Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Bazaar By José Andrés

Traditional, Modern; Single and Sharable 

I heard about The Bazaar by José Andrés at Hotel SLS for a while, a trendy and upscale Spanish tapas restaurant. I checked their website but I got a bit confused; Rojo y Blanca, Saam, Patisserie and so on, more than one restaurant? Fine, I used Open Table to make a reservation for two and they called me for confirmation, still nobody mentioned which restaurant. I knew it’s expensive and I’d pick up the bill for my bff VL’s birthday.

We were escorted to a dining room (now I know it’s Rojo). Hosts and hostesses had a nice and trendy appearance; they’re very friendly too. There’s an open kitchen at one end of the room, and a butcher table at the other end. It didn’t have a luxury décor; wooden tables were not covered with tablecloth and matched with some comfy country-look chairs. It had a relaxing, causal, trendy and European-like ambiance.

Our waiter who looked like an aspiring actor explained the menu to us; from traditional to modern, single serving and sharable tapas. He advised us to have a few rounds, started from light and refreshing, to meat and fulfilling.



Drink Cart

We took his advice and ordered three cold tapas as starters. Jacama Wrapped Guacamole came with thin-sliced jacama filled with guacamole in a cup shape. Crispy jacama mixed with light guacamole was refreshing. Not Your Everyday Caprese had peeled cherry tomatoes, liquid mozzarella balls, pesto, mint leaves and balsamic vinegar. I finally understood why there’re two spoons after I poked one liquid mozzarella balls. I then put one cherry tomato, one liquid mozzarella ball and some juice on the spoon; and ate it at one shot. Mozzarella melted and mixed with tomato and sauce, all I could say was wonderful. I guessed we shouldn’t have ordered Tuna Avocado after we had guacamole. Avocado was too strong and other ingredients were being ignored.
Jacama Wrapped Guacamole

Not Your Everyday Caprese

Tuna Avocado

Cheers! HBD to VL!!

We moved to our second round. Jamón Serrano Fermin was nicely served on a stone plate. Jamón was tasty but not salty, and it went so well with the toasted bread covered with fine-diced tomato. I didn’t like American Caviar Cone, lack of flavor and kind of fishy. Be honest, I never cared for caviar anyway; but VL said she liked it. Cotton Candy Foie Gras caught us with a surprise; a small bite of foie gras was covered with cotton candy on a stick, very cute. Foie gras was very delicious with some sweet taste.

Butcher Table

Jamon Serrano Fermin

American Caviar Cone

Cotton Candy Foie Gras

We felt we still needed to have something fulfilling. Rossejat Paella-style Pasta with Shrimp didn’t make to my expectation. When it said paella, I expected something moist and soft. Pasta was dry and cut to small threads; it reminded me of shrimp fried rice noodles. Last but not least, three little Foie Gras Sandwiches were really incredibly delicious. Warm honey-glazed small buns and creamy foie gras were perfectly made for each other. It only took two bites to finish one. Yummy!

Rossejat Paella-style Pasta with Shrimp

Foie Gras Sandwishes

Ok, it’s time for dessert. I now saw the layout of the whole restaurant while being escorted to Patisserie; Blanca was next to Rojo, then Bar Centro and Patisserie. The Patisserie was completely different then the Rojo room, it had a soft and pinkish tone, also an appearance of an English tea room. We were seated at a nice antique looking couch. We visited the open kitchen and found many kinds of charming sweet goodies. We settled with decaf coffee and a dessert, Nitro Coconut Floating Island. It had banana, passion fruit cream and top with a scoop of coconut foam which was frozen by liquid nitrogen. Coconut foam was light and foamy; passion fruit cream was not too sweet. I’d think banana was not the best fruit to pair with because banana’s strong taste was overpowering at times.

The Patisserie

The Patisserie

Cheers! HBD to VL again!

It was an extraordinary dining experience, as the setup and ambiance played a major role. Food had high score partly for its creativity. We had a good time!!

0-5 Star Rating:
Food: ****
Service: *****
Ambiance: *****
Location: ****
Parking: *** (valet parking for $12)
Bang for the Bucks: ****

Average Price/Person: $100 - $120
Reservation: Required
Types: Tapas, Fusion, Dessert

The Bazaar By José Andrés on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Great Wok

Unforgetable Hot and Sour Soup

If I tell you the best Hot and Sour Soup in the Greater Los Angeles is found in a small Chinese restaurant in Burbank, I won't be surprised that you don't believe me. Please trust me.

