Chichen Itza’s Mayan Tasting Dinner On An Anxious Friday Night

So Friday night had finally come, one of the rare moments in my life where I actually get the urge to go out and be young. Meaning, just hanging with old high school friends (people my age in other words) and catching each others facetious gay bluffs, usually involving a local backyard punk gig, a pint or two of cheap beer, and the ever high hopes of suddenly “getting lucky”. NOT thinking about writing or food but instead just living the moment…

city terrace gig
City Terrace Gig w/ Corrupted Youth: December 2010

catching that bluff
Catching That Bluff After One Too Many Brewskies

This last Friday though was and exception. My food world had cut into my leisure time through a dinner invite from a Roosevelt High School teacher who I had given a guest lecture on the concept of Foodblogging. He had told me about a “Mayan Tasting” dinner that was happening at Chichen Itza that night and asked if I was interested. I said yes, but only to find out that one of my o.g homie’s two-tone reggae band was playing at the San Pedro Brewery that same night, meaning FREE craft beer and not-typical-scene chicks.

But anything for the sake of expanding my palate right?

We had barely made it too, half an hour late, meaning half an hour beyond their closing time and being the last customers of the night. A huge thank you for still feeding us!

It was to be an eight course dinner highlighting tribal Food from the South of Mexico before Spanish Rule–

agua de chaya
Agua De Chaya: My Food Opt In For Beer

An Agua Fresca De Chaya was included in the dinner, a “medicinal herb” kinda like Spinach but with a heftier bite was apparent through out the meal. Here, it was blended with sugar and acted as a refresher.

mayan chips and dip
Bu’ul, I’b and Sikil Pac: Mayan Chips N Dip

Shaved, Green Plantain pieces were fried and served as chips to go with our black and white bean purees, both smooth and creamy. The table favorite was the Sikil Pac (middle) though, a chunky puree of toasted pumpkin seeds and tomatoes.

Pumpkin, Green Corn and Tomato Empanada: Fried

No cheese to be found in here as there were no domesticated cows back then, instead a small amount of filling consisted of seasoned squash melded with starchier than thou corn. Liked the fried little edges of Masa the best of course…

jicama salad
Jicama Salad: Like A Frutero Doing Fine Dining

Up next was a dainty, composed salad of cutely shaped Jicama, Mango and Piña (Pineapple). Nothing much to be said here, tasted like a portion controlled, Fruta Mixta order you would get from a Mexican fruit vendor from any given East L.A corner…that’s all here.

tamal duo
Duo of Tamales: Barely Warm Espelon and Chaya Variety

These duo of dense, Tamales were served just a couple of degrees above stone cold, not sure if that was on purpose. Espelon was described as a “traditional Mayan Bean” and had very similar qualities to a dried out Japanese Adzuki bean. Chaya prevailed as always with its faint, herbaceous notes.

chaya soup
Sopa De Chaya: Umami or Salty?

The soup course was also Chaya centered, along with a couple of properly cooked Chayote, the leaf’s meatier qualities were more noticeable here, the teacher compared it to Wakame seaweed actually. The broth packed a fiercely savory punch, didn’t know whether to classify it as salty or just umami.

pipian de venado
Pipian De Venado: Or Liver?

We were given an option from choosing two from four options as our mains. Seeing Venison on the menu made me full of glee as I love game but don’t get to eat it often. Although it was kind of hard to treasure it here, cooked to a point where it tasted portrayed a liver-like flavor and mealy texture. Good thing the delicate sauce was there to rescue it a bit.

pato pibil
Pato Pibil: Sauce To The Rescue!

Excited to see the Pibil preparation applied on other meats, I jumped at getting the Duck version of the Yucatan infamous Cochinita Pibil. Wrapped in Banana leaves and baked, this protein also seemed to be cooked beyond recognition, including the bland black bean/rice mash up underneath. Albeit, that glorious, zippy sauce salvaged this dish yet again!

