Family Reunion

 

 

 

D.O.C.G

Cosmopolitan

3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South

(702) 698-7000

$$$

Once in a while, I’m reminded of the serious perks that come with my job. Sometimes you just have to pinch yourself and realize that the bottles of Veuve, the italian leather wristlets and the fabulous comped dinners are NOT something of the norm.  Makes the endless hours on the Blackberry, the back to back conference calls and the putting out the proverbial fires worth it…alright, almost.

But, the best perks, are the ones that are unexpected…the ones that are extended to you out of the goodness of someone’s heart…simply because they want to invite you to THEIR dinner table…because they view you as FAMILY.

After a long 5+ days in this little known place called VEGAS, I was exhausted…dirty…felt worn down and had the imprint of my Blackberry forever pressed into the skin of my palm.  My client and I had been looking forward to the promise of a free drink & app graciously extended to us all day…a cocktail and a cheese platter, what could be better?

That’s when we met the family over at D.O.C.G, the Scott Conant creation connected to his world-renown Scarpetta, located in the Cosmopolitan hotel. 

This rustic pizza and wine bar, famously named after the Italian wine origin, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantitaenvelopes you with a warm sense of “coming home” with the dim reddish-yellow exposed lighting and the thick wooden benches & tables.

Couples leaned in close over bottles of their Italian reds…the garish sequined wrapped groups of young twenty-somethings shared gourmet truffle pizzas and laughed over the bottles they had spilled & men they had charmed the night before…

We take our place at the bar and are instantly greeted by a friendly (and clearly Italian) manager who immediately takes our hands (er, ENGULFS our hands)in his  and genuinely thanks us for coming to experience the place he fondly calls “home”.  The look of pride washes over his face as we gush over the ambiance, the bubbly prossecco and the smells of pesto and truffle oil wafting from the exposed brick pizza oven at the back of the restaurant. 

Still holding our hands, and still beaming, he invites us back to the kitchen where we meet the head chef, (um, HELLO HANDSOME), and we proceed to observe the thick pasta being prepared and cut by hand, the fresh vegetables being sliced and seasoned, the finalized dishes being observed and perfected by each chef…It was a well-oiled machine but there was nothing robotic about it.  Each chef was joking with each other, smiling and clearly proud of each dish they placed in front of the head chef for inspection.

We make our way over to Scarpetta, the romantic dining experience side, with ceiling to floor windows overlooking the fountains of the Bellagio.  At this time, two more owners have joined us…each chiming in with their own stories of previous celeb diners and famous parties.  We make our way over to the Chef’s table.  A private room overlooking the fountains and dubbed the “second best seat in Vegas”, falling shortly behind the corner table at the Paris Eiffel tower.

A little secret–the glass is one way overlooking the kitchen…which means you can observe the chefs prepare your dinner but they can’t see you…UNLESS, you happen to test this little theory and press your unmentionables against the glass.  If you see a chef smirk, now you know why…

At this time my client and I were ITCHING to try some of the famous dishes…and, as a “welcome to the family”….our gorgeous (er, GRACIOUS) chef laid out a spectacular feast with all of the highlights from both the D.O.C.G and Scarpetta menus.

WARNING: Amateur photos below…

We started with an expansive charcuterie platter with some of the finest meats and cheeses all imported from a particular New York cheese cellar (me? Name drop?).  Before we could even blink, the platter was whisked away and before us was placed two bacon-wrapped giant prawns sprawled out on firm salty lentils which had absorbed the smokiness of the bacon.

And the balls…no, not garlic knots (see my post about C&O Trattoria)…but SAUSAGE STUFFED GREEN OLIVES LIGHT BATTERED AND SERVED IN A MINI SKILLET.  Blasphemy, I know, but Lord please forgive me.

We held on to those for dear life as our 3rd course was presented…grilled octopus in a light broth and their famous Scialatielli Pasta “arrabbiata” with succulent chunks of fresh lobster & shrimp.  We then switched to a lighter pink prossecco, slightly unzipped the backs of our body-con dresses

(Vegas’ finest) and thought we were defeated…And that is when they rolled out the white truffle pizza with a coddled egg that is broken and spread before us at the table.  Appropriately entitled the “D.O.C.G. Pizza” this transformed my opinion of pizza…seriously.  It was a masterpiece, a feast, a DELICACY.  I was sold.

I couldn’t end this post without a little shout-out to the head chef’s personal creation that we were able to test & give feedback before it’s officially added to the menu.  If he doesn’t add this dish immediately, then I’m personally wringing his neck.  Squid ink pasta with finger-size pieces of fresh king crab. I…mean…heaven. If you haven’t had a squid ink dish before, or are squeamish by the blackish color, then this is the dish to break in your palate.

