Broadway By Amar Santana - Interrupt

>> Sunday, January 29, 2012

Date of Dining: 1/28/2012
Price: $10-17 per appetizer, $30-38 per entree
Location: 328 Glenneyre St, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

The Quick Bit: 
+ Great selection of cocktails including Moscow Mule on tap
+ Desserts were extremely satisfying to finish off the meal
+ Amazing menu made it difficult to decide what items to order
Δ Spacing of the tables could have been more generous
Δ Some dishes could have used more balance
Note: I debated on writing two Interrupts in a row, but decided that the coverage was fine. The next few weeks are going to be pretty busy blogging and there will be a lot of San Diego coverage. Prepare for some amazing posts leading into the gastrobits 1 year anniversary
 Since I grew up in Orange County and visit regularly, I have a passing interest in the culinary scene there. I was steered towards checking out Broadway by Amar Santana by fellow bloggers Gourmand's Review and Bobby Navarro of 100eats100days.
Broadway by Amar Sanatana is the brainchild of Chef Amar Santana. Santana was educated at the CIA and worked for Charlie Palmer at the restaurant aureole, where he worked up the ranks. He opened fin fish for the organization before becoming the executive chef at Charlie Palmer in Bloomingdale's at South Coast Plaza. Finally, Santana started his own venture in Laguna Beach at Broadway by Amar Santana. Chef Santana's food can be characterized as farm to table and modernist cuisine.
When looking at the menu of Broadway, it was hard to decide on what items to order as so many of them seemed to be attractive. I finally decided that it was impossible to order everything I wanted and just tried to get a good sampling in the first visit, vowing to return at another date. We ordered a few appetizers and entrees and then asked the wait staff to course everything out separately. It was refreshing to see that this was no problem and the food began arriving in short order.

First Course:
frisee and arugula salad - goat cheese, dried cranberries, toasted pecans, champagne vinaigrette, pairs
Unfortunately this dish lacked some balance. While it had all the elements of being an exciting dish with the sweet, crunch, sour, savory, bitter, and creamy, the dish fell short of the mark when these elements failed to integrate properly. Perhaps part of the issue was we found that some parts of the salad were dressed more heavily than others.

Second Course:
japanese hamachi - cirtus-miso dressing, avocado sorbet, wasabi tampiko, tempura flakes
This dish was the first great dish and preview of the night to come. The hamachi was extremely high quality and full of delectable oils; it was cut by the spice and acidity of the tampiko as well as the crunch of the wasabi flakes. The avocado sorbet added an element of cold freshness and the citrus-miso balanced the dish on acidity and umami.

Third Course:
roasted bone marrow - short rib marmalade, marinated anchovies, parsley  crumbs
The bone marrow was roasted extremely well and epitomized a well-prepare bone marrow plate. While there was nothing jaw-dropping about the marrow, the perfect execution of this dish is often lacking in other forms of the dish. I especially appreciated the sea salt dish provided to self-season the marrow. The short rib marmalade and anchovies were really required components of the dish as the marrow alone was a little too fatty and somewhat overwhelming to the tastes. Overall a solid dish.

Fourth Course:
seared maine sea scallops - sea urchin risotto, tempura sea beans, passionfruit, jalapeno froth
The freshness and quality of the sea scallops really stood out in this dish. The risotto was well-prepared and really complemented the sweetness of the scallops. The jalapeno froth added just a touch of spice, and the passionfruit added a bit of tangy sweetness and acid to round out the dish. The passionfruit was a real key component of the dish.

Fifth Course:
mushroom dusted veal sweetbreads - parsnip, potato, truffle jus, wilted lettuce
The key to this dish was the sweetbreads themselves; they were cooked perfectly on their own and really only needed a dip in the truffle jus to provide the full flavorful preparation. While I did appreciate the other elements of the dish, they weren't necessary as the sweetbreads stood on their own.

Sixth Course:
berkshire pork chop - braised pork cheeks, saffron glazed pear, salsify, black garlic jus
This dish was a real winner as the pork chop was cooked perfectly. The black garlic just was a great savory sauce for the pork while the pear served as a nice element of sweetness that complemented the pork. The pork cheek was the best part of the dish and stood on its own. I kinda wish there was a way to just get a lot of braised pork cheeks alone.

