Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tokyo Table
50 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Ground Floor North End
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

More catching up to do. I know I'm beating myself up over it, but foodblogging is so calming, so fun - and I really should do more of it, for myself AND anyone who reads this. So here I am, still catching up from months ago.

Tokyo Table had opened recently when we went there to celebrate my birthday. When we walked in, the decor was...stunning. I couldn't believe that this place used to be a Tony Roma's. Clean lines, running water in a fountain-wall in the front, this place was trying to be as ZEN as possible. I liked it - great start.

Here's the setup - I liked the cozy booths, but we were seated at a bigger table. I liked the chairs, pretty comfy. Everything seemed really clean. One notable thing - check out the bathrooms, they're really sleek!
My usual Arnold Palmer. Pretty good one, I think they used green tea instead of the usual Lipton's. Fruity and refreshing, the perfect combo.
These monster chicken wings were brought to our table. I think these wings came from descendants of chicken/dinosaur hybrids - seriously, these things were monsters. They weren't, however, as meaty as some of the smaller chicken wings I've had in the past. The skin was covered with sweet soy teriyaki sauce, a bit crunchy in places, and doused at the end with a smattering of sesame seeds.
A plate of potstickers arrived - two kinds, pork and shrimp. They were just....ok. Basically what I could buy from the frozen food section at any Japanese market - sufficient but nothing special.
There were two choices of rice - 5 grain type of rice or regular white rice. I chose multigrain - fragrant, good texture, with a few other colors of rice mixed in, I thought it was a nice change from the usual big grains of white rice.

Miso soup, pretty standard. Love me those hunks of tofu knocking around the bottom. Miso soup has such a deep rich flavor - so delicious.

This is where Steven's Beef Sukiyaki Bibimbap looked like before mixing. The rice and other ingredients are placed in a heated stone bowl...muddled and mixed together until bits of the rice get crispy and the egg gets cooked....to produce...
...Bimbap! Steven likes his extra spicy so they put a fair amount of spicy paste inside the bowl. It's nice that they even offer this, as it is a Korean dish and not really something you'd see at "Tokyo table". I liked how the EXTREMELY HOT bowl was enclosed in its own designy box, safe from fingers possibly getting burned. In another instance when I've had bimbap, the hot bowl was not enclosed, and a friend got an unfortunate surprise when she tried to pick up the bowl to give someone another helping!! So the enclosure is nice and appreciated.
This is Dawn's Spicy Tuna bowl. I don't think she liked this very much because she didn't eat very much of it. So I guess this was a thumbs down.

Albacore Tuna on Crispy Rice was one of their specialties. The rice underneath the slab of fish was toasted and crunchy. I wish it could have been more spicy, as the jalepeno didn't knock my socks off, but considering that I can eat wasabi like ice cream, as I've stated before, this was super mild to me. This was pretty good, though. Not the best I've had, but decent.

This was Victor's Teriyaki chicken. The white stuff on top was kewpie mayo - of course. Mayo isn't the first thing I would think to put on top of chicken, but I guess on Japanese food, Kewpie mayo as a topping on anything is totally acceptable (case in point - takoyaki and okonomiyaki.) Victor seemed to like this. I like the nice touch of having broccoli heads and potatoes - gotta get your greens in there somehow.
Kevin's dish came sizzling hot to the table - Garlic Ribeye Steak on Hot Plate. They weren't joking - this stone platter plate was insanely hot, effectively keeping the steak at tongue burning temperatures. The garlic slivers were a great little addition, although I think they were most likely cooked separately from the steak and added as a topping later. Kevin liked this dish a lot but kept having to pause to cool down his seared mouth.
Finally finally, what did I have? I had a pork cutlet curry, of course. I can't help myself when I find this item on the menu - I must try it everytime. The curry itself was a lot sweeter than I expected - I like a more savory curry myself - but it was edible. Not as good as Curry House or Hurry Curry, my personal gold standard in curry. The pork cutlet was the highlight of this dish - juicy succulent meat, crispy panko breading, everything that I could ask for in a pork cutlet.
Since it was my birthday, they brought out a banana flambe with vanilla ice cream. They lit the banana halves on fire, which definitely gave it a nice effect. The bananas themselves were grilled already, to give them a nice little crust around the edges. The ice cream melted into the bananas, sweetening them even further. This was a good dish to share.

