Saturday, April 30, 2011
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to attend the Camarena Tequila Taco Truck Launch Party in celebration of their trucks hitting the streets LA through May 5. During this time, the Camarena Taco Trucks will delivering the Familia Camarena Tequila 100% Agave message while handing out free tequila-infused tacos and other tasty dishes.
The entire menu was executed by Chef Jose Briceno of Rivera Restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. Given how much I really have always enjoyed the food of Rivera, which you can see here and here, I had a feeling that that I wouldn't be disappointed with the truck's offerings.
While there I was able to sample everything from the truck's menu starting with the Camarena Reposado Tequila-Infused Red and Yellow Pepper Soup. Not only was it pretty to look at, it tasted good. It was also light, which means that it's a great spring/summer soup.
The Camarena Reposado Tequila-Infused Black Bean Tostadito with Pineapple Salsa and Cilantro had a nice punch of flavor for something that you could eat in a couple of bites.
Then of course, there's the Chicken Taco with Camarena Silver Tequila-Infused Red Cabbage and Jicama Slaw. I've definitely had my share of great, good and so-so tacos. I'd put this in the good category. The chicken tasted a bit under seasoned, but the bed of black beans and chipotle that it was sitting on plus the slaw were great supporting players and overall, the taco was better for it.
Of everything I had that night, my favorite was the Elote Flan with Camarena Silver Tequila-Infused Salsa Verde and Roasted Corn Salsa. The flan was sweet, light and airy and honestly, if I happened to run into the truck, that's the dish I'd go for.
To top it off, we even had I Heart Pies on hand to try.
Unfamiliar with Familia Camarena Tequila? With a legacy of six generations of tequila making experience, Familia Camarena Tequila is made from 100 percent Blue Agave grown in the Los Altos Highlands region of Jalisco, one of Mexico's most prestigious tequila districts.
Produced in Arandas at the family-owned and operated distillery, each bottle is double distilled, as well as bottled, labeled and packaged by hand. The Familia Camarent Requila portfolio includes a 100% Blue Agave Silver and a 100% Blue Agave Resposado, which is aged for a minimum of two months in both new and used American oak barrels. For more info, visit them at www.tequilacamarena.com.
Now that you've learned a little more about Familia Camarena Tequila, check out some of the pictures from the party below.
Remember, the Camarena Tequila Taco Trucks are only here until May 5, so if you want to know where they are at all times, follow them on Facebook or Twitter.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
It's amazing how circumstances can sometimes bring a new restaurant into your radar. If I hadn't been part of the whole Bay2LA experience, I wouldn't have met blogger, Asian Clark Kent, who told all of us about Kazuyo Sushi, a Filipino-owned restaurant where Chef Joe Cubangbang merges a little bit of Filipino into some of the Japanese dishes on their menu. You can read Asian Clark Kent's own blog post about Kazuyo Sushi by clicking here. There's actually quite a back story as to how Kazuyo Sushi came about and you can see that story at the YouTube video below.
After hearing all the raves about Kazuyo Sushi, I knew it was a place I wanted to check out, so once a date and time was set, a lunch at Kazuyo was soon on the books for yet another Filipino Tweatup. Suffice to say, it was an epic tasting menu where we were able to sample a lot of delicious bites from their menu, starting with the Calamari Salad made withspicy mayo glazed calamari, spring mixed greens, kaiware (sprouted daikon radish seeds), cucumber and tomato with a ponzu dressing. Forget the salad part, I could have easily just eaten that glazed calamari in a bowl of rice and I would have been perfectly happy.
Following the Calamari Salad came their Miso Soup. The Filipino twist to this soup is more about the addition of vegetables that aren't traditional in miso soup, but are traditional in Sinigang, a Filipino sour soup. So along with the tofu, seaweed and green onions, you'll also get a spoonful of broth that includes vegetables like eggplant, carrots and onions. This miso soup is also made from scratch without an instant packet in sight.
After enjoying the soup, we were presented with a plate that had two items on it. One was a piece from their Banzai Roll. The Banzai Roll is a loose interpretation of the embutido. Embutido is basically a rolled pork meatloaf that is formed around a hard-boiled egg and vienna sausages and is steamed. You can see what it looks like by clicking here. However, the Banzai roll is made up of spicy tuna and is formed around avocado and yamagobo (burdock root) and baked with a dynamite sauce. The one piece we got really had me craving for more.
