SUSHI EXPERIMENT AT SUSHI IKE
Over the past two years since we moved to the Los Feliz/Silver Lake area, we have slowly phased out our other regular sushi haunts in favor of Saito's. After reading Perceptor's report on Azami, I thought a change was finally in order, not because of quality, but just in the hopes of some more variety. I had to twist my SO's arm, who is madly loyal to Saito, but he eventually agreed to try Azami. I wrongly assumed the sushi bar would be no-reservatons, but upon calling at 8 PM, we learned there were no openings until 9 PM. We were famished, so decided that maybe it was time to see what all the 'hounds were praising at Sushi Ike, which is on Hollywood at Gower.
Off we went. We snagged the last two seats at the sushi bar, and the sushi chef in front of us appeared to be the main guy. I realized with a start that I had not been in this position in a long time--not knowing the lay of the land in a sushi restaurant--so we figured omakase was the way to go. Perhaps this was a mistake - ? We started with hamachi (yellowtail), and it was very good. Reminded me of Saito's. Then we were given tuna sushi (maguro), something I normally avoid. It was fine, just a little plain. Then we were given salmon sushi--it was regular atlantic salmon, and we are really not into that and prefer wild salmon. This just had a few scallions on it. Although the texture was good and indicated it was very fresh, it was completely devoid of flavor. Strangest thing ever.
Next up was albacore sushi, which was dressed with ponzu. The albacore was outstanding but I did not love his ponzu. After that, we were given a toro scallion handroll, one of my all-time favorites. However, the toro was a little too red (not pink), and you could just tell from the taste it did not have enough fat in it to give you that lovely texture I have come to expect. We were next given halibut sushi, which was dressed with that ponzu I didn't care for. It was pretty good though.
I realized halfway through that unlike what I expected to find at Azami, Sushi Ike is just like Saito's in terms of what he serves (except we are normally give snapper and spanish mackerel in lieu of tuna and salmon), whereas I was looking for something new. So it was not the best experiment from that perspective. I also like the sushi at Saito's much better. At the end of the meal, I wondered if perhaps more interesting sushi was being served to those who did not order omakase. Perhaps that was my mistake. Anyway, the sushi chef was the nicest I have ever encountered (given we had never been there), but overall, that is not enough reason for me to return. Sushi was fine, just not amazing.
PEET'S ON LARCHMONT
On Saturday morning, we decided to try the Peet's that opened a few weeks (months?) ago on Larchmont. Damn was it good. The cappuccino was perfectly prepared and the service was as friendly as could be. My only regret is that it is not in our 'hood so I cannot have it every day! One caveat: there were two baristas, one male and one female. The male made our drinks. (When I was leaving, I ordered a cappuccino to go and the female made it. It was fine, but not nearly as good as the creamy concoctions served up by the man. It's just the luck of the draw on that one.)
CREPE VINE IN PASADENA
Having reviewed Perceptor's mouthwatering photo review of Crepe Vine, a new wine bar/bistro in Old Town Pasadena, we decided to cancel our "fancy" dinner at Ortolan and eat there. I felt it was a little dangerous to try two new places in one weekend, but thought maybe it was just what we needed to do to break us out of our La Buca-Saito's-Angelini-AOC-the Hungry Cat rut. I am sad to say I may go running back to those tried-and-true places because I was 0-for-2 this weekend.
We had a reservation and were seated immediately by a friendly hostess. Our waitress was welcoming as well, and we started with a glass of Naia, a Spanish white, and a flight of French whites. The former was fine, though I did not care for two of the four wines in the flight - in fact, one of them was incredibly sweet. Ick.
As a side note, there were no cashews on the table as shown in Perceptor's review, and we (or anyone else in the restaurant) were never served bread, which we would have liked.
We started with the french onion soup and the burrata salad appetizer. The soup was the most problematic. It was not cold per se, so my SO did not send it back, but given normally french onion soup is served steaming hot, it was clear it was sitting out for a long time. Halfway through, it was barely warm. The burrata itself was amazing, but the tomatoes were unimpressive roma tomatoes, and the dish would have benefitted by some greens. The biggest problem with this was that it was oversalted - a dash would have been great but someone in the kitchen was a little heavy handed.
As our main courses, my SO ordered the moules frites and I ordered the forest mushroom crepe. The crepe was great and more importantly in light of our other dishes, it was hot. The moules frites were very tasty, but again, not hot enough. Clearly both the fries and the mussels did not arrive at our table quickly enough. The mussels in particular ended up just like the soup - barely warm halfway through. Were they brought out immediately upon being prepared, they would have been fabulous. (With these dishes, we had a glass of Tablas Creek Rouge and Hadley Pinot Noir - both pretty good).
We ended with a cinnamon crepe a la mode. I had mentioned in ordering it that I wanted vanilla ice cream (which I assumed would be the flavor anyway), but we got cinnamon ice cream. The crepe had a cinnamon sauce on it that I didn't expect or especially like - the menu said it was prepared with cinnamon, sugar and butter- when I have had that before it is just sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, not a thick sauce. It was good, just not awesome, and the cinnamon ice cream, while delicious on its own, was just too much cinnamon in combination with the crepe sauce. I think vanilla would be better.
We left with a bill of $114, and then came perhaps the worst note of the night--I had to use the bathroom and learned the only bathroom was next door in the PARKING GARAGE. It was not as bad as it could have been, but geez- you just don't expect something like that after a reasonably costly dinner.
Our waitress was nice, but a little absentee. Overall, we felt the restaurant had promise if it could get its timing down, but after we looked at the bill and realized the Naia was $12 per glass (guess we missed this on the menu) - a $12 PER BOTTLE wine, we also felt a bit bitter about that as well. So we are unlikely to return, and the Hungry Cat may make more money from us as a result!