Thursday, June 9, 2011

Arigato --Santa Barbara

I am no stranger to good sushi.  LA is home to a plethora of Japanese hot spots.  We've got the trendy Phillip Stark designed Katsuya sprinkled all over the city.  We've also got the celebrity ridden strip mall Japanese ala' Hamasaku. Venice locals flock to Chaya and Wabi Sabi, me being one of them.   All of these sushi restaurants are very good and unique in their own rights but none of them are Arigato.  Perhaps it's the combination of the amazingly fresh and unique dishes mixed together with the fact that I am in Santa Barbara, away from the madness of big city dwelling.  Arigato is doing something very unique. Their first location was situated in a teeny plaza on lower State. In recent years they upgraded to a much larger spot right on State Street.  It's an enviable piece of real estate and to most restaurants a scary rental proposition. What do they say, eighty percent of restaurants fail?  But not Arigato.  Each time I go I'm reminded by the two hour wait that Arigato will always be a Santa Barbara mainstay.

The dish I find myself thinking about every time I check in with the host is Miss Ebilyn's gyoza.  They are steamed postickers with shrimp, halibut, ailoli and ponzu.  I could eat only this and be satisfied.   I restrain at all costs to not fill up on the glorious dumplings or I will miss out on the fresh fish plates.  Their tuna carpaccio is fabulous.  The tuna melts in your mouth, never too tough.  Theirs is a fusion of EVOO and Arigto brand vinaigrette.  Also of note is the yellowtail and jalapeno carpaccio.  As far as rolls go, and I am not a big roll enthusiast, the Fiesta roll is other worldly: tempura halibut, avocado, tomato, cilantro, cucumber, jalapeno and habanero sauce.  It is a brilliant medley of Spanish flavors.  Really, you can't go wrong with a single dish at Arigato.  And it's a great reason to get yourself up to SB!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


BP Oysterette

Each trip to New York City begins with a visit to Pearl Oyster Bar, the seafood mecca nestled in the heart of the West Village.  Their lobster rolls are the perfect ratio of lobster meat to mayo to roll. The decor could not be more authentically east coast with the ship-like lanterns adorning the walls. It is the exact sort of place LA has always been missing. That is until BP Oysterette came along.  BP stands for Blue Plate, their flagship restaurant up on Montana Avenue.  Blue Plate is known for their local, healthy fare.  Patrons line the streets every Saturday and Sunday morning waiting to sink their mouths into "healthy comfort food."  L.A. is one of the most diverse food cities in the nation but why never a New England lobster shack?  BP heeded the call and readily stepped up to the task. 

I have not tried as many menu items as I would like to prior to writing any sort of blog entry but because I have gone so often and ordered pretty much the same thing with such consistent execution, I think it fair to expound.  Evey time I go, I simply have to order their muscles in red curry sauce.  The muscles are the best I have had in LA.  They even surpass those I have had at Bouchon.  They are so mild and not the least bit tough.  The red curry is best enjoyed by soaking big chunks of their sour dough bread into.  In fact, I often just use a spoon. This is a great way to start your meal.  Another menu highlight is the lobster mac and cheese which is unabashedly rich.  The amount of cheese they use should be illegal.  As good as it is, I am always searching for the chunks of lobster meat, which I'd rather wait for with my lobster roll. I would hate to fill up before getting to my lobster roll prize.

My typical order for two would be splitting the muscles and then sharing a lobster roll.  When you split their roll, they will serve you with your own basket of homemade sweet potato chips.  Since the lobster roll is made with mayo, like all good lobster rolls are, it is quite filling.  The muscles, bread, chips and lobster roll are more than enough food.  And you can always toss in some fresh oysters on the half shell...

The lobster rolls have nice sized chunks of lobster meat and mixed with the perfect mayo based dressing, not too heavy nor too sweet (see the lobster to mayo debate: .  The roll is lightly grilled and really let's the lobster meat shine.  It is best paired with Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc or, my favorite and a bit more expensive, the Indaba Chardonnay.  It's a beautiful, buttery chardonnay from South Africa.  I even took a picture on one visit as to remember it by. 

BP Oystertte doesn't take reservations and it has proven very difficult to get in with a party over four. In fact, they have been downright rude at my asking.  I have found it best to go on a weekend afternoon and not at prime lunch time.  Sundays at four or five pm are really ideal.  This is a place to go and really take your time and enjoy the wine, multiple courses and atmosphere.  You will feel like you have boarded a plane and landed in the heart of the east coast.  Only you are mere miles from home if you live on the west side.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Roasted Asparagus

Asparagus is so good for you.  I like to keep roasted asparagus in my fridge at all times to snack on.  I'm always looking for the best way to prepare it and although my mother swears by steaming it, I like to roast it with some good EVOO, Maldon salt (or sea salt) and some cracked pepper.  If you want added crunch and flavor then toss on some bread crumbs.  Here is the recipe, it could not be more simple than this:

Ingredients (serves two):
  • 1 bunch of organic asparagus
  • Extra Virgin olive oil
  • Maldon or sea salt
  • cracked pepper
  • bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the cleaned and stemmed asparagus in one layer on on cookie sheet and drizzle with EVOO, don't be afraid to use several tablespoons.  Sprinkle generously with salt and add some cracked pepper.  If you like that extra crunch then you can also sprinkle some bread crumbs on top.  If you are using thin spears, roast them for 8 minutes, if they are the fatter spears I typically cook them for ten minutes.  You can serve them hot out of the oven or you can even prepare them a day before a dinner party, simply reheat for several minutes at the same heat.  I have also written about my love of eggs.  If you want to make a complete meal out of this you can fry two eggs and place on top of the cooked asparagus.  It is divine and also very healthy.