I eat: UMAMIcatessen

I’ve been craving burgers lately. Like, a lot. Apparently, eating In-N-Out on the weekends while watching playoff hockey has not been enough. I NEED MOREEEE BURGERS!!! So on one of my off Fridays, Henry and I headed to DLTA to try UMAMIcatessen, a food-court-esque eatery, which houses UMAMI Burger (yes, I’m totally stating the obvious :P). Having never eaten at UMAMI, we both wanted to see if the burgers were worth all the hype.

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As we looked over the menu, we knew we had to try their signature burger, the Umami Burger. Choosing our 2nd burger was tough. We were interested in both the Manly and Hatch Burgers. This was a battle of bacon vs. chiles, which we both LOVE, but ultimately, bacon won, as it usually always does. Always.

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Umami Burger, $11
shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, parmesan crisp, umami ketchup

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Manly Burger, $11
beer-cheddar cheese, smoked salt onion strings, bacon lardons

We ordered the burgers medium rare, as suggested by our waiter, but when we split the burgers, the patties looked more like medium, almost medium-well. I couldn’t really complain because the burgers were actually incredibly tender and juicy.

To my surprise, I liked the Manly burger a lot more than the Umami. Simply put, the Manly is a high end, refined version of a Western Bacon Cheeseburger. I really enjoyed the combination of smoky + sweet and the contrast in texture provided by the fried onion. Unfortunately, I was not impressed with the Umami Burger. The flavors just didn’t mesh well and I did not care for the roasted tomato or the Umami ketchup. Am I only one??!! I’ve read many reviews raving about the ketchup.

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Smushed Potatoes, $4.50
dutch yellow creamers, double fried

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Crispy Pig Ears, $7
parsley, lemon, brainaise

In addition to the burgers, we also ordered two sides. If you love potatoes as much as I do, you must order the smushed potatoes. Starchy, salty goodness! And if you’ve never had pig ears and are feeling adventurous, I recommend the crispy pig ears; they’re a great alternative to fries.

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FG&J, $8
foie gras mousse, forest berry jam, peanut (yeast)

I gotta say, even though UMAMI is a burger joint, I was most excited about dessert. I love foie gras and I love doughnuts so the FG&J sounded amazing on paper. After a lengthy wait (longer than we waited for our burgers), I took one bite and was immediately turned off. My taste buds were so confused – the delicate flavor of the foie gras mixed with the tartness of the jam just didn’t make sense in my mouth. It was such a shame because the doughnut itself was quite good!

Verdict: 3.5/5
UMAMIcatessen
852 S. Broadway,
Los Angeles, CA 90014

I eat: Mélisse

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Let’s go back. Way back… Ok, maybe not that far. Back to 2010 when Henry and I dined at Melisse for my 26th birthday. Even though I’m a little fuzzy on the details (I can barely remember what I did last week :P), I’ve considered Melisse one of my top ten restaurants ever since.

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Bread and Amuse Bouche

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Seard Foie Gras, Yellow and White Peach, Hibiscus-Rosemary

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Egg Caviar, Poached Egg, Lemon-Chive Crème Frâiche, American Ostetra Caviar

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Lobster Bolognese, Fresh Cappelini, Black Truffles, Basil

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Santa Barbara Spot Prawn, Cuttlefish, Sea Urchin, Nasturtium

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Sonoma Lamb and Sausage, “Ratatouille”, Red Pepper, Jus d’ Agneau

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Liberty Duck Breast and Confit Leg, Figs, Forrono Beets, Jus d’ Epice

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Millefeuille of Fruit Rouge, Vanilla Ice Cream

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Sticky Toffee Pudding, Mocha Malt Ice Cream, Red Berry-Hibiscus Consommé

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Petits Fours

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I would describe our meal as refined simplicity. Each dish showcased individual ingredients that combined beautifully. Melisse is worthy of it’s two Michelin stars.

Verdict: 4.5/5
Mélisse
1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401

I eat: Bar + Kitchen

One of the benefits of working in Aerospace is the 9/80 schedule, which many companies are on. For those of you who don’t know, 9/80 = working 9 hours M-Th and 8 hours on alternating Fridays.

Yesterday was my off Friday. Yesterday was also the last day of dineLA.

On our day off, Henry and I braced ourselves for traffic and terrible parking as we ventured into DTLA for a dineLA lunch at Bar + Kitchen. I decided on lunch as opposed to dinner because I was more intrigued by the items on the lunch menu.

