If you are new to this blog, please feel free to read the pages linked under the About section on the left sidebar to get a better sense of what this site’s about. The first, “The Offalo“, covers the genesis of this blog and gives you a little background on who I am. The second, “The Coloffalon“, is just a message to all the nitpickers on the internets. :-)
I’ve had Sycamore Kitchen on my radar ever since it opened around the same time I tried chefs-owners Quinn and Karen Hatfield’s eponymous Hatfield’s restaurant in 2012. My meal at Hatfield’s was excellent, and I’m not sure what took me so long to try Sycamore Kitchen, but my wife, older daughter, and I finally tried it out for brunch on a recent Sunday morning, and we really enjoyed ourselves!
While waiting in the long, serpentine line to order our food, we spied that variety of pastries in their case. Ultimately we settled on two. Not being a huge sweets guy, I just had a taste of each and left the rest to my wife and daughter.
The first was a Pine Nut Tart (~$3) that reminded me of the rosemary pine nut cookies served with the butterscotch budino at Pizzeria Mozza.
The second was Salted Caramel Pecan Babka Roll ($4). It kind of reminded me of a less wet, more cake-y version of a sticky toffee pudding, plus pecans.
The first of the non-baked goods that we ordered was the Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs ($5). I like deviled eggs anyway, but these were extra good. The flavor and texture of the whipped yolks were just right, not too salty, not to mushy. The amount of salmon was good too, and did not overwhelm the rest of the dish. This was a really solid snack!
Next was the Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($5), with maple glaze and rosemary. Brussels sprouts are de rigueur these days, and it’s refreshing to actually have a preparation where the sprouts stood mostly on their own, with no meat or cheese or other strong ingredients paired with it. This dish was exemplary.
My wife ordered the Cinnamon Brioche French Toast ($10), with grated apple slaw, whipped crème fraiche as her entrée. This dish was the only disappointment of the meal, but it had the potential to be great. Since City Bakery left Brentwood Country Mart, my wife’s been looking for a french toast that could take its place. Sycamore Kitchen’s french toast’s exterior was close, with crispy, caramelized edges, but the main issue was the interior. The batter barely penetrated the thick slices of brioche, making the french toast quite dry. I’m hoping it’s just an anomaly.
I ordered the Pork Belly Hash ($11.50), with roasted peppers and onions, russet potatoes, two fried eggs, and spinach. I first tasted the ingredients individually, and each were great: spinach was bright and fresh, pork belly was fatty and moist, potatoes had great crispy edges, sunny side up eggs perfectly cooked. Together, the ingredients were greater than the sum of their parts. This was a pretty fantastic bowl of breakfast for me!
We were really impressed with Sycamore Kitchen. While the french toast was disappointing, everything else was just superb. We definitely want to go back, and we’d even try the french toast again (maybe ask for it to be double dipped, like a Philippe’s French dipped).
143 South La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
[Apologies for the not-so-brief hiatus. Just been busy with life. Still need to eat, so I have a backlog of material to post. I figure I'd restart with my favorite subject, sushi!]
Some of the best sushi-ya in L.A. are on the Westside. Kiriko, Mori, and Shunji are a stone’s throw from each other and all within 5 miles from where I live. Because of this, I rarely venture elsewhere for sushi. Of course, I have a wishlist of sushi/kaiseki places to try, both on the Westside (n/naka, Urasawa, Yamakase, etc.) and elsewhere (Asanebo, Kimagure Ike, Q, Zo, etc.), and I was fortunate enough to cross one of the top ones on my list off a little while ago.
Go’s Mart started off as an actual Japanese market, not as a restaurant, according to a regular who we were sitting next to at the bar. Opened and ran by Go-san’s brother Go-san, Go-san took over Go’s Mart from his brother Go-san (confused yet?) in 2007 and converted it into a restaurant, though he (in)famously continued to operate the VHS tape rentals that I presumed existed before his takeover. Nowadays, the tapes have gone, and Go’s Mart is strictly a sushi-ya.
I was meeting up with a friend from the Bay Area for lunch, and as usual I was running late. Didn’t help that I got lost. Fortunately, I arrived as they opened and my friend had already secured us seats all the way at the back of the small sushi bar. We ordered omakase, but rather than being served individual pieces, Go-san served us what I called “flights” (to borrow from wine terminology) of fish, which were grouped thematically.
The first flight consisted of four shiromi, white-fleshed fish: shimaaji (striped jack), kinmedai (golden eye sea bream), karei engawa (flounder fin), kanpachi (amberjack). The fish were all served with yuzukosho (a peppery, citrus-y chili paste), as well as yuzu zest and delicate strips of black truffle. The bold and complex mixture of flavors were quite different than what I’ve become accustomed to with sushi and worked better than I expected.
