Monthly Archives: January 2012

Sayonara Sushi Nazi

If you read this blog regularly, you know how much I love Japanese food. So it’s not a surprise that I’m going to be attending the Japanese Food and Sake Collection this Sunday. Many of the best Japanese restaurants in LA will be serving up some of the city’s finest sushi, ramen, okonomiyaki, tempura, yakisoba and yakitori. Endless amounts of premium sake and beer will be flowing. There will be sushi-eating and sake-tasting competitions, cooking demonstrations from Nobu Matsuhisa (of Nobu and Matsuhisa restaurants) and Katsuya Uechi (of Katsu-ya), and traditional Japanese entertainment. The Festival is being held at the Hilton in Universal City from 11-4. Tickets (which are $60 for adults) and more information can be obtained by clicking here.

Speaking of Japanese food, I hear that legendary sushi chef Kazunori Nozawa is going to retire and close his revered eponymous restaurant, Sushi Nozawa, on February 29th. Lovingly dubbed the “Sushi Nazi” because of his similarities to the “Soup Nazi” character on Seinfeld, the stern Nozawa demands that his patrons follow his rules (no talking on cell phones, no dipping of sushi which has been prepared with sauce, no eating only the fish and leaving over the sushi rice, etc.) and show the proper respect to the master and the sushi he meticulously prepares. On more than one occasion, I have seen Nozawa kick diners out of his small and sparse mini-mall restaurant who blatantly disregard his rules. I was almost evicted once myself when my wife insisted on ordering a Vegetable Roll, even though I warned her ahead of time about that kind of thing. Nozawa is a sushi purist and things like Vegetable Rolls, California Rolls and Spicy Tuna are anathema to him.

However, if you put yourself in Nozawa-san’s hands and follow his advice of “trust me,” which is prominently displayed on a wooden placard behind the sushi bar in reference to the omakase (chef’s choice) special, you will experience incredible life-alerting sushi prepared by a sushi genius. Nozawa’s sushi has pretty much ruined me for almost all other sushi in the city. The rice is warm and delicious and the fish is super fresh and of the highest quality. It literally melts in your mouth. I hear sushi chefs from other restaurants follow Nozawa around the fish market because of his mastery of seafood selection. Everything I’ve ever eaten at Sushi Nozawa (including the Baby Tuna Sashimi in ponzu sauce, the Blue Crab Hand Rolls, the Toro, the Baby Yellowtail and the Uni) has been nothing short of amazing.

But it should be noted that even after Nozawa retires, a bit of the magic will still live on. For the past couple years, Nozawa’s son Tom and a couple partners have been opening locations around Los Angeles of Sugarfish, a somewhat less expensive spin-off of Sushi Nozawa where the decor is modern and the chefs, who are trained by Kazunori Nozawa himself, prepare your sushi in a back kitchen, hidden from view. I hear that Sushi Nozawa will be turned into a Sugarfish. I like Sugarfish quite a bit and the sushi there is very similar to Sushi Nozawa, but nothing beats the mothership and I will be devastated when Nozawa retires. It will truly be the end of an era.

Sushi Nozawa is located at 11288 Ventura Blvd in Studio City. It is not open on weekends. Sugarfish has locations in Marina del Rey, Santa Monica, Brentwood and Downtown.

Baby Tuna Sashimi in Ponzu Sauce

Yellowtail Sushi

Crab Hand Rolls

Toro (Fatty Tuna) Sushi

Uni (Sea Urchin) Sushi

Red Snapper Sushi

Sushi Nozawa on Urbanspoon
SUGARFISH by sushi nozawa on Urbanspoon
SUGARFISH Brentwood on Urbanspoon
SUGARFISH Marina del Rey on Urbanspoon


Filed under Brentwood, Downtown, Marina del Rey, Santa Monica, Studio City


I cannot stop thinking about Bäco Marcat, an awesome new Downtown restaurant from Josef Centeno, the super-talented chef of Lazy Ox Canteen. I think it’s the quintessential LA restaurant. Like Los Angeles, it’s not formal; it’s cool and laid back with a rustic industrial chic interior that feels very 2012. The cuisine defies classification and is incredibly original. Like the population here, the food is an eclectic mix of cultures including Asian, Latin American, Middle Eastern and Moroccan. Most of all, Bäco Marcat is fun! They make and bottle their own “Bäco Pop,” an orange ginger juniper soda and they have an amazing bar serving super cool and inventive cocktails with names like the “Gin-Pop!” and the “Black Mint Spritz.”

There are so many great things on the menu, it’s hard to know where to start. First of all, there are the “Bäcos,” inventive and scrumptious sandwiches prepared with the chef’s signature flat bread. I highly recommend “The Original” Bäco with pork belly, beef carnitas and salbitxada (a savory sauce similar to romesco), as well as “The Touron” Bäco with oxtail hash, pickles, crispy potatoes and cheddar. I also recommend the Bäzole Soup, which is kind of cross between a Japanese Ramen and a Mexican Pazole, made with house-made noodles, pork-chile broth, pork and beef carnitas and a fried egg. There are also delicious “Cocas,” crispy flat breads with a variety of toppings including one with house-made Merquez sausage, harissa and goat cheese. Bäco Mercat has several yummy specialty salads and vegetable dishes including my favorite dish on the whole menu, Kabocha Squash with brown butter. I’ve had pureed squash a million times before, but never like this; it is outrageously good! If you have room for dessert (or even if you don’t have room for dessert!), order the Pistachio Semifreddo Dark with pine nuts, caramel and sea salt. This sweet and salty dessert completely blew me away. If I lived or worked Downtown, I would probably eat here everyday.

Bäco Mercat is located at 408 S. Main St., Los Angeles (Downtown).

They make their own sodas!

Spice Roasted Peanuts with paprika

Bäzole (soup with house-made noodles, pork, chile broth, pork & beef carnitas with fried egg)

"The Toron" Bäco (sandwich with oxtail hash, pickle, tater & cheddar)

Kabocha Squash with brown butter

"The Tomato & Cheese" Coca (crispy flat bread with confit tomato sauce, mozzarella & smoked jalepeno)

Pistachio Semifreddo Dark with pine nuts, caramel & sea salt

I love this place!

Bäco Mercat on Urbanspoon


Filed under Downtown

Take Your Medicine

Writing a food blog has its perks. Recently I was invited to a dinner for bloggers hosted by Maker’s Mark Bourbon at Red Medicine. Red Medicine serves upscale Vietnamese-inspired cuisine in a hip, modern setting in Beverly Hills. It opened a little over a year ago to controversy when they ousted and outed LA Times food critic Irene Virbila by not honoring her reservation, snapping a rare photo of her (she likes to dine incognito) and posting it online with a note about their disdain for her. I was pretty sure they weren’t going to take my photo and I love bourbon (the Meyers Manhattan is the house cocktail at my home bar), so I accepted the invitation without hesitation.

The dinner consisted of a parade of specialty cocktails made with either Maker’s Mark Bourbon or Maker’s 46 (a delicious, spicier, sweeter and stronger bourbon that Maker’s introduced a year and a half ago) and dishes from the Red Medicine menu paired with such drinks. Red Medicine is known for their tasty cocktails and the bourbon concoctions did not disappoint. My favorites were Red Medicine’s version of a “Moscow Mule” made with Maker’s Mark, lime and housemade grenadine and ginger beer and a warm holiday dessert cocktail made with Maker’s 46, Echire butter (artisan French butter), sugar, Maldon salt, hot water and nutmeg, which is a perfect drink for the cold nights we’ve had of late.

