M.B. Post Delivers As The Star of South Bay

Vietnamese Caramel Pork Jowl, Green Papaya Salad, Lime

There’s something really exciting going on over in Manhattan Beach. The cooking is so titillating I’d gladly make the trek to meet a Westside or South Bay friend at M.B. Post, Chef David LeFevre’s exciting and as-yet-still-new venture. It is this that he left Downtown L.A.’s seafood heavyweight, Water Grill, for and it’s a beautiful thing to see his unbridled passion coming out of the kitchen. Call M.B. Post a gastropub, if you will (everyone is doing it), but I can’t remember the last time the small plates in one spot hit it so consistently out of the park. They were playful, but also well-executed.

Cheese, Meats & Accompaniments

Each tasty bread selection is accompanied by a sauce of sorts, with maple butter on the side of their crumbly Bacon Cheddar Buttermilk biscuits, a delicious horseradish mustard on the side of the Fleur de Sel Pretzel and a harissa yogurt sauce dippable by naan. And if that doesn’t properly start things, don’t forget the cheese and cured meat selection – and all the accompaniments.

The cocktail menu by Sal Roses, Jerry Garbus, Gregg Wescott, and Beau du Bois is a composition of riffs on old favorites. I was more than pleased with my Manhattan Avenue, made with Sazerac Rye and finished off with bacon dust. The Landing Strip is their Aviation with a Creme de Violet twist. The real stand-out, though, is the Day of the Dead, made with Fortaleza Silver, amaretto, lemon and sage. It’s a refreshing yet boozefully delightful Spanish Fly – and Fortaleza is one of my favorite tequilas. If you’re feeling like an aperitif, go with their off-menu Virgil’s Ascent, a not-so-ordinary Negroni made with Hendricks, Aperol, pomegranate seeds and orange clove nectar. I love that all the cocktails were personalized to M.B. Post with the use natural fruits while still paying proper homage to the classics by being great stand-alone cocktails.

Yellow Cauliflower wtih Sultanas, Mint, Caper Berries

All of the vegetable dishes that we ordered were exceptional, from the Blistering Green Beans with Thai basil, chili sauce and crispy pork to the Yellow Cauliflower with sultanas, mint and caper berries. They also weren’t just roasted iron dishes brought out with different vegetables, but they were all individually constructed dishes, very thoughtfully seasoned with unique flavorings. Enjoy them before or with your seafood and/or meat dishes, because while I have yet to try their fish and shrimp plates, I can vouch that the Steamed Green Curry Mussels are pretty much as solid as others I’ve had elsewhere. While it’s probably more betraying of which piece of the food pie I’m partial to, I thought the meat dishes were the real highlights.

The Elvis: Peanut Butter Mousse, Caramelized Banana, Chocolate Pudding, Bacon Brittle

Such as the Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Jowl atop a green papaya salad. So tender and flavorful, this pork part is a must-order. The Meyers Farm “Never Ever” Skirt Steak is seasoned with a delicious red chimichurri sauce and comes accompanied by grilled broccolini. It’s got that perfect pink center and it’s as unordinary a skirt steak as I’ve had in recent memory. But don’t forget the Moroccan BBQ Lamb Belly with creamy semolina and cardamom carrots. And if you’re lucky enough to visit while Chef LeFevre still has the Albondigas on the menu, don’t forget those, either. (Bring your people.) It comes glazed with maple miso on top of garnet yam puree – perfectly delicious compliments - and the shishito peppers that top the meatballs make for a slightly spicy garnish.

Day of the Dead

As far as dessert, there are just enough offerings to satisfy that sweet tooth (admittedly, mine borders on savory), with my personal favorite, the Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake, coming in a sealed jar. But if you love all desserts Elvis, you’re sure to order this “wonderful mess” of peanut butter mousse, carmelized banana, chocolate pudding and bacon brittle. It’s the closest thing to that heavenly Wolvesmouth dessert since I’ve been.

M.B. Post wins as my favorite gastropub in South Bay – and dare I say, even all of L.A. Though I’m loath to let trends (yes, communal dining exists here too) filter through my radar, there’s no mistake that I immensely enjoyed practically everything Chef David LeFevre sent out of the kitchen. Then again, is it still a gastropub if there are only two draught beers on tap? To me, it’s not a weakness. It’s indicative of focus. So the end-all is that we can throw away the labels. I have no qualms about calling M.B. Post simply a great place that serves great small plates.

