap manis, spicy sichuan salt.” Nice little “wings” with a lot of flavor and a bit of heat. A kind of BBQ sweet heat.


This was a very interesting wine. Old fashioned — like 2,000 years old fashioned. Evidently, it’s kept in amphorae, large greek/roman style terra-cotta vessels. While a white, it was so unfiltered as to be almost cloudy. But damn good.


“kurobuta pork ribs.  spicy chicory coffee bbq sauce.” The meat just fell of the bones. A bit of char. Seriously good ribs, what cheap Chinese restaurant ribs aspire to be.


“rib eye steak yam neua. gem lettuce, radish, carrot, tomato, herbs, spicy lime vinaigrette.” This was fine, but just kinda beefy.


“foie gras ganache!! carob, ceylon cinnamon, tamarind gastrique, almond, puffed rice.” These were more a dessert than a savory. The creamy foie texture and richness leant them the character of some kind of ultra rich mousse.


“lamb belly roti. canai  chana dal, cumin, mint, raita, pickled cauliflower.” Another of my favorite dishes. A kind of vaguely middle eastern, vaguely Asian pizza. The little sour marinated crunchy cauliflower was good too.


“garlic pork belly  do ban jian, rice cakes, cabbage, garlic chives.” Probably my favorite dish. This had some good heat and that rich fermented bean paste flavor. The meat was rich, but not too fatty, and under the sauce you could only tell it from the rice cakes by texture. They added a chewiness to complement the some pork.


“short rib rendang!! malay spices, red chile lemongrass rempah, coconut cream.” More meat. I liked the sauce better on this one.


Parker gives this very solid Riesling 90 points. “Pepper-laced pears and apples are found in the nose of the zesty, vivacious 2002 Riesling Eiswein Oberemmeler Hutte. This molasses, brown sugar and white fruit-flavored offering sports eye-popping acidity, loads of depth, and a long, sweet finish. Anticipated maturity: 2007-2025.”

“heirloom black rice  lap cheong, onion, roasted garlic, lilly’s farm fried egg.”


Mixed up. This was pleasant, rich, sweet, and ricey.


“gai lan aged ham, shaoxing wine, garlic.” Nice stir fried greens. But I wanted more ham flavor.


“chiang mai curry noodles  chile, tumeric, lemongrass, chicken, prawn, yu choy, rice noodles.” A curry with noodles. Nothing wrong with that, as I love curry.


“dandan noodles!! kurobuta pork, sesame, preserved mustard greens, sichuan peppercorns, peanuts.” I really liked this too. Noodles with a pretty spicy Chinese pork ragu. I had a better version in western China, but this was pretty damn good. Decently hot, but not nearly real Szechuan hot. I guess the sauce isn’t so different than Pocked Marked Old Ladies Tofu (yes, that is a real dish).


Dessert is “free” (as Matt Groning said, “at no additional perceivable cost”). They bring out one per person, but three types. I would’ve liked to try each, but I had the leftmost, which was a delicious form of deconstructed pina colada. Some kind of pana cotta with coconut and pineapple. The middle was chocolate, the rightmost more fruity.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

For other Foodie Club meals (all crazy great) see here.

Bouchon Beverly Hills

Restaurant: Bouchon Beverly Hills

Location: 11712 San Vicente Blvd.Brentwood, CA 90049 310.826.9222

Date: October 15, 2011

Cuisine: French Bistro

Rating: Good, but expensive

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In the last three-four years there’s been a bit of a French Food revival in Southern California, but the emphasis has been on Bistro fare. Of course this is consistent with the post-recession trend toward less formal restaurants anyway. Bouchon is the small-chain spawn for Thomas Keller, the highly acclaimed chef of The French Laundry.


Here is the brunch menu. My snapshot is still at the doctors (Canon service center) so this is a test run for the new iPhone4S camera. Better than its predecessor, but no match for either of my real cameras. The Photostream sync to the desktop is however, pretty sweet.


My obligatory cappuccino.


The Beverly Hills space is very pretty. Check out the bar (both raw and booze). Lobsters oversee the diners.


The elegant dining room has a very spacious, even Parisian feel.


The have good bread here, as well as amusements for the three-year-old set.


Pain Perdu” (i.e. french toast). Brioche toast with macerated strawberries, creme Chantilly & vermont maple syrup. I’m slightly confused about the strawberries, as these sure looked and tasted like apple. But it was good nonetheless.


“Chicken & Waffles. roasted chicken on a bacon & chive waffle with Tahitian vanilla bean butter and sauce chasseur.” The chicken was a nice bit of roast chicken. If the waffles had bacon and chive in them, I couldn’t tell.


It came with the butter, the gravy, and good maple syrup. I ended up shredding the chicken, cutting the waffles, and adding syrup. It was good, but not quite Roscoes.


