Thursday, July 29, 2010

Los Angeles - A.O.C Wine Bar

If I told you tapas, what would you immediately think of?

Spanish? Chorizo? Sangria's and little nibbles I imagine?

What if I told you French tapas? Would you scratch your head and be a little confounded?

Well on my (almost) last night in Los Angeles that's exactly what I had.

And to add a further interesting twist to the whole affair, I didn't even realise, but it was Bastille day! Hoorah!

From outside, A.O.C is a simple, minimalist building, so simple our driver went straight past it initially. However, once endeavoring inside, although still retaining a slick, modern and oh-so-chic appearance, the dark woods, spacious ceilings, neatly arranged tables draped in white tablecloth and soft ambient light, created a warmth. Heightened by the lively hostesses, dressed for the affair of the day in chic top hats, accordian players and a very good looking LA crowd. In hindsight, I'm quite surprised I managed to get a booking, especially since I just called on the day.

We started by getting a cheese to go with a merlot picked out from the wine menu, we told our waitress to surprise us with a hard cheese and it was quite lovely. Sweet and fairly mild, I only wish I had asked what it was!

Since it was Bastille day we had the option of ordering from a special set menu for the day, or of course just ordering from the ala carte menu. David and his friend decided to both get the Bastille day menu, and Daniel and I picked a couple of extra dishes to add some variety to the mix.

The appetizer from the Bastille day menu was a beautiful roasted vegetable and goat cheese tartin. Soft, luscious and made incredulously rich by the goat cheese. It was just as well we got two of them, since they were demolished pretty efficiently.

'From the wood burning oven' (quoted from the menu) we got clams with sherry and a curried cauliflower. The stock with the clams was just divine, though I might have enjoyed it if the cauliflower was a little softer.

Pork cheek, I can't remember what with, or cooked how, I suppose though, whilst I did like the dish a lot, my previous experiences with beef cheek are a lot more memorable as beef cheek is generally incredibly tender and just melts away in your mouth. I found that the pork cheek did not quite have the same texture, although it was almost there...

A lovely grilled chicken, what more can I say?

One of the main options from the Bastille day menu, some succulent wagyu beef with a side of perfectly crisp fries, I loved the nonchalant presentation in the paper bag. The chips themselves were really quite excellent, I always tend to try to avoid eating too many chips whenever I go out, as I like to fill up on y'know, my actual meal, but when the chips are this good it's kind of hard to resist!

The other main was a seafood bouillabaisse, which I forgot to take a picture of, but was filled with a great assortment of seafood, although I suppose I am a bit spoilt being from Australia, I was wincing slightly at the somewhat small mussels...

To finish the night, we got two plates of these beautiful, essentially, sugar doughnuts from the Bastille day menu. Mmm, they were light and fluffy, dusted perfectly and evenly and absolutely to die for with the rich chocolate sauce. Even though I shouldn't have eaten much, I could not restrain my fingers from reaching out for more, they were the epitome of finger-licking-good!

All in all, I really enjoyed my A.O.C experience, good food, maybe sightly snooty waitresses, it took us a while to get our drinks initially, but once we ordered, the food came out fairly quickly.

A.O.C Wine Bar
Mid-City West
8022 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA

A.O.C. on Urbanspoon

California - Sugar Shack

One fine morning in Orange County, David's aunt decided that she would take us out for breakfast on the beach and that she would kick her husband's butt if they didn't.

I really do love little sassy Asian women.

So on this gorgeous, stereotypical clear-blue-sky day, whilst we didn't end right on the beach, we were a nice little 5 to 10 minute walk away, which was very nice especially after this monster of a breakfast...

When I see 'Sugar Shack' I kinda get the impression of a candy house, like in Hansel and Gretel with candy canes hanging from every nook and cranny.

But no, we ended up in a very chilled out courtyard, or well concreted backyard...? Take your pick. Sugar Shack is a well known breakfast place and whilst I was warned we may have a long wait, since we arrived somewhere between breakfast and lunch on a weekday, our table of 10 was seated almost immediately.

Aaah, breakfast. Having been in America for a while, I hadn't really gone out to eat breakfasts, usually just nibbling on something small at whoever's fridge I happen to be able to raid. But not today. Today I decided, would be eggs.

And eggs I indeed got. This was the 'Main Street' Omelette, filled to the brim with the works. Mushrooms, onions, cheese, avocados and sprouts...? I was quite skeptical of the last two ingredients, but endlessly curious, as my hosts all did recommend it. It certainly did not disappoint, the sprouts in particular adding a really fresh, grassy flavour and the most fascinating texture and the richness of the avocados was a real treat.

I opted out of getting the hash browns, to try to stay healthy and got the fruit instead. But after all the eggs, there was no way I was getting the fruit down...

But seriously, everyone else got the hashbrowns and they are possibly some of the best I've ever had. Extremely crispy and crunchy and just so flavourful. Mmmmmm.

Pictured above, David got the eggs benedict, the poached eggs I thought looked a little overcooked, I love a runny yolk, but he still cleaned up his plate and stole some of my bread to get all of the sauce.

