Celebrity Chef Scott Conant & Freddy Vargas – The Ponte

When Terrine closed last year, Stephane Bombet of Bombet Hospitality Group talked to Scott Conant about helping him change his classic French-inspired restaurant into a contemporary Italian one. Bombet knew Conant from Scarpetta at the Montage Beverly Hills. This celebrity chef attracted foodies from all over to order his iconic $24 spaghetti with tomato and basil.
IMG_5356
Conant and Bombet named the new restaurant The Ponte, inspired by the tight-knit Italian community, nicknamed “Pontes,” who live in the neighborhood where Conant was born and raised in Waterbury, Connecticut.

Conant now has multiple restaurants in New York, Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix and Los Angeles. He and Bombet lured Freddy Vargas from Georgie Restaurant in Beverly Hills to be the executive chef. Conant and Vargas met in New York and have worked together since 2008, first at Scarpetta in New York, then Beverly Hills and at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach.

IMG_5352When I received an invite to experience brunch at The Ponte last weekend, I immediately accepted. Parking in the back valet lot, my husband and I walked through the patio filled with green and yellow umbrellas to the reception stand and were greeted by Yuri Maldonado, the lovely and charming assistant manager.

Giving us a choice of sitting outside under the 50-plus-year-old tree draped with twinkle lights or inside near the glass and metal doors, we selected sitting inside at a curved booth with olive brushed-velvet upholstery. Rome-born, Parisian designer Marc Ange of Bloom Room Studio provides a retro spirit of Italy with warm woods, soft lighting with gold sea urchin spike chandeliers, gold and green velvet accents and a granite bar near the entrance. It’s slightly formal inside with white linen tablecloths. The ceiling and walls color are painted black, offering a warm and cozy feel. Also new are the 70s style wood and lattice privacy half walls, breaking the dining room into two sections.

We sipped housemade bitter lemon tonics to get started, as Yuri excitedly told us that when the restaurant first opened Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr sat in the same corner table with Joe Walsh from the Eagles and Vince Gill.

IMG_5360On the menu, pastas include braised duck agnolotti, ricotta gnudi with morels and Conant’s iconic pasta al pomodoro. It’s only $22 here.

Listening to an eclectic array of music that ranges from Dean Martin to Tom Petty, I looked at the toasts on the menu. They have the requisite avocado, and a ricotta toast, but the most interesting is a roasted trout mixed with creme fraiche layered on a thick, grilled crostini with tiny spheres of pickled cucumber and radish with bright red edges, chopped dill and dotted with capers. It’s an elegant alternative to an open faced tuna sandwich.

IMG_5364For something sweet we selected the French toast, and were pleasantly surprised. It’s made with thick slices of challah from Schwartz Bakery, the oldest kosher bakery in Los Angeles. What also makes this different from others is its citrus curd glaze, sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts and dollop of fresh whipped cream.

For an egg dish, I chose the baked egg on a layer of polenta with a tangy puttanesca sauce. It’s served in a shirred egg casserole dish. The best way to eat this is to spoon the egg with polenta and sauce onto one of the two pieces of grilled ciabatta bread that accompany the dish. This allows the ethereal sauce to seep into the air pockets and crevices of the bread.

IMG_5362Ryan Wainwright from Terrine is still the director of bar programs, and the all-Italian wine list is curated by sommelier Rosemary Walker. She does a good job pairing wines with dishes.

Sadly my chef crush Conant was not in Los Angeles the day I dined, however chef Freddy Vargas approached our table as we finished. He told me he was inspired to be a chef because of Emeril Lagasse.

I was very impressed with the flavors and creativity of the dishes presented at The Ponte. I’ll be back for dinner, hopefully on a night when Conant is in the kitchen so I can swoon all over again. $$ Dinner hours are 6 to 10p.m., Sunday through Thursday. The restaurant stays open until 11:30 p.m., on Friday and Saturday. Weekend brunch begins at 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday.

8265 Beverly Blvd. (323)746-5130.

This review was featured in the Beverly Press – http://beverlypress.com/2017/07/contemporary-italian-at-the-ponte/

Tantalizing Terrine

FullSizeRender-17For my 26th wedding anniversary, I took my husband with me to review the new lunch menu at Stephane Bombet, Executive Chef Kris Morningstar and Francois Renaud’s elegant California brasserie – Terrine.

