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.

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Blue Plate Oysterette

Restaurant: Blue Plate Oysterette

Location: 1355 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90402. 310.576.3474

Date: October 18, 2011

Cuisine: American Seafood

Rating: Good eats

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Blue Plate Oysterette is a relatively new (couple years) addition to Santa Monica’s high turnover Ocean Ave restaurant strip. And I’ve been meaning to do for awhile.


The location is prime, with a gorgeous view of the park and the ocean.


Today’s menu.


We sat at the raw bar, looking into the busy kitchen.


Oysters were of course mandatory. These are a number of different types of Pacific oysters Ximemez style (with aged sherry vinegar, tomato, mint, and EVO). They shellfish were all good, but  I really liked the tangy sauce.


We were interested in the yellowtail special on the menu but the waiter cross-sold us to this yellowtail ceviche. Peruvian food is on fire right now. It was a good ceviche, with that potent lime taste, but it pretty much obliterated the subtlety of the fish. I wish we’d stuck with the original — but again, that doesn’t mean this isn’t a very fresh and well done implementation of ceviche.


New England clam chowder. Cherrystone clams, light cream broth, bacon. This tasted good, with a nice smokiness from the bacon and lots of clam. They lightened it from the traditional in a concession to modern tastes. I like my chowder loaded with heavy cream and butter. And no wonder I’m not the thinnest guy in the world!


Another case in point, this “Lobster mac & cheese. gruyere, herbs, truffle oil.” This was real good stuff, with a lot of big chunks of lobster meat.


Crabcake.” Lots of good creaminess and soft blue crab in here. While not as good as the crab torta at Capo, it is a very respectable crab cake. Yum yum.


And the “lobster roll.” Another favorite of mine. I didn’t actually order this, but they have it on the menu, and so I found a web photo, because I love lobster roll. It looks good. Next time I’ll try it to compare to the excellent one a mile north at The Hungry Cat.

All and all, this was a good lunch, with classic (and new Peruvian) seafood. The fish was all very high quality, and being a seafood lover, I’ll be back.

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No Beef with Mastro’s

Restaurant: Mastro’s

Location: 246 North Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, Ca 90210. 310-888-8782

Date: September 17, 2011

Cuisine: Steak House

Rating: My favorite LA Steak joint

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America is full of steak houses at every level from Sizzler to Cut. But I haven’t found one that I like as much as Mastro’s. Granted I’m not a plain steak fan (I prefer my beef more like this, or tartar, or even Fogo). But Mastro’s gets the steak house think right.

The Cannon drive entrance, just a block north of Spago. Inside the place is a ZOO. Sure this was Saturday, 8:30pm on Emmy weekend in Beverly Hills. But this huge restaurant was packed to the gills, including both bars. These are a sure scene. It’s hard to tell the merely underdressed and over siliconed ladies from the pros.

Our table was right in front of the rat pack. It was much more crowded than in this photo.

The PDF of the menu can be found here.


We were celebrating the engagement of one of my oldest friends so I brought some big guns from my cellar. This wine was the first truly GREAT wine I ever bought (circa 1996). This is the second to last of two cases I once had. It has constantly and without fail scored 100 points from Robert Parker. You will find no better expression of Syrah.

“The 1991 Hermitage La Pavillon follows the pattern of the 1989 and 1990 – it is another perfect wine. The saturated black/purple color is followed by a compelling bouquet of spices, roasted meats, and black and red fruits. Enormously concentrated yet with brilliant focus and delineation to its awesomely-endowed personality, this extraordinary wine should age effortlessly for three plus decades. In a short period of time (Michel’s first vintage was 1989) Chapoutier‘s Hermitage Le Pavillon has become a wine of mythical proportions. Produced from extremely old vines, some dating from the mid nineteenth century, with yields averaging under 15 hectoliters per hectare, this is the richest, most concentrated and profound wine made in Hermitage. There are rarely more than 500 cases.”


Everything at Mastro’s is well done, and that includes the bread. I’m partial to the pretzel rolls myself.


Five of us ordered the seafood tower. The quality of the seafood here is impeccable and the only thing we had to complain about was that there wasn’t enough! Really for five we would have expected the two or three story version 🙂 Still there were amazing shrimp, lobsters, claws, king crab (didn’t taste frozen), and oysters.


One of the things that really makes the Mastro’s seafood tower are the sauces. We have cocktail, a spicy mustard, and the Atomic Horseradish. They use this particular magic brand (you can buy it here). The stuff is — pardon my French — fucking awesomely potent. I’ve taken to buying it myself for home. No other horseradish is this punishing. It has a nice flavor too. I particularly like it mixed in with the cocktail sauce. It can have you literally pounding the table in pain — ahem pleasure.


Beefsteak tomato and mozzarella. With pesto.


Since both I and my newly engaged friend were born in 1970, I grabbed from the cellar this puppy. Parker gives it a mere 95 points. Sure it isn’t quite the 1991 Le Pavillion, but it gets extra credit for age. “The 1970 Palmer is one of the great wines of the vintage. It exhibits a dark, opaque garnet color, and an emerging, fabulously complex, exotic nose of licorice, over-ripe plums and blackcurrants, soy, cedar, and minerals. Rich and concentrated, with medium to full body, a sweet inner-core of fruit, firm but silky tannin, and a long, rich finish, this remains a youthful, potentially superb Palmer. While approachable, it will keep through the first 10-15 years of the next century.


Here comes the beef!

Like most steak houses Mastro’s serves up the entrees bare (all the better to extract more cash from you). This is the New York Strip.


The bone in filet (12 ounce). This is my favorite cut of steak. It has both the filet tenderness and some extra flavor from the bone.


The straight petite (8 ounce) filet.


And the bone in filet, oscar style. Yes this was mine. Like King Robert, I’m trying to eat and drink my way to an early grave. “Oscar Style” means that it’s topped with asparagus, crab cakes and bearnaise sauce. Bearnaise sauce (French: Sauce béarnaise) is a sauce of clarified butter and egg yolks flavored with tarragon and shallots, with chervil and tarragon simmered in vinegar to make a reduction. Lean and mean baby!


Salmon steak. Looking lonely.


But it need not fear, the sides are here!

This is “Gorgonzola mac & cheese!” Oh so light, oh so yummy.


And even better, the evil “king crab truffle gnocchi.” Yes that’s right. Cream, cheese, truffles, crab, potato. What could be better?

In case you don’t get the idea, you have to see it up close. Oh so good.


Then the light “lobster mashers.” That orange stuff, that’s butter.


And for those not seeking an instant heart attack, the “sauteed spinach” (cooked in butter).


We continue to suffer on the wine front as well with this third gem from my cellar. Parker 96 points. “The 2008 Flor de Pingus offers up an enticing nose of smoke, Asian spices, incense, espresso, black cherry, and blackberry. On the palate it displays outstanding volume, intensity, and balance. Rich, dense, and succulent, it has enough structure to evolve for 4-5 years and will offer prime drinking from 2015 to 2028.”


So now we get to the desserts. This is “Mastro’s signature warm butter cake ala mode.” Basically a pound cake with an extra four sticks of butter or something. It’s really sweet and really good. Goes well with the magic whipped cream (see below).


Because of the incredible whipped cream here, we ordered up some fresh strawberries. Combine with below.

The photo is a little blown out, but Mastro’s has the most incredible whipped cream. You can just chow down on it my itself. Made fresh with really good cream and LOTS of sugar.


I couldn’t resist their key lime pie either. I LOVE key lime pie and they make a real good one. Plus it goes really well with the whipped cream.

Overall Mastro’s, while a zoo, and very expensive, is a spectacular steak house experience. You can really feel your heart palpitating as you roll out of here!

For more LA dining reviews click here.


The wines lined up in my cellar. I even brought a bottle of 1996 Dom P that I didn’t even open (not enough Champagne fans at the table). Another night.

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

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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.

Eating Poggibonsi – Babette

Restaurant: Ristorante Babette

Location: Poggibonsi, Italy

Date: June 19, 2011

Cuisine: Tuscan Seafood

Rating: Great food, great value

ANY CHARACTER HERE

After our self selection failure on Saturday, we got another restaurant recommend from our host (the owner of our villa). He sent us to this casual but very good seafood restaurant in Poggibonsi.


As usual there is a nice outside dining space.


And a gigantic menu.


This being all seafood we got both a prosecco.


And a local white from San Gimiangano. This is one of those joints where the wine is like E10. I like this light quaffable, almost Greek-style, white.


Caprese.


One of my friends and I ordered this “assorted fish appetizer, min 2 people” which was E10 a person, it came with this and EVERY dish until the pastas! An amazing assortment. This one was “Tuna with balsamic dressing.”


Marinated white anchovies and onions.


Crostini with white I think is a fish row mayo.


Marinated Salmon with red peppercorns.


What I think are winkles, or little sea snails, in a delicious garlicky sauce.


Octopus pulp. Also garlicky.


Muscles.

Scallops stuffed with a kind of pesto scallop paste.

Some tasty but undetermined shellfish “stew.” Wow, that’s a lot for two people and E20 total.


Home made pasta with a kind of tomato pesto.


White Risotto with mixed seafood. This was good, and unusual in that usually seafood risottos have some tomato in them.


Risotto with squid.


Strozzapreti with Fish ragu. This was highly unusual (for me) and really good. It was essentially a ragu made using shellfish instead of ham. It was very salty, with a significantly briny taste, but very tasty. The al dente shells were a fantastic foil.


Pizza Margherita.


Mixed fried fish. Lightly fried and delicious.


Branzino, simply grilled and filleted at the table.


A very very typical fish preperaration all over the Medditeranian, but done very well here.

The final presentation of the fish.

Not only was this restaurant a bit different, being all seafood, and very good, but it was an incredible deal. The bill was less than E20 a person and we had an incredible amount of food.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Milano Marittima – Al Caminetto

Restaurant: Al Caminetto

Location: Cervia / Milano Marittima, Italy

Date: June 10, 2011

Cuisine: Adriatic Seafood

Rating: Great service, great food

ANY CHARACTER HERE

For our anniversary my wife, me, and our family went out to what the locals described as “the best restaurant in town.”


This is a large, lovely, and lively joint — packed to the brim with large parties. We must have observed at least half a dozen birthdays or other assorted celebrations.

The poured us all glasses of prosecco right out of the gate.

And brought some pre-bread, basically pizza dough.

Then tehy came around with these steamed clams and chickpeas.

Seen here closer up. We thought these were all freebees, but they did turn up on the bill!

Just a bit of menu!


We started with this Gavi white. Not bad, but not really my favorite Italian white of the trip.


Various butters.


Pickled onions.

Raw food, eaten on toast with the onions. Yum.

Salted peel and eat shrimp, like at a chinese restaurant.


Fritto Misto!


One portion.

Insalta Misto. You will continue to see a lot of these.

This wine i really liked. Soave is a very nice white.


Some mongo crabs in the tank, about twenty inches across each.


Penne gorgonzola.

Linguine with salmon and cream.


Mixed grill! I don’t know what the flat purple backed creatures are, and while they tasted fine, they sure had a lot of legs.


Grilled veggies.

Spaghetti del mare.


A single portion.


Close up.


The wave of desserts begins with limon sorbet mixed with prosecco.


Mixed cookies.

Some moscato. Two dessert drinks!


An anniversary tiramisu with sparkler.

A slice of that. Tasty, full of cream.

Then they bring by the dessert cart.


And I can’t resist a slice of cassata. I never get cassata, and while this is only the mainland Italian type, and not my all time favorite cassata di Sicilianna, it was still good.


A profiterole, drowned.

Then some “bonus” (again on the bill) fruit. Pretty spectacular.


I wander to find they have a pizza oven. What doesn’t this place have?

Ladies even get a parting gift of merengues. This place was pretty darn fun. Everything tasted wonderful too. The only downside was the bill, but hey you only have your 10th anniversary once (well at least you SHOULD only have it once).

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

The Lobster claws at the pier

Restaurant: The Lobster

Location:  1602 Ocean Ave. Santa Monica, California 90401.  310.458.9294

Date: April 29, 2011

Cuisine: Seafood

Rating: Great view, decent food.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Every couple months we go to the Lobster. It’s located right at the top of Santa Monica Pier and has a tremendous view of the pier and the ocean, lots of seafood, and a lively scene. It is a little overpriced, but view spots tend to be.


The top of the pier.


The main room inside, with views of the ocean.


The menu.


Typical sour-dour seafood resteraunt bread.


A kind of chimichuri dipping sauce for the bread.


The wine list. I got a couple glasses of the ever reliable J.J. Prum Kabinet Riesling.


“Organic Country Fresh Farms Baby Greens. Fennel, Cherry Tomatoes & Shaved Parmesan with Red Wine Vinaigrette.”


“Manila Clam Chowder. Applewood Smoked Bacon & Weiser Farms Fingerling Potatoes.” This was a slightly different take on the New England clam chowder. I liked the clams in the shell factor, certainly makes it pretty. The broth had a nice flavor, but without the thick creamy whiteness of the totally traditional variant. It was a bit more like a corn chowder, or certain types of traditional Irish soups.


“Grilled Wild Columbian River King Salmon. Coleman Farms Baby Broccoli, Caramelized Onion, Weiser Farms Fingerling Potatoes & Tart Cherry Gastrique.” This would have been good except for the fact that while it was ordered medium well, it was medium-rare, and the pink inside didn’t have the firmness it should, but had turned into that kind of salmon mush. We actually sent it back. Cooked right it would have been fine.


“Butter Poached Lobster. Tutti Fruitti Farms Sweet English Peas, Wild Mushroom Ragout & Lobster Mash.” I usually get this, and there’s a reason. I love lobster. I love buttery bisque-style lobster sauces. I love pees, and mash potatoes go well with all of the above. Really, what’s not to like.

The hopping bar scene. It was even more crowded outside on the patio.

The Lobster is fairly typical of mid-high end ocean-view American places. The food is better than Gladstones (see below), and if you order right can be very good, but it certainly isn’t a stellar kitchen. Still, it can be a fun place and a very enjoyable meal, particularly if you enjoy our favorite North Atlantic crustacean.

For two reviews of Gladstones, check HERE and HERE.