Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tagine (Beverly Hills, CA)

132 N Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Wed 10/24/2007, 08:55p-10:35p

I'm usually stuck in class learning about financial accounting on Wednesday nights, but on this particular night I got out early and thus had the opportunity to sample a new restaurant. I didn't remember the last time I had Moroccan, so I was a bit excited about Tagine. Tagine, by the way, refers to a clay pot cooking vessel from North Africa as well as the slow-cooked dish prepared within it.

Tagine is located on a relatively quiet stretch of Robertson and is easy to miss. There is some street parking as well as valet across the street. On a side note, the restaurant is co-owned by none other than actor Ryan Gosling (Fracture, The Notebook); he wasn't there this particular night though.

The tasting menu is shown above. À la carte selections are also available except on Friday and Saturday. Click for larger version.

Tagine is easily the darkest restaurant I've ever eaten at (no, I haven't to Opaque). Thus, the photos aren't up to my normal standard of quality; I literally had to place a candle next to the dishes. Flash is not something I normally do, as I find it distracting to other restaurant patrons. Also, apparently Tagine has a no-photo policy so I had to be discreet. On to the food...

1: Fresh Mozzarella with Heirloom Tomato and Basil / Marinated Beets with Bermuda Onion
Both served with special house vinaigrette. Think of a Moroccan interpretation of the insalata Caprese. The mozzarella was nice, though I would've liked the basil to a bit more pronounced. The mounds of beets and onion flanking the insalata were not particularly memorable and seemed like afterthoughts.

2: Marinated Grilled Shrimp
Served with hummus, cucumber and tomato salad. Interestingly enough, according to the menu, this was supposed to be a course of grilled chicken; I guess they ran out? I'm not complaining, since this ended up as my second favorite course of the night. The shrimp were nicely flavored and cooked right, while the cool tang of the salad proved to be a fitting foil.

3: Pan Roasted Stripped Bass
Served with Chamula sauce. Decent texture, but I thought this had a rather strange taste. This was not what I expected for bass, and I'm not sure what exactly Chamula is either. One of the weakest dishes of the night for me.

4: Bastilla
Filo dough stuffed with chicken, egg, almonds, topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon. I've read that this is one of the dishes Tagine is best known for. It combines sweet flavors with savory, to an effect I found rather disconcerting (similar to my reaction to Hawaiian pizza). The cinnamon in particular didn't sit well with me. Note also that this dish was served out of order according to the menu.

5: Shrimp Tagine
Light cream harissa sauce with mushrooms, served with roasted cauliflower. Finally, what we were all waiting for: tagine. This shrimp were superbly cooked and spiced, while the roasted cauliflower and mushroom provided perfect complements. The standout course of the meal for me.

6: Grilled Salmon
Served with honey sauce, prunes, Persian figs and almonds. The salmon by itself would've probably been quite tasty, but it was overwhelmed by the sauce, which was overly sweet to me, and reinforced my aversion to mixing sweet and salty. This was my least favorite dish of the night.

7: Oven Roasted Lamb and Grilled Lamb Chop
Served with lentils, couscous, and grilled eggplant. The chop was quite delicious and left me wanting more, while the roasted lamb was exceedingly tender and flavorful. A solid preparation of lamb. I could've used more couscous though.

Mignardises: Baklava, Fruit Plate and Mint Tea
In addition to baklava and grapes (Concord?), we also had some sort of lemon tart. All in all, a nice way to end the meal, though I found the mint tea to be far too intense (I could only handle small sips at a time).

Food-wise, Tagine had definite highs (the shrimp dishes) and lows (the fish dishes). Some of the flavor pairings didn't sit well with me, though perhaps I just need some time to acclimate to the cuisine. Next time, I'd be interested to check out the à la carte menu.

However, I think the most work needs to be done in the service area. In addition to the menu gaffes, we were not provided new silverware for each course (so I had to set my knife and fork on the table, which was of dubious cleanliness), and the dishes came out far too fast (which meant I had to rush to avoid a plate pile-up). Finally, the ban on photo-taking was irksome to say the least. Sadly, this seems like a growing trend, as I encountered the same at Mori Sushi. At least with Tagine, I was able to surreptitiously take photos; at Mori, we were seated right at the sushi bar, so no dice (hence no blog - a shame, since there were some truly impressive photo opportunities there).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Club 33, Disneyland (Anaheim, CA) [2]

Attn: Club 33
1313 S Harbor Blvd, Anaheim, CA 90803
714.781.4033 (unofficial)
Sun 10/21/2007, 02:35p-04:55p

This was actually my second visit to Club 33. My employer has a corporate membership and I consider it a great privilege to be selected to go. Since the restaurant itself was detailed in my first experience, I'll focus on the food this time around.

This is the main dining room, which I neglected to photograph my last visit.

However, we were seated in the Trophy Room, the same room we were in last year. In fact, we sat at the exact same table.

Left: The phone booth was from the movie The Happiest Millionaire and used to contain a real working phone. We were told it broke and was subsequently removed pending replacement.
Right: The second-story view from the hallway connecting the Trophy Room with the rest of the restaurant.

Left: The menu remained unchanged from last year. However, we had to order in advance and were given the choice of the filet, the shrimp, the pasta, and a chicken dish not listed on the menu.
Right: The guide I was given upon picking up my park pass from Guest Relations.

The buffet area. The harpsichord was selected by Lillian Disney and features a painted scene of New Orleans.

The first station contained a quartet of salads (of which I had none). The second had a chicken salad of some sort, cured meat, and roasted vegetables.

Next we have sliced fruit, various dips (including hummus), and my favorite, smoked salmon with crème fraîche, onions, and capers. Finally, we get crab claws, lobster tails, and cocktail shrimp on ice (an exact repeat of last year's spread).

Bread, oils, cheese, crackers, and soup (which I initially mistook for coffee).

Chocolate cake, cheesecake, mousse, macaroons, tarts, éclairs, etc. I think this year's desserts were better than last year's.

The final station provides some more fruit and selected accoutrements.

What my buffet plate ended up looking like: a motley menagerie of smoked salmon, cocktail shrimp, lobster tails, crab claws, and roasted veggies.

Pan Roasted Chicken, Truffled Macaroni & Cheese
My unlisted chicken entrée. I never order chicken at restaurants but this turned out surprisingly tasty. The meat was quite flavorful and had a firm but yielding texture. The mac & cheese was an unusual accompaniment but complemented the chicken well.

Pan Seared Petit Chateaubriand, Vintage Port Reduction
I thought the filet was pretty solid when I had it last year. However, I heard someone say this particular example was a bit tough. I thought it was interesting that the restaurant only cooks steak rare, medium, or well. That may explain why my medium-rare order last year was closer to medium.

Contessa Shrimp Scampi, Baby Arugula, Heirloom Tomato Linguine
Another redux from the year prior, which unfortunately, I didn't get to try.

My selection of desserts, counter-clockwise from lower left in the first photo: mini cheesecake, chocolate truffle (very nice), chocolate éclair (my favorite), and lemon tart (too tart for me).

This was some sort of mousse on top of a layer of apricot(?) purée. We were all trying to figure out what the hard nut-like thing on top of the mousse was.