MessHall Brings Los Feliz Front and Center

Seared Dayboat Scallops, Smoked tomato, Corn succotash, Gnocchi, Sherry Champagne Sauce

I didn’t think much of the space just south of The Greek Theatre when Louise’s, the trattoria chain, occupied the space. It was little more than a place-marker for street parking for those summer concerts. It marked the start of the ascent up Hillhurst from Los Feliz Blvd., the alternative to the stacked parking cattle call that was the official Greek parking.
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SugarFISH by Sushi Nozawa Opens Downtown, Makes Eating Quality Sushi Everyday a Reality

Yellowtail Sushi

For awhile now, I’ve been craving sushi. Between engagements, typical and a-typical financial obligations as of late, I haven’t been able to satiate that desire. As it turns out, I simply didn’t know where to go – or had nowhere to go before sugarFISH opened up in Downtown LA a few days ago. Quality fish without the scene or price tag is a rare find, and I’m lucky to have been invited by Lele Massimi, one of the founders, to see exactly what they were up to. After all, this kind of research is expensive. SugarFISH will now be my home base.

Large Sea Scallops, Yuzu Ponzu

Fish is bought daily from the fish market just down the street – a claim that the Brentwood, Marina del Rey and soon-to-be Santa Monica locations can’t make. Even when that market is closed on Sundays, Kazunori Nozawa still hand-picks each cut from the fishermen because he’s an insider (you may know that his reputation precedes him). This is the same fish that you would order for double the price at Sushi Nozawa, and here you will often have first choice of the rarest finds from the market because of this outpost’s vicinity – just ask what the special is. Sitting at the sushi bar isn’t an option – because there doesn’t exist one. SugarFISH is able to sustain – and flourish – at these prices by cutting out the middle-man and preparing all food within the confines of their kitchen.

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Favorites From LudoBites 4.0

White Asparagus Velouté, Mozzarella Mousse, Fennel, Candied Olive, Salmon Roe ($14)

Oh look. It’s the obligatory LudoBites 4.0 post on e*starLA. Like it’s really an LA food blog without it, you say. Well, you’re right. So while I’m at it, I’ll also remind everybody that 1) It’s completely booked, but also: 2) There are always cancellations. Follow Krissy Lefebvre (@frenchchefwife) for notice of these cancellations. And after you score that reservation, remember to BYOB it. A great wine shop to consult for your purchase is Domaine LA (@domainela), where Jill recommended a lovely ’08 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir that got rave reviews from my tablemates. Also check out the recommended wine list for LudoBites diners.

Scallop, Almond Puree, Pickled Grapes, Capers, Curry Oil & Cauliflower Ice Cream ($14)

Last night was another Ludo fried chicken night at Akasha which doubled as a viewing party for Ludo’s return to Top Chef Masters. It was buffet-style and some lucky diners got to take home the leftovers. I was not so diligent in securing some for myself, I’m sad to say. But it was so fun to see how our favorite social media-entwined chef got “cast” as the crazy Frenchman in reality TV land, getting 100% subtitled and well, playing the part quite expertly. The party attendees sat and watched the episode intently, while smug that we got to experience Ludo’s drama – live and in the flesh.

But back to LudoBites: My camarades and I tasted the entire menu, but today is not the day for the forever-scrolling blog post. So on with the favorites from the LudoBites 4.0 menu as we knew it (Ludo regularly changes and evolves his menu):

I love all the daring contrasts in flavors that Ludo features in his dishes, especially when it comes to soup. I’m sorry, I meant velouté. Why yes certainly, it is velvety, which is such a perfect background for when the salmon roe delivers a sort of salt shock. And the candied olive is actually sweet, yes. The fennel gave the dish its center texture and had good flavor. It blew my mind – because it’s not every day where you are treated to food that requires that you think. Ahh…Ludobites is back.

Burgundy Escargots, Garlic Flan, Green Jus, Violet Flowers ($12)

I also loved the Red Snapper Ceviche – a dish I couldn’t figure if more flavorful or refreshing. Jalapenos and red onions gave it a proper kick while tomatoes were an effective cooling agent. I snuck an extra helping of this one onto my plate. The scallop dish was an adventure of sorts, combining the perfectly seared bivalves (with that perfect ring on the outside) with almond puree and cauliflower ice cream. There were many little nuances from all over the place, especially when you also combined them with the pickled grapes and curry oil. The bite, however, wasn’t complete until you included a little of the caper paste smeared onto the plate. And after that was done, I found myself going back to the cauliflower ice cream – just to make sure it really was cauliflower that I tasted in the creamy – yet quickly melting – cold scoop. There were super-thin slices of raw cauliflower on top of each scallop which together were drizzled in a slightly spicy curry oil.

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Taste of East Rivals Its Scene And Style

Oysters on the half with Vietnamese mignonette, yuzu gelée & pickled onion

All photography courtesy of Andrew Herrold

East is not the kind of place that, upon drive-by, would make me turn my head while noting to come back or even to simply do more research. If it’s a Japanese Pan-Asian place on Hollywood Blvd., I’ve basically assumed it’s Geisha House or the recently-shuttered Club DSushi (which is actually on Sunset Blvd but pretty darned close). I have a stock montage that I play in my head – slow motion close-ups of collapsing hand cut spicy tuna rolls being shoved into lipsticked mouths as low-frequency four-on-the-floors pulsate through the venue. Having to shout over trance lasers to hear the person immediately next to you. Sake bombs. Blech. Saketinis. Blech. You know the place. The place where renditions of Miyagi’s go.

I get it – it’s hard to imagine Hollywood Blvd. as a culinary destination. I wouldn’t argue with you there. But then, I think, it would be unwise to completely extract that scene from the identity of a restaurant like East. During my visit, I sat across from Rob Dyrdek (for all you extreme sports fans). Celebrity or not, the guy was on to something, here – the restaurant actually doesn’t rest upon its Hollywood Blvd. laurels and serves up reliable seafood on the half – and will even impress you with its minimal, classy interior.

Warm spinach, arugula, shiitake mushrooms, duck confit, Bali pepper tossed in sherry vinaigrette. Topped with crispy pancetta and roasted young candy beets.

Let me stress again: Don’t come here looking for a bargain. Bring your date here because while you may want to throw her off with the exterior and location of yet another typical Hollywood spot, East will surprise her with classy, minimal decor and some amazingly good dishes. Keven Alan Lee heads the kitchen, hails from Vegas’ Lutèce and let’s face it – there are some you want to impress outside of business and East is the place to take him or her. Even the starting spinach salad with arugula and duck confit was very good – a good amuse to precede the seafood to come.

And do concentrate on the shellfish – not so much the sashimi (“We do sashimi, not sushi” I was told).

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