Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Greetings from LudoBites at Royal/T Cafe

It's another exciting year that passes us by with many delicious culinary experiences that I will cherished with this past year (and post later on).

Countdown is now on for the landslide of lists of "the best" of whatever categories which will hit us in the upcoming week before the end of the year. I'm very sure that the above picture of LudoBites will be on some of those list for favorite meals or favorite dining spot of 2009.

I just want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year! Hope everybody got what they wish for in their Christmas stockings!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Anticipating the Return @ Ludobites (Los Angeles)

We recently just had a Thanksgiving holiday, which got me thinking of a few things I am thankful for the year 2009. Met tons of new friends, visiting fascinating places and having a great meal to go along with it, great stories to share, and more importantly another year of good health.

Because of some great friends I met, they were able to share with me some of their favorite places they like to dine at. One of my favorite discovery for this year was not a taco truck, but a pop-up style restaurant where a chef would take over a non-descript place and run the restaurant like a Ghetto Gourmet in San Francisco. I never heard of a concept like a pop-up style restaurant until a friend of mine, Gastronomnom introduced it to me over the summer.

He confided to me that Ludo Bites was his favorite new restaurant along with Animal (which he suggested to me as well). Once he go into details on how the former chef at L'Orangerie and Bastide, Ludo Lefebvre have decided to turn a small Artisan Bakery cafe (BreadBar in Mid-City) into his personal kitchen and run it with great precisions. Then my friend begin to tell me how Ludo was able to turn some simple ingredients into a delicious fanfare, I was at the time more than intrigue wanting to find out more.

Then a slew of my other blogger friends relayed to me in that one of their blogger companion was at the BreadBar bragging about how great Pierre Gagnaire's food was, Ludo calmly replied with a smile and said "Yeah I know, I used to work for him for a few years".

With that, I knew I was going to love the guy and the food he was going to serve!

Green Bean Salad, Peach, Coconut, Apple, Horseradish, Lemongrass

Snails, Spinach Curry, Yogurt

Homemade Boudain Noir Terrine (Pork Blood) - Potato Puree, Mustard, Black Currants

Some of these dishes that I am about to show were some of my favorites in my three visits to LudoBites. When we first got the menu, I was very perplex to see some of the dishes on the menu. For instance like pork blood. Don't worry, I have pork blood plenty of times due to my steady of diet of Taiwanese cuisine as part of my raising by my parents. I was amazed Ludo was able to glamorized a street food and work it with a potato puree. Think of this like a soft pudding and get it dipped with some creamy potato sauce. Never imagine it with mixture of potato until now and was absolutely stunned that it can worked well together.

Already, the imagination on these charts worked splendidly better than I hope.

Creamy Polenta - Cantal Cheese, Oxtail Beef, Black Truffle

Foie Gras Black Croque - Monsieur, Ham, Cherry, Amaretto

Some of the few dishes that I was able to get my hands on, I was truly impressed and amazed by how complicated of a work these simple dishes can be made into these wildly intricate with vivid imaginations. A lot of the starters are favorites among my dining friends that joined me that night along with Gastronomnom and his fiance, FoodforFel from The Food Ledger, the Minty, and a common friend of the group, Ally. We also spotted FoodSheThought right when we were about to be seated in a corner table.

The two starters stood that night for me was the Foie Gras Black Croque and the creamy polenta. Think about this for one second: if you can get a hand on a perfect moist sandwich with a dipping of cherry jam and neatly stuffed with foie gras and ham. How much will you willing to pay? For myself and a few in the table, we would gladly fork over the $20 (the price tag at the time) if Ludo was willing to serve it for a take-out lunch bento box.

The creamy polenta with oxtail is something that is very comforting and one of the more traditional dish on Ludo's repertoire. An addition of black truffle was a major plus as it only enhanced a rich, creamy dish that was a favorite of mine.

