Last month was San Diego’s 2011 semi-annual Restaurant Week. For those who aren’t familiar with Restaurant Week, here is the quick break down: for a week, restaurants all over San Diego county have 3-course (sometimes optional 4th course) prix fixe menu showcasing at times the restaurant’s best-sellers and/or customer favorites for dinner. However, this year’s fall round of RW included lunch prix fixe menus of 2-course options at certain restaurants! Some restaurants will also extend to a second week, but they don’t usually announce that on the website til the day before. For those wanting to dine at the 5-star restaurants, but don’t have the pocket change to spar, this is a great way to get the full experience of the restaurant at a discount!
This time, I made it a mission to hit up at least one restaurant…and ended up going to TWO restaurants with CP. Granted, it does get expensive if you’re going to more than one restaurant, but reading ahead of the menu choices and you could be walking away with a steal.
Our first restaurant of the week was a restaurant CP and I had already visited before, but I love – Whisknladle. The best part of their menu during RW was: their ENTIRE menu was part of the event. You could select any appetizers for your 1st course, any entree for your 2nd, and any dessert as your closer, all for $40. Now if this is not a deal…then I don’t know what is!
Caesar Salad – whole romaine lettuce dressed in “made-to-order” dressing (according to their menu), topped with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and croutons. Nothing special, just a refreshing salad for CP and always a favorite for him.
Potato Gnocchi in a brown butter-ale creme, finished with a gratinee of Brie de Meaux and chives. Luscious! Wait…is that even an adjective to describe food?? Not sure, but that’s how this felt. The little potato pillows were just firm enough. with a little chew. to give you a bite, but somehow still remain light feeling. Then the rich, brown butter-ale creme that coated each and every single pillow was ridiculously rich and guilt ridden, but you couldn’t care. No, you couldn’t get over how smooth, a touch of sweetness, and creamy it felt in your mouth. Then that brie! Oh that brie…sweet, tangy, more oozing of creaminess. Man…this appetizer made me ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ as I devoured it. Needless to say that I enjoyed my appetizer very much!
Taglietelle with house made spicy pork sausage sugo, pepperonata, and a light sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Beautiful, wide, ribbons of pasta cooked just perfectly to uphold the even more amazing sausage sugo. That sauce held itself could have held its own against a battle of sauces. The weak, basic “bolognese” of tomato sauce and crumbled pork would cower in fear of Whisknladle’s sugo! I cannot keep myself from shouting, “SUGOI!!!” (sorry…I know…very cheesy >.<)
Seared Maine Scallops in a chilled green curry, roasted squash, tinkerbell peppers, spinach & capelin roe. What can I say? Can I ever escape ordering scallops when given the choice on the menu? Very, very rarely (if ever) would I pass up scallops. Whisknladle did not disappoint in preparing my favorite shellfish. Perfect sear to give the nice, crispy, caramelized crust, without overcooking (too many times that has happened to me). Sweet, salty, cripsy, soft, buttery, bitter (from the peppers), and light.
Dark Chocolate Pots de Creme topped with a layer of salted caramel and served with roasted banana cake. Ok this pots de creme was magical, but cloyingly sweet after your second or third spoonful. I suppose that’s why they had the banana cake, but I almost wanted something something salty on the side. However, I would have taken some ice cream to go with it, or whipped cream to just help break that sweetness. Still delicious, although it was the first time I had to leave a dessert unfinished (*GASP!*).
Oh look! There’s the vanilla ice cream that I needed! Except this was CP’s dessert and even though I had a little bit (to go with my dessert), I didn’t want to take more.
Our server was great – helpful, friendly, and attentive where needed. Again, Whisknladle remains on my top list!
1044 Wall St.
La Jolla, CA 92037
2. Crab Catcher
Now this is one restaurant I have never been to and had been in my “maybe” list of the Restaurant Week choices for several years. This time however, CP did not partake in the RW prix fixe menu since he did not find pairings that suited his taste.
Crab Bisque – roasted red bell pepper broth, Meyer lemon crème fraiche. This was not mind blowing, but I did enjoy the bisque. I could have used some more crab, but the bisque was thick and rich, and citrus from that lemon crème fraiche did help enhance the flavors. Although, I will say this bisque went great with the complementary foccaia they provide as part of the bread service.
CP’s Caesar Salad….told you – it’s a standby fave of his :). Different presentation (pre-cut for the lazy), same concept – romaine lettuce, croutons, parma, and dressing. “All hail Caesar!”
Dungeness Crab Pappardelle with sweet heirloom peppers and lobster mushrooms, in a creamy Thai basil garlic sauce. Man, oh man, where do I begin? Let me count the ways this was a fail for me: 1. Not nearly enough crab, 2. Pasta was cooked a little more than I like, and 3. This was the weakest sauce on pasta I have had in a REALLY long time. When I see “Thai basil garlic sauce”, I expected to get basil (I barely), garlic (not sure if there was any), and flavor – this was definitely NOT there. This pasta made me so sad. So very, very sad. The crab mound on top was the best part of this plate and I ate it all up. Everything else…I wanted to return.
Sea Bass with Maryland lump crab stuffing, fingerling potato, Haricots Verts, with a lemon thyme mustard sauce. For once, I was seriously jealous of CP’s entree – I WANTED IT FOR MYSELF!!!!!!! The sea bass was tender, falls to the slightest pressure of the fork, and the perfect sear. The crab added that extra natural sweetness, and I wanted it! *Sigh*…but next time, I’ll just order this one for myself!
Warm Chocolate Torte with candied macadamia nuts and topped with Tahitian vanilla gelato. This dessert should come with a warning: “You are about to enter chocolate nirvana!” I think this torte has to be, hands down, one of the richest, chocolatey-est, dessert I’ve had in town. They got it right by giving you a giant mound of vanilla gelato because you DO need it. Also, in the center of the torte is a mountain of oozing, warm, lava pool of salted chocolate. The only thing that could have made this better?…ANOTHER scoop of ice cream!
I would come back for the sea bass and the torte. Those are a must! Everything else…I can live without it again.
1298 Prospect St
La Jolla, CA 92037
Dungeness Crab Pappardelle locally grown sweet Heirloom peppers, lobster mushrooms,creamy Thai basil garlic sauce
My first time in New York was a complete culture shock and I just didn’t have enough time to do everything a tourist does in the city, PLUS touring all the eateries. However, my second trip to the city was just one of two things to do: go to work and eat. Guess what I liked doing more?
I must say though, one down side for a foodie in such a huge city with so many options for meals and snacks, is the hard question: what should I eat?!
So again…I will let my pictures do all the talking :):
Momofuku: má pêche
15 west 56th street
new york, ny 10019
377 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013
357 6th Ave
New York, NY 10079
Rice To Riches
37 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
88 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
International locations and limited locations within US
Wafels & Dinges Truck (and Mini too)
Various locations in Manhattan (dependent on day and time)
Tasty Dumpling Inc
54 Mulberry St # E
New York, NY 10013
It was a whirl wind of a week of training and food! My favorites this time?…
- Locanda Verde – this restaurant really surprised me by the quality of food and the simple, yet dazzling flavors. This restaurant will be a must visit here on out whenever I find myself in the City!
- Rice to Riches – I now understand all the rave about this place…it’s freaking delicious (and I used to make rice pudding by the quarts).
- Morimoto – the toro tartare of course…the congee that came with the braised pork was soaked with pork goodness, amazing.
- Tasty Dumplings – um…duh, dumpling filling were great, but needed more to the ratio of wrapper. Also, their dumpling wrapping was too thick in my opinion.
I will be back New York! I love you and the whole city’s talent for creating some of the best morsels!
On Valentines Day, CP and I had originally planned on spending the whole day together but we both had too much work to get done. So we both begrudgingly went into the office that day. However, CP had planned a wonderful dinner which was a surprise until a couple weeks before when he told me. I don’t know who broke down first: me in asking and curiosity taking over, or him because he really wanted me to know. Either way, he was able to get an early dinner reservation at one of the restaurants with the arguably best view in San Diego: Bertrand at Mister A’s. The reservation was much earlier than I would normally eat dinner, 4:45pm, but it was just perfect to watch the sun set!
It was our first time at the restaurant and apparently, according to CP, he had been trying to get a reservation here for other Valentines Day which fills up quite quickly. Once we step foot into the dining room, we both knew why. The whole west and south side of the dining room had a panoramic view of downtown San Diego and the harbor. It was absolutely gorgeous. The restaurant must definitely factor in the view into their prices because you are getting superb food and the best view of the city.
For Valentines Day, Mister A’s had a separate pre-fixed menu:
Once we decided on the items for the night, we moved to the bread:
The selections for the evening were sliced sourdough and baguette. This came with room temperature butter. It was perfect for spreading onto the soft and tasty bread. I normally refrain from eating too much from the bread basket, but the fact that the nice, warm bread with soft butter melting just right…it was hard.
The amuse bouche helped me break away from the bread. It was a small, savory pancake topped with a slice of smoked salmon, creme fresh, and capers. A nice play on lox and bagel. I really enjoyed it and wished we had more, but then…I suppose that the amuse bouche did its job! 🙂
First course, my appetizer was the House Made Maryland Blue Crab Ravioli with Crawfish Tarragon Sauce And Leek Fondue. The appetizer was actually quite generous in portion. There were 5 decent size raviolis stuffed with blue crab meat and no fillers! It was straight up blue crab and the sweetness of the crab played wonderfully with the crawfish tarragon sauce. In the middle was a pile of chopped, sauteed leeks. A perfect bite had a little of everything together and it was absolutely delicious. The raviolis were cooked just enough and the shellfish as well.
CP’s appetizer of Crispy Baby Calamari And Fresh Black Tiger Shrimp drizzled with Roasted Pepper Oil. This came with a side of Basil Aioli Sauce. Ok…first off, this dish looked great! However, it goes against 1 of the 2 rules I have with eating which is that I cannot eat something that is still staring back at me. I’ve said it many times that if it wasn’t for the fact that I love animal proteins so much, that I would be a vegetarian. I don’t like to see how the animal that is on my plate was once alive. I know they were once alive, but when I want to eat them…that’s the last thing I want to think about!
Anyways…back to the dish! CP loved his appetizer. I tried the calamari and loved it too. However, I wonder why they pair it up with this aioli sauce? I think it would have been just as good without the sauce, but that doesn’t mean I did not think the sauce was not good either! I was just wonder…
For my entree, I had the Pan Seared Maine Diver Sea Scallops with Saffron Emulsion and Bell Pepper Polenta. I apologize for the bad photo…I realized it doesn’t really do much for this dish as I was cataloging my pictures. Let’s just go from the main to the supporting players: The scallops were seared and cooked perfectly so it was not tough or chewy (nothing worse than that, it gets me real angry when I get an overcooked scallop). However, the downfall to this wonderfully cooked shellfish was that it was over salted!! I was so sad that I kept hoping it was just one scallop that got over salted, but alas it was not! Also, I think the foam topping it was made from basil or parsley and it was not necessary in my opinion.
The supporting polenta on the other hand actually the unexpected surprise. It was smooth with just a little texture from the grains of cornmeal, mixed with the saffron emulsion, it was absolute, pure delight! I wanted to pick up the plate at the end to lick it right off the plate. The subtle sweetness danced like merry little lambs across my tongue! Loved, loved it!
CP went all out and order the surf and turf: Grilled Prime Angus Beef Tenderloin “Rossini” with Cabernet Sauvignon Sauce and Maine Lobster. Ok, even I had no idea what “Rossini” was and had to research this one. Turns out that it’s a style of cooking that includes foie gras, truffles, and a demi-glace sauce. This now makes perfect since as you can see, front and center: a beautifully grilled tenderloin, topped with foie gras and shaved black truffle. Talk about decadence! I’ve never tried foie gras and CP just couldn’t get himself to eat it, so I wasn’t going to let it go to waste! I knew it was rich, so I grabbed a slice of baguette and ate it with that. I was expecting myself to be torn by the taste, but found myself really liking it! So instead, I was torn on the fact that I liked it! Well…it is not like I will be getting this everyday so I just let myself enjoy the fatty, smooth, goodness.
