Where: XIV by Michael Mina in West Hollywood
Must-Order: Steak sliders; Stuffed Avocado; XIV Grilled Cheese
The Verdict: XIV can be best described as an ideal second date place. A first date here would have your date wondering if eat exclusively at posh, trendy restaurants; but a second date here says you’re a classy, fun-loving foodie. At least, that’s how I’ll describe myself if I ever take a date here. And sure, it’ll likely end there, but, what a way to go!
A large establishment with a huge “XIV” sign that you can’t miss, the Michael Mina restaurant is located on the northwest corner of Sunset Blvd. and Crescent Heights — smack dab in the middle of West Hollywood. (So if you meet your date here, neither of you can pretend you couldn’t find the place.)
The inside is exactly what you think it would be: elegant, classic, cool and cozy. The menu, a wide range of eclectic offerings, makes for fun topics for conversation. What do you like? Is there any food you dislike? What are pickled cherry peppers? How good could sliders possibly be?
And that is exactly what you need to order: The Classic Steak Burger Sliders ($12 for 3 burgers). The brioche is fluffy, the sharp cheddar cheese is melted just right, and the meat, grilled medium-rare, is thick yet delicate and incredibly juicy. A full bite is succulent, hearty and small enough to keep you wanting more.
My second favorite dish: The Stuffed Avocado ($16). The crisp freshness of the stuffed avocado will immediately transport you to a breezy summer day by the beach. It’s stuffed with fresh dungeness crab, lightly marinated in a lime vinaigrette, and paired with crispy rice to give the firm yet yielding small plate added texture. It’s a dish I’d order every time I dine at XIV — and I don’t even like avocado. I cringe whenever my girl friend mashes it and spreads it on toast. The only other way I can eat the fruit is when it’s guacamole; this way, it’s doused with lime juice and garlic, and covered with tomatoes and onions.
And don’t miss The XIV Grilled Cheese ($14). Bringing the old-school homemade treat to new heights, small slices of grilled pimento cheese are served with caramelized short ribs and crispy shallots. It’s salty, gooey and best of all, substantial.
Where: Providence in Los Angeles
Must-Order: Wild Striped Bass (pictured below), Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, Japanese Kanpachi, Santa Barbara Spot Prawns
The Verdict: Providence in Los Angeles, near Hollywood, doesn’t just offer remarkable dishes; it presents a culinary experience unlike any other. This is one of those “package deal” type places: The dining staff is welcome and eager to impart all the knowledge they have on Chef Michael Cimarusti’s food. Best of all, the servers pace each course so that you’re not barraged with dish after dish; they time it well and don’t rush you. The ambiance is simple and elegant; the decor evokes the sense of being underwater… if a swanky bistro existed under the sea.
But just a warning: Providence ain’t cheap. Save up or come here when you get a bonus at work or when you’re celebrating a special occasion. The best way to maximize your experience here is to get a tasting menu; five courses is $95 (or $140 with wine pairing) and the chef’s menu goes for $175 (or $270 with wine pairing). My friends and I enjoyed the in-between option, the full tasting nine course menu for $125. We opted not to get the wine pairing, which would have been $190.
Normally, I’d pick out a few stand-out dishes to write about but every single dish from Chef Cimarusti was perfection. Flavors were balanced perfectly, portions were small enough to keep you wanting more. So below, read on and take in the food porn of the nine dishes I enjoyed, including two extra small dishes I shared with my friends.
We kicked off the meal with an amuse bouche, which, by Providence tradition, always involves spherification, the process of shaping liquid into spheres. From left to right: Mojito Gilette, Greyhound Sphere, Gruyere cheese bread, ad a shot with a savory port at the bottom. My favorite was the Greyhound Sphere; it was like eating a bubble that popped to release the refreshing flavors of vodka, grapefruit and lime.
Here, the Japanese Kanpachi brings sushi to new heights. The raw, clean, oh-so-fresh fish was paired with crispy rice crackers, Australian finger lime, and perched atop a small pool of creme fraiche.
The presentation of Santa Barbara Sea Urchin is what entranced me first: The plate or base resembled a tree trunk and the wire basket served as a nest for the brown egg that held bits of sea urchin swimming in a bath of champagne beurre blanc and herbs.
I’m a sucker for scallops and it’s disappointing when they’re overcooked. They become rubbery and tastless — ick! Of course, here, Nancy’s Down East Sea Scallops are cooked just right; the outside has just a little bit char and the inside is soft and yielding. These were perfect with buckwheat, dashi and napa cabbage.
If I had to choose one favorite, it would be the Wild Striped Bass. Served with a brown butter, lemon and nori sauce, it also comes with braised cannellini beans. The bass is slightly smokey and firm, and the beans are surprisingly soft without being mushy and grainy.
Here, the Tasman Sea Trout marries fish with fruit and vegetables. It’s served with with cooked beets radish and orange slices. A few springs of fennel add just a hint of licorice flavor.
If you’re a veal virgin (as I was, up until last night) you might be uneasy as to what it should taste like. But this is a meat that’s best served medium-rare; cooked any more than that and you end up with a gamey clump. The Marcho Farms Veal Tenderloin here is slow cooked at 140 degrees with a curry-daikon sauce. Daikon radish is braised, chanterelle mushrooms are slightly crispy and pearl onions are smooth and delicate. The black truffle fondue is icing on the cake.
These Santa Barbara Spot Prawns weren’t part of our nine-course meal. They were just an extra goody we ordered. Salt seasoned with sprigs of rosemary is heated at 350 degrees and the prawns are cooked in them for just a few minutes. Served with just a touch of olive oil, they’re salty and simple.
Some fine restaurants boast garnishes of truffle, a type of rare and expensive mushroom, but they shave about a teaspoon atop your food. Thankfully, Providence is generous with their portion of Black Winter Truffles, that’s served with risotto, pasta alla chitarra, a little bit of soft scrambled eggs and raviolo all’uovo. This dish is vaguely Italian, vaguely French, and slightly garlicy — it features hints of layers upon layers of earthy savory flavor.
No fine dining experience is complete without an assortment of cheeses. Various types of goat, sheep and chow milk are used and served with candied walnuts, dried figs, apple and apricot jam, and a pumpernickel baguette. My favorite was the Sotto Chenerre, cow cheese with truffle rind.
To cleanse the palette after that epic meal, we had lemongrass granita with sake jelly and ginger foam. It definitely reset our appetites to prepare for a memorable dessert.
And finally, our very last course: dessert. Banana Bread Pudding served with barley ice cream and drops of orange sauce evokes flavors of autumn and winter. The ice cream is somehow savory and sweet and the whole dish tastes like a holiday on a plate.]]>
Where: Father’s Office in Santa Monica and Culver City
Must-Order: Burger, regular fries, sweet potato fries, chef’s special appetizers
The Verdict: In any city there needs to be a quality, reliable grub ‘n pub. A place where you can retreat when you’ve had a bad day, down a few pints of beer and scarf down a big, fatty meal. Santa Monica and Culver City has that place: Father’s Office. In Santa Monica, the gastropub is small, low-key, crowded and casual. Culver City offers a more spacious environment with the same delicious menu, although still crowded and casual.
Come in and peruse the beer menu offering a copious selection of lagers, ales, stouts and ciders. And after you’ve enjoyed a few pilsners, make sure you order a burger and fries.
Father’s Office uses a thick slab of dry aged beef, grills it medium-rare, and plates it neatly on a french baguette with gruyere, blue cheese, baby arugula and a special house sauce. What makes their burgers so remarkable is the elegant take on simple ingredients. All it really is is meat, cheese and greens on bread. But the bread is fresh and crispy on the outside, the arugula is fresh, the cheese is high quality, and only the best beef is used. The result is a burger delicious enough to erase any remnants of a bad day that a beer just won’t wash down.
