I eat: La Vecchia Cucina

I’ve been feeling stressed out lately, now that I have both work and school, so I took two days off two weeks ago and had myself a staycation in LA. I made sure to fill my days off with gluttony. From ice cream to chicken wings to a DineLA dinner, I did a whole lot of eating!

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Coffee Moo (salted butter saramel with coffee) from Mother Moo

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Linguine for days at Maccheroni Republic

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TEBASAKI!!! ♡

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Kimchi spam musubi

And what better way to end an extended weekend than with a DineLA dinner!

I usually have a hard time choosing restaurants for DineLA. I’ve spent hours before browsing through menus and reading reviews on Yelp, Open Table, and Urbanspoon. Yes, I do my due diligence. But this time, it was a breeze. One look at an Instagram picture of uni pasta from La Vecchia Cucina and I was sold. What can I say? I’m a sucker for uni pasta. I did check the menu though, just to cover my bases 😉

We managed to snag the window seat. TOTES romantic! And fantastic lighting for pictures! Since I looked at the menu beforehand, I already knew what I wanted…

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Capriccio Imperiale

Well executed. The lemon vinaigrette was light and refreshing, which provided a great starting point for the meal. Although the seafood was cooked properly, I wish the ratio of the different seafood was more balanced.

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Spaghetti All Ricci di Mare

Not bad, but def not the best uni pasta I’ve had. There was only one piece of uni and not enough sauce. However, the spaghetti was cooked perfectly.

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Affogato

No complaints, but honestly, I’m not sure how anyone can mess this up…

La Vecchia Cucina was my only opportunity to experience DineLA this time around and overall, I was pleased with my meal. I can’t say there were any aspects that I particularly LOVED, but I would definitely come back to try the other pastas on the menu.

Verdict: 3.5/5
La Vecchia Cucina
2654 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405

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I eat: Bar + Kitchen

One of the benefits of working in Aerospace is the 9/80 schedule, which many companies are on. For those of you who don’t know, 9/80 = working 9 hours M-Th and 8 hours on alternating Fridays.

Yesterday was my off Friday. Yesterday was also the last day of dineLA.

On our day off, Henry and I braced ourselves for traffic and terrible parking as we ventured into DTLA for a dineLA lunch at Bar + Kitchen. I decided on lunch as opposed to dinner because I was more intrigued by the items on the lunch menu.

Bar + Kitchen is located in the lobby of the O Hotel. I found it interesting that there is no distinct separation between the lobby and the restaurant. The first level of the O Hotel truly epitomizes the open floor plan concept. Tables with half booth seating run along the side of the wall with the exception of a communal table (or table for a large party) situated behind the hotel’s front window.

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In addition to the dineLA menu, we also ordered mussels off of the regular Winter menu.

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PEI mussels fennel, saffron, tarragon aioli, grilled bread $9

The mussels were tender and I loved the spicy kick of the broth. Grilled bread with mussels is a must!!

Appetizers

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Crispy pork belly, pickled sunchokes, plum puree

Perfect execution! The pork belly was indeed crispy on the outside, but tender with the right amount of fattiness on the inside. I liked the play on sweet and sour from the plum puree and pickled sunchokes.

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Butternut squash & ginger soup, créme fraiche, spiced pepitas

Very comforting. Incorporating ginger into butternut squash soup never crossed my mind, but it really works! The ginger breaks up the sweetness of the butternut squash and adds depth of flavor. The spiced pepitas were a nice touch, providing a contrast in texture.

Entrées

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Shrimp & grits, spanish chorizo ragout

This was the dish I was most excited about, but it disappointed me. The ragout was so so so salty, even when mixed with the grits! If not for a heavy hand with the salt, this dish would have been great. At least they didn’t skimp on the shrimp (5).

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Mustard glazed kurobuta pork loin, mashed sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts

The pork loin was tender and the mustard glaze gave it amazing flavor. Note to self: must try to recreate this at home!

Desserts

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Warm chocolate & peanut butter cake, banana ice cream, peanut brittle

There wasn’t anything wrong with this dessert; it was just very ordinary.

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Butterscotch pot de créme, whipped cream, shortbread cookies

I preferred this over the chocolate/peanut butter cake because it light. My only complaint would be that the consistency of the custard was a little thicker than what I’m used to.

Given the short time frame of dineLA, my goal was to try two new restaurants.
Waterloo & City ✓
Bar + Kitchen ✓
Done! I’m very happy with my choices this time around. Best dineLA run so far!

