Matsuhisa (Nobu)

>>  Monday, November 26, 2012

This is the 4th and final post in the Great Eats in Los Angeles with the Family Series. Other posts in this series include 101 Noodle Express, Pizzeria Mozza, and Cafe Hiro.

Some of my favorite "Japanese" style nigiri is not that Japanese at all.

After all, traditional Japanese sushi is really quite simple. Master sushi chefs in Japan spend years perfecting fundamental techniques (e.g. making rice, slicing fish, etc.), rather than designing new and innovative flavors. If you look at the menu served at the top sushi restaurants in Tokyo, you might be surprised to see that they all look the same.

After all, it's just the freshest fish of the day from Tsukiji Fish Market, optionally over vinegar rice, occasionally seared.
Peruvian Fish
Tiradato - Peruvian style sushi

That's where other cultures can sometimes play a role.

When Nobu Matsuhisa moved to Peru at the age of 24 to help open up a Japanese restaurant, he soon realized that many Japanese ingredients were not available down in South America. Nobu learned to improvise, making use of local Peruvian ingredients to create flavor combinations that are now imitated all throughout the world.

It's this type of "fusion" cuisine, Japanese raw fish combined with Peruvian flavors, that Nobu introduced to the US in the form of his first restaurant, Matsuhisa.

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Cafe Hiro

>>  Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hiro himself
This is the third post in the Great Eats in Los Angeles with the Family Trip Series. Other posts in this series include 101 Noodle Express and Pizzeria Mozza.

This is exactly the type of restaurant I would visit frequently if I lived nearby.

Cafe Hiro is a little, unassuming restaurant in a random strip mall in Cypress, a city about 30 minutes south of downtown Los Angeles. Chef-owner Hiro Ohiwa trained extensively in both Japan and France (at one and two Michelin starred restaurants no less!) before moving to Los Angeles, where he cooked at places like Matsuhisa and Cafe del Rey. His restaurant reflects his broad international training, and is a comment on how Japanese food has been influenced by so many cultures.

The restaurant is self proclaimed "a blend of Japanese and French, with a touch of Italian", though I would argue it's much broader than that. Here's just a random sampling of the menu: steamed shao mai (Chinese?), osso bucco (Italian), chicken and mushrooms in cream sauce (French??), spiced fries (American??), sea urchin (uni) spaghetti (Italian-Japanese) and "hamburg" steak curry (Japanese, American, and Southeast Asian??).

Most restaurants that serve such a wide variety of food are usually very, very bad. However, Cafe Hiro is able to blend together flavors from all these different cuisines flawlessly, creating fun, innovative dishes that are delightful to eat.

The best part? The prices are a steal for this quality of food.

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Pizzeria Mozza

>>  Monday, November 19, 2012

Making Pizza
This is the second post in the Great Eats in Los Angeles with the Family Trip Series. Other posts in this series include 101 Noodle Express.

It's not everyday that someone, especially someone my father's age, says, "this is the best pizza I've ever had in my life."

My father's not a huge fan of pizza. His idea of pizza comes from the Little Caesar's take-out we ate growing up (buy one, get another one for an extra $4!), and the frozen pizzas my mom periodically will buy and heat up at home.

He's an easy-going guy, however, and did not complain one bit when I told the family we were going to a pizza restaurant for lunch (yes, surprise, surprise, they all put me in charge of planning our meals during this trip).

This meal was a revelation for him (and me too!). The pizza at Pizzeria Mozza is incredible. Even though I've had a lot more really, really good pizza, I'm inclined to say it also ranks among the best pizza I've ever had.

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101 Noodle Express

>>  Thursday, November 15, 2012

Beef roll
This is the first post in the Los Angeles Family Trip Series

The greater Los Angeles area is really, really big.

Unlike here in Boston, where we can drive an hour north or south and essentially end up in another state, LA seems to sprawl on and on forever. In fact, people who live in Orange County think that Los Angeles city proper is quite a trek away; and similarly, places in the valley feel really, really far away from the oceanside cities.

I got my first taste of this when we visited LA as tourists.

As tourists, we aimed to hit many places in the general LA area, from the Getty Museum (sort of west) to the Huntington Library (pretty far east) and Orange County (to visit Bryan's family). We soon realized that, not only is the land huge, traffic is really, really bad. You have to really plan your days well and allot plenty of time to travel between destinations.
On the third day of our trip, we visited the Huntington Library (gorgeous place, by the way - you get to see one of the few original Gutenberg Bibles, as well as some of the most beautiful gardens I've ever seen). By around 2PM we were famished and headed over to Din Tai Fung for lunch.

Because traffic would become bad pretty soon, we decided it was better to stay out in the San Gabriel Valley area than to try to head back to Bel Air, where we were staying.

The San Gabriel Valley is really known for its Chinese food. It was hard to pick just one place for dinner. Did we want world-famous dim sum? Or maybe hand-pulled noodles? Or family-owned Taiwanese restaurants?

Bryan voted for noodles. After some research on our phones (while hanging out inside an Asian supermarket!), we settled upon 101 Noodle Express, a place famous for its beef roll and hand-torn noodles.

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Great Eats in Los Angeles with the Family

>>  Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This is most definitely not the first time Los Angeles has been featured on this blog. After all, Bryan grew up in Orange County, and every Christmas, we go back to the area to visit family, see friends, and enjoy the great weather and food. We've gone to Disneyland countless times, and I can't even tell you how many times I've gone to Din Tai Fung or South Coast Plaza Mall.

However, I never visited LA as a true tourist. Bryan's family lives in Orange County, and thus we typically stay around that area during the holidays. If we do go to LA, it's usually to see a specific friend or family member, not really to see the city.

So this past summer, I finally had a chance to visit LA as a proper tourist with my family. Yep, all six of us - my mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, Bryan, and I - met in LA and, over a period of four days, visited some of the most famous sites in the city.

Not surprisingly, I was put in charge of the food.

We definitely enjoyed a great variety of places - from famous, known classics to off-the-beaten-path delightful finds. Here's a sneak preview of where we went, with posts to follow!

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Food Photogaphy & Styling Workshop at BAASIC

>>  Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What a whirlwind weekend!

On Saturday I hopped across the river to Boston University to give a food photography workshop at BAASIC 2012, an annual conference put on by the Boston Asian American Student Intercollegiate Coalition (BAASIC).  I was thrilled to meet people from so many different schools all over, such as West Point, the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy, Northeastern, Clark, Simmons, Tufts, and more!

I spent about 30 minutes giving an educational presentation about basic food photography techniques. For a summary of the talk, check out my post on ITASA at Georgia Tech, where I gave a very similar presentation.

Then, I put them to work!
Untitled We took a very difficult-to-style dish, Taiwanese meat sauce over rice, and tried our best to make it look as pretty as possible.

Check out their creations after the jump, and vote on facebook for your favorite!

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>>  Saturday, November 10, 2012

My friend Peter is a huge wine enthusiast.

Although he lives in a two-bedroom condo, his two ceiling-high wine "caves" occupy a bulk of his kitchen area. He's on multiple mailing lists from the city's best wine vendors, and he's always seeking out the best wine deals in the city.

Recently, he couldn't stop raving about Troquet. More specifically, the wine selection and, most importantly, the wine prices at Troquet.

It's like a little "best-kept secret" of Boston.

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Behind the Scenes - the filming of Kitchen Nightmares Relaunch Night

>>  Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Some of you may know that I made a brief "cameo" on Kitchen Nightmares on the first episode of the season when Gordon Ramsey came to Boston to "fix" La Galleria 33 in the North End. We weren't allowed to talk about our experiences until the week of the airing of the show. Now that the show has aired, I will share with you my actual experience that night.

It was early May, 2012. I had just won Saveur's "Best Food Blog Award" for Restaurant/Dining. Soon after, I received an interesting email from one of the producers at FOX.

"Would you be interested in dining on camera for this episode, and giving us your thoughts on the food/changes as Chef Ramsay's surprise guest?"

Surprise guest? Really??

I was intrigued, but also a bit anxious. I had searched around on the internet, and saw that another food blogger from Rhode Island had gotten criticized quite a bit by the public after they featured her heavily on one of the shows.

Nevertheless, I agreed and asked three friends to join me (Bryan was away on business at the time).

The moment we arrived, we knew this would be no ordinary dinner.

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O Ya

>>  Thursday, November 01, 2012

UntitledThere are very few restaurants that have mastered the combination of exquisite artistry, extreme attention to detail, and stunning flavor combinations. There are even fewer restaurants who are able to create dishes that are "transcendent" - dishes with flavors so interesting, complex, and mind-boggling, they delight and surprise you to no end. These are flavors that stick with you forever; flavors you still taste in your mind years later.

A few more recent memories come to my mind, such as the consomme at Le Bernardin, the cherry gazpacho at Joel Robuchon, or the black truffle xiao long baos at Din Tai Fung in China. By and large, however, those tastes are rarely encountered at home.

But not never.
Near South Station down a dark alley is nondescript wooden door. If you squint and look really hard, you'll see a tiny sign way up high that says O Ya.

Welcome to one of Boston's gems, O Ya. You could call O Ya a Japanese restaurant, but it's really much more than that. Chef-owner Tim Cushman, who trained under Nobu Matsuhisa before moving to Boston, uses basic Japanese cuisine as a canvas on which to experiment with flavors from all over the world.

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you can contact me at: jen[at]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com
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