Category Archives: Great Food

Locations primarily reviewed for their fantastic food.

Eat Less and Taste More @ Hostaria Del Piccolo

Hostaria Del PiccoloHostaria Del Piccolo
512 Rose Avenue,
Venice Beach, CA
310.392.8822
 

I have been writing this post for a few weeks now, because I have a lot to say about this restaurant in particular.  I finally decided I need to put it up because all the other media seem to be beating me to it, and i’ve been coming here since opening day!!!  Reviews and press have just started to come out about this place (LA times did a feature and they have been mentioned on KTLA radio) and rightly so, it is a wonderful restaurant to get really well made Italian food. It is also a fun place to go with friends for a drink.

The space

The location I am discussing in this post is the brand new Hostaria Del Piccolo in Venice Beach, California. However please note that the same wonderful menu can be found at their original Santa Monica location on 6th and Broadway, I highly recommend checking out both as they have the same amazing food and drinks but totally different vibes.

Back of house

Hostaria Del Piccolo in Santa Monica has always been one of my favorite dinner spots, so I was excited when they opened this new location on Rose Ave (a really popular area for great restaurants right now.)

This location is much larger than the first and you really feel the openness when you first walk in. Their signature bright blue aprons can be seen on the staff dotted around the room and they’ve cleverly accented the bar with this color too which make it look young, fun and cool.

Blue lit bar

I actually really like the lighting in general at this place, there is a tunnel light that wraps across the ceiling giving it a modern vibe that works well against the wood communal tables.

Kitchen

The Kitchen is in open view to the customers so you can watch pasta being rolled and pizzas being made in front of you. This is an authentic Italian restaurant and the food is nothing short of fantastic.

Pamperdella   Verdura

The owner is Italian,  a lot of the staff are Italian and you feel its authenticity not only when you taste the food, but when you talk to the people there (many of whom are Italian). In particular I want to mention one of the managers Christian Bertolli, who is probably one of the most charismatic, friendly and delightful Italian men I have ever encountered.  All the staff are lovely here and the bar team are extremely knowledgeable on ‘real’ drinks and cocktails, due to their new Beverage director Greg Bryson who was hired to update the bar program at both locations a few months ago.

Greg Bryson at work

I have been to this new spot three times already and every time it is busier than the last. I am going to talk about some of my favorite dishes, however I am yet to find one I don’t actually like.  There are many more on the menu that are worth trying, but the ones below are my top choices.

The Food

GNOCCHI  ricotta-potato gnocchi, fresh tomatoes, basil, parmesan $15 ($6 on Happy Hour menu)

Gnocchi to me is best described as a potato dumpling. I imagine if pasta and potato had a baby, they would have a gnocchi! Most places I have tried gnocchi before I didn’t really like it too much.  I found it to be a stodgy and heavy dish, however this is not the case at Hostaria. Their Gnocchi (made fresh daily) is soft and fluffy, it is deliciously cheesy with a rich tomato sauce on top.

to go

It is also not a ridiculously huge ‘American’ portion. All the portions at Hostaria are just right, they take quality over quantity to a new level. In fact, their slogan is EAT LESS, TASTE MORE! In a country that is often over indulgent I really love this idea, I am always full when I leave and never have a doggy bag. The portion sizes are just right for a comfortable evening.

COSTICINE  roasted pork ribs, cannellini beans    $12

Ribs

When I am trying not to eat breads or cheese (so hard at an Italian place) this is my go-to dish of choice.  You get three delicious pork ribs that are perfectly seasoned and full of flavor but not covered in sauce, on top of cannellini beans which are filling without being over indulgent. A really yummy, simple appetizer.

GRIGLIATI  grilled fresh calamari, mild spicy Swiss-chard $12

Grilled Calamari

I am a big fan of fried calamari (which they also have on offer) however when you want something less greasy this is a nice appetizer option. The spicy chard gives an almost peppery spiciness to the dish. The texture is a little more rubbery than the fried version but really good nonetheless.

The Pizza

There are way too many pizzas on their menu for me to possibly discuss here, but I will name a few that particularly stand out. The main thing about their pizzas are the delicious thin crusts that taste freshly baked (because they are!)

There are white pizzas (without tomato sauce) as well as gluten free dough as an option, vegan and vegetarian choices. Some of the best i’ve tried so far are as follows…

FIGOS prosciutto, seasonal figs, mozzarella, mascarpone, vincotto $16

FORMAGGI mozzarella, smoked mozzarella, ricotta, goat cheese, gorgonzola $13

ASPARAGI asparagus, egg, mozzarella, parmesan shavings, truffle salt $15

I want to keep going on the menu (haven’t even begun to touch on their other delicious pasta options, not to mention they also have a phenomenal brunch menu that has items such as Ricotta Stuffed Pancakes, Espresso rubbed Pork and Eggs and a Salmon Eggs Benedict to name but a few) but I have to talk about their drinks too.