Next was the flight of maguro: kamatoro aburi (torched fatty tuna collar), kawagishi toro (scraped fatty tuna), akami (lean tuna). This was a most decadent and delicious trio. The kamatoro was topped with gold flakes, and the preparation rendered some of the fattiness instead into crispy edges. The kawagishi was almost tartare-like, and topped with caviar. The akami was the most traditional, with some scallion and a slice of fried garlic.
Ebiko (shrimp roe) served as our intermezzo. Soaked in ponzu, with a hint of sake, if I recall correctly, it was a refreshingly briny treat. It was rather difficult to eat with chopsticks, so I just downed it like a shot.
My favorite seafood tend to be invertebrates, so I was very much looking forward to this plate of non-fish sushi, or hokanomono: uni (sea urchin), amaebi aburi (torched sweet shrimp), zuwaigani (snow crab), hotate (scallop). The truffle oil, which topped each piece, rather than overpowered, really accentuated the sweetness of the each neta, which were exemplary.
Our second intermezzo was the fried head of the amaebi in ponzu, deliciously crisp and “refreshing” in its own way.
Back to sushi, and my preferred kind of fish too, hikarimono, or silver/shiny-skinned fish: sekiaji (horse mackerel from Oita, Japan), sanma (pike mackerel), ebodai (butterfish), kohada (shad). I’ve had some amazing aji and sanma at Shunji and Kiriko, and a really fantastic piece of ebodai at Yojisan last year. The pieces at Go’s Mart didn’t quite measure up to those top specimen (in my opinion–my friend absolutely adored the kohada here), they were still expertly prepared and delicious. The goji berries were an interesting choice to help cut the natural bitterness of hikarimono.
I was pleasantly surprised by the second flight of hokanomono that came next: awabi w/kimo (abalone w/liver), mirugai (giant clam), tako aburi (torched octopus). The tako, which was marked “live” (though I didn’t see it squirming during prep) was probably the best octopus nigiri I’ve had, snappy yet tender, with the slight smokey char from the torch. The mirugai was clean and briny. The awabi was excellent, and, true to my moniker, I loved the rich, buttery, bitterness of the kimo.
At this point, we started ordering okonomi, or à la carte. The regular sitting next to us, Rick I believe his name was, said he gets the ankimo (monkfish liver) every time he comes in, which is often, so we had to try it. The piece was still warm from being made just earlier that day. Topped with some scallions and a goji berry, it was the best solid piece of monkfish liver I’ve had. It’s been called the foie gras of the sea, and the piece I had definitely lived up to that reputation.
Shirasu (icefish) was my next order, and it was great. Slighty bitter, but well balanced with the minced ginger mixed together with the Lilliputian fish.
As I mentioned, I really love non-fish seafood, so I had to try the mongo ika. I had a hard time determining the kind of squid it was, as the other species all had relatively clear translations: aori ika (bigfin reef squid), sumi ika (cuttlefish–literally “ink squid”), yari ika (spearhead squid), etc. It appears to translate as common cuttlefish. Regardless, it was sweet and tender, not too chewy.
For my last piece of nigiri, I opted for sayori (needlefish). I’m not sure if it’d fall under shiromi or hikarimono, but it seemed to have the best of both: delicate, mild flesh, but with a underlying earthy (ocean-y?) bitterness.
Dessert was a platter of mixed fruit drizzled with condensed milk. Simple and a great way to close out the meal.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Go’s Mart. I was really pleasantly surprised by the experience. Go-san projects a playful pseudo-gruffness with a mischievous edge. I heard him telling another patron who had asked what the uni was that it was peanut butter! Go-san was not the only interesting character in the place. Rick, the regular I mentioned previously, has apparently been going to Go’s Mart for 17 years, if I recall correctly, back when it was just a market. He comes in multiple times a week just to get the ankimo. The other regulars I saw were also super-friendly to the newcomers, and the place just has that Cheers-esque everybody-knows-your-name feeling.
Go’s Mart is a true neighborhood spot that belies the incredible quality fish and amazing skills behind the counter. If only it wasn’t so far away, I’d be willing to try to become a regular too. I guess I’ll just have to “settle” for Kiriko and Shunji. ;-)
Go’s Mart (Yelp)
22330 Sherman Way
Canoga Park, CA 91303
All photographs © 2013 The Offalo
I (generally) devote a single post to my first visit to a new place (e.g., most recently Gjelina, Littlefork, Pizzeria Mozza) or for great individual meals at familiar haunts (e.g., Shunji, Kiriko), but I have a rotation of places I like to visit regularly that I haven’t posted on recently. So I will be working my way through some of these places in a series of posts I’m calling “Revisitings”. The first entry was on Ramen Hayatemaru. The second entry was on Sweet Rose Creamery. This third entry is on Night+Market in West Hollywood.
According to my “records” I have been to Night+Market “only” 9 times since my first visit in July. It would be more, except for the fact that it’s quite far from where I live. If it were any closer, I would definitely be in the high-teens by now. It has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in L.A., mostly for having incredibly delicious food, but also because it doesn’t try to be anything but what it is, a “neighborhood” spot, serving simple, authentic “Thai street food” (so says the masthead on their site).
