The Generous Pour Wine Event at The Capital Grille

Sitting at a cozy table with George Miliotis is an honor few people get to experience, and I can say, I was lucky enough to have done that.

George is one of only 173 Master Sommeliers in the world and is also The Capital Grille’s Master Sommelier. George has the job of choosing every single bottle of wine that sits on their extensive wine list country-wide.

Next month, the restaurant will introduce The Generous Pour Wine Event featuring wines specially selected by George from unique vineyards around the world. Starting Tuesday July 12, guests may sample all nine wines or choose to have multiple tastings of one or more of their favorites from The Generous Pour list including some of the season’s newest wine trends, while also offering hard-to-find varietals as well as known favorites. The event ends September 4 and is only offered at dinner at a mere $25/person.

However, whenever I pay The Capital Grille a visit, it is ALWAYS about the food (and the occasional glass of wine) and I love to start with the French Onion Soup which is a cup or crock of the heartiest beef broth with caramelized onions and topped with a very luxurious cheesy cap.

During lunch, Dry Aged Sirloin Salad with Roquefort Vinaigrette is not so much a salad but more of a generous piece of steak, sliced and served with a salad on the side. This is hearty enough for the guys in the house.

If you’re into burgers then The Grille’s Classic Burger may be the way to go. The meat is freshly ground every day on the premises and cooked to your desired temperature. Served on an onion roll with sweet onions, smoked bacon and Havarti cheese, this is your traditional burger but with a little added edge.

At dinner time, a steak is the definite way to go and my favorite is the Porcini Rubbed Delmonico cooked medium rare. And when I have steak, a full bodied red is the perfect way to go — ask for a recommendation.

Or, if you don’t want a hunking piece of meat, try the Cedar Planked Salmon with Tomato Fennel Relish. The fish is moist and the fennel surprisingly is a wonderful accompaniment.

For those of you who have yet to sample or would like to re-visit The Capital Grille, I have a $100 gift certificate to give away. Leave a comment on my page and let me know what you’re going to order with the $100 for a chance to win — BE CREATIVE! There is a lot more on that menu than what I’ve previewed here! The gift certificate is valid at both Costa Mesa and Beverly Hills locations.

The Capital Grille
at The Beverly Center
8614 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Tel: 310-358-0650
or
at South Coast Plaza
3333 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Tel: 714-432-1140

I shoulda Gatten Sushi elsewhere

The kid loves sushi and naturally, being a kid means the revolving kind is more exciting than the ones you order straight from the sushi chef.

My child’s favorite sushi place is Sushilicious where he can select whatever he wants off the conveyor belt and eat at his own pace. So when he was home with me recently, I decided to take him to try the new kaiten (revolving) sushi opened at UCI campus.

We get to the door of Gatten Sushi and before I even walked in, I could hear “customer coming” and then a tirade of “IRASHAIMASE” bellowing at us.

After we’re seated, the entire staff faces our direction, bows and then shouts “IRASHAIMASE” again. It was really loud! I hadn’t even settled into my seat yet when someone comes over and bombards us with questions “have you been here before? NO? have you been to revolving sushi before? well let me tell you…….”

Finally, our eyes are fixated on the belt as we watched plates go by and my son selects a few items to start eating. I take the fish off the rice and ate them au naturel. The first thing I noticed was how thin the slices of fish was and secondly, the salmon had a slight fishiness to it.

The second was a white fish — seared tilapia — and it was dry. DRY? We arrived when they opened at 11am, how does the fish get dry? How long ago was this made? I then tried the rice and I’m glad I didn’t eat it earlier with the fish. It was hard and very cold — nasty.

Throughout our meal, we were subjected to “IRASHAIMASE” screaming match every time a customer would walk in the door. If it wasn’t that, someone would stop by the table and ask if we wanted to order something. We were there 30 mins and four people stopped by to ask if we wanted to order something interspersed with about 5 very loud “IRASHAIMASE”.

When you order the more ‘elaborate’ types of fish, such as otoro salmon (which incidentally, was the best item I tried), it comes only one piece to a plate (like Kula).

Amaebi is available but they put the fried shrimp head ON the shrimp and it taints the taste of the shrimp — well, in this case, the shrimp was tasteless, so …….

Chicken karaage was served with no mayo and no lemon wedge and my son spat some fatty bits out on to his plate and then tells me he didn’t want any more and then asks me why the plate was SO small. I asked him why he cared since he didn’t want any more.

I ended up eating the edamame, something my son usually devours. It was cold and tasteless, no salt, nothing.

After 9 plates of mainly me picking the fish OFF and eating it sans rice, we were done. When my child tells me he doesn’t want to eat here anymore and can we go to Sushilicious, I knew it was time to get the hell out.

