Osawa Shabu Shabu + Sushi – Pasadena

OSAWA Shabu Shabu - Pasadena

Osawa Shabu Shabu + Sushi

Osawa Shabu Shabu + Sushi is one of those places I used to walk by frequently, as I used to play trivia at Slater’s 50/50, their neighbors on the corner of Union and Raymond Avenue in Old Town Pasadena. For whatever reason or another, however, be it time, money or forgetfulness, I’ve never managed to go in. I’ve dined on shabu shabu a handful of times in the past, but found I’ve preferred Chinese Hot Pot to its austere, albeit delicious, Japanese cousin. However, Osawa Shabu Shabu offers more than this upscale hot pot, including other traditional Japanese cuisine, flavors and components using preeminent ingredients and techniques.

Owner Sayuri Tachibe employs Omotenashi, the Japanese art of hospitality, where customers are honored guests and eating at Osawa Shabu Shabu + Sushi becomes more than just a meal, but an an elevated experience in traditional Japanese dining.

Last week I was invited to sample the dinner menu at Osawa Shabu Shabu and I took my friend and fellow food fiend, Evan, who would be having his first experience with shabu shabu.

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Fickle – Downtown L.A. (Vlog)

My friend and fellow food adventurer, Evan, had prompted me to suss out some new places for us to try. We like to keep it fairly local, and without too much trouble, I narrowed it down toThe Boiling Crab and Fickle. I put it to Evan, and The Boiling Crab won out for its proximity to our area. We fell in love with TBC, but that is another story for another day. Fickle had been weighing on his mind, and we wound up giving it a go once our schedules aligned. Though I’m wearing exactly zero make-up, my hair was cute and the lighting was amazing so I felt the inspiration to film another Tastemade episode. Enjoy!

Here are a couple of snaps I posted on Instagram:

Buffalo Cauliflower

The buffalo cauliflower is an item on their special happy hour menu only. On the weekends and after 7pm weekdays, it’s unavailable. It’s made with “tapatio buffalo sauce”, which Evan enjoyed but I thought tasted more like Tapatio rather than a buttery buffalo sauce (like Frank’s or Duff’s). It’s still good, especially with those generous blue cheese crumbles. Mmmmm!

Roasted Bone Marrow
Ginger Soy Lacquer | Citrus Basil Gremolata | Pickled Daikon Salad

My favorite bite of the night, hands down. Though anyone who knows me well enough is not surprised in the least, because I have been writing sonnets about my love for sucking the literal marrow out of life for quite possibly forever and a day. The gremolata added a layer of flavor and texture I never knew I was missing before, but now need to incorporate the next time I decide to roast some bone marrow at home. The daikon salad was refreshing and just the juxtapose to round out the dish.

Bacon Wrapped Quail
Mushroom Risotto Filling | Spinach | Pine Nuts | Cranberry Demi Jus

Evan and I zeroed in on that quail as soon as our eyes fell on the mains portion of the menu. Quail is not something I’ve attempted to cook yet, but not for lack of interest on my part, just a touch of nervousness I have when dealing with poultry. Also, I don’t really remember that I want to work with it until I am wandering the butchery at Bristol Farms, but then I have no idea what to do with it and you know what? Stop hounding me. I’ll get to it eventually; for now let me enjoy the occasional quail dish. Yeesh. This dish had everything going for it: a bed of greens, my favorite nut in the nuthouse, a savory delicious sauce to sop up the meat and spinach with and stunning risotto. My one quibble? The bacon was a touch salty for my palate. Otherwise, a damn tasty dish.

Though Fickle didn’t completely blow our minds, Evan and I were overall impressed and know we have another spot to check out when the seasons (and therefore the menu) changes. Best of all, Fickle is located just one short block away from the Metro Gold Line!

362 East 1st Street
Los Angeles CA 90012
Tel: 213.628.1888
Happy Hour: Monday-Friday, 5p-7p

Dining With: Tastemade Party

Last Thursday evening the Doubletree Hotel in Little Tokyo (Downtown Los Angeles) played host to soiree thrown by Tastemade, my go-to app for one-minute video reviews of my favorite places to dine at. I almost didn’t make it, as I was bone tired from a full morning and sweltering early afternoon at the Los Angeles Zoo (for my Beastly Ball media sneak peek!)

Here are some close ups of my favorite dishes:

Crab, Scallop & Shrimp Ceviche by Ayara Thai

Orecchiette with Truffle Sauce & Peas by Artisan House L.A.

