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August, 2013 - DineDelish

August 2013

LA Times: The Taste 2013

by Franklin on August 28, 2013

Last weekend was the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival. This weekend is the Los Angeles Times food and wine event, The Taste. Check out last years event coverage here. This year, their event starts Friday, August 30th and ends on Sunday, September 1st. Join some of the greatest restaurants and see what they have to offer. Eat and drink some of the southland’s greatest wines they have to offer.

Check out the link below for event schedule and to purchase tickets.


See you there!!


Is it? Is it the best burger in Las Vegas? On the strip, you are definitely not going to find the best burger in Las Vegas. Trust me. I tried looking — this means I spent a lot of cash paying for subpar burgers. Luckily, just before you hit Vegas on the 15, exiting East Windmill Lane, you have Bachi Burger. The Asian inspired burger joint was showcased on Diners, Drive-In, and Dives, and I immediately made plans for a Vegas trip — I made it my first stop.

We started things off with the oxtail chili cheese fries. Most times, chili cheese fries or poutine has fries that are left soggy from the sauce. I liked how the fries were still intact and crisp. The ox tail was tender and was almost chili like — cooking for hours helped make it into a mush of things. The garlic aioli and fried egg made everything so creamy and smooth. I liked the edition of the cilantro. It gave the dish such a freshness and helped with the richness of the oxtail. With the help of the jalapenos which were quite spicy, the dish was complete.

Though the oxtail fries were good, we all came here for the burger. Morse specifically, I came here for the Ronin burger. This burger had angus beef, caramelized onions, jalapenos, coleslaw, miso goma dressing, fried egg, katsu bbq, and yuzu citrus aioli. I know that seems like a lot of ingredients, but all of the flavors worked. I am a firm believer that a good burger has to have gooey melted cheese or a strong cheese presence — cheese is always a must. I was surprised that this Asian inspired burger, with no cheese was so delicious. The beef patty was cooked perfectly medium rare with a nice crust and pink in the middle. The spicy jalapenos and the sweet bbq and citric aioli all bounced around and filled my mouth with flavor. If you were to get one burger at Bachi, this is the one to get.

Not feeling like another burger, we decided on the pork belly steamed buns. Filled with an irresistable duroc pork belly, the meat was cut thick. The skin and fat on the pork melted in your mouth and created such an unctuous flavor. The boiled egg added more richness to the steam bun. The cilantro, scallions, and radish helped balance the rich fatty pork belly. Interestingly, the chinese black vinegarrete and hoisin bbq sauce gave the salty and sweet flavor of the mini sandwich.

As a dessert, and to send us off in a proper manner, we ordered the malasadas. To me, the Portuguese fried donut balls were out of place. To go along with the Asian style burgers, they should have an Asian style dessert. To me, the fried donut balls were a bit stale and not “melt in your mouth” enough. With the help of the delicious coffee gelato though, the dessert was passable. I wouldn’t have minded if it were just the coffee gelato by itself.

Bachi Burger is a Las Vegas pit stop for sure. Next time, I will have to give the decadent Shogun Burger a try. That one has foie gras and is $25. Though not on the strip, it is a perfect spot to eat for lunch on the way in or on the way out of Las Vegas. Even if you want to kind of step away from the busy strip, it’s not far of a drive to go to Bachi Burger. The inside has all tables and no booths. You just find a seat, grab a beer, maybe a nice sake to compliment your burger, and have an awesome meal.

For those who are in Los Angeles, well, Bachi Burger is coming! It will be in West LA, on Sawtelle. Not quite sure when it will open, but I will keep an eye out for you.

Bachi Burger on Urbanspoon


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bestia on Urbanspoon


The best place to have breakfast is near the water. It is and has been a long time dream of mine to live near the water. I imagine waking up Saturday morning, walking or riding a bike with my family to our local cafe. The cafe wouldn’t necessarily over look the ocean, but it would be really close. The smell and the vibe of the ocean takes over and you have a relaxing breakfast. The cafe can’t be a Mecca either. No line. No hustle and bustle of waiters and patrons. Just a small cafe with no noise. After breakfast, a troll to the beach for a swim, and I am set. This to me is a perfect start to a Saturday morning. At Alta Coffee in Newport Beach, this dream felt close enough to reality.

I ordered the Bueno Bowl. It had layers with tortilla chips, black beans, potatoes, bacon, cheese, and scrambled egg. It was topped with salsa, and avocado and sour cream. This dish reminded me of Kamil’s Breakfast at Blu Jam Cafe, minus the pasta. The Mexican inspired bowl of breakfast items was a good balance of carb and protein. The bacon did a good job of flavoring everything, and the avocado did its job of bringing everything together. This was perfect with the help of their hot sauce, Gringo hot sauce. Surprisingly, it was a good mix of spices and had the right amount of tang. Props to the Gringo!

To keep up with the Hispanic theme, I ordered the South of the Border Omelette. The addition Ortega chilies, hominy, and jack / cheddar was an interesting mix. Garnished with salsa, sour cream and avocado to finish it off, the omelette was delicious and seemed healthier than most. The best part of this dish was the homemade toast with strawberry jam. Something about homemade bread is so comforting.

We finished things off with a dessert drink — toffee latte. Topped with whipped cream, chocolate, and toffee bits, the drink was sweet and hit the spot. The toffee bits were my favorite — I am sucker for anything that resembles caramel. The drink came in a mug that I would find at my own home. That kind of charm and character is hard to find nowadays.

Alta Coffee is just like in my dream. It is near the water, they serve awesome breakfast and great lattes. The weather was perfect, as was the food and service. I just felt like at home here. Too bad I had to get in my car, and drive really far to go home though. I guess the dream of waking up, walking toward the water and finding myself having the “regular” is a dream. The future is still far away — it’ll happen.

Alta Coffee & Roasting on Urbanspoon


The Spice Table was on my radar last year, and I was fortunate to have finally eaten here. Thanks to Dine LA, I had a chance to try a lot of their items. Bryant Ng, chef and owner of The Spice Table explores his Singaporean roots with traditional dishes. Arguably one of the best new restaurants in recent years, the restaurant has seen great success. Though I am totally late in the game, it was my turn to give The Spice Table a try.

We started things off with Kaya toast. It is a buttered toast filled with coconut jam. This is all dipped in a sauce made with slow a cooked egg, soy sauce, and white pepper. The mixture of the soy sauce and the nearly raw egg made a goop of sludge that went perfectly with the kaya toast. The sweetness of the coconut jam and the saltiness of the sauce came together harmoniously. At times, the soy sauce egg mixture was a bit salty, but that was due to my over dunking. This was a perfect start nonetheless.

Another starter was the peanuts & fried baby anchovies. The wok-fried peanuts were perfect texturally. Again, the soy sauce and spiced sugar made a perfect meld of flavors. The addition of baby anchovies gave the dish a nice accented salty and seafood flavor. The baby anchovies were actually my favorite part. I wish it had more of the anchovies and less of the peanuts.

To me, the grilled beef salad was refreshing. The hangar steak was good but didn’t have much. The addition of the watercress with onion and slightly picked cucumbers made the dish quite crisp and refreshing. The housemade shrimp chips were impressive. I liked that the vinaigrette was light and not over powering.

One of my favorites was the raw yellowtail. Being a fan of sashimi, it was naturally a best-of for me. The fish was fresh and so delicate. The mixture of scallions, sesame, and chilies came together to make an amazing flavor profile. My favorite addition to the dish was the fried ginger and fried shallots. The intense aromatics gave the delicate fish a great taste without overpowering it.

For the table, we shared the Laksa. It wasn’t on the Dine LA menu, but we still wanted to try it. The rice noodles inside were cooked perfectly. The soft yet doughy noodles were a perfect vessel for the flavorful spicy coconut seafood gravy. More of like a thick red curry, the thick sauce went perfectly with the noodles. Mixed in with laksa leaves, shrimp and the perfectly cooked egg, the dish was a complete success.

For me, the duck rice was comfort food for me. Anything consisting of rice with meat over it is comfort food. The ground duck mixed with mushrooms, Asian basil, and crackling was so simple and familiar. The bed of white rice was a perfect blank slate for all the other flavors to come through. The not too spicy peppers chopped up sealed the deal for me. It gave it enough heat and flavor to finish everything off.

The kon loh mee was a great noodle dish. The egg noodles were buoyant and reminded me of noodles in ramen. The mix of choy sum and green onions gave the dish nice color and flavor. With ground pork and rich pork belly char siu, the bowl of noodles was full of porky goodness. Eating everything with a touch of the chili sauce was perfect.

We ended the meal with their kaffir lime custard. With a lychee whipped cream on top, the dessert was tart and sweet. The tartness and acidic flavors helped cleanse all the spices and oily flavors in my mouth. I feel anything with lime or lemon helps neutralize all those Asian spices; perfect end with our meal at The Spice Table.

