DOMA is the new Italian restaurant in BH brought to you from the current owner of the legendary Italian eatery, Dan Tana's. Sonja Perenecevic has teamed up with Chef Dustin Trani to bring a uniquely modern Italian menu to the table. With touches of Mediterranean, Asian and California influencing the classics, there is an exciting element of discovery in most of these dishes. Take for example, the raviolo with sea urchin and stone crab, or the unexpected bite in the calamari and rock shrimp appetizer thanks to a spicy thai aoli. At DOMA you can stick to your traditional favorites like aroncini and bolognese, or you can be more adventurous with something like a smoked swordfish carpaccio. 

As for the space, it is chic, with elegant florals by the entrance and a wrap-around bar all dressed in mahogany and leather accents. As expected, the staff are courteous and friendly and the service is exceptional. The restaurant is still relatively new, so patrons are still trickling in via word of mouth and by virtue of its location on such a well-frequented stretch of BH. Right next door to the iconic Mr. Chows and the tiny treasure trove known as Teuscher's chocolates, you will find DOMA open daily for lunch and dinner. 

And now for a description of some of their delectable offerings. 
The crab cakes were sweet and tender inside with a lightly crispy and decadently rich exterior. The roasted sweet pepper emulsion was a lovely touch. 
The quinoa salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, goat cheese and olive oil was a fantastic take on   the classic Greek salad, and was a personal favorite of mine. This salad is perfect for lunch since it's light and zesty and still packed with protein. The tangy burst of ripe tomato and the soft goat cheese mixed in with the tiny, couscous-like grains of the quinoa made such an indelible impression on my palate that I was left licking my chops after it was gone, like a fat cat lapping up milk.      
The calamari and rock shrimp is an excellent choice for anyone looking for something with some spice. I usually prefer grilled calamari because I find that flavors can get lost in the fryer, but this is one of the best preparations of fried calamari I have seen. The flavors are prominent and the spicy aoli enhances the robost flavors of the dish.
The heirloom tomato salad with whipped burrata is truly exquisite. The tomatoes are poached in olive oil and are bursting with the sumptuous allure of green, extra-virgin olive oil and the full-bodied complexity of heirlooms. This famously lovely medley of silky burrata and cherry tomatoes sits atop a buttered crostini like a king on a throne, and a single bite was royally delicious.
Butternut squash ravioli with brown butter, sage and brown sugar. Need I say more?
The raviolo, as most of you know, is one large ravioli. It is exceptional not only because it is stuffed with stone crab but also because it has dollops of sea urchin spread across it for good measure. Conceptually, this dish is extraordinary, but in reality it was deceptively ordinary. Like a movie that gives up all of the funniest lines in the preview, this dish did not go beyond the realm of my imagination.
The beef cheek pasta with pieces of fatty, tender, braised beef cheek that fell apart at the slightest touch of a fork had me falling apart equally in glee. Compliments to the chef. A carnivore's dream pasta with the melt-in-your-mouth richness of the beef and the flat noodle sopping up and hugging the meat in the same way that you would if you were a flat noodle yourself. 
Hello pizza! I wholeheartedly recommend this pear and gorgonzola cheese pizza to even the most skeptical of east coast pizza snobs. This is worth trying. The special kick from the blue veining of the cheese was deeply flavorful and the sweetness of the baked pear slices was the perfect match. It stood its ground and was not overpowered by the gorgonzola, which is such a uniquely pungent cheese. Both a sweet and spicy success!

Truthfully, DOMA has all of the elements of success. Serving great food in a gorgeous, well-staffed setting on a busy street with valet parking and popular neighbors, I don't see why this restaurant shouldn't last. The prices and the people are friendly, and Chef Dustin Trani is young with an adventurous spirit. With the new year approaching, it's time to shake up your regular routine of the same rotation of restaurants and try something new. 

DOMA favor and check this place out.    
DOMA 
362 N. Camden Dr.
(310) 277-7346
 
 
H.O.M.E opened this weekend to the gentle buzz of iPhones vibrating throughout the 310 as Urban Daddy stirred up the usual hype around town. Tickling our tender hearts this time with tales of steaks and live music in Beverly Hills I envisioned a proper supper club experience alongside some extra smooth jazz. In my mind I already saw the glint of a steak knife gleaming in the candle light and went right ahead and booked my reservation. Executive chef Shawn Davis of Perch in Downtown LA created the menu, and I always liked that place for a rooftop brunch on the weekends. Things were looking good. 

Here in BH, we take great pride in where we choose to devour our steak dinners. Ask anyone here with a wallet and an appetite for red meat. Whether it be Commes des Garcons or Goyard, that beautifully crafted leather flips open to shell out cash without hesitation, because people are happy to pay for enjoyable dining experiences. I've seen tips land on the table with the ease and grace of ten leaping ballerinas, toes pointed into arabesque. We have reached the pinnacle of steakhouse heaven here, all within a magnificent one mile radius, thanks to establishments like Mastro's and Cut. Which means that H.O.M.E will have to be truly exceptional to stand a chance among these greats. 

