Posts Tagged ‘seafood’

A Stroll through London’s Borough Market.

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Our first experience in London wasn’t as ideal as we thought it would be. Flying from Los Angeles, we had a stop-over in Philadelphia. Due to airplane malfunction, we were left on the tarmac for nearly 4.5 hours without the air vents on. Fortunately they didn’t put on any Katherine Heigl movies to entertain us. Upon arriving at Heathrow, we were welcomed by London’s biggest asshole who happened to be dressed in a wrinkled customs officer uniform. Probably due to the fact that we were Americans (I guess I don’t blame him) and not of the same skin color as him, he decided to interrogate for us nearly ten minutes for the shits and giggles. Even delving into how much we had in our checking and savings. The weather was also colder than we had also expected, even raining and snowing a little during the evening – horribly freezing! We took to the cocktail lounges and drank away all that happened during the day. But the next day would completely redeem everything.

For us, things can change from crappy to happy the second we smell something delicious being cooked, or see steam rising from a grill or table top. Our friends Warren and Laurie took us to the Borough Market as soon as we could wake up. They knew that this would make up for everything and it sure did. We ended up coming back once more before departing to Paris.

Founded in 1756 and located in the Southwark (Suth-erck) neighborhood, the Borough Market runs from 2 am – 8 am for wholesale companies and shortly after to the public. If you could only eat one “restaurant” in London, I’d suggest checking out the market for the “food court” approach. Or if you plan on taking the Eurorail elsewhere, pack your lunch here for the long train ride and make everyone else around you jealous. The Borough Market finely curates some of England’s best food vendors and purveyors – from meat, seafood to artisanal goodies. I had heard that the selection process to become a vendor here is quite difficult and that the committee at anytime may ask a vendor to leave if they aren’t performing to standards. Sorry Los Angeles, but the Borough Market makes the Fairfax Farmer’s Market look like a Food 4 Less. Although the market itself isn’t that large, the appeal was that of a kid’s first visit to Disneyland. (English accent)… shall we?

According to this cow map, the Borough Market is accurately divided into three main sections. But one should not ignore the fine establishments near the neck, brisket or belly. They are just as tasty.


La Cevicheria, Los Angeles – A Guatemalan-Style Seafood Paradise

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Ceviche is one of the most popular dishes in all of Latin America. In its most basic form, is raw seafood and lime juice and aided by the magical denaturation powers of citric acid on proteins. A sea creature that was once alive and kicking, is converted into an edible form simply through a few minutes of exposure to citric acid. Although modern historians commonly agree that ceviche was originated in Peru possibly by the indigenous civilizations, this whole debate gets Latin American countries a bit riled up. Depending on where the ceviche is from, spellings include cebiche or seviche. The Spanish as if they really needed more evidence of their impact on the Americas, claim that limes and lemons were brought over by the Moors, which they had taken along with them during war. Prior to their “contribution” to the Americas, the indigenous civilizations were using other types of acidic fruit – not limes or lemons. The word cebiche is also very similar to the Spanish word escabeche, which means pickling. A funny and unbelievable theory for the derivation of the word ceviche comes from a Peruvian scholar who says that the English seamen that arrived on the Peruvian coast were ridden with cankered mouths and scurvy-like diseases. They saw the indigenous eating “raw fish cooked with fruit juices” and tried it themselves. Upon eating the delicious ceviche, they reacted with a loud “son of a bitch”, due to the hot peppers and ample usage of citric juices that caused their diseased mouth sores to burn. Though unintelligible to the Indians, they remembered the sound uttered by the English. “Would you like a seviche (son of a bitch)?”, they began to ask. I don’t buy it though. Some even say this is a South Pacific/Polynesian-influenced dish (i.e. Hawaii’s poké).

