What Charmin Bears Love: Food|Dogs|Sephora

Our foodie instincts take over when we're out and about.

Los Angeles: Animal Restaurant

Animal Restaurant @ North Fairfax Ave.

5.27

Animal is a highly rated small plates restaurant for meat lovers.

Animal - Hamachi Tostada

Animal – Hamachi Tostada

Our first course of the night was the hamachi fish, served raw with a fish sauce vingerette, peanuts and herbs tossed with crispy fried shallots and shredded napa cabbage. Light and refreshingly tasty, we both craved for more yellowtail.

Animal - Melted Petit Basque

Animal – Melted Petit Basque

Petit basquet is a hard pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese, originating from the Pyrenees Mountains that forms the border between France and Spain. The cheese is smooth and velvety in texture yet creamy, nutty and mild. Chorizo and toasted bread accompanied the melted petit basquet cheese. I enjoyed it very much.

Animal - Poutine

Animal – Poutine

The first thing off the menu I really wanted was the poutine. Crispy French fries, juicy oxtail meat and gravy with cubes of white cheddar cheese…..it was a piece of foodie heaven in my mouth. So far, the best poutine I’ve had the pleasure of eating. My mouth waters now as I write this entry. Did I mention the plate was HUGE? I had to polish off the remaining oxtail and fries.

Animal - Foie Gras Biscuit

Animal – Foie Gras Biscuit

Luckily, my trip to LA to see Charmin Bear T occurred before they banned the use of foie gras in Cali kitchens. Smooth in texture, the foie bras was delicious. The maple sausage was sweet and savory. The biscuit was soft and fluffy. The gravy helped bind the dish together wonderfully.

Animal - Flat Iron

Animal – Flat Iron

I think by the time we got the last dish, we were stuffed. The flat iron steak covered with a truffle parmesan fondue sat on top of artichoke hash. When we cut into the meat, there was no hassle! The steak was tender and literally melted in our mouths.

Everything about this restaurant was amazing. Great service, delicious food, and a lively atmosphere. Reservations are highly recommended since the venue itself is on the small size. Only 45 seats. Charmin Bear T and I dressed up to eat here. Although it’s not required, it can help to elevate the feel for this trendy place.

– Charmin Bear J

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Napa: La Toque

La Toque @ 1314 McKinstry Street

A couple days after Morimoto, I ventured back to downtown Napa to one-michelin star La Toque. When I first stepped in, I was pretty overwhelmed by the beauty of the restaurant. I was quickly greeted and seated. My waiter was a nice old man who saw that I was eating alone and kept me company whenever he had a free moment. :)

Chef Ken Frank has a set menu that you can choose 3 or 4 savory dishes of (no including dessert). I decided to go with the 3 dish option since I’m a tiny little girl. The amuse-bouche of the night was a ratatouille, which was good but lacking some pizzazz.

La Toque - Amuse Bouche

La Toque – Amuse Bouche

Next I had the Japanese hamachi appetizer. I love sashimi, so I thought this was a good choice. Although the fish and asian pear combo was quite refreshing on the palette, I found that it lacked creativity. Also, there were rice crackers in this dish. If you’ve read my recent posts, you’ll know that I hate rice crackers in my food. ::angry fist::

La Toque - Japanese Hamachi, Avocado & Asian Pear

La Toque – Japanese Hamachi, Avocado & Asian Pear

For my second savory dish, I selected the white asparagus fettuccine with lobster and black truffle sauce. How can I deny myself of an item that has truffle in it? This dish was a bit more inspiring. Instead of using your regular pasta fettuccine, the ribbons you see below are made of white asparagus. It actually was a close enough carb substitute for me, yet it is definitely more healthy. The lobster meat was also cooked perfectly, not one bit rubbery. This was probably my favorite dish of the night.

La Toque - White Asparagus Fettucine with Lobster and Fresh Black Truffle Sauce

La Toque – White Asparagus Fettuccine with Lobster and Fresh Black Truffle Sauce

For my final savory dish, I decided to be more daring. This isn’t monkey brains or bear claw, but I’ve never had antelope before so I decided to try it. I tend to like gamey meat, so I thought, why not. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll be craving antelope meat. It really isn’t different enough for me to go out and seek it. The dish also had bone marrow, which was also my first time eating it. The fresh bone marrow basically tasted like fat to me. Not sure if I understand the craze. The endive was grilled to perfection, I ate every last bite. The potatoes anna were also quite interesting, as I’ve never had potatoes prepared this way. It’s basically diced layered potato (it’s to the left of the meat) cooked in butter. It was quite delicious. As you can tell, I enjoyed the secondary cast more so than the main lead for this dish.

La Toque - Broken Arrow Ranch Nilgai Antelope

La Toque – Broken Arrow Ranch Nilgai Antelope

Lastly, I got to pick a dessert. With my limited knowledge of french desserts, I went with something that sounded like it could be a molten chocolate cake. Instead, the concorde turned out to be this heavy mousse cake that I could barely put a dent in. I’m not a huge chocolate fan so I couldn’t really enjoy this. However, I thought the wafers on the side were super delicious. It was too sweet though, made my teeth hurt a bit.

La Toque - Concorde de Chocolate

La Toque – Concorde de Chocolate

I thought the restaurant was okay. I’m not a huge fan. None of the dishes really struck my fancy. Perhaps, I didn’t order the right things. But from what I can see, that one star was probably award for slightly above average food in terms of quality and impeccable service.

– Charmin Bear T

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Napa: Morimoto Napa

Morimoto Napa @ 610 Main Street

I had an assignment in Napa for about 7 weeks, so you’ll be seeing a lot of Napa restaurants in upcoming posts. Apparently, Iron Chef Morimoto has a restaurant in Napa. As it is culinary mecca, I guess I’m not too surprised. I am a big Iron Chef fan, so I thought I’d pay the restaurant a visit.

I came at 8pm on a Wednesday night and had made a reservation via opentable under J’s account. It may sound unnecessary but better safe than sorry. When I got there the waitress failed to greet me. Instead she was busy flirting with some obviously intoxicated guys. I waited patiently for about 10 minutes when a waitress finally greeted me and noted that I was in the system. She kindly walked me to the dining area and told me I could sit anywhere I want. I chose to sit in front of the sushi bar. I didn’t want to take up an entire table when I am dining alone afterall. I sat again for another 20 minutes before my waiter actually came out to see if I needed anything. By then, I was ready to order.

I started off with Morimoto’s famous toro tartare. As you can see by the picture below, his presentation is not your typical tartare that comes in a round cylinder. Instead it’s plastered on a wooden frame. The tartare is presented alone and is not masked by any other ingredients. He also provides soy sauce as well as 6 different supplementary condiments: 4 sauces (nori paste, wasabi, sour cream and avocado), and 2 toppings (finely chopped scallion, and rice crackers). It kind of looks like a canvas and paint, doesn’t it? My favorite was definitely the nori paste.

Morimoto Napa - Toro Tartare

Morimoto Napa – Toro Tartare

I went on to get the washugyu beef carpaccio. The presentation wasn’t nearly as awe inspiring as the toro tartare, but it was clean and pretty nonetheless. The beef was tender and melted in my mouth. It was slightly seared and was soaked in yuzu, garlic and ginger. I also enjoyed this a lot.

Morimoto Napa - Washugyu Beef Carpaccio

Morimoto Napa – Washugyu Beef Carpaccio

Lastly, I told the waiter I was feeling like fish that night. He recommended the crispy whole fish. I know it says “whole fish,” but for some reason I failed to make the connection. I felt a little weirded out about eating something still with its face intact. Nonetheless, I found this dish’s presentation impeccable. It looks like a painting of a fish swimming in water (dirty water albeit). The preparation also must’ve taken considerable technique as the layer of crispiness was very thin, but the meat of the fish inside was still perfectly cooked and not one bit overdone.

Morimoto Napa - Crispy Whole Fish

Morimoto Napa – Crispy Whole Fish

After stuffing my face, I went home to bed. I found it to be a very satisfying meal. A couple days later, however, J forwarded me an email from opentable that requested I confirmed whether or not I was a no-show at Morimoto. I was in disbelief. That hostess did not check me in even after the waitress told her to. She was too busy daydreaming about that other customer still, I suppose. I normally don’t write so much on service of a restaurant since food always mattered more to me and I’m a pretty laid back person. I just found it so surprising that a Japanese chef owns the restaurant, yet the service was so mediocre. While they weren’t straight up rude (except for the hostess’ blatant disregard for me), I felt that the waiter was not one bit attentive and I sensed a pretentious atmosphere in the air. At first I was wondering why Morimoto’s Napa restaurant did not even warrant one michelin star, but after dining there I understood why. Their service is seriously lacking and I found the restaurant tried too hard to be trendy rather than welcoming. Food was good though. I still admire the chef’s conviction towards presentation and really making food an art. Will I come back? I’m not too sure :|

– Charmin Bear T

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Los Angeles: Musha

Musha @ 424 Wilshire Boulevard

Continuing on my quest to discover food in LA, I found myself at Musha, a Japanese Izakaya, which basically is Japanese tapas. When I got in the restaurant was hustling and bustling, but the wait wasn’t long at all as we were okay with sitting by the bar/counter.

We started the night with Yelper’s highly recommended Spicy Tuna Dip. I was sorely disappointed. While the fish was fresh and did not taste “fishy” at all, it was bland and lacked any spiciness it claimed to have. And what’s up with the rice cracker? I hate how rice crackers are the new fad in food. I find it everywhere and I honestly don’t think it does much besides add texture. Why don’t you pick something that adds flavor and texture? I would have much rather have a wonton chip to dip.

Musha - Spicy Tuna Dip

Musha – Spicy Tuna Dip

My boyfriend is Hawaiian and always raves about Poke. Last time I was in Hawaii, I didn’t get a chance to try it since I caught a stomach flu and didn’t want to upset it further by eating raw food. I thought this dish was only okay. Nothing too special.

Musha - Tuna Wasabi Poki

Musha – Tuna Wasabi Poki

We decided to add some greens into our meal by getting the Chicken Cracker Salad. Again with the rice crackers! RAWR. I probably should’ve realized that I would find rice cracker in it based on the name, but I was too tired from the long day at work and failed to make the connection. The chicken was good though. Everything else was just what you’d expect from a salad.

Musha - Chicken Cracker Salad

Musha – Chicken Cracker Salad

I decided I wanted to try the lobster roll, as I like lobster meat that has already been taken out for me. I’m not sure how I feel about the soy wrap, but it was okay. Lobster meat was generous. Taste didn’t have much complexity. Quite simple just to accentuate the freshness of the lobster. Probably my favorite of the night, but that’s not saying much really.

Musha - Lobster Roll

Musha – Lobster Roll

Under the suggestion of yelpers again, I ordered the tofu fries. I did not like these at all. The tofu they used aren’t the soft ones I like. I was expecting it to be more like agedashi tofu but in french fry form. The tofu tasted dry and did not fair well on my tongue at all. I don’t recommend.

Musha - Tofu French Fries

Musha – Tofu French Fries

Lastly, we got the pork belly, probably my second favorite of the night. It was super flavorful and the meat was okay. Nothing to rave about but nothing too much to complain about either.

Musha - Kakuni

Musha – Kakuni

I felt that Musha is probably over-hyped. Perhaps it’s more of a place to go with friends for sake and snacks than to really enjoy food. I thought everything was okay, but definitely not the finest representations of Japanese food in LA. The lobster roll and the kakuni isn’t outstanding enough to warrant a second trip, so this will probably be my first and last visit to Musha.

– Charmin Bear T

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Napa: Redd

Redd @ 6480 Washington Street

Continuing on my exploration of Napa, I tried out Redd, a one michelin star restaurant. It was a cute, trendy restaurant with ample outside seating. I elected to sit outdoors because the boyfriend had brought up the dogs.

 

We started off with an appetizer to share, the yellow fin tuna and hamachi tartare. While ingredients were grade A, I thought this dish was lacking creativity. Avocado, tuna, and yellow tail, where have I eaten that before? Oh right, everywhere else. Oh rice crackers are Asian too, lets throw them in there also for crunch. While having a variety of textures may be nice in some dishes, it did not work here for me. At all.

Redd - Yellow Fin Tuna & Hamachi Tartare

Redd – Yellow Fin Tuna & Hamachi Tartare

For my main entree, I selected the Duck Confit. You would think the duck would be super juicy and flavorful considering the process of preparing duck confit in the first place. But alas, my duck was dry and pretty bland. The foie gras meatballs had flavor, but its foie gras afterall.

Redd - Crisp Duck Confit

Redd – Crisp Duck Confit

The boyfriend ordered the pulled pork sandwich. Another failure. The onion rings were good.

Redd - Short Rib Sandwich

Redd – Short Rib Sandwich

For dessert, I ordered the lava cake. Honestly, I don’t remember what the actual name is but it had chocolate ganache in it. Again, it was kind of disappointing. I wish the cake was about 10 degrees hotter.

Redd - Short Rib Sandwich

Redd – Lava Cake

I definitely think there were dishes that were probably better on their menu. My friend ordered the diver scallops and loved it. I probably just ordered all the wrong things. But at the end of the day, it still sucks I wasted my money here. I personally think that one star was awarded for service, because that I can honestly say was impeccable. But even with that I won’t be returning.

– CB T

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