Showing posts with label west hollywood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label west hollywood. Show all posts

Eat Drink Style Yatai Pop-up Ramen, Breadbar West Hollywood

Breadbar Yatai Pop-up Ramen

When it comes to creativity in soup noodles, you've got to hand it to the Japanese for their undying passion for creating bowls of ramen fit for the gods. It was almost as though the Japanese replaced the arts and crafts class in elementary schools with Ramen 101 courses. Contrary to many soup noodles from all over Asia that follow standards in taste and preparation like Vietnamese pho and Chinese beef noodle soup, ramen is one dish that has no boundaries or hard-carved rules. When the Japanese adopted the art of ramen from the Chinese, ramen was in its simplest form. You had your soup base of pork bones, flavoring such as salt, soy sauce or miso, fish and seaweed with toppings – a style of lighter soup noodles referred to as assari-kei. But after many conversations with ramen enthusiasts like Rickmond of Rameniac, I learned that that arena expanded with the long and arduous techniques in cooking pork bones, chicken bones and even seafood, including shrimp shells, to produce a richer broth – a style of heavier, fat-rich soup noodles referred to as kotteri-kei. If you've eaten tonkotsu ramen, then you've eaten kotteri-kei style ramen.

The sky's the limit, and so is the waistline, when it comes to the innovative variations of ramen. When I was in Japan back in 2006, I saw so many kinds of ramen. If ramen were a living and breathing thing, people like Darwin could spend years appropriating the noodles with a similar genus-species classification. No matter which ramenya (ramen shop) or yatai (food stall - 屋台) I ate at, it was good. And it all started with the basic recipe of boiled bones, soy sauce, mirin, sake and seaweed. But because the Japanese are technical like the French, differences were subtly noticeable based on looks but the differences in taste were monumental. You might get a ramen shop that braises their pork another +4 hours on top of the usual braising time. You might get a broth so thick from 16+ hours of cooking that it has become a beautiful goo. You might get a ramen shop that produces a boiled egg so perfect that it oozes out yolk like molten, golden lava. You might get a ramen shop that has brought in a 139-year old, Yoda-like Chinese man with one eye, one leg and one tooth that can hand-pull noodles faster than any machine out there. I'm just saying, these are the differences in ramen that the Japanese pride themselves on and what sets apart all the shops and chefs from one another. It's important to note that there really is no "right" and "wrong" bowls of ramen.

Unfortunately, you won't see the amazing variations unless you're in Japan. In Los Angeles, our ramen selection is slim pickings, like "good" pho in the Eastside area. But thanks to Breadbar and its routine rotation of chefs and themed concepts at Breadbar in Century City and West Hollywood, we've got a limited time to try some different styles of ramen from Noriyuki Sugie and Chef Kazuo Shimamura, who run a company called Ironnori Concepts. On June 8, they began offering both classic and experimental ramens known as "twist ramen". And will continue to sell bowls of ramen until the last drop on July 24. Sugie received Japanese and French culinary training and I'm gonna guess Shimamura, who is from Saitama, Japan (just north of Tokyo) has been making ramen since he was 2.

Breadbar Yatai Pop-up Ramen

At Yatai, they offer Classic and Twist ramen.

Shio Ramen - seasoning with Indonesian sea salt, corn butter
Shoyu Ramen - seasoning with aged soy sauce
Miso Ramen - seasoning with blended miso,brown butter sauce
Spicy Miso Ramen - seasoning with blended miso, spicy sauce

Spicy Pork Curry Ramen
Tomato Ramen - tomato consommé soup, sautéed mixed vegetable
Vietnam Ramen - Pho style, raw beef tenderloin, asian herb
Ox tail Ramen - rich ox tail soup, truffle oil, marinated poached egg
Foie Gras Ramen - rich master stock consommé soup, chopped chives

For the three of us, we ended up ordering the Spicy Miso, Spicy Pork Curry and Foie Gras ramen. I had a heard the Ox Tail ramen was so good it was soldout.

