Friday, February 27, 2009

The Saga Continues in Search for Perfection (Part II) @ The Bazaar By José Andrés (Los Angeles)

Please check out my 1st installment of the Review for Bazaar for the appetizers and starters.
Then check out the final installment of the Review for Bazaar for desserts.

The evening now progress to the meat and seafood sections of the tapas. The previous review reveal our delights in seeing the inventive molecular gastronomy of an olive being deconstructed and then rebuild in a liquid form. Now we get to see the flavors and taste of the more traditional tapas being presented.

The first one up was the Sauteed Shrimp being beautifully arranged on a transparent iced bowl plate. The plate looked like it was put in a freezer like a cold mug that most bars would do instead of adding ice to the beer. The shrimp is like is in a skewer, but wait there is a catch! That is not exactly a skewer stick, but rather a syringe where you can squirt out the little sauce as you took the bite of the shrimp.

Sautéed shrimp with Garlic Ajillo and Guindilla pepper ($12)

As we were about to settle down, a new lineup of seafood dishes started to fly out of the kitchen that is on our table as if was reminiscence of our experience of ordering a massive round of dim sum dishes.

First up we got the Codfish Fritters and the Norwegian Lobster. Both were very satisfactory with the lobster having cutely presented with a teacup of soup essence to add a little flavor like a sauce (although some of us treated like a soup, while others only want use it like a accompany sauce). Both were fried with light batters that is not to be too heavy. Just light enough for the great taste in a little bite.

There is also the sea scallops we have that was seared cooked very well. The sweet tomato-almond sauce that accompanied the scallops was amazing. It only enhanced the scallop that was excellent if it were served by its lonesome self.

"Buñuelos" codfish fritters with honey alioli ($8)

Norwegian Lobster with Seaweed and Soup Essence ($16)

Sea scallops with "Romesco" Tomato-Almond Sweet Pepper sauce ($12)

Our servers were excellent and very knowledgeable at the dishes that we have ordered. All of them took their time painstakingly explaining each of our dishes. Our server was also very entertaining lady as she enchanted us with her story of her first paella.

As she presented our dish of Rossejat de Fideos where she proceed to mixed it up and divided equally among all of the little plates. If you looked at the picture, I don't blamed you for thinking this looked like a fried noodles at a Chinese restaurant with a shrimp on it. In fact it almost feel and taste like a Chinese vermicelli noodle that I get sometime for only $3. The texture of the noodle was a little rough. It was the only dish we didn't really find anything awe or feel satisfied.

'Rossejat' de fideos - Paella-style pasta with shrimp, cooked in seafood broth ($12)

Out of the darkness came the best dish of the night out of nowhere. It was the Lobster Medallion. I think I was a hog with my dining mates as I took one bite of this beautifully season lobster with a touch of foam (it disappeared by the time I took the photo), immediately I want to take another piece. It was the most delicious thing out of all the seafood dishes that we have ordered. The potatoes that sit beneath the lobster was not bad, but you got to order the Lobster Medallions when you can.

Galician Lobster Medallions with Olive Oil crushed potatoes and paprika ($15)

We took a moment when all of the seafood dishes were cleared from our table after we were finished. Finally there was a lull as we waited for the carnes dishes to come out. As we took a few photos, a manager stopped by. He looked like the maitre'd that we have seen in Hell's Kitchen with smooth European accent. This gentlemen convey to us that it was the chef's wishes that no photos on the food, but we can take a picture of anywhere in the restaurant.

What does it all mean? No Photos policy back in effect? The ambiguity was hard to understand at first. Based on the carefully worded sentiment given by the gentlemen, it looked like it's only the chef's wishes (José Andrés) that no photos were to be taken of the food. He can't really enforced the rule once he mentioned that we can take photos of the restaurant.

Simply this, if I decided to take photos of the table and the servers presented the dishes on the table, the food is going to be get in the way of our photos. It really didn't make any sense unless it's a full strict rule on "No cameras". By the way, I doubt any of the servers or staff would be inclined to play the hall monitors in checking for cameras. In fact, I showed one of the pastry chef my photos of his works and many of the servers also had positioned the dishes at such of way that they know the pictures will be taken. Yes, the servers might be working up for the gratuity fee, but they also don't want the performances to be based on the misunderstanding of a weird policy.

No clear policy at this point until they can put a strict "no camera" rules like some places with cell phones.

Finally, our meat dishes have come out of the kitchen. At first we were a bit befuddled when we saw a cream like substances over what it looked like a chocolate. Did the desserts comes early? No, it was the lamb loin hiding in the potato puree. The lamb was delicious as well, so we are on a high note at this point. The potato was strained to a nice looking creamy potato sauce, which is a much better way serving it than having a gravy.

Lamb loin with foraged mushrooms and potato puree ($14)

My two final dishes for the main course tapas were the beef hanger steak and the Butifarra pork sausage. The hanger steak cooked on the rare side with demonstration of the beautiful juice and redness on the meat makes it very mouthwatering for me when I first saw it. Along with the lobster medallion, this was one of the highlight dish of the night for me. Just well executed.

The pork sausage was delicious as well, but the beans was a little salty for my taste. I think it would have worked well if that dish had either used a different bean or just a little less salt on the beans.

Beef hanger steak with piquillo pepper confit ($10)

"Butifarra" pork sausage with white beans and ceps Senator Moynihan ($9)

So far, so good. With our main savory courses done, now it's on to the sweets.

I hate to play the game like the hostess at Osteria La Buca who teased you by promising you it will take 15 minutes for your table, but in actuality it will take a hour. I will finish the desserts and the Patisserie room later on when I finish uploading the rest of the photos.

In the mean time, do check out my 1st installment of the Review for Bazaar as well.
Then check out the final installment of the Review for Bazaar for desserts.

The Bazaar by José Andrés
465 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 246-5567

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Search for Perfection (Part I) @ The Bazaar By José Andrés (Los Angeles)

Please check out my 2nd installment of the Review for Bazaar for the seafood and carnes tapas.
Then check out the final installment of the Review for Bazaar for desserts.

Perfection is hard to come by. There was a high buzz in the foodie world when news hits on the street in that the Los Angeles Times Restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila decided to bestow upon a rare high mark of four stars to one of most anticipated restaurant of last year headed by uber Celeb chef, José Andrés. Given that the last time happened four years ago was for an out-of-towners (Joel Robauchon in Vegas), it was exciting to hear that LA had finally hit the mark.

The big question...did it hit the perfection mark with me?

Ms. Virbila and I are almost always at the end of opposite spectrum when it comes to dining. In a random online survey, she admits that her favorite Chinese restaurant in LA was Chinois from Wolfgang Puck (??!), but also quickly added Lake Spring from Monterey Park. I don't know, those answers didn't sit well with me for a "restaurant critic". It's very rare that we would be going to the same restaurant and put out the same review for the place in the same time period. So it's always interesting because neither one of us like to be the first to review as we both rather let the restaurant get its sea legs going before we start analyzing and deconstruct the food, service, and decor of the place. It'll be fun to see the matchmaking in progress as the comparison will be fair when it happened simultaneously.

View of the kitchen and front room

One of my dining companions actually printed out her review and wanted to try everything she had ordered. Hey, why not? Head to head comparison with the same exact replicas of some of the stuffs that she had. If it's a perfection for her, it gotta be perfection for us, right?

Rustic Bread with Tomato and Olive Oil ($6 with Jamón platter)

Salty wrinkled potatoes with “mojo verde” ($8)

One of the first item she listed was a foie gras cotton candy. This is like a miniature cotton candy with the foie gras serving as the heart of the lollipop being wrapped around with the sweets. At first I thought it was a foam, but as we all take one quick bite, it definitely hit you up on the sugar high with the cotton candy and put the savor taste in with the foie gras.

Foie Gras Cotton Candy ($5 each)

On this night, majority of us decided to come here because of the DineLA Restaurant week because we want to take advantage of their specials where this beautiful and very imaginative restaurant (designed by Philippe Starck) will be offering a starter, three tapas, and a dessert for $44 per person. There was a limitation as we can select from the Rojo (Traditional Tapas) Menu and from the Blanca (Contemporary) Menu with minor exclusions.

