January 2013

Grub – Crack Bacon on Everything

by Franklin on January 30, 2013

Grub in Hollywood is a quaint little house on the corner of Seward and Barton. The once a house turned restaurant is small and has a lot of charm. Even the floor boards creek when you walk on the wooden floors. Mostly popular as a breakfast destination, Grub has ventured in serving dinner for about 3 years now. I had the pleasure of having their DineLA menu for dinner, but my feelings for the food was torn. The theme of my 3 course meal was, “Crack Bacon.” I ordered everything that had this bacon in it, and to be honest, it wasn’t as tasty as I thought.

Things started off with carrot sticks, cucumbers, and pretzels. It was a nice start and the ranch dip was good. It was my first time having pretzels and ranch, but it was tasty. I suppose it was a little different than bread and butter.

We started things off with an appetizer — the crack bacon quesadilla. It was smaller than I thought and didn’t have the traditional taste a quesadilla has. The cheddar cheese was lacking as a good quesadilla should have copious amounts of cheese. The roasted onions was a good flavor between the spinach tortilla, and the sour cream was much needed. The crack bacon inside was plenty, but the flavor was different. It was more sweet and had an interesting flavor of tumeric in it. The flavors together were interesting, but not for me. I would have liked a regular, cheesy quesadilla with regular bacon. That would have been killer.

Denise’s famous mac and cheese had crack bacon inside, unfortunately. The spiral noodles, not one of my favorite when it comes to mac and cheese, was flabby and overcooked. The cheese sauce was watery and had little flavor. Crack bacon to me, is too sweet. I don’t know if you can imagine eating a sweet mac and cheese, but it is unpleasant. The cayanne inside was nearly missed as a little kick would have been beneficial. The fresh mixed greens salad was delicious though. The hommade champagne lemon viniagarette was fragrant and lively. Each bite was exciting and the viniagarette was citric and flavorful.

Cyndi’s Luscious Chocolate Bacon Sandwich was exactly as the title states. It was just plain white bread with chocolate and crack bacon inside. This time around, the savory, yet sweet bacon was fitting. The sandwiches were toasted nicely and the chocolate and bacon inside was sweet and tasty. The cholcate sauce over the sandwiches as well as the whipped cream made this a knife and fork job. The alomnds also was a nice touch that gave it a crunch. It wasn’t an elegant dessert, but it was filled with this sweet crack bacon.

Grub to me is more of a breakfast place. The fact that it is a nice little house with so much charm, dinner seemed unfitting. All of the items seemed a bit awkward and out of place. The dishes and bowls were colorful and seemed more breakfasty than anything else. I would love to come to this place for breakfast. Entering a quiant little house for morning breakfast? Pancakes, bacon and eggs? Bring it on! Dinner on the other hand, was not welcoming.

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The first Portillo’s hot dog stand known as “The Dog House” opened in 1963. The small trailer with dedication from the ownder to serving “the best food” and “the best service” available grew to such an institution today. Having a Portillo’s in the relatively close city of Buena Park, it is always a treat, Probably the coolest place in Buena Park, Portillo’s is always a spot for a fun environment and classic American fare. Everyone loves a good joint where health gets thrown out the window. Being the new year and all, I had a combination of healthy and “real” food. Overall, it was an awesome experience.

The hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches at Portillo’s don’t scream healthy healthy, so I opted to start off with a salad. I know. Something is changing insdie of me. Maybe it’s the new year that is making me make these “right” decisions. Their chopped salad was quite surprisingly good. The iceberg and romaine lettuce was chopped finely. It was tossed with cubed chicken, gorgonzola cheese, red cabbage, pasta, tomatoes, bacon, green onions and house dressing. The mixture made for a delicious salad that was somewhat healthy. The gorgonzola popped with flavor and the pasta inside gave it some substanance. The finely chopped greens made this salad easy to eat. Delicious!

At Portillo’s, they have an Italian Beef with Italaian sausage sandwich. This had both thinly sliced, succulent beef with Italian sausage on top. I got the salad just so I can eat this bad boy. Stuffed with either hot or sweet peppers (I opted for the sweet peppers), the sandwich had a lot of pronounced flavor. The Giardiniera on top finshed this sandwich off nicely. The beef with the zesty Giadiniera made this sandwich a top pick. Yeah, I didn’t get the hot dog at Portillo’s. Personally, their hot dogs aren’t that great. It is all about the Italian beef and sausage. Because of the Italian sausage, I ate this more like a hot dog than anything else. A little mustard on top to cut the fat, and I was all smiles.

I really wanted to get the cheese fries. The cheese fries was just french fries with a side of cheese sauce. What is better than french fries that a side of cheese sauce? Gravy, maybe? I settled for some onion rings. I haven’t had it in a while and I thought it would go nicely with my beef and sausage sandwich. I was right! The onions rings really hit the spot. It was crunchy and full of flavor. The cheese fries can wait for next time.

Portillo’s is a really chill spot. The food is greasy and delicious, and the price is reasonable. Inside and out, the design of it all is unique and fun. On the day that I went, there was a small group of old school cars parked outside. Car club? Just to go to this awesome eatery with a cool vibe made my experience special. Food and all, this is one of my favorite Orange County picks for good eats.

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Bossa Nova – Sunset’s Brazilian Hot Spot

by Franklin on January 21, 2013

For the longest time, I wanted to eat at Bossa Nova. I always plan on eating there for lunch or dinner, but something else comes up or I go eat somewhere else. Finally, I made it here and the experience was pleasant. The only brazilian food I am used to is the BBQ. Whether it be M Grill in Koreatown or Fogo de Chao in Beverly Hills, the endless meat is what I go for. Maybe that is what kept me hesitant about Bossa Nova for so long. The Sunset location was somewhat packed that night with a 30 minute wait. Waiting all that for semi-outdoor seating was a bummer. After the food came out, I wasn’t really complaining.

The night started off with complimentary bread. Not particularly a favorite, the bread was a bit boring. It wasn’t really soft, warm, or chewy — it didn’t have any qualities of being good bread. It felt like they served it just because. Not that there isn’t anything wrong with that, it was free afte all.

The chicken brochette is probably the most decadent thing I had in a while. It was a fried on fat on more fat combination of pure bliss. Fried chicken breast wrapped in bacon sat in a vat of gorgonzola cream sauce. Served with a side of sliced bread (which was way better than the bread they gave us), this appetizer was tasty. The bacon was crispy and salty, and the chicken inside was moist and tender. It was a perfect match in taste and texture. To top it all off, the gorgonzola cheese sauce made everything just pop. It was warm, creamy, and delicious with all that blue cheese funk. This was a killer dish for sure.

To keep this fried on fat on fat theme going, we ordered the deluxe dutch fries. These were french fries with a drizzle of homemade gorgonzola sauce and crumbled gorgonzola cheese. I did not like this dish at all. The fries came out nearly cold, leaving the fries soggy and soft. The gorgonzola sauce didn’t help stiffen them up either. It was just a mash of limp fries and fatty sauce, with not a lot of crumbled blue cheese. I think if this was made perfectly on the spot, it would be perfect. Imagine perfectly crisp and crunchy fries, warm cheese sauce and gorgonzola. This perfect recipe for deliciousness was just a disappointment.

The night was saved by the main dish. I ordered the flank steak picanha. The flank steak was cooked nicely to a medium rare, but the side items were what made this dish exciting. The white rice and black beans were simply cooked and gave the dish balance. Eating everything with the salsa made everything pop. The most interesting thing on the plate was the yucca flour. It had a very crunchy texture, almost like eating granulated glass. I know that may sound unappetizing to some, but it had a very mild flavor which and added the crunch. Everything was perfected by the fried plantains. The sweetness helped give my taste buds diversity. This was a well balanced dish and wouldn’t go with anything else.

I saw a lot of people order pizzas and pastas, but I wanted to reserve that for next time. I felt like I owed myself to have Brazilian BBQ that wasn’t all you can eat. This meant no filling up on pao de queijo and It wasn’t about eating a years worth of meat. This experience was more casual — pay for what you eat. For that, the food tasted better in some way. After my meal, I was beyond stuffed. I wondered how I could ever and why I would eat more. The price was affordable and everything was exactly as expected. No frills. Just good food. Bossa Nova is a popular spot amongst Angelinos. Next time around will be pizzas and pasta, Bossa Nova style.

Bossa Nova Brazilian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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What is cooler? Cake or Pie? I mean, you got the all time favorite birthday cake, and pretty much every “pastry” (scone, donut, brownie, etc.) is all part of the cake family. Pie on the other gets no love. The only place showing them love is Mairie, and all the great diners. When I say great diners, I mean in the east coast. What do we have? What does Lost Angeles have? I guess we have House of Pies. A unique and one and only, the the restaurant is a casual style diner that has been around for nearly 40 years. I always had their pies on certain occasions and they are quite good. I never ate there personally, so I had to give it a try. The food is down to earth and is comforting on all fronts. Even the waitresses are sweet ladies. I would say though, their pies are superior to their food items, but it’s still a nice casual spot to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner with friends and family.

When I saw chicken wings and waffles on the menu, I was elated. It was exactly what I wanted and I heard their fried chicken is something to consider. The chicken was superb as it was juicy and crispy. I hate it when I bite into fried chicken and the meat is either dry or drenched in grease. Theirs was clean tasting and the crispy batter was surprisingly delicious. The waffle on the other hand just got by. It wasn’t anything special and the batter could use a little work. It wasn’t crispy or tasty — it was more for show. Hand’s down, the waffles at Roscoe’s are superior. The chicken though, they can hold their own.

