If you've felt a strangely eerie vibe in L.A. the last few days, don't panic. It's just my mother, fresh off the plane from Florida, in town for her annual visit. Big Momma always comes with a gold card & hardy appetite so we ate out - for the interested, here's where...
Thursday - Big Momma loves Chinese so we started off towards the San Gabriel Valley. But it was raining & rush hour & the traffic was, well, you know. So we said the hell with this & got off in Chinatown. Craving seafood we settled on "Ocean Star". Started with the Special House Seafood Soup. The broth was a tad thin but flavorful, even a bit complex. The seafood which accompanied it was excellent, especially the calamari which had an amazingly tender texture & flavor. Next came a whole steamed crab with ginger & green onions. This was the best dish - sweet & juicy crab meat which was beautifully complimented by the rich sauce which somehow exuded the perfect amount of ginger flavor. Then we ordered the Seafood Clay Pot, which was a slight dissapointment. The seafood was ok, mostly cod & other white filets, some scallops, nary a piece of lobster, crab or shrimp in sight. The 3 different varieties of mushrooms in the pot were excellent but I felt the sauce was too thick & indelicate, overpowering the subtle nature of the seafood. We also had Sauteed Chinese Greens, which were fine although a bit too greasy, but all mothers like it when you eat vegetables so she was happy. All told, it was a nice meal but we could certainly have done better if we had stuck to our original plan & headed to San Gabriel.
Saturday - Big Momma loves Italian & has eaten in every worthy restaurant in LA so she was primed to try Angelini Osteria. Luckily (for us all!) she was not disappointed. We had reservations but of course had to wait a few minutes for our table. Just as they were about to seat us Danny Devito walks in & snags our table. Big Momma had a celebrity sighting to tell the girls over mah jong back home & as for me, well he's made me laugh so many times on Taxi I felt like I owed him. So me & Danny are now even. Besides, it only took another minute for them to find us a new table (which I felt was better situated than Danny's). On to the food - Sauteed Clams to start, which were plump & tasty. The broth which accompanied it was just the perfect combination of oil, garlic & seafood flavors. Best of all the dish had a grilled aroma & flavor to it which was unusual, heady, & delightful. An excellent start. Next came Primi - The Lasagna Verde is famous & with good reason. Melt in your mouth richness with just the right balance of flavors & textures. A truly beautiful dish. We also had the Trofie Alla Riveria, which was good but simple, bordering on forgettable. The very light tomato based sauce was subtle, perhaps too much so. The Trofie was doughy (as it should be), revealing the restaurant's Northern Italian influences as the pasta reminded me of an Austrian spetzel (sp?). Our Secondi was the John Dory special, which was nothing less than spectacular. The fish was tender & moist while the skin was perfectly crisp, making for an excellent textural combination. The accompanying lemon based sauce was dream-like, being neither too rich nor too thin. A wonderfully constructed dish. Desert was both the Pear Tart which was bland, very doughy & ultimately forgettable, the Apple Tart would have been a better choice. We also had the Torta Alla Strega, a chocolate cake which was very chocolatey & very very rich. A few bites were enough for me. Strangely, they served this most chocolatey of cakes with a very rich chocolate ice cream (with chocolate sauce on it as well!). Deserts aside, this is the best Italian food in L.A. - a must try!
Sunday - Big Momma is nothing if not chic & what is more LA chic than sushi? Trouble is - she won't eat raw fish. Bit of a problem so it seemed pointlessly wasteful to take her to a great (& expensive) sushi place. Such a pity! I needed a place where they have lots of cooked dishes & are used to dealing with finicky eaters - Katsu-Ya! Crab rolls seemed pretty safe, so we ordered 2 different kinds. The Baked Crab Roll was ok, a bit too bland for my taste. But the Blue Crab Roll was a delightful surprise. The crab was sweet & flaky, so much better than the last time I had it there. Spicy Sauteed Calamari seemed more interesting than it was. A disappointingly small amount of squid (in tiny little pieces), an over-abundance of green onion & a totally pedestrian brown, non-spicy, sauce made this dish a pass. The spicy Tuna w/ Crispy Rice was a winner however. It was so good, even Big Momma tried it despite the fact it was raw tuna, proclaiming "Hmmmm, it's not awful." From Big Momma, that's a rave. On the sushi end of things, the Toro was melt-in-your-mouth-like-budda excellent. The eel was your average piece of eel & the salmon was disappointingly flavorless. Katsu-Ya is what it is, decent sushi at a reasonable price in a family-friendly setting that gets you in & out quickly. A nice neighborhood joint.
Ok, this is my first review post & I've probably gone on too long. I hope it's in some small way helpful.