Monday, June 30, 2014

Spark Woodfire Grill

As June comes to an end, my husband and I realized that we were getting dangerously close to messing up our new year’s resolution to try at least one new restaurant a month.  Saturday night, he looked at yelp and found a place in Studio City that he wanted me to look at called Spark Woodfire Grill.

Sunday morning, between the early church service and Sunday school, I looked up Spark on my smartphone.  The menu looked varied.  The prices looked reasonable.  They took reservations.  I was able to make a reservation for 11:45am.  Perfect.  Sunday brunch at a new place.  Check.

After church, we headed over to Studio City.  I never would’ve seen Spark if I wasn’t looking for it.  Even with the GPS, we passed it the first time.  It’s located right on Ventura Blvd near CBS, and there’s free parking on Ventura Blvd on Sundays.  That’s great and all except we had to circle the block 3 times before we found a parking spot.  There is valet right in front of the restaurant, but I personally hate valet parking. 

We parked across the street and walked down to the corner to cross.  I noticed that we were right next to Jinky’s.  They had a parking lot with a few empty parking spots in it, but it was just for their customers.  Sigh.  At this point I’d pretty much already decided that even if the food at Spark was amazing (and I sure hoped it would be), I wouldn’t be back just due to the parking frustration.

We were about 5 minutes late for our 11:45am reservation due to the parking issue, but it turned out we didn’t even need a reservation.  There were plenty of empty tables.  We were seated inside at a table that looks into the kitchen.  I thought it was a great out of the way table.  There was outdoor seating, but it was a little too hot out for that to be enjoyable.

Both breakfast and lunch were being served, so we took our time looking over the menu.  I usually try to order something that I can’t or won’t make for myself at home.  That was a little bit of a challenge here since most items were eggs or burgers that I could easily replicate. 

We sat there for quite awhile looking over the menu while we waited for our waitress to come to our table.  We asked for water and said we were ready to place our order. 

I ordered the Woodfired Baked Eggs & Linguisa Sausage.  The only description on the menu said “Romesco Sauce, Goat Cheese & Rosemary Biscuits.”  I wasn’t sure what “linguisa sausage” or “romesco sauce” were, and I wasn’t sure what baked eggs were like, but like my husband said, this was one way to find out.  I assumed baked eggs would be fluffy, kind of like quiche or a frittata, so it sounded good. 

My husband ordered the Smokey Pub Burger which was described as “smoked cheddar, caramelized onions, hickory smoked bacon, chipotle aioli.”  It came with his choice of French fries, sweet potato fries, side chopped salad, side Caesar salad, or homemade potato chips.  He decided to try the homemade potato chips.

Our waitress brought out our water, and we immediately asked for straws.  It was at least another 10 minutes before she came back with them.  I saw her refilling other people’s glasses, and eventually we tracked her down.  She had forgotten about the straws, but brought them right over when we asked for them a second time.

So far we weren’t impressed with the service.  Considering the empty tables, you’d think the waitresses would have time to cover their tables.  Maybe our waitress just wasn’t very observant.  So far two strikes, parking and service.  We really hoped the food would be so good that it would make up for everything else.

It was around 12:30 before our food arrived at our table, about 45 minutes after we arrived at the restaurant.  In the time we waited we had time to be annoyed by how loud the restaurant was.  It was just typical conversation noise from the customers, but there should’ve been music playing or something to help drown it out.  Another strike for atmosphere.

That's not cheese; that's rubbery egg!
I was surprised at the way my meal was presented.  It’s not at all what I expected, but like I said earlier, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  The first thing I did was try to taste the eggs.  I tried to pierce one with a fork, but that was impossible.  The entire top of the egg was like rubber.  I’ve never experienced anything like that.  I had to use a knife to cut it.  The top of the egg had a rubbery texture in my mouth too.  I made my husband taste a piece of it, and he didn't like it either.  The bottom part of the egg was soft, but it had no flavor.  I forced myself to eat one of the two eggs just because I was hungry, but it’s not something I ever plan on eating again.  The sausage was under the eggs.  It just tasted like sausage.  I took one bite and just didn’t care about it.  My husband ate a little of it, but he agreed that it just tasted like something you’d buy at the grocery store and heat up yourself.  It wasn’t greasy breakfast sausage either.  It was like big link sausage.  The sauce was kind of like a marinara sauce.  It was okay, I guess, but I’m definitely never going to crave it.  The biscuits did indeed taste like rosemary, but they weren’t the buttery breakfast biscuits you’d expect.  I ate one just because I was hungry and there was nothing else to eat.  All in all, I 100% regretted ordering this meal.

