feeling let down by Burlap

I’ve had Burlap on my radar for quite some time now and finally was able to make a trip down to Del Mar with Austin and some friends a few weeks ago. When we got there, I was quite underwhelmed by the lackluster exterior of the place, but when we entered, it was a whole ‘nother story.

There is definitely an Asian theme throughout the restaurant with ornate lion’s heads dangling from the ceiling above the bar and a koi pond on the back patio. There are nooks and crannies all over with a private dining room hidden behind the lounge area and a separate outside lounge on the far end of the restaurant.

It was a beautiful day, albeit a windy one, and it seemed everyone was seated outside on the patio. I soon found out that not only was the decor very Asian-centric, but so was the menu.

We started with a cocktail — The Dragon ($12) — of tequila, prosecco and a Szechuan gastrique. I was intrigued by the ingredients, but unfortunately, even the chili pepper garnish wasn’t enough to add any bit of kick to the drink. The prosecco tasted a little flat and just didn’t give it the fiery punch I had expected from its flamboyant moniker.

Cobb Salad Spring Rolls ($12) was interesting, essentially a salad rolled inside Vietnamese rice paper with bacon, nori, chicken, noodle strips served with a red curry ranch. It wasn’t presented with finesse as the messy plate was quite unpleasant, but thy definitely tasted a lot better than they looked.

I really enjoyed the Squid ($10), strips of squid fried and tossed with a sweet chili sauce. It was served with a cilantro creme fraiche dipping sauce, but it was great on its own, no sauce needed.

The Brie ($13) was fried tempura style but was reminiscent of a baked brie appetizer. Nothing special, but tasty nonetheless.

I was really intrigued by Korean Fried Chicken ($13) because I love fried chicken, and especially the Korean-style fried chicken. Unfortunately, this wasn’t Korean style, nor was it good fried chicken for that matter. The coating was weak and fell off the chicken upon touch. The chicken itself was flavorless. The potato salad side dish was tossed in kewpie (Japanese mayo) yogurt but the potatoes didn’t taste like it had been boiled in salted water because the potatoes were bland. Very disappointing.

Fish N Chips ($17) was not any better. The fish was devoid of taste and was very wet on the inside which led me to believe it was previously frozen. The ginger tartare sauce had barely any ginger, but luckily, the triple cooked kennebec french fries were really good! This certainly was not worth $17.

We were so disappointed right now with our meal but decided to get a dessert to share because we had left most of the food untouched and frankly, we weren’t full. Thank god, Coconut Lemongrass Tapioca ($8) was THE BEST thing of our meal. Topped with mango and served with kiwi granita and passionfruit coconut sorbet, this dessert was absolutely DELICIOUS and yes, coming from me, that’s saying a lot!

It is always very tricky when it comes to fusion cuisine. When executed correctly, it can produce the sublime nuances of the best of both worlds. When poorly thought out, it can be pretty disastrous. I’m not saying this was a disaster by any means, but, it didn’t reflect a good understand of utilizing the fusion definition to its full potential. By labeling fried chicken as “Korean”, I expect some aspect of Korean fried chicken on my plate. Sadly, it was neither here nor there. I felt deceived by what was presented on the menu, to what arrived on my plate.

All in all a very underwhelming meal. We had expected a lot more from Burlap and were hugely disappointed by our experience. Definitely not feeling like giving them a return visit any time soon.

12995 El Camino Real
Del Mar, CA 92130
Tel: 858-369-5700

Burlap on Urbanspoon


discovering the new Landmark Corona del Mar

I’d never been to the old Landmark Steakhouse so when I received an invitation to try the menu at the newly re-launched Landmark, I was intrigued. The restaurant is modern, but comfortable with chic dining rooms and a more casual, and colorful patio area for dining al fresco.

They weren’t kidding when they said we’d be dining at the Chef’s Table. We were shuttled into the kitchen at a table where we were able to watch everything Chef Travis Flood and his team were preparing for us that evening.

