Despite the fact that I have driven by it probably 800 times, Petrossian remained unfamiliar to me. The crisp white table clothes and caviar centric menu never really called my name. It's not that I am averse to caviar, but I only appreciate it when treated appropriately... As a delicacy, and one that enhances already wonderfully flavored foods to make them better. And thus I never sought caviar out, but would have a bite here and there when it's featured on a tasting menu or as a garnish.
Most recently a friend pressed the issue. Petrossian is her love. Not only does she know the menu inside and out, but she spent some time working there. Always up for a new challenge, I was more than obliged when she suggested a girls lunch there. I had read that there was an eager young new chef who was mixing it up and I was curious.
Giselle Wellman proved to be just that and more. It's always telling to meet a Chef and far and wide they are not the social type. However, Giselle is extremely personable. She exudes passion, friendliness and curiosity. She is not afraid to push the envelope yet maintains the viewpoint that food should be approachable. As most Chefs come to the dining room for a quick hello and run back to the cave they call "kitchen," Wellman was excited to share her inspirations and techniques.
Lunch was a small sample but last night I was able to get the full monty, so to speak, with a 9 course tasting meal.
The beauty of this restaurant is the ability to have an incredibly knowledgeable and experienced chef at your fingertips. Usually chefs with Wellman's credentials are far too busy to pay attention to any one table. However, the intimacy of Petrossian encourages just the opposite. Wellman admits she has time to play with new dishes regularly and loves the freedom a small operation offers. And how many people have kilos of caviar at their disposal to be creative with?! With this freedom comes new twists on classics like a beautiful muscovy duck breast topped with meringue or a grilled cheese with caviar.
The 9 course meal started with an "Caviar Papierusse"- brioche, egg yolk and dill, and the papierusse is a gelatin type sheet of caviar. An incredible garnish, it added just a little "umph" to an already decadent bite.
Things got event more interesting. A small cup of butternut squash soup had the molecular gastronomy components of a scientist. Wellman wasn't showing off (even though she could as she's worked at Bouchon, Jean-Georges and more) but is balancing a dish. Brown butter, sage, sherry and creme frache brought new dimensions to the rich liquid.
The salad duo of baby beets with truffle fondue (even better than it sounds) and caviar salad showed just how good a salad can be. After surprisingly rich starters the salads were a nice palate refresher. The caviar replaced crutons in a way and gave a new texture and flavor that was a little treat in every bite.
Striped bass seems to be what Wellman keeps getting written up for. Caviar powder delicately coats the white fish as do citrus bread crumbs, capers and a lemon foam.
My favorites of the night were the moscovay ducky breaks with sweet potato puree, pecans, sour cherries and duck jus and the roasted jidori chicken with brussels sprouts, chestnut puree and apple cranberry chutney. This showed Wellman's appreciation for the seasons and the familiar. This dish was an upgraded version of the holiday dishes we all know and love. Wellman hits a high note with these dishes.
Espresso caviar atop a vanilla panna cotta finished us off with a cardamom shortbread cookie and almond meringue. I would have like a slightly more rich dessert, especially after a decadent meal, however, somethings must remain in the French fashion, after all, it is Petrossian!
Eating at Petrossian provides you the luxury to have a very talented chef focusing on you. Ask to meet her, try her creations. You can see the same devotion in her face that you taste in her food.
"How do you stay skinny and eat out all the time?" I get asked this question on a daily basis and honestly, I work out a lot (except for the next month as my foot is broken), and I try to eat healthy as much as possible.
We angelenos get spoiled at times with the vast selection of sushi in Los Angeles. Sushi is a great low-calorie, high protein dinner option, especially if you opt out of the rice. But how much of it is really good? Not a lot in my opinion. And what's even harder is finding great sushi that's affordable with a unique twist in the flavors.
I'm not going to lie, I am not a big plan of straight sushi. I like a little sauce, a little presentation, a little flair. Which is why I was delightfully surprised to try Sushi Roku's new menu. A lot of time and consideration has gone into preparing dishes that are unique, beautiful and most importantly, flavorful.
The best part? They are constantly offering speacials during their lunch which allows you to eat fantastic quality food at a reasonable price.
So let me walk you through my favorite dishes:
Start with the lotus root - truffled "Rinkon Kinpira" lotus root. Lotus root is incredibly good for you, rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, riboflavin, and known as assisting in loosing weight, you'd never know by trying it that is super food. At Sushi Roku it's served warm in a sweet truffled sauce. It's the perfect way to start your meal.
Want a few other starters? The albacore tacos Roku style are also great and served in a crispy tempura shell with a creamy guac.
Looking for a little more meat and a ton of flavor? The kurobuta pork is pretty fantastic, albeit rich and not something I let myself order every time, even though I'd like to. The meat falls apart with the touch of your fork and is salty and sweet.
My MUST order is the Ume - a six piece selection of their Master Chef's custom creations. Delicious combinations like toro with parmesan and crab with warm butter make this hard to resist. I eat mine without the rice and it is so satisfying and such a fun mix of flavors and textures.
At this point I am more than full BUT if I do have room for something sweet it will definitely be the matcha green tea cappuccino. The first bite is of a slightly sweet green tea whipped cream. Dig deeper and there is a green tea sponge cake. I was thinking to myself, "gosh, this would be good with ice cream," and on my next bite, sure and behold, there is green tea ice cream in the middle of this pretty little creation.
I am not lying when I say I eat this meal once a week lately (minus the pork and dessert) but I always feel great afterwards. I am satisfied full and feel like I ate things that help me stay skinny!
Photos by Claire Thomas
Welcome to the neighborhood Fresh East…won’t you stay awhile?
Fresh East is a great new healthy, organic, sustainable concept that has graced us with its presence in West Hollywood. Known for their spicy garlic noodles, they offer a wide assortment of vegan, vegetarian, meat and seafood dishes, all created with the environment and health of it's patrons in mind. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual but the ingredients are those you'd typically find in a fine dining establishment.
The 5 spice organic salmon served with brown rice is my favorite dish so far, as the sauce that it’s served with it is superb! It’s sweet and tangy. I liked it so much that I asked for an extra side of the sauce and poured it over the garlic noodles! Awesome. Do it.
They have a great juice that is made fresh with beets, cucumber, apples, orange, spinach and kale. It's bright purple, a little sweet and so good for you.
The Palak paneer is spinach with fenugreek leaves, paneer cheese, yogurt and served with a side of red lentil dal that is wonderfully flavorful and should be sold on its own.
fresheast is so passionate about the environment that they will give 10% off to customers who arrive by bike or electric vehicle. You can also get 10% off if you bring in your own container. The containers they use are all biodegradable and many made from recycled products.
I can't wait to try their California Lamb with green onion and red bell pepper and I also want to try the pan fried curry noodles with seasoned vegetables.
This is another great, healthy, flavorful, affordable spot to get consciously prepared food that won't stretch the waistline. They also serve beer, wine and sake and they deliver!
fresheast 8951 Santa Monica Blvd. (310) 859-9989
Mediterranean dining has gained a foothold in LA. The Asian fusion style that dominated the LA culinary scene for years is taking a back seat to the latest openings around town that focus on seasonality and something other than sushi.
Enter Mezze, the new Mediterranean concept on La Cienega. The mellow dining room is relaxed and laid back while everything happening in the kitchen is meticulous and refined.
Mezze’s concept was developed as a contemporary play on the traditional mezze style of dining consisting of small plates. Mezze, Arabic for “sharing,” will continue this traditional style dining but will offer patrons an innovative take on Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors by using local produce and ingredients and employing both new and traditional techniques.
Taste dishes inspired by the cuisines of Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Morocco and Turkey. Top of the line seasonal produce will be used to make small plates like yellowtail crudo with pinenuts, merguez flatbread with tomato jam or veal manti with almond milk. Chef Micah Wexler, formerly of Craft, is the artist at work behind this market driven menu.
Poached egg shakshouka was one of the most enticing dishes I've come across in a while. A perfectly poached egg sat atop roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and sweetbreads.
Yellowtail crudo was my favorite dish of the night with pinenuts and poached cherries. It was sweet, salty and delicate.
Roasted quail was perfectly tender and came in a consumme that was so flavorful, I wanted a spoon to scoop of more of the delicate broth.
Out of the wood burning oven comes flatbreads with merguez sausage and tomato jam or or baby chicken with zatar and natural jus.
Enjoy the flavors of exotic cocktails designed by mixologist Michael Monrreal. A vodka cocktail with clementine, lemon and lime juice reminded me of the smooth tang of Oragina in the best of ways.
Relish in the old Sona space that will offer indoor and outdoor seating as well as a bar/lounge area. The best seats in the house are first come, first serve and look straight on to the newly constructed kitchen and wood burning oven.
Being one of very few places in Los Angeles that serves food until midnight, it’s sure to be a good time.
Mezze 401 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310) 657-4103
When you walk into Night + Market, you feel as though you are walking into a pet project, and this feeling isn't far from the truth. Chef and owner Kris Yenbamroong recently turned what used to be an office adjoining his family's Thai restaurant Telesai, into a modern, minimalist space serving food you find from night markets in Thailand...hence the name. A projector plays old movies on a large blank walls and huge tables in the center of the room are screaming for you to bring your 8 closest friends, and that is just what I intend to do!
I tried it on the first night of Dine LA as the menu looked awesome. They offer 3 savory courses for only $34. It's fresh ingredients, A LOT of flavor and quite a bit of food. We did one Dine LA as well as ordered a few things off of the normal menu.
For the Dine LA we started with the Yum Tuna - and it was HOT. It's served raw with lime, fish sauce, rice powder and roasted red chile. It was awesome and left my mouth on fire. If you want things more mild, be sure to ask, otherwise the dishes are served authentically spicy.
The next course from Dine LA was red snapper cooked with red curry, kaffir lime leaves and coconut cream in a banana leaf 'tamale'. I was supper excited about this dish but unfortunately it was my least favorite of the night. Skip it, unless you like your fish mushy.
The final course of the Dine LA menu was the game hen and it was DELICIOUS with a capital D. It's was incredibly juicy and tender and served with sticky rice.
The things we ordered off the normal menu included the tom yum soup with shrimp, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal and cilantro. This was great, but not too different from the typical tom yum soup. We also had the pork skewers and they were awesome. They were lean but still really flavorful and juicy and bathed in condensed milk.
Dessert was not my favorite - coconut ice cream on sticky rice and bread. What can I say... I like more conventional desserts.
Night + Market 9041 Sunset Blvd. (310) 275-9724
I actually dined at BLT Steak in Washington DC before trying the Los Angeles outpost. Luckily for me, shortly after my move to Los Angeles, BLT opened on Sunset Blvd. bringing great American cuisine to Sunset Plaza.
The atmosphere feels some what conservative to me - more like an East Coast restaurant. Dark leather chairs and booths make for a warm environment and lots of room for relaxing. They get lots of credit for their incredible pop-overs, which are served straight from the oven to your table with a huge salt shaker and butter. They are cheesy, doughy, warm and delicious. But try not to eat the entire thing as they are filling.
Also complimentary is chicken liver pate in a jar with grilled bread. Pate is not my favorite, nevertheless real offal lovers are thrilled.
The menu is straight forward and American. Starters include oysters, a wonderful tuna tartare with avacado, soy lime dressing and fried onions and a wide range of salads: spinach, lobster cobb, vegetable and caesar.
My advice: share a starter. Portions are quite large and you will never make it to your entree, especially if you've eaten your pop-over. The tuna tartare is my favorite.
Although it is a steak house, and their steaks are delicious, particularly the porterhouse for 2, I usually find myself ordering things other than steaks. Last night I tried the branzini with fennel puree. This was not my favorite fish. It tasted too much of the ocean for my likes.
We also had the lemon rosemary chicken. It comes in a dutch oven with a lovely heaping of its cooking juices.
Their lobster is also good, but once I ordered it and it came out a bit too dry. It too is served in a dutch oven with a lovely lemon grass broth.
Sides are not to be missed. A few of my favorites are the brussels sprouts with with bacon and the sweet potato with amaretti. They also put out a mean mashed potato. Skip the asparagus. They are huge and flavorless.
Blackboard specials seem to change a few times a season. As of late they are offering a wonderful lamb shank as well as braised greens on the side and glazed carrots. All were wonderful. A great deal is the blackboard special - ordering entirely from the specials gets you an appetizer, entree, side and dessert, all for $50. It's really a fantastic deal and a lot of food. A friend and I split it and were stuffed.
Desserts are lovely as well. Last night I tried the lemon meringue. The crust was mildly sweet and the meringue was artfully done in cylindars standing up. The only thing I didn't like was the addition of blueberries between the lemon custard and the merigue. It was served along side lemon sorbet on top of a short bread cookie.
The blackboard special dessert right now is a carrot cake, which is also perfectly satisfying.
In a city where "trendy" restaurants come and go as often as celebrities faces on US Weekly, I was surprised to walk into Cecconi's more than a year and half after their opening to see that the place was still "happening", and it was a Monday night! I was out for a girls dinner and I wanted to go somewhere fun and obviously I wanted the food to be good. Unfortunately there aren't that many restaurants that fit that mold in LA. Asia De Cuba is fun, but I am frankly over their food which hasn't been changed in what feels like a decade. CUT can be fun, but also hard on the wallet. Boa is fun, but the food is often terrible. So I ended up going back to Cecconi's and hoping for the best.
When it opened it was near impossible to get a reservation, I decided my money was better spent elsewhere where I wouldn't be fighting over a table. The food had always been rather mixed in my opinion. Pizzas were decent with a nice crust, coming out of the wood burning oven and prawns were delicate and sweet with a crumb topping. However simple dishes like pea soup were incredibly disappointing and lacked flavor. Scallops wrapped in pancetta were painfully salty (and still are). However there is a great meal to be had there if you know what to order. But doesn't that speak true of most restaurants, ordering the right or wrong thing will make or break your entire experience. Which is why most experts will tell you to ask the waiter what he or she recommends. Unfortunately you are putting your faith in someone who may or may not like the institution where they work and may or may not give a shit about what dish ends up in front of you. But you should always ask and then, depending on their enthusiasm or whether or not it seems you are just being steered towards the most expensive dish, you can decide whether or not to take their advice.
So, Cecconi's on Monday. I ordered the fiore-a cocktail with prosecco, St. Germain and a lemon twist. I loved everything about this drink except the lemon twist. It overwhelms the drink. Next time, I will request the drink without it.
We decide on a few of the classic appetizers for the table. Meatballs are from the wood oven and come with a heaping amount of tomato sauce, which I love. The meatballs themselves are a little boring though and could use cheese (lots of it) and maybe even some salt for flavor.
Corn ravioli with shaved truffle are excellent and can be done as an entree or appetizer as with most of the other pastas on the menu. The baked gnocchi romana with gorgonzola is a rich dish for a starter but I do like the creaminess with the sharp flavor of the cheese.
The Chino Farms beets with burrata are great. The burrata is incredibly creamy as it should be and compliments the beets nicely. Tuna tartare is prepared table side, which I think is a waste of time and holds everyone else's appetizers while someone sprinkles it with olive oil and salt. The end result of the tuna is fresh but rather bland.
Entrees are hit or miss. I got a hit with the branzino-crispy fish with skin on came with cherry tomatoes and olives from the wood burning oven. The fish was light and flakey with a nice flavor. My friends didn't do as well with the halibut. It was large and bland. The veal ossobuco gremolata was rich and flavorful and again came with a lot of sauce.
Lamb chops had potential-they were from Sonoma and paired with artichokes and fava beans, but became dried out when they were over cooked. Mushroom risotto is kind of a hot mess. Rather bland and boring. A side of mashed potatoes will put a smile on anyone's face though as they are creamy and sweet.
