Hula Dog – Stuffed Bun Hot Dog from Hawaii

by Franklin on March 26, 2015

Oh, I miss Hawaii. The soft ocean breeze, the relaxed attitude, and beautiful coastal scenery — I love it all. When I saw Hula Dog at Newport Beach, I was instantly intrigued. They sell Hawaiian style hot dogs, lemonade, and shaved ice. I came in for a quick snack and drink. They basically get their in house made bread rolls, and the cool part is, they stick it inside a hot rod which heats up the bun from within, and create a hole for the hot dog to be inserted. Their topping and sauces range from fruit relishes from the island.

I ordered the bacon taro bread with polish sausage, topped with their secret garlic sauce and guava relish. From what I expected and what I actually got was very different. I was expecting a warm, chewy, doughy bread with hints of bacon and taro. The bread was very stale and pretty much broke. It had little flavor, and definitely no bacon or taro flavor. The sauces didn’t really help moisten everything. The hot dog sausage itself was very good. It have a nice beefy flavor and a good snap. It was juicy, and no too salty.

The lemonade was quite refreshing. Freshly squeezing the lemons really made a difference. It wasn’t too sweet, it wasn’t too sour or tart. It was just a refreshing, cold cup of lemonade. Perfect, actually.

Hula Dog was somewhat of a letdown. If it were exactly what I had imagined, it would have been quite spectacular. Imagine that perfect hot dog sausage wrapped in a nice chewy bun, filled with a tropical fruit relish — now that would be awesome. It was a good thing to wash down everything with the lemonade. They seem to be a popular thing in Hawaii, but maybe lost something when it made its way over here. Nonetheless, you still have the beach to enjoy, and I guess a hot dog and a lemonade at the beach isn’t too bad.

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Newcomb’s Ranch – Canyon Ride and Pancakes

by Franklin on March 22, 2015

The roads are clear, and the roads up Angeles Forest are asking for some action. One morning, some buddies and I decided to take our cars up the mountain caravan style. With some spirited driving, we made it to Newcomb’s Ranch, a biker and car enthusiasts stop up the mountain. Most stop by to have breakfast, chit chat about their bikes and go along their way. It was great to see this community and enjoy breakfast while at it. The food wasn’t really great, but the pancake was memorable.

The sloppy mess was just that, a sloppy mess. The chili and beans on top of the eggs was a mess, and some rice would have been perfect. The hash browns were not something I enjoyed. It was basically just cooked shaved potatoes.

My eggs were cooked nicely, and the bacon was a good match. Bacon and eggs is always a sure thing — only of the hash browns were good. No crisp, no buttered bits of goodness — they were just kind of there on the plate. Masked in ketchup and hot sauce, I made the most of it.

The pancakes really saved this breakfast. After enjoying my eggs and bacon, I always like to treat myself to pancakes. Theirs was surprisingly fluffy and had the perfect attributes of a good pancake. It was light, tasty, and absorbed the syrup just right. It was great with their coffee.

I know the breakfast was a bit boring, but the pancakes were quite memorable. We really don’t drive up the mountain for some of the best breakfast around, but the experience was great. Getting away from the city and enjoying the drive up the beautiful mountain was a treat in it of itself.

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LA Weekly’s The Essentials

by Franklin on March 16, 2015

The LA Weekly’s The Essentials event was a first time for me. I love going to food events because you can try a number of things from many different chefs and restaurants. The Essentials was held at California Market Center in downtown LA. More than 40 restaurants participated and fed the masses of people. When I say masses of people, these are a lot of people. The lines were a bit insane — I think we waited almost an hour until food touched our lips. Once we got up to the main floor, it was all smooth from there.

My favorites were Coni’Seafood‘s shrimp, octopus, scallop ceviche and Providence/Connie & Ted‘s raw oysters. The creative award goes to Saint Martha‘s for their uni tataki on seaweed “Doritos”. Mélisse‘s wagyu beef béarnaise was memorable. Spago‘s pork belly bánh mì was quite delicious. The pork belly was melt in your mouth wonderful. Curtis Stone plated some white asparagus pain perdu w/foie gras mousse form his restaurant in Beverly Hills, Maude. Also the blue crab rolls from Kiriko was memorable.

The event was filled with food and drinks. After waiting in line for some time, the reward was quite worth it. Can’t wait for next year!

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Senor G has everything you want in a Mexican joint. It had some good chips and salsa, a huge burrito with fresh ingredients, and is right next to the beach. Located in Playa del Rey, the location is quite nice and the small space was perfect.

The tortilla chips and salsa was awesome. The chips were ok, but the salsa was spectacular. It was as if they just made it right then and there. The tomatoes were fresh and the flavor was just right. Something about the salsa was just so addicting.

I ordered the Carlito’s Way burrito with beans on the side. It had chopped skirt steak, grilled onion, cheese, guacamole, and rice. The skirt steak was prepared fresh on the flat top grill. Each bite was meaty and hearty. The guacamole was fresh too, probably made not too long ago. The burrito had great taste and flavor, but had one minor (huge) problem. After 2 bites, the burrito fell apart. One huge pet peeve of mine is a burrito that can’t stay together. Even the largest, most packed burrito should stay together if wrapped correctly.

Senor G was a nice pit stop before the beach. The spot is nice and the salsa was really memorable. Every ingredient is fresh and is given so much attention. I didn’t get a chance to try a smoothie at G’s Juice next door, but will definitely have to come back for some.

Senor G's on Urbanspoon

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Smashburger – A Classic is a Classic

by Franklin on March 7, 2015

The first time I had a Smashburger was in La Jolla at La Jolla Cove Beach. This was year back, before any locations made its way near Los Angeles and Orange County. It was delicious then, and it is delicious now. The fast casual experience from a burger joint was new and exciting. The fresh ingredients and

Everything about the Classic Smash burger was, for a lack of better words, classic. The tomato, lettuce, and pickles were so fresh. The beef was of great quality and every ingredient was tasty. Of course, I had to go classic and have American cheese on there. The best part was the potato bun — it was fluffy, chewy, dense and flavorful. It was so moist and conforming to every bite. The bread, cheese, and beef alone would have made a great burger. The addition of the tasty Smash sauce was great.

Every great burger needs french fries. Fortunately, Smashburger fries are legit. Their shoestring (my favorite kind) were perfectly salted and seasoned. The texture was so crispy and satisfyingly crunchy. It did have a slight taste of frozen potatoes, but the fries were still delicious. I think even a little more time in the fryer would have made for even crispier fries.

Smashburger was just as good as I remember, maybe even better than I remember. The fresh ingredients, the fast casual atmosphere, and good service is all I need in a burger joint. The patty was memorable, and the bun was even better. Smashburger is a smash hit in my book. They are huge in the East and Mid-West, and I’m glad their here in LA and OC.

Smashburger on Urbanspoon

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Hambone’s – That BBQ Got Me

by Franklin on February 24, 2015

Good southern barbecue is hard to come by. Either the sauce isn’t right, the meat is dry, or the sides just don’t cut it. Stumbling upon Hambone’s in Bellflower, I was onto something delicious here. The look was right and the smell was intoxicating. This is that soul food — this stuff sticks to your ribs and stays with you. The food was indeed memorable, and we all know this stuff stuck to my ribs among other parts of my body. Barbecue is a beautiful thing and Hambone’s does it right.

Ordering the rib tips and fries, I knew not having any greens or veggies were going to kill me. It didn’t matter as the rib tips were succulent — it had the right amount of tender meat and flavorful bark. The plate came with more than I thought, and the pieces were perfectly sized. The fries were dusted with seasoning salt which I liked. Call me unconventional (or a typical Asian), but a side of rice with these rib tips would have been quite nice. Just saying.

The tri tip sandwich to me was good, but not great. The meat was a bit on the dry side, but was aided with their spicy sauce. I saw everyone ask for some spicy sauce, and I naturally ordered some as well. That stuff was addicting — spicy with the right kind of kick and all the goodness of barbecue. That saved this somewhat bland sandwich. The mac and cheese though was on point. Cheesy and greasy as it should be, the noodles were perfectly coated in the cheese sauce.

My visit to Hambone’s was quite pleasant. The price for everything wasn’t too much. I was quite surprised at the price actually. At this calibur of barbecue and with these affordable prices, I will surely be back.

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EMC Seafood – Oyster and All for Happy Hour

by Franklin on February 20, 2015

EMC Seafood seems like a fish out of water in K-Town, pun intended. With a clean cut interior and a fresh menu of seafood offerings, there is no smidgen of K-Town funk. Don’t get me wrong — as a Korean with a love/hate relationship with Koreatown, restaurants in this part of town seem to replicate each other. You have your typical Korean bar/restaurants, numerous BBQ spots, and everything in between. EMC seafood is refreshing and a beam of light for future things to come.

We started things off with a dozen oysters. At a dollar a pop during happy hour, I don’t know why I didn’t get more. The oysters were plump, juicy, and fresh. Topping them with the various sauces, or having them raw, oysters are always enjoyable. No, seriously though. Why didn’t I order more?

The soft shell crab sliders were pretty ok, not the best. I felt the bread somehow overpowered everything. I know from the looks of it, the crab is hanging out from the sides of the bread. For some reason, the soft shell crab lacked flavor. Maybe salting it more or spicing up the batter would have helped a bit. It really didn’t stand out and was the most underwhelming dish of the night.

The lobster roll was quite delicious. The lobster was plenty but didn’t seem cooked recently. Lobster is usually a bit firm, succulent, and has a nice bite to it. The lobster here was a bit flaccid and somewhat flavorless. Maybe it was the lack of mayo. It just needed something extra. Even the crispness of a lime or lemon would have done wonders. I would probably stay away from the lobster roll next time.

The uni pasdta is a favorite of mine. Though the pasta sauce was a bit watery and the uni flavor was not prominent. Still though, uni pasta is uni pasta, and uni is delicious. The spaghetti was cooked nicely al dente, and nice big sliver of uni was great. I think honing down the sauce and making it more robust would do wonders for this dish.

For Koreatown though, EMC is a great spot for seafood. The flavors and ingredients are fresh and it is one of the premiere spots in Koreatown that isn’t your typical “K-Town” flair.

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar on Urbanspoon

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Best Fish Taco in Ensenada – Baja Style

by Franklin on February 17, 2015

It is Tuesday! That, for me means tacos! What is not to love about a taco? When you have the perfect tortilla, the perfect fillings of meat, veggies and sauce, it is so delicious. Fish tacos are hard to come by. It’s easy to get a carne asada taco right, but to get a good fish taco, everything needs to be balanced. The batter needs to be light, and the fish, fresh. It goes without saying the tortilla and sauces need to be equally perfect. If one thing is off, the whole thing can be ruined. At Best Fish Taco in Ensenada (yes, that is the name of the restaurant), the bold statement of the name really holds true. In short, their fish tacos are delicious!

I liked the fish came straight out of the fryer. They give you just the tortilla and fish, and you dress it the way you like. From regular salsa to specialties like mango, pineapple, avocado guac salsa, the toppings are plenty. Putting the amount of salsa and crema I like, it made for the perfect fish taco just the way I like. The fish was fresh and tender, and the batter was just right. The shrimp taco was good too, but I favored the fish more.

To name your restaurant as being “the best” is a bold statement. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that these are the best fish tacos in LA, but they are quite delicious. The plan is simple. Make the fish fresh and let the customer top it off however they like. Their prices are low, and quality is high. With these simple ingredients, it is no wonder why it’s so tasty.

Best Fish Taco in Ensenada on Urbanspoon

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Eggslut – Quick Lunch, Long Line

by Franklin on February 10, 2015

Call someone a slut, and you are asking for trouble. Take someone to Eggslut, and you are just the best friend ever. I remember having Jury Duty (the worst) and we were on our lunch break — I headed straight to the Grand Central Market. It is great to see Downtown flourish and the revival of the Grand Central Market a couple years back is a true testament to that. I knew I had to give Eggslut a try. I think the name itself is just intriguing enough. This is a long overdue post so don’t hate me if the details are a bit foggy.

I ordered the Fairfax with bacon. The soft scrambled eggs were so delicate and smooth and the addition of the chives made it extra special. The cheddar cheese melted nicely and mixed in with the caramelized onions and sriracha mayo. I am glad I added the bacon as it gave the sandwich extra saltiness and flavor. The warm Portuguese bun was the perfect bread to hold everything together.

The Slut is a dish of coddled egg on top of a smooth potato purée. It is then poached in a glass jar and served with toasty crostini. Now they serve it with a baguette. The coddled egg mixed in with the potato puree was so buttery and delicious. Was I supposed to eat it on top of the bread? I didn’t see a use for it. The egg and potatoes in the glass jar were all that I needed — I just didn’t see a need for the bread. If the mixture was a bit more savory or salty, I would like to eat it with the bread. Just think of very buttery mashed potatoes with a nicely poached egg on top, topped with salt and chives. It is so simple and delicious.

Eggslut has some lines when it is lunch time. My wait was only about 10 minutes. Sitting there at the bar, enjoying my sandwich and poached egg was memorable. The ingredients were so pure and simple — the preparation was the star. Alvin Cailan, creator of Eggslut now has a ramen shop called Ramen Champ in Chinatown. I can’t wait to try that in the near future.

Eggslut on Urbanspoon

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Cafe Gratitude – Vegans are People Too

by Franklin on February 6, 2015

Super Bowl is a day of feasting, and not in the sense of a holiday meal, but in a snacking and binge eating sense. We Americans put down nearly 30 million pounds of chips and over a billion chicken wings. A single chicken can only make four pieces of chicken wings — that calculates to 250 million chickens. Not to mention all of the avocados, burgers, pizzas, beer, nuts, pretzels, nachos, hot dogs, and whatever people eat on Super Bowl Sunday, its a lot of food.

Sometimes putting the Doritos down and putting something good in your body is refreshing. Cafe Gratitude is just what you need after a gorge fest of junk food — vegan/raw. Their food is clean, healthy, and at least for me, something I will rarely eat or enjoy. Ultimately, for a vegan meal, I thought it was great but not something I’d switch over to.

The “COMMUNITY” was a warm dip of spinach and baby artichoke. The choice of toasted gluten-free buckwheat crackers was a poor one as the crackers were just terrible. I mean, a vegan would probably love them, but the taste, texture and smell was something I wasn’t used to. The crostini bread was a little more what I was used to. The spinach and artichoke dip was healthy. No globs of cheese or mayo — just good and healthy veggies and some kind of vegan cream sauce. It was guiltless and somewhat tasty.

The “VIVACIOUS” were baked kale chips. These were more my kind of vegan snack. The baked kale was very crisp and one would think they were fried in oil. They had good texture and taste, especially dipping in the choice of garlic tahini, cashew nacho cheese, or creamy salsa verde dipping sauces.

The “BOUNTIFUL” was a baked gluten-free pasta. I guess it was the closes thing to mac and cheese. Their quinoa shells were crisp and almost crunchy. The roasted eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, and spinach gave the dish a lot of needed flavor. The almond basil bechamel was not creamy, but gave it enough sauciness to keep me interested — and the Brazilian nut parmesan gave the fake dish of mac and cheese seem cheesy. This was a great rendition of a classic mac and cheese, and though it was all vegan, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

The “AWESOME” was an eggplant parmesan panini. The Herb-cornmeal crusted eggplant was tasty and hearty. The absence of meat was almost forgotten. The grilled panini bread soaked up the marinara sauce and the cashew ricotta really tasted cheesy. The addition of tomatoes, Brazil nut parmesan, arugula, and basil gave the sandwich a lot of flavor and depth. A side of country style potatoes made this a very fulfilling dish. It was the least vegan of all of them, so I guess that makes sense.

I never wanted meat more than during this meal. I hardly often eat vegan, but when I do, I feel a little better about myself. After a binge of potato chips and ribs and chicken wings, sometimes, this kind of healthy stuff is needed. I don’t foresee myself eating vegan anytime soon, but if so, I suppose Cafe Gratitude can do me right.

Cafe Gratitude on Urbanspoon

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Tokyo Fried Chicken Co. – I’m Guilty

by Franklin on February 4, 2015

It is always good to see a somewhat popular restaurant in Monterey Park that isn’t Chinese or Asian. Even though Tokyo Fried Chicken Company suggests something Asian, I still think of it as southern fried chicken. Though it may have some Japanese influences, it is all about the fried chicken here. Fried chicken was the main event today, and we had a feast indeed.

We started things off with chicken skins. When I saw that on the menu, I knew I needed to have it. I remember as a kid, I was forced to throw the chicken skin away when eating KFC or Pioneer Chicken — my dad was kind of a health nut. Well, I got my revenge with these fried chicken skins. The basket was full of crunchies, almost like a basket of chicharon, I was dipping them and popping them in my mouth. They were delicious and such a guilty pleasure.

The sauces were key. The ponzu was much needed as it did a good job in cutting the fat of the fried goodness. The acidic and the fatty chicken was a great mixture. I wasn’t really a fan of the sweet soy sauce though.

The chicken was the main dish, but sadly the chicken wasn’t the main event. I have had my share of fried chicken (guilty), but their chicken was very different in a way not pleasing to my palate. As a savory and salty lover, their chicken was a bit on the sweet side. The sweetness was a bit off-putting. Even the chicken was a bit tough and seemed like it was more chuncky than juicy. The batter was crunchy though and had good flavors.

Mac and cheese with fried chicken go together like mac, and cheese. Their was quite delicious with the nori on top. The cheesy dish combined with the seafoody seaweed was a nice mix. It was cheesy and macy — delicious!

Dessert was made possible by Quenelle of Burbank. The push pops orange creamsicle of manderine orange and vanilla bean was nostalgic to the max. I remember eating the Flintstone push pops as a kid, and these were just delicious. The ice cream bar, apple pie a la mode was delicious as well. The apple pie ice cream, brown butter glaze, and graham cracker strusel crust was exactly what I imagined. If you were to make an apple strusel crisp pie into an ice cream bar, this would be it. The ice cream was a perfect ending to our fried chicken dinner.

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Bella Cuba – Post-Shopping Meal

by Franklin on February 2, 2015

Sometimes, Cuban food just hits the spot. The classic Latino flavors and dishes of Bella Cuba just hit the mark. After a long day of shopping at South Coast Plaza, Bella Cuba was a good energizer. Their classic Cuban dishes were comforting. Nothing is more comforting that having meat and rice.

Bread and butter at its most basic. A nice touch, and something nobody wants to fill up on before dinner.

The roasted garlic chicken was a delicious classic. Not as good as Versailles in Los Angeles, but still a good dish. The black beans and rice went so well with the chicken. The chicken was a bit dry, but had great flavor from the acidic sauce and onions. You know that lemony sauce I am talking about. The thought of it makes my mouth water — perfect for the blank slate of a chicken. The sweet plantains balanced out the savory and sour of the fish nicely.

The ropa vieja was an interesting dish. The comfort of the stewed shredded beef (ropa vieja) and rice was a good combination. The garlic, onions, and peppers were fluorescent and gave the dish nice flavor. It was to me a bit boring and needed something more for the dish to shine. The plantains did a good job in breaking up the mundane savory beef.

I heard goo things of their tres leches cake and had to order one. Though I have had better, and though I prefer my tres leches cake to be very creamy and wet, the cake was a great dessert. From the acidic and savory chicken to the hearty beef and rice, the cake was a nice cool down. If you are expecting the best tres leches cake though, look elsewhere.

Bella Cuba was good but not great. The comforting meat and rice will always be a winner for me. South Coast Plaza, easily one of my favorite malls (if i were rich), has some good eats inside. If you are in the mood for something Cuban and a little in your price range, just go across the street.

Bella Cuba on Urbanspoon

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Copenhagen Pastry – Danish Baking Perfected

by Franklin on January 28, 2015

Copenhagen Pastry is an authentic Danish pastry shop. They use the best ingredients and their technique is so refined. This creates pastries that are flaky, light, and delicate. Their fillings are traditionally almond paste and custard, and got to try a variety of their treats. My favorite was the Kringle. It was the sweetest of the bunch, but not too sweet. The flaky crust and the custard, almond paste mixture was perfect. I’m not fond of almond extract or the taste of almond in pastries, but theirs was delicate and used sparingly. The Crown and Spandauer was similar the the Kringle, but just in various ratios of custard and almond paste.

I can’t wait to go back and try their other pastries and their rye bread!
The Kringle – almond paste, custard, sugar

The Spandauer – almond paste, sugar

The Nougat Crown – almond paste, custard, hazelnut cream

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The Golden State – Burgers and Bacon

by Franklin on January 25, 2015

The Golden State on Fairfax was at one point touted as having the best burgers in Los Angeles. I am a burger snob, and I can say that if the time was taken, I can one dope burger. The menu is simple: burgers, sandwiches, salads, and sides. They even have Let’s Be Frank hot dogs as well. After trying a few years back, I realized a blog post is well overdue.

I always get the original called “The Burger.” The patty is made with Harris ranch beef. It is topped with Fiscalini Farms cheddar, applewood smoked bacon, arugula, aioli, ketchup. I got it with a side of jalapeño cabbage slaw wich is made with cabbage, carrots jalapeño, and red wine vinaigrette. Literally, all the ingredients listed were so fresh and exactly how I would want it. Nothing was soggy, or over done or underdone. It is like they knew what I wanted and met every specification. The beef was pure and delicious. I would have liked a better crust on it, but it was still quite nice. I always prefer the fake American cheese on my burgers, but the Fiscalini Farms cheddar had a complex flavor that gave the burger some maturity.

The BLTA: bacon, lettuce, tomato, and Avocado was a favorite of mine. Adding the avocado made everything creamy and cohesive. The bread choice wasn’t my favorite, but the ingredients inside made everything perfect. The side cucumber salad was amazing with this sandwich. Persian cucumbers, arugula, lemon vinaigrette all mixed together went so well with this bacon filled beauty.

The small shop pumps out some massive and delicious burgers. They really know what they are doing and know what they are talking about. The fresh ingredients and blend of flavors really went well. Nothing was over the top or gut busting. The burgers just had so much balance and maturity.

The Golden State on Urbanspoon

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Slapfish – Chowder My Fries

January 23, 2015

In a fast casual setting, Slapfish is all about being fresh and fast. They are all about fine dining with the price of something along the lines of Rubio’s (think California Fish Grill). The environment was clean and reminded me of a beachside local spot. We didn’t necessarily get there really early, but the restaurant [...]

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Jerry’s Famous Deli – Breakfast for Dinner

January 21, 2015

I totally forgot I went to Jerry’s a while back. It was a long day of golfing at Westchester and we were famished. We got breakfast and fries amongst other things. The diner was somewhat empty but the decor and environment was quite inviting. I would say the food was very average and safe, but [...]

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Lala Argentine Grill – Skirt

January 16, 2015

Argentinians and barbecue go to together like skirt steak with a side of chimichurri. This is probably why the national dish of Argentina is asado. Anything centered on barbecued beef, anyone can love. Lala Argentine Grill does a great job on the classic. Their food is consistently good and a favorite amongst Los Angelenos. The [...]

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The Best Day of My Life

January 10, 2015

The best day of my life wasn’t my wedding day. Before you go and start judgin’ me, you should hear when the best day of my life was — it was my first date with my now wife. We went out for some green tea and talked while looking out at the view on top [...]

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Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle – Tsukemen for the Soul

January 6, 2015

We are bangin’ out the new year with ramen. Noodles are a representation of long life, and is a perfect way to start off the new year. Ramen shops are expected to boom in Los Angeles for the year 2015 and Tsujita is leading them all. The shop is small, modern and quite relaxing. It’s [...]

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2015 and Beyond

January 2, 2015

Memories of 2014 will definitely be missed. It’s a good thing this blog helps me to remember all the delicious things that we ate. 2014 was definitely a milestone. Dine Delish turned 3, soon to be 4 in February 2015. I turned 30, and Melanie and I got married. 2014 will always be special. As [...]

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