Tuesday, October 27, 2009

at last...korean bbq @ Park's!!!

Park's BBQ
955 S. Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90006

my long anticipated visit to Park's BBQ in korea town...especially after having tried it at the 1st annual korean bbq cookoff this summer.  there were many planned trips to eat here, but something always came up and i had to cancel.  tonight...it was completely unplanned and i am extremely pleased that alison felt like korean bbq, along with the fact that all the restaurants aaron and i were thinking about fell through. this impromptu korean bbq dinner was the perfect place for the three of us to go.  it was destiny!

just watch the whole delicious meal unfold...and i want to apologize for the sound quality...i promise it will be better next time. 

YouTube does not allow me to have videos over 10 minutes long, so i was forced to break up the whole video into three parts.  sorry!!

please note, i always like to find out the names of everything i eat.  whenever i go eat korean food with one of my dearest friends esther, who is korean, she typically tells me the names of all the dishes when i ask her what they are.  so it just suprises me when the staff doesn't know the name of certain dishes or the actual products.  i'm not trying to be mean, if you know me...you know that i am forever joking around...so nothing is ever meant to be hurtful or mean. 

typically, i just kind of expect people in restaurants of any type of cuisine to know what they are serving to us, and if they don't, they always ask and find out...and i completely appreciate that!  hey...it happens everywhere!  remember gordon ramsay's?  the waiter had no idea it was trumpet mushroom stems!

just one more clip to watch!!

i know i said they didn't have the spicy radish kimchee and then i said i'd use the spicy radish kimchee!  what i meant was that at some places they have just a little plate of julienned spicy radish only...and at first i couldn't tell that the large strips were radish also, and it was just a few pieces with the raw napa, which i'd never seen it done that way! 

so...i know...it sounded like a "DUH!" moment...but i just had to clarify.  haha  remember!  this is totally unscripted and i only do this in one take!  we don't go back and refilm any of it. 
my last few words on the food...i don't know what i was thinking was i was ordering...but it is unlikely i will get the unseasoned meat again.  i'm sure there are many beef purists who'd prefer it that way, i'm just telling you how i like to eat my meat.  so you should try it both ways to see what your favorite way to eat their short ribs is!

for me...it is all about the #3 - that's all you need to remember! (on the first page of the menu)

ok, i will tell you the name...its the gal-bi seasoned prime beef short rib.  nothing complicated.

#8 - bulgogi...

kimchi pancake...

aaron, not letting any of the delicious marinated short rib meat go to waste!

grrrrr...who doesn't love meat on the bone!

alison, relieved of her filming duties to enjoy some of the fantastic korean bbq!

preparing a most excellent bite of bbq!

for those of you who aren't comfortable with cooking your own meat, you don't have to worry, like you saw in the video, they completely take care of it for you! that was so nice,i really loved that service and i think you would too!

no "actors" were used in this show, aaron is playing himself so it doesn't really count.  haha thanks aaron for being a part of dining with dinner on video part deux!

many thanks to alison for joining in on the eating fest and of course...filming. you rock mama!

our bellies were full and just ecstatic from all the tender, succulent meats and tasty side dishes we consumed!  if you love korean bbq...you've got to check out Park's BBQ!!!

thanks for reading and watching...i hope you all enjoyed it! and remember! its all about the #3 , bulgogi and kimchi pancakes!

happy eating!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

mil jugos - venezuelan cuisine

318 W 5th Street
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 836-4601


i was watching diners, drive-ins and dives and they had a segment on venezuelan food and arepas and i just had to eat it!  my dear friend annie and i were talking about it and she yelped and came up with mil jugos!  hallelujah annie!  what a great find!  i told you, i'd drive anywhere to eat something good.  at first i was a little nervous, because i wasn't quite sure where in santa ana this was...and since i was too impatient to wait for an eating partner (which we all know, never stopped me from eating anywhere) i just went!  its near the court house and is in that business district i guess...parking is either in lots or metered.  20 minutes for a quarter!  can't beat that!  i totally lucked out!  i still had 33 minutes on my meter so i just added a couple more quarters and i walked to my destination.

mil jugos...not sure what the mil is, but jugos is juice!  so...yes, it is one of their specialties...fresh squeezed (juiced) juice.  hey, i gotta do what the natives do...so i asked what was a great juice or popular juice to get.  not that i don't know what i like...but i just wanted to hear what she had to say  (this is before i knew her name).  she said her favorite was...

fresh squeezed passion fruit juice...ahhhhh...i love passion fruit!  how perfect!

really, if she said papaya i would've said, "hmm...ok, how nice...what would be your second favorite juice!"  haha  i don't like papaya...obviously.

anyhow, this was one of the freshest, most refreshing juice i've ever had!  it was chilled all the way to the last drop!  it was the perfect beverage to cool my mouth down from the spicy sauce.  it wasn't overly tart and drinking this made me wish i was on a beautiful white sand beach or in a boat staring out at the sea...much like the pictures i was staring at from my seat on the wall in front of me.  all taken in venezuela! 

cachapa con queso blanco (sweet corn venezuelan pancake filled with queso fresco and fresh cream)...

the fresh cream was basically sour cream, but more like creme fraiche, really mild and not sour at all.

you could just taste the fresh sweet corn that was pureed and made into this incredible dish.  every sweet bite filled my mouth with the taste of sweet corn, the creamy texture of the cream and the queso fresco.  i loved eating this just by itself, with no sauce...but then when i added the guasacaca, original and picante...WHOA!  that jolt of flavor filled with fresh herbs, garlic, sometimes a hint of vinegar or spicy chilies...so amazing. i had ordered to dishes to try, and even though i was getting really full, i could not put my fork down until i finished every single bite of that homemade goodness.  i am definitely going back just to eat that! 

