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Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

LA Food Bowl Part I   Leave a comment

Iranian rest

The Los Angeles Times Food Bowl is more than a celebration of food, although it certainly plays a major role. It’s also about the city’s culture and the various neighborhoods comprising the metropolitan area. Each contributes to the literal and figurative flavor of the city. Time constraints restricted us to only two of the month-long events – although we did dine at other restaurants during my recent five-day visit.

Iranian dinner menu

Every Wednesday in May Momed has offered an “Immigrant Dinner” featuring cuisine organized by an immigrant friend of the restaurant. We hit on Taste of Iran with guest chef Bita Milanian. The menu featured two appetizers and three entrees. We ordered one of everything. The most unusual, or new to me, was the Borani-e-labu. Diced roasted beets mixed with Persian yogurt gave this soupy, savory starter the color of cotton candy. (Sorry no photos.) The only problem was not enough pita with which to sop it up.

Iranian meatballEach entrée featured a blend of ingredients rendering it new to the palate: Kufteh: combined fresh herbs, ground beef, rice, barberries and walnuts. This was softball-size in shape and dressed with roasted yellow and red peppers.

Iranian chickenFava beans, lentils, pomegranate seeds, citrus, raisins, other rices and dates were among other components incorporated into the dishes.

Momed is short for Modern Mediterranean. It’s located in a residential area of Atwater Village.

Momed

3245 Casitas Ave.

Los Angeles, Calif.

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LA Food Bowl Part II   Leave a comment

frites

Across town we enjoyed another LA Food Bowl event: Frites Fete at 189 by Dominque Ansel. This focused on something completely different: frites, aka pommes frites are French fries.

frites salad

The three-course meal began with an endive Caesar salad served with a cloud-like gougere made with gruyere,  hints of nutmeg and chili pepper. The entree choices were a choice of moules frites, steak frites or mushrooms. We all wanted the steak, but were curious about the mussels. Fortunately, we were able to order an appetizer serving, which was plenty. This was creamy, rich and as decadent as dessert.

frietes steak

Thinly sliced pieces of rare hanger steak in a house made demi glace was tender and grilled to perfection.

Of course, the frites were meant to be the star of the evening, but were overshadowed by the entrees. Still, the seasoned, crispy yet pliable fries were not the stuff of fast food establishments.

Dessert included a choice of tarte tatin: a puff pastry base topped with caramelized apple, caramelized banana or spiced pear. My favorite was the Fosters-like banana served with a generous dollop of crème fraiche.

In addition to what was served, was how. We had an exceptional server who was attentive, patient and had a good sense of humor – all were appreciated.

Ansel is, perhaps, best known for creating the cronut in New York City years ago. He opened a bakery and 189 in The Grove in Los Angeles in 2017.

189 by Dominque Ansel
The Grove Drive
Los Angeles, Calif.

Food Bowling   Leave a comment

May in LA usually means gray days (the prelude to June Gloom) and the Los Angeles Times Food Bowl. So far, the skies have been clear and blue and my first Bowl experience more than expected.

This annual event highlights food in the City of Angels (and environs) through special events including panel discussions, restaurant deals, film and more.  Casita del Campo’s participation entitled “Dinner Dessert and a Movie” promised chocolate margaritas, Mexican chocolate ice cream and a screening of “Like Water for Chocolate.” We didn’t expect such an attentive the staff, nor such flavorful, well-prepared food.

The margarita is something I never imagined. Tequila and chocolate, really? It works. The secret was the addition of Abuelita Mexican chocolate  and Godiva chocolate  liqueur. The rim of the glass was coated with chocolate sugar. In addition  to chips and salsa, our meal included a plate of sliced avocado and three more salsas, a choice of albondigas soup or a salad, and chicken mole or chile en Nogada. All of the food was featured in the film.

It’s been years since I last saw the film; it was as equally captivating as my first viewing.  The restaurant was packed but only a few of us in the dining area for the dinner/movie event.

As if we didn’t have enough to appeal to our palates, we had a choice of flan or ice cream for dessert. The chocolate ice cream was overshadowed by the fried, cinnamon-coated tortilla accompanying it.

More bowling to come …

Casita Del Campo

1920 Hyperion Ave.

Los Angeles

Chilaquiles Heaven   Leave a comment

laraandluca sign

Lara & Luca has no view of the beach, but it was my favorite restaurant in Playa del Carmen thanks to the well-prepared food and our exceptional server. The hip little eatery far from the tourist scene also serves up some impressive chilaquiles. The fresh-made juices aren’t too bad, either.

Nothing beats fresh-squeezed orange juice (jugo de naranja); those who ordered the green juice (jugo verde) were equally pleased. The latter is a blend of fruits including pineapple, orange and chaya – tree spinach – and perhaps other ingredients we didn’t quite hear or correctly interpret. In either case, it was deemed refreshing.

chilaquiles

Breakfast is served until 2 p.m. The menu features a variety of egg dishes, French toast, croissant sandwiches and pancakes. Most in our group of 10 ordered the chilaquiles, topped with two fried eggs or shredded chicken. Typically, I am not a fan of eggs, especially runny ones, but for some reason I wanted the traditional version — gooey eggs and all.

