NAME Gabriel Woo OCCUPATION Chef CITY / COUNTRY Los Angeles / USA E-MAIL email@example.com
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|restaurant reviews • 101 noodle express • amy ruth's • auden's kitchen • b-man's • big texan steak ranch • campanile • chego! • chicky bbq • choices • church & state • cole's • corner bakery cafe • daisy mint • din tai fung • dish bistro & bar • donut man • euro pane • five guys • forage • ford's filling station • grimaldi's • hakata ramen||hash house a go go • ichima • kitchen 1540 • lee's sandwiches • lucky boy • magnolia pancake haus • maki & sushi • mary & tito's • max brenner • nickel diner • the pantry • pho minh • potrero canyon buffet • rudy's • salathai • siam taste of asia • sinbala • stacked sandwich • starry kitchen • sweetsalt • viva tacos la estrella • wd~50 • yogurt & more • zelo|
|Did you know you can view more food photos at my Flickr?|
|Summer of Love|
| No, I'm not
referring to 1969: I'm talking, of course, about food. I feel like this
summer has been one of the best times in my life for eating. Therefore,
there's a lot of love going on!
An aside: I think that eating in downtown L.A. is better than it has ever been. There seem to be countless good restaurants planted in the space of a couple square miles.
Today, "J" - my fellow traveler yesterday morning - and I had a nice meal at Cole's, which is famous for their French Dip sandwiches. I ordered the Skinny Dip (8.2 USD) - half dip with lamb and blue cheese and a side of spicy garlic fries. I think "J" had the Original French Dip with beef (6.38 USD) and a side of Bacon Potato Salad (3.19 USD).
I thoroughly enjoyed this meal. The spicy garlic fries had some heat to them, which I liked, and were definitely garlicky. On the other hand, I thought the fries were a bit stale, as if they sat under a heat lamp for an undue period of time. The potato salad had good flavor. I LOVE Cole's horseradish, which they have at the table. Notable is Cole's pickle: It has a slightly different and pleasing taste from your run-of-the-mill pickle.
As for the sandwich, if I were to compare it with Philippe's, I think Philippe's is better. Cole's sandwich is still good, however, and "J" let me have a taste of the USDA Prime beef in his sandwich - excellent. I sipped some of the jus and thought it was fine.
"J" and I couldn't leave without sharing a Famous Bourbon Pecan Pie à la mode (5.01 USD) - I really appreciate "J"s attitude regarding eating. The pie was satisfying, even though we had to scarf it in order to move our vehicle to avoid getting towed. I thought the crust could have been more loose and flaky, however.
Thanks "J" for footing today's bill.
One weird thing is Cole's rule on refills. They require the diner to specifically ask before they refill your water or other drink. They post the rule on a little card at the table.
I don't like the ticky-tack charges for things like ranch dip, but I understand the reason why.
I like the picture of a young Tom Hanks on one wall.
MUY IMPORTANTE: There are a couple of garages near Cole's where you can park all day for 3 bucks: 1. At the southwest corner of Maple and 6th, and 2. Off the north side of 7th between Los Angeles Street and Main. Metered parking in the area is 3 dollars for only 1 hour so it's not worth it. There's also a real risk of getting your car towed, so parking on the street is definitely NOT recommended.
How Much "J" Paid: Including tip, we ate for about 30-31 USD.
My Rating: One and a half stars out of four stars (good to very good). As I mentioned before, I thoroughly enjoyed this particular meal. Service was so-so for me. I wish the staff were more on-the-ball at seating us upon arrival and a bit more attentive at the table. Website: http://colesfrenchdip.com/
So the question remains: Is Cole's the "originator" of the French Dip as they proudly proclaim on their sign? I don't know, but if the story about the cop is true, it was good to see a booth filled with beat cops enjoying the sandwich invented by their predecessor.
| "Space, the final
frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its
five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life
and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before."
Personally, I resonate with those words read by William Shatner at the beginning of each episode of "Star Trek" because one of my favorite things to do is travel and see the world which we live in. Today, I was able to venture where I had never gone before: Downtown Los Angeles. That might sound funny to many people but you'd be surprised how many Southern Californians have never stepped into the heart of the urban sprawl so many of us simply call L.A.
I wrote up a list of various eateries before embarking on my half-day journey. On it were the Nickel Diner, Mendocino Farms, Clifton's Cafeteria, Bottega Louie, Lazy Ox Canteen, Starry Kitchen, and The Gorbals. Since my stomach can only hold so much matter, I ended up visiting two restaurants on that list: Nickel Diner and Starry Kitchen.
After an early morning of work, I made a beeline to the Nickel Diner for breakfast. Lately, it seems Nickel Diner has been getting more than its fair share of food press: Walking through the door, I saw a sign that Food Network shot some footage there the previous day. The reason for this can be traced to the work of chefs Monica May and Sharlena Fong. They have created some modern renditions of classic diner food. Perhaps the most renowned item is by pastry chef Sharlena Fong - the Maple Bacon Donut (see below, center).
For first breakfast, I ordered a Maple Bacon Donut (2.25 USD) - of course! - and the 5th and Main (9.25 USD) - pulled pork hash with bbq sauce topped with two poached eggs. I thought the pulled pork hash worked well, especially when I broke one of the yolks and blended egg, yolk, and hash together. However, I thought the bbq sauce was a touch too strong, causing my palate to complain.
I was really glad when a couple of co-workers called - "J" and "A" - and joined me at the table. We split the donut three ways (thank God for that because there's no way you can fit it in with an entree). I thought the donut was good but that the flavor of the bacon should have been more pronounced.
See the old dude in the picture on the left? I don't know if you can make it out but on the table in front of him is a Stetson. He was rockin' it leaving the diner.
How Much I Paid: Beware the OJ! It was 4.5 USD! Donut, entree, OJ, and coffee came to 18 USD.
