Gjelina Brunch

Restaurant: Gjelina [1, 2, 3]

Location: 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, CA 90291. (310) 250-1429

Date: August 6 & 14, 2011

Cuisine: New Californian

Rating: Great food, annoying service!


I hadn’t been to Gjelina (despite it being a favorite) in a few months but I headed back there for two brunches only a week apart, one with my son and the other with my brother and cousin.

The all important Cappuccino. They make a good one as attested by the nice micro-foam. I’m not a fan of those coffee with a pile of foam on top versions.

Moroccan Baked Eggs with Merguez, Chili, Tomato Sauce, Cilantro & Spiced Yogurt.” This was REALLY tasty. The sausage was awesome, as was the sauce and yogurt combo. It had a pretty genuine Moroccan flavor profile.

My son wanted eggs. He didn’t even touch them though. Toddlers!

“Crispy Sunny Eggs with Prosciutto, Romesco, Arugula & Lemon.” This was also very good, and very similar (except for the ham) to my special Breakfast Eggs.

Pizza Margherita.” A very nice version of the classic. Rich tomatoey sauce, lots of basil.

My son ate most of this, although he complained about the “green stuff” and made me remove it.

“Duck Sausage, Nameko Mushroom, Garlic & Mozzarella.” The sausage was fantastic, and the overall pizza was very smokey with an interesting chewy mushroom texture. I liked it a lot, but you certainly have to be a shroom person.

“Peach crumble with Crème Fraiche.” I like my crumbles more crumbly.

“Butterscotch Pot de Crème with Salted Caramel w/ Crème Fraiche.” This is just incredible as always. I could eat like 10 of them. Bad me. Bad me.

Overall, the food at Gjelina is fantastic as always, but I need to snark about the service, and I’m not the first. Apparently the owner/managers even like to hire staff with attitude! Boo hiss! The first time, I asked to get some eggs that on the menu had strips of bacon on top with the bacon on the side (or gone). I was told (very rudely) that I could remove the bacon myself. In this day and age of people with dietary restrictions this just isn’t acceptable. I can understand not building totally custom dishes, but trivial omissions? Give me a break.

On the second trip we ordered some vegetables which didn’t come (the waiter read them back to us too). Plus similar with an ice tea even after asking about three times. Eventually, after the waiter went AWOL we found him and brought up both. He didn’t even apologize. 10 minutes after that he brought the ice tea and said he’d take it off the bill. Ooh ah, $4 ice tea for free (it’s all profit anyway). We mentioned something to the manager. He didn’t apologize either, just nodded his head. Then finally, about 5 minutes after that he snuck back and apologized, like it had been eating at him and he felt he needed to. There was no offer of a freebee or anything. My brother asked him point blank about that and he took a dessert off the tab.

I go for the food, but they do need to lose a bit of the ‘tude.

You can check out two other Gjelina reviews HERE and HERE.

Or my index of LA Restaurants.

Quick Eats: Momed

Restaurant: Momed

Location: 233 S Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. (310) 270-4444

Date: January 31 & April 16, 2011

Cuisine: Modern Middle Eastern

Rating: Interesting, and tasty modernized Middle Eastern.


I met a friend here for lunch. I would have to say at it’s core this place is closest to Lebanese, but everything is very modernized for the contemporary Beverly Hills crowd. That being said, it all tasted really fresh and delicious.

The Menu can be found here.

A lot of the mezza/salads are on display. As you can see, they look pretty good.

We ordered a three “salad” plate with left to right.

1. Humammara, roasted red pepper, walnut and pomegranate. Really nice rich flavor here.

2. Spicy eggplant, oven roasted eggplant with tahini and Urfa chili. Not very spicy, but great texture.

3. Tzatziki, cucumber and yogurt dip. A fine example of the type, and I like the type.

Parsnip hummus with oven-roasted wild mushrooms. The parsnips gave this hummus the texture of very light and fluffy mashed potatoes. It was pretty darn awesome though, and nicely warm.

All these dips were really sold by this most excellent warm homemade pita. This was  no “tear open the supermarket bag” pita. Soft, warm, chewy.