you can get the corn pancake filled with ham or some other meats i believe, but i wanted to keep it simple so that no other flavors got in the way of my tasting the actual pancake.  and let me just say, i am so glad i got it this way.  excellent!

carne desmachada arepa (venezuelan grilled corn bread with lean beef)...

the beef is cooked with onions, tomatoes, garlic and red bellpeppers then shredded.  the meat was very well seasoned...thank you solange and lorina.  i asked norah to tell me a little bit more about the arepa (the corn bread) an how it is typically cooked.  at their restaurant they grill it, but she said she loves it fried!  hello!  *hands raised high up in the air* me too!!  but the grilled way is healthier of course...and i said...of course.  but i'd rather have it grilled!  we laughed...and i kept eating my grilled arepa.

now, you all know how much i love food to be seasoned well...i have asked many a time for people to use salt...too often really.  you must think that i either have a dead palette or severely high blood pressure, actually, neither!  to prove that things can be too salty for me, as i was eating the arepa, the meat was kind of salty for me.  and when i added the guasacaca sauce to it, it got even saltier!!!  at a certain point, i did have to stop eating though, but i nearly ate the whole thing.  the juice really helped cut some of the saltiness on my tongue.  i really did enjoy the arepa, but next time i'd like to try a different filling and see how that is.  thought the meat really was delicious, it just got too salty for me.

guasacaca sauce - regular and picante

picante on the left, regular on the right

picante (left) - you can see all the fresh herbs sitting in the olive oil with bits of red chilies.  this has a really nice kick of spice to it.  this was good, but i actually liked the flavor of the regular guasacaca.

it i liked the texture...yes, it was creamy, and i really liked the hint of vinegar that they put in this sauce.  do you want to know what would've been the perfect sauce for me?  the smooth guasacaca but spicy.  oh man!  THAT would be freaking awesome!  i think i will make it myself!  yummy!! 

mom, solange and daughter, norah

this is a family run business...both mother and daughter were so friendly and kind.  norah really took the time to talk to me about the cuisine because i was pretty clueless and this was my first time eating it.  i can tell that they truly love what they do and put a lot of time and effort into it. 

the view from my seat...

see all the nice beachy looking pictures?  ahhhhh....it just makes you wish you were some where far, far away.  eating here definitely make me want to visit venezuela and try more of the cuisine.  i can see the similarities in some of the sauces from the different latin american restaurants i have been trying recently.  even though they are really quite simple, i think the flavors are so vibrant and "fresh" tasting and i would love these anytime on my grilled meats! 

the cooks that make it happen
solange and her assistant lorina

lorina was telling me that they also cater to the Dodgers, who love their food!  hmmm...sorry, they don't come in themselves...but they do enjoy eating it!
now my post is complete and yes, the sprinkler is working just fine...thanks for asking.

this is a little joint that i would love to frequent and bring more friends and family to share in this joyous eating experience.  simple and good.  what more can one ask for?  i was a happy fat cat when i left. 

many thanks again to norah, solange and lorina for their hospitality!

please make the trip out to santa ana...it is so worth it. 

p.s. i have given you the correct zip code.  the one listed on yelp is incorrect so please make note of this if you put it in your navi.

bowling alley food at its finest! only at irvine lanes

i know...from michael mina to bowling alley food.  lol  you may have no interest in reading this, which i can understand...there is no comparison.  but i want to make note of the food and the guys who cook it.  i have true appreciation for the cooks in the kitchen here at irvine lanes.  why would i want to make note of bowling alley food? 

well, you can see how nicely my club sandwich is made.  each layer so neatly stacked, perfectly toasted bread and nice clean cuts making four perfect triangles.  i asked for my fries to be extra crispy and that's exactly what they did for me.  yes, it needed a bit of seasoning...and i don't think the ketchup is heinz...but that's ok. 

i love that they care about what they do...and how they present it.  my ham was folded nicely on my bread, which is huge for me...two types of cheese...yellow american and white american or it could be processed swiss.  either way, it had a bit of saltiness to it.  they gave me extra mayo as i requested but not so much it was squirting out all over the place.  it was the perfect amount of creamy texture to go with the three slices of bread. crispy lettuce and tomato slices that weren't so thick they popped out of the sandwich.  which i can't stand.  all the elements balanced each other nicely.

everytime i get something here, i'm actually pleasantly surprised by the food. they make all their chips fresh to order!  (i eat nachos...a lot)  so great to have hot, fresh chips that are so light and crispy and better than so many other mexican restaurants i've been to! 

if you read my blog on the art of the sandwich...this is what i'm talking about...it can be something so basic, but when its put together well, its enjoyable.  they care...and i thank them for that.  this is also why i always tip them...why wouldn't i?  i do at any other restaurant...and these guys work hard.  kudos to the chefs in the kitchen for providing me with the energy i need to bowl three games every wednesday night. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

side note on XIV by michael mina

i failed to mention this last night...perhaps the grogginess from the lunesta made me forget.  when we were discussing the tasting menu with our server gloria, she mentioned that the food would be coming out one right after the other and i just thought, of course, not a problem...we are used to that in tasting menus.  as soon as you're done, they clear and the next course is brought out promptly.

not realizing what she really meant!  when our first course came out, i busted out my camera and started taking some pictures, and mind you, it was only a few minutes...and then our second course arrived.  which was kind of shocking and strange, since we hadn't even taken a bite of our first course yet.  greg and i discussed how we hoped it wouldn't be like this throughout the entire meal, because no one likes to feel rushed.

