Monday, June 21, 2010

Pondering Thoughts: Where Have I Been?

In Front of XIV Restaurant

Pondering thoughts, part deux...what have I been doing lately?

That seemed to be the questions most people have been asking lately and I had been mindful that a few people didn't realized I been around. Maybe the quantity of posts had been dropping precariously that had made people to think I had disappeared.

Fear not, that is not the case and I am prepare to share my latest activities lately.

To my surprise, a personal favorite dining meal in the recent months was in Michael Mina's XIV Restaurant at West Hollywood. One of my favorite dining partner, The Minty let us in on a tasting menu deal that XIV was promoting last month. A six course (including amuse bouche and dessert) that was moderately set at $40 with a chance to get a bit of a taste of each of the popular main course that appears on the menu. An agreement with almost everyone in our table, our Tai Snapper course was probably our favorite dish of the night.

I have to give credit in applauding how magnificent was the decor at this place. Some of our seats felt like a lounge couch in a trendy Hollywood club with hip trendy atmosphere. Very imaginative in terms of the setup and food gotten yours truly to think the place was obviously catered to a certain clientele during evening service. It's probably worth a repeat closer look for me in the future to further try out other main courses on the menu.

You can read The Minty's thought about that night in her post.


Earlier this month, one of my favorite bloggers, The Ravenous Couple had a get together for their Elegant Summer Party. Set up at a private residence up over the northern inland corridor, a group of All Star Bloggers descended to be feted with some of the beautiful creations the Ravenous Couple would be presenting that day. Nice warm early weekend afternoon with a homemade lemonade, we were treated to some of the southern Asian creations with a delicate twist in their interpretation of the popular Asian modern comfort food prepared by the Ravenous Couple. That was more than enough, but we were even further treated with desserts made by The Food Addicts and Triple Scoop Desserts.

If you ever checked out their site, you will understand why I am excited to see their recipes being brought alive for my tummy to get a full tasting. Not only was I not disappointed, but I actually bummed that I didn't take up the offer of bringing some leftovers home. Next time, I won't be turning that offer down.

For the record, I sucked for not bringing my camera to this event. I wished I had taken some photos, but please check out the Ravenous Couple's site and have the wonders of their creations tempted your eyes and appetite. You will be envy of me getting the taste of some of those dishes that appeared on their site.


My other memorable meal was at Jitlada hosted by The Gastronomer who wanted the input of the owner on what some of the dishes she would recommend for us on that fateful Spring evening. Jitalada had been one of my go-to place for some spicy Southern Thai fare and was a great occasion to have big menu of various delicious dishes suggested by Jazz, our lovely host and owner of the establishment.

The dishes being served here have never really let me down and always have the suggested fear of lashing on the tongue for the unknown consequences we might suffered if we didn't know ahead of time on the spicy meter level. It was always a great time hanging out with The Gastronomer and Astronomer in this feast.

Take a look what we have that night at Gastronomer's post.

There you have it! A glimpse of what I have tasted in the last few months. There are many more to come and more surprises I might have in store for you readers. You have just have to stay tune to find out....

Monday, May 31, 2010

Best Kept Secret Place in South Bay @ Otafuku (Gardena)

The decoy front door (the entrance is in the back door)

One of the my pal Frederick told me a story about one day he needed to entertain an out of town guest for a taste of food that would reminds the guest back home from Japan. Frederick at first was going to suggest and take his guest to a few spot popular in Gardena and Torrance, but the guest would rather come to this non-descript place because a popular Japanese tour guide recommended this little hole in the wall as the place to visit. Needless to say, my pal was hooked and I have since was introduced to this place based on a recommendation from a tour book.

The real entrance to the restaurant (next to the back parking lot)

In order to enter this noodle shop/Izakaya place, you have to enter from the back parking lot as front door is serve as a decoy entrance with the door being pad-locked down. I don't know why as maybe it deters people from the street to open the door for a lookie-loo.

One of the few things I learned about this place was that they served a mean soba noodles. My previous review of Ichimian can be a fair side by side comparison on who takes the nod as the top place that serve the best soba. In that review, I did proclaimed Ichimian over Otafuku as the place to go for this chewy flavorable noodle.

However, I do have to point out that this small enchanted place that looked like a cozy Izakaya in a small village does served other items beside the noodle dish that attract a full crowd at any given night. I think the small skewer items on the menu and other tapa like dishes of Izakaya are some of the big reason for the establishment's popularity.

My two favorites were the Japanese Black Berkshire pork cutlet and their handmade cold tofu. Single-handedly, I can eat the pork cutlet dish by itself. Nicely breaded and with the right amount of sauce, the cutlet was one of the better piece I have had. Nice too tough and definitely the breading was handle it correctly without falling apart. The handmade tofu was one of my favorite at this location. It is on par with another my favorite Agdeshi tofu at Izakaya Bincho as being the most refreshing tofu in town.

