Monday, January 31, 2011

Fabio Viviani's Roasted Chicken (1/24)

I've always loved roast chicken. I love the way the crispy skin opens up to juicy, white meat and I love how every household has its own, sacred interpretation. Roast chicken has the unique ability to take on the flavors of any type of cuisine. There are few things more satisfying than carving the legs and wings of a roast chicken and picking the warm carcass with your fingers, starting with the oysters.

Roast chicken is also one of the best ways to get the most bang for your buck. With ingredients that total to $20 at most (and that's including the purchase of a free range, organic, sustainably farmed, antibiotic-free, healthy chicken), cooking up a 3.5 to 4.5 pound bird can easily provide five to six meals.

So I've decided to start roasting chickens. Lots of them. Keep in mind that I've never roasted a chicken before. I'm aiming for about two roast chickens per month, for a total of 24 roast chickens by the end of this year. I wish this project were more clever and coincided with the year of the rooster or something, but the next year of the rooster is in 2017, and I'm not waiting that long. Also, it's now the year of the dragon rabbit, and I'm not about to start roasting dragons rabbits any time soon.

For my first attempt, I decided to do Fabio Viviani's Roast Chicken, taken from How to Cook Like a Top Chef. I chose to do this recipe first because Italy and roast chickens seem to go hand in hand and Fabio Viviani is known for recipes that are accessible and delicious.

This recipe is packed with two herbs that I love: rosemary and sage. It's so packed with these herbs that the recipe even calls for tucking rosemary and sage underneath the skin. Though this ends up making the chicken look a little sickly (notice those patches of green under the skin), the overall effect is delicious. The crispy herbs find their way into each bite and leave you with a relatively light and refreshing meal. The cavity is also stuffed with plenty of garlic and grilled lemon halves.

The lemons add a nice hint of charred lemon and moisture to the inner breast meat. I also appreciate the fact that this recipe doesn't include a single teaspoon of butter. I love butter, but I thought I'd start this project on a lighter note. Special props to Amanda and Julia for eating this one with me.

Next up, however, is a recipe with plenty of butter. And I have a growing list of roast chicken recipes that I want to try. If you have any interesting suggestions, fill me in. Otherwise, stay tuned to see how quickly I get sick of chicken.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Han Bat Sul Lung Tang

Han Bat Sul Lung Tang serves one of Korea's most comforting dishes: sullungtang. On a cold or rainy day, there's nothing I want more than a hot and hearty bowl of sullungtang.

Sullungtang is a soup made from ox bones. After simmering the soup for a day, or even longer, the soup becomes cloudy and thick. In Chinese, sullungtang apparently means "snowy thick soup," which, if true, wouldn't be surprising. Though it's a relatively simple dish, it's a dish that requires patience. You can't just throw in some ox bones a couple hours before dinner and expect to have a proper bowl of sullungtang. When I was a kid, there were times when the house smelled like beef for days. I would constantly ask my mom to let me have some, but the answer always seemed to be, "It's not ready yet." The few times she did say "Let's eat!" made my appetite surge with excitement at record speed. Those meals never lasted very long.

I was craving sullungtang one day, but because of the whole diabetes thing, I wasn't sure if sullungtang without rice would be as satisfying. Nevertheless, I went to Han Bat Sul Lung Tang with high hopes. Sullungtang is the only thing they make, for Pete's sake.

Rest assured, I wasn't disappointed. Even without having a bite of the rice, I was brought back to those days when I waited impatiently for homemade sullungtang. With this place, however, you never have to wait. Quite the opposite, actually. With humungous vats of sullungtang in the back waiting to get served, bowls of soup reach your table seconds after you finish ordering.

With your order of sullungtang comes a small set of side dishes. Radish kimchi, standard kimchi, rice, and green onions. Each person has his or her own ritual for eating sullungtang, but this is how I've always eaten it:

1. Smell the broth and cry a little.
2. Taste the broth and cry a little.
3. Briefly reevaluate your life.
4. Add one huge scoop of green onions.
5. Add salt to taste (usually about one good spoonful).
6. Add a decent amount of pepper.
7. Add some of the juice from the radish kimchi. I don't like to add too much, but just enough to give the soup a little bit of spice and brightness.
8. Swallow the bowl whole and regret nothing.

Depending on my mood, I either get the mixed sullungtang or sullungtang with brisket and flank. Either way, you're in for a great meal.

The place is small, but the service is welcoming and attentive. You might have a little trouble finding this hole-in-the-wall, but at least you don't have to look for street parking; there's a lot that's three times the size of the restaurant in the back. When you do find this place, you'll probably be in and out the door in less than fifteen minutes. I know on cold and rainy days, the last thing you want to do is leave the house, but the next time the weather's got you incarcerated, make the effort to spend fifteen minutes at this place. It'll be worth it, I promise.

Han Bat Sul Lung Tang
4163 W 5th St
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 383-9499

GET: Sullungtang.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Connie Green & Sarah Scott's "Poor Man's Truffle" Risotto

My second attempt at a recipe from The Wild Table was just as satisfying as the first. The book describes this recipe as a return to how risotto was most endearingly made: over a fire with an old skillet, adding nothing more than what you've got. Basically, a risotto that's simple and tastes of the Earth.

Like the first time, I had to make do with what I had. Also, with diabetes, a starchy risotto isn't something I can have on a regular basis. I used some dried chanterelles again and I used farro and barley instead of arborio or carnaroli. Luckily, farro and barley have similar cooking times (about 30 to 45 minutes), and they both take on that slightly chewy texture, so they complemented each other pretty well. I would imagine spelt would be a good invite as well, but spelt might require maybe 15 minutes of pre-cooking before joining the party.

The end product was surprisingly creamy and full of flavor. It was a bit on the salty side, but that's because I used a little bit too much stock and not enough water to balance it out towards the end. The dash of truffle oil at the end marries the cheese and cream with the earthy mushrooms and grains. The texture of the grains requires more chewing, which allows you to fully enjoy the mushrooms' flavors over a longer period of time. I would highly recommend this recipe for its simplicity and showcase of mushrooms. The best part is that you could probably create a ton of variations on this dish by substituting any wild mushrooms that are in season with just as successful results.

A nifty tip to get that extra umph of mushroom flavor in whatever you cook with dried mushrooms: save the water you use to rehydrate the mushrooms and incorporate it into your cooking somehow. With the lamb roast, I used some of the water to get the tapenade going in the blender and I put the rest of the water in the roasting pan to keep the lamb moist and to baste the lamb a couple times. With the risotto, the water is great to throw in towards the last couple rounds of dumping stock in with the rice or grains.

One last note. Risotto with grains like farro and pearl barley microwave really well if you throw in a little extra stock or water before reheating. The grains respond really well to reheating and don't stray very far at all from their original textures and flavors. If you're planning to have leftovers or if you're cooking your lunch for the work week, this is a great option, and everyone at work will, guaranteed, give you looks of envy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ondal 2

The name "Ondal" refers to a Korean commoner from back in the day of the Three Kingdoms. His nickname was "Babo Ondal," or "Stupid Ondal," for his simple-minded idiocies (think Don Quixote). Though simple, he became a renown general known for his bravery. Similarly, Ondal 2 is a restaurant that features simple food and common preparations. Everything at Ondal 2 is comforting and their most popular items are the ones that come out steaming in hot pots.

Before the hot pots are the side dishes.

Every Korean spot serves a sea of side dishes, but these were exceptional. Though some are boring (broccoli), others make a mark (toasted seaweed).

Maybe the side dishes left such an impression because half were so mediocre and half were so good. I guess with that many side dishes, some are bound to hit the bullseye.

My family and I enjoyed two hot pot dishes.

The first was the Spicy Galbi Jjim. My mom is a galbi jjim master, and she sets a high standard, but this one was really good. Galbi jjim is essentially a Korean braised short rib dish. The preparation is often reminiscent of a stew, and this spicy rendition was no different. The spicy broth was sweet and addictive, but the floating gems made this dish unforgettable. The mass amounts of rice cakes, vegetables, and tender beef made the dish look like twenty adults trying to squeeze into a single kiddie pool. Each bite was full of flavor and the beef soaked up just enough spice to make me go back for more. My only issue is that the broth by itself was a bit too spicy. I used to love over-the-top spicy stuff, but recently my stomach lining and sweat glands begged me to put my penchant for spicy food to rest. These days I prefer embers to bonfires, and though this dish wasn't a bonfire, it definitely wasn't an ember either.

The Spicy Crab Soup is what put Ondal 2 on the map. This dish is all about its tajuu kage bunshin no jutsu. You think you're ordering one dish, but it splits off into four. Though they're not exact clones of each other, they all come from the same crabs. If you didn't get that reference at all, it's okay. That might be a good thing. Don't be scared; continue reading.

The soup starts as a piping, spicy stew, brimming with vegetables. The soup tastes great at this point, and as the soup continues to bubble and reduce, it slowly gets spicier.

The server then uses the carapaces as a vessel to mix the carapace meat, some rice, and some bean sprouts together. I usually love the meat from the carapace, but unfortunately, I think the flavors I love got lost in the heat.

Next is the sujebi.

Sujebi is a traditional type of seafood soup in Korea that contains pulled dough flakes.

The sujebi was my favorite part of the dish.

The dough flakes were just the right thickness and the soup was hitting the sweet spot in terms of spiciness.

The soup still tasted like crab and only a few vegetable remnants from the original stew got in the way of enjoying the sujebi.

The final stage of this dish is the fried rice. Using the same pot, the server dumps in a load of rice, kimchi, seaweed, sesame leaf, ground sesame, and garlic.

The pot still has a little bit of soup at this point, but you don't really taste the crab by the time the fried rice is done.

The fried rice was good, but pretty standard. I wanted it to taste more of crab than just a kimchi fried rice. Actually, I wanted every step of this dish to taste more of crab, but maybe I was just expecting too much.

The meal ends with a bowl of shikhye. Most shikhyes are really sweet, but this housemade one was more refreshing than sweet, which was welcome after the feast we had.

The meal was overflowingly satisfying, the service was great, and the owner of this joint is endearing. When I go back again, I'll probably pass on the crab, get the galbi jjim with less spice, and maybe try something new. But that galbi jjim is so darn good that it might be a while before I try something new.

Ondal 2
4566 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90016
(323) 933-3228

GET: Free Side Dishes; Spicy Galbi Jjim; Free Shikhye.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Connie Green & Sarah Scott's Leg of Lamb with Chanterelle Mushroom Tapenade

The Wild Table is a beautiful book. Split off into seasons, the book captures the mystery and flavors of the endearing activity of foraging. I'm saying it again: I love mushrooms.

Connie Green is the head huntress of Wine Forest Wild Mushrooms. What a title. She supplies great restaurants around the United States, including the French Laundry. In this books, she teams up with Chef Sarah Scott to combine their passions for foraging and cooking.

So I decided to make it a point to cook a few of these recipes every season. So far, I've been financially restrained to using dried chanterelles, but the book also gives some recommendations as to which dried mushrooms are effective and how to prepare them in the most effective way.

I'm also making it a point to save up some money so that I can actually buy the proper ingredients for these recipes. Fresh mushrooms are tough to come around and they're insanely expensive, but one day I'll have the money to do these recipes absolute justice. One day.

On this particular day, I decided to do a lamb recipe. I've never cooked lamb, but I figured this would be a good time to start. I had to improvise a little because I'm still building up my stock of cooking supplies. No roasting rack for this guy, so aluminum foil had to do.

The mushroom tapenade is addictive. Infused with an anchovy, garlic, capers, and lemon, each of these flavors ended up cooperating really well with each other to give the lamb a full-bodied flavor. The lamb was a tad bit on the rarer side, but it still melted in my mouth with the chanterelle tapenade.

The last thing I'll say about this recipe is that the end product accompanies other food really well. As leftovers, the lamb goes really well with eggs for a quick, satisfying breakfast. Think of it like a spin on steak and eggs. One warning, though. When the lamb hits the pan, the tapenade pops, so watch out.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


effing dericious and I were trying to think of a place that we had both been meaning to try out for dinner while I was in town. He suggested Fraiche, and when he told me that he not only made reservations, but made reservations for a 10 course tasting menu, I was more than excited.