Also on the plate was the Baked Mussel with Dynamite Sauce. When it came to the Dynamite Sauce for both dishes, I really liked the fact that the sauce wasn't too sweet and had just the right amount of garlic and chili to give it a kick without being too overwhelming.
Up next was a plate that consisted of a Spiced Up Yellowtail Sashimi with jalapeño and mint, served with onion ponzu, a Firecracker Roll with crab mix wrapped in salmon and the Yuzusoy on White Tuna, a white tuna sashimi with yuzu soy, cilantro and garlic chips. When it comes to sashimi, I'm usually fine with it coming unadorned so that I can just dip it in soy sauce.
However, I have to say the sauces for both the Yellowtail and White Tuna Sashima were just enough to add flavor without detracting from the freshness of the fish. Plus the addition of the garlic chip to the White Tuna really added a little something extra. I also liked the creativity of wrapping the crab in the salmon. That's the first time I've ever seen that done.
Another threesome arrived in the form of Spicy Albacore, Seared Garlic Albacore Sashimi and Peppered Tuna Sashimi.
Two of the sashimi items were served with toppings. I don't recall sashimi being served that way before and I liked it. The Spicy Albacore was topped with crispy onions served with wasabi ponzu sauce and I did enjoy the contrasting textures of the fried onions and the fish.
The Peppered Tuna Sashimi was topped with crispy spinach, momiji oroshi (grated daikon radish) that was seasoned with jalapeno, a japanese spice blend with ponzu sauce. This was one tuna sashimi that threw me a palate party.
A bite of the Seared Garlic Albacore Sashimi quickly reminded me of Adobo, a dish where the basic ingredients include a protein that is stewed with garlic, soy sauce and black peppercorns.
Following this trio was a quintet of items, also on one plate.
One of which was the Red Rock Roll with spicy fried tempura prawns and crab on top of a California Roll. This particular roll is not regularly on the menu. It's a special roll that shows up periodically on the specials board and is an inspiration for the time that Chef Joe worked in Las Vegas. In fact, be sure to check out the specials when you go into Kazuyo Sushi if you want to try something original. By the way, I liked the addition of the raw jalapeno slivers to add just a touch of heat.
I also had a taste of their Baked Crab Roll with a crab mix baked in dynamite sauce in soy paper. Considering all the bolder flavors I've been enjoying so far, this one was a little too mild for my taste.
One of the most popular dishes at Kazuyo is their Popcorn Lobster with crab, avocado, cucumber rolls topped with deep-fried lobster tossed with chef’s special sauce. Although I couldn't necessarily taste the lobster underneath the frying and the sauce, I still liked this dish. There's a texture to the fried lobster that reminded me of Kyochon fried chicken that I love and again, the sauce is on the money.
Another offering was the grilled eggplant served with miso sauce. Nothing fancy, but I liked how it was prepared so simply and also tasted good.
The last item on that plate was the Spicy Tuna Biscuit which is spicy tuna and pepper on top of crispy rice. The texture of the tuna biscuit is similar to Bibingka Malagit, a dessert made with sticky glutinous rice; however, Chef Joe adds wine so that the caramelization of the rice will be a better flavor match to the spice of the tuna.
You'd think we were done, but then we were presented with the gorgeous looking Kazuyo Roll. The work that went into putting this roll together must have been so time consuming. Basically, this roll consists of yellowtail, salmon, tuna, white tuna, shrimp, and soft-shell crab, avocado and tobiko (flying fish roe) wrapped with cucumber. The presentation was so pretty that no one even wanted to touch it at first. If you want a little bit of everything, this is a must order.
After the eye-catching Kazuyo Roll, the beef and chicken teriyaki plate that came next seemed so ordinary in comparison. In truth, I don't remember much about the teriyaki because I was really full, so I just had a small bite of each protein. It's good to know that if you're dining with someone who doesn't like fish, at least, there are other options available.
Dessert came in the form of Banana Won Ton and ice cream. The Banana Won Ton is just as it sounds like. It's banana fried in a won ton wrapper and topped with caramel. It's definitely a cousin to Turon, which is banana and sometimes jackfruit wrapped in a sugared (for caramelization purposes) lumpia wrapper and fried. This was definitely a great way to end the meal.
But no, we're not done yet. Curiosity drove us to also try their ramen, which apparently is soup that is prepped like ramen, but with seasonings that are usually used to make Filipino Mami Soup. I did taste this soup, but I think my palate was just overloaded, because I can't remember what it tasted like. So if you happen to go to Kazuyo Sushi and try their ramen, let me know what you think.
Overall, I really enjoyed my meal at Kazuyo Sushi and I definitely want to go back and try even more of their dishes. I loved how Chef Joe added some touches of Filipino culture to his food. It was obvious that he wasn't doing that just for the sake of being different. He really thought it out and that resulted in a delicious Filipino-Japanese fusion in his dishes that made sense and made my taste buds happy. So thanks to Chef Joe for his food and to his lovely wife, Angie, who I made the arrangements with for this meal.
Here's to another successful Tweatup and with more to follow.
7160 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Friday, April 22, 2011
I first heard about Natas Pastries 4 years ago as being the only Portuguese Bakery in town. That intrigued me so much that I set up a Pastry Tasting with them for my dining group, which you can read about by clicking here.
Jump forward a few years later and Natas Pastries expanded their bakery to include a full-blown Portuguese restaurant. For a return visit, Natas Owner, Fatima Marques, put together a "Tour of Portugal" menu so that my dining group and I could get a taste of Portuguese cuisine. The meal started with a sip or two from a refreshing sangria.
Our first appetizer arrived in the form of Cafe Marinated Olives; nice, salty-briny bites to get your palate going.
The olives were followed by Pasteis de Bacalhau, which are Salt Cod Cakes. Think Crab Cakes without the crab. The fish's batter could have been a bit crispier, but the salt cod itself was tasty, moist and flaky.
What came next were Chouricos Grelhados, which were grilled Portuguese sausages with pickled vegetables. You really can't go wrong with grilled sausages, but serving them with the pickled vegetables was an interesting touch. It was definitely a blend of textures and flavors with the caramelization and meatiness of the sausages paired with the vinegary, crunchy texture of the vegetables.
Soup was next on the agenda and it came in the form of a Kale and Mashed Potato Soup. What was different for me regarding this dish was that there weren't chunks of potatoes in the soup itself. Instead, the potatoes were used more as a thickener; however, you could absolutely taste the potatoes with each spoonful along with the kale. I liked the soup, but personally, I felt it needed a little more seasoning. Perhaps, a little pepper?
Our fifth dish was like Surf and Turf, but all mixed in a stew and I'm talking about the Carne de Porco and Alentejana, which was a Pork, Potatoes and Clam Stew. It's the kind of dish that as a Filipina, I would have loved to eat with rice and although a tad oily, I was a happy to dip my bread in the wine-based sauce and of course, how could I say no to fried pork.
The last savory dish of our meal was the Bacalhau Com Natas aka Baked Salt Cod with Potatoes and Cream. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling this dish. It's really a preferential thing. When it comes to fish, I like it fried, grilled or roasted.If it is baked, I like it much simpler without heavy sauces, cream or otherwise. I did want to try this dish to see if I'd like it, but it just wasn't my cup of tea.
With a name liked Natas, desserts are of course, going to be wonderful and they were. Our first dessert were Natas, which are traditional Portuguese desserts and are basically egg tarts. I loved the flakiness of the pastry, the caramelization from torching of the custard's surface and of course, the creaminess of the custard itself. Yum!
For our last course and second dessert, we all got to try the Salame de Chocolate, which is a Chocolate and Butter Biscotti dipped in Chocolate. By the way, don't let the "Biscotti" fool you. This Salame de Chocolate is more cake-like in its texture and I absolutely loved it. Natas definitely hit two home runs in the dessert department.
Overall, it was a nice meal and I definitely tried some things I've never had before and if you'd like your own of Foodie Tour of Portugal, stop by Natas. They're open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and you can check out their menu by clicking here.
13317 Ventura Boulevard #D
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423