Gjelina : Carb Heaven

By Tsz on April 8, 2013

Gastrophoria is a carb filled anniversary meal at Gjelina.

When your partner-in-flavor is the Gentleman Weightlifter, eating (relatively) healthy is one of the better habits I’ve picked up. However, on special occasions—such as anniversaries—all bets are off. Off we went for a carb marathon at Gjelina!

Sure there is a shroud of notoriety surrounding the Abbot Kinney eatery. Notable ones are the 2+ hour wait (on weeknights no less) and the Victoria-Beckham-and-Gordon-Ramsey scandal. All things considered however, their food outweighs it all. Especially when you’re rooting for team carb.

Such gems is their squid ink chitarra. Homemade al dente square-shaped pasta are adorned with flavors of the Italian coast: bottarga (savory fish roe—think seafood flavored salt), fried garlic, chili, parsley and crunchy breadcrumbs. Or the oven blistered pizza topped with anchovy, smoked mozzarella, roasted red pepper, capers and tomato confit. If you haven’t noticed, we’re into aggressive flavor combos that go pow to the kisser!

The best-in-show was the roasted maitake mushrooms dressed with creme fraiche and truffle oil lounging on grilled hearty toast. A mushroom lover’s dream and probably a mushroom hater’s worst nightmare.

The only break we took from carbs was the crispy Niman Ranch pork belly paired with creamy corn grits and apple glaze. To end the meal strong, we went with the gooey date cake with ginger gelato that was both spicy and sweet. Carb fest win!

As a bonus, a portion of the balance from our meal went to the Venice Family Clinic thanks to LivnGiv! My most recent find, LivnGiv is a cool, socially conscious website that allows me to support worthy causes simply by prepaying for my restaurant meals from their collection of curated restaurants (currently Venice-centric, but will expand to Los Angeles and other cities soon). With no strings or extra costs attached, it’s multi-tasking at its best.

Happy eating!

Ps. LivnGiv is kindly offering a $10 credit from now through April 30, 2013 (midnight PST). Just enter GASTROLUV when signing up for a user account!

1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
Phone: (310) 450-1429


Spazio Caffé : A Taste of Italy in Santa Monica

By Tsz on February 11, 2013

Gastrophoria is a steaming glass of latte macchiato from Spazio Caffé.

Ever since a life altering trip to Europe 2 years ago, I’ve been on a search for a good, straight forward cup of latte and had been coming up short. Not in the quality of coffee, thanks to a bevy of craft coffee houses available, but in the attitude.

In a coffee culture that encourage the choose-your-own-adventure cup of brew, it inevitably breeds coffee prima donnas. The ones with the highly specific drink orders that takes at least 5 minutes to spell out and undoubtedly includes the use of skimmed soy milk, pumps of sugar-free hazelnut syrup, blonde roast, etc.

Such an 180 from European neighborhood cafes, where the baristas feature one superior roast and from it, create drinks that are simple, yet delicious. The patrons appreciate it as-is—no fussing and definitely no requests of non-fat milk.

Fortunately, the newly opened Spazio Caffé does just that. Their team of baristas craft traditional espressos and espresso-based drinks daily that has the ability to transport you to Italy (without the highly priced plane ticket).

Using Italian Manuel beans, espressos are bold yet brightly flavored without bitterness. My favorite is the latte macchiato, where steamed milk and fluffy foam mellows out shots of espresso. Think less of a jolt of caffeine but more of a hug—the drink equivalent of a warm, fluffy blanket. Just remember to mix in layer of caramel on the bottom before drinking!

If you’re in a chocolatey mood, Baciami incorporates alternating layers of dark chocolate syrup, cocoa powder and espresso, resulting in mocha on steroids. Or better yet, there are 18 different flavors of drinking chocolate. This is not the watery brown water of your childhood (ie. Swiss Miss), but smooth chocolate bisque. I’m particular to their coconut chocolate as there’s little coconut bits incorporated throughout.

For a savory accompaniment, there are finger sandwiches featuring a selection of omelets, smoked salmon and Italian cured meats and cheeses for a savory accompaniment. Since Spazio’s chef, Pierpaolo Mattei, hails from northern Italy bordering France, he takes pride in serving up French influenced cafe fares such as savory crepes bathed in light cream sauces (oxymoron, but it’s possible!) and various grain salads. And of course, dreamy tiramisu makes an appearance. Ciao bella!

Spazio Caffé
1511-C Montana Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Phone : (310) 899-6769


Good Girl Dinette : Corn that Burns and Intrigues

By Tsz on January 24, 2013

Gastrophoria a heaping plate of freshly roasted and glazed corn with an ice-cold grapefruit pop at Good Girl Dinette.

