Tag Archives: two forks

Patina on South Grand Ave

First impression: playing with the cheap and weird centerpiece

Somewhat impressive bread plate

Carrot velute with chive oil

Olive oil black cod confit with baby bok choy, ramps, razor clams and parsley emulsion

Green garden risotto with ramps, English pea, zucchini and parmigiano reggiano

Complimentary dessert cookies and candies

Carved out in the side of the Disney Concert Hall sits the high end restaurant Patina.  Serving fine French cuisine, this restaurant has more pomp and circumstance than an Ivy League graduation.  Its too bad that I don’t have good things to say about this restaurant as I was treated (not by the restaurant) to this meal but I just hope that this review can prevent other unknown diners from making the same mistake we did.

It was a cold and windy Saturday night downtown. I wish I could say that the area was booming with hipsters who have migrated to the gentrified area but outside of the confines of the MOCA opening, there wasn’t much besides the lonely valet attendant. It was getting late and my entire group was hungry. Patina was decided upon because it was close and a couple in the group had previously eaten there had a pleasantly memorable dining experience.

It started out fine and dandy.  The maitre’d was friendly as he sat us on the terrace and ensured us that the kitchen would stay open late to accommodate our grumbling bellies.  We were then greeted by another waiter who placed crisp white napkins on our laps.  It was when I finally looked up from the menu to the table in front me that I noticed something was amiss.  In the center of the table were cheap centerpieces surrounded by plastic dinnerware. In contrast with the exorbitant menu prices I was quickly alerted to the reality that this dinner might not be everything I hoped.

A waiter brought around a tray of three varieties of bread to choose from, a French baguette, a dinner roll and an olive ciabatta. I had the olive ciabatta.  After which we were presented with an amuse bouche to invigorate our palates.  The amuse was a carrot velute and tasted like a sweet carrot from a home garden, caramelized, blended and served as a soup. Garnishing the dish was a chive oil that added a salty bite to the sweet soup.  Not technically an amuse by Top Chef standards since I couldn’t eat the entire thing in one bite but it was warm and tasty nonetheless. Looking back I think the amuse invigorated my palate with its bold flavors a little too much because immediately following the soup, began the downhill descent.

For the main course my friend Amanda and I decided to split the Olive oil black cod confit and Green garden risotto.  The Olive oil black cod confit was served with baby bok choy, ramps (wild leeks), razor clams, and a parsley emulsion.  While the dish was visually stunning, it lacked any sort of flavor whatsoever.  The confit cod was oily and bland. The parsley emulsion while bright in color, did not bring any brightness in taste.  It simply wallowed in the bottom of the bowl like the algae layer of a forest pond.  The clams seemed completely out of place on top of the cod because they presented no differentiation in taste or texture from the fish as both were mushy and flavorless.  Finally, the one point of light in the dish was the Parmesan croutons as decoration on the top.  It was a relief to finally eat something of flavor, even though that flavor was salt.

The Green garden risotto was the one saving grace of the meal. Several diners ordered the dish and all seemed to really enjoy it. I personally know I was eating it because I didn’t want the fish any longer. Served with ramps, English peas, and Parmigiano Reggiano, It lacked the smooth creamy texture and layers of flavor of other risottos I have tasted.  I assumed the abnormally large chunks of zucchini mixed in to the risotto were an attempt to distract the diner from the other flavors that in my opinion were absent from the dish (they must have had the night off). The blandness was somewhat counteracted by the Parmesan cheese but all in all the dish was boring , unoriginal and only memorable for its negative qualities.

Finally, when we finished Patina’s version of torture, we were served a complimentary dessert of three different cookies that consisted of a grapefruit gelee, a mini pistachio macaroon and a butterscotch square.  Surprisingly, the mini pistachio macaroon burst with big, authentic pistachio flavor.  The grapefruit gelee also tasted distinctly like grapefruit, while some may find that impressive, I am not fond of grapefruit so no points from me on this candy.  The butterscotch square (I’m not completely sure that is what it was but going with it for now) was dry and oily and not really worth talking about.