My husband’s burger was okay.  Considering the description, you’d think it’d be flavorful and have a little kick to it.  No.  It was bland.  The bun was bland.  The meat was bland.  He ate it all, so I guess it was better than my meal, but he wouldn’t order it again.  The chips were bland too.  They tasted like salt and grease but didn’t have any flavor.  Too bad he didn’t get fries or something instead.

So, nope, the food didn’t save the day.  It was a complete waste of $30+ for brunch.  Pretty depressing.  We were done eating by 12:40, about 10 minutes after our food arrived.  We eventually had to ask another waitress to ask our waitress to bring us our bill, and then it took forever for her to come back for the bill.  Eventually a different waitress came back for the bill.  We were going to pay with our Discover card, but they didn’t take Discover, so we just left cash.  We didn’t feel like having to wait even longer to deal with a credit card.  It was about 1pm before we left. 

As we walked back to the car, I once again noticed how close we were to Jinky’s.  If you want brunch in Studio City, don’t go to Spark Woodfire Grill.  Go to Jinky’s instead.  I don’t think they take reservations, and there may be a wait, but the food is worth it.  Spark isn’t, and considering how slow the service is, it’ll take forever to get your food there anyway even with a reservation.

This experience is really making us rethink our New Year’s Resolution to try a new restaurant each month.  More often than not, we get burned.  I’m sick of wasting money on food that I regret eating.  The goal was to find a bunch of new restaurants that we love, but that’s proving hard to do.  There have been a few hits, but we might just try x number of new recipes a month instead of a new restaurant.  We can cook better than the chefs at most restaurants anyway.

Happy eating!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Southwest Scallops with Zucchini

I recently saw a recipe in Glamour magazine called Grilled Shrimp with Cilantro, Chilies and Lime that was created by celebrity chef Curtis Stone.  It sounded awesome, but I felt like using scallops instead of shrimp (I’ll save my shrimp for Shrimp Quesadillas!), and I didn’t have fresh chilies on hand.  However, that recipe inspired me to create this delicious recipe.  I still might try Curtis’ recipe sometime, but I must say, my recipe turned out quite amazing, healthy and filling!

This meal is particularly delicious when served with Coconut Rice to help sop up the juice.  The sweetness of the coconut goes really well with the sweetness of the scallops.  If you don’t want to eat it with rice, I’d definitely suggest serving it in a bowl since the sauce can be a little runny.

Scallops were particularly delicious in this meal, but they can be pricy.  You could substitute chopped chicken, and it’d still taste good (and save you a few bucks).  However you make it, it’s certain to be one of you favorite, healthy meals!

Southwest Scallops with Zucchini
Serves 2


2 zucchini (chopped into thin circles)
1 small onion (chopped)
8 oz scallops
2 tbsp lime juice
¼ c olive oil
4 oz canned fire roasted diced green chilies
1 oz chopped cilantro
Coconut Rice (optional – get recipe here)


Spray a large frying pan with cooking spray.  Add the zucchini and onion.  Cook and stir until the veggies are cooked through and slightly browned.  If in doubt, taste one!

Meanwhile, if you’re using frozen scallops, defrost them in a bowl of warm water and drain well.

Prepare the sauce.  Mix together the lime juice, olive oil, green chilies and cilantro.  

When the veggies are done, pour the scallops and sauce in the frying pan and stir to combine.  Cook a couple more minutes until the scallops are done.

That’s all, folks.  Serve and enjoy.

Happy eating!