Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"I Do" Ado

We recently tried the Italian restaurant Ado in Venice following a friends recommendation. Its a little worn down house past the main section of Venice in a poorly lit residential area..have too look carefully or you will drive right by it. That said, this hole in the wall actually has an intimate charm, especially if you can get a table outside on the second floor deck (very limited seating). The menu is short and sweet with a sprinkle of creativity that is either unique to an Italian on ecstasy or classic Venice experiment. What I mean by this, is that the menu has dishes that use ingredients that I have never seen before mixed together. In fact, a number dishes initially sound unpalatable, but actually come pretty close to perfection.

Yes, they have some basic dishes as well. We started off sharing a few apps including the Beef Carpaccio topped with shaved Parmesan cheese & arugula in a Mustard Dressing, and the Seared Foie-gras served on a Quail Egg Canapé with Caramelized Pear. I would classify the quail as a fantastic rustic dish, but note the carpaccio was rather mediocre. So far.....not exciting. Then came the pastas. We had a home-made Red Beets Tagliolini in a Marsala Quail Ragu served on a bed of Taleggio cheese fondue. The beets are integrated into the flour creating a pasta that comes out red/almost purple looking and possesses the inherent sweetness of beets. It's not a sweet dish. In fact, I don't think you even have to like beets to enjoy this dish. When it is mixed in with a quail ragu and cheese fondue, it struck me as probably the most unique pasta I have ever had. While many would feel this dish may be too overpowering as an entree, I have to say that I could have easily eaten the entire dish (Bravo on the creativity)!

We also ordered the black taglini pasta with dungeneous crab meat. This dish was very disappointing though not bad enough to send back. The pasta itself was a bit slimy and seaweed like and overall lacked flavor. We had high hopes for this one, but just didn't come out right. That said, the last pasta was an absolute hit. Though skeptical at first because of the dried prunes, my husband ordered the Home-made Pappardelle served with Rabbit Ragu, Porcini Mushrooms and Dried Prunes. Again, one would not normally think of these ingredients working well together, but the prunes brought the perfect amount of sweetness to the savory rabbit. Like the beet pasta, you definitely do not need to like prunes to enjoy this dish.

I cannot tell you every dish was incredible as there certainly were some shortfalls, but this restaurant brought something to the table that you just don't find in most Italian restaurants....creativity. So, keep an open mind when coming here.

796 Main St.
Venice 90291
(310) 399-9010

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mucho Gusto El Borrego de Oro

The whole in the wall Mexican restaurant, El Borrego De Oro #2 (translated to the Golden Sheep), is worth the drive downtown. My husband discovered this restaurant after reading an article in Travel + Leisure stating it was one of "L.A.'s Best Mexican Restaurants." Now lets be clear.....It's not your average "LA" Mexican hot spot like a Don Antonios, Casa Vega or Marix. It isn't packed with Gringos waiting for a blended strawberry margarita. That said, it is a simple joint offering solid traditional Mexican fare.

When you pull up to the mini mall, don't get nervous by your surroundings nor the fact that when you walk in you will probably be the only American in the place. Once seated, and the chips and salsa arrive, you'll embrace your surroundings.

They have a massive menu, however, it is in Spanish so make sure you brush up on the language before going...just kidding, you'll find the waitresses do in fact speak English. The menu is also full of pictures to give you an idea of the dishes. We are classic taco lovers so our choice was easy...steak tacos (3 each). Nothing fancy, but classically made with fresh chopped carne asada served on a fresh warm corn tortilla, with onions, cilantro and lime. Add some hot sauce (has a good kick) and Voila! You have what is close to the perfect taco.

Now, if you are in the mood for some barbarcoa, this is also a must. The restaurant cooks the meat underground with hot coals for (take a look at the website ---its crazy) and serves it with fresh corn tortillas, and the works. Also order their consomme - awesome soup served with all the juices and drippings.

This is a great place if your bored of the usual LA Mexican spot. Its simple, authentic, and worth the drive. And, if your lucky, you might get surprised by the local musicians looking to sing a song or two. Best for lunch.

El Borrego de Oro #2
2808 E. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles 90023

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The New Boa

I must say we did not get excited when we heard BOA was opening another steakhouse in Los Angeles. We had been to the Santa Monica location a couple years back, had a mediocre meal and never went back. After hearing all the hype over the new location in West Hollywood, we figured we'd give it a try.

If you like dining outside this is definitely the place for you. The restaurant has a large outdoor area that is just perfect for that warm summer night or any night really. It's a fun scene; trendy and set up with that new steakhouse decor (think Cut with a kick instead of Morton's). Unlike your average steak restaurant, with the the usual Caesar salad and tuna tartare apps, the menu has a large variety too choose from. We ordered the BLT salad, the table-side prime steak tartare, seared Hudson Valley foie gras (on menu it says it comes on a brioche which it didn't that evening for some reason), and the goat cheese baklava. I have to say all were pretty incredible though there were two apps that really stood out. The goat cheese baklava is truly unique. It comes out looking like that classic Greek dish, but incorporates pistachios, black truffles and frisee. It had this sweet/savory contrast that just worked beautifully. We also enjoyed the table-side prime steak tartare. Its hard to describe why the tartare worked so well except to say it perfectly seasoned and just fresh (also loved the addition of the quail egg).

