bar

Library Ale House – Koreans and Grilled Onions

by Franklin on October 26, 2014

After a long day at Venice Beach, we decided to hit up Library Ale House. The somewhat small bar was packed with people. It was almost as small as a coffee shop, but people just stood or sat at the bar. The woodsy interior and small feel felt very “English Pub” like, but with better food. Feeling like something greasy, we were ready to order.

Oddly, this bar/restaurant gave chips and salsa. Now my British pub atmosphere turned into a Mexican cantina restaurant. Don’t get me wrong. The chips and salsa were welcomed nicely. Just your ordinary chips and salsa.

Pouting is one of my favorite foods. I mean, just fries and gravy is good enough, but to add braised oxtail with the house made fries and cheese curds just puts it over the top. The pan gravy was good and rich, but I would have liked it much thicker. At the end, the fries turned soggy from the soupy gravy. The braised oxtail was nice a succulent though. The flavors were complex and rich, and not salty at all –under seasoned if anything.

This was accompanied with the Alehouse burger. Made with ground USDA prime chuck, the patty was tasty. Topped with melted onions, gorgonzola, arugula, garlic aioli on a brioche bun, the flavors seemed reminiscent of the he Office Burger, though nowhere near the caliber of Chef Sang Yoon’s creation. What’s with Koreans and their obsession with grilled onions anyways? Well, it is delicious, and I am Korean. I guess that answered the question. (Where were we?) The burger. It was good. The mixture of blue cheese and grilled onions made a very strong flavor combination. You really can’t go wrong with that. The side salad was a life savor. All the rich flavors of the beef, cheese, and pouting needed to be balanced. Thank you, salad.

Library Ale House was a nice spot. The atmosphere is relaxed and the small space and central bar area really made me feel welcomed. Any beer lover would be happy here. Any food lover would be happy as well.

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Library Bar – Eating While Everyone Drinks

by Franklin on September 26, 2014

The Library bar to me seemed like a hip spot. The high reviews of Yelp and intriguing food items looked hopeful. And it’s a library? Or at least they try to make it look like one. Honestly, the place was small, dark, and the night I went, people were way too drunk. Maybe I was just sober and everyone seemed more drunk. People were just loud and ther were much too many people with glazed over eyes. Good thing I had the food to look forward to.

The burger at a bar has to be their staple. It must be good and their main even as far as food is concerned. The Library Burger was such a disappointment. The patty was dry without a single dribble juice left inside. The bread so stale and dry, it didn’t help with moist factor. Every bite was boring and just unpleasant. I basically cut my losses and just ate the meat with the cheese and veggies.

Before you read on, just note that this bar is a bar first, restaurant second. Maybe restaurant third? The food to me was just not there. The pork belly skewers was a turn for the better. This was not that bad, I mean, it’s pork belly after all. The fatty meat covered in sweet glaze was good, but not addicting. As far as pork belly dishes go, this was just ok. If you must order something, order this. Nothing else will do.

I can’t tell you if the drinks at the Library Bar are good, but from the looks of it, it seems to be doing ok. There’re definitely were more people drinking than eating. We were definitely the odd group out on the bar. I kind of understand it. It’s a cool place to meet friends for drinks or end/start the night. Basic rule of thumb here, and you will be happy here: Food no, drinks yes.

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Themed restaurants are cheesy. Public School is literally a school themed restaurant/gastropub. They have composition notebook lookalike menu and a clipboard with the beer menu. Other than that, the restaurant decor is pretty much like any other. What I don’t get is why the theme? I guess it’s a good thing that the “school” theme isn’t just all in your face. I suppose the little hints of the school theme is fine. They should however have the food speak for itself.

The Cutting Board featured a selection of cured meats and artisan cheese. The cheese included a gouda, swiss, and cheddar. The meats were prosciutto and a chorizo of some kind. I liked the addition of the marcona almonds. It gave the whole experience a nice crunch. Eating the different cheeses with the honey and fruit preserves was delicious as well. Though it came with a large variety of items, I would have liked a more variety of meat or just a larger quantity.

The wild mushroom and taleggio lavash was quite delicious. It was probably my favorite of the night. The extra thin, almost cracker like crust was light and crispy. The mushrooms and the creamy taleggio mixture almost mimicked Campbell’s cream of mushroom. It was savory and rich. The mix of the arugula and parmesan shavings gave it an extra depth of flavor. This pizza like dish was quite delicious.

I am a sucker for anything fried, and of course, calamari is one of my top fried delights. the fiery calamari was exceptionally good here. Using a mixture of flour and cornmeal for the batter, it gave it an extra crunch. Though the crunch from the cornmeal seemed to be a fake “crunch” and would liked it to be more fried to a crisp. Dipping these in the togarashi and ginger aioli gave it a nice zing and spice, but not too spicy. A spicier variation in the sauce would have made this calamari stand out more.

The cauliflower and cheese dish was well received. As an avid cauliflower hater (I blame Yoshinoya), the only way I would eat them is if its fried, or covered in cheese. In this case, the cheese sauce did a good job in making the bland cauliflower edible. The addition of the bacon bits on the side and the bechamel made this a rich dish.

Public School is you everyday bar / eatery. They don’t have the outstanding dishes and selection as the other restaurants. School Food is more of a safe choice — better than most, but still generic. They have locations neatly separated — 310 in Culver City and 805 in Westlake Village. All they need is one near Hollywood and they have LA pretty much covered.

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Playa Provisions definitely has an identity crisis. The restaurant is separated into 4 different sections — Dockside, Grain, Small Batch, and King Beach. Dockside is a high end dining space for seafood. Grain is a back room whiskey bar. Small Bach is their ice cream shop. King Beach is their casual breakfast and lunch spot. Honestly, the concept is interesting and confusing. Top Chef runner-up Brooke Williams and husband run the show. The woodsy, artsy, and earthy tones of the decor was very attractive. Honestly though, I came here just for the ice cream.

The ice cream was a treat. The chocolate malted crunch was full of bits and was quite nice. I usually don’t like chocolate malted crunch, and I don’t quite know why I ordered this flavor. The bits of malted balls were nice and the chocolate was rich and flavorful. My favorite was the milk and coffee ice cream. It had a nice subtle coffee flavor and was so clean tasting. This mixed in with the chocolate malted crunch was a perfect match. All of this with their addicting house made waffle cone, and I was a happy little kid with an ice cream cone.

In second thought, the concept here at Playa Provisions is kind of interesting. I wish they did a better job in integrating everything together. The new restaurant in Playa del Rey is turning heads though. I originally thought it was a casual sandwich shop that also had delicious ice cream. I was in shock when I walked in and there were all these different compartments. Back-room whiskey bar? Who would have thought? I will definitely be back for that. Maybe even a sandwich and seafood fare is in order also. For #icecreamtuesdays though this will definitely do.

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It had been quite hot these days. Spring is here, and it is making us forget all about the cold winter. Hot days means nice walks on the beach and sunsets. Corona del Mar is by far one of my favorite beaches in Orange County. You have nice homes to look at on one side, and a beautiful seaside sunset on the other. Stumbling across Side Door, the concept of it was what drew me to this place. Just adjacent to the uber expensive restaurant, Five Crowns, Side Door is literally a side entrance to the restaurant. They both share the same space. Side Door, being more relaxed, less expensive and less stuffy, it looked like a good fit. The English-style gastropub specializes in cheeses and charcuterie — just my kind of place.

We started off with the shishito peppers. Blistered, then topped with manchego, the peppers were a good start. It had a nice mild flavor, and the blanket of cheese just finished it off nicely. The peppers were kind of bitter and earthy. Thank goodness for the manchego.

Of course, we went for the charcuterie and cheese. For the meats, I had to go for the prosciutto. The flavor was delicate and buttery. One of the cheeses, La Tur from Italy, was a nice “funky” cheese. It was strong, creamy, and quite delicious. A little went a long way. Eating it all with the prosciutto and fruit preserves was a delight. I also had a sample of some cheese from Vermont, and that was quite good as well. I am a sucker for cheese and cured meats. The selection at Side Door was quite impressive.

When I saw avocado mash, I immediately thought guacamole. This was very much a guacamole, but very much not. Not tainted with any lime, cilantro, or other over bearing ingredients, this one allowed the avocado to shine. To me, this was nothing special. The baked pita chips were a good match with the avocado, but nothing was screaming deliciousness. A tasty and healthy snack — I’ll give it that.

This must have been my favorite item of the night. Ironic that it’s a salad. The combination of some of the best tomatoes ever and balsamic reduction wasn’t enough, they had a nice micro green salad to go with it. To top it all off, they put it besides some of creamiest and smoothest fresh mozzarella slices ever. Everything together, yes, I mean with the tomato, balsamic reduction, cheese, and even some of that prosciutto, each bite was fresh and fantastic.

Have you had really good prime rib? I mean the stuff from Lawry’s or Summit House. Now, slice that up, and put a heaping pile inside a French roll. That is what we have here at Side Door. The prime rib was cooked so perfectly medium rare, and each bite was easy to tear off. The meat was fatty, juicy, and delicious. Dipping it in the au jus and the horseradish made it even tastier. I wasn’t expecting much from this sandwich, but the simplicity of the ingredients and the legit prime rib was all it needed. This is a must order.

I dig the concept of this place. The back door from a more expensive restaurant is all I really need. Less expensive, more casual, and probably better tasting, the Side Door restaurant has it all — a nice beer selection for those coming for drinks, a nice selection of cheap eats for those who come for food. This little corner in the upscale part of Corona del Mar is indeed a gem.

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Let’s talk about the best burger you ever stuffed your face with. I still to this day am still looking for the best burger. Sometimes, an In-n-Out Double Double will do — Animal Style, with grilled onions, raw onions, and secret sauce. As good as that is, it doesn’t scream out gourmet. And every good burger needs the perfect batch of french fries on the side, and In-n-Out is far from it. The Office Burger at Father’s Office is acclaimed by many to be the best burger in Los Angeles. I know that may be a shock to diehard In-n-Out fans, but Sang Yoon’s Office Burger is quite delicious. The gastropub offers some of amazing beer selections and pairs well with the menu. For this blog post, it will only concentrate on the burger and fries.

The Office Burger received a lot of criticism because some say it’s not a burger, but a sandwich. Instead of a traditional bun, they use a French roll of a sort. My question to you is, what makes the sandwich, the patty or the bun? For no reason whatsoever, let’s just call this a burger. Come on.. it’s a burger. The melted gruyere and Maytag blue cheese ain’t enough of a reason to call this a burger? How about the dry aged beef patty? What sandwich has grilled onion bacon compote? Honestly, the reason I like the Office Burger is because of this onion bacon compote. The sweetness of the onions and savory bacon create such a perfectly “umamic” flavor profile. (I don’t know if umamic is a word, but I will try and see if it’ll fly.) This went perfectly contrasting to the arugula in the burger. Everything together with the patty, cheese and compote perform a perfect symphony on your taste buds.

As I mentioned, a good burger needs an equally good side of fries. Father’s Office fries are quite delicious. Maybe it’s because I like shoe string fries, and I like my fries crispy. Dipping it in their tangy aioli puts all other sauces to shame. I see why they still to this day don’t have ketchup at the restaurant. Crispy and firm, the fries are something to reckon with.

I’ve had a few Office Burgers in my eating career, but never really blogged about it. The question remains though, is The Office Burger the best burger in Los Angeles. It possibly is, but tastes vary between people and time. I was surprised to find the waiter ask me how I wanted my burger cooked though. I guess forcing people to eat burgers medium rare like back in the day doesn’t fly anymore. The Helm’s location is second to the original Santa Monica location. Still though, the gastropub offers amazing beer and a burger to compete with anything around.

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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.

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I went to Bestia for my 29th birthday. My fiancé’ asked me where I wanted to go for my birthday. Instead of the boring, but oh so yummy steak house, I wanted something lively, fun, and delicious. I didn’t care about the waiters coming around every second filling the water. I didn’t care about a romantic setting with candles and ambient music in the background. I just wanted the tastiest food possible for my birthday. Bestia in the Art District of Downtown was on my radar. Executive Chef Ori Menashe, former Chef of Angelini Osteria, pumps out regional Italian dishes. He even cures his own meats from 60 different kinds of charcuterie, and he also raises his own yeast for bread. With all of this love and care to do everything himself, the food has to be good. With his pastry chef wife, Genevieve Gregis making desserts, the duo is creating a huge buzz around Los Angeles. I could confidently say, I had one of my best meals of 2013 here.

You order everything first, and the dishes come out as they are prepared. Items are meant to be shared with the table.

We started things off with the grilled beef tongue crostino. I am huge fan of beef tongue. I like the texture of beef tongue that has been cooking for hours and hours. The pure beef flavor is unmatched to any other part of the cow. Sitting on top of a huge slice of bread was a garbanzo bean puree, purslane, pickled eggplant, and salsa verde. The beefy beef tongue and garbanzo bean played well with the picked eggplant and salsa. The purslane did a good job in grounding all the flavors. I felt the dish needed more acidic flavors to it. A chimichurri of some kind or picked onions would have balanced it out better. The pickled eggplant was a nice touch, but wasn’t tart enough. Nonetheless, this was still a great start.

