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I’m praying for Saint Martha

July 17th, 2014 No Comments

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Martha, the patron saint of cooks and servants, was known to have had the company of Jesus in her home and served him meals on several occasions.  In my mind, her food must have tasted heavenly.  I mean, the man came back for more! As for the modern Saint Martha, her dishes only appear to be divine.  Their flavor unfortunately is lacking.

But, let me explain to you why I think this little nook tucked away in a Koreatown strip mall will draw a righteous foodie crowd.

When you see the pictures and the presentation, you’ll understand that the people who work here take so much pride in creating and serving what they believe to be THE BEST. 

If they hear their critics cry, they will create better food.  It’s only been open a month.  So much time to grow!

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When you walk in, you are greeted by the #CooksAndServants themselves at this open kitchen.  Chef Nick Erven (of The Farmer’s Daughter Hotel and Tart) has gathered a band of heavily-bearded brothers that are too focused to be friendly.  That was not quite as jarring as the BLAZING light behind the counter that would unfortunately flood into the dining room.

Most people don’t care as much about atmosphere if they are going to be served phenomenal food.  I’ll capitulate to that every so often.  But if I don’t like my experience in the restaurant, my focus is disturbed.

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I didn’t get an exact count, but there are probably about 18 tables in the whole place.  I LOVE spots like this.  Instantly I thought about one of my favorite NYC Greenwich Villages cafes: The Little Owl.  You have to wait for at least an hour, that is, if they had availability at all!  Here, the eating area is close quarters and the tables seem small by LA dining standards.  No matter for most foodies though.  If it’s good, we’ll sit wherever.

After about a minute of looking around, I sighed.  As there are no windows, the lighting would stay exactly the same all night.  If that’s the case AND the kitchen light leaks into the dining space, they should really turn down the lights.  That’s an easy fix!

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The wine list is IMPRESSIVE.  Fifty wines from all over the world by the glass that you can order by the Taste, Glass, Piche, or Bottle so you can pair accordingly with the course.  Prices vary as much as the flavor profiles.  My waitress was properly educated and more than happy to discuss our preferences and bring samples.

As for the food….

We were instructed to order in courses and share what came out.  The menu lists the main ingredients of each dish which doesn’t prepare you for what is about to be served.

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Oh my goodness, the presentation was breathtaking.  I would have never guessed raw panacotta and tomatoes could be so beautiful!  Unfortunately my excitement for the dish diminished instantly after one bite….The amuse bouche of melon and flowers with a honey drizzle was so much more fun.  How could that be?!!!  Let me try another bite, this time with squash. The flowers were surprisingly tasty.  But still, overall terribly bland.  Ugh. I dared not ask for salt because I didn’t want to insult the bearded boys who had put so much effort into this.

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The grilled octopus that the waitress raved about “being crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside” was not, although thankfully tender (a feat in itself). And…it tasted like a salt lick.  Even my companion gaged.  As for the rice….Perhaps rice usually isn’t prepared like risotto because the grain gets too sticky instead of smooth.

Third plate’s a charm?

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Nope.  The “Summer Corn” was not the sweet white juicy kernels I as expecting.  This baby corn was covered in flowers, radish, crispy chicken skin, and a seasoning that tasted like Cheetos.  (I’m undecided whether that’s a good or a bad thing.)

At this point, I’ll be honest, we paid the bill and left.  What should have been a farm-to-table roller coaster ride was a more like a float down the sleepy river.  After an hour of nibbling, I was STARVING.

Like I said when I began this story, I’m hopeful for them.  Koreatown is booming and cool kids LOVE hideaways like this.  The whole experience drew my mind to Uchi in Austin, one of the best restaurants in the country.  Saint Martha has the same vision, passion, and soul to be a stand out, desirable farm-to-table like Uchi with Japanese.

