My family and I are big fans of chef-owner Andrew Kirschner’s highly acclaimed restaurant Tar & Roses—I’ve reviewed it twice on this blog. Last month, when my parents were in town, we had to find a place for dinner, and my wife suggested T&R. She hadn’t heard that a fire had shut down the restaurant earlier this summer, with no set reopening date as repairs have taken longer than expected.
Undeterred, I suggested Santa Monica Yacht Club, T&R’s seafood-centric sister restaurant on the same block in Santa Monica. I used the Reserve app to request a table for six for right when the restaurant opens, and Reserve got us in with just a day’s notice. Unfortunately, my wife ended up not feeling well that evening and missed out on a wonderful meal.
Santa Monica Yacht Club, SMYC for short, is a bright, airy restaurant, with a nautical theme, a big change from the wine-cellar-like atmosphere of the previous occupant, Italian restaurant La Botte. We were seated at a large table by the entrance, and I really appreciated the abundance of natural lighting for my photographs!
We ordered an assortment of dishes ranging from raw oysters to grilled whole mackerel to skirt steak, and even a classic T&R dish on loan to SMYC: lamb kabobs with banana raita and harissa. We liked nearly everything that we had, as I would expect from past experience with Tar & Roses. Of course, there were some definite standouts…
The first highlight of the meal was a raw yellowtail dish. While nearly ubiquitous at popular restaurants, the pristine hamachi in combination with the tart, creamy, fragrant elements in the dish really made this stand out from most of the other crudi and carpaccios around town.
Sea urchin is another easy find on menus in Los Angeles, particularly served on toast! SMYC didn’t try to reinvent the wheel with its rendition, but, as with the yellowtail, the quality of the uni was superb and paired well with the frisée and avocado.
Octopus is perhaps not quite as commonplace in restaurants, but it’s definitely gaining in popularity, much to my delight. The tentacle here had a light, crisp outer layer, while the meat of the, well, octopus meat was quite tender. I don’t know why, but I particularly liked the potato in this dish.
Getting into slightly more specialized territory, I don’t generally encounter a spaghetti with bottarga (salted/cured mullet roe) dish outside Italian restaurants. As a fiend for karasumi, the Japanese version of this delicacy, I was very happy with this dish! Most of the table liked it right away, including, after a bit of coaxing to get her to try it, my younger daughter!
The barbecue eel lunch box is another dish not generally found outside its culinary enclave, in this case Korean restaurants. The dosirak was presented to us already looking good enough to eat, with glistening sauce over the eel, and a raw egg yolk begging to be mixed in.
And as one would at a Korean restaurant, the dosirak was lidded tightly and shaken like a cocktail before the contents were re-revealed. What was once a pretty picture is now a delicious mess, but admittedly still a pretty picture. This was actually my first dosirak, so I can’t compare it to other shaken lunch boxes, but I can say it was just as delicious as any Japanese unaju or unadon (eel and rice dishes) I’ve had!
We finished our meal with one dessert, the lime s’mores, which is a twist both on s’mores—everything but the chocolate—and on key lime pie, which for some reason is often served at seafood restaurants. I guess seafood and Florida go together in people’s minds. I didn’t get to try it, but from the empty bowl and the smiles on my kids’ faces, I’d bet it was good!
While it may not seem like SMYC is breaking as much new ground as T&R did, there’s something to be said for putting fresh ingredients together in simple but well thought out dishes and then executing those dishes at a high level. I hope Tar & Roses reopens soon, but in the mean time Santa Monica Yacht Club is definitely not just holding down the fort! If you’re a fan of seafood, or of T&R, or just of great food, be sure to check out SMYC!
My thanks again to Reserve for getting us a table. I’ve used the app several times this year, to get into places like Bestia, Republique, Rustic Canyon, and Tar & Roses! Download Reserve (iOS or Android) and enter promo code OFFALO in-app to receive a $20 credit.
To see every dish we had at SMYC, check out #offalosmyc on Instagram!