Of course, the neighborhood is West Hollywood, on the Sunset Strip, but that’s presumably where chef/owner Kris Yenbamroong spent some of his childhood, in Talisai, the restaurant his family opened and ran since the early 1980s. One actually accesses Night+Market by entering Talisai, turning right, and then going through a curtained, arched doorway. Street parking is a bit rough, but there is a public lot just across the street, for a very reasonable $1/hour before 6 PM and just-fifty-cent-more-than-the-meter $2/hour after 6 PM.
Kris will soon be opening Night+Market “Song” (meaning “Two” in Thai) in Silver Lake around Christmas, thanks to the success of the mothership, enjoyed by actors, musicians, artists (such as graffiti artist André, The Strokes’ Nick Valensi, and the band Arcade Fire, just to name a few recent notable customers from Kris’s Instagram feed), and us plebeians alike. In the past, when the restaurant hasn’t been too busy, Kris would take time out of the kitchen to chat with his patrons, so before he opens Song and has to start splitting his time between the two locations, I wanted to squeeze in a few more visits to WeHo while the captain was sure to be in the kitchen. Continue Reading →
I (generally) devote a single post to my first visit to a new place (e.g., most recently Gjelina, Littlefork, Pizzeria Mozza) or for great individual meals at familiar haunts (e.g., Shunji, Kiriko), but I have a rotation of places I like to visit regularly that I haven’t posted on recently. So I will be working my way through some of these places in a series of posts I’m calling “Revisitings”. The first entry was on Ramen Hayatemaru. This second entry is for Sweet Rose Creamery’s second location in Santa Monica, on Pico Boulevard.
According to my “records” I have been to Sweet Rose Creamery‘s Pico location 17 times! I know that already sounds like a lot, but keep in mind SRC Pico only opened a month and a half ago, so I’m averaging nearly 3 visits a week. (Yikes! Can I blame my kids?) In that time, I’ve tried nearly every flavor that they’ve offered, either through samples or by having actual servings. I’ve also tried most of the baked goods from Milo & Olive and some of the coffee drinks by Caffe Luxxe, and they were as good as ever. Continue Reading →
I (generally) devote a single post to my first visit to a new place (e.g., most recently Gjelina, Littlefork, Pizzeria Mozza) or for great individual meals at familiar haunts (e.g., Shunji, Kiriko), but I have a rotation of places I like to visit regularly that I haven’t posted on recently. So I will be working my way through some of these places in a series of posts I’m calling “Revisitings”. This first entry is on Ramen Hayatemaru in West L.A.
According to my “records” I have been to Ramen Hayatemaru (Official, Facebook) over 20 times. Is it my favorite ramen-ya? No, that honor goes to Tsujita ANNEX, but what keeps me going back are two main factors: convenience and cost.
On convenience, while Hayatemaru’s parking lot is small, and nearly half the spots are reserved either for the 7-Eleven or the dry cleaners that share the strip mall, there is almost never a wait there, unlike at Tsujita ANNEX (or the original Tsujita across the street at lunch). On cost, Hayatemaru offers half bowls of ramen starting at $5, and their best regular side dishes (gyoza, zangi, amazu) are all priced at $3.90. It is cash only, but one could have a feast for $10! Continue Reading →
ShopHouse‘s second L.A. location, on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, opened mid-October. I made a short post on it at Chowhound at the time, but I thought it might be useful enough to post here as well.
My wife and I went to check it out just before noon on opening day. I dropped her off and went to find parking. When she went in, only one other person was in line, so she got our food really quick. By the time I parked and walked in ~10 minutes later, the line was out the door. However, only about a quarter of the seating was taken. Most people were getting the food to go. Continue Reading →
Gjelina’s been on my must-try list for quite some time, but stories of long waits and insensitive service have kept me away. However, the potential of a butterscotch dessert that could rival Pizzeria Mozza‘s budino was enough to entice me and my wife to finally give it a try on an early Sunday afternoon. And yes, we took our older daughter, last seen with me at Littlefork, along with us.
Since the restaurant doesn’t take reservations for brunch, for parties of our size at least, I dropped the wife and kid at the door and went to look for parking, which I somehow managed to score within 5-10 minutes on busy Abbot Kinney. However, the time for a table was significantly longer at ~45 minutes. As we had already perused the menu while we waited, we ordered quickly once we were seated. Continue Reading →
Seafood restaurants are hot in L.A. these days, particularly New England-inspired ones. Littlefork, which opened earlier this year, is doing this trend justice by executing a signature New England dish that holds its own against the ones I’ve had growing up on the Right Coast.
Before we get to that, the main reason that I had wanted to try Littlefork was for their $1 “Oyster Hour” (daily 5-7pm and Friday & Saturday 10pm). A couple Saturdays ago, I decided to go. Not wanting to dine alone, and taking advantage of a break in her very busy social schedule, I dragged my older daughter along. Continue Reading →