Links: e*starLA Elsewhere in 2015

Catch & Release, Marina del Rey

Apologies for not updating the blog, but here’s a post to push its revival into the New Year. Here I come, 2016! This week, I’ll be posting a round-up of sorts on 2015 and noteworthy dishes at noteworthy restaurants.

In any case, feel free to catch up with a few of my freelance articles, and my comments forthwith, that I wrote for other online publications the latter half of 2015 here. Also, a plug to follow me on other social media channels, which I’ve been updating pretty regularly: Instagram, Twitter, and eventually Snapchat (@estar_la)!

Happy reading. I’ll catch you guys with another 2015 update tomorrow.

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

Bánh Mì My-Tho
304 W Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801

Phorage
3300 Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Catch & Release
13488 Maxella Ave
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

Langer’s Delicatessen
704 S Alvarado St
Los Angeles, CA 90057

Wexler’s Deli, GCM
317 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Old Country Cafe
2 E Valley Blvd #1e
Alhambra, CA 91801

Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village
250 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776

Zankou Chicken
5065 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Twenty-One Reasons to dineL.A.: January 19 – February 1, 2015

Lobster Roll – Blue Plate Oysterette

DineL.A. is back and it’s time to scour the menus of participating restaurants all over town. I’ve come up with some reasons to jet to a particular dining establishment near you, whether for lunch or for dinner. Some restaurants offer exclusive dishes to dineL.A., others are offering a particularly enticing lunch and/or dinner menu. There are also participants that might normally be out of your price range or sense of adventure, but dineLA might just be the right occasion to give them a try.

Continue reading

My Top dineLA Restaurant Week Lunch Picks for Summer, 2013: July 15 – 26

RivaBella’s Nidi di Rondine

This summer’s dineLA Restaurant Week commences today and lasts 10 days – over two weekday stretches and one weekend. And since we’ve had a few of these by now, it’s probably time we got smart on maneuvering through the multitude of menus. The trick with dineLA prix fixe is that it may get people through the door, but it may or may not be quite the deal you had in mind. The danger is that you might just be stuck with fewer, albeit recommended, choices for about the same price you’d normally pay.

May I propose lunch? They tend to be better deals than dinner – often true between both offerings of the same restaurant – because there’s more incentive to increase lunch traffic with dinner reservations filling up more readily. So whether you’ve got a 9-5 in the area or are in a certain neighborhood for an audition or client appointment, there’s probably a great dineLA power lunch strategy wherever you end up.

Continue reading

Beyond Celebrity Sushi Rolls: Omakase at Hamasaku is Top Notch

Kuromutsu Sushi Topped with Shirako

Hamasaku is a Westside strip-mall sushi joint, its designation as such not lost on the many regulars who have gone for a particular sushi experience for a number of years. There’s a menu full of celebrity rolls – that is, name-saken sushi rolls with ingredient combinations made up by celebrities – and it is this menu on which Hamasaku has built its reputation. Until recently, that is. Now, you’ll have to specially ask for the celebrity roll menu should you want to order off it.

Continue reading

Sotto: An Amaro Wonderland in Los Angeles

Dux di Lux – Luxardo Bitter, fresh lime, dry vermouth, Luxardo maraschino, egg white, housemade amaro “Sotto-pop”

With amaro cocktails being really popular right now – and with good reason – you can count on there being one to three of them on the menu of any semi-serious bar program. But I can’t think of any other bar that even compares to how Julian Cox’s program at Sotto has really advanced the cocktail classification in Los Angeles.

Continue reading

The Bruery Tap Takeover at Steingarten: Thursday, March 20, 2013

The Bruery Tap Takeover

If you’re like, really, way into local beer but Orange County still seems like a schlep (yes, we’re lazy Angelenos), you’ll want to make it over to Steingarten on the Westside for some tap takeover action by one of our favorites, The Bruery.

Try all of these on for size:

Continue reading

P’tit Soleil Has The Poutine I’ve Been Waiting For

Poutine Malik: Merguez sausage, cheese curds & a creamy Harissa sauce

Poutine. It’s an import to Southern California, but you’d think it would’ve reached Universal Food Status by now…like cupcakes, burgers & frozen yogurt. After all, who doesn’t love gravy, cheese and fries? I can confirm that the combination of the three (or four – that is, with protein) is way better than the mere sum of its parts.