Chef Morningstar has been tantalizing Los Angelenos with some of his French favorites that include beef tartare, onion soup, steak frites, escargot, tartines, and Croque Madame’s in the evening and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Starting this week, the restaurant is now open for lunch Monday through Friday featuring some signature dishes and some of Morningstar’s new creations.

Since it was daytime and we had the responsibilities of work, school pick-up, and soccer practice later tonight, we started with carafes of refreshers – a lemongrass iced tea and a lavender lemonade that made my mouth pucker in delight. Renaud came to our table to talk about his new specialty housemade teas from the London-based Rare Tea Company, known to source and supply the world’s best tea directly from farmers and their tea gardens. Renaud makes an ice tea with Earl Grey tea infused with mint, and a teaspoon of honey to enhance the beverage naturally. All were quite good.

FullSizeRender-14Those dining around us were sipping a Terrine Gin & Tonic made with Bombay East, Renaud’s lemongrass and a house made yuzu tonic. It was pretty with a long peeled rind of ruby red grapefruit.

While looking over the menu outside on the appealing patio, I wanted to order what I enjoyed last time – The avocado toast with tarragon salsa verde, and Meyer lemon. Instead I ordered the Socca to share with a new broccoli and chicory salad. Both were excellent together. Socca is a street food found in Nice, France. It’s made from chickpeas into a thin pancake, almost like a crepe. It’s dusted with fennel powder, coarse salt and pepper. Served on a wood plank it was cut into triangles.

The salad was divine with rabe broccoli, little Pecorino cubes, toasted farro grains, and sunflower seeds. It was a wonderful mix of textures and flavors enhanced with an anchovy and lemon vinaigrette.

The Quiche Du Jour was made the French way, light and wobbly with an amazing crust. It’s served with a mixed green salad with fine herbs and a champagne vinaigrette.

FullSizeRender-15I wanted to order the exquisite Croque Madame again. It’s sliced smoked ham is grilled with melted Gruyere cheese, Bechamel and topped with a sunny side egg. Instead, I ordered the juicy Terrine burger with truffle butter and cheese, a delightful aioli, flash fried onions and cured tomato jam. WOW! That jam just makes this burger so gourmet tasting, especially with the soft brioche bun.

Morningstar is putting foie gras on a lot of dishes. I could have had it on my burger for an extra $9. He also puts it in a Terrine with sweet and sour prunes, served with a baguette. Morningstar assembles a salad with foie gras, confit duck gizzards, apples and walnut vinaigrette, and his Jambon Buerre is made with ham, foie gras and truffle butter.

FullSizeRender-16We finished with a generous slice of a quintessential French lemon tart. The meringue on top looked like floral grommets torched lightly to give the dish a visually stunning presentation.

BRAVO Morningstar, Renaud and Bombet for making my anniversary meal one that I will always remember.

Hours are from – 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.  Terrine – 8265 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles – (323)746-5130

Open Sesame is filled with Lebanese Delights

IMG_1457East of Fairfax in Los Angeles is a new full-service casual Lebanese restaurant, Open Sesame. The name comes from the magical phrase in one of the stories from One Thousand and One Nights. In the story “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” when Open Sesame is announced, the mouth of a cave opens in which forty thieves have hidden treasures. At Open Sesame, the restaurant is filled with wonderful culinary treasures. You will find garlicky fried potatoes, baba ganoush, and exquisite falafel patties made of chickpeas and fava beans, garlic, onions, herbs and exotic spices.

The founder of Open Sesame, Ali Kobeissi opened his first restaurant in Long Beach 14 years ago. It started small, then got so popular that he expanded to accommodate the demand. People from Los Angeles would drive down to Long Beach to enjoy his lamb chops, chicken tawook and beef kabobs, so he opened another Open Sesame in Los Angeles.

Looking over the menu, I learned that everything that comes out of the kitchen is prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients, and many of the recipes have been in Kobeissi’s family for generations.

It’s a colorful restaurant with a full bar, indoor and outdoor seating. The interior offers Mediterranean light fixtures, tile flooring and skylights in the middle of the dining room making it light and bright.

On my first visit, we started with green ice tea with a splash of orange blossom water and mint while looking over the menu.IMG_1465

The general manager, Alex, approached our table to recommend a few appetizers. We ordered the signature fried potatoes sautéed with cilantro, garlic, roasted chili and a generous amount of lemon juice. When they arrived we dipped them in the garlic sauce to jazz them up even more.