The one thing that truly did blow me away was something that I–of course–didn’t get: Tikin Xic (Fire Grilled Grouper Fish).

tikin xic
Tikin Xic: The ONE Day I Wasn’t Craving SeaFood

The last course was a dessert of Buñuelos De Yuca, Fritters made from the starchy Cassava root vegetable, drizzled with Honey and served with a shot of Milk-less Hot Chocolate.

buneulos de yuca
Buñuelos De Yuca: Mayan Beignets?

Dense, heavy and ever chewy, these were definitely no Beignets. Reminded me of dessert version of the Brazilian pão de queijo. The milk-less Hot Chocolate shot over-compensated with more sweetener in it, tasted a little to single note to be just sugar though, maybe Agave? Nonetheless, I dunked and enjoyed.

I really appreciate the concept that they are aim
ing for with this tasting, as I recently went back to my parents Zacatecano hometown and discovered my food roots.

But next time, I think I’ll rather go skank it up in the pit with the homies while drinking a double chocolate Porter…

*Price $35 per person. Tax and gratuity not included.
*Reservation Only
*Tasting will take place again in the next couple of weeks sometime, give them a call if interested

3655 S Grand Ave #C6
Los Angeles, CA 90007
tel 213.741.1075
fax 213.741.1046

Free Parking

Saveur Office Staff Meal: So THAT’S How They Roll…

I finally got the chance to meet and greet with some of the friendly staff over at Saveur last night. It still seems ethereal to me to think that I worked as a fixer and gatherer for the upcoming March L.A issue as a whole, driving Mr. Oseland around South L.A in my dad’s jerry-built, 93, stick-shift Saturn, scavenging Southern, super exotic Mexican Herbs for herb photo glossary…not to mention having two featured pieces printed.

My nervousness only grew as the numbers on the buildings on West 32nd street kept getting smaller. I had took a train that required me to walk a little bit longer…on purpose. To no avail with my freakishly lengthy legs, I was there: 15 East 32nd Street. 1st floor, 2nd floor…then there it was.

saveur signage
Still In Awe

I don’t know why I was nervous, just added on to the entire ‘overwhelming’ feeling of NY as a whole. Was relieving to see that they were expecting me though…

saveur test kitchen
Test Kitchen: A Cupboard The Size of A Small Library

dining area
Dining Area

I had dropped in just in time for their Mardi Gras themed dinner. They were busy, stressed and tired as they were just closing an issue but like Luciano Pavarotti said in his book, My Own Story:

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”

Ben Mims Cooking up A Storm
Ben Mims Cooking Up A Saveur Storm

Ben Mims had just finished frying up some shrimps and oysters, to be the centerpiece of the dinner. Po’ Boys here included just baked, dense french rolls, a freshly mixed tart and creamy Remoulade Sauce, juicy, sweet tomatoes still on the vine (even in the dead of Winter!) and an Ambrosia salad, with a toasted coconut topping.

get your saveur fix
The Saveur Fixins!

And when offered delicious bounty, the Glutster always has his way…

shrimp and oyster po' boy
Glutster Po’ Boy

My bread accentuated, SAUCED po’ boy was a mixture of both crisp shelled, tender oysters and shrimps, with minimal veggies to get in the way amd more sauce to soften up the dry bread–

Their dessert choice of the night was nothing short but ridiculously awesome…of course. A Mardi Gras Kings Cake, a celebratory treat standard down south around this time of year. Usually more on the dry side of cakes with a jam filling, sugar and dried fruit topping, the version here was fluffy, with a cream cheese and brown sugar filling spilling out and caramelized with crunchy, multi-color icing. Ben described it to me as “basically a cinnamon roll, but shaped differently and extra decadent!”

kings roll
Extra Decadent Mardi Gras Kings Cake: Overflowing With a Cream Cheese-Maple-Brown Sugar Filling

Just like a Mexican Rosca De Reyes, a jesus doll is baked in somewhere in the reef shaped roll, and it is tradition to throw a party for whoever bites into it first! I overheard that a whole pecan was used here, but no party for me.

king bread slice
No Party For Me: Should Have Gotten Another Slice!

So That’s How They Roll, huh?