One of my favorites of the night was the pan-seared octopus and calamari salad. The mix of fennel, mixed mushrooms and arugula was the base. Atop was some of the softest and tastiest octopus I ever had. The flavor was so delicate, and the texture was so soft which could only be achieved by using a sous-vide. The aged balsamic gave this dish so much tartness and acidity. The flavors were so lively. In hind sight, this would have been the perfect acidic factor for the beef tongue crostino. Too bad I already munched that up by the time this salad came out.

The roasted marrow bone was quite innovative and different. Most restaurants serve it with a side of toast of crostini. Chef Ori instructs us to mix it within the spinach gnocchetti. This way, it makes a little fatty sauce and coats the pasta completely. Each bite of the gnocchetti was perfect. Chewy and dense, the pasta was coated in bone marrow and salt. The aged balsamic on the marrow bone gave the dish the perfect zing to counteract the rich beef fat. This was one memorable dish.

Pizza is all about the dough, hands down. You can have some of the best ingredients on a pizza, but if your dough sucks, then the pizza suffers. Chef Ori is serious about his pizza dough. I can just talk about the pizza dough for days. I tried many times, trying to make pizza dough from scratch — I can never reach this kind of caliber, especially with an over that doesn’t even get above 400 degrees. It is hard stuff. The pizza dough at Bestia is near perfect. It has a nice chew, it is thin as can be, and there are black char marks like spots on a Dalmatian. To me, this is a sign of a true pizza. I ordered the salsiccia. This had housemade lamb sausage which was ridiculously mellow and flavorful. It also had ricotta, spinach, and breadcrumbs. The size isn’t that bad too. I always hate paying 15 bucks for a personal sized pizza. Theirs was quite large for the price.

It was my birthday, and my fiancé wanted to spoil me. Heck, I myself wanted to spoil me. We went ahead and ordered the spaghetti rustichella. This was their rendition of the sea urchin spaghetti. Mixed with calabrian chile and garlic, the dish had a subtle tinge to it. To me, the squid ink bottarga was the kicker. It gave the dish such a depth of seafood flavor. It was creamy, and full of the ocean’s goodness. Some mentioned that the pasta was too al dente, meaning, it was undercooked. To me, the pasta was cooked exactly al dente and had a nice mouth feel. Perfectly cooked noodles with a creamy sea urchin mixture is heaven. This was a great dish to end on.

Though I was stuffed, it had to end on a sweet note. It was my birthday after all. We ordered the chocolate budino tart. The salted caramel down the middle was good, but I wished there was more. The cacao crust cookie was a great crunch with the smooth budino. The olive oil was a head scratcher though. Nonetheless, it was a great dessert to end all things.

To start off my 29th year in this world with Bestia, I can tell this year will be a good year. From pastas to pizzas and other Italian dishes, Chef Ori is the man to see. With painstaking details from curing his own meat for charcuterie and raising his own yeast, the food is nothing but excellent. It isn’t about the location — Bestia is in the middle of nowhere in Downtown Arts District. They made best of what they have in one location and is pumping out some high quality foods. I wish to come back again soon and see what the chef has in store. Bestia is something to look out for in 2013. It is a beast!

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Mohawk Bend – Echo Park Doing a Complete 180

by Franklin on July 18, 2013

Echo Park is getting there. In the past years, the sub city has been making strides to beautify and clean up the mess. Echo Park in the 80’s and 90’s was terrifying. As a child, I remember visiting my grandparents who lived in Echo Park. Those were some rough memories, but still fun. Today, the remnants of that era still linger, but in a beautiful way. Boutique shops and restaurants popped up all over Echo Park — on Sunset, west of Alvarado at least. One such restaurant, Mohawk Bend is one of many that turned something ugly into something amazing. Owner Tony Yanow turned the 100-year old Vaudeville Theater into what Mohawk Bend is today. For awesome pictures and to learn more about the architecture, check out Freshome. Mohawk Bend is a restaurant and bar that sources everything locally. They appeal to meat eaters like me, to vegans and vegetarians. It opened it’s doors on August 1, 2011, and has been a popular spot of the neighborhood ever since.

A good buddy of mine and co-worker decided to catch happy hour — beer was in order. My buddy, @joeschai had the Victory Golden Monkey, a Philadelphia brew that he is more familiar with. It was full bodied and had a great taste. It made my beer seem like water.

Nachoes were on the happy hour menu and it was a great start. The nachos were quite standard though, and the pico de gallo and guacamole were fresh. I’m glad it didn’t have any chili or beans in it, but the cheese could have been more gooey. I am a fan of more of a cheese sauce than just melted cheddar on my nachos. That way, the cheese won’t harden and make it nearly impossible to enjoy. Other than that though, the nachos were quite nice.

The Buffalo-style Cauliflower was interesting. I felt we were ordering everything standard bar food. Beer, pizza, burger, and nachos? I wanted something to spice up our regular items and this seemed interesting enough. For a guy who hates cauliflower, this was a gamble. The cauliflower was a great blank vessel for the buffalo sauce. The most interesting part of this dish was the vegan “bleu cheese” dressing. Blue cheese was made of some kind of soy cheese. It tasted like plastic blocks, but the dressing itself was good. The dish was salty, zesty and full of flavor — not a bad veggie dish, fit for a vegetarian looking for some buffalo wings.

I appreciate a good pizza with a balance of flavors and textures. This flatbread had an amazing balance. The short rib and blue cheese gave the pizza a rich flavor to it. All was countered by the red onions and greens. The kicker was the smoked grapes. This gave it a nice subtle sweetness that this pizza needed. The balsamic reduction on top finished it off perfectly. The crust was decent — not all that great actually. The toppings helped with masking the shortcomings of the dough.

Every bar, gastropub, whatever you want to call it needs a burger. From all of their selections we opted for the one with bacon, short rib, and cheddar. The beef was nicely seared cooked to a medium. The beef was the star — the pure beef flavor from the patty and short rib shined through the burger. The bacon and everything else seemed like an afterthought. The bun was actually better than I thought. Though a burger isn’t a must order at Mohawk Bend, you wouldn’t be doing wrong by it.

I hate to say this, but the concept and interior design of it all is the most impressive part of Mohawk Bend. For them to have carried out a great interior with all of the amenities in a such a rundown property is amazing. Sorry to say though, the impressive interior is not reflected onto the food as well. Nothing I ate was amazing. The only thing that really stood out was the burger, and maybe their selection of beers. Other than that, their dishes were uninspired and boring. This may be a gem in Echo Park, but in the grand scheme of the City of Los Angeles, they are just “okay.” It was still great to catch up with my friend and coworker. Good company always makes things better.

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The Playground, a small gastropub in Santa Ana is in it with the rest of them. It seems like Santa Ana’s Art District is attracting a lot of new chefs and restaurants, but The Playground is a bit different. Jason Quinn, the head chef and owner started with The Lime Truck. Winning in The Great Food Truck Race in Spring of 2011, the chef and his team had great foundation of good food and the business. To me, The Playground is exactly what it sounds like. It is a playground for Jason and his team, as well as other aspiring chefs to come and “play” in the kitchen. With their new and inventive menu and as well as 2.0, The Playground is one of the most unique restaurants in Orange County. It was a pleasure having a late night dinner here. The menu items were interesting and delicious — something a late night eater is always looking for. It was an adventure.

We started off with the sea urchin & lump crab rice porridge. This to me was such a comforting dish. The warm soup broth with the lump crab meat was fulfilling and hearty. The sea salty broth with a seafood essence from the crab made this worthwhile. Although the uni was lacking, the warm uni was creamy and delicious. I would never have thought I would come here to have a lump crab uni rice porridge, but I did.

For 5 bucks, you can get a huge bowl of fries. These fries were addicting, and oh so familiar. Hand cut, just like In-n-Out, with a side of secret sauce just like In-n-Out. This ode to the west coast favorite was classically and tastefully done. I mean, the fries tasted on point from taste and texture. It was just like In-n-Out’s but cleaner. Their secret sauce was a perfect match — better if anything. These were fun to munch on, especially with their burger as the main attraction.