Sugar Shack also has lunches on it's menu, but really, who can resist all day breakfasts? I don't know about you, but I could certainly have eggs for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Mmmmmm!

Sugar Shack
213 Main St
Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Sugar Shack on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Los Angeles - Daikokuya

I like love unagi.

But urrr.

That's the most unagi I've ever seen in one serve of una-don EVER.

Let me back track a bit.

David's friend wanted to eat at Daikokuya in Los Angeles. So a 30 minute drive from Orange County later, we find ourselves in Little Tokyo (which is just adorable), with our names scribbled on a...wait list? What is this concept? Wait, we're number 19?! HOW LONG DO WE HAVE TO WAIT?


One hour later.

We find 4 of us squeezed into a booth and 2 of our party sitting at the ramen bar.

The place is absolutely packed to the brim, people constantly shuffling in and out and a happy bustling hum reverberates around the room. It's small and cosy, with friendly and courteous Japanese waiters and waitresses, even in the all the craziness, trying to make you as comfortable as possible.

I decided to try the California roll (Being in California and all...), nothing overly exciting unfortunately.

However, the lack lustre roll can be forgiven, since the star of the restaurant is their Daikokuya ramen. With pork belly char siew, the all necessary boiled egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and green onions, the noodles were of perfect texture, although I will honestly say I was a little bit underwhelmed by the broth...however, I'm no ramen expert myself, so I may not be the most reliable source for ramen feedback!

So yes. Back to my una-don instead. Which was HUGE. Two giant slabs of unagi, almost the size of my hand, lazily flopped over a bowl of rice. Rich and saucy, but a little bit bony unfortunately...

As Brad tends to say, it is kind of hard to get Japanese food wrong, and whilst there was nothing at all wrong with the food at Daikokuya, and I did like it, I found it a little bit over-hyped. I can't imagine myself spending one and a half hours commuting and waiting to eat there again.

Maybe if the line was a bit shorter.

327 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Daikokuya on Urbanspoon

Los Angeles - Loteria Grill

Why hi there Hollywood!

Fancy a bit of Mexican?

Accessed by a sweet little yellow (favourite colour...!) door, Loteria Grill in West Hollywood is a lofty, spacious and slightly (or maybe more than) upscale Mexican restaurant.

If I remember right in 2009 it received the title for best newcomer restaurant. Or something along those lines. Basically, it's supposed to be awesome.

One thing I absolutely love about Mexican places in America, is the corn chips and salsa that are served, instead of bread and butter. Although that could be a bad thing too as I tend to fill up on the chips even before my mains come...but how can I resist? The chips from Loteria were served warm and the salsa was so much thicker and spicier than any other I had had. It was incredibly addictive.

A drink imported from Mexico, basically a non-alcoholic Sangria....refreshing on a hot day.

We started off with a Quesadillia and opted to have it filled with veggies. I was a bit surprised since they looked so much like tacos when they came out, but they were lovely and not overly cheesy and heavy.

David got a...set of 4 tacos. One with mole chicken (Mole Poblano con Pollo), one with slowly roasted pork (Cochinita Pibil), another with beef meatballs and chipolte (Albondigas en Chipotle)...and I forgot the last one. Sorry. But aren't they just gorgeous?

Chill also got tacos. Hmm. Bit of a trend going on here...

Because I got tacos too! Although, not in quite the same way. On the specials menu, I very quickly spied the lengua and found it very hard to tear my eyes away from it. There was the option to have two been lengua tacos, or to have it as a plate. I was initially going to go for the tacos but was otherwise persuaded to get the plate, since y'know, I could make the tacos myself.

Oh my. Maybe not such a good idea.

Just because there was SO MUCH!

There was enough ingredients to make four tacos, but I only ended up managing to fit in 2 and a half. The lengua was absolutely delightful, tender, melted in your mouth and additionally rich with the thick sauce lathered over the top of it. The avocado provided a freshness amongst all the rich and intense flavours.

So. All in all, whilst Hollywood can be a bit of a tourist trap, Loteria, whilst upscale for a Mexican place, is also quite worth the visit. I love all the variations and options made available on the menu!

Loteria Grill
6627 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Loteria Grill on Urbanspoon

California - Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

As we do know, I am a sweet tooth, but not in the candy sense. I love chocolate, I love creamy ice-cream, I love cakes. Not so fond of the gummies and jellybeans.

But I digress.

So this one evening, David, Chill and I drove down to Laguna Beach, which is gorgeous by the way. We were there at late sunset, as the sky was a pastel pink and blue and just oh so gently dimming.

We had wandered along the main stretch and I was happily minding my own business in a cute little clothing store when David and Chill got on either side of me, hooked their arms into mine and escorted/dragged me out, turned left and stuck my face up against the window to behold this.

Oooh yes. Caramel apples.

But not just! Coated with chocolate, cookies and all things delicious that I love. I gasped, I swooned, I bounded through the door in excitement. Which one?!

Eventually my heart (and my stomach) were swayed by a sweet little apple, draped in dark chocolate, caramel and oodles of nuts.

Did I enjoy it? Ooooh you betcha. I'll let the next few pictures speak for me instead.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
152 N Glassell St # D
Orange, CA 92866
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory on Urbanspoon