throughout our meal, we would occasionally get another course before we finished.  typically, they should never bring out another course until you are done and all the dishes and cutlery have been removed.  but i guess they do it differently here. 

for some people, this could make you feel very rushed, but for greg and i, we just took our sweet ol' time and enjoyed the food, discussing each dish in great length and of course how some some of the dishes paired with the very lovely malbec, which by the way, on greg's recommendation, i ran to bevmo and bought a few...bottles. (4 to be exact).   

anyhow, i wanted to make sure you all knew that if you should eat there, this is what you should expect, and in fact, this was one of the issues that made my other friends' experience here so awful.

for me, because the overall experience was so pleasant, i did not allow that to distract or bother me...i continued eating my way through each course and savored every bite of that meal (well the ones that i really loved).  oh man i wish i had that nutella custard again. 

hope this helps for your visit to xiv!

michael mina's XIV in west hollywood

8117 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 656-1414

since moving home to l.a. i am often asked what my favorite restaurant is, and each time i say, i haven't found it yet.  when i was living in l.a. back in 2000 i really didn't have the luxury or time to eat my way around the city because i was taking care of my mom, who had cancer, and of course my dad and the household.  so eating out wasn't my priority...it was all about my mom.

so now that i am back, i am on a mission to find the best food possible, ranging from mom & pop places, trying a variety of cuisines, pizza, burgers, fine dining, comfort food, desserts...basically anything and everything!   if i haven't made it clear...i am in love with food and i am going to travel where it takes me to eat the best of something, anything.

so my next fine dining experience was in west hollywood at michael mina's restaurant - XIV.  i often frequented his restaurant in vegas, but as the years went by, so did the food and i stopped eating there because the food just started to suck for a lack of a better word.

dine l.a. was extended another week, so my foodie and wine friend greg and i needed to set up a meeting about food and wine, so what better place to do this?  reservations were made, we arrived on time and were promptly seated.  we got an early seating, 6 pm.  i am really glad we started early, because as we perused the menu, and let me just say, greg didn't even bother to look at the dine l.a. menu and went straight to the wine list first, then the regular menu.  they also had a vegetarian menu which i thought was really thoughtful to people who don't eat meat. 

then our waitress gloria came over and told us about the different tasting menus available to us also.  8 courses, 11 courses, and 14 courses.  hmmmm...what to get.  3 courses for $44 or 11 courses for $88...you do the math!  8 more courses for twice the price!  that was an easy decision!  but what really pushed us towards the tasting menu was that we were able to pick each of our courses...how cool was that.  so our original 3 course dinner now because this lovely 11 course dining experience.  i was excited and smiling like the chesire cat!  i was starving and ready to eat.

compliments of the chef, naan with feta and greek yogurt...

eaten together it left you wanting salt, the feta and yogurt didn't have much flavor at all.  finally when we ate the naan by itself, we finally got that hit of salt we so desperately wanted.  we had 11 courses coming, so i didn't want to fill myself up with this.

course I - heirloom beets, burrata, wild arugula, aged balsamic, new olive oil...

i loved how they presented all our food in its own little tray.  these beets were slowly roasted for 24 hours and they were cooked beautifully.  the dark red beets had the most flavor...but they were all delicious.  burrata is a fresh mozzerella mixed/soaked in cream so it has a very soft texture that is spreadable.  it is so light and fresh, it does need be salted when you serve it and when you close your eyes, you can taste the cream in this cheese.  i love well cooked beats, and this is a dish that i would eat anytime.  the aged balsamic brought in just a bit more sweetness.  the combination of everything worked really well together and was a delight to eat. 

course II - hamachi sashimi, pickled straberies, grains of paradise, green onions...

i don't typically mix my savory foods with sweet things like fruit, but this was very unique and i thought the flavors worked really well together.  you might be wondering, what is grains of paradise?  i didn't know either, so i will give you a brief summary and you can read up on it more from the link below.  it is found/grown in the swampy areas of the west african coast and is referred to as a "cheaper" version of black peppercorns.  it is said to be closely related to cardomom, but it still has that peppery flavor. 

when i ate it, i thought it was black peppercorn but was wondering why i wasn't getting that really spicy peppery feeling you normally get, and neither was my eating partner, greg.  we kept saying, wow...even with all these peppercorns and scallions, the predominant flavor we both keep getting was the taste of the fresh hamachi.  the pickled strawberries also added just a hint of sweetness but didn't overwhelm the palette with sweetnes.  i didn't get any tartness which i would've assumed when i see the word pickled, but it all the flavors were really well balanced and while still allowing the taste of the fish to shine through.  i really enjoyed this dish. 


course III - sweet corn soup, pork belly, apple cider, cilantro, sea salt...

i wasn't fast enough to get the picture before our waiter started pouring the soup...so i got one in mid pour on the second bowl.  so light it looks like a cream soup, but was super light and frothy looking at first.

this was made from fresh corn, because i could taste the little bits of minced up kernals and it was just apparent in the flavor.  this soup was so light that it left me wanting more.  more corn, more body, more depth, more flavor...you get the idea.  so as i'm tasting this soup and wishing for more flavor, i had high hopes before i put one of the two little chunks of pork belly into my mouth.  i thought perhaps, they kept the soup really light because the pork was going to give this dish that salty punch it so badly needed.  the pork belly was very tender, but sadly, lacked much flavor.  the cilantro was a nice burst of flavor...finally!  some flavor!  i told the waitress, "so far of the first three courses, this is my least favorite..."  another reason why i am so thankful we are doing the tasting...i would have picked this as my appetizer and i would've been incredibly disappointed. 


course IV - sea scallops tempura, cauliflower, passion fruit, edamame, almonds...