$2 for most of the plates and some $3 plates may sound reasonable, but when the fish is thin, dry and tasteless, it’s not worth the bad taste in my mouth. The more expensive items such as amaebi was $2 but you only get one piece — similar to Kula. The only item which was good was the “otoro salmon” which was also one piece on a plate.

Then my son asks “mom have you realized that it’s the same music playing over and over again?” but it wasn’t the repetitiveness of it that thumped in my head but the techo rhythm too early in the morning.Yeah, it was time to go.

If you like Kula and its pricing, you might like this place. Yeah cheap may be good for some, but you get what you pay for essentially and this place isn’t worth it. On top of that, the constant yelling (every time they place some sushi on the belt the entire staff yells “YUMMY” at the top of their lungs) and the maniacal music made it a very stressful experience overall.

Gatten Sushi
4517 Campus Drive
Irvine, CA 92612
Tel: 949-679-8322

Gatten Sushi on Urbanspoon

Greek Festival this weekend in Irvine

This weekend, you can visit the annual “A Taste of Greece” festival at St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine (4949 Alton Parkway).

We got to taste some of the offering available at the Festival. Here are some of delicious items you can look forward to.

Chicken Breast — baked chicken breast with Greek seasonings and served with a bread roll. The chicken was moist and very flavorful.

Lamb Chops with Greek French fries — 4 chops with the best fries ever. Seasoned beautifully, the fries remained crisp even after 20-30 minutes.

Gyros — lamb and beef blend served in fluffy, puffy pita bread with tomatoes, onions and tzatziki. Everyone loved this!

Pastitchio (Greek lasagna) — mine was a little bland but my friends liked it.

Loukaniko (Greek sausage) — this was positively my favorite. These homemade Greek sausages are seasoned with herbs and lemon juice. An extra lemon wedge is served alongside and I loved the fresh juice over the tasty sausage.

Spanakopita (spinach and feta pie) — I’ve always loved this item and the phyllo pastry is flaky and the spinach and feta is wonderfully light with the perfect amount of saltiness from the cheese.

Tyropita — similar to the spanakopita but filled with three different cheeses. Really delicious! The pastry if very flaky and the filling not heavy with the right amount of savoriness.

Dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves) — not usually a dish I like when stuffed with rice, but here, it is stuffed with lamb and beef and served with avgolemono (egg and lemon sauce) — by the way, I love the avgolemono soup as well and Christakis in Tustin does a really good one.

Saganaki (Greek brandy-flamed cheese) — this is a highly decadent dish — especially if you love cheese. This Greek cheese resembles haloumi but is not as salty and flambed with brandy and served on pita bread.

Loukoumathes (Greek doughnut holes) — I’m not a big dessert fan and these were a little too sweet for me. When I bit into it it was soft and the honey sauce oozed out of them. My friends loved them though.

We also sampled a variety of Greek sweets such as baklava and rice pudding.

Festival hours are noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 25; and noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday, June 26. Festival admission is just $3 per person with free admission on Saturday, June 25 from noon – 5 p.m. for seniors older than 65 years. Children under the age of 10 are admitted free throughout the three-day festival.  Free festival parking will also be available, with complimentary shuttle buses transporting guests from public parking sites in Irvine.

Print the flyer below for free admission to the festival

A taste of Street food Feniger style

I was a little wary about eating here because street food is what I grew up on. I was afraid they would butcher the dishes that were close to my heart and then I’d leave feeling underwhelmed and more homesick for those dishes more than ever before.

My friend Austin and I arrived when it opened and were greeted by the lovely host who told us we could have the pick of the restaurant. We chose to sit inside because we could feel the sweltering heat about to envelope us from the car to the door and sitting outside would no doubt make our meal a lot less enjoyable.

No sooner had we sat down and gotten our drinks, a small dish of these turmeric-hued Indian flavored rice crispies were placed before us. Their slight saltiness surprised me as I was expecting sweet rather than savory and the heady aroma of cumin hit me head on. It was certainly a seductive introduction to what was to come!

We started with Sashimi ($12), seasonal fish — in this case, albacore, spicy sesame mayonnaise, ponzu sauce, smoked salt, pink peppercorns and daikon radish sprouts.

I was at first put off by the mayo — I hate mayo — but once I mixed it with the ponzu, it diluted the mayo taste and added a different element to it which was rather pleasant. The pink peppercorns were possibly my favorite flavor component to this dish — and if you didn’t know, pink peppercorns are not pepper but berries from the Baies Rose plant.

This is probably why although there is a slight kick to it, they are very subtle and unique, not anything like the black or white peppercorns. This dish worked for me on every level!

A few of the dumpling selections caught our eye and so we decided to go with the Dumpling Sampler ($14) to experience three of the items instead of ordering a la carte.

I didn’t like Spinach Varenyky. These Ukranian dumplings were filled with spinach and a layer of salted cheese, boiled and then fried, served with sour cream, fried onions and lemon marmalade.

They were dense, dry and lacked flavor. It reminded me of a ricotta cheese and spinach mix I put into my lasagnas before I’ve seasoned it, and the acoutrements didn’t help to enhance them any.

The filling was under-seasoned and although the lemon marmalade sounded good on paper, there wasn’t enough of it to help cut the heaviness.

Mandoo Vegetable Dumplings were a different story all together. I loved the Asian vegetables stuffed inside the wrapper, making them moist and flavorful. I however did not taste the sweet potato nor kimchi, but the roasted ginger yam puree was a nice touch if you needed added moisture — which those Ukranian dumplings should have had.

Shrimp stuffed shiitake mushrooms were my favorite of the three. Tempura fried shiitake mushrooms are filled with a delicate shrimp mousse, battered and fried.

I loved the ponzu dipping sauce which helped cut the grease some. Three fried dumplings are too greasy on one platee. What I would’ve liked is to balance the fried with some steamed options to lessen the overkill.

Initially, I had checked out the online menu and had the clams stuck on my mind, only to be told that the website’s menu needed updating and instead, Curried Mussels ($12) were offered. These Goa-style mussels in coconut milk with shallots, curry leaf and Spanish chorizo were perfectly prepared, tender without the least bit of rubbery or chewy texture.

I saw the curry leaf swimming around but didn’t detect its aroma. Nor did the coconut milk stand out in any way. The chorizo was so hard we weren’t able to chew on it, leaving it in the bowl with the remainder of the broth for our server George to take away.

Korean Rice Salad ($15) was essentially bibimbap, but as far as bibimbaps go, this was an epic fail. Apart from the superbly glazed seasonal fish (salmon) which was flaky, moist and absolutely perfect, the rest was a different story.

The brown rice, chopped lettuce, soybean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, nori, daikon radish, tofu, sunflower seeds all had the makings of a good bibimbap. However, where it failed was in the seasonings. Even though it is tossed in a spicy sweet sesame dressing, it was bland and dry that even the runny fried egg mixed in was not able to save it. It was desperately needing a huge dollop of gojuchang, something to give it some oompf. We ate the fish but left the rest untouched.

In order to make up for the last dish, we ordered Black and gold ceviche ($11) marinated seasonal fish with golden chiles, cucumber, red onion, and cilantro topped with extra virgin olive oil and salsa negra, served with an arugula side salad and house made potato chips. This was a pleasant dish, but didn’t wow me.

I wish I had left room at this point to enjoy more than two bites of the Lebanese Za’atar Chicken Wrap ($15) because it was DELICIOUS.

Oven roasted chicken, chopped and dusted with za’atar spice mix, wrapped in toasted lavash, with baba ghanoush, marinated tomatoes, olives, cucumber lebni yogurt, and chopped harissa eggs sounds like a lot, but came together so beautifully.

The fact that I was already stuffed and found this sandwich as stellar as I did goes to show how truly amazing its flavors were.

Unfortunately we were too full to have any dessert, but we are determined to return for a sampling of their dinner menu which has different items from the lunch menu. All in all, a really relaxed meal with awesome service from George. We shall return again — soon!

Susan Feniger’s Street
742 N Highland Street
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Tel: 323-203-0500

Susan Feniger's Street on Urbanspoon

Ararat — the only Armenian eatery in OC

You just have to drive to Anaheim to know that a host of Mediterranean restaurants is your’s for the picking ranging from Lebanese, Jordanian, Palestinian but when it comes to Armenian, I’m a newbie at it. On top of that, there seems to be only one Armenian restaurant in the whole of OC which makes it hard for me to know what exactly to expect. So, all I can go by in terms of judging is the myriad of other Mediterranean cuisines I am familiar with and love.

When an OC Register reader wrote in and asked me to venture out to Anaheim to try this cuisine, I asked Selene to come with me and in turn, she brought along two of her friends (Marcus and Vu) to tag along on this eating adventure.

I was the first to arrive, right at 11.30am when they should’ve opened, but I found the parking lot deserted and the restaurant dark and empty. The doors were locked and I was confused. After much consultation via text with Selene, we were ready to move to another location and as I pulled out of my parking spot, I thought I saw movement inside.

I walked over and peered inside, saw a lady inside and knocked on the window mouthing “are you open” and received a nod in response. I guess they’re not a stickler for punctuality — it was now 11.50am.

After further communication with Selene et al, I proceeded inside the restaurant to wait for them to arrive. The decor is sparse and I’m starting to notice a pattern here with Mediterranean restaurants in and around Anaheim. They don’t dwell on design or making their space look pretty. I only hoped the food was good.

Since everyone was starving I suggested we order a mezze plate to share while we decide on what our entrees would be.