All food and cocktails were hosted.

Sun – Thur

5 – 10 PM

Fri – Sat

5 – 11 PM

M.B. Post
1142 Manhattan Ave.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
310.545.5405

@chefdlefevre

Great Tapas (and BBQ) in Koreatown: LaOn

Abalone

I arrived to our 7-top reservation on account of an invitation from Josh of Food GPS, but only after first following the noise and crowd into the very popular Don Dae Gam, which was located in the same plaza. I turned to each occupied table (they all were), and when I didn’t recognize one face I went back out the door.

Sliced Daikon "Taco"

At LaOn, we were one of two parties total that dined there in the duration of our feast. As the only non-Caucasian in the party, I had also learned that before I arrived, the servers verified repeatedly that indeed, this was the restaurant at which they wanted to be, and not next door.

Don’t judge a palate by its cover…

As each cooked or uncooked dish arrived in the practically empty restaurant, it became apparent that we were one of the first to discover this little gem. The best thing about our big party was that we were able to order a lot to ensure getting a bite of everything while not leaving a scrap by the time we were finished.

Steak Tartar

With the same people behind Park’s BBQ masterminding LaOn, this surprisingly pleasant dining space – though furnished with the obligatory fans above each table – isn’t the spot to court your singularly focused meat-minded friends (often the stigma I’ve found associated with Korean food). Sure, you’ll get an on-table iron charcoal grill on which to cook your skirt steak, beef tongue and skewers (the bacon-wrapped duk, or tubular rice cakes, are a must), but you’d really be missing out if you overlooked the peewee fingerling potatoes in green pepper & green chile sauce to start, the pork/egg/shiitake/cucumber/carrot wrapped in daikon “tacos,” the rice paper-wrapped steak tartar topped with quail egg, the garlic abalone dish, the roe-uni stone pot rice … I think you get the point.

Bacon-wrapped Duk, Sausage and Onion on the Grill

With the only included banchan being pickled, thinly sliced cucumbers and more-than-decent kimchi, it’s clear that this isn’t a Korean restaurant that rests its laurels on filler. But the servers and chef/owner were more than courteous – even friendly. Now gone are the days where I had to “corner a Korean” (UCLA proved useful for this) just so I could have a go-to guy that could order for me without the awkwardness of the language barrier and risk of being taken a less-than-courageous customer. A nice surprise was a dish that we hadn’t ordered but was gratefully sent out: A kind of chapchae, but made with rice cakes, instead. I would definitely classify this as a staple and would order this next time.

The best part about it? The raw cuts are of quality while LaOn’s location and audience in Koreatown prevents the BBQ as well as the small plates from being too precious. Just make sure that in a party this big, you order 2 of most things. Proof: By the end, we were stuffed, and had only spent $34 per person including tax, just one bottle of wine and 20%+ tip (no dessert).

So go forth and visit LaOn. “Small plates” is the arguably hackneyed phenomenon these days, but this little Don Dae Gam-adjacent place in Koreatown is a stand-out gem that does it all so well. And for those cravings of the Americanized Korean tradition of BBQ – there’s more than enough to go around.

Mon – Sat: 5 PM – 1 AM
Sun: 5 PM – 11 PM

LaOn
1145 S. Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90006
323.373.0700

Aburiya Toranoko Adds a Lively, Playful Vibe to Little Tokyo

Yanagita Seafarms Uni Goma Tofu

Over the past year, Lazy Ox Canteen has been one of my favorite spots to drop in and dally at the bar with a glass of wine and a couple small plates. I very much enjoy the energy of the place, though I prefer to not be in the middle of it – or the dining room as part of a 6 top, for example. So when Michael Cardenas talked of his upcoming project immediately next door that would be a Japanese eatery, I was instantly curious. I could sense that he also wanted a lot of energy pulsing through this adjacent space, and I can now vouch that he’s successfully achieved this element.

Cocktail bar and flatscreen

There are not one but two bars at Aburiya Toranoko. One, of the spirits variety, rests opposite the restaurant’s trademark brick wall mural – complete with an oversized, looming mirror so diners and drinkers not be deprived of its view. This is where the flatscreen is should you want to keep updated on the Laker game. The other bar, of the sushi variety, is along the back wall. You’ll receive multiple laudatory and exuberant greetings in Japanese on your way back there, or wherever your seat may be - and enjoy it. It’s an induction into this restaurant and a tone-setter for your meal.

