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beef | DineDelish


Bella Cuba – Post-Shopping Meal

by Franklin on February 2, 2015

Sometimes, Cuban food just hits the spot. The classic Latino flavors and dishes of Bella Cuba just hit the mark. After a long day of shopping at South Coast Plaza, Bella Cuba was a good energizer. Their classic Cuban dishes were comforting. Nothing is more comforting that having meat and rice.

Bread and butter at its most basic. A nice touch, and something nobody wants to fill up on before dinner.

The roasted garlic chicken was a delicious classic. Not as good as Versailles in Los Angeles, but still a good dish. The black beans and rice went so well with the chicken. The chicken was a bit dry, but had great flavor from the acidic sauce and onions. You know that lemony sauce I am talking about. The thought of it makes my mouth water — perfect for the blank slate of a chicken. The sweet plantains balanced out the savory and sour of the fish nicely.

The ropa vieja was an interesting dish. The comfort of the stewed shredded beef (ropa vieja) and rice was a good combination. The garlic, onions, and peppers were fluorescent and gave the dish nice flavor. It was to me a bit boring and needed something more for the dish to shine. The plantains did a good job in breaking up the mundane savory beef.

I heard goo things of their tres leches cake and had to order one. Though I have had better, and though I prefer my tres leches cake to be very creamy and wet, the cake was a great dessert. From the acidic and savory chicken to the hearty beef and rice, the cake was a nice cool down. If you are expecting the best tres leches cake though, look elsewhere.

Bella Cuba was good but not great. The comforting meat and rice will always be a winner for me. South Coast Plaza, easily one of my favorite malls (if i were rich), has some good eats inside. If you are in the mood for something Cuban and a little in your price range, just go across the street.

Bella Cuba on Urbanspoon


This was the first time eating at one of Emril Lagasse’s restaurants. The celebrity chef that started it all is taking on the great American steakhouse in Las Vegas called Demonico Steakhouse. It is inside the Venetian, and the space is quite unassuming and not flashy at all. It is as classic as can be. The food was classically delicious and I had an amazing time. As far as Vegas goes, the space was kind of boring, but the food spoke for itself.

The bread and butter was quite nice. The rolls were normal butter rolls, but the bread was so soft and buttery. Adding on some more salted butter, the bread was a decadent butter fest.

The best cut of them all, the reason why we are all here, is for this cut of beef. The bone in ribeye was cooked perfectly. Steakhouses all may seem the same, but there are good steakhouses and then there are amazing ones. Delmonico’s was indeed amazing. The beef was fatty and cooked perfectly medium rare. The bone flavored the meat ever so perfectly. The herb butter on top melted all over the steak and just flavored it even more. This was a perfect steak.

The sauteed mushrooms was key and much appreciated with this steak. It gave it a nice earthy aroma and paired well with the meat. The buttery mushrooms were seasoned nicely — this was as close to “veggies” as we got for the night.

The grits were amazing and took place of my usual mac and cheese order. The bacon on top put these grits on a new level of savory. The butter mixed in with the grits was so pure and magical. It had a nice bite to it, and the saltiness from the bacon went well with the somewhat mildly seasoned steak.

I am a creamed corn lover. Though it wasn’t as good as those prime rib restaurants, the creamed corn was welcomed with the ribeye. The sweetness from the corn and the saltiness from the cheese all mixed up with cream was just so comforting.

Thinking about what we just ate, I realized it was just over the top with butter, beef, cream, and fat. This is what Vegas is all about. Over the top? Check! Indulgence? Check! Without a single green in sight, this meal was just a beef and cream and butter fest. Do I regret it? Not at all. I believe after this meal, we went for some desserts and then hit the Craps table. It was indeed a good night.

Delmonico Steakhouse on Urbanspoon


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


Mastro’s to me is just another steak house. Just like Fleming’s or Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris, Morton’s offers a very classic steak restaurant. Visiting Vegas, I made a decision I shouldn’t have made. Not to say that going to Matro’s Ocean Club inside the Shops At Crystals was a mistake or a bad experience. I just have a dining out rule when I’m in Vegas. “If there’s one in LA or OC, don’t go there.” Well, I broke my rule, but it was all for a birthday celebration. I figured, I probably won’t be going to Mastro’s anytime soon, so might as well. And the bird’s nest really attracted me. I was really happy with my decision for the most part.

We started things of with bread service. They offered pretzel, crouton, baguette, dinner roll, and wheat bread. The breadbasket had variety all were quite good. My favorite was the pretzel — it was soft and airy.

I had some of the Caesar salad to start. I needed some kind of greens to soak up all that meat juice. Their Caesar salad was near perfect. The dressing was nice and creamy. The addition of parmesan cheese and cracked pepper made everything better.

I was ready for the main event, the 22oz bone in rib eye. The rib eye is one of my favorite cuts because of the even fat marbling and soft texture. Mine was cooked perfectly medium rare, though a bit more on the rare side. This actually caused the meat to be a bit tough. This cut did have some nice fat running through the steak. This helped with the tenderness and mouth feel of the meat. Even though this wasn’t the best steak I have had, the help of the amazing sides made it all better.

The real reason I came here wasn’t the steak. Well it is, and it isn’t. The real reason I came here was for the lobster mashed potatoes. I mean. It is Mastro’s Ocean Club — Ocean, meaning seafood is in order. This side dish was rich as can be — full of butter. I believe the potato to butter ratio is near 1 to 1. With a whole lobster tail carefully chopped up and placed in a pool of butter, the potatoes were creamy and flavorful. The pure essence of the sea was encased in butter, and mixed with potatoes. Eating this with steak was pure bliss. The kid in me wanted to order the mac and cheese. made with gorgonzola, the flavor was very rich. Another cream heavy and dairy heavy dish, the mac and cheese was delicious. My favorite was the layer of melted cheese on top.

My favorite was dessert. We were celebrating a birthday, so they gave us a chocolate birthday cake. The cake was rich in chocolate and eating just a few bites was enough for me. The best thing about this dessert was their home made whipped cream. Served on the side in a bowl, the homemade whipped cream was so dense and fluffy. The cold cream and the chocolate cake was a perfect mixture. Honestly though, the whipped cream was the best thing ever. I wanted to take it all home.

Eating at Mastro’s Ocean Club was a great experience. The location is a bit awkward. As you are enjoying your expensive meal inside an amazingly architectured “bird’s nest,” you look out and you see people shopping. That is cool and all, but you can’t help but think you are inside of a mall — Well, you are inside of a mall, and this Mastro’s makes sure you know that. I couldn’t help but think I was at a very glorified food court at a mall. When I eat at a nice establishment, I want to feel secluded from the world. I just didn’t get the at from here. The food is great, though as far as steakhouses go in Las Vegas, you can do a lot better. I guess I can only break my rule once. Never eat at Las Vegas where you can at home.

Mastro's Ocean Club on Urbanspoon


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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It was a clear black night, a clear white moon. Warren G was on the streets, trying to consume. Some skirts for the eve, so I can get some funk. Just rollin’ in my ride, chillin’ all alone. That was some regulators action for you. I always feel like the OC can use some more gangster rap. Anyways, before you think I’m getting all randon, it really was a clear black late night, and I was trying to consume…some food. For some reason, no Del Taco run or even In-n-Out would have quenched my craving. I was feeling like a sit down — something like bar food, but better. I wanted something clean, yet greasy, and maybe a nice drink to go with it. A gastropub was the perfect solution for this late night craving. Haven Gastropub in Orange, I was headed.

For the drink, I probably chose the most girly “beer” there was. The Woodchuck hard cider was the drink of the night. It really did taste like hard cider with a hint of apples and cinamon. The alcohol was barely present, yet it was such an interesting drink. I don’t know how that decision was made, but it was late. I was tired, hungry, and excited at the same time. Alcoholic hard cider? Why not?

We started things off with the fried pig ears. It seems like almost all gastropubs are doing it these days. The cartilagey, disgusting pig ear was cut up thin, fried to a crisp and glazed with a tangerine and fresno chili glaze. The once soft flesh now was a sweet and crispy mound of deliciousness. It was crispy, crunchy, and chewy all at the same time. The sweetness of the glaze and the heat from the fresno chilies was a perfect balance. Though some might get turned off by the pig ears part, eatings these were a joy. Just think of it as fried pig skin, which it is, and you will be just fine.

Every gastropub has to have a great burger. If the burger sucks, the whole menu fails in because of it. I was happy to have the Haven Burger perfectly cooked with the perfect ingredients. My favorite was the pickled red onions. It played the role of the crunch as well as the acidity of the burger. Biting into the fatty meat, the pickling of the onions helped cleanse the grease. It seems like arugula is a must on all gourmet burgers, and I can see why. The earthy tones and the somewhat neutral, yet bitter taste of the wild arugula helps counter the richness of the dish. The cheese was my favorite — blue cheese. It wasn’t just any blue cheese — this was Saint Agur blue cheese, from France — the fancy stuff. I mean, blue cheese, arugula, and pickled onions on a burger? Thats a recipe for success. the patty was thick and succulent, the bread was a perfect choice

Have you ever had a salad and was like “Snap, this is freaking bomb!”? No? Me neither. Who eats salads anyways? Well, my burger came with a salad and i was bomb! Probably one of my favorite salads to date, not that I have a lot of salads to compare it to. The radicchio and frisee were bitter which was a perfect vessel to soak up all the truffle vinnagerrete. The pop of the cherry tomatoes and the chevre made a good combination. The chevre had an awesomely smooth texture that gave the salad a nice silkiness. My favorite in this salad was the twice smoked bacon lardons and the poached cage free egg on top. Who doesn’t like eggs and bacon, especially when the bacons are twice smoked lardons? The fatty salty bacon mixed with the creaminess of the chevre and acidity of the vinnegarrete made a perfect balance in flavors. This is the best salad I had in a while. And it sure has been a while.

The duck confit poutine pomme frites — a lot of gastropubs are doing it, and it seems like a simple dish to make, but I never had one that was amazing. I am a guy who likes the simplicity of just thick french fries dipped in brown gravy, like the ones from The Hat. The duck gravy in this dish was nice, but it was too thick, and didn’t taste like much of anything. The duck confit was nicely cooked, but some pieces of the meat were left overcooked and dry. The pomme frites were nice and crunchy, and salted to a perfection. I thnk if the gravy was more savory, it would have been a home run.

I love a good mac and cheese. The gooey factor alone can leave me feenin’ for this stuff after a bad day. I sure was happy to have ordered the mac and cheese here. The black truffles alone were a nice touch. It gave such a depth of flavor unattainable without it. A perfect mix of gruyere, fontina, and parmesan, interlaced between each noodle had perfect consistency and flavor. The crust of panko on top wasn’t my favorite, but nothing with panko really is. This dish of mac and cheese was good, but I felt like something was missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I felt it needed some kind of spiciness or textural difference. At the end of the day, it was a pretty standard bowl, saved by the little truffles that it did have.

My time at Haven Gastropub was awesome. The atmosphere was relaxing and fun, and having a drink, eating good food was just what I needed. Things that stood out the most was their selection in craft beers. I’m no beer officionato, but their beer list was unique and diverse — any beer lover would enjoy it here. Opening in 2009, Haven in Orange received some great accolades — OC Weekly named it the best new restaurant in 2009. Still a pup, the restaurant expanded to Pasadena as well. Whether you are in the OC or in LA, chillin’ with a beer and good food is covered.

Haven Gastropub on Urbanspoon


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


There comes a time when you just go all out.  Whether you are in the right mindset or not, you just go for it.  You don’t think about cost or consequences thereafter.  You just close your eyes and hope for the best.  With Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak at the MGM, I did just that. I knew it was way over my budget, but I just went with it. Maybe it was the Vegas air and wanted to live the Vegas dream of fine dining. It’s not like I won big at the craps tables. I just wanted to “do Vegas right” and dine like I never do.  It’s not everyday you get a meal with all of the fixings and trimmings — maybe when Christmas or Thanksgiving rolls around, but even then, nothing like this — nothing like having dish after dish after dish, all laid out in front of you. This indeed was something special. Expensive, but special.

Las Vegas is all about grandeur.  Excess of everything with a splash of flashiness is what everyone expects in Vegas.  Craftsteak, with the interior design and cuisine is a bit dialed down.  Some may see that as something negative, but this was executed with excellence.  The food and the design exuded a sense of humble refinement.  A kind of “my food doesn’t have to be extravagant” to be Las Vegas enough, kind of attitude.  Tom Colicchio’s menu is simple, and does it elegantly.

The bread and butter was served in a not so normal cast iron pan. The bread was soft and warm — the butter was delicious as it should.

Appetizer: The Lobster Bisque was near perfection. The way they did it was unique and interesting. The soup bowl had nothing inside expect spices and chunks of lobster. The waiter then poured in the hot bisque inside the bowl. The taste was amazingly delicious. Lobster chucks filled every spoonful. The bisque was rich and creamy and full of seafood flavor. The Lobster Bisque itself was well worth the experience.

Appetizer: The Itallian buffalo mozzarella with hazelnuts was mellow. Not robust in flavors, the taste was a bit subtle. The tomatoes and balsamic helped round out the flavors. The mozzarella was fresh as can be.

Appetizer: The Warm Frisee salad had some intense flavors going on — a great thing. It had a farm egg, smoked bacon, mustard seed, and blue cheese. The bacon and blue cheese were rich and fatty, and the mustard seed helped cleanse the palate. Intense tastes and bitter greens made this dish amazing.

Appetizer: Their Caesar salad was a bit bland. I dug the pickled anchovy though.

The Ribeye is one of my favorite cuts of steak. Mine was 16 oz, bone in, cooked to a medium rare. Perfectly cooked, I couldn’t ask for a better piece of meat. Each bite was perfect texturally, but I felt it lacked seasoning. Maybe the rich flavors of the appetizers killed my taste buds, but the Ribeye could have used some salt. Heck, this might be cheating, but I would have loved some blue cheese on the side. Translation: I love blue cheese.

Interestingly, the 22 oz T Bone had a better flavor for me — it must be the dry aging process. It had a rich beef flavor that was missing from the Ribeye. Still cooked perfectly, the meat was succulent and tender.

Side: The yukon potato puree was amazing. It was such a simple dish. It was rich with a lot of butter and cream. The taste was like no other. It was smooth and delicious and the chives on top gave it enough zest to keep me coming back for more.

Side: The assorted mushrooms were a perfect accompaniment to the meat. What’s better that meat and potatoes than adding mushrooms in the mix? They each had a different bite to it.

Side: Another potato other than the puree was the potatoes gratin. The potato slices were mixed in with a roasted garlic cream. The taste was perfect with the meat.

Dessert: I thought monkey bread pudding was a funny name for a dessert, but the taste was addicting. The bread was sweet and dense, kind of like a cinnamon bun. The rich caramel sauce with the bread pudding and ice cream all mixed well perfectly.

Dessert: I always see cactus pear sorbet on TV, and always wanted to try it. I was pleasantly surprised, and I fell in love with it. The taste was very mellow and not too sweet. The color of the sorbet was vibrant as was the flavors. The fruit slices, candied dates and dragon fruit were mediocre. My favorite fruit is the Asian pear — I like it because it has a nice bite to it with a lot of juice. The pear sliced wafer thin gave it no bite and not a lot a moisture. The dragon fruit was exotic, and taste was mild. None of this fruit mess. I am in Vegas — more Monkey Bread Pudding Please!

Dessert: The most decadent dessert was the chocolate moose. The chocolate in this was super chocolatey and dense. The vanilla ice cream was as pure as can be, but the peaches on the side didn’t excite me.

Tom Colicchio’s steakhouse was in the end, worth it.  Plate after plate, dish after dish, the food seamed endless.  The impeccable service and comfortable seating arrangements made this long endeavor a treat I will never forget.

Craftsteak on Urbanspoon


Fogo de Chão translate in Portuguese as “Fire Ground”. Such a fitting name when you are talking about meat cooked with direct fire. When you think of Brazilian BBQ, Churrascaria in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills to be exact, Fogo de Chao comes to mind. If you put endless quality meats together with Beverly Hills, you know its going to be expensive. Taking advantage of the Dine LA menu, you save nearly 20 bucks a person. Not only do you get to eat all the meat you want, but well, I guess that’s it. Bottom line, its a buffet, but nothing like the cheapy-deapy stuff. I tend do eat everything and anything that is served at buffets, so I had to strategize. Not a lot of carbs, just meat. You and your green on one side, red on the other coaster, and your meat. My coaster was on green for a while, meaning, bring on the meat! The servers made sure I had the cut of meat I wanted. Servers with swords came by and carved away at the perfectly cooked meats — think meat skewers for a T-Rex. I got lucky and always had the outer crust — that’s where all the flavor is. Green means go — I was ready to eat.

Speaking of strategy, the restaurant has their own game plan — get guests full on breads and carbs. As am appetizer, they serve some pão de queijo, the bread. Freshly baked and warm, they were so chewy and gooey in the middle with a nice milky flavor. You can easily eat too much of these and leave no room for the meat. Be careful. To add to this carbohydrage stomach filler, they give three sides — garlic mashed potatoes, crispy fried polenta, caramelized bananas. They even offer more sides of rice, beans, and forofa upon request. Wanting the meat, I forewent the extra sides. My favorite were the crispy polenta. It tasted like large sheets of french fries with a crunch like no other. The caramelized bananas were great in between meats — It helped keep the taste buds alive, going back and forth from savory to sweet. The sides were delicious and plenty, but I made sure not to over do it.

Brazilian Barbecue restaurants have a lot of signature meats. Bellow are some of the popular meats served:

Picanha: This is their Top Sirloin. The meat is very tender and lean with a nice fat layer encapsulating the meat.

Alcatra: This is also their Top Sirloin. This had a strong beef flavor, probably the most of the group.

Filet Mignon: Of course, this was one of my favorites. Not wrapped in bacon like other Churrascarias, this one was the purest and cleanest beef of the bunch. Though very lean, it was very juicy. It was the softest of them all and it melted in your mouth.

Ancho: This is the Rib Eye. One of my favorite cuts of beef, this was one of my favorites. It had a good balance of fat and meat. It was cooked perfectly.

Fraldinha: This is the Bottom Sirloin. The meat was tender as well but had more marbled fat within the meat. I liked this far more that the Picanha.

Cordeiro: This is the Lamb. I am not much of a lamb fan. They cooked it well enough to make it juicy and not so gamey.

Frango: This is the Chicken. On the bone, the flavor was clean and of the highest quality. It was cooked nicely with a tasty seasoning on the outside. It was a nice pair with the Linguica.

Linguica: This is the Sausage. It had a nice snap with the natural casing. The sausage was salty and not too fatty. It was perfect with the chicken.

Fogo’s salad bar was impressive as well. Ranging from vegetables, salads, cheeses, salumi, sauces, and more, they were perfect pairings with the meat. Some of the things that stood out were the endive, cheeses, and bacon. Yes, they had a whole bowl full of fried bacon. Any buffet with a large bowl full of bacon is fine by me. Another thumbs up for me was the whole Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese wheel. This was the real stuff, from Italy. It was great with the prosciutto and the meat. All of the vegetables and cheeses were great with the meat.

The Dine LA menu has changed since the past. Fogo was a few bucks cheaper and gave dessert at the end of the meal. Though the dessert was taken off the menu, it was still a great deal. The meat was amazingly tasty and generously seasoned. The sides and salad bar was fresh and good quality. When you dine at Fogo, you are eating like Kings. Thanks to Dine LA and Restaurant Week, I could do it for cheap(er). Any carnivore like myself can appreciate Brazilian BBQ, but at the end of the day, it’s a buffet, a mega chain that exists all over Brazil and United States. At the end of my meal, I got my money’s worth and felt I needed to take a shower. Covered in meat sweat and filled with grease, I was satisfied.

Carnivores 1 / Vegetarians 0

Fogo de Chão on Urbanspoon


Summer is birthday time. Most of the people I know, including myself have their birthdays in and around summer time. My birthday dinner? Mine was at L.A. Prime. After much debating and planning on where to go for my birthday, L.A. Prime was a nice fit. It was a steak house, and a carnivore like me would be happy here. It wasn’t one of those steak houses of all steak houses houses (STK, Mastros, Mortons). It was inside the Westin Bonaventure on the 35th floor, which meant the views were spectacular. Just the elevator ride alone to the 35th floor was memorable. I drive by this building almost every single day, and not once have I stepped foot inside. It was cool to see Figueroa from atop and realize, that is where I make a right turn. You notice a lot when you are up this high. I realized I am so blessed and lucky to live in a great city and to be able to eat great food.

We started off with their complimentary bread. The bread was plenty (they refilled it for us) and had a variety. They had a regular french bread, pretzel type bread, herb crisp, cheese bread, and a fruit and nut bread. On the side was butter an an olive tapenade. The bread was a nice start of the meal. My favorite was the pretzel type bread. It was soft and chewy, kind of like a bagel. It was nice to eat some fine bread and butter with a nice cup of sparkling mineral water, overlooking the city.

To go with our bread, we ordered the lobster bisque. Hearing that LA Prime had some awesome lobster bisque, it was a no brainer to order it. The seafood essence was totally overwhelming. The chunks of lobster were plenty, though the lobster flavor was a bit lacking. It looked and felt like lobster, but I couldn’t quite taste it. The creaminess helped a lot with the overall balance of the dish. More spices would have helped with the single noted flavor profile.

We were ready for the main course. The steak! I had my share of steaks, from all cuts of the bull. I am very particular about my steak. It has to be the right texture and have a nice flavor. We opted for the 22 oz. Bone in rib-eye. The steak itself was a nice cut of beef, but I did not like it. The steak was cooked to my liking, medium rare, but there was one huge factor that made me dislike this steak. It wasn’t necessarily burnt, but the steak’s outer crust had a char that was way too overpowering. It had a layer of soot and char, the whole steak didn’t taste like beef at all. It felt like steak, I bit and chewed it like steak, but the char on the outside made it taste very bitter and carbon like. I mean, good barbecue has a nice char-coaled, almost burnt to a crisp outside, but that gives flavor. This was was just all char without the flavor.

The sides were a different story. I am a sucker for mac and cheese, and theirs was decent. Though a bit watery, the noodles were cooked perfectly. It could have been more cheesy, but I can’t complain.

Their creamed corn was different than most, but still amazing. Other places, the creamed corn is more creamy, cheesy, and sweet. This was was more on the corn side as it had a nice crunch. It wasn’t quite creamy nor sweet — more like creamy corn than creamed corn. The creamy corn was a good condiment to the steak.

It was my birthday after all, so the restaurant treated me to a small dessert. This was an amazing treat. The chocolate moose was rich and fluffy, I almost thought it was a really moist cake. The chocolate decor was good to look at and delicious. I really felt special that night.

LA Prime at the Westin Bonaventure is a nice steakhouse. Though their food needs a little bit of a reform, the people who eat here aren’t here the “to die for” steaks and sides — they are here for the view. Yeah, I could have paid almost the same amount at a proper steakhouse, but I would have forgotten about it the next day. Everyone comes here for the amazing view of the city. Taking that elevator ride up, sitting down, looking at the city in the city during sunset, that is what we come here for. That is what I remember. It was a beautiful night, and a wonderful birthday.

L.A. Prime (Westin Bonaventure) on Urbanspoon


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!

BLD on Urbanspoon


Jazz Cat Cafe – Jammin’ Asian Style

by Franklin on March 11, 2012

The San Gabriel Valley has an over population of Asian cuisine. Anything you are in the mood for, or anything you can think of, it’s available for you. At the city of Industry, there is Jazz Cat Cafe. This is a shabu shabu restaurant that has great soup bases along with other popular side items. Coming here on two occasions, I came hungry. Ordering everything and anything my heart (stomach) desired, I had a feast.

The Japanese spicy wings were not spicy at all. They had a miso paste glaze over the wings that gave it a nice salty and earthy flavor. They were great appetizers.

I have tried many popcorn chicken in my day, and these were some of the best. The chicken pieces were huge. The outside was nicely seasoned and crisp. I would be happy with just this, rice, and a side of their Thai special sauce.

The fried shrimp was delicious. Fried whole with not a lot of batter, the outside was crispy and well seasoned. It was a bit salty, but good salty.

Now for the shabu shabu. I tried the spicy miso soup base and the kimchi soup base — I prefer the kimchi soup base. It has a cleaner taste to it. The miso soup base was too intense and thickened up too quickly as the water evaporated. They have something called the T-Rex portion where they give you more meat. The slices were great in quality and quantity. Mixed with all of the veggies and meat, it made for a great soup. Perfect on a cold day.

I also added golden fish nuggets. They were fish nuggets with some kind of filling inside. The taste was like no other, full of some kind of seafood mixture. I apologize for being vague. I really don’t know what it is made of, but it sure was tasty.

This is one of my regular spots. It sucks that the one in Alhambra closed down. At any rate, the atmosphere is very intimate and dark, almost high class. The food though, is very affordable — a great deal for the amount of food you are getting. Their soup base selection is plenty and their other non shabu shabu items are worth a try. As for the name Jazz Cat Cafe, I have no clue what that has to do with anything. I personally don’t care about anything but the food.

Jazz Cat Fusion Shabu on Urbanspoon


It’s not every day that I get the pleasure to eat Middle Eastern food, especially Persian. It was my brother’s birthday, and I wanted to treat my family to something they never really had before. The exotic cuisine was a success to say the least. It was fun eating family style at Raffi’s Place in Glendale. The place was really busy, but waiting for a table wasn’t a long wait. The interior was nice — when I say the interior, I mean the outside eating area. Most of the patrons eat outside, which was adorned with lights and trees. It is a fitting place to celebrate something special, or just to have nice a meal.

Not being a fan of lamb, I was hesitant in ordering the Rack Of Lamb. Surprisingly, it was one of the best meats there. It was a succulent rack of spring lamb marinated and charbroiled with bell pepper and onions. It didn’t have an ounce of dryness and was not gamey. The char on the meat was tasty. Soltani Kabob is a filet mignon and ground beef, skewered and charbroiled. It was a perfect beef for sharing. The Shish Kabob was marinated chunks of filet mignon, skewered and charbroiled with bell pepper and onion. The meat was perfectly cooked to a medium well. It was softer that I thought it would be. The Chicken Barg is their most popular item, and their cheapest option. It is skewered and charbroiled, and being a boneless breast of chicken means it is easy to eat.

The side dishes were perfect with the meat. The hummus was as good as it can be. It was cooked, mashed garbanzo beans, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. The eggplant was grilled eggplant with tomato sauce and garlic. It was an awesome side with the meat. It was zesty and flavorful. My favorite was the Yogurt And Cucumber with mixed herbs. Just dipping the flat bread with the hummus was delicious — even better with the meat

The flat bread they gave us was tasty and perfect for meat. It may be the Los Angeles in me, or maybe I am eating it right, but I would stuff the flat bread with meat and all the sauces and eat it like a taco. Each bite with the meat, yogurt sauce, and eggplant along with the hummus was amazing. Then I would take a few scoops of the basmati rice. It is so fluffy and delicious. Cutting up some roasted tomatoes and onions, every flavor was just a perfect mix of textures and taste.

We had to end this meat with dessert. We ordered the Chocolate Raspberry Gelato. It had chocolate gelato with a heart of raspberry sorbet all covered with cocoa powder. The cool thing was that the inside of the chocolate gelato was the raspberry sorbet. It was kind of a cool surprise.

Raffi’s Place is a sure thing. Located in Glendale, CA it is close to The Americana and Glendale Galleria. Inside and out, the place is somewhat classy and isn’t too expensive. The staff can be a bit inattentive, especially when it is busy, but the service is very quick when you do get their attention. I guess Middle Eastern food isn’t quite exotic to me. Make your taco fajitas? Meat and rice? That is an everyday kind of food for me. Their flavors are nice and the atmosphere is pleasant. Nothing more that I can ask for.

Raffi's Place on Urbanspoon


Houston’s (Irvine) – Ribs, Ribeye, And #1 Tuna

by Franklin on November 12, 2011

This may be one of my favorite restaurant chains.  Houston’s offers a home feel with a bit of class and sophistication.  It doesn’t try to be pretentious and is not image driven.  They let the food speak for itself. It is a step above Yard House, which is a large step above TGIFriday.  Though I didn’t really know what to expect, I was impressed with the food.

We ordered the spicy tuna roll salad.  On the menu, it said “inside out #1 tuna roll”.  We didn’t know what the whole #1 thing was about, so I asked the waitor.  Supposedly, that meant it was top grade tuna. The tuna was indeed fresh and wrapped with greens avacado.  I liked that the tuna was whole and not chopped up.  Well, why would anyone chop up #1 tuna anyways? The mango and lettuce salad was a nice touch. The ponzu sauce was delicious with it.  It looked too good to eat, but guess what — I did anyways.

The Hawaiian ribeye is a sure thing here.  I like my steaks rare, and they cooked mine perfectly.  It is marinated in a subtly sweet sauce and the then grilled over hardwood. The taste was amazing.  The sweetness was a nice change to a lot of steak I had in the past.  It was juicy and had a perfect fat to meat ratio.

The barbecue pork ribs were good as well.  It had a nice sauce which is important to any BBQ dish.  There was a lot of meat and flavor was definitely there, though a bit more meat would have been better — the ribs were kind of skimp. The best part of this dish was the cole slaw with parsley.  It was such a simple side dish, but it made all the difference.  The crunch from the cabbage and chew from the meat was a great combination.

Houson’s in Irvine was a great dinner.  The atmosphere was friendly and sophisticated at the same time. Food was perfect.  The price is a bit on the steep side, but you get what you pay for.  In hind sight, it was worth it.  I still dream about that ribeye.

Houston's on Urbanspoon

Houston's on Urbanspoon


Hae Jang Chon Korean BBQ – Wait Two Hours To Eat For Two Hours

October 24, 2011

Some days, you have to let loose.  Diets and counting calories don’t matter.  You shut down your hunger sensors and gorge in a all you can eat meat fest.  Koreatown has Korean BBQ restaurant at almost every corner.  One of my favorites is Hae Jang Chon on 6th Street. They offer some good quality meat […]

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Luna Park – Eat This, And That, And That…

October 13, 2011

Finding out about Luna Park, I always how I missed this place on such a busy intersection, Wilshire and La Brea.  I must have passed by this place hundreds of times and didn’t even notice it.  That is the beauty of restaurant week by Dine LA. It opens up your city with wonderful eateries that […]

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Bar Louie – Tots and a Flick

May 19, 2011

Bar Louie situated in Anaheim Garden Walk was an enjoyable time. Before our movie on the second floor, we wanted have a quick bite to eat (so that we won’t fill up on popcorn and candy).  What did we order?  Szechuan Wings, skirt steak, and tater tots. Everyone loves tater tots.  Eating theirs just reminded […]

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Barbecue My Meat!

March 13, 2011

In sunny Southern California, we have the pleasure of nice warm weather nearly everyday, at any time of day.  This calls for BBQs every Sunday and a relaxing time dining outside.  I had the pleasure to host a birthday BBQ dinner for a buddy of mine.  On the menu?  Meat, junk food, and beer of […]

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Home Cookin’

February 22, 2011

There is nothing better than a nice home cooked meal coming home after a hard days work.  And nothing is easier and more efficient than something cooking away in a Crock-Pot.  Place some seasoned meat into some broth.  Set it on low, and forget about it.  Go to work, go to the gym — do […]

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