Cecconi's is a great place to go with friends-just be sure to tell them what to order so that they enjoy the evening as much as you do!
Cecconi's (310) 432-2000 8764 Melrose Avenue
The Roger Room is an iconic speakeasy and one of the very few places worth meeting for a drink in Los Angeles. While other places have a decent enough atmosphere, none offer the creativity and mixology that Roger Room does.
Dim lighting and red leather booths keep the tiny little spot intimate without being stuffy. The doormen are friendly enough for Los Angeles and while on a week night you'll likely cruise right in, Friday's and Saturday's are a different story.
The drink list is organized by alcohol type. So if you want a drink with Rum, you will pick a drink under the rum section of the menu. The Tijuana Brass is one of the drinks they are known for. With tequila and cucumber foam, this drinks tastes like a very refreshing Margarita.
New additions to the menu include drinks with absinthe. I tried the Pisco Punch with pineapple juice, crushed grapes, and mari hari absinthe. It was sweet and didn't taste as strong as it was.
The Four Aces is made with Luksusowa vodka, basil, lime juice, green grapes and ginger. Another refreshing combination of flavors.
The Thug is every man's dream. Whiskey and baranjager-it's strong and warm.
They will also always make you something that's not on the menu- a good solid mojito or whatever it is you fancy.
The Roger Room 370 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310) 854-1300
I was really excited about the opening of Red O - Mexican cuisine by Rick Bayless. Millions were obviously put into the space on Melrose Ave. which has housed several restaurants over the past few decades. Modern, open and bright, the restaurant has the feel of being in Cabo or some other well to do town in Mexico.
Things were off to a rough start when the BOUNCER, yes bouncer, standing outside the restaurant rather rudely asked us if we had reservations. Once we told him our names and the time, he became more friendly and allowed us to enter. Why do they need rude bouncers at the door? And it seems like a very quick way to deter customers from stopping in at the bar for a drink.
We were seated rather quickly and greeted by our server who though a tad bit overzealous, was probably one of the better aspects of the meal. He asked if we wanted to start with the "signature" guacamole...we said yes and were very quickly presented with a pretty standard creamy guacamole ($9), accompanied by what looked like Bayless' signature salsas sold at Whole Foods (which sell for less than $5 each)...hmmm.
They were tasty enough...sitting on a corn bite and topped with roasted tomato-green chili sauce and topped with cotija cheese. The meat was tender, juicy and rich and it was a nice sized bite.
The waiter also recommended the fresh corn and goat cheese tamale. This was a decent dish and came with a roasted poblano pepper in a corn husk.
For entrees the waiter clearly pointed us away from the enchiladas and tacos and towards the "Celebrated Seven," which also happened to be twice as expensive as most of the tacos and enchiladas. We decided on the Tinga Poblana, pork shoulder and belly, homemade chorizo, potatoes, avocados, tomatoes, smoked chipotle and queso fresco.
This looked like heap in a bowl...and even though it was probably the best dish of the evening, it was still rather dry and somewhat uninspired. The flavors seemed to blend together into a mush so that nothing was distinct and I didn't even know whether I was eating shoulder or belly. But I was starving so I ate all of it.
The chicken mole was the other entree of choice-for one because I love mole and also because Rick Bayless is said to have been perfecting this mole for decades. What a disappointment!
The only reason I'm smiling in the picture above is because I hadn't taken a bite yet. The chicken and mole was cold - QUITE cold. So cold that we had to send it back. When a new chicken came out it was hot but nothing special and quite dry. Perhaps the cold chicken ruined it for us...
I was so uninspired by the meal. I had such high expectations, which I am sure was part of the problem, but I find it hard to believe that this is the type of food Bayless puts out in Chicago...otherwise he'd have a BAD reputation. Maybe it will just take some time for them to find their groove. After all they've only been open a week and a half. I have no upcoming plans to return...but I do hope for their sake that things improve.
RED O 8155 Melrose Ave. (323) 655-5009