Friday, December 30, 2011

Beer Belly: A gem of bar tucked away in Ktown

Just a street away from the Wiltern Theatre on Western Street, is the half-year-old gastropub Beer Belly. It may be located in Koreatown, but the food and drinks are not Korean. Here you'll find a nice selection of craft beers. The food menu is not expansive but they do serve up some interesting dishes.

The bar is tucked away on Western Ave and is a bit hard to find. But once you're there, you'll be elated to know that they offer valet - something that is very important in this scarce parking area of Koreatown.

Beer Belly is snug and was rather empty at 6.30pm when we got there. However the hipster crowd started packing in at 8pm. You have to order your food and drinks from the bar, and the waiter will bring the food to your table.

For our beer sampler, the bartender helped us choose a balanced selection of Taps Cream Ale, Stone Vertical Epic Ale, Bootlegger's Chocolate Mint Porter and The Bruery Mischief.

Duck fat fries ~ Smoked Salt, Sweet Onion Sugar, Duck Skin Cracklins, Raspberry Mustard
They also had an option to add duck confit for an extra $2. The fries were pretty darn good. They were crispy and a tad airy. I really enjoyed the crumbles of crunchy duck skin cracklins which tasted fatty and salty. The fries were served with a sweet fruity sauce which wasn't spicy. I thought the sweet sauce was an interesting and nice pairing to the fries.

Brussels Sprouts, Apple, Pancetta, Onions
The slightly charred Brussels sprouts were dressed with a sweet and tangy apple sauce. The sprouts got its smokey and salty flavoring from the large chunk of lardons.

Duck Stewed Navy Beans, Duck Confit, Ground Lamb, Fried Pork Belly, Cassoulet
We were lucky to score the last cassoulet of the night. The cassoulet actually looked like baked polenta. The cassoulet was salty and somewhat creamy. The beans were a mixture of textures: some were mashed and some were firmer. I enjoyed the crispy fried skin and shredded pork belly that topped the dish. Overall a rich and satisfying dish with lots of meaty flavors.

Beer Belly is a great addition to the area. Don't get me wrong, I do like Korean BBQ and Soon Du Bu, but a cool bar serving good food and beer a couple blocks from the Wiltern is truly priceless. Their Sunday brunch menu sounds spectacular with dishes such as duck confit benedict and snickers pancakes. My only issue that night was that the bar area got real crowded, and since you have to head up to the bar for another round of drinks, the hassle of waiting behind a hoard of people while flagging down the one bartender was too much of a hassle on a weeknight. I ended up heading home for my last drink of the night.

Beer Belly
532 S. Western Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 387-2337

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

City Tavern: Another much-welcomed watering holein Culver City

City Tavern is one of many new bars in Culver City that opened in the past year. The area is really becoming a great spot for a night out. The bar is owned by the same owners of neighbouring bar Rush Street, and you can tell the similarities in decor. High ceilings, dark wood furnishing, and a casual yet modern feel to the space.

City Tavern has a great selection of craft beers. If you are lucky, you can grab seats in the booths that are hooked up to your own beer tap.

The menu is your typical gastropubby comfort fare, with selections such as charcuterie, oysters, poutine, burgers and shrimp & grits.

Brussels sprouts with bacon and preserved lemon
The side of Brussels sprouts was delicious. The slightly charred vegetables gave off a sweetness, and were mixed with citrus and smoked bacon. It was a good combination of flavors.

I never order salads but the waiter recommended this. The pear salad was from the specials menu. I liked the salad because it was simple, fresh yet tasty. The sliced pear was sweet and soft. You could tell that they used real fresh fruit here. The dressed salad was topped with mild blue cheese crumbles and buttered fried pretzel crouton which was a nice touch. Wish I could buy a bag of those croutons.

Brew burger with pub cheese, mustard aioli, ale battered onion ring served on a pretzel bread
The burger sounded great on the menu but stumbled a bit on the execution. The patty was juicy but lacking in seasoning. Thanks to the cheese which added some saltiness to the burger. The onion rings also lacked seasoning but I did like the breading which was airy and not oily.

Buttermilk fried chicken with fried green tomatoes, succotash
The fried chicken was nicely cooked with crispy skin and juicy interior. It was definitely a restaurant quality fried chicken that was not dry or greasy. I am not a big fan of tomatoes but my dining companions enjoyed the large slice of breaded fried green tomatoes. I did however enjoy the side of corn succatash which was plated with a side of sweet chutney marmalade.

City Tavern is a good addition to the neighborhood. Love the decor and beer selection. The prices are also reasonable, with entrees hovering in the low teens. Even though there were some misses (under seasoned patty and onion rings), the place has a lot of potential. There were so many items on the menu that I'd like to try - and that's a great sign.

City Tavern
9739 Culver Blvd.,
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 838-9739

Sunday, December 4, 2011

DineLA: Petrossian

This post is late but it was too delicious a meal not to post about.
DineLA Restaurant Week is a 2 week dining event that runs twice a year. I usually try to schedule a couple dinner reservations but since I had just returned from a food-indulgent Southeast Asian trip, I decided to trim it down to one dinner.

After surveying the participating restaurants' menu, we decided on Petrossian. Two words completely sold me. Foie Carbonara. Petrossian, the gourmet shop specializing in caviar, spells decadence.

Caviar Salad ~ butter lettuce, shaved egg, shallot chives, parsley, lemon, dill, creme fraiche
I don't usually care for salads in a restaurant, but this dish was a great blend of simplicity and elegance. The butter lettuce was fresh and light, and the caviar added a right amount of saltiness.

Egg Royale ~ Scrambled egg, whipped cream, caviar
The egg mixture was smooth and nicely seasoned. It was such a fun and delicate dish to eat.

Butternut squash soup ~ brown butter, sage, creme fraiche
I was completely pleased with my soup selection. The soup was poured table side into a bowl that contained a interesting mix of spice and crispy walnut. It really worked, and the crunchy texture was nice. The soup was rich and bursting in flavor.

Foie Gras carbonara ~ home made fettucine, bacon, parmesan
The foie carbonara was everything I had hoped for. I was very impressed with the amount of foie in the dish. The al dente strands of fettucine were mixed up with a foie based sauce, and furthermore, the pasta was topped with a slab of foie. There were bits of bacon incorporated into the dish which added a saltiness and smokiness. The dish was extremely rich and decadent, but worth every single bite. I just didn't want it to end.

Scottish Salmon ~ mushroom, leeks, farro, serrano ham, honey mustard
My friend ordered the salmon cooked on the rare side in a mild flavored mustard sauce. The skin on the fish was crispy but the center was still pink and tender. I really enjoyed the accompaniments which included a nicely textured farro, and crispy serrano ham and leeks.

Caviar gelee ~ vodka, white chocolate mousse
The creamy mousse had a very strong alcoholic flavor. There was a crunchy walnut crumble at bottom of the glass which was mixed with caviar. The salty tones in the dessert really worked.

Vanilla panna cotta ~ espresso pearls, cardamon shortbread cookies
The panna cotta was much thicker than what I was used to but it tasted great.

Almond creme brulee~ russian tea cookie
Pretty standard dessert but still good.

I really enjoyed my meal at Petrossian. The foie carbonara was such a treat - when do you ever get such a serving of foie. I was expecting have only enjoyed the foie carbonara, but I thought all the appetizers were strong. Standout meal.

321 N. Robertson Blvd.,
West Hollywood, CA 90048
(310) 271-6300