Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lotería Grill @ The Farmer's Market (Los Angeles – Mid-City West)

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Lotería Grill is located smack-dab in the middle of The Farmers' Market.  I know there are a plethora of eateries to choose from at this LA Landmark and most, if not all, are very good but you gotta make it a point to check this place out sooner than later.  I'd recommend it for any meal of day but I particularly enjoy it for BREAKFAST and BRUNCH.

Pros:  CHILAQUILES VERDES - Gringos, fear not;  the "sauce".....I
           mean, salsa is more tangy than spicy in this dish.  These are
           some of the best Chilaquiles I've had.  Very simple yet
           satisfying dish.  CHILAQUILES DE MOLE - Prepared the same
           way but these fried tortilla strips get sauteed in mole.  I've
           never tried this version.  Odd too because I never thought to
           make Chilaquiles with Mole...but why the heck not??  Shame
           on me for eating these for the very first time in my early 30's.
           On the other hand, thank you Lotería Grill for introducing me to
           this version of the beloved Chilaquiles.  HORCHATA - ya ya, I
           know, rice milk.  Many of you hate this stuff so chances are this
           portion of my review won't be for you.  Fast-forward yourself to
           the "Cons."  For you, "Horchata lovers," you'll definitely enjoy
           this beverage here.  Often times, you'll order an horchata and
           it'll be diluted.  Not here.  The flavor is very concentrated.  Heck,
           you can buy 1 drink, pour half of the Horchata into another cup,
           top both off with milk, stir and still get more flavor than the stuff
           that get's passed around as Horchata in some places.

Cons:    THE LINE that forms can deter you from wanting to wait but if
             you do, it'll be worth it.

             PRICE -  It's not expensive by any means, just slightly
             overpriced.

             PARKING - It can be a real hassle but if you secure parking
             FOR THE FARMER'S MARKET, and not the Grove, it's free
             (with validation from a Farmer's Market purchase) for 2 hours.
 
Indifferences -

             SOPES - I have only tried one and it was Papa Con
             Rajas (fried masa cake slathered with mashed black beans
             and mashed potatoes with roasted poblano peppers, topped
             with iceberg lettuce, cotija cheese and crema Mexicana).  The
             one I had was more of a knife and fork version as it quickly fell
             apart on me. The dough could have been fried a little crisper
             for my liking.  The flavor was okay but next time I'll go for a
             flavor boost and order a meat topped one.

I recently procured a "30% off Lunch" discount for their actual restaurant in Hollywood (as opposed to the stall @ The Farmer's Market) from Blackboardeats.com.   Unfortunately, that offer is no longer on the table.  But who knows, maybe they'll offer it again (cross your fingers)!  Regardless, if you're a Food Junkie like me, register and save a bundle on good local restaurants.   Either way,  I'll definitely be checking out the new Lotería Grill in the near future.



 Lotería Grill Facade.



Partial view of the Menu.


 
Agua de Melon (left) & Horchata (right). 



Chilaquilaes De Mole Poblano Con Huevos Revueltos – Crispy Tortilla Strips Sauteed in Mole and Garnished with Queso Fresco, Crema Mexicana, Chopped Onions & Cilantro.  Served with Black Beans.  



Chilaquiles Verdes – Same as the aforementioned Chilaquiles de Mole, but this one is sauteed in Tomatillo Salsa.  



The Black Beans that accompany the Chilaquiles.  I want to say they use Epazote to flavor it.  



 Sope De Papa Con Rajas – Fried Masa Cake slathered with Mashed Black Beans and Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Poblano Peppers.  Then, topped with Crispy Iceberg Lettuce, Cotija Cheese and Crema Mexicana.  



You know you’re Mexican if you own this piece of useless cookware.  Seriously, I don’t want to eat anything that is cooked on this thing.  Otherwise, this vessel is "ultra cool" to pass along to the patron with his/her check on it.


The Foundry on Melrose (Los Angeles - Melrose)

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I came here specifically because I had seen Chef Greenspan appear on "The Next Iron Chef." Despite his all-too-sudden departure from the show at the hands of dried grasshoppers, I decided to see how he would fare when cooking more pedestrian American food.

Pros:  ONION RISOTTO - Had Chef Greenspan made it as an Iron
           Chef and the Mystery ingredient been Onion, this would have
           been a home run.  Cooked with onion, pearl onions
           incorporated, topped with tempura Onion Rings and garnished
           with Chives, this appetizer was fragrant and very "oniony" - but
           in a good sense.
           The FOUNDRY TOTS I was served were not under-seasoned,
           as others have mentioned about their order.  Guess I got lucky
           that day.  Either way, while I did enjoy the tots and I preferred
           the cheese fondue over the violet mustard, I especially liked
           the price for these (just 5 bucks).
           The ACCOMPANIMENTS - I actually preferred the warm potato
           salad with fine herb sauce that came with the Salmon than the
           Salmon itself.  The skin was crispy but otherwise the Salmon
           was simply roasted.  I was hoping for something more "Chefy."
           I can honestly say the same about the Duck Confit and the
           turnip, cabbage, apple slaw.  I loved the slaw/salad but the
           duck wasn't as succulent as I had hoped.

           Ambience - Nice and quite in the patio and quite the opposite
           inside especially when they have live performers.  You decide.

Cons:  Portions can be small and prices can be inflated.    

Indifferences:
           
             The cocktails are fair but nothing memorable.  I tried the Pooty
             Tang, Consigliere, Madagastarr and the Grape & Cape.  My
              favorite was the Consigliere.
     
              The Peanut Butter & Jelly Bread Pudding was just okay and
              wasn't visually appealing.  My slice appeared hacked more
              than anything.

I have to say, I was excited when I saw Chef Greenspan come out to the patio and mingle with the diners.  I was hoping to exchange a few words with the man, but he skipped our table and went on to greet and converse with everyone else.  There must have been 8 parties dining outside at the time and he met with them all, except ours.  I'm not knocking the guy at all.  I think it's cool that the Chef - and one as high caliber as himself - would take the time to come out and see how the diner's are receiving the food.  I was just hoping he would have stopped by.  Oh well.  :o(        

Big ups to Shelley H, for the tidbit on parking!  CURSON ST. IS WHERE YOU WANT TO PARK.  2 measly blocks west of The Foundry is where you'll find an abundance of parking.  The other side streets are primarily resident/permit only.        

All in all, I left a little disappointed.  The food and service were good but my expectations were not met.  I might give it a shot again one day just to try out their Lounge/Happy Hour menu but that's about it.

Sorry, my Camera wasn’t behaving on this night.Embarrassed  



Pooty Tang (background) – Grey Goose, Triple Sec, Mango & Tang. Consigliere (foreground) – Woodford’s Bourbon, Amaretto & Fresh Grapefruit.


 
Homemade Focaccia with Balsamic Reduction Butter.



Foundry “Tots”- Fried Potato, Cheese Fondue & Violet Mustard Dipping Sauces.  



Onion Risotto with Tempura Onion Rings, Pearl Onions, Chives & Parmesan.



Madagastarr (left) – Starr Rum, Tuaca & Fresh Lime Juice. The Grape & the Cape (right) – Grey Goose Vodka, Bella Organic Grape Juice, Cranberry & Champagne.



Roasted Salmon with a Warm Potato Salad in a Fine Herb Sauce.


 
Duck Confit with a Turnips, Apples, Cabbage Salad/Slaw.



Peanut Butter & Jelly Bread Pudding with Peanut Brittle Ice Cream.


 
The Damage.


Tropicana Bakery & Cuban Café (Downey)

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Sandwich de Croqueta Preparada with Plantain Chips.



Cuban Sandwich – Pressed Roast Pork, Ham, Cheese, Mayo & Pickle.  Comes with Fried Plantain Chips.


 
Pastelito de Carne, Croquetas de Pollo & Papa Rellena de Carne.



 Interior of Papa Rellena de Carne Molida. 


  
Mango Cheesecake.



Raspberry Tart.


 
Caramelo Señorita.

 

George’s Greek Cafe (Long Beach - Belmont Shore)

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I've enjoyed  Lunch, Happy Hour and Dinner on more than a few occasions at George's. I've dined at this restaurant as well as the George's on Pine.  I have always found the food to be consistent at both locations and generally speaking, this review applies to both locations.      

Pros:  Happy Hour - You get more bang for your buck if you come
           during happy hour.  Prices are low as it is during normal
           business hours, but they get even better as prices dip even
           further during happy hour.  Take advantage of it and treat
           yourself to 1/2 off on all dips, 1/2 off on their amazing [4 piece]
           Lamb Chops & 1/2 off on 4 piece appetizers.

           Food - Their LAMB CHOPS are scrumptious.  Not gamey at all
           and full of flavor.  You definitely taste the oregano and lemon
           they are marinated in.  This dish is my favorite here.  I like all of
           their dips, but my favorites are the SCORDALIA &
           TARAMOSALATA with the latter of the two, being made with
           caviar.  Both of these dips are made with a base of mashed
           potatoes, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.  Honorable
           mentions go to the Tzantziki, Melintzanosalata (eggplant dip)
           and the Spicy (Chipotle) Feta Dip.  The FALAFEL is great and
           this is coming to you from someone that is not a
           vegetarian/vegan.  The KEFTETHES are juicy and spiced
           well.  Simply put, it reminds me of good down home cooking  I
           can go on and on...but these are just a few of my  personal
           favorites.  Oh, almost forgot! SAGANAKI!  Get this!  Fried
           Greek Cheese, flambed with Brandy (OPA!!), mixed with
           Olives and a squirt of lemon and served with pita.  Awesome!

            Service  - Typically attentive and especially warm when
            George is around.  My wait time has never been longer than 30
            minutes and more times then not, I'm shown to my table
            immediately.

            Parking - Money for the meters in the lot behind the restaurant
            are required from 10-7pm.  A half dozen quarters are usually
            sufficient.  After 7pm, it's free.

Indifferences:

            Beer - Only bottled at this location and the selection is limited
            and on the light side.  The George's on Pine has a wider
            assortment of brews and a few on tap.

            Rice and Steamed veggies -  They're not bad, they just pale in
            comparison to the rest of the food they offer.  Sometimes,
            the veggies accompanying my food is overcooked but that just
            adds to the "hominess" of the meal.  Perhaps, Greeks prefer
            their veggies NOT to be cooked al dente.  I respect that.

I was a little bummed out when I was no longer able to save some coin by purchasing $25 gift certificates from restaurant.com for $2.  That aside, I still enjoy dining here.  I've been here a total of 6-7 times and I'll continue being a loyal customer. 



Greek Beer – Keo.



Combo Dip – Tzantziki (Greek Yogurt, Olive Oil, Fresh Garlic, Dried Mint, Cucumber), Scordalia (Mashed Potato, Fresh Garlic, Lemon Juice, Olive Oil), Taramosalata (Red Caviar, Olive Oil, Fresh Garlic, Onion, Mashed Potato), Humus (Garbanzo Beans, Fresh Garlic, Tahini Sesame Paste, Olive Oil and Lemon Juice) & Melintzanosalata (Baked Eggplant blended with Fresh Garlic, Lemon Juice).



Falafel – Deep Fried Mashed Garbanzo Beans & Spices. Served with Tzantziki Sauce, Rice, Steamed Veggies & Pita.


 
Keftethes – Traditional Deep Fried Greek Meatballs made from Ground Beef, Grated Potato, Minced Onion, Egg, Bread Crumbs & Spices. Served with Tzantziki Sauce, Rice, Steamed Veggies & Pita.
 
 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

38° Ale House & Grill (Alhambra)

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Pros:   From what I ate, the BURGERS AND THE SWEET POTATO
           FRIES were the best - by far.  I have tried their namesake
           Burger and the Three Chili Burger.  Both are delicious but since
           I'm an aficionado of stinky Blue Cheese, I'll give a slight nod to
           the 38° Hamburger.  As far as the spud goes; Few restaurants
           know how to properly fry a sweet potato but this place has it
           down.  They're crisp and not overly greasy.

           Beer - Excellent selection of brews.  I especially like that they
           offer 4.5 oz taster's of what they have on tap.  I also had 1
           cocktail - a JALAPEÑO MARGARITA.  They weren't skimpy with
           the alcohol and the heat from the muddled jalapeño was
           subtle.  

            Parking -  Abundant FREE PARKING in a parking structure on
            1st St, south of Main St - Across the street from the
            restaurant.

             Service - Very friendly and well-versed staff.

Cons:    The CRISPY CALAMARI - They did nothing for me other than
             almost turn me off to Calamari.  At first, I only felt indifferent to
             this dish.  Now, just thinking about them, makes me not
             want to have Calamari - not here or elsewhere.  Sorry.      

Indifferences:

              Curry Salmon Cake Sliders - Our order came out with the
              patty a bit on the dry side.  Additionally, every slider on the
              plate (3) lacked enough sauce, to at least, somewhat
              salvage the appetizer.  This dish could easily have ended up
              on my "CONS" category, but just THINKING about the
              Calamari elevates the status of this one. :o)

My dinner was highlighted by the great Hamburgers and more than adequate Beer selection.  If I ever get that Calamari off of my mind, I'll certainly return to try a few more burgers.  For now, I need my space.



 Jalapeño Margarita – Pura Costa Tequila Blanca, Triple Sec, Muddled Jalapeño, Sweet n Sour, Squeeze of Fresh Lime, Shaken & Served with
a Sugar & Salt Rimmed Glass
& La Trappe Isid’or. 



 
Curry Salmon Cake Sliders – Mini Salmon Cakes, Red Curry Aioli & Arugula.



Crispy  Thai Calamari – Lightly Seasoned and served with a Plum Dipping Sauce.


 
Three Chili – Certified Angus, Chipotle Aioli, Roasted Poblano Rajas, Pepper Jack Cheese & Avocado. Served with Fries.



The 38° – Certified Angus, Bleu cheese, Onion Relish, Baby Arugula & Garlic Aioli. Served with Sweet Potato Fries.



Winter Warmer Flight – 2 Turtle Doves, Mad River 20th Anniversary Rorschach, Duvel Green & Old Jubilation.