Travel Adventures (San Diego Edition)

Living in SoCal, I often take San Diego for granted. My trips down south typically involve a late night out at the Gas Lamp District and a visit to a nearby taco joint. I realized recently that I don’t explore the area as often as I should. This last Labor Day weekend, my friends and I were lucky enough to score floor seat tickets to Sam Smith at the Valley View Casino. We took it as an opportunity to deviate from our normal routine and explore different parts of the city.

G R E A T  M A P L E

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Great Maple is a modern brunch spot specializing in dishes with ingredients that are sustainably sourced. My friend had made reservations for 11:15AM, but we ended up arriving a little late at 11:45AM. We called ahead of time to forewarn about our delay and they were nice enough to accommodate our change of time.

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Good thing my friend made reservations. When we arrived, this place was buzzing!

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GM House Mary – Green Mark Vodka, Mary Mix, Spices, Salt Rim, Green Olives, Ground Pepper Spicy Okra

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I ordered the Fruity Pebbles pancake with a side of eggs. I couldn’t help myself. I have a sweet tooth and an extra soft spot for all things Fruity Pebbles. I also loved how fluffy the eggs were.

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The House Smoked Beef Brisket Hash is one of the most popular dishes on the menu. Though I didn’t eat this dish myself, my friend seemed to enjoy it and didn’t have any complaints.

I really liked this brunch spot! I can see why it draws so many customers. My only gripe I have with this location is their number of bathrooms (only two for the whole restaurant – men & women). Great Maple has multiple locations across Southern California, including one in Newport Beach. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to try this place again.

Great Maple
1451 Washington St, San Diego, CA 92103
Make reservations here

S A N  D I E G O  A I R  &  S P A C E  M U S E U M

We stopped by the San Diego Air & Space Museum located in Balboa Park. There are plenty of other museums in that area, but we heard this was the highest rated one. Cost of the museum is ~$20 for adults and $10.95 for kids 3-11.

airplane 2This outdoor area can be rented for events including weddings!

There were some pretty neat things to see at the museum. A lot of it had to do with the history of aviation and a little less to do with with space.

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It’s a decent museum to check out. We spent a total of ~3 hours there. There aren’t too many interactive activities and many displays require a lot of reading. However, I think kids can be entertained by just being the presence of the giant aircrafts.
San Diego Air & Space Museum
2001 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101
Visit their website here
M O D E R N  T I M E S  B R E W E R Y 
A San Diego exploration trip is not complete without a stop at a brewery!
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Based on the name of a utopian community in Long Island, NY of 1850, Modern Times brewery focuses on aromatic, flavorful beers that often highlight season ingredients. Almost all of their beers are named after real and mythical utopias.

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The lines to order got a little hectic at times. People didn’t know there’s actually two registers. Keep a lookout for that second one so you’re not wasting time waiting in the more popular line.

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Something interesting about this brewery is that they offer full pours (16 oz.) for their beers that have over 10% ABV! The hubby ordered their hazy IPA called the Mosiac. For him, it was a refreshing thirst quencher that isn’t bitter as most IPAs, but still packs the ABV of one.

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At this point in the day, I was exhausted. I opted not to have any beer and checked out some of their coffee options instead!

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I always go for an Americano. It is my perfect pick me up.

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The barista recommended their limited edition, bourbon barrel-aged roast. It has a very strong bourbon smell and taste! If you’re looking for that sort of taste without the effects of alcohol, this would be the drink for you. This roast was unique, but I don’t think I would ever order it again.

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Modern Times
3725 Greenwood Street, San Diego, CA 92110
Visit their website here.

L I B E R T Y  P U B L I C  M A R K E T

Last foodie stop, the Liberty Public Market! I’ve heard good things about this place from a friend and was excited to finally get a chance to try. The food hall offers a variety of dishes from seafood to Mexican! They even have plenty of vegan options with each vendor.

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Also known as Liberty Station, this place was formerly a naval training center.

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The hallways were a maze and got pretty confusing. We lost a few friends from time to time. It is always good to refer to these maps for guidance.

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I love that there is so much to see. It took us forever to decide what we wanted to eat!

 

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Fishbone Kitchen

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Henry and I loveeee seafood so you bet I picked this spot out of the many different options.