Another appetizer worth ordering is the grilled halloumi cheese with slices of watermelon. The white cheese and bright red watermelon were presented like fallen dominos, slightly stacked on top of each other. I had never tasted halloumi cheese – a mixture of cow, sheep and goat cheese. It has a higher melting point than other cheese and is easy to fry giving it a slightly golden and springing texture.

Open Sesame offers three different salads that are dressed in a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, dry mint and sumac. Sumac is a reddish-purple powder used as a spice to add a lemony taste to salads or meat. It enhances the tabouleh with chopped parsley, bulgar, tomato and fresh mint. It also give a bit of pizzazz to the fattoush, a Lebanese peasant salad topped with toasted pita chips.

IMG_1459To get a sampling of authentic Lebanese delights, we ordered the Open Sesame combo with a skewer of extra lean ground beef and lamb, cubes of marinated and charbroiled chicken breast served with garlic sauce and wild cucumber pickles. It also comes with a beef kabob that is marinated and charbroiled top sirloin steak. The dish arrives with basmati rice and either creamy hummus or the smokey garlic baba ganoush made with cooked eggplant mixed with onions, tomatoes, olive oil and various seasonings. Both are excellent, however I love their baba ganoush. I spooned it on just about everything.

You can order these on the lunch and dinner menu. Another lunch favorite is the pita sandwich. There are ten varieties to choose from on the menu. I ordered the fried cauliflower with onion, lettuce, tomato, pine nuts and a tahini sauce. Tahini is a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds. Lemon juice is added with salt and garlic, and then thinned with water. It is one of the most popular toppings for meat and vegetables in Middle Eastern cuisine.
They offer a special lunch menu that includes an entree and salad. The falafel is dynamite and is served with hummus, fattoush, tomato, lettuce, pickled cucumbers and Tahini sauce.

They make three different types of Paninis with a choice of charbroiled chicken shawarma cooked on a spit and sliced thinly IMG_1462or a vegetarian labne made with creamy kefir cheese, tomato, fresh mint and olives. They also make a halloumi cheese and cucumber panini.

Save room for their baklawa made with flaky phyllo pastry and filled with pistachios. It pairs well with Lebanese ice cream in pistachio or almond flavor. Another tasty treat is K’naafeh. It’s a Lebanese version of sticky toffee pudding cake. It’s made with semolina wheat pastry with sweet cheese or ashta cream and a sprinkling of orange blossom syrup. It’s not as sugary as sticky toffee pudding and is extremely satisfying. Pair this with a Moroccan green hot tea infused with mint and orange blossom.

Open Sesame offers a catering services that offers three of four courses with a selection of appetizers, entrees, salads and desserts starting at $25 per person. Menus include plenty of lamb, beef and poultry dishes as well as several options for vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free guests.

They offer drop-off service with food arriving in disposable serving trays at the correct temperature. This is ideal for business luncheons, wrap parties, baby and bridal showers, wedding receptions and charity events.

At Open Sesame the quality of the ingredients shines through and leaves you wanting to experience Lebanese cuisine again. $-$$ Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. On Friday and Saturday it stays open until 11 p.m. 7458 Beverly Blvd. (323)525-1698.

This article was published in the October 2, 2014 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

Enticing Edible Arrangements

IMG_8953
Scott Greenberg

Walking inside the Edible Arrangements store on Beverly Blvd. near the Beverly Center I smiled. It’s a cheerful store with bright colors on the walls and stuffed bears holding soft hearts. The day I visited was right before Mother’s Day. Mylar balloons decorated the ceiling and customers kept coming in to pick up arrangements.

This store and the Edible Arrangements store on Melrose Ave. near Cahuenga is owned by the affable, motivational speaker Scott Greenberg. He took me on a tour of his kitchen and introduced me to his staff. I got to see the refrigerator, chocolate dipping station and wrapping station.

Scott was born in Los Angeles and grew up in San Diego. His father was a franchise owner, so Scott grew up in that environment. However, he wanted to be a screenwriter. After graduating from UCLA, he received a scholarship to NYU film school.  Moving to NY and just starting film school, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease. The doctors found a tumor the size of a softball in his chest. He left film school and started aggressive treatment.

When his grandmother, a “Schindler’s List” Holocaust survivor saw him months later, she said, “The way you look reminds me of Auschwitz.” Since she survived the atrocities of the Holocaust, Scott found inspiration to fight for his life. One year after chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Scott went into remission.