Breadbar Yatai Pop-up Ramen

Pork Feet Gyoza
In addition to kale gyoza and cold tofu, you'll probably be most interested pork feet gyoza. The gyozas are fried beautifully and filled with braised pork feet. The pork is super tender and has a nice pasty texture much like fish or shrimp patties used in Asian cooking.

Breadbar Yatai Pop-up Ramen

Spicy Pork Miso Ramen
The Japanese seldom, if ever, use spice for their dishes. According to J, the Japanese find the seven pepper spice you see in almost all izakayas and ramen shops to be a mischievious contributor of the "sting ring". But when it comes to ramen, the chefs let it hang out and spice it up. Looking at this, it reminded me a lot of Korean seafood soup noodles known as jjampong. The noodles swam in a beautiful red broth, topped with juicy cuts of berkshire pork, marinated egg, wood ear mushrooms, seaweed and thinly sliced scallions. It smelled as beautiful as it looked. The wooden platters from Breadbar really made this bowl look super homey. I really enjoyed this bowl of ramen.

Breadbar Yatai Pop-up Ramen

Although $11, it felt hearty with the right portion of noodles and toppings. The berkshire pork glistening in its own fat, of course, was delicious. The egg yolks were tasty but I think could've been cooked less. After you have oozy lava-like egg yolk from ramen in Japan, you're addicted.

Breadbar Yatai Pop-up Ramen

Spicy Pork Curry Ramen
This reminded me a lot of Singaporean or Malaysian food. The curry was different than Japan's style and was more of a tasty mush. The flavors were there but it was just too heavy for me.

Breadbar Yatai Pop-up Ramen

Foie Gras Ramen
After forever ruining my appetite for all things foie gras at Montreal's Au Pied de Cochon, I wasn't up for the swollen liver. Especially in my ramen. And again, Chef Kazuo nailed it on presentation and detail. The generous portion of foie gras was cooked right and how you would expect it to taste. To my surprise, the broth was on the sweeter side. Almost like a lighter version of the sweet, honey/palm-like soy sauce used in Thai cooking. And there was a slight aroma of burnt garlic which did add some nice depth to the broth. But not worth my $17.99.

Breadbar Yatai Pop-up Ramen

Foie Gras Hiatus
For those that have been to Au Pied de Cochon, it's easy to understand the meaning of true foie gras overdose.

Breadbar Yatai Pop-up Ramen

The noodles weren't bad and I'd actually recommend having it cooked more al-dente if you're an al-dente-whore like me. But something tells me this might be the only noodle they can get locally. Real ramen shops sometimes go the extra mile and make their own noodles. God, imagine how good that is.

Breadbar Yatai Pop-up Ramen

Breadbar Yatai Pop-up Ramen

We were curious about the shio (salt) and shoyu (soy sauce) broths and asked the server for some Costco samples. And to our surprise, a man in plain clothing, trucker hat and apron came hustling out behind the counter with a small steaming bowl of broth. He looked like a Sam Woo chef. I know you've seen Chinese chefs behind the restaurant – sitting on a parking block digging into a huge bowl of whatever leftover food scraps and smoking at the same time. They look ordinary but you know very well they can kick some ass in that kitchen. We enjoyed talking to Chef Kazuo Shimamura as much as he was interested in watching us eat his ramen. I fell in the love with shoyu broth. It was seriously done very well. Dark in color, the right salinity and topped off with the tongue slap of burnt garlic. If you've been to Ippudo Ramen in New York, their flagship ramen shop in Japan is known for serving kogashi ramen, a ramen with broth made from wok-burnt soy sauce and garlic. Oh man! I had begged and pleaded with the chef at the New York location to make me a bowl and he politely declined my ass. Trying Chef Kazuo's shoyu broth, I imagined that this is what kogashi ramen was. And I'll definitely be going back to eat this one. The shio ramen uses Indonesian sea salt and was a bit on the saltier side. But there was a nice lingering tone of celery or maybe it was onion that was delightful.

