I'll be the first to say, since my recent trip to NYC, I haven't been interested with the food scene in Los Angeles. The recent restaurant openings of Sotto, Son of a Gun, and Lukshon has not interested me one bit, and probably never will. However, when I was invited by Darin to a benefit dinner at the Breadbar in the Century City mall headlined by Hiro Urasawa of the famed Urasawa, I knew I had to try it. Ever since my previous dinner at Urasawa, I've been meaning to try his cooking again.
Along with Hiro Urasawa (Urasawa), we had Noriyuki Sugie (Breadbar), Michael Cimarusti (Providence), Walter Manzke (Formerly Church and State), David Myers (Comme Ça), and Ramon Perez (Sona) collaborating on this 6 course tasting menu. Priced at $110 sans tax and gratuity, all of the proceeds from this dinner (along with another dinner at Comme Ça) goes directly to the Japan Earthquake relief aid. A great cause, and hopefully for us, a great meal ahead.
|Bread Basket from Breadbar|
You'd assume the bread from a place called "Breadbar" would be out of this world right? Sadly it was merely passable, but I enjoyed the soft butter that accompanied the bread. Since I wasn't here for the bread, it's no big deal.
|Canapé: Pumpernickel, Aged Lard. Artichoke Barigoule. Caramelized Eel, Sansho Pepper (Noriyuki Sugie)|
NV Jean Philippe, “Brut, Blanquette de Limoux,” Languedoc, France
Here to start: a trio of canape.
I'm a fan of artichokes, and I enjoyed this starter. This was a light and refreshing starter.
|Pumpernickel, Aged Lard|
Next we have shaved lard on top of pumpernickel bread. While I enjoyed the taste of the aged lard (similar to lop cheung (Chinese sausage)), I didn't particularly like the pumpernickel pairing.
|Caramelized Eel, Sansho Pepper|
This was my favorite of the trio. I enjoyed the sweet taste of the eel, which tasted similar to the eel found on Japanese eel rice (unagi don). The pineapple that went with the eel was a wonderful complement.
|1. Tartar Duo - Hokkaido Scallop and Marinated Salmon Roe, Wasabi, Shiitake Mushroom. Toro, Osetra Caviar, Takuan, Scallion (Hiro Urasawa)|
Hananomai Sake “Katana” Junmai Ginjo, Japan
This was my most anticipated course of the evening, a dish by Hiro Urasawa, and it fails to disappoint. I enjoyed the flavors of the scallops and ikura, but the texture of the scallops were slightly mushy, but that said, it was a wonderful bite. The second tartar of toro and caviar was definitely my favorite of the duo. I hope I'm not being partial since toro and caviar are two of my personal favorites, but that mouthful was quite delicious. Along with the duo of tartar, the accompanied daikon flowers and vegetables were delicious as well.
|2. Soymilk Panna Cotta, Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, Geoduck Clam and Fresh Wasabi (Michael Cimarusti)|
Epiphany 2009 Riesling Santa Barbara County, California
Next up was my favorite course of the night. The aesthetically looking, as well as the tasty looking dish was prepared by Providence's Michael Cimarusti. The soymilk panna cotta by itself reminded me of an unsweetened dou fu hua or tofu flower, which is a popular Chinese dessert. However when he added the Santa Barbara sea urchin, geoduck, tomatoes, wasabi and other components, it created something truly magical, epic even. This dish was one of the best things I've ate in the past year.
|3. Santa Barbara Prawns, Thai Curry, Spring Pea (Walter Manzke)|
Jean-Marc Brocard, 2009 Petit Chablis, Burgundy, France
Eating this course really made me wish Chef Manzke would quickly open up a permanent place here in Los Angeles. The initial layer of the pea purée was creamy and delicious, but the second layer of Thai curry was even better. It went wonderfully with the perfectly cooked piece of prawn. I couldn't have asked for a better dish from Chef Manzke. Trust me, there wasn't a drop of curry or piece of shrimp left when I was done with this one.
|4. Charcoal Akage Beef, Maitake Tempura, Tsukemono (David Myers)|
Fat Monk 2009 Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California
Next came what I thought was the weakest dish of the night. I've personally never had any of David Myer's cooking in the past, so this wasn't a good impression. Even though the beef and the maitake mushroom tempura was meant to be blackened and charred with the use of bamboo charcoal, I personally did not enjoy this technique. The mushroom quickly broke apart and was dry (though that was a given), nary of any flavor other than char. The beef itself was tender, but it wasn't anything special. Ultimately, it didn't look very good, nor did it taste very good. Even my camera had a hard time taking a picture of this dish. (Though it's probably my fault on the photography part)
|5. Sakura Cream, Black Okinawa Sugar, Alpine Strawberry, Cherry Blossom-Yogurt Sorbet (Ramon Perez)|
Mizbasho Sparkling Sake “Pure,” Gunma, Japan
Thankfully, we closed the night on a strong note with a dessert prepared by ex-Sona's Ramon Perez. The base itself was subtly sweet and delicious. The accompanied alpine strawberry was SO good, the sorbet was wonderful, and just as a whole, this dessert was truly delicious. This was my kind of dessert! The paired sparking sake was something new for me. I definitely need to get a bottle for myself.
|Mignardises: Chocolates, Marshmallows, Green tea macarons (Photo Courtesy of Darin Dines)|
The trio of mignardises were great, especially the green tea macaron. I just wish they served it to the tables instead of placing it at the one corner of the room.
|Group Shot (Photo Courtesy of Darin Dines)|
I thought the meal as a whole was very strong, even if there were a few thing I didn't particularly cared for. I do hope Chef Cimarusti would add that soy panna cotta to his tasting menu at Providence, because it was a definite hit with the most of us diners. In the end though, we have to remember this meal was more than for us to eat good food, but it was for a great cause. Bravo to all of the chefs who participated in this event!
Ibaraki Benefit Dinner at Breadbar
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067