Ocean Avenue Seafood

Restaurant: Ocean Avenue Seafood

Location: 1401 Ocean Avenue. Santa Monica, CA 90401. 310-394-5669

Date: November 5, 2011

Cuisine: Seafood

Rating: Good, but overpriced

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I’ve been going to Ocean Avenue Seafood for probably fifteen years, but while it was once a staple in our rotation it’s been a few years. OAS offers classic American seafood right above the bluffs overlooking the Pacific.


The have both an extensive ocean view covered patio and a clubby inside.


The menu.


Fresh baked sour dough bread.


A green salad.


A sampler of six various Pacific oysters with cocktail sauce, horseradish, and mignonette sauce. Each of these six were different, but all were good.


Their clam chowder. It’s not as goopy creamy thick as I ideally love, but it did have a nice bacony flavor.


Grilled salmon with mash potatoes and asparagus. Pinot noir reduction. My wife is a connoisseur of salmon, and she likes this one.


Lobster roll. The fries and slaw were good. And while this roll had lots of lobster it was somehow lacking in flavor.


Expresso so I can stay up through the movie we are going to see.

Overall Ocean Avenue Seafood has a lot of competition. Both the Blue Plate Oysterette and the Hungry Cat have very similar cuisine and are located nearby (the Blue Plate about a block away). Both are a little less expensive than OAS and a little more “modern.” OAS does have more different types of fresh fish if that’s your thing, they have 7-10 grilled fish at all times. Just depends what you want.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Takao Top Omakase

Restaurant: Takao [123, 4, 5]

Location: 11656 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049. (310) 207-8636

Date: October 16, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi

Rating: 9/10 creative “new style” sushi

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I’ve already covered Takao in some detail HERE and then separately herehere and here. The full menu and some information on the history of the place can be found through the first link. This particular meal covers a full $120 Omakase, which actually is a very good value compared to ordering ala carte.


We started off with a lovely “shaved rice” style cold sake. I’ve become increasingly fond of this old-school premium form of sake.


Ankimo (Monk Fish Liver) with ponzu, scallions, and slightly spiced daikkon radish. An excellent example of this classic dish.


White fish with a bit of micro greens, citrus zest, and red peppercorns. A very light and delicious “sashimi salad.”


Toro tartar with caviar. A takao (and Nobu) classic.


Baracuda with ginger, scallions, in a light ponzu. This is not normally my favorite fish, but this preparation was very nice, with a light hint of char on the partially cooked fish.


Grilled Alaskan king crab legs. A sprig of pickled ginger. Very fresh and not frozen tasting, but the sweet vinegar sauce (in the back) totally made the dish.


A classic Japanese style unami flavor. A autumn broth of three kinds of mushrooms and some kind of light fish. The two sauces were a sour plum sauce (I think traditional with this fish) and a really tasty vinegary ponzu.


Sweet Santa Barabara prawn and asparagus tempura. The batter had little crispy riceballs in it which gave the whole thing a different texture. Plus there was both curry salt and sea salt and the traditional tempura sauce for dipping.


Salmon slices, marinated in a miso broth, served sizzling hot in this cast iron pan. You could cook as little or much as you liked. The sweet miso sauce was very tasty too.


A sushi flight. Starting at the left: red snapper, gizzard shad, blue fin tuna, toro, and in front, Santa Barbara uni (sea urchin).


Clam miso. Like regular miso, but with an extra hint of brine.


And for dessert, green tea creme brule with strawberries. It’s very green, with a fairly intense creamy tea flavor.

This was probably my best official omakase at Takao yet (and it’s always good). A very nice meal.

Check out other Takao reviews:  [1234, 5]

For more LA area sushi, see here.

Picca Potency

Restaurant: Picca [1, 2]

Location: 9575 West Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035. Tel: 310 277 0133

Date: September 27, 2011

Cuisine: Modern Peruvian

Rating: Really interesting flavors

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My parents were in town and I wanted to take them back to Picca, which I had recently tried. Peruvian food is on fire right now in LA, and for good reason.


The Pico Blvd frontage is hard to miss.


Picca’s Peruvian cuisine has enough citrus and Asian notes that it goes best with a lighter fruiter red like this lovely Burgundy (from my cellars as usual).


The bar was hoping when we arrived and at least ten people were waiting for tables, but they honored our reservation and seated us immediately (love to see that).


The interesting handmade cocktail menu.


Rhubarb Sidecar.” Cognac, pisco, fresh lemon juice, rhubarb gastrique, shake violentyly (and they mean it), garnished with spiced sugar.”