The Bar

Greg Bryson created some delicious drinks for the menu and will be rolling out his Spring creations soon i’m sure. They only makes drinks using fresh juices and local produce (as is the only way these days) and Greg has stocked the bar with a wide range of Amari (beverage bitters from Italy) which is great for those who love bitter sweet digestivo.

I have mentioned several of Greg’s drinks in past posts, because they are excellent.  Acero was one of my favorites during Fall and is still available at both locations.

CuccioloThe cocktails on the menu are all great, but if you ask Greg (when he’s tending bar) to make you something ‘bartenders choice’ he always comes up with something fantastic whether it’s a classic made correctly, or something he makes up on the spot, he always makes sure his customers are happy.

IMG_8420All the bar staff seem focused and friendly and I am yet to have a bad drink at this bar.  Here are two other popular drinks on the current menu…

CUCCIOLO Plymouth Gin, St.Germain, cucumber, lemon $12

BLACKWORK ORANGE 100% Agave tequila, fresh lime, tangerine juice, agave nectar, black sea salt rim $12

This place gets 5 out of 5 for food. It is hands down one of my favorite places to eat because I love Italian and this is done to the highest degree.

5full (1)

Drinks easily get 5 out of 5. I have only ever had drinks made by Greg himself so I may be biased, but from what I can tell all the bartenders have been trained to make the drinks correctly too and the options are a great range for all tastes.

5full

This is a great ‘first date’ restaurant because it is fun and friendly, with a romantic edge without being overly loved up. Definitely stop by and see for yourself when you are on the West side 🙂

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A great night out at ‘Tar & Roses’

Tar and RosesTar & Roses

602 Santa Monica Blvd,
Santa Monica, CA

310 587 0700

FutureGreg (FG) and I hadn’t been on a date night in a while due to illness and busy schedules, so I was very excited to try this new place yesterday which FG had suggested after meeting the owner, Chef Andrew Kirschner.

We arrived without a reservation thinking it wouldn’t be a problem, mainly because it was a Monday night and we usually sit at the bar anyway.  We were shocked to see it was slammed. I couldn’t believe how busy it was and they were fully booked until 9.30pm (we were there at 7.30pm!) The bar area is very small (mainly because they only serve wine and beer,) so we opted to wait and see if there were any cancellations. Just our luck a table for two became available within 5 minutes. PERFECT!

Restaurant

We decided to start with the ‘Chicken Oysters on a stick’.  Our server told us that the oysters of a chicken are two small, round pieces of dark meat on the back of the bird near the thigh.  I love dark poultry meat so this was ideal for me, the pieces were very soft yet tender with a lot of flavor.

Chicken oysters

The sticks reminded me of a dark meat chicken satay and came with a tamarind sauce on the side, which had a slightly spicy kick to it but was sweet and tangy too. Nice little bite to begin with.

Chicken Oysters on a stick-tamarind sauce $7

Gnocchi

Next we tried the ‘Ricotta gnocchi’.  This dish was full of interesting flavors from all the elements like squash and Brussels sprouts. The balsamic sauce was delicious with ricotta cheese and gave a subtle sweetness that paired beautifully with the soft gnocchi pieces which were cooked perfectly. I ate the remaining sauce like a soup it was so creamy and delicious.

Ricotta Gnocchi- Winter squash, Brussels Sprouts, Balsamic $11

Our neighboring table (who by complete coincidence turned out to be the Chefs father) got the snapper and I admit I was astounded to see the fish whole on the table, complete with eyes and tail! They did tell us that it was fantastic, and I could see the fish literally fall off the bone it was cooked so beautifully. Not for the faint hearted, or the fussy ones though!!!

Whole fried Snapper for two- Cold soba noodles, dipping sauce $48

SNAPPER

I went for the hanger steak which was perfectly cooked medium rare and came with wood fired leek that gave a sort of charcoal toasty taste to the dish. The squash purée was like mash potato but less creamy so much easier to eat and the chanterelles mushrooms were surprisingly good.  As most of my readers know, I don’t like the texture of mushrooms usually but these went down nicely with the steak. They weren’t too firm or at all rubbery.

Hanger Steak

The whole dish was covered with some sort of sweet almost red wine type sauce that worked with all the components of the dish.  The overall result was heavenly and I wiped the plate clean.

Hanger Steak- sunchoke puree, wood fired leeks, chanterelles $25

FutureGreg had the Skate wing (the fin of a fish that looks like a sting ray) which was incredible too. It was a white fish that fell apart when you ate it but still had a nice texture to it. The salsa verde on top gave another dimension to the dish and the celery mash underneath worked beautifully with the other flavors on the plate.  Skate Wing

I love sting rays as an animal (my favorite sea creature) so I was sad when I realized what we were eating, but I must say this is a really incredible entree option that I highly recommend and very yummy.