I have been going to Great Wok for lunch with my colleagues for years, it serves the best Chinese food in Burbank. More than 20 special lunch dishes are below $10; soup (Hot and Sour or Egg Flower), eggroll or salad included. Brown rice is available for $1 extra.  A basket of crispy wonton chips with sweet and sour sauce is always on the table.

Crispy Wonton Chips

My favorite special lunch is Baby Bok-Choy with Tofu and Chicken, I could eat it everyday. It has light white sauce, and it is not oily or salty; a very healthy dish. Hot and Sour Soup has the right consistency which is the key factor,  it has tiny tofu, shredded mushroom, black fungus and pork. It's ok to add some white pepper powder for a more spicy taste.

Hot and Sour Soup (lunch)

Baby Bok-Choy with Tofu and Chicken (lunch)
Shrimp Fried Rice with Tofu and Kung-Pao Chicken are my other favorite dishes. I usually order them when I have a tough working day. You know, comfort food can ease a poor soul!

Kung-Pao Chicken (lunch)

Shrimp Fried Rice with Tofu

Last night, I went there for dinner with a friend. We had Hot and Sour Soup with Shrimp (ala carte version), Shrimp Fried Rice and Garlic Spinach. We're so satisfied. Garlic Spinach was sauteed with plenty of garlic, and it's not oily at all.

Hot and Sour Soup with Shrimps

Garlic Spinach

My office had a couple catering orders and food was delivered on time, and all dishes were at right temperature. Servers are extremely friendly and attentive. Dining room only has a basis and simply decor, but it's clean and nice.

101 N Victory Blvd
Burbank, CA 91502

(818) 843-6786

0-5 Star Rating:
Food: ****
Service: ****
Ambiance: **
Location: ***
Parking: **** (adjacent parking lot)
Bang for the Bucks: *****

Average Price/Person (lunch): $10 - $12
Average Price/Person (dinner): $15 - $20
Reservation: No
Types: Chinese

Great Wok on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Crane Sushi

Should Say No?

I met with two friends for lunch last Sunday. It's difficult to pick a place as usual; location is always the main concern. Restaurants I suggested were either too far or having an early recess. Since one of my friends finished her church service in Alhambra so they picked Crane Sushi. I didn't have any good experience with Crane Sushi in the past, but I felt I shouldn't object other people's suggestion and always picked the restaurant of my choice. I won't be surprised that some of you might have the same dilemma. Crane Sushi? ok!

I found the menu was still inexpensive. $7.99 for a lunch set, included two items, salad and California rolls. I took BBQ Ribs, Fried Soft-shell Crab as my items. Miso Soup came first but the taste was kind of unusual, our consent was "how come it is sweet?”. BBQ Ribs from my lunch set was too sweet, and the meat was too dry. Soft Shell Crab had very thick batter and crab was hardly found, batter was so soggy and oily.

Miso Soup

Lunch Set - BBQ Ribs and Fried Soft-shell Crab

My friends picked BBQ Ribs and Fried Oysters; Grilled Salmon and Mixed Tempura. They complained about their food: Salmon was dry, Tempura was soggy, and batter of Fried Oysters was too hard and oysters were not fresh. Salad and California Rolls were the only acceptable items. We agreed everything was too sweet, also the smell and taste reminded us of food from food-court. 

Lunch Set - Grilled Salmon and Mixed Tempura

Lunch Set - BBQ Ribs and Fried Oysters

After we chit-chatted for a while, we had Mochi Green Tea Ice-cream to get rid of some bad aftertaste. Ok, only $7.99, but we still deserved decent food.

Mochi Green Tea Ice-cream

Service was not that bad from what I read, but I agreed service was slow. Our waitress was friendly and cheerful.

17 W Main St
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 458-0388

0-5 Star Rating:
Food: *
Service: ***
Ambiance: **
Location: ***
Parking: *** (free valet parking, public parking lots)
Bang for the Bucks: *
Average Price/Person (lunch): $12 - $15
Reservation: No

Crane Sushi on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Singapore's Banana Leaf

Laksa? Did I order the wrong food?

Singapore's Banana Leaf at Farmers Market (Fairfax at 3rd Street) was on my wishlist for a couple years. Finally I went there today after my visit to Los Angeles County Museum of Arts to see Zodiac Heads by Ai Weiwei. 

