Osteria Mozza

For my birthday last Wednesday, my very benevolent husband took me to one of my favorite restaurants of all time, Osteria Mozza.

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We started off the night with our favorite Italian cocktail, Spritz con Aperol, a classic venetian cocktail made with prosecco, ice, aperol, a little soda water, and a slice of orange peel; Mozza does it just right, with the perfect ratio of prosecco to Aperol.

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I love Mozza for their very diverse mozzarella bar, the incredible pasta selection, and the exceptional service. I also love the bold flavors, the incredible textures, and the beautiful presentation of the food.

We started off by splitting the Grilled Octopus with potatoes, celery and lemon. The octopus was perfectly grilled; crispy exterior, soft delicate interior. Balanced beautifully with the acidity of the lemon and the crunch of the celery.

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Then we had the Baby Kale with pine nuts, ricotta salata, and marinated anchovies. What an incredible dish. A twist on a classic salad (Cesar) the kale is blanched just enough that you still get a crunch from the greens and is dressed with an incredible Cesar-esque dressing that is tart and salty from the anchovies. Then it is sprinkled very generously with the ricotta salata. This dish is definitely on my to-do list for recipe developments.

Following the salad we had the Bufala Mozzarella with crushed lemon, bagna cauda and bottarga, which honestly I could do without. The bagna cauda over powered any other flavor and completely took over the subtlety of the bufala mozzarella, which is a true shame.

Lastly we shared two different pastas: Garganelli with Ragu Bolognese; nice rich flavors, beautifully crafted pasta, nothing to out of this world. And the Bucatini all’Amatriciana; spicy yet sweet, nice balance of tomato to pasta ratio, very classic and extremely well executed, paired wonderfully with the wine.

As if we couldn’t eat enough, we finished off the night with the Bomboloni that is served with huckleberry marmellata and lemon mascarpone. I gotta say, this is one of the best desserts I have had in a while. Bomboloni are one of my favorite things in the world; think fancy doughnut holes. Served with an incredible huckleberry jam and and the most heavenly lemon mascarpone. Perfectly fried and deliciously sweet yet tart. At this point I was so full that we had to take the rest of the Bomboloni home, which were a perfect breakfast the next day!!

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Starry Kitchen-New Downtown Location

Last night, after two glasses of rose at Spring Street Bar (one of the best local bars in LA), Cameron and I decided to go check out Starry Kitchen. We had been before to the location in the Financial District, which sadly closed down, and really enjoyed the meal that we had.

Once we heard that they were doing a sort of “pop up” restaurant at the Tiara Cafe, we decided we had to go eat there. I am a big Asian cuisine fan, everything from Thai to Vietnamese, and especially love what the husband and wife duo at Starry Kitchen do. Fresh ingredients, in your face flavors, and traditional Asian dishes.

The staff were very friendly and attentive, and made us feel like we eating at the owner’s house. We started out with the beef wrapped in sesame leaves which was served with a nice pickled vegetable dipping sauce. The beef was a little under seasoned on its own, but once you dipped it into the sauce it brought out the flavors of the sesame leaves and the beef.

Next we shared the garlic noodles, which looked just like plain noodles with butter, but were surprisingly flavorful and paired nicely with a generous splash of Sriracha.

Lastly we split the Singaporean crab, which to be honest was one of the tastiest things I have eaten in a while. The sauce is made with a homemade chicken stock and tomato base. It is spicy and sweet and has pieces of crab floating around waiting to be soaked up by the bread that is served with it. The crab is sweet and succulent. and is large enough to split between two or three people. Truly a spectacular dish. In fact, the waitress told us that on the weekend they usually sell out of the crab by 7:00. So if you have plans to go there make sure you get there before 7:00 or you will miss out on a sensational experience.

Eat, Drink, Americano.

Yes folks, this is the name of the restaurant. Downtown LA has had a huge infestation of “urban-chic” restaurants, Industriel, Urbano, Towne, the list goes on.  As I have mentioned before, I am so happy that downtown is getting more “user-friendly”, honestly I am just sick and tired of the same shit over and over again.

