Friday, February 23, 2007

Figaro Cafe

My grandfather was a butcher. He loved meat. He loved it so much that he used to smear fat across his toast instead of butter. I guess it comes as no surprise that he died of a heart attack.

I love meat too. It's in my genes. So, it was inevitable that I was one day going to consume the quintessential meat dish: Steak Tartare.

It was just my luck when the chef at Figaro Cafe (1802 N Vermont Ave.) prepared steak tartare as a special for their menu. I was going to give it a go. I also enjoyed the fact that I was dining with a table of vegetarians. The look on their faces when my entree arrived was fucking hilarious. They were horrified and repulsed.

There's no elegant way to plate Steak Tartare. It's a heap of blood red ground beef topped with a raw egg, seasoned with dressing and chopped onion. I kept taking small bites slowly waiting to be grossed out, but I wasn't. It's quite eating sashimi. My only thought was that Steak Tartare is a little too much to eat as an entree. It would probably work better as an appetizer. I prefer just a pinch of raw, bovine flesh before dinner. Eating it as an entree, made me feel too much like a elegant caveman though, as this is French restaurant.

Figaro Cafe is a beautiful restaurant. It looks like they imported the interior from an original 1920's French cafe, walls and everything. It's also quite a popular brunch spot. Many of my associates, however, feel that the dinner menu is overpriced for the quality of their food. I like it. But, when it comes to French food, I much prefer Cafe Stella.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pho Cafe

Ah, lovely. a big bowl of Pho. It's like medicine isn't it ? Perfect for when you're getting over a cold or dodging a hangover. It's nice on a cool summer evening with a beer. And, it's even better when it's cold and rainy outside...with a little bit of warm sake.

I like Pho Cafe (2841 Sunset Blvd.) even though it's Pho for white people. If you like the real authentic stuff, head over to Pho 79 in Alhambra. But, if you're more of the Prius-driving, Chai-Tea Latte drinking set, or if you have one of them vegetarians in your party, then Pho Cafe is for you.

Keep in mind, the hip factor is a little on the high side. It's in a downtrodden strip mall. The design is minimalist and chic. There's no sign on the building. It's populated with a young and cool Silverlake crowd and the tables are close together so you are forced to eavesdrop on your neighbors conversations, which has its good and bad points, I guess.

I love getting the pho with the meatballs. I toss in all the basil and sprouts, add a little hotsauce and go to town. delicious. I also recommend the vegetarian crepe to start. All very tasty. And don't forget, it's 'cash only'. The ATM at the neighboring liquor store charges a high fee.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


There's quite a large Fillipino population in Los Angeles. And there is a sizable population in the Eagle Rock area too. In fact, some leaders of the Fillipino community tried to get a section of Eagle Rock re-named 'Phillipine Village' in 2002. The effort failed, but the community is growing and with that growth, a few Fillipino restaurants have popped up in the area. The one you should try is Alejandros (4126 Verdugo Rd.)

When I first walked into Alejandros, I was a bit put off. The ambiance is unappealing. It feels like the space used to be a medical supply store. The design is pretty downmarket. There's a handful of booths and a makeshift bamboo bar where they concoct some of the most unusual smoothies with fruits like banana, mango, canataloupe and get this...corn. Yes, I ordered the corn smoothie. It was served with a huge Boba straw, so that I can suck up all the corn kernels. It was sweet and creamy. It reminded me of baby food. Ah, those were the days.

I've never tried Fillipino food so I needed a little help from the wait staff. I asked them to get me a bunch of different things. I sampled the Crispy Chicken, the Ginisang Sitaw (sauteed green beans with shrimp and pork) and the Beef Kaldereta, which were big chunks of beef with lots peppers and herbs. The food was good. The staff was friendly and helpful. I definitely want to come back and try some of the more adventurous things on the menu.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

House of Pies

It's 1:15am. My cell phone rings. It wakes me. I stumble off my bar stool, leave some coins on the bar and wobble outside to answer the phone. I hear a voice on the other end.

"Dude. Key Lime Pie"

I wipe the sleep from eyes trying to recognize the voice on the other end. It's my drinking associate Johnny and he needs a slice of Key Lime Pie.

"Come get me." I say with the most urgent tone in my voice.

Five minutes later, Johnny collects me from the curb of Jumbo's Clown Room and ferries us both toward Los Feliz. We smoke a few stale cigars in the car and within minutes we arrive at House of Pies (1869 N. Vermont Ave.)

We stake our claim at the counter and order coffee. A cup of coffee tastes so god damned good at two o'clock in the morning. Within minutes we each had a gigantic slice of Key Lime Pie sitting in front of us.

The first bite is like tasting the clouds with its fluffy, meringue topping. Then comes the filling. It is SO wrong yet SO right at the same time. How can something so acidic like limes be cooked up with cream and milk ? I'll tell you how: The inventor of the key lime pie is a fucking genius. He went against the convention. He broke all the rules. But, comes the finale...the Crumble-y graham cracker base. heavenly. cosmic.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Canele (3219 Glendale Blvd.) is my new favorite restaurant. Located in the Atwater Village space formerly occupied by Osterio Nonni, Canele is the brain child of former Lucque chef, Corina Weibel.

Her California/Mediterranean cuisine is fantastic. The celery root salad is a must. I've never had celery root before and while I was gobbling down this salad, I was wondering why celery root wasn't more common. It was so crisp and fresh...a divine taste sensation.

My favorite entree is the beef tenderloin served sliced with a pan roasted broccoli rabe and yummy pommes anna. The broccoli is so incredible. It has a sweet, slightly carmelized texture. I love it so much that I have been inspired to try and re-create it in my own kitchen...sadly it doesn't always work out so well. Other highlights from the menu include the pork loin, an herb roasted chicken and a beef bourgignon with buttered noodles. All perfectly simple and executed flawlessly. The portions are perfect too. The entrees leave just enough room in your tummy to order one of their lovely desserts.

I love getting a seat at the counter overlooking the kitchen. You get to watch Corina and her crew in action. Please note that they don't take reservations, so you might have to wait for a table if you go on a weekend. I've never had to wait too long, though, so don't let that deter you.

When you leave, the front of house person gives you an actual 'Canele'. It's a bite sized pastry with a cake like center and a crusty, carmelized crust. Scrumptious!! A perfect way to end a perfect meal.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I'm Back

hello my peoples. I'm back.

I've spent most of 2006 living in various hotels across Europe and South East Asia. I have tired of all the room service, the swanky, cocktail lounges and the endless poolside chats with supermodels. It's time to return to my beloved Eagle Rock and neighboring San Gabriel Valley to continue noshing away for the betterment of mankind.

I'm sorry I have let you all down. Your fan mail has kept me going even in my darkest hour as I bathed in the sun on a beach in Bora Bora sipping aged rum. I can assure all of you that your e-mails gave me comfort and helped get me through my travels.

So, check back shortly for some jazzy food reportin' !

In the meantime, you can hear an audio version of my blog on Eagle Rock Talk