October 2012

Pink Taco – Mall Food Gets Cheesy and Corny

by Franklin on October 27, 2012

I knew there was a Pink Taco in Las Vegas, but I am not sure it if it is the same one as the one in Los Angeles. Under the website, it doesn’t list the Las Vegas one as their locations. I mean, the theme and menu as long as the feel of the two restaurants seem the same, but I am not quite sure if it is the same. Though there are two in the west LA area, I went to the one in the Westfield Century City Mall. Upon entering through the familiar over-sized door, the interior was casual. We started off with Sangria with chips and salsa at the bar. The sangria was refreshing and fruity — I am not much of a drinker so I can’t compare. The chips and salsa were good and plenty — The salsa needed work but the chips were crispy. They weren’t super crunchy, but light and a good start.


Their carne asada quesadilla was my favorite. It wasn’t cooked in a particular way — it was just a standard carne asada quesadilla. It had marinated sirloin steak, toasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, and chipotle peppers inside. Their fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream all went perfectly with this quesadilla. The mixture of melted jack cheese and steak was rich and gooey. I wouldn’t mind if all quesadillas were this tasty.

One of the items on the menu I really wanted to try was their sweet corn tamale. Served open faced, it consisted of fresh ground masa, roasted poblano chilies, queso fresco, grilled corn, pico de gallo, with crema on top. The grilling of the corn brought out the sweetness and the poblano chilies gave it a nice spice. The queso fresco gave it that savory taste and the crema helped meld everything together. The taste of sweet, salty, and spicy married so well — I can’t believe how much I enjoyed something that didn’t have meat in it.

For a chain, a chain serving Mexican food especially, it was bearable. The food here isn’t boring like most chains. I honestly thought the food was standard done as it should be. Not to say that the food is mediocre, but just “everyday” good. The atmosphere is casual and the prices are mid range. The bar scene seems to be popular here as there is a large outside patio. I was comfortable just sitting at the bar, grubbing on chips and salsa. Most malls would be lucky to have a Pink Taco inside. The Westfield Century City is pretty decent mall — the addition of having Pink Taco makes it that much better.

Pink Taco on Urbanspoon

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Eat Chow – Lying My Way Through the Menu

by Franklin on October 20, 2012

On the outskirts of Newport Beach, Costa Mesa is a hip beach town more suburban than anything else. Along the downtown area though, there are a lot of cool places to eat and shop. One place that stands out is Eat Chow. The menu here is New American, and they have their own twist on American classics. Some of the items here surprised me, and some were just a disappointment. This hit and miss situation really had me struggling if I liked this place or not. Though the food taste was spotty, the service exceeded my expectations. This small cafe style restaurant was nicely furnished and had a modern, yet down to earth feel to it. I was comfortable as I was eating, and that is quite important to me.

I ordered the grilled prawns. It had a garlic aioli on the side for dipping and saw on a bed of baby arugala. For prawns, I was surprised by the low price, so that is what swayed me to order this appetizer. When we got the dish though, I was disappointed and felt a bit ripped off. First off, these on the plate were not prawns. They weren’t even large shrimp. They were just normal shrimp you would find anywhere else. The seasoning of the shrimp wasn’t impressive and the flavor just wasn’t there. This was a mistake for sure. I felt I was tricked. I ordered prawns, and all I got were small shrimp. The arugla to shrimp ratio was even off. This dish didn’t fit n the criteria of the other dishes, because all the other dishes were actually quite delicious.

I wasn’t really blown away with the truffle Parmesan fries. Again, I was tricked with their words. Though the fries were shoestring, my favorite, the truffle taste was missing. Filled with Parmasan and parsley, the fries were perfectly seasoned. It was a perfect side to the French Dip.

The French dip was interestingly tasty. The herb & sea salt rubbed prime ribeye was perfectly seasoned and thinly sliced. It allowed all the crevices to absorb the pan drip ajus. The brioche was a perfect bread choice to sop up all the juice, and was toasted to perfection. The horseradish cream was perfect. Horseradish and prime rib is a perfect combination, and this sandwich is a true testament to that. This wasn’t as good as the original from Philipe’s, but the taste was still impressive. The sandwich with the truffle Parmasan fries was perfect.

