February 7, 2010
(Picture taken by Austin of Living to Eat.)
Yes, it’s true – I *heart* Chef Ben Bailly. Not quite love – it’s going to take another serving or two of his famous black truffle mac and cheese for me to get to that level – but definitely *heart*. I fall into *heart* rather quickly; I just can’t help myself.
Take Petrossian for example – I’ve been *heart*ing it for a while now, ever since the words “truffle mac and cheese” fell upon my ears. Thus, when this current Winter 2010 DineLA Restaurant Week came rolling around, I knew – If I only had one restaurant to go to this season, it would be Petrossian.
After hearing so much about it, it was surprisingly to walk into Petrossian for the first time. It was this little unassuming spot on the corner of Robertson and Rosewood, without a single valet umbrella in sight. (I got lucky and found myself a free meter on the street.) Their dining room is clean and simplistic – a combination of mirror and glass and black and white. While I first made myself comfortable there, I soon overhead the bustle of the kitchen behind the wall and relocated myself to the boutique where I could catch a glimpse of the kitchen. You can’t tell when peeking in from the outside but Petrossian’s kitchen is very small; it’s amazing Chef Ben can produce such wondrous dishes from a single stove. (Yes, a single stove. Four burners – That’s it!)
Now, onto the food…Oh, THE FOOD.
Although I went for DineLA, their regular menu was so tempting I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with only three dishes. Thus, my three course DineLA prix fixe of shrimp papillotte, pork belly and pistachio creme brulee soon became a five course meal, with the addition of the napoleon tartare and truffle mac and cheese both ordered a la carte. Little would I know, this five course would later turn into a seven course, with the blinis and mushroom cappuccino delivered compliments of the chef. By the end of the meal, I was holding my stomach in a mix of pain and pure bliss. (So much food! Need more space!)
The night began with the trio of blinis topped with trout roe, salmon roe and caviar. I usually have roe prepared Japanese style over rice, so tasting a more traditional preparation was a nice change of pace. I particularly enjoyed the salty caviar against the creme fraiche, although the salmon and trout roes were also fantastic.
The next course was the first of the DineLA three – the shrimp “papillotte” with passion fruit and chili ginger sauce. Traditionally, to be cooked “en papillotte” means a protein (typically fish) is wrapped in parchment paper and cooked to lock in the moisture. The shrimp were not quite cooked en papillotte; instead of wrapped in parchment paper, they were wrapped in thin wonton skins and fried. When tasted with the tangy passion fruit ginger sauce, one could see a slight Asian influence in the dish.
Just as the two light starters perked my appetite, then came THE DISH: Chef Ben’s famous truffle mac and cheese.
When I had mentioned I was going to Petrossian, one dish was shouted from the heavens with foodies rallying like it was the next coming – the truffle mac and cheese. Chewy orrechiette pasta, smothered in cream, black truffles and bacon…The aroma alone made my mouth water. While the description may sound heavy, it was perfectly balanced and not at all overwhelming. The flavor caused my eyes to roll into the back of my head in delight with every bite. Absolutely amazing.
If there was a dish that could have followed up the truffle mac and cheese without disappointment, it would be the napoleon tartare. Raw steak with a layer of caviar streaked through the center – there is nothing more luxurious than that. Seasoned by Chef Ben himself, I could have eaten the whole thing with a fork – no crostinis necessary. (They have a version of the Napoleon tartare without caviar but seriously people – why would you NOT add caviar?!)
After the tartare came the mushroom cappuccino. It was a complex soup that tasted like a field of mushrooms – deep and earthy, each sip felt like it was warming my soul. The chestnuts hidden at the bottom of the cup added some texture and a bit of sweetness to that final sip.
Our last savory dish of the night was the DineLA pork belly, a glorious slab larger than the palm of my hand. Its delicious fat glistened in the candlelight, each bite melted in my mouth. Petrossian’s pork belly could arguably be the best piece of pork belly I’ve had in my life.
Finally, I arrived at dessert. By this time, I had already reached foodie delirium and only allowed myself a couple tastes of each dessert. Flavor-wise, the pistachio creme brulee was the most unique, with the roasted pistachios giving off almost a green tea/matcha taste. (Chef Ben seemed surprised by this comment – there were only pistachios in the brulee, no tricks!) I personally favored the panna cotta with strawberry jam; it was light ending to a large meal and my gorged self really couldn’t handle anything more than that.
So now you see why I say I *heart* both Chef Ben Bailly and Petrossian; the thought of this meal still causes my heart to beat faster. Now to go again to see if this is just *heart* or love… (If this is how I’m kicking off 2010, the rest of the year has some damn high expectations to live up to!)
January 30, 2010
When I went to NYC in December, I had the opportunity of going to a wondrous place called “Max Brenner”. Walking through the doors was like walking through a curtain of chocolate – you were immediately greeted with the smell of it and its warm embrace. I remember loving Max Brenner’s carefree, sugar-loving establishment and wishing that something like this existed in LA.
Little did I know, there already was.
Stumbling upon Syrup Desserts was like walking into LA’s adult version of Max Brenner. Not quite Candyland, this was the more sophisticated version for those who enjoyed a good french press with their sugary delights. You may not drown in chocolate at Syrup Desserts, but you can definitely appease your sweet tooth here.
Now comes the question: Which one is better? I can’t say for certain, but I do know this: They both make a mean berry waffle.
“It’s so simple. All you have to do is just really love chocolate!”
If Max Brenner were the Willy Wonka of NYC, I would be the girl who got stuck in a tube because I was drinking too much chocolate out of the river. (Yes, the short little rotund one.)
Max Brenner is just a happy-go-lucky kind of place. Open until 2AM, it’s perfect for a midnight snack or, in my case, a warm cup of hot chocolate on a cold New York night. They’ve got half a dozen varieties of hot chocolate on their menu, each made with your choice of either dark, milk or white chocolate. I personally recommend the dark Mexican hot chocolate – the spiciness in that cup kicked the cold right out of me!
After hungrily eyeing the neighboring table’s Tutti Frutti waffles for five minutes straight, I figured I should order a plate of my own. The waffles themselves were a bit dry but the mountains of strawberries compensated for it. The berries were ripe and sweet and had just a hint of citrus to punch things up a bit. The vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup were eaten separately – There was no need to load that waffle up any more than it already was, it was great as is.
New York, NY 10003
If parking downtown wasn’t such a pain, you’d find me at Syrup Desserts every weekend, fork full of waffle in one hand, coffee in the other and a lonely laptop sitting in front of me. (Hey, I only have two hands!) Any establishment that serves both LAMill and Intelligencia coffee already gets an “A” in my book. Add some of the best waffles I’ve had in recent memory and you’ve earned yourself that extra plus.
Syrup Desserts serves three types of waffles: buttermilk waffles, Belgian waffles and liege waffles. Again, with the help of Wikipedia, I shall define my food. Liege waffles are:
“a richer, denser, sweeter, and chewier waffle. Invented by the chef of the prince-bishop of Liège in the 18th century as an adaptation of brioche bread dough, it features chunks of pearl sugar, which caramelizes on the outside of the waffle when baked.”
In other words, it’s pure deliciousness.
(Side tangent: My food photo skills are slowly getting better! YAY!)
As mentioned, the waffles are noticeably chewier than your typical Belgian waffle but I personally like the consistency. I was surprised to find blueberries baked inside my waffle; they were a welcome addition and didn’t soggy the waffle at all.
As for the accompanying blackberry jasmine ice cream, I could eat vats of the stuff. Although my dining companion Austin thought they had overseeped the blackberry jasmine tea, I loved the bold blackberry flavor and the heavy tea aftertaste.
I can already tell Syrup Desserts is soon going to be one of my regular late night stops. The last time I was there, I noticed they have a Mexican hot chocolate on their menu too – if it’s as good as Max Brenner’s, I’ll never leave.
611 S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
November 29, 2009
When I went to ‘wichcraft during my Labor Day trip to Las Vegas, I was underwhelmed. I’ll document my experience there at another time, but let me just preface this review using the following terms:
If Colicchio was a general ledger, I’d record the following:
DR. Cash – in Colicchio’s pocket (from Felicia, for ‘wichcraft)
CR. Payable – to Felicia (for good food, because of ‘wichcraft)
Thus, when DineLA Restaurant Week came rolling around and my fellow foodie friends and I made our reservations for Craft, I was hoping for something more substantial – a meal to really showcase his talents.
Welcome to Craft.
During Restaurant Week, Craft only serves from their DineLA menu which, on first thought, seems a bit odd. However, once you look at their menu, you realize they’re not restricting your options at all. In line with their usual “family-style” mentality, all appetizers, side dishes and desserts are served to the entire table – no debating necessary. This equates to a total of 2 first courses, 1 entree (your choice of one of four protein options), 3 sides and 3 desserts for the DineLA fixed price of $44.
As previously mentioned, our party was served 2 first courses. The first of the two, the salmon rillette, was smooth and had just a hint of smokiness to it. The cracker which I smothered it over was reminiscent of a Wheat Thin (albeit, a high end Wheat Thin). The second of the first courses was an endive, apple and pecan salad. The dressing (made of blue cheese and…balsamic, perhaps? not quite sure) mellowed out the bitterness of the endive. The apples added a nice sweetness to the dish and candied pecans added a bit of crunch.
