Eating Santa Marghertia – Da Michele

Restaurant: Da Michele

Location: Santa Margherita, Italy

Date: June 28, 2011

Cuisine: Ligurian

Rating: Solid


Another evening pick in central Santa Margherita, just a block away from the previous night’s Antonios.

Right in the main drag.

The outside seating was right on the square/street in front of the restaurant. I wish they did this more in America.

The menu.

Vermentino is one of the better quality local whites.

Seafood anti-pasta. This wasn’t as good as the raw plate the pervious night. But it was certainly tasty enough. This is more traditional, being marinated shellfish for the most part.

Another example of ravioli di noce (in walnut cream sauce). Also good, but not as good as Antonios’s version.

Trofie Genovese. Local pasta twists with pesto, potato and beans.

Tagliatelle ai gamberi, curry e piselli. Noodles with shrimps, curry, and peas. Something a little different, but very good. In it’s own way a little like a dish from Singapore. Maybe it’s the British influence in Santa Margherita.

Sea-bass Genovese. With potatoes, olives, pine nuts. This is the more traditional form.

Scampi all’agro. Shrimp in sweet and sour sauce.

This was basically a butter Vinaigrette, and it was absolutely delicious with the crawfish-like creatures. Finger licking good in fact.

Chocolate mousse.


This was a very solid and enjoyable meal. The food was a tiny bit better than La Paranza, but not as elegant or refined as that of neighboring Antonios.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Milano Marittima – Lo Sporting

Restaurant: Lo Sporting

Location: Milano Marittima, Italy

Date: June 9, 2011

Cuisine: Trendy Italian

Rating: Decent food, but overpriced


One of the cool things about the beach town of Cervia / Milano Marittima is that there are a lot of shops and restaurants on a lovely tree lined promenade stretching through town.

Notice how the old Italian Stone Pines grow right through the shops!

We stopped for lunch at a likely looking place called Lo Sporting.

The menu was huge, but I only photoed the part that was relevant. Really we had wanted pizza, and the place had the world “pizzeria” on the sign, but when we sat down they told us that the pizza oven was only available in the evening!

So it had to be pasta. My young son got this garginelli pomodoro.

Grilled tuna in balsamic sauce. They were surprisingly cold, and very rare. The sauce was tasty but I think it might have been better with warm fish and cold sauce.

Spaghetti pomodoro.

Mixed fish. On the left tuna in balsamic, in the back sepia (cuttlefish) in a vinegary sauce, and in the front right some white fish — possibly sardine fillets — marinated. This was all very tasty.

Lightly breaded shrimp and octopus skewers. I didn’t try it, but it was reportedly excellent.

Mozzarella salad.

Afterward we went across the street for some gelato. I often find in Italy that the gelato is much better than the restaurant desserts.

This is hazelnut and bacio (hazelnut chocolate with liqueur).

Coconut and pineapple.

Some chocolate being spooned in. Some of these places have 3-5 different chocolates to chose from!

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Sam’s by the Beach 3D

Restaurant: Sam’s by the Beach [1, 2, 3]

Location: 108 W. Channel Rd.(PCH), Santa Monica, CA90402. 310-230-9100

Date: May 14, Sept 4, & Oct 30, 2011

Cuisine: Cal French International

Rating: Stellar food and unparalleled service.


I already covered the background to Sam’s in my FIRST REVIEW. Let’s just say this is a local place with an unusual and inventive menu that’s worth a drive.

An amuse of tuna tartar on endive.

I’d never heard of this “lesser” Bordeaux, but Sam opened this half-bottle and it was very nice. Characteristic Saint-Emilionsmooth. The 8 or so years gave it just enough age to settle the tanins.

The glass.

Today’s menu.

“Roasted Beet Salad, mixed with onions and tomato in Aged balsamic dressing, served with Feta Cheese croquet.”

This salad was a special, heirloom tomatoes and sashimi grade salmon with a bit of greens, orange, and a mustard vinaigrette.

Another special salad, this time with Santa Barbara shrimp (with roe), corn, and a lovely vinaigrette.

Sam’s grandmom’s butternut squash soup. Vegan with some olives. A lovely bit of fall flavor.

A special today, boar lasagne. The sauce is a tangy tomato cream sauce. This was a really good lasagne. The boar meat was tastier than ground beef.

“Vegetarian Crepes. Homemade Crepes filled with Swiss chard, wild mushrooms and zucchini served in tomato coulis.”  This is a very nice vegetarian option, and surprisingly hearty. The sauce is bread dippingly yummy.

Sam’s has a pizza oven and a variety of pizzas served mostly on Sundays. This is the margarita.

And the Shawarma pizza, which given my penchant for homemade interesting pizzas, I found very interesting. The sauce is a bit more like a harissa, and the pizza is covered with shawarma and pine-nuts.

And served with a tangy yoghurt dip. Good stuff.

Medditeranian seafood soup. But it comes with the traditional toastes and garlic aioli.

Prepping the breads.

The soup itself. Lots of different seafood and a fantastic tomato garlic broth.

With the toasts. They sog up nicely and make for gooey garlicky goodness.

