Tuesday, September 26, 2006

San Fran Part 1: Veggie Paradise at Millennium

I love interesting gourmet cuisine. However since I am a vegequarian, I often only get one or two choices off a menu. For our first night in San Francisco my bf wanted to have a nice meal. We came across this vegetarian restaurant on the Internet called Millennium. I was so excited when I looked at the menu. All vegetarian dishes, prepared in interesting ways with creative flavor combinations and beautiful avant garde cuisine presentations. I couldn’t wait to try it.

We arrived at the restaurant a little before our reservations and ordered a couple drinks at the bar. They have an really interesting selection of mixed drinks made with fresh juices. They were out of the tequila for the drink that I wanted but the bartender offered to make me a muddled melon margarita. I was so glad I went with her suggestion. It was made with real cantaloupe which went really well with the tequila. We were eventually settled at our table. I new this was a restaurant I would enjoy went the bread was served with a lentil spread rather than butter. Is one restaurant a good enough reason to move cities?

I was having a little difficulty deciding what to order, since I had so many choices (yay). Everything sounded so good. The two that really stood out to me wer the Yube Roulade (stuffed chard, farro & French lentils, morel, caramelized onion & Porcini reduction, roasted chanterelles, sautéed Broccoli di Cicco with currants & pine-nuts) and the Indian Spiced Pink Bean Ragu (purple Peruvian potatoes, heirloom cauliflower, tomato confit, cumin scented poori flatbread, kachumber-methi salad, coconut mustard seed cream). I eventually went with the lentil dish since it sounded like something I wouldn’t be able to find somewhere else. My bf chose the Chipotle Grilled Portobello & Zucchini Tamale (dried cherries & toasted almonds, sautéed greens, Ancho-carrot "cream", roasted tomatillo salsa, spiced toasted pumpkin seeds).Our meals arrived beautifully presented. Luckily I remembered my camera. My dish was yummy, but could have had a little more flavor. I really enjoyed the mushrooms and sauce but I wish the lentils had figured more prominently. The range of textures was very nice but I felt the dish needed something else to make it a bit more memorable. On the other hand, the tamale was absolutely out of this world. Luckily my bf was sweet enough to share more than a few bites with me. The corn part of the tamale had such a fresh sweet corn flavor (actually it reminded very much of the handmade corn tortillas from Trader Joes). The inside was creamy and flavorful with just enough spice. Both my bf and I thoroughly enjoyed that dish.

While the entrees were definitely not ‘light’ they also weren’t overly heavy like some nice cuisine can be and left us with enough room for dessert. It didn’t take more than a quick glance at the menu for my bf and I decide on the Mocha crème brulee topped with peppermint chocolate chunk ice cream and chocolate espresso cookie. It was like this dish was designed for us. My favorite flavors are coffee and chocolate and my bf favorite ice cream is mint chocolate chip. The dish was super yummy. The ice cream was light and the peppermint flavor was subtle and not overpowering. The mocha part was more like a warm pudding than a crème brulee, but I don’t really care what you call it since it was so tasty. It was kind of like a blob of super thick hot fudge. The flavor wasn’t too rich or too sweet and had nice smokey coffee flavor. It went really well with the minty coolness of the ice cream. Unfortunately I was so distracted with the insane yumminess I forgot to take a picture. I did take one after we finished though hehe.

Overall, Milennium was a truely enjoyable dinning experience. Although I didn't love my entree all the other dishes was amazing. I will definitly be returning on my next trip to San Francisco.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Japanese Candy: Green Tea and Azuki Bean Kit Kats

I love azuki beans. I don’t know what it is about these beans that tastes so yummy as a sweetened paste, but I must say that it is one of my favorite flavors. I especially enjoy an pan and any kind of frozen treat featuring these yummy beans. One day I was surfing around on the net and I came across azukibean flavored kit kats from Japan. Panic immediately surged through my body. I had to try to these kit kats. What was I to do, since they were only available in Japan? Luckily in a quick search, I found them for auction on ebay, with a ‘buy it now’ option (since I have like no competitive spirit, and have been much disappointed in the past loosing auction, the ‘buy it now’ is like a god-send for me). I immediately clicked the button and before I really new what was going on, I bought a $4 kit kat from Japan, well technically $7.00 when you include the shipping. I giggled at the silliness of the whole ordeal. The seller actually offered like 19 different kit kats from Japan, and would combine orders for cheaper shipping. After looking through all the other flavors, I couldn’t resist getting a bag of the green tea flavored ones as well.I was so excited when these came in the mail. I first tried one of the green tea flavored ones, since the bad included 8 fun sized pieces (the azukibean was just one regular sized bar). I was surprised at how good it was. I have had green tea candies on a couple occasions and haven’t been too thrilled with the flavor, but the green tea kit kat absolutely changed my opinion about green tea candy. The flavor was pronounced but not too strong with just the right balance of sweet and bitter. The coating had a creamy almost buttery undertone which was quite pleasant. The flavor went perfect with the wafer which I found much lighter than American kit kats. The coating was a little soft so when I brought some over to my bfs for him to try, we put a couple in the freezer. They were even better that way and made a nice cool treat to have for a weekday dessert. I was so excited when I saw a post on candy blog about them and read that Cybele purchased them at the Mitsuwa in Little Tokyo. I enjoyed these so much that the next weekend I drove to downtown and pickup myself up another bag, super yum!It was a few days later when I tried the azukibean flavor. I was a little surprised that the box actually contained two individually wraped pairs of kit kat pieces rather than just 4 pieces all together. I wish the ones over here came like that. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as impressed by the flavor of these as I was with the green tea flavor. The coating was super sweet, and while tasty, didn’t really have much of an azukibean flavor. My bf, who doesn’t like azukibean at all, actually enjoyed it and agreed that it didn’t really remind him of azukibeans. While it was good, I was very disappointed, since I really wanted the azuki flavor. Oh well, it was still a lot of fun to try something so random. I actually put in another order for a couple more flavors of kit kats to try…can’t wait to post about them!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Let's Go to Echigo!

For a while now, I’ve really been craving some good straight up sushi. While I do enjoy much of the California, American style sushi, with the yummy spicy tuna rolls and all, nothing can compare to the buttery melt in your mouth sweetness of real high quality sushi. My bf had heard of a place that served really good sushi on warm rice. We did some searching on the net and came across Echigo. It got raving reviews and the head sushi chef trained under the sushi chef from Sasabune. I had been putting off satisfying my undeniable sushi craving for so long mainly since I didn’t want to spend the money, but the prices at Echigo seemed reasonable and I had just gotten paid, so Friday night seemed like the perfect time to go.

The place was a little crowded, and we did have to wait about 15 minutes, but I didn’t mind. Good things come to those who wait, right? Like many reviews will tell you, the place is scarcely decorated with white walls and white and black furniture. There are little signs in the front that say things like ‘sushi only, we don’t serve any soup, salad, or other things.’ This place was definitely serious about its sushi. All I could think was 'no soup for you' soup nazi style. The bar is for Omakase only, which I really want to try one of these days. Not wanting to spend that much, my bf and I were seated a small table for two.

They definitely weren’t kidding about only serving sushi. The only things on the menu were nigiri sushi, hand rolls (no cut maki) and drinks. I love sake, so we put in an order for a hot sake while we debated over the list of fish on the sushi menu. One thing I love about Echigo is that the pieces come out one by one. I am a slow eater and I truly believe in savoring each bite of food, so this style of serving really allowed for that kind of dining experience. It also insures that the warm rice stayed warm but didn’t cook the fish.

The first piece that came out was the salmon, which is one of my standard favorites. It was served with a little sliver of kelp on top. Both my bf and I were blown away by the flavor. I loved the slightly warm rice. It is a little different, but in a good way. The vinegary rice balanced perfectly with the sweet and buttery salmon. Next we got one piece of swordfish and another piece of a different type of fish of which I now forget the name. Both were served in their own sauce and we instructed to not use the soy sauce. Both pieces were exceptionally good. I don’t think I have ever had swordfish sushi but I would definitely get it again. This was served just slightly seared giving it a delicious flavor and texture. The next was the unagi, which has always been my favorite. After so many orders of truly mediocre pieces at other sushi bars around LA, I forgot how delicious good unagi can be. The meat just seemed to dissolve in my mouth with sweet rich goodness. Oh it was like taking a little bite of sushi heaven. For our final piece, we tried the blue crab hand roll. This seemed to be something that everyone was raving about and for good reason. The toasted nori was a perfect texture and had an amazing toasty nutty flavor. The rice was warm and vinegary and the lump of crab was oh so sweet. All three of those flavors and textures combined created such a super yummy tasting experience. The roll was fairly large and we were quite satisfied after.

Granted we didn’t get much, but the bill was actually under $30 for the two of us including the sake. I wish I had some pictures, but at least that gives me an excuse to go back (not that I need one!) and I will have to do another post with pictures included.

The Good: Amazing sushi, good price, nice casual atmosphere

The Bad: Nothing!

The Yummy: While I bet everything on the menu is delicious so try some things out side of your normal repertoire of sushi, but the salmon, unagi, and blue crab handrolls are all must tries!

Sushi Echigo in West LA
12217 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90025