Beef

Hula Dog – Stuffed Bun Hot Dog from Hawaii

by Franklin on March 26, 2015

Oh, I miss Hawaii. The soft ocean breeze, the relaxed attitude, and beautiful coastal scenery — I love it all. When I saw Hula Dog at Newport Beach, I was instantly intrigued. They sell Hawaiian style hot dogs, lemonade, and shaved ice. I came in for a quick snack and drink. They basically get their in house made bread rolls, and the cool part is, they stick it inside a hot rod which heats up the bun from within, and create a hole for the hot dog to be inserted. Their topping and sauces range from fruit relishes from the island.

I ordered the bacon taro bread with polish sausage, topped with their secret garlic sauce and guava relish. From what I expected and what I actually got was very different. I was expecting a warm, chewy, doughy bread with hints of bacon and taro. The bread was very stale and pretty much broke. It had little flavor, and definitely no bacon or taro flavor. The sauces didn’t really help moisten everything. The hot dog sausage itself was very good. It have a nice beefy flavor and a good snap. It was juicy, and no too salty.

The lemonade was quite refreshing. Freshly squeezing the lemons really made a difference. It wasn’t too sweet, it wasn’t too sour or tart. It was just a refreshing, cold cup of lemonade. Perfect, actually.

Hula Dog was somewhat of a letdown. If it were exactly what I had imagined, it would have been quite spectacular. Imagine that perfect hot dog sausage wrapped in a nice chewy bun, filled with a tropical fruit relish — now that would be awesome. It was a good thing to wash down everything with the lemonade. They seem to be a popular thing in Hawaii, but maybe lost something when it made its way over here. Nonetheless, you still have the beach to enjoy, and I guess a hot dog and a lemonade at the beach isn’t too bad.

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Bella Cuba – Post-Shopping Meal

by Franklin on February 2, 2015

Sometimes, Cuban food just hits the spot. The classic Latino flavors and dishes of Bella Cuba just hit the mark. After a long day of shopping at South Coast Plaza, Bella Cuba was a good energizer. Their classic Cuban dishes were comforting. Nothing is more comforting that having meat and rice.

Bread and butter at its most basic. A nice touch, and something nobody wants to fill up on before dinner.

The roasted garlic chicken was a delicious classic. Not as good as Versailles in Los Angeles, but still a good dish. The black beans and rice went so well with the chicken. The chicken was a bit dry, but had great flavor from the acidic sauce and onions. You know that lemony sauce I am talking about. The thought of it makes my mouth water — perfect for the blank slate of a chicken. The sweet plantains balanced out the savory and sour of the fish nicely.

The ropa vieja was an interesting dish. The comfort of the stewed shredded beef (ropa vieja) and rice was a good combination. The garlic, onions, and peppers were fluorescent and gave the dish nice flavor. It was to me a bit boring and needed something more for the dish to shine. The plantains did a good job in breaking up the mundane savory beef.

I heard goo things of their tres leches cake and had to order one. Though I have had better, and though I prefer my tres leches cake to be very creamy and wet, the cake was a great dessert. From the acidic and savory chicken to the hearty beef and rice, the cake was a nice cool down. If you are expecting the best tres leches cake though, look elsewhere.

Bella Cuba was good but not great. The comforting meat and rice will always be a winner for me. South Coast Plaza, easily one of my favorite malls (if i were rich), has some good eats inside. If you are in the mood for something Cuban and a little in your price range, just go across the street.

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Lala Argentine Grill – Skirt

by Franklin on January 16, 2015

Argentinians and barbecue go to together like skirt steak with a side of chimichurri. This is probably why the national dish of Argentina is asado. Anything centered on barbecued beef, anyone can love. Lala Argentine Grill does a great job on the classic. Their food is consistently good and a favorite amongst Los Angelenos.

The bread and chimichurri was a great start to our meal. The bread, quite bland and a bit stale was saved by the chimichurri. The sauce had a nice bite to it and was garlic heavy. The garlic made it quite spicy — not in the sriracha sense, but like raw garlic.

Getting ready for some awesome asado, we started off with a sensible salad. The Melrose salad was a perfect choice. It had chopped grilled chicken, tomato, onion, feta cheese and warm rice tossed in spicy honey mustard dressing. The spicy mustard dressing went well with the feta and chicken. The tomato and onions balanced everything out nicely. The rice made this salad quite heavy, and was immediately full after the bread and salad.

Skirt steak skirt steak can easily be my favorite cut of beef. The somewhat chewy texture gives it bite, and has the perfect ratio of fat. The skirt steak before was perfectly cooked medium rare. The garlic heavy sauce on top and the beef was a perfect combo. I don’t know why I didn’t get fries with my steak. They must have run out for the night. The rice was a great substitute and healthier too (I guess). The salad was a good counter balance from the heavy steak.

Lala Argentine Grill is a good option for a decent meal including meat and rice. I grew up on meet and rice, and this really hit the spot. It was comfort food in the form of meat and rice. They offer sandwiches and pastas and the like, I always go for the skirt steak and fries, maybe rice if I am feeling ricey. Their food is solid and one can always expect something delicious.

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This was the first time eating at one of Emril Lagasse’s restaurants. The celebrity chef that started it all is taking on the great American steakhouse in Las Vegas called Demonico Steakhouse. It is inside the Venetian, and the space is quite unassuming and not flashy at all. It is as classic as can be. The food was classically delicious and I had an amazing time. As far as Vegas goes, the space was kind of boring, but the food spoke for itself.

The bread and butter was quite nice. The rolls were normal butter rolls, but the bread was so soft and buttery. Adding on some more salted butter, the bread was a decadent butter fest.

The best cut of them all, the reason why we are all here, is for this cut of beef. The bone in ribeye was cooked perfectly. Steakhouses all may seem the same, but there are good steakhouses and then there are amazing ones. Delmonico’s was indeed amazing. The beef was fatty and cooked perfectly medium rare. The bone flavored the meat ever so perfectly. The herb butter on top melted all over the steak and just flavored it even more. This was a perfect steak.

The sauteed mushrooms was key and much appreciated with this steak. It gave it a nice earthy aroma and paired well with the meat. The buttery mushrooms were seasoned nicely — this was as close to “veggies” as we got for the night.

The grits were amazing and took place of my usual mac and cheese order. The bacon on top put these grits on a new level of savory. The butter mixed in with the grits was so pure and magical. It had a nice bite to it, and the saltiness from the bacon went well with the somewhat mildly seasoned steak.

I am a creamed corn lover. Though it wasn’t as good as those prime rib restaurants, the creamed corn was welcomed with the ribeye. The sweetness from the corn and the saltiness from the cheese all mixed up with cream was just so comforting.

Thinking about what we just ate, I realized it was just over the top with butter, beef, cream, and fat. This is what Vegas is all about. Over the top? Check! Indulgence? Check! Without a single green in sight, this meal was just a beef and cream and butter fest. Do I regret it? Not at all. I believe after this meal, we went for some desserts and then hit the Craps table. It was indeed a good night.

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It is so good to see tapas come to the strip. Small plates are trending now in a lot of restaurants. Small plates means people can eat and share more different foods. The variety of it all is what attracts me. I’m not coming here to just eat my meat and potatoes. I can have a little bit of this, a little of that, and in the end of it all, I had a bite of more that what I would normally have in a single day. Julian Serrano made his mark with Masa’s Restaurant in San Fransisco. Opening Picasso in Las Vegas in the Bellagio, his Vegas restaurant was the recipient of 2 Michelin stars and a AAA Five Diamond Award. With all these accolades, it was time for Julian Serrano to venture out into other things. Looking at the trends of restaurants and being of Spanish decent, tapas was an obvious choice. I like tapas because you can order a lot of food at one time, and this we did.

The brava potatoes was a popular item so we started off with these. They were small nuggets of fried potatoes – the outside was golden and crispy, and the inside was fluffy. The spicy tomato puree on top was a nice acidic sauce. The aioli sauce on top was fatty and smooth — It all was a nice combination. Stabbing these fried nuggets with a skewer, the sauce had a perfect taste and balance for the potatoes. I would order these again. They were simple and delicious.

The grilled angus flat iron steak was a nice accompaniment to the potatoes. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, the steak was meaty and had a nice chewy consistency — kind of like flank steak. The japanese eggplant was a unique condiment, and the mushroom demi-glace gave it a nice earthy note. It was a perfect cut of meat and the flavors worked nicely.

It seems like every tapas restaurant has stuffed dates. The one at Julian Serrano was mediocre in my opinion. Though the dates were huge, almost too big, all the other ingredients were missing. The almond was barely noticed, and the wrapping of the applewood bacon was lost. With the panko crusted fried exterior, the flavors were kind of single noted, even when dipped in the spicy piquillo pepper sauce. Maybe the dates large size gave it too much of a sweet taste, but the saltiness of the bacon could have been more pronounced.

Yeah, the brava potatoes were delicious, but more fried potatoes couldn’t hurt. The huevos estrellados had a bed of fried topped with imported spanish pork chorizo and eggs. The egg was cooked perfectly. With a crispy outline and egg yolk running everywhere, this dish was very rich. Each fork full had fries drenched in a mix of chorizo grease and egg yolk. The pork chorizo had a nice mellow flavor with a little kick of spice — terrific. with all this grease and pork, I began to think this is a perfect hang over cure in Las Vegas.

Looking for a carb load other than potatoes, we ordered the creamy risotto. This was a nice risotto, though the rice was a little too undercooked. Maybe 30 seconds longer on the fire would have made it perfect. Better to be a tad undercooked that overcooked, I guess. Other than the texture, this was delicious. The wild mushrooms gave it a nice grounded flavor. The shaving of aged manchego cheese worked perfectly with the mushrooms. Manchego, my new favorite cheese, has a resemblance and taste profile of truffles. The rich earthy flavor worked perfectly with the rice. I just wished there was more of it.

Finally, we ordered the beef and cheese. Looking for more meat in our tapas, we figured this would be a perfect candidate. The prime tenderloin cooked to a perfect medium rare was soft as butter. Manchego cheese was on top and the dish was amazing. Topped with the honey and pecans, the sweetness kind of killed my savory steak experience. My mind was confused — was this a steak or was it dessert? Though it didn’t taste all that bad, the off putting sweetness of the honey was surprising. All in all, the meat was soft and buttery, and I preferred this over the flat iron.

Julian Serrano was an amazing experience. Tapas is gaining popularity — it lets you try so many things! Be careful though, you can easily get carried away and run up the bill. Celebrity chef Julian Serrano knows what he is doing. When you are talking about chefs in California, he is the best around, and possibly in the nation. It was great to try his food in such a casual atmosphere. When you are in Vegas, you want to eat nice and splurge. At Julian Serrano, you can feel like you are splurging on a nice meal, but not pay over the top prices. The atmosphere is warm and elegant as is the food. Tapas is on the strip, and it’s at Julian Serrano.

Julian Serrano (Aria) on Urbanspoon

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You got to love Las Vegas. As much as you can find the high end of things, you can equally find the lower end. When I say lower end, I don’t mean cheap as in quality — I am talking about bargains. Lost a lot of money on one of those rigged slot machines? Highly unlikely. Nobody in their 70’s reads my blog. You probably lost money on the Black Jack tables — maybe in a rough game of Hold’em? Either way, just because you lost al of your money, doesn’t mean you can eat like you won big. Ellis Island Casino and Brewery is a small casino just barely off the strip on Koval Lane. The casino isn’t much, but the restaurant and brewery inside is another story. Filled with cheap, yet quality food and beer, it is a Vegas-er’s must for those on a tight budget.

I had the king cut prime rib. With a side of green beans and baked potato, the dish was a great balance of protein, carb, and greens. The prime rib was bloody red and fatty. This made for a juicy cut of beef and made me happy. With the fat running down the middle and the side of ajus, this was definately a juicy everything. Topping it all off with their horseradish made everything perfect. The name “King Cut” suggests that this was a uber thick cut — it wasn’t. I mean, it’s no Diamond Jim Brady Cut from Lawry’s. Don’t get me wrong, it was still pretty thick. At then end of it all, it was a large piece of meat that had a lot of flavor. For the ridiculous price of something like $12. Considering the price, I’d say the prime rib was pretty dang thick. Just get two and you have your thicker than thick prime rib right there, for 24 bucks! Did I mention the prime rib comes with a beer? I opted for something light — the Hefe Weiss ale was perfect. What more can I ask for than a huge prime rib and beer?

Ellis Island Casino and Brewery also has steak and eggs on the cheap too. For 6 bucks, you get an 8oz new york strip steak, eggs, toast, and your side of potato. The home fries were great with the eggs and toast, but the steak was the star. Of course, a lot less juicy than the prime rib, this was a true steak nonetheless. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, the lean cut of beef was at its purest. Did I dare ask for some A-1 sauce? I don’t care what you say, that stuff is liquid gold. Not like we are at a fancy shmancy place. But really, for 6 bucks you get all this? Only in Vegas.

