Archive for us – la

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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Boule (LA) – A Patisserie Fit for Paris

I may get into trouble for this but San Francisco leaves me wanting for more high quality desserts 1. Tartine is ok but it’s not worth the wait. The excellent Satura Cakes is an 1/2 hour away. Citizen Cake is hit or miss. Bi-Rite’s ginger ice cream (and toffee chip cookies) might be my favorite ice cream ever but the rest of their flavors are suspect. The chocolate movement is strong but my favorite in the city are the Parisian Richart chocolates. There’s nothing resembling the dessert bars of NYC. And you can only eat so many Beard Papa cream puffs. If anything, the good desserts are scattered and fragmented across the city, each place specializing in one or two .

It is ironic then that LA, that sprawling and fragmented pastiche of modern urban design, has Boule – a one-stop shop for many great desserts. It’s a can’t-miss destination for any LA trip.

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Providence (LA) – Serious Seafood

Despite being a large city, LA has a dearth of fine dining. There are minefields like Spago that have been known to perform to their reputations when you are a known quantity; otherwise, all bets are off. There are question marks like Sona, a restaurants whose menu piques more interest than their national reputation. And then there is Urasawa – one of the greatest restaurants in the country. If you’re in LA for the weekend, and you’ve got 2 dinners, Urasawa is usually an automatic choice. But I did things differently this time – I ventured out.

You don’t jump into the deep waters blindly; various online fora have begun talking about Providence. The Opinionated About review rated it an excellent meal. The chef, Michael Cimarusti, prides himself on pristine, wild seafood. Michel Bras’s Essential Cuisine is one of his favorite cookbooks (btw, if you’ve got a copy for $200 or less, I’ll take it.) These tidbits hardly add up to the stereotypical LA chef. I prepared myself for a good meal but I didn’t expect a great meal.

If it performs at this level on my second visit, I will happily add it to my list of Favorite Restaurants.

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Urasawa (LA) – Serene Refined Elegance

Urasawa is the most refined Japanese restaurant in the country. The chef, Hiro, trained under the now-infamous Masa (most expensive restaurant in the country, blah, blah) but he has certainly eclipsed his teacher. His fish is not the very best (that designation is only reserved for Sawa Sushi and Kuruma Zushi), his rice second to Sushi Yasuda, the cooked dishes second only to Masa, but the sum at Urasawa is far greater than its parts.

The food is deeply personal – this is the closest you’ll get to experiencing a chef’s cuisine. It’s a one-man show from reservations to daily flower arrangements to ice carving to preparing the dishes. Hiro tastes every ingredient on *every* dish that gets served – inferior ingredients are discarded, fish is trimmed, etc. No corner is cut. The dishes have a refinement only seen in the world’s greatest kitchens. This is very special dining.

This was my 4th trip to Urasawa. It wasn’t my favorite meal but even a lesser meal at Urasawa will eclipse nearly any other Japanese restaurant in this country.

The Highlights

Turnip filled w/ Seafood Paste

This was quite spectacular. If you look closely, you’ll notice Hiro intricately carves each radish (!) before boiling it. The end dish is delicate and light.

Urasawa (Los Angeles) - Turnip filled w/ Seafood Paste

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Il Grano (LA) – Hitting on All Cylinders

In town for 1 night, just returned from a very good to excellent meal w/ Olivia & another co-worker. This dinner was much better than my previous lunch last November; of course, i used a special password – “the XXXX’s sent me” smile.gif

I think it worked.

We opted for the ‘tasting menu’; but I wanted my own dishes too. Well, what do you know – the dishes I chose were the exact ones Sal (the chef) served for the tasting menu.

1. Crudo
An oyster, line-caught fluke, line-caught snapper, line-caught tuna; & octopus w/ some sort of oil i forget. This was *much* improved over my crudo plate in Nov; in fact, the fluke & snapper were beautiful.

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