Bar + Kitchen is located in the lobby of the O Hotel. I found it interesting that there is no distinct separation between the lobby and the restaurant. The first level of the O Hotel truly epitomizes the open floor plan concept. Tables with half booth seating run along the side of the wall with the exception of a communal table (or table for a large party) situated behind the hotel’s front window.

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In addition to the dineLA menu, we also ordered mussels off of the regular Winter menu.

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PEI mussels fennel, saffron, tarragon aioli, grilled bread $9

The mussels were tender and I loved the spicy kick of the broth. Grilled bread with mussels is a must!!

Appetizers

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Crispy pork belly, pickled sunchokes, plum puree

Perfect execution! The pork belly was indeed crispy on the outside, but tender with the right amount of fattiness on the inside. I liked the play on sweet and sour from the plum puree and pickled sunchokes.

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Butternut squash & ginger soup, créme fraiche, spiced pepitas

Very comforting. Incorporating ginger into butternut squash soup never crossed my mind, but it really works! The ginger breaks up the sweetness of the butternut squash and adds depth of flavor. The spiced pepitas were a nice touch, providing a contrast in texture.

Entrées

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Shrimp & grits, spanish chorizo ragout

This was the dish I was most excited about, but it disappointed me. The ragout was so so so salty, even when mixed with the grits! If not for a heavy hand with the salt, this dish would have been great. At least they didn’t skimp on the shrimp (5).

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Mustard glazed kurobuta pork loin, mashed sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts

The pork loin was tender and the mustard glaze gave it amazing flavor. Note to self: must try to recreate this at home!

Desserts

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Warm chocolate & peanut butter cake, banana ice cream, peanut brittle

There wasn’t anything wrong with this dessert; it was just very ordinary.

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Butterscotch pot de créme, whipped cream, shortbread cookies

I preferred this over the chocolate/peanut butter cake because it light. My only complaint would be that the consistency of the custard was a little thicker than what I’m used to.

Given the short time frame of dineLA, my goal was to try two new restaurants.
Waterloo & City ✓
Bar + Kitchen ✓
Done! I’m very happy with my choices this time around. Best dineLA run so far!

Verdict: 3.5/5
Bar + Kitchen
O Hotel
819 S Flower St
Los Angeles, CA 90017

I eat: Napa Rose [1], [2]

I opened a Disney credit card in 2007. I can’t tell you why because I honestly don’t remember myself; I was never a Disney fanatic. Over the years, I accumulated more than 400 Disney Dollars. It wasn’t until I researched the redemption policy that I find out I could use my Disney Dollars at Disney restaurants. I chose Napa Rose.

Inside Napa Rose, there is a lounge, main dining area, Dessert Counter and Chef’s Counter. The Dessert Counter seats about 4 to 5 people and is off to the right of the kitchen overlooking the preparation of desserts. The Chef’s Counter is split by the service counter (see picture below); each side seating 4. Diners sitting on the left facing the kitchen have a view of appetizers being made while diners on the right get to see the main course action unfold. Because of the extended experience, there are only two seatings per night at the Chef’s Counter/Dessert Counter, 5:30PM and 8:30PM.

IMAG0459Executive Chef Andrew Sutton

To snag seats at the Chef’s Counter, I made a reservation a month in advance for a 5:30PM seating. Henry and I were excited to celebrate our 5 year anniversary with a “free” dinner (thank you Disney Dollars)!!

The night of our reservation, we arrived early only to find out that whoever took our reservation FUCKED UP because they had no record of it.

I. WAS. LIVID.
THANKS FOR RUINING OUR ANNIVERSARY ASSHOLE!!!!

The Chef’s Counter was completely booked that night so the only thing the manager could do was offer us seats in the main dining area. I contemplated just walking out and going home, but I remembered that I had expiring Disney Dollars to use so I reluctantly accepted.

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After being seated, we placed our order fairly quickly since we agreed beforehand that we would order the “Vintner’s Table” (Chef’s Four Course Tasting Menu). I didn’t have a chance to be my usual indecisive self!

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Amuse Bouche

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Halibut

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Pork Belly & Loin

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Steak

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Goat Cheese Doughnuts

My anger began to subside as we finished our first course and it all but disappeared by the time dessert was served. Instead of sulking the whole night, I actually enjoyed my meal. Every dish was well executed and delicious. I especially loved the pairing of goat cheese doughnuts and “pear soup” (I told you I love hot + cold).

