Friday, July 29, 2016

KINJIRO (LITTLE TOKYO, LOS ANGELES, CA)

Kinjiro *ONE OF MY FAVORITES*
424 E. 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
www.kinjiro-la.com
Tel: 213.229.8200
Cuisine: Japanese/Izakaya
$$$ ($30-$45)
Wed, 07/20/2016, 9:00pm reservation
     (5 Piglets)




Somewhere nestled in the heart of Little Tokyo sits one of the best restaurants of Los Angeles. Kinjiro, operated and run by Jun, is a hidden gem offering traditional and contemporary Izakaya Japanese cuisine as well as premium Japanese sake. Izakaya, which refers to a type of casual Japanese gastropub, usually serves small plates and dishes which are meant to be shared.  

The restaurant looks simple, with clean lines and comfortable seats. It's intimate, with approximately 25 seats. A variety of sake line one of the walls of the restaurant where you just can't help but stare and try a sip or two. A window that sees through the kitchen allows you to watch what kind of food is being conjured up at this restaurant. It's precise and magnificent without pretentious food being served to you.


The interior with the sake wall
The interior

Another part of the interior
DEWAZAKURA OKA "CHERRY BOUQUET" GINJO (YAMAGATA) COLD SAKE BY THE BOTTLE ($55.00): The sake was cold and smooth. It wasn't overly strong and had a very slight sweet finish to the end. For sake that's filtered (unfiltered is my preference), it was pretty good. I wouldn't mind ordering this again.  
KING SALMON SASHIMI (5 PIECES FROM NEW ZEALAND) ($15.00): This was bomb dot com. I seriously loved every bite of this beautiful fish. It was super fresh and melted in your mouth upon each bite. It was the perfect way to start a meal. A definite must order and one of my favorite dishes of the night. 
KINJIRO AGEDASHI HOMEMADE TOFU, ORGANIC MUSHROOM ANKAKE SAUCE ($14.00): The homemade tofu was delicious. Soft, silky and definitely well made. The sauce was rich and thick, almost gravy like. It reminded me of a mapo tofu but without the spice. I actually would have preferred a broth instead of a gravy. 
NIMAN RANCH PORK BELLY KAKUNI, HALF-BOILED FREE-RANGE EGG AND DAIKON ($15.00): OMG! This dish is freakin amaze-balls! The egg is perfectly soft boiled, with the rich yolk oozing out upon each bite. The daikon was delicious, soaked in a delicious broth, but I could care less for it. The star of the show was the pork belly: so moist, rich, and delicate. It's probably one of the best pork belly dishes I've ever had. The best part about it is that you don't feel sick after eating such delicious fat. 
CHILEAN SEA BASS "YUAN-YAKI" (SOY AND YUZU MARINADE) ($30.00): This is probably my least favorite dish. Don't get me wrong; it's still good. But, if I had to compare all the dishes amongst this one, I would have to say it wasn't my favorite. The fish was cooked well with a flaky texture and a slight sweet taste. It was good.  
MY FAVORITE DISH. JAPANESE A5+ WAGYU STEAK (MIYAZAKI/SIRLOIN) (6.5 OZ- $130.00): I seriously have died and gone to heaven. It was a meat fest and I wanted it all to myself cause I'm a piggy. The wagyu was perfectly seared to a medium rare. It came with a ponzu sauce and salt to enhance the flavor as well as wasabi. The wagyu with just a sprinkle of salt was simply marvelous. The steak was so succulent, tender, and rich,. I loved every bite. All the condiments meshed well with the wagyu. For a hefty $130 (since it is flown in from Japan), it was worth it. 
UNI UDON WITH HIJIKI SEAWEED ($20.00): The udon was perfectly cooked, with a nice, chewy texture. The uni and the seaweed were definitely prominent in terms of flavor. It's a dish not for everyone, but if you like uni, you'll like this dish. I thought it was good, but not amazing. 

HOJICHA (ROASTED GREEN TEA) PANNA COTTA ($6.00): This dessert is amazing. Who would've thought to make roasted green tea into a panna cotta?! Well, Kinjiro did and it worked well! The panna cotta was deliciously smooth like butter. It came with a syrup that's almost maple like that enhanced the flavor of the panna cotta. I literally just poured that syrup all over and it was magical. A must order!
Overall, Kinjiro is one of the best kept secrets of Los Angeles. The food was divine, bursting with flavor and well-constructed. I appreciated that the waitress warned us that we ordered a lot of rich dishes and that we should order other dishes on the lighter end (hence, the salmon sashimi). The best part about the whole meal is the feeling of being full but not sick because the food was so fresh. The cost is around $$$ but if you do order the A5 Wagyu Steak, it will definitely set you back $$$$. Tip: there is a parking lot with a $3 fee with validation where Kinjiro is located, so parking isn't an issue.  




