Roys Hawaiian Fusion

One of my favorite ways to celebrate Fridays is to go to Roys Hawaiian Fusion for their Aloha Hour. From 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Roys offers fresh Hawaiian specialty cocktails for $5, including Roy’s original Hawaiian martini with sweet Maui pineapples, SKYY vodka, Stoli vanilla vodka and Malibu coconut rum. It’s shaken and served with a slice of fresh pineapple. Sipping this libation makes me feel as if I’m on vacation. The signature-1988 Martini has the tartness of grapefruit with antioxidants of pomegranate and is garnished with a lychee fruit. 1988 is the year that Roy Yamaguchi opened his first Roy’s in Honolulu, Oahu.

Go early, because the place is filled with happy people crowding around tables or sitting along the bar drinking their discounted tropical drinks and nibbling on aloha hour crunchy golden lobster potstickers dunked in a spicy Togarashi miso butter sauce or lobster California roll with lobster salad, avocado, cucumber and Tobiko (flying fish roe) for $5 each. After 6:30 p.m. these rolls are $9.95 and $11.95.

Sure many restaurants are offering Happy Hour with $5 sliders and chicken wings, however Roy’s prepares each appetizer with a Hawaiian twist. The sliders here are made with Wagyu beef and caramelized onions, chipolte aioli on a pretzel bread bun and garlic sweet potato fries in the middle of the plate. The salt and pepper crisped calamari is accompanied with a Hawaiian fusion dipping sauce.

After a cocktail and appetizer we moved into the main dining room for dinner. 

The menu changes with every season. Right now, Roy’s is offering a Winter Fusion prix fixe menu with a choice of one from three appetizers, four different entrees and two desserts for $35.95.

We ordered from the prix fixe and the regular menu. For starters we enjoyed the poached pear and pecan salad. It’s served with mixed greens and dressed with a divine lemongrass port vinaigrette. I savored the local greens salad with red and yellow baby beets, tiny dollops of goat cheese, toasted macadamia nuts and adorned with a truffle dressing with a ginger kick.

For entrees we ordered the grilled Wagyu meatloaf served with sour cream and chive mashed potatoes and bathed in a braised mushroom sauce. One bite from this meatloaf and I exclaimed, “This is not at all like my mother’s meatloaf.” The meat is very moist and flavorful. It’s flecked with diced carrots and onions.

When I asked our server, born and raised in Oahu, how the chef prepares this dish, he replied “Sous-vide. It’s a French word for under vacuum.” This cooking method bathes meat in a sealed plastic bag in warm water at 140 degrees for hours. This type of cooking maintains the integrity of the ingredients and allows the essence of the herbs and vegetables to be absorbed into the meat. The meat is taken out of the bag and then grilled before served on a Roy’s signature plate.

Another entrée we enjoyed was the spicy basil and parsley seared Dover sole. The fish is presented on top of a bed of butter whipped mashed potatoes, sautéed leeks, broccoli and soft baby carrots. The sienna colored Maine lobster curry sauce gives the dish a heavenly zip of spicy flavors.   

For dessert, Roy’s serves a melted hot chocolate soufflé with a thick raspberry coulis sauce and generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream with a sprinkling of chocolate chips.  It’s made with five ingredients; semi sweet dark chocolate, sugar, butter, eggs and corn starch. They also prepare a scrumptious pineapple upside down cake.

For those guests who enjoy the food at Roy’s, they offer cooking classes throughout the year and list recipes for some of their most popular dishes on their website http://www.roysrestaurant.com/whatsnew/recipes/. With 31 locations around the world including Japan and Guam, Roy’s offers a friendly and unique Hawaiian dining experience that is the next best thing to being on the islands. Happy Aloha Hour is from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and after 9 p.m. to closing on Sunday through Friday. 800 S. Figueroa St., (213)488-4994 and in Pasadena at 641 East Colorado Blvd. (626) 356-4066, Also in Newport Beach and Anaheim.$$

via Roys Hawaiian Fusion.

Hollywood Glamour at Tar Pit

After watching Chef Mark Peel win a cooking challenge, I was eager to try his restaurant Tar Pit on La Brea Ave. From the outside it lacks curb appeal. Inside it has a 1940s Hollywood glamour supper club feel with its Art Deco ironwork separating the beige banquettes.

As a native Californian, Peel worked in a series of kitchen jobs in high school and enrolled into the hotel and restaurant program at Cal Polytechnic University in Pomona. While in college, he landed a job with Wolfgang Puck peeling vegetables at Ma Maison. Later, he became the sous chef at Michael McCarty’s restaurant, Michael’s in Santa Monica. While working with McCarty, Peel met and later married the pastry chef, Nancy Silverton.

With an opportunity to work with Puck again, he became the original head chef at Spago in 1982. Years later, Peel and Silverton opened La Brea Bakery and Campanile restaurant on La Brea Ave. just a few blocks south of Tar Pit.