the coloring on this scallop is perfect, but it wasn't crisp to the bite like you'd think it would be.  they did cook the scallop perfectly in the sense that it was so tender and juicy.  i actually thought they used cashews versus almonds, i guess my palette was totally off!  i liked the crunch of the nuts, and i actually didn't get any strong flavors from either the cauliflower or edamame.  i couldn't taste any of the passion fruit glaze which really should've brought a nice tart acidity to the dish...but i didn't get it. 

my least favorite part of this dish was the tempura "balls".  so sad, because i love anything fried, but it tasted like grease...grease that has seen better days and should be put out to pasture, never to fry another piece of food that people would ingest.  it was so heavy tasting that i thought perhaps it was the strong grease taste that wasn't allowing my tastebuds to get any of the passion fruit.  that is possible!  this dish was good, but not a super stand out dish, because i had forgotten about it when we were on our seventh course or somewhere around there.

course V - tai snapper, tapioca-crusted, broccoli rabe, white soy vinaigrette...

this was sitting on a crispy rice cake, a spicy red pepper sauce, scallion, black sesame seeds and fried ginger.  just from the ingredients i have already described you can tell that this is very asian inspired.  while we were eating this, i didn't know that it was crusted in tapioca and could not really taste it.  there was something chewy in the texture of the fried fish...and when i see a fried piece of fish like this, i automatically think that i want it to be light and crispy. 

the spicy red pepper sauce tasted like roasted red pepper blended with some cayenne or sirracha, but it didn't have that distinct sirracha taste.  the crispy rice cake was ok, and mine was soft on the inside, but it also soaked up whatever broth was on the bottom of the dish.  my favorite element on this dish was the fried ginger...i felt like it livened up the fish and was a key element in making this dish pop.  this particular dish was too reminescent of asian cuisine that i eat so often, thus my palette wasn't blown away by something new and different.

course VI - tataki of american wagyu skirt, moroccan spiced vegetables...

i don't know about moroccan spiced vegetables, but they tasted more like just plain pickled vegetables.  the meat, so beautifully cooked and seasoned.  this was seasoned in a variety of moroccan spices (secret tho) and then grilled.  do you notice how simple this dish is?  just meat and the veggies.  the best thing about food is knowing how to season it, find the perfect compliment and serving it simply. 

this meat had the perfect amount of spice that was perfectly paired with a colome malbec 2007 from valle calchaqui salta, argentina.  wow!  what a terrific recommendation gloria!  everytime i hear that name, that song pop's into my mind.  when you had a taste of the meat which had a bit of heat to it, the wine brought out and enhanced the seasonings of the meat and just a perfect combination.  even with the pickled veggies, which was awesome with the meat, especially the onions!  all of it worked so well with the wine.  thank you gloria!  i am not doing this dish justice...this was one of my all time favorites of the night.  "simple" but not really because of all the spices used, the meat was cooked perfectly and was so tender.  there was not one knife on our table at any time, so everthing was fork tender.  loved this dish!  if i could have giant steak of this and have all those pickled onions chopped up and eaten together.

the view from my seat...


course VII - piedmontese filet mignon, padron peppers, creamed corn, chanterelles, onion ring...

on a porcini mushroom sauce and a touch of chipotle (at least i got that smoky flavor). the creamy corn soup was nice, it almost seemed like the chopped up the corn so they weren't full kernals.  the chanterelle mushrooms were huge slices, so meaty, earthy and wonderful.  the padron peppers reminded me of shishto peppers, and when i took a bite into my first one it had some heat!  and i told greg, but he thought i was crazy because his weren't spicy at all.  finally i gave him a bite of mine and it totally hit him...i felt better, i'm not crazy as he thought.  well...that's debateable.  haha

back to the pepper... and my palette...i totally eat spicy foods so i KNOW spicy!  haha  the second one wasn't spicy at all.  the beef was tender, loved the crispy little onion ring, and of course eating the combination of everything except the pepper was great for me.  greg and i were discussing how the pepper was the one ingredient that seemed to be out of place...but that alright.  it was still enjoyable. 

course VIII  - prime ny steak - kobe short rib, figs, arugula, horseradish, hazelnuts...

you already know how much i love short ribs, so both greg and i were totally looking forward to eating this dish.  it looked beautifully cooked, it was very tender, easily breaking apart with our fork, had a nice amount of sauce laddled over it...man, i was ready to eat it.  and then i put that little forkful into my mouth and closed my eyes, ready for the party that was about to unleash on my tongue.  and then...nothing. what?! *eyes popping open...nice and big like i have graves disease big*  i tried dipping it into everything on my plate to add more flavor!  please dear God, how can this tender piece of meat have absolutely no flavor?  who seasoned it?!  did they fall asleep or walk away for a minute and then return only to forget they never salted it?!  why didn't they taste it?

we were severely disappointed.  nothing was helping this dish...and you know how i knew i was beyond unhappy and devastated with this dish...i didn't want to pick up my fork and continue eating.  there was nothing pulling me to put another bite in my mouth...except for one thing...guilt.  to leave that much of the dish uneaten.  oooohhh...that makes a chef wonder...what the hell?!  so i tried to eat as much as i could but then...i had a surprise arrive!  woo hoo!  move over tasteless kobe shortribs! 

quick note, the malbec did not pair well at all with this dish.

well hello again course VI  - tataki of american wagyu skirt.  yeah baby!  just what the doctor ordered to revive my tastebuds! 

