Monday, November 30, 2009

San Pedro: San Pedro Fish Market

The San Pedro Fish Market is located on the Port of Los Angeles and has been in operation for more than 30 years. The Fish Market is the place to go to for fresh fish in the Harbor area and offers retail and wholesale fish, ready-to-eat seafood fare and restaurant and banquet services.

A few years ago, Marc and I stumbled upon this place while we were exploring the area and have been coming back ever since. The Fish Market is known for its Shrimp Tray (shown above). What makes this place unique is the option to customize your seafood fare from their broad variety of fresh seafood.

This place has everything. From lobster tails and king crab legs to shrimp, clams and fresh fish.

Once you've decided what to order, you can add additional sides like vegetables & potatoes and garlic bread.

After that, your seafood and additions are cooked on the premise and served within a few minutes (a little longer if there are large crowds). The signature seasoning is a secret recipe that was developed over 20 years which put the Fish Market on the map.

Seating is located indoors or outdoors on the pier where you can watch the cruise ships leave the port.

2 lbs of Shrimp with Vegetables and Garlic Bread & Fried Tilapia

Things to know:
  • Open daily at 11am with free parking.
  • There are many fish market stands in the Ports O Call Village. Look for the San Pedro Fish Market which is located toward the end of the marketplace.
  • Shrimp Tray: We recommend ordering the shrimp without the shell. It's a bit more expensive but less messy to eat.
  • The average cost of a shrimp tray is $30 for 1 lbs of Medium shrimp with vegetables, potatoes and 1 loaf of garlic bread.
  • Fried fish is also a good option if the shrimp tray is too much for you.
  • If you plan on eating outdoors, note that there are birds and seagulls waiting for your yummy leftovers.
  • There are also drink stands in the marketplace serving smoothies and alcohol. Foodie favs: Pineapple and Strawberry. Prices range from $6 to $12.
  • The Shrimp Trays are now available at selected Gonzales Northgate Markets for $13.99 (or $9.99 with a coupon). Stores: 17, 21, 24 and 25. Click here for store directions. Go to the San Pedro Fish Market website to download the coupon for $4.00 off.
San Pedro Fish Market at Ports O Call Village
1190 Nagoya Way
San Pedro, CA 90731

Wisconsin: L'Etoile Restaurant, Fall Menu

Last June, I dined at L'Etoile while visiting our offices in Madison, Wisconsin (see post here). A few weeks ago, I went back with my boss Steve who inspired me to write this blog.

This time around I've gotten over my camera shyness and took out my big camera and shot away. Unfortunately, the lighting in the restaurant was pretty dim. As the night went on, it seemed the room was getting dimmer every minute.

Since Steve and I were undecided on where to eat at in Madison, I didn't make any reservations. After comparing menus from Harvest and L'Etoile, L'Etoile was clearly the winner. After walking up the stairs to their main dining room, we found we came in a few minutes early. The bar area was open for business so we decided to hang out there until the main dining room was ready.

I ended up getting a non-alcoholic drink which was like a lemonade infused with rosemary. I totally forgot the name of the drink but it was seriously good.

So finally, some photos of our meal here.

Canapé: Hickory Nut Crackers
Topped with Herbed Goat Cheese, and Hickory Nuts from Ray's Hickory Nuts

Bee Charmer Fairy Pumpkin-Curry Soup - $10.50
With King Crab in Cilantro-Coconut Beurre Monte

Pan-Roasted Silver River Whey-fed Chicken - $35
With Prsley Potatoes, Baby Turnips, Carrots, Willow Creek Farm Bacon Lardons, Mushrooms, Cipollini Onions, Snug Haven Spinach and Black Truffle-Cognac Jus

Fennel Pollen & Orange Scented Fluke - $34
With Roasted Harmony Valley Gold & Chioggia Beets, Braised Harmony Valley Cabbage and Fingerling Potatoes, finished with Orange-Rye Brown Butter & Grape Must

Wisconsin Artisan Cheeses - $12
Served with Toasted Honey-Walnut Bread and Future Fruit Cox Orange Pippin & Fuji Apples

Cheeses (from right to left)
  1. Hollands' Family Farm Marieke Gouda (Cow)
  2. Bleu Mont Dairy Bandaged Cheddar Reserved (Cow)
  3. Bleu Mont Dairy Vermont Valley Tomme (C0w)

Homemade fiddle-faddle, chocolate-covered bacon and raspberry currant gelee

Afterthoughts: L'Etoile is essentially my favorite restaurant in Madison and can honestly say has blown away my experience at Chez Panisse. The staff and service was attentive and accommodating. I like the fact that the menu is seasonal so no matter how many times you would come here, the menu will be different even their cocktail list. My boss stated it was one of the best meals he's had and will plan on coming back more often. So will I :)

25 N Pinckney St
Madison, WI 53703-2871

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Las Vegas: L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

Last week, luck has it that Marc was traveling to Las Vegas to work at a client site, MGM Grand. This was my second trip to Las Vegas this month after coming back from Wisconsin and Chicago the week prior. Joël Robuchon was simply not on the radar since I essentially booked my flight the night before.

On my last night in Las Vegas (last Sunday), we initially had plans to have dinner at Rao's in Caesar's Palace. Unfortunately, Marc was unable to make it due to work issues so I had to dine alone. Soon I realized that I couldn't eat Italian food all by myself so I walked down to the casino floor to scope out my options.

1. Dining alone.
2. Not in a rush for time.
3. The meal needs to be memorable.

Answer: Joël Robuchon

Lady luck was on my side when I went to L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon as they were accepting walk-ins. I figured this meal can be a precursor to booking a reservation at its much bigger restaurant, Joel Robuchon at the Mansion, during my birthday weekend next March.

In 2003, Joël Robuchon ("Mr. Chef of the Century") introduced a new concept of dining. During his travels to Asia, specifically Japan, Robuchon was facinated by the traditional way sushi was served at counter style by master chefs.

From its elegant presentation of each order to the wonderful flavors and ambiance of a sushi bar, thus L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon was born.

The concept was a kitchen opened on a circular bar with 36 seats allowing diners to follow the service and watch the succession of dishes as well as composing their own meal based on their appetite.

The menu consists of classic French dishes in small, tapas-style portions. The staff is attentive yet casual. The service adheres to its highest standards, nothing less than what you'll find at a 3-star restaurant. High-quality cuisine in a friendly, unpretentious environment (Source: Joël Robuchon).

The kitchen at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas is manned by Executive Chef, Steve Benjamin, whom also worked the kitchen at its Paris location (seen above on the left).

As soon as you are seated, you are given several menus to customize your meal. I chose the Menu Decouverte (aka Discovery Menu). It's a 9-course prix fixe menu, but you can add additional courses from its la carte menu. Click here for an enlarged version.

I started off with cocktails rather than a wine pairing at each course.

From top to bottom:
  • Framboise Mojito - $15
  • El Dolche - $15
  • Glass of Banylus - $22

House made pain de epi with savory butter (not pictured)

Foie gras parfait with port wine and parmesan foam

Le Crabe Royal
King crab on a turnip disc with a sweet and sour sauce

La Saint-Jacques
Sea scallop cooked in the shell with chive oil

La Cebette
White onion tart with smoked bacon and grilled mushrooms

Le Foie Gras
Duck foie gras with confit quince and yuzu

La Sole
Dover sole filet, baby leek with ginger

Add on: Le Burger - $32.00
Beef and foie gras burgers with caramelized bell peppers

La Caille
Foie gras stuffed free-range quail with truffled-mashed potatoes

Le Pamplemousse
Grapefruit infused with Prosecco, lychee sorbet

Chocolate cake cremeux layered with espresso ice cream and roasted almonds

After thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised and amazed with the meal. The Le Burgers (beef & foie gras burgers) were one of the highlights of the meal as well as the desserts. Simple ingredients and not too flashy. Who would have thought grapefruit would be delicious as a dessert.

I think the best part of the whole experience was the service. My server Eric S. was friendly and very accommodating by anticipating my every request. Decisions were made easy and when I wasn't sure what cocktails or wines to pair, he was there to guide me.

At the end, Chef Steve Benjamin was kind enough to sign my menu in front of me (ok, not exactly in front of me) but I can clearly see him spending the time signing it and handing it to me in person which was a nice touch to memorable evening.

It was probably the first time I've seen an Executive Chef standing before me more than once. Ok, maybe the VIPs sitting next to me helped. But still, it was a memorable experience and I would definitely come back. Maybe sooner than later since we're spending the Christmas holiday in...Vegas!

Now the question is, how do we get VIP status? :)

Things to know:
  • Average tasting menus start at $75 while the menu decorverte is $148. The worthwhile option: go with the Menu Decorverte.
  • In a rush? The L'Unique menu is a 3-course menu for $39 and served within 15 minutes. Available daily until 6:45pm.
  • Feeling lucky and don't like what you see on the Menu Decorverte? Create your own from the Ala Carte menu. Note: Le Burger costs $32 which includes two burgers and fries.
  • The restaurant has a large array of wine selections by the glass. Don't be afraid to ask.
  • Reservations are highly recommended for the high season (e.g. fight nights, holidays, etc). Show up early to guarantee a seat.
  • The restaurant is open daily from 5:30pm to 10:30pm Sun-Thur and 5:00pm to 10:30pm Fri-Sat.
  • Don't rely on the online reservation system. It may show a packed house but it may not be. Call the Concierge desk or walk over to the restaurant.
  • The restaurant is located near the KA Theatre, across from Wolfgang Puck's Bar & Grill at the MGM Grand. Walk toward the High Limit Slots section and Nobhill Tavern.
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon
3799 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109


Monday, November 23, 2009

Las Vegas: Payard Patisserie

Just a few feet from the Payard dining room is their patisserie which has many different counters that offers various signature sweets such as chocolates, desserts, pastries and ice cream.

Anticipate a long line here, especially during the brunch hour. Payard also offers specialty cakes to fit any occasion.

In the middle of the shop is a chocolate clock. The clock is programmed to drop three individually wrapped truffles every hour.

Across from the chocolate clock is the chocolate counter where you can sample a complimentary Payard Truffle. Tables surround the area and are filled with Payard specialty products such as teas, chocolates, candies, perfumes, macarons and mini chocolate fondue sets.

Freshly baked pastries such as croissants, bagels and muffins are served all day until 11pm.

Craving something sweet? There are many selections to choose from. The homemade gelato and made to-order crepes are tempting but the star of the shop are the decadent desserts. If you can't choose one, why not take two!

Freshly Baked Croissant - $4.00

Sicilian - $7.00
Madeleine sponge cake filled with cream cheese mousse, cranberry jam and a dusting of ground sicilian pistachios, topped with a cream cheese crumble.

Things to know:
  • The pastry counter is opened from 6:30am to 11:00pm. It also serves sandwiches for $10 which is cheaper than having it at the bistro. I highly recommend the Croque Monsieur.
  • Saturday to Monday the retail store opens at 6:00am.
  • Anticipate long lines between 11am to 1pm.
  • You can find the dessert pastry menu here. Not all desserts are available daily. I highly recommend the Sicilian.
  • Ample seating can be found surrounding the patisserie.
Payard Patisserie & Bistro
3570 Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89136