Follow Me To The Deep End!!

Nov 4, 2006

Football Schmootball. Mushroom Mondays. Nine Thirty Restaurant at the W Los Angeles. Westwood, CA.

ninethirty
Nine Thirty at the W Los Angeles.

It’s fall and it’s Monday night. Yeehaw!! Y’all know what I’m gonna ask! Are you ready for some…mushrooms?!

Wut?

Hank Williams Jr. and his rowdy friends wouldn’t be caught dead in the restaurant of a chic boutique chain hotel on football night, but thanks to Nine Thirty Restaurant at the W Hotel in Westwood, football isn’t the only option on Monday nights, now mushrooms are too.

Mushroom Mondays is what this fungic evening is dubbed. I’m very pleased that Nine Thirty is having this special night because I am quite fond of the fabulous fungi, the edible, non-toxic variety especially. Although, I’m even keen on one of the potentially poisonous versions like the false morel, if it’s properly cooked so as to render the mushroom harmless yet yummy. False morels are also called brain fungus because the appearance of the mushroom’s cap resembles a wrinkled brain lobe. Or, could it be that it takes some brains to figure out how to eat them without making yourself ill. I don’t know, I’m not that bright.

menu
Screw football. How 'bout some shrooms?

A good example of my lack of smarts can be witnessed through my mushroom gathering skills. Once, as a silly, young lad frolicking through a woodsy area of town, heading to my play date, I happened upon a cluster of woodland mushrooms. I didn’t know a thing about foraging wild mushrooms but was feeling a little snacky. So I got down on all fours to closely examine a bunch of brownish-orange fungi and decided that they looked edible, even friendly. I plucked out the meatiest ones and popped them in my mouth. They were the worst tasting things I had ever eaten. Terribly bitter. So I spat out what I didn’t already swallow and prayed that what I did swallow wouldn’t cause hallucinations like trees chatting me up and trying to grab me or, worse, cause me to keel over on the spot. This experience freaked me out and I learned my lesson: Do not forage for wild mushrooms if I don’t know what I'm doing. Thank you, toadstool, for the lesson.

Not so fast. Apparently poisonous mushroom class wasn't over just yet, not by a long shot. A little bit later I found myself smote with a terrible bellyache that led to frequent trips to the loo and the discharging of some very hazardous waste. Suffice it to say, I never again nibbled on strange mushrooms, especially those that could double as a Smurf’s condo.

smurf-mushroom
This is shelter. Not a snack.

The great thing about Nine Thirty’s Mushroom Mondays is that I don’t have to risk my GI tract for fresh, fragrant fungi. Somebody who knows what he’s doing is gathering the mushrooms and working them into imaginative creations for me. It’s like having my own personal forest gnome who scurries about the woods, wearing his little gnome hat, hunting for mushrooms with the fleshiest shafts and caps and the earthiest and sweetest aromas. He hovers the ground like a truffle hunting Dyson, leaving no stump or bark unferreted. At day’s end his airy satchel brims with an assortment of mushrooms that any mycophagist would cream over. If my gnome makes it back without being devoured by a forest hog-beast, he will then compose the most divine meal, mingling chanterelles or hen of the woods or trumpets of the dead into every plate, every tidbit that is served.

If my gnome were human, his name would be Jack Yoss, the Executive Chef at Nine Thirty. Chef Yoss has some major chops coming from San Francisco’s renowned Postrio. He brings to Nine Thirty a modern flair combined with the farm-to-table freshness in his cuisine.

shot
Wild mushroom soup shot.

My fungi feast started off with a shot. This sort of shot didn’t require me to lick salt off of any part of my or anyone else’s anatomy. It was a shot of wild mushroom soup. This little palette teaser did wonders to arouse my appetite as well as the rest of my senses thanks to the soup’s coffee emulsion. The wild mushroom soup shot tasted like the best and richest of all the cream of mushroom soups I’ve ever experienced concentrated into a small dose. It was intoxicating. What else was in that shot glass, I had to wonder?

springrolls
Duck confit and black trumpet spring roll.

Black seemed to be the theme of the next mushroom offering. This was the duck confit and black trumpet spring roll served with a black truffle ponzu sauce. This “spring roll”, which is actually more of an egg roll since it’s fried, had a gratifyingly crispy and toothsome texture. It was a hefty and lively roll with lots of sweet duck meat. The intriguing black trumpet mushroom is known by several aliases, e.g. horn of plenty, black chanterelle or, my favorite, trumpets of the dead, and is unmistakable in appearance: horn shaped, thin, leathery, eerie and black as pitch. This dark fungus contributed sweet, earthy notes to the roll. Dip it all into the black truffle ponzu for a nice spectrum of flavors, though I personally could not pinpoint the flavor of the black truffle oil in the ponzu sauce.

salad
Warm chanterelle salad.

The warm chanterelle salad was a tasty tangle of arugula, frisee and chanterelle then topped with a soft poached egg. The vegetable combination created an array of nutty, bitter and gentle peppery flavors. The chanterelles added a bit more pepperiness along with a satisfying meaty texture. The salad was tossed in a sweet dressing which balanced it all nicely.

henowoods
Pan-roasted hen of the woods mushrooms.

One of my favorites was the pan-roasted hen of the woods mushrooms with crème fraîche, truffle oil atop grilled sourdough. This was a decadent dish designed to take full advantage of the mushrooms robust and nutty flavors. Creamy and sweet, this plate was emptied in seconds.

As an aside, hen of the woods mushrooms is also known in Japanese as Maitake. Some mushrooms have little nutritional value, however, Maitakes have been used in Chinese and Japanese medicine to help boost immune system responses as well as a host of other health benefits including weight loss. Maitake can be found at health stores in capsule, pill, powder and liquid forms. Forget broccoli!

foiegras
Hon-shimeji mushrooms with foie gras.

The hon-shimeji mushrooms with sautéed foie gras in a Madeira sauce was texturally varied and interesting with the crunchy mushrooms and the dense and creamy foie gras along with the thick sauce. The taste was also as varied. The hon-shimeji’s nuttiness with hints of shellfish and the sweet, salty beefiness of the Madeira sauce came together well. However, disappointing was the vieny, sub par foie gras that was a chore to eat and was more bitter than butter. I'm all for outlawing bad foie gras.

mac cheese
Chanterelle mushroom mac n' cheese.

Finally, the most popular order that night as voted by my table was the chanterelle mushroom mac n’ cheese. Easily dismissable as pretentious comfort food, this hearty selection was explosive in cheese flavor. This plate also had great texture contrast with innovative crispy cheese shards sprinkled on top of the gooey, creamy cheese sauce. And the mushrooms? What mushrooms? The chanterelles were buried in this cheesefest and any inkling of them was hopelessly drowned in the deliciously cheesy bog.

Mushroom Mondays at Nine Thirty Restaurant in the W Hotel Westwood is whimsical and almost magical. I would have loved to see a broader representation of the fungi family like shiitakes, oysters, morels or even a portly porcini. Maybe that’s too much mushroom mayhem for one night. Or maybe Chef Yoss is simply saving that roster for his Mushroom Manic Mondays. 'Cause that'll be my fun day!



Mushroom Mondays
Nine Thirty Restaurant
W Los Angeles – Westwood
930 Hilgard Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90024
310.443.8211

Mushroom Mondays Menu
Plates: 7$ – $16
Only on Mondays.

14 comments:

Chubbypanda said...

Awesome article, Eddie. Really well written. The words, they dance across my mind like little fairies. I wonder how those would taste...

- Chubbypanda

elmomonster said...

Fun Fungi Feast Feature! I'm glad you didn't die as a kid, and the fact that you didn't build up an aversion to it after that experience is amazing. But then again, you are the Deep End Diner!

Juliet said...

So many creative ways to serve the mushroom! Almost all of them sounded yummy.

I want gnome to gather yummies for me! Maybe the one that steals socks is looking to change their line of work.

Eddie Lin said...

chubbs,

thanks, my man.

i'd imagine dancing little fairies taste like christmas, and christmas tastes like egg nog, candy canes and roast goose. yum.


elmo,

thank you. i'm very happy i didn't die as a kid too. as far as aversions, i won't pick my own mushrooms. that part still scares me and, eh, makes me think of the toilet.


juliet,

this was a fun meal. and not so expensive especially for the W. we'll get a gnome for you with some kind of skills like giving a nice back rub and foot massage.

BoLA said...

WOW! Great review! I love it!!! These sound so delicious! And I LOVE Mac n' Cheese too! Absolutely delish!

And yeah, I would outlaw foie gras too. Booo!!! Foie Gras is just bad stuff. Period.

Jonah said...

Hot damn, that sounds like a menu from heaven for me. Mushroom menus are so enticing and the poached egg salad looks divine. Your write up has me drooling!

Eddie Lin said...

bola,

you should check it out. it's really mellow on mondays (at least it was the night i dined there) and it feels like you have the place to yourself.


jonah,

you and i share the some lust for mushrooms. i'm not sure what it is about them but i love 'em all!

Jeni said...

D is nuts about shrooms. We used maitake mushrooms for shabu shabu one night...absolutely delicious stuff. I saw some Matsutake shrooms at Nijiya in Jtown for $30/lb. Have you tried those???

Anyways, thanks for the baby shower. It was good seeing you in Daddy action.

Terry said...

This is an awesome Blog!

I am a foodie who once a week goes and does something called dicing to eat-Allowing a random source (a 6 sided die for me) lead a person to a new restaurant, new food and new travel experiences so I am often trying deep end food that I would never even think of trying on my own more 'normal' tastes!

I find most people so afraid to dice with me, I dont know if its the fear of not being in control of their culinary choices for a day or the fear of the food itself but the idea excites and inspires me-enough that I am writinga cookbook/Food & Travel Guide about my experiences and have been doing it since I was 19 (I am 32 now)!

BONUS!

I am Writing a Detective series whose main characters are Jason and his partner MEGAN based off my Favorite Globe Trekker-Definately will be reading these posts now!

chicopants said...

Thanks so much for this rec. and the post with the yummy pics. I can't wait to go.

Rose said...

Eddie, this is torturous.
It's 4am, most shops are closed, I find myself without transport or much cash, as well as being in pajamas.
But thanks to you, I now have the most excruciating craving for something, anything good with mushrooms!

The shot of soup idea is ingenious...

Ann Le said...

E. Lin. I need to go! Will you come back with me? Was this an entire tasting menu or specially prepare for you? It may be too much food for little me.

Eddie Lin said...

jeni,

we should do a mushroom party. don't invite any cops. i'd love to try matsutakes 'cuz i loves me the expensive shrooms. i tried a sample of blue foot mushroom at whole foods. now that is almost worth the $40/lb asking price.


terry,

thanks so much for the great compliments. "dicing" sounds like something i'd be into - almost like spin the bottle but with food & travel. i have to get people in on this.

best of luck to you on your cookbook. i'll let megan mccormick know about your detective book character based on her. she'll love it. she's been busy with globetrekker so she doesn't answer her comments or email very often. thanks for your kind thoughts!


chicopants,

hope you have a magical mushroom monday. let me know how it was.


rose,

oh darling, didn't mean to torture you...too much. i am so happy that you are a fellow mushroom aficianado. i love people who love mushrooms! take care.


ann le,

hells yeah. i need my fix!

aria said...

i live right down the street from this restaurant, i didnt know it changed owners. i looved your post on the prince! eeeeeeeeeeeew