wait, why are you seeing this again?!  well, the g.m. Jacob, was walking around and talking to all of the patrons and he came to ask how we were enjoying our food...and since i'm just a demure and undemanding eater, i told him how much i loved the tataki and would love another one!  *shaking head*  i know...so not subtle.  i was just expressing my love for that dish...and he was so sweet and brought us another tasting of it! so really, we had 12 courses.  so good...i think these were the end pieces so they were cooked a little more than the first ones we got, but still so flavorful and spiced...i ate it all! 

course VIIII - xiv cheese selection, explorateiur, queso romero, st. maure.  spanish cheese whose rind has been washed with pork fat...hmmm pork fat... sorry...i got lost in my thoughts. 

on the far right is a little fried artichoke heart (artichoke confit), romesco sauce, the shredded cheese, green onion sprouts (?) and port sherry vinegar reduction to sticky, glossy state.  this is a sheeps milk cheese, dry, nutty but not at all overpowering in flavor like goat cheeses.  it was so interesting to have the little artichoke confit in romesco sauce and the finely grated cheese.  dipping a forkful of cheese in the reduced port vinegar was lovely and brought a hint of sweetness but not overly by any means.  the malbec still went well with the cheese too! 

course X - nutella custard, popcorn ice cream, toast streusel, passion fruit foam, nutmeg financier and a little piece of toffee...

an you say fabulous dessert?!  greg who is not a big dessert guy loved this dessert as well!  so i'm not just some crazy chocolate freak.  this was not overly sweet, the popcorn ice cream was fun and interesting...you get a hit of sweet and salty!  i liked that.  breaking a little piece of toffee, spoonful of nutmeg financier and a scoop of custard and ice cream....ahhh...a mouthful of a heavenly flavors and textures!  this was so delicious.  something else i might wake up dreaming of.  hmmmm  another stand out dish.  denice...you gotta try this one too! 

michael's classic rootbeer float, warm chocolate cookie...

the intense root beer flavor was great.  warm chocolate chip cookie...who doesn't love that.  the only down fall of this dish...it was served right after we ate the nutella custard.  wow...there is no comparison.  this was totally anti-climatic after eating the custard which was filled with so many flavors!  so even though this is a fun one...it should be served first and then followed by the nutella custard.  this will give everyone the chance to fall in love with the float as well.  i have had this many a time from his other restaurants but today it didn't have that same spark it used to give me.  so if you get this stuff...drink the float first then get the nutella last! 

i hope i dream about eating this again tonight.  hmmmmm....

there are super dishes and ok dishes, but overall, we had excellent service, thank you gloria, g.m. jacob's generosity, thank you so much for the extra tataki and just a terrific evening.  the food was really good...and this is somewhere that i would definitely come back to again.  so far in my search for fine dining restaurants, this is the best place i've had so far.  but remember, i haven't had that many out here yet...so we shall see how it fairs as i continue to eat my way through southern california. 

i thinks its worth getting the 11 course meal...i'm full but i don't feel like a stuffed pig. 

i hope you find this blog helpful.  but just to let you know, i have a friend who recently went and had a completely opposite experience and i am sad that that happened to him and his party.  but all i can relay to you is what i went through and i hope that if you do go, you will have the same great experience i had. 

i just took some lunesta and perhaps i should proofread this more, but i'm just going to post!  so sorry for the typos and stuff! 

till tomorrow...good night!  dang it!  its already after 3am! 

buh bye!

Monday, October 19, 2009

homemade handcut noodles @ golden china restaurant

Golden China Restaurant
inside the 99 Ranch Market Center
1015 S. Nogales St. #129
Rowland Heights, CA 91748

i was super hungry today (i know...when am i not?!) and with the overcast skies looking kind of chilly and gloomy, i felt like a bowl of hot noodles.  i wasn't sure where to go, but my old friend from college, audrey had recommended that i check out golden china a while back.  this restaurant is located in the 99 ranch market shopping center and since i also needed to do a bit of shopping, this was perfect!  i could kill two birds with one stone.  i took a look at the menu from outside, saw they had spicy beef noodle soup, walked in and was seated. 

i'm a sucker for noodles and dumplings...so i ordered the szechwan style beef noodle soup and the shrimp and leek dumplings (fried).

how i wish i was a better student when my mom tried to teach me how to read and write chinese. 

i could be enjoying all the yummy deliciousness that is written down on this paper...its seems so unfair and somewhat discriminatory to those who don't read chinese.  that has always been my biggest complaint about chinese restaurants who write all their specials in chinese...i can never get the really good stuff because i can't read!!  dang it! 

alright, enough of my moaning and groaning...its time to eat!

look at that deep, rich color of the broth with that red layer of spiciness along the edges of the bowl.  oh Lord.  lots of bright green veggies and the dark green stuff is the "sour" veggies. 

the waitress never asked me what kind of noodles i wanted, and this is what came out.  this big, thick, chewy, handmade, knife cut noodles.  wow!  i loved how imperfect each slice was...and the terrific "bite" of each noodle.  it was so thick that it was a bit stiff and hard to handle.  i normally put my noodles in my soup spoon, get a bit of soup, put a piece of meat, some veggies and the sour veggies so that each bite had a little of something.  everytime i put one of the giant noodles into my spoon, it totally had a mind of its own and would pop out or off my spoon!  it took me a little time to get used to it and get them to cooperate, but i finally wrangled them into my spoon and then right into my mouth!   hmmmm...so good.

the broth!  it was incredibly flavorful and i couldn't not stop drinking it.  just like the color, it was rich in beef flavor and had the perfect amount of spiciness to eat.  the meat was good, but could've been cooked a little longer to make it more tender, they had tons of veggies in there which i loved because so many places don't give any vegetables.  and those sour veggies, that really pulled this dish together for me.  these are also homemade here and i have to say the flavor was better than supreme dragon's.  mind you, i haven't eaten a lot of sour veggies in my life time so i don't have a lot to compare it to.  (i never liked eating strange chinese food...hey!  i was a kid!)  i wish they gave me a big ol' bowl of it! 

