Archive for November, 2010

I’m Just Here for the Food: The Capital Grille

filet

Sweet, sweet beef.

Ever since I lost my cushy desk job to the bursting of the housing bubble, I haven’t been able to indulge in much fine cuisine. Who can afford to pay more than ten bucks for a meal? There are two answers to that question:

1. Not me.
2. My friends.

Every year for my birthday, these dear friends treat me to a taste of my former life.

Fortunately, my birthday usually coincides with dineLA, an event during which Los Angeles restaurants offer a prix fixe menu at a discounted price. This year, I was given a choice of three restaurants, and I decided to go with the Capital Grille.

Now, we all know how I feel about restaurants that add a superfluous E on the end of “grill” to make it seem fancier, and that made me hesitant to choose the Capital Grille, but I told myself that I ought to judge a restaurant by its food, not its grammar.

My friends had told the restaurant when making the reservation that it was my birthday, so there was a birthday card waiting for me when we arrived, surrounded by some birthday confetti. It was a nice touch.

The first thing we asked when we sat down was whether or not the dineLA portions were regular portions or reduced. One of my friends, being a dude, was concerned about whether or not the portions would be filling. Our server reassured us that the portions were the same size as the normal portions at the Capital Grille.

Han must still have been suspicious because he decided to order an appetizer anyway. The Pan-Fried Calamari with Hot Cherry Peppers was tender and flavorful. It wasn’t overbattered, and the batter that was there was light and crispy. The peppers also added a nice bite of spice and acid to the dish without overwhelming it.

We then got started on the prix fixe menu. Both of us girls got the Clam Chowder, and the dude got the Field Greens, which surprised me. He said he enjoyed it, but I couldn’t help but to secretly think that we girls had won the first round. The chowder was creamy and silky, and there were plenty of clams in it.

sirloin

More beef!!

We moved on to the main event: the steak. My buddy the dude is a workout freak and his nickname is The Beef. Well, these steak dishes were steaks worthy of The Beef. The Beef and his lady got the Kona Crusted Dry-Aged Sirloin with Shallot Butter. It was done to perfection, and it tasted fine, but I still felt that I had the winner on my plate.

I got the Filet Mignon, which was served with a red wine sauce, was rich and full of flavor. I enjoyed every bite of that melt-in-your-mouth filet.

Each dinner was supposed to be served with a little Creamed Spinach and Mashed Potatoes, but since there were three of us, our server gave us a full-sized order of each. The spinach was creamy enough, but I personally thought it could have used some bacon. The mashed potatoes were creamy, too, but I felt myself wanting garlic.

The service, by the way, was some of the best I ever had. Our server was on point without being a nuisance. He was knowledgable and confidently answered all of our questions. He even suggested ways that we could get more out of our dining experience.

creme brulee

Why does burnt cream taste so good?

We finished with three different desserts. I got the Classic Crème Brûlée, The Beef got the Capital Grille Handcrafted Ice Cream in vanilla, and his lady got the Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake. All three desserts were just about perfect; sweet without giving us a toothache, although I thought it helped that we ate the ice cream and the cake together.

We left happy and satisfied. I even took home leftovers.

The dineLA deal was incredible, and, as far as fine dining is concerned, the Capital Grille certainly knows what it’s doing. Someday, when my ship comes in, I’ll visit the Capital Grille again.

The Capital Grille
Beverly Center
8614 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 358-0650
TheCapitalGrille.com

A Hot Bowl of Italy: Zuppa Toscana

I originally intended the I’m Just Here for the Food feature to include reviews and recipes, but it’s been an entire year and I haven’t posted a single recipe. Well, that changes today.

Now that the weather’s getting chillier (which, in SoCal, means it was 60°F today), I’m in the mood for a nice, hot bowl of soup almost every day. Mmm, soup.

Zuppa Toscana is one of my favorite soups. Whenever I get unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks at the Olive Garden, I can never bring myself to order any soup but the Toscana. This creamy soup is easy to make at home, and maybe even better because you can make it as hearty as you like!

Start by chopping up an onion.

Onion!!

First, lengthwise, then crosswise.

Then, crush yourself up some garlic.

Garlic!!

Place your knife over the garlic clove, and then... HULK SMASH!!! Then peel off the skin... TADA!! Crushed and peeled garlic.

Then, put your cubed potatoes, onions, and garlic in a stockpot.

In the pot!!

You heard me!! DO IT!!!

Then brown up some Italian sausage and chopped bacon. MEAT, YAY!!!

MEEEEAAAAAAT!!!

Mmm, bacon. And sausage.

Now, let’s turn this soup into a soup!

BOIL, my pretty!!

Add broth, bacon, and sausage, and boil until potatoes are soft. Add cream and kale.

Add the cream and kale after the potatoes are soft, and heat through.

Mmm, soupy!!

Finish off with some grated parmesan and some freshly-ground pepper.

It’s creamy. It’s savory. It’s hearty. It’s the ultimate soup.

Zuppa Toscana

1 lb. sausage
1 lb. bacon, chopped
1 qt. water
2 14.5 oz. cans chicken broth
2 russet potatoes, scrubbed clean and cubed
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 cups chopped kale
1 cup heavy cream
Parmesan cheese and pepper to taste

Brown sausage over medium-high heat, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Brown bacon, too. Set aside.

Place water, broth, potatoes, garlic and onion in a pot and simmer until potatoes are soft.

Add sausage and bacon and cook for another ten minutes.

Add kale and cream; heat through.

Before serving, garnish with Parmesan cheese and freshly-ground pepper. You can add salt if you like, but I find that the bacon makes this soup salty enough.

Enjoy! 🙂

I’m Just Here for the Food: Saladang Song

saladang song

If looks are your thing, you're in luck.

I’ve only been here twice, and, both times, I was with a large group of people.

On my most recent visit, it was for a wedding rehearsal dinner. The bride- and groom-to-be ordered a bunch of dishes for everyone to share: pad thai, pad see ew, beef salad , yellow curry, and Thai fried rice.

I have no complaints about the food; everything was absolutely delicious. And the outside patio is beautiful — the restaurant, designed by Peter Tolkin Architecture, was a finalist for a James Beard restaurant design award.

My only big objection to the place is that it’s so ridiculously expensive. I understand that sometimes, you have to pay for ambiance, but the food just isn’t spectacular enough to merit the cost. I’d be satisfied with a crappier restaurant design and better food.

If you really want to impress someone with aesthetics, then Saladang Song is the place to go. But if you want to impress them with food, look elsewhere.

Saladang Song
383 S Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 793-5200
SaladangSong.com