Seafood

On a recent trip to Vegas, one of the locals had a craving for Hot N Juicy. Already a Boiling Crab fan, I had little hopes for this place. The friend swears that “Hot N Juicy is better than Boiling Crab.” That is all I needed to hear, and I was on board. Before you read on, before you drop everything and head to your nearest Hot N Juicy, I will tell you right now. Go to Boiling Crab.

I won’t lie, I was a bit excited. To imagine something better than Boiling Crab was beyond me. Two things were telling of things otherwise. One, the wait was only 15 minutes, not 2 hours. Two, the smell inside was fragrant, but not in your face. These two minor details should have been telling enough. Still, I was hopeful, and hungry.



We ordered a bunch of stuff. The shrimp, clams, Dungeness crab, and sausage were all fresh and tasty. But honestly, we go to Boiling Crab for the whole shebang right? Theirs, named Hot N Juicy, was really tasty. It had a nice heat to it and the flavor was there. In the bag, it was more of a soupy sauce instead of a thick pasty sauce at Boiling Crab. This made little or less flavor to cling onto the shrimp and food. Even the corn just tasted like corn. None of the goodies really stuck to the corn. After, eating, my hands didn’t have any garlic stink, nor did my clothes. What was going on?

After the fact, I learned that Las Vegas has Boiling Crab, and that LA/OC has Hot N Juicy. There goes my eating in Vegas rule of never eating anything I can eat back home. I don’t know how deep the rivalry goes, but honestly, nothing can beat Boiling Crab. After coming back home, I had Boiling Crab after a week or so, and it was delicious. Yes, I waited over an hour, and yes I smelled like garlic and spices, but man was it delicious.

Hot N Juicy Crawfish 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.

Gordon Ramsay Steak 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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Driving to the back parking lot of Santa Monica Seafood, I wasn’t expecting much. The rear parking lot and subtle entrance had be fooled. I mean, that’s where the dumpster and all the fish guts are. If I had only just walked to the street entrance, I would have realized how judgmental I was being. Once I entered the market/restaurant, I was excited for the food — Center stage was a massive fish market. To one side you have every condiment under the sun for fish and seafood. On the other, you had a pretty legit oyster bar and dining area. Surrounded by seafood, I was hungry for something special.


We started off with clam chowder. It wasn’t a killer clam chowder — don’t let the “seafood market” thing fool you. It was a good bowl, creamy and thick, but the clams were a bit lacking. Also, the ingredients were different as well. It wasn’t just purely cream, oysters and potatoes. It also contained carrots and peppers which I didn’t really appreciate. I am a purist when it comes to clam chowder — the less the amount of added ingredients, the better.

I never really order salmon at restaurants (I have my reasons). The spicy salmon burger looked appetizing enough for me to order it. With a sesame roll holding everything together, the salmon burger tasty. With cucumber, organic greens, and tomato, the healthy part was taken care of. What really saved the sandwich was the gremolata mayonnaise. Packed with zesty flavors from the lemon and garlic, I wish I had a lot more of it. The balance of meat and bread was a bit off — the help of more sauce would have been better. The side salad sunflourseeds on top was a perfect companion to this sandwich.

When I saw lobster roll on the menu, I was full of high spirits. I came for seafood, and it looked like I was going to get it! The Maine lobster roll had fresh lobster meat with lemon aioli and chives. Everything was perfect until everything wasn’t. I was bummed that they used a hot dog bun. No buttered and toasted split top buns here. The toasted hot dog bun just made it into a stale and hard state — it was all downhill from here. The lobster wasn’t seasoned or salted, and the lemon aioli taste more mayonnaise-y than anything. The french fries were decent, but nothing special. I guess for the price though, it was comparable. A lobster roll is still a lobster roll, right?


At the end of the day, I can appreciate Santa Monica Seafood. The market selections are unique and the fish market aspect is amazing. Though the fresh fish are a bit pricey, the food items are somewhat affordable. Looking at interesting seafood condiments and possibly sucking down a few oysters isn’t a bad way to wait for a table. All in all, it was a positive experiance, as far as seafood goes.

Santa Monica Seafood on Urbanspoon

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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, this was a beautiful location. Inside this Historic hotel was K’ya Bistro, a Mediterranean / Small Plates Tapas restaurant. In a word, the inside was elegant, but the prices were affordable.

We started off with the wild hawaiian ahi poke. A mixture of onion, seaweed, avocado, spicy soy, and ahi tuna was a fresh dip for the fried wonton chips. Though the wonton chips were greasy, the dip was bearable. The avocados were creamy and the acidity of the ingredients helped with the greasy chips. The ingredients melded well together, but the fish could have been fresher. But stating these things would be nitpicking. This was a great start to our dinner at K’ya Bistro.

The lobster macaroni and cheese was a surprise. It didn’t have all that much lobster in it — not a lobster chunk in sight. The noodles were elbow, pretty standard. The cheese sauce was a cognac cream sauce — tasty. Even though this was a standard mac and cheese, I loved it. The fact that it was pretty much like the Kraft Blue Box mac and cheese helped a lot. As a kid, I lived off of that stuff. The noodles in this were actually al dente — the cognac cream was a nice touch and the parmasean crust gave it the crunch factor. Though the lobster was scant, the little that it had was nice.

When I saw filet minon for 10 bucks, I was shocked. It must taste like crap, and it must be small is what I thought to myself. I was totally wrong. Well, half wrong. It didn’t taste like crap, but it was small, as expected. The side of organic polenta was a delight and the side spinach made sure I had my greens for the day. The large wedge of blue cheese made for a creamy, pungent “sauce” for the filet. The filet was cooked perfectly and was butter soft. All this for 10 bucks? I should have ordered 2!

We ended things with the creme brulee. Is it weird that I am writing this while enjoying a Caramel Brulee Frap at Starbucks? The creme brulee was a great finish of a tasty dinner. The fresh fruit on top was a nice touch — it kind of makes this cream on sugar on fat dessert more of a healthy dessert. It was custardy and sweet with a nice crunch of the brulee.

K’ya Bistro Bar in La Casa Del Camino was surprisingly affordable. The small plates allowed us to have a lot of variety and didn’t hurt the wallet. I mean, where else can you get filet mignon for 10 bucks? I don’t even think Vegas can do that. The beautiful scenery, close proximity to the beach, and small prices makes K’ya one of my favorites in Orange County. Depending on how hungry you are, or what you are in the mood for, they got it covered. Expect a wait though, it gets pretty busy during dinner. The hotel also has a rooftop lounge. That would be perfect for a nice lunch in the sun or a nice view of the sunset during dinner. I guess La Casa Del Camino has everything covered.

k'ya Bistro Bar on Urbanspoon

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