Friday, May 25, 2007
So off I went and ordered 2 pupusas and a taco to bring home for lunch. Once I got home, I sat down and eagerly opened up the foil and took my first look at them. One was a cheese and squash blossom and the other was pork and bean. I have to say that they were looking pretty good. I saw the grill marks and while these pupusas weren't as thick as the ones I had at Grand Central Market, they still were a good size.
Being a cheesehead, I bet you know which one I went for first. The cheese and squash blossom pupusa was delicious. I would have liked more cheese, but than I think that's the cheese greed talking. I did top some of the sections with the pickled veggies that came with the order, but found them too warm and promptly removed them. Those pickled veggies were put in a ziploc, which I don't think was a good idea because I think they were warmed by the hot food in the bag. But then that cabbage and stuff was just garnish and I was perfectly fine with the pupusa just on its own.
Then I went for the pork & bean pupusa, which I found pretty tasty. The only problem was that the filling was a tad too oily and also just a little too salty, which didn't take away too much from my eating enjoyment, but this pupusa would have been more of a home run if those two things weren't put into play.
I was actually filled up by the time I got to the Carne Asada taco. I don't know what I was thinking when I ordered it. In looking at it, I can say that El Salvadoreno wasn't shy with their toppings. I couldn't even pick up the taco without stuff flying everywhere. I finally settled for just taking a few bites with my fork. The carne asada, though not spectacular, was not bad. It could have been more flavorful and a little more tender, but at least, it was certainly filling.
Overall, the pupusas definitely left a good impression and I'd go back for more as well as to try other El Salvadorian specialties that I spied on the menu while waiting for my order. This is definitely not a fancy place, but I'd rather have good food than good ambiance.
To see pics, go to:
1313 Huntington Dr
Duarte, CA 91010
I tried the tabbouleh salad first and was a little disappointed. It was lacking a tartness that I normally look for in this type of dish but overall, it tasted fresh and was a nice starter.
Then it came time to try out the chicken. Looking at it, I would have liked a crispier skin plus it looked kind of bland. It was obvious that other than probably a little salt, it lacked spices or a marinade. By the appearance alone, it needed something.
As for the chicken itself, I found it pretty tender and moist and considering that breast meat can lean towards dry, I was happily surprised that this chicken was not tasting like the Sahara desert. However, having a palate that likes big flavors, this chicken was boring.
When I tore pieces of the chicken, put it in my bread and added either the garlic paste, the hummus and/or the tabbouleh, finally, it became more of an enjoyable meal, but man, I had to work hard for it. Who wants to work that hard for a meal? But at least, it was hearty and my hunger pangs were taken care of. Sometimes that's all you can ask for.
Considering that that there are other lunch options in the area, I doubt I'd go back to Zorba Chicken anytime soon, but at least for my meal there, I was fairly content.
To see pics, go to:
3621 East Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91102
First, there were the Yak Momos (dumplings). I mentioned them in a previous post, but was curious to see how they would taste a second time around. They didn't disappoint. I'm not sure what kind of seasoning goes into that meat, but it really gives that yak meat great flavor. Just like before, I was perfectly content noshing on that Yak Momo on its own and didn't need any of the sauce to supplement it.
Then there were two chicken dishes that were just out of this world. One was the Kukhura Sekuwa, which was chicken breast marinated with sour cream and Himalayan spices. As we all know, chicken breast can lean towards being as dry as a bone, but this chicken was moist and tender with a sweet-heat flavor that was just delectable. The other was the Chyamtango Pujaari, which was chicken cooked with dry chili, cumin, garlic and Nepali spices Again, the chicken was moist and tasty and the blend of all those great spices just really pumped up the flavor volume without going over the top.
As for the vegetarian dishes, I'm a big fan of the Goodruk which consisted of prepared mustard greens, cabbage and tomato cooked with Nepali spices. I liked how the slight bitterness of the mustard greens combined with the tomato's acidity. Being a fan of bitter melon, it suited my palate. I also really enjoyed the Tofu Saag which was sauteed tofu cooked with pureed spinach and seasoned with Himalayan spices Even though the tofu was deep-fried beforehand, it still absorbed a lot of the great spinach flavor from the sauce.