My Rating: One star out of four stars (good). I'm only giving it one star for now because I'll have to try some more items on their menu. I thought the server was fairly attractive for an older woman. She had her hands full once the diner started filling up as "J", "A", and I finished. Website: http://nickeldiner.com/index.htm
Must try the Nutella Donut!!!
After first breakfast, I roped "J" and "A" into checking out a few of the must-see sites in the area. First, we strolled through the Grand Central Market. It was a lot smaller than I expected. There's an apothecary near the Hill Street side of the market and plenty of spice dealers. The market looks like a good place to pick up some fast and cheap ethnic grub.
Next, we entered the wrought iron and light cathedral of the Bradbury Building, which is right across the street from Grand Central Market. Built in 1893, many of you may recognize the building from the movie "Blade Runner". The interior truly is a glorious sight: beautiful stone and tile work, wrought iron railings, an enormous skylight above, and old-fashioned manual elevators that don't even make a whisper of sound. From the north entrance to the Bradbury, you can see the giant mural of Anthony Quinn that announces the Victor Clothing Co.
Walking several more blocks, we passed by a architecturally-intriguing building that apparently houses Caltrans (so that's where the money went!) and entered the Kyoto Grand Hotel in Little Tokyo. On the roof over the lobby, the Kyoto Grand has fashioned a fabulous Japanese-style garden amidst the towering skyline of downtown. This place would be ideal for lunch breaks or if you need a quiet, nature-esque spot to relax at.
"J" and "A" were great companions but as with all journeys, companions eventually part ways. I decided to continue on to a restaurant where I could have second breakfast. From Little Tokyo, I hoofed it to Bunker Hill. I didn't want to trek up it so I rode the Angels' Flight funicular. I was the only passenger on board and it only cost a quarter for a one-way ride (you can buy five rides for a dollar and the tickets are good for a month). At the top of Angels' Flight is California Plaza and the second restaurant for the day: Starry Kitchen.
Now Starry Kitchen has a bit of an interesting backstory. In May 2009, the owners - Nguyen and Thi Tran - started an illegal/underground restaurant out of the back of their NoHo apartment. Their food - which they describe as Asian Fusion - eventually grew in popularity to become the top-rated Asian Fusion "restaurant" on Yelp! L.A.
Nguyen and Thi Tran have set some rules for their establishment: 1. The menu changes every week; 2. Every item only stays for 2-3 weeks at a time; 3. No D-Bags ("no douchebags?"); and 4. You must order in a specific way. When ordering you must: 1. Order your protein (vegan options available); 2. Order the "vessel" in which the protein comes - for example, banh mi, plate, salad; and 3. Order your sides.
I ordered the Nom Nom Pork Vietnamese BBQ Pork (this is the last week for it) with shallot fried rice. The sides I had with it were Japanese garlic noodles and a salad. (9.95 USD for the entire meal)
My impressions? I liked the pork (when don't I like pork?) but it had a weird orange-colored sauce on it. The Japanese garlic noodles were umami-packed! The salad was dressed in a great mustard vinaigrette. Loved the pickled daikon and carrot: it helped balance out the dish. I had a big problem with the shallot fried rice: it tasted like the cook used a flavor package from an instant ramen to season the rice. I didn't like it.
How Much I Paid: Including tax, 10.92 USD.
My Rating: One star out of four stars (good). This food is really best characterized as good-ol'-fashioned home-cooking. It's good on that level but beyond that, I'm skeptical. Website: http://www.starrykitchen.com/
Whew! Still with me? Okay!
After Starry Kitchen and second breakfast, I eased on down from Bunker Hill on Grand. I made a right on 5th and poked around a bit in the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. Not much to admire there. Further on Grand, I passed by Water Grill and entered Bottega Louie at the intersection of Grand and 7th. I did some scouting - lots of diners and they have macarons! From Bottega Louie, I headed east on 7th with Clifton's Cafeteria as my goal. Now here's something really cool: Before coming to Broadway on 7th, there's a little side alley on the north side that passes under a building. This alley looks like a wonderland - really neat. There are a bunch of cafes and jewelry shops tucked into this alley.
I eventually made it to Clifton's Cafeteria, which is near 7th and Broadway. I peeked inside quickly to take stock and then went to my car and thereafter, home. The End!
|It Never Fails to Please|
| And the "it" is the
Breakfast Burrito at Lucky Boy's on Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena.
Since high school, I've made mini-pilgrimages at all hours in the morning from 6 to 10:30 for Lucky Boy's Breakfast Burrito - hash browns, eggs, your choice of meat, and cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla and lightly grilled over open flame (masterful grill marks I might add). Consumed with a side of salsa AND a side of ranch dressing, the Breakfast Burrito satisfies the palate and stomach like nothing else.
Currently, one Breakfast Burrito will cost you 5.20 USD (after 50 cents in tax it comes out to 5.70).
IMHO, Lucky Boy's Breakfast Burrito tastes best with bacon in it.
Don't roll in at ten forty-five in the morning and expect to get one of these. Believe me I've tried and I've had to walk away crestfallen.
My Rating: Three stars out of four stars (excellent) for the Breakfast Burrito. I think the rest of Lucky Boy's menu is somewhat lackluster. Website: http://www.luckyboyburgers.com/
|A Treat for my Body's Gas Tank: Ford's Filling Station|
| Lately, I've been
heading over to the Westside for my job. The Westside is
pretty-dang-far from where I live and I'd imagine most people would
hate the commute. Not me. What do you think was my first thought? It
was something along the lines of "Yes! Now I can visit some of L.A.'s
Today, I visited a restaurant that's been on my mind for quite some time now: Ford's Filling Station. Yes, Chef Ben Ford is Harrison Ford's progeny (and it's fun to see the resemblance between the two) but don't forget, this restaurant earned a very respectable two stars from S. Irene Virbila of the L.A. Times.
Chef Ford has a great location at the T-section of Washington and Irving in downtown Culver City. Right down the street is Sony Pictures - I like to imagine Ford Senior finishing a long day of filming and dropping by his son's Filling Station for cocktails.
At this point, I must apologize to you, my readers because I have no pictures of my meal today. Not only did I forget to bring my camera, I also forgot to bring my phone so I couldn't even take phone camera pics. Believe me, I'm much more disappointed than you may be. I'll do my best to describe what I ate for lunch.
I started lunch with an order of Marinated Olives (6 USD) and house-made Headcheese - terrine of swine head and trotters. The olives were excellent. I couldn't name each variety for you but there were vibrant green-colored ones, large and meaty Kalamata-colored ones, and olive-colored ones. The Headcheese was thinly-sliced, yielding to a paste when spread onto baguette. The flavors of the Headcheese were understated. For what was served - maybe 6 thin slices of headcheese, a few marinated olives, and a quarter of a baguette - the Headcheese was a bit overpriced at 10 USD ($6 would have been better).
For my entree, I ordered the Curry Fried Chicken (16 USD). The Curry Fried Chicken is a chicken breast that is pounded flat, breaded with curry-enhanced breading, and then fried. The chicken is served atop a succotash containing pickled celery bits, red bell pepper bits, and arugula. I liked how all the elements worked together in this dish. Again, the flavors were understated but pleasing. I think the pricing on this item also missed the mark: The price should have been more like 12 USD.
My beverage today was Ford's Pale Ale crafted by Stone Brewery for the Filling Station (draft, 6 USD for a pint). Pale amber color, fruity notes, a nice palate-cleansing astringency - I thought it perfectly complemented my meal.
~ If you just want a bite or two of olives, save yourself 6 bucks and order one of the meats: It seems each serve of meat comes with some marinated olives.
~ Try parking off Watseka at the Watseka Avenue Ramp. The first two hours are free, $1 per hour "there after".
~ Chef Ford offers a Whole Pig Feast for 500 USD! It serves eight. I am intrigued.
~ I think this place is better perceived as a gastropub than a traditional restaurant.
How Much I Paid: Including tax and tip, I ponied up 46.50 USD.
My Rating: One and a half stars out of four stars for the food (good to very good), plus a half star because Chef Ford is Han Solo's son! I didn't feel like I clicked with my server today: I thought his attention to myself as the diner could have been tighter. Website: http://www.fordsfillingstation.net/
I would definitely come back for drinks and small plates in the future.
|Save the Date|
| And the date to save
is July 24.
On Saturday, July 24, there will be a street food fest at the Rose Bowl that will comprise more than 60 vendors, open bars, and beer gardens. For more information, you can visit http://lastreetfoodfest.com/
I think I also ought to mention a nice place to catch a grilled cheese and tomato soup: Doughboy's Bakery on 3rd Street, west of Fairfax Avenue (south side of street). It's about 10 bucks. If you can fit it in, get the Red Velvet Cake for dessert - it's excellent. Apparently, even Oprah swears by it. The only thing I didn't like about Doughboy's was the service. It took a long time for our order to arrive at the table and I wish the server was more available.
|One of Arcadia's best destinations: Zelo Pizzeria|
| Happy birthday
America! You're 234 years old today. May you thrive for 234 more!
Until now, I never profiled the following restaurant on my blog. I must make clear that this is not a negative reflection on the restaurant because IMHO, Zelo has got to be one of Arcadia's culinary gems.
At Zelo, you will find "gourmet pizzas cooked on a cornmeal enriched crust." The owner of Zelo has come up with some great flavor combinations and ingredients to use on pizzas that have a nice, subtle corn flavor and excellent crust because of the use of cornmeal. They also serve pastas, lasagna, house made meatballs, roasted chicken, calzones, and salads.
I think the owner must've been a serious skater as well as being an educated culinarian. On the walls of the dining room, there are autographed skateboards mounted and the decor has a serious SoCal skate/beach/music culture vibe.
I had another working lunch yesterday - Saturday. On this occasion I ordered a half pizza (3 slices, 11 USD) of the Potato Pancetta, which was a special for that day - mozzarella, smoked mozzarella, thinly sliced potatoes, pancetta, tomato sauce, fresh rosemary. I HEARTILY recommend pizzas from Zelo's specials list.
I love the flavor of pancetta, tomatoes, and rosemary, although this time, there wasn't as much rosemary flavor in the pizza. Also, the mozzarella Zelo uses is so beautifully elastic. The tomato sauce is more like tomato crush since they hand-crush "to order" at Zelo. And this is one crust you won't discard in the wastebasket.
I don't like the parking situation here. I've only been able to park on Foothill Boulevard in front of the restaurant.
Zelo's doesn't have fountain drinks :( 1.5 USD is a bit much to be paying for a can of Coke, even though they provide a glass of ice with your soda.
Try the homemade zucotto (4 USD) - chilled, whipped chocolate cake with whipped cream, crushed biscotti layer, and ladyfinger crust. It reminds me of a charlotte royal with different components.
How Much I Paid: Half pizza + can of Coke = a little less than 14 USD.
My Rating: One and a half stars out of four stars (good to very good). Service is friendly. Current corkage fee is 8 USD. Website: http://www.zelo.us/ (some prices have changed from what's listed on their website)
|Chego! jin cha chego!|
| I'm glad that I
finally got to try some of the fare that has had the food world buzzing
for a long time now. I'm talking about the creations of Roy Choi and,
more specifically, the food at Chego!
Roy Choi may be best known for spearheading the L.A. taco truck craze through his Kogi BBQ brand, but after spending a couple of nights at his newest venture, I've come to know Chef Choi as a friendly, attentive, generous, and even a philosophical person.
Of the items I've tried, the following three are my favorites: (from left to right) 1. One Chubby Pork Belly (8 USD), 2. Mini Rhubarb Pie (I think it's no longer on the menu, which is too bad :(), and 3. The $12 Salad (7 USD). Just thinking about them makes my eyelids heavy and my mouth curl in a smile. Descriptions of each item can be found at my Flickr.
Desserts are by pastry chef Beth Kellerhals and I gotta say that she whips up some pretty good creations. I'm not a fan of the Tres Leches (4 USD), however.
I'm ambivalent about the service at Chego! The first night I ate at Chego! I was confused over where self-service ended and full-service began. It was mostly due to how a server explained to me the way that things worked at the restaurant. Servers are not really servers: they're more like a combination of runners and bussers.
Roy Choi's Buttered Kimchi Chow (7 USD) is an interesting item for me, especially since I'm familiar with the Korean cooking vernacular. To say the least, the Buttered Kimchi Chow is an interesting take on a standard Korean comfort dish.
Expect a small dining space and communal seating or standing at long tables and counters, if you choose to dine here. It facilitates meeting new people.
Parking is a bit tricky. I wouldn't even try to park in front of the restaurant, in the lot. I've been able to find parking on the street behind the restaurant - Keystone Avenue. From there, it's only a couple minutes' walk to Chego!
My Rating: Two stars out of four stars (very good). I think service could use a bit of fine tuning; otherwise, the restaurant is a nice place to eat. I wish Chego! was open for lunch, not just for dinner. Website: http://eatchego.com/
I like how J. Gold (LA Weekly) describes what Chef Choi is doing: "He's using the language of fine dining to exalt the food of the street." Well put: I couldn't have expressed my regard for Roy Choi's food any better.
|What happened in San Antonio|
| Where do I begin?
Well, let me first say that I had a great time visiting my friend "M". Thanks again "M" for putting a roof over my head and a mattress under my back :)
As for the restaurant reviews, let me start at the beginning.
When I arrived Thursday evening (June 17), "M" introduced me to a few of her friends. One of them was "S". Since "M" had to take care of some work the next morning - Friday the 18th - "S" took me out to breakfast at a San Antonio favorite: Magnolia Pancake Haus. According to their website, Magnolia is committed to serving "The World's Best" buttermilk pancakes and being the breakfast standard for San Antonio.
I had the Sarki's Special omelet ("direct from Chicago"): spinach, Kalamata olives, mushrooms, onions, feta cheese, sour cream. And this was accompanied by - What else? - my choice of buttermilk pancakes!
The omelet had a very Greeky, Mediterranean flavor profile to it. The saltiness of the olives and feta was tempered by the sour cream and egg. The buttermilk pancakes were impressive; they turned out to be the most fluffiest/airy pancakes I had ever tried. Whipped butter and real - Yes, REAL - maple syrup were provided. Although the maple syrup had the consistency of simple syrup, I liked how the pancakes just soaked it up - like using simple syrup to moisten sponge cake.
How Much I Paid: I paid for "S"s breakfast as well, so including drinks and tip it was 22.36 USD. Not bad!
My Rating: One star out of four stars (good). Like I mentioned, the service was good: friendly, attentive, helpful. I can still remember my server, which demonstrates what a good job he did. Website: http://magnoliapancakehaus.com/pages/index.htm (Magnolia's website doesn't load well)
After a nice breakfast with "S" at the pancake house, we decided to work out the calories by going disc golfing, which I hadn't done since uni.
The next notable restaurant during my trip to San Antonio was Auden's Kitchen. This was one restaurant that I did a little investigating for before I left L.A. Bruce Auden is one of Texas' best-known chefs who has earned the position of dean of San Antonio fine dining. His restaurant, Biga on the Banks, which is located at the touristy part of the Riverwalk, may be the best restaurant in town (see http://www.biga.com/). Earlier this year, Chef Auden opened up Auden's Kitchen as a more casual, locals-driven type of establishment.
This time it was just "M" and I. We ordered two courses and a fine bottle of Riesling. First was the Texas Wood Roasted Mushrooms: tomatoes, red onion, herbs, buttery toast (8.5 USD)
I really need to learn how to take better pictures!
I liked this first course, but it wasn't ravingly good. I asked our server whether or not the mushrooms were verily all harvested from Texas and he confirmed that they were, which I appreciated.
Next, I had the Duck Duck: crispy skin roast leg, pan-fried breast, roasted corn, cured pork belly, wilted arugula, cherry zinfandel bbq sauce (16.75 USD). Since "M" became - unfortunately, in my opinion (=b tee hee) - a vegetarian again, she had the Vegetable Wrap: warm sun-dried tomato basil wrap, pesto cream cheese, Portobello mushroom, zucchini, carrot, and artichoke served with a balsamic apple date quinoa.
I liked my Duck Duck, but again, it lacked the WOW factor. The bbq sauce would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any of the best. The corn ratatouille was nice as well, with chunks of pork belly and leaves of what I thought was wilted basil (rather than arugula). I am a big fan of duck.
The riesling "M" and I enjoyed originates from the Illinois Valley of Oregon: Bridgeview "Blue Moon" Riesling. It's characterized as off-dry; apple, apricot, grapefruit, and honeysuckle notes. This was probably the best U.S. riesling I've ever had.
The service at Auden's Kitchen was EXCELLENT.
How Much I Paid: Including "M"s veg wrap, bottle of wine, and tip: 75.52 USD
My Rating: Two stars out of four stars (very good). Auden's Kitchen gets a second star because of the service. I REALLY appreciated it when our server opened the door for "M" and I as we left the restaurant - something I haven't experienced in a much-too-long time. The food was good but it didn't have what I'm always looking for at a place like this: the WOW factor. Website: http://www.audenskitchen.com/index.php
After dinner, "M" and I explored the un-touristy and newer section of the Riverwalk. It was pretty cool!
Whew! I hope your interest is still high. One more eatery to go.
This particular trip to SA-town was my second. Four years ago, when I was heading out to Wisconsin, I drove through San Antonio for the first time so that I could see "M", whom I just met. During that first trip, "M" introduced me to what I consider one of the finest Texas BBQ joints, namely, Rudy's. Rudy's originated in San Antonio and has expanded to locations all over Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Colorado.
It was Saturday evening (June 19) and we - "M", her friend "A", and "A"s boyfriend "S" - had just finished a long day of river toobing on the Guadalupe. At Rudy's you queue up, grab a drink, order sides and dessert, order your choice of meats (brisket, turkey breast, pork loin, chopped beef, pork spare ribs, baby back ribs, half chicken, sausage, jalapeño sausage), pay up, then find a spot at a picnic table.
I bought a half pound of brisket, one pork spare rib, potato salad, and a bottle of Shiner Bock lager (Texans swear by Shiner Bock). The server adds samples to your order for you to taste! (I got a piece of sausage and a baby back riblet - both yummy)
"Mmmm" is all I can say. The brisket is my favorite; however, on that particular occasion, it was the littlest bit dry (the fat on it helped make up the difference, though). "S" said the chicken was rockin'.
I don't know if you can make it out, but all this meaty goodness was served on butcher paper in a soda pallet - a unique touch. I love the bare essentials quality of Texas BBQ: meat, white bread, potato salad, beer. Can it get any better?
Rudy's smokes with oak. Check out Leon Spring's fire pit on my Flickr.
How Much I Paid: I bought a bottle of "sause" in addition to my meal, so altogether it was 24.27 USD. Minus the "sause", I would probably pay about 15 bucks.
My Rating: Three stars out of four stars (excellent). Rudy's is reason enough to move to Texas! I wish there was a place in L.A. I could go to. Website: http://rudys.com/
San Antonio truly proved itself to be a fine eating town. I'm counting the days, weeks, and months until I return =)
Wednesday, June 23. I haven't had time lately to update the blog but
here's what's coming down the pike:
- Review of San Antonio restaurants
- Roy Choi's Chego!
Stay tuned :) ...
|Drive. Eat. Drive Some More.|
| This week I decided
to take a road trip to San Antonio to visit a very-much-missed friend.
And what better activity to engage in during a road trip than eating?
To go east from Southern California, the three most-pertinent driving options are the I-70, the I-40, and the I-10. I have traveled on all three and I think the I-70 is the most picturesque, but on this particular trip, I decided to go with the I-40, which is my second-favorite option.
Today, I drove through Albuquerque and Amarillo and I picked out two restaurants to visit in those cities.
After driving two hours from Gallup, New Mexico this morning, I arrived in Albuquerque around nine. Before I move on to the main subject, I have to say Albuquerque is a pretty ugly town (at least from what I saw). My target this morning was a famous New Mexico restaurant called Mary & Tito's Cafe. Mary & Tito's is one of Albuquerque's most-celebrated dining establishments. Their oeuvre is Mexican cuisine done in New Mexican fashion.
For breakfast, I had the Carne Adovada - slow cooked pork that is sautéed, mixed with some cheese, enclosed in pastry, deep-fried, and served smothered with a red New Mexico Chile sauce (6.95 USD). My server recommended this to me as a house special. The Adovada is more of a lunch/dinner entree but Mary & Tito's serves lunch and dinner in the morning as well.
Here it is. I had a better picture but I accidentally erased it. Epic fail!
Soft and crisp pork, flaky pastry, interesting sauce = Yum. I liked the red New Mexico Chile sauce the best. It had a vivid chile taste to it - a first for me. The seeds were included in the sauce, which gave off some considerable heat. I also ordered an iced tea (2? USD), which turned out to be one of the better iced teas I've had lately. Check out my Flickr for some more pictures.
How Much I Paid: Including tip, about 12 USD.
My Rating: One and a half stars out of four stars (good to very good). I would have bestowed two stars or more but I just didn't get the chance to try more menu items: my stomach wasn't in the mood. I will definitely come back the next time I find myself in Albuquerque.
I pretty much gobbled up my Adovada at Mary & Tito's, caught a snippet of the latest World Cup game (Spain vs. Switzerland), and then I was off again, heading east on the I-40.
My next culinary stopover was in Amarillo. What's in Amarillo, you ask? Well, the insanely famous Big Texan Steak Ranch, as if you didn't already know!
Profiled by almost every food show and publication in existence, the Big Texan Steak Ranch is famous for having a 72-ounce steak challenge. Finish the steak, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad, roll & butter within one hour and you eat for free; get a t-shirt, a souvenir boot mug, and a certificate; have your photo taken; and, finally, have your name added to the list of champions.
I was really looking forward to enjoying a great steak dinner at the Big Texan; however, I quickly saw that I was in for a major disappointment. Upon entering the premises, I was immediately turned off by the worst-kind-of-touristy, garish circus of the lobby. To one side, there is a gift shop. Next to that are some carnival games. I walked over to where I thought the reception area was for dining and instead of being warmly greeted and seated, I got a "Oh? You haven't been helped yet?"
I got someone to show me to a table and I got stuck with a table in front of the wait staff's station. All through my meal, I had to listen to wait staff chatter and felt uncomfortable with all the traffic squeezing by right next to me. Why don't they put the wait staff's station in a more discreet location?
The dining room was packed when I arrived, consisting mostly of what seemed to be families and groups. The dining room opens to a second floor balcony area that looked to consist of private boxes. All around the upper tiers there were mounted trophies of what looked like stuffed elk heads and cattle longhorns. All of this contributed to the garish circus atmosphere that is the Big Texan.
The worst criticism I have for the Big Texan lies with the food. I ordered an 18-ounce ribeye (21.85 USD) and I received maybe 12 ounces of meat and 6 ounces of yucky, inedible connective tissue. The meat was cooked to my satisfaction and was tasty, but these guys don't know how to properly trim a piece of meat. Therefore, you don't get what you pay for. I ordered a peach iced tea (1.99 USD) which also turned out to be on the gross side. The sides I had - potato salad and coleslaw - seemed like the garbage you buy at the supermarket, not homemade with love at all. The only good component that I could point to from my meal was the dinner roll.
No, you don't get a picture of the steak here. Big Texan doesn't deserve it. (But you can still see pictures at my Flickr)
How Much I Paid: Including tip (and I tipped at my regular rate regardless of how bad the whole experience was), 30.81 USD. Such a rip.
My Rating: No star POOR. Yes this is the first time I have given a "Poor" rating to any restaurant. I possess great tolerance in regards to restaurants and the lowest rating I'll normally give a restaurant is Satisfactory. But because the Big Texan is so positively hyped and has a reputation, my disappointing experience turned out to be that much more disappointing. I don't blame the wait staff or the cooks of the Big Texan for its problems: I blame management for not developing and executing a quality establishment. My only opinion of the wait staff is that they all seem to be young people who are just doing a job. Website: http://bigtexan.com/index.html
I couldn't wait to get out of the Big Texan. That pretty much sums things up.
P.S. In Amarillo, I recommend Rudy's Texas BBQ which is on the other side of the I-40/I-27 interchange from the Big Texan. Granted, I haven't tried the Amarillo location, but if the restaurant's food is consistent with its sister location in San Antonio (as it should be), then you'll enjoy it.
P.P.S. Entering Amarillo from the west, there is - what looks and smells like - a cattle feedlot along the side of the interstate. I recommend keeping your windows shut tight, like I neglected to do myself. I could remember the smell even after I had finished my meal at the Big Texan. Eeewww or no eeewww?
|Dear Mr. President ...|
| We, the people, need
DECISIVE leadership regarding the Gulf Oil Spill. Can you do anything
about it or are you as impotent as some say?
"Please God, help us correct this destruction we have unleashed on your creation. This situation is beyond our control and I ask that you would intervene.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"
|What's Going On? Marvin Gaye knew what he was talking about.|
| With incredulity, I
read this morning's headline on Yahoo! regarding the latest on the Gulf
of Mexico disaster: "BP Plans to Burn Some Oil." Again: BP PLANS TO
BURN SOME OIL. Are you as shocked as I am? As if polluting the seas
wasn't enough, BP now wants to add some carbon to our atmosphere. This
situation is utterly monstrous.
Why doesn't the US government push BP aside and assume complete control over the Gulf situation? BP has clearly demonstrated time and again over the last nine or ten weeks that it doesn't know what it's doing.
Also, why didn't the US government have a comprehensive plan for cleaning up oil spills in our nation's waters? Isn't it obvious that a plan should be in place even before allowing offshore drilling to commence? Why does Kevin Costner - of all people - have an oil spill cleanup device and not the government of the United States!?
I am pissed. I mean, I am REALLY REALLY pissed and getting angrier day by day!
Please folks, do not let BP get away with this singular injustice: Don't let BP's chairman "have his life back." Remember the Exxon Valdez spill? Consumers did nothing about it, and today, ExxonMobil reigns as the world's largest oil company. On a daily basis, I am freshly heartbroken over the lines of cars I see at my neighborhood ARCO. Boycott BP!
|I just wanted
to mention a nice working lunch I had yesterday - Saturday, June 5 - at
Burrito Express in North Central Pasadena. I used to work in the area
and I had heard about the restaurant, but yesterday was the first time
I tried Burrito Express.
I had the spicy "Vic's Special" JVC burrito with pork and a pork taco. "Vic's Special" is any burrito smothered in mild or spicy sauce and cheese with chips and salad on the side.
The food is best described as "home style": it tastes very much like Mexican grandmother's cooking. Subtle flavors instead of bold also characterize the food. It's rustic and unsophisticated, which I don't mean pejoratively.
I paid 12.37 USD for the two items and a large fountain drink (they only allow refills on the large size). It was really cool of the owner to let me off of paying 37 cents since I only had 12 dollars cash on me. Had I known that they accept plastic (which I found out later) I would have swiped my payment instead of shorting them. But thanks anyway!
I think the thing to try is their Bean and Cheese burrito. For the burrito and the 37 cents, I'll be making another trip to Burrito Express soon :)
P.S. Jeez, I almost forgot to give you the address! Burrito Express is at 1597 East Washington Boulevard (between Hill and Allen). Website: http://burritoexpresspasadena.com/
|I had lunch
today (Thursday, June 3) at Fuji Japanese Restaurant with some
co-workers. Fuji offers an all-you-can-eat (AYCE) deal for 19.95 USD.
The best thing about it is there is - and get this - NO TIME LIMIT! So
check it out if you want to stuff yo'self :)
The address is 2879 East Colorado Boulevard in East Pasadena. Park on Sunnyslope if the lot is full.
The staff are the best kind of friendly - one of the highlights of Fuji.
|Look what I found! Stacked Sandwich in Arcadia|
| I'm really glad that
my hometown - Arcadia, California - is becoming more and more a food
destination. There is Zelo Pizzeria with their cornmeal-crust pizzas;
the Chinese/Taiwanese restaurants centered on Duarte and Baldwin; the
restaurant district on Huntington Drive at the border with Monrovia;
and, now, Stacked Sandwich, located at Arcadia's historic First Avenue
and Huntington. I first read about this lunch counter (it literally is
a counter) on Yelp and, lately, I've been passing the storefront on my
drives about town.
Today, "R" and I strolled into Stacked Sandwich for lunch. There was a healthy number of patrons eating and ordering when we arrived.
I ordered the Beef Barchetta - shaved, low and slow roast beef dipped in chipotle-chili broth, pepper jack, fries (in the sandwich), grilled onions, horseradish sauce, garlic mayo (7.95 USD). It comes with your choice of fries (spicy or regular) or salad. Reviewers on Yelp seemed to really like this hot sandwich.
So what's great about this sandwich? The bread. Pillowy, soft, yet strong enough to handle being dunked in jus. The jus. Lovely beefy flavor. The melted goodness of the beef, cheese, and onion mélange. The spicy fries work on the palate like a slow fuse: If you like spicy, good, if not, then avoid them.
"R" ordered the Standard Burger (see my Flickr for photos - 6.5 USD). He seemed to like it. His major critique was that the bun was too big: "R" is a meat lover (I can't blame him J)!
The bread here is pretty special.
Even though there is no seating, after a while, you don't even notice that you're standing and eating at the counter.
Stacked Sandwich only offers canned or bottled drinks. You grab them from a fridge at the front of the restaurant.
The weird thing about Stacked Sandwich is that eighty percent of the facility is kitchen. This goes against my culinary training: You're supposed to maximize space for where the money is made - the dining area. Nice and roomy kitchen for the restaurant staff, though.
Hook it up with the napkins!
How Much I Paid: For a sandwich and canned soda, I paid 9.82 USD.
My Rating: An enthusiastic two stars out of four stars (very good). All of the menu items sound delicious, promising delight for habitual customers. The owner is really cool and seems to run his kitchen tightly (it seems the owner worked at some serious restaurants - sanitizer and everything!). Website: http://stackedsandwich.com/
I'm definitely going back. Maybe even tomorrow! (yeah, I'll be there tomorrow =D)
|Here's something novel for you food-obsessed people that I read about in June 2010's Bon Appétit: Urban foraging. It seems there is a new cadre who are harvesting fruit that would otherwise end up rotting on the ground on both public and private land. Here are the links for websites that will get you started: http://neighborhoodfruit.com/ and http://veggietrader.com/ Just be sure you get permission before picking over your neighbor's tree!|
|Pho Minh, 9646 Garvey in South El Monte. The most rewarding restaurant I've found this year. If you haven't tried it yet, make sure it's next on your to-eat list. Thanks "E" for the special order of bun cha today. It brings up fond memories of my summer in Hanoi :)|
|BP and the
Gulf of Mexico. I'm pissed. How about you?
Happy June everyone.
Thursday, May 27 and I just had lunch at Lucky Baldwin's in Sierra
Madre. I gotta say it was a really nice lunch - mostly because of the
company. So thanks "S", "J", "RB", and "G". I ate a decent half order
of fish 'n' chips (7.95 USD) and washed it down with a pint of good ol'
Guinness (5 USD). I am lovin' Sierra Madre!
P.S. Lucky Baldwin's sells some Brit stuff (like Mars bars!) in the back so be sure to check it out.
P.P.S. I'd love to give the chef a Gordon Ramsay recipe I have for smashed peas for the fish 'n' chips plate.
|101 Noodle Express in Arcadia|
| Golly (did I just
use that word?!), one of the best things about having a job, working,
and making money is that it gives you the freedom to eat out pretty
much as often as you want :)
had lunch with my eating comrade "R" at 101 Noodle Express in Arcadia.
More and more, I'm gaining an appreciation for what my hometown now has
"R" had indicated to me earlier today that he was feeling the noodles, so I went online and found a favorable review of 101 Noodle Express by the venerable Jonathan Gold (his word is pretty much "gold" for me, ha ha - yeah, I know, not funny).
According to Gold, 101 Noodle Express does Shandong cuisine - a region directly north of Beijing in China.
"R" and I ordered two noodle dishes - minced pork with cucumber (about 5 USD) for me and an un-spicy beef soup with noodles (I think about 6 USD) for "R" - and, of course, ordered the Beef Roll (6.99 USD), which 101 Noodle Express has come to be known for.
The Beef Roll. It's like a big Chinese burrito. Really.
I liked my bowl of noodles with minced pork, tofu (filler?), and julienned cucumber. It was porky (always good) and on the sweet side. I added some soy sauce and chili oil to it and nibbled at some chile and cilantro condiment I portioned for myself on the side.
"R" liked the noodles he had (I'm glad for that). He, however, wasn't impressed by the soup component of his dish. "R" told me that it could have been more flavorful. Unfortunately, "R" bit into a big chunk of fat and I think that kind of ended it for him.
I think the Beef Roll was the best of the three. Thinly-sliced beef dressed with sweet bean sauce and cilantro fill a wrap of fried Chinese pancake. "R" remarked that the first bite was the best: That was when the roll was still piping hot. I really liked the al dente chewiness and pliability of the Chinese pancake. The pancake was pleasantly fried and not sickeningly greasy.
How Much We Paid: 24 USD, including tip. We drank iced water and the complimentary jasmine tea.
My Rating: One star out of four stars (good). I'll say that the food was good but, ultimately, I'm not crazy over it. The waitstaff immediately sensed "R" and I were newbies and, therefore, quickly pointed out the Beef Roll as something to get. The turnaround from placing the order to getting our grub on was QUICK. I wish our waitresses asked if we needed more napkins.
Compared to twenty - even ten - years ago, Arcadia today is a gastronomer's paradise. If I ever have a craving for Beef Roll, I now know a place to get some :)
|Lunch Strategy: Maki & Sushi|
| I had a nice lunch
today with my friend "B" at Maki & Sushi in Arcadia - a Japanese
restaurant serving sushi, fried rice, donburi, oyakodon, udon,
yakisoba, and yakiudon. What was most remarkable about it was the fact
that we enjoyed our lunch for about 5 USD each. How did we do this, you
ask? "B" and I split a lunch combination - with choice of two different
items - priced at 9.95 USD.