Craving something hearty, and partly convinced by the waiter who stated it was one of his favorite dishes, I ordered the short ribs as my main entree. It came with a side of market vegetables (brussel sprouts, carrots, okra, cauliflower and the like), assorted mushrooms, and the creamiest potato gratin I’ve had in recent memory. (Just a note about the gratin: It was creamy and rich, but not heavy. I could have easily eaten the whole serving.) After evaluating the rest of the entree options after they were served, I think I made the right choice with the short ribs. They were soft and tender with a nice crust on the outside of it and, unlike the sirloin (which I had a quick bite of), the flavor had some depth to it. Spooning the au jus onto the ribs was a must.
Lastly, came dessert, which had a little bit of something for everyone. For something light, Craft served up an sextet of ice creams and sorbets: banana, raspberry, vanilla, apple, cacao chip, and cinnamon. The apple was fresh and had a very fine, natural grit to it. The banana tasted like frozen pureed bananas (and I say that in a good way). We all hoarded our spoon of cinnamon ice cream like auditors hoarding their favorite office supplies.
For something a tad heavier than the ice cream and sorbets but still sticking with the fruit flavors, we were presented with the raspberry almond buckle. Although it may look dense like a coffee cake, it’s actually light and fluffy. The raspberries just burst from the batter with an explosion of tartness.
For the richer of the three desserts was the Columbian chocolate coupe – similar to a chocolate mousse, but not as thick. It sat atop fresh whipped cream and was topped with candied oranges and crunchy devil’s food cake. The saltiness of the devil’s food cake complimented the chocolate coupe well.
I don’t remember who suggested ordering the beignets (which weren’t even on the DineLA menu, although they available for those sitting at the bar), but I suddenly found myself sitting with a pile of them in front of me. They were light and fluffy – like eating a puff of air, wrapped in dough.
Given dinner at Craft was a DineLA tasting menu, I was very happy with the quality of food that was served. I thoroughly enjoyed all the dishes that were placed in front of me and thus am wiping clean Colicchio’s “good food” payable to me. Further, as we were presented with a $10 voucher for our next meal at Craft at the time of payment, I think the entries currently stand as such:
DR. Prepaid – $10 Craft Voucher
CR. Liability – Felicia’s Obligation to Return to Craft
Colicchio, I’ll be back to clear my debts.
10100 Constellation Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90067
November 22, 2009
Table 8 is sadly no longer with us and that’s a damn shame. It had the tastiest slab of meat I’ve ever had the opportunity to put into my mouth.
Govind Armstrong, please bring Table 8 back to Los Angeles! I miss your salt encrusted porterhouse for two. You can even have the other serving if you’d like…
Table 8 – CLOSED
7661 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
November 22, 2009
This was a during a happier, simpler time. A time when a nice dinner out was a still a novelty and the taste of foie gras still a luxury. A time when my stable accounting gig still gifted little bonuses for jobs well done. A time when I still had a boy by my side.
My memory of this meal is so vivid, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget it.
I first heard of Hatfield’s in September of 2007, but I didn’t have the opportunity to try it myself until the following May. I had just finished my first year in public accounting and – like I had expected – I worked hard that first year. Hard enough that, at the end of it, I got a nice little bonus to make up for those twenty-one 14-hour days I worked in a row in February and those long 8AM to 3AM days I worked in April. The boy had been working hard too – he had been studying for his CPA exams all spring – and both of us deserved a little treat.
My little bonus paid for our meal to Hatfield’s.
I can still remember the name of our waiter – not because I documented it in a review the day after – but because I’ve still never had a waiter as good as Hans. Just to give you an idea of the quality of service we received: The boy and I ordered the tasting menu and wine pairing – 7 courses for each of us (14 different dishes in all) and 6 glasses of wine. We asked for a copy of the menu to remember the meal – Hans wrote every single course down on the menu by hand. Like I said, to this day, I’ve never received service better than I did that day at Hatfield’s.
I’ll admit, Hatfield’s was my first real fine dining experience. Yes, I had been to a couple fancier restaurants before but they were typically steakhouses that focused on meat. Hatfield’s was different – the focus wasn’t meat but rather the components of the dish and how they worked together. Some dishes were average, some were amazing and one left me absolutely speechless. It was an eye opening experience. The boy and I said it was the best meal we had ever had.
I never went back to Hatfield’s after that. I was afraid that, if I went again, it wouldn’t live up to expectations so I never returned. But, I’ve always remembered the meal – This is the meal that started my love for fine dining. This is the memory that I think of when I think of a perfect meal.
Good food… Good wine… Good company… I’ll never forget it.
Hatfield’s – MOVED
(new location information)
6703 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038