First Taste: Superba Food + Bread in Venice Opens Tomorrow

Seared Arctic Char, Snap Peas, Rhubarb, Mint

Tomorrow, Superba Food + Bread opens along Lincoln Boulevard, a little further inland than its counterpart, Superba Snack Bar.

It’s a beautiful space with an open feel and just enough green, canary yellow and white throughout to accentuate its abundance of natural daylight and high ceilings. Whereas the Snack Bar employed delicious pastas, Paul Hibler’s Food + Bread will showcase a vast repertoire of…well, bread. Delicious, gluten-full bread.

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Willie Jane: Bringing Southern California Comfort to Abbot Kinney

Swordfish, Fried Chicken, Black-eyed Peas

When considering restaurants on Abbot Kinney and the recent upshoot of many restaurants serving Southern cuisine around town, it’s only proper that the Venice hub would receive its own outpost. Govind Armstrong, of Post & Beam and before that, ROFL Café (I know) and 8 Oz Burger Bar, is as recognizable a chef’s name as any other in L.A. and adds himself as another well-regarded name on the Boulevard, the others being Joe Miller and Casey Lane. Continue reading

Talking with Heather Dorak of Pilates Platinum

Heather Dorak of Pilates Platinum

For awhile after I started food writing, there was a point where I had let go of all physical activity. At some point, I felt the repercussions, and decided to give the Pilates studio a few blocks away from my new Hollywood apartment a go. I had an inkling that I’d like Pilates, but I ended up really loving it.

I’ve gone through the distance running, Bikram yoga, Anusara-influenced yoga and spin phases in my child through adult life, but I found Pilates to be just what I needed, because I really need consistent strength training – especially since I’ve had shoulder surgery and am now perpetually conscious of it and my upper body strength. I have also found my prior yoga training really helpful for proper form while I’m on the reformer, and now whenever I’m not even in the studio, I love the extra attention I subconsciously pay to my posture, even while at the desk. In short, I highly recommend Pilates!

But it all wouldn’t have been possible without Heather Dorak, the still-twenty-something entrepreneur extraordinaire who started it all. She is an inspiration, just as working out regularly has also had an influence how it has influenced how I think about food. I asked a Heather a few questions about her lifestyle and her relationship to food:

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My Top dineLA Restaurant Week Picks for Winter, 2013: January 21 – February 1

Braised Beef Cheek, Taleggio Pureed Potatoes, Chanterelles

Happy Martin Luther King Day! Also, what a joyous second inauguration day. In this case, it also means the very first day of dineLA Restaurant Week. If you haven’t, already, you best be making your reservations right now – or better yet, take advantage of your day off and find your prix fixe destination for lunch today.

I’ve done a bit of perusing the incredibly extensive list of restaurants and their offered menus around the city and came up with a few categories that struck me. With 3-course prix fixe as the standard, here are some standout menu offerings the week starting today, Monday, January 21 – Friday, February 1:

Best Opportunity to Try New Chef at Venue

Not new chefs by any definition (in fact, the tenure of this group is impressive especially by L.A. standards) – just new venues.

I associate my first experiences with potted rillettes, headcheese and pates in L.A. with Remi Lauvand, and he’s now at Le Ka, having just opened last September. Downtown workers can get their feet wet on the $25 lunch menu, but interesting dinner menu items include escargot cavatelli, lamb’s tongue and scallops with lentils and chicken skin – some things that may be too good to pass up.

With Vartan Abgaryan now serving at a venue in possession of one of the most enviable patios in Silver Lake, I can’t help but simply displace the delicious plates he was just serving at Public Kitchen & Bar and imagine them enjoyed in outdoor dim lighting surrounded by foliage. Sure, he’s changed up a few things, but I’ve always been a fan of his octopus.

Just a week ago, IDG’s RivaBella just started serving dinner in its brand-new, 8,000 square foot space, basically the antithesis of Angelini Osteria. You’ll have to settle for lunch if you want to do Restaurant Week here, but if Gino Angelini’s pasta (such as a green pappardelle in ragu) is part of the 3-course offering, that will always do.

