September 2011

Mandalay Bay has some of my favorite things.  It is away from the busy party hardy vibe from the center strip, it has one of the best pools in Vegas, and it has Stripsteak. From the outside, it just looks and give off a normal steakhouse feel.  Once you dine there, you are treated so importantly — you are taken care of.

You know the caliber of a restaurant by the water.  If the ice is foggy and the water tastes like tap, most likely, the food won’t be good.  What amazed me at Stripsteak was that the water they served is bottled Fuji water. It was that good artesian water, and quite honestly, the best tasting water of all time.  For them to take the time and money to serve good water to the customers really impressed me.  I knew from there on out, the food would be amazing.

The bartender was helpful in picking a drink for us.  In our indecisiveness, he made us a pineapple mojito. It was good and special custom made drink.

Sadly, we did not get to try a full on steak here.  We were here for a late night snack and drinks, and this was perfect beyond words.  Thinking a table would be a bit much, we ditched our reservations and just sat casually at the bar. The vibe was very relaxing — No nose in the air kind of attitude here.

I asked the bartender. “Can we order the truffle fries trio?  I do not see it on the menu.”  He responded with, “Oh, those are complimentary, on the house with every order.”  For a restaurant to give complimentary fries was amazing to me.  It wasn’t the boring bread and butter here.  And it wasn’t just ordinary french fries either.  These were duck fat fries, done three ways with three dipping sauces — truffle fries, garlic herb fries, and cajun bay seasoning. I will say this — These were the best fries I ever had in my life.  The duck fat made it very rich and flavorful.  The truffle fries were amazing.  It had a light crisp texture, with a meaty and buttery depth.  The cajun and garlic herb fries were good as well, especially with the truffle aoli, house made ketchup, and cajun sauce.  I will definitely eat these every time I go to Vegas.  All for free, and amazing.

We just ordered the truffle mac and cheese.  It was alright.  It could have been more cheesy and less watery.  The taste was there, but I just wanted it gooey and cheesy.

The truffle flavor was there, something I don’t get to have a lot.  It was buttery, somewhat cheesy, and definitely truffled.  The broccoli inside was a nice touch, and it was especially delicious with the fries.

All in all, it was a great meal and snack.  Our mouths were open to the rib eye the guy next to us was enjoying.  Next time, after a good run on the craps tables, I will have my rib eye.

Stripsteak (Mandalay Bay) on Urbanspoon

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Honestly, this was a unique breakfast. For those who want a normal bacon and eggs with toast breakfast, look elsewhere.  Break of Dawn has good breakfast, but their menu has a creative twist to everything.

We had the sausage and rice.  It had Hawaiian sausage, green papaya, scallion puree, and two fried eggs.  It was delicious.  The Hawaiian sausage was kind of sweet, and very meaty. The green papaya and scallion puree was amazing, and the rice was cooked just right.  I am Asian, and all I ever need is rice and some kind of meet.

The dish was perfect with this hot sauce.  It wasn’t labeled and it was just sitting there.  One can only assume that it made in house. It was just the right amount of heat and perfect for anything.  Come to think of it, I should have bought a bottle on the way out.

Another interesting dish was the Mac & Cheese.  It had Sicilian sausage, short ribs, bacon, fried eggs, and smoked Gouda.  The taste was like no other Mac & Cheese I have ever had. It was definitely Asian influenced.  Short ribs and bacon in Mac & Cheese is genius.

French Toast Creme Brulee was the mac daddy of all breakfast desserts.  It was french toast on crack.  The raisin brioche was cooked, then drizzled with caramel soy, chocolate and coconut.  It was a bit sweet for my taste, but it was delicious. I was confused.  Dessert for breakfast?  Breakfast for dessert?  Nonetheless, it was great ending to a unique breakfast.

Honestly, I was expecting something different.  Different, meaning the same ol’ typical breakfast.  I was shocked to see so many different interpretations of breakfast on the menu. Break of Dawn is one of my favorite breakfast spots in Orange County.  It isn’t the same boring breakfast, that is for sure.

Break of Dawn Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Donuts are without a doubt bad for you.  That is what your doctor would say.  Well, good thing I’m not your doctor.  I am telling you, right now, and you may quote me on this — “donuts are good for you.”  Nothing this delicious can be bad for you. Strawberries inside a donut?  You had me at strawberries.  With strawberries being one of my favorite fruits, and donuts being one of many of my guilty pleasures, I was surely in for a treat.