Downstairs is the much anticipated takeout bakery.


Not a huge space.


Serving various classic pastries and some salads and sandwiches.


Salads, sandwiches, macarons, cookies, etc.


The breakfast pastries, like croissant and coffee cake. The chocolate croissant was good. The coffee cake and banana nut muffin were a bit dry. Really I expected more. I’ll have to try a lemon tart at some point.


A closeup of the macarons. I had one (passionfruit) and while large, and pretty good, it wasn’t as good as the divine Paulette Macarons (reviewed here).


Good luck trying to read this blurry iPhone photo.

Overall, while Bouchon and bakery were fine, they are very expensive and failed to wow me. The chicken and waffles was $27! This is almost triple Roscoes! I would have forgiven the prices if the food were superlative, but it was just good. Sorry Mr. Keller, you’re rep sets a higher bar.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Saam – José Andrés Squared

Restaurant: Saam [1, 2]

Location: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.246.5555

Date: October 1, 2011

Cuisine: Spanish influenced Molecular Gastronomy

Rating: Awesome, even better than The Bazaar.

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I’m a bit of a Jose Andres groupie as not only have I been many times to the The Bazaar (REVIEW HERE), but also to brunch at Trés, and just last week to é by José Andrés and Jaleo in Vegas.

For those who don’t know, José Andrés is perhaps America’s leading practitioner of  my favorite culinary style: Spanish Molecular Gastronomy. This school of cooking, a radical interpretation of the preparation of food, was begun at El Bulli outside of Barcellona. Andrés cooked and studied there with master chef Ferran Adrià. I first encountered Andrés’s cooking in Washington DC at Cafe Atlantico, and it’s own restaurant within a restaurant, Minibar.

I’ve eaten molecular a number of times in Spain, for example at Calima and La Terraza. The Bazaar and Saam brought molecular style to LA.

Saam is the “secret” prix fixe only room within the Bazaar, open Thurs-Sat.


This is the normal menu for the night. If you let them know they do however adapt very adeptly to dietary restrictions.


Tonight begins with a “Kaviar Kir Royale” which is a deconstructed cocktail consisting of cava.


And miniature “kaviar” (spheres of kir).


You can see them more clearly here, looking every bit like fish eggs. Basically it’s mostly cava, but at your whim you can bit into the little balls of flavor for bits of kir flavor blast.


Then “Lotus Root Chips” with anise powder, making them taste like licorice Pringles.


Then “Tuna Handroll 2009″ which are crispy cones stuffed with very fresh tuna, a bit of wasabi, and a caviar ring in the middle. Nice mix of textures and flavors.


It came time to decide on the beverages. Above is the pairing menu ($100 a person). We didn’t opt for this but I’m sure it’s good. Being as we are talking beverages I’ll mention briefly the water trap. We were five people, and this is a long meal. We ordered bottled water. As usual with nice restaurants they just served it. And served it. Fine, but it added up to $180 of water! This was the only thing on the bill that offended me — but it was mighty offensive. $30-40 would have been sufficient tariff, but $36 a person for water?


We did order cocktails individually, which were both yummy and reasonable enough for such things. “Passion Fruit Up! Orange rum, passion fruit and ginger-laurel syrup, topped with passion fruit foam.” Yum!


“Oyster and Jamon.” A little spoonful of oyster with some ham powder and a crispy crouton. It tasted exactly like it sounds. Like intense oyster and a good dollop of HAM!


“Black Olives Ferran Adria.” Instructions on how to make these can be found here. The pureed juice of the olives is coated in a thin gel. They are colored black with squid ink. There is one green olive that is vegetarian. In general, the olives bursts easily in the mouth, exploding intense oliveness.


A signature “Nitro Caprina” which is the classic brazilian drink, frozen with liquid nitrogen. It tastes like a sherbet, with a highly unusual smooth texture, but it’s intensely potent (in terms of proof). Goes down all too easy.


“Jicama wrapped Guacamole.” Micro cilantro, corn chips. The vegetarian substitution for the ham.


Watermelon and tomato with a bit of a kick (some chili or another).


A traditional mojito. Even way back in the Cafe Atlantico days Andrés always served a great mojito.


“Jose’s Combination.” Jamón Ibérico de Bellota with a blob of real caviar. This ham is regarded as the best in Spain, and among the best in the world. They are fed on acorns. Salt on salt here. A very savory combination.


Deconstructed “patatas bravas.” In spain this is a common dish basically being roasted chopped potatoes with a cayenne mayo. This preserves the flavor, but changes up the texture into a little fried cigar. The inside was fluffy and soft. Quite tasty.


“Ottoman Carrot fritter.” Apricots, pistachio sauce. Vegetarian substitute for the chicken below. A deep fried ball of flavor, with a very exotic taste.


