Monday, January 13, 2020

Pizzana and Roberta's

There is good pizza in Los Angeles, but there is also hyped pizza which may not necessarily be great. Fortunately, there are times when both the hype and the food deserve praise. I have never eaten at Roberta's in NYC, so when they opened in Culver City, I looked forward to finally getting a taste of NYC pizza in Los Angeles. Even though we went for pizza, we decided to try the pasta as well since they had one on special that night. Honestly I can't say it was memorable enough to write about since the flavor was more about the mountain of parmiggiano than the duck ragu. At $18 for a small plate, it was enough for a meal for a small eater, or a serving to share as a side dish.
The original pizza is $18 and again could feed one person, or if you order something else, you could split it, but it is too thin and small to really be your only order for 2 people. Nice chewy crust, but burnt and with an unexciting sauce. There were condiments on the table, but for the price there should have been no need for do it yourself seasoning. Service was professional, and the atmosphere is great on the patio, but the interior noise level was so high with the sound bouncing off all the hard surfaces, that my dinner companion and I had to shout to hear what the other person wanted to order. We ended up speaking to the server individually because even she had trouble hearing our order!
Pizzana was so booked on a week-end night that I gave up trying to go to stand and wait for 1 or 2 hours, so one week day evening while driving past, I took a chance and asked at the valet how long the wait was before handing over the car keys. It turned out that 7pm on a Tuesday night is a great time to go, with barely a 10 minute wait for a patio table. The $16 chop salad was full of flavor, Italian salami, and provolone. It was a very hearty savory salad, with chickpeas, avocado, and olives that could easily be a meal for one or is perfect to share with a pizza.
The classic margherita for $19 was worth every penny for their use of authentic quality ingredients like fio di latte and san marzano dop polpa. The crust was magnificently crisp, with nice chew, and served on a metal tray with holes to allow the hot steam to escape rather than make the crust soggy. The flavors were clean and needed no additions to perk up the pizza. It was large enough for 2 to share and if you had a monster appetite, you would be very full if you could finish it.
Nothing in Los Angeles compares to Pizzarium in Rome, but that is why we travel ;)

Monday, January 6, 2020

Finding Filipino Food In Los Angeles

Having eaten Filipino food at the homes of Filipino friends, I was wary of finding the same great flavors at any restaurant. Good thing that in Los Angeles, there are enough Filipino's who eat out to warrant several places serving when you have a craving but don't have an invitation to a friend's house;)

Sari Sari Store in the Grand Central Market not only serves food, but groceries for those who want to bring some Filipino flavors home. 
Their lechon kawali for $15 with pickled onions and a fried egg may be one of the best bowls I've eaten outside of a Filipino home. I should have ordered two, but now I have a reason to go back for more like the chicken and rice arroz caldo, or the BBQ ribs. They also offer a vegetable bowl (because this is Los Angeles and not everyone eats meat), traditional sweets and a happy hour menu, so choices abound whether you are new to Filipino cuisine or you just miss your Auntie's cooking.
If you live in the South Bay, Silog in Torrance is the place to go. It's a bit hard to find in a strip mall, but they do have a neon sign now with their name over the door. The prices are incredibly reasonable for the quality and quantity of food, so it's well worth the hunt. Lunch is around $10 and includes a nice spinach salad with fresh mango and tomato.
The tapa, or ribeye marinated in lime and garlic over garlic rice, is served with a perfectly done runny egg that you break over the top.
Add a few spoons of vinegar (they usually serve vinegar with the dish, but ask for it if they don't) and mash up the whole thing before you take a bite. It's the perfect blend of rich, tangy, garlicky, meaty goodness.
Having had two dishes at two different places that feed my cravings, time to go back and try more at the same places and seek out some new ones. Anyone have any suggestions close to Santa Monica?

Monday, December 30, 2019

Kanpai Japanese near LAX

With holiday visitors flying in and out of LAX, Kanpai has two locations on major streets that are great alternatives to taking the 405 Freeway going south towards the airport. I went to the one on Lincoln for a late night light bite after picking up an East Coast transplant. They serve everything from sushi to ramen, with choices ranging from a $30 tempura set to a $170+omakase. I am sure that your appetite and your wallet will find something to please both.

The shitake mushrooms for $8.80were beautifully presented and lightly handled with a special soy. 
Baked eggplant for $7.50 with ginger, green onion, and bonito flakes, which looked like a banana until we realized they had peeled it!
Every component of the basic chicken teriyaki dinner with steamed broccoli and potato salad for $28 was fresh, lightly cooked, and flavorful.
Miso black cod for $28 was a beautiful tender rendition, and a thick filet, so even though it was pricey for the portion, the quality of the fish was fair for the price point.
Both locations are open until 1am so whether you want something light, healthy, or just a good old fashioned Japanese place with pages of options, Kanpai is a great option on either Lincoln or Sepulveda.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Urban Plates

Fast Casual restaurants have many variations that can either surprise me with pleasure or disappoint me with mediocrity. I'm happy to say that Urban Plates has pleasantly surprised me more than a few times both in visits to a location and with delivery.

It has been chilly for Southern California this past week with temperatures dipping into the 50's and 40's, and yes I know I am spoiled by the temperate climate here:) Soup was the number one thing I wanted, and I was hopeful when I saw their tomato soup had a drizzle of pesto. It was more of a tomato sauce than soup, with the overpowering flavor of fresh basil. I would either add some heat to this from their condiment bar, or get it as a side cup accompaniment next next.

Their grass fed steak salad was excellent, from the medium rare steak, to the crunchy roasted cashews, contrasting with the fresh flavors of jicama and mint with mango pineapple salsa in a jalapeno lime dressing for $14.50 this was a hearty salad, but for an even heartier meal, you can add another side of protein.
Because it had been awhile since I had eaten mashed potatoes and it was a chilly day, the comfort of a side of mashed organic potatoes with gravy was a welcome side dish.
Having had a good experience dining in, I was happy to find their salads also traveled well ordering from one of the delivery services. The wild line caught ahi salad niçoise had fantastic tuna, green beans, organic egg, organic tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, marinated olives, and a mustard champagne vinaigrette. All the ingredients were fresh, and the dressing was ok, but I found the individual components bland and lacking any seasoning or flavor on their own. The dressing helped perk it up a bit, but I ended up eating this with salt and pepper instead of the dressing.
The delivery BBQ chicken salad for $13.50 included grilled cage-free chicken, corn, black beans, grilled onions, avocado, organic cheese blend, crispy wonton strips, red bell pepper, with a chipotle lime dressing. The BBQ sauce was a bit too sweet, and like the tune niçoise, the individual ingredient were fresh but boring on their own.
The Moroccan chicken braise for $10.50 was a warm comforting hearty bowl of free range chicken, slow cooked with squash, onions, preserved lemons, olives, turmeric, paprika, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, parsley and cilantro. This is also offered as a side, and one of my favorite meals at Urban Plates.
The Asian chicken salad for $13.50 was a wonderful medley of grilled cage free chicken, organic carrots, green onions, oranges, spicy roasted peanuts, red bell peppers, wonton strips, in a spicy peanut dressing. I found the dressing much too thick, sweet and cloying, but used sparsely it was fine. Overall, the ingredients were wonderful, but if you are looking for a fresh light salad, have the dressing on the side or choose another dressing.
I prefer to eat at the location, especially with their very professional personable staff, but getting a delivery on a chilly or rainy day from a solid option for fresh ingredients can be priceless.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Breakfast at Urth

Urth Caffe has always been one of my favorite places for coffee, but I usually stop in for lunch or a coffee and sweet treat. I finally went in for breakfast and it is now on my breakfast cafe rotation when the line isn't out the door (which it is pretty much any week-end). 

They make fantastic granola, which is tied to my own recipe for my favorite, but since I haven't made granola in months, it was far easier to go there to eat their granola parfait with honey and berries than go through the shopping and prep required to make my own. Definitely a full breakfast for a light appetite or a nice supplement to a savory dish.


The italian sausage omelette comes with wonderful bread and a side salad, definitely enough for a big appetite.
The chicken pesto omelette comes with  the same great bread and side salad and again was a hearty portion with a very tasty pesto preparation.
Their omelettes are great for those who like their eggs dry and very well done, but I found them a bit too overdone and you can not adjust their doneness, so although they are very tasty and made with excellent ingredients, I would prefer to stick to my granola parfait and my favorite dark roast oat milk cappuccino. 