I have to say, I have tried a lot of mac and cheese. From the stuff from the blue box, to the authentic down home southern style, I tried it all. The truffle mac and cheese at Eat Chow was actually pretty good. Though the menu said truffle oil mac and cheese, I didn’t really expect anything in the vicinity of truffles. What I did get was something unexpected and delicious. The oyster mushrooms in this dish were spectacular. Caramelized in a special way, it left the mushrooms in such a sweet, yet savory state. It was sticky, chewy, and rendered down in such a fine way. It tasted even better than the bacon in the mac and cheese, and we all know how much I like bacon. The cheese sauce was creamy and delicious, and this was a memorable mac and cheese dish.

Like I said before, Eat Chow is a hit or miss. You have to know what you are going to order and know what you are going to get. Despite a few discrepancies in the wording of the menu, the experience was a positive one. The inside is sleek and modern which I liked a lot. The service is amazingly friendly and you just feel comfortable there. I kind of like that it is a small cafe instead of a full blown restaurant with a lot of seats. Do expect a wait though because seats are limited. Don’t worry though — their staff is really friendly, will offer you a drink as you wait, and strike up a conversation with you. This kind of hospitality is invaluable in the restaurant business, and I am happy to have experienced it.

Eat Chow on Urbanspoon

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You are transformed walking into Hama Sushi. You throw out all of your standards of what you thought good sushi is and allow their sushi chefs to take rein. My experience at Hama Sushi was authentic as can be, and sadly, I am only able to share this with you through words. Their no camera policy was disappointing — some of their dishes were amazing, visually and taste wise. Above all, I want to respect the establishment of their rules. Heck, I would hate to be black listed at this place, that is for sure. I would have loved to share those with you through pictures, but unfortunately, my writing is going to have to carry all the weight (grammar mistakes and all).

We started off with the albacore sashimi. Thinly sliced, the fish was fresh and of the highest quality. Topped with a yuzu sauce that made everything citrusy and savory, I felt the fish was masked. Though not a mellow flavor, the albacore was too good to pass up.

One of my favorite fish served raw is probably salmon (sake). The sushi chef was careful in cutting each piece to a perfect size. With each bite dipped in my perfectly portioned soy sauce and wasabi mixture, the flavor was so familiar and perfect. The fatty, buttery texture of the salmon paired perfectly with the slight nose flaring wasabi and soy sauce is one of my favorite things to eat. I would have a bite, reset my palate with some ginger, and do it all over again. Salmon is just an exceptional fish. If tuna is the “chicken of the sea”, it is safe to say that salmon is the beef of the sea — fatty tuna (toro) being the kobe beef of the sea. It is no wonder bears eat this stuff, fresh. It melts in your mouth, with a slippery and slimy consistency, it is the perfect food.

It wouldn’t be a night out with sushi without tuna rolls and hand rolls. Cut to a precision, the tuna rolls were small and packed flavor. The spicy tuna hand rolls were spicier than expected and was still very good. Rice is an important part of sushi, undoubtedly equally important as the fish itself. Their rice wasn’t perfect, but I am nitpicking here. I would have liked the rice to be a bit more cooled. the slight warmer temperature gave it an over cooked texture. Nonetheless, this was great.

Sitting inside the small establishment, you are side by side with other patrons. In a “U” shaped sushi bar seating only about 15 people, three sushi chefs took everyone’s orders. The experience was new and fun, and the chance to have such good (not the cheep stuff) sushi was a treat. I may have spoiled myself here, and all other everyday sushi spots might not be as good anymore, but that’s alright. Hama Sushi in Little Tokyo is one of the best in Los Angeles. They don’t try to be anything they are not — they are genuine and down to earth. Eating at other establishments, I will say to myself, “Its good, but nothing like Hama”.