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Santa Monica Yacht Club
620 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
I thought the end of summer would indicate a ramping down of food festivals, but the fall is gearing up to be packed with events. While the sheer numbers are likely not as high in the past few months, the ones that are coming up in September and October are fairly high caliber, some backed by major Los Angeles-based publications, and most supporting charities. Here are just a few of them, starting with a big one coming up this weekend…
Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival, August 27-30, 2015: This four-day fest features events large and small, from cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs like Curtis Stone, to intimate lunches with chefs at their own restaurants, to nightly bashes featuring Questlove and The Roots. It’ll be my first time attending and covering this event! Benefits Berkley Foundation.
Los Angeles Times‘ The Taste, September 4-6, 2015: This three-night event over Labor Day weekend is split into daytime and evening events on Saturday and Sunday, with a Friday opening-night party kicking things off. Each event is hosted by a member of the Times’ Food staff, including Noelle Carter, Jenn Harris, Russ Parsons, Amy Scattergood, and, of course, Jonathan Gold! I will also be attending and covering this event for the first time! Benefits Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and The Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona.
L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade, September 12, 2015: This fundraiser for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation was started by Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne (AOC, Lucques, Tavern) and David Lentz (The Hungry Cat) and has raised over $2.2 million for childhood cancer research. I am hoping to attend, but have not determined if I can yet.
Angeleno Magazine’s Live & Dine LA, September 20, 2015: Celebrating 16 years of the magazine’s publication with over 40 restaurants including Bestia, Chaya, Faith & Flower, Le Comptoir, Spago, The Bazaar by José Andrés, The Oyster Gourmet, at the Fairmont Miramar. Hoping to attend this one as well. Benefits Project Angel Food.
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The third Sunday in October has three events on the same day, that I’m aware of—there could be more! For those crazy enough to attempt it, it actually is possible to attend all three, as the first event goes from 11am to 2pm, the second from 2pm to 5pm, and the third is 4pm to 8pm. You’d have to zig-zag from Arcadia to Malibu to Silver Lake, and you’ll miss parts of each event, but it’s doable. Maybe I’ll try to hit two of these events. Even I’m not crazy enough to go for the hattrick!
LA Weekly‘s Brunch at the Races, October 18, 2015: 30 restaurants brunching it up at Santa Anita racetrack, including Abigaile, Du-Par’s, Go Get Em Tiger, Poppy & Rose, Status Kuo, and Superba Food + Bread. Benefits Every Angeleno Counts and Homeboy Industries.
Los Angeles Magazine‘s The Food Event, October 18, 2015: Hosted by Brook Williamson (Playa Provisions), Eric Greenspan (Maré), Neal Fraser (Redbird), and LA Mag’s own Lesley Bargar Suter, at Saddlerock Ranch in Malibu. With over 20 wineries and at least as many restaurants, including Animal, Cadet, Hatchet Hall, Leona, Saddle Peak Lodge, and Union, this event should be a spectacularly good time. Benefits Kid’s Courage Foundation.
Eastside Food Festival, October 18, 2015: Participants are still being finalized, but last year’s event featured Alimento, Home State, Mexicali, Pine & Crane, and more. Check their website for updates on this year’s participants. Benefits PATH.
Like I said, there may be more events occuring on that third Sunday in October, and of course other events will be happening that month. If you have an event you want to share, please comment below!
The cuisine of The Philippines is not something I have had a lot of experience with. At company potlucks and parties I’ve attended, I’ve tried the fried lumpias (spring rolls) and chicken adobo (stew) that my Filipino coworkers would bring. I’ve had lechon (roast pig) and pancit (stir-fried rice noodles) at birthday parties for my kids’ second cousins—my wife’s cousin’s wife (if you follow) is from The Philippines.
I’ve been trying to sample more Filipino food beyond the above staples. I enjoyed The Park’s Finest‘s coconut beef and cornbread bibingka (rice flour cake) at Plate by Plate 2014, and the same bibingka with pulled pork at this year’s event, but I’ve yet to hit their shop in Echo Park. I’ve gone to Dollar Hits for skewers of isaw (intestines) and other Filipino street foods. It’s definitely a cuisine I want to get to know better.
Earlier this summer, I was invited to preview Ricebar, a new Filipino restaurant packed into a tiny space (single-digit seats, counter-only). The result of a partnership with chef Charles Olalia (Patina, Terranea) and restaurateur Santos Uy (Papilles, Mignon), Ricebar specializes in rice bowls.
The menu consists of a a selection of ulam (flavors) paired with one of five varieties of heirloom rice grown in The Philippines, though customers can select their own combinations. A pancit dish and a mushroom “tamale” (made with rice, not corn) round out the menu. I got to try many of the dishes during the preview.
Bistek Tagalog: The onions in this dish was infused with a lot of flavor, but the rest of the dish was somewhat bland. My friend Remil commented after that my dish seemed to be missing the sauce/gravy that he’s had on it.
Bistek Tagalog: "Soy marinated black angus beef sirloin, pan seared, with red onions & calamansi." #bistektagalog #bistek #blackangus #sirloin #beef #steak #onions #calamansi @ricebarla @charlesolalia @uymonster @helloxjenni #ricebarla #ricebar #filipinofood #filipino #pinoy #heirloomrice #rice #dtla #losangeles #theoffalo #offaloricebar
Mushroom Tamale: This was not the most photogenic dish and was much tastier than it looks on Instagram. It’s very similar to lo mai gai, those lotus leaf bundles stuffed with sticky rice that you might find at dim sum restaurants. Probably the only vegetarian dish, if you’re the kind of vegetarian that eats eggs, as it does contain salted duck egg.
Mushroom Tamale: "Sticky rice flavored with soy and coconut vinegar, stuffed with mushrooms, black bean sauce & salted duck egg, wrapped in lotus leaf." #mushroomtamale #tamale #lomaigai #machang #matsang @ricebarla @charlesolalia @uymonster @helloxjenni #ricebar #ricebarla #ricebar #filipinofood #filipino #pinoy #heirloomrice #rice #dtla #losangeles #theoffalo #offaloricebar
Pancit Luglog: I really enjoyed this non-grain dish, which was made with a thicker, udon-like rice noodle, rather than the more ubiquitous thin rice vermicelli found in pancit bihon. It’s surprising how different the dish is with the thicker noodles. It’s also saucier, with the orange color courtesy of annatto seeds.
Pancit Luglog: "Thick rice noodles with baby shrimp, shellfish sauce, green onions, annatto, boiled egg, and pork chicharonnes." #pancitluglog #pancitluglug #pancit #shrimp #egg #chicharron I've only had this dish with the more ubiquitous bihon rice vermicelli. It's surprising how different it is with the thick noodles. It's also saucier, with the orange color courtesy of annatto seeds. Love the cracklins! Hand Model: Jenni Hwang @ricebarla @charlesolalia @uymonster @helloxjenni #ricebarla #ricebar #filipinofood #filipino #pinoy #heirloomrice #rice #dtla #losangeles #beautifulcuisines #bestofla #dinela #eaterla #eeeeeats #food #foodie #foodpic #foodporn #foodstagram @infatuation #instafood @la_mag #latimesfood #mydayinla #myfab5 #theoffalo
Pork Longganisa: My favorite of the night, the sausage, made in-house by hand (I saw the prep cook dicing fat back to go into the filling) was sweet and fatty. The egg had crispy edges around the white with a thick medium-soft yolk. The shredded, pickled papaya on top reminded me of takuan (Japanese pickled radish). I could eat this bowl every day!
Pork Longganisa: "House made sweet & spicy sausage with pickled vegetables & garlic crumbs." And a fried sunny-side up egg! #porklongganisa #pork #longganisa #friedegg @ricebarla @charlesolalia @uymonster @helloxjenni #ricebarla #ricebar #filipinofood #filipino #pinoy #heirloomrice #rice #dtla #losangeles #theoffalo #offaloricebar
Ricebar also serves an assortment of drinks, including some Filipino sodas, and house-made crispy rice treats in flavors such as chocolate and pandan. For now, Ricebar is a weekday-only, lunch-to-early-dinner affair, open only Monday through Friday from 11am to 5pm. Hopefully they’ll expand their hours soon!
For more from my meal at Ricebar, check out the #offaloricebar hashtag on Instagram.
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419 West 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014
213-807-5341 (for text orders)
Last month, I experienced one of those “only in L.A.” moments that I’ve encountered just a handful of times since moving to the left coast over a decade ago. I found myself at Skybar in the Mondrian Hotel in the heart of West Hollywood, surrounded by beautiful people, enjoying gorgeous seafood paired with fancy cocktails. Helicopters circled overhead, and the police had cordoned off Sunset Boulevard a few blocks in either direction from where I was.