I really did not try most of CP’s dish, so I took his word that he told me the lobster (all 1/2 pound of it) was sweet and delicious. The beef was cooked to medium just as he likes it. Oh! I did try the mashed potato stack that was with the dish. It was mashed potatoes mixed with (oh look..) more black truffles, and sitting on top of little hash brown crisps! At first I thought it was Parmesan, but to my surprise, it was potato! It was seasoned just right and I really liked the idea of how it was presented. Maybe I’ll use this one in my next dinner party ;).
Finally, as all good things must come to an end, our dessert courses were shared between CP and myself:
By far, the biggest disappointment of the whole meal. So we had the Red Velvet “Napoleon” with Cream Cheese Mousse and Sweet Cream Gelato, and the Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches. Where should I start with my sadness?…The “Napoleon” was just 2 slices of dry red velvet cakes with a not so stellar cream cheese mousse, topped with meringue. The cake was much too dry and the mousse could not save it at all. The best part of this dish? The sweet cream gelato and even then I’ve had better.
The Macaron ice cream sandwiches came in 3 flavors (left to right): chocolate, pistachio, and raspberry (with vanilla ice cream). Ok…first off, the macaron shells were way too thick and cakey to be a proper macaron. A macaron should be light, airy, and moist. Yea…these were none of the above. It was the right vehicle for the ice cream which was too icy! UGH! The dish kept failing at every turn! Even the flavors of each ice cream tasted artificial and I was just over it by then.
Thank goodness for these views to save the evening!
I had a wonderful night with CP and with views like that, I can overlook little things that brought me down during the meal. Since I had my love with me, I was literally on top of the world that evening! Thank you love XOXO
Bertrand at Mister A’s is a great restaurant, romantic feel, impeccable service, and…hm, what was it? Oh yea! BEST VIEWS EVER! I would highly recommend the restaurant for very special occasions because they will treat you right. I think this will also be a great place for lunch or brunch during the weekends! Maybe I’ll come back later this summer to try it out again (skipping desserts this time).
Bertrand at Mister A’s
(on the 12th Floor)
2550 Fifth Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103
Two weeks ago, I was in Las Vegas for work again and once again, I found myself with the cash to spend for food yet, I would have to eat alone. This may sound a little sad, but you know…it did not phase me too much. Mostly because with no other mouths to which I must account for their differing tastes than mine, I could eat anything I wanted and I tend to go all out. So for one of the nights, I decided to splurge on a great meal. However, even though I had a budget that would be more than any one person can eat, I still had to be mindful of what I did spend (aka I could not go out to a place that would charge me $25 for an appetizer course). With that frame of mind, I found on Yelp.com a highly rated restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel – MOzen Bistro.
The restaurant is an fusion of Japanese, Indian, Thai, and Korean flavors, with a dash of American twists sprinkled intermittently. They describe themselves as a sampler of the “flavors of the east.” Although from the surface the restaurant sounds like it is thoroughly confused, I can assure you it is not because without going into detail, I had a sample of the range of flavors they could work with and I was surprisingly impressed. Their attention to details to the dishes were astounding and even their space was very well thought out. It may not have been on the 23rd floor of the hotel, but the restaruant was beautifully designed in a cozy space. Basic, elegant, chic, and completely my style. As it was a Monday night, the restaurant was really quiet with only a couple of covers other than mine. However, granted that it was a slow night and the wait staff could have slacked off, the service here at MOzen was always attentive and friendly.
After some consideration from my waitress recommendations where she mentioned that the restaurant has one of the most arguably fresh sushi available, I started off my meal with the salmon nigri.
Two cuts of tender, fresh, vibrant pieces of salmon appeared before me, sitting atop of little bit of sushi rice. I must say, this salmon was definitely comparable to some of the finer sushi restaurant’s I have visited here in Vegas. I do apologize for the poor quality of the photo though. The lighting in the restaurant was dim and I tried to not use my flash, but then this is the result. In looking at this picture, you cannot grasp how beautiful this simple little fish was. I may need to come back to try other cuts and take proper pictures next time.
Next up, for my entree, I knew I had to try this when I saw it on the menu: Northern Indian Lamb Shank Curry. Ok…let it sink in…it is a bone-in lamb shank simmered in a rich, dark curry. Two of my favorite things merged together: lamb shank and curry. I was in heaven I thought from just reading the description, but then when the whole meal came out…
I could only stare in awe. I think my mouth may have been hanging open with a giddy air about me when I sat with this meal before me. The menu described everything that would be coming to me, but I don’t think I completely registered the sheer breath of this meal until it arrived to me. It was an amazing sight and the aroma was just overwhelmingly mouthwatering! The lamb shank was cooked so tendered it was almost fall of the bones. The curry was rich, earthy, and complex with multitude of spices working together to draw you in for more and had just the right amount of “kick”. I would have just picked up the bowl and slurped it all down had I been at home (or at least in a restaurant with more people so no one would really notice me doing that). However, I lapped up all the yummy curry with the lamb and basmati rice.
Above the main course was the naan which wasn’t quite the rustic, freshly made naan that I had come to enjoy and love at authentic Indian restaurants. However, at least they did not give me pita bread and tell me that was naan (that makes me SO angry! Come on! Like really?!?!) but I question whether it was made in house. Either way, it was the perfect vehicle for one of the surprises of the night which was the lentils! I love, love curry lentils, but so often I am disappointed by the lentil dishes I get because they are bland, watery, and plain sad. MOzen’s lentils were NOTHING of that nature. It was POW in your face flavor town! Quite honestly, the lentils could stand as a main dish on its own, perfect for the vegetarians palates and yet, scrumptious for the carnivores like myself. The lentils were just as rich as the lamb curry, but not as spicy. It is hard to describe it other than it was an explosion of AWESOME. (MOzen…can you just hand over the pot of lentils to me now?…)
The entire meal was one amazing adventure after another. My only criticism would be that it was REALLY hard cutting into my lamb shank that was sitting in the bowl. I kept thinking if I cut the wrong way, I would just tip the bowl over and lose all my precious curry. Perhaps if MOzen could find some flat bottom bowls and change the plate it sits on top of, then the eater would be less scared to cut into his or her meat.
Even after that monstrous meal for one, I had to finish the dinner off properly with dessert. I know I could have walked right next door to Bellagio for dessert at one of my favorite patisseries, Jean Philippe Patisserie, but I wanted to see how MOzen handled desserts. When I took a look over the menu, the offerings all sounded good yet my stretching stomach reminded me that I only had a little room left, so I opted for the house-made gelato. The waitress told me ALL the flavor selections they had for the day (there was at least 10 flavors, so it made me wonder if it was perhaps the central kitchen making it and distributed to all the outlets in the hotel) and my ears perked at a few.
Starting from the bottom and going counterclockwise: salted caramel, pistachio, and pumpkin spice. Of the three, the pumpkin spice was the one I was most excited to order yet…when I finally tasted all three…it ranked #3 overall! I have an obsession with pumpkin everything so that says something because the pumpkin spice gelato was still really good. However, the winner of this show was hands down, no question, all the eggs in the basket (ok I know, you get it)…it was the salted caramel! The balance was just so right that it made me forget how full I was because I couldn’t have enough! The pistachio was #2 and even though I wish they did not use food coloring, the flavor was still quite strong with my favorite nut.
This was one of the best meals I’ve had at on the Strip for some time now and for the end bill ($77 with tax & tip) was well worth it. The chef had a brilliant idea and was able to get a well trained team to execute it to perfection. Everything I had that night was spotless and my tongue was giddy with joy by the end. Thank you MOzen for making me believe in what a
good great meal should be in Vegas!
(in the Mandrin Oriental Hotel)
3752 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89158
My colleagues and I unfortunately had to work a little during this weekend. Normally, it would not be an issue but the fact is that we were in Chicago for goodness sake! I was about to chuck my laptop out the 19th floor window being stuck indoors, in a city that I had never been to!