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Superba Snack Bar Preview at Pitfire Artisan Pizza in West Hollywood

Chicken liver mousse, lardo, pate, etc. - Osteria La Buca

Since Jason Neroni left Osteria La Buca, Hollywood’s been feeling a little blue since he was the center of some of the best Italian the neighborhood ever knew. It’s a great thing, then, that he’s scheduled to make a comeback with his and Paul Hibler’s own Superba Snack Bar (nay, not so great that it’s all the way in Venice). But we can take advantage of the pop-up going on this week, however, at the West Hollywood location of Pitfire Pizza.

The pop-up at Hibler’s Pitfire is essentially a preview of what’s to come in about a month at Superba Snack Bar, which will be located at 933 Rose in Venice. So check the menu below (subject to change) and hop on over to the Fairfax District in the next couple of days:

  • Snack: Chicken Liver Mousse, Rye Toast, Balsamic Cherries, Basil Buds ($10)
  • Salad: Eclectic Acres Greens, Superba Ricotta, Famers’ Market Vegetables, Blossoms, Picked Jalapeño Dressing ($8)
  • Pizza: Ramps and Ramp Greens, Ricotta, Crème Fraiche, Smoked Bone Marrow ($12)
  • Pasta: Garganelli, Lamb Bolognese, Black Garlic, Smoked Ricotta Salata ($14)
  • Sandwich: Porchetta, Wild Arugula, Preserved Lemon, Garlic Confit ($12)
  • Drinks: Beer Sangria ($7), Belgian White, Prosecco, Chardonnay, Apricot Juice ($8)

It promises to be a hearty yet flavorful set, so I’m looking forward to it. Buon appetito!

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Wednesday & Thursday
May 23 – 24, 2012

7 PM
No reservations needed

Pitfire Artisan Pizza
801 N. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
323.544.6240

Los Angeles Bars That Don’t Belong

R Bar - Photographed by: Alen Lin (www.alenlin.com)

We all love Los Angeles for the diversity it affords in all cross-sections of life. (Or, at least I hope you do.) But let’s be honest. When it comes to food, fashion and yes, even drinking, sometimes we’ve come to expect a certain type of scene based upon the neighborhood that we’re in.

You’ll find flip-flops accepted and even expected near the beach while they’ll likely be shunned as you head eastbound. Moustaches and more indie music? East. Button-downs over straight-cut slacks? West. Dress code? All over (unfortunately).

But recently I found myself in a few bars where the interior and auras had me confused – as if I really were in a different neighborhood. Here’s the rundown on my impressions – along with my favorite cocktail at each bar:

Del Monte Speakeasy: Located in Venice, but feels like you’re in Silver Lake

The PSA

Recently outfitted with Brandon Ristaino’s elaborate cocktail menu, Del Monte has upped their game with some pretty fancy – and complicated – recipes. With a new focus on housemade ingredients, the speakeasy menu has some wacky combinations in their drinks. It’s brave and takes risks, which I admire, but unfortunately I didn’t like the majority of the cocktails. While reading the ingredients of a drink off the menu would usually provide enlightenment in my enjoyment of the cocktail, the explanation of each drink was simply confusing as many of the components seemed to clash.

The speakeasy area downstairs, however, has a ton of charm – and has only very recently legally reopened. There’s a filled-in tunnel from the Prohibition days in their stock room and the stairs are so old that you best be looking down as you descend – lest you trip down the rabbit hole into this bar that doubles as a music venue! Recommended cocktail: The PSA, made with Pisco, Aperol, citrus, house prepared demerara syrup, egg white & Peruvian bitters (Caroline on Crack explains why).

