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.

El Rincon Criollo – Cuban fun

Restaurant: El Rincon Criollo

Location: 4361 Sepulveda Blvd. Culver City, Ca 90230. 210-397-9295

Date: September 3, 2011

Cuisine: Cuban / Spanish

Rating: Garlic!

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We took our son to the “train store” in Culver City (he loves trains) and this Cuban joint happened to be next door.


They curb sell with this cool 50s era car.


The menu. Mostly Cuban classics.


Bread of course.


Some croquettas (ham and cheese potato fry-balls) with banana chips. I’m not much of a banana fan, but these taste pretty much like potato chips.


And are extra good in this pure garlic sauce.


My son got plantains rice and beans. He loves bananas but for some reason knownst only to 2.75 year-olds would not try them.


But he did like this banana smoothy.


This is salmon in garlic sauce with onions. Rice, fries, and beans on the side.


And shrimp in garlic sauce. The garlic sauce is pretty uber actually, particularly poured over the rice. It did give me a carb coma though.


With the check are these weird little Cuban coconut caramels. Pretty good by my taste.

I’m not a serious Cuban aficionado — yeah I’ve been to various places a dozen or so times, but I’m no expert — but this was certainly tasty. And I do love garlic.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Waterloo & City is Victorious

Restaurant: Waterloo & City [1, 2]

Location: 12517 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90066  310.391.4222

Date: August 14, 2011

Cuisine: Gastropub

Rating: Really tasty!

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My wife and I went to Waterloo & City back in May, and I enjoyed it, so I thought we’d try again with a slightly larger group. By way of introduction this is a new wave comfort-food Gastropub joint. This place exemplifies the gastropub trend of more is more.


The menu.


I decided to test out some of the wines I brought back from my Eating Italy trip. This 2006 Brunello by Il Cocco can not be found in the US. The owner/winemaker makes 7,000 bottles a year only of all his wines combined, perhaps 3,000 of the Brunello. He does 99% of the work himself! It’s awesome, if it were rated, it’d be a 96 point wine.


We went for the “prince” of  Charcuterie. Yum yum, heart stopping fun!


The cured meats, and some fine ones at that. There are at least three types of salami and two prosciutto variants. Stone ground mustard. The white stuff is some kind of beef gelatinous product.


The “Pig Trotters, Sweetbreads, and Salsa Verde terrine, with anchovy.” This was a freebee, but was rather too extreme even for me!


“Duck & Walnut Country Pate, orange-apricot marmalade.” This was very nice. Interesting crunchy texture too.


A special. “Boar terrine with romesco.” Really tasty. All that pork goodness you might want.


“Pork & Truffle Pate, Madeira Jelly, toasted Broche.” Wow. With the jelly (you can see it to the left in the zoomed out first photo) this stuff tasted like carmel sauce. The texture was super silky smooth too. Wonderful mouthfeel.


Spaghetti pomodoro for my son.


“Arugula, Grilled Mission Figs, Smoked Almonds, Pamesan.”


“Tuna Tartare, Fried Piquillo Pepper, Avocado.” The tuna part was good but ordinary. The pepper, however, was pretty interesting, although certain FRIED!


Parker gives this silky Rosso 90. “The 2009 Rosso di Montalcino is totally beautiful and elegant in its expressive bouquet, silky fruit and understated, harmonious personality. This is a wonderful, impeccable Rosso from Le Potazzine. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2017.” I’d rate it perhaps 91-92, with a little boost for understated style.


A vegetarian special. Some kind of vegi monster on top of cous-cous with a brioche. Apparently it was good.


“Indian Butter Chicken Pizza, Murgh Makahni Sauce, Mozzarella.” I really wanted to try this because I make a similar pizza myself. This one didn’t lather on the Tikka Masala sauce like I do so it was more subtle, but it was damn good, a bit closer to a “normal” pizza. I loved the addition of the raita-like sauce in the middle. I might try that myself.


“Beef shin ravioli, wild mushrooms, red wine, burrata cheese.” This was really good. The meat was super flavorful, as was the rich sauce. But the bacon/burrata combo really sold it.


A special. “Veal with fried polenta and eggplant sauce.” The veal itself was tender, but not super flavorful. The sauce was great, and in combo every was very yummy, particularly the fried corn balls (i.e. polenta).


The dessert menu.


“Sticky Toffe Pudding, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Ice Cream.” Also excellent, with a not so dissimilar flavor profile. Both were intensely sweet. The ice cream helped cut it.


