Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fabiofest: Firenze Osteria

When Mr. HaveShoesWillEatandTravel was just outside of town for business, we met him halfway at Firenze Osteria for a feast!
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The bar had run out of martini glasses, so the bartender put my caramel apple martini ($9.25) in that funny glass. It still tasted great!

When we saw this, we knew we had to do it. Seven courses for $75!
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Little did we know that we'd be eating one of the largest meals ever! Seriously, I don't know how we did it. Firenze Osteria definitely doesn't skimp on anything. Bigger is better! I probably could've stopped eating after the third course!

Crostini di pancetta -- grilled pancetta and burrata parmesan crostino, canteloupe, aged balsamic, crispy sage, brown butter.
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Fantastic start. Cheesy! Crunchy! Salty! And fruity! What a great mix of flavors and textures!

Gamberoni in Camicia -- pancetta-wrapped grilled jumbo shrimp filled with Gorgonzola over Parmesan polenta, garlic sauteed spinach.
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They're not kidding when they say jumbo! And the polenta? Mmmmm.

Gnocchi al Coniglio -- rabbit ragu, potato dumplings.
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Perfect potato pasta pillows. The rabbit made me so hoppy. Har har har.

Trofie con anatra e Finocchio -- homemade trofie pasta, duck sausage, caramelized fennel, Parmesan cheese.
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I liked the gnocchi more, but this was still very good. Luscious duck sausage.

Pan-seared jumbo scallop, risotto with Tahitian squash and zucchini blossoms.
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Beautifully done scallop. And huge! This place is all about gigantic portions!

New Zealand rack of lamb, pistachio cassoulet. rosemary-sage pesto.
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Just incredible. Cooked sous-vide and finished on the grill. Amazing. My fave dish of the night. Don't miss this!

Cheesecake with blueberry and limoncello, panna cotta with fresh strawberries and sweet balsamic reduction, flourless chocolate cake with vanilla gelato.
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Finally! Portions that aren't enormous! All three sweets were excellent.

We left extraordinarily full and with big smiles on our faces.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Douchebag Central: Red O

The douchebaggery at Red O starts before you even go inside the restaurant. A bouncer guards the door and won't let you in unless you have a reservation. What?
Glad the Oros had made a reservation, so we could gain that vaunted admission. But for what? We waited for another 40 minutes amidst annoying stereotypical Hollywood types (you know, the kinds of people that the rest of the country thinks we're all like). Ugh.

Rick Bayless, have you actually been to your restaurant? I don't think your kind, easy-going self would like this nonsense. I think you should pay a visit and fix this ridiculousness. You shouldn't have to wait 40 minutes for your reserved table. That's not how restaurants work, Mr. Bayless.

To its credit, the food at Red O is not bad, notwithstanding the general lambasting by the Los Angeles food blogosphere. It's not Babita, Chichen Itza, Guelaguetza, or La Casita Mexicana. You shouldn't expect it to be. Apples and oranges.

With that mindset, you won't be terribly disappointed with your meal. You know what you're getting into, people. In any event, at least the service at Red O is excellent.

That is, after you finally get seated.

Guacamole and chips ($9).
When you pay $9, you think, "Man, this better be the best fucking guac I've ever had." It wasn't, but I can't deny that it was pretty good. Score one for Red O.

Slow-cooked Sonoma duck taquitos, tomato-arbol chile sauce, tiny local greens ($12).
Nice crunch. Nice juicy filling. Sauce was a tad bland, but this was still enjoyable.

Queso fundido with homemade chorizo and roasted poblano chiles ($13).
Very good. It's hot cheese with sausage. This is hard to mess up.

Savory beef short rib tamale, smoky chipotle chiles ($13).
Masa was lovely and moist, but there should've been more meat. Sauce was also bland.

Crab and shrimp enchiladas suizas, creamy roasted tomatillo sauce, fresh-made corn tortillas, melted Sonoma Jack, black beans, ensaladita ($22).
Quite a respectable version, but I thought this could use a bit more punch, too.

Camarones al mojo de ajo -- wood-grilled Mazatlan Blue shrimp with slow-cooked garlic in olive oil, Bloomsdale spinach, Veracruz-style white rice with sweet plantains ($25).
Probably the best dish of the night. It had the bold, strong flavors that were lacking in the previous dishes.

Tinga poblana -- braised Gleason Ranch pork shoulder and belly, homemade chorizo, roasted tomatoes, smoked chipotle, Yukon gold potatoes, avocado, queso fresco ($27).
Pork is always a winner. This was no exception. Of course, I thought it should be spicier. Sense a pattern here?

Seasonal sorbets with cookies ($10).
Absolutely delightful. After the shrimp, this was my second-favorite item of the night.