Naya Sunset: Located in Silver Lake, but feels like you’re in Hollywood

Naya Sunset Interior

Granted, I was at the media opening, but I’m thinking from the dim lighting, loungey seating and 4-on-the-floor house music, Naya Sunset’s intent was to bring the club to Sunset Junction. With a side of Indian food and a little Southeast Asian flavor mixed in, that is. Thing is, Joel Black’s cocktails are better than most others’ available in the vicinity, so if you’re craving one of the aforementioned – or both – it’d be a mistake to pass Naya up should you happen to be in the neighborhood.

My favorite cocktail: The Rocky Patel is a down-and-dirty mix of Chivas 12 Year blended Scotch whisky, Laphroaig 10 Year Islay Scotch whisky and espresso bean infused Zaya 12 Year old rum with espresso bean garnish. The smokey flavor of the Laphroaig blended beautifully with the subtle coffee flavors of the rum. Delicious. Also don’t forget to try the others on for size, such as the Spa in Goa – a refreshing cocktail utilizing Aviation Gin, fresh lime juice, Persian cucumbers, fresh thyme and agave nectar. It tastes just like it sounds, except even better (gin always has a benefit over vodka, no?).

R Bar: Located in Koreatown, but feels like you’re in Eagle Rock

Don’t look for signage, because it doesn’t exist. And…you need a password to get through the door. Yes, it initially feels a little off-putting, like a douchey dance club, but the password can be found out either on their Facebook or Twitter. And once you’re in, you’re pretty much in dive bar paradise. Heavy-hitting jukebox, check. Stiff pours, check. Old, wooden booths and furnishings with sweet nothings and loud somethings etched into said wood, check. Other than the name, it’s not a pirate bar by the strictest standards, but sometimes I just want a no-nonsense bar with a campy, divey feel.

Play Action Trivia on Tuesdays, or if you really were jonesin’ for that part of K-town, you can also karaoke on Mondays (albeit on-stage, rowdy style and without the private rooms). As far as drinks, stick to the 1:2 pours or just go with whiskey neat. I’d be wrong to recommend it, but they do offer a “mystery shot” to bravely hapless drinkers.

***

I love unpredictibility. And I’ve always had a soft spot for outcasts. These little gems spread across the city offer scenes that are totally unexpected given the neighborhoods they occupy. Stop by one and prepare to be at least a little bit surprised.

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Townhouse/Del Monte Speakeasy
52 Windward Ave.
Venice, 90291
310.392.4040

Naya Sunset
3705 W. Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
323.663.8268

R Bar
3331 W. 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005
213.387.7227

Larry’s in Venice: A Space To Savor

Larry's Exterior

There’s something poetic about a restaurant that knows its place. Larry’s, located on the beach and open since mid-August, seems to embody that with its beautiful, convertible patio and simple menu.

Potted chicken liver & foie gras parfait

Not a single item on the menus (printed on paper and ready for you to tally as in a sushi bar) is over $15, yet hardly any of the dishes lack in heft. Rather, full flavors – and beer, complete with 26 taps – seem to be the focus at Larry’s. It may be Vegetarian- and Vegan-centric Venice, but omnivores can appreciate the wide selection of charcuterie, flatbread toppings and small plates doubling as entrees; there’s plenty of meat on this menu.

Such as the delicious pot of chicken liver & foie gras parfait (nothing like duck liver to even out the pungency of chicken liver). You can also order the charcuterie and cheese – a solid representation – either to start or to nibble on during the length of your stay. Nothing is parsed out as appetizers or mains, and it serves as a plus. No one is going to scold you if you want to share your organic sal, I’m sorry, bacon-wrapped organic salmon with your friends.

Shrimp & Maine Lobster Ragout

Flatbreads: check. The crust is respectable (could it be the water?) and the variety of topping combinations is enough to keep anyone satisfied.

The Green Curry Mussels – a staple at any gastropub – were good and maintained its status as a reliable dish.

Surprisingly, one of my favorites was found in the capellini pasta, which was a Shrimp & Maine Lobster Ragout with lobster tomato sauce, basil and truffle. While sampling some of the heavier items (yes, even sampling does this) had me worried about passing out on my drive home to Hollywood, it was this pasta that was ironically the standout. That is, in addition to sipping Ommegang’s Hennepin Farmhouse Saison and a New Belgium Hoptober.

