Monday, February 26, 2007

Ford's Filling Station
9531 Culver Blvd (Cross Street: Washington Boulevard)
Culver City, CA 90232

Ford's Filling station, right next to Tender Greens (a place I frequent as often as I can) has been quite a mystery to me. The place fills up with people until they filter out the door. The space is tiny. But I was told they have good food (and who passes up a recommendation? Not me...) so I called up to get a reservation.

When I sat down at my table, I was squished in a cluster of tables very close to one another. Space is definitely a commodity here. There's hardly enough room for me to scoot my chair out to get up. The lighting is dark, and since I was in a center table, I felt like all the people sitting on the side were watching me. (Then again they had nothing else to look at, as they were situated in a position as if they were watching a movie...of the center tables, which I was the star of!!)

But enough griping about the scene. Let's get to the food.
We ordered a shrimp, white bean and microgreens flatbread. This was delicious - crispy thin layer of bread with decent sized shrimp perched on top. The microgreens were fresh, the bean paste mash on the bottom was flavored well. I would get this again.
This was Jared's split pea soup. I tried a little bit - not bad, but split pea soup is not my thing. It was thick and had a pleasant green color (as far as I could tell with the dim lighting). Jared's comment was, "well, it's basically like every other pea soup I've had before". So I guess nothing special.
I got the burger. Ooo, this is a delicious burger, with the maytag blue cheese bits, grilled onions, meat dripping itself into the bun, roma tomatoes with the skins peeled off. Thumbs up from me. Also, it came with huge onion rings - heavily battered.
This was Brian's flattened chicken. He really enjoyed it, said the chicken was moist with good flavor, and basically cleaned his plate except for the potatoes. Because he's afraid of carbs. So I gladly dug in and had me a few fork-fulls of some mash. A little sweeter than I like mashed potatoes to be, but they were completely edible. Jared's Fry bucket, aka. Fish and chips. This was not what he expected. It wasn't just chips (i.e. fried potatoes) it was fried...mishmash of veggies. One of the onion rings like on my plate, I think there was a few asparagus spears in was definitely more like a tempura platter. He noted that he didn't feel bloated and greasy after eating most of this, (how one usually feels after eating only fried food) but given the chance he would not order this again.

All in all Ford's Filling Station is a treat, but ambience is a little lacking in my opinion. I need space to stretch!!

I also had been here for lunch. So here's clearer pictures of the food (there was actual LIGHT!)
Here's that beautiful burger. And those rings! Can't beat em!Here's a shrimp po-boy. I felt that the shrimps were a little bit small (like, I was eating SHRIMP BABIES omg) but not a bad sandwich. I liked the toasted roll and the fingerling potato salad, which was nicely coated with mustard seeds and dijon.

I say go for lunch. It's a lot calmer during the day, as there isn't a ton of people vying for a drink from the bar, and I can actually see what I'm eating.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Penguin Fish and Chips
5952 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035

If you know me, you know I enjoy a good fry bucket every once and awhile. (My definition of a "fry bucket", is when 85% of your meal is completely fried...give or take 10% for sides) Penguin fits the bill for a day when all you want to do is grease your insides with fried goodness.

When I first heard the name of this place, I instantly thought...frozen yogurt? Then it was explained to me that it was a fish place...I then thought...Why on earth would someone name their restaurant Penguin?! Do they serve penguin? I mean, if they serve fish, and the place is named "Penguin" because Penguins eat fish (I'm just trying to go through their thought process...), why don't I see more places named, "Chinese middle aged American person", or "Middle Class Italian Guy"? You just don't see that (although it'd be a great experiment...heck, I'd eat at Chinese Middle Aged American Person restaurant!)

Okay, so enough making fun of the name. Penguin is located on a small mini mall shopping center, with a 7-11. I never would have guessed that it would have anything decent in it. I was wrong.
First off, they have their own fish refrigerator, fishmonger style. That, to me, is the ultimate sign of quality. They're grabbing the fresh fish pieces to throw in the fryer right after you place your order! They're not hiding the fish in the back, grabbing whatever slab of fish that's about to go bad - they're confident enough to show you exactly what their fish looks like and where they're taking it from. Awesome.

They have TONS of choices in fish - fillet sole, trout, sand dabs, salmon, catfish, perch...that's honestly not even all the choices they have.

Hands down, their lunch prices are spectacular. For a meager $6.79, with tax, (for most of the cuts of fish - shrimp and orange roughy is more expensive) you get 3 pieces of fish, a mess of crinkle cut fries, 2 pieces of hushpuppies and a choice of cole slaw, potato salad or macaroni salad.
Okay, honestly, it's hard to tell what fish this is, as fried fish pieces look identical after being dunked in batter and frying it in hot oil. But I think this is Owen's salmon. Look at those huge pieces, nestled in the mountain of fries....
I THINK this was Victor's Red Snapper. Same deal. Just red snapper.
And I THINK this was my orange roughy. I don't think I had ever tried orange roughy before, and this was a good experience with it...tender white fish. Very good. Also, there were hushpuppies hidden somewhere on this platter. These are the most flavorful hushpuppies I have ever had. And I've had Honey's Kettle's hushpuppies. These are, in fact, better. Here's a close up on a serving of cole slaw. Since cole slaw is my enemy, I have no comment on it. However, Owen seemed to like it. I had the potato salad, which was ok. It was nice to have this to offset all the fried items I was ingesting, but I don't think the quality of the potato salad was anything special - I'd choose potato salad from Ralph's or Vons before choosing this potato salad (Ralph's or Vons being the kind of potato salad that is very acceptable but not something that one craves or desires unless someone gets it for a potluck or a picnic).

Okay, so the fried-goodness is not in the same category as Honey's Kettle. This is more in the Louisiana style category of fried food, and in this division, Penguin wins. I definitely can't go here more than once every month or so, but this place is a definite must try for anyone who hasn't gone...penguin or not!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

C&O Trattoria
31 Washington Boulevard
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
Say what? C&O's for breakfast?!

Yes! It's true! They serve breakfast! I found out about half a year ago myself...I couldn't believe it when the words "breakfast" and "C&O's" were put together in the same sentence. Luckily, I was shown the error of my assumption. I finally went back, during breakfast time, to do a proper rundown.

First off, C&O's Trattoria is extremely crowded during dinnertime, and forces you to valet park your car, which is the worst, because valet parking near the beach is 6 bucks, that's not including tip. During the earlier morning hours, there's a chance you can grab one of the metered parking spots in front of the restaurant and spend about a dollar in change to park your car. Also, during breakfast at C&O's, you can sit in the coveted open air patio spots, although it might be a little chilly on a cold morning (remedied by heat lamps, which you can request for someone to turn on.)

Breakfast at C&O's is not like dinner at C&O's...where they have the regular servings and "gargantuan" servings. Breakfast is a lot more normal, with manageable servings. Garlic rolls, which are one of my favorite things here, are only served after noon. Blast. But, there are plenty of other things to fill the void...
Owen got the special: Apple Crepes with nuts and marscapone cheese. It came with 2 eggs (over easy) and choice of meat (2 slices of bacon was his choice.) I have to say, the apple crepes were some of the best I've had- thin delicate crispy on the edges but softer near the middle crepes, filled with fresh, thick apple pie-like filling, topped off with that delicate slightly sweet and creamy marscapone cheese and a few crunches of crumbled nuts. So good. This combo was a great "sweet and salty" combination, as eggs and bacon aren't usually included in sweet dishes. (i.e. ever wanted some french toast, but not like, ONLY french toast? Once they set a huge plate of french toast and nothing else in front of you, and you go, oh crap, now I have to eat all this french toast. Kinda like a burger without fries....well I digress. Back to the food.)
Here's my monstrous plate of C&O's version of an egg benedict. Now, I don't usually order eggs benedict, (actually, almost never) but this time, I felt adventurous. And hungry. First off, I loved the potatoes. Good solid crunch all around each piece, and seasoned as well. Now to the benedict itself... A perfectly poached egg on top of prosciutto (their version of Canadian bacon), on top of focaccia, douse the whole thing with hollandaise. Yep. This is not for wimps. This is going ALL OUT for maximum deliciousness.
Wow. Just check out that runny innards of the yolk - not TOO runny where it just splats all over your plate, but firm enough to the point where the yolk consistency is thick, and sticks to itself. There's just something about a delicious poached egg in the morning. The focaccia was surprisingly good with this combination, (correct me if I'm wrong, but the carbs in this are supposed to be english muffins...right?) because it withstood all the punishment from the hollandaise and the yolk runoff, and was still nice and bready, even till the last bite. The prosciutto was very salty, which at first was great, but as I attacked the meal, it became almost TOO salty. I mean, there's nothing to offset all the saltiness going on, on the plate. I think next time, as much as I liked the potatoes, I'll get fresh fruit, as a counterpoint to all of the savory.