It pains me to give this review, but it is unacceptable for complimentary dishes to outshine the entrees that patrons will actually be paying for.  All the dishes looked promising with their vibrant colors and impeccable presentation, but unfortunately, my vision was the only sense that was stimulated by this meal.  My taste buds left neglected and unsatisfied and the couple who had recommended the restaurant apologized.  Patina you receive my first One Fork Down review.

http://www.patinarestaurant.com/home.php

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Meet in Paris on Culver

Salade D’Endive with roasted walnuts, dried cranberries, arugula, caramelized pears, Roquefort cheese and a walnut dressing

Tomato Tarte Tatin with Tomato confit, bosc pears, bleu cheese, frisee on puff pastry

Far: The Baja Mussels Near: The Provençale Mussels

Side of Frites (French Fries)

Daily Special: The Halibut


Pan Seared Scallops with Lobster sauce

Weekly Night Specials Menu

I have had the opportunity to eat at many of the restaurants in Culver City.  It seems that since the development of downtown Culver City, the upgraded enclave now has everything from high-end sushi (K-Zo) to easy Italian (Ugo).  All of which provide me no particular draw to eat at any of them. Meet in Paris (Meet)  elicited an enthusiasm in me that rejuvenated my love for the area, as it introduced me to a new part of the downtown that sits right outside the busy center. Meet in Paris, is a quaint French restaurant with contemporary and bold flavors. It takes authentic French food to a new level and left my mouth watering days after the meal.

My party and I decided to order a variety of dishes to share.  We started with the Salade D’Endive (its absolutely pronounced awn-deeve), and Tomato Tarte Tatin.  The salad contained roasted walnuts, dried cranberries, arugula, caramelized pears, Roquefort cheese and a walnut dressing.  All the elements were chohesive, and while it had many familiar ingredients, I felt as though I had tasted them for the first time in the way they are supposed to be tasted. All of the ingredients were plentiful and fresh and when eaten all together in one bite provided the perfect blend of bitter, sweet and salty.  Not to mention, the chewiness of the cranberries mixed with the crunchiness of the walnuts provided a contrast of textures that made each bite unique (this may seem like an extreme way to describe a salad, but let me tell you it was one of the best I have ever tasted).

The tomato tarte tatin is not a dish I will share in the future.  While also delectable it was extremely delicate and hard to split equally amongst four hungry diners.  I being a food blogger (lofty voice), had the first/best bite which was perfect. The filo dough was crispy, the goat cheese was salty and the tomato melted in my mouth.  The pesto drizzled on the dish was a great way to add flavor to each bite.  Not the best pairing with the salad because there was a lot of cheese on both but everyone at the table enjoyed the dish nonetheless.

While the menu at Meet has all the elements of a classic French restaurant like Fondue, Escargots, Paté, and Foie Gras it’s mussel dishes are a departure from tradition in the best way possible.  Both the specialty of this restaurant, and the source of my adoration, the Les Moules Frites (mussels and fries) come in 12 different varieties each broth more sounding scintillating then the next (see the menu for a full description).  For the main course we ordered the mussels to share, enabling the diner to order two separate bowls, each with a half a pound of mussels and a broth of your choosing.  We ordered the Baja mussels which comes with chipotle, tomatillo, cilantro and tequila and the Provençale mussels, which consists of shallots, garlic, tomato, thyme, fennel, fresh tarragon and Pernod (a French absinth).

The mussels were “literally” (Parks and Rec reference) the best mussels, I have EVER tasted. I had an epiphany eating them when I realized that every order of  mussels I have eaten up until this point have been over cooked and chewy. Each and every muscle in my dish at Meet was steamed to perfection and when dipped in the aromatic broth provided a bursting mouthful of flavor.  When I asked our waitress how they could possibly achieve the impossible task of an entire bowl of perfectly cooked mussels she told me that each batch of mussels is made to order thus, ensuring the freshness of your dish. The Baja mussels achieved a balance of spice and tang that made me want to drink the broth with a spoon.  It had the heat of the chipotle yet at no point was it spicy.   The Provençale mussels tasted like a more traditional French mussel dish.  What won me over was the effervescentness of the thyme and tarragon mixed with the garlic.  I love garlic and you could definitely taste it in this dish.