I can definitely get used to this…

Molino Rojo Restaurant: Bronxite Approved Dominican Cuisine

Woke up mid day today to find myself tasting my first snowflake as I started my trek out into the powdery, frosty abyss towards the A train heading to Manhattan.

frosty abyss
First Snow Day

As soon as I woke up and heard the soft sound of snow falling, I looked forward to it immensely, to go out, get lost in an uncharted snow ridden city and eat some hearty, NY-centric food.

bronx snow
The Bronx

Within an hour, I found myself on the complete other side of town. I ended up alongside Yankee Stadium, both the old and the new one. The snowflakes in The Bronx were thicker and fell with more force. Unlike L.A, my warm breath would linger high in the air as I breathed out, like the thick smoke of a Cuban Cigar. I was to meet a resident reader of mine who knew a thing or two about Dominican Republic food, she’s been eating the stuff her whole life.

deep knees
Knee Deep

Fortunately the place was right off the Yankee Stadium exit off the B-D-4 trains so not much walking was involved

Molino Rojo Restaurant
Snowy Facade: El Molino Rojo

Walking in to the warm fluorescent heating bulbs, I will admit to being a little worried. As soon as we were seated, the menu bared spanish words that I’d never heard in my life before, what the hell was a Pionono?

foreign spanish
Foreign Spanish

I was excited to finally try Dominican food since I haven’t heard of any in L.A, Maybe tasting Sancocho, a Dominican namesake heavy stew with 23 + ingredients. But apparently they only made it on certain days, today they had made Guisado de Rabito, their version of Oxtail soup–decision was made, easy as that.

I was about to have my 2nd dinner in a couple of hours but couldn’t help myself to trying a couple of new things.

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Pastel en Hoja: Dominican Tamales?

It arrived to the table in less than two minutes, already unwrapped. At first taste, well cooked starches of all backgrounds filled my mouth: green plantains, Yucca Chunks, mature Squash, a Taro-like Yautia vegetable, Garbanzo, Pinto Beans. All enveloping chunks of pork butt with 1/4 inch of skin still on. The texture was more like a homecooked Oaxacan Tamale, polenta like. Each bite shimmered with fat but the taste was an acquired one.

Morcilla: Mmmm…Pigs Blood

Along with many other offal’s standard in the Dominican diet, my Bronx docent insisted that we get the Morcilla, a mealy textured, metallic tasting sausage of pork blood, onions and broken rice.

guisado de rabito
Guisado de Rabito: Que Sazon!

The main dish had landed. Braised Oxtail in all its gelatinous joy, cooked with that signature savoriness known as Sazon, a Dominican flavor blend of spices and herbs applied to foods to give it a certain oomph effect. It was not the most tender I’ve had.

squashed bread
Squashed Rolls: All The Better to Sop You With!

The bread that was served was squashed, or ‘pressed’, making it all the better to sop up all that lustrous oxtail juice!
rice n beans
Arroz Con Gandules: All The Better to Eat You With!

The order comes with either steamed white rice or Arroz Amarillo (Yellow Rice), short-grain rice fried with a different variety of Sazon and Pigeon Peas, what I think the offspring will taste like if a lentil bean knocked up a pea. Its also served with Pinto Beans cooked with Pork Shoulder and more of that Sazon! Usually a side, my guest was surprised to see my Frijolero instincts lick the bowl clean first–

Tomorrow it was to be Soul Food in Harlem…

Food for two $13

Molino Rojo Restaurant
101 East 161st St.
Bronx, NY 10451

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill: My First Omakase

There is something to be said about visiting a city where your older brother lived at for seven years. It makes things a little bit less overwhelming to know that there are a few people around who are just a degree closer than a complete stranger. It also helps if those friends also happen to work at Blue Ribbon Sushi, one of the few New York established Sushi slinging counterparts of the Blue Ribbon restaurant family.

motif driven signage
Blue Ribbon: Distinction

A newcomer to foodblogging scene, Teresa would be the girl to know in this unknown food megalopolis, my brother was right. After a couple of random FB messages, we had decided to go the Sushi and Grill outpost, one of their more snazzier joints located right in front of A train Columbus Circle stop, atop the 6 Hotel. Would of been optimal walking distance in the relentless blizzard outside, but of course, the train that I was in overheated and broke down one stop before. But for the meal that followed, I wouldn’t of minded walking in the strongest of flurries all the way across town…

We started off with one of their Namazake’s that still in their tasting room floor, Harushika Shiboribana.

