Sunday, September 5, 2010


Animal Restaurant - no name on the outside, we waited well past our reservation time, but they served us rather quickly once we were seated. 

Started with the Trout Salad - great flavors not too smokey light and delicious.  The next item was crispy pig ear sliced into thin strips and mixed into a melange of chili and brought together with a fried egg.  The rich yolk played well against the acidic lime flavor and spiciness. The pig ears were A's favorite dish of the night.  Next came the grilled octopus, chorizo and chow chow - also delicious, tender and pepper sweet and savory.  The petite basque melted with chorizo and toast, the combination was absolutely delicious, the spicy chorizo with the cheese was similar to a very savory pizza. 
That was the end of the lighter dishes, the pork belly sliders were great, an sweet and acidic sauce with a crunchy slaw and a toasted brioche that was perfectly crunchy. Really rich and delicious.  Not spicy at all, sweet and acidic.  The crispy rabbit legs were breaded and fried like fried chicken, th emeat was so tender we suspected that it had been braised before being fried.  The crisp exterior was not oily or greasiness at all, awesome aioli with herbs, fresh slices of heirloom tomato brought freshness and acidity to the dish.
Desserts were good.  I thought the bacon chocolate bar was sort of a gimmick because of the trendiness of candied bacon preparations.  I was wrong, it was nicely executed -- a crispy kit kat sort of texture, could be more salty but I loved it.  The tres leche with dulce de leche had good flavor but the cake itself wasn't as smooth and fine as we expected.

It has been a while since I ate at a restaurant where every dish was excellent, particularly when the kitchen is pushing some boundaries and taking some risks.  I loved Animal and it will be at the top of my list when I return to L.A.

Los Angeles II

We headed to Dim Sum in the morning and then to the LA Times Food & Wine Festival.


Elite - Dim Sum, good quality. Nice har gow, fried tofu skin, crystal puffs a white puff with sweet coconut filling, noodles w/ enoki mushrooms and abalone sauce - good noodles, but light on the sauce. Durian-filled pastry - durian flavor was very strong and only certain people will like it, but the pastry was great.  Overall I think Koi Palace is better, but it could be the setting. 

Old Country [?] - old school shave ice dessert place. Finely shaved ice red beans, peanuts, lychee -- all fine,though I wished there was more condensed milk or "black sugar" to sweeten up the whole dessert. A got strawberry milk and liked it, but the waitress looked really scared when he ordered it.

LA Times food & Wine Fest

The festival was a combination of wine tents, food tents by restaurants such as Campanile, and street food trucks.

Blueberry Lemonade - like it, much more watered down than the Lemonade on Abbot Kinney, though there was no mint. J&A liked the Lemonade version better ;) ]

Munchie Machine Truck - Peanut Butter, Jelly, Chocolate, Banana and Marshmellow sandwich. Nicely toasted, but not my thing. Didn't taste any banana, but apparently it was in there.

Dosa Truck - Slumdog - Indian Pesto, paneer, spinach potato masala and one Goa Goodness - spinach mushroom and cheese. Both were nice good flavors and balanced, though they got soggy quickly. A good idea for a food truck.

Kyochon - chicken wings, very crispy, somewhat spicy, a bit salty to my tastes.  Not that special.

Buttermilk - red velvet chocolate chip pancakes - great, cake donut holes - cream on the inside crispy on the outside - really good.

Campanile duck slider

Campanile - duck confit and cracklin on a toasted brioche, crostini with burrata - both were excellent, the crostini was very simple, but well seasoned and using the jelly from tomato rather than actual slices of tomato helped kept the focus on the creamy burrata.

Ragin Cajun Truck - gumbolaya - a mix of gumbo and jambalaya, a huge portion, not very spicy, but with some really good sausage and nice acid flavor.

After the food fest we had dinner at Animal, which I'll cover separately.

Jeon Ju - dol sot bi bim bap

Jeon Ju - Bi Bim Bap specialist in K-town - hole in the wall was but clean. I like the bi bim bap very nice ingredients and panchan, but it was fairly average. I'm not sure this was destination worthy.

Tous Les Jour - little bakery in the strip mall next to Jeon Ju. An assortment of little pastries. I had a sesame donut stick, J&A had a red bean donut. They thought that the red bean donut was very good and not too sweet.  They also got a pastry filled with chocolate cream and a honey castella, which were perfectly fine if not noteworthy.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Los Angeles I

PTL Duck

A long weekend of enjoying sunshine and great food in Los Angeles.

On the first day we made a foray into Westminster to check out the Vietnamese offerings. 

Pho Thanh Lich - Pho Dac Biet Special w/ filet mignon - nice broth with a subpar clump of rice noodles.  O.k., though not great.  Duck Soup Rice Noodle w/ Duck chop - really ducky soup flavor and nice vermicelli rice noodles accompanied by some duck.  I actually preferred this to the Pho, but it's only offered on weekends.

Asian Garden Food Court - this mall is a fun little walk into a completely Vietnamese environment.  The food offered looked interesting, I went for a shrimp cake and some bun cuon.  The bun cuon was a bit dry and needed more filling, the shrimp cake on a sugar cane stick was nice, but not noteworthy.

