Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Jagerhaus German Restaurant

In early November, I was looking for suggestions of where to eat close to the Arrowhead Pond and luckily, "SouthOCHound" from chowhound.com offered up Jagerhaus. I actually haven't been to a German restaurant before so I was definitely looking forward to checking this place out. I have to say that Jagerhaus is a great find.

The interior of Jagerhaus had a very homey feel to it. Flowered wallpaper and wood panelling surrounded us as we were seated, by a very warm and friendly hostess. Soon after being seated, we were served really wonderful bread. Warm and soft and with pumpernickel being my favorite, I had to remember to share with my dinner partner.

For dinner, I started with the goulash soup and than with my cabbage roll entree, I order sauerkraut and potato pancakes as my sides. The goulash soup was thick and hearty and tasty chunks of vegetables and meat. I really liked it a lot, except for the fact that it had a funny tangy after taste. :(

The cabbage roll was amazing. They didn't scrimp at all when it came to the meat. I honestly think it was actually a mini meatloaf that they just happened to wrap a couple cabbage leaves around, cooked and then served. The meat was moist and I liked the small chunks of onions that was mixed with the meat because it added some great flavor to this dish.

As for the sides, the sauerkraut was actually too sour for my palate. One or two bites and that was enough for me. I really enjoyed my potato pancakes, at least the outer edges. My one complaint is that they didn't fry it all the way though. The middle was not browned and a little mushy. If I didn't have that mushy middle, the potato pancakes would have been perfect.

For dessert, I shared the German Chocolate Cake and wow, what an awesome cake. Sometimes German Chocolate Cakes can err on the coconut being too dry, but this cake was so moist as was the coconut. The frosting was also creamy and full of chocolate goodness.

Other than a few glitches, I really enjoyed my meal at Jagerhaus and would make a return trip if I'm ever back in Anaheim again.

To see pics, go to:

2525 East Ball Road
Anaheim, CA 92806
(714) 520-9500

Dinner at Babita

Earlier in the year, I finally got to check out Babita's for the first time. To tell you the truth, Mexican Cusine has always been my last choice whenever it was time to dine out. My experience at that time consisted of Acapulco, El Torito, fast food Mexican (Taco Bell, Del Taco) and other Mexican restaurants that weren't that memorable. Opening up a menu and seeing rows of burritos, tacos, enchilada options always ended up with me heaving a big sigh.

Not that I don't enjoy those dishes, but they all just seemed the "same" to me. After perusing Chowhound, I kept on hearing raves about Babita in San Gabriel and finally decided to make the trek there and wow, what a revelation. For the first time, I experienced the tender juicy meat of conchinita pibil (sp?) and had a delicious bite or two of the mole enchiladas and the roast pork loin that were ordered by others in my party. My sweet tooth was also ecstatic over the creamy guava mousse that I had for dessert. Overall, it was a awesome experience and really jumpstarted my desire to really explore more Mexican as well as Latin American and South American Cuisine.

Now towards the end of the year, I wanted to make my way back to Babita's to see if the food was just as good now as the first time and let me tell you, it was! My starter was a duo of soups: half pumpkin and roasted guava. Those of us who ordered that soup were told not to mix them together, but to eat them separately so that the integrity of the flavors can be kept. The pumpkin soup had just the right amount of sweet which balanced really well with the roasted guava soup that had an actual bite to it.

I shared two dishes with someone else in my party: the chiles en nogada and the enchiladas with a dark mole sauce. The Chiles En Nogada was delicious and with the Poblano Pepper being baked, the texture of the pepper was soft. The meat filling was tasty and moist while the sauce, though a little too sweet for me, partnered well with the pomengranate seeds, which added some tartness to the dish overall.

The enchiladas in the mole sauce was also superb. The dark mole sauce had wonderful complex flavorings from a little nutty to a little sweet to having just a little heat (not spicy, just flavorful) and although I thought there was a little too much sour cream, my, my, it did add a pretty lacy look to my dish. As for dessert, I just had a small sampling of the chocolate tamale and I gotta to say that was the best chocolate tamale I ever had. Rich, dark and sinful!

Overall, my second meal at Babita was fantastic and next time I won't wait so long to make a return visit.

To see pics, go to:

823 S. San Gabriel Blvd.

San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 288-7265

Saigon Cuisine in Santa Ana

One Saturday I was in Orange County visiting a friend and we decided to check out a Vietnamese restaurant that was close to the movie theater we were going to see a movie at later on that evening. The restaurant's name is Saigon Cuisine. The menu looked interesting, but I was really in the mood for soup so I ordered the Crispy Chicken Noodle Soup, but once I saw that Avocado Milkshakes were on the menu, I had to have that, too.

I have to say that I really enjoyed that milkshake. It was thick and creamy and even had little chunks of avocado that hadn't been completely blended through. It was so good that I wish I had one in front of me right now. :)

I also liked my soup. It could have been a little richer, but it still had a good flavor. The crispy chicken, by the way, came out separately and it was fried to deep golden brown perfection. If I hadn't had the soup, I would have been just as happy to eat that chicken all by itself, even if my arteries would have been complaining the whole time.

My friend ordered the dry Vermicelli with eggroll, shrimp and pork and gave it a thumb's up. Overall, I'd make my way back to Saigon Cuisine again and this time with a bigger appetite so that I can sample more dishes.

To see pics, go to:

Saigon Cuisine
3930 South Bristol Street Suite 109
Santa Ana, CA 92704

Lunch at Teri & Yaki

I've been going to Teri & Yaki in the city of Monrovia off and on for a couple of years now, but after having lunch there this past Saturday, I finally decided to give it a review and share some photos of the food.

Teri & Yaki originally positioned itself as a chicken only teriyaki house. Now they also serve beef teriyaki, but for me, it's all about the chicken whenever I eat there. Normally, I'm not much of a teriyaki person. Whenever I've ordered any kind of teriyaki dish, I've always found the sauce to be overly sweet, so I pretty much gave up on teriyaki sauce as a whole.

However, when I first tried the chicken teriyaki at Teri & Yaki awhile back, I finally found the teriyaki sauce of my dreams. The sauce still had some sweetness to it, but not overly so and there was also that hint of soy sauce saltiness that balanced it all out for me. To this day, the only time I'll eat teriyaki anything is at Teri-Yaki. It also didn't hurt that the chicken even the white meat is moist.

What I also really like are the various side dishes you can order with your chicken teriyaki. I can never decide so I usually end up getting 3 sides of either the spicy slaw, spicy cucumber, cold bean sprouts or the seasoned spinach and end up taking home leftovers. The vegetables always seem really fresh to me regardless of what time of day that I have my meal there.

Although I don't find the spicy slaw or spicy cucumber that spicy, I still like that tang and hint of hotness of whatever chili sauce they use for those two sides and the bean sprouts usually have a nice crunchy nutty taste to them which I always enjoy. With all these particular sides being cold, I can appreciate the flavors differently from the teriyaki chicken.

Overall, Teri-Yaki may not necessarily be a destination place, but I enjoy it time after time, because the food is consistently good, fresh and then of course, there's my favorite teriyaki sauce.

To see pics, go to:

Teri & Yaki
106 S. Myrtle Avenue
Monrovia, CA 91016
(626) 256-6705


"Soup's On!" - Clam Chowder at Original Fish Company

New England Style Clam Chowder is definitely one of my favorite wintertime soups and after having experienced the fabulous clam chowder at Splash Cafe in SLO earlier in the year, I was definitely on the lookout for a Socal version.

Before I go on, let me preface that I've never been to New England, which means I've never tried authentic New England Clam Chowder, so I can't attest to how "authentic" is the clam chowder at OFC. All I can tell you about is how my taste buds reacted.

I can say for sure that my tastebuds were completely happy. Although not as good as the one I had at Splash Cafe, this version came pretty close. This version of the New England Clam Chowder was thick, creamy, buttery with a good amount of clams and was the kind of soup that will warm you up and stick to your ribs. Delicious!

I almost wish that I just had a large bowl as my entire meal instead of just a cup. The filet mignon and shrimp skewer that I ordered for my entree was less than stellar.

By the way, since Manhattan Clam Chowder was also on the menu, I ordered a cup of that as well to check it out. I think the overall flavor was good and had a nice little kick to it, but it seemed oversalted to me so I only had 2 or 3 spoonfuls and that was enough for me.

Overall, my soup experience was very positive and with the Original Fish Company only 35 minutes away, I'd be willing to make the return trek just to savor their New England Style Clam Chowder again. :)

To see pics, go to:


The Original Fish Company
11061 Los Alamitos Blvd.
Los Alamitos, CA 90720
(562) 594-4553

Maru & Mayflower Seafood Restaurant

Maru (Koreatown)

Just a couple quickie reviews. I checked out Maru Korean Cuisine for the second last August and wasn't wowed by the food. It wasn't bad, but just not spectacular plus language was a bit of a barrier to the point that the two ladies there pulled in another business owner to help with taking our orders. Also, there were some items we wanted to order but they had run of them already, so that was another pain.

356 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90020

To see pics, go to:

Mayflower Seafood Restaurant (Chinatown)

I also checked out for Mayflower Seafood Restaurant in Chinatown for the first time a couple of weeks ago. There were only two of us so we weren't able to do a large sampling of their extensive menu, but what we did ordered we really liked a lot.

The waitress recommended the Mayflower Lobster Special and along with that we ordered the spinach with crab meat and the steam whole fish. That lobster was to die for. Lots of garlic plus the lobster meat was moist. We were very happy.

The steamed fish was also a hit. The white meat was delicate and also moist and the sauce which may have been soy sauce and ginger perhaps was excellent.

The spinach was nothing spectacular and of course, this was ordered the night that the reports came out about the E-Coli outbreak and I didn't know anything about any of this until I saw the news later on that night.

Anyway, the two seafood items we ordered really were delicious and I look forward to going back and trying out more items from their menu.

Mayflower Seafood Restaurant
679 N Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 628-0116

To see pics, go to:

Dinner at Maison Akira

It's amazing to me how sometimes the restaurants closest to you are the ones you take the longest to try. In the past few months, I've driven into Gardena, Hollywood, Downtown, Silver Lake, etc., etc. to check out new restaurants but having lived just 15 minutes away from Pasadena for the past 20+ years, it was only a few weeks ago that I finally had dinner at Maison Akira, a Japanese-French fusion restaurant.

What the heck was I waiting for all this time? So far I've been to over 100 new (new for me) restaurants just this year and I can tell you right now that Maison Akira is definitely one of my favorites.

The restaurant itself was quite a study in contrast. The front dining room was more simple in its look and design while the back dining rooms had rich colors and beautifully patterened drapes separating a couple of the rooms from each other.

Upon looking at the menu, the majority of my dining group opted for the pre-fixed menu, a five course meal for $50. What a great price and believe me, you got your money's worth.

While I enjoyed every single bite from the amuse bouche all the way to dessert, the two highlights of my meal were actually Chef Akira Hirose's signature dishes.

First there was the Grilled Miso Marinated Chilean Sea Bass in a Honey Lemon Jus on Roasted Provencal Vegetables. Wow! Can I say that again? Wow! That Chilean sea bass was the best I've ever had. The fish was delicate, moist and practically melted in my mouth. I can tell you right now that every Chilean Sea Bass I have in the future will definitely be compared to the one I had that night.

Then there was my dessert, which was called the Timbal Elysee "Laserre". The presentation was so beautiful that I almost didn't want to eat it. Almost. This dessert had pure vanilla bean ice cream in a cookie tuile with fresh berries, a caramel dome and was served with a raspberry and vanilla sauce.

According to our waitress, the best way to eat this dessert is to take your spoon and press down so that it breaks and that way, you'll be able to eat some of the components at the same time.

This signature dessert had lots of textures. Between the "crunch" aspect of the cookie, the creaminess of the ice cream, the juicy berries and everything else, this is definitely one of the best desserts that I've ever had.

Overall, I had a really lovely experience at Maison Akira. The service was excellent. Our waitress was knowledgeable and of course, the food was delectable. I definitely am looking forward to a return visit sometime soon.

To see pics, go to:

Maison Akira

713 East Green Street
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 796-9501

Patina & Blair's

Patina (located at Walt Disney Concert Hall)

After hearing mixed reviews about Patina, I wasn't su
re what to expect, but thankfully, from start to finish, it was a great experience, at least food-wise. Service was a bit spotty sometimes, but it could have been worse.

In regards to food, I have to say that the appetizers were superb. The majority of the group ordered the Quartet of the Sea, which consists of 4 different seafood appetizers served all on one plate. It's a dish that changes depending on the seasonality of the seafood ingredients.