Each of the Latin American countries have claimed their own ceviche by adding their own touches with herbs, chiles and various types of seafood proteins. In Peru, you’re likely to eat a lime-based ceviche with aji pepper, served with cold sweet potatoes and corn. In Mexico, ceviche is served with tomatoes, cilantro, onions and sometimes with ketchup/hot sauce over crunchy tostadas. In Colombia, the ceviche we ate was very similar to Peruvian-style but with the addition of light cream and honey for a sweet, delectable version. A former Ecuadorian coworker explains to me that tomatoes are used heavily in Ecuador with their ceviches and served with crispy plantain chips.  In the Caribbean islands, you’re likely to have a version of ceviche not with fish nor shrimp, but with conch (la concha) or clams. To me it’s what makes ceviche an even more interesting and appetizing dish – that a country can call it its own. The truth is, regardless of the origin, ceviche is going to be good and I find it quite difficult to get bored with such a refreshing dish.

After eating Mexican, Peruvian, Panamanian (by the end of this week!) and Colombian-style ceviches, I thought I had a general understanding of the various types of ceviche that exist. But I would be further educated and enlightened upon stepping into La Cevicheria in Mid-City. But don’t mistaken the turquoise-colored building for any ordinary Latino seafood restaurants. Through the black security door, it’s a Guatemalan seafood paradise.

I’ve been here four times already and besides the food, what brings me back is the service and treatment you get from the owners, Julio and Carolina Orellana of Guatemala City, Guatemala. Carolina is the head chef, with her funny, energetic husband running the front of the house. Get used to Julio because he’s a true character, and will continue checking up on you to make sure everything you’re eating is delicious and toss out a few here-and-there jokes. I’ve seen him spend a good 5-7 minutes with newcomers, finding out what exactly they were in the mood for. Spotting a few dishes that had some Mexican (Veracruz, Campeche) and Caribbean influence, I asked the Orellanas if everything on the menu was considered “Guatemalan”. They replied that they consider their restaurant more of an international restaurant, celebrating their favorite Latin American foods from. When I asked Julio about his ethnicity initially, he said, “I am 100% Guatemalan, but I look like a white guy. I am a cup of Guatemalan coffee with way too much milk and cream.”  That yellow sauce you see is mustard mixed with a lot of habanero chiles and attitude – I call it “yellow Sriracha” (Sriracha amarilla). Whether or not it is a common Guatemalan condiment, I love it on everything I eat here.

“Chapin” ceviche.
The dish you’ll inevitably see on every table is the ceviche. There will be a few diners eating a whole fried fish, some eating tacos and burritos. But there’s always a goblet of goodness known as ceviche. Although La Cevicheria offersAnd what makes Guatemalan ceviche different than its Latin American counterparts is the use of mint and Worcestershire Sauce (spanish: salsa Inglesa, English sauce).  Pictured above is the chapin, which is shrimp, octopus and imitation crab. Though to this day, I’m puzzled by the ample usage of imitation crab in Latino cuisine when they have access to the WHOLE SEA, this is a beautiful blend of seafood, mint, avocado and Worcestershire. Served on crunchy tostadas that Julio buys specifically from a vendor in East Los Angeles, you’ll be asking for more edible plates to scoop up the rest of your goblet. Try crumbling the Saltine crackers in your ceviche too.

“Bloody Clam” ceviche.
Despite the name and look of it, this is what I highly recommend over the chapin. When the bloody clams (concha negra/pata de mula, which means “mule’s foot”) are chopped, the heavy amount of dark-colored hemoglobin is released, giving it its appearance. According to this great posting on La Cevicheria, Chef Orellana uses a type of blood cockle called anadara granosa. Mixed with the lime juice, Worcestershire, mint and tomatoes, this is one concoction you’d likely see Marilyn Manson walking around cemeteries with. But it’s good… The earthiness of the clams really balances out the acids. But the best part of this dish is the leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) – the remaining liquid from the clams, lime juice and Worcestershire. It is strong enough to revive the hungover, awaken the dead and provide hours of fun with your significant other.

