Apr 162014
 

When I first heard about Maruhide Uni Club, I immediately added it to my “Restaurant Bookmarks” list since I love uni (sea urchin), and this is a whole restaurant dedicated to it! On a recent trip to LA, I finally got the chance to try it out.

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I heard that the lines for dinner can get pretty long, but I visited for a late lunch (around 1:30pm, half an hour before they stopped serving lunch), and there were plenty of available seats and tables.

I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to order, and a quick glance at the menu confirmed my selection: the Nigiyaka Bowl, served with four preparations of uni.

Salad

Salad

Soup

Soup

I was brought some soup and salad to start… the salad was a little sad as you can see – a few pieces of iceberg lettuce and a wedge of tomato, with barely any dressing. I think there was uni incorporated into the dressing, but there was so little of it that it was hard to tell. The soup fared slightly better – there was a sizable piece of uni in the soup, but the overall flavor was quite mild.

My disappointment about the soup and salad quickly faded, though, when this arrived:

Nigiyaka Bowl [$23.95]

Nigiyaka Bowl [$23.95]

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Feb 102014
 

Old Country Cafe (老鄉親 in Chinese) is a Taiwanese restaurant in Los Angeles. S has heard good things about it, and we’ve checked out the Alhambra location on one of our past LA trips (other location is in Temple City). Unfortunately, I forgot to get photos of the restaurant itself, so this will be a “food-only” pics post. Haha. The restaurant itself looked kind of… well, ghetto. It’s located in an empty-ish courtyard on the intersection of Valley Blvd and Garfield Ave, and once inside, the seating is comprised of barstools at the counter. Haha.

Anyway, the first thing that S and I noticed about this place were the prices – as in, they were really cheap. Well, that explains the, erm, simple decor and state of the place… But we’re not complaining. We’re just here for the food.

The menu has really traditional Taiwanese items – rice and noodle dishes, appetizers, etc. We ordered a few of the apps and one “entrée”-type dish for each of us.

Pork Ball 肉丸 [$3.50]

Pork Ball 肉丸 [$3.50]

Not the traditional meatballs that you might be familiar with. There’s a ground pork filling inside, and the “wrapper” is made from glutinous rice flour – sort of like mochi I guess – and the whole thing is fried, then topped with a sweet and sour sauce. When done well, the wrapper/mochi part should be soft yet chewy, and holds together the sauce and the filling. I’d say that this version was done quite well!

Braised Baby Bamboo 筍尖 [$2.25]

Braised Baby Bamboo 筍尖 [$2.25]

S loves bamboo shoots, so I thought we’d try an order. I thought they tasted pretty good, but S thought they were made with canned bamboo shoots. Haha. I guess I just liked the sauce, which was soy-based and mildly spicy.

Pig Blood Cake 豬血糕 [$2.25]

Pig Blood Cake 豬血糕 [$2.25]

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Jan 242014
 

Half & Half Tea House has pretty much become a sensation, thanks to its “Original Hot Honey Boba and Iced Milk Drinks.” The famous Iced Milk Drink is basically sweetened milk blended with ice and flavored with honey syrup from the boba, or whatever toppings that you choose.

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S and I have visited several Half & Half locations, including the original San Gabriel location, but pictured here is the Pasadena location (called an “Express” store).

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I chose the Iced Milk Drink with coffee jelly and pudding as my toppings, since I like those more than boba.

Iced Milk Drink with Coffee Jelly & Pudding

Iced Milk Drink with Coffee Jelly & Pudding [$3.85]

The pudding here is really special – I think it has an extra “eggy” taste, if that makes sense – and for me, that’s what makes this drink really great and stand out among some of its imitators, including San Diego’s Infini Tea.

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Jan 022014
 

Since I’m currently in Taiwan and will be here for another week or so, the posting schedule will be a bit messed up… apologies in advance! I’ll be writing about my travels soon after I get back to the U.S., though!

Anyway, I have a couple more things to share from my past L.A. trips. I wrote about Sushi Go 55 and Beard Papa’s Cafe in downtown LA’s Japan Center – well, before we left the area, my friend recommended that we hit up a popular bakery, Cafe Dulce. 

