S and I recently took a “food trip” to Irvine/LA with our friend A. We first stopped by a couple of places in Irvine – Four Sea Restaurant, which serves up authentic Taiwanese breakfast. I’ve posted on it before, and was really excited to visit again.My number one reason for loving this place? The rice peanut milk, which is made by grinding pre-soaked rice and roasted peanuts into a powder and mixing with water. The end result is a smooth, creamy, nutty drink. If you’ve never had rice peanut milk before, definitely try it when you get a chance. A ordered the salty soy milk, which is soy milk with you tiao (fried cruller), chives, and chili oil. I’m not a huge fan of salty soy milk, but she really enjoyed it. The fried daikon cake (I think it’s actually usually called turnip cake) is S’s favorite item here – the turnip cake has a nice and crispy exterior and really flavorful. All of us really enjoyed it here. Unlike the Cantonese version of this dish, Taiwanese turnip cake doesn’t usually have fillings, but that’s the way he likes it. …
I’ve been in Chicago for the past week, so the posting schedule got a little messed up – sorry! The trip was super fun, and I’ll definitely be sharing pictures from some of the amazing meals that I had in the coming weeks! My friend also suggested a fun new series to start for this blog, so please stay tuned as I’m working to get that going!
Today’s post is from Labor Day weekend, when S and I made a day trip to Irvine. The main purpose of the trip was to visit the newly-opened Din Tai Fung in South Coast Plaza, but of course we also had to fit in at least one more meal. After much research and deliberation, I chose Four Sea Restaurant, which serves up an authentic Taiwanese breakfast. I love breakfast in Taiwan – it’s my favorite meal of the day there – so I was quite excited, but also a little bit nervous because I’ve been pretty disappointed by Taiwanese breakfast food in the US.
Four Sea has several locations, one in Irvine and three in LA (so not fair.. why not San Diego?). My friend told me that the Irvine restaurant is a lot less crowded than the LA ones.
The place is open everyday from 6:30AM to 3:30PM, so they only serve breakfast food here! We arrived close to 1PM, and the place was quite empty already. In fact, some of the staff had already started mopping the floor in one part of the restaurant… It was a little weird.
Anyway, as you walk in, there’s a display case of house-made pastries to greet you. I couldn’t resist and bought a Black Sesame with Egg Yolk pastry, which I enjoyed later at home:
Anyway, back to the restaurant……
Every time I go to LA, I always have to make a pit stop in Irvine for bread from 85°C Bakery and Bon Epi Patisserie. Up until a few times ago, I didn’t even know that Bon Epi existed, but thanks to some awesome bloggers, it’s now a must-go for me. I really love the macarons there – some of the best that I’ve had, in fact.
I’ve posted on Bon Epi before, but I didn’t realize that there weren’t many photos of the place itself so I didn’t take any more… oops. Well, next time (since I’m sure there will be more visits in the future).
I had a purpose on this visit – to try the ham & cheese croissant, which is a favorite of the blogger Cathy from mmm-yoso.
I was really lucky that the ham and cheese croissant was still warm when I bought it. So of course, I ate it in the car, right away.
I did not expect the cream cheese as the part of the “cheese” – but since I like the ham and cream cheese combo, I was very pleasantly surprised! The croissant was every bit as delicious as I had hoped, and I would definitely have gone back to the store to buy a few more of these to devour on the spot, if I didn’t exercise all my self-control.
Combining two restaurants in the same Irvine plaza in one post… seems acceptable, doesn’t it? Actually, these were from two separate visits to the Diamond Jamboree plaza (featuring my favorite 85°C Bakery), on our way home from LA, and I insisted both times that we swing by Irvine for dinner/dessert. Haha.
I originally read about Bon Epi Patisserie on CC’s blog, Pink Candles at Ridgemont High (link at end of the post). Before that, I didn’t even notice Bon Epi in the same plaza! Haha. But I definitely had to go and try some of the macarons, after reading about them. I’ve sort of been a macaron fiend lately…
Bon Epi actually features all sorts of pastries and desserts, but I had already gotten my fill of breads & pastries from both 85°C and a cafe in LA (post coming soon!). So, this would be a macarons-only visit…
I’ve already posted once about my recent visits to 85°C Bakery in Irvine, one of my favorite Taiwanese bakeries (in the U.S.). I felt like I purchased way too much stuff to fit into one post, so I split it into two, haha. It’s actually taken S and me quite a while to finish all the breads – thankfully, nothing got moldy or stale. We usually refrigerate everything (sometimes, I put it in resealable bags) and toast the breads before eating them – there’s nothing like warm bread. Anyway, enough small talk; I’m going straight to the pastries.
These were actually gifts for my friends; I’ve had both of these roll cakes before, and they’re both soft and fluffy sponge cakes with fresh cream rolled in the middle. I prefer the coconut custard roll, which has a pretty strong coconut flavor and is quite sweet (but is an awesome tea time snack), but my friend’s favorite is the green tea & red bean. I’ve never been a fan of red bean, but the green tea taste is really mellow and fragrant. I wish they made a roll that was just green tea, haha.
As I mentioned, I’ve made a couple of trips to LA/Lake Arrowhead recently (and one more trip to come). I almost always try to stop by the Taiwanese bakery 85°C in Irvine on my way back from LA, because I love the pastries there. 85°C Bakery is a chain from Taiwan, but surprisingly the breads here are actually much better quality than in the same store in Taiwan. S thinks it’s because Taiwan is almost saturated with bakeries, and 85°C can’t really compare with the competition, but in the US, it’s easily one of the best.
Located in the Diamond Jamboree plaza, it’s one of many Asian shops/restaurants in the area. The parking lot is usually quite crowded, but there is a parking garage in the back. If you go on the weekend, there’s usually a line out the door for 85°C. Luckily, during my visits, the lines weren’t too bad. You grab a tray and a pair of tongs and pick whatever you want from the display cases of breads. It was way too crowded for me to get a decent photo of the interior, so I’ll move on to the food… As you might tell from the post title, this is simply Part One.
These are the three of my favorite savory bread items. …
I recently visited Boiling Point in Irvine with some friends for Taiwanese hot pot. And since we were already there… of course we had to go to Class 302 for snowflake ice! I didn’t get the snowflake ice last time I visited Class 302, and I was determined to make up for it this time.
We arrived around 9pm, and there was still quite a line for dine-in – we waited about half an hour for a table of five. By then, we had already decided what we wanted to order. The five of us decided to share two orders of snowflake ice, since we were actually pretty full from hot pot. (But we always manage to make some room for dessert. I love my friends.)
I’ve only had snowflake ice once before, at Liang’s Kitchen. According to local snowflake ice expert Kirbie, the version at Liang’s Kitchen pales in comparison with the ice at Class 302, which tops her rankings. I was super excited.
There were quite a few varieties, and it was hard to choose, but in the end, we decided on the green tea snow and peanut snow.
When this arrived, I realized immediately why this is good snowflake ice – look at those thin, loose layers! It was very fluffy and soft, definitely reminded me of catching snowflakes on my tongue when I was little. I loved the texture and the green tea flavor. However, I’m not a big fan of azuki beans, so I didn’t eat too much of this one (although I did work hard to dig for the pudding hidden inside).
All of us actually liked the Peanut & Mochi snow better. As you might have noticed, the snowflake is shaved into thin, flat layers, whereas the green tea snow was shaved into longer pieces. The flat layers lingered a bit longer on your tongue, so you get a slightly stronger flavor. I loved the peanut flavor, intensified by the peanut powder sprinkled on top. I was also very impressed with the mochi in both of the snowflake ice’s – despite being served with such a cold dessert, it remained chewy and soft. It was really good with the peanut snow.
I was very happy with the snowflake ice experience at Class 302 – it was just as good as I had expected. If only there were one in San Diego! Thankfully, other friends and bloggers have recommended some good snowflake ice places in San Diego, so hopefully I’ll get to check those out soon.
Class 302 (Irvine location)18090 Culver Dr., Irvine, CA
Hours: Sun-Thu 11am-12am; Fri-Sat 11am-1am
I’ve heard about Boiling Point, an LA-based Taiwanese hot pot chain, for quite a while now – my friends rave about it. Hot pot is what I fondly call “Chinese fondue”: you have a big pot of simmering broth in the center of the table, and you add various ingredients such as sliced meats, seafood, meatballs, mushrooms, vegetables, and noodles to cook. The cooked food is often eaten with a dipping sauce. I usually eat hot pot at least once when I visit my family.
Boiling Point is a bit different from the traditional style of hot pot in that each person gets his or her own small hot pot, with the ingredients already added into the soup when it is served to you. These individual-sized hot pots are becoming popular in Taiwan and has made their way to the U.S. Boiling Point is probably the most well-known hot pot restaurant in the SoCal area with seven locations. I recently visited the Irvine location with some friends who were craving hot pot. It was super crowded when we arrived – wait time of about 45 minutes (just enough for a 85C Bakery run! :P ).
There are several soup base flavors that you can choose from. The standard-sized flavors are: “house special” stinky tofu, seafood & tofu, Korean kimchi, spicy beef, pickled cabbage & lamb, curry fishball, and tomato & veggie. There are also large hot soups: spicy Taiwanese, Japanese miso, and Thai flavor. Each soup comes with an assortment of meats and vegetables, but you could also purchase add-ons.
S chose the spicy beef hot pot and ordered extra sliced pork. You could choose the level of spiciness for this pot… I believe he picked medium (it wasn’t very spicy). I was impressed with the amount and quality of ingredients that was included. The soup, though, wasn’t very impressive.
I chose the spicy Taiwanese hot soup, which is a large-sized pot and thus slightly more expensive. Again, I liked the ingredients, especially the pork intestine and fried tofu skin. There was only one spiciness level available for this pot – flaming hot. It wasn’t that bad for me, but some of my friends said that they would not be able to get past the first few bites. The portion was also quite large – I feel like I barely made a dent after eating for half an hour, and had to take the rest home.
As I’ve mentioned, the cooked food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce. Here we were presented with three kinds. I felt that my food was already flavored quite heavily (maybe because it’s so spicy) that there was no need for extra dipping sauce, but S told me that he liked the bean paste sauce.
Overall, I thought my meal at Boiling Point was not bad, but S didn’t like it. He doesn’t like hot pot very much to begin with, but he says that this was nothing spectacular and not worth the hype. I haven’t had much experience with individual hot pots before, so I’m not sure what the standard is, but I thought my hot pot was pretty good. Regardless, we both agreed that their Hokkaido milk tea was delicious.
Boiling Point (Irvine Location)
14140 Culver Dr. #A, Irvine, CA
Hours: Mon-Sun 11am-11pm
Instant Noodle, Beef Sliced, Encomia Mushroom, Tempera, Clam, Foochow Fishball, Cuttlefish Ring, Pork Blood, Pork Intestine, Fried Tofu Skin, Maitake Mushroom, Iced Tofu.
I love Taiwanese food, and S and I sometimes lament that there really aren’t enough options in San Diego (which would be why, every time we go to LA, we eat five meals per day and bring back as much as possible). Recently, we went to a concert in Irvine, which also has a number of Taiwanese eateries, including the ever-popular 85C Cafe. Unfortunately, since our concert ended late, we did not make it to 85C Cafe, but instead went to Class 302, which started in Rowland Heights and recently opened its second location in Irvine.
I never went to elementary school in Taiwan, but my friends said that the decor, tables, and chairs really remind them of their schools. The seating area was actually quite big, and there was a separate counter for take-out orders.
The menu is rather extensive, and we all had a hard time deciding what to get. They have snacks & appetizers, bento boxes, noodle soups, rice dishes – all the things you can find at casual Taiwanese eateries. In the end, I decided on the pork feet with peanut bento box (花生豬腳便當).
Pork feet with peanuts bento box 花生豬腳便當
The bento box had a layer on top with the veggies and rice on the bottom, and the pork feet were served in a separate dish. I thought that sort of defeated the purpose of the bento box.
Pork feet, veggie layer, rice layer (served with ground pork sauce and pickled cabbage)
The pork feet were actually somewhat disappointing – they were not as tender as I had hoped, and there was no trace of peanuts. I liked the veggies and rice though, and the portions were huge so I happily took half of the meal home for the next day ^^
We also ordered some sweet potato fries to share. I love sweet potato fries, and in Taiwan they are often seasoned with plum spice powder, which really brings out the sweet potato taste. These were crispy and delicious.
And of course, I had to get milk tea. FYI, I ordered it with half sugar – the waitress told us that they made their drinks on the sweet side. Half sugar was just about perfect for me.
If I had known earlier, I would have saved room for the famous snow ice – there were two pages of the menu dedicated to snow ice…! How disappointing that I didn’t notice until it was too late… oh well, next time I will be sure to save some room for dessert!
10890 Culver Dr., Irvine, CA