Monday, May 6, 2013


                Traditional tapas restaurant Sevilla is a far cry from what Spanish chefs would expect from their heralded national cuisine.
            Seville is a warm Spanish restaurant on Pine in downtown Long Beach that offers classic tapas dishes.  Sevilla suffers from a common restaurant theme, good ideas but bad execution. Most importantly the dishes are too acidic and under-seasoned.

“It sounded good, but there wasn’t any salt,” Taylor Holm said as he took a bite of a seared scallop.

The menu is comprised of several ceviches, empanadas and an array of regional Spanish dishes. The lime and cilantro puree overpowered the scallop and yellowtail ceviche with a fresh herb mojo, cucumber and avocado. “All I can taste is lime,” Holm said as he took a sip of his gin and tonic.
Photo by Matt Barg
The disappointing ceviche with herb mojo, cucumber and avocado.

The seared scallops with artichoke puree, roasted tomatoes and saffron butter defies basic culinary techniques. First, there was absolutely not salt in any of the food, leaving it incredibly bland. The roasted tomatoes are not roasted and the artichoke puree is coarse and grainy. The saffron butter has only a hint of saffron, which is a distinctive and bold flavor.
Photo b Matt Barg
Seared scallops with no one grain of salt.

Interview with Ink Cook: Tony Villarin Part 2

Photo by Matt Barg
Villarin showing his quirky passion for food

            Ink and Chef Voltaggio are known for using molecular gastronomy techniques with innovative precision.

Villarin was originally inspired by Chef Voltaggio’s creativity while watching Top Chef. “I thought it was amazing when he made brioche in the microwave in like 30 seconds with a paper cup and a refillable whipped cream canister,” Villarin said in awe of his current chef and mentor.

“We sous vide all the meat. It’s cooked perfectly like it should be, perfect medium rare,” Villarin explained the emphasis on attention to details.

Chef Voltaggio not only demands precision from his cooks but he has come to expect it. “It’s a higher level kitchen, so it more intense,” Villarin talked about the kitchen staff. “What’s expected of you is a lot harder than working at Chili’s. You’re paid to do a job and if you can’t do that job they get rid of you.” The intensity level at fine dining restaurants only increases as the awards come in. He described the awards as a blessing and a curse.

Interview with Ink Cook: Tony Villarin Part 1

Photo by Matt Barg
Tone Loc showing off one of his many knives

             Former U.S. Marine, Tony “Tone Loc” Villarin, is in the process of working his way up the line at one of the best small plate restaurants in the country, Ink in Los Angeles on Melrose.
             “It’s more out of the box than straightforward food. It’s more artistic than you would see at a French restaurant but with the same techniques,” Villarin described the cooking style at Ink.

Currently, Villarin is at the bottom of the totem pole at the garde-manger station, which is cold appetizers.  He has been working at Ink for only 4 months. There are three cooks that work on the garde-manger station and Villarin in the leader of the team.

“It’s been a pretty rough transition for the Montage,” Villarin said as he chuckled. “It’s taken me a while to get how the flow of things work and how to work super, super clean.” He described the efficiency of the staff as something he has never seen before, but this is what sets the restaurant apart.

Ink has won several prestigious culinary awards like Best New Restaurant in America, Best Restaurant in America and countless awards given to Chef Michael Voltaggio. 

Photo by Tony Villarin
Smoked asparagus with smoked dates and goat cheese snow

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Beer List at The Side Door

Photo by Matt Barg
The Side Door offers a wide selection of bottled and draught beers
            The constantly rotating beer menu at the Side Door offers a wide variety of craft beers from around the world. Drink Menu
            The beer list is incredibly intriguing for beer connoisseurs. The list is comprised of well-known breweries, at least for beer advocates, but with beers from these breweries that are quite rare. A prime example of this is the Hangar 24 Vinaceous, ale with Temecula grapes aged in oak barrels.
            Commonly found breweries on the list are Green Flash, Lagunitas, Ritual, Russian River and Deschutes. They also offer traditional English beers like Old Speckled Hen, and Belgian beers like Chimay and St. Bernardus.
            On top of a spectacular beer list, the wine list is surprisingly strong for a pub. A stand out on the list is the Stag’s Leap 2008 Petite Syrah from Napa Valley. The wine list is comprised of wines from Napa and the central valleys, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Austria and Germany. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Side Door