IMG_8947
Scott Greenberg and Jennifer Satzman

Instead of going back to NYU, Scott became a motivational speaker. His strength teaches others to live life to its fullest. He has traveled Internationally and every to 50 states in America. When he married and adopted his first child, he wanted to stay home more. Nine years ago, while flying to Connecticut, he saw an ad about Edible Arrangements in an airline magazine.

He first opened his Beverly Blvd. store and years later opened in Hollywood. In 2010 his store won the Edible Arrangements “Best Customer Service” award (out of 972 franchises worldwide). The following year his store received “Manager of the Year.” His manager is Jennifer Satzman. Scott originally meet Jennifer at his son’s preschool. Scott knew she would be perfect in helping him run his Edible Arrangements stores, while he traveled to various speaking engagements.

Service and sales helps them maintain a repeat customer base. “My staff is very important to me,” Scott said. “I hire slowly and fire fast.” Scott told me that they are not in the fruit basket business, “We are in the celebration business. If you come here and place an order, it can be delivered in one hour,” Scott said. Edible Arrangements is a sweeter alternative than flowers. It appeals to multiple senses and is more of an experience than flowers.

Scott offered me a sampling of his fruit dipped in semi-sweet dark chocolate and white chocolate. My favorite was the heart-shaped pineapple dipped in chocolate. With one bite, the pineapple juice dripped down my mouth. It was delicious. I also liked the green apple dipped in chocolate, strawberries and the banana pieces dipped in dark and white chocolate.

When they have left over fruit at the end of the day, the staff boxes it up and donates it to SOVA Community Food and Resource Program. His stores are two of the only certified Kosher stores in Los Angeles. The chocolate is Kosher Dairy.

The stores offer a Cheer Me Up Bouquet, Get Well Treats, Thank You Chocolate Dipped Fruit Box, Birthday Celebration arrangements Pineapple Pops and Confetti Fruit IMG_8949Cupcake to name a few. Just pick a size and arrangement, choose a fruit to dip and add a balloon, plush bear or Edible Number.

Just like See’s Candy, when you come into the store to place an order or pick up an order, the staff is happy to offer you a sample or two.

Next time you want to give someone a special occasion gift, call Scott and his staff at Edible Arrangements. You will bring smiles to the faces of those who receive a colorful box or arrangement.

8453 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles – 323-651-2233 and 5870 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles – (323)462-6666. EdibleArrangements.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

PettyCash Los Angeles

DSC_0038I haven’t been as excited about a new restaurant in a long time. PettyCash is the creation of Bill Chait and Executive Chef Walter Manzke who feverishly renovated the former Playa to open a Tijuana-style taqueria.

Chait has had a slew of successful restaurants with Sotto, Picca, Short Order, Short Cake, the newly opened Bestia and the forthcoming Republique that he and Manzke are planning to open this August in the old Campanile space on La Brea.

Manzke is one of my favorite chefs. After graduating from Mesa College in San Diego with a degree in Business and Restaurant Management, he worked in some of the most famous kitchens with top-notch chefs of Europe and America, including Alain Ducasse, Ferran Adrià, and Patina Group’s with Joachim Splichal. He then moved up to Carmel to work at Bouchee and L’Auberge Carmel. Returning to LA, Manzke opened Bastide and took over the kitchen at Church + State.

Not only did he just recently open PettyCash, Manzke and his talented Pastry Chef wife, Margarita, frequently fly to Manila to check on their newly opened Wildflour Café + Bakery. “Margarita is from the Philippines, and we have family there. It’s growing and becoming a much more prosperous city,” Manzke said.

Gone is the comfortable setting of Playa. Instead, Chait and Manzke roughed it up a bit. “We wanted guests to feel as if they are under a bridge in East Los Angeles,” he said. The DSC_0045industrial look offers hanging lights and an entire brick wall painted by the talented local street artist Retna.

Instead of the Playa wine cellar, there is now a beer cellar with great craft beers. On tap are two tasty brews from San Diego: Ballast Point Sculpin and Stone Brewing Smoked Porter.

Manzke had the idea for this type of restaurant for quite some time. In the 1980s, he enjoyed going down to Tijuana. “It was a wild place back then, but in a controlled way. It started to get more rough in the 90s.”

