Saturday, August 26, 2006

Helms Bakery Complex, Culver City

It's really hard to try to please a whole bunch of people all at once, food wise. My parents and brother were in town, and I wanted them to meet Owen's dad and for all of us to have a meal all-together. Owen's dad and I mused about where to go (so many factors - something decent, not too expensive, close proximity.) We chose Beacon, as I've always wanted to try their food, and this was a good as time as any to give it a shot.

We were all seated at a TINY table in a noisy corner of the restaurant - a place where when people would talk, it would echo loudly in the lower ceiling-ed area, thus having to make you talk louder just to hear each other - adding to the noise. That was frustrating, but once the restaurant started getting a little less busy, it was fine. Owen tried the lychee sake - he thought it was great. I had the green tea lemonade, which was very refreshing. We ordered and pretty fairly quickly, the food started arriving. This is the Kaki Fry - "Crispy Oysters, Lettuce Cups, Yuzu-Tartar Sauce". There were 3 per order, so we ordered 2 orders to accomidate everyone at the table. These were delicious, nicely fried with rich flavor. I liked the use of the lettuce cup, I used to have the Chinese lettuce wraps all the time when I was at home, and this was a nice twist. A perfect little appetizer, and I wish I could have downed 2 more of these. Next up were chicken wings - in a Soy-Ginger Glaze. These were okay - wings are wings, really. The glaze was good and definitely went along with the theme of an "asian cafe", but I can't say that this was extraordinary. Teba-saki from Furaibo are more delicious to me, in my opinion.
Now to the goods! Owen and Owen's dad got the grilled organic chicken - "Thai-Marinated, with Green Papaya-Mango Salad." I traded a piece of my food for a piece of his chicken. It was very juicy, flavorful and tender, flavored well with the "thai marinade" (what that entailed, I can't say...) I didn't try the mango salad part, but by the looks of it, it was more daikon radish than mango. Nothing was wasted though, as both plates were clean. This is mom's dish of duck confit. It contained the duck, "Fingerling Potatoes, Frisee, Grapes, Pinenuts Plum-Ginger Glaze". My mom was absolutely enamored by this dish. She kept saying, "mmm, mmm, duck, so good..." A VERY good sign in my opinion. She gave me a piece of this, and I agree - rich, great texture, melts in your mouth. My dad and I got the grilled hanger steak , with "scallion-ginger Potato Salad, Wasabi Relish". I think this was a great example of what "asian fusion" is - a staple of American cooking (steak) grilled and flavored in a chinese style glaze, with wasabi as garnish. Everything on this dish was excellent. The potato salad, which to me could have been hit or miss was great. Not too mayonaise-y, a good mixture. It paired very well with the steak. The wasabi relish was a kick in the mouth, but I love wasabi (again, I can eat it like ice cream) so it was a welcome and surprising garish, as I was not expecting it.
My brother went out on a limb and got the Maryland soft shell crab, with "Daikon-Pea Shoot Salad, Tomato-Yuzu Salsa and Ancho Chili Aioli." I tried a piece of his soft shell crab, and it was AMAZING. Light, fried perfectly and the hot crab insides oozed deliciousness. They gave him a good amount of crab - I think two medium ones, cut in half. I didn't try the sauce but he lapped it up. Mom also got a side of Stirfried Baby Bok Choy with Roasted Shitakes. Pretty good addition to the rest of the meal - the shitakes were good and meaty.

Of course we had to try dessert.
Owen and Owen's dad shared a trio of creme brulee - Coconut, Azuki and Black Sesame. I tried a taste of each and everything tasted top notch. The coconut was very strongly flavored, and didn't hit you until right after you swallowed a small bite. The Azuki (red beans) was heavily spotted with many red beans, this was good but my least favorite of the 3. Black sesame was great, it reminded me of a creamier version of the inside of one of those black sesame mochi things that we'd get from dimsum. It was a great twist on dessert!The rest of us shared a Beacon “RING DING” - Chocolate Cake, White Chocolate Filling and Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. This was a great union of vanilla and chocolate. The chocolate wasn't too overwhelming, the whole dessert was a balance of harmony between the two contrasting flavors. The TINY scoop of chocolate chip ice cream at first made me feel that it was insufficient, but really it was the perfect amount. Also the ice cream was super frozen, which I enjoyed (I don't love melted ice cream.) The inside of the cake was melty white chocolate. I usually don't care for white chocolate but that little bit made this dessert rise above other chocolate lava cakes I've had, because it was such a contrast to the chocolate cakey outside.

We all left happy and fed, and we all cleaned our plates (I think if no one was looking I would have LICKED the plates) Also, I have to say, for this kind of food, it is very reasonably priced. Eat here and don't regret it!

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