Son of a Gun—On Target

 

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of going to Son of a Gun, a newish West Hollywood restaurant. Small, intimate—when we first drove by, we had to circle the block twice to find it—the food is original and delicious.

We started off with the hamachi with vinaigrette apple and radish sprouts.

Hamachi with Apples, Sprouts and Vinaigrette
Hamachi with Apples, Sprouts and Vinaigrette

Sashimi-grade yellow-fin tuna with tart apples and a light splash of rice-vinegar dressing and a sprinkling of green spouts. This precious appetizer deserves a shout-out. Next, we had the steelhead roe which was good, but not memorable, the uni with burrata and yuzu didn’t knock our socks off, and the huge mound of yellowfin tuna with avocado was just bizarre. So, stick with the hamachi!

For the entrees and small plates, we had the lobster roll—very tiny but melt-in-your-mouth delicious so we ordered two. The shrimp toast that is highly praised on Yelp as one of Son of a Gun’s best appetizers is just too deep-fried for our taste, so we would pass on it next time. The linguine with clams with an uni olio was delicious as was the cucumber salad with two kinds of cucumbers (fresh and pickled) on a delicious bed of mizuna and tiny cherry tomatoes laced with a citrusy yuzu dressing. We could have eaten another one of those.

Cucumber Tomato Salad
Cucumber Tomato Salad

The special of the night was sea bass in a Vietnamese pho-style broth but no rice or noodles, just delicious bok choy and greens with lots of cilantro. A real winner.

The towering fried chicken sandwich (one of their signature dishes) also was just too much fried batter but the pickled cole slaw balanced the oil nicely. The hamachi collar on beans and mustard greens was original and tasty.

Fried Chicken sandwich with cole slaw
Fried Chicken sandwich with cole slaw

On first reading, you might think this is a mixed review and that Son of a Gun is not a keeper. But their startlingly good dishes that we loved, we really loved and will go back for those again! For those of you who do love deep fried foods my critique of those dishes may not apply to your palate.

Go visit Son of a Gun and enjoy the ambience—the maritime, old-fashioned theme reminiscent of a small seafood restaurant you might find in Cape Cod or Boston neighborhoods. We’re going back!

 

Osteria Mozza–A Tongue Thriller

Burrata de Puglia

Last week we had a wonderful gastronomic adventure at Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles on Melrose Avenue (West Hollywood).   We selected this restaurant on a friend’s recommendation (see Mia’s food blog, “Dubu Diaries”) and we definitely were not disappointed.  We would place this restaurant in the top 20 we have been to around the world!

We started with three antipasti, after receiving a complementary amuse bouche (what is the equivalent in Italian?):  delicious little spirals of mozzarella packed with basil leaves, sundried tomato and olives drizzled with sharp, green virgin olive oil.  What’s not to like about beginning a meal like that?!

Then we moved on to a grilled baby octopus salad on a bed of greens with potatoes, celery & lemon.  I must confess that I am an octopus obsessive and order it whenever it is on the menu.

Ribollita

Our other two appetizers were Ribollita Delfina, a hearty Tuscan soup made with beef, bread and assorted vegetables.  Our young friend who had been to Italy explained what the dish was–we were all ribollita virgins eager to try.  Literally meaning “reboiled”, the ribollita arrived in a soup bowl, looking more like a juicy frittata than a soup, with a clear broth surrounding it. Absolutely wonderful!  Apparently, ribollita dates back to the Middle Ages when servants would gather leftovers from the aristocrats and make soup for their own dinners.

What Osteria Mozza is renowned for, however, is their burrata bar, a wide selection of  burratas and mozzarellas, served with or without vegetables.  We had the special fresh burrata flown in from its place of origin –Puglia, Italy (only on Fridays and Saturdays).  A memorable palate pleaser of soft, fluffy clouds of cheese perfection.

Squid Pasta

Our entrees included a flat fettucini-like pasta–Maltagliati  served with a succulent  wild boar ragú; exceptional grilled quail (two of them!) swaddled in pancetta  and braised, honeyed radicchio; braised beef short ribs in a  porcini reduction on a bed of delectable creamy  polenta.  But  the most adventurous and surprising combination:  a squid ink pasta (chitarra freddi) tossed with dungeness crab, spiced with jalapeno and topped with a delicate sea urchin.  What a tongue thriller!  To accompany this food coma we toasted with two bottles of  Ferrari,  Trento Brut Rosé –a fine dry wine similar to a Spanish rosé cava or a pink prosecco.

If someone had told us that this restaurant was owned by partners Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, restaurateurs with far-reaching empires including wineries, we probably would have passed, discounting the hype these two always receive with rave reviews that only served to disappoint at two previous encounters at restaurants they own in New York City and Kansas City.  However,  Osteria Mozza, which opened in July 2007, and was nominated as Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation  that year and recipient of one Michelin star, does not disappoint!
  You probably will not find an osteria this side of  Italy that is more fun, high-spirited, and serious about serving only the very best gourmet creations.  Next door is the smaller, more casual Pizzeria Mozza, which we hope to try the next time we are in town.  Perhaps it is because Nancy Silverton has entered into a partnership with the more famous Batali and Bastianich that this is the best riff on Italian cuisine we have enjoyed in a very long time.

Bar Pintxo: In a pinch

Recently on a trip to LA we embarked on a culinary adventure beginning with a cooking demo by Bar Pintxo Chef David Planowski   at Surfas, a gourmet kitchen supply store in Culver City.  Recently rated as one of the top 10 bars/tapas restaurants by Los Angeles Magazine, we wanted to check it out for ourselves by sampling at the demo.  Surfas had about fifty participants with several audience volunteers helping Chef David with an unforgettable gazpacho, including his secrets: squeezing the tomatoes and cucumbers to get maximum juice and the variability of  his standard vinaigrette (has to do with the mustard options).

  At Bar Pintxo in Santa Monica we tried a delectable array of small plates and had a chance to talk with Chef David about some of his dishes.  “Pintxo” in Basque (pronounced “pinch-o”) refers to small plates that are speared with a toothpick or skewer and usually a bit smaller than tapas. Although we are tapas addicts, I can’t say that most of the pintxos were smaller than the tapas plates we sample in San Francisco and New York.  We thought the restaurant was generous with proportions.  Some of the menu items we had not seen at other establishments before: dates with smoked bacon and valdeon cheese,  crab with citrus essence and avocado cream, seared calamari salad with pickled radishes, albondigas (lamb meatballs) filled with pickled grapes, on a bed of spinach with pumpkin seeds. and snap peas with fresh mint. We did have some dishes we have tried elsewhere as well:  grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes and infused olive oil (a little stingy with the octopus, I thought), chorizo with tomatoes, white asparagus with romesco sauce , and jamon serrano and jamon iberico We finished off with a strawberry ginger flan that was an original interpretation of the classic dessert with just the right combination of fruity sourness and gingery tang.

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Chef David explained to us that he loved experimenting and changed the menu often.  So, Bar Pintxo is a keeper if you find yourselves walking along the beautiful Santa Monica beach and want to have a delightful and unpretentious meal of  Spanish small plates this side of Madrid and San Sebastian!  Bar Pintxo’s also has an unbelievable wine list , including some difficult-to-find Penedes cava.  Try Bar Pintxo’s –you’ll love it!