Monday, February 28, 2011

eats - lukshon

had the fortune of hitting up sang yoon's newly opened lukshon this past weekend and enjoyed as good of a dining experience i've had to date. though it launched on february 1, i decided to give it a month just to give them time to work out the kinks, get used to the menu, etc.

lukshon is mere steps away from yoon's father's office 2.0 in culver city but miles away in terms of cuisine. drawing inspiration mainly from southeast asia - but tinged with influences of the dutch, french & portuguese - the menu is peppered with dishes one may have had in say thailand or singapore, but updated with a modern bent.

the dining area is akin to a gleaming white jewel box, partitioning off the bar, a glass center communal table, a cluster of booths off to the side, an outdoor patio and the pièce de resistance: the 6-seat chef's counter directly in front of the open kitchen. this is where we got to sit, and i was basically a kid in a candy store watching them prepare dish after salivating dish with yoon commanding the pass.

upon being seated, we're told that they provide complimentary sparkling or bottled water, so already we as customers, are being taken good care of. the menu is broken up into the following categories: raw, small, big, noodles, rice and sides. here's a quick rundown of what we ordered. BTW our server stated that the dandan noodles would be served last, as our taste buds would be numbed by the heat of the peppercorns. who are we to argue?

* fujian cure - isle of skye 8-year scotch, lemon, galangal, lapsang souchong black tea, candied ginger (this is a cocktail, mind you)
* hot & sour gimlet - monopolova vodka, dragon chile, lime, thai basil, kinh gioi
* baby monterey squid - chiang mai pork sausage, candlenut, mint, rau ram
* spicy chicken pops - shelton farms drumettes, garlic, kecap manis, spicy sichuan salt
* PEI (prince edward island) mussels - green chile rempah, coconut, tapioca, thai basil, lime
* dandan noodles - kurobuta pork, sesame, preserved mustard greens, sichuan peppercorns, peanuts

not to be outdone, each diner is gifted with a complimentary dessert as well! ours was a mango panna cotta w/pomegranate along with a vietnamese tea/tapioca concoction served in a shot glass - both of which were delicious, soothing counterparts to the bold flavors of our meal.

all in all, lukshon far exceeded my expectations - the only downside was the number of dishes we weren't able to try... this time. that just means a return trip is a necessity...

3239 helms ave.

culver city, CA 90232

Friday, February 25, 2011

eats - phillips BBQ

celebrating my last day of vacation going into the weekend, what better way to treat myself to lunch (thursday's was the godmother from bay cities deli) than with the best barbecue in los angeles - phillips.

it's a bit of a trek with it being in inglewood, but it's all worth it when you smell the hard-working smoker as you approach the block. there are no tables or places to sit save a bench off to the side, and the take-out window sits intimidatingly behind a partitioned wall of bulletproof glass.

since my previous visit consisted of tearing apart the gargantuan beef ribs, this time i opted for the finger-sucking dinner of pork ribs, BBQ beans & potato salad. at just $13, you're hooked up with 6 large individual ribs slathered in its spicy tomato-based sauce, two sides & two slices of lunch bread. it's so good that one doesn't mind getting lost in the sauce; this is one meal that i don't mind taking a shower afterwards...

phillips bar-b-que II
1517 centinela ave.
los angeles, CA 90302

Thursday, February 24, 2011

visit - the ojai foundation

we had hoped to go horseback riding on tuesday, but since none of the guided tours were available on such short notice, we decided to visit the ojai foundation, a rustic 40+ acre retreat center located 6 miles from downtown.

in addition to its educational center and meditation gardens based strongly on buddhist traditions, the foundation also maintains accommodations for those staying an indefinite length of time. there's no one way to visit the grounds, so one is left to their own devices on how best to experience such a spiritual place.

located on the premises are a sweat lodge, a labyrinth, a shrine to buddha, a medicine wheel and a teaching tree said to be 700 years old (one is encouraged to hug its branches and limbs).