While you won’t go to Larry’s to achieve your latest culinary epiphany, Chef Brendan Collins (Waterloo & City) does a great job setting up a solid menu for this gastropub-by-the-beach. They also tap new, local and/or rare brews there once in awhile, such as Atwater Village’s brand new Golden Road Brewing Company’s Point the Way IPA. Whereby I normally avoid the beach in most things food-related (it’s about the view, isn’t it?), Larry’s, with its wide draft selection, beautiful people and unmatched outdoor-indoor backdrop, really can’t be beat.

Bring friends.

All food and beer were hosted.

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Mon – Fri

11:30 AM – 10 PM

Sat – Sun

11:30 AM – 12 AM

Larry’s Bar & Restaurant
24 Windward Avenue
Venice, CA 90291
310.399.2700

Taste of Abbot Kinney With VIP Ticket Giveaway + Abbot Kinney Cocktail Clash: October 23, 2011

Tasting Kitchen Interior

That young, Venice-representative food festival called The Taste of Abbot Kinney is back. And this, the third time around, they’ve got a new model to present. As a result of last year’s Taste souring due to food shortages and taste ticket overages, the board had decided to completely revamp the event. To start, they brought one of Abbot Kinney’s most important and veteran proprietors on-board as event chairman: Joe Miller.

The event returns with two ticket levels but with a centralized reception space in the former studio of Charles & Ray Eames. VIPs get early access at 3 PM with a reception hosted by The Food Network’s Adam Gertler; chef demos by Joe Miller himself and Yoshi Shima; appetizers by Primitivo, Joe’s and Gjelina; Calstar Cellar wines poured by Primitivo; Bloody Marys by Tasting Kitchen;  desserts by Crema and even a VIP gift bag.

At 4:30 PM, regular Tasting Tour takers join in with included access to the DJ’ed reception, where they also get to participate in the drawing, which includes hotel and restaurant packages from such destinations as: Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, Hotel Wilshire, Hotel Erwin and Terranea Resort and original art by Ellie Riley. Participating restaurants in the Taste of Abbot Kinney also include Hal’s Restaurant & Bar, Lilly’s French Café & Bar, Casa Linda, Lemonade, Otheroom, 3 Square Cafe & Bakery, The General Store/Pop Up Gallery and Abbot’s Habit.

See below to see how you can win one of two pairs of tickets to the VIP reception

And of course, the day of tasting doesn’t just end at 6 PM. Full disclosure: I’m judging this subsequent cocktail competition!

The inaugural Abbot Kinney Cocktail Clash held at Joe’s Restaurant will be held at 7 PM for all who want to attend (free), where Ryan Wainwright of Tasting Kitchen, Dennis Kahn of Hal’s Bar and Grill and Jennifer Zerboni from Joe’s Restaurant will go head-to-head in a cocktail competition.

First round: Each mixologist will be presented with a mystery box of five ingredients that they must use in their cocktail, and will have 10 minutes to create. Potential ingredients include: Portuguese peppers, Persian cucumbers, bacon, lemon verbena, arugula, tomato, passion fruit, cardamom, star anise and huckleberry.

Second round: Each bartender will have 7 minutes to create their own, pre-planned signature cocktail. Wainwright will be making his Navy Sour, Kahn his Sapphire Sunset and Zebroni will be creating her Fisco Pig. Each cocktail will be judged on: best presentation, most original and best overall taste.

Daniel Djang of Thirsty in LA and I will be judges and guests will be able to purchase food from the bar or dinner menu at Joe’s Restaurant.

And now the giveaway…

***

CONTEST

To enter to win one of two pairs of tickets to the VIP Reception + Tasting Tour of Abbot Kinney, do both of the following:

  1. Tweet: “I want to win VIP tix to @TasteofAK, @estarLA! http://estar.la/e/c1”
  2. Like e*starLA” on Facebook
  3. Leave a comment below (with your email address, which won’t be shared, so I can contact you) on what you’re most looking forward to at TofAK.