Seventh Course:
bourbon vanilla bean panna cotta - strawberry sorbet, cocoa nib meringue, tarragon
This was the best dish of the night for me. The panna cotta was phenomenal; it was prepared in a thin layer across the entire dish and had the perfect balance of flavor and texture. The strawberry sorbet was extremely flavorful, and the cocoa nib meringue were both visually striking as well as provided a satisfying textural crunch.

Eighth Course:
hazelnut praline tart - burn banana cream, passionfruit, bergamont ice cream
The tart was prepared perfectly and had a great balance of sweet praline chocolate to crust. While the other elements were nice to have, I found that they tended to cover out the elegance of the tart alone. Instead of mixing all the components, this dish seemed to be best enjoyed by eating the tart independent of the other elements. I thought the inclusion of the charred cinnamon stick for aroma was a nice touch.

While there were some unbalanced elements to the dishes, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Broadway by Amar Santana. The menu was packed full of interesting food combinations, and each item tried to incorporate a nice balance of flavors and textures. Additionally, the restaurant boasted a large selection of cocktails, which enhanced the dinner experience.
For the great preparation and execution of the food, Broadway by Amar Sanatana gets the megabyte award.


Pizzeria Mozza (Newport Beach) - Interrupt

>> Thursday, January 26, 2012

Date of Dining: 11/6/2011
Price: $8-26 per item
Location: 800 West Coast Highway, Newport Beach, CA 92663

The Quick Bit:
+ Amazing artisan pizza in both taste and presentation
+ Use of house made quality ingredients
+ High quality dessert options
Δ Price could be more accessible
Δ Mandatory (expensive) Valet Parking

Seemingly every blogger and their mother that covers Orange County  has a post about Pizzeria Mozza, so I figured I had procrastinated long enough from my visit last year. If you've been following my work closely, you will have noted that I awarded the pizza from Pizzeria Mozza the Best Pizza in the 2011 gastrobits awards. Hopefully in the future, I will post about all the places I go before I randomly award one of the recipients.
For the uninitiated, Pizzeria Mozza is the brainchild of Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joe Bastianich. Silverton is one of the leading pastry chefs of the world and behind Southern California's biggest bakery, La Brea Bakery. She previously worked for Wolfgang Puck at Spago and founded Campanile with Mark Peel. Mario Batali of food network fame really needs no introduction. Similarly, Joe Bastianich can be seen as a judge on Fox's Masterchef where his biting criticism has earned him a slew of critics. Despite the criticism, Bastianich remains one of the leading restauranteurs in the US, 
While I did have somewhat high expectations entering Pizzeria Mozza, I did temper those expectations to some extent because I figured the food was somewhat overhyped with all the star-power behind the restaurant. The artisan pizzas at Mozza have received much attention previously for par-baking the pizza crust, and I wanted to find out once and for all if this method really did improve the pizzas. (Because the crust is par-baked, Pizzeria Mozza's pizzas are not VPN certified).
affetati misti - proscuitto di parma, salume nostrano, finnochiona
The selection of meats on the salumi board was a great way to begin the meal. Each meat was of extremely high quality, and the flavors and textures served as an excellent appetizer. I enjoyed the salume nostrano the most as the flavor had the most character with the subtle mix of spice, fat, and delicious pork flavor.

lasagna al forno
I thought this was the best dish of the meal. At Pizzeria Mozza, there is a special item on the menu for each day of the week, and the lasagna was the special when I went. This lasagna had a perfect mix of spicy, flavorful house made sausage mixed with a house-made pasta and topped with a perfectly balanced topping of crispy cheese. The lasagna skipped the ricotto that usually overwhelms the flavor and instead focused on a pure savory meaty goodness.
fennel sausage, panna, red onion, scallions pizza

