OMG Food!

Soup's on, folks! I'm Tina M. Courtney, aka PoetKitty -- a Los Angeles based food writer audacious enough to think I can critique all manner of eateries. It's a labor of love, and I'm honored to welcome you. Grab a fork and let's get this party started.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Golden Deli: Delish, No-Frills Vietnamese

Golden Deli
815 W. Las Tunas Dr.
San Gabriel, CA 91776

The Event: Lunch with my crew
Cuisine: Vietamese

The Very Best Friend happens to be a bona fide Vietamese goddess, and if she says go HERE for the pho ... I hop to it. Hoppity hop.
We hit the scene around 11 am on a Sunday, and the place was already almost completely full. The decor is the usual non-descript, oldish glow, but it's clean enough and it smells like pork. Those are good things.
The menu is loaded with things I can't pronounce or even begin to imagine, but luckily my pal is present, and she takes the reins.
Service is manic and rushed, because these folks are busy and they just don't have time for our lollygagging.


An amazing lime, sugar, and sparkling water concoction that is the first non-alcoholic brew in ages to make me giddy.


Fried Eggrolls
These mammoth, greasy suckers were loaded with veggies and pork, and came with lettuce leaves to cut the oil and add a wee bit o' the healthy kick. I said a wee bit. Quite good, but needed the spice of the accompanying sauce in a big way.

Shrimp Spring Rolls

Now these were a home run - the chewy, fresh skin housed gobs of shrimp and vegetables. I didn't love the spicy, sweet sauce that came with them, but the consistency and texture made this a huge winner.

Pho, and lots of it

We all opted (by friend's DEMAND) to have the Pho Tai, which is the version with cooked beef. This heavenly, steamy bowl of goodness comes equipped with a platter of raw veggies, like mint leaves, bamboo shoots, lime, jalapeno, and much more. The vermicelli noodles aren't homemade, but they are realllly good. The broth had a lovely, salty kick, and with the right combo of hot sauce and plum sauce, few things may a rainy day more enjoyable.

My tip to you - Get the pho, skip the fried goods (did I just write that out loud?)

Damage for 2 appetizers, 6 lime drinks and 6 bowls o' pho - about $60. Bargain!!

Worth it? Every freaking penny and then some.


Ambiance - D+
Service - C
Food (Taste) - B-
Food (Presentation) - C-
Wine/Drinks - B (no alcoholic types spied or sampled)
Value - A
Vibe/Energy/Scene - B

Overall Experience - B-

Parking: Nice big lot, it's in a strip mall
Attire: Super casual
Pros: Awesome, authentic, inexpensive Vietamese food stuffs
Cons: It's a schlep if you aren't near San Gabriel, and there isn't much ambiance

Final word - Absolutely phobulous, eat your heart out.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

En Sushi - Raw Lunch, Anyone?

En Sushi
1972 N. Hillhurst Ave.
Los Feliz, CA 90027

The Event: Just another lunch-fest

It's day time, I'm craving sushi and Los Feliz bound, and my pal N and I land in En Sushi.
Are we lucky duckies, or just plane lame?

I'm aware of another En Sushi but really hadn't heard peeps about either. This is a pretty new space in the restaurant row area of Los Feliz, and it has that clean, sterile glow one likes to see from one's raw food havens, so what the hay. First observation - eeep, it's warm in here. But no scary fishy smell, so I'll take it.

En has a standard sushi menu with a few interesting specials, but N and I both b-line for a lunch set. He opts for cooked delicacies, I go for a mixture.

Service is shoulder-shrugging; OK. Again, I'll take it.


Soju-based martinis that kind of blow, but some good sake selections. Of course, it's not noon yet, so I'm having tea.


(See photo above)

Five pieces of mixed sushi with 2 pieces of california roll, along with vegetable udon soup and a few trimmings
- Mmmm k, so the sushi is fresh-ish and more than decent, but the soup was pretty darn bland. No kick whatsoever, with a thin, tasteless broth. And the side of tempura flake? Weird and oily.


Udon noodle soup with vegetable and shrimp tempura
- His soup was the same heaping bowl of nothing that mine was, but he adored it. His tempura was the same old tempura you get anywhere and everywhere, but that's not a complaint. Fried stuff with batter is good. Period.

My tip to you - Expect fast and average fare that doesn't offend but doesn't wow either.

Damage for 2 lunch sets, 1 tea and 1 soda: just under about $28 before tip.

Worth it? Sure. Why not.


Ambiance - C+
Service - C
Food (Taste) - C
Food (Presentation) - C
Wine/Drinks - C+
Value - C
Vibe/Energy/Scene - C-

Overall Experience - C

Parking: Street during the day, valet at night
Attire: Casual
Pros: Decently fresh, decently priced
Cons: Nothin' you can't get a million places elsewhere

Final word - If I'm in a rush and wantin' some fishies, I might just be back.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

One Pico, Many Disappointments

One Pico
1 Pico Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90405

The Event: VALENTINE'S DAY, baby - love is in the air?

Now, I admit that V-Day is amatuer night. Chefs are often forced to cook more palatable favs, as the whole wide world comes up to eat, and not everyone wants risky and innovative. Pooh on them. Still, I think it's far to judge a chef by his tasting menu, regardless of whether it's a holiday.
With such terms - One Pico, you failed.

They had a limited menu, with four courses. The second course was a set item, but the others had at least a few choices. I received the menu early on and got a little giddy - they sounded relatively safe, but yummy. And I could already taste the bubbly.

The space is a stunner, though I muse it is more so in the daylight. It sits right on the beach; with sun shinin' through and those amazing water views, this is a luncheon spot if ever there was one. Dinner equaled darkness, and while it's cozy inside, I just wasn't wowed. Bonus points for the massive fireplace though. Well played.

Service - ABYSMAL. This was the biggest weak spot. We were swarmed on quickly, but our waiter was too rushed, too quick, too everything. Bah. And as the night wore on, things just fell apart. He missed items we ordered. He didn't come back to check on us until the final course (before dessert). We were not taken care of, and the place was only half full when we arrived. Nuts to that too.


The typical over-priced wine listing, but still quite decent in variety.
We opted for the Moet & Chandon Rose - $81.


Raisin/nut bread, french goodies, and seeded flatbread - all quite good, but we received a ton of crumbs and tiny flatbread triangles, which I thought was a bit tacky.


Smoked Salmon with Avocado Potato Salad and American Caviar
- While this tasted interesting, I hated it as an Amuse. Too creamy, too punchy, and way too smokey for something that is simply supposed to wake up my palate and get the show going.


Fanny Bay Oysters with Pickled Melon and Cucumber
- My favorite course of the night; I don't usually go gaga for any extras on my beloved oysters, but I really loved the tart and citrusy twang the pickled darlings added. Very intense, unusual, fresh, and splendid.


Maine Diver Scallops with Spring Vegetables, White Corn Sauce, and Puff Pastry
- Although the scallops were enormous and plump, the white corn sucked (and I'm a massive corn freak), the vegetables were bland, and the puff pastry lacked puff and instead provided a bizarre and unsavory crunch. This is a no.


Ricotta Cheese Ravioli with Basil Marinated Squash and Warm Tomato Vinaigrette
- Mercy, this was blands-ville. Nice texture on the uber-soft ravioli, but the tomato vin really lacked any luster, and the squash - blech. Boring and then some.

Pictured above

Butter Poached Lobster with Black Truffle Risotto, Snap Peas, White Truffle Oil
- This sounded better than it tasted, but I still fell in like. The lobster was a bit tough/chewy, but the risotto was quite sublime - just slightly undercook, which happens to be my fav. The truffles were overpowered by intense cheesiness, yet the balance was beautiful. Great peas too.


Truffle Roasted Filet Mignon with Wild Mushrooms and Sweet Potatoes
- The filet was a so-so offering, with no taste of truffles. But the sweet potatoes? ALMOST worth the price of admission! Creamy little buggers, and really flavorful. The mushrooms rocked it too, but not quite as hard.

