Tag Archives: crab

Michael Mina – San Francisco

My niece Kindal and nephew Chace recently turned thirteen, which I think is the very first “milestone” birthday that most of us celebrate. At thirteen we’re “cool” teenagers… at sixteen we get to drive (if we’re lucky)… at eighteen we’re “grown-ups” (although I personally disagree with that one!). Turning twenty-one means cocktails, cheap Happy Hour food and getting a real job…. while thirty means we’re done making the stupid mistakes we made in our twenties (hopefully)!

The Twins, MyLastBite.com

To celebrate the twins 13th birthday, I wanted to do something extra special with my sister’s amazing kids. They have never been on an airplane (except on a film set!), so I figured this was the perfect way to celebrate them becoming bona-fide teenagers.

I first thought about a Las Vegas trip. That would work out well for me because of the long list of restaurants I want to try in “Sin City”. Places I’m dying to eat at are Jet Tila’s Wazuzu, the freshly flown in Mediterranean seafood at Bartolotta (both at the Wynn Encore), and the legendary Joel Robuchon at MGM. But the twins had been to Vegas before, during family boating trips to Lake Mead and I wanted this birthday celebration to be a whole, new experience.

San Francisco sounded perfect. It’s a short flight (just over an hour) and we could fly out of Ontario airport (CA) which is near my sister’s house in San Dimas. I started checking flights online and noticed that the airplanes from Ontario to San Francisco were small (30 seat turboprop) commuter planes. For this, the twins first flying experience, I thought it would be better to board a large, roomy jet where they could do a little exploring in flight… meaning strolls to the back to check out the lavatories (remember, as a kid, when that was fun?). However, this route was more expensive (and a bit of a drive for my sister), but I went ahead and reserved flights from Los Angeles to San Francisco on January 24th.

After I cleared the dates with my sister, and got my husband to agree to step away from his computer for two consecutive days, I booked the trip. Even though the twins thought the “gift” was going to be the airplane ride, I wanted to find a restaurant that would provide a wonderful memory for this special occasion. We had one night in San Francisco, and half of the next day for sightseeing. The only two restaurants that popped in my head were Hubert Keller’s “Fleur De Lys” and Michael Mina’s flagship restaurant “Michael Mina”. Both chefs had guest-starred on previous episodes of “Top Chef” (I’m obsessed with the show), so those were my top choices.

I started doing a little research on both restaurants and came across food blogger, KevinEats posting about his visit to Michael Mina in 2007. The pictures were incredible (his photos always make me drool) and after reading a few more recent reviews, I decided on the Michelin TwoStar Michael Mina.

Flights booked… restaurant booked… now on to finding a hotel.

For years, my favorite San Francisco hotel had always been the Miyako hotel (now called Hotel Kabuki), which is located in Japan Town. I used to love the deep, traditional Japanese bathtubs which always made me feel like I was back in Okinawa. In 1982, my sister was crowned “Nisei Week” Queen here in Los Angeles (a big deal in the local Japanese community). Luckily for me, I got to tag along with her to various Japanese events including the Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco. Hanging out with the “Queen” was cool. While she was busy with her official duties (being photographed with every business owner in J-Town), I was off (with a chaperone) eating my way through festival food stalls filled with Yakitori, Udon, Mochi and anything else in site. That was the first time I ever stayed at the Miyako hotel and for years after, it was the only choice… until now.

St. Francis Hotel, San FranciscoWhen I read that Michael Mina restaurant is actually located inside the St. Francis hotel, I figured it was a “no brainer” to stay there just in case our incoming flight was delayed, and to also make sure the twins were comfortable. Driving around San Francisco can be a little scary at first, and rushing from hotel to restaurant, a few hours after their first flight experience, didn’t sound like fun at all. The St. Francis seemed the logical choice.

Our flight left LAX at 12:50pm and I had the best time watching Kindal and Chace take in every moment. They listened carefully to every announcement, checked to make sure they each had their own”barf” bag, and actually read the emergency seatback cards. Just a week before our trip, Captain “Sully” had crash-landed on the Hudson River (everyone survived), so we were all a little more sensitive about the flight.