You may find yourself having a hard time narrowing down which izakaya dishes to order. The courteous and knowledgable waitstaff are an important resource to aid you in doing so. When we ordered uni sushi, our helpful server instead suggested the Yanagita Farms Uni Goma Tofu. I’m glad she did, because it was a perfect starter and a great little dish of savory topped with fresh uni to kick things off. 

Hakata-Style Tripe

The New Union Farms Sizzling Mushrooms with Tobanyaki is a must-order. Sizzle, those mushrooms did. You’ll find yourself licking the broth out of the bowl before it’s bussed away. Another one of my favorites happened to be off the special menu: Hakata-style tripe. It had a ton of flavor and I was only used to experiencing this profile with ramen noodles. But the tripe just soaked it all up with its extra soft texture. Its savoriness made me forget that I used to consider tripe as one of those weird things my parents ate…along with chicken feet.

Another favorite was on the regular menu, the braised Colorado Black Pork Kukuni, which came with a couple broth-soaked daikon slices and was so tender the cut fell apart at the…chopstick. Though you would have to try pretty hard to screw up braised pork, I loved that it wasn’t too sweet with very little fat and came with a little sliver of extra-potent mustard that broke up the richness with its kick. (I also saw it garnishing other dishes.)

Oysters on the half-shell with caviar, uni, ponzu & ceviche

Besides the izakaya, Toranoko also offers kukuni – or yakitori. That is, vegetables and/or meat on skewers. Those of you in the foie gras cult can appreciate the Duck with Foie Gras in White Balsamic Soy Sauce Reduction…on a stick! There’s also a selection of oden, or objects in broth, as our server explained. This was new to me, and we got a tofu purse bundle with mochi inside. It was good yet unsurprising and struck me a bit as a novelty, but I clearly have more to learn about oden. For those more bowl-inclined, there’s a “rice/noodle/soup” section for that home feel. I hope to try something from this section next time on maybe a cold (for LA) day – perhaps a bowl of porridge. 

On my visit, we also ordered a delicious sushi roll but I can’t confidently comment on Aburiya Toranoko’s raw fish without a whole meal of it, and the focus was on the small plates for the night. The outlook on their sushi is auspicious, though, since – for starters – the sushi chefs are indeed Japanese.

While they tout their hand-crafted cocktail menu made only with fresh juices and no added sugar, I still found the recipes themselves to err on the sweet side. A good bet would be to stay with the sake. My dining companion and I actually discovered a really delicious, unpasteurized one that was pleasantly at the bottom of the price range: Rin “Organic” out of Fukushima.

Aburiya Toranoko is one of those places that you have to go back to try all the different dimensions of their playbook. If you come with a group, I guess you could play all sections of the field by ordering a little bit of everything. But one thing’s for sure, the place continues to carry out Cardenas’ insistance on playing with his food. Since everyone in partnership, management and the heads of kitchen are Nobu alumni, however, it tends to give the food a more refined take.

Lunch

Mon – Sun: 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Sun – Thur: 5 – 11 PM

Dinner

Fri – Sat 5 PM – Midnight

Happy Hour: 5 – 7 PM (Food items: $5, Well drinks: $5, Drink items: $3)

Aburiya Toranoko
243 S. San Pedro
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213.621.9500

The Spice Table: Not For The Faint of Palate

Kon Loh Mee ($12)

As Fiona and I finished our small plates and resumed breathing – but realized we were breathing fire – we weren’t quite sure, exactly, where we were, anymore. We cajoled, “Is this restaurant called, ‘The Spicy Table’?”

Bird Cages - Caw!

The Little Tokyo spot has a shrewdly stylish, if still minimal, ambiance with bird cage accents surrounding light bulbs incandescent. The front bar area seems like the perfect place at which to perch around the central wood-fired oven and enjoy a dish or two with the desired size pour of beer or glass of wine. I did wonder if the faces of those who sat at the bar, directly in front of the oven, were burning off or not (I caught a good amount of heat simply from walking by); then again, Downtown LA benefits from any spot proffering warmth to their customers, no matter how literal. Just choose your proximity, I guess, and they’ll just make sure to leave some brick exposed so you’re reminded that you’re downtown and cozy.

Black Pepper Crab Toast ($17)

Though cost and variety was the reason were the reasons I chose suds (4 oz. beer pours are available for $2; glasses of wine are upwards of $14), light, cold and carbonated was, in retrospect, the perfect thing to wash down all those bold flavors. My Craftsman Hef was a great choice, and you’ll be glad to know that The Bruery’s Orchard White, Abita’s Amber Lager and North Coast’s La Merle Saison – and, true-to-form, the Singaporean Tiger Beer – are all available in 12- and 16-oz. pours as well.

The starting lamb belly skewers ($10), or satay, were singed perfectly while revealing fully flavorful, slightly gelatinous centers. The piquant yet indulgent spread in the Black Pepper Crab Toast didn’t have me thinking that one piece of bread between the two of us wasn’t enough; I simply piled that crab paste onto my toasted triangle about an inch thick.

Charred Squid Stuffed With Sticky Rice, Chinese Sausage, Black Mushrooms ($12) - Special

We were almost to the noodles, by then, but not before the squid special came out. And though we sat in the dining room, this was where I fully appreciated that oven situated behind the bar. The deliciously charred, squid shell was not rubbery but as tender as its sticky rice center, with bits of familiarly rich Chinese sausage and just-as-meaty black mushrooms filling out the tubular vessels. The vinaigrette we spooned on top added the bitter-sweet note we didn’t even know was missing. You may end up wishing that this was a regular menu item.

But then came our fiery hot noodles. The first, the Kon Loh Mee, featured springy, thin egg noodles topped with ground pork, char siu (because one kind of pork is never enough), sambal and choy sum – the lattest of which were, I realized later, the only vegetables short of the garnishes we had consumed the entire night. The egg noodles were superbly cooked; I’m wondering if they were made in-house and regret that I didn’t ask. The entire dish, however, were some of the most punishingly delicious dry noodles I’ve had in some time.

Laksa ($12)

The Laksa, a coconut curry broth enveloping rice flour noodles, mussels and fish cakes and topped with coriander and a slice of soft-boiled egg, was almost as punishing. The creaminess of the coconut recanted some of that direct sting. It was enough of a break to entice us to press on, breathing in and out, while admiring that the restaurant didn’t pull any punches for The Stereotypicallly Weak White Man’s Palate. (Or, gave our Stereotypically Tough Asian Woman’s Palates their fair treatment – either way.) It even came with a hefty portion of sambal, which is allegedly traditional but something we had no intention of actually adding! The soup was thankfully delicious as it stood. I loved all the textures of the rice noodles and fish cakes while the mussels – let’s face it, I love shellfish – were that extra kick in the flavor pants.

If they brought out the spicy dishes last for a reason, I have an inkling on what that reason is: Dessert.

It worked. Well done. (Okay, and, there’s always a valid argument for palate fatigue, right? Anyway.)

Our Kaffir Lime Custard was a refreshing, fluffy yet tart reprieve. The perfect, thematic ending to an adventurous meal by a former Mozza chef featuring Vietnamese and Singaporean flavors in a Japanese district called Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles. That is all.

Love this town.

Mon – Wed: 5:30 – 11 PM
Thur – Sat: 5:30 – Midnight

Reservations available online, only.

The Spice Table
114 S. Central Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213.620.1840

Wood & Vine: That Cozy, Warm Space on Hollywood Boulevard

Upstairs View of Bar Area

Hollywood is an awesome place to live. Not because of the bottle service and certainly not because everyone drives in from The Valley and Orange County on the weekends for the purposes of said bottle service.

Chicken & Waffles with Maple-Roasted Squash ($14)

It’s a great place because of the very spots that are overlooked in favor of bottle service and bass. Currently entering the second month of its operation, Wood & Vine is a two-story, neighborhood spot at which you can meet up with your friends and enjoy wine, beer, cocktails and/or food in a pleasant setting with wood furnishings and sage interior. There’s also a beautiful patio in the back – complete with lighting, ambiance and open flame – that may give you inklings of New York City thanks to the surrounding Hollywood “skyscrapers.”

