Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Meals In 2010 - A Quick Look Back

It looks like quite a few bloggers are reliving some of their best eats in 2010, and while I have done the same back in 2009, I'm going to take a real concise approach this year. Let's look back at my top 5 meals of 2010.

*Note: It's sad that only 1 of the meal actually made it on my blog thus far

5) 七十二牛肉麵 aka 72 Beef Noodle Soup (or NRM for short) - Taipei, Taiwan

72 NRM72 NRM

In all reality, any of the NRM I've tried and consumed over the years here in the United States are forgettable, if we're comparing to the bowls of noodles I tried on my recent trip back to Taiwan. The beef broth are cooked for 72 hours (thus, the name 72 NRM) creating a rich, white, an almost milky color to the NRM broth. It's simply wonderful bowl of beef noodle soup. It was so good, I had to get back for a second helping the day before my flight back to Los Angeles.

72 Beef Noodle Soup
Taipei City, Da An District, Jin Guo S. Rd, 1st Section #188

4) Per Se - NYC

Per Se

The famous blue doors. Wait, are we in the countryside of Napa Valley? No, instead we're on the 4th floor of the Time Warner Center, home of 3 Michelin Star restaurants Masa and Per Se. While the scenery may not be as majestic as the famous French Laundry in the Napa Valley, the food on the other hand was truly amazing. While I was able to secure two separate tasting menus that night (one of the standard tasting, while the other was an winter offal selection), each dish tasted amazing. While the room and service was slightly stuffy for my tastes, the meal was truly a spectacular 3 Michelin Star affair.

10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10023

3) Le Bernardin - NYC

Le Bernardin

Ah, the legendary Le Bernardin headed by the famous Silver Fox himself, Chef Eric Ripert. My final meal of my NYC trip in 2010 and it finished off with a bang. Memorable would be an understatement. Every dish was presented with care, thought, and cooked to perfection. I don't think I've tasted better seafood than dishes that came out of the kitchen of Le Bernardin that night. Truly, it deserves all the acclamation it has received over the years.

155 West 51st Street
New York, NY 10020

2) Eleven Madison Park - NYC

Eleven Madison Park

Wow, a place I actually blogged about this past year. And did I really just put Eleven Madison Park ahead of Per Se and Le Bernardin? The answer to that is YES! While I don't need to go into detail about the food since my views are already on the blogged post, the meal was fun and memorable. Though not casual, the attire was slightly less formal, creating a non-stuffy environment. The servers were friendly and most importantly, the food was amazing. Chef Daniel Humm and team has created a new menu concept late into 2010 and I'm looking forward to trying it for myself in February of 2011. From what I've seen and heard, I shouldn't be disappointed.

11 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10010

1) Alinea - Chicago

Hot Potato Cold Potato

This is the post I really want to blog about, but yet I've been procrastinating on. The meal of the year for me without a doubt was my meal at Alinea, during my trip to Chicago this past July. The 26 course tasting menu offered all kinds of surprises, tricks, and most importantly delicious concoctions along the way. The only thing I could say about Chef Grant Achatz is that he's a genius. The trip itself was planned solely for Alinea and the meal was truly beyond my expectations. While the food scene in Chicago is extraordinary, Alinea is truly the pinnacle of a fine meal. I can't wait to get back to Chicago and eat at Alinea and Achatz's other two restaurant concepts!

1723 North Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60614

There you have it, a brief look back at my favorite meals of 2010. While I do plan on blogging these places more thoroughly, it was good to look back at some of those fine meals. I don't know what places would make the list in 2011, but I'm ready for them!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Au Pied De Cochon - The Father Of All Foie Gras Goodness (Montreal, QC)

ExteriorAu Pied de Cochon!

Au Pied de Cochon

As I conclude my tour around Toronto and Montreal (with a stop at Niagara Falls), what better way to end my meal than a dinner at Au Pied de Cochon? What's so special about Au Pied de Cochon you might ask? Loosely translated as a foot of a pig or pig's feet, there's definitely nothing light about my upcoming meal here. When Chef Martin Picard tried to "kill" Anthony Bourdain with foie gras on the Quebec episode of No Reservations seen below, I quickly made my reservation as my "last" supper in Canada.

