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Craft (Century City, CA) – Colicchio’s Redemption

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
(310) 279-4180

Craft on Urbanspoon

Thanksgiving 2009

November 26, 2009

Things I’m thankful for:

  1. That I now have a blog (even with all its stupid CSS glitches) that I can post stuff like this on.
  2. That I’ve been able to fight a good fight against my impending food coma (or else these sentences may not be as coherent as they otherwise would be).

Okay, that was totally a “things I’m thankful for” cop-out, but the writing isn’t the point of this post – I just wanted to post Thanksgiving pictures.

Just as some background: The brother and I have been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the past couple of years because…well…the mom hates to cook. Plus, she has this health freak thing where she never follows the recipe because it has “too much (blank) in it” (e.g. butter, sugar, salt, fat, etc. – all the stuff that makes food delicious). Thus, we usually take over so she’ll never know how unhealthy our Thanksgiving dinner really is.

This year, she wanted to cook. The brother and I got bored and ended up cooking all the sides anyway, but mom was in charge of the bird. We were worried – we shouldn’t have been. Her turkey blew TGFY07 and TGFY08 turkeys out of the water. No competition.

See that? That’s a fine looking turkey.

Anyway, hope everyone else’s Thanksgiving spreads were as good (and filling!) as mine. Now to give in to the tryptophan…

(NOTE: For those looking for a good dry-brined turkey recipe, refer to the LA Times)

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (Las Vegas, NV) – A Homecoming

November 25, 2009

I love Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is like my second home. I enjoy every moment when I’m there and I miss it when I’m gone. Recently Vegas has become my escape – a place to forget about work and Corporate America, a place to pretend I’m someone I’m not and immerse myself in the little pleasures in life.

L’Atelier is one of those little pleasures. When Vegas calls me home, L’Atelier is there to meet me at the door.

(Welcome home.)

I’ve been to L’Atelier twice now and I see no signs of stopping. My first time, I ordered the L’Unique menu (a three course meal that is brought out all at once) with an order of the foie gras ravioli a la carte. Surprisingly, it was not the ravioli but the chicken broth in which they were swimming in that blew my mind away. It was comforting and familiar, rich and exquisite…

I knew I had to return.

This time around, I splurged. I knew what L’Atelier was capable of and I wanted to try its best! I found myself ordering the Discovery Menu – a nine course degustation that I hoped would both exemplify its strengths and, at the same time, soothe my tired soul.

The menu started off strong – you can never go wrong when you start with foie. Our amuse bouche, a foie gras parfait with a port wine and parmesan foam, was a spoonful of bliss.

Course 2: King Crab on a Turnip Disc with a Sweet and Sour Sauce

Our next course, le crabe royale, was delicate and fresh.

Soon after, the courses wavered a bit. The scallop, although perfectly cooked, only had that *wow* factor if you were greeted with the crunch of sea salt in that same bite. The white onion tart with bacon and mushrooms was good but with the time-tested combination of bacon, mushrooms and onions, how could it not?

Course 5: Duck Foie Gras with Confit Quince and Yuzu

The fifth course was another foie dish: buttery foie gras in an unadulterated form…Mmm. However, the richness of the foie overpowered the dover sole in the sixth course, smothering it with the taste of the past. By the time the seventh course arrived (yet another foie dish – a foie-stuffed free range quail), I was full.

(As a side note: You know you’ve spoiled yourself when you’re bored with the taste of foie.)

Course 7: Grapefruit Infused with Prosecco with Lychee Sorbet

Luckily, L’Atelier had a trick up its sleeve to perk up my palate. The menu simply said “grapefruit infused with Prosecco with lychee sorbet” but what it failed to note were the Pop Rocks that lined the rim of the bowl and the Rice Krispies that lay hidden below the sorbet. The crackling of candy and cereal against the cold lychee sorbet sparked just enough appetite to finish the last course (a chocolate cake with espresso ice cream).

And thus the meal was complete. I sipped my cappuccino, gathered all my strength, then threw myself back into the world. Who knows if I’ll survive the next battle in life but if anything happens…well…at least I can always go home.

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
MGM Grand
3799 Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 891-7358
Twitter: @robuchonlv

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (MGM Grand) on Urbanspoon

Table 8 (Los Angeles, CA) – Salty, Tender Meat. Yum.

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…

(Read my original review on Yelp.)

Table 8 – CLOSED
7661 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 782-8258

Hatfield’s (Los Angeles, CA) – The Meal that Started It All

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.

(Read my original review on Yelp.)

Hatfield’s – MOVED
(new location information)
6703 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 935-2977

Hatfield's on Urbanspoon