Poutine Marat

Then again, I hail from Wisconsin – and the frequency of my visits to Canada still outnumbers those to Mexico. So you can understand my Cheesehead’s frustration with the grated cheese application on fries everywhere in this city. Even at Animal. And Frysmith. (I still love both of you.) But this is not poutine. In fact, cheese curds exist as an actual ingredient even on its Wikipedia page. (I know! I just invoked the Wiki!)

You may call it “gourmet poutine,” I just call it “done properly.”

But perhaps I hold too much respect for the cheese curd. I can’t help it – nor can I contain my excitement that P’tit Soleil – across from Soleil, which has been a Westwood Blvd restaurant for 10 years – actually sources theirs from Carr Valley Cheese in LaValle, Wisconsin. Though curds are known for their squeak when fresh, these nuggets are expertly melted down from being laid atop just-out-of-the-fryer frites. Not too gooey to appreciate its original shape…softened enough to spread its love to the other frites in the Québécois haystack. It is the anti-steak fry, and it’s just the right size for a balanced ratio of potato to gravy and toppings. Melty morsels, not tiny slivers, are key in curds, I’m telling you!

Continue reading

For Pigs: All You Can Eat Weekend Summer Comfort Food

Roy Choi’s Krispy Fried Chicken

AYCE. Or, All You Can Eat, for those not yet acclimated to the now-oft-used acronym. (You late-comers and non-Korean BBQ-grubbers, you.) But we’re not talking Old Country Buffet on this blog, nor the club tunes-pumping Manna, here. We’re talking gourmet all you can eat, now.

Take Roy Choi, for instance. The All You Can Eat Fried Chicken Picnic starts tomorrow on Saturday, July 14th and will go every weekend from 12-3 PM.

For $18 per person you get:

  • Krispy Buttermilk Fried Chicken – legs and thighs sous vide in spices, herbs & chilies dredged in rice flour and a splash of lemon juice
  • Supermarket Sweet Potato Deli Salad – smashed red garnet sweet potatoes, scallions, pickled shallot rings, whole grain mustard vinaigrette
  • Zucchini & Cabbage Cole Slaw – buttermilk, dijon dressing, fresh herbs

If you prefer the Korean beer of choice to wash down your poultry, add $10 for endless Hite.

See you there.

*****

Crawfish FTW

If you’re more of a shellfish and Zydeco band lover, head to The Foundry on Melrose for Crawfish Boil Sundays.

For your aural pleasure, the Mudbug Brass Band will be on-hand for that authentic vibe. And from 5:30 – 8 PM on Sundays, you’ll get crawfish and jambalaya for only $25 per person

Update/Correction:
Also offered are Hurricanes for $10 each and Jack Juleps (Jack Daniels with mint & sugar cubes) for $8. Each week, a different Po’ Boy will be featured (this week: catfish) for $9.

All this, hosted by Chef Eric Greenspan, is of course one of the best ways to spend a summer Sunday on Melrose.

Win-win-win.

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

Saturdays & Sundays

12 – 3 PM

No reservations

A-Frame
12565 Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90066
310.398.7700

Sundays

5:30 – 8 PM

The Foundry on Melrose
7465 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.651.0915

Kali Dining: The Sleeper Underground Supper Club

Chilled English Pea Soup | Mint (2-ways), Chantilly, Buckwheat Streusel

What’s a chef to do – and where is he to go – once he quits his posh Patina Restaurant Group post as Executive Chef at Cafe Pinot?

The answer? It’s infallibly to do one’s own series of roving dinners in various homes. Chef Kevin Meehan’s intention? Hosting a group of appreciative guests with adventurous and social bents.

Yellowtail Confit | Beet, Brown Butter Powder, Balsalmic, Pink Peppercorns

What you get, then, is a start-up dinner series that brings together a myriad of moving parts – but the difference with this particular dinner party is that the least questionable variable is the quality of the food. In essence, there’s no better way to enjoy a multi-course opus by Chef Meehan than within the context and intimacy of an 8-person dinner party. The mystery of the night’s dinner menu is navigated by that day’s foraged finds and treasures unearthed at the fish and farmer’s market. (Those with dietary restrictions are encouraged to let Chef know when the reservation is made.)

The evening begins with a reception of sorts as you sip wine in the comforts of an outdoor, dimly but charmingly lit patio and begin to get acquainted with your fellow diners – after all, you’ll be sharing a table so you may as well get cozy. Sidenote: It’s probably best to get a pre-dinner wine, or at least something a little unexpected or white, to share for this; it seemed that everyone at my party had food on the mind (and why wouldn’t they) when they picked out their wines.

Beef Tenderloin Fillet | Potato, Garlic Ash, Onion Variation

And for five inventive and intriguing courses (plus amuse bouche) and an unexpectedly pleasant group of characters at the dinner my guest and I were privy to, it was an evening well spent. Or if you have that special occasion in mind, you can book your own dinner party for you and your friends. After all, no where else will you get top-notch courses in an ultimately casual, stress-free environment. But I really like the idea of matching your “omakase” style dinner to the chef’s choice co-mingling of guests. Dinner parties, after all, are for adventurers.

One thing I’ve noticed about many dinner parties, too, is that there’s a pacing left to be desired for the diners, or shall I say guests? But each course at Kali Dining was evenly and perfectly spaced and a fitting ascension unto the next. And I, for one, thought it was the perfect amount of food. Each plate was a piece of art yet evaded being too fussy.

So you best get to Kali Dining before Chef Kevin “goes out and gets a real job” (disclaimer: his words, not mine). This is one temporary pop-up installment on the westside you won’t want to miss out on.

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

Various evenings

7:30 PM

$65 min. cash donation + a bottle of wine to share

Kali Dining
Undisclosed location

Plan Check: The International Stüssy Burger and Other Limited Edition Items

ISB: International Stussy Burger

Since I’m a Hollywood resident, I admit I’ve been sorely behind on the West LA food scene – and Plan Check has been one of the casualties. Recently, I had a good reason to venture west of the 405 and really see what the fuss about the burgers were about.

World Fries

Stüssy, the former surf-centric brand that you can now find as a Target clothing staple, has events to promote its brand – though shall we say they read more like pretty rad one-off parties held at varying venues. Plan Check was the site of one such event a couple weeks ago, whereby I tried “The ISB.” Made with Akaushi beef, jalapeno escabeche, cheese, smokey bacon, battered onion straws, “knowledge” sauce & crunch bun. I know bacon is a shoe-in ingredient, but this was one of the best bacon burgers I’ve tried in recent memory. The lush bun was of no detail!

It was a delicious burger reminiscent of Umami thanks to the fried onion, and ultimately alumni chef Ernesto Uchimura, but I could tell at Plan Check that their burger product is that much more reliable – barring a guerilla expansion plan to flood Los Angeles, that is.

Stoopid Fresh Donuts

Another other must-try limited edition item is the World Fries, which comes topped with chorizo gravy, fried egg and roasted pasila chile. These were done way before the burgers came – because if you love eggs, chorizo and chiles, there’s just no saying “no” to these fries.

Ever had cereal milk soft serve at Momofuku? The Stoopid Fresh Donuts are the real-life incarnation of the mere flavor, made with cooked cruller, raisin frosting, cereal milk ice cream and carmelized cornflakes. The cornflakes were a nice touch to the dessert thanks to the sweet crunchiness. So don’t forget your Stüssy-fied dessert.

With these limited edition items pretty much hitting it out of the park, I can’t wait to try Plan Check’s regular menu – complete with cocktails by Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix.

West LA, I’ll see you soon again.

Check below for that special menu, available now:

The Stussy Menu

All food and drink were hosted.

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

Sun – Wed

11:30 AM – 11 PM

Thur

11:30 AM – 12 AM

Fri – Sat

11:30 AM – 1 AM

Plan Check
1800 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
310.288.6500