Harushika Shiboribana
Harushika Shiboribana: Bold

A Namazake is a certain type of “live” Sake that is only brewed seasonally and is not been heated past 65C, thus, ‘unpasteurized’. Its usually drank in its younger state, and the taste is a little more brash and dry around the edges, kind of requiring of small sips only. However, this one proved to be quite fruity, nonetheless a little more viscous with an acquired thickness probably due to the umami content in the liquid itself. This one has not yet made it to the menu but there are four more in stock from the $9-$12 range.

Amaebi Sashimi

After this, the chef had sent out a sample of his Amaebe Sashimi ($17.50), Maine Sweet Shrimp with a light Wasabi Yuzu. Delightfully creamy without the sinewy chew of raw shrimp I’ve had before, he fried the heads, whole and they served as decapitated crispy chips to go elevate the experience even more.

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Ankimo: Foie Gras of The Sea?

Shortly after, a few generously thick, silver dollar sized slices of compounded monkfish offal known as Ankimo($13.75) showed up. Apparently, she ‘always has to have it’ every time she eats here, and I could see why. What Foie Gras would taste like if Trader Joes ever made a “reduced fat” seafood variety, I preferred the mild, liver-y luxuriousness of it actually. Maybe since the last time I was served the duck stuff , I was nearly induced to a lipid induced seizure with a full 2 oz of it

After the fist dishes, I knew that if there was ever a time to splurge in my short stay in NYC…it was going to be here.

We had decided on the Sashimi-only Omakase; Toshi’s Choice ($80 per person here)

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Yaki Hama: Baked Oysters w/ Miso Butter

The Panko topping soaked in the butter and ponzu beautifully, nice buttery crunch to contrast the chewy oyster.

Then came what Teresa explained to be “very Blue Ribbon”, two platters of artistically presented bounty:

Lobster Sashimi Platter
Sashimi, Mushi and Karai of Ise Ebi: How Much Lobster Can You Handle?

In awe of the presentation, I dug right in the raw lobster flesh. The sinewy meat snaps at the slippery bite, almost like a tendon. A texture I am slowly getting used to as this is only the third time I have it. I enjoyed more the set rolls of the cooked stuff with the foundation of rice.

But I was then completely swooped off my feet with the presentation of their Omakase:

Blue Ribbon Omakase
Behold: Blue Ribbon Omakase

From bottom to up:
Noresore–Baby Sea Eel (Shooter in a Ponzu Dashi; Kyushu, Japan)
Binnaga–Albacore (behind cup; Pacific Ocean)
Hotaru Ika–Reef Squid (Lemon Shell drizzled with Mustard ; Setouchi, Japan)
Oshinko–Assorted Pickles (Kyuri Cucumbers, Japanese Squash)
Masu–Tasmanian Sea Trout(Next to Cucumbers; Australia)
Chu Toro–Medium Fat Blue Fin Tuna Belly (Light Pink; Japan)
Shime Saba–Wild Mackarel (Silver Skinned, Crimson Meat; Kyushu, Japan)
Sujiko–Marinated Fresh Salmon Roe (House Cured w/ Soy; Canada)
Uni–Sea Urchin (Pacific Ocean)
Kamasu Sashimi–Torch Seared Barracuda (Last; Japan)

The soy sauce that is issued with the Sashimi is an aged one, as thick as blood and as dark as opaque paint; all the better to complement everything all these rich fishy’s.

stunning omakase (angle 1)
The Money Shot: Working The Angles Baby

Suffice to say, I was Omega-3’d the hell out and blown away by the distinctness amongst each fish, especially compared to recent Sushi expeditions. I know this because I was not able to plow through everything like I usually do, a new kind of richness I’ve never encountered before.

But we all know that there is ALWAYS room for dessert.

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Ginger Bread Pudding w/ Butterscotch Sauce and Ginger Ice Cream

Another one of Teresa’s “must haves”, surprisingly light I must say.

chocolate bruno

Chocolate Bruno w/ Green Tea Ice Cream: My Finale

Reminiscing about it now, I think this is my first ever REAL sashimi experience ever and worth every single penny.

And, NO, this was not a fucken PR meal…

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill
308 West 58th Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 397-0404

Otafuku: Let’s Get Rid of New York

“Lets Get Rid Of New York”

Randoms (Dangerhouse Compilation Album: 1977)

Don’t know what came over me that Cyber Monday afternoon, Mattatouille had sent me a text first thing in the morning and told me that there was some great deals on Virgin America. So I did, with the rationalized excuse that I was going to check out NYU finally and decide whether I want to attend their Food Studies program or not…once and for all.

And now…I’m here.

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Brooklyn Heights

Every time I step out of the tiny place I was fortunate to be able to stay at, I am hit with ten thousand piercing needles that is typical East Coast climate. Chilly L.A Winter twilights of 40-50 degrees definitely did not prepare me for this. All of my L.A Winter clothing that I have scarcely acquired over the years have only proven to be futile during those breezes that make me forget I have fingers and feet. Four layers, five layers of clothing…no difference to me.

I will not lie to feeling a little overwhelmed being in a new city, even if not long. Culture shock aside, the overwhelming masses of people brushing you left and right seem unescapable no matter where you are, the 2x priced public transit is not easy to grasp for a transit deprived born and raised Angeleno and the winds only seem to be getting stronger and colder.

Nonetheless, I came for food. And food is what I shall do.

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Otafuku: Saves the Day

After getting snootily turned away from a tour at the NYU Welcoming offices, I still decided to check out the scattered campuses by my self. At the Stern building, I gawked at the tall, slender Asian goddesses as they scurried frantically to get to class, at the Tisch School of the Arts, I compared the Hipster look to that of L.A, slightly more formidably colorful I must say. But at the Steinhardt campus I ate Japanese griddled deliciousness.

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Standing Room Only

My first restaurant meal in the city was take out from Otafuku, a tucked up Takoyaki dispensary right in front of campus. Chiquito pero picoso!, this two by four take out only place slanged one of the best lunches I’ve had in my life. All they have on the menu is Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki and Yakisoba, more than plenty when it comes to quality, taste and portion.

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Combo C Is All I Need: Takoyaki and Squid Okonomiyaki

Maybe it was the fact that I have had always wanted to try Takoyaki since the first time I saw a weird video of it on Mikey Hates Everything blog, or maybe it was just that I hadn’t had breakfast today, or maybe it was the simple fact that it was only $9. Whatever it is, these savory griddle cakes were LOADED with the tasty Japanese street lipids of Mayonnaise, wide flaked Bonito flakes, powdered Nori, Ichimi Togarashi(Japanese Chili Powder) and that sweet, umami intensive Takoyaki sauce.

Like a pancake sphere with the tender gift of a chunk of octopus in the middle, I relished alternating the donut hole-like Takoyaki with the crispy edged, thick Okonimayaki filled with shredded cabbage, spicy ginger and several pieces of chewy squid.

Maybe New York isn’t so bad after all, although I certainly held it up to L.A standards last time I was here…

My Earlier NY Posts.

My First Night in NY: Pizza Epiphamy and GOOD Vegan (Lombardi’s and Teany)

Glutster goes To N.Y!!!

Night In N.Y: Dabbling with Dumplings and Truly Living the Good Life

3rd and Last Day in N.Y.: Not-Your-Average Lunch at the C.I.A. (no not “C.I.A.”, The Culinary Institute of America

236 East 9th Street
New York, NY
(212) 353-8503
Open Weekdays 1pm-10pm; Weekends 11am-10pm

Mariscos Martin: Vallarta Hardcore

Oh, how stoked I was to find out I would be featured in L.A Weekly’s Meet Your Blogger column…until I saw it. The degree of distaste in the comment boards made me feel sick inside, a feeling of angst-ridden distress that my food writing had helped me overcome with the creation of my blog in my teen years, in the first place. I had never seen “Blogger Dinners” with such capitalistic, hexing eyes.

