Sunday, August 31, 2008

Redd Restaurants- Napa

This is Mystery Eater reporting in from Napa! Clayfu has tasked me with doing some restaurant reports!

We dined at Redd in Napa this past weekend, and had the opportunity to try their tasting menu.

Some basics about their tasting menu:

- 4 items for $50

- If you are dining with another person (which I was), you have the luxury of trying essentially 8 dishes because the chef prepares two different tasting menu items for each of you.

- The waitress divulged that the chef draws from the standard menu for the dishes and that they usually fall within the following order: raw fish, cooked fish, meat, and dessert, although modifications can be noted (i.e. no raw fish).

The décor is modern and simple. The dining room inside is airy and bright, but we chose to sit outside, enjoying a beautiful Napa afternoon. However, we were bombarded with flies—and even the waitress remarked during our meal that there were quite a bit flying around that day. Despite that, the dining experience was pleasant and the food was great.

First course:

Sweet white corn soup, chantrelles, pesto

This was silky and creamy, with large kernels of corn and pieces of chantrelles mushrooms floating around.

Yellowfin tuna and hamachi tartare, avocado, chili oil, fried rice

The chili oil added a little kick to the tartare; the fish was wonderfully prepared and contrasted nicely with the pieces of rice.

Second course:

Carmelized diver scallops, cauliflower puree, almonds, balsamic reduction

The scallops left a little something to be desired, given their small size. I was expecting huge, meaty scallops and these clearly were not that. Despite that, the dish was solid, and the bits of cauliflower, almonds and scallops went nicely together.

Petrale sole, creamy jasmine rice, calms, chorizo, saffron curry nage

The sole itself was nothing spectacular, but the saffron curry was light, yet full of flavor—it’s foam-like texture went well with the rest of the dish. The chorizo was especially nice.

Third course:

Braised beef shortrib, horseradish crust, potato puree, summer vegetables

The shortrib fell apart nicely and was complimented with nice potato puree (think silky mashed potatoes) and carrots and green beans. The carrots were a nice contrast to the melt-in-your-mouth beef.

Wolfe ranch quail, summer vegetable minestrone, arugula ravioli, parmesan toast

Both my dining partner and I agreed that the quail was the highlight of the meal. The crispy texture of the quail skin held up well in light of having to sit in a minestrone broth. The broth was light, yet rich and concentrated in flavor.

Fourth course:

Trio of honeycomb foam, chocolate, peanuts; peanut butter bar; and chocolate ice cream

The peanut butter bar was smooth and creamy, but not overwhelming. It didn’t leave me feeling like the dog in that milk commercial. The honeycomb shot glass dessert was also great.

Corn fritters over bing cherry and vanilla ice cream

The fried fritter consisted of sweet corn and cream, which reminded me of the cream that is used in Japanese pastries.

If you choose to go with the tasting menu, it can be a drawn-out (but wonderful) affair—approximately two hours for us, so reserve some time.

Redd Restaurants

6480 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 944-2222

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Napa Rose (Orange County)

Good food at a Disney resort? Is that even a possibility? I asked myself this question when my friend suggested we eat at Napa Rose at the Disneyland resort. I mean, I love my turkey legs as much as the next person, but when it comes to fine dining I prefer eating somewhere else.

Luckily for me I decided to go with my friends to Napa Rose. Located in the Grand Californian, which is an absolutely huge hotel, the restaurant is known because all of their waiters are certified sommeliers. The restaurant is very wine oriented, nice glasses, great service when serving and caring for the wines, and no corkage (at least for us.. your mileage may vary!).

The restaurant is large, like a camping lodge, it's filled with dark colored frames with a large open dining room. As well there is an open kitchen, you can see all the prep work.

We decided to go for two appetizers per person instead of an entree because we wanted to concentrate on the wine (and we had another event to attend). If you want to see a more complete meal, check out The Fifth Deadly Sin by Roger.

The first appetizer was shared between the table of 4. The Seven Deadly Sins.

(going clockwise from the bottom)
Spicy Tuna Hand roll: A well made handroll with thick meaty pieces of fresh tuna mixed in with a light spicy sauce.
Curried Lobster taco: Thin strips of lightly cooked and spiced lobster mixed with cilantro and scallions in a small crispy taco shell. There's a light white sauce over the taco, very good!
Grape leaves wrapped with ground pheasant.
Thin sliced cucumber wrapped over ahi tartare: refreshing and light with a sweet ponzu sauce.
Very middle, potato pancake with curried salmon: a light puff pastry with salmon cooked via lemon juice.

Ebi Shrimp shooter: a pureed shrimp mixed with a light brothy foam. A mix of warm and chilled, the shooter is exciting due to the contrast of temperatures.

Tangerine Grilled Scallop with a tropical mango, tomato basil topping. A great scallop, meaty scallop with a sweet and fresh (thanks to the basil) sauce. See the salt? It's like a beach! how cute heh.

The next appetizer was the Wine Country mushroom risotto.

Well cooked risotto, the rice was perfectly cooked, with a nice balance between "moist" and solid. A very rich earthy flavor with a bit of a dusty finish with an enriched truffle butter sauce. The shavings of thick meaty mushroom were the highlight of the dish. I could eat those mushrooms for days, they were full of flavor and the strong taste let it stand alone against the richness of the sauce.

Heirloom tomato/beet salad.
Refreshing , large pieces of sweet heirloom tomatoes. With olive oil and pesto.

Grilled Rabbit Bratwurst

The dish is served with braised lentils and carmelized fennel. The fennel is cooked to a point where it's soft enough where the fennel has no more crunch. The lentil is a bit undercooked for my tastes, I would prefer a more stewed lentil.

The rabbit wasn't as gamey as I expected. When I think of rabbit I don't expect it to taste like a richer version of chicken. This dish was good.. if you had called it a chicken sausage on semi cooked beans.. but too bad that's not what it's called!

Fried Squas blossoms.

The blossoms are stuffed with goat cheese and served in a light cream sauce with peas and cherry tomatoes. Like I always say, as long as it's fried its going to be good, no exception here. To add on to that, anything fried and stuffed with cheese is x2 better than good. It's great!

Kona "Kampachi" Carpaccio & Ahi Tartare

The kampachi is served with a grapefruit vinaigrette and an avocado reduction. The dish is served along with a slice of ruby red grapefruit and avocado under a handful of wild greens.

All in all an enjoyable meal. We did have a hard time finding our waiter for the check, but otherwise the service was pretty spot on. It was fun to watch the kitchen prep all the dishes, one of the lines chefs was pulling some refined sugar into mini lollipops. I wanted to ask for one.. but I couldn't find our waiter.

The dishes were well prepared, a good amount of rich flavors, I'll have to come back another time for a full meal.

Napa Rose at the Grand Californian
1600 S. Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, CA 92802


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Food and wine?

I have the luxury of drinking some really great bottles of wine with quite a few of my meals, one would never know since I never talk about it. I'm trying to branch out and take better tasting notes on the wine I do drink, what do you think about me trying a hand at adding some wine notes with the food notes?


Sunday, August 17, 2008

STK (Los Angeles/West Hollywood)

In Los Angeles you have a mix of foodie restaurants and celebrity restaurants. You know what I'm talking about when I say a celebrity restaurant, the food could be great, could be good, or could be bad.. but you don't go there really for the food.. the quality of the food is just a side benefit.. you go there to say you've gone there. It's a place filled with people eating thereto make sure they are seen.

Don't get me wrong, the food can still be good.. it just costs more than your average meal. You gotta pay to have the paparazzi camped outside your restaurant. *shields face, NO PAPARAZZI PLZZZ*

This particular night, my MCDP (most cherished dining partner) , a few other buddies, and I went to STK.

First thing to note, the restaurant is beautiful in terms of it's decoration, it's very modern with clean crisp lines and stark contrasts in color.

Dangling lights all over the restaurant with a black ceiling makes it look like you're dining under the stars.

As well the table is this dark matted finish, almost like you're eating on leather.

It makes me feel rich. Also gives me the calm that nothing is going to fall off the table.

First up, bread basket in an iron skillet.
Olive bread and normal bread, some aoili and tapenade.

