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Friday, January 13, 2017

Palmilla Cocina Y Tequila - Hermosa Beach

Oh my, what a view! And I'm not talking about the pier - it was pitch dark by the time we got here. But the mood lighting is just enough to see the inky, Adonis-arms of every waiter. 

While I'm certainly not the first woman to salivate at the scenery, I'm told that the margaritas are a major magnet for men. A Margarita de la Casa rocks on the rocks, a solid tequila with agave sour, shaken not stirred. Look up Margarita in the dictionary. This is it. 

Started with some Ceviche Tres Maneras. Cold as a crashing wave, the pescado blanco is full of tender whitefish, clean and simple. Not much of the jalapeno comes through, though. Love aji amarillo. It's thicker-tasting and almost creamy sauce, but El Rocoto does it better. Ahi tuna takes on an Asian twist with the addition of cilantro, a practically poke with denser tuna. Decent ceviche, really hits the spot. Then again, it's the plantain chips that steal the show. They're perfectly crunchy and paper-thin, slabs of comfort-carbs with a dense, starchy heartiness that makes you reach for your margarita more often.

The Burrito la Playa is huge and even for two people, it's quite the dish to conquer. You pierce the tortilla, and a river of cream sauce spills forth. It's laced with tequila, but I think it may contain some crack. That benign-looking white sauce has some serious attitude, and it's a spunky stew for fantastically tender shrimp and flavorful tomatilla rice.

You know the food is good when you're stuffed and can't help but eat. I had a huge lunch only hours before arriving, but something about that burrito made it impossible to stop. Like the food, love the view, will be back for the waiters...holding margaritas.
Palmilla Cocina y Tequila Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Meet in Paris - Culver City

Some foods are impossible to eat attractively. I'll bite the tail off a cocktail shrimp, I chew my salad like a cow on a grassy knoll, and it's a great day when my mouth stays closed for the duration of the meal. That's why I like mussels. They're a lot more forgiving, and you have the option of using a fork or an empty shell to dig out the meaty middle, which is a lot more civilized than I being elbows-deep in a Maryland crab. 

Wait, what? Unlimited mussels? Meet in Paris does mussel Mondays. And Tuesday is for tacos, But mussels kind of look like tacos so they're on Tuesdays too. They'll even do it on Wednesdays because hump day is always a good day for mussels.

The first was the fave, a steaming Thai pot of sweet n' sour tom-yummy lemongrass in coconut milk.

The mussels are consistently tender. On the smaller side, but smaller ones are sweeter, and there's more surface area for sauce. The Marinara is classic, a tinge of merlot, red tomato with a small shot of spice. 

The Roquefort is creamy (shocking), light and white, pungent with cheesy garlic and wine.

The Moutarde Ancienne is an interesting combo; a super-creamy, super-savory, practically-fondue stew of thick bacon chunks that walks on the wilder side with tender mushrooms and aromatic mustard.

What a deal. So many mussels on so many weekdays, and so many sauces to share. I have yet to try the other dishes, but I'll Meet in Paris for unlimited mussels anytime!
Meet Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Zazou UPDATE - Redondo Beach

They looked so surprised when our party of five showed up. They denied ever getting the reservation, but then the truth spills out. "Well we had someone call in but it was hard to understand him." So they said,  "okay, no problem" and hung up, didn't bother to make the reservation. BTW, the person who called is remarkably intelligent and articulate, a college-educated, Caucasian, native speaker of English. Clearly he wasn't the problem. 

They agreed to seat us, but I suppose they felt some punishment was in order. The server got us or drinks, ignored our appetizer order, and disappeared from the dining area entirely for over 30 minutes.

We asked the manager, and then we asked again. Multiple inquiries later, he tried to have our orders taken by another server. She walked up to our table and said, (direct quote!) "I have no idea what's going on." We explained that we were ready to order and she stared at us blankly, never once reaching for her notepad. 

As abruptly as he had disappeared, our server materialized. His excuse? "The computer was not working..." We reminded him that we had ordered the Shrimp Toast 30 minutes ago. "So you did," he replied. No apology. No explanation for how he managed to forget one item out of three.

The Shrimp Toast arrived quickly after that. Salty shrimp drizzled with olive oil and not much else. But the fantastic quality of shrimp is hard to forget. Perfectly tender and infallibly fresh. 

I can't turn down a dripping-fat, meat-butter marrow bone, but you can't taste it in this Baby Octopus & Bone Marrow mess. The linguine is absolutely al dente, but the rest of it is forgettable, with an undetectable red wine, a small spicy kick, and all other flavors as scant as the service. 

I loveloveLOVE papardelle, and it's fantastic with this Wild Boar Ragu. A nice combo of pig and mushrooms, decently balanced, but again, about as memorable as a glass of water.

A beautiful restaurant, a lovely location, a place I wanted to frequent. But look beyond the Riviera ritz, and you'll see a pretentious place where the only standout is the service. And believe me, this is NOT the kind of service you want to be remembered by. 

Zazou Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The 4262 - Long Beach

Don't listen to the lies of former and future brides. Wedding planning sucks. There is no happy-helpful committee of aunties armed with life-altering advice, and there are no mothers who save the day. It's just one frantic bride-to-be and a fiance with varying levels of involvement, trying to put together all the thousand pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that's mostly sky.

TBH, most of it has been relatively painless. That venue isn't in our budget, this venue works. Hate all these dresses... Except I don't. Apparently I'm a sucker for an A-line princess look, and I'm as surprised as you are. 

But the one thing that's been a huge disaster is the flowers. Seven bouquets and seven boutonnieres - how hard can this be? 

We asked ourselves this as we sat down at The 4262 for a later lunch. We had some time to kill before meeting up with our first florist candidate, and the "just opened" sign was irresistible. 

We started with what we thought would be a hearty Duck Poutine, but we found it lacking. Props for having real cheese curds, but the soggy fries were hardly appealing. The not-really gravy is the culprit - it had the consistency of a thin broth flavored with salty grease. 

The Sliders were better, a positive patty with can't-go-wrong gruyere, a sweeter shallot jam, and chunky bacon.

The food goes south again with the Beer Braised Mussels. The garlicky sauce isn't half bad, but most of the mussels are barely half-cooked, and that's all-the-way bad.

Spry sliders sandwiched in an afternoon of disappointment is how I would describe that day. Our florist couldn't be bothered to show up. She was so "immersed in a project" that she "forgot" about the people who drove 40 minutes to meet with her.

Unlike that hopeless un-professional, however, The 4262 does have potential to improve. The service, for example, was quite good. One server waited all the tables, and she did a remarkable job as she was undoubtedly outnumbered. Now if only they could make poutine as well as they make sliders...
The 4262 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Casa Arigato - Redondo Beach

I used to write negative reviews with wild, cathartic abandon. Maybe I had something suppressed that need to be purged; maybe it felt like a relief to unload, to pour every bit of my negativity into a shoddy establishment. Maybe I thought I was doing others a favor by exposing the sketchy service. 

One day, a friend described my review as "eviscerating", and suddenly I stopped. I had forgotten how much curses can singe and sting and sear; how easily the right words at the right time can break everything someone built.

I've tried to be more objective since then, honest but more descriptive than damming. And when I looked into the eyes of the staff at Casa Arigato, I was glad to be making the effort. 

Because they are adorably mom n' pop: great decor, minimalist and clean, with a super-chill for beachy PCH. 

But then we order, and "mom" pops our Dynamite into the oven, and I watch it all blow up in my face. The scallops taste old, burnt by age and an unforgiving freezer. The mushrooms are greasy, and the inadequate dynamite sauce is an attempt at spicy mayo that turned out to be just colored mayo.

The dynamite is a prequel to the Salmon Spicy Scallop Roll disaster that followed. The first bite has me confused, but soon the truth is clear. The scallops had such a fishy aftertaste that it makes the salmon taste like lox. I actually like lox, but this roll is all kinds of wrong. 

I'm relieved to see the Eel Special Roll. No more scallops, no more raw food with varying degrees of freshness. This roll is mostly exactly what it says it is, but special it is not. Just a California roll wrapped with grocery-quality eel.

They bow when we leave, all sunshine and smiles. If only the food could reflect their sweetness, if only their work ethic and dedication could come through. I so appreciate these people that it pains me to write this review.
Casa Arigato Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Mastro's UPDATE - Thousand Oaks

A zillion steakhouses in LA, but it's hard to guarantee what you're getting or predict what you'll get. I'm all about creativity, but there's not much room for failure at this price. 

Mastro's never fails. It never lets you down, it never leaves you hanging, and it delivers the same quality every time, in service, in flavor, in a fail-proof, fool-proof feeling of greatness that some places just can't give. 

We start small because none of the entrees are, but we soon see that the Oysters are not. They are medium in size, and the butter:brine ratio is his. The flavor explodes into sweet seawater. 

We surfed and now we turf. Bone-in Porterhouse again because how pick one steak when you get all three with a capital T? It blows the mind and it's as searing as it is salivating. Brussels Sprouts are still an awesome side, bitter and crisp with a deep-roasted char. 

We missed the Butter Cake last time and OMGWTFOMFG, never again do we skip out. It's a shortcake except it's just a giant stick of butter baked until it turns solid only to melt again when you scoop it up with ice cream and berries. 

I whine a lot about inconsistency, but THIS is the quality control I'm talking about. We could go a hundred times, and it would always be this good. No snooty servers, no overcooked-undercooked-overseared-underaged. It is every perfect cut of steak, made perfectly, and it's worth every penny every time we go. 

Mastro's Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato