Orange County

Urban Plates – Farm to Pate on a Budget

by Franklin on July 24, 2014

Urban Pates in Irvine is a game changer. Their “farm to plate, and won’t break the bank” concept is simple and appealing. You get fresh ingredients inside their fresh and delicious plates, and it’s all within your budget.

I really like the grilled wild ono Niçoise salad. It had green beans, organic egg, organic tomatoes, potatoes, capers, marinated olives, and a mustard/champagne vinaigrette. The grilled Ono was seared nicely and had a great flavor. It was clean, meaty and delicious. The mustard champagne vinaigrette was perfect in this salad. The capers gave a nice salty flavor and seasoned the fish nicely.

Once I saw steak, I had to order it. It looked so juicy and medium rare. The seasoned natural beef was precook end, and had a uniquely red hue to it, like almost too red. It was cooked perfectly! The red in the beef wasn’t raw, but a perfectly cooked medium rare. I ordered this with Mac and cheese and Brussels sprouts. The Mac and cheese was superb, your standard creamy and cheesy Mac and cheese. The Brussels sprouts were tasty too. Beef and Brussels sprouts sure a great combination. The Brussels sprouts was cooked with bacon, and gave the vegetables so much good flavor. The trio, beef, Mac, and Brussels sprouts was such a classic combination.

We ordered the quinoa and sweet peas salad on the side to just balance the beef and rich flavors out. I liked the crisp from the sweet peas and enjoyed the bite from the quinoa. It was fresh and brightened everything we ate. It made for a great palate cleanser.

We ended things with a chocolate chip cookie. It was just there sitting near the checkout station. It Was nothing special, but a pretty good chocolate chip cookie nonetheless. Eating healthy at times is overlooked because it either tastes “healthy” or it’s too expensive to eat healthy. UP really balances the two nicely. The interior is relaxing with earthy tones and architecture. The cafeteria style ordering is efficient and convenient. Orange County, you have done well.

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Walking into Sancho’s Tacos, I was enveloped by their Mexican style and interior design. From the unique art on the walls and the various paintings, you can’t help but feel the culture of the beach and Mexico. We ordered our food, went to the beach and had ourselves a little beach front picnic. The views were good and the food was tasty. This was definitely different from the LA tacos and burritos I am used to.

The Breakfast burrito, also known as the sawed off burrito, had eggs, skillet potatoes, and melted cheddar jack cheese. Bacon and chorizo eggs were in the mix as well. The burrito was tasty. The chorizo helped flavor the while burrito nicely. The skillet potatoes was a nice starch to round out the burrito. Of course, melted cheese is always welcome, and there was plenty.

The taco for me was a miss. The OG taco which has tri tip, onions, cilantro tri tip and chubbie sauce. The tri tip was good as a steak, but not as taco meat. Not to say that it was too high quality or anything dumb like that. It just tasted too clean and flavorless. The tortilla was stale and brittle. This chubbie sauce that everyone talks about was alright, but a proper hot sauce is always a necessity on tacos. Writing this just makes we want to go to my taco guy and devouring a couple proper tacos.

When it comes to Mexican food, I am very particular and quite harsh. Maybe I just don’t have the OC tongue, but I trust my taste buds. The textures and flavors just didn’t do it for me. The burrito was alright, but the taco, their namesake, was just not where it needed to be. It’s possible I just went on a bad day or I was just unlucky. I will definitely give this another try when I am in Huntington Beach. Hopefully, I won’t need to bring my taco guy to HB.

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Coffee Code – The Sweet Life

by Franklin on June 16, 2014

Coffee Code, to me, was a stumble. Wanting some dessert after dinner, this seemed like the perfect spot. The fun atmosphere and unique atmosphere is what made this place attractive.


We had the white chocolate latte and cafe con leche. Both were velvety smooth and sweet. It was a perfect sweet dessert style coffee for our waffle. The little bits of toffee in the care con leche was a nice touch. These dessert coffees were a nice change from the super dark straight black coffee I have every morning.

The mochi waffle was quite nice. It had a chewy texture like mochie, but still had the added bready consistency of a waffle. Layered with ice cream and whipped toppings, this waffle was definitely meant to be a dessert. I absolutely loved the texture of this. Though a bit soggy from the toppings, the inside was where the magic was.

Coffee Code was a nice place to hang out and a have some coffee. It offers pretty much waffles and coffee. The simplicity of it all just makes it a specific destination. What’s a better trifecta combination that coffee, ice cream, and waffles? Can’t really think of it just yet.

Coffee Code on Urbanspoon

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Greek food is often times overlooked. Everyone goes for Italian, or the all time classic burger, but Greek is always not given a second chance. On a recent trip to Kentro Greek Kitchen, I was surprised by the look and feel of the restaurant. The ordering system is similar to that of Panera Bread. You order first, get your number, then the food comes out. Despite this fast casual concept, the restaurant is elegant and classy all around. From the food and the staff, everything is top notch. Greek food was never overlooked again.


We started things off with the calamari saganaki. Typically a lover of fried calamari, I didn’t mind this one was not. Bathing in a perfect tomoato sauce, the calamari was succulent and tasty. It was cooked just right — soft as can be. The addition of the sharp tasting feta, it was a perfect match. The bread was hearty and a perfect blank slate for the saganaki. This was perfect to get things going.


The Manouri flatbread was probably my favorite. The flatbread had arugula, figs, oregano, attiki honey, and olive oil. The best part of this flatbread is the imported manouri cheese. Manouri, a by-product following the production of feta is a perfect ingredient for this dish. It was light and the flavors were very subtle and a hint of salty. Paired with the very sweet figs and attiki honey, the sweet and savory balance was perfect.


My go to item at Kentro is the lamb sandwich. It is cheap, and you get a hearty meal out of it. The lamb in the sandwich is soft and flavored heavily. The combination of the sweet peppers and bitter arugula make a nice contrast in flavors. The crusty bread soaks up all the ajus and makes for a nice, easy bite of everything in between. The Kentro fries are pretty spot on as well. Peppery and salty, it is a nice sidekick to the near perfect lamb sandwich.


Kentro in Downtown Fullerton is a great place to have Greek food. It is casual, the price is just right, and the decor inside is quite nice. From flatbreads to sandwiches, to pita wraps, they have it all and all of it tastes great. Whenever I am in Fullerton, Kentro is my go-to place.

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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 jalapeño 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.

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