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The owners of this eatery boasts about their use sustainably sourced seafood.

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We ordered the half dozen oysters for $16. For being so close to San Diego, I was a little disappointed in the quality. It just didn’t taste as juicy and as fresh as I would’ve liked. I feel like I could’ve found better tasting oysters for the same price elsewhere.

Mama Made

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Mama Made dishes are modeled after Thailand street food with recipes passed down from the owner’s mother.

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We ordered their sampler plate which consists of fried calamari, spring rolls, and potstickers with plum and ginger sauce. This dish was good, but not the best I have ever had. It was a little soggy by the time we had a chance to find our seats and eat.

Raki Raki

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Mastiff Sausage Co.

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A sampler plate my cousin-in-laws ordered. They looked amazing. I wish I could have tried it, but all their sausages had some component of pork. There was an option for smoked apple & sage sausage which was vegan!

The Mess Hall

The Mess Hall was the only place inside that had ample amount of tables and seating. We were able to find enough space at the bar for our group of 6. Best thing about the mess hall is their selection of alcohol!

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Olala Crepes

Our meal was not complete without some DESSERT! We originally wanted to try the bakery that sits in the middle of the station, but we didn’t have enough time to wait in the lengthy line. After walking around, we stumbled upon this cute crepe spot on the outskirts of the market.

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I wasn’t feeling too adventurous so I ordered the basic banana, Nutella, and strawberry.

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It’s always really fun to see them assemble what you’re about to eat.

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Ta-da! Completed outcome was a beaut. I loved that it was fresh and piping hot! Downside was that the crepe was pretty thick and big. My husband and I tried to finish it between the two of us, but we were too stuffed to be able to finish the entirety of it.

I loved that there are so many different options to choose from in the Liberty Food Market. The dishes I personally tried were mediocre, but we’ve only had a tip of what was offered there. I like that their outdoor patio is dog friendly so I can see myself coming back with my puppy in the near future.

Liberty Public Market
2820 Historic Decatur Rd, San Diego, CA 92106
Visit their website here.

L A  F I N

IMG_20180901_202836My friends and I finished our night out with some amazing tunes from Sam Smith. For those of you who haven’t seen him live, you must! His voice has so much raw talent. He really could be singing children’s lullabies and it may bring me to tears.

San Diego has so much to offer when it comes to culinary discoveries. I can spend many days here and be able to experience so many different types of cuisines.

 

Fistful of Rice – My First Ever Filipino Kamayan Experience at MFK by Aysee

I don’t remember the last time I only ate with my hands. I mean, not just using hands to eat food like ribs. I’m talking about no use of spoons, forks or knives and just shoveling the entirety of your meal with your two God given fists. A kamayan meal (which translates directly to “with hands” in the Taglog language) embodies this primal method of eating. It is a Filipino culinary experience that is served communal style- a colorful array of rice, veggies, seafood, and meat spread across the table on a layer of bright, green banana leaves.

Before the Spanish colonization and US occupancy of the Philippines, eating with their hands was the customary way for the indigenous inhabitants. Natives were later pressured to abandon their “uncivilized” ways and adopt the Western method of using utensils to eat. In present day, Filipinos seek to bring back their former traditions and eat kamayan feasts during large celebrations to pay homage to their cultural history.

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MFK stands for Modern Filipino Kitchen and is located in Anaheim, CA. It is ran by Chef Henry Pineda who is a descendant of the Aysee restaurant chain in the Philippines. Pineda is part of the new generation of Filipino-American chefs that hopes to bring back the traditional flavors of Filipino food while bringing a refreshing, new aesthetic look to their culinary creations.

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T H E  R E S E R V A T I O N

All kamayan meals at MFK must have reservations and must be booked 72 hours in advance.  Unfortunately for our wallets, the dinner does not come cheap and is priced at $44 per adult and $20 per child. The reason for this hefty price tag might be because they are the only brick and mortar that offers the kamayan service in the OC area. I was able to find a few catering companies in the LA area (like Edna’s Filipino Cuisine in Long Beach) that serve kamayan meals, but none are as aesthetically beautiful and enticing as MFK’s.

Customers who place a reservation are asked to pick 6 protein options out of a long list of choices. It does not matter how big your party is, a reservation made together is limited to only 6 options. Perhaps a workaround is to have your party create separate reservations, but note that the restaurant can only hold roughly 3 large kamayan parties of ~10. There may potentially be risk of not being able to be seated all together. I suggest calling and asking beforehand.

Here are all the food options below:

  • Chicken Inasal
  • Lechon Kawali (deep fried pork belly)
  • Chicken BBQ
  • Longanisa (filipino sausage)
  • Tocino (sweet garlic pork)
  • Grilled Liempo (grilled pork belly)
  • Hipon (sauteed shrimp)
  • Dilis (crispy mini anchovies)
  • Fried Calamari
  • Tahong (mussels)
  • Whole Fried Fish
  • Manila Clams
  • Chicken Adobo
  • Pork Belly Adobo
  • Spam
  • Itlog Na
  • Maalat (Filipino salted egg)

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Besides the selected protein, additions to the meal include ensaldang kamatis (tomato pico de gallo), lumpia (Filipino eggrolls pork or vegetarian), seasonal fruit (mango and oranges for ours), garlic frito crumble, and of course, white rice.

The website does not state whether there is a limit on the number of people that can participate, but we have seen parties go up to as big as 32 people. You also don’t need a large number of people and can feast with only 2 people. For me, I figured the more the merrier and invited 8 other people to come along this foodie journey of mine.

T H E  P R E P A R A T I O N

We arrived a little earlier than the appointed time and found rows of tables already topped with pieces of banana leaf. Our table was partially set up with plastic cups and small containers of sauce in front of each seat.

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Every meal comes with a plastic cup and unlimited drinks.  The drinks included regular fountain soda or pours of their famous ube horchata. For those of you who do not know, ube is a purple yam and a popular ingredient in Filipino dessert. Some of my friends opted for the soda fountain first and waited till the end of the meal before getting their own cup of ube horchata. The drink is very creamy and filling which was why majority of my friends waited till the end. I, on the other hand, wanted to get as many refills of this delicious drink as I could and started from the beginning!

Note for all the adults: MFK does not serve alcohol. Fortunately for those who are looking for more intoxicating beverages,  there seems to be an unspoken BYOB option. It was not stated anywhere online or in their store, but the group following us were spotted bringing their own beer. I was also able to find some YouTube videos that showcased the same. Wish we knew about this beforehand because right next door to the restaurant was a convenience store that coincidentally has a small selection of liquor.

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At the start of the meal, everyone was given 3 sauces. Starting from left to right:

  • Suka-Spiced Vinegar: Cane vinegar from the Philippines with birds eye chili, red onions, and garlic. This was the one I used for the seafood.
  • Lechon Sauce-Aka Mang Thomas: Sweet vinegar with brown sugar and black pepper. This sauce was intended for the pork.
  • Sweet Chili Sauce: White sugar, vinegar, pickled red chili and garlic. This sauce was mostly used for the lumpia (eggrolls).

IMG_20180817_184235The meal could not start until the everyone in the group arrived. I was glad they were not too strict on punctuality because my friends can be laggers sometimes. Luckily, the staff was really friendly and told us to notify them when our entire party was there.

Once we were ready to begin our feast, out of the kitchen comes a giant cart of steaming goodies! One side of our table was told to stand up and make room for the preparation. Being the awkward turtles we were, the entirety of the group decided to stand up and allow the chef more space to set up as he pleased.

Watching him set up the meal was part of the fun! He started with the meats and slowly worked his way to the veggies and seafood. It took about 15 minutes for him to completely set up.

The chef was so nice and friendly. He was happy to answer any questions we had and was a good sport about the many pictures we took of him during the set up process!

T H E  M E A L

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Picking our 6 protein options was a pretty difficult task for a group of 9. We ended up having to create an online poll (you can find a free online one here) and picked the 6 most popular. Here were our winning options:

  • Chicken inasal
  • Whole fried fish
  • Longanisa (Filipino sausage)
  • Manila clams
  • Hipon (sauteed shrimp)
  • Lechon kawali (deep fried pork belly)

KAMAYAN

The most popular favorite dish among my friends was the longanisa (Filipino sweet sausage). Unfortunately, because I am a “non pork-atarian”, I was unable to eat any of the pork dishes so I cannot speak to the flavors of those dishes. More seafood for me! I enjoyed the flavoring of the shrimp and clams a lot. The shrimp option included additional string beans in their sauce that was sooooo finger lickin’ good!

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My favorite dish of the night was the whole fried fish! This fish is bangús, the national fish of the Philippines and is most commonly known as milkfish. We received 3 whole fish for our party of 9. Those on my side of the table were the lucky ones and got the fresh fried fish fresh out of the kitchen. It was still dripping in oil and steaming hot from the fryer. The skin on the outside was crunchy, crispy while the inside was remained fatty and soft.

My least favorite of our picks was the chicken inasal. Chicken inasal is roasted chicken, marinated in a mixture of Calamansi. The biggest reason why it was my least favorite is because by the time the meal was set up, the chicken had gotten a little cold and was not as flavorful. However, the group and I agreed that chicken was needed. We would have had too many fried options or too much pork otherwise. The chicken offered a good balance.

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L A  F I N

IMG_20180817_194202Squad up cannot have a truer meaning than gathering with your good friends to devour a kamayan feast. Having one unified goal to extinguish the mounds of rice and meat somehow gave us all a sense of camaraderie. While the price tag for this experience is no chump change, I have no regrets having tried my first kamayan experience at MFK. I can even see myself trying it again once or twice if other friends wanted to give their kamayan experience a try. Regardless of whether we eat their feast again or not, Chef Pineda did an amazing job curating a sweet and savory feast fit for kings. Perhaps the hubby and I will come back and try their individual bowls, but I don’t think we would be jumping for the opportunity to have a kamayan feast just for the two of us.

MFK by Aysee
Anaheim, CA
RSVP at: https://www.mfkaysee.com/kamayan-reservations/

One Fishy Speakeasy – My Dining Experience at Sushi|Bar

An unsual omakase-only experience can be found tucked away behind an obscure door in the back of the Woodley Proper cocktail lounge. Phillip Frankland Lee’s new sushi venture, Sushi|Bar, is the Valley’s hidden trove of seafood treasure. You might have seen or heard of Lee from his winning adventures on Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen, but that is just the tip of a long list of accolades of his culinary career. Lee and his wife own a handful of dining destinations, three which are located in the same Encino strip mall (Sushi|Bar, Scratch|Bar, & Woodley Proper) and others located in the Santa Barbara area.

sushibarsignPhoto Credit: Lissa G. from Yelp

When Sushi|Bar first opened, the only way to score yourself a seat at this fishy speakeasy was to arrive earlier and write your name on wooden plank in a narrow hallway. A $50 deposit was required to reserve a seat, but would have later applied towards the dinner. However, they now partner with Tock for online reservations and only require $10/person deposit to make your reservation. Sushi|Bar is open Wednesday to Friday and offers three dinner times with only 8 per seating. My husband figured this would be a fun date to celebrate our anniversary and made our reservation a month in advance without any hiccups. This 17 course omakase experience costs a total of $110. A decent price for a high end omakase meal. I was even more excited to try this place after reading that they ship their seafood overnight straight from Tsukiji Fish Market from Tokyo, Japan.

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Before the day of the dinner, we received an e-mail to confirm our appointment along with information and instructions for the night. We were asked to arrive 30 minutes prior to our scheduled dinner time of 5PM. Once checked-in, we were given a Japanese token that we exchanged at the bar for a welcome drink. It was a small, light, and sweet sake cocktail. This was definitely a great way to open our palette for the night. Since we were one of the first to arrive, we got a chance to lounge around and people watch as all the guests funneled in for the night. If you do not care too much for the opening cocktail, I don’t think there is a need to come earlier.

Once everyone was in attendance, we were ushered into a hallway and guided through the entrance of the back kitchen. We maneuvered our way between counters, boxes, and sinks which eventually led our way to a wooden door where the hostess performed a “secret knock”. Seconds later, the door slid open and we were welcomed into a cozy, dimly lit room with a small sushi bar and a small team of 3 smiling behind the counter.

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Since I was at the head of the pack, I didn’t have time to take a clear shot of the mini restaurant.

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The seats were already pre-assigned. I loved the personal touch they added with our names hand-written in chalk.

We were introduced to the staff for the night and were told that we can add additional $55 for a regular alcohol pairing or $75 for a premium pairing. I opted for just water and the husband ordered his usual IPAs a la carte.

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The board behind the chefs included the menu for the night. This was an cool way of displaying the dishes, but I wish they had them listed in detail somewhere else.

An interesting and surprising note, we weren’t given any utensils for the meal. All the sauces were brushed onto the fish and we would eat each piece by hand. Of coure, we were also given wet towels at the start of the meal for us to clean up after each course.

C O U R S E  # 1

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W E S T  C O A S T  O Y S T E R

This absolutely DIVINE to eat. This oyster was adorned with Italian sturgeon caviar topped with a whipped sake foam.

C O U R S E  # 2

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Yum! Anything blue fin melts in your mouth. I’m also a big lover of salmon roe for its intense salty flavor.

C O U R S E  # 3

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Hamachi topped with corn pudding.

C O U R  S E  # 4

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This piece is topped with fresh pineapple bruleed in brown sugar.

C O U R S E  # 5

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C O U R S E  # 6 

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The sauce paired with the tuna was a surprise. I wasn’t expecting a sweet and acidic taste, but it paired well with the texture of the fish.

C O U R S E  # 7

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S H I M A  A J I

This one is definitely listed as one of the top favorites. I don’t remember what were the garnishes on top. Perhaps chili peppers? Either way, it was exotic.

C O U R S E  # 8

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The ocean trout did not have traditional sushi rice, instead the chef used purple rice underneath. This was a refreshing change. I was also enamored smooth texture of the fish.

C O U R S E  # 9

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I’m completely biased because I love live prawn. This piece was amazing! I would have loved to eat an additional piece of this, but unfortunately, they only ordered the exact number of live prawn for the night. We were given the option to order other pieces from the night a la carte.

C O U R S E  # 1 0

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C O U R S E  # 1 1

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K I N G  C R A B

This was king crab with beet mustard sauce topped with quinoa. I appreciate the creativeness, but this dish was a little too different for me. I would have loved to eat the crab as is.

C O U R S E  # 1 2

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C O U R S E  # 1 3

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Probably the ugliest nigiri out of the bunch, but don’t judge a book by its cover. This piece of bone marrow was rich and really packed a punch with its savory flavor!

C O U R S E  # 1 4

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I think through the progression of the meal, the sushi creations got more and more adventurous. The foie gras was cured in sambuca and absinthe while the uni was sprinkled with what I assumed was matcha powder. Garnished on top were pickled onion and scallions. While the quality of the ingredients were on point, the combination did not amaze me.

C O U R S E  # 1 5

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Last but not least, dessert! Lying underneath the piece of sea urchin was a brulee yuzu marshmallow. Visually, this was a really tantalizing piece of uni, but because of the sweetness from the brulee, this course really missed the mark for me. I can’t imagine a world where uni can pair well with sweets (even though I do have a big sweet tooth).

C O U R S E  # 1 6

IMG_20180714_182103M A T C H A   L A T T E   W H I T E   C H O C O L A T E

C O U R S E  # 1 7

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The last course is an ode to traditional Japanese tea. Except, the drink was infused with liquor! I was too full to eat or drink anymore, so I gave mine to the hubby and he said enjoyed it.

L A  F I N

This meal was a little bit of a roller coaster for me. Some courses were elegant, decadent and had a wow factor while others fell short of expectations. For those planning to make reservations here, come with open mind for trying something new and different. However, I do not regret coming here and my overall experience with Sushi|Bar was a positive one. I can tell each dish was complex and methodically created. Artistry is not perfect and sometimes comes with failures. I love that Lee broke the status quo of what is expected in a traditional Japanese omakase. He breaks boundaries and I only hope he continues to push his limits to create an experience that will make people come back curious for more.

SUSHI|BAR
Encino, CA
RSVP at: https://www.exploretock.com/sushibar/

Save 15.0% on select products from Living Kitchen with promo code 15AUGUSTLK, through 8/31 while supplies last.

LA’s Not So Secret Seafood Supper Club – Sharksteeth by Wolvesmouth

Craig Thorton runs Wolvesmouth, LA’s most exclusive and sought after underground dining experience. How exclusive? There are no reservations, no waiting lists, and no contact numbers. Heck, he doesn’t even have his own brick and mortar. Instead, Thorton runs his secret restaurant straight from his loft in DTLA. One can only hope for their name be selected from thousands of candidates on their mailing list (really…that number is no exaggeration).

Fortunately for us, Thorton created Sharksteeth, a not so exclusive seafood focused tasting menu. Located at an unknown venue in Silver Lake, CA, Sharksteeth is available and offered to the public every few months. There are no prerequisites. Anyone can pre-purchase tickets online for a specific date and time. Each dinner costs ~$122 including tax and tip. It is also BYOB so guests can bring bottles of wine or any beverage of their choice!

I remember arriving to the given address and not feeling confident that we had come to the right place. The gate of the supper location had no signage or labels. I guess we got lucky that someone else had opened the gate right before. Through the gate was a small garden and steps that led us into a quaint house.

Image result for sharksteeth diningPhoto credit: Anne Fishbein via LA Weekly

Inside was a long communal table set for 20 and a large open space kitchen. It felt like I was going over to a friend’s house for a dinner gathering. Except the food was far from your basic home cooked meal. Magnetized to the fridge was a hand written sheet of the chef’s choice menu for the night.

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At the start of the dinner, we were told that this was to be a very casual dining experience. That meant we weren’t committed to being seated the entire time. We encouraged to mingle, walk around, and even watch them prepare the dishes in the kitchen.

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The meal was a total of 6 courses. Each with a different staple seafood ingredient. I remember being pretty excited before the first dish. I normally read up on a restaurant’s top dish and have an idea what the dishes would be like, but this time around, I blindly dove into the experience.

C O U R S E  # 1 

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Lobster marscapone ravioli

C O U R S E  # 2

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Halibut snap pea risotto

The HIGHLIGHT of my meal. The halibut was incredibly buttery, light and had a good citrus flavor to it.

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C O U R S E  # 3

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20180728192908299_COVERJapanese sea bream with sake broth and nasa miso

This dish was my husband’s favorite and also of other guests sitting beside us. The miso broth really highlighted the smooth texture of the fish. Not sure if I liked it because of the Asian influences, but it was definitely one of the top dishes for me as well.

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Sea bream fritter with shiso tartar sauce

C O U R S E  # 4

MVIMG_20180728_194451Albacore and crab with charcoal chili broth alongside coconut aracini

By this course, I could tell Thorton really loves his citrus flavors. This was light, sweet, and has a bit of a sour kick.

C O U R S E  # 5

IMG_20180728_195936Blue prawn and pork belly with cheddar chive biscuit

I no longer eat pork, but I figured I’d post my husband’s dish which is the one pictured above. For anyone who is pescatarian, they substituted the pork with potatoes and greens. Not an equal value trade in my opinion, but the dish was still delicious. This course was also served with a corn sauce served in a ceramic sake bottle. I got too excited and forgot to include a picture with it.

C O U R S E  # 6

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Financier with cajeta, strawberry ice and strawberry honey coconut crunch

At the end of the meal I was incredibly STUFFED. I didn’t think I would be able to finish the dessert, but I really couldn’t resist a dish that was strawberry! I’m glad I powered through it because this was probably the most texture creative dish in the course. I loved the honey coconut crunch. The outside was crunchy, but once you bit into it, everything melted in your mouth. The pairing of all the ingredients really felt like a wild strawberry party in my mouth. It was a great way to end my meal.

L A  F I N

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Prior to Sharksteeth, I had never been to or had any type of underground/pop-up food experience. It was nice to have something new for my husband and I to try. I had heard about this place from a colleague at work, but didn’t do too much research before I booked my reservations.  I have to say, I was really impressed. Not just from the mysteriousness and hype that surrounds their brand, but from the quality of the food alone. My husband is fiending for a chance to try Wolvesmouth. We’ve both submitted our names for consideration. Fingers crossed that we get a chance to partake in another one of Thorton’s dinner party creations!

 

S H A R K S T E E T H
Silver Lake, CA
RSVP at: http://wolvesmouth.com/sharksteeth 

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