Saturday, October 31, 2009

Umami Burger

Quick quick post on Umami burger, as I'm completely embarrassed that I haven't posted this and I went here around the 4th of July (Oh MAN I've been backlogged on the posts...) My friend Brian was in town for Anime Expo, where we had a booth at Artist's alley, where I sold some of my prints. We met up for dinner with some of his friends at Umami burger, where I had been very interested in going to, as I passed it daily going to work, but hadn't gotten a chance to go to, up until then!

Brian's friends were really nice, and we chatted it up while waiting for our table. And we waited. And waited some more. We eyed the lucky groups of people that had gotten there before us. People were basically camped out there for ages...there were birthday celebrations, big groups of people eating, talking, then ordering SECONDS on their got to ridiculous levels. I think we ended up waiting about 2 and a half hours. That was beyond my limit, even for a really hot restaurant, but I guess I really can't blame the restaurant, they just had a lot of people, and not very much space.

Anyways, on to the burgers.
Umami Burger
I think this was Brian's burger, he got a Manly burger - beer cheddar cheese, smoked salted onion strings, and bacon lardons. Sorry for the blurriness, we were starving and disjointed at this point. He and I shared our burgers, so we each got a taste. The quality of the meat was very good, the shiny bun encased the ingredients very well. I think the burger was rather small for the price, but I admit I wasn't hungry after eating a full one, so I guess it was satisfying enough. The bacon and onion strings on this one were very nice, added a lot of texture and savoriness (the signature flavor of umami...right?)
Umami Burger
This was my burger, the Pork and Stilton burger - blue cheese, pocas port carmelized onions. I actually liked Brian's burger better, I'm glad we agreed to share. It didn't have enough of the poppy flavors that I expected (like a knock your socks off amount of flavorful blue cheese, I think they were rather light handed in the blue cheese generosity department), although I still liked it - again, the quality of the meat was excellent, but I could have used more intense flavors.
Umami Burger
This was the truffle burger, and my favorite one that I tried, definitely worthy of an "umami" label. Very savory, deep flavors that stuck with you after you took a bite, and very unique. If I were to go again I would get this burger. Maybe two. Okay I'm a glutton.
Umami Burger
Brian's friends insisted to us that their fries were not worth ordering, but I didn't even get a chance to see for myself as they had run out of fries for the night. Oh well. I got the onion rings instead. These were tasty, lots of tempura batter, not too greasy, with their "special" ketchup, I liked it but only about 4 rings for 4 dollars was a little steep for me. I might just rock another burger next time.

Again, I don't blame Umami for the overloaded dining room that night, so I'll be back again at some point, hopefully when they're not so overloaded with other guests.

Umami Burger
850 La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Portos Bakery and Cafe

Louisa hadn't tried Porto's before and that was a crying shame, so we headed there one day to experience the magic (well, by the way people talk about this place, it's practically epic). A HUGE line was winding around for the bakery section, luckily, we were going to the cafe line which was a lot shorter. The prices were quite cheap for sandwiches and their signature items, I am not sure about each of the cake prices but I think I paid around 25 dollars for goes...
Portos Bakery
I got this pretty little chocolate cake with mousse inside for Owen. I think it looked prettier than it tasted, but Owen liked it fine- it's chocolate, after all, and a dark chocolate, at that.
Portos Bakery
One of the things Porto's is famous for - their cheese rolls. They're really affordable, and really tasty. They're what I want cheese danishes to taste like - flaky, the cheese is not too sweet or heavy, and airy bites of sugar coated pastry. So good as a breakfast or anytime snack.
Portos Bakery
The second thing that Portos is famous for - their potato balls. These breadcrumb coated balls are pretty dang addicting...I'd liken them to mini portable shepherd's pies....
Portos Bakery
Here's a shot of the insides. Meaty meat mixture, surrounded in mashed potato, with a fried coating. I think this is the American answer to the Chinese dumpling.
Portos Bakery
And this is my sandwich, a turkey on a croissant sandwich. It came with plantain chips, a fun twist on the usual potato chip that would usually come with a sandwich, but I still prefer potato chips. These plantain chips had a nice satisfying crunch, though, and a faint taste of plantain, I think when you cut plantains this thin then fry them, you lose most of that flavor that goes along with it. The turkey croissant-wich was great, freshly baked croissant and yummy turkey is pretty much awesome. Also, at a price around 4 dollars, it was a nice change from the usual 9 dollar or more sandwiches I've come to begrudgingly pay for at other restaurants.

I'd definitely go again to sample some more of their baked goods - I had an unpictured mango mousse, which was very tasty and refreshing, with good mango flavor. It reminded me of mango pudding from Chinese restaurants, with more tartness, which I enjoyed. I'll be back again!