My initial thoughts of Eat, Drink, Americano were that it was going to be the same as all the other mediocre restaurants that claim to be serving “urban farm food”.  However, I was somewhat pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t a huge, pretentious restaurant catering to the hipsters. Instead, it is a small restaurant that has cool drawings on the walls and unique family-style picnic tables. It has a great ambiance that is friendly and welcoming and doesn’t make you feel self-conscious about your outfit choice (which might be just a me problem).

The menu is really small and the staff is quite friendly and knowledgeable about the wine selection. One thing that was pretty disappointing was the portion size of the chop board, which we paid  5 for $25. There is literally just enough of each for each person to have one bite and pass it on. This is fine if money is not an issue or if you are not really starving and this is all you order. But for $25 I was expecting  generous amount of meats and cheeses, and boy was I disappointed.

The ceviche is quite good, which says something as you know I am a ceviche connoisseur. The fish is fresh, the marinade is refreshing, and the portion size is perfect.

We also tried the mushroom and egg, which was served warm in a skillet  The egg was a little too underdone for my personal taste, creating an overwhelming eggy flavor that took over the delicacy mushrooms.

Next, we had the halibut tempura and romescu sauce, a nice take on fish and chips. The fish was nicely fried, not too greasy, flavorful batter. The romescu sauce, which is a nut based sauce, reminded me of hummus in consistency and had a pleasant tomato flavor that did not overwhelm the seasoning of the fish.

Lastly, we tried the provolone, mango chutney and arugula flatbread. This was the winner for me. The flatbread was nice and chewy, not thick and dense. The flavor combination of the provolone, mango and arugula made perfect sense; salty,sweet and bitter all balanced with the texture of the flatbread.

Overall, it was a pleasant meal. What I mostly enjoyed was the ambience, a nice place to come have a light meal with a nice glass of wine. I will definitely return to Eat, Drink, Americano to try the rest of the menu and to drink more wine.

Renaud’s Patisserie

After working at Bottega Louie in Los Angeles, which serves classic French pastries and has extraordinarily high standards for perfection, I can truly appreciate the mastership of pastries that Chef Renaud displays in his beautiful yet unassuming patisserie located in Santa Barbara.

For those of you who have gone to Bottega Louie, you know that it is a very typical LA establishment; really loud music, attractive waiters, over-priced cocktails, and so-so food. However, their pastry program is outstanding. The amount of production is overwhelming and quite impressive. They have a full bread program, a massive amount of French Macarons (they make 40,000 a week, I know this because this is what I did while I was there), croissants and other breakfast pastries, and a full case of absolutely stunning dessert pastries.

Renaud’s patisserie is quite different from Bottega in so much as the main clientele are significantly older, the music is calming and french, and the food is simple, yet elegant. The pastries are ornate, and artfully presented. With skillfully cut strawberries placed at just the right angle and raspberries organized in absolute symmetry, Renaud clearly knows and understands French Pastries and the demand for perfection, while also catering to the Santa Barbara crowd.

The best part about Renaud’s, which I can honestly say trumps Bottega Louie, is in the laminated doughs, aka. croissants, pain au chocolate, etc. The croissants have just the right amount of butter; you can taste the quality of the butter in your mouth, and doesn’t feel dense or chewy. There are beautiful pockets of air on the inside, indicating that the dough and the butter were properly mixed together to create that nice crispy and light texture. The chocolate that they use is not too sweet, and not too bitter and melts wonderfully in your mouth. I have tried to find the perfect croissant for awhile and can truthfully say that Renaud’s croissant is a top contender. This week my goal is to recreate the croissants and pain au chocolate; stay tuned for that!

I highly recommend checking out Renaud’s if you are ever in the Santa Barbara area and make sure you get there early because the croissants sell out pretty quickly!

The Parish-Review

As you know I went to the newest downtown LA restaurant, the Parish, on Friday night. Considering this used to be the location of quite possibly the worst restaurant in downtown, Angelique, I knew that there was nowhere to go but up. We ended up going on opening night, so with that in mind I knew there would be a few mistakes here and there.

