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.

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We all know Gordon Ramsey. The ill tempered celebrity chef from England made a name for himself. When I think of him, he isn’t smiling or laughing. I think of angry eyes, wrinkles on the forehead, and fire coming out of his mouth. That imagery to me, is more laughable than scary. But truly, Gordon Ramsey did make a name for himself, literally. The guy names his restaurants after his name. Gordon Ramsey at The London, and this blog post, Gordon Ramsey Steak at Paris. You must be pretty full of yourself if you name your restaurants after your first name. If Gordon Ramsey has the audacity to put him name (again, literally) on his restaurants, he must be pretty confident in it. With that kind of thinking, I expect top notch flavors and cuisine.

Ramsey’s vision to transport you to the U.K. is accomplished through the “English Channel.” This is exactly what it does. You are transformed from Paris to the UK, just like the real thing! The inside really does transport you to England. The red accents and obviously, the U.K. flag gave it that ambiance.

Another thing that was cool was the beverage selection. The menu is on an iPad and guests can swipe through craft beers, wines, and cocktails. The price and drink description are all available. This was an experience in itself, which probably pushed me to order the Primm’s Cup.

The night started with a cocktail. The Primm’s Cup was the cocktail of choice. It had Primm’s No. 1 and sparkling lemonade. It had a complex flavor and wasn’t too sweet. It was spicy and had a fruity citric flavor. I wanted something with a little bite so that it went well with a steak. The Primm’s Cup wouldn’t be my first choice if it was enjoyed alone. For a meal though, I think this was a successful choice.

We were given complimentary bread. This was a good start — it was some of the best and most flavorful of restaurant complimentary breads. There was walnut bread; lemon, thyme, and olive focacia; and pancetta and mushroom truffle bread roll. This was accompanied with and English Devonshire butter with sea salt. If not the bread, this butter was amazing. It had a cheese like consistency and flavor. My ultimate goal now was to find English Devonshire butter back in L.A. A “shmeer” of this stuff on the bread was purely exceptional. The pop of the sea salt and the creamy butter was purely eventful in my mouth. Sometimes, all a man needs is good butter and good bread. This was surely a great start.

Another item I wanted to start off with was the bone marrow. A personal favorite at any restaurant, I was happy to see it on the menu. The fatty bone marrow on the crostini was delightful. The chimichurri was zesty and added the acidity to the dish. It was a perfect flavor meld of fat and fat.

The waiter came to our table with a display of steaks. All of the steaks were real, and displayed to show texture, and marbling. This was nearly useless to me as I was going to order the beef Wellington, but useful to others not knowing what to order. Table side presentation of steaks, as Wolfgang Puck’s CUT does it is an added wow factor. It is cool to see your steak as is before its cooked off.

My main dish of course, was the roasted Beef Wellington. Being Gordon Ramsey’s signature dish, I was overly excited to try it. Seeing up and coming, “red team, blue team” contestants mess this up time and time again, it was almost like a super star. The beef was cooked perfectly to a medium rare, and soft as ever can be. The beefy flavor was enhanced by the duxelles (mixture of minced mushrooms, onions, shallots, herbs, and butter) inside the flaky crust. Sitting on aside some root vegetables, potato puree, and a red wine demi glace, the entire dish was savory to a great degree. Steakhouses are one of many in Vegas, and the typical bone in ribeye was getting boring. I am glad I ordered and tried the Beef Wellington. Surprisingly, I liked it. Beef Wellington form Gordon Ramsey can now be checked off from the bucket list.

A perfect side dish was the mac and cheese. This may be one of my favorite mac and cheeses of all time! The combination of cheddar, blue cheese, parmesan, and truffle made this perfectly balanced taste. The cheese blend was unctuous and the noodles had a perfect texture. I normally prefer the southern style man and cheese — the one that is custardy and cheddar molested. Gordon Ramsey Steak’s mac and cheese impressed me a lot. I would take this over any other mac and cheese out there.

Another dish I couldn’t pass up was the Maine lobster. The chorizo stuffed Maine lobster was poached in butter. To top it all off, it sat in a pool of brandied lobster cream sauce. The lobster was cooked perfectly and had a nice chew to it. The chorizo wasn’t overpowering, and the lobster just shined. The rich butter and cream sauce was decadent and flavorful. I as expecting a small lobster piece of a tail, but it was quite large. Screw the steak! I’ll just eat this for protein.

