May 2013

OC Weekly’s Summer Fest

by Franklin on May 28, 2013

OC Weekly proudly invites you to the 2013 Summer Fest, presented by the Surfrider Foundation & Finlandia Vodka, on Sunday, June 9, 2013 from 11am to 5pm at Newport Dunes! This event joins together live musical performances, local retailers, contests, games, prizes, outdoor activities, and a day full of fun!

I am totally gana be there, getting my food on! Get your tickets here!

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Jagerhaus – Das Schnitzel

by Franklin on May 24, 2013

German’s are known for many things, but food, I think, isn’t one of them. Every time I go to Disneyland and exit Ball Road, I see Jagerhaus on the corner of my eye. I always wanted to try it, and ever since I saw their huge slabs of jager schnitzel and ham hocs online, I was bound to go. Never really venturing into German food, trying was an experience. The interior seemed dated, but it added to the old school charm I guess. It was a fun experience, and the amount of food was overwhelming.

Bread was served — regular dinner rolls and what seemed to be pumpernickel to be somewhat exact. Both seemed microwaved to appear steaming hot from the oven. I still ate it because I was hungry. Not much to talk about here…

Jager schnitzel should definitely be Germany’s national dish. Everything about it from the name and taste just oozes Germany. A good jager schnitzel should start off with really good schnitzel. Theirs was perfectly chewy, yet light. Each morsel of dough had the perfect al dente feel. The large slab of pan fried pork steak was perfectly seasoned and tender. Topped with a rich gravy like cream sauce, the dish was heavenly. The addition of the sautéed mushrooms was a nice touch.

I ordered the biggest they on the menu. The haveschweine haxe was it. It was a roast ham hoc with a side of schnitzel and red cabbage. The ham hoc was huge, and the size was quite daunting. Bone in, the meat practically fell off the bone. Though the meat wasn’t too dry, I was sick of it after a few bites. I definitely needed some kind of bread or rice with this dish. This could easily be perfect for a couple, and you’d still have leftovers. The ham hoc was full of flavor, and eating it with the pickled red cabbage and sauerkraut was necessary.

To end things, we opted for the bread pudding. It sounded good and tasted good in my head, but this was better off left in the kitchen. The bread pudding was a cold, solid block of wet bread. The vanilla sauce was basically just milk with a hint of vanilla. The raisins in the bread pudding was unavoidable. The bread pudding at Golden Corral was looking quite nice right about now.

I never really have German food. Jagerhaus has really been on the radar for quite some time for me. Now, whenever I pass by this place when I go to Disneyland, I can finally say I’ve eaten there. It wasn’t really the best I ever had, but it certainly was an experience. The schnitzel was the star here, and the old school charm just makes this restaurant what it is.

Gustav's Jagerhaus on Urbanspoon

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Peppermill Restaurant is amazing and it’s such a unique place. One section of the restaurant is a lounge, called the Fireside lounge. Inside is a bar and seating area for drinks and food. In the middle sits a fire pool where guests can gather and sit around. Neon lights are everywhere. On the main dining area side, you have a typical diner that is flashy and designed to the maximum. The neon lights are a bit toned down and the natural light is able to come in. Waitresses in a skirts a little too short come around in diner style uniforms. The whole experience was quite special.

As we were waiting for our table, we decided to hang out at the Fireside Lounge. Sitting in front of a fire and bubbling pool of water, we enjoyed a nice cup of hot cocoa. Not only was it relaxing, but the neon lights and fire water craziness was kind of trippy. With lights and mirrors everywhere, you get a bit lost in this place.

Not only is the diner aesthetically spectacular, but the food is great too. The one thing everyone mentions about Peppermill is the portions. Never have I ever complained about having too much food, but really, Peppermill over does it on the food. I mean, one dish can probably feed up to 3 hungry girls, or just 1 Frank. I wasn’t able to finish my food, and I was full to the maximum. Nobody has ever eaten here and said, “Hmm, I’m still a little hungry. Who wants dessert?” That is crazy talk. I have never seen portions this big! I guess that is what the Peppermill is all about — good diner style food with huge portions.

I ordered the Maserati omelet. Maserati being an Italian car company, this omelet was done Italian style. Filled with sausage, jack and cheddar cheese, mushrooms, and Italian meat sauce the omelet had a lot of flavor. I never thought of putting meat sauce on a omelet, but it made sense. The mushrooms were hearty and the sausage and meat sauce made this full of protein. If that wasn’t enough protein, this omelet packs it in with 10 eggs. Yeah. This omelet was made with 10 eggs. 3 eggs is enough for an omelet — 4 or 5 eggs is a lot — this one had TEN! Even so, this omelet wasn’t “eggy.” The jack and cheddar cheese melted nicely, but the sprinkled of parmesan cheese made this Italian to the max. It was hearty and after a few bites, I was tired of it. It was just a lot of food. Just to add to the madness of a lot of food, there was a huge heap of hash browns on the side. Unfortunately, they were good — crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. A perfect mix of ketchup and Tabasco made them even better. Oh what a breakfast.

To add to the gorge fest was the Southern Fried Steak and Eggs. I had to get the southern fried steak — we were in a diner after all. The steak was fork tender and I didn’t need a knife. The breading was perfect and crunchy, but the country sausage gravy was a bit tiring. I jazzed it up with some more Tabasco. And yes, I put some on the hash browns and eggs as well. This was a lot of food, almost to a point where it was sickening. A lot of fruit and vegetables is one thing, but a lot of starchy potatoes with a lot of fried beef lathered with much too rich country sausage gravy was just horrifying. I packed all the food in a to go box and left.

This place is for the hungry — really hungry. Actually, the really hungry still won’t finish this stuff. Only athletes and swimmers like Michael Phelps will finish these meals. Definitely over 2000 calories, (> 3000?) these meals are definitely meant to be shared. Though the food was memorable, only because of the size, it was still a fun experience. The lounge was relaxing and different, and the dining area was fun to be a part of. And of course, it was crazy to see all of these oversized plates with mounds and mounds of food. Peppermill is open 24-7, so you can enjoy this place any time. I’m pretty sure the crowd is different at night and might consider it next time.

Peppermill Cafe & Lounge on Urbanspoon

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Kobawoo House – Koreatown’s Bossam

by Franklin on May 13, 2013

What can I say about Koreatown? In fact, what good things can I say about Koreatown? I can’t really think of anything, sadly. It’s dirty, over populated, and it’s pretty much the “New Jersey” of Los Angeles. As a Korean American, I grew up eating and breathing Koreatown. My parents, like almost all Koreans, do business here have some sort of connection to Koreatown. One great thing about Koreatown is the Korean food. With Korean BBQ joints on every corner and every other Korean food you can think of, its available. One of my favorite places to get bossam is Kobawoo House on the corner of 7th and Vermont. The food is great, and every single patron gets the bossam. Bossam is steamed or boiled pork that is wrapped in leaf vegetables. It is often topped with a fermented bean paste or marinated tiny shrimp or kimchi. Sometimes (most times) I get a craving for bossam, and this is the place to get your fix.

Before we got our bossam, we were given some side dishes (banchan). We had some stir fried sweet potato noodles (japchae), 2 kinds of kimchi, and fishcake. I never know if the side dishes are supposed to be eaten with the meal, but I always treated it as an appetizer. I always go for the kimchi. The noodles were perfect, but never as good as my mom’s japchae.

The bossam came in thin slices, stacked on top of each other. The pork taste was mild and the skin was gelatinous and soft. Wrapping it in their perfectly picked Napa cabbage, the morsel of food is perfect in itself. The toppings of the salty shrimp and the dried and marinated radishes gave it a nice spicy flavor. The salty shrimp and pork made a good combination, and the dried marinated radish gave it a nice crunch. To top it all off, I added their soy sauce marinated jalapeno peppers to give the bite some needed heat. Wrapping the whole thing together was a huge amount of food, but I managed to fit the whole thing in my mouth. I would try biting it in half, but the Napa cabbage doesn’t break off too easily. Plus, fitting the whole thing in your mouth and eating it is the Korean way. There is no shame in that. A bite of their pink pickled radish to cleanse the palate, and I was ready for another.

