It’s no secret that Drago Centro is one of my favorite places to drink and eat. And then drink, again. But it just wouldn’t be the same without Jaymee Mandeville at the helm of each seasonal cocktail menu. And the latest is a doozy. It’s inspirational with each cocktail proving their point of view and collectively, it’s her strongest menu yet. Though there’s diversity, each drink is well-balanced, with many even evolving through the end of each sip.
I’ve made some notes, with a pictorial at the bottom to aid you. So get thee to Drago Centro.
Anticipation of Josef Centeno’s upcoming Bar Amá reached fever pitch recently as a result of Bon Appetit naming Bäco Mercat one of America’s 10 Best New Restaurants (Michael Voltaggio’s Ink also received a nomination in this category – bravo for Los Angeles). But nothing prepared me for the day on which my cravings actually led me to leave the 49ers-Packers game on my TV during free DirecTV NFL preview week. I wanted eggs. I wanted a Bloody Mary. I also wanted a Bäco.
Who doesn’t love a good rooftop in the summer? Fortunately, there are a few hotels around Los Angeles that are holding special events designed especially for the high peaks from which we can enjoy our Southern California sun … or sundown. At night, the city lights make for a beautiful view. Why not watch a movie against the outdoor backdrop, high in the sky?
The ION at JW Marriott at L.A. LIVE is hosting Blues & BBQ event every Sunday through September 2, 2012 from 12 – 4 PM at the outdoor poolside deck. Blues and soul musical guests like George Dez Blues Band and Gregg Wright “King of the Rockin’ Blues will be performing. For $18, you get one main entrée with side dish accompaniments
BBQ Chicken brined in fresh herbs
Grilled Skirt Steak with brown sugar spice rub
boneless Baby Back Ribs with pineapple-bbq sauce wash
slow-cooked baked beans, corn cobettes
If you’re more into Taco Tuesdays, they’re also offering $3 tacos, $3 tortilla chips and salsa with specially priced margaritas and Mexican beer from 5 – 8 PM.
“Five years ago at Tales [of the Cocktail], it was just a small group of us from L.A. The guys from Portland, New York, OH MAN SAN FRANCISCO … would ask, ‘Where are you from?’ … ‘L.A.? Oh, that’s nice. How’s the bottle service?'” – Aidan Demarest, Tello Demarest Liquid Assets
“The Varnish didn’t just win. All of us, all of L.A. won.” – Cedd Moses, 213 Nightlife
I’ll never forget my first time in New Orleans this past weekend at the 10th Anniversary of Tales of the Cocktail. There’s something about getting to witness your favorite bartenders in your home city come together to celebrate their craft with their big shot counterparts from other cities. Going from seminar to tasting room to industry party to Spirited Dinner (while catching some not-to-miss eats of the city in between) in the humid, 90° swelt of The French Quarter was a new junket to me, but the presence of Los Angeles was unmistakeable, making Tales all the less intimidating and more familiar, much faster.
We are all bartenders, brand ambassadors, educators, writers, photographers and more – with many wearing more than one hat – and as with every year at The Spirited Awards on the last night of Tales, the best of the best are officially recognized. A winner in each category is announced after an initial top ten finalists are narrowed down to four. Though Eric Alperin and The Varnish have been our bastions of Los Angeles in these awards for the past couple years, it was the 2012 Spirited Awards when the L.A. bar community finally felt taken seriously.
There was a plethora of Top 10 finalists representing Los Angeles, announced back in May. Their mentions are below, with the Top 4 denoted by an asterisk: Eric Alperin(*) and Vincenzo Marianella of Copa d’Oro were recognized in the American Bartender of the Year category. The Huston Brothers and Steve Livigni’s and of course Pablo Moix’s Harvard & Stone and 213 Nightlife’s The Varnish(*) were both nominated for Best American Cocktail Bar(*) and World’s Best New Cocktail Bar.
I made my overdue visit to BÃ¤co Mercat one cold-for-LA, weekday evening. I stationed at the full bar, in full view of the construction of both BÃ¤zeracs I ordered for the duration of my meal. The red tinge of the storefront neon sign brought a welcome warmth, and it proved quite the perfect setting in which to enjoy each of the small plates that gradually came out.