The Appetizers consist of two options of where you get to choose from Hilly Cheesesteak or Philly Cheesesteak. Remembered Pizza Hut's cheesebread pizza? Similar idea for their cheesesteak with the cheese infused inside of the bread. Once you bite into the bread, smoldering cheese will ooze out. The Philly option comes with Kobe beef and Hilly is the vegetarian option with mushroom on top of the bread.

Philly Cheesesteak ($7 each)

Hilly Cheesteak ($7 each)

Before we started it off, one of us ordered a Jamón platter which consist of three selections of all three different hams that is offered on the menu (Jamón Serrano, Jamón Ibérico de bellota, Jamón Ibérico) with a tomato bread on the side. Two of them are dry cured ham from regions of Spain with exquisite taste, while Jamón Ibérico de bellota was a hand-sliced, acorn-fed ham. I can't really decide which ones I liked the best, but I do prefer any of the dry cured hams.

Jamón platter (three different ham) - $32

Tomato Bread that accompanied the Jamón platter

We started it off with a few of the greens before we get bombastic with the meatier tapas. The Verdusas (Vegetables) portion of the menu flies out fast and furious. I was trying my best to keep up with the picture taking (more on that "No Photo" policy later).

These dishes were beautifully presented. I just love the fact that our servers were very caring in explaining what each of these dishes were. Some of these dishes are so fantastically out there, it was no way guessing what they were. The salad both have molecular gastronomy written all over it as the foam and liquid gels written all over it. You have to see how each of these Verdusas dishes are beautifully presented with a lot of imagination. Oh, here's a catch: make sure to let your server bring out the "big spoon" as it is needed to scoop the beautiful crafted liquidized gels. It will break if you try to prick it with a fork.

Peppers, zucchini, onions, eggplant, tomatoes and squash blossoms with egg ($7)

World’s best stuffed green olives with piquillo and anchovies ($6)

"Ensaladilla Rusa" potato, tuna and mayo salad ($7)

Speaking of imaginations, these next two dishes would have just blew me away. First one up was the most anticipated of the night and the one dish that typifies molecular gastronomy. The Olives Ferran Adria was a liquid olive presented in a porcelain spoon. You can see from the photo, the olive is broken down to liquid form and capsulized in an egg shape from. Once you put this in your mouth, it will defy any logic of how you would think an olive are suppose to taste. There is no words that can describe the feeling of having the liquid burst right in your tastebuds. Especially from Olives!

Olives Ferran Adria - Liquid Olives ($8 per order)

The Watermelon Tomato Skewers was supposed to be the straight forward item. Looking at it, they have what they called Pedro Ximénez reduction and cherry tomatoes on top of the watermelon and five "sexy seeds". Sweet, a little bit on tart side, and a very refreshing bite.

Watermelon Tomato Skewers with five seeds ($14)

This was a great start for the evening. My next write up (yes, there will be sequels) will include the Carnes and desserts. Oh, you will get to see some of the the beautiful decor of the place. There is even a Patisserie section of the room that was avidly described by Ms. V as the "Tea Room in Alice in Wonderland". You don't want to miss that.

Just like an amuse bouche, this is just a bite to tie you over until the main course comes out. I will have to upload the rest of the photos later on. Stay tune to find out if this place matches the perfection.

Please check out my 2nd installment of the Review for Bazaar for the seafood and carnes tapas.
Then check out the final installment of the Review for Bazaar for desserts.

The Bazaar by José Andrés
465 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 246-5567

The Bazaar By Jose Andres on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Re-Engergzing DTLA Dining Options @ Nickel Diner (Downtown)

Downtown Los Angeles has seen its better days in the glorious 50's and 60's where Alfred Hitchcock was so in love with the beauty of the city, he insisted that some of the scenic shots and interior filming be done right here in the middle of downtown LA. Remembered Biltmore Hotel in the movie "Vertigo"? I am just wondering whatever happened to the good old days?

Downtown has seen its worst after the glorious golden days. When I was younger passing Little Tokyo, my parents would never stopped here because it was just too ghetto and very dangerous. Skid Row wasn't just one street, it was all over majority of the city.

With downtown seeing some revitalization, there are plenty of reasons for new hope as trendy bars and lounges begin to open up and mixing in with some of the old landmark joints we have come to associate with the heart of Los Angeles. One of the very new place that opened up last year was Nickel Diner. It was very ambitious as it wanted to open up a diner to not only become the sensation in all of LA, but more importantly to serve the locals that lived in this part of downtown.

The great thing about this place opening up in an areas otherwise would have been used by skid row residents, was that it gave downtown another positive establishment for people to dine in. It attracts the hipsters that frequent the financial and art district, who all love coming down here for their unique awesome baked goodies and a twist to the good old American cuisine.

The two female co-owners have decided to opened up this restaurant with menu that represents old fashioned American home cooked meal with eggs being the center piece of most major dishes on the menu . If you check out their website with the menu posted, you will see that the co-owners have playfully named some of their dishes after some street lingos or terminology. It's very subtle, but you'll to look for it deeply on the menu.

There is something about this place that brings high energy and unseen spirits that feeds into you where you can feel it. I looked up the walls and ceilings with some old painted murals from a previous restaurant that existed before Nickel Diner. It's bustling and always on the go. Every moment is not wasted on the staff that worked here. Funny thing, my waitress and hostess was one of the co-owners. In fact, both of them was on hand working on a Saturday afternoon busy to ensure everything is going smoothly.

Some of the old vintage signs above the kitchen that existed from the previous restaurant

After I pursued the menu a while further, I decided to get one of the their egg scrambles with salmon, leeks, roasted tomatoes, sour cream, and chives mixed in. The plate was accompanied by potatoes and wheat toast with their homemade jam. I didn't exactly know how runny the egg would be, but it wasn't overcooked and left it just right. The flavors to the salmon didn't leave any fishy smell to the egg and worked very well with the roasted tomatoes that was among the egg scramble.

Egg Scramble with Salmon, Leeks, Roasted Tomatoes, Chives and Sour Cream ($9.75)

One of the big startling surprised I have learned before coming here was that the pastry chef that was hired had previously worked under Thomas Keller. So I was a bit excited to see some of the amazing baked pastries that would be offering here. The co-owner that was serving our tables had made its round of showing some of the wonderful that are on display for today. I saw a chocolate cover ding dong with lemon margarine with a 5 cent icings that caught my eye.

Baked Goods on the Tray for display

Of course I just have to take one home with me. Too bad it didn't have the 5 cent icing on top of that chocolate ding dong.

Chocolate Ding Dong with Lemon Margarine ($2.75)

One of the most popular ordered item in Nickel Diner was their famous Bacon covered Donut. It had all the nice little bacon bits chopped up and place all over the glazed donut you see below. Whether or not it's a artery stuffer, you just have to live a little to fully enjoy this yummy treat.

I can't wait to come back here and try out more of their bacon donuts and other pastries items. The breakfast was worth trekking for at brunch. They do also served salad and sandwiches for lunch. I have a good feeling their breakfast items and baked goodies are the hit of this establishment.

Even though I later figured out the co-owners were my hostess and waitress, I was treated to excellent service and they were on the constant move to make sure everyone not only enjoyed their meal, but the experience as well. Sometimes that the dining experience get lost even if the food was good. I'm glad they were able to balance it equally when I was down there. Definitely want to try out their lunch menu items when I'm there on the next go.

Bacon Covered Donut ($2.25)

Before I left, I looked up the upper wall above the front door. There was a poem that was left for the restaurant before the remodeling. The co-owners decided to leave it and serve it as a great reminder.

The Poem above the front door

This place has all the charms that kept its remembrance from yesteryear. The diner is slowly trying to change its perception of downtown can have one of its own place serve great food. It may not happened overnight, but its getting there as their customers are continue to stop by for either breakfast or brunch. The diner will eventually open for dinner, but for now it will closed 3pm daily until dinner service begins.

Oh, by the way. Why is this place called Nickel Diner even though nothing cost 5 cents in this establishment? Apparently it's a nickname for the place because it's around the corner from 5th Street. Get it? "Nickel" diner!

Nickel Diner
524 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 623-8301


Nickel Diner on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Rebuttal to the Debate @ Philippe The Original (Chinatown)

Does it really matter who is the first or in this case, who came up with the original? Remembered when I did the review for Cole's? There is two sides to the story on which franchise came up with the first ever French Dip. The debate never ceased with the grand reopening of Cole's as they asserted the claim of "The Inventor of French Dip".

Well, for 100th anniversary last year for Philippe, they decided to add "The Original" claim for the French Dip Proclamation. Nice touch isn't it?

It's now called Philippe "The Original"

To examine both side of the back story, please check out my review for Cole's and decide for yourself.

When I decided to visit this place on a weekend afternoon, I was astound in the most utmost amazement that the place was jam packed at 3:30pm. The lines forming to the counter was bottlenecked that the 5 freeway from OC to downtown LA would paled in comparison. At first I was just intimidated by the lines and the amount of people waiting to order their food. The high counter seats in those aisles are serve as line dividers as people are unwilling to seat where the crowds are at. This was an absolute waste of tables and stool chairs where it can be utilized.

Sea of crowd of people waiting in line to order food

Once you get to the front counter, you'll realized how stupidly some people jammed the front where the people in the middle cannot get out with their tray of food. First off, it's bad if you didn't know you can lined up in the middle aisles as the line stretch out the door because some people formed a long anaconda line for the outside lines. Then when you realized you can lined in the middle, you can't get out with your tray of food after it was ready. People are just blocking every amount of space. Very poor organization in handling the crowd and under-utilizing the dining area in the main room.

The lines leading to the ordering counter. How are you going to get out?

After the ordeal, if you make it out alive, you can go to any part of two floors with various dining room and sit down to enjoy your meal. There are some big difference I noticed immediately between the two franchise, one which was the price. It's only $5.55 for either beef, ham, pork, and turkey (with the lamb being the most expensive at $6.75). In some ways, this place is rooted where the common folks can get a sandwich for somewhat of an affordable price and the drinks were reasonably cheap at 75 cents for lemonade and 65 cents for iced tea.

Ham Sandwich ($5.55), Pepsi - preferred drink world wide ($1.25), lemonade ($0.75)

They do also serve both white and red wines in their menu for people in the refined taste. Bottled beer of various choices are also available.

Here's comes the major difference between Philippe and Cole's. While at Cole's, they put Au Jus Sauce on the side. The Au Jus sauce are usually juices leftover from meat after it was cooked. The juices are often used to enhanced the flavor of the meat. In this case, the sandwiches are being dipped into sauce bowl or cup to soften the bread at the same time.

They both used French roll bread with not much of a big difference in variations on the meat or the flavor of the au jus sauce. In Philippe's undertaking of having this French Dip sandwich, they pre-dipped the inner flat side of the bread. They often stated the customers don't like to tip the top layer bread and wanted to treat this as a sub sandwich rather than a tosquitos, while Cole's can be looked upon as such.

The Au Jus Sauce is pre-dipped underneath the inner flat side of the breads

With a Swiss cheese in that ham sandwich, I thought the bread was going to be hard, but luckily it was soft and not crunchy at all. Here's a fair warning I must give. Philippe has a house made hot mustard that they passed out in their establishment. For me, it tasted like horse radish and was a counter balance taste to any dry or salty taste. That thing was smoking hot and I'd almost couldn't handled that.

Ham sandwich with "Hot Mustard" (tasted like horse radish)

To the rebuttal for a claim of the inventor of French Dip Sandwich in LA, there is not really much of a proof for either side on who is the first. I think both in actuality should worked on being on the best.

For Cole's, I like the bar/saloon type atmosphere and their excellent choices of cocktail. The Au Jus sauce that is put on the side was an excellent gesture because it let you decide on how much you sauce you want your sandwich to be dipped in. I also liked the selection of goat cheese in their selection.

For Philippe, the long lines of crowd suggested that they have something special. Reasonable price given for their sandwiches with down to earth service. Cash only in this place bums me out, but it was cheap enough for me not to care. Great selections of wines and bottled beer on hand for common folks to pair it with the sandwich.

In the end, which French Dip Sandwich reign supreme? Neither.

Stay tuned for the review of the place that has my favorite French Dip Sandwich in LA.

Philippe The Original
1001 N. Alameda St.
Los Angeles CA, 90012
(213) 628-3781


Philippe the Original on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

FoodDigger Event @ Giang Nan (Monterey Park)

Late last year, I was doing something on the web, maybe was searching for something related to my food craze. By accident, I stumbled upon this website called FoodDigger which was a website that was unique and have interesting collections of reviewers voluntarily giving their takes on the dining experiences all across the country. I noticed a few of the bloggers that I have followed have also submitted reviews on this site. It then got me curious and compelled to "dig" a little further. No puns intended.

The concept of FoodDigger for which users would provide contents in a communal bowl like manner are similar to popular sites like BooRah and Yelp. Some major and subtle differences separate this site from others that came before them. For example, the final score for the restaurants have garnish average ratings from ambiance, service, taste, and the overall impressions where it would spell out the grand score for this restaurant. Just like Zagat, this site are not intending to go after the fast food chains or even mundane take-out places. The goal of their site is to provide valuable sources and insights from major foodies and even gourmets.

Seriously, which types of restaurant diners can provide these types of excellent caveats of info?

The wines that are going to be uncorked for that evening (two more bottles were later opened also)

Of course, it's the foodies that are willing go out and try out various different places are more likely to participate in submitting these reviews. Hence, I automatically felt like I belong in FoodDigger. I review restaurants, talk about my dining experiences, have some useful tips on which dishes to order, give a fair overview of all these places, and more importantly I have no problem sticking my neck out on giving a score (since I already do so on my blog).

If your reviews have provided useful or cool tips to the readers of FoodDigger, they can reciprocate by giving you a vote of confidence for your review by placing a "Trusted Vote" for the cuisine of your reviews that have shown the most knowledgeable insight. It's a more trusted way than having a beautiful face to gather up undeserved votes. (Trust me, the photo is not big enough to influence your votes or you know the broad with a bikini top will be the most trusted sushi expert)

After participating on FoodDigger for over a month, I got an invite out of the blue for a wine pairing in a sushi joint. (Never knew they had hosted events until someone from the site invited me to an event. A very nice suprise!) Unfortunately, I couldn't make to that sushi event and was a little bummed about the time schedule not being able to fit for that. Luckily, the next go around was a much better fit and I was ready to go.

This lucky go around had taken place at a Shanghai restaurant called Giang Nan in the city of Monterey Park, east of downtown LA. That night I was introduced to the founders, community manager, and content developer of this upstart site. I have so many questions and suggestions for the site in that I was too giddy sharing it with Marshall, one of the co-founder.

I also get to meet some of my fellow bloggers whom some of them I was dying to meet. Joining in on our round table of feast was the mind and soul behind the sites and blogs of Food GPS, Foodie Traveler, kevinEats, LA and OC Foodventures, Only Eat What Feed Your Soul, and Teenage Glutster.

As everyone has finally arrived to the shindig, let the good times roll.

The following is what we were served. If you missed the dinner, tough luck for you. The notes were graciously shared by kevinEats as I did not jot any notes down because....well..I was busy talking and eating while good ol' Kevin dutifully recorded all the happenings. I get to slack off for the night. Yay!

Smoke Fish

First up on the lazy Susy was the smoke fish and Marinated Jelly Pork Zheng Jiang Style. We paired these two up with a glass of sparkling white wine provided by kevinEats (N.V. Segura Viudas Cava Brut Reserva Heredad (Spain, Catalunya, Cava) and a bottle opened from (2006 Don Olegario Albariño Rías Baixas (Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas).

Marinated Jelly Pork Zheng Jiang Style

Yes, you guessed it. We are pairing Spanish wines with our Shanghai dishes. These two white wines goes well with the savory dishes that started our course. The pork dipped in the ginger sauce worked really well after you took a few sip of the wine.

Jade Celery

A couple of Veggie dishes had made its way to our table were the jade celery and the sliced bean curd sheets with vegetable. These two dishes were paired up with pinot noir of (2002 Michel Lafarge Volnay Vendanges Sélectionnées (France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Volnay) and (1995 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Único (Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero).

Bean Curd Sheets with Vegetables

If you put a gun in my head, I'll be straight up honest about it. I don't know much about red wines as I'm a total wine novice. Pairing these two different style of red wines with veggie was very intense. The Bodega Vega has this Sherry-type flavors that is very smooth and easy to chuck down. If I wasn't too careful, I can drank that quickly and often. The celery just like the red wines was light, while the bean curds and veggie were small items taking its time while waiting for the main courses to arrive.