Think of the most delicious strawberries you ever ate.  Imagine that drenched in some of the sweetest and stickiest syrup you can think of.  Split open a perfectly glazed donut.  Stuff those gooey, whole fresh strawberries inside, and devour. That’s it.

The mistake was the creme puff. This was neither tasty not something texturally pleasing.  Though they offer so many flavors, pass on this.

I do hear that their tiger tails are good.  It is the twisty striped donuts.  And look out during peach season for the peach donuts. A definite must when I go back.

Donut Man serves  plenty of donuts, but their signature creation is the reason people drive there for.  Serving world famous donuts on the famous Route 66 is what they do.  Sadly, they are all the way in Glendora.  Have you ever been to Glendora?  I don’t mean Glendora near the freeway.  I’m talking about Glendora way north of the 210, and in between two of the farthest exits from the freeway. It is basically not as central as can be.  It is not on the way to anything, at all.  Why would I, or anyone else drive out of their way for any reason?  Donut Man.

The Donut Man on Urbanspoon

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Wurstküche – Downtown Has The Best Of The Wurst

by Franklin on September 11, 2011

This whole experience eating at Wurstküche was kind of bizarre come to think of it.  First of all, the location is so low key.  It is located just outside of Downtown and Little Toyko.  Aside from a couple of other restaurants, Wurstküche is the only restaurants amongst the vacant lofts and warehouses. Once you weather through the long lines and the almost Nazi-like ordering process, you are finally inside.

The inside was almost like a NYC underground bar.  It was dark, a DJ was playing some hipster jams, and people were seated in and around the perimeter of the restaurant.  The center had long bench style seats, so everyone was sitting next to everyone. It was kind of cool and unique, but uncomfortable at the same time.  You are served your food, and then you start munching.

Wurstküche is known for their unique sausage meats.  The rabbit, veal & pork seasoned with white wine was definitely one of them. The taste was very mellow — the peppers and the mustard really helped round out the flavors.

What is more unique and ironic as eating rattlesnake and rabbit is that it was all in the same sausage.  Who knew these two opposing ends of the food chain would come together inside of a pork casing, and ultimately consumed by me, the top of the food chain? This irony and play on food really made this sausage interesting.  Though a little dry, it was tasty.  I couldn’t help but realize I was eating rattlesnake.

The hot Italian was a classic and one of my favorites.  It was familiar and brought back to something I finally knew. It was what I was used to and “normal”.  It was juicy and had tons of flavor.  This was my back to reality sausage.

All these different sausage combinations could not be enjoyed with the company of some Belgian fries and beer.  The fries were tasty, especially dipping it in some chipotle aioli. It was the perfect side to the sausages.

The beer that finished everything off was Gouden Carolus. This was suggested by one of the workers and it was a great recommendation.  It was smooth in the beginning and a bit bitter at the end.  The beer really helped with the richness of all the fatty sausages.

Wurstküche is an awesome spot.  The downtown hot spot is a step away from the normal restaurants in Los Angeles.  It begs to be different, and it delivers. Everything about the restaurant is unique — and all is tasty.

Wurstküche on Urbanspoon

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Brea’s Best Hamburger – Is It?

by Franklin on September 6, 2011

I see a lot of burger places touting that their burger is the best.  “Best Burgers in Town”, or “The best in the world.”  I mean really.  How can you state that you have the best in the world?  Have you tried all the burgers in the world?  How do you know that? Not only does Brea’s Best have a sign that says it is the best, their actual restaurant name is stating they are the best.  So the question is, is it the best?

The Menu offers regular burger joint foods.  Cheeseburgers, fries, and onion rings.  I was surprised to see some healthy options as well.  They offered salads and chicken burgers as other options.  The inside, typical as well.  It is cleaner than most hole in the wall burger places. For one, it is Orange County, and it is Brea we are talking about.

The meat is a perfect size and the flavor is on point.  The bread is soft and the produce is fresh.  I really enjoyed this burger.  There was the right amount of meat, bread, cheese, vegetables, and sauce in each bite.  It was so balanced and tasty. The thousand island spread was very “In-n-Out” like of them, and the gooey melted American cheese was classic.  It was basically a Double-Double, but cleaner.  For a hole in the wall burger joint, it really was delicious.