Porto's Bakery and Cafe
3614 W Magnolia Blvd
Burbank, CA 91505

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Back home in Lahaina

I’ve been here many times but I don’t think I’ve blogged about it yet. Sometimes I get a crazy Hawaiian food craving, and this is our restaurant of choice to satisfy that craving. The restaurant is hard to see from the street, as the entrance faces the back and not street front, but upon entrance, it’s quite festively decorated, taking the Hawaiian theme to heart, with fake foliage, vines and even a fake tree in the middle of the dining room.

I can’t help myself, when there’s Spam musubi, I order it…

Back Home in Lahina
Okay, my view on Spam- well, it’s not so bad. My mom and dad used to fry up thin slices of it, and then put sugar on them (because they felt like Spam was way too salty, which it is…but the addition of granulated sugar on top is not a great addition). We’d have this with rice, so this is not that much removed from spam musubi. I admit the Spam slime (the gooey slimy gelatin that encases the Spam in the can) is the most unpleasant part, and would deter most people upon experiencing “Spam in the raw”. Upon opening the can, I would suggest immediately rinsing and blotting the gelatin away, as it does not add or detract from the overall experience, and slicing it up and frying it to get a good crust on it.

Back to the spam musubi, they do a decent one, with a bit of teriyaki and green onion chopped on top. Nice little snacky appetizers to start the meal.

Plate lunch is very popular in Hawaii (from what I remember when I went in, ah, 8th grade!) so they have something similar with their lunch specials, choose one or two chicken or beef or pork, each plate comes with their ramen salad, rice and a scoop of mac salad. Here are the variations that we ordered:

Back Home in Lahina
Julian got the lahaina fried chicken and upgraded his rice to bacon fried rice. Almost all food is better when you add bacon. I think the lahaina fried chicken is the thing to get here, the marinade for the chicken is sweet, fried perfectly with fried crunchy bits all over it. The ramen salad is interesting - straight from the package ramen, crumpled up over thinly sliced cabbage, green onion and a tangy dressing. The mac salad is a nice texture contrast, very creamy and overwhelmingly ginger flavored, that's the only thing that I don't really like about their mac salad, how strongly the ginger taste is. The sauce was a teriyaki sauce, but I don't use much of it myself, I usually douse my plate with siracha sauce.
Back Home in Lahina
My plate lunch combo was very similar, lahaina fried chicken, BBQ Hawaiian chicken, plain white rice, ramen salad and that scoop of mac salad. Whenever I'm here, I'm quite drawn to this order, but I've gotten variations on this before - I think last time I ended up switching out my ramen salad for gyoza (very freshly fried!), and sometimes I get chicken long rice on the side (not pictured, but think, salty chicken noodle soup with rice noodle instead of thick pasta noodle, with a lot of green onions). I've also had their salmon, which was decent as well.

Also, on another visit, I've tried their premium Hawaiian ice cream. Owen couldn't help himself when he saw that they offered a chocolate, coconut and macadamia nut ice cream. (not pictured.) The generous scoop more than satisfied his cravings, the coconut made the whole scoop very rich, and the macadamia nuts were fun to crunch into. I didn't have much at all, since I'm not really a fan of chocolate ice cream (I know, it's a thing...), but if I did like it, I would choose this one.

This place is one of our favorites and we usually have excellent service. Highly recommended!

Back Home in Lahaina
916 N Sepulveda Blvd, Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles, California

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Made this at home: Apple Pandowdy

Apple Pandowdy
I actually cook quite a bit, but I don’t share enough of my own cooking pictures on this blog…every so often I make something super special and it’s so pretty that I photograph it. So this is one of those things, a apple pandowdy, cooling off from its’ stint in the oven. I had wanted to make something a little special for dessert for board game night, and had gotten a bag of granny smith apples….so apple pie was the obvious choice. However, I was still a bit nervous about pie-making…especially about a bottom layer of pie I had to par-bake.

I had gotten a great recipe from America’s test kitchen, for an apple pandowdy, which was a lot easier than having to make a whole pie, and could be a lot juicier and have less complicated cooking time. Peeled apples, some lemon juice, a bit of maple syrup, butter, pie crust, egg white and some sugar sprinkled on top – and here we are. Warm from the oven, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it was a perfect sweet ending to game night.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Fritto Misto

I had been wanting to try this place for awhile, after passing it many times on my way back home from 3rd Street Promenade, and had heard great things about it, so I set up a lunch with Daphne and her brother to meet up here. The place was bustling crowded, filled with office workers from nearby. They wouldn’t seat us until we were all there, so I waited a spell and eyed their desserts (I guess all premade and precut, everything was pre-plated and saran-wrapped).
Fritto Misto
When we sat down, we were immediately served this basket of warm bread. The texture of this bread was not entirely unpleasant but nothing special, as was the crust. The best part about this bread was the fact it was very warm, and was refilled even though there was only one piece left (the lone piece of bread, no one wants to take it…)
Fritto Misto
My usual drink order, the Arnold palmer. Good ratio of lemonade to iced tea.
Fritto Misto
As I eyed the menu, I had really wanted to order the namesake of the restaurant, the Fritto Misto. We agreed to order one as an appetizer and share it. When this dish landed on the table, it was a massive mound of fried goods – fresh and hot – containing pieces of broccoli, zucchini, shrimp, carrot, scallop, and eggplant. Cocktail and tartar sauce were provided for dipping. This really ended up being too much, a more appropriate amount for 6 people instead of 3. We could not finish this, which was a shame because re-heated fried food is never the same, so it was a waste. Ahh, waste….don’t tell my mother, please.
Fritto Misto
This was Daphne’s gnocchi pasta balls, with mini shrimps, in a cream sauce. This was deceptively a big portion, as each little gnocchi dumpling was filled with…
Fritto Misto
…ricotta cheese, as Daphne is proudly displaying here. She liked it a lot, I think.

Fritto Misto
This was what Eric ordered, a ravioli in a pink cream sauce, with sundried tomatoes. I think the ravioli was filled with chicken (he insisted that he “needed meat”, so I think that’s what they offered), and he got “full enough” from this dish (a major concern he had when ordering), so I think it was a success.
Fritto Misto
ordered the lunch special, which that day happened to be lasagna. Lunch specials come with a side salad, and I requested it to be a walnut gorgonzola salad (extra charge) instead of the usual choices of Caesar or house salad, and I’m glad I made the choice – the gorgonzola salad was enough to be a meal in itself. The lasagna had a really rich tasty sauce, which I enjoyed greatly, but I managed to control myself and only have half of this plate, the rest went to Owen who was sick at home and appreciated the treat.

At this point, I was too full to even look at desserts, so I guess that will have to wait for the next time I go! I think I’ll try dinner here next time…

Fritto Misto
601 Colorado Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90407
(310) 458-2829

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Casitas Taco Al Carbon

It feels like ages ago since I went to this place with Fernando and Louisa, but I’m finally getting around to showing the pictures for it (don’t hate me, please…) As I do not know many places in Burbank to eat, Fern drove us down to Casitas for some Mexican food, in a tiny strip mall close to Downtown Burbank.

Casitas Taco al Carbon

The place itself is extremely small, the kitchen consists of a cramped grill operating directly behind a short counter with a cash register.

Casitas Taco al Carbon

The salsa bar is quite attractive for a small place – plenty of ice and a few romaine lettuce heads for display purposes. I just hope they don’t necessarily use those later for people’s salads. I filled up little containers full of pico de gallo, red and green salsa, and chipotle, and waited outside, as there was pretty much no room to linger in the doorway with other people ordering their food.

This is what we unearthed once we got back to work to eat our takeout food…

Casitas Taco al Carbon

Louisa and I got steak nachos – my eyes popped out of my head when I opened the Styrofoam container. Generous amounts of pico de gallo, guacamole, and sour cream completely concealed the equally generous mound of tortilla chips, melted Monterey jack cheese, pinto beans and thick cuts of flank steak. There was no way to finish these all in one sitting, and unfortunately a lot of this got wasted, as tortilla chips do not withstand the test of time or slowly congealing cold cheese. The portion was just…ridiculous.

Casitas Taco al Carbon
Close up of the meaty cheesy bean-y stuff...
I doubt even the manliest of men could tackle this nacho monster before it becomes inedible and fuses all into one piece. Taste wise, it was pretty decent, although with any kind of nacho consumption, all of it kinda starts tasting the same (gloppy cheesy slightly crunchy spicy.)

Casitas Taco al Carbon

Fern decided to go “healthier” and got a chicken Caesar salad, which he claims is the only salad that leaves him satisfied. This clear takeout container must have held at least 3-4 char-grilled chicken breasts, atop chopped romaine lettuce (agh, from the salsa bar?!), and quartered tomatoes. This came with a few salad dressing containers, and one container of shredded parmesan cheese. He threw everything in the container and shook it all around, ‘till it was all mixed up. He finished the whole thing, and seemed pretty happy.

To be honest, (this might be too much information…)my stomach hurt something bad after I ate the nachos, but I didn’t want to blame the nachos for it, and I don’t like lambasting a place unless i give it a second chance (I have grown as a foodblogger….right??), so that’s exactly what I did – I gave it a second chance, and got the chicken Caesar salad that Fern seemed to like so much. The taste was fine, the chicken was a bit on the dry side, the dressing was creamy and tasty enough, and I would have liked the tomatoes to have been chopped instead of just quartered (making them difficult to bite while covered with dressing). The portion was again, generous.

However, I again got stomach distress. Two times I've gone, two times I've been in massive pain. So in the end, as great of a portion and as decently tasty as it was going down...I can't recommend this place. By all means, maybe it was two flukes, just random chances that I got sick both times - but I don't think I can go another round on Casitas.

Casitas Taco Al Carbon
405 N Victory Blvd

Burbank, CA 91502
(818) 848-3242