Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lunch at E Baldi - Again!

E Baldi is at 375 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills.  This is one of our favourite places for lunch, and we come here every time we are in LA, so obviously I have blogged about it before.  It's a small restaurant with a small outdoor area.  Edoardo Baldi is the Chef/Owner.  Italian born, he credits his mother and grandmother with teaching him how to cook, although he did work at his father's restaurant early in his career.  His describes his food as "True, simple Tuscan food with an accent of Emilia Romagna that I love to make for my customers".
Edoardo is the son of the famous Giorgio Baldi who owns the fabulous Giorgio Baldi Ristorante in Santa Monica.  He sadly passed away last year.

We sat outside, which is a great spot for people watching.  Lots of famous faces at the restaurant - directors, executives.  And an amazing array of fabulous 'Beverly Hillsers', not to mention the dogs!

The only trouble with coming back here is I always order the same dishes.  What can I say?  They are both just exceptional and I have never had anything like them.

To start, the Spelt, Langostine, Cannellini, Celery, Cherry Tomatoes & Lemon Insalate.  There are also fine slices of Basil and the combination is just wonderful, especially with the warm Langostine, so light and tender.
Followed by the Sweet Corn Agnolotti, Mascarpone, Truffle Butter.  To die for!  The creamy corn bursts out of the tiny Agnolotti, and the Truffle taste is perfectly balanced.  As this was really a starter, I should have asked for a double serve - we have done in the past.
Hal also had the Sweet Corn Agnolotti to start, then the Lasagna Verde with Besciamella and Meat Ragu  - another favourite - and said it was as fabulous as ever.
Fabulous food, great service.  Highly recommended.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Lunch at Bottega Louie

We took some friends downtown to Bottega Louie at 700 South Grand Avenue, Corner 7th Street, LA.  We had called in there once before to get some cakes.  What an amazing selection.

"Bottega Louie's owners have their sights set on building 'a lifestyle-enhancement brand' - a high-end, mid-priced restaurant and market in one, with several locations in L.A. and beyond, says Bottega Louie co-owner and President Daniel Flores.

No detail has been overlooked. More than three years in the making, Bottega Louie is 10,000 square feet, has 20-foot ceilings, more than 2,000 feet of brass millwork, marble-tiled floors, custom deli cases and tables, and about 200 employees. The kitchen handles 600 recipes for the Italian menu and the pre-prepared dishes to go for the market. The bakers turn out 800 pastries a day; stacks of pastel boxes tied with silk ribbon decorate the windows along Grand Avenue.

There's a full bar, a counter devoted to 20 kinds of breads, a brick oven churning out pizzas and a carving station.  Three hostesses armed with a laminated map of the tables and stationed at a gilt Baroque-style, curve-legged console in the middle of the restaurant, greet and seat patrons."

The sad thing is that the week before Bottega Louie opened on 6th April, the company that developed the 11 stories of loft-style condos above it filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and the building faces foreclosure.   This apparently won't affect Bottega Louie.
So... we couldn't wait to come back for lunch.  Our friends were concerned about going downtown, having not been there for some years, but like us, were really impressed at the change.  Very New York!  Lovely dining room, although very noisy.
Having seen the huge pizza oven, we had to share a pizza.
As one of our party was vegetarian, we then chose a selection of their Small Plates.

We only wanted a glass of wine, but loved the way they served it in a mini carafe.
The pizza was half Pepperoni (Mozzarella, Grana Parmesan, Tomato Sauce, Oregano & Fennel Sausage) and half Bianco (Ricotta, Mozzarella, Grana Parmesan, Roasted Garlic and Wild Rocket Arugula).  Lovely light crust.
We then had the Modena Salad (Butter Lettuce, Candied Walnuts, Crumbled Goat cheese, Shallots, Garden Herbs & Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette).  Really lovely.
Then Kennebec French Fries and Fried Calamari.  Served with two different mayonaisse dips and a homemade Tomato Sauce.  The Calamari was very tender.
Then followed the Portobello Fries, large slices of delicious mushrooms.
The Sauteed Broccolini was perfectly cooked with lovely pieces of cooked soft garlic. 
The Grilled Artichokes were the standout - a really smokey BBQ flavour, with fresh Capers, Caperberries and pitted small Olives. 
The Grilled Sausage & White Beans was interesting, although the sausage a little full on.
And because of their amazing array of cakes, decided to try ONE dessert to share.  A Butterscotch Caramel.  Very very rich.
Next time I would like to try some of their pasta dishes.  Suspect they would be very good indeed.

Lovely bright airy room, efficient service, good food.  And I gotta say one great thing about America is - the Valet Parking!


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dinner at Cleo, The Redbury Hotel, Hollywood & Vine, LA

Have often driven past The Redbury, as we stay only a few blocks away right under the Hollywood sign.  So we were excited to visit this new venture by sbe who also own the SLS Hotel (which has  Bazaar Restaurant) amongst many other restaurants and bars.   This amazing refurb was curated by Creative Director Matthew Rolston in collaboration with sbe Founder and CEO Sam Nazarian.  Amazing.  The restaurant is really cool, and the food very good.  Well done Executive Chef Daniel Emaleh.