Walking into the restaurant, I knew I had been misled. Too many tables were crammed into the dining area and it was clear to me that the management had no clue what to do with the space. Ambience is crucial to the success of a jazz club or a steak house. H.O.M.E has about as much style as a low budget cruise liner's dining room. Tacky banquettes lined in faux satin give off a sheen that reminds you too much of that prom dress you wish you had never worn. The walls are stark and devoid of any fixtures or semblance of art. There is nothing in the space that emphasizes the exposed brick at the entrance, which is the only notable element of style. At the far end of the restaurant is a large stage covered in instruments, and within minutes about 8 musicians took the stage. They played so loud that we couldn't hear each other or our waitress. We asked if there was anything that could be done about the noise, and our bewildered waitress just looked at us in confusion. The dinner was so unpleasantly loud that we hurried through our entrees and skipped dessert just to get out of there. At the end of the meal, there was an additional $20 per person "entertainment fee" included on the bill which came as a complete surprise. We made our reservations through OpenTable and we were never notified about this absurd fee. When we requested the fee be waived, we were denied our request.   

As for the food, we ordered the filets, which were two 4oz medallions topped with porcini ravioli in a red wine reduction. The filets were tender but there was no sear or crust to the meat. These were nothing like the petite filet at Mastro's and the ravioli were chewy with a gummy texture to them, and so this dish was a double disappointment. 
Next was the rabbit ravioli which also did not live up to my expectations. The rabbit was tough and tasted gamey. The lobster lavender sauce was in fact a portion of lobster in the center of the plate. The lobster was warm and buttery, but I honestly do not see these flavor profiles doing anything for each other. Another miss. 
The Sea Bass was excellent. Flaky and moist on a bed of artichoke hearts and warm risotto, the dish was buttery with the faintest hint of citrus from the grapefruit segments on top. 
All in all, this was an awful experience and I have no inclination to return. The cocktails were of the glow in the dark variety, and tasted like jolly ranchers or break fluid. There was no need to stay another minute after the food arrived. We hurried through our meal and got out of H.O.M.E as quickly as possible, wishing we had all simply stayed home. 

H.O.M.E 
430 N. Camden Dr. 
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
 
 
They say, where there's smoke there's fire. Although, a word to the wise is that smoke can be deceptive, like when you have been duped by smoke and mirrors. When I made my reservation at Smoke Steakhouse this week, I was impatient to find out which way the cards would fall. Would this place have substance and delicious food, or would it just be another shot in the dark in this seemingly cursed location? 

Before "brosephs" Justin Safier and Travis Lester behind Brosephs Restaurant Group (BRG) opened up Smoke, a string of other restaurants had surfaced in the same spot and then vanished in the blink of an eye. I once thought that this remote stretch of Melrose was too far off the beaten path to draw in any patrons. Teetering on the brink between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, this block of Melrose always felt to me like a teenager with an identity crisis who couldn't quite find a way to fit in. Well, that theory bubble burst in January and the evidence can be found not less than 100 feet away at Craig's Steakhouse. The loyal patrons of Dan Tana's followed in droves as longtime maitre'd Craig Susser opened his very own venture just a few short steps east of Smoke

It's tough to tell whether these two places will be competing for the same dinner crowd, although there will undoubtedly be some overlap. Craig's perhaps draws a crowd more inclined towards the old-fashioned steak house experience whereas Smoke has opted for a more modern nightclub feel with black curtains, granite tabletops, grey banquettes and melting candles. Every Thursday - Saturday you will find a DJ spinning until 2am and food and drinks are served throughout the evening. The cocktail menu showcases the latest in mixology trends, with drinks featuring smoky mezcal tequilas and duck infused vodka. Having a hard time deciding? Try the ginger elixir with bourbon, ginger, agave, raspberry and mint. 
We began with a beautiful salad of summer melons, fresh goat ricotta, arugula, spiced pistachios, and cured pork. The melon was thinly sliced carpaccio and was lovely with the equally thin slices of pork. This was a twist on the classic dish of melon and proscuitto so popular in Italy but with spiced pistachios, fresh ricotta and spicy arugala.  
The Jonah lump crab cake with frizee and imperial sauce was juicy and also tasted deliciously light. The crab was sweet and I was thrilled that it was not ground, but still in succulent lumps beneath the light golden crisp of the exterior. 
For the entrees, I tried the 7 oz. petite filet and the carbonara pasta. The meat was prepared exactly medium rare the way I had ordered it and the steak was tender and loving, errr, I mean it was tender and juicy. Just how I like it gurrrl. Plated off to the side was this dainty bite of potato gratin topped with a blistered cherry tomato. This was a delightful tease and spurred me to order more potato, mainly the lobster twice baked potato pictured below. 
This decadent dish had large chunks of lobster claw and tail submerged beneath an ocean of cheese and buttered goodness. Sometimes it's best to give in to your temptations and feed your soul. Just a few bites does the trick.
The brocollini confit was superb with subtle notes of ginger and chili. The menu also includes everybody's favorite in this town, brussel sprouts with bacon. Or get your greens with a side of asparagus. Can't go wrong with crisp, vibrant vegetables prepared with fresh, flavorful ingredients.   
The pasta carbonara with peas, pancetta and runny egg yolk was perfectly creamy and every element of the dish successfully executed, especially the egg. 

Chef Laurent Saussy is on a winning streak and I would hate to see it end. It began with his collaboration with BRG at Bar Esquina Restaurant in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and has since expanded to Santa Monica and West Hollywood. 

The "brosephs" have named Chef Saussy Executive Chef at each of their ventures, including Brick + Mortar by the beach and another new West Hollywood restaurant set to open any day now, called Fatty's Public House which will also serve contemporary American fare. 

And like any red-blooded American, you will probably be interested in pictures of the dessert. 
The apple crisp on airy leaves of millefeuille with caramel drizzle was impossible to resist. The portions were small so ordering more than one dessert shouldn't feel out of the question. As if it ever is. 
This dessert was a creative pairing of liquored cherries with pistachio cake and mascarpone ice cream.  Another winner with the use of seasonal berries capturing the tart with the sweet and not overloading on sugar. 

Chef Saussy, who humbly prefers to be called Laurent, has been cooking in Southern California since he was 15 years old beefing up his expertise at places like 72 Market Street, Jiraffe, Josie Restaurant, Towne Restaurant, Memphis at the Beach, Cache and Waterloo & City. Laurent also took on several New York City stints at restaurants like Bouley and the well-known Blue Hill. With a self described inclination towards spontaneity and creativity, his menu draws upon the diverse techniques he picked up growing up going back and forth between his Island town of Puerto Rico spending hours in his French grandmother's kitchen and in Tennessee absorbing the Latin flavors of the South. This might help explain the popularity of the esteemed Esquina Bar Restaurant in Mexico. Hopefully Laurent doesn't have too much on his plate with 2 new restaurant openings about a month apart.

 If the menu and the food at Smoke reveal anything, it is that BRG need not worry about what is going on in the kitchen. When the bill arrived, I was pleased to find it just over $200 which was not bad for 3 ladies sipping red wine throughout the meal.These "brosephs" just need to focus on getting the word out. 

Allow me to say, Smoke has all the fixings of success. If it can break the curse that came before it, Smoke is hot enough to be on FIRE. 

Smoke Steakhouse 
9010 Melrose Ave.,
West Hollywood
310-385-2222.

 
 
When you decide to eat where the Top Chef  judges eat, head over to Park Slope in Brooklyn and try Dale Talde's Asian American restaurant, Talde. The menu covers all the bases, from Thai to Vietnamese, to Japanese and of course, takes inspiration from Talde's own Filipino heritage. And all of this is done with a nod to classic American cuisine. Wedge salads and Texas style brisket grace the Asian influences with a taste from the States. 

Talde opened the large, high ceilinged, corner space with the two owners of Thistle Hill Tavern (also in Park Slope) David Massoni and John Bush. And because Talde has made a name for himself on several seasons of Top Chef, on most nights you can expect to wait before getting a table. The restaurant doesn't accept reservations unless you are dining with Padma Lakshmi herself. Her favorite dish? The Korean fried chicken. 

At your table you will find 19th century Japanese mahogany frames carved with exotic dragons and elephants and plenty to distract you from the menu. So take your time before you get seated to study your options or just have a reasonably priced drink at the bar. Hooray for Brooklyn!
Pretzel Pork and Chive Dumplings with Spicy Mustard:
These dumplings were a perfect example of fusion at its best. I imagine a NYC hotdog cart met a Hong Kong night market stand and made these delicious pups. The evenly crispy pretzel was never too greasy and kept the juicy ground pork perfectly warm and pink. 

The chives and spicy mustard made it a home run, and to cheer even further for the mustard is this quote from the New Yorker, "they’re served with the kind of spicy mustard that comes with Chinese takeout...too often relegated to the kitchen junk drawer". 
Char Siu Smoked Pork Spare Ribs with Watermelon and Thai Basil:
These slowly smoked ribs combine typical barbecue elements with gorgeous Asian flavors. The ribs hold a rich smokey flavor after being smoked for about 8 hours, and are tender and sweet with a hint of tang. The watermelon reminds you of a day in the park, but with thai basil the park might actually be a beach in Thailand.
Market Vegestables (Chinese Long Beans):
Smothered in ginger, lemongrass, and other piquants did not take away from the freshness and flavor of the bright and crispy green beans. These were a delicious and healthy choice with the basil and other ingredients so fresh that they seemed peppered. 
Korean Fried Chicken with Spicy Kimchee Yogurt, Cherries & Mint:
The spicy kimchee yogurt sauce may be the reason your date never asked you out to dinner again. You either licked the bowl or drooled a little bit just thinking about it. That kimchee yogurt was so exquisitely spicy and so well-paired with cherry slices and moist chicken that it completely outdid any of your wildest date night expectations anyways. Dark red cherry slices and fresh mint really were the cherry on top. 
Fish (Branzino):
The whole branzino, roasted with tomato, garlic and turmeric in a banana leaf and topped with fresh basil and cilantro perfectly explains why Kanye's date ordered fish filet in the song "That shit Kray". This is Dale's stand-out dish, and possibly negates any of the hardships you faced getting here and waiting for a table. Beautifully presented as a whole fish, but all the bones are removed so that it arrives succulently seasoned before you wrap it in warm moo-shu pancakes and indulge. 
Green Mango Salad with Crushed Peanuts and Thai Chilies: 
Although the dish was meant to be spicy, it turned out to be light and refreshing. The green mango was more of a ripe and soft yellow mango and the peanuts and chilies were sparse. In fact, this salad could double as a dessert if desired since Talde only offers a single wacky dessert option. Surprising for a menu of such versatility.

But then again, that single dessert is a heaping mess of halo-halo, which is served in a large metal bowl and looks like severely unappetizing stoner food. Traditionally, it is made with shaved ice, condensed milk, and random assortment of Filipino fruits and sweets. This one features banana, shredded coconut, tapioca pearls, and even the colorful cereal Cap’n Crunch. Eaten family-style, you will be surprised to find yourself digging in for more as each bite becomes more addicting than the last. The soft gelatin of the tapioca and the cold crunch of the shaved ice are unpredictable textures to contend with in each bite, but the condensed milk and soft banana are sweet and delectable and you find yourself saying stoner things, like, "pass the bowl".  