Fraiche recently experienced a rebirth under Chef Benjamin Bailly. My overall impression of the chef is that he does really well with pastas and seafood. Really, really well. Though the tasting menu had it's low points, its high points were more than memorable enough to make this dining experience very special. I got there a little early, so I had enough time to grab a cocktail. I got the Frisky Sour, but asked the bartender if she could make it a little more seasonal. The product was basically a traditional pisco sour shaken with egg whites and topped with just enough nutmeg. I could have downed the whole flute in a second, but I stretched myself to eight restrained sips.

Once we were seated, the server handed us copies of the planned tasting menu for the night.

The night started off with some bright Green Olives. They were oily, fresh, slightly acidic, and bitter, reminding me of the olives I ate every day in Spain. They were a great way to jump start the taste buds.

Next was the amuse bouche. The Wild Mushroom Soup was creamy, hearty, and rich. The soup started off tasting like any other cream of mushroom soup, but it quickly revealed more rustic and robust flavors that could only come from fresh, earthy mushrooms. The flavors spread throughout my mouth with every sip. Bouche amused.

The Hamachi Tartare with Shaved Turnip, Lime, and Espilette Pepper was one of my favorite dishes of the night. Prepared in a way that reminded me of Jose Andrés' Jicama Wrapped Guacamole, this dish was light and refreshing. Floating between two paper-thin sheets of turnip, the freshly diced yellowtail's flavors shone through with very light acidity and barely noticeable spice. The dish was simple, pure, and fresh, with nothing overpowering anything on the dish.

As the next dish passed by my face on its way down to the table, I could already smell the truffle vinaigrette.

The Belgian Endives with Duck Bresaola, Quince, Pecan, Goat Cheese, and a Truffle Vinaigrette was an interesting way of combining typically heavier ingredients into a lighter salad. The Belgian endives had a great, bitter kick to each bite that measured up to the strength of the truffle vinaigrette. The duck bresaola was sliced thin enough to complement, rather than weigh down, the goat cheese. The nutty pecans and the lightly floral, but flavorful, quince added a great balance among all of the dish's elements. With the right amount of each ingredient, this quickly became an addictive salad. That said, I love truffles, but I think overall I could have used a little bit less of the vinaigrette.

Next up was one of the best pastas I've ever had, and eating this meal within days after Scott Conant's spaghetti at Scarpetta made that tough.

The Taglieneri Neri with Maine Lobster, Cherry Tomatoes, and Basil came out with a beautiful, juicy piece of lobster sitting on top, accompanied by tomatoes that were just as juicy. I love squid ink pasta, and this squid ink pasta was a force to be reckoned with. The pasta and the lobster made for some great, seafood flavors, while the cherry tomatoes and basil added some really great bright notes to the dish. The brightness made the pasta feel lighter than it probably was and left me wanting more. But sadly, I had to say goodbye and move on to pasta number two.

The House-Made Agnolotti with Wild Mushrooms, Mascarpone, and Truffle Butter was heavy, in the best way possible. The fresh agnolotti was to die for, and each agnolotti bursted with mascarpone juices and deep mushroom flavors with each bite, which reminded me of the amuse from earlier. I love mushrooms, if you haven't caught onto that already, and if mushrooms are exploding out of agnolottis into my mouth like juicy pork does out of Taiwanese soup dumplings, that's probably a good thing.

Sorry for the necessarily fungal description. The truffle butter sauce was also incredible. The truffle flavor wasn't overpowering and the creamy butter sauce was so good, the waiter brought us some bread to sop up the remaining sauce.

You could even say we "scarpetta'd" the remnants of the sauce. Needless to say, the butter that came with the bread went untouched.

The first of the three proteins was the best of the three proteins.

The Crispy Loup De Mer with Sunchokes Soubise, Crosnes, Salsify, Mushrooms, and Bordelaise featured a perfectly cooked fish. Crispy on the outside and delicate on the inside, the fish sat on a beautiful bed of salsify, mushrooms, crosnes, and a thick sunchoke soubise. The earthy base complemented the oceanic flavors from the fish and were furthered by the bordelaise, adding a sweet, yet dry element to the dish.

By the second main protein, I was about to keel over from a food coma. The diner sitting at the table next to us commented on our progress and asked if we had finished every single dish until that point. We had. Lucky for us, the next dish was the heaviest.