Not far behind the lasagna, this pizza really impressed me as well. The house-made sausage had an aggressively strong fennel flavor that was balanced by the scallions and red onion. I thought it was great that there was no tomato sauce on the pizza as that would have detracted from the other elements on the pizza. This pizza was good enough for me to declare it the Pizza of the Year for 2011. 
squash blossoms, tomato, and burrata pizza
The most impressive element to this pizza was the presentation. However, in addition to the gorgeous presentation with the layout of the squash blossoms, this pizza also really delivered on flavor. On this pizza, the position of the cheese and toppings are somewhat juxtaposed with the burrata being placed on top of the squash blossoms. However, the flavors in this dish really worked.

butterscotch budino, maldon salt, rosemary pine nut cookies
While I was mainly full from the mains, I couldn't resist ordering the signature dessert - butterscotch pudding. This pudding is what Blue Ribbon Pizza seemed to want to copy as a dessert. However, the presentation and implementation at Mozza was far superior. The rosemary on the cookies was a real complement to the pudding and really brought up the entire dessert a notch.

While there are many rumors about an expansion to San Diego, the closest Mozza location remains Newport Beach. I thoroughly enjoyed by visit to Pizzeria Mozza and recommend it to any lover of Italian food visiting Newport Beach. The high quality ingredients are prepared technically and plated artistically to delivery a truly impressive experience.
While I wanted to award Pizzeria Mozza the megabit award, I realized the pricing really puts it out of that category. Instead, Pizzeria Mozza is awarded the megabyte award.


Bird Rock Coffee - Flash

>> Monday, January 23, 2012

Date of Visit: 12/22/2011
Price: $2-7.50 per cup of coffee
Location: 5267 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037

The Quick Bit:
+ High Quality single origin specialty coffee
+ Coffee Roasted In-House
+ Chemex brewing system
Δ Location could be more freeway accessible

Although Bird Rock Coffee was popularized by recently being named Roast Magazine's Micro-Roaster of the Year for 2012, one of my friend cgfan actually put Bird Rock on my radar prior to the award. Unfortunately, I never made the visit to the shop before Bird Rock received the accolade, so I'm not sure how much has changed in the intervening time.
What I do know about Bird Rock is that they source all their coffee beans directly from the farmers and pay above fair trade value to ensure they get the finest quality beans. The beans are also organic and are roasted on site fresh daily to ensure the highest quality cup of coffee.
Further, while Bird Rock does have high quality single-origin coffees, they also have a series of "reserve" coffees that are even higher in quality. These set of reserve coffees are sold at "market price" and brewed on one of two special brewing platforms: chemex or v60.
Having heard about chemex being the best coffee brewing system, I decided to see what it was all about.
Bird Rock Chemex System
weighing the beans
Everything about the Chemex brewing system is meticulously measured. The weight of the coffee beans, the amount and temperature of the water, and the exact brewing time are all crucial elements to crafting the perfect cup
barrista smooths out the beans in the filter prior to brewing
flow of water is carefully controlled
the entire brewing process is timed to take an exact amount of time
the end result
While the entire process does seem overly complicated, the resulting cup of coffee was phenomenal. It was easily among the best and most flavorful cups of coffee I have ever had. The taste of the coffee was decidedly more floral, and the oils and acidity in the beans meshed to create a much more complex taste.
While I recommend a visit to Bird Rock in general for their high quality coffees, I especially recommend trying the chemex system if you are a coffee connoisseur. While Bird Rock does sell a variety of espresso drinks, skip those and take the opportunity to try the high quality single origin brewed coffees.


Blue Point Coastal Cuisine - Restaurant Week Winter 2012

>> Friday, January 20, 2012

Date of Dining: 1/19/2012
Price: $30 for 3 course Restaurant Week Menu
Location: 565 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA

The Quick Bit:
+ Strong slate of diverse flavor combinations
+ Aggressive seasoning packed full of flavor
+ Great value with full menu (and $30 wine bottles) available during restaurant week
+ Great location in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter
Δ Loud dining room could have been more conducive to conversation
Δ Dessert courses could have matched the caliber of savory courses
Note: Chef Daniel Barron has left Blue Point Coastal Cuisine as of 1/24/2012
When I last visited Blue Point Coastal Cuisine, I was treated to my first complete meal of molecular gastronomy. While Executive Chef Daniel Barron has a great background with molecular gastronomy, his everyday food is still fundamentally rooted in providing intensely flavored entrees with perhaps a small modern technique twist. Since the last visit, Chef Barron was awarded "Chef of the Fest" for the San Diego Bay Food and Wine festival, adding to his already impressive award cabinet.
Following Chef Barron's twitter account, I found that Blue Point was offering the full menu as part of Restaurant Week. Unfortunately, the same twitter account showed that he would not be in for service when I visited. Undeterred, I set out to see what the regular menu at Blue Point was about.
Note: While I dined with a party of six, I limited the review to courses for two people to provide the best information on items I got to taste.
In addition to the restaurant week menu, there was a selection of about 10 bottles of wine priced for $30 per bottle. We got two of the bottles form that list:
2009 P-L&J-F Bersan Saint Bris, Sauvignon, Burgundy
2009 Martin Codax Albarino, Rias Baixas
 While I didn't have enormous expectations for $30 bottles of wine, the Saint-Bris was more old world white with an even flavor throughout while the Albarino was more of a new world fruit bomb.
salmon tartare - creme fraiche, lemon, chive
 This cold smoked salmon had a large component of oil to carry forth the flavor of the salmon. Creme fraiche added a textural element to smooth out the mouth feel and add an extra element of richness to the dish. The lemon came in the form of the aftertaste where the core sweetness and flavor of the lemon (zest) came through without the sourness. Overall, the complimentary amuse was not bad, but I would have preferred a touch more acid to round out the dish.

Appetizer A:
spicy yuzu oyster spoons - shaved serrano, ponzu air
I recognized this dish as the sixth course of The Experience and wanted to see how it had evolved in the intervening time. While this plating lacked the olfactory element to the pile of foam in the previous incarnation, I enjoyed this plating far more.
This was the second best dish of the night. The oyster was succulent and packed full of flavor. The yuzu foam was still delightful and added the citric acidity needed to balance the richness of the oyster, while the shaved serrano gave the spicy kick to assault the senses. The round out the plating, the spoons were placed on a bed of what I want to say was the tsume (from course five of The Experience). This added bit of sweetness and depth of flavor really added more to the oyster courses. Additionally, having the oysters plated on the spoons made the dish much easier to eat that the previous bowl.

Appetizer B:
pan roasted Mediterranean mussels - coconut, ginger, green curry
The mussels were cooked to an absolute tender perfection. The flavor of the coconut and current were prevalent throughout the dish, but the broth was still the clear, rich seafood broth associated with mussel dishes. This dish also had a nice spicy kick to open the eyes. Overall, the flavors were well integrated and incorporated with each other.

Entree A:
pan seared dayboat Maine scallops - white corn and bacon dumpling, arugula, proscuitto glass
I thought this dish was the best dish of the night. The scallops were cooked perfectly, but the secret to the dish was the large bacon and corn dumpling. The dumpling served as a vessel to deliver sauce to the scallops while adding sweetness and texture from the corn and smokiness from the bacon. The arugula added some bitterness and acid to balance out the rest of the dish.
While it is always a little dangerous to add an additional element of sweetness to a dish containing scallops, the sweetness of the corn really complemented the sweetness of the scallop and didn't overshadow its flavor.

Entree B:
pan seared Hawaiian ono - pineapple fried brown rice, spicy sausage stew, aioli
This dish seemed to be a battle of the surf and the turf. The seared Hawaiian ono represented the elegant restrained austere approach to cuisine while the sausage represented more of the big, bold, rustic aspect of cooking. The pineapple brown fried rice served as the vessel to unite the two juxtaposed elements as the sweetness of the cooked pineapple was highlighted against the spicy bold flavors of the sausage while the sour savory notes of the grilled pineapple were highlighted against the pure flavors of the ono.
Overall this was a very fun dish and it was a nice play to the tastes.

Dessert A:
creme brulee - seasonal fruit
The creme brulee was one of the better creme brulees I've had. While there was enough sugar to formulate the crust for the brulee, the sugar in the cream was restrained, which allowed the flavor of the cream to shine. The texture of the cream was also the correct consistency.

