Orange County

I remember going to Islands as a kid. When I say kid, I mean a high school kid. I had a driver’s licence, I had a car (more like half a car), and that is all I needed to hang out with my friends at Islands with some burgers and fries. On my recent visit as an adult, not much has changed. That’s a good thing. The food was just as good as I remember, and chill and relaxed atmosphere made all the difference. Everything started with drinks. Every burger needs the company of a good shake. One of the hardest decisions is vanilla, chocolate or strawberry. I was feeling like strawberry, and I made a good choice. It was creamy and thick, and not too sweet. This was a good start to a great meal.

We started off with the nachos. These were pretty standard nachos. It had cheese, olives, guacamole, and sour cream. One thing I really want on nachos, and this is a personal preference, is nacho cheese. I know nacho cheese is a step down from the real stuff, but I need the fake ooey gooey. The melted cheese soon cooled off and web of chips stuck together. What I like to do is get a bunch of cheese in between two chips and make a little sandwich. The guacamole and sour cream did a good job in keeping everything creamy. I like the addition of the olives as it gave a nice salty flavor. Of course, the heat and acidity of the jalapenos cut the richness of the cheese. This was a standard plate of nachos and a perfect start.

The burger the restaurants main attraction, and the black pepper crusted Kilauea burger. The crust on the meat was so perfect. The meat was overcooked, but I really like my beef patty on the bloody side. The jalapeƱo in combination with the pepper jack cheese and chipotle aioli gave it a nice zesty flavor — not at all overly spicy. Topped with their signature Island Reds, it was a delicious burger. The crunch from the fried onion strings and the melted cheese made a great cheesy crispy mix. The best part of this burger really is the black pepper crusted patty. It is so in your face and full of flavor. I wish I could have this with a fried egg on top. Now that would be awesome. I had my burger with a side of sweet potato fries. Theirs was different that other places because it was more firm and crispy. Most places have sweet potato fries but are often limp. I liked how these spent a little more time in the fryer. Dipping these in their ranch, which by the way was salty, was so good. By the way, I love ranch that is salty and savory more than the creamy counterpart.

I wanted to for something not so heavy, so I opted for the fresh grilled mahi mahi tacos. Topped with chipotle-white sauce, cabbage, cilantro & diced tomatoes, the fish tacos were only healthy, but tasty too. I didn’t really care for the ranchero beans, but it was a good hearty condiment to the fish tacos. The start of course was the mahi mahi. It was grilled nicely and the flavors were in your face. I liked their corn tortillas too. I wouldn’t have expected a burger joint to take that much care in fish tacos. This would have been perfect with the appetizer nachos I had earlier. Only if I had waited.

To put an end to all the deliciousness, ordered dessert. The chocolate lava cake sounded too good to resist. It entailed a fudge brownie topped with vanilla ice cream. The whole thing was drizzled with chocolate syrup, topped with whipped cream, roasted almonds, and of course, a cherry on top. The fudge brownie itself was chocolate goodness. The ice cream helped balance out everything nicely. I mean, we are talking about brownies and ice cream here. With the crunch of toasted almonds, it can’t get any better.

Eating here really took me back to my adolescent years. The relaxed atmosphere and good food was really all I needed. I like how as I grew up, everything stayed the same. I guess you can say it got a lot more fresh and clean, but the whole beach side relaxing feeling is still there.

Islands on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

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.

SideDoor on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

It has been a while since I wrote a blog post on Orange County eats. Not that I don’t have love for the OC, its just not exciting to eat here anymore. All of the restaurants are too chain like. Except for a small few, all of the eateries are just average. To me, the most exciting thing is when restaurants far away make it close by to me. One such restaurant, a chain nonetheless is Santouka Ramen. With restaurants all around the world, I am happy to have them in LA and Orange County. I don’t have to travel to Japan to have good ramen.

The bowl of ramen was better than most. I appreciated the al dente noodles and the texture of the alkaline noodles at Santouka was perfect. It had a nice bounce and bite feel. The broth was a bit lukewarm, but still tasted amazing. My favorite of course was the char sui pork. It was fatty and deliciously tender. The vegetables were fresh and the bowl of ramen as a whole was balanced. This was a great bowl of ramen and competes with the best of them.

To some, ramen at a restaurant is foreign to them. All they know is the stuff that comes in a package or a cup. Ramen to me is comfort food. The warm broth and the fried noodles turned half pliable is all that I need on a cold winter night. Ramen broth and noodles is such a hard thing to perfect, especially from scratch. I wouldn’t know the first thing about creating the broth. Yes, having ramen from a bag or cup is quite satisfying and delicious. Just pop in a soft boiled egg and you are golden. Once you experience good ramen with legitimate broth, it makes all the difference.

Santouka Ramen on Urbanspoon

{ 3 comments }

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

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

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

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

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

25 Degrees on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

After becoming a food blogger, the pizza as I know it changed. I don’t seek the gooiest cheese, cheese stuffed in the crust, overload of 5 kinds of meat, or a snowy layer of parmesan cheese. To me, if I finished the crust, the pizza was good. I can’t count how many crusts were thrown back into the pizza box. Pizza crust is the worst — probably why Pizza Hut and Dominoes has been stuffing them with cheese and sprinkling garlic butter on them. My friends, the dough is the most important part of the pizza.


The dough at Fuoco was quite decent. With flakes of char and crust on the outside, warm chewy center on the inside, this is what a pizza dough should be. Though I expected a little more rise and fluff on the outer crust, the dough with toppings were kept at bay and wafer thin. I wasn’t expecting much from this Downtown Fullerton spot, but I was quite happy with it. The Margherita was classic, and the cheese, though not as fresh as I’d like, was still pretty good. The tomato sauce was impressive, and quite delicious. My Funghi e salsiccia had good mushrooms, but the slices of sauces were uninspiring. Ground pork with spices and lots of fennel would have been perfect!

Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana has something special. Their dough is better than most, and the toppings are fresh. With a pretty legit brick oven stove, I could only dream of owning one of those bad boys. Tweaking of my own pizza dough is all for nothing without the 500 plus degrees of burning embers. Honestly, it was a good time eating pizza with a knife and fork and enjoying the crust. It sure beats the cheese stuffed crust variation.

Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana on Urbanspoon

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

{ 0 comments }