Foie Gras CromesquisFoie Gras Cromesquis

Cromesquis de foie gras (Foie Gras Cromesquis)

What is this you might ask? How does fried foie gras sound? The foie gras, liquified in the middle and crispy on the outside. It's "obscene, in a good way," to quote Bourdain. This made the perfect mouthful, and was richly delicious we had to order a second order!

Gin Martin w/olivesGin Martini w/ twist

Gin Martini (Top: w/Olives, Bottom: w/Twist)

What better way to wash down the richness of the foie than with some alcohol, and in this case, gin martinis. I went with the twist, due to my dislike of olives. Ahhhhh...what a complement!

Codfish FrittersCodfish Fritters

Accras de morue (Codfish Fritters)

We needed something healthy and diverse, so what's better than fried fish? I did mention we're going for healthy, right? Beautifully fried, and crunchy, I could have ate a whole basket of these things. The addition of lemon added a much needed acidity and balance for the fried cod. I wish I have some right now as I'm typing this post up.....

Tarragon Bison Tongue

Langue de bison à l'estragon (Tarragon Bison Tongue)

Bison tongue? Yes please! The tongue was cooked, oh, so tender. Yet, the flavors of the tongue and the sauce meshed beautifully. I was tempted to get seconds of this as well, but sadly, we had a lot more courses coming our way.

Foie Gras Poutine

Poutine au foie gras (Foie Gras Poutine)

I loved my meal at Animal in Los Angeles, and its poutine. I loved the poutine at La Banquise, but those were the minor league compared to the poutine served at Au Pied de Cochon. What's better than cheese curds, rich gravy, and crispy fries? Why, a large piece of foie gras of course! I don't think I need to describe this particular dish much (Good, since it's from over a year ago), but this was truly a memorable experience.

The CanDuck in a CanDuck in a CanDuck in a Can

Canard en conserve (Duck In A Can)

What's better than foie gras poutine? How about duck in a can? I don't know how it's done, and I don't know how it could taste this good, but this was simply amazing. Foie gras, duck, pomme puree, and other ingredients, can it get better than this? This is not your entree for those light eaters, and I hope there was a cardiologist present when I ate it. This was a truly a fucking amazing dish!

Plogue à ChamplainPlogue à Champlain

Plogue à Champlain

Do you like breakfast? I usually don't eat it, but I could deal with this. What is Plogue à Champlain? Call it a mix of maple cured bacon, lard, potatoes, apples, and of course, a generous piece of foie gras onto of a buckwheat pancake. On top of everything it's served in a bed of maple syrup. Waking up to this daily would be heavenly, though I don't know how one could survive eating this on a daily basis.

PDC's Melting Pot

Potée du PDC (PDC's Melting Pot)

Still not full, my buddies and I decided to add the PDC's Melting Pot through the recommendation of our waiter and it was a fantastic way to finish the savory portion of the meal. Pork hoc, sausages, boudin noir and other delicious items in one cast iron pot. Rich and delicious, what's better than that? Now, with the little space we had left, it's time for dessert!

Pudding Chômeur

Pouding chômeur (Pudding Chômeur)

I should have gone with my gut and ordered the creme caramel or creme brulee. The pudding chômeur was just way too sweet. We were barely able to finish this one. Definitely my least favorite thing we ordered all night.

Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta

The special dessert of the day was the panna cotta, thus we had to order it, being one of my favorite dessert options, and it did not disappoint. Simple, creamy, and the fruit on top added a nice tartness to the dish we desperately needed after this meal. I can't quite remember what the fruit was, I want to say rhubarb, but I don't think that's correct. Whatever it was, it made one helluva dessert.

Maple Syrup PieMaple Syrup Pie

Tarte au Sucre Pour 2 (Maple Syrup Pie for 2)

Finally, a nicely portioned maple syrup pie with vanilla ice cream. Since we're in Canada, we had to order this one. The ice cream was definitely a welcoming addition to this dessert. While I didn't love it, we finished every last bite.

Dining RoomDining Area

Dining Room

Au Pied de Cochon was such a wonderful experience, I'm hoping to visit Montreal again in 2012. The food scene in this city was pretty fantastic, yet underrated. Although more people talk about the food scene (especially the Chinese food) in Vancouver, I personally don't have much of an interest in visiting, especially with the San Gabriel Valley so close to me. Montreal is definitely the star of Canada. With the abundance of people communicating in French, with its old cobblestone streets, it feels like you're in France instead of North America. This was such a great way to cap off my trip with the amount of foie gras we consumed, it was quite a challenge getting back to our hotel. The meal at Au Pied de Cochon was easily one of the top 5 meals all time for me. I can't wait to go back. Bring it on Chef Picard!