“Grilled Wild Salmon. Served with braised Swiss chard, Pine Nuts, and roasted Sunchoke, with fresh oregano sauce.”

Special rack of Lamb in a dijon mustard vinaigrette. The lamb was tender. The sauce has a fantastic vinegary tone, bright with the mustard, but not overpowering. I had to sop it up with bread afterward. Served with various vegetables and ratatouille.

Green apple sorbet, with a true apple mouthfeel (even a bit mealy, like real apples).

His creme brulee is straight up traditional, and it’s the second best I’ve ever had in the world (there was this one in Avignon…).

My personal favorite, the bread pudding. Topped with a creme anglais, it is warm, rich, and soft, with a chocolate botom.

A few freebee biscotti for dessert.

The room (or technically, half the room).

For other reviews of Sam’s, see here or here.

Matsuhisa – Where it all started

Restaurant: Matsuhisa [1, 2]

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

Date: January 23, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese Fusion

Rating: As good as it’s always been!


When I first ate at Matsuhisa 15 years ago it was a revelation. I’d been eating all this great traditional sushi for years and here was a totally new — even avant garde — take on the cuisine. Classic dishes like yellowtail with jalepeno have made there way onto countless less innovative menus. It’s been awhile since I’ve been here, and  I felt the hankering to know if they still had the stuff.

Nobu, a Japanese native (obviously), came to LA by way of Peru. And this is apparently the real genesis of the “Nobu Style,” mixing traditional sushi with Peruvian flavors. Apparently it has a relationship even to Peruvian street food. I myself only spent an hour int he Lima airport, so I can’t testify to that.

A Matsuhisa classic, “Toro tartar with caviar and a miso ponzu.” I’ve always loved the combo of the rich fatty toro and the acidic punch of the sauce. This theme of adding acidity to the fish is a consistant one.

Very very nice burgundy. Not many reds go well with the soy notes of this cuisine, but Burgundy does. The softness of the pino — minus the overzealous oaking that new world pinos usually have, works. Parker gives it a 97. “Grilled spices, and sweet red fruits are found in the aromatics of the 2003 La Romanee. Full-bodied, fresh and rich, this intense wine exhibits exceptional depth of fruit, concentration, and purity. Loads of candied black cherries dominate its juicy, extroverted personality and copious solid (yet ripe) tannin make an appearance in its exceedingly long finish. This offering, a beautiful marriage of power and elegance, should be drunk between 2009 and 2020.”

“Seafood springroll with heirloom tomato and caviar.” Certainly a tasty spring roll, and a dish I’ve had here before. Still it tastes mostly like fry and tomato. Good fry.

Clockwise from the back left. Monkfish liver with a little chille, tuna with onion and cucumber salsa, young yellowtail with ponzu, and spicy tuna taco. All of these were tasty, but I particularly liked the rich monkfish liver and it’s combined vinegar/spice tang.

Japanese baby conch, monkfish liver with ponzu and chille, tuna with salsa, young yellowtail with ponzu.

The conch pulled from its happy little home, coated in butter and parsley. This has a bit of chew to it, and a bit of bitterness, but is actually very pleasant.

“Artichoke salad.”

“Sashimi salad,” japanese scallop, tuna, mackerel, daikon wrapped greens. All very fresh. The scallop was particularly good. I love raw japanese scallop. Cooking them is a crime. Nobu has very good dressings. In fact, he sells a line of them commercially!

“Seabass with a sweet sauce and mache and grilled pepper.”

Half giant santa barbara prawn with cilantro, ponzu, and mache. Good sweet prawn. Too bad it didn’t have a nice juicy row like they sometimes do.

Seared toro with soba noodles and miso sauce.

Kobe beef, farro, mushrooms, and chipolte chili sauce. This was a really tasty dish. The sauce had a bit of heat, and that smoked chili flavor, paired perfectly with the tender/rich meat and the grains.

Left to right. Tuna, yellowtail, salmon, red snapper, tamago (egg). Fresh wasabi and picked ginger.

Toro, squid, mackerel, kanpachi, sea eel. The sushi here still is totally first rate. Melt in your mouth first rate. And I liked the big hunks of fresh marinated ginger.

Miso soup. Classic.

The vintage Matsuhisa dessert, “bento box” of flour-less chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. It’s still a combo that works — even if it’s very overdone. They use a very high quality ice cream.

Banana bread pudding with vanilla ice creme and creme anglais. Even though I’m not much of a banana fan, this was really delicious.

“Green-tea tiramisu with chocolate ice cream.” This was my least favorite of the three, although certainly not “bad”‘ in any way.

Certainly Nobu has kept the quality level up. In an absolute sense things are as good as ever. One weird bit is that so many other places have copied the cuisine . Not that they do it better. Most don’t use the same quality of ingredients, or they overdo stuff, dumping too much spicy mayo or sweet sauce on everything. A perfect example of this is Sushi House Unico (REVIEW HERE). Like anything more or not always more. Not that Unico isn’t a perfectly tasty joint, but it isn’t in the same league as Matsuhisa. Takao (who used to work for Nobu) and the late Hump (memorial REVIEW HERE) are among the few places that have their own totally successful take on the style.