They are all essentially small plates with big flavor. It sounds so simple, but only Josef Centeno can effectively achieve that. You could also oversimplify the BÃ¤co as a sandwich, but that would be the same atrocity as calling its flatbread a mere pita.
I haven’t had any of the other BÃ¤cos (an offense to be corrected over many future return visits), but the beef tongue schnitzel variety was absolutely divine. The combination of breaded beef tongue and spicy harissa with smoked aioli were like bites of heaven. And there are no words for that secret flatbread, in which Centeno uses “different fats and lebni” – you have to try it on your own. It’s more moist and dense than typical flatbreads while affording a fluffy consistency. I wanted to finish the whole thing right then and there. (Alas, I had ordered too much food.) If I had to move downtown for my daytime vocation, the lunchtime BÃ¤co alone would be a huge consolation.
The thinly sliced pork headcheese with capersÂ was a great way to start off. I also really enjoyed the brussel sprouts, which were made into a warm,Â chopped caesar salad. The Szechuan chicken “ribs” were to die for. They had a ton of spicy BBQ flavor and were super tender – and big.
The “Cocas,” or crispy, poofy flatbreads, are have a scrumptious texture further spiced up with tasty toppings – most pizzas will seem far and away plain boring in comparison once you’ve tried. Mine had a just-spicy-enough salsa verde toppingÂ with anchovies – a perfect savory treat.
There are many more dishes that I can’t wait to try at dinnertime. So between all those and all the different BÃ¤cos I have yet to try, I definitely have my work cut out for me. The full bar is yet furtherÂ enticement. It’s clear that Josef Centeno is loving having a place to truly call his own – and we, the diners, are all the better for it.
Lunch: Mon – Satur 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Dinner: Mon – Sat 6 PM – 11 PM
Sat mornings â€hair of the dogâ€ 9 AM â€“ 11:30 AM
Baco Mercat 408 S. Main Street Los Angeles, CA 90013 213.687.8808
I’m always appreciative of opportunities to try visiting chefs’ food. A couple weeks ago, on the occasion of the Lexus-sponsored Los Angeles Food & Wine‘s 70-event extravaganza, I had the chance to do so at one of the Friday afternoon not-so-power lunches held all over town (Though in the case of Chef “star power,” yes – it was very powerful). It was held at WP24 in conjuction with Executive Chef Sara Johannes, who contributed half of the 4 courses served at the sold-out lunch.
With his title as one of the winningest Iron Chefs no doubt contributing to the buzz, Chef Morimoto and Chef Johannes sent out passed appetizers, a couple of which I never got to try. I’ll have to return to try out those seared foie gras bao buns and steamed XO scallops with hot oil, scallions & ginger – but the spoonfuls of Parmesan “Tofu” and Lobster & Scallop Shiu Mais were tasty enough as starters.
The true standouts, though, were the four courses at the center of the lunch. Never had I had geoduck so tender and the snapper tasted nothing short of beautiful. The papaya and coconut foam were perfect touches to the seafood. It was a refreshing start, and I couldn’t wait for more.
The next course that came up was Sara Johannes’ (and WP24’s) masterpiece – a Peking Style Duck Breast. It came with Warm Chantrelle Salad, the frisee of which tasted like roasted mushrooms, and Ten-Spiced Confit Figs and Smoked Duck Cracklin’. The cracklin was indeed a very nice touch, making a hyperbole of the importance of a crispy duck skin. The figs really completed the platter, adding a tenderized, spice componentÂ to the perfectly-cooked richness of the duck. I have to say that this was probably the best dish I’ve had in a very long time.
The Washugyu (a hybrid between Japanese Black Wagyu and fine American Black Angus) flat iron steak was incredibly delicious thanks to its beautiful marbling, but what really floored me was the tenderness of the veal cheeks within their slight, tempura breading. The veal cheeks were probably twice as tender as the already soft beef. The sweet soy was subtle enough to really enhance the flavors of the meat and let the cuts sing on their own.
The dessert that concludedÂ our afternoon was no less impressive than any of the other courses, thanks to brand-new-to-WP24 pastry chef Cassie Ballard. Sure, you couldn’t really tell it was edamame ice cream until you read the menu (after that, it all clicks), but that sesame crisp is so simple yet ingenius. And tasty.Â Coupled with a Caramel Roasted Apple tart andÂ Butterscotch Miso, the dessert really comes together. It was lightÂ enough weight to elegantly close out the wonderful lunch yet left all our sweetÂ teethÂ satisfied (hello, caramel!).
If the food at WP24 isÂ anything like the refined courses I had during this particular Lexus-sponsored Los Angeles Food & Wine event, it’s clear that thereÂ is much, much more to a reservation there than itsÂ stellar, downtown views. And now,Â for that special occasion to make thatÂ return visit…
All food & wine were hosted.
Lounge: Sun â€“ Thur
5 – 10 PM
Fri – Sat
5 – 11 PM
Dining Room: Mon â€“ Thur
5:30 – 10 PM
Fri – Sat
5:30 – 10:30 PM
WP24 900 W Olympic Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90015 213.743.8824
These are the finals you all have been waiting for. After an exhaustive semi-final round, five finalists have emerged in Table 20’s 2nd Annual L.A.’s Best Bartender Competition. Fortunately, this finalÂ round is open to the public, and all are invited to take part.
On Sunday, October 9th from 3:30 – 7:30 PM at Elevate Lounge, you’ll get to do all of the following with your discounted (from $25), $20 admission:
Sip the finalist cocktails for free with 7 drink tickets
Brian Summers, Harvard & Stone – Karlsson’s Cocktail Challenge Winner “Blues in Orbit”
Devon Tarby, The Varnish – Judges’ Selection “Waltz #2”
Daniel Zacharczuk, Bar | Kitchen – Karlsson’s Cocktail Challenge Winner “Faster Young Fruit”
Judging the competition will be none other than Matt Biancaniello, who won the competition last year;Â Dale Degroff of “The Craft of The Cocktail;” Jessica Gelt of the L.A. Times; Johnny Iuzzini, pastry chefÂ of Jean Georges; Bricia Lopez of Guelaguetza and Marcos Tello of Liquid Assets.Â Â Some serious star power awaits you at this event!
The Master of Ceremonies, Dan Dunn,Â The Imbiber,Â will be on hand to guide you through the best cocktail voting process. You’ll each get one token to be used to vote for their favorite finalist cocktail. Each bartender will receive a prize – but who will get the billboardÂ and trip??
Also, admission to the after-party at Villain’s Tavern is included! It comes with 1 drink ticket and live band entertainment. Awesome.
EvenÂ better? I’m giving away 3 pairs of tickets to this event. To enter:
Comment with the name of your favorite contending cocktail. Be sure to include your email (which I won’t share) so I can get in touch with you via email and Twitter.
Tweet: “I want to go to @LABestBartender competition, @estarLA! http://bit.ly/qFaH3S”
You must do all 3 in order to be eligible. Contest closes at 5 PM on Friday, October 7, 2011. I’ll be contacting you immediately after. No response within 3 hours means I have to pick a new winner or three.
If you’re ready to purchase your tickets, use code “estarlatix” to get $5 off!! Score!!
The people behind The Daily Grill, one of the most recognizable chain restaurants in LA and beyond, have added gastropubs to their repertoire through Public School 612 – the sister and adjacent restaurant to The Daily Grill downtown since last March.
You order at the bar at this new casual hangout, but don’t leave the counter without first choosing your beer. They’ve 20 beers on tap with half of those rotating, and 12 more in bottles and 5 in cans. There’s a decent-sized menu for grub, beer and spirits so there’s pub fare for everyone.
When it comes to burgers, I’ve noticed there’s a complicated relationship between the customer, server and chef when it comes to the “wellness” of one’s burger patty. This became ever apparent since my guest at The Daily Grill was one who prefers “still moo-ing” to my medium rare. Though “pink through and through” is a real preference of his, I’ve known some to order their burgers one grade rarer as a result of chef distrust. Depending on the restaurant, there’s an assumption that the chef will always leave the beef on the grill too long for health code or safety reasons (Islands Burgers and e.coli in early 2000’s).Â Then again, maybe the chef knows something about the meat that the customers don’t?
Public School 612 effectively brought out that seared, rare Pub Burger. It had really good flavor while still falling under the Classic Burger column. No toppings (or the variety of such) are used as a crutch, and, as if for emphasis, even the very delicious balsamic onions the Pub Burger comes with are left on the side so you can dress at will. The bun was perfectly buttered, toasted, textured and sized, to boot. It was a great, basic burger.
For those looking for something a little bit removed from basic, try the Colorado Lamb Burger. Yes, it also comes with brie and tomato cranberry jam – but you’d have to try it to believe just how well all these things work together. The lamb burger is served in the same stellar bun, and even a lamb-shy diner might change his mind after one bite.
I chose a pint of refreshing, summer-perfect Craftsman Triple White sage to wash bites of these burgers down. Be sure to visit Public School often to taste their rotating taps since they have a decent selection thanks to Hallie Beaune, one of two Beer Chicks. Also, the fries are fresh-cut and probably won’t disappoint. On my visit, though they were tasty, they turned out a tad golden – with the latter being an observation the GM made when he came over to the table. An aberration, he said.
If you’re not feeling the beer, they’ve also a couple cocktails but really, all the brown spirits you need to enjoy with or after your burger. The atmosphere is conducive, as well, with dim lighting, communal high tables but also an attractive and pleasant bar to sit at or order from – whichever you choose. I had a great time playing darts (free with your driver’s license on deposit) – and since the place is new the darts and board are still in great shape. All the better to lose three games of Cricket with, my dear.
It’s not as if Downtown L.A.’s Financial District was in lack of places to hang out, but it seems like Public School 612 provides not just the drinks and vibe, but also great food and games. In a time of my life where I’ve most shunned malls and chains, it’s ironic to see that perhaps Public School’s strength is derived from being an offshoot of a major chain (you can find The Daily Grill in Washington D.C. and Illinois as well).
Bottom line? The burgers, beer and spirits selection are solid and if you bring great company, there’s no reason why you won’t have a great time. Educate yourselves, Downtown Los Angeles.
P.S. – Though you can’t get a burger at a discounted price, check out their happy hour, anyway (M-F, 4-7 PM). Nothing is over $4 and they have $5 Margaritas and $10 carafes of wine. They also have a $4 tap handle available all night, so check out what that is.
Since Bistro LQ had closed, I had been eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to experience Chef Laurent Quenioux’s food. Apparently, Nguyen and Thi of Starry Kitchen, Chef Quenioux and staff have been working a long time to make this guest appearance happen at their home digs.
In a couple weeks on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights and for most of the summer, you can experience 5 courses of LQ @ SK for $45. There will be a list of recommended wines that you can get from Domaine LA and enjoy them at your accord with zero corkage. If Laurent wasn’t reason enough to entice you downtown on an early-in-the-week night, the added reasonable price point and BYOB option should.
What I appreciated about all 5 courses was that though I knew Chef Quenioux to take chances, they reinforced that he is creative but not outlandish. No magic foams. Just well-integrated dishes that each express a simple statement.
To start things off, you’ll be treated to a surprise amuse. On the opening preview night, we were treated with Escamoles (ant eggs) smuggled straight from TJ that ran out during our run – complete with Sapporo chaser. Talk about taking “seasonal” to a whole new level – that is, to change by the day. It’s good indication you’re at an exciting place to eat.
I loved the Oxtail compote, which was accompanied by a pickled cucumber slice and carrot stick, topped off with a dallop of mustard tapioca. It’s no LQ uni tapioca, which is a dish all on its own, but I really liked this sweet and sour flourish to the oxtail. While I tend to think “sated” whenever I think of oxtail, all the stringy, crunchy and ballsy (couldn’t help it) textures were the interpretive bells and whistles on the down-to-earth flavors of this first course. Wonderful!
The Tai snapper was perfectly cooked – its juiciness, tenderness yet mildnessÂ further highlighted by the citrus fruits and vegetables. A really simple dishÂ yet pleasant andÂ even refreshing, which served as a good reprieve for the rabbit, foie gras and sweetbread richnessÂ to follow.
If Panda Express gave me ill associations with teriyaki sauce or even flavorings, Chef Quenioux may have just reversed those very misgivings. So subtle – and not so sweet – was the “teriyaki” savoryÂ albondigas (rabbit meatball), I could enjoy the miso that was poured into the dish at service. The green garlic tempura was delightfully fluffy and crunchy, which was a great contrast to the seared foie gras in taste and texture. The foie gras itself? I don’t really need to talk about it. It wasÂ heavenly.
But those gloriously breaded andÂ fried Veal sweetbreads.Â Morels andÂ chanterelles really brought forth an earthy tone to the dish whileÂ theÂ shishito peppers added aÂ subtle spice while the pastiness of the yuzu kosho were a great way to add a kick while keeping up with the breaded texture of the sweetbreads. Were the sweetbreads really sweet, you ask? Almost. But it doesn’t matter – sinceÂ the dish itself was fantastic.
And what topped the entire night off was no less than the most artful dish, doubling as a splendid dessert. Chocolate chipotle mousse and a churro sat withÂ lime serrano gel (with basil seeds)Â and cinnamon soil, orÂ crumbs from the churro. This was also the best wineÂ pairing of the night (disclosure: no wines included during the pop-up) with the subtle sweetness of theÂ NV Terres Dorees FRV100 cutting the spice in theÂ mousse yet rounding out the cinnamon quite well.
Anyway. LQ @ SK. You should “pop-in.” This is Chef Quenioux at his most accessible, an opportunity not to be wasted. His dishes are playful, but they also have vision and thanks to the efficient staff, underwent a successful execution even on the very first preview night. Not bad for aÂ test run. All I’m saying is, all systems go on this exciting and sure to be short-lived LQ run. Stay tuned for the official start date, which expects to be June 5th.
Now how about bringing back that cheese selection?
Update: Â So it’s been announced that start date IS Sunday, June 5th and there will be two seatings at 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM. Prix fixe stands at $45 per person. Menu is subject to change whenever Chef Quenioux feels like it. Sorry, no substitutions.Â Parking is validated. Also, reservations are available online only, here, for dates: June 5-7,13-14, 19, 20.Â More dates will be added later. You are confirmed only when you receive an email stating so.Â Go, go, go!!
$39 per person. Bottomless wine. 5-course prix fixe.
I know I said “brunch,” and I know Mark Gold calls this the “Eva Dinner Party,” but the noon start time has to count for something, doesn’t it? You get all of the following: Deviled Eggs, Nicoise Salad with Olive Relish and Roast Peppers, Chicken “Pallard” withÂ Arugula and Mustard, Warm Potato Salad, Prime Skirt Steak, Grilled Asparagus and Strawberry Shortcake with Whipped Creme Fraiche. I know. Amazing. This is where I’ll be…sometime during Easter Day.
7458 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036, 323.634.0700
Chaya Brasserie (Downtown, Beverly Hills, Venice): 11 AM – 3 PM
$37 per person, $15 per young adult. Bottomless champagne. 3-course prix fixe.
You get a couple choices for your 3-course prix fixe, all menus of which vary according to location! Be sure to peep the right Chaya outpost for your menu.
A few highlights from what I can see on all three menus include French Toast with Granola Crust, Kabocha Squash Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi, Grilled New York Steak and Fries with Poached Egg, Pancetta-wrapped Gulf Shrimp with Provencal Grits, Meyer Lemon Mascarpone Cheese Tart. I think the Downtown location is where to be!
525 South Flower, Los Angeles, CA 90017, 213.236.9577
8741 Alden Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90048, 213.859.8833
$25 per adult, $15 per child under 12. Comes with one mimosa or glass of Prosecco. Buffet-style plus one family-style pasta.
Not feeling the prix fixe but don’t want any hassle? Obika’s doing it up buffet style – at the mall. Mozzarella di Bufala along with a selection of Smoked Wild Alaskan Salmon, Assorted, Salumi, Caponata with Pan Carsau, Artichoke Ricotta Quiche with Thyme and Mint, Ricotta Mousse and four (yes, four) flavors of Tirimisu will all be available. In addition, your table will get to pick one choice of pasta served family style, including Handmade Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage, Lasagnetta with Peas and Tagliolini with Artichoke and Mint.
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90067, 310.556.2452