Dessert B:
elephant ear - fried sweet dough, swiss chocolate, salted caramel, whipped cream
While I really wanted to like this dish, the donut lacked the airiness and seemed to be a really heavy ball of dough. Additionally, all of the elements of the dish seemed to just scream of sugar. Overall the dish seems to be what an eight-year old child would think of as an ideal dessert instead of what an adult would find to be enjoyable.

I've been pretty outspoken against Cohn Group restaurants in the past, but my two experiences at Blue Point have completely altered that perception. At the very least, I have full confidence in recommending Blue Point to any diner that visits San Diego and is looking for a restaurant downtown. Chef Barron is really pushing the envelope in terms of combining and balancing various flavor combinations in his food. He also aggressively highlights those flavors with kicks with spice. Additionally, when Chef Barron has already found a winning flavor combination, he doesn't seem to be passive as he is continuing to adapt and improve on dishes on the menu.
While I would love to bump Blue Point to the gigabyte (and it certainly does deserve it on the strength of the savory courses), some other elements did slightly mar the experience. First and foremost, the restaurant truly deserves a great pastry chef to complement the savory menu; this appears to be missing at this time. The ambiance of the restaurant also left a little to be desired as we were unable to have conversations across the table with the loudness of the restaurant. The tables also seemed to be extremely crowded as many people kept bumping against the back of my chair throughout the meal. While the ambiance is probably out of the control of what can be fixed, I hope to have better desserts during my next visit, which will allow me to justify bumping Blue Point up in the awards category.


Cowboy Star - Restaurant Week Winter 2012

>> Monday, January 16, 2012

Date of Dining: 1/15/2012
Price: $40 for 3 course restaurant week tasting
Location: 640 Tenth Ave, San Diego, 92101

The Quick Bit:
+ Regular menu available as well as restaurant week
+ Not just a place for steak, but great dishes as well
+ Cooking temperature on protein is spot on
Δ Atmosphere could have been a bit brighter
Δ Some items are not on the menu
Note: I will be updating on Monday and Friday this week for restaurant week. This probably won't be a problem since Restaurant Week is generally extended an extra week
Long overdue for a review, Cowboy Star is the go to restaurant I recommend everyone who asks me where to get a good steak in San Diego. During this restaurant week, I was finally able to find some time to check out the restaurant and give a proper review.
Cowboy Star is a combination of a restaurant and a butcher shop. At the butcher shop, one can find the high quality cuts of beef, including grass fed variants of the popular cuts. The butcher shop meat is competitively priced to other specialty meat shops such as Iowa Meat Farms.
Cowboy Star's kitchen is headed by Chef Victor Jimenez. Chef Jimenez graduated from Le Cordon Blue in Paris before being recruited to San Diego by Chef Bernard Guillas to work at the US Grant Grill. Other culinary stops along the way include Dakota Grill and Spirits, Gulf Coast Grill, and Gringo's Cantina. Chef Jimenez opened JRDN before finally opening Cowboy Star.
When we perused the Restaurant Week menu, we noticed that there wasn't a lot of steak options. However, as the complete regular menu was available we decided to share 1 restaurant week as an appetizer and order a full steak as the entree.

pickled sturgeon
The amuse contained a pickled sturgeon on a baguette. The acidity in the pickling liquid of the sturgeon was a good way to open the appetite for more.

First Course:
charcuterie plate - (left to right) duck pate, sopressata, fennel sausage, chorizo salumi
with pickled vegetables and baguette
The entire charcuterie plate was house-made, which seems to be a trend that is become popular in several San Diego fine dining restaurants. My favorite item of the selection was the sopressata; the black peppercorns really brought a nice contrast to the meat to highlight its flavor. Having eaten many a charcuterie plate, I felt the pickled vegetables were a little weak as the strong aggressive pickling liquid flavor was missing to cut the richness and fat of the charcuterie. Overall, the plate was among the better charcuterie I've had in San Diego.

Second Course:
sea scallops - vanilla parsnip puree, meyer lemon sauce, leeks, petite greens
 The scallops in this dish were cooked perfectly, which allowed the natural sweetness of the scallops to be savored and enjoyed. Personally, I was not a fan of the vanilla in the parsnip puree as it seemed slightly overbalanced, but the Meyer lemon sauce was a strong counterpoint that really complemented the flavor of the scallop. The fried shoestring onions added a nice textural contrast to the dish.

Supplemental Course:
40 oz porterhouse for two
Going for broke, we ordered the porterhouse to share. We ordered the meat medium rare, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the meat was cooked to temperature perfectly.
The most impressive part of the medium rare cooking of this particular steak is that usually when the meat is that rare, the ligaments and tendons have not completed the cooking process and often make the meat hard to chew. However, the preparation at cowboy star was absolutely spot on. Having eaten many a steak, I have been consistently impressed by both the quality and consistency of the cooking at Cowboy Star.
In addition to the protein, we received two complimentary sides with the porterhouse.

Third Course:
fromage blanc cheesecake - honey poached pears
The cheesecake was prepared very well and was a nice way to end the meal. The honey that topped the cheesecake really provided a nice flourish to an already well-done cheesecake. I personally was not a big fan of the poached pairs, but enjoyed the tartness the raspberries brought to balance out the dessert.

While Cowboy Star is mostly known as a steak house, it in fact is a great restaurant in its own right. Ordering mainly non-steak items off the Restaurant Week menu, we enjoyed extremely well-prepared food. The steak ordered was an extremely high quality aged cut and cooked to absolute perfection. For those of you looking for steak on the restaurant week menu, Cowboy Star does offer a petite filet.
For having extremely high quality and consistent steaks as well as being a great restaurant on top of it, I've awarded Cowboy Star the gigabyte award.


Ikko - Interrupt

>> Thursday, January 12, 2012

Date of Dining: 9/24/2011
Price: $100 for "full" tasting menu
Location: 735 Baker St, Ste C, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

The Quick Bit:
+ Great plating and artistry
+ Fusion of classic Japanese with French technique
+ Use of decadent ingredients
Δ Temperature of some cooked dishes could have been better
Δ Could have been more thought to the progression of the omakase
Δ Desserts could have been better thought out

Because I've only awarded a terrabyte award to one restaurant to this point, I decided that for the first interrupt, a good comparison would be to another high end Japanese Restaurant from outside of San Diego. 

Ikko is run by Chef/owner Ikko Kobayashi. While most people may think of Ikko as a sushi restaurant, it is actually more of an all around Japanese fine dining restaurant; calling it a sushi restaurant would be similar to calling Cheesecake Factory a sandwich place. 

The menu at Ikko consists of several regular items as well as a rotating list of seasonal specials. If you have never been to Ikko however, the restaurant offers three choices of omakase menu at $60, $80, and $100. Being a new customer and not having tried any dishes before, I opted for the $100 omakase. However, having been there once and seeing what others ordered, I would probably order a la carte in the future to get a larger variety.

Sitting at a table and ordering the omakase, we were served what seemed to be several courses on a single plate. For ease, I have broken down the dishes in the order I enjoyed them.

First Course:
scallop with truffle and uni
This was an incredibly decadent way to start off the menu. The richness of the uni accentuated the sweetness and texture of the scallop and it was all topped off with a healthy portion of black truffle. This was my favorite item on the first plate.

Second Course:
edamame mousse with ikura and fried noodle
This dish highlighted the presentation and attention to detail that would be expected in the meal. The edamame mouse had a great combination of textures from the popping of the ikura to the chewiness of the edamame to the crunch of the noodle and the smoothness of the mousse. Unfortunately, I found myself wanting a little more flavor as this item followed the uni scallop.

Third Course:
uzu cheese with tomato and deep fried arugla
This dish seemed to be a Japanese take on a caprese. I actually enjoyed this more than a regular caprese. The cherry tomato was sweeter, the uzu added to the cheese added a citrus acidic element, and the fried arugla balanced out the flavors in both texture and flavor.

Fourth Course:
white shrimp with uzu sorbet
This dish seemed to be a take on a gazpacho. The shrimp was mixed with a tomato-based sauce and was topped with an uzu sorbet. The shrimp were extremely fresh and flavorful; their natural sweetness and flavor was a great combination with the other vegetables. I liked the counterpoint of the acidity to the cold was nice, but it might have been a little overplayed in this case as the previous course had the same combination.

