Yunnan & Sichuan Dishes at Yunnan Restaurant 雲南過橋園 in Monterey Park, CA

Yunnan & Sichuan Dishes at Yunnan Restaurant 雲南過橋園 in Monterey Park, CA

When eating Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley of Greater Los Angeles, there are only a few Chinese restaurants that specialize Yunnan cuisine.  It’s probably not easy to offer considering it’s province of China that features over dozens and dozens of minority ethnic groups, such as the Miao, Dai and Bai peoples, and many of the dishes are made with regional ingredients we most likely don’t have in the U.S.

From what little research I have done, I found that Yunnan Restaurant offer at least a half dozen of dishes that are popular within that region of China, such as the every so popular Yunnan House Special (Crossing Bridges) Rice Noodle Soup with boned-in Chicken, and square slices of sandwich ham meat.   This dish was served table side, where a server will bring out all the ingredients on a compartmental tray and then start mixing them into the broth, followed by the long thick strands of rice noodles.  It was hearty but a light dish as well.

The Cured Pork with Leeks was tasty, but was too salty.  The same can be said for the Yunnan Dried Beef, which was a little salty and chewy.

We supplemented the rest of dinner by ordering some of the more Sichuan dishes such as the Kung Pao Chicken and the Chungking Style Spicy Shrimp (it’s normally whole shrimps with shells deep fried, but they offered to prepare a version with shelled shrimps.  I wonder if that was suggested to us since our table was half non-Chinese.  We opted for the shelled version).  These 2 dishes were stand outs for me.   We enjoyed the slight sweetness in the Kung Pao Chicken.  So much so, that we finished the dish in minutes.

Though the rest of the dishes ordered were good, they didn’t have enough Sichuan peppercorns nor the ma-la flavor profile to make the dishes sing.  Nevertheless, price-wise, you get ample amounts of food for your money, and that Cold Appetizers Bar at the front of the restaurant is a much try.

 

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Dim Sum Dinner at Lunasia Chinese Cuisine 金凱旋宮 in Alhambra, CA

Dim Sum Dinner at Lunasia Chinese Cuisine 金凱旋宮 in Alhambra

These days, if you can’t make it for a dim sum brunch early weekend hours, then having dim sum for dinner is becoming a more and more of an option here in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Lunasia’s current dim sum menu offers the traditional items as well as some fancier dim sum dishes such as the Scallop Dumplings with Squid Ink Wrap, Baked Abalone Tarts, and the Pan Fried Pork Bun with added Crab Meat.  While we loved the Scallop Dumplings and the Pan Fried Pork & Crab baos, we didn’t feel the same with the Baked Abalone Tart, as the abalone was quite hard.

Dim sum, for the most part, is priced the same for both lunch and dinner hours, and the execution of many of the items we ordered were quite good.  The only dishes that didn’t work for us were the rice noodle rolls.  Both types we ordered were overcooked.

Another plus about having dim sum at this location at night?  Less crowds, ample parking, and there’s no feeling rushed to finish your meal so that they can flip the table quickly for the next party.

Kosher Tunisian Wine Dinner at Harissa with Wine Pairing by Covenant Wines

Kosher Tunisian Wine Dinner at Harissa with Wine Pairing by Covenant Wines

Chef Alain Cohen first opened Got Kosher? in 2009, which offered a menu of kosher North African dishes.  It has been a hit since.  This year, he changed the name of the restaurant to Harissa, and with it came a new menu, with popular Tunisian dishes prepared kosher using French techniques, as well as a nod from French cuisine, to elevate those dishes in both presentation and taste.

What you end up with are delicious, refined dishes such as their babighanoush, challahs, and beef meatballs.  I found their babighanoush addictive as it is whipped up into a light mousse-like puree.  Well seasoned and smoky in flavor, it was wonderful to spread it over slices of their challah.

The beef meatballs are huge and hearty, and a must to have when you order one of their Tunisian Couscous Feasts.

