Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Son of a Gun: A Refined Take of a Floridian Seafood Shack

As you know, Son of a Gun is by the LA chefs that own and run their extremely popular original restaurant, Animal, that has been ventured by many famous LA food bloggers, let alone Anthony Bourdain (he dines there in the LA episode of The Layover). Going in the restaurant, it's a small, quaint restaurant with awesome nautical items and knick-knacks on the wall (did not get to take a picture of the Aziz Ansari "Food Club" plaque (sad face)); very LA trendy, let alone many other "LA" things of which I'll get to soon. Whereas Animal is more meat-based, Son of a Gun is (you guessed it) of seafood. And like Animal, it's "tapas" styled where people share small plates. And where I say small, even someone like me thinks they've really done it on the small part, at least initially; gives a whole meaning to "LA portions at LA prices". Usually when people complain about sizes, I usually don't agree with them as they're used to "Cheesecake Factory" proportions and they don't really get the "Quality vs Quantity" mantra. And I understand that at some upper mid-range restaurants, the portions tend to run on the small side. However, this may be borderlining a bit too small, especially when factoring the prices initially and even towards other blogging dining enthusiasts. The chefs behind Son of a Gun/Animal, let alone the servers on the front line, are more than used to the comments by now, especially as the servers ask "are you still hungry?" near the end of the meal.

Nonetheless, the food's absolutely amazing and surprisingly filling at the end due to the spectacular richness of each dish that accumulates throughout the meal. After eating the dishes, their prices become more justifiable when you notice the high quality of the ingredients; my initial impressions had definitely changed for the better. Certainly tasting how extremely delicious all the dishes were mulls down the initial shock of the size. Regardless and a funny, less serious note: if you want to piss someone off if they're footing the bill such as a tasteless & cultureless (especially if they're the types that scoff at fine dining and traditional cuisines of non-Western cultures, let alone want to only eat processed foods and Americanized abominations all the time) pain-in-the-ass boss or troublesome in-laws (too tasteless & cultureless), take them here! Otherwise, you will not be disappointed dining here as the food's amazing, especially if you want to impress someone by dining at a trendy LA restaurant such as an out-of-towner, let alone a date.

Anyways, the party started out with some cocktails. Usually I go for strong cocktails such as an original Gin Martini or a Manhattan. However, I am a sucker for anything coconut as the Pina Colada was the cocktail that peaked my interest in them as a kid (made mocktails as a kid for my friends). So without shame, I said to the gentleman who took my order, "I'll have a Coconut Collins"; real manly. But as there was no judgement as there takes courage to order a "fruity" drink out in the open, there was also a great deal of acknowledgement as I ordered something truly delicious and sweet like coconut as he understood that I appreciated such gloriously crafted coconut-based cocktails that its flavors were traditionally appreciated back during the previous generations infatuated with Asian-Pacific island-y themes. #retrolove

The drink itself as it was gin-based hit well on all fronts. It was packed with coconut flavor while not at all being overwhelmingly sweet, nor the gin was too pronounced as the right amount was added. With all of that said, the drink had the right amount of viscosity which was not much as it went down easily which is extremely refreshing on a hot, summer day in Southern California; certainly could have gone for another one of those. Otherwise, the cocktails are amazing at Son of a Gun as I definitely wished their sister restaurant, Animal, would incorporate a full bar; one of the reasons why I chose to dine here instead of Animal; still hope to go there in the future though.

To start out, the party ordered the oysters of the day. Sorry, but I forgot which were they. However, I was informed that the restaurant orders what's best offered by the purveyor for the day. Along with the cucumber mignonette, cocktail sauce, freshly grated horseradish, and lemon wedges as condiments; the oysters themselves were very fresh and invigorating on the palate which made you want to slurp down as many as you can, even though they're $3 a pop.

Our first dish arrived which was the Amberjack with stone fruits (nectarines and cherries), and pistachio topped with herbs. The vinaigrette was surprising as it was smoky and loaded with highly savory umami in flavor. Along with the fresh ingredients of the fruity components providing a refreshing counterbalance to the heavy savory flavors, the buttery yet delicate flavors of the Amberjack flesh went intricately together as no component of the dish overwhelmed each other. What's amazing is that the acidity of the crudo was not at all overpowering as a lot of crudos are stereotypically known for.

What immediately followed was the Uni with Burrata. One might think "Does uni pair at all with cheese?" To some non-adventurous people, they would not dare to try the combination at all. However as I'm almost the opposite, I immediately put it in my mouth and was wonderfully surprised that the deep ocean-y flavors of the uni paired well with the smooth earthiness of the Burrata. Although it may seem small portion-wise on the plate, believe me: it is quite rich even though not overwhelming that a few bites will leave you satisfied.

