January 2012

It’s not every day that I get the pleasure to eat Middle Eastern food, especially Persian. It was my brother’s birthday, and I wanted to treat my family to something they never really had before. The exotic cuisine was a success to say the least. It was fun eating family style at Raffi’s Place in Glendale. The place was really busy, but waiting for a table wasn’t a long wait. The interior was nice — when I say the interior, I mean the outside eating area. Most of the patrons eat outside, which was adorned with lights and trees. It is a fitting place to celebrate something special, or just to have nice a meal.

Not being a fan of lamb, I was hesitant in ordering the Rack Of Lamb. Surprisingly, it was one of the best meats there. It was a succulent rack of spring lamb marinated and charbroiled with bell pepper and onions. It didn’t have an ounce of dryness and was not gamey. The char on the meat was tasty. Soltani Kabob is a filet mignon and ground beef, skewered and charbroiled. It was a perfect beef for sharing. The Shish Kabob was marinated chunks of filet mignon, skewered and charbroiled with bell pepper and onion. The meat was perfectly cooked to a medium well. It was softer that I thought it would be. The Chicken Barg is their most popular item, and their cheapest option. It is skewered and charbroiled, and being a boneless breast of chicken means it is easy to eat.

The side dishes were perfect with the meat. The hummus was as good as it can be. It was cooked, mashed garbanzo beans, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. The eggplant was grilled eggplant with tomato sauce and garlic. It was an awesome side with the meat. It was zesty and flavorful. My favorite was the Yogurt And Cucumber with mixed herbs. Just dipping the flat bread with the hummus was delicious — even better with the meat

The flat bread they gave us was tasty and perfect for meat. It may be the Los Angeles in me, or maybe I am eating it right, but I would stuff the flat bread with meat and all the sauces and eat it like a taco. Each bite with the meat, yogurt sauce, and eggplant along with the hummus was amazing. Then I would take a few scoops of the basmati rice. It is so fluffy and delicious. Cutting up some roasted tomatoes and onions, every flavor was just a perfect mix of textures and taste.

We had to end this meat with dessert. We ordered the Chocolate Raspberry Gelato. It had chocolate gelato with a heart of raspberry sorbet all covered with cocoa powder. The cool thing was that the inside of the chocolate gelato was the raspberry sorbet. It was kind of a cool surprise.

Raffi’s Place is a sure thing. Located in Glendale, CA it is close to The Americana and Glendale Galleria. Inside and out, the place is somewhat classy and isn’t too expensive. The staff can be a bit inattentive, especially when it is busy, but the service is very quick when you do get their attention. I guess Middle Eastern food isn’t quite exotic to me. Make your taco fajitas? Meat and rice? That is an everyday kind of food for me. Their flavors are nice and the atmosphere is pleasant. Nothing more that I can ask for.

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It seems to be that a lot of my favorite restaurants in Vegas converge around the Bellagio Fountain.  I don’t see why not.  The Fountain alone is amazing to have as a background of a great meal. Todd English’s Olives in Bellagio has class and taste, and won’t hurt your wallet.  From the interior design, to the food on the plate, everything was balanced and cohesive — it all felt like they belonged.

Upon making reservations, I was happy to be seated next to the window facing the fountains.  I asked for the tables outside, but there were none available.  In hind sight, eating inside was a better decision. It was warmer, the decor was nice, and I still sat directly next to the fountain.

Complimentary bread and olives (how fitting) was given before our meal.  The bread varied from chiabata and flat breads, and eating it with the olives was tasty.  It was a bit salty, probably because I used too much, but the taste was very clean and pure. It isn’t your normal bread and butter — that’s a good thing.

To go along with our bread, we opted for the Beef carpaccio to compliment our appetizer.  Yes, beef carpaccio is raw beef. Never having it before, and knowing they are known for this dish, I was excited.  The beef was fresh and of high quality, as it should be.  The polenta and gagonzola, and scallion cream gave it a nice creamy texture.  My favorite was the balsamic reduction.  It was sweet and acidic, which helped break up the richness of the beef. The parmesan, cipolini onions, and garlic aioli rounded out the flavors nicely.  It was a great first experience.

Of course, I love prosciutto.  Salted cured meats?  Fatty and buttery deliciousness?  I am there! Their Fig and Prosciutto flat bread is a must order for sweet and salty lovers.  The fig jam was a bit sweet for me and overpowered the Gorgonzola.  Gorgonzola is a pretty salty and strong cheese — the rosemary crust and the prosciutto di parma was savory.  Maybe a bit more prosciutto, and a bit less figs would have made this perfect.

