What is it with LA Thai restaurants? Why is it that seemingly every strip-mall hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant serves spectacular cuisine, while many Thai restaurants in the Bay Area struggle to rise above mediocrity? Whatever it is in the southern California area that inspires Thai cooks, it’s alive and kicking at Jasmine Thai Cuisine. We went there for dinner last Saturday night (June 2014), and had a simply delicious meal.
Jasmine Thai is a 2-restaurant chain in the west San Fernando Valley. We visited the Winnetka branch because it got better slightly better Yelp reviews. The restaurant is cute and well decorated, but it can’t quite escape its strip-mall architecture. Fortunately, the prices match the casual surroundings with most entrees priced at a downright cheap (at least by Bay Area standards) $8.
We started by sharing an order of beef satay ($8). The order came with six sticks, which was great as there were three of us. The beef was very nicely marinated, and had a very strong flavor. The peanut sauce was standard, which is nothing to complain about. The dish was beautifully presented in a plate that came with a small iron heater of some kind with a pretty significant flame. I’m not sure if it was there just for decoration, but we did enjoy putting our meat in the flame. I hadn’t seen this before, and enjoyed it. I know my girls would have loved it.
We followed this with the cashew nut chicken ($8), panang curry with beef ($8) and curry duck ($11). The cashew nut chicken was fine, though perhaps not as interesting as one might have liked. Kathy did like the sauce quite a bit, though. The two curries, however, were outstanding. the panang was perfect, flavorful, deep, complex, and yet very much a panang curry. The sliced beef had probably been sauteed separately and then added to it, so it wasn’t the star of the dish, but it was good enough. It was the sauce, however, what really shined.
The duck curry was similar, albeit a bit fruitier and sweeter, probably from the pineapple chunks it came with. It was also delicious. The duck, a hard meat to get right, was well cooked, not too fatty (but it’s duck), and went very well with the sauce. Both curries are noted in the menu as being spicy. We asked for them as mild as possible, and our tongues still burned a little bit.
The portions were all quite generous. We had leftover of both curries to bring home (which my husband got to enjoy fully). Where they did skimp was in the rice ($1.50 per person). We probably could have used more at the table and had none to take home. Next time, I’ll order an extra portion.
Both my dad and I had strawberry smoothies ($3.25) with our dinner, and they were OK. They basically tasted like strawberry daiquiris without the rum. I don’t think I’d order them again.
Despite how good the food was, there are a few minuses to Jasmine. First, the menu doesn’t include some Thai favorites like pra ram chicken and massaman beef. Second, they don’t serve alcohol – not even beers to wash down the spice. Finally, the service could have been more attentive. We were done for a while before anyone noticed we needed the bill. The dinner for three came to close to $60 after tax and tip.
Jasmine Thai Cuisine
20156 Roscoe Blvd.
M-Su 11am – 10:30pm
My sister got married last weekend, and her new parents-in-law threw the happy a couple a rehearsal dinner at Angel City Cafe, a favorite of the whole family. It was great! Not only was this a place that the family loved, but the food and service was wonderful and it certainly left me wanting to go back.
We tried the Caesar salad ($7) and the Mixed Green salad ($6.50), which comes with candied pecans, goat cheese and a citrusy vinaigrette. I’m not big into Ceasars, so I can’t really comment, but I really enjoyed the mixed green salad. The goat cheese was perfect to enliven every few bites and I ate more than my fair share. I’d order it again.
We also shared the ahi tuna taquitos ($8) and the shrimp scampi ($8). I’ll confess I thought the former were chicken. They came in a lobster butter sauce and were served with guacamole, so the flavor of the tuna was well masked. They were very tasty, however. The guacamole, in particular, was very fresh and vibrant. I don’t eat shrimp, but loved the fries on the scampi sauce. Shrimp eaters loved it too.
I had the tri-tip ($13) as my entree, which came with fries and BBQ sauce. The beef was great, nicely seasoned, and thankfully in no need of the sauce. The sauce was interesting at first, but it was bursting with cumin and as much as I like cumin, this was just too much. Fries were good.
Mike had the salmon ($16) and he thought it was good, but not extraordinary. And really, that’s what he usually thinks when he orders salmon, so he should know better. The people who ordered the potato crusted sea bass ($15) – and there were four of those at our table – were much happier. Nobody gave me a bite, but they were ooing so I’m betting it was good. I also got to finish the pasta alfredo ($12.50) two of my daughters ordered. The sauce was a bit too creamy and I felt it needed just a tad more Parmesan. But it came to the table steaming hot and, really, was bloody good. The portion seemed very generous as well.
They had ran out of most desserts by the time our table offered, but we got to try the tiramisu, creme crule and white chocolate bread pudding (all $6). The tiramisu was good, but nothing too extraordinary. The creme brulee was a very good version of this dessert. It was a good size portion and very nice. But it was the bread pudding which blew everyone’s mind. It consisted of two full slices of bread cooked with a white chocolate sauce and served with blueberries. OMFG, it was so good. I’m still dreaming about it. Whoever conceived that recipe is a genius. You must order it if you visit.
Angel City Cafe apparently does not have a liquor license, but you can bring your own and there is no corkage fee. There is a Trader Joe’s across the street.
Service was great, but I was with a large party. The restaurant itself looked charming. They have a semi-open kitchen and you can see big blasts of fire going from time to time, which definitely amused the kids.
A great find, and I look forward to going again and having more bread pudding!
Angel City Cafe
21136 Ventura Blvd
Woodland Hills, CA
Mike and I stopped for lunch at the Elephant Bar last Friday. He was well acquainted with the chain, but I hadn’t been to one before so I was curious. The restaurant is part of a big chain and it’s at a mall, but the interior was very pleasant, with lots of wood/bamboo, dark colors, a brass elephants and posters of old cruises to exotic lands.
The menu is basically Asian-inspired California food, on the pricy side. Mike and I shared the chicken potsticker appetizer (~$7), and we both liked them very much. The chicken filling was bursting with flavor, and the soy-based dipping sauce complimented it nicely. I’d order it again.
We then shared a full rack of the Kona BBQ pork ribs (~20). These came with a few french fries and coleslaw, and some apple sauce. Mike liked the ribs, but I wasn’t thrilled. Yes, the meat was falling off the bone, but it had the textured of steamed rather than slow cooked pork. The sauce was OK, similar to a teriyaki sauce, with sweet and gingerly notes, but not really remarkable. The ribs I had a couple of days later at Willow Ranch in Buttonwillow were much, much better.
Service was great, however, with a very attentive waitress.
All in all, the Elephant Bar seems like a good place to have a generic good meal in very nice surroundings.
9301 Tampa Ave