Monkfish "A la Nage" Leeks, Nutmeg, Lemon, Potato

Spaghetti Carbonara - Santa Barbara Prawn, Sage

Grilled Duck Breast - Leek Salad, Ginger, Capers, Black Truffle

Let me pointed out that his savory dishes are some of his strength. I didn't get the chicken dish that was flavored with duck fat as it was wildly described by LA Weekly's food critic, Jonathan Gold. However, the three savory dish that I was able to experienced was more than adequately fill the void (where the chicken was last served the week before I got there).

My favorite was the Grilled Duck Breast which had a conflict of battle in taste, but somehow came beautifully once it is inserted into your mouth. Some chefs likes to play with presentations or with molecular gastronomy. Chef Ludo likes to let the tastes and flavors be the deciding factor. If you were able to tell me that ginger goes along with salt on a duck, I would have plenty of skeptical doubts. Taking the unconventional road and recreating it was a risk worth taking if you have the confidence. Not only it pays off beautifully, it was a dish I would order every chance I can get when I step in to his Bread Bar location.

Of course this was a man who was on a TV competition show trying to hawk a pig's ear quesadilla. He is not only brave, but very daring and willing to take risks.

Vanilla Panna Cotta, Caviar, Carmel

Peach Curry - Masacarpone, Verbene

Chocolate Cupcake, Foie Gras Chantilly, Candied Bacon Almonds, Maple syrup

Desserts are usually not my favorites, but you just couldn't skip some of the treats waiting in store at this place. Have you had a savory chocolate desserts? How about a foie gras on your cupcake? Maybe a caviar on top of a panna cotta?

Sweet mixing savory? Does it work? Believe it or not, my mind says no way, but my taste bud didn't stop licking what is on the spoon or plate. Just asked my friend Hall-e of The Michelin Project (below picture) about it. She can't stop either.

Trust me when I say it's a sight to be hold until you get to experience these little pleasures in life. There always something new every week when I was there. After my initial visit, by chance I was able to come back the second time in three days span. Didn't stop there as I came back again for the third time two weeks later.

If the question from my loyal readers was that does Ludo still have his pop-up restaurant at Bread Bar, then the answer is no. Fret not, he does have a new location and an interesting twist to his new venture. The new location of his pop-up restaurant is at Royal/T cafe in Culver City where the space is also a Japanese-style cosplay café where you do get to see something of interesting arts that is provided there for your constant amusement. It's one thing to get an entertainment out of the food, but to also have bizarre art pieces to display around your dining table probably will complete your evening of curiosity.

Not only am I excite to see what he have in store for us on the menu, but can't wait to see how a work of Takashi Murakami fit in to this dining experience.

ps. Make sure to make your reservation on their website. Even though the reservations might be filled up, you can get on the waiting list for this limited, selected 13-day engagement at Royal/T. The start date official begins on December 2nd. Don't miss out!

LudoBites (old location)
8718 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 205-0124

LudoBites (new location)
Royal/T Cafe
8910 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

Reservations for Royal/T can be made in the website.

LudoBites (at Breadbar) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thomas Keller Book Signing at South Coast Plaza

In case you don't have a reservation at the grand opening of Bouchon in Beverly Hills next Monday, don't fret. The master chef extraordinaire, Thomas Keller will be signing his book "ad hoc at home" tomorrow in the South Coast Plaza Williams-Sonoma.

You can ogle at him or just tell him that his restaurant Per Se and French Laundry is not that hot. Either way, this is probably the best chance you will get to meet him up close and personal.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Black Goat Extravaganza @ Chin Go Gae (Koreatown)

No English Translation on the sign (just look for the Korean signage)

Has anyone ever tried Black Goat? That is until you realized it does not taste or looked like lamb meat. It's a pretty weird concept and worth a Deep End Dining style trip to further enhance your foodie adventures.

It's a weird concept only because this was an actual protein that is very popular in Korean cuisine, but only a few places in Los Angeles would served it. Seriously, I would need to dig deeper to find other hole in the wall places to get this kind of discovery.