Next is the other raw dish: Yellowfin Tuna stuffed with Avocado and Tortilla in Leche de Tigre (Citrus Marinade). Although it may not exactly be vibrant and abundant in color as what showing the greens of the avocado would have done since the tuna's covering them, but there's a great purpose for the Yellowfin Tuna to wrap over the avocado and tortilla chips: it prevents them from being soggy by the leche de tigre so that they won't lose their structural integrity in order to contribute to the overall textures for each bite: something hard with something soft. Also by feel, you can taste each component of the dish as they're melding together in your mouth. Like with the amberjack dish, the acidity from the leche de tigre was not at all overwhelming yet very savory. The refreshing flavors from the avocado and leche de tigre melded with the bite of the tortilla chips concludes well when the succulent flesh of the yellowtail tuna initially touches your tongue with such butteriness. This dish is something you must order like with the amberjack. So far what I've concluded was that Son of a Gun does their crudos well without being overpowering in acidity. Definitely be willing to order something raw at Son of a Gun, especially as it's a seafood restaurant in LA out of all the places in America. If there are some in your party that's unwilling to eat any seafood raw (unless if they have health complications), they're certainly missing out a huge component of what Son of a Gun has to offer.

As the East Coast has lots of places that serves the ever so amazing lobster roll that seems elusive towards us West Coast people due to its price and as it's viewed as a luxury since lobster's really expensive over here, Son of a Gun must offer their take on it and they're sure representing LA in terms of both quality and small portion. Before I continue, my understanding is that the "cold" version of the lobster meat being in mayo and celery is more authentic and more typically enjoyed on the East Coast as the "hot" buttered version is more appealing towards the masses while the butter masks the delicate flavor of the lobster. Don't get me wrong: although I'm generally more for traditional preparations over less-authentic alternatives, I would still have a soft spot for the hot version if there was both kinds offer to me. Nonetheless, Son of a Gun upgrades the cold version by using lemon aioli (yes, aioli is essentially mayonnaise but with garlic and it too has lemon juice in it, but I assume it's even more lemon-y in flavor) as its mixing agent with celery mixed in. Topped with chives and its cute & tiny bun well-toasted and buttered, it looks very refined in presentation and petite as if it were a toy model. Biting into it, the meat is cooked to the right point without it being tough and the aioli not overwhelming; very delicious indeed. The lemon wedge adds a little more zing which I feel is what the roll needs to complete itself. Although some might complain about its tiny portion and at $10 a pop, this here is a refined lobster roll: quality over quantity that everyone at the table must try when dining at Son of a Gun.

Next came the Smoked Mahi Fish Dip with Crackers accompanying it. As in the title, it has the smoky flavor but it's not overwhelming while the veggies provide a refreshing counterbalance and the cracker melds it all together. Certainly, this is a great dish to order for the table as a snack for in between the lighter dishes and the more heaver dishes that will proceed afterwards.

Shrimp Toast Sandwich with Hoisin, Herbs and Sriracha Mayo: this was a surprise winner. Looking at it, you might be thinking, "another overpriced, tiny seafood sandwich?" However when finally bitten into, this tiny sandwich was rich and loaded with lustful flavors from all components of the dish: the oily and raw umami from the shrimp and sriracha mayo, and the vibrant and refreshing cilantro as a counterbalance all going well together that makes quite the, perhaps, erotic symphony of flavors meshing well onto one's palate. If you open the top of the sandwich, it's like a glistening jewel from the oils of the mayo and shrimp combined with the contrasting green of the cilantro. Although you should try both, I have to say if you had to choose one or the other, I'd actually choose this over the lobster roll despite the latter being more prized in terms of the rarity & luxury of the ingredient. This sandwich is a "must order" if you're coming here for the first time.

Venturing into the "meat" portion of the meal, the Broadbent's Country Ham is served before us with Honey Butter and Hush Puppies (Fried Cornbatter). Certainly, this is America's take on the Italian Prosciutto. With that being said as an American, I wish more Americans are more aware that we produce luxurious and luscious goodness like this and want to eat this since we're so used to overly processed foods that we cannot avoid to eat that diminishes both the life of the animal when it was living and the quality of flavors when it's sacrificed for our nourishment. Before we'd digged in, the server told us to split the hush puppy in half, then smear the honey butter in between and put in between a piece of that sinfully salty (in a non-overwhelming way) ham as if you're eating miniature "sandwiches"; you'll soon wish you could either stuff as many as these flavor bombs into your mouth or that you can make one giant sandwich with one giant hush puppy slathered with that honey butter and stuffed with the meat of an entire cured ham leg (ok, that would be overdoing it as it would be salty as hell but still imagine it as if it won't cause your heart to work overtime as your BP would shoot up to ungodly levels pumping all of the sodium and other preservatives such as the nitrates throughout your body). Aside from the overly detailed description that you've just read, just eat... eat it all!

Before our last dish, a dish that has an ingredient that I can't essentially say no to, we ordered their Chilled Peel & Eat Shrimp with Lime Mustard Sauce. As they've arrived, the first thing that came into mind was how huge they are! These things were more like prawns, or just large-ass shrimp. Steamed with what I assume was Cajun seasoning popular in Southern seafood boils and then chilled, these shrimp were plump in terms of both mass and flavor. Usually I love and at times require sauce, but this time, I felt that the mustard sauce could be done without it even though I'd still would be willing to dip the shrimp in and eat it. However, I'd be fine with just the boil seasonings and a spritz of lime juice over it as the mustard sauce, even to me, seems a bit overkill. Otherwise, this too is a great dish for the table to share.

Finally comes the dish I've been looking for as it contains the holy ingredient that was unfortunately briefly banned in California but was overturned by the courts as it was preempted by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act thus making the ban on hold as it's under appeals which means it can be sold now for the time being: Foie Gras with Apple Tartine, Cider Caramel, and Chervil. Once I put that seared foie gras into my mouth along with morsels of the cider caramel-drenched apple tartine accompanying it which adds symbiotic rich sweetness to the ever so luscious and savory foie gras, it was blissful heaven; something I rarely ever say. It was extremely nice again to experience foie gras, especially it seared vs it in a terrine/torchon form which makes itself both savory and sweet with the caramelization of the fats from the sear. Although I was blissfully enjoying my foie gras and the pairing of the apple tartine went spectacularly well together, I'd have to admit that the chervil didn't go well as usually herbs are meant to be refreshing in order to counter richness. However due to the intense chemical nature of the flavors of chervil, I felt that it did not blend well with the flavors of both the foie gras and the tartine thus fighting against them. Nonetheless, one can easily push off the chervil and enjoy the beautiful harmony of flavors of the foie gras and the richly sweet apple tartine. If you're looking to try foie gras for the first time, I highly would recommend trying it seared.

Despite some of the complaints that the portions are too small, even for "foodies", this accusation is countered by the fact that you'll definitely feel full due to the richness of each dish accumulating throughout the meal; trust me, you'll feel full after a couple of dishes. This is how the French eat rich foods and get away with being thin while not starving themselves as they savor it since it turns out that the richness can be quite overwhelming if eaten in great proportions thus acting as a deterrent from overeating. Most certainly, the mantra of Son of a Gun is "quality over quantity" which will impress the dining enthusiast inside you and your companions but will aggravate those who aren't willing to venture out into the realm of fine quality dining where the portions don't come close to that of the Cheesecake Factory or ignorantly scoff against it as "not being food" at all.

Although the portions may be a concern to some, my real concern is how LA, despite it being a sanctuary for authentic Latin and Asian cuisines that dominates other major American city, is not really hospitable to trendy, mid-range New American restaurants that has actual substance in their cuisine vs cities like New York, Seattle, let alone San Francisco. Sure there exist just simply trendy restaurants in LA, but I generally feel that the New American restaurants in the cities mentioned above have more credibility in their cooking vs ones down here. With all of that being said, there's definitely lot's of people here with money willing to spend it on expensive food; but the real question is "do they not only have the appreciation for the food they're spending their money on, but also the willingness to seek it out?" Be that as it may, I feel that restaurants like Animal and Son of a Gun are providing hope for the dining enthusiasts in the area challenging the notion of "LA not being a foodie town". Although yes, LA contains perhaps the best Latin cuisine that's affordable to most people and also the best sushi with authentic preparations that the prices may be kinda high for most people in the US; however like a powerful economy that depends on the Middle class, a great food city in America needs to have a strong presence of mid-range restaurants of New American cuisine which is very important as it incorporates not just Western, European influences, but also relatively newer (in terms of being tasted by American palates) Asian, Latin, and other non-European influence that incorporates all of those which resembles America as a mixing pot in order to form an original cuisine with both power and refinement that's democratically accessible. Dining at Son of a Gun, you certainly will enjoy what LA has to offer.

Son of a Gun Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato