Monday, September 27, 2010

Sushi Ota: San Diego, CA

{our latest Sushi Ota meal}
If you follow this blog regularly or are an acquaintance of mine you probably know how much EHK and I love this place. We use just about any excuse to come visit... special occasion? its been a long week? need a pick me up? "just make up an excuse"? Yes, Yes Yes, Yes! This particular visit was because it had been a particularly long week for us so it was the perfect excuse to unwind and catch up with some of the chefs. Oh yea and I had been craving Kumamoto oysters for like 2 weeks... need to get my fix. Most of the meal was stuff we've had before or flavors we had come to be familiar with. However, the one thing that caught us by surprise was the prosciutto over squid and buffalo mozzarella which is the 8th photo below. Delightfully surprising... we weren't expecting to like this combination at all but we're glad Robert challenged us to try it. The squid and buffalo mozzarella were delicate flavors and it was the prosciutto that jumped out subtly for attention.  Here are photos from our latest excursion. As always... do these photos really need much explanation?
{Chino Farm vegetables and baby squid}
{chu-toro and o-toro}
{seared golden eye red snapper and squid}
{ankimo and chopped mackerel in miso} 
{Kumamoto oysters}
{devoured Kumamoto oysters :-)}
{broiled sweet shrimp, abalone and Chino Farm vegetables}
{prosciutto over squid and buffalo mozzarella}
{crevalle jack and amberjack}
{house marinated young ginger} 
{hamachi over seared kobe beef} 

Sushi Ota
4529 Mission Bay Dr.
San Diego, CA 92109

Friday, September 10, 2010

Alice Waters' Kitchen in Vanity Fair

{Alice Waters's kitchen at her home in Berkeley  ~ Vanity Fair}

You can see the full image and snippet at Vanity Fair here.

Who wouldn't be jealous of this kitchen? I think I could just live in this room if my kitchen looked like this.  I took my family to her restaurant, Chez Panisse to celebrate my parents' anniversary a little over 2 years ago. We went upstairs to the Café since I barely started my brand new job after graduating UCSD... couldn't quite afford dinner for the whole family downstairs yet. It was a scrumptious lunch and I admired the touches here and there like sparkling water carbonated in house, the fresh Acme bread and we got to sit next to the open kitchen so we were treated with a front row view of everything being prepared in the kitchen. We enjoyed every bit of our meal, the preparation of the vegetables and pasta and proteins were perfect.

That being said, I think Alice Waters is a little odd... brilliant but also odd. A while back ago EHK and I were watch 60 Minutes, and caught a segment where Alice Waters was making breakfast for Lesley Stahl. I was in awe at the setup in her kitchen then just as I am now looking at this photo. One thing this photo misses is her roaring open fire like in the middle of her kitchen. Below is a video for your viewing pleasure of the madness. She has this crazy wood fire going and she's making an egg in some crazy long iron spoon over this fire... for breakfast. Who has time to build a fire, let alone in their kitchen to make an egg???

A few months ago Anthony Bourdain gave an interview on NPR's Talk of the Nation which is below. He talks about his show, No Reservations, last book, Kitchen Confidential, current book Medium Raw and answers questions for the majority of the interview but also gets a few words in on his 2 cents about Alice Waters. Starting at around minute 23 in the interview below is when Bourdain starts talking about Waters. I couldn't agree more with his thoughts. Cooking an egg over a raging fire in the kitchen is quite out of reach for the average American and using vegetables from Chino Farm doesn't seem to fit the image of the pioneer of sustainable and local ingredients. I'm thrilled that Chino Farm is practically a hop, skip and jump away in Rancho Santa Fe for me but its easily a day's trip on road up to Berkeley. I don't think her eccentric comments would keep me from visiting Chez Panisse again but maybe she should think about how her actions and words measure up.

Here is the accompanying article for the Bourdain interview.

Chez Panisse
1517 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709-1516

(510) 548-5049 (for the Café upstairs)
(510) 548-552  (for the Restaurant downstairs)

Chino Farm
6123 Calzada Del Bosque
Rancho Santa Fe, 92067

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

SmashBurger-Mission Valley: San Diego, CA

{Smash, sizzle, savor, shitty}

Smashburger has slowly been opening locations in San Diego. First they started out in La Jolla, opened up a second location in Del Mar and now have a location in Mission Valley. Given that this place is a chain I am under the assumption that my review of one place should be representative of all of the other places. I am not really sure where smashburger got it’s name but I think it has something to do with their hamburgers being mashed/smashed.  But whatever the name a good burger is a good burger regardless of the marketing department. Reviews of SmashBurger on yelp would make you think that SmashBurger was the second coming of Peter Luger’s hamburger. Either way I figured it was worth trying since you never know when you may stumble onto a great meal…or a terrible one.
We visited Smashburger in mission valley and it was fairly busy on their opening night/soft opening. Food was free so I shouldn’t complain. Well at least I can’t complain about the price. Smashburger sells itself as gourmet burger joint. You enter through the main door and get funneled by the menu and finally to the register to order. After ordering you get a number and find yourself a seat and wait until the food is served. We ordered three items, I asked our cashier what was the most popular smashburger and smashchicken. She replied with the BBQ, bacon and cheese and the spicy baja fried chicken. We got one of each with a side of sweet potato and regular smash fries. For good measure we also got a sunset smashsalad. The place was fairly busy but it was easy to find a seat and we waited about 10 min for our food.
{Sunset Smashsalad with Smashclumps}
Sunset Smashsalad. The salad was disappointing. The salad consisted of a mix of romaine and spinach combined tossed with tomatoes, raisins, cranberries, sunflower seeds, pumkin seeds, blue cheese and fried chicken mixed with vinaigrette dressing. The salad did arrive in a big bowl, which I guess is a positive but the rest of the salad was disappointing. First off, the salad wasn’t mixed properly so there were bites of salad with dressing and some without. There were also giant clumps of blue cheese, raisins and cranberries that made for a very interesting flavor. In this sense when I mean interesting I mean crappy. The key to this salad is a homogenous mix of all of the components but in the smashburger rendition giant clumps of ingredients are mixed in with other clumps and served over a bed of lettuce and spinach. The spinach also looked like it had been frozen then thawed.
{BBQ, Bacon and Cheese SmashBurger}
{Undercooked Bacon}
Next up was the bbq, bacon and cheese smashburger. The name basically is all the description you need other than it is also haystack onions and served on an egg bun. The burger was decent size ½ lb. but somehow not all that filling. Maybe because the burger was overcooked and tasted more like anus than angus. Maybe because the bacon was undercooked and did not have any hint of the advertised applewood smoke flavor. Maybe because they should have used toasted the egg bun to at least try to hide it’s spongy texture. There was also a small smattering of haystack onions so it made it difficult to taste the crunchy texture (I assume this is why this was added to the burger). Finally, I was also surprised that when I ordered my burger I wasn’t asked how I wanted it cooked. At least pretend to be gourmet. Even Red Robin asked how you like you burger cooked even though some pink usually means well done at that place.

{Baja Smashchicken Sandwich}
{Fresh Jalapeños}
Next up was the baja fried chicken sandwich. Once again we get another healthy serving of the crappy egg bun combined with fresh jalapenos, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, onion and chipotle mayo. Even though visually I could see all of the ingredients listed, once I bit into the sandwich none of the ingredients were apparent. I just tasted an overcooked piece of friend chicken with a hint of a spicy aftertaste. I did think that the fresh jalapeños were a nice touch since most of the times when you get jalapenos with burgers you get pickled jalapeños.
{Sweet Potato Smashfries}
Finally, we had or side orders of the regular and sweet potato smashfries. Both were of the skinny fry type. I am assuming that the fries were frozen since I couldn’t taste the typical sweet taste of sweet potato fries. The standard fries were also way overseasoned but at least it stimulated one of my taste buds. I was a little worried during this meal that I had lost my sense of taste.
{Happy Smashpatrons on Smashrocket ship}
Overall I will probably pass on another trip to smash burger. I think other joints in San Diego (Rocky's, hell even Red Robin) and worth hitting for burgers instead of this place. If you’re looking for a cheap burger I would recommend In N Out over Smashburger. You won’t get the gourmet add ons like guacamole, chipotle mayo or onion bun but does it really matter if you can’t taste it? Even though I won’t go back I am pretty sure the mission valley location is going to take off like a rocket ship and there will be 500+ 5 star reviews on yelp by the time I make this post. Joe’s crab shack is upstairs and always seems busy and this is a place that I can see being embraced by San Diego since it caters to the blah palette that thrives in the Mission Valley area.
7676 Hazard Center Dr.
San Diego, CA 92108

Ratings and Recommendations by outbrain