Fifth Course:
sashimi selection - hirame, aji, amberjack, toro
The next course highlighted the freshness and quality of the fish served at Ikko. I found that I enjoyed the toro the most out of the particular selection. It was pointed out specifically that this toro came from the kama.

Sixth Course:
berkshire pork cheek with fried shredded potato and arugla salad
The pork cheek seemed to be smoked in preparation as it carried a nice smoky flavor. It was cooked to being very tender, but still had a very enjoyable texture to chew. The argula was a addition to balance the fattiness from the pork, which the potato added a nice textural contrast. I felt the ratio of potato to the rest was a little too much, but the dish was an overall success otherwise.

Seventh Course:
chawanmushi with black truffle and uni sauce, uni
This was the best dish of the night. While it is an easy out to pick an item with black truffle and uni, combining those items into the chawanmushi really carried out the flavor, aroma, and enjoyment of all the decadent richness. This was the perfect fusion of truffle into Japanese cuisine and it was also executed with an intense technical precision.

Eighth Course:
tempura calamari steak - mango jalapeno salsa
The technical execution on this dish was impeccable. While it is extremely easy to overcook a calamari steak, this one was cooked perfectly and allowed the calamari to retain its tenderness. The mango jalapeno salsa added a needed flavoring element as well as a subtle heat to flavor an otherwise relatively bland protein.

Ninth Course:
jumbo prawn and asparagus tempura - tempura dipping sauce mousse
The jumbo spot prawn in this dish was a real treat in both flavor and texture. The addition of the asapargus and nori added an element of umami to the dish to elevate it. The tempura sauce in mousse form was a real treat as it was a surprise and also seemed to carry the flavor of the sauce much better. This was the second best dish of the night behind the chawanmushi.

Tenth Course:
selection of nigiri sushi - maguro, sanma (pike mackerel), kinmedai (alfonsino), iberico pork, uni, foie gras

This dish was the biggest blogger mistake to date. I got so excited about the dish as it was being explained that I forgot to take a photo before eating :(

The maguro was a great quality maguro and a safe way to start off the tasting. The sanma was very flavorful and topped with a slice of ginger that complemented the fishiness of the mackerel. The kinmedai was a fish I had never tasted or even heard of before; it was packed with an intensely sweet flavor and also retained a lot of oil. It was easily my favorite slice of fish all night.
The iberico pork was cooked and topped with garlic confit. The flavor was very intense and enjoyable, and the garlic was a good counterpoint. The uni was again good, but perhaps had been overused throughout the menu. The foie was a seared foie, which was cooked perfectly and worked very nicely to top off the sushi course.

Eleventh Course A:
black sesame ice cream - hot coffee
The theme of this dish was to play off a hot and cold contrast between the ice cream and the coffee. I enjoyed the creativity and whimsical nature of the dish, but I felt that the bitterness of the dark roast coffee didn't necessarily agree with the sweetness of the ice cream.

Eleventh Course B:
vanilla ice cream with hot red bean
This dish was yet another take on the hot and cold contrast, but with a decidedly more Asian flavor profile. While the visual impact of this dish lacked when compared to the coffee, the flavors in this dish seemed to meld together better and I found myself enjoying the flavor profile more.

Overall I really enjoyed my experience at Ikko. The Japanese-French fusion and high quality ingredients really shined. I felt that the desserts were slightly weak and a small letdown in the meal, but the overall meal was extremely enjoyable. Some of the ingredients were a little overused, but since they are steady favorites and were executed well, it is hard to find fault in them. I really enjoyed the presentation of most of the dishes as well.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience at Ikko enough to award it a gigabyte award. The dishes seemed to just slightly overuse some of the same ingredients and the desserts didn't really work out for me.


About This Blog

gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
None of the reviews are meant to dissuade you from trying anything by yourself, but simply to provide information for you to make a more informed choice.
If any special treatment is provided to the blogger, full disclosure is presented at the beginning of the post.

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