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Purple Pig 2010-02-21

by foodbitch 21. February 2010 15:43

Hidden behind office space
In a building so remote
Lies a temple to pigs’ grace
Le couture this is le haute.

A Pig’s tail for 9 dollars
A bread ball for but five
‘Twas good enough to hollars
Or squeal it in pig’s jive.

A pork shoulder was eaten.
Prosciutto bead ball too.
No entrée exceeded
Ten single buckaroo.

But bester than the pricing,
Almost than the food
Was the Bloody Mary spicing
Heaven/Seven lewd.

The Purple Pig had served us
The way that no bar could
An orgy of ungulate
And more liquor than was good.

Go eat now at Purple Pig
Go before the line.
The taste harks back to stockyard days
Chicago knows its swine.

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El Paseo 2010-02-14

by foodbitch 14. February 2010 14:51

A new floor has been reached even as measured by the shockingly low standards of airport dining. A floor you should experience for yourself at El Paseo Café in terminal 1 of LAX.

Clearly, Valentine’s Day 2010 was a travel day so romantic dinner was at the SouthWest Terminal of LAX. Few cuisines make for better airport dining than Mexican. The same people who domesticated corn and beans and llamas perfected the art of throwing things into an edible wrap at lightning speed as required by antsy travelers. Speed is why one never finds Indian tandoori at the airport but can’t roll a suitcase without plowing into a burrito remnant. Indeed a burrito is perhaps the last thing one would expect to have the capacity for turning out poorly. Like pizza and sex, even when a burrito is bad, it’s still pretty good. But the burrito at El Paseo puts so much distance between itself and good that it’s comical. As a human with what I believe to be a normally evolved sense of disgust, my ability to express its depth was limited by the fear of causing an airport disturbance and getting tossed in with the underwear bombers. But after half of this burrito, my underwear wouldn’t need explosives.

If El Paseo served pizza, it would be a Domino’s and K-mart hybrid. Left to the elements. For a month. And if it served sex, it would be the hooker left uncoupled. At Santa Monica and Wilcox. On Saturday. I can’t explain beyond the above what this monstrosity was like. I simply haven’t the vocabulary.

So please see photographic evidence.

Don’t look too closely for fear of vomit on the keyboard but what the devil is THAT? What passed for guacamole was some sort of avocado paste with tomato roe sprinkled in for wetness. The beans were more drainage from a can than fried or refried anything and the tortilla was less edible than Viva paper towels but much much stronger. And hotter. The entire mess was heated to the temperature of nuclear fusion perhaps out of compassion since burnt tongues taste less. I only wish I burned mine more.

Happy Valentine’s Day dinner sweetheart.


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BLD 2010-02-14

by foodbitch 14. February 2010 10:49

BLD is not cheap. Nor does it blow a menu-sized hole through your taste buds. But it is so consistently good in a land of late-rising mediocrity that it deserves the highest marks by LA measures.

In a city that loves its sleep, finding a breakfast spot that opens before 9 ain’t so easy. But with BLD, (breakfast, lunch, dinner) you get as early a breakfast as you’re willing short of IHOP and hotel cafeterias. Considering that you’re blood-alcohol is probably still illegal, you shouldn’t make it too early.

One of the menu items I can’t seem to do without is the Cuban sandwich. They pile on the pulled pork onto a roll of bread that can more than stand up to all of it. Their fries are thin and crispy but will occasionally throw in a wet and soggy one that we all say we don’t like but secretly love to be surprised with. The sweet pickle I can do without. I prefer salty. But that’s me. I want to try other things but each time I have, I regret not going Cuban. There’s something in that sandwich that rings addictive. I hope it isn’t MSG.

The Huevos Rancheros are amazing. Even in a city where most people working kitchen are from Mexico, BLD excels with its take beyond the scope of others. They are also unafraid to charge for the privilege a cool $13. At that price one may balk but shouldn’t. Nor should one pass by the Cuban’s $18, the most expensive on the menu. Because nothing I have ever had that called itself a Cuban quite compares. I’m not even sure that this is a real Cuban since most sandwiches bearing the description have had variations of deli-meat. This was slowly-cooked pulled pork. Spicy. Amazing.

We caught LA on perhaps its loveliest weekend in a while. We sat outside and wanted to keep our sobriety defeated as thoroughly as the night before. But alas, BLD does not have a liquor license for its great outdoors! A let-down of buzz-killing proportions. The lovely waitress apologized that we were not told up-front and offered to promptly re-seat us on the legal side of drunk. No way. That afternoon, we were heading back to gross Chicago where it would be another 4 months before we could sit outside and not get frostbite. Plenty of time to drink indoors. We kept our spot and drank water. Sober had to come sometime. We sat in sunshine like Senators at fundraising bidding our fleeting intoxication fairy-well with a pound of pork.

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Bazaar 2010-02-13

by foodbitch 13. February 2010 20:47

Sam Nazarian strikes again. With Starck and Andres latched firmly on his nipple, Bazaar at the new SLS Hotel spares no expense. Well, maybe some but gets a solid win despite it.

The hotel took so long to open that I was sure of the project’s death. Shows what I know. Sammy Boy Entertainment (or SBE without deeper meaning as he likes to lie to interviewers) has so much money behind it that whatever problems they were having were simply waited out. Didn’t even have to sell one of his 12 cars or sub-lease the Veyron. Money clearly ain’t no thang considering dysfunctions in the company ensure that not a single bar they’ve ever opened turns a profit. Except The Abby. Gays are profitable. LA hipsters ain’t. But who cares when daddy has a billion dollars? Here’s a few mil kiddo. Go away and don’t bug me. Sammy got enough to buy publicity with Fortune ride-alongs, Entourage cameos and Top Chef judgeships. Good for him, but we’re not here to gossip about Nazarian or envy his estate. We wish to analyze Bazaar on its own merit.

LA restaurants require LA yardsticks. Else, details like timely seating, flighty service and hour-long valet lines would sink them. Bazaar was spectacularly busy even though the place had been open for months. This means ordering will be a lottery of fame and prettiness. This time was no different except that our order was actually taken and delivered in under 5 minutes. A remarkable change of pace in a city whose default motion is through motor oil: slimy, dirty and slow. But Bazaar did better. And made us pay. The disparity between the prices of their food and drinks is canyonesque. A $23 bottle of Peay Vineyards Pinot sells for $19/glass. A Maker’s neat goes for $12. Pretty steep but they’re not afraid to pour making the “shot” in reality a triple. For $4 it’s a steal.

But the food sure hits the sweet spot. And saltiness. And umami. Mention must be made of the Jose Andres take on Philly Cheese Steak which consists of a toasty dumpling filled with melted truffled cheese and topped with a near-raw slice of Wagyu. $8 for a single but worth more. Astounding. I ordered one and got two. It was meant for the party next to us. They let me keep the extra portion. Then, a few minutes later, I got ANOTHER plate delivered with the proper single serve. I didn’t eat it out of politeness but really wanted to. The most expensive item was the lamb at $16. It was worth it. The rest of the items, although good, could not match the the Philly. It was the evening’s highlight. As was the bill. Had we nothing to drink, 8 dishes would have cost $90. Recession pricing indeed.

The evening’s low is LA, not the restaurant itself. They did not seat us until we checked up on our status. An old trick and with the bar prices, a profitable one. The waitress, although competent, had that annoying personality common to those who believe their life to be a stage. And the valet line took 20 minutes to pay the bill and another 25 to get the car. Incompetence by any yardstick. But the people here wait and say nothing which is so different from the adolescent tantrums they throw at every other thing. What is it about cars and parking that bring out LA’s best when it should bring out its worst? I’d rather treat my waiter well and leave tire-tread on the snout of whoever schedules valets. Plan ahead moron. But, it is not fair to judge an LA restaurant by its support services the problems of which are endemic in the city. Bazaar is a fantastic deal in a place where deals are hard to come by. You should go before Sammy Boy Nazarian changes his mind.

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The Ivy 2010-02-12

by foodbitch 12. February 2010 01:13

Interview Q: Do you have a portfolio? A: Yes. – Good for you. GTFOut. We hire people to work, not audition. And because they obviously hire for ability, The Ivy is without question the best restaurant in LA.

The first thing a patron notices while marching to the table is the relative dearth of pretty people wearing aprons. This is four standard deviations distant from every other LA restaurant and doesn’t immediately sink-in. Why would a star-studded cliché of a spot not follow protocol? And after a dozen or so meals, I feel that the Ivy, unlike every other service sister, understands that its business is to get you in, fed, and the hell out in time to seat the next party. This does not happen when the waiters are too busy learning lines to remember orders.