Fish Taco and Caldo de Camaron (Shrimp Soup).
If there’s a fish taco on the menu, I’m going to get it. How can one resist a piece of nicely fried Pollack fish wrapped with cabbage and a tortilla. But you can’t even begin eating this until you’ve added the “yellow Sriracha”, which takes this your standard fish taco to another level, in my opinion. I have approached the Orellanas about the possibility of bottling and selling the Sriracha amarilla. Hopefully Huy Fong isn’t reading this right now. Another thing I love to eat is caldo de camaron. I’ve eaten delicious versions in Ensenada, Tulum and Mexico City, but I can’t figure out why a lot of places in Los Angeles overcook the shrimp. But Chef Carolina puts some major care and this – I really enjoyed this here.

Mariscada Caribeña (Caribbean-style Seafood Stew with Rice)
Just when I thought I had eaten the best of what La Cevicheria had to offer, Julio insists that I try this out. As I was talking to him about this, my eyes focused on the wall with Jonathan Gold’s review of this restaurant, with a large photo of the mariscada caribeña. By now, my friend and I were about to tap out but I’m glad we didn’t. The seafood stew reminds me of a soupier version of seafood risotto. The shrimp, mussels and calimari are cooked beautifully, and the sauce is simply amazing. If you want a comforting dish that will make you miss your mother, order this.

Aguachiles (Mexican Shrimp in Chile & Cucumber Sauce)
Like I said, it’s a never-ending parade of food here at La Cevicheria. This dish comes with a dozen shrimp but Julio was nice enough to sell 1/2 a dozen to us. Aguachiles is a Sinaoloan-Nayarit dish that consists of butterflied shrimp cooked in lime juice for a short time and drenched in a bright, green sauce made of chiles, cucumbers and cilantro. I was first introduced to this dish by Chef Sergio Eduardo Penuelas of Mariscos Chente and since then, look for it every time I’m eating at a mariscos restaurant. At first, you’ll see a mound of green salsa and red onions, but a closer look, reveals the shrimp completely buried in the blended sauce. This dish isn’t for everyone especially if you’re not in to the texture of raw shrimp. But this dish is beautiful, very naked and sexy. Love Chef Carolina’s version a little bit more than Marisco Chente’s.

Come say hello to Julio and Carolina Orellana. Hope you enjoy this place as much as I do. Thanks for reading.

La Cevicheria
3809 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 732-1253
Closed mondays, cash only.

Seattle, Washington. A Seafood Wonderland.

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

For the third year in a row, my wife and I found ourselves booking yet another flight to Portland for a weekend of indulgence. We had befriended epicureans alike and have even dubbed it our second home – it was just so comforting. But all this time, we never even looked towards Seattle until a few of our friends promised an abundance of fresh seafood and a solid cocktail scene. Sold. We would fly into Seattle first, drive down to Portland and fly from there back to Los Angeles. Double header!

We arrived in Seattle in the morning and were glad the sun had come out to say hello during the entire trip. We checked into a hotel with the optimal location: the Inn at the Market just right in front of the Pike Place Market – the market being the famous Pike Place Market. Touristy, yes. Busy, yes. Delicious, oh yes. There’s no better way to experience Seattle than a trip through the multi-leveled marketplace. We even slept with the windows open because we enjoyed hearing the morning foot traffic and chatter around the market. Had I not overcome my food sickness from bad seafood nearly 20 years ago, Jeni and I might not have considered coming to Seattle. And what a shame it would have been not to experience some of the freshest, most amazing seafood from the Pacific Northwest. Even those that do not enjoy seafood, may find themselves converted seafood-lovers in a matter of a few bites. I know I’ve deemed this a seafood-focused posting but it would be an incomplete trip if I chose to skip out on meat. Now let’s eat!

Within an hour of arriving and checking into the hotel, we headed over and immersed ourselves into one of Seattle’s prime tourist attractions: the Pike Place market which opened in 1907. In any other situation where I would hear the “T” word, I would cringe in angst, but I had a good feeling about this place. With a beautiful sign blasting “Public Market”, it has become synonymous with the cross of a church for those that believe in the religion of good eating. Gluttonous sinning is more than welcome here though. I couldn’t explain the allure of this market. Maybe it was the tranquil harmony between locals and tourists. The loud applause from guys tossing dead fish at each other. Maybe it was the super fresh smell of seafood that got people so riled up. I’ll tell you, decades of walking through 99 Ranch-like Asian markets can really taint your inkling of good seafood – but now, I know what fresh seafood should smell like.

