Monthly Archives: October 2012

Haute Stuff

If you’ve read my Manifesto, you know I believe that Los Angeles is the most exciting food city in the world right now.  But with that said, there’s one thing that’s sorely lacking here.  There is a surprising dearth of fine dining restaurants in this city; places that offer very high end cuisine, a tasting menu, a sommelier, impeccable service and an elegant and romantic atmosphere. One of the few such places that we do have is Melisse. Helmed by master chef Josiah Citrin, Melisse serves gorgeous plates of contemporary French cuisine and offers a world-class wine list. The food is refined and innovative, and the offerings change nightly.

Dinner at Melisse is not just a meal, it’s an experience, and one that typically lasts between 3 1/2 and 4 hours, especially if you get one of the lengthier tasting menus. One of Chef Citrin’s signature dishes is “Egg Caviar,” a cut eggshell with a layer of runny yolk at the bottom, a layer of lemon-chive creme fraiche in the middle and a pile of American Osetra caviar on top. When all mixed together, it is a spectacular taste sensation. Other dishes I love are the unusual Fennel Flan with Orange Gelee, Cashew Foam and Vanilla, the incredible Maine Lobster Bolognese with Fresh Capellini, Truffle Froth & Grated Black Truffle, and the perfectly cooked Filet of Beef and Braised Cheek with Potato Pave and Puree, Mustard Greens, Bearnaise and Red Wine Braising Jus. As you would expect, a meal at Melisse is not inexpensive. So for most of us, this is a special occasion restaurant; the perfect place to celebrate an important birthday, anniversary or job promotion, and live large for a few hours.

Melisse is located at 1104 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica.

Amuse Bouche: Salmon Skin with Cured Salmon and Salmon Roe

Fennel Flan with Orange Gelee, Cashew Foam and Vanilla

Egg Caviar with Poached Egg, Lemon-Chive Creme Fraiche and American Osetra Caviar

Blue Fin Tuna with Abalone Gelee, Rhubarb, Fennel & Finger Lime

Hot and Cold Foie Gras with Blueberry, Ginger and Hazelnut (off the menu now because of the foie gras ban)

Artichoke Truffle Agnolotti with Charred Leek-Orange Blossom Jus

Maine Lobster Bolognese with Fresh Capellini, Truffle Froth & Grated Black Truffle

Seared Hokkaido Scallop with Salsify, Toasted Barley and Vadouvan

Filet of Beef and Braised Cheek with Potato Pave and Puree, Mustard Greens, Bearnaise and Red Wine Braising Jus

Liberty Duck Breast with Confit of Blood Oranges and Turnips, Spiced Couscous and Sauce Bigarade

Chocolate, Caramel & Strawberry

The dining room is elegant, romantic and understated.

Melisse on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Santa Monica

Devil Got Your Tongue

The Michelada has been my favorite drink of late. Popular throughout Latin America, a Michelada is a beer cocktail with lime juice, assorted sauces, spices and peppers. Diablo, a new gastropub in Silverlake, serves really excellent Micheladas with a twist. The beer of your choice is poured into a tall glass with a heavily salted and spiced rim and is accompanied by a tomato or yuzu popsicle, which you can dip and/or suck on between sips or simply submerge into your beer to melt.

The unusual Micheladas are not the only great thing about Diablo. The food there is exceptionally good. The main focus of the menu is gourmet fusion tacos. While fusion tacos are nothing new in LA and are served by at least half of the gourmet food trucks on the streets of this city, the tacos at Diablo stand out due to their high-end seasonal ingredients and their unique combinations of sweet and savory. My favorite is the Maple Fried Chicken Taco with Purple Kale and Red Rooster Vinaigrette. It’s salty, sweet, crunchy and incredibly good! I also love the Pork Belly Taco with Thai Peanut Salsa and Caramelized Bananas, and the Beef Cheeks Taco with Horseradish Puree, Fromage Blanc and Parsley. Vegetarian and vegan options are numerous and include the “Portabello Asada” and “Hen of the Woods” Tacos.

The layout and decor of Diablo are very similar to that of Wurstkuche. It’s industrial chic with lots of brick, metal and reclaimed wood. You order and pay at a counter in one room and your food is brought to you in a large Biergarden-esque dinng hall with a very long communal table and several smaller tables. In addition to the tacos, I also recommend ordering the Grilled Sweet Corn with Cojita, Lime Mayo and Truffle Oil and the Heirloom Radish Salad with Persian Cucumber, Jicama, Chili, Lime and Apple. For dessert, there are more popsicles. One is Hibiscus-flavored, while another is made with Chocolate, Espresso and Bacon. Speaking of bacon, there’s also a Chocolate, Bacon, Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Cookie served warm out of the oven. If you’re just going there for drinks, I suggest you order the Kurabuta Pork Chicharrones (fried pork rinds) with one of Diablo’s homemade sauces such as the Habanero Gasoline Sauce or the Ghost Chili Aioli. They’re devilishly good and the perfect accompaniment to the Popsicle Micheladas.