First appetizer, Foie Gras French toast

Chunks of pan seared Foie with green apple and almond brioche, drizzled with a sherry sauce. Well executed dish, the apple is cooked perfectly , it's sturdy enough to eat along with the foie but not to sturdy that it doesn't fall apart when you bite it along with the foie. The foie itself is well cooked, it's not overly rich and doesnt' make you ask for a glass of Reisling to pair with it.
The Brioche was sweet and perfectly crisp, I liked this dish very much.

Next appetizer was a special. Seared Scallops.

served with pea sprouts, grilled apple, and a light caramel sauce. I like the contrast between the sweetness of the caramel and the salty-seaness (new word!) of the scallop, but I wasn't awe struck by the dish , I prefered the Foie much more so.

For the entrees, someone got the market fish

Think it's a rainbow trout, don't really remember. Didn't try it, sorry no opinions! I think two people got it.

One of my other dining companions shared the Bone in New York steak with me (26oz).

Heavily pan seared with generous amounts of salt and pepper. I could not tell you the quality of this beef, whether it's prime/choice/select because it was so outrageously undercooked. The fat didnt' melt yet so we were sawing away at the steak trying to get past the layer of fat they should have trimmed off. The meat itself was lacking in flavor, so much so that they have to sell you a mix of 8 sauces to spice up the steak.

The saving grace of the "main course" were the sides.

Sweet Corn Pudding.
It was seriously like eating pudding. Thick gooey mounds of sweet corn pureed into a pudding. Ah how I loved it. The dish was sweet with a hint of savory. A+!

Also an order of Parmesan truffle fries.

Nicely fried, crisp on the outside with soft cooked potato on the inside. Light truffle flavor with a dash of parmesian.

Now the real highlight of this meal had nothing to do with the food. It had to do with the fact that C-list celeb David Spade and I touched hands. He sat with his back against me. When I put my arm around my MCDP, he also put his arm around and we touched. It was a moment that will live in his memory forever... (heh).

Anyways, STK is a cool scene, it makes me feel vivacious and young like the 24 year old that I am.. even though half the crowd was probably in their early 50's , all the waiters/waitress/hosts/hostesses were young and good looking! Would I tell you to get the steak? Eh, maybe not.

755 North La Cienega Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069


Friday, August 8, 2008

Spago (Los Angeles/Beverely Hills)

My most cherished dining partner and I made a pact at the beginning of the summer. We decided that we would eat through the best restaurants Los Angeles had to offer in an effort to explore its culinary topography. Being raised in Los Angeles we both have enjoyed the ethnic food the city has to offer but really never explored the fine dining options.

One of the restaurants high on the list is Spago. The DP and I were invited by her coworker to this luxurious restaurant.

One of the three two star restaurants in Los Angeles, the restaurant is located in Beverely Hills and property of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. You might know him from all the mall restaurants he has... luckily.. the mismanagement and ineptitude of the menus at those restaurants does not occur at Spago.

To get to our seat we passed by their open air dining area at the side of the restaurant.

Finally they sat us at our table which is along the glass windows that peer into the inner workings of the kitchen.

For our visit we tried to sample as much as possible.

First up is one of their signature dishes, the Sweet White Corn and Marscapone Agnolotti.

Little pockets of Agnolotti stuffed with sweet corn and Marscapone with a creamy sweet sauce covering the pasta. Each bite reveals a perfectly cooked pasta that bursts with the richness of the marscapone and freshness of the sweet corn. Outstanding dish, just hands down one of the most beautifully constructed dishes I've had in my life. Every part of it was perfectly cooked and the taste was exquisite.

The second appetizer was the mushroom gnocchi.

Firm yet delicate to the bite, the gnocchi is wonderfully cooked. The dish exudes the qualities of earth and dirt that the mushrooms come from.

For the first entree we had a Pan Roasted Halibut.

The Halibut as expected is flaky and moist. A halibut sits on a puree of sweet corn, marscapone, and wild mushroom. I'm not sure where the restaurant gets its sweet corn from but the rich sweetness is so explosive in flavor. Hints of cheese and earth, the sauce is so perfect to eat with the prepared side of carmalized onions, corn, and bits of bacon. The dish looks rather simple but it's truly a delight for your tastebuds.

Spago seems to have alot of chinese influenced dishes (more so on that later) and one in particular is the Steamed Florida Grouper Hong Kong Style.

