Tag Archives: pasta

DineLA: Enoteca Drago

6 Feb

Brushetta Love @Enoteca Drago

Hi guys!

Sorry for the somewhat long hiatus! Since getting accepted to my Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) program here at USC I’ve been working on a lot (and trust me, I mean A LOT) of scholarship applications to help offset the obnoxious tuition/living costs I’m going to have to take care of for the next few years.

But I’m back for a bit! I’m taking a break from writing a personal statement to bring you my only post on DineLA‘s restaurant week! For those of you who don’t know what restaurant week is, it’s basically two weeks when diners can choose from a prix fixe three-course (appetizer, entrée, and dessert) menu for a special discounted price.

I went to Little Dom’s (here’s their yelp.com page) the first week, but the lighting was so bad I couldn’t get good shots of the food. Everything tasted pretty good, but it definitely wasn’t one of those “omg wow!” dinners. My friend and I got the: fried shrimp and artichoke (with lemon, mint, and caper sauce) and Grilled mortadella (with arugala and aged balsamic vinegar) for the appetizers; the ricotta gnocchi (with wild boar ragu) for the entree, and the tangelo creamsicle milkshake (with shortbread cookies) and bomboloni al cioccolato (chocolate creme filled donut) for dessert. We both loved the grilled mortadella and the creamsicle milkshake! The gnocchi was not bad but the Chef Boyardee tasting ragu killed it for us.

But enough with the mediocre! Let’s talk about the GOOD stuff. Enoteca Drago (yelp.com page). Good thing we (my boyfriend and I) couldn’t make reservations at our first choice restaurant (Meet French Bistro)! Otherwise we would’ve missed out on a truly romantic lunch date in Beverly Hills.

First off, you have to love outdoor seating right in the middle of Beverly Hills. Plus one right off the bat! And! The waitress was very nice (great service in terms of timing the dishes and making sure we were comfortable). Plus FIVE POINTS. I’m a sucker for good service.

Now onto the food.

1. The BREAD

Bread was pretty good! The baguette was crusty but soft and fluffy in the middle and the pretzel sticks were delish! The only eyebrow raising part of the bread was the mystery condiment they gave us (you can see it in the picture). I have no idea what it was. We stuck to the butter. ^o^

Bread and Mystery Condiment!

2. The APPETIZERS

Okay, let me start off by saying that usually the appetizers are the third best part of the meal. The entrée usually comes first (surprising for a girl, right?) and the dessert usually takes second. But this was an exception. I LOVED LOVED LOVED the appetizers!

First, my choice. Vitello Tonnato. The description on the menu was the following: Caper Berries and Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette. I always like to go with something acidic or very fresh and crisp for an appetizer since I feel like it wakes up my palate. I also think it helps me to taste the nuances of the typical heartier dishes ordered for the entrée.

ZOMG SOOO GOOD!

The boyfriend’s appetizer was also AMAZING. When I first saw “Brushetta” on the menu I cringed a bit. So simple and, well, expected for an Italian restaurant. But damn, did this exceed my expectations. Maybe it was the low expectations I had going into the first bite, but the cherry tomatoes and the Burrata cheese (mmm!) were AMAZING together. And the celery pesto added a nice touch.

The cheese was AMAZING!

3. The ENTRÉES

I got the Rotisserie Chicken with Paremesan Fries and Red Wine Reduction. At first I was a little hesitant to order this since some reviews mentioned the meat being slightly overcooked and dry. No problem with that here! The chicken was super moist and might I add that the skins were SUPER crispy? The fries were also super good–although, I wish the parmesan taste had been more pronounced; I totally forgot it was there. And the sauce was great, but I would’ve liked more of it (typical me, always wanted nomtastic things in large quantities).

I could totally eat this again...*drool*

The boyfriend ordered the Boneless Braised Short Ribs with Cabbage Package, Baby Carrots, and Carrot and Brown Butter Puree (as was to be expected) and damn, those things were GOOD! As we would say back home, BROKE DA MOUTH GOOD! I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it. I was a little scared of the cabbage at first–it looked a little, well, burnt–but it actually complemented the puree and helped to bring everything together.

Now that's a nomshot right there!

4. The DESSERT

Dessert No. 1: Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch Bar, Orange & Black Pepper Sorbet & Marmalade. Once the boyfriend saw this he didn’t care much about what was in store pre-dessert. He just wanted this. And he had good reason to. It was DELICIOUS. The sorbet helped to cut through the crunch bar, which was rich yet not overpowering, and the candied orange was a cute decorative touch. It’s going on my “To Try” list.

Now that's a good lookin' dessert!

I botched the dessert. I really wanted something fruity after eating my french fries so I chose the semifreddo. For some reason I didn’t realize it was going to have Grapefruit sorbet and it was a very unpleasant surprise for me. I typically don’t handle sour foods very well (grapefruit usually has to be dipped in sugar in order for me to eat it) so it was hard to get it all down. The pistachio nut semifreddo was delicious though. I could eat bowls and bowls of that stuff.

Ahhh the grapefruit!

5. In SUMMARY

This was a double-thumbs up meal for me! I would definitely go again. Maybe next time I’ll go at night to see how the ambiance is then.

Now for a tangent! I have a TON of pictures from some foodie adventures in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo that I am dying to share! So stay tuned for that post. In the meantime, I’m going to keep writing personal statements…)

Until then, may your bellies be FULL and your plates EMPTY!

Full Bellies, Empty Plates!