The butternut squash tortelli was a great dish as well.  The filling was a mixture of amereto cookie and butternut squash.  A bit sweet, but I guess that is the theme of the meal.  The sage and brown butter, with parmasan cheese made a sweet yet savory sauce. It was a perfect balance of sweet and savory.  The outer layer pasta was freshly made and perfectly cooked.  This was one of their signature dishes as well.

For dessert, we got the truffles.  It came in a trio on top of some of the best caramel I have ever had. One truffle in particular had a dark chocolate, coffee filling that was so rich in flavor.  It was a perfect truffle.

Eating all this good food, watching the fountain show, and enjoying it in the comforts of Todd English’s Olives was a pleasure.  Yes, the food had a theme of sweet and savory going on, and we did risk the dangers of eating raw beef, but it was all worth it. All that goodness, and to top it with complimentary dessert truffles was a display of exceptional service. Things like this make me happy. Good food with good people in a restaurant with great food. What more can I ask for?

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When Chinatown comes into a conversation, and the topic of lunch or dinner pops up, you can’t help but thing of Yang Chow. And when you think of Yang Chow, you can’t help but think of Slippery Shrimp. Chinatown can be a scary place to some, but smack dab in the middle of Chinatown on Broadway, is Yang Chow. Inside, it seems like a typical Chinese restaurant, and it is. The furniture and layout is very old school as it should. It’s a classic. The walls are scattered with pictures of local government icons and famous people. The restaurant opened in 1977 and has been a popular Chinese hotspot since.

Of course I ordered the Slippery Shrimp — It’s what they are known for. The shrimp was kind of smaller than you think, but the flavor was  massive. The batter was light and crispy. It was a bit on the sweet side, but the hot sauce that they had there balanced out the flavors nicely. Eating it with the white rice was simple and delicious — It was all I really needed.  Slippery shrimp and rice was like comfort food for me.

We ordered the Chicken Lo Mein as compliment to our shrimp, though I would have been happy with just white rice. The noodles were thick and the chicken was plenty. Again, I put some hot sauce chili oil over the noodles to give it some spice. Most times, noodle dishes can get greasy and oily. It was a great noodle dish.

Yang Chow is a Chinatown icon. The place is a popular spot for locals and visitors. It all started with five brothers who wanted to start a restaurant. Yang Chow was the name of their home town. How fortunate of us to have them bring their home town into Los Angeles.

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I am a sucker for dessert. Cakes, pies, ice cream, you name it. Sweet Lady Jane has something special. In this small coffee shop and bakery, they offer gourmet coffees and dessert items. Walking in, it was a bit quaint and could only sit a handful of people. I just got some desserts to go to enjoy after dinner. One dessert, I shall forever put on my favorites list. The other, I would probably pass on it next time around. At the end of the day, Sweet Lady Jane is an awesome stop for a sweet treat.

It doesn’t look good, but it is so amazing. The Oreo Tiramisu was exactly what it is — Oreo and Tiramisu. This might be my most favorite dessert ever. There were Oreo chunks inside as well as some kind of chocolate cake/cookie. The cream was an indulgence in itself. The best part was the hint of coffee taste. Each bite led me to the next, which led me to want more and more. It was addicting — kind of scary. The cream mixed in with some cake bits, mixed in with some cookie, mixed in with some more cream — this was just pure bliss.

The triple berry cake was kind of a disappointment, though it was tasty. The cake was moist, yet crumbly, but overly sweet. The fruit was fresh and delicious in itself. Sadly though, the cake didn’t entice me as much as the Oreo Tiramisu. I’d say the berry cake at Alcove Cafe & Bakery was more desirable.

I bough a chocolate covered macaroon and ate it in the car. I couldn’t wait to take a picture, but I will say, it was delicious. Kind of oily and sweet like a baklava, but good. I’ll stop by Sweet Lady Jane when I am in the area for some more of that Oreo Tiramisu though. I might want to try some of their other desserts as well, especially some of Jane’s favorites. But of course, the Oreo Tiramisu will always be an item to order.

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Omelette House – French Everything For Breakfast

by Franklin on January 16, 2012

Trust me. I did not spell it wrong. Omelette House decided to spell “omelet” that way. According to grammarist.com, they are both the correct spelling. Since we are not in France, we will spell it the American way — Omelet. I am not going to lie. I said the word a million times in my head, and now it has lost all meaning. Despite that, I can’t seem to get eggs off of my mind. Once berated for being a cholesterol high food, today’s world doesn’t think so. Eggs are high in protein, and less in fat compared to other “cuts” of “meat”. It’s cheap, it’s tasty, and you can make omelets with it. Omellete House in Garden Grove has a wide variety. They are simple and delicious.