One night at The Key Club on Sunset, after hearing a band play Tom Petty and Johnny Cash songs back to back, the name PettyCash hit Manzke. “PettyCash is a play on both the small amount of discretionary funds every restaurant needs for expenditures and musical artists Johnny Cash and Tom Petty.”

The background music offers some Petty and Cash songs, as well as an eclectic array of 80s music, and even some 80s rap music from Mexico.

Chef Manzke kept Sedlar’s roof garden to use in many of his creative dishes. Nothing about PettyCash is your stereotypical Mexican restaurant. Our server delivered a tin cup holding salty tortilla chips and two bottles, not bowls, of salsas. The green is a less spicy verde sauce, while the red sauce has a kick to it.

The food at PettyCash comes out kicking. With our first bite of the cheesey churros ladeled with a green mole-corn sauce, we knew we were in for an exciting culinary adventure.

DSC_0048
Ceviche Negro

The snapping chicharrones (pork cracklings or pork rinds) continued to crackle for ten minutes on our table. They were cooked exquisitely without any greasy feel or aftertaste. Manzke serves them with a slightly sweet carrot and pineapple dip and a spicier avocado sauce.

Be sure to order the chunky guacamole. A dollop can be added to just about anything on the menu, especially the summer squash and shrimp tostada.

The ceviche Negro is blackened with squid ink and comes with fresh pieces of mahi-mahi, mango and peanuts.

Manzke’s signature dish – a chilled bowl of Mexican Aguachile en Moicajete– is a spicy seafood stew made with wild Sonoran chiltepin peppers grown in Mexico.

“Farmers can’t cultivate these peppers, they grow wild and sell for $100 a pound,” Manzke said. “It’s like a Schezwan pepper that tickles your palate with heat.”

The peppers are ground in a mortar and pestle with fresh tomatoes to make a homemade Clamato-style broth. Guests select the seafood to complete this dish. We chose Peruvian Bay scallops, live Santa Barbara prawns, sea urchin, lobster and octopus. A big molcajete arrived chock-full of seafood, chopped radishes and cucumber. WOW!

We didn’t have an opportunity to try the tacos on this visit, but we did meet tortilla master, Marisol. “She rides the bus daily from Huntington Park to make these fresh tortillas. It’s DSC_0073a real art to make tortillas that taste like this. She makes about 500 or more a day.”

Tacos cost $4 for one, $11 for three or 6 for $21. Manzke offers up to 10 different types of street tacos from prime beef strip loin carne asada to Baja fish and white prawn tacos.

We did have a little room left for Margarita’s desserts. Her leche flan is creamy and served with Pudwell Farms berries. Her bunuelos are dusted with cinnamon and sugar and sitting in a heavenly chocolate sauce.

PettyCash is open Tuesday through Sunday. Hours vary. Closed Mondays. Walk-ins welcome. No reservations. 7360 Beverly Blvd. (323)933-5300.

 This article was published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on 6/27/13.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse in Beverly Hills

DSC_0759The newest Fleming’s chain on Beverly Drive is as eager to please their guests as a puppy dog. Smiling hostesses welcome every person walking into the beautiful interior. Joyful servers greet  patrons and share the Fleming’s menu with enthusiasm. “Is this your first visit to Fleming’s?”

Tai Nguyen opened the first Fleming’s in Newport Beach 14 years ago. Now the elegant restaurant chain has over 65 locations. Nguyen is the Operating Partner at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse in Beverly Hills. I had the opportunity to enjoy a four-course dinner with him last Thursday night.

We started with a bountiful seafood platter dripping with ice and filled with Alaskan King Crab claws and legs, lobster tails and cooked shrimp. Four of us shared this dish as we dipped the jewels from the sea in Fleming’s cocktail sauce.

The pan crisped pork belly was served with a sweet burgundy onion chutney and creamy goat cheese grits. I paced myself by having a small bite of each, because I knew there would be a lot more food coming. This was paired with a ruby red glass of 46 Diamonds Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tai ordered the Fleming’s salad, because he loves the candied walnuts. I ordered the New Wedge salad and was pleased with its presentation when it arrived. It’s a deconstructed wedge of crispy lettuce offers a DSC_0756hunk of blue cheese that I cut and speared onto a grape tomato. The large strip of caramelized bacon was cut and mixed with the crispy cooked onions.