Air travel has always been a huge part of my life, and I admit that I’m STILL excited when I board a plane, because it means I’m “going somewhere” (and hopefully it’s somewhere for fun!). My sister and I had been flying since we were babies, when our dad was based in Okinawa. Those were incredibly long flights from Okinawa to California (with stops in Tokyo and Hawaii) during the Vietnam War. By the time I was three and Janet was six, we had crossed the Pacific Ocean multiple times to visit family in Los Angeles. That’s probably why this flight to San Francisco felt extra special to me, because I was taking my sister’s kids (who I love like my own) on their first official airplane ride.

Thankfully, every step of the trip went as planned. In less than 24 hours the twins had their first flight, their first Michelin star dinner (which was fantastic), a beautiful hotel room, and an incredible tour of Alcatraz.

I wished we could have fit more in on this trip. We didn’t get to North Beach, China Town or my beloved J-Town, but we did exactly what I had hoped for in the first place… we made a whole new batch of unforgettable memories together!

Our Dinner At Michael Mina
All ready for dinner at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Ready for dinner!
Michael Mina Restaurant, MyLastBite.com
There were birthday cards waiting on the table for both Kindal & Chace (from the restaurant). Bottom left (out of focus) is popcorn with shaved truffles. I was happily surprised that the twins loved it!

Trio of Lobster Amuse Bouche at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Trio of Lobster, the Amuse Bouche.

Course One at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com

Trio of Dungeness Crab at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Trio of Dungeness Crab (my first course): Poached, Butter-Roasted and in Cioppino soup.
Trio of Pork at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Trio of Pork (Peter’s First Course): Terrine with Cornichon Gelee, Pork Belly with Frisee au Lardon and Quail Egg, Bourguignon

Kobe TrioBeef Trio at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
The twins both ordered the Kobe (Wagyu) Beef Shabu Shabu in Dashi Broth, with Foie Gras.

Kobe TrioBeef Trio at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
They didn’t like the Foie Gras, but I was proud that they both tried it! Peter and I happily ate it for them. The Wagyu Beef Shabu-Shabu pot was a fun start to the evening. They both LOVED the exquisite beef of course!

Course Two at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com

Seafood Trio at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Peter’s second course: Bouillabaisse “Mina Style” with Barramundi, Scallop & Octopus.

Trio of Duck at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
For my second course I had Liberty Duck “Three Ways”: Duck Breast with Parsnip Puree, Seared Foie Gras with Laird Brandy Gastrique, Duck Rillette Croquette with Apple Butter. ALL FANTASTIC.

Beef Trio at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
For their second course, the twins each selected Brandt Farm Beef “Three Ways”: Filet, Short Rib and Rib-Eye. I had a bite of the La Ratte Potatoes and they were the creamiest ever.

Beef Trio at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Kindal working her way through the second course… (“hey mom, those Cotillion classes worked!”)

Chace done with Course 2! MyLastBite.com
As you can see, Chace really loves his beef!

Course Three at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com

Passion Fruit Panna Cotta at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
For the third course (dessert) Chace selected Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit, Chocolate & Banana.

Citrus Trio Dessert at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Peter had Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Lime Curd, Grapefruit Gelee and Tarragon Ice Cream.

Cheese Course at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
I went for the Cheese Course: Pata de Cabra, Pear Puree, Hazelnuts. Vermont Shepherd, Quince Puree, Marcona Almonds. Persille du Beaujolais, Cocoa nibs, Turbinado Sugar.

Tres Leches Cake at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Kindal had Tres Leches Cake with Guava and Cajeta Ice Cream.

Kindal, Michael Mina, Chace, Sammy Mina at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
An extra treat at the end of dinner, was a personal happy birthday wish from the man himself! Chef Michael Mina and his adorable son, Sammy (who was working too!).

Kindal, Jo, Chace  at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
A wonderful evening!

Chace, Kindal, Peter after dinner at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Leaving the restaurant… “we have NEVER been so full!”.

After Michael Mina "Food Coma!", MyLastBite.com
Back in the hotel room… “oh… this is what a food coma feels like!”

Room Service Breakfast, MyLastBite.com
Early morning room service to get us up and about!

St. Francis Hotel, MyLastBite.com
Checking out and waiting for our rental car.

Boat to Alcatraz, MyLastBite.com
Windy and COLD boat out to Alcatraz (Golden Gate bridge in background).

Alcatraz, MyLastBite.com
Kindal, Chace, Jo at Alcatraz.

Alcatraz, MyLastBite.com
The Audio Tour was fantastic! Chace, Kindal and Peter

Alcatraz Kitchen, MyLastBite.com
The kitchen at Alcatraz.

