Thursday, August 27, 2009

El Rocoto -- I Ate an Entire Cow

by Jacki

So, I didn’t REALLY eat an entire cow. But upon exiting El Rocoto Peruvian Restaurant in Gardena, it sure felt like I did. I think I could sum it up best if I shared with you the best quote ever, said to my friend Rob by a restaurant server:

“I don’t eat til I’m full; I eat til I hate myself.”

Hate is too strong of a word here, because I know I only stuff myself to max capacity when I’m eating food that truly feels special and unique.

El Rocoto is special and unique, indeed.

I do recommend checking out El Rocoto’s online menu first as it gives you a peek into the dishes you’ll find, and features creative food categories such as “soul warmer” and “from the garden” that are somewhat difficult to navigate on a crowded in-restaurant menu.

For a storefront at the center of a strip mall sandwiched between Marukai and the Burnt Tortilla, the web site is pretty professional and upscale! It made me feel I would be walking into an eatery a little more fancy than El Pollo Inka, my other favorite Peruvian hang out. But upon arrival, you’ll feel more cozy than pretentious at your unassuming table beneath a turquoise ceiling, complemented by simplistic chairs and just enough space to throw out your elbows and dive into the massive-sized plates.

Enough with the tease: let’s talk food.

I ordered a #26: Milanesa de Carne, a beef steak pounded super thin and breaded, then served with salad and your choice of steamed rice or French fries.

ENTER THE COW: this was the hugest breaded beef steak I’ve seen in my life, and I can honestly say I’ve seen big breaded beef steak before! It was served on a plate at least 12 inches wide that could barely contain the amount of food on it!

But the flavoring, the breading, the steak – it was perfect. I didn’t run across any fatty pieces that hat to be cut from the steak. And considering how thin it was I was sure it might be on the tougher side, but I was wrong; it was tender and flavorful. The creamy dipping sauce in the middle of the plate was delicious but subtle, leaving me wondering just what was in it and why I had to keep trying it.

I’m not a big fan of steak fries, but these were cooked well and maintained a nice crunch that complimented the tender steak.

Watch out for the salad: the dressing was nice and refreshing, but the salad itself was laden with celery: one of my greatest gastronomical foes! If you’re not picky about vegetables, you’ll be just fine.

Our server was very friendly and not overly-attentive, which is just my style. They do have an extensive wine list which, because it was a workday lunch, I didn’t tempt myself with so I can't attest to the quality of it. Prices range from $9.00 to $16 (or maybe even a little higher) but if you get a dish such as the Saltado de Pollo (pictured below: lean chicken sautéed with onion, tomatoes and French fries with a ample helping of steamed rice), you’ll definitely have enough to take home for a second helping.

El Rocoto is one of those places were you see dishes being served to other patrons and automatically “oooh” and “aaah,” then want to know what it is so you can order it next time. I’m definitely going back and am looking forward to trying their Chinese-inspired offerings.

I feel lucky to have been referred to El Rocoto, definitely a diamond in the restaurant row rough.

1356 Artesia Boulevard
Gardena, CA 90247

Monday, August 24, 2009

Alinea: Precision, Artistry, Science and Food

by Ivy
SWEET sweet sweet promo video for the restaurant, Alinea. Take a look! Next time I'm in Chicago, I'll have to look it up.

Alinea/Crucial Detail - "Tokyo Taste"

is a restaurant in Chicago which opened in 2005. Its chef /owner, Grant Achatz, is known for his inventive preparations and deconstructions of classic flavors, as well as his rotating menu.

It has included a peanut butter and jelly composed of a single, peeled grape, still on the stem, encased in peanut butter and wrapped in paper-thin brioche. Alinea is known to serve 20 or so small courses over a period of hours. Customers have been known to cry out due to flavor.

Meals encompass all senses. Many entrees specifically are designed to appeal to the sense of smell or feel, in order to enhance the flavor of the food. For example, one dish is served on an inflatable pillow filled with nutmeg infused air, which is to be breathed before tasting the actual food. Some call this style overly pretentious, though the overall effect can be quite appealing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Great Noodle bars of the West

by Ivy

Craving a taste of the East found in the West perfect for hot, Summer days?

Two mind-blowing discoveries as of late... and then some!

each link goes to their Yelp sites. Photos by Yelpers!

Oumi Sasaya / Japanese \ Torrance, CA
Easily the best Udon bar in the South Bay area with an all female staff. Perfect, chewy noodles with the right tensile strength with many variations on udon. I recommend the cold version of udon with Tempura Shrimp & Mochi. Mmmmmm! I also recently tried the very unique Shabu-Shabu like "Suki" Udon where you receive a portable stove along with vegetables/meat that you cook yourself at the table. Cool, sleek and modern decor and ambiance inside with a long bar that creates a focal point when you enter. I've read reviews that it feels very much like the noodle bars in Japan.

Yuchun / Korean \ Koreatown Los Angeles, CA
Easily the best Nengmyun house in Koreatown/Downtown LA area. They import the noodles all the way from Korea so you know you're dealing with authentic stuff! Highly recommend the combo of cold, summery noodles with Kalbi(Korean marinated short-ribs). Lines actually form at this place on weekends. You can have the noodles two ways: Arrowroot, the noodles look black but pretty much taste as the Clear ones with two styles: Mool, in "watery" broth, or Bibim, with a spicy sauce.

Tried and true...

Ma Dang Gook Soo / Korean \ Koreatown Los Angeles, CA
Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly and Pulitzer fame loves this place. Try their Kal-guk-soo, "Knife noodles". I think this place is pretty good. They have a variety of downhome, modest Korean noodles--and notably, awesome, friendly service.

Sanuki No Sato / Japanese \ Gardena, CA
Yes, an old favorite of mine and a favorite of many, including Japanese celebs and even baseballs players as noted by the photos near the entrance. They are known for their udon. Nice, perky noodles in a delicious, clear broth. Everything here is great. Try their Tempura and other a la carte items. Always a favorite.

Otafuku Noodle House / Japanese \ Gardena, CA
Handmade "Seiro" soba noodles and udon. This too was also beloved by Mr. Gold. The noodles here are served naked: Straightforward, noodles and accompanied tsuyu sauce and traditional grated radish and scallions. The taste is in the noodles. Make sure you're in a simple mood and not a sexy one--the ambiance is pretty straightforward with hardly a decoration on the wall.

Oumi Sasaya:
2383 Lomita Blvd. Unit 101., Lomita, CA 90717 (310) 530-4661

3470 W 6th. St. Ste 11.,
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 389-1200

Ma Dang Gook Soo:

869 S. Western Ave., Ste 1
., Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 487-6008

Sanuki No Sato:

18206 S. Western Ave
., Gardena, CA 90248
(310) 324-9184

Otafuku Noodle House:

16525 S Western Ave
., Gardena, CA 90247
(310) 532-9348