Want some yummy treats?

Check out the offerings at the Eat My Blog charity bake sale!
All items will be priced between $1-4.
10am-4pm Saturday, June 19th at the Tender Greens in West Hollywood.
All proceeds will go to the LA Regional Food Bank.  Hope to see you there!

P.S. Come early for the best selection!
P.P.S. Singles (dollar bills) would be awesome…

Advertisements

XIV

A few weeks ago, Dine LA hosted its Spring Restaurant Week (well, actually 2 weeks).  This is a prime opportunity to sample some of Los Angeles’s fine dining restaurants without breaking the wallet.  My friends, Kristeen (proprietor of Kristeen LaBrot Events) and Suzy, accompanied me to XIV.  We’ve talked about this place for a while now and were finally lured in by the offer of a $44 prix fixe 3-course dinner menu.

Bar at XIV

XIV, owned by Michael Mina, is pretty much what you’d expect a hip LA fine-dining establishment to be – posh decor, a large bar serving unique cocktails, fashionable patrons and, of course, the occasional sighting of a celebrity or three.  Oh yeah, can’t forget the looooong wait for a table, either, despite having a reservation.  We waited over 40 minutes to be seated.  The host did comp us a round of drinks for the inconvenience, though.  Suzy, who is warming a bun in the oven, was quickly accommodated with delicious mocktails.  The saying “you get what you pay for” holds true for XIV…impeccable service on all fronts.

When we perused the regular menu, the debate began as to whether we should stick to the Restaurant Week menu or splurge and order one of the tasting menus.  XIV offers 3 levels – 8 courses for $64, 11 courses for $88, and 14 courses for $112.  For those not familiar with what a tasting menu is, the table selects a number of choices from the menu and each person is served a sample portion (usually around 2-3 bites) of that dish.  It is a great way to sample a variety of the restaurant’s offerings but the entire table is required to agree on what the choices are.  While not really a problem for smaller groups, for larger ones, getting consensus could be like herding cats since the menu has a lot of delicious options.  XIV does accommodate vegetarians and vegans as well.

We decided to splurge and went with the 8 course tasting menu.

Nantucket Bay Scallop Tempura

First up was the Nantucket Bay Scallop Tempura.  I was expecting a large scallop that was tempura battered and fried.  What I got was very different.  Little baby scallops dotted the plate, garnished with fried tempura batter bits, cauliflower..  The flavor was delicious and the scallops perfectly cooked.  The crunchy texture was a nice contrast to the butteriness of the scallops.  Even Suzy, who is not a fan of scallops, liked this dish.

Ricotta Strozzapreti

Next on the appetizer list, the Ricotta Strozzapreti.  This is actually a pasta dish with a ricotta and pecorino cheese sauce, porcini mushrooms, turnip greens and sunchokes.  This was one of the best dishes of the night, in my opinion.  The flavor of the cheese was nicely balanced with the earthiness of the mushrooms and the greens added a much-needed burst of color.  After tasting this, I was a little surprised that this is an appetizer; it seems a bit heavy and rich to be a starter.

Crispy Branzino

For our first main course sample, we chose the Crispy Branzino.  The branzino (a type of sea bass found in Europe) was delicious.  The skin was perfectly crisp, the meat moist and flaky.  The butter bean puree that was served under the fish, I found bland even when combined with the other ingredients on the plate.  The chorizo didn’t really come thru for me, either.  While the presentation was beautiful, taste-wise, this was the most disappointing dish of the night for me.

Maine Lobster Pot Pie

Maine Lobster Pot Pie - inside

We selected the Maine Lobster Pot Pie which was next and came with an extra $15/pp charge.  It was more like a lobster bisque covered with a puff pastry and definitely took more than 2-3 bites to eat.  The “filling” had a creamy smooth texture and great flavor.  The puff pastry was flaky and buttery.  While I liked this dish best out of the 3 main courses we tried, I didn’t think it was on par with the Strozzapreti.

Prime N.Y. Steak

The Prime N.Y. Steak arrived next.  I really had high hopes for this dish.  It had a list of ingredients that I love – Kobe short rib, arugula, hazelnut, figs, horseradish.  The short rib, while fork tender, ended up being drowned out by the flavor of the sauce.  The arugula salad with fig and hazelnut was good but nothing special.  Overall, this was an okay dish but not outstanding as I hoped.

XIV Cheese Selection

For our first dessert, we ordered the XIV cheese selection.  This dish just popped in my mouth.  A slice of brie-like cheese with sweet quince (tasted a bit like guava) and Meyer foam, the flavor combination just blew me away.  I adored this dessert and would have been happy eating 8 courses of the XIV cheese selection.  Definitely one of the most memorable things I have eaten in my life…

Nutella Custard

The Nutella Custard followed and this was another superb desert.  Topped with passionfruit foam, toast streusel and popcorn ice cream, the textures and flavors melded together to form delectable, decadent bites.  A must order for Nutella fans, like me.

Chocolate Cream dessert

To end our meal, we had the Chocolate Cream dessert.  It was not the dish I would have wanted to end my night on.  While it was a good chocolate dessert, it didn’t blow me away like the XIV cheese did or make me want to lick the dish like the Nutella custard did.  I would have preferred to start the desserts with this as I thought it was the weakest one.

Overall, XIV both impressed and disappointed my taste buds.  The selections we had from the main course section of the menu were nothing that would draw me back for the cost but the cheese and Strozzapreti were delicious enough that I would come back just to eat those dishes again.  Fortunately, there’s still quite a few items left untasted on the menu to make another visit worthwhile.

The Catty Critic gives XIV 4 NOMs.

XIV
8117 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 656-1414
http://www.sbe.net/xiv
XIV on Urbanspoon

We like Chi-a-nese, if you please….

About 3 years ago, while driving down Hollywood Blvd, I spotted a sign for a Chinese restaurant – Kung Pao Kitty. Naturally, as someone who goes crazy over anything either feline-related or involving food, this made me squee. It took over a year for me to venture back and try the place. By then, it was a well-established eatery that was seeing good business.

With its lanterns, red walls, bamboo plants and dim lighting, this corner restaurant is both casual and chic. It offers a decent menu that includes a good variety of meat, seafood and vegetarian options that most Chinese restaurant patrons would be familiar with. The drink menu is more limited in selection but does offer wine and beer, as well as a sake, and the restaurant has a small bar for those looking for something a little stronger. If you are a fan of black and tans, try Kung Pao Kitty’s take on it – the Black Cat, made with Chimay and Guinness.

For starters, you’ll find the usual items – cream cheese wontons, potstickers, eggrolls. The lettuce cups seem to be a popular order as I see many people gnoshing on these. I found the battered shrimp to be heavy on the coating, however, and the shrimp pieces small.

Most of their main dishes are generous on the vegetables but they don’t necessarily skimp on the meat. Sometimes, it can be a little bland depending on who is in the kitchen so be sure to have soy sauce, salt and pepper on hand. Their spicy dishes aren’t very spicy, though I tend to like things hotter. The String Bean Chicken and Szechwan Chicken were both good every time I’ve ordered them. The coconut curry dish was also tasty. The portions are large, meant to be shared amongst the group family style. Brown rice is readily available for those who are more health-conscious.

I have not ordered dessert there, being too full each time so I can’t comment on that.

The service has waffled between attentive and needing a flare gun to flag someone down. I’ve walked in and been seated right away as well as stood around waiting for someone to notice me and show me to a table. I have noticed that during the busy times, it does look like they could use one more waitress as I’ve only ever seen at most 2 girls working (not including the person behind the bar).

In terms of prices, it’s actually a pretty affordable place for West Hollywood. Entreés range between $7-16 and most couples can eat there for $30-40, not including alcohol, and most likely will have leftovers.

If you’re out wandering West Hollywood, Kung Pao Kitty is a decent choice to eat at if you don’t want to do fast food or spend too much money.

The Catty Critic gives Kung Pao Kitty 3 1/2 NOMs.

Kung Pao Kitty Asian Eatery
6445 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028
Phone: 323-465-0110
http://www.kungpaokitty.com/
Price: $$
Kung Pao Kitty on Urbanspoon