Alcatraz, MyLastBite.com
Waiting to catch the boat.

SFO Airport Snack, MyLastBite.com
A little snack at San Francisco Airport!

San Francisco Trip, MyLastBite.com
Flying back to L.A.

Michael Mina Menu, MyLastBite.com

Michael Mina
335 Powell Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
415 397-9222

Note: the Restaurant has a new location

Website

Dining Date: 1/24/09
Three Course Prix Fixe Menu $105 each

Mentioned Above:

KevinEats – Review of Michael Mina

Wazuzu Restaurant (Vegas)

Joel Robuchon Restaurant (Vegas)

Bartolotta Restaurant (Vegas)

St. Francis Hotel

Michael Mina Restaurant

Hotel Kabuki

Nisei Week Queens (My sister: Janet Barnes 1982)

About the Twins

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Filed under Eating Out, Food Stories (written by me)

Kiwami

Katsuya Uechi’s new restaurant is called Kiwami. It’s just a few blocks away from Katsuya (our usual sushi joint on “sushi row”), and it’s also owned by Katsuya Uechi.

For our first visit to Kiwami, my husband Peter and I sat at a table so I could capture photos easier. Well, at least easier than sitting at the intimate sushi bar helmed by Chef Uechi himself! Our charming server, Hugh, explained that Kiwami is more “upscale” then Katsuya restaurant, and this was definitely reflected in the ambiance and decor. I’ve worn flip-flops and shorts to Katsuya, but that would be way too casual for a meal at Kiwami.

We ordered mostly from the “Today’s Specials” menu and loved every bite. Kiwami translated, means “doing something extremely” or “the best degree in Japanese”, and Chef Uechi definitely delivers the kiwami to this soon-to-be super hot sushi spot!

Sayuri Unfiltered Sake at Kiwami, MyLastBite.com
Sayuri, our favorite unfiltered sake.

Kiwami's Blue Fin Tuna, MyLastBite.com
Blue Fin Tuna, flown in from Spain $16

Kiwami's Skip Jack Poki, MyLastBite.com
Skip Jack Poke $9

Kiwami's Yellowtail Jalapeno, MyLastBite.com
Jalapeno Yellowtail $16

Kiwami's Yellowtail Jalapeno, MyLastBite.com

Kiwami's Unagi Shirayaki, MyLastBite.com
Unagi Shirayaki (first steamed, then baked) $10

Kiwami's Trout, MyLastBite.com
Tasmanian Trout in foil, $15

Kiwami's Tempura, MyLastBite.com
Mixed Tempura $16

Kiwami's Baked Roll, MyLastBite.com
Spicy Tuna with Baked Crab Roll $12

Born in Okinawa (like me!), Japan, Chef Katsuya Uechi began his career as a chef at the Harbor View Hotel in Okinawa. He moved to Los Angeles over 20 years ago and opened the Studio City Sushi Katsu-Ya in 1997.

Kiwami
11920 Ventura Boulevard,
Studio City, CA  91604
818-763-3910

Dining date: 1/31/09

website

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Filed under Eating Out

Sri Siam Café [1 & 2]

Twenty years ago when I lived in San Diego, my ex-husband and I loved eating at Karinya Thai Cuisine. The restaurant was up the street from our home in Pacific Beach, and it was our “go to” dinner place when we entertained visiting family and friends. We usually requested to eat in the “traditional” dining room . This meant we had to remove our shoes before going in, and sit on the floor atop beautiful Thai triangle pillows.

Karinya Thai, MyLastBite.com

The head chef (an American) had married into the Karinya Thai family. Since we were regulars, the chef always took a few moments to tell us wonderful tales of his trips to the Far East. One of the best was about the first time he visited his wife’s family in a remote village in Thailand. He was shocked at the amount of time it took to shop for groceries each day. The entire family, led by the grandmother, would get up very early and drive for hours to pick up a particular type of chili, then go a couple of hours in the opposite direction to buy some galangal, and finally another hour south to pick up fresh kaffir lime leaves. By the time the shopping was done, they had driven five or six hours to get ingredients for THAT evening’s dinner. I found it fascinating that each ingredient was so special and distinct, that it was worth all that time and trouble.

