My first draft column of 2010 is up today, a breakdown of Saturday’s showcase at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in LA, featuring just about every top senior in SoCal this year. (One guy was missing, and I’m working on finding out why.) There’s also a clip of my ESPNEWS hit today, talking Victor Martinez (my most boring answer of the day, of course). And I’ll be on ESPN Radio’s Baseball Tonight in the 10 pm EST hour tonight.
To the eats:
First meal was at Umami Burger in Hollywood, which turned out to be within walking distance of my hotel, which made me feel rather stupid for driving there and rocking the GPS to go a whopping 0.4 miles or so. Anyway, it’s a good burger, made from the relatively unknown cut of cow called flap meat, which has a strong beefy flavor and responds well to quick searing (so I don’t think you want to go past medium on your burger here). Where they shine is in the toppings, a mix of grilled and roasted vegetables designed, in theory, to hit that “fifth taste” of umami; I know I spotted caramelized onions, some kind of roasted tomato, and a little cracker made from grated, griddled Parmiggiano cheese, served on a Portuguese (and therefore slightly sweet) roll. I strongly recommend the burger, but skip the fries and try the thick-battered onion rings, with a crunchy crust that shatters on impact.
Sticking with Hollywood, I went to Ike Sushi at Hollywood and Gower, buried in a corner strip mall, which turned out to be a great find. The fish was fresh – I’m not sure how a sushi place in LA would stay open if they didn’t use the freshest fish – and other than the salmon, just barely laced with a little ponzu and some finely minced scallion, it was all served straight-up, including some of the best yellowtail I’ve ever had (Ike also had yellowtail belly, or toro, a good find although it was a little tougher than what I get at Koi in Seal Beach) and very strong maguro. Six or seven orders of fish, including tip, was under $40. They’re apparently known for their rolls and combinations, if that’s more to your tastes, but when I’m in California I want the real deal.
Breakfast the next morning was at Square One Dining, a recommendation from dak of FireJoeMorgan fame. They specialize in local & organic ingredients, and the menu incorporates a lot of fresh vegetables in their omelettes and baked egg dishes. The basil and asparagus omelette with goat cheese and squash was fresh all over, but a little light on flavor – it needed salt, but also could have used some oomph from a spice or a bitter vegetable. The thyme-roasted potatoes were golden and crispy and tasted a little more fried than roasted, not that there’s anything wrong with that, and they had an excellent tea selection, with large bags of either whole leaves or something close to it.
I also went back to the Culver City location of Versailles, a small local chain of Cuban restaurants, which I hit last year as well. I mention it here to recommend it again (the lechon asado is excellent, and the service is fast – I was in and out inside of 20 minutes after sitting at the counter) and to torment Joe Sheehan, who recommended it to me in the first place.