dine

Kogi BBQ – Gourmet Food Truck Pioneer

by Franklin on March 29, 2011

Food trucks are a dime a dozen these days. Los Angeles has the most food trucks and the most unique ones. It all started with the Kogi Truck. Chef Roy Choi along with other founders started this food truck. Their over 80,000 loyal twitter followers track their every move (@kogibbq). Currently, they operate 4 trucks (Azul, Verde, Naranja, Roja) — these trucks go all over Los Angeles and Orange County. They even have a kitchen at Alibi Room in Culver City.  It is obvious that they are the reasons behind the food truck boom in Los Angeles.

Their menu is unique in that they mix traditional Korean meats and dishes with Mexican ingredients.  They have short rib tacos and burritos, kimchi quesadillas, and other specialty eats.  I had the pleasure of eating at this truck many times, and they never disappoint.

The tacos and burritos come with choice of meat. The meat is so tasty from the marinate, that your mouth waters from every chew.  Then they put an Asian slaw on top that compliments the meat very well.  The slaw is a bit sour from the vinegar, and has some heat to it — they also add a sauce on top that brings the whole dish together.  One bite, and all those ingredients meld into one big complex array of flavors in your mouth.

For one of their specialty orders, the Blackjack Quesadilla has choice of marinated meat and cheese inside a flour tortilla.  Then they add a zesty sauce over.  At first, you may think that eating Korean food with cheese might be a bit weird  — try this and you will think differently.

At the end of the day, it’s just Korean meats on top of corn/flour tortilla.  That may be true, but the way chef Roy prepares his meats and ingredients is one of a kind.  One has to be a genius to think of food this way.  As a Korean American, and a lover of Mexican food, eating Kogi truck is definitely Delish.

Kogi Korean BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Louie’s Pizza and Pasta (Universal Studios)

by Franklin on February 27, 2011

I am not a fan of dining at theme parks.  They are usually over priced and uninspired, for obvious reasons.  I may have been hungry and tired from all the walking, but something about Louie’s Pizza and Pasta at Universal Studios struck me as something really tasty.

This post will be only on the pizza.  Something about this pizza makes me think about it every time I remember Universal Studios.  It may have been the stringy cheese off of each slice, or maybe the over-sized pepperoni.  Whatever it was, it was good.  The slices were so big, I had to fold it in half (and it was still too big).  As all the grease from the pepperoni dripped down the center, each bite was not a reminder that I was eating lunch at a theme park.  The pizza was thin, (which I like), and the dough was perfect.

Let me tell you something about pizza dough.  There is good pizza dough and there is bad pizza dough.  Pizza dough should be crispy and firm on the crust part, but the center should be nice and chewy.  It should remind you something of a soft bagel.  Mix that in with some fresh zesty sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese and pepperoni, and you got yourself a perfectly good pizza.  Louie’s Pizza and Pasta may be some ordinary pizza place at some theme park, but something about that pizza has me coming back for more.

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Earthen Restaurant – Down to Earth Chinese Cuisine

by Franklin on February 24, 2011

Los Angeles is full of Chinese restaurants.  You got your bottom of the barrel $1.99 combo plate in Chinatown.  You also got your “broke after dinner” places like Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills.  Regardless, Chinese food is good.  It’s salty and oily (usually a good indication of something yummy.  Earthen Restaurant located in Hacienda Heights, CA is the best of both worlds. Their menu has all of the making as the bottom of the barrel(ers), but does it in a clean and refined manner.

We started off with the green onion pancakes.  They were not too oily — crispy on the outside, nice and chewy on the inside.  Putting some hot sauce or soy sauce on it made it a pretty good appetizer.  For our main dish, we had the seafood noodle dish and the kung pao shrimp.  The noodles had a bunch of different kinds of seafood on it — it almost had more seafood and toppings than noodles.  The best part was the kung pao shrimp.  Shrimp is perfectly delicious when it is not over cooked, and the chefs at Earthen know how to cook.  It was a little spicy and savory and it was perfect with some white rice.

Our experience here was very pleasant.  Next time, we will have to try something non-seafood.  I hear good things about their house chicken and pot stickers.  Be on the look out for that post.

Earthen Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Home Cookin’

by Franklin on 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 whatever you need to do, because that thing will cook for you all the while you are doing your own thing.  My girlfriend loves her Crock-Pot, and I’m glad that she does because anything she makes in there is delicious.

As I entered the room, the aroma of cooked food was just intoxicating.  Immediately I knew it was dinner time.  The table, all set out with home cooked goodness made my eyes and stomach open for business.  Home made chili and beans, steamed veggies, and brown rice.  As for what was in the Crock-Pot?  Ox tail with onion.  Only two ingredients mixed in with some secret spices I don’t know about, and I was in food heaven.

Anything cooked for hours and hours will always be good.  The meat fell off the bone and was so tender and juicy — it was seasoned perfectly.  Believe it or not, the best part were the onions.  Cutting the onions only in halves was genius.  It was mushy (in a good way) and flavorful — the sweetness of the onions complimented the ox tail very nicely.

The Crock-Pot is an amazing cooking device.  It saves time.  It cooks frozen food nicely.  Most importantly, it comes out delicious!

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Berkeley Dog – Casual Gourmet Hot Dogs

by Franklin on February 21, 2011

The hot dog is snack food.  Something about the hot dog is satisfying.  In LA, it’s all about the bacon wrapped hot dogs.  Its fast, its easy, and its somewhat filling.  The hot dog is well known as “mystery meat” — it’s street food.   In Orange County (Brea, CA), they do it a bit differently.  Berkeley Dog in Downtown Brea, it’s a classier approach to the hot dog — it’s gourmet.

I know gourmet and hot dog is hard to use in the same sentence.  I’m the type of guy who will eat a Costco hot dog and say “Wow, this is my favorite hot dog”.  What can I say, I’m a simple man.  With that said, Berkeley Dog’s approach to the gourmet hot dog is refreshing and delicious.  They offer up many variations of the hot dog.  They not only have different toppings, but also have different kinds of sausages.  One look at the menu, and you realize that you won’t be eating an everyday hot dog here.

We tried the bacon hash dog and Philly cheese steak sandwich.  The hot dog was good but I wish the the potato strips were seasoned more (I should have taken advantage of the condiments station.).  The whole hot dog sandwich was kind of bland (I should have ordered one of their other sausages.).  Also, instead of actual strips of bacon, it was tiny bacon bits (real bacon of course).  It would have been nice to have a full strip of bacon, or even wrapped like they do in L.A.    As for the Philly cheese steak, it was flavorful and the cheese was melted nicely.  I’m a sucker for melted cheese.  It was impressive that they were able to do a Philly cheese steak sandwich right considering its a hot dog joint.  All in all, it was a great experience.  Next time, I will have to order some of the regular Berkeley dogs.

The bread they use aren’t regular hot dog bun we are all familiar with — they place each sausage on artisan  bread which gives it substance.  I think this is what sets them apart from other hot dog establishments.  Next time, I will try their sides and definitely get a different hot dog sausage.  It was a mistake to get a regular hot dog at a place where they have various types of sausages.  Until then, I guess I am stuck with Costco hot dogs.

Berkeley Dog on Urbanspoon

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Pizza Dreams Come True

by Franklin on February 10, 2011

Making my own pizza was a dream of mine ever since I was a little kid.  It could be how the cooks twirl the pizza dough around in the sky, or maybe the endless amount of toppings this food can hold.  Whatever the reason is, I got to build my own pizza and my dreams finally came true!

I am a bit disappointed at myself.  I had nothing but the highest quality of ingredients.

Fresh basil?  Check. 

Fresh Mozzarella?  Check.

Good quality prosciutto?  Check!

Scratch made pizza dough???.. No comment.

Yes folks.  I am guilty.  I bought the pre-made pizza dough from the market.  Some may say that I am a cop out.  A true chef would make their own pizza dough right?  Well, if you knew the process for making fresh pizza dough, you wouldn’t blame me.  My new adult dream now is to make my own pizza dough…from scratch!

Nonetheless, I was excited to make my first pizza.  I gathered my dough, cheese, veggie, and meat.  I first drizzled the dough with some good olive oil (cold pressed always).  I added some chopped garlic to the top of the dough.  Then I cut up some slices of fresh mozzarella and put that on top.  I spread out some prosciutto over evenly, and then sprinkled some chopped basil over.  I then sprinkled some salt and pepper and put it in the oven.  At 450 degrees, the pizza took only about 12 minutes.

The verdict?  It could be better.  I won’t lie.  It would have been the perfect pizza if the dough was scratch made.  The dough was just not good; it killed the dish.  Although, the combination of the herby basil with the saltiness of the prosciutto and the creaminess of the fresh mozzarella was very tasty.  I even snacked on them by themselves and it was better than the pizza itself.  I guess it was foolish to have gotten such great ingredients and use them on such a sad sad pizza dough.  Next time around, I will fulfill my new aforementioned dream; I will attempt to make my own pizza dough from scratch.

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Happy Chinese New Year!

by Franklin on February 9, 2011

Phoenix Dragon

Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later.  I had the pleasure to experience the celebration first hand.  As me and my girlfriend were sitting at Phoenix Food Boutique in Monterey Park, we were bombarded with loud drums and dragons.  They walked into the restaurant, into the kitchen, and started dancing to the music.  The whole experience was pretty amazing.  I felt like I was in the middle of a Chinese new year festival.

I had the pleasure of having dessert here.  From the looks of it, this place seems more ideal for dessert instead of having an actual meal here.  They have assortments of cookies and pastry looking things that were all new to me.  One thing that really stood out was the fruit tapioca drink.  They put a mixture of watermelons, mangoes, strawberries, and other fruits into cold milk.  Then they add tapioca balls.  The whole mixture is amazing.  It is not too sweet, not too fruity.  It is perfectly refreshing in every way.  I also tried their pecan cookie pies.  I call them cookie pies because its not quite a pie, and its not quite a cookie.  At any rate, there are a lot of different things I want to try next time I get a chance to come to Phoenix again.  There are various locations in the San Gabriel Valley;  Monterey Park, Alhambra, and Rowling Heights are some of the cities where you can find this place.

I normally would not post something that is a chain, but just the amazing experience I had here compelled me to post on Phoenix.  If you are in the area, definitely check them out.  Try a few new desserts.  I will soon come again and try the durian dessert.  Be on the look out for that post.

Check out this quick video I took of the Chinese New Year dragon inside the restaurant below.

Phoenix Dessert on Urbanspoon

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