Monday, May 7, 2007

This Orris That

If you frequent Sawtelle in Los Angeles, then you’ve probably either been to or at least seen Orris; a small restaurant that serves French-Japanese fusion dishes tapas style. For me Orris was my inauguration into the food offerings on Sawtelle, but I was already familiar with the purple embossed sign that dons the cement and glass storefront. With a little research beforehand, I armed myself with a list of Jonathan Gold recommended dishes and departed.

When we arrived the place was bustling, but we were given the option of immediate seating inside at the sushi bar or outside on the front patio; we went outside. The waiter walked over and kindly explained to us what the restaurant was all about, and recommended we start with 5 dishes and order more if we wanted.

Opening the menu I was glad I had the list. There were so many things I wanted to try, separated into columns as hot or cold, but I didn’t want to break the bank either. It had already been a very long day of spending. It took some debate, but finally we decided on four dishes and ordered away.

The first to arrive was the “curry-infused shrimp tempura with curry dipping sauce and okinawan sea salt” ($9.50). Not overly greasy and with a nice golden color, the tempura tasted light and perfectly crisp. Interestingly as I was eating it I realized it only got better when you used a little bit of the dipping sauce and the side sea salt. It was the combination of flavors that really made this dish a winner.

Seconds later, the “lamb loin carpaccio infused with garlic and rosemary, topped with Spanish Manchego cheese shavings” ($9.50) was placed before us. Out of all the dishes yet to come, this one was the largest. Again the complexity of the flavors totally worked for this dish. Each piece of lamb was perfectly tender, and you could really taste the spices. Without the cheese I don’t think it would have been the same. It seemed to enhance every forkful, adding a very nice texture and taste.

Next on the list was the “ravioli filled with shrimp mouse and shitake mushroom sauce” ($8.50). This was ordered on recommendation by our waiter, who said it was a house specialty. All I can say is thank god for that waiter. It’s hard to describe the tastes that this dish seemed to emote. It was creamy and buttery, soft and complex. This made my evening. Next time I come here I’m getting two bowls.

At some point between the three aforementioned dishes, the fourth did arrive. But I neglected to snap a picture or even write down the name. It was a type of seafood salad with shrimp, octopus, and cucumbers. Honestly after going through each of the other dishes, this one failed to compare. It was good and was worth the cost, but it seemed to lack that little extra something that made the others so worth while.

If there was one commonality that I noticed amongst all the dishes, it was the care put into presentation. Each new item looked like it had been made just for us. I always forget that while taste is of course part of the equation in a good dining experience, food appearance is equally important. This is the difference between “eating” and “dining.”

In the future I would definitely go back to Orris, but with a few more people, a bigger appetite, and more money. I want to look more into the cold dishes, and if the other hot dishes were any indication I’m sure there are many other great ones to be found amongst them.
2006 Sawtelle Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 268-2212

Friday, May 4, 2007

Quiche Anyone?

I’m not one to eat very unhealthy. But when the infrequent special occasion roles around, or if I really need some comfort food, I’ll let the health conscious side of me take a break. Yesterday was my girlfriend’s birthday so I chose two places I’d heard were great that had food I knew she’d love.One of these was "Amandine Patisserie," a Japanese owned French bakery in Los Angeles. Our mission was the quiche, which I’d heard through chowhound and yelp was one of the places to go if you were in the market for a good incarnation of the alternative pie.

Walking in the place was bustling, and since the location was a bit on the small side it did make it difficult to look at the menu board without disrupting the flow of traffic through the restaurant. Looking around I wandered to the far end past the register, where a mountain of drool worthy baked goods were calling my name. But I was there for the quiche and only the quiche so I tried to pretend they didn’t exist by pushing them from my mind. The large menu board behind the counter listed a great selection of omelettes, and on the smaller specials board were listed the special quiches for the day.

Since there were only two I ordered a slice both which were $4.25 a slice, and in a moment of weakness I found myself saying, “and a croissant.” So for $2.00 more I did end up with a baked good in the end.

Finding a table was tricky, taking three trips back and forth across the restaurant, but finally we snagged a table and settled ourselves just in time for the food to be placed before us.

The croissant looked and tasted great. It was soft and fluffy with a melt in your mouth buttery taste. I was glad that I ordered this even if it wasn’t quiche.

Pushing that aside I dug into the "Turkey, Spinach, and Cauliflower Quiche." Cauliflower seemed odd to me, but the trio of main ingredients worked great together. It was nice and creamy with a good flaky crust. My only qualm would be I wish they used more turkey. It was layered on the bottom in what looked like a big slice. Perhaps if they used chopped up turkey instead there would have been a much better distribution. Problem aside it was still a solidly good slice of quiche.

Next up was the "Bell Pepper, Zucchini, and Mushroom Quiche." I love mushrooms, I don’t love zucchini. I’ve always found it to be a rather bland vegetable that only becomes edible when it’s soaked in butter or grilled. In this quiche the zucchini didn’t go far to add much flavor for me, but I loved the bell pepper and mushrooms. In fact combined with the cheesy egg quiche I adored it.

I’d be hard pressed to decide which one of the two I liked more as both had qualities I liked. They both were good and came very close to greatness, so I’d say they were equally satisfying. If I had the option to make my own I’d combine the turkey, mushrooms, and bell peppers. Now that sounds like a great quiche.

I had a great time in "Amandine Patisserie," and if I find myself in the mood one day or if I’m in the area, I would make a return visit for a different quiche and more certainly another baked good.
Amandine Patisserie
12225 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 979-3211

Brunch at Bizou

For more then one special occasion I’ve gone to Café Bizou in Sherman Oaks usually for a quaint lunch or dinner. This past Saturday I found myself taking part in their brunch menu, a new experience for me.

The menu consisted of a nice looking selection of breakfast items like eggs benedict, and an assortment of salads, sandwiches, and entrees that will also appear later in the day as lunch or dinner options. I settled on the "grilled salmon salad with papaya, grilled red onion and passion fruit dressing." ($10.95)

When the salad arrived I was happy to see the amount of salmon they provided me. On my last visit I had the "grilled ahi tuna salad" which was a bit light on the tuna. This one however was salmon plentiful. Odd however were the slices of papaya and red onion, which tasted fine but didn’t seem ready-made for this salad. The papaya and pile of onions needed to be chopped up instead of just tossed on top. This was probably one of the first salads where I felt like I needed a knife to properly eat it like a salad.

The dressing was another area of contention for me. Described as “passion fruit” I couldn’t taste any such fruit whatsoever. Instead I was affronted with the overpowering sour and acidic taste of what seemed like limes. This was just bad and ended up being inedible. I requested balsamic and pushed this passionless dressing off to the side.

Brunch at Café Bizou was not a good experience for me, which is sad considering I’ve had such a nice time during their other meals of the day. If I ever do find myself back there for brunch in the future, I’ll just stick to the entrees that I’ve already had and enjoyed. Like the "sautéed sandabs," the "roasted chicken breast," or the "roast pork tenderloin."
Café Bizou
14016 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
(818) 788-3536