Entries in Dining (5)


$1,200 Dish at New California Restaurant

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LOS GATOS, Calif.) -- What would you do if you sat down to try the new restaurant in town and noticed a $1,200 dish on the menu?

Some people may be a little discouraged, but what if that dish consisted of some of the finest caviar out there?

A high-end Japanese restaurant, Katsu, has just opened in the northern California town of Los Gatos. First thing on the menu is a dish called the Decadence Staircase, featuring Russian Sevruga, Osetra, Golden Osetra caviar and premium Beluga caviar, descending along bamboo stairs.

It also includes Pacific spiny lobster sashimi, Japanese Wagyu shabu shabu — and what better way to top it all off than with 24-karat gold leaves?

The restaurant’s top chef and part-owner, Chef Katsuhiko Hanamure, used his worldly experience in high-end kitchens and personal training by famed chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa to craft the menu at Katsu.

“I would like to attract many different people who are craving high-quality ingredients,” he said.

And for the prices they charge, there are definitely some high-quantity ingredients imported from all over.

“Pricing is based on market supply and scarcity of products that are difficult and costly to import,” said Derek Schuette, the restaurant’s general manager.

Local resident Hida Baghbni said she was a little hesitant to attend the restaurant at first, but she said her experience at Katsu was incredible, with dishes that are hard to find in the United States.

“It was the real stuff, I was pretty impressed,” she said. “The fish just melted in your mouth.”

Los Gatos local Bob Dobkin heard a lot of hype about the new restaurant and showed up on opening night, but said he was not impressed with all the restaurant had to offer.

“First thing that greets you on the menu is a $1,200 plate, and that doesn’t make you feel too comfortable,” said Dobkin. “I wouldn’t go back unless they cut their prices in half.”

The menu also includes an item called Serendipity that includes Wagyu beef — American, Australian and Japanese — for $400.

Another pricey dish is the Japanese Kegoshima Prefecture Wagyu New York strip for $200.

Schuette said Los Gatos is an intimate, high-end community that has some of the greatest chefs in the world but it was lacking something.

He said Katsu was an opportunity to bring something new to the area for residents to explore and indulge in.

Another local, Mike Cooper, said he’s been to the restaurant a few times since they opened. He said he enjoyed it and recommended it for a younger, more upbeat crowd.

“It’s great, very N.Y.C., L.A. vibe, great down-tempo music that picked up a bit later,” he said. “Hollywood is here!”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Taco Bell Goes Upscale With New Menu

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(MIAMI) -- Who says fast food can’t have a touch of fine dining?  Taco Bell announced plans this week for a new upscale menu, in an attempt to compete with popular restaurant chain Chipotle.

Miami chef Lorena Garcia, an upcoming Top Chef Masters competitor, began collaborating on the menu with Taco Bell in October in 2010.

“They have a passionate fan base that loves the great taste of the classic menu items – and they don’t want to change that. They were looking to keep these menu items and expand their food to offer new flavors with great taste,” said Garcia in a statement.

Whole black beans, cilantro rice, citrus marinated chicken, Haas avocado guacamole and corn salsa are some of the new items that will be added to the menu.

The restaurant is known for less health-conscious late-night dining items like cheese roll-ups, volcano tacos and large nachos.  Their newest item, Doritos Los Tacos, sold over 100 million in past 10 weeks.

Taco Bell, which is comprised of over 5,600 restaurants, will roll out the new menu July 5 at a suggested $5 or less per item.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pizza Hut Tries to Bite into Subway’s Sales

Image credit: Pizza Hut(NEW YORK) -- It’s a battle of sandwich versus sandwich.  Pizza Hut is taking on Subway in its marketing campaign promoting the launch of the new P’zolo sandwich.

With advertising that says “See ya subs” on Chicago subway trains covered in P’zolo advertising, the Pizza Hut chain isn’t being discreet.  The New York Times reported other lines that said, “Say so long to the footlong” and “More bang for your 5 bucks.”

The P’zolo sandwich comes in Meat Trio, Buffalo Chicken or Italian Steak options with ranch or marinara dipping sauce.  Its pricing rivals the Subway sandwich: $3 per sandwich or 2 for $5.  Subway is known for its $5 footlong sandwich.

This isn’t Pizza Hut’s first foray in the sandwich market.  It sold the P’zone, a pizza-flavored calzone, as its first attempt to lure sandwich shoppers.

How many calories will a P’zolo cost you? Pizza Hut has yet to post the nutritional content of the sandwich.  Subways range from 300 to 500 calories for their footlongs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


The Cheesecake Factory: Feeding the 'Common Man'  

Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Walk into one of David Overton's 138 restaurants and chances are you'll end up ordering something that's been "cheesecake-ized" -- that is, a dish that represents a twist on a classic flavor served to you in a portion size that's large -- very large.

"It's what America wants to eat," Overton said.

Overton, 65, is the founder and chief executive of the Cheesecake Factory restaurant chain, based in Calabasas, Calif. It's one of the most profitable restaurant chains in America, with annual sales of $1.4 billion, thanks to menu items ranging from the eponymous cheesecake to pasta carbonara to chicken tortillas to miso-glazed salmon. The latter dish was inspired by the miso-glazed cod served at an icon of haute cuisine, the Japanese restaurant Nobu.

"We have a lighter miso and we don't marinate it quite as long and we use salmon," Overton said. "That's a perfect example of what we do."

In a country enamored with big-box discount stores, the Cheesecake Factory's appeal is easy to swallow. Its eclectic menu, large serving sizes and low prices make it the dining equivalent of Walmart.

Its beginnings, meanwhile, are a classic American underdog tale. When his parents were in their 50s and down on their luck in Detroit, Overton convinced them to move to California and start selling his mother's popular cheesecakes, which she began making years earlier after clipping a recipe in a local newspaper.

"My father got in the car, cold-called, going from restaurant to restaurant to restaurant, to try to sell their cheesecake. And I started to help them," Overton said.

When they opened their first restaurant in Beverly Hills in 1978, he remembered, "We were full [of customers] in 10 minutes."

But as much as some love the Cheesecake Factory, others love to hate it. At this year's "Xtreme Food Awards," honoring the biggest belt-busters, the Cheesecake Factory was the only restaurant to take home two prizes: one for its Farmhouse Burger, which comes topped with bacon, mayo and a fried egg, and the other for its red velvet cheesecake.

The judges declared that eating the Farmhouse Burger was as bad for your health as downing three McDonald's Quarter Pounders, while consuming one slice of the cheesecake "is like eating one Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizza plus two Quarter Pounders with cheese…except the cake has an additional day's worth of saturated fat."

"That absolutely is a heart attack on a plate," said Michael Jacobsen, Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Overton is unapologetic. "When people eat at home, they want to eat low cal, but when they go out to dine, they really want every calorie they're paying for," he said. "Because it's celebratory, they're here, they want to have a good time."

But the Cheesecake Factory hasn't glazed over healthy eating. The chain has a "Weight Management" menu with items of less than 300 calories and, just recently, it announced plans for a new "Skinnylicious" menu boasting 40 items for consumers watching their waistlines.

USA Today called it "the cosmic equivalent of Chuck E. Cheese adding a quiet zone."

Overton knows what the critics say and he doesn't seem to mind.

"We think what we like is what people like," he said. "I was watching Oprah's last show, and on the show she said that she did every show as if she was the audience, and that's one of the things that we're successful for."

Overton says he's the Cheesecake Factory's only taster.

"We have no focus groups," he said. "We have no panels of people. I taste everything the chefs come up with, and if I like it, I put it on the menu," he said. "I think I am the taste of the common man."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


North Korea Starves, But Elite Open Swank Eatery

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- The phrase "dining capitals of the world" conjures up places like Paris, Rome, New York, Tokyo. Pyongyang usually isn't among them, and for good reason: the capital of famine-stricken North Korea has been previously best known for its gastronomic delicacy of cold noodles in broth -- slyly called Pyongyang deoldeori, which translates to "shivering in Pyongyang." 

However, earlier this week, "The Restaurant at Hana" opened its doors in the North Korea capital. Restaurants come and go with little fanfare in most world capitals, but it gets noticed when one opens in the so-called Hermit Kingdom where starvation is rampant.

Located in the new headquarters of a North Korean and European joint venture electronics company that produces DVD players, the new restaurant boasts of its many amenities on its website while welcoming "foreigners and locals alike."

It's not clear why the restaurant contains a hairdresser, sauna, treadmills, and a swimming pool. But the heavily produced promotional video, with animated champagne corks popping and smiling clown fish, lingers over these stations as well as the marble-lined private dining rooms decked with flat-screen LCD TVs and glass chandeliers. Despite being a dining establishment, the Restaurant at Hana website, surprisingly, doesn't mention food. And the video does not show any people in the restaurant, either --  customers or staff.

The lack of food may be related to the growing food crisis in the isolated communist country. International aid agencies like the World Food Program say the public food distribution system has collapsed and up to 6 million people are at risk of malnutrition and starvation.

Representatives from Restaurant at Hana's umbrella group, Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd, declined to be interviewed for this article. They initially agreed to answer questions submitted by email, but did not respond to ABC News' questions.

This is not the first time a restaurant has caused a stir in Pyongyang. Last fall, the country's first burger joint opened to blockbusting lines of North Koreans thirsting for a taste of the decidedly American fare. One of the proprietors of that unmistakably capitalist venture was none other than the Dear Leader Kim Jong Il's own sister.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio