Friday, August 17, 2007

UGO ~ 6

This newish Italian Cafe in Culver city is a quaint, few frills place to enjoy some casual Italian food and unusally good wine at GREAT a prices. We chose to sit on the patio which provided a bit more ambiance than the harsh bright lights inside. I started with a glass of the 2005 Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio at $7 ($34 bottle) and my friend had the 2003 Rocca Delle Macie Chiante Classico for $6 ($27 bottle). My pinot grigio was the most pleasure filled $7 glass of white wine I've had to date. Each cool sip drifted across my lips starting off smoothly and ending on a slightly buttery note. It also possessed an array of distinct fruit flavors. DELUSCIOUS! After opting for a second glass of the too good to pass up wine, I felt pasta might serve me well.

I ordered the Fettuccine Primavera add chicken. It's listed as heart healthy on the menu and this might explain why the dish was on the dry side of the tracks. The pasta was overly al dente but the fresh tomato sauce and veggies were good. The chicken tasted like it had been boiled in hot water, sans salt, then chopped up and left out to dry. That's what I get for trying "the healthy dish." For only $9.75 though, I wasn't crushed.

My dinning buddie's Lasagna della Casa with spinach and mushrooms existed on the opposite end of the spectrum and was the ultimate comfort food. Piping hot with plenty of rich tomato sauce and cheese (which could have been more melted), it came close to "just like mama used to make." The dessert list is typically Italian. Nothing sounded good enough to ignore our overly full tummies. We passed with thoughts of trotting right next door to Vinum Populi, the trendy wine bar that's connected to UGO. You can purchase a "wine card" add some scrilla (money) to it and taste any wine you would like out of these nifty dispensers. If you choose cheaply you can taste around 7 wines for $25.00 dollars.

P.S. Ugo's pizza at our neighbors table looked amazing though we've yet to tatse it.

3865 Cardiff Ave
Culver City, CA 90232
Phone: (310) 204-1222

Monday, August 6, 2007

Happi Songs ~ 8

Craving some Asian inspired food, I decided to check out the newly opened Happi Songs last night. What used to be Rita Flora, is now a trendy Asian tavern. The decor is artsy/edgy and creates the feeling of being tucked away on a little back street in Beijing or Shanghai, eating noodles from a street stall. Don't forget to check out the crazy Asian graffiti style wall on the way to the restroom and the cool old bicycles. The small space glows with warm red lighting and a cool breeze floats inside since the restaurant's open to the street. You can also read Anime comic books while you wait for your food.

I started with a sho chu cocktail called Guy Smiley. It was a combo of fresh pressed blood orange, pear puree, and Ginza No Suzume sho chu (a distilled Japanese alcohol). The drink was very fresh but a little too sweet for me. It may have been better shaken and strained into a martini glass. Too much ice made the cocktail watery after a few minutes. Much like it's sister restaurant Cobras & Matadors, small plates are the theme here. I ordered chilled melon soup,
pecan honey glazed shrimp, and Hamachi (yellowtail) collar. The soup came drizzled with a little oil and crushed mint. A light tangerine color, it was pretty but bland and needed to be more chilled. 5 plump golden shrimp arrived next, lightly fried, brushed with a sweet honey glaze and sprinkled with crushed raw pecans. The pecans gave the dish a slightly earthy flavor and the shrimp tasted juicy and fresh but could have used a bit more seasoning.
My Hamachi collar was very simple and VERY DELICIOUS! Grilled to perfection and sprinkled with sea salt, each bite was tender and gorgeous. Chef Yi-fan Chu sent out a sample of another item which was definitely the WOW DISH of my meal. A Mirin Miso Butterfish balanced on a small square of tempura fried tofu and and soba noodles. The fish, crispy and golden on the outside, was buttery and luxurious inside. The noodles were tossed with a little sesame oil and the spicy baby watercress on top cut the richness of the dish nicely. The service was laid back friendly, and knowledgeable. I'll definitely revisit this happi little place.

HappiSongs Asian Tavern 460 South LaBrea (323)936-7622 L-D Daily
beer/wine/sake/sho chu only