A graduate of California Culinary Academy, Chef Travis’ experience includes working with Laurent Gris at his San Francisco restaurant Fifth Floor and is also a huge advocate of the local/sustainable movement.

** please note, photos depict a tasting size portion while prices listed are off the menu **

We started with a bread basket of pretzel roll and a whole wheat bread served with whipped honey butter, all of which are made in-house. I particularly enjoyed the whole wheat bread with a smear of the honey butter.

Our first dish was a selection of bite sized items from the menu to start.

A Hawaiian staple, Poke ($16) here consists of ahi tuna, cucumber, avocado, pickled ginger, wakame, ponzu and served with taro chips. We were treated to a bite of this delicious raw fish on a taro chip, the perfect accompaniment to poke.

Roasted Beets ($13) are a must on any current menu with these beautiful root vegetables still in season and sweet as sugar. Speck, tangerine, scallion ash yogurt, arugula and almonds complete this wonderfully refreshing salad.

If you’re in the mood for a burger, then look no further thanThe Landmark ($16) a 6oz dry aged, ground in-house burger on a house-made pretzel bun with charred onion jam, truffle aioli and Hooks four-year white cheddar from Wisconsin. The burger is juicy, flavorful and the onion jam added a touch of smokiness resulting in a really tasty burger.

Next came PCHA (Pacific Coast Hawaiian Atlantic $50/$90) — seafood including Prince Edward Island mussels, clams, lobster tail, Dungeness crab and California caviar. I’m not sure this would be the exact plate you get, but what we got was absolutely stunning and the seafood was allowed to shine on their own without a lot of fussy dressings. Just a touch of extra virgin olive oil, seaweed salad and white sesame seeds complete its composition.

Shaved Garden Vegetables ($13) was so simple, but was full of flavor and color. Vibrant carrots, various beets, zucchini, cucumbers, were all sliced paper thin and tossed together with broccoli rabe florets in a toasted caraway vinaigrette. It was genius and I knew right away I would steal this concoction to serve at home.

When I saw Sweet Pepper and Onion Soup ($13) I was so excited because I love onion soup, but it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. Instead, onions rings, basil and paprika are presented in a bowl and a sweet pepper soup poured tableside ensuring the onion rings remained crispy on the outside and the onions possessing a crunch on the inside.

Pacific Yellowtail (normally Lingcod on the menu $29) was prepared exactly the same way as the lingcod with roasted tomato, fennel, artichoke puree, grilled bread and a sauce which embodied the taste of bouillabaisse, filled with umami and the aromas and flavors of the ocean.

A small portion of the French fries and house-made ketchup was also brought out for us to try. These fries resembled yuca fries and were thicker than normal fries or chips. The exterior is very crispy with a moist interior. As for the ketchup — and I really dislike ketchup — I loved it! It wasn’t sweet and had a little kick to it. I wouldn’t mind a jar of this thank you very much!!

When the next dish arrived, I was thankful we weren’t presented with an entire steak, but rather, just a small portion of the Paso Prime Grass Fed Dry Aged Beef: Rib Eye (regularly 10oz for $55). Served with a brown butter potato puree, tater tots, and vegetables with a horseradish beef jus, I couldn’t get enough of the meaty, rich jus. I noticed there wasn’t a tater tot and chef said it was because I was complaining about how full I was.

Of course, chef then quickly whisked out a tater tot for us to try. It was so crispy on the outside and melty soft on the inside. Yeah, this was well worth risking a severe stomach ache for.

But then, we started chatting about these lobster croquettes we had heard about and what happens? A lobster croquette miraculously appears in front of us. Oh dear lord! I could only manage a bite of this creamy, gooey, cheesy deliciousness with bits of lobster dotted inside. ($12/5pcs)

Of course, there was still dessert to come, but since I’m not a huge fan of desserts, I took a bite or two and pushed the plate back. I liked the Chocolate ($9) a slice of black magic cake served a rich, decadent dark chocolate coffee ice cream with smoked white chocolate caramel and roasted peanut praline crumbs. Being the ice cream fiend that I am, I polished it all off.