Another great vegetarian addition was the Arun Valley Saag, which was fresh baby bok choy cooked with Chef's special blended sauce of ginger, garlic, onion, celery, etc. I love ginger so this dish was a hit with me at first bite and when you bring in garlic, this dish could be quite overpowering, but I think this dish is well balanced by the sweetness of the onions and the celery.
In regards to bread, I preferred the Tibetan bread which was deep fried whole wheat bread. It had a light crispy texture that was really enjoyable to eat. I didn't care too much for the Chyamtange Dhopzi, a stone-ground whole wheat leavened bread because of its too chewy texture. It reminded me of bad pita bread.
As for dessert, the house-made rice pudding is always a hit with me. It's light, creamy and offers just the right amount of sweet to end my meal without me feeling as if I over did it.
Overall, this was a great dinner. After all that food, I think all of us could have been rolled out of the door, assuming we would have fit. I have to say that I've never been disappointed by a meal at Tibet Nepal House and this one was no exception.
To see pics, go to:
Tibet Nepal House
36 E Holly St
Pasadena, CA 91103
Out of 11 dishes (including salad and bread), only 3 items really stood out for me. First, there was the Saag Paneer which is stir fried spinach cooked with homemade cheese. The spinach had a nice earthy green taste to it and I liked the consistency of the cheese, which had a bit of a firm texture to it.
If you're going to order anything at all, you definitely have to special order the Chargha, a whole chicken that is marinated & then barbecued in the oven. Now that dish deserves a "Wow!" In fact, it deserves a double "WOW!" The chicken was amazing. It was moist, juicy and tender and the flavor of that marinade was hot and spicy. I have a fairly good "heat" thresh hold, so I was loving it. However, for those you who have a milder palate, this chicken may be way too much to handle. I would go back just for that chicken. It's just that good.
The third dish that I really liked was the Kheer, the rice pudding. It was light, creamy and wasn't overly sweet. After having that fiery chicken I mentioned above, that rice pudding was nice and cooling to my taste buds.
Other than those three dishes and excluding the bread and salad, everything else just tasted the same to me. There just didn't seem to be a distinction of flavors between any of the other dishes, which was kind of disappointing. I wouldn't go out of my way to return to Bilal, although that chicken is awfully tempting, but I wouldn't necessarily avoid it either if I were asked to go back with friends. Overall, the dishes were solid and sometimes that's all you can ask for.
To see pics, go to:
1117 W. Manchester Blvd. #G
Inglewood, CA 90312
Unfortunately, the next two duck dishes were disappointing. The second way was duck that was supposed to be stir-fried with bean sprouts. That duck must have been invisible because I certainly didn't see any mixed with the bean sprouts and even without the duck, the whole dish was just uninteresting.
The third way was Duck Bone Soup with tofu. They really must have cooked those bones to the bitter end because the soup was quite milky. As for the flavor of the soup, I found it bland. I did like the tofu in the soup though. It had a spongier texture to it that I've never experienced before, so I found it quite interesting. In the future, I would just opt for just the Peking Duck, meat and skin, and not even bother with the sprouts or the soup.
Our dining journey at Lu Din Gee did not end with the duck. We actually ordered 8 other dishes. One of the standouts was the Cumin Beef. That is a must order. The beef was really tender. I read in a Jonathan Gold review that there's actually a technique that Lu Din Gee uses called "velveting" that will tenderize the toughest of meats.
In short, it is a technique wherein the meat is marinated in a mixture that includes corn or potato starch and sometimes egg white. Then, it is “oil-blanched” in a vat of deep-frying oil for a very short time until it is partially cooked. Then, the oil is discarded or strained and saved, and the meat is stir fried until it is finished cooking, along with all of the other ingredients of the dish. Sounds like a lot of work for the restaurant, but the results are worth it.
Also, the combo of the cumin, soy sauce and the chili used to cook this dish really gave this dish a lot of flavor and a spicy kick to your taste buds! What more can you ask for?
Along with the duck that had to be pre-ordered, the Buddha Chicken had to be pre-ordered as well. The sight of that dish when it hit our table caused us all to say "Wow!" What we all saw was a whole chicken with the head attached sitting on this large platter. We weren't quite sure what to expect when we cut into it, but what we soon found out was that the whole chicken skin was stuffed with chicken, water chestnuts as well as various seafood. Scoop some of that on your white rice, eat and sigh with bliss. I'm craving some of that Buddha Chicken right now.
