Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Lunch - Yamo

I have a soft spot for cardboard box joints hidden amongst the uber-mod, glistening, nouveau restaurants that are popping up faster than pimples on a pubescent teen. Up and coming chefs seem to be in a feeding frenzy trying to come up with the newest concoction of uni ice cream or shark fin pearls. Whilst these meals result in ooh's and ahh's, but can this be a daily thing? Would this be our deathbed meal?
Didn't think so. 

Yamo would be the antithesis of all the ritz and avante garde dining, the antonym of Gary Danko and its kind. An eight seat bar, with rusty stools and rice cookers as old as my grandmum are the norm here. Patron's face are buried deep in a bowl of steaming aromatic Burmese Chicken Noodle Soup. Oh, did I forget to mention Yamo being a Burmese eatery?

The Tea Leaf Salad is just as good, if not better than Burma SuperStar's.
There is the characteristic crunchy bits in the noodles, rice, soup and salads. One seats himself, orders promptly and slurps the al dente noodles with a few exchanges between Mama Yamo, and finds that less than 15 minutes have gone by before the bill comes. So is the way of Yamo.

Burmese Chicken Noodle Soup

3406 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 553-8911

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ubuntu - Napa

".....a bounty of local biodynamically gardened produce handled with care and skill by talented artisans and chefs providing an unparallel experience connecting our customers to the bounty of the earth."
 - Ubuntu Statement

I've sprouted gossamer wings and care nothing more for this carnal world.

These are my sentiments as I nibble on flora and fauna at Ubuntu in Napa. For a fleeting moment, the thought of transitioning into a vegetarian cross my mind. This says alot coming from someone who is known to be repulsed by greens and especially salads. I could never find enjoyment in filling my bowels with a hodgepodge of cold lettuce and tomatoes doused with yet another astringent dressing. Alas, Ubuntu has changed the face of salad.

the garden snake; leaves, flowers, roots, soil……

Is it a salad? A bouquet? Or a bountiful of mother nature's offering?

curried macadamia nuts

cracked potato, horseradish, crème fraiche, pickled quail eggs

                                                                     farm egg slowly poached, stewd chick peas

That short lived notion of converting to veganism has left me, as the last pellet of chick pea is consumed. And my celestial wings have also disintegrated into nothingness, leaving me with earthly, awkard extremeties. At least there is the consolation of knowing that in our hazy habitat of smog and smoke, there's an alternative to colonic irrigation for purifying and detoxing our polluted bodies.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Swan Oyster Depot - San Francisco

I'm about to wax poetic about the best seafood joint, EVER.

There's a quintessential hashery to every city. Los Angeles has its Langer's, The Oinkster, and for the hip and trendy; Father's Office. As for San Francisco, nothing comes closer to archetypal SF than Swan Oyster Depot. Established in the early 1900's, it started as a horse drawn carriage serving fresh seafood to the masses. It has since grown into a crowded bar of 19 wobbly wooden stools, rust stained walls littered with paraphernalia of all decades. The vintage cash register and cash only policy adds to its rustic charm.

I've lost count of my visits to Swan, but this time it's a bit different. No longer a tourist, but a local, I revel in the exchange between Erik and I -- curious about the different species of mollusks like a toddler in a candy shop. Erik, having been in the family business of shucking oysters for a while, knows his mollusks. But after much probing he divulges, "they look like boogers" and wrinkles his nose as he shucks them at the speed of clipping toe nails. Bivalves aren't the only flying fragments - tunas the size of my thighs are projected through the air like footballs.


Bluepoints are still my favorite, less briny than Miyagis and milder than Kumamotos. I said it once and I'll say it again - these alien-ish creatures are God's answer to unadulterated, primordial, sexy food.

After encountering a near death experience with clams, I adhere strictly to Swan Oyster Depot clams only. Their cherrystones are crisp, sweet and tastes of an unravaged pristine ocean, which we seem to lack nowadays.

Finishing off with their renowned Louie Salad, I think to myself, "Life is good."

Swan Oyster Depot
1517 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 673-1101

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ludobites 5.0

I've held off on this post for a while. Mixed feelings and ambivalence seem to have stunted my judgment on  Ludo's recent endeavor, version 5.0
Yes, I've grown more fond of him as seeing him with quirky expressions and  his  accented English adds to his charm. But Ludo's dishes aren't as "moan-ish" compared to previous versions. No doubt the poached egg with chorizo is nothing short of dreamy and the foi gras cupcake is whimsical.

Poached Egg, Potato Mousseline, Chorizo bits

Foi Gras Cheese Cupcake

Goat Cheese Soup

Grilled Octopus

Matcha Green Tea Almond Cake

Caramel Souffle

Like most things in life, sequels just don't make the cut. The Terminator, Pirates of the Caribbean, started loosing its pizzazz after 2..3...  And Ludo's not to blame, really. He's a one-man team churning out creations with fury. But eventually the engines going to slow and burn out. Although I truly hope the Ludobites saga continues. And here's Ludo praying as well..

