Birthday dinner at Providence (Part 1)

Providence

Ever since I read Gastronomy’s post about the dessert tasting menu at Providence, I’ve been mentioning it on and off to Husband and whoever else would listen.  Along comes my 10th 21st birthday and Husband arranges to have dinner and dessert here with some friends.  Awwww…what a keeper!  🙂

My first birthday cocktail

Husband's girlie drink

Husband and I arrived about 20mins early for our 8pm reservation due to misjudging just how bad traffic would be on the side streets…  Turns out, our side-street route was faster than the freeways!  Muhahaha! LA traffic can’t stop us!  Anyways, there was a private party at the bar area so we couldn’t hang out there but our table was ready so we were seated….in the middle of the room. It was a little conspicuous being just the two of us at a table for 10.

We started off with a couple of cocktails while we waited for the rest of the group.  I don’t recall the name of our cocktails or even what went into them (bad me!) but mine was something a little fruity without being overly sweet.  Husband got something I consider more “girlie” due to the fact that it was in a martini glass with a little flower.  I don’t think he liked his as much as I liked mine, though, because he switched to something else as his next drink.  I stopped after one since I figured I was going to end up driving home.  Plus, I was getting a bit fuzzy from it.  I’m a lightweight.  Plus, I came with an empty stomach.

I did notice they had a Dark & Stormy on the list which is a drink I want to try due to friends raving about various versions they’ve had.  It was also recommended by one of our waiters.  Next time….

Roll and nori focaccia

Once everyone arrived, we started perusing the menu.  A variety of bread was served – warm bacon rolls which were quite good, regular rolls and a nori focaccia that was yummtastic!  A plate of butter and a little bowl of salt with the cutest little scoop accompanied our bread.

Despite knowing that I was about to down 8 courses of dessert, I decided to indulge.  After all, I only turn 21 for the 10th time once…  I ordered oysters as a starter and the foie gras ravioli as my main course.  Husband opted for chowda and the prime New York steak.  Most of our table ended up ordering  just an appetizer to save room for the dessert tasting menu.

Amuse Bouche

Before our orders arrived, everyone at the table was served an amuse bouche.  This consisted of a house-made marshmallow dusted with wasabi, a cheese-stuffed bread bite and an incredible little glass filled with fish (I think the waiter said trout?), caviar, some crunchy little bits and edible gold.  The marshmallow was a pleasant bite with the wasabi being a sweeter version than the more familiar hot one. The cheese bread was delicious, a little tart.  The concotion in the glass was one of the highlights of the evening’s meal for me.  I absolutely adored this…so much so that I ate Husband’s and another friend’s since they weren’t fans of the fish.  I think I would have licked the glasses clean if I weren’t in public….

I am the Walrus...

Chowda

Our appetizers showed up a short while later.  Oysters! *slurp slurp slurp*.  There were 6 oysters in this order, served on ice with seaweed decorating the plate.  Very fresh, a little briny, and served with two different vinegars, these were excellent.

I stole a couple of bites of Husband’s chowda and oh my gosh, so good!  Thick, creamy, just like a proper clam chowder should be.  There was definitely a good amount of clam and it was grit-free.  I don’t know how many times I’ve ordered clam chowder only to encounter a little grit here and there…or a lot.  Seriously, nothing ruins a good chowder like grit…

Heavenly cheese cart

Cheese please!

There was a cheese cart that we spied that had all sorts of amazing looking cheeses so some of our table ordered a plate to nibble on.  The selected cheeses were served with bread and complimentary fruits like fig, apricot and apple.  The variety was quite impressive – sheep’s milk, blues, soft and hard cheeses, an herbed goat cheese, cheese with truffle bits in them.  I tasted one of the blues which was mild for a stinky cheese.  The herbed goat cheese was okay but not my favorite.  I adored the truffled cheese though.  So   delicious…

Beautiful fish dish

One of the couples split the Hawaiian Yellowfin Tuna.  I have no idea how this dish tasted but if appearances are anything to go on, this must have been a spectacular dish!  The tuna looked to be barely seared, just kissed by flame.  The sungold tomatoes and blossoms really added nice color contrast that makes this bowl look more like a work of art.  I’d be hesitant to dig in…but only for a split second.

Foie gras ravioli with shaved black truffle

Prime New York steak

It was main course time.  My foie gras ravioli dish was placed in front of me and the waiter shaved a black summer truffle over it.  Um…more, please?  In fact, I’ll just take that whole truffle…  😀  This dish was amazingly decadent but didn’t feel heavy considering what was in it.  The pasta was the perfect thickness and cooked beyond al dente without being mushy.  The little bits of vegetable in the sauce added a crunchy texture contrast.  It was fabulous.

Husband’s steak didn’t wow him.  It was good but it was too “fancy” for his taste and didn’t care for any of the veggies that garnished his plate.  The bite I tried had was cooked at the requested medium well and wasn’t melt in your mouth but was still tender and moist.  But I think I agree with Husband that the best steak is still at Mastro’s.

Black winter truffle risotto

And the prawns were parted...

One of our friends ordered a black winter truffle risotto while her boyfriend got the salt roasted Santa Barbara spot prawns.  Like the foie gras ravioli, they shaved truffle over the risotto.  The prawns were quite impressive.  They came out in a skillet covered with salt.  Rosemary had been added as well and you could smell it.  Everyone at the table was taking deep breaths because it was just so deliciously fragrant.  Each prawn was fished out and split table-side.  I was offered a bite and these were fantastic.  The prawns were cooked perfectly and you could taste the rosemary.

At this point, I was pretty much full but dessert was still to be had!  Stay tuned for part 2 – the 8 course dessert tasting menu!  Yup, I still went for it…

You can find more pictures on my Facebook page.

So far, Providence gets 5 NOMs in my book.

Providence
5955 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 460-4170
Providence on Urbanspoon

Crab Hut

Based on Mmm-yoso’s blog, I gathered up some coworkers and we ventured here for lunch.

I have to say, first off, that the shopping center Crab Hut is located in is one of the worst for parking.  ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE PARKING.  1) Asian drivers (and yes, I can say this cuz I’m an Asian driver myself) 2) not enough spaces 3) ASIAN DRIVERS!!!  Once in a blue moon, you might find a spot but most likely it’ll be small and hard to get in/out of.  Save yourself the headache and just park on the street.

Crab Hut is a Vietnamese-owned place that serves up Cajun-style seafood boils.  Yeah, weird.  But that’s what it is.  There’s a huge neon sign in the window boasting Lousiana crawfish.  When we walked in, we were immediately greeted and seated.  The restaurant was practically empty so this place isn’t a big hit for lunch.  We found out why later on.  The interior was very clean and decorated with a fishing village island-type motif.  Anyways, the waiter took our drink orders and explained the menu and made suggestions since we were newbies. Really helpful and friendly.

The way Crab Hut operates is you order your seafood of choice by the pound with the exception of shrimp which you can order by the 1/2lb. They offer up shrimp, live and frozen crawfish, a shrimp and crawfish mix, whole Blue and Dungeness crab, Snow and King crab legs, clams and mussels.  The crawfish comes with sausage and corn.  Everything else is just the seafood.  There’s a selection of sides that you can add on for extra including Cajun fries, sweet potato fries, garlic bread, corn and rice.  After you select your seafood, you select a “flavor” – Cajun Sensation, Lemon Pepper, Garlic Butter, Full House, Old Bay and Plain (Boil Only).  Then you select your degree of hotness – mild, 1/2 medium, medium, hot, K.O.  If you want to start off with some appetizers, you can order some fresh oysters, fried catfish, shrimp cocktail, crabcakes, fried calamari and other things.

Our party of four all ordered the same thing – 1lb of the shrimp & crawfish mix with the “Full House” seasoning at varying degrees of hotness; I went with medium.  We also got Cajun and sweet potato fries which arrived first.  The sweet potato fries were good and a little overcooked to give it a little extra crunch which was nice, but without burning them.  The Cajun fries were the frozen crinkle-cut kind that you got  in the elemetary school cafeteria only sprinkled with cajun seasoning.  I -LOVED- these.  I dunno why but I just adore crinkle-cut fries.  And waffle-cut as well.  But there’s just something in me that regresses back into a little kid when I have crinkle-cut fries.  The Cajun seasoning brought me back to adulthood, though.  The fries were nicely cooked and not at all soggy like how they were in the cafeteria.  Fabulous!

Our bags of bugs arrived and when I opened mine, I could smell the seasoning…and a little bit of spice.  I started with the crawfish.  I had never had these whole before and got a little weirded out.  They looked a bit…creepy.  But I got over it and quickly figured out a shelling technique.  Rip off the heads, suck out the juices and then shell the tail and nyom nyom nyom.  The only problems with that strategy were 1)the Medium Full House ended up having the sort of spicy kick that hits the back of your throat if you inhale too much.  2) The crawfish tails were tiny so technically, all you got was more like nyom.  The crawfish was nice and juicy if small but the Full House was a very powerful seasoning so I didn’t really taste  the crawfish at all.  Overall, the amount of effort vs. the amout of meat made me decide I’ll stick to crawfish in other forms.  The shrimp, however, was a bit of a different story.  It had the same issue with the Full House flavoring overpowering it but the size of the shrimps were great and they weren’t as hard to shell.  The medium spiciness builds so by the end of lunch, my lips were a little tingly.  I don’t think I’d go any hotter than medium.

IMG_0179Now, I mentioned why this place wasn’t that crowded during lunch.  I’m guessing it’s because eating here is MESSY.  Crab Hut supplies everyone with giant plastic bibs and towelettes and there is a roll of paper towels on each table.   This is not a place for dainty eaters.  As you can see, we went thru quite a bit of paper towels…and crawfish n’ shrimp.  🙂 And we were trying to be neat!

As for cost, this place was not bad.  The shrimp/crawfish mix goes for $8.99/lb.  Given that this was all shrimp n’ crawfish, this was a deal!  You could go to Red Lobster and end up spending $18 on a 2-skewer shrimp entrée or something like that.

I give Crab Hut 3 1/2 NOMs. Not the greatest seafood boil but a great value for what you get and pretty decent taste-wise.  The parking situation gets a big fat hairball, though.

Crab Hut
4646 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 565-1678
http://www.crabhutsd.com
Crab Hut on Urbanspoon