Saint Martha 740 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 387-2300

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Westside LA welcomes two new restaurants

April 25th, 2014 No Comments

Living in Santa Monica, I really don’t have a TON of restaurant options west of 26th street and north of Wilshire.  On a regular basis, you’ll find me at:

  • Rustic Canyon (best seasonal f-t-t on the westside)
  • R+D kitchen (I call it my “Cheers bar”)
  • Hillstone
  • Kreation (healthy Persian and juice bar)
  • Milo + Olive (casual pizza)
  • FarmShop (seasonal delicious f-t-t)
  • Mercado (light Mexican)
  • BluePlate Taco (best Tex-Mex)
  • Fig (Best Happy Hour: 50% off from 5-6pm.  In the Fairmont Hotel)
  • Marmalade (Diner meets deli on Montana)
  • Toscana (Italian restaurant with “fun” westside bar scene)
  • Villetta (hand-crafted Italian that is often worth the expense)
  • Via Veneta (small, special occasion, authentic Italian on Main Street)

That covers Santa Monica and Brentwood. Please note Sawtelle and Venice are not included on this list. Thankfully in the last month we’ve had two new restaurants open and I love them both!

Art’s Table

Art's Table Santa Monica

On the corner of Montana and 10th Street, the old Babalou was totally renovated to be a modern, rustic wine bar and gastropub of sorts.  A month or so ago, the doors opened and the “tired of the same old food” neighborhood flocked into Art’s Table named after Art Verge, a Santa Monica local historian and business man, also father to Mark Verge (founder of Westside Rentals).  My gratitude goes to chef Mark Middleman who gives character to a very safe menu of  American classics.  They’re known for the burger, kale salad, and veggie sides.  You won’t recognize many of the wines, which I have found to be a good thing. Dinner is busy and you’ll see a line around the block for brunch.

Sloppy Joe Fries

Sloppy Joe Fries

Kale Salad

Kale Salad

Art's Table Burger

More pics on their instagram @ArtsTableSM.

Adoteca

Adoteca Brentwood

In the coming weeks, my peeps at Villetta and Toscana will discover they have some serious competition for best Italian fare with Adoteca on the block.  Literally all three are in Brentwood a stone’s throw from each other. When I saw this picture on Adoteca’s homepage, there was no question where our group was going for dinner. Adoteca scallops   It was no surprise the Michelin starred chef Antonio Mure and front of house manager Paolo Cesaro from Ado in Venice are the duo behind Adoteca.  Every dish delivered on our expectations.  Unfortunately, as a measure of etiquette, I kept my phone in my purse so I don’t have pictures to post. If you go, we all  insist you order the beet pasta with a quail bolognese.  It was hands down the fan favorite along with the creme brûlée.

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Holiday Survival Guide: Best New Bars of 2013

December 15th, 2013 No Comments

Mary Rambin Drinking a Beer

When I go home over the holidays, I like to try the new hot spots all of my friends have been raving about. Thrillist just posted this list that includes bars from all over the country.  They rarely lead me astray, so if you see your city, give their rec a shot!

Click here to read the full article with descriptions of each place.

Atlanta

Austin

  • CRAFT PRIDE
    What you’re getting: A Jester King seasonal
  • WHISLER’S
    What you’re getting: The Dealer’s Choice

Cambridge, MA

  • BEAT HÔTEL
    What you’re getting: A VFW Old Fashioned

Charleston, NC

THE RAREBIT
What you’re getting: Moscow Mule with homemade Sweatman’s ginger beer

Chicago

  • BILLY SUNDAY
    What you’re getting: Fernet & Cola
  • THREE DOTS AND A DASH
    What you’re getting: Poipu Beach Boogie Board; a Treasure Chest (if you’re a baller and/or shot-caller)
  • PUNCH HOUSE
    What you’re getting: Dusek Punch

Dallas

Houston

Las Vegas

  • VELVETEEN RABBIT
    What you’re getting: The Crucifix in a Deathhand; the Burning Bush

Los Angeles

  • NO VACANCY
    What you’re getting: A delicious gin cocktail
  • HONEYCUT
    What you’re getting: Any drink on their extensive list; the Toucan Sam if they’ve got it

Louisville

  • EL CAMINO
    What you’re getting: Whatever sweet tiki drink Susie Hoyt wants to make you

