Saturday, June 27, 2009

Shanghai - Issimo by Cuomo at JIA Shanghai

It wasn't too long ago where access to good produce is not a given in China, even in the international city of Shanghai. But as the city opens up its doors to world class operators, fine food using quality produce from other lands far and wide is almost taken for granted now.

Salvatore Cuomo's second restaurant in Shanghai located in the trendily homey JIA Shanghai was fine testament, using traditional but simple methods to bring out the flavours of the ingredients. If not for my native Shanghai pal, I would have missed out since I try not to eat in hotel F&B outlets if I have company unless I am pressed for time or if they are truly exceptional.

Our starters of the shrimp and scallop skewers accompanied with spicy pesto were simply marinated and rightly so since they were some of the freshest and most succulent. About 80% cooked so the natural juices still intact, but nicely seared on the outside to deliver a pleasant smoky flavour. Garnished with julienned celery for crunch and topped off with a spicy pesto, for a little bit of bite.

The beef carpaccio was also very decent. While I found it a little too "young", and didn't melt in the mouth quickly enough, it was nevertheless very tasty. The fresh arugula and parmagianno played their roles to perfection, in support of the main character but delivering great tastes in themselves as well, making it a aged-old classic combination.
My personal favourite of the evening, beyond catching up with an old friend, was the Wagyu stuffed ravioli. Just the sound of it was making my mouth water - I love fresh ingredients in my raviolis and tortellinis and avoid them otherwise. Thankfully, we were relatively early for dinner since there was only one single portion left for the day! Apologies to the other diners who tried to order it afterwards but we were definitely not sorry! The smooth Wagyu bound into a mini burger and stuffed into the al dente ravioli skin and tossed in a beefy tomato sauce, was delicious hearty goodness. I could definitely eat this all day.

If you are dining in an Italian restaurant for the first time and Tiramisu is on the menu, order it. Every restaurant's rendition is different and in this case, a pleasant surprise. The traditional thing served in a mini casserole was delightful and for me, happily heavy on the mascarpone. I do detest it if I cannot even get enough of a hint or if the texture is too light because the proportion of cream outweighs the cheese. The bonus of crushed ice, drizzled with a great espresso as accompaniment was a perfect touch to wash down the casserole with. The crispy thin wafers were superfluous in what was already a great dessert but yummy on their own so no complaints there!

931 West Nanjing Road
(Entrance on Taixing Road)
Shanghai 200041
+86-21 6287 9009 (reservations essential)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Los Angeles - Petros Greek Cuisine and Lounge

I'm not a huge fan of Greek food but game enough to try it and hoping I would be pleasantly surprised on a fine Californian sunshine day. And if you're hosted by an entertainment lawyer from LA, you know she knows the scene (even if she's being humble!).

Petros was indeed a pleasant surprise! Set right in the Manhattan Beach Village, very cool and on a Friday afternoon, the patio was filled with all types of ladies who lunch - corporate types, dress down Friday types, gym types, biking types, yoga types... you get the picture.

The lunch menu is almost made for these women and why not? Refreshing salad combinations, couple of soups, and entrees which are yummy but don't start your weekend on a draggy note.

C had the Karpouzi salad - frsh watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, Epirus feta, manouri cheese, generously drizzled with Greek honey and mint. Sweet but not cloying, freshly tart but not sour, bound together with all the yummy dairy and honey from Greece, you feel your eyes perk up as you tuck into every mouthful, made different depending on what your fork picks up.
I loved my Gyro Giaourti - grilled gyro slices, with homemade Greek yoghurt, red onion, tomatoes and perfect shoestring fries (and mind you - this ain't a burger joint). The Greek burger which didn't make me feel guilty and became my energy for the Friday workout to come!

Highly recommended by others and now I see why. I just might change my mind about Greek food, we shall see.

451 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach,
CA 90266
Tel: +1.310.545.4100

Monday, June 15, 2009

Los Angeles - Joe's Restaurant

2 weeks in a new job and life is no longer normal. Jetlagged, tired with not much of an appetite but with some great company and a fabulously casual Californian joint with very decent food, things could change. Named after Joe Miller, an unassuming nice guy chef who's done the time at other great US fine dining establishments, Joe's has been in business since 1991, which speaks volumes for the fickle and trendy LA crowd.

The tasting menu was enticing.

An amuse bouche of duck sausage was a nice start albeit a little gamey but it was robust tasting and not too fatty.

The grilled porcini with pheasant egg, crisp parmesan and arugula was my winner for the night. The combination of the various flavours and textures were very well balanced and went very well with the 2003 Moraga red I was lucky enough to get from the proprietor at a Bel-air do honouring him over the weekend. Good on you Mr. Thomas Victor Jones - we are glad that you went from B2-s to wine and brilliantly too. Your card was apt - and I thoroughly enjoyed the samples from your second career.

The grilled shrimp was light yet tasty - succulently done reminiscent of good Chinese restaurants, accompanied by crunchy cauliflower and a piquant sauce with citrus hints. Looks did it no justice.

The roast lamb served on a bed of peppercorns was the juiciest and tenderest I've had in a while. Well marbled but with a meaty bite to it, there was also no lambey smell so even the faintest of hearts can try this. Well, I highly recommend it. I didn't see it on the regular menu but if you see it on the daily-changing tasting menu, be sure to jump on it.

Dessert was a fruit tart using nectarines but while I loved the pastry and baked custard, the fruit was just a tad too tart (pardon the pun).

A great experience I would gladly have next time I'm in LA. Kudos to a great service team who made our evening even more enjoyable. Thanks!

1023 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
California 90291
Tel: +1-310-399-5811