The paired dishes were equally enjoyable and included a Pork Rillette (with crispy chicken skin, lychee, clove, pistachio and spicy herbs), Brussels Sprouts (with caramelized shallots, fish sauce and vermouth), and Imperial Wagyu Beef Brisket (braised for 36 hours with palm sugar, fish sauce and Maker’s Mark). The food at Red Medicine is not traditional Vietnamese food in any way, shape or form, but rather modern and creative interpretations of Vietnamese classics. The highlight of the meal was a reworking of a traditional Vietnamese “congee”; an Heirloom Rice Porridge with egg yolk, toasted hazelnuts, ginseng and Echire butter. It was buttery, creamy, nutty and and out of this world! The meal concluded with a beautiful and unusual dessert called “Bitter Chocolate” with sweet soy sauce, oats, parsnip, brown butter and soy milk sorbet. It was the perfect ending to an extraordinary meal; one that I am eager to repeat.

Red Medicine is located at 8400 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills.

Moscow Mule with Maker's Mark, lime, housemade grenadine & ginger beer and CO2

Heirloom Rice Porridge with egg yolk, hazelnuts, ginseng and Echire butter

Sweet Corn with Kelley's Egg, turmeric crepe, black malt and shiitake

Beef Tartare with water lettuce, water chestnut, nuoc leo, chlorophyll and peanuts

Mint Julep with Maker's Mark, pineapple syrup, mint, grapefruit peel and Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters

Sword Fin Squid with onion soubise, young carrots, salted black bean and elderflower

Tomatoes with peanut, Malaysian spices, sake lees, lavender and rice crackers

Maker's Mark 46, Echire butter, sugar, Maldon salt, hot water and nutmeg

Coconut Bavarois with coffee, condensed milk, Thai basil, peanut croquant and chicory

Bitter Chocolate with sweet soy sauce, oats, parsnip, brown butter and soy milk sorbet

Red Medicine on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Beverly Hills

Shut Your Pie Hole

Everyone else can vow to go to the gym and eat healthier in 2012. My New Year’s resolution is to eat more pie. Obviously I’m kidding; well, maybe half-kidding. But even if I tried to watch it with the sweets, it would be difficult since I just discovered what is possibly the best pie I have ever tasted. It’s a Maple Custard Pie and it puts all other pies heretofore consumed by me to shame. This pie is the perfect combination of a sublime buttery not-too-sweet crust and an incredible caramelized custardy filling. I found it at The Pie Hole, a new pie joint packed with vintage-wearing, Weezer-listening hipsters and located downtown in the über-hip Downtown Arts District, right across the street from über-hip Wurstkuche.

The Pie Hole has a limited menu inscribed on hanging rolls of butcher paper each day of both sweet and savory pies. The daily pie offerings depend on what’s in season and what looks good to the Pie Hole’s bakers at local farmer’s markets that week. All the pies are baked on the premises and sold, along with great organic coffee, until they run out each day. The last couple times I was there, the savory pies included a tasty Chicken Pot Pie, a Mac-N-Cheese Hand Pie and a Burrata, Tomato & Basil Pocket Pie. The sweet pies included Lemon Meringue, Poached Pear and Cranberry, Mexican Chocolate and Bourbon Chocolate Pecan. They also had a delicious Chocolate, Caramel and Sea Salt Crostata (which is technically not a pie, but a shallow tart baked on a cookie sheet) as well as a triangular Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Almond “Pie Bar.” Every pie I tried was good, but the clear stand-out was the Maple Custard. It’s hard to put a price on perfection, but most slices cost around $6. This is comfort food at its best and worth every penny.

The Pie Hole is located at 714 Traction Ave., Los Angeles (Downtown).

Chicken Pot, Chicken Pot, Chicken Pot Pie!

Chocolate, Sea Salt and Caramel Crostata

Mexican Chocolate Pie

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Pie Bar with Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Almonds & Sea Salt

Hipster hangout across from Wurstkuche

I love the Downtown Arts District!

The Pie Hole on Urbanspoon


Filed under Downtown