Friday, November 30, 2007


The good thing about living in LA and having to fly into the Oakland airport on a regular basis is that Suni can pick me up and whisk me away to a nearby hotspot that would normally be a bit far for dinner. We've tried several places in Oakland, Berkeley, and other surrounding areas, and most recently stumbled upon Levende East in downtown Oakland. This "wine and small-plates" restaurant was dark, sexy, and exactly what I needed to unwind from a long week of work.

roquefort stuffed dates/fried spanish chorizo

Stuffed dates being one of our newest discoveries, we were anxious to try Levende's version. The chorizo added a nice salty and spicy kick to the sweet date and intense Roquefort. It was interesting that the chorizo was served alongside the dates and not stuffed in them, but this way we were able to taste all the components separately, and then see how they blended together perfectly.

indian spiced mini lamb burgers
onion chutney/cumin yogurt sauce/pickled cukes

These little lamb sliders called out to us, even though I'm not a huge fan of lamb. But I must admit, they were very tasty, and the wonderful Indian spices made me temporarily forget that I was eating a cute baby sheep.

guava BBQ glazed babyback ribs
mashed japanese sweet potatoes/rocolla/chalula & honey vinaigrette

These just sounded so good. The guava BBQ sauce was sweet and rich, which is why the peppery taste of the rocolla was essential to the dish. We devored them so quickly that we forgot to ask for more sauce on the side.

mac & cheese
applewood smoked bacon/sage

How could we NOT have the mac and cheese?

chocolate peanut butter pie
oreo cookie crust/caramel whipped cream

I begged, pleaded, and Suni finally gave in and let me order the chocolate peanut butter pie. I'm hoping that one day he develops a similar love for peanut butter (or even just a tolerance for it), but it wasn't at this dinner. He took one bite and proclaimed it too peanut-buttery. Of course, not all was lost as that just meant more for me.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

CUT, Beverly Hills, CA

When my New York-based cousin Eric and I discovered our mutual love for food, I was even more excited when he told me that he and Rhonda would be coming to LA for 1 night and that we would go out somewhere amazing. He did his research, and decided that Wolfgang Puck's trendy CUT steakhouse at the Beverly Wilshire was worthy of our all-out dinner splurge. Of course, Suni didn't think twice about making a special trip down to LA to attend. After all, what is 700 miles of driving compared to a good steak? Cousin Lauren also joined us, which meant more dishes to try and more laughs. Needless to say, the 5 of us had a blast.

Pink Lady & Fuji Apple Salad, Fennel, Red Endive, Medjool Dates, Marcona Almonds, Parmesan

Rhonda's starter was the lightest and most refreshing of the bunch. Shreds of crunchy, sweet, and tart apples blended nicely with the bitter endive and fennel. Nutty parmesan and sweet dates rounded out the dish.

Bone Marrow Flan, Mushroom Marmalade, Parsley Salad

Although this is known as one of the "must have" starters, I [Andrea] wasn't quite brave enough to order it myself - so I was delighted when Eric did. After swooning over his first bite, he spread some on a piece of toast and passed it across the table. Trying not to think about what it really was, I took a bite and promptly melted in my chair. SO good. Suni didn't even want to entertain the idea of taking a bite (after all, we are talking about eating bone tissue), but I think I enjoyed it enough for the both of us.

Blue Fin “Toro” Tuna Tartare, Wasabi Aioli, Ginger, Togarashi Crisps, Tosa Soy

It's a challenge to take classic (almost passé) tuna tartare and make it interesting. But Cut succeeded with their version, which was beautifully presented and full of flavors and textures. I think Lauren was quite satisfied.

Maple Glazed Pork Belly, Asian Spices, Sesame–Orange Dressing, Bartlett Pear Compote

On a pork belly kick, I didn't think twice about ordering this as my starter. Compared to Craft's, this was juicer and meatier, although Craft's had the wonderful crispy exterior. I'm definitely torn. But it was fantastic and I reluctantly passed it around the table so others could share in my joy.

Kobe Steak Sashimi, Spicy Radishes

Suni here. Were it not for Andrea's relentless foodie influence, dishes associated with the words sashimi, tartar, or RAW would be nowhere near my end of the table. I actually surprised myself ordering this starter, but I figured if I'm going to engage in a raw meat experiment, why not make it Kobe at CUT. Of course, now I'm ruined. The seasoning and texture of the steak was amazing, and I found myself nearly scooping up every last piece before sharing. I'd definitely order this again.

New York Steak
U.S.D.A. PRIME, Nebraska Corn Fed, Dry Aged 35 Days

And if there weren't so many other interesting meat options on the menu, I'd be ordering this New York steak again, too. Normally I'd go for a ribeye, but I was just too intrigued by our server's description of this flavorful cut. This was by far the best seasoned steak I've ever had, and it has me wondering what sort of magic Wolfgang cooked up for the other aged steaks on the menu. My wallet isn't so thrilled, though. Go figure.

With the following sides...
Potato Tarte Tatin
Creamed Spinach with Fried Organic Egg
Sautéed Autumn Greens, Garlic
Matsutake Mushrooms

Mushrooms, Potato, Greens & that order. The mushrooms just complimented the salty steak well, and the potato was an interesting change from more traditional potatoes. The greens were tasty on their own, and the spinach was really just typical creamed spinach to me. This meal was really about the starts and the steaks. And now, back to your regularly scheduled Andrea...

Petit Fours

We were so full that we decided to skip dessert (although if it were just Suni and I we would have found room). But it was a good thing since their tray of petit fours was substantial enough to qualify as a dessert.

The verdict? Cut definitely lives up to the hype. Not only was the food fantastic, but the service was arguably the best we have ever experienced - or at least tied with Daniel in NY. And to top it all off, the icing on the cake was getting to meet the master chef himself.