The playground burger is Chef Quinn’s quintessential item at Playground. The patty is the star of this burger. The Kobe beef, more specifically, a wagyu brisket and wagyu tri tip blend are first dry aged in house. The beef is grinded in a specific way in which the beef strands out into a tourshon. This basically creates a meat cylinder where all the strands of meat go the same way. When cooked, and eaten, the texture and flavor is like no other. It kind of breaks off as you bite into the burger. It is more of a rubbery, jerky like kind of texture and mouth feel. This also made the beef overcooked — no medium rare. I won’t say that it is a pleasant texture, but interesting. The toppings on this burger are perfect though. This burger has a maple bourbon onion compote, shredded iceberg lettuce, scratch made mayo, and scratch made mustard. The cheese selection of gruyere and Fontana was nice, and the horseradish potato bun was perfect. This burger definitely isn’t a typical burger, but the flavors are all intense and work perfectly. It would be interesting to try this exact burger, but with a traditional patty cooked medium rare.

From all the burgers and fries, I had to wash it down with something. Harney & Sons Lemonade and Tea was the perfect remedy. This bottle of Arnold Palmer was amazing. It might be my favorite bottled tea and lemonade mix of all time!

Aside from the burgers and fries, I wanted to see what Chef Quinn had as far as other dishes go. The grilled duck breast was calling my name. A fan of everything duck, namely duck fat, I was excited to have this dish. With perfectly cooked duck breast and a chile vin frisee salad on top, this was a treat. The fatty duck cut with the bitter frisee and sweet yet peppery dressing, the flavors melded perfectly.

For dessert, Rum Budino was on deck. Amazing in texture and with the perfect amount of sweetness, this dessert surprised me. Budino, a custard like pudding was a perfect end to our meal. The velvety smoothness married with the even smoother crème fraiche was utter bliss. With a sweet caramel on top, I was spooning every little morsel. This was indeed a jar of pure joy.

The Playground in Downtown Santa Ana is a treat. The menu is fresh and diverse. Jason and his team of professionals have a passion and zeal for good food and service. This is something that is refreshing and new for a restaurant. Often times, restaurant owners along with the chef lose their vision and passion for the food business. It seems that they have their ducks in order and know what they are doing. It is exciting to wait and see what they will have in store for the following years to come.

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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.

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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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Lazy Ox Canteen was on my radar for a while. Any time I was in Downtown or in Little Tokyo, I always had Lazy Ox in the back of my mind. Luckily, it was food blogger appreciation week at the restaurant, and the owner invited me and a guest for some food. Though I realize how this can change the outcome of my blog post, it was a chance for me to finally try their food nonetheless. Eating here, I tried to have the most unbiased and wanted to be as objective as possible. A hip bar/restaurant with small plates of delicious food near Little Tokyo, Lazy Ox Canteen is a gastropub that is much needed in this area. The experience was fun, and we surely ate a lot — the food seemed almost endless.

The chicory salad was a great start. The bitter leaves and the tangy blue cheese went perfectly together. They almost cancelled each other out. The saucy vinaigrette was delicious with the candied pecans gave a great crunch to the dish. It was good to have salad at the begining — salad is rarely a choice of my own. It is either complimentary, and or it has bacon in it. This salad was good enough to have me consider salads a little more often.

I love a good fatty bone marrow sometimes. Not all the time, but when I’m in the mood, nothing is better. Lazy Ox’s roasted bone marrow was perfect. The garlic, thyme, and orange gremolata came together to flavor the bone marrow nicely. Spreading it on their toast, with a sprinkle of their gourmet salt made for one unctuous bite. A bite of the caper berries was salty and sour which cleansed the palate nicely. I was then ready for more.

It’s obvious that all gastropubs do their own rendition of the fried pig ears. This one, actually, was quite different. This one was cut somewhat thick. The seasoning was nice and the horseradish aioli was perfect. What was different was the texture. It wasn’t crispy and teeth shattering like other places. This was more tender, fatty, and gelatinous. Though fried, their process didn’t render out all the fat and didn’t crisp up. This made for a more meaty fried pigs ear. Not necessarily a bad thing — just different.

The Can o’ Sardines was interesting enough for me to want to try it. Not really scared of sardines, I actually like the strong taste of sardines. This can of sardines came from Galician, a region northwest of Spain. Eating it with the bread with their house-churned butter, the fish had a very strong fish flavor. To add to the mix, a side of herb salad helped bring everything together.

Every gastropub needs a good burger. I tend to grade any restaurant by their burger. The 7 oz. Lazy Ox burger had some top notch ingredients. The beef itself was perfectly cooked and the flavor of the beef was pristine. The melted Bravo Farms white cheddar was subtle, yet had a presence. My only gripe about this burger was the bun. It was too dense and kind of took over the burger, not allowing the beef to shine. I think an airy, more fluffy bun would allow the flavors come through. The whole grain mustard was a nice touch as to reset my palate. The fries on the side weren’t bad either, especially dipping with draigo paprika aioli. It was crunchy and a great companion to this near perfect burger.

The final portion on the savory side was the pork cheeks. Cooked for who knows how long, the pork cheeks were left as tender as can be. Little effort was needed to chew. The goat cheese gnudi balls were flavorful and velvety smooth. The cooked rutabaga gave the dish some earthiness. Everything mixed in the violet mustard made a gravy like substance. It was savory, yet tangy, but all delicious.

It was time to put a perfect ending to these serious of plates. We opted for the rice pudding and butterscotch pudding. When the waiter put an apple cobbler in front of us, we were a bit confused. Though it was a mistake, they let us eat it anyways. The rolled oat crisp on top was my favorite part. The vanilla ice cream and the oats made a nice mix in flavors and textures. Hot, crisp oats with cold, buttery ice cream was a great combination.

This is probably the best rice pudding I ever had. Not that I order rice pudding everywhere I go, and granted, I always get the prepackaged ones from the market, this one was pretty good. The rice had a nice bite to it and it wasn’t cloyingly sweet. The caramel on top had the perfect amount of sweetness. The pine nut crumbs on top gave the dessert some color and needed texture. All that was missing was a nice warm crunchy churro.

My favorite dessert of the night goes to the butterscotch pudding. A cup filled with an addicting pudding, topped with whipped cream was all I needed. It was sweet, but not too much, and eating this creamy custard was perfect with the peanut butter cookie. Each creamy bite with the childhood taste of butterscotch was great. I wouldn’t mind it if all three desserts was the butterscotch pudding. This was such a perfect end to our near endless meal.

Eating at Lazy Ox Canteen was fun and delicious. Sitting in the corner, full view of the kitchen with a preview of every dish to come was exciting. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, and our waiter had his undivided attention to us. With this combination of quality food and perfect service makes Lazy Ox a special place. Grab a beer, get some food, and relax.

Lazy Ox Canteen on Urbanspoon

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It was a clear black night, a clear white moon. Warren G was on the streets, trying to consume. Some skirts for the eve, so I can get some funk. Just rollin’ in my ride, chillin’ all alone. That was some regulators action for you. I always feel like the OC can use some more gangster rap. Anyways, before you think I’m getting all randon, it really was a clear black late night, and I was trying to consume…some food. For some reason, no Del Taco run or even In-n-Out would have quenched my craving. I was feeling like a sit down — something like bar food, but better. I wanted something clean, yet greasy, and maybe a nice drink to go with it. A gastropub was the perfect solution for this late night craving. Haven Gastropub in Orange, I was headed.



For the drink, I probably chose the most girly “beer” there was. The Woodchuck hard cider was the drink of the night. It really did taste like hard cider with a hint of apples and cinamon. The alcohol was barely present, yet it was such an interesting drink. I don’t know how that decision was made, but it was late. I was tired, hungry, and excited at the same time. Alcoholic hard cider? Why not?

We started things off with the fried pig ears. It seems like almost all gastropubs are doing it these days. The cartilagey, disgusting pig ear was cut up thin, fried to a crisp and glazed with a tangerine and fresno chili glaze. The once soft flesh now was a sweet and crispy mound of deliciousness. It was crispy, crunchy, and chewy all at the same time. The sweetness of the glaze and the heat from the fresno chilies was a perfect balance. Though some might get turned off by the pig ears part, eatings these were a joy. Just think of it as fried pig skin, which it is, and you will be just fine.

Every gastropub has to have a great burger. If the burger sucks, the whole menu fails in because of it. I was happy to have the Haven Burger perfectly cooked with the perfect ingredients. My favorite was the pickled red onions. It played the role of the crunch as well as the acidity of the burger. Biting into the fatty meat, the pickling of the onions helped cleanse the grease. It seems like arugula is a must on all gourmet burgers, and I can see why. The earthy tones and the somewhat neutral, yet bitter taste of the wild arugula helps counter the richness of the dish. The cheese was my favorite — blue cheese. It wasn’t just any blue cheese — this was Saint Agur blue cheese, from France — the fancy stuff. I mean, blue cheese, arugula, and pickled onions on a burger? Thats a recipe for success. the patty was thick and succulent, the bread was a perfect choice

