Open Sesame: Legit Lebanese on Beverly (Plus Giveaway)

Sultan’s Platter

In the old space that once housed Hatfield’s, then Eva Restaurant, is now an outpost of a successful Belmont Shores import. The new location of the Lebanese chainlet called Open Sesame is admirably strategic; it’s well north of other Mediterranean haunts on Pico but south of those in The Valley. It adds to the diversity of dining options on Beverly Boulevard, and from my experience a couple weeks ago, a viable choice for flavorful food which also doubles as healthful. Those seeking vegetarian, vegan or Halal compliant will be happy that this popped up in the neighborhood.

Continue reading

First Taste: Cooks County Serves Up Stellar Mains

Braised beef cheek, creamed corn & fresh flageolet bean salsa

With the Gastropub Category in Los Angeles having undergone some oversaturation the past couple of years, it’s easy to dismiss the incoming restaurants that effuse that now-cookie cutter, industrial feel, which may or may not serve as a backdrop for small plates served at communal tables.

Pacific Seafood Soup | Mussels, clams, shrimp & rockfish with wild fennel

It’s not to knock small plates. I’ve always been more a grazer than one to focus on the entrée at the center of my meal. I’m not knocking communal seating, either, since I far prefer bar seating myself. Yes, it’s also “farm-to-table,” as much as I loathe how hackneyed that term has become. But it doesn’t discount the restaurants where it’s actually a practiced philosophy – only at those where it’s feigned.

I guess what remains, then, is really how interesting these small plates are, from the appetizers to the medium dishes to the family-style roasts and main events. What the particular chef’s spin on savory might be. Yes, you can guarantee that there are beets and braised meats on the menu – but why come here as opposed to any of the other gastropubs in the city?

Tagliatelle | Braised rabbit, picholine olives & lemon zest

At least one answer would be its advantageous location on Beverly Blvd. Beyond that, though, my lone experience at Cook’s County was a surprisingly stellar one. With Chef Dan Mattern’s previous post being at AMMO (a place I always had a mind about revisiting more often than I have) and his citing Mark Peel, Nancy Silverton and Suzanne Goin as mentors in the kitchen, you’ll find the taste of his dishes reflecting his practice of utilizing fresh produce while highlighting the properties of each dish’s ingredients. Thankfully, no flavors are masked – just beautifully enhanced. Each dish stops just short of going too far but holds its own with each ingredient serving its purpose in the whole. The flavors pop.

Wood-grilled Duck Breast, Brussels Sprouts, Kabocha Squash & Almonds

I really enjoyed the bulk of the mains. The appetizers, which could have doubled as salads, had arugula weaving a common thread through them – though they were mostly tasty in and of their own. Next time, I might order just one under that column and be done with it. Or, I’ll go straight to the mains.

Though I wished the Pacific Seafood Soup was more soup than broth, it was because I was sopping up the last of whatever was in the bowl by the end of the night. Awesome, rich flavor. And it’s not like I haven’t seen Rabbit Tagliatelle before, but this rendition was tops. The freshly made pasta was no detail, and the rabbit was deliciously tender as was the lemon zest a nice seasoning.

Meyer Lemon Angel Pie

The braised beef cheeks were as heavenly as the bean salsa that topped it was unexpected. The accompanying tomatoes made for sweet, little bursts of flavor in the rich canvas. But the wood-grilled duck breast was exceptional. Granted, I do love brussel sprouts all around as I do kabocha squash, but I’d be hard-pressed to find duck that flavorful in all but a few restaurants around L.A.

There’s a modest international selection of beers available but a larger wine list for vinos. I can appreciate the simple menu at Cook’s County, because I’m a believer in too much selection abetting too much indecision (personal quirk). It lends an appreciation for the focus it takes to perfect those delicious mains.

And, they do lunch and brunch. Those are certainly now on my to-do list. I hope Cooks County is here to stay. Though gastropubs are now a dime-a-dozen, this one stands head and shoulders above the rest. It may be named after the county which seats Chicago, but Beverly Boulevard and Hancock Park can be proud (and on the weekends, they can be proud until 1 AM).

P.S. – Don’t forget dessert. That Angel Pie was divine.

Lunch: Mon – Fri, 11:30 – 2:30 PM
Brunch: Sat – Sun, 10 AM – 3 PM
Dinner: Sun – Thu, 6 – 11 PM
Fri – Sat, 6 PM – 1 AM

Cooks County
8009 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
323.653.8009

The Weekend Brunch at Playa Rivera: Modern & Elegant Southwestern

Huevos Polenta ($11)

There may be many a nightowl in the circles I run, but I still can’t remember the last time I heard or read about breakfast. Brunch is the meal of leisure over sustenance and a time when friends can order eggs or sandwiches. Brunch makes it okay to drink before noon. And brunch brings purpose to sleeping in on a weekend morning.