As for the fries, I’m not much of a sweet potato fan, but Father’s Office fries up a mean order. I prefer the shoestring fries with an extra side of garlic aioli. And if you’re really hungry, make sure you get a chef’s special appetizer, which change fairly often. Last time I dined here I ordered a dozen raw oysters — fresh and cold — and pancetta croquettes, which were salty yet delicate.
Oh, and if you want try your hand at a home-made Father’s Office burger, check out BurgerFiles for a thorough recipe deconstructed by the LA Times’ Test Kitchen and food critic Charles Perry.
Where: Susan Feniger’s STREET in Hollywood
Must-Order: Kaya Toast
The Verdict: Because this site is called Delish Megish, I don’t write about restaurants that serve up food that’s anything short of delicious. I debated whether I should even mention Susan Feniger’s STREET. To be honest, I found most of the food to be bland, uninspired (and over-cooked) versions of East and South Asian dishes. But there was one dish that caught my attention — the Kaya Toast. It’s a funky-sounding combination: coconut jam and butter is spread over white bread toast and served alongside a sunny side up egg drizzled with soy sauce and a small handful of arugula.
Maybe I haven’t appealed to your palate yet, but I’m sure I have your attention. The Kaya Toast packs every flavor and every texture imaginable: It’s sweet, creamy and salty. The toast is crunchy, the jam is smooth and the eggs are silky. To top it off, Susan Feniger even offers her recipe on the restaurant’s site, here. It’s not the simplest treat to prepare, but it’ll be worth the effort if you’re curious.]]>
Where: Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Beverly Hills, Woodland Hills and Pasadena
Must-Order: Filet mignon, jumbo shrimp, lobster tail
The Verdict: As a child, steak was just another piece of meat to me. I even (shudder) used to eat it well-done. Heck, what did I know? I was just a kid. But in my older age I’ve come to appreciate a nicely aged, adeptly seasoned, superbly grilled steak. And yes, I’ve finally graduated to having it cooked medium-rare.
The chefs at Ruth’s Chris are masters at the art of serving a fine steak — in particular, filet mignon. It’s soft, it’s succulent and it even comes perched in a puddle of butter. It’s just salty enough, just peppery enough, just seasoned enough. The best thing of all is that it’s served on a 400° plate. This ensures that your steak stays piping hot up until the last bite. I don’t know how they do it but that plate definitely stays hot.
Other can’t-miss items are the jumbo shrimp and lobster tail. Both are cooked just right – a minute or two longer on the grill and you’d be stuck with overcooked seafood. The shrimp has all the right spices, and the lobster of ample proportion comes with a generous serving of melted butter.
Where: The Bazaar by Jose Andres (at SLS Hotel) in Beverly Hills
Must-Order: Philly Cheesesteak (pictured below); Jicama Wrapped Guacamole; Jamon Serrano Fermin; Japanese Tacos; Chocolate Mousse
The Verdict: “What?! You haven’t been to The Bazaar?!” is what my foodie friends exclaim as I sheepishly shake my head. I finally checked the Jose Andres restaurant out for DineLA’s Restaurant Week. I ordered several small plates and though I enjoyed many of the delectable little delights, I have to admit that this isn’t exactly a restaurant I’d be racing to revisit anytime soon. Why? It’s quite pricey, so assuming you fill up an empty stomach and order one cocktail, you can expect to spend about $90 on yourself.
The one item you must absolutely order is the Philly Cheesesteak. Wagyu beef is served atop air bread stuffed with the creamiest cheddar cheese. It’s light and fluffy — akin to biting into a meaty cloud. Also, order the Jicama Wrapped Guacamole. It’s a limey, refreshing Mexican dumpling; thin layers of jicama are wrapped around a hearty scoop of smooth guacamole.