In addition to the mussels my table decided to order the Pan Seared Scallops served on a tomato confit with lobster sauce.  I have not tried Lobster sauce with scallops and I found that it added a nice heaviness to the lightness of the scallops.  The scallops were perfectly cooked, however, I let mine get a little too cold before eating it because I was focusing all my attention on the mussels.  Next time I think I will just stick with the mussels alone because they were more than enough food.

Speaking of next time, one of the best qualities of this restaurant are their daily specials.  On Monday nights all Mussel dishes are 30% off and all beers are 50% off.  On Wednesday’s, they have all you can eat Mussels for $25.95 as well as various other specials on the other nights of the week.  So, if your mouth is watering as much as mine is after reading/writing this post this feel free to email me at twoforkslauren@gmail.com and we can set a date to meet at Meet.

Meet you get Two Forks Up!

http://www.meetrestaurantla.com/

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Blockheads Shavery on Mississippi

Happy Blockheads employee

The machine that shaves the ice cream down.  You can see the Sweet Cream Snow Cream in the machine right now!

My order: Sweet cream snow cream with strawberries and chocolate sauce (it’s hard to capture the many layers of the ice cream with the iphone)

Margrit’s order:  Sweet cream snow cream with rainbow sprinkles and chocolate sauce

Paige’s Order: sweet cream snow cream with Oreos and chocolate sauce

You can kind of see the many layers in just one bite!

I have never had a dessert experience quite like my recent jaunt to Blockhead Shavery. In the heart of little Tokyo on Sawtelle in between Santa Monica and Olympic sits this original ice cream shop dolling out shaved ice cream to the lucky individuals who are “in the know.”  It’s called Blockheads because the ice cream starts as a large block/brick that is then inserted into a special machine that creates hundreds of shavings layered on top of one another.  According to its website, they describe the texture as “Hawaiian shave ice with the creamy goodness of ice cream.” What it really looks like is ice cream lasagna, but don’t let the pictures on yelp lead you astray; it is a treat for your taste buds all the way around.

I ordered the sweet vanilla snow cream (that’s what they call their shaved ice cream invention) with strawberries and chocolate sauce. There are a range of flavors you can order such as green tea, strawberry and black sesame. The sweet vanilla snow cream was the sweetest most flavorful vanilla ice cream I have ever tasted.  It has all the flavor of regular ice cream but it is light and flakey like Filo Dough mixed with Dippen Dots!

The toppings range from traditional Japanese rice cakes (similar to mochi balls) and sweet red beans to fresh fruit, heath bar pieces and chocolate chips.  Each topping costs an extra $0.50, not too bad but starts to add up when you get a lot of them.  What Blockheads does offer are pre-conceived concoctions with multiple toppings that are a great option if you want a lot of junk on your snow cream. Whatever you choose make sure to top your snow cream off with a complimentary chocolate, caramel, strawberry puree or condensed milk syrup.  They coat the top layer with the syrup of your choice and once it melts in between the crevices of the flakey ice cream it enhances every bite.

I hate to admit that I played it a little safe with my ice cream and topping choices, regardless it was delicious, so no apologies.  Next time I go, (and there will definitely be a next time) I will order all of the traditional Japanese toppings and see what happens (I will be sure to report back on the blog if you’re interested). Blockheads Shavery you get Two Forks Up!

http://www.blockheadsla.com/

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A Study in Pizza: 800 Degrees vs. Milo and Olive

800 Degrees Pizza assembly line

My pizza creation: artichokes, whole roasted cloves of garlic, Kalamata Olives and Feta cheese on top of mozzarella

Chopped salad: too many hidden garbanzo beans

Eric’s pizza creation: sopressata (spicy salami), sausage, mushrooms and marinated onions

Interior of Milo and Olive

Housemade Pork Belly Sausage with braised greens, tomato, fresh mozzarella

Nettles with rosemary cream, and, mozzarella

Crispy pepperoni

Beautiful ranunculus on the table at Milo and Olive

For today’s post I decided to do something different.  After being recommended these two particular restaurants a countless amount of times,  I wanted to conduct a little experiment pitting the high end pizza of Milo and Olive against the more budget friendly pizza of 800 Degrees to see if there truly was weight to the saying “you get what you pay for.”

800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria on Lindbrook Drive in Westwood 

800 Degrees is in the heart of Westwood Village, an absolutely perfect location for the students of UCLA.  Evidenced by the line of patient patrons out the door and down the street this restaurant has taken off and achieved a cruising altitude since its grand opening in January,  (Note: the line is relatively quick and completely worth the wait). 800 Degrees is the Chipotle of pizza.  You choose a base and then decide on toppings for your pizza.  The base pizzas start at $5.15 with every additional topping (proteins, cheese and veggies) costing $1.00 each.

The base pizzas aka “the classics” are the Pizza Margherita, the Pizza Bianca and the Pizza Marinara. Since almost every pizza at 800 Degrees is different I can only talk about the constants most notably, the crust.  As stated in its name 800 Degrees serves neopolitan style pizzas, where the crust is thin and the pizza is soft and chewy.  The thin crust helps to bring out the flavor of your toppings as each bite is not overpowered with bread.  All this is achieved in a wood buring oven after only being cooked for about a minute and a half!

All of the toppings offered at 800 Degrees are local when available and extremely high quality.  I ordered artichokes, whole roasted garlic, kalamata olives and feta on mine.  Check out their menu for a full list of toppings.  One tip I should note that came after talking about my dining experience with an experienced 800 Degree’s go-er is, ordering the whole roasted garlic on my pizza was an amateur hour mistake.  Apparently, there are several toppings that are complimentary however, you have to specifically ask for them to get them on your pie.  They are oregano, chilies and garlic.  Regardless, all of the toppings I chose for my pizza created a salty, Greek masterpiece that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Each individual pizza is a single serving and while that may seem like a lot for one person, because of the thin crust the pizza isn’t as heavy and starchy as delivery style pizza.

There are other items on the menu in addition to the pizza and they look just as scrumptious.  I ordered the chopped salad, not something I would order again though, the garbanzo beans were bitter and a little too abundant in the salad.  However, I would definitely order from the burrata bar next time.  They offer several ingredients like beets and balsamic, cherry tomatoes and pesto, or caponata (eggplant seasoned with herbs) and pinenuts that you can get with your burrata for only $5.00!

Milo and Olive

Milo and Olive sits on the complete opposite side of the pizza spectrum from 800 Degrees. While this neighborhood bakery and pizzeria also has a line out the door, its prices, ambiance and pizza differ greatly from 800 Degrees.

This high end pizza restaurant resides in a small storefront on Wilshire. With only 14 seats among two communal tables and about 10 others split between the stand up counter and the bar facing the kitchen you have to try your luck to get a spot here.  On the menu there are 10 pizza’s to choose from as well as other items such as salad and pasta.  For this particular experience I decided to stick with the pizza however, the Fusili Pasta wafting over from the other side of the communal table did look enticing.  We ordered the Nettles Pizza, the Housemade Pork Belly Sausage Pizza and the Crispy Pepperoni Pizza.  Of which I preferred both the meat pizzas to the nettle.

The Housemade Pork Belly Sausage with braised greens, tomato, and fresh mozzarella was my personal favorite.  The pizza was juicy, chewy and flavorful. The sausage was salty and spicy (no sexual innuendo intended) and with the tomato and greens it was easy to fold and eat as one big delicious pizza roll up.

The Crispy Peperroni pizza with tomato, and fresh mozzarella was the table favorite and as a result of enjoying the sausage pizza got to this one a little late in the game. Regrettably only half a slice was left. The peperoni was crispy and spicy and practically covered the entire surface area of the pizza!

