Tag Archives: 5 star rating

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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SugarFish

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

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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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Crafted to perfection

Craft
10100 Constellation Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
90067
310.279.4180 
 

Monday date night last week led us to a restaurant just minutes from our house, yet neither my boyfriend (FG) or I had been there before.  The list of drinks and food on offer all looked appealing and appetizing, and the decor of the bar area was inviting and warm when we entered. We decided to sit at the CraftBar which is separate from the restaurant itself and has a different food menu, but we decided to mix and match and got a few bar menu items and then our entree from the regular restaurant menu.

FG informed me that the “Craft” team pay a purveyor a lot of money just to travel the country in search of the best produce for all three of their locations. Only the best, organic, fresh and seasonal products are used so the menu changes constantly with what is and isn’t available.

Front Porch: Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Peach, Lemon and Iced Tea $11

I started the night off with the ‘Front porch’ drink after our bartender (Scott) pointed out that peaches were at their best right now. It was wonderful, like a deliciously peachy ice tea with bourbon! It was sweet, strong and fruity.

FG had the ‘Here today… gone amaro’ which was just as tasty as the name was imaginative!  FG best described it as a Manhattan with a subtle sweet bitterness at the end. Rabarbaro Zuca is an amaro made with Rhubarb, which I have only seen on a menu once before, ironically in my boyfriends drink ‘Maguey after Amaro’. I like it when places use unusual ingredients though.

Here Today…Gone Amaro: Old Overholt Rye, Chai Tea infused Carpano Antica Vermouth, Cio Ciaro and Rabarbaro $14

FG was intrigued by the number of Amari they had on the back bar, including the Cio Ciaro (he’d never heard of) which he sampled and described as having a burnt caramel flavor with a slow bitter finish.  Craft also makes a home made velvet falernum which was delicious, sweet and zesty.

Negroni Mio: Aviation Gin, Campari, Americano, Cocchi Vermouth di Tornio, Prosecco & Strawberry. $13

FG’s second drink was the Negroni Mio, this was a good drink, but not great. It sounded amazing on paper (they barrel aged the Negroni then bottle age it with strawberries), but the flavors really came through as simply a Negroni with aperol.

Many of the food options looked interesting but we started with the cheddar hush puppies that came with a smoked maple syrup to dip in. Delicious maple flavor from the sauce altho the puppies had little spicy kick to them.  The cheese didn’t come through for me but still the dish was very tasty.

Cheddar Hushpuppies & Smoked Maple Syrup $6

The risotto balls were also on the spicy side with a marinara type sauce named romesco, the crispy thin layer on the outside of each ball made them not too rich and another good starter dish.

Risotto Fritters & Romesco $6

They also brought a bread basket out with delicious breads in.  The dark loaf was incredibly different and hearty. In fact Scott gave us an extra loaf to take home, as he informed me it is the perfect bread to make french toast with the next day.  I loved the wooden box the bread came in too, the presentation of all the dishes was exquisite and although this was a slightly more expensive place than we’d usually go just for monday date night, it became clear very quickly why they deserved to charge so much.

For our main course we agreed on a steak (like always!) and decided to share the dry aged sirloin. When it arrived I realized just how incredibly large 22 ounces of meat is and worried we’d way over ordered!

We also chose some sides, the sugar snap peas (which i’m really in to recently, so sweet and crunchy) and the yukon puree.  I had wanted a potato but couldn’t decide what kind, Scott had said these were “deliciously decadent.”  Of course, alarm bells should go off when you hear a server/bartender describe something as decadent…it usually means, extremely fatty and high in calories.  We didn’t care though, it was an indulgent night.  

The potato was certainly nothing less than decadent! Creamy, rich and full of flavor.  It was like a very soft buttery mash but still had a lightness to it, I couldn’t eat too much but it paired beautifully with the earthy flavor of the steak.  I’m not sure i’d had dry aged beef before but it gave the meat a much stronger fuller flavor.  The meat came with a bone marrow on the side, which greg emptied out on to a piece of remaining bread.

I think bone marrow is definitely an acquired taste, it reminded me of chicken dripping my mum would keep to put on sandwiches after a roast dinner. Not that it tasted like chicken, it just had a very greasy and fatty texture that reminded me of that.  I didn’t like it at all, Greg devoured the whole bone full.

Roasted dry aged sirloin 22oz $56

Sugar snap peas $11

Yukon Gold Puree $10

To finish we saw the wonderful dessert list but felt too full to get anything (believe it or not, we had at this point eaten the entire steak and sides!!!). Scott brought us some little bites from the pastry chef which included some caramel popcorn and little nectarine upside down cakes.  They were the perfect touch of sweetness to end the evening.

Before we left Scott gave us a little pack of complimentary Craft Granola for the next day. FGs parents went the following week and were given some complimentary Craft muffins, it changes daily what you’ll get but I think it’s such a cute and unique idea to give something like that for breakfast. When we ate the granola the next morning (which was great) it had us remembering our wonderful evening the night previous. Very smart marketing move!

Drinks here get my rating of 4 out of 5 Clover Clubs.

My peach cocktail was fantastic, and FG certainly enjoyed his two drinks also.  Scott was professional and informative behind the bar, and the look of the place was welcoming and attractive.  The only negative of the drinks was the Negroni Mio that wasn’t as flavorful as the ingredients suggested, overall it was a close to excellent bar program. They also had an extensive wine list, for those not as excited by cocktails!

My Food Rating here is 5 out of 5 Platters

Overall this place had it all, relaxing music, a nice chill vibe and excellent professional service.  The food was fantastic, it was different and adventurous without being too overwhelming for a fussy person like myself.  The only negative, which i’m not even sure is fair to give, was the high prices of this place.  I hadn’t expected it to be on the higher end, having said that it really was worth the extra expense. The service really was amazing, and my boyfriends parents decided to go a few days later and had the exact same reaction. For that reason, this is the first place i’m giving 5 out of 5. Watch out Bottega Louie (our most popular location), Craft may soon take over as our favorite place to go for dinner in LA!

All in all, Craft (and Craft Bar) are an excellent night out.  I highly recommend anyone looking for a romantic, quality restaurant in Los Angeles to head there.

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