Mizumi Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas…. what a crazy, interesting, evocative, and mischievous place to visit. It’s one of my favorite places to people watch and remember why I am where I am now and not where I used to be. Brandon’s grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousin live in Summerlin, just outside of Vegas, and we were finally able to take a weekend trip out there to spend time together and with them. We had so much fun with everyone and it was truly the trip we needed to just get away and not work for a few days — both of us are complete workaholics. Spending time away gave me a really great appreciation for everything I do and reminds me that I need to keep my life outside of work a priority as well. Life is too short not to live it fully and enjoy and embrace the present moment.

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Brandon and I had a really amazing evening out together and we shared a delicious meal at Mizumi in The Wynn hotel. It is a beautiful Japanese restaurant with a waterside view and an absolutely amazing ambiance. It’s been a while since I’ve eaten at or written about a restaurant of this caliber. It was truly a refreshing breath of air to see this type of service and particular care and attention to detail that Mizumi takes with each plate.
We started with drinks. I had a The Dream (champagne, elderflower liqueur and preserved edible hibiscus) and a Mizumi Cloud (lemongrass, yuzu, gin and ginger liqueur). Both drinks were delicate and flavorful. The slight sweetness of the elderflower liqueur gave the champagne a refreshing flavor. The Mizumi Cloud was sweet, but tart, and gave the gin an enlivening elegance.

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We decided to get a selection of hot and cold items instead of ordering sushi rolls.

 

Shiromi Usuzukuri, thinly sliced white fish (snapper), ponzu, miso flakes, momiji oroshi, scallion oil

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Yellowtail Sashimi and Jalapeño Gelée, crispy onion, cilantro oil, ponzu

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Robata Platter, sea bass, organic Jidori Chicken, beef tenderloin, shishito peppers, shiitake mushrooms

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Crispy Brussels Sprouts, toasted almonds, green onion, balsamic soy reduction

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Hokkaido snow beef 5 Pieces 2oz Hot Stone

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Seared Foie Gras with Kabocha Puree, Micro Green and Pomegranate Salad, Chestnut Foam Pomegranate-Balsamic Reduction

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Kurobuta Katsu Panko Breading, Apple Slaw, Curry Sauce and Tonkatsu sauce

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Liquid Lemon-Yuzu Cheesecake, Graham Walnut Streusel, Sour Cherry Compote, Sugared Walnuts, Morello Cherry Sorbet

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Mizumi Chocolate Mask, White Chocolate, Hazelnut Dacquiose, Chocolate Mousse, Praline Puffed Rice, Vanilla Ice Cream

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Coffee and Espresso

 

Everything was delicious and presented so well with the descriptions given on each plate. My favorites were the Shiromi Usuzukuri and the Kurobuta Katsu, but everything was really fresh, executed with extreme attention to detail, and the service was impeccable. It was an evening to remember.

 

Another highlight of the meal was the Hokkaido Snow Beef. This beef is literally melt-in-your-mouth tender. You cook the snow beef table-side on a hot stone, so even when Brandon isn’t working, he’s still cooking on his night off.

 

This meal was everything that the decadence, details, and drama of Las Vegas could serve up and we were completely satisfied with our whole meal experience. It was truly a memorable dining event and I am so glad I could spend it with such a special person. We were also fortunate to go to see Le Rev at The Wynn after dinner, which was such a wonderful Vegas experience and our first Vegas show.  I am so grateful to have these memories to share.

 

Cheers,

 

Unrivaledkitch

Nobu LA

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Brandon and I have been to Nobu Malibu, Matsuhisa and just recently Nobu LA. Needless to say, we are big fans of these amazing restaurants and since our first trip, back in 2007, Brandon’s mom, Lyz, has wanted to go to one of Nobu’s restaurants. Well, seven years later and we finally took her. Better late than never! Hopefully the next time she has something on her list we won’t have to wait so long, but I’d definitely say Nobu is a special occasion restaurant for us and you need about seven years to save up for the kind of meal we enjoyed, but it was well worth every penny.

Nobu LA

Nobu LA is on North La Cienga Blvd in the heart of Hollywood and many amazing restaurants, so what makes it stand out? A very reputable and proven menu as well as detailed and sophisticated service keeps us coming back. We had an extremely rich, luxurious and multifaceted meal that proved to be one of the best meals we’ve had in a very long time. There are always the traditional Nobu dishes that we order, but we tried a good sampling of new items as well, and everything was masterfully executed.

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Nobu LA is modern and elegant with an interesting  flow of seating in two separate areas. The Sushi Bar is brightly lit with gold light fixtures hanging above the traditional bar-style seating. The side room has dimly lit ambiance with a mixtures of booths and tables for small groups and medium-sized parties. A sea of servers, busboys and other assisting staff pace the room, waiting for a glass to fall to half and picking up the slightest dirty plate. We had two servers during the evening. Both gave personal details as to which dishes they liked best, had a really great grasp of the menu, and explained everything very well.

 

The food was presented in a very traditional Nobu-style with gorgeous Japanese plates and extreme attention to detail. Each dish was described as it was dropped off and if there were directions on how to best eat the dish, they were thoroughly explained.

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We started off with edamame and drinks. I had Peruvian Caipirinha Pisco, Fresh Lime, Shiso & Ginger Beer. I really like Caipirinha’s and this one was exceptional. They used an ample amount of fresh lime, which was refreshing and the ginger beer was spicy, but not overpowering. Lyz had the Champagne 95, which was really light and refreshing as well.

 

Here’s the list

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We started with Oysters with Nobu Salsa. Kumamoto oysters are on the smaller side, but they were extremely clean and really fresh.

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Toro Tartar, which we’ve had every time we’ve been to Nobu. It’s delicious and extremely decadent. Fresh Yuzu and caviar round out the flavor.

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Truffle Albacore with crispy artichokes and dry miso

One of my favorite dishes of the evening. The artichokes is a little deceiving, but the dish is still really delicious. Truffle sauce is luxurious and deeply flavorful.

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Live Scallop (Hotate) Tiradito

Thinly sliced scallop served in the tiradito-style with peruvian flavors of cilantro, spice and Japanese fusion elements. The abductor is also thinly sliced on the plate, giving contrasting flavor and texture.

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Tuna Tempura Roll

This is a bit of a strange dish. It was explained well, so when we got it, we weren’t completely surprised. The tuna is rolled with nori and inside is asparagus and micro cilantro, then the tuna is lightly fried “tempura”-style with no real tempura on it at all.  Then it’s plated in a deep, rich miso yuzu with tomato. Interesting, in a way that is not really what anyone envisioned, but still, the fish and sauce were a unique balance.

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Wagyu Tacos

These are misleading, unfortunately. Our server said that he really enjoyed them and maybe as a server, getting free mini Wagyu tacos, they are good, but for $7 for a tiny taco, we would pass next time. They weren’t bad at all, it’s just that we could have spent that money on another, more impacting and wowful dish. Skip the wagyu tacos.

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Kurobuta Pork Belly

This was one of my favorite things the whole night. Amazing Kurobuta Pork Belly that was braised to absolutely melt-in-your-mouth perfection, topped with crispy leeks and Shiitake mushrooms. The sauce was really rich in flavor, almost to the point of salty, extremely deep soy flavor.

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Tempura Sweet Potato

I know it’s just tempura, but I just love this sweet potato. It’s so crispy on the outside and perfectly cooked on the inside and the Tempura sauce is just the right balance of saltiness. So simple, but so perfect.

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Mushrooms with Wasabi Salsa

This is a huge plate of assorted Japanese mushrooms, really well roasted and topped with Wasabi salsa that was very mild, almost reminiscent of celery with Ponzu. Varying textures and flavor from the mushrooms was a good compliment to the pork.

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King Crab Amasu

King Crab tempura with Japanese sweet and sour sauce. We’ve had this before and for good reason, it’s really good. The crab is crunchy and sweet, while the sauce is spicy, but still mild with the herbaceousness of cilantro and freshness of slivered red onion. Perfect every time.

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Kinme Tiradito

Golden Eye Snapper Tiradito Japanese Snapper is delicate and extremely fresh. Clean, traditional and elegant preparation.

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Rock Shrimp Tempura

Another classic dish that we wanted to share with Lyz. The spring mix on the bottom is dressed in a yuzu dressing and the rock shrimp are super tender inside and really crispy on the outside. The dish is addicting.

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Seabass Jalapeno Salsa

Another extremely delicious preparation. The Seabass was perfectly cooked, flaky and moist, with just the right crust and sauce. Roasted mushrooms and mild jalapeno salsa completed an incredible meal.

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We couldn’t finish without dessert, so we decided on Kamameshi Halo Halo and Claudis Carrot Cake. The halo halo was a really interesting and unique dessert of vanilla rice pudding, mochi pearls, puffed soba, sweet red beans, jack fruit, nata de coco, macapuno and purple yam, mango and coconut gelato. All the elements were really tasty, but it has to be eaten quickly or else the fire under will heat everything too much.  We really enjoyed the carrot cake. Caramelized pecans, mascarpone mousse, ginger malaga ice cream, and salted caramel–really delicious and wonderful.

 

Overall, it was a meal of a lifetime. Some definite highs and a couple of lows, but nothing at all that wasn’t delicious. We had a really incredible time and the service and food were simply fantastic. Happy Birthday, Lyz! We hope you had a stupendous birthday and we are so glad we were able to celebrate with you at Nobu!

 

Thank you, to the brilliant staff and wonderful chefs at Nobu LA. We truly enjoyed every bite.

Nobu LA

www.noburestaurants.com

903 North La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90069

 

Cheers!

Unrivaledkitch

Lala’s Argentinean Grill

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Lala’s is located in the trendy area of Ventura Blvd in Studio City. A hip little area of sushi, bars, small plates and burgers gives variety to the valley locals. On a very special evening with my sweet friend Bryn, we decided that we would like to dine at Lala’s Argentinean Grill. Both of us had passed it many times throughout the years, but never stopped to try it. On Monday night the outdoor patio of the warm spring evening was packed with people. Families celebrating special occasions, special events, couples out to dinner and large parties all enjoying the modern atmosphere, plates of food and good company.

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Lala’s is modern in its appearance with subtle ambiance and plenty of seating. The menu is very large with many different options for diners. As we sat to share in a bottle of wine, our waiter was pleasant, but absent for water refills and the finer details of excellent customer service. The service wasn’t terrible, but just not something to really write home about.

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As we looked over the menu, Bryn decided on Mahi Mahi and mashed potatoes and I decided that I would try an appetizer sampler of empanadas with one cheese, one spinach and one beef; a tortilla de papa and grilled chorizo; and an arugula salad. As we discussed celebratory events and enjoyed food, wine, and each other’s company, I found the food to be interesting and delicious. The empanadas had a wonderful crust and each of the fillings was piping hot. I liked the addition of deliciously garlicky chimmichuri and tomato salsa. The tortilla de papa was very different. It was a wedge of seasoned potatoes that were cooked till just tender, but still able to hold their shape. The chorizo was a little underwhelming, but the sausage had good texture—I just wish it had a bit more flavor. Bryn’s fish was cooked well and she seemed to enjoy her food. My salad had a light dressing, but was more lettuce than anything else. Overall, the experience was nice. It was good to have a different sample of Argentinian food with great company.

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Congratulations on your new job, Bryn. I’m so proud of you and excited for your new journey!

Cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

 

Aburiya Toranoko‏

2013-04-08 19.17.58 2013-04-08 19.42.47 2013-04-08 19.42.53 2013-04-08 19.45.012013-04-08 19.49.052013-04-08 19.56.08Pressed under an apartment building high-rise in Little Tokyo is Aburiya Toranoko, a Japanese restaurant scattered amongst countless others in the downtown L.A. region. I hadn’t heard much about this place before my sister gave me a bloomspot certificate for my Christmas present—she saw the menu and thought it might remind me of our trip to Japan. The promotional expiration date on the certificate was quickly approaching,smooth so Brandon and I went on a date, not really knowing what to expect. 


Toranoko has a gorgeous mural on the large wall, where most of their seating is located; it is adorned with paintings of Japanese characters, which gives a light and distinct nature to the dark dining room. The middle of the restaurant is home to a long communal table with small dividers, should smaller groups choose to dine with large chandeliers over the table. A large bar fills the opposing side of the restaurant with many illuminated bottles of liquor. The brightly lit sushi bar plays host to the most intriguing part of Toranoko: as a focal point, three sushi chefs line the bar and about 10 seats are available to witness the preparations of each dish. A large classic Japanese painting with a tiger holding a baby tiger in its mouth sets a tone of fierceness in the air.
Toranoko is much different than the classic timeless sushi restaurants of La Cieniega, like Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills. But Toranoko offers delicious offerings with flavors and techniques that are on par with some of the best in the area. We were a bit adventurous in our selection of hot and cold dishes and to our delight, the aesthetics were very interesting and wonderful.Our waiter was polite, but very busy, seeing as there were only two servers in the whole front of the house for a Monday night. It seemed as if most of the emphasis was on the preparation of the food. We watched with anticipation as we sat at the sushi bar for the next dish and as we waited each dish that came out was, for the most part, better than the last. Executive Sushi Chef Seiji Nakano was preparing many different delicious dishes with beautiful elegance and graceful technique that highly skilled Japanese chefs are so well known for.Dishes

Egg Custard |free range egg | ikura| soy broth

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This egg custard was a delightful little dish. I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was because I’m not very familiar with egg custards, but Brandon was very excited about this dish. The texture of the egg was very velvety with such a smooth cool texture. The salty addition of Ikura, salmon roe and soy broth added a level of texture and salt to the tender custard.
Uni Goma Tofu | fresh sea urchin | sesame | wasabi
2013-04-08 20.04.25I love Uni, I know that a lot of people don’t like its overtly seafood flavor, but I love it. Fresh uni was paired with a homemade sesame tofu. The soy sauce over the sesame tofu with the uni was really astoundingly unique. It was like something I’d never tasted before, which is always something I look for in a restaurant. The texture of the tofu was so creamy and smooth, without much of the watery flavor that is associated with tofu. A brilliant dish.
Sunomono | cucumber | seaweed
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The sunamono consisted of pressed cucumbers with a various arrangement of other colorful seaweeds. The seasoning had enough acid to salt ratio and the vinegar was refreshing and light.
Steamed Foil Mushrooms | enoki | shiitake | shimeji
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Steamed in a foil pouch, these mushrooms have a very simple clean flavor. Nothing was remarkable about them, but they were very high quality delicious Japanese mushrooms.
White Fish Carpaccio | Japanese shiso | pesto
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The fish on this carpaccio was cut just a bit too thick, which made it a little bit chewy when consuming. The shiso gave the fish a very fresh quality and the pesto garlic oil added a bit of a different element to the dish.
Buta Kakuni | braised pork | spinach
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This braised pork belly was deeply flavorful. The sweetness and salty balance of flavor in the dish was really well done. I loved the addition of hot dry mustard to mellow the fatty pieces of pork. Chopped green onion and sauteed spinach added brightness and a very fresh element to this intensely flavored dish.
Chicken Leg Confit | wasabi | green onion
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I rarely, if ever, order chicken when I go out for a nice dinner, but Brandon loves chicken and how could we pass up something confit. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and extremely succulent, while the skin was crunchy and very flavor forward. A perfectly cooked chicken leg.
Toro Tataki Salad
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Mixed greens with a deep purple toro that was a very rich piece of tuna. The flavor of the dressing was mild to really let the pieces of toro shine in the salad.
Aburi Kanpachi
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This delicious amberjack fish was served sashimi style with ponzu and house soy sauce. The technique for warming the fish with Japanese charcoal and a torch, makes the lightly cooked fish contain a slight smoky aroma and faint flavor. The fish was sliced perfectly with small grooves cut into it to allow the flavoring to melt in. Fantastic.
Japanese Scallop
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Dry packed Japanese scallops were super tender, completely delicate and delicious. The sashimi was paired with lemon and wasabi to add a bit of dimension to the clean simple flavor of the scallop.
Overall, it was a fantastic meal. Everything had an attention to detail that seemed to carry the passionate artistry of fine Japanese food. I’m sure we’ll be back for another delicious meal at Toranoko. Thank you for a wonderful meal.

 cheers 

-Unrivaledkitch

 

Oshogatsu and Osechi–Ryori 2013

I’ve been writing now for three years 2011 and 2012 about Oshogatsu, which is traditional Japanese New Year celebrations. Of course my family is American so we do things probably very different than in Japan, but I love these customs and I hope to keep them for a very long time. Osechi–Ryori are traditional Japanese foods cooked in soy sauce and sugar or vinegars to be prepared for future consumption. It’s taboo to cook for the 1st three days of the New Year, so the food is placed in beautiful Japanese boxes called Jūbako to preserve its freshness for the days to come. This year we had a large New Year’s celebration filled with lots of love and tons of food. I hope you started the New Year just the way you wanted.

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2013 Osechi-Ryori

Menu

Kagami Mochi

Manju (Japanese sticky rice confection)

Ozoni (Konbu, Carrot, Kamaboko, Shiitake Mushroom, Imo (taro root), Renkon (lotus root), and Mochi in Seasoned Homemade Dashi)

Jubako

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5-Sided Carrot, 5-Sided Daikon, Kombu (rolled seaweed), Shiitake Mushrooms, Satoimo(taro root), Renkon (lotus root), Takenoko (bamboo shoots)

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Kinpira (sato shoyu gobo and carrots)

Tazukri (candied, dried sardines)

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Kamaboko (pink and white Japanese pressed fish cake)

Dashi Steamed Shrimp

Tsukemono (salted cucumber)

Namasu (pickled carrots and daikon)

Umeboshi (Japanese picked plums)

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Blistered Sesame and Soy Shisito Peppers

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Sake and Mirin Grilled Shrimp

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Salmon Sashimi

Maguro (Tuna) Sashimi

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Spicy Crab and Japanese Vegetable Sushi

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California Roll

Vegetable Roll

Inari

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Japanese-Style Short Ribs

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Sweet Asian Fried Chicken Wings (mom’s contribution)

Pork Wontons (mom & dad’s contribution)

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There you have it!

Happy 2013! May it be filled with health, love, peace and happiness.

From the Fujitaki Family to you all! Thanks for sharing in our families tradition.

To see my sister in law Linh’s beautiful photos of our New Year please visit her blog here.

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

Channel Island Harbor Farmers Market in Oxnard, CA

On a beautiful Sunday morning, Brandon, Lyz (Brandon’s mom) and I decided to go to the Channel Island Harbor farmers’ market to see what we could find.  The freshness of fall produce entangles through the various booths and stands of fresh vegetables just picked from the earth. There are different types of fall root vegetables, lots of delicate lettuce, string beans, pears, and the last of the end-of-california-summer delicious plums, peaches and nectarines. Fall gourds and pumpkins start to show themselves in preparation for the holidays, just around the corner. As the last bits of summer start to vanish from the gardens, the air turns crisp and something warm and hearty to eat, after a long hot summer, sounds divine. Fishing boats line the harbor bringing in some of the freshest prawns and other local surf.

The stalls are lined with people looking for the best products; something special to take home for the week on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.  I’ve been to this market a couple of times and it always has something that brings me back.

Address

Farmers Market – Channel Islands Harbor
(Every Sunday 10:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M)
3600 S. Harbor Boulevard – adjacent to Marine Emporium Landing Shopping Center
Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard
For further information call (805) 985-4852

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

My Birthday Celebration at Matsuhisa, Beverly Hills

Matsuhisa

As Brandon and I made our way down to Beverly Hills from Ventura, my birthday dinner seemed to be well anticipated.  We’d eaten together years ago in Malibu at Nobu, and to say the least, that was an unforgettable meal and dinner, but Matsuhisa was even more than I remembered Nobu to be. Both restaurants having differing charm and mastery, Matsuhisa makes my Japanese heritage sing out very loud.  The dishes and plates remind me of my Bachan’s kitchen. The old, darker, shady lit tables are situated about two inches away from one another. If you don’t like small confines, this probably isn’t the place for you, but if you want real Japanese precision and flavors with Peruvian interest, you’re in the right place.

Matsuhisa is situated on a darker length of La Cienega and Wilshire with a small sign and nothing too flashy. It’s in the presence of Fogo de Chão and other well-to-do eateries of the Beverly Hills nature. As you valet, you can’t help but notice the plethora of high-end driving utensils indicative of the restaurant’s prestigious location. But as you walk in, the prestige dissipates to a comfortable hum of all of the following type of people: from the hipster, famous, family, business and even those seemingly “fresh off the boat,” joining themselves for some of the freshest fish and flavorful tried and true dishes that Nobu has to offer. Matsuhisa is Nobu Matsuhisa’s first U.S. restaurant and still stands in all its glory from the late 80’s. If you’re picturing a lot of modern anything, then you’ll be mistaken. It’s quaint, meant for business and that business is devising, developing and delivering this man and his amazing accomplices who put together this brilliant food on a daily basis.

At our 8 p.m. reservation we were seated quickly and efficiently at a most miniscule table, which is situated about two inches from the other two two-top tables that adjoin us. Seeing as the restaurant was completely full, there wasn’t much room for negotiation. A very hospitable and knowledgeable waiter greeted us as we perused the menu looking for favorites and new ideas to try. We decided to order a single omakase to split between the two of us, as well as a multitude of single dishes off the menu to accommodate a variety of options listed.

Omakase is the Japanese phrase for “I’ll leave it to you.” This allows the chefs to pick their freshest or most favorable dishes of the season for each tasting. I love the idea of omakase because it takes the choice out and excites the palate with an interesting surprise, course after course.  At Matsuhisa, we knew that some signature dishes would be provided to us, which we openly welcomed. Our omakase consisted of:

Mixed Vegetable Hand Roll with Miso Dressing

                This interesting dish was not your traditional hand roll because of the distinct absence of rice. The fresh avocado, sprouts, cucumber and carrots dipped in a light miso dressing and rolled in the freshest, crisp and most flavorful piece of nori made for a memorable and delicious first course.

Toro Tartar with Caviar

                I know that bluefin tuna is overfished, but it’s so delicious. The lusciousness of this tuna is fantastic and rivals the flavors of other conventional fish in the sea. This was a small dish packed with flavor from the pungent wasabi and soy that just cut through the fatty richness of the toro. I love the plating of this dish; it was so ice cold and refreshing because of its placement in shaved ice.

Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno Ponzu

              This is a classic Nobu dish. The delicate fish was in a light ponzu with dynamically bright yuzu flavor. Extremely enjoyable.

Sashimi Salad

                Baby spinach piled up with a spicy jalapeno dressing and fresh pieces of seared tuna, salmon belly and scallops. The scallops were melt-in-your-mouth fresh and everything on the plate was simple, yet delicious. The plate wasn’t overly exciting, but the fish was sliced perfectly and tasted amazing.

