Monday, April 27, 2015

THE LANGHAM HOTEL-AFTERNOON TEA WITH WEDGEWOOD (PASADENA, CA)

The Langham Hotel
Afternoon Tea with Wedgewood
1401 South Oak Knoll Ave
Pasadena, CA 91106
http://www.langhamhotels.com/en/the-langham/pasadena/dining/afternoon-tea-with-wedgwood/
Tel: 626.585.6218
$$$$ ($50+)
Sun, 04/19/2015, 2:30pm reservation
    (4 Piglets)



What was once home to the Ritz Carlton now sits the beautiful Langham Hotel in Pasadena, California. Within the grounds of the hotel at the Lobby Lounge, afternoon tea is served Monday-Sunday from 12:00pm to 4:00pm. Gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the gardens are the essence to the room. Wedgewood teas as well as Wedgewood teaware are the core to the English tradition at this establishment.

The entrance to the Lobby Lounge

Traditional afternoon tea can be experienced during the weekdays while a special chocolate tea is served on Sundays. What's the difference? For fifty nine dollars, the chocolate afternoon tea includes a twist on tea sandwiches, unlimited tea, bottomless champagne as well as an unlimited dessert bar consisting of chocolate, macarons, and madelines. A chocolate fountain overflowing with melted chocolate leaves you breathless, excited, and diabetic all at the same time.  

The dessert bar
Table setting
TOWER OF TEA SANDWICHES AND SCONES ($59.00):
Dark Chocolate Mousse, Vanilla Marinated Shrimp -The shrimp is marinated in pesto. This sandwich was probably my least favorite.
Cucumber, White Chocolate Dill Mousse, Orange Supreme- The cucumber sandwich was light but it was missing a bit of tang that I so desperately needed.
Smoked Salmon, Roasted Shallot Mouse, Chocolate Mint- This was a good smoked salmon tea sandwich. Enough said.
Melon, Dark Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse, Prosciutto Chip-This was a refreshing tea sandwich. Different, yet satisfying.
MY FAVORITE DISH: Pink  Chocolate Mousse Profiterole, Raspberry Pearls- Out of all the tea sandwiches, this was my favorite one. It's unique and a bit on the sweeter end. It reminded me of a very delicate eclair.
Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Marble Scones-These were good and had a dense texture the way a scone should be. When spread with Devonshire cream and/or lemon curd, it brings the scones to a whole new level. 
A closer look at the sandwiches and tea
Bottomless Champagne for the table
Overall, the Langham Hotel offers one of the better afternoon tea locales in Southern California. The tea selection for the chocolate afternoon tea complements the sandwiches and desserts well. One of my favorites was the Mayan Truffle tea (a hint of spice and sweetness to create an infusion of flavors). The grounds to the hotel are beautiful and you can take a stroll in the garden afterwards to walk off the calories you just engulfed. As a former resident of London, I can vouch that this place is legit. 

Notable dishes: Pink Chocolate Mousse Profiterole with Raspberry Pearls and the Mayan Truffle Tea

Sunday, April 26, 2015

ODYS AND PENELOPE (FAIRFAX, LOS ANGELES, CA)

Odys and Penelope
127 S. La Brea 
Los Angeles, CA 90036
www.odysandpenelope.com
Tel: 323.939.1033
$$$ ($30-$45)
Thur, 04/09/2015, 7:30pm reservation
    (3.5 Piglets)





Goodbye Hatfield's! Hello Odys and Penelope!

The once fine dining restaurant created by Chefs Karen and Quinn Hatfield is now a distant memory. The Hatfields duo have moved on to produce a more industrial, rustic, yet sophisticated establishment. Tables are spread out and the overall atmosphere is unimposing. The restaurant is quite large, with a full bar and an open kitchen. Waiters are bustling tables throughout the night. For a Thursday night, the restaurant is packed with beautiful people standing at the bar. It seems like this is the new restaurant to see or be seen. A perfect place for a girl's night out. 

The interior


Odys and Penelope is a churrasco and grill that uses free range meat and poultry. The menu is rich Californian, using fresh aromatics and ingredients that meshed well together. Dishes are simple with delicious complex flavors. Somehow, Odys and Penelope got it right with the food, but the service could use some improvement. 

SMOKE STACK COCKTAIL ($12.00): Chipotle infused tequila, lime, agave, smoked salt. The drink had a salt rim and was smokey and spicy. It was refreshing. If you want a drink with a kick, this is a good one. 
HOT SKILLET FOCACCIA ($7.00): Ricotta, Roma tomato, gruyere. This was an unbelievably tasty dish. The focaccia was crispy on the outside, with a chewy and moist texture on the interior. The tomato gave a nice acidity and the olive oil to top it off was the icing on the cake. It reminds me of a delicious, hearty pizza.
HOUSE MADE PAPPARDELLE ($19.00): Pork belly bolognese, fried sage. The pasta had the perfect consistency and cooked al dente. A little on the spicier end, the bolognese was hearty and rich, coating the pasta well. This is a really good dish.
MY FAVORITE DISH. DRY RUBBED SMOKED SHORTRIBS 16 oz ($42.00): Western sweet. This was my favorite dish of the night. Why? The meat literally fell off the bone. No knife was needed.; just a simple fork to pull off the meat. The shortrib was juicy, moist with a smokey flavor.  It had a good ratio of fat and meat. Although sauce was offered (which was quite tasty), it was unnecessary. The meat was good just the way it was, and that's when you know you found a good piece of meat. 
CREAMY CAULIFLOWER AND MILLET ($6.00): Walnut pesto. The cauliflower and millet was on the plainer side and needed a bit more seasoning. The walnut pesto was a good touch and tasted better when mixed well with the cauliflower. Texture wise, it reminded me of congee. 
A table of food and drinks
CHOCOLATE PIE ($11.00): Rye crust, peanut crumble, vanilla-malted ice cream. The chocolate pie was light and airy. I felt it just needed a little more denseness for texture. The ice cream was delicious, but I preferred just a little more to go along with the cake.
CORNMEAL RICOTTA FRITTERS ($10.00): Salted local honey butter. These crispy pillows are light, hot and airy. The honey butter was delicious. This was probably my favorite dessert out of the two for the mere fact that its unique and light. 
Overall, Odys and Penelope delivers great food. The flavors are spot on and the variety of dishes are prominent in the menu. If you want meat, salad, seafood, vegetables, or pasta, you can find it at Odys and Penelope. My only complaint, and it's a big one, is the service. The hostess sat us 30 minutes after the reservation and the food simply took ages to get to our table. It was difficult to flag down our waitress as well. For these reasons, the restaurant earned 3.5 Piglets. 

Notable dishes: Dry Rubbed Smoked Shortribs and Cornmeal Ricotta Fritters. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

UMAMI BURGER (SANTA MONICA, CA)

Umami Burger
500 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401
www.umamiburger.com
Tel: 310.451.1300
$$ ($15-$30)
Sat, 04/04/2015, 7:00pm walk-in
    (4 Piglets)




Umami: a distinct savory taste that is one of the five basic tastes, distinguishable from sweet, salty, bitter and sour. The umami flavor is caused from the interaction of glutamate and its receptors on the tongue. It is this taste that is the foundation for Umami Burger.

Back in 2009, Adam Fleischman managed to open his first Umami Burger in Los Angeles. The burgers consist of 6oz patties seasoned with Umami dust that is composed of dried porcini mushrooms and fish heads. From one came many, and somehow, Fleischman has expanded Umami Burger to 24 locations.


The Santa Monica location is in the process of expansion. The restaurant itself is bright, with a full wait staff and bar. The ambiance is casual and a bench sits outside the front of the restaurant for dining outdoors.


The interior


The menu consists of burgers, salads and a number of sides. Umami Burger takes pride in their uniqueness by presenting cheese as a parmesan crisp. Their bread is branded with their signature "U" stamp.




SUNNY SIDE AKA TRUFFLE ESPECIALE ($13.00): Parmesan frisco, fried egg, truffle butter, truffled arugula.  This was a great burger and probably my second favorite. The egg simply oozes out as you top off the burger with the bread. The cheese gives it the crisp texture it so desperately needed. And well, the burger, was simply juicy.


(FROM L-R) TRUFFLE FRIES ($5.50), TEMPURA ONION RINGS ($4.50), AND SWEET POTATO FRIES ($4.00): The truffle fries were thin cut fries with truffle cheese. This had a light truffle flavor and I only wish I had more cheese. The tempura onion rings are thick cut and malt battered. The batter was thick and caused them to actually be slightly undercooked. I liked the crispiness, but I wish the batter was not as thick. The sweet potato fries are made with a signature sweet salt. I honestly believe it included some brown sugar. It was definitely different, but tasty nonetheless. Out of the three, the truffle fries were my favorite.
MY FAVORITE DISH. MANLY BURGER ($12.00): Beer-cheddar, bacon lardons, smoked-salt onion strings, Umami house ketchup, mustard spread. This is a man's best friend. It's hearty and rich just like a burger should be. The bacon lardons adds a richness that other burgers lack. Crispy onion rings give the burger crispiness and flavor. And the Umami house ketchup was delicious.
GREENBIRD ($12.00): Turkey patty, crushed avocado, green cheese, butter lettuce, sprouts, green goddess. Considering this is a turkey burger, it was actually quite tasty. The patty was juicy, the avocado gave it creaminess, and the sprouts and butter lettuce gave the burger the freshness it needed. This is a winner.




Overall, Umami Burger is a solid, casual burger joint that delivers good burgers. The umami concept transcends throughout the menu. I appreciate that Fleischman utilizes ingredients to bring umami flavors to your palate. The only downfall for the expansion of Umami Burger to various locations is the consistency of the burgers. On occasion, I have experienced a sub par burger (but that is a rarity). And...if they only offered shakes on the menu, then it would take Umami Burger to a whole new level, but in a good way (I guess that's the piglet talking).




Notable dishes: Manly Burger and Truffle Fries


Sunday, April 19, 2015

OX & SON (SANTA MONICA, CA)

Ox & Son
1534 Montana Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90403
www.oxandson.com
Tel: 310.829.3990
$$$ ($30-$45)
Fri, 04/03/2015, 8:30pm reservation
    (3.5 Piglets)





Ox & Son is the newest addition to hit Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. The place is trendy, sophisticated, a bit rustic and warm all rolled up into one. Tables line the outside of the restaurant for your choice of dining al fresco. The elected plate settings provide a sense of elegance. The lighting is industrial and the benches are extremely comfortable.


The interior


Table setting

Chef Brad Miller offers a menu that is innovative. The uniqueness stems from his own original creations. Flavors that take on an umami palate and pairings of ingredients that are out of the norm is the heart of Ox & Son. The duck confit, for example, is battered and fried to resemble chicken fried steak. It is then paired with a kimchi slaw rather than the usual mashed potatoes or traditional cole slaw.


UNI AND EGGS ($14.00): Soft egg, sea urchin, truffle salt, black bread. The uni was fresh, sweet and was not overpowering. To settle on the black bread was a good idea as it allowed the egg to stand out. The egg was not as creamy as I thought it was going to be. The only complaint I had about this dish was that it needed just a smidge more seasoning. 
BENTON'S HAM AND CORN GRIDDLE CAKE ($16.00): Maple butter, pickled onion. This was a favorite of mine. It definitely wasn't what I was expecting, but it was fantastic. The griddle cake was sweet from the maple butter. The ham offered a bit of saltiness to the dish. I definitely enjoyed the sweet and salty combination from this dish.  Good texture and overall good flavors. 
STICKY PIG CHEEKS AND BLACK RICE ($27.00): Black vinegar glaze, roasted turnip, coconut black rice, charred leek. This dish was just ok for me. The rice was a tad bit soggy. You definitely could taste the coconut with hints of ginger in the rice as well. The pig cheeks were delicious and had great texture but again, I felt that it was under seasoned. 


CRISPY PANISSE ($8.00): Ooey gooey raclette cheese. This was by far my least favorite dish. When all this time I was complaining about how dishes needed to be seasoned well, this dish was just overly salty. Prior to tasting this dish, I had an idea of how it would taste like just like my days in France. This was completely the opposite: it was a soggy mess. Potato and cheese are a perfect combination, but the potato was just way too soggy for my liking. This dish must be devoured within 5 minutes of plating or you won't be a happy camper like me. 


