Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No. 187: A return to Kohryu . . . (Costa Mesa)

. . . and it was every bit as comforting as the first time around (and especially welcoming given the cold snap we've had recently.)

Kohryu Shio Ramen w Extra Negi
Their signature Kohryu ramen with extra negi; thick pork slices that's not too fatty, springy noodles in a shio soup base that's delicate and clean, tender slices of bamboo, the medium-boiled egg with its gorgeous and delicious tangerine-tinted yolk and, of course, the heavenly aromatics and deeply satisfying crisp from the fresh & fried scallions.

And at $9, not a bad investment at all. So, in short, a sincere arigatou gozaimashita to the staff for their respite from the season's chilly grasp without the out-the-door waits of the other more popular (but not necessarily tastier) noodle houses.

Can't wait to return in the warmer weather to try their cold noodle specialties too (Hiyashi Chuka!)

Kohryu Interior
Kohryu Ramen
891 Baker St. (x-street: Bear)
Costa Mesa, CA

Friday, November 26, 2010

Recipe 23: Buttermilk Soaked & Poached Turkey Breast

Since I usually celebrate Thanksgiving with only my mom & pop, our feast is drastically downsized from a traditional one with all the fixings. This year, we only have three sides (oven roasted potato wedges, balsamic-glazed brussel sprouts, stuffing) and just a turkey breast instead of the whole bird.

Feeling inspired by Food, She Thought's buttermilk-poached chicken, I adapted the technique for this year's turkey boob. And the result was most excellent: moist, tender and flavorful with an exquisite sauce from the buttermilk, leftover corn-lemongrass soup in the fridge and some simple spices I have in the pantry. My parents, who usually complain turkey being too dry and bland, finished their portion and picked away at the serving platter until it was all gone!

So I figured I might as well share this "recipe"; hopefully you can excuse the cameraphone pics and the mostly-eyeballed ingredients and instructions, since I didn't think I'd be blogging about it until afterwards.

1 pound skinless, boneless turkey breast, chopped in half
1 pint buttermilk
4 generous dashes of sea salt
2 generous dashes of ground black pepper
2 generous dashes of crushed red pepper flakes
2 generous dashes of cumin
2 generous dashes of ground ginger
2 generous dashes of garlic powder (garlic salt works too, but obvs. reduce amount of sea salt correspondingly)
1 dash of white pepper
1 pint soup or broth (I opted for Imagine's corn-lemongrass, which I had leftover in the fridge)

1. Night before, in a big measuring cup, combine buttermilk with the spices and pour into a freezer bag/tupperware.
2. Place turkey breast halves in, using hands to thoroughly coat and submerge in the buttermilk mixture. Let soak 8-24 hours.
3. Preheat a medium sized skillet with some cooking oil or butter, then add turkey breast halves with the buttermilk mixture and half a pint of the soup/broth. Bring to a simmer on hot heat, then reduce to a medium-low heat to keep it barely simmering.
4. Poach for about 30-40 minutes (or until meat therometer registers 165F,) flipping the turkey breasts once halfway through. Add the remainder of the soup as needed to the keep the breast halves mostly submerged as the liquid start boiling down.
5. Slice, serve and enjoy. The spiced buttermilk-and-soup reduction can be used as a sauce or dip too!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Potential Eats for Great LA Walk 2010

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes w Blueberries
Pancakes from Bottega Louie

I'm barely backing from my long weekender Boston (with its plethora of delicious eats and drinks plus lots of walkable trails and landmarks - posts to come!) and already this weekend I'm gonna slip into my sneakers again to partake in the 5th Annual Great LA Walk (my 3rd time doing it,) where it's going back to the trail's roots and tackling Wilshire Blvd. once again, all 15.6 miles of it from downtown LA to Santa Monica.

And in true Urban Hike form, I've started plotting all the possible fun eats & drinks options along/near the route -- so I can keep my tastebuds happy too.

View Great LA Walk 2010 eateries in a larger map

In putting together this list, I aim for places:
1) that are open during that time, obviously (thus my plotting of Bottega Louie and Nickel Diner, neither actually on Wilshire, but they are actually open for breakfast in downtown and walkably close enough for a quick A.M. bite before the Walk commences)

2) where casual/activewear-sporting hikers won't look too out of place (though there are some chic joints on there, though one can sit at the less-formal bar to have a drink & snack while soaking in the scenery and crowd.)
3) and related to #2, places that won't do too big a dent on the wallet.

4) finally and obviously, places I already tried and like, or want to try.

