Monday, October 29, 2007

Casa Sanchez

A friend of mine was invited by Senor Sanchez to dine at his new Casa Sanchez restaurant in Mar Vista, in the old Marina Mago spot, just up the street from his taqueria. She brought me along to check it out (we ate for free). This place is a trip. It has a grand entryway with high ceilings and a large portrait of Zapata. There is a bar/lounge area, that overlooks the main dining room. At the end of the dining room is a stage where the 10 piece mariachi band plays (forget about being able to hear your conversation while they are playing - it is more like dinner theater than backround music). Very fancy, indeed. The places are set with salad forks and wine glasses, the windows are draped in fancy window treatments, McMansion style. Very festive. You do feel like you are not in Mar Vista anymore - my friend thought she was somewhere in Mexico, I was thinking more like Riverside.

He is trying to create an upscale dining experience, with traditional Mexican fare but with more focus on contemporary dishes with Mexican flare. They have the regular Mexican dishes like tamales, taquitos and fajitas, but the emphasis is on the chops and fish. These dishes are large - think about skipping the apps or taking it easy on the chips (which comes with a a dish of guacamole topped with salsa).

I had the steak smothered in a sweet wine mushroom sauce, that was much better with a little sprinkle of salt. My friend had the veal, also in a mushroom sauce which she enjoyed. The entrees are about $25, we had two drinks apiece, and 1 appetizer. The bill would have been about $100 - had I paid for it myself, I probably would have ordered less expensive dishes. The food is OK. If I am going to spend $25 for an entree, I would much rather go to Joe's or Lucques. I will go back to Casa Sanchez, though. I will sit in the lounge area, enjoy the margaritas and traditional appetizers, and the distance from the loud (but fantastic) Mariachi band. This is a great place to take the friends and family visiting from out-of-town for a festive meal out, that is not too exotic.

Casa Sanchez
4500 S. Centinela Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90066

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Vin Italy

Vin Italy is a massive wine tasting event in Italy held ever year. The Wine House hosted its own version Thursday night at the Skirball Cultural Center. The room was filled with distributors pouring samples of their wines. There were a couple of tables with snacks like cheese and bread, and wall to wall Italians. How can you tell one is Italian? They are good looking, well dressed, and wear sneakers with suits.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mozzarella Bar at Osteria Mozza

We arrived at Osteria Mozza shortly after 5:00 last Saturday and we were the first in line, waiting to rush the mozzarella bar (with Nancy Silverton at the helm) at their 5:30 opening. This is what you have to resort to if you do not have a reservation. If you have one, it means you made it one month in advance for a 9:30 Tuesday night slot (like we did), with no chance of being seating early (like we found out at 8:30). No reservations is the way to go. When the doors opened, I made a beeline straight for the mozzarella bar, only to find the hostess very expertly take a side step to her left and block my path with a perky, "2 for the mozzarella bar?" Yes. She seating us at the bar, and the fun began.

A couple months ago when I dined at a table, the waiter insisted we place our order for all the courses at once, so he can set the pace (which we hate to do - we like to set the pace; nice and slow). At the bar the service was much looser. We ordered one dish at a time, at our own pace. When I asked the difference between two kinds of wine, the server replied with the best answer, " let's try them!" Yes, lets. Served in my favorite size portion; the quartino. We were given an amuse bouche of a mozzarella spiral with olives, pesto and tomatoes. A perfect little fatty and salty treat to stir up one's appetite. Our first dish was the crostini with burracotta cheese, mint pesto, artichoke hearts, topped with pine nuts and currants (I believe you may find the recipe in Nancy's sandwich book). This was my favorite dish. Not too big, just the right combination of sweet and savory.

We moved on to the burrata from Basilicata. This burrata arrives from Italy every Thursday, and our waiter said they serve it through Saturday. It had just the slightest hint of sourness that burrata has after a few days, but it was still enjoyable. She served it with some leeks, and a couple of slices of thick bread, toasted and drenched in olive oil.

Remember: when I say things like "fatty, salty, drenched in olive oil," these are all words of praise. At this point we were a bit cheesed-out, so we moved on to grilled figs wrapped in procuitto. Once again, another fantastic combination of the good ol' sweet and salty. We looked at the dessert menu just for fun, but had to pass after all this cheese and bread. This is the way to dine at the Mozza's: arrive early, grab a seat at the bar, and enjoy.

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ugo - An Italian Bar

I have been eagerly awaitng the opening of Ugo's bar right next door to his cafe in downtown Culver City. It is like the bars that are all over Italy - serving espresso, gelato, panino, pastries, liquor and more. They have all the bases covered: you can pop in for a quick morning espresso and pastry, or enjoy lunch from their menu of panini, antipasti, salad, and small plates out on the patio, or drop in for an aperitivo before dinner (or digestivo after dinner). Today I had an after lunch snack of torrone gelato and an espresso con panna. My fellow Italophiles will love this place. We can even attempt to practice our Italian with one of the Italian employees, who come from Sicily and and Naples.

Ugo - An Italian Bar
9501 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232