Not in a drinking mood, we forgo the amusing cocktail list. The cocktails are arranged on the menu by categories: More tart than sweet, Crushed, A little Adventure and Spirited & Direct. Like other high end bars in Los Angeles, the bartender squeezes fresh fruit juice into the glass, has a variety of housemade simple syrups, good bitters and charges $12. There are no draft beers on tap, however Peel has a limited selection of great beers in bottles for $6.

Glancing at the whimsically designed one page food menu, I noticed a lot of fun dishes and light meals. Pickled deviled eggs with bacon, fried oysters with crisp ginger and preserved lemon remoulade, and macaroni and cheese with Gruyere, cheddar, mozzarella and Parmesan.

We ordered the crab salad with large lumps of blue crab, sliced fingerling potatoes, diced roasted red peppers, celery, chervil, chives and tossed lightly with a subtle saffron dressing. It was scrumptious.

Next, arrived juicy duck confit sliders with crisp little cracklings rendered from the duck meat after roasting and topped with an orange gastrique to add a citrus flavor to the meat. They were presented with a small frisee salad on the side.  Still a tad hungry we noticed almost every table had a heaping plate of Tar Pit fries, so we ordered one to see what the buzz was about. Crisp on the outside and tender inside, the potatoes are sprinkled with a spicy lemon salt, although I couldn’t taste the lemon, especially after dipping the fries into the heavenly housemade garlic aioli.

Why did Peel name his restaurant Tar Pit?  Our server explained that he was inspired to name the restaurant after watching the movie “My Man Godfrey,” with William Powell as Godfrey. Godfrey, a down and out man in the beginning, opens a fabulous bar at the end of the movie called, The Dump. Its location is at the exact spot where he was discovered in the beginning of the movie.

Peel seems to have good luck with his restaurants on La Brea Ave. He spends half his time at his successful Campanile and the other half at Tar Pit. He is very hands on. While we were at Tar Pit, the ice machine broke down. Peel arrived quickly to keep the restaurant running smoothly while the machine was being repaired.

We finished our meal with two desserts. Fortunately, they weren’t huge. The apple tart tatin arrived with sliced apples, kiwi fruit, spiced walnuts, puff pastry with a generous dollop of whipped crème fraiche and embellished with caramel.  My favorite was the chocolate caramel tart with little scoops of bitters and orange ice cream bathed in chocolate sauce.

As we paid our bill, we were invited to come back on Sunday evening to hear the live rock/blues band, Vintage Trouble. Their influence is Ray Charles, Prince, Ike & Tina and The Rolling Stones. The band starts playing at 9 p.m. Check the Tar Pit website to see the band’s monthly schedule. On Mondays, Peel has a burlesque show that begins at 9:30 p.m. 

With an affordable menu and live entertainment, I can see why this elegant supper club is packed with people nightly. Open for dinner and late night dining from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Happy Hour begins at 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. 609 N. La Brea Ave., (323)965-1300. $-$$ http://tarpitbar.squarespace.com

Morton’s Beverly Hills

After walking into Morton’s Beverly Hills for dinner, we were seated next to the hockey great, Luc Robitaille with his wife and son. While ordering our entrées, seven priests strolled past our table and into a private dining area to celebrate the arrival of a visiting archbishop and ambassador of the Vatican. Morton’s Beverly Hills attracts quiet an eclectic crowd.

Dressed in tuxedos and formal attire, the servers appear to be attending a black tie affair, while most of the guests are adorned in apparel that is more casual.

Looking at the extensive wine list, or should I say book, we admired the subtle richness of the décor in the main dining room. LeRoy Neiman prints hang on the walls next to a VIP photo collage of Christopher Garrison, the General Manager, with Dustin Hoffman, Jim Carrey and various other celebrities. Garrison has been running the restaurant smoothly for the past six years. Customer loyalty is his number one goal and we noticed many regulars shake his hand and feel right at home.

A menu is not presented when seated, instead a cart is rolled over to the table with three different platters of food. One is the beef platter with various cuts of prime top quality steaks. Next to it is a platter with a Maine lobster weighing almost four pounds. The third platter held an extra large baked potato and various vegetables. Our server, Richard, enthusiastically recited the menu and highlighted the signature and favorite dishes. Afterwards, he handed us our menu and traipsed off to the bar to get us a glass of Krug Chardonnay and Coppola Pinot Noir.

Oysters Rockefeller arrived with spinach, Parmesan cheese and a touch of hollandaise sauce. It’s placed under a broiler to caramelize and served warm. Next, we split the Morton’s salad with half romaine and iceberg lettuce, chopped egg, housemade blue cheese dressing and anchovies. We asked for the salty anchovies on the side. The salads were presented on chilled plates and the dressing did not overpower or weigh down the crisp lettuce. It was light and flavorful.

Since many of the warm desserts require pre-ordering, Richard suggested we order a warm dessert with the entrée instead of after our meal was finished.

A glass of Malbec from Argentina accompanied the signature cut New York strip steak. The full flavored steak was cooked perfectly. All their meat is “prime,” a designation that less than two percent of the United States beef supply earns.  For lighter fare, I ordered the Chilean sea bass with a flavorful pineapple and red pepper salsa.

