Wednesday 7 March 2012

Tastes & Tales of LA – Hugo’s Restaurant

Wow this place is amazing! Easily the best restaurant I have ever been to. It looks smart but nothing that special from the outside, but looks can be deceiving as this place was a vegetarian, coeliacs paradise! The variety, quality, freshness, versatility, choice, flavour of food was just outstanding!

Everything is made fresh to order on site and is an eclectic mix of American cuisine with some southern and Mexican influences. I should think around 80% of the menu is vegetarian and nearly all the dishes can be adapted to be gluten free or vegan too if required. I know some people think that vegetarian/vegan cuisine lacks interest and flavour, but there is nothing missing from these meals. Just take a look at the menu and you’ll see what I mean! I’ve never come across a restaurant serving food like this anywhere. I could have eaten here for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout my stay in LA and still not tried everything I’d have liked on the menu.

J and I went for lunch here on my first day. After several minutes agonising over what to choose form the menu I decided on Green Tamales & Eggs for $11.75 described as ‘spinach corn tamales on a pool of tomatillo salsa topped with two eggs any style, avocado-tomato-cilantro salsa, toasted tortilla strips, sour cream and cilantro.’
I’ve heard and seen tamales mentioned on American cookery programmes and appearing on a few blogs, but I doubt most people from the UK would have even heard of them. So I’d never tasted one and always been intrigued by them. Seeing them on the menu seemed the ideal opportunity to try them.

The tamales were soft, yet firm and tender with a texture similar to couscous that had been pressed together or a moist cornbread. It tasted divine and had the odd larger kernel of sweetcorn in it. It was green due to pureed spinach, which also gave it a lovely flavour. The salsa was not too hot but there was a bit of heat there, it was citrusy and so fresh, with a slight sharpness and a mix of different herbs and spices which created a wonderfully vibrant salsa. I’ve never had anything like it. It came with two eggs, but I requested it to only one with one. For some reason this caused some confusion in the kitchen as they couldn't understand why someone wouldn't want both! It also came with a side order of fresh fruit salad which was nice. I just kept repeating 'oh my this is divine!' It was so so good! I’m going to have to try and recreate them somehow.

J had an egg scramble with bacon, mushroom and sausage which also looked good. It was a lovely cosy atmosphere with little booths and squishy chairs. The meal for both of us, with 3 drinks, was only $30 which was great.

I enjoyed the meal so much that during the week I went back there for lunch on my own while J was at a class. I took a book along with me and sat in one of the little booths and felt quite comfortable eating alone. The atmosphere is very relaxed.
I decided to have one of their February specials which sounded delicious. Grilled Polenta & Portobello Ragout for $7.75. They didn't mind at all that I only wanted a small dish rather than a couple of courses.

The grilled polenta was arranged in thick triangles around the edge of the dish, giving it some height and made me think of slices of toasty. Along the centre of the dish was a mound of sautéed diced portabella mushrooms, artichoke hearts, broccolini in a sun dried tomato, cashew-cream marsala sauce, which was then sprinkled with fresh basil.
Sounds good doesn’t it? The polenta was just firm enough to be cut into triangles, yet still soft and tender when it came to cut it. The mushroom and artichoke hearts had been left nice and chunky, while the broccolini were still crisp and crunchy giving the whole dish a wonderful mix of textures and flavours. The tomato cashew marsala sauce was creamy and delicately spiced. Delicious and yet so simple.

Hugo's have three locations around California, so if you are ever in the area I recommend you go there. This was one of the highlights of my trip and it makes me so sad that there is no where like this in the UK, not even in London I don’t think and yet here it seemed quite normal to have such a fabulous restaurant. I wish I’d had time to try their roasted pineapple & coconut pancakes too.


Unknown said...

am so jealous... I LOVE Hugo's... wish I was there (with you) right now!

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