Veracruz-style buñuelos, salted caramel ice cream, warm Kahlua chocolate sauce ($12).
Fried dough should be inherently awesome. These were just not nearly as good as they should've been.

Mr. Monkey says that my opinion of this meal was largely colored by my irritation by the bouncer, 40-minute wait with a reservation, and the other clientele. Even so, that's enough for me not to return.

If I were Rick Bayless, I would be a bit embarrassed by Red O.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pan-Asian Done Right: Lukshon

The term "Pan-Asian" usually makes me cringe. It conjures thoughts of a pasty white guy putting soy sauce on stuff and proclaiming that he's created some awesome Oriental dish.

Banish those thoughts.

Sang Yoon brings us Pan-Asian like no other. Lukshon dishes out fabulous small and large plates inspired by the Southeast Asian region.

Now, before you protest, yes, I realize that Sang Yoon is Korean, so what does he know about Southeast Asia? What makes him any better than a pasty white guy?

Nothing. But trust me on this one, my dears. Lukshon is a must-visit. I love it!
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I fell head over heels for this place the moment I stepped foot on the premises. Gorgeous contemporary open design. Swoon. weatherjen and I had the best time on the outdoor patio.

Fever Tree ginger ale ($2.50).
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I am a ginger ale and ginger beer fiend. Fever Tree did not disappoint. Great bite.

Baby Monterey squid, Chiang Mai pork sausage, candlenut, mint, rau ram ($15).
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Something delicious stuffed with something else delicious and topped with more deliciousness! Chewy! Savory! Crunchy! Saucy! This had it all!

Spicy chicken pops -- Shelton Farms drumettes, garlic, kecap manis, spicy Sichuan salt ($14).
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You absolutely must get these. We polished off the whole plate, and there were only two of us! Best li'l spicy drumettes you will ever eat! Ever!

Lamb sausage roti canai, chana dal, cumin, mint, pickled cauliflower ($15).
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Imagine if Malaysian, Indian, and Middle Eastern friends got together and made a pizza. This would be the freakishly tasty result.

Brussels sprouts, chile garlic vinaigrette, sesame ($9).
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Some of the best Brussels sprouts I've ever had. Tangy with just enough kick.

Heirloom black rice, lap cheong, onion, roasted garlic, fried egg ($11).
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Oh my God, how can egg and rice be so good? It just is. It just is.

Complimentary dessert.
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Can you believe this? Something free in L.A.? It was like we were dreaming.

Vietnamese iced coffee.
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Strong, creamy, and not for the weak. Fearful that we'd be up all night, weatherjen and I shared this. Good call.

Just 11 days later, I returned to Lukshon with Mr. Monkey and the Oros. I was thrilled.

We repeated the spicy chicken pops and Brussels sprouts (and I was more than happy to do so). Here are my point-and-shoot pics of the new dishes we tried.

(1) Duck popiah, cilantro stems, pickled jicama, house-made hoisin chile sauce ($13).
(2) Whole steamed fish, Taiwan spinach, black bean ghee, sambal ijo (market price).
(3) X.O. rice -- jasmine rice, house-made X.O. sauce, long beans, egg ($10).
(4) Sonoma lamb chops, market spices, herb butter ($36).
(5) Crispy coconut rice cakes, pandan, shallot chile jam ($7).
(6) Complimentary dessert.
And, believe it or not, every single thing was fantastic. Not one miss. That doesn't happen often.

Get thee to Lukshon. It will change your mind about Pan-Asian cuisine. I am a convert.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pleasing But Pricey: Elements Kitchen


Giggles introduced me to Elements Kitchen not long after we went to Vertical Wine Bistro. She's my Pasadena ambassador. Bax and Slim joined us at this darling Pasadena eatery.
The menu at Elements Kitchen is seasonal and ever-changing to maximize the freshest and highest quality ingredients.

Amuse bouche.

Crab and corn cake with crispy calamari salad, rouille, pepperoncini, cherry peppers ($16).

Seared chicken breast with morels and chanterelles, Brussels sprouts, summer squash, Beurremont truffle broth ($30).

Lamb special of the day.

Grilled New York pavé, crab and corn cake, haricot vert, sauce Robert ($39).

Crispy soft-shell crab and Jamaican jerk seared tuna, mango pineapple salsa, cabbage slaw, passion fruit dressing ($37).

White chocolate and coffee mousse with milk chocolate ganache, brownie, chocolate glaze ($8).

Peach and basil sorbet on brûléed peaches ($5). Ginger custard, white chocolate, passion fruit coulis, mango, ginger meringue ($8).

Honey corn pudding, chili lime sauce, candied lime, black pepper shortbread, crème fraiche ($8).

Very good meal from beginning to end, although I question whether I'll be back because I found the prices a bit steep for what we got. There are so many other places in L.A. that serve great quality food at much more reasonable rates.
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