At the beginning of the night, given the reservation drama, I was sure we would never, ever, ever come back to Napa Rose… EVER. At the end of the night, I was willing to come back and pay for our meal!

…And come back we did. Less than a month later! Yes, mostly for the food, but also because Napa Rose comped our first meal in attempt to make things right – we only paid for Henry’s wine pairing, tax, and tip (based on full dinner amount, of course). That meant I still had expiring Disney Dollars to use.

For our second visit, I was only able to reserve seats at the Dessert Counter.

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View from the Dessert Counter

See the empty seats on left? That’s the Chef’s Counter. Since all 4 of those seats were empty and it was well past 6PM, I asked Sous Chef Gloria what the deal was. After speaking with the manager, she explained that the party cancelled and offered us the seats. HELL YEA! Not only did our view get upgraded, Sous Chef Gloria also told us about another tasting menu, one in which you relinquish control of your meal over to the chefs; we had no idea what our next course would be. This option had more, smaller portion courses and costs the same as the “Vintner’s Table”. I highly recommend it if you are able to sit at the Chef’s Counter.

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View from the Chef’s Counter

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We LOVED every dish, but the highlight of our meal had to be the mushroom soup. AMAZING. The “Best Hot Chocolate” was a close second 🙂 I can’t wait to return for another meal.

Verdict [1] & [2]: 4.5/5
Napa Rose (@ Grand Californian)
1600 S Disneyland Dr
Anaheim, CA 92802

I eat: Redd

I’m always a little nervous when I return to a restaurant that I loved the first time. What if the quality has deteriorated? What if I was just really hungry? Did I just happen to order the best things on the menu? What if my second time is an off day? So many questions run through my mind.

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Crispy Duck Confit with Lentils and Foie Gras Meatballs
Glazed Pork Belly, Apple Purée, Burdock, Soy Caramel
Steamed Pork buns, Hoisin, Vegetable Slaw
Braised Shortrib, Bacon, Cipollini onions, Fingerling potatoes, Red Wine Jus
Caramelized Diver Scallops, Cauliflower Purée, Almonds, Balsamic Reduction

Henry and I first dined at Redd for lunch in October, 2009. We loved it and couldn’t stop raving to our friends and family about our wonderful experience. Fast forward about two years and we returned for dinner with a couple of friends, fully expecting Redd to knock their socks off. But… that didn’t exactly happen. Perhaps my expectations were too high or my tastes have matured/palate refined or even a combination of both – overall, I was disappointed with our meal.

We started off with oysters and appetizers to share.

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Glazed Pork Belly, Apple Purée, Burdock, Soy Caramel $14
Carnaroli Risotto, Maine Lobster, Meyer Lemon Confit, Truffle Oil $15

The pork belly was one of my favorite dishes the first time around and for that reason, I ordered it again. And thankfully, it was as good as I remembered! The risotto was delicious as well, making it difficult for me to have to share it with 3 other people.

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Sauteed Skate, Onion Fondue, Summer Beans, Hazelnut Brown Butter $28
Petrale Sole, Coconut Jasmine Rice, Clams, Chorizo, Saffron Curry Nage $28
Prime New York Steak and Shortribs, Salt Potatoes, Bacon and Mushroom Ragout $32
Liberty Farms Duck Breast, Shelling Bean Cassoulet, Bread Crumbs, Thyme Jus $29

The best entree of the table was the skate with brown butter… WHO DOESN’T LOVE BUTTER? TELL ME! TELL ME!

Everything else, however, just fell flat. The saffron curry nage left a bitter after-taste and the short ribs were tough and stringy. I was most disappointed with the duck; it was overcooked, the skin was not crispy and the amount of bread crumbs over the cassoulet was just ridiculous.

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Butterscotch Pudding, Vanilla Anglaise, Pinenut Rosemary Cookies $10
Chocolate, Peanut Butter Beignets, Bitter Caramel Ice Cream, Bananas $10

After being let down by the entrees, I wanted to pass up dessert. But since we were (unofficially) celebrating Henry’s birthday, we ordered two to share. I liked the butterscotch pudding more than the beignets because it was lighter and not as sweet.

Oh, btw, it didn’t help any that a lady sitting 10 feet away from us was throwing up UNDER THE TABLE. It was her bachelorette party.

Verdict: 3/5
Redd
6480 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599