Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Baseball’s Best Bars

Cask N’ Flagon

With baseball season winding down, why not drown your sorrows over how bad your team is doing at one of baseballs 10 best bars?

Here’s a list compiled by ESPN’s Josh Pahigian as seen on ESPN Sports Travel.

1. Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant
42 Central Park South, New York
Web site | City Guide

The theme of the lavishly decorated walls at Mickey Mantle’s harks back to baseball’s golden era. More than 300 pieces of memorabilia are on display, including the original plaque that hung at Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park to honor “The Mick” from 1969 to 1996 (at which time a full-sized monument replaced it).

Visitors also will find uniforms worn by Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson, along with stadium chairs from the original Yankee Stadium, a life-size cutout of Babe Ruth autographed by more than 150 big leaguers and a circa-1961 replica of old Yankee Stadium that covers 49 square feet and features working light towers, scoreboard and 64,000 molded-pewter seats.

“Because we’re in New York we don’t just have sports personalities as guests, but also celebrities who are sports fans,” said Bart Alexander, director of special events at Mantle’s.

“Some recent visitors include Yankees GM Brian Cashman, Mickey’s old teammates Moose Skowron and Joe Pepitone, Don Mattingly, Bob Costas, Jerry Springer, Chris Matthews of “Hardball,” Harry Smith of CBS News and football guys Dan Marino, Mike Ditka and Jimmy Johnson.”


2. Cask ‘n Flagon
62 Brookline Ave., Boston
Web site | City Guide

In the shadows of Fenway Park’s Green Monster, Red Sox fans find sausage vendors, ticket scalpers and usually a long line of thirsty patrons waiting to get inside “The Cask.” The famous hangout, which is just a long foul ball from home plate, often accommodates as many as 5,000 patrons on a busy game day.

It dates back to an original opening in 1969 as a live-music club, which would feature Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen and Boston’s own Aerosmith.

Over the years it morphed into a top-notch sports bar that now boasts an impressive array of Red Sox photos, including shots of Babe Ruth playing the tuba, Ted Williams being sworn into the Marine Corps, a baby-faced Roger Clemens looking every bit the wide-eyed rookie and a champagne-soaked Jim Lonborg celebrating with Carl Yastrzemski in the Boston clubhouse after the Sox clinched the 1967 pennant.


3. Sluggers
3540 N. Clark St., Chicago
Web site | City Guide

As any fan who has visited Wrigleyville surely knows, an entire article could be written strictly about the top-10 sports bars in this special corner of the baseball universe – and there would still be plenty of worthy establishments left out.

Debates about the “best” sports bar in Wrigleyville often revolve around the Cubby Bear and Murphy’s Bleachers – time-honored haunts on Chicago’s North Side that deserve all the praise they receive.

For the sake of offering a differing opinion though, and because it’s the only joint in Wrigleyville that offers an indoor batting cage upstairs for patrons, the choice here is Sluggers, where fans can determine if they really do make more solid contact after they’ve had an Old Style or three.

In addition to the romper room upstairs, Sluggers has featured such celebrity bar tenders through the years as Andre Dawson, Rick Sutcliffe, Goose Gossage and Minnie Minoso.


4. Nemo’s
1386 Michigan Ave., Detroit
Web site | City Guide

Although the Tigers departed Tiger Stadium in 2000, relocating to Comerica Park, hard-core Tigers fans still return to their old stomping grounds on game day to visit Nemo’s bar and grill.

Maybe what lures fans is the framed front pages of old newspapers that hang on the tin walls to commemorate great moments in Tigers history, such as Kirk Gibson celebrating the 1984 World Series victory or Cecil Fielder rounding the bases after hitting his 50th homer in 1990. Or perhaps it’s the other terrific nostalgia. Or it could be its signature cheeseburgers.

How about the game-day transportation? A Motor City favorite for more than four decades, Nemo’s uses a fleet of converted school buses these days to shuttle patrons to and from games at Comerica. In fact, business owner Springstead is enjoying even greater success in the Comerica era than in the days of Tiger Stadium.

“We’ve got six buses now, and the crowds keep coming,” Springstead said. “The last three years have been the best we’ve ever had, and we’ve been here since 1965.”


5. Lakefront Brewery
1872 N. Commercial St., Milwaukee
Web site | City Guide

What would a trip to Milwaukee be without paying a visit to one of the city’s breweries? And what would the Brewers be without their lovable, if drunken, mascot Bernie Brewer?

At Lakefront Brewery, baseball fans have the chance to both celebrate Milwaukee’s proud brewing tradition and honor this legendary hooligan with the handlebar mustache.

Lakefront, you see, is the place where Bernie Brewer’s original chalet and slide have resided since the Milwaukee nine departed County Stadium for Miller Park.

