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Crudo Bar

When I read about a guest chef at Century City’s Breadbar, I was intrigued. They were featuring Chef Noriyuki Sugie and calling it Crudo Bar [PDF]. The website described it as “a fusion of Spanish and Japanese flavors” and they were to be served tapas style, meant to be shared.

At first, I was bummed when I found out that I was too late for Crudo Bar, then joyed when I found out that they were extending it to July 31st and I happen to be in LA on the weekend of the 26th.  I invited Liz but she never replied. I was planning on going myself, which I dread but have done before. Later, I found out Clarissa didn’t have to attend a BBQ so I asked her to join me. Luckily, she agreed.

I originally made the reservation at 7PM then changed it to 8PM when I considered the late lunch we had. Both times, the people answering the phone had problems understanding me, especially my first and last name, neither of which I find that difficult. Parking proved to be a pain, which was to be expected at the Century City mall.

When we arrived at Breadbar, the mall was mostly empty since it was near closing time for the shops. We were also not surprised to find Breadbar practically empty. Others had mentioned that few know about the place and even fewer knew of Crudo Bar. We at the bar (best seat in the house!) and I immediately recognized Chef Rogelio. I asked if Chef Noriyuki was there and was informed he was not. No matter, I knew from Liz’s posts that Chef Rogelio was a talented chef and up to the task. We ordered two omakase’s and requested that the dishes be different. After some confusion, Chef Rogelio went off and we could overhear him planning the menu with his assistants. This was going to be exciting!

Narutotai Genshu, Ginjo, Tokushima

We started with a pour of sake. It was filtered and very delicious. The description reads “full bodied, dry, rich dried fruit flavors, long citrus finish.” Right on the nose.

House-made pickled vegetables

I’ve noticed that in-house curing (meats) and pickling (vegetables) is becoming very popular. This was a good start. Everything was delicious. I will say though, that pickled olives still taste like olives.

Salmon croquette; tomatillo sauce, wasasbi

These were pretty good but not spectacular. I did like them though. What amazed me was the technique. You had individual flakes of salmon inside, not a compressed fish cake. How did they get the fish to stay together in a perfect ball for frying? The sauce was good and complimented the croquettes. I only tasted a hint of wasabi which was perfect.

Octopus salad; jicama, soy ginger sauce, pea shoots, sesame seeds

I kept commenting on how delicate and soft the octopus was. I always expect it to be gummy and tough. The sauce and the sesame seeds all worked well together with the greens and it was a delight to eat. We are talking pretty classic Japanese flavor combinations here.

Lobster ceviche; pineapple sake gelee, young coconut, tapioca, red onions, cilantro

Another winner. The lobster didn’t really stand out to me but everything was harmonious. Chef could have probably used any seafood and it would have worked, which is good or bad depending how you look at it. We were given spoons and instructed to eat it in one bite. The gelee is set with agar agar and admittedly not completely smooth. It had some texture, almost a grittiness. That’s really a minor criticism. The gelee paired with the coconut (pina colada, anyone?).

2006 Alma Rosa Chardonnay; Santa Barbara, CA

After Chef found out I was from Santa Barbara, he had us try some Alma Rosa. I think I’ve actually been to this winery. If I haven’t, I need to go to pick up a bottle of this. Very good and brought out lots of underlying flavors of the dishes we were eating at the time of the pouring.

Crab guacamole; wild rice puff, preserved lemon puree

I specifically requested this after reading about it. Chef brought out a steel container filled to the brim with layer after layer of avocados. They were the most perfect I have ever seen. In order to keep avocados from turning, you have to toss them in lemon. I expected to taste citrus, but I didn’t. Did he use ascorbic acid?

Lobster soup; crispy chickpeas

Another request. Two crispy chickpeas floated in each little espresso cup (which by the way, is a genius serving vessel. The perfect size!). I always expect soups like this to be salty but it’s not at all. It was perfectly seasoned. Chef said the salt was from the sea!

Shishitou pepper, edamame

Deep fried, the edamame smelled so good when you put it up to your nose. Taste-wise, they tasted like regular edamame. The peppers were not spicy at all and I just ate them in a single bite. After a while, you realize you are just eating because they are there (like fries), not because it’s actually that good. This dish was just ok. Filler food.

Greek salad with grilled squid; oregano-citrus sauce

The grilled squid was delicious and I wish there was more of it. The salad was huge, perhaps too big for a tasting menu. Lots of attention to detail here. All kinds of microgreens and little bits of veggies. The feta cheese was some of the best I’ve had. Very subtle flavoring, not overpowering like many fetas.

2006 Palivou Papagianikos; Savatino Attica, Greece

A Greek wine to match our Greek salad. A very unique wine with a flavor I’ve never tasted before.

Ricotta gnocci; browned butter, sage

I had been waiting for this all night and boy did it deliver. I had to ask a few times if the sauce was only browned butter and Chef insisted it was. I am not sure because it definitely had another level to it, plus the mouthfeel was slightly thick and slimy (in a good way). The gnocci were huge yet still delicate. I read that the ricotta inside was from a fancy cheeseshop. Figures. A+

Grilled shrimp; herb mix miso-spicy tomato sauce

I was surprised how good the shrimp tasted. The were huge and perfectly cooked. Moreso, I was addicted to the sauce. I ended up eating a majority of these and half of the gnocci. I felt bad after seeing all the shrimp tails because it meant Claire didn’t get as many. I don’t think she minded though; she was busy enjoying the gnocci!

Slow cooked halibut; smoked tea, baby bok choy, Vadouvan butter

At the beginning of the meal, I had list of requests and Chef Rogelio said he’d do his best to accommodate them. During the meal, I had two fears: a) That Chef would serve me dishes that were not fresh or sub-par just because I requested them and b) that some of my requests may be off-menu items requiring a surcharge and I’d end up with some huge bill. Neither of these scenarios happened and in fact, Chef only gave me a portion of the things I asked for. This dish is not even on the menu and Chef said he was particularly proud of this dish so he wanted to serve it to us. Vadouvan is the hot new spice now and I am glad to have seen it in a dish, finally. It’s actually a spice mix; the French interpretation of Indian curry.

Quinoa crusted scallops; cocoa bean salad, ratatouille, browned butter soy sauce

Everything under the scallops was amazing. The browned butter soy sauce reminded me of soja sauce.  The scallops, I have to say, were terrible. They tasted like water. As in very plain, yet not completely null. Like licking a metal spoon that was dipped in water. I am not sure what could have caused this. It was a bear to eat so I concentrated on the salad.

Hitori Musume Nigori; Ibaragi

Chef Rogelio said they didn’t have any dessert wines yet so this would be our pairing for dessert. It was unfiltered so he spent some time slowly turning the bottle end to end. It was milky in color and delicious.

Molten chocolate cake; olive oil, sea salt

We were instructed to eat this quickly to get the molten cake effect. Paired with olive oil and sea salt in the corner, it was simply a perfect cake. It’s amazing what you can use olive oil for. It’s so perfect. Sweet, savory, anything! We both kept reaching for the salt, which brought a contrast to the sweet chocolate.

White chocolate risotto; dried fruit, almonds

The last dish of the night was another request. This dish tasted very similar to one that my roommates and I always prepare – chocolate risotto with almonds. I think I like this version a lot more. It is less sweet and the dried fruit really adds a nice touch.

Overall, this meal was a delight. The attention to detail and service was impeccable. It is very clear that Chef Rogelio and Chef Noriyuki worked closely together to create a menu that would exhibit both Spanish and Japanese flavors. I love how they took classic dishes and put a twist or two on them. Chef Rogelio was engaging and did not compromise on flavor. We were given new dinnerware and plates for each course. It was a joy to watch him do plating then ultimately bring each dish over. I think he was excited to be cooking for us, as much as we were to be eating. I now consider Chef Rogelio a friend and look forward to returning.

Price: $150 for two.

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