Ararat Mezze ($6 small/$8 large) consisted of hummus, metabbal, yalanchee sarma, boureg, tabbouleh and falafel.

I liked how the hummus was nice and tart with a good amount of lemon juice throughout. Tahini, garlic and olive oil were all perfectly mixed in that I didn’t feel it required any more tweaking (which I normally do with hummus). It had a lovely creamy consistency without tasting the least bit dry. This was a hit with me.

Whenever I eat Mediterranean food, my favorite is the eggplant dip and here it is called metabbal, a cream of eggplant blended with sesame extract, garlic and lemon. It is similar to babaghanoush and had a good smokiness to it, just the way I liked. It was also roughly blended which is always nice, giving it texture instead of pure creaminess.

No one at the table particularly liked the yalanchee sarma which are like similar to Greek dolmas. I don’t like cold rice and this one was wrapped way too tightly with the grape leaves that they tasted dry and compressed. Marcus didn’t like them cold and wondered if they would be better hot — well, we were about to find out a little later the answer to that question.

I usually love boureg (especially those from Jack’s Bakery) but the one here were made with puff pastry and had hardly any filling inside. It wasn’t like any bouregs I’ve ever had. What I am used to are the ones stuffed with a lot of meat and cheese or vegetables and cheese. These were just like, well, eating puff pastry.

Our falafels were served on a separate plate and these were outstanding! They were fried perfectly that the outside was crispy while the inside remained soft and light. A tahini-based sauce was served alongside. It is creamy and not the least bit heavy which made for a good accompaniment to the falafels and more.

At $8, the large mezze plate was a really good deal and frankly, we were quite full after that. So when our entrees arrived I was glad to see the portions were small.

We were also given pita bread to eat with our dips and appetizers. It was a generous amount and our server told us she would bring us more if we needed it.

A bowl of salad with a simple lemon juice, olive oil and dried mint dressing was brought out for us to share.

Whenever I eat Mediterranean food, my inclination is to go towards the koftas, or something similar. It is usually seasoned ground meat shaped into a sausage and grilled.

Lulah Kebab ($6) were made with ground beef, onion, parsley, red peppers and herbs. I liked its flavor although they were very over-cooked and very dry, I doused them with the extra tahini sauce leftover from the falafels.

Selene’s Kebab Combination ($9) comprised one each of lulah kebab, chicken and beef but unfortunately, none of them had the “wow” factor. The chicken was super dry but nicely seasoned while the beef was tender but under-seasoned. Go figure!

When Marcus’ Green Pepper Dolmah ($7) arrived I made pre-conceived judgements before I’d even try it because it really was unattractive. I was so skeptical at first but after trying it found it quite delicious. These mild green peppers are stuffed with rice and ground beef and drizzled with a full-flavored meaty sauce that was rich in both consistency and flavor. This was surprisingly the tastiest entree of the lot.

The server was really sweet and after Marcus’ question about the stuffed grape leaves being served warm, she brought us a plate of them, piping hot, with the same filling as the peppers and the meaty sauce. We all agreed this was indeed a lot more palatable than the yalanchee sarma.

At the end of the meal, along with the check comes a plate of sesame cookies, which, I really liked. They’re crispy and filled with sesame seeds and I wouldn’t have minded taking a little bag of these home.

Our experience was a hit and miss. If you do come here, stick with the appetizers and you’ll undoubtedly enjoy what you get. Service is so warm and friendly you may almost forget that some dishes were really “blah” — okay, I said ALMOST!

Ararat Armenian Cuisine
1827 W Katella Avenue
Anaheim, CA 92804
Tel: 714-778-5667

Ararat Armenian on Urbanspoon

WIN A PAIR OF TICKETS TO VINTAGE CAR SHOW

The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions™, will hold its 2nd Annual Orange County Auction at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa this week from June 24-26.  Continuing its year-long 40th anniversary, the three-day automotive lifestyle event will feature one of the most diverse selections of customs, classics, Hot Rods, Resto-Mods and original collector cars available for purchase at a Barrett-Jackson auction.

Highlights include a 1973 Ferrari 365GTB/4 Berlinetta. The USA Production 1973 Ferrari Daytona 365 GTB/4 Berlinetta was Maranello’s answer to Lamborghini’s Miura and Maserati’s Ghibli.  It features a 4.4 liter, 4-cam, 352 basic hp, 173 mph screamer and has all the books, records and warranty cards in the original wrappers.  The car has also won numerous prestigious awards across the country.

I have some tickets to give away for the Barrett-Jackson’s The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions this weekend at the OC Fair & Event Center courtesy of The Capital Grille who are sponsors of this event.

Please leave a comment and tell me what your dream car is and you will be entered for the drawing. You have until Wednesday to enter.