Saturday, July 21, 2007

CRAFT, Century City, CA

The opening of Craft has been a much anticipated event for Los Angeles foodies, and has been the talk of the town all spring/summer. With the success of Top Chef and the growing fan base, more and more people couldn’t wait to try out Tom Colicchio’s new restaurant. The fact that I watched the place being built right outside my office window only contributed to my eagerness to check it out once in finally opened

Amuse Bouche:
Blue Crab Gougère

This bite-sized treat was a perfect start to our meal. The blue crab was topped with a light and refreshing cucumber onion mixture, which was very tasty. However, I am still confused why they called it a Gougère , since a Gougère usually contains cheese. It was still good so we forgave them.

Pork Belly & Madras Curry

I was told by many that Craft’s pork belly was a must have, and since neither of us had any idea what it even was (I purposely waited until after we tried it to Google it, and was delighted that it’s not a pig’s stomach after all) we decided to give it a try. Now I’m hooked. As much as I try to be creative with my reviews, I can't describe it any better than this one blogger did on

Shortly, our appetizer arrived. Five pieces of … fried tofu? I thought I got pork belly? I shrugged and cut into a block. Just to describe how this dish looked, the near-perfect rectangle of pork’s outside was browned as if deep-fried, with a bit of skin on one end. When I cut into it, a creamy interior exposed itself, ready to be consumed.

I stabbed it with my fork and thought, “bottoms up!”




This was the ultimate expression of porktastic ecstasy. The inside was literally dissolving on my tongue upon contact and the fullness of the fat was completely coating my mouth. It was as if the world had struggled and toiled to perfect the perfect method of cooking pork belly and every iota of energy expended to create this had culminated in this rectangle of animal gold. The dish came with sweet-and-sour dates and a madras curry sauce but they were practically superfluous, although good (by themselves and with the pork, but I preferred the pork by itself).

My girlfriend gasped across the table. I thought she had stepped on a bug or was choking but one look into her eyes and I knew.

This was ludicrously good.

Corn Agnolotti & Speck

After my experience with Spago’s corn agnolotti, there was no way that I was going to pass up another chance at pure ecstasy. And since Suni didn’t go to Spago’s with me, he needed to try my new food obsession. Craft’s version was served in a beautiful copper pot, and topped with speck (a type of prosciutto). Although I would rank Craft’s agnolotti just below Spago’s, it was fantastic and we will definitely get two orders next time so we don’t have to share it. This was by far Suni’s favorite dish of the night, and now, since he’s joined me in my obsession, I am going to make it in my next cooking class so I will be able to make it for him.

Wagyu Skirt Steak with Marrow and Soy Bordelaise
We decided not to spring for the $95 Kobe rib eye and instead opted to share the Kobe skirt steak. This was our first taste of Japanese Kobe steak (as opposed to a Kobe burger, which is quite different), and it was definitely very interesting. This type of meat is incredibly rich, buttery, and almost gamey. It was served with a wonderful soy based sauce, with a hint of rosemary. When we ordered the dish, we just saw the words Kobe and Skirt Steak and really didn’t read the rest. So when it came served with a mysterious white thing on top, we both didn’t know what it was. Thinking it was some kind of onion or potato, I took half and proceeded to eat it with a piece of steak. My first thought was that it tasted like the burnt part of a marshmallow roasted over a fire. Still unsure of what it was, I prompted Suni to try it. Right then, as Suni was about to take a bite, a server came by and I made the mistake of asking what it was. Bone marrow. To no surprise, Suni immediately put it down and gave a priceless look of utter disgust. Needless to say, I don’t think we’ll be ordering marrow again any time soon.

Potato Gratin
This was by far one of the best potato gratins that I’ve ever tasted. Probably made with a quart of cream, Craft’s version was silky, creamy, and just plain amazing.

After-dinner Amuse Bouche:
Cucumber Soup with Cantaloupe Sorbet and Watermelon

This light and refreshing after-dinner amuse was a perfect palette cleanser after our rich and heavy steak and potatoes. The cantaloupe, watermelon, and cucumber flavors complimented each other nicely, and it left us refreshed and ready to take on our next course.

