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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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

Persimmon Kimchi at Kimchi 101

Persimmon Kimchi

Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to the headquarters of CHAM Korean Bistro (Pasadena) and iT! Jeans for a kimchi pickling workshop. We were treated to CHAM cocktails made with sparkling wine, yuzu, Korean Makgeolli as well as tofu rice pockets filled with everything from kimchi (and candied anchovies) to seaweed salad, pepper-encrusted ahi tuna and salted and roasted kale chips. It was a dinner filled with Korean fusion delight.

Chef EJ Jeong during her Kimchi 101 demo

For the learning portion, we got a demonstration on how CHAM makes their kimchi, with recipes and instruction straight from Chef EJ Jeong (formerly of A.O.C. and BOA). Check Cathy of Gastronomyblog‘s great write-up of the Napa Cabbage kimchi we were all taught to make.

After our appetizers, kimchi lesson and delicious main course (pork shoulder, cabbage kimchi, salted shrimp and sesame leaves) – we got a taste of a different kind of kimchi, which ended up being my favorite of the night: Persimmon kimchi! The recipe for this is actually the same as the traditional cabbage kimchi, save for the elimination of salted shrimp. It became intuitive that fishy, salty persimmons are not appetizing. But the subtle and firm sweetness of the persimmon is paired so perfectly with the chili flavoring I’ve learned to love in Korean kimchi. It was like a live, Korean version of the Trader Joe’s dried chili red mangos that are so popular. An interesting tip with this recipe is to use unripe persimmons, because they will actually ripen as they are fermenting in their container and in your refrigerator!

Chef EJ Jeong’s Persimmon Kimchi Recipe

Ingredients:
2 lb peeled persimmons
12 oz kimchi marinade

Kimchi mixture

Kimchi marinade ingredients:1 cup sweet rice powder
5 cups purified water
2 lb radish
4 oz minari
4 oz kat (red mustard)
4 oz Korean chives (thinner than Chinese chives)
5 oz garlic
10 oz Asian pear (peeled)
9 oz onion (peeled)
1 oz ginger (peeled)
1 cup Taeyangcho rd chili pepper powder (coarse)
1/4 cup anchovy fish sauce (Korean)
3/4 cup salted shrimp sauce (Korean)
4 oz fresno
4 oz green onion

Preparation & Procedure: How to make porridge
Mix puried water with sweet rice powder, dissolving the power until there are no lumps. Heat the water and rice powder mixture over the stovetop, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When it starts to form bubbles, reduce heat and stir continuously. Once the mixture becomes thicker and is translucent, turn the heat off. The process from once the mixture is heated to when it becomes the correct consistency and color takes approximately ten minutes. Cool down completely.

Preparation & Procedure
Mix together.
Enjoy!

 
I’m no hotshot in the kitchen, but I plan on giving persimmon kimchi a try. And if you feel so inclined to get your own kimchi education, CHAM is luckily going to be hosting another workshop on Saturday. You’ll get to take home your own jar of cabbage kimchi so you can leave it in your refrigerator to ferment for at least 20 days before eating. It’s the workshop that keeps on giving!

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

11:30 AM to 2:30 PM

$40 per person – includes Korean tapas, a cocktail, and kimchi to take home.

Making Kimchi with Chef EJ Jeong
Cham Bistro R&D Kitchen
5251 S. Santa Fe Avenue
Vernon, CA 90058

Email [email protected] Class is capped at 20 people

Summer Desserts Debut at Nobu

Cheesecake - $12 | Photo credit Craig Takahashi

Summer is upon us, and there’s no better time to introduce a new dessert menu. Nobu on La Cienega has you covered – with three new options from pastry chef Gabriele Riva. This ever delicate-yet-decadent, deconstructed cheese cake is made with Cheesecake mousse, sable breton, raspberry coulis, and sweet gorgonzola gelato. Yes – gorgonzola gelato! (Indeed, I am on a gorgonzola ice cream kick and cannot wait to try this one – especially after the phenomenal Pear-Gorgonzola-Walnut ice cream from Tai Kim of Scoops at the Eat My Blog Bake Sale over the weekend.)

Equilibrium - $11 | Photo credit Craig Takahashi

Further along the summer theme is Chef Riva’s Equilibrium ($11), which resembles a fresh green salad. The dessert is a mix of orange segments, light goat cheese cream, baby arugula, carmelized pecans and sorbet. I’m curious to try this one out; I can’t say that I’ve ever had a salad for dessert, before.

And don’t forget that there’s a fresh summer cocktail menu to lead into or even supplement your desserts…

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Nobu West Hollywood
903 N. La Cienega Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069-4709
310.657.5711

Bar and Lounge
Sun – Mon: 5 – 10:15 PM
Tue – Sat: 5 – 11:15 PM
Happy Hour 7 nights per week:
5 – 8 PM