Nettles are similar to spinach, only more flavorful; also on the pizza was rosemary cream, and mozzarella. The pizza itself was elementary.  It lacked the complex flavor of the other two and the crust was a little too blackened and crispy for me.  Initially excited about the rosemary cream on the pizza I could barely taste it.  What I did like about this pizza was that it provided a mellow balance to the other two meat pizzas. However, next time I will order the Buratta pizza with La Quercia prosciutto, tomato, arugula, olive oil, sea salt for my “balanced” portion of the meal.

The real difference between 800 Degrees and Milo and Olive lies in the ambiance of the two restaurants.  800 Degrees is large and in charge with the main goal of its interior to accommodate the large volume of customers that shuffle through the many tables.  It’s great that you can get a glass of wine with your meal but the tables are so packed in that you might have to worry about hitting the elbows of a sniffly freshman while you drink it. On the other hand, you could tell walking in that Milo and Olive is a gourmet pizza place.  The lack of seating was particularly shocking and made me question if their business is primarily delivery. However, the few tables they do have are beautifully decorated with fresh ranunculus and has a nice overall feel.

All in all, both 800 Degrees and Milo and Olive served delightful and original pizza. What I’ve learned from this experience is that it’s kind of difficult to screw up pizza! I would return to both restaurants but can’t get over the fact that I got just as delicious pizza for a fraction of the price at 800 Degrees.  The winner of this pizza battle is 800 Degrees! But Two Forks Up for both restaurants.

http://www.800degreespizza.com

http://www.miloandolive.com

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Ink Sack on Melrose

Ink Sack Menu

Bahn Mi Sandwich -Pork butt, pork belly, chicharrones and pickled veggies

Close up of the Bahn Mi

Pastrami – Short rib pastrami, horseradish cream sauce, Dijon and Swiss cheese

Maryland Crab Chips

Maryland Crab Chips for the car ride back to the West side

Mexican Chocolate Chip Cookie on the counter at Ink Sack

Upon attempting to go to the Urban Outfitters sample sale and seeing a line around the block in the pouring  rain, my friend Heather and I quickly gave up our dreams for buying cheap clothes and decided to drive back to work.  Feeling dejected for having driven across town in Friday rainy traffic we wanted to make the most of our sacrifice.  We passed Ink Sack on our way home and promptly “flipped a bitch” in the middle of Melrose after seeing that there was no line at Ink Sack.

The interior of Ink Sack is simple and is standing room only with a chalkboard menu and a chain link fence separating the kitchen from the register.  The sandwiches were innovative and exciting, I wish I could have ordered one of everything on the menu.  The prices are amazing for a Top Chef restaurant which is great because it makes the food of Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio accessible to the general public without a reservation.  The sandwich prices range from $4 to $7 with sides ranging from $3 to $7.  With so many choices we asked and ordered the most popular and newest sandwiches, the Bahn Mi and the Pastrami respectively.

The bread is home made and extremely crunchy, flakey, chewy and soft all at the same time.  The Banh Mi, a traditional Vietnamese sandwich, contained pork butt, pork belly, chicharrones and pickled veggies.  The light picked veggies were the perfect contrast to the heavy meat. While I would have preferred them more evenly spread throughout the sandwich, the sandwiches are on the smaller side and I was able to handle this task myself (tough life, I know).

The pastrami was the perfect sandwich on a rainy day like Friday.  The bread and the meat were warm and the horseradish helped clear out my runny nose (TMI?) The sandwich was a perfect blend of short rib pastrami, horseradish cream sauce, Dijon and Swiss cheese. The warm meat helped to tone town the bitterness of the horseradish leaving only the best of the flavor.  It oozed out the sides and I was able to dip the sandwich in the excess sauce.

After Heather and I finished our sandwiches we decided to try the Maryland Crab potato chips and the Mexican chocolate cookie.  Upon first bite of our potato chips (which do not contain crab) we quickly kicked ourselves after realizing  that the chips would have gone perfectly with the ‘wiches. They were large, thin, flaky potato chips sprinkled with seasoned salt and what we guessed to be cayenne because they also had a nice a little kick at the end.