i drank up all that broth...and left a bowl full of noodles. 

the size of the bowl is deceiving, i didn't realize how much noodles they gave me, but i wish the bowl was bigger, so i could have more broth.  i want to mention that when i was leaving, they packed up my dumplings along with my noodles and gave me more broth!  who does that?!  that was so awesome and so generous of them!! 

hmmmm, where was i eating....not too long ago...some asian restaurant..i can't remember where, anyhow,  this lady drank all her soup from her soup noodles and asked for more, but the waitress waved her finger back and forth and said, "no, its only one serving."  hello!  its not like soda!  "no free refills".  i believe this is pretty standard in any restaurant right?!  haha  i did laugh when the lady asked because i thought it was kind of strange.  i mean...would you go into some other restaurant and say order french onion soup, drink it all, leave the onions and ask for more soup?!  NOoooo! 

my pan fried shrimp and leek dumplings...

served with black vinegar and pickled ginger.  homemade skins, nice and thick...i think that i would get them boiled instead next time just because the dough had lots of bite and chewiness to it.  plus, they didn't pan fry it to that really golden crunchy state that i love so much.

does this look like shrimp to you?

nope!  i didn't see or taste any shrimp in here...it was just a pork and leek dumping.  it was ok...because of the fact that there was so much dough and the super thick noodles, i could only eat four of these dumplings...i was full.  i didn't like eating them with the black vinegar so i just used some chili sauce and soy.  but i would use chili oil, soy, sesame oil and vinegar next time. 

next time i will bring my dad or another chinese reading individual so we can order off the "chinese" menus!  but this place is definitely worthy of many returns.  i want to get the red chili oil wontons next time.  the broth and the sour veggies!  loved it!  everything was made from scratch and with passion and tradition behind it.  there is nothing like good comfort food...i really enjoyed the spicy beef soup noodles! 

thank you audrey for the great recommendation!!!!

go check out this little hole in the wall yourself!  oh!  and by the way...they have an A rating!  i know!  i did a double take too!  it still said A!! 

good and clean!!  you can't beat it! =)

happy eating! 

ps. thank you all for the support and positive feed back on my blog!  i can't tell you how much i appreciate you all for reading my blog!  its always so nice to talk to some of you and hear that you find my eating adventures entertaining! 

i know my grammar sucks and i always have typos...hehe, but really...its all about the food.  i really try to catch all of it...but as many of you already know, i write like i talk.  all over the place!  haha

thank you all again and i'm sending out hugs to all of you!!!

palm terrace restaurant @ island hotel in newport beach

Palm Terrace Restaurant
in the Island Hotel
690 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949) 760-4920

i am really lovin' restaurant week, dine l.a. etc...  last night, a group of my friends were trying to decide where we should eat...and barry mentioned that restaurant week just started up in newport beach, so denice started pulling up the list to see what restaurant might entice us into joining them and trying some of their most popular dishes.  our top choice in the beginning was blue fin, japanese cuisine, but as denice kept searching, we came upon the palm terrace's menu....which had chilean sea bass AND prime short ribs!  oh mama!  two of my favorites!  since the rest of the group was more into watching the angel/yankee game and talking about sports, D and i made an executive decision...we were going to the palm terrace. 

lets me show what was available to us for a mere $40 per person...

so many people have this misconception about fine dining...that all the portions are always super small and that they will leave hungry.  well, when we went to gordon ramsay's were were all stuffed and we were definitely all STUFFED when we left the palm terrace.  boy's included.  if you eat here, and walk out hungry, then perhaps you are a 300 lb defensive linebacker (is that a position?  haha) who loves eating smorgasbords!  that's buffet to those of you who don't know what a smorgasbord is.   seriously, there is plenty of food...you will not leave this place hungry.   most places serve just three courses...they gave us, four courses plus a bread basket and lavosh bread!  oh how i love breads... soft or crispy.  hmmm...but i'll get to that in just a wee bit.

don't let the bad island style curtains deter you from eating here.  in fact, i did feel the urge to sing "my favorite things" and wrap the curtain around my head and then pull them down and create outfits for my eating mates so we could climb trees and sing songs.  but that's not what we came for...we came for the food.  and that is what i will discuss.

pleasant surprise!  parmesan and herbed lavosh bread...

served with a white bean hummus (i'm sure you can tell which one it is) and an eggplant tapenade.  omg...that white bean hummus was so creamy and flavorful.  and if you hate beans...oh please, you have to give this a try!  it just might change your mind.  the lavosh was crisp with a perfect amount of baked on parmesan cheese and a touch of herbs.  it was an excellent way to start out our meal, and really so dangerous because i could eat this all day long!  i wasn't as crazy about the eggplant because the sweet yellow and red pepper flavor permeated the whole dish and i don't like bell peppers that much, but it was a very tasty dish and well seasoned. 

hot bread too?!

i wasn't even expecting bread too!  i thought the lavosh was just a replacement of regular bread, which was terrific...but what a nice surprise.  top left, pretzel bread, the right, sour dough and bottom left, cheese bread.  i know this bread was served hot because we actually got our first course shortly after our bread arrived and after we ate our first course and got to the bread it was still really warm.  they were all tasty breads...i just had to try a little of each because i was starting to get full already!  i know...i was only at the first course! 

first course, grilled cheese panini and tomato soup...

this was so cute...grilled bread with a very thin slice of brie and a couple of slices of oven roasted tomatoes.  i wished the slice of brie was thicker to balance out the amount of bread we had.  the tomatoes were so big and a little tough to chew through, so when you took a bite of it, that whole slice came right out and slapped your chin, and you had to quickly get it in your mouth so you don't have this big red slice of tomato hanging from your lips.  kind of like when you eat onion rings and you can't get through the onion and the whole slice comes out of the batter and burns your chin if its super hot.  does this happen to any of you or am i the only person that this happens to.  if i am the only one, i wouldn't be surprised...but laura did in fact have the same issue with the tomato that i experienced. 

the soup was chilled and very light.  it didn't have a super intense tomato flavor, but i wondered if there was a bit of chicken stock in there as well.  it was nice.  for a first course, i thought it was quite large...especially since we had another small course coming.

next up was our caesar salad fondue and truffled mac n' cheese.

cute presentation, but not the easiest way to eat it.  the crisp hearts of romaine leaves were fun to dip into the dressing at the bottom of the dish it was stuffed into.  dressing was simple, and yes, i did add a touch of s & p once i ate most of the leaves and made some room in there. 

i love black truffles and was super excited to try the mac n' cheese.  you can see that the noodles don't look super cheesy or creamy.  so it was a little on the drier side, and made you wish that it was coated more heavily in creamy cheese.   not till you hit the bottom of the dish was there more cheese that you could mix your noodles into.  that would be the down fall of this dish...not enough cheese.  great idea, foods people love, but it just needed a bit more help to take it to the next level.  at this point, i was seriously content and would've been fine if i didn't eat more...but we had two more course coming. 

out comes our entress...

denice and dave ordered the potato crusted chilean seabass with the orange reduction and fresh dill.  the crust seemed to be seasoned but the fish itself didn't.  so it needed some help.  it felt like the fish was a bit overcooked, it was too firm.  it did not flake easily...and you really needed a knife for this.  if only they had seasoned it more and not overcooked it...its such a shame.  i had ordered extra sauce for my short ribs, so i mixed in a bit of butter to "soften" the sauce and ate it with the fish which was something it desparately needed. 

the real star of the meal...

these short ribs were braised in rum and pepper for 30 hours.  whoa!  30 hours!  ok, let me talk about short ribs for a moment.  i typically love them falling off the bone and really saucey, and when i saw it cut up on my plate like that, i immediately thought of my experience at ad hoc, one of thomas keller's restaurants up in napa valley.  we had short ribs braised, cut up, seared and served to us family style.  and God help me, i love thomas keller and his food, but i was not at all impressed with his short ribs...and that made me really sad.  last night's ribs were so tender, well seasoned and just a joy to eat.  there was a simple potato puree and a melange of fresh vegetables. 

as i mentioned earlier, i asked for extra sauce...this wasn't your typical red wine veal stock reduction.  it tasted strongly of soy sauce and was in fact a bit salty to me.  it was fine, but lacked the richness you get from a really great veal stock reduction.  in order to mellow out the saltiness,  i added the butter to kill it.  not only did it mellow it out, but it also thickened the sauce up nicely.  overall though, what a great dish.  i know i like to make my own little changes to things to create that perfect bite, but this meat was so well cooked.  i was so full, but could not bear to waste any of this tender meat, so besides having shared some of the ribs, i forced myself to eat the last piece.  *oink oink*

omg...one more course...dessert.  chocolate heaven.

starting at the top, a demitasse of rich hot chocolate, in the middle, chocolate mousse on a gianduja crust (chocolate and hazelnut), bottom, chocolate sorbet.

you know, i woke up this morning and felt like i could still taste the chocolate and i seriously wanted to eat this...again.  the hot chocolate was warm and just slightly thick, but wasn't overly sweet.  that chocolate mousse with the crispy gianduja crust was so nice especially when paired with a bit of the unsweetened whipped cream.  you could really taste the hazelnuts in there...that was so good.  and omg...that chocolate sorbet!  holy moly!!  it was such a creamy, wonderful chocolate flavor, more on the milk chocolate side and not too sweet at all.  typically sorbets have no air whipped into which creates a more dense and flavor packed product.  which is very true in this case.  wow...i seriously could eat any of this dessert again right now as i'm talking about it! 

so, who cares about what a place looks like when the food is great?!  i don't.  (really, it was just the curtains)  what a great evening of catching up with friends and enjoying such a wonderful and memorable meal.  though we had a couple of misses, or at least a couple of dishes that needed just a bit more help, overall, the concepts were good and the food was tasty.  i would like to return and try their crab ravilolis.  (i believe it was crab)  but if not, i'd come back just to eat the short ribs because that is a staple on their menu.  if you can come during restaurant week, i urge you to do it.  the fish and the beef are typically $33 each as entrees (or something close to that).  this meal was a steal at $40!  take advantage and check it out!  especially if  you love chocolate...so amazing! 

had a terrific time! thank you denice, barry, laura and dave!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

sonny's in san clemente

Sonny's Pizza & Pasta
429 N El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672
(949) 498-2540

i am on a search for some great pizza here in southern california...is it possible?  i hope so!  i love all kinds of pizza, but today i wanted to find some great thin crust pizza.  i love ny style, but no one really wanted to drive down to san diego so we headed to san clemente.  all i knew was that these pizzas are from italian restaurants.  so i was being completely open to whatever we ate.

sonny's wasn't even on my list of places to try, but my eating partner for the day, dave, had quite a few recommendations from friends and coworkers that this place was awesome!  the reason why we came down to san clemente was because another friend phil, recommended tina and vince's italian deli for some great pizza.  (and take home raviolis)

after a bit of searching, we found it! 

woohoo!  but wait!

what the...  no no...no inconvenience tina and vince.  you guys work hard, so i hope you actually enjoy your mini-vacay!   restaurateurs have a very tough life...so it is well deserved. 

next door we were distracted by a store called waraku, we were informed that all the clothes and shoes came directly from japan.  so anyhow...we met these ladies in the store that also recommended sonny's and they said the garlic bread was awesome and super garlicky. 