Following the Buddha Chicken came the Lotus Nuggets which was basically pan-fried slices of lotus root - another first for me. I really enjoyed the crunchy texture. We also had a crab cooked in sake and black pepper and wouldn't you know it, the restaurant cracked everything for us from the top of the crab to the crab legs. That definitely made for easy eating.
The dish to arrive last was the stir-fried vegetables with bamboo. It seemed odd to get the veggie dish last, but that's how it happened. Yet another first, because this is the first time I ever had bamboo fungus and it was very similar to the spongy tofu in the Duck Bones Soup. Just like the tofu, I really enjoyed the bamboo fungus.
Overall, I really enjoyed my meal at Lu Din Gee and would definitely go back without even thinking about it. The service was so-so, but the food more than made up for it. Plus where else can you get napkins the size of an aspirin that enlarge when you put it in a cup of tea? Once moistened, you than take said napkin to clean off your hands. Like a kid, I found the whole notion of tea expanding napkins quite fascinating. Sometimes we're charmed by the silliest of things, don't you think?
To see pics, go to:
Lu Din Gee
1039 E Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 90189
While Casey's as a bar as been around for over 30 years, the original building built in 1917 started off as a Turkish bath house and made many transformations since then, from a cafeteria than to a part bank, part private supper club. It wasn't until 1969 that Casey's as it is known today began to take shape after it was purchased by Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp, of Van-Frank Restaurant Inc.
Already famous for creating the Tam O'Shanter Inn, on Los Feliz Boulevard and the original Lawry's The Prime Rib on La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills, these two partners now set out to create a one-of-a-kind pub that would withstand the test of time and withstand time it did. Several owners later, Casey is still going strong and serves as Downtown's only Irish Pub.
What's cool about Casey's is that this was the first time I had to walk downstairs to get to a bar or restaurant. Usually, if not at street level, I'll walk upstairs, so Casey's being below street level was something a little different. When I walked in, I just fell in love with the brick entrance, dark wood wall panels, the wood booths and the pictures on the wall, The whole place had a real nice vibe about it.
So let's talk food now. In truth, I wasn't expecting much, but I have to say that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed my meal. I also had tried some of the other dishes that our group ordered and found them tasty as well.
For my entree, I had the Beef & Guinness Pie which was Guinness braised beef with potatoes and carrots topped with puff pastry and I finished it to the last bite. The beef was tender and I really liked the rich flavor of the sauce. Beer and beef was a great combo for this particular dish. I also liked the pastry shell. It wasn't necessarily the lightest, flakiest pastry shell I've ever had, but it held its own. Besides, with the hearty filling, I think that a denser pastry is appropriate.
I also sampled the Sheperd's Pie. The mashed potato topping was nice and fluffy and the filling also had good flavor with the meat being moist and the vegetables tender and not over-cooked. As for the Bangers & Mash, translated to Sausages & Mashed Potatoes, I had a piece of the Irish sausage and thought that the meat was spiced well. I would actually order any of these dishes on a return visit.
The only thing that I didn't care was for the dessert. I ordered their Brownie Sundae which was a warm fudge brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce. Unfortunately, the brownie wasn't very warm and also, I didn't like its texture. The brownie was a bit dried out, so it was a little chewy. So I wouldn't order that again.
Overall, I had a good dining experience at Casey's and would certainly come back for a meal. I wouldn't say that the food was mind-blowing, but for pub food, it was awesome and when you come into a bar that has a sense of nostalgia about it, how can you go wrong?
To see pics, go to:
Casey's Bar & Grille
613 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Thursday, May 10, 2007
However, cool LA vibe or not, it's really the food that determines whether I'll return to a restaurant to dine and unless someone takes me for a free meal, I don't plan on making a trip back to Ketchup anytime soon.
Oh, one thing I did want to mention before I get into food. There's actually a "bartender" who pushes a drink cart throughout the restaurant who will give you free samples of some of their signature martinis. Considering that those martinis are $12 each, this is a nice service that Ketchup provides. After all, if you're going to spend the bucks on a drink, you might as well know if it's going to be worth it or not. Now I'm not sure whether they put a limit on the free samples or not, so don't assume that you'll be getting freebies all night.
