Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gordon Ramsay At The London

Cooking is the most massive rush. It's like having the most amazing hard on, with Viagra sprinkled on top of it, and it's still there twelve hours later. -
Gordon Ramsay, 2003

Gordon Ramsay @ The London website

There have many been many times in my so-far-short-spanned life where I have tried hard to scrutinize and find flaws in something only to be left a little perplexed. One instance was that beautiful blue-eyed flaxen cheerleader in high schoool. Perfect curves, perfect grades and a syrupy smile to match. An evil bitch in disguise? No such luck. The angel just so happened to be a Special Ed TA.

Tonight is another one of those instances. The day starts as a typical FML day, where basically everything that can go wrong does go wrong. The much anticipated Bistro LQ dinner reservation was dropped last minute due to reasons too graphic to be disclosed on a food blog. After much dismal meandering about on Sunset Blvd, we stumbled upon Gordon Ramsay At The London. Well, "stumbled" is hardly the word. One can not really stumble  upon a secluded restaurant in an ivy-cloaked hotel without doing some last minute Yelping. Alas, I was less than enthusiastic about this place. Firstly, I have no idea of who Ramsay is besides being the foul tempered chef on a show called Hell's Kitchen. Secondly, I am dubious of chefs who run competitions in a studio. Last but not least, restaurants in hotels? Maybe not.

The establishment is divided in to two areas; the front being a more casual cafe, and the back for formal dining. The ambiance is swanky, chic and gold tinged.
A feast for the eyes, but not the stomach?

And then two amuse bouches are served. Not your run-of-the-mill amuse bouches, but a decadent foi gras pate sprinkled with black truffles and crispy parmeseans with red peppercorns!
Ok..bluffing I see. It can't get any better than this?

Foi gras pate

Pureed Spinach amuse bouche

Confit rabbit leg agnolotti with marinated cherry tomatoes, Shiitake caps, grain mustard emulsion

                           Sonoma Lamb duo, sweet onion compote, cherry blossom, creamy polenta, jus

             Nebraska beef tenderloin with braised escarole, short rib jam, Carrot vichy and bone marrow sauce

Pineapple soufflé with Thai curry ice cream, toasted coconut

As the dishes slowly but surely roll out, I start to fold and the cynicism melts away like hot wax. All the entrées show Ramsay's impeccable standards and done with such flourish. The only dissapoint is the dessert. The pairing of curry icecream seems like a bold statement, but only  leads to a perfunctory "ok.." Other than that, I love Ramsay's twist to each dish. Subtle as they are, but yet also very deliberate. 

*Thank you J for a wonderful night*

The London West Hollywood
1020 N San Vicente Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 358-7788

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wakasan - Omakase for a steal!

Wakasan, an izakaya-lover's wet dream. It's almost a hybrid between izakaya and kaiseki cuisine but in a more rustic setting. Rumor has it that the "Sushi Nazi", Nozawa, has been sighted after hours dining here with fellow sushi chefs. It can't go wrong if the chefs are taking care of their hunger pangs here. What's not to love about a place that has a 35$ omakase?! Yes, you heard me. 35$ omakase. You're not going to find a menu at Wakasan. You walk in with no choice but the 35$ set. But if you do find the whimsical desire to upgrade, just call a day in advance and make a reservation for the 55$, 75$ or 95$. 

One expects to find the 35$ omakase a watered down version and skimpy portions, right? Not so.
I count 10 courses to be exact, including dessert. The first three sunomono courses are light and refreshing, a perfect opening.

The sashimi is surprisingly good for an izakaya setting. The red snapper and tuna are fresh and do not have too many bristles. Even the less than perfunctory riceball ochazuke adds a surprise element. Who would've thought rice ball and ochazuke?

My favorite dish of the night turns out to be a salad. But not just any salad. It's a salad that I end up licking the dish of its last sesame and egg yolk dressing. Leave it to the Japanese to think of adding a poached, half-cooked egg over a conventional albacore sashimi salad. Only a true-egg lover can appreciate this dish for its unadulterated beauty.

So the nabe is only mediocre. The meat is overcooked and too bland for my liking. Although the cute presentation did help bump it up a couple of notches.


Wakasan is a place still under the radar. It's been known as more of a "foodie" place (God, I hate that word). The unpretentious setting and mom-and-pop fare has attracted many diners who aren't about the "scene", but more for authentic, modest Japanese fare. Many have tried the 55$ and up omakase, but still are avid supporters of the 35$. Makes sense. 35$ for a delicious, no-frills meal? This does not suck.

1929 Westwood Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 446-5241

Friday, March 12, 2010

Clams in Red Sauce Over Bucatini

A true lover of food not only has to know good food, but know how to cook, in my opinion that is. My love for cooking stemmed since I was an innocent lass, not knowing the difference between real cheese and the amorphous cheese whiz. There was no epiphany such as many others have claimed. It just sorta happened like most incidences in life.