Bahn Chan (side dishes) - Seaweed, Cucumbers, sweet daikon, and kimchee

I have heard this place was very popular in Koreatown for over two decades. Many Korean Angelanos have regard The Black (heukk) Goat (yeum so) is served two ways here. The most popular ordering choice is served in hot spicy soup (tang) and can be ordered in sauteed fried style as well. Both popular dishes will set diners back to around $15 each and will feed about 4-6 people for each order.

We get the usual bahn chan starters before the main courses arrives. Usually the Korean appetizers are there to tie you down just like peanuts in a steakhouse can do for you. The cucumbers and sweet daikons are some of my favorites in these Korean restaurants. It was too bad that the ever popular bean sprouts was not in effect at this place, but it doesn't diminish the arrangements that was placed in front of us before the mains were served.

Yeum So Moo Chim (Goat Salad) - $15.50

The first dish is a sauteed Goat Salad. According to my research, the yeum so is served with arrays of different vegetables. The main components of that salad style dish has some Korean sesame leaves (kkaennip) with a dash of chili, garlic, red pepper, and sesame seeds (deulkkae).

Now here's the catch with this plate. The table provided a glass of deulkkae (the same sesame seeds in the goat salad) where you can mix it with the bowl of chili paste to make your own dipping sauce for the yeum so (goat) meat.

Toasted Deulkkae (Perilla Seeds)

Special Sauce - sesame oil, chili paste, and toasted deulkkae

The sauce isn't really that secretive nor hard to make. Considering most of the ingredients like the sesame seed can be easily acquired in most Korean shops or markets. There is some sesame oil that is added to enhance the dipping sauce.

By dipping the sauteed goat to the sauce add a bold strong flavor taste. Surprising for me was that it was not overwhelmingly spicy nor any drastic sour taste to the meat. If you want a comparison to what it taste like, my best given answer would be like a flank in a Mexican Sriracha sauce. The texture is not as a gamey as I originally had feared, but rather soft and very tender. It was very delicious in an absolute easy dish for it to be made that was also very pleasing to the stomach.

Before - the leaves were added on before getting pushed down

Yeum So Tang - with Green Onions, Kkaennip (Korean Perilla Leaves) - $15

The big attraction finally arrives to the table in the form or a big pot with a portable cooker underneath was the goat soup (yeum so tang). It started off with the servers placing the kkaennip (Korean Perilla leaves) on top of the soup and pushing it down to be simmered while the boiling soup also cooked the goat meat.

As we quickly devoured the soup and the black goat meat, couple of observations hit me: one was that the soup just like the goat salad wasn't too spicy. In fact I was expecting the soup to be as hot and spicy like the ones I had in On Dal or Ham Ji Park. My best guess can also be attributed to the fact that maybe someone in our table requested that, but nonetheless the soup is something I want to slurp. The soup was very rich and flavorful while the meat was already in a soup that had the similar components as the sauce was very delicious as well.

The other observations was that the leaves and other ingredients in the soup make the broth taste better than most shabu shabu or hot pot places. The soup is probably the highlight in this dish more so than the goat.

In this go around, the goat meat was stewed and have this nice texture like a slow braised pork. With the chili paste and other spicy ingredients added on to the goat meat, it was like a melted piece of delicious treat.

Is there an adverse after effect like a bad steak? Luckily for me, I was alive and still kicking it the day after. I couldn't say the same for me in an unfortunate dining at Chung King.

Kimchee Fried Rice

Like some of the traditional Korean places, the meal will end with a round of Kimchee rice. They used the pot from the goat soup to add in rice and a bowl of various kimchee ingredient to make this popular end of the meal treat. I could honestly say I have better (Ondal being one of the place), but it was still very good for what we have that night and still a welcome treat after the meal.

My adventure of the black goat dining have me scratching off the list of names of protein I wanted to try. Special thanks to my pal the Minty who invited me along in this unusual Korean specialty dish.

This place is a foodie dining institution for many Korean natives who probably doesn't want hoards of invaders coming over to this place as the small place really only have about 8-10 tables. Probably still on the down low as we speak. When I come back here again, the two yeum so dish will be conquered, but I'll make sure this time around they can up the level of the spiciness for the soup.

