Archive | January 2012

Monday Night in LA: Five Cool Things To Get You Out of The House

Is Monday the new Friday night? Is seems that the ‘worst’ night of the week is now becoming one of the best nights for unique outings and bargains from restaurants to bars. What used to be a night in on the sofa with ramen noodles while catching up with work (ok, facebook), and trying to accept Ashton Kushner in Charlie Sheen’s role on Two and a Half Men, has now turned into a hot evening out on the town. Here are five reasons not to be a couch potato on Monday.

1) Ray’s & Stark Bar – Entrees are only $10 on Monday, which means you can create a mix-n-match tasting menu from Kris Morningstar’s true farm-to-table seasonal menu for a fraction of the price. Some of the produce and herbs are plucked right from the chef’s garden behind the eatery and are also used in cocktails which you can enjoy before or after an exhibit at LACMA.

2) Savory in Malibu – Chef Paul Shoemaker’ has presented a monday night ‘burger wars’ pub menu. Expect Dungeness crab cake burgers and The Four Horseman with two six-ounce patties of rib eye, layered with pork belly, American cheese, sweet caramelized onions and bacon.

3) Ombra – Head to this modern Italian eatery in the valley for Chef Michael Young’s 3-course ‘Notte Slow’ dinners for $35 celebrating all things slow food – and add a carafe of wine for only $12. Courses include linguine with local calamari, a main dish of halibut and ricotta cheesecake for dessert.

4) Artisan House – This downtown newbie cafe and market is now showcasing live jazz music on Monday’s. Whether you’re shopping at the deli or bread counter, having dinner with a croque madame, or champagne cocktails at the bar, The Campfire Trio is live from 7 to 11 pm.

5) Casa del Mar – Forget high tea with cakes and finger sandwiches and try the cocktail trolley in the lounge at Casa del Mar from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. The mixologist rolls the cart right to your table and mixes fresh herbs and fruit with green or black tea into alcoholic libations.

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Revamps of Old Hollywood and Santa Monica Spots Have Winning New Formulas

The old Les Deux space at Hollywood Blvd and Las Palmas is on its third incarnation as Sadie, but this could be the one that sticks. The triple room venue was riding high during much of the last decade as a place to be seen on the patio for late nights with plenty of table hopping, celeb spotting and champagne. After a revamp in 2010, that left them with basically a front bar-lounge area and an American comfort small plates menu, they just never got the same crowd or momentum back.

Sadie is now armed with Executive Chef Dave Schmit in the kitchen (Brentwood County Club, Beverly Hills Hotel), and General Manager Patrick Doherty at the front of house – who was there during their last stint and used to run The Buffalo Club, among other celebrity hangouts. The former patio has been restored with stone walls, reclaimed wood, plenty of cozy two tops for a romantic meal and probably the best tables to book, but don’t overlook the bar and lounge in the middle of the space. The speakeasy vibe with vintage art and banquettes should also become a sought after room for dining.  The management has kept that slightly awkward front entrance bar, so best save that spot for a quick pop of a Pernod Absinthe drink (The Green Beast), before catching a show on the Blvd.

The best dishes we sampled were the duck confit salad – which can also be ordered as a flatbread; a huge pan roasted Idaho trout (pictured below) sitting on a pile of olive oil crushed potatoes, kalamata olives, capers and tomato that could easily feed two people. The homemade donuts with Irish coffee cream should be ordered for dessert and paired with a Pan-Am coffee with Intelligentsia beans, rum and brown sugar syrup.

Moving out west to Main Street in Santa Monica, the former tacky World Cafe space – also with a stunning outdoor patio that we predict will be THE table to book this spring by the beach; has morphed into Areal. During chilly nights you can lounge by the bar or in the dining room in a booth or on a powder blue Regency style chair.

The menu features amazing socca made with thin crust gluten-free chickpea bread that is a breath of fresh air from all the flatbreads around town and a great use of the wood burning oven by Chef Alan Kwan (Scarpetta, New York). It’s so light and crisp, you could eat one by yourself and not feel guilty that you don’t have room for the roasted bone marrow with oxtail hash and mushrooms. For a main course, we were skeptical about the grilled chicken breast but it was perfectly cooked and had the best crispy skin, yet was so juicy and flavorful it ended up beating out the tender beef short ribs for best entree of the night. No matter how many soccas the table orders from sausage and kale, mushroom or heirloom tomato, or how many cocktails you have paired with them, yes they have Absinthe here too, save room for a scoop of peanut butter ice-cream before you call it a night.

Umami Burger Guru Serves Gourmet Pizza Near UCLA Campus in One Minute at 800 Degrees

Adam Fleischman brought the burger concept in LA  to a new level when he started opening his Umami Burger concepts around LA. Featuring addictive gourmet truffle cheese burgers, the local chain quickly expanded in just under 5 years, and has caught the attention of nightlife and hospitality guru Sam Nazarian, CEO of sbe, who plans to take the burger eatery national with Fleishman starting this year.

So why the sudden switch to the pizza world? “I wanted to turn gourmet pizza into fast food,” says Fleischman while handing out the weekly special pie of butternut squash, burrata and bacon during a press preview in Westwood of 800 Degrees.  It seems that the burger guru has found the winning ingredient once again. The pies are topped with that famed truffle cheese from Italy – Boschetto di Tartufo, an array of veggies including Kalamata olives and proteins like rosemary ham or Florida rock shrimp, with each pie taking only one minute to 90 seconds to bake.  Add to the mix burrata and beet salads, oven-baked meatballs, LA Creamery gelato and a slick, user friendly soda machine that is made by Ferrari (which also re-orders the drinks by sending an e-mail directly to the soda companies), and this spells long lines during peak hours.

It remains to be seen if 800 Degrees will expand in the same fashion as Umami, but Fleischman has his hands full this year with the UMAMIcatessen venture featuring burgers, a Kosher-style deli, donut shop and the pork counter PIGG by Chris Cosentino from San Francisco – which we hope to see this spring at 9th and Broadway if all goes well.