Thankfully, most of the Wilshire stretch has a good deal of fascinating eats, some that are old school classic L.A. (Pacific Dining Car, Kate Mantilini) some for the health-conscious & vegetarian eaters (Greenleaf Chopshop, Native Foods Cafe, Golden Mean Vegan) some reflecting the local-seasonal foods trend (Huckleberry, FIG, Wilshire) a few cute places to grab a quick sweet fix (Sprinkles, Huckleberry) and, of course, plenty reflecting the ethnic diversity of LA's foodscape (obviously, Koreatown restaurants such as BCD Tofu House and Genwa KBBQ, but also more exotic gems such as Ngoma Pan-African.)

So take a look at the list & map, keep your eyes peeled for your favorites and perhaps even join along as I live-tweet my way down the GreatLAWalk route & eat along the length of Wilshire. And if you think I left a must-try off, feel free to let me know via comments -- as I'll likely give the map another little tweak before Saturday.

Finally, the Great LA Walk organizers got some tasty surprises in store for us too -- including a food truck lunch stop by LACMA and an afterparty at Border Grill Santa Monica.

Hope to see you there!
Sweet corn agnolotti @ Rustic Canyon

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

No. 186: SugarFISH (Downtown LA)

With all the sugarFISH downtown posts out there in the blogosphere, what else can I add to the conversation? I guess not much, asides from the fact that it was a surely worthy meal to conclude my seven-month vegetarian stint. As such, when their PR invited me for to check out this restaurant for a hosted meal, I scheduled my dinner right on November 1st (and yes, I stayed meatfree for breakfast & lunch that day.)
You can imagine how antsy I was getting when my dining partner Conbon was running late (ask her about the missed calls and "ARE YOU HERE YET?" text messages,) but it gave me some time to check out the contemporary urban-funk feel of the place, with the exposed concrete, globe-shaped ceiling lamps of various lengths and a topography map made of steel pipes (I first guessed it might've been Japan, but co-owner Emmanuelle "Lele" Massimimi clarified that it was of Tokyo Bay.)
Urban Pipe Mural
Lele informed me that they were aiming for a "warm" atmosphere and while that shows with the soft white lighting & the blond wood furnishings, the concrete, exposed pipes & steel definitely gave off a cool vibe too. Not a bad thing, in my opinion.
Nigiri Trio #1
Once Conbon arrived, we were sent on a speed-eating sushi frenzy!
Albacore Belly
It may not have been Lucy & Ethel @ the Chocolate Factory, but it was definitely faster than my usual rate of sushi consumption, thanks to their warm and incredibly delicious sushi rice that practically falls apart within seconds of arriving on the table.
Conbon Eating Hand Roll
Ones we had to eat even faster were their handrolls, wrapped in high-quality seaweed that's impeccably crispy & flavorful on the first bite but softens up in 10 seconds! I tried to get a shot of Conbon eating it since she was served first, but this was all I could manage before my hand roll arrived with Lele and the server basically telling me "Eat it now!" (in a more civil manner.) But even with the haste, Conbon and I savored every bite.
Big Eye Tuna Sashimi
Also notable are their housemade condiments, from the vinegar for the sushi rice to the deft touch of ponzu sauces (original, yuzu and chili) on many of the sushi & sashimi we had. For the ones that came "naked," all that's needed is a light dab of soy sauce. It was a sublime experience to be able to taste the freshness and unique character of each fish, delightful accented - but never overshadowed - by the accompanying garnishes and sauces.
Nigiri Trio #2
I haven't had a single piece that came close to mediocre, but my personal favorites included the giant scallop, sea urchin and sweet shrimp nigiri and the blue crab handroll, which obviously have different textures, mouthfeel and flavor nuances but all sharing a sweet-briny taste profile that really speaks to the seafood's quality and the pristine waters that they were caught or raised in.
Since there isn't much I can say about the food that hasn't already been mentioned by another blogger (and likely better worded,) here are some fun trivia tidbits I've discovered while conversing with Lele throughout the meal:

- Kazunori Nozawa personally selects the same seafood for both Nozawa and the sugarFISH restaurants around 5:30 a.m. daily, even Sundays (many suppliers take that day off - thus making it a generally bad day to go sushi-eating unless you want day-old seafood - but Nozawa's got connections and working relationships with the select few purveyors who do work on the supposed day of rest.)

- While the rice is made in small batches and is never more than 20 minutes old, for to-go orders they tend to use rice towards the latter half of its 20-minute lifespan since it can hold up to ponzu & soy sauces better without falling apart. Of course, given the ultra-short timeframe of the seaweed staying fresh, the hand rolls are not available to go.