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Japan’s Itameshi & America’s Food Truck Craze: Representing our Generation through Food

7 Dec

 

flickr/boo_licious

A few months ago TheAtlantic.com featured an article by Corky White on Japan’s latest culinary obsession with all things Italian. Itameshi (“Ita” is short for “Italian” and “meshi” is the Japanese colloquial equivalent for “food”), originally referred to traditional Italian cuisine and now also refers to the practice of infusing Japanese flavors into Italian staples such as pasta and antipasti. The idea of mixing Japanese and Italian food sounds strange at first—especially if sushi and marinara sauce are the first things that come to mind—but it’s really not. For example,this recipe is basically tuna pasta with the substitution of certain ingredients: soy sauce is used in place of salt and furikake (a mixture of dried seaweed, sesame seeds) is used in place of the herbs such as basil or parsley.

What intrigued me most about the article was White’s proposed reason for Itameshi’s current popularity. For the older Japanese individuals he interviewed, Itameshi appealed to them because the rustic character of Italian cuisine reminded them of a “long-gone Japan.” As a nation that lost its cultural and national identity to the rapid modernization and Westernization of the Meiji Restoration, the nostalgic quality of Itameshi cannot be ignored.

But I am convinced that Itameshi is popular for other reasons; after all, it has only recently become very popular despite its 50 years in Japan. Itameshi first experienced moderate popularity during the post-WWII period when major cities were saturated with American troops. In the 1970s its modern incarnation welcomed a small boost in popularity when chefs began introducing more Japanese flavors and ingredients such as ponzu (citrus soy sauce) and shiitake (Japanese mushrooms). And until recently, Franco-nippon cuisine, a blend of French and Japanese flavors, has been more popular. So why is Itameshi extremely popular now after 50 years on the food circuit? Instead of looking to the older generation for answers, we should look to the younger demographic.

I would argue that Itameshi is now more popular than ever because its current Japanese-infused form represents the essence of Japan’s younger generation. According to some of my friends from Okinawa, young adults in Japan want to adopt completely foreign lifestyles such as the American lifestyle because they think the greater social and economic freedom is invigorating. But in the end many settle for a hybrid lifestyle in fear of being ostracized for deviating too far from the social norm. So for them Itameshi isn’t just a food trend—it’s a manifestation of their identity and that is why it is so popular. And more importantly: it’s affordable, unlike Franco-Nippon cuisine; and it’s easily accessible, with many local eateries, such as the popular Italian Tomato, within close proximity.

But does this only apply to Japan? After reading this article on fusion cuisine I began to think about culinary trends here in America. Fusion cuisine, organic food, and food trucks are all greatly popular, yet very different. Do we become schizophrenic when we think about food? Or is there a single driving force powering the co-existence of these various crazes? Having schizophrenic tendencies while thinking about food sounds like a blast, but I can make a stronger argument for the latter. Like Itameshi in Japan, food trends in America have come to represent our generation. Fusion cuisine reflects how we are intermixing what was once partitioned ethnic communities; organic food reflects our commitment to living green in light of environmental and health concerns; and food trucks reflect the impact of media on our perception of how food should be eaten.

Of all three, I would consider the food truck trend to be the most interesting representation of our generation—especially for those living in Los Angeles.

The popularity of shows such as Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives have glorified the itinerant eating lifestyle and made us infatuated with the idea that we can experience the world through food. Realistically, we can’t all travel the world like bad-ass Anthony Bourdain or tour the country driving a red Chevrolet Camaro convertible like spunky Guy Fieri, but we can recreate that experience by patronizing the various food trucks L.A. has to offer.

These mobile kitchens serve food that is—and don’t hate me for saying it—the same fare we could get at a restaurant. You could easily walk into the neighborhood pizza parlor for a slice of pepperoni pizza comparable to that of the very popular Slice Truck. But the overall experience, starting with finding a truck serving what you’re craving at the moment, to finding a nearby spot to eat before heading home, provides more than a means to satisfy our appetite; it provides us with the opportunity to explore and discover tastes like the food celebrities on television.

Let’s say for example, that you’re craving a banh mi sandwich. You could either be like Anthony Bourdain and book a flight to Hanoi or you could just check the Nom Nom Truck’s twitter to see where they’ll be serving their famous banh mi. If you convince a friend who’s good with a camera to tag along with you, you could probably make your search for the perfect banh mi sandwich look and feel like what you would see on No Reservations. With both scenarios, you’d finish the night with a belly full of barbeque pork, picked carrots and radish, and cilantro, but you’d be a couple thousand dollars richer if you skipped the plane ride all together.

Everyone thinks that they’re singlehandedly bringing something innovative and exciting to the world of food, but in the end we’re all just using manipulating food to define how our children and grandchildren will remember our generation. And to add insult to our already injured egos, this is something we’ve seen repeated through history.

Think about it. Trends from the eras when our parents and grandparents grew up were also fundamental in defining their generations. During the 1920s and 30s, flappers adopted fashions popularized in France by Coco Chanel to signal the advent of the modern woman who saw no need to answer to a man. In the 1960s, men and women of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds used music to express to express their feelings on war, race, and civil rights. Using food to define our generation is just the modern version of what fashion and music accomplished in the past.

What will be next? Fashion, music, and food were around long before they began to reflect the character of their respective generations. I’d say anything is fair game.

So ladies and gentlemen, place your bets and cross your fingers. I think we’re all in for quite a treat.