Kenzo Winery (Napa Valley)

Kenzo Estate Winery – Napa Valley

Out of all the choices, my parents were adamant about visiting this winery because they can give the entire tour in Japanese lol. But honestly, this was an impressive tour and our family had the tour guide all to ourselves. The tour experience was very intimate, casual, and informative.

Kenzo wines are up and coming high end wines. It’s still rare to see them at most restaurants and they are relatively on the pricey side. About this Tsujimoto Kenzo… let me just say that he is quite gangster. Not only is he a successful business man as the CEO of Capcom, but he is also a ridiculous connoisseur of wines. Most people would go to their local liquor store to get a bottle of wine on sale for $7. Not for Mr. Kenzo. You know what he did? He just went “screw these wines on the market! I’ll just get all the experts together and make my own good shit!” and went on to make his own winery in Napa Valley. One of the most important people in the gaming industry with your very own wine label… Mr Kenzo, I look up to you as my role model.


The four wines currently out on the market.Image

Outside the lobby area. Looks like a nice place lunch.Image

Baby grapesImage

Tour guide explaining how gangster Mr. Kenzo is.Image

The Merlot grape batch with the lot number.Image

These vines are still very young.Image

Primary FermentationImage

Olive Tree: He makes his own olive oil on the side.Image

Primary FermentationImage

I believe this equipment presses on the grapes after the fermentation to get more juice out.Image

The humidity and climate controlled caveImage

Where all the barrels are keptImage

“M” means Medium toasted barrel.Image

“M+” means the barrel is highly toasted.

My future home will have a cave with barrels of wine like this.Image

Wine tasting roomImage

The base of the glass is labeled with the name of the wine. Naturally, this is when the purchase order form comes out if you want to enjoy it in your hotel room.Image

Awesome scenery to enjoy wine.Image

That concluded the Kenzo Winery. Couple others we visited below.

Robert Mondavi WineryImage

Opus One Winery (if you never had it, try it… so awesome)ImageImage-Chef Snak


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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Chef Snak, Everything Alcohol



Craft (Century City, chef Tom Colicchio): Gilt Tasting Menu

This high-end restaurant is in the heart of Century City, so expect people in professional business attire. We tried out the pre-set Gilt Tasting Menu (Highly recommend! Awesome deal for your buck)

Meal starts off with some sparkling wine. Aweeesome, I love starting all my meals with a glass of booze.


Gilt Tasting Menu. The menu has our names on it! How freakin cool is that!?Image

Amuse Bouche: Salmon with citrus zest. sweet and sour dish that complimented our sparkling wine.Image

Duck and Cover: Duck fat washed Apple Jack, Alpine Liquor, Lemon, Orange, Egg White, and Candied Pecan. (I got too excited and I realized I didn’t take a photo of it before I drank it..) I usually don’t like drinks with egg whites, but this was an exception. Sweet and tart apple flavored cocktail with a crunch of pecan at the end. Not many cocktails incorporate textures like this. We described it as “some bad ass apple pie” lolImage

Diver Sea Scallop with rhubarb, blood orange, and sorrel: The bitter green contrasted the sweet orange. The sauce was great, but the scallop had a hint of the raw fishy taste at the end.. which I didn’t like too much.Image

English Pea Agnolotti with pancetta and tendrils: Pasta was at perfect al dente and the pancetta was well seasoned. The warm pasta withered the greens and the fresh peas popped in the mouth. This was delicious!Image

Washugyu Flatiron with bone marrow custard, fava beans, and kale: I know, horrible photo… but the dish was great. Bone marrow custard was super rich and it was an amazing combination with the steak. Image

Banana Date Cake with bing cherries and coconut sorbet: Mmmm..Image

Complimentary Birthday Cake: that’s nice of them!Image

Thanks for grabbing this deal, Shirley!Image-Chef Snak



Totoraku: Chef Kaz Oyama-san’s hidden restaurant

DISCLAIMER: Phone died on me this dinner… so I couldn’t write any notes and I had to steal some photos from friend’s FB. My apology for the shitty review and photo. Chef Oyama-san deserves better, but at least you get an idea for the place. Kevin Eats has an awesome review for this place.

