Saturday, April 17, 2010

Palate Food & Wine

Better late than never.
Palate Food & Wine has been on my radar for years. But being a little fearful of Glendale after the belly dancing episode at Carousel Restaurant (Disneyland of Lebanese food) has turned me into a dark voyeur, reduced to enjoying the experience through other bloggers posts. However, my Peeping Tom days are over! I was agog over the much anticipated tapa meal that was about to come.

The corn colored walls and large glass windows immediately shows the emphasis on ambient lighting. Although not as posh as the finer LA restaurants, this is one of the few venues where I feel completely relaxed and at home. The color scheme and decor is reminiscent of a warm spring day with flowers in bloom and a soft gentle breeze. The enormous flask filled with astronomic grapes adds a whimsical note to the rustic ambiance.

Mason Jar, Potted Berkshire Pork - Frankly, this is my first experience with rilletes (meat cured, salted and cooked in its own fat until tender, p√Ęte-like) and I'm not expecting anything spectacular. Come on.. Take a look at that dry, canned-tuna like appearance. But it lies. Dry it is not. Bland it is not. The texture and consistency is almost like eating unctuous pork fat but without the heavy, lard like taste. Pork fat without fat, if there is such a thing.

Ricotta Gnocchi, chicken hearts and pecorino - The chewy gristle of the chicken heart contrasts nicely with the fluffy pillows of gnocchi. Being an avid gizzard fan, this dish is definitely up my alley.

Pork Belly, fennel + orange salad, crispy potato, pistachio aillade - The omnipresent pork belly is almost a staple it seems, in most contemporary restaurants nowadays. However, because of this situation there's more to compare. I'm not going to be happy with just any slab of pork. I want mine with the perfect ratio of fat to meat and seared to a nice caramelized brown. And this one doesn't suck. The pistachio aillade kicks it up a few notches, or it would have been rather pedestrian.

As the day recedes with the ambient light, night begins to fall and my photos are gradually reduced to muted tones of reds and oranges.

Diver Scallops, bacon and pickled carrots - Now I've seen some beautiful presentations in my life, but this strays from your typical arrangement of ingredients. It's not striving for decadence and impeccable placement of minuscule vegetables, but alludes an earth-y quality of autumn leaves and wildflowers.

Although there have been mixed reviews of PF&W, I've concluded that this is a place of comfort and good food, where I will visit often and attempt to try all their mason jars and cornucopia of cheeses. One suggestion: bring a dining companion whom you won't fall asleep on and make sure you like that person, because everything moves a bit slower here and by the time each dish comes out, you would have already learned her aunt's life story.

933 South Brand Boulevard
Glendale, CA 91204-2107
(818) 662-9463

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fifth Floor, on the fifth floor

Molecular gastronomy has become the weapon of celebrity chefs and almost a requisite label if one wants to make a name amongst the ever more competitive culinary world. It has almost become a battle of who can make spaghetti out of ice cream, without tampering with its texture. Really? I'm timid about the unknown, especially when food is tortured into something it was never meant to become. But with the limited knowledge I have for molecular gastronomy (having only dined at XIV and Bazaar), I'm not about to write it off as something nefarious and science fiction.

That said, this post obviously will not be raves about a mind blowing experience at a venue that is a disciple of molecular gastronomy. Fifth Floor, one of the bay area's collection of Michelin-starred restaurants is located (naturally) on the fifth floor of the Palomar Hotel. Simple? Not so much.
An eyebrow was raised when my dining companion so ingenuously asked the doorman, "What floor is the Fifth Floor on?"

An interesting note about Fifth Floor is that the executive chef is Jennie Lorenzo, being female and Filipino and having never attended any culinary school, makes her a bit of a rarity amongst the almost predominately Caucasian-male, CIA trained chefs. Her dishes seem to border on pushing boundaries, yet retaining the original nature of the ingredient. Therefore you won't find foams and emulsions tampered with liquid nitrogen. But boring it isn't.

The crudo consists of sashimi with agave nectar, lime and olive oil. The tartness of the lime and subtle hints of agave nectar really wakes up the palate. By far, one of my favorites of the night.

“Hot Spring” Egg: poached jidori egg, truffled potato.
Egg? I'm sold.

Ahhh.. foi gras atop brioche and almond paste. Now this sucker you either love or hate. For me, it is the latter. Well, hate is such a strong word. Let me rephrase, it simply does not sit well with me. This is too avante-garde  for my liking. The brioche and sweet almond paste reminded me of  a foi- gras cupcake.  On a side note, the considerate chef did include a dash of salt and pepper on the side for ones accustomed to the more savory version. But the burst of flavors from foi gras to sweet almond paste, then sweet brioche, then salt and pepper -- sadly -- did not do it for me.

The smoked duck breast: a tender mouthful of perfectly executed duck, with just the right amount of crisp to the skin.

Pork belly with white asparagus and lavender cream sauce. Pork belly always gets me hot and bothered, but this one falls short.

Wine infused strawberry sorbet with tapioca and banana chips. At first glance of this techni-colored creation, I am slightly appalled. I try hard brushing away the image of Chesire Cat lapping at my neon green dessert. Diving in, I remember not to dissect its parts, but to include everything in one mouthful (rest assured that Jennie Lorenzo knows something I don't). This is an experience of an unexpected taste explosion; an in- describable orgy of flavors. 

 I give props to Jennie Lorenzo for being innovative while still staying in the realms of simplicity. Her bold dishes such as the foi gras with brioche will always be remembered, if not loved. Also, the amazing goat milk butter that came with the bread was simply to die for, the culprit of me eating a sinful amount of bread. I highly recommend the tasting menu, as it is reasonably priced and reasonably portioned. Albeit, a few hiccups here and there, Fifth Floor pulls everything together nicely and ends with a beautiful note.

5th Floor in San Francisco on Fooddigger

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sushi Sushi - Unchanging

An old sweetheart should always be there to give guidance, be available for coffe, and knows what makes you tick, in theory. And this is exactly what Sushi Sushi is to me. Shige San has never beguiled me with trickery and empty promises. With almost assembly like speed, he always creates beautiful plates of sushi art.

 The rice to fish ratio is always a perfect 1:3. There are times I almost forget of Sushi Sushi's existence with the dizzying lineup of new and notable places to try. Yet, he's always in my subconscious, beckoning me to come and enjoy an old comfort. A place where surprises don't occur.
The uni has always been a pillow of creamy sweetness with just the right amount of brininess.

The ikura, most likely preserved by Shige San himself, seems lighter than its counterparts, almost like bubbles made of sea water.

The hand-grated wasabi portrays his traditional side, never succumbing to the freakishly green synthetic paste in a tube.

Perfect pieces of sushi roll out sequentially, almost at a tangible pace. Every visit seems to entail the same methodical story; uni sashimi, sweet shrimp, hamachi, toro.. ending with a tuna handroll.


Why don't you stimulate my senses anymore? Monotony isn't conducive to a healthy relationship! Years have gone by and yet nothing has changed. Your uniform courses have not fluctuated with the season nor has your "specials". Maybe next year when we meet again, your offerings will been tweaked, but not bereft of that traditional value I've always known to love.

Sushi Sushi
36 1/2 Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 277-1165

Sushi Sushi in Los Angeles on Fooddigger