Look around. Where are we? The French Riviera, maybe. Somewhere off the Mediterranean coast, possibly. Vast blue waters of the Pacific cradle this ocean bluff resort with Catalina Island majestically sitting in the distance. It doesn't feel like Los Angeles but it is.
We are at Terranea Resort in nearby Palos Verdes, an area in Los Angeles County that many are aware of but few have travelled to — unless you're a resident, of course. The neighborhood surrounding the resort is upscale and serene so the drive to Terranea already feels like a getaway from the grind.
Open since 2009, Terranea Resort took over the long vacated location for Marineland aquatic theme park. This $480-million luxury property boasts 582 rooms and all the requisite and regal amenities one would expect from this type of resort, including a 9-hole oceanfront golf course and 50,000 square feet of spa bliss. And, of course, there are several dining options to appease many general hankerings. A Pan-Asian restaurant called bashi is one of them.
Chef Bruce Nguyen is the chef de cuisine at bashi. He's a local man hailing from another beach city, Huntington Beach, CA. His menu comprised of straight forward, people-pleasing plates of shareable selections.
If arriving to Terranea Resort only transported your body to paradise, then bashi's cocktails should be able to do the rest by bringing your mouth and mind to its happy place.
To launch my Palos Verdes staycay, I sipped on a classic Singapore Sling with a bashi twist. Layered with Nolet's Silver Gin, cherry brandy, fresh lemon and pineapple juices, this cocktail is liquid liquor candy.
Pearing, er, pairing perfectly with the vistas and bright, summer day, the Perfect Pair cocktail lets the Van Gogh Blue Vodka, Moonstone Asian Pear Sake, fresh pear and fresh lime juice cool things down while lightening you up.
What's summer without watermelon? Midnight in Tokyo tastes more like midday in So Cal, fresh watermelon, lime and lemon juices team-up with Beluga Vodka and Or-G Tropical Liqueur to make the ideal summer cocktail.
Keeping with the fruit theme, Chef Nguyen freshens up kimchi by adding apple to the traditional Korean fermented vegetable dish. The Radish & Apple Kimchi is a combo of daikon and apple slices. The apple slices have a similar texture to daikon. When the apple's classic sweetness fuses with the kimchi's spicy marinade, the result is a blend of spicy-sweet that both pleases and awakens the palate.
Shrimp & Taro Spring Roll is the perfectly fried tube of Vietnamese flavors stuffed with scallions, bean thread noodles, wood ear mushrooms, shrimp and taro. This appetizer is a satisfying blend of different textures and tastes with the slightly sweet and creamy taro standing out as the uncommon component. The nuoc cham sauce tied it all together nicely.
Traditionally served in a heaping pile at Hong Kong style seafood restaurants, Chef Nguyen's remix of the Honey Walnut Shrimp is dubbed Crispy Walnut Shrimp and is plated with precisely four pieces of sweet, creamy shrimp topped with honey glazed walnuts and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds. Honeydew melon balls atop a cream sauce add more sweetness as well as diversifying texture to each bite.
The Hoisin Baby Back Pork Ribs at bashi are not fork tender. No, no. In fact, they are chopstick tender. Not wanting to get my hands sticky with the sauce, I began poking at the luscious meat with my chopsticks and discovered that it easily peeled off the bone. Penetrating deep into the meat, the hoisin marinade mingles with the pork for 24 hours and is then slow cooked for 4 hours. Every bite is full of flavor with sweet, salty and spicy combined with fantastically tender flesh; it's a refreshing retreat from ordinary baby back ribs. A clump of pickled cabbage counters the sweet ribs by adding a bit of sour and spicy to the plate's portfolio.
Onion, bean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, peppers and, last but certainly not least, toasted garlic make up the big flavors in the Shanghai Style Garlic Noodles. The protein choices are beef, chicken and shrimp, but no matter what you decide, garlic is king here. The savory sauce intimately clings to the medium-sized wheat noodle that is cooked to the ideal "Q" texture of springy, chewy softness. (Q is the Chinese version of Italian al dente.) If you enjoy the lingering taste of smoky garlic in your mouth (and who doesn't?) plus the joy of eating a close to perfect Chinese noodle, this plate is highly recommended.
Shaking Beef is classic Vietnamese plate which is essentially a stir-fry. The "shaking" part of the name refers to the action by the cook when tossing the beef in the pan. At bashi, cubes of richly marinated beef tenderloin are fried with garlic, chilis, onions, watercress and tomatoes. A spirited sea-salt, pepper and lime dipping sauce brings out every microbe of flavor in the beef. Though a simple dish, the entire spectrum of flavors are represented with every bite.
In a laid-back resort environment like Terranea, Chef Nguyen hits the right notes with his dishes by offering simple, familiar and flavorful food. Unpretentious and satisfying, eating a meal at bashi is a getaway from thinking too much about your food and simply enjoying it. Isn't that what escaping to paradise is all about?