The food is created by Gavin Mills, who was last sous at Bastide under Joseph Mahon (see previous post). As done in more and more eateries out there, he employs snout to tail and locally sourcing philosophies in that small kitchen and does a great job doing so. All the charcuterie, pates and rillette are made in-house, and together with cheese, start at $8 for three, $12 for five and $15 for seven.

Potato Gnocchi | Pea Tendrils, Spring Garlic, Confit Onions, Truffle ($12)

I sampled about half of the small, manageable menu (I’m all for quality execution over spreading oneself thin while indulging indecisiveness) and, of everything I tried, came up with a handful of favorites. The chicken and waffles was a refreshing rendition, with fluffy breading surrounding a sparingly syruped quarter-chicken over a bona fide, house-made Belgian waffle. The maple-roasted squash was delicious, too, with the $14 serving being none-too-sweet. Just perfect, actually.

The gnocchi were savory pillows, accompanied by pea tendrils, spring garlic, confit onions and just a touch of truffle. Beautifully simple and delicious. And if you want a little twist on traditional lasagna, Wood & Vine’s oxtail variety comes in its own, adorable Pyrex glass with horseradish and house-made ricotta – and packs a subtle, but much appreciated, kick.

But oh, those scallops. Granted, you have to screw things up really bad if you turn out bad scallops, but not only are these huge babies perfectly seared (with that crispy, barely-charred exterior), they come accompanied with Jerusalem artichokes upon some deliciously truffled grits. There was nothing left on the plate when I was finished – not even a smear of grits.

Grilled Scallops | Truffled Grits, Jerusalem Artichokes ($16)

I have yet to go back and try more cocktails (headed up by Jason McBeth) on for size. The Manhattan I ordered was good once I requested that it be served straight up (since it was initially served on-the-rocks), but I’m thinking that since I went early, they’re still getting their program squared away. However, their brown (whiskeys, ryes, bourbons, what have you) selection looks somewhat extensive, so I can’t wait to take a closer look. The dessert menu looks enticing, too, if also humanitarian, with proceeds from the sales of profiteroles going directly to the Los Angeles Youth Network – a cause that the owners care about. Another dessert that caught my eye: Butterscotch pot de creme with salted caramel ice-cream. Mmm.

The guys behind Wood & Vine, despite the big space, did a great job at creating a warm ambiance and concentrated food and cocktail menu with only the necessities. It’s the place that nightclub birds walk past on their way to Hi-NRG spicy tuna wonderland while you’re inside, cozy while nibbling cheese and sipping on your Aviation – perhaps alone, perhaps in a group (because it’s big enough for that).

Please, keep walking.

All food, wine and cocktails were hosted.

Wood & Vine
6280 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.334.3360

Essential Bites and Cocktails With a VÅ«

Pork Belly, Crispy Grits, Root Beer Jello

Welcome to my first blog entry on an establishment in Marina del Rey. Yes, it’s true – I’m rarely in the area except to visit fabulous divorcee girlfriends and out-of-town friends being put up in corporate housing. But VÅ«, located inside a curiously named hotel called Jamaica Bay Inn (in an area that is the antithesis of Jamaica), is one of those destination islands in a marina wasteland where you’ll find surprisingly unique and delicious bites in VÅ« of a beautiful waterfront.

White Manhattan

 There are more than a few reasons to visit. Caroline on Crack covers a huuuge one – that, of course, being the simple yet imaginative cocktails by the talented, self-taught Jolie Klein. She only uses the freshest and natural ingredients, only bridled by the desire to create a cocktail that caters to the guest’s palate. My favorite cocktail of the night had to be the White Manhattan, made with a spirit from my own home state of Wisconsin. Death’s Door White Whiskey – that is, newly distilled whiskey - is accented with Luxardo maraschino liqueur and The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters. I am a whiskey girl, and that also includes new make spirits. What a deliciously simple cocktail.

Beer After Branca

Now, places with a solid cocktail program definitely merit a visit (make sure Jolie is there to make your drink), but VÅ« also offers interesting, avant garde small plates by Chef Kyle Schutte. My favorites happen to be a spin on Southern specialties (curious enough since Kyle is a Southern transplant). The Root Beer Jello atop Pork Belly and Crispy Grits actually evokes a chicken fried steak – just with some super flavorful pork belly in the middle. The root beer jello is, of course, the novelty of the bite but its temperature, flavor and consistency really complements the richness of the other two elements. What Caroline and I thought it could be paired with was Jolie’s is Beer After Branca, essentially Fernet Branca, Canton liqueur and Averna chased by ginger beer. Yes, I am a fernet fan, and ginger beer is an appropriate, spicy back to the fernet’s bitterness – so perhaps it was a bit unfair to call this a shoe-in (sue me!). But altogether, the bite and cocktail would be a great voyage in sweetness and richness, countered by the bitter fernet and finished off with the ginger beer. I could go all the way to Marina del Rey for another, and another.