“What the shit?!…”
That was the phrase of the week, literally. This is why I took the initiative in deciding for the team as a whole that we needed something great to break up this crappy start to the weekend. Thus, I ordered for us the Chicago icon: deep dish pizza!
We were staying in downtown Chicago and Gino’s East was not all that far away! Turns out that the place actually delivered to hotels and so we had an order of the Cheesy Bread with marinara:
and Gino’s East Supreme deep dish.
The crust had to be at least 2 inch high, which was needed for all the ingredients that were piled into this gorgeous break to a crappy day. It had chunky tomato sauce, mushroom, peppers, onions, and half sausage patty, half pepperoni. Of course, there was an oozy, gooey cheesy layer buried underneath all of that. It was so delicious!
Leonidas Chocolate Cafe
Sometime between lunch and dinner, a pick me up was needed. I was going to get coffee at first yet ended up going to Leonidas Chocolate Cafe because I needed ice cream or gelato ASAP! It felt like an emergency and all the alarms in me were going off shouting, “I. NEEDED. THIS. NOW!” So…
My medium cup of gelato was HUMONGOUS! I got half toasted coconut with almond and fudge, and half Belgium chocolate. I realized as I was eating this was that: my gawd I was so terribly depressed and this is why I am enjoying this even more. Secondly, I should have gotten all Belgium chocolate. It was smooth, creamy, and bittersweet. The best chocolate gelato I’ve had in some time.
Now also in passing, I saw a plate and bags of macaroons being displayed at the cafe. How could I ever pass up the opportunity?!
They looked much better than tasted sadly :(…I should have just stuck with the gelato and maybe some chocolates. Oh well, how could I have known until I tried it for myself? Live and let learn!
Later that evening, when the guys decided the stay in for the night, my new friend/colleague (PR) and I went out for dinner. We were both craving tapas all week and decided we both needed it! However, since we didn’t have the car, we walked the 2.5 miles through downtown to the restaurant. It was actually a really nice walk except for a certain area we had to walk through, but we were both quite hasty in getting to the restaurant so nothing exciting happened.
The spread included (starting from the top and going clockwise): lamb tenderloin with caramelized onions and mushroom, stuffed mushroom caps with cheese, and stuffed peppers with goat cheese.
Goodness gracious….it was an explosion of flavors! PR and I have been feeling trapped with the choices of food we have been eating and desperately needed this change up in our diet. However, just 3 tapas would never satisfy the two of us, so we had an order of the vegetable paella!
The paella was good and it was what we both wanted: something flavorful, fresh, and light too. I had 2 criticisms about the dish: 1. not enough crust! This is the best part of paella in my opinion! Also, when one thinks of paella, one would think saffron being the key spice for the rice yet this one was more tomato base. The entire meal was the best meal we had since arriving to the city!
The following day, PR and I went on an architectural river boat tour which was very informative and fun! I love learning the history of a city and I realized even before the tour, how beautiful the buildings were in the city. After our tour, we met up with the guys to grab a late lunch.
We had another staple of the city that was not all that far from the hotel again! Portillo’s had a fun atmosphere and there were so many options to chose from. However, what I wanted was an Italian sausage, onion rings, and a milk shake! And that was exactly what I got:
Look at the glory that is the delicious, greasy, fatty food that you know you shouldn’t have but you just can’t help it because it has been quite “shitty”.
The Italian sausage was typical, but the bun was a soft crusty bread that was so much better than a hot dog bun! I wish I had grilled onions and peppers to go with it :(…The onion rings were fried super crispy and even though I would normally complain at the number of rings I got that day (very few), it ended up being just enough. The milkshake was a chocolate milkshake with chocolate cake pieces mixed into it. W.O.W. Talk about chocolate overload! It was so rich that I couldn’t finish it and had to recruit my colleagues to help out. Overall I enjoyed myself again with this meal and would do it again in a heart beat.
That was pretty much my time in Chicago. I wish I had more time in the city, but we did our best in between work and commuting. I would definitely be coming back to Chi-town (hopefully not for work) for more!
Leonidas Chocolate Cafe
59 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
1530 s. state st
Chicago, IL 60605