We hugged, we kissed, we never stopped embracing each other…our new found family brought together over amazing food and wine.

They had opened their doors and gave us a first hand experience of joining the D.O.C.G family.  With one last SALUTE over a sweet walnut port for dessert they sent us off with a Ciao and a kiss.

I can’t wait until the next family reunion. 

CIAO BELLA!

-Dine & Dish LA

Jay-Walkin’…

 

Susan Feniger’s STREET

742 N. Highland

Los Angeles, 90038

323-203-0500

$$

I’m what my friends call the ‘perpetual monogamous’.  Not necessarily just when it comes to men, although I am notoriously known to cling on a few months too long to the usual actor (er, bartender) with the really great set of abs.  BUT, it would be very fair to say that I’m adverse to change.  If something works, I’ll wear it out till it’s barely ticking/driving/fitting…well, you get the point.

So I took a chance.

Yes, yours truly, said YES to a date with an EMPLOYED, clean-cut, COLLEGE EDUCATED, East-Coaster with an adventurous taste for food & amazing dimples. I felt like a kid bringing home a paper with a bright red ‘A+’ at the top.  I called my friends, my mom, a few clients…and all nodded with acknowledgment that this gal was growin’ up.

He called. He made plans. He made witty banter about a few jokes we shared the night we met. AND, he suggested an incredible gem of a restaurant cultivated by the quirky Food Network chef Susan Feniger; STREET.

CONTACT THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES– I have found a gentleman…in Los Angeles.  I immediately pictured our monogrammed dinner plates.  Ok, that was a little much…everyone knows that I’m more of a monogrammed towel person. Obviously.

We pull up to the trendy wooden facade with the bright neon words ‘Street’ on the front. The trendiness continues as we walk inside and we are met by a friendly bartender with an array of fresh fruit & herbs for the ever so trendy concoctions. We are escorted immediately to our table on the patio amidst several other “first-daters” and are pleasantly surprised that they are very…non…trendy?  No tiny bandaged cocktail dresses, no extreme V-necked button downs…(yes, I just judged you, deal with it).

Tiny tables, very little decor besides the art-deco like stick figure drawings on the walls…it’s clear the focus here is the food.  Oh, and my increasingly cute date who I’ve just discovered shares the same love of skiing.

 

FINE–on to the food:

Classic tapas-style plates, all in the intricately complex flavor that Feniger  is so known for on TV.  But, we quickly learn that three dishes…ah hem…four…was quite enough even for two hefty (for lack of a better word) foodies. Two fully stuffed pork shoulder enchiladas smothered in corn masa.  Four thickly cut pieces of shrimp lumpia in a crunchy Filipino-style roll with a spicy (yet oh hello, so sweet) chili sauce.  A full-size helping of mushroom ravioli with fried chickpeas and a small drizzle of mint yogurt sauce.

I’m going to admit, before I continue and describe the last dish we over-indulged on, that I’ve never been a fan of mint yogurt sauce. Something about the bland, luke-warm, texture that your eyes really want to be ice-cream but it’s really more like putrid yogurt…I’m painting a great picture here, eh?  But Feniger mastered this sauce with a *hint* of mint and the creamy texture worked in perfectly with the coarsely cut mushroom.  It was perfection.  So, definitely don’t let this scare you away.

We then let out deep sigh, pick up our forks, and in between the easy-flowing conversation about family and our interests, we start in on the Singapore street noodles.  Now I’ve never been to Singapore, but if these noodles are considered their version of our LA taco trucks, then call my travel agent because I’m already on the way to the airport.  The dish was spicy with the madras curry sauce with stringy and yet full of flavor noodles.  Thick chunks of rock shrimp and marinated pork loin made this more of a delicacy then a pasta dish. Oh, and then it was stir-fried to perfection.

And, hello dimples.

As he politely drove me home, small hug goodnight, and the follow-up text that he would like to see me again, it was clear that both of us were pleased by our choices.  Not only of the dinner, but of the chance we both took to step out of our comfort zones and exchange numbers over a few beers too many the weekend before.

Change is good.  I immediately went out and purchased a new ottoman for my apartment.  Thinking about tackling replacing my worn-in futon with the hole in the right seat.

Nah, I think I’ll keep it just a little longer…it’s what they call ‘character’ right?

 

-Dine & Dish LA

 

 

Published in: on January 26, 2012 at 6:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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No Mozza…

Osteria Mozza

6602 Melrose Avenue

Los Angeles, 90038

(323) 297-0100

$$$$

A wise woman once said, “Do not break your pocketbook for a dinner that is then followed by a trip to In & Out burger”.  Okay, I just made that up.  But there’s nothing like walking out of an uber-hyped, friend sworn-about, critic-favorited restaurant feeling so incredibly let down that only ‘Animal Style’ fries can cheer you up.

