I was in New York City for a week at the beginning of December (last month), and made sure to have dinner reservations set up ahead of time for just about every night. One of the reservations I snagged was for the Omakase Bar at Morimoto, named after Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.
At the back of the restaurant is a sushi bar where people walking in might be lucky enough to find seating (the restaurant is usually otherwise fully booked a few days in advance). However, you can also reserve seats at the bar for a chef’s “omakase” – basically the Japanese version of a chef’s tasting menu. I made that booking for two, and then scrambled to find a dinner companion as Linda and the kids were still back home on Bonaire.
I was happy to learn that my friend David Gelles was in town and free, and so come December 9th, after a drink at Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain in midtown, we made our way to Morimoto in the warehouse district of New York City for our 7pm reservation.
We spent the next five hours enjoying a dozen courses, each specially made for us, and we even order seconds of one dish.
Along with the meal we consumed a couple of bottles of sake, and some nice desert wine after that. Details blur, but thanks to my trusty Canon S90 point and shoot camera (the best small camera I have found so far for natural light photography in restaurants), I have a visual record of the entire feast.
The full set of 36 photos from our gastronomical engagement can be found here on Flickr.
We spent yesterday in Los Angeles as a quick stop along our trip from New Hampshire to Hong Kong. Our friends Todd and Jenna were in town and took us out to dinner at a delightful small Salvadoran/Mexican restaurant called Gloria’s Cafe.
I should mention that Jenna is a huge fan of food truck cuisine – an amazing revolution in quality restaurant food on wheels, akin to the gastro pub revolution which hit England by storm a couple of years back, in that ordinary eating locales have been upgraded with gourmet and foodie offerings. In Los Angeles, the food truck movement appears to be the result of chefs being able to set up a food truck for a mere fraction of what it costs to open an immobile restaurant, and with lower overhead and more flexible hours as well.
So why is the food truck movement relevant to Gloria’s Cafe? It’s because Jenna was trying to find a spot where we could dine at an assorted set of good food trucks (something she tracks via Twitter feeds from the truck chefs), but last night they had scattered with the wind, all over the greater Los Angeles area. Had we been available a week ago, for First Fridays, we could have enjoyed them all on a particular hopping street in Venice Beach, however.
With food truck gastronomic nirvana out of reach, Jenna went to Plan B, and that was Gloria’s Cafe, in the Culver City section of Los Angeles. Gloria’s is in a little strip mall with limited parking, but definitely make the effort to find a parking spot even if you have to walk a bit. You won’t regret it.
Something about Gloria’s looked familiar to Linda, and when we got to the front door she finally figured it out – she and Bas had seen the restaurant featured on Guy Fieri’s Food Network show, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (making it the second such restaurant I had been to with Todd – we visited China Bandido in Phoenix, Arizona together in March 2009).
Gloria’s is tiny – seating perhaps three dozen people, and featuring a rustic sort of ambiance and a pleasant homey convivial atmosphere. We arrived at around 7pm, early enough to get seated within minutes. We started with one of the house specialty libations – a pitcher of Sangria, which was very good indeed (Jenna and I polished off a second pitcher over the course of the evening).
One of Gloria’s sons, a wonderfully congenial man, soft spoken yet exuberant about the food served in his mother’s restaurant helped guide us through the menu. We settled on a number of typical Salvadoran items for our appetizer, include green tamales which were almost creamy in texture, chicharron (fried chunks of pork), and papusas.
Papusas, as Gloria’s son passionately explained, started with corn flour – masa – which was specially treated to created round fluffy (and, oh my, were they fluffy!) pancakes. A filling is placed on one pancake and then a second pancake is sealed over the top. The fillings available all included a Salvadoran cheese, and then either pork, beans, or herbs (or nothing extra at all). You then eat the papusa with a pickled cabbage called “curtido” and some non-spicy salsa. We split three different types of papusas amongst us and were very happy. Add the green tamales served with a Salvadoran cream similar to sour cream but cheesier in flavor and we were in masa heaven.
Our main courses all came on huge platters featuring rice and beans, refried beans, and the main course itself. Linda chose the house specialty, Carne Adobada – simmering chunks of pork in a wonderful sauce. Jenna had the garlic shrimp which were swimming in a pungent and heady garlic butter sauce (as were my pork chops), and Todd settled for well marinated steak in the form of Bistek Encebollado.
Mama Gloria came by several times to check on us herself and make sure we were enjoying her food (which, without doubt, we were).
Dessert was another delight – with a nice thick flan offered (reminding me of Quesillo, the local flan we can sometimes get on Bonaire), and an dessert empanada, featuring a sweet milk custard wrapped in a sweet plantain (banana) shell, and sprinkled with sugar. Terrible for our low carb lifestyle, but oh so delicious.
Gloria’s was an excellent plan B, and I am already contemplating ways to arrrange a return visit. And maybe we’ll see actor Brian Doyle-Murray there again – he was there last night, and had to wait for a table for quite a bit longer than we did.
Thank you Mama Gloria! And thank you Jenna & Todd!