Chicken Fried Watermelon, Pickled Rind ($5 during HH)

Speaking of chicken fried steak, how about some Chicken Fried Watermelon? The buttermilk batter surrounding the cubes of watermelon made the entire bite savory and sweet – while the pickled watermelon rind was just the perfect, barely-sour twist. I displayed probably my most thoughtful facial expressions as I piled in bite after bite.

Thai Mussels

Another one of my favorites were the Thai Mussels, which came on spoonfuls sitting in Green Curry Broth, Hamachi Salad, Coconut Jello, Scallion and Micro Cilantro. Curried mussels come and go, which is really no fault of anyone’s, but I appreciate the addition of the hamachi and coconut, which lightens things up and keeps the bite interesting.

The entrees are quite a jump, price-wise, from the various crudo, small plates (hot and cold) and cheese and charcuterie that VÅ« has to offer. But that really shouldn’t bother most because the smaller items on the menu are the most interesting, offering the biggest range during a night at VÅ«.

Happy Hour ($6 cocktails/wines, $4 tap & $5 small plates):
Mon – Fri: 4 – 7 PM
Sun: 8 PM – Close

VÅ« at Jamaica Bay Inn
4175 Admiralty Way
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
310.439.3033

Favorite Dish: Bacon-Wrapped Matzoh Balls at The Gorbals

Bacon-Wrapped Matzoh Balls, Mustard Aioli, Fresh-grated Horseradish

The food interwebs has been all aflutter lately about gastropubs – myself not excluded. The craze over savory, rich and salty dishes only helps the shared, small plates-style of serving guests become more commonplace in a city (that’s us, Los Angeles) that prides itself on accessibly delicious food. And if not, then everyone at the table gets a taste without the commitment.

All this harkens me back to a dish I had earlier this fall at The Gorbals. (Better late than never.) Indeed, it was the standout dish not only because it was well-executed, but also evokes a sort of blasphemous, tongue-in-cheek humor. Though I’m not Jewish in practice nor ethnicity, my name is still Esther on the phone and I spend my 9-5 outnumbered by non-kosher Jewish colleagues. It goes without saying, then, that most of them now know of this dish that they can only get in Downtown LA, and preferably not on a Thursday night, should they favor avoiding the Art Walk crowds (go early, should you favor being a part of that crowd yourself).

It’s not in a soup, but the balls thrive on their own as piping-hot, juicy spheres of ground matzo and chicken stock. Of course, they are all taken to that level with the tender strips of bacon that make the orbit. The globes of matzo sit atop mustard aioli and are briefly showered with fresh-grated horseradish, which helps keep things from resting upon the bacon’s laurels by packing a couple punches in those couple of ways. The aioli really is perfect.

I will return for these and one of their many solid cocktails that rotate their chalkboard. Besides, there are many other small plates on Ilan Hall’s menu I have to try. It doesn’t mean that they can’t make for a big meal.

Mon – Wed: 6 PM – 12 AM
Thur – Sat: 6 PM – 2 AM
Closed Sunday

The Gorbals
501 S. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
213.488.3408

Newly Re-Opened Mäni’s on Maple Launches $6 Happy Hour

Fresh Lime Daquiri

There’s a new cocktail bar and eatery on Maple Drive in Beverly Hills, and the employees of MySpace and surrounding internet biz office buildings are rejoicing. Valerie of Red Vines for Breakfast, Daniel of Thirsty in LA and I had the opportunity to take a sneak peak at what exactly the new cocktail program and newly-relocated kitchen at Mäni’s on Maple were up to – and I have to admit, I was completely surprised. Though I never became familiar with Mäni’s on Fairfax – except for perhaps a late-night cappuccino with a friend – it seems, save for the healthful cuisine angle, there is something completely different going on at their location in Beverly Hills.