They try to go for a twist on the steamed whole fish with soy sauce with this particular dish. The grouper itself was oily and flaky, thin pieces fell at a hint of pressure. The fish is cooked with hot chili oil, garlic, ginger, bok choy, and sugar snap peas. Just like the dish it is based off of, the focus is on the savory nature of the sauce, and it does not fail in its replication. The sauce is sweet with a tinge of spice.

Our final entree is truly a Chinese dish. Cantonese Style Roast Duck.

I had to order this, I was just so curious how the Chef was going to prepare this. The duck is roasted with Star Anise, Apricot (the orange fruit on the dish), pea sprouts, scallions, and ginger. Everything but the duck was great, the apricots were cooked with the spices so it's sweet and savory and the pea sprouts/scallions add the bite to tone down the sweetness. My problem with the dish is the duck seemed to be overcooked. A bit dry and chewy, something you'd never see at a Chinese restaurant, where the duck is usually incredibly moist due to the long marinade and roasting time.

But the real highlight of the dish, was the chow mein that came with it.

The perfect amount of sauce, scallions, mushrooms, bok choy, and noodle gives you a simple yet wonderfully created dish. It's hard to explain why I like this dish so much, but the ingredients just blend so well together and no one flavor overwhelms the other. The noodles are also soft yet chewy, perfect for slurping large bites!

Now on to dessert!

We had two desserts,

The Thousand layer cake with wild strawberries.

Crispy fila dough layed with rich strawberry cream and littered with tiny wild strawberries. By the way, the picture may not show the magnitude of the size of this dish. It is truly a wonder to behold. It is literally 6x6 inches.

But check out the berries.
Don't they look like raspberries? They have all the sweetness of a normal Enter text here.strawberry but in a bite size package.

A chocolate cake (sorry don't remember exactly what it was)

Overall a great experience. I highly suggest this restaurant and believe it should be on anyone's Los Angeles top fine dining destinations.

176 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210


Friday, August 1, 2008

Anjin (Orange County)

We found ourselves one day at 11pm craving some Japanese BBQ. Japanese BBQ is like Korean BBQ but with less food but higher quality meat. They put a platter of meat in front of you and you grill it yourself.

One of the most popular places in the OC is Anjin in Costa Mesa. A small restaurant of only 15-16 tables the line is pretty atrocious. We had to wait 20 minutes at 11pm for a table of 4.

We ordered a variety of meats and appetizers.

First up is the mixed kimchi plate

Cucumbers stuffed with glass noodles, radish kimchi, and normal cabbage kimchi. All pretty tasty, nothing spectacular but definitely edible.

First meat was the Pork Belly

Sorry for the half photo, but it's essentially double the portion of this. Thick pieces of "bacon" with a large chunk of fat. My only concern with BBQ bacon is the fat gets cooked too quickly and it tends to dry up, so you really have to keep watch over it. I wasn't a huge fan of this, I prefer the Korean BBQ bacon which is a bit thicker and a less thick chunk of fat.

We were told by a friend NOT to get the KOBE beef but just stick with the USDA prime, and it was a good choice.

First we got the USDA PRIME Rib Eye.

Melt in your mouth delicious. The fat runs through the meat like a small connection of rivers. Tender and soft, the meat is top notch. They put a bit of BBQ sauce and it makes the dish.

The next meat was USDA PRIME short rib.

Not quite as good as the rib eye. It's a bit more chewy than the rib eye, but that's just the style of the meat. It's meater with less fat. If you like your meat with fine amounts of fat, then the Rib eye is a better choice, but if you like really MEATY meat then this is a better choice. The meat is also drizzled with BBQ sauce.

We also ordered Beef Tongue which was far too thin. It cooked too quickly and wasn't flavorful enough. If it was about 2x the thickness, it would have been able to handle the heat better.

We also ordered Intestines which were pretty standard.

If you were to come here, I highly suggest the USDA prime beef and just stick to that. Nothing else impressed me and the prices are all pretty similar ($6-9 a dish).

Expect to spend a nice chunk of money, as you can see from the pictures the portions are not large at all.

3033 Bristol St Ste N
Costa Mesa, CA 92626