They call this a “pide” (traditional flatbread). Basically like a Naan crossed with a calzone or strombolli. This one is stuffed with “Ohanyan spicy soujuk sausage, red onions, piquillo peppers and akawi cheese.” I mention the strombolli because that is what this reminded me of: a really good fresh version of one of those pizza dough, pepperoni, and cheese rolls. The sausage leaked off a good amount of grease, but it was good.

The following was from a different day, April 16, 2011:

Another three salad plate, left to right:

1. Humammara, roasted red pepper, walnut and pomegranate. Really nice rich flavor here.

2. Avocado Hummus, like a cross between hummus and guacamole!

3. Tzatziki, cucumber and yogurt dip. A fine example of the type, and I like the type.

A different flatbread. Hallomi and akawi cheeses finished with Za’atar. Very nice and cheesy, with interesting and exotic flavors. Lighter than the sausage one for sure.

Yogurt-marinated chicken breast kababs with rice pilaf and marinated Persian cucumbers with chili and poppy seeds.

Lasagne Bolognese Minus the Meat

Layered between our obsessive holiday restaurant forays we did sandwich in a little home cooked meal. As the main course was lasagne I reached into the cellar and pulled out some Italian.

Parker gives this Barolo a 93, “The 1997 Carobric, also tasted from magnum, presents a more evolved set of flavors including tobacco, earthiness and over-ripe, cooked fruit. Though it shows excellent length it is the wine that most clearly reflects the adverse conditions of the hot vintage in its wilted, somewhat tired quality. 90/Anticipated maturity: 2006-2012.”

Parker gives this one 90, “The 2000 Barolo Bricco Rocche is fragrant with important aromas of roses, anisette, and cinnamon. Polished and elegant in style, it benefits from the additional freshness and continuity provided by the sensations of mint and tobacco on its lingering finish. Drink: 2005-2016.”

This second was smokier than the Carobric.

A little Campari and soda was also in order, with fresh blood orange from one of our trees.

As we cooked (and drank) this 2 year old vermont cheddar was enjoyed by all — including my 2 year old.

The lasagne in the oven. We wanted a vegetarian Lasagne Bolognese, so the “meat” is actually soy. In searching low and high for some fake meat that actually tastes decent — the Boca was the best we found. By making a from scratch Bolognese sauce with the fake meat, it inherits a more complex flavor and does a decent job pretending.

Nicely browned.

Salad, with apples, mushrooms, and walnuts.

Dressing, a lemon vinagrete made with meyer lemons.

Some Broccoli Rabe, blanched, then sauteed with garlic and peppers.

Finished up.

And a fruit salad to finish. The grapefruits were from our tree too.

The New American – Gjelina

Restaurant: Gjelina [1, 2, 3]

Location: 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, CA 90291. (310) 250-1429

Date: December 16, 2010

Cuisine: New Californian

Rating: Everything just tastes great!


My parents flew into town but their flight was four hours late so we needed to find dinner after 10pm. This can actually be a problem on the westside, but it turns out that Gjelina serves until midnight! Now Gjelina has gotten lots of rave reviews, and for good reason. It’s also one of our favorite lunch spots. They serve fairly casual fare, American with all sorts of influences, and most things are farmer’s market driven. The kitchen is just really good — so everything tastes great. The menu changes constantly.

“Squash-Farro-Kale Soup with Grilled Bread.”

“Charred Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Dates & Vinegar.” One of the things about Gjelina is that they can make even vegetables incredibly delicious — yes I’m a bit of a carnivore. These brussel sprouts aren’t bitter at all, and the thick chunks of smokey bacon (more pancetta really) are incredible.

“Lamb Sausage, Confit Tomato, Rapini, Pecorino & Asiago Pizza.” They make great pizzas too. These are very thin neo-neo Neapolitan pizzas baked very fast in a wood wire oven. The crust is very crispy, and there is a strong charcoal grill taste. This one has a nice cheesy, herby flavor offset with the very yummy lamb sausage.

“Wood Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Chili & Vinegar.” Another example of the unusually yummy vegetables. This cauliflower has a nice double tang, vinegar and chili. Crunch Zing!

“Grilled Radicchio, Bacon, Fontina & Tomato Confit Pizza.” Another great pizza. The bacon makes it of course.