No, I'm lying.

This all started with an ex-boyfriend who imagined himself to be the next Iron Chef. Let's just call him X. Now this guy can cook. X would concoct all sorts of meals from scratch, Steak Bourguignon, Malaysian curry.. you name it. A secret battle ensued between us; a battle of denaturing proteins and julienning vegetables. So you have it, in a nut shell. Cooking is still very much a part of my life even though X is just a figment of the past.

Never a conformist, I believe in improvising from scratch and not from a book written by others. Yes, there are a few tattered cookbooks I've managed to collect from the Barnes and Nobles $2 section. But even those have been wedged underneath a wobbly chair.

What makes this meal special to me is the pasta I procured from Joan's on Third. Bucatini, much like spaghetti but thicker and hollow in the center, has more of a bite. The perfect al dente. You're not going to find bucatini in any supermarket, or even at Trader's Joe. Trust me, I've tried.

With bucatini in hand, all I need now are some fresh ingredients. It just so happens that clams are in the fridge spitting out sand with each dying breath. And thanks to mum's garden, we now have crisp basil and parsley. Since I'm not much of a cookbook person, you won't find exact measurements. As Rachael Ray would put it, "just eyeball it."

clams (cherrystone, littleneck..)
parsely, basil (chopped coarsely)
shallots (chopped)
garlic (finely chopped)
roma tomatoes (diced)
white wine
tomatoe paste (1 tablespoon, or deathly acidic)
Italian seasoning (bottled)
bucatini (of course!)

The key to cooking perfect al dente pasta is to use a 5:1 ratio of water. The more water the cleaner the pasta. Don't forget to add salt to the boiling water. As the pasta is cooking, heat the oil and saute garlic and shallots for about 3 minutes. Add the clams and wine. Cover and simmer for about 3 minutes or until most clams have opened. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and continue to simmer for another 3 minutes. Finally, add the parsley, basil, and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper. Add the drained pasta to the sauce pan and toss it around like you see Emeril Lagasse do with such finesse.

  The moral of the story is not only to promote bucatini, but also motivate people to cook more.  Do you really want to sink your teeth into a steroid injected chicken or spraypainted beef patty?
Didn't think so.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Got Beef Noodle Soup?

My recent pursuit? The best freakin' beef noodle soup around town.

I've never fancied beef noodle soup before. It wasn't until recently, due to J's fervent infatuation with it, that I found myself probing deep into the unchartered territories of Monterey Park, Rosemead, and San Gabriel.
What appeared as a simple quest was actually quite arcane.

What constitutes a good beef noodle soup?

From my minimal knowledge on this subject, I believe the Taiwanese and northern Chinese version are noticeably different. The former being spicier, heavier and paired with pickled cabbage. On top of that you have the wide array of noodles to choose from; hand pulled, knife shaved, vermicelli and what not. With all these variations, one can only imagine the response I get when asked the question, "Where's the best beef noodle soup around town?"

To make a long story short, I compiled a list of places to try and after much noodle slurping came up with these results. JTYH  Restaurant in Rosemead is across the board, heralded as one of the best. Their knife cut noodles are al dente, like it should be. But the beef soup, albeit good, is a bit too light for my liking. It lacks the oomph of star anise and chili oil that I'm accustomed to.

JTYH (taken from Yelp)               Liang's Kitchen                    

On the contrary, the broth in Liang's Kitchen has the perfect medley of spices and packed with heat. What makes this dish a cut above JTYH is the soup. The union of tomatoes and onions cooked until juices merge into one (excuse the double entendre), makes JTYH's soup seem almost bland in comparison. 
Although it seems that Liang's Kitchen takes the torch for now, but I've not completed this search for the great noodle. This will be ongoing. This will lead me to find the ULTIMATE beef noodle soup.           

Monday, March 1, 2010

Joan's on Third

The barrage of grubbing from east to west this weekend, ended around dusk in a café/market place called Joan's on Third. It's located in the food-centric area of LA, Third Street, where you'll traverse across the likes of Milk, Susina's Bakery, AOC and such. Joan's and The Little Next Door cater to similar crowds, the hip and trendy, but Joan's being more of a hybrid between TLND and Bottega Louie. The wide panel glass windows and stark white interiors are reminiscent of Bottega Louie's decor, but with a more modern approach. Although the decor of Joan's pales in comparison to the fancy granite counters of Bottega, I would much rather nibble on the rustic fromage and charcuterie of Joan's any day.

You won't find novelties such as portabello fries here, but count on a smorgasbord of imported cheeses, meats and pâtés.  I felt like a kid in candy shop, standing amongst the handmade jars of honey and jams, and basking in packages of curious wonders. For a moment, I was reminded of the Dean & Deluca in Soho. Just for moment.