Diablo is located at 3129 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles (in Silverlake).

Michelada with Tomato Popsicle (Beer with Lime, Chili, Salt and Tomato Paleta)

Heirloom Radish Salad with Persian Cucumber, Jicama, Chili, Lime and Apple

Grilled Sweet Corn with Cojita, Lime Mayo and Truffle Oil

Pork Belly Taco with Thai Peanut Salsa and Caramelized Bananas

Beef Cheeks Taco with Horseradish Puree, Fromage Blanc and Parsley

Maple Fried Chicken Taco with Purple Kale and Red Rooster Vinaigrette

Bison Chili Taco with Yellow Cheese and Banana Peppers

Kurabuta Pork Chicharrones with Diablo “Ketchup”

Warm Chocolate, Bacon, Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Cookie

Diablo describes itself as an “Urban Taco Fabricator and Crafter of Fine Micheladas”

Diablo Taco on Urbanspoon


Filed under Silver Lake

A Sweet Shave

One of the best things about eating dinner on Sawtelle Boulevard in West LA aka “Little Osaka,” is that after your meal, there are fun Japanese shops to visit, karaoke if you’re in the mood, and most importantly, half a dozen dessert places to satisfy the need for something sweet. My favorite such dessert place is Blockheads Shavery, which opened this past year and serves something truly unique; a frozen confection that they call “Snow Cream.” Snow Cream is a cross between shaved ice and ice cream. Large frozen blocks of flavored and sweetened cream are shaved to order on a machine, resulting in a delicious treat with a very unusual texture. It’s a fluffy mass of icy thin sheets folded on top of each other.

Here’s how to order: First you select one of the flavors, which typically include chocolate, coffee, strawberry, black sesame, green tea, peanut butter and their “original” flavor which reminds me of Pinkberry original. Next you select which topping you want. There are Asian-style toppings such a egg custard, red beans, almond jelly and lychees, as well as the more typical yogurt toppings such as Oreos, Reese’s Pieces, nuts, brownie bites, and fresh berries. Regardless of which flavor of Snow Cream you get, I highly recommend the homemade rice cakes. They are chewy and delciously glutinous; an absolute must-have. Finally, you select a “drizzle” such as condensed milk, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, strawberry puree or mango puree. If you have trouble choosing, don’t worry; there is almost always a long line at Blockheads so you have plenty of time to decide.

Blockheads Shavery is located at 11311 Mississippi Ave., Los Angeles (in West LA).

Original Snow Cream with Egg Custard, Toffee Crunch and Caramel Sauce

Makin’ Snow Cream

A cool little dessert place in Little Osaka

Blockheads Shavery Co on Urbanspoon

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I Melt For You

This place is a nice find. Named after the 16th Century playwright/poet who wrote that “the moon is made of green cheese,” Heywood is a cool little Silverlake joint that essentially serves only one thing: grilled cheese sandwiches accompanied by tomato soup and salad. For so many of us, grilled cheese and tomato soup is a childhood favorite; the ultimate comfort food prepared lovingly for us by our mothers, especially on a cold or rainy day. No offense to your mother, but the sandwiches and soup at Heywood are better.

The grilled cheese sandwiches here are gourmet versions of the classic. You can build your own and choose from ten different cheeses (including an aged English cheddar, a triple cream French brie, and a cotswold), five different kinds of bread and more than a dozen add-ons and artisan spreads including bacon, maple onion confit and raspberry habanero jam. Or you can choose from one of the pre-designed models such as the Tres Truffle Shuffle (country white bread, Appenzeller Swiss cheese, aged English cheddar, Pointe Reyes blue cheese and a dash of truffle salt) or my favorite, the Muy Caliente (fontina and spicy jack cheeses melted on top of sliced jalapenos, fresh cream cheese and crunchy tortilla strips on sourdough bread). Not to be relegated to the role of mere sidekick, the tomato bisque at Heywood is the best tomato soup I have ever had; no exaggeration. It’s perfectly spiced and has small bits of roasted tomatoes and peppers in it. Every sandwich comes with a tiny bowl of this soup, as well as a side salad. They also offer vintage sodas and a few desserts including a decadent S’Mores Bar by Motherfudger Fudge.

One word of warning: Heywood is a tiny place and it can be hard to get a table at lunchtime. It would be great if they installed a counter for additional seating. It’s cool that they’re open late (until 3am on Friday and Saturday) so you can hit them up after a concert or a night of hipster bar hopping in Silverlake. Would your mom grill you a sandwich so late at night? I don’t think so.

Heywood is located at 3337 1/2 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles (in Silverlake). UPDATE: Bad news grilled cheese lovers. Heywood is closed.

The best tomato soup I’ve ever had

Half sandwich with soup and salad

I’ll take a Lemmy!

Motherfudger Fudge S’Mores Bar

A Gourmet Grilled Cheese Shoppe in Silverlake

Heywood: A Grilled Cheese Shop on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Silver Lake