Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Joan's on Third

I arrived at Joan’s on Third, self described as a gourmet marketplace, with my Grandmother and Uncle to have a nice light lunch. We hopped into the sandwich line that ran along the deli counter and picked out our orders from a large blackboard. The two of them had usuals, but I chose the apricot glazed ham and brie on whole wheat. The name sounded interesting and brie with fruit is a classic combination. We waited at one of the many sidewalk tables with a number on a stand, eagerly expecting the sandwiches. Somehow along the way we ended up with nine place settings for the three of us, members of the staff just kept bringing them, but that wasn’t a significant influence on the dining experience.
When I took my first bite of the sandwich I found it truly great. The brie and ham were complemented well by an aioli, the greens provided a diverse set of textures that deviated from a typical bland lettuce, and the bread tasted fresh as well as providing a nice wheat texture. The flavor of the apricot was not very pronounced, but that was not a big surprised. I generally feel that any flavor listed with a meet (oat meal ribs, maple bacon) is usually not very distinct from the flavor of the meet itself. From what I tasted of my sandwich as well as a small portion of the turkey meatloaf I found the ingredients fresh, interesting, and well composed. My only issue was with the pickles, which I found too sweet, but others who prefer a taste more like a cucumber would enjoy. For those willing to spend a little bit more for a gourmet sandwich, I would highly recommend Joan’s on Third.

Monday, August 9, 2010

José Bernstein’s

Today I decided to sample the local Westwood Mexican cuisine at a restaurant called José Bernstein’s. Wait what? Was that really the name? Let me check... Yeah, that was it. Either the name José or the name Bernstein would not be at all surprising in this neighborhood, but the two in combination ranks up in the strange names department with former Crimson Tide receiver Julio Jones. Looking at the menu I did notice that this restaurant serves both a pastrami sandwich and a chorizo burrito. I made my decision to go with the special, as I so often do.

The breakfast burrito combo came with a sausage burrito, chips and salsa, and a medium soda, all for five dollars. The burrito was filled with eggs, onions, peppers, potatoes and sausage, all wrapped in a flour tortilla. Although some people might protest, I was happy know that sour cream and cheese would cost extra. Since I usually would get a burrito without either of those ingredients, it was good to know that I was on the right side of some price discrimination. The salsa was from a choose and serve yourself bar that I had seen at places such as El Pollo Loco as well. The chips were pretty normal and the pico de gallo was very fresh. The burrito itself was relatively bland, but was greatly spiced up with the addition of the hot sauce from the table.

The restaurant seems to fit the college demographic well by serving a lot of food for a pretty low price. Other than the hot sauce and the name of the establishment, there was nothing particularly fantastic or extraordinary about the meal. Overall it was some fine quality food at very reasonable prices.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Junior's Delicatessen

A place that I had often passed on my way to and from work is Junior’s Delicatessen. I parked in the lot and walked about half a block until I finally found the entrance door. As soon as I drew close, the doors mysteriously opened of their own accord. I through the ghostly partitions and into a deli counter then hung a left and went down a hallway to finally arrive at the hostess station. After waiting about three minutes by myself, I was finally ushered to a table.
For some reason, I still felt the need to look at the menu, but my order was really a foregone conclusion. The hot pastrami sandwich was served with what was purported to be potato pancakes, but turned out to be more like potato balls. I was very pleasantly surprised as I bit into the balls and found them crispy, with full flavor, and nice onion elements. The best part was really yet to come. When I bit into the sandwich, I found the bread very heavily seeded and the pastrami really great. It was a truly classic pastrami sandwich and I was incredibly surprised at the quality. It was similar to New York prices and was not the best service, but it really was a fantastic sandwich.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Johnnie's Patrami

Although it wasn’t my original intended destination, the really interesting sign drew me into Johnnie’s Pastrami. Located in Culver City, this restaurant had counter space, a few diner style tables, and a fair amount of outdoor seating available. The only thing keeping me from ordering a hot pastrami without looking at the menu was the need to check to make sure that I had enough cash to pay, since this place kept the fifties theme going with an inability to accept credit cards. As soon as I ordered I was served a bowl of sliced pickles and a small plastic fork.

Through my previous experiences at California delicatessens I had become very suspicious of pickles, but the fact that they didn’t even try to serve me half sours did give me hope. I didn’t have much time to chomp on the delicious dill pickles though, because the pastrami sandwich came right up. I had chosen to get the sandwich served on a French roll with Au Jus dipped bun.

The pastrami was very different from what one would expect a classic Jewish deli in that it was not freshly cut, but was instead cooked in a pot before serving. This meant that the meat was not quite as juicy, but that was compensated for by the Au Jus sauce on the roll. While I've had Italian beef that really soaked the bread, this time the integrity of the roll was preserved while still adding the liquidity of the sauce. The flavor of the meat was actually more similar to maple bacon than classic pastrami, although it was not overwhelmingly sweet. The toasted French roll added a nice crunch to contrast the texture of the pastrami sandwich. I was initially really suspicious of both the pickles and the pastrami preparation, but the long pedigree of Johnnie’s (1952) really allowed them to pull it off.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

230 Forest

As soon as I walked into 230 Forrest I felt a little bit as if this place was far too cool for me. Located in the beautiful little town of Laguna Beach, on a street that contains galleries and other trendy restaurants, this place outdoes them all by not even giving itself a real name. When we were first served bread and water I was slightly suspicious because they have given me my water in what I would refer to as a small flute, which meant that I would be seeing a lot of the service tonight.

While so many contemporary places seem concerned with being green, 230 had gone the other way and served their bread in a superfluous brown paper bag.

We ordered a half carafe of white wine and I was happy to show my ID to get it. I was less happy though when I tasted it and found it very similar to the two dollar Trader Joe’s bottle that I had drank the night before. This was not a great first impression, but I had high hopes as we ordered an appetizer of Hoisin Duck and Brie spring rolls.

The dish was served very well on a long thin plate and garnished with an interesting side salad. As I took my first bite I felt that this dish provided a very nice textural contrast of the smooth brie and the crunchy fried shell. The slaw filling provided a nice crunch and rounded out the flavor. The sweet chili dipping sauce also provided a nice kick for those who prefer more spice to their food. For the main course I ordered short rib ravioli, knowing full well that I was in for what I’ll call contemporary portions.

When the dish arrived it was well plated, but to my expectations, looked more like an appetizer portion than a full main dish. The plate looked like it could have come straight out of a restaurant scene in American Psycho and I was a bit nervous playing following Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, but I bravely forged ahead. The ravioli had a nice full flavor and was topped with some shredded cured meats to provided nice salty taste. The most unexpected texture though was the crunch provided by the crisped lettuce on top of the pasta. I don’t know how the lettuce was prepared that way, but it was certainly an interesting addition. It was quite a hip place and the actual dishes were very good. Just don’t go here expecting to eat your fill of only an entrée.