Honestly, it is the best burger…in Brea.  Hence the name, Brea’s Best.  I have been to my share of burger joints in Brea, and I can say this is the best.  I do like the blue cheese burger at Yard House, but this one is more traditional.  And lucky for Brea’s Best, there isn’t am In-n-Out in Brea. With the process of elimination, and as far as an In-n-Out decides not to open on in Brea, this truly is Brea’s best hamburger.

 

HOTSAVINGSLB

Brea's Best Burgers on Urbanspoon

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Hacienda Heights, I commend you.  You have won the lottery.  Anyone knows the power and might of 85C Bakery in Irvine.  The lines forming and the awesome pastries, amazing!  Put one of these in any city in the San Gabriel Valley, and it will thrive.  With the grand opening of the 2nd 85C Bakery in the US being in Hacienda Heights, they clearly won the lottery. I guess I shouldn’t complain as it is a bit easier for me to get my hands on these pastries.  Who knows, in a few years, this will come closer to the Los Angeles area — crossed fingers.

Some things I was worried about was the consistency of the bread.  I feel like the Irvine location has fresher bread.  Maybe it is all in my head, but that is the way I feel.  Also, what is the with the B grading from the department of public health?  This is a brand new location, which means brand new everything. How does one get a B grade from that?  Hopefully that will change soon.

Anyways, they have pretty much the same stuff as the Irvine location, as they should.  This one is a bit larger and has more eating areas.  Is it also weird that this one is right next to a Guppy Teahouse, just like their Irvine counterpart?  Coincidence?  I doubt it. Probably a good business plan.  Anyways, check out the grand opening.  If you haven’t tried 85C Bakery, lucky for you, it is a bit closer to Angelinos.

85°C Bakery Cafe (Hacienda Hgts) on Urbanspoon

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Hearing much rave about 85C Bakery Cafe in Irvine, I had to check it out.  I have been to my share of Asian bakeries, and they are all pretty much the same.  Besides the degree of quality these bakeries have amongst each other, they all work the same way.  You get a tray, pick out the breads and pastries you like, and that is it. 85C Bakery has so much rave, but its probably like any other bakery, so I thought.

Skeptical, I was quickly reassured of its greatness by the long lines.  When I say “long lines”, I mean people are outside the door, waiting in the cold. Not wanting to stand in the cold night and cautious about getting sick, we weighed out the pros and cons in the car.  After a long and great thought process, and almost turning to go back home, we decided to eat dinner in hopes of a smaller line afterwards.  Lucky for us, our plan worked!

Waiting in a considerably shorter line, we were eager to see what the fuss was about.  Finally entering the bakery and grabbing our trays, peace and serenity went out the door. It was a dog eat dog world in there.  If you wanted something, you had better grabbed it quick, before someone nabs it before you.  You felt the rush from behind you as you rushed the people in front, all just to get that last remaining pastry that you love so much.

Sometimes, I felt myself grabbing just anything, they all looked amazing.  Croissants here, sweet breads here, savory breads, custard filled, hot dog filled — it was a baked carbohydrate paradise.  If I saw a random person hoarding or raving about one particular baked good, I quickly, almost instinctively grabbed one for myself. “If he’s getting 10 of them, it must be good” was what I was thinking in my head.

After the hustle, they packaged each individual bread, and boxed it for us.  After an order of their famous sea salt iced latte, the experience was over. Carrying boxes back to our car, we passed by what looked to be an even longer line.  Proud that we didn’t have to wait in a long line, and knowing we got some good stuff, we were ultimately happy.

Trust me when I tell you that this is worth the wait.  Thought they sell cakes and other sweats, the pastries is what people come here for.  I went home, left the box of pastries in the living room — The next morning, all but one were gone. I was shocked.  A bit sad because I didn’t get to try all of them, more happy that my family got a chance to enjoy them.  The last one in the box was mine.  I like to think it was the best one, because it was. The bread was so chewy and dense, and the custard inside was so good with a hint of sweetness. Amazing. Amazing….amazing  I think I will get like 10 of these next time — possibly, maybe this time, the guy behind me will follow suit.

85°C Bakery Cafe (Irvine) on Urbanspoon

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