Seaweed Fried Yellow Fish

My favorite dish of the night was the deep Seaweed Fried Yellowfish. It got sent out concurrently with the Tea Smoke Shrimp and the West Lake Fish with Vinegar Sauce. Of course, we busted it out a different white wine to go along with the dishes (1996 R. López de Heredia Rioja Crianza Viña Gravonia (Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja) and also a red wine (N.V. Emilio Lustau Manzanilla de Sanlúcar de Barrameda Lustau Solera Reserva Manzanilla Papirusa (Spain, Andalucía, Manzanilla de Sanlúcar de Barrameda).

Tea Smoke Shrimp

Coming from a novice, the white wine was an interesting choice because it is very light, but the sherry red wine of N.V. does compliment all of the dishes very well. The Deep fried seaweed yellow fish was probably the most popular item for me because its salty texture that I know I will appreciated with either wine. The shrimp was not battered or seasoned with unnecessary ingredient that was perfect as it is and the fish with vinegar sauce was quite nice when you paired it with the Sherry red wine.

West Lake Fish with Vinegar Sauce

The next four items that was presented were the Stir Fried Vegetables with Bamboo Shoots, Shanghai Spare Ribs, the Squash with Crab, and Shanghai Stir-Fry of Shredded Pork, Celery and Squid. Each of these four dishes enjoyed a duet with a red wine of (1999 R. López de Heredia Rioja Viña Bosconia (Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja). Out of the four, I probably enjoyed the stir fried veggie with bamboo shoots. These four are the set up for two upcoming meatier dishes.

Stir Fried Vegetable with Bamboo Shoots

Shanghai Spare Ribs

Squash with Crabs

Shanghai Stir-Fry of Shredded Pork, Celery and Squid

The two most anticipated dishes of the night were the Meatball with Duck Egg Yolk and the Braised Pork Knuckle (affectionately called the "Pump"). I did enjoyed the meatball and right off the bat, people around me encouraging me to taste test this item with the wine of the night (2001 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Rioja Imperial Reserva (Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja). The imperial was a red wine that I think most people in our table was the most giddy when it was finally popped opened.

Meatball with Duck Egg Yolk

The Anticipation of this pairing was inevitable, but it was not the show stopper of the night. That would belong to House Special De-Greased and Braised Pork Knuckle. Some of us were saving up the Imperial, which my dining companions are all raving about the depth of flavor and its texture of this red wine. The complexity did get to me on the meatball, but I actually enjoy it on the The Pump. With its fatty skin and slow cook meat, the wine did worked its magic .

House Special De-Greased and Braised Pork Knuckle

As we continued the talk of which of the dish worked well with the Imperial, we decided to order two more dishes and a dessert. Yeah, I thought we were full, but we are just "fooddigging" at this point. Some people can really eat.

Xiao Long Bao (Juicy Pork Soup Dumplings)

I always have room for Xiao Long Bao (Juicy Soup Pork dumplings) as I'm a hound for that. I do have to point out that the XLB lacks the soupiness compared to other places. It's still not bad, but didn't quite whelmed me.

Shanghai Rice Cake with Shredded Pork and Vegetable

Our final main dish of the night was Shanghai Rice cake with Shredded Pork and Vegetable. After the highlight of some of the dishes, I thought we were going to be on operational shut down with the low lights, but circumstances can proved me wrong as I thoroughly enjoyed the Shanghai Rice cake. So delicious in fact, we commensurate with the last wine of the night (Bodega R. de Ayala Lete e Hijos Rioja Vina Santurnia Gran Reserva (Spain, La Rioja, Rioja). Not bad of a red wine to end the meal.

Now it's time for the dessert, which we ended the entire evening with Sesame Mochi Balls in Soup. Just like the dessert, it was bittersweet to end the night as we all have bonded and shared many of our foodie adventures. The event connected all of us to share this unique opportunity to share insights with the officers of this website and bond with fellow bloggers.

Sesame Mochi Balls in Soup

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Fine wine. Big Feast. Great Company. Unique wine pairing experiences that is out of this world. Who knew Spanish wines goes well with Shanghai food?

Thanks to everyone at FoodDigger for setting up this dinner and for the wonderful evening!

Giang Nan
306 N Garfield Avenue South
Monterey Park, CA 91755
(626) 573-3421

Grade: No Grade (Dinner provided by FoodDigger)

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