Everything about the Roasted Pork Chop with Artichokes, Tomato, Chorizo, and Romesco was great, except for the roasted pork chop. The chop was chewy and tough to get through. The romesco, on the other hand, was beautiful, and went well with the chorizo and tomatoes. The artichokes were okay, but not memorable. The dish also could have benefited from some acidity, like a squeeze of lemon. Unfortunately, the bordelaise was insufficient to bring the dish together and was altogether unnecessary. This was the first dish we didn't finish. The chops were half-eaten at most.

The last dish was also heavy. With the Prime New York Strip Steak Frites with Shallot Fondue and a Red Wine Jus, the steak was perfectly cooked, but the frites were forgettable. The shallot fondue was delicious, and benefited from the slice of butter sitting on top, but by the last dish, I was sick of the bordelaise sauce. If this dish had been the only dish I had tried with the bordelaise, I might have looked more favorably on it, but even then, I think this dish could be pared down to just a simple set of steak, butter, and shallots. With several fries left on our plates, we finally made our way to our second stomachs.

The first dessert was more of a palate cleanser than anything.

The menu promised a raspberry compote and crushed pistachios with our dessert, but we only got a Meyer Lemon Sorbet with Beefeater Gin. This was a pretty tough "dessert" to swallow. The sorbet that peeked above the pool of gin was good, but the gin was too overpowering to balance well with the remaining sorbet. I can't speak to the original concept for the dish, but I'm assuming it tastes better when fully realized.

The next dessert was delicious.

The Panettone Bread Pudding with Gianduja, Candied Hazelnuts, and Mascarpone Gelato featured a sufficiently moist bread pudding with sweet pockets of hazelnut chocolate gianduja. The candied hazelnuts were great, but the star of the dish was really the mascarpone gelato.

The refreshing creaminess of the mascarpone balanced perfectly with the sweet and warm bread pudding, and the beautiful caramel drizzle was a great way to bring together the pudding and the gelato.

Last up to bat was the heaviest item on the entire menu: Chocolate Coulant with Toffee and Peanut Butter Ice Cream. Despite its weight, we did our best to eat as much as we could. The chocolate coulant oozed with warm chocolate with the first slice, and the chocolate mixed together with the slowly melting peanut butter ice cream.

Peanut butter and chocolate is one of those combinations that never gets old. Throw in some crunchy toffee brittle for texture and you've got yourself a winner. The peanuts added some texture as well, and the light chocolate drizzle made sure you weren't missing out on any chocolate with every bite of the peanut butter ice cream, peanuts, and toffee.

Overall, this was a great menu. Chef Benjamin Bailly shares some familiar dishes with innovative twists and precise execution. Even though there were a few forgettable moments over the course of a delicious night, and even though we left the restaurant with food nearing the top of my esophagus, I would definitely go again. The menu featured fresh seafood, delicious pastas, seasonal ingredients, and updated, rustic European food.

Right before going to this dinner at Fraiche, a friend of mine jokingly said that Fraiche was "so 2007." Under Chef Benjamin Bailly's new direction, I have no hesitation in saying that Fraiche is now very 2011.

Special thanks to effing dericious for sharing his photos with me. This is the last batch of photos that I lost from someone stealing my camera.

9411 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 839-6800

GET: One tasting menu among at least four people; Hamachi Tartare with Shaved Turnip, Lime, and Espilette Pepper; Taglieneri Neri with Maine Lobster, Cherry Tomatoes, and Basil; House-Made Agnolotti with Wild Mushrooms, Mascarpone, and Truffle Butter; Crispy Loup De Mer with Sunchokes Soubise, Crosnes, Salsify, Mushrooms, and Bordelaise; Panettone Bread Pudding with Gianduja, Candied Hazelnuts, and Mascarpone Gelato; Chocolate Coulant with Toffee and Peanut Butter Ice Cream.

Monday, January 17, 2011

La Cevicheria

One thing that I can never get enough of is ceviche. I like to think of ceviche as my first departure from only having raw seafood in the form of sashimi. And that departure was a one-way flight with no return ticket.

Steph C., our friend June, and I ventured out to find this hole-in-the-wall spot that has earned rave reviews from Jonathan Gold. We were looking so hard for a small sign or entrance that we completely overlooked La Cevicheria's large signage and bright blue exterior. Like three little school girls, we scurried across Pico and ran inside the restaurant.

