Archive for February, 2011

Spicy BBQ Restaurant

Posted in Thai on February 28th, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment
Spicy BBQ Restaurant
5101 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 663-4211

Located in a somewhat rough strip-mall is a tiny, family-owned restaurant specializing in Northern Thai cuisine. Able to accommodate approximately 15 people, this restaurant offers an authentic experience packed with great flavor and presentation. After doing some research on the Northern region of Thailand, I learned that this particular cuisine is greatly influenced by the cultures such as the Lanna, Chinese and Burmese. The abundance of food and soil derived from this mountainous, cool region has resulted in availability of fats, oils, meats, and slow-cooking processes: such as roasting, braising, grilling, boiling and frying. So here we were, sitting at this very small but clean and cozy restaurant, as we were approached by a friendly woman who appeared to be the hostess, as well as the waitress, cook, and cashier [did I mention this was a family business.]

After several suggestion from the waitress, we ordered: Hot Tea, Northern Thai Fish Soup, Spicy Shrimp Thai salad, and Spicy BBQ Pork. The tea was brought out in a traditional Chinese style teapot with two shot glass like tea cups. How cute, I thought! The presentation took me a home-like place: a dinner at grandmas perhaps.

The wait for the food was not long. I surveyed the surroundings, noticing “CASH ONLY” signs posted around the register, several Asian posters on the walls, and Thailand posters under the glass at each table. Our waitress reappeared carrying out the dishes, one by one. The presentation was impeccable – colorful and creative – a food showcase!

Northern Thai Fish Soup: served in a large kettle over fire – smelled incredible.  Packed with boneless white fish, different wild mushrooms, and variety of green vegetables, the soup was very appetizing. Several hot chillies were floating on top, adding to the fiery spiciness. We topped it off with few spoons of steamed rice for texture and it was simply delicious. Hearty, savory and full of flavor. The fish in the soup was a good quantity and seasoned well; hence, no “fishy” smell to it.

Spicy BBQ Pork: served on a huge plate, strips of lean BBQ pork with a side of spicy, tangy sauce for dipping. To be honest, the dish was not as spicy as I thought it would be, considering the name of the restaurant is Spicy BBQ. And although the cut of the meat was a bit rough on some pieces; overall, the meat was tender and was complimented well with its side sauce.

Spicy Thai Shrimp Salad: everything you want in a big salad! Big chunks of crisp lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, mint and cilantro, perfectly cooked shrimp tossed in a spicy/sweet/vinegar mixed dressing. All the components of the salad were well seasoned and I particularly enjoyed the cut and flavor of the cucumbers. Yum!

All in All, this is a hidden mom-and-pop shop that most people would pass by unless they are aware of its location. Although small and unassuming, the restaurant possesses a charming feel to it. The service was fast and friendly [however I must say we were there past lunch hour], the menu was unique [one of the very few restaurants that specializes in Northern Thai cuisine], presentation was creative and flavors were bold and well developed. Looking forward to visit this place again and trying out a few more popular dishes, such as their famous curries, glass noodles, and spicy jack-fruit.


Japanese Restaurant Iwata

Posted in Sushi on February 25th, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment
Japanese Restaurant Iwata

14423 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

One of the more traditional sushi spots along Ventura Blvd. in the Sherman Oaks area. Iwata is a small, cozy, no-cell phones allowed, all about the experience Japanese restaurant. If you are one of those people that prefers specialty rolls, this is not the place for you. Their menu is centralized around sushi and sashimi, offering you a very unique, authentic experience. The ambiance is that of a typical sushi joint; we took our seats along the sushi bar. Immediately we were approached by a waitress who presented us with a menu, warm moist towelettes, and bean sprout appetizers on the house. Nice! I’m a big fan of free appetizers, particularly when they taste good! I prefer to dip my bean sprouts into the wassabi-soy sauce mixture  [after all both ingredients are there for a reason]. Having read a few reviews about this place earlier, we decided to order what they were known for best: sushi! There really is nothing better than the taste of fresh fish.

Edamame [it's not a sushi experience with a bowl of good, salted, boiled soybeans], 2 Spicy Tuna handrolls, albacore sushi, eel, and their famous spicy tuna atop of rice cracker. Albacore was fresh, soft and just the right touch of sweet in the sauce. Next I took a bite of the spicy tuna hand roll. It was wrapped well with just the right amount of ingredients inside [I hate it when hand rolls are too large]. It was so delicious; I knew we had come to the right place.  I wanted more. I surveyed the rice cracker. Very appealing: fried rectangular rice cracker with a good portion of spicy tuna on top, served in a set of two pieces. It tasted ok. I wasn’t completely in awe about it. In fact, I wanted more of the hand roll, this time wrapped in soy paper. MMM. It was delicious. Tender. So full of flavor. Just right.


I am not a fan of eel; thus did not happen to try it. However it looked very appetizing.

We finished drinking our hot green tea while snacking on edamame, paid our bill [a bit high for what we ordered, but hey! the food was good] and left fully satisfied.



Father’s Office Review

Posted in Burgers on February 21st, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment

Father’s Office
3229 Helms Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Currently holding two prime locations in Santa Monica and Culver City, this unique joint not only has one of the most talked about burgers in Los Angeles but also offers a great selection of exclusive beers. This particular location of Father’s Office [FO] has a large outside patio, which we gladly took advantage of on a beautiful Friday afternoon. Getting carded at the entrance this early in the day did catch me a bit off guard … I guess calling this a family restaurant is out of the question.

