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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
All food and drink were hosted.
There are pivotal moments in a sushi lover’s life. Sukiyabashi Jiro is one of those famed restaurants that I have aspirations of eating at in the case that I not only make it to Japan, but have the money (Â¥30,000, or $360) to put up for – at maximum – 20 minutes of the best fish I’ve ever had in my life.
(The closest experience to this has to have been my last meal at Sushi Nozawa – now closedÂ -Â which clocked in at about 30 minutes and not a minute longer. Warm rice with excellent fish, yes. Jiro’s? No. )
The 10-seat, 3-star Michelin starred Sukiyabashi Jiro is helmed by Jiro Ono, the first sushi chef and oldest chef to be awarded the honor. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is 81 minutes of pure food porn laying the foundation for Jiro’s life story, including the pursuit of literal perfection of his craft and the contingent (and not-so-contingent) roles of his sons and apprentices. It’s an intriguing perspective into Japanese culture and the evolution of its food.
New York opened last week, and finally Los Angeles has its chance – specifically on the Westside at the Nuart. For tonight’s showtimes, filmmaker David Gelb will appear in person for a Q&A after the 7:30pm show and to introduce the 9:40pm show. Tomorrow (Saturday, March 17), he’ll do another Q&A after the 7:30pm show and introduce the 9:40pm show. You can also check out Food GPS’ excellent Q&A with the guy.
And I would be negligent if I didn’t recommend that you be prepared to visit a decent sushi place before or after the movieÂ - so you’re not left hungry and envious, or shall we say, “hangry” (personal experience). While there is no Jiro in LA, perhaps try a SUGARfish location, Sushi Central (Palms) or Sushi Park (Sunset Blvd, WeHo) for some unadulterated omakase nigiri made by chefs who, at the very least, say “no california roll or spicy tuna?”
I need few reasons to return to Sotto. Alas, I may be in trouble since tonight’s launch provides two new reasons to return – daily (okay, Tuesday through Monday, to be exact).
Sotto is launching both an Aperitivo Hour and a Digestivo Hour. You’ll get to choose from a few hunger-inducing cocktails by Julian Cox during this hour for $9 each as well as from a variety of bar bites for $3 each, like Ceci Fritti, Season Crostini, Calamari Fritti, Lupini Beans Sott’aceto and Arrosticini.
The Aperitivo Hour runs from 5:30 – 6:30 PM from Tuesdays through Sundays and includes cocktails like the Sazerac Rusticum, with wild fennel infused Aperol, Grappa, herb-infused Vermouth and a Sambuca rinse; or the adorably named Rome with a View, with Campari, Dry Vermouth, fresh lime and soda. Since I’ve been loving the Negroni, lately, the Aperitivo hour may be my very own adult candy store.
Digestivo Hour runs from 9 – 10 nightly, also from Tuesdays through Sundays, where you’ll also get access to $3 bites but these particular $9 cocktails will be aimed at being a nice little nightcap, like the Il Cattivo – made with Holland gin, Italian vermouth, Branca Menta and lemon peel.
These are all available at the bar, only, so I’d recommend getting there as close to the start of the hours as you can. See you on the Westside.
We’re about due for another Dionicess event. Of course, these guys won’t stop outdoing themselves as they’ve brought a beer & booze pairing to fruition.
Matt Biancaniello of The Roosevelt Hotel’s Library Bar is brought into the fold with Randy Clemens, Dave Watrous and Gev Kazachyan as they pair five craft beers with five craft spirits. Prepare for a boozy evening in late October at Steingarten LA to benefit the Real Medicine Foundation for an all-inclusive $65 entrance fee.
And if you know anything about Matt or the Dionicess crew, you’ll automatically know this is something unique they have up their sleeves. Expect garden-fresh ingredients a la Matt with your spirits and beer pairings.
Better start arranging that taxi… See you there.