Lakefront president Russ Klisch purchased the old prop from the team shortly after the move and happily installed it along his extremely popular brewhouse tour. Visitors will observe that many members of the Brewers have autographed the old apparatus, perhaps none more famous than the team’s quartet of racing sausages.


6. Ozzie’s Restaurant & Sports Bar
645 Westport Plaza, St. Louis
Web site | City Guide

The St. Louis hot spot named after the best defensive shortstop of all time offers more than 50 TVs, St. Louis-style toasted raviolis and walls decorated with Cardinals jerseys and photos. What more could a baseball fan want? (Don’t answer that, Cubs fans.)

One entire wall chronicles Ozzie Smith’s induction day at Cooperstown, while nearby a tall, glass trophy case shows off all 13 of his Gold Gloves.

As owner Ray Gallardo explained, Ozzie’s was the place to be for any Cardinals fans who didn’t have tickets to Busch Stadium on the night the Cards won their 10th world championship on Oct. 27, 2006.

“The day was originally supposed to be an off day,” Gallardo said, “but then (Game 4) was rained out on Wednesday and all of a sudden there was a game on Friday.”

Consequently, the Game 5 World Series clincher against the Tigers took place on a day Ozzie’s had slated months earlier for its 18th anniversary party. A throng of fans turned out to watch the game alongside such baseball luminaries as Willie McGee, Whitey Herzog, Reggie Jackson and Ozzie Smith himself. And when Adam Wainwright struck out Brandon Inge to give the Red Birds their first championship in 24 years, they all went wild.


7. Chappell’s Restaurant & Sports Museum
323 Armour Road, North Kansas City, Mo.
Web site | City Guide

Less than a 20-minute drive north from Kauffman Stadium fans will find what is considered the most impressive collection of sports memorabilia housed in any bar or restaurant in the United States.

Since opening in 1986, Chappell’s Restaurant & Sports Museum has steadily expanded its collection to the point that it now includes more than 10,000 items.

The place is a labor of love for owner Jim Chappell, a longtime friend of former Kansas City and Oakland A’s owner Charlie O. Finley. Chappell delights in leading first-time visitors from wall to wall, while providing background information about his collection’s most interesting artifacts.

The top attraction at Chappell’s is thought to be the 1974 World Series trophy Finley’s rough-and-tumble Oakland A’s won against the Dodgers. There also are balls autographed by Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Dizzy Dean, as well as impressive collections of old jerseys, pennants and photographs.


8. Sports Column
1930 Blake St., Denver
Web site | City Guide

Located in an old, brick warehouse just “96 steps” from Coors Field, the Sports Column is the finest of the many fine sports bars in Denver’s LoDo (Lower Downtown) district.

Since opening the day before the Rockies christened Coors Field in 1995, it has featured an expansive bar with plenty of TVs, walls laden with memorabilia and jerseys and a rooftop patio where patrons can fill their lungs with crisp, Rocky Mountain air while sipping pints of microbrew.

During the summer months, this is as lively a pre and postgame scene as fans will find anywhere in baseball. And the mouthwatering Rockie Burger — a sandwich that comes piled high with chicken tenders, ham, bacon, barbecue sauce and cheddar and Swiss cheese — is a true original.


9. Bobby V’s Sports Gallery Cafe
4301 S. Bowen Road, Arlington, Texas
Web site | City Guide: Dallas

Although he now toils for the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League, where he’s considered the most successful foreigner ever to lead a Japanese team, Bobby Valentine’s presence is still felt in Arlington, where he skippered the Texas Rangers from 1985 -1992.

One of two Bobby V’s – the other is in Valentine’s hometown of Stamford, Conn. – this neighborhood grill is absolutely plastered with memorabilia, and not just on the walls but the bar and tables, too.

Each table, including those within the elevated boxing ring in the center of the restaurant, is topped with old baseball cards, ticket stubs and game programs beneath a film of lamination.

The atmosphere is warm and cozy, the TVs are plentiful and the food is quite good. The Tex-Mex Bobby Bajita fajita plate, chili in a bread bowl, ostrich burger and fried pickles are all house specials, as are the wraps – and with good reason.

In a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction baseballesque moment, in 1980, shortly after his playing career ended, Valentine opened his first restaurant in Stamford, Conn., and claims to have invented the now ubiquitous sandwich wrap that we find at lunch counters across the country.


10. McCovey’s Restaurant
1444 N. California Blvd., Walnut Creek, Calif.
Web site | City Guide: San Francisco | City Guide: Oakland

Just a half-hour drive across San Francisco Bay from AT&T Park, and an even shorter ride from Oakland’s McAfee Coliseum, baseball fans find a festive hardball haven that offers a wealth of memorabilia and a colossal, 44-ounce mound of ground Angus beef dubbed the 521 Burger.