The Forentine had hickory smoked bacon, spinach and Swiss cheese. It was topped with sour cream, black olives, and green onion. The spinach and swiss cheese made for a nice mix of flavors. I know I may sound crazy, but the bacon seemed out of place. I think maybe ham would have been tastier in this dish. Otherwise, I liked the sour cream and black olives.

The Tasso omelet was my favorite, probably because of all the meat. It had Italian sausage, breakfast sausage, ham, and bacon. Inside it also had tomatoes and cheddar cheese. The cheese melted nicely all together with the meat party. I added some hot sauce and I was good to go. Though nothing spectacular, their hash browns were tasty. It had a nice crunch to it — Almost like tiny little french fries all compacted into hash browns. (Yes, I had to incorporate “french” in the hash browns too.)

It isn’t breakfast without french toast. Interestingly, I think Omelette House is known for this dish. They call it the Berry Good French Toast. This thing was huge, and very delicious to look at. The berries and toppings were fresh — they sure do pack on the fruit. The french toast already had a berry reduction (raspberry?) over it, so it didn’t need much syrup. On a side note, it would have been better with some chocolate sauce instead of the berry sauce. Although, they wouldn’t be able to call it the “Berry” Good French Toast. All in all, it was a pretty solid french toast, especially for an omelet joint.

An “Omelette” and french toast, sounds like a French breakfast to me. I had a nice breakfast here. It isn’t as glamorous as the ones in Los Angeles, but it was great its own way. The place is a bit small, so there aren’t many seats. The wait was a bit long, but worth it. They have a lot of omelets to choose from as well as other traditional breakfasts. The question is, what omelet will you get?

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The White Rabbit Truck was a pleasant surprise.  I heard about them a lot online and in the media, so I was excited to try their food.  This truck, a Filipino fusion truck, serves their take on tacos and burritos as well as rice bowls. A fan or Asian fusion with Mexican, I was inclined to try their most famous item on the menu, the pork sisig burrito.

The pork sisig burrito had garlic rice, pork sisigs, egg, and cheese.  This was a perfect balance of flavors and textures.  The pork was nice and tender.  Their pork sisig is deep fried pork belly, fried in onions and jalapenos.  The almost runny egg and cheese was a perfect creamy and velvety texture. Their garlic rice was perfect as well.  My gripe about some burritos is that the tortilla is not soft. I liked the tortilla from the sisig burrito — it was soft and chewy, almost silky.  This burrito was perfect because each individual item inside the burrito was perfect — together, it was exponentially more delicious.

The White Rabbit Truck offers a food eating challenge, which they are known for.  The burrito is almost 2ft long, and contains, 6 eggs, 3lbs of any choice of meat, 6 scoops of rice, 12 cheese slices, wrapped in 6 tortillas. That equates to 6 pounds! — Definitely bigger than my single tortilla burrito.  Here is the video of Adam Richman from Man v. Food on the White Rabbit Truck. Watch to see them make this monster, and see someone eating it. Does he actually finish it?

Honestly, I was happy to eat the burrito (the regular one of course).  Each bite gave me a smile.  Though I only had the normal one, one day, I shall attempt and possibly finish the challenge. Am I crazy? Maybe a little. Until then, the regular one will do for me.  Just like the chef on the logo, White Rabbit Truck is a thumbs up!

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Breakfast might be my favorite meal of the day, albeit, I don’t eat breakfast as often as I should.  I speak of breakfast as in a quiet meal in the morning — A quiet meal where I am not rushed or anything (Translation. Saturday or Sunday). I absolutely love breakfast on the weekend.  Eggs, bacon, toast, orange juice, coffee, even cereal – it is all that and a bag of breakfast potatoes.  No breakfast can be enjoyed on your way to work with one had on your steering wheel. How awesome is it to have a nice breakfast in the morning and have nothing else work related on that day?  Pretty awesome! What is better than breakfast on a weekend? Nothing really. A nice meal to start off your day off — there is nothing better.  I think I made my point.  Thank you.

Finding Doughboys Cafe, I knew it was something to look forward to. The place was packed, and it looked busy. There was a bit of a wait, but I didn’t mind. The place only sat a few inside and the outside seating was stretched to the sidewalk. Even though I sat inside, I am a sucker for sidewalk cafes. The staff was awesome — our waiter specifically was so friendly and down to earth.  His job seemed so natural and fitting, it didn’t even feel like he was “at work”.  That kind of friendliness is hard to come by, and I am glad I had that here.

