Sunday, December 28, 2008

Akasha Appetite Stimulus lunch

Once I heard about this Appetite Stimulus promotion that Open Table was offering, I was determined to take advantage of it by going to a few restaurants that I've been dying to go to for ages. Akasha was on that list, because I had seen it go from abandoned boarded up retail space for sale to a modern classy looking restaurant. Amber insisted it was some good eats so I was definitely IN, and convinced her to join me for lunch. Good company always makes lunch better!

Once we got there, there was a major line to get seated - the restaurant had enough spaces, but the hostess was lagging. Isn't she supposed to stay there, and someone else leads patrons to their tables so the front is never abandoned? I thought that was a bit odd. We finally got led to our seats, and was presented with the Appetite Stimulus lunch menu.
Three courses, 24 dollars total. Seems like a pretty good deal, considering their regular menu is quite expensive! For instance...

...We each got an arnold palmer, which was quite expensive for its' own good, but still very tasty. I think they used some special iced tea or something, however, I don't think it constitutes such a high price for one glass, no refills. Ah well.

Amber and I both chose the canneleni bean hummus, truffle salt, flatbread and carmelized onions. Embedded in the hummus, was some really flavorful olives, however, the hummus had a huge deficiency in salt. It REALLY needed more salt, it was quite bland. The flatbread and carmelized onions were excellent, I really enjoyed those. Amber had quite a time trying to pick off all the onions though (she dislikes onions - yes, she's nuts :)) but I think they were great. I was actually pretty full after eating this (all those beans.)
Amber chose the grilled shrimp salad - local greens, pistachios, yogurt chutney dressing. Amber asked for them to hold off on the pickled onions that would have come with the salad. The shrimp was quite tasty, and what made this dish was the smattering of pistachios in the salad. The dressing was very good, not too heavy even though it was creamy (I attribute this to the yogurt). Amber admitted it was quite filling, and she was surprised she finished all of it.
I chose the grilled steak salad - bibb lettuce, pickled red onions, gorgonzola, tarragon mustard vinagrette. The grilled steak deliciously tasted like a Hong Kong style beef jerky! I know that can be construed as an insult, but believe me, it's not at all. The marinade they used was quite sweet, the taste was a great combo of savory and sweet. The salad itself was studded with gorgonzola bits, which I loved, and everything was quite enjoyable all together. I was quite satisfied with the size of the salad and maybe I should give it another shot as a regular thing I should order at restaurants...well, maybe.
Dessert time! Amber got a slice of apple pie. The bite I sneaked was very tasty, and I almost wished I had gotten the apple pie instead, if solely for the virtue of having some vanilla ice cream, which looked very appealing to me at the time. Instead, I had gotten...
...the pumpkin pie slice, with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. This was pretty good in its' own right though, so I guess I shouldn't complain too much. The fresh whipped cream was a nice touch, the spices very spot on, the crust was really good. I saved exactly half of this pie for Owen who majorly appreciated it.

I think I'll be back here to try their burger, and also to maybe try some of their other appetizers. I like the interiors of this place a lot, but I think some of their service issues were a bit odd, as this place has been open for awhile, and their drinks a bit overpriced for what you get. I am still willing to overlook that for the superior quality of their food.

Akasha Restaurant
9543 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 845-1700

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Take a Bao

I had heard there was a bit of a buzz around the new food court restaurant in the Century City Westfield mall, Take a Bao, mostly good but some not so good. I was super skeptical because most fusion asian food places just disappoint me, and taste like Panda Express lite. Hey, I know everyone breaks down and gets a Panda craving every so often, but it's a case of lowered expectations - I walk through the doors of a Panda Express (not recently, believe me), and I already know I'm dooming myself to a rock in my stomach and a frown on my face...anyway, that's not THIS review, maybe another time when I want to torture myself!

So Take a Bao! It had been under construction for ages, and I admit it looks like they did a good job. Everything is nice, clean and new, the kitchen is exposed and the cooks were quickly cooking up orders as they were being taken. We placed our orders, I remember Owen getting a really tasty iced tea (I think their coffee and tea supply were from LAMILL, one day I will head there, I have been hearing some really great stuff about that place), and their buzzer that indicated that our food was ready had a really cute slogan on it - "Take a seat"...I think it said. It buzzed and we balanced the trays to our table. Maybe I should have gotten the baos, the namesake of the restaurant, but baos hold a special place in my heart, and I decided to go with...
Take a Bao's the Chinese Chicken Salad. This was surprisingly really tasty. The thing that made it was the light dressing, which wasn't too sweet and gave the right amount of tang to the greenery. The chicken was a bit bland, but with a bit of the dressing, it was miraculously saved. Magical dressing, perhaps?! Iceberg is something I avoid usually, but is perfect for Chinese Chicken salad. I kept catching myself picking up more and more of the salad. I'd get this again if I was feeling in a salad-y mood (a rare occurence, but sometimes it happens!)
Take a Bao
I had a weird craving for some chicken noodles, so that's what I ordered. What a mistake. The taste was so bland and the sauce here was the exact opposite of the Chinese chicken salad - it was thick, weird tasting and didn't really add the necessary flavor to the dish. The noodles were a lo mein type noodle, okay but again blander than heck. I know it was part of the presentation, but to have to mix the noodles myself were a bit tasking - the noodles were long and the sauce (the only source of unappealing flavor) was sitting on top of the noodles but below the toppings, so it was hard to coat everything. I would definitely not order this again.

Next time, I will muster up enough indifference to get the baos. Maybe I can get over my extreme caution and finally take the dang bao.

Take a Bao
10250 Santa Monica Blvd Los Angeles ca 90067
phone 310 551 1100

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Oyako Japanese Restaurant

I met up with Owen for lunch not too long ago near his workplace in Venice. He had mentioned a Japanese place where he enjoyed a lunch bento box, so we headed there. It ended up being a place called Oyako. The interior was pretty cute, the seats were little cubed ottomans (although, a few of them were a bit stained, which was a bit...gross...) and had a laid back vibe (as most places seem to have in Venice.) On to the food!
An arnold palmer, my usual drink of choice. They used a different kind of tea, one with more flowery notes in it, so the taste was really nice and refreshing.

Miso soup, it was okay, nothing special but I don't remember too much tofu in it, which was unfortunate. I prefer more tofu and seaweed, personally, but I think as long as the miso isn't too salty, it's passable.
The main event - the lunch bento box - I chose teriyaki salmon. It came with a choice of 2 pieces of california rolls or 2 pieces of spicy tuna rolls (I chose spicy tuna), shrimp and vegetable tempura, salad and rice. The salmon was good, the teriyaki was rich and sticky, but tasted right. The tempura was freshly fried, but I've had better tempura battered things. The shrimp in particular was a bit weird, it was only half a piece of shrimp instead of what I'm usually used to, which is the whole shrimp fried with the tail. I think mine was just a fluke though, as Owen had a proper full shrimp piece. The spicy tuna was good. This didn't seem like a lot of food but in the end, I was really full.

The place is pretty good, nice for a little lunch spot but I admit I've had better and more satisfying lunch bentos, not to mention cheaper, but I am paying for the ambience and location. I'd go back to try their sushi rolls, but I wouldn't necessarily make a trip out to Venice/Santa Monica just for this place.

2915 Main St
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 581-3525

Monday, December 01, 2008

Sushi King

A couple weeks back, Daphne wanted to show me the awesomeness which was Sushi King (she has had nothing but good things to say about this place), and so Owen and I met up with her there. The place is small, bustling, darkly lit and busy, but I suspected it would be on a Friday night. We managed to get a very squished table for three (more like for 2, but we squeezed in.) A quick glance at the menu, and with a few suggestions from Daph, food started to arrive at the table...
Sushi King
Sea Bass Misoyaki, one of the house specials that Daphne ordered. This is one of her favorites. I tried a bite and it really was good, the sauce was really tasty and it was not overcooked. I think it's a bit pricey for the amount you get but it might still be worth it for the flavor and preparation.
Sushi King
Owen and I ordered 2 sushis to start - salmon and I think, albacore. I'm not exactly sure that was albacore. Both were excellent though. Soft, tasty and creamy.
Sushi King
Another starter - spicy tuna tempura. It was basically a flat pressed amount of spicy tuna, run through batter and quickly fried. Almost anything fried is delicious, so this was no exception. I don't know that I would necessarily order this again (as there were many other things on the menu that were intriguing to me) but it was a solid starter.
Sushi King
Owen and I shared an order of a sushi set - from the top clockwise: tuna, whitefish, salmon, yellowtail, cut rolls were cucumber and tuna, makarel, shrimp, octopus and tamago. Everything was pretty tasty - we shared each piece, and it really was good, each piece was solid. (sorry about the bluriness of the photo, it was dark and I didn't want to bother any of the other diners with the flash of the camera).
Sushi King
We also ordered a rainbow roll, which was really good, great to try all the different kinds of fish. The California roll that all the fresh fish sat upon was fresh, and the crab inside was tasty. We made quick work of this roll.
Sushi King
Daph suggested for us to try the yellowtail, so we asked for 3 more, one for each of us. It really was amazing, a big succulent bite of fish. Melted in your mouth, just something special.

I think that Sushi King was a good middle of the road place that has really good quality fish. I know there are better places around, but in this price range (about 40 each, and we were stuffed) it was one of the better sit down Japanese restaurants I've been to in awhile.

Sushi King
1330 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90403-5411
Phone: (310) 395-0120