So now let's talk about food. When we sat down, we got complimentary breadsticks and pretzel bread that came with a spicy mustard. I actually liked the pretzel bread a lot. It was soft and warm and had that nice hit of saltiness. The spicy mustard could have been spicier, but still it went well with the bread.
When we finally ordered, my group decided to share 3 appetizers. The first to arrive was the Scandalous Lobster Wraps, which were chunks of lobster meat, iceberg lettuce topped with mango ketchup. Given that this appetizer is described as being "scandalous", you'd think that the wrap would be so delicious that you almost felt like you were committing a crime eating it. That wasn't the case at all. In fact, the scandal quickly whimpered away after I took my first bite. The lobster meat tasted really bland. Even the addition of the mango ketchup added nothing to this dish. In fact, I found the mango ketchup to be too sweet. At least, the lettuce was crisp and fresh.
Soon came the Mini Chicken Tacos and I have to say that out of everything we ordered, this was the tastiest. The blue corn taco shells had a nice light crunch to it and I thought the chicken was moist and tender. With the addition of the cheese, salsa and sour cream, this little taco was packed with a lot of great flavor. I could have eaten a couple of plates just on my own.
The last appetizer we shared was the 3some, which consisted of three separate containers with the three different French Fries that they have on their menu. Those fries were:
Ketchup Fries (garlic-parmesan tossed)
Fire Fries (cayenne spiced)
Sweet Potato Fries
The fries were okay, but while I could taste a little bit of the parmesan on the Ketchup Fries, the garlic was missing in action. The Fire Fries had a little spice to it, but were certainly not that fiery and as for the sweet potato yams, they were mushy and could have been a bit crispier.
With the fries came 5 different ketchups: Chipotle, Classic, Mango, Maple & Ranch. Now I remember the mango ketchup being a little too sweet from the Lobster Wraps, but I don't really remember what the Maple & Ranch ketchups tasted like. That's how forgettable they were; however, I really liked the Chipotle ketchup a lot. It had a nice smoky flavor that was really appealing.
A few of us ordered entrees. I had the Beer Can Chicken which was a garlic studded whole chicken braised in Sam Adams and came with smashed potato, caramelized onion & baby vegetables. This entree cost $19 and wasn't worth it. Yes, the portion was huge so I did take most of it home, but it was one of the most flavorless chicken dishes I have ever had.
Just like the garlic from the Ketchup fries, the garlic was definitely missing in this dish. Garlic-studded, my you know what! The sides were just as bad. The mashed potatoes were a bit grainy and not smooth or creamy and the veggies were overcooked. It was just an awful entree.
Two other entree dishes people in my party ordered were the Diver Scallops and the Tuna Tartare dish. Apparently, the diver scallops were tasty so that's good and even the Tuna Tartare was apparently a hit, except for the fact that the basil potato chips that came with it were burnt. When the burnt chips were pointed out to the waitress, she took them away but never bothered to replace them. That certainly wasn't good service in my book.
Overall, Ketchup was a real disappointment and when you add $10 for valet parking, that just adds insult to injury. Like I said earlier, unless someone is planning on paying for my meal, I will definitely not be making a return trip to Ketchup anytime soon.
To see pics, go to:
8590 Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Now I can't say that I was in love with each and everyone of the 17 different items our group ordered, but except for 2 noodle dishes which I found to be too greasy, a cold cut platter which I wouldn't normally order on my own anyway and prawn skewers that I found to be bland, everything else was absolutely delicious.
Of the remaining 13 dishes, 5 really stood out for me. First, there was the baked BBQ buns. Usually, I don't go out of my way to order baked BBQ buns unless it's a group consensus. You can generally get those buns at most Chinese bakeries so I don't consider them a big deal. What I don't tend to like about BBQ buns is that the bread portion of the meat bun can be a little heavy at times and generally, you get more bread than actual filling.
However, the Sea Harbor version's meat bun had a bread that was surprisingly light and there was something almost more delicate about these BBQ buns than I've seen elsewhere. Also, when you take a bite, you immediately get a bite of the delicious meat filling unlike other BBQ buns I've had in the past where I had to take a couple bites of bread before even getting close to the center of the bun where all the action really is.
