Wednesday, August 24, 2011
When it comes to Cham Korean Bistro, even though I had been there a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed my meals, I just hadn't been able to actually blog about it. In each instance, I had been with friends who I haven't seen in awhile so the focus was on the company and not taking pictures, as is my usual practice. However, when Cham Korean Bistro offered to host me and a guest, this was my chance to finally write about it.
For those of you unfamiliar with Cham Korean Bistro, the focus is on a modern take on Korean Cuisine with some fusion mixed in. I wouldn't say that a Korean fusion influence was really seen in the first dish we tried which was the Cham Salad. It was, however, a delicious blend of spring mix, carrots, jicama, sesame brittle and soy-balsamic vinaigrette. One small thing though? I loved that sesame brittle and there just wasn't enough of it for my liking.
One of the things that I really like about Cham is their Korean Tapas menu, which features share-able small plates. Between this visit and my other two visits, I've tried all but two of items on that tapas menu. My favorite is the Crispy Pork Belly with Fingerling Potatoes and not just any fingerling potatoes, but Peruvian potatoes. You really can't go wrong with crispy pork belly and I really enjoyed the soft earthiness of the potatoes.
Fusion definitely shows up in the form of the Calamari Mini Tacos with Sautéed Kimchi Topping. The taco itself was a little difficult to eat since the proportion of filling to tortilla was higher, but hey, it's hard not to appreciate that there was no skimping. While I enjoyed the battered outside and the slight chew of the calamari itself, I would have preferred just a little more heat from the kimchi for a complete thumbs up.
My guest had raved about the Cham Onion Rings, which she had really enjoyed at previous visits. That night, however, while the onions rings had a nice crunch to it, they were a little too oily. Perhaps, an off night for the onion rings?
That night, we also had the Korean Rice Cake aka Toppoki. While the name "Rice Cake" may bring up visions of round shapes, the rice cakes in this dish are more like rounded cylinders made from glutinous rice and/or rice flour. Sauteed in some kind of chili sauce that definitely brought on the heat, these rice cakes made my taste buds happy.
The last item from the Korean Tapas menu were the Crispy Spicy Tuna Balls. I think the coating was fried rice, but I'm not sure. Regardless, I really enjoyed the texture of the tuna balls. Crispy on the outside and soft in the inside and with a spice level that was just right. Also from this menu, though not pictured, you should try the Ahi Tuna with a Chimichuri Sauce, but the Sweet Potato Fries aren't anything that exciting.
Not on the Korean Tapas menu, but just as delicious were the last two items we tried. One was the Blue Crab Tofu Pocket: seasoned rice and marinated blue crab topping. I liked the freshness of the crab but overall, this particular tofu pocket was a little forgettable for me. I actually prefer the Spicy Tuna Tofu Pocket and the Pickled Seaweed Tofu Pockets that I had at previous visits.
The second item was the Spicy Yuzu Pork Bulgogi + Cilantro Bun Steamed Bun with sautéed spicy yuzu pork bulgogi and fresh cilantro. This was my second favorite dish of the night. Is it obvious that I love pork? There was a really nice caramelization on the pork and I liked the peppery flavors that the cilantro added to this sandwich. You can also a Beef Bulgogi or Spicy Chicken Steamed Bun, but I can't seem to not order this particular steamed bun.
Other dishes that that I've also tried and enjoyed in the past include their Kimchi Rice (no longer on the menu) and their BBQ + Garden Platter with Beef Short Rib. One dish that I wouldn't order again is their Sauteed Sweet Potato Noodles, which tasted was too bland for me.
Overall, Cham Korean Bistro is a good eatery. For the most part, I've enjoyed almost everything I tried so far and now I'm just happy to finally blog about it and hopefully encourage some of you to check it for yourself.
Cham Korean Bistro
851 Cordova Street
Pasadena, CA 91101
Sunday, August 21, 2011
When I read about a Korean Clay Roasted Duck dish on the The Glutster blog written by blogger, Javier Cabral, I knew I had to check it out. Along for the ride came some of the members of my dining group. One thing to note about this restaurant is their front entrance below is generally locked. To enter Dha Rae Oak, park and/or enter through the back parking lot where you'll see the sign that is the first picture on this post.
When it comes to ordering the duck, you need to call the restaurant a minimum of 4 hours before your arrival. That's about how long it will take for its preparation. Also, one whole duck feeds 3 to 4 people. As for the preparation of the duck itself, it's first "stuffed with things like chewy Ogokbap (Five-Grain/beans/ “purple” Rice), whole meaty walnuts, chopped chestnuts, nutty pumpkin seeds, cooked sweet potatoes, Chinese herbs, dried fruit and probably crack", as quoted by Javier.
Then the duck is wrapped in a cheesecloth and roasted for 4 hours inside a vertical clay pot inside a 450 degree specialized Korean ceramic oven that the owner of Dha Rae Oak imported to the US. To see the clay pot and oven, please visit Javier's blog post here.
Now on to our meal that started with a crunchy fresh salad and an array of panchan. The salad was nice and I liked the dressing; however, the panchan wasn't anything out of the ordinary.
Everyone was also given a little plate with a sauce and salt/pepper mixture for duck dipping and with the arrival of the duck came a soup. I honestly can't tell you what's in the soup. It definitely had some greens, but a couple of spoonfuls was enough to tell me that it wasn't for me.
