Friday, February 26, 2010

Little Tokyo: Sushi-Gen

Last Saturday the gang took me out for a late birthday dinner at Sushi-Gen in Little Tokyo. It really is a hotspot and a staple in LA. People have high expectations when they go to Little Tokyo for Japanese food and many disappoint but never Sushi-Gen. Whenever I pass by this place there's always a line out the door, sushi bar filled with patrons, dining room filled with people from all sorts of life: businessman, families, college students... Because of the crowd, you can say that their sushi and sashimi will always be fresh. LA's very picking with sushi since we have such a wide selection and when a restaurant has been gathering crowds like Sushi-Gen for as long as they have, you know they are doing something right.

422 E 2nd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Sorry for the weird purple tint haha.

Chopsticks holder! Thanks Diana haha.

Some picked veggies

Their sunomono, means vinegared dish in English. Pickles, noodles, and kelp. Very simple and delicious.

Sashimi dinner set. Comes with akami, toro, maguro, hamachi, ika, tako, whitefish, spicy tuna, crab, and konjac. Oh man it doesn't look like much but it also comes with a big bowl of rice and fried tempura. So much about Japanese food is about presentation. Beautiful.

Spicy Tuna. Holy... this is the best spicy tuna ever. They add salmon roe to it!!

Had to get a good shot of the fatty toro... too good.

Tempura. Shrimp, eggplant, potato, and zucchini. Fried perfectly and the batter isn't overly thick.

Salmon shioyaki dinner set. Only one didn't order the sashimi dinner set and got this instead. Salmon was lighly salted then broiled.

I also got the yellowtail collar but I was SO excited when I saw it that I totally forgot to take a picture of it and just dove into it :[ So delicious... and yellowtail collar when compared to other fish collar's is extra meaty. Next time! And gotta save some money to try the omakase!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gastropub: Bouzy

Gastropub is one of the latest craze to hit LA, next to the food truck madness. So what is a gastropub? It originally means a U.K. pub serving good food or a licensed bar that serves high-quality food. A combination of pub and gastronomy = gastropub. Father's Office is really the one that started the whole revolution. Even though they were plenty before them, Father's Office was one of the first ones to garner attention for its great higher end barfood served in a more relax atmosphere with a huge selection of draft brews to complement it.

There have been a few popping up in the South Bay area, specifically along the beach cities so last Friday we decided to check out Bouzy in Redondo Beach.

1611 S Catalina Ave.
Redondo Beach, CA 90277

Bouzy is actually inside a restaurant called Chez Melange, which serves American/French cuisine. Near the end of last year, they added a gastropub to the front of the restaurant that serves new American fusion with a fairly big selections of brews.

Front of the restaurant/gastropub.

They got quotes about food all around the bar and I absolutely love this one: "You are only as good as your last meal"

Picture of the bar from where we were seated.

Being in a pub you gotta order some beers. They have a huge selection on draft but I went for an oatmeal malt. Others tried an IPA, pilsner, and a hefe. Unfortunately I don't remember the names but my oatmeal malt.. tasted like an oatmeal cookie haha.

First thing served: mac & cheese! Three kinds of cheeses, jalapenos, and bacon with a golden cheesy crust on top from being baked in the oven.

Truffle parmesan fries. For real, this is the best fries in the world. Omg cant beat the comination of truffle oil and the saltiness of parmesan. Favorite dish of the night.

"Italian" chile fries. Bolognese meat sauce, parmesan, and mozzarella. Who knew pasta meat sauce goes so well with fries! Haha really strong herbs at work here too. Interesting take on "chili fries."

Pulled pork sandwich with black eyed peas salad. Slow braised pulled pork, cole slaw, carolina bbq sauce, and pickles. Very sweet sauce and the pork was really tender. Also my first time having black eyed peas.

"Kogi" dog. All-beef hot dog, kimchi, roasted shishito peppers, and chinese mustard. I'm sure they got their inspiration from Kogi BBQ haha but wow that chinese mustard really kicks in this dog. It was actually too much at certain point. Gotta ask for it on the side next time. The roasted peppers was amazing but itself. Really mild flavors.

Pancho burger "knife & fork." Bacon, avocado, beef patty, chile relleno, and Frank's hot sauce vinaigrette. Pretty much an opened face, deconstructed burger haha. Really awesome when you get everything together for that one glorious bite.

(sorry for the blurry picture hahah. it was starting to get hard to take pics with all that beer :P)

So my friend Calvin ordered a 2nd beer that costs more than any of the others and it came in a smaller glass. It was crazy. Brewed with different kind of malts and hops and the flavors that came out of it was extremely confusing in a good way. It started off as something really hoppy but it changes and it is as if the beer changes turns from a hoppy beer to something mellow as you roll it around your tongue. It was like drinking 3-4 types of beer at once hahah. Crazy good.

I love this place. Nice cool little chic neighborhood spot right in Redondo that's open late. They rotate about 8-10 beers on draft and also got about 30 or so microbrews so definitely going back and trying out some of them. Gotta get more of the truffle parmesan fries!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

San Antonio Winery

On my birthday I couldn't really celebrate since it fell on Chinese New Year's eve and most people were busy with families. I was gonna go to the LA Street Food Fest but a friend, Rose, said the line to get in was 1+ hour long. Instead of waiting, I was brought to San Antonio Winery by Mikol in downtown LA for a free wine tour and wine tasting just before I went home for CNY dinner.

I was pretty hesitant at first because well... a winery in the middle of LA? When we pulled into the parking lot and saw the crowd and the sign "Since 1917," I couldn't help but feel excited and see just what about San Antonio is so special that it is now a LA city cultural monument.

San Antonio Winery
737 Lamar St.
Los Angeles, CA 90031

San Antonio's about a 5 minute drive from Little Tokyo and an even shorter drive from Union Station. It's an awesome spot considering that it's an actual wine production facility in Downtown LA. It's surrounded by warehouses and industrial buildings in the old Little Italy that have been taken over by Chinese businesses and Chinatown. You would never think that this kind of place would exist here but it does and they do a great job at it. There's also a restaurant and a wine tasting room/shop.

Beginning of the tour, our guide took us the a room filled with these giant California redwood barrels. They used to be used for fermentation but now they use...

Steel tanks. Much more sanitary, easier to control, and to clean than those big wooden barrels.

Next she took us to an aging room filled with barrels full of wine aging in oak barrels. The aroma in the room was amazing.

Closer look at one of the barrels. Whooo cabernet sauvignon from Paso Robles aging. Paso Robles is a region north of Santa Barbara that's known for producing some good vintages.

Another aging room full of American/French oak barrels filled with delicious wine.

Soooo ever seen one of those boxed wines? Yea this is a HUGE box wine sitting on top of a pallet hahah.

In-house bottling line.

So apparently Trader Joe's contracted San Antonio to produce some of their own brand of wines for them. Pretty cool.

The top row's barrels are actually port being aged. It's sitting on a rack inside a small dining room and they have it up there because they are afraid of drunk people opening up the barrels and drinking straight from it hahah. All the other barrels are empty.

Some pictures of the founding members, the Riboli family, of San Antonio.

A bottle of San Antonio's own award winning wine.

Some memorbilia of the winery and more awards.

Here are some wines that the wine shop sells from famous wineries all over the world. I would LOVE to have just one of them and cellar it. Prices range from $150-300

San Antonio imports a lot of sweet dessert wines from Italy and after tasting a few we decided on the Stella Rosa and the Moscato D'Asti.

Tasting San Simeon (a label under San Antonio) syrah in ghetto little plastic cups haha.

I really need to find another time to go back and try some of their other reds and whites. Again, it is amazing how the Riboli family organized and eventually carved out this little gem here in LA.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Taiwanese food in Vegas Chinatown

The last time I went to the Chinatown in Vegas must be when I was... 7, 8 which means I don't really remember what it looks like. I've been to Vegas so many times too (just 7-8 times last year alone) but I've never ventured off the strip. So this one weekend in December (12/18-12/20), Leonard and Mikol graciously accompanied me to Vegas and I got to visit Vegas Chinatown for the first time since I was a kid and checked out some of the Taiwanese food spots.

Yup the entrance to that famous plaza. Got here around 11am, and the parking lot was already packed with people doing grocery shopping at 99Ranch and eating dim sum.

Since we didn't eat yet, we decided to grab some Taiwanese breakfast. It seems like the "Yonghe" in Vegas in actually located inside a spotty Szechuan Chinese restaurant called "Emperor's Garden."

Emperor's Garden
4215 Spring Mountain Rd#B203
Las Vegas, NV 89102

There's a sign that says "Yonghe DouJiang" which generally means that there is Taiwanese-style breakfast here.

Beef Roll. I gotta say... this was interesting. Being a Szechuan restaurant, naturally they would have a lot of spicy food. Pretty much it was different cuts of beef marinated in chili oil that's usually a cold appetizer and then stick it in the middle of a 燒餅 shaobing (Taiwanese-style bread). Kinda of a lazy way of doing things. I guess it is smart, using the same ingredients for 2 different dishes haha. Not really authentic. Of course there is the 油條 right behind it. Kinda hard to mess THAT up!

Their other offerings were fairly pedestrian so I didn't bother taking pictures. This place isn't.. that great but I guess it gets the job done.


Immediately afterwards, we walked around Chinatown for a bit then we decided to go to a different plaza for some more legit Taiwanese food. After spending like 30 minutes deciding between Tea Station and Ay-Chung, we opted for the latter.

Ay-Chung Noodles
5115 W Spring Mountain Rd# 103
Las Vegas, NV 89146

There's also an Ay-Chung in LA, located in Focus Plaza in San Gabriel. I never liked it that much since I've had Ay-Chung in Taiwan and you can't really compare them. Both locations are owned by mainland Chinese and the San Gabriel location's quality just isn't there so I was crossing my fingers when I came here.

Mikol decided to order their special, Ay-Chung noodles. It was good! Way much better than the location in San Gabriel. The broth/soup base is much more flavorful.

Good ol' popcorn chicken :] When a place fries the chicken with basil, you know it can't be bad.

Leonard picked the oyster pancake. I actually liked it here. A little too much cornstarch but the sauce was good.

Stinky tofu. Wow they actually have the big pieces here. Most place in the states serve these small bite size stinky tofu and they're just not as good. I was surprised when they had the bigger ones. It's just much more enjoyable than eating the tiny cubes of stinky tofu.

Of course can't be eating Taiwanese food without some sort of milk tea or drink! I liked their jasmine milk tea a lot.

This Ay-Chung is definitely better than the one in SG in my opinion. In fact, I came here the day after New Year's just 2 weeks later when I was in Vegas again haha.

I think from now on when I go to Vegas, I'll check out more spots off the strip since just around Chinatown there's a few restaurants that seemed like it's worth a try!

Monday, February 15, 2010

NYNY 2009: Jean Georges

Last post about my NY trip back in December of 2009!

On the last day of our trip in NY, we had lunch at Jean-Georges. It's a fine-dining establishment inside the Trump Tower next to Central Park. We had to make our reservation a month ahead of time just to get a 2pm lunch reservation. For lunch they have a prix fixe menu where you can order 2 courses for $28, free appetizer & dessert, an extremely good value. You can also add additional courses for $14 each. I opted for 3 total.

1 Central Park W.
New York, NY 10023

Jean-Georges sign oustide.

Whooo my first Michelin rated restaurant! Not to mention 3-stars!

Amuse bouche (appetizers): ravioli in duck confit, jalapeno & cheese fritter, salmon sashimi with clementine. absolutely loved the ravioli.

So much flavor. Wished it was spicier for the fritters and wow.. interesting combination with the raw salmon with beet juice and clementine. So good.

Connie and my first course: foie gras brulee with sour cranberries, candied pistachios, and white port gelee.

A m a z i n g. Foie gras by itself is already amazing but they carmelize the outside of the foie gras with sugar.

Mikol's hamachi sashimi with sherry vinaigrette & toasted pecans. The vinaigrette reminds me of yuzu and the toasted pecans totally tasted like benito flakes.

Mikol's sea scallops sashimi. I forgot what the sauce was...

Connie's parmesean risotto with mushrooms and herbs. Sounds simple but why mess with beautiful flavors.

I think we all got this: peekytoe crab cake with scallions and a sesame crust with fresh pear & spicy mustard sauce. Tastes a lot like those chinese sesame pancakes (大餅). The crab definitely makes it pop. Lots of it too.

My main course: red snapper crusted with nuts and seeds with sweet&sour jus and cherry tomatoes. The crust is the best part. I didn't even need the fish, just give me the crust.

Connie & Diana's salmon. Totally forgot was the sauce is but the salmon was poached perfectly in butter.

Mikol's skate with chateau chalon sauce. Probably my least favorite since I don't really like skate.. and I wished the chateau chalon sauce was stronger... or just give me the wine on the side to enhance it ;]

After we devoured our main course, I decided to go crazy and order dessert: trio of chocolate.

This one is crazy: chocolate noodles with peppermint broth & white chocolate ice cream. It tasted like a peppermint patty as a whole! Have no idea how they made the choco noodles.

The chocolate lava cake & vanilla bean ice cream. Perfect combination. The warm chocolately center is the best.

Of course they also served up complimentary dessert for eveyrone.

Vanilla bean marshmallows. The vanilla takes an ordinary marshmallow and transforms it.

Chocolate macarons! Light hint of chocolate. I think I ate two of them haha.

Assortment of chocolates. After the macarons, I was too stuffed so I only got to try two of the chocolates. Very very rich. I should've wrapped a napkin around it and took it with me :P

Overall, amazing dining experience: attentive service, enjoyable food, and great atmosphere. Now I see why everybody raves about Jean-Georges.