Wachoes by The Lobos Truck

Bold Ramen by Tatsu Ramen

Pork with cabbage, rhubarb puree & crispy Brussels sprouts by Local Table

Thanks again for the fabulous evening, Tastemade! So happy to be part of this great and ever-growing community. Now I have all of these delicious restaurants to add to my “To Eat” list!

Vegetarian Dim Sum House – Chinatown, New York

Vegetarian Dim Sum House - Chinatown New York

Vegetarian Dim Sum House

Chinatown, New York City, New York

This night began earlier when my hostess, bartender extraordinaire Miss Chockie, took me to La Maison Cointreau for an evening of booze-soaked education and history of Cointreau. A handful of drinks with just enough small bites to keep me upright later and it was time for real sustenance. My hostess and I grabbed a cab from Greenwich Village to Chinatown where we met up with Jake, Miss Chockie’s vegan fiance. Admittedly, when I’d been told we were heading to a vegetarian dim sum restaurant I was worried. Not just the usual omnivore-who-is-desperately-in-need-of-meat kind of concern, but the legit concern of someone who is soy sensitive due to a wonky thyroid.

Chockie reassured me….well, at least I think she did. To be honest, this night is kind of hazy in my memory and my phone with all of my notes died approximately five days later. In my hand. While I was on a hunt for bagels and Indian food. I found both, thank goodness, but getting to Philadelphia the next day proved to be a feat I’d not prepared for since before the dark ages of not owning a cell phone. Dark days, my friends, dark days.

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Masa of Echo Park

Masa of Echo Park

Masa of Echo Park

Masa of Echo Park was initially published in 2011 for the The Place: Los Angeles. I have since updated and expanded the review.

“Echo Park is the urban Mayberry,” says Rhonda Reynolds, co-owner of Masa of Echo Park, a mom and pop restaurant on the corner of Sunset and Lemoyne, famed for their Chicago style pizza. She couldn’t be more correct. Though it’s easy for locals and visitors alike to breeze through this west downtown neighborhood on their way to West L.A., Echo Park has a lot going on for itself. The first incarnation of Masa of Echo Park was not initially a restaurant, but a car dealership! Built in 1922, the building housed roadsters for the discerning motorists of the rapidly expanding Los Angeles population.

By the 1930′s, however, the building was tricked out as the Carty Bros. Bon Ton Market & Van De Kamps Bakery, handing the keys over to Sarnos Family in the 1950′s for Carmelli’s Italian Bakery, Market and Coffee Shop; then in the 1970′s El Carmelo + Carmelo’s Cuban Restaurant & Bakery had run of the place. It took a break some time in the 1990′s before being bought and done up by Rob Rowe and Rhonda Reynolds, who officially opened Masa’s doors in 2004.

A Chicago native with extensive experience in Chicago pizzeria’s, Rob not only knows his pizza, but imports signature Chicago staples such as: Scala’s authentic hot Giardiniera and “well-seasoned pans lovingly forged in the Windy City”. Otherwise, all produce is fresh and local. With friendly marigold walls and country kitchen chic style, Masa is welcoming in both atmosphere and attitude.

Homemade Garlic Bread and Marinara
Homemade Garlic Bread with Marinara 5.95

Knowing our pizzas would take forty minutes, my friend Natalie and I kicked off our meal by demolishing the garlic bread: an entire loaf of bread made in-house, toasted & drizzled with olive oil, fresh chopped garlic & Parmesan cheese, served with warm, house made marinara sauce. Neither one of us could name its rival. If I weren’t intent on finally devouring the elusive Chicago Style Pizza, I would have very much been content with this basic appetizer and the salad below.

Manchego Salad 9.95

Rhonda, one of the owners, kindly sent over the unrivaled Manchego salad: organic baby lettuces, dates, granny smith apples, candied walnuts, Manchego cheese and pear dressing, drizzled with a balsamic reduction and olive oil. It almost made Natalie and I feel like we had enough “green points” to justify digging into our own deep dish pizza’s.

Lots of Cheese - Masa of Echo Park
Lots of Cheese 15.95
Mozzarella, Romano & Buffalo Mozzarella…lots of it

Natalie, a staunch pescaterian (she eats seafood), went for this trifecta of cheesy goodness and declared it an instant hit. I cannot comment personally, because she would have stabbed the back of my hand with her fork were I to have gone after a bite.