Breadbar Yatai Pop-up Ramen

Until your next trip to Japan or the annual Mitsuwa Ramen shop festival, this may or may not be worth your money and time because it depends on what you're looking for. In my opinion, the "twist ramens" are novel yet fun for those looking for something different. But Kazuo's real craft is in the bowls of basic shoyu, shio or miso ramen. As a lover of soup noodles, it's very hard for me to turn away something that could possibly be found in Japan. Was this life changing ramen? No. Ramen with a sense of humor and fun? Yes. I enjoyed the Spicy Miso ramen and Shoyu ramen, and hoping to try the Oxtail ramen next time. Vietnam ramen? I know it sounds as puzzling as Xoia's pho tacos – which are actually quite interesting. Thanks for reading.

Yatai at Breadbar
8718 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 205-0124

Eat Drink Style Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles - A Spontaneous Hundred-Dollar Snack

Osteria Mozza Los Angeles

On the way back from Audrey Kawasaki's latest exhibit at the Bergamot Station, Mayoi Michi, J & I drove with rumbling stomachs. We started to flip through our mental rolodex of late-night food options in the Silver Lake adjacent.

Soup noodles at Torung or Ruen Pair in Thai Town?
Tacos Arizas, the taco truck that catered our first date in Echo Park?
Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada? I wish! They close too early.
Two Tacos for $.99 at Jack in the Crack?
Fried Chicken at The Prince or Toe Bang in Koreatown?
Pho Cafe in Silver Lake? No, thanks.
Raw oysters and tasty fries at Hungry Cat? We didn't feel like drinking.

We couldn't decide on a place because there was a con for every pro. But heading on the 10 towards the La Brea exit, we both shot a slight grin... as though we knew what would be best for us right now...


Specifically, Mario Batali's & Nancy Silverton's delicious pie at Pizzeria Mozza. Beautifully-crafted dough with minimal, yet sufficient, toppings – it's what makes the pizza more than a delectable snack. We parked on Highland and crossed the street but instead, focused our attention on Pizzeria Mozza's sister restaurant, Osteria Mozza, which focused more on pasta and rustic dishes... but no pizza. Since we had already tried their pizza, this would be a good chance to try out Osteria. This year, we've been good with eating at home and spending less on extracurricular activities. Osteria was our little reward for wearing halos on our head for 2 months.

The main criticism on Osteria Mozza is the advanced reservation one must make in order to eat there. God, so L.A. But we've learned that some places may do that to create a hype. It was already 10:45 pm and we were hungry. We walked in, not knowing what to expect, and felt the vibe of good ambiance. Dimly lit with sparse lighting, the constant sound of indistinct chatter and silverware clanking on porcelain plates made us feel that we are at the right place at the right time. Even at 10:45 pm. I walked up to hostess and asked if it was possible to get a bar seat without reservations. He glanced over his shoulder with his stylish Armani Exchange glasses, the Malcolm X-style ones, and pointed at the corner of the bar. Nice.

Osteria Mozza3

Osteria Mozza2

Osteria Mozza1

He pulled us towards the 'cheese bar', where we could see four line cooks hustling and bustling. Two were busy working the expensive-looking deli slicers that looked like they were imported from Italy. Another cook was meticulously plating what looked like a burrata cheese appetizer. And the last cook, a woman with frizzy brown hair in her 40s who had to be none other than, La Brea Bakery's Nancy Silverton. We looked at each other and felt even more excited to sit at the bar. She wore an apron that was different from everyone else's, almost like a midwest-style denim dress. Not the most stylish, but gave us the feeling of motherliness with her cooking. All she needed was one of those wooden, beaded necklaces made with stuff from Michael's. Nancy Silverton is another one of our favorite female chefs that cook more with soul than anything. She fits right up there with Suzanne Goin (Lucques & AOC), Alice Waters (Chez Panisse, Berkeley) and Judy Rodgers (Zuni Cafe, San Francisco). We stared at every one of her moves. You can see her in the photo above.

Osteria Mozza4

Osteria Mozza5

As we pulled our new replacement for our stolen camera, we heard a voice behind us saying:

"Which model is that?"

We turned back to see that it was a server with a joyful demeanor and hair that was 30 minutes away from needing a re-gelling session. Very nice guy. After hearing about his new camera from Costco, flight-attendant wife, recent travels to Dubai and Buenos Aires and love for cooking... we got our menus and had to order within 5 minutes. Because our server was so into food we let him pretty much do the ordering. Here's what we had.

Osteria Mozza Burrata Bacon

Burrata Cheese with Bacon, Braised Escarole & Caramelized Onions
This was our server's recommendation. It was larger than we had expected, because after all, this was just snack time, not a tasting menu. And honestly, after one bite of this, I knew why Mario looks the way he does. But you know what, that's a good thing. He is a man that is so passionate about his food and tacky orange Chuck's and clogs. He's not going to cheat you out of food; he's going to knock you out the Italian way. The combination of creamy burrata cheese, sweet caramelized onions, soupy escarole on grilled bread was decadent, yet tasty. I only wish that they had divided this dish into 6 normal sized pieces vs. 2 boatloads.

Osteria Mozza Grilled Scallops Lardo

Grilled Diver Scallops with Lardo & Pink Peppercorns
In the book, Heat, by Bill Buford, he describes a dinner party where one of the guests was Batali himself. The man is more than generous, as he came to the party prepared... with a case of wine and a slice of deli meat known as lardo. The marketing term for that is white prosciutto, and let's just through that bullshit. It's pure lard that has been smoked and cured... and it is heavenly. Sure anyone can grill diver scallops, but only Batali would finish it with the near-translucent slices of one of the many delicious parts of the pig. Fat so thin and ghostly, it almost melts on your tongue. These scallops, although small and expensive, were cooked beautifully and I'm still thinking about them. But that's me, I'm a scallop-whore. I wanted another 5 skewers, but at $16 for this dish, would you drop $100 on this?

Osteria Mozza Grilled Octopus

Grilled Octopus with Potatoes, Lemon & Celery
Before I selected the diver scallops, I was declined by my own server. And I love that honesty. He asked if we could change our minds and direct our attention to this instead. And what he told us next really proved that he was the type of knowledge every server should have. Basically, he said that we've never had this style of octopus before. Hmm, how so? First, they get 6 large octopi – pack them in a large hotel pan and fill it to the brim with some of the finest Italian olive oil with salt & pepper. But before it's slowly poached at 175 degrees, a secret ingredient is added. One that NO ONE would guess, well unless you work at Osteria Mozza. Four corks from wine bottles! Ok, so now we were excited. The plate arrived and we immediately dove in. If you told me it was slightly braised chicken, I would believe you. This preparation for the octopi really tenderized the meat. It was awesome and for us, the winner of the night. The server said that if you didn't add the wine corks, the meat would not come out this way. Something about an enzyme that leaks out from the wine corks. Alton, please analyze.

Osteria Mozza Oxtail Ragu Tagliatella

Oxtail Ragu with Tagliatelle
And finally, what J and I were both dying to try... Batali's handmade pasta. After a few occasions at Cube on La Brea, I was entirely hooked on fresh pasta. It's a completely different beast than the dried pasta. The server said this oxtail was cooked with Fresno chiles, San Marzano tomatoes and soffrito. Soffrito is basically an Italian version of mire poix. It varies in different countries. In Cuban, Caribbean and Puerto Rico, sofrito consists of red bell peppers, garlic and onions and is a standard base for stews, soups and sauces. I could totally smell the red bell peppers in this dish, so sweet and homey. I wound up the ribbon-like pasta and tender oxtail with my fork... and wow. Simply divine. The portion, at first, may look small, but you have to know that oxtail releases TONS of rat. Along with the sauce of the braised stew, you're guaranteed to get a flavor in every bite. We woke this dish up with some fresh black pepper. So good.

Although this was a pricey 'snack', it was more than worth it. Mario and Nancy's food is decadent and will put you right to sleep... with sauce stains on your shirt and a big smile on your face. Thanks for reading.

For those that have been to Angelini Osteria and Osteria La Buca, I'd love to hear your recommendations because I'm eating there next!

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 297-0100