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.

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Acclaimed Hong Kong Chefs Take Over The Grove

Chef Kwai- Pui Mak

Over the weekend, I had the chance to meet not one, but three, Michelin-starred chefs from Hong Kong. They included Chef Kwai-Pui Mak of Tim Ho Wan, Chef Mango Tsang of Ming Court in Langham Place and Chef Kam-Fu Cheng of Celebrity Cuisine. During an exclusive event with industry and media, I learned a little bit about their mission to spread the word about all things Hong Kong – but especially cuisine – to Los Angeles.

Hong Kong Sampler

While Chef Mango Tsang, the fine dining guru and Marathon-runner of the trio, lamented some of the dishes didn’t come out quite right because of the unpredictability of American ingredients, I thought everything – including his fried shrimp cake and a chicken paste – tasted delicious. Unfortunately, you can only expect to get the real thing while visiting each of the chefs’ restaurants in their native Hong Kong.

Chef Kam-fu Cheng, who first became popular through his private dining business, fixed a delicious crab claw. My favorite bite of the sampler, by Chef Kwai-pui Mak, had to be the char siu bao, or pork bun. The bun had this flaky yet chewy consistency to it that I hadn’t had anywhere else and made for probably the best pork bun I had had anywhere. His tenure at Lung King Hin inside the Four Seasons Hong Kong saw three Michelin stars, and his Tim Ho Wan Dim Sum restaurant received one star within a year of opening, so I can see why his dim sum is top notch.

Overall, it was a not-to-be-missed opportunity to see the top Hong Kong chefs right here in Los Angeles. It’s opened my eyes to the possibilities of a trip to Hong Kong, undoubtedly a culinary wonderland. Now if I can see, taste and experience it for myself…!

If you’re at all curious about how the Hong Kong chefs regard Chinese food in L.A., you’d best be on the lookout for the update from Jonathan Gold, who took them out to dim sum during one of their rare chances at off-time.

Chef Kwai- Pui Mak at
Tim Ho Wan
Shop 72, G/F.
Olympian City
Tai Kok Tsui, Kowloon (Olympian MTR Station)

Chef Mango Tsang at
Ming Court
555 Shanghai Street
Mongkok
Kowloon, Hong Kong

Chef Kam-Fu Cheng at
Celebrity Cuisine
1/F, Lan Kwai Fong Hotel
3 Kau U Fong, Central

Moqueca: A Piece of Brazil in Oxnard

Lobster and Shrimp Moqueca

We came from wine country having made a total of five stops at Santa Ynez wineries and a tasting room and were ready to feast. Bill of Street Gourmet, Fiona of Gourmet Pigs, Josh of Food GPS and I were on a Foodbuzz-sponsored trip celebrating Javier, the no-longer-Teenage Glutster and food blogger who had finally turned of legal drinking age.

Spicy Eggplant Spread, Malagueta Peppers With Olive Oil
Spicy Eggplant Spread, Malagueta Peppers in Olive Oil

Bill had tipped us off that Moqueca in Oxnard was one of probably only two places Stateside (the other on the East Coast) that served the traditional Brazilian stew – so the anticipation was brewing, as was our need to soak up the vino we had been consuming all day. When we arrived at the restaurant, located on the second floor of a plaza in view of the marina, I could smell the complex spices in the air and immediately started salivating.

Moqueca was near capacity this Saturday night. Bill impressed us with his Portuguese (“Brazilian women are hot,” indeed), whereupon it was decided with the chef that we would order a cod appetizer, three stews and a side of plantains for us five to share. Crostini topped with an eggplant spread or peppers in olive oil were our prelude. The salted cod, which broke our fast, was delicious and had a good, cakey-yet-moist consistency inside.

Not too much later, clay pots came to us boiling and red, and we immediately dug into the one containing lobster and shrimp – lest our precious seafood continue cooking in the stew and lose its tenderness. Of course, none of that diminished the fact that by now, we were starving.

Plantaines

Served over a bed of rice on our plates, the lobster and shrimp were perfectly cooked and as a component inside the stew, packed a ton of flavor. As a seafood lover, I think there are few things better than almost-sweet crustaceans served spicy. The other pot, which contained the same broth but with mahi mahi and angel shark was also incredibly delicious. The filets were perfect – firm enough to avoid dissolving into the stew yet still tender to the fork. Bobo de Camarao was a broth that is thickened with yucca – and at our table it was served with shrimp. It was good but I preferred it without the additional starch, though it came impressively blended and integrated with the stew.

Quindim

The Quindim (coconut-egg custard) was firmer than I expected and decidedly more coconut than egg. It was good, as was the Brazilian flan – which was also firm. I noticed that all three desserts we got were very subtly sweet and had rather mild flavors, which is a refreshing take on dessert itself. I often find things too sugary and cause for a hard crash later on, so I appreciated the three we tried that night. My favorite dessert, however, was definitely the Passion Fruit Mousse. It was light yet packed a huge amount of authentic, potent passion fruit flavor with none of the artificial cantaloupe coloring I’ve seen so many passion fruit-flavored things with.

Moqueca may be in Oxnard, but I would propose that if you are looking for a unique, comforting dining experience featuring stew incorporating perfectly-cooked seafood – the hour-long drive is worth it. No longer can our ignorance pigeon-hole the Brazilian food experience into chain churrascarias; after all, this stew has existed for over 300 years. Get into it.

Further reading:

Moqueca Capixaba – the traditional dish of Espiritu Santo, Brasil: “Moqueca” ups the stakes in LA – StreetGourmetLA

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A True Foodie’s 21st Birthday – Gourmet Pigs

Moqueca, Oxnard – Food GPS

Moqueca Restaurant
3550 Harbor Boulevard
Oxnard, CA 93035
805.204.0970