However, I ordered the Maryland lump crab cannelloni and melon appetizer and it was a big hit for me. The sweetness of the crab and the refreshing melon merged together in perfect harmony.

Everyone als
o enjoyed their entrees and desserts. Unfortuantely, my pictures of the entrees came out too blurry, so you won't see them in the photoset below. While everyone went for the lamb or the seafood dishes, I opted for the Crispy Jidori Chicken Breast with Lavendar. While I can't say that I tasted much Lavendar, the chicken skin was crispy and delicious and the breast skin was moist and tender, which is always a welcome thing.

For dessert, I went for the sorbet ice cream which included tahitian vanilla, a rich dark chocolate, chamomille lemon and unfortunately, I don't remember the 4th flavor. I really enjoyed the chamomille lemon and would have been happy with just that being the only sorbet in my dish. Unfortuantely, I didn't keep any notes on the desserts, so I don't remember the names of some of the other dishes, but you can at least see pictures of two of them below.

Blair's (Silverlake)

I've been hearing about Blair's for a while now, but it wasn't until last month that I finally got to experience it for myself. For those of you who don't know, Blair's positions itself as a bistro that serves New American Cuisine. If you want to know more about New American Cuisine, you can find out more on their website because here I'm just going to concentrate on the food.

Blair's menu is seasonal which is nice because they take advantage of what the best ingredients are for that time of year. For my dinner there, I went all the way from appetizer to dessert and what a treat my meal was. I started with the roasted beets, avocado and goat cheese on mixed greens with a beet vinaigrette.

This was a great salad with a lot of great textures and flavors: the creaminess of the avocado, the saltiness of the goat cheese and the weediness, slightly bitterness of the greens combined with the beets for great eating. My entree was the risotto with the butternut squash and also had unusual ingredients. How often do you see collard greens with butternut squash? At first, I wasn't sure about this combo, but the greens actually cut down the sweetness of the squash and actually balanced the dish really well.

Dessert was the caramel pudding trifle with strawberries, whipped cream and buttermilk cake. What I liked about this dessert is that it wasn't overly sweet and I don't think I've ever had a dessert that was made up of pudding and fruit before, so that made this dessert a little more different for me anyway.

Overall, both Patina's and Blair's were great restaurant experiences for me and I would definitely be more than happy to return to either of them in the future.


141 S Grand Ave (Cross Street: West Third Street)
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213) 972-3331

To see pics, go to:

Blair's Restaurant

2903 Rowena Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90039 (323) 660-1882

To see pics, go to:

Lunch at Atlacatl

Lunch at Atlacatl

After taking part in a Metro Art Tour, I had lunch with my dining group at Atlacatl, an El Salvadorean restaurant and it was really hit and miss for me. Actually, it was more miss than anything else. Most of the group ordered family-style primarily from the snacks section of the menu so that we could sample multiple items.

Of the 9 different items that we picked from the menu, 1 was great, 2 were okay and everything else I probably would never order again. In fact, it's highly unlikely, I'll ever go back to Atlacatl again. The one item I enjoyed a lot was their deep fried pork turnovers, which were golden brown on the outside with tasty and juicy pork in the inside. But then how could anyone possibly go wrong with deep-fried food.

Lunch at Atlacatl

Of the two pupusas we ordered, I preferred the one that had bean, cheese, loroco and pork. I wasn't necessarily wowed by it, but at least, it had more flavor than the other pupusa we ordered.  I don't know what it is with me and pupusas. I have a feeling it's just not one of my favorite foods. I've tried pupusas at a couple other restaurants, but they never really wow me that much.

Lunch at Atlacatl

As for items that I didn't like, the two tamales we ordered didn't do it for me at all. The consistency of the masa was very spongy and it reminded me of that bread you eat with Ethiopian food. That bread is fine with Ethiopian food, but for tamales, definitely not for me.

Lunch at Atlacatl

A couple of the items also seemed overly sweet to me like their milk pies and their sweet fried plantains. With the sweet plantains, eating it with the sour cream and beans cut down that sweetness a bit, but I just didn't care for the mix of flavors that much.

Lunch at Atlacatl

Overall, I wouldn't make a return trip to Atlacatl anytime soon. I'm hoping that it's just the quality and flavors of the food at Atlacatl in particular that's unappealing and that I'll have a more positive and delicious experience of Salvordean cuisine elsewhere.

301 N Berendo St
Los Angeles, CA, 90004

Raspados, Frescas, Licuados and More at Nevera

During the few times I've visited Hispanic marketplaces and saw signs of various beverages for sale like raspados, licuados, frescas, etc., I honestly always felt a bit overwhelmed. I wasn't quite sure what the difference was between all the drinks. There were some things I was familiar with like horchata, which is usually a staple at most Mexican restaurants. I've seen and had cantaloupe water drinks, which is a drink that is also popular in the Philippines. But what was a Vampiro or a Diabilito? Can you tell that it was the bright red drinks that tended to attract my eye? :)

To find out more, I set up a Mexican beverage tasting at Nevera Fruit Creations in Bell where we sampled a variety of drinks as well as other tasty treats. Our tasting started not with anything to drink; however, but watching the ingredients added and mixed to make Bionoco, which is a mix of fresh fruit sliced smothered with rich cream and topped with granola, almonds, raisins, dried coconut and wheat flakes. That Bionoco was delicious, sweet, juicy and refreshing. It would be great for a hot summer day.

After enjoying the Bionico, we sampled a Licuado, which is equivalent to a smoothie. Like a smoothie, a Licuado is a blend of fresh fruits, juice and ice. The Licuado we had was called a Poderoso, a mixture of milk, honey, strawberries, granola and pecans. You could really taste the strawberries in this drink.

Following the Licuado, we tried two different Jugos, which is a beverage made up of juices freshly squeezed from fresh fruit and vegetables. The first one was the ominous-sounding Vampiro. The Vampiro is a mix of oranges, carrots and beets and let me tell you, Vampiro is the appropriate name considering the color of this drink. The Vampiro had very interesting flavors. You get citrusy-tart from the oranges, a bit of sweet from the carrots, but I was truly amazed at the beets. When cooked, beets are pretty mild, but blended raw, the flavor of the beets was really strong, but interestingly enough, I liked that this drink had a bite to it. No pun intended. :)

The other Jugo we tried was the Dietico and the purpose of the Dietico is obvious by its name. It's a drink for those who are looking to lose weight. Dietico is a blend of celery, pineapple, grapefruit and cactus. Apparently, it's the cactus that's supposed to have the diuretic properties. I really didn't care for the Dietico that much. There was an aftertaste that wasn't appealing to the drink.

After watching a juicing demonstration, we all got a small sample of mango with chamoy sauce. Oh...My...God! That chamoy sauce was out of this world. We were told that the chamoy sauce is made of peaches and chili. It was hot and sweet. I'm not sure what else it's used for, but I can see it as a glaze for shrimp or fish or some kind of seafood.

After coming down from my chamoy sauce high, we went on to check out Raspados. Raspados are drinks made up of shaved ice with fruit syrups and diced fresh fruits. We had a choice of one out of three we could try and of course, I had to have the Diabilito and what do you know, this particular Raspado had tamarind and mango with chamoy sauce. Back to the chamoy sauce again for me.

I've always been a fan of tamarind, which has tangy, sour, slightly sweet flavors and when you combine that with the mango and that hot-sweet chamoy sauce, my tastebuds were all a-tingle.

After all the chamoy excitement, we went on to try a couple of different atoles. An Atole is a cornstarch-based Mexican drink that come in many fruit flavors. The chocolate atole is known as champurrado.

One atole was strawberry-flavored and when drinking it, it reminded me of a hot strawberry milkshake. A little too sweet for my taste, but still good. It was the guava atole that really got my attention. I can eat fresh guavas by the truckful and guava juice is my favorite juice, so I was really looking forward to a hot guava drink. I totally loved that drink. It wasn't too sugary and I could really taste the guavas with every sip. Forget hot chocolate. I'd take a guava atole anytime.

After being warmed up by the atoles, we were cooled down by two different Frescas. Fresca is a water beverage flavored and sweetened with fruits and flowers. Horchata is considered a Fresca. We sampled two Frescas, one was a pineapple water and the other was a cucumber, lime and honey drink.

The pineapple water seemed too watered down for me, but then I prefer my pineapple juice straight. What I really liked was the cucumber, lime and honey drink. It was cool and refreshing. I can see myself drinking that iced on a really hot summer day and feeling cooled down afterwards.