The menu called these “Waterloo Bourbon Glazed Doughnuts with creme anglais and raspberry jam.” But I think that would be the version we got on our first visit here. These were sugared. They were still good, and the carmel sauce in particular rocked, but they weren’t quite as decadent as the glazed.


A special. “Profiteroles.” Pretty classic, with both ice-cream and whipped cream.

Waterloo & City is still going strong. This isn’t a light cuisine — in fact, nearly every dish is loaded with fatty goodness — but it is damn good.

Read my previous review of Waterloo & City here,

Or for more LA Restaurants.

Moko

Restaurant: Moko

Location: 9540 Culver Blvd. Culver City, Ca. (310) 838-3131

Date: July 9, 2011

Cuisine: Modernized Korean

Rating: Very tasty — Spicy!

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Moko is a newly opened Korean bar/restaurant serving very modernized variants using a Korean palette of flavors. This is to Korean as Red Medicine is to Vietnamese.


The pleasant but industrial space in the heart of Culver City’s bustling downtown.


The have the BBQ in the table, and there is an extensive section of the menu for ordering meats and vegetables to cook here — we didn’t do that on this visit.


An amuse of three “salads.” Left to right: “Watermelon Namul with tasted almonds chile, shiso and ginger,” followed by “Kong Maul, mixed sporuts with spring onions sesame and soy,” and on the right “Market Radish Namul, sweet ginger and pineapple mint.”


“Spicy Smash, Tequila Silver, lime juice, agave & cucumber, Thai basil, serrano.” This is one of those spicy specialty cocktails that has popped up all over the place lately. It was good, with a long serrano burn.


“Tai Snapper, asian pear jus and pickled ginger.” Sweet and lovely.


“Big Eye Tuna, yuzu, soy, and blood orange.” Also a really good presentation of the fish with complex flavor profiles.


“Sesame Duck Confit, sweet lettuces and mango with ginger aioli and chipotle jang wrapped in jjin bahng.” This was amazingly tasty. The smokey duck, the sweet fruit, and the tang of some pickles paired perfectly — and there was all sorts of texture going on.


“Green Chili Pork Sausage, pineapple and butter lettuces with ssam jang wrapped in jjin bahang.” Also great. The sausage thing tasted amazing.


Asian Pear and Kholrabi Salad, pea shoots and perilla with mustard vinaigrette.” Pretty spicy!


Heirloom tomatos, green beans, soy ginger vinaigrette.”


Silken Tofu, ginger dashi broth.” Wasabi in the sauce was incredibly hot. Hotter even than atomic horseradish. My nose hurt for an hour. Each bite made me sneeze. I finished it all.


“Kimchi eggplat dumplings, mushrooms and silken tofu with pine-nut mustard dipping sauce.” Very tasty too, and not too spicy.


“Wagyu Beef Roseu Pyeonchae, truffle scented seared beef carpaccio with asian pear and arugula salad.” This was one of the blander dishes. The meat was succulent, but I felt the dish could use a little more zing.


“Pan Friend Duck and Foie Gras dumplings with sour cherry dipping sauce.” Incredible potstickers. Some of the best I’ve even had — foie gras! The sauce was really good too.


“Soju Cured Salmon, crisp potato pancakes with pickled onions and ginger cream.” Sort of a giant potato latke with salmon and creme fraiche. Pretty tasty.

Moko certainly had strong flavors, and I for the most part loved them. A lot of dishes were quite spicy, more than I would have expected (and I have a pretty high tolerance). So several hours later I’m still feeling the burn.

Check out some other modernized Asians like Red Medicine or Xino.

Waterloo & City

Restaurant: Waterloo & City [1, 2]

Location: 12517 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90066  310.391.4222

Date: May 21, 2011

Cuisine: Gastropub

Rating: Really tasty!

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There has been real growth in the gastropub catagory here in LA during the last few years. Part of this is probably the recession which has encouraged somewhat lower key dining, but there’s probably more to it. When I first moved to LA (early 90s) things were dominated by flashy higher end “event” restaurants each with its own blend of novel fusion cuisine. Good examples of this would by Chaya, Matsuhisa, Chinois, Spago, Abiquiu. The next wave after that were the farmer’s market driven joints like Josie or Gjelina. In any case, on to Waterloo & City.


A view of the bar. This is a pretty big place.


The menu.

The drink menu. I didn’t feel like wine, so we tried out some of these.


“Oh Rickey! Russian Standard Vodka, Fresh Raspberries, Lime, Soda.” This tasted like fresh raspberries. It was sweet, but not too sweet. Good.


“Tamarindo Fever. Tequila Blaco, Tamarind, Grand Marnier, Habanero, Lemon, Lime Salt.” I’ve been trying a lot of these “hot drinks” lately. I like them. This was good, sour and hot at the same time. But it was really hot. Not enough to bother me, but enough that I worried about heartburn if I drink say, 2 or 3 of them.


This special cocktail had vanilla Stoli, fresh lemon juice and some other stuff. It tasted like a lemon candy.


Bread.


Waterloo has a lot of charcuterie. This was a small plate on the left, on the right are “Shrimp & Zucchini Blossom Fritters, piri piri hot sauce.” A tempura fried variant on the Italian favorite (in that case usually stuffed with ricotta).


“Yellowtail crudo, shallot & ginger dressing, spring salad.” This was very tasty. Besides the fish there was a bit of burrata and tomato in here too. But the fish was very succulent, and the ginger based dressing delicious. With all this stuff, including the radish, there was a very complex but harmonious flavor/texture thing going on, not unlike a dish at Red Medicine.


“Steamed mussels, red thai curry, lime ginger, ciabatta.” A very nice adaption of the french classic.


“Hand-cut pasta, English Peas, Italian Sausage, Parmesan.” Even though it was two nights in a row I couldn’t resist this dish, as it is close to one of my favorite pasta types. Yesterday’s version was a little better, but this was very nice. The sausage was flavorful and after chopping it up a bit so some could get in each bit made an excellent foil to the buttery sauce.


“Wild mushroom pizza, smoked mozzerella, truffle oil.” If I didn’t know better I’d have said that this was a bacon and mushroom pizza! It was really good. First of all, the crust was thin and chewy, but not over burned. The cheese was gooey, and the smoked mushrooms really really meaty. Good stuff, I should have tried their Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza, as they stole my idea!


“Beef Wellington.” Sweet and sour onions on top of a puff pastry, sitting on bacon wrapped asparagus.


Inside is the medium steak (could have been a bit rarer), fois gras, and maybe some more bacon/pancetta. Certainly rich…


“Crispy confit pork shank, spring potato, bacon salad, peas & favas.”


Look at this sucker! Confit (twice cooked in it’s own fat)! Then deep fried! It was just a ball of piggy goodness.


The dessert menu.


Special. Glazed beneits with creme anglais and raspberry jam. These were REALLY sweet, coated in a bit of carmel I think too (you can see it pooling beneath). Very much to my taste, but not for those that don’t have a MASSIVE sweet-tooth.


“Sticky Toffe Pudding, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Ice Cream.” Also excellent, with a not so dissimilar flavor profile. Both were intensely sweet. The ice cream helped cut it.

Overall I was very impressed with Waterloo & City. Things were extremely tasty, and there was a lot of stuff on the menu that I wanted to try but couldn’t. I’ll have to head back. It’s, however, not a light cuisine. Which is perhaps why it suited my taste.

For a second review of W & C, click here.

For another recent gastropub visit, check out Ford’s Filling Station.

Ford’s Filling Station

Restaurant: Ford’s Filling Station

Location:  9531 Culver Blvd, Culver City. 310-202-1470

Date: April 28, 2011

Cuisine: Gastropub

Rating: Always great for lunch.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

It was a gorgeous day (again) in LA, so I headed out to find another good lunch spot with outside dining. We ended up in Culver City with its rather large selection of good lunch spots and specifically at Ford’s Filling Station, which is run by Benjamin Ford, son of Han Solo. The place has been around awhile but before this he had another place in Beverly Hills which was very good — but I can’t remember the name.


Notice the “pig country” sign. They offer on the menu a 8 person minimum whole pig dinner with a whole roast pig!


Outside, there are two different patios. In general, Culver city has a lot of outside dining which is nice. For some mysterious reason LA restaurants often lack al fresco. This makes no sense given our weather.


The menu.


“Bacon wrapped dates, stuffed with cheese.” Um yum! I love this dish, and I’ve had it at many places (like recently at Upstairs 2). These were as good as any, showing off the sweet and salty.


“Shrimp Curry, jasmine rice, marash pepper and applewood smoked bacon.” Also a really great dish. Very similar to the one I had at Gladstones. The bacon made it even better.


Sliced serrano peppers in has you want to spice it up.

Pulled Pork Panini, melted gouda and spicy pepper relish.” The beans were awesome too, with a nice smoky porcine flavor.