Parking at Farmers Market is always a problem. So I did some shopping at Whole Foods Market and left my car there, then walked a short distance to Farmers Market.

I never had a complete bowl of Laksa by myself, so I decided to have one tonight. They had two kinds of Laksa, regular or chicken. Cashier told me Regular Laksa ($9.45) had fishballs only, and Chicken Laksa ($9.95) of course had chicken only. I always thought Laksa would contain different ingredients.

Other than a few fishballs, I also found a few pieces of tofu, some raw bean sprouts, one leaf of spinach, and round rice noodles from my bowl of Regular Laksa. All the above ingredients didn't have any flavor and they needed a good tasty soup base to go with; however the curry soup was unbelievable bland. Why bland? Curry does not have flavors unless combined with other spices. Fishballs had a good texture but rice noodles were stiff. Needless to say, this Laksa didn't stimulate my taste-buds.

I always think having a bad meal is pityful, do you agree?

Mid-City West
6333 W 3rd St (Farmers Market)
Los Angeles, CA 90036

0-5 Star Rating:
Food: zero star
Service: n/a (self-served)
Ambience: **
Location: ***
Parking: ** (adjacent parking lot, spaces are hard to find)
Bang for the Bucks: *

Average Price/Person: $12 - $15
Reservation: No
Types: Asian, Food-court

Singapore's Banana Leaf on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 19, 2011

Desert Rose

All of a sudden, I became a regular at Desert Rose; I rather think City Rose is more applicable since it is located in the middle of the City of Los Angeles. I go there with friends, family and colleagues.

I got to know this place from buying a Groupon. I had hesitated to go because I read about parking was a problem, but I had to use my groupon before it expired. Finally I went there with my mom and my out-of-town cousin for lunch on a Friday. I had no problem to find a street-parking space. The oustside and inside dining areas were equally nice and impressive. Outside area was covered by so many canopy umbrellas, I was so eager to sit there; but my mom insisted to sit inside.
I ordered a Grilled Chicken with Pesto Panini. Panini was toasted and spreaded with pesto, warm grilled chicken and sliced tomato inside. I enjoyed my sandwish. My mom's Lamb Chop came with rice and hummus, lamb chops were grilled to medium well but still very tender and jucy; rice was too soft. My cousin's Ahi-Tuna Salad came with plenty garishes, tuna also grilled to the right setting.  Both of my guests liked their entrees. We shared a Warm Chocolate Lava Cake to finish our meal. Chocolate syrup was melted inside with warm chocolate cake outside; perfectly to go with blueberries and ice-cream.

They offer special lunch for $10, with sandwich or salad to choose from, plus a beverage. There won't be any better deal elsewhere. My two colleagues and I chosed the same sandwich, BBQ Chicken Ciabatta, it included mixed green salad with house dressing, and no problem to substitute french fries with sweet-potato fries. A small amount of BBQ sauce was spreaded on the bread with a piece of melted cheese, grilled chicken was juicy and bread was soft. Perfect sandwich!! We shared a piece of Cheesecake to finish our lunch. I used a Yelp check-in coupon to get 15% off, we paid only $14 each for a delightful lunch. It was a very relaxing lunch at the outside area in a mid-summer afternoon.

I came back again on a Thursday night for dinner with my college friend, who can resist a 25% discount just being their Facebook fan? We were sitting in the outside area, now all the canopy umbrellas were gone and some heater lamps were up.
We had an order of Hummus and Pita for appetizer, hummus was not too sour and its texture was just right but pita bread was not warm enough. My entree was Beef Kabob, it came with some crispy pita, rice, garlic sauce and tabouli. Four beef kabobs were grilled to medium, they're flavorful but not too strong. I ate one garlic clove mistakenly thought it was a small onion. My friend's entree was Vegetable Kabob. Finally Warm Lava Cake with Ice-cream shined again.

Servers are warm and attentive. Decor and ambiance are one of a kind. Watch for Facebook or Yelp discount before you go.

Los Feliz
1700 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

(323) 666-1166

0-5 Star Rating:
Food: ****
Service: ****
Ambiance: ****
Location: ***
Parking: ** (valet parking / street parking)
Bang for the Bucks: ****

Average Price/Person (Lunch): $15 - $25
Average Price/Person (Dinner): $25 - $35
Reservation: No
Types: Mediterranean, California

Desert Rose Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon