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.

No Beef with Mastro’s

Restaurant: Mastro’s

Location: 246 North Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, Ca 90210. 310-888-8782

Date: September 17, 2011

Cuisine: Steak House

Rating: My favorite LA Steak joint

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America is full of steak houses at every level from Sizzler to Cut. But I haven’t found one that I like as much as Mastro’s. Granted I’m not a plain steak fan (I prefer my beef more like this, or tartar, or even Fogo). But Mastro’s gets the steak house think right.

The Cannon drive entrance, just a block north of Spago. Inside the place is a ZOO. Sure this was Saturday, 8:30pm on Emmy weekend in Beverly Hills. But this huge restaurant was packed to the gills, including both bars. These are a sure scene. It’s hard to tell the merely underdressed and over siliconed ladies from the pros.

Our table was right in front of the rat pack. It was much more crowded than in this photo.

The PDF of the menu can be found here.


We were celebrating the engagement of one of my oldest friends so I brought some big guns from my cellar. This wine was the first truly GREAT wine I ever bought (circa 1996). This is the second to last of two cases I once had. It has constantly and without fail scored 100 points from Robert Parker. You will find no better expression of Syrah.

“The 1991 Hermitage La Pavillon follows the pattern of the 1989 and 1990 – it is another perfect wine. The saturated black/purple color is followed by a compelling bouquet of spices, roasted meats, and black and red fruits. Enormously concentrated yet with brilliant focus and delineation to its awesomely-endowed personality, this extraordinary wine should age effortlessly for three plus decades. In a short period of time (Michel’s first vintage was 1989) Chapoutier‘s Hermitage Le Pavillon has become a wine of mythical proportions. Produced from extremely old vines, some dating from the mid nineteenth century, with yields averaging under 15 hectoliters per hectare, this is the richest, most concentrated and profound wine made in Hermitage. There are rarely more than 500 cases.”


Everything at Mastro’s is well done, and that includes the bread. I’m partial to the pretzel rolls myself.


Five of us ordered the seafood tower. The quality of the seafood here is impeccable and the only thing we had to complain about was that there wasn’t enough! Really for five we would have expected the two or three story version 🙂 Still there were amazing shrimp, lobsters, claws, king crab (didn’t taste frozen), and oysters.


One of the things that really makes the Mastro’s seafood tower are the sauces. We have cocktail, a spicy mustard, and the Atomic Horseradish. They use this particular magic brand (you can buy it here). The stuff is — pardon my French — fucking awesomely potent. I’ve taken to buying it myself for home. No other horseradish is this punishing. It has a nice flavor too. I particularly like it mixed in with the cocktail sauce. It can have you literally pounding the table in pain — ahem pleasure.


Beefsteak tomato and mozzarella. With pesto.


Since both I and my newly engaged friend were born in 1970, I grabbed from the cellar this puppy. Parker gives it a mere 95 points. Sure it isn’t quite the 1991 Le Pavillion, but it gets extra credit for age. “The 1970 Palmer is one of the great wines of the vintage. It exhibits a dark, opaque garnet color, and an emerging, fabulously complex, exotic nose of licorice, over-ripe plums and blackcurrants, soy, cedar, and minerals. Rich and concentrated, with medium to full body, a sweet inner-core of fruit, firm but silky tannin, and a long, rich finish, this remains a youthful, potentially superb Palmer. While approachable, it will keep through the first 10-15 years of the next century.


Here comes the beef!

Like most steak houses Mastro’s serves up the entrees bare (all the better to extract more cash from you). This is the New York Strip.


The bone in filet (12 ounce). This is my favorite cut of steak. It has both the filet tenderness and some extra flavor from the bone.


The straight petite (8 ounce) filet.


And the bone in filet, oscar style. Yes this was mine. Like King Robert, I’m trying to eat and drink my way to an early grave. “Oscar Style” means that it’s topped with asparagus, crab cakes and bearnaise sauce. Bearnaise sauce (French: Sauce béarnaise) is a sauce of clarified butter and egg yolks flavored with tarragon and shallots, with chervil and tarragon simmered in vinegar to make a reduction. Lean and mean baby!


Salmon steak. Looking lonely.


But it need not fear, the sides are here!

This is “Gorgonzola mac & cheese!” Oh so light, oh so yummy.


And even better, the evil “king crab truffle gnocchi.” Yes that’s right. Cream, cheese, truffles, crab, potato. What could be better?

In case you don’t get the idea, you have to see it up close. Oh so good.


Then the light “lobster mashers.” That orange stuff, that’s butter.


And for those not seeking an instant heart attack, the “sauteed spinach” (cooked in butter).


We continue to suffer on the wine front as well with this third gem 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.”