This surreal scenario was the backdrop for my five-course Ceviche Project meal, prepared by Octavio Olivas, probably the most fashionable chef I know, assisted by his lovely wife Shannon and a small crew, with handcrafted cocktails courtesy of DeLeón Tequila. While the dishes and drinks looked as glamorous as the surroundings, it was fortunately not a case of style-over-substance when it came to taste.
In the span of four savory courses, Chef Olivas highlighted the varied bounty of the ocean. Each of the pop-ups has a different menu; I don’t know if Olivas starts with a concept in mind for each event, but this meal was definitely inspired by Peru, with a hamachi tiradito as the second course and leche de tigre in the headlining ceviche.
Rounding out the meal was a starter of clean, plump oysters on the half shell, and an encore of the dish Ceviche Project served at LASFF, a Mexican aguachile of sea urchin and octopus, but scaled up for this more intimate setting. As Shannon Olivas said, they can do so much more when creating dishes for 50 people vs. 5,000 people.
The cocktail pairings were quite varied. I preferred the two that contained reposado: a sweet, fruity concoction with mint, cane sugar, and blackberry compote, which paired with the yellowtail; a lighter, more floral cocktail with St. Germain and egg white, which accompanied the tostada.
The most interesting pairing was with the dessert, a refreshing dish of peach sorbet and stone fruit. The cocktail, made with DeLeón Platinum, was reminiscent of piña colada but not as sweet. It was the almond foam floating in the glass that caught my attention. Alternating sips of drink and spoonfuls of dessert created a boozy, peaches-and-cream interplay.
Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with my first Ceviche Project pop-up. The quality of the ingredients, and the care in preparation, along with the top-shelf cocktail pairings made for a wonderful experience. If I had to find something to criticize, I’d confess that I did come out of the meal still a bit peckish. The portions were by no means dainty, but neither were they hearty. Also, I have a big appetite.
Of course, this experience will stick out in my mind, beyond the amazing food and drinks, for the craziness that surrounded the evening. My fellow diners and I were actually unable to leave the hotel for over an hour after the meal. The reason for the partial lockdown, the helicopters above, and the police outside: Future.
It was the rapper, not the concept of time, who temporarily brought Hollywood to its knees. Apparently, he had planned to do a free show at House of Blues that evening, after a foiled attempt for one at the Roxy earlier that day. Too many fans came out to see him, and the crowds got out of control. In the end, Future had to put the kybosh on his show, but he did leave quite a spectacle in his wake.
Ceviche Project’s next pop-up at Skybar in Mondrian Los Angeles is on Thursday, August 20, 2015. Tickets are $125 and on sale now for the five-course meal and cocktail pairings by DeLeón Tequila. Chef Olivas recently returned from vacation in Mexico, refreshed with inspiration from his homeland. Check out @cevicheproject on Instagram for clues as to what he might be serving next Thursday.
Additional photos by Rachel Jacobson, used with permission.
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Skybar at Mondrian
8440 Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Last night, my friend Natalie and I attended Los Angeles Magazine‘s “Social Hour” at Petty Cash Taqueria‘s new location in the Arts District in DTLA, to celebrate their taco-centric July issue, which contained many articles on that quintessential Mexican fare, including Bill “Street Gourmet LA” Esparza’s expanded LA Tacopedia and his 25 Best Tacos list.
On yesterday’s program were Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria, Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos, and Petty Cash Taqueria chefs Walter Manzke, Fabian Gallardo, and David Chavez, serving a set menu. LA Mag’s food editor Lesley Bargar Suter made a brief speech to kick off the event.
The dishes served were superb, as expected from this collection of chefs. Highlights included Avila’s lobster mushroom (fungus, not crustacean) taco, Salgado’s elote y maiz taco with huitlacoche, and the Petty Cash chefs’ charcoal-grilled octopus taco.
As great as the food was, getting it was occasionally an exercise in frustration. To be clear, staff was friendly and earnest in their attempt to provide great service, but the manner in which the food was served left much to be desired. Dishes came out of the kitchen in no particular order and seemed to be served to tables at random. Continue Reading →