Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gary Danko

Gary Danko is almost as synonymous to San Francisco, as Alice Waters is to the Berkley area.

A past James Beard award winner, Gary Danko has set the bar quite high. Known for precision food and excellent service, Gary Danko met my expectations and exceeded them if possible.

The meal started out with an amuse bouche of pea and ramp (I think) soup with a lobster tempura ball. The soup was sweet and delicate, and the lobster was sweet and salty at the same time. Perfect way to start the meal, along with a complimentary glass of rose champagne.

The next amuse, was a buckwheat bilini topped with creme fraiche, smoked salmon and osetra caviar. Although smoked salmon and caviar are a classic combination, the addition of the buckwheat bilini gave a nice subtle nutty flavor.

The risotto tasted like a bowl of spring. Nice creamy risotto with a little bit of bite to it, was paired with peas and asparagus at the peak of flavor. The lobster and rock shrimp were nice and sweet. The shimeji mushrooms provided an earthy balance.

The roast Maine lobster is a sight to behold. The lobster is sweet and briny, the potato puree super creamy, while the black trumpet mushrooms and edamame give a textural balance.

The horseradish crusted salmon is one of Gary Danko's signature dishes. Unforunately, this was my least favorite dish of the night. The horseradish was lacking the spicy kick I was expecting, and the pickled cucumbers and carrots seemed to overpower the delicate flavor of the salmon.

The lamb two ways provided both a textural and flavor difference. The loin had a more firm texture with a "meatier" taste, while the shoulder was more tender but had a "gameyness" expected from lamb.

The bison had a real "beefy" flavor, and although cooked medium rare had a little chew to it. The cipollini onions were a little too sweet for my taste, while the trumpet mushrooms added another hearty flavor and texture.

The chocolate souffle with two sauces was nice and light on top, and oozing on the bottom. This is a super rich dessert, but perfect for chocoholics.

The trio of creme brulee was a definite winner. The creme brulee was more on the custard side, instead of being firm, just the way I like it. The butterscotch creme brulee was absolutely fabulous. The chocolate creme brulee was on the thin side, while most of the chocolate creme brulee's I've had in the past are real thick like pudding.

The meal ended with a small platter of petit fours. The citrus cookies were a good way to cut through the richness of the meal.

I was lucky enough to be given a signed copy of the menu by Gary Danko, along with some small gifts including small bottles of their hand soap and lotion, a monogrammed purse holder, and a Gary Danko wine key.

I highly recommend Gary Danko for any food lover, and will be back again in the future.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Extraordinary Desserts

I have driven past this place numerous times over the years, but finally stopped in to try some of their desserts. Highly acclaimed pastry chef, Karen Krasne is the proprietor. She has been named as one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs of the country in years past.

There is a distinct Hawaiian undertone in many of the desserts, no doubt a product of her years spent in Hawaii while getting her undergrad degree.

The Viking is a chocolate lover's dream. Moist and light chocolate cake is separated by layers of Chocolate Creme Brulee and Milk Chocolate Whipped Cream. Surrounded by Crushed Almond Praline makes one go into a wonderfully blissful diabetic coma. A chocolate dipped salted caramel almond finishes off the garnish.

Superb craftsmanship can be seen in every dessert. Tropical flowers and gold leaf don most of the desserts as well.

My only complaints? The line is achingly slow. No doubt by everyone in line not being able to make up their mind of what to order. With only one cash register, this could be easily remedied. The desserts here, although top notch, are more expensive than what you would find in most restaurants.

Extraordinary Desserts
2929 5th Street
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 294-2132

Friday, April 25, 2008

Rutt's Cafe

Finally! A place that has good lau lau. After searching much of Southern California and three Hawaiian Islands, Rutt's Cafe has the best that I've had in a very long time. This second location of Rutt's Cafe is located in the Marukai in West Covina.

Encased in a thick casing of taro leaves (imagine a much heartier version of spinach), a generous amount of lean pork and a fairly big piece of "butterfish" is steamed to perfection. Unlike many other versions I've had in recent times, the fish in the lau lau is actually discernible at Rutt's Cafe. The oiliness of the butterfish helps to bathe the pork shoulder in fatty goodness and gives it an added depth of flavor. The only thing that could improve the lau lau is a little seasoning. It was lacking in the salt department, otherwise a definite winner.

The lau lau plate comes with the standard "plate lunch" accompaniments of two scoops rice, one scoop mac salad. The mac salad is a little different in that it contains relish.

Rutt's Cafe
1420 S. Azusa Avenue
West Covina, CA 91791
(626) 917-3200

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pizza Napoli

Pizza Napoli seems to be a place of contradictions. The pizza is crispy, yet chewy; simple, yet complex; by the slice, instead of the whole pizza; small, yet filling.