Jazz music played in the background as we enjoyed our entrees with sides of steamed jumbo asparagus with Hollandaise sauce and lyonnaise potatoes with grilled onions. The sauce on the potatoes and onions is very addictive.

For birthdays and anniversaries, Morton’s takes a photo of the guests at the table and delivers it in a commemorative Morton’s frame as a keepsake of the evening.

After a meal, servers deliver a tray to their VIP and repeat guests with complimentary after dinner drinks. My Bailey’s Irish Cream went nicely with a plate of warm chocolate cake with raspberries and a generous scoop of vanilla Haagen Dazs ice cream.

Even though the restaurant is a chain, Morton’s Beverly Hills serves high quality food by servers who go out of their way to make sure each guest is happy.

Located on the corner of the SLS Hotel, Morton’s is open for dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday – Saturday and Sundays from 5 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. 435 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310)246-1501. $$$

via Mortons Beverly Hills.

La Cachette Bistro – French Tapas By the Beach

Located in a charming house on Santa Monica Blvd.I fondly remember La Cachette Bistro, “the hideaway” in Century City. After telling a girlfriend that I would be dining at the newer location in Santa Monica, she replied, “that is one of my favorite restaurants ever.” She has never tried the Santa Monica location, but remembered many wonderful meals near the Century City shopping center.

Walking up to the ground floor of an office building and across the street from Le Merigot Beach hotel and spa, the bistro presents clean, modern lines.

Fabrice, the manager, shared with us that they are in the process of redecorating to appeal to a younger crowd. In the past, La Cachette Bistro drew a more mature, established clientele. Gone are the formal white linen tablecloths. The bar will be designed differently and chef Jean-Francios Meteigner has created a more reasonable French Tapa menu with many of the items between $4 – $12.

When we arrived on a Sat. evening, the main dining room was so loud with boisterous diners, that we requested a quieter table next to the bar. The place was filled with mature patrons, however a sprinkling of the young and trendy were present. On Friday and Saturday evenings after 9 p.m., guests receive 30% off their bill while enjoying French tapas and cocktails in the dining room.

We started with a fresita (blend of Chilean sparkling wine and fresh strawberries from Patagonia). It arrived in a little bottle and was a little too sweet for my liking.  The Ocean Flower cocktail had Resposado tequila, elderflower liquor and a large basil leaf floating on top. It looked like a martini, yet tasted like a margarita.

Chef Meteigner came out of the kitchen and delivered a plate of dark truffle chocolates with a dollop of caviar and crème fraiche, I found the sweetness of the chocolate and crème fraiche offset the saltiness of the domestic caviar.

Our first tapa was an apple corn polenta brulee with a generous sautéed foie gras on top. It was sweet with the apple and creamy with the corn polenta. Next, a homemade foie gras terrine with rhubarb gelee and two slices of housemade brioche toast arrived. Though delicious, but reminded me of a breakfast dish with the two pieces of toast. The rhubarb gelee was more like jello in consistency with a pleasant rhubarb flavor.

Warm steamed clams arrived in an Asian tasting ginger/garlic broth and slightly blackened swordfish belly was delivered with a wasabi and ginger mash. The belly is richer tasting than a swordfish steak. This tapa is the perfect portion. Fabrice delivered an adorable copper pot filled with chicken oysters, red wine, bacon, peas and carrots. It was “coq au vin” style. When I inquired about chicken oysters, Fabrice said, “In French they call it solilesse, which means you are stupid if you don’t try it.” It’s the delicate morsel of meat found in a small cavity of the back of a chicken. It was very tender, yet the bacon flavor dominated the dish.

Our last tapa was the baby back ribs with a housemade raspberry vinegar bbq sauce. Baby back ribs in a French restaurant? They were tasty and arrived on a bed on lentils.

Since the portions were small, we were open to trying a few of Meteigner’s desserts. The rum baba was a small cake bathed in rum with crushed pineapple and a little cream on top. Next, we tasted a housemade mint flavored marshmallow with chocolate sauce drizzled on top and decorated with tiny and sweet fresh strawberries. The piece de la resistance was the crepe suzette topped with lemon cream. It was my favorite and satisfied my sweet tooth craving.

After a friend’s son was diagnosed with Celiac disease, Francois learned to cook gluten free. He frequently receives requests from his customers and has adapted his menu to have many gluten free dishes.

Foodies may enjoy Meteigner’s once a month cooking class in his kitchen. Classes are held on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a sit down lunch and wine for $125 per person. On March 26, he will offer a salt and fresh water fish class. Guests will learn how to identify quality fresh fish to poach, grill and sauté in various sauces.

La Cachette does not offer California French style food. Instead it offers updated traditional French fare in smaller portions and more reasonable prices. Open for lunch Tuesday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner hours begin Tuesday through Sunday at 6 p.m. 1733 Ocean Ave. (310)434-9309.

Published in the Beverly Press March 2011 via La Cachette Bistro

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