Entrées are between $15-$26 and each dish explodes with flavor and personality. It's a real pleasure to see so many culinary influences meshed into one menu and the fearlessness of the atypical flavor combinations in most dishes. Bottom line? When you are looking for bold flavors, call it a day at Talde.

Talde 
369 7th Avenue 
New York, NY 11215
(347) 916-0031
 
 
L.A foodies nodded their heads in avid agreement when S. Irene Virbila (food critic for the L.A Times) remarked that "Gusto is some of the best Italian cooking in L.A. in a long time".
 
Since leaving Culina at the Four Seasons Hotel and opening up Gusto in May, chef Victor Casanova has been preparing deliciously rustic Italian food for the lucky patrons of West Hollywood. The dining experience in this cozy restaurant is clearly as unforgettable as chef Casanova's name. With ambient lighting, a mix of eclectic music and astonishingly reasonable prices, Casanova has us wooed. 

The menu is ever-changing, and since its conception there have been almost 20 items that have been switched around, which makes every visit new and exciting. Only the freshest seasonal ingredients inspire each dish and the unpretentious combinations are mouth watering.  
The Fig and Burrata Salad [$12] showcased the season's figs and a rich balsamic enhanced the sweet tanginess of the soft fruit. The creamy burrata was drizzled in a young olive oil which was almost as peppery as the arugula leaves. The pepperiness was perfect with the sweet, strawberry-like tang of the fig.
The Halibut [$28] with fennel, olives and grapefruit was like a sunny day on the southern coast of Italy. The floral accent of the fennel and the citrusy zest of the pink grapefruit were delightfully refreshing and perfumed. The halibut was flakey and moist with a lightly golden crisp which fell apart like a sandcastle might at the touch of my fork. And the olives were a taste of the mediterranean with the same salinity of the sea.   
Agnolloti [$15] with english peas, ricotta, mint and lemon burro fuso was a beautifully rustic taste of the garden. The ravioli were small and firm and the vibrantly green pea tendrils strewn about the dish so gorgeously seasonal that I imagined flowers in my hair. The lemon butter sauce absorbed right into the soft ricotta and pea puree so that the impossible freshness of the ingredients seemed to dance together in reverie. 
Braciole [$25] pork shoulder braised in tomato sauce and dandelion greens was exquisite. The succulent meat was sweet from hours of braising in herbaceous tomato sauce and dandelions and still retained a significant heartiness. The ragu and swiss chard enveloped everything in a warmth that made this pork shoulder stand out to me as true Italian cooking at its best. 
Polipo [$12] charred baby octopus with chickpeas and harissa was a brilliant snack. It was a treat to see the octopus in full-form (no pun intended) and the soft chewiness of the mollusk was balanced by the crispness of the char. The chickpeas were full of spice and flavor yet never overpowered the mildly refined taste of octopus.  
Polpette Pork Meatballs [$13] were delicately dressed with thyme and marinara sauce, sprinkled with cheese, on a cloud of whipped ricotta cheese. For heaven's sake. They were melt-in-your-mouth juicy.
Ricotta Gnocchi [$17] with wild mushrooms, marsala and thyme was lighter than anticipated. None of that over the top creamy mushroom sauce invaded the plate. The beauty of Casanova's dishes lies in his ability to accentuate the quality of the ingredients while never masking them. The potato gnocchi was firm but not heavy and the medley of mushrooms was magnificent with the sweet marsala wine sauce.
For dessert, I recommend the Coconut Gelato Pie. It is a pleasingly cold slice of coconut gelato on top of a graham cracker crust. The milky and sweet ice cream with textured fragments of toasted coconut proved to be an unexpected delight and perfect for summer. 

At Gusto, the food is made with love and care and with complete faith in the quality of what goes into it. Extraordinary ingredients and a creative menu are proving to be a real must these days and here, Angelenos can revel in everything from fresh figs and heirloom tomatoes to the freshest, house made pasta. Better learn to share the spotlight, you geniuses at Pizza Mozza...it seems you have found a worthy rival in Mr. Casanova. 
 
 
I'm thrilled to welcome Sycamore Kitchen to the neighborhood. Having heard that they serve Stumptown coffee, nothing could get me there soon enough yesterday for their opening day. Quinn and Karen Hatfield (the power couple behind the critically acclaimed Hatfield's) have answered my prayers with the debut of their lunchtime patio cafe. And it is just in time for summer! With a casual vibe and industrial space, it's perfectly tucked away on La Brea Ave. amidst some of LA's coolest vintage boutiques and furniture stores. 
The outdoor patio is spacious but sparse, with simple metal tables and chairs seated beneath large white umbrellas. Inside, exposed brick walls with high ceilings dripping in aluminum tubing and rafters create that sought-after, designer loft feeling. Glass windows keep the space feeling bright and airy and if you're in one of your characteristically nice-enough-to-talk-to-a-stranger-moods you can sit at a wooden communal table and make friends. Or just gawk at the glass counter filled with tantalizing (and dare I say it, pretty healthy) pastries, like lemon polenta cake, coconut carrot parsnip bread and quinoa muffins. 
As for the menu, the fresh, wholesome ingredients are creatively combined with thoughtfully intended seasonal flavors; which is exactly what I expect from chefs of such genius. 
The Roasted Chicken Breast Sandwich [$11] was delectable. Sandwiched between two slices of country bread slathered in tangy olive tapenade and sweet meyer lemon confit, the subtle juxtaposition of flavors was magical. With juicy tomato and frissee lettuces, this inconspicuous looking little sandwich will slowly disarm you and quite possibly undress you. 
The Chinoix Salad [$12] with shredded chicken, cabbage, apple, almond, puffed rice, and muddled ginger vinaigrette was light and delicious. Any fan of chinese chicken salad will enjoy this leafy delight. The crunch from the puffed rice and the sliced almonds were a lovely substitute to your typical fried wonton and I enjoyed the fresh bite of sliced apples that replaced the more traditional mandarin slices. 
Mediterranean Chicken Salad [$12] with dates, toasted hazelnuts, radicchio, kale, blue cheese, and red wine vinaigrette is a superb choice for someone craving a more powerful salad. The blue cheese of course brought an intensely sharp and complex creaminess to the salad, and the saltiness of the blue cheese was paired with the sweetness of halved dates and the warm nuttiness of toasted hazelnuts. All the bases were covered here to make a truly tasty salad. 
The Double B-LTA [$11] with crispy bacon and braised pork belly, butter lettuce, balsamic tomatoes, and avocado on country bread was a lusciously decadent darling. The pork belly and the avocado were creamy and practically melted into the fresh baked bread. Thank goodness for the balsamic on the tomatoes because they had the acidity needed to wake everything up. And if that doesn't do the trick, a Stumptown cold brew sure will. 
Sycamore Kitchen is open for coffee and lunch all day from 8am-5pm. No alcohol is served for now, but a salted caramel pecan bopka roll should take your mind off of that. Sycamore Kitchen has good things unfolding, with breakfast coming soon, and weekend brunch after that. The menu foreshadows such delicacies as rolled buckwheat crepes with strawberries, ricotta, and honey butter and cinnamon brioche french toast with grated apple slaw and creme fraiche. That's right, when the Hatfield's whip out the creme fraiche, the best thing to do is say "YESH".
 
Sycamore Kitchen
143 S. La Brea Ave. 
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323-939-0151
 
 
Chef Kris Yenbamwroong has really come up with something spectacular at the Talesai Hotel. Since Kris is chef and owner of two completely opposing Thai restaurants at the hotel, walking through these doors is nothing short of a revelation in identity. The restaurants may be side by side, but the ambiance, food and clientele are worlds apart. The choice is yours. 

Either choose to be seated at the traditional, more formal Talesai Cafe, or sit at the wooden communal tables at Night + Market for an extra spicy adventure in Thai street food. 
So which restaurant calls your name? 

If a James Beard Award nomination and a nod from Jonathan Gold mean anything to you, the choice falls off your mouth-watering lips with the unwavering certainty of a moth to a flame: "Two for Night + Market, please". Honestly, I made that call with the same involuntary certitude it takes my heart to beat or my eyes to blink. And don't be surprised if after trying a few of Kris's vibrantly delicious dishes, that heart of yours does skip a beat.
These small plates are really meant to accompany a drink, and they are perfectly portioned just to last you through your beer. As Gold said on KCRW, "That is their purpose". So get ready to select a small army of dishes to carry you through the night. 
The Nam Kao Tod ($9) is a crispy rice salad with spicy fermented pork, and loads of ginger, onion cilantro, chopped peanuts, scallions, lime juice, fish sauce and dried chili peppers. Some people's faces get that shadowed look of concern at the mention of fermented pork, but it's essentially just sausage so everybody can just keep calm. The rice turned out to be intensely spicy, and I may have counted more slices of Thai ginger in the bowl than grains of rice. But the flavors were like a palette-popping rebellion in my mouth, and the sporadic slugs of Singha beer that quelled the ambush were a god-send.   
The Fried Pig Tail ($6) is an absolute must. The outside is crispy and the inside is full of soft, fatty pork so rich that I'm afraid Francois Hollande might start taxing it. Most of us have tried pork belly, so I should mention that the pig tail is similarly decadent. The difference is slightly crunchy cartilage here n' there which ultimately adds texture and the giggle inducing, teehee type reminder that you're noshing on a curly little pig's tail. 

The Som Tum Papaya Salad ($7) with green papaya, tomatoes, and lemon juice was light and refreshing. The green papaya had a texture similar to that of cucumber but less watery. The lemon juice kept the salad light and zesty and was a pleasant accompaniment to the more pungent flavors of the other dishes.       
The Sai Uah, Chiengrai herb sausage ($6) is made in-house and comes with noom salsa and cucumber. The sausage was spicy hot and gritty and would go very nicely with a side of sweet sticky rice or coconut rice to calm the heat level. For those of you who would rather not play with fire, the restaurant welcomes any request to tame the heat on any dish. The herbaceous pork was phenomenal, and I am biting at the bit to try the minced chicken sausage with fish sauce and the issan sour sausage that is served a little pink on the inside.  
The Pu Pad Pong Karee, Curried Crab ($16) is a super lump crab with curry powder and onions. The juxtaposition between the sweetness of the crab and the sharpness of the curried onions makes this dish taste more playful than some of the spicier picks of the evening. It combined two of my most favorite things: delicate, sweet crab and pungent, astringent onions. I was relieved that the curry powder didn't overwhelm the sweetness of the crab or onions. Chef Kris achieved a balance of flavors that was pure poetry with his curry powder. Made from a medley of different spices, his yellow curry was delicate and harmonious enough to be a song in your heart.
The Pad Kee Mao, Drunken Noodles with Short Ribs ($11) were wide, flat noodles with chile, basil, garlic and chunks of short rib. The noodles were ribbon thin and held together beautifully. The soft chewiness of the noodle held the garlic and yet maintained a gentle simplicity of taste while the short rib was as succulent, tender and toothsome as I had expected. 
The Ice Cream Sandwich ($4.50) is another striking example of the joys of straight forward flavors. A scoop of coconut ice cream is sandwiched between two thick slabs of warm, grilled, challah-like egg bread. The contrast of the creamy cold coconut paired with the warmth of the bread was fantastic. And underneath it all was a bed of sticky rice made sweet by a coat of condensed milk. 
After a wild night packed with chili and ginger and pure hotness, this ice cream sandwich was like the cool feel of bed sheets on a hot summer night. 

Night + Market is a trip to Thailand where the street vendor's carts are all safe to eat, i.e., a dream come true. The food and the chef alike have been showered in accolades, and yet the hype and admiration haven't turned the restaurant into a trendy, elbow-rubber's paradise. Why not? Because it doesn't need to be a hotspot when the kitchen can handle the heat. 
 
 
North of Madison Avenue, in an unexpected corner on Broadway and 28 Street stands a fully restored, turn of the century Beaux-Arts building in all of its original splendor. Chef Daniel Humm and Will Guidara (the powerhouse behind the 3-Michelin star rated Eleven Madison Park) have opened these grand doors to welcome us to their first solo venture, The NoMad Hotel

French designer Jacques Garcia kept the interiors classically Parisian and the 168 rooms timelessly styled with original artwork. Since the first Maison Kitsuné boutique in America can be found at the hotel, I had to pop in and see it for myself. Then I strolled past the lobby and into the restaurant for lunch where I was delighted to find tables basking in daylight from the surrounding glass atrium. It underscored the soaring ceilings and created a warmth and glow through the space.
At once light and airy, hanging ivy gently fell from terra cotta columns and whisked my imagination to a forlorn romance somewhere off in a vineyard. But the wistful dining room also remained exquisitely refined, with chairs draped in luscious silk and heavy curtains adorning the doorways. 
The menu achieves this same balance of refined yet approachable items, featuring rustic, French-inspired fare from this James Beard winning chef. The first thing I did was order a Bloody Mary. I had to get my daily dose of veggies! It was perfectly sweet and spicy and didn't need any tweaking at all.   
Before I could even batt an eyelash at the waiter, he brought over this gorgeous loaf of bread, still warm from the oven, and baked with onions and potatoes. I practically devoured the entire thing and really couldn't help myself with such soft, flavorful bites topped with delicate, crispy onions. This is just the amuse!  
The Poached Egg [$17] with quinoa and asparagus arrived in a rich and creamy brown butter sabayon that created a delicious soup with which to coat the asparagus and crunchy quinoa. The quinoa had a medley of preparations: some boiled, some dehydrated, and all of it fried to get that textural crunch. And to amplify the dish? Slivers of parmesan melted into the golden egg yolk and parmesan foam swirled around the plate. A truly exceptional dish, and probably not unheard of to sop up some buttery sabayon with any remaining crumbs of that onion bread. 
The Lobster Tagliatelle [$19] was stunningly supple and easily some of the freshest tasting pasta I have ever had. Prepared in a simple sauce of butter, Meyer lemon and black pepper, the sweetness of the Alaskan king crab became perfectly pronounced. Each bite was velvety with butter and the soft noodles held the freshness of the lemon. This dish was beyond incredible in its simplicity and was definitely not easy to share. 
The seared scallops with sorrel, lemon and lightly braised maitake mushrooms were drizzled in a pea puree and fennel. I loved the lemony scallops and how the dish showcased some great seasonal ingredients. 
I will have to come back here to try the very expensive roast chicken. And so should you. Apparently it has foie gras, truffles and morels tucked beneath the skin for an unforgettable experience. And although the chicken arrives fully in tact, the dark meat and white meat are each cooked separately before regaining their place on your plate. (Maybe that $78 price tag doesn't sound so crazy after all... especially for us Californians who will soon endure a ban on foie gras!) 

Finally, your waiter will present to you this very tempting dessert cart filled with lemon curd meringue tarts, raspberry macaroons, and chocolate carmel confections sprinkled with fleur de sel. Don't be mad at him for gently gliding by with a cartful of temptation. Sometimes it's enough just to take a looksie...    
In case you weren't already mad with desire, the 24 foot mahogany bar next to the library is run by the award winning mixologist, Leo Robistchek. Since The NoMad opened in April, the only madness you will find there are the maddening crowds scrambling to get a table. 

The NoMad
1170 Broadway  New York, NY 10001
(212) 796-1500

 
 
Anyone living in LA who enjoys fine dining will tell you the same thing. For a dining experience to remember, you can't go wrong at any one of these acclaimed restaurants: Providence, Ink, Bouchon, Angelini Osteria or Mélisse. So what happens when you get all 5 extraordinarily talented chefs from these prized restaurants together to collaborate on one special dinner? 

Before your head explodes, allow me to paint you a picture. A 6 course meal, where each course is individually prepared by one of these great chefs, and they are all within a fresh baked roll's toss from your table. Oh, and they have invited a guest chef to the party. And he is French. Cue Ludo Lefebvre and the sound of violins swelling in your heart.  There you have it. The exceptional "5x5 Chefs Dinner Series" is upon us and if you're toying with the idea of attending one of the 4 remaining soirées, you can tame your piqued curiosity with this peek into how the evening at Mélisse unfolded.
 
5 cocktails were available on the menu, each with 5 ingredients. We tried the special with Cointreau, kumquat juice, and almond syrup and the vodka based drink with crushed grapes and lychee, shaken with egg whites. Both were divine, especially the combination of the mouth-puckering kumquat with the warm, sweet undertones of the almond syrup. 
After an amuse bouche of foie gras rhubarb with dehydrated whey and citrus, we welcomed the first course by Mélisse's very own Josiah Citrin. It was a crisp chicken skin, with raw milk curd, aged and fermented beets, and shaved macadamia. Next to it was a chilled pea shot with a yogurt sphere and meyer lemon air. 

I began with the chilled pea, and the sphere at the bottom of the shot was a surprise as it burst on my tongue. The lemon foam was an aromatic touch and was a fresh way to begin. The crispy chicken skin was savory and the milk curd brought a bit of creaminess. An excellent and inventive first course by this gourmet veteran.   
Michael Cimarusti of Providence created the second course which was a delicious and refreshing dish of fluke sashimi, with fluke fin and geoduck clam creme fraiche, grapefruit yuzu kosho, and crispy puffed rice.

The fish was beautiful and the yuzu kosho was a treat. It is made with yuzu citrus peel and chilies and then salt cured, so it adds a hot and zesty kiss to any dish. In certain parts of Japan, yuzu kosho is found on every table, just like ketchup is here in America. The kosho was perfectly segmented into juicy, individual strands and the puffed rice added a fun, textural bite. 
Time for another cocktail, and the next drink I tried was Rum based, with pineapple, ginger syrup, lime and soda. It was sweet and spicy and loaded with a palate pleasing punch. 
The 3rd course by guest chef Ludo was an eastern squid dish with squid ink, ash and baby french leeks. The ink was syrupy with a hint of sweetness and the ash had a crumbly feel, like mocha powder. The squid was soft and firm and the way to eat this dish was to get all of the ingredients together. I swirled the strands of squid around the plate to enrobe them in ink and then coated them with the ash. This was my dinner companion's favorite dish of the night and I found it be creative and ambitious. 
Next up was a homemade spaghetti chitarra alla norcina (with sausage, spring truffles and Parmigiano-Reggiano) by Gino Angelini of Angelini Osteria. 

Gino is a celebrated chef who was named by Los Angeles Times Magazine as hands down, the best Italian chef in LA! His spaghetti was made without egg, just as it was often made in certain parts of Italy where people couldn't afford eggs. Gino makes it by hand with only flour, white wine and olive oil. Of course wine would be cheaper than eggs in Italy! That makes perfect sense! Without the egg in the mixture, the spaghetti takes on the texture of an udon noodle, becoming slightly chewier than fresh pasta made with egg. Gino hand rolls and cuts each strand individually with a knife and makes his own sausage, no less. The sausage fragments brought wonderful depth of flavor to the spaghetti and the spring truffles were beautifully fragrant. Bellissima! 
Star of Top Chef, Michael Voltaggio of Ink Restaurant, served a wild black bass with egg yolk dumplings and a porcini dashi. The fish was warm and tender and had a crispy skin which I enjoyed. The best part of it all was the dashi broth he made from porcini mushrooms. It brought a Japanese influence to the dish, since dashi is considered a fundamental in Japanese cooking. The earthy tones of the mushroom were lovely with the bass. 

The egg dumplings were an amazing creation and one that this egg slut had never seen before. I spoke to Michael who divulged that he had used 2 cartons of eggs to make the dumplings for the evening's dinner. That is almost 150 eggs. Lucky for him, the Sweet Lady Jane bakery is next door to his beloved Ink Sac on Melrose, so Michael was able to trade the egg whites in exchange for bread. The dumplings require only yolks (and maybe rice flour?) which he dispenses into boiling water using a pastry bag for cake making, and then cuts down to dumpling size. Voila! Good luck trying it at home. 
The last course (before dessert) from famed Bouchon chef, Rory Herrmann, was a "Degustation De Lapin" made from Devil's Gulch rabbit, sweet carrots, fava beans, young onions, and rosemary scented rabbit jus

I was immediately stunned by the teeny-tiny dollhouse sized rack of ribs on the plate. You can tell their impressively small size if you use the carrots as a reference. I loved the many ways the rabbit was prepared and savored the caramelized onions and the herbaceous jus. A delightful and hearty finish to the meal.    
Dessert was prepared by Mélisse's pastry chef Ken Takayama. It was a chocolate bowl with strawberries, wild fennel and dehydrated caramel. The caramel was poured on top of the dish and released a cloud of vapor just as dry ice would. This was a fascinating little event in itself but the dessert felt slightly lacking. The fennel was a nice touch with the strawberries but everything began to melt too quickly and left a puddle in my plate. Luckily, chef Ludo of LudoBites came to the rescue and treated us to some eye-candy after dinner.