Jo & Spencer, MyLastBite.comThe first time we invited our buddy Spencer (who was like a second grandfather to me), he laughed when he learned he had to remove his shoes for dinner. And after that first meal at Karinya, anytime we’d make dinner plans with ol’ Spence, he would ask “Are we going to the ‘shoeless place’? …if so, I’ll have to check my socks for holes”.

Two of my favorite dishes at Karinya were the “Gai Rad Prik” (they prepared it with deep-fried chicken covered in a super-spicy chili sauce) and “Shrimp Sarong” (shrimp wrapped with egg noodles, deep-fried and served with a sweet and spicy chili dip).

From my research, it looks like the original owners of Karinya sold the business in 1998. I moved to Studio City in 1994 and halfheartedly tried to find a new Thai restaurant near me (in the San Fernando Valley) to love, but nothing tasted as good or seemed as authentic as Karinya. There were no “foodie” sites on the New World Wide Web way back then, so I had pretty much given up on finding a Thai place I could call my own.

Then on January 1, 2009 I had lunch at Sri Siam Café. Peter (my husband) and I met up with our far-east-food-expert friend Jeffrey, for an incredible, unforgettable New Year’s Day Lunch. Jeffrey is a regular at Sri Siam and has not only eaten at all the best Thai places in Los Angeles but all the best Thai places in Thailand.

The best part about Sri Siam Café (besides the outstanding food) is that I won’t be pining for Karinya any longer. I can finally move on… and luckily for me… my new Thai joint is literally just up the street!

My Favorite Bites at Sri Siam Café:

Fried Fish Cake, MyLastBite.com
Fried Fish Cake : Ground fish and green bean patties, seasoned with curry paste then deep-fried. It’s served with a delicious cucumber relish. $6.95

For me, the fish cakes were just a vehicle for the relish. I ended up just spooning it out and eating it like gazpacho!

Apple Trout, MyLastBite.com
Apple Trout: Fried trout fillet served with green apple salad. $18.95

Green Apple Salad, MyLastBite.com
Green Apple Salad.
Apple Trout Tail, MyLastBite.com
Apple Trout Tail.

O-Lou, MyLastBite.com
O-Lou: Omelet stuffed with shrimp and topped with sprouts. $7.95
O-Lou, MyLastBite.com
O-Lou: Omelet (close up).

Soft Shell Crab, MyLastBite.com
Soft Shell Crab in Green Curry Sauce: Served with asparagus. $18.95

Beef Ball Soup, MyLastBite.com
Beef Ball Noodle Soup: Rice noodle soup with beef ball (meatball), bean sprouts and green onion. $5.00

House Special Menu, MyLastBite.com
Menu: The House Specialties in English

Thai Boba Tea, MyLastBite.com
Thai Boba Tea. The perfect way to cool off a spicy tongue!

Update: 1/8/09  (Visit #2)
This morning my ex-husband Perry called from Santa Monica airport. He and his co-pilot John asked if I wanted to join them for lunch. They fly a private business jet and had a five hour layover, so I grabbed my friend Laur and we met them at Sri Siam!

I wrote (above) that twenty years ago, one of our favorite dishes from our old Thai restaurant in Pacific Beach was “Shrimp Sarong”, and that’s the first thing Perry ordered today. They were exactly the same to me, except Sri Siam calls them “Crispy Shrimps”.

It was sort of a sentimental moment for me. Sitting there with Perry eating a wonderful old favorite and talking about our families. He and his wife Karen have two beautiful kids, and I feel so grateful that we can still be in each others lives, especially when it’s over a plate of delicious food!

Before I left for lunch I sent my husband Peter a text message, to let him know I was meeting Perry at Sri Siam. Peter sent the following message back: “Well, just so you know, I’m really JEALOUS… really jealous that I’m missing the food! Say hi to Perry.“…

I know… lucky me.

My two favorite dishes from lunch today:
Crispy Rice Salad, MyLastBite.com
Crispy Rice Salad Thai sour sausage mixed with crispy rice, roasted peanut, ginger and green onion. I LOVED the spiciness of this dish.

Crispy Shrimps, MyLastBite.com
Crispy Shrimps Shrimp mixed with light soy sauce wrapped with egg noodle.

Sri Siam Cafe, MyLastBite.com

Visit #3 to Sri Siam (with new photos)

Sri Siam Café
12843  Vanowen St.
North Hollywood, CA 91605
818 892-6262

All my Sri Siam Photos on Flickr

Sri Siam Café  Website

Sri Siam Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Eating Out, Food Stories (written by me)