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bazaar revisited

The novelty of plummeting down the rabbit-hole is starting to wear off. Bazaar isn't so bizaare anymore. With that said, this won't be an ebullient post where I wax poetic about how my my senses are jacked on José Andrés rendition of Alice in Wonderland. The reason I go now is purely for the enjoyment of observing slack jawed expressions of Bazaar virgins.

A few dishes that I've missed from my past excursions:

The Nitrogen Caprihina that I've been lusting over? It's all for show. Smoke and mirrors. If you like overly spiked slushy, this may be your answer to sitting through the dreaded chickflick on Saturday night.

The Japanese Uni Buns are outrageous! Uni, jalapeno, tempura bits and avocado; fusion at its best.

There's something very raw and primordial about Bazaar's version of a very dirty martini. It's a sexy drink, especially with the spherical cherry you have to dig deep for. And this one pops!

The Watermelon Nigiri tastes as boring as it sounds. Foam belongs on the face for extraction of facial hair, not on food. There you have my sentiments on foam.

I'm torn about the Cotton Candy Foi Gras. How can anyone not find this uber-cute. Although I usually despise anything that reeks of cuteness. But the convenience of popping a bite-sized piece of foi wrapped in pink cotton candy elicits the sucker in me.

Maybe it's the ubiquitous pink or the over-saturated colors that play a key role in the decor. But I think I've had enough of Bazaar for the time being.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

No Mo-chica

There was no questioning the excitement I harbored for Mochica. Peruvian food is high on my list of top 5 ethnic deathbed meals. The drama only heightened as I meandered aimlessly on Grand scouring for a sign that hinted Mochica. To no avail, only the occasional warehouse was spotted, not a single restaurant in the near vicinity. I had to call them up. The location turned out to be a mundane  grey monolith of a warehouse that in no way could resemble an eatery. Unabashed, I entered the premise with high hopes. A mini wtf moment ensued...

A food court? Wait.. not even. It's more like a drug lord's storage center used to covertly stash drugs, but during the day converts into a food stall, a two vendor food stall. The mini wtf snowballed into blownup wtf moment.

No Alcoholic Beverages Allowed.

I drove 45 minutes for a food stall and not even a glass of booze to temper the situation. I was on cloud 9...
Being the perpetual optimist that I am, I stayed. We seated ourselves and proceeded to order from the scanty menu. It wasn't hard. We ordered 4 items which was almost half the entire menu.

The Seabass Ceviche is not your everday ceviche. The Peruvian spice, jumbo corn and yam makes it an ULTIMATE ceviche. My favorite of the night!!

I can't make heads nor tails of this salad, Papa ala Huancaina; roasted potatoes, boiled egg and huancaina sauce. Without sounding like a misanthrope, I'll just say this dish was left untouched.

The Oxtail Risotto; braised oxtail, barley huacaina risotto is meh.

Skip it and go for the Loma Saltado. You'll thank me for this, I assure you.
The beef is tender and spiced just right. The fries are crispy and fresh; no rancid oil noted


With a 50/50 hit and miss ratio, I probably wouldn't recommend anyone driving deep into downtown LA just for this. Although the ceviche is probably one of the best I've encountered, it's still not enough motivation for me. On top of that, my fusion radar is sensing signals from here, albeit weak readings. If the mood for authentic Peruvian hits me, more than likely I'll make the trek to Hollywood and hit up Los Balcones Del Peru.

3655 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90007-4316
(213) 747-2141

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Saam - an introductory course to molecular gastronomy


Bazaar, as conspicuous as the last Pinkberry craze.  But Saam? Maybe less so. Saam's a private dining room behind an obscure door sandwiched between the bathroom and the wetbar. You'll more likely pass by the room thinking it's the janitor's closet, a stylish janitor's closet. The menu of Saam is everything from Bazaar and more. José Andrés, celebrity chef,  is nothing short of a prodigy. His use of molecular gastronomy brings out the the zany and whimsical side of food that has now become the trend of "seeing is not believing". You think you're about to nibble on the olive of a dirty martini, but as your incisors slice through, you realize it's actually olive juice encased in its own shell. Intriguing, isn't it?

There's a reason why I think Spanish food is the new black. Remember the days when escargots and foi gras were THE haute-cuisine. Well, those days are long gone. The Spaniards have taken tapas to a whole new realm. Some examples: Take this Tuna Handroll, no longer a nori wrap but a crispy cone that ensures no soggy seaweed.
                                 Lotus Root Chip - star anise                Tuna Handroll

A tongue in cheek version of a lox and bagel.
Bagel and Lox Steam Bun

This black olive spherication dish is accredited to Ferran Adria, the Big Kahuna of molecular gastronomy, the one who started it all. Apparently, Ferran invented the whole spherication concept but didn't patent it. So now there's a whole slew of chefs jumping on the Mo-Ga bandwagon.