“Potato Gnocchi with a Short Rib Ragout & Pecorino.” Melt in your mouth.

“Charred Niman Hanger Steak with Watercress-Horseradish Pesto, Red Onion & Piquillo.”

Inside they have both regular and communal tables, and outside they have a fantastic patio. It was pretty crowded at 11pm, with down tempo blaring on the speakers. Even on a chilly December LA night (roughly 50 degrees) the fire pit and heat lamp made me take off my jacket. Serious LA ambiance — and food!

Food as Art: Ortolan

Restaurant: Ortolan

Location: 8338 W. 3RD STREET, LOS ANGELES, CA 90048 (323) 653-3300

Date: Dec 11, 2010

Cuisine: Modern French


Ortolan, named after the finch the French like to eat, has been around for a few years. It’s always been a very sharp kitchen, but this was my best meal yet. This is the kind of cooking loosely called modern French. Inspired by the French gastronomical tradition, this is right there in the thick of mainstream “fancy food.” Despite the French part of the tradition, there is a light touch here that is very much California — and just plain good. It’s also worth noting that we came in at 6:15 and had a play to attend, and they powered through the prix fix in 70 minutes at our request!

The last bottle of this from my cellar. I might have to find more. Robert Parker gives this amazing Burgundy 95 points. “The exceptional, medium to dark ruby-colored 1999 Chambertin Clos de Beze has boisterous Asian spice and candied cherry aromas. Cookie dough, blackberry syrup, violets, candied cherries, and hints of licorice can be found in this muscular, opulent wine. Its liquid velvet-like personality screams of sur-maturite, yet it is fresh and delineated. It displays a prodigiously long, candied, supple finish. Projected maturity: 2004-2014.”

Tonight’s menu, with a few modifications for the none meat eaters at the table.

They have a Champagne bucket, which is always a sign of a good things to come.

I had noticed on previous visits that Chef Christophe Eme has a thing for test tubes. These Amuses came in two flavors, carrot and celery soups (warm). Yum, they were both great, I particularly liked the celery. I’ve said it before, but creme and veggie soups are usually good.

The several types of bread came with two types of butter, salted and unsalted, as well as this “eggplant caviar and pesto” dip.

Tomato Coulis with Heirloom Tomato and Yogurt Sorbet. I’m not a big tomato fan, but this was amazing. Not only did it look good, but the contents of the glass tasted like a good Gazpacho, albiet creamier with the yogurt and a bit sweeter.

The Halibut on the menu was substituted with this mushroom and quail soup. Again, cream seals the deal. The soup tasted like cream of mushroom (in a good way) and the poultry was succulent.

Cod with tomato, scallions.

Lobster Grape, Pumpkin Gnocchi and Pomegranate. That pasta is actually spaghetti wrapped around the lobster insides. That was pretty cool. The sweetness of the grapes went nicely. A few of the grapes seemed a little dried or something, but it was a great dish.

Short Ribs Polenta with Olives and Tomato Confit. Fatty meat and polenta are a tried and true combo, and this one worked perfectly.

Poached Salmon Peach, Fig, Fennel and Orange Sauce.

Wine number two. I have a lot of Beaucastel. For a reason. This one Parker gives a 96. “Beaucastel has been on a terrific qualitative roll over the last four vintages, and the 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape (which Francois Perrin feels is similar to the 1990, although I don’t see that as of yet) is a 15,000-case blend of 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise, and the balance split among the other permitted varietals of the appellation. This inky/ruby/purple-colored cuvee offers a classic Beaucastel bouquet of new saddle leather, cigar smoke, roasted herbs, black truffles, underbrush, and blackberry as well as cherry fruit. It is a superb, earthy expression of this Mourvedre-dominated cuvee. Full-bodied and powerful, it will undoubtedly close down over the next several years, not to re-emerge for 7-8 years. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2025.”

Apple Tart Ice Cream

Coconut Bar Chocolate 72%, Passion Fruit Emulsion and Coconut Sorbet. This was an amazing desert. I love passionfruit and I love coconut. The pineapple and chocolate didn’t hurt either.

