March 2012

I stepped into Joan’s On Third, and I instantly fell in love. The collection of food items inside and the marketplace was abundant, and a bit overwhelming. If you are in the mood for cheeses, olives, bread, and condiments, they offer a variety of the gourmet stuff. In the kitchen, soups, salads, sandwiches, breakfast, and other items are available. I opted for the short rib sandwich, and I became a fan instantly. This sandwich, is the best sandwich.

Stating that it is the best sandwich was a bold statement — maybe I should have said one of the best. In reality though, the sandwich was superb. The short rib had a nice “pulled pork” consistency, but tender. It wasn’t dry at all, and had a nice mouth feel to it. The melted jack cheese was nice and not too over powering. My favorite were the arugula and sweet red onions. The arugula was a perfect green to go with this sandwich, and the sweet red onions gave it a nice crunch and tang. With the grilled country white bread, the short rib sandwich was delicious. Such a simple sandwich, with good ingredients — it’s one of my favorite sandwiches of all time.

I wouldn’t mind coming here for the other market items. Their cheese selection seemed plenty as well as the other foods. A market full of gourmet foods and a place to eat is what Joan’s On Third is all about. You can have a bite to eat, shop for yourself, and bring it home all at the same place. How deliciously convenient..

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I passed by this place many times, and it never appealed to me as a nice place to eat. The outside doesn’t look like a restaurant, and the word monkey doesn’t sound tasty. There is something special about Monkey Business Cafe — they are for non-profit. All of their proceeds go to Hart Community Homes. They deal with the community’s youth in enriching kids with family issues. Finding this out, I was glad to be a supporter of it. Trying it, I was once again taught a lesson — Don’t judge a book by its cover. The inside felt cozy and comforting. Each dining table set was unique. Each one quite possibly being the exact one at someone’s house. The eating area was large and even had a sofa and coffee table. After going inside for breakfast, I just wanted to stay for lunch.

Weirdly, we started off with the chocolate chip cookie and green tea. Yes, we were hungry. The cookie was alright, and the green tea made everything better. I am a chewy and soft cookie kind of guy, but their crunchy one was large and tasty.

My favorite was their ricotta pancake. Made from scratch, the pancake was amazing. It didn’t taste like pancake mix — you could actually taste the flour. I don’t know how, but you could. The creamy ricotta, and buttermilk, and lemon creme fraiche with powdered sugar gave it all the flavor. With the lemon and sugar accent, it was a reminder of a dutch baby. Sweet and tangy, it was a delicious pancake.

The bacon and cheddar scramble was not special. This was something so normal and everyday, I felt I ordered the wrong thing. The potatoes and toast were good and filling. The scramble was not exciting enough for me.

I was quite impressed with their burger. The western burger, which had chipotle mayo, onions, lettuce, tomato, and cheddar was served on a ciabata. The meat was very fresh and perfectly cooked. The meat was bloody, cooked to a medium rare like we ordered it. The patty was thick and juicy and the chipotle mayo really set the tone for this burger. It was smokey and delicious. Their side cole slaw was perfect with the burger. I can tell it was all freshly made.

Honestly, I was impressed with the food here. The outside was very unassuming and unappealing. Once I tasted the food though, I was amazed. The food was great and the inside is relaxing. I can see myself eating a cookie, drinking some tea, and getting some work done. They pride themselves in serving healthy, organic food all from local growers. For a place doing good for the community, they are doing good for their stomachs as well.

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No. 1 Noodle House – A Trip to a Noodle Shop

by Franklin on March 19, 2012

I was scared to eat at this joint. Hidden between some chicken place and corner store, I was a bit intrigued. Once I entered the place, I was transported into a new world. The small front counter to my front and a dark alley way to my right leading to the dining area was all unexpected. The restaurant dining area, which seemed to have been shared with others was scattered with random stuffed animal claw machines. I put all the weird behind me as I was excited to try the noodle, the “#1” noodle. I proceeded to order.

I ordered the dan dan noodle, their most popular item on the menu. The sauce was similar to a peanut sauce. The minced meat on top was delicious as it was tender and flavorful. The green onions gave it a nice robustness and the peanutes gave it a nice crunch. This dish was new to me, and I liked it. The noodles were nicely cooked, not over done. The bowl was a bit small though, so I ordered a meat dish.

The sliced pork was interesting. The pork meat, which I assume was boiled, was cut waffer thin. Sitting atop a mound of sprouts, it was topped with chili oil, hoisin, scallions, and peanuts. The whole dish was tasty, but I couldn’t get over hot cold the pork was, as it was intended to be served that way. Nonetheless, it was still tasty with my noodle dish.

Their beef noodle soup was very hearty and delicious. The beef was amazing — eating it off the bone was a great experience. The broth was a bit spicy and a little sour. It was perfect for a cold day with a sore throat. Fatty from the beef, a nice layer of bright red grease sat atop the bowl. The noodles were cooked nicely in this dish and the addition of spinach finished it off perfectly. This was a great soup based noodle dish.

Yeah, I was scared of this place for a bit, and probably still might be. The cooking is old school and the spot is very grungy. The dining area, though remodeled some what, seemed out of place. Oddly, all that didn’t matter. The food was as authentic as it could be. That’s all that matters I guess from a Number 1 noodle restaurant.

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I don’t know whether it’s a myth or if it is true, but I ponder if cats actually like fish. You always see cartoons portraying cats with an appetite for goldfish, swimming helplessly in a goldfish bowl atop a small table. I always thought cats hated water. And don’t you see cats in the wild (lions, tigers..) munching on some antelope or zebra? When’s the last time you saw a cheeta hunting for salmon at the nearby river? Never. When I saw that The Hungry Cat specialized in seafood, I was a bit amused. Clever name I thought, but so not realistic! I kid of course, and I ultimately was excited to try this place. The freshest seafood creations made by chef David Lentz who knows his way around the kitchen? Great! Along with his wife Suzanne Goin, they own some of my favorite restaurants in LA. Lucques, AOC, and joining the list, The Hungry Cat.

Located in the courtyard at the Sunset and Vine building. It is kind of hard to find as it isn’t visible from the street. The inside was dark and intimate with a casual atmosphere. The white walls and sharp edges in design gave the interior a futuristic look. The open kitchen was an eye opener for me. It was cool to watch David Lentz and his crew make dish after dish. It was like the Food Network, live.

We started off with some oyster crackers. It was interesting. Not your ordinary bread and butter, but unique in its own way.

I only had raw sea urchin (uni) from sushi restaurants (pre-packaged), so naturally, having sea urchin straight from the body was a neat experience.  Difficult to eat, it was food you really had to dig for. Apart from the pieces of shell and spikes, the flavor was exceptional. The essesnce of the sea was embedded in each morsel of sea urchin. Sprinkling it with some sea salt, and a squeeze of the lemon made everything pop. I am a purest and eating the sea urchin without any other condiments is the way to go.

Their Lobster roll was one of the best I ever had. The lobster was packed on and the pieces were large. Perfectly cooked, it left the meat very tender and had a nice bite to it. The lobster mixed with the mayo and other seasonings were perfectly balanced. The celery gave it a nice crunch. The split rolls were nicely buttered and toasted on the side, leaving it crispy on the outside, warm and chewy on the inside. Though this was a delicious sandwich roll, I wish I could have tried their pub burger. Blue cheese, bacon, avocado, and a fried egg are some of many of the ingredients on the pub burger. I originally wanted to to The Hungry Cat for the pub burger, but felt like seafood that night. Ultimately, I was happy with my decision.

My house-made chorizo and braised clams was excellent. Not a fan of clams because of their rubberiness, I was skeptical about this dish. Mindful of not overcooking the clams, they were left tender and soft. The brother was definitely the star of this dish. Filled with shell beans and black kale, the broth was hearty. Mixed in with their house made chorizo, it was meaty, salty, savory, and full of robust flavor. Though the chorizo took away from the seafood essence of the dish, it fortified the broth to the point where it did not matter. This was all topped off with a grilled bread, quite possibly the best bread I ever had. Grilling the bread gave it a nice crust on it and gave it a complex flavor. Topped with aioli, the bread simply delicious.

The cuisine was nearly flawless. Everything tasted as expected — delicious. The atmosphere was great and the staff was on point. They were attentive and helped us choose the many items on the menu. By the name, The Hungry Cat you would expect some fine seafood, and that is what you get. After my awesome meal, I thanked David Lentz for the great meal, and left with a great seafood experience. I’ll be back to try the pub burger though.

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Having been to the Bruxie in Orange, I was excited to see a newer and better (larger) one open up in Brea. Anticipating its grand opening, I was shocked as to see the great location they were able to snatch up. After procrastinating for a bit, I finally was able to try Bruxie in Brea. The first few months of opening, the lines were just too long. I probably would have gotten my food quicker if I drove to Orange and back. My first time around in Orange, I ate some savory items. This time, I went for the sweet.

Nutella is some of the best things on Earth. Its chocolatey and nutty and delicious. I had the one with nutella and bananas. Inside, the sweet cream mixed with the nutella and made a nice creamy filling. The fruit were fresh and the waffle was soft. I think a little more nutella, maybe a lot more would have made it better. Maybe next time, I’ll just bring my own jar.

The creme brulee Bruxie was awesome. It had seasonal fruit, strawberries at the time, burnt raw sugar, and vanilla creme. At first bite, you immediately get that creme brulee flavor from the burnt sugar. The vanilla creme helps mellow out the strong flavors, and the strawberries were nice inside. I think keeping it simple would have been tasty too — just burnt sugar and vanilla creme.

Brea’s Bruxie is bigger, in a more popular location, and has more items on the menu. It was a treat to try some of their dessert Bruxie sandwiches. Whichever sandwich you go with, you are in good hands.

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Jazz Cat Cafe – Jammin’ Asian Style

by Franklin on March 11, 2012

The San Gabriel Valley has an over population of Asian cuisine. Anything you are in the mood for, or anything you can think of, it’s available for you. At the city of Industry, there is Jazz Cat Cafe. This is a shabu shabu restaurant that has great soup bases along with other popular side items. Coming here on two occasions, I came hungry. Ordering everything and anything my heart (stomach) desired, I had a feast.

The Japanese spicy wings were not spicy at all. They had a miso paste glaze over the wings that gave it a nice salty and earthy flavor. They were great appetizers.

I have tried many popcorn chicken in my day, and these were some of the best. The chicken pieces were huge. The outside was nicely seasoned and crisp. I would be happy with just this, rice, and a side of their Thai special sauce.

The fried shrimp was delicious. Fried whole with not a lot of batter, the outside was crispy and well seasoned. It was a bit salty, but good salty.

Now for the shabu shabu. I tried the spicy miso soup base and the kimchi soup base — I prefer the kimchi soup base. It has a cleaner taste to it. The miso soup base was too intense and thickened up too quickly as the water evaporated. They have something called the T-Rex portion where they give you more meat. The slices were great in quality and quantity. Mixed with all of the veggies and meat, it made for a great soup. Perfect on a cold day.

I also added golden fish nuggets. They were fish nuggets with some kind of filling inside. The taste was like no other, full of some kind of seafood mixture. I apologize for being vague. I really don’t know what it is made of, but it sure was tasty.

This is one of my regular spots. It sucks that the one in Alhambra closed down. At any rate, the atmosphere is very intimate and dark, almost high class. The food though, is very affordable — a great deal for the amount of food you are getting. Their soup base selection is plenty and their other non shabu shabu items are worth a try. As for the name Jazz Cat Cafe, I have no clue what that has to do with anything. I personally don’t care about anything but the food.

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Downtown Los Angeles is full of history and good food.  Nickel Diner is popular amongst the urbanites as a breakfast spot, though they serve lunch and dinner as well.  Located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, and neighboring the Skid Row Housing Trust, the atmosphere can cause a bit off-putting.  Anyone not used to Los Angeles might a bit turned off by the transients and solicitors.  But come on – you are in Downtown. This is my city, and I love it.  The buildings a bit worn and the sign is ancient, but once you enter, it is a whole different story.  They offer burgers as well as breakfast items.  What they are known for, more so, are their bacon maple donuts.  Bacon on top of a maple donut, that is indigence upon indulgence.

It didn’t surprise me when I ate the bacon maple donut first.  More so a dessert item, I figured the bacon on it gave it enough of savory status to make it an appetizer.  Never having tried it before, it was a novelty.  The taste though worked.  Bacon with pancakes and syrup immediately came to mind. The sweet and savory really worked, though I would have liked the bacon to be crispy.  It was a great start to my Nickel Diner experience.

I heard much rave about their mac and cheese.  I am on the never ending hunt for the best mac and cheese in Los Angeles, so ordering was a must.  Theirs, named Smac and Cheese came with roasted tomatoes and bread crumbs on top.  The top layer was crispy and crunchy, and the inside was piping hot.  After a bit of cooling off, the cheese and noodle concoction was tasty. It wasn’t creamy really, but it was cheesy it its own way.

I ordered the Hangover Helper, and no, I did not have a hangover.  A play on the hamburger helper, this dish had everything you can ask for in one pile.  The pile included scrambled eggs, bacon, Italian sausage, potatoes,and was topped with pepper jack cheese, avocado, and salsa.  Yeah, that is a lot of stuff all on one plate — delicious too.  My favorite though, was the salsa.  Something about the salsa on top was addicting. It rounded out the meats and cheese very nicely.  Without that salsa, this dish would have been missing something.

My Nickel Diner experience was a pleasant one.  The food was on point, and the bacon maple donut was memorable.  It was nice to have breakfast in Downtown as there aren’t too many places to choose from.  Looking at the buildings and absorbing the history of Downtown Los Angeles was comforting. Locals living inside Downtown are lucky to have such a down to earth establishment inside the city.

A little spot on Diners Drivers and Dives. Here is the clip.

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The Kitchen in Silver Lake was intriguing to me. I was first introduced to this place by a friend and was told about the cool concoctions they have here. Pear pancakes? Delicious mac and cheese? I was sold. Upon arriving, I couldn’t help but notice the interesting layout of the whole restaurant. A mural on the side, the small, quaint space, and the different people dining there, it was all just different — in a good way of course.

I ordered the buttermilk fried chicken. It was a 7oz boneless fried filet topped with country gravy. It was served with garlic mashed potatoes and succotash. The chicken was crispy, and believe it or not, tasted healthy. Though fried, it was light and the chicken was juicy. The gravy mixed in with the potatoes and vegetables from the succotash was a good mixture.

The mac and cheese in my opinion was a disappointment. My ideal mac and cheese is very cheesy, gooey, and savory. Theirs, though made with extra sharp cheddar and a garlicy cream sauce, was a bit lacking in flavor. The cream sauce made more of a soupy bottom, and the decadent cheese flavor I yearned for was missing. Hints of garlic flavor saved this dish in some ways, but it just needed to be more creamy.

It sucks that I couldn’t order the pear pancakes. I wouldn’t mind coming here during breakfast time to give them a try. The cuisine here was less refined in a good way. The food was straignt forward and had no pretension at all. Our waitor, who seemed to be the owner was friendly and genuinely nice to us. He conversed with us and made us feel as comfortable as possible. He just seemed like a cool, down to earth kind of guy. That, you can’t find just anywhere. I guess that’s what The Kitchen is all about — the people.

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Laguna Beach is one of my favorite beach cities. The vibe there is fun and exciting, and you get a sense of history there. One of my favorite spots to grab a bite is at Nick’s Laguna Beach. The decor, menu, and vibe is all very new school among this classic beach city. Centered around the bar, Nick’s is definitely not just a restaurant, but a gastropub located right on South Coast HWY. If you are here for just drinks late at night, or lunch during the sunny day, you are at the right place.

These can possibly be the best deviled eggs I ever had. I know it’s not saying much, but it’s something. The filling had bits of crunchy onion, and was seasoned perfectly. Nothing about the taste was off or imbalanced. It was delicious all around. Frying deviled eggs was a brilliant idea. Eggs in general are soft and the filling is mushy. Frying the eggs, only the egg whites gave it that crunch it needed. Mixed with the creamy filling, it was a nice contrast in textures and taste — a perfect appetizer.

The fried asparagus was not one of my favorites. Yes, it was nicely cooked and the vegetable was fresh as ever, but the spears in itself weren’t special. The batter was very greasy and left my fingers too oily. Without the help of their home made ranch dressing, these wouldn’t have had a second chance.

Their blackened halibut sandwich is one of my favorite fish sandwiches — Imagine the Filet-o-Fish, but replace every ingredient with the best there is. This sandwich included crunchy cabbage slaw, carrots, greens, tomatoes, and fried onion strings. The brioche bun seemed like it was freshly baked and the house made tartar sauce made all the difference. The halibut was perfectly seasoned and meaty. Their fries were addicting, especially dipping it in their home made ranch dipping sauce. Yeah, though could have gone the easy route and just bought the ranch, but they make it themselves. It was a bit on the salty side, which is probably why I liked it so much. The difference was night and day. The thought of hoping it could be a juicy burger didn’t cross my mind once. This was a perfect sandwich and fries combination.

Nick’s is one of my go to spots when I am in Laguna Beach. Being one of my personal favorite beaches in Orange County, I am glad the food is reflective of the area. Fresh and delicious food in a city known for having a beautiful beach scene is what I am all about. What is more perfect than having a nice meal walking distance from the beach in the best weather anyone can ask for. This is the good life.

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