The first thing we all noticed was how surprisingly small and empty the place was. If we hadn't already heard such great things about this place, the lack of people might have made us reconsider our decision. But do not fret. No crowd means no wait, and when you're waiting for incredibly delicious food, a shorter wait is never a bad thing.

The other great thing about going to La Cevicheria when it's not crowded is that you get to spend a lot of time with the Guatemaltecan, or Chapín, owner and chef's husband, Julio. With open arms and an unforgettable ear-to-ear smile, Julio pampered our party of three with extra bites and great stories.

What started as an unassuming bowl of chips evolved into a meal of a lifetime. We started our meal with two gigantic goblets of ceviche.

The first was the Mixed Chapín Ceviche. A stellar mixture of shrimp, octopus, tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, onions, mint, and Worcestershire sauce, this ceviche set the tone for what would be an amazing meal featuring fresh seafood. The freshness of the seafood wasn't the only thing that made this ceviche superior to most. The smart addition of mint brings out the flavors of the seafood and tomatoes and also complements the cilantro. The ingenious hint of Worcestershire sauce adds a salty, smoked, fishy flavor that helps to balance out the citrus. The avocado on top also adds a great fatty element to the bowl.

Though the Chapín is more of their signature dish, their Bloody Clam Ceviche put La Cevicheria on the map. With a heavier helping of Worcestershire sauce and a generous amount of clams, this ceviche made me feel like I was eating what might be a steak ceviche. Each spoonful bled into my taste buds and left me thirsty for more. Each bite of clam was like biting into a juicy grape from the ocean. LIke the Chapín, this ceviche had a smart combination of cilantro, mint, tomatoes, onions, and avocado.

We had flat tostada shells to eat with the ceviches, but the ceviches easily stand on their own.

Having to choose one ceviche over the other would be tough, but go for the Chapín if you feel like something lighter and more refreshing, and go for the Bloody if you feel like something heavier and more filling. Before we knew it we were shamelessly spooning out the dregs of both bowls of ceviche. My favorite comment from Julio: "If the cast from True Blood came here, they would all go crazy!" Vampire or not, I'm sure everyone who's had the Bloody Clam Ceviche has gone crazy for it.

Next up were the Mussels in Garlic Butter Sauce. I love mussels, but I feel like mussels have been dominated by broths in the last few years. These mussels were a pleasant reminder that there are other, classic ways to prepare mussels. The garlic butter sauce was heavy on the garlic, and heavy on the butter, which is a good thing. The mussels were cooked just right. This dish comes out with a dozen addictive mussels, but the sauce makes you feel like the dish had two dozen.

The Aguachiles were a perfect way to balance out the heaviness of the mussel dish, but if I had to choose one dish that I had to pass on next time, this would be the one. The intense acidity of this dish was welcome after the creaminess of the mussels, and the strong cilantro and jalapeño flavors with the recently raw shrimp were to die for. The shrimp tasted incredibly fresh and the dish had just the right amount of heat to make you want to go back for another bite.

The last main dish we had was the Mariscada Caribeña. A creamy, sweet, coconut-based seafood stew, this dish was the perfect way to finish off the meal. The bowl comes with a scoop of rice and a good amount of mussels, shrimp, and squid. The stew was soulful and comforting and reminded me of some of the seafood stews I had on the coasts of Costa Rica.

Right when we thought our meal was over, Julio suggested that we get dessert. We were hesitant at first because we had just eaten an entire ocean of food, but at such a cheap price, we had to get it.

The Tres Leches Cake was more than enough to share after the meal we had. The cake is perfectly moist with just the right amount of condensed milk at its base. The fresh strawberry sauce also adds a great fruity sweetness to the cake, complemented with a few slices of strawberry. The cake disappeared in seconds.

After seeing how much we enjoyed our meal, Julio brought out some extra pastries and cookies that his wife had made. As expected, they were all delicious.

Needless to say, I'll probably make it a point to return to La Cevicheria every time I get a chance to go back to L.A., and every time I have ceviche from now on, La Cevicheria will be my gold standard.

Special thanks to Steph C. for the pictures for the post.

