Saturday, April 16, 2011
Yes, I admit it. I love watching Hell's Kitchen, but then I'm a cooking reality show nut. For someone who really isn't a cook herself, I'm enthralled by everything from Top Chef (Original, Masters and Just Desserts) to Chopped to Cake Boss and so forth. So when I received an invitation to meet Chef Nona Sivley, Season 8 Hell's Kitchen Winner at her new digs, the LA Market and also be hosted for dinner and wine, how could I say no?
Currently located in the JW Marriott Lobby at LA Live, it's an airy restaurant that some of my dining partners compared to the look and ambiance of Vegas restaurants.
One piece of furniture I really did love was the long wooden table we all sat at for this dinner and depending on where you're sitting, you could even get a good view of Chef Sivley cooking in the kitchen.
The meal started with bread and I have to say that I could have easily eaten several of their pretzel rolls, but I did manage to restrain myself to just one, okay, maybe two, but that's all.
Just before reaching for a third pretzel roll, two dishes arrived to save me. One was the Wok Charred Edamame with Ginger Sea Salt. I did like the char on the edamame although I couldn't quite taste the ginger in the sea salt.
The other item was the Seared Mild Shishito Peppers with sea salt, chili and lime. It was nice to have a little bit of heat to wake up our tastebuds.
Appropriately, the Tuna Dynamite with lump crab, tuna, sushi rice and red chili aioli hit our table just in time for something refreshing and cooling which was welcome after I had too many Shishito Peppers. I also appreciated the generosity of the lump crab topping. No skimping there.
One of my favorite salads is actually a wedge salad, so I was happy to see the Iceberg Wedge with ranch, crumbled Point Reyes blue cheese and applewood smoked bacon. This salad only works if the iceberg wedge itself is fresh and crunchy and it was. There's nothing life changing about this salad, but sometimes, a classic done well is still enough to make my taste buds happy.
If you're a cheese lover, the Local Burrata with virgin olive oil, grilled farm bread and marinated tomatoes might make you a happy camper, but as a cheese lover, it didn't do much for me. While I liked the freshness of the burrata, there was something a little lacking in this dish. Namely, it was missing flavor. Even with the marinated tomatoes, it felt like a whole bowl of just bland.
From cheese to Veal and Ricotta Meatballs with tomato sauce, garlic soft polenta and aged California white cheddar cheese. The meatballs had a light spongy texture which wasn't bad although I prefer more dense meatballs in general; however, I absolutely couldn't get enough of that garlic polenta with the cheese.
My favorite appetizer of the night came in the form of the Gnocchi and Lump Crab with Truffle Parmesan Cream. The interplay of flavors between the sharp, nutty and slight woodsiness of the cream, the sweetness of the crab and the fruity-tartness of the kumquats really did it for me.
After the appetizers, our group shared five main dishes and two vegetable sides before dessert. My favorite main dish of the meal was the Brick Organic Chicken with organic farro, braised beet greens and citrus jus. I loved the crispy skin and that the chicken itself was moist and tender, even the breast meat. I also liked how the slight bitterness of the beet greens went well with the citrus jus.
Another main was Chef Simon's signature dish, the Sushi Pizza with wasabi, tuna, crab and avocado. I thought the concept was interesting, but sushi on bread just seemed a little odd to me. It just wasn't my cup of tea, although I do enjoy sushi.
One thing I should also mention is that the menu is primarily a creation of Chef Kerry Simon; however, some of Chef Sivley's dishes will soon be making their way on the LA Market menu. One such dish is the Grilled Ribeye with roasted garlic polenta, mache, pea shoot salad and molasses glazed bacon. Bacon on top of a Ribeye? Genius. Some may think it's overkill, but a carnivore like me certainly appreciated that extra touch.
From land to sea came the Fish of the Day, which that night was a Black Cod over lentils. I only had a little bite of the fish, but liked that the surface of the fish was crisped up; yet, still tender in the inside.
Our final main dish of the meal was the Braised Short Rib with soft potato puree and asparagus. Again, it's a classic dish without any fireworks, but with meat that is meltingly tender, that's good enough for me.
As for the two vegetable sides I mentioned earlier, one was their Market Vegetables, which I found uninteresting. The other vegetable side was the Sauteed Forest Mushrooms, which I didn't think needed to be on a thick slice of bread. Either it should be on its own or perhaps it's better suited as an appetizer with the grilled bread as a side to the mushrooms.
By now, we've had quite a bit of food, but we still had to save room for dessert. A playful take on childhood snacks was Chef Simon's Junk Food Platter with cotton candy, caramel corn and more.
Chef Sivley also contributed to dessert with her Red Velvet Cake with Queso Fundido. I still don't quite understand why some people are so gaga about Red Velvet anything, but I have to say that at least, the cake itself was soft and moist and the cream cheese wasn't too overly sweet. For all that, it's a darn good cake.
Overall, there were hits and misses to this menu, but for the most part, I enjoyed the meal and I would go back to see what Chef Sivley has in store for the menu.
LA Market at JW Marriott Hotel
900 West Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90015