Kiriko- Los Angeles

In a fickle city like Los Angeles where restaurants turn over as quickly as the tides, and chefs shuffle in the blink of an eye, nothing is more valuable than a reliable restaurant where you have a long standing relationship with the staff.  Hype, celebrity status and good PR may fill the tables on opening night, but only quality, character and consistency will keep them coming for years to come.  Consistency, in particular, is a virtue that even the best restaurants in the city fall short of.  How many times have you returned in hopes of reliving the splendor of a certain delicious dish, only to find that it didn’t taste quite as good the second or third time around?  Such disappointments are bound to halt reservations and make that restaurant a thing of the past.

Consistency, quality and most of all respect for the chefs and the respect with which they treat their products, are what has kept me coming back to Kiriko for 12 years since their opening in 1999.  For me Kiriko fulfills my need for いつもの味、いつもの笑顔, which translates to ‘the same flavor, the same smile’, again a tribute to how important consistency is from a diner’s perspective.  I may have cheated on Kiriko a few times over the years to try other sushi restaurants, but I always come back home to Kiriko where I know that I can count on the best food.

Executive chef Ken Namba grew up in Tsukiji, the most famous fish market in the world, while getting inspiration from his parents who run a restaurant there. The sushi here is spectacular, and what I consider to be one of the best in Los Angeles.  At Kiriko you can get it all- traditional dishes are perfectly executed, while modern preparations with a drizzle of truffle oil or a hint of pepper demonstrate his playfulness and creativity.

There is a comfort in being a regular and having your usual chair, your usual spot, the same friendly welcome and the same flawless dishes that become a part of your repertoire.  Red snapper sushi with sprinklings of sea salt and a dash of yuzu rinds is how I always commence my meal, with uni topped with freshly grated wasabi, tender mirugai sashimi, house smoked king salmon, engawa (halibut fin) and seared fatty toro following soon after.  Sushi doesn’t get any better than this even in most places in Japan.

Kiriko has an extensive daily specials menu in both English and Japanese, but many items don’t make it onto the English menu simply because they aren’t translatable.  A winter delicacy called shirako, for one, surely doesn’t sound appetizing in English- cod sperm sac.  Yet Kiriko’s version is elegant, the pearly white sacs of warm milky cream mingling with the tartness of ponzu.

Mekabu salad with okra and grated yamaimo/Japanese yam is also difficult to translate both in concept and in texture.  Mekabu, which are the flowering sprouts of wakame seaweed, have a distinct gooey slimy texture.  At Kiriko these greens get mixed with even slimier companions, sliced okra and grated yamaimo, and spooned over generous chunks of tender tuna.

A traditional Taiwanese dish of century eggs on tofu gets a Kiriko twist when the dark preserved eggs get chopped up and mixed with silken tofu and accented with house made la-yu chili oil.  The preserved duck eggs are also known as 1000 year old eggs, or pitan in Japanese, something that a diner looking for spicy tuna rolls may not necessarily be inclined to order.

Ankimo, or monkfish liver, comes with chopped asatsuki chives, spiced grated daikon radish and the most delightful ponzu gelée.  Jiggly little minced cubes of dark brown gelée, unlike drizzled liquid ponzu, stay put on the succulent slices of savory liver and pack some powerful tartness and concentrated flavor.

Ankimo sautéed with garlic and soy sauce on a recent visit was smokey, buttery and delicious, making the sake flow ever so freely.

Hama hama oysters, when in season, are garnished with a dash of ponzu and a dollop of chili daikon radish to accent the natural brininess of the meaty treasures while Kusshi from British Columbia are best enjoyed with a simple squeeze of citrus.

While Chef Ken, Chef Tomo and Chef Shinji work the front of the house making sushi, sashimi and cold appetizers, Chef Kiyoshi (and sometimes Ken) works wonders in the back kitchen, churning out splendid hot dishes and entrées like crispy deep fried gobo (burdock root) stacked like logs, shrimp stuffed eggplant in daikon radish sauce, soft shell crab tempura and daily specials like kajiki maguro (swordfish) yuan yaki which comes out buttery, tender and divine.