Course Four (Dessert): Me:CAPPUCINO CHEESECAKE

Cappucino Cheesecake with Kahlua Cream and Peanut Brittle
- Three cheers for sugar overload! This was a decadent little creation, but super coffee-flavored, with an awesome crust. I was lovin' the peanut brittle, too, although it was a simple garnish -- almost an afterthought. Could only manage a couple of bites, but they were decent.


White Chocolate and Bing Cherry Parfait with Lavender Scented Whipped Creamy
- Another snoozer, this one had no outstanding components; just sugar. My date had two bites and called it quits.

My tip to you - Go for a light lunch and ogle the waves, not your dishes.

Damage for 2 V-Day tasting menus and a $81 bottle of champagne (before tip): just under $300.

Worth it? Hell no. Not in a million years no.


Ambiance - B+
Service - C-
Food (Taste) - C+
Food (Presentation) - C+
Wine/Drinks - C+
Value - D+
Vibe/Energy/Scene - C-

Overall Experience - C

Parking: Valet (it's at a hotel)
Attire: Business formal
Pros: Awesome view, lovely fireplace
Cons: Icky service, way too pricey, mediocre food

Final word - Never shall ye return again.

Swing on by the homestead.
Read yourself a po-em.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Memphis - Hot House, Tepid Treats

6541 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028

The Event: Nuttin' spesh. Just dinner time with my Man.

Memphis took over the famed Janes House about two or so years ago. The house is the only residential gem left in movie-land, and it's a stunning Victorian. The restaurant crew wisely chose to restore the home, and it's seriously worth a trip just to spy the lush interior. There's a large outdoor patio, a cozy downstairs bar, and little alcoves of dinner rooms on the top level. The walls are smothered in crimson, textured fabric, and the whole place has a time-warp appeal. Classy, elegant, romantic. It's also very reminescent of the Victorians in New Orleans' Garden District. Seems like a fine place to have a fine cajun meal. Mmmm hmmm.

This was my fourth trip to Memphis. None of the meals have excited me, but I live in the area, and felt a strange inclination to give it one more try. I am such a damn glutton. The service, as usual, was courteous but spotty, and at times molasses-slow. All that Memphis really has going for it is the stellar ambiance. The rest is a world of ho-hum.


Two unremarkable martinis. Weak.


The highlight! Somewhat yummy cornbread and warm crusty traditional offerings.


Fried Calamari with a Spicy Marinara
- Cornbread crusted and well cooked, this had little spice and a very, *very* standard and somewhat runny sauce. Yawn yawn yawn.

Entree 1 (Mine): BBQ SALMON

Photo above

Seared Salmon with BBQ sauce, rice, and asparagus
- Well now, this wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. The salmon was cooked well and defintely tasted premium, but the rice was a world of no and the BBQ sauce as boring as a Rocky sequel. Blah. Too sweet, too flat. Even Tony Romas kicks this sauce's behind.

Entree 2 (Companion's): BBQ RIBS

BBQ Pork Ribs
- Served with bland cole slaw, this was also less impressive than a chain offering. Nothing about Memphis is full-on horrendous, but the price points don't warrant such woefully mediocre food. Neither does this glorious house.

Words to the food-wise - Hit Memphis as a cocktail haven, not an eatery. Soak up the vibes with a Vodka Red Bull and relish how smart you are not to waste moolah and calories on spiceless cajun creations.

Damage for 2 martinis, 1 appetizer, and 2 entrees: about $80.


Ambiance - A
Service - D+
Food (Taste) - D+
Food (Presentation) - C-
Wine/Drinks - C-
Value - D+
Vibe/Energy/Scene - B+

Overall Experience - C-

Parking: Valet on Hollywood, but $8 crazy dollars. Comb the streets first for meters.
Attire: Dressy casual
Pros: Unique and stunning ambiance/interior
Cons: Unimpressive food with too-high prices and slow serivce

Final word - I'm done now. Honest.

But wait there's more.
And sometimes it rhymes.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

La Botte, La Best

La Botte
620 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

The Event: I had an assignment, writing style -- it was time to ID th best Italian spots in LA, and La Botte was a contender. New, subdued, sans a lot of buzz; what would I uncover?

La Botte sits on the bottom floor of an unassuming office building on and in Santa Monica. Somewhat tough to spot, I was disheartened to see it almost empty on a Thursday night - right about 7-ish. Crickets chirping, hushed silence - yet they couldn't trump the interior. It's modeled after a wine barrel, and it's quite stunning. Lots of dark wood hues and burgundies, with the ever present wine bottles dotting every wall. We were granted a large, comfy table, and our delightful Sicilian server started the spoiling. Which, I should mention, he wouldn't cease, the whole eve. Charming doesn't even cut it - and that's a rarity in our fair LA, so I'm still smiling from it all.

The white truffle tasting menu was still being offered (this was way before the holidays) so, I figured, let's just Go. My companion was a first timer in the high-eating realm, and what better way to initiate. . .
A general note about the experience on the whole - it *was* extraordinary. I loved all the savory dishes immensely. But they menu itself wasn't crafted to match white truffles per say; instead, they simply added the gems on top of existing dishes (most straight from the ala carte menu). That's a bit of a peeve, but a minor complaint.
I must also note that the white truffles at Providence where slightly superior; again, however, this is a tiny infraction.
La Botte rocked this menu.


Impressive, yet overly priced wine list. We opted for a $90 Sicilian white with a black label - mild and crisp and perfect for not overpowering those luscious white mushies.


Yummy crusty offerings with a trio of olive oil selections, which I found truly classy.


Home cured duck breast, thinly sliced, drizzled with a mild gorgonzola dressing.
- THE most unique, outstanding meat-based carpaccio I have ever tasted. The duck was outlandishly succulent, zapped to life by that creamy gorgonzola goodness. The white truffles threw in a salty addition that balanced the dish way more than I expected - possibly my favorite of the eve.


Pan seared sweet breads served in a bed of soft polenta and marsala wine demiglace.
- Did I say the last dish was my fav? I blatantly lied. OMG, these Sweetbreads were just divine. Better even than those at L'Atelier in PARIS, for crying out loud - wow. Super crunchy on the outside, perfectly most and mouth-melting on the inside, and matched beautifully with the soft, grainy polenta. The truffles through this sucker over the top and slammed dunked them all the way down. Hot hot fire!


Homemade ravioli dumplings filled with cheese and topped with a fontina based cream sauce.
- These little honeys were not on the menu; this was the one dish made exclusively to match the the white truffles, and the chef shoot/scores/makes me all kinds of happy. Fontina is the perfect compliment for soft, billowing dumplings and the subtle, earthy taste of the truffles. The combination was a creamy dose of paradise. Quite rich, however, so I was grateful for the smaller portion.


Homemade beet tagliolini with homemade quail sausage in a bed of parmesan fondue.
- Beet pasta with quail sausage - instant bonus points for originality! This is a premiere item from La Botte's menu, and I *highly* recommend it; absolutely succulent, with unique flavor bursts and an incredible texture. My complaint here involved the truffles -- they just didn't add to the dish. The flavors were overpowered by the sausage spice; the funghi were an afterthought, and an expensive one at that. Otherwise, the dish is stellar.

Picture above

Beef filet mignon with truffle Barolo wine sauce.
- A really tasty and marvelously prepared filet, but the accompanying brocolli and potatoes were bland by comparison. The sauce was also vibrant and rich, but once again, it drowned the delicate truffles. Black fellas would have faired better, but even still, a Barolo is never shy. Not that we would want him to be, even with a mountain of truffles on top.

They had two desserts to offer, and we of course chose one of each.

Puff pastries stuffed with hazelnut Nutella, served with a white chocolate raspberry sauce.
- I knew just by glancing at the offerings that savory was their specialty. Since I was full to the hilt already, this was not a disappointment, even though this stale little numbers didn't delight in the least.

Chocolate mousse cake on a chocolate wafer crust with a raspberry coule.
- Slightly better than the creation above, but still far too sickly sweet and amateur.

Suggestion - indulge in a port or other sweet libation rather than overload on sugary nonesense. Yes, good call.

Damage for 2 White Truffle Tasting Menus and a $90 bottle of wine: just under $400.
Worth it? Yes and no. You won't pay nearly this much for the regular tasting menu, which will be very similar to what I described above, sans the truffles. And guess what? You won't miss them. La Botte's food doesn't need any extravagant extras - it is absolutely fantastic Italian fare.


Ambiance - B+
Service - A-
Food (Taste) - B
Food (Presentation) - B-
Wine/Drinks - B
Value - C+
Vibe/Energy/Scene - C

Overall Experience - B

Parking: Valet on side street
Attire: Business casual
Pros: Nice decor, great service, heaps of wine choices, really fantastic flavors and original to boot
Cons: Expensive wine options

Final word - I really love this place. I'll be back before you can say Tagliolini.

Come home with me.
Or have yourself a poem.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

PK Goes to Paris: I Want to Die At L'Atelier

Joel Robuchon's L'Atelier
Hôtel Pont Royal
5, rue de Montalembert
75007 Paris, France

I'm going to skip my usual pomp and circumstance ala un review and just go straight to the edibles.
L'Atelier is everything foodies dream of. Yes, there's one in Vegas too. No, it's NOT the same. Get thee to Paris.


Loads of choices in the cutest basket you ever did spy. Shockingly served with a heaping pile o' buttah.


We had champagne to start, and an absolutely OMG worthy white that I don't remember a damn thing about, label wise, and only recall wanting to cry. The wine list here is scary-good, but since I don't speak-a-the-language, I trusted the nice sommelier (which I believe they called a Wine Man because we are stupid Americans, heehee).

Amuse Bouche:

Foie Gras in a Port Wine Reduction with Parmesan Foam
-- I'm sorry, do we have to eat other courses? I could bathe in this, people. I sopped up every last droplet and swooned myself into a frenzy. Parmesan Foam + Foie Gras = sex in a goblet. Add the sweetness of the Port Wine and seriously, I felt tingles.

Course One:

Gazpacho with Aged Balsamic, Olive Oil, and Croutons
- This was companion Todd's favorito of the night. Just the most fresh, popping, lovely gazpacho you ever did taste, and that balsamic must have been old as dirt and five billion times as tasty. Plus, those delightful little croutons were buttery, melting little gems. Awesome dish.

Course Two:

Lobster Carpaccio with Diced Olives, Parsley, Olive Oil, Lime and a Light Sauce
- They had been parading around a lovely blue lobster all evening, and I do hope he didn't die for us, but if he did - I pledge eternal devotion and hope he's a guardian angel now, forgiving me all over the place. I loved the light, raw flavors, especially after the one-two punch of rich goodness that preceeded. The herbs were fresh-picked, and the olives added the perfect salty edge.

Course Three:

Trio of Clams topped with Butter, White Wine, Garlic, and Parsley, served on a bed of Rock Salt
- These were lovely, but too small for my liking. Really fantastic flavors but not enough surface area to really indulge. Quantity doesn't mean quality, obviously, but I couldn't get my tongue around these delicacies.

Course Four:

Cocktail of Chanterelles, Mushroom Foam, Parsley, and Fresh Cream
- Gaaaaaahhhh, this is *so* my new favorite cocktail, which is exactly what the server proclaimed it would be as it swooped it down before me. Rich delights are what French food is most known for, and this knocked my knickers into the next galaxy. Loved it so - maybe not quite as much as the foie gras amuse magic, but those chanterelles could woo me any day.

Course Five:

Smoked Salmon with Fresh Cucumbers, Spices, and Parsley
- I'm gonna have to go with No. Only because I'm not a fan of smoked salmon. Now, this wasn't overly smoky (read: nasty), and I did very much enjoy the cucs + curry-like spices, but it wasn't nearly as flavorful as the others and ranked as my least favorite. Sorry, salmon, you get an D.

Course Six:
* We had a choice of two mains, and Todd and I covered both bases. We're good like that.


Lamb with Cumin, Rosemary, Almonds, and a Vegetable Couscous
- When lamb has the tenderness of chocolate cake, you have a winner. I've never had more perfectly cooked couscous, and the melange of spices were divine. Not too overpowering, with a gorgeous essence and a smoky finish.


Veal Sweetbreads with a Rich, Buttery Sauce and Herbs
- I cannot believe organ meat can taste so heavenly! These little honeys were just illegal. Crunchy soft, sweet and buttery, it's about as good as gets for any protein. This is such a difficult ingredient to highlight and render mouthwatering, so this dish left me in awe.

Side of Potato Puree

- Mr. Robuchon is famous for these luscious tators, and I absolutely had to find out why. Ho. My. Gawd. There was more butter than tuber, and honey, I like that just fine. The texture felt like a silk sheet, but tasted like foie gras. Amazing. My chair neighbor commented on his clogging arteries, but if you're gonna go out, this is the way.

Course Seven/Dessert One:

Lychee, Grapefruit, Pomegranates, and other Assorted Fruit
- This didn't excite me when it landed. I figured it would be a little palate cleanser, as preperation for the real dessert. The incredibly bold, fresh fruity flavors, however, absolutely knocked my socks off. There was a perfect mixture of sweet and acidity, with an amazingly soft texture and finish. Todd and I ranked this as one of the best of the eve, because it was spectular, and because we didn't expect it to impress in the slightest. I do love a good surprise.

Course Eight/Dessert Two:

Chocolate Mousse with Wheat Crispies, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Whipped Cream, and Cookie Crumbs
- It may not be the best idea to end such a decadent meal with a ridiculously rich chocolate delight, but what the hell, when in Rome, right? The unexpected cruch of the crispies and the authentic vanilla flavors were marvelous. No shock here - Joel knows mousse. I think they might be related.

Damage for 2 glasses of champagne, 1 bottle of wine, and 2 tasting menus + 2 sides of potato puree omakase - 331 Euros, or about $400.
Steepity steep steep, but zilcho regrets.

Me and Darling Todd, about to explode, but happy all the same

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Vermont - Please Don't Serve Abnormal Salads

Vermont Restaurant and Bar
1714 N. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA
11/21/06 - 12:30 PM

The Event: Favorite Lunch Friend and I needed a nosh spot. Something Los Feliz-y. Something chic yet tasty.


Ambiance - C+
Service - C+
Food (Taste) - C
Food (Presentation) - C-
Wine/Drinks - C+
Value - C+
Vibe/Energy/Scene - C+

Overall Experience - C+

Vermont has been lingering on a nondescript corner of Vermont Ave. for years now, a popular French-y spot for business lunches, cocktails, and slightly upscale eats. I first took a turn here some five years ago, and from what I recall, I enjoyed the dinner. This was before I proudly wore the Foodie hat, however, so judge accordingly.

I like the minimalist, white-washed decor. I don't love the gargantuan plant that quite literally knocked me in the noggin as I walked through the front door. The hostess station is located to your immediate right as you walk in, and there's zero room for guests to linger. Since I was in a long-ish line, I had to stand outside, lest I continue to be assualted by the angry plant.

We were seated quickly, and the place was already jumping. Our server was a nice woman, but clearly and utterly frazzled. She took good care, considering, but this provided a rushed and unsettling energy. No big deal. We ordered super fast and awaited the dishes, which arrived in a similar turbo speed.


Sodas. Didn't spy the wine list.


(Photo above)
Calamari Salad
With greens, fried calamari, tangy dressing, tomatoes, and lemon wedges
- Truly one of the strangest and unappealing salads I've ever laid eyes on. The frisee/greens had a weed-like consistency, and similar flavor. There was a lot of tender calamari, but the little squid bites were way too greasy. Couple that with a tangy cocktail sauce dressing, and you have a world of ewwww. I wouldn't just avoid ordering this again, I would run like the dickens if it even came near me.

Linguini with Clams
- Linguini with a butter and herb sauce, served with a mound of clams
A very standard dish, and not overly fresh. The sauce had little flavor, but the clams were pretty tasty. Better than my evil salad, but nothing to brag about.

Damage for 2 sodas and 2 entrees: about $31 before tip.

Parking: Valet in back, but street slots available
Attire: Business casual
Pros: Nice decor, friendly
Cons: Not worth the price, rushed service, out-for-blood plant

Final word - you can do better in the area by a landslide.

My Other Home.
With a Side of Poetry.