If you are interested in attending another 5x5 Dinner this summer, be prepared to spend $150 per person exclusive of tax, gratuity and beverage. The last 5x5 dinner in LA was in 2009 so this is a rare opportunity, plus a portion of proceeds will benefit the Special Olympics. 

The next event is May 21 at Providence where Jeremy Fox will be the guest chef (formerly of Ubuntu in Napa). 

On July 16 dinner is set Angelini Osteria with Michael Tusk (Quince in SF) as guest chef preparing a course.

On August 20 the 5x5 team heads over to Bouchon where the extra chef is still unnamed. 

The final dinner will be at Ink on Sept 16 with Chris Cosentino (Pigg at Umamicatessen). 

 
 
With stylized plating and impressive decor, Tortilla Republic is exactly the kind of "Mod Mexican" restaurant most would hope to find in Beverly Hills. The food can be "hit or miss" for now, as the kitchen gets a better grasp of what works and what doesn't, but it's hard to hate when the menu is this inventive and fun. Duck confit tacos, and hibiscus flower or lobster truffle enchiladas? BH sure is fancy.

WIth an outdoor patio and a trendy, nautical-inspired chandelier room in the back, this 125-seat spot works for large dinner parties or intimate dates. Interior designer Kirk Pereira really personalized the space using woven chairs and hand-blown glassware similar to those the owners have seen on their travels. And Pereira kept it sexy with a white onyx bar (boasting LA-based contemporary artist Paul Robinson's designs) and a glass tequila wall that emanates light.
After a solid 5 minutes ogling the drink menu and fawning over the cucumber lavender tequila with house made lavender syrup, we browsed the options that consulting chef Cathy Shyne had developed and applauded the use of farmer's market ingredients and organic fare. Here are some of the dishes we tried.
The chilled ceviche [$13] was fresh and definitely on the sweet side. It had the fish of the day (which was swordfish) and shrimp with fresh lime juice, cilantro, mango salsa and avocado. The tortilla chips were crisp and added a welcome bite of salt to the sweet ceviche. I enjoyed the versatility of flavors and the freshness made this a great way to wet the appetite. 
The Tuna Crudo [$13.25] with ahi tuna, avocado, mango, jicama, and blood orange citronette had a modern presentation that you might not expect from a Mexican restaurant but would otherwise be pretty standard. The colors were vibrant and the ahi was poised over a pool of hibiscus which gave it a fragrant fruitiness of sorts. A very nice dish although I preferred the ceviche. 
Tacos de Jicama [$12] are an extremely exciting proposition to anyone avoiding carbs, since the "tortillas" are actually thin slices of jicama. I tried jicama tacos like these on a recent trip to Guadalajara, Mexico and loved the idea, so I was beyond thrilled to see them reappear on an LA menu. It took only a few bites to discover their blandness though, even with the likes of shrimp, chipotle mayo, cilantro, red onion and avocado in the mix. But for a simple and light snack, tacos de  jicama are a genius addition to the menu and one that some of us will be careful not to overlook. Maybe a side of hot sauce or salsa would do the trick. 

Duck Confit Tacos [$12] with sour cherry salsita, shaved radish and cilantro crema. Heart be still.

Extremely high expectations joined the party at the mere sight of these colorful and juicy looking tacos. Alas, these were a disappointment. 

The duck confit was way too sugary and the sweetness completely masked the other flavors. Who really wants to bite into a dessert taco as an appetizer? Our waitress told us that we were not the first to mention the sugary overload and she hinted that perhaps a few of the dishes were still being revised. Truth is that the restaurant is still very new and just needs a few tweaks in the right places to blossom. 
The Carnitas [$20] with crispy pork, caramelized orange, pickled jalapeños, and tomatillo fresco was marinated in orange juice and coca cola. There was a distinct orange fragrance from the orange zest which definitely lingered so make sure that you are a fan of zest before you order!
Lobster enchiladas [$26] with truffled tomatillo seafood bisque, shaved black truffle and manchego and jack cheeses was soft and delicate with a tangy, lightly spicy sauce to bring in that Latin flare. This was by far my favorite dish and one I would recommend. I know it's pricey but what else can you expect when you order lobster and truffles? Other than pure joy, that is.
The 8 oz. Prime Flatiron Steak [$26] with chimichurri sauce, onion rings and grilled asparagus came on a bed of jalapeño roasted garlic potato puree. The onion rings were light and delicious with a soft crisp and the steak was beautifully grilled with a pink center and grill marks. Again, the sauce and the guacamole brought in those classic Mexican flavors to tie it all in.  
The Short Rib "Chile Verde" [$23] is prime, all natural short rib, slow cooked in a spicy roasted tomatillo chile with a jalapeño/roasted garlic potato puree and a verde sauce. The short rib was tender without being too fatty and was extra soft from soaking in the chile sauce. This was your simple meat and potatoes kind of dish, with a Mexican twist. 
The churros with caramel and chocolate sauce perfection. I can't get into it without setting off a craving so I will have to leave it to your imagination. And the dulce de leche ice cream with strands of gooey caramel swirled in with the rich creaminess of this delightful bowl of heaven was inexplicably great. 
The owners of Taste had a really great idea with this concept. I like the fusion and creative ideas on the menu. The untraditional marinades and eccentric flavors are an experience. The black beans are slow cooked with bay leaves and have unexpected hints of flavor. The question is whether or not you are up for trying something new. I didn't love everything I tried, but I commend the effort and will come back here again once the menu has settled to see what to make of this whole enchilada.