Walking up to the counter, we knew we wanted 3 Father’s Office Famous Burgers and a Basket of their Sweet Potato Fries. We had no idea that such simple order would end up being such a difficult task. Turns out this place is very particular when it comes to their food. They do not carry condiments such as ketchup or ranch. They do not carry iced tea or lemonade. Weird. They do not let you make any substitutions to their one and only signature burger – and let me tell you, you do not want it any other way.

Sweet Potato Fries – WOW! Simply Amazing. Fried to perfection with duck fat and served with aioli [honestly I think that's the only sauce they offer]. Hands down, the best sweet potato fries ever! Do not leave without trying them!

FO famous burger – the avant-garde of burgers! Served on french bread, cooked to perfection with caramelized onions, arugula, and Gruyère cheese. The patty, mix of ground beef and bacon, is juicy and absolutely mouth watering. The sweetness of barbecue sauce combined with the cheese and the onions really bring out the flavor in the meat; while the fresh greens make the burger light and easy to finish. I couldn’t stop eating.

Overall we had a great experience at this trendy, fancy burger restaurant. Having said that, this is not your typical burger. So if you don’t mind the lack of condiments, and can appreciate someone’s set-in-stone creativity, do give Father’s Office a try. Their burgers are one of a kind. Next time we’ll just bring our own ketchup.

Sushi Dan

Posted in Sushi on February 16th, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment

There are many sushi places in and around Studio City. Located in a strip-mall off of Ventura Blvd., Sushi Dan is a good trusted sushi spot with a great selection of specialty rolls. While the prices are a bit steep, the food has always been fresh and of good quality. The place itself is fairly large, trendy and great for a date or a visit with friends.

What we ordered: Edamame. Albacore Sushi (YUM. Served with crunchy onions on top. Great portion). 2 Spicy Tuna Handrolls (one soy paper. one sesame paper. Perfect Ying Yang). Hot Night Roll (WOW! I’m not a huge fan of eel sauce but it makes this roll pop!)

Service was fast and attentive. The restaurant is clean and has a great vibe. It does get crowded during peak hours, as it should, the food is pretty delicious!


Posted in Salads & Sandwiches on February 3rd, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment

Located in Downtown Culver City, “Lunch” is a great little spot for … well, lunch! Featuring both indoor and outdoor seating, Lunch offers counter-service dining experience. I never did understand this fast food with tips approach. The quirky menu presents a variety of healthy eating choices: hot and cold sandwiches, soups,and salads.

After much deliberation, I decided to go with the Seared Delight: mixed greens, seared ahi tuna, edamame, corn, red onions, avocado tossed with honey mustard dressing.As we sat out on the patio talking business and soaking in the beautiful California sun, our food arrived promptly. The salad looked great. Nice portion, fresh, colorful … yet, bland. No salt or pepper, tasteless dressing – I couldn’t understand it. I was disappointed … However, the place was so cute, trendy, and inviting, that I would give it another shot. Hopefully my next visit will be more fulfilling!

Le Saint Amour

Posted in French on February 3rd, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment

January 30, 2011 at Le Saint Amour in Culver City, CA

dineLA part II
Surrounded by neighborhood boutiques and cafes, this inviting little French Bistro had alot to offer. High vaulted white ceilings, white table cloths, bright lighting and French painting screamed classic Parisian style. Our party of 4 was seated at one of the many very crammed tables along the wall; you could easily eavesdrop on surrounding conversations as you wait to be served. Needless to say the place had just enough energy and buzz about it to provide an enjoyable experience. So far so good.

Wine: bottle of French Rosé. Light. Crisp. Medium-sweet. So good, we had to order a second bottle.

Food: the authentic French menu was a bit overwhelming. It had everything between French onion soup to Escargots to Duck Confit to Beef Bourguigno. Luckily dineLA menu limited me to only 9 choices.

Appetizers: Endive Salad was fresh, light and crunchy tossed with Champagne vinaigrette and candied walnuts. Nice start to the meal. Terrine de Foie Gras was served on a toasted brioche with a side of green salad. The Foie Gras, served with touch of jam was just excellent. Both dishes were delicious and full of flavor.

Main Course: While we each had ordered our own main course, I will only discuss the two dishes I enjoyed the most. Jarret de Porc – braised, slow-cooked pork served with butternut squash and pepper sauce. YUM is all I can say. The pork was cooked so tender, falling off the bone, melting in your mouth. Had it not been for the overly sweet butternut squash, the dish would have been a perfection.

Beef Bourguignon (also called Beef Burgundy) is a traditional French stew with beef cheeks braised in red wine, flavored with garlic, carrots, onions, mushrooms and gnochi. The waiter raved and raved about this dish, yet something about it was just not right. Sure the dish came in a large, hearty portion, but I found the beef to be a bit too fattening and the broth a bit too runny and the gnochi (the one ingredient I was so excited about) a bit too dry.

Overall: Wether it was the great company or the two bottles of wine or the chocolate dessert, our evening was a great success. I must, however, talk about the awfully slow service. Not only was the staff very casually dressed, which in fact took away from the overall appearance of the restaurant, but to flag down a staff member was almost impossible. Of course I understand that dining at an authentic French restaurant comes with the authentic French service, but waiting almost an hour for appetizers is just plain ridiculous. All I can say is that we were very close to walking out … fortunately, we stayed to try the deliciousness of this French kitchen.