Saturday, June 26, 2010

Walter Manzke: Around the World in 8 Dishes

On June 24, 2010, a huge nerd convention took place here. Yeah, I went.
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Breadbar's Hatchi Series features a guest chef every month for a "one-night-only suite of plates, including six savory dishes and two sweet creations." Each plate is $8.

Past guest chefs include Michael Voltaggio, Marcel Vigneron, Debbie Lee, Waylynn Lucas, Saul Cooperstein, Brian Redzikowski, Roberto Cortez, Ricardo Zarate, Eda Vesterman, Iso Rabins, Kuniko Yagi, and Remi Lauvand.

In light of Chef Walter Manzke's recent departure from the wonderful Church & State, the geeky food-blogging masses mobbed Breadbar for this event. Who knows when Chef Manzke will resurface with his new restaurant? Gotta catch him while we can.
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Chef Manzke took us on a culinary tour around the world in eight dishes. A big thank you to my pal Daily Gluttony for inviting sinosoul, his wife, and me to join her!

Also, special shout-out to Stuffy Cheaks, who sat next to us, and Exploratory Degustation, who stood right behind us as we waited for our table. It's fun to see other bloggers you already know (even the ones who pretend not to know you, despite the fact you've met six times before) (and we saw 58 billion of them this night) (including the snooty ones who don't say hello), but it's a special treat to meet new bloggers (especially friendly ones)!

Breadbar epi with foie gras butter ($8).
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So rich and decadent that I'm giving you two photos to better admire that fabulous flecked foie fat. Why can't all butter be like this?

Mexico: Yellowtail ceviche, jalapeño, tomatillo sorbet ($8).
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Fresh. Nice texture. Fine. But I'm not buying that jalapeño + hamachi = "Mexico."

Thailand: White corn curry soup, mussels, coconut tapioca ($8).
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Pleasant, creamy, and mild -- Jitlada, this is not. Fresh. Nice texture. Fine. Again.

Spain: Santa Barbara spot prawns, garlic, sherry ($8).
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Forgettable. Not nearly as good as a similar dish I'd enjoyed at Church & State. Also not sure what makes this "Spain."

Vietnam: Banh mi pig's feet sliders ($8).
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Definitely not something you'd get at Lee's Sandwiches. Very enjoyable. Fried, golden, juicy, and just salty enough with lovely, tangy, crunchy pickled daikon and carrot shreds. Fancy finger food that's worth your time.

Italy: English pea ravioli, soft egg, parmesan ($8).
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My favorite of the night, mostly because of the perfectly cooked soft egg. This was all about tenderness. Tender pasta. Tender egg. Love me tender. Love me true. All my dreams fulfilled.

And here is where I take a moment to bitch about the atrocious service at Breadbar.

Bad service doesn't usually faze me. What matters to me most about a meal is the food. I eat at places where servers grunt and shove dishes at me, and I still leave happy because what I ate was great. Food can usually triumph over bad service.

But sometimes bad service is so bad that it really ruins everything. This is what happened to us this night.

In reading other bloggers' accounts, I've discovered that we never received an amuse bouche at all.

Not amused. Literally, no less.

We waited eons between dishes. My mouth felt like the Sahara because my water glass was rarely filled. There were no apologies for the wait or assurances that food would come out soon.

And then, after we finished our ravioli dish above (well, not exactly "after" -- more like "long after"), we were served our desserts.
"Um, where is our tarte flambe? We didn't get that yet."
"What? No, this is your dessert."
"No, we still have two more orders of an entree. Two pizzas."
"You ordered that?"
[unintelligible mumbling]
Needless to say, we waited a hell of a long time for our fancy flatbreads to arrive.

When it was truly time for dessert, I'm pretty sure we were served the same damn two desserts that we'd been mistakenly presented before. The ice cream was a melted mess.


I shake my fist at you, Breadbar. Your disorganization and scatterbrained service marred our entire Manzke meal. Booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Ok, now that I've gotten that out, let's proceed with the food show.

France: Tarte flambe, caramelized onion, bacon, Gruyere ($8).
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Like the spot prawns, the flammenküche I had at Church & State impressed me more than this supposedly identical offering. Or maybe I was still angry about the shitty service. Still, this sweet pizza with bacon was rather photogenic. Click, click.

Philippines: Leche flan, pandan, coconut ice cream ($8).
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You see that puddle? See that? Ugh. Puddled ice cream notwithstanding, the flan had an excellent consistency and was not too sweet. Well done, Chef.

Japan: Chocolate fondant, Bing cherries, black sesame ice cream, green tea ($8).
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More puddle action here. Grrrrr. Yet, even so, this dessert kicked ass. It had everything -- warm, cool, crusty, creamy, sweet, tart, mellow, and smoky. Big thumbs up.

Bonus Breadbar bakery buy: Berry yogurt tart (not a Manzke product).
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When you're waiting long enough between courses that you could knit full blankets, members of your party wander over to the bakery and secure interim nourishment that is neither Manzke-made nor a sensible insertion into your purported culinary world tour.

And you eat it because your real food hasn't made it to the table yet.

While we certainly experienced some high points during the night, I can't lie. This night was a pretty big disappointment. I hope not all the Hatchi nights are like this.

Breadbar, you did Chef Manzke a great disservice with your service.

Roy's L.A. Ohana Tour -- $50 Giveaway!