The Chef at this location is the adorable Brandon Powell. When he stepped out of the kitchen and entered the dining room, Powell received applause from the guests.

Even though I was in one of the most popular steakhouses in the world, I ordered the Scottish salmon. It was barbecued with a slightly sweet glaze and served with a grilled mushroom salad. Tia ordered the same entrée and we both remarked that the fish was heavenly. My friend Toni ordered the Main Filet Mignon served with a béarnaise sauce. Its seared at 1600 degrees to offer a rich flavor. She enjoyed every bite. Across our table, a gentleman ordered the double thick pork rib chop served with an apple cider and creole mustard sauce.

Two side dishes were delivered to the table. The Fleming’s potatoes are blended with cream, jalapeño bits and topped with melted cheddar cheese. They are exquisite. The grilled asparagus is a healthier option to accompany an entrée.

Tai and I played with the iPad wine list. Tai said it’s the first of its kind at any Fleming’s restaurant. Select the “Choose a dish” tab and the iPad will offer at least three wines by the glass and bottle that pair nicely with that specific item. The Wine Director is the beautiful Maeve Pesquera. She selects over 3500 bottles of wine with over 350 varietals of wine and champagne for Fleming’s. Each restaurant offers 100 different wines by the glass. The Beverly Hills location also has a glassed in wine storage room that is climate controlled. It rests in the center of the restaurants and displays an impressive amount of wine bottles.

DSC_0761We finished with a selection of Fleming’s decadent  desserts: cheesecake with blueberries, creme brûlée, chocolate lava cake, ice cream and wafer cookies and a sweet turtle pie.

With Valentine’s Day approaching Fleming’s is offering a special dinner for loved ones. Start with a specialty cocktail of a Venetian Valentine of Mint to Be to be enjoyed with an Heirloom tomato and house made burrata appetizer. The chef will send out an amuse bouche of citrus marinated salmon tartar served with herbed crostini. Next choose a roasted lobster tail with vanilla lemon butter and crispy pancetta mac and cheese or Chateaubriand with creamy jumbo lump crab, topped with a Madeira sauce and accompanied with asparagus spears. This special menu is $69.95 per person. Finish the romantic meal with a rich chocolate budino topped with salted mascarpone whipped cream and add an additional $9.95.

To make a reservation at Fleming’s Beverly Hills or any of the Southern California Fleming’s restaurants, go to http://www.flemingssteakhouse.com

Mandarette

In 1975, Mandarin restaurant opened in Beverly Hills serving exotic Chinese food in an elegant atmosphere for dining and special occasions. Since it was a huge success, the owner, Cecilia Chaing and her son Philip Chiang opened another restaurant on Beverly Blvd. – Mandarette (little orange), a smaller and more relaxed eatery.

Today, Mandarette is still going strong after 25-years thanks to Ken Yang’s family. “My father was a chef at Mandarette Café in the 80s,” Yang said. “Philip Chiang sold the restaurant to my father and then went on to open his first P.F. Changs.”

After some research, I discovered that Chiang dropped the “i” in his last name. He teamed up with Paul Fleming (P.F.) and incorporated both of their names into the mega-successful Chinese Bistro style-restaurant.

Yang’s sister ran Mandarette for years and recently turned the responsibility over to her brother, Ken. “I was born in Taiwan, lived in Japan and graduated from Boston University,” Yang said. As an aerospace engineer for years designing radar enhancement devices, he always had a pulse in the restaurant business due to his family’s involvement in Mandarette. “I took over in April 2011, when my sister was ready to retire,” he said. “Our methodology is not to serve traditional Chinese food with heavy sauces, starches and MSG. Instead, we cook in a more healthy way. We focus on the quality of food and use more California flavors,” Yang said. “Also, we only have Chinese chefs in our kitchen.”

Eager to try some of his dishes, my friends and I asked our server, Nesia, which are some of the most popular dishes. Without hesitation, Nesia announced, “The strawberry shrimp.” The shrimp is adorned with sweet ruby-red strawberries and broccoli. It’s addictive and a first-rate dish.

Click on this link to read the rest of my review http://parklabreanewsbeverlypress.com/news/2012/05/mandarette-cafe-california-chinese-still-delights-after-25-years/. Courtesy of the Beverly Press and published on 5/ 17/ 12.