The silky yolk provided a subtle balance to the full-bodied green chili sauce. Pieces of fried corn tortillas mixed with onions and cilantro are covered sauce. The eggs and a dollop of cream practically float on the mixture. This was a hearty serving. Although I tried to finish the plate, it was too much.

The restaurant is clean and comfortable. The playlist had us tapping our feet and discussing the musical artists. When it came time to leave, our server and the owner stood out at the curb to hail a cab. Stupendo!

Lara & Luca
Four-and-a-half Plates
Diagonal Aeropuerto MZ 29 LT 4, Playacar,
77710 Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Cheers to Servers   Leave a comment

parkwayinterior

Everyone should have at least one special server; the one who remembers, if not your name, at least your preferences; who knows about your kids/parents/pets; who is aware of your aversion to goat cheese.

For my mom, that’s Tim at Parkway Grill in Pasadena. She asks about his shorter commute; he asks how she’s been and remembers what she ordered on her last visit a while back. It’s not flirtatious on either side, but a friendly exchange and genuine interest. This along with the well-prepared food makes the Parkway stand out from the crowd of upscale restaurants.

parkwaybread

We started with drinks, including a lime basil-infused martini that caught my eye. It was strong and refreshing.

The salads are large enough to share, and the Caesar was a nice way to start the meal. I don’t need to see the anchovies, although I like their flavor.

parkwaygrill

parkwayrib

Short ribs are a favorite and something I consider one of my specialties. I’m always curious about different preparations. The braised meat was fork-tender and the taste was good, but it didn’t pose a threat to my recipe. The addition of toasted pine nuts with a dark basil pesto was a nice touch. The mashed potatoes were rich and creamy.

parkwaydessert

Dessert offered several choices, but we settled on a Crème Brulee Napoleon. This spin sandwiched the vanilla custard element of a brulee between flakey pastry.

Goat cheese was never part of the conversation, but it’s nice to know it would have been if necessary.

Parkway Grill
Four-and-a-half Plates
510 S. Arroyo Parkway
Pasadena, Calif.

Tacos Plus   Leave a comment

 

sal sign

A neighbor who frequently visits Los Angeles shared the names of a few tacos stands he frequents while there. While I didn’t go to any of his recommendations (I’m saving the list for next time), I did enjoy Salazar which isn’t a stand, but a casual eatery serving impressive tacos.

sal tables

This is a dirt-floor establishment with plastic chairs and metal tables. It’s a covered patio complete with live trees, cacti and a Southern California vibe that comes, in part, from the restaurant’s bones. It used to be an auto shop.

The focus now is on hot, fresh from the kitchen corn and flour tortillas and tacos that drip with flavors. The regularly-changing menu also features chilaquilles, machaca, and four different types of tacos – among other items.

sal machaca

The clever plating of the machaca is as appealing to the eye as the meal is satisfying to eat. Braised beef is served in a cast-iron pan set on a thick-wood cutting board. A fried egg sits atop the shredded meat. I ordered tacos, but I enjoyed scooping out the pieces of beef that had caramelized on the bottom of the pan. (I was obviously with a good friend who allowed, perhaps even encouraged, me to do so.)

saltaccos

The tacos were the real treat, particularly the carne asada. Corn tortillas were piled with cubes of marinated steak topped with cilantro and diced red onions. I liked the chicken asada and al pastor for the fresh flavors, but the carne asada are my favorites.

Salazar
Four plates
2490 N. Fletcher Dr.
Los Angeles, CA

The Nos Gotta Go   Leave a comment

ludivine sign

Usually, it’s the company shared while dining that makes the meal. Food is the magnet, and should be more than just sustenance, but good conversation can hide numerous food/service flaws. This was the case at Ludivine in Oklahoma City. The chow wasn’t bad, but couldn’t compete with the camaraderie.

Also, we were told “No!” a lot.

ludivine drink

The restaurant prides itself on farm fresh, or at least locally-procured, ingredients. It’s a small menu with intriguing cocktails, most had references to The Beatles. For example, the Fixing the Hole: Rye whiskey, lemon, egg white, club soda and ice fill a glass, which contains a smaller empty glass into which blackberry-thyme shrub is poured. It’s fun and tasty. A request for gin instead of rye generated the first No, as in no-can-do – or more aptly, no-won’t-do.

In addition to a regular bill of fare, which apparently frequently changes, a chef’s tasting menu is offered. The most enticing course was gnocchi. I hoped to have corn chowder, not on the tasting menu, with the potato dumplings. Nope. Again.

ludivine marrow

There were a few other negative responses from our server, but we had some positive elements on the plates we did order. The roasted bone marrow was as fatty and decadent as one could want and served with plenty of crostini.

ludivine soup.jpg

Besides the drink, the creamy corn chowder was my favorite. For the money, the Waygu steak disappointed. Thankfully, chimichurri saved the meat.

ludivine waygu

Ultimately, the meal was enjoyable thanks to my friends.

Ludivine
Three Plates
805 N. Hudson Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK