Monday, June 13, 2016

Ambivalent About Momofuku

First, am I the only person who thinks "Momofuku" does not mean Lucky Peach or refer to the name of some obscure ramen person from Japan but actually means "Mother F_ker"?

That seems particularly obvious with the name of the latest chicken sandwich spinoff, FUKU.  Seriously has no one noticed, or is he now so powerful that no one acknowledges, that David Chang is flipping off all of Manhattan?

Having said that, I must say I have had so much bad pork belly in many restaurants that I have to respect the fact that he can maintain a certain level of quality despite having opened one chain outpost after another.  Not even Danny Meyer can claim that with the horribly inconsistent Shake Shacks in Washington DC.

Soul sucking, maybe.  That City Center Momofuku is very corporate, albeit quite convenient (and certainly better than the Boulud DBGB that opened nearby).

However, the Momofuku Ramen did lose something in the chain process.  The broth tasted like someone dumped a couple of tablespoons of liquid smoke in it.  I won't go into what the runny egg white looked like...

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Douchebag Central

Nozawa Bar
212 North Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA  90210
(424)216-6158
Chef Osamu Fujita
Dinner only Monday through Saturday

Sugarfish Sushi is located a couple of blocks away from a Cheesecake Factory that has valet parking and Spago Beverly Hills.  Located at the back of Sugarfish is Nozawa Bar, a private dining room sushi counter where the true douchebags dine.  If you don't know sushi, just shut up.  Don't throw ikura into your sake glass and shoot them.  Also, while it is correct to eat sushi with your fingers, it is not appropriate to eat sashimi with your fingers, so don't tell your guests to do so.  You may also want check with your new girlfriend with the inflated boobs and lips and expensive haircoloring whether she eats raw fish before infecting the entire sushi bar with your cologne.

Moving on from the diners to the food:  I have never seen a sushi counter with 8-10 guests where sushi is made by assembly line.  I don't recall even the cooks at the sushi boat counters in a Taiwan mall preparing sushi in this manner.  Chef Fujita slices the fish (into enormous, inelegant chunks) and also makes a series of rice balls.  One of his sous chefs places each fish slice on top of each bald nigiri, then another sous chef drizzles the soy sauce across the top of the assembled sushi.  Then the individual plates, each containing one such sushi piece, get passed around to each diner at the counter.  The drizzling of soy sauce over the plate, instead of brushing across the top of the fish, caused the soy sauce to seep into the rice, which was already somewhat soggy from being prepared with too much vinegar and so loosely packed that every piece fell apart when picked up.

If you use your hands to eat the sushi, as one generally should, you need to ask for an oshiburi, which is not automatically provided.  Oddly, however, the sushi platter in front of each diner with ginger and wasabi decorating the corner-- never used since individual plates for each piece of sushi are handed out for each course-- and chopsticks were replaced midway through the meal.  The oshiburi is a wetnap in a plastic packet....

Don't even get me started on the ankimo meatball drowned in miso sauce or the giant burrito sized hand rolls with too much ground-up fish.

At least the fish for the sushi was not pre-sliced.


Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Fine Dining?

Melisse
1104 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA  90401
(310)395-0881
Chef Josiah Citrin
Dinner only Tuesday through Saturday

Interesting...

I have never seen bread service precede the amuse gueule.  Or all of the stemware for the next 5-6 courses being laid out in front of me in advance for the wine pairing as though I was going to play glasses.  3 hour tasting menu?  They can rip through it in 90 minutes (the stemware efficiency must be helping).

I thought I had a salty palate, but I was craving water as much as wine based on the aggressive seasoning in most of the dishes (although I did still enjoy the saltiness in the Normandy butter).

Don't tell me that white truffles are in season in early October, charge $120 for the supplement (OMG salty much?), and then present out-of-season black truffles studded all over the sauce (having said that, in an earlier course, the nicely hot eggplant-rosemary veloute with the cold black truffle creme quenelle was a surprising and tasty temperature and flavor contrast; I am so glad I did not listen to the captain instructing me to mix it all up before eating).  That truffle egg supplement was also a visual disaster -- although it was interesting to experience essentially a savory Ile Flotant with a runny yolk in the middle.

Foie terrine was flawless, and so was the caviar egg (but I kept thinking of Jon Favreau's Chef movie as I was eating it; I actually enjoyed these classic French dishes).

Chawan mushi on the other hand.  Sigh.  I know that the chef de cuisine is Japanese, and the matsutake mushrooms and spinach components were well-prepared, but the texture of the custard was grainy and too firm (instead of the correct consistency of silken tofu or super-soft and jiggly panna cotta).  Chawan mushi also needs a layer of broth on top, and needs to be scalding hot, neither of which happened here.

The Santa Barbara spot prawn was overcooked; the cod was undercooked (and the over-salted lobster bisque flavored broth, the hollandaise rouille, decorative calamari, and the chewy fish skin-- do I even need to describe it further?  what a trainwreck!); and the duck was under-rendered and this time, severely undersalted.

The bubblegum macaron, however, was well-executed if you can get over the swallowing chewing gum sensation of eating bubblegum flavor.

Not to mention, man, do Los Angeles people like to namedrop.  Servers and diners alike.









Friday, October 02, 2015

Omakase Does[Should] Not Mean Sucker

I must have eaten at a different restaurant than this critic.

Celery is not an appropriate garnish for sashimi.  Torching every other nigiri does not make up for the sad quality of the fish selections (not helped by all of the fish being pre-cut before service).

I have never seen salad as a first course on any omakase menu (and that was a very sad salad).

Plus, what is it with San Francisco restaurants using crappy out of season truffles and then announcing them like they are doing us a favor by unloading those sandy flavorless crumbs on poorly conceived dishes?

Friday, September 25, 2015

"How Is Everything?"

What to say to the service team and chef of a favorite restaurant when they are understaffed and clearly having a bad night (evidenced by repeated questions from the staff seeking reassurance that everything is great! when actually not...)?  Not wanting to add to the stress, I decide to say nothing, but pass everything to my dining partner who graciously eats what I cannot force myself to finish.  Given the price tag though, kind of a bummer.

Monday, September 14, 2015

My Weakness

I can never resist any menu items that include a runny egg or squid ink (except this, gross!)

Recently, I had an item that I cannot stop thinking about-- squid ink fried rice at Ippuku in Berkeley.  As if chicken butt and knee cartilage skewers were not enough to win me over...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I Just Don't Learn

I really need to stop trying name-brand chain restaurants, i.e., anything opened by Michael Mina, Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Nobu Matsuhisa, Tom Colicchio.

Ambivalent About Momofuku

First, am I the only person who thinks "Momofuku" does not mean Lucky Peach or refer to the name of some obscure ramen person from...