Thursday, September 30, 2010

320 Main: Destination Drinks in a Comfortable Spot

320 Main is as unpretentious as they come, a welcoming comfortable environment on Main Street in sleepy Seal Beach. But looks can be deceiving and when it comes to drinks, 320 Main is a supermodel in sweatpants, rocking the casual lived in look but still hot as hell. They know what they are doing when it comes to cocktails, thanks to owner Jason Schiffer, the barman who co-owns the restaurant and bar with his wife Rebecca.

320 Main just celebrated its one year anniversary this month and if recent visits are any indication is just hitting its stride. A signature drink is the Sweet Bricia, named for legendary mezcal and Oaxacan food advocate Bricia Lopez.

The Sweet Bricia (below) is one of the many mezcal based drinks in Southern California named after Lopez.  The Sweet Bricia includes both mezcal and tequila for a double dose of Mexican spirits but is light, due to the cassis and freshly squeezed citrus juice which make it refreshing.

Not only does 320 Main serve quality drinks but they have a well executed menu of American classics, including the French Dip sandwich (below), which was excellent with the au jus, although the fries were just OK.  However on a visit this week, several compatriots (including Ron of LushAngeles) and I sampled the macaroni and cheese, the duck fries and could not resist ordering the special of Beef Stroganoff made with short ribs.  The duck fries are cooked in duck fat and have little bits of shredded duck on them, and were a vast improvement over the fries I had eaten with the french dip on a prior visit.  The Stroganoff was rich and the use of short ribs elevated what could have been a tired dish into a modern reinvention of a classic.

320 Main does a great job with classic cocktails such as the Old Fashioned and Mint Julep but the bartending team seems to enjoy creating their own take on modern cocktails as well.The Brass Chassis was a favorite on a recent visit.  Jason and his colleague's enthusiasm is evident and it is great to see them elevate what could have easily been a neighborhood spot into a destination.  If you haven't been down there, it is worth the detour, as the environment is comfortable and welcoming, the drinks well made and the food tasty.

320 Main: 320 Main Street, Seal Beach (just off of PCH). Phone: 562-799-6246. Website:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Battle Cold Noodles at Starry Kitchen

Last night was the third in a series of four quickfire challenges sponsored by DineLA in which local chefs have competed to create a dish based on a secret mystery ingredient. Octavio Becerra (right) of Palate Food + Wine and Brendan Collins (left) of Waterloo & City competed to created the winning Cold Noodles dish, which would appear on the Starry Kitchen restaurant week menu.

Collins prepared an eel and foie gras terrine paired with cold noodles, while Becarra prepared a spicy cold noodle soup.  Becarra had the winning dish, and he will advance to the final round on October 5th, competing against Mark Peel, Akira Hirose of Maison Akira and the winner of tomorrow's challenge at Loteria! Grill.  Starry Kitchen also offered several specials for the Quickfire attendees, including their signature neon green crispy tofu balls, which lived up to their exalted reputation.

Tomorrow's final quickfire in the preliminary round will pit Akasha Richmond of Akasha restaurant in Culver City against Eric Greenspan of the Foundry on Melrose in an epic battle of Tacos.  Whose cuisine reigns supreme?  You can find out by attending the event at Loteria! Hollywood tomorrow (Thursday) from 5 - 7 pm, where they will be offering specials such as $4 Guacamole and Chips and $5 Chalupa plates.  The judges will include the owner of Loteria! Grill, Heather John from Bon Apetit and Harriet Ells, producer of KCRW’s Good Food.

Loteria! Grill Hollywood: 6627 Hollywood Boulevard, (323) 465-2500

The Classic: Chinese Chicken Salad @ Feast from the East

In Los Angeles, Chinese Chicken Salad is almost synonymous with Feast From the East, a restaurant in Westwood that has specialized in the dish for almost 30 years. Feast from the East is located on Westwood Blvd, 2 blocks south of Santa Monica Blvd and has expanded over the years to include a large dining room, although most customers get takeout.

The Chinese Chicken Salad is described as Romaine lettuce, shredded chicken breast, sliced almonds, sesame seeds and scallions. Wonton Strips and their signature sesame dressing are packaged separately. It comes in small and large sizes and the large at $8.45 is enough for two people.

The wonton chips are less greasy than my dining companion and I remembered, and consequently less flavorful and good. The chicken breast tasted fresh, and the dressing was as usual (it is even sold in bottles). Overall it is a fine salad, but not something special. But if you are in the mood for Chinese Chicken Salad, this is a reliable spot to get it quickly and at a good value.

The other signature item at Feast from the East are their Sesame Chicken Wings (pictured below). They come in orders of six, twelve or eighteen pieces and include both wings and drumettes (mini drumsticks). The drumettes have about twice the meat of the wings. The wings are a pleasant accompaniment to the salad and unlike many wings are not too sticky so you will not need a ton of napkins.

Feast from the East: 1949 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles. Phone: (310) 475-0400. Website:

All Aboard: Jonathan Gold’s Union Station Cocktail Party

All aboard the Speakeasy Express as LA Weekly restaurant critic Jonathan Gold is hosting his second annual Speakeasy themed Cocktail Party at Union Station featuring bartenders from several of Cedd Moses's 213 Group's bars and benefiting Zocalo Public Square, an organization that sponsors and organizes lectures, panels, and other public discussions of the issues of the day.

The party will be held on Saturday October 9th from 7 - 11 in historic Union Station as conductor Jonathan Gold welcomes revelers aboard and collects tickets, which are $185 per person ($150 for non-profit employees & $125 for those under 30). The drinks will be provided by the talented crews of Seven Grand, The Varnish, Las Perlas, Cole’s and CAÑA. Restaurants from downtown as well as across the city will be providing vittles to munch on, and these aren't just any gin joints but top notch spots such as John Sedlar's Rivera, Michael Cimarusti's Providence, Josef Centeno's Lazy Ox Canteen, Neil Fraser's Grace, Susan Feniger's Street, David Myers' Comme Ҫa, and Suzanne Tracht's Jar, among others. There is no danger of going hungry with that crew on tap.

The participating bartenders are creating specialty cocktails for the event. I am particularly looking forward to trying The Plymouth Fitzgerald from Chris Bostick of the Varnish. It is his take on a gin sour with Plymouth Gin, fresh lemon juice, sugar, shaken and served up and lightly drizzled with Angostura bitters. It sounds refreshing and the Angostura bitters should provide a nice counterpoint to the citrus.

Attendees are encouraged to wear period dress and to put folks in a party mood, KCRW’s Garth Trinidad will be spinning. Should be an awesome party with a bonus of supporting a great cause (I'm a big fan of Zocalo's panels and events). Get your tickets here. Hurry up because once this train leaves the station, you will want to be onboard, not watching from the platform as it pulls away into the distance.

Tickets are available here:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Winning Formula: The 1st Annual LA Craft Beer Crawl

Saturday was the first annual LA Craft Beer Crawl, which was held in seven of 213 Group's bars in Downtown.  Almost 1,400 enthusiasts, press, brewers and friends attended the event curated by Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune, known as the Beer Chicks (pictured below).  On a hot day, the sold out crowd explored the offerings and migrated from bar to bar sampling craft beers and meeting the folks who produce them.

The Beer Chicks said they hope to "convert people to the craft beer lifestyle" and encouraged attendees to try darker beers saying "don't judge a beer by its color."  Over 50 different beers were represented, many from California breweries, with an emphasis on representing as many local quality brews as possible.

There were several treats along the way, including Maui Coconut Porter beer floats at Cana and beer cocktails at the Varnish created by head bartender Chris Bostick (pictured above).  I got the last beer float at Cana, which had a large crowd despite being a long walk on a very hot day from the other 213 bars.

The Varnish offered two cocktails: the Picon Biere (TAPS Belgian White, Amer Picon, lemon juice and sugar) and the Double Black Diamond (Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Goslings Rum, Whole Egg, Sugar & Nutmeg).  Both were refreshing and it was wonderful to be in the chilly Varnish, where LA Weekly's Jonathan Gold was holding court in a booth with colleagues from KCRW's Good Food, including host Evan Kleiman.

Gold curated the food vendors along the route, which included the Ludo Bites Truck, the Grilled Cheese Truck, the Manila Machine truck and Guelaguetza (inside Las Perlas).  All of the food vendors proved popular.  I have enjoyed all four in the past but only had an opportunity to sample the Manila Machine on Saturday, which was serving a mean version of corned beef hash.

The crowd of happy imbibers (Seven Grand is pictured above) included fellow bloggers Josh Lurie of FoodGPS, Pat Saperstein of Eating LA and Yolanda Evans of Eater.  It was great to see so many folks crowding the sidewalks and bars of DTLA all in search of and in support of quality craft beer.  In the past three years there has been a renaissance in quality cocktails in Los Angeles and it if Saturday was any indication, the beer movement here is only poised to grow.  I hadn't realized how many local breweries there are here in Southern California and look forward to trying more of their offerings.

Mexicali Taco & Co - Carne Asada in DTLA

Recently I was speaking with Bill Esparza of StreetGourmetLA and he was raving about a carne asada specialist in DTLA and I was intrigued. I went to the corner of First & Beaudry two times before I figured out that Mexicali Taco & Co is on twitter and is only open Wednesday - Saturday from 8 - 11 pm, although check twitter because they are not yet consistent in the days they are there.

The third time was the charm and I got to Mexicali as they were finishing setting up. They operate in a tent in a parking lot on the corner. I was the first customer but by the time that they were ready to begin serving, there was a line. Based on their twitter feed they sell out every night they are open, so come early or go home hungry.

The tacos are $2 a pop, and they are worth the premium above the $1.25 standard. They offer both corn and flour tortillas and they are handmade. I got two carne asada tacos, one each with corn and flour. Several different salsas were available as well as pickled radishes. The tacos were delicious and had a real beefy flavor.

The tacos are served on real plates covered in a plastic wrap. All in all it was a pleasant quality experience and I will go back for sure.  Bill has some more details and photos on his writeup here.

Mexicali Taco & Co is located on 1st & Beaudry in a tent on Wednesday - Saturday.  It is open from 8 - 11 pm (technically til midnight but based on their twitter feed they sell out by 11 every night).  They have developed quite a following as all the customers who were there when I checked it out had driven to their location specifically to get the tacos.

Monday, September 27, 2010

dineLA Cold Soup Quickfire at Petrossian

To help launch this fall's dineLA restaurant weeks (October 3 - 8 and 10-15), dineLA is in the midst of a series of "Quickfire" challenges with some of the top chefs in town facing off in cooking challenges.  The second in the series pitted Celestino Drago of Drago Centro (and other Drago restaurants) against Akira Hirose of Maison Akira in a Cold Soup challenge at Petrossian West Hollywood.  Drago (left) and Akira (right) are pictured below with dineLA director Carrie Kommers (center).

The competition was judged by Petrossian chef Benjamin Bailly, Joshua Lurie of FoodGPS and Esther Tseng of e*star LA.  Each competitor was asked to create a cold soup and include the surprise ingredient of California caviar.  The voting was close but Akira edged out Drago 2 to 1 with his winning dish of French Vichyssoise (below).

You can be part of the action in the third of three preliminary rounds tomorrow from 6 - 8 pm at Starry Kitchen where Chef Octavio Beccera of Palate Food + Wine and Chef Brendan Collins of Waterloo & City will compete in the "Cold Noodle Challenge." If you have always dreamed of being in the audience for an "Iron Chef" style competition, this is your chance as the competitors use one of Starry Kitchen’s signature ingredients: Oyster Sauce, Hoisin Sauce, or Coconut Milk, and offer their interpretation of “Cold Noodles.”