As I mentioned at the beginning. This was an impressive meal (and we pounded through it in no time flat). I’ll be heading back.

Foreign Flavors: Panjshir

Restaurant: Panjshir

Location: 924 West Broad St.Falls Church, VA 22046703-536-4566

Date: Dec 01, 2010

Cuisine: Afghan


Washington has a good size population of Afghans as a legacy of our involvement after the Russian invasion. We started coming to this restaurant when it opened in the mid 80s. This is a family run place and they are extremely hospitable, as well as serving up a very yummy glimpse at this infrequently found palette of flavors.

The menu.

We ordered this very reasonable Beaujolais.

There is a consistant palette of tomato, yogourt, garlic, and onion typified by this bowl of “Aush” soup. A bit of mint seasons up the exotic concoction. It might not be your typical American soup, but it is delicious.

They happily made up a vegetarian variant of these “Aushak” scallion filled dumplings. The pasta has a wonderful soft texture, not unlike a good Hungarian or Polish dumpling.

Afghan bread.

Which is best with this very spicy “green death” sauce. I love the stuff.

A nice salad comes with every entree. The dressing seems to be youghurt based, with some lemon and pepper. It’s really zingy.

What central Asian place wouldn’t have lamb kabob!

Or chicken.

This is “Seib Chalow,” or apples baked with tomato sauce, seeded Afghan prunes, walnuts, split peas, and spices. Really, really tasty. I don’t know how to describe it, but when eaten with the rice it forms a wonderful sweet and savory stew — with amazing texture too.

“Kadu Chalow,” sauteed pumpkin topped with seasoned yogurt and tomato sauce. Also a bit sweet (in a good way), but wonderful.

My personal favorite, the “Muntoo,” dumplings stuffed with ground beef and the omnipresent yogurt and meat sauce. The pasta is perfect and the whole thing very savory.

But, to properly appreciate, I apply a very liberal dose of the green death. Yum!

“Firnee,” This has the flavor palette of Indian Rice Pudding, but the texture of Italian Panna Cotta. It’s very light and pleasant. I love the cardamon and pistachio thing.

You have to love the bar.

And the even cooler antique muskets. These were probably still in use when the Russians invaded — and the Afghans won! Even Alexander the Great learned not to get into a land war in Asia. We should just leave them to their business and the cooking.

The New Cal Cuisine: Rustic Canyon

Restaurant: Rustic Canyon [1, 2, 3, 4]

Location: 1119 Wilshire Blvd. Santa Monica, Ca 90401. 310-393-7050

Date: Aug 25, 2010

Cuisine: Farmer’s Market Californian


Having lived for 16 years in LA I’ve watched the evolution of California Cuisine. When I first came here we were still in the fading years of the 80s eclectic, typified by places like Spago or 90s fusion like Matsuhisa or the much missed Abiquiu. Today, it’s all about being ingredient driven, and Rustic Canyon is one of our many fine examples of this trend.

Burrata with peaches. You can pretty much never go wrong with Burrata or Fresh peaches.

An heirloom tomato (this very buzz word a legacy of the trend), cucumber, yogurt, goat cheese salad.

Tonight’s pick from my cellar. I love my burgs. RP gives it 93, “The dark colored 1997 Latricieres-Chambertin has profound prune, plum, and licorice flavors. This satin-textured, explosive, deep, masculine wine is tannic, structured, and powerful. Blackberry juice, mint, and plums can be found throughout its deep flavor profile and opulently flavored, persistent finish. It will require cellaring patience yet has the potential for mid- to long-term aging. Projected maturity: 2003-2012+.”

Sweet corn soup, with Pistou. This dish had an unctuous foamy texture, and brought out the very best in sweet corn flavor.

A trio of crustini. Each with very interesting (and delicious) flavor profiles. Tomatos and basil, new style. Anchovies (not the over salted sort) and a sweetish tapanade, crisp goat cheese and olives.

Homemade Gnocchi, with fresh Genoese pesto. This brought out the lovely brightness of the basil.

Sweet corn (again :-)) Agnolotti. Yum. Fresh pasta, which you never saw 10 years ago.

