Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pei Wei My Way

Pei Wei

I have long enjoyed Pei Wei's inexpensive cups of thai won ton soup at the Las Vegas airport. Priced at $3, these cups are hard to beat. Their flavoring of the soup is dead on, they always serve it with some fresh green onions on top, and they give a hearty serving of wontons I've found.

Priced outside the airport, you can get a cup for over a dollar, and a bowl for under $4 at Pei Wei. Their restaurant design is sleek and clean on the interior. Almost like a chipotle - meets gastropub - meets pf changs.

Tonight I ventured out into the world of normal Pei Wei fare. I tried the dan dan noodles with chicken. The noodles were different then I had imagined. They had a thick soy-based sauce on them. They came with crumbled up chicken sprinkled on top. Cucumber was topped to the side of one side of the dish and sprouts to the other.

Given the amount of sauce they piled on, I would not order it again. However, if I could instruct the chefs to halve the amount or put it on the side, then I may try another of their noodle bowls.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sugar Feesh

Sugarfish by Nozawa

Jiwo dreamed of sushi and we dreamed of Jiwo's sushi. After watching Jiwo Dreams of Sushi we felt compelled to go get sushi. But not just any sushi. We wanted the clean prepped, mimalist, knock-your-socks-off-tasting sushi.

And we went to sugarfish marina del ray. I ordered one taste creation of their "trust me" along with the special of the day - a scallop dish.

The food was indescribably good. It came out ordered item after item, and we received anywhere from two or more of a given item with sauces (two of several sushis, two hand rolls, edamame, and sashimi). It was a taste treat! Everything was very fresh and flavorful - we needed little-to-no soy sauce to enjoy our meal. The fish went along with the decor and was prepared in a clean, minimalist style. The taste of the various fishes was the highlight of the show.

The place was remarkably busy. Lots of people fit into a small area. It was well-calculated. We got there at 5pm and by 6pm they were at capacity. Many people came in to do take out while we sat and were served.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant for "date night." Anyone looking to share a "trust me" would be well to split it. It's a beautiful array of items and should leave both parties full.

Who is Nozawa anyway?

If I had to personify the food served at this restaurant, I would describe it as shaved head, no facial hair, mute, warrior-of-a-brain bedazzler. Someone who delights from the inside. That's sugarfish. :)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Craft House cheers with local beer tastes

Craft House

I arrived at Craft House at 6:05pm on a rainy Friday. The place was packed! It was standing room only, with one table open. Perfect for me and my three friends wanting a meal!

Our waitress was very pleasant, and she was super knowledgeable about the beers, having tried many of them. She also knew what was what in terms of flight offerings.

 We came in thinking pumpkin beer would be on draft and that the selection would be ample (since they have 40 beers there). Unfortunately there was only one pumpkin ale on the menu. It was from Cumberland Brewing Company and hinged more on bitter notes than sweet swaths of pumpkin spice notes that most pumpkin ales lean on.

I ended up getting a honey blonde ale that turned out to be darker than I expected but was a wonderful buy. It lasted me through my meal. My friends got cougar bait and that pumpkin beer, respectively. The menu of 40 draft beers included only local area beers (Kentucky, Indiana). A pleasantry to see!

I think the vibe of this place is just right – it’s dark, lots of lights shine everything from a list of the beers onto the wall to scenes of Louisville and abstract designs onto another wall. It retains some of the feel of “dark star” tavern with the booths that line the right wall.

As we waited for our food, our neighbor’s special of the day, which was a rib-eye with wine sauce, wafted over. It smelled incredible!

My friends warned me not to get the cheese curds appetizer – too rich. In hindsight I wish we had gotten them. The more cheese, and the more pimento cheese in particular, in life, the better. Instead, we shared the mac n cheese as an appetizer. It’s a stove-top made creation with some panko baked on top. Nothing to write home about – it’s wet, and has a good crunch. But low on flavor and cheese. Me and another decided it wasn’t worth it (granted I make an incredible mac n cheese! – I’ll have to do a post for that on my other blog -

I’ve decided to try a new thing in my blog. I’ve decided to describe a person at the restaurant I review in the vane of the food that I ate and saw there. So here it goes…

Chip was 42. He looked like he wanted to come there alone, but being with his wife made him appear happy. So there he was. He had dressed as if he was from a hipper crowd. The fleece and slightly-more-sophisticated-than-polo dress top made him unique. His colors didn’t. Soft blue tones did little to set him apart from the other polos of the hour.

He even wore a barre. The barre suggested he had more going on in his head than there actually was. And his mustache! His mustache dripped down towards the floor. This made him real. You could find figments of lunch, or yesterday’s beer crawled into a crevice of his often-trimmed horseshoe. Oh yes. A mustache was him.    

So from these two paragraphs… what did I eat? “Foie gras?” you ask. Steak et frites?
My main dish was a grilled turkey panini with tomatoes, pimento cheese, bacon, and parmesan aioli. It was good – especially the turkey. Fresh cut and flavorful, but not too dry. The bacon was a little bit overkill on the umami front. My dish came with a side salad that looked as if dandelion shavings from the street blew onto my plate. There were very few leaves in my “spring mix.”

My friends all got salad. How lame and unfulfilling! (Just kidding!) A panzanella salad to my left and a quinoa salad to my right. Both salads came with abundant toppings and were gorgeous. The panzanella had plump olives of all kinds and large croutons sitting on top. The quinoa had sliced beets (my favorite!), pecans, and goat cheese.  Also, my friends shared a mushroom reuben on rye bread. They couldn’t talk enough about the bread! However, my friend left off a lot of her meat (perhaps too much was piled on… it looked kinda like mystery meat!).The menu items were all reasonably priced (~$10).

Our waitress disappeared for a few when it came time for the bill.

As we left this busy, soaking, trolley hop Friday seen at 7, the place was packed. Lots of people drinking and waiting, but mostly older folks and bros. It became too loud to talk and we were glad to finally climb outside again.

Oh, and it should be called Craft Haus. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Schmeckt es gut, Wurstkueche?

Eating auf Deutsch is always a pleasure. When I was in Germany three years ago, I enjoyed many tasty delights, none of which were brat or brotwurst, as they say ("brot" is german for bread, so this "wurst" is intended to be eaten on bread!). I had salads, Italian, Italian, Italian, and wonderful cheese, fruit, and meat resto bars. The food was fresh and zingy - I can remember the site of white asparagus fields south of Frankfurt.

So when I walked into Wurstkueche in Los Angeles, I expected nothing short of the very best wunder-brotwursts they could find. Beer, truffle fries, dipping sauces--I accompanied my meal with the proper fixins' and got down to business.

I had heard such wonderful reviews of the place from Americans and Germans alike. Everyone always asks: "oh, have you been to wurstkuche yet? Well, if you love hotdogs, then this is the place for you!" So yeah, it was a signed deal. I had to try it out.

I ordered the austin blues dog. It's a mix of pork and multiple peppers, which I thought I'd adore, topped with more peppers and onions. What's not to like? Well, it tasted like any other hot dog. Let me list my complaints.

1) Don't call it spicy and have it not require water. I'm tired of going to restaurants, asking for something spicy, and have it sizzle in at a 4.5. If it's not seriously spicy, don't pretend to warn me about it.

2) Don't overdo the fluff. What's all the hub-bub? If you can make nice fries, select wonderful beers, and produce an average dog, no thanks. Let me be. It wasn't overpriced, but if I can get a better product at a gas station in the midwest, I'm going to walk away.

I walked away disappointed. Was it too American? Was I too American? I guess I should go back, as my German friend suggested, and get the real German "bratwurst." Ah-ha. Maybe that's what they've been raving about - the raw-gold dogger.

Don't get me wrong: the scene there was real swingin'. I'd go back just for that open air scene. It's almost like a club in there it's so dark (I sat down at about 9pm at an outside table).  However, this scene is almost always too crowded for a free seat to be available anywhere in the house. Instead, I'd recommend getting carryout at Nista Pizza.. or something of the sort.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Meridian Cafe is well worth every penny

Drop a penny into your penny jar and what do you hear: a close approaching trip to Meridian Cafe, say I. I've reviewed it before, and I'll review it again: this place is well worth your taste buds and dollars embarking on a giant leap into the love of their life... what I'll call healthy comfort food.