Notable Dishes: Japanese A5+ Wagyu Steak, King Salmon Sashimi and Niman Ranch Pork Belly






Monday, July 25, 2016

HONEYBOBA (LOS ANGELES, CA)

Honeyboba
11573 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
www.honeyboba.com
$ (under $15)
Mon, 07/18/2016, 2:00PM walk-in
    (4 Piglets)




Honeyboba is a boba spot that started in the San Gabriel Valley and has finally moved over to the Westside of Los Angeles. It's a cool, trendy boba establishment that offers Taiwanese drinks filled with warm, honey boba. 

The drink menu is pretty ginormous, ranging with classic milk teas to creamy smoothies. Their signature drink is the Frosted Signature Milky, a deliciously cold, blended concoction filled with whatever your heart desires (in my case, pudding + honeyboba).  

The new location on the Westside is actually pretty big. Beautiful chandeliers are situated throughout Honeyboba. There is communal bar seating in the middle of the space while modern bar stools, booths and sofas surround the interior. If you want to enjoy the summer sun, you can always opt to drink your boba al fresco. 


The interior
Beautiful Chandeliers
Another part of the interior
MY FAVORITE DRINK. FROSTED SIGNATURE MILKY +STRAWBERRY + PUDDING + HONEY BOBA ($3.79): Man, is this delicious. The strawberry flavor is really prominent. It can be a tad bit sweet, but luckily, I customized it and put 75% sugar. The pudding is smooth like flan. Together, it's a delicious combination. The boba was soft, chewy, and warm...just the way I like it. 
BLACK SESAME MILK TEA ($3.29) + BOBA ($0.49) + EGG PUDDING ($0.49): If you like black sesame, you'll probably love this drink. Again, the star of the drink is the warm boba. The egg pudding is a nice touch. I think I just don't like the flavor in general. 


Overall, Honeyboba is a good boba spot in the Westside. There is free parking in the structure behind the store on Federal, which is a huge plus. I've been to this location twice and the first time, the boba was super hard and the second time, it was just right. Sometimes the drinks can be sweeter than usual. I do appreciate you can adjust the sweetness level as well as add other items to the boba for an additional $0.49. If they improve on the consistency, then this place would be bomb dot com. 

Notable dishes: Frosted Signature Milky + Strawberry + Honey boba + Pudding

Friday, July 22, 2016

KAZUNORI (WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES, CA)

KazuNori
1110 Gayley Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90024
www.kazunorisushi.com
Tel: 310.935.3974
$$ ($15-$30)
Mon, 07/18/2016, 12:00pm Walk-in

    (4 Piglets)




Sugarfish has always been my go-to place to get decent sushi without paying a substantial amount of money. One of their signature dishes at Sugarfish is the crab hand roll: crispy nori filled with warm, delicate rice with fresh and delectable crab. It would be only a matter of time that Sugarfish capitalizes on the hand roll concept...and capitalize they did. 

KazuNori is Sugarfish's first hand roll restaurant concept. The first establishment opened in Downtown Los Angeles and Westwood is their second location. It's an easy place to get healthy food that's fairly fast, unless there is a line. 


Handrolls!
The decor is simple, with clean lines. There is a U-shaped sushi bar that comprises the whole restaurant space. Stools surround the bar and it's self-seating. The process of ordering is pretty straightforward: pick up a menu, order the set hand roll menu you want (it ranges from 3-6 hand rolls), and voila, you're all set!I decided on the 5 set menu for $19.00... 


The menu


Bar seating
Grab a menu and seat yourself!
Making my sushi
COURSE 1: Toro. The toro was cool and fatty, meshing well with the warm rice and crisp nori. It's a good, standard hand roll, but it's not one of my favorites.
COURSE TWO: YELLOWTAIL. As you can see, my hand roll wasn't filled with the yellowtail completely. Nonetheless, it is a good hand roll filled with minced green onion.
COURSE THREE: BAY SCALLOP. This handroll is one of my favs. I loved the little pieces of bay scallop. It makes you feel like you're getting a bang for your buck. It's mixed in with some fish roe to give it a bit more texture. The scallop is sweet and fresh.
MY FAVORITE DISH. COURSE FOUR: CRAB. Of course, my favorite has to be the one Sugarfish is famous for: the blue crab hand roll. It's fresh, sweet, delicious and full of yummy crab. How can you go wrong with that?
COURSE FIVE: LOBSTER. This is a good hand roll. The lobster was shredded into chunks and you definitely can taste that delicious crustacean. It still doesn't top the crab hand roll though.
Inside the lobster hand roll..a little too much rice in my opinion
Overall, KazuNori is a great semi-fast food spot that's healthy and delicious. I like that it's easy and there's no fuss. It's straightforward and you know what you're paying for. Parking can be difficult sometimes since it is in Westwood (it's near the Whole Foods so you can possibly park there, do a bit of grocery shopping and grab some KazuNori while you're at it). There is an automatic 16% gratuity added to your bill, so be aware! Also, KazuNori is pretty smart in how they decided to run the restaurant: people seat themselves (less overhead to pay for a hostess), the sushi chef serves your hand roll on a paper tray (so less clean up), and you pay at the kiosk when you're done! Easy breezy!

Notable dishes: Bay Scallop and Crab Hand roll

Sunday, July 17, 2016

RUSTIC CANYON (SANTA MONICA, CA)

Rustic Canyon
1119 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
www.rusticcanyonwinebar.com
Tel: 310.393.7050
$$$ ($30-$45)
Wed, 07/13/2016, 9:15pm reservation
   (3.5 Piglets)



Rustic Canyon is Josh Loeb's first restaurant out of the many restaurants he now is a part of (i.e. Cassia, Sweet Rose Creamery, Milo and Olive, etc). The name stems from the mountains of Santa Monica where his family's house is situated. It is a place where the decor is rustic and the food is seasonal with plates meant to be shared. 

The former executive chef of Ubuntu Jeremy Fox is now the executive chef of Rustic Canyon. His perception for Rustic Canyon is to bring simplicity and freshness while encompassing seasonal ingredients. 

The restaurant can be bustling at all hours of the day. The menu seems innovative enough. Unfortunately, many of the dishes lacked robustness and refinement. 

HOMEMADE FOCACCIA, BURRATA, AND BEET MOLASSES ($15.00): The bread was good and tasted fairly fresh. The burrata was nice and creamy and the molasses offered a bit of sweetness to the dish. Overall, it was good but nothing special. 

RICOTTA DUMPLINGS, BUTTERBEANS, SORREL "CACIO E PEPE," AND EGG YOLK BOTTARGA ($18.00): The texture of the ricotta dumplings were definitely light and airy. The butterbeans added a bit of texture. There was a bit of earthiness to the dish. The dumplings were nestled in a broth where the cacio e pepe shined through. It was good but not amazing. 
LOCAL RICE CONGEE, DUCK CONFIT, PRESERVED CHERRIES, AND THAO'S BASIL ($19.00): Interesting dish this is. The congee didn't have the right texture that I'm so used to, but then again, the rice is local. The duck confit was good and the cherries added a nice sweetness. Together, it meshed well but lacked a bit of acidity that I needed. 
POLENTA THAT COMES WITH THE PORK CHOP: Absolutely delicious and creamy
MY FAVORITE DISH. 16 OZ. STONE VALLEY FARM PORK CHOP, POLENTA, STRAWBERRY SOFRITO, AND CHIMICHURRI ($44.00): I'm very particular when it comes to pork chop. Most of the time, it's dry. This time at Rustic Canyon, it wasn't too bad. The chop was fairly moist. The strawberry sofrito did nothing for me as well as the chimichurri. I expect good acidity and freshness when it comes to chimichurri and unfortunately, it lacked that and seasoning. I wouldn't say it was amazing but it was the best dish out of everything I've tried that night. 
Overall, Rustic Canyon offers a variety of dishes that appeal to the palate, but unfortunately, it didn't deliver on flavor. The food is decent but not amazing. The restaurant gets quite busy, especially on the weekends. I've been to the restaurant a few times prior to this visit and I feel as though the food hasn't been as good. They also charge a 3% addition to your bill for the healthcare of their employees, which I'm not the biggest fan of these days. 

Notable dishes: Pork Chop