Sushi is the main attraction at Kiriko, but the vegetable platter is not to be missed.  Through the delicately prepared assortment of 5 fresh vegetables that change with the seasons, one can get a taste of traditional Japanese flavors.  Japanese pumpkin amani, sweet and tender like a freshly churned block of butter, spinach and shiitake mushroom ohitashi garnished with shaved bonito flakes, green beans tossed with white sesame dressing in a classic ingen no goma-ae preparation, thinly sliced lotus roots kinpira style and a refreshing salad of mizuna greens and daikon radish in a pickled plum ume vinaigrette are beautiful and delicious.

As if the food isn’t good enough, the desserts at Kiriko are even better.  Everything is made from scratch with the freshest ingredients, like Chef Ken’s tomato gelée, the most dainty cube of delicate fruity savor, bursting with the sweetness and subtle acidity of heirloom tomatoes at its summer peak, served with a drizzle of olive oil and basil ribbons.  I’ve only had the pleasure of having this once, but it left a lasting impression on my palate.

House made ice creams and sorbets are delectable- the green tea ice cream reflects the true bitterness of Japanese matcha, the black sesame ice cream a creamy earthy dark delight, the ginger brown sugar ice cream not skimping on the characteristic medicinal zing of ginger, and the black truffle ice cream, if you’re so lucky to be dining at Kiriko on a day that it’s served, packed full of that unique prized earthiness that we so love.

Unlike certain other sushi restaurants in Los Angeles that scowl at customers who want spicy tuna rolls and California rolls, Kiriko doesn’t discriminate against such diners.  They’re too nice to impose judgement on anybody that walks through their doors.  They will happily make these rolls for you, although you would be missing out on the real delicacies that they’ve flown in from Tsukiji market, like hiramasa, shimaaji, kinmedai, kamasu, kampachi, bincho and tako no sakurani.  Sound unfamiliar to you?  That’s exactly why you have to trust these talented chefs and discover a whole new way to enjoy sushi in the best sushi restaurant in Los Angeles.

Kiriko Sushi

11301 W Olympic Blvd # 102
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 478-7769

Random trivia:  Did you know that according to myth, century eggs were once prepared by soaking eggs in horse urine?   The myth probably comes from the pungent odor of ammonia which is reminiscent of urine.

Le Crocodile- Vancouver, BC Canada

Young competitive chefs are making headline news in the culinary world these days by reinventing modern cuisine with new techniques, but as a diner, there is something very reassuring and special about dining at a traditional restaurant with an established chef and seasoned staff.  It’s important to have an open mind in trying new restaurants and novel food concepts, but there is a comfort in being able to let go of all of that for a meal that is guaranteed to be good and sophisticated service that is sure to please.  On a recent trip to Vancouver, we chose to have our first dinner at Le Crocodile, a traditional French restaurant that came highly recommended to us by a local.  Chef Michel Jacob has been heading Le Crocodile for 25 years, maintaining a high standard of cuisine and an excellent reputation that has remained unchanged.  I wanted to have a quiet and relaxing dinner where I could sit back and put my full trust in the chef and my servers, and Le Crocodile seemed like the perfect choice.

Le Crocodile is named after Au Crocodile, a famous restaurant in Strasbourg which received 3 Michelin stars under Chef Emile Jung where Chef Michel had a life changing inspirational experience.  When Chef Michel was apprenticing under Chef Johnny Letzer in Strasbourg, he and his other colleagues were taken to Au Crocodile for a first hand dining experience where he was introduced to a new culinary style and philosophy that would eventually motivate him to follow the same path.  After numerous other stints working in restaurants in France, Switzerland and Belgium, Chef Michel eventually moved to Vancouver to open Le Crocodile, a fine dining French restaurant.   After 25 years, Le Crocodile still remains strong as one of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants under his leadership and with the help of original staff who have remained loyal from the very beginning.