Black Olives - Ferran Adria

                                    Buffalo Wing -blue cheese               Japanese Baby Peach-burrata cheese

A creamy broth of lobster head; take a sip, then a bite from the crispy bread salad. If lobster bisque is up your alley, then this broth will send you into gustatory rapture.               
                                                                      Lobster broth - crispy bread

A common favorite of the night, Iberico ham, imported from Spain and fed with acorns, not me, but the black Iberian pig. This is my first experience with Iberico ham and yet it's more memorable than any virginal experience I've encountered. The animal's pristine diet of acorns gives it a sweet and earthy flavor unlike any cured ham. The meat obliterates into a velvety nothingness the moment it hits your mouth. Oh how I would love to brush my lips against your satin-y folds.

Iberico Ham - caviar

Another virginal experience for me, freshly shaved black truffles. Undoubtedly, an aromatic dish smelling of damp moss and plush forests. Just one vexing question: is truffle suppose to be absent of flavor? Tasting of waxy filaments? Since I'm not a maven of these earthly treasures, I've always assumed truffles to taste as poignant as its scent.   
                                             Risotto - Black Truffles & Japanese Rice

This hot and cold soup is obscenely good. Crunchy corn potage on the top and creamy foi soup on the bottom. If this doesn't spell "genius" for José Andrés, I don't know what does. Replace this with the morning expresso and you're in liver heaven!
Hot and Cold Foi Soup & Corn

Bazaar's named it "sexy tomato seeds". Presumably, if you find wet red things sexy..
 Although the combination of the sexy tomato, spherified cheese and crispy bits make it a formidable salad.

Not Your Everyday Caprese-sexy tomato seed and liquid mozzarella

This is a "moan" dish for me. Bazaar's version of an American classic; Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich. Only here, the beef is Wagyu. Be careful when it goes in, the thing squirts.
Philly Cheese Steak

Dragon's breath is more gimmicky than for gustatory pleasure. Basically, it's popcorn candy dropped into liquid nitrogen and when you put it into your mouth and exhale, you're transformed into a smoke tooting dragon. Why not call the dessert, Chasing the Dragon?
Dragon's Breath Popcorn

This would be my first formal session with molecular gastronomy. Admittingly, I've scoffed at the idea of tormenting food into unrecognizable forms and shapes. I believed that food loses its original flavor after it's been rendered through lab tests and extreme temperature changes. These archaic beliefs of mine were thrown out the door during our 5 hour long meal at Saam. 24 courses of non-stop mind blowing craftsmanship took me by surprise. I mean, I did expect everything to be impeccable but this took me to another level. Have I become a fan of this cult? Of the El Bulli worshiping clan? If so, God help me.

Bazaar at SLS Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Monday, July 5, 2010

Blue Plate Oysterette - American Classic

Just when I thought things couldn't get any grimmer for SoCal, the silver lining came; Blue Plate Oysterette. While we Angelino's have ample f-fusion cuisines to sample, we lack in oyster bars. I've been constantly grumbling to my bay area friends about this dismal situation. How is it that just a few hundred miles north, our counterparts have plethora of oysters to slurp on, sitting on bar stools amid a display of fresh seafood ready to be cracked and sliced for our enjoyment while we are reduced to Ocean Ave or whatever new shi shi brasserie in town. I have yet to stumble upon a true oyster bar. One that reeks of old world charm with guys behind the bar yelling out your order and a split second later catching that flying slab of smoked mackerel.

Some place that can rival Swan Oyster Depot or Anchor Steam Brewing for that matter. Things were looking bleak..

Until Blue Plate came along.

This is what I've been pining for. Antiquity mixed with a little blue blood. And it only gets better. Whereas Swan Oyster Depot has about 5 types of oysters, Blue Plate boasts a variety or 12! From east to west, you name it, they've got it!

Libations? BP carries a variety of wines and an extensive selection of tap beers and sake. I felt a bit whimsical so I opted for this, infused sake. It was meh, notes of pepper and mango are obvious but it didn't taste any more like booze than a glass of sprite doused with black pepper.

What really makes BP a notch above others are classic dishes such as Baked Clams that seem to have died out like disco days. The succulent juices of these tender mollusks sucked up by the bread crumbs makes raw clams dim in comparison. Oyster Rockefellers, although more ubiquitous than Baked Clams, also make a rare appearance here.

The Lobster Mac n Cheese with Truffle Oil is a blue blood version of the original. A decadent comfort food!

The Crudo here appears to be tuna with EVO. Unexpectedly, it turned out to be a tartar and a banal one for that matter. 

Blue Plate Oysterette, LA's solution to the oyster bar shortage. But much more than just that. An oyster shrine where one can suck on luscious dewy oysters and moan without the guy sitting next to you thinking you're some fiend. Each superlative morsel is so sweet and unadulterated, tobasco and cocktail sauce would only do harm than good. Just a dollop of their mignonette will suffice. Epitome of sexy food.

Blue Plate Oysterette
1355 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90402

Blue Plate Oysterette in Los Angeles on Fooddigger