Skate Wing- Wood roasted escarole, celery root puree, salsa verde $23

Brussels SproutsWe got a side of Brussels sprouts, which weren’t my favorite at first but certainly grew on me the more I ate.  I felt the mustard dominated all the other flavors on the plate and the sprouts were cooked a little too al dente for my liking but it was by no means a bad dish, and FG certainly enjoyed it.  I did love the chestnuts on the plate, which were soft and sweet.

Brussels Sprouts- Chestnuts, crisp Pancetta, mustard $9

Instead of dessert, we decided to end with a few options from the cheese section of the menu.  You can mix and match bruschetta, meats and cheeses for a very decent spread. 3 for $14 or 5 for $20.  We went for the Cane De Cabra Spanish Goats Cheese, Cabot clothbound Cheddar from vermont and the Duck Bruscetta with fig jam and arugula. The platter came complete with raison toast pieces, apple slices and quince paste.

Cheese board

The duck bruscetta was moist and a great size crostini, the date paste underneath it gave a tasty sweetness that complimented the braised meat.  The goats cheese was delightfully soft, very creamy and a great choice. The cheddar was amazing too and I highly recommend both those choices for cheese.

I am giving Tar & Roses a full 5 out of 5 platters!

5full (1)

This truly was a wonderful place for dinner. Chef Kirschner has put together a great restaurant with an excellent menu. We had an extremely delicious meal and didn’t really dislike any elements of the evening.  I felt that the dishes were all correctly sized and fairly priced for how great they were. The atmosphere was lovely too. A warm and inviting little restaurant with a lot of nice features and great lighting. Not too loud either, so we were able to hear each other across the table, which was nice for a change.

I wish they had a bar program with cocktail options, seeing as i’m not really a wine or beer drinker, but other than that this is a great great option for your next date night. Enjoy!

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A “British” contribution to Thanksgiving Dinner!

Today my post will be a Fussy One first… I am going to give you a FOOD recipe! As everyone in the United States should be aware, yesterday was Thanksgiving.  This means there was probably a lot of drinking and even more eating across the country. As most of my readers know, I myself am not from the US, however I have been living here in Los Angeles for 5 years in January (is it already that long??!!) and have plenty to be thankful for.

I live with my Beverage Consultant boyfriend, (known on this blog as FutureGreg or FG) and his wonderful family.  Every year on thanksgiving we have a big sit down dinner with extended family and friends, and although FGs Dad does the majority of the cooking, most of the guests bring a dish as part of the meal.  For the past few years I have been contributing the following dish and it’s proved so successful I thought I would document it for the blog this time.  So here you go, the first cooking recipe on the fussy one…

STEAK AND GUINNESS PIE

This recipe is a variation of one originally created by British Chef Jamie Oliver.  I admit, it does take a little while to make this one (a good 2.5 hrs in the oven stewing the ingredients) but it is well worth the effort because the pie itself is delicious.  Jamie calls for mushrooms in his recipe, but considering I can’t stand the texture of mushrooms when they’re hidden in food I have chosen not to include them.

Ingredients (Serves 4-6)

  • 2.2 lb.. (1kg) Brisket of Beef
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 30g of Butter
  • 2 Sprigs of Rosemary (leaves picked and chopped)
  • 2 Sticks Celery
  • 2 Carrots
  • 3 Medium Red Onions
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 can of Guinness (440ml)
  • 2 Heaped tbsp of Flour
  • 200g Grated Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 large Organic Egg (beaten)
  • Pastry Sheets (pre rolled) or 500g ready-made all-butter puff pastry

Making the filling

  1. Ok, first off lay out all your ingredients and equipment to check you have everything you need. I don’t cook often so when I do I get pretty frustrated when I realize half way through I don’t have the correct pan or am missing a vital herb!! This recipe calls for a pan that can transfer from the stove top to the oven, so double check you can do that. I have had issues before when I realized the pan i’m using will not last in the oven.
  2. Pre-heat your oven  375ºF/190ºC/gas 5.
  3. Next start chopping the ingredients.  Bare in mind that 3 medium red onions looks like a lot when chopped up and I always worry it’s too much, but it reduces completely in the stew so don’t be put off by how much there is.  I personally think it’s a good idea to finely chop the celery and carrots (mainly because I hate the texture of ‘bits’ in my food) but you can chop them larger if you prefer.
  4. Cut the meat in to 1 inch thick cubes.
  5. Pour a ‘glug’ of olive oil in to the pan. A glug is the ‘technical term’ Jamie Oliver gives, I take it to be about a tablespoon or so…just to get the onions frying without burning. Add the onions and on a low heat start to reduce them, stir for about 10 mins.
  6. Add the garlic, butter, celery and carrots once the onions start to go clear (but don’t let them burn).
  7. Mix everything together before adding the rosemary and then the chopped beef. Season with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of black pepper. (You will season more later.)
  8. Fry fast for 3 to 4 minutes then pour in the Guinness, the flour and just enough water to cover all the meat. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan then place in the preheated Oven for 1 1/2hours.
  9. After an hour and a half take the stew out the oven, give it a stir and place it back in for another hour. The house will start to smell so yummy by this point, but don’t be deceived…still a long way to go!!!
  10. When the time is up and you take it out, the meat should be tender and the stew  should be rich, dark and thick.  If there still seems to be a lot of liquid (almost always is with mine) then reduce it on the stove for a little longer. A good filling needs to be robust. At this point stir in half the grated cheese too. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you want to stop at this point you can cool the mixture and place in the fridge over night until you’re ready to fill the pie. I always make my mixture the night before, then cook it in to the pie an hour before I plan to serve it the next day.

Filling the pie

  1. The next stage varies from person to person. The original recipe calls for “Puff Pastry” but I have established that most Americans don’t know what this is and certainly don’t sell it pre-made in Los Angeles.  You can choose to make your own puff pastry or buy a pre-rolled regular  pastry.  Puff Pastry, for those that don’t know, is a deliciously flaky pastry used in pies in England. It is buttery and divine, but don’t be disheartened if you struggle to find a recipe because regular pastry works fine too…it’s the filling that makes this pie in my opinion!
  2. Roll out your pastry (if needs be) to make sure it will fit a deep dish pan.
  3. Line a deep dish pan with the first sheet of pastry and make sure the edges are dangling over the sides so you can fold them together at the end.
  4. Pour or spoon the mixture in to the lined pan and even it out.
  5. Sprinkle the rest of the grated cheddar on top.
  6. Roll the second sheet of pastry over the top. I like to twist the overlapping pastry together to make it look pretty, but you can simply crush it with a fork and cut off the excess if you like.  Poke some holes in the top and brush with a little beaten egg.
  7. Place the whole pie in the oven on the bottom shelf for 45 minutes at 375ºF/190ºC/gas 5.  
  8. When the top is golden, take it out and serve. DELICIOUS!!!

I hope you like this recipe, it’s very British to have a pie on a cold day and although it never gets THAT cold here in LA, it still is a great dish to make once in a while.  If it’s not a holiday you can serve it simply with mash potatoes and peas, always goes down a treat. 🙂

Thanksgiving is a day when we get to say what we’re thankful for, and so I want to say “I am thankful for my American family.”  My loving boyfriend and his wonderful parents have always made me feel so welcome in their home and I appreciate them so much…his brother and grandparents, Aunties and cousins have done the same and made me feel part of the family every year.  I am also thankful to my parents in England, and this British pie is a representation of them too.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

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SugarFish

SUGARFISH
1345 2nd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
 
Phone: 310 393-3338

 .

This week I wanted to write about a restaurant that is always consistent, seeing as recently I keep finding places I love (and write about) have changed their menus a week later (to keep up with trends) and the items I craved have been taken off! 😦 I do understand that some foods are seasonal but it’s so hard for someone like myself (fussy) to find a dish i’ll eat at all, so once I have done it’s even more distressing to not be able to get the same meal again on the next visit.

Anyway, I have been coming to SugarFish for over a year now, and their quality of food has always been above and beyond. They also never change their set menu (hooray!), which is what I’m going to cover in this review.

A lot of people tend to be very shocked that I am a huge sushi lover, and I have to admit I don’t understand it myself.  The fact that I never used to eat anything other than pasta, and now regularly enjoy raw fish is a somewhat dramatic leap. Yet, for some reason, it is a genre of food I really enjoy.  I have always liked smoked salmon, so when I first went to a sushi restaurant I tried the salmon sushi and found that the  raw salmon is a similar consistency to smoked, which didn’t bother me at all. From eating salmon sushi, I eventually branched out to trying other light fish like ‘yellowtail’ and ‘halibut’ although I never found myself wanting to try tuna. For some reason the smell of tuna really bothers me (well canned tuna anyway) and for the longest time I couldn’t get my mind set out of that.

Anyway, walking in to SugarFish about a year ago, my boyfriend (FG) and I didn’t know what to expect.  The place itself is small with bamboo style wood everywhere and plants on one of the side walls. They don’t take reservations so make sure you arrive well in advance of when you want to eat, because they do fill up quickly. We had been told repeatedly by people that they make ‘great sushi’ but our understanding at the time was limited and we really just thought, ‘it’s just rice and raw fish, how good can it be’. How little did we know!

Chef Kazunori Nozawa is a Japanese Chef who has been working with sushi since he was 15 years old.  When he came to America he started Sushi Nozawa in Studio City, California with the aim to get Americans out of the thinking of extravagant rolls and back to the no-frills basics of what Japanese sushi really is, very simple yet exceptional quality seafood.  Sushi Nozawa closed this year (2012) but the SugarFish chain continues his philosophy and the ‘Trust Me’ set menu is similar to one at the original Sushi Nozawa location.

The ‘Trust Me’ set menu is the one we always get, not just because of it’s value for money ($29.50 pp) but because it has a nice range of dishes within it.  The first item is the Edamame.  Plain, simple and nicely chilled with a little salt but not too much.

Next is the tuna sashimi. Now, as I said before, I never wanted to try tuna but on my first visit to SugarFIsh I felt obliged to try it as it was part of the set menu and they don’t bring the next dish until the one you have is finished!

So worth it, WOW this dish is good. The sauce is divine.  It is slightly sweet like a ponzu sauce but a little more citric and sharp on the tongue. The scallions on top gives a nice change in texture to the moist soft flesh of the fish. Yummy.

What immediately stood out to me was how ‘non-fishy’ it tasted, in fact all the dishes at SugarFish have that same quality and it’s because they use the freshest fish daily, never from frozen.

Next come 4 little sushi pieces, two of albacore and two of salmon.  The Albacore on my most recent trip (last night) was exceptional. It had the softest texture and melted in the mouth, there was a subtle sweetness to it and the cold fish over warm rice made for a really delicious combination.

The salmon was also flavorful but I have had salmon sushi so much now, I find it dull in comparison to the other options.

Next dish was the Yellowtail sushi (2pieces) and Halibut sushi (2pieces).The Yellowtail was the lightest in flavor but it had a nice texture and was clearly very fresh and slightly firm.  The Halibut had a citric almost spicy tasting sauce added to it, which paired beautifully with the flavors of the fish itself. Another two great sushi pieces.

I should mention, they do give soy sauce and wasabi on the side but we often find ourselves not using it at all because the fish flavors really speak for themselves.

The Toro roll came out and our waitress told us it is best enjoyed whilst the seaweed is nice and crispy. I have to admit, i’m not a big fan of seaweed wrapped rolls usually but this one was good… Soft moist chilled toro inside warm rice with a crispy seaweed shell.

The Blue hand crab roll was the last item to come out, and the crab was almost creamy in texture. It was very cold crab meat which is an odd sensation against the warm rice but seems to work and this is apparently the true Japanese way of preparing sushi.
After the crab roll you’re all done off the set items, occasionally they have a special of the day they feature instead or as well as.  There are also other set menus (a larger and lite version) or you can order off the general menu, but value wise and selection choices makes this particular set option our favorite.  All the dishes appear tiny (by Western standards) but the leisurely timing in which the items are brought to the table somehow fills you up and we feel very satisfied every time we eat there.

On our last visit we also enjoyed a nice bottle of Nigori Sake called ‘Sho Chiku Bai’ which was creamy, silky and mildly sweet. It paired beautifully with our dinner and I highly recommend.

Food rating gets 5 out of 5 platters

I’m yet to have a bad experience here, so they get full marks!  It sounds obvious, but it makes SUCH a difference when seafood is so fresh. I always thought I knew good sushi until I came here, now I won’t go anywhere else. Their consistency of both quality and taste makes them one of the best sushi places I have ever been to and although the service can be slow at times, the staff are all very friendly and helpful so they don’t lose marks their either.  If you like good sushi then this is certainly a restaurant you should check out.

The Santa Monica location is the one we personally know and love, but SugarFish have a number of venues now, so look on their website for the closest one to you.

Enjoy!

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The Parish awaits…

The Parish
840 S. SPRING ST. (AT 9TH)
LOS ANGELES, CA 90014
213 225 2400
 

*****

Before I write this review I feel it is vital I mention how opposed I was to going to The Parish. Not because I’d heard bad things, but because i’d checked the menu online a few times and nothing ever appealed to me. Pigs ears, Fried Olives, Bone Marrow and Chicken Liver are words that tend to steer me away from a place,  I mean come on, I am the fussy one!

The boyfriend (FG) said we had to try it because our dear friend Edwin Cruz, originally of Tlapazola Grill, was working behind the bar.  It is always great when we see Edwin because not only is he as informative as he is friendly, he’s also a very talented barman.  I grudgingly agreed to give it a go, but was somewhat concerned I wouldn’t like anything on the food menu.

We arrived on a typically ‘urban’ street (dirty) in Downtown, and I once again worried at our choice for the evening but when I saw the entrance I was pleasantly surprised how pretty it was.  Fairy lights around the trees lit the way, then after going upstairs I found myself in a spacious and attractive restaurant, with a HUGE bar. I say huge because the depth of this bar is incredible, the most work surface space i’ve ever seen for a bartender.

 

I decided to start with the ‘Black bee’ which at first I thought would be a ‘beer-tail’ (a drink that tends to have majority beer and minimal anything else) but it was actually the complete opposite.

It was an interesting cocktail with a splash of stout at the end. It was great. Incredible mix of flavors from the lemon, bourbon and stout. They all came through in different waves. It had a sweetness as well as a slight bitter hoppy taste from the beer, there was also a little fruity flavor but not sure where the fruit notes were coming from. Cismontain imperial stout and Telegraph porter were the beers used and they gave some dark coffee notes too. I felt somewhat tipsy from this one drink, the mix of beer and liquor obviously got me buzzed…makes sense, being called ‘The Black Bee!’ (yeah I know, super cheesy, but it’s true!)

The Black Bee- Bourbon, Lemon Juice, Honey, Stout $12

We started with the Chicken liver on toast. Yes, you heard me, CHICKEN LIVER. At first I thought the portion was a little small for sharing, but after a few bites I understood it’s size.  It was very rich and flavorful, had a slight gamey taste but nothing too obtrusive. It was a soft rich pâté on a crunchy piece of toasted baguette, and was actually a very enjoyable dish. To be honest I was proud of myself for trying liver at all.

Chicken Liver Toast- With Bacon and Armagnac $12

FG’s first drink was the ‘Queen Anne’s revenge.’ He loves his twist on a Negroni and this was no exception. Really bitter drink with a lime nose that was interesting and seemed to keep the whole drink fairly balanced. Not for picky drinkers like myself but great for FG. The rum used was 151 lemon hart, very strong and very tasty.

Queen Annes Revenge- High Proof Demerara rum, Campari, Sweet Vermouth $13

When I read FG’s drink name I realized that the majority of the menu was inspired by England.  The whole menu had a British Gastro Pub feel to it with several uniquely British dishes such as ‘Fish and Chips’, ‘Lincolnshire meat pie’ and ‘Sticky toffee pudding.’ I felt quite at home!

Fried Chicken- Brussels sprouts, Date Vinaigrette $25

I’m not a big fan of greasy fried food anymore, but when Edwin suggested the Fried Chicken and every review we could find on The Parish from the bloggers, Yelp and Foursquare said to try it we decided we had to give it a go. I’m so happy we did.

The meat was tender and juicy, with a buttermilk battered crispy skin that wasn’t at all greasy just seasoned perfectly. It came on top of cold Brussels sprouts and dried arugula that made a delicious salad underneath. The date vinaigrette had actual pieces of date in it which added a touch of sweetness to the whole dish. Totally scrumptious!

   

Celery Root Mash- With Harissa Butter $7

We decided to order some celery mash to go alongside. OMG! this was also delicious. The Celery flavor was there but it wasn’t overbearing and the dish had an interesting texture like creamy mashed potatoes mixed with grits.  It worked with the chicken beautifully and the Harissa butter on top gave yummy spice flavors. The whole second course ensemble was serious comfort food and I loved every bite.  It was absolutely ‘finger licking food’ and at one point FG caught me cleaning the plate with my finger, I wanted every last drop! Just Excellent.

Being a true Brit myself I felt compelled to try a true Brit dessert, sticky toffee pudding. This version had dates in it, we all know how fussy I am about bits in dessert and sadly, the pudding didn’t work for me with the date pieces, but the flavors were good and FG devoured what I didn’t eat so it can’t have been bad!

Sticky Toffee Pudding $7

We finished with ‘The Nightshift’ because it seemed like a great option for an after dinner drink. It was very bitter from the espresso but the chocolate came through at the end which was nice.

I couldn’t taste the bourbon that distinctly because it was masked by the bitterness of the coffee and fernet. Not a bad drink at all, and I’m sure it would appeal to the after dinner espresso drinkers.

The Nightshift- Bourbon, Czech Fernet, Espresso, Milk, Pu-Erh Tea and Chocolate syrup $13

I am giving the drinks 4.5 out of 5 coupes.  I really enjoyed my drink and FG loved his two, they were executed perfectly by Edwin and the mix of ingredients for each drink were interesting.  John Coltharpe, previously of Seven Grand, created the bar program here and I think his choices were fun and different.  The mixed drink menu is varied and a grand selection of beers on tap makes this a great location to take any of your friends. There is something for all tastes.

I am giving the food 4.5 out of 5 Platters.  Every bite of what we ate was delicious, but admittedly I felt the menu to be a little daunting and if I hadn’t been in the mood for fried chicken i’m not sure what I would have had.  All in all this was a great night out though, and the menu forced me to try new things (which is what this blog is all about).  The music was fun and the place itself had a nice vibe. Trendy but still romantic, I really liked the atmosphere.  We will definitely return soon.

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We fit in just great at The Misfit!

The Misfit
225 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310 656 9800

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I have to say, this bar/restaurant is a really great destination in the heart of Santa Monica. The boyfriend (FG) and I headed there this week for a friends birthday and as soon as we entered I couldn’t believe we’d never seen this place before.

The restaurant itself is visually beautiful when you enter, dramatic high ceilings, a muriel painting behind the bar and tiled floors that made me think of restaurants in Europe.  My boyfriend and I are big fans of Santa Monica, FG runs two bar programs off of Broadway, and we have several dinner spots we love to visit in the area, so I was more than happy to find another craft cocktail bar in the same vicinity.

Not only did they have a good looking bar, I must point out their ludicrous happy hour. 12pm to 7pm daily. Yep, thats 7 hours of $5 drinks. This includes their great specialty cocktail selection as well as their well drinks. I would think this was good either way, but when you factor in what their well includes (see list below) it’s astounding to me this place can stay open. The quality of the products they have in their well puts them leaps and bounds above the competition, although their cost percentage must be insane!

The Misfits Well

Martin millers Gin

Herranura silver tequila

Appleton white rum

Eagle rare

Glenfiddich

 

In terms of Happy hours in the area, I thought Copa D’Oro was the ruler ($5 drinks nightly), but this well selection for 7 hours daily easily just stole the title of Best Happy Hour in Los Angeles.

The first drink I tried was the Bees Knees.  It was well balanced, but reminded me of a honey lemon concoction i’d make myself if I had a cold.  The martin millers gin was a subtle option and didn’t over power the flavors. It was certainly refreshing but the lavender was very subtle, I doubt I would have known it was even in there if it wasn’t on the description.  I can’t really say it was watered down, but it tasted very light and although the drink was balanced, it did air on the weaker side…but for $5, really there were no complaints!

Kd Bees knees- Martin millers gin, House infused lavender honey and Lemon juice $10 or $5 hh

FG had the ‘Misfit cocktail’. It tasted like a Martinez but with the Haymans it was soft and the juniper wasn’t as intense as other places i’ve had similar drinks.  It had a sweetness and weakness to it that I actually rather enjoyed.

Misfit cocktail- Haymans gin, Carpano antica vermouth, Orange bitters $10 or $5 hh

The food was delicious. I had the salmon on my friends birthday, and then returned for lunch 2 days later so I could have it again- it was that tasty. Beautifully cooked fish that was moist and flavorful with a bbq coating. It came with a refreshing arugula and cucumber salad on the side. Perfect for lunch or dinner, I love dishes I don’t have to modify and I enjoyed every bite on this plate. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

BBQ salmon- Scottish with arugula salad $17

We tasted the Mac and Cheese (which is gluten free and made with brown rice pasta), it tasted great with added Chorizo.  It had a little spice from the chile and chorizo that went nicely with the creamy and cheesy pasta. I must say I didn’t get a photo of this dish because my friends devoured it before I had a chance, but I would probably recommend this as a side dish.

Mac and Cheese- Green chile, brown rice pasta, chorizo (+$2) $9

Roasted parsnips- Basil pistachio pesto $7

Organic french omelet- Gruyere, sautéed spinach, pancetta(+$3) $11

We tried the roasted parsnips which were crunchy (a little too ‘al dente’ for my liking) but still very tasty. The pistachio pesto was a nice touch and complimented the light flavors of the parsnips.

FG had an Omelet with egg white and added pancetta.  It was very light and tasty, not a heavy dish at all. A lot of places he has omelets that are way too filling and big, this was just the right balance of ingredients and the pancetta was a nice addition to the dish.

I tried a sip of my friends Basil Gimlet which was very refreshing, and again I was just awe struck by how incredible the prices were for drinks with such good products in.  This place is certainly somewhere we will continue to return to.  The service was friendly and the atmosphere was fun and inviting on both visits (day and night.)

Food here gets 4 out of 5 platters.

The salmon is divine and i’ll probably return to order it again some time this week, there were other interesting options on the menu that I want to return to try also. The parsnips were just ok, and the mac and cheese was decent. All in all it was pretty good for food, and the rating may in fact increase once I return to try more dishes.

Drinks get 4 out of 5 Clover Clubs.

None of our drinks were truly spectacular and realistically both our cocktails tasted a little weaker than usual but other than that they seemed balanced and were certainly still enjoyable.  The main points this bar gets is for it’s truly fabulous well alcohol selection and it’s insanely long happy hour.  Anywhere with a Manhattan for $5 deserves at least 4 out of 5 in my opinion!

I definitely recommend popping in to this place when you’re next in Santa Monica. It is attractive, inviting and a great deal.  Check it out!

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The Corner Door

The Corner Door
12477 W. Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90066
310-313-5810
 
 
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I had a really great time at this restaurant, the first time we went.  I had heard some good things about the drink menu from my boyfriend FutureGreg (FG) but had no expectations of the food.

Miner Incident- Bourbon, Apricot, Lemon, Honey, Thai Chilies $12

The first drink I tried was great and called the ‘Miner Incident’. It was beautifully balanced with a definite kick from the chilies. Slightly sweet although the bourbon came through nicely and the use of apricot was a welcomed change from other fruit options usually on offer.