The Mexican chocolate cookie wasn’t too sweet it had all the elements of a great cookie.  The center was doughy and the outside was crunchy and in the middle were tons of HUUUUGE chunks of Mexican chocolate which on the bitter sweet scale is a little more bitter than it is sweet. A perfect close to the meal.

Ink Sack is great for a quick perfectly sized sandwich, filled with original ingredients, from a Top Chef! Definite Two Forks Up for this one!

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Ford’s Filling Station on Washingtion

Paige taking the first bite of the truffle chips.

Five alarm chicken wings

Heirloom tomato, chickpea puree, burrata, roasted hazelnuts, chickpea pesto

Smoked brisket taquitos with avocado dipping sauce

Fishy and Holtzman waiting patiently while I take pictures of the food

Flat iron steak, brown butter mashed potatoes, chickpea puree, hedgehog mushrooms and pea tendrils

Mac and cheese with ham hock and fresno chili

Flattened chicken with fennel, chickpea puree and shitake mushroom broth

Ford’s Filling Station has been a staple of Culver City since before the gentrification of the area.  I’d like to say that with confidence but I’m pretty sure I just made that up. What I do know for sure is that it has been around over 7 years and has been consistently Zagat rated throughout that time!

We decided to eat at Ford’s for the celebration of my friend Jessica’s 25th birthday, Happy Birthday Fishyyy.  We all had heard a lot about the restaurant but had never eaten there.  My crew decided to tackle meal like a tasting menu and order a bunch of dishes (my favorite way to order). We started off the meal with the five alarm chicken wings, burrata with heirloom tomatoes (I’m starting to get on a burratta tour of Los Angeles), truffle chips and smoked brisket taquitos.

I would say that the most anticipated dish of the night were the brisket taquitos which I unfortunately have to report were also the biggest let down.  They provided no differentiation from your typical taquito at a Mexican restaurant. The meat was overcooked on the ends and in the middle you couldn’t appreciate it because the meat was overshadowed by the fried exterior.  The burrata and heirloom salad was a departure from the last two burata dishes I have eaten because of the toasted hazelnuts that gave a nice texture to the dish.  It also had a chickpea purée that tasted like pesto but with a creamier texture. The five alarm wings were a clear crowd favorite. They were just how I like my wings, saucy and spicy.  The blue cheese sauce on the side provided a nice balance to the heat of the wings. The truffle chips, oh my gosh the truffle chips, they were A-MAAHZING! I hate when restaurants advertise a dish that has truffle oil and then you can barely taste it.  Well, no shortage here! The truffle oil was flowing and the essence filled the whole table!

As for our main course, we ordered ANOTHER five alarm chicken wings, flank steak, flattened chicken and a side of mac and cheese.  The flank steak was the favorite meal of the second course.  I’ve had bad experiences with red wine reductions where it tastes exactly like red wine, but the reduction on the steak was perfection! The mashed potatoes that coated the bottom of the dish, soaked in the reduction were a wonderful combination of salty and savory that went brilliantly with the flank steak.  The asparagus while also coated in the reduction sauce maintained a crispy-charred-ness that was a nice contrast to the creamy potatoes. The chicken was chicken (I need to stop ordering chicken). What elevated the chicken dish were the other elements surrounding the bird.  It sat on a bed of marinated fennel and mushrooms in a deliciously fresh and flavorful broth. The mac and cheese was not the best I’ve ever tasted mostly because the cheese tasted processed. However, the ham hock and freno chili were a nice distraction from the cheese, which ended up making the dish taste great.

All in all, having this blog has led me to believe that I am a five star food critic and therefore I am tempted to judge every restaurant that doesn’t completely melt my mouth, I have to remember to rate restaurants based on what they are, instead of what they’re not. Ford’s Filling Station was a deliciously authentic gastro-pub with a great atmosphere and good food, and for that I give it One and Half Forks Up.

http://www.fordsfillingstation.net/

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Rustic Canyon on Wilshire


A wise woman once told me (Amburgey) that when a new restaurant opens, to get the full benefit of your dining experience you must go to that restaurant within the first 4-6 months of it being open.

