Archive for November, 2010

Urasawa

There is no restaurant in Los Angeles that can equal Urasawa. It is a very special place with an ambiance to match. Last night, we made friends with our dining companions – a gentleman from Copenhagen, 2 VA doctors, one celebrating his 60th and 2 first timers who had read extensively about the wonders of Urasawa. Where else can you have exquisite food plus end up making “friends” with like-minded passionate food people? Urasawa is more than a restaurant – it is an experience.

Urasawa prides itself on seasonality from the flower backdrop to each and every ingredient. Everything highlighted fall.

Fall backdrop

The wonderful Hiro with his equally capable brother-in-law, Yoshi.

I did the best I could to identify each ingredient, but my Japanese is non-existent and I apologize in advance for any errors.

BYO Krug Champagne – no photo

Toro stuffed with monkfish liver and a Japanese vegetable that Hiro described as a type of onion with a strip of turnip from Kyoto topped with caviar, yuzu dressing – 2 perfect bites

Inside of the Toro

Okra, Japanese Abalone, Squash, tofu and bounded with a type of mountain potato root done in the traditional Kyoto style. Another winner with the potato root acting as a binder for each ingredient.

Salmon eggs, edamame, tofu custard with tiny shrimp and topped with 23 carat gold leaf and a green vegetable that I am not sure what it was. Any resemblance between the salmon eggs you get at a “regular” sushi bar and Urasawa’s is not even close.

Inside of the salmon egg dish

BYO White Wine

Sashimi – Uni from Hokkaido, Red Snapper, Toro from Spain with vegetables and flowers that had been pickeld. Hiro chisels the ice block each morning. The toro was wondrous, the uni fat and luscious and the red snapper with a slight chewy bite.

Kobe Beef Tartar, Caviar to be eaten in one bite. A Slice of Red Bell Pepper as a chaser. My husband declared this orgasmic!

Shark Fin Chawan Mushi, Codfish eggs, shitake mushrooms, ginko nuts, mizuna, ginger, bonito favored sauce topped with gold leaf – absolutely perfectly balanced

Chawan Mushi “opened up”

Cod Fish Sperm Sac Tempura – the radish at the bottom right was to be added to the sauce – don’t even think about greasy tempura.

Lobster Cooked with uni “paste” on top served with a slice of ginger

Ingredients for the Shabu Shabu – red snapper, scallop, foie gras

Set-up for the Shabu Shabu – ready to be cooked by our servers

The foie takes the longest to cook and is added first

Red snapper being cooked

After you have finished eating each of the ingredients, the fresh seaweed from Sendai, Northern Japan is added – also eaten separately. Finally the scallions are added, allowed to steep for a bit and the broth is returned to the kitchen, minutes later  presented as a rich broth to the diner.

BYO Red Wine

Now Sushi – each piece is served separately and to be eaten immediately as soon as it is served. Just think the best quality fish, sliced perfectly and served with just the right amount of rice at the perfect temperature.

Grilled Toro

Skip Jack – Shima Aji

Spanish Mackerel

Red Snapper

Blue Fin Tuna

Squid

Mirugai/Giant Clam

Chu Toro – Medium Toro

Saba

Tiny Shrimp

Grilled Shitake Mushroom

Cut-up toro/scallion roll

Kohada

A special rice mixture is prepared and then Spanish mackerel is layered on top. Hiro then takes a hot steel rod and places it on top of the fish to quickly sear it – one of my all-time favorites.

John loved the beef tartare so he had to have another one.

Dessert Wine

Eel

Not sure of the following sushi items as I forgot to write anything down and I don’t want to guess.

Hachiya Persimmon

Truffle Ice Cream

Green Tea

The wonderful Hiro

His equally wonderful brother-in-law, Yoshi

To be brief – what an extraordinary perfect evening. I consider myself one very lucky lady to have Urasawa so close to home.

