Sunday, January 31, 2010

"American" Food Goodness

Today's post is gonna be a good old "American" post by reviewing 3 different places. I have to start with the best of the best which would have to be the heavenly place known as Father's Office and then the other 2 places are more FYI aka not very important. So if you have a short attention span just pay attention to the first part of this post.

Place #1: Father's Office. There are a few Father's Offices. We went to the one in Santa Monica located at 1018 Montana Ave. Santa Monica, 90403. There's also one nearby in Culver City. I've heard that their burgers are to die for. Burgers will never be the same after I've had an Office Burger from Father's Office so despite the fact that they were a very small place with very bad metered parking, I knew I had to go... for research's sake, of course. Well the boys wanted to go because of the burger and the beer. Apparently they have some of the best beer on tap, which I didn't really care about but I guess for all you drinkers you can come have an amazing burger and a drink.
We went at a really good time. We got there around 4 and there were just enough seats for us. Once we were seated, the lines went out the door. When you walk in, there's a guy that checks your ID at the door. He actually turned away a family who brought a kid with them because he wasn't 21. I thought it was weird that they didn't let them in since it was obvious his parents were with him. Shrugs. Couldn't they have just ordered their burgers to go or something? Here's a picture of their fries. Left is their sweet potato fries, which we didn't get. Sad face. =[ We got the regular really thin fries on the right, which came with tartar sauce. I was really sad we didn't get the potato fries. One reason was that we were extremely sad at how high our bill was. Just our burger was $12.50 and fries were $2.50. Ouch I know. Factor in the .75 cents for the meter and gas to get to Santa Monica. This burger better be worth it!
Oh and it was... Here's a picture before chowing down on our burgers. There were 5 of us. We each got an office burger. Your fingers actually smell like caramelized onions afterwards. It's amazing.
Here's a picture of my boyfriend Jeffy taking his first bite of his rare done Office Burger. He likes all his meat done rare and I do too usually except when it comes to steak I'm afraid since it can get way too chewy if it's rare. The meat on the office burger was so good though rare would have been amazing. I played it safe and got medium rare. They had bottle coke! Perfect for the non-alcoholics in the group.
This is a picture of our friend Ken. As you can tell he really enjoyed his Office Burger. He described the burger as "This is what makes the sun come out of the sky when there is no sun. This is sweetness that makes you smile." He was the one sniffing his caramelized onions smell in his hands the whole ride back. He said he didn't know whether or not he should wash his hands. The burger was amazing and has since ruined any burger I will ever have. If it wasn't $12.50 this place would be my new burger joint. Is it amazing? Yes. Is it the best burger I've ever had? Yes. Will I come here all the time? No. $13 is steep. But this place was really good for one thing. My favorite eating partners & best brother/sister duo Weheb & Rna do not eat pork or drink. Youngin Rna was sad because she couldn't think of what she could do when she turned 21 to flex her new found age powers so we have decided that she can get carded to go enjoy the best burger of her life at Father's Office when she turns 21. Way better than hitting the 21 & over clubs huh? Awesome.

Place #2: Domino's Pizza
I know you must be thinking what the heck. You go from the most amazing burger to pizza? Well if you've been paying attention to commercials lately you know that Domino's has completely reinvented their crust because they have gotten complaints that their crust tastes like cardboard. About time guys! Their new crust tastes like garlic bread. Way better than before! So give them another chance. By the way, this is the first time I've ordered their famous 5-5-5 deal. Their commercials insinuated that that meant $5 per each pizza. It's actually literally 5-5-5 as in $5.55 per pizza. Sneaky...

Place #3: BJ's Brewery & Restaurant
Box 1 is their artichoke dip with chips. Box 2 is their chicken wings and Box 3 is their deep dish pizza. FYI, if you want a good deal on wings, Hooter's has a deal for all you can eat wings for $11.99 on Mondays.
And last but not least, the best part of BJ's... their Pizookie. This is their chocolate chip pizookie. Sure you can make it at home since it's basically a big cookie with ice cream, but it's just not the same!

So I hope you all now know that the best burger is at Father's Office but I must warn you that it will honestly ruin any other burger you have after that. And if you have friends that don't drink that want to flex their 21 abilities, it's a great place to feel special and get carded!
Happy Eatings!

Battle of the Ramen

I searched high and low. I researched online for hours. I got got some friends together and I was ready to document everything for this Battle of the Ramen post. As you can tell, I take my job seriously. Seriously. Let's start with the winner for most amazing ramen. And the first prize goes to Hakata Ramen Shin-Sen-Gumi. They have multiple stores, but I went to the one in Rosemead located 8450 East Valley Blvd. Rosemead, 91770. I swear I've been to this plaza a gazillion times and have never noticed this place until now. Hakata is awesome. Too bad it's only open until 11 PM. We got here the other day around 10 and didn't have to wait. Our waiter was a white guy who spoke perfect Japanese. I loved it cause it was a slap in the face to my super Japanese-looking but can't speak any Japanese at all boyfriend. There's nothing special about their decor so don't come here expecting anything more than an awesome open kitchen and a chair. There's 2 small tables in the back where you can sit on the floor but other than that there's just a few tables and seats at the bar.
And look at their kitchen view! Amazing! This is basically an assembly line of noodles hanging from above. That's how they maximize their efficiency. The waiter asks what kind of noodles you would like: Soft, Medium, Hard. Then you choose how oily you want your soup and how strong you want it. I, being the unhealthy person that I am ordered the Hakata Special with Medium Noodles & very strong soup and oily! Bring it on! Jeff got Spicy Miso soup with soft noodles and medium oily. Our friend Ken got the same thing as Jeff. He wasn't hungry when he sat down or so he said...
Yummy. Here's my order on the left. It was delicious. So delicious I threw down .95 cents for another bowl of noodles but this time I got soft noodles instead. I liked the medium noodles but I REALLY REALLY liked the soft noodles.
This is a picture of what Ken and Jeff ordered: Spicy Miso Ramen. It looks the same as what I got until you add this patch of miso goodness and mix it all inside. Amazing. Don't tell them but I liked the spicy miso more than my regular ramen. Ken said he wasn't hungry. After having one taste of their spicy miso, his stomach was suddenly ready for more. Jeff had 3 whole bowls of ramen. He later felt so full that he tried to make himself yack in the parking lot to no avail. Yes, it was that good!

My only complaint about Hakata aside from there not being one much closer to me is that their additional items were too pricy. For example if you want more pork in your ramen, it made more sense to order another bowl for .95 cents rather than paying the amount for a few more slices of pork. One more complaint was that the waiters and the chef all greet and de-greet all the customers walking in, paying, or leaving. They are always eyeing everyone in the restaurant with the corner of their eyes no matter what they are doing and will occasionally will not forget what you are telling them. No worries though, their ramen makes up for it! Plus, they have really good service. Try finding that in the SGV!
2nd Place Awesome Ramen Award goes to Daikokuya in Little Tokyo, Downtown L.A. located at 327 East 1st Street, Los Angeles 90012. I went here with my besties and absolute favorite people to eat with because Daikokuya is supposedly the "it" place for the best ramen. Okay they need to seriously stop kidding themselves. Their ramen isn't bad. It doesn't compare to Hakata's. Their waits are insane but at least they are open until 1 AM. Their decor is really cute though. They have old Japanese advertisements as decorations. My sister would love them. She likes collecting old Hong Kong advertisements.
Their ramen came with the egg that was perfectly cooked. I like when ramen places make their eggs right where the inside is still squishy and kind of raw. A good thing about Daikokuya is that they allow you to order half portions for their ramen. Whatever... Hakata is so good that I don't need half portions. Take that! Unfortunately, they only had pork as their soup base and didn't have a vegetarian option since my besties can't eat pork. I was really sad that we waited for an hour risking our lives and Weheb's car to find out they couldn't eat the ramen. (No joke the parking lot we parked in said pay and lock up.) We were afraid, very afraid.
So sad as they were, Weheb & Rna had to order something else. Here's their miso & salad that came with their combinations and the right is my Ramune Soda. The salad basically tasted like cold slaw so minus points for that since I don't like cold slaw. Ramune soda is my favorite. I call it Marble Water in Chinese because you have to pop the top of the drink and release the marble to drink it. I use to break these bottles as a kid to collect the marble. Dangerous and dumb yeah I know. I wasn't the brightest kid. I was thinking free marble! Anyways Ramune soda is really good. It even comes in different flavors. This is the original flavor. It tastes like a better version of sprite.
So we were really sad that my besties couldn't have ramen, but they got to have some of Daikokuya's famous teriyaki chicken. Their chicken logo is "Forget about what the Colonel told you, this is chicken Little Tokyo style." And their chicken teriyaki was pretty good. Left is the chicken teri in a rice bowl and right is it in a bento box. The spicy tuna and tempura that came with it in the bento wasn't impressive. The chicken skin was very crispy. It wasn't the same skin they use for Katsu. All in all, although I would go back to Daikokuya for their chicken, I wouldn't go back for their ramen. They definitely need to bring their game up.
Loser Prize: Ajisen Ramen. They are located all over SGV and although they aren't bad but if you are in the area, why not head over to Hakata?
Here's their ramen special. It was "good". I felt like I picked up a really good package of ramen from my cabinet and added some meat from a Chinese restaurant and cooked it myself. Don't expect too great service from here. It really depends on their moods. Menopause, say what?

So basically Hakata is my favorite places hands down. My aunt has informed me though that there is an even better ramen place in Irvine. Apparently Ajisen Ramen is a franchise so every store has a different owner. Apparently the Ajisen in Irvine in the 85C parking lot has better ramen than even Hakata. I will have to do some research to see.
Until then, Happy Eatings!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Banchan Mania!

Soowon Galbi Korean BBQ at 856 Vermont Ave. Los Angeles, 9005

So the other day I was trying to decide where to have lunch with my friend who I have not seen in awhile. He's from New Jersey and is currently finishing up school at LMU.

Me: Uh... so how does Korean BBQ sound?
Matt (friend from NJ): Well... I love Korean food but I haven't really had really authentic Korean food since 1) I moved to LA and 2) since I lived in New Jersey.
Me: Are you serious? Have you been living in a box your whole life?

So it was established! K-town was gonna be our stop obviously. Where else would you go for Korean food? I even brought along my Korean friend Heidi, who was craving some home food. I chose Soowon Galbi Korean BBQ and by the way... everyone loved it. *pat on the back* So my friend Matt is the typical white guy that loves Asian food, but just more adventurous. I love it! I sat down and started explaining what we could order off the menu. He automatically pointed to beef testicles and beef tongue! Awesome! But yeah we said he should stick to the basics for his first true Korean BBQ experience. I liked his attitude though!
And the banchan (side dishes) starts arriving.... Matt was so intrigued that this big salad was only a side dish. He thought this was what we ordered to eat. haha silly...
Okay so when they were finally done bringing out all the side dishes, I have to admit I was even surprised how many they brought out! Awesome! Then we started thinking that we ordered way too much food. We ordered 2 whole combinations. Uh oh... we're gonna have way to much food left over right? Wrong!
Combo 1 came with bulgogi (the beef with no bones) and also...
Naeng Myun. We ordered the one on the right but they accidentally brought out the soup one instead so they ended up switching it for us. The soup broth for the one on the right came into a cup. Cool!
We were already starting to get full off all the side dishes and then the waitress brought out our box of meat. Crap!
We had chicken, beef brisket, and pork's belly in the lunch combo we ordered. The waitresses cooked everything for us. A waiter was kept suggesting different ways to eat the meat to Matt since I don't think he's ever met someone who hasn't had real Korean BBQ before. He kept asking him what he thought of everything. We grilled our kimchi too! Rest assured, we finished everything! 

All 3 of us loved this place. Everyone was so friendly. There was 1 lady who didn't speak very good English but hey, neither do I according to my family so it's all good. P.S. my friend Matt already established he would be coming back very soon. I did my job.

Happy Eatings!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Taco Trucks! Mexican & Korean style!

Picture of Arturo's Taco Truck lcoated at Bellevue Drive and Fair Oaks Ave in Pasadena, 91105

If you haven't noticed by now, I do not discriminate. Good food is good food. So when I was told there was an amazing Taco Truck in Pasadena called Arturo's Taco Truck I knew I had to go. So there's been this whole Food Truck Mania in Los Angeles this past year mainly because of the infamous Koji Taco Truck, which I will talk about as well below. Side note, there's even a bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwich) Truck that was started by UCLA students, which I've yet to try. Side side note, my dinner tonight is bahn mi. Yum!
Jeff & I got the Al Pastor & the Busche tacos. They were amazing. These pictures are making me salivate as I'm writing this. I definitely liked this place way more than Kogi. Okay so onto the Kogi Taco Truck...
What to say? They definitely have a really good PR Team. They got onto the whole Twitter bandwagon to let everyone know where they are and when. Are they good? Yes. Are they great? Meh... maybe. But are they worth the long wait? No. Did I still wait like an idiot since I've followed it about 3 times in the past year? Yes. Don't judge me. I may be a hypocrite but I like food. Deal with it.
Here is their burrito. Not worth it. Their tacos are way better. They're not bad. Just a waste of stomach space. If you're trying to save moolah though, this will fill you up.
Yum. Kogi's pork tacos.

Kogi also has daily specials where they have random dishes the chef wants to try out for the night. That changes day to day. As for the Mexican vs. Korean tacos debate, I think Arturo's wins hands down. There's never a line. They don't drive off to another location and make you check twitter to see when they will arrive. Their tacos are amazing. I'd venture to say best I've ever had. I want to take my mom here but she doesn't go out past 6 because it's too dark. ARTURO'S, te amo!

Happy Eatings!


    Sa-was-dee! That's hello in Thai. Today's post is on Thai food from Thai Paradise located at 141 North Atlantic Blvd. Monterey Park, 91755. It's my go to Thai place in the San Gabriel Valley. Is it authentic? Kinda? It depends on what you order. Defintely no comparison to the stuff I've had in Thailand but what do you expect? You are catering to a mostly Chinese or Asian-American crowd, which for the most part don't really care about how authentic the Thai food is as long as its good and decently priced. They have some pretty good deals for lunch and even throw in a free yummy dessert. 
One thing you can't go wrong here is with their Thai Tea Boba. They make it just right!
Our rice came in this contraption. We ordered so much food that we didn't end up eating any of the rice. Thank goodness they don't charge for rice at lunch. Beware though! They do during dinner time.
A must order at any Thai place is their satay. Their satay is a good indicator of how legit the place is. Their satay kinda sucked. Bummer cause I never thought you could go wrong with satay. This is a combination plate of beef and chicken satay. My mother won't eat satay at other places. She likes to tell stories/legends of decades ago when she used to make satay herself. She boasts of her amazing handmade satay sauce. My mother is full of it. She cooks satay once every 10 years and just likes to dwell on the good old days when she actually used to cook. I give it to her though. This satay wasn't that great.
Here's our order of Pad Thai. I'm not a big fan of Pad Thai in general because of its sweet flavor. I prefer ordering Pad See Ew instead. It wasn't bad though.
Here's my favorite thing to order here. The fish comes out on a little heater underneath it. A sweet and sour soup is poured atop of the fish and you want until it simmers to begin eating. The flame keeps the fish hot during your entire meal and you even get to drink soup too. 
Here's another favorite of mine Ong Choi. I didn't like the sauce here. It was too bland. Chinese people always say that eating too much Ong Choi is bad because it tends to give you cramps. Growing up, my mom said that shouldn't go swimming after eating Ong Choi because I would get a cramp in leg and drown. I don't think she was aware that even if that happened that floating in water until the cramp is cleared is also an option. I can't judge their Ong Choi too harshly though, since I went to lunch here with my mom and her friends which told the waitress to not make our veggies spicy. You can't have Thai food without spice in it. It's unreasonable. 
Here's their free dessert they give you. It's deliciously good. I could eat it all day except that would mean that I couldn't order a second dessert.
Mango Sticky Rice. My favorite! I was sad they only had one color of sticky rice. I like when they have both. Oh well... let's not complain about the rest of the meal. At least they didn't spit in our food or something. Well... not that I know of at least.

The mother and I have been coming to this place for over 10 years. I used to really like them. I mean I don't love them or hate them now so I guess that's good. One thing I have to complain about is that we were a party of 4 and being the long term patrons that we are, we knew that our table of 4 would be too small for all the food that would come out. We asked to be moved to a slightly bigger table and they said no despite the fact that the tables around us were all empty. But then again I shouldn't complain. Common sense isn't really common. Word. 

Happy Eatings!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Best Shabu For Your Buck! Shabu Shabu Edition Part 2

J-Town/Little Tokyo Adventure
    So last Sunday, my good friend Kelly and I went to spend some quality time together doing our favorite things- exploring and eating. I decided to take her to the Japanese Village Plaza for some Japanese Shabu Shabu since there's a lot to do in that little shopping center. If you recall in my previous extensive Shabu Shabu post, I said the best bang for your buck Shabu Shabu for me is the one Shabu Shabu House, which is located in this plaza at 127 Japanese Village Plaza Mall. Los Angeles, CA 90012. Only problem... well actually BIG problem about this place is that it's really small. Approximate wait time... 1-2 hours. This place in intense. No joke. The owner gets to his restaurant and leaves a clip board over an hour before it opens so that guests can begin signing in their names. You can also write a note on what kind of beef you would like. I like extra marbled. It melts in your mouth more.  Kelly and I got to Shabu Shabu House around 5 PM, 30 mins before they opened and our names were already on the second page! Luckily we were prepared and we ready to explore the plaza and walk around.

These are the things we entertained ourselves with while waiting to be called. Left is a picture of the Hello Kitty curtain thingy I wanted to buy for my future restaurant and right was a picture Totoro and Domo shirts. All are things I did not buy despite their cuteness because my mom would yell at me for being impractical. This picture will have to suffice.

Kelly was starting to get a little hungry so I suggested to get some mochi to munch on. $1 each.

We also went over to look at the ladies making these red bean custard pastries. They're our favorite. I took Kelly to eat this when she visited Hong Kong during the summer. On a side note, there are quite a few Chinese markets in the San Gabriel Valley that make these too!

We waited for maybe another 20 mins before we got seated. Not so bad actually. Fun fact: last time I came to this restaurant was with my lovely besties Weheb & Rna and we saw American Idol Reject William Hung and his family here. His mom was a total bi-atch and made quite a scene cause she was upset that she was waiting so long. She was complaining to me about how long she was in line for, which we didn't understand since we were there for way longer than this lady. It wasn't until William Hung and his dad came in that we found out rude lady was his mom. I knew she looked familiar. And once again Hong Kong gossip news is right. His mom IS really THAT  bad. Our night didn't end just with that entertainment, that same night in this restaurant, Weheb, Rna, & I witnessed a break up to be. Too funny and too long to post here but definitely a good story. Ask any of us we'll tell you.

Sadly, Kelly and I did not see anyone the night we went. And here's what we got.  A medium  order will absolutely fill you up. At lunch time, a medium is under $10. During dinner time, a medium order is $14. This is a really good deal considering how much food they give you and given the fact they give you free refills on rice. We both got 2 bowls of rice. As you can see they give you a lot of veggies, tofu, udon, and other noodles as well. Their sesame sauce and ponzu sauce are incredible. It's handmade fresh here.

And here's their other specialty which we didn't try. Their coffee is really good. Unfortunately, Kelly and I are both old grannies. We can't drink coffee past a certain hour or else we can't sleep the entire night. True Story.

Don't forget to head over to their bakery and get some of their Double Soft Raisin Bread. It's not just soft, it's double soft! It's really good. I don't like raisin bread and I still have to pick some up each time I go.

So if you ever want a place to have some good food, check out Shabu Shabu House. The food is cheap especially if you go during lunch and there's lots to do in the plaza. There's even a Nijiya Market there, which is one of my favorite Japanese markets. Although I enjoy Mongolian Hot Pot which you can get for as cheap at $7 if you go at the right time, I still think this place is the best deal because I like Japanese Shabu Shabu more. By the way, Kelly let me know that yesterday's L.A. Times' Food Section was on Shabu Shabu. I am such a trendsetter. Always one step ahead!

Happy Eatings!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Okonomiyaki! Time for Japanese Pancake!

The front of Gaja located at 2383 Lomita Blvd. Lomita, CA 90717. They can get pretty packed. Luckily they have a flat screen TV with Japanese entertainment for all those waiting out in the parking out.
So a few days ago, our friend and Japanese lover extraordinaire Berto who runs his own Asian American pop culture blog that covers food, games electronics, anime, etc. informed us that he had finally found a "real" okonomiyaki place that we just had to try. In fact it was so good that despite having been there the night before, he was willing to take one for the team go again the very next day with us. What a trooper! Behold, the greatness known as Gaja Japanese Restaurant! Because Berto waited over an hour and 45 minutes the night before, we ended up waiting and getting there at 11 at night, which was a good idea. It wasn't packed. It's open until 12! Great for us late night food lovers. On a side note, the pictures from this post will be a combination of mine and Berto's from his blog at TofuProd because he had an really good camera with him!

Here's a waiter cleaning the grill! Amazing! It's like Korean BBQ, but better! So here's an introduction... Okonomiyaki is basically a Japanese pancake that has a bunch of different ingredients inside. Toppings and batters vary depending on what region the okonomiyaki is from. This place had fun written all over it since we got to cook and decorate everything ourselves.

What was most impressive about this place (almost more than the food) was their menu. It was seriously as thick as an encyclopedia! The pages never ended and they were neatly organized with colored tabs & dividers. It was like a flashback to my high school days! I loved it! I love food. You don't understand. I like to take picture menus home and fantasize about meals when I can't eat them. Yes, that's what got me through college when I had to eat dorm food. I happened to come to Gaja's with 4 guys so it's obvious what the first thing they wanted to order was...

I was really entertained by the cups being iced... but apparently that's how it's supposed to be. Whatever... it was 11Pm at night. Hot tea sounded way better for me.

Ah and here's where the fun begins! Your bowl of ingredients is brought out and it's time for cooking. They actually have a direction guide on how to make the okonmiyaki in case you are confused. So as you can tell from the photo, cook the meat separately and then proceed to make the pancake. Make one layer for the top and then place the meat inside and make the other side. Then you continue to flip it until everything is cooked and crunchy! Yum! Playing with your food is rewarding.

It should look like this once you are done making the sides and stuffing the meat inside.

After that comes even more fun! Box 1 is us covering our pancakes with mayo. Then the next 2 boxes are us adding extra seasoning. Pay attention to Box 3. Those are delicious Okaka Fish Flakes. Those are the things they put atop of Americanized Sushi rolls like BSCR or the Dynamite rolls where you see them moving because of the heat generate from the sushi below it. The waiters are Gaja had to refill the containers of Okaka for our table twice mainly because I ate all of it. I can eat fish flakes plain because they are so good. Yum! It was actually kind of embarrassing because of how much of the flakes I ate. I'm this itty bitty girl and I down 3 whole containers of fish flakes. Yeah...

As you can see, the designs got better and more creative as we kept eating. Left pancake is an elephant and the right is a happy face. We had 5 people in our group. We ordered 3 pancakes all in different flavors. All of them were delicious in their own ways. I have to say that the curry one stood out though.

Here's our order of Takoyaki aka fried octopus balls. Yummy!

We were so full but then it came time for dessert. Box 1 is my manly order of green tea shaved ice with sweet bean. It came out in a huge measuring cup! Look how big it is compared to me (Box 2). Box 3 is the boyfriend smiling from the amazing flavor of the Melon Parfait. He described the taste as "the taste of mother's sweet love" and also didn't offer to share any of his dessert. I had to grab a bite of the melon popsicles on my own. He didn't share anything else. Box 4 is a candid shot of Ken finding out his Calpico falvored parfait comes with heart shaped Calpico ices.

Here's a close up of Ken's Parfait. If you look between the two sticks you can see the double hearts. Inside basically was like a fruit cocktail with ice & a sprinkle of cornflakes. The cornflakes give the ice some nice texture. Oh by the way, Calpico is a really good Asian drink you can find at many Asian markets! Ken's parfait didn't come with the melon popsicles that Jeff's did but it was also really good. I can't decide what dessert to get next time I go. I like to plan food trips in my head.

Gaja was seriously an amazing meal. You can check out their website here. Just look at their awesome online menu if you are bored. That's my favorite hobby! Also, mucho gracis to Berto for the recommendation and for letting me use some of his pictures. I loved it. I would definitely take my friends & family back here. It's a fun time to play with your food and have it taste good too. Only con for me is that it's all the way in Torrance. I would recommend going later at night so that you don't hit traffic and also so that you don't have to wait to get seated.
Happy cooking, playing, and eatings!

I hope you will have as good of a time as we did here at Gaja! Definitely go check it out.