Miami

  • DROGERIE
    What you’re getting: The Pain Killer

Milwaukee

Minneapolis

Nashville

  • PINEWOOD SOCIAL
    What you’re getting: The Honesty of Constant Human Error

New Orleans

New York

  • TØRST
    What you’re getting: A beer you’ve never heard of before that’s probably been barrel-aged
  • DEAD RABBIT
    What you’re getting: Morning Reviver
  • AMERICAN WHISKEY
    What you’re getting: Remember the Maine

Oakland

Portland

San Diego

San Francisco

  • TRICK DOG
    What you’re getting: Eye of the Tiger
  • MIKKELLER BAR
    What you’re getting: A crazy sour beer you’ve never heard of

Seattle

Washington DC

  • 2 BIRDS 1 STONE
    What you’re getting: The Daily Punch
  • BLUEJACKET
    What you’re getting: James & the Giant; the Stroppy pale ale

 

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“Where should we go for dinner tonight?”

September 13th, 2013 No Comments

Thrillist iPhone App

 

When the questions arises, I can NEVER think of the places on my wish list or Eater’s hit list.  No more guessing or driving around in circles with the new Thrillist iPhone app.  

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What’s more important in a restaurant: food or scene? – RivaBella Review

August 23rd, 2013 No Comments

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This is not a new question, but one you should consider if you want to go to the new LA hotspot RivaBella. IDG (the group that runs Boa and Katana) and chef Gino Angelini took over the old Hamburger Hamlet on West Sunset to open this Italian outpost for scensters.   The interior design and decor is quite beautiful.  Cozy but chic.  The people are arguably even prettier.  But the food is average at best. Coming from Gino Angelini of one of my all time favorite Italian joints (Angelini Osteria on Beverly), this was a huge disappointment.

 

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Jonathan Gold from the LA Times says, “RivaBella makes ordinary Italian perfect.”  That’s a stretch for me, especially at those pricepoints.

Go for drinks; enjoy the scene; then get the H outta there.

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There’s a new one in your hood. Have you tried it?

June 27th, 2013 No Comments
The Smile, NYC

The Smile, NYC

It seems like every time I open a magazine, there’s a feature on an up-and-coming food city.  That city is different EVERY time.  Which means, it’s likely you live in one and have great new restaurants opening up around you….daily!  So it’s time to ditch the old favorites and try a new spot. (Randall, that means you too.)

I wrote about Baltimore and Oakland just last week.  Denver and Houston are topping lists.  Atlanta has been a breading ground since Richard Blais won Top Chef.  Chicago, with 2 years of Michelin ranking under its belt, has been killing it with foodies.

What I’ve found is that no matter where I am, I can always find an exceptional farm-to-table restaurant.  Pretty much in any neighborhood.  I know “Farm-to-Table” sounds cliche, but can we really argue with chefs who are using locally sourced produce and preparing it in a clean and creative way?

New FTT restos are popping up on every corner in NYC and LA.  Below are 2 in each I think you’ll enjoy as much as I do. All of them are small and super cute, which means a reservation is a good idea.  If there are only two of you, you could luck out on a bar seat (except at The Smile).

In the comments below, go ahead and share your new favorite so we can give it a shot if we’re in your neighborhood.  Thanks in advance!

 

(To see the images larger, click the pics.)

 

NEW YORK

The Smile, 26 Bond Street, NYC, (646) 329-5836 thesmilenyc.com

Quick note: celeb scene is almost as good as the food.  If you do go to The Smile, say hello to Lily from my SoulCycle training group!

 

Tiny’s 135 West Broadway TriBeCa NYC (212) 374-1135 TinysNYC.com

 

LOS ANGELES

 

Willie Jane, 1031 Abbot Kinney, Venice CA (310) 392- 2425 WillieJane.com

 

 

Rustic Canyon,1119 Wilshire Blvd Santa Monica, (310) 393-7050 RusticCanyonWineBar.com

Rustic Canyon has been around for a while, but they just changed chefs.  Now at the helm is Jeremy Fox who is was previously at the only vegetarian restaurant to ever earn a Michelin star (Ubunto in Napa).  We at there last night and his food was fresh and extraordinary.