And awesome dinner ended with an even more awesome dessert. From chocolate layer cake, to spiced caramel apple cake, it was a hard decision to make. I went with the sticky toffee pudding and never looked back. The waiter poured the brown sugar toffee over the sweet pudding cake. Glazed all over, the dessert was so sweet! The cake was moist and fluffy. What stood out was the brown sugar toffee. It was simple and devilishly addicting. I wanted to just pour that spout of toffee in my mouth. It was warm and gooey, and went perfectly with the brown butter ice cream. A bite of the warm sweet toffee pudding cake and then a bite of the creamy, not too sweet ice cream to wash it all down was so perfect. The end.

I was honestly expecting great things from Gordon Ramsey and his steak restaurant — for the most part, I got what I expected. The cuisine was top notch and the Beef Wellington was finally off my to do list. The atmosphere here is quite hip and loud. You aren’t going to get that quiet and mellow steak house with slow classical music playing in the background. You aren’t going to get neutral colors and very boring waiters. What you do get is a very fast paced, in your face experience. The loud red colors and people chatting and laughing fills the air. That’s just the vibe you get here. Gordon Ramsey’s steak house inside the Paris Resort is a destination. The Paris Resort was lacking in the quality restaurant department, and this one just set it to the top.

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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.

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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.

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You are transformed walking into Hama Sushi. You throw out all of your standards of what you thought good sushi is and allow their sushi chefs to take rein. My experience at Hama Sushi was authentic as can be, and sadly, I am only able to share this with you through words. Their no camera policy was disappointing — some of their dishes were amazing, visually and taste wise. Above all, I want to respect the establishment of their rules. Heck, I would hate to be black listed at this place, that is for sure. I would have loved to share those with you through pictures, but unfortunately, my writing is going to have to carry all the weight (grammar mistakes and all).

We started off with the albacore sashimi. Thinly sliced, the fish was fresh and of the highest quality. Topped with a yuzu sauce that made everything citrusy and savory, I felt the fish was masked. Though not a mellow flavor, the albacore was too good to pass up.

One of my favorite fish served raw is probably salmon (sake). The sushi chef was careful in cutting each piece to a perfect size. With each bite dipped in my perfectly portioned soy sauce and wasabi mixture, the flavor was so familiar and perfect. The fatty, buttery texture of the salmon paired perfectly with the slight nose flaring wasabi and soy sauce is one of my favorite things to eat. I would have a bite, reset my palate with some ginger, and do it all over again. Salmon is just an exceptional fish. If tuna is the “chicken of the sea”, it is safe to say that salmon is the beef of the sea — fatty tuna (toro) being the kobe beef of the sea. It is no wonder bears eat this stuff, fresh. It melts in your mouth, with a slippery and slimy consistency, it is the perfect food.

It wouldn’t be a night out with sushi without tuna rolls and hand rolls. Cut to a precision, the tuna rolls were small and packed flavor. The spicy tuna hand rolls were spicier than expected and was still very good. Rice is an important part of sushi, undoubtedly equally important as the fish itself. Their rice wasn’t perfect, but I am nitpicking here. I would have liked the rice to be a bit more cooled. the slight warmer temperature gave it an over cooked texture. Nonetheless, this was great.

Sitting inside the small establishment, you are side by side with other patrons. In a “U” shaped sushi bar seating only about 15 people, three sushi chefs took everyone’s orders. The experience was new and fun, and the chance to have such good (not the cheep stuff) sushi was a treat. I may have spoiled myself here, and all other everyday sushi spots might not be as good anymore, but that’s alright. Hama Sushi in Little Tokyo is one of the best in Los Angeles. They don’t try to be anything they are not — they are genuine and down to earth. Eating at other establishments, I will say to myself, “Its good, but nothing like Hama”.

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Sometimes I hate the beach. I’m sure most of you are gasping and ready to throw rocks at me. All that sand in your shoes — The seagulls in your face, flapping their wings. Flocks of pigeons all hovering over you, waiting to unload a big mess on you. Maybe it’s not the beach I hate so much, but just birds. Who am I kidding? I love the beach! The smell of the fresh sea and air blowing on your face — the sun warming you up, hugging you as you lay on the beach. It’s peaceful. One thing I like about being near the water is the seafood. On my way to The Aquarium of the Pacific, we made a pit stop for lunch at Berth 55 Fish Market. A great idea! Not only was it casual, the fish was fresh and there was plenty to choose from. The area was nice, right near the docks. We were surrounded by boats and water, and I felt relaxed. Eating outside in the warm sun, with a nice breeze was as pleasant as it can be. What was better was the amazing seafood the port had to offer.