We walked over to a nearby fruit stand where we found lots of giant durian, bags of rambutans, mangosteens, bell fruit and dragon fruit.  We got some to eat later.

In the same little strip mall we found a Banh mi Che Cali and ordered three different sandwiches: one ham and head cheese another xiu mi (meatball) and one bbq pork.  The bbq pork meat was juicy and well seasoned, the meatball was also good and the ham and head cheese was straightforward.  Unfortunately, we all felt that the bread was just o.k. and agreed that we preferred the sandwiches at Saigon Sandwiches in SF.

On our way out of the area we stopped at Galloway's Pastries -- we had a chocolate mousse cake and a cream puff.  The cream puff was average while the chocolate mousse cake was very good.

We went to browse the aisles at H Mart, which was much smaller than we had imagined.  J got a few items and we laughed at one of the stands named Dae Jang Geum.  Next door was a dumpling shop that specialized in giant buns -- wang mandoo.  They tasted almost exactly like Chinese mantou.

Overall, we found many places in Westminster, but lacked a good guide or information on which spots were best.  As a result, we weren't particularly impressed, but I see there is definitely potential in that neighborhood -- if only we had a local with us to properly explore it.

Our next stop was Venice Beach area.  A & J had a blueberry mint lemonade from Lemonade and a double chocolate chip cookie from 3 square. We looked at some furniture and were surprised by the intelligentsia coffee line, then again Blue Bottle has equally enthusiastic devotees. We stopped into Jin Patisserie fror a hazelnut and a chocolate dessert.  Both were very good.

Our next stop was Almondine where we picked up a croissant, it was light and airy, though not particularly moist.

Finally, we ended up at Park's BBQ - ordered the #12 pork belly and the #3 seasoned kalbi. 
pork belly, kim chi bbq

This is the best Korean bbq I've ever had.  The meat was very high quality and well seasoned, not overly sweet and the panchan were spot on.  The pork belly is thickly sliced belly then grilled with kim chi, a great combination. The seasoned kalbi is thick and juicy, full of flavor not too sweet. I would come back for either and would love to try their American Wagyu. Panchan was just o.k., but we liked our service. J thought the bibim naengmyun was very good, with a nice balance of sauce, cucumbers, and asian pears, and the noodles were above average.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pizzeria Mozza ***'

Pizzeria Mozza, as busy as I remembered it.

Broccolini with chiles & vinegar - our favorite of the night.
Arancine alla bolognese - o.k.

Bone marrow al forno - The grilled bread makes this dish and Silverton's bread is some of the best bread I've had.

Calmari al forno with fagioli & oregano - liked this, simple and straightforward.
Pizza - Rapini, cherry tomatoes, anchovies, olives & chiles - rapini was bitter/sour but not in a bad way, just be warned.
Pizza - Bacon, salami, fennel sausage, guanciale, tomato & mozzarella - our server described this as being super meaty but it was actually fairly balanced with some pieces of sausage and salami sprinkled about.

Butterscotch budino, Maldon sea salt & rosemary pine nut cookies - glad we got this old favorite.

Vanilla gelati

Thursday, September 2, 2010


This week I had a chance to check out Commonwealth with a few other folks.  The restaurant sports a fine dining menu in a casual environment right in the heart of the Mission.  The style of food is refined yet accessible and the value is outstanding. We sampled the majority of the from the menu and found each expertly executed. 

The standouts were the dishes at the top of the menu card.  The chilled summer squash soup was perfect for a summer evening, both rich and refreshing with some complexity provided by vadouvan and the crisp fried blossom.  The compressed watermelon dish was also a hit, the watermelon was sweet and bright, with a crunch texture that played against a savory dollop of creamy sauce. We also enjoyed their gnocchi which was light and creamy with the full flavor of mushroom and truffle coming through. This is a familiar dish executed perfectly and probably the most boldly flavored of the first courses.

We went on to have a variety of the entrees, the corn custard and sea urchin was a corn chawan mushi, the sweetness of the corn worked well against the sea urchin, with the heat of jalapeno kicking in at the finish. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish though the flavor of the sea urchin was not as prominent as I would've liked -- then again, I love sea urchin. Another success was the stuffed squid, the tamarind pork filling was juicy and the shelling beans were full of the flavor. The black cod dish and the hen with spot prawns were enjoyed by the others, but were not my favorites, though I did appreciate the execution and the thought behind them.
We ordered all the desserts they had available. The desserts were so good that as soon as we finished them we all agreed that we could eat seconds of every one of them.

The tasting menu had a few interesting items such as goat cooked in hay and a foie gras dish, that we did not have an opportunity to try.  All the first course dishes are worthy of ordering again as well as the entire dessert card. 

Considering that the menu echos the sophistication of Coi and Commis (even the clean white interior reminded us of Commis), I can't think of a better value for this style of food in the City.  I love seeing a kitchen take some risks and offer creative dishes, at their prices there's every reason to give them a try.  I'm looking forward to seeing how their menu evolves.