The restaurant is just off of Burrard street, one of the main strips that runs through the city center.  Crisp white linen tablecloths, red leather banquettes, classical music and hanging oil paintings set the stage for elegant candlelight dining.  French servers sporting crocodile tie pins welcome you with a genuine smile and a joke or two.  Here you will receive old school hospitality and superb service in a beautiful dining room, but somehow it doesn’t feel stuffy or formal at all.   It’s an unpretentious and relaxed atmosphere created by the generous staff, making for a pleasant experience for business dinners, romantic anniversaries and even family gatherings with children.  The menu is classical French cuisine incorporating fresh local ingredients.  Steak tartare, duck liver terrine, escargots, Alsatian onion tart and duck confit stand out as French classics, but Le Crocodile also offers many bounties of the local seas with entrées like oven roasted loup de mer, broiled sea bream, lobster tempura, grilled tiger prawns and lobster bisque.  We started with a complimentary appetizer of smoked pork belly, foie gras and fresh herbs tartlette, a luscious and creamy tartlette that was served piping hot right out of the oven.

Trio de Saumon: tartare, fumé et ‘Style côte-ouest’

You can’t leave Canada without eating Canadian salmon.  We ordered an appetizer of BC salmon prepared three-ways: candied salmon with tartar sauce, salmon tartare with cucumber, capers, tobiko and quail egg on a bed of sliced cucumbers, and smoked salmon with crème fraîche, capers and chopped onions on blinis.  Candied salmon, made by curing salmon in honey and spices before smoking, is a popular way to enjoy salmon in Canada.

Confit de canard sauce au cidre

The duck confit, served with apple cider jus, was incredibly juicy and meaty, cooked to perfection with crisp and flavorful skin.

‘You cannot have a meal without our pomme frites!’, our server said with a wink, and brought over a plate of complimentary crispy shoestring fries.

Ris de veau aux cèpes; réduction aux agrumes, purée de navet

Luscious veal sweetbreads with meaty chunks of whole cepe mushrooms were served with silky spoonfuls of turnip purée in a citrus reduction sauce.  The sweetbreads were prepared extremely well, with just a touch of wholesome gameyness that was complemented by the crisp frisée and the acidity of the sauce.

Poêlée de cuisses de grenouilles à l’ail, beurre ciboulette

I was excited for my plate of frog legs, as it’s not something that I can find easily in Los Angeles.  I love the light flavor and the easy texture of frog meat, and Le Crocodile pan fried theirs with garlic and butter and dressed them with a chive butter sauce with lots of fresh parsley.  The tomato concassé elevated the flavors of the dish with its acidity and refreshing flavors.

Soufflé au Grand Marnier

After a palate cleanser of complimentary pear sorbet and raspberry mille-feuille, we perused the dessert menu to see how we could complete our fantastic meal.  A cheese plate?  Alsatian apple tart with vanilla ice cream, made-to-order pear tart, chocolate crepes or crème brûlée?  We went for the special of the day, the most sensational Grand Marnier soufflé, a warm, airy and light pillow of delight that melted into heavenly bliss with the warm vanilla sauce.

Chocolates crocodiles

Every meal at Le Crocodile is finished with a complimentary plate of darling little dark and milk chocolate crocodiles which our jaws clamped down on and consumed without hesitation.

Le Crocodile is an upscale French bistro without outrageous prices, attitude or pretentiousness.  It was a joy to have an elegant and relaxing meal that was superbly orchestrated by our lovely French staff who treated us with great respect and care.  It’s hard to find such good hospitality without paying a hefty price, and for that Le Crocodile is a true gem.  It’s no wonder they’ve been standing strong for 25 years and why they are adored by Vancouverites.  Le Crocodile has all of the makings of a top class restaurant- history, reputation, class, authenticity, service, quality and most importantly, consistency.

Le Crocodile

100-909 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 2N2, Canada
(604) 669-4298

Random trivia:  Did you know that crocodiles sweat through their mouth?  That’s why crocodiles are often seen on river banks with their jaws wide open- it’s their way of cooling off.

Aragawa 麤皮- Tokyo, Japan

When one thinks of good quality beef, the first thing that comes to mind is probably Kobe beef.  Kobe beef, which comes from cows that were born and raised in Hyogo prefecture, is highly prized for its exquisite flavor and marbled fat.  These days it’s virtually impossible to walk in to any good restaurant in any part of the world without seeing Kobe beef on the menu.  Kobe beef burgers are still all the rage at most gourmet burger joints and restaurants in the US.  However, it’s important to make the distinction of true Kobe beef and Kobe-style beef.  True Kobe beef comes from Japan, and the cows are raised in a very specific manner.  Every day they’re massaged by hand with an exorbitant sake rub, fed a bottle of beer, taken for regular walks, and lovingly brushed and caressed by their caretakers.  They’re treated better than the average human (until they’re slaughtered, of course).  Kobe-style beef comes from cows that are domestically raised in the US, and they don’t get nearly the same amount of love and attention as their genuine counterparts.

Courtesy of Orlando Calvos on Wikipedia

In Japan, Kobe beef is very popular and praised for its high quality, but it’s not the holy grail.  In Japan there are many more types of exquisite cattle that are even better than Kobe-gyu (gyu means beef in Japanese).  Perhaps you have heard of Matsuzaka-gyu and Yonezawa-gyu, which are just as popular and famous, and are similarly raised with great care and effort.  Classical music is sometimes played in these farms, as it is believed that happy relaxed cows make tastier beef.  Numerous other brands of beef exist in all prefectures of Japan, such as Ishigaki-gyu, Iga-gyu, Yamagata-gyu, Saga-gyu, Maezawa-gyu, Hida-gyu and Konoe-gyu just to name a few.  If you travel to any countryside in Japan, you’ll likely be able to find an exclusive and rare brand of beef, raised by a solo farmer, that’s worthy of competing against Kobe beef.  According to the Japanese beef quality grading system, only 3 types of beef make the top cut, and Kobe beef isn’t on the list.

If you want to see what these special cows taste like, you’ve got to travel to Japan.  There’s really no other country in the world where the unprecedented quality of the beef exceeds anything beyond your wildest imagination.  There’s one restaurant in Tokyo, a very noble and well respected establishment, that is debated to serve the best steak in the country.  43 years ago Aragawa took up a small restaurant space in the basement of a nondescript office building in Shimbashi.  Since then, it has established a reputation for being the best steak house in the country, as well as notoriety for being the most expensive.

The restaurant was opened by owner Akira Kazama, who spent numerous years studying and tasting all of the different brands of beef from Hyogo prefecture.  He decided to open Aragawa when he finally met his dream bovine, the Sanda-gyu 三田牛.  When I first visited this restaurant 5 years ago in its original location (and frankly shady location, as it was right next to a karaoke snack pub on an otherwise deserted basement hallway), I was blown away by the unmeasurable sweetness and juiciness of the steak.  I was excited to revisit Aragawa on my recent visit back home, especially after finding out that it won a Michelin star.

Thankfully, Aragawa has moved into a new location in Onarimon.  The restaurant is on the street level now, and has a more fitting beautiful exterior that reflects its distinguished reputation.  Once I opened the large wooden door, it was like stepping into a movie set from The Titanic.  The decor was still the same, in old world aristocratic style with velvet carpets, antique wooden chairs, plush silk embroidered sofas and fine bone china perfectly laid out on the crisp white linen tablecloths.  Chefs in the open kitchen wearing tall white hats greeted us with a smile, as the tuxedo clad maitre d’ with slicked back hair bowed down to waist level in an honoring Japanese welcome.  Like the previous space, there were only 6 tables here in this exclusive restaurant, and as always, it was a full night.

Aragawa offers one steak course.  There is no written menu, and the chef’s selections for the day are recited by the waitstaff.    You are allowed to select 2 seafood appetizers from a choice of 4 or 5, which is then followed by the house salad, the steak dish, and coffee or tea.  It’s a straightforward, simple no-fuss menu that flaunts supreme ingredients and flawless preparation.  We started with the house specialty, the Aragawa smoked salmon.   I had this on my previous visit, and it was the most exquisite and divine piece of smoked salmon that I have ever had in my life.  They always use domestic wild salmon, and its origins vary from season to season depending on where they can find the best quality for this dish.  This tender piece of king salmon from Laosu Hokkaido, was practically dripping in fatty juices and it had the perfect amount of smoky flavor.  Unlike traditional and commercial thinly sliced smoked salmon, this thick cut of salmon, in all its flesh and skin, was truly a magical and incomparable dish.

For the second seafood appetizer course, my dining companions had the poached Hokkaido sea scallop with beurre blanc.  It was around this time that our bottle of wine arrived at our table.  The wine list here at Aragawa was a compilation of the ‘Best of’.  Only the finest wines in the world would be appropriate to complement the finest cut of beef, and I was amazed at all of the distinguished pedigrees that I was seeing on the 5 page wine menu.  Haut Brion, St-Émilion and Lynch Bages stood out in the Bordeaux dominant line up, and we chose a 1995 Château Canon La Gaffelière Saint-Émilion.  This divine bottle of wine, with silky tannins and a hint of dark berry undertones, was a superb choice for our meal.

For my second seafood appetizer, I passed on the tiger prawns and hairy crab, and went for the fresh Hokkaido scallop that was quickly salt cured in its shell.  The moist white adductor muscle flesh, virtually raw and extremely tender, was still attached to the shell.  It was served with an assortment of pancultural condiments, which included lemon, wasabi, chopped scallions, soy sauce, red shiso leaves and cocktail sauce.  This fresh hunk of scallop was already delicious on its own, and I enjoyed it most with a simple squeeze of citrus.

Normally when you go to a chop house, they will ask you what cut of beef you want and how you would like it cooked- well done, medium or rare.  Here at Aragawa no such questions are asked.  They’ve already done the choosing for you, and they serve you their choice cut for the day with full confidence.  The cut of choice may change depending on the condition of the Sanda-gyu cows, but it’s usually a sirloin, cooked medium rare.  Given that they only raise a cattle of less than 1000 cows a year, this prized meat is a rare treasure.

The meat was grilled in a special brick oven heated with binchō-tan, a high quality Japanese charcoal made from oak in the Wakayama prefecture, and seasoned with only salt and pepper to enhance the natural flavors of the beef.  The sirloin was cooked to perfection, with a smoky sear on the surface and a glistening color of medium rare red in the center.  The knife simply fell through the tender meat fibers down to the porcelain plate, and it was like cutting through air.  With each bite, a squirt of warm savory juice filled my oral cavity with a luscious aromatic veil, while the marbled fat permeated my taste buds with a light and sweet flavor.  This fatty cut of meat wasn’t heavy at all, and I finished this 200 gram portion of Sanda-gyu without feeling its physical weight in my stomach.  Words cannot describe how incredible this steak was.

I was glad that I made this return trip to Aragawa for the Sanda-gyu steak.  I can honestly say that it’s the best steak that I’ve ever had in my life, and probably will ever have had in my life.  The best things in life don’t come for free though.  You’re probably wondering how much this decadent steak feast cost.  Let’s just say that it’s probably the most expensive piece of meat in the world…but it was worth every yen.


3-23-11 Onarimon Odakyu Building 1st floor

Nishi-shimbashi, Minato-ku Tokyo

Tel 03-3438-1867

Random trivia: Did you know that some Japanese brand name cows receive “happy endings” after their massages, which is believed to stimulate blood flow and improve marbling texture?  TMI (too much information)…

Petrossian Caviar

Petrossian Caviar in Beverly Hills recently re-opened under the creative direction of executive chef Benjamin Bailly, a distinguished and talented chef.  Benjamin, having recently worked at Ortolan and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas, has worked side by side and traveled with Joel Robuchon in his many restaurants around the world.  It was an absolute treat and privilege to have him prepare an extravagant tasting menu for my friend’s birthday party recently.