Now at the site of Patina’s failed sushi experiment, Paperfish (even with its interior intact), Mäni’s is huge. And now they serve cocktails. From 3-7 and 9-11, a selection from the cocktail and appetizers menu will run only $6 each. Organic and house-made ingredients are touted, and rightfully so as whatever is sweet about the drinks is subtle and natural. Of the happy hour options, my favorites were the Daquiri and Ward 8. The bites are also solid, and of all the available bites in front of me I found myself coming back to the vibrant Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta again and again.

    Padre's Margarita
  • Bees Knees – Fresh lemon & honey with gin. A prohibition era cocktail named after a popular saying, meaning “The Height of Excellence.”
  • Fresh Lime Daiquiri – Not the blended version so often found, this is a classic, straight-up cocktail invented outside the United States.
  • Ward Eight – Classic cocktail out of Boston, named after a famed election district. House made organic grenadine, lemon & a touch of orange with bourbon.
  • Moscow Mule – A mixture of ginger, Smirnoff and lime created in 1941 at the Cock’n Bull Bar on the Sunset Strip. A classic.
  • Padre’s Margarita – A classic, on-the-rocks margarita with a cinnamon stick, no salt.
  • Classic Pimm’s Cup – Wimbledon classic with Pimm’s No. 1 – a gin flavored with fruits & herbs – ginger ale or lemon-lime soda and cucumber.
  • Gin Rickey or Original Gin Rickey – Named after famed lobbyist Joe Rickey in 1893, the Rickey’s defining characteristic is the refreshingly tart omission of sugar. The original, and the more modern with a touch of sweetness, both come up with a splash of soda.
  • Splash & Dash – Pick a spirit & a mixer: Vodka Soda, Rum & Cola, Gin & Tonic…

Six Dollar Small Plate Specials:

    Slow Roasted Salmon Salad
  • Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta – Red Onion, Basil, Garlic, White Balsamic, Olive Oil
  • Olive Oil Poached Tuna Salad – Fennel, Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, White Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Slow Roasted Salmon Salad – Farmers’ Market Peaches, Bleu Cheese, Greens, Seasonal Vinaigrette
  • Ceviche – Market Fish, Mango, Cucumber, Red Onion, Jalapeno, Mint, Cilantro, Chips
  • Arugula Salad With Beef Tenderloin – Warm Feta, Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Charmoula Marinated Skewers with Whole Wheat Pita – Tofu with Butternut Squash OR Beef with Yoghurt Mint Sauce
  • Sliders – Grain/Nut, Moroccan Lamb, BBQ Short Rib, Turkey, or Beef

The new Mäni’s is worth checking out – especially if you’re local during rush hour or late night and can take advantage of the $6 happy hour. It’s a good chance to give their cocktail program a shot. The drinks would surprise you and won’t leave you with that sugar crash when it’s time to go home. The produce in the bites are fresh and it’s a great way to catch that light bite.

$6 Happy Hour:

Monday – Friday

3 -7 PM & 9 – 11 PM

Mäni’s on Maple
345 N. Maple Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Vintage Enoteca: Taste The New, No-Nonsense Wine Bar on Sunset

Medjool Dates Stuffed with Grana Padano, Wrapped in Speck

I used to frequent that strip near the legendary Guitar Center in that incognito stretch on Sunset Boulevard. Post-college it was late night snacks (or entrees) at Bossa Nova eating what they dubbed “Brazilian food.” I’m not saying it’s not; I’m just saying that it was the widest and most diverse cuisine I ever got to know based on Bossa Nova’s menu, alone. And then there’s Toi, with their sit-down, fast food Thai. That favorite shirt imported from Japan that I still wear from Pop Killer. Never did get to try Cheebo.

White Bean Hummus Bruschetta With Saba, Smoked Paprika

But my reasons for revisiting the area have been renewed. Vintage Enoteca is now on the block offering small bites ($5), bruschettas ($6), paninis ($10), salads ($8), flatbreads ($10) and of course cheese and salumi (3 for $10, 5 for $13) to pair with your wine. The prices won’t make you wince and they offer wifi so your laptop, not just your wine, can keep you cozy. La Brea Bakery bread provides the foundation to their bruschettas and paninis, so you can rest assured they’ve proper foundation.

But the best news is, the eats are comforting. Ask for the appropriate pairings for each bite – such as the Walter Hansel ’09 Sauvignon Blac, which compliments the White Bean Hummus Bruschetta beautifully. Or try the Charles Smith ’07 Cabernet to wash down your Medjool Dates.

Italian Tuna Salad With Fusilli, Pecorino, Artichoke, Cherry Tomato & Lemon Mustard Vinaigrette

Despite the unfortunate deli and lunch meat stigma tuna salad gets, it was astonishing how good their Italian Tuna salad was, with spiral fusilli tossed with artichokes and cherry tomatoes in a lemon mustard vinaigrette, topped with pecorino. It’s a vibrant dish with much thanks to its fresh ingredients – the pecorino accented the tuna perfectly.

If you’re looking for something with a little more weight and spice to it, try the Spanish Grilled Cheese, made with chorizo, fontina cheese and piquillo pepper. Pair it with the ’08 “Les Chevrefeuilles” Grenache/Syrah from Côtes du Rhône.

The flatbreads Vintage Enoteca offers aren’t so shabby, either. My favorites were the Cauliflower, topped with prosciutto, béchamel and gruyere; and Mushroom, with its perfectly roasted variety of mushrooms, fontina and thyme.

Mushroom, Fontina & Thyme on Flatbread

Special Event:

Thankfully, next week Tuesday on July 13, 2010 from 7 – 9 PM, you’ll have your own opportunity to try Vintage Enoteca for their kick-off wine tasting featuring the wines and food of Alto Adige (Northern Italy), presented by Italian Wine Import Specialist Giuseppe Cossu. You’ll get to taste all of the following for $25:

Wines:
Pinot Bianco: Elena Walch, “Kastelaz,” alt Adige, 2009
Moscato Giallo: Alois Lageder, “Vogelmaier,” Alto Adige, 2009
Schiava: Alois Lageder, “Romigberg,” Kalterersee Classico, Alto Adige, 2009
Lagrein: Elena Walch, Alto Adige, 2008

Food:
Flatbread with Arugula, Duck Confit and Sour Cherries
Bruschetta with Sauerkraut, Apples, and Lardons

Whatever your occasion to drink wine at Vintage Enoteca, it’ll be pleasantly casual and yet perfectly delicious.

P.S. – Purse hooks are welded underneath and to the right of each metal table place setting.

All food and wine were hosted.

Tasting Event: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 from 7 – 9 PM

Vintage Enoteca
7554 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
323.512.5278

Menu
Wine

Open Daily
8 AM – Midnight

Wifi available

Nobu Reinvents Tapas Menu With Omakase Option in Bar & Lounge

Lounge at Nobu West Hollywood

Perhaps you’re in the neighborhood but not in the mood to commit for the night. You want bites, not entrees – and were thinking something more elegant than bar food: The Nobu bar or lounge might be the perfect place to stop. They’ve recently made some additions to their already-popular menu – like Uni Dry Miso, Wagyu Dango Wasabi Saffron Aioli and Spanish Baby Octopus with Ginger Soy. Not to mention a brand new dessert menu. I will have to try that Suntory Whiskey Iced Cappuccino at least once!

And if you just want the best of what Chef Alex Becker has to offer you, you can always choose the 6-course omakase for $40. The first 3 courses are direct from the sushi bar followed by 2 dishes from the hot kitchen – and then dessert. Choices, choices…some of us are just more decisive than others.

Peep the new tapas menu below for the full range:

NOBU COLD TAPAS
Nobu Style Sashimi Tacos with Yellowfin Tuna, Lobster, or Crab 8
Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno 9
Whitefish Sashimi with Dried Miso 9
Yellowfin Tuna Tataki with Tosazu or Cilantro Dressing 9
Oysters with Nobu Sauces (Ponzu, Nobu, Maui) 10
Lobster Ceviche Butter Lettuce 12
Nobu New Style Sashimi – Salmon, Whitefish or Scallop 8
Uni Dry Miso 12
Tiradito – Whitefish, Scallop, or Octopus 8
Kanpachi Agua de Chile 12

SALADS
Baby Artichoke Salad with Crispy Leeks 7
Yellowfin Tuna Sashimi Salad with Matsuhisa Dressing 10
Hearts of Palm Salad 7

NOBU HOT TAPAS
Wagyu and Foie Gras Gyozas 10
Scallop with Jalapeno Salsa 8

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