The Grill on the Alley

 

Just steps from Rodeo Drive sits the Beverly Hills institution, The Grill on the Alley. A friend and I visited The Grill for lunch, where we heard the happy chatter of regulars sipping beverages and dining on Cobb salads, chicken pot pies and daily specials. The restaurant was packed with people at 1:30 p.m.

Once we were seated, our waiter, Greg, shared the daily specials. I was surprised to hear that the restaurant sells more seafood than steak and chops. “Today we have John Dory,” Greg said with a big smile. “Patrons call in advance, asking for John Dory,” he said. Many reserve one or two ahead of time to guarantee a plate.  Click on the link below to finish reading my review. Courtesy of the Beverly Press/Park La Brea News. Published on 12/1/11.

http://parklabreanewsbeverlypress.com/news/2011/12/the-grill-on-the-alley/

Lawrys Prime Rib

Dining at Lawrys The Prime Rib is a real show stopper. I actually thought our servers may break into a rendition of Be Our Guest from the Broadway musical “Beauty and the Beast”, as we enjoyed the dinner show performed with aplomb by the seasoned wait staff.

Inside the elegantly designed art-deco interior, waitresses seem more like chorus girls dressed in costume with their 1930 style cinnamon-brown uniform, starched white collars and white dollies fastened on their heads.

Continue reading my reivew courtesy of the Beverly Press via Lawrys Prime Rib. Published on July 7, 2011.

Jar – Not Just Another Restaurant

Sitting in upholstered brown chairs with black caster wheels in a minimally decorated wood paneled room, I felt a warm sense of comfort. The white linen tablecloths, women dressed in little black dresses, and male guests dressed in jackets and ties add to the elegance of the dining room. Who gets dressed up to dine in Los Angeles? Loyal patrons of JAR.

Known for the acronym Just Another Restaurant, it exceeded our expectation of a typical Steakhouse. Owner/Chef Suzanne Tracht and Chef de Cuisine Peech Narkthong, along with their staff, deliver dishes that are beyond ordinary.

Known as one of the most fascinating and talented women chefs in America, Tracht met Peech when she opened her first restaurant Jozu in West Hollywood. The two became a culinary duo with Narkthong adding a pinch of Thai magic into Tracht’s American comfort foods, creating spectacular Cal-Asian dishes.

We started with one of Tracht’s crab deviled eggs. The egg filing offers a twist on the traditional hors d’oeuvres with the embellishment of fresh crab.

Next, we tasted the tempura squash blossoms stuffed with lobster and shiitake mushroom aioli. They were served with a simple ponzu and soy dipping sauce.

Looking over her unique menu, I had to try Tracht’s signature pot roast served in a white bowl with dainty baby carrots and caramelized onions. Cooked for hours until extremely tender, the meat just melted in my mouth.

My husband chose a 10 oz. filet with the lobster béarnaise sauce. This sauce was divine on the prime meat, yet also a decadent dipping sauce for Tracht’s French fries that are lightly dipped in flour before fried in canola oil and sprinkled with garlic, salt and parsley.

Our server, Kelly, recommended the spicy lemon mustard and thyme butter sauce with the freshly roasted salmon. The dish arrived with a chewy basil pesto stuffed roasted onion. The sauce was not too spicy and complimented the fish nicely.

Meats and fish can be ordered with the following sauces: bernaise, Lobster bernaise, Tamarind, green peppercorn, creamy horseradish, lemon caperberry relish and extra virgin olive oil or spicy mustard and thyme butter.

Since all of the entrees are served with just a sauce, I recommend ordering a few of Tracht’s side and vegetable dishes. We had the sautéed beet greens with a little olive oil, garlic and a bright red spicy Thai dried chili. Another heavenly vegetable side was the English peas with Cippolini onions. The Cippolini onion is a bittersweet bulb from the grape hyacinth family. It’s flatter and more golden than a small white onion. The luscious light butter sauce softened the intense flavor of the onions.

For dessert we finished with Tracht’s memorable butterscotch pudding and banana cream pie. Both were sweet endings to an enlightening dining experience.

Tracht gives back to the neighborhood as a partner with SOVA, a community food and resource program of Jewish Family Service of LA. When she successfully won Bravo’s Top Chef Master show in 2009, Tracht donated her $10,000 prize money to SOVA. She also raises funds for SOVA with speaking and fundraising events and opportunities. That’s a mitzvah. $$-$$$ 8225 Beverly Blvd. (323)655-6566.

Published in the Beverly Press 4/21/11 via Jar.