Bryant Ng has something special here in Little Tokyo. With a modern feel and the vision of bringing everyone together, the restaurant has a great balance of new and old. The food is classic dishes made so perfectly. Gathering here was a perfect idea. Sharing good times over food is my idea of coming together. The Spice Table does it right.

The Spice Table on Urbanspoon

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You got to love Las Vegas. As much as you can find the high end of things, you can equally find the lower end. When I say lower end, I don’t mean cheap as in quality — I am talking about bargains. Lost a lot of money on one of those rigged slot machines? Highly unlikely. Nobody in their 70’s reads my blog. You probably lost money on the Black Jack tables — maybe in a rough game of Hold’em? Either way, just because you lost al of your money, doesn’t mean you can eat like you won big. Ellis Island Casino and Brewery is a small casino just barely off the strip on Koval Lane. The casino isn’t much, but the restaurant and brewery inside is another story. Filled with cheap, yet quality food and beer, it is a Vegas-er’s must for those on a tight budget.

I had the king cut prime rib. With a side of green beans and baked potato, the dish was a great balance of protein, carb, and greens. The prime rib was bloody red and fatty. This made for a juicy cut of beef and made me happy. With the fat running down the middle and the side of ajus, this was definately a juicy everything. Topping it all off with their horseradish made everything perfect. The name “King Cut” suggests that this was a uber thick cut — it wasn’t. I mean, it’s no Diamond Jim Brady Cut from Lawry’s. Don’t get me wrong, it was still pretty thick. At then end of it all, it was a large piece of meat that had a lot of flavor. For the ridiculous price of something like $12. Considering the price, I’d say the prime rib was pretty dang thick. Just get two and you have your thicker than thick prime rib right there, for 24 bucks! Did I mention the prime rib comes with a beer? I opted for something light — the Hefe Weiss ale was perfect. What more can I ask for than a huge prime rib and beer?

Ellis Island Casino and Brewery also has steak and eggs on the cheap too. For 6 bucks, you get an 8oz new york strip steak, eggs, toast, and your side of potato. The home fries were great with the eggs and toast, but the steak was the star. Of course, a lot less juicy than the prime rib, this was a true steak nonetheless. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, the lean cut of beef was at its purest. Did I dare ask for some A-1 sauce? I don’t care what you say, that stuff is liquid gold. Not like we are at a fancy shmancy place. But really, for 6 bucks you get all this? Only in Vegas.

I guess you can lose all your money in Vegas and still come out on top. Imagine if this same establishment, minus the casino came to Los Angeles, That would be nut! The same thing at a Denny’s or Sizzler would be double the price. You just can’t have this anywhere else but in Las Vegas. Ellis Island Casino as a casino is pretty run down. If you don’t want to play bingo here, you can always play online. I don’t really play bingo. I’m not my mother-in-law, you know, but when I’m in the mood and to find the best bingo sites, I use ballsupbingo.com. All in all though, the food and the beer was excellent. Just lose everything on black, but keep $20. Restaurants on the strip is most likely not worth it anyways.

Ellis Island Brewery on Urbanspoon


Like most good restaurants, Din Tai Fung has humble beginnings. In 1958, Bingyi Yang and his wife, workers of a former oil company decided to start their own oil business. After much hardships and trying to make their business grow, they expanded in the 1980s by selling steamed dumplings. Word got out of their delicious dumplings and gained popularity. They soon stopped selling oil and became a full fledged restaurant. Today, Din Tai Fung is an international legend. On March of 2000, they opened up their first Din Tai Fung in California. From then, they opened multiple restaurants around the world, including Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, Japan, among others. To me, Din Tai Fung in Arcadia was a place to go for the best Xiao Long Bao — juicy pork dumplings. There always is a wait, unless you get there really early. My wait this time was only about 15 minutes. Score!

First and foremost, we started off with the juicy pork dumplings (XLB). The reason why DTF XLB is superior to others’ is because of the quality and taste. The soup inside is quite perfect. It has the perfect amount of saltiness and pork flavor is unmatched. Not only is the soup good, but the skin does a great job holding everything in. It doesn’t rip or break, and to me, this is the most important factor why the DTF XLB is the best. The worst is when steamed dumplings have a wet bottom due to the steaming process. I love how the ones at DTF are dry all around, yet filled with an amazing soup inside. They are perfect in every way. All other XLB does, and will get compared to the ones at DTF.

We also had to try the shui mai. Being one of my dim sum favorites, I ordered this just to see if it far superior to other shui mai. Also, the presentation with the shrimp on top was spectacular. The flavor was good, and the skin was better than most. After one though, I was already sick of it. I kept finding myself going back to the XLB.