“Buffalo Wing.” Looks like fried chicken (and it is), but Wow. Boneless, with a dab of spicy sauce and a blue cheese aioli. An explosion of flavor.


“Not Your Everyday Caprese.” The mozzarella has been through the same sphere process as the olives above, then we have a peeled cherry tomato, tomato seeds, a bit of basil, sea salt, little crackers, and a very fine house made pesto genovese (with extra virgin olive oil). I’m not even a raw tomato fan and this is delectable. The pesto cheese combo really makes it. This pesto is as good as mine (recipe here).


I’m a big fan of priorat and so we chose this wine off the list. Besides the great food and crazy water prices Saam has an annoying high corkage ($50 and one bottle more or less!).


“White truffle risotto.” Instead of the normal Italian risotto rice it used a premium Spanish one, calasparra bomba, and extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. Very tasty.


A fantastic special risotto also using bomba rice, with a chunk of fresh santa barbara uni, some black garlic paste, and a bit of bbq eel. It was tremendously good.


“Crispy Nigiri.” A bit of red snapper on a blob of crispy Spanish rice.


“Chipirones en su Tinta.” More or less a classic Spanish dish, octopus in it’s own ink. Plus some squid ink chips. Very soft and tender meat, complemented by the sweetness of the ink.


A non-shellfish variant containing a bit of bbq fish.


“Banh Mi.” A brioche bun with wagyu beef, tofu, cilantro, pickles, pickled carrots, and a kind of mayo. Tasty tasty sandwich. A mix of soft and crunchy too, but the pickles give it a very distinct tang.


“Banh Mi, vegetarian.”


“Carrot gnocchi.” The broth had a vaguely thai curry flavor. The gnocchi are actually cylinders of sphereized carrots, so they burst in the mouth.


“Brussel sprouts, lemon puree, apricots, grapes, lemon air.” This was a big hit, the sprouts aren’t bitter at all, and have a light cabbage-like texture. The lemon air is the best part, adding a nice zing.


“Mirugai.” A bit of geoduck giant clam, radish, and a watercress puree. This wasn’t my favorite dish, being a bit “clammy.”


“Kurobuta Pork Belly.” Massively flavorful bacon chunk, with a spanish cheese infused turnip mouse and little carrots. Yum yum, heart stop heart stop.


Replacing the pork for the vegetarian was a pomegranate cous cous.


With a poured in broth.


“Philly Cheese Steak.” Air bread, cheddar, Wagyu beef. This is on the Bazaar menu, but it’s so damn good. The crispy bread is filled with liquid cheddar goodness.


“Hilly Cheese Steak.” Air bread, cheddar, mushrooms. The vegetarian version of above. Monkey man will get you!


For the dessert courses we ordered some classes of this fine cream sherry.


A very nice sherry, not quite as thick and syrupy as the PX by the same maker (which I love), but still very fine.


“Japanese Baby Peaches.” Burrata, hazelnuts, arugula.Really interesting. The peaches were so tart off the trees that they were soaked in simple syrup. Paired with the blobs of burrata (a favorite of mine), the nuts, and arugala it was pretty divine.


“Dragon’s breath popcorn.” The pre dessert. A gimmick, but neat.

Carmel corn “boiled” in liquid nitrogen.


Breath on a spoon.

It tastes like… carmel corn, but you can exhale it through your nose for a dragon-like effect.


Smaug, eat your scaly heart out.


They call this “saam buca.” It was apple balls with a nice soft creamy custard — good stuff.


“Chocolate rock.” A nitro frozen chocolate foam/mousse with some citrus foam. This was very reminiscent of the chocolate/cream pairings at  é by José Andrés and Jaleo.


Chamomile tea.


The usual Bazaar “sexy little sweets,” a number of flavored chocolates (flat and in domes) and very good pate de fruits. One of the great things about the brunch at Trés is that they have an all you can eat tower of containing all of these!


A little chocolate hazelnut cube and the menu as a “parting gift.”

Overall, Saam is a tremendous meal, even if not every dish is successful (geoduck!). Since I was at cousin restaurant é by José Andrés a week before I can do a head to head comparison. Saam was slightly disadvantaged by the fact that perhaps 40-50% of the dishes hadn’t changed from my previous visit (making them less novel). I’d say that the food at é is perhaps 5% better, really quite close. The format in Vegas is, however, more fun and intimate. Getting to witness the plating and creation of each and every dish is really interesting.

And the $180 for water was really offensive. I really should have taken the manager to task on it. The stuff costs less than a dollar a bottle in bulk. Pure profit center. Otherwise the meal is fairly reasonable given the extremely high level of production. And it is very very good.

For a previous Saam meal, click here.

For a meal and The Bazaar proper, click here.