 

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Old building, new Penthouse in Beverly Hills

April 11th, 2013 No Comments

Chef Josef Morphis

Mastro’s Steakhouse, an institution in Beverly Hills known for it’s butter-slathered steaks (my favorite in LA!), second floor piano lounge, and working girl bar, has decided it’s time to restore it’s youth.  Back in my college days, you would find twenty-something celebs, agents, and scensters dining there or downstairs begging for a reservation.  Such is no longer the case.  The average age of the male clientle seems to be about 60.  So one day, the boys said, let’s do something with our crowd and this third floor.

They built “The Penthouse,” a more modern fine dining experience with a small bar and spacious outdoor terrace.  The terrace is  the best part because it’s hard to find nice outdoor dining in Beverly Hills unless you go to a hotel.  Another bonus: they stay open until 1am if you’re looking for a nice late night snack.

Mastro's Penthouse

While you can get the entire Mastro’s menu there, Chef Josef Morphis (with me above) has gone to great lengths to offer you a lighter fare in his appetizer and sushi menu. Our group devoured two seafood towers of about 8 unique dishes. The tuna on some sort of Parmesan cracker you see below was awesome.  Prices are a little lower than the steakhouse, but not by much.  I’m sorry my picture sucks…

Mastro's Penthouse Sushi Tower

I guess I’ll have to go back and get a better one to replace it.  You’ll find me on the terrace, martini and hand. Feel free to join me!

(Full disclosure: Mastro’s offered a media discount in exchange for the review.)

 

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Food that will M.A.K.E. your day in LA

March 28th, 2013 No Comments

M.A.K.E. Lasagna

Looks good doesn’t it?!! This lasagna is actually better than good. It’s amazing. Mind-blowing. And meatless. And vegan. AND raw!

Don’t judge, don’t judge.

If I told you it was loaded in fat would that help you believe me that it’s delicious?

The fat comes from the macadamia nut cream and the pistachios. The rest is all raw, organic, refreshing, flavorful veg. That’s what you’ll find an entire menu of at M.A.K.E. - the latest venture from Matthew Keeney – in the Santa Monica mall (more on that later).

My friend and foodie extraordinaire Payman took me for dinner one night and I’ll be forever .

M.A.K.E.

This, my friends, is one of the most extraordinary “cheese” plates you’ll ever devour. All made from nuts. Here we have chipotle (top), cheddar that tastes like a pepperoni (center), and truffle nut cheeses. They are so silky smooth you’d never guess they were derived from a crunchy nut. Those crackers on the side are Almond fennel flax (I believe). Thankfully they sell them by the bag so I could bring them home more to eat with guac and jam. All of those were gone by the end of the meal.

Bottom line, the food at M.A.K.E. is not for vegans, it’s for people who enjoy rich and delicious food because if I hadn’t told you what it was made of, you would have been perfectly happy to eat it and never ask. And yes, they do serve beer and wine; a solid selection I might add.

MAKE culinary institute

If you love the food as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know they have a Culinary Institute on-site where you can learn to make two vegan dishes and devour them with wine for $85. Considering their menu prices, that’s not a bad deal. Aside from the pricing, there are a couple of drawbacks to M.A.K.E. that I am going to ask you to overlook on your first visit.

M.A.K.E. restaurant

First of all, it’s located on the top level of the Santa Monica mall in “The Market:” a collection of really great cafe and deli style vendors offering their unique take on food. There’s a farm-to-table comfort food, fine cheeses, a wine shop, and a nice patio to enjoy it all. Honestly, the cafe style reminds me of one of those cut-out cafes you would find in a mall in Europe amongst designer clothes. I am always pleasantly surprised at home good the food is at those.

 

M.A.K.E. menu

 

The menu is a bit pricey but the food is wildly sophisticated (in a good way) to the point where I would like to be in a nicer setting. The decor of M.A.K.E. is right on target for San Fran chic, but looking out into The Market takes away from the ambiance. That being said, if they can start to pack the place with a solid crowd, you might not notice that much.

I say it’s a must for an LA local. Go with an open mind and enjoy the food. You WILL NOT be sorry. Then you’ll return to “The Market” for all of the other fun things it has to offer.

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