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LA (THIRD ST): THE BEST NEW MENU ITEM

By Nora Zelevansky / March 17th, 2010

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In the interest of full disclosure, I did not eat the dumplings in the above picture.  Unfortunately, the actual gyoza in question met with an untimely demise (ahem) before I was able to snap a picture.  At Andre's suggestion, I found the existing jpeg that most resembled said dumplings.  Now, on with the show …

Okay, so, R.L., The Drewser and I arrived for dinner at Mishima, only to discover a new menu item: chicken and pork gyoza!  (I guess that's not such an impressive reveal, considering that I already including the above confession, but whatever.)

Anyway, as tends to be the case thanks to Mishima's many delicious sauces, the dumplings rocked.  And the waitress actually informed us that, as they only made it onto the menu today, we were the first people ever to try them.  Totally recommend!

Then, as we were leaving, they handed us a coupon for a free roll.  I guess that's a new thing too.  All good things!

xo – N.

LA (WEHO): THE BEST COMFORT FOOD

By Nora Zelevansky / June 22nd, 2009

YABU

"Comfort food" is a subjective concept.

As a salt addict growing up in NYC, my idea of comfort food (combating everything from malaise to nausea) was a local diner's Greek Salad and French Fries.  Maybe some Mozzarella Sticks to boot.  Andre prefers Spaghetti and Meatballs.  To each his/her own, I suppose.

Still, when people get sick, we seem to universally crave hearty, warm dishes: soup, stew, porridge, rice.  Andre and ma mere aussi swear by Mishima's Nabayaki Udon soup with thick white noodles, mild broth and everything thrown in from chicken to egg (which came first? nobody knows).  My father loves Congee or Juke (an Asian rice porridge) combining various meats and exotic veggies (like the salty preserved kind).

Well, I spent this weekend holed up on the couch and napping on any cold tile floors I could find, as I had the flu and a higher fever than I remember having since childhood.  Pitying their ailing (well, recovering) younger daughter, my parents decided to celebrate father's day at local izakaya and sushi staple Yabu.

Normally, I would swear by their delicious Shrimp Shumai (closest thing to Hasaki's Shrimp Shumai that I've had in LA), all manner of sushi and sashimi and (yum!) Seaweed Salad, but–being sick and all–I went for their quintessential comfort food: Soboro Don (see above).  Their versionis just simple rice topped wth slightly sweet and soy flavored ground chicken, egg and spinach with a side of pickled vegetables (which, of course, I love texture and acidity-wise to counter the rich density of the rice bowl).  It was delish, as usual, though I noticed it's not officially on the menu anymore.  They do still serve it upon request, so don't be afraid to ask!

Andre and The Rents also shared this special appetizer of deep fried lotus root and curried chicken served with lemon and curry salt.  I didn't get to try it sadly (poor LINTY), but they all said it was awesome and peered at me with pity.  I don't know from where all this awesome curry salt love is coming, but I'm liking it; Quite. A. Bit.

So, here's to my own speedy recovery, to the incredible luck of discovering a three day sample of free Premium Cable while stuck on the couch and to the resulting ten movie marathon!

L'Chaim! Kampai!

xo – N.

LA/SF (THIRD STREET/ST. HELENA): THE BEST TEMPURA WITH GREEN TEA AND CURRY SALTS

By Nora Zelevansky / May 8th, 2009

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(MISHIMA'S FLAVORED SALTS)

On the Calistoga Ranch leg of our honeymoon, Andre and I got an itch for sushi.  That sounds sort of gross.  Whatever.  Anyway, that sushi yen comes a callin' quite frequently in our shared world.  So, after a day of wine and (yum!) port tasting at this great, quirky St. Helena vineyard Prager Winery & Port Works, we headed out to Go Fish.  Owner Cindy Pawlcyn, who is sort of a local legend, owns several fab restaurants in the general vicinity, although the other two (Mustards Grill & Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen) are not at all Japanese.

Go Fish turned out to be great, a contemporary and lively comparison to some of the stodgier options around Napa Valley etc.  And lighter fare, of course, than some of the others too.  But the dish that stood out most for me was a simple mixed Japanese Vegetable Tempura with green tea salt on the side.

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(GO FISH TEMPURA WITH GREEN TEA SALT)

Now, I'm a salt addict, of course.  And flavored salt–foggetaboutit.  You dip the fresh fried veggies in sauce and then dab them with salt (which sticks because of the moisture) and basically you've found God.  Or, okay, a higher power.  The power of Grayskull.

I'm such a girlie girl that I just double-checked that He-Man reference (luckily) and wouldn't you know that I've always thought it was called "Graceskull"?  Will & Graceskull.  Okay, I am WAY off topic.

Anyway, once we headed south, I thought it would be a long time until I tasted that green tea salt again.  Until . . .

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(MISHIMA'S A LA CARTE TEMPURA)

Last night, Andre the Grumpy (cause he was hungry) and I headed around the corner to Mishima for an early dinner.  Turns out that they're now offering a sort of Happy Hour a la carte Tempura menu, so we ordered some stuff (eggplant, shrimp, broccoli).  And, lo and behold, the dish showed up with the usual tasty Tempura Sauce, but also with a tray of salts: a regular rock salt, green tea salt and (the best ever!) curry salt.  It was totally delish.

So, green tea salt was just around the corner the whole time.  I guess there's no place like home.  Now where did I put those ruby slippers?

xo – N.

LA (THIRD STREET): THE BEST WAY TO ROLL

By Nora Zelevansky / March 11th, 2009

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(Mishima's Shrimp Tempura Roll With Soybean Paper and No Mayo–YUM)

Sushi purists rebuff rolls.  I suspect these are the same people who willfully avoid owning TVs, claiming that they just "don't have time to watch" and find it boring.  That's their biz, but, personally, I'll find the time for a sushi roll and some mind-shmooshing TV any night.  Life is short.  I'll make the time.

The way I see it, no one preparation of sushi/Japanese fare (sashimi, sushi, rolls, noodles, cooked dishes or Izakaya) is superior to another because each category suits a different mood.  Luckily, LA is a sushi-rific city.  So, assuming money is no object (c'mon Google Ads–big money!), when I'm dying for sashimi, I might hit Studio City's Asanebo, Malibu's Nobu or West Hollywood's Matsuhisa.  For Izakaya or Robata, I might hit Yabu on La Cienega, Katana on Sunset or amazing lesser known Sasaya on Santa Monica Blvd. in West LA.  For noodles, I go no further than Sawtelle; for sushi (and spicy tuna rolls), Hama downtown in Little Tokyo.  For a chef's choice Omakase, I'd hit Nozawa or Sasabune.  And, for rolls, well, I'd venture out in my very own hood.

For some reason, the block that runs parallel to my house on Third Street is all about the Asian food. And, in this one block stretch, live some of the city's best sushi rolls, which range dramatically in price and style.  Exhibit A is Mishima's large Shrimp Tempura Roll (above) with fresh avocado and wrapped in soybean paper. (If you haven't already tried soybean paper, leave your home immediately and head to the nearest sushi spot that serves it up–you've been missing out).  Mishima's spicy tuna is awesome too and, though it's not technically a roll, the California Soba Noodle Salad with crab, avocado, egg and tobiko caviar is amazing!  The restaurant itself is inexpensive and a stark, sparse space, but nice enough for a casual lunch or dinner.

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(California Albacore Roll With Garlic)

In the same mini-mall lives a roll that some might find controversial: the California Albacore Roll with Garlic.  I'm not going to lie.  It's not high-end.  This roll is found at Sushi Mac, which is a conveyer belt sushi spot with no conveyer belt.  That is to say that it's a step above fast food: the music is bad, the ambience is nil, the crab is krab and, let me tell you sushi snobs, the California Albacore Roll is effing AMAZING.  So delish.  And, naturally, it's cheap as shite at $2.75. YUP.

Directly across the street sits LA scenester standard, Sushi Roku.  Though many a cooked entree is worth sampling here (as are the sake martinis), the Rock Shrimp Tempura with Jalapeno Roll and the Baked Crab Roll top the must-try list.  I mean, they just speak for themselves.  (Actually, the Baked Crab Roll at Cafe Sushi–a block away on Beverly Blvd–is pretty damn awesome too; maybe even better).

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(Katsuya's Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice)

Many an LA sushi spot has tried to replicate the Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice, found just down Third street at top spot Izaka-ya By Katsuya (read the Daily Candy by moi).  Other restaurants' versions always taste good, but never quite match up to the original.  Though this annex is not the first Katsuya or the sceniest one, it's the most desirable for lunch, I think.  The Albacore Sashimi With Crispy Onions, Yellowtail with Jalapeno (which I think of as a Nobu original) and the Izakaya Roll are also delectable; but, then, most everything here tastes delish.

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(Boss Sushi's Nate Blonde Roll)

Two other restaurants definitely bare mentioning, although they're not in the immediate vicinity. First, Boss Sushi–which is a middle-of-the-road spot on a random stretch of La Cienega–offers up the tangy and tasty Nate Blonde roll and the sort of fluffy Gunn Brothers, plus interesting sushi like Salmon and Mango with olive oil and sea salt (and I'm not usually a salmon person) and Albacore with Basil.  They actually play quite a bit with olive oil and balsamic vinegar on their sushi and it actually works out wonderfully.

Last (but definitely not least) is Nagao in Brentwood.  This little place is actually an under-the-radar hot spot, below a chic yoga studio, and the owner/sushi chef offers up some of the best rolls I've ever had: Moonlight #3, Lemon Box (ask for "thinly sliced" salmon, so it's not too intense) and the buttery Garlic Albacore Sushi that melts in your mouth.  It's all just amazing; here are pics on my friend Rachel's site.

Anyway, in Cali, that's just how we roll.  Third Street-style.  Represent, yo.

xo – N.