Vegas with a Twist

Restaurant: Twist by Pierre Gagnaire

Location: 3752 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109. 888.881.9367

Date: September 23, 2011

Cuisine: Avant Garde French

Rating: Brilliant, Confusing, Tasty, Orthogonal

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Pierre Gagnaire is one of the elite crew of three-star Michelin chefs of a generation with Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon. And he’s the latest to venture forth into Las Vegas with an oddball new high end venture. Twist is mostly avant garde haute cuisine restaurant, with a little bit of a bent toward steakhouse? Maybe. Or at least he has a page of steaks and sides on the menu. I have to assume this is just Vegas pandering. We ignored it and went for a mega tasting.

Both the $7 million dollar build out (in the Mandarin Oriental) and the food itself is playful, intellectual, odd, and beautiful. Executive chef is of course, Pierre Gagnaire, with the onsite Chef de Cuisine being Pascal Sanchez.

In any case, the Foodie Club hit it with aplomb.


The distance cella of this culinary temple as seen from the approach.


The globes hanging above remind me of a non-magical Hogwarts cafeteria.


The bar. Notice the cracked egg wall decoration.


Echoed in the cover plates.


Tonights menu. We of course opted for the tasting. Seeing as six courses didn’t sound like enough (little did we know that most of the courses were in fact 3 or 4!) we threw in a foie gras supplement.


The wine list had some good offerings, but at the typical painful Vegas markups. We opted for a split of both the “classic” and “grand” wine pairings (depending on the person). One of our diners had a mostly vegetarian and fish menu, which the sommelier customized the classic pairing to.

So we open with a glass of classic champagne.


A series of amuses. Crispy lollipops filled with date purée and aged balsamic.


Chinese rice buns with carmelized onions, a bit of eel, and caviar.


Poquito pepper sauce. You just extract the little bread sticks and eat. Not so far off from a Spanish Romesco.


Gorgonzola and fig lollipops. Yum!


These were really good. Goat cheese and something. Sorry again!


Then to clear the palette, gelled anise. Like liqourish jello!

Overall, the amuses were very successful.


The bread was fantastic. From the crispy baguette (front left) to the amazing walnut raison bread in the back. The front right is a multigrain. Butter (not shown) was imported from Normandy.


A rose to go with the this first course.


These next three dishes together form the “twisted bouillabaisse.” This one is “Veloute of Cauliflower, ice cream of artichoke and olive oil.”


“Fish and saffron cocktail.” Red mullet, snapper, and sea bream rest in a gel of bouillabaisse! Had curious similarities to the bouillabaisse milkshake at Ludobites 7.0.


“Marmalade of red pepper, fennel confit and candied garlic.” This stands in for the traditional garlic toast.


Parker 90-91. “If Pascal Cotat’s 2009 Mont Damnes is not the place to look for sheer refreshment, that caution applies in spades to his 2009 Sancerre La Grande Cote, which pushes 15% alcohol and displays virtually inevitable finishing warmth as well as opulence. Musk melon, Persian melon, and passion fruit are wreathed in elder flower and narcissus. A sense of chalky underpinnings emerges on the wine’s silken, lushly-fruited palate. I would plan on enjoying this over the next 2-3 years and if I held any for longer would be vigilant.”


“Scallop & langoustine. scallops cerviche, mimosa langoustines, jerusalem artichokes gelée, celeriac & horseradish cream.” Like many of Twist’s dishes, very intellectual. The bottom is an artichoke gelée. The scallops like sashimi, but the real winner was the langoustine potato salad like stuff on top.


Yet another while to pair with this next dish.


“Kombawa Cod cake.”


“Bloody Mary Sorbet, ratatouille bavaroise.”


“Vegetable Gnocchi.”


With a spinach sauce.


Another rose.


This series forms the “surf ‘n turf” motif. This is “fanny bay oyster, scented with coconut milk and seasoned ginger, sapporo foam.”


“Nabrasaka Prime Beef Carpaccio, florida clam salad, shaved foie gras.”


“Chestnut soup, razor clams, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized hazelnuts.”


The soup being added.


And in its final form. This was the most successful of the trio.


A very fine medium sweet 2009 Riesling.


“Tomato and fig tart.” Lovely buttery pastry.


This being a “californian duck foie gras trio.” “foie gras terrine, rum glazed, served on summer fruits chutney with banana tartlet.” Certainly an excellent expression of solid strait up foe.


“Shaved foie gras, black currant sorbet, mustard seasoning.”


“Foe Gras Parfait, toasted sesame, red port syrup and diced duck breast.” By far the best of the trio, this was pretty amazing.


Parker 91. This highly unusual Italian white tasted like cloves! “The 2007 Cervaro della Sala (Chardonnay, Grechetto) is an especially fat, juicy version of this wine, with generous ripe fruit and a soft-textured personality. The oak is still rather prominent and the wine needs at least another year of bottle age, although it will always remain a very ripe, opulent, yet beautifully balanced Cervaro. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2015.”