If it is a nice day (which in Southern California is almost every day) chose a seat on the patio near a fountain and appreciate the wonder of dining al fresco in the middle of Winter :)

Monday, December 9, 2019

Pann's Classic 50’s Coffee Shop

I've eaten at many of the famous landmark restaurants in Los Angeles, including Musso & Frank, Pig & Whistle, Dinah's, and of course The Pantry, but I had never been to Pann's until recently. It is a famous setting for many movie scenes, but more importantly (to me) it serves wonderful diner classics perfectly and everyone is treated like a member of the family, whether it is your first time or your 100th visit. 

I was invited by a family who has know the owners for years, but they treated every customer walking in as a long lost friend, and many of the customers were greeted by name with hugs. If you new to town or flying in or out of LAX, stop by Pann's for some warmth and comfort food.

When I saw chicken wings and waffle on the menu, my only dilemma was how many wings to get ;) I opted for 2 wings with my waffle for $13.45. The chicken had a crunchy scald while the meat remained moist, and the waffle was crisp and light. Heartier appetites might want to up the fried chicken to a breast and wing for $16.15 or even have a fried pork chop with their waffle for $16.95.  

For those who want an old fashioned southern style breakfast, sausage patties with eggs, grits, and a biscuit for $12.95 will stick to your ribs and warm your memories. We asked for a side of gravy for the grits which made it an even heartier meal.
This fluffy biscuit is definitely recommend over toast as a side, but choose your preference...
I came back on another day wanting something a little healthier so opted for 2 wings with a side of spinach. The spinach was simply steamed but very fresh and utterly delicious even without the whipped butter on the side.
For a brunch, the scrambled eggs with hash browns, a hamburger patty, and buttered toast for $12.95 is a good combination.
They have options like blackened catfish, collard greens, and turkey burgers, if you want something a little lighter, but when you are looking for old fashioned homestyle comfort food, this place serves it with a smile and fresh ingredients that show the care they put into the preparation.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Thanksgiving for 48

I hope everyone enjoyed a delicious meal with those they love this holiday :) Here are the pictures from my three turkey Thanksgiving dinner, made by six of us over the course of two days. Enjoy the feast for your eyes:)

Menu

first plate :)

Mixed greens salad with Granny Smith Apple Cider vinaigrette & pomegranate seeds

One of 3 cider glazed dry brined turkeys

One bird carved, 2 more to go...

Spiced orange cranberry sauce with star anise

Pecan wood smoked deconstructed ham with pineapple kiwi rye gravy

Russet potato Dauphinoise

green apple, chicken chorizo, parsnip dressing with fresh sage 

haricots verts with fried shallots (forgot to take a pic of the shallots)

caramelized cane sugar sweet potatoes with pecans

the line for the feast

lime watermelon sorbet palate cleanser

 organic pumpkin custard profiteroles with maple dipping sauce

 jello bundt

sweet potato meringue pie

salted caramel butter cake

roasted pecan bourbon pie

Monday, November 25, 2019

Wood & Vine Perfect Before Pantages


Going to a show at the Pantages, there is always the question of where to eat either before or after the show. Wood & Vine is my favorite pre-show stop for several reasons: it is literally across the street, so even if you are wearing heels, it's a very easy walk; they are used to patrons eating before the curtain rises so they will tell you if you don't have time to eat, or what can be ordered and ingested without worry about missing the show; the food is fresh, skillfully prepared, and actually has flair which gives me great joy in discovering; there is a very nice outdoor patio in the back that allows you to dine al fresco; they have a decent wine selection with bottles from around the globe; their prices are reasonable considering the quality ingredients and location in the heart of Hollywood; they add a 20% service charge to the check so that the back of the house (the people who actually prepare your food) get to participate in the American tipping system.

The classic Caesar for $10 has nicely charred romaine and lots of real parmesan.
Pasta and faux meat balls was done well enough that my eating companion didn't even realize there was no meat on the plate!
Asian chicken salad for $12 was a refreshing take on the well known dish, using very good vegetables and a nice tangy dressing.
The jambalaya was probably my favorite dish here. For $24, it is loaded with andouille sausage, shrimp, mussels, chicken, peppers, and orzo. The flavor has lots of kick but isn't fiery hot, just very full of umami.
For those with a sweet tooth, the banana cream caramel for $12 will satisfy you :)