Chef Benjamin Bailly

Chef Benjamin Bailly

If you know the old Petrossian Caviar space, you’ll be amazed by the transformation.  The expanded space feels even larger and brighter with the floor to ceiling glass walls that look out onto Robertson Boulevard.  The dining room has plush comfortable black leather banquettes, tall ceilings, and riveting black and white photos of Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Marlon Brando on the walls that are simply irresistible. What a grand feeling to be sipping on champagne and nibbling on caviar with these Hollywood stars!

Gorgeous dining room

Gorgeous dining room

The other section of the restaurant houses the open kitchen, a large communal table and display cases in a similar contemporary layout.  The communal table is a warm and inviting place for people to gather, and you can get a perfect view of the bustle of the kitchen.

Communal table and open kitchen at night

Communal table and open kitchen at night

Communal table and café by day

Communal table and café by day

Petrossian Caviar has been a leading purveyor of caviar since 1920 when it first opened shop in Paris.  You can find an amazing and complete selection of precious caviar here, from the local Californian farm-raised Royal Transmontanus Caviar, to well-known Ossetras and Sevrugas, to the ultimate indulgence Imperial Special Reserve Stellattus for $617/ 1 ounce.  They also sell a wonderful array of smoked fish (salmon, sturgeon, cod), foie gras, truffles, chocolates, jams, wines and champagnes.

Display case of delightful delicacies

Display case of delightful delicacies

Our wonderful dinner commenced with a new Petrossian signature drink- hibiscus champagne.  Each glass contains a whole organic wild hibiscus flower in syrup with champagne.  The hibiscus flower gives this drink a beautiful crimson color and a delicious sweet fruity flavor.  This was one of the most surprising discoveries and delightful drinks that I have had in a long time.  The best part of this drink was eating the champagne-soaked hibiscus at the end. 

Hibiscus champagne

Hibiscus champagne

One cannot leave Petrossian without eating their signature caviar blinis.  The sharp and robust Transmontanus caviar on soft tender warm blinis and dill crème fraîche is simply divine.  These small black pearls have fierce powerful flavors that permeate into the depths of my taste buds with supreme force.  The salmon roe blinis were also a joy, but oh, the sturgeon caviar!

Caviar and salmon roe blinis

Caviar and salmon roe blinis

Next we had shots of their classic cold borscht and cantaloupe gazpacho.  I loved the bright pink borscht- the sweet dense earthiness of red beets with a tart cherry vinegar finish.  A lovely and refreshing soup that can instantly rejuvenate and energize- this would be perfect after a long day at work.  The cantaloupe gazpacho had a wonderful balance of fruity sweetness and a tart ginger kick.  This is the perfect complement to a hot summer day.

Borscht and gazpacho

Borscht and gazpacho

My favorite dish of the evening was the foie gras and black truffle paté with fleur de sel on toast.  How can you go wrong with foie gras and black truffle?  Well, actually it is an art to prepare these delicacies, and Benjamin was impeccable in his execution.  The foie gras melted like butter in my mouth, and each additional bite awakened more of the energetic earthy aroma of black truffle. 

Foie gras and black truffle canapés

Foie gras and black truffle canapés

The Petrossian Jell-o was a refreshing contrast to the savory foie gras.  Yuzu marinated baby scallop ceviche with caviar, diced green apples, ginger and chives on a bed of green apple jell-o topped with apple foam.  It was a delightful and pleasing play of textures, with the airy light apple foam, super crisp diced apples, tender scallops and soft jiggly jell-o.  Dig your spoon all the way down to the bottom of the glass to get all of the layers of textures and flavors.  The combination of yuzu, ginger and apples give this dish a fun tart citrus kick.

Petrossian Jell-o

Petrossian Jell-o

The green asparagus risotto with parmesan and pinenuts topped with salmon roe and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar reduction  was scrumptious.  The green asparagus slices were cooked perfectly, still maintaining a slight crunch.  The creamy parmesan risotto, salty salmon roe and mellow acidity and sweetness of the balsamic reduction was a winning combination.

Asparagus risotto

Asparagus risotto

The Scallops ‘a la plancha’ finished the savory portion of our meal.  The black pepper-seasoned seared scallops were cooked perfectly, maintaining a tender, plump and meaty texture.  They were presented on a bed of carrot purée, topped with orange foam and plated with balsamic reduction.  The sweetness of the soft carrot purée, the intense acidity of the orange foam and the dark richness of the balsamic reduction made for an interesting and complex combination of flavors.

Scallops a la plancha

Scallops a la plancha

We had 2 absolutely wonderful desserts.  The Sicilian pistachio crème brulée was superbly nutty, earthy and aromatic, and the caramel crust was perfectly crispy.

Sicilian pistachio crème brulée

Sicilian pistachio crème brulée

The vanilla panna cotta with white peach confit and white peach espuma was dazzling.  There are 2 variations to this divine dessert- one with oven roasted organic granola in the center peach confit layer, and another with caviar on top.  This was a very delicate and sophisticated dessert that wasn’t too sweet.  Just like the scallop ceviche dish, it was fun to dig my spoon all the way to the bottom of the glass to get all of the different layers of textures and flavors in each heavenly bite. 

White peach dessert with vanilla panna cotta

White peach dessert with vanilla panna cotta

Petrossian also sells a large assortment of delicate Parisian chocolates.  IMG_8965Other dishes that were delicious on a previous visit to Petrossian were the Tzar Cut Trio (a trio of classic, black sea spice and dill marinated smoked salmon) and the succulent burger.  The smoked salmon slices were served with toast points, crème fraîche and caper berries.  A must try- I really loved the black sea spice salmon.  The burger I had with caramelized onions and sun dried tomatoes was nice, but now they have revised it to a juicy Kobe beef burger with truffle cheese, onion marmalade and arugula. 

Tzar cut trio

Tzar cut trio

Petrossian burger

Petrossian burger

Petrossian Caviar is now doing Happy Hour every day from 5-8pm.  You can enjoy wonderful champagnes and delicious food in an inviting and open environment with friendly staff who will take good care of you.  Whether you are looking for a casual lunch, after work drinks, Sunday brunch al fresco, or a formal elegant dinner, Petrossian Cafe and Chef Benjamin Bailly will please your senses.

Petrossian Paris Boutique and Restaurant

321 North Robertson Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90048-2415
(310) 271-6300

Random trivia: Did you know that the only thing that genetically separates a peach from a nectarine is a recessive gene that expresses ‘fuzz’?

Gordon Ramsay at the London – Part One

Gordon Ramsay.  Need I say more?  We love him and we hate him.  We all love his food, and we love watching him throw a temper tantrum on TV. But we would never want to bring him home to meet the parents.

Thankfully, my experience at the Gordon Ramsay restaurant at The London Hotel in West Hollywood was tranquil and laid back.  I had a superb experience thanks to my wonderful friend Haru, the sous chef there.  Ramsay sold the restaurant to the hotel a couple of weeks ago, but it didn’t affect the tasty creations that came from the kitchen.  Chef Haru did an amazing omakase style meal for us.

The restaurant interior is gorgeous and decadent.  Here is one of the private rooms:

private dining room

private dining room

I fell in love with the bar- Miami chic meets Monaco vogue?  I would love to go back to have a drink there.

The bar

The bar

We started with a trio of canapés, beautifully displayed on a plate:

Trio of starters

Trio of starters

Cod spring roll, smoked salmon and cucumber roll topped with caviar, and beef carpaccio with watercress salad, radish, shallot rings and lemon oil.  I loved the hint of lemon oil in the beef carpaccio canapé.

Next, a cherry gazpacho with celery and green apple, accompanied with roasted hand-dived sea scallops and watermelon.