A lot of vendors were passing out pieces of crab and smoked salmon, which seems to be the signature dish of the Pacific Northwest. Meaty and smokey, it was delicious. I had the taste of smoked fish in my mouth for about half an hour before washing it down with an ice cold beer. The guy on the right was taking people’s orders and chucking them at the guys inside for cleanup.

Why would one eat at Red Lobster when you have the Pike Place market?  Oh I know – you’re lazy and boring!

Huge shrimp for sale. These had to be 3-5 per pound – expensive.

After about half an hour of walking around, we stopped over a few places that were regarded as some of the tastiest joints within the Pike Place Market. If you’re coming here without any research done, it’s best to ask the people that work at the market and get a consensus. We stopped at a shop called Uli’s, and I deemed it a tiny “United Nations of Sausages.” At Uli’s one can find over 25 masterfully crafted varieties of sausages by German native Uli Lengenberg: from kielbasa to Portuguese linguiça and a number of American-style sausages. He had nearly two large display cases filled with his tasty offerings – this guy doesn’t mess around. We learned that Lengenberg even has shops in Taiwan!  The sausages were tasty – flavorful and not dry at all.

Order a few links on rolls or on a cutting board, and grab a beer.

The other restaurant that appealed to us was the corner shop with 15 people lined up outside of it: Pike Place Chowder. Normally, I don’t really like cream-based soups or sauces due to its heaviness but this looked too good to pass up on. For $10.95, you can get a sampler of four chowders, and if I remember correctly, they offer 7-8 types of soups. They are best known for their seared scallop & dill chowder and smoked salmon chowder – both were excellent and were tasty enough to eat the actual cup itself. I’d save the crab roll for a future New England trip – nothing special.

With traveling, I was accustomed to packing in as many activities as possible and missing out on many of the simpler things – like walking around… slowly. I started getting back into shape recently and have enjoyed walking and admiring things I would normally miss while riding around on my high-velocity Trikke or Rollerblades from 1998. If I was rich, I’d get a Segway, but I’m not. It’s amazing how much speed you can get on those things. I’m just kidding, I don’t really know how much velocity those get.

If someone were to ask me how I would best describe Seattle, I’d have to say that is a greener, cleaner, quieter version of San Francisco. Both cities have hilly streets, excellent cuisine, are located along the water, offer great beer and truly enjoy the pleasures of smoking marijuana. I must add too that the transit system in Seattle is excellent. Using my iPhone, I was able to go anywhere using the map function and was even told the estimated bus arrival time!  Say no to Trikkes, rollerblades and Segways; use el autobús!  Taxis on the other hand weren’t that cheap.

Walking and burning off all that cream from the chowder can be a beautiful thing.

On this trip, we were accompanied by my brother-in-law, Jeremy, and our friend Lindy. Jeremy is in his final year of RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) focusing on architecture and weekend partying. After eating he wanted to walk around and geek out on Seattle’s architecture. In addition to the commonalities between Seattle and San Francisco, I may have to give Seattle the accolade for beautiful architecture. Why? The Seattle Central Library designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus. Words are unnecessary.

Taking a break from the beautiful but dizzying lines of Koolhaas’ masterfully designed structure.

One of the coolest neighborhoods we stumbled upon was Capitol Hill, an area heavy in bars, coffeeshops, cafes, boutiques and music venues. Basically, not a lame area. This area was quite lively and reminded me a lot of the Sunset Junction area of Silver Lake, Los Angeles. We were walking around looking at shops when we were suddenly lured by the smell of food being fried. You know that smell – so bad but so good. We turned the corner to find that the fry action was from a place called Pike Place Fish Fry. This tiny fish shack offers four types of fried fish along with fries. Don’t forget to order a beer and add malt vinegar on your fried fish. When I come back to Seattle again, I’ll definitely be hanging more in this area.

Even though Seattle, at least to me, is known for its seafood, there were two places that people kept recommending: Salumi and Paseo. Both of which offer porcine sandwiches that are highly regarded by the citizens of Seattle.