Situation: Parents are coming in to town and my best girlfriend has been raving about and guilt-tripping me into trying Osteria Mozza.  Kill two birds with one stone?  Yes please. Introduce my parents to my incredibly squared away, well-dressed friend (so that I can prove to them that I’m finally surrounding myself with good people)?  Sold. Sealed with a kiss.

After finally scoring a reservation (at 6:45pm, the only time available), we show up starving and full of anticipation.  The place was packed, but not one table had a plate of food.  (Insert warning bell here).  We are seated in a quaint four-top in the far corner–dark & heavy wooden fixtures, wine adorned walls, very “Italian couture”.

Sipping our $15 glasses of Chardonnay and Malbec (the least expensive item on the menu), we pour over the options and are well…lost in translation?  Everything is in Italian…Or, if not in a foreign language, the items are ones I had never heard of before.  I felt very Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” describing her new Versace dress, and well, I looked about that same shade of rouge as I had to be handheld through the menu. 

After finally settling on the Goat Cheese Ravioli, the Squid Ink Chitarri Freddi and the Grilled Leg of Lamb, we were immediately met by a scowl from our server.  We had only ordered from the Primi portion of the menu, apparently a no-no at Mozza. We look around at other tables for a little help to see what else we should order and the other guests are still sipping solemnly on wine and cocktails.  We stand our ground and look around sheepishly as our server stomps off shaking her head.  We weren’t exactly being cheap here–our choices still ranged in the $25-$30 range for a PRIMI course (insert second warning bell here).

Conclusion: The Lamb was salty, the Ravioli was uneventful (and TINY), the Squid Ink Chitarri Freddi was tasteless (yes, a dish with squid ink was TASTELESS!  Is that even possible?).  All wit escapes me to pursue snarky anecdotes for the above…I was, well, disappointed?  Speechless? We looked over the Secondi part of the menu for something to save this dinner, a bit of hope in a Tagliata…but we hung our heads with defeat.

Walking out I took another glance at the other tables.  I needed SOME answer as to why this place was packed, why it was nearly impossible to score a reservation, WHY did Food & Wine magazine give this restaurant such praise…and ah, the answer lied in a small round white ball smothered in honey and nuts.  

The Mozzarella…to which a whole section of the menu was dedicated.

 

 

 

 

 

Another was smothered in caviar and pine nuts…and another was marinated in pesto and carmelized shallots.  It was a typical case of “poor ordering”.

 

 

 

Hmm…I think I’ll take my ‘Animal Style’ fries with grilled onions, please.

-Dine & Dish LA

Published in: on January 9, 2012 at 1:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Over the River…

The Ivy

113 N Robertson Blvd
Los Angeles,  90048

(310) 274-8303

$$$$

It’s coming up on the weekend and as you dream at your desk of all the fabulous beach days and the happy hours you can now partake in, your parents call.  They are coming in to town and they want to have the grand tour of how their “baby girl” is doing in the big bad city of Los Angeles.

What to do?  You quickly scan your brain (and the internet) for the best/appropriate places to take your parents to eat.  What says “oh hey, yes I can survive on my own thank you very much” but yet, “I wanted to save this very special (and slightly out of my reach) place just for you”?

The Ivy.  The white picket fenced cottage-like restaurant nestled between the finest of Beverly Hills shops.  Grandma’s house meets 90210.  Women in their business suits enjoying dinner on their own dime, men in their ties and slightly ruffled hair as a result from a long day at work; each specimen wearing that proud look of “independence”.

Welcome home.

I couldn’t take credit for this one.  My mom had actually researched it and came knocking on my door clutching a handful of reviews as if to convince me to go to dinner at this well-known affable restaurant.  Little did she know that she had me at “Robertson Blvd”.

Sterling silver heavy utensils, fresh flowers at every table, and the country-french decor is a nice change to the every day sterile and modern Hollywood restaurant.  We settled into the floral upholstered chairs and are enveloped by the smell of, wait a minute, is that fried chicken?  Ah yes, comfort food.

We asked for an extra candle so we could scour over the menu to find the source of that delectable scent in the two room cottage (apparently they were aiming for mood lighting but we found ourselves quite blind) and discovered the source; juicy selected cut of prime rib paired with creamy gnocchi and leaks. Or, perhaps it was the the quarter cut halibut steak seated happily in a bed of baby steamed broccoli and sliced portobello mushroom.

We order both, pick off each other’s plates, and still have enough for tomorrow’s meal (of course throwing in what was left of the thickly sliced italian bread from the bread basket…our family clears our plates).  I walk out feeling slightly giddy with salt and cream.  It was very overpriced, but can you really put dollar sign on nostalgia and family?

Until we eat again,

Dine & Dish LA

Published in: on August 8, 2011 at 6:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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A New Kind of O

Red O

8155 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 655-5009

Price: $$$

I’m always a little hesitant when someone rants and raves about a “new” hip restaurant, especially in LA.

Every day there’s a new restaurant opening…a new menu or hot dish to try…but I truly believe that it takes at least a year for a restaurant to really settle into its own and perfect their menu, their service, and their atmosphere.

Winner of “Top Chef Masters”, Rick Bayless brought his award-winning Mexican cuisine from Chicago to LA in August of 2010.  The sleek dark wood exterior marked by the single large “O” exuded an elegance and exclusiveness that I’ve grown to appreciate in a late-night dining experience.  A doorman was posted outside the door, very much like the Hollywood area clubs, and we were met again by another “bouncer” and host upon our entry.  Needless to say, I wouldn’t be surprised if they asked me for my passport upon entry.  Only in LA…

The host took her time to search for my reservation and the bouncer stood ready to pounce.  As I silently cursed my designer knockoff flats and last season sweater, the host sighed in defeat as she found our name on the list (I whispered “down boy” to the bouncer who had a look of disappointment as our host led us to our table).

For such an irritating entry, the inside of Red O was quite cozy and accommodating.  The outdoor-indoor restaurant consists our outdoor couches and heat lamps and then a more formal dining experience inside. I looked around…so THIS is where the suited up business men came to observe the models of LA in their natural habitat.  I felt underdressed…and strangly short even though I stand at 5’10”.  I wrapped my Burberry scarf and whipped out my Armani lip gloss, holding both around me as a shield.  It must have worked as I saw our server push her way through the surrounding tables to take our order.

I wish I had a way to wipe away the pretentious exterior of Red O because the food (and oh…that food…) was something that I would recommend to anyone and everyone who hasn’t already experienced it.

It’s simple, delicious, non-greasy gourmet Mexican food.  Vegetables cut thick and grilled to perfection.  His award-winning Mole & these fantastic dishes called “Cazuelas” which were skillets of deliciousness served with a side of soft tacos.  The spinach Cazuela, with oyster sauce and roasted shiitake mushrooms…I was this close to licking the skillet clean.

I have never seen a wider selection of Ceviches and Escabeches; with everything from Albacore and Sea Scallops, to a Mushroom Escabeche in a sherry vinegar.

If you’re expecting your run of the mill “have some more tortilla chips” Mexican restaurant, then Red O is definitely not for you.  Just make sure to don your designer digs and cash your paycheck ahead of time…

But trust me, it’s worth it.

-Dine & Dish LA

Published in: on February 22, 2011 at 2:23 am  Comments (1)  
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You Caught Me

Neptune’s Net

42505 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265
(310) 457-3095
Price: $

I wouldn’t ever qualify myself as a food SNOB, per say…but I’ll admit that I was pretty close to putting my foot down as we pulled into the gravel parking lot of the biker bar/wooden shack the locals calls Neptune’s Net

 I know what good seafood is ladies & gents…I know the pleasure of peeling the perfectly cooked prawn or cracking the freshest steamed crab.  So when my father suggested we try this seafood joint (yes, the only way I could really describe it would be “joint”) I felt my nose rise a little to the heavens.  I obliged, always giving a seafood restaurant the benefit of the doubt, and squeezed my way through the Harleys and Hondas to make my way into the cafeteria style line. Specials were scribbled on the chalk board above the cash register, each one ending in “box” or “platter”.   As I prepared my stomach for the worst, the steamed shrimp po’boy caught my eye and my hopes were immediately raised.

Literally two minutes later my number was called and we settled down on one of the wooden benches overlooking the cliffs stretching along the ocean.  I took a bite.  I was in heaven.  Fresh shrimp poured out of each end of the sandwich with the perfect concoction that could only be homemade cocktail sauce and tartar sauce combined.  The biggest surprise?  There was not one speck of grease in my cardboard box.  I looked around thinking that I had discovered something special but saw many other people (quite possibly the Hell’s Angels members circa 1992) with the same look on their faces.  Five bucks for this sandwich, spilling over with fresh shrimp?  The crab cake platter also caught my eye…two crab cakes a little bigger than my fist…visible chunks of crab meat sans breading…I was tempted to give in to round two, but was instantly reminded by my father that he had other plans for that day rather than eating (sacrilegious if you ask me!).

So for those who are in the same boat as me who feel they have YET to find a decent seafood “joint” on the west coast (for less than your monthly pay check), this place is for you.   Just remember to brush up on your gear head trivia and leave your LA snobbery in your BMW.

-Dine & Dish LA

Published in: on February 15, 2011 at 12:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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