You enter this amazing hallway, with Cleo restaurant on the right and the lifts to the left.  People everywhere and extremely loud music.  The whole place was jumping.
Our table was not quite ready, so they suggested we head upstairs for a drink.  The Library was closed for a private party, but the outdoor Courtyard Glade was open.  Really lovely area.

We then headed to the restaurant.  We were seated at the oversized tables and chairs right beside the frantic kitchen.  This also gave us an amazing view across the entire restaurant.  As soon as a table was vacated, it was filled.  The entire entrance was jammed with people waiting for a table.  It was also so loud you could barely talk.   Scarlett Johannson was a few tables away, barely recognisable with her blonde hair pulled back and wearing huge horn rimmed glasses.  Don't think many people realised it was her.  Also spied Tyra Banks.
The menu is described as Middle Eastern, and is designed to share with lots and lots of small dishes.  I must say my heart fell when I realised the food was Middle Eastern, as I don't think I've ever had a good one.  But...... this restaurant has changed my mind.  Among the dishes we had were -

Artichoke, Nicoise Olives from the Wood Burning Oven.  Really fabulous.
Brussels Sprouts with Capers, Parsley, Almonds, Red Wine Vinaigrette.  The standout dish for me - little flakes of Sprouts.
Tuna Tartar with Oranges, Olives, Harissa, Avocado.  Served separately then mixed by the waiter at the table with really crispy biscuits.  Really good, and the taste of orange was refreshing.
Spanakopita were delicious - had to order more.
 The Heirloom Tomato, Feta, Picholine, Honey-Sherry Vinaigrette Salad was great, as were the Market Greens (with Nectarines, Zhoug, Spiced Almonds, Marinated Feta, Smoked Shallots).
The Spicy Potatoes were very full on.   Bit much really.
The Zucchini Keftedes (Drained Yoghurt, Pressed Zucchini Salad) were lovely, little Zucchini cakes with sliced Zucchini on top.  The Flatbreads, cooked in the huge pizza oven, were lovely.  We had the Artichoke (with Crushed Potato, Wilted Arugula, Aged Mozzarella).
The Lamb Shawarma (with Caramelized Onions, Lebaneh, Harissa, Grilled Lafa) were excellent, wrapped in their own soft flatbread like a Taco, as were the Sliders (Sonoma Lamb, Feta, Harissa Aioli, Sweet Pickled Shallots).  The Chicken Tagine (Preserved Lemon, Almonds, Olives, Roasted Tomatoes, Saffron Rice) was disappointing, but the Pork Belly was good, although very rich.
We finished with the most amazing desserts - a Chocolate Pudding and a Butterscotch  Caramel Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream.  Beautifully presented - both great.
Also discovered a lovely Moroccan wine - Thalvin 'De Siroua' Syrah 2008 and only $45.

Overall a great experience.  Food great, service excellent, good and reasonably priced wine list (most wines $40 - $50) -  recommend a visit.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Dinner at Mr Chow, Beverly Hills, LA

Had to have dinner at the famous Mr Chow in Beverly Hills, it's an institution. 

The first Mr Chow was opened by Michael Chow  in London in 1968 serving authentic Beijing cuisine.  Mr Chow opened at the Beverly Hills location in 1974, followed by two in New York, one in Miami and one in Las Vegas.  Michael collaborates with his wife and partner Eva.   Award winning Executive Chef Eddie Wong has been overseeing the restaurants for over 30 years.

The last time we were here was just after it opened - a bloody long time ago!

We were lucky enough to be served by a wonderful character who had been at the restaurant since it opened 38 years ago.
Love the lights under the tables which showcase the glass vase of orchids.
We began with Salt and Pepper Prawns.  They were, annoyingly, unpeeled and the shell was just not crisp enough to eat.  I also expected the dumplings to come out first.
We then had the famous Mr. Chow Noodles, the classic handmade Beijing noodles Mr Chow introduced to the west in 1968.    The mince was delicious, and the noodles lovely, but I did think the Spring Onions should have been a tad smaller in length.
During the dinner the room stopped for the Noodle Making Performance.  Very impressive.
Then followed the Potstickers, described as a classic from Beijing, which looked amazing.  Crack through the crust and there were the individual dumplings.  Tasty, but not as good as the 'soup dumplings'.
Shanghai Little Dragon Classic Steamed Soup Dumplings were the standout for me.  The dumplings were full of scalding hot soup and the vinegar dressing was really complimentary.
We then had the Crispy Beef .  Ordinary really.
Followed by the String Beans with XO Sauce.  Not bad, but I prefer the ones we get at home with Minced Pork.
 Naturally the Fried Rice.  Not great, but we are spoiled in Australia being so close to Asia.
Then Spicy Pork With Chili.  Very tasty, and quite hot.
And finally the Gamblers Duck, Contrast of tender and crispy served with Pancakes and Plum Sauce.  Strange that they didn't take the duck off the bone for us. 
The very friendly waitstaff insisted we have a dessert, so we obviously just had to comply.    Mixed Berry Tart with Ice Cream.  I didn't really like it.
We ran into an old friend there, who insisted on buying us a nightcap.  Expresso Martini's appeared like magic.
A great experience, very friendly staff and extremely efficient service.  No celebrities tonight.  I remember 30 odd years ago we sat beside Tony Curtis!  Just wish the food was better.