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Archive for the ‘california’ Category

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Our last night in California, we went with Jason to Katsuya in Hollywood. It seems like every time I read People or US Weekly there is at least one mention of someone dining at Katsuya. We didn’t see any celebrities, but we did have a fantastic meal.

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Our server informed us that menu items are meant to be shared, so we ordered some appetizers for the table and each ordered our own sushi. The boys also split a Hitachino white ale, a Japanese microbrew I had never heard of, or ever seen in Japan.

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We shared three starters:

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Agedashi tofu (fried tofu pieces served in a dashi-based broth). This is one of my go-to appetizers, and a good test of any Japanese restaurant. It was also the weakest dish of the night. The tofu is usually rectangular and soft, with a light, crisp exterior. In this case, perhaps because they were manipulated into balls, the tofu was too dense, and the exterior was too heavy handed, not at all light.

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Creamy rock shrimp. This reminded me of a similar dish that I once had at Morimoto. A bit too fusion-y for me to love it, but they were tasty little suckers. The combination of creamy sauce on fried anything is tough to beat.

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Vegetable tempura. Simply delicious.

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For his entree, Dave ordered three rolls: eel avocado, blue crab, and yellowtail.

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Jason and I both had the sushi sampler. I thought the sushi was well executed (good rice and seaweed are key) and it definitely hit the spot. When we lived in São Paulo we had sushi all the time, it’s one the things I miss most about living in Brazil.

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(The dessert menu)

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We made the mistake of ordering the dessert special to share. Our server described it as a baked Alaska but with a lemon tart and raspberry sorbet under the bruleed meringue. While beautifully presented, it was way too sweet. The meringue was too soft as well (it could have been whipped a bit more).

Aside from the dessert disaster, I was very happy with my meal. I would definitely go back if I’m in LA again. Maybe next time we’ll see someone famous.

Katsuya on Urbanspoon
Katsuya in Los Angeles

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Dim Sum belly

Our last day in LA, Jason took us to Monterey Park (where he grew up) for dim sum. The neighborhood boasts the largest population of people of Chinese descent in the US. I was excited. On Jason’s recommendation, we decided on Ocean Star.

I had just taken a killer yoga class and was starving, as were the boys. As soon as we were seated, we began selecting dish after dish from the passing carts. We should have been more patient, waiting for favorite dishes, but our stomachs got the best of us.

Above are the dishes we ordered (click on any photo for a larger view). I know the proper names for some of them, for others I’m going to bastardize the names, I apologize in advance.

Top row: fish balls, Chinese doughnut (the main mistake of the afternoon), cart with a carved watermelon.

Middle row: char siu bao (barbecued pork buns), large flat rice noodle with soy sauce, red bean desserts (my favorite).

Bottom row: har gao (shrimp dumplings), shiu mai (pork and shrimp dumplings), egg custard buns (Jason’s favorite)

I ate too fast, and the grease factor didn’t help. By the end of the meal I was full but still hadn’t eaten everything I wanted to, having filled up too quickly on whatever came by first. The doughnut was a big mistake, but the red bean paste-filled desserts (much like Japanese mochi desserts, but greasier) were delicious.

Dim sum (much like cheap Indian food) is often a good idea beforehand, and a very bad one afterwards. We all got hit with a case of dim sum belly, that I-swallowed-a-grease-coated-bowling-ball feeling that doesn’t go away, no matter how much water you drink. We drove home and all passed out for afternoon naps.

If your stomach is up for it, Ocean Star is the real deal.

Ocean Star on Urbanspoon
Ocean Star in Los Angeles

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The best lunch we had our entire trip had to be at Pizzeria Mozza in LA. Started by Mario Batali, the pizza joint is small and bright; reservations are a must. Aside from the fact that the woman seating us had some major attitude (making us wait unnecessarily long when our table was visibly ready), lunch was perfection.

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We dined with my friend from high school, Justine, and the pizza was the perfect compliment to our gossiping and catching up.

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We started by sharing a salad of arugula, parmesan, and mushrooms. I’m not a huge fan of raw mushrooms, but the dressing and combination of arugula and cheese were just right. It was also visually stunning.

The pizza was divine. The best I’ve had since we went to Grimaldi’s last year. The bottom crust is paper thin and crispy while the outer rim is puffy and chewy. This combination is everything that I look for in a pizza. Coupled with delicious toppings, there’s no going wrong.

