Saturday, September 30, 2006

Lulu's Cafe
Beverly Blvd, midtown

Yes I'm procrastinating from the tons of work I have to do for the show (opening next week still!) but everyone's gotta have a break, and what better way to take a break than to look at food (I'm obsessed.) So, zooming back to when Brian was visiting, we headed out to Lulu's Cafe - something new and different!
Everyone brought their dogs here to this mostly outdoors restaurant cafe. The atmosphere was chill and trendy - this place is crowded on a Sunday, which is when we went, but the wait wasn't too bad and we were seated within 15 minutes.

What to eat?!! Everything looked good, but I always go for the savory meal...
My plate was the Omelette with with olives, pico de gallo, turkey sausage and cheddar, with potatoes and english muffin. A spanishy flair to my omelette, yes. I was pleased with the way the eggs were cooked - still light and fluffy. I think what they do is cook the eggs in one pan, cook the stuff inside in another pan and then combine. So the eggs aren't too runny or overdone, and the stuff inside is evenly heated. Brilliant! But what was inside was the's a closeup...

REAL olives. Not the black ones from the can, the real deal, the purple kind that are bursting with flavor. This was completely unexpected and a VERY welcome surprise!! The turkey sausage was excellent, the cheese was real and not American Kraft cheese, pico de gallo was fresh. Potatoes were good and english muffin english muffin. I enjoyed this greatly.
Here comes the sweets! Owen and Brian have major sweet teeth (heh) and shared this mountain of delish-ous Blintz French Toast (I think that's what it was called.) Massive toast wedges, cooked in a sweet egg batter and then lathered with a lucious ricotta spread, then topped with fresh strawberries and bananas! It was a sight to behold. Owen didn't even need to use syrup, and downed every bit of his share. This was Jared's Croissant Sandwich with egg, cheese and ham. (I think ham? Might have been bacon though.) Jared admitted he had a major thing for any sandwich product, and I agree, a breakfast sandwich is a great thing, indeed. The croissant was flaky and buttery (looking, I mean, I didn't eat it), not like those horrible store bought ones that are tasteless and taste oddly like bricks. Check out the extreme close up...
Oooo check out that little slobber of cheese...anyone getting hungry yet?

This was another dish that Owen and Brian shared: A egg scramble with turkey sausage, tomato, avacado and mozzarella, with fresh fruit and white toast. The plate was practically licked clean.

This was a pleasant place to start our Sunday. I hope to go again, although their parking situation was kind of rough (actually, almost nonexistent, but we parked somewhere residentially). Good pick, Brian!! The olives alone compel me to return here for breakfast...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

So sorry my readers!!
I've been so busy with prep for my upcoming art show that I am co-curating and participating in...I haven't had time to do anything! Don't worry, I've still been taking pictures and will post soon. If someone is in the LA Area, please go to the art opening, taking place at Robocon in Chinatown, October 7th, from 7pm to 11pm!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

American Coffee...
Just wanted to share this with everyone. I love the design on this can...I HAD to buy it. Love that Japanese, er, I mean, American Coffee!!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Opah Restaurant
The Marketplace, Irvine, CA

There was some great food adventures this weekend, as I knew there would be, because I had good friends visiting me this weekend (yes, you Brian!) And what better way to celebrate them being in town by going to some awesome new places to eat? We cruised over to Irvine, to meet up with another friend, and walked around Laguna Beach. We initially were going to try for sushi, at a place called SushiTime, but for some reason, it was closed! On a Saturday night, at 7pm! They must have had a kitchen malfunction...or some shady deal going on? Who knows? We moved on...checking the wait time at BJ's Restaurant...(an HOUR!) we decided to give a gamble on this new place, Opah.
The thing we all noticed straight off is how much their name and logo looks a lot like what the show, "Oprah" uses. Since they're so close to the name "Oprah", heck, I'd ride off her popularity too! But I guess an "Opah" is a real thing - off their website - "THE OPAH OR “MOONFISH” ONCE WAS VIEWED AS GOOD LUCK WHEN CAUGHT BY OLD-TIME FISHERMEN AND OFTEN GIVEN AWAY AS A GESTURE OF GOOD WILL." Well, that's good to know. In capital letters. "Once was," huh? I guess not anymore? Poor Opah. Least it lives on in restaurant form. I wondered if they served it here? (After a glace at the menu, I saw that they DID! Good luck, ha!) We were immediately seated at a table close to the front. Fresh bread in the pictured bread paper bag and a light, delicious whipped sun dried tomato butter was set before us. We devoured every bite of bread and asked for more. I was looking for something simple to chow on, so I decided on the same thing that Jared got: Kobe Beef Burger with sweet caramelized onions, and added aged cheddar. You guys seeing what I'm seeing? Yes. A huge huge burger. With double onions, grilled and raw! The burger itself was meaty, no gristle, definitely hearty. As I chewed, I tried to taste the difference in this burger than in other burgers that weren't made with Kobe Beef...but to tell you the truth, I thought the meat was just as good as an angus beefsteak burger. It was good, yes, but extraordinary? Did I taste the fact that the cow got fed grains and beer and got massaged daily? No. I didn't. I guess one would taste the difference more if I had something like carpaccio. But I wouldn't dare have that - raw fish I can roll with. Raw beef is something else entirely. Like playing russian roulette with your stomach. The roll that this massive beef-attack sat upon was fluffy, toasted, substancial to hold the burger in and sop up the meat juices that were emitted as you bit into the burger, but didn't fall apart on me. The cheese, melted and gooey good. The mountain of fries that accompanied my burger were good and salty, thin and crispy. I was glad when the waiter asked if I was done, with half the fries left on the plate - please please take the plate away, as I would have kept eating the fries until they were gone.
This was Christine's Rotisserie Chicken Salad Sandwich - Tossed with grapes and sprinkled with toasted almonds. She seemed to enjoy it and finished it all.
Brian decided to go with the healthiest thing he could find (LIKE USUAL!!) and went for the Blackened Atlantic Salmon Sandwich With saffron aïoli. I tried a tiny corner of it and it tasted amazing - flavored properly, a good amount of fish, and yes it tasted healthy. Brian ended up demolishing the sandwich and eating it with his fork and knife.

Service and decor was great, I'd say I'd go again if I was in the area. Opah!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Venice and close to Overland

The variety in food in the Los Angeles area can't be surpassed. I've been to so many different kinds of places that serve an amazing variety of food from all over the world. Cafe Brasil is a personal favorite during weekday lunches, because of their proximity and their famous executive lunch. Roll up to the cashier, past mismatched tables and chairs with big cheery bowls of lemons, apples or tomatoes in them (real, not fake!) I usually don't order anything but the Executive Lunch, which is only available for a small narrow frame of time during lunch-hour. It's a perfect plate of steak, or chicken, with rice, plantains, beans and pico de gallo. Not too much of anything, not too little. Very steaky - notice the lack of onions on the steak, because Amber hates onions. So I took 'em! One person's trash is another person's treasure - in this case, her onion hatred becomes my onion, er, treasure? Anyways, I nabbed her onions. Check out those big delicious plantains on the rice...cooked so slow, sometimes with a little carmelized crust to the edge of the soft, melt in your mouth banana-y but not quite center. Here's my chicken plate, delicious dark meat (my favorite) with an abundance of onions. The pico de gallo is really good here too, with a bit of mustard to mello out the flavors. The tomatoes are very freshly chopped and not overly ripe, the cilantro and onion bits make this pico de gallo one of my favorites.

Let's not forget the beans...their beans are served separately, in a little bowl, which you can then spoon over your rice. I think the consideration of letting you do this step is key, I've had mushy rice from the bean-soup soaking it too long and it's not pleasant.

This is a really chill place to eat and a nice escape from the usual bustle of LA. I've had their sandwich too, that was good but the executive lunch is the best, because of the mix of flavors. Also, try one of their little appetizers, like the cohixina (I think that's how it's spelled, but I'm not sure.) It's a cute little teardrop shaped fried dumpling looking thing, with chicken leg meat inside. It's a great appetizer to the equally great food.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Din Tai Fung
Baldwin and East Duarte, Arcadia
Is anything as good as what it's hyped up to be? I always get skeptical now, because I've been let down so many times. For instance, Matrix Re-cycled and Re-crappy. And Star Wars pre-regurgitation. Been disappointed too many times, that's the bottom line. So when I heard of a "really good dumpling place", I instantly thought, it can't be THAT good.

More on the hype train, when I looked up some info on Din Tai Fung, it's the only one of this chain that's even in the United States? Whoa. Okay, that's kinda huge. And I do like me some good Xiao Long Baos (soup dumplings). I gave in and decided to roll with it, even with the huge wait time. And wait we did! When we finally got there, the place was packed on the OUTSIDE, with families huddled underneath umbrellas to escape from the boiling heat bearing down upon all of us. Our friends already had a number. Lady who called out the numbers (in english and in mandarin) taunted us so, calling out numbers past ours (bigger parties where the tables freed up). My brain started to melt a little as the sun's rays superheated my black hair, creating massive head heat cloud around me. Our number was called! Quick quick quick to our seats...finally inside, what did we decide to eat?
Chicken soup was our first dish. I know this might look weird to people used to seeing Campbell's condensed chicken soup (preservative city!) . If you are one of those people, seeing real chicken pieces in soup might be a bit of a shock to you, but here is Din Tai Fung's version of chicken soup, what I'd like to see ALL chicken soup to be like. Big pieces of boiled down chicken, goosebumpy pale skin and all, seeped in a flavory broth. The pieces of chicken were great to dunk in the little dish of vinegar and soy sauce mixture that was meant for the dumplings... ...And what delicious dumplings they were! These are the pork xiao long baos, freshly made from the team of expert dumpling makers behind glass (so you can voyeristically watch them hehe). The proper etiquette of the xiao long bao eater: carefully grab the dumpling, nestle it in chinese soup spoon. Bite a little bit off the top, suck out as much soup as possible. Nab some soy saucey-vinegar ginger, add to dumpling, eat. A bit complicated but an experience to be had! The wrappers to these guys are thick enough to hold in the flavorful soup, but thin enough not to be too gooey or overwhelming. The meat inside is juicy, very well accented by the soysauce mixture. Once it rains it pours - dishes started coming to the table left and right. Here are some shrimp steamed dumplings. Nothing much to say about these, they didn't suck but they didn't blow my mind. The shrimp was kind of mashed up into it, so I don't know how many shrimps were contained in each of these. A plate of chicken and veggie rice cake. I thought it was alright, but maybe too filling, because of the rice cakes. Like eating big salty marshmallows. You eat like 3 and they inflate in your stomach. Then you become the Stay Puft rice cake man. More carby- carbs! Sticky rice and meat filled dumplings were thrown on our table, when all of us had assumed we had gotten all we had ordered. We plunged in anyways. I thought these were a very distinctive shape, and really enjoyed these, although I was feeling a little too full by that point.
Onto bean paste dumplings. I liked these more than I thought I would, because the red bean was so sugary potent. The red beans were mashed into sweet bean paste, so no lumpy bean parts. Here's a closeup of the inside of one of these little guys's a cow eye dissection back in grade school! 'Cept you get to eat it. Now that I think about it, these are starting to look like cow eyes...ANYWAYS, they were good and we were glad this was our last order.

Din tai fung was good in spite of the hype, but pricier than I would have liked it to be (dimsum, I usually get away with no more than 10 dollars apiece, whereas here was like 14 dollars each.) Not like they're hurting for business with their higher price point. When coming here, remember a key word...PATIENCE. Don't go here after a 5 mile run. You'll starve before they can find you a table.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Red Moon Cafe - the lunch that never was

Short posting, but wanted to pass along some scorn towards Red Moon Cafe, for what I like to call, "The Lunch that never was". Amber and I had passed by here a few times, and saw that it served "Vietnamese and Chinese Cusine." Even though places that "specialize" in two things that are so very different from each other throw up red flags for me (would you want a burger at a Mexican restaurant? I've been tempted but never did it), I decided to ignore the warning bells blaring in my head, because good Vietnamese food is hard to find on the westside (I've noticed, anyways.)