La Cevicheria
3809 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 732-1253

GET: Mixed Chapín Ceviche; Bloody Clam Ceviche; Mussels in Garlic Butter Sauce; Mariscadas Caribeña; Tres Leches Cake.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Palomino's Chop Chop Salad

One of my favorite salads in the world is Palomino's Chop Chop Salad. I've only had it once at the restaurant in Seattle about half a year ago, but the fresh, basil-heavy, muffaletta-like flavors stuck with me so well that I looked up the recipe on the Internet expecting zero results.

Thank you deborahk for posting this recipe back in 2005! What incredible foresight. What I love about this salad is the combination of flavors more than the exact measurements of the ingredients, so just add as much of each, fresh ingredient as fits your fancy. Heck, I've had this salad five times in the past week, and three out of the five times I even decided to forego the dressing with just as much success. On top of all that, it's quick and easy to make.

Now get to it! Chop chop!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Stale Bread

Bread gone stale? Nothing a generous pool of olive oil can't fix. Top it with some melted cheese, sauteed garlic/mushrooms/tomatoes/salt/pepper, and fresh basil to give it that extra umph that'll make you forget the bread was stale in the first place.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Mo-Chica is in a random spot of LA, nestled among a couple other restaurants and a few stores flaunting third-party NBA jerseys. With an unassuming and simple menu, Mo-Chica offers incredible Peruvian fare with a tempered modern twist. Seating is limited, but sufficient, and service is attentive.

I went there with the insatiable baker, her hubby, and her sister. Because of some camera-stealing complications, her hubby was kind enough to lend me his pictures for today's post.

The starters were all delicious, but the best was definitely the Sea Bass Ceviche del Día. Prepared in a Hawaiian poke-esque fashion, the ceviche comes covered with a batch of other ingredients that mask the fish from sight. At first glance, I wasn't sure whether this was a ceviche, and in a way, it's not, or at least, not in the usual way most people think of ceviche. This ceviche comes adorned with plenty of citrus, Peruvian corn, toasted corn, leche del tigre, as well as seaweed and a slew of other ingredients. The overall taste is phenomenal. Each bite is filled with flavor and texture, and the citrus maintains its presence in each bite.

The Crab Causa del Día was good, but not as good as I wanted it to be. The crab comes sandwiched between a cool layer of potatoes and a base of fresh avocado. The causa has a slightly sweet and spicy Huancaína sauce to bring together all three flavors. I would have preferred more avocado than potato, more of the Huancaína sauce, and, of course, more crab, but overall, the dish was still tasty and we wiped the plate clean.

The last starter we had was the Papa a la Huancaína. At this point, after having the causa, this dish seemed a little repetitive. It was nice, though, to taste more of that Huancaína sauce.

The mains had lots of pros. The only con I can think of that relates to all three dishes is that they come in huge portions. Oh wait, that's a pro. All the mains came out with an amazing side of Cauliflower Soup. The soup is creamy, a little salty, and reminiscent of a thinned out and more satisfying cream of corn. This is just another example of how cauliflower can make an excellent substitute for a lot of different starches out there.

The Lomo Saltado comes with amazingly seasoned cubes of meat, but the fries weren't the greatest. The fries tasted better, however, when we soaked up the beef sauce with them. The beef was perfectly cooked and melted in my mouth. The intense, robust flavors from the pepper and beef were balanced with the brighter red onions and cooked tomatoes.

The Arroz con Mariscos is extremely generous. With a mountain of rice and a surplus of mussels, clams, octopus, and other seafood, this dish leaves you more than satisfied. The dish had a slight taste of cayenne, without the heat, and saffron. There was also a tint of cumin in the seasoning. Whatever it is, it's delicious, and makes for some addictive rice.

The last dish we shared was the Seco de Cordero, which featured a humungous piece of lamb leg with meat that falls off the bone at the drop of a pin. The meat is gamey, and literally melts in your mouth. That said, this obviously made for the most filling and heaviest dish of the bunch. The beans and broth base didn't help with the heaviness of the dish, and the only part that helped to balance out that heaviness was a a few slices of red onions. Overall, however, it was absolutely delicious.

We passed on dessert that day, as the only one available was a tres leches cake. Needless to say, we all left feeling full, happy, and Peruvian.

Next time I go, I'll have to nab a dessert and the oxtail risotto.

3655 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90007
(213) 747-2141

GET: Ceviche del Día; Seco de Cordero.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...