To begin, I was with a group of 3 close friends who were all really looking forward to this meal, one (Paige) had even eaten at Rustic Canyon before and had nothing but good things to say.  For starters we ordered the Burrata Panzanella, Crispy White Polenta and Confit Duck Leg.  Of the three dishes I felt the Burrata was the best tasting (not as good as Tasting Kitchen’s though).  The burata was fresh and the croutons were big and crispy, the arugala was a leeeetle awkard but by no means hindered the dish.  As for the duck, while the reduction sauce under the duck was delicious, the duck itself was overcooked. The polenta, well, the egg on top was a melt in your mouth type moment and the mushrooms added an extra oomph. The polenta itself was nothing special, more a stage to showcase the other ingredients, which as the dish headliner isn’t what I expected.

For our main course we split two dishes among the 4 of us.  We ordered the hand made ricotta gnocchi with bolognese sauce and the rustic canyon burger with confit bacon.  The gnocchi while good (sorry for the lack of descriptive word here but I felt ambivalent towards the dish and couldn’t think of anything more creative) the meat in the bolognese sauce was overcooked.  The burger was scrumptious and the bacon was a necessary addition but really lets be honest, how hard is it to make a good burger?

After having heard so many wonderful things about the food at Rustic Canyon my expectations were extremely high and I left the meal feeling disappointed. Even Paige also a discernable foodie shared my feelings and even remarked that her experience several months prior was far superior to the meal we just ate.  While the food looked beautiful and the dishes were good, they overall lacked originality.  We also couldn’t overlook the fact that we felt every dish had stayed under the heat lamp a little too long.  For this I give Rustic Canyon One Fork Up.

http://www.rusticcanyonwinebar.com/menus.html

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The Tasting Kitchen on Abbot Kinney

Warning: pictures on this post are not as tasty that they appear.

 

I think if there is one restaurant that whenever mentioned I hear a resounding, “OMG I reeeeally want to try that place” or “OMG that place is sooooo good!” it is the Tasting Kitchen on Abbot Kinney.

This restaurant has been open for two years and it is still packed to the brim on a Monday night. While that is awesome for the restaurant it was NOT awesome for my dinner guests and I. It took us 40 minutes to get seated on a Monday night! Once we finally got seated it was 20 minutes before our waiter paid any attention to us.  Keep in mind that it was already 10pm at this point. Needless to say he didn’t pay much attention to us throughout the rest of the meal.  One thing I have realized about dining out is that a great meal can be tainted by horrible service, luckily I was with good company and the conversation was flowing!

The preferred method of eating there is to order shared plates.  For starters (what they call entrees) we ordered the broccolini with burrata and mushrooms, the beets with satumas and, the chicken wings. While the dishes and combinations were innovative I have to say I didn’t completely understand the pairings.  Burrata and broccollini? While the burrata was the best, creamiest and freshest I have eaten and the broccolini was cooked to perfection, eating the two together didn’t make ANY sense to me. But really, who am I to say? The wings were so-so, I personally like mine drenched in buffalo sauce (a guilty pleasure of mine) and these were more of a maple teriyaki blend but in the end nothing to write home about.  I should note that my friend Alex could tell that the chicken was high quality, I personally could not.  As for the beets, yes they were fresh and yes they had a nice citrus dressing, but they weren’t special on their own however, eating them in conjunction with the burrata made them better.

The pasta’s at the tasting kitchen are all homemade, we ordered 3, the corzetti raviolo, tagliatelle with tesa and morels (not pictured), and the garganelli with tesa and pickled chile. FYI Tesa is a bacon is similar to pancetta.  The pasta was good-ish, the corzetti was the most interesting because I had never had anything like it.  It is one large ravioli with ricotta and an egg cooked into the center.  As it was a new dish for me I don’t know how it compares to others, but I would definitely try ordering it again somewhere else.  The tagliatelle was the table’s favorite of the three, the white sauce perfectly coated the al dente pasta while the tesa gave it a salty crunch that was a nice contrast to the creamy alfredo.  The Garganelli was our least favorite, the pasta was a little too al dente and we felt that it did not have enough sauce.  I should note for the record that I am lover of all condiments and sauce and too much sauce is never enough for me. The sauce on the garganelli was kind of sad it was the best part of the dish and there definitely wasn’t enough of it to cover the pasta’s bland taste (ouchie).