Today’s menu. There are so many dishes that I took to underlining the ones we wanted. Saved on recitation to the waitress.


papa rellena. stuffed potato, slow cooked beef, boiled egg, rocoto aioli.” Tasted like potato and chilli (known in Texas as a super-spud).


empanada trio. beef, chicken, eggplant, salad.” I tried the chicken one, it was good. Not too heavy (considering).


jalea mixta. crispy mixed seafood, tartare sauce.” Some really good fried seafood. The tartare sauce was fantastic too.


Parker 93 points, “The 2008 Vico made from 100% Mencia with 30% whole clusters and aged for 9 months in seasoned French oak. Opaque purple-colored, it offers up a slightly reticent bouquet of damp earth, mineral, incense, black cherry, and black raspberry. Dense and loaded on the palate, the flavors are already complex and mouth-filling. Impeccably balanced and with a 45-second finish, it has the stuffing to blossom for another 2-3 years but can be approached now. It is a great value.”


ceviche criollo. seabass, rocoto leche de tigre, choclo, sweet potato.” The leche de tigre (vinegary lime sauce) makes all these cerviche‘s taste fairly similar, but this one had big soft chunks of seabass.


ceviche crocante. halibut, leche de tigre, crispy calamari.” And this followup was rendered considerably different by the addition of crunchy calamari.


One of the menu’s many sections is “terceras – antichuchos” which are mostly grilled skewers, sort of Peruvian yakatori.


tomatoes. burrata, black mint pesto.”


beef filet. sea urchin butter, garlic chip.” Good stuff, with just a hint of the classic Uni flavor.


scallops. aji amarillo aioli, wasabi peas.” Lightly cooked, very nice.


black cod. miso anticucho, crispy sweet potato.”


Then we have a round of “causa sushi,” with yellow Peruvian potato replacing the rice. In general, as I’ve mentioned before rice is more successful, but these are still tasty.


This is the “unagi. avocado, cucumber, eel sauce” and it’s pretty much your eel sushi. Of all these causas this was my favorite as the polenta is heavier and stronger flavored than rice and the eel held up to it best.


spicy yellow tail. spicy mayo, green onions, wasabi tobiko.”


smoked salmon. hijiki, shallots, aji amarillo yogurt.”


shrimp. pickled cucumbers, yuzu kosho guacamole.”


albacore. garlic chip, ceviche sauce.” My second favorite of this set.


scallops. mentaiko.” Certainly tasty, but it would have been better with rice.


snow crab. cucumber, avocado, huancaina sauce.”


seabass tiradito. thin slice sea bass, soy sauce, lemon dressing, sweet potato puree.” Very nice. Bright fish, even further brightened by the bold flavors.


Our server was very perky and friendly. Although she got caught up talking to lots of other guests and took a while with the check :-).


chicharron de costillas. crispy pork ribs crostini, sweet potato puree, feta cheese sauce, salsa criolla.” This however was pretty spectacular, one of the best pork sandwiches I’ve tried.


arroz chaufa de mariscos. mixed seafood, peruvian fried rice, pickled radish.” This was a nice version of paella. Brighter and more citrusy (by far) than it’s Spanish cousin. The ingredients were very fresh.


sudado de lenguado. halibut stew, peruvian corn beer sauce, yuyo.” This really added some flavor to the nicely cooked fish.


pollo saltado. chicken, onion, tomato, ginger, potato fritters.” This was also a tasty chicken. Like a south american stir-fry. With fries!


chanfainita. braised oxtail, mote and potato stew.” This was our least favorite dish of the evening. There was a lot of bone on the tail, and a lot of fat. Not that it tasted bad or anything, but I think we were done for.


I love even street cart churros but these were pretty supreme. The churros were stuffed with some kind of dulce de leche custard. It kept squirting out but was intensely good. The carob sauce was surprisingly amazing. I remember carob from the 1970s as the horrible chocolate bars that weren’t. This could have been caramel.


Lemon tart.” This was a pretty amazing dessert. Light and airy, almost foamy, the intense lemoness paired nicely with the sweet pineapple stuff on the side.


Picca was just as good the second time. We rounded out the menu and ordered mostly new stuff. As long as you are of the “bland is banned” school like I am, there really isn’t anything not to like about their solid implementation of this bright and flavorful cuisine.

For my previous review of Picca, click here.

For more LA dining reviews, click here.

Joe’s Restaurant – California Classic

Restaurant: Joe’s Restaurant

Location: 1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

Date: September 16, 2011

Cuisine: California Farmer’s Market

Rating: Consistently good

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I’ve been coming to Joe’s since 1995 or 1996 and they are approaching their 20th anniversary any day now. In a major metropolitan restaurant scene, that’s an eternity. Chef Joe Miller was an early proponent of the ingredient driven “farmer’s market style” of California cooking that is very popular right now. And despite the restaurant’s venerable age, the menu is continually rotating and the dishes remain fresh and relevant.


The Abbot Kinney frontage.


