Archive for October, 2007

Urasawa (LA) – Better than Ever with Real Kobe

I’ve reported on Urasawa before – it’s one of the very best restaurants in the country. Los Angeles might be a superficial slum to some, but more integrity and soul go into each Urasawa dish than any restaurant I’ve visited. Each dish is meticulously crafted and lovingly served. Urasawa almost transcends its restaurant digs – it’s more of a temple for food.

Urasawa (Los Angeles) - Grilled Shitake
Grilled Shitake Sushi

Here are the photos from my meal last week. The first few courses are usually the same, ingredients and variations changing with the season. Then the usual onslaught of sushi arrives.

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SF Michelin Ratings – My Thoughts

The San Francisco Michelin ratings are out and everyone is blogging / reporting about them. Despite our gripes, we all love these sorts of comparisons – they’re fun puzzles and games, if nothing else. Most people complain that Michelin hasn’t included their favorite restaurant but I think the ratings are quite generous – much more than I would be. I will play into the publicity game – my thoughts are below for places I’ve been:

Three Stars

  • French Laundry – despite being perfect to a fault, it is the epitome of 3-star dining in France. And, believe it or not, it is just as good as many of them. My review.

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Kabuki Wellington (Madrid, Spain) – Warning Signs

Madrid dining, on the high-end, leaves one wanting. I should have visited La Broche but a few bad reviews kept me away. In turn, I committed a cardinal error – visting an un-vetted sushi restaurant. Once you’ve tasted the best, it’s near impossible to eat ordinary again. This has led me to avoid any sushi-themed restaurant that I’m unfamiliar with, unless dragged against my will.

Kabuki Wellington was the same place you could eat on any given day in any international city. It was billed as Spanish fusion – Japanese concepts with Spanish ingredients. If the sushi didn’t scare me, the fusion should have, but somehow I ignored all of the warning signs. The dining room is trendier than the last hour, Nobu being its obvious influence – more warning signs. But I booked the restaurant in hopes that the fusion concept could work. I didn’t expect the highest quality fish, but I did hope to see some creativity.

There are two tasting menus – the Kabuki menu and the Traditional menu. The Kabuki menu was supposed to showcase the fusion aspects of the cuisine. Superior sushi is within driving distance from home so the Traditional menu would be a waste of time. The Kabuki menu is below:

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Rias de Galicia (Barcelona, Spain) – Reference Seafood

It’s sad to compare United States seafood to the rest of the world. The freshness is rarely noteworthy and the variety is downright limited, as evidenced by my surprise live sea urchin find months ago. On a stroll through a Spanish grocery store, there were six different kinds of prawns, all twitching, three different squids, countless clams and mussels, and endless varieties of fish. Presumably, the unadventurous American palette, combined with the treacherous American work week, has left little discriminatory demand for the tastiest food on the planet.

Rias de Galicia was billed as an “old school” seafood spot where a respected chef told me that I could expect to eat “reference” items (i.e., seafood that I would compare all others to.) After an earlier disaster that week at Combarro in Madrid (largely described similarly by others), I was apprehensive. But it was the last day of the trip and a bad seafood meal in Spain might be better than a good one here in the US.

Barnacles (Percebes)
Who would expect barnacles would be so tasty and so much fun to eat? Twist the claw-looking thing from the teflon-like tube enclosing the meat and try not to squirt barnacle juice everywhere. The meat has an excellent iodine inflection while being satisfyingly chewy. They are usually the most expensive item on the menus, aside from maybe langostine, but completely worth the price. Very Good.
Rias de Galicia (Barcelona, Spain) - Barnacles (Percebes)

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Espai Sucre (Barcelona, Spain) – Desserts in Old Town

Espai Sucre, the restaurant, is tucked away inside the Old Town of Barcelona, its beyond-hip design protected by a locked glass door. Their mascot is an ant, presumably Huesped impenitente de azucareros, that’s attracted to sweet plants, sugar, syrup, and honey. Slightly threatening but sufficiently edgy for a cooler-than-thou dessert restaurant. It was established in 2000 and it is credited with inspiring the current dessert bar/restaurant movement in New York City today.

Espai Sucre, the movement, appears to be a school for exploring the culinary terrain of desserts and their roles in meals. They purport to respect the raw ingredients and tradition with an eye toward the future of technique. Pastry chefs can apply for stages at the restaurant, or school, through the web site.

This was the five course tasting menu:

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