The second dish was something I've never had before and it was eggplant stuffed with shrimp paste. This was actually my favorite dish of the morning. Since I love eggplant, this dish already sold itself before I even tasted it, but when I took my first bite, it was heavenly. The creamy texture of the cooked eggplant and the shrimp paste which had a slight pungency to it was just a great combo. I could have easily polished off a couple of plates on my own without any thought to sharing them with anyone else at the table.
Along with the BBQ meat buns and eggplant dish above, I also really enjoyed the sticky rice wrapped with lotus leaf. Between the sweetness of the rice and the slight saltiness of the pork in the rice, I got the the perfect world of sweet and savory in every bite.
The last two items on my highlighted list are two desserts. The first is the Chilled Coconut and Taro Pudding. What I liked about this item was that it was really cool and refreshing and that it was delicately sweet. I really think it's a great summer dessert for those days when it gets so hot that this little dessert may actually be a sweet way to cool you down (at least for a little while).
The last dessert was the Glutinous Rice Ball with Bitter Melon. As soon as I saw that dessert, I just knew I had to try it. Having had bitter melon before and knowing that it indeed can get bitter, I was interested to see how it would turn out as a dessert. I'm assuming that the bitter melon was incorporated in the rice ball itself since the filling of this rice ball was a sweet sesame paste. What was interesting was that I could taste the bitter melon but I didn't taste any of its bitterness. Instead, there was kind of nutty flavor to the rice ball that was interesting, but very appealing. All I know is that when I return to Sea Harbour, I'm definitely going to order this bitter melon dessert again.
Overall, I absolutely loved Seafood Harbour and it definitely is tops on my list. I can see why it's a Dim Sum restaurant popular with so many other people as well. I'm just glad to see that in this case, I actually visited a restaurant that lived up to the hype.
To see pics, go to:
Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
3939 Rosemead Blvd
Rosemead, CA 91770
The tasting started with the one of the co-owners, Harmik, giving us info about the Belgian chocolates they sell at the shop as well as his own background. It turns out that Harmik and his partner used to work in MIS Consulting, but opted to leave that behind to work in the chocolate business. Good for them and good for us! They also talked about how all their chocolate is hand-made or hand-pressed and shipped directly from Belgium. They do not manufacture or make any of the chocolate they sell, but what they do is rotate the flavors so that you get variety.
I honestly can't remember all the various chocolate we sampled. With 16 different chocolates, I think my palate just went into over drive, but there are some that stuck in my mind and those are the ones I'll mention. The first chocolate was a pure truffle dusted with cocoa powder. I think they called it Painter's Palate. Whatever they called it, it was heavenly. That truffle was creamy and melted in your mouth right away and what I liked about it was that it was sweet, but not overly so.
In no particular order, there was the almond truffle that was coated with almonds and also had the taste of almonds in the ganache filling. Since almonds are my favorite nut, this particular truffle was a hit with me. The chili pepper truffles definitely left a little bit of heat at the back of your throat after you consumed it, but not so hard core that you couldn't have one or two more, if you so desired.
My absolute favorite chocolates were the ones with hazel nut. There were milk chocolates with the hazel nut ganache that was absolutely heavenly. I also really enjoyed the whole hazel nuts that were dipped in milk chocolate along with the chocolate that looked like a shell sandwich. One of the shells was dark chocolate, the other shell was milk chocolate and sandwiched in between was the hazel nut again - dark and milk chocolate living in perfect delicious harmony.
One of the last things that Harmik brought out was orange peels dipped in dark chocolate. By that time, I didn't think I could handle any more chocolate, but the citrus flavor of the orange peel and the dark chocolate actually was a nice way to end our chocolate tasting.
Other things to note is that the packaging for these chocolates are absolutely gorgeous and these boxes can really be used for keepsakes long after the chocolates have been enjoyed.
As part of the tasting, we could also have any one of their coffee and/or hot chocolate drinks. Since I'm not much of a coffee drinker, I went for their hot chocolate. Wow, they actually make their hot chocolate from actual chocolate shavings that come in a variety of flavors. Right now, the only two I remember are mint chocolate and ginger chocolate. I had the ginger chocolate and loved it. You had the sweetness of the chocolate, but the ginger gave it the drink a bite that made my tastebuds jump.