The hostesses greeted us with a nice smile and led us to our table which was in the upstairs area of the restaurant. Right away I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it looked compared to the horrendous decor of its predecessor. You have to walk by the open kitchen where you can see the cooks working as well as catch a glance at Chef Casey Lane (who was a lot smaller than I was expecting). The bar upstairs was busy and filled with people trying to grab a cocktail while waiting for their table. It seemed as though everyone was enjoying themselves .The lighting made you feel as if you were in a speakeasy; dark and mysterious.

Once we sat down we ordered a nice bottle of gruner-veltliner which unfortunately was not served cold enough and had to wait at least ten minutes before we could drink it. My friend to the right of me ordered the gin gimlet which was refreshing,  and was obvious that they used nice gin. Once we got the wine flowing we ordered the fried olives, which had a great complexity of flavors and textures; salty, crunchy, and bitter, balanced with the tastiness of the fried aspect. The only complaint was that they left the pits in and had the waiter not told us, we probably would have choked. Then we all shared the deviled eggs which were good, but I thought a were little plain, not worth the $9. The  poutine fried oysters however were great. The oysters were fried to perfection and the gravy was not too heavy;  the fries however seemed a little sloppy and perhaps had been sitting for too long. Next we had the grilled corn which  was served with a honeycomb butter; juicy and sweet, by far the favorite of the night.

After we received these dishes we ended up waiting almost an entire hour before we received our last two; our server didn’t check in on us once. Also there were plenty of bussers to take away our glasses and silverware, but none to replace them. we had to ask at least twice to get some. Thankfully we had another bottle of wine to keep us going through the wait, but it didn’t go unnoticed. We finally received our fried chicken, which was ok, after the olives and the oysters I felt a little “over-fried” and couldn’t really appreciate the dish. The chicken seemed to be fried nicely, but there was some serious seasoning that was lacking. Lastly we shared the dal, which to me if you are going to put dal on the menu, it better be kick-ass. It was underwhelming and the piece of chutney toast that went along with it was tiny, barely enough for one person to get a bite (there were 6 of us, it was awkward).

Lastly, we decided to go all out and split the toffee pudding, which was incredible, not too sweet, nice choice of bread, actually one of the highlights of the night. Overall, I would say that the Parish needs improvement (especially in the service department) but on its way to be one of downtown’s top restaurants.

Industriel

The other night Cameron and I decided to check out Industriel, one of downtown LA’s newest “urban chic” restaurant; defining themselves as “the style of cuisine served up by your grandmother in her farmhouse in Provence, France, with one little twist:
Your grandmother has sleeve tattoos” (industrielfarm.com).

I have to say for the all the hype that it got, I was severely unimpressed. Although I loved the decor and the ambience; honey bear jars hanging from the ceiling, bright red chairs, music played at a decent level, mason jars filled with picked everything, our experience at Industriel was B- as at best. I wish they had spent as much time refining the menu as they did decorating the space.

First of all we started off by ordering a glass of sparkling rose, one of my guilty pleasures in life, and instead received a huge glass of regular rose, which we had to send back. It seemed as though the waiter was not really well versed in the wine list, or perhaps was not really paying attention.

We then ordered the “house-made sausage”, which was actually full of flavor from the herbs and had a nice rustic texture to it. However, it was served with homemade mustard that was bitter beyond belief and was almost inedible. The pickled vegetables, although vibrant in color, lacked that crunch that I love about pickles and had a strange after taste that made me think they used too much clove in their pickling juice.

This was followed by the smoked octopus which is one of our favorite dishes in general to begin with so we might be a little biased. However, the octopus was nicely smoked, and had a delicate texture that was neither too soft nor too chewy. Oh I forgot to mention that at this point in the meal, we finally received our bottle of wine that we had to drink mostly without any food to accompany it. Back to the food, we finished off by splitting the duck which is served with a wheat berry wild rice cake,pecans, currants, baby roots, and hibiscus jus. The duck was cooked quite nicely, but a little unforgettable. The rice cake was really confusing; is it a pancake or a rice cake? Overall the dish seemed forced and just not really well executed. At this point we were a little tipsy from power-drinking our wine and decided to skip on dessert and make our way home. Overall our experience was rather lack luster and we ended up paying an arm and a leg (which I hate doing with mediocre food). So would I return? To eat: No. To hang out at the bar: Probably. Let me know what your thoughts are.