The lunch combination came with salad, miso soup, rice, and edamame. The two items we ordered were the Spider Roll (fried soft shell crab, avocado, cucumber) and Sea Eel Roll. This lunch setup split two ways is perfect for those who don't want to take anything home with them. I think it's also perfect for those duos looking for a cheap lunch :)
Oh yeah. If I were to give the restaurant a rating, I'd probably put it in the half star category (satisfactory to good). I think this is generous. I'd have to try the rest of the menu before locking in a permanent rating.
Also, we paid 12.92 USD, which included tip and two waters.
One more thing: The peanut dressing and ginger dressing both turned out to be quite tasty.
The most satisfying finale to a TV series.
Really lovely how the writers reminded us of each of the principal characters' stories through the flashbacks/worlds colliding sequences.
Lapidus? You kidding me?
A most epic clash between Jack and Smokey. Thanks Terry O'Quinn. Thank you SO much.
Best farewell kiss ever, Jack and Kate!
Second, best kiss ever, Sawyer and Juliet!
Sawyer, you finally got off the island!
Jack, you turned out to be my hero after all. Thank you Matthew Fox. I will always be grateful.
Thank you Naveen Andrews, Henry Ian Cusick, Emilie de Ravin, Michael Emerson, Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway, Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Elizabeth Mitchell, Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof, and J.J. Abrams. Thank you everyone else!
Thank you God for letting me live to see this masterpiece. I can die now.
|The Lowdown on the B-Man|
| I was out doing my
thing when I decided to stop by B-Man's Teriyaki & Burgers, located
at the nexus where Pasadena, San Gabriel, and San Marino meet. I've
been interested in eating here for a long time but it's one of those
places I never got around to. B-Man's seems to be really popular: When
I was there today for dinner, the place was packed and the line was
long. Also, B-Man's opened a place in Azusa and will be opening up in
I ordered Combo #3: ABC Burger, Small Chicken Bowl, and 20 oz drink. The teriyaki chicken bowl mostly sucked. Actually, the teriyaki sauce was good and the chicken had a good open-grill flavor to it but the bowl was mostly rice and I didn't like the cabbage on top (smelled like butt). The burger, on the other hand, was a totally different story: It was pretty decent. I like how the avocado and teriyaki sauce pair together. The burger drips in a good way, which should tell you something.
I paid 8.33 USD for the meal. I rate B-Man's as no star satisfactory. Website: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pasadena-CA/B-Mans-Teriyaki-Burgers/88325027032
| One of the best
things about living in SoCal is the opportunity one has to try the
cuisines of the world, and fairly decent renditions at that. Today I
had lunch with "R" at Chicky BBQ, which serves Indonesian cuisine
(general or from which island exactly, I'm not sure). I've been eating
at this restaurant for some time.
I had the Nasi Padang: (from top left clockwise) curry beef, kale, egg (looks spicy but it's sweet, actually), curry chicken, green chile? condiment, and steamed rice with crispy garlic or shallot garnish. This is what I'm accustomed to getting because I enjoy it more than the other meals I've tried here.
"R" had some stir-fried noodle dish whose name I can't remember. Thanks "R" for letting me taste some. I liked it. Good, rich flavor. Somehow, the noodles kept piping hot from start to finish.
I saw a couple of advertised items not on the menu that looked promising (like some sort of hotpot), which means I'll have to come back soon.
Love the restaurant's name - Chicky. I wonder what's the story behind it?
If I were to give this restaurant a rating, I'd have to give it half a star (satisfactory to good). For me, the cooking at Chicky can be hit or miss: Sometimes the food tastes fabulous, sometimes it's a bit poorly executed. Consistency is so important!
I paid about 11-12 USD for my meal plus Thai iced tea and tip. A decent lunch, I'd say.
P.S. I heard there's a Indonesian bazaar further inside the strip-mall complex on Saturdays. I definitely have to pencil that in to my schedule.
|I found a gem! Yogurt & More|
| Thanks to my job
with the Census, I've gotten to discover a lot of the charms of Sierra
Madre, a small town nestled against the San Gabriel Mountains and
surrounded by the Los Angeles conurbation. I've grown to love the small
community atmosphere. One of the many pluses is the old - and in some
cases, turn-of-the-century - homes with lots of character. And, if you
want the big city, all you have to do is travel a mile from the town
limits and you can hop on the freeway. Many people who have lived for a
long time in SoCal don't even know that the town exists!
Sierra Madre is so small, there aren't even any traffic signals in the entire city.
Sierra Madre has a cute downtown commercial area and in the heart, right next to Starbucks and local hangout Bean Town, there is a relatively new frozen yogurt shop called Yogurt & More. I found out about this place through co-workers.
For 0.30 USD per ounce (Yes, that's 30 cents), you can get any flavor froyo you want plus whatever toppings you want. It's DIY: You get a cup, fill it with yogurt, add toppings, and at the end, you pay at the register where your cup is weighed. In most cases, a single serving costs about 3 USD or less. What a deal!
And the froyo flavors and the toppings aren't shabby either. Today I saw a sorbet selection, straight-up yogurt flavor, red velvet cake, and standard flavors like chocolate and strawberry. Some of the most interesting toppings I saw were mango boba, fresh fruit (like lychee and kiwi), and snocaps? (like the stuff you buy at the movie theater).
Today I tried the California Tart and the Red Velvet Cake: I didn't get any toppings. The California Tart was refreshingly tangy and had a great yogurty flavor to it. The Red Velvet Cake was a good attempt but it seemed to taste like regular chocolate (red velvet cake is chocolate-based anyway). I didn't get any toppings because I wanted to try the flavors first but a friend of mine - "S" - generously gave me one of her lychees and it paired well with the California Tart froyo.
This is the toppings bar
I heartily recommend Yogurt & More. I guess I heartily recommend Sierra Madre as well!
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This page was updated on 02.10.2011