Alaskan halibut. Shown table-side before plating.


“Alaska Halibut. Grilled halibut, smoked in the cast-iron cocotte, chicory fondue, fennel and Orange.”


With a beure blanc sauce.


And finished. A nice dish. A slight charcoal smokey flavor to the fish and the interesting fennel, orange, butter pairings.


The sommelier/wine director (Julie Lin) preps a bottle.


The next wine.


The Intermezzo. “Sorbet of red wine-pear, onion cream with roquefort, grated yukon turnip scented with walnut oil.” This wasn’t an entirely successful pairing. I like roquefort but it came on very heavy handed against the refreshing red wine sorbet.


Working the crazy decanter.


A chardonnay for the loup de mer.


“Brittany Loup de mer. Slices of loup de mer a la meuniere with green pepper. Shiso leaves & oyster plant, sauce champs-elysee.” No small amount of fish here!


“Carmelized shallot agnolotti with grapefruit juice.”


Two reds. Sant’Antimo Summus is a French-oak aged blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. It is a rich, weighty wine with a soft-textured expression of fruit, excellent length and fine tannins.


A blend of 25% Garnacha, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 15% Carinena, and 10% Syrah and aged for 12 months in seasoned French and American oak. Dark ruby-colored, it has an attractive perfume of cedar, red and black currants, black cherry, spice box, and mineral. In a relatively lean style for Priorat, this medium to full-bodied wine has some elegance as well as good depth and length.


Don’t stab me with the decanter!


“Wisconsin veal crepinette. Tenderloin Crepinette, pumpkin & shallot Gratin and Osso-Bucco Jus.”


“Fritto-Miso of Zucchini & Eggplant, San Daniele Ham.”


A trio of sticky yummy dessert wines.


In the glass. The right most like a medium sherry. The middle slightly carbonated and sweet, the leftmost botrytis (moldy grapes).


“Plums, Caramelized Plums, red currant gelée, Brandy Ice cream.” Like brandied cherries and cream.


“Amelie, green tea opaline, lemongrass ganache, glace royale citron.” Fantastic!


“Apple Royale, Cinnamon Gala Apples, Green apple-lime Granite, Cinnamon syrup.” Tasted like apples and cinnamon. Refreshing.


“Biscuit Chocolate Rue Balzac, chocolate glaze, banana-lime coulis, mojito sorbet.”


“Roma, parmesan sable, ginger confit, mascarpone cream, fresh figs, pisachios.” Vaguely sicilian in vibe.


Petite fours. A fruit thing front. A little macaron middle, and a chocolate square with pistachio cream in the back (my favorite).


Whacky stylings.

Butterfly bizarre.

The shofar decanter.

I have to agree with my colleague Kevin (his review of twist here) when he says that this cuisine is “unconventional, surprising, jarring even, with some truly unique combinations of tastes, textures, temperatures, and ingredients.” There were some “out there” dishes here, and I was a bit at a loss as to how the entire meal, and even individual dishes, or pairings or trios of dishes, fit together. But many tasted great, and even the ones that were confusing were highly interesting. Not everything work perfectly, but yet at the same time didn’t seem to suffer from an inferior palette. This is highly intellectual food, best perhaps compared to avant garde art that you enjoy, but don’t quite understand.

Service and presentation was top top top notch here. Everyone was very accommodating and skilled. It’s rare in the states to get this level of service. The wine pairings were superlative and interesting.

For more Food Club extravaganzas.

Beverly Hills Hotel – Polo Lounge

Restaurant: Polo Lounge

Location: 9641 Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills, California 90210. 310-276-2251

Date: September 10, 2011

Cuisine: American

Rating: Good but pricey

_

My wife and I were married (10 years ago) at the Beverly Hills Hotel so it’s a tradition of ours to go back there once a year. We usually wander around and then eat at the Polo Lounge (even though the lounge itself had no part in the wedding, which was in the Crystal Ballroom).


This is an old school and iconic spot in Hollywood history. The hotel is still gorgeous too, having been heavily renovated by hot black oil cash from the Sultan of Brunei.


The patio.


Old school Hollywood style in the dining room.


And the bar.


The current lunch menu. Brunch is available only on Sunday.


What would a visit to the Polo Lounge be without a cocktail, in this case a mimosa.


They also have good bread. Same exact basket (basically) was served at our wedding LOL.


I’ve totally been on a gazpacho kick recently (made it at home here). This is “golden tomato gazpacho, garlic crostini, basil pepper relish.” Despite the yellow color it tasted classic. Very nice smooth refreshing summer texture and flavor.


Pizza margarita.”