Cherry gazpacho

Cherry gazpacho

This was one of my favorite dishes.  It was very refreshing, with so many flavors and textures to tickle my tongue.  I loved the slight tartness of the gazpacho with the crisp textures of celery and apple.

And now….for my absolute favorite dish of the day.  Actually, it may have been my absolute favorite dish of the year.  The foie gras chawanmushi.

Chawanmushi is a traditional Japanese dish of steamed egg custard.  ‘Chawan’ is a Japanese ceramic bowl or cup, and ‘mushi’ means to steam.  My mother used to make it all the time with chicken, shiitake mushrooms and shrimp.  This was the first time I ever had such a creative take on this dish.  I apologize that you cannot see the custard very well in this photo, but underneath the bread, white shimeji mushrooms, edamame and daikon radish sprouts are sprinkled bits of crispy deep fried duck tongue.  The savory foie gras custard was rich and silky smooth, with a complex depth of flavor reminiscent of black truffle and 40 year port wine.  This dish is too good for words. It’s culinary ecstasy.

Next we had broiled black cod topped with pig’s tails and kumamoto oysters, with a celeriac purée and beef jus.

Yes, pig’s tails.  They have just as much tasty fat and meat as the pork belly does.  The cod was cooked perfectly and was very moist.  The simple light flavor of the cod went very well with the rich topping of oyster and crunchy pig’s tails.  I loved the beautiful yet simple presentation of this dish.

Roasted duck confit with braised red cabbage and mustard sauce finished the savory portion of the meal.

I love duck confit, and this one we had was superb.  The meat was very tender and succulent.  It was plump and moist, unlike most duck leg confits that I have had, which tend to be very dry and overcooked.  I wish the skin was a little more crispy, but otherwise it was close to perfect.

And now, mesdames et messieurs, may I present to you… the dessert orgy.

We were celebrating my friend’s birthday, and it was so sweet to get this raspberry sorbet from the restaurant.  Just to clarify, the chocolate writing was meant to say Happy Anniversaire (anniversaire is birthday in French).

We all loved this dessert, the confit of grapefruit with grapefruit sorbet, passion fruit and mint foam.

Such a refreshing and light dessert that served as a wonderful palate cleanser.  The grapefruit segments were juicy and sweet, contrasting with the tartness of the grapefruit zest and passion fruit, with a light airy lingering finish of the mint foam.  A superb dessert that was an absolute delight.

For you chocolate lovers out there, the Valrhona chocolate fondant with brown butter caramel and vanilla ice cream was delicious.

A chocolate fondant is like a lava cake, with a runny and molten center.  Underneath that frosted baked top layer is a thick pool of pure chocolate heaven.  Each bite delivered a rich silky smooth chocolate warmness throughout my mouth.  Such indulgence!

The next dessert was a chilled coconut tapioca with passion fruit, with candied ginger and milk chocolate & star anise gelato.

Another spectacular dessert.  I loved the different textures involved in this dessert- crunchy, silky, smooth, milky, and chewy.  The birthday girl loved this one.

And finally, my favorite dessert of them all, the dark chocolate cylinder filled with passion fruit, mint granite and coconut foam.

I was pleasantly surprised to break open the chocolate cylinder and see a gush of vibrant colors- green, whit and yellow.  And again, so many different textures to stimulate my tongue.  I should have taken a picture of the dessert after the cylinder was broken, but we finished it too quickly.  It was a beautiful dessert to look at and to eat- edible art.

I want to point out that all of these desserts came out at the same time.  Picture 3 very happy women sitting around a table filled with all of these delicious desserts, spoon in one hand with wide sparkling eyes and ridiculously large smiles.

I had the most wonderful dining experience here, and I owe it all to the wonderful sous chef Haru.  This is what it’s all about, when you can taste the chef’s love and passion in every bite.

Gordon Ramsay at the London Hotel, West Hollywood

1020 North San Vicente Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069-3802
(310) 854-1111

Random trivia: Did you know that only domestic pigs have curly tails?  Wild pigs have straight tails.