Desserts divine as well.  Rose Water Ice Cream, made without the use of any dairy products, was rich and creamy.  The flavor was quite pronounced and sweet.  The Arissa Almond Cake was rich and moist, sweet with a wonderful hint of almond.  Pair them with a nice hot glass of mint tea, and it was nice way to end the meal.

Mensch and Tribe Wines were provided by Covenant Wines, whose vineyard is up in Lodi, CA, but their winery store is in downtown Berkeley, CA.   I really enjoyed their 2016 Mensch Roussanne was very light, crisp and refreshing.

And all of these wines are kosher as well!

 

 

Tasting at Chef Dave Beran’s Dialogue Restaurant

Tasting at Chef Dave Beran’s Dialogue Restaurant

Dined here on September 13, 2017, but was just a tad to “out of it” to be in the mood to post about this 20+ course tasting.  Having started a new job in Santa Monica, it was easy for me to head over to Dialogue for tasting or Uovo for a pasta dinner, but with schools back in session, it was difficult to adjust to the 100 minute average drive to and from work (100 minutes, each way, that is).

Nevertheless, I was excited to try Chef Dave Beran’s food, especially since I had always wanted to go to Alinea in Chicago, but haven’t had the time, nor money.  Taking an early reservation in mid-week seemed to be the most beneficial if you’re seeking the lowest prices for this tasting (tax and gratuity included).  For me, it was around $191.00 per person, all in.

Sitting at the counter, it was fun watching Chef Beran and his assistant chefs cook and plate each course immaculately,  At times, there would be whimsy as well, as can be seen with the French Onion Soup course, where a mouthful of that rich and unctuous French onion broth was encapsulated inside a small onion ball that had cheese melted all over it.

The tasting (and keep that in mind, it’s a tasting, not a hearty dinner that will fill you up) took about 2 1/2 hours, but that’s understandable given the number of courses and the amount of work and timing that needed to be executed flawlessly by Chef Beran and his staff.  I enjoyed the tasting and look forward to see what he has in store for his Autumn/Winter Menu, which he will debut next week.

Website: https://www.dialoguerestaurant.com/

 

My Last Call at Michael Voltaggio’s ink

My Last Call at Michael Voltaggio’s ink

 

There was so much anticipation back in 2011 when it was announced that the new winner of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef,” Michael Voltaggio was opening his first restaurant on Melrose Avenue.  When it finally opened in September 2011, I dined there at least 3 times in the month of October, with 3 different groups of friends, and we all admired and enjoyed his style of cuisine, utilizing molecular gastronomy and new techniques (he was a fan of utilizing ash in his dishes).

Since then ink had switched over from serving shareable plates to a multi-course tasting menu.  After a couple of years of each format, ink went back to an a la carte format with a focus on being a steakhouse, offering dry aged Flannery California Reserve Holstein steaks.  However, in the last few years, I was distracted by the likes of n/naka and Maude.

Now that I’ve cut back at dining at such higher end places, I was able to consider dining at ink to find out how the food and the offerings have changed over the years, but with the announcement of Voltaggio closing ink after Sunday’s dinner service (July 31st), and opening ink.well soon thereafter on La Cienega in West Hollywood, I decided to make an impromptu stop for dinner last night and took advantage of the DineLA 4-course Caviar Tasting Menu for $95.00.

However, after seeing the Foie Gras Shavings on the regular menu, and being such a lover of foie gras, I added it as a starter before the 4-course tasting, and I was glad I did.  The foie was creamy and unctuous.

The Caviar Tasting Menu  was lovely, especially the first 2 courses: Smoked Mozzarella and Egg Yolk Gnocchi.  The ball of mozarella was wrapped with a layer of leek gel on the outside, creating a bit of whimsy as one had to break through the layer of get to tender and smokey mozzarella.  The gnocchi  looked like little cylinders of pasta encapsulating creamy egg yolk inside.  Then end result reminded me of a play on mac n’ cheese, with add saltiness from the trout roe.  Both of these dishes were delicious and surprisingly filling.