Soon the duck arrived and it came already unwrapped from its cheese cloth. When the duck hit the table, it didn't even seem like it had any skin intact. Apparently, in the cooking process a lot of the duck fat renders to the bottom of the pot.
When I turned the plate for a side view, you can actually take a first glimpse of that sticky purple rice that is one of the ingredients the duck is stuffed with.
Finally, our server splits open the duck and you could see all the glory inside. Amazing!
Then we all started eating into it. The duck was tender and I enjoyed its lean flavors. Part of the appeal of duck meat is its fattiness, but I didn't really miss it in this particular duck preparation. I think it had to do with the filling that included quite a lot of nuts and seeds like the walnuts, pumpkin seeds and chestnuts. They added some fat back. The addition of the sweet potatoes and dried fruit brought in some sweetness, but the Chinese herbs rounded all the flavors.
Overall, it was a pretty tasty dish and not much went to waste. However, even though I liked this dish, I did miss having crispy duck skin. Other than that, if you're a duck lover, the Korean Clay Roasted Duck at Dha Rae Oak is definitely a new experience worth trying.
Dha Rae Oak
1106 Western Ave.
Los Angeles CA. 90006
Friday, August 19, 2011
After I took both the Thai Town Tour and Delicious Dumpling Tour through Six Taste, a food tour company in Los Angeles, I enjoyed them so much that I decided to take all the tours they offered. Next in line was the New Chinatown Tour which focused on Cantonese cuisine in the city of San Gabriel.
Many people know of the "Old" Chinatown which is adjacent to downtown Los Angeles, but locals know that the best regional Chinese cuisine can be found in San Gabriel Valley, from Rosemead to San Gabriel and all the way to Monterey Park. Suffice to say, the whole of San Gabriel Valley can actually be referred to as "New" Chinatown. But for the purpose of this tour, the city of San Gabriel is where our walking meal took place, starting with dim sum at New Capital Seafood in Focus Plaza.
New Capital Seafood is dim sum via carts and is one of the larger dim sum restaurants in the area. They don't take reservations so it's first come, first serve. Luckily, our guide, Judy already had a table ready for us and as soon as we sat down, the first of our seven dim dishes arrived, which was a deep fried pork dumpling.
After enjoying that first dumpling, a plump and tasty shrimp dumpling, a rice noodle dish and chicken feet hit the table. I left for the chicken feet for the rest of the group, but enjoyed the other items.
My favorite of our dim sum tasting was the Lotus Leaf Wrapped Sticky Rice with Pork.
Our dim sum tasting ended with the Pork Shau Mai and the BBQ Pork Bun. The Pork Shau Mai had lots of great flavor while the BBQ Pork Bun was a bit dry when it came to the bread, but was chock full of the bbq pork.
Our next stop was at Sam Woo BBQ, which is also in Focus Plaza. As the name of the restaurant indicates, Sam Woo's specialty is all about barbecued meats.
As soon as you walk in Sam Woo BBQ, hanging behind the windows you'll see roasted ducks, chickens and more. Pick your protein, they'll chop it up for you take home or you can just eat in.
For our food sampling, we tried the BBQ Duck and the Beef Chow Fun. I've had Sam Woo's barbecued meats before and always found them a tad greasy, but somehow that's part of the reason why I like them. The Beef Chow Fun was actually quite addicting. I could have eaten the whole plate on my own.
After our visit to Sam Woo BBQ, we walked over to Aji Ichiban, a store that features Dried Fruits, Veggies and Seafood as well has having a great selection of candies, including Durian. If you didn't know already, I'm a durian nut, so I definitely brought a few bags home of that durian candy home.
Finally, we walked completely away from Focus Plaza to Kee Wah Bakery, which was next door.
Inside was a wonderland of pretty looking cakes and pastries, both cold and hot.
There was also a really pretty mosaic cake that caught my eye that I ended up buying to take home.
After taking a peek and making purchases, we stepped outside and enjoyed a Pineapple Bun. By the way, the pineapple bun doesn't have any pineapple ingredients. It's only called one because the bread texture is similar to that of a pineapple.
A half a block away, we walked over to our next destination. By the way, I really loved how two of the pictures I took while we were walking turned out. It was definitely a beautiful day as you can tell below.
That next destination was Happy Kitchen. It's funny because I've been to restaurants on either side of Happy Kitchen before and never even noticed it until now. However, it turned out to be my favorite stop of the whole tour.
The Shrimp and Pork Dumplings were pretty tasty, if not spectacular. It was the other dishes we tried that were the real stars.
First, there was the Beef Roll with the crispy wrapper with the tender beef and cilantro filling. It's definitely one of their signature dishes.
Second, the Tea-Smoked Chicken Leg was superb. It's a cooking process that takes 6 hours and thank goodness for the patience of the chef. The meat had a lovely smokiness plus it was tender and juicy. I liked Happy Kitchen so much that I've been back already once and plan to return to try even more dishes.
Our last stop was at Tasty, an Asian dessert shop where you can get slushes, shaved ice and more.
It's where our group did some winding down while enjoying Mango, Coconut, Rice, Ice and Red Beans.
Overall, it was a fun hours well spent, eating and exploring San Gabriel and I think you can tell by our smiling faces at the picture below.
New Capital Seafood
140 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Sam Wood BBQ Restaurant
140 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
140 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Kee Wah Bakery
150 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
301 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
250 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91778
Six Taste Contact Info
Six Taste Website
Six Taste on Facebook
Six Taste on Twitter