Blue Corn Muffins

Enter Playa Rivera, Chef John Sedlar’s newest venture in the space that was formerly Grace. While dinner service may be pricey for some, Playa’s brunch menu (in lieu of happy hour) is a great foray into Sedlar’s Santa Fe-influenced cuisine. Entrees range from $10-15, with no shortage of the chef’s artistic expression – or cinematic appreciation, for that matter (you may find a scene from Clockwork Orange beneath your Tamal).

But do not start with the entree. The don’t-miss at Playa Rivera’s brunch is the blue corn muffins, which are made with organic cornmeal and furnished with almond butter (I could’ve spread that butter on anything). And if you do order a cocktail, be sure you look at Julian Cox’s full selection before you autopilot that bloody mary or mimosa. The sangria is no ordinary sangria, but a complex cocktail with a hint of sour. It’s so good!

Duck Hash ($14)

As for the entrees, I have resigned to the fact that in early-day weekend meals, eggs are king. In a recent episode of “Ladies Who Brunch” at Playa, I sorely wished that my Croque Monsieur Senor was a Senorita. The layers of chorizo and queso in each bite were really good, but when the eggs on three other plates waver at you with their perfectly poached, sunny and easy yolks, you can’t help but become envious.

The duck hash was one such example as two round eggs stood against a colorful plate of potatoes, delicious dark meat and arugula. It was as beautiful a display of savory as it was tasty.

For those more Santa Fe-inclined, go with one of the red chile-laden dishes, such as the Huevos Polenta. Once I was finished with my sandwich, I couldn’t help but steal spoonful after spoonful of Maya’s dish. Sedlar’s red chile really is that good, and dare I include “authentic.” (I am no expert, though I did enjoy a blitz in chile education during a weekend trip to Santa Fe with other food bloggers a year ago, in which we were lucky enough to observe Sedlar in his native environmental and culinary elements.) Ladled over the top of a bed of polenta, the red chile just makes for a super delicious soup.

Ice Cream Sundae ($7)

If you’re feeling like a tamale, you can enjoy that same red chile atop the Tamal – that of which are topped by some beautiful, sunny-side up eggs. Yes, you get the Clockwork Orange mural, as well. (In the latest series of dish art at Playa, expect a controversial radioactive theme – an homage to the chef’s native New Mexico.)

But just like the muffins, you best not miss dessert. The Sundae comes with a blue corn chocolate chip on a jar with goat’s milk ice cream, cocoanibs, hazelnuts as well as hazelnut syrup. If the blue corn muffins were mind-blowing, the dessert rendition is really the icing on the blue corn cake.

With just one experience under my belt, Playa Rivera brunch is in the ranks of being one of my favorite brunches in town. It won’t break the bank and isn’t one of your standard issue pancake-waffle breakfasts over mimosas. Not that those are necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a good idea to change the pace – and the cuisine – when the results come out this good.

Brunch: Sat – Sun

10 AM – 2 PM

Playa Rivera
7360 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.933.5300

@playarivera

Tinga: Giving Fresh Mex a Good Name

Cochinita Pibil - $6.50

With my 9 to 5 located west of Miracle Mile, I’ve had more than my fair share of lunch option challenges. Though many scoff at the food truck phenomenon that seems to never run out of steam, it’s actually been the first silver lining  I’ve had since I’ve resigned to witnessing the vast majority of my coworkers with Trimana sandwiches at their desks around noontime.

Grilled Cumin & Garlic Rubbed Pork Loin - $6.50

Thanks to Pat of Eating LA for the tip-off on Tinga on La Brea and thanks to Blackboard Eats for offering their dine-in only lunch 30%-off code last week. Well, I’ve still yet to use it, since I’ve been the take-away supplier to a couple coworkers weaning themselves off tuna salad. (Proof that Blackboard Eats PR works?)

However, the memory of a particular taco plate compostable cardboard box ($7-9 for two tacos and chips) will forever be a chapter in my book of office follies, and the Cochinita Pibil tacos are to blame. Or thank. The advice I can offer here is to, upon finishing both these tacos, go to the bathroom and wash your hands five times. Do not rub your nose with your cross-contaminated, salsa-stained forehand. Do not wipe your forehead, either. Do not pass Go. Not quite sure where that salsa is? A tingling sensation (dubbed: The Tinga Tingle) on any given extremity will tell you for sure. But like I said, best wash your hands in case your curiosity does not feel the need to be satiated. Put it in your stomach, instead.