Tempura Soft Shell Crab with Cactus Salsa

                Genius. Nobu Now, the cookbook, has this recipe and I humbly appeal to you to go buy the book and make it, or simply go to Matsuhisa and eat it, because it’s that delicious. Brandon doesn’t normally like cactus and I don’t think a lot of people can get over the slime factor, but I’m used to it. I’ve been eating cactus my whole life, but definitely not like this. The Yuzu (Japanese citrus) is a key element in this amazingly simple, but delicious salsa and the soft shell crab is perfectly crispy with just the right crunch. The mild spice from the shisito pepper is a lovely addition to this fantastic dish.

Miso Black Cod

                You really can’t get any more traditional Nobu than Miso Black Cod and you don’t need to because it’s just good. I love black cod; it’s flaky, meaty and succulent and this dish was no exception. Just a piece of fish on a plate with a couple small dots of miso sauce, then gone in a flash.

Miso Soup

                You can’t say anything bad about it, but it wasn’t an over-the-top elaboration, just good soup before the sushi and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

Sushi

                Nigiri style sushi presented with Toro, halibut, squid, king crab and fresh water eel.  After all the food I’d already eaten, I was very happy to have some sushi rice at the closing of the meal. This sushi was all very fresh. The only one we decided we didn’t really enjoy was the squid because it’s such a strange texture and trying to chew its strangeness is always a weird ride for me.

So since we shared these dishes, we also ordered other things off the menu, which included:

Sweet Potato Tempura

                I love sweet potato. And there is something about Nobu tempura sauce that’s just so wonderful. Its ginger salty sweetness is just perfectly complimentary to the lightly fried and wonderfully crisp sweet potatoes.

Golden Eye Snapper with Dry Miso

                If you look up a picture of golden eye snapper it looks like a gold fish on steroids; however, it definitely doesn’t taste like what I imagine that would taste like, but then again, most delicious fish are hideous anyway. I’d have to say this was my favorite dish of the evening. The snapper was so delicate and fresh that you could hardly even notice it was fish in the first place. These are the kind of dishes people need to eat when first introduced to sashimi; I’m sure they’d change a million minds.  Dry miso adds a flavorful crunch of salty texture to the very delicate fish flesh and the addition of oil and lemon creates an impeccable combination of flavors.

Albacore Sashimi

                Simple, clean, delicious albacore with smoky dark soy sauce, garlic and fresh chives—such a beautiful plate with crisp refreshing flavors.

Mussels with Spicy Garlic Sauce

                I really enjoyed these mussels. The addition of small asparagus spears gave nice contrasting texture to the mussels. The sauce was light and complimented the dish well.

Chilean Sea Bass with Vegetable Umami Sauce

                Brandon and I love Chilean Sea Bass. This was a very well-prepared piece of fish; just cooked on one side for optimal opaque tender flesh. The umami vegetable sauce was described as about 20 different minced vegetables that gave the fish a very different flavor and a little bit of texture. The red onion accompaniment was very Peruvian in flavor and well designed to accent the tender pieces of fish.

King Crab Tempura with Sweet Chile Vinegar Sauce

                King Crab is just one of my favorite things to eat, especially if it’s already shelled and ready to eat. I’ve had this king crab at Nobu Malibu and it was just as delectable as I remember it to be.  The sauce is wonderful and the heat from the thinly sliced chiles makes each bite increasingly spicy.

Lastly, dessert: banana bread pudding with custard ice cream.  I don’t really like banana, but after all that other food I took a couple of bites of ice cream and handed it over to Brandon. The bread pudding was deliciously crafted, moist and full of banana.

Overall, I had one of the best meals of my life. I loved the simple well-to-do flavors and clean execution that Matsuhisa’s been dishing out over the last couple of decades. Nobu and all the people at his fine establishments are doing something very right and I’m grateful and astounded by the amazing gifts these chefs and everyone else are able to produce and have others enjoy.

I really couldn’t have imagined a more perfect meal for my 27th birthday celebration. I also couldn’t thank my amazing boyfriend enough for making me feel so special on that day and every day. He knows me oh so well, as seen with this incredible choice of restaurant. Great choice Bistecca! Seriously though, it couldn’t have been any better. I want to thank all my friends and family for their amazing heartwarming messages and love for me on my birthday. I love you all so much and life wouldn’t be the same without you all.

 

Thank you everyone for sharing in this very special evening with me.

 

Cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

 

 

 

Valentines Day Dinner

I guess I never really understood all the hoopla about Valentine’s Day. Maybe the romantic memo missed me somewhere along the lines. My childhood memories of Valentine’s Day involved receiving some kind of yummy red cupcake from my mom and a card with a box of candies, along with a big hug and kiss, from my dad; that’s all I’ve ever needed. As I grew up and became a chef, the prospect of Valentine’s Day grew dimmer and dimmer. You develop a hatred of heart-shaped anything and the dining aspect is one of the busiest and biggest days of the year, which, of course, leads to many terrible problems and mishaps, all of which usually include someone just not getting it. But overall, a feeling of later drunken accomplishment sets in after a couple glasses of champagne. I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with that this year.

This year, like every year, I celebrate the people who I care about the most. And most of all this year, I feel a sense of caring and understanding that I hope everyone can feel for their loved ones all year around. I see Valentine’s Day as a reminder of the love that everyone can possess and the honesty that we can all share with one another over an indulgent piece of chocolate, some pretty flowers, a nice meal or a loving whisper of thanks. I hope each and every one of you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

My day was filled with sweet smells and the savory satisfaction of cooking a big meal for some very special people.

Valentine’s Day Menu

Pan Seared Chilean Seabass with Roasted Garlic, Chardonnay and Thyme Beurre Blanc
Braised Sake, Mirin and Rosso Wine Short Ribs with Broccoli Stems, Green Peppers and Roasted Oyster Mushrooms
Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Orange Cauliflower with Pepperoncinis
Roasted Candy Cane Beets with Shaved Easter Radishes, Arugula, Goat Cheese, Squaw Croutons  and Creamy Avocado Black Truffle Vinaigrette
Dark Chocolate Strawberries

One of my favorite menus. So fun and delicious!

Cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

Las Vegas: TOOL, Va Bene Caffe and Estiatorio Milos

I don’t know how to explain the magic that is TOOL live. It’s a complete experience that transcends me beyond what I think is honest and real, into the purest sense of reality without hesitation. My best friend, Virginia, and I traveled from the center of downtown Los Angeles to Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas, NV 1/15 Sunday afternoon, just in time to see our 8:00 p.m. show. Pressing our luck with time, nothing would stop us from getting to our destination to have our souls shattered open by the vast depths of the music that is TOOL. I’ve been listening to TOOL for a huge portion of my life and have seen them in concert once before in ’07 in Los Angeles. I was completely open and in the whole experience for those precious moments that never fail to show me something I’ve never felt before. There’s no way I could tell you how much this meant to me and what it’s done for my mental sanity.
Set List
Hooker With A Penis
Jambi
Stinkfist
Ticks & Leeches
Pushit
Schism (Extended Intro)
Intension
Forty-Six & 2
Lateralus
The Pot
Ænema
While in Vegas, of course we had to partake in at least one amazing meal or else it would have been a loss of a great culinary experience. I love Vegas; not for the other sin city attractions, but for the food. My first after 21 Vegas experience was the most amazing time filled with lots of brilliant food and great menu scouting all up and down the strip. My favorite part of Las Vegas is the food and the amazing ideas that come along with it. Virginia and I roamed the strip looking at all the gorgeous attractions that make up Vegas. All the glamour and glitter worked up quite an appetite.
As we walked through the Bellagio, The Cosmopolitan, and Aria, we found ourselves taking extra time in The Cosmopolitan looking at the beautiful chandelier bar and in between window shopping we decided to stop over to Va Bene Caffe for a coffee and a sweet snack.  I had a cannoli and Aranciata, which is an Italian orange beverage that I’ve loved for years now. The cannoli was a little sweeter than I normally like, but the texture of the ricotta and the slight citrus flavor in the creamy center, with a perfectly crunchy shell and chocolate dipped sides with pistachios made my mouth water–a delicious decadent snack.  After walking around taking in the vast and lavish sights that are sin city, we decided to finally stop for lunch.
 
Virginia found a teleprompter, which gave us listings for restaurants in The Cosmopolitan and we decided to check out Estiatorio Milos. Milos is a stylish and classically chic restaurant with a beautiful color palate of woodsy browns and beige tones. The architecture of the restaurant is something to be seen; the center dining room overlooks the main focal point, the open kitchen in the corner, which has a large display of fresh vegetables and fruits, then on large piles of crushed ice, is the freshest fish that you could ask for, all decoratively placed with precision. The style of food that Milos offers is the freshest fare possible, with Greek influences and Mediterranean flavors. My passion for Mediterranean flavors is an ever expanding bank of culinary knowledge. I find it fascinating, elegant, truthful and pure in so many of its forms. This was probably the highest form of elegant Greek food I’ve ever had and that in itself was an amazing experience.
We eagerly perused the menu, which was in the set of a 3-course prix fixe, where you have the choice of one, amongst a wide variety of each: appetizer, entree and dessert. Virginia is a pescatarian and there were plenty of amazing options for her to eat.  She chose the Greek Meze Plate for her appetizer, which came with three varieties of spreads, pita, kalamata olives, and cherry tomatoes. All the spreads were topped extra virgin olive oil from Greece and were very fresh and delicious.
Htipiti: Red pepper spread – a chunkier, fire-roasted red pepper flavor with bold notes of garlic and lemon
Tzatziki: cucumber and herb infused white cream  spread – completely smooth and pure white, which tasted just of cucumber and perfect seasoning
Tarama: Fish roe with caper spread – slightly fish fragrant flavor spread with salty capers
Seared scallop with a salad of orange, fennel, red onions and Greek olive oil
The scallop was seared to perfection–that still opaque center with perfect grill marks and the best seafood flavor and texture possible. A slight seasoning highlights the true flavors of the scallop in a perfect way. This dish was a simple and to the point scallop preparation with scrumptious results.
Entrée
Tuna Burger with fried zucchini and aioli
The tuna burger was not your run-of-the-mill option. The tuna was high quality and masterfully seasoned with Asian flavors such as soy sauce, ginger, and orange. The burger was topped with small ribbons of red onion and fennel with a toasted sesame seed bun. A wonderful run of textures concluded on your pallet when biting into this whole concoction.
Lavraki: Grilled Mediterranean Sea Bass
This bass was a flawlessly prepared whole fish. The seasoning was a triumph and the expertly cooked flesh of the bright flavorful fish was beyond explanation.  One bite and that kind of sigh of happiness comes over your body as you realize you have a whole plate to go. There’s something about whole fish that just makes sense; it takes the simplest idea and perfects it with capers, olive oil, and the brightness of lemon. I thought to myself, ” I could eat this my whole life”, as I finished the body of the fish, combing over the crunchy collar pieces and plucking out the succulent cheek flesh for the last bites as a savage carnivore. I found myself in the presence of collective genius.
Dessert
Walnut cake with mint sorbet
A moist brown cake with lots of walnuts, seemingly light and dense both at the same time, was placed in front of us for our enjoyment. The mint sorbet cleaned the pallet and added a refreshing element to the cake.
Yogurt Martini
Sweet, creamy yogurt topped with passion fruit preserves, offering a mouth-watering and luscious way to end a fantastic meal.
Throughout our meal, we shared sentiment and quiet moments with delicious food, not to mention phenomenal service from wait staff and kitchen staff at the top of their game at a moment’s notice. Though we were in for a late lunch, we were taken care of as if we were the first guests to arrive–with precision and grace. I’m so glad that we were able to experience this incredible meal together. Virginia is a gift in my life and I’m so blessed to be able to share these phenomenal moments with her.

Tuna Salad Sandwich with Fuji Apple, Cucumber, Red Onion and Hummus Greek Yogurt Sauce

Sometimes we just need something to eat on the go, but with our crazy lives it gets a little tough. I understand–it happens to me too–the days when I can’t get four hours in the kitchen for all the insane ideas I’d love to commit to, but just can’t. So this is something we can all enjoy, make ahead of time and devour in a moment’s notice. I love tuna; the kind that is humanely fished is best and tastes best. To me, knowing that these animals are being treated with respect as they live and die for consumption is very important. This is something that I’ve delved into more often. Being conscious about our food and the lives of the animals we consume is up to us. This is a subject I’ve learned a great deal about and try to practice in my own cooking. I know how animals go to slaughter and I respect each one as I consume them; this also goes for sea creatures. Check your west coast seafood charts here.  Food has so many politics wrapped up in it. We have to consciously consume, otherwise we won’t have these luxuries for very long. 

I love to use Nonfat Greek yogurt as a substitute for mayonnaise. It takes out the unwanted calories and gives a level of creaminess that we desire from our sandwiches, salads and dressings. 
Tuna Salad Sandwich with Fuji Apple, Cucumber, Red Onion and Hummus Greek Yogurt Sauce 
1 can tuna in water, drained 
1/2 medium Fuji apple, diced 
1/4 medium cucumber, diced 
1/2 red onion, minced 
Pinch of black pepper
1 tablespoon hummus 
1 tablespoon nonfat Greek yogurt (optional additional teaspoon for bread)
2 cups wild arugula 
4 slices whole grain bread
Mix together tuna, apple, cucumber and red onion until well incorporated. 
Add black pepper, hummus and Greek yogurt, then mix well. 
Toast bread to your liking. 
Spread tuna salad over toasted bread. 
Top with arugula and, if desired, add teaspoon yogurt to top side of bread. 
Slice and serve with the other half of the apple. 
This is simple and easy. You can make the salad ahead of time to enjoy later. You can have it as a sandwich or with sprouts and lettuce as a healthy salad. Also a little olive oil and lemon on extra arugula with this tuna salad takes out the calories from the bread, if you’re really watching your weight but healthy grains are important for everyone. You don’t have to add the hummus if your calorie cutting but I think it give it a depth of flavor that’s new and exciting instead of your run of the mill tuna.
Cheers
-Unrivaledkitch