I had a bite of their burger — the bacon avocado burger named the Frisco Burger. This was just a standard burger. the patty wasn’t anything special, but the bacon was nice with the creamy avocado. The sourdough was a nice switch from the boring hamburger bun. This burger wasn’t special for me though. It wasn’t overly juicy or flavorful.

I know it’s a shocker. I didn’t get pie this time! Honestly though, the food isn’t something to consider. It is your basic diner food — boring in every sense. The pies are quite decent, but then again, I am all about cakes. Birthday cakes, wedding cakes, cake donuts, I love them all. I am not a fan of most pies, meat pies, fruit pies — I’m just not a fan. I guess I am biased in a way. I mean, if this place was called House of Cakes, I would be all over it. I guess if you like diner food and love pies, this would be heaven. For me, just give me my fried chicken wings and I will be on my way.

House of Pies on Urbanspoon

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When going to Vegas, some just eat purely at buffets. For some reason, buffets an Las Vegas go hand in hand. They won’t eat at buffets every day when they are at home, but when at Vegas, its buffet after buffet. Hence, they made the Buffet of Buffets, which is a 24 hours pass to a select buffets at any time. For me, I prefer no buffets. If you have been to one, you have been to them all.

Cravings Buffet inside the Mirage Resort is no exception. It is exactly like every other buffet. Their selection was quite extensive though. Every wall and corner had something fresh. The huge dining area had no walls, which allowed you to survey everything without obstruction. Everything was labeled and categorized accordingly, and for the most part, the food was edible. I wouldn’t say its one of the best on the strip, but definitely a contender. I would even say Cravings Buffet is a bit underrated. It is a step down from maybe Wynn or Bellagio, but it still has some substance to it. If a buffet it what you are looking for, Cravings Buffet will do the trick.

Cravings on Urbanspoon

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I know its Winter, and it’s cold. Typically, you don’t eat cold things in the Winter. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy something sweet. It’s Los Angeles we are talking here — its okay. Entering Manhattan Beach Creamery, I was a kid in a candy store. There was candy on display with every sweet thing you can think of. There is something magical about having ice cream or a snack at the beach. You feel young again. I had my eye on one thing and one thing only — the chocolate dipped ice cream sandwich.

The cookie part was quite sweet, a little too sweet. The dark chocolate that coated the sandwich cookie actually rounded out the sweetness a lot. The ice cream sandwich was thick over frozen. This helped in keeping things together. Once the cookie sandwich thawed out a bit, it was just a perfect ice cream sandwich. It was a bit large, and I don’t recall finishing the whole thing. I was just happy. Cookies and Ice cream? All in a sandwich? Covered in dark chocolate?

Manhattan Beach Creamery is in a nice location in one of the best beaches in Los Angeles. Any sweet lover can appreciate what they offer. From candy, baked goods and ice cream, this is a great pit stop for dessert and sweets. It’s fun to just walk around and look at all they have. I think it’s a nice way to kill time at the beach, and you get a sweet snack with that.

Manhattan Beach Creamery on Urbanspoon

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I went to Chapter One: Modern Local late one night. It was a random night where I wanted something good to eat, but not a full blown meal. I didn’t exactly want snack items you would find at a gastropub, and I didn’t want just a Double Double down the street. I guess I was bored and I wanted to try something new — I guess it was the food blogger in me that wanted to venture out and wanted to get excited by food. Looking at the exciting “world” that the Santa Ana Art District has, that was a nice place to start. Chapter One: Modern Local was my destination.

Upon ordering the potato pear, I really didn’t know what to expect. The pear shaped riced potato was stuffed with duxelles. Duxelles is a mixture of chopped mushrooms, onions, and herbs. The panko crusted exterior was crispy without being greasy. The best part was this wild mushroom, marsala cream sauce that it sat on top of. The complexity and rich mushroom flavor really made this dish stand out. It was rich and creamy and went so perfectly with the riced potatoes. This was basically a very complex and very elaborate mashed potatoes and gravy. Though definitely not an item to return for, it was a good experience.

The beef culotte was a dish less remembered. Though wrapped in bacon, it wasn’t too overpowering — the beef stood out. What was actually overpowering was the coffee and chocolate dry rub. It gave it a nice dry roasted taste and accented the beef quite nicely though. The red wine demi-glace was a nice touch, but the best part of the dish was the dijon smashed potatoes. They were seasoned perfectly and the dijon flavor really popped. Again, as the potato pear was a take on potatoes and gravy, this dish was a take on Shepherds pie. Though the ingredients are totally different, the taste and consistency of the dish really reminded me of Sheppards pie. Why the double potato and double rural dishes? I don’t know.

It was interesting that we ordered such old-school dishes at a place called Modern Local. Maybe their forte is to take rural dishes and make them “modern”. If so, they pretty much hit the mark. Chapter One Modern Local truly fits into the Santa Ana Arts District. As the name insists, the interior is full of books and almost looks like a rich man’s personal library. The food however, represents modern takes on classic cuisine. It is a nice spot for late night eats and drinks — I guess this adventure seeking food blogger got what it asked for.

Chapter One: The Modern Local on Urbanspoon

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The Westin Bonaventure, the round, stubby building is hard to miss in the Los Angeles downtown cityscape. Traveling Figueroa almost daily, I always pass by the Bonaventure and remember the birthday dinner I had at L.A. Prime. Just below this beautiful steak restaurant sits a revolving restaurant / bar. Inch by inch, as you sit and enjoy your cocktail, you are moving. Looking out to the city, 30-something floors up, you are in awe of the beautiful lights and buildings. I wouldn’t really come here to have dinner, but drinks and dessert were part of the plan.

The inside was a bit dark, and the colors were old. Compared to L.A. Prime, this place was a lot more casual. The red on red decore was worn and dated — it made everything, pictures included, red. Despite that, I was still amazed that the floor was rotating with the city skyline.

I wanted a souvenir cup with pina colada, so I got a souvenir cup with pina colada. The drink was alright, nothing special. The cup was equally alright, nothing special. I was just staring outside half the time, mindlessly eating the Chex Mix. I would also like the mention the dark brown garlic bread looking things are the best. And yes, the pretzels were left over. Anyways, the drinks were standard. This would be a cool and novel spot to bring friends and or a date to have a casual drink and talk.

For dessert, I had the banana creme brûlée. Not one of my favorite desserts in the world, the custard was still delicious. I am a purist — I like just regular creme brûlée. No bananas on top or inside. All I want is a creamy custard inside and the crisp crunchy top of the caramelized sugar. Maybe a little strawberry and blue berries for garnish, but that is it. But then again, this dessert with the amazing view made it all worth it.

At the end of the day, if I had the same drink, the same Chex Mix, and the same dessert anywhere else, I would have been quite disappointed. Obviously, their biggest selling point is the view. The marvelous spectacle, a literal 360 degree view of Los Angeles is good enough for me. The food may be mediocre and the vibe might be dead, but it doesn’t matter. Looking out into the the most amazing city within the city, you can appreciate every bit of it. Check out the video below for the fun elevator ride up and down.

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Mario’s Peruvian Seafood is so popular in Los Angeles. People wait in lines outside the small restaurant — the people just want their Lomo Saltado! I heard that the beef was better in the La Mirada location, so I had to give it a whirl. At first glance, I could tell this Mario’s used to be a Denny’s. Immediately I was turned off — and I know this may sound weird, but the fact that there wasn’t a wait was a turn off as well. Stupid, I know. It must be the Asian in me that wants to wait for the best of the best. I just needed to see what the difference was, and I mean, it’s Mario’s — it can’t be bad.

Of course, I had to order the lomo saltado. 1.) It’s Lomo Saltado; it’s a must. 2.) I am doing a beef taste comparison, remember? As Always, the sauteed beef with onions, tomatoes, and french fried potatoes were delicious. Greasy in just the right way, all the ingredients taste amazing with their seasoned rice. Drenched in the Aji verde sauce, each bite was creamy and spicy at the same time. It is a fact — the green sauce is addicting. As for the beef though, I don’t know if it was all psychological, but the beef did seem more tender. Less dry and more plump, the beef was probably the best part.

When eating at Mario’s, you should always get the jalea de mariscos. It is a seafood restaurant after all. A fried feast of Pacific red snapper, shrimp, squid, and potatoes, this large dish/appetizer is good for the whole group. Topped with onion salsa (I get mine on the side), the flavors are superb. The fried seafood are all cooked to a perfect crisp. Eating it with the onion slaw is a must — the acidity of the slaw and the onions make a nice palate cleanser for the greasy fried goodness. Of course, eating it with the Aji verde sauce is recommended.

Mario’s in Los Angeles is a go to spot. I always think about it, crave it, and come back to it. The prices have risen over the past few years, but even at that, it is a lot of food. Good food! The La Mirada location is no different. Don’t let the Orange County proximity or the former Deny’s facade fool you. This is as “Mario’s” as it gets. The food is on par, if not exceeds the Los Angeles location, and no wait. All you need to know about Mario’s is: Beef, Fried Seafood, Jamaica, and Green Sauce. Knowing those things, you are on your way to having a great meal.

Mario's Peruvian Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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