Archive for the 'West Hollywood' Category

Gracias Madre – Los Angeles (West Hollywood)

Gracias Madre - West Hollywood

While driving home from dinner at Gracias Madre last week, my mind kept coming back to the idea of comfort zones. Namely, how my food comfort zone is calibrated a lot differently than other people’s. I feel perfectly at ease in a dingy restaurant where no English is spoken and offals are served, but take me to a fancy vegan joint in a ritzy part of town, and I feel a little like a fish out of water. 

One man’s comfort zone is another’s uncharted course.

Gracias Madre - West Hollywood

I stepped squarely out of my element for a taste of Gracias Madre, a much-buzzed-about and beautifully appointed restaurant specializing in vegan Mexican fare. Chef Chandra Gilbert opened the first Gracias Madre in San Francisco in 2009 along with Café Gratitude founders Matthew and Terces Engelhart. She formerly worked at Alice Waters’ now-closed Café Fanny in Berkeley and Cowgirl Creamery and Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.

The restaurant sources its organic produce exclusively from Be Love Farm in Vacaville, as well as from local farmers markets.

Gracias Madre - West Hollywood

While my dining companions Diana and Valentina sipped spicy cocktails to start, I began with a cool glass of horchata ($5.50). Made of almond milk instead of the traditional rice milk, the agua fresca had a thicker consistency than I was expecting. Considering that horchata is naturally vegan, I found the ingredient swap unnecessary, especially since the end product wasn’t nearly as refreshing.

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{swoon} A5 Japanese Wagyu Tasting at Katana

Three-Way Wagyu Tasting: New York, Ribeye, Filet Mignon

Gastronomy’s fancy streak continues at Katana for Wagyu Week, going on now through March 9. In honor of the occasion, Chef Koji Matsuzaki has prepared a special menu featuring certified A5-grade Japanese Wagyu beef from Saga Prefecture. Of all the outrageously decadent preparations available, it was the “Three-Way Tasting” of New York, Ribeye, and Filet Mignon that was most swoon-worthy of all.

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Connie & Ted’s – Los Angeles (West Hollywood)

Connie & Ted's - West Hollywood

I’ve been pining for a taste of Connie & Ted’s ever since the restaurant’s plywood came down and signage went up this past May. Seafood, especially of the New England variety, is totally my jam, not to mention that the chef behind the shiny new WeHo venture, Michael Cimarusti, is one amazing talent.

Named after the grandparents who took him fishing as a kid in Rhode Island, Connie and Ted’s is a tribute to the food of Chef Cimarusti’s childhood.

Connie & Ted's - West Hollywood

The consensus among friends who dined at Connie & Ted’s during its opening weeks was that the food and service were fine, with desserts being a highlight, but nowhere near the level where they ought to be considering the talented team in the kitchen.

On the flip side, the city’s critics have been mostly impressed with the “authenticity” of the cooking found here. L.A. Weekly’s Besha Rodell remarked that “Connie & Ted’s does by far the best job of re-creating the pleasures of that other coast” in her three-star review, while the L.A. Times’ Jonathan Gold remained vague but positive in his write up, calling the restaurant “neither a chefly interpretation of a Rhode Island clam shack nor a fantasia on the theme of New England seafood.”

Connie & Ted's - West Hollywood

To make a call for ourselves, The Astronomer and I lunched here on a recent Sunday afternoon with our friend Darin and his girlfriend Shirley. We fumbled on the reservation front, but were seated adjacent to the bar not too long after arriving.

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Ink – Los Angeles (West Hollywood)

Ink. - West Hollywood - Los Angeles

Michael Voltaggio, the former Chef de Cuisine at The Bazaar by José Andrés and Executive Chef at The Dining Room at The Langham, and the winner of season six of Bravo’s Top Chef, opened his highly anticipated first restaurant in 2011 on a stretch of Melrose known more for its fashion than for its fare. Here at Ink, a minimally appointed space painted a shadowy shade of gray, Chef Voltaggio creates “modern Los Angeles cuisine” that marries molecular gastronomy with surprising flavor combinations and highly stylized plating.

Based on my lukewarm meals at both The Bazaar and The Dining Room, I wasn’t expecting the strongest showing at Ink. However, I was downright tickled to find that the food here was playful, beautiful, thoughtful, and very much delicious.

Ink. - West Hollywood - Los Angeles

Diners can order family style from the a la carte menu, three to four dishes per person is recommended, or indulge in a four-course tasting plus dessert orchestrated by the kitchen. While the former allows for freedom, the latter features unique dishes not available on the a la carte menu. Since The Astronomer and I had plans for a second dinner later on, we went with the a la carte option.

Ink. - West Hollywood - Los Angeles

We sat at the “sushi” counter this evening since we didn’t have advanced reservations, which provided stellar views of the chefs making modernist magic with liquid nitrogen and thermal immersion circulators. I highly recommend snagging a seat along the counter for dinner and a show.

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