Quaint bar. Further inside is a little maze of little rooms and a lovely patio that is perfect for brunch.


The daily tasting menu, which is a pretty awesome value.


And the regular menu.

I brought this 2006 Brunello from my cellar. It’s not rated, but it is good, being from a tiny producer who makes only 3,000 bottles a year.


The back for the vintage.


Joe’s has good bread. Particularly the butter toasty thing.


Olive tappanade and butter.


“Heirloom tomato salad, smoked garlic tomato vinaigrette, young greens, seared bread.”


“Bocconcini di bufala mozzarella, smoked o’henry peaches, plums, sweet pea, purslane, almonds, olive oil.” This was a really yummy combo. The fruit was perfectly ripe, the mozzarella fantastic, and all in combination, particularly with the nuts and the purslane pesto-like stuff, it was really yummy.


“Hiramasa Crudo. Pickled plum, shishito, flowering coriander, pickled garlic vinaigrette.” Also wonderful. Hiramasa is just yellowtail, but this was some very good fish, and the vinaigrette had a powerful tang that contrasted nicely with the sweet and sour plums.


“New zealand red snapper filet with potato scales and wild rice. Salsify, red wine sauce.”


“Sonoma lamb sirloin, figs, chantarelle mushroms, wild rice soubise, english peas, huckleberry jus.” Also a wonderful dish. Like rack of lamb, but without the bone. Slow cooked in the sous-vide. The rich jus and vegetables complemented nicely.


The dessert menu.


“Vanilla buttermilk custard. Market berries, bittersweet chocolate, pistachios.” I light fun dessert, with a berries and cream vibe.

It’s been a little while since I was at Joe’s and I somehow expected it to be more staid. The food is just as contemporary and relevant as any other ingredient driven Califonian. It’s not fat focused like the Gastropubs, or avant garde, but it is really good. And setting it far above many wanna-be followers of this tradition, each dish expresses a really balanced interplay of elements.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Capo Hits a Triple

Restaurant: Capo [12, 3]

Location: 1810 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, Ca. 310-394-5550

Date: September 14, 2011

Cuisine: Italian with Cal influences

Rating: The food here is really very very good.

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Capo is an occasional favorite of mine and I’ve reviewed it before HERE and HERE. They have a particular high end (but not formal) blend of California style (Farmer’s Market ingredients) and Italian tradition. But it’s not a strictly traditional Italian, more interpreted through a vaguely Tuscan / California vibe.


The intimate dining room.

They have very good bread at Capo, particularly the crispy things.


Capo always puts out this little humus-like spread. I suspect it’s fava beans. It’s addictive though.

We settle down to examine the MENU, which is big, and always a difficult decision because there is so much great stuff on it. They have an odd menu format, in which each item is identified by only it’s principle ingredient, forcing you to guess or ask how it’s actually prepared. Plus they have “fill in the blanks” on the menu which are filled in by a separate sheet of daily specials. No big deal, but it’s kind of bizare. Doesn’t matter though, as the food is great.


I got this 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva at the vineyard in Tuscany. It was just released as it’s aged for 5-6 years in old oak. “From vines in Castelnuovo dell’Abate, is gorgeous, layered and elegant in its violets, tar, licorice and cherries. The finish is long and impeccable, but this is a somewhat ethereal style, with aromas and flavors that are already a touch forward relative to most 2004 Riservas. Ideally the wine is best enjoyed within the next decade. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2020.”

It’s worth noting that Capo has a peculiar corkage policy (I rant on it here). In short, you can bring one and no more than one bottle, and that it must not be on their list.


The amuse, a cone of tomatoes. Essentially like a tomato bruschetta — in a crispy cone.


“Heirloom tomato vegetable salad.” Very fresh Farmer’s Market vegetables.


The same salad, but with Burrata. Which, like bacon, makes everything better.


“Burrata black truffle bruschetta.” Besides the shaved vegetables and the bread underneath this is a big blob of burrata, fresh truffles, and a whole poached egg! It was pretty good, but decidedly rich. In some ways similar to my special eggs, in some ways like the famous Melisse truffle egg.


“Steak tartar.” The fries and aioli are obvious. The meat was delicious! There was a lot of pepper in there, and olive oil. But mostly it just tasted of wonderful raw beef. One of the better tartars I’ve had. Maybe a little shaved parmesan would make it even better!


We killed the first bottle (from my cellar) and bought this one off the list. It makes a horizontal of sorts, being another 2004 Brunello Riserva. It was good, but not quite as good as the Potozzine. “The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino comes across as lean and powerful in its expression of red cherries, tobacco, spices and earthiness. The aromas aren’t perfectly clean and the wine’s structural components seem to have the upper hand over the wine’s density and richness of fruit, suggesting the tannins will ultimately dominate the wine’s overall balance. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2018.”

“White corn ravioli.” You can’t beat fresh pasta in a butter sauce.

This is “buccatini with lamb ragu,” and it’s one of the best pastas I’ve ever had.  I’ve come back like three times for it. I love a good ragu, and the buccatini (spagetti with a tiny hole in the middle) is perfect. The dish is rich and meaty, divine. I always order it.


Capo has an impressive wood fire in the corner that they cook a lot of the entrees on. The prices are pretty punitive, but they’re good. Plus the fire lends a wonderful wintery smell to the whole dining room.


Bronzino, grilled, with vegetables.


Dover sole.


Veal chop, nice and rare.


This is the “chocolate soufflé,” an excellent implementation of the classic. You have to preorder it at the beginning of the meal.


And they add a big dollop of fresh whipped cream.


The “chocolate volcano cake,” also with whipped cream, also preordered.

And this. This was to die for. “Meyer lemon semifreddo,” with a blueberry or blackberry sauce. Everything about this was spectacular, one of my all time favorite deserts. The cold-soft texture, the bright lemon flavor, and the tart sweetness of the berries. OMFG!

A nice plate of little petit fours, not so usual at American Italians, more french. In Italy sometimes you’ll get treated to little almond cookies and shots of grappa or sambuca.

So to conclude, Capo is hands down delicious. The food is VERY VERY GOOD, and the service is top notch. The intimate little atmosphere is great also. It’s just very expensive — definitely not a good value — perfect if someone else is paying :-).

Two other Capo meals HERE and HERE.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

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

Mori Sushi – A Top Contender

Restaurant: Mori Sushi

Location: 11500 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064. 310.479.3939

Date: September 14, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi

Rating: Top sushi, but not cheap

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In a town full of top grade sushi, Mori Sushi is consistently regarded as one of the best. It has it’s own particular style, somewhere between the Osaka school types like Sasabune and the classic Sushi Sushi.


The interior and sushi bar.

The following meal represents the “Omakase” the largest and most expensive ($170) of the chef’s options. Several truncated or more sushi centric variants are available. This is basically a series of hot dishes followed by flights of sushi.


Kohlrabi greens.


Housemade tofu, with homemade wasabi and soy. This is the soft silken tofu that I’ve had a number of times recently, like at Moko and Ozumo. This particular example was very nice and light.


Sashimi. Left to right: marinated sardines, abalone liver, baby abalone with yuzu/pepper sauce, shitake mushroom, pike eel jelly, marinated Japanese onion, and Japanese okra. The sardines were really good and sweet. The liver reach, like an ugly blob of chicken liver. The abalone tender. And the jelly like a cube of flavorless jello.


One of those subtle Japanese soups. Pike eel (the white stuff), yuzu (the green sliver), and Japanese eggplant.


Santa Barbara sweet shrimp (with the roe), red peppercorns, and in front: scallop, halibut, and octopus sashimi. All this is dressed “new style” with a bit of olive oil and pepper. The shrimp was very sweet and tasty.


Uni (sea urchin) tempura with salt. I forgot to photo it, but this photo is of the same dish at a different restaurant. It was nearly identical, and very good.


Halibut with kelp on the left. Seki buri (wild yellowtail) on the right. Both solid “normal” fishes of extremely high quality.


Big eye chu-toro on the left and blue-fun toro on the right. Yum!


Kohada (Shad gizzard) on the left, pickled in vinegar, and Spanish Mackerel on the right. Also very nice fish.


Grilled baby barracuda on the left with a really nice charred flavor and mirugai (geoduck jumbo clam) with miso sauce on the right.


An uni (sea urchin) duo. Santa Barbara on the left (sweeter), Hokkaido in the middle (very fine also) and very fresh Ikura (salmon roe) with yuzu zest on the right.


Tamago (sweet omelet) on the left and anago (sea eel) on the right, grilled, with a bit of BBQ sauce. The eel had strong grill flavors and less of the cloying (but yummy) sweet sauce than usual.


Toro cut roll. Soft and velvety.


A pair of homemade ice creams for dessert. This is sesame, which tasted it but was a bit gritty and not very creamy.


And ginger ice cream which was very soft and pleasant, like a french vanilla with a ginger kick.


Hojicha, roasted green tea to finish.

Overall, I found Mori Sushi to be top notch. But it’s not cheap (not in the least). The ingredients are top notch and you pay for it. It has a subtle restrained style. I slightly prefer Sushi Sushi with it’s larger pieces or Go Sushi with it’s more over the top flavors. It hands down beats out Sushi Zo in my opinion. Certainly Mori is in the top five or so places in town — and that’s saying a lot as LA is unquestionably the best place in America for sushi.

For more LA sushi reviews click here.

Morihiro Onodera (old owner) in the palm shirt. Masanori Nagano left (new owner).

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.