Along with the chocolates and hot beverage drinks, they also serve gelato, which apparently is shipped all the way from Italy, which I'll maybe check out once the weather gets warmer.
Overall, it was a fun event. I can't say that I loved every single chocolate I tried, but that's the point of tasting and sampling a variety so that you'll know what you like or don't like and I certainly found many that I did like and would purchase at a later date.
To see pics, go to:
Chocolate Box Cafe
714 Foothill Blvd
La Canada, CA 91011
Before I even get to the food, I really have to mention their unique signage. While the words "Wood Spoon" were discretely placed on the restaurant windows, the actual sign above the restaurant entrance was a painting of a wood spoon. Cute, huh?
Upon entering Wood Spoon, I really liked the space. While minimalistic, the plain walls were broken up by two colorful paintings. With the yellow seats, yellow flowers on the tables and sunflowers on the windows, it really felt bright and airy inside.
So let's talk about the food now. I started my meal with fresh limeade and it was indeed fresh. They had made a batch just before we all sat down to order. While my personal preference would have liked the limeade to be a little more tart, it was still a very refreshing drink.
I started my meal sharing two different appetizers. We had the Pastel Portuguese and the Coxhina. The Pastel Portuguese was basically a deep-fried "dumpling" that was stuffed with shrimp cooked in coconut sauce and cilantro and came with a very addicting mayonnaise. What I liked about the Pastel Portuguese is that even though it was deep-fried, it had a lightness and delicateness to it that was surprising. The bread crumbs were quite fine and you could tell that they didn't overcoat the dumpling to death.
The shrimp had a nice texture and the e sweetness of the shrimp and coconut sauce went well with the "greener" bite of the cilantro.
I think the tear-drop shaped Coxhina used the same batter ingredients as the Pastel Portuguese and the chicken filling inside the Coxhina was great. The shredded chicken filling was moist, tender and delicious with or without the mayonaisse. I actually added a little bit of this Brazilian chili pepper sauce to the chicken and loved the kick it gave me to my tastebuds.
For my main entree, I opted for the Brazilian Chicken Pot Pie. My, oh my, that was the best chicken pot pie I've ever had. When the dish first arrived, I couldn't believe how big it was. I ended up taking half of it home. Other than the size catching my attention, I also thought it just looked gorgeous. The outside of the pie was golden brown and it had a great wooden spoon accent on the top of the pie.
The pie crust was also amazingly flaky and the filling which was made up of chicken with hearts of palm, potato, olives and roasted corn was absolutely delicious. I really liked the addition of the olives. It added just the right amount of saltiness without being overpowering. I also liked how the corn added a nice juicy pop in your mouth when eaten with the other ingredients. Overall, that pie was stellar and a must try.
Wanting to try the Pork Burger and the yam fries, I actually split an order with someone else in the group, not realizing how big the chicken pot pie was going to be. But the Pork Burger was also pretty big, even just the half. I took a couple of bites just to taste and took the rest home with the other half of my chicken pot pie.
Even with just those couple of bites, I can see why it's such a popular dish at Wood Spoon. It was moist and had lots of flavor. Just looking at the burger cut in half, you can definitely see the variety of spices they put into the meat. I also loved the roasted cabbage and onions that surrounded the burger. The roasted onions added a nice little sweetness due to its caramelization.
By the time the meal was over, I was pretty full, but I did get to try a Bricadeiro, which the waiter referred to as a Brazilian chocolate truffle. I think of everything that I tried that afternoon, this Brazilian chocolate truffle didn't do much for me. It had a chewy, taffy texture to it that wasn't to my taste.
As the meal was winding down, the owner, Nathalia, did come over to say "Hello" to the group was really nice of her and to see how everything went and how we liked the food. I'd have to say that she pretty much got raves from us as well.
Wood Spoon is definitely a welcome addition to the restaurant scene. The service was great, the wait staff was really friendly and the food was awesome. I really enjoyed my dining experience there and encourage you all to give it a try. You won't regret it.
To see pics, go to:
107 W 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015