I don’t regret eating at The Tasting Kitchen but I won’t be going back any time soon.  The ambiance is pleasantly comfortable once the crowd dies down however, it does not make up for the horrible service we experienced (does it ever?) Therefore, I give The Tasting Kitchen One Fork Up.

http://www.thetastingkitchen.com/

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The Colony Cafe on Pico

Colony Café has been one of my most favorite discoveries in the past couple months.  I discovered it on a whim while craving a snack after shopping at the Westside Pavilion and was drawn to the Hampton’s-esque blue and white decor.  It has since become my number one go to locale on the weekend when I want the PERFECT turkey sandwich.  I don’t think I have mentioned yet that I am obsessed with a good turkey sandwich.  So far, Colony Café has been my favorite turkey sandwich that I have come across in West LA.

Whenever I eat at Colony Café I always get the roast turkey sandwich, which comes with swiss, cranberry jelly, avocado, red leaf lettuce, dijon on whole grain bread. I’m a sucker for a turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce and almost always order it whenever it is on the menu. As a sandwich lover I appreciate when every single ingredient is fresh and distinguishable from the other, as it is on this sandwich.  For the first time this weekend I was tempted to sway from my tried and true dish when I tasted my best friend Paige’s (who inspired me to start this blog) roast chicken Panini. She would like me to note for the record that when she offered me a bite I took 3 (but it was for the sake of research duh!)  Her roast chicken Panini almost just about trumped my turkey.  It consisted of the freshest ciabatta bread, avocado, roast red pepper, cheese and garlic aioli (I might be forgetting some ingredients since it was a special an not on their regular menu).  As for the extras, their potato chips are homemade and amazing and their cookies are the perfect blend of chewy and crispy. Their sugar cookie was a step up from your typical sugar cookie because it contained the perfect amount of sea salt that elevated it to that next level.

Special of the day or not, you are always in for a fresh and delicious meal at Colony Café.  Make sure to check out their iced tea if it’s a hot day as well! Colony Café, you get Two Forks Up from me!

http://www.thecolonycafe.com/

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Vivoli Cafe on Sunset

Across the street from the Laugh Factory on Sunset lies the inconspicuous Vivoli Café.  A family run Italian restaurant that is a slice of heaven cut straight from a cake baked in Sicily, Italy.  My boyfriend Eric and I stumbled upon this restaurant after attending the early show of Colin Kane at the Laugh Factory (who is hilarious by the way you should follow him on twitter).

Everything is made in house including the complimentary olive tapenade and focaccia. I ordered a salad with a name that I cannot pronounce that came with artichoke hearts and lemon dressing (I would skip the salad course at this place there was not much to be desired in that department). Eric took a chance and ordered the veal cannelloni (see menu picture for full description of the dish).  Our waiter Franchescho (who was AMAZING!) informed us that this dish was going to take 20 minutes as they were making it from scratch (sign of a true authentic Italian restaurant).

The 20 minute wait ended up being completely worth it! The marinara sauce on this dish was the best marinara sauce I have tasted since I visited Europe.  It was simple and fresh and I could have eaten an entire bowl with a spoon and then licked it clean afterwards!  The pasta used for the cannelloni was perfectly al dente and the veal, which I don’t normally eat, was juicy and flavorful.

I give the pasta and the service at Vivoli Cafe Two Forks Up! Bonus was the fact that they gave us a huge bag of homemade biscotti to take home for breakfast the next morning! And according to Franchesco, Lady Gaga’s keyboardist eats there so who knows who you might right into when you go!

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