Custom Chicago Pizza - Masa of Echo Park
Custom Chicago Style Pizza $20.95
Genoa salami, pineapple, mushrooms

Small pizza’s start at $13.45 with an array of toppings costing $2.50 or $3.50, depending on which list you pick from. All of mine came from the $2.50 list, which means my small pizza cost the same amount as a large from the prefab list. I’m not saying it isn’t worth every penny, but I do caution you to make sure you have someone to help you eat all of this! I only ate two slices before I had to call it quits in order to leave room for dessert (and trust me; Natalie and I were in desperate need of wheelbarrows to haul our butts outta there, we were so full!). I gave the leftovers to my family. The consensus was unanimous: extraordinarily quality pizza. Fresh as the morning sun, I could taste the ‘homemade’ with every bite.

Croissant Bread Pudding - Masa of Echo Park
Warm Croissant Bread Pudding 8.95
Chocolate, almond & butter croissants baked in vanilla custard, warm caramel drizzle

Natalie and I were careful to only have two pieces each of our respective pizzas, for we promised ourselves the famed warm croissant bread pudding: chocolate, almond & butter croissants, pan baked in vanilla custard and drizzled with warm caramel sauce. How can I describe such bliss, other than to compare it to the Highlander: There can only be one.

Having only heard tales of the elusive Chicago style pizza my whole life, I was eager to finally check the deep dish pizza off of my ‘foodie bucket list.’ A cozy spot good for family, date night, small and large friends night out, Masa of Echo Park is not only worth a try, but worthy of visiting time and time again.

Masa of Echo Park
1800 West Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 989-1558

Masa of Echo Park on Urbanspoon

Ocean Avenue Seafood – Santa Monica

Menu - Ocean Avenue Seafood

Ocean Avenue Seafood in Santa Monica

Disclaimer: Ocean Avenue Seafood is now closed, and being replaced with Water Grill. Both restaurants are owned and operated by Kings Seafood Co. This article was first published The Place: Los Angeles, June 2011. I’ve updated it a bit and offer it as reference.

As soon as I saw the words “Raw Bar” I knew we would be eating at Ocean Avenue Seafood restaurant for this Santa Monica feature. Oh, little oysters, how do I love thee? There was no question in my mind that I was going to order the Oyster Sampler, a dozen of six selections of the finest oysters from all over the globe. Patience, I told myself, don’t look like a fanatic and scare the nice waitress in training. So I ordered a lime Ricky (not on the menu, but definitely something I recommend since the bartender perfected it with little instruction from me) and started to peruse over the menu.

Fried Calamari - Ocean Avenue Seafood
Fried Calamari

Patience flew out the window, though, as soon as my then-boyfriend cracked open the menu and saw fried calamari. While not my first (or even second) choice as far as appetizers go, I will readily admit that it was the most accurately cooked fried calamari ever, without a trace of rubbery texture.

Oyster Sampler Platter - Ocean Avenue Seafood
Oyster Sampler Platter

Forget patience and professionalism and bring on my sweet little mollusks and let me at ‘em! Accompanied with freshly grated horseradish, lemon, cocktail sauce and a red wine vinegar mignonette sauce I tried very earnestly to savor each one and record their flavors. In other words, I tried my best not to be a savage and down them in under a minute. My favorites were Blue Point and Beausoliel, both extremely creamy and silky in texture. Falsa Bay was probably my least favorite, only reserved for purists seeking out potent flavors of briny waters.

Tristan Island Lobster Tails
Tristan Island Lobster Tails

Crab Stuffed Shrimp - Ocean Avenue Seafood
Crab Stuffed Shrimp

It was difficult for both J and I to pick an entrée, but seafood outings are so few and far between, it was decided go big or go home. He went with the Tristan Island Lobster tails while I settled on the crab stuffed shrimp. Both came with garlic mashed potatoes and seasoned sautéed vegetables. For allegedly being one of the most uninhabited islands in the world, the waters off of Tristan Island sure does produce some tasty lobsters. Meaty and juicy, it is safe to say that these were the filet mignon of the sea. It was tough to pull my attention away from the lure of crab cakes, but my crab stuffed jumbo shrimp was the plump and succulent best of both worlds, with the added bonus of a light dill sauce.

Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding
Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding

How on earth we had room for dessert, I will never know. I place all of the blame on J, who could convince me to gorge myself into any food coma. We went with one of our favorites and ordered the warm chocolate bread pudding. Delivered to us fresh and piping hot from the oven, we delved in spoon-first, enjoying the delicate cocoa flavor mingled with the vanilla bean and raspberry sauce, the latter of which we both thought could be done without.

I would say lunch is just as divine as dinner, if not more so as we were able to sit in the covered patio and have a lovely view of the ocean. White linen and wicker furniture with heat lamps for blustery days and chillier evenings are the epitome of beach chic here in SoCal restaurants. The staff was friendly and helpful with menu knowledge. As Water Grill will be replacing Ocean Avenue Seafood, I’ll put their info here instead.