Salumi is a charcuterie shop located in Pioneer Square run by a man named Armandino Batali. Yes, Batali as in Mario Batali, who is Armandino’s heavy-set son. To tell you the truth, I’m not a huge fan of sandwiches and find them quite boring. And it doesn’t help that I have to wait a good 20-30 minutes for it too. I didn’t believe it when people warned us to get there early until I saw at least 15 people waiting 30 mins before opening. My experience with hype lines at the last few places I’ve tried have been utterly disappointing. I asked a guy in front of me what we were ordering and he replied, “the Porchetta and anything that is the special of the day“. At 11 am sharp, the doors opened and I looked back to see that the line had grown another 25-30 people deep. Can 45 people possibly be wrong? Walking in, you’re hit with the wonderful aromas of a charcuterie shop… a lingering odor of properly salted meat and cheeses. There were 4 women working the sandwich line and 1 woman working the cash register. “Porchetta and a lamb sausage sandwich for here please.” The woman cut open a piece of bread with a serrated knife like a real Subway sandwich artist. She then used a slotted spoon and scooped out huge chunks of beautifully braised pork shoulder and layed it to sleep in the bread bed. But what I liked was that she really didn’t drain out much of the juices and fat, instead letting them soak into the bread. She then cut up some lamb sausages and layed them into the bread with some sauteéd peppers. We sat down at our seats and as I held the glistening pig-on-a-roll, I looked over at Jeremy and Lindy who sank their teeth in first, awaiting their response to Batali’s famed sandwich. Jeremy uttered a “mmm” and Lindy gave a nod of approval. Jeremy is a starving student so that “mmm” didn’t mean much to me since he hasn’t eaten well in months haha. I took my first bite and something extraordinary happened – juices started slowly flowing out of the sandwich down my hands and forearms! Now that’s a fucking juicy sandwich! The sandwich exceeded my expectations – the meat was salted perfectly, moist and had a good amount of fennel which makes a sausage very delicious. Loved it. We bought 3 more sandwiches for our road trip down to Portland.

After a 2-hour nap, I started to get a barrage of comments response to my Facebook photos of Salumi’s porchetta sandwich. At least six people insisted that I get out of bed and head on over to a quaint Caribbean sandwich shop called Paseo in the Fremont neighborhood. I arrived at Paseo easily within 15 minutes thanks to the bus and iPhone combination and saw a line of 10 people. Great, more waiting. But thanks to my earlier sandwich revelation at Salumi, I had a feeling Seattle would be 2 for 2. Everyone ahead of me ordered the #2 special, which is the Cuban Roast. My eyes also caught something I don’t see very often – a seared scallop sandwich.  Yes, I love scallops – tater tots of the sea! “Cuban roast and a seared scallop please.” I took a seat and noticed that everyone around me was eating the Cuban roast. It was kind of scary in a pre-programmed, 1950’s America-cookie-cutter lifestyle, but they seemed to be enjoying it. No one talked. My sandwiches were ready 10 minutes later and I was thrilled to see that they were set on those unbreakable Chinese entree plates. I was in Seattle, Cuba AND China at the same time. Now for the sandwich. Like Salumi, one bite into the sandwich and a beautiful disaster dripped on to the plate. The meat was very flavorful and super moist, sandwiched between a piece of romaine, mayo and bread that I found a little too hard. I then took a bite of the seared scallop sandwich and loved it more than the Cuban roast. But that’s me, I prefer seafood over meat. I’m glad I tried both Salumi and Paseo though as both are different beasts.

The next day we stopped over at another place highly regarded in Seattle: Tom Douglas’s Serious Pie. For happy hour, they offer their miniature signature pies for $6. We ordered the egg and guanciale pizza and I thought it was so-so. I didn’t mind that it was sauceless but it just seemed more like “flatbread” than “pizza”. Next time I’m up here, I’d like to give Orangette’s husband’s spot, Delancey, a shot. The beer here was excellent though.

After Serious Pie, we were in need of some sort of redemption. A quick taxi ride up to the Capitol Hill neighborhood and stopped at a place called Anchovies & Olives. New York has David Chang. New Orleans has John Besh. Seattle has Ethan Stowell. This chef/restaurateur has a barrage of Italian-inspired restaurants that will suit almost everyone — particularly those who don’t mind $1 oysters. Every Sunday through Thursday from 5–6 pm, you’ll find other ostraphiles ordering oysters by the dozens. Hey, I like $1 oysters!

We started off with the geoduck and pickled cucumber appetizer and it was light and simply delicious. And you didn’t have to stare at the behemoth clam living in a tiny shell in its live state. Not the most appealing. I refer to geoducks as “fat clams in a little shell” like Tommy Boy’s “fat guy in a little jacket”. We also had their scallop crudi dish which was excellent.

Everyone around us seemed to have at least 2 dozen oysters so it took a while before the oysters came out. But once the servers brought them out, we were happy. I forgot the names of these as it didn’t matter. You can’t get oysters any fresher than this. We figured the reason these oysters were $1 during happy hour is because they are “older”. But “old oysters” in Seattle means it’s fresher than anything you’ll get in California, so I’m not complaining.

Oysters served with a nice scallion mignonette.

We hated Anchovies & Olives so much that we ate here two days in a row. This restaurant is proof that Seattle knows seafood. And by chance, as I was slurping an oyster, I recognized a reader of my blog out of the corner of my eye. She is a young photographer named Allison O’Connor and we first noticed her as she documented her time in Japan through colorful film photography. She ended up joining us for a meal the following day. Check out her blog Urban Research, especially the Japan set.

Some other restaurants we ate at that are worth mentioning are Ethan Stowell’s How to Cook A Wolf and Renee Erickson’s The Walrus & The Carpenter. At How to Cook A Wolf, Stowell offers more traditional Italian-inspired dishes like pastas and meats. We had the beef carpaccio and signature gnocci – loved them both. Erickson was recently written about in New York Times and Bon Appetit rated them as the 2011 #3 restaurant in America. This quaint place has such a nice welcoming ambiance. The restaurant is beautifully decorated and offers a nice oyster bar for those that like the upfront shucking action. With delicious dishes like grilled salmon head, seared smoked trout and some of the tastiest olive-oil marinated tomatoes I’ve ever had, our group deemed this the best meal in Seattle. We didn’t take many photos unfortunately.

And of course, we checked out a few cocktail places. Seattle’s cocktail scene is often compared to Portland’s but I think they are both kind of different and solid in their own ways.

Needle & Thread
Fans of speakeasies like The Varnish in Los Angeles and P.D.T. (Please Don’t Tell) in New York will be charmed by this bar above the popular Tavern Law restaurant. We didn’t have a reservation but were lucky enough to have our waiter at Tavern Law make a call from their phone booth (it connects directly to the Needle & Thread). We soon found ourselves walking up dark stairs into a very elegantly designed space. There are no menus, so you are at the mercy of your bartender — an incentive to tip well.

Zig Zag Café
One of Seattle’s most classic bars can be found in the “dungeons” of the Pike Place Market. This former Japanese restaurant still has its red-leather booths but the cocktails here are just done right. The rule here is that if you don’t like the drink, send it back. We got very zig-zaggy at the Zig Zag Room.

The Rob Roy
In this low-key bar, you get all the attention you want from the great bartenders. Try the Dark & Fernety (a Dark & Stormy with Fernet-Branca).


*Photographs taken with a Contax 645 with Kodak Portra 400 film. And often in an unsober state. Thanks for reading, I can’t wait to return to Seattle.


Pike Place Chowder
1530 Post Alley

Uli’s Sausages
1511 Pike Place

Serious Pie
316 Virginia Street

309 3rd Avenue (between Main St. & South 2nd Ave. Extended)

4225 Fremont Avenue North

Pike Street Fish Fry
925 E. Pike Street

Anchovies & Olives
1550 15th Avenue (Capitol Hill)

How to Cook A Wolf
2208 Queen Anne Avenue N.

The Walrus & The Carpenter
4743 Ballard Avenue NW