Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hurry up and get your Curryupnow!

The bay areas first Indian street food on a taco truck...

 The Deconstructed  Chicken Samosa

The famous Lamb Kathi roll

Curryupnow focuses on chaat or street food of different areas in India; from Mumbai to Old Delhi to Chandini Chow. The food is authentic and un-Americanized, so my Indian friend claims. Did I question his veracity? Not at all. There's something to be said when ALL the patrons are of that ethnicity. As for the name? Curryupnow? It might be kitsch-y and cheesy. But I have to concede: It's quite catchy. With that said, do try the Lamb Kathi rolls as the roti is moist and savory, encasing the most tender bits of spiced lamb. Your mouth will be happy.

Curry Up Now in San Francisco on Fooddigger

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bistro LQ - revisited

 Last Thanksgiving I vowed to return to Bistro LQ, not because of the charming server or the intimidating sausage fest choucroute that was, in my opinion,  more for dramatic appeal than gustatory. The reason for this fervent commitment was because I was intrigued.  

Of what?

The zany, balloon-adorned ceiling? The conspicuous red Converse Chuck Taylor's that all the servers were strutting? The mountain of gigantic sausages that screamed, "in yo' face"?
I really don't know what the reason. But I do know I want it. And finally, 6 months later, chance happened.

 Nothing's changed. The familiar, forever-inflated silver and gold balloons are still hovering along the ceiling. And the servers are still as model-esque as ever. It's like I never left.

We are greeted with an amuse bouche  of scallop and salsa-like dressing.

One of my favorites is the Uni with Tapioca Pudding and Kumamoto Oyster in Yuzu Gelée. An ingenious combination of tapioca pudding and uni creates a texture of velvety uni cream.

Foi Gras 3 Ways:
Sautéed: Oxtail, Frisee with Rose Oil Vinaigrette

 Terrine: Wasabi Marshmallow and Yuzu Gelée

Torchon: Violette Scented, Spring Vegetables Russian Salad-style

Tortilla Soup, Green Garlic, Comte Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Zucchini Flowers Sauce

Hanger Steak
Served with Glazed Shallots, Chanterelle, Sunchoke Puree, Jus

Duck Breast
  Shishito Pepper Puree, Miso Sauce, Yuzu Glace

From the Cheese Cart:

and the condiments that ensued:

Bistro LQ is a charlatan, the name doesn't do it  justice. It is by no means a bistro, or resembles anything of that nature. The attention to detail and service is exemplary of any world class restaurant but of a more casual approach. An interesting note about Bistro LQ is that you can create your own tasting menu. Each item is available in half order, which makes trying the whole menu effortless and cost efficient. Chef Laurent's antic nature is apparent when he pairs a perfectly grilled cheese sandwich with scallops. It's deliberate, yes. But what purpose does it serve? The same sentiment goes with the eccentric looking biscuits that appear more often than naught. However, his unconventional methods such as the Foi gras 3 Ways and elaborate Cheese Plate speaks for itself. The condiments that came with the cheese plate were outrageous. Pesto sauce? Cumin seeds? Quite cheeky you are, LQ.

Bistro LQ
8009 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048-4503
(323) 951-1088

Bistro LQ in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Yoma Myanmar - the last man standing

The primary requisite for this post is partially for my love of Southeast Asian cuisine and in response to the backlash I received from fellow blogger Sinosoul and my Burmese friend after my recent write-up on Burma SuperStar.

It went something like this:

 "Comparing Burma SuperStar to a rock star is akin to saying P.F. Chang's is the ultimate chinese food."

and this...

"Please, for the love of God, hit up Yoma for Burmese instead. It will put every bite you've taken at Burmese Supernothing to shame."

Go figure.

and then I did this..

Accept the offer of a friend who so kindly insisted that he would introduce me to true Burmese fare. I obliged without hesitation, immensely curious as to the whereabouts of this obscure mom and pop store that has suddenly reached my homing device. Yoma Myanmar, one of a kind and I mean this literally. There's only a couple Burmese restaurants sprinkled around LA giving Yoma an effortless win in its category.
Yoma is actually operated and owned by a husband and wife team and claims to use age-old recipes handed down between generations. Maybe even the shop was Grandma's because it sure looked that way. It's more of a shack than a restaurant; with flickering fluorescent lights and walls scattered with photos of ... Grandma?
Our zealous host fervently ordered a spread fit for a king. The table was so laden with food that another one had to be borrowed to accommodate our entrees.

The oh-so-familiar tea leaf salad. Just as good as Burma SuperStar's if not better, but more potent in flavor probably due to the copious amount of tea leaves and nuts.

Hmm..I'm struggling to recall the names of the dishes from this meal. Keep in mind that our zealous host did all the ordering and in his native tongue, for that matter. So bear with me as I attempt to mutilate  recount each course. Chilled mung bean tofu with chili sauce and cilantro seasonings; a must for hot summer days. Imagine sitting under a mangrove on a hot, humid day in Burma with the torrid sun baking overhead. And as the sweat trickles down your forehead and drips into the eyes your appetite cooks away with the intense heat. The solution to this? A refreshing chilled tofu salad with piquant spice to water the mouth and wake up the senses.