So now we get to the desserts. This is “Mastro’s signature warm butter cake ala mode.” Basically a pound cake with an extra four sticks of butter or something. It’s really sweet and really good. Goes well with the magic whipped cream (see below).


Because of the incredible whipped cream here, we ordered up some fresh strawberries. Combine with below.

The photo is a little blown out, but Mastro’s has the most incredible whipped cream. You can just chow down on it my itself. Made fresh with really good cream and LOTS of sugar.


I couldn’t resist their key lime pie either. I LOVE key lime pie and they make a real good one. Plus it goes really well with the whipped cream.

Overall Mastro’s, while a zoo, and very expensive, is a spectacular steak house experience. You can really feel your heart palpitating as you roll out of here!

For more LA dining reviews click here.


The wines lined up in my cellar. I even brought a bottle of 1996 Dom P that I didn’t even open (not enough Champagne fans at the table). Another night.

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

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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.

More Drago – Via Alloro

Restaurant: Via Alloro

Location: 301 N. Canon Drive – Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Phone: 310.275.2900

Date: August 5, 2011

Cuisine: Italian

Rating: Very nice

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The Drago brothers have an ever expanding little empire going in Beverly Hills. This includes Il Pastaio, Enoteco Drago,  Piccolo Paradiso, and Il Buco. Plus several others on the westside, the valley, downtown etc. I’ve reviewed Celestino Drago’s flagship Drago and I’ve been to most, all are very good.


Via Alloro is new, managed by brothers Giacomino and Tanino, and only two blocks from Il Pastaio. We decided to grab a quick lunch there and check it out.


Lots of good choices on this menu. The PDF.


Excellent bread as at all Drago restaurants.


A slightly different take on fried zucchini flowers. Stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella. Then served over a light tomato sauce.


“Vitello Tonnao. Chillded veal in tuna sauce, with parmesan and capers.” This was damn good, with the very tasty zesty salty sauce really bringing out the flavor of the meat.


Lots of great pastas here — no surprise. “Homemade ravioli filled with sweet corn, served with truffle fondue.” Hard to beat that.


And “Saliccie al forno. baked sausage with mama Drago’s stew.” This is a very Southern Italian dish and I have to say it’s the best Italian sausage I’ve even had. Incredibly succulent, with fennel, and a very bright and zesty “gravy.”


Expresso to recover!

Off to a great start on the latest BH Drago Italian. I’ll have to come back for a more extensive dinner.

Click here to see Eating Italy posts.

Or for more LA Restaurants.

Sushi Sushi – Small Omakase

Restaurant: Sushi Sushi [12, 3, 4]

Location: 326 1/2 Beverly Dr. Beverly Hills, CA 90212. (310) 277-1165

Date: May 10, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese Sushi

Rating: Old school sushi – fantastic fish and presentation!

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I had the sushi craving and went back again to my new favorite sushi place, Sushi Sushi. Since I have previous tried ala carte, the medium omakase and the giant omakase, I figured I’d give the small omakase a try for completeness. Here is the pictorial record.


We begin with a lovely little sashimi plate. Two items instead of three with the bigger omakases.


Spanish mackerel.


And a slightly different variation on the plate.


Seared bonito, with miso vinagrete (common to both plates). This was delicous, melt in your mouth. I enjoy the extra textural components of the various garnishes too.


Santa Barbara uni (sea urchin). It tops a pile of squid bits and includes pickles and wasabi. The combo is delicious, and all texture.


The rounds of regular sushi begins. Note that all the sushi here has been pre-applied with sauce, even when it’s just soy sauce. This red yummy is maguro (Blue fin tuna). This is some of the best tuna I’ve ever had, totally melts in the mouth.


Tai (Red Snapper), with a ponzu and shavings of the yuzu. This is a lighter fish, but I’m very partial to it.


O-toro, the top grade fatty toro. It melted in the mouse like butter. Always one of my (and everyone else’s) favorites.


“Buri yellowtail.” A special high end type of Hamachi.


This was a piece of scottish salmon. One of the best pieces of salmon I’ve ever had. Incredible!


Aji (Spanish Mackerel) on the left, with only the very slightest bit of fishy. Again, a great mackerel. Shimaji mackerel on the right.


On the left Ebi (sweet shrimp) and on the right Japanese scallop. Both wonderful.


Ikura (salmon roe). Perfectly fresh, with just the slightest hint of brine (good). Wonderfully taught, they explode in the mouth like little brine balls.


They say you should judge a sushi chef by his tamago (sweet omelet). By those standards Sushi Sushi rules.


Diced Toro handroll. This shiso leaf and shaved yuzu inside, which added texture, tang, and the exotic and wonderful flavor of the leaf.


Unagi (Fresh water eel). BBQ, with the sweet eel sauce. This was some damn fine eel, as good a piece as I’ve had.


Shirasu. Dried anchovies with plum and shiso. Very interesting and different tasty. Salty and sour.


These last two handrolls were extra, and not included in the Omakase. This one is Mentaiko, cpicy cod fish egg. This is a big slab of cod row, very salty and fishy.

King crab handroll, more approachable than the previous two.

After this extensive survey at Sushi Sushi, trying all three omakases, I’ve concluded that the medium one is the best deal hands down. It is only $15 more than this small one, and has numerous extra dishes. The grand one, while better than the medium (bigger) is only very very slightly different.

Check out more LA Sushi reviews here.

Matsuhisa – The Private Room

Restaurant: Matsuhisa [1, 2]

Location: 129 N La Cienega Blvd Beverly Hills, CA 90211. (310) 659-9639

Date: May 6, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese Fusion

Rating: As good as it’s always been!

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Some good friends were in town who had never tried Nobu Matsuhisa‘s particular blend of Japanese Peruvian Fusion. As popular as this has become in the last fifteen years, and how every derivative restaurant in America throws a few of his dishes on the menu, the original still rocks. I also scored a Friday night reservation in the coveted and private “Omakase only room,” where his cooking is showcased to the best effect.


The original storefront.


This aged 1st Cru white burgundy from my cellar was the very expression of mature chardonay.

As you can see from the color. This wine is ready, more than ready, as it might have been a tad better two years ago. Still it had a wonderful floral perfume to it.


The private room seats eight, and has it’s own sushi bar and kitchen.


“Seafood springroll with heirloom tomato and caviar.” This is the only repeat of the night, a Matsuhisa classic.Fry is always good, but it’s actually the combination with the spicy tomato chutney/salsa that really sells the dish.

One of the private kitchen chefs working on the appetizers.


Grilling up some conch!


Different members of our party got slightly different versions of this quartet of amuses.


“Seared salmon, new style.” That is with sesame, ponzu, and warm olive oil.


Kanpachi (young yellowtail) with a bit of red peper and ponzu on a radish.


Red snapper carpaccio, with chives, garlic, and vinegar.


A second version of the plate.


Lobster cerviche.


Tai (red snapper) sashimi, new style.


Yellowtail collar marinated in miso (a Nobu classic), baked, and then served with a bit of garlic and texture on letuce. You wrap it up and eat it like a soft taco.


Japanese baby conch, sauteed in garlic butter (escargot style).


The creepy crawly himself. Chewy and a little bitter, in a good way.


Burgundy goes very well with the Matsuhisa flavor profiles. The first time I ever went here, in 1996, I brought a Gros Frere Clos Vougeot. This 2005, Parker gives a 92. “The 2005 Clos Vougeot from Drouhin’s two parcels in that famous cru, is much more earthy and less fine-grained than the majority of their wines from this vintage, but it exhibits impressive concentration. A bone meal-like meld of mineral and meat dominates the nose and suffuses the palate along with black raspberry, plum and cherry fruit accepted by faintly bitter fruit pit notes. This is quite full and rich, but without being heavy; overtly tannic and chewy, but without being coarse. A promising more tart than sweet juiciness of black fruit mingles with roasted meat and stony, chalky minerality in the finish.”


Sashimi salad, with yellowtail, seared blue fin tuna, various dressings, and hearts of palm.


Par boiled Santa Barbara prawn with a tiny bit of salad (including hearts of palm). This was really yummy, even better than the cooked version we had last time. The meat is very sweet and succulent, delicious warm but essentially raw.


Sea bass on a bed of mushroom “risotto” with white truffles. The little spears are pickled ginger shoots.


“Fois gras, seabass, mushrooms, in a very rich reduction sauce.” Very meaty and tasty, the sauce was a pretty awesome blend of all three contributors of yum: salt, sweet, and fatty. The little red fruit is a pickled leeche.


Another very nice, red burgundy, this one (unlike the others) from the restaurant’s list. We drank more than I thought. 🙂


Grilled Toro, with enoki, aspargus, and other mushrooms.


American Kobe Beef with asparagus, garlic, and a spicy sauce and mustard. Really yummy (and rich) dish.

Each person gets a little sushi plate, there were a couple variants, this one has no shellfish.


A version where everything is cooked.


The “normal” plate for those who eat everything.


Chu-toro (medium tuna belly). Perfect!


Kanpachi (young yellowtail). Like butter.


Orange giant clam.


Uni (sea urchin).


Anago (sea eel), in the classic sweet BBQ sauce.


The pretty laquer soup container.


Inside is snapper soup. I haven’t had this one before, although it’s a classic mild Japanese fish broth with cilantro and scallions. The fish is soft mellow whitefish in this context.


My brother got a special surprise, the eye. The chef’s convinced him to try it. “Good for the sinews and joints.”


Taco (octopus). Very tender.


Japanese Sea Scallop sushi, with a bit of yuzu. Always one of my favorite sushis, and this didn’t disappoint.


Kohada (gizzard shard).


Baby squid, battleship style. They’re raw, but tossed in a kind of sweet miso-lemon dressing. Really tasty.


And we finally make it to desserts. Fruit tart with ginger ice cream. This was a total fan fave with the ladies.


Green tea tiramisu with chocolate gelato. Both were good, with the pastry having a nice creaminess and the ice cream a deep richness.


Butterscotch cream brulee with a citrus ice cream. Also really nice and creamy.


Coffee ice cream with chocolate crunch. This was great too, probably my favorite. The crunch added a really nice texture.


Shave ice. Below are a couple balls of vanilla ice cream (very good vanilla ice cream), red bean sauce, and very finely shaved ice.


Then green tea sauce (or maybe just tea) is poured over it. In the end, a very interesting (and Asian) mix of flavors and textures.


Even the urinal is cool.


The main room.


The chefs at work back in our private room/kitchen.

This was probably the best meal I’ve ever had at Matsuhisa, and I’ve had a LOT of great ones. Because I’m jaded now, and used to the cuisine, it wasn’t utterly mind blowing innovative like the first time I ever ate here. But the cooking is as good here as it ever was. Nobu (and his sucessor cooks) still really know their stuff.

For a previous meal at Matsuhisa, see here.

Fogo de Chao – Beef!

Restaurant: Fogo de Chao

Location:  133 North La Cienega Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90211-2206  (310) 289-7755

Date: April 21, 2011

Cuisine: Brazilian Grilled Meats

Rating: Meat meat meat!

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I’m not normally a big fan of chains, but Fogo is one that works for me. It took the formula found is various independant Churrasquero restaurants and made it into a solid reliable festival of meat. And at lunch it offers tremendous value, particularly in comparison to a typical good American steak house. In case you’ve been living under a rock, this is a style of Brazilian BBQ where skewered meats are pulled fresh off the fire and carved at the table.


The fully carnivorous menu of meats. Fogo only offers two dining options. Salad bar, or salad bar + meat. Both are all you can eat.


The salad bar is extensive enough by itself, offering not only some token vegtables but a range of cheeses and cured meats.


Potato salad type salads.

Bacon!


Regular salad.


Dressings.

Cured meats and cheeses.


A giant full drum of real parmesan.


More salad.


I go sparingly in this department because I’m really here for the seared flesh.


The way things work at this kind of Brazilian BBQ is that the servers bring by the skewers of up to 15 different meats and cave them onto your plate. Fogo’s innovation here — and believe me it is a solid innovation — is this magic disk. Each person has one and you can flip it over. Above is the stop side.


And the go side. They key here is that you can control the awesome flow of meat onto your plate. Before the disk invention, you either got barraged or you were forgotten. Now, if you need a fifteen minute breather, no problem. Go red, then back again!


Beef sirloin. Delicious pure beef.

Prime rib eye. Fatty goodness! Actually, a bit too fatty for my taste, but many love it.


Chicken legs and pork sausages. They manage to make even chicken taste great, and the sausages are rich, hearty and delectable.


Here is all that, plus some pork rib, loaded on the plate. The rib on top, chicken and sausages on the left, sirloin on the bottom, the ultra fatty prime rib in the middle.


The pork BBQ ribs. This is one of my favorites.


Watch that soft piggy cut!


Filet minion. Lean and tender.


The garlic sirloin. This had an awesomely intense garlic beefyness to it.


Garlic sirloin on the left, filet on the right.


Lamb chops.


On the plate. Super tasty and tender. Sizzling hot.

Chicken breast (left) and filet (right) wrapped in bacon.


bacon truly does make everything better. They chicken might even have been tastier than the beef.


Picanha, one of the house specialties. A bit of prime sirloin seasoned with sea salt.


The bacon-wrapped filet, pork rib, and picanha (left to right). The last is a really tasty cut.


Fogo also throws a lot of sides on the table (included in the price). Cheesy mashed potatoes.


Fried polenta with parmesan.


Fried plantains. There is also cheese bread, but being passover, we didn’t take any and so I don’t have a photo.


The decor is sleek and modern, and they have a lot of hearty wines.


It’s easy to let your eyes exceed your stomach here. This refuse is just one person’s “leavings.” At lunch all this gluttony costs only $32.50, which is pretty impressive. You can easily make an entire day’s meal out of it!

For another take on excessive BBQ meats, see the Japanese Secret Beef joint.