For me, getting invited to these events were simply seen as just awesome…period. I would imagine myself in the third person and still be awestruck of how far I’ve come along. A 20 year old guy who lives with his parents in a one bedroom apartment in East L.A, barely having enough to take the bus to attend these dinners that would sometimes cost the same amount of money that my family would spend on food in a week.

P.R dinners were just things I would brag about to my homies while drinking a tall boy with them, things that I would pull up if I wanted to impress a girl or something…

I couldn’t believe some of the
ill contrived statements that were made. “Cabral’s blog is dominated by course-by-course accounts of PR dinners hosted by restaurants for bloggers”? Really? Having my foodblog for 4+ years, three of which I couldn’t even afford a camera–let alone get invited to these press dinners–must not mean much to skimming eyes.

But if its one value my first passion (punk music) has instilled upon me, it it to truly not care of what people think. And like my dad always told me, “A golpes se aprende” (With hard punches, but one learns).

Besides, if it wasn’t for inglorious interviews, I would had waited longer to finally experience Mariscos Martin. I hadn’t even realized I hadn’t had lunch that day because of all the drama, but a good friend of mine thought it was best to discuss the matter over lunch, so we did.

Actually pointed out to me by another close Compa of mine after brunching sick on clandestine backyard Barbacoa the day before, I’m glad I took him up on it as fast as I could…

Chickens Know They Don’t Have Anything To Worry About Here

Mariscos Martin is owned by the Robledo family and specializes in seafood from Puerto Vallarta, a coastal city in the state of Jalisco. Predominantly known for its sunny resorts and tourism. Although whenever I think of it, I think Huachinango (Red snapper), Shrimp…Seafood versions of usually meat-based dishes.

This place is no secret to locals, they’ve been here for 18 years now. On a lazy Sunday afternoon, those same chickens are dodging frantic cars trying to find parking, be prepared to wait up to an hour then.

And for 3:30 PM on a Monday–a time most other places close because of inactivity–Martin was quite cracking. A group of wandering musicians go table to table trying to score at least one request, single guys with Chivas caps catch up over huge piles of growing lobster shells while sipping Bud Light, they all look like they’ve been here before…

Can You Guess Who Came With Me?

To start off, I order the Agua Mineral Preparada. Mineral water that is prepared with a lot of lime and salt and served in a thick, chilled salt-rimmed glass, kind of like an unflavored cocktail. A pretty common drink all over Mexico, I’ve only gotten this at the Colima fangled Mariscos El Tejado in Boyle Heights. It’s a treat whenever restaurants have it, usually drank to get rid of hangovers but its limey sip goes great with spicy seafood.

tehuacan preparada
Lime, Salt and More Lime and Salt: Agua Mineral Preparada

It was apparent Martin was not like the rest of the generic “Mexican Food And Seafood” places that dominate L.A as soon as I spotted Albondigas De Camaron ($7.95), a regional soup comprised of meatballs made from chopped shrimp and bounded by egg yolks, shrimp instead of ground beef is common in a lot of coastal towns around Mexico.

Fish Soup, Shrimp Soup, Shrimp Meatball Soup!

albondigas de camaron

Cooked fresh to order, the order came with several ample and uniform shrimp balls that snapped at the bite and a generous amount of neatly sliced carrots, celery, potatoes, onion that were cooked until just tender. The tomato based broth was clean, light and subtle with shrimp undertones. Cilantro and onion is served alongside and has the same enlivening effect that sprouts and basil do for Pho. My friend couldn’t believe that this is traditionally eaten as a main soup course for one.

pescado zarandiado
La Especialidad De La Casa: Huachinango Sarandeado

But the real reason that this place had interested me is their Pescado Sareandado (Shaken Fish), a whole fish that is rubbed with an abundant amount of either butter, mayonnaise, adobo or a mixture of all three and grilled openly in a fish basket under direct wood/charcoal driven high heat. Here, they use whole Red Snapper cut into three sections, the scarce middle spine section and the two surrounding thin fillets. A crimson, chile-dominated Adobo is used here, producing an umami intensive Sarandeado of the spicy, charred, crispy skin and
meaty fleshed variety.

rice n beans
Close To Home Beans

The order of Pescado Sarandeado has a three pound minimum (7.50 a pound) per order. It comes complete with two orders of home-y tasting (thick) freshly refried pinto beans and some savory, Knorr bouillon tinted short grain rice, just like how I would eat it at home.

salsa zarandiada
Salsa Sarandeada

To complement this leaner style of the Sarandeado preparation, a rich Salsa Sarandeada also is standard.
Here, oil is infused with several kinds of ground toasted chilies to create this nutty, spicy sauce similar to the heat intensive Chili Oil found in some Northern Chinese restaurants. I pestered at least three waitresses trying to see what kind of chilies they use in their adobo/salsa…but they all would not peep a spice.

It was my last bite, a perfectly balanced forkful of beans, rice, fish, salsa and lime, that made me completely forget about everything that had happened and just relish the invigorating interplay of tastes, textures, smells…the reason why I got into food in the first place.

Mariscos Martin in Los Angeles

Mariscos Martin
13430 Valley Blvd
La Puente, CA 91746
(626) 330-5722

Kabuki Blogger Dinner: FULL Menu Privileges

As P.R dinners continue to flow in steadily into my inbox, I gain an even stronger motivation to take my writing even more seriously than I do now. I don’t know about other bloggers but these sort of things are what keeps The Glutster going strong, especially since I wish to somehow do this for a living in the someday. I still think its pretty freaking awesome to get invited to cover these sort of events. Not to mention, I wouldn’t nearly have the amount of resources necessary to experience these kind of foods otherwise at the moment…

As is the pricey case usually with Sushi. Where I would of normally only been able to get only the cheapy-est of rolls with a side of rice to fill up, I was able to sample a good chunk of tasty offerings, thanks to being offered the chance of covering the popular Kabuki Restaurant. For the set dinner, their Hollywood location was chosen.

Kabuki Hollywood complex
(photo courtesy of press kit)
Just Walking By: Façade

I would always walk by this place as I got off the metro to catch the Sunset Bus down to the Sunset Strip, the only place classic L.A Hardcore Bands bands play nowadays, those were a splurge enough already though, so I never really had a chance to eat nearby.

I was excited a little more than usually for this dinner though, given that I’m finally twenty one and knowing that it was home to the only Master Sake Sommelier in North America, Yuji Matsumoto. Back in 1997, he was one of the founders of The California Sushi Academy.

Yuji Matsumoto
(photo courtesy of press kit)
Yuji Matsumoto: Sake Is A Way Of Life

Walking in, instead of being greeted with the blaring but warm traditional sushi bar Japanese welcome of irashaimase! You are greeted with trendy-listening, top 40 stuff mostly. If not indifferent, then annoying to me but a plus for mainstream music people I suppose. Tables are filled with easygoing sets of couples, girlfriends gathering to catch up, for a rainy Wednesday afternoon, its pretty cracking. All probably getting a bite before hitting the Hollywood scene.

Kabuki Hollywood 1
(Photo courtesy of press kit)
Comfy But Loungy

Our welcoming cocktail was a Fuji Apple Saketini. A pretty clever concept actually. It was clear in color, thin in texture with an ever-subtle taste of biting into a Fuji apple in the peak of Fall. A definite upgrade from the fluorescent Green Apple Puckers I grew up with.

fuji apple saketini
Balanced: Fuji Apple Saketini ($7.95)

Soon after, we were given a sampling of some their brand new menu items that will make it into the regular menu in a couple of months.

tuna poke
Tuna Poke: Black Sesame, Avocado, Seaweed

At $7.95, it was quite a generous portion. Tuna quality is usually not the point in these style of dressed dishes, wasn’t too bad here.

Yellowtail Sashimi w/ Jalapeño: Their Take On The Nobu Classic

The thin slices held a slightly fishier taste than I expected, not sure if it was supposed to be like that but I guess that’s what the spicy sauce was there for?

At this point we were served our first sipping Sake of the night.

Kikusui (“Chrysanthemum Water“): $7.50 A Glass

Subtle and soft, this Sake was almost as soft as water, had a slightly vegetal taste, the nose was very elegant hinting of grass.

It always gives me a kick whenever I see rolls on the menu with zany names, only to find out that really only means its going to be some sort of a concoction involving cream cheese or deep frying it. Tonight they were unveiling some of their new rolls soon to be put on the regular menu:

vegas rolls
Vegas Roll: Cream Cheese, Surimi, Salmon, All Deep Fried

I can totally see where the name came from; I would totally dig this if I were drunk as hell with a serious case of the beer munchies, otherwise…kind of excessive.

lasagna rolls
Lasagna Roll: Surimi, Cream Cheese, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Baked

I didn’t know what to think when this landed on the table, looking like some sort of creature that was stopped dead in its tracks with a layer of molten, golden brown cheese. I would of liked this ten years ago in my “Lasagna-Is-My-Favorite-Food-Phase”. But now, with purist values instilled deep in, it just looked like something a stoner would dream up in the peak of their high. I did enjoy my ONE piece though.

Baja Rolls
Baja Roll: Surimi, Pico de Gallo

The only roll that didn’t involve cream cheese actually and a favorite, everyone agreed “why haven’t we had something like this before?”. I remember eating some tasty fusion sushi in Mexico City not too long ago, where they would do these same type of rolls but with a Chipotle Japanese Mayo and grilled, adobo spiced onions, these were in the same realm as those. I just wish the sushi rice was a tad less sweeter, got kind of cloying after a couple of chopstick-full’s.

It was pretty awesome to hear the words “you may now order anything from the regular menu” right after this half baked-nouveau roll assault…

Ginjo Mizbasho (“Water Lily”): $6.95 A Glass

The second sipping Sake was a medium acidity Ginjo Mizbasho, a little bit more viscous with more of a zing, just enough to go well with the umami factor of the food though.

lobster dyn-o-mite!
Lobster Dynamite: $10.95

Nothing better–I think–than a heaping platter of soft, lobster chunks baked with the lipid intensive white stuff known as Mayonnaise, Japanese kind of course (a little sweeter).

Toro Sushi
: $9.95

I think everyone in the table at least got one order of this ethereal cut of fatty fish, buttery and melting at your tongue, I was saving my two pieces for a savory dessert. Although I ended up eating like five pieces by the end of the night because everyone had gotten trigger-happy and full real quick, not to say I didn’t get trigger happy as well though.

chilean sea bass
Sake & Soy Chilean Sea Bass w/ Sauteed Asparagus and Chili Sesame Sauce: ($17.95)

Yes, I know, I know. I’m evil, I got the Chilean Sea Bass. I used to carry around the sustainable seafood watch card in my wallet too, but I never really had it before so I rationalized under that. The order came with not one but TWO thick fillets of the fish, and it only continued with the decadence reign of buttery fish. That accompanying sauce was like a sweet demi-glace thickened with some sort of starch or something.

I ate many more things so by the time dessert came, I was ready for something refreshing.

Before then, a picture of the Award Winning Kids Meal!

award winning kids meal!
Way Better Than IHOP!: Ha Ha

Full dessert menu privileges were also granted.

coconut sorbet
Thawed Coconut Sorbet Served In Shell: ($)

After gorging in rich after richer savories, this hit the spot with its fresh fruit qualities, shredded mature coconut was in every bite. A little too thawed for my liking, edges were watery but great nonetheless.

free green tea birthday surprise!
Green Tea Birthday Ice Cream: Awh…So Cute!

Not even a minute after someone uttered that I had just turned twenty one, the servers had rallied up and were singing Happy Birthday in the fastest of time signatures I had ever heard it in, I kind of preferred it actually, kind of punk rock sounding. I tried to record them in action but they were done by the time I turned on my camera.

Oh, how I love being a foodblogger in L.A.