Outside: The restaurant is locked and the sign says “Teriyaki Pico House.” This place is reservation-only and the craziest thing is that not anybody can call in for a reservation. You have to know the chef or go in with a person who got a business card from the chef before. You will be denied if you call in for a reservation and he does not remember you. Luckily, a friend’s friend had a connection to get us all in. You would never guess that you will have one of the best yakiniku in the US at this place.


The meal starts off with various amuse bouche for the table. Most of them were traditional Japanese dishes with modern American style flare. They were all delicious.Image

Beef TartareImage

Beef tataki and Beef Throat: Never had beef throat in my life, but this was fantastic. Almost like eating sashimi! Evidently, it takes couple cows to get enough meat to fill that small bowl shown in the photo. After the meal, the waitress asks what you liked and you can ask for seconds on anything. We chose this and another plate of beef tongue and Rib Eye lol.


Yuuke: Spicy Korean styleImage

Beef Tongue: Nice and thick slices. Look at the color!! Love my beef tongue and this was easily the best one I had in my life.Image

A lot of attention to the coal and grill used for the yakiniku.Image

Following photos are the various cuts that were served to us. The subsequent dishes came out immediately after the waitress confirmed that the last dish was completed. Meats included Filet Mignon, Inside Ribeye, Outside Ribeye, Shortrib, and Skirt Steak. Each one was surprisingly different in its own way. Waitress kindly explained to us how to cook it and which sauce to use. Talking to the chef, he apparently traveled all over the country to try hundreds of different beefs. He finally came across one that was close to high quality beef he had in Japan. Obviously, the details are highly classified.ImageImageImageImageImage

You must try the tomatoes… for some reason it was super good (or maybe it was all the sake and wine at this point)Image

Meal ended with a warm soup (choice or regular or spicy) and a plate of various ice creams.ImageImage

The bill was quite ridiculous. Yes, it was about $200 per person (+wine I bought at Vons), but the meal was excellent and I never experienced anything like it before. If you have the opportunity to check it out, I definitely recommend trying it at least once. The plus side is that it is BYOB with no corkage fee, so go ahead and drink whatever and however much you want (although you probably want to remember the mad expensive dinner). Bonus points for offering good-ass red wine to chef Oyama. He comes around at the end of your meal to show his appreciation and to get to know his customers. He’s more comfortable speaking Japanese, but he’s a super funny guy.


Chef Kaz Oyama-san and the girls. He looks quite happy 🙂 Proud to say that I got his business card for my next trip.. but I would need to save some $$$ for it.Image-Chef Snak


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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Chef Snak, Los Angeles, Restaurant Reviews


Bouchon Bistro

Bouchon Bistro, Yountville (Napa Valley): Thomas Keller’s 2 Michelin Star restaurant. Image

Warm and fresh bread that gets placed on your table. Unique shape but easy to tear off for individual portions.Image

Rye Invention: Rye Whiskey, Elderflower liquor, Aperol. Overall impression: scent of citrus and sweetness aftertaste of rye. Light and slightly bitter cocktail. Great drink for a night out, but didn’t go too well with the food.Image

Terrine Foe Gras: VERY rich. Sweet and melts in your mouth like butter. (quality foe gras! didn’t smell at all)Image

Lobster Bisque: Poured right at your table. Smelt the lobster from across the table! and yes, it was delicious.Image

Spring Vegetables: Refreshing dish. Tad sour flavor with the vinaigrette.Image

Lobster Bisque: Close-upImage

Epaule de Porc: Braised pork shoulder with potato puree, peas, carrots, and whole grain mustard sauce. This pork breaks apart with the fork. Fluffy and creamy potato went well with it.Image

Boudin Blanc: White sausage with potato puree and French prunes. Surprised by how soft and tender the sausage was (thought it would be hard) and the skin still had its snap. Prunes added sweetness, which was a nice contrast to the creamy potato and the sausage.Image

Poulet Roti: Roasted chicken with fresh chickpeas, green garlic, carmelized artichokes, and chicken au jus. “WTF!?” was literally my comment I wrote to myself. Best dish we had this meal. Crispy skin, tender meat, great sauce.Image

Gigot d’Agneau: Roasted leg of lamb with merguez sausage, flageolet beans, and thyme jus. Excellent dish if you like the gamey-ness of lamb. Sauce was amazing with the gamey flavor infused into it. Image

Profiteroles: Vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauceImageImage

Ambiance: Loud atmosphere with people sitting relatively close to you. Thought this was surprising for a two michelin star establishment, but maybe it’s different for dinner.Image

Had to take a photo of French LaundryImage

Bouchon Bakery: Huge Macaroons (very tasty too!)Image-Chef Snak



Alinea, Progressive American restaurant owned by chef Grant Achatz, was voted the number one restaurant in the United States and number six in the world in 2011 by Restaurant Magazine (top five are all in Europe). Chef Achatz is widely known in the culinary industry for his mastery in Molecular Gastronomy, the art of combining chemistry and physics in cooking. It was by far the most intricate and fascinating experience with food I ever had. If you’re ever in Chicago, I highly suggest you check it out.

Before I rant on how incredible each dish was, I wanted to highlight several things I noticed:

  • Quick and friendly service. The timing of the dishes brought out and taken away was perfect. It was pleasantly faster paced than I imagined.
  • The dinner had a variety of eating style (e.g. dipping, slurping through a straw, making a wrap, sharing a dish family-style, taking a shot, eating off a stick, not using your hands, etc.)
  • Exceptional use of texture, temperature, and SMELL.
  • I loved how he brought out certain items to foreshadow future dishes

Friendly staff greeted us after we went through the red lit hallway. We were immediately taken upstairs and an ice centerpiece in the middle of the table awaited us. There was no liquid on the base of the ice, so the centerpiece must have been brought out immediately when we stepped in. Each ice block on the other tables looked different. The red liquid inside the three cavities foreshadowed a dish later on into the night.

CHAR ROE – carrot, coconut, curry
First dish that started our adventure. Curry yuzu with ikura and coconut crème. These crème balls spilled out and mixed with the citrusy-curry sauce when I penetrated it with my fork.

The next four seafood courses came out together on an extravagant and creative platter.  The first thing I noticed after our “whoaaa…” moment was the smell of ocean. The musty and salty smell enhanced the seafood dishes.

OYSTER LEAF – mignonette
Simply put: a leaf on an empty oyster shell. Interestingly, the leaf resembled the flavor of oyster.

KING CRAB – passion fruit, heart of palm, allspice
Freakin’ awesome, how can anybody hate on king crab!? But notice the detail on such a small dish (the small flower on top of the crab meat).

SEA URCHIN – banana, black truffle
First dish that made me speechless. Similar to a shooter, the uni easily slips out of the shell. Sweet banana combined with the richness of the uni and generous amount of black truffle (ooomg). I’m actually salivating just writing this description…

RAZOR CLAM – shiso, soy, daikon
Loved the texture of the tapioca.

“..wthhh is that!?” moment as the vacuum pot came out next. Second time our culinary adventure foreshadowed a future dish. The Bunsen burner boiled the water, the steam went up the filter, and rapid infusion with all the ingredients occurred in the top chamber.  As our broth was being made before our eyes, the next course came out.

YUBA – shrimp, miso, togarashi
Crispy and airy yuba wrapped with shrimp with the sweet Miso dipping sauce. The whole thing is edible and I loved the texture and flavor contrast.

Broth is basically done! The waiter removed the heat and only the infused broth trickled down to the bottom chamber. (Yea.. I want one of these at home.)

SCALLOP – acting like agedashi tofu
The waiter placed the scallop dish and poured the broth in front of us.
Looked and felt like tofu, but it definitely tasted like scallops. Strange, but very delicious dish.
The waiter poured the rest of the broth in a ceramic cup for us to sip on. The flavor was incredibly strong for a broth that was made in such a short time. I liked the subtle hint of citrus.

WOOLY PIG – fennel, orange, squid
Another fun one to eat. The hibachi squid with iberico ham was suspended in the air and you had to eat it without using your hands. Well seasoned ham and squid followed by the sweet aftertaste of the orange.

ICE – beet, hibiscus, licorice
Finally get to try the centerpiece! The waiter brought us three clear straws for us to drink the juice inside of the glacier. The ‘juice’ had a strong floral scent of hibiscus and distinct flavor of beet and licorice.

White Burgundy wine break. Who knew that the meal comes with a bottle of booze. Crisp and light flavored wine cleared our palate.

Chef Grant Achatz went to each table for the final dessert dish. The only thing that was a let-down from this whole experience was that you can see what you will be getting in the future if you look at your neighbor’s table…

SCUP – caponata, mint, panella
Garlic Sicilian Porgy with crispy mint, Eggplant with Olives, and Crispy Chick Pea served family-style. I was fascinated with the tightly tied crispy mint… such attention to detail.

Third foreshadow: Red Cabbage flag on the side of our table… Stirred our curiosity when and how we were going to use this.

HOT POTATO – cold potato, black truffle, butter
The waiter rushed out of the kitchen and explained that this was the most time sensitive dish. You pull the green stick out through the wax bowl (like a grenade) and drop the hot potato, truffle, and butter into the sauce and immediately shoot into your mouth. Simultaneously having the rich cold sauce and the hot potato in your mouth was purely mind-blowing.

WILD MUSHROOMS – juniper, sumac, shallot
Pillows filled with vapors of Hollywood Juniper were placed in front of us. Our whole table literally smelled like forest. Seared mushroom with thyme foam was amazing!

VENISON – red cabbage, mustard, paprika
We assembled the metal components together that became the holder for our venison wrap. Generous amount of meat was placed on the cabbage with a variety of toppings.

Chef blau is speechless.

After we engulfed the perfectly cooked deer, the waiter brought out warm wet towels and took away all the utensil and water glass. Evidently, they replace everything after this dish because we could have gotten grease on something and negatively affect the rest of the dinner. AMAZING detail to service to say the least.

BLACK TRUFFLE – explosion, romaine, parmesan
Seal your lips for this one because this ravioli topped with welted herbs, cheese, and truffle EXPLODES in your mouth. This is not ravioli “stuffed” with truffle… the inside is basically all liquid. The truffle flavor fills the inside of your mouth and touches every taste bud. The waiter was nice enough to point out that the bottom of the saucer is not sauce lol.

SQUAB – inspired by Miro
Spoonful of various items. The interesting feature to this course was the very strong smell of lavender that came from the spoon dump bucket. The squab (basically pigeon meat) was gamey and the duck fat (dark cube) melted on my tongue. Needless to say, everything was delicious.

CHESTNUT – veal heart, quince, root vegetables
One of my favs. Slightly sweet veal heart washed down with warm and rich chestnut soup with foam. Let’s just say the memo I left myself was “hooolllyyyy shiiiitt!!!!”

APPLE – onion, brie, smoking cinnamon
Cheese dish was next that served as the transition course into dessert. Hard to see here, but the end of the cinnamon stick is on fire and fills the air with burnt/caramelized cinnamon aroma. On the bottom was a brie tempura with onion and granny smith apple. Crispy outside and gooey melted cheese with sweet apple inside. Hate to make this comparison, but the flavor reminded us of Funions potato chips.

WINTER – in New Hampshire
Four dessert items placed on top of frozen stones (using nitrogen) and peppermint snow. What presentation! What’s cool was the clear hot chocolate on top of the log. Looked like water, but smelt and tasted like hot chocolate… No idea how that’s even possible.