Chorizo Quesadilla (with goat cheese, pickled red onions) - $9.50

My upper lip and the skin lining my nostrils burned til 4 o’clock.

The ego behind my heat-bearing palate became even more defeated when, after doing a search, I found Jonathan Gold made no mention of this salsa when he mentioned these very tacos in his write-up back in September. No matter. Egos aside, deliciousness typically transcends pure heat. I take that back: Bearable heat, anyway, because that burning sensation on my face for the duration of the afternoon sure was distracting.

But I digress I’m beating the dead horse. The other favorite pork dish on their menu was definitely the Grilled Cumin & Garlic Rubbed Pork Loin Tacos ($6.50), served with pepper jack cheese, pasillas and salsa. The Flat Iron Steak Tacos ($8.50) came in chipotle tortillas and topped with tomato avocado relish, “dog snout” salsa, pickled red onions, queso fresco and lime chipotle Escabeche. The strips of steak were really the best cuts I’ve had of any fresh mex in memory.

48 Short Rib - $8.50

And the quesadilla was amazingly still crisp by the time it got to our destination. The goat cheese melted with chorizo in a quesadilla is perhaps blasphemous to the most diehard of diehards but a nonetheless a brilliant combination. Though I’ve yet to try many of the sides, the Arroz Con Crema ($5) came deliciously roasted and covered with a not-too-sweet cream. Lime juice is to thank for its twist and tang.

Next up: The Dirty Horchata, or horchata with a shot of espresso in it. I’m guessing it’ll be the refreshment to accompany my first dine-in experience at Tinga. There are plenty of other menu selections I’m dying to try, so I’m certainly looking forward to the next adventure a glass of that stuff will be washing down.

Though I’m loath to call Tinga “Fresh Mex,” I think I’m already too late. I apologize for the Baja Fresh associations, because Tinga is so much, much more than that. Their food is creative, colorful and best of all, absolutely delicious. It’s a welcome departure from the $1 tacos of York and Breed Street because they’re not even in the same class. Contemporary decor, check. Compostable wares, check. This is Fresh Mex worth appreciating.

All taco plates come with 2 tacos and chips.

Tinga
142 S. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.954.9566

Plenty of Reasons to Love Osteria La Buca

Pork Meatballs, Calabrian Chilis, Almond Tomato Sauce

I’ll get right to the point. Let’s count the reasons, shall we?

Delicious, housemade charcuterie: Check. Fresh, housemade pasta: Check. Flavorful and tender-to-the-fork meatballs: Check. Tasty Neopolitan pizzas: Check. Former Porchetta and 10 Downing (NYC) chef Jason Neroni in the kitchen: Check.

Salumi: Chicken Liver Pork Pate, Porchetta di Testa, Terrina Campagnola, Whipped Lardo

I had the opportunity to try all this and more at a recent media lunch and came out glad that I played hooky devoted work PTO to doing so. Nothing is lost, however, on the starters. The ricotta croquettas topped with a touch of truffle honey haven’t lost their touch – still fluffy as ever - in the changeover. The excellent salumi that came out included a chicken liver and pork pate, porchetta di testa, terrina campagnola – and last, but certainly not least, a whipped lardo. I couldn’t get enough of that lardo, so of course I couldn’t complain when it also appeared on the lightly fried green tomatoes. But the meatballs! The meatballs! How unordinary they were, what with their flavor and texture. They were really divine. In between these bites were smoked and extra meaty olives and pickles as well as salted, pork fat almonds.

Parpadelle with Rabbit, Castelvetrano Olives, Porcini Mushrooms

Only after all of this did we really start lunch.

The pasta was delicious. Not oversauced, not too simplistic with just enough going on to keep things cohesive, interesting and more than enjoyable. The freshness of the angelotti, bucatini and parpadelle were quite as good as any I’ve had, with those pastas being made the same day in a specially designated “pasta room” (which doubles as a private dining room housing the chef’s table) just upstairs.

Feeling like a sweet-ish pasta? Go with the Sweet Corn Angelotti with Dungeness Crab, Lemon Basil and Butter. In the mood for a heavier variety? The Rabbit Parpadelle with Castelvetrano Olives and Porchini Mushrooms is also excellent. The Bucatini Carbonara comes with an irresistable poached egg and is seasoned with Marscarpone, Guanciale and Black Pepper, which gives this pasta a delicious kick.