Now, on to the steaks. I ordered the Petite Filet Mignon, rare of course (have to say I was always a medium-rare girl until I met my husband!) and my husband ordered the NY Strip. Both were perfectly prepared for any steak-lover, but I must say I was most excited about the sauces. You can order the sampler which comes with 7 different sauces (everything from bernaise to a creamy horseradish) ....definitely the way to go! You may knock me for not being a purist steak-lover, but the creamy horseradish sauce was killer. As an added bonus, the sauces work well as various dipping options for the sweet potato fries (see pic). The only shortfall in the meal was the creamed spinach. Usually hard to go wrong, but it just lacked the texture and flavor.

As usual, we did bring our own bottles of wine. Of all the major steak restaurants in LA, this is by far the best corkage policy we've seen ($15/bottle w/no limit). BOA has great stemware and attentive wine service. Wines of the night included a 2001 Schrader To Kalon, 1990 Brunello di Montalcino La Casa Caparz0, 2005 Kistler Vine Hill, and a 2003 La Tour Blanche (solid dessert wine).

Overall, with the amount of high-end steak restaurants in LA, this one is a standout and shouldn't be missed.

BOA Steakhouse - Sunset
9200 W. Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood 90069

Way To Go, Spago!

We took advantage of Dine LA last Friday night at Spago in Beverly Hills. We were able to get a great table in the outdoor courtyard....has a great European vibe and a truly beautiful setting for a romantic evening.

With Wolfgang's amazing menu, we only hoped that the Dine LA menu would have some of their top dishes, which luckily, it did. Both my husband and I began with a mushroom raviolini made with a butter sage sauce topped with grated parmesan cheese. It was absolutely delicious and came together perfectly.
For my entree I went with the Pan-Roasted Casco Bay Cod with puree and ragout of gigante and cranberry beans, pancetta, wild mushrooms and mascarpone emulsion. It's rare to find a fish dish with so many flavors that isn't overpowering and this was certainly one of them. My husband ordered the Kurabuto Pork Chop with pear-ginger compote, stir fried green beans and confit of pork, Chinese 10 spice and port-licorice reduction. The normally dry pork chop was well prepared. The combination of the saltiness from the confit with the sweetness of the compote & reduction really brought out that sweet/savory sensation.
We ended up bringing a bottle of Realm 04 Bard, a bordeaux style blend that really worked well with the the pork (not so much the fish). I must say, we were truly impressed with the wine service as well. The stemware is fantastic and the sommmelier really knew his stuff.
The dessert was an apple crumble which is a fave of mine! I of coursed polished off the dish.

Overall, the meal was definitely worth the $44 per person 3-course menu. Too bad this deal doesn't run all the time! Think we would be regulars.
Spago Beverly Hills
176 N. Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills 90210

Monday, October 12, 2009

XIV - Scene vs. Cuisine

We went to Michael Mina's XIV for dinnerlast Friday. We heard it was a bit pricey so we figured we'd take advantage of the Dine LA menu. The decor was interesting in that it is supposed to reflect the era of Louis XIV but with a contemporary upgrade. With that said, it felt a little Vegas-esque. The scene was very happening and made for great people-watching.

Now on to the food. I need to start out by saying that they have THE most amazing grilled naan with an addicting white cheese sauce (very light in texture) that they bring out immediately to the table. The fun part was that they brought each of us our own little basket to enjoy. These are very easy to fill up on, however, they may be the best part of the entire meal.

After looking at the Dine LA menu they clearly put the worst looking entrees on there but I opted to go with it to save a few bucks. Everyone else ordered off the regular menu, which was the way to go.

I started with the heirloom beets with burrata (the best looking of the 3 apps offered) with arugula, and drizzled with balsamic. It was good but I've had better. I chose the Halibut for the entree which seemed to be the best of the worst options. Well, I was wrong, as it was the worst of the worst. It came out way overcooked and had no flavor. Luckily we had a fabulous waitress who brought me out the Tai Snapper instead. This dish was incredible and packed with flavor. It was tapioca-crusted with broccoli rabe, crispy rice (what you find in a sushi restaurant) and soy vinaigrette. Seriously, loved this dish. I finished the meal with a Rootbeer float served with warm chocolate chip cookies. The cookies beat out the float. My husband ordered the tempura scallops for an app with cauliflower, passion fruit, edamame and almonds, which I liked more than he did. He felt the scallops could have had a bit more of a crisp. For his entree he ordered the Kobe burger with farmhouse cheddar, glazed grilled onions and a "special sauce." What was most unique about this burger is that instead of one big patty it came with two thin patty's placed on top of each other. It wasn't the best burger we've ever had but it was pretty good. We did love the trio of french fries that came with it along with the 3 dipping sauces. Two of the fries seemed to be seasoned the same with a peppery flavoring and the other fries were cheese flavored. The sauces included bbq, a tartar-like sauce and ketchup. It was fun mixing it up - dipping the different fries in the different sauces.

Though it's a very expensive restaurant with apps ranging from $15-$18 and entrees ranging from $25-$60 (burger is $27), it's a fun scene and good enough food to make you feel okay with spending the dough. Would definitely go back as long as we're not picking up the tab.