Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pasadena: Bar Celona

Wow can't believe this is my first post about a restaurant in Pasadena.

Bar Celona is a modern Spanish tapas bar located in Old Town. The trend lately for me has been gravitating towards restaurants serving smaller dishes or plates so a tapas bar fits perfectly. Not to mention, the concept of "modern tapas" intrigued me as a few of us came on a Saturday night to check the place out.

Bar Celona
46 E Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91105

Bar Celona's logo.

cheese plate
Started off with a sampler plate of cured meats, cheeses, dried fruits, and nuts. Came with buttered baguettes. Everything's better with butter :D

cheese plate
Don't remember what everything was but it was fun mix and matching different things together while drinking our wine. The best thing is definitely the Iberico ham in the middle next to the salami. Think of it as... a level above prosciutto! The onion mix on top of the cured meats was awesome although it probably masked some of the flavors of the meat itself. Not a huge of fan of the blue cheese...

2007 Rivola Rioja. Not too spicy. Not bad at all.

Fried potatoes with smoked paprika allioli - tasted like a dynamite roll from sushi restaurants from the sauce :P

Spanish flatbread with basil & mint, manchego, figs. Needs more mint! It was good though.

pork belly
Crispy pork belly, brussels sprouts, fried egg, salbixtada. I have NO IDEA what salbixtada is but this was definitely my favorite. I'm a sucker for pork belly. Was the pork belly crispy enough? No not really but I love how this block of pork belly sits on top of a bed of brussels sprouts that's been softened. I love it when your break the yolk in half and it just runs down the pork belly. It was a beautiful sight.

Meatballs in tomato saffron sauce. Loved the sauce more than the meatballs.

vegetable paella
Veggie paella. Ok ok we were dumb and got the veggie paella but we figured we had so much protein already let's go for something healthier! Should've went for other paella and maybe that would've been better cause it was pretty bland.

For a place that was calling itself "modern" I didn't really see exactly what new spin they gave to some of these dishes. Maybe we just ordered wrong. Even so, it's a great place for a date or for a more intimate dining experience because the place itself promotes that sort of atmosphere.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Little Tokyo: Lazy Ox Canteen

Birthday dinner posts part 2!

After dining at C&O Trattoria the night before, Michael and Diana took me out at Lazy Ox Canteen, which is helmed by Top Chef Season 5 cheftestant, Josef Centeno. He's a fairly well-known chef in LA, having cooked at Opus and Lot1, both very fine establishments. Open in 2009, Lazy Ox Canteen has been a hot spot for LA foodies due to the Top Chef fame, and of course, being named as a one of the top new chef in the Pacific Northwest by Food & Wine magazine.

Lazy Ox Canteen
241 S San Pedro St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

lazy ox canteen
In Little Tokyo under an apartment complex. Normally you wouldn't think a restaurant would be there, but there's actually 2 pretty hip restaurants there

The sign.

Bar where Michael and Diana started off with glasses of wine.

Stemless wine glasses is a hip trend but I like :]

2009 Batic Winter Rose from Slovenija

2010 Altocedro Malbec from Argentina.

Menu 1.

Menu 2. The items here are served like tapas, more like a global izakaya, except it's American with influences from all over the world.

truffle section
They have black truffle dishes! And it is actually from Italy! None of that stuff from Oregon or China. Will be back for it next time!

After we were seated, I opted for an Allagash, which is a Belgian style ale from New England. Love the complexity of this beer.

beef carpaccio
First to arrive, Beef Carpaccio. It has pecorino sprinkled throughout and topped with pickled shallots, micro greens, and mustard oil. Not the biggest fan of it but interesting take!

poblano soup with pork belly
Poblano soup with pork belly and grape.

close up
Another very interesting combo, sweet and salty at the same time. The pork belly is crisped first so it has a great bite even in the soup.

Pappardelle pasta with pork, beef ragu, & fried egg. Best thing on the menu since I'm a huge fan of hand made pappardelle, and it has meat sauce! When you break the egg yolk and the yolk runs down onto the pasta... that's the best part.

dashi marinated yellowtail
Dashi marinated yellowtail. Sorta like an yellowtail salad except made with avocado rather than mayo, and tonburi is sprinkled to to give it slight pop. The hash brown it comes with is kinda out of place though.

caramelized cauliflower
My 2nd favorite of the night, caramelized cauliflower. I love the citrus-y note on this. It looks plain but the garlic, pine nuts, chile flake, and the dressing over it is great.

Fried Chicharron. Pig ears! Being Asian I love pig ears and when it is fried? Yes sir. Comes with horseradish dipping sauce but I like it with just lemon squeezed over it.

ricotta fritters
Ricotta fritters is drizzled with this saffron honey and saba. It's the slight hint of saffron that makes it unique. More like a dessert dish though!

french press
In preparation for our true dessert, I had to get a cup of coffee. They give you an individual size of French press coffee!

Good coffee aroma and flavor! I should get one of those French press haha.

butter scotch
Butter scotch recommended to us by our server. Holy, that thing is butter scotch to the max! Very sweet and satisfying. The fresh cream on the side is a nice touch.

Again, thanks to Michael and Diana for taking me to check out this spot! I will definitely come back once more to check out the other items, like their famous burgers and save up for a black truffle dish :P

Monday, February 21, 2011

Venice: C&O Trattoria

Ever since I turned 21, I'm not a big fan of birthdays... cause it just reminds me that I am aging and slowly I will not be able to do the things I love to do and expect to get away with it, like eating like a cow! But with birthdays, it always means good food, and my HS friends and Diana were gracious enough to bring me to an Italian restaurant for an early birthday celebration a few weeks ago!

C&O Trattoria
31 Washington Blvd
Marina del Rey, CA 90292

C&O = Cheese & Olive. Actually located in Marina del Rey, next to Venice, the area has a very different vibe from the rest of LA. They specialize in Northern Italian cuisine but of course, there's a little bit of American influence in it.

Well known for their "garlic rolls," HUGE portions, and their nightly sing-alongs to "That's A'more!" The wait staff hands out lyrics to the song and when the music starts playing, the whole place sings along with it and the wait staff will come around and cheers with everybody!

Seated outside on a somewhat chilly night, but the heat lamps did it's job. Actually a little too well.


Chianti is the choice here and they either give it to you in a big bottle like this (around 10 glasses) or you go to a self-serve station. They run off honor system and you say how many glasses you've had. I like it :]

garlic rolls
The killer garlic rolls. One of the most amazing garlic bread I've had, anywhere. It's complimentary and right when you are seated, they fill a plate up with the rolls. They have servers constantly walking around with fresh rolls just in case you need more. I had to control myself before I spoiled my appetite, only around 8 or so! Salty garlicky goodness :D

Started off with the calamari in gargantuan size. Very very tender and the marina is bomb diggity here. They have "individual" and "gargantuan" sizes here, with gargantuan more for sharing.

insalata gorgonzola
Also ordered Insalata Gorgonzola to share.

insalata gorgonzola
Mixed greens, caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes, candied walnuts, and gorgonzola cheese, with a raspberry walnut vinaigrette. Sounds awesome doesn't it? I love how the cold and the hot elements interact with each other. It's a savory salad yet it's light and refreshing at the same time due to the dressing

angel hair
Capellini Shrimp. Angel hair pasta with shrimp, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes in a garlic butter white wine sauce! Definitely the lighter of the pastas we got that night but sun dried tomatoes helped liven it up. Angeline barely made a dent in the gargantuan!

Linguini Pescatore. Similar to the capellini shrimp since the sauce is the same but this comes with swordfish, salmon, and shrimp for a seafood fest. Even at the individual size, it's still a huge huge plate. Props to Choi for almost finishing it!

linguini mare
Linguini Pollo Marsala. I'm a huge fan of marsala and this was just a savory creamy pasta. Grilled chicken, mushrooms, roma tomatoes and sweet basil in a Marsala wine cream sauce. Very rustic and savory dish. The sauce is definitely the star.

My favorite pasta of the night, Rigatoni Al Forno, a baked rigatoni with a meat sauce then topped with mozzarella. It's baked so the mozzarella on the top is baked to a bubbly golden brown. Savory and hearty pasta dish! I just wish I took a better picture :[

choco lava cake
Of course, they told the waiter that it was my birthday so I got the song treatment and a chocolate lava cake :P Who doesn't like a warm cake with gooey chocolate in the middle? It is sweet, very sweet, and very chocolately. We should've asked for some ice cream on the side!

Since Monica's pasta came out late (rigatoni), they gave us a free dessert and she picked the Tiramisu. It had a strong rum flavor to it which we loved. Wish it was a bigger piece though!

On that same night, they were about 6-8 different parties celebrating their birthdays and I can see why! C&O creates this fun and relaxing dining atmosphere which I love. The food's great and it's guaranteed no one will go home hungry or maybe even sober with their chianti wine policy :P But really, it's the great company that I had dining there that makes this place a top 5 for me in LA. Thanks guys :]

On the way to our car we see a "peace sign" walking signal! Somebody broke the appropriate part of the signal to make that. Genius HAHA.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Monterey Park: Cook's Tortas

After reading Carolyn's review on yelp (here) and seeing how they made LA Mag's "17 Great LA Sandwiches," Cook's Tortas was on the top of my list as one of the must try places. I was near the 626 for work one day, and Diana mentioned about grabbing a quick lunch here before I got back to the office so of course I jumped at the opportunity to eat something other than Asian in this area!

Cook's Tortas
1944 S Atlantic Blvd
Monterey Park, CA 91754

Selections of the day! Not really your traditional Mexican torta spot. They put a lot of their own spin to create their unique sandwiches. A modern take with different influences!

There's even salads! Apparently Taco Taco is a popular choice.

Agua Fresca! There are some really unique flavors.

Sides you can choose with your torta.

Some of the desserts. Hmmm... I could not stop staring at the cookies.

I ended up getting a cucumber-lime agua fresca. Their cucmber-lime agua fresca is just money. The drink is refreshing and not overly sweet but just enough for me. It helps cut into any heaviness from your sandwich. Who knew cucumber and lime go so well together?

Celery agua fresca. Yes. Celery. Very interesting but refreshing as well! Imagine the feel you get when you take a bite of celery with your buffalo wings. It's sorta like that... except in liquid form haha.

Carne Asada Torta. I truly believe you can rate a Mexican eatery by how good it's carne asada is, and I gotta say I like it. The marinade is there and the skirt steak is tender. The pico de gallo is great and it has a good amount of avocado in the torta as well.

For my one side, I chose the red fries, which is sweet potato fries. It's good but since it was served in a styrofoam cup, it got soggy near the bottom from the heat.

Diana's Grilled Veggie Torta. Veggies are great either grilled, roasted, or caramelized, and they certainly picked the right veggies for that. Grilled zucchini, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, and fresh tomato make up the sandwich with a delicious garlic spread.

Potato salad. Probably the best potato salad I've had anywhere. Good portion control of mayo just to make it come together and mustard for that little kick.

I couldn't resist so I got their huge Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookie and I'm so glad that I did. I love chocolate chip cookies and with the walnut, it adds this nuttiness to the cookie. I like how they bake it so it's crunchy. Kinda reminds me of Tartine's!

AHHH it just sucks that I work/live so far away or else I would totally add Cook's Tortas as part of my lunch rotation and try a different sandwich everytime. Lucky 626 kids :[