The juicy behemoth honors the 521 home runs restaurant namesake and frequent visitor Willie McCovey hit during a 22-year career spent mostly with the Giants.

In addition to sporting a slew of TVs tuned to whatever games are taking place, the walls display autographed jerseys, bats and photographs. Top attractions include the National League home run champion trophy McCovey was awarded after belting 44 long balls for the Giants in 1963, a ball signed by Satchel Paige in 1934 and a photo of McCovey posing with Johnny Carson.

In addition to McCovey, who usually dines in the private “McCovey Room,” sports celebs including Tony La Russa, Joe Montana, Chris Mullen, Bob Uecker and Chris Webber have been known to stop by for a meal.

Photo from Flickr.


HMS Bounty


by Anthony Vargas

The HMS Bounty in Koreatown remains my favorite spot for pre-concert dinner and drinks, despite the fact that Wilshire Boulevard is no longer the music and entertainment mecca it once was.

Located off the lobby of the Gaylord Apartments, the HMS Bounty is a throwback to the days of red leather booths and very dim lighting. The theme is nautical and the crowd is a mix of old time white residents on one side of the bar, middle-aged Korean men on the other and hipsters who can’t afford apartments in Silver Lake seated at the booths munching on hamburgers or fish and chips.

The menu is simple: sandwiches, steaks, fish and salads. The bar is heavy-handed, so ordering a mixed drink is advisable over beer or wine. The galley has really surprised me on numerous occasions and the staff has always been accommodating.

The chicken noodle soup is a great starter, hearty and simple. The softness and texture of the chicken indicates that it has been slowly simmering. There is no instant soup to be found. The salads are rather disappointing, but I suppose that salads don’t hold too well with the ocean air.

The fish and chips were good and reliable, as is the surf and turf. For what you get, the prices are reasonable. Mr. Bligh’s Board, which is the sandwich listing, is a good way to go. Keep it simple, the ham sandwich is thickly sliced and served on a beautifully soft roll.

Our martinis arrived quickly and were cold. Suddenly, after a few sips and a couple of bites out of the minute steak, it became apparent why HMS Bounty is worth the drive. That very location, 70 years ago, was the epicenter of entertainment in Los Angeles. Across the street, 30-piece orchestras played at the Cocoanut Grove within the Ambassador Hotel. Just west, on the same block, was the original Brown Derby restaurant, serving its famous Cobb salads to the Rat Pack.

Wilshire Boulevard was once called the ‘Fifth Avenue of the West,’ although you really wouldn’t know it today. The HMS Bounty is one of the last reminders of a time where people drove to Wilshire for a night of music, dancing and drinking while Beverly Hills and Hollywood were mostly barren.

3357 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 385-7275

Close to: The Wiltern, The Stone, Little Temple, The Derby

Article courtesy of The Rockit News. Photo from Flickr.

Taix French Restaurant


Taix French Restaurant

by Anthony Vargas from The Rockit News 

My last trip to France was a drunken blur. After drinking heavily on the Eurostar from London and de-training at Gare du Nord, all I remember is the urine soaked Paris Metro and a near death experience in a Mercedes taxi cab. I do, however, recall some great food and, luckily, one does not have to drive far to experience the same.

Amongst the hipster dives, old cop hangouts and paisa clubs of Echo Park lays the pride of France. Taix Restaurant has been serving hearty French fare since the days of de Gaulle and not much has changed since the Fourth Republic. The pronunciation of Taix can vary depending on who one asks. The restaurant itself refers to itself as “Tex” while my Francophile cronies beg me to say “Tays.” Darlene tells me the reason aix in aix-en -provence is pronounced “eks” is because of the vowel that follows the x so that Taix is pronounced “Tays” by itself and one pronounces the “X” only if it is followed by a vowel. Confused? Let’s eat!

Looking for a suitable restaurant to take a date before a show at Spaceland or the Echoplex? This is the place to go. Flying solo since you couldn’t even give away that extra Keane ticket? Go anyway. You might just meet a lonely French ex-pat who won’t know any better.

Parking can be tricky in Echo Park so just go ahead and valet the Citroën before heading into this rambling restaurant. Past the entrance, to one’s right is the 321 Lounge, which often hosts live bands and the occasional Tiki Extravaganza. Continue past the lounge and go to the podium, where you might wait a minute before a host arrives.

After being seated, just lean back and take a look around. The dining rooms are, in my opinion, reminiscent of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion and others seem to share this view. There have been numerous times where I sat within sight of several well-heeled gothic couples whose ghostly visages fit in perfectly with the décor.