But something that has also nagged at me for years is this, given how innovative the whole cuisine was to begin with, how relatively little has changed. Does each great chef have only one break through? Is innovation of this sort only done by the young? Or is the novelty born of the fusion of Japanese and Peruvian flavors? Maybe we need to send Nobu on a world eating tour!

For a second review of Matsuhisa, in the private room, click here.

Quick Eats: La Serenata

Restaurant: La Serenata

Location: 1416 Fourth Street Santa Monica, CA 90401. 310-656-7017

Date: Jan 8, 2011

Cuisine: Mexican


When I first started going 15-16 years ago, La Serenata was fairly eye opening — coming as I did from the world of tex-mex=Mexican. LA has so many different kinds of south of the border food. This place has always felt at least a little less Americanized and farther from street food. Plus, it’s right behind the promenade and perfect for a quick “before the movies” bite. The menu can be found here.

Cadillac Margarita, blended, no salt. Pretty good, although not in the same league as the ones I make myself at home. I take my home Margarita’s VERY serious, as seriously as I do my Ultimate Pizza. Any of the legions who have attended my 4th of July parties where I go through 7-10 gallons will attest! When it comes back in season I will blog in detail about my blend.

La Serenata always serves a soup with the meal. They vary by the day, but usually consist of some form of vegetable combined with cream and blended. This is mushroom. I’m partial myself to this kind of soup because cream is well… good.

The chipotle sauce. Can we say blood-red?

A round of the simple cheese only quesadillas. Popular with the two year-old set. And adults.

La Serenata offers several fishes every night, each of which can be paired with an assortment of half a dozen sauces. This is salmon in “La Salsa Serenata,” a cream and mushroom sauce.

Vegetables, beans, and homemade corn tortillas.

“Carne Deshebrada en chile Colorado,” shredded beef in a red chile sauce with onions and potatoes. You’d be hard pressed to find a more American dish — and I don’t mean the USA, I mean the continent. This is tasty stuff tucked into the tortillas.

The place has a festive “fake Mexican village” decor, but the food is very tasty, and doesn’t have that blah feel that too many generic Mexican places have. All very tasty. Plus, once you pound down three Cadilac Margaritas, you’d be hard pressed to tell.

Swish Swish – Mizu 212

Restaurant: Mizu 212

Location: 2000 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025 (310)478-8979

Date: December 17, 2010

Cuisine: Japanese Shabu Shabu

Rating: Best Shabu Shabu in town


Shabu Shabu is a form of Japanese cuisine where various meats and vegetables are cooked table side in boiling broth. Literally the name means “swish swish” for the sound the food makes as it is swished in the boiling water. In Japan one might get the impression that Shabu Shabu, like all Japanese culinary specialties, has been an inherited tradition since neolithic times, but in fact it entered the vocabulary only during World War II. Japanese soldiers in China encountered the ubiquitous Mongolian Hot Pot. But the Japanese are nothing if not masters at the art of culinary assimilation. They have a special ability to take the dishes of others and make them uniquely their own.

Mizu 212 is one of many excellent Japanese restaurants on Sawtelle. They do only Shabu Shabu and it’s all organic.

Each seat has a little hot plate.

On which is installed the pot of broth.

Hot green tea.

Part of the allure of shabu shabu are the sauces. The sesame sauce on the left and the ponzu on the right. The sesame sauce — like the cuisine itself — is borrowed from China. Loosely the sesame is for meat, and the ponzu is for veggies. But the unmodified sauces are just the beginning.

These are the basic condiments. From left to right: Chili oil, scallions, daikon radish, chili powder, and in front garlic!

The sesame gets a huge dose of garlic, as does the ponzu. But the ponzu also gets scallions and radish — and garlic.

There are also the advanced condiments, available on request. Both really help the ponzu shine. The yuzu on the left (juice from a Japanese lime) adds zest, and the chili is HOT! In a perfect kind of green hot. I find that red chili hot doesn’t go so well with shabu shabu — but green does.


The finished sauces.

And the actual food arrives. The vegetable plate. All sorts of organic goodness, plus some tofu and udon noodles.

The beef. This is a large plate of vintage aged beef. Mizu actually has about half a dozen meat options, including two different types of Kobe beef, plus chicken, lamb, and numerous types of fish. But beef is traditional.

The pot after a few rounds of veggies are added. Part of the key here is to cook each thing for just the appropriate length of time..

The beef cooks very quickly.

Swish, swish and voila!

Finished. Slather in the garlicky mizu and enjoy.

After all the cooking the meat fats are about all that’s left. Not so appealing.

The remains. There is a endless rice too. After you remove meat or vegetables from the broth, and dip it in one or the other sauces you can rest it to cool on the rice. That way, by the end the rice has become nicely saturated with sauce and fat.

As loyal (and repeat customers) we were treated to a round of homemade blood orange sorbet at the end. Yum!

Rows of other customers enjoying their private feasts. Not only is this meal good, and reasonably healthy, but it entertains too.