Salmon burger, tomato salad, cucumber & yogurt, dill bun.”


The usual condiments, but stylishly presented.


“Lobster cobb salad, gem lettuce, tomato, bacon, avocado, quail’s egg, tarragon.” Pretty much a great cobb, the only thing to complain about being the price. The juicy bacon cubes sold it.


Cappuccino to combat the coma.

Overall, the Polo Lounge has great lunch/brunch food in a stylish setting. Really the only disadvantage is the price, which is pretty punitive. But this is pretty much the usual high end hotel tax — making it a special occasion kind of thing.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Osteria Latini 3

Restaurant: Osteria Latini [1, 2, 3]

Location: 11712 San Vicente Blvd.Brentwood, CA 90049 310.826.9222

Date: August 20, 2010

Cuisine: Italian

Rating: Excellent neighborhood Italian

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We have a regular rotation of neighborhood Italians. There are so many of them, but only a few make the cut as genuinely good. Osteria Latini is one of them. You can see my previous reviews here and here.


Olive and chickpea/squash/bean pastes.


The 1997 Biondi-Santi Brunello. This is a solid Brunello I had bought years ago in Italy (probably in 2000). It probably scores somewhere in the low 90s, maybe 91 or 92 points.


A special, lobster bisque.


“BELLA SALAD. Arrugola, pears, dry cherries, goat cheese, shaved parmesan.”


A special, calimari steak stuffed with lump crabmeat and drizzled in ponzu sauce. This is unusual, and certainly has a bit of fusion about it — but it’s good.


Gnocchi genovese (in classic basil pesto).


“ACQUERELLO RISOTTO. Organic carnaroli, sea urchin, truffle scent, lemon zest (Please allow 20 Minutes).” A very nice subtle sea urchin risotto. This special hand shaved rice takes 20-30 minutes to cook.


OSSOBUCO ALLA MILANESE. With saffron risotto.” Latini’s version of the classic dish. Certainly good with a very nice meaty bone. The risotto could have been perhaps a tad creamier.

Two “rounds” of freebee desserts. This mixture of prosecco, lemon sorbetto, and meringue is very refreshing.


Chocolate chip cookies and biscotti.

Osteria Latini is always reliable. They have a big menu of modern Italian favorites and pretty much everything is very good.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Or for a legion of great eating in Italy itself, here.

Food as Art: Ludobites 7.0

Restaurant: Ludobites 7.0 [1, 2]

Location: 227 East 9th St, Los Angeles, 90015

Date: August 31, 2011

Cuisine: Eclectic Modern

Rating: Very interesting (& tasty) array of flavors.

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Last year my friends and I very much enjoyed Ludobites 6.0 (review here), one of LA’s most notable “popup” restaurants. So some of us Foodie Club members camped out on OpenTable.com to score ourselves a large party reservation. It took five of us hammering independently on the computer to get one in the approximately 70 seconds the entire run booked up. And it was nearly a month in. But score we did.


The walls are festooned with Ludo’s amusing cock & swine logo.


This year Ludobites is back at Gram & Papas. I guess they do it here because the restaurant doesn’t itself serve dinner. The space is small and casual.


One of the big advantages is that G&Ps does NOT have a liquor license. This means that my special BYOBgrape juice” was corkage free. Good think I brought a cork screw.

Very nice Burg from my cellar. Parker 93. “I loved the sweet cassis aromas of the 2002 Echezeaux as well as its powerful, intense, syrupy personality. Medium to full-bodied and gorgeously ripe, it bastes the palate with thick black fruit flavors. In addition, this wine reveals great depth and a lengthy, fruit-packed finish. Projected maturity: 2007-2017.”


Le Menu. With eight people we ordered two of EVERY dish. Worked out just about right. There was a small issue of our sole vegetarian. Not a single dish on the menu is actually free of meat, and our request initially phased the kitchen. But they recovered quickly and offered to make veggie variants of a number of dishes which worked out excellently.


“Lavender Ginger Lemonade.” Non-alcoholic. I liked the strong ginger kick, but the lemonade was too sweet and not sour enough. I like my lemonade painfully sour and strong.


“Bouillabaise Milk Shake.” This tastes exactly like it sounds. Like a fish milkshake. Basically the same flavor profile as real Bouillabaise, but with milk. I can’t say it was my favorite dish. Probably least or second to least.


“Choucroute Tart Flambe.” This “tart” is really a pizza or flatbread. But it was fantastic. The ham/bacon on top was great, as was the cheesy creme fraiche and onion thing going on.


They also made us a vegetarian version which was very good.

Neiman Cabernet “Caldwell Vineyard” 2000. Parker doesn’t rate this, but it’s a top top notch cabernet, probably 94 points or so. The years and a lack of over oaking left it very smooth. I picked up this wine at the Redd Collection, a cool new tasting/wine dealer I met at the Food Club Ultimo Wine Dinner.


