Saturday, January 24, 2015

George's California Modern

Seating tonight was a lucky one: right next to the window. Unfortunately, it matters less during winter dinnertimes as the sun has long since set and all you see from this section out the window is darkness. I can attest though that during the summers, dinner here would be rather marvelous - the kind of Southern California dinner you see in the movies.

One oddity is the bathroom situation: the women's is on the same floor, but the men's a flight up. Otherwise, you're set to enjoy the casual luxury downtown La Jolla has to offer.

Presentation of the menus. Options range from a four course tasting to a la carte, and I believe a longer 8-course meal priced at $130. We elected the four-course with a la carte additions; the menu, too, was interesting and a pleasure to look through.

Bread, accompanied by pepper, sea salt, spiced sea salt. The assortment was good, though the spiced sea salt was actually a bit overpowering; my favorite was actually the pepper. Decent bread, too.

Zinfandel: Orin Swift 'Saldo', California, 2012

Saldo. It's an excellent wine bottled in a relatively nondescript glass, something that may not as a result sell too well in the public marketplace. It's delicious on first taste, opens up as you drink it, and very warm to the heart and body. Fruity, bodied, and not bitter at all, it made a fine accompaniment to the meal and something I would happily buy for home, if only I could find it.

Amuse Bouche

It's difficult to remember what composed this dish, something that came so early and quickly in the meal. Foie gras mousse, hibiscus shell, honey on the bottom? That may be what I can recall pronounced tableside from memory. Nonetheless, it was creamy, floral, and a beautiful presentation to whet the appetites for the evening. I love eating flowers (though they never taste how they look or smell), and to someone who really dislikes honey in general, it wasn't bad at all.

Albacore Crudo
charred jalapeño, cucumber, pear, yuzu kosho, shiso 16

Albacore, and the quality of freshness that allows it to simply melt in your mouth. The dashi sauce is poured in tableside, adding a bit of flavoring to everything, though not at all overpowering to the fish. While the quality of the fish was expectedly very good, the combination of ingredients really made this dish a delight; on a side note I wouldn't drink the dashi alone, which I would normally with age dashi tofu. The spicy jalapeno is controlled in temperature, meaning that though it might not impress a Korean dish, it works very well in this particular combination. The shiso is ace.

Grilled Octopus
chorizo, smoked potato, roasted radish, salsa verde 17

To someone who's never had a truly fresh octopus, it's difficult to describe how it can come out: not in the least rubbery or chewy. Though I don't believe the octopus this time reaches the same level of purity my last visit had, it's still an always unbelievable and satisfying texture when done right, grilling apparently a large part of the secret. I did really like the presentation this time as it gave a lot more to cut through and have fun with; the rooted veggie and kale topping were great to the eye in both color and texture, and I just loved how everything came together. The baby potatoes were a tad starchy though not in a bad way at all, almost like a cousin potato, available in a number of enjoyable interior colorings (regular and purple).

Grilled Half Lobster

This dish came out a bit of a surprise, meaning I don't have the menu description to wow you with. But here's what I do remember: a lobster, live the same day and caught in the bay, cut in half and grilled, prepared with fennel butter (or fennel and butter?). It's a presentation I've never seen before but really quite extraordinary, and remarkably simple to eat: the edible pieces just came on out. Inaccessible were the inside components - the legs, the little claws and such; I'm quite okay with that. In taste, the lobster was fresh, clean, with the slight grill and butter; the fennel and lemon really helped it glow.

Pork Tenderloin
pancetta milanese, salsify, quince mustard, sauce gribiche, mustard greens 36

Panko breaded and flash fried, cut into medallions. Sauce gribiche is beneath it, composed of fine herbs, terragon, and basil chopped fine, grated with egg whites. Egg yolk composes the yellow dollops and quince mustard the other yellows, parsely puree the greens, and a roasted salsify rounding it all out. To me the pork tastes honestly a bit like ham, though my companion certainly enjoyed it. The presentation is fun and light hearted, colorful in a way that could almost be Seuss-ian, with an ingredient mixture to match. Not my favorite dish but by no means a loser, it was cooked well and presented nicely. There is something about it though: it some ways, it really reminds me of childhood.

Warm Chocolate Tart
feuilletine, whipped crème fraiche, Chino Farms mint,
barley malt chocolate meringue, mint ice cream 12

A surprisingly good dessert and a bit of a classic, we have here an ice cream, a chocolate, and a liquid center, at least in essence. Fresh and relatively local mints (a bit outside Los Angeles) are used rather than a cloying creme de menthe, and beneath is feuilletine, made from rice and chocolate coated. Dehydrated barley malt meringue is used as a garnish on top, and rather deliciously I might add; overall, all good flavors, all good textures, and a delicious molten brownie accompaniment.

Chestnuts Roasting / 15
Bulleit rye whiskey, gomme syrup, George’s
autumn bitters, house walnut liquor, flamed
orange, atomized mezcal

Though no fault of the server at all, it was between this and Lagavulin, and this is certainly no Lagavulin. Regrettably I did not take a picture, though I can say that it tastes fairly like what I expected - a farmier, almost homier version of an old-fashioned. One advantage this cocktail does have over the Lagavulin though? I won't be able to make this one at home anytime soon, despite the homier taste.

Overall, the night was excellent - service was wonderful, a casual conversation with the servers the same combination of factors comprising downtown La Jolla and appropriate for a restaurant of this nature. Appreciated touches were applied such as the steam ironing each tablecloth, and the accommodations did prove pleasant: the seating was comfortable, somewhat colorful yet muted, and the tables themselves cushioned. The cutlery and glassware was appropriately changed based on course selection, and more bread was offered at the beginning of the meal, though we declined, electing to fill ourselves on the later foods.

What as in particular very nice was the knowledge of our server. He was able to freely converse on not only the menu items, as expected, but the peatiness of various scotches, and a runthrough of the wine menu, helping us to make an appropriate decision regarding the evening's imbibements.

And on a final and rather offbeat note, my companion had taken up ceramics recently and remarked on the quality of the dishware. The finish was mostly matte but with slight gloss, an unpopular decision in the world of amateur pottery but far more appropriate to the restaurant and atmosphere here. In my honest opinion, I've never liked much the glaze used by most ceramics students, finding them too shiny to be subtle, so here George's proved excellent.

Conclusion? My second trip to George's California Modern reshaped my opinion of the restaurant, and is a worthwhile step up from the Ocean Terrace visit that I enjoyed (minus the tourists). The food all came out great and well prepared, the service was on point, and overall, we felt the evening pass on with a joy, reluctant only that it came to an end. The clientele will still largely be on the side of older white people - WASPs, as my very white friend explained to me recently; yet I did not feel that much out of place. I recommend.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Black Hogg - Breakfast

From 9am to 1pm, Tue-Sat

Black Hogg. I earlier reviewed dinner here stating it was a fresh and good entrance into the Silver Lake area, making me excited to come back and experience the new breakfast menu. There was a coupon for 30% off breakfast available through Blackboard Eats, an enticing enough offer to make the drive (though I forgot to use it).

At dinnertime you walk in and are greeted before being seated, but not so with breakfast. It's very much a seat yourself affair, taking orders in front at the counter - I wish this were made more clear, as normally that counter serves as a bar, meaning a crowd is interpreted as a group hanging out, not a line. It took a while to figure out what to do.

Menus. A short offering, the prices seemed decent for what I imagined would come out.

Once ordering and paying, you receive a number to take back to your chosen table. This will summon your food from kitchen to table as it is readied. It's a bit strange of a feeling though, paying your tip before any service at all is rendered. I much prefer the restaurant during dinnertime, where a check is brought out to your table post.

BYOM $1 Stumptown (limited time only)
“Bring Your Own Mug” for this price

I personally don't drink coffee, so I'll have to relay to you what my partner communicated. Though the coffee is just $1 if you bring your own mug, it comes up at $2.50 if you need a cup, a curious bump in pricing. The coffee itself comes a bit under-roasted, slightly sour in taste, and doesn't taste particularly novel or quality in any way. Each refill is an additional $1. Since it is self-serve, the coffee-pot seemed to be empty here and there, leading to a few annoyed patrons during my visit.

KFC and Scallion Waffles 13
Korean Fried Mary’s Chicken, Spicy Maple,
and a Crispy Scallion Waffle

Chicken and waffles. I was a bit stunned by the portioning at the moment it was brought table-side - a very small amount of chicken, with the ratio of chicken and waffle seeming quite off balance. Nonetheless, the waffle was cut and dipped into that, oh! Spicy maple syrup, an odd combination between the two. The waffles were scallion waffles, tasting healthy in an odd way (and I love scallion), healthy even without the scallions. It was non-sweet, and tasted significantly better with butter. The chicken was thigh and leg, a nicely crisp finish and a much better combination with the spicy maple, altogether with the waffle. Of course, the combination wouldn't last very long considering again that odd proportioning; if the chicken had been cut into two pieces rather than one, it would have made the dish seem a slightly better value, even without increasing the food offering. But it did need more chicken.

*Hong Kong French Toast 11
Thick-Cut French toast, Condensed Milk,
Peanut Sauce, Crushed Peanuts, Raspberries

I wish it had said you were getting brick toast. If we had known, we probably wouldn't have ordered this for breakfast - it's very carb-y, very heavy with peanut butter, peanuts, and best probably in very small portions. A bit pricey at $11 considering what it really is, and I wouldn't hesitate to call this one a disappointment.

So there you are. I don't really know - this place just didn't meet my expectations. Service was virtually non-existent: no water refills, no check-ups, and the dishes came out separately. I suppose those wouldn't be horrible, considering this isn't a Michelin-grade restaurant and we are talking about a breakfast spot, but at the same time, if a 15% tip is paid before the meal even begins, I do expect more, reinforcing the brokenness of the tipping system, especially when paid beforehand.

To top it off, there was a kid crying and yelling right next to us for the meal, which uh. I like kids, but do people really bring infants to sit-down restaurants these days? Service actually didn't tell them off in any way in this instance - they brought out a baby stool, instead.

In the end, I felt the food was lacking and overpriced. The menus felt a bit unfinalized in their preparations and recipes, with some flavors clashing oddly or just not fine-tuned in the way that dinner was. Top that off with the relatively unfilling portion control, the lack of service, and paying tip before service is rendered, and it just left an odd taste when leaving Black Hogg - a shame, because I really did enjoy my dinners here. If you're here after 11am, I might suggest trying out the Soppresata lunch menu rather than breakfast.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Pomegranate II

These pomegranates are natural, forgotten, aged in the sun. Their character comes from the struggles the drought this year provided, harassed by insects and birds, split and then healed, beaten upon by the heat of the world. Their character offers a complexion no Ralph's quality fruits can hope to offer. This is the fruit of nature.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thai Tom

Its sometimes the unexpected that garners the greatest rewards, and as many foodies know, its sometimes the hole in the walls with the tastiest dishes. You wouldn't expect something good to come out of a Thai restaurant in freaking Seattle, even if it does remind me of Shattuck/Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley, and yet here we are, talking about it.

Supposedly a line and a wait prevent people from immediately enjoying the food here most reasonable hours of the day, but since we arrived just before the dinner rush at around 5, a pleasant table beckoned. Though that may be a generous statement about the table.

What do you order? I don't know, so the usual Thai favorites, a green curry and a pad see ew were ordered. The kitchen is immediately viewable from any seat in the house, the chef and his wok flaming, producing. Spicy level 3, please!

I'll note here that level 3 (of 5) was fairly spicy, and wouldn't recommend the average person to go beyond 1 or 2. For those who can handle it though, it adds a measurable taste to the dish, and I found 3 to be a great combination between spice and flavor. Unlike some Thai restaurants focusing on the spice, I wouldn't expect the food to come out completely bland unspiced, a very good thing.

This far into the review its fairly obvious what I thought of the food: if I lived in the area, I'd probably be a regular. It's flavorful, the short noodles have a great chewy texture, and they even make delicious midnight munchie leftovers. The curry combines great flavor with a healthy dollop of rice, its subtle yet kicking spices combining with its milk broth to smoothly satisfy. As far as restaurant-style Thai food goes, this might be my all time favorite; both dishes were ordered with chicken.

Reasonable prices, expect a line, and great food. Oh, and just to note, it's cash only. Drats.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


When someone dies, intentionally or not, the same comments seem to be seen made regarding the person.

I wish I had told you...

At this age we don't imagine friends and acquaintances in sudden death, the chances seeming rather slim at whatever age you may be. You don't imagine the last time you saw someone or interacted as possibly the very last, or that they may be contemplating their very own. That potential friendships may never be, and words, love left unspoken, simply because you didn't take the moment to say hello, to ask questions, to walk together. There's always another time, a better time.

I hope to prevent myself from saying that in the future. Courage and hope, for chance may never come again and fullness may be lost.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Wedding: John and Cindy

If there were ever a wedding that could be considered the "peak" of my career, this would be it. Shot with the amazingly talented Melly Lee (and occasionally John Yao), the day was an absolute pleasure and a blast. Here's a small preview to the chaos; congratulations to my friends, John and Cindy!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


It may be difficult to believe at times, but a job does not define a person's worth or value in the slightest. Boredom may arise during unemployment, as well as feeling unsatisfied and undervalued as nobody hires you; the reality is binge watching Netflix and sleeping in do not create value either.

In employment though your soul can just as easily be demoralized, your mentality only helped by the fact that the meaningless work helps pass the day. But value is found when you achieve goals you want to pursue, make the world a better place, and are generally productive in some way, even if tiny. The time can be used to do what you want to do and explore yourself - take classes, talk to people, get out, volunteer, be human.

But it's a different world now where jobs aren't handed to us anymore, and it is now up to you to create value, even if that doesn't mean creating money. I just quit my job and find myself planning the below to get me through life rather than relying upon Netflix and dinners with working friends to get me through the days and weeks:

1. Apply to jobs I want. This knowledge came through a lot of after hours hustling, where I took the time to explore what I wanted without the restrictions of my parental guidance - night classes. The result: I found what I would love to do, have taken steps toward getting there, and am ready to give myself completely to pursuing it. It's a lot easier to apply yourself when you want what you're chasing.

2. Going out. When I graduated college I thought I should do everything from the comfort of my home due to financial concerns. This leads to depression for a number of reasons. This time around I plan to explore local coffee shops, an environment to meet people and actually be productive (I pretend in my head that other people are judging me if I am not). About that financial thing - long term depression takes a toll on your wallet, health, and job prospects.

3. Take on projects. Work. I have a few options to help people now due to connections I've made outside of work in the passions I've developed. They may not pay the bills but it is productive, and it is essential to keep building. Better yet, these projects or hobbies, when you finally do have a "job", might keep you sane; if they instead become your job, even better.

One truth though: if your life becomes sleep and moping around bugging your friends on how bored you are, job opportunities will be more limited, and likely shittier too on the scale of shit to good. Instead, why not build something during your downtime so to become someone people want too?

And hopefully I follow my own advice!