Meridian just hits the spot. I've been going here since it opened about ten years ago. Back then I would only ever get one of two items: gordonia or spinach salad. Now both are good, don't get me wrong, and both have evolved quite a bit since originally coming out (gordonia now features tomatoes, avacados, swiss, and chicken instead of turkey on toasted wheat bread with homemade chips); however I tend to be more adventuresome these days.

I've created a revolving menu concoction we'll call the trav-rich-alan-ie. It's a pita mix of potentially avacadoes, hummus, falafel, feta, white beans, 15 beans, an army of sprouts, and eggplant all swimming in an appropriate portion of tahini. Yes, I go back to that dish of health anytime I want to feel full and warm afterwards.

Speaking of which, I've had their steak sandwich only once, even though they claim it's a top-selling item, and adored every minute of it. However, life's too short to not try all of their inventive daily specials at Meridian I feel.

Today they had a white artichoke gazpacho. Don't get me wrong - it still had cucumber, peppers, and tomatoes in it with a good kick. It was just a genuinely delicious novel treat that I would have never thought up on my own!

Also, today for the first time I sampled the side item known as stewed tomatoes. Honey, this ain't your grandmother's stewed tomatoes. These are elegant, large heirloom tomatoes steeped in basil basalmic vinagrette. They are simply divine to munch on. And-if you ask nicely- the waitress will kindly tell you all of the "secret" ingredients in the tomatoe stew cocktail (did I mention there's basil?).

Now Meridian offers glasses of wine and beer and mimoas all for 3.50. What's not to love?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Trip to Little Saigon

Yesterday afternoon I drove down to Little Saigon in Orange County, California. Off the 405 at exit 10, you can turn right immediately and find yourself innundated by vietnamese writing on all the shops! There's a huge grocery store - almost vietnamese mall, technically - in the shopping center, as well as a lee's sandwiches, a fixture to the LA area. 

First, though, we entered the parking lot and ate at the large restaurant on the far side of the shopping mall. It was exhuisite and authentic! So good I couldn't tell if the goodness was from the authenticity, the MSG (sodium bicarbonate, they label it), or the two combined. Needless to say, I'd go back there immediately. I ordered a spin off my favorite item, which I experienced as breakfast in Vietnam: Banh Uot Cha Lau, Banh Tom... think:

except I was forced to order it sans "Uot cha." Instead of getting a sheet of rice noodles, I got a sheet that was stringy (had holes in it), so was somewhat more noodley and less savory. My dish came with barbecued pork and a tofu/sticky rice that was made from shrimp paste. Extremely good! I added veggies (chives, red pepper paste, lemongrass, mint, cilantro, sprouts) and the vinegary requisite fish sauce (wow!) and dug in.

I am sad to say that I didn't finish my dish, but my stomach was not sad. We ventured into the shopping mall/grocery store (looks just like you're in Vietnam!) and then over to Lee's sandiwches. There we ordered mung bean filled sesame balls, some little waffley cream delight, and smoothies. I mistakenly ordered the durian smoothie, which had me smelling like durian for the next 24-hours. I threw the smoothie away in a parking lot and apparently caused a smell explosion when the smoothie hit the garbage can!

None the less, I maintain my love for the stuff :) Authentic or not, my smoothie was strong.

I look forward to many more adventures south to Little Saigon in the coming months :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Let there be food!

So I've been eating out some. Like at:

Beer Belly:
A new mini gastropub in Koreatown. Disappointing beers, funky selection of beer and food.

The spot to be!
This restaurant is nothing short of amazing! Cheap, festive, allows 1 dollar modelos to be brought in from the quick stop next door. The combination of Mexican, Korean, and American really wows me - it is by far the most creative restaurant I have ever eaten at. Dessert here, is a must see. The ooey gooey fries are amazing. Their combination of cilantro, a mild red sauce and real neutral cheese makes the dish transcend reality. It's very different, but good. And gooey! I think they must sprinkle siricha on all of their dishes, so spice-haters beware. Next time I think I'm going to get the "steak in the heart."