Monthly Archives: October 2011

Review: n/naka

n/naka. Chef Niki Nakayama’s temple to modern kaiseki. On a quiet stretch of Overland sits the gastronomic wonderland, devoid of signage out front as if to say that what you will experience within needs no introduction.

For those uninitiated, Kaiseki is a multi-course Japanese dinner using fresh, seasonal ingredients. The food is art and the artistry of plating each dish in a harmonious manner is of utmost importance. In the hands of Chef Nakayama, this is dinner theatre.

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In the old World Cafe space is this new American swathed in whites.  The same great outdoor patio spiffed up, the inside dining area looks like The Viceroy by way of the color grey.  It’s a clean space, perhaps a bit spartan.   Given they have just opened more decorating may be in the offing.  The lounge portion is low slung chairs and tables from which to sample their cocktail, beer and wine list.

Friendly staff, some head bopping music with which to enjoy a sun drenched lunch, not the worst way to head into the weekend.

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When The Monster samples a new cuisine he likes to test himself about what he may know of the place, the people, the culture. So it happens last night there was finally an opportunity to try out Flavors of Belize, a colorful restaurant attached to the also colorful (but for entirely different reasons) Relax Inn. That the name Relax Inn is the utmost in irony will have to be saved for another day.

So Belize. What does The Monster know about it? It’s south of Mexico. Also bordered by Guatemala. They speak English in Belize. And…that about covers it. What did The Monster learn last night…?

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Buffalo chicken mac n’ cheese with Craftsman 1903 buffalo beer whiz, blue cheese, chicken breast, crispy chicken skin (two orders); buttermilk fried chicken with roasted corn aioli (two orders); rosemary buffalo chicken wings (x12); grilled broccoli with Craftsman 1903 beer whiz; duck fat fries with smoked salt, sweet onion sugar, duck skin cracklins, raspberry mustard topped by duck confit; brussel sprouts with white truffle oil and toasted almonds (two orders); catfish and chips beer-battered in Cismontane Citizen, shrimp gumbo tartar sauce; Beer Belly grilled cheese quad deck 4×4 with cheddar, gruyere, asiago, goat cheese, bacon, maple syrup; deep fried Oreos with nutella, vanilla ice cream (two orders); deep fried Twinkies with strawberry puree, vanilla ice cream.  Assorted beers, two bottles of red wine.

That is the order at Beer Belly in Koreatown (on this night that’s pretty much the entire menu).  The Monster f-ing loves it!  Would marry it and have high calorie kids with it if not for Mrs. Monster.  Would write sonnets about it if that were not weird…

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The only customer for lunch at Gangadin in the valley as the piped in Indian music keeps The Monster company.  The lone fan isn’t doing much good as it’s 156 degrees in here.  This will be a sweat and eat affair.  Hate that. 

The menu is fairly standard though a separate vegan menu is a nice touch.  Chances of ordering off that menu are the same as willingly engaging in debate about the Occupy Movement or betting that one day Lindsay Lohan will win an Oscar but nevertheless The Monster gives kudos to the restaurant for catering to those who would appreciate.

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Way up north by Point Dume is Zagat best newcomer for 2012, Savory.  Its strip mall location beside a Subway belies its serious farmers market and seasonal menu.  Inside it’s light wood floors, large banquettes and some seriously ugly art.  There is also a large enclosed patio to enjoy nice evenings from which you can obscure yourself from the drek art that proves some people need new hobbies and others should ask for decorating help.

So, will Savory live up to the hype?

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Ohio doesn’t much if any have Peruvians.  Hence, Ohio growing up Ohio didn’t have Peruvian food.  The Monster’s infatuation with it was born of Mario’s Peruvian. 

Mario’s came well before any of the new chi-chi Peruvian served at Picca or Osaka or Mo-Chica or Chimu.  It’s an ugly, hot place with impossible parking and indifferent service.  And it’s invariably packed.

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After reading about Darabar Secret Thai Cuisine yesterday The Monster gets lucky having a meeting in Hollywood that very day.  So a trek out to Thai Town is in order to check it out.

Standard issue mini-mall location with  most unusual decor for the area.  Concrete floors, large pleather banquettes, overstuffed chairs, chandeliers gracing the ceiling.  It’s a study in brown that for this neck of the woods offers up a bit of elegance where most places offer up a study in grunge.  But will the decor be a harbinger for greatness or will The Monster pass by Jitlada and Red Corner Asia with an ache in his heart?

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The Monster is lazy.  It’s a Sunday morning, he’s meeting friends for brunch and he has visions of a buffet filled with delectable eats.  But he also feels the hangover, has a ton of work to do and doesn’t really want the day to involve anything where driving acumen has to come into play.  It feels like the kind of day where driving any lengths will surely involve some sort of accident.

So not terribly far away is Whist at The Viceroy.  A few years back The Monster remembers a Sunday brunch that while not on par with the Four Seasons, would do the trick in a pinch.

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Gastropub is the term of the moment in the argot of food cognoscenti.  It’s the high end food/good drinks concept that really took off with places like Father’s Office in LA and The Spotted Pig in New York.  At the time of their opening these were revelations.  You could eat fantastic food and do it wearing shorts and your college t-shirt.  There might even be a TV playing the game above the bar.  Nowadays gastropubs are everywhere; Waterloo and City/The York/The Six/Ford’s Filling Station/Larry’s and on the list goes.

What seemed the least likely entry into the fray is Next Door by Josie.  For anyone who has been to Josie, it can be tremendous food/dead environment.  It is the antithesis of the relaxed, convivial, neighborhood spot that gastropubs aspire to be.  So The Monster gave it a go with mixed feelings going in.

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