Basil Ice Cream, Sauteed Strawberries

The pizza is delicious, though I must admit that my favorite tends to be the simplest variety – appropriate named “The Classic” at Osteria La Buca: Mozzarella, tomato, sea salt and basil is all you’ll find on this one. But the fennel sausage variety with ricotta, pickled jalapenos and garlic paste is also game. It all depends on what you like.

I must say, though, don’t forget dessert. Especially the refreshing Basil Ice Cream with Sauteed Strawberries. The Chocolate Budino with sea salt also stands on its own, and dare I say its simplicity gives Mozza’s a run for their money?

Osteria La Buca really is a delightful place to dine, with plenty of solid options. With its recent, refresher remodel setting the framework for Jason Neroni’s arrival, it’s apparent that they have aimed to step up their game. While I found the former La Buca warm and charming, it seems that Chef Neroni has tightened things up and dishes come out a bit more refined. Delicioso.

All food, wine and cocktails were hosted.

 

Tue – Thu: 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
5:30 PM – 10:30 PM

Fri: 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
5:30 PM – 11 PM

Sat 5:30 PM – 11 PM
Sun 5 PM – 10 PM

Osteria La Buca
5210 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
323.462.1900

Two Food Truck Events You Should Know About: Antojitos de mi Abuelita at Street Food Mondays, Cast Iron Gourmet & Frysmith at Black Boar Bar

Antojitos de mi Abuelita

Everyone knows Los Angeles is a wonderful place to eat, with unmatched culinary diversity – and mobility – found anywhere else in the world. Fortunately, there are two food events happening today and tomorrow with focuses on food trucks – O.G. and nouveau – that bring you their goods in a special setting for one night only. If I weren’t out of town, I’d personally attend these two events. Instead, you’ll have to go in my place, represent and see what they’re all about.

One is brought to you by the celebrated return of Street Food Mondays, curated by Bill Esparza (Street Gourmet LA) and Evan Kleiman (owner of Angeli Caffe). Antojitos de mi Abuelita, a food truck representing Mexico City-style antojitos, or masa-based “little whims,” will be serving up “Comida corrida,” or a 3-course meal for only $28.

The other is a collaboration between Cast Iron Gourmet and Frysmith food truck – more on that after the jump.

Continue reading

Eva Restaurant Launches Holiday Sunday Brunch

Interior of Eva with waiter (probably making refills on mimosas)

Snow season has started, which means many weekends away at Mammoth for me. And if there weren’t a storm this weekend, I know where I would certainly be on Sunday. But it looks like I’ll have to save Mark Gold’s Sunday Eva brunch for next week with the girls. I have a lot to look forward to.

For only $29, you’ll get to have two courses of Mark’s delicious food – in addition to unlimited mimosas, which they present as the “main course.” Fair enough. Check out your non-liquid choices in the menu below:

first course:

fresh fruit: pear, apple, tangerine from the market

salad: organic greens, emulsified vinaigrette

granola: house made, dried fruits

second course:

a sandwich: pain de mi, organic eggs, smoked bacon, avocado, buttered onions

a piece of meat: prime steak, organic eggs, roast potato, salsa verde

an omlette: fine herbs, braised artichoke, crème fraiche

some bread: brioche french toast, warm maple syrup, french butter, nothing else!

for vegetarians: hand crafted tofu, roasted matsutake mushroom, smoked sesame seed, seaweed salad

fish: a piece of white fish, potato pancakes, capers, lemon

main course: unlimited mimosas!

The seafood and vegetarian option will be changing weekly throughout the holidays. Got some little ones with you? Eva, so named after Chef Gold’s 2 1/2 year-old, will also serve a kids menu that will include French Toast and Build-your-own Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.

Looks like Eva, known for being one of the most delicious bangs for your Los Angeles buck, is continuing to live up to their reputation. Brunch is served!

Sundays during the holidays

Brunch: 10 AM – 1 PM

Eva Restaurant
7458 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.634.0700

The Food GPS Beverly Boulevard Walking Tour

Fried Chicken at Eva

As far as Los Angeles neighborhoods in which there’s a high concentration of great places to eat, Beverly Boulevard and its vicinity has to be one of the top destinations. Fortunately, Joshua Lurie a.k.a. Food GPS has set up an eating tour that will take his guests to four such closely-located eateries. You’ll get to visit and sample a creation from each chef at Eva, BLD, Golden State Cafe and Milk all in one afternoon for a low cost of $45, including tax and tip. Meet other food-lovers and learn a little bit about the neighborhood. Sounds like a win-win way to spend an otherwise-lazy Sunday.

Have questions? Look none further than sending an email to joshua [at] foodgps.com

So buy your ticket. I wouldn’t sit on this one. Josh’s eating tours (see: Santa Monica and Downtown L.A.) have historically sold out!

Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 3 PM

Tickets: $45

Eva Restaurant
7458 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036-2701
323.634.0700

Golden State Cafe
426 N. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.782.8331

BLD
7450 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036-2701
323.930.9744

Milk
7290 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036-2545
323.939.6455

The Hollywood Bowl To-Go Round-Up

Bienvenido Gustavo! at The Hollywood Bowl (October 1, 2009)

Hollywood Bowl season is upon us! And what better opportunity to combine your love of food with your love of music than to do up the pre-performance picnic the right way? Grab a recommended wine from Jill at Domaine LA to pair with your food and you’re set. Just make sure your show is an official Bowl event and not leased out. If it’s leased out (most likely to include the high profile rock bands not part of the KCRW World Music Series), then you’re confined to the Patina catering sold (or served in your fancy box seats) at the venue. If not, you’re good to go!

Below, you’ll find options all over town. So wherever you hail from, you’re set to make your little haven in Hollywood home for a few hours whether they be Pool, Garden, Terrace, Super or bench seats. And by the way, yes, you can always order from Nancy Silverton’s Mozza2Go – I would just recommend ordering and picking up extra early in the day on Bowl nights given its vicinity and the likelihood everyone may be thinking the same thing as you. Here we go… (Check the map at the bottom for a visual of all mentioned locations.)

Napa Valley Grille – Westwood

When at UCLA, I always knew the Napa Valley Grille as the out-of-range option for us students – the place you got your parents to take you to when they visited from out-of-town. But they’ve recently come out with a boxed lunch program that seems pretty accessible to me, ranging from $10.75 to $13.75 with 3 seasonal options from Executive chef Joseph Gillard and packaged in recyclable materials. You can wax Napa in Hollywood (or elsewhere) as they are themed after different Napa Valley regions:

Russian River Menu: Shrimp Salad Sandwich, with Poached White Shrimp, Fine Herbs, Buttermilk Dressing, and Shaved Cabbage on a Soft Herb Roll; Sweet Pea Salad with Butter Lettuce and Green Goddess Dressing; housemade Napa Potato Chips; and Summer Fruit Trifle ($13.75)

Stag’s Leap Menu: Slow-Roasted Rare Prime Beef Sandwich with Bacon, Red Onion Jam, Creamy Horseradish, and Smoked Cheddar Cheese on Pretzel Bread; Roasted Red Fingerling Potato Salad; housemade Napa Potato Chips; and a Black and White Cookie ($12.75)

St. Helena Menu: Roasted Vegetable Foccaccia with Grilled Zucchini, Eggplant, Portabella Mushroom, White Bean Hummus, Tomato Fondue, and Basil Goat Cheese on Herb Ciabatta Bread; Orzo Pasta Salad with Pepperdew Peppers, Spring Onions, and Golden Balsamic Vinaigrette; housemade Napa Potato Chips; and a “Blondie” Bar ($10.75)

You’ll undoubtedly want dessert (not included) – so choose from delicious selections like Mini Eclairs with Cordillera Dark Chocolate-Brandy Cream, Bourbon Pecan Bars and White Chocolate Coconut Cookies.

Call to place order

Napa Valley Grille
1100 Glendon Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90024
310.824.3322
@nvgwestwood

Petrossian Boutique & Restaurant – Robertson/West Hollywood

Ordering your take-away items from Petrossian means you demand taste, style and class. More power to you. In fact, I just ate there last night and was delightfully reminded how absolutely talented Chef Ben Bailly is. So tote his offerings to The Bowl – your tastebuds will be titillated while your ears are enchanted. Below are some picnicking suggestions straight off their menu:

Caviar Surprise, served in a caviar tin and comprised of layers of Caviar, King Crab, Crème Fraîche and Apple Cider Jelly ($32)

Caviar Dip and Sweet Potato Chips ($14)

Blinis with Caviar, Trout, and Salmon Roe; the Green Bean Salad with Burrata, Marcona almonds and Transmontanus Caviar ($18)

Smoked Salmon Tartine with Goat Cheese, Capers, and Caviar ($16)

Eggxiting Caviar—two 12 gram “eggs” of Transmontanus caviar and spoons in an isothermic case ($49)

Petrossian CaviarCubes ($45)

Foie Gras and Pâté (from $20)

The Petrossian staff will kindly package the items to go in one of their stylish cooler bags or pack your picnic basket for you. Provide your credit card number ahead of time and they’ll deliver your items to you in your car.

Call to order

Petrossian Boutique & Restaurant
321 N. Robertson Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90048
310.271.0576
@petrossianweho

Continue reading