I guess you can lose all your money in Vegas and still come out on top. Imagine if this same establishment, minus the casino came to Los Angeles, That would be nut! The same thing at a Denny’s or Sizzler would be double the price. You just can’t have this anywhere else but in Las Vegas. Ellis Island Casino as a casino is pretty run down. If you don’t want to play bingo here, you can always play online. I don’t really play bingo. I’m not my mother-in-law, you know, but when I’m in the mood and to find the best bingo sites, I use ballsupbingo.com. All in all though, the food and the beer was excellent. Just lose everything on black, but keep $20. Restaurants on the strip is most likely not worth it anyways.

Ellis Island Brewery on Urbanspoon

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La Grande Orange Cafe – Bacon Optional

by Franklin on August 1, 2013

It was a Monday night. I wasn’t in the mood for anything loud or crazy. I wanted something mellow and quiet. My old age has brought me to La Grande Orange Cafe in Pasadena — a somewhat under the radar, though not a hole in the wall restaurant, that is a bit on the boring side. The inside was interesting though. It had different rooms with different themes. Adjacent to the restaurant is the Metro Gold Line, Del Mar Station and some luxury apartments. The area certainly isn’t Old Town Pasadena. It’s quiet, a bit boring, and kind of nice.

The shredded kale and quinoa salad was refreshing and packed with nutrients. The crunch from the sunflower seeds was appreciated. Sweetness from the flame grapes and citrus from lemon was a nice combo. With a fresh shaving of parmesan, the salad was rich and flavorful, with a nice summer zest. Kale is slowing becoming my new favorite green.

Last year, brussel sprouts have been getting popular. Never having it in a salad, the Brussels sprouts salad was new and exciting to me. Manchego being one of my favorite cheese, the shaved aged manchego was the best thing for me. The sweet dried berries and smoked almonds were a great balance for this dish. The honey mustard vinaigrette was good, considering I am not a fan of sweet dressing; fortunately, it wasn’t swimming in dressing. Bacon on the salad was optional — I just laughed at that statement.

La Grande Orange Cafe is known for the deviled eggs. In hind sight, I should have just ordered it from the DineLA menu. These little bites were perfect. It had a great velvety texture with the right amount of spice and zing. A little drizzle of oil or something could have made them less dry though. Again, bacon was optional, and again, I chuckled.

It was a Monday, and my fiancé wanted a drink. Yes, we are making “its a Monday” as an excuse to drink. She ordered the white sangria, and it was refreshing — better than I expected. Though a girly drink, it was strong enough to enjoy and well, fruity enough to enjoy. The fresh peach was refreshing and cool.

I ordered the wood fire rotisserie chicken. Though kind of boring, the heirloom cannellini beans were a nice touch. The half chicken was a lot of protein to take in, especially the dry breast — dark meat was juicy and well seasoned. The fresh green beans had a nice crunch. A very “safe” dish, but still delicious.

I saw Prime Rib on the menu and had to take advantage. The prime rib was cooked nicely medium rare, though a bit on the rare side. Any less time in the oven, it would have been near raw beef. The mashed potatoes were a bit bland and boring, but the horse radish made everything lively. The green beans brought everything together.

I liked the olive oil cake. It had a very light, yet dense texture, in between a cake and a bread. The mild flavor mixed with the strawberry and vanilla sorbet was a good mix.

The red velvet cake was awesome. The multilayer of cake was nice to look at and fun to eat. Breaking off layer by layer, each cake and frosting mixture was pleasant. The vanilla ice cream was a nice touch. I mean, who doesn’t like cake and ice cream?

La Grande Orange Cafe was an interesting experience. Culinarily, it isn’t as exciting as most restaurants are. In fact, the restaurant is a bit boring. From the food, to the decor, and the wait service, nothing got me excited for anything. It was a Monday night, DineLA was going on, and we just wanted a quiet night together in Pasadena. The food was plenty and everything tasted as it should. The classic styling and menu will never go out of style.

La Grande Orange Café on Urbanspoon

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Mastro’s to me is just another steak house. Just like Fleming’s or Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris, Morton’s offers a very classic steak restaurant. Visiting Vegas, I made a decision I shouldn’t have made. Not to say that going to Matro’s Ocean Club inside the Shops At Crystals was a mistake or a bad experience. I just have a dining out rule when I’m in Vegas. “If there’s one in LA or OC, don’t go there.” Well, I broke my rule, but it was all for a birthday celebration. I figured, I probably won’t be going to Mastro’s anytime soon, so might as well. And the bird’s nest really attracted me. I was really happy with my decision for the most part.

We started things of with bread service. They offered pretzel, crouton, baguette, dinner roll, and wheat bread. The breadbasket had variety all were quite good. My favorite was the pretzel — it was soft and airy.

I had some of the Caesar salad to start. I needed some kind of greens to soak up all that meat juice. Their Caesar salad was near perfect. The dressing was nice and creamy. The addition of parmesan cheese and cracked pepper made everything better.

I was ready for the main event, the 22oz bone in rib eye. The rib eye is one of my favorite cuts because of the even fat marbling and soft texture. Mine was cooked perfectly medium rare, though a bit more on the rare side. This actually caused the meat to be a bit tough. This cut did have some nice fat running through the steak. This helped with the tenderness and mouth feel of the meat. Even though this wasn’t the best steak I have had, the help of the amazing sides made it all better.

The real reason I came here wasn’t the steak. Well it is, and it isn’t. The real reason I came here was for the lobster mashed potatoes. I mean. It is Mastro’s Ocean Club — Ocean, meaning seafood is in order. This side dish was rich as can be — full of butter. I believe the potato to butter ratio is near 1 to 1. With a whole lobster tail carefully chopped up and placed in a pool of butter, the potatoes were creamy and flavorful. The pure essence of the sea was encased in butter, and mixed with potatoes. Eating this with steak was pure bliss. The kid in me wanted to order the mac and cheese. made with gorgonzola, the flavor was very rich. Another cream heavy and dairy heavy dish, the mac and cheese was delicious. My favorite was the layer of melted cheese on top.

My favorite was dessert. We were celebrating a birthday, so they gave us a chocolate birthday cake. The cake was rich in chocolate and eating just a few bites was enough for me. The best thing about this dessert was their home made whipped cream. Served on the side in a bowl, the homemade whipped cream was so dense and fluffy. The cold cream and the chocolate cake was a perfect mixture. Honestly though, the whipped cream was the best thing ever. I wanted to take it all home.

Eating at Mastro’s Ocean Club was a great experience. The location is a bit awkward. As you are enjoying your expensive meal inside an amazingly architectured “bird’s nest,” you look out and you see people shopping. That is cool and all, but you can’t help but think you are inside of a mall — Well, you are inside of a mall, and this Mastro’s makes sure you know that. I couldn’t help but think I was at a very glorified food court at a mall. When I eat at a nice establishment, I want to feel secluded from the world. I just didn’t get the at from here. The food is great, though as far as steakhouses go in Las Vegas, you can do a lot better. I guess I can only break my rule once. Never eat at Las Vegas where you can at home.

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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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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.

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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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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.

Portillo's Hot Dogs 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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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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K’ya Bistro – Hotel Restaurant fit for any Diner’s Budget

November 24, 2012

K’ya Bistro was an experience. Located inside the La Casa del Camino Hotel, I was excited to eat here after exploring Victoria Beach. Opening at 1929, at first glance, the hotel seemed like a classic. The Historic Mediterranean style hotel is located in the southern pocket on Laguna Beach. Being right next to the water, […]

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Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak (MGM) – Beef Me Top Chef

November 12, 2012

There comes a time when you just go all out.  Whether you are in the right mindset or not, you just go for it.  You don’t think about cost or consequences thereafter.  You just close your eyes and hope for the best.  With Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak at the MGM, I did just that. I knew […]

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Eat Chow – Lying My Way Through the Menu

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 […]

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The Lime Truck – 2 of 3 for the Celebrity Food Truck

August 19, 2012

Being winners of Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race,” there was a lot of expectation. With the new season of the food truck competition underway, it was good to try the last year’s winners. Seeing the truck on TV, it seemed to be almost a celebrity. The lime green was hard to mistake, and […]

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Cafe Bizou – Escargot Finds its Way to the Top

August 12, 2012

Pasadena in itself is big enough that you don’t feel a need to leave the city. They have Arclight for movies, Old Town for dining, and Target for everything else. When Restaurant Week came around, Cafe Bizou caught my eye. Their menu was robust and was only one dollar sign ($25 for dinner). Interestingly, if […]

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Fogo de Chão Churrascaria – Green Means Yes Please, Red Means Não Mais

August 5, 2012

Fogo de Chão translate in Portuguese as “Fire Ground”. Such a fitting name when you are talking about meat cooked with direct fire. When you think of Brazilian BBQ, Churrascaria in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills to be exact, Fogo de Chao comes to mind. If you put endless quality meats together with Beverly Hills, you […]

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