And if you’re a cured meat fiend like I am, you can’t miss the Jamon Serrano Fermin. The jamon is paper-thin, salty, and has just the right amount of leanness and fat. Fold it onto a crostini smeared with a bit of tomato sauce and you’re in for a crunchy, savory treat. I also highly recommend meatlovers get the Beef Hanger Steak; it’s seasoned to perfection and cooked medium-rare. Hanger steak is known for being on the tougher side, but it packs an ample amount of flavor.
One of the most interesting dishes on the menu is the Japanese Tacos. Here, shaved cucumber serves as the tortilla shell, and grilled eel is the meat. Sprinkled on top are bits of chicharron (or pork rinds) and a drop of wasabi.
Where: Alibi Room in Culver City, CA; five trucks drive out to various locations in Los Angeles and Orange County
Must-Order: Short rib tacos; short rib sliders; kimchi quesadilla; Kogi burrito; chocolate tres leches cake
The Verdict: You know those eateries everyone talks about that you simply “must” try? Those places that everyone raves about, literally salivating over? And then you check out these restaurants and it all falls flat to you: the food’s fine; not great. We’ve all had those moments.
But with the Alibi Room / Kogi BBQ you can believe the hullabaloo. Everything is divine. The tacos, burritos, quesadillas and sliders — everything is juicy and top-notch. All the meat — whether it’s short rib, pork or chicken — is cooked tenderly to perfection. You get a nice mix of tangy and seasoned Korean food with limey Mexican flavors.
My personal favorite items are short rib tacos ($2) or sliders ($5 for two) and the kimchi quesadilla ($5). The tacos are served with an elegant Asian slaw; they’re deliciously juicy and adequately meaty. The sliders, just as juicy, offer instead a soft breaded cushion for the meat. Meanwhile, the kimchi quesadilla boasts a spicy kick and just that slight crunch that juxtaposes in texture with gooey cheese. For dessert, go all-out and order the chocolate tres leches cake ($4) — share with a friend so you don’t feel guilty. It’s chocolatey, milky, and even slightly peanut buttery. Soft cake is nestled in a small pool of sweet milk and delicate bits of toffee are sprinkled across the top.
As for the drinks? Pick something off the cocktail menu. I wasn’t satisfied with all the drinks I tried, but my favorite was the yuzu flower. It’s offers beautiful flavor that’s slightly fruity and a lot flowery.
The next time you go back (and you will!) order something new. Chef Roy Choi changes up the specials fairly often so there’s always something new to try. I have yet to order a dish here that is anything short of a culinary masterpiece.]]>
Where: Boneyard Bistro in Sherman Oaks
Must Order: Chili cheese donuts; brisket; ribs; fried mac ‘n cheese
The Verdict: Delish megish. I know, I know, everything featured on this site is already classified as “delish megish” but there are times where certain food is so remarkable that I feel the need to repeat that description. When I think of Boneyard Bistro and all of its top-notch comfort foods, the tender meats that slide right off the bone, a mish-mash of menu items flood my mind. It’s hard to choose just one stand-out star — so I won’t.
However, if you’re looking for an unusual dish try the Kobe Beef Chili Filled Donuts. It’s $9 for three of these delectable delights. Think of relatively large donut holes stuffed with flavorful, tender beef chili and a squirt of mustard, blanketed with a thin layer of cheddar cheese and topped with a sliver of pickle. It’s an unexpected combination that offer unforgettable flavor.
If you’re with a large group and you’re dining at Boneyard Bistro for the first time, I might suggest you (and your other 5-6 friends) share the Mini Mega (for $150 total). It’s a smorgasbord for meat lovers: half-rack of baby back ribs, half-rack of St. Louis, some beef ribs, sausage, pulled pork and pulled chicken. If that’s not enough, it comes with four side dishes. And that brings me to my next must-order…
Fried Mac ‘N Cheese. Is your heart thumping yet? These little triangular cakes are perfectly-portioned and you can eat each one in three hearty bites. They’re crispy on the outside, and ooey gooey on the inside. And for $6 they’re well-worth the guilt.