Water Grill
1401 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Maximiliano – Highland Park

A Morning in Highland Park

Maximiliano – Kinda Old School Italian

I’d had my heart set on Maximiliano for a number of months, with a number of items on their tantalizing menu tempting me, all stemming from descriptive wording on their website to luscious images from local food bloggers making the rounds on the internet. Three particular selections on the menu kept crying out to me, and when opportunity arose to feature Highland Park for a magazine, I leapt like a salivating cat underneath a dangling piece of bacon. Mmmm. Bacon.

A Morning in Highland Park

A Morning in Highland Park

With my brunch buddies Steffie and Evan in tow, we carpooled over and made our 11am reservation (not precisely a necessity, but it never hurts!), scoring rock star street parking alongside the brick building that now houses the restaurant. The dream child of Chef Andre Guerrero – born and raised in the adjacent neighborhood of Glassell Park – Maximiliano is a welcome second feat, as his first “baby” (the much celebrated Oinkster), is already the stuff of legends. Inspired by the Italian flag, the interior of Maximiliano was just old school enough to give us security that a fantastic meal was shortly to arrive, and modern enough to put us at ease in a friendly, airy, and bright environment. Just the setting brunch in Los Angeles ought to be.

Baker's Bread Box - Maximiliano, Highland Park
Baker’s Bread Box $7

Hearing our hunger pangs rumbling, our waiter encouraged us to order the Baker’s Bread Box, a literal box filled with a selection of breakfast pastries, made in-house. Our box was bursting with incredibly moist zucchini bread, orange ginger bread, raspberry mini muffins, and scones along with fresh cream. I laugh now to recall that I did not think we would finish it; nearly every bite was devoured in a ravenous frenzy. My favorite was definitely the zucchini bread, while Steffie and Evan both took a particular liking to the orange ginger bread.

Convincing my friends to go with those menu items that I had dancing around in my head, like the visions of sugar plums to the slumbering children of the holiday poem, was not as monumental a task as I had been anticipating. Possibly because the frenzied gleam in my eyes clued them in that to question my cravings would be disastrous.

Maximiliano Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict - Highland Park
Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict $14
country potatoes

The first main to arrive was the smoked salmon Eggs Benedict, and in my opinion, a brunch just isn’t a brunch without some variety of Eggs Benedict. An oldie but goodie, it featured wilted spinach with generous portions of salmon adorned with two of the most perfectly coddled, yolky eggs, topped with house-made Hollandaise. A true-blue staple for brunch traditionalists. Maximiliano also offers applewood bacon confit Eggs Benedict as an alternative.

Carbonara Pasta with Bacon Confit - Maximiliano, Highland Park
Carbonara Pasta $12
bacon confit, poached egg

Carbonara with Bacon Confit and Poached Egg - Maximiliano

Our second main was on the unconventional side of the menu: Carbonara Pasta with bacon confit and poached egg. The wide noodles had an al dente freshness to them that told me they were made in-house that very morning (there really is no pasta more satisfying than when it’s made fresh), and the bacon confit was more like the texture of chunked ham steak, so juicy and meaty, with a tenderness I do not normally associate with bacon. I ate the bulk of this dish, already scheming on who else I might be able to talk into coming out for another brunch date just so I could indulge in this creamy, meaty, eggy, carbohydrate paradise again.

A Morning in Highland Park
Maximiliano Bloody Mary $8

While mimosa’s are the standard drink for brunch here in L.A., I’m actually a bigger fan of bloody Mary’s. However, I am persnickety about them, and this peppery, spice-laden vegetable circus was too busy for me. It was a whole buffet of flavors going on in one glass, and I had to enlist my friends to help me polish it off. Really excellent if you like your Bloody Mary’s to have multiple layers of pepperiness, but I’d pass next time.

Ricotta Pancake with Lemon Curd and Berries - Maximiliano, Highland Park
Ricotta Pancake $8
lemon curd, fresh berries

A Morning in Highland Park

After many savories, it was time to indulge our sweet tooth with the ricotta pancake, complemented with a generous dollop of lemon curd and a sprinkling of fresh berries. It was our just desserts to max out on, bringing our bellies to maximum brunch contentedness.

With excellent service, quality food, moderate prices and just the bright kind of atmosphere I like to brunch in, it’s a no brainer that I’d definitely recommend and return to Maximiliano. Ciao!

5930 York Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA

Maximiliano on Urbanspoon