A sour note at the end of the meal - a waiter spilled a whole glass of ice cold water down Steven's back. It was an accident, of course, but no one likes being doused with a whole cup of water by surprise! So they compensated us a bit in gift certificates, which we applied to the meal.

I agree with some of the comments that have been made about Tokyo Table - that it's like a Japanese version of Denny's in the US. But I think that this place really tries its' hardest to give their patrons a good experience, and the decor really plays up to a finer dining feel. It's hard for me to hate Japanese food, as well, so I am biased. Give Tokyo Table a shot...just dodge the falling glasses of ice water!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Irvine Spectrum
71 Fortune Drive
Irvine, CA
Still playing catch-up on some old pictures.

So, as you've probably read, I don't drink (darn you pesky alcohol allergy!) but I love food from bars. They're the ultimate in indulgence - usually they specialize in greasy food, especially finger foods and burgers (after all, you gotta wash down that beer with something greasy!). So we ended up at Yardhouse after going Go-karting for my birthday (by the way, it was REALLY fun. I hate driving in LA, but put me in a go-kart and the ability to race against other people and suddenly driving is FUN again...maybe it's the competitive edge I have in me at times...)
So Yardhouse is known for their huge HALF yards of beer. Owen downed TWO of these! (making a full yard that he completely drunk on his own.) I guess the beer is really good here, I wouldn't know, but it looked good.
This is the Ginger Crusted salmon that Amber ordered: As described by their website: Norwegian Salmon with snow peas and carrots, spicy peanut vinaigrette and wasabi mashed potatoes topped with fried carrot strings. She loved it. Really tender salmon, great sauce.

I THINK this is the Top Sirloin dish- a 10 ounce steak cut with garlic mashed potatoes, grilled tomato and portabella mushroom. Bryan is quite the carnivore, so he attacked this with gusto. This plate was wiped completely clean after he was done. I'm assuming that it was a bit better than just ok.
Joel's full rack of ribs caught everyone's eye as it was set before him. This thing was MASSIVE. A full rack of smoked pork spare ribs with spicy bbq sauce, with a side of mashed potatoes and spicy beans. Really nothing much to say about it other than it looked good, smelled good, and all was left was rib bones.

Yes, we are definitely savage carnivores :)
But some of us were good! Marcie got an Ahi Crunchy salad - seared ahi, mixed greens, asian slaw and crispy wontons tossed with a soy vinaigrette. It looked amazing. The ahi was so fresh - that deep pink color in the middle, that delicate seared outside, fresh greens.

Miguel got a bowl of clam chowder - he had actually eaten at Yardhouse earlier in the day (he didn't tell me!!) and he was awesomely gracious not to stop the whole group from wanting to go. He wasn't trying to fill up too much, as he had another meal to go to. I don't think the clam chowder was anything to write home about - in my opinion though, there are 3 categories of clam chowder - crap, okay and amazing. This was okay. Crap is out of a tin that you pay 9 dollars for at a restaurant (I am talking to YOU Red Lobster!!), amazing is Legal Seafood. Okay will now be defined by Yardhouse. Not a bad place to be.

So finally - what did I get? Well, this looked pretty good to me...
A blue crab cake hoagie, with fries. Blue crab cake, with avocado, swiss cheese, tomatoes, applewood smoked bacon, and spicy cajun aioli. The crab in the crab cake was really mashed up - the lumps mostly shredded so when I got into the middle of the crab cake, the meat was creamy, smooth and savory. The outsides were nice and browned, the aioli was perfect. The bread could have been a little less thick, but it was toasted, which helped. This was definitely enjoyable sandwich. Fries were nice and crispy crunchy, with a good coating around them. Great meal.