Nan Gyi Dok, a common noodle salad dish I also remember trying at Burma Superstar. Belonging to the same species, but tasting very different. As of yet, I haven't quite figured out which I'm partial to.

And this, my friend, is what Burmese food is all about. Not Indian. Not Chinese. Not Thai. Never before seen eaten. Moringa fish noodle soup. When our zealous host first mentioned, "moringa fish..", I by default thought moringa was a type of fish. Sounds like a fish. In reality, moringa is a flowering plant which is indigenous to India and the Himalayas. This seemingly insignificant plant is actually being promoted to combat poverty and malnutrition with leaves containing ALL essential amino acids.

Moringa: The Solution to Eradicate World Poverty

The taste? A blend of India, Cambodia, Thai, Chinese. A whirlwind of spices; an unquiet mouthful, which sends your tastebuds in many directions. Yet subtle enough for you to finish the soup without your tongue feeling raped. Imagine that.

The "special" lamb curry was moderately special. After my tastebuds were violated (in a good) and pounded by the moringa fish soup, the rest were just..dull.

I have a penchant for curries and robust flavors, therefore my judgment might be slightly angled. But the fact is that there aren't other Burmese restaurants around to rival it. So naturally Yoma would the champion of its kind. Wouldn't it? After the last "incident" with Burma SuperStar I've recoiled from making quick rulings. So I leave it for you to decide. Just remember to order the Lassi. This tangy yogurt drink will be a temperate reprise from the heat.

The zealous host, after reading this post, was quick to notify me of a major error. To my dismay, my lover-ly moringa noodle soup was a fluke. Well, sorta. It's mont hinn ga fish noodle soup. Not moringa. I guess I was correct initially; that it was a fish! But that's not to say moringa won't eradicate world poverty. I stand corrected

Yoma Myanmar
713 E Garvey Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91755
(626) 280-8655

Yoma Myanmar in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ikko's Omakase at a glance

Does LA or OC reign supreme in sushi?
There has always been some controversy on this matter amongst myself and my OC cohorts. I decide to take it upon myself to shed some light on this issue. Having dined at Ikko a few times, I feel that it would suffice to represent the OC region. Ikko is located in a non-descript strip mall like most restaurants in the So-Cal vicinity. The interior is modern and sleek, fusing with the jazz playing in the background, already cueing us in to Ikko's contemporary approach.

Rather than going thru each dish and redundantly describing the texture and temperature of each slab of fish, I've decided to elaborate on a few standout ones -- plates that were a little more divine than the usual. (My feeble attempt at an excuse for laziness, mind you.)

The ankimo (monkfish liver) pâté.

Steamed Egg with Uni infused sauce and shaved black truffles.
The champion dish is the steamed egg with uni and truffles. The pervasive smell of freshly grated truffle lingers in the air wooing you to take a mouthful. A bite too soon! The tongue scalds.

Foi gras and crispy wafer

It's evident that Chef Ikko likes to play Franco-Japanese style. And you can't blame him. This is above and beyond your typical fusion sushi joint where you will find foi gras instead of yellowtail sashimi and jalapeno. I, for one, have no affinity for anything fusion. Yet, somehow Japanese and French seem to coalesce well here. Maybe it's the yin and yang factor of light and heavy cuisine. Ikko's love for French cuisine shines through and accentuates an otherwise mediocre sushi establishment. Despite the frequent import of Japanese fish, the sushi seem to dim in comparison to the likes of Zo, Mori and what not. I can say with veritable triumph that LA sushi reigns supreme But is it a fair comparison? Probably not.

735 Baker Street
Suite C
Costa Mesa
(714) 556-7822

Thursday, May 6, 2010


This post is long overdue.
Animal, my go to place when the lust for carnal pleasure -- of the palate -- pervades my mind and soul. It really is that kind of a place.
Vegetables are a rarity.
Although you will find a frenzy of pork, beef, rabbit and their private parts. I have yet to try their infamous pork belly and kimchi -- or is that Momofuku? I seem to confuse the two more often than not.

The chicken liver and toast is simple but lovable.

Many people find the BBQ pork belly slider scrumptious and "soulful". Me? Not so much. Soul food it is, with a heavy hand of BBQ sauce. I have a deep rooted aversion for BBQ sauce which Animal so generously renders.

My favorite will have to be the foi gras loco moco. It truly is the sum of its parts. However, the beef patty seems superfluous and gritty against the silky texture of the foi.

My love for anything bone marrow is put to the test here. Sadly, parsley and balsamic vinegar conceals all signs of the marrow; leaving an astringent tartness that makes me wince.

Be forewarned upon entering Animal, you will feel guilty and "beefy". With no sign of greens and cholesterol numbers that will make a cardiologist cringe, the urge to partake in a P90X workout will overcome you.

435 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Animal Restaurant in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Burma SuperStar

What a name!
It truly is a superstar. Where else can you find Burma imported tea leaves folded into a salad to create a tea leaf salad?

Burma Superstar, an apropos name for a restaurant with such rock star status. I've been hearing this name for quite some time, almost like a mantra incessantly chanted in my ear. Many pseudo-Burma SuperStar's have opened in hopes of catching some slivers of stardom from it, but none even come close. A paradigm in its own realm.

Welcome to Burma Superstar.
On a side note, although he is a rock star, don't expect him to be adorned in flashy leather pants or studded belts. He is modest, choosing to be dressed simply-- choosing not to detract from his true talent. With no fancy decor, only wood tables and a dingy exterior, there is only one focus, the food.

Here we have the renowned Tea Leaf Salad:

The grated black tea leaves lay demurely on the lettuce, reminding me of bird dung at first. But then the server buoyantly tosses the salad and explains each ingredient on the dish, emphasizing that the bird dung is actually imported tea leaves from Burma. What a surprise! The bird dung tea leaves exude a subtle bitter flavor but offsets the tartness of the dressing perfectly. What makes this salad exceptional is the crunch from the plethora of assorted nuts and toasted garlic.

Now comes the Nan Gyi Dok:

This dish entails a light coconut chicken curry with rice noodles topped with an egg and toasted shallots. What god hath created for men, the Burmese hath bestowed the Nan Gyi Dok.
I'm impressed by the seemingly trivial action on the server's part, preparing the food tableside. Food prepared with care and love always makes the fare more appealing.

As this meal draws to an end he brings us our final dish, supposedly a Burma SuperStar special curry, aptly named: Burmese Style Lamb Curry.

 I'm really digging this curry, slightly different from the Indian curry, evocative of a fair-skinned cousin. The use of less spice and non-existent curry powder makes Burmese curry lighter and milder. Paired with the aromatic coconut steamed rice? A match made in heaven! To separate the two would be unorthodox. Sacrilegious!

It's pretty obvious that I'm enamored with this place. My infatuation stems not only from the curry, but the bouncy rice noodles, the fragrant coconut rice, and the zesty tea leaf salad. It is an ethnic restaurant like this that motivates people to travel around the world in search of cooking that imbues tradition and culture. Burma here I come! 

Burma SuperStar
309 Clement Street
San Francisco

Burma Superstar in San Francisco on Fooddigger

Perbacco - old world

I fell..hook line and sinker for this old world charm. Perbacco isn't a new kid on the block. She's been seasoned, had her share of fluctuating barren days and glorious days. Yet, she's still around. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing beat up or run down when it comes to Perbacco. Its decor is just as chic and posh as any trendy, hip newbie. Although you'll find the clientele slightly more reserved, with the hairline just starting to recede, and conversing of the most recent "litigations", as the table juxtaposed aside me was. This is the Financial District after all.

The man behind this? Chef/Owner Staffan Terje. Terje? Not very Italian sounding you're thinking. That's because he's 100%  born and bred in Sweden. But the chap isn't concocting Swedish meatballs and sauerkrat. His traveling-chef days to Italy have inspired him to create dishes indigenous to the Piemonte region.

Perbacco houses its own curing room for salumi, ergo I found it a must to try their Salumi Misti. There was an array of salumi's ranging from lardo to the Italian version of rilletes (which I must say, the French have effortlessly prevailed) to your standard salumi with a name I can barely enunciate. Surprisingly, the cured meats didn't feel heavy and laden with sodium as I was expecting. There wasn't even a need for the bread sticks. The garnish of pickled veggies countered the meats nicely.

 Tajarin - handcut tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms and 5 hour pork sugo. I was blown away by this prosaic looking quasi-ramen dish. How can those queer looking strands be so tender, yet al dente? What really gave me a food-gasm was the umami flavor of the 5 hour pork sauce that it so willingly soaked up. 

 Paparadelle - braised short rib ragu and roasted chanterelle. There's papardelle, and then there's parparadelle. I can say, honest to God, that I've never had a better parparadelle. Although not being very well versed on pastas or Italian cuisine, I've nothing to compare with besides Osteria Mozza and Acquerello. But who cares?  Another handmade pasta cooked to perfection with a fusing of al dente and tenderness, slipping and sliding everywhere. I don't recall the ragu. The star is obviously the parparadelle, and the ragu was there to enhance its sexiness. 

Perbacco has got its pasta making down to a science. Each dish was perfectly executed, flawless, and not your typical "Batali lard-y" construction of heavy sauces and fatty cuts of meat. I actually felt good after this meal. There was no need to consult my stash of antacids. To Staffan Terje; the Swedish-born, Stockholm-raised, Europe-traipsing, Piemonte-inspired chef, I give you my obsequious bow.

230 California St
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 955-0663

Perbacco Ristorante in San Francisco on Fooddigger