Note: If you ever decide to go, they do take reservations online via e-mail!

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Au Pied de Cochon
536 Avenue Duluth Est
Montréal, Québec, Canada
(514) 281-1114

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wolvesmouth Underground Dining Experience - The Titles Says It All (Los Angeles)

Wolvesmouth Dinner

Dinner Table at the Wolvesmouth Den

In the past few months, the underground supper club scene has become increasingly popular here in Los Angeles, though this is not a new concept. Prior to my dinner at the Wolves' Den, I was actually familiar with Chef Craig Thornton's cooking (aka Wolvesmouth) as I had another private dinner cooked by him and it was fantastic. Since I was on a Panda hibernation at that time and didn't take any pictures, please read up on that dinner via djjewelz. Let's continue, shall we?

Wolvesmouth DinnerWolvesmouth Dinner

Pre-Dinner Activies

We were all gathered there that particular night for a Birthday celebration for our friends Matt and Remil, the famous Pinoy Panda. Knowing Craig, he'll have something special planned and I was eagerly awaiting this dinner for over a week.

Menu for 11/20/10

Menu for 11/20/10

Now, if you want your menu printed and signed, this might not be the place for you. If you want to be surprised, don't even bother looking at the fridge and just enjoy what's coming. And. Here. We. Go!

celery root soup clams apple

1. celery root soup clams apple

I really enjoyed Craig's take on Clam Chowder. Having the cold apple in the soup was an ingenious idea. It cut down on saltiness of the clams while adding a nice crispy texture to the soup. A fantastic start to the meal!

scallop Korean chili pineapple persimmon basil

2. scallop Korean chili pineapple persimmon basil

Here, we have a nicely seared scallop on top of a spicy pineapple and persimmon "salsa." While normally I'm not a fan of persimmon, I enjoyed the sweet and spicy balance to match with the scallops.

trout brown butter lemon chive

3. trout brown butter lemon chive

One of my favorite dishes of the night, the trout. First of all, I'm glad Craig left the skin on the fish, it adds a nice flavor to the dish. The richness of the brown butter was nicely balance by the acidity of the lemon. The fish was nice and tender, just the way it's meant to be savored.

sweetbread squid black sesame Asian pear

4. sweetbread squid black sesame Asian pear

Ah sweetbread, one of my favorite things to eat! Though I would have probably preferred my sweetbread cook in a more crisp fashion, I loved the bold flavors of the black sesame and the sweetness from the asian pear. All in all, an enjoyable dish.

beet bone marrow creme fraiche dill

5. beet bone marrow creme fraiche dill

I'm no lover of beets, in fact, it's one of the things I dread eating most of the time. Though at the last dinner, Craig was able to combine bleu cheese and beet (2 things I absolutely despise),and make it quite tasty. This time around, the flavors of the creme fraiche and dill were able to mask the flavors of the beets and made it quite palatable. However, I was not able to detect the bone marrow in the creme fraiche. I was hoping for more of a fatty essence from the bone marrow.

lobster pimento cheese crouton chive tomato

6. lobster pimento cheese crouton chive tomato

Pimento cheese and lobster? I would have never thought of this particular combination. The savory, spicy pimento cheese actually meshed fairly well with the sweetness of the lobster. As a matter of fact, I quite enjoyed this particular dish.

rabbit saddle bacon mustard German butterball potatoes cabbage rabbit saddle bacon mustard German butterball potatoes cabbage

7. rabbit saddle bacon mustard German butterball potatoes cabbage

As I may have mentioned in a previous post (Sorry, I'm too lazy to look for it. I think it was Toque in Montreal), I love eating "Thumper." Yes, I'm referencing Bambi. Rabbit, "thumper," or whatever nickname I decide to give it, rabbit is good! Rabbit saddle with bacon is even better. Thanks for putting this on the menu Craig!

celery ice

8. celery ice

Palate cleanser. Tastes like celery. Refreshing. Much needed after 7 courses. OK, I'm ready to rock 'n roll now!

rabbit pot pie glazed vegetables gnocci

9. rabbit pot pie glazed vegetables gnocci

What's better than one rabbit dish? Two rabbit dishes of course. Craig went with a pot pie, and unlike the usual chicken or turkey, we have a rabbit pot pie. It's simple, homey, and good.