Here's Owen's New York Steak Sandwich - with roasted roma tomatoes, swiss cheese, fried onion strings, garlic aioli with sweet potato french fries. This steak was perfectly grilled, the meat really flavorful. I switched halves with Owen so this was amazing - crab cake and steak, a great combo. The onion strings were light as air, flavorful, a great different texture that added a bit of punch to the whole thing. The sweet potato fries were superb - like the regular french fries but so more complex than the regular fries.

Yardhouse was so fun! They managed to handle such a big group of people expertly - not every restaurant can do that, but they did it well. Thumbs up on this whole place.

Monday, July 02, 2007

9240 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 202-8890

My friend Tim was nice enough to want to take me out for my birthday (which was MONTHS ago! I am only catching up now, I've been the worst blogger...), and we headed over to K-Zo, conveniently located in Culver City - one of the best places in LA to park, because of their abundance in parking lots. Hooray! Well, we didn't JUST go to K-Zo for the parking...we had wanted to go for ages since trying to go there earlier this year when it had just opened.
Upon entering - cool cool interior, super relaxing and lots and lots of tea light candles. Don't go here if you're afraid of fire...
Here's an awkward shot of my green tea. Tim and I each got a green tea and they placed our own, mini pot of tea, which they refilled frequently. That was great - the service was top notch here, as they would walk by, notice that I had drunk the tea down to a quarter of the pot, then would obsessively refill it. A constant stream of green tea is good in my book.
First up was the Goma Wild Chicken - Free range chicken nuggets sprinkled with sesame and marinated in house special sauce. This was DELICIOUS. My favorite kind of fried chicken is hands down, Japanese style fried chicken. Cantonese style is what I grew up with, but Chicken Kar-aage is the best. If you haven't tried it, this isn't your corner KFC we're talking about here. We're talking dark meat chicken (my favorite - white meat is too dry!), tender and moist, cut up into bite size pieces, marinated slightly and fried crisp and light, not too greasy.
Tuna, tuna - you are the apple of my eye. Good quality fish, beautiful color - it was an attack on the senses when placing this on your tongue...a good toro can make any day a little brighter.

A very distinctive dish came out next - the Hotate Dynamite - Broiled scallops with mushrooms cooked in house special mayonnaise sauce. This was like the oysters rockafeller that I had on the cruise, but substituting scallops for oysters. And what tasty little scallops they were! Not chewy, good bite, cooked perfectly. The mayo might have been a bit on the heavy side but it's my birthday and I'll drink mayonnaise if I want to.
The old standby, freshwater eel. I usually always get freshwater eel, as sticky sweet as it is. I just love that savory but cloyingly sugary sauce, that distinctive flavor of the eel meat - it's a must have.
A definite favorite of mine is anything tofu related, so we got an order of Agedashi Tofu
(Lightly fried tofu in bonito clear broth). Fry anything up and it'll probably taste good - but tofu takes on an especially nice consistency when it's fried...and is more susceptible to flavoring, in this case, the bonito broth and green onion slices. This was eaten quickly. The special, and last sushi that we got for the night was the Spicy Tuna Crispy - Spicy tuna on baked brown rice cracker. The tuna was nice and spicy, and with that little thinly sliced color coded hot pepper slivers, it was a work of art. The cracker was nice and crispy - a deep hearty flavor, which complimented the tuna nicely. Lastly, as a finishing note to the meal, they gave me a scoop of black sesame ice cream, with a perfect raspberry and sprig of mint for color. Creamy, flecked with the black sesame, this was a good ending to a delicious meal.

K-Zo was really relaxing - Tim was very impressed with the atmosphere and music selections (music is his thing!), and I enjoyed the food greatly. I'll be visiting here again!