K-Zo

I must be missing something…  According to the reviews on Yelp, this place is supposed to be a great sushi restaurant.  But what I found was okay food for a high price…

Husband’s work was showing “Shutter Island” for free so we decided to take a break from packing and catch a flick as well as dinner.  He suggested K-Zo which was around the corner from his office in Culver City.

K-Zo sushi bar

When we got there, it was pretty empty as they had just opened for dinner.  The interior is very stark and modern.  I was amused by the one table that was hidden behind a curtain of beads/chains.  Guess that’s for customers who really want their privacy…  There’s a bar right by the door for cocktails, a row of tables along the windowed wall and a very long sushi bar with 3 chefs working when we were there.

Cocktails and an Asian Parmer

Since the Husband doesn’t do sushi, we sat at a table.  Cocktails were ordered first.  I opted to try a peach sochu cocktail as well as their “Asian Parmer” (green tea and lemonade).  Husband had some sort of cosmo drink.  The Asian Parmer (hahahaaa…) was actually pretty good, with more lemonade than green tea.  I liked my peach drink as well and had a slight buzz going.  What can I say?  I’m a bit of a lightweight…

First thing I noticed when looking at the sushi form and the menu were the prices.  The cheapest nigiri on the list was the Gyoku (egg) and the smelt roe at $4/2 pieces.  Most of the common types like salmon, tuna (maguro), yellowtail (hamachi) and freshwater eel (unagi) were $5-6.  A little bit more than what I am used to paying…  The standard menu is comprised of salads, appetizers and what they called “small plates”.  Think Japanese style tapas.  There are 2 prix fixe options at $58 or $78/pp – hors d’oeuvres, sashimi salad, entree, sushi, dessert and premium tea/coffee.

Salmon, Hamachi, Monkfish liver

I ordered some salmon, hamachi, scallop and monkfish liver (ankimo) nigiri while the other half went with the braised pork belly and popcorn shrimp “small plates”.  The salmon was okay but came out warmer than it should have been…almost as if the rice hadn’t quite cooled down enough.  The hamachi slices looked somewhat mangled and one piece was heavy on the wasabi.

Monkfish liver (ankimo) nigiri

I had never had monkfish liver before; this was my first time seeing it on a menu so I had to try it.  The liver is cooked via steaming.  Layered on a bed of rice and wrapped with seaweed, the ankimo was topped with a little ponzu and scallions.  It was very light flavor-wise and had a velvety smooth texture, sort of like tofu.  Overall, this was a very lovely piece of nigiri…  Not sure if I would order it again, though, due to the endangered nature of monkfish but I had to try it at least once since ankimo is considered a delicacy.

Braised pork belly

As for Husband’s dishes, I found the braised pork belly a little on the dry side.  This piece was chopped up into smaller pieces and the ones more towards the inside were a little juicier.  The flavor was okay, maybe could have benefitted from a touch more salt.  I think what I had at Wa Okan in San Diego was better and easier on the wallet.  The Husband liked it, though, and protested when I took more than one bite.   Hasn’t he heard that what’s his is mine?  Hehehe…

Popcorn shrimp

The popcorn shrimp ($8.50) was great.  The batter was light and really let the shrimpy taste shine thru.  The coating could have been crispier but otherwise, this was awesome.  I didn’t even bother using the aoili dressing they served along side since the nuggets alone were had a lot of flavor.  There was a good amount of shrimp in this basket, also, making it worth the price.

I do not think "fondant" means what you think it means...

Since we were still hungry, we opted to get dessert.  Husband went for the chocolate fondant – a chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream.  I selected the K-Zo purple potato specialty dessert thingy, a glass with ice cream, sweet purple potato puree, red bean, mochi, almonds and 2 strawberry Pocky sticks.

Husband liked his chocolate fondant (odd name for a pudding-like cake dessert since fondant is something else in the pastry world).  The bite I had was okay.  It was chocolate-y and slightly bitter.  But overall, it was really just an average chocolate dessert.

Purple people eater

I enjoyed my dessert as it definitely had an Asian flare to it with the red beans and mochi…sort of reminded me of the ices you find at the tea shops.

Service was great and our food arrived quickly, though I could see that potentially slowing down the more crowded the restaurant is, especially for sushi orders.

For what we got, quality-wise, I thought K-Zo was overpriced.  While everything tasted okay, I didn’t think it was worth the $100 bill we were handed.  I think I’ll explore other sushi options in the area first before coming back here.

3 NOMs for K-Zo.

K-Zo
9240 Culver Blvd.
Culver City CA 90232
(310) 202-8890
K-Zo Japanese on Urbanspoon

Mastro’s, a Valentine’s Day treat

Last month, Husband had a “boys’ night out” and splurged on a dinner with friends at Mastro’s, a fine-dining steakhouse in Beverly Hills. He came back raving about the filet mignon he had as well as the mac n’ cheese and the warm butter cake dessert. My husband doesn’t really care for dessert unless it’s chocolate and even then, he’s not a “must have dessert” kind of guy. So him going on and on about a non-chocolate dessert really had me wondering just how good it was…and giving him the pouty sad-kitty look for eating something yummy without me. I don’t begrudge him a night out with the guys but if he eats at a good restaurant I haven’t tried before, he HAS to take me there. It’s in our marriage vows. So for Valentine’s day, I got a fancy steak dinner!

When we arrived, we were seated in the upstairs dining room. A piano sat next to the stairway and a long bar stood against against a wall. Thick curtains covered the opposite wall of windows, making the room a dimly lit, posh space. Waiters in white jackets wandered around servicing their tables. Since our reservation was fairly early in the evening, the restaurant was mostly empty.

Our waitress quickly arrived to take drink orders and was very friendly and laid-back. She even joked around with us thru the night. It caught me a little off guard how casual they were with their customers given the type of establishment we were at. I actually liked this approach as it made the place less intimidating and “hoighty-toighty” and lightened the mood of the dark room…very different ambiance compared to BOA Las Vegas.

I ordered a cucumber melon mojito while Husband went for a Margarita. While I didn’t get any cucumber melon flavoring, the mojito was sweet, just the way I like it. It was also strong as I quickly started feeling the effects (well, I am a lightweight as well). Luckily, we had a basket of bread to soak up the alcohol. Rustic white rolls, crispy cheese crostinis and pretzel rolls which were very good – fluffy inside, nice baked crust and just the right amount of salt.

For our shared appetizer, Husband and I agreed on the vanilla-battered shrimp, mainly because everything else consisted of seafood he didn’t eat. There were quite a few things that sounded appealing, from raw oysters to an ahi tuna stack to crab claws. There was also an option to build a “seafood tower” by combining several choices off the menu. Ah well, vanilla battered shrimp sounded interesting. When the dish arrived, 3 very large shrimps sat on the plate; these were more like baby lobster-sized. The batter was light and nicely fried, not saturated with oil. The subtle sweetness of vanilla in the breading complimented the shrimp.

Both of us ordered the petite filet (8oz) as our main course, medium-well for him and medium/medium-rare for me. Marinated in a 15-ingredient rub and cooked w/ butter, this was perhaps the best steak I have eaten in my life. Mine was cooked perfectly – a nice seared outside with a warm pink middle. This was a tender, juicy, flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth fine piece of beef. A simple, elegant steak…the way it should be! Husband and I played the guessing game as to what went into the rub based on what we could taste. Garlic, onion, salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper were confirmed by our waitress but beyond that… Someone with a more refined and trained palette can crack a guess.

To supplement our steaks, Husband ordered the mac n’ cheese, the creamed corn and the lobster mashed potatoes.

I was keen to try the mac n’ cheese since all the boys were going on and on about it. Mastro’s version is very classic – elbow macaroni with a 5-cheese sauce topped with a layer of more cheese. It’s baked and served in a skillet and comes out hot and bubbling. Fontina, Gorgonzola and Gruyere were just some of the cheeses that went into the mix. The Gorgonzola was what I tasted the most, though. While I like this strong cheese in moderate amounts, it was a little overpowering for the dish. It is a great mac n’ cheese but I can’t claim it’s my absolute favorite like some of Husband’s friends do.

The creamed corn was A-MAIZE-ING. Okay, bad bad… I have never had creamed corn before but this was a fantastic way to be introduced to it. I actually had cravings for it the next day and day after. Good thing we had leftovers, which were packed neatly and nicely and put in a bag for us. Husband, who doesn’t care for the stuff, liked Mastro’s creamed corn and even helped himself to the leftovers the next day. Apparently, if I want him to like something, I should have Mastro’s make it.

Husband was contemplating ordering the twin lobster tails for us since he really wanted lobster. However, when our waitress listed off lobster mashed potatoes as a “special” side, he ordered that instead. I was pleasantly surprised with how much lobster meat from both the tail and claws was included in this side dish. And it was cooked perfectly as well. No rubberiness! As for the potatoes, creamy smoothness. The cooks in the kitchen really know how to technically execute their dishes. When Husband suggested to the waiter that the lobster mashed potatoes be added to the menu as a regular item, she said that it basically was but they just didn’t list it to make it sound “special”. Hahaha…

At this point, I was pretty full but I really wanted to try this warm butter cake that the guys were all abuzz about so we ordered it. And the Chocolate Pudding Cake because Husband wanted to try it… The butter cake is really a dessert that is meant to be shared between 4 or more people; it’s large and it’s REALLY good. Served with a side of freshly made whipped cream, this was a warm, smooth, rich dessert. It was strangely light and fluffy yet dense at the same time. Turns out, they use cream cheese as a secret ingredient to give the butter cake its texture. We finished about two-thirds of it and I was sad to see the rest go to waste. Such a shame to not finish such a great dessert. I tried though, I really did… The Chocolate Pudding Cake was also a superb choice. Flavored with espresso, the bitterness cut back on the sweetness of the chocolate making it rich without hurting the palette. Visually though, it was not the most appealing looking dessert once the Husband started digging in.

On our way out, our waitress gave us a small box with two chocolate hearts in it, a Valentine’s gift for the customers from the restaurant.

Mastro’s is a great steakhouse with fabulous service and even better food. A dinner here, though, will put a nice fat dent in your wallet. But it’s well worth it, I think.

5 NOMs for Mastro’s, my new favorite steakhouse!

Mastro's Steakhouse 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

King’s Fish House – Anaheim

Before The Faint/Ladytron concert at the Grove in Anaheim, the husband and I, along with a couple of friends, had dinner at King’s Fish House.

While we were waiting for our friends, Dan and I enjoyed a hurricane off their cocktail menu.  It was strong and yummy and not very expensive.  We also noshed on some good sourdough bread with real butter.

Starter: Oyster sampler (6).  This was really good.  It came with a side of freshly grated horseradish, some cocktail sauce and something else that tasted like a garlic vinegar.  The oysters were fresh and briny.

One thing to note is that they have a small sushi menu as well.  I did not try any though I did see people ordering rolls at some other tables.  It looked good and given the freshness of their oysters, I would hope that their sushi is just as fresh.

Jumbo Sea Scallops = Sadness.  Not so much on the “jumbo” end and they were overcooked rendering them slightly rubbery.  And there was no good sear on them.  The mac n’ cheese side dish was okay.  Better than the box stuff but I’ve had better.  The roasted ratatouille was okay as well.  It was a nice change than the usual steamed veggies side most places serve.

However, the N’awlins BBQ shrimp entree my husband got was yummy.  A little bit of a kick, lots of flavor, I wish I had gotten this instead.

Service was good.  The hostess must have been new because she never asked if we had a preference for indoor or outdoor and the patio was wide open.  Our waiter was friendly and nice and non-obtrusive though it took him a while to get to taking our order.

The restaurant was a little on the pricey end for some of the food we got but overall it was a pleasant experience and I would go back again.

Their buzzer thingy is shaped like a lobster.  Heh.

I give King’s Fish House 3 NOMs.

King’s Fish House
1521 W Katella Ave
Orange, CA 92867
(714)771-6655
www.kingsfishhouse.com
King's Fish House on Urbanspoon