April 2013

The Hat (Alhambra) – OG Pastrami

by Franklin on April 24, 2013

To me, The Hat is that place that I remember most. As I mentioned in my blog about The Hat in Monterey Park, it is one of the first food items I remember as a child. Stuff like that is powerful. I’m not talking about remembering my first happy meal or cheeseburger from Mc Donald’s. I’m talking about my first real burger, or real pastrami. For all I knew, the Hat in Monterey Park was the first. Growing up, I realized the OG, the orignal Hat was in Alhambra. A small stand on the north west corner of Valley and Garfield, The Hat is a classic. Started in 1951, Southern California residents have been enjoying their World Famous Pastrami since then.

Your with your friends? Get the chili cheese fries and pastrami dip. Your with a few of your friends? Get the chili cheese fries, wet fries (gravy on the side), pastrami dip, and pastrami burger. And do share a bag of large onion rings. Your by yourself, home alone after a long/bad day? Get the chili cheese fries with pickles and pastrami on top. Just make sure to take a hot shower right after. Whatever the occasion, The Hat is a stop you must take. If you want the OG, the Original, head to Garfield and Valley.

Hat on Urbanspoon

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Izakaya Honda-Ya – Fullerton’s Very Own

by Franklin on April 20, 2013

When I think of Honda-Ya, I think of Yakitori. When I think of Yakitori, I think of snacks. No meal was eaten on a stick. Never! That is unless you get a lot of grilled meats on a stick, and maybe some rice, and other small items. Yeah, then that can be a meal. Honda-Ya in Fullerton opened some time last year. From the looks of the remodeled building, it used to be a Sizzler. That is some upgrade and change if you ask me. Handa-Ya is always fun because the decor inside is so very Japanese and the food is decent. The Yakitori is always on point and the price is just right. I felt a Handa-Ya in this neighborhood seemed kind of off, but I guess the customers like it.

Always, I start off with the Yakitori. I always get the pork belly. The nice charcoal flavor counter balances with the fatty pork belly, making a nice mix of fat and flavor. I tried the wasabi chicken which was alright. The chicken was tender and not dry. My least favorite was the beef. It had a nice teriyaki flavor, but nothing about it was special. Some of my other favorites is the beef tongue and the chicken skins, but you can’t go wrong with the pork belly.

Another dish that disappointed me was the fried baby octopus. The flavor of the octopus was actually nice. The heads popped with great flavor and the meat wasn’t chewy at all. The problem with this was the way they fried it. It wasn’t crispy nor salted. It was just a very greasy batter with no flavor. Each bite squeezed out all of the oil and didn’t leave a very pleasant taste in my mouth. A lighter crispy batter would have suited this much nicer. It was till good dipped in the wasabi soy sauce mixture I made.

The pork with kimchi was probably my favorite. Surprisingly, or maybe not, the kimchi was better than the pork. The pork wasn’t special, and it was kind of dry. The kimchi is where all of the flavor was and kept everything moist. This was perfect with a nice hot bowl of white rice.

Honda-Ya is slowing growing and expanding. I remember when the only one I knew of was in Little Tokyo. That is of course when I didn’t know what Orange County was at the time. The Honda-Ya in Tustin is where everyone goes, so its cool to have this in somewhat closer, Fullerton. Honda-Ya is all about simplicity. The dishes aren’t complex or anything. The ingredients are just basic as can get, but the quality is there. The technique in making and grilling the Yakitori has a method. Though their menu is a bit cluttered and ranges from raw uni to udon noodle soup, the food is unique. Somewhat of a glorified Japanese cafe that serves alcohol, this is indeed an Izakaya, somewhere to eat, drink, and relax. That sounds really good right about now.

Izakaya Honda-Ya on Urbanspoon

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C & O Cucina – Carbo-Load at the Beach

by Franklin on April 14, 2013

Is it just me or is Italian food the ultimate comfort food? You got carbs galore from pasta and pizza dough, and with melted cheese or sauce on top of all that, it’s the ultimate “good feeling” food. Though this will mean more time at the gym, sometimes pasta and bread is all a guy needs. C & O Cucina knows this and their restaurant in Venice / Marina Del Rey is as popular as ever. Always a wait, though not as much as C & O Ttrattoria, it is well worth it. This is an Italian food standard for anyone in the area.

As you already know, the garlic knots are sometimes the main attraction here. This time around, they weren’t as soft and luscious as I remembered. I know. What the heck are you talking about? It was a bit too crunchy on the outside and not as chewy on the inside. The strong herb mixture flavor was nice and was still a great start for our meal.

I tried the pappardelle with wild mushroom and chicken apple sausage. The wide noodle was cooked perfectly and made for perfect bites. With porcini, portobello and champignon mushrooms, the mushroom trio was the best part of this dish. To top it all off, the shallots in white wine tomato cream sauce gave this pasta dish its richness. The creamy mushroom sauce with pasta was classic comfort food. Topped with a showering of cheese made this unforgettable.

My lasagna bolognese was a treat as well. The best part was the rich meat sauce. There was a lot of large pieces of meat that was refreshing. It wasn’t left to a puree of meat and sauce. Coupled with perfectly al dente pasta, it was a perfect lasagna. I rarely order lasagna at restaurants, because they all taste the same to me. And really though, if its made right, they all do. Sometimes comfort food requires a plate of hot lasagna. Where are all my Garfield fans at? If you aren’t a lasagna fan, go for one of the pastas.

Though the menu is nearly identical C & O down the street, I feel the restaurant is quite different from each other. Trattoria felt more Italian — there was sining involved, rustic seating and you just had the feeling that you were eating dinner with everyone in the room. Cucina had more of an intimate feel with less character. Depending on what you are looking for, the food at both restaurants is quite delicious. From a comforting bowl of penne to creamy pasta dishes, any bad day can turn to a good one here. And yes, do fill up on the garlic knots.

C & O Cucina on Urbanspoon

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We all know Gordon Ramsey. The ill tempered celebrity chef from England made a name for himself. When I think of him, he isn’t smiling or laughing. I think of angry eyes, wrinkles on the forehead, and fire coming out of his mouth. That imagery to me, is more laughable than scary. But truly, Gordon Ramsey did make a name for himself, literally. The guy names his restaurants after his name. Gordon Ramsey at The London, and this blog post, Gordon Ramsey Steak at Paris. You must be pretty full of yourself if you name your restaurants after your first name. If Gordon Ramsey has the audacity to put him name (again, literally) on his restaurants, he must be pretty confident in it. With that kind of thinking, I expect top notch flavors and cuisine.

Ramsey’s vision to transport you to the U.K. is accomplished through the “English Channel.” This is exactly what it does. You are transformed from Paris to the UK, just like the real thing! The inside really does transport you to England. The red accents and obviously, the U.K. flag gave it that ambiance.

Another thing that was cool was the beverage selection. The menu is on an iPad and guests can swipe through craft beers, wines, and cocktails. The price and drink description are all available. This was an experience in itself, which probably pushed me to order the Primm’s Cup.

The night started with a cocktail. The Primm’s Cup was the cocktail of choice. It had Primm’s No. 1 and sparkling lemonade. It had a complex flavor and wasn’t too sweet. It was spicy and had a fruity citric flavor. I wanted something with a little bite so that it went well with a steak. The Primm’s Cup wouldn’t be my first choice if it was enjoyed alone. For a meal though, I think this was a successful choice.

We were given complimentary bread. This was a good start — it was some of the best and most flavorful of restaurant complimentary breads. There was walnut bread; lemon, thyme, and olive focacia; and pancetta and mushroom truffle bread roll. This was accompanied with and English Devonshire butter with sea salt. If not the bread, this butter was amazing. It had a cheese like consistency and flavor. My ultimate goal now was to find English Devonshire butter back in L.A. A “shmeer” of this stuff on the bread was purely exceptional. The pop of the sea salt and the creamy butter was purely eventful in my mouth. Sometimes, all a man needs is good butter and good bread. This was surely a great start.

Another item I wanted to start off with was the bone marrow. A personal favorite at any restaurant, I was happy to see it on the menu. The fatty bone marrow on the crostini was delightful. The chimichurri was zesty and added the acidity to the dish. It was a perfect flavor meld of fat and fat.

The waiter came to our table with a display of steaks. All of the steaks were real, and displayed to show texture, and marbling. This was nearly useless to me as I was going to order the beef Wellington, but useful to others not knowing what to order. Table side presentation of steaks, as Wolfgang Puck’s CUT does it is an added wow factor. It is cool to see your steak as is before its cooked off.

My main dish of course, was the roasted Beef Wellington. Being Gordon Ramsey’s signature dish, I was overly excited to try it. Seeing up and coming, “red team, blue team” contestants mess this up time and time again, it was almost like a super star. The beef was cooked perfectly to a medium rare, and soft as ever can be. The beefy flavor was enhanced by the duxelles (mixture of minced mushrooms, onions, shallots, herbs, and butter) inside the flaky crust. Sitting on aside some root vegetables, potato puree, and a red wine demi glace, the entire dish was savory to a great degree. Steakhouses are one of many in Vegas, and the typical bone in ribeye was getting boring. I am glad I ordered and tried the Beef Wellington. Surprisingly, I liked it. Beef Wellington form Gordon Ramsey can now be checked off from the bucket list.

A perfect side dish was the mac and cheese. This may be one of my favorite mac and cheeses of all time! The combination of cheddar, blue cheese, parmesan, and truffle made this perfectly balanced taste. The cheese blend was unctuous and the noodles had a perfect texture. I normally prefer the southern style man and cheese — the one that is custardy and cheddar molested. Gordon Ramsey Steak’s mac and cheese impressed me a lot. I would take this over any other mac and cheese out there.

Another dish I couldn’t pass up was the Maine lobster. The chorizo stuffed Maine lobster was poached in butter. To top it all off, it sat in a pool of brandied lobster cream sauce. The lobster was cooked perfectly and had a nice chew to it. The chorizo wasn’t overpowering, and the lobster just shined. The rich butter and cream sauce was decadent and flavorful. I as expecting a small lobster piece of a tail, but it was quite large. Screw the steak! I’ll just eat this for protein.

And awesome dinner ended with an even more awesome dessert. From chocolate layer cake, to spiced caramel apple cake, it was a hard decision to make. I went with the sticky toffee pudding and never looked back. The waiter poured the brown sugar toffee over the sweet pudding cake. Glazed all over, the dessert was so sweet! The cake was moist and fluffy. What stood out was the brown sugar toffee. It was simple and devilishly addicting. I wanted to just pour that spout of toffee in my mouth. It was warm and gooey, and went perfectly with the brown butter ice cream. A bite of the warm sweet toffee pudding cake and then a bite of the creamy, not too sweet ice cream to wash it all down was so perfect. The end.

I was honestly expecting great things from Gordon Ramsey and his steak restaurant — for the most part, I got what I expected. The cuisine was top notch and the Beef Wellington was finally off my to do list. The atmosphere here is quite hip and loud. You aren’t going to get that quiet and mellow steak house with slow classical music playing in the background. You aren’t going to get neutral colors and very boring waiters. What you do get is a very fast paced, in your face experience. The loud red colors and people chatting and laughing fills the air. That’s just the vibe you get here. Gordon Ramsey’s steak house inside the Paris Resort is a destination. The Paris Resort was lacking in the quality restaurant department, and this one just set it to the top.

Gordon Ramsay Steak on Urbanspoon

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Langer’s Delicatessen – No. 19

by Franklin on April 1, 2013

It all started in 1947, with just 12 seats. It survived through the recession and survived the rough neighborhood of Westlake on the corner of 7th and Alvorado. With the subway station and Mac Arthur Park just adjacent to it, the restaurant get all kinds of customers. Today, this restaurant is a Los Angeles destitantion for those wanting the best pastrami in the world. No, I have no tried Kat’s deli in New York, nor have I tried every pastrami in the world. How can I claim this to be the best pastrami? I will tell you at the end.

The Westlake area in and around Alvorado can get a bit rowdy, but to me, this is what Los Angeles is all about. When you walk in though, you get a sense of that history. The dark wooden booths and old pictures on the wall really take you back. You kind of forget where you are — there’s nothing dangerous about this place. The mild wooden everything and casual people dining away brings you to a state of comfort.

A lot of people get here for breakfast or maybe a nice bowl of matzo ball soup, but I come here for one thing — the Langer’s #19 Hot Pastrami Sandwich. Of course, the pastrami makes the sandwich. The beef is so succulent and juicy. Each tender bite is made possible by the perfect balance of meat and fat. The dark crust around the meat packs such complex amounts of flavor. The rye bread is perfect with flourescent caraway seeds. The inner is soft and the outter crust is crunchy. The combination of cole slaw, swiss, russian dressing help everything stay moist. The Russian dressing is zesty and flavorful. Each element from the bread, to the pastrami, and to the sauces and cheese make a perfect balance of taste and texture. A bite of the pickle spear to “reset” your taste buds, and you are ready for another bite. This might be the best sandwich ever made.

If you came to Langer’s, and you don’t order the pastrami sandwich, I don’t know why you went. The sandwich is delicious to the exact definition. I remember going to Langer’s for the first time with a friend who also never went. We split the #19, because, well, we were’t ballin’ back then. We aren’t ballin’ now either, but that is besised the point. As soon as I took my first bite, we just looked at eachother with smiles of satisfaction. At that momen, I didn’t know if this was real life or not. It was that good! I don’t ask for this sandwich to be on a pedastal, nor do I expect the chefs to win some kind of James Beard award — though the restaurant did win The Bertolli America’s Classics Award noted for the their history and appeal to the city of Los Angeles. The sandwich is amazing. Anyone who says otherwise is either a pastrami snob or from New York. I never tried Kat’s in New York, and I really cannot wait try their pastrami sandwich. That is definately on my bucket list. Who knows? Maybe my biased self might think it’s better than Langer’s. At the end of it all, it is a pride thing. I love Los Angeles, and I think it’s the best city in the world. Hence, Langer’s has the best hot pastrami sandwich in the world. It’s simple logic, right?

Langer's Deli on Urbanspoon

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