THEN on my facebook, another friend  said sonny's was her favorite too!  so with all these great recommendations, we headed off to the restaurant which was just down the street from tina and vince's and got the last parking space in the lot and headed in to eat.  woo hoo!  love good parking karma.

it was such a gorgeous day, so we sat outside on the patio and started to decide what we wanted to order, of course pizza was number one on our list.  but what kind should we get?  typically when i am searching for great pizza, i'm a bit of a purist, and i normally just get a cheese pizza so that i can get a good sense and taste of the crust.  since we all know that THAT is the key to all great pizza.  since it wasn't just me...we decided on the pizza margherita.  their most popular pizza in the roman orgy...but with all the toppings that go on that pizza, i don't think the crust can handle it and it would become soggy.  but i'll get more into the pizza in a little bit.

someone also mentioned the creamy house dressing was terrific, so we got a basic house salad with the creamy italian, a side of garlic bread and a side of meat balls (my best friend LOVES meat balls, so i wanted to check them out for her...since right now, the best ones we've had are at Nora's in las vegas.) 

out comes our salad...

nice combination of lettuces, garbanzo beans, julienned red onions, mozzerella and cherry tomatoes.  i picked out a few very large pieces of rotten lettuce, which the waitress later saw on my napkin and apologized for.  the dressing as you can see, is not necessarily creamy, its more of what i would called a broken dressing.  that's when everything just separates and doesn't stay emulsified.  the dressing was quite garlicky, but it completely lacked salt, so it didn't have much taste at all, it was alright.  the salad was just ok.

next out...garlic bread!

the lady at the store said it was super garlicky, but these first top pieces didn't have much garlic bits on it and i really felt like the garlic flavor came more from powdered or granulated garlic vs. fresh.  but you can see the little flecks of what looks like dried onions.  

the bottom pieces were more saturated in oil/butter...

here you can see more bits of garlic.  the overall taste of this bread wasn't at all dominated by just garlic, in fact it tasted a lot like onion and herbs to me.  whatever they used, which i think is a lot of dried onions and powders, leaves a bit of a funky after taste.  its not how i normally want my garlic bread to taste.  so, again, this was just ok.  everything so far that i'm saying about the salad and bread, dave agreed with me.

ok, finally...the star of our meal!!

dave digs in...

just another view of the pizza and all the ingredients on top...

do you see those giant chunks of tomatoes?  the crust looked like it would be crispy and crunchy.  hold on, lets back up and talk about the tomatoes again.  there is a reason why many places actually put sliced tomatoes on there vs. chunks...and i believe the reason is that it sits more lightly on the pizza and doesn't weigh down the crust.  when you put these giant chunks on there its so heavy that the crust cannot withstand it, plus it also gives off too much juice making the crust soggier.  thus, making it very difficult to pick up the slice to eat.  i will say that they were incredibly generous with their toppings, but it was almost too much for a pizza margherita.  one of the things when getting the margherita is that it is such a simple pizza and sometimes, less is more. 

dough dough dough...making a great dough is so hard to achieve.  so when it came to the crust...dave and i were really disappointed, it wasn't super crispy, and could've been just a hair thinner.  it was definitely better closer to the edges.  i did in fact take all the toppings off so that i could truly taste just the crust...and it was just...not good.  i think they use so much toppings and flavors so it masks the mediocre crust.  i'm going it keep it brief...it tasted like cardboard to me. i took me awhile to figure out what it was that i was tasting, which wasn't a whole lot. but when the word cardboard popped into my head...*sigh* that's what it was.  i'm very sorry to have to say that.

i'm so sorry tracy...i wish i could say something nicer so far...but, it isn't going so well at this point! 

last thing we ordered...meatballs.

a side of meatballs, two in a bowl of marinara.

nice size

i opened it up so you can see all the herbs and texture of the meatball.  let's start with texture, this was tender, but it was very mealy to me.  they had a ton of herbs in there, which tasted a little strange to me, and i couldn't pinpoint what the actual herbs were...the marinara was ok.  from everything we tasted, i think they like to use a lot of dried herbs (nothing wrong with that), but they are very heavy handed with it as well which then becomes too overwhelming and overpowers everything.  i love herbs, but not like this.  like i said earlier, i still think the best meatballs i've had so far are from Nora's Italian Cuisine in vegas...tender, flavorful, but not over seasoned with herbs.

dave and i were not that impressed with our whole eating experience.  we saw some great looking pastas that other people ordered, which i wouldn't mind trying if i ever went back.  but i wouldn't order a pizza from here again, nor would i probably get any of the other things we had.  they do use a lot of garlic, which i could taste in my mouth for hours later on.  i know people love garlic, but i don't believe you should cover everything in garlic...at least that's my opinion.  i like other flavors besides garlic in my food.

honestly, i really want to find places that other people enjoy so much and be able to say that i loved it...but i can't, not with sonny's.  it was just ok food for me and dave, and again, we both agreed...not worth the drive.

for those of you who love it...i know you won't stop going and i'm sorry i don't feel the same way.  there is another recommendation for pizza in san clemente, possibly rocco's...so i will try that and tina and vince's next time i head out there.   as for driving a far distance...i'm going to make that trek down to san diego to try pizzeria luigi's one day soon. 

the search for the ultimate pizza in southern california continues...