Monday, April 30, 2012

Cooks County - the old LQ spot

Most of you will recognize Cooks County as the "old LQ spot". But upon entering, all remnants of the stark,sterile interior will be stripped - baring pipes, beams and every sound insulating structure..gone. Be prepared for a consistent humming of low decibels that drown out 80% of your conversation.

Being a loyal follower of LQ, I found the complete makeover a little disconcerting. Not only was the place foreign, the menu has changed face as well - or should I say change nations. Once eccentric French, it is now all American. Instead of foie gras terrine, there is now spretzel with mustard.

You will no longer find anything uni or foie gras, but sugar snap peas and asparagus will certainly be abundant.

Instead of duck breast with a shishito pepper puree, there is the safer version at Cooks County : wood grilled duck breast.

Safe: that would be my description of Cooks County. All the dishes are solid, with the exception of the tagliatelle being a tad too salty for me. But nothing stood out for me. Maybe it's not meant to stand out. Maybe it is LQ's wild and untamed ways that ultimately lead Bistro LQ to shutter. Therefore "safe" would be sure to evade a similar fate.

8009 Beverly Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 653-8009

Monday, April 23, 2012


If you are bold enough to trek beyond the transparent wall which separates the glamorous Vegas from the real, unplugged version, you will find that there is much  more to Vegas than just celebrity chef institutions hoping to add a few million to their culinary empire.
You will find hidden gems such as Raku, concealed in a generic mini-mall without barely a sign. Raku is the best izakaya you can find in the Western hemisphere, not merely an opinion - it is a fact. With the plethora of izakayas scattered in So-Cal, bay area and the East Coast, one would think Vegas would be the last place to have a decent izakaya. But this little package of a place sparked such emotions from patrons that a haiku was composed by my cousin/yelper and later borrowed by Las Vegas food critique, John Curtas.

Here you have my cousins haikun which he posted on yelp:

“Sashimi Salad”
Fresh slice of the sea
Deep-fried onions paired with greens  
Perfect start to meal
“Agedashi Tofu”
House made soybean dream
Amazing broth, chili, roe
Ten dollars well spent
“Apple Marinated Lamb Chop”
Succulent two chops
Aromatically juicy
No shame to gnaw bone
“Soboro Don- Seasoned Ground Chicken”
Quail yolk atop rice
Mix ingredients and share
Comfort food at its best
“Grilled rice ball”
Two nuggets of art
Fragrant mint countervailed with crunch
Complements all meats
Crispy rice coating
Perfect balance in texture
Veggie laced with crack
“Kobe beef skirt steak”
Ribeye pales to you
Where have you been all my life?
Melt in your mouth joy
“Pork Cheek”
Bacon’s lost cousin
I feel guilty eating this…
Yet I cannot stop

Expect no haiku or prose from me. Having to construct a sentence is taxing enough already. But sticking a few photographs on the web comes with ease. Lets stick to that.

uni, salmon roe, poached egg, dashi broth

If you do find yourself in Vegas and tired of the chops, tartareand buffets, be intrepid and make a stop here. You will find cold soba noodles enveloped in uni, foie gras custard, beef tongue tataki, and grilled pork cheeks like no other. This may even be the highlight of your trip.

5030 W.Spring Mountain Rd #2 Las Vegas, NV 89146
(702) 367-3511

Friday, April 20, 2012

Salt's Cure - a picture's worth a thousand words

Beyond just good steak and gastropub food, Salt's Cure is known for their fresh, locally raised and procured ingredients. Farm fresh beef - freshly slaugtered (yikes), to veggies from neighborhood gardens.
air dried duck, chicken liver pudding, potted pork
beef carpaccio, olives, olive oil

grilled giant asparagus, lemon butter wine sauce
new york steak, herb butter
Suggestion: Share.

Salt's Cure
Santa Monica

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Alma Food & Wine

As played out as "pop-ups" may seem, there is something special about sitting directly in front of the chef and watching the whole crew meticulously at work - much like snagging front row seats at the opera for half off. My recent pop up experiences have all been similar to a private dining event. With the venue accommodating only a handful of patrons, conversing with the chefs seem only natural.  As with most pop up venues these days, it seems the venue must be a desolate cafe or diner of some sort and this time, it was no exception: Millie's Cafe.

I've always wondered why pop up chefs tend to favor derelict locations to perform their art. Is it to bring contrast to their chromatic concepts and creations? Or the most logical reason- cost?

Alma is somewhat a of a new kid on the block, not even a few months old. The chef, Ari, with roots in the bay area portrays this in his cuisine. This crudite of fresh crisp vegetables is as Nor-Cal as it gets. Vague memories of The Plate Shop in Sausalito offered a similar construction. Beautiful as the presentation is, this is my least favorite. The urchin bottarga (urchin and bottarga? or bottarga of the urchin? does it even exist?) is unnoticeable and flavors fall flat.                                                                


If I was half asleep during the commencement of the meal, the summer squash blossom with melted guanciale was a splash of cold water, in a good way. The saltiness of the fatty guanciale is coupled flawlessly with the squash. Sheer genius!

 The ensuing dishes only get better as bright flavors, interesting textures and bold contrasts are brought forth by Ari. My favorite is undeniably the duck consomme with bitter brassica, crispy dried seaweed and fried duck skin. Ari's choice of accompanying meat selection with vegetables showcase his talent for contrasting flavors.

Our intermezzos consisted of retro and ethnic sodas created by the soda sommelier, Chris Yamashiro. Not much of a carbonated beverage fan, his concoctions are interesting; yet, I'm hoping for something less virginal from him.

For the most part, the Ari Taymor crew seem to be on a good start. Ari's keen sense of complementing animal and plant is a talent missed these days. This forte paired with the teams hip and fun attitude should make a name for Alma in the pop up scene.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Better late than never.
It was three years ago that Rivera was recommended to me by a friend and as such things slowly dropped to the bottom of my list of must tries. Chance happened that a group of girls were looking for a place to do lunch. Tired of croque madams and benedicts, Rivera is definitely something out of their comfort zone.

The drinks. like most artisinal cocktails these days were spectacular and a feast upon the eyes. The "Balls Drop", justly named, with its heavy hand of tequilla definitely gave me a good afternoon buzz.

Of course, the homemade tortilla florales with indian butter made quite an impression with the girls. I remember the same emotions of delight on my virginal experience with tortilla florales at Playa. The "oohs" and "ahhhs" subsided as the alien-ish duck enfrijolada was set upon the table. It was by far the most ugliest creation I have seen in a while. But accompanied by a poach egg, the taste was agreeable the highlight of the meal; salty duck meat in a rich rioja chile sauce. As intuition told me, the halibut was a mistake. Dry and bland. bleh

Even with striking similarities between Rivera and Playa, I still favor Playa over the other. Playa's dishes are a touch more bold and innovative than Rivera. We'll see, very soon, how Red O contends against these Latin big boys. 

                                        1050 South Flower Street #102 Los Angeles, CA 90015

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Red Medicine Revisited

I never quite understood the concept behind Red Medicine. Labeled as Vietnamese fusion, but its inherent Vietnamese flair was never so obvious to me - especially as of late. Example:


Jordan Kahn, celebrity chef, daintily plucking flowers with tweezers to garnish our plates. Vietnamese? Not so much.

This beautifully presented  foie gras mouse bedecked with flowers and herbs is nothing short of whimsical yet has striking similarities to this:

The late Ubuntu's Garden Snake, soil and all. The noticeable difference is RM's soil is of a dark brown color, chocolate-like in texture and taste, which is actually quite appealing.

This heirloom rice porridge is a respite from the habitually sweet flavors RM is known for. Pillow-y porridge adorned with a glorious yolk and uni, comfort food at its finest.

With each passing entree, the semblance to Ubuntu becomes more apparent. Ubuntu has always been renowned for its chimerical use of florals, greenery and herbs. I have an eerie suspicion that Red has gone from Vietnamese to g

Red Medicine
8400 Wilshire Boulevard Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(323) 651-5500