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The Side Door traditional pub theme and entrance on the side of Five Crowns
             A gastro pub known for its bold bar food and extensive beer menu, the Side Door transports patrons to an authentic English pub. Side Door
Photo by Matt Barg
The Wedge Salad with bleu cheese and bacon

              The Side Door offers artery clogging pub favorites like Stilton bleu cheese potato chips with crispy prosciutto and beef fat French fries. The staple at the Side Door is the prime rib sandwich with au jus and horseradish. The pub is literally the side door to Five Crowns, which is a restaurant infamous for prime rib. The Side Door is on located on East Pacific Coast Highway in Corona Del Mar.
             The highlight of the meal was the crispy rock shrimp with horseradish aioli, tomato foam and micro celery. “I am really surprised how good the shrimp is with the horseradish. I love horseradish, but I never thought to put the two together," Ruth Barg expressed her love for the combination of flavors.
Photo by Matt Barg
Crispy Rock Shrimp with the beloved horseradish aioli and unfoamy tomato foam

             There is a charcuterie and cheese station located in the center of the pub. The chef working the station slices all the charcuterie to order. They offer cheese and meats from all over the United States and Europe. The stand outs were Iberico ham and a sheep's milk cheese from France, Ossau-Iraty.
Photo by Matt Barg
Charcuterie and cheese plate with Iberico ham, Ossau-Iraty and Little Darling Cheeses
Photo by Matt Barg
Beet Salad with strawberries, hazelnuts and leek ash is a refreshing spring salad

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Bazaar Ambiance

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Bar Centro

           The adjective eclectic does not even begin to describe the quirky, modern ambiance of The Bazaar in the SLS Hotel, Beverly Hills.

            There are two separate dining rooms, Rojo and Blanca. Obviously, one is decorated with a red theme, the other white. Each dining room has its own elaborate décor that offers a unique and wondrous atmosphere. The different dining rooms reflect the restaurant’s creativity as well as the two sections of the menu, modern tapas and traditional tapas.

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Rojo dining room's captivating red theme


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The elegant Blanca dining room

 After finishing the savory courses, The Bazaar’s servers walk diners over to the Patisserie. The Patisserie is the dessert dining room. “It feels like we’re in Alice in Wonderland,” Lauren Cudney proclaimed with a wide-eyed expression. The room has a fairytale feel with long, glass tables and vintage armchairs.

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The eclectic Patisserie room for dessert service

            Every wall in The Bazaar has a different décor, from women in bathing suits from the 1950s to bizarre paintings and artwork. There is not one part of the ambiance in the restaurant that is duplicated. Every piece of décor is different providing a magical bazaar ambiance.

Photo by Matt Barg
The bizarre artwork even has a phallic theme 

The Bazaar

Photo by Matt Barg
Philly Cheeseteak with crispy and hollow air bread filled with melted cheddar and thinly sliced Waygu beef

The Bazaar is a culinary Mecca that focuses on traditional tapas with a modern, creative interpretation of their dishes. Bazaar Dinner Menu

Chef Jose Andres uses classic flavor profiles for his dishes, but prides himself on precise execution and creative cooking techniques, like molecular gastronomy. Molecular gastronomy is a type of cooking that alters the chemical and physical make up of food. The Bazaar is in the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills.
“This is seriously the best thing I have even eaten. I want to order 20 more and never leave here,” Lauren Cudney said after she took the first bite of the Philly cheesesteak. This cheesesteak does not resemble anything that is traditionally served in Philadelphia, composed of air bread filled with melted aged-cheddar topped with shaved Wagyu beef that has been Sous Vide to perfect medium-rare.

Photo by Matt Barg
Jamon Iberico and an egg fried in truffle butter takes breakfast to a new level

            The chef recommended the Jamon Iberico and farm fried egg in truffle butter, basically Spanish ham and eggs. The thinly cut Jamon Iberico was a crispy complement to the runny fried egg drenched in truffle butter. “This is like breakfast on steroids,” Cudney proclaimed with an ear-to-ear smile on her face.

Photo by Matt Barg
Bunuelos, cod fritters served with honey aioli