Contest closes Thursday at 5PM! I’ll contact the two winners by 7PM. If I don’t hear back by the end of the day, I’ll pick another winner (or two) on Friday morning. Be on standby at your Inboxes.

See you at Taste of Abbot Kinney!

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

VIP Tasting Package: $100

3 – 6:30 PM

Tasting Tour Package: $60

4:30 – 6:30 PM

Taste of Abbot Kinney
901 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291

Checking Out the (Off-)Menu by Chef Haru Kishi at Chaya Brasserie

Almond Three Ways | Milk, Roasted and Green

At 25, Chaya’s time in Los Angeles almost doubles my own. I was unsure whether I’d feel more intimidated by their history or blasé about the menu. Turns out that it was neither of those things. Chef Haru Kishi, who, for the first time, was recruited from outside the Chaya family, brings in a fresh approach. Though yes, the tuna tartar is right there on the menu, overall, it’s a strong departure from what was served before.

Saffron Pappardelle | Wagyu Bolognaise

It’s a pleasure to meet the chef, who himself personifies the Franco-Japanese Chaya tit for tat. Yes, this is Los Angeles, but I still don’t remember the last time I spoke to an ethnically Japanese man who speaks English with a French accent. His menu, however, has tinges of Southern influences. Vernacular and second languages aside, Haru speaks through his food ever elegantly – at least through the La Petite menu, which is the facet of Chaya H.C. and I were privy to on our visit. Not to be confused with the Chef’s Tasting menu or dining section of the restaurant, La Petite is your prerogative to go a la carte.

Our (off-menu) amuse was a sight and concept to behold and opened my eyes to one of the ways almond could be served: Young and green. The overall amuse was delicious and evocative of morning cereal thanks to the charred rice puffs

Coconut Sorbet, Compressed Strawberry, Agave Syrup, Black Peppercorn, Chocolate Dots

While I wasn’t crazy about the gravy consistency in the otherwise mouth-watering Scallop Pot Pie, the Hamachi Mole Pressed Sushi was pretty fantastic. I guess there are some things you can count on Chaya for – variations on that raw fish dish you’re sure to never tire of.

There are still entrees offered on the La Petite menu – and excellent ones from what I could tell.  Our small portioned (for tasting purposes) Saffron Pappardelle had that perfect handmade pasta bite with just the right amount of Wagyu Bolognaise sauce.

La Petite Menu Dining Area

My favorite cocktail was the Apple Knocker with Laird’s Apple Jack Brandy Blend, apple juice, pomegranate, citrus and bucket. With most of the drinks being vodka, acai and soju based, this was kind of a no-brainer. But the dessert! So good. Again, I am guilty of blogging about an off-menu item but maybe you can get Chef Haru to make a special case for you, as well. It had compressed strawberries enveloped in a fluffy coconut sorbet. But the details really made it a treat, with crunchy chocolate dots, mint and candied orange peel topping the heavenly dessert that made me close my eyes. So hopefully you’ll forgive me for teasing you with this dessert since I implore you to ask for it when you visit Chaya.

The end of it is that you’ll have a solid experience at Chaya. The conclusion of my visit was that it’s no accident that they’ve been around for such a long time. It seems that Chef Harutaka has successfully ushered in a new vision and diners everywhere (not just Cedars Sinai employees) have good reason to see what he’s up to.

All food and cocktails were hosted.

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Lunch

11:30 AM – 2:30 PM

Dinner

Mon – Sat: 6 – 10:30 PM
Sun: 5 – 9 PM

Bar, Lounge & Patio

Mon – Fri: 11:30 AM – Close
Sat – Sun: 5 PM – Close

Chaya Brasserie Beverly Hills
8741 Alden Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Orgasmo de la Boca: The Underground Supper Club of the Senses

Duck Breast, Roasted Cauliflour, Basil Puree, Dried Fig and Brandy Gastrique, Crispy Fennel | Photo credit: Tricia Romano

When Chef Alessandra invited me to her transplanted-from-Oregon (and before that, Spain) underground supper club, I was intrigued. The theme of the night was of the lovers’ variety. And so I traveled to a quaint backyard somewhere in a lovely LA neighborhood to partake in her Aphrodisiac Dinner. I went solo, but was comforted when I found the dinner party also included fun company – no doubt a result of the kind of company the exuberance of the chef naturally attracted.

Oyster Two Ways: Sauteed Cornmeal Crusted Oyster on Red Wine Onion Confit & Fanny Bay on the Halfshell With Red Wine Shallot Mignonette | Photo by Tricia Romano

It was a beautiful setting – and one in which it was comfortable to enjoy a full-on eight courses (plus a bonus course) with wine pairings. Though I admit I was worried when I saw it was to take place outside, it was not too cold nor too warm underneath that cozy, red light-tinged tent. The setting is no detail to be glossed over when it comes to underground supper clubs, but in Orgasmo de la Boca’s case, it was perfect. The explanations behind what was going on through Chef Allesandra’s mind while constructing each dish were lovely to behold as my fellow diners and I pondered each bite.

And so was the pacing. Coupled with the quality and tastiness of the dishes, the dining experience was top-notch. Of course, there was at least one love- (or lust-?) inducing ingredient by any interpretation in each course. Oysters two ways; pork via “Bacon and Eggs” – that is, Poached Arauncana Egg in Iberico Nest with Sundried Tomato Butter poached Fingerlings and Ovan Roasted Grape Tomatoes; chili via Fried Mushroom Salad with Chipotle Chervil Aioli and strawberry via a Strawberry-Ginger Granite as a mid-dinner palate cleanser. The wine pairings were also stellar, bringing in another dimension to each course and even the wine itself as proper pairings should.

Dining the Orgasmo de la Boca Way | Photo by Tricia Romano

I always love oysters – especially on the halfshell – and the spicy Fried Mushroom Salad was absolutely lovely, especially when paired with the ’09 Marina Alta Blanco. My favorite was actually a main – the duck breast with the cauliflour and basil puree with dried fig and brandy gastrique as well as fennel. Apparently, women used to dust powdered basil on themselves as a scent and figs were Cleopatra’s favorite fruit. With fennel (which the Egyptians used as a libido enhancement) making the third aphrodisiac ingredient in this dish, perhaps I was really into the thematics and this is why my appetite ultimately “culminated” with this one!

Also delicious was the Coriander Crusted Salmon with Sunchoke Puree and Latke in Tomato and Asparagus Broth. With asparagus and especially coriander being the key ingredients here, I admit there is rarely an experience where I don’t enjoy salmon and this night would have been no exception. The coriander was a really nice touch, highlighting the richness of the fish.

Coriander Crusted Salmon, Sunchoke Puree and Latke, Tomato and Asparagus Broth | Photo by Tricia Romano

Of course, it’s not a proper “love” dinner without dessert, and the “Chocolate Covered Menage a Trois” with sea salt panna cotta, frozen bananas and almond brittle (or manage a quatre with the ’09 Monticelli Muscato d’Asti) did not disappoint. The saltiness, sweetness from both chocolate and fruit and multiple textures just bombarded the senses and was a conclusion to behold.

While Allesandra is known for her smoked olives (see: Artisanal LA), it is clear that she deserves an honest look at her underground dinners. They’re delicious, professional yet hospitable and are a multiple-course tour de force to be reckoned with. The themes change according to her whimsy and inspiration, so there’s a different experience awaiting each diner every time. One thing is constant, however: You can sense her passion in each bite.

For the next dinner on June 4, be sure to reserve here.

All food and wine were hosted.

Special thanks to Tricia Romano for the photos.

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Orgasmo de la Boca

Undisclosed location

Dinners organized on case-by-case basis

Average cost: $125 per person