Have you ever had a salad and was like “Snap, this is freaking bomb!”? No? Me neither. Who eats salads anyways? Well, my burger came with a salad and i was bomb! Probably one of my favorite salads to date, not that I have a lot of salads to compare it to. The radicchio and frisee were bitter which was a perfect vessel to soak up all the truffle vinnagerrete. The pop of the cherry tomatoes and the chevre made a good combination. The chevre had an awesomely smooth texture that gave the salad a nice silkiness. My favorite in this salad was the twice smoked bacon lardons and the poached cage free egg on top. Who doesn’t like eggs and bacon, especially when the bacons are twice smoked lardons? The fatty salty bacon mixed with the creaminess of the chevre and acidity of the vinnegarrete made a perfect balance in flavors. This is the best salad I had in a while. And it sure has been a while.

The duck confit poutine pomme frites — a lot of gastropubs are doing it, and it seems like a simple dish to make, but I never had one that was amazing. I am a guy who likes the simplicity of just thick french fries dipped in brown gravy, like the ones from The Hat. The duck gravy in this dish was nice, but it was too thick, and didn’t taste like much of anything. The duck confit was nicely cooked, but some pieces of the meat were left overcooked and dry. The pomme frites were nice and crunchy, and salted to a perfection. I thnk if the gravy was more savory, it would have been a home run.

I love a good mac and cheese. The gooey factor alone can leave me feenin’ for this stuff after a bad day. I sure was happy to have ordered the mac and cheese here. The black truffles alone were a nice touch. It gave such a depth of flavor unattainable without it. A perfect mix of gruyere, fontina, and parmesan, interlaced between each noodle had perfect consistency and flavor. The crust of panko on top wasn’t my favorite, but nothing with panko really is. This dish of mac and cheese was good, but I felt like something was missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I felt it needed some kind of spiciness or textural difference. At the end of the day, it was a pretty standard bowl, saved by the little truffles that it did have.

My time at Haven Gastropub was awesome. The atmosphere was relaxing and fun, and having a drink, eating good food was just what I needed. Things that stood out the most was their selection in craft beers. I’m no beer officionato, but their beer list was unique and diverse — any beer lover would enjoy it here. Opening in 2009, Haven in Orange received some great accolades — OC Weekly named it the best new restaurant in 2009. Still a pup, the restaurant expanded to Pasadena as well. Whether you are in the OC or in LA, chillin’ with a beer and good food is covered.

Haven Gastropub on Urbanspoon

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Chapter One: Modern Local – Today’s Take on Classic Cuisine

January 9, 2013

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 […]

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Bona Vista Lounge – A Drink, Snacks and an Elevator Ride

January 6, 2013

The Westin Bonaventure, the round, stubby building is hard to miss in the Los Angeles downtown cityscape. Traveling Figueroa almost daily, I always pass by the Bonaventure and remember the birthday dinner I had at L.A. Prime. Just below this beautiful steak restaurant sits a revolving restaurant / bar. Inch by inch, as you sit […]

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Birch Street Grill – Putting on a Smile at this Gastropub

August 8, 2012

Hmmm. What can I say about Birch Street Grill? Hmm… After much thought and starting at the computer screen, I had nothing. Their happy hour was nice. It lasted late, almost until 8 PM, but it was nearly empty. The music was nice and the TVs were flat, large, and abundant, but still, nobody was […]

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Lola Gaspar – With Santa Ana’s Arts District Comes Gastronomy

June 25, 2012

Santa Ana is going through a great urban renovation. Old buildings are being turned into offices, condos and restaurants. At the Santa Ana Arts District, the streets look more lively it seems like. Starting in the mid 90’s, the artists rented out undesired buildings as workspace. Soon after, the area saw a growth in artists […]

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Blue Cow Kitchen & Bar – Don’t Be Mad, Eat Happy

June 17, 2012

After glowing reviews about a new, hip sandwich spot in Downtown, I immediately put Blue Cow Kitchen in The List. Having eaten at Casa, the restaurant the preceded Blue Cow, I was a bit skeptical. I wasn’t too fond of my last visit to Casa, and finding out that it went out of business didn’t […]

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Minus 5 Ice Lounge (Mandalay Bay) – Ice Everything, And Everything Ice

December 8, 2011

Drinking and lounging around inside of an ice bar — how cool (pun intended) would that be?  Minus 5 at Mandalay Bay was a great experience.  What isn’t cool is that they won’t let you take pictures inside. Here is how it goes down.  You pay for a package.  You empty our your pockets and […]

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