and one last panoramic look from atop the foundation...

the ojai foundation
9739 santa paula ojai rd.
ojai, CA 93023

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

downtown ojai - miscellaneous

downtown ojai consists of the main thoroughfare on ojai ave., where an arcade of shops and eateries line the street, directly across from libbey park.

the post office - a four-story spanish tower - is the city's most celebrated building and landmark.

since we arrived in the early afternoon on monday, we went in search of lunch options and settled on bonnie lu's - an old school country café whose motto is "good fixins served with a smile." the decor is quite charming and my super thin blueberry pancakes disappeared in seconds. we then made a beeline to the ice cream shop, where they make everything (including fudge!) homemade. next door is casa barranca for wine tasting and an art gallery, but apparently they aren't too fond of peeps bringing in ice cream as evidenced by their door sign...

our dinner search was an easy one - not only was it rated #1 in town, but my mom even heard of it - so suzanne's cuisine it was. it's a cute and romantic spot a few blocks away from downtown and run by the mother/daughter team of suzanne and sandra. since we were still smarting from lunch, ice cream AND wine/cheese, we skipped the appetizers and went straight for the main course. i opted for the misoyaki butterfish w/green caviar and she had the jumbo shrimp w/chili butter. dessert was this scrumptious pineapple/mascarpone cheese/strawberry concoction that was to die for...

suzanne's cuisine
502 w. ojai ave.
ojai, CA 93023

meditation mount

word got back that meditation mount was a great place to enjoy the sunset, and seeing as we had a bit of a time window before wine/cheese, we hopped in our ride and drove about 5 miles to this serene and sacred spot. it's a bit difficult to find - as one must ignore the warning and 'do not enter' signs - but upon arrival, city life is but a memory.

on a typical spring or summer day, one can supposedly witness the celebrated 'pink moment' atop the ojai hills, but seeing as it was partly cloudy, we didn't have such luck. still, it was really nice to step back and enjoy the surroundings - some guests huddled up in anticipation of the sunset, others broke out red wine to keep each other company...

meditation mount
10340 reeves road
ojai, CA 93023

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

stay - the lavender inn

since i'm off this week and heidi was able to take tuesday off, on monday morning we headed up to ojai, the first time for both of us. just a mere 72 miles away, ojai is a delightful small town (population: 8,000) located in ventura county. we settled on the b&b called the lavender inn and couldn't have been happier with our selection.

just one block away from downtown (i.e. ojai ave.), the lavender inn is a converted schoolhouse from 1874 and is just the 2nd building in ojai to be considered a city landmark. it has 7 rooms and an attached cottage, so for this trip we booked the craftsman room. however, they keep all of their available rooms open to view, so one can check out the respective rooms and their unique color scheme. the bottom two below are from our bathroom...

with all the rooms situated upstairs, the downstairs consists of the main living room (w/fireplace!), den (w/computers, books & DVDs), the dining area and kitchen. one of cool perks of your stay is complimentary wine & cheese everyday at 5pm. mind you, this is not something where they toss out a bottle of chardonnay and some kraft singles - it's the real deal holyfield. i counted over 12 types of cheeses (including goat, stilton blue, cheddar jalapeno & triple cream), different crackers, samosas & mushroom tarts right out of the oven, fig jam, etc., to go along with a few varietals from select ojai vineyards.

not to be outdone, breakfast is even better! served between 9-10am, tuesday's spread included a delectable quiche, fresh fruit, yogurt, applewood smoked bacon, sausage, warm banana bread and cereal to go along w/the prerequisite coffee, tea & OJ. you can nosh in the dining room or head outside, so we opted to eat on the patio overlooking the beautiful courtyard.

although our stay was such a short one, we had such a great time that it's yet another place where it's not a question of if we return, but when...

the lavender inn
210 e matilija st.
ojai, CA 93023