Chin Go Gae
3063 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 487-0159


Chin Go Gae on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 26, 2009

LA's Most Underrated Fine Dining Spot @ Simon LA (Mid-City)

Another edition of a dining review that took place during DineLA week where we found ourselves in a predicament that had never seemed to happen before.

We actually have to beg people to come to this restaurant.

My man Gastronomnom was working hard on the twitter and Facebook outlets to see if we can find a person to fill in the last spot in our table. In a bit of surprise, for the last two weeks leading up to reservation date, no one has decided to take up on the offer. Was it because people in LA are not familiar with Kerry Simon or his restaurant? Surely people must have heard of him if they know who Ludo Lefebvre is.

Kerry Simon is probably one the most unconventional of all fine dining chefs in LA. In many articles I have read, one of his most famous menu dish was the "Junk Food Platter" which consists of marshmallows, cotton candy, and other weird snacks that can substantially raise your calories count in one bite.

Chef Simon started his distinguished career by taking a job in a restaurant kitchen because he needed to raise money to buy a guitar for his first true job passion.... a music career! Often labeled as the "Rock n' Roll Chef", he fell in love with the kitchen and decided to stick with it as a career changing move he never regretted. In his impressive resume, it included an apprenticeship in the Michelin Three Stars restaurant of Jean Morels' L'hostellerie Bressane had worked along side with an upcoming culinary superstar in the '80s (you guys probably heard of a guy named Jean-Georges Vongerichten).

In an ascending career span, he was able to open up a restaurant in Las Vegas, aptly named "Simon". Very shortly after that, Chef Simon decided to migrate to Los Angeles and helped opened up "Simon LA" in the first floor of the very posh Sofitel Hotel.

Watermelon Margarita - $14

I can't decided if this place was going to be a loud club lounge settings as they have very chic bar right in front of the restaurant. Before I make any judgments, a Midwest couple coming out of the restaurant in their very casual tourist looked out of their elements, but did seemed to enjoy themselves. Probably hitting back to their hotel room to write to everyone back home on how they met a few celebrities in the dining room. (kidding, none were spotted that night)

The dining room was elegant and was very dim lighted for a very soothing romantic atmosphere. I guess I was expecting a lounge type restaurant that seemed to be in vogue these days for many West Hollywood restaurants that get converted into dance clubs at night, but was pleasant surprised on how very mature the setting was without giving that hint of a conversion.

Jumbo Lump Crab Salad - Avocado, Micro Greens and Grapefruit

For a New American fare, I was anticipating a steak fare for meat lover, some fish dish for seafood lover, and a vegetarian dish just round up the main course selections. I was figuring almost all of the DineLA selections played it safe to cover all three bases, but they would still need to impress to ensure for future repeat businesses from the frickle LA diners.

All three selections of the DineLA starters choices are salads. I took the Jumbo Lump Crab salad is the only one selection at the time with proteins in the salad. I really did enjoyed the salad with the avocado on the bottom of the salad providing a stark additives for the crab. It was a pleasing cleansers before the main dishes to come.

I took the initiative of ordering a watermelon margarita. Somewhat sweet, but a solid drink that goes well with this interpretation of Chef Simon's crab salad. Cocktail drinks in the menu was worth exploring for future visits.

Grilled Skirt Steak - Balsamic Roasted Root Vegetables

Much to my amazement, the grilled skirt steak I have ordered is probably the best steak so far in my DineLA experience. The medium rare selection was cooked to perfection as it was able to retain the juiciness and flavor with the texture of the steak not dried out when it was served. Balsamic root vegetables added some nice compliment and worked very well with the steak.

The steak was so good, it would be insulting to add A-1 steak sauce at this moment. It then got me thinking, if the steaks were cooked properly and seasoned correctly...would A-1 steak sauce be out of business? At this moment, who still uses that sauce anyways?

