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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Marmalade Cafe - Malibu


Pretentious. Overrated. Overpriced. You know, typical new-money Malibu. I sat down at Marmalade Cafe and perused the menu with so many assumptions in mind.


I was in for quite a surprise with the Lobster & Shrimp Linguine. No frills, just a simple, al dente dish; a generous, heaping bowl of lobster cream-coated pasta with a hint of tomato-tang and sweet shellfish chunks. Simple and straightforward, but wow, it tasted GOOD.


The Grilled Lamb T-Bone Steaks were a lot less good. Thick cuts of lamb, doused in a salty, murky brown sauce dripped dark rivers down a sticky "pappardelle", which was just a swimming vegetable mess. The lamb itself was cooked well, but nothing else turned out well in this dish.


Couldn't get enough of the linguine, despite the lamb. The El Segundo location makes it the exact same, and I got it with a side of Pineapple Upside-Down Pancake with salted caramel butter for brunch. Fluffy, cake-like, with big pineapple chunks. More gimmick than authentic, but still tastes amazing.

I expected a lot of ego at Marmalade Cafe, along with a pretentious, overrated air of self-importance, but it turns out to have none of these qualities, and I am a jerk. They have several chains, and the food and service seem consistent. Not so innovative, but their classics are good, and they have a multi-page, multi-faceted menu so that every picky eater in your party can have something they like. With all those tasty options, they just might be SoCal's much-better Cheesecake Factory.

Marmalade Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Poke Bar - El Segundo


Right around the launch of the viral, glitchy, well-conceived, horribly-executed Pokemon Go, Poke Bar comes to town.

The poke bowl has a lot of choices, mine a myriad of tuna, scallops, and octopus. Conceptually sound, execution about as disastrous as the constantly-crashing app. The contents of each bowl is a meat-mash that resembles an exploded poke ball... With the Pokemon still inside. The tuna is tasteless, the scallops too. The octopus is chopped into bits the size of ground meat, with the texture of something pre-chewed. Follow that with a random choice of vegetables and a hastily-poured sauce and you really can't taste anything.



There is way more rice than poke and way more salad than anyone would want. They even add seaweed and crab salad at the end, which are nice little sides, but I'd rather have more poke or more quality over quantity.


Society's newfound food allergies, real and imagined, have spawned a virulent strain of make-your-own restaurants, hell-bent on giving everyone the right to make their food as they please. It's worked out well for pizza, but at places like Poke Bar where much of the flavor relies on preparation, it doesn't end well. I wonder how many aspiring Pokemon trainers came here... Only to find that it's not much of a catch.
Poke Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Alibi Room - Los Angeles


It's about time Roy Choi put up his wheels and put down some roots. Translate a food truck into bar bites, get a liquor license, and house it all in a chic lounge? Genius.



The Pacman Bowl? Not genius. A bowl full of every kind of protein sounds like a carnivore's paradise, but the meat just tastes like salt, stifled by three saltier salsas, topped with a pound of very dry shredded cheese that gives it the texture of sawdust. What a mess!




Kogi Chilaquiles? They're okay. Not genius, but definitely okay. Mole coats the chicken n' egg so you can't tell which comes first. There's more of that dreaded cheese topping tortillas with a strong salsa verde.


Not bad for bar food, not bad at all. Just stick to the tacos. The Alibi Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Hart and the Hunter - Los Angeles

Southern small plates. Well if that isn't an oxymoron, I don't know what is. Southern portions are about as big as southern hearts, and although the hospitality is all about sharing, no one ever serves anything small.


Neither does The Hart and the Hunter, for that matter, and we figured that out right quick. The Avocado Toast is the size of Texas, smeared with a generous layer of green-goddess avocado in its prime. Let the soft-boiled egg sit in its rightful place atop the toast, add a spoonful of smoked olive tapenade, and you have the greatest thing since sliced bread...on a slice of bread. I never thought tapenade could go with avocado, but wow, what a smoky, salty-sour highlight! Maybe everything goes with avocado.


When a restaurant claims that they have the best of something, I can't help but roll my eyes. So I ate my "famous" Butter Biscuit smeared with skepticism, maple butter, and pimento cheese, oh my. Oh my. These really are the best biscuits I've ever had, and it must be a cold day in hell because Bojangles just took a back seat.


More southern comfort coming, a deep-dish Chopped Scallops sitting on a hominy hill. It ain't worth a hill of beans without the bacon to bring out the saline scallop. Wayy more hominy than shellfish, but it kind of comes together as a stewy soup; a hearty, hard porridge; one heck of a comfort food.


The entrees can stand alone, but the deceptively simple sides are worth a mention. The Sprouting Broccoli doesn't photograph well, but that chili pepper kick made both plates disappear before I could try for a better angle.


Same with the Grilled Carrots, down the hatch in record time. Rainbow carrots with a rainbow of colored flavor, ranging from turnip-y clean to rich and ripe like a rooted beet.


The Grilled Pork Collar is a little bit random, but it is the tenderest pork, soft and juicy like suckling veal, asleep on a soft mattress of polenta that tastes like the sweetest dream. The escargot was random, but bless their heart for daring to put all this together.


A steak is a steak is steak, and the Ribeye Cap Steak is a STEAK. The creamed corn and hominy underneath is unsurprisingly similar to the polenta, but I can always have a little more of that liquid cornbread.


Quite the hoedown up in here, and dessert is the final encore. The Butter Cake is as light as a bluegrass banjo, crumbs with a sugary twang, jamming with stewed berries and ice cream that plays percussion. The mint ice cream hits hard, a cymbal-clap of liquid leaf, fresh off the vine with the texture of silk.


I reckon it ain't a real southern meal without a piece of pie. I prefer pecan myself, but I'll settle for this Banana Cream Pie. It's a fluffy slice with a nice crust of graham and toasted cream with gooey banana in between, the kind of thing the King would eat in Graceland.

Keep on truckin', y'all; your food is pretty damn good. I've been hunting for a good southern-y meal, and this place is the hunter after my own heart.

The Hart and the Hunter Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Fishing With Dynamite - Manhattan Beach


From the shores of Seattle, back to the LA lights. And just in time for Restaurant Week. I love this two-week, twice-a-year tizzy where restauranteurs drive themselves crazy creating theoretically-sound three-course deal-meals, baiting the hook for frugal foodies.

Fishing With Dynamite cast a lure, and they reeled me in so quickly, I made the reservation almost a month in advance. Any item is a steal at $25 there, and their lunch menu looked legit.


The Raw Bar Platter starts things off right with a shellfish trio. The Malpeque Oysters are slightly briny but smooth and light, the Peruvian scallops swim in a pond of lime, and the Jumbo Shrimp are crusty with an ice-cold coat of rock salt.


The Hamachi is seamless, tender spices in creamy avocado and tangy ponzu.


Why choose one crab entree when you can have two? The first one, the Maryland Blue Crab Cake is full of shredded meat with just a dust of crispy crumbs. There is a red, chili-like something on the mix that gives it a some spice. The in-house dill pickles are a welcome break from the heavy remoulade and are among the best pickles I've had.


Same crab, different style. The Softshell Maryland Blue Crab fans its legs over a sprawling bed of red bliss potatoes. The legs are better than the middle, but all the crab is good. Even the salad is minimalistically impressive, perfect potatoes with a cool, refreshing dusting of aioli.


Go crab or go home! But first there is dessert. The Whoopie Ice Cream Pie is a glorified sandwich; no complaints about strawberry ice cream between a couple of cake-like cookies.


Then there was the Key Lime Pie that changed my life. The graham cracker crust is crumbly but firm, cupping a crisp, tart filling topped with the softest peaks of mesmerizing meringue.

I didn't expect such a tiny space for a place that's larger than life. I admired Fishing With Dynamite from afar for so long, and now I'm finally able to sample some simplicity and get a taste of some things truly great. You can rarely rate a restaurant accurately by what they serve during Restaurant Week, but I do like what I'm seeing here.

Fishing With Dynamite Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato