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Gjelina – Venice, CA

I’ve had Gjelina’s cookbook on my kitchen bookshelf for a few years now and was so excited when I found out it’s just blocks from my girlfriend’s house who I was visiting in Venice.  We went for brunch (great way to get in there if you can’t get a dinner reservation – just show up before 10am) and while the outside patio was already full, we got in no problem in the main dining room.

We ordered an absurd amount of food for the two of us but I couldn’t help myself and had to try a lot seeing as it was my first time.  As generic as it sounds, the fruit plate is a must!  You’re not going to find sorry looking honeydew and pineapple on it, rather nectarines, pink pearl apples, plums, etc.  DE-lish!  We narrowed their huge menu down to the soft scramble with squash blossoms, ricotta and mint, the king oyster mushroom omelette with gruyere, red onion, arugula and lemon and then had to share the lemon buckwheat ricotta pancakes topped with créme fraiche and blueberry compote.  I wasn’t dubbed “The Good Eater” for no reason.  No I’m just dying to go back for dinner!

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Sugarfish – Beverly Hills, CA

BEST. SUSHI. EVER.

My mouth is salivating as I think about my meal at Sugarfish.  Honestly, it was the best sushi I’ve ever had.  I may not know everything about sushi but I will tell you that I’ve eaten it around the world.  From The Tsukiji Market in Tokyo to Seattle, I’ve sampled a lot of “the best” and this by far is THE BEST out there!

There are three menus to choose from: Trust Me/Lite, Trust Me and The Nozawa.  Think of it as small, medium and large.  You can order a la carte but price-wise, you get more for your money with the prefix menus and you will most definitely want to add more to it once you’re done.  I chose the Trust Me and my husband got The Nozawa.  Each included edamame, tuna sashimi, albacore sushi, salmon sushi, yellowtail sushi, halibut sushi, a toro hand roll and a blue crab hand roll.  The Nozawa also included a “Daily Special” as well as a few more pieces of the sushi.  My favorite was the tuna sashimi and the albacore sushi.  The sushi is served nigiri style (fish on top of the rice) and the rice was warm (I’ve never experienced that and it was such a great surprise).  The fish couldn’t have been better quality.  It seriously melted in my mouth.  I remember 1) being speechless as I ate it, 2) telling my husband that you wouldn’t even need teeth to eat this sushi and 3) that if I had to choose my last meal on Earth this would be it!  They don’t take reservations so go put your name in and have a drink or walk around.  Worth the wait for sure!

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Porta Via – Beverly Hills, CA

A new found breakfast spot…and I like it!  I’ll be totally honest, there were probably only 4 tables filled while we were there and they service was painfully slow but the food was excellent and I would definitely go back.  Nothing about the menu (lunch and dinner included) is crazy different but it’s good food, good quality and well done therefore a success in my book.  Definitely worth a try.  It’s much more relaxing than most places I’ve tried in the area for breakfast not to mention the price is definitely right!

Chicken, Spinach & Onion Egg White Omelet – breakfast potatoes (I subbed fruit) & toasted baguette

The Blvd – Beverly Hills, CA

There’s no better place in Beverly Hills to eat well and have the best people watching right in front of you.  Located in the timeless Beverly Wilshire at the tail end of Rodeo Drive, The Blvd comes with a high price tag but it’s THE quintessential Beverly Hills experience.

Almost every time I’m there I get the Seafood Salad.  It’s changed over the years but is never disappointing to me and comes with the highest quality of seafood one would expect for a $33 salad.  My husband started with the Lobster Salad which was divine.  I especially loved the green apple.  It added such a lovely acidity and made the dish perfectly balanced.  For his entrée he got the Veal Schnitzel…whoa…I had a tinge of order envy but luckily he was nice enough to give me a couple of bites.  The veal was pounded thin and cooked to perfection.  So tender and full of flavor…this was definitely a success.  My only advice is to add a good squeeze of lemon juice on top.  It brightens the dish and makes it not as heavy tasting.

Just to name a few, Bob Green, Mariel Hemingway and André Leon Talley were all dining there the last time I was there for lunch.  Does it get much better than that?!  Go!

Great selection of breads

Maine Lobster Salad – green apple, avocado, jicima, lemon oil vinaigrette

Seafood Salad – pickled butternut squash, octopus, prawns, lobster, scallops, white port and hazelnut oil

Veal Schnitzel – fingerling potato salad, red radishes, lemon butter

Urth Caffé – Beverly Hills, CA

A favorite of mine and a must every time I go down to BH, I love Urth Caffé and I always order the same thing for breakfast  – the Urth Parfait.  It’s SO good!  I totally think of Entourage every time I eat there…and keep thinking I’ll run into E or Vince Chase but nope.  Back to the food…everything is so fresh and tasty.  My mom once ordered the quiche and I swear, it may have been one of the best I’ve ever tasted.  They have to use a good amount of cream because the texture and flavor was like none other.  One thing I’m dying to get next time are the Eggs Verde – two soft poached organic eggs over a bed of arugula, roasted corn, baby tomatoes and poached asparagus spears tossed with peppercorn dressing, garnished with cracked pepper and chive oil served with toasted whole wheat bread.  Seriously?!  Sign me up!