The chicken wings (below) came with surgical gloves to keep the hands clean!


“Burgundy Fried Chicken.” The real burgundy was finished, but the wings were very very tasty. Succulent and perfectly cooked with a sweet BBQ style sauce.


The remnants!


This is a custom vegetarian salad they made up.


“Squid, Black Ash, Chorizo.” The squid was nice and tender, and the orange “chorizo” sauce around the edge really tasty. I’m not sure I was super keen on the ash texture, but it was certainly a decent dish.


This spectacular Brunello (the 2006 il Cocco) is totally unavailable in America. I got it at the vineyard from the owner on my mega Italy 2011 trip. He makes 7,000 bottles of wine a year, perhaps 3,000 of Brunello, and does 100% of the work (fields and cellar) himself! Probably a 94-95 point wine.


Prawn ceviche, Aji Amarillo, Red Berries. This reminded me of a Red Medicine type dish. It had very interesting and strong flavors, with a lot of vinegar/lime.


“Salt Cod Panna Cotta, Whipped Fingerling Potato, Smoked Tapioca, Black Olive Bread.” This was an interesting dish. The cod itself was not dominant at all. It mostly seemed like a panna cotta, or even like one of those Japanese seafood egg custards like I got here at Takao (about a third of the way down). I liked the little tapioca balls too, and the bread added some nice texture, just needed a little more cod flavor.


“Oxtail Beef, Rainbow Carrots, Shallots, Green Salad.” This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The beef was just amazing. And rest went really well too.


“Foe Gras, Corn and Coconuts.” Amazing and interesting dish. Another favorite of the evening. The foie was foie — and nothing wrong with that — but the corn coconut soup was awesome with it. Sweet like a corn soup, with the crunchy texture of popcorn, and with this coconut curry / lemongrass vibe on top. Wow!


My wife even got a vegetarian version, without the foie, which really was almost as good (good as the foie was).


“Pigs Head Compressed and Mimolette, Barbeque Gelee.” This sounds awful, but tasted just okay. Flavor wise thought it just tasted like some kind of meat sandwich with a really tangy mayo. The sweet sauce helped a bit. One of my other lessor dishes of the evening.


“Egg, Sea Urchin, Caviar, Champagne Beurre Blanc.” Really tasted a lot like scrambled eggs and caviar. Which was pretty darn good. The Uni (sea urchin) was present, but subtle. I could have done with more. But the egg and caviar thing is really good together, so I enjoyed it a lot.


This is no Uni version. The egg tasted stronger and saltier without the sweetness of the Uni, but it was still a very good dish.


“Plancha Tandoori Octopus, Yogurt, Cauliflower, Grapefruit.” The octopus itself was very tender with a nice tandoori flavor. The cauliflower texture was really interesting. I think the yogurt could have had more punch, or more of it, but still a nice dish.


“Duck, Cherry, Spicy Saucisse, Beets, Radish.” There are two meats in here. A sausage (which was really yummy) and a very nice rare duck breast. Both were excellent with the cherry sauce. The beet/radish thing seemed a little orthogonal, but it didn’t stop this from being terrific.


“Lamb cooked in fat Moroccan style Artichoke, Mint.” There was some serious fat on this lamb. Serious fat. But it tasted damn good with the cooked dates. That was the whole key to this dish for me, tender lamb with a sweet sauce.


The peeps, midway somewhere.


The meal took awhile and so we could have used an extra bottle of wine, but i only brought four. This dessert Riesling, the every reliable, Parker 97! “White peach preserves, luscious Persian melon, fresh red raspberry, cooling lime, green tea, iris and gentian are all projected on the nose of Donnhoff’s 2009 Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Spatlese, then take on a fleshy, silken, yet svelte form that combines infectious juiciness, invigorating salinity, uncanny buoyancy, and vibratory interactive complexity, leaving my tongue tingling and my head buzzing. The depth of savor here is such that to speak of nut oils or of shrimp or lobster shell reduction merely points in the correct, otherwise ineffable general direction. “Creamy, dreamy, transparent” were the last words I could pronounce in the presence of this natural wonder that will certainly be capable of spreading joy for at least the next quarter century. “There was a tiny bit of perfectly dry botrytis here,” notes Donnhoff, “and to get much over 90 Oechsle you usually need that.” Needless to say, its presence has in no way precluded the utmost purity of fruit, clarity, or subtly electrical energy of which Riesling is capable in this amazing site. “I-m warning you, they’re not necessarily better,” said Helmut Donnhoff with a grin when serving me his two 2009 vintage Auslesen.”


Now our whacky “cheese course” the “Pick-Up Stick Cantal Cheese, Curry White Chocolate.” The cheese almost tasted like slivered apple.