Cinnamon beignets with a foamy chocolate cappachino sauce. This is really a variant of the traditional Spanish churro with chocolate. And that’s not a bad thing because both are delicious! These were hot hot out of the frier.

Food as Art: Saddle Peak Lodge

Restaurant: Saddle Peak Lodge

Location: 419 Cold Canyon Rd, Calabasas, CA 91302 (818) 222-3888

Date: May 27, 2010

Cuisine: Modern American

Rating: Great ambiance and terrific game oriented food.

A couple of months ago we went to Saddle Peak for a special Zagat sponsored diner. This place is always fun, in some ways because of its unusual location and vibe. The food is always very good too.

The cool sky made one speculate on the possibility of werewolf invasion.

The menu for the night. But we we went for a longer form menu instead that included all this and more.

The Amuse. Some kind of “meaty” cappuccino. I’m always partial to these creamy little soups. Perhaps because I love cream.

“Fijian Albacore Sashimi with crispy rice, ramp vinaigrette, avocado and pea greens.”

The game tonight was meat. So I went Bordeaux (from my cellar). Parker gives it 94 points and says, “This wine is of first-growth quality, not only from an intellectual perspective, but in its hedonistic characteristics. More open-knit and accessible than the extraordinary 1996, Ducru’s 1995 exhibits a saturated ruby/purple color, followed by a knock-out nose of blueberry and black raspberry/cassis fruit intertwined with minerals, flowers, and subtle toasty new oak. Like its younger sibling, the wine possesses a sweet, rich mid-palate (from extract and ripeness, not sugar), layers of flavor, good delineation and grip, but generally unobtrusive tannin and acidity. It is a classic, compelling example of Ducru-Beaucaillou that should not be missed. Anticipated maturity: 2003-2025.”

“Scallop, english peas, garlic.” The sauce was nice and buttery rich.

“Wild mushroom agnolotti with roasted mushrooms, parmesan, herbs, and ricotta salata.”  This was the highlight of the meal — but I love pasta.

Let’s see it again from a different angle.

“Crispy berkshire pork belly sherry agri-doux frisee and tomato pepadew confiture.”

“Seared La belle farms foie gras study of Philen Farms organic apples, chips, gastrique, fondant, brioche and sherry maple sauce.” Yummy!

“Wood grilled California squab, warm truffled wild mushroom salad, pea tendrils and sun-choke puree.” I’m not usually a poultry fan, but this was very good.

New Zealand Elk tenderloin with sweet potato-celery root puree, currants, bacon, wilted arugula and sauce chasseur.” The Elk was awesome.

“Deconstructed lemon meringue pie!”  Regular lemon meringue is one of my favorites. This did capture the flavors, although call me old fashioned, but I’d probably go for a great example in the traditional form.

The cool “game room” lamp on the way out.

Quick Eats: Panini at Home

Location: The Villa Malka (home), Pacific Palisades, CA.

Date: Nov 02, 2010

My brother came over to whip up a quick batch of brunch panini, one of his specialties. All the actual cooking in this post is courtesy of “guest chef” Mitch Gavin. My related masterpiece are my home made pizzas, I’ll post about them sometime.

First the ingredients. This particular batch was vegetables and cheese. Red onions, farmers market tomatoes and baby bell peppers, fresh basil, two sorts of parmesan, sharp cheddar, and mixed greens.

We often use lavash bread — after all, we live in LA, home to about 1000 great Persian markets. The cheese goes on the bottom, thinly sliced, then some salad.

The salad is dosed with fresh squeezed Meyer Lemon (good on everything) and onion.

The peppers and tomatoes, then some various spices like pepper and oregano. Anything will work.
A little “really good” Olive Oil drizzled on goes a long way. Laudemio makes fantastic single orchard varietals.
You can find these Panini machines at any specialized cooking store these days.
Cook it down until the veggies really collapse, and the cheese goes all over.
It’s like grilled cheese and a salad all in one.
And as a bonus you can scrape off the fried cheese (mostly parmasean). Even my two year old liked that.
You can throw just about anything in a panini and it will go great. In this particular one you could add yesterday’s left over steak (sliced), or turkey, or grilled chicken, or prosciutto, whatever.