But if there’s only ONE meat you must absolutely order, the be-all, end-all of barbecued meat, it’s the Brisket (pictured just above, the left-most item). Oh, the brisket. It’s juicy, it’s peppery, and it’s so tender that it crumbles at the touch of your fork. Poke into a small bite with your utensil and you’ll see the portion break into several tiny flakes of meat. At $22, it’s the most expensive item on the menu and it’s certainly well-deserved.]]>
Where: Hugo’s Restaurant in Studio City/Sherman Oaks and West Hollywood
Must Order: Hugo Burger (beef); Portabello Stew; Very Green Casserole; Kelp Noodle Salad; Lemonade
The Verdict: Hugo’s Restaurant is one of those little gems that you may not appreciate on your first visit. You might gripe, “I just spent $18 on a lunch that wasn’t even that great!” But the next day you’ll find yourself itching to go back. What is it about this restaurant that keeps you coming back for more?
For starters, they’re accommodating. Yes, it’s as simple as that. Hugo’s Restaurant is the perfect place for picky eater or those with food allergies. All the ingredients are fresh and there are an abundance of options for vegetarians, vegans and even gluten-free patrons. Certainly, this isn’t a cheap eatery — generally, entrees will set you back about $11 and beverages cost about $4-5. However, the quality of food and the adroitness in their preparation is worth the price as well as the occasional 30-minute wait for a table. Plus, how often do you leave a nice restaurant feeling full but not overwhelmed, satisfied but not lethargic? (And, as an added bonus, celebrities often frequent this joint. You’ll probably recognize them as they sit quietly at their tables, clad in sunglasses and a baseball cap.)
My favorite items are the Hugo Burger (beef), Portabello Stew, Very Green Casserole and Kelp Noodle Salad. Want a hormone and antibiotic-free Angus beef served with fresh veggies and crispy lettuce? Go for the Hugo Burger (pictured). Need a healthy but substantial lunch? Order the Kelp Noodle Salad and enjoy the oh-so crunchy kelp noodles tosses with sprouts, snow peas, cilantro and scallions and dressed with a tart mango-sesame dressing. The noodles are fat-free, gluten-free, and very low in carbohydrates and calories but don’t worry — they certainly don’t taste like a bland diet ingredient.
The Portabello Stew (pictured) — my favorite dish — is a hearty bowl of slow-cooked French green lentils, carmelized onions, garlic, organic carrots, potatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, fresh herbs in a rich tomato-red-wine sauce. It’s chunky, earthy and the perfect meal on a dreary day. Order it with a side of fries; they’re crispy, seasoned to perfection, and still have little strips of potato skin that tell you these taters are the real deal.
Another fun, veggie-filled dish is the Very Green Casserole. It’s packed with sautéed broccolini, spinach, asparagus, zucchini, with garlic and fresh herbs in a tomato basil pesto sauce. But there’s more! The casserole is topped with a veggie patty and melted goat and mozzarella cheeses. You can even substitute the cheese for a vegan kind.]]>
Where: Absolutely Phobulous in Encino and West Hollywood
Must Order: Jen’s Shrimp Rice
The Verdict: Everyone has their choice for comfort food. Some people like a hearty soup when they’re having a bad day; others take to mac ‘n cheese. One of my favorite comfort foods is fried rice — but it has to be done right. Whenever I go to Absolutely Phobulous I order Jen’s Shrimp Rice. I don’t know how they’ve managed to create such a delectable dish out of few basic ingredients. It’s just fried rice with chopped carrots, peas, scrambled egg and plump shrimp (for only $8.50). But the execution is spectaular. It’s savory, it’s just salty enough and the amount of each ingredient is just right.
And, since you’re already here, make sure you order the Soda Chanh ($2.50). A sweet, sparkling lemonade drink, it’s a fun treat for yourself once in a while. Oh, and the Pho? You can never go wrong with a big bowl of it. My choices are either the beef combo or seafood. The beef ($7.50) is always sliced into tender, thin strips, and the seafood ($8.50) is fresh and generously heaped into the soup.]]>