FG had a Mezcallin to start, which he described as a ‘Mexican Penicillin’, which is pretty much what it is!

Mezcallin- Mezcal, Lemon, Ginger, Pineapple Gomme $12

The food menu looked very appealing and so we began with some tasty bites.  We ordered the Bread and Whistles, which FG enjoyed a lot but sadly I didn’t find it to be anything special.  I have had honey and ricotta style appetizers before and loved them, this ricotta brand wasn’t my favorite. The bread was great though.

Bread and Whistles- with Butter, herbed olive oil, ricotta, honey $5

Next we had the brussel sprouts (something I usually hate, but when done right are truly delicious!) they were perfectly sweet with caramelized onion, and a burnt honey’d taste.  The texture was great too, soft center with crunchy outer leaves.  The feta on top was a nice finishing touch. This is an excellent appetizer and I highly recommend it.

Brussels Sprouts- Roasted and fried, Feta $9

By the time our appetizers were done we needed another round of drinks. I went for the Swizzle and FG had ‘The Left Hand.’  The Left Hand was one of the specials on the board for the night, it was basically a Boulevardier with Rye, which he enjoyed although I found a little on the bitter side.  The Queens Park Swizzle was good though, sweet and refreshing. I couldn’t quite taste the strawberry in the bitters, but the overall drink was nice.

Queen’s Park Swizzle- Rum, Lime, Mint, House Strawberry Bitters $12

     

Left Hand- Rye Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Campari $12

For our Entree we ordered the Salmon and the Asparagus with Burrata.  The Salmon dish was nothing short of excellent.  I mean, really, this was a fantastic piece of fish.  The dill sauce was creamy but not heavy or too rich.  The fish itself was full of flavor with a nice moist center and almost crispy edges. The frisee was fresh and paired nicely with everything else on the plate.

Pan Roasted Wild Salmon (original)- Green olives, orange, Frisee $24

The asparagus was just ok, it was cold asparagus with a warm cooked egg on top and I didn’t like the cold and warm contrast that much. The flavors paired nicely but the temperature differences just didn’t work for me.

Grilled Asparagus & Burrata- Fried egg, Cilantro pistachio pesto $14

For dessert we had a very tasty piece of horchata soaked almond cake. Oh my goodness was this delicious. It was moist, with the taste of almond essence or marzipan.  The salted caramel ice cream occasionally had large salt crystals in it, but the two worked perfectly together. It was a decent sized slice also, great end to the evening.

Horchata soaked almond cake- “dulce de leche”, salted caramel ice cream $9

The bar itself is really attractive, I love Edison style lighting and it worked nicely in this setting. There was a big bar in the center and the place had a casual, warm feel to it.  The staff were friendly, the food was great and drinks list was varied.

This place was going to get full marks for food, sadly I have to be honest (which is why I have taken a while to put this review up, because I don’t like to give negative remarks if I can help it.)  The thing is, FG and I returned a few weeks ago because I was utterly craving the salmon (it was that good).  When we arrived I told the bartender (same one from previous visit) that i’d been daydreaming of it all day, he remarked on how it was one of his favorites also.  We didn’t even look at a menu, just ordered the Salmon dish and the brussels again.  The Brussel Sprouts were just as great as the first visit, however when the Salmon came out it looked completely different.

At first I thought my memory was totally off, but it was in a corn like broth and wasn’t the same grilled piece of fish I had expected. I commented on it and the bartender informed me that they had changed the recipe and now it had a red pepper risotto (I hate red pepper I should add) and they’d changed the cooking method.  It was more than a little upsetting for me, mainly because it really was a totally different dish and I had truly been craving the other version all day.  Now I must say, it wasn’t a bad dish. It was still good actually, but nowhere near what it had been previous.  I totally understand and welcome seasonal menus, I have no issue in changes daily, but the only part that upset me was the fact that the bartender didn’t mention the menu had changed when we ordered it. When I pointed this out to him, he said “Yeah I guess it did change, I kind of preferred it before too” WELL WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SO EARLIER!? haha…Oh well. It is, what it is and the place still gets a good mark overall because of everything else.

I am giving this place 4 out of 5 Platters because the first visit was so successful.  Word to the wise, be sure to check ingredients when you go to places that change their menu constantly. You may end up falling in love with a dish that is no longer available a week later! 😦

I’m giving 3.5 out of 5 Coupes for the drinks. The options were decent and varied, the staff sweet and I really did like my apricot drink a lot.  Nothing totally blew me away, but the drinks were certainly balanced and enjoyable for a night out.

If you are in the Culver City area any time soon, I will say The Corner Door is certainly worth a visit.  I am sure FG and I will be back…we’ll try something different to become the new favorite! Oh, how I will always have fond memories of that first salmon though. 🙂

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