Saturday, May 30, 2009

sushi nishi-ya

Do you remember the infamous Soup Nazi of Seinfeld fame? Here is his description via Wikipedia:

A stone-faced immigrant chef with a thick Stalin-esque moustache, he is renowned throughout Manhattan for his soups. He demands that all customers in his restaurant meticulously follow his strict queuing, ordering, and payment policies. Failure to adhere to his demands brings the admonishment, "No soup for you!", whereupon the customer is refunded and denied his or her order.

Sushi Nishi-ya in Glendale stars the same idea of that character in the form of a much gentler, though still imposing, superbly talented Japanese sushi chef. Behind the bar in this teeny-tiny, mom and pop run strip-mall sushi joint, he won't refuse service as the soup nazi would. However, he will tell you what you can order and when you can order it. His motto is you get what he gives you, in essence. Read the sign. The chef is the boss. His first question is, "is there any type of fish you don't like?" And from there, he takes charge. He even instructs you with which dishes you may use soy sauce.

If you put your faith in him, you will not be disappointed. Everything is extremely fresh and meticulously prepared by the sushi chef. Even the wasabi is freshly grated.

Because the restaurant is so intimate, I felt a little sneaky and disrespectful snapping pictures, so I only got a few and the ones I did are blurry and annoying, but I'll post them anyway.
If you are thinking about going to Nishi-ya and want to be surprised at the omakase, I would suggest not reading the following blurb. The sushi chef picks out the fish from mongers several times a week, so it does change up based on what looks best, but of the 3 times I've eaten here, it has only varied slightly. I know it seems silly, but the whole experience is kind of fun and adventurous to go into blindly, so read or don't read, it's your choice!

- marinated maguro from Boston
- fresh hamachi from Osaka (one belly, one back)
- smoked and fresh salmon with kelp from Scotland
- fresh scallop from Okaido
- blue crab hand-roll from Maryland
- fresh albacore with Ponzu sauce from Japan
- toro from Spain
It is fantastic every time I have it. The only negative I can fathom is the portion size, which is admittedly small for the price, but when it comes to raw fish, quality is far more important to me than quantity. If you eat the sushi and drink a beer, you will be more than satiated.

Good quality sushi, well-prepared and served by an informed and talented sushi chef in an intimate setting. Service is great and there's rarely a wait, but you may want to call ahead to ensure your seats at the bar.

Monday, May 25, 2009


This is some good stuff.

Sangria is one of those drinks that is easily made with what's already in your fridge: the wine (red, white, rose), the sweetener(sugar or fruit juice), the fruit(tons of options here), the bubbly(sparkling water, lemon lime soda, none). So much of it is simply taking what you have and adjusting the the amounts so that it tastes yummy. Play around with it and have fun!

Plus, it's one of those make ahead batch drinks that you can prep the night before and put it out and let people help themselves. Easy, tasty, no fuss. What's not to love?

*Simple Sangria*
a bottle of decent red wine (I used a Spanish table wine)
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 cup triple sec
1 1/2 cups pomegranate lime juice (Trader Joes special!)
1/2 cup OJ
Any fruit you have available (I used apples, oranges, limes, strawberries)

Cut up fruit and throw it in all the liquids combined. Let it sit for a few hours, or even better, overnight. You can top it off with the bubbly or your choice or drink it straight over a big glass filled with ice.

It's a lovely drink to end a long weekend with!

Saturday, May 23, 2009


For years, Bran and I have had one major goal when dining out at places we know we're going to love. We want recognition. We want fame. Well, not really. We just want to be 'regulars.' You know, sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. And they're always glad you came? I can't believe that the first place that it happened was at the one and only Katsu-ya in Studio City.

For example, today we waltzed in and were greeted by warm smiles from every angle; "Irasshaimase (Japanese for please come in)!" they exclaimed. Our greeter asked "sushi bar or table?" Even though he already knew what we were going to say.

My favorite waiter, TK, came over to our table and greeted us, "Welcome back! Two sushi lunch specials, one with udon, one with tempura. I just can't remember what you normally order for drinks."

Party foul. I forgave him.

I said "I'd like an iced tea, please, and he'll have water. We'd also like an order of the crispy rice and spicy tuna today." I like to keep him guessing, you know?

But today, there was something different. I brought my camera to the table with me and unearthed her in the crowded restaurant. I'm sure it's nothing new to the crew from Studio City, mostly people in 'the industry,' anyway, but I felt kind of awkward snapping pictures throughout the meal. My Nikon D80 isn't the most covert camera in all the land.

But I finally got pictures, so I can finally blog on this awesome recession buster. I go to Katsu-ya at least twice a month on Saturdays to take advantage of the sushi lunch special- one piece each of a variety of sushi (tuna, hamachi, white fish, salmon, clam, sh imp, egg), one California roll, miso soup, and your choice of the following: veggie and shrimp tempura, udon soup, salmon skin salad, baked clams, or chicken teriyaki. All of this for just over 10 bucks. And the thing is, Katsuya has consistently been our favorite sushi restaurant around for the past 6 years or so, way prior to our knowing about this awesome recession buster. But one day we popped in for lunch and we found this little gem.

The sushi quality is top notch. The portions are generous. The tempura is light and crispy. The udon is fabulous. The price is right. The service is impeccable. Domo arigato!

One side note: order the crispy rice with spicy tuna. You will thank me.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

toffee chocolate chip scones

Have I told you that I started bootcamp? Not military style, buzz cut requiring, kick your ass into the ground bootcamp, but a kick your ass gently while encouraging you to do be better and svelter bootcamp. I can attribute, at least partially, my lack of posting in the last weeks to a few things: West Coast Bootcamp, waking up a 5am to make it too said bootcamp, and my food journal. Yup, you read that right. Food journal. :(

So, I've been cutting back a bit lately. I'm drinking less booze, eating fewer sweets, making sure that I eat more meals throughout the course of the day. I'll never eliminate anything that I love from my diet. I think moderation is the key to eating healthfully, but I'm giving their way of life a shot. I told myself that at least for these 6 weeks, I'd follow their food plan during the week (kinda sorta) and I'll eat how I normally eat on the weekend. Well, guess what! It's SUNDAY! And I want scones.

*Toffee Chocolate Chip Scones*
(adapted from this epicurious recipe)
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup chocolate-covered English toffee bits
2 cups chilled whipping cream
zest of a lemon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Additional raw sugar for sprinkling

Preheat your oven to 375.

Mix together your dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, chocolate chips, toffee bits.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream to stiff peaks. Add in the zest of a lemon.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones. Once they are combined, turn the dough out on to a cutting board and knead until it comes together - it will be sticky! Once it has come together, cut it in 1/2 and form it into 2 logs. Cut each log into 1/3's (forming basically 3 squares) and each 1/3 in 1/2 (diagonally). You will be left with 12 triangular scones.

Place the scones on 2 Silpat-lined baking sheet. Brush them with the melted butter and sprinkle them with sugar (I use Maui raw can sugar). Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

If you look close enough, it kind of looks like an alligator. A delicious, sweet alligator.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

s'mores cookie bars

I'm going to blow your mind right now. You are either going to think this the most vile and revolting concoction known to man or you will bow down and kiss my toes when I make these for you. I don't think there is too much in between here.

I have had a hankering for s'mores for weeks at this point. I don't know where it came from, but I do know when my sweet tooth speaks, I must listen. Since then, I have been on a desperate mission to curb this craving. I came across this recipe from the super cute fun blog, Lovin' From the Oven, and I knew this was it. This was the recipe that would quite my inner s'mores-demanding demons.

*S'mores Cookie Bars*
(adapted from Lovin' From the Oven)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 king-sized milk chocolate bars (e.g. Hershey’s)
1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 baking pan.

Cream together the butter and sugar (if you like a sweeter cookie, you can add another 1/3 cup white sugar). Mix in the egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder and salt.

Add your dry ingredients to the wet ones. Divide dough in half.

Press 1/2 the dough into your baking pan. Layer in your chocolate, then your marshmellow creme. Top with flattened remaining dough.

Pop in the oven for 30 minutes. Ding! It's dunzo. Wait to cut into this until it's cool or you will be sorry.
If loving these is wrong, I don't wanna be right!