I am an avid fan of beef noodle soup. I wanted to find something that was just as good as the XLB. Though the noodles in the beef noodle soup were good, the broth wasn’t exceptional. It was more oily than it should and the depth of flavor was just not there. My favorite place to get beef noodle soup is still Ding’s Garden in Rowland Heights.

With all this meat, we decided to get a vegetable dish. The green beans were really good, considering they were vegetables. Yuck! All kidding aside, they were snappy, crisp, and tasted really fresh. It wasn’t too oily, and the pure taste of the green beans really shined through.

After our meal, I ordered a taro bun and red bean bun to-go. I did find these quite nice. The mellow flavor of the bun and subtle sweetness of the bean was great. This would have been perfect with a honey green tea from Ten Ren. Of the two though, I think I liked the red bean the best. As a Korean, the red bean just spoke to me more.

Eating at DTF is always a good time. The XLB is a must. Honestly, I do feel at times DTF is a one trick pony. Not to say that their other food items suck, but that the XLB is that superior. Everything is made from scratch and the attention to detail is of most importance. With a rich history and a passion for good food and superior service makes DTF stand out from the rest.

Din Tai Fung ??? Branch 1 on Urbanspoon


La Grande Orange Cafe – Bacon Optional

by Franklin on August 1, 2013

It was a Monday night. I wasn’t in the mood for anything loud or crazy. I wanted something mellow and quiet. My old age has brought me to La Grande Orange Cafe in Pasadena — a somewhat under the radar, though not a hole in the wall restaurant, that is a bit on the boring side. The inside was interesting though. It had different rooms with different themes. Adjacent to the restaurant is the Metro Gold Line, Del Mar Station and some luxury apartments. The area certainly isn’t Old Town Pasadena. It’s quiet, a bit boring, and kind of nice.

The shredded kale and quinoa salad was refreshing and packed with nutrients. The crunch from the sunflower seeds was appreciated. Sweetness from the flame grapes and citrus from lemon was a nice combo. With a fresh shaving of parmesan, the salad was rich and flavorful, with a nice summer zest. Kale is slowing becoming my new favorite green.

Last year, brussel sprouts have been getting popular. Never having it in a salad, the Brussels sprouts salad was new and exciting to me. Manchego being one of my favorite cheese, the shaved aged manchego was the best thing for me. The sweet dried berries and smoked almonds were a great balance for this dish. The honey mustard vinaigrette was good, considering I am not a fan of sweet dressing; fortunately, it wasn’t swimming in dressing. Bacon on the salad was optional — I just laughed at that statement.

La Grande Orange Cafe is known for the deviled eggs. In hind sight, I should have just ordered it from the DineLA menu. These little bites were perfect. It had a great velvety texture with the right amount of spice and zing. A little drizzle of oil or something could have made them less dry though. Again, bacon was optional, and again, I chuckled.

It was a Monday, and my fiancé wanted a drink. Yes, we are making “its a Monday” as an excuse to drink. She ordered the white sangria, and it was refreshing — better than I expected. Though a girly drink, it was strong enough to enjoy and well, fruity enough to enjoy. The fresh peach was refreshing and cool.

I ordered the wood fire rotisserie chicken. Though kind of boring, the heirloom cannellini beans were a nice touch. The half chicken was a lot of protein to take in, especially the dry breast — dark meat was juicy and well seasoned. The fresh green beans had a nice crunch. A very “safe” dish, but still delicious.

I saw Prime Rib on the menu and had to take advantage. The prime rib was cooked nicely medium rare, though a bit on the rare side. Any less time in the oven, it would have been near raw beef. The mashed potatoes were a bit bland and boring, but the horse radish made everything lively. The green beans brought everything together.

I liked the olive oil cake. It had a very light, yet dense texture, in between a cake and a bread. The mild flavor mixed with the strawberry and vanilla sorbet was a good mix.

The red velvet cake was awesome. The multilayer of cake was nice to look at and fun to eat. Breaking off layer by layer, each cake and frosting mixture was pleasant. The vanilla ice cream was a nice touch. I mean, who doesn’t like cake and ice cream?

La Grande Orange Cafe was an interesting experience. Culinarily, it isn’t as exciting as most restaurants are. In fact, the restaurant is a bit boring. From the food, to the decor, and the wait service, nothing got me excited for anything. It was a Monday night, DineLA was going on, and we just wanted a quiet night together in Pasadena. The food was plenty and everything tasted as it should. The classic styling and menu will never go out of style.

La Grande Orange Café on Urbanspoon

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