Friday, August 25, 2006

Roy's Restaurant, Downtown Los Angeles

The other night, my dear J had a 20-hour stop back home in LA before going on to the next show in Oakland. I rushed home from work and we went through the "Where do you want to go to dinner?" debate until we both decided that we really wanted seafood. We really don't know a lot of seafood-specific restaurants in town. Water Grill is great if you want to spend a grip, and places like McCormick & Schmidt's just give me The Waz. (The Waz is a term that J made up- it's that antsy, anxious feeling that kids get when their parents keep them at Target too long, or in church, etc). Since I wasn't feeling sushi, I did a little online search on and came up with Roy's.

Roy's is a chain of high-end Asian Fusion restaurants started by chef Roy Yamaguchi. Although I had read about it a few times, I wasn't too familiar with the restaurants and didn't really know what to expect. After a quick glance at the few menu items listed on their website, we decided to take a chance. I have to admit, I was a bit worried that it may be a chain in the vein of Outback Steakhouse (read: on the expensive side but still bad, large food) but the website looked promising.

The Downtown location is quite nice- it's on the corner of Figueroa and 8th and the floor-to-ceiling windows showcases a nice, street-level view of Staples Center and a few other buildings. It feels very urban, almost like New York. As we were looking through the menu, our waiter came over and asked if we wanted to order drinks. We were torn between two New Zealand sauvignon blancs so the waiter offered to let us taste both. He brought over those two and an additional glass that contained the one French sauvignon blanc they had. I have to admit, I was really impressed that he would offer and we actually ended up liking the French one best.

Everything on the menu sounded delicious, and our waiter explained a few items to us. We decided to share the Yellow Fin Ahi Poketini w/ Wasabi Aioli, Avocado and Tobiko Caviar which is one of their signature appetizers. Although the cynical side of me just wanted to roll my eyes at the kitschy name (Poketini??), the cheerful and helpful nature of our server made me think twice about it and I kept my eyeballs in check. When the beautiful martini glass piled high with sliced ahi and daikon sprouts arrived, I took off my Critical Cap and put it away for good. We both loved the fresh fish combined with a lovely crème fraiche that had just the right amount of wasabi mixed in- I could tasted a good bit of wasabi flavor but I didn't burn all of my nose hairs off either. We were happy.

When it came to order my entree, I couldn't decide between a Katsu-style Ono with Salmon Rice or the Green Curry Steamed Barramundi with Thai Black Rice. I knew I wanted the barramundi but I also wanted the salmon rice- what to do? I asked the waiter which one he recommended, and he said that he'd go for the barramundi and he would bring me a small dish of the salmon rice so I could try it. At this point I wouldn't have cared if they served me mud pies- our waiter made the night! Ok, I may have cared about mud pies but you get the idea. J decided to go for a Roy's combination plate which featured three of his signature dishes- the Hawaiian Style Misoyaki Butterfish w/ Sizzling Soy Vinaigrette, Hibachi Style Grilled Salmon w/
Japanese Vegetables and Citrus Ponzu Sauce and the Roy’s Original Hawaiian Blackened Island Ahi w/ Spicy Soy Mustard Butter.

J's plate came and and it was a stunner. Each part of the trio came on a small, white plate along with a small plate of white rice and were artfully arranged on a large, wooden board. Everything tasted as good as it looked- the ahi with the spicy mustard butter was outstanding, and I loved the not-too-sweet teriyaki on his hibachi style salmon. Wow. My barramundi was perfectly cooked and I loved the green curry flavor- unfortunately the pool of pineapple tamarind sauce underneath it was a bit too fruity for me- but I generally don't like fruity sauces so I probably shouldn't have ordered it. If you like sweet/tart sauces, this is the dish for you. We both loved the salmon rice and agreed that we'd have to eat it again. At this point we were just both completely satisfied and frankly, surprised. I guess I've been living under a rock, but I just assumed that Roy's, being a worldwide chain, would be all about huge portions dripping with too-heavy sauces. I was totally wrong- the food was beautifully presented and absolutely delicious.

Roy’s Original Hawaiian Blackened Island Ahi w/ Spicy Soy Mustard Butter

I have to give a quick shout out to Sergio, our waiter. He really made our experience wonderful, and it's nice to see someone who takes so much pride in their work. He told us that he's been with Roy's for six years (Chicago and other locations- the downtown one is less than a year old) and that he really loves the food. He was gracious, patient and his recommendations were right on. So thank you Sergio- every restaurant should have a server like you!

Sergio- you rock!

We didn't have room for dessert, but from what I could tell, they looked delicious. I'm really happy to say that I think J and I have found a new dinner destination. I highly recommend it.

Roy's Restaurant
Address: 800 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90017
Phone: (213) 488-4994

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"Life is Good"

I generally think that I have a good life. Except when I forget my camera and must use my awful camera-phone to snap photos.....but I digress. Actually, I know I have a great life. I have a family who I not only love but I also like, the best husband (ok, he's family but I need to mention him separately!) on earth, my dear cat Cory (also family) who meows every time I sneeze as if to say "bless you" in kitty-speak, a job I adore and, of course, lots of great things to eat. Heaven only knows that there are too many people that aren't lucky enough to even have a fraction of those things, and I think I am acutely aware of all that I have.

Aside from that ever-present realization, there are what I like to call "Life Is Good" moments. I'm not talking about those BIG moments like when you get a promotion at work or win a flat-screen TV at your office holiday party (yes, that actually happened!). I'm talking about those little moments when everything lines up in just the right way - maybe you're sitting on the sofa eating a bowl of ice cream, flipping through the channels and you find that Rushmore just started on the American Movie Channel. Or it could be the time that you had a pot of beef stew braising in the oven and your entire house smelled like wine, garlic and meat....and then it started to sprinkle outside and you just thought, "Life is good." Not to wax sentimental, but you know what I'm talking about.

Last night, as I sat in the courtyard at the beautiful Chateau Marmont, sipping a lovely glass of pinot grigio, I thought, "This is nice." The sun was just starting to set and the last rays were softly peeking through the trees onto our table and the surrounding greenery. When the waiter brought over a large, white plate containing three perfectly round, golden brown risotto balls resting on a layer of paper thin prosciutto de parma, I thought, "Life is good."

Monday, August 21, 2006

More blogging excuses.....

or excuses for NOT blogging. With J on tour, the Emmys this Sunday and forgetting to take my camera to the few restaurants I've been to lately, it just hasn't been a good blogging period for me. I doubt you want to hear about my made-up supper of multigrain crackers topped with hummus, sliced tomatoes and red onions with a side of corn tossed with BBQ sauce!! Not exactly the uber gourmet, but again- since J is away, it's just easier to toss together some half-assed meal than to "cook" for one. Work has also been crazy busy with Awards Show Season kicking into full gear. But I can promise you something- Saturday I will be attending an event that will be VERY blog-worthy, so please keep checking back. I hope to take lots of great photos and can't wait to share my experience with you.

So thanks for being patient, and I hope you keep on reading!


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Summer Blogging Blues and "LLOYD!!!"

I guess I don't really have the blues. But with friends in from out of town all last week and living solo since J is gone on tour, I just haven't been cooking much. Which means I don't have much to blog about. Or it means that everytime I've been out to eat, I've forgotten my beloved camera. I do want to apologize for the lack of posts and promise that I will try to get my butt back in the kitchen!

In the meantime, I wanted to share a photo that I took a work a couple of week's back. I work for a cable network and we had to find a guest co-host for one of our shows. Guess who came and did a fantastic job for us?! LLOYD!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you're an Entourage fan, you know exactly who I mean. Not only was Rex Lee (his real name) completely lacking in pretention, but he was as sweet, witty and funny as he is on the show. I asked him to make his signature dismayed look (the one he always uses on Ari whenever he gets insulted...which is always!) and he totally did. I cropped myself out of the photo but you can see a bit of my jacket.

Thanks Lloyd- you're my favorite "Gaysian!"

Friday, August 04, 2006

Black Mouth and Steak Tacos

Just a couple of quick things before the weekend.

Another coworker had a birthday this past weekend and I was in need of something easy since I was feeling sort of lazy. After looking through epicurious and not really finding anything that appealed to my laziness, I turned to Nic's bakingsheet, as I often do. I perused through her recipes and saw The One. Boca Negra, which means "black mouth" in Spanish, is not only easy to make, but it makes everyone think you slaved for hours to make such a beautiful and decadent creation! The ingredient list is a short one- bittersweet chocolate, butter, rum, sugar and eggs. Could it be any simpler (oh no- I sound like Chandler)?? You probably have those ingredients in your pantry now. Whiz it all in the food processor, pour into your cake pan, set that in a hot water bath inside your oven and exactly 30 minutes later, you're left with Chocolate Heaven. Deep, dark, Chocolate Nirvana. Lusciously rich Chocolate Insanity. Silk, seductive Chocolate Perfection. Gorgeously smooth Chocolate Adrien Brody. Oops. Well, you get the idea. Thank you Nic- not only for posting such a great recipe but for helping me discover the utter joy that is Boca Negra!

The next night, I had another solo dinner (of which I will have many since J leaves for tour on Sunday!). I had bought a couple of sirloin tip steaks awhile back at Marukai and stuck them in the freezer. I simply rubbed them with some garlic, cumin and onion salt and tossed them on the grill, then packed them into corn tortillas with onions, cilantro and a good dose of Tapatio. You know it was good because Tapatio makes everything taste better;)!!

Hope you all have a great weekend.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Puy lentil salad

I love lentils. I grew up eating a tomato-sauce based lentil salad that my dad read about in a newspaper long ago and has been making ever since. It was one of those dishes that, no matter what kind of food-mood my sister and I were in, we'd be happy to see on the dining table at dinnertime. You know what I mean- sometimes you'd come home from school, famished after a long practice or a game. When dinner presented itself in the form of, let's say, cold tofu, salad, broiled fish and pickled daikon, it wouldn't exactly fit your food mood. I use that example not because I don't love Japanese food- it's just that sometimes my growling tummy was looking forward to a big fat lasagna or a nice bowl of oyako-don. And of course I use an example from when I was younger since I now have the power to make whatever suits any food mood I may be in.

Back to lentils. This particular lentil salad that became a family favorite is tomatoey, garlicky and made with regular brown lentils. It was my introduction to the humble legume. Since then, I've had various kinds of lentils in many preparations. Soups, salads, dips, crostini, etc. I love them all, but I believe I've found a lentil that I may love as much as my first lentil. It's small, green and holds it's shape much better than their brown counterparts. Yes, meet the Puy Lentil.

Although I'm sure I've had puy lentils at many restaurants, I didn't really notice it's beauty until I had a taste of Nicole's salad. I was at my favorite local shop, Nicole's Gourmet Imports, about a year ago and was looking for something quick to pick up for a side dish. Among the beautiful wedges of cheese, piles of duck confit and towering blocks of foie gras mousse, I saw a plate of the green lentils- looking plain and simple in a large, white dish. Since foie gras and cheese don't exactly make the best side dishes to grilled fish (although who can say? I would totally eat those things anywhere on any plate!) I bought about a pint of the lentil salad. I didn't really think about it much and drove the 2 miles back to my house.

Once I had a bite of the salad, I was hooked. It was fresh and nutty, tart and fragrant.....and as far as I could tell, there were less than five ingredients total. On my next visit, Nicole confirmed this- simply boil the lentils, add chopped red onion and parsley, douse with some good olive oil and finish it with some red wine vinegar. I quickly bought a box of the dried puy lentils and made the salad at home. That was a year ago, and after some tweaking, I think I've come up with a very good version. I never use exact measurements and it really depends on how vinegary or peppery you'd like your salad to be. Lately, I've been using herbed salts that my husband brought back from Brazil- instead of regular salt, I'll add some of the Rosemary salt and some of the Basil salt.

Puy Lentil Salad

I love this salad because it showcases the earthy, nutty flavor of the lentils. I prefer to use more vinegar than oil since I love the mild acidity of red wine vinegar. Again- you can adjust each ingredient to suit your taste.

1 box of puy lentils (French green lentils)
1 yellow onion, split in half
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme

1 large red onion, diced
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
red wine vinegar
olive oil (a nice, fruity one works best)
cracked black pepper
sea salt

optional: herbs de provence

Rise the lentils in a colander and pick out any seeds or rice that might be mixed in. Put the lentils in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add the yellow onion, bay leaves and thyme to the pot- bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 18 minutes. (Note: the lentils will soak up a lot of the water). Drain and put in a large bowl (do not rinse the lentils because you will wash off all of the flavor from the cooking liquid!).

In a smaller bowl, whisk red wine vinegar and olive oil together. I usually use about 3 TBS of olive oil and 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar but again, adjust this amount to your taste. Add the red onion and parsley to the bowl of lentils and pour the vinegar mixture over the top. Mix thoroughly and add salt, cracked pepper and, if using, herbs to your taste.

Best if served at room temperature. Also good cold!