While I enjoyed dry aged Holstein filet, I didn’t think there was enough “cheesy caviar” to add to the dish.  While the filet was tender and well seasoned, the zucchini strips were a stand out as well.  A side of seaweed mashed potatoes was served with the filet.

Out of curiosity, I added a side of the Carolina Gold Rice as well.  Whoops, too much carbs!  Since I never had it before, it was a treat tasting Voltaggio’s version of it, with the creaminess of the cheese contrasting the airiness and crunchiness of the crispy rice, it was definitely a few bites of fun in my mouth.

Dinner ended with the Caramelized White Chocolate course, which was a nice scoop of rich, sweet, butteriness that was offset by the saltiness of the caviar.  Incorporating the aerated blinis and frozen pieces of creme fraiche into one bite with the white chocolate, my mind kept telling me I’m having a deconstructed cupcake.  That’s what my mind was telling me.  It was a wonderful tasting experience, and I guess a good way to reacclimate myself with Voltaggio’s style of cooking before ink closes, and he moves on to ink well.

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FOIE GRAS SHAVINGS, hazelnut butter, radishes, smoked sea salt, pumpernickel

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SMOKED MOZZARELLA, vichyssoise, leek-lime, Shasestra caviar, purple potato chips
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SMOKED MOZZARELLA
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Close up of the Smoked Mozzarella wrapped by a leek-lime gel and topped with Shasestra caviar.
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EGG YOLK GNOCCHI, trout roe, pickled onion rings, lox toppings, micro croutons
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Close up of the Egg Yolk Gnocchi
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AGED HOLSTEIN (FILET) STEAK, cheesy caviar, zucchini
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Close up look of the Dry Aged Holstein Filet
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SEAWEED MASHED POTATOES that came as a side with the filet.
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CAROLINA GOLD RICE, local milk and freeze-dried Fiscalini cheddar cheese
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CARAMELIZED WHITE CHOCOLATE, classic Shesastra caviar, aerated blini, creme fraiche

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Knife Cut Noodling at Shanxi Noodle House in City of Industry

Knife Cut Noodling at Shanxi Noodle House in City of Industry

In the East San Gabriel Valley, more and more Asian restaurants are popping up all over from La Puente to Walnut, and from Northern Chinese cuisine to Burmese.  Shanxi Noodle House isn’t a newcomer.  They’ve been in business for over about 2 years now, only having been discovered by me, when a friend and I needed to find a place to grab a bite while on our way home from checking out the superblooms along the 15 Freeway in Lake Elsinore back in March of this year.  Searching through Yelp, we stumbled upon their listing, which has been awarded a good number of 4 and 5 star reviews from Yelpers, and decided to give them a try.   The result was enjoying the wonderful layers of flavors as well as different textures in the dishes we tried, particularly of the Crispy Potatoes with Oat Flour Noodle Rolls.  After that night, we came back for more.  The noodles and dumplings are all house made, and the knife cut noodles are made to order.

Korean Royal Cuisine Progression Dinner at Yong Su San

Korean Royal Cuisine Progression Dinner at Yong Su San

I’ve heard from some that these progression dinners, aka Royal Cuisine, are more common in North Korea these days than in the South.  Not sure how true that is.  Multi-course meal served family style, in a formal setting, but not as grand and spectacular as one would see at a Chinese banquet dinner.  Nevertheless, it is an interesting experience to partake in at least once.

The dinners are not cheap (about $40 and up per person depending on the menu selected), and while the flavors were there, they were rather muted and not as bold as one would expect from Korean food.  Many of the dishes were good, but there are better versions elsewhere.

Yet, this place is packed, and for the most part, diners are seated in their own private dining room, whether it’s for a party of 4 or 20 (advanced reservations required, of course).