Monday, May 20, 2019

ROC Playa Vista

It was a gray drizzly day, and after a fully day in the craziness of DTLA swerving to avoid pedestrians weaving in and out of numerous encampments of tent cities, I felt nauseous, both emotionally and physically. The new Playa Vista enclave Runway is nearly the polar opposite of DTLA; from the manicured play spaces for children and pets, to the wooden plank walkways that meander through restaurants and shops, this was like a breath of oxygen after being submerged in smog. I am not saying that I would want to live in Runway because I prefer a less curated environment, and one in which there are shops and restaurants which have no other sibling outposts across the city, state, or globe. I am glad I finally visited, walked, and ate here, and I would again. 

We ate at R.O.C., which has the much smaller sibling on Sawtelle. Service was fantastic, and the food definitely had a Californian take, using fresh ingredients with middle of the road dishes and flavors that don't venture too far into unknown anglo territory. It was not Michelin star quality, but better than many other Taiwanese restaurants. 

Because I was feeling queasy, we began with an egg flower soup with tofu, bamboo shoots, and fresh herbs. It was a perfect comfort soup for a gray day, and it promptly settled my stomach enough to eat the chicken soup dumplings. 
The tips of soup dumpling were a bit thick and hard, drying out and hardening more as they cooled, but the flavor was nice and they served it with freshly cut ginger with tableside black vinegar and soy (but you had to ask if you wanted any chili oil).

The vegetable potstickers came with pure hoisin sauce and chili sauce on the side. They were crisp and VERY hot, but the filling was a bit bland and definitely anglified chopped greens.
The stir fried baby bok choy were crunchy and tender, but the flavor was very light on the garlic and slightly sweet.
The pickles were fabulous! Brightly acidic and slightly spicy, we ate nearly the entire dish.
We also ordered the three cup chicken, which was done with all dark meat, and quite tasty, even with the slightly sweet sauce, it married the peppers, onions, and basil well.
It's fun to explore the extremes of Los Angeles, from the frenetic pace of skid row to the fantasy land of a complex built to create a new neighborhood. There are good and bad aspects in both, just as there are good and bad aspects of all humans, wherever they live, play, and eat :)

Monday, May 13, 2019

Fishy Places

I am an omnivore who likes almost everything except lima beans :)  Many of my friends are pescatarians, so finding places that offer delicious fish means more choices for everyone. I've heard good things about Urban Plates, so I tried their grilled wild albacore. It was a very generous portion for $13.50 and although all the ingredients were fresh, they were also plainly boiled or unseasoned, and unfortunately the vinaigrette did not perk things up.

After going to another location of King's Fish House that was very disappointing, it was refreshing to go to the one in Victoria Gardens and find that everything was cooked with deft skills and served with a professional demeanor. The simple codfish and chips (substituted spinach for the chips) for $13.50,
and the grilled ahi with vegetable side and upgraded asparagus side for around $30 were executed perfectly, not overly done, and very generously portioned.
Sonny's Bistro has a great lunch menu including the crunchy ahi salad for $14 that makes it a bargain for lunch. Because I love sand dabs and rarely find them on any menu, I ordered them here for $22 and devoured the plate along with a side salad that kept me satiated all day.

Sometimes all I need is a nice piece of grilled fish for a meal. A friend picked up a bento box for me along with an extra side of mackerel from At Home Kitchen. For only $6.50, this is a great alternative to cooking mackerel at home where you must deal with the smell and splatter.
I can count on one hand the people who are willing to wait for a table at Sushi Gen with me, but the ones who have the patience are rewarded with some of the freshest fish in Los Angeles. I always go for the chirashi at lunch, but if you are more traditional, the sushi deluxe or sashimi are equally good and none of them will serve you any of the crappy salmon that finds its way into most other sushi restaurants, and that alone is worth the wait!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Maple Block Meat Co.

Fame and fortune are fleeting in life, especially here in Los Angeles, but a taste of the unctuous fatty brisket from Maple Block Meat Co. will be indelibly seared into your memory, making you salivate for more long after you have left the premises, unlike the name of someone who is well remembered for only 15 minutes. 

The fatty brisket is so good that I almost headed out the door one night when they ran out, but as you will see, it was good that I stayed to taste some of their other menu items. 

If you go at lunch they offer a $13.50 lunch box special with a sandwich, side and drink that makes it a great deal for any carnivore. The brioche bun is the perfect vehicle for delivery of the juicy tender morsels into your mouth. I chose the greens as a side to help balance out all the meat :) The close up picture shows how the chopped brisket is literally fall apart tender.

Another good choice for lunch box sandwich is the old school smoked sausage. The only issue I had with this wonderful meat was the casing was a bit tough so I ended up scraping the sausage out of the casing and putting it back in the sandwich with the whole grain mustard, creamy cole slaw, and pepper spread, the additional sauce was unnecessary, but I loved the vinegary slaw as a side.
I went in one night just as they ran out of brisket :( Rather than trek somewhere else, we ordered half a pound of the smoked prime rib for $18 with a pickle plate for $6, and a large market chopped salad for $11. The prime rib was so good that by the end of the meal we were glad that they were out of brisket so that I was "forced" to try it :) Of course I got the rarest cut they had, but they do offer more well done cuts for those of you who are not blood red raw meat eaters. The pickle plate was abundant enough to take some home, and the chopped salad was nicely dressed in a red wine vinaigrette that helped make the meal easier on the digestion. The salad was so big we took half of it away in a doggy bag, and it held up pretty well as lunch the next day.

I will always be a fan of people who choose quality ingredients and who also possess the skills to render them into bites of heaven:) 

Monday, April 29, 2019

Agra and Mayura Indian

My search for a favorite Indian food place has finally yielded two contenders:) Agra Indian Kitchen and Mayura Indian Restaurant. I like to compare the same dishes to compare, just like a wine tasting of the same varietal. I ordered from both for delivery of the same distance through GrubHub

The mixed tandoori grill from Agra includes chicken, chicken tikka, lamb tikka and sheek kabob for $16.95. A very generous portion that was easily enough for 2 or even three people. The flavors were good and the tandoori chicken was tender, albeit a bit dry.

The dal turka for $11.50 was delightful, redolent of the aromas and flavors which evoke an exotic destination half a world away from L.A. The order came with rice but I ordered garlic naan for $3.50 that was still warm and fragrant when it arrived.

Mayura is on Jonathan Gold's list of favorite places, so it's got quite a following after receiving the beloved Los Angeles writer's blessing. The bright green chutney was a mix of mint, coriander, ginger and garlic that was a refreshing accompaniment to both the mixed tandoori grill for $16.95 and the vegetable samosas for $3.95.
I ordered a side of raita for $2.50 of onions, cucumbers and carrots in yogurt, just as as insurance in case any of the other condiments were too spicy (they weren't).
The dal masala for $10.95 came with basmati rice and was delicious on the garlic naan for $2.95 as a savory spread.
The mixed tandoor grill consisted of tandoor chicken with bone in, boneless tikka, and lamb kabobs over a bed of sliced raw onions. Everything was moist, flavorful, and enough to easily feed two or three!
I only reheated HALF of the order for dinner for two and we could barely finish our food! That is the vegetable samosa in the upper left corner fo the picture (mostly potato), which was in and of itself enough to be a small meal for a light appetite!
I am so very happy to have found two places that serve very good Indian food, but that both DELIVER so that I don't have to fight late afternoon traffic in Los Angeles to eat well!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Mendocino Farms & Le Pain Quotidien

I am always concerned about quality ingredients and flavor, so whether it is animal or vegetable based, my omnivore eating leads me to places that serve my taste buds and can accommodate my vegetarian friends. The Impossible Burger is available in many places, but my favorite place to get one is Mendocino Farms. One bite of the Impossible Burger Queen for $12.45 will convince many beef lovers to opt for this alternative burger at least once in awhile, or whenever it is offered. 
Mendocino Farms is known for their sandwiches, and their tuna "almost" melt for $10.55 is thankfully mayonnaise free (vegan aioli is used), and the tuna they use is sustainable pole & line caught. The buckwheat bread is a hearty holder for the greens, cheddar, pickles, onions, and tomatoes. I could only eat half at a sitting, so I got it to go and reheated the other half in a toaster oven. 

Their salad niçoise for $12.95 including tuna is a bit pricey, but they do use high quality ingredients and every component, from the purple Peruvian potatoes to the sustainable line and pole caught yellowfin tuna, combines to create a good version of this classic salad.
Le Pain Quotidien is one of my go to places all over the world for everything from their viennoiseries to their salads and soups. I stopped in one day before a show to eat much better food than was offered at the venue. The daily special of turkey club with a caesar salad was my friend's choice; a good introduction to their quality ingredients in a comfortable familiar form for about $14.

I chose the warm quinoa bowl also for around $14, that was so filling and light that I felt completely satiated but not overly saturated after eating the entire bowl. I did not like the dressing served with it so our server brought me a classic vinaigrette that was a perfectly tart counterpoint to the hearty grains.
There are multiple locations of both Mendocino Farms & Le Pain Quotidien throughout the Los Angeles area, and they both offer online ordering, so you've got an easy way to eat your greens and grains!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Proof Bakery

In a previous post I had mentioned that Proof Bakery is the home of my favorite croissants in Los Angeles. I was willing to wake up at the ungodly hour of 9 AM on Saturday morning to make the 25 mile trek to Atwater Village for their ethereal layers of perfection. I badly needed two cappuccinos upon arrival which they thoughtfully served in to go cups :)

It is IMPERATIVE that you get there by 10 AM if you want to ensure that you get a croissant. As a reward for the loss of my beauty sleep, I got FOUR! 
Wanting something a bit more substantial, I got a ham and gruyère croissant to eat there as I waited for the caffeine to get into my system; I would have been a danger on the road if I had neither coffee nor food in my system for the drive home.
I love the flakey buttery layers of all their viennoiseries and the ham and Gruyère was no exception.
Still hungry, and seeing the fresh out of the oven onion tart being put into the case, I had to get a slice of the tender crusted cheesy tart that was a savory testament to why you should eat pie for breakfast!
I must admit that I have not always made it there early enough to get croissants, but this veggie galette was a marvelous substitute with a fabulous carrot and potato filling on a superbly crumbly crust. I also picked up their lemon poppyseed scone but demolished it before taking a picture because sometimes hunger supersedes snapshots!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Boston Lobster Birthday Dinner

Ever since my friend Georgia introduced me to Boston Lobster, we have made it a tradition to go for her birthday :) This year we included one other friend, so of course we ate more than we usually do! The house special lobster comes in three sizes and we always get the small (4-5 lb) which was plenty for the three of us to share.

As a vegetable, we ordered the small pea shoots with garlic, which was on the happy hour menu for only $6.
 A small side of clams with black bean sauce was also on the happy hour menu.
After devouring all of the dishes, we still had room for the fried sole, a perfectly crispy flash fried tender fish, and nearly demolished it aside from a few bites.
The total came to about $50 per person including wine, tax, and tip, so it was a bargain for a feast with friends!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Happy Hour at the Six

I love places that offer Happy Hour Specials everyday, especially ones that last 3 hours everyday! Happy Hour at The Six is from 3-6pm everyday, and their selections range from hearty to healthy with your choice of drinks ranging from $5-8 for both drinks and bites.

The roasted beets come in two colors, served on arugula with fennel, goat cheese, and hazelnuts in a balsamic vinaigrette. This salad is big enough to share or as a full meal for anyone who loves beets.
The garden salad repeats some of the same ingredients like the goat cheese and fennel, but then adds roasted pine nuts, carrots, radishes, and comes with a Dijon vinaigrette.
Their buffalo cauliflower is surprisingly spicy, with a thick fried coating that made the vegetable appetizer a very hearty choice. You will definitely be needing the ranch dressing to cool down your mouth if you are not a hot spice veteran. 
My favorite happy hour bites are the turkey sloppy Joe sliders which come with a fried pickle and are served on mini brioche buns. The portobello mushroom and bell pepper mixed in with the ground turkey add a nice lightness to the sloppy Joe, yet it is definitely comfort food that will satiate a hunger without weighing you down.
Always nice to have an option when traffic at the intersection of the 405 and 10 Freeways becomes a parking lot in the afternoon; better to be sitting at The Six than sitting in your car for 3 hours!