One can order dinner either à la carte or, for a few dollars more, a complete Taix dinner, which adds soup, salad and sherbet to your entrée. It is quite a bit of food for one person to handle.

Start with the escargots de bourgogne (1/2 Dozen for $9.95). These are served with the proper utensils and are warm and buttery. Plus, it’s great way to make your dinner companions cringe. Who would have ever thought of escargots in Echo Park? If you opt for the Taix dinner, try the famous clam chowder. They give you enough for an invading army, so don’t fill-up just yet.

Our waiter, Bernard, was a most amicable and proper fellow. He is a fond reminder of a more civilized time where waiters were highly trained individuals who did their job expertly and were not seeking a Hollywood movie contract. If Bernard isn’t too busy, he’ll spend some time chatting. A great guy!

The côte de porc grillé or grilled pork chops were amazing. They were so large I thought they had served me a New York steak or Porterhouse by accident. The caramelized onions and wine sauce were just right and the miniature carrots went well with the almost too tender pork chops. The chicken dinner with its lemon butter sauce is the specialty. They also did a great job with pâtes aux fruits de mer, which were scallops, shrimp, clams and fish on a bed of linguini. The wine selection is very affordable and well worth buying by the bottle. The martinis are cold and the size of a pond.

In Los Angeles, food, like clothing and vocabulary goes in and out of style. With the closing of L’Orangerie in Los Angeles and the bulldozing of Marcel and Jean-Claude’s in Montebello, French food must be out of fashion for the time being. Readers of The Rockit are above all that, so I’ll see you at Taix Friday night before we hit Underground at the Echo across the street.

Taix French Restaurant
1911 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 484-1265

Ratatouille: Good enough for chefs?


Ratatouille is being called one of the best movies of the year. I totally agree.

As posted before, the crew and animators were trained to cook by Thomas Keller, meaning they ate well and were taught by one of the best. But did it pay off? Were the animated cooking scenes authentic and realistic enough?

According to Michael Ruhlman’s blog (as well as Anthony Bourdain) it was definitely as realistic as an animated movie could be.

Ratatouille does get the ethos of the kitchen and the strange strivings of the cook exactly right (mainly embodied and described by Colette).  There’s a single error that I can see, one noted in an email to me by Bob del Grosso: the little rat chef reveals himself as a talented cook not just by fixing a soup completely ruined by the main human character, Linguini, but by making it somehow ethereal.  An impossibility as any cook knows, especially as over salting appears to have been one of the problems.  But that single glitch aside, the movie is a paean to passionate cooking and a moving description of the professional kitchen.

Bob wrote, “the movie was brilliant and so affective that I came away feeling like a schmuck that a rat could cook so much better than I.  I actually wept a bit during a scene when the evil food critic eats the rat’s (Keller’s I’ll bet) ratatouille”

As for Bourdain…

“I think it’s quite simply the best food movie ever made,” Tony wrote today in an email.  “The best restaurant movie ever made–the best chef movie.  The tiny details are astonishing: The faded burns on the cooks’ wrists. The “personal histories” of the cooks…the attention paid to the food…And the Anton Ego ratatouille epiphany hit me like a punch in the chest–literally breathtaking. I saw it in a theater entirely full with adults–and the reaction to that moment was what movie making was once–a long time ago–all about: Audible surprise, delight, awe and even a measure of enlightenment. I am hugely and disproportionately proud that my miniscule contribution (if any) early early in the project’s development led to a “thank you” in the credits.  Amazing how much they got “right.”

Photo from Flickr.

The Courtyard

The Courtyard

by Anthony Vargas
As seen in the newest edition of The Rockit News

About five or so years ago, California experienced a tapas invasion. Everywhere one looked, there was a restaurant serving this Spanish specialty. Even existing restaurants added tapas to their traditional American menus, which made about as much sense as burlap socks. I was up to my knees in tapas. Now, in 2007, the invasion is over and only the best have survived.

The Courtyard, right on the outskirts of Boy’s Town, is my first choice for a pre-concert meal. The Roxy, Key Club and Troubadour are only a three to five minute drive away and parking is surprisingly easy to find. Santa Monica Blvd. was not impossible at all and there is a small free lot in the rear.

Our lovely red-headed host seated us immediately. One can be seated in the small dining room or out in, surprisingly, the courtyard. Normally I do not care for outdoor dining, especially on a tree-lined sidewalk with chirping birds overhead, but this courtyard was too inviting, with balconies on three sides and a quaint fountain in the middle. On a beautiful Southern California evening I cannot think of a nicer place to dine before marching into a dark and stuffy club.

The whole idea with tapas is communal dining so bring your friends along. Everyone simply takes what they want from a variety of small plates. Friends who eat together, mosh together. Entrée sized dishes are also available for those with larger appetites.

The Dates in Bacon ($8) are my new favorite. I thought it was an odd combination at first, like cola with bacon, but it works wonderfully. The Baby Spanish Sausages were sautéed in apple cider ($8). Those too were good, but just a bit too much vinegar for my taste. The Mozzarella Marinara ($9) was another highlight, crunchy and brown on the outside and white and creamy on the inside, much like my dinner companions.

For the meat-eaters, take a nibble at the Steak a los Pobres. This is a culotte steak served on a bed of potatoes. I did learn a secret– one can also order it on a bed of spinach topped with a little Cabrales (Spanish blue cheese).

The sangría at the Courtyard is reason enough to visit. We started with sangría by the glass but ended up ordering by the carafe. Save some money and just start with a carafe. The Sangría Royale was a lovely red wine with chopped fruit and some spices for good measure. The Peach Sangría is heaven, especially for anyone who enjoys a good Bellini. Another winner was the Cucumber Martini, which uses soju. Cucumbers go incredibly well with a martini. Oliver’s in Seattle is the only other place I know of who offers this drink.

The model-like staff was as friendly as they were attractive. It isn’t uncommon for the owner/chef to come out and talk to guests. With Basque and Catalan influences and even Salvadoran pupusas on the menu, the Courtyard is more than simply a tapas restaurant. It is these touches that make every visit a great way to start the evening.

Also be sure to check out their daily specials:

  • $5.00 Martini Mondays – Cosmos, apple martinis, cucumber martinis, all only $5 each!
  • Tapa Tuesdays – Buy one tapa at menu price, get the second at 1/2 price!
  • Wine Lovers Wednesdays – All Bottles on our menu 1/2 price with dinner.
  • Enjoy happy hour at The Courtyard twice daily from 4:30pm-6:30pm and again from 10pm – close.

The Courtyard
8543 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 358-0301

Redwood Bar & Grill


by Anthony Vargas

When Trader Vic’s in Beverly Hills suddenly closed its doors, I was inconsolable for days on end. The nautical-themed restaurant was a mainstay in the United States since the 1950s and seeing it slowly disappear has been too much to handle. Luckily for us, the fine people at Redwood Bar and Grill have recreated this era with a few modern touches and an edgy soundtrack.

What was once a dive bar dominated by L.A. Times staff writers and cranky old judges is now what people mistakenly refer to as a “gastropub.” To set the record straight, the Redwood Bar and Grill is a restaurant for the simple fact that waiters take your order tableside. In a true pub, or “gastropub,” one would order through the bartender.

Getting to the Redwood is as easy walking down the plank. Located on Second between Broadway and Hill Streets, street parking has always been easy to find and nearby freeway access makes this spot a great place to hit before a show in Silver Lake or Hollywood.

Walking in through the smoking patio, which is adorned with anchors and fishing net, prepares one for a transition into a world of pirates, mermaids and all things nautical. We were quickly seated at one of the white vinyl booths and handed a wonderfully simple menu.

The cheeseburgers cannot be recommended enough. They were served open faced with a huge helping of sweet potato fries and beautifully ripened tomatoes. The patty itself was thick and juicy which made it a bit messy, but most burgers are. The bun was slightly toasted; it was just a joy all around especially while Iggy Pop was playing on the jukebox.

The calamari and fried cheese plates are also great for nibbling while enjoying a few cocktails. All around I noticed the food to be well-presented and of high quality. The wait staff was consistently friendly and quite fashionable to boot.

The drinks were my only slight disappointment. My Tanqueray #10 gin martini was served in a still warm glass and had far too much vermouth. The tonic in my vodka tonic seemed flat and, overall, I felt the bartending staff was rather intermediate compared to the tip-top kitchen staff.

The jukebox has almost every CD imaginable and can even download songs not currently on disc. I have also seen several bands play at this venue and DJs who played a wonderfully eclectic mix. Coupled along with a mature nautical theme, you might almost feel like a band of indie kids took over the local yacht club.

As seen in The Rockit News.

Redwood Bar and Grill, 316 W. Second Street, Los Angeles, CA. 90012, (213) 680-2600

Close to: The Bordello, La Cita, The Smell, Bar 107, Mr. T’s Bowl, The Mountain Bar, Grandstar Jazz Club, Standard Hotel, Casey’s Irish Pub.

The Zen of Fish

Zen of Fish

I don’t read. Well, I mean, I do read, I just don’t usually read for pleasure. I mean, I’ve read books before, I just don’t do it often. Whatever. Get off my case.

Anyway, that said, I might make an exception. I first noticed this book in this month’s Esquire, and it sounded pretty interesting. Then I checked out a few sample excerpts and it looks to be a really interesting read. Here’s a brief description from Barnes & Noble.

Everything you never knew about sushi—its surprising origins, the colorful lives of its chefs, the bizarre behavior of the creatures that compose it—is revealed in this entertaining documentary account by the author of the highly acclaimed The Secret Life of Lobsters.

When a twenty-year-old woman arrives at America’s first sushi-chef training academy in Los Angeles, she is unprepared for the challenges ahead: knives like swords, instructors like samurai, prejudice against female chefs, demanding Hollywood customers—and that’s just the first two weeks.

In this richly reported story, journalist Trevor Corson shadows several American sushi novices and a master Japanese chef, taking the reader behind the scenes as the students strive to master the elusive art of cooking without cooking. With the same eye for drama and humor that Corson brings to the exploits of the chefs, he delves into the biology and natural history of the creatures of the sea. He illuminates sushi’s beginnings as an Indo-Chinese meal akin to cheese, describes its reinvention in bustling nineteenth-century Tokyo as a cheap fast food, and tells the story of the pioneers who brought it to America. He shows how this unlikely meal is now exploding into the American heartland just as the long-term future of sushi may be unraveling.

The Zen of Fish is a compelling tale of human determination as well as a delectable smorgasbord of surprising food science, intrepid reporting, and provocative cultural history.

The reviews look good and if you want to read a few excerpts yourself you can find one on Barnes & and another on the author’s site. The site also offers a few sushi facts that you can share with your friends, such as:

  • The mound of wasabi you get at a sushi bar isn’t wasabi at all. Moreover, by mixing it in your soy sauce, you are reducing its potency—and offending the chef.
  • In Japan, an apprentice sushi chef spends two years learning to cook and season the rice, and another three learning to prepare fish, before he is allowed to work behind the sushi bar. In the U.S., high demand for sushi chefs means that many work behind the bar after only a few months of training.
  • The best sushi chefs prepare octopus by giving the animal a lengthy, full-body massage—while the creature is still moving.
  • Japanese usually eat miso soup not at the beginning of the meal, but at the end—to aid digestion.
  • Inside-out rolls are the mainstay of American sushi—and are an American invention. They didn’t exist in Japan until recently, when they were imported from the United States.
  • In the original form of sushi, the rice was left to rot until it smelled like vomit.

Although the excerpt is on Barnes & Noble, Amazon actually has the cheaper price; yours for $16.47.
Also, in case you missed it the first time I posted it, click here to watch a very informative video on sushi etiquette.

And if you’ve read the book, post how you liked it.

REVIEWED: Hello Red Mango…

Red Mango

…goodbye Pinkberry.

I might not be the first, but I’m definitely one of the few to actually sample the American version of Red Mango before their first store even opens.

If you haven’t yet heard of Red Mango, you will soon. Red Mango is the original Pinkberry. Red Mango has over 140 locations in Korea and has been operating since 2002. Ten Red Mango locations will be opening in 2007 with the first in Westwood, CA by the end of June. Although many people in the states will think Pinkberry was the first of its kind, rest assured that Red Mango is in fact the one that started it all. You can now prove your friends wrong when they try to convince you its the other way around.

Today I was taken to the Red Mango headquarters in Culver City to try what turned out to be the most delicious Pinkberry-style yogurt I’ve ever had. And this stuff IS actually yogurt, unlike Pinkberry. Red Mango yogurt is made with pure and natural ingredients, and loaded with live and active cultures.

If you haven’t heard, Pinkberry is dealing with some legal trouble over the fact that their yogurt might not actually be yogurt. They’ve been forced to drop the word “yogurt” from their cups and signage. That said, I still have much respect for Pinkberry and will be enjoying it until the first Red Mango location opens. But back to the taste test…

I was given a bowl of fresh Red Mango original flavor, plain, in the amount of what a small size would be in stores. It’s as creamy as gelato but not nearly as icey as Pinkberry.

But the taste? Well, let me say this. I’m actually a fan of Pinkberry. A very big fan. I find it to be delicious and refreshing without being disgusting full after I’m done eating it. The taste is a little tart, but still better than most other frozen yogurts. But that said, Red Mango is even better. It’s a bit tart, but not overly tart at all.

SIDE NOTE: For as many people as I’ve turned on to Pinkberry, that many have also been turned off due to the tartness of the stuff.

With Red Mango, that overly sour tart flavor is much less. Hardly noticeable. What is noticeable, however, is the creaminess of the yogurt. If you’ve had gelato, you know what I mean. Although it does come out of a high tech soft-serve machine, it tastes like it was just whipped up in the back of the store. No after taste is left (unlike Pinkberry), and (like Pinkberry) you don’t feel like you’ve just had a bowl of ice cream when you’re done.