Salty Chocolate Tart with Hazelnuts and Sorbet

Although we’ve tried countless chocolate desserts, the addition of course salt was a unique and welcomed addition. The chocolate tart shell tart was filled with a rich and creamy mousse, and sprinkled with large chunks of salt. Every bite that contained a bit of salt changed the flavor profile completely. And I must say, the combination was fantastic. The sorbet, caramel sauce, and sprinkle of hazelnuts added even more to the dessert, and the result was a dish full of a variety of flavors and texture combinations.

Petit Fours:
Lavender Marshmallow and Chocolate Pecan Bark

Although stuffed beyond belief, there’s always room for petit fours. The chocolate pecan bark was good, but nothing compared to the amazing chocolate tart that we had just finished. The lavender marshmallow was definitely…interesting. The texture was great, but to me it tasted more like something you would put in a bath tub rather than a dessert. Not that it was awful, just not our cup of tea. Full marks for originality though.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

SPAGO, Beverly Hills, CA

Although Suni and I make it a point to only post those food experiences that we take part in together, every once in a while one of us will visit a restaurant so “blog-worthy” that we are compelled to include it. Such a restaurant is Spago, a quintessential LA restaurant frequented by celebs and those with money to burn. Is it worth the hype? Keep reading to find out.

With Reggiano and Sage
I must say, this was utterly fantastic. Light pillows of corn and mascarpone filled pasta swimming in a sweet corn sauce with a sprinkle of caramelized corn kernels…it truly melted in my mouth. Unfortunately it was served with a fork rather than a spoon and the fork just wasn’t letting me eat it fast enough. It was actually quite hard to keep myself from picking up the plate and pouring it into my mouth. But I held myself back in the name of proper etiquette, although I did end up with an almost perfectly clean plate thanks to a lingering chunk of crusty bread.

Farmer’s Cheese, Parmesan, Mint, Chervil and Hazelnut Brown Butter
My friend ordered one of the other pastas on the menu that called out to me as well, and it did not disappoint. The cheese and herb-filled ravioli were drowned in a delectably rich brown butter sauce with hazelnuts. With both of our pasta dishes being on the heavier side, we could of stopped there and been happy. Glad we didn't.

Chana Dal Lentils, Eggplant-Shallot Masala,
Cucumber Relish, Cilantro-Mint Raita and Indian Spices
I actually had a tough time choosing a main dish, since Spago’s menu is quite fish-heavy and I don’t generally order fish when I go out. However, the Indian flavors of this dish lured me in, and I’m glad that it did. The salmon was perfectly moist, and the accompanying Indian sauces and spices were amazing. Not too strong or heavy, the flavors melded together and created a really nice balance. Again, the only thing left on my plate when I was finished with the sprig of lavender garnish.

Garlic, Chili Oil, Ginger, Baby Bok Choy, Snap Peas and Jasmine Rice
I encouraged my friend to get the Hong-Kong style cod because it was similar to Miso Black Cod, which is one of my all-time favorites. The fish was cooked absolutely perfectly, and was incredibly moist and flaky. It was served with fluffy jasmine rice, a nice sauté of mixed Asian vegetables, and a light soy-based sauce that didn’t overpower the delicate fish. Overall a wonderful dish filled with interesting textures and flavors.

Raspberry Sorbet, meringue

Luckily my friend also enjoys decadent chocolate desserts, so it didn’t take us long to choose the chocolate duo as our finish to an already great meal. Also lucky for me, my friend was quite full by that point so I got to eat most of it. The problem was that by this time I had already consumed a half of bottle of wine so I honestly can’t remember the dessert enough to describe it in great detail. I do remember there being three layers of rich chocolate; the top was warm and fudgy, the center creamy, and the bottom a yummy chocolate crust. Immersed in interesting conversation, I polished it off without really thinking about it, although I do remember that it was really quite good.

The verdict? With all the hype surrounding Spago, I had really high expectations. From my other trips to high-end restaurants, I was rather surprised that Spago didn’t treat diners to an Amuse-bouche or petit-four, which of course would have meant that I could sample more of Wolfgang Puck’s innovative creations. I will definitely need to go back and try their tasting menu, which supposedly is where their stars really shine. But all things considered, Spago isn’t just about the glitz and glam – they have great service, a beautiful courtyard patio, and most importantly, the food to back it up.