There are few chain restaurants that I like. Roy's is one of them. Having worked in Downtown L.A. for over six years, I ate at Roy's fairly frequently and could always rely on the restaurant for consistent high-quality meals.

In celebration of Roy's L.A. Ohana Tour, I have a $50 gift certificate to Roy's in Downtown L.A. for one lucky reader! To enter this giveaway, simply comment on this blog post and include an e-mail address, so I may contact you.
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Roy's L.A. Ohana Tour is a new rewards program designed for diners to experience the creative chef variations on popular menu items offered at each location.

From June 9 until August 31, 2010, guests are invited to visit three Southern California Roy's restaurants to receive dining rewards and be entered to win an all-inclusive trip to Hawaii, where guests will enjoy a personal dinner with found chef Roy Yamaguchi.

During your first visit to a participating Roy's restaurant, you will get an Ohana Tour card to present at your next Roy's location. On your second visit, you will receive a free chocolate souffle with the purchase of an entree. At your third location, you will get a $20 gift card and entry into the Hawaii sweepstakes. You can read more about the Ohana Tour here.

You have through June 30 to comment on this post to be eligible for the $50 gift certificate! I will number the comments and pick a winner through I will announce the winner on July 1.

Again, if I don't already know your e-mail address, please include it in your comment. You can't win if I can't contact you!

Also note that this gift certificate is good at
Roy's in Downtown L.A. only. Please keep that in mind if you are not a local reader!

Thank you so much to Roy's and Allison of Formula PR for sponsoring this giveaway.

Good luck, readers!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Flickering Beacon


Beacon is in the Helms Bakery District in Culver City.
Notwithstanding the "bakery" part, this complex includes mostly home furnishings retailers.

My $6 cocktail.
Mango-infused sake, I think. Didn't leave much of an impression, as it was pretty weak.

I came here with a very large group during dineLA. A three-course dinner cost $26 -- sort of a waste of a dineLA meal to tell you the truth. To me, dineLA is all about maximizing my savings, so it's always a better deal to go to a restaurant that is more expensive.

Appetizer #1: Pulled pork tostadas with Asian slaw and hoisin BBQ sauce.
Like Chinese sopes. Sometimes fusion succeeds. Good job here.

Appetizer #2: Roasted beet and apple salad with toasted almonds and goat cheese.
Pleasant, fresh, and light.

Entree #1: Grilled yellowtail with creamy polenta and salsa verde.
Nicely done, but I prefer yellowtail raw or only slightly seared. Polenta was great.

Entree #2: Duck confit with fingerling potatoes, frisee, grapes, and plum ginger glaze.
Disappointing. But I have high standards for duck because I love it so much.

Entree #3: Miso-marinated black cod with sesame green beans.
My favorite of the three entrees. Like buttah.

Some members of our party ordered from the regular menu.
Spring rolls. Chicken pad thai. Fish and chips. Big fat meh to all of it.

Dessert #1: Warm apple tart with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.
I appreciated that this was really hot. That is pretty much all I appreciated about this.

Dessert #2: Rice Krispies sundae with chocolate and caramel sauces.
Only ok, as this could be easily made at home. Well, at least made by somebody other than yours truly.

Beacon is a decent restaurant, but I doubt I'll return. I feel no need to repeat "decent" when there is plenty of "awesome" in this town.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Simon Says

Los Angeles is one of those rare cities that actually has good hotel restaurants.
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Simon LA, the brainchild of culinary star Chef Kerry Simon, may be at the Sofitel, but it's worth visiting even if you're not staying at the hotel, especially during dineLA, when a three-course lunch costs $22.

Complimentary jalapeño cornbread and pretzel bread.
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Pleasant warm beginning.

Wan and Nanette started with the creamy crispy rock shrimp Fuji apple salad.
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My friends are wonderful and always let me have a bite. Quite lovely and precisely what the dish promises -- crispy and creamy. I liked the pairing with the crunchy sweet apples.

Winnie got the short rib arancine with wild rocket and garlic aioli.
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I declared these Golden Balls of Yum. Winning starter, hands down.

I chose the kabocha squash soup with toasted oats and spiced cranberries.
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Excellent soup -- a little sweet and filled with atypical texture.

Nanette and Winnie noshed on pan-roasted salmon with forbidden rice, a beet trio, and a blood orange reduction.
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My bite was unmemorable. Not bad. Just not amazing. I did like the forbidden rice, though. That was more interesting than the salmon itself.

Wan enjoyed her seared ahi green goddess salad.
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Cool and fresh, but, again, nothing mind-blowing.

I got the Iron Chef burger -- yes, this trio helped him win on Iron Chef America.
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Winning main course! Well, I thought so anyway. Yay for me! A tiny juicy burger with cheddar and tomato on perfectly cut and toasted brioche? Truffle oil French fries? An adorable mini vanilla milkshake? How could this be anything but awesome? Totally won me over.

Nanette and Winnie tried the apple turnover dessert with dipping sauces and ice cream.
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Fabulous. Golden and warm and oomphed up with caramel and vanilla.

Wan opted for Kerry's cheesecake.
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Decent but not particularly rich or mmm-inducing.

I went crazy for my citrus parfait and shortcake cookie.
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I love parfait, so I'm biased. If I weren't biased, I'd declare the turnovers the winning dessert.

That was not the end. No meal at Simon LA is complete without free giant cotton candy!
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For size comparison, note the Splenda packet. For fun, laugh at the sunglasses.

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