Madeo – West Hollywood, CA

This was my first time dining at the popular Northern Italian restaurant Madeo and I can tell you that it won’t be my last.  It was one of the best Italian meals I’ve had.  I normally opt for fish dishes (and I still did this time) however I always rely on my husband for a bite of pasta.  He chose wisely and went with the classic Spaghetti alla Bolognese made with a veal meat sauce and honestly…it was probably the best we had both had.  Simple and far from fussy, the tender meat and perfectly cooked pasta intensified with every bite.  It was sad when it was gone.  My sister-in-law went for the special Veal Meatballs which I think we all assumed would be coming with pasta however it didn’t BUT, these meatballs were melt in your mouth good.  Perfect from start to finish.  They were delicate and soft not over mixed, hard or dry.  They (aside from my Cafe Lago meatballs) are the best meatballs I’ve ever tasted.  Next time I go if these are on the menu I’m getting them!  Another dish in the mix on our table was the Osso Bucco which was also to die for.  The veal shank was cooked the way it was supposed to be with the meat falling off the bone.  Absolutely delicious.  I guess what I’m getting at is that you can’t really go wrong at this restaurant, or at least that’s what my first impression has led me to believe.  The ambiance won’t blow you away but there’s something nostalgic about it and you’re bound to find some famous faces in there which is always fun:)

Carciofi e Parmigiano – baby raw artichokes and Parmigiano cheese and rucola  *SO good!  A light dish that got eaten quickly…everything about it was well balanced and seasoned perfectly.

Prosciutto e Melone – Parma ham and melon  *Classic Italian dish…how can you go wrong?

Fagioli e Aragosta – Italian Cannellini beans with diced lobster and Rucola salad in a lemon dressing  *This was such a beautiful flavorful starter.  Plenty to share but honestly something I could eat everyday.  DE-lish!

Calamari Affogati – sautéed squid in tomato sauce  *Some of the best calamari I’ve ever had!  you need a spoon to get some sauce with every bite:)

Branzino di Mare al Carciofi – filet of wild sea bass baked with white wine and artichokes  *On the special menu…VERY good!

Vitella Arrosto – sliced roasted leg of veg from the cart  *We didn’t order this but as we were paying our bill…STUFFED…we all salivated while the chef started carving this beautiful meat and then carefully coated each delicate piece with some au jus.  Thankfully our waiter saw our oh-so-descreet drooling and had the chef make us a plate.  I can’t describe how flavorful this was.  It was on the special menu but seriously if you go and it’s on there and you have enough people to share with…GET IT!!!

The Bazaar – Beverly Hills, CA

WOW! I left this meal a little speechless. The Bazaar honestly blew my mind. José Andrés is truly a molecular gastronomy genius. Located in the swanky SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, The Bazaar is bizarre (no pun intended). I didn’t look up the restaurant before we headed there (very unlike me) and although I didn’t know what to expect I DID know that it would most likely be fabulous based on what I know about Chef Andrés. Oh was it! This place is UNBELIEVABLE!!! It’s kind of like a mad museum…weird artifacts, photos, art, chairs, every turn you take. No two tables are the same. They even have you move to a different location in the restaurant (The Patisserie) for dessert.

We ate ourselves silly at this dinner and I don’t regret it one bit. In fact, I’m DYING to go back and can’t wait to explore the menu even more. Below are my favorites from the night. We ordered a good 20-22 dishes between 4 of us…they recommend 4-5 per person so we were pretty much on track (at least that’s what I’m telling myself:)).

Dessert is a whole other ballgame. Although the menu is significantly smaller it’s just as daunting because everything sounds so interesting and delicious. Aside from your “normal” dessert selections there are cookies, cakes, tarts, candy, pate du fruit, etc…and luckily, you’re able to give yourself a tour of the “others”…photo at the bottom. You’re stuffed and yet you want to try a little of everything. This place is dangerous:)

Market Fish Ceviche and Avocado Roll – jicama, micro cilantro and coconut

King Crab – raspberries, raspberry vinaigrette

Not Your Everyday Caprese – cherry tomatoes and liquid mozzarella

Japanese Taco – grilled eel, shiso, cucumber, wasabi, and chicharron

King Crab Mini-Sandwiches – pickled cucumbers, steamed buns

Smoked Yellowtail and Crispy Rice – yoghurt, grapes, capers, radish

Just Shrimp Cocktail“Yeah Right”

Ottoman Carrot Fritters – apricots, pistachio sauce

Sautéed Shrimp – garlic, guindilla pepper

Seared Squid – artichokes, chicken escabeche

Lemon Artichokes – black olive tapenade, dandelion

Baby Japanese Peaches – Di Stefano buratta, hazelnuts, arugula

The Patisserie

Chocolate, a cookie and a bonbon that I chose…yum!

Happy Birthday Kathy!

Yes…this is the restaurant. It doubles as a store and you can buy everything from coffee table books to fine jewelry to skull shaped candles. Eclectic one might say.

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