I really liked C&O's breakfast - it's definitely not a place that one would think of for that greasy spoon diner breakfast experience, so that's what makes it more special when you roll into the restaurant on these morning off hours. I say give it a chance and perhaps try to get there during the later morning you can fulfill your fix of those sinfully good "killer" garlic rolls. What a way to start the day...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Kaya Sushi
13400 Washington Blvd Ste 102
Marina del Rey

"Let's have sushi for lunch".
I am a no-holdsbar, unabashed lover of all kinds of sushi...especially the wasabi that goes with it (hooray for spicy!) So when someone mentions sushi for lunch...I am all ears. And stomach.

I went to Kaya with my friend Marcie, as it is close and has its' own underground parking (a necessity in Marina del Rey - actually, probably all of Southern California, parking is a virtue). We rushed in for a seat as we were only about 45 minutes away from their lunch siesta. (Although I understand why a lot of Japanese restaurants close during the time inbetween lunch and dinner, it makes it very frustrating when I take later lunches. Which I usually do.)

On to the food!
Marcie got the udon and roll lunch special. Her udon was a huge, steaming bowl of noodles, chock full of broth, sesame seeds and scallions. Dried tofu slices floated around the top. Marcie seemed to enjoy this a lot.
Check out these GINORMOUS California Rolls!! I do like how the crab is not that chunky imitation stuff - seems like the real thing, and is flavored well. The rice was actually really tasty, perfect, translucent little grains of white sushi rice that you come to expect from any good Japanese restaurant, but get really disppointed when you happen upon a place that uses crusty old rice from yesterday's batch. Yuck. Anyways these California Rolls are great. Fresh sweet cucumber, creamy avacado and the aformentioned crab. Here's my sushi lunch combo - chicken teriyaki, 4 pieces of sushi (tuna, whitefish, salmon, sweet shrimp), and 3 pieces each of california roll and tuna roll. This is a LARGE amount of food...the fish was of very decent quality, the teriyaki chicken was pretty standard, not especially great but not bad.

The decor to the restaurant is actually noteworthy as well - the sushi bar is situated on TOP of a huge aquarium with live fish inside. I wonder, do they resort to them if they're running low on specials for the day? Also, they have a waterfall wall, and a drum next to the door with a sign that says, "Hit if you enjoyed the service!!" I hit the drum. So hit up this place!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Three Square Bakery
1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA

Venice has that extremely laid back vibe, with its ocean breeze, trendy couples that walk dogs, sun-tanned surfers. Abbot Kinney is a great street for chachkey stores, GREAT coffee...and home to a new Rockenwagner Bakery called Three Square.
Clean construction, clean lines - design is solid. Love the wood elements for the glass case. But I don't think they thought the chairs all the way through - as I found out, when we sat down to eat our purchases - the chairs were too highly situated, and the table then cut into our legs as we tried to eat. Thumbs down boo!!
Aside from that, I love this wall - floor to celing blackboard paint, with the specials written in colored chalk. Nice touch. So here's the sandwich that we shared - a Chicken Club Sandwich. I thought they were going to have made to order sandwiches, but they didn't - all of their sandwiches were pre-made, sitting in their open air refridgerator. Personally...I am not a huge fan of premade sandwiches. If I was going to get a premade sandwich at an upscale type place, I'd be much more satisfied with Bay Cities' version.
This sandwich was nothing special for the price tag. Standard chicken breast slices, (not horribly flavorful but at least moist), avocado (not brown...points for that) and thick bacon, with mayo and lettuce. A good sandwich...but not amazing. And check out the bread- this is bread I could have gotten from a white bread loaf at Mitsuwa! It might have been fresher but it sure tasted the same.
Here's a glance at their special, which I did not try - a weiner dog special, it seems, with the worthwhile whole mustard seed mustard, and a good lookin' roll. Maybe I should have gotten this instead, then I wouldn't have felt so ripped off.

I also got this - a breakfast muffin. I really liked the concept of it - more like a quiche-y portable baked good, it had egg, cheese and sausage embedded in its' carby innards. The sausage was delicious inside - good burst of flavor, with a nice snap to its' casing. Wish there was more of it in there - actually, wish there was more of it in general, as it was very pricey for something smaller than the palm of my hand (and I have really oddly small hands.) I should have warmed it up before I ate it, but I definitely got the sense of decadence in a baked good, cold or not.

Owen got an espresso brownie. (no picture, yes, drat.) He devoured it and loved it, although it's hard to beat the combo of coffee and chocolate for him.

What is the big deal about this place? Yes, location. Yes, decent baked goods. But I've had better and richer, other places, and for less moolah. So it gets a "'s okay" from me.