New Downtown Restaurant, The Parish

New downtown restaurant The Parish by Chef Casey Lane just opened in downtown. Going to check it out tonight with fellow foodies. So far from the reviews that I have read, it is one of downtown’s most anticipated new restaurants that offers “gastropub” fare. Im looking forward to tasting what Chef Lane has to offer as I know he is one of the hottest chefs today. Also excited to have a cocktail or two as I know mixologist, John Coltharp from 7 Grand, can make a fine drink.Check out my review coming soon!

Bow and Truss

After a recent trip to the Bay for some last minute wedding planning and some serious wining and dining, Cameron and I were secretly craving delicious Mexican,but promised to get something light and healthy since we are “shedding for the wedding”. Since we flew into the Burbank airport we decided to look for something in the North Hollywood area. We were going to go to Pitfire to get our traditional chicken salad when we stumbled upon a new restaurant called The Bow and Truss.

I was surprised by the elegance and beauty of this NoHo spot since many restaurants here seem to be in line with the cookie cutter theme. The minute you step in, a breathtakingly beautiful bar welcomes you along with painfully hip Angelinos; something you expect to find in Hollywood or Downtown. We decided to sit in the gorgeous outside patio, though the inside offers a superb loft-like space where you can sit at the bar or in booths.

Our server was quite nice, obviously not from LA, and tended to us rather quickly and efficiently; although he did promise a free dessert that we never received.  One look at the menu, which claims to be a Spanish Taverna, and I immediately thought, “Oh no, this is going to be like Rivera”, which in my opinion is not all its made up to be. It has an odd combination of ceviches and paellas, which isn’t bad; it’s just not truly Spanish. Regardless, since we were both feeling Mexican food, we split the Shrimp Ceviche and three tacos (Shrimp, Mixed Peppers, and grilled Sea Bass).

The shrimp ceviche was smartly executed; well balanced levels of acidity with a little heat and a little sweet from the pineapple. It is served with plantain chips, which I think is a little over done but still went nicely with the ceviche. The tacos were the real standouts, perfectly portioned, excellently seasoned and beautifully presented. Each taco is finished off with an avocado sauce that gets a little lost, but adds a nice element of creaminess and really ties all of the tacos together. I am excited to try out some of these recipes at home and invite our friends over for a taco night.

Being a native Mexican, I have to say the Chef has really pinned down the flavor profiles of authentic Mexican food (which is odd because it should be a Spanish restaurant) and I look forward to returning to try out some of the paellas to see if her Spanish profiles matchup.

Alma

The other night my fiance took me out for our traditional date night to a new restaurant called Alma. I was a little skeptical because to be quite honest some of the new restaurants that are opening in downtown LA are really pretentious and just not very good. I am thrilled that downtown is getting more business, but a little upset that they are all following the same “Urban Chic” trend. Its time for something a little more unique! Alma was everything I was looking for; great food, great vibes, great service. The food was new and exciting, and the staff was filled with energy and ambition.

The menu changes quite regularly which is something I appreciate because I am always looking to try new flavors and textures. Also they have an open kitchen which I admire because to me it means they have to stay clean and organized.

One of the dishes that stood out to me was a blue crab and corn salad that was beautifully balanced with fresh fennel.  We spoke to the Chef who told us that they get their seafood from a local woman, versus the giants of Santa Monica Seafood, which he said can have its benefits (freshness and quality )as well as throw them for a loop if say the salmon doesn’t come in that day.

We also had an incredible sea bass dish that was served with roasted avocado, fried okra, and sea bass belly, that was unlike anything I have had before. The roasted avocado was unripe and had a nice salty finish that made the dish really stand out. Lastly, we had the smoked duck, which on its own was incredibly salty, but was paired with honeydew and arugula. When eaten all together it was brilliantly harmonious.

They also serve freshly made fruit sodas that they prepare to order with their soda stream which I thought was great. Don’t miss out on the squash blossom beignets that is served with a burnt citrus sauce and wild anise, delicate and perfectly fried. For dessert we sampled some of their popcorn ice cream which was not too sweet  and perfectly creamy. Check out Alma and let me know what you think!