Overall, my dining group had a great time at Nevera's. I know we learned a lot. Now when I see those drinks for sale, I know what I'm looking at and of course, I'm heading straight for the nearest Diabilito and that yummy chamoy sauce.

To see pics, go to:

4846 Florence Avenue, #101
Bell, CA, 90201


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Spicy Filipino Food at Alejandro's - CLOSED

Having found my new favorite Filipino restaurant, Alejandro's, in Glassell Park, I decided to make a return trip for lunch this past weekend. This time around, I decided to choose items on the menu that I've never had before. whether at home or at other Filipino restaurants. After choosing a couple of items on my own and getting some opinions from the waitress, who just happened to be the Owner's daughter, I chose 4 unique dishes (at least to me). See below for my take on them.

1) Bicol Express (seafood sauteed in coconut milk)

A specialty of the Bicol province, Bicol Express is a spicy seafood dish that also includes pork. The sweetness of the shrimp, the slightly chewy texture of the calamari, the delicate white fish along with the crunchy vegetables and the spicy coconut sauce was a heavenly combination. The overall flavor profile to me was sweet-heat.

2) Bagoong Fried Rice (fried rice with pork and shrimp paste)

Bagoong is a very pungent shrimp paste and not for the faint of heart, but mixed with the fried rice, you still get the salty-sweet pop of flavor without it being too overwhelming.

3) Ginataang Laing (taro leaves cooked in thick coconut sauce)

This is the first time I've ever had cooked taro leaves and in general, it reminded me of spinach in terms of flavor and texture.

The coconut sauce is the same coconut used for cooking the Bicol Express, but cooked longer so that it's thickened. With the coconut milk being cooked longer, the sauce seemed less sweet, but it still had a good flavor and still retained a little bit of heat.

4) Sisig (spicy diced pork with bell peppers and onions)

This was a really delicious dish. The pork is fried and the skin is included, so you get that fatty, meaty taste. The vegetables retain their crunchiness. With the chopped chilies included, the whole dish can give quite a punch unless you ask for milder heat.

It turns out you normally won't find this dish on the menus of too many Filipino restaurants.

Usually, sisig is a dish cooked by the men as a "drinking food." The guys would get together, drink, talk and eat and what they would eat are dishes meant just for this activity of male bonding, cooked by the men themselves. Since the sisig was so good, I think I'll have to find out about more of these types of foods so that I can try some other dishes.

I never really thought of Filipino food as being spicy, so other than the fried rice, I was a bit surprised by the other three dishes. When I asked my mom about it, she mentioned that the cuisine of the Bicol province in the Philippines does gear towards being spicier. Coconut milk is also used in a lot of Bicol cooking, which is a Malay influence on that region.

Both the Bicol Express and Taro leaves are Bicol specialties. She also mentioned that taro leaves have to be cooked just right or else they will leave an itchy sensation in your mouth and that Bicol cooks really know the correct way to cook the taro leaves. That's why you'll rarely see the cooked taro leaves on any mainstream Filipino restaurant menus unless there's a Bicol chef in residence.

As for why the sisig is spicy, apparently, a lot of the "drinking" foods also lean towards the spicier side because that's how the guys like it, especially when you combine that food with beer or any of the harder liquors. There's nothing really specifically regional about sisig or even "drinking food." It's a dish cooked in many different provinces.

The heat level of the all the dishes I ordered were mild, but even mild, you still got a little kick in each bite. The next time I order any of these dishes, I'll definitely pump up the volume so that I can experience the dishes as they were meant to be enjoyed, hot and spicy.

To see pics, go to:

4126 Verdugo Rd
Los Angeles 90065

Nicaraguan Mincemeat at El Gallo Pinto

Having previously eaten at El Gallo Pinto, a Nicaraguan restaurant in Azusa, I decided to check it once again during my lunch hour.

Before deciding on my entree, I ordered a drink called Melon Connaranja, which is basically a mixture of cantaloupe and orange juice. Wow, that drink was awesome. The drink was just really smooth and combined both the tart notes of the orange juice and the sweetness of the cantaloupe juice for a very refreshing drink.

After looking at the menu, I settled on mincemeat. When asking about mincemeat, I was told that it was beef, onions and chili peppers that are blended together in a food processor. Upong being served, I noticed that the appearance and the texture of the meat reminded me of ground pork. When tasting, I thought it had a very interesting texture. The meat was soft, but a little chewy, which makes me think that the meat was boiled perhaps?

For being boiled, I actually found the meat a little dry even when I squeezed lime on it per the waitress' suggestion. Perhaps that moisture was lost because of the food processing. It had good flavor because of the onions and the mild chili peppers, but it wasn't really a wow until I poured the restaurant house salsa into the meat and mixed it all together.

That Nicaraguan salsa is just to die for. It's made up of sour orange juice, onions and chili peppers and the sweet tartness of that salsa and the moisture of the orange juice really gave zing to that mincemeat. After that, I really enjoyed that meal.

Of course, the gallo pinto, which is the fried rice and beans that came with the meal and something I had before, was again quite tasty. The beans that are boiled with garlic really add lots of flavor to that rice.

Overall, it was a good meal. I don't think I'd go out of my way to order the Mincemeat again, but at least I can say that I tried it. One interesting thing though is that a couple of weeks later, I was at an El Salvadorean restaurant and mincemenat was on the menu there, too, so perhaps, it's more of a Central American dish in general and not just a Nicaraguan specialty.

To see pics, go to:

El Gallo Pinto

5559 N Azusa Ave
Azusa, CA
(626) 815-9907

"Soup's On!" - Mami Soup at Asian Noodles - CLOSED

With the weather getting cooler, I was definitely looking forward to warming myself up with wintertime soups and stews, so my friend and I thought it'd be fun to organize outings to restaurants that specialize in certain kinds of entree soups, ethnic and otherwise.

With me being Filipina, I wanted to introduce people to a Chinese-inspired, Filipino soup called Mami. First, a little history that I picked up from Wikpedia.

Mami is the creation of Ma Mon Luk, a grade school teacher in Canton. Arriving penniless in Manila, Ma Mon Luk decided to peddle chicken noodle soup, utilizing egg noodles. He soon became a familiar sight in the streets of Manila, plodding down with a long bamboo pole slung on his shoulders with two metal containers on each end. Ma Mon Luk himself called his concoction "gupit", after the Tagalog word for "cut with scissors". Soon however, Filipinos took to calling the dish "mami", an amalgam of Tagalog words for chicken ("manok") and egg noodles ("miki"). Ma Mon Luk also introduced siopao, a steamed bun, which is like the Chinese bao, to Filipino culture and generally, the siopao is eaten as a side to the mami soup.

Anyway, I took the group to experience mami soup at Asian Noodles in Chinatown. While mami is still made up of chicken broth and noodles, you have meat options other than chicken. Now you can get mami soup with beef, pork or won ton. I opted for the Classic Filipino Mami, which has chicken and pork.

My mami soup was excellent. The broth was flavorful with the green onions adding just the right amount of zip. The noodles were cooked just right and not overdone and the meat was tender. What was nice is that they also put out a couple of bowls of extra broth so as you ran out, you could add more to your mami.

Along with the mami, I had the bola bola siopao, which had a filling of chicken, pork, sausage and salted egg. You can also order siopao with just chicken or pork fillings.

In regards to the siopao fillings, regardless of what type of meat is used, the filling tends to be on the sweet side. Usually, the siopao meat mixture has sugar and soy sauce as part of its ingredients. I think the combo of the two gives siopao a unique sweet-salty flavor. That sweet-salty flavor also gets carried into the sauce that the siopao is dipped in since it is also made up of sugar, soy sauce along with other ingredients. What I like about the bola bola siopao is that the sausage and the salted egg will cut down the sweetness of the filling even more, so that when I break off a piece to dip it in the siopao sauce, all the flavors are balanced well.

By the way, an interesting thing that the manager told us is that the number of red dots showing up on the siopao will tell you which kind of siopao you have. By the way, Bola Bola siopaos only have one red dot.

Whenever I eat mami, I'm reminded me of those moments growing up as a kid, when the rainy season would come and when my Mom didn't feel like cooking, she'd pile the whole family in the car and we'd head off for a steaming hot bowl of Mami soup at a local Filipino restaurant. No words were needed as we enjoyed each spoonful to the last drop. Essentially, mami soup is really just another version of chicken noodle soup, but regardless of what name it goes by, it's good comfort food that will warm you from the inside out and it certainly did its job that evening.

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Asian Noodles

643 N Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90012