26 August 2006

Sushi Sasabune

Sasabune mosaic

Omakase. Trust your Itamae. With instructions courtesy of our friendly and efficient wait staff. (No dipping! Dipping allowed.)

Scallop and Salmon Sushi Black Cod Sushi Yellowtail Sushi
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Cross posted on akatsukieats.

23 August 2006

darn it

Looks like I won't be swaying to the sound of Keane next month.


20 August 2006

Battera sushi

Pressed box sushi

After a half-hearted attempt to enjoy some jazz on Thursday, we gave up and went for more palatable sushi instead at Sushi Isshin (Lindbrook and Tiverton, Westwood). We've had all sorts of food at Isshin: bento for lunch, tempura, california-style rolls (like black dragon and caterpillar), chirashisushi, noodles. But we've never been on a Thursday, when the chefs make battera sushi!

Apparently, this is how sushi was for hundreds of years, before the advent of nigiri sushi (see here). The combo of pickled veg and fish was refreshingly different from nigiri sushi. And considerably easier to eat too, without the dilemma of whether to stuff ones mouth or bite the massive sushi in half. Much easier than determining if a ball has been tampered with when it starts to reverse-swing.

[and so we segue into cricket]

All too convenient for England, me thinks. What with the slim chance of catching up at all, let alone hanging in there long enough for a draw, this hulabaloo might be the way out of straight-out defeat.

19 August 2006

An evening in Venice

Venice Beach Sunset II Venice Beach Sunset IV Venice Beach Sunset V Venice Beach Sunset VI Venice Beach Sunset VII

Straying a little further than usual, we spent a few twilight hours out west on Venice Beach last weekend. (And, yes. It took me a whole week to get round to writing this.) Someone had the rather nifty idea that we should try out Jin Patisserie on Abbott Kinney Blvd. While living out there last year, I walked past it SO many times, but never felt the inclination to go in alone. On the other hand, I went into the Taco shop and coffee place on California many times. Some places don't look so inviting when you're on your tod.

Anyhoo, we arrived to find a hen party in full swing. Or at least it looked like a hen party. It could have been a baby shower too. I'm not very good at identifying occasions of all-female parties, never having been to any. Besides, we got there too late too sip some tea with cake, and had to make do with takeaway. All the cakes had pretty names, but I can only remember the Louvre, helped by its pyrimidal shape.

Leaning Tower of Pisa Chocolate Louvre Choccy cake

The cakes were absolutely fabulous, when we got round to eating them at midnight. What was meant to be mousse was. What was meant to be cake was light and spongy. What was meant to be stodgy and chocolatey also lived up to expectations. I'm sure our enjoyment of these delectables would have been enhanced in the calm garden/patio of the patisserie. The chef-owner must be living a dream come true: which food-loving little girl has never dreamed of owning a bakery or patisserie? Mine kind of died when science beckoned and I realised that one had to have the skill of decorating as well as baking. No matter. I can now spend my hard-earned money on such luxuries without the slaving away by a hot oven all morning bit.

We also went to Wabi-Sabi. But felt kind of out-of-place there. It was packed full of the typical beautiful characters of Venice. And while the menu looked interesting, something was lacking in us that day. It's like being back at school again. Sunday nights are always marred by the prospect of work on a Monday. I enjoyed the lychee martini though:

Lychee martini P paused

13 August 2006

Russia comes to the Hollywood Bowl

Courtesy of a German conductor.

Russia comes to the Hollywood Bowl

This weekend has been Tchaikovsky-tastic at the Hollywood Bowl: two nights of the Russe with fireworks. The evening started rousingly with T's Cossack dance: your steroetypical populist folksy tune made classical. It set the scene for a evening of entertaining cheesiness. Now, don't get me wrong. I lurve Tchaikovsky, and for all the same reasons that most people do: his music is very emotional and involving. But because of that, his music has been used in all too many soppy, tear-jerking, sentimental (you get the picture) movies and soap operas. The second piece of the night was his Piano Concerto No.1, which is beautiful. No doubt everyone knows the opening bars (or if you didn't know it was Tchaikovsky, you'd still recognise the melody). And I will forever more associate with a Japanese tear-fest of a drama about a talented young woman and her struggle to become a concert pianist.

The interval was a necessary break from the emotion welling within. OK, I just needed more alcohol*.

Which brings us to the even more spectacular second half, with T's Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overemotion. Yes, one can have a little bit too much Tchaikovsky. Again, nothing wrong with the composition nor the orchestra. In fact, the Bowl's changing lighting scheme came into its own with this piece, turning a dangerous red for the fight, pink for their love, and blue in tragedy. Maybe I just wasn't in the appropriate romantic mood to truly appreciate the Fantasy overture. I was somewhat more concerned about P's chilly hands (poor circulation, poor dear) than in just holding them. And I have to confess to having favourites when it comes to Russian composers of a certain period. Prokofiev, too, scored the Romeo and Juliet tragedy. And that has been my favourite since my cranky adolescent years, being just a little less sentimental. (Oh, who am I kidding. I love Tchaikovsky's too. I think I was just tired.)

The 1812 overture, like the R+J F.O., is overemotional and overly testosterone-inducing. But what a crowd-pleaser it is! All the more when fireworks are timed perfectly to replace the cannons. Bringing on the red and gold-clad USC Trojan marching band was another perfectly cheesy, over-production, populist move that just fit the evening perfectly. I was thoroughly entertained despite my jaded-ness. After all the years of staid concert-going, being quiet and appreciative, trying not to fidget too much lest the neighbours shush me, last night's concert was quite liberating. I felt able to throw off the cynical overcoat and wow at the Russian rooftop that appeared over the roof of the Bowl, and clap and cheer for every firework.

While this can never replace the true satisfaction of watching the final fireworks of the Edinburgh festival, the Hollywood Bowl certainly puts on a damn good show in spectacular surroundings. Even the moon obliged and loomed large and low for the R+J F.O. It's not the best venue for delicate chamber music. It's not the best acoustically for rock/pop concerts. But it's perfect for Hollywood style grandness.

*For drinkipoos that night: a Merlot and some Polygamy Porter** from the Wasatch Brewery, both 100% from Utah. Of the two alkys, the porter was far superior (the less said about the wine the better). After initial laughs and nudges from my fellow Tchaikovskites, it was generally agreed that Wasatch produces a fine porter indeed. Unfortunately, one can't get beer shipped just now. Which is why I'm going to Utah again in a few weeks.

**Why have just one! is their slogan.

12 August 2006

Palms Thai

Pad See Ew

Pad See Ew must be the Thai equivalent of Char Kway Teow (a dish truly deserving of captalisation).

And not having been back to S'pore for nigh-on a decade, this is the closest I've had to the magical fatty friedness that is CKT. Unfortunately, the use of broccoli and chicken makes it far too healthy to qualify as CKT. For that, one probably needs full-fat pork lard, cholesterol-laden prawns.

It was Ticketmaster what did us a favour. Their sometimes ridiculous "convenience" charges (ok for a couple of tickets, but not for ten!) forced us to the Hollywood Bowl's box office last Saturday. By public transportation, no less. It's one thing to take the Hollywood Bowl Park and Ride shuttle for a hour to get to the Bowl for a concert. It's quite another to trek out with the Metro bus system for the same amount of time. For one, you could get quite unlucky and get on a smelly one. Which always seems to happen to me whenever we have to venture further east than Westwood. So, a three hour round-trip requires maximisation of our time. While we had some hope of taking in a hike in the Hollywood Hills, it transpired that getting to somewhere fairly pleasant is not exactly easy once you're actually at the bottom of the hills.

No matter. We have more than one interest. And having been told about Thai Town, we were determined to get some Thai food after. Barcelona FC's visit to the nearby Hollywood and Highland mall nearly side-tracked us until we realised how long we'd have to wait to catch a glimpse of the second-highest paid (but best bang-for-buck) team in Spain. And the new Beard Papa made a stab at stopping us in our tracks too. A cool cream-filled chocolate eclair definitely makes pushing through the tourist-throng outside Mann's Chinese Theatre a little more bearable. By the time my lips were licked clean, P had gotten bored of looking at long-dead people's footprints. And off we set on our hunt for Thai cuisine. Helped by the Zagat guide.

Thai condiments

Wee side note: does anyone else find the Zagat restau guide somewhat awkward when looking for food within a neighbourhood? Yes, they have a section at the back with lists of restaus by LA areas. But it's terribly difficult to wield the book, flip to the relevant page, check the darn address on a map balanced precariously between other hand and lap, give up cos it's not bus-able or walkable (in the heat, anyway), and whittle out the non-Thai places.

No matter. We found one within a 30 min walk. Palms Thai on Hollywood and Bronson is a somewhat canteeny looking place with an allegedly resident Elvis. But I guess an hour before real dinnertime starts isn't the best time to catch him. No maatter. That isn't why we went. We were after the exotics. Well, as exotic as it gets in LA anyway. Palms has a Wild Things menu, which includes raw shrimp, deer and frog legs. I think the only thing on that menu I'd find just beyond my ability is the raw shrimp. That's just asking for food poisoning, I reckon. In my prejudiced way.

But it was the leg of a frog that I managed to convince P to try. (Quail and deer are somewhat tame when one's had game all one's life.) The frog meat was a little tougher than I had hoped it would be. There's nothing quite like frog legs, French-style: all tender but with a garlicky kick. And I thought it'd be even better in a spicy sauce. Alas. I think our frog legs came out of a freezer drawer. And perhaps had been there a while too. I guess not enough people take advantage of the Wild Things menu to make getting in fresh frog legs economically viable. A shame.

Frog legs

Otherwise, we had pretty good service for off-peak. It wasn't overly attentive, and our bill (check, D! always ask for the check. no wonder no one understands you...) got a wee bit lost on its way to us. But that's kinda understandable when the entire wait staff is having their pre-game dinner. (Which looked soooo good.) It's also a little difficult to judge a restaurant's atmosphere at 5pm. The only other folk in were mainly small families with kiddies, and the odd tourist-looking couples (like us). Apart from the pad see ew, I enjoyed their coconut juice, which was really coconut water (the stuff wot will splash out if you're not careful when cracking the but) with floating chunks of coconut flesh. While not having to scrape crazily to get the sweet juicy flesh can be good, having it all in a glass can be somewhat.... mundane.

c-nut juice

I think I'd go back again. But without the expectation of the exotic. (Goddamit. It's kinda hard to find exotic when you've grown up with the very cuisine Johhny Foreigner thinks of as exotic.) Maybe as pre-concert fodder for the nearby Henry Ford Theatre. (Did I mention I have tickets for the Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah concert? Yes, I do. Not that I was familiar with their music before coming over.) I guess my search for spectacular Thai food in LA will just have to continue. But next time, I'll leave the Zagat behind, and take some Santos™ with me.

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11 August 2006

Hammer for Free

Pyeng Threadgill

Not so much one that bangs nails into walls, but one called the Armand Hammer Museum in LA. (Not the Arm and Hammer, as misunderstood by a friend. In-joke for those who live in the States.) The museum has had a summer of free-ness. Free rock, free exhibitions, and now, free jazz.

We had a pretty swinging evening of jazz and blues with Pyeng Threadgill and her band. Despite the uncomfortable seats and overly hard acoustics, her music moved my toes and swayed my hips. If I could dance at all, I would have.

The Hammer's website describes her as having the "voice of a jazz diva" with "indie-pop songwrit[ing]" credentials. Not possessing the vocabulary of the music-connoisseurs, I'd have to agree. It's not very often that I hear new vocal jazz that I want to listen to again and again. And her voice has that envious fullness/richness. It brings to mind a cup of perfect Italian espresso, accompanied with a pastille of dark, rich chocolate. Her song Ambrosia evokes aural memories of a young Ella Fitzgerald (listen here). Sweet and sultry at the same time.

02 August 2006

Dancing till Dusk

Dancing till Dusk

We've been away. And now we're back to the crazy heat of LA. It had been impossible to do anything in the daytime for at least a fortnight until it finally cooled off last weekend.

Which meant the weather was finally to my taste, and we could hit the beach. Manhattan Beach for a change. Lunch at Captain Kidd on Hermosa Beach was pretty good and not too expensive for fresh and varied seafood. The oysters were pretty good value at $1/shell. (That's in comparison to a pound a shell in Scotland.) And I got my bodyboard out for the first time this year. Wiped out on my first outing, and have a massive bruise to show for it. (exacerbated by volleyball afterwards. take my word for it: it's not fun to bruise a bruise.) Otherwise, a fun day oot.

Char Siew Udon

Sunday was meant to be a chill-out day, but we had to work. :( We were rewarded in the evening when an otherwise ordinary trip to the supermarket ended in several hours of dancing ancestral worship that is the Obon festival on La Grange in Sawtelle. We had some pretty tasty Japanese fast food: beef teriyaki, char siew udon and shaved ice with red beans (kintoki). But we mainly had our sights set on having an imagawayaki to finish off the day. Blueberry flavour to boot. Not one I've ever had before. Alas, it was not meant to be. Having waited to digest our meal, we joined the super-long queue, only to be told 20 minutes later that they could only make one more batch of imagawayaki, and everyone in front of us had asked for the final 28 cakes.

The imagawayaki that wasn't to be

We were, understandably, inconsolable. And spent the rest of the night throwing metal rings at money in a pit. (Some funky ring-throw booth.) I came pretty close to winning a $20 note. Close, but not close enough. But even a win would not have made up for the loss of the blueberry imagawayaki.

Oh yeah. And there was a lot of taiko-led dancing on the street outside. Some of it with fans and all.