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Dave had prosciutto and fresh arugula on his pizza. I had mushrooms. The mushrooms were smoky and tender, sprinkled with some fresh parmesan, I was in pizza-eating heaven.

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For dessert we all shared the house made gelato. We each chose one flavor and wound up with espresso (Dave’s choice), mint chip (mine), and vanilla (Justine’s). Mint chip is my favorite flavor of frozen dessert, and this one did not disappoint. The mint flavor was strong and pure, nothing artificial there. The wafer that came in the gelato was also great–light and crisp. A sweet end to a perfect lunch.

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Pizzeria Mozza on Urbanspoon
Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles

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Our first full day in LA, we set out for the Farmers Market for breakfast. What started out as a true farmers’ market over 70 years ago is now a conglomeration of food vendors, with a few produce stands thrown in. We wound our way to the back and discovered Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts.

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A Farmers Market institution, Bob’s award-winning doughnuts come in a dizzying array of flavors.

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Dave opted for an espresso and a chocolate caramel nut doughnut. It was, “nice and crunchy from the nuts, very sweet, and BIG.” Yes, he enjoyed it.

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I passed on the doughnuts and went with a smoothie from a nearby stand. I had been craving a smoothie ever since Santa Barbara, but this one was far from satisfying (hence the lack of photo).

On our way out we saw a sign for a true farmers’ market which sets up outside the Farmers Market twice a week, and just happened to be coming the day we there at noon. So, after a lovely visit to The Getty, we drove back and bought some fruits and vegetables for dinner that night.

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After a night in Santa Barbara, we finally arrived in Los Angeles. For our first night there I had made a reservation at Jar, Suzanne Tracht’s chophouse that’s been getting great buzz. Yes, I will admit to being a bit excited by the fact that Tracht was a finalist on Top Chef Masters. We went with Jason, our gracious host in LA. The boys both ordered steaks and were very happy, my chicken was just okay. I did like my appetizer: a salad with white peaches in it. Where are the photos, you ask? Well, my main complaint about the restaurant (all blog-related needs aside) was that it was way too dark. It was a beautiful sunny LA day when we arrived, but the minute we stepped inside it was like entering a strip club (not that I’ve ever been in one). So, no photos, I tried but they were all dark blobs.

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After dinner we indulged in a real treat: gelato at Pazzo Gelato in Silverlake, Jason’s old stomping ground.

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A cute little place that serves up coffee and tea as well as its award-winning gelato. I felt like, for a brief moment, I was back in Italy.

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Dave went with the peanut butter and jelly, which he really liked, and the stracciatella. I had mascarpone ginger snap (killer!) and stracciatella too. The gelato was creamy, dreamy, delicious.

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I wish that we could have gone back again, but there was lots of other eating to do…

Pazzo Gelato on Urbanspoon
Pazzo Gelato in Los Angeles

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Morro Bay is a bit of a one horse town. As soon as we pulled in I wrote off any potential for culinary goodness. After an uninspired dinner near our hotel, my suspicions were confirmed. I woke up starving after a great night of sleep. We decided to check out Dorn’s. I walked in and was fully expecting some sub-par fare. Boy was I wrong. Dave’s buckwheat pancakes were delicious, made with blueberries in the batter as well as on top.

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I had the Flutter’s scramble and was equally impressed. The vegetables were fresh and delicious and the potatoes were crispy on the outside and soft within. I loved that it came with housemade salsa, a great touch. Lastly, my breakfast came with muffins (a choice of bran or blueberry), yes muffins, as in plural. I was quite surprised when two muffins arrived at the table. Needless to say, I took away leftovers that fed me for lunch as well. Dorn’s breakfast is a true winner.

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Dorn's Original Breakers Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Before heading out for Morro Bay, we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium. My favorite display was the jellyfish. Comprised of several backlit tanks in a darkened room, it felt like entering into a secret grotto to watch these lethal, but beautiful creatures.

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While at the aquarium I picked up several Seafood Watch pamphlets. I keep one that I printed out in my wallet, and often refer to it before ordering at restaurants to see which fish are the most sustainable and mercury-free. I was in need of an updated one, and the Monterey Bay aquarium, which helps put together the pamphlets, had a huge array; including ones for various U.S. regions (I got Northwest and West Coast) as well as their newest one: a guide to sushi. For those of you with iPhones, there’s an app for that.

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On our way to Morro Bay, we stopped at one scenic view point and watched some elephant seals laze around in the sand. You can’t get a sense of scale from this photo, but they are huge. They can weigh up to three tons!

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