The clam chowder was some of the best I had in a while. It wasn’t just cream flavor — I actually tasted the sea.  It was quite rich, meaning, it had a lot of cream. Not a bad thing I guess. The clams weren’t plenty, but they were large. The clams inside weren’t chewy — they were perfectly cooked. I really hate chewy clams inside clam chowder. I feel like I’m eating rubber bands or old band aids. The clams in this chowder was legit. I wouldn’t mind having a big bowl of this stuff every time I ordered clam chowder.

Naturally, being so close to the water, we had to order some fish. We ordered the red snapper with a shrimp skewer. Right away, I smelled the plate and I knew it was going to be delicious. The fish was flakey and perfectly cooked. It was great with the side of rice. The shrimp skewer was heavily seasoned and tasty. It was a bit over cooked for my liking, and too dry. I don’t know how that is possible, but it was. Thanks to the many sauces, the dish was saved. It was great eating fresh seafood in front of the Pacific Ocean. Seafood isn’t the same without the view of the water.

Berth 55 Fish Market in Long Beach has some of the best seafood around. Their display of all the seafood you can think of is fresh and is ready for you. The eating area is kind of plain and messy, but functional. It doesn’t matter really because you are eating right next to the water. It’s beautiful. It’s delicious.

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The beach is the first thing I think of when its hot out. The cool breeze and sun all make up for a perfect experience during the hot weather. One of my favorite beaches in Los Angeles, Malibu, is a great beach city. They have the best beaches, and some of the best food around. From Geoffrey’s to Malibu Seafood, Malibu is the place to be for the beach and food. Paradise Cove Beach Cafe is a nice beachfront restaurant. The menu is full of seafood greats, and the views are just amazing. Paradise Cove is a nice spot in theory, but over crowding and the over population of it all made for a mediocre experience. The beach in itself is nice — the waters are calm, bad for surfers, nice for floaters. At the end of the day, I had a better time relaxing at the beach than eating there. The food by itself was uninspired. Nothing impressed me other than the beautiful location.

I was quite excited about the calimari. It came in a huge martini style glass — I ordered it to wow the group. After tasting the soggy, salty calimari, I was dissapointed. I guess the novelty of the huge martini glass was all it took to get a “tourist” like me to order it. The bed of fries on the bottom were even soggy and tasteless. Don’t let the over-sized martini glass fool you!

The fried fish po boy sandwich had good fish, but everything else was lacking. The slaw had good crunch and the salad tasted decent. Honestly though, I hated the bread. A good sandwich needs good balance, and this sandwich had too much bread and greenery and not enough fish to compensate. the filet of fish was huge, but having less bread, more sauce and a balance of ingredients would have made this a nice fish sandwich.

I only had small bites of the taco trio plate. The shrimp was probably my favorite of the three. The beans and rice just got by and the flavors weren’t anything special. This was another boring dish.

Paradise Cove is a nice beach spot. The views and the beach are near picture perfect. The food at Paradise Cove Beach Cafe on the other hand is just mediocre. Almost as if it were a tourist trap, my lunch experience there wasn’t anything pleasant. Yes I was with good company and the scene and vibe was like a vacation. As a food blogger, all I really care about at the end of the day is the food. I wouldn’t mind eating here again, but only for breakfast. We missed the deadline for ordering breakfast by a few minutes, but the dishes other patrons had looked half way decent. One thing that pissed me off was their parking situation. Parking is $3 for 4 hours with validation. That is great and all, but after the 4 hours are up, its $30 automatically. After lunch, we relaxed at the beach and swam — when we left, we were a few minutes over 4 hours, and we had to pay $30. A word of advice, leave by the 4 hours. I felt like we paid $27 for that extra 15 minutes we stayed over time. It was all fun in the sun until we left — we all left with a bitter taste in our mouth — half of it from the food.

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Cafe Bizou – Escargot Finds its Way to the Top

by Franklin on August 12, 2012

Pasadena in itself is big enough that you don’t feel a need to leave the city. They have Arclight for movies, Old Town for dining, and Target for everything else. When Restaurant Week came around, Cafe Bizou caught my eye. Their menu was robust and was only one dollar sign ($25 for dinner). Interestingly, if it weren’t for Dine LA, I would have never heard of this restaurant. Tucked away near Pasadena City Hall, the entrance was small and could be driven by unnoticed. The inside was a bit dated, but seating arrangements were quite comfortable. The servers were quite attentive and helpful and knowledgeable about the menu.

When I saw escargot on the menu as an appetizer, I had to order it. The escargot, burgandy snails were drenched in a garlic butter and topped with parsley. If you are scared or if the thought of eating snails is a bit off putting, don’t be. Though a land creature, think of these as sea creatures. I mean, the snails are similar to mollusks. They have a squishy center and hard shell — yes, to a non scientist, non biologist, that is my criteria for a mollusk. The taste and texture is like any other mollusk as well. It tastes kind of like clams, but chewier like a mussel. Either way, the garlic butter really helped mask any funkiness of the escargot. It was delicious and I would order these again.

Their baked mushrooms were interestingly tasty. Stuffed with chicken and spinach mousse with a side of balsamic vinegar sauce, the appetizer was meaty. With endive on the side, everything came together nicely. The chicken was a chicken meatball and the flavors were robust. It was tasty and all, but I wish it was more creamy and warm. The whole dish was kind of single noted and was asking for more of a sauce than the balsamic reduction. A nice bubbly cheese covering would have been perfect.

I ordered their seafood pasta — it had almost every seafood I could imagine. Filled with lobster, shrimp, and sea scallops the pasta was a treat. The black tagallini pasta was a first for me. Literally black in color, I was interested in how it was that color. I am guessing it was maybe squid ink? The pasta itself felt a bit reheated in some way and kind of crumbled, but still delicious. Covered in tomatoes and mushrooms in a lobster sauce, the pasta was quite heavy. In some way, the seafood lightened it up a bit. There was plenty of lobster and shrimp inside and the scallops were cooked perfectly. Nothing was overcooked — everything worked well in the dish.

Their surf and turf on the menu was amazing at this price point. The petit filet minon was in a brandy cream and cooked perfectly medium. Their pan seared sea scallop was buttery and tasted so clean. My favorite, the jumbo shrimp was cooked with so much flavor — the crust on the shrimp was delicious. With a baked potato and grilled tomato, the dish was complete. My only gripe about the dish was that the dish was all over the place. Plating made the dish look very mediocre, as if we got each individual item from a buffet. Despite the looks of the dish, the taste was what mattered.

It isn’t restaurant week if it didn’t include dessert. We opted for the flourless chocolate cake and tiramisu. These two together was a perfect dessert in contrast. One was rich and chocolaty whereas the the tiramisu was light and creamy. The flourless chocolate cake was moist and not too sweet — it was kind of boring though. It was just a wedge of chocolate tasting cake. The tiramisu on the other had was my favorite. It had a subtle coffee flavor and the creaminess was to die for. In hind sight, ordering two tiramisu would have been alright with me. I am still glad to have tried the chocolate cake. These two desserts were a perfect ending to a great dinner date.

After experiencing Cafe Bizou, I don’t know if I liked it or not. The service was spotty and the overall experience at this restaurant could be forgotten, with the exception of the escargot and shrimp. I always think to myself, “If this restaurant were in Los Angeles, would it be considered something marvelous?” It is hard to say, especially with Los Angeles’ growing number of gastronomic eats — it would be safer left in Pasadena. I guess that is what you get. If you want more than mediocre, but not amazing, staying in Pasadena is fine. It is when you want that extra step above, the amazing and unforgettable — that is when you need to venture outside into Los Angeles. At any rate, Cafe Bizou was an awesome experience, again, in Pasadena standards. In Los Angeles terms, it will get blended in with the rest.

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This whole experience was surreal to me. You are reading about a guy who never wins anything. Raffle drawings, none — lotto jackpots, never. But this experience, this one was different. All of the stars lined up for this one and everything worked out perfectly. The way it goes is, you tweet any dish you want to chef Diana Stavaridis of BLD. If she chooses your dish selection, you and a friend dine for free Thursday evening and that dish will be Thursday’s plats du jour. It all started on a slow Friday afternoon at work. Me and my coworker were just chatting about technology, food, and the weekend. He was planning a date night to BLD, and noticed the “tweet-a-dish” on their website. He mentioned it to me and I, half joking and not at all trying to win just sent @BLDChefD a tweet. Knowing a bit about BLD and their menu, shrimp and grits immediately came to my head. After a week and forgetting about the whole contest, I got a tweet back from Chef Diana congratulating me! Surprised, I was more honored that they chose my dish than the fact I would be getting free dinner for two. Nonetheless, I immediately called and made reservations.

Walking into BLD, I didn’t know what to expect. Half nervous and excited, I couldn’t keep my hands still — probably why all of the pictures came out so blurry. We were seated instantly and the waiter told us what would be going on. I obviously underestimated winning this tweet-a-dish contest. I was expecting just a free entree for me and a friend, but I was wrong. I was given 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and 2 desserts. Yes, I was overwhelmed. Not only did I get to eat the dish I tweeted, I was able to see the dish on the menu as one of the specials. It was sureel to me to overhear waiters tell other people dining about the featured dish of the day. From a simple tweet, it went to a chef, and from that, it went on a menu, and into hungry patrons. To me, that was more special than a free dinner.

For the appetizer, I had the smoked Cajun mac and cheese and steamed mussels. The mac and cheese to me was interesting. It wasn’t really cheesy or heavy, but there was something to be desired. The noodles were nicely cooked and the taste was cheesy, but without the goo. My favorite part was the topping. Usually, it is a butter heavy cracker or panko batter crust, but theirs was something different. It was crispy and crunchy, almost like class, and it never got soggy — It wasn’t buttery or anything. These things served solely as a textural crunch, nothing more. It was refreshing to eat such a healthy and light mac and cheese. Most, especially mine, are butter heavy, cheese heavy, and gooey. The BLD mac and cheese was a pleasant change in taste and texture.

The steamed mussels were perfectly prepared. Sweet in flavor, the mussels were tender and not over-cooked. I was impressed at how soft and not rubbery the mussels were. They practically broke down in my mouth with little effort. In a broth of tomatoes, white wine, and chilies, the dish was hearty. The grilled baguette was perfect to sop up all of the broth — the broth was a tomato base and the white wine gave it a nice rich flavor profile. It was a solid appetizer.

The first main dish was the braised short rib. At first bite, I could tell this thing was cooking for a long long time. The meat just shredded off and the fat was rendered down, yet it was still juicy. Atop a mound of grits, and an au jus sauce, it was all a cohesive dish that was hearty. The arugula in the dish evened out the beefy flavor and rich sauce. The tomatoes gave it a nice acidic flavor which counter balanced the beef well. It was an impressive dish and I was lucky to have ordered this.

Of course, one of us had to order the tweet a dish plats du jour. Excited to see my dish come, I couldn’t wait to see Chef Diana’s take on shrimp and grits. At first bite, I immediately tasted the BLD(ness) of the dish. Hearty and delicious, it was like no other shrimp and grits I ever had. Yeah, most shrimp and grits are heavy on the butter and salt, but the one I had, my dish, was clean tasting. Without the use of much butter, the flavors of the tomatoes and other vegetables were prominent. The bite of the grits, more rice like than others, was a pleasure. No, the dish wasn’t heavy with oils and cheeses and butter, but the flavors were so clean and fresh, it was an eye opener. I didn’t expect this at all.

As I finished off my shrimp and grits, I began to realize the nature of this restaurant and the cooking Chef Diana does. I don’t think they have butter in the back of the kitchen. I don’t think they know what lard is or what bacon fat tastes like. This is a good thing! Yeah, bacon fat and butter make everything taste good, but to make dishes shine with the actual ingredients, vegetables and all, that takes true skill. I was especially honored when Chef Diana came out of the kitchen to our table to say hi. A simple thing as just saying hi made Chef Diana truly knows how to make a healthy meal taste amazing.

All this good food ended with great desserts. We ordered warm sugared popovers and banana cream pie. The popovers had blueberries baked in. Atop sat a mound of lemon buttermilk ice cream which was hand made. The lemon from the ice cream and blueberries inside the popover worked perfectly together. The bready, cakey popover mixed in well with the ice cream to make each bite delicious. The banana cream pie was amazing — the brownie crust alone had me hooked. The cream and the crust was good in itself, but the addition of bananas and rub caramel made everything perfect. This was a perfect combo of desserts with completely different flavor profiles — it was a nice way to end the meal.

After doing some research on Chef Diana, I was surprised to see that she had a few spots on TV. Her ticotta blueberry pancakes were featured on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. (Yum! Gatta try those ASAP.) She also guessed starred on The Next Food Network Star. Finding out that she is famous, I was honored to have met and spoken to her at the restaurant. It was nice of her to leave the busy kitchen and converse with her guests. All in all, I felt lucky, special, and honored. BLD is an upscale restaurant without the stuffy prices and atmosphere. Their specials and dishes alike are all affordable and the dim atmosphere makes this a perfect date spot. I am definitely coming back for brunch, as they are known for it, and definitely coming back for those blueberry rocotta pancakes. Until then, Thank you Chef Diana for your great food and hospitality. I will see you on twitter!