The nutritional expert was also on hand working out the nutritional facts of the yogurt and enlightened me to the fact that Red Mango is not only healthier than Pinkberry due to the yogurt elements but also less in calories (about 20 calories in 1 ounce, compared to Pinkberry with 25 calories.)

If you live in LA you’ve probably noticed the onslaught of Pinkberry’s on almost every corner, not to mention the copycats like Kiwiberry, Snowberry, and various others. Well Red Mango has a copycat as well. California Roll & Sushi has been claiming to serve Red Mango yogurt for a while now, but be assured it is not. It’s just another rip-off trying to make a buck. To be sure you’re eating Red Mango, make sure you visit the Westwood location when it opens late June, and look for the Red Mango “O” logo like the one above.

Original and green tea flavor will be offered in various sizes, but only original was available to try. Green tea is being tweaked and they’ll be using high quality matcha. As for toppings, they’ll include granola, nuts, fresh fruits, cereals, chocolate chips and the like.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I went back for seconds.

FINAL VERDICT: Get in line now. It’ll be worth the wait.

Red Mango Locations: Westwood Village – Westwood/Pico – Las Vegas – Culver City – Northridge – Koreatown – Bellevue Square (Washington) – San Diego (Mission Valley)

Red Mango on Myspace
Red Mango Korea

Information for this review taken from the Korean American Journal and from Red Mango employees directly.

Pizzeria Mozza…yes, another review.

Mozza Logo

I know I’m a little late in joining the Pizzeria Mozza party, but better late than never I guess.

The somewhat new Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich pizza restaurant is literally about 3 blocks away from my apartment, and yet it took me about 7 months to make it there for dinner. Man, was I glad I chose this place.

I had been wanting to visit Pizzeria Mozza since it opened back in November, but I figured I’d wait for a special occasion, since reservations are needed a month prior to your visit. Since I couldn’t tell you what my plans are a week from now, let alone a month, I decided my 26th birthday would be ideal. On April 5th, about mid afternoon, I placed a call to Mozza and most of the tables were already filled. You gotta be early if you want a specific time. But I was fortunate to grab the 6:15 seating and took it.

Oh, and I wasn’t thinking and left my camera at home, so I’ll link to as many Flickr photos as I can. Next time I’ll be sure to take some pictures.

My party, a table of 4, arrived a bit early in hopes of getting seated due to the De La Hoya/Mayweather fight. We wanted to make sure we were home in time. We arrived about 5:45 and were seating within 3 minutes.

When entering Mozza, the first thing I noticed was how small the place is. There are 2 bars; a wine bar and a pizza bar. Both are first come, first serve, and apparently quite accessable. Both were filled. Mozza was filled with people, not an empty table. Probably about 60 or so people fill it up, so it’s really quite tiny. But that allows for a more personal eating experience and very good service.

The first thing I noticed once seated were the placemats and silverware in matching pouches. The placemats were each unique and featured fun Italian-themed prints, such as hand gestures and Italian food facts. Breadsticks were soon brought out, water was poured and an Italian red wine was order. Then came the food.

NOTE: Everything was good. Really good. Great in fact. Nothing was bad, so I can’t really knock any of the menu items below. Keep that in mind. Order any (or all) of the below items. You can’t go wrong.

First up, the Caprese ($12). Slightly roasted tomatoes, soft wet burrata, and shredded and basil topped with drizzles of extra virgin olive oil.

Next came the Fried squash blossoms ($6) which are filled with ricotta cheese. The blossoms literally look like flowers, and are lightly fried. We each had a piece, but I could’ve gone for a second order.

Then came the Bufala mozzarella & prosciutto di Parma ($15). More of that super soft mozzarella smothered in thin slices of prosciutto. Served with a small bowl of what I’m sure was some top quality olive oil.

Next came the pizzas. It really should’ve only been one pizza. I thought I had ordered a goat cheese appetizer or some sort of salad, but either it was my mistake or the waitresses, but we didn’t complain. It looked too good to send back. First we had the Bianco with fontina, mozzarella, sottocenere & sage ($13). The sage really makes this pizza as it’s plentiful and crisp. The second unintentional pizza was the Coach farm goat cheese, leeks, roasted garlic & bacon ($14). More fresh, crunchy herbs and crispy bacon. The goat cheese was nice and soft. Both pizza breads are obviously hand tossed and uneven, a little burnt, a little bubbly and a little doughy in the middle. On purpose.

Last but not least, we ordered the Saturday special, Lamb stracotto. A fall-off-the-bone shank of lamb, cooked perfectly, sitting on soft, melted goat cheese (I think). I can’t remember the exact price, but I want to say $20.

It seems at this point, a lot of food was consumed, but everything comes in small but filling proportions. And when I say small, I mean small in comparison to any Italian-style chain restaurant.

So finally it was time for dessert. For dessert we sampled a number of items, including the trio of gelatos; espresso, rum raisin and olive oil ($7), the assorted biscotti ($8 I think), and the Mulberry yogurt parfait (can’t remember official name or the price). The most interesting of the desserts was the olive oil gelato. It had a drizzle of olive oil on top and it tasted, well, like olive oil. It was strangely good. Even better in my opinion was the Mulberry yogurt parfait.

We also had a round of cappuccinos served sans artificial sweetener. I didn’t ask if they had any, but we were presented with our choice of brown or granulated. I’m assuming most Italians don’t use the yellow, pink or blue packets.

A few tips and secrets…

  1. You don’t have to order wine from the menu. Most bottles cost over $30, but you can bring your own bottle and pay a corkage fee of $20 (I believe).
  2. Ask your waiter about the wines. They know what they’re talking about. Our waitress suggested a nice fruity Italian wine for my table. Very nice.
  3. When you walk in, directly to the right is what looks to be a wine cellar room. It’s a private room able to accomodate 14 people sitting, and 20 standing. You’ll need to indulge yourself in a tab of at least $1500, but after tax and tip it’s more like $1900. But you have that much as a tab, so you can go wild ordering as much food and wine as you’d like.
  4. I said it before and I’ll say it again. Book in advance. At the moment, tables don’t become available until a month prior, so make sure you call a month ahead of the day you want to go.
  5. That said, if you are in the area and want to attempt to walk in and grab a bar stool, go for it. From what I’m told, you can usually get one within a few minutes either late afternoon or after 10pm. No guarantees, but worth a shot.
  6. Park at my place. Save the money for valet and order an extra dish. You could use the exercise anyways.

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N. Highland Ave (at Melrose)
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Canter’s Deli

Canter’s Deli

Canter’s Deli

by Anthony Vargas

Canter’s Deli on Fairfax is a Los Angeles legend. My family has been dining there beginning with my grandparents in the early ’60s. Nothing has changed since then. The décor, menu and, dare I say, waitresses, are exactly as they were during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In an age when clubs and bands go in and out of style every few months, it is a joy to know that one thing remains constant, day or night, 24 hours a day.

Speaking of legends, Rodney Bingenheimer, the iconic KROQ DJ, has his very own booth at Canter’s. So many stars in Hollywood have their own restaurant booths, but seldom do you ever see any sitting at them. With Rodney, this is not the case at all. He enjoys dining at Canter’s and can oftentimes be seen sitting underneath his plaque. He was kind enough to chat with The Rockit about the food.

Rodney highly suggests the barley bean soup. He tells me it can be ordered extra thick and chunky, which is not mentioned on the menu. Trying it “Rodney Style” is very much worth it, especially if you are not in a meat-eating mood.

If soup isn’t your thing, try one of the famous corned beef sandwiches. The server will bring a plate full of pickles, which are made in-house every morning. Very few delis in the U.S. do this. The sandwich is enough for two people and goes great with a hearty gob of mustard. One of Rodney’s favorites is the grilled cheese on whole wheat with tomato. You can’t go wrong with the classics.

The quesadillas on the other hand, were the worst I have ever had. The cheese was hard, the tomatoes were brown and I couldn’t tell whether it was a corn or flour tortilla. Quesadillas at a Jewish deli, you ask? You will be surprised at how diverse the menu is– pastas, soups, salads and a few other surprises.

After some barley bean soup and a sandwich, if you have room, Rodney suggests the fruit cup. Nature still makes the best desserts, especially under the discriminating eyes of the Canter’s staff, who put the fruit cups together by hand in the mornings.

The wait staff is always very professional in a friendly and caring way. They are unobtrusive and give plenty of time to peruse the menu. We are always seated immediately and the food arrives fairly quickly. Don’t eat too fast at Canter’s. Sit back, admire the old décor and keep an open eye for stars.

Canter’s is on Fairfax between Santa Monica and Beverly Boulevards. The small lot around the corner offers free, validated parking, but too often it is filled and you will have to spend 10 minutes circling around looking for a Yugo-sized spot. Once inside, forget all about parking as you take a seat in the main dining room and stare at the famous fall foliage ceiling. Don’t forget to admire the lighting fixture at the entrance. This is the real thing.

Both Canter’s and Rodney Bingenheimer are Los Angeles legends. One is legendary for its great food and the other for introducing great music to the populace. Now if only Canter’s would play Rodney on the Roq in the dining room, we would have the best of both worlds.

Canter’s Deli
419 No. Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 651-2030

Close to: The World, Tempest, 7969, The Palladium, El Carmen and The Gig

Thanks to The Rockit News for the great review and photo. Be sure to check out The Rockit for all the latest rock and roll news.