Verdict: 3.5/5
Bar + Kitchen
O Hotel
819 S Flower St
Los Angeles, CA 90017

I eat: Waterloo & City

Besides Petrossian, my DineLA experiences have mostly ranged from disappointing (Cube Marketplace, Grace) to average (Gordon Ramsay), which would explain why none have compelled me to make a return visit. In spite of this, I always get excited when dineLA comes around.

The current dineLA ends Friday, Feb 3rd!

This past Friday, Henry and I made our way to the Westside for dineLA at Waterloo & City. When we arrived, the first thing that struck me was the size of the restaurant. I didn’t expect it to that big! There’s an outdoor patio area (where we were seated) and two indoor dining areas separated by a large bar.

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In addition to the dineLA menu ($34/person), we couldn’t pass up the Indian Butter Chicken Pizza, Murgh Makahni Sauce, Mozzarella ($14) off of the regular menu. To pace ourselves, we followed our waiter’s suggestion of having the pizza come out first, eating a couple of slices and boxing up the rest to take home.

Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera. These phone pictures do not do the food justice.

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The pizza was delicious! Although it would have been nice to have more chicken, the chicken that was on the pizza was incredibly tender. I liked the heat from the makhani sauce and raita (in the middle).

Next came the dineLA dishes…

Appetizers

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Chicken Liver & Foie Gras Parfait, Toasted Brioche, Sweet Potato Jam

No complaints whatsoever. The toasted brioche provided the perfect canvas for the mousse and the jam cut the saltiness.

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Tuna Tartare, Fried Piquillo Pepper, Avocado

AMAZING. The freshness of the tuna and cucumbers, the creaminess of the avocado, the spiciness of the sauce… everything just worked so well together. The fried piquillo pepper was icing on the cake.

Entrees

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Roast Pork Chop, Fuji Apples, Pork Belly, Squash Puree, Onion Rings

As you can see, this thing was HUGE! The pork chop was tender and flavorful and there’s just something about the combination of pork and apples that I absolutely love.

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Australian Bass, Ricotta & Truffle Gnocchi, Cara Cara Oranges, Celery Root

This was the only dish that was a little bit off. The bass and gnocchi were great by themselves and even paired together. The orange slices alone were refreshing. But bass + gnocchi + orange… hmmm, not so much – this combination just didn’t work for me. Also, the skin of the bass could have been crispier if not for the moisture from the oranges.

Desserts

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Waterloo Doughnuts, Bavarian Creme, Rum Glaze, Raspberry Sorbet

The doughnuts weren’t as good as the goat cheese doughnuts from Napa Rose, but still solid. I loved the hot and cold pairing of doughnuts and raspberry sorbet.

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Sticky Toffee Pudding, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Ice Cream

Whenever I see sticky toffee pudding on the menu, I order it. This one at Waterloo & City was, by far, the BEST I’ve ever had.

Thanks for breaking my DineLA rut, Waterloo & City. I will DEFINITELY come back and dine again.

Verdict: 4.5/5
Waterloo & City
12517 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90066

I eat: Cube Marketplace

For my 4th dineLA experience, I opted for lunch since we had just spent $$$$ on what will surely be one of the most memorable meals of 2010: Petrossian.

Since Cube was fresh in my mind after reading about it recently, I looked up their menu for dineLA and quickly began to salivate. Braised maple bacon and truffle burger? SOLD! We made reservations for a rainy Friday afternoon, which in retrospect, was a poor decision on my part since traffic is RIDICULOUS in all directions on Fridays + it was raining. We arrived at noon, 30 mins late for our reservation (we called to let them know), and the place was practically empty at that time. People began trickling in after we were seated and by the time we left, there weren’t any tables available.

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I knew what I wanted to order off of the dineLA menu, but as I was browsing through the regular menu, I saw mac and cheese and I just couldn’t resist. What can I say… I’m such a sucker for mac and cheese! After we placed our order, the chef sent out an amuse bouche of adelegger cheese, from Germany. Bold with a similar nutty flavor like parmigiano-reggiano. Our first courses were braised maple bacon (of course!) and spicy tuscan bean and sausage soup. The bacon (pork belly) was cooked properly and the celery root puree provided a nice balance to the sweetness of the maple. The soup took on all the great flavors of the sausage and the greens made me feel like I was actually eating, (gasp), healthy. The soup was so comforting, perfect for a rainy day. Our appetizers made us really excited for the rest of the meal.