“Lavendar Tropezienne Tart, Aloe Vera, Lychee.” This wonderful pastry reminded me of a giant lavender Macaron. I love certain kinds of exotic herbaceous flavors like rosewater and lavender and I love custard.


“Chocolate Cake, Chipotle Ice Cream, Orange.” Wow! This was a 10/10 dessert (and the lavender was like a 9/10!). The chocolate slab was great, you can tell just by looking at it, but that ice cream. It tasted like bacon! Really. The combo was incredible, and a bit spicy.


“Pistachio Brown Butter Cake, Marcaspone, Red Berries.” This was the weakest of the three desserts, but it was still very good, with a nice pistachio flavor. The Marcaspone could have used a little more kick or sweetness.

Overall, maybe it was a good thing coming into Ludobites 7.0 after a couple of weeks. Things were really on point with the food. Service, which very pleasant, really isn’t up to the food standards. There is no slick Michelin 2 (or 3) star type management of the table like at a place like Melisse, but the attitude was fine and there were no problems. Water service was sluggish and we had to self pour our “grape juice” into water glass type glasses. But actually I don’t mind self pour or opening my own wines. I could have used some more water :-)

But the food was really standout. A large variety of very creative dishes, and some were fantastic, particularly the desserts. So bravo.

Click here for a review of last year’s Ludobites 6.0.

The Food Club extravaganzas.

Or all LA dining reviews.


Me, with the big macro-lens-and-flash rig.


Mirella gets her crazy on.


Swag! (not that I bought any)

Trés – Brunché Fantastique

Restaurant: Trés [1, 2]

Location: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.246.5555

Date: July 31, 2011

Cuisine: Modern Brunch

Rating: Fantastique

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I follow José Andrés on twitter, and I was reading (and crying) about the final meal at elBulli, so when the restaurant selection for brunch with friends came up, the SLS came to mind.


Enter the whacky world of Trés at the SLS.


Inside is the same kind of bizarre Philippe Starck space as at Bazaar. High tables on one side.


Comfortable lounging on the other.

The brunch menu is here. There are buffet, ala carte, and “experience” options. We went for the experience which is the buffet + an entree + a mimosa for only $10 more (the mimosa alone is $16).


The buffet is endless, but i’ll begin with breads and pastries.


And more.


And condiments for such.


And the table des fruits.


Melons.


Various fruit juice “waters.” These are lighter than regular juice. There were about six exotic types.


If you are so inclined, you can add them to these glasses of fruit for a blend of fruit and juice.


And these spectacular yogurts with fruit.


Cereal if you are boring.


The the vege station. Prep glasses for gazpacho.


A zoom of one. You add the gazpacho yourself, and there are other condiments.


The gazpacho.


Salad plates and condiments.


Pull back for the big picture.


Then the meat and cheese station.


Pig, pig, and more pig. Hams and salamis.


Jamon del Iberico!


Some more fruits.


Spanish cheeses.


And more.


And rolls and condiments. To the rights are jams and butters.


Inside are mini steam buns (more on that later).


Amazing smoked salmon and caviars and accompaniments.


Creme fraiche, chives, onions, quail eggs, two types of caviar (including the real stuff).


The salmon was amazing.


And roast beef.


Then some desserts.


And more.

And an extensive assortment of petite fours from the pasticerie. Passion fruit pate des fruits on top, bon bons, cookies.


Our meals came with mimosas. This is the classic. The alcohol is cava (Spanish champagne).


Or the even yummier grapefruit mimosa.


A close up of a bit of caesar salad. Very tasty.


The gazpacho was amazing. Just totally amazing. I had three helpings as did several others.


A plate of goodies. You can see the caviars (and meats).


I made a couple of these custom steam buns. Wow!


Fried potatoes.


An omelet with mushrooms and zucchini blossoms.


360 degree eggs, toasted brioche, hollandaise air, and Jamon Serrano. This was one of the better eggs benedict I’ve had — and I’ve had a lot.


The salmon version.


Grilled cheese.


Fries — always yummy.


This Greek yogurt with fruit (this one had apricots) were so incredibly delicious! Sweet though.


Then some desserts, which are more or less highlights of the Bazaar’s desserts. These are mango and cream.


“Hot chocolate mouse, three layers,” mini version.


Classic Spanish flan.


Some of the whacky decorations.


more

and more.


Even the bar nuts are cool.


And this crazy zesty lemonade, which served nicely as an aperitif.

Overall this was a fantastic brunch. Different than your typical one, but fantastique for sure. It holds up in every way to the quality level of the various José Andrés offerings at the SLS!

Click here to see more LA dining, or reviews of The Bazaar and Saam (also at the SLS).


The entrance again, behind us is the parking zoo. And it’s a serious zoo.

Also check out a lunch meal here.