Hama Sushi on Urbanspoon

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C & O Trattoria is one of those go to spots when you are in Venice, Marina De Rey area. The food is affordable and the selection is plenty. The best part is, once you enter, you feel like you are family. The staff is friendly — they even offer you garlic knots while you wait for a table. The wait for a table can be a while. Being right next to Venice Pier, you can walk around and shop around while you wait for your table. Once you take a seat, you are transferred to Italy and you are no longer at the beach.

C & O Trattoria and Cucina are all about garlic knots. Garlic knots, garlic knots, garlic knots. I think people come here just for these morsels of drug infused bread. It is warm, buttery, oregano-y (dried parsley?), and of course, garlicky, and you can get as much as you want! They even server it to the hungry patrons outside awaiting a table. I ordered mine with the tepenade– a bad idea. The garlic knots on their own are tasty. The olive tepenade just made things complicated and actually overpowered the simple goodness of the bread. You can easily fill up on garlic knots and you would have ordered your pasta dish for nothing. Eat sparingly. For the sake of garlic knots, I will try to write “garlic knots” as many time as I can along this post. Garlic knots? Yes. Garlic knots.

I ordered the fettuccine prosciutto. I know it sounds heavy, but it was quite delicate and balanced. It had prosciutto, mushrooms, roma tomatoes, and shallots in a brandy cream sauce. The prosciutto was a bit lacking — I was greedily expecting nice shavings of this stuff. I wished for so much prosciutto, I can make a prosciutto and garlic knot sandwich. Anyways, the fettuccine wasn’t home made by any means, but it was still delicious. Covered in the rich brandy cream sauce, this pasta dish was carb and cream heavy. The nice crunch of the shallots and tomatoes helped offset the richness a bit. With a blanket of Parmesan though, this was definitely a great heavy pasta dish. Add garlic knots to the equation and you got yourself a carb on carb overload.

Oh my garlic knots! I know with that cheese blanket it is difficult to see, but this indeed isn’t the same dish. The seafood pasta for me was taasty, but I am particular about seafood pasta. Using Penne is a good start, but an angel hair or even plain spaghetti would have been nice too. The mix of brocolli and tomatoes gave it nice color. The seafood though, that is where it all counts. The shrimp, salmon, and calamari were cooked surprisingly well. Expecting rubber bands, the calimari was actually soft and cooked to a near perfection. The shirmp was cooked decently and the salmon did a good job not being so over fishy. Though the seafood was prepared nicely, I still am not a fan of seafood and pasta together.

To me, pasta is all about the cheese and the noodles. Any meat that goes well with cheese (beef, sausage, prosciutto, chicken, meat balls) is a good thing. Seafood, the ultimate don’t-eat-with-cheese food worked alright in pasta, but for me, not so much. I will gladly take chicken fettuccine alfredo over shrimp. A bit off because, well, I love seafood. In fact, I would like to know where the best place to get a seafood pasta. That would truly be a gem. C & O Trattoria keeps a decent amount of authenticity to the feel of Italy. Not saying that the food is 100% just like you will find in Italy, but the atmosphere seems to work. I mean, I’ve never been to Italy, but I’ve been to The Venetian in Vegas a bunch of times — and I hear that’s practically a carbon copy. From the city, to the beach, to Italy — that is the natural transition I found myself in. The food was decent and the service was even better. They even sang “That’s Amore” in the middle of dinner service. All the waiters, servers, and hosts stopped what they were doing, walking around with their wine glasses and touched glasses with everyone. For those without an imagination, there is a video clip for you above. The experience was fun and the food was decent. It wasn’t the best pasta or Italian I ever had, but the experience was great. Garlic knots!

C & O Trattoria on Urbanspoon

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I know, it is hot as heck out there. Despite Korean myth, the fans are on at night and I did not die. AC in the car is always on, and summer isn’t leaving without a fight. Thank goodness we have beaches. Gosh I love the beach. The people, the relax atmosphere, and the smell of the sea just makes me happy. And we all can’t forget that the beach is always like 10 degrees cooler than the city. Walking around Manhattan Beach, the Orange County beach of L.A., I couldn’t help but notice the growth of restaurants and eateries around here. One in particular, Lemonade, was an eye catcher. The bright colors and the casual/cafeteria style of everything made this a unique spot. Lemonade’s food and the interior design goes well hand in hand – It is fresh, vibrant and well, all that equals to something delicious and healthy. Usually healthy means bland, but they do a good job using fresh ingredients to make their dishes flavorful.

My favorite was probably the tandoori chicken. With chunks of mango, yogurt, coconut, and tamarind, the dish was sweet. The coconut flavor is prevalent in the dish and worked well with the tandoori chicken. More sweet than savory, the dish isn’t for everyone, though most would probably appreciate the different flavors. This is a must order if you are a tropical fruits kind of person.

The watermelon radish was unique. Never having tried watermelon radish before, I was intrigued. Filled with ahi tuna, snap peas, and sesame it was a healthy side. The snap from the peas and radish worked well with the tuna. The tender meat and the crunchy veggies made for a nice texture contrast.

The arugula salad was amazing. The mission figs and the blue cheese played nicely together as usual. The asparagus gave it a nice crunch to the dish. I am a sucker for blue cheese, and this was probably the reason it was my favorite of the bunch.

The orecchiette pasta was probably the least favorite of them all. The goat cheese was nice as was the asparagus. There was nothing special or unique about this dish, and this was probably the least healthiest of the bunch. The flavors didn’t really pop.

At Lemonade, one must get lemonade right? Not really, but it is pretty hard to resist. It’s like walking into a Porto’s and not ordering a dozen cheese rolls. That just doesn’t happen. I opted for the blood orange and ginger guava. The blood orange was a bit sweet as was the ginger guava. The sourness of the blood orange made it seem even sweeter. The ginger guava had a nice mellow flavor. I tried samples of the watermelon rosemary and cucumber mint — those were quite refreshing as well. Whichever flavor you get, it is sure to quench your thirst and keep you alive in this heat wave.

Filled with pastries and hot stews and roasts, they have almost anything that you would want in a nice hearty meal. Though I didn’t quite get the relation of the lemonade, pastries, cold dishes and hot pot dishes, everything seemed like it was made from the freshest ingredients. When I think of lemonade, I think of something refreshing and fresh. I guess all of their menu items translate into that exact motif. Everything is good eats without the guilt.

Lemonade on Urbanspoon

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Food blogging was just something I fell into. Fairly young in the food blogging world at less than 2 years, I feel like I still have a lot to see and learn. When I had the chance to sit down and dine with other like minded food bloggers, I jumped at the chance. TC from Sinosoul invited me and a couple of food bloggers to join him at The Parish. Along with food bloggers @ComiendoenLA and @onemorebiteblog, I knew the night was going to be fun – we were accompanied by good food, great conversations, and a special guest. When I got word that Master Chef Becky Reams would be joining us, my girlfriend was more excited than anybody. The Parish was a perfect spot to have this dinner. The English inspired gastropub served up small plates for the most part — perfect for our group. Excited to try their burger and fried chicken, we food bloggers ordered nearly everything. Let the eating and photographing begin!

We just ate as the items came. The fried olives and chickpeas were alright. If you are a fan of fried pickles, these will tickle your fancy. The salty, briney taste instantly works nicely with the fried exterior. The fried chickpeas were nice too — soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside. It was good first taste of what The Parish had to offer. Oddly, I don’t have a picture of it. Trust me when I say that it is a great way to start!

I normally don’t eat beets. In fact, I don’t eat beets. When someone ordered the beets, I was honestly not excited. I couldn’t be more wrong and more judging of this dish. Topped with mache herbs abd horseradish yogurt, the dish came together so well. The beets were quite fresh and meety and the sauce brought everything together so well. Beets were on my radar again.

The fish and chips was tasty — nothing too out of the ordinary. The batter on the fish was quite impressive. It had a nice light crunch. Chips consisted of a huge potato wedge — great dipped in the sauce.

The poutine fried oysters were an interesting combination. Fried oysters topped a bed of fried and was topped with gravy. The oyster taste was quite pristine. The batter honestly couldn’t have been better. Perfectly seasoned and with a nice crunch, the soft texture of the oyster meat and crunch from batter was a nice textural contrast. This was a home run.

The pork shoulder poutine was nice too. Using the same gravy and fries as the fried oyster poutine, this one was topped with slow roasted pork shoulder. The flavors worked nicely and the tofu cheese curds could have fooled me. The pork was tender — you could tell it was cooked for a long time.

Green beans, just like beats are not a go to item for me. Prepared right though, they can be quite tasty. Theirs was prepared with peaches and cheese. Though an interesting combination, the peaches were sweet and worked with the cheese. If not for the cheese though, this dish would have been boring.

Bone marrow is some of my favorite things in life. Their bone marrow was roasted and baked nicely. The richness of the fat and crostini schmeer was a bite full of flavor. The celery salad helped cut down the rich fat. This wasn’t a must order dish — not everyone loves this stuff. The bone marrow at The Parish was mediocre compared to other places. Still, its bone marrow. Mediocre bone marrow is still bone marrow.

The clams were maybe one of my favorite dishes here. A lover of clams and shellfish, this dish was a winner. The broth in itself was addicting and tasty. The sweetness of the sherry worked nicely in the broth. Leeks and saffron topped the dish to finish it off nicely. Their thick crusted toast was perfect with this dish. Dipped in that savory broth, I kept finding myself going back to this dish.

The lentils daal was a first for me. The Indian dish didn’t look pretty, but it was tasty. With hints of curry and turmeric, the dish was explicitly Indian. The lentils were cooked perfectly and had a nice bite to it. The chutney toast was nice, but the Asian in me wanted a side of rice with this. I wouldn’t necessarily order this dish again, but it was a nice and interesting dish to have tried. Only at a foodie get together like this would I ever have tried daal.

The buttermilk fried chicken was probably my favorite item of the night. The batter was quite crispy — very crispy actually. This kind of crispy was done so cleanly and pure. I didn’t get a feeling of greasiness or an oily mouth eating this chicken. The meat was juicy and everyone wasn’t too salty. It was difficult to find a fault for this dish. The cherry tomatoes and peaches were a nice touch to the chicken. Too bad I had to share with the rest of the table. I would have been find with my own plate of fried chicken.

The burger was another one of my favorites. Cooked a perfect rare to a medium rare, the meat was juicy and flavorful. With picked carrots and arugula, the burger seems like a standard burger. The best part about this burger is that it has Epoisses. Epoisses is a pungent cows milk cheese and actually makes this burger what it is. The soft cheese melted into the burger and every bite had an essence of Epoisses. $17 for a burger is a bit high, but I guess the quality ingredients make up for it.

The pork head pot pie was warm and hearty. Not something traditional, the pork head actually has some good stuff. The meat was tender and just dissolved in your mouth. The gravy was good inside. My favorite would have to have been the dough. Sitting there like a hockey puck, the dough held everything inside. Dense on the inside, I would have liked the dough to be more flaky on the outside. The picked vegetable salad helped balance out the rich gravy and gave everything a nice crunch.

Sticky toffee pudding is always a winner. Theirs had a lava cake with a pool of sticky toffee on the bottom. The cake was nice and the fruit was nice, but the toffee was so addicting. Mixed in with the cake, the toffee was a perfect balance of sweet — not too sweet. The texture was pure and gooey. I am sure our manners were the only thing keeping us from using our fingers to get every little taste. This was delicious!

the berry trifle for me was mediocre. It looked nice with layered cream and berry mixture, but the flavor did not surprise me. It just tasted like cream and berries. It probably didn’t surprise me because of the toffee I had earlier.

The Parish, being fairly new was a nice spot to hang out and eat with fellow food bloggers. The addition of Becky Reams from Master Chef joining us was an added bonus. Though she finished the competition series at 3rd place, I am pretty sure we all thought the same thing — she was the clear winner. Nonetheless, It was a great night with food, drinks, and amazing company. Highlights were the fried oyster poutine, fried chicken, and sticky toffee pudding. I guess the food was great and the company, even better. How better can you have it that eating with like minded people who love food just as much as you do?

The Parish on Urbanspoon

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