CHICKEN FRIED DUCK CONFIT ($25.00): Shaved pickled vegetables, house kimchi slaw, red chili and local honey sauce. Upon first bite, I was completely disappointed. The duck confit was completely dry. But, as I continued eating, the middle was moist and the fried batter added a nice crunch to the dish. The kimchi added freshness. This was a good dish, but the duck confit was inconsistent. 
MY FAVORITE DISH. COFFEE CAKE AND BUTTERSCOTCH ($10.00): Shattered meringue, brown butter, smoked salt, cinnamon ice cream. I loved the craziness of the presentation. The textures were perfect, offering sweetness  and creaminess from the ice cream and crunchiness from the meringue. The smoked salt brought everything together.

Overall, Ox & Son is contemporary and imaginative with the potential to be something unique. The foundation for the menu is rooted, but just needs some minor adjustments. I adore the d├ęcor and when an eatery makes you feel comfortable, you know you found a good spot. The staggering of dishes when they come out of the kitchen needs some improvement, but considering its a fairly new restaurant, they've done well. Ox and Son is probably one of the better restaurants on Montana and is at least worth a try.


Notable dishes: Coffee Cake and Butterscotch and Benton's Ham and Corn Griddle Cake. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

PIZZERIA MOZZA (HANCOCK PARK, LOS ANGELES, CA)

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N. Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
www.pizzeriamozza.com
Tel: 323.297.0101
$$$ ($30-$45)
Thurs, 04/02/2015, 10:00pm walk-in
     (4.5 Piglets)




What is it about Pizzeria Mozza that makes this my favorite pizza joint in Southern California? Could it be the delectable chewy texture of the pizza crust? Or the utilization of fresh, quality ingredients into their dishes? Miraculously, Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Nancy Silverton have teamed up to build a restaurant that houses one of the best pizzas here in Los Angeles. 

Nancy Silverton, who founded La Brea Bakery and received the honor of Outstanding Chef 2014 by the James Beard Foundation creates the substance for the pizza: the bread. Joe Bastianich provides delicious wine cultivated from his wineries. Lastly, Mario Batali...well, the name says it all.


Pizzeria Mozza is a bright, warm and inviting restaurant. The menu consists of traditional small plates with pizza being the central focus. Wood burning ovens offer a smoky flavor and are essential to the pizzas tasting irresistible. The fennel sausage is homemade and specials are offered nightly.


The interior


Place setting at the bar counter


BONE MARROW AL FORNO ($12.00): Delicious, rich bone marrow is roasted and accompanied by bread, cilantro, roasted garlic and sea salt. The best thing is to spread some garlic onto the bread, scoop some bone marrow on top of the garlic and finish it off with salt and cilantro. The marrow is quite good at this joint, although nothing still beats Bestia's bone marrow.


EGG, BACON, YUKON GOLD POTATO & BERMUDA ONIONS ($18.00): If you want a different take on a traditional pizza, this might be it. The potatoes are soft in texture and cooked through. The bacon adds a nice saltiness to the pizza. And the egg, well, it finishes off  the pizza with creaminess and richness to balance the pizza out. 

BACON, SALAME, FENNEL SAUSAGE, GUANCIALE, TOMATO & MOZZARELLA ($19.00): AKA MEAT LOVER'S PIZZA. This is by far my favorite pizza here. I love everything about it! It's a meat lover's dream and leaves you feeling satisfied! I can't find anything wrong with it...

MY FAVORITE DISH. CARAMEL COPPETTA ($10.00). With marshmallow sauce and salted spanish peanuts. Everything that you would want in a dessert is sitting right here in this caramel coppetta. It's creamy, rich, crispy, crunchy, sweet and salty. 
BUTTERSCOTCH BUDINO ($10.00): Maldon sea salt and rosemary pine nut cookies. This is one of the better butterscotch budinos out there. The texture is smooth and creamy, just like a pudding should be. The whipped cream mellows out the richness of the butterscotch. 
Overall, Batali, Bastianich and Silverton have brought outstanding pizza to the Angelenos. The restaurant is not pretentious and the staff are accommodating and attentive. I can always find myself craving a bite of their pizza every so often and that's when I know its really something special. Some might find their pizza bread to be a bit soggy in the middle, but who cares? With their chewy crust and fresh ingredients, the pizza stands to be undeniably mouthwatering. On a side note: They offer late night happy hour at the bar from 10pm-midnight, Sunday-Thursday. $20 for pizza, wine, and dessert...you can't go wrong! 

Notable dishes: Meat lovers pizza and Caramel Coppetta.