Another item I ordered was their seafood pancake (Haemul Panjun). The sizzling seafood pancake had a mixture of scallops, shrimp, oyster, squid, clams, and green onion. The whole thing was mixed with flour and cooked on a skillet. It was sliced like pizza into 6, and served. After one, I was tired of it. The pancake was thick and dense. The mixture of the seafood was good, especially dipped in the vinegar, green onion, and soy sauce mixture. If it weren’t for this, this wouldn’t have been even considered. I should have ordered the cheaper and smaller kimchi pancake. It would have suited the bossam a little better. In hind sight, I would have foregone the seafood pancake.

Kobawoo House is a popular spot in Koreatown — there’s usually a wait during lunch and dinner. I remember seeing them at the LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast and trying their Korean style pancakes. It was really good, and knew their pancakes were not even specialty. Honestly, Kobawoo House is the place to get bossam. Maybe you can get the Korean style pancakes, but really, its all about the bossam. Other places are good, but the pork at Kobawoo is sublime and the small details in flavor are unmatched. I can go for some right now.

Kobawoo on Urbanspoon

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I’m not a retired old man, nor am I rich. Tommy Bahama clothing represents just that. Old male clothing, preferably rich, relaxing at a beach or island somewhere, and preferably of which you own, thats what I think of Tommy Bahama. Never in a million years would I associate this with a restaurant or bar. Intrigued to find out there was a Tommy Bahama’s Island Grille in Newport Beach, I just had to go. If for anything, their happy hour menu was decent and a steal. We sat at the bar and enjoyed our time.

We started off with some bread and sweet butter. Their signature, 4 pointed bread was unique and delicious. I wasn’t a fan of the sweet butter — I seldom like the sweet kind. The bread itself though, was soft and had a perfect chewy yet tender consistency. A great start!

When I saw their quesadilla was made with goat cheese, I knew I had to order them. If it weren’t for the goat cheese, these quesadillas would be just like any other. The goat cheese gave this a nice tart taste and went well with the other creamy cheese. The chicken was plenty and gave this a nice bite. Though it was missing the melty sensation a good quesadilla should have, it was still flavorful. The side salsa did a good job of adding flavor and color without taking away from the goat cheese.

The seared ahi tuna was quite a steal at only like 6 bucks. The tuna was nicely seared with a cooked outside and raw inside. Though a bit dry, the soy sauce wasabi mixture made up for it. Sitting on a bed of seaweed salad and cucumber slices, it had a full spectrum of flavors. The umami rich soy sauce and fish with the acidic greens made a great combination.

It seems that the lobster grilled cheese on the menu was their most popular. Even though it wasn’t on the happy hour menu, I still had to order it. To stop you from reading further, I would have been happier with a lobster roll. This sandwich is definitely more of a grilled cheese sandwich than a lobster sandwich. The three cheeses mix into a gooey mixture inside. I don’t know if the lobster was flavorless or the cheese just overpowered the Maine lobster, but the lobster was missing in this sandwich. Whatever happened to no cheese with seafood? The sourdough was soaking in butter and really crunchy, not a bad thing. It was a treat to have this sandwich with the heirloom tomato soup. It was warm and the contrast from crunchy/fatty to warm/acidic was nice. I wish a smaller portion was available on the happy hour menu so that I didn’t have to invest so much to find out it was average. I guess that’s part of the job right?

Though the savory was average, I was once again saved by the dessert. We picked up a free dessert or appetizer voucher at the store next door. Naturally, dessert was in order, and the pina colada cake was ready to be devoured. If anyone asks, I will always take cake over pie — always. The pina colada cake here was amazing! Free voucher or not, you must get this cake. The four layers of vanilla cake was moist and softer that ever, with the help of the myer dark rum. In the addicting frosting within the layers were diced pineapple that was subtle and more sweet than sour. The white chocolate mousse surrounding the cake was delicious, and the toasted coconut sticking on top and the edge finished it off nicely. The mixture of the hint of coconut and pineapple definately made this a pina colada cake, and the sweetness was just perfect. I was quite satisfied with this delicious cake.

It is official. Tommy Bahama isn’t just a clothing store. Some have restaurants attached to them. The inside is similar to that of any other restaurant. Think of something a little better than Claim Jumpers, with an awesome bar, and of course an island theme. The food is decent and the happy hour is even better. I won’t think of Tommy Bahama the same ever again. No more thinking about island shirts or rich retired folks. I’ll be thinking of those four pointed breads, happy hour, and of course that addicting pina colada cake. That’s what Tommy Bahama is to me now.

Tommy Bahama Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

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La Cave (Wynn) – Wine and Food Hideaway

by Franklin on May 3, 2013

The Wynn and Encore are some of my favorite properties in Las Vegas. Their elegant styling with classic and luxurious design cues all make for a perfect resort. Walking into SW Steakhouse with no reservation, I realized I was being too optimistic. Reservations is a must at SW — lesson learned. Scratching that idea, our dinner plans turned into something more casual but elegant at the same time. La Cave at the Wynn is a wine bar, tapas bar, and hideaway all in one. I don’t know what a food hideaway is exactly, but that’s what it is. Their classic tapas items paired with some interesting wine tastings made for an incredible dinner service. SW steakhouse surely wasn’t on the back of our minds.

We started thngs off with the La Cave Caesar salad. With the Romaine lettuce left whole, we cut into it like a steak. Wrapped in the most delectable, yet really salty prosciutto, I was all smiles. Mixed all together with their lemon anchovy dressing, the salad was a great ice breaker for our meal. The addition of fried anchovy made this Caesar salad a legit one.

Who orders soup at a restaurant, let alone, a tapas bar? This guy! Their onion soup really looked good with the puff pastry “poofed” up on top. With gruyere cheese mixed up all in the puff pastry, the dough had a great toasted cheese taste. The broth in it was rich and addicting. I just didn’t want it to end. Mixing the broth with the cheesy puff pastry made for a perfect bite.

It was time for wine! I opted to try the Spanish wine tasting selection. With four different kinds from specific regions, I was bound to find at least one that I like.

I find myself ordering bacon wrapped dates at every tapas joint I go to. The salty and sweet combo is done all the time and I like to try them all and compare. Most of the restaurants prepare them similarly, but they are never the same. At La Cave, the dates were huge. This meant really big sweet flavors. The bacon’s saltiness wasn’t enough to counter balance the sweet dates, so the help of blue cheese fondue did the trick.

Just as the bacon wrapped dates, every tapas needs to have good flatbread options. Their chicken flatbread was a good option. With Thai basil, chili sauce, and garlic aioli, the flatbread had lots of flavor. For what it was, the dough and crust was decent as well. Possibly, any of the classic flat breads on the menu would have been good as well.

I love a perfectly cooked shrimp, and theirs was just that. Mixed in with chopped piquillo peppers, fingerling potatoes, and roasted garlic, the flavors popped in your mouth. The piquillo peppers made this dish as it was all I could really taste. I think a better crust on the shrimp with the addition of extra salt would have perfected this dish nicely.

Not eating at SW Steakhouse meant we had to find our beef elsewhere. We found it in their beef filet. Siting on top of crostini with some blue cheese melted on top, this was a perfect filet. I felt the beef could have been cooked a little more on the rare. The slightly over cooked meat was forgiven with the 2 sauces that came with it. One was a thickened onion based sauce, and the other was a mushroom/truffle reduced cream sauce. Both were exceptional with this beef, but the white mushroom/truffle cream reduction was just heavenly. I shamelessly just lathered this stuff on each bite.

After seeing the bill, I realized I probably would have spent this much at SW. The only difference is, and it’s a big difference, I would have only eaten beef and some side item of starch. Granted, that beef would have been quite nice, and the bread and butter would have perfect, I had diversity. That is the beauty of tapas. Where other restaurants are all about doing one thing and doing it right, tapas is all about trying new things and repeating that over and over. La Cave was an awesome detour for dinner. The place was busy and the crowd was young and hip. It was dark in there though, hence the crappy pictures. I mean, it is a “hideaway” afterall.

La Cave on Urbanspoon

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I remember whan I was a kid, pizza was my favorite food. When I spoke of pizza as a kid, I meant the every day Dominoes delivery kind of pizza — the kind that my childhood idol, Michaelangelo from TMNT liked. As an adult now, my pizza pallate has evolved into something more. Before, the crust was just an obstacle for the good stuff, also known as the meat and cheese. Now, the crust is most important component for a good pizza. At Pizzeria Mozza, you can have your adult pizza. The crust is uber thin, and the toppings are of the highest quality. Masterfully baked in their woodfire oven, their pizzas are some of the most coveted in Los Angeles.

Pizzeria Mozza is a power house. Not only do you have Nancy Silverton, the bread baking extrodinaire who founded La Brea Bakery, you have Mario Batali in the mix. With the help of restauranteur and tv personality Joe Bastianich, Pizzeria Mozza was bound to thrive. Gourmet pizza nowadays is easier to find in Los Angeles — they are everywhere! Pizzeria Mozza is special and is one of the few who started the gourmet pizza trend in Los Angeles. Backed by the Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton also doesn’t hurt either. Do to it’s popularity, reservations are a must. Luckily, there were a couple of seats available at the bar. I was ready to have my pizza!

Instead of traditional bread, they served grissinis. The crunchy bread sticks in the form of long pencils were a nice light snack before dinner. Having not much flavor and a lot of crunch, it was still fun to munch on these bread sticks.

One of Pizzeria Mozza’s most famous and most expensive pizzas is the squash blossoms pizza. Though I would rarely shell out 20 bucks for a pizza, I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. At first bite, the mixture of the tomato and burrata was pristine. The tomoato flavor was subtle and the burrata had a gentle milky flavor. Delicate in texture, the burrata was silky smooth. Married with the flavors of the squash blossom, everything came together nicely. Texurally, the dough was perfectly chewy and airy on the inside and crisp on the outside. The squash blossoms roasted in the oven made it light and crisp. This brought out the flavors quite nicely. For a meatless pizza pie, it was pretty dang good.

For my meat fix, I ordered the fennel sausage pizza. Topped with house-made sausage, the subtly sweet yet savory sausage was the star. Pops of fennel really brought out the flavors nicely. The herbiness of the red onions and scallions balanced out the fatty sausage nicely. I don’t quite know if this was better of the two pizzas. The sausage on this was perfect, almost life changing, but the squash blossom pizza as a whole was better. Get both!

To end things, I ordered their butterscotch budino. A play between a sweet and decadent budino and savory rosemary pine nut cookies was teasing the senses. The caramel and butterscotch was quite sweet, but the help of Maldon sea salt helped intensify the taste. The cookies alone were a bit bland and not sweet. The elements of the rosemary in the pine nut cookie and the budino was a match so complex and delicate. This was a beautiful dessert.

Everyone knows that Pizzeria Mozza is the LA standard when it comes to artisinal pizzas. The service is near perfect and the pizzas are exceptional. You have Nancy Silverton for the crust, and Mario Batali, true Italian at heart. With these two, a perfect pizza is bound to be born. The restaurant is casual and well-appointed. Though I only had the pizza there, I’m sure the other items are just as good. As a child, pizza was my favorite food. Now as an adult, Pizzeria Mozza made pizza one of my favorite foods again.

Pizzeria Mozza on Urbanspoon

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