Cheesecake with Cotton Candy

One of the more bold and daring creations that Chef Simon has been marketed was for his desserts. I took a shot at the cheesecake only because it had the cotton candy. Yeah seriously, that was my only reason for ordering that dish. To my profound astonishment and going against rational that I had, I truly enjoyed the cheesecake. It looked like a half scoop of ice cream on top of the cookie, but it's really crust with a very rich cheesecake. Gastronomnom ordered the same dessert and was excited to find out it's cheesecake and not some random cream of cheese.

The cotton candy didn't do any harm to the dish or enrich the plate, which I think was only added for the show. Nothing more, nothing less.

Underrated and in many ways still uncharted for many of the LA diners. I think if the place got passes the initial press of their bizarre desserts and let their main dishes stand out, they probably can attracted serious foodies and casual restaurant patrons to dine here more than just the special occasions. The glamorous setting is a huge plus and the great service we have for the night definitely make our dining experience that night much better.

A return trip for other dishes in the future will be in the books. Definitely one of the most pleasant surprise in this go-around of the DineLA.

Simon LA
8555 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 358-3979


Simon LA on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New DineLA Visit to @ Campanile (Mid-Wilshire)

Earlier this year, I participated in few of the dining spots that were the participants of the seasonal DineLA week. It used to only last a week before expanding it to two weeks, but if it were successful, it get the extended run of 3 weeks.

The idea of DineLA week was to expose the restaurants scene in LA to casual diners who might not be privy to what each location's cuisine would be offering. Usually a hit and miss in the bargaining department because it's not always the best dish that get offer to the public, but in many cases a strong effort by the restaurant can result a repeat business from the casual diners who are looking to splurge on a full course meal down the road.

So in many ways, it is the best interest of the restaurant to put their best foot forward in ensuring that any repeat business is possible as any week night can be a lonely night in the reservation books.

Take a look at my last editions of Spring of '09 to get an idea on how DineLA have evolved: Bazaar by José Andrés , Border Grill, Dal Rae, Wolfgang's Steakhouse By Wolfgang Zwenier .

Our wine of the night chosen by Gastronomnom

To get started on one of the earliest visit for DineLA, one of our good friend (and a new blogger) Gastronomnom decided to reserve a table at the much critically acclaimed Campanile on La Brea Ave. Interesting enough, another new blogger FoodForFel have also joined us as well as Gastronomnom's fiance Amy, our long time friend Edgar, and our dining companion Veronica.

To get people familiarized with the menu concept, it usually involves a choosing of one of the starter, entree, and a dessert from the basic three choices in their brief DineLA menu. Be warn about this, it can be a hit and miss with great selections or a disastrous choice.

Poached Egg and Porcini Mushroom Cream

Roasted Beet Salad

Soup Du Jour

Our starters become a divide and conquer as we made split decisions in all three choices (with the majority of three going for Poached Egg, two going for Roast Beet Salad, and one for the soup of the day).

I decided to go for the roast beet salad for an easy cleansing of the palate. I wasn't quite sure about the poached egg because it was something that was either going to be a great dish having a running egg all over the persimmons or just a bunch of greens all over the plate. The soup of the day was nice looking warm tomato soup. In the end, I took the safer route with the roast beet salad and have no regrets (can't say the same for FoodForFel with her poached egg).

Roast Pork Loin - with mustard mashed potatoes, kale and crème fraiche

Steamed Mussels - fingerling potatoes, fennel and tomato confit

Before the main courses about to arrive, I took a very long observation of the restaurant here in Campanile where many in attendance that night was either wearing business slacks or very relaxed comfort clothing. Casual or business are both welcomed and mixed very well in the atmosphere of a historical building. This two story building was originally built for Charlie Chaplin (yes, the same Silent Movie Star) for supposedly his office back in the early days. When he got divorced from his 2nd wife, good ol' Charlie was forced to sell this place.

After decades of the place in changing hands, Chef Mark Peel who opened up the restaurant by purchasing this building with two partners, with then-wife pastry chef Nancy Silverton (where her La Brea Bakery was first to open - currently still right next door to Campanile) and Wine director Manfred Krankl, was able to restore the building and remodeled it with a restaurant in the main court yard complete with a bakery and bar on each of the side. Meanwhile, a few banquet rooms was upstairs overlooking the dining room of the restaurant. I was surprised to see the upper banquet room dedicated to the Silent Star with proclamation of "The Charlie Chaplin Room". You can't really missed it as you will get to see that room on your way to the restroom.

