December 2013

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

by Franklin on December 24, 2013

Greetings fans of Dine Delish!

Thank you for all the support and for reading by blog, tweets, Instagrams, etc.

I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year. I don’t know what 2014 has in store for me, but I am excited nonetheless. I pray for more delicious food, which will lead to more blog posts! Please enjoy this time with friends, family, and loved ones. Hug your children, parents, and loved ones, eat together, and just enjoy each other’s company.

Merry Christmas!!

-Franklin Park

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Drago Centro – Celestino does DTLA

by Franklin on December 14, 2013

My meal at Drago Centro was quite memorable. Celebrating your better half’s birthday is no easy task. The restaurant and food has to be on point. The mood: romantic with a touch of elegance. Drago Centro was a perfect spot to celebrate a birthday. Filled with business people and those who work in Downtown, it wasn’t crowded. It was quiet, secluded, and the huge windows made for great light for pictures. Chef Celestino Drago, the Sicilian native knows what people want — authentic and high quality Italian food. This is what I got.

The bread was definitely house made. Instead of the traditional bread and butter, they gave us olive oil to dip the bread. Though not a fan of just plain ol’ olive oil, it was pretty clean tasting.

We ordered the burrata and charcuterie place to start. The burrata plate had artichokes, tomatoes, balsamic, with a side of crostini. The burrata was fresh and silky. It was great eating it with the charcuterie.

The charcuterie plate was a favorite (il tagliere di affettati con gnocco fritto). The house selection of charcuterie was fresh and amazing. My favorite of course was the prosciutto. It was my first time trying gnocco fritto, and I fell in love. The fry breads were so airy and not at all oily as one would think. Opening up the warm bread and stuffing it with salted cured meats and burrata was perfection. I mean, at this point, I was pretty stuffed and ready to go home.

The il risotto ai funghi was a treat. Perfectly cooked with a little I bit of a bite, the arborio rice was starchy and coated with sauce. The wild mushrooms gave a good bite as well and the parmesan cheese was nicely utilized in the dish. I know risotto has a rep for being just a creamy rice dish, but this was classic and perfectly prepared.

There were amazing reviews regarding the i garganelli. Unfortunately, I had to have the waiter take it back. That dish was way too salty. Mind you– I never complain about food. If it’s a bit off, I’ll just suck it up and eat it. I also love and don’t mine salty snacks and food. If it’s salty for most, it’s probably perfect for me. For me to have sent it back to the kitchen, it was definitely a mistake on the kitchen. I mean, this pasts dish had everything going for it. The pork sausage, parmesan, and fennel seeds all were great, but the sodium level was off the charts. At the end, I was very happy with my choice below–I paccheri.

Amazingly, I was very pleased with this dish. The squid ink paccheri had such a delicate seafood flavor. The bay scallops and sea urchin cream all played a role. It had nice complexity from the sea urchin and the scallops gave the dish the protein it needed. The black paccheri pasta was warm and cooked perfectly al dente. This pasta dish was definitely my favorite of the night.

This was quite a memorable experience. The food wasn’t inventive/creative like other popup restaurants out there. This is actually a good quality. All of their dishes came out to perfection, minus the garganelli. The quality of ingredients used and the preparation were all of the best kind. With the downtown cityscape outside and the sunset slowly turning into night, the evening was certainly most memorable.

Drago Centro on Urbanspoon

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Lotus of Siam is a bit off the strip, and sits in a sketchy area. There is nothing special about this place, inside and out. After reading so much about it, and hearing Andrew Zimmern rave about this place, it was on top of my list for my last Vegas trip. It goes to show, all of the top restaurants aren’t inside the popular casinos and resorts. Most of them are all commercialized and owned by restaurant groups. Lotus of Siam is one of one. It makes it unique and special, and is a part of Vegas as much as any of the popular resorts.

We started things off with something exciting and new. The Koong char num plar, raw prawns marinated in seasoned fish sauce was a favorite of ours. With the spicy fish sauce, fresh garlic and roasted chili paste, the dish definitely had flavor. Ironically, I used a bunch of that fish sauce to get rid of the rawness and “fishy” flavor. Spiciness met sweetness from the shrimp. The texture of this was spectacular. A bit on the sticky side, the texture took some getting used to. Still a great way to start.

My personal favorite was the Nam Kao Tod. It was a crispy rice mixed with minced sour sausage, green onion, fresh chili, ginger, peanuts, and lime juice. Texturally different from the raw shrimp, this had a nice crunch, and the crunch played a great role in this dish. The ginger flavor popped and the citrus was key. It was delicious and refreshing.

The dish of all dishes–the one to get here always Is the Drunken Noodle Prawn. Thick rice noodles are on fried with deep fried prawns. The shell I kept on and the frying process makes the skins edible. The special blend of garlic sauce and Thai basil was perfect. The prawns were cooked perfectly and the crunch of the skin was amazing. This dish is pretty hard to pass up — a definite must order here.

To end everything, we ordered the coconut ice cream with sticky rice. It was a great neutralizer form all that garlic, shrimp, and spices. The coconut flavor was mild and not too overpowering. My favorite was the sticky rice. Everything just had such a delicate flavor and nothing was overbearing.

Back home in Los Angeles, there are a bunch of Ktown style Chinese restaurants that have pretty good food. From spicy seafood noodles to fried pork and beef dishes, they are all delicious, but you won’t find any of these in China. The menu hasn’t changed ever since the first time I went, and that is the quality of the places. You know what you will get, and its the same no matter when you go. Lotus of Siam is kind of like that. The menu hasn’t changed in forever, and the food, though may not be genuine Thai renditions is delicious.

Lotus of Siam on Urbanspoon

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I was at Huntington Beach the other days, before it was cold cold. I had wanted to try 25 degrees in the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood for a while now. On my stroll around Huntington Beach, I was pleasantly surprised to see it in Orange County!

I orders the number three – it had mezzo secco, jack cheese, green chile, chipotle, and avocado. All that was missing was bacon. Honestly though, even with the salty holy grail of all burger toppers missing, this burger didn’t need it. The flavor of the beef was so pure and clean. Juices dripped from all corner of this burger. All this time, bacon burger were masking the pure taste of beef. The avocado and cheeses made somewhat of a mash of guacamole and each bite just dissolved in my mouth. Score!

On the side of the burger was an order of onion rings and sweet potato fries. These were also quite good and I had no complaints. The onion rings had a great crunch on the outside –the batter was perfectly light. The sweet potato fries were a little soggy, as almost all mostly are, but still had a great crisp left in them. These two were a great match with the burger.

For dessert, we order the Guinness shake. I was intrigued and where else can you order such a thing? This shake isn’t a Guinness “taste-alike” kind of drink. It straight up had a lot of Guinness beer in it. They did ask for ID after all. The creamy, chocolaty goodness mixed with Guinness was genius. It worked so well and the flavor was complex with that beer added in. This is a must order when you are here.

The decor inside and out was classic. Adopting cues from the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, the center that took over the majority of the restaurant. I didn’t have my point and shoot or my DSLR, so my iPhone camera had to endure the low light situation. Though the pictures came out subpar, the burgers are a different story.

25 Degrees on Urbanspoon

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