The judging panel will include Starry Kitchen’s Executive Chef Thi Tran, Jeff Miller from, and Krista Simmons from the Los Angeles Times’ Brand X. Attendees and guests can watch the noodle madness while munching on $5 Happy Hour specials previewing Starry Kitchen’s dineLA menu, including Crispy Tofu Balls and Chicken Wings.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Showdown at the Verdugo Bar Corral: Beer Float II

In a sequel that is more than welcome, Josh Lurie of FoodGPS will be hosting the second L.A. Beer Float Showdown on Sunday October 10th at 5:30 PM at Verdugo Bar in Glassell Park. The showcase showdown will feature four teams competing to create the best beer float in LA. Last year Golden State and Scoops teamed up for the grand prize, but as they are not able to defend their crown this year, it is anybody's game.

The competitors are Boneyard Bistro, Ladyface Alehouse, Simmzy's and Tony's Darts Away. Each competitor will make a float which will be judged by those in attendance based on flavor and originality. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 in cash at the door, and half the proceeds will go to benefit the great charity Share Our Strength. If you want to be a judge, you don't need a degree in chemistry or experience as a judge on Iron Chef America, all you need is to purchase a ticket and be ready to cast your vote.

To help you feed your belly with food as well as beer, Josh has arranged for the Manila Machine and Mandoline Grill food trucks to be stationed outside Verdugo Bar to sell their famous eats.  This event is part of LA Beer Week, the second annual festival of all things sudsy here in Los Angeles.

Click the Pay Now button on the post here to buy tickets.

Verdugo Bar: 3408 Verdugo Road, Los Angeles. Phone: (323) 257-3408. Website:

LA Craft Beer Crawl: This Saturday

The first annual Los Angeles Craft Beer Crawl will take place this Saturday afternoon in downtown. The event is a collaboration between the Beer Chicks (Hallie Beaune and Christina Perozzi) who are curating the event and Cedd Moses's 213 Ventures, whose seven bars will host the beer crawl. Tickets are $49 and are available online. The early bird and VIP tickets have both sold out and at this time only limited tickets remain for Saturday's event.

The stops on the Crawl include Broadway Bar, Casey's Irish Pub, Cana Rum Bar, Cole's, Golden Gopher, Las Perlas and Seven Grand. For those with VIP tickets, Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize winning food critic from LA Weekly, will be holding court in the Varnish. To keep Crawl participants fed, Gold has curated a selection of gourmet food trucks which will be stationed along the route. LudoBites and Kogi are among the participating trucks.

Each $49 ticket entitles the attendee to a wristband and tasting glass which are the keys to unlock unlimited samples of over 50 different beers from 3pm - 8pm at the seven participating bars. Breweries represented include Allagash, Ballast Point Brewing, Brouwerij West, The Bruery, Craftsman, Chimay, Deschutes, Eagle Rock, Gentleman's Scholar, Jolly Pumpkin, Ladyface, Lagunitas, Lost Coast, Maui Brewing Company, New Belgium, Schneider, Sierra Nevada, Stone Brewing, TAPS, Uncommon and several more.

Beer geeks rejoice: Not only will participants get to try dozens of craft beers but several owners and brewers from the participating breweries will be on-hand to discuss their beers. Look for Tyler King from the Bruery at Broadway Bar, Jeremy Raub from Eagle Rock Brewing at Las Perlas, Cyrena Nouzille from Ladyface at Casey's, and Victor Nowak from TAPS at Cole's. Each bar will have at least one brewery represented.

Look for special pours and events at the different bars including the opening of a Jeroboam of Chimay Special Reserve at Seven Grand, Maui Coconut Porter beer floats at Cana and a signing of the Beer Chick's book Naked Pint at the Golden Gopher.

A portion of the proceeds from the Craft Beer Crawl will go to benefit local charity Heal the Bay, an organization dedicated to making the Santa Monica Bay and all of Southern California's coastal waters clean and safe for fish and swimmers to enjoy. Heal the Bay is run by Mark Gold, Jonathan Gold's brother. Talk about an overachieving family.

Remember tickets are only available online. Buy them here. Note that designated drivers can get a wristband to enter the bars for only $10, but they will not be permitted to sample the beer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Off the Menu: Burger at The Tasting Kitchen

Hidden entrances, one night pop-ups, off menu items, secret burgers: these are all catnip to the sometimes jaded foodie community looking for the next new thing. So when I sat down at the bar at The Tasting Kitchen on Abbot Kinney one night recently and saw another patron at the bar eating a burger, I looked at the menu again. No burger in sight on the menu. I asked the bartender, and he said it was a special bar item that night and the chef had prepared only six burgers. They were served with fries for $15. I'll have one I immediately replied, even though I hadn't planned on eating more food.

The burger arrived a short while later, with horseradish sauce on it and a generous helping of fries alongside. The burger was cooked medium rare as ordered and had a nice beefy taste. Is it the best burger in the city, no, but it was still very good.

Whether the burgers will continue to be a special or whether they will make their way onto the menu or whether they were a one-off only chef Casey Lane knows. But should you find yourself on Abbot Kinney and in the mood for a delicious burger and standout french fries, the Tasting Kitchen may beckon.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ono's Hawaiian in Honolulu: Beef Stew

You may find yourself thinking as you wait in line outside Ono's Hawaiian Foods in Honolulu, is it really worth the wait? And there will be a line, as there is always a line at Ono's. The answer is yes if you get the beef stew. Like Helena's, Ono's has been on a television show, Tony Bourdain's No Reservations.

I tried some of the same dishes as at Helena's but for me the standout dish was the beef stew, which was rich and hearty. There are large chunks of beef and potatoes with some carrots in this stew. The sauce is more sauce than broth as it is quite thick. This dish is filling and delicious and a bargain at under $7.

Pipikaula is a salted and dried beef that is akin to beef jerky. I sampled the portion that came with the sampler meal my companions ordered. Fine but not exciting. Less tough than American beef jerky, so easier to eat as part of a meal.

Ono Hawaiian Foods: 726 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu. Phone: (808) 737-2275.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Seasons 52: Fresh and Healthy Can Be Delicious

Seasons 52, a fresh grill and wine bar, opened earlier this month in the South Coast Plaza shopping center in Costa Mesa. The name doubly reflects seasonally inspired cooking both with the word seasons and 52, the number of weeks per year. The restaurant eschews butter in all of its dishes and nothing on the menu is more than 475 calories, including lamb chops and chocolate desserts.

South Coast Plaza is the first California location for the Orlando based organization, although Seasons 52 does not have the feel of a chain. Perhaps because both the Executive Chef Tim Kast and General Manager Rikin Lakhani have been made partners in this location, to literally invest them with a sense of ownership in the operation.

I was recently invited to check out the restaurant and try some of their signature items.  I must confess I was skeptical of the concept.  The use of fresh seasonal ingredients and cooking is something I am a fan of.  But the sticking point for me was all dishes having fewer than 475 calories.  I was pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong and didn’t even miss the butter.

The room is outfitted in a mixture of stone and dark woods in a modified Craftsman style and there is an open kitchen to highlight the fresh cooking.  There is also a large bar area featuring dozens of West Coast wines and an outdoor patio with two firepits.

As part of the commitment to healthy but flavorful food, Seasons 52 only serves fish that can be grilled.  Fish such as Chilean Sea Bass which have been overfished and are threatened are not featured on the menu.  They don’t even have a fryer on the premises.  I sampled Cedar Plank Roasted Salmon ($18.95) which had been grilled on cedar planks from Washington State that had been soaked in water for 24 hours.  The plank had a great fragrant smell and imbued the fish with that charred wood essence.  The salmon had a dressing of mustard and malt vinegar and wasn’t overly fishy.

I next tried the Organic Green Salad with Oak Grilled Mushrooms and Truffle Dressing.  The presentation of this dish was dramatic in that the salad arrives in a cylinder on the plate which is removed tableside.  The dressing only included miso, lemon juice, white truffle oil, olive oil and soy, in equal portions.  All greens served at Seasons 52 are organic, befitting the natural and healthy concept.

The Sonoma Goat Cheese Raviolo ($8.95) (yes, it is one large ravioli despite being listed as ravioli on the menu) is served with a tomato broth and several cherry halved tomatoes.  It is a rich dish and tastes much more decadent than it really is.  The food may be prepared healthily and to below 475 calories but this is not diet food – no unadorned salads or grilled vegetables but rather tasty grilled and roasted food that happens to be good for you.

The Roasted Rack of New Zealand Lamb ($26.95) was my last savory course and it was a hearty sendoff.  Served with a mint pesto and cooked to a beautiful medium rare this is a dish for meat eaters.

Finally the meal was finished up with “Mini Indulgences”, which are individual sized servings of classic desserts such as Key Lime Pie, Chocolate Cake etc.  No, I did not eat all of the desserts in the picture; thankfully the tray was for a group.  I tried several and found the chocolate one particularly irresistible.  Serving dessert in shotglass-like serving dishes was a creative way to deliver lots of flavor without going overboard on portion size or calories in the dessert.  They are $2.75 each.

Overall Seasons 52 is a refreshing addition to the Central Orange County dining scene, not only for providing a healthy but tasty option but also at an attractive price point.  The biggest bonus to Seasons 52 is the wine bar and wine list of 100 wines, 60 of which are available by the glass, something that really stands out in the area and is distinctive in Southern California.

Seasons 52: South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa.  Phone: (714) 437-5252  Website:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Helena's Hawaiian in Honolulu

Helena's Hawaiian Foods is a Honolulu institution, in business for decades serving traditional Hawaiian cuisine and a recipient of a James Beard award for regional classic in 2000. It had been recommended to me by Steve R. a poster on who knows his stuff. I went straight from the airport for a late lunch and enjoyed it so much I came back the next day with more friends.

Helena's is dineresque in its homey unpretentiousness, although there is no counter. It is cash only and no reservations and the wait can get long during peak hours. It is also closed Saturdays, Sundays & Mondays. Helena's is a family owned business and the staff is friendly and happy to explain any unfamilair dishes. The prices are quite reasonable and it reeks of authenticity in the best way.

My favorite dish was the Short ribs Pipikuala style ($4.95 small or $9.90 large). These are small beef ribs on the bone, similar to what you might find at a Korean bbq. The flavor is wonderful and beefy and the meat is well cooked and seasoned. I recommend that you get the large.

I saw the Lomi Salmon ($3.60) on most tables when I entered, so figured I had to try it. It is diced salmon served with diced tomatoes and some green onions on top to garnish. It is served cold and the version at Helena's is more tomato than salmon.

Another signature dish at Helena's is the Fried Butterfish Collar ($4.60). I am usually a big fan of fried foods and of fish collars (esp Yellowtail) but this was not a favorite of mine. Crunchy though.

Long Rice Chicken ($3.60) is a confusingly named dish as it is really a cellophane (clear glass) noodle dish with a small amount of diced chicken and green onion. Really a noodle dish in a clear broth. Tasty but if you are looking for a real chicken or rice component to your meal, this isn't it.

Ahi Poke ($4.25), is chunks of raw tuna, marinated with seaweed, onions, sea salt and a little soy sauce. The poke is served cold like a salad and this one was fine but not as special as the ribs, the lomi salmon or the Haupia.

We were also served fresh onions with Hawaiian red salt to dip them in and Haupia for dessert. The onions were delicious and an unexpectedly great part of the meal. Haupia is a coconut based dessert that has a consistency in between jello and pudding and resembles blocks of jiggly tofu. These white bricks were also much better than I had expected. We asked for second helpings, the true sign of deliciousness at the end of the meal. The Haupia and the onions were provided at no charge.

Helena's is away from the tourist crush of Waikiki but was featured on a Food Network Show and so the lines can be long (the first day there was no line, the second day is was 30 minutes). Once you are seated the food comes quickly. There are a few parking spaces in front, otherwise you need to find street parking.

Helena's is located at 1240 N School St, Honolulu, Hawaii. Phone: (808) 845-8044.

Savory: Paul Shoemaker's work in progress

When I heard that former Bastide chef Paul Shoemaker was opening up a new restaurant, I was interested. When I heard it was going to be named Savory, I became very interested. Last weekend, a friend and I drove out to Malibu (20 miles on the Pacific Coast Highway) to check out the month-old restaurant.

We got there a few minutes early and understandably our table wasn't ready, so we grabbed seats at the bar and waited. We waited and waited more than half an hour past our reservation time. The hostess offered us some food and/or drink and assured us our table would be ready soon, which it was several minutes later. My companion chose the olives, which she enjoyed very much; the plating was particularly attractive. Another staff member said that they still haven't worked out the timing as it is not uncommon to wait significantly past reservation times, especially on weekends.

We began our meal with the pizza, described on the menu as pizza, burrata, tapenade, tomato. ($15). The pizza bottom was charred and the top was somewhat undercooked. When we picked up a slice it was quite limp, so much so that the waiter commented that it was not supposed to be like that. He offered to have the kitchen make us another one and we accepted.

The second version of the pizza (pictured above), which arrived concurrently with the appetizers, was charred on the bottom but this time was not limp and was able to hold the toppings. Significantly better but probably not a dish I'd rush to order again, although the burrata was of a superior quality.

We shared the tomato soup and the goat cheese ravioli with tomatoes as our appetizers. The tomato soup (above) was served in a large bowl, with generous servings of a delicious liquid and crunchy crostini floating on top. The ravioli (below) was one large raviolo, with fresh halved cherry tomatos of several colors and chanterelle mushrooms on top. This was also a successful dish and had nice clean flavors. I prefer several smaller ravioli to one large one, but that is personal preference, although they should change the menu to indicate raviolo as ravioli is plural. This kitchen certainly has a winning way with tomatoes.

For our entrees, we shared the beef and the halibut and added a side of beets. The beef is described as beef, rosa bianca eggplant, smoked salt. It is a skirt steak served sliced in a sweet sauce on a rectangular plate with the eggplant. The plating of this dish was less attractive as it looked sloppy but the beef was cooked medium rare as we had requested. The sauce made this dish too sweet for my taste and was not a favorite. However, the halibut was served on a bed of lentils and was well prepared. The top layer was nicely seasoned, the fish had good flavor and the texture was firm. A recommended dish.

The beets were good but we were getting quite full so didn't do them justice.

A particular highlight is the draft beer selection, which includes my favorite beer Tripel Karmeleit, from Belgium, which is rare to see on tap. Beers are priced at $8. The wine by the glass selection is small but well curated and is priced from $9 - $12. The bottled beer selection includes several large format (750 ml) options including St. Bernardus ABT 12 for $26.

Overall there were some hits and misses but not a strong enough ratio of successes for me to recommend the drive out to Malibu at this time. Both the service and the food could use some refining. At this point it is a spot for locals, of which there are many looking for a good place to eat. If you grade on the Malibu curve, then Savory gets high marks, but Shoemaker's reputation indicated that he had higher ambitions. I hope he achieves them.

Seven Grand Reunion Special: Tonight Only

For the cocktail obsessed denizens of Los Angeles, it seems hard to believe that Seven Grand only opened three and a half years ago, in April of 2007. Since then the original opening crew has largely scattered to the winds, opening up places of their own and spreading the knowledge of quality drinks across the city. Tonight, in a special Red Rover "Throwback", the team which opened the bar is returning for a one night only engagement.

Participants include Aidan Demarest, Damian Windsor, George Ketsios, Leo Rivas, John Coltharp, Dave Whitton, Marcos Tello and proprietor Cedd Moses. Sources tell me that if you keep your eyes peeled you may even see the legendary Patrick Kelly. The original crew will be bartending just like back in the day and they will be making drinks off of the opening cocktail list.

The reunion of the opening team, pictured above in a photo courtesy of Aidan Demarest, has inspired a lot of excitement among the bartender and cocktail community in Los Angeles, so expect the bar to be packed tonight with old friends and and tons of energy. This could be a sloshy affair, so come prepared.

The event is sponsored by Jim Beam & Maker Mark and begins at 5 pm at Seven Grand. 515 W. 7th Street near Grand, in downtown Los Angeles. Look for the antlers.