squab pickled berries sauerkraut pretzel sauce skin

10. squab pickled berries sauerkraut pretzel sauce skin

Squab, another one of my favorites. Actually, I like most meat, especially ones not often served like the aforementioned squab. The squab, cooked though the sous vide method was cooked extremely tender and juicy. The accompanied pickled berries and sauerkraut gave this dish a nice tart flavor.

passion fruit

11. passion fruit

Another palate cleanser. Passion fruit is something I'm quite familiar with. Tart, slightly sweet, and incredibly tasty. It's something I eat often when I'm back in Taiwan.

lamb fig purée lamb belly mint chanterelle

12. lamb fig purée lamb belly mint chanterelle

The final savory course, the lamb. The lamb itself was also cooked via the sous vide method, and came out to a perfect medium rare. Though some might not appreciate the gamey flavors of the lamb, I find it quite delicious. The lamb belly was a nice fatty contrast to the lamb itself. The fig puree and mint definitely added an important element to the dish.

squash fritter maple shortbread toasted marshmallow panna cotta

13. squash fritter maple shortbread toasted marshmallow panna cotta

I slightly dreaded this course. I don't like fried dough. I don't like doughnuts nor do I care for churros. The only doughnut I like are the doughnuts from Donut Plant in NYC. In this case, squash fritter is served onto of a toasted marshmallow panna cotta. While the panna cotta melted into a liquid base, it did mesh well nicely with the fried squash fritter. In fact, it was quite delicious. For me, I needed that toasted marshmallow base.

butter croissant ice cream nitrous cake nitrous powder

14. butter croissant ice cream nutella cake nitrous powder

Finally, we closed out our meal with a nutella cake with a butter croissant ice cream. Of the two dessert, this was my favorite one. I have to say from the first dinner to this one, Craig knows how to do ice cream. I enjoyed the rich flavors of the ice cream mixing with the nutella cake. I could have taken down at least another plate of this stuff. Delicious!

Now, do you want to eat here? I know you do. Want more details? If you do, follow dimsumpup on twitter or visit here for more information. What should you expect upon dining at Wolvesmouth? Get ready to have a good time, eating between 10-14 courses in a chill, relaxing environment. Craig and crew will take care of the food, music, service. All you really need to bring are your appetite, a nice bottle of wine, and your wallet. Do you need to dress up like those fine dining establishments in NYC? Definitely not. Just come, have a good time, and mingle with the fellow diners. One note, just don't be a dick. Assholes can stay outside!

Final Rating 9 out of 10

Wolvesmouth Underground Dining
Located in the Greater Los Angeles Area
Contact @dimsumpup and join the mailing list for more information

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ludobites 5.0 - A Lookback Before The Start Of Ludobites 6.0 (Los Angeles)

Ludobites 5.0

Ludobites 5.0

Yes, the time has come, the start of Ludobites 6.0. Why am I posting 5.0 you might ask? It's as simple as the fact I'm back logged and figured it's good time as any to come out of hibernation. Similar to 2.0 at Breadbar, 3.0 at Royal T, and 4.0 at Gram & Papa's, Ludobites 5.0 did not disappoint. Since we had a party of 6, there was no easier choice than to run the "gamut," aka run the whole menu.

Vadouvan Naan Bread with Salted Coconut Butter

Vadouvan Naan Bread with Salted Coconut Butter

Warm naan bread (probably the only thing I like about Indian food) and coconut butter. What could beat that combination?

Cheese Cupcake

Cheese Cupcake - Foie Gras-Chicken Liver & Chantilly, Tangerine, Cornichon

The cheese cupcake reminded me of Chef Ludo's famous foie gras cupcake from Ludobites 2.0, but this version was slightly lighter and I enjoyed the tangerine that complemented the cupcake. Delicious!

Lightly Smoked Grilled Squid

Lightly Smoked Grilled Squid - Cold White Bean Cream, Candied Olives, Prosciutto Chips, Meyer Lemon

Beautifully presented, and one of my favorite dishes of the night. The squid was cooked to perfection and the white bean cream added a nice flavor contrast to the dish. Very nice!

Poached Egg

Poached Egg - Potato Mousseline, Chorizo Condiment

This was one dish I was waiting for from my 2nd Ludobites 4.0 dinner, the potato mousseline I had that accompanied the lamb dish was utterly heavenly. I'll admit, I do prefer that version more than the this version with the poached egg and chorizo, but it's still delicious. I do have to say, the richness of the previous version of the mousseline did not need the chorizo. Simple is actually better in this case!

Goat Cheese SoupGoat Cheese Soup

Goat Cheese Soup - Bacon, Lardo, Tofu, Green Apple, Frisee Salad

I enjoyed the presentation and the complex of flavors here, but sadly, it wasn't one of my favorites of the night. For me, the cheese was a bit strong, but I'm usually not too keen on strong cheese courses, so it's more of a personal preference.

Raw Waygu Beef

Raw Waygu Beef - Dried Miso, Somen Noodle, Peanut Vinaigrette, Watermelon

The wagyu beef tartare was easily my favorite dish of the night. The flavors of the peanut, dried miso, watermelon meshed so well with the beef I wish I had the whole bowl to myself. I hope this is a dish I'll see again in 6.0. It's easily in the top 3 dishes that I had at Ludobites.

Grilled Octopus

Grilled Octopus - Oregano, Grilled Hazelnut Polenta, Pineapple Aioli, Piment D'Espellette Gelee

I enjoyed the charred exterior of the octopus, but the octopus itself was quite tender. Grilling the polenta was also a nice touch that I enjoyed.

Heirloom Tomato Smoothie

Heirloom Tomato Smoothie - Ice Dashi, Squid Ink Vodka-Gelee, Seaweed

The tomato smoothie was definitely a nice idea for the warm summer nights we had. I especially liked the color contrast of the squid ink vodka gelee that added to this dish.

Hot Foie Gras Dynamite

Hot Foie Gras Dynamite - Tuna, Lychee, Crackers

This was probably the richest dish of the night, but I liked the use of the tuna here, as it's definitely not something I would have expected to be included in a dynamite dish. Also, the addition of the lychee helped cut down the rich flavors of the dish.

Steamed Duck Lemon Verbena

Steamed Duck Lemon Verbena - Crispy Skin Puree, White Peach, Radish & Balsamic

A dish I wasn't sure if I'd like was the steamed duck. I'm a big fan of duck and had it cooked various methods, but steamed wasn't one of them. I especially loved the crispy skin puree that was layered on top of the steamed duck. A definite winner!

Confit Pork Belly

Confit Pork Belly - Raw Choucroute Thai Style, Mustard Ice Cream

It's hard to go wrong with pork belly these days, and this was a good rendition of it. I liked the mustard ice cream served that went along the pork belly. The raw vegetables added a nice texture to the dish as well.

Wild Striped Bass

Wild Striped Bass - Grilled Yellow Corn Mexican Style, Salted Butter Powder, Fresh Wasabi Salsa

Here we have a well cooked piece of fish served in a pseudo Mexican elote style presentation. Instead of the cotija cheese, it was actually salted butter powder. I enjoyed the dish and the presentation quite a bit.

Matcha Green Tea Almond Cake

Matcha Green Tea Almond Cake - Red berries, Mascarpone mousse

I was looking forward to this ever since I saw it on the menu prior to my visit. The matcha green tea almond cake was simply MONEY (in the words of Guy Fieri)!

Campfire Smoked S'mores

Campfire Smoked S'mores - Guacomole sorbet

If the previous dessert dish was money, this simply was far from it. I'm not sure what caused it, but the combination of the chocolate and the avocado resulted in a slight bitter after taste. Overall, I'd probably like each component of this dessert separate, instead of being used together as one dessert.

Caramel Souffle

Caramel Souffle - blanco grapefruit, fleur de sel ice cream

Thankfully, we closed out the meal with probably the best souffle I've had in a LONG time. The caramel souffle was light and delicious. I love the accompanied grapefruit and ice cream. Simply, a wonderful dessert I wished I had the whole thing to myself.

All in all, Ludobites 5.0 was a success, which of course lead to the mad house on Ludobite 6.0's reservation day. Although I'm not one of the lucky ones that snagged up a reservation, I hope to attend one of those upcoming dinners. Good luck Krissy and Ludo, I'm sure it'll be a knockout success!

Ludobites 6.0 will be held at Max
13355 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

The above dinner was at Ludobites 5.0 @ Gram & Papa's