Today, for the first time, things did not go flawlessly. They usually do. 1 for 12. When my Cajun Prime Rib arrived, it was cooked so thoroughly that well-done would be an understatement. I wish I took a picture. How was it ordered? Rare, of course. So here we know for certain that the waiter, chef, and bus person all looked at a “prime rib” half an inch thick and thought nothing of it. Alarms should have been sounding. But, an error is not serious so long as it’s corrected. And correct they did fast and without argument. Prime Rib round two was 2.5 inches thick and rare as I’ve ever seen. How about you? Some would argue that they overcompensated by serving black-and-blue instead of rare (there is a difference) but I won’t. The Cajun crust more than made up the heat that the center lacked. I can’t imagine eating it another way.

Also on the menu was 1 Grilled Shrimp Salad, 1 Artichoke appetizer, and 5 Ivy Margaritas at the cool price of $16.75 EACH. I thought the menu said 13.75 and can’t find an on-line version anywhere. I would have loved to scream bloody murder at these bastards and had I found proof of the margarita’s price differential I would have. But you know what? They make simply the best margarita I have ever sucked up with hunger for another. I looked up their recipe some years ago trying to emulate them and of course, got a lot of hearsay. The combo tasting most like theirs was: 1 part tequila, 2 parts Cointreau, 2 parts fresh lime juice. The one today seemed to have the tequila/Cointreau ratio reversed since it wasn’t as sweet as I remember. Either that or the limes are out of season. Either way, 3 are enough to knock me on my overfed buttocks. Each has 3 shots of 80-proof liquor. Cointreau is sweet but it sure can kick.

Finally, a note about the pricing. If you are on a budget, cross the street to News Café. Or better yet, get bent. The Ivy is a place that understands its market as well as its reality. They are in the business of turning tables and @ 16.75$/drink you’re a lot less likely to sit there sipping past your welcome. They deliver food that is consistently excellent with service that is second to nothing in LA. They also seat you on time which would be impossible had they not found their equilibrium price and gotten demand to equal supply. My sample size is north of 10 and never have I waited more than a few minutes past time reserved. Yes, you need to make a reservation. Yes, even at these price points. So if you want to be a hater, print out all the tales of woe you read in other reviews and eat them instead. Keep the Ivy’s tables free of human refuse so I can eat in peace.

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Mercat 2010-01-31

by foodbitch 3. February 2010 20:01

The best part about group dinners is group orders. Usually, a party of 8 at a Tapas place would mean that one could sample 1/2 the menu. But today we sampled 1/2 a pig and were ripped off with no denominator.

As most gimmicks in the restaurant world, table-side swine is heavy on price, light on meat and lax on preparation. If one wants to nibble more than pork, it’s important to dine with a large, sample-friendly party and without the vegetarians, Jews or Muslims. One needs to plan ahead: our party reserved the piglet 3 days in advance. And one needs to pay down the plastic because staring at this snout is going to cost you a car payment.

The newborn table-pig is not a newborn concept. Greektown has been doing it for as long as Halsted crossed Van Buren. But unlike the flesh of nature’s oceans which allows for great variety in the sampling of Snapper, the only ready portion of a porker lies in the loin. And maybe belly. And maybe, if we were in China, the trotters and tail and every other damn thing. But, for the American table, little piggy means little else than 5 pounds of pulled pork. Not bad but how much sloppy pig can one eat? I did more than my fair share but not enough to make it worth $220. However, how cool would it be if the restaurant would send the porker back after its table-side theatrics and proceed to cure some ham, cut some shoulders, braise some ribs and bring back the dinner party a week later for pig-round-2? THAT would make it worth the price!

Sadly, with the way things stand, buying the pig defeats the entire purpose of Tapas dining. Your party would have to seat 15 to make the purchase viable and taste some other dishes. But at that size, you’d be fighting over the single piglet. And if you get two, well, from forth the fatal loins of those two porks, a pair of star-cross’d piglets gave their life; whose misadventured piteous oven-spits doth with their death bury their diner’s appetite.

Mercat is a good restaurant. Go there for tapas. Or suffer the 3-hours’ traffic of pig’s stage.

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About the author

FB is the CTO of an entertainment company and, these days, writes much more in prose than he ever wrote in code. Which is a good thing. Because people expect quality from code. Meal me:

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