The first thing you notice about Napoli's, is the place is really small. There are a few tables scattered throughout, but the long line of people gathered in a very small and cramped storefront is what grabs your attention. Pizza is generally bought by the slice, although whole pies can also be bought. The average slice is about 2/3 the size you find at Costco. Some pizzas have already been made and when you order your slice, they seem to only make cheese pizzas. If you want pepperoni, they scattered some pepperoni on then reheat the slice in the pizza oven.

The result? A very crispy crust on the bottom that delivers a definite crackle, the rest of the dough is wonderfully chewy. Nothing fancy here, you either order cheese pizza or pepperoni. You won't find a bunch of toppings here to mesmerize your taste buds; just clean simple flavors.

Napoli's is a great choice if you're in the area. Although certainly not a "destination" spot, you will definitely be happy you stopped by.

Pizza Napoli
8730 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90405
(310) 670-6279

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Joey's Smokin' BBQ

Seems like Joey's Smokin' BBQ is popping up all over the place recently. Partly owned by LA Laker Luke Walton, Joey's has currently has six locations with another slated to open shortly.

You can't categorize Joey's as a certain type of BBQ, as it is a mixture of various styles. For instance, the Baby Back Ribs come either with a sweet glaze, dry rubbed or "wet" with a sauce that is distinctly vinegar based although being touted as mild-spicy BBQ sauce.

The Texas Long Horn Beef Ribs come three to an order and are almost Flintstonian in size. Although not quite as big as Lucille's, they come pretty close. The meat is super tender and falls right off the bone. It comes dry rubbed and a little of the sweet sauce glazed on top. The ribs are electric smoked and then thrown on top of the grill for some char and grill marks.

Most plates come with a choice of one side. The Baked Yam with Brown Sugar also comes with a dollop of Cinnamon Butter. Unfortunately, the yam is rather pedestrian in nature. It tastes like its been microwaved, then thrown on the grill to add a few grill marks and perhaps give the impression that its been slowly cooked. The Cinnamon Butter adds an interesting twist. The combination of the Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Butter almost makes it dessert like.

The Cornbread is also rather sweet and "cakey". Unfortunately, it looks like it came out of a box. The cornbread does have its fans though.

Joey's is a welcome addition to any neighborhood. I haven't had the chance to explore the menu much, but if the Beef Ribs are any indication, then you probably can't go wrong with any of their barbecued items.

Joey's Smokin' BBQ
4201 Grand Avenue
Chino, CA 91710
(909) 902-5639

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Roscoe's Famous Deli

As you step inside, you feel like you’ve just walked into a roadside diner, only a little more upscale and a lot cleaner. Motorcycles, road signs and other automotive paraphernalia adorn the room.

Chino Hills is the latest outpost of this chain, with the flagship located in Fullerton. For a deli, however, the menu is rather limited as far as the selection of sandwiches go. If you are a meat lover though, this is the place for you. All of their sandwiches come with 9 ounces of meat and a choice of one side.

The Italian Beef Sandwich, come with layers of thin, juicy slices of seasoned beef topped with Mozzarella cheese and pickled peppers and carrots. The menu says it comes on a French Roll, but it’s more like an Amoroso Roll. A side of au jus comes with the sandwich for your dunking pleasure.

The Curly Fries are the same ones you’d find in any other restaurant. Although these are some of my favorite types of fries, this version would have been much better if they were hotter and crisper. Nothing seems to ruin fries more than having them lukewarm and soggy.

While Roscoe’s is a more than decent choice, it doesn’t compare to the better deli’s in the Southern California area.

Roscoe’s Famous Deli
14700 Pipeline Avenue

Chino Hills, CA 91709
(909) 597-3304

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Thai Original BBQ

I’ve never been to Thailand, so I wouldn’t know what authentic Thai food is like, but it seems like most Thai restaurants are rather “Americanized”. I’m sure you can find an authentic dish or two at any restaurant, but most menus seem to hold back on the spice and punch of flavor that could send it on another plane.

The Tom Yum Kai, is the quintessential hot and sour soup. Both spicy from chili and sour from lime juice, this soup is laden with tender cuts of chicken, straw mushrooms, carrots and cilantro. The heat and pungency will clear your sinuses in a heartbeat.

The Beef & Broccoli seems out of place in a Thai restaurant since most people expect this dish to be in a Chinese restaurant. The beef is tender and flavorful, the broccoli crunchy and the oyster sauce gives it a delicate sweetness. While I don’t really consider this a Thai dish, I’ve seen it served in just about every Thai restaurant I’ve been to.

The Thai BBQ Chicken is a half chicken that is moist on the inside and a delicate yet crunchy skin on the outside. The charred skin adds a smoky nuance to the chicken. The dish is served with a sweet and spicy sauce that adds another dimension of flavor. Served with some rice and this dish is a winner.

Certainly not up to par with Thai Nakorn, but Thai Original BBQ certainly fits the bill when you have a craving for Thai food. And it isn’t too bad for a chain.

Original Thai BBQ
2911 Chino Avenue
Chino, CA 91709
(909) 590-1009