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Sushi, especially sashimi is my favorite food.  Hands down.  Having the freshest fish, eaten raw is so delicious.  It is buttery, fatty, and dipped in some soy sauce and wasabi is such a perfect match.  Even sushi, rapped in rice is so convenient to eat and a perfect bite of food and flavor.  It is safe to say that I like my fish raw, not cooked. At Akasaka, I was pleased to find a quaint little Japanese restaurant.  They served up some awesome sushi, and it was packed too.  Odd, because you wouldn’t expect so many people in this unassuming location.  The cool part about this experience is that I took pictures with a DSLR, a first for my blog.  Hopefully, you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed the meal.

The Chirashi bowl is probably their most famous item on the menu.  Everyone was ordering this thing.  The Chirashi bowl a bowl sweet vinegar rice, topped with mounds of sashimi, fresh ginger, and wasabi.  Some of the fish include tuna, spicy tuna, salmon, albacore, and yellowtail.  The variety of goodness doesn’t stop at just fish.  It was also topped with masago, sweet shrimp, unagi, and even uni. This was a huge bowl, and is enough for two people to share.  The fish chunks were fresh and large and was perfect with the vinegary rice.  Dipping the fish in the soy sauce and wasabi, then eating the rice was a perfect combination.

The Rainbow roll was huge, so we ordered the half size.  Each roll couldn’t be eaten in one bite.  Well, I could try to fit the whole thing in my mouth, but I would look like a mad man. Though it was large, and full of raw fish, I didn’t like how they added a chunk of imitation crab inside.  You do order this for the size, not really the taste.

It was a great Japanese meal.  The fish was fresh and the interior really felt cramped, but in a good way.  The sushi bar area seemed fun and interesting.  Maybe next time, the bar is where I will be. Who knew this establishment would be next to nothing else.  Thanks to the internet and word of mouth, Akasaka has become popular.  Sushi is indeed one of my favorite things to eat, and the Chirashi bowl is what I’ll get.

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I don’t know whether it’s a myth or if it is true, but I ponder if cats actually like fish. You always see cartoons portraying cats with an appetite for goldfish, swimming helplessly in a goldfish bowl atop a small table. I always thought cats hated water. And don’t you see cats in the wild (lions, tigers..) munching on some antelope or zebra? When’s the last time you saw a cheeta hunting for salmon at the nearby river? Never. When I saw that The Hungry Cat specialized in seafood, I was a bit amused. Clever name I thought, but so not realistic! I kid of course, and I ultimately was excited to try this place. The freshest seafood creations made by chef David Lentz who knows his way around the kitchen? Great! Along with his wife Suzanne Goin, they own some of my favorite restaurants in LA. Lucques, AOC, and joining the list, The Hungry Cat.

Located in the courtyard at the Sunset and Vine building. It is kind of hard to find as it isn’t visible from the street. The inside was dark and intimate with a casual atmosphere. The white walls and sharp edges in design gave the interior a futuristic look. The open kitchen was an eye opener for me. It was cool to watch David Lentz and his crew make dish after dish. It was like the Food Network, live.

We started off with some oyster crackers. It was interesting. Not your ordinary bread and butter, but unique in its own way.

I only had raw sea urchin (uni) from sushi restaurants (pre-packaged), so naturally, having sea urchin straight from the body was a neat experience.  Difficult to eat, it was food you really had to dig for. Apart from the pieces of shell and spikes, the flavor was exceptional. The essesnce of the sea was embedded in each morsel of sea urchin. Sprinkling it with some sea salt, and a squeeze of the lemon made everything pop. I am a purest and eating the sea urchin without any other condiments is the way to go.

Their Lobster roll was one of the best I ever had. The lobster was packed on and the pieces were large. Perfectly cooked, it left the meat very tender and had a nice bite to it. The lobster mixed with the mayo and other seasonings were perfectly balanced. The celery gave it a nice crunch. The split rolls were nicely buttered and toasted on the side, leaving it crispy on the outside, warm and chewy on the inside. Though this was a delicious sandwich roll, I wish I could have tried their pub burger. Blue cheese, bacon, avocado, and a fried egg are some of many of the ingredients on the pub burger. I originally wanted to to The Hungry Cat for the pub burger, but felt like seafood that night. Ultimately, I was happy with my decision.

My house-made chorizo and braised clams was excellent. Not a fan of clams because of their rubberiness, I was skeptical about this dish. Mindful of not overcooking the clams, they were left tender and soft. The brother was definitely the star of this dish. Filled with shell beans and black kale, the broth was hearty. Mixed in with their house made chorizo, it was meaty, salty, savory, and full of robust flavor. Though the chorizo took away from the seafood essence of the dish, it fortified the broth to the point where it did not matter. This was all topped off with a grilled bread, quite possibly the best bread I ever had. Grilling the bread gave it a nice crust on it and gave it a complex flavor. Topped with aioli, the bread simply delicious.

The cuisine was nearly flawless. Everything tasted as expected — delicious. The atmosphere was great and the staff was on point. They were attentive and helped us choose the many items on the menu. By the name, The Hungry Cat you would expect some fine seafood, and that is what you get. After my awesome meal, I thanked David Lentz for the great meal, and left with a great seafood experience. I’ll be back to try the pub burger though.

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Laguna Beach is one of my favorite beach cities. The vibe there is fun and exciting, and you get a sense of history there. One of my favorite spots to grab a bite is at Nick’s Laguna Beach. The decor, menu, and vibe is all very new school among this classic beach city. Centered around the bar, Nick’s is definitely not just a restaurant, but a gastropub located right on South Coast HWY. If you are here for just drinks late at night, or lunch during the sunny day, you are at the right place.

These can possibly be the best deviled eggs I ever had. I know it’s not saying much, but it’s something. The filling had bits of crunchy onion, and was seasoned perfectly. Nothing about the taste was off or imbalanced. It was delicious all around. Frying deviled eggs was a brilliant idea. Eggs in general are soft and the filling is mushy. Frying the eggs, only the egg whites gave it that crunch it needed. Mixed with the creamy filling, it was a nice contrast in textures and taste — a perfect appetizer.

The fried asparagus was not one of my favorites. Yes, it was nicely cooked and the vegetable was fresh as ever, but the spears in itself weren’t special. The batter was very greasy and left my fingers too oily. Without the help of their home made ranch dressing, these wouldn’t have had a second chance.

Their blackened halibut sandwich is one of my favorite fish sandwiches — Imagine the Filet-o-Fish, but replace every ingredient with the best there is. This sandwich included crunchy cabbage slaw, carrots, greens, tomatoes, and fried onion strings. The brioche bun seemed like it was freshly baked and the house made tartar sauce made all the difference. The halibut was perfectly seasoned and meaty. Their fries were addicting, especially dipping it in their home made ranch dipping sauce. Yeah, though could have gone the easy route and just bought the ranch, but they make it themselves. It was a bit on the salty side, which is probably why I liked it so much. The difference was night and day. The thought of hoping it could be a juicy burger didn’t cross my mind once. This was a perfect sandwich and fries combination.

Nick’s is one of my go to spots when I am in Laguna Beach. Being one of my personal favorite beaches in Orange County, I am glad the food is reflective of the area. Fresh and delicious food in a city known for having a beautiful beach scene is what I am all about. What is more perfect than having a nice meal walking distance from the beach in the best weather anyone can ask for. This is the good life.

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Lucques – Studded With Awards, Good Enough For Two

by Franklin on February 10, 2012

It was fate. I hate to admit — I almost skipped my reservation at Lucques. I waited there in the car, right next to the restaurant. Having reservations at 5 PM, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to eat that early. The sun was still out! After much contemplation, I parked, and I went inside. I sure was happy that I did. Chef Suzanne Goin knows her way around the kitchen, and the food is a testament of those skills. Owner of some of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles, guest judge of Bravo’s Top Chef, and named California’s best chef of 2006 by the James Beard Foundation, I would have been a fool to turn her restaurant down.

Once I walked in, the interior was interesting. Once inside, you are warped into a place away from the Los Angeles hustle bustle. Having virtually no direct windows facing Melrose, the restaurant is very detached from the city. The quaint fireplace and seating area, to the brick walls, the restaurant was very comforting. Enjoying our Dine LA menu was simple and delicious. They didn’t even give us a hard time about sharing the prix fixe menu.

We started off with some awesome appetizers. The bread and butter was amazing, but the best part was the almonds and olives. Glistening with a coat of olive oil, the green olives were salty, but not too salty. The almonds were buttery and quite possibly the best almonds I ever had. Eating the bread with some sea salt and butter was a treat. If the complimentary items were this good, the dishes must be amazing is what I though. I was right.

The endive and schaner citrus salad was interesting. The endive were fresh and crunchy. The flavors of the green olives and green harissa made things pop and the wedges of citrus fruits gave everything fresh acidic taste. This would be perfect after a rich and fatty meal.

For the main course, we went with something we would never try normally. The pancetta-wrapped market fish was in both of our minds. It was served with parsnips, hazelnuts, and balsamic brussels sprouts. The trout was cooked nicely, not overcooked at all. Though it had a few bones, it had a nice mellow flavor and texture. The hazelnuts gave the dish a nice textural crunch as it turned the dish’s flavor a bit more complex. Brussels sprouts seem to be making a come back in dishes, and these were perfect in the balsamic reduced sauce. The panchetta, though lost in this dish as itself served to pronounce the flavors of the sauce and fish.

The bittersweet chocolate torta with mascarpone, hazelnut caramel and coffee ice cream was a great dessert. The chocolate torta was sort of like a cakey fudge, but not as dense. The coffee ice cream was superb, and quite possibly the best coffee ice cream I ever had. I felt they made it from scratch, from brewed coffee and all. A lot of effort went into this dessert, and I appreciated it very much.

As I was waiting at the bar area, I noticed a book called Sunday Supper at Lucques. Interestingly enough. I was having supper at Lucques on a Sunday evening. After appreciating my good meal, almost not having it, I knew it was fate. I was meant to eat here. Chef Goin did a good job, as she does at A.O.C., Tavern, The Hungry Cat, and others. I even read she used to be the executive chef of Campanile. With such a track record of successful restaurants in Los Angeles, it is no wonder that I had a great time at Lucques. If it weren’t for this, I probably would have just driven off, not knowing what I had missed.

The 17th Annual SAG Awards tasting menu was held at Lucques. An old video, but pretty cool to have eaten there not too long ago. Random video, but I thought I would share it with all of you.

Lucques on Urbanspoon

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Honda Ya Industry – Some Yakitori, Some Sashimi, And Everything In Bewtween

February 8, 2012

I feel like a lot of Japanese restaurants are all the same. Whether they serve sushi, bowls, noodles, or meats, the interior and feel of the restaurant seems similar. The greeting in Japanese, the Japanese accented props and posters all around the restaurants is all familiar, and comforting. Honda Ya doesn’t only have sushi and [...]

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Spago – Beverly Hills & Wolfgang Puck… & Something Amazing Happens

February 1, 2012

Spago is located in Beverly Hills, amongst some of the most expensive restaurants in Los Angeles — Spago is a local icon. More so, Wolfgang Puck is an even larger icon. As a kid, you always heard about Wolfgang Puck, Spago, and how wonderful of a chef he was. Wolfgang is a celebrity, possibly the [...]

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Yang Chow – Chinatown’s Very Own Madarin & Szechuan Cuisine

January 20, 2012

When Chinatown comes into a conversation, and the topic of lunch or dinner pops up, you can’t help but thing of Yang Chow. And when you think of Yang Chow, you can’t help but think of Slippery Shrimp. Chinatown can be a scary place to some, but smack dab in the middle of Chinatown on [...]

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Larchmont Bungalow – Red And Blue Velvet Takes The Pancake

November 28, 2011

I want to make it clear that I do not support this restaurant in any way.  I understand of their actions to the community and I am only blogging about the food.  To my understanding, Larchmont Bungalow is in a legal battle with the city.  Back in 2009, they agreed not to make it a [...]

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Mon Ami Gabi (Paris) – Everything Magical Comes To An End

November 17, 2011

Mon Ami Gabi, can easily be one of my favorite restaurants in Las Vegas.  It is centrally located in the middle of Vegas, a very important thing.  The atmosphere is nice — right outside your window you can enjoy your meal with the view of the Bellagio fountains.  I remember having dinner here with my [...]

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Lobster Me (Planet Hollywood) – Closest You’ll Get To The Ocean In Vegas

November 11, 2011

I was walking and talking, and shopping along at the Miracle Mile — no, not Wilshire, but in Las Vegas inside Planet Hollywood.  I came across Lobster Me.  Lobster, undoubtedly one of my favorite seafood, stopped me in my tracks.  Right then and there, I wanted lobster — I read Lobster Me, and I wanted [...]

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