During our lunch hour, which we even took early to head to this place, we wrangled with parking, which was awful in the small little lot mostly owned by the Washington Mutual. After nearly getting our heads taken off by some irate parking momoheads (do people even LOOK when they back up?) we walked inside the restaurant.

Another warning bell - this time, it was a fog horn warning bell. The restaurant was almost deserted, with one really unhappy looking guy eating alone, and a couple that was completely engrossed with their conversation about the stock market. No one at the front counter. In fact, the three customers were the ONLY people in the restaurant that I could see, and they looked like they hadn't been attended to in awhile.

We waited at the front counter for 10 minutes. Honestly, I gave them a chance to redeem themselves, maybe the person at the front had to step away, I understand. No one ever showed. The guy eating alone gave us uncomfortable glances. "We're outta here," I muttered to Amber. She agreed and we stomped out.

Such was the lunch that never was. Red Moon Cafe, I didn't even eat at your establishment and you left a bad taste in my mouth.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Yokohama Japanese Restaurant
Overland and Venice
Sometimes, I feel the need to be adventurous in restaurant experiences and sometimes, I just need somewhere close to work to satsify the rumbling in my belly. I had been looking for a decent Japanese restaurant that was relatively close to work (Mitsuwa kinda counts too but the sparkle is gone, and ah, they mostly only take cash at the little stands - which is bothersome with my severely lacking cash wallet.) that had decent bento lunch specials. Yokohama is a toughie though, as it is closed mid-day, and usually I take a late lunch. Determination won over tardiness, and we made it on time.
Miso soup, very good...hard to mess up. Great starter to a huge bento meal.
I got the Salmon teriyaki bento box, with tempura and substituted spicy tuna rolls instead of california rolls, which cost me one whole extra dollar (I be poor!), but I think the extra dollar is worth it. Gotta try the fish, after all...
First up, the salmon teriyaki. 2 substancial pieces, covered in sesame seeds and teriyaki sauce. It was good, with little grill marks and a nice crusty outside, which held in the delicious salmon juices rather well (salmon juices, kinda gross thought - like if Salmon juice could be on its' own, would kids in Japan tote around salmon juice boxes? The thought equally tickles me and grosses me out.) The teriyaki sauce wasn't special but it wasn't bad either, especially when paired with....
...A pyramid of rice! This was the special part of the meal, I haven't seen this at other places. As I took big clumps of rice from this pyramid, I couldn't help but think, would I find a rice mummy in the middle? I bet it'd be tasty. And, ah, old and moldy.
The tempura was delicious, hot and freshly fried. The pieces included the one shrimp tempura piece (which I always try to save 'till last, because I like to savor it), a piece of zucchini that almost burned my tastebuds off my tongue, broccoli, japanese squash and a carrot piece. I greatly enjoyed their spicy tuna rolls, as they were big and of good quality, and stuffed to the brim with tuna mash in the middle. Amber had one and was overwhelmed by the spiciness, whereas I think it was just mildly spicy. Maybe I really did burn some tastebuds off. Salad was from a bag, but at least it was fresh salad from a bag.

By the way I also got their iced tea, which was refreshing and fruity.

I haven't tried their dinner but their lunch gave me a happy full belly. The price was alright, for a restauranty lunch. No guff from the waiter for getting there half an hour before they closed, luckily. They were happy to seat and serve us.
Disneyland Turkey Leg
Honestly. This thing was a monster. I thought I could take it. I was wrong. I have seen people eating these things nonchalantly around the park and YEARNED to try one. So Jeff and I signed up for the deed...we each purchased one at a stand near Fantasyland. Guy who sold it to us was too cool for school - he was wearing sunglasses when the sun was down. Anyway when he handed us this BOX of meat...well, take a look yourself...
Nestled in the box...oh there's more in store
The club of meat! You could probably bash someone's brain out with this thing.
The unveiling...yes, this thing is huge. And steaming hot.
There goes Jeff taking the first monstrous bite. As we dug in, we realized what we had done...and felt a LITTLE sick to our stomachs. We could each only stomach about 70% of our legs, and had to discard the rest (if someone else saw the remains of what we couldn't eat...let's just say it was horrific. Turkey bone and sinew-y parts. It was as if we turned a fetus inside out and were trying to get rid of the evidence.) Afterwards, our mouths were coated, inside and out, of turkey juices that wouldn't go away the rest of the evening.

Yep. Let us never speak of this again.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Catal Uva Bar
Downtown Disney, Anaheim

Playing catch up with the reviews, I know! (hangs head in shame) I will try extra hard this week to get completely caught up, but life has been getting in the way (art show in October!) And yes, I'm doing this to escape doing what I SHOULD be doing...back to procrastinating...

Disneyland again, but this time at the Catal Uva Bar. They also have a restaurant, but their prices are twice as expensive in the restaurant than the bar outside. On a random note, I think the name "Uva Bar" is probably the lamest name anyone could have ever thought of. It makes me think...of fallopian tubes. Not what I should be thinking of before eating a meal. So at the Fallopian Tubes bar, we were seated quickly and we checked out a we go...

Bryan got a burger with fries. Very straightforward and I kind of wish I had gotten this instead of what I had chosen for my meal. I think that's provolone cheese on top, but I could be wrong, I didn't study the menu on that one. I think the bread they used was pretty good for it, nice little grill marks seared into the top bun. As for the greenery, they used butter lettuce instead of iceburg - which stepped up this burger from regular fast food to "gourmet" (ha.) Also red onion, that's the onion I like best in a burger. And just to mention - this burger was like 14 bucks, so this is probably the bare minimum I would expect from a burger that cost this much. I guess they tried, and it's hard to mess up a burger, so I can't really fault them for that (plus, they are on sacred holy disney-land, which somehow makes the food cost twice as much as anywhere else in the world...behold the magic of the kingdom!)
Owen got a Steak Salad. For a salad-as-a-meal, I give them props to include such big honkin' pieces of steak, which was marinated, seasoned well and cooked perfectly. However, their leaves of butter lettuce were something to be desired, as they didn't even rip them to proper -easy-to-eat pieces. Let me elaborate - when I picked up one of the leaves of lettuce, it was like picking up a green piece of kiddie construction paper. There was no complimentary properly sized for your mouth lettuce ripping here, no sir. It made eating this salad difficult, and having to cut through pieces of meat + cutting through huge leaves of lettuce made this dish cumbersome. I commend the meat but this is a SALAD -I don't want to wrestle with lettuce all night!I got the Chicken BLT sandwich, which I admit, was disappointing. Not for the quality, but for the price-to-plate ratio. A 14 dollar sandwich plate should blow me away. This sandwich was made with decent ingredients, but small. Also, it came with my evil nemesis COLESLAW. I didn't realize this dish didn't come with fries, which I assumed (stupid, stupid me), and when our waitress set down this plate in front of me I almost recoiled in horror at the half plate of oddly sweet cabbage-y mess near my proximity. Yeah it wasn't their fault. I just don't like coleslaw.
Jeff got the delicious treat of the night - chocolate mousse cake with chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup and macadamia nut crumbles. This chocolate-on-chocolate creation seemed very rich - Jeff ALMOST finished all of it, but threw in the towel at the end (I commend his effort). This was probably the most worthwhile dish, price appropriately for a dessert.

The Fallopian Tubes bar is an alright cheaper alternative to the more pricey restaurants in this area, but I say, if you're in Downtown Disney, spend the cash and just go around the corner to Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen. You'll leave there more satisfied, whereas I left here hungry and with my wallet still relatively wounded.