Monday, January 30, 2012

LA Restaurant Round Up

For all my local LA friends who are tired of hearing me talk about restaurants in Paris that they may never go to, here's an equal opportunity overview of some of the new restaurants, and old familiar favorites, where I enjoyed dining in LA this past month.

Lazy Ox
I had never been to this Little Tokyo find during the daylight hours, but I highly recommend coming for lunch or brunch, as I did.  The ricotta fritters lightly drizzled with honey were a crunchy - sweet sensation.  The asparagus with shaved manchego on a bed of romesco was purely delicious, and the signature Lazy Ox burger wears the name proudly.

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
This quasi pop up restaurant on Abbot Kinney in Venice is temporarily taking over the old Capri digs through February with some very inventive food.  Mismatched chairs and brown paper cover a variety of multi-colored tablecloths, giving the place a more relaxed, kick back feel. 

Who doesn't love a well cooked biscuit, but add in apple butter and pimento cheese and life is good.  As Paris is a kale free zone, I will take a Kale salad any day, and this one did not disappoint with apples, cheese, nuts and a light walnut vinaigrette.

The big winner was the hanger steak with anchovy butter cooked to perfection and simply dissolving on the tongue.  You had to work too hard on the sand dabs to avoid the bones, but end on the chocolate, maple, pecan pie and all will be right with the world again.

They're only open a few more weeks, so get it while you can, and save me a slice of steak and pie.  They  don't take reservations, so try and get there early so you don't have to wait.

I hesitate to even mention this totally random, authentic Italian gem as it's in Gardena, and I know most of you won't even go east of Lincoln, so your car may not be capable of heading that far south, though you will be rewarded for the drive.  The owner comes from a tiny village in Ventosa, Italy, and he set out to make out cheese and bread for local restaurants in this solitary shop in a former textile factory.  By request he ended up setting out a table or two to see if people would want to eat there, and next thing you know, Eatalian is born.

They make everything by hand there - pizzas, pastas, bread, gelato; it's like an Italian Disneyland.  They could use a dimmer switch in there as it's lit up like a basketball court, but there is much action to watch around you at the various stations.  No reservations, and no booze, but I know how creative my friends are, so that shouldn't stop you from having a good time.

Of course you have to start with one of their uber thin, crisp pizzas like the simple, but perfect mozzarella and mushroom.

Next try a homemade pasta such as the spinach and ricotta ravioli with butter sage sauce, but save room for the gelatto bar.  With so many flavors, be happy you can mix and match.  It's cheap and cheerful, and worth a drive out of the comfort zone for a little taste of Italy.

For those that play the Top Chef game, the heavily tattooed winner of season 6, Michael Voltaggio, opened up Ink on Melrose to much fanfare late last year, and hard to get reservations.  The night we went, Voltaggio was there in the kitchen window, so I got to watch him, but not in a stalker way.  After 3 hours, I never saw him look up once.  That guy was in the zone.  He never yelled at anyone, and honestly, I never even saw him talk to any of his kitchen staff.  He was definitely focused, but just not sure if he's all smoke and nitrogen, or something more.

I reluctantly started with the waitress' recommendation of the carrot appetizer, which was described as, "carrots, coconut ice, cardamom soil, carrot juice curry."  I definitely raised an eyebrow with the cool coconut bits reached my mouth, but it was offset by an ethereal carrot taste.  This was not something I had ever eaten before.

The beef tartare was not one like I had seen on many a menu in Paris.  The horseradish and chimchurri lent a unique pop to the beautifully presented plate.

There was crab and avocado with a whipped fish sauce, a salty squid ink spaghetti, pork tenderloin in a caramelized cider vinegar, and deconstructed apple and chocolate desserts.  Everything was good, but nothing was that memorable.  I think you can wait on this reservation.

Sunny Spot
Roy Choi of Kogi food truck and A Frame fame is slowly taking over the westside with his newest creation n the old Beechwood spot at the end of Abbot Kinney.  He's brought in high top, first come, first served tables for the bar and outdoor area, along with a long, social, communal table.  There's still a dining room in back that takes reservations, but the action is up front.

He's brought a fun, Caribbean vibe to the place, and some unique food for beachgoers.  Our over enthusiastic waitress loved everything on the menu and steered us to the diablo prawns with a rum glaze and hot kick in the pants.  It paired well with the yellow salty rice, and Fleur-de-Lis gin, hibiscus, honey, chartreuse, lemon concoction that was very refreshing.  They're in on the cocktail craze like everyone else, and they make their own syrups for drinks that are displayed on the bar.

I loved, but can't pronounce the, Muh-F*K*N Mofongo with overripe plantains, bacon, garlic and black pepper.  Again, something I have never eaten before.  We were convinced to get the day long, slow roasted goat, served with lettuce and pickled mango.  It was good, but not mandatory.

This is a fun spot to come with a group and sit out by the fire pit and share some Caribbean food and drink.

Batch is giving it a go in the cursed restaurant location in Culver City formerly housing Sublime and Wilson.  If I were a gambling girl, I'd put my money on these guys sticking around for a while.  While the space isn't the warmest with its marble bar, concrete floor, and floor to ceiling windows, the food and drinks will defrost you quickly.

They had me at the amuse bouche, which was a creamy, meaty gravy, and a homemade biscuit stopped me from drinking the gravy like a soup.  That warmed me right up and prepared me for a great meal starting with a perfectly cooked squid, and a quinoa squash salad - both excellent.

We had a side of brussel sprouts with chorizo that were a great accompaniment to our entrees.  My friend's scallops were expertly prepared, but it was the hanger steak with mushroom bread pudding that won my heart.

I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food, and hope these guys are here to stay.

There were many other dinners filled with great friends, authentic Mexican food, fresh sushi, a whole lotta wine, and many dirty martinis.  I'm carrying it all back with me to Paris - quite literally, as some of it is sitting like a 10 pound brick in my belly.  Thanks to all for sharing meals, drinks and great memories with me during my holiday stay in LA!

Brussel sprout, bacon pizza - I will miss you

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