Handmade Cold Tofu - Radish sprouts, Japanese Basil with Bonito Flakes - $4.50

Japanese Berkshire Black Hog Cutlet - $10

Japanese Style Egg Omlette - $8

Mini Tomato Skewer Rolled with Germ Free Thin Sliced Pork - $3 per Skewer

One of my dining companion's favorite dish of the night was the tomato skewer wrapped by a thin sliced of pork. I can see why he raved about it as it is not a fresh piece of fruit being wrapped about everyone's favorite savory dish....a piece of bacon. In fact, what doesn't go with bacon these days?

Zaru Soba - $8

It's too bad Otafuku didn't have too big of a dessert section other than the traditional ice cream. I think majority of the dishes we had that night was something I would repeatedly order or suggest to others including the soba and the Japanese egg omlette. If the soba was the main attraction as it was often publicized for the place, I would give them kudos for that. If it invloves the Izakaya section, then it's a must go. You shouldn't missed both if you get that chance.

Too bad for me, it took a Japanese tour book from a friend of a friend to get me to come here.

16525 S Western Ave
Gardena, CA 90247
(310) 532-9348

Otafuku Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Engagment Returns @ Ludobites at Royal/T (Culver City)

It's been a long while, but I think it's good to let everyone know someone's back. In the back of my mind, I probably was talking about myself, but alas someone bigger is getting that love. A larger presence who I think a lot of foodies are excited about is making a return engagement.

Yes... Ludo is back!

I'm sure there are skepticism being thrown out there about how food are getting to be the same. Such as why would food prepare by Chef Ludo Lefebvre is something to get excited about? Why the hype? Honestly, I can comprehend the initial waves of doubts that people may have. That is until they get a chance to actually come in and taste the food themselves. Many times often, they eventually would changed that tune and become one of the many converts.

VIP Table in the middle of the room!

To be quite honest, I needed to be initiated into this discovery by my good friend Gastronomnom who set up the first visit in the previous LudoBites visit at BreadBar. To get people acquainted about what LudoBites is and who Chef Ludo is, you probably will need to get some first hand knowledge before the obsessions and raves start kicking in.

For the shorter tale, it basically boiled down to be about one of the more creative chef in this fine city of Los Angeles who can create some of the traditional French fare and reinvented into one of his creative interpretation. One of the big kudo dish from my many visit at the BreadBar restaurant was a simple sandwich that not many people out there can replicate or captivate our taste buds.

Confit Pork Belly, Pickled Mustard, Vadouvan Apple, Frisee - $12

The dish was the Foie Gras Black Croque that have various ingredients that probably could have been done, but somehow no one other than Chef Ludo Lefebvre was able to perfect. The Foie Gras Black Croque seemed simple to make, but yet have all the intricacy of flavors all meshed into one component. In fact, many of his dishes in the menu which he boldly experimented have not only was successful in terms of taste, but also have people wanting to be amaze with anticipation of something new. I think that may be the reason why so many followers and believers in Chef Ludo have to come to expect.

Since then, I became one of the converts and started raving about that dish which was one of the many reasons I went back in three visits in the span of less than three weeks. Pretty amazing, ain't it?

Bread Soup, Poached Egg, Gruyere Marshmallow - $9

Chef Ludo have serve his creations in a modified restaurant which he set it up part time on what now the term is being called "pop-up" restaurants. This is where his restaurant would be temporary be stationed in a reserved location for a limited time, during which only dinner service are being served with his wonderful plates of different fusions he carefully crafted with many flavors blended into one plate of exquisite fine cuisine.

His 3.0 (Third limited engagement) of "LudoBites" was stationed at a cafe called Royal/T in Culver City.
Again, our fellow LudoBites fanatic Gastronomnom invited me again in another LudoBites outing with a few of the new Bloggers at the time, FoodForFel from the Food Ledger, The Minty, and Chef Austin from I'm Living to Eat. I spotted a few of fellow blogger friends as well who took in the big festivity that night such as Street Gourmet LA, Yutjangsah, E*Star LA, Sam, and Diana Takes a Bite.

What we experienced that night was extraordinary in that if you were not there, you really missed out. Those are the kind of moments you can wished you were there if you heard about it. For starters, the big draw that night was a marinated hanger steak served with a mole sauce. The weird arrangement would probably not go well if you heard it first hand, but after trying it and you'll be shocked to learn Chef Ludo was able to find a way to incorporate that mole sauce from a special Mexican recipe with special assistance from a very famous LA blogger, Teenage Glutster.

Mole sauce done the right way would have this sweet taste that goes well with savory items. For the life in me, I just never really thought it would go well with a piece of beef until I try it. Not only it made a believer out of me, but I was impressed at the numbers of tries that Chef Ludo experimented to make it work in his dishes.

There are other dishes that night that gained notoriety that night I should have revisited before the engagement of LudoBites 3.0 ended. Dishes such as a Foie Gras Beignet, Veal Udon with sesame seed miso and mushroom, or the Monterrey Squid with kimchee puree and a sheet of eggplant "paper".

The worst part is....I probably didn't do a good job of taking some of those photos because I was salivating to eat these wonderful creations. Then there is the funny part which was that LudoBites had set up a lighting tent was set up for anyone who wanted to take photos of their food at the corner of the restaurant. My only worries was that the food would get cold if I wanted to take photos of the food. Luckily, I was more interested in eating that night than taking photos. It doesn't happened often, but at those moments at that evening was one of those time.

Veal Udon, Kombu Dashi, Mushroom & Sesame Seed Miso - $13

Pistachio Rice Milk, Lemon Pound Cake on the side, Coffee Chantilly - $10

Obviously, the massive anticipation for the return for the 4th installment of this franchise is on full blast. In fact, I am sadly need to inform people that is sold out or fully booked in reservation until the last few weeks (those dates are blacked out from reservation). I'm already hearing the Ludo Fried Chicken (affectionately known as LFC by the fans) was making rounds in some special appearances before hand. Now I am ready for some new creative dishes that can be served out at a downtown LA location.

My visit to Ludobites 3.0 at Royal/T was a night I can't forget. Dishes that pretty much blow my mind. One of the very times where I probably was more interested in eating than taking photos of beautiful food. It doesn't happened often, but I can tell you that food are meant to be eaten and I was more than happy to reciprocate that thought. You can tell that the exciting new dishes that is in store for the LudoBites 4.0 will be greatly anticipated by yours truly.

Please do give a shout out to Ludo's wife, Krissy as she was more than happy to accommodate everyone that night and was willing to assist in making a memorable night for all diners. In fact, here's a Christmas photo we took courtesy of Krissy's help. Thanks again Krissy for the VIP table!!

LudoBites 3.0 at Royal/T Cafe
8910 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Ludo Bites at Royal/T on Urbanspoon

post note: Here is the info in case you want to make a reservation at LudoBites 4.0. Keep in mind, people do flake or cancel their reservation at the last moment. You can always be squeezed in when things happened. Please make the reservation online. I don't think you can call in to Gram & Papas to make reservation, so please try the online reservation or leave an email for stand-by.
Reservation can be online for dates from April 8 to May 28, 2010: click here

LudoBites 4.0 at Gram & Papas
227 East 9th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day Gift or Chinese New Year extravaganza: Return of Pinkberry's Coupon

Here is something that you can give instead of a box of chocolate for Valentine's Day or a Hong Bao (red envelope) for Chinese New Year. Running again this year is another "Buy One, Get One Free" coupon from Pinkberry.

The yogurt shop that rises to the top during the days of Atkins's diet (coincidentally watching Krispy Kreme taking a noise dive at the same time), are offering their loyal customers a freebie with a purchase of the same item.

A little add-on this time around... free toppings on your free yogurt. Any available toppings according to the coupon. Hence, don't be surprised if the yogurt shop mysterious ran out of mochi or something like that. Get them while it last as offer ends Feb. 19.

Bon appetite!

ps. Link to the corporate site, in case people need proof of the existence of the coupon

Monday, January 25, 2010

My New Year's Resolution for 2010

Happy New Year everyone!
Yes, I know. It's been a very long time since the last time I post something in my blog. So I want to get off a good start and forecast ahead on which places I wanted to visit personally. The start of every year always begins with a personal check list of places I wanted to fulfill my dining adventures. Last year, my list contains places I have high hopes and I was able to check off one third of that list.
See for yourself: The list

This year will be something of a bucket list...places I wanted to go before I die:
    1. Dining Room at Langham Hotel (Pasadena)
    2. The Belvedere at Peninsula (Beverly Hills)
    3. Addison in the Grand Mar (San Diego)
    4. Kiyokawa (Beverly Hills)
    5. Mozza Pizzaeria (Los Angeles)
    6. Alex (Las Vegas)
    7. La Barca (Los Angeles)
    8. Little Dom's (Silverlake)
    9. Mr. Pizza Factory (Koreatown)
    10. Rivera (Downtown)
    11. Moto Restaurant (Chicago)
    12. Sona (West Hollywood)
    13. La Cachette (Santa Monica)
    14. Gorbal (Los Angeles)
    15. Porto's Bakery (Downey, CA)
    16. Langer's Delicatessen (Los Angeles)
    17. Cassell's Hamburgers (Koreatown)
    18. Pollo a la Brasa (Los Angeles)
    19. Arturo's Puffy Taco (La Mirada, CA)
    20. Ceviche Del Rey (Downey, CA)
    21. Tito's Market (El Monte)
    22. Heng Yang Chili King (Monterey Park)
    23. Guelaguetza (Los Angeles)
    24. Lazy Ox Canteen (Los Angeles)
    25. The Waterside Inn (Berkshire, UK)

I am keeping this list much more simpler than last year's list. I managed to get 1/3 of the list checked off, but was woefully short. I might be able to get this "must visit" places accomplish than the first go-around.

Wish me luck!