I ordered the After School Special which was a grilled cheese and tomato soup. It’s not really breakfast, but I ate it in the morning, so I guess it is breakfast. The butter toasted french pan de mie bread was filled with gooey emmanthal, white cheddar, and fontina cheese. They cut off the crust which I thought was a nice touch. The tomato soup was creamy and delicious. A bit on the sweet side, but very fulfilling. It was a huge bowl, almost too much. Of course, I dipped my grilled cheese in the soup. After school special? I kind of wish I had this waiting for me at home after school. That would be a treat.

They are also known for their taters. It is basically potatoes with stuff on top. I had the white trash tater. It had onions, chopped beef, bacon and steamy Velveeta on top. I classed it up and substituted the Velveeta for cheddar. This was hearty and delicious. Surprisingly, the beef were cubes of brisket or something — It was tender and moist. The bacon wasn’t just crumbs either. They were actual chunks, thick chunks. I added a little hot sauce for spice, and it was a nice affordable plate of potatoes and goodies. Solid.

Doughboys Cafe was a pleasant surprise. They serve classic American items, but it isn’t boring. They jazz it up enough so that it is a unique experience, but you still are comfortable eating it. The staff is near perfect and very friendly. You have all the comforts of home away from home. I felt relaxed and enjoyed my breakfast. And the price was lower than what I thought. I was too full for the red velvet cake, but I hear it is one of the best. You can just relax with a nice cup of coffee and velvet cake (which I will have to try next time). Something to look forward to next time around, I guess.

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Remember the olden days? Well, my olden days are like the late 80s, early 90s. I mean before then, like the 60s and 70s. Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlours was booming. Starting from Portland, Oregon, the restaurants were an old time favorite. After being bought out and sold again, they are making a come back in Orange County. They opened their newest Farrell’s in Brea, CA.

Upon going on opening day, it was chaotic to say the least. The line was amazingly long, but moved quickly. The ambiance was almost surreal. You only see all these smiley faces and colorful olden days decor in the movies. The waiters and workers yelled and sang almost every 5 minutes. Either somebody was celebrating a birthday or someone ordered the $50 Belly Buster ice cream sundae. The atmosphere was loud and obnoxious. It was not for me. The food was sub par and the ambiance just killed it for me.

A restaurant is only as good as its burger. I ordered the talk of the town burger which had bacon. I substituted the American cheese for blue cheese. They charged me for the cheese substitute, and I wasn’t told about the extra charge. Bummer. I asked for a medium rare, hoping for a medium well at the least, but that didn’t happen. The burger was as normal as can be. Nothing special or inspiring. I guess my expectations were a bit high, or I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

What did surprise me was the grown up mac and 4 cheese. It had cheddar, mozzarella, American, and smoked gouda. What really set this off was the white truffle oil. It had that rich taste and was pleasant. A sense of classiness and a descent tasting plate was refreshing. I definitely did not like the crostinni bread that came with it. It was stale and the cheese melted on top seemed out of place and old. Other than that, I wouldn’t mind ordering this again.

One interesting item I saw on the menu was the gastronomicaldelicatessenepicuren’s delight.  I am not kidding.  That is what they call it. The gastro sandwich for short, had corned beef, ham, turkey breast, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion. The funny thing is, it looked like a normal sandwich, but the waiters sang a song and made a big deal about us ordering that sandwich. It was good, but not that big of a deal as they made it out to be.

For dessert, we had to have a sundae. It is an ice cream parlour after all. We couldn’t order the belly buster, but we ordered the Oreo Bliss. It had vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, Oreos, whipped cream, and a cherry on top. I know they couldn’t mess this up, and it was good as it should be. Oreos and ice cream is a great combination, and a great ending to our so-so lunch.

I was waiting and waiting for Farrell’s to open. I didn’t hear of it or know of it until now. They sell all American classics and their ice cream shakes and sundaes are their specialty. They even sell candy like all soda fountains did in the olden days. Culinarily, the food didn’t do it for me. It was just too plain and boring. As an establishment, it was kind of cool. Kids would like it as there is a lot of singing and excitement. I guess I wouldn’t mind stopping by for just an ice cream sundae. Good thing they have a separate window for just dessert. I can only wonder when the craze and long lines will die down.

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Sometimes you want to be bad.  That is what Vegas is for right?  What if you already are in Vegas.  Where do you go to be bad?  Well, Cosmopolitan of course. As they say, they have the right amount of “bad”.  I don’t really know what the right amount of bad is, but if it’s anything like Wicked Spoon, they got it right.  I’ve been to my share of Las Vegas buffets — Wicked Spoon just raises the bar.

I was first impressed with their carving station.  They had bone marrow! I took two.  Shhhhh.  Eating those things with some horseradish and chimichurri, smeared on a crostini.  It was great.  Rich in fat, and delicious.

I was lucky enough to grab the freshest crab legs they had, straight out of the steamer.  Conveniently next to the carving station, they poured mounds of crab legs all for me. Great timing Franklin.

I made my way to the mac and cheese bar.  How awesome is it that I got to have my mac and cheese however I liked.  I had them put some bacon and jalapenos.  Of course, I had to have blue cheese and parmasan. They prepare it all right in front of you and it comes out bubbling hot.  It tasted so delicious.  The blue cheese was strong, which I liked and the jalapenos gave it a nice spiciness — the bacon just topped it all off.  All in my personal copper pot.  Perfect.

My favorite food item that was not at a station was definitely the polenta.  It was really creamy and fulfilling.  It tasted kind of like grits — less of a bite, yet more firm.  It was cheesy and delicious. I also liked the fried chicken wings and duck.  I tried some pretty good Peking duck in SGV, and theirs was amazingly close to good duck.  Impressive.

I was kind of disappointed with their dessert options.  This was all because of my assumptions in my head.  I had a misconception about Wicked Spoon — I always thought it was a dessert only buffet. So when I thought this through, I thought to myself “This place must be a dessert sugar rush paradise.”  Though their desserts weren’t what I imaged it would be, it still was a good experience.  I didn’t really have a favorite one like I did at The Buffet at the Wynn, but it was all a great ending to my massive meal.

Buffets are almost all the same at Vegas.  Meat station, crab legs, and other food items.  Wicked Spoon impressed me.  Not only was most of the food good, but they offer cuisine that is not common in all buffets.  Bone marrow, Peking duck, gourmet cheese bar, I can go on and on.  I did see a less of a sushi/sashimi menu — I guess it is a small price to pay. Though I do like sushi, it was well worth it.  It was refreshing to eat here.  Trendy and a bit over the top at times, it was all delicious and I had a lot of it.

Cosmopolitan is young, hip, and very much part of the in crowd right now.  They are close to City Center, but I don’t think they are part of it.  Heck, they probably went all out and against the City Center.  Something about Cosmo doesn’t exude the classic Las Vegas, but the new — this is good and bad. I can see the direction they are taking this.  Everything flash, over the top, and gaudy.  Sinful, sin city, and wicked to say the least.  Las Vegas is evolving, and the Cosmopolitan is a testament of that.  Wicked Spoon is so different from the other Vegas buffets — refreshing I would say.

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Malo – Bad Is Not So Good If It’s Bad

by Franklin on January 2, 2012

Located in the hipster town of Silver Lake, Malo serves up Mexican food with a little twist. Though the traditional tacos and chips are in order, they are known for their beef and pickle crunchy tacos and chewy chips. The location was perfect for our Christmas dinner party. The lower half was the bar and seating area — the upper was the private rooms and extra seating area. The atmosphere was fun and intimate.

The ground beef and pickle was what I wanted to try. On paper, it was interesting, but after eating it, it basically was just a burger inside a hard taco shell. Maybe the hype too large for its own good. It was just average for me. I also had a bacon and shrimp taco as well. This was a nice balance of fatty bacon and seafoody shrimp. I am just not a fan of crunchy tacos. The sauce did save the taste a bit.

There was a lot of hype about the chewy tortilla chips, and I can see why. Those things were dangerously addicting. The texture of the chewy tortilla chips was all just new and interesting. For those who think they are going to be like stale tortilla chips, you are wrong. You just have to try it for yourself. What made these chips better was the sauces they had. My favorite was the mole. It was rich and complex in flavor. Though, they had 4 different kinds, and they were all good.

I also ordered the Cast Iron Fried Chile Relleno. This was a battered and fried poblano chile with jack cheese inside. It was then smothered in ranchero sauce. The batter on the outside tasted kind of funny. Maybe bad oil? The poblano and the cheese inside was nice. The chile was sweet and the cheese was smooth. I was sad to see a lack of queso fundito on the menu.

To be honest, I did not enjoy the food too much. I wouldn’t come here for a specific dish. Despite that, I would come here again for the atmosphere. It is a great place for large groups. the location and setup was perfect. Next on the agenda, Mas Malo, their second restaurant in Downtown LA.

Malo on Urbanspoon

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