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

_

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.

Ultimate Pizza – The Comeback

After long hiatus, Ultimate Pizza is back (click the think for posts on the components). We’ve brewed up a new batch of dough, and called up some friends and family.

For those of you who don’t know, Ultimate Pizza is our super homemade pizza where we make everything from scratch. In the past I’ve written separate articles detailing elements such as the Dough, Sauce, Pesto, and Toppings.


Every dough batch is different. For more on making it, see here. After three days cold fermenting in the fridge this batch had a weird spiderwebby quality and was very sticky. But that wasn’t anything a little dusting of flour didn’t solve. And baked, it tasted great as always.


This 1997 Barolo served as a good opener, warming up the palette.


The first pizza on the block. Starts with basic totally fresh raw tomato sauce made with Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella.


Then some parmesan, basil.


Mushrooms.


Figs, marcona almonds.


And after baking. They aren’t always pretty, but they are good!


I “found” this 1966 Chateau Lafite-Rothchild in my cellar and figured it wasn’t getting any better.

Parker says: “Except for the 1966 and 1870 vintages of Lafite-Rothschild, these wines were poured on virgin territory on my palate. Isn’t it ironic that the most disappointing wine (forgetting the spoiled 1875 Lafite-Rothschild, which had frightful levels of volatile acidity) was the youngest wine, the 1966 Lafite. With a light to medium ruby/garnet color, this wine exhibited a classy, weedy, herbal, Cabernet-dominated nose, soft, washed-out flavors, and little body and length. It is also beginning to dry out. I suppose if one were to taste a 30-year old Cabernet from Monterey County, California, it might reveal similar characteristics. The 1966 Lafite-Rothschild has consistently been a major disappointment from what is an irregular, but very good vintage.”

But we had good luck with this bottle, and it was actually rather wonderful.


The next pizza. Fairly similar, but no sauce.


Finished with balsamic glaze.


Then a cheesier mushroom one.


Finished.

Then my special salmon pizza, which I do just with olive oil and rosemary (picked from the garden).


Then add a mixture of creme fraiche (detail on that here), dill, and chives, plus capers and onions.


And lox. Yum!


The 2004 il Cocco riserva. Only one barrel made!


Another fairly normal pizza, with figs and mushrooms.


My “famous” tikka masala pizza. Masala sauce instead of tomato. Corn, cilantro, goat cheese, mozzarella balls, morel mushrooms, almonds, scallions.


Cooked. This is an amazing (and strong flavored) pizza.


Mirella (one of our frequent pizza chefs) likes to make unique pizzas. This “Lebanese Pizza” began with her homemade muhammara sauce, which is a Lebanese sauce made from peppers, walnuts, olive oil and various other things. She baked it fairly simple.


Then added amazing fresh burrata on top and fresh mint. This was also fantastic.


Another tomato sauce based pizza, with parmesan, figs, goat cheese (a slightly aged chevre from an artisan California dairy), marcona almonds, scallions.


Baked.

And as the last pizza of the evening, my Formaggio Maximus. Olive oil, a little pesto. Fresh chanterelle and lobster mushrooms. Corn, figs, almonds, a little basil, and nearly every type of cheese I have: parmesan, mozzarella, pecorino, goat, and gorgonzola dulce.


Baked.

Then key to the FM is a big blog of burrata and an olive oil and balsamic drizzle.


Dessert time. A giant raspberry macaroon.


And a sinful red velvet, chocolate, and cream-cheese icing cake. Oh the suffering. The worst thing about this cake is that half was left over and I personally ate all of it over the next four days.


The next day for lunch we whipped up a few more pizzas. Here another variant of my tikka masala pizza.


On the stone.


And finished. I do so love this pizza.


Then a green pesto and salad pizza. The greens are arugala tossed with black pepper and fresh meyer lemon juice.


Baked.


Two buns in the oven.


An even greener pizza.


Which we left in about 1 minute too long.


And my special “tuna salad” pizza. Tomato sauce, fresh chunk Italian tuna, parmesan, pecorino, capers, red onions, and arugala salad.


Baked.

That sure was a good amount of pizza!

