Dinner at Bistrotek.

Getting last-minute dinner reservations can oftentimes be a drag; such was the case for Keith, my cousin Samantha and me on Friday night. There were so many restaurants to try — in Culver City alone, we wanted to check out Akasha, Father’s Office and Ford’s Filling Station. Since we were looking for a spot to get some dinner after going to the movies, as well as a place where Sam’s underage status wouldn’t be an issue, a lot of places crossed themselves off of the list… which is how we ended up at Bistrotek at the new Custom Hotel. Not only was Bistrotek serving dinner until two in the morning and required no ID, but it was also a short drive from where we were all staying in Manhattan Beach.

The Bristrotek space is pretty cool, obviously influenced by loft living with its distressed concrete floors, exposed ducting and beat-up brick walls. It’s all extremely stylized, but completely expected from a restaurant in a highly designed hotel.

The menu is small, focusing on American comfort food. I was torn between the bistro burger and the ravioli, but since Keith called dibs on the pasta first, I was left with the pancetta- and Gouda-topped burger ($12.00). Our extremely energetic server enthusiastically explained that the restaurant’s “amazing five-star chef” prepared each items “in the Mediterranean style,” and warned us that everything was à la carte, meaning that the dishes came with nothing other than what was listed. Because of this, I also ordered fries ($4.00), but then again, I love fries.

The burger was succulent, and cooked to an absolutely precise medium rare. It was also unbelievably huge. There was no way that I would be able to even come remotely close to finishing it, tasty as it was. The fries were truly superfluous, which made me sad not only because of my great affection for them, but also because they were mediocre at best.

Keith didn’t fare so well with the ravioli (three cheese and bacon, in a cheese sauce, $12.00). He thought it overwhelmingly cheesy, and a gelatinous mess. I’ve got to say I disagree with some of that. While the cheese flavor was undeniably strong, I happen to love cheese; it would take an almost obscene amount for me to find it overpowering. The texture was unfortunate, though; the melty cheese was so similar in feel to the ravioli that it was almost impossible to determine where one ended and the other began.

Sam did well with the grilled shrimp, tomato and cous cous ($15.00) — which was lemony, fresh and light — but if you were to ask her directly, she would tell you her favorite part of the meal was something else altogether. The pre-dinner rolls were picture-perfect, with soft and fluffy insides hiding within firm crusts. What truly made them great, however, was the herbed butter they were served with. I think it was chive and tarragon, but don’t quote me on that. All I know is that Sam ate at least three.

Bistrotek is still trying to find its footing, that much is certain. Of course, I’ve no way of telling which way the restaurant will go, for the better or for the worse, but I can say this: they better keep that burger on the menu.

8639 Lincoln Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90045

Bistrotek on Urbanspoon

An Early Lunch at Café Surfas.

Friday was a completely hectic day, and we knew we would only have the briefest of moments to grab something to eat. Since Keith and I would be meeting up with my family in Culver City, we decided to stop in to the café attached to Surfas, a gourmet food and restaurant supply shop around the corner from my relatives’ house. I have no idea whatsoever as to how Keith found this place, but I do know that I absolutely loved it.

The aesthetic at Café Surfas is reminiscent of an classic European market, with small octagonal tiles on the floor and cheery butter-colored walls. Chalkboards detail the coffee, sandwich and salad options, and glass cases house miscellaneous cheeses, charcuterie and cakes. Sit outside on the patio — the cement floors of which are imprinted with pressings of whisks, spatulas and cookie cutters — or inside at a tall table with freshly-cut flowers.

After taking about ten minutes to deliberate, I opted for the ultimate grilled cheese — housemade blue cheese mayonnaise, raclette, fiscalini and cold white cheddar on pecan raisin bread ($6.95). The sandwiches, paninis mostly, each come with a mixed green salad, and are served in recyclable cardboard boxes.

This sandwich was amazing. The bread simply made it, propelling it from being just a lovely sandwich into being an incredible one. The blue cheese mayo added a nice salty tang, and the other cheeses melted and oozed together in a very indulgent manner. Sweet and reassuring, it was exactly what I needed at that moment. This was comforting, good food.

I also got some fresh-squeezed orange juice, which was bright and sunny, but it actually didn’t compare in refreshment to the lemon-mint iced water the café serves gratis. When the summer rolls around, I know this is what I’ll be drinking nonstop.

If I’m in Culver City at any point in the future, I already know what I’m going to get — the haute dog, the Kurobuta ham panini, the Spanish herbed tuna, and another ultimate grilled cheese. It’s probably the most satisfying quick bite I’ve had in a long time.

Café Surfas
8777 West Washington Boulevard
Culver City, California 90232

Surfas Cafe on Urbanspoon