Lemon ($9) was a pistachio crepe mille, layers of crepe formed to resemble a cake with a mouth watering tart Meyer lemon custard served with a scoop of burnt honey ice cream. Take a guess what I devoured off the plate — yep, the ice cream, but also, the custard was quite addicting.

If you’re looking for a place for dinner this weekend, definitely check out Landmark. The restaurant is also nice enough to celebrate special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.

This week, Landmark has a $25 giftcard for one of my readers to win. Just leave me a comment with your FULL name for a chance. You have until Sunday to get your comments in.

3520 E Coast Hwy
Corona del Mar, CA 92625
Tel: 949-675-5556

Landmark on Urbanspoon

tasty bites at Shuck Oyster Bar

I didn’t plan on going to Shuck, after all, with my oyster allergy, I figured there wasn’t much I could eat anyway. So when Austin suggested we lunch there, I was a bit skeptical, but he assured me there were other things besides oysters on the menu.

Located at SoCo, I immediately liked the airy space with that minimalistic feel. There are a few tables but prime seating at the counter is highly suggested. This is where you can watch first hand, master shuckers opening oysters to order.

Just because I can’t partake in the oysters doesn’t mean the others can’t. The $20 Oyster was extravagance on a shell. A Belon oyster is topped with creme fraiche, a dollop of osetra caviar and some citrus caviar (fingerling lime) finished with lemon zest. It looked scrumptious — and I was told it was.

Oyster fans can pick their own array from the menu board.

There were items on the menu for me and we ordered almost all of them starting with Grilled Cheese ($10), beautifully pressed cheesy sandwiches made with OC Baking Company’s delicious bread. I was very pleased with these non-greasy grilled cheese morsels. Unfortunately, I only got one piece since my son hogged most of the plate.

Next came Clam Chowda ($8), again, impressing my finicky palate. It was seasoned just right with a consistency I’m happy with. Honestly, there was nothing I would do to tweak it, it was pretty perfect with plump clams throughout.

Seafood Stew ($14) was reminiscent of cioppino with a tomato base and comprised of mussels, clams and mahi mahi. Even my boy slurped the flavorful broth with glee and soaking up the remainder liquid with the accompanying toast.

Since we were all clam fans, we couldn’t leave without trying Sausage and Clams ($10) which were wonderfully seasoned with bits of sausage resembling chorizo dotted between the plump clams. So delicious!! I absolutely loved this.

Everything was perfectly executed and tasted great. They can get busy so if you don’t want to wait, go during the mid-afternoon lull, you’ll get to chowing down in no time.

Shuck Oyster Bar
3313 Hyland Avenue
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Tel: 949-420-0478

Shuck Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

new fall menu items at Seasons 52

It’s that time of year again when restaurants revamp their menus to reflect the changing season. Seasons 52 prides itself in incorporating seasonal produce into the menus and I was able to try some new fall menu items which embodied an autumnal air about them even if the soCal weather isn’t helping us along in any shape or form.

Now, you know I’m not a big drinker, nor do I talk about wines much, but this time, I was quite pleased with some of the wines paired with our meal so I will mention the ones which stood out.

Portabello Mushroom Flatbread ($10.95) has been featured before and I was happy to see it return. Meaty slices of portabello sits atop the thin crispy flatbread the restaurant is known for. I love mushrooms and these are full bodied in both aroma and taste.

One of the new items — Double Hummus & Sea Salt Lavash ($7.50) — was quite lovely. I especially liked the salty crispy lavash which I enjoyed even on its own. The minted edamame hummus was mild in flavor while the red roasted chili hummus packed a slightly stronger punch. I liked both but the latter definitely stood out a little more than the other since I love bold flavors when it comes to food.

(For photo purposes, the flatbread was moved to create a better shot. It usually is served standing up in a cone in between the two plates of hummus).

I was extremely surprised by Cider-Glazed Grilled Chicken Skewers ($9.95) expecting them to be….. well….. chicken skewers. These tender pieces of chicken was so moist and having been marinating in the cider glaze, produced a nice, even flavor throughout. The accompanying Fuji apple slaw was also rather tasty with a slightly sweet finish, working together with the acidity of the cider. Topped with sun-dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds, you get a mouthful of textural contrasts in every bite.

The pairing for the chicken skewers was Farrier Andiron Semillon, Alexander ’09, a crisp, light white wine which wasn’t too dry and worked well with the sweet tartness of this dish.

The Maple Leaf Farms Sesame Duck Salad ($15.25) makes a reprise this fall, with chopped greens, apples, mint, cranberries, butternut squash and toasted pecans. I’ve had this dish before and really like the freshness of the mint with the crunch of the pecans. The portion makes for an ample entree, or you can share it as a starter.

Seasons 52’s use of All-Natural Piedmontese meat is apparent throughout the year and this fall, they are featuring a Bone-In Strip Steak 11oz ($28.95) served with roasted asparagus, cremini mushrooms and Fingerling potatoes.

However, the star of the evening was definitely Manchester Farms All-Natural Grilled Quail ($25.95 dinner only), succulent quail perfectly prepared and served with truffle mushroom risotto, leaf spinach and roasted cipollini onions with balsamic glaze.

With the main courses we were given two wines, but I definitely liked the Michael David Petite Petit, Petite Sirah, Lodi ’09/’10 the best. In fact, it was my favorite wine of the night. Smooth, rich, and incredibly sexy, this red complemented both the steak and the quail perfectly.

If you’re familiar with the restaurant’s Mini Indulgences ($2.75 each), on top of all the familiar dessert shooters, the new pumpkin pie with ginger snap crust is an absolute must for pumpkin pie lovers. Adorned with a house-made ginger snap cookie, this was a dessert even my non-sweet palate couldn’t say no to.

I always suggest you visit when there has been a menu change. The months go by rather quickly and before you know it, the winter menu is in place and you’ve missed out on the wonderful fall items.

This week, Seasons 52 has generously donated a dinner for two to giveaway. Leave me a comment with your FULL name, along with the reasons you love fall for a chance to win. Entries close on Sunday. Good Luck!

Seasons 52
3333 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Tel: 714-437-5252

Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

delightful San Diego eatery Davanti Enoteca

Back in southern California and The Hungry Dogg and I met some friends for dinner in San Diego, Davanti Enoteca in little Italy, a nice restaurant with a lovely back patio for dining al fresco.

We arrived with 45 minutes left on happy hour. I was thrilled! The items we were told are the same size as regular a la carte so it is a great time to try as many items as possible!

The first thing which caught my eye was Chicken Liver Pate ($4 happy hr/$7), something I’ve tried at several restaurants this year. This was very good and an ample portion at that.

Bread and Tonight’s Toppings — only available on the happy hour menu — ($5) was a bruschetta style appetizer topped with fava beans, tomatoes, ricotta and caramelized onions. There was tartness from the tomatoes and sweetness from the onions.

I love this next dish and after a not-so-good plateful in NYC, White Anchovies ($4 happy hr/$5) here were pretty spot-on. The fish were nicely acidic and didn’t have a fishy aroma at all. Served with celery, pecorino sardo and salty leccini olives, this is a dish I’ll order again!

One of the favorites of the evening was Cacio e Pepe ($7 happy hr/$11) perfectly al dente spaghetti tossed with pecorino and black pepper. So simple, so divine, so delicious we ordered another!

And who doesn’t like Prosciutto di Parma ($9)? These strips were thin and beautiful in color and flavor. Sooooooo good!

I knew we would be ordering Mascarpone Polenta ($13 small/$18 large) and ragu of the day since Austin loves anything polenta. Ragu of the day turned out to be braised short ribs and it was a rich, hearty topping for the creamy polenta.

After all that food, we decided to add some veggies to the mix. Shaved Brussels Sprouts ($7) with pecorino-parmesan vinaigrette was quite delicious. I thought they would be seared, but it was a salad, served raw. It was a refreshing change to the usual roasted variation served everywhere.

The most delicious item was Roasted Cauliflower ($7) topped with Sicilian green olive tapenade, piquillo pepper, crispy ceci (or garbanzo beans) and drizzled with a preserved lemon vinaigrette. A slab of cauliflower is roasted and then seasoned with the toppings listed. 

The menu is reasonably priced but happy hour offers an even more affordable way to enjoy more of the tasty food. Definitely worth a visit!

Davanti Enoteca
1655 India Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Tel: 619-237-9606

Davanti Enoteca on Urbanspoon

a farm-to-table dinner in Washington DC

One of the highlights of my east coast trip was visiting Washington DC and staying at the Fairfax at Embassy Row. The landmark hotel has a history that spans over 75 years and was once the home of Al Gore.

The luxury and opulence is highlighted in the service received from beginning to end. Each afternoon, after returning from a day of sightseeing, I was ready for a bath — which I eagerly took — and then it was time to leave for dinner. Upon return, the staff had come in and provided turn-down service with bathrobes and slippers laid out, some chocolate at the bedside, and wonderful sounds of classical music throughout the room. I felt like a princess!

The hotel’s The Fairfax Lounge was where Hillary Clinton announced her run for presidency, and the restaurant 2100 Prime was once The Jockey Club, the place to be seen for Washington’s A-listers.

We dined at 2100 Prime one of the evenings with a menu especially created by Chris Ferrier, executive chef, an advocate of the farm-to-table movement. On farmer market days, you will find chef roaming around sourcing the freshest possible produce to put on your plates.

**please note photos depict a tasting portion and prices are for full portion**

Chef Ferrier’s tasting menu that evening began with a cup of seasonally-inspired Butternut Squash/Apple ($6) soup. There is no cream added but the silky smoothness fools your palate into thinking otherwise. Sweet, delicious and a perfect taste of fall.

Roasted Beet Salad ($9) was accompanied by fried Maryland goat cheese and pecans. The red and golden beets were sugar sweet and free of the usual hints of soil so frequently found in root vegetables. I loved the crunch of the pecans with the rich smoothness of the goat cheese.

I’m normally not a big fan of gnocchi because I’ve not found a lot of gnocchi to have the right texture. Therefore, when I tasted the Japanese Pumpkin Gnocchi ($9) made from Kabocha squash, I was pleasantly surprised by the nice crispy exterior followed by the softer interior of these hand-made pillows of goodness. Seasoned with just a touch of brown butter and sage, the gnocchi was allowed to shine through without being masked by a heavier sauce.

When the Chatham Cod ($28) was put in front of me it looked like the fish we had at Le Bernardin a few days ago. However, the biggest difference was, this was perfectly seasoned, flaky, moist with a wonderfully crispy skin. The Savoy cabbage, bacon and clam cream sauce not only complemented, but the umami-filled smokiness made us crave more even after the last bite.

Still left to come was Venison ($30) chop, prepared to perfection with a blueberry-infused jus reduction enhancing the flavor-filled meat. The blueberry had just a hint of acidity and pairs perfectly with game. The house-made sausage was also incredibly flavorful. Accoutrements included a celery puree, squash and Romanesco cauliflower.

We didn’t have any room left, but how could we resist the lure of a Souffle ($12) topped with creme Anglaise. It was light as air and tasted like how I’d imagine clouds to be if I could put it in my mouth. Not too sweet, and absolutely delightful. It was the perfect ending to a perfect meal.

** another cool moment we had while staying at The Fairfax was being seated at “the Nancy Reagan table” for breakfast one morning. It was a table where the former First Lady was able to have the perfect vantage point to view the entire restaurant — and she was a frequent visitor here I’m told. The prime minister of Estonia was also breakfasting at a table nearby that morning — here’s a shot from my seat that morning**

2100 Prime
at The Fairfax Embassy Row
2100 Massachusettes Avenue NW
Washington DC 20008
Tel: 202-835-2100

2100 Prime on Urbanspoon