Sunday, February 28, 2010

Where to Eat This Week: The Foundry on Tuesday With Ludo's Fried Chicken

The Foundry on Melrose
7463 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046-7525
(323) 651-0915

Tuesday evening Ludo will be cooking alongside Eric Greenspan in the kitchen at The Foundry.  Tuesdays at The Foundry are now called Bluesy Tuesday.  Greenspan serves fried chicken by the piece, waffles, creamed corn, grits and greens, green tomatoes and corn bread pudding. Blues will play in the lounge from 8-10.  As if that's not enough motivation, this coming Tuesday Ludo Lefebvre will be making his famous fried chicken during the festivities.

image from Ludobites at Royal/T in December

Trust me, the chicken is good. Get on the horn and make your reservation. They are going fast if the twitterverse is to be believed.

Friday, February 26, 2010

ForageSF's Iso Rabins Cooks at Hatchi

Hatchi at Bread Bar
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067
310 277 3770

Iso Rabins
SF Underground Farmer's Market
The Wild Kitchen

Iso Rabins is a young man with many irons in the fire.  Years from now people will either call him visionary or overly granola. Definitely one or the other. His activities remind me of the hippie-esque antics of my mother's earthier cousins: mushroom gathering, hitchhiking from one end of the country to the other at the drop of a hat, taking an 11 year old me to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, sleeping during the summer with the bed outside (wait, D & T still do this).  Iso has taken the whole food movement to the terminus of its logical conclusion. Iso Rabins forages for ingredients both to serve at pop-up restaurants and to construct and sell as CSF (community supported forage) boxes (a spin on the CSA). Indeed, I read somewhere on his blog that they are not taking any new members for the CSF boxes as they are foraging all they can for current members and have no surplus to take on new clients.   According to said blog, this month's CSF includes: 2 kinds of mushrooms, black cod, miner's lettuce, oxalis flower and wild ginger.  All of which I had for dinner last night when Iso cooked one night only for Hatchi at BreadBar in Century City following in the footsteps of famous/infamous chefs such as Michael Voltaggio, Debbie Lee, Marcel Vigneron, Ludo LeFevbre, Robert Cortez, Remu Lauvand, and more.  Below, see the menu.

The concept of Hatchi is simple. Eight items for $8 each. Six savory courses and two desserts.

This particular Hatchi three cocktails were also added, all concocted with foraged produce.

Foraged citrus lemon drop. Made with foraged local citrus (I could have offered to let Iso use the fruit of my prolific lemon tree) and oxalis flowers from Griffith Park. Need I mention that this was a little too sweet?

I drank some then asked for a chilled vodka shot to lighten the sugar load.

After the second shot of vodka it was light, sweet citrusy perfection.

D riding the coattails of my third illness this flu/cold season ordered chamomile tea and was fascinated by the accoutrements.

I explained, that is a tea strainer for using loose leaf tea.  BreadBar does serve their tea rather prettily.

First course: Salad of Wild Oxalis, Arugula Flowers, Wild Miner's Lettuce, Chickweed and Beets.  Very nice. Super savory. Our server described the oxalis as being tart, but I would definitely say the outstanding flavor element of oxalis is citrus, arugula flowers being savory.  Gorgeous little salad.

Is the above oxalis or arugula? Iono, I ate it too fast to ask.

Miso Marinated Black Cod with Blood Red Daikon, Quick Fried Heirloom Potatoes.  This black cod was caught in Northern California and served in Southern.  In my mind, this dish served commonly in Japanese restaurants is one Nobu Matsuhisa is famous for. Iso takes the cooking to a different place. The dish last night was less translucent than Nobu's version, most likely marinated less time and cooked longer ending with a firmer texture. The quick-fried heirloom potatoes were absolutely wonderful, crispy but also stout and pleasingly salty. I wonder if Iso makes his own salt from foraged Pacific sea water? I kid, I kid.

Another project Iso has going is a pop-up restaurant called The Wild Kitchen.  In his Twitter feed he calls his Hatchi stint "moonlighting at BreadBar".  While I am 100% sure that the Hatchi experience is nothing like a true The Wild Kitchen experience, I am really glad I got off my Thursday evening tuckus to travel west to Century City and eat Rabins's grub. I would be willing to plan a trip to SF around the next Wild Kitchen pop-up.  Mission-Mission announces a Wild Kitchen dinner, Civil Eats reports in, and SFWeekly commentates humorously as always.

Last night, however, I got to try Iso's salt cod.  I am always fascinated by alternative spellings on menus. Fascinated and confused.  Light Egg Whipped Baccala, Sriracca Aioli, Wild Oxalis Flower.  Presented in a paper cone inserted into an OG jelly jar with an oxalis blossom underneath.  Not only was the presentation breathtakingly rustic, the flavors were bold. 

Sriracha aioli was spicy even enough for me, and the salt cod satisfyingly substantial. I love a cod fritter. And in this dish I tasted the entire oxalis flower, hence the understanding of its citrusy flavor.

One of my two favorite dishes of the night.  Wild Nettle Soup with Pickled Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Creme Fraiche. On the side, diners were served two beautiful thick slices of BreadBar toast for dipping.

I took two pics of this soup because it was just that good. It reminds me of a far less dairy heavy cream of asparagus soup. A little creaminess, a lot of verdant vegetal flavor. It reminds me a little of this Gordon Ramsay broccoli soup, simply cooked and full of the very true flavor of the produce, not a lot getting in the way in between the palate and the earth.

Slow Roasted Wild Boar Porchetta over Hand Cut Noodles with a Gleaned Kumquat Jam & Foraged Mushrooms. My other most favorite dish. This was a very generous cut of boar for $8. In the lower end of the bowl, you can see stewed kumquats, a local very small citrus fruit that is originally native to Asia.  Kumquats add a beautiful citrusy bitterness to the hearty game.

To the left of the plate and underneath the boar are wild mushrooms. This dish is probably my favorite meat dish of the season. Hearty and rustic, we sopped up every drop of the mushroom/kumquat sauce and ate every bite of the boar despite being full to bursting at the seams.

The third ball Iso Rabins has in the air is a pop-up Farmer's Market. Where will the madness end?  The SF Underground Farmer's Market is run more like a nightclub than your typical yuppy-cum-green Silverlake or Santa Monica market.  A quote from the web site,

The SF Underground Farmers Market is a venue where you can taste and purchase the food that is being produced in backyards and home kitchens in the Bay Area. At the last market, vendors sold homemade pies, sarsaparilla, jams all by "suggested donation."  In order to enter the market, we're going to ask everyone to sign up for a free membership to the SF Underground Farmers Market. Don't worry, it's just a formality.

Apparently, the first launch of the underground market caught the attention of local authorities. Running the market like a club rather than a retail venue allows them to get around some licensing issues. Reminds me of the London after hours nightclubs of my youth. Please don't ask for details, they are too colorful for me to even think about.  What entertained me the most about the initial location of the underground market is its location. At 17th and Capp it was located at the corner of a loft/art space I lived in back in the mid-90's.  Why does SF still sound like so much fun?

Thank you for the daffodils, Carrie.

Monday, February 15, 2010

DineLA Winter 2010 Petrossian West Hollywood

Petrossian Boutique & Restaurant

321 N Robertson Blvd
Los AngelesCA 90048
(310) 271-0576

DineLA calls to all food people and lovers of nightlife, come out during the recession and taste our wares, open your wallet a teeny tiny bit, try something new. Or an old favorite at a bargain price.  Restaurants of all levels all over Los Angeles offer a three-course prix-fixe menu at lower prices than you would normally find on their regular menu.  I don't always love DineLA. A couple times I have experienced food or service not quite up to par for the norm, but this was an exception. The food was delightful and generous, and the service luxurious (read, a teeny bit slow) and professional but warm.  I was inspired to try Petrossian based on last fall's DineLA review by Jo of My Last Bite. Thanks, Jo!


D and I stumbled into Petrossian on a stormy night, early for our reservation. As we sat and sipped at some fizz, I was reminded somehow of the rainy nights of London in my twenties. For many months I worked at Sud Ouest, a French restaurant in Knightsbridge across the road from Harrod's. Most of these months were wintertime. On rainy nights the international staff would lean against my small bar staring out the windows at the wet, imagining Paris, Prague, Melbourne, California while we waited on customers willing to brave the elements for a beautiful dinner in the quiet candlelit dining room.


Our dining companions arrived, we settled into a banquette to catch up and peruse the menu.

Petrossian's kitchen has Chef Ben Bailly currently at the helm. tells me he arrives via previous stints at Joël Robuchon in Paris, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas and Joël Robuchon in Monaco. Impressionant!  The kitchen sent out as an amuse a round of blinis with caviar and dill creme frâiche.

The three caviars starting from top left and moving clockwise were trout, salmon and sturgeon.  They sent out six, which was an odd number for a party of four, but we happily shared. The potato pancakes were light and fluffy but substantial.

Our choices for starters were green bean salad, shrimp papillote and a salmon sampler.

My salmon sampler; my favorite part of the meal.  Clockwise again from upper left: black sea spice, dill, and classic smoked salmon.  Don't think of the flat thin layers of lox you would get mit bagel, all three pieces were generous chunks of lush salmon.  I would happily return for this again, I haven't had better.

Shrimp papillote.  Both D & D fell for the shrimp papillote. When I think of papillote, a protein baked in paper is what comes to mind. These were reminiscent of a Chinese appetizer, in a kind of sweet/savory/sticky sauce with red chile flakes. Shrimp in folded pastry. Curious.

For mains we chose from halibut brandade, braised pork belly, and crispy peanut egg.

In between, however, we were treated to an intermezzo of borscht-like beet puree soup. The earthy flavors were lovely on the cold damp night.

Both Y and I ordered the braised pork belly with polenta.  This was amazing, rich but delicious. The polenta was incredibly cheesy, as it chilled it stiffened a bit. The belly itself was pretty lean compared to other bellies I have had in the last year, which I like. The flavor was immense with caramelized onion and a sweetness to the reduction.

My D tried to play it safe with a fish dish, but not being familiar with brandade he was a little surprised on arrival. Brandade, a dish from Languedoc or Provence, is typically a puree of salt cod, olive oil and milk or cream, often served with toast points or bread. This version from halibut was less salty and a little less creamy than some brandades I have had and there is nothing on the planet a poached egg won't make more wonderful. I thought it was lovely, and D, although taken aback, ate every bite.

The other D? Well let's just say that the crispy peanut egg was not a play on words. This was literally a soft boiled egg crusted with peanuts in a creamy soup accessorized by dollops of caviar.  He said, and I quote, "the sum is not necessarily better than its parts". Oh well.

Dessert course.  Vanilla panna cotta, crème brûlée and molten chocolate cake with ice cream covered in pistachios.

One of the nice things about DineLA is that it forces me out of my self-imposed dessert shell.  Dessert is one of the courses and I must choose one.  I love a panna cotta and this was marvelous, with lots of glazed strawberries and crumbled pistachio. The portion wasn't overwhelming, it was just right.  Happiness.

D ordered and devoured the molten chocolate cake and pistachio covered ice cream...we all took a deep sigh paid the check and headed out into the rain.

On the way home between restaurant and taxi, D and I ducked into the Stone Rose Lounge at the Sofitel and washed down all the richness with vodka martinis. Our feet were wet but our martinis were dry.

Another practice from my days in London, popping into a posh hotel with a friend to dry off and enjoy a post-shift cocktail. There are no posh hotels in Echo Park.  Not a lot makes me miss my days in London, but I definitely had a moment there.

Petrossian Boutique & Cafe in Los Angeles

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dinner at Shiro with Friends

Shiro Restaurant
1505 Mission Street
South Pasadena, CA 91030-3215
(626) 799-4774

Shiro Restaurant in South Pasadena is co-owned by Sherril and Chef Hideo Yamashiro, who also helms Orris in West Los Angeles.  Shiro is Okinawan by birth, and has worked in several high profile French restaurants in Los Angeles including Ma Maison, Les Anges,  and Cafe Jacoulet.  As a fan and frequent eater of Japanese cuisine, I clearly see the marriage of French technique to Japanese insistence on freshness of ingredients and clarity of flavor profiles.  Shiro visits the Los Angeles fish markets every morning to shop for Shiro and Orris.  The menu changes regularly to reflect availability and quality of ingredients for sale.

Last week S & E from Shiro hosted a beautiful dinner for my friend MAG and me in exchange for taking some snaps of their beautiful food.  They are looking to increase their web presence and needed some delectable shots to support their drive to elevate their profile, attract new clients and conquer the Pasadena foodiverse.  We were treated extremely well, ate delicious food and all the while I marveled at how Shiro has managed to sneak under my food radar the last couple years. S started us off with a glass of lovely prosecco and the games began.

Warm crusty bread, a great start on a rainy cold winter night.

Our amuse bouche: sweet shrimp with herbs in delicate endive cups.  The flavor was sweet and the texture was silky.

The first of three very hearty appetizers was a plate of grilled Alaskan King Crab leg sections. With shells split in half for easy access, the meat was just touched with a little charbroiled flavor. Grilled flavor present but not dominant.  On the side was a Japanese inspired cucumber salad that tasted of mirin, and the crab sections sat in a little pool of clarified butter.

Our second appetizer is one of MAG's favorite dishes at Shiro. Calling it "slurp it off my thighs deliciousness", it's a destination dish for MAG. She sometimes comes to Shiro just for this and a side of veggies. Black truffle shrimp ravioli in a truffle cream sauce with spinach.  

Housemade ravioli stuffed with shrimp served in a sauce flavored lightly with black truffle, then to compliment the sauce and throw the eater into foodgasms the chef adds shavings of black truffle on top and serves it all surrounding a bed of sauteed spinach.

This was my favorite dish of the evening, and I was surprised.  You can probably tell it was my favorite because a) the pic is huge and b) I took a lot of snaps to get this pic, circling the table obnoxiously like a hungry coyote.  Seared medallions of foie gras atop equally seared sea scallops in a red wine reduction.  I was a little concerned about the pairing of the two proteins together. I predicted their textures would be similar enough that the dish would lack textural heterogeneity and hence interest. I predicted wrong. Scallops and seared foie are a beautiful pairing. The firmness of the scallops stood up nicely against the dreamy luxuriousness of the foie medallions, and the reduction was sweet and savory stickiness. This was perfect for sharing. I sometimes am overwhelmed by the fattiness of foie if I eat an entire dish alone. The thought of sharing this dish with someone special will being me back to Shiro on my own dime toute suite.

Grilled cold asparagus in a tarragon dressing with tomatoes and hazelnuts.  A perfect interlude between appetizers and mains.

The way the chef used the end of the stems of the asparagus reminds me of the way my asparagus were served at Daidaiya in Tokyo.  Tossed with a light creamy tarragon dressing and served chilled.  An economical and still delicious way to make use of the lesser part of the asparagus spear.

MAG and I shared two mains.  The first was duck breast.  I am a game lover, big time, so no surprise that this thrilled me.  The breast was seared medium-rare served in another sticky/sweet/savory reduction with steamed carrots and a fluffy potatoes dauphinoise.

The middle of the flesh was a deep pink and the outside layer of fat around the breast carried the gamey flavors of the duck and the sweet/savory flavors of the reduction to all the areas of my palate.

Our fish course was also delicious. Snapper in a tomato basil sauce beribboned with fresh basil strands. This sauce was comparatively light, almost buoyant, and strongly redolent of basil.  The snapper was grilled, a treat to eat something so lean at the end of several fattier courses.  D would love this, it's nice to know there is something on the menu for someone suspicious of richer flavors and textures.

S & E at Shiro know MAGs well and paraded out three desserts to entertain her sweet tooth.  And despite my general ambivalence about desserts, I was impressed.  Nothing interestingly innovative here, just a capable creme brulee with a beautiful fresh blueberry and raspberry surprise underneath the custard and brulee. Very nice.

Flourless chocolate cake with mocha whipped cream and coffee ice cream. Very good.

And, wait. What? This is a dessert I would demand we order in a revisit. Two crispy won tons, lemon custard, baked apples on the top and fresh raspberries in the middle on a puddle of raspberry coulis.

So fun to photograph, delicious to eat. A treat for my non-sweet craving palate. will be seeing me again soon.  I enjoyed it so much, I might even bring my mom. And that is about my highest endorsement.

For the FTC and general knowledge: I abhor and take umbrage with the reputation of bloggers as food pushing shills for hire.  It's a generalization that, like many generalizations, offends me due to its inclusiveness of people I know and love who are nothing of the sort.  Having said that, I paid not a penny for this meal.  And having said that, I have been invited to many meals gratis, dozens at this point, that I have not raved over nor lusted after.  This was not a blogger dinner. It was a dinner hosted through the connections of a friend of mine so that Shiro could procure some good photos of their beautiful food at the expense of me dining there for free. If I didn't enjoy the food, I wouldn't blog about it. I probably would have sent along the photos with a thank you note. However. I enjoyed this meal immensely. The quality of the food was outstanding, service was gracious and the flavors delighted my now kind of  jaded palate.  When someone asks for an east side rec for an elegant dinner, Shiro will be at the top of my list. Not because they gave me free food. I get free food offered so frequently it is no longer a novelty. I will rec Shiro because I am very impressed with the food. And that's all she wrote.

Shiro in Los Angeles