For more Ultimate Pizza posts, 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.

_

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.

The Hungry Cat chows Santa Monica

Restaurant: The Hungry Cat

Location: 100 w. channel road. santa monica, ca   90402. (310) 459-3337

Date: September 11 & 25, 2011

Cuisine: Seafood

Rating: Can never get enough seafood

_

I’ve been trying for months to find a convenient time to go to the new opening in our neighborhood, the Westside branch of The Hungry Cat. This particular spot, on the corner of PCH and Channel Road is a bit cursed. Years ago it was the Beach House, which got destroyed in the middle of the night by a crazy driver (who literally crashed into the dining room). Then it was the Brass Cap, a lousy and ill-fated brasserie. After 3-4 years empty it’s now reopened as The Hungry Cat. This is a very raw bar and seafood oriented joint.


I started with a “Dark and Stormy,” the classic Bermuda cocktail. Excellent.


The interior doesn’t look too different than it did in it’s previous incarnations, but it was always a pretty looking place.


Oyster crackers substitute for bread. I’ve always had a weak spot for these puppies, shades of my Eastern Shore of Maryland upbringing. The menu can be found here.


The cat has one of those reasonable corkage policies where they waive the corkage for each bottle you buy off the list. This almost always makes me buy a bottle.


“hawaiian albacore / cherry tomato / cucumber / opal basil / tomato water.” Lots of bright vinegar/citrus flavor hear. Plenty tasty.


“marinated hamachi / stone fruit / shisho / togarashi / lime.” Another nice sashimi dish, although none-too-much fish.


A special. Raw scallop, uni (sea urchin), various salad bits. The combo is great. The scallops tasty. The sea urchin was a little “fishy.” Maybe it’s the Sunday factor, I don’t know. Overall I enjoyed it, but slightly better Uni would have sold it.


“heirloom tomato / watermelon / red onion / persian mint / french feta.”


“heirloom tomato / opal basil / red onion / arugula / burrata / red wine vinaigrette.”


This is the two tier “medium” seafood tower. It was certainly good, although not quite as tasty as the Mastro’s one, but more reasonable also.


On top are shrimp (two types), a bit of trout caviar, Alaskan crab legs, and a half lobster.


Beneath are oysters, muscles, and two types of clams (littleneck and cherrystone).


A nice assortment of sauces.


Off the kids menu. Basic pasta with parmesan.


Fish and chips, also from the kids menu.


A softshell crab in a sort of thai chilli sauce. According to its killer, delicious.

Another special, lobster roll with fries. This was SOLID. As good as a lobster roll gets — and I’ve had plenty. On par with this one I had back east last year.


The dessert menu. But we were too full.

We didn’t try too many things. And I seriously have to come back with some crustacean lovers and get a huge raw bar tower, but I enjoyed this little feline foray. So I’ll return soon enough.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Public Houses on the Rebound – Upper West

Restaurant: Upper West

Location: 3321 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, Ca. 310-586-1111.

Date: September 10, 2011

Cuisine: Gastropub

Rating: Tasty

_

More and more gastropubs seem to be opening up. For those of you unfamiliar this is bar/restaurant with an emphasis on food, specifically tasty “comfort” food emphasizing fattening (i.e. tasty) ingredients. I wrote up two reviews of slightly similar Waterloo and City recently. Tavern is also a similar type of restaurant.


The location is conveniently off the Centinella exit (just west) of the 10.


The pubby interior.

From my cellar. 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.


The menu.


BURRATA. greenapple-blackberry panzanella / baby heirloom tomato / chamomile salt / fresh basil / dill-mustard vinaigrette.” This was a big hit. It’s hard to go wrong with so much Burrata.


BRAISED LAMB CREPES. madras curry / wilted spinach / israeli feta / lavender demi.” Very meaty. Not light, but certainly tasty. The meat reduction sauce was great.


ROASTED VEGGIE BURGER. housemade veggie patty / grilled pineapple relish / avocado / piquillo pepper / tomato aioli / toasted brioche bun.”


“BACON WRAPPED BACON. prosciutto wrapped-braised pork belly / heirloom tomato / melon / tomato syrup / cilantro vinaigrette.” I couldn’t resist the name of the dish, but I overdid myself here. It tasted good, but…


The fat content of the port belly (this is just the fat I didn’t eat) was a bit much! Then again I asked for it.

This is actually the second time we’ve been to Upper West. Both times I was impressed. Not blown away or anything, but all the dishes were well done and full of flavor.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Hostaria del Piccolo – Pizza + Pasta

Restaurant: Hostaria del Piccolo

Location: 606 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401. P: 310-393-6633

Date: August 27, 2011

Cuisine: Italian

Rating: Good new casual Italian

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Hostaria del Piccolo is a casual new Italian with a Pasta/Pizza emphasis from the people that brought us Piccolo (my review here).


It’s located in a chic modern space at the corner of 6th and Broadway three blocks behind the Santa Monica Promenade.


The interior has a modern rustic quality.


And they have a lovely patio, which given that it was 5pm on an 85 degree perfect California August day totally ruled.


Given the weather, I decided to take a cue from my Italian friends and order a glass of Lambrusco Frizzante. Sparkling grape juice with a kick, what more can you ask for in the heat?


Very nice thick and buttery grissini.


The menu. Secondi are not numerous in quantity, but they have a lot of pizzas and a number of tasty sounding pastas.


“CANTALUPO  tuscan melon and Bresaola.” Artfully arranged!


“MESCOLATA organic greens, roasted tomatoes, sliced almonds.”


Rigatoni pomodoro for the boy.


“PAPPARDELLE tomato sauce, roasted eggplant, mozzarella di bufala.”


“SALSICCIA  tomato sauce, smoked mozzarella, sausage, bell peppers, Castelvetrano olives.” I actually ordered the FARCITA (which was a white prosciutto pizza) but he must have misheard me and anyway this was a tasty pizza. The sausage was very tender and flavorful. The crust was really yummy, and the whole thing not overly burnt like some wood oven pizzas are. If you want to see my Ultimate Homemade Pizza, click here.


“AGNELLO Marinated and grilled New Zealand lamb chops, roasted garlic sauce.” Very nice tender straight up grilled lamb chops. Bone gnawing good.


The dessert menu. We were full and didn’t order any.


But they brought my 2.75 year-old this ice cream cone as a freebee and he was mighty pleased.

Overall, Hostaria del Piccolo is a very nice new contemporary Italian, with a heavy pizza/pasta focus. This is sure to make it a crowd pleaser. They could use to beef up the variety of anti-pasta and secondi a bit, but what I had was very nice.

Click here to see more LA dining posts.

The open kitchen inside.

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


Quick Eats – Bar Pinxto

Restaurant: Bar Pinxto

Location: 109 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA. (310) 458-2012

Date: August 19, 2011

Cuisine: Spanish Tapas

Rating: Quick little lunch bargain

ANY CHARACTER HERE

After seeing Fright Night we shopped around Santa Monica for a lunch place and decided to revisit Bar Pinxto. This is a genuine Spanish Tapas Bar, in that it’s a bar first, restaurant second. Still they have a wide variety of traditional Spanish Tapas (as they would in Spain).


There is a small amount of outside seating.


And the cute little interior space.


Being Spanish, olives grace the table. Bar Pinxto has a $15 3 course lunch menu which is an excellent deal and a lot of food.


First course was Gazpacho. This was certainly a good implementation of the classic form of the soup. Not quite as good as the Jose Andres variety at The Bazaar/Saam/Tres, but good. I like the fine pureed texture.


Classic Paella, one of the second courses. This was pretty traditional, with muscles and chorizo. It could have benefited from a few more ingredients, but was respectable.


Squid with squid ink over Spanish rice (basically paella). The squid was soft and tasty, although the portion was smaller than the paella.


Pot du creme, chocolate. This was a damn good chocolate cream/mousse thingy. Damn good. Sort of a chocolate version of Gjelina’s butterscotch one.

Overall, the quick Pinxto $15 lunch is an excellent deal. The food was good and pretty authentically Spanish, and you certainly get a lot for your money.

Click here to see more LA restaurants.