Ever met someone that you just can’t figure out? No matter how brief the meeting may be, the conversation you share is just so intriguing that your mind replays the memory over and over, in hopes of stumbling upon a new clue to solve that puzzle of a person.

Now, replace that person with corn. That is exactly how I feel about this dish. It arrived on the table presented simply on a white plate with a pool of golden hue sauce and a sprinkling of green onions—nothing showy, run-of-the-mill even. However, the first bite yield the sweetest, juiciest, crispiest (think apple, not chips) corn I’ve ever tasted. But wait, then the glaze, made partly of fish sauce and a bunch of “I-have-no-idea” cuts through the sweetness and whisk it all into a full-blown flavor tango with dash of green onion flair. It’s like Clark Kent transforming into Superman… in your mouth. So simple, yet so complex—how did they do it?!

Who cares that the corn came piping hot, with each bite searing my tongue? It was easily ameliorated with a tall glass of house-made grapefruit pop. The only way I can describe the taste is to quote the Starburst commercial: “Taste the rainbow.” Now, Starburst has always been a let-down for me cause of the expectation of tasting said rainbow and not getting that (the tease!).

But this soda? Destination: grapefruit rainbow. It’s like condensing a grove of the best tasting grapefruits in one glass. Pulp, juice and all. My tongue, upon tasting this pop, went on Rainbow Road a la Mario Kart.

If you can handle more flavor (and food), there are the galangal chicken banh mi—be sure to get a side of their spicy fries—and their house curry, both of which are extremely satisfying. But if you’re after the bad-boy-with-the-secret-sensitive-side? Get the corn, but be prepare to get burned (just a little). It’s so worth it.

Good Girl Dinette
110 N. Avenue 56
Los Angeles, CA 90042
Phone: (323) 257–8980


Foodstory : Okonomiyaki 101

By Tsz on October 24, 2012

Gastrophoria is a scaldingly hot Okonomiyaki fresh from the stove at Foodstory.

I haven’t had many run-ins with this specialty pancake from Osaka due to geography and a lack of knowledge. The only Okonomiyaki I’ve had was a sad, frumpy, specimen bloated with too much flour from a stand in New York years back. Since then, I’ve steered clear of Okonomiyakis.

Fortunately, Yoko Isassi from Foodstory changed my perception. Housed in the historical Rowan building at the Financial District in downtown, Yoko teaches hands-on cooking classes on Japanese cuisine—from ramen making to sweets and everything in between.

The class I attended was on Okonomiyaki, an Osaka favorite that literally means “as you like.” Under Yoko’s tutelage, we got to transform the lowly cabbage into a decadent pancake, much like how the fairy godmother got Cinderella ball-ready.

Each attendee was equipped with cooking utensils and tasks so the class collaborates on creating the dish together. From chopping the cabbage, deveining the shrimp, mixing the batter to frying each cabbage cake, everyone got to create their portion the way they preferred—all under the calm guidance of Yoko. Being a fan of pork, I loaded mine up with pork belly… also shrimp, mochi and cheese—I couldn’t help myself!

After a much-too-long wait pan frying the Okonomiyaki, we lacquered on our pancakes with a sweet and savory sauce, Kewpie mayo, seaweed and bonito flakes that seems to dance along with the steam.

The best part of the class was the eating portion. Paired with a simple but flavorful miso soup with garden vegetables and an homemade orange jello with castella cake, it was a satisfying meal. Thank you Yoko for showing me the light!

Food Story
460 S. Spring street, Suite 609
Los Angeles, CA 90013 


Fat Spoon : Tasty Campfire Memories

By Tsz on October 10, 2012

Gastrophoria is a baked sweet potato at Fat Spoon.

It may not be the most photogenic dessert with its misshapen and charred exterior, but one bite has the ability to transport you headfirst to your most beloved campfire memory. It’s a twice baked sweet potato, with its innards mixed with rich cream and butter and roasted till they’re all caramelized—much like a s’more. Except a simple s’more can never compare as this has a bonus addition of vanilla ice cream and bittersweet caramel (cue body-roll)! The hot-and-cold sensation of the baked potato with the ice cream is just divine.

Oh, if you’re hungry for more than just dessert, their creamy, molten crab croquettes are not to be missed. Especially when smother in house-made curry sauce. This is no diet food to be sure, but you can lessen the guilt with a side of nutty brown rice.

One dish that should come with a cautionary note is the black squid ink pasta with clams. Warning—your teeth and mouth will be dyed black. Make sure your dining companion has a sense of humor before ordering.

Fat Spoon
329 East First Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 621–7890