- For those with small appetites but still want a taste a wide variety of sushi, their prix-fixe menus (including "the Nozawa") can be split. Items are available a la carte too so you don't have to fight for that one toro & blue crab hand roll.

- In keeping with the artsy, trendy vibes of Downtown LA restaurants, there may be DJ nights in the future for this sugarFISH -- though right now the playlist is a fairly interesting mix of contemporary adult tunes, Putumayo-esque world music with an occasional 80s and 90s pop flashback.

- Since I'm always intrigued by chefs, restauranteurs & foodies who stay fit - which Lele is - for my other blog, I found out that he was a former boxer and used to chase waves with his surfboard daily . . . along with two decades of restaurant experience in front AND back of house (a stark contrast to my pitiful five years.)

Moving onward, I will still have a mostly veggie-focused, and dare I say "vegivore", diet; but this was definitely a great re-introduction in the world of meat and should I get a sushi craving again, sugarFISH is definitely a top contender for me to get my fix.
SUGARFISH concrete logo
More photos from my flickr here

600 W 7th Street
Los Angeles
(213) 627-3000

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

No. 185: AMMO (Hollywood)

AMMO Restaurant is like a security blanket--comfortable, warming. Having been in business since 1996 (ancient by LA standards,) it's been dishing out farm-fresh fare with just a smidgen of contemporary-urban twist for nearly 15 years. With its Hollywood location (on Highland just north of Santa Monica,) it's the place that "the biz" comes to when they want tire of the haute, high-brow (and high priced!) dining and just want something homely and familiar. Indeed, on busier days you may see some screenplays dangling precariously on the edge the two-tops, sunglass-donning agents and producers talking shop at the bar while downing their obligatory three martinis, and maybe even a famous face now and again. But I digress...

Going off that seasonal-and-simple approach to food, earlier this year AMMO launched their Sunday Roast, a three-course, $32 prix-fixe that highlights the produce of the season. I loved the concept when it started and when they did a vegetarian-friendly menu a few weeks back, I immediately made plans to go, joined in the 11th hour by vegetarian-turned-sensitive omnivore Andy of The Windattack (after a little wine tasting @ nearby Domaine LA with Dishing Up Delights.)

Bread Offerings
The regular dinner menu is served too, but our eyes immediately honed in on the prix-fixe. So we quickly placed our order and was served this gorgeous & tasty bread duo of tarragon semolina & herbed flatbread. Wonderful with a dab in the olive oil, they were perfectly season, with the herbs perfectly accenting the freshly baked bread aromas.
Warm Mushroom Salad
Our first course is a warm mushroom salad with bitter greens and brown butter croutons in a vinagrette dressing. A delightful balance of different flavors and textures, but I can definitely taste freshness throughout. Andy in particular loved that the greens in this salad are carefully chosen (arugula, radicchio, frisee) and not just a random mish-mash of different "mixed greens" lettuces. Indeed, after he pointed it out I noticed how I appreciated how the slight bitter flavor offset the richness of the roasted mushrooms & the oily-acidity of the dressing.
Veggie Pot Pie w Lemon & Thyme
For our mains, vegetable pot pie with lemon & thyme -- oh can it get any more comforting than this? Farm-fresh vegetables (carrots, onions, potatoes, corn, broccoli and parsnips!) swimming in a delightful gravy under a golden, flaky crust that spilled over the bowl. Again, what we loved is the amazing flavor these veggies packed ("this carrot tastes so carroty!") and how the comparatively thin lemon & thyme gravy help rounded off some of the richness inherent in a pot pie. And even though we were beyond full, it didn't stop us from finishing this oversized "personal" pot pie... or using the last of our bread to sop up the stray veggie pieces and the puddle of gravy.
Baked Mission Fig
Desserts came in the form of roasted black mission figs baked in brioche in a pool of vanilla bean creme anglaise. a.k.a. what Fig Newton aspires to be as an adult. So simple and straightforward, yet so sophisticated too. The figs are the stars here, and they didn't disappoint--bursting with flavorful, sweet juiciness--so heavenly once I started I didn't even pause to take a photo of the interior. The brioche had a caramelized exterior and semi-cakey texture within and were perfect for soaking up that anglaise.

As we rolled out of AMMO with our bloated bellies, I realized I didn't seee any Hollywoody types throughout dinner. But such stellar ingredients that shone through with such simple-yet-elegant preparation, who needs a celebrity cameo to detract from that?

AMMO (click here to learn about their next Sunday Roast menu)
1155 North Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 467-3293

Ammo on Urbanspoon


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