A close up of the sandwich itself. I had expected something like a North Carolina pulled pork sandwich. That’s kinda tangy. This was more the succulent roast pork with cheese. Yum.


The dessert menu.


“Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich, chocolate chip cookie and mint chocolate-chip ice cream.” The ice cream was great, very similar to the mint ice cream I had at Sweet Rose Creamery, tasting as it did of fresh mint leaves. The fudge was good too. The cookie needed more butter, it was a little dry. Not bad, and the overall dessert was still very good, but with a really awesome cookie, it could have been… really awesome.


Inside, the stripped down old-school culver city building provides a nice deconstructed interior. I’ve never been here at night but I bet it’s a good watering hole.

Another good Culver City place is Fraiche, here for review.

Fraiche Santa Monica

Restaurant: Fraiche Santa Monica [1, 2]

Location: 312 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401. Phone : 310.451.7482

Date: March 19, 2011

Cuisine: Cal French Italian

Rating: On the way up.

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This particular location adjacent to the Barnes and Noble on Wilshire near the promenade has a fairly checkered past. Two or three years ago the Fraiche group turned it into Riva. This was supposed to be a coastal Italian, but to my taste wasn’t really Italian at all — although they made a decent Pizza. In any case, it failed and they rebooted it as Fraiche Santa Monica with an entirely new menu and staff, albiet an identical interior. This is sort of a spin off of the Culver City location (REVIEW HERE).

One corner of the back room. I didn’t have much of a wide angle lens (food after all). It’s a pretty nice space.

The wine by the glass list.

“Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Les Chapitres de Jaffelin, Burgundy, 2009.” As a burghound this was about the bare limit of drinkability for Pinot Noir. A little sour and acidic and decidedly unbalanced. But then again, I rarely expect much from “Bourgogne” (Burgundy which is not AOC to a particular village or vineyard).

The bread was hot out of the oven, and very nice and crunchy. Oilve, mashed and oiled.

Today’s menu. This is actually the second time I’ve eaten at Fraiche SM (I did so once right after they opened) and in the meantime they have moved the menu to be much closer to the new one at Fraiche Culver City (detailed review of that here).

“POACHED PEAR SALAD, Endive, baby wild arugula, candied walnuts, Point Reyes blue cheese, red wine vinaigrette.”

“Baby Beets, House Made Ricotta / Orange / Pistachio.” Sweetness of the beets meshes with the cheesy sauce. Beet salads have become very passe, but when well done (like this one), I like them.

“ROASTED PEPPERS ARUGULA & BURRATA, Shallots, 12 year old balsamic and extra virgin olive oil.” This was as good a Burrata as I’ve had at a restaurant. They still aren’t quite as sensual as my own take on the cheese.

Valpolicella Ripasso, Classico Superiore, David Sterza, Veneto, 2008.” Much better than the generic Burgundy. This was a fine wine of the type. Grapey, but not as much so as an Amarone.

“MUSHROOM RISOTTO, Arugula, Pine Nuts, Pecorino.” Nice nutty, mushroomy risotto.

AGNOLOTTI, Mushrooms,  mascarpone, truffle butter.” These are really good. The pasta is nice fresh egg pasta. It tastes mostly of butter and mushroom. Butter!

“GARGANELLI, Mushroom Bolognese, Parsley, House Made Ricotta.” I actually expected this to be a meat pasta, but it’s vegetarian with the “ragu” being made from mushrooms. It was tasty, particularly the ricotta which, being homemade, was more like a real Sicilian Ricotta than one usually gets here. The mushrooms leant it a fairly rich taste, but it wasn’t heavy at all (like a meat one would be).

“Rigatoni, Beef & Pork Ragù / Scallion / Gruyère.” This one was great. basically a Bolognese, but really good. Close even to one of my ultimate pasa favorites, the lamb ragu at Capo (SEE HERE).

We were too full for desserts but Fraiche has really good ones, so I snuck in a photo of the Budino from a trip to the culver city joint. You can look there for a bunch more dessert photos. The dessert menu is nearly identical.

“Carmel Budino, Vanilla Mascarpone, Sea salt.” Mildly carmel/creamy with that nice salt factor. Good, but not quite as good as the similar dessert at Gjelina (SEE HERE).

Fraiche SM seems to be settling into its groove. It was better than last time, and quite a bit better than Riva. It isn’t a lot different than the Culver City location, but the menu is slightly smaller, and missing the assorted “pots of stuff” that are fairly unique over there. It does still have the very good fresh pastas. I need to try I nice meaty one.