Archive for the 'Restaurant Review' Category

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800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria – Pasadena

800 Degrees - Pasadena

It may have taken a few years for 800 Degrees to make its way to The Eastside after debuting back in 2012 in Westwood Village, but as of last Friday night, the “Chipotle of pizza” is officially slangin’ damn good Neapolitan-style pies in Old Pasadena! Hooray!

800 Degrees was created by Chef Anthony Carron, in partnership with Umami Restaurant Group (Umami Burger, Red Medicine, and Umamicatessen) and Allen Ravert.

800 Degrees - Pasadena

The restaurant is housed in an impressive two-story space designed in 1929 by John C. Austin, who was also responsible for Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles City Hall, and the Shrine Auditorium. 800 Degrees fires its pizzas (at 800 degrees, of course!) in a custom Mario Acunto wood-burning brick oven, promising guests “a 125 year-old classic in 60 seconds or less.”

All pizzas are made with Italian “00” flour, fresh mozzarella, imported Italian tomatoes, and extra virgin olive oil.

800 Degrees - Pasadena

In addition to pizza pies of all stripes, 800 degrees offers an array of small bites, including an entire section of the menu dedicated to locally made burrata. We thoroughly adored the Prosciutto, melon, and arugula preparation this evening.

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Craftsman and Wolves – San Francisco

Craftsman and Wolves - San Francisco

In the midst of last week’s intense heat wave, I escaped to cooler points north thanks to a timely work-related trip. As soon as I landed in San Francisco, sunny and 70 degrees, I hopped BART to my hotel, dropped off my baggage, and made a beeline for Craftsman and Wolves to indulge in avant-garde pastries (served with a side of gentrification).

The bakery’s unusual name is a nod to artisans and the “numerous challenges that one faces when pursuing their craft,” according to the website. Craftsman and Wolves’ proprietor, William Werner, was previously the pastry chef at Quince.

Craftsman and Wolves - San Francisco

The bakery offers an ever-changing selection of breakfast pastries, cakes, confections, confitures, desserts, and savory lunchtime fare.

The best-seller, The Rebel Within (front center), is a savory Asiago and Parmesan cheese muffin flecked with breakfast sausage, black pepper, and chives and filled with an oozy-yolked poached egg.

Craftsman and Wolves - San Francisco

Not in the mood for a runny yolk this afternoon, I started with a “Savory Tart” topped with tangy fromage blanc, snappy brined beets and turnips, and toasted pistachios ($5.50). My only complaint was that the flaky base was a bit difficult to cut through using the provided butter knife. Otherwise, this pastry was as good as expected.

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Union – Pasadena

Union - Pasadena

I finally made it to Union for dinner this week, nearly five months after it opened in Old Pasadena. I’ve been following the restaurant’s positive press since the start, but couldn’t quite swing a meal here (walking in at 5:30 PM on Saturday evening was impossible) until now. It was most definitely worth the wait.

Union - Pasadena
Along with partner Marie Petulla, Chef Bruce Kalman has created a boisterous, 50-seat restaurant celebrating Northern Italian cooking using locally-sourced ingredients.

Prior to settling down, Chef Kalman was a James Beard nominated Rising Star Chef, pickle master, and alumnus of Park Avenue Café in New York, Spiaggia in Chicago, The Misfit in Santa Monica, and The Churchill in West Hollywood.

Union - Pasadena

To start, a warm and crusty loaf from Etxea Basque Bakery served with house-made cultured butter sprinkled with coarse salt and damn fine giardiniera ($6). This was deceptively simple and so, so good.

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Mapo Kkak Doo Gee – Los Angeles (Koreatown)

Mapo Kkak Du Gi - Koreatown - Los Angeles

While we’re on the topic of Koreatown, let’s discuss the awesomeness of Mapo Kkak Doo Gee!

I was first introduced to this gem while researching The Food Lovers’ Guide to Los Angeles a few years back. In a neighborhood full of stellar restaurants, I keep returning here time and again for the dependably delicious cooking.

Mapo Kkak Du Gi - Koreatown - Los Angeles

As you can likely deduce from the facade, Mapo Kkak Doo Gee is a no-frills kind of place. The menu features homey Korean fare, and seats are easy to come by at both lunch and dinner.

Mapo Kkak Du Gi - Koreatown - Los Angeles

One of the perks of dining in Koreatown is the free and refillable banchan served alongside every meal. While it’s always nice to receive something for nothing, it’s rarely the case that these pickled and marinated nibbles are as memorable as the main course. At Mapo, however, the banchan are so remarkably good that my chopsticks can’t help but reach for more.

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