LEMONGRASS – mango, thai basil, finger lime
We had to suck the concoction out of a test tube for this dessert. Refreshing course and reminded me of a mojito with strong lemongrass aftertaste.

DARK CHOCOLATE – butternut squash, ligonberry, stout
The entire table turned into canvas for chef Grant Achatz. After he designed the periphery of the dessert with chocolate and various sauces, he showered the table with edible flowers and smashes the chocolate ball on the center of the table.

Like a piñata, various goodies spread on the table. The combination of hot and sweet chocolate sauce, bitter and cold chocolate shells, crunchy thin sheets of candy, light cotton candy, and cookie-like objects that disintegrate on your tongue was truly phenomenal.

A copy of the menu in a black envelope came after our meal (interesting that the menu comes after you eat everything). These circles actually have meaning behind it… but I unfortunately forgot sometime during the series of drinks at the Aviary (same chef’s bar, you actually need to be picked in a lottery to reserve a seat). However, I do remember that the size of the circle represents the size of the dish.

Damage – with tip it was a thousand dollar dinner for us three. By far the most expensive I ever had.

We had the honor and pleasure of visiting the main chef in his laboratory/kitchen. Chef, thank you for the meal of a lifetime.

They even coordinated with the valet parking staff and our car was already waiting outside when we stepped out. On to Aviary!


Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Chef Snak, Other Location, Restaurant Reviews


Pulled Pastor

This was my play on pulled pork and al pastor.

What youll need:
Pork shoulder/butt
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
Guajillo chilies (dried)
Apple cider vinegar

Al Pastor marinade:
(Let the Guajillo chilies steep in hot water for about 10 minutes until they’re tender before you blend)
– Combine onion, peppers, pineapple, vinegar, garlic, cumin, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper in blender.  Blend until it forms a paste.
– Set aside extra marinade.  You’ll need this to finish the dish.


Prepping the roast:
– Rub pork roast with marinade
– If possible, let marinade over night


Cooking instructions:
– Preheat oven to 325
– In a roasting pan or dutch oven, place roast in middle of pan.  Cover while cooking.
– Add extra marinade until it covers the bottom of the pan along with a cup of water (will prevent it from sticking and give extra moisture while cooking
– Bake until fork tender and you can shred (here I used a 3 lb roast and cooked for approx. 3 hours)


Finishing the dish:
– Add shredded meat in separate frying pan
– Cook on high heat so it crisps the meat and add additional marinade to taste

– Chef Toast!


Meatballs with Spinach Ragu

Super easy way to enjoy meatballs!

What you’ll need
Ground beef
Breadcrumbs (I used almond meal)
salt, pepper, italian seasoning
Can of crushed tomatoes
Can of diced tomatoes

Prepping the meatballs:
– In a blender or food processor combine the onion, garlic, and parsley.  Dont use all of it, you’ll need some for the super easy marinara sauce.   Blend until its a paste.
– combine onion, garlic, parsley mixture with ground beef
– add egg and breadcrumbs
– season with salt, pepper, and italian seasoning
– mix until everything is combined
* to check the seasoning, cook a small piece of meat before you go ahead and shape the meatballs.  Add whatever you feel is missing.  No sense in making all these meatballs and the seasoning is off!
– form into meatballs.  I made mine about 1/4 cup size.

Cooking Instructions:
– sear meatballs in a hot pan (use the same pan you plan on making your sauce in) with olive oil
– set aside on a cooking sheet
– bake meatballs at 350 for approx. 45 min (I had about 4 lbs of meat)

Marinara Sauce:
– Using the same pan, add the onion, garlic, and parsley mixture and sautee
– add crushed and diced tomatoes
– season with salt, pepper, italian seasoning.  For a little kick you might want to add crushed red pepper
– let sauce cook on low for the duration that the meatballs do

When both are done, add meatballs back into the sauce and let simmer for another 10 mintues before you enjoy!


I made mine with a spinach ragu (sautee spinach and add marinara sauce to finish) but you can enjoy with whatever you want!

– Chef Toast!!

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Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Uncategorized