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.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

PK Goes to Paris: Amici, You Little Rascal

A little side street in St. Germain, Paris.
Yes, France.

The Event: Foodie friend and I were famished from sightseeing. We had passed this charming little Italian joint a million times in our foot travel, and decided to duck in after a day at the Louvre.


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

Overall Experience - B-

Friend and I had already had the uber fine dining extravaganza in Paris. Twice. We had been running around the city, dancing beneath the Eiffel Tower and twirling around Montaigne, pretending to be rich. We just needed a warm fuzzy lunch, and Amici had previously beckoned.

It was chilly outside, and we were instantly struck by the warmth and cozy surroundings. We grabbed the only spare booth and looked at the French/Italian offerings. Since we had already pledged allegiance to the awesome prix fix menus ala Paris, why ruin a good thing? This time, we stuck to two courses, but still - this would be fun.

Service was kind and charming and efficient, and I fell in love with the energy of the place. just. Like. Paris.


A few glasses of the house Cab - nothing to write home about, but a perfect match to a warm Italian lunch.


Tuscany Crostini
-- Liver pate on toast
You know when you're in a foreign country and you order something that they actually don't have anymore and you freak out because you have to pick something different and you don't speak the language so you point to something vaguely familiar and then you wind up getting something you'd rather, um, never eat again?
Right. Yes, this was kinda like that.

Foodie Friend
Orichette with Broccoli and Cheese
A super simple yet delightful little pasta dish. I had carb envy.


Pumpkin Risotto
Now I'm happy. Like, stick me with a fork done, happy. I happen to worship zucca (Italian for pumpkin), and although this was a tad bland, it reallllly hit the spot. Oodles of white cheese and the happy squash, with al dente risotto. Bliss, I tell ya.

Foodie Friend
Italian Steak
They actually brought him a side of pasta to go with this lonely little meat slab, but although presentation was lacking, the beef was a great, flavorful cut. We both just thought the whole thing was crazy charming.

Damage for 3 glasses of wine, 2 appetizers, and 2 entrees: about 35 Euros, before tip.

Parking: It's Paris. For God's sake, WALK.
Attire: Super casual
Pros: Cozy, inexpensive, fast
Cons: Lacking punch/flavor

Final word - despite the mediocre food, it's a precious memory.

You want more, trust me.
Or perhaps you'd like some poetry?

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

California Vegan - At Least No One Had to Die

California Vegan
7300 Sunset Blvd. Unit A
Los Angeles, CA
11.7.06 - Thursday, 12:30 PM
Me, myself, I, and our imaginary friends


Ambiance - D-
Service - D+
Food (Taste) - D
Food (Presentation) - D
Wine/Drinks - N/A (just had non-alchies)
Value - B-
Vibe/Energy/Scene - D

Overall Experience - D+

I had an actual paid assignment to rush out and sample some vegetarian restaurants *hand on forehead*, and having hit up California Vegan previously, I decided to give it a gander again. My first two trips went well-ish, but I keep having the same experience here: great menu, nice web site . . .blah food. Would the third trip serve me well?

California Vegan is a strip mall hideway, which as we LA-ers know, can actually be the mark of greatness. It's a truly vegan restaurant - no meat goods to be found. There are lost of substitutes, however - they don't just limit you to good old tofu. Service is slow and disinterested, and the decor sucks. It actually feels dirty in there, which makes me a tad fearful for the food. The kitchen is open, and that's a saving grace, but I hate the feeling that grime is lurking, well, everywhere.

I'll admit that this time, I ordered wrong. Let it be known that previously, I did a better job. The raw wrap I had months ago was actually damn awesome. The stir fry is - eh - healthy, but bland. But oy vey did I hit a strikeout on swing three.


Water. Though they have smoothies and the like, so in retrospect . . .


Lentil Burger
-- With lettuce, onion, tomato
Um, where to begin. First, it looked atrocious, but lentils aren't pretty, so whatever. The burger was MASSIVE - the bun had a thickness that could double as armor, and the burger itself was the size of a flying saucer. But it lacked density, so trying to pick this sucker up was a losing battle. Then, there's this pesky little "taste" issue. The texture was mushy and gross, and the lentil mixture damn near flavorless. Well, pooey.


Vegan French Fries
I'm not sure why I thought vegan fries would be healthy. Perhaps I am just missing the air fries at Nature's Pantry in the valley - sooooo fantastic. These were so crazy greasy, I'll admit the girl who misses fast food, who I taunt and yell out occassionally, found a little glee. But they had zero seasoning and were just too fatty to really enjoy. Vegan or no, I just couldn't go there.

Damage for 1 soda, 1 burger, and a side of fries: $11 before tip. At least the price was right. Too bad it wasn't edible.

Parking: Easy schmeezy - little lot, and loads of street options.
Attire: Super casual
Pros: Cheap, 100% vegan
Cons: Not exactly flavorful, awful decor, slow service

Final word - for a vegetarian fast food experience, this will do.

Come Over

Monday, November 20, 2006

PK Goes to Paris: Mon Amour

Amour - Restaurant and Bar
8, Rue de Navarin
75009 Paris, France
11/16/06 - Thursday, 8:30 PM
Myself, darling Foodie Friend, and 2 of his French pals

And I gained 8 pounds. Success!
It's the greatest food town in the world, gay Par-eee, and Amour was the last stop on the restaurant train. Foodie Friend and I had already devoured delicacies at superstar locales like Joel Robuchon's L'Atelier, so the last night needed to be special. We wanted hipster, locale flavor, and the kind of trendy-cool spot that a tourist could never find without the aid of an in-the-know. Cue two tragically hip Paris peeps, friends of the FF, and wahlah - you have a recipe for cool eatz in paradise.

Amour is a hotel and a restaurant, and it reeks of Nowness. Inside, the cozy space is littered with Paris beauties sporting designer jackets and tiny, fluffy pups. Paris Hilton, eat your heart out, these people started the trend, you big poser. Every over the top element just works in this city. I felt like a privileged outsider from word one.

The menu is a simple smattering, the service is pokey but sweet, and the wine list rather bites. But Amour has charm to spare, and the dishes were quite lovely. My cool quotient, however, is now through the roof, so you know, it was worth it *hair toss*


First, we had house champagne. When in Paris, oui? And since the bubbly is truly a gift from God, I can do nothing but praise.

Then, we selected a bottle of tangy, not-so-good Pinot Grigio, and moved on to a much milder and less offensive bottle some time later. All local delicacies, of course, and in French, so forgive my brain freeze. I speak Spanish, damn it!


Fresh Figs with Goat Cheese and Olive Oil
-- Holy crap, how do they get their figs to ooze such sweet goodness? These puppies were 'roid addicts, clearly, and bless them for it. A simple but magnifique creation, so sweet and creamy.

Charcuterie Plate
-- Thinly sliced, super salty, fatty little strips of tasty meat. Yup, that says it all.

Salad Amour
-- Heaps of romaine, sliced apple, blue cheese, and walnuts, with a light vinegar dressing. Quite tasty, but also quite standard. There's something about eating French cheese in Paris, however, just a stone's throw from the grass and moo cows who created the creamy masterpiece. Nice all around.


Streak Frites
- Seriously, could I eat my way through France and not have this dish at least once? It was my last chance, but I timed this perfectly. The steak wasn't dressed down or over cooked - when you say raw in this country, they just smile and nod. SO good. And the French fries were tear-worthy - uber crisp and perfect in every conceivable way. I love me some French comfort food.

Tuna Tartare
- Since my super mean and apparently ravenous FF scarfed this down in record time, I didn't get to sample. I hear it was quite good, but nothing to freak out about.


Chocolate Cake
- Oh holy mother of all things sugary, I bow to this baby. All right, so it won't win any awards for originality, but the chocolate was dark as night and ultra smooth. The bottom layer of the cake had a crispy, wafery crunch, and it was decorated with an X and O. This is love. True, everlasting, real deal love.

Greek Style Yogurt with Bobo
- I was a tad confused by this strange looking tapestry, but wow was it good. I can't even tell you what the flavors actually were, but it reminded me of a kicky boba, with the tapioca beads and the most potent yogurt you've ever experienced. Super unique and refreshing, this was a definite winner.

Damage for 4 glasses of champagne, 1 full and 1 half bottle of wine, 4 appies, 4 entrees, and 3 desserts was a very reasonable $220 Euros, before tip.

That's Amour. Eh :)


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

Overall Experience - B-

Final word - fall in love with the non-touristy side of Paris, and don't lose your shirt in the process. Amour rocks.

Kitty Speaks

Sunday, November 05, 2006

PK Goes to Philly: Morimoto's Omakase

723 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA
- Saturday, 6:15 PM
Myself myself confound

Real foodies get on planes and travel to far away locales to eat things they've only dreamt about. I recently did just that by fulfilling a dream in Philly. I have long lusted after Chef Morimoto's incredible fusion creations on masterpiece shows like Iron Chef. I remember vividly, some four years ago, watching a Food Network special on the master's new restaurant in Philadelphia. I made a vow then and there - I would have the mother of all omakase experiences at my favorite Iron Chef's flagship restaurant. A Do Before I Die.

This is indeed a tall order, with expectations that could have spilleth over. But I kept it all in check. I simply felt privileged and thrilled to pieces just to have the opportunity.

I flew by my lonesome to Philly, and tucked myself in to a fabulous hotel in the city center. This was my first visit to the City of Brotherly Love, so I wanted to be within walking distance of the best eateries in town. I hoofed it over to Morimoto's shortly after arrival. I sucked in the briskly delicious air, and felt my stomach do flip-flops in anticipation.

The exterior is massively minimalist - a sea of white waves and a tiny illuminated sign. I had reserved a space at the bar already, and was immediately seated. The decor here is *stunning*. The bamboo ceiling continues the wave motif, and the booths all have gorgeous lighting built-in. These fabulous lights even change color as the night progresses, totally transforming the energy of the space. I couldn't stop ooohing and ahhhing.

Throughout the night, service flowed relatively well, but most servers are crazy young and not overly knowledgeable about the melange of ingredients. They were quite nice and attentive, however, so I felt taken care of.

The menu, of course, is loaded with raw and cooked delicacies, but I paid it zero attention - I wanted omakase. As it turns out, I had options in that department too. That evening, the restaurant offered 4 selections - a $100 option, $120, $150, and $200. Each also had a beverage component for extra dough. My waitress, however, took charge. She highly recommended the $120 option, promising I'd experience the best ingredients but not too many courses, so I gave the go-ahead. I sipped a lychee martini (weakish, but tasty) and awaited the throwdown.


Had a Lychee Martini (so-so) and a fabulous ultra-dry sake who's name escapes me. Eeep!

Amuse Bouche:

Toro Tartare
-- With with Caviar, Tempura, Scallions, Ponzu and Fresh Wasabi, and finished with a Japanese fruit.
Oof, this was a really nice start. Very palate cleansing, with intense flavors from the *fresh* wasabi and the salty-licious caviar. The toro felt and tasted exquisite, but I could have done without the tempura flake - it tasted distracting, not complimentary. Solid ponzu, but not as good as Sushi Ike.

Course One:

Scallop Carpaccio
- Thinly sliced Scallops with Hot Oil, Yuzu, and Japanese Herbs
The textures here were outstandingly smooth and yummy, but for a dish that sported spicy oils and herb goodness, it fell flat. Disappointingly bland, but not a complete strike out.

Course Two:

Miso Soup
- With Snapper, Yuzu, and Carrots
Oh soup, how you've failed me.
This oily little nightmare had nothing to give in the flavor department, unless some fishy tasting, overcooked snapper qualifies. Not good. Not good at *all*.

I admit -- right about now, I started questioning my journey. Just, like, *that much*. Would Morimoto fail me?

Course Three:

Raw Jackfish
- With Pea Tendrils, Basil Oil, and Dried Bonito Flakes
Hmm, now this at least fell into the adventurous camp. I did like the saltiness of the bonito - the smoky flavor and dry texture added a nice accent to the otherwise bland fish. The sauce, once again, did not impress. Sorry Morimoto, this is not your kitchen's expertise. Still, a vast improvement over that icky nasty soup.

Course Four:

Asian Fusion Sorbet
- With unrecognized Herbs
The fruit used here was not one I recognized, so I don't recall the name. It tasted like a huckleberry/blueberry hybrid -- very refreshing, not too sweet, but overly icy. The pastry chef could learn a thing or two about sorbet textures from someone like Adrian at Providence. Yet my palate felt cleansed and ready to rock the next round.

Course Five:

Broiled Lobster
- With a Lemon and Tarragon Aioli and Broccoli
Ohhhh, now we're talkin'! God this just tasted all kinds of sinful. Grilled to melt-in-your-mouth consistency, Mr. Half Lobster oozed delicious oils and herby zing. The aioli didn't wow me (they're consistently mediocre with sauces here - it's official), but the main event did. Fan-tast-ique.

Course Six:

Kobe Beef with Foie Gras
- With Scallions, Sweet Potato Discs, and Root Vegetables
I said goddamn! This rocked even more than the lobster. Intensely rich and delicate ingredients, perfectly balanced with the sweet potato. The sauce . . .oh geez, I don't even have to say it. But everything else - veggies included - really succeeded.

Now, I will say that I likely wouldn't love the last two dishes *as* much, had the others been even close to that caliber, but the gratefulness for bona fide deliciousness overwhelmed me. In a good way.

Course Seven:

- Toro, Yellowtail, Jackfish, Halibut, Giant Clam - and I don't remember the last one!
You know, maybe I had the wrong expectations for Morimoto. The sushi course, while decent, didn't even begin to compare with some of the best I've had in LA and elsewhere. For starters, the rice didn't have the right density or flavor, unlike the stellar goods at SushiZo. The fish were fresh enough, just . . . eh, lackluster.

It's clearly the cooked dishes that take center stage here. Let that be a lesson to all you traveling foodies . . .

Dessert Course:

Tres Leches Cake with Fruit and Sorbet
Once again, the name of this unique fruit (used earlier in the meal) totally escapes me. But so does any fond memory of eating this sugary concoction anyway. Interesting fusion idea, but poor execution. I had two bites and called it a night.

Damage for 1 martini, 1 glass of sake, and omakase - $157 before tip.
Worth it?
YES. It's all about the journey, right? :)


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

Overall Experience - C+

Final word - I'd actually go again and order off the menu. Cooked goods here seem like the specialty - leave the raw stuff to the experts.

I'd love it if you stopped by.