Drago

Drago has been a favorite restaurant of ours since it first opened.  In those days we had a system where we had our friends to our house for a drink about 30 minutes before our presumed reservation.  But, we did not go to Drago until we called and found out if they had our table ready…no reason to stand outside. The lines used to be that long at Drago.
Drago’s service team were always Italian guys who were really knowledgeable about the food and really brought an Italian sensibility plus personality plus.  That is not the case now. I would call it generic servers who could be in any mid-level restaurant in Los Angeles.
BYO Wines
An amuse from the kitchen – Arancini. This used to be served with bruschetta with tomatoes and shaved parmesan – no more
Salumi – proscuitto, salame, mortadella, speck – we ordered this knowing that there was no way the kitchen could mess up cured meats
The salumi was served with fritto gnocco – excellent
Sous vide egg, parmesan espuma, proscuitto chip, toasted brioche, spinach souffle cubes – this was the dish of the evening – inventive and well-prepared
Spaghetti, cured tuna (bottarga), oil, garlic, lemon zest.  The bottarga dish was awful…this is a dish that has had a special, distinctive taste since the restaurant opened.  Last night it tasted like pasta in badly made dishwater…all of the unique character of the bottarga was missing. Jason, the new manager, came over to ask how everything was and my husband said he couldn’t eat one bite of the bottarga. Jason sought to explain this change to us by saying, “We knew you probably would order this and knew you would be disappointed.  We can’t get the original bottarga and this one has to have lemon zest added to try and replicate the original bottarga.  Sorry about that.”
The question, why not tell me?   Why compromise?  Why represent the dish as the “old standard”?
Small rigatoni, pancetta, onion, tomato – adequate
Sweet corn ricotta pillows, white truffles, parmesan cheese – the white truffles made this a $36.00 entree. The white truffles were tasteless and basically non-existent.
White corn agnolotti at Spago – what a difference.
The bottom line, not withstanding the delicious egg dish, we won’t go back — too many disappointing dishes and the whole feeling that we loved at Drago is gone.

Persimmon Cookies

We used to have a huge persimmon tree, but it died. We did find a small persimmon tree and for the first time we finally got some persimmons.

Puny persimmon tree

Some Hachiya persimmons from our tree – not ripe yet – must be very soft for this recipe

RECIPE:

1 cup persimmon pulp – put pulp in processor and then strain (can be frozen)

1 tsp soda

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

2 cups flour/sifted

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 cup raisins

1. Stir soda into pulp and set aside

2. Cream butter and sugar.  Hand beat the egg into this mixture.

3. Hand-beat the pulp into the above mixture

4. Sift flour with the spices and baking powder.  Add to the pulp mixture.

5 Stir in the raisins.

6. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the greased cookie sheet.

7. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes

All that was left from a full batch

Chinois – Venice

Chinois is one of our favorite restaurants. Since they opened, there has been almost no turnover in the staff and as they know us well, the service is extraordinary. As I stated before, we tend to order our favorite dishes. Rene Malta, chef de cuisine, has nailed the Chinois signature dishes and consistency  from one time to the next is his hallmark. It is crucial that you don’t treat this as a Chinese restaurant and order a number of dishes at one time. We  order one dish at a time and Hoel serves each of us a single portion – we don’t treat this as family style dining.

The wonderful Hoel

BYO Champagne

Lobster Spring Rolls with plum aioli and a heirloom tomato and cucumber “salad” – delicious with just enough heat from the aioli and tender chunks of lobster in a crispy wonton wrapper

BYO White Wine

Warm sweet curried oysters with cucumber sauce and salmon pearls – this is a favorite dish of ours with perfectly fried oysters bathed in a cucumber sauce and topped with salmon eggs

Chinois was packed – this was 45 minutes after they opened – every restaurant would be thrilled to be packed at 6:45.

Tempura ahi tuna sashimi with fresh uni sauce – another favorite – the wrapping on the tuna was perfectly crisp, the tuna as fresh as any fine sushi bar and the uni sauce rich and unctuous.

BYO Red Wine

Crispy glazed quail with grilled pineapple – the quail was cooked to perfection and the grilled pineapple a perfect accompaniment

Roasted Cantonese duck with fresh plum sauce and steamed bao – we had just one bao filled with the duck so we can have leftovers tonight.

Steamed bao with stir-fried vegetables

Duck fried rice – again just a bite so we can have plenty of leftovers

What a perfect evening.


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