My delight of the night was how well cook my pork loin were as it was absolutely scrumptious and quickly devoured by yours truly. The mashed potatoes were a big hit for me as well where the side dishes are both excellent in complimenting the main protein. I also got a few bites from Veronica in tasting the steamed mussels. I have to admit I was skeptical at first, but did enjoyed the mussels as well. Alas, my big tummy wasn't able to take both full dishes.

Bourbon Bread Pudding - caramel sauce, creme fraiche

Funniest thing of the night, the only item we all agreed upon was the dessert in getting the bread pudding. It was lavished with sweet caramel sauce and a counter reduction of creme to balance it out in giving a great dessert. That was probably the only thing I can say that everyone was able to agree on, where various of opinions are given in some of the dishes.

The big question of the night, did Campanile do its diligence in attracting new patrons that otherwise would be intimidated in coming? With the price being preset for everyone ahead of time, it was easy enough, but did restaurant gives a favorable impression in return visit?

For me, definitely. Now I can't wait to try his other contemporary American cuisine dishes that he presents. Interesting side note, I was able to visit Mark Peel's former work place at Spago in Beverly Hills. You can actually see some of the inspiration transfer to Campanile. The Spago review will happen shortly, but check out places while you can. For $34 in that three course menu, it was well worth the risk to check out a new place.

624 S La Brea Ave
Los Angeles,CA 90036
(323) 938-1447


Campanile on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 12, 2009

5x5 Chef Collaboration Dinner @ Providence (Los Angeles)

One of the interesting topic surrounds sports was that if you can form a great team consists of the greatest players of its generation, would that be an easy domination for that great team? That's why there was a concept of "Dream Team" for Olympic Basketball with mixed success. This is a good idea if there is a chemistry that works well together ('92 and '08 Olympics), but disastrous if it was an incoherent mess ('04 Olympics).

Hence, the question relating to the foodie world would be if the kitchen was filled with 5 of the best chefs in town, will you get the best meal of your life? The 5x5 concept was an idea that was put in a bold experiment that was being provided with a beautiful restaurant (such as the Providence on Melrose) served as the Colosseum venue to please the audience. In that sense, it was the diners.

The idea of five different main courses prepared by five different chefs put images of a relay race of an Olympic race instantaneously. In order to have a good start, the first dish need to set a good tone. Then the rest of the dishes need to carry on in a consistent progression and with the final dish end in a spectacular final dash to the finish line. Appetizers and desserts are not required in this 5x5 Olympiad, but all of the five dishes of that 5 (courses) by 5 (chefs) will have to maintain its consistency. Team work and chemistry are essential and keys to that goal of winning that race (in this case, satisfying the whims of the customers who paid $150 thinking it will be the meal of a lifetime).

If you ever watched Top Chef, you will always see contests that required team work in the team competitions where the contestants often were not having communications among each other to carry out the progressions. Each dishes were treated like a baton being handing off from one dish to another. One dish can come off savory, but the next one would come off sweet, you do not want to see a mishap like that in an expensive $150 five course meal. Which was the big intrigue to see if any of the top chefs in this town can worked well together to bring out the best meal for the diners who are paying $150 per head on that night.

To start off, Michael Cimarusti (head chef/owner of the Providence) was providing us with a quartet of Amuse Bouche before the main courses comes out. Chef Cimarusti was sitting this one out as he graciously provided the venue and opened up his kitchen to five different chefs that will showcase their work that night in the fable 5x5 meal.

I don't know if was a tradition, but I guessed the host of the venue would always provide an amuse bouche or a quick starter for the guests to munch on before the dishes arrives. I went back to Providence 6 weeks later and enjoyed a wonderful meal with a different arrangement of edible one-biters as well by Chef Cimarusti.

Quartet of Amuse Bouche (Hokkido Scallop, Sea urchi Roe on Tomato, Greyhound cocktail Spherification, and Tasmanian sea trout over salmon skin)

The first one on the left was the Hokkido Scallop surrounded with puffed rice over bed of Sriracha and mayonnaise. The center two pieces of the amuse bouche were the sea urchin roe on top of tomato and the Greyhound cocktail spherification.

To start off the night in the right tone, sometimes it only takes one bite to realize you will have be in a treat for a wonderful meal. I always have various different amuse bouche at other fine dining places as well. In many ways, I have many one biters that are similar to what chef Cimarusti's amuse, but has always been impressed with his interpretation and playful look on a liquid nitrogen drink. The greyhound cocktail was something I never had before, but love how it held together in the liquid form and dissolved once it reached your taste bud.

21a by you.
Sea urchi Roe on Tomato and Greyhound cocktail Spherification

The last of the starter was the Tasmanian sea trout over salmon skin, with soy sauce crème fraîche. My impression about the sea trout, Hokkido scallop, and the sea urchin roe were wonderfully presented and have a great taste. Nicely throughout in terms of what to add appropriately and each of the seafood specialty was something I can imagine eating as a whole dish at Providence.

Overall, I had a great impression of what Providence was going to offer in the menu. Eventually I would make a visit here in the short immediate future to get some of his offerings in his 9 course tasting menu.

Hamachi Sashimi - Ton buri, Asian pear, red radish and fennel (by David LeFevre of Water Grill)

The first dish of the night was by a talented young chef from Water Grill, David LeFevre who gave us his interpretation of a Hamachi Sashimi. It had a nice little tonburi, which was seeds of fireweed that has texture and taste closely resemble a caviar. Truth to be told, I honestly thought it was caviar until I took good close look of it. The hamachi was fresh and very delicate where it just melt in your mouth once you took a bite. Very delicious from the start where the tempura with slices of sweet Asian pear was paired on the dish as side for contrast against the hamachi.

The tempura had a mixture of Dungeness crab wrapped in shiso leaf with a tart cream on top to give it a crispy bold taste. Adding a sweet pear underneath was an act of counter reduction against a little bitterness of the shiso. It worked well enough as a compliment pair against the hamachi and complete the overall dish much to my surprise as I initially thought the tempura was unnecessary.

Unexpected, but much to my amazement, it was one of the dishes I really liked that night.

Shellfish "Printanière" - Santa Barbara prawns, abalone, Japanese sword squid, clams, lemongrass-shellfish emulsion (by Josiah Citrin of Mélisse)

My favorite dish of the night was from my favorite chef of the moment, Josiah Citrin of the restaurant Melisse. For this shellfish dish to include bits and pieces of albone, a Japanese sword squid, claims, and some Santa Barabara Prawns to go along in one harmonious way, the dish turns out to be a divine classic.

Truly, a remarkable dish that made me a believer and a big fan of chef Citrin. In fact, after the dish, I told chef Citrin I would be visiting him very soon. At this Spring discovery menu dinner that night one month after this 5x5 dinner, he came up to our table and indeed remembered our conversation of about my intended visit to Melisse.

If I have one dish to remember my evening, it would be this dish of chef Citrin's Shellfish Printanière.

Sautéed Wild Striped Bass - white carrot purée, nettles, fava beans, fennel pollen (by Neal Fraser of Grace)

Next dish was very highly anticipated by yours truly was from Grace's Neal Fraser. A beautiful wild striped bass that had a sidekick of a white carrot puree. The thing that bothers at first was the look of the carrot puree because I thought the color was not very pleasing to look at. However, I find it very refreshing to have a carrot puree to have this sweeter taste than the usual potato puree that usually accompanied a fish dish.

The nettles and fava beans that was sided with the striped bass offered an interesting contrast. Not necessary for the benefit of the fish because it didn't enhanced the flavor profile of the bass, but it does a contrast to counter reduce the savory rich complex taste of this bass. Helpful because it made the rich flavor of the fish stands out. Luckily the fish did not have any unnecessary tangy, fishy smell. One of the great ingredient to increase the enhancement was add a Lemon, it increases the smell, but masked the flavor. For us, the big favor the chef did for all of us was let the fish standout by itself with the bass being sauteed enough to give crisper outside and tender inside of the skin.

A competent contemporary dish that was aimed to please, was able to handle off the baton of progression to the next dish with comfortable room of lead.

Barley Timbale - peas, artichokes, foie gras, mushroom sauce (Gino Angelini of Angelini Osteria)

The fourth main course of the night was a favorite of a few of my dining mates. Essentially on how this dish is to come out was that it was a barley risotto layered inside of a wrapped spinach with a hint of foie gras and a tomato on top of the spinach.

The main component on this dish to me was the barley layered with the other vegetables. The barley was wonderfully cooked to almost perfection. The vegetables of spinach and tomato complimented the barely very well. The mushroom sauce also helped enhanced the flavor of the dish. The foie gras was the side addition rather the main component of this dish, actually is better off as the supporting cast as the barley was rightfully the highlight of this entire plate.

Roasted Duck "Apicius" - spiced pineapple, rhubarb and celery root (Alex Stratta of Alex)

The hammer of the night and the main guest chef in this 5x5 course was an out of town special guest, Alex Stratta who is the head chef of his namesake restaurant in Las Vegas called "Alex". The much acclaimed chef garnered the impressive Mobil Five Diamonds rating for his restaurant Alex and have won acclaims for Best Chef in Southwest from the James Beard Foundation.

Chef Stratta presented his dish of Roasted Duck "Apicius". The aforementioned word of Apicius was often attributed to classic European fusion cooking that dated all the way back to the Roman times. It was often suggested that Roman Emperor Marcus Apicius were credited for the collection of Greek recipes that would attributed to the fabulous feast that was hosted by the Roman foodie Emperor. Over the centuries, many of the classic cooking and recipes from the Apicius era were the influences of many different types of European fine cuisines.

The roasted duck on that night had some interesting spices and celery roots that gave an arousing aroma that heightened the intricate taste of this well rested roast duck. It was cut at the right time as it was able to maintain the juiciness without drying out the texture of the meat. The sauce with a hint of a few sweet ingredients in the sauce that can offer enhancement in the flavor profile while adding the richness to the juicy duck.

Excellent way to end the main course of this example of a great fine dining. I think it started it off in a fast and ferocious way, maintain in the middle , and ended in a full sprint. Relating to a sport race, it's a blowout race.

Un Café à Bordeaux - canelé ice cream, coffee parfait and toasted hazelnuts (Adrian Vasquez of Providence)

Inside of canelé ice cream


The deserts was an added treat for us later on after this meal. It was often cited that Adrian Vasquez, pastry chef of Providence serves the best deserts in Los Angeles. For many, deserts is often the closer to a fine meal where it could complete tone of any epic meal. On this was no exceptions.

The canele and ice cream parfait were well composed and these delicious sweet creamy deserts that were badly needed to end the parade of fine savory dishes. The mignardises candies were also very welcome as well.

In retrospect, to find out each of these fine dining establishments and asked them to provide you with one of their better dishes to help showcase their work was a great idea. For $150 that was the price tag, it was worth it. Part of the proceeds of the $150 tab goes to the Southern Chapter of the Special Olympics makes it much more worth while.

Even though this meal happened back in April 28, I have very fond memories of each of those dishes. Thanks to kevinEats for organizing this outing for us as Will & Brian from FoodDigger were able to join us, as well Kung Food Panda and Tangbro 1 from Only Eat What Feeds Your Soul!.

5 x 5 Restaurant participants

Providence (Host, amuse bouche, desert)
5955 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
323) 460-4170

Water Grill
544 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 891-0900

1104 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 395-0881

Grace Restaurant
7360 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036-2501
(323) 934-4400

Angelini Osteria
7313 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036-2534
(323) 297-0070

3131 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 248-3463