Links: e*starLA Elsewhere in 2015

Catch & Release, Marina del Rey

Apologies for not updating the blog, but here’s a post to push its revival into the New Year. Here I come, 2016! This week, I’ll be posting a round-up of sorts on 2015 and noteworthy dishes at noteworthy restaurants.

In any case, feel free to catch up with a few of my freelance articles, and my comments forthwith, that I wrote for other online publications the latter half of 2015 here. Also, a plug to follow me on other social media channels, which I’ve been updating pretty regularly: Instagram, Twitter, and eventually Snapchat (@estar_la)!

Happy reading. I’ll catch you guys with another 2015 update tomorrow.

Bánh Mì My-Tho
304 W Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801

Phorage
3300 Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Catch & Release
13488 Maxella Ave
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

Langer’s Delicatessen
704 S Alvarado St
Los Angeles, CA 90057

Wexler’s Deli, GCM
317 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Old Country Cafe
2 E Valley Blvd #1e
Alhambra, CA 91801

Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village
250 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776

Zankou Chicken
5065 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Happy Hour is Restocking Hour at Stir Market

Porchetta Chili Cheese Fries

There are happy hours where get enticed into what might seem like a great deal but, once you’ve arrived and start ordering, the specials don’t seem as attractive now that you see the menu up close. But the great thing about Restocking Hour at Stir Market is that there are specials on both food and wine, and the prices are at pretty big discounts on really tasty offerings.

Continue reading

First Taste: Neal Fraser’s Redbird at The Vibiana

Maine Lobster, gnocchi sardi, nettles, black trumpets

The long-awaited restaurant from Neal Fraser, Amy Knoll Fraser and Bill Chait is finally here, and all of Los Angeles is the better for it. With a cocktail program focused on the classics by Julian Cox and a wine list curated by Diane Pandolfini, Redbird will stand to be one of the most exciting openings of 2015 – something everyone can confidently say even while it’s still January.

Continue reading

Twenty-One Reasons to dineL.A.: January 19 – February 1, 2015

Lobster Roll – Blue Plate Oysterette

DineL.A. is back and it’s time to scour the menus of participating restaurants all over town. I’ve come up with some reasons to jet to a particular dining establishment near you, whether for lunch or for dinner. Some restaurants offer exclusive dishes to dineL.A., others are offering a particularly enticing lunch and/or dinner menu. There are also participants that might normally be out of your price range or sense of adventure, but dineLA might just be the right occasion to give them a try.

Continue reading

Bruce Kalman Ups the Ante at Union Pasadena

Smoked pork chop, market vegetables, wild mushrooms, Marsala, sage

Though I’ve been hearing that, as of late, there are more and more reasons to eat in Pasadena, I’ve admittedly yet to fully experience many of those restaurants for myself. So it made sense that I might start with Union Pasadena, where diners are enveloped in a haven of Chef Bruce Kalman’s (formerly The Churchill, The Misfit, Urbano Pizza Bar) comfort food.

Continue reading

Dining at the New Wine Bar at The Hollywood Bowl

The Wine Bar

Anybody who enjoys live music in Los Angeles knows and appreciates that the outside food and drink policy at The Hollywood Bowl is the most liberal – and accessible – in the entire city. Basically, as long as you’re not making a ruckus, it is all allowed to be brought in and enjoyed at your seat. Thus, tons of restaurants offer take-away picnic options specifically designed for Bowl concerts, summer after summer. Concertgoers take advantage by bringing in bottles of booze in coolers and picnic baskets to be enjoyed and discarded on the sacred Hollywood Bowl grounds.

But if you go to The Bowl a lot – and I do, as a proud Hollywood resident – let’s just admit that sometimes we all get a bit lazy. The refusal to pay for $17 stacked parking leads to a small trek to this famous venue set against the Hollywood Hills – and sometimes I just get a little tired of all the lugging.

Continue reading

First Taste: Paiche Brings Refined Peruvian Izakaya to Marina del Rey

Uni Shrimp Toast

While I caught a peek of the new Marina del Rey restaurant’s interior and fare through one of the Best New Chef reunion dinners brought to Paiche by Food GPS (Portland’s Naomi Pomeroy was guest chef), last night was the first time I got a real taste of Ricardo Zarate’s new menu, taking center stage, thanks to a lucky invite to Friends & Family night.

Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

New Casual Boutique & Patio Menu at Petrossian is Easy, Breezy & Delicious

Burrata | Apricots, basil, prosciutto $10

Petrossian, at least in West Hollywood and beyond, has essentially become synonymous with caviar as its flagship Los Angeles restaurant serves wide-ranging clientele in its white-soaked dining room, one caviar-enhanced meal to the next. As Chef Giselle Wellman continues to tinker with the always-excellent, savory-focused menu, she has decided to do something a little different in regards to the more casual, often-ignored boutique and patio area of the restaurant. In the daytime, the beautiful boutique is flooded with daylight, with artful floral arrangements decorating high tops and a cushy, long booth lining the inside front wall.

Fig & Brie Sandwich

Caviar is often intimidating to those not yet inducted, but in Petrossian’s quest to make all things caviar-palatable, perhaps the omnipresence of its signature ingredient on the menu has ironically become a barrier, of sorts. There lacked a menu that was evidence that the brand – in its dining room incarnation, at least – was content to not beat the ingredient to death by proving its compatibility with everyday dishes.

If there could exist a niche to fill in between lunch, happy hour and dinner at Petrossian, the newly-launched boutique and patio menu of small plates does exactly that. Because small plates are just the thing for us non-committal diners these days. Of course, this doesn’t detract from the elegance of the dinner menu nor the lightness of the lunch menu – nor the introductory nature of the happy hour menu, that is. There’s a perfect mid-day vibe to this menu, what with vegetables and fruit matching the vibrance and breeziness of the boutique and patio without sacrificing any of the taste.

Pomme Frites with Caviar Aioli

It’s hard to complain about the asparagus, which turned up perfectly cooked and seasoned. I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has said “I hate burrata,” but the apricots, basil and prosciutto make for lovely complements. The nice touch that Giselle brought to the already-delicious olive plate is that she warms the conconction up. You can bite through the tangy-sweet orange peels, while wondering why everyone doesn’t heat up their olive appetizers.

The morels that accompany the farm egg are the menu’s savory sweet spot while the sweet peas are just the perfect sweet touch – and truth be told, I really just can’t get enough of runny eggs. Win-win. The caviar aioli to the pomme frites are basically as “bar food” as you get in the place – but what an excellent version, at that.

And of course, it’s impossible to ignore the Mussels, Fig & Brie sandwiches and Prime Flat Iron Steak Crostinis. The Fig & Brie, with its delicious walnut bread, is like the Thanksgiving you missed last November (because we’d all pick this over Turkey Club leftovers). The garlic aioli atop the uber tender Prime Flat Iron Steak cuts is just the perfect touch. The Mussels are also solid, with the broth being one of those things you just wish was a soup.

You can order from this menu on Mondays through Saturdays from 5 – 11 PM while seated in the boutique or patio – but not the dining room. And if you happen to be there before 7 o’clock on a weekday, you may as well scope their happy hour drink menu as well, including the Caviar Martini.

After all, you’ll want to complement your small plates with a little – or a lot – of caviar.

All food and cocktails were hosted.

Asparagus
Truffle Oil, Parmesan, Pine Nuts, Lemon
8

Burrata
Apricots, Basil, Prosciutto
10

House Pickled Vegetables
Cucumber, Cauliflower, Carrots, Pear Onion, Fresno Chili
8

Olives
Citrus and Herb Marinated Olives, Grilled Baguette
12

Farm Egg
Morels, Fava Beans, Peas, Baguette
12

Watermelon
Soy Sesame Vinaigrette, Chives, Caviar
12

Pomme Frites
Caviar Aioli
12

Prince Edward Island Mussels
Saffron, White Wine, Fresno Chili, Parsley, Grilled Bread
16

Blini Sampler
Trout Roe, Salmon Roe, Caviar
12

Fig and Brie
Walnut Bread, Arugula, Honey
12

Prime Flat Iron Crostinis
Watercress, Caramelized Onion, Garlic Aioli
18

Boutique/Patio Menu:
Mon – Sat

5 PM – 11 PM

Happy hour: Mon – Fri, 4 – 7 PM

Menu available in the boutique & on the patio

Petrossian West Hollywood
321 N. Robertson Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90048
310.271.0576

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