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For our entrees, we ordered the truffle burger and the lamb panini. When the waiter took our order, he asked if we wanted blue cheese on our burger. He didn’t give us an alternative and I figured why not just try the burger as it was originally prepared: with blue cheese. I’m not the biggest fan of blue cheese since it is so strong, but I can tolerate it. When I took my first bite, I immediately regretted my decision. The blue cheese totally overpowered the entire burger; all I could taste was blue cheese. I found myself trying to scrape off the blue cheese in attempt to save the burger. I don’t feel like I can give an accurate review of the burger since I was so overwhelmed by the blue cheese. The lamb panini was .. ok. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. It tasted like really dry roast beef. In fact, it was so dry, the au jus didn’t even help moisten it much.

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My first impression of the mac & cheese was that it looked like school cafeteria mac and cheese (except for the garlic on top). It didn’t taste much better either. Plain, boring and seriously lacking in flavor. Although, I have to say, the balsamic was a nice touch. This was not worth $7.

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Our desserts were more enjoyable. We had the seasonal fruit cobbler duo (cherry and rhubarb) and pots de creme duo (butterscotch and valhrona chocolate). The cobblers were too sweet for my taste, although the ice cream did help cut the sweetness somewhat. I absolutely LOVED the butterscotch creme, but the chocolate creme was extremely bitter; it must have been >70% cacao.

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Overall, I was disappointed. I can see how others would like this restaurant, but the food at Cube Marketplace just didn’t mesh well with my tastes/preferences.

Verdict: 2.5/5
Cube Marketplace
615 North La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

I eat: Petrossian

Not being able to secure a reservation at The Bazaar during dineLA, I thought I was settling by going to Petrossian instead. Now, I think it was meant to be. Petrossian is a gourmet food boutique and restaurant located in West Hollywood, specializing in caviar. It first appeared on my radar when I heard about their infamous black truffle mac and cheese. Yes, I have a love affair with mac and cheese. Even though the mac and cheese wasn’t on their dineLA dinner menu, I decided to give Petrossian a try away .. with every intention of ordering the mac and cheese on the side.

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While waiting for the waiter to take our order, I browsed through the regular menu and “caviar pizza” caught my eye. That’s not something you can pass up, right? Right. So we ordered the caviar pizza AND mac and cheese IN ADDITION to the 3 course Dine-LA meal. I think the waiter thought we were crazy, or at least, fat asses.

Executive Chef Ben Bailly, who is very good looking by the way, sent out the classic cold borscht soup as amuse bouche. It was so refreshing and delicious!

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The mac and cheese and caviar pizza were brought out first and these two items totally blew the rest of the meal out of the water; everything else just paled in comparison. It was, HANDS DOWN, the best mac and cheese I’ve ever eaten! Rich and creamy, real truffle shavings, smokey bacon flavor – what more can you ask for from a mac and cheese? And the caviar pizza, wow. The creme fraiche as the pizza “sauce” was simply amazing and tied all the ingredients (chives, capers, red onions, caviar) together beautifully.

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With our bellies already filled with mac and cheese and caviar pizza, we began the Dine-LA meal. Our first courses were the shrimp “papillote” and the tsar cut salmon sampler. The shrimp “papillote” had easily recognizable flavors – the chili/ginger sauce was the sweet thai chili sauce you can find at most grocery stores (in asian/international section). The shrimp were perfectly tender, due to being cooked “en papillote” with wonton wrappers. I found it very surprising that I didn’t like the salmon sampler, since I love salmon in all forms (smoked, cured, baked, broiled, fried).

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For entrees, we had the halibut brandade and the braised pork belly (of course!). Brandade is traditionally a puree consisting of salt cod, olive oil, and milk/cream, and Chef Bailly’s twist with halibut was wonderful! I think the substitution of halibut was a great choice since cod and halibut are both texturally firm and dense. Since the halibut is a mild flavor fish, the addition of piquillo peppers really stood out in a good way. The only thing I didn’t like was the black olive oil surrounding the brandade. I couldn’t figure out what it was at first. It sort of tasted a little bit like rust with a hint of fruitiness in the back end. YUCK! As for the pork belly, it was a little too overcooked. It did, however, have great flavor.

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The desserts were both enjoyable. The pistachios used in the Sicilian pistachio creme brulee are probably Bronte pistachios from Sicily, which would explain the vague floral note. The vanilla panna cotta was creamy and delicious; it was basically a high end yogurt parfait.

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My meal at Petrossian was the best Dine-LA experience I’ve had so far. I would have rated the meal highly even if I hadn’t ordered the mac and cheese and caviar pizza. I can’t wait to come back and try the other dishes on the menu. I have my eyes set on the foie gras salad 🙂

Verdict: 4/5
Petrossian Restaurant & Boutique
321 North Robertson Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90048