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We were quite full from all our of food adventures that day, but I wanted to bring some snacks home. The shop sells sandwiches in addition to baked goods and coffee – their coffee is supposedly quite famous, but I don’t drink much coffee anyway…

Cakes

Cakes

Breads on display

Breads

Desserts

Desserts

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Dec 162013
 

On the last day of my mini-college reunion LA trip, we decided to get sushi for lunch. We had originally planned to try out the popular Sushi Gen, only to find out that they are closed on Sundays. My friend found this place using Yelp, so we decided to check it out. It’s located in the Japan Center in downtown LA/Little Tokyo – and as it turns out, it was a great location because there was a Beard Papa’s in the same building, and Ozero Cafe nearby! So even before lunch, we had dessert and afternoon tea/snack figured out… haha. (Actually, there is one more dessert place that we went to in the nearby area – post coming in the future!)

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We were initially worried about not being able to get a table since we had a party of five during lunch hour, and the restaurant was quite tiny, but we were seated right away.

They offer chirashi for $17, which we all thought was a really reasonable price. There’s also a more premium chirashi that includes uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon roe), for $24. Given my love for uni, I decided to splurge and order that.

Green Tea & Appetizers

Green Tea & Appetizers

To start, I had a cup of green tea, which our waitress kept refilled throughout the meal. We also got some complimentary pickled veggies & seaweed as appetizers, which were nice and refreshing.

Miso Soup

Miso Soup

Each of us also got a miso soup, which was also quite good. 

Sashimi Lunch [$16]

Sashimi Lunch [$16]

One of my friends ordered the sashimi set, which came with albacore, whitefish, yellowtail, tuna, octopus, and salmon. It was served with rice.

Chirashi [$17]

Chirashi [$17]

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Dec 092013
 

I am still slowly working my way through posts from the recent LA trips. One of my favorite types of restaurants is Hong Kong-style cafés, which serve both Western-style food such as steaks and pastas, as well as the typical Cantonese fried rice and noodle dishes, in addition to snacks and desserts. I’ve posted previously about a couple of HK cafés that I’ve visited in LA, but on one of my recent trips, I wanted something different. It was around 2AM, so our options were a bit limited, but we decided to check out Garden Cafe, located on Valley Blvd in Alhambra.

The menu was quite extensive, and I forgot to take some pictures of it… Did I mention it was kind of late? Haha. Nevertheless, here are some photos of our meal…

Cantonese-style Borscht Soup

Cantonese-style Borscht Soup

Served with every “set” meal, this is a classic in cafés. I’m not sure why they chose to do a variation on borscht, a Russian soup, but it’s usually pretty good. It’s made with beef broth, tomatoes, potatoes, celery, cabbage, and onions. Sometimes, there will be beef stew meat as well. I actually like the version made by San Diego’s very own A Cafe, but that might be because I like a milder soup. Haha.

Sizzling Ribeye Steak with Black Pepper Sauce

Sizzling Ribeye Steak with Black Pepper Sauce

Not the most flattering photo, but it was actually really delicious. For about $10, you get a sizable ribeye steak cooked in your choice of sauce (S chose black pepper), mashed potatoes, and veggies. Obviously can’t compare with actual steakhouses, but seriously, this was pretty darn good. The black pepper sauce helped with adding some juiciness.

Baked Spaghetti with Bolognese Sauce

Baked Bolognese with Spaghetti

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Nov 202013
 

Sorry to keep flooding you with posts from my L.A. trip, but I haven’t eaten out much in San Diego since we spent so much money and time eating out in L.A. instead. Haha. I’ll consider this my guide for L.A. for now. Also, I’m going to combine some of the posts since we visited quite a few cafés and dessert shops during our short time there (another reason we’re trying to eat out less… har har).

Anyway, we stumbled upon Beard Papa’s in Little Tokyo Shopping Center by accident. Our destination was a sushi restaurant for lunch, and Beard Papa’s happened to be at the entrance of the same shopping center in Little Tokyo. Normally when S and I visit L.A., we eat in the San Gabriel Valley area (for Taiwanese and/or Cantonese food), so this was my first time in Little Tokyo. I actually really liked the large shopping center, which reminded me a bit of Asian department stores – a food court floor, arcade, grocery store, boutiques… Should have taken some photos. Oops. I was too busy window shopping with my friends.

My friend saw the Beard Papa’s and got super excited. Haha. It’s a Japanese franchise that specializes in selling cream puffs – soft and puffy choux pastry filled with pastry cream. I’ve made my own version at home, but Beard Papa’s makes some of the best cream puffs I’ve had. (Keep in mind, I haven’t been to France. Haha.)

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Filling the choux pastry with fresh pastry cream

You order the type of cream puff you want (see next pic for the menu), then it gets filled – this way, the choux pastry stays crisp instead of getting soggy from the cream.

Beard Papa's Menu

Beard Papa’s Menu

I was really tempted to get multiple puffs, but they don’t taste good if they’re not fresh, so I just ordered a regular vanilla cream puff for S, and one vanilla E’clair for myself. The E’clair is just the cream puff dipped in chocolate.

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Nov 132013
 

Here’s another post from my recent visit to L.A. (Actually, I’m going to L.A. again this weekend, so this month might pretty much be L.A.-focused. Haha.) We were meeting up with some of our college buddies, and we decided to eat something nice. Since one of my friends is pretty familiar with the Torrance area, he took us to a Japanese BBQ restaurant in Lomita. We didn’t have reservations or anything, but luckily they had a table for four available on a Friday night. The place was pretty small, very cute, and reminded me a lot of Tsuruhashi - Japanese “Korean” style BBQ.

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The menu indicates that they have “Special Selected” as well as “High Quality” U.S. Kobe beef. But we decided that U.S. Prime beef was good enough for us (and our wallets), haha.

Salted Beef Tongue [$6.50]

Salted Beef Tongue [$6.50]

Pork Fatty Meat [$5.50]

Pork Fatty Meat [$5.50]

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Dec 012012
 

I finally dug up the photos from our last trip to LA (yes, the same trip where we had ABC Cafe and Cafe Spot). We were looking to grab a quick lunch near UCLA, and I found Headline’s Diner & Press Club through Yelp.

It’s a pretty small diner – a handful of tables and seats at the counter. We sat at the counter. Notice that there’s a mirror on the back wall to make the place look bigger! Clever trick indeed, since both S and I thought that there was more seating in the back. Haha.

The menu is pretty simple – breakfast platters like scrambled eggs, omelettes, bacon, and sandwiches. Normally I choose breakfast, but that day I chose a sandwich. It turned out to be a good decision.

Tuna croissant, served with fruit ($7.75)

While the tuna salad was not bad, the croissant was quite underwhelming and dry. I feel like if you’re going to serve sandwiches on a croissant, it should be a good croissant – doesn’t have to be French patisserie quality, but at least not stale…

Bruin Special – 2 pancakes, 3 eggs, hash brown, 2 slices of bacon & 2 sausages links ($7.69)

S ordered the Bruin Special, which seems like a hefty plate of food from the description. Well.. it was all right. As you can see, the bacon is pretty flimsy, and the sausage links were small. Hash browns are nothing like the crispy, browned thin potato slices that we love – it’s more of a… scalloped-potatoes hash? Not really sure how to describe but it’s definitely not hash browns. I was quite disappointed.

Overall, we weren’t very satisfied with the meal, but I guess I can see why college students would like the place. (After all, greasy diner food screams hangover cure.) For my diner fix, I still think Studio Diner is the best I’ve had since moving to San Diego.

Headline’s Diner & Press Club
10922 Kinross Ave, Los Angeles, CA

http://headlinesdiner.com/

Hours: Mon-Fri 6am-10pm; Sat-Sun 7am-10pm

Oct 242012
 

S and I love Hong Kong cafes. In Chinese, it’s called 港式西餐 (literally, HK-style Western cuisine). In the Bay Area, our favorite was Shooting Star in Oakland Chinatown. Here in San Diego, the only option we have is A Cafe, which pretty much pales in comparison. So when we were in LA last weekend for S’s badminton tournament*, we got to try out a couple of HK cafes with some friends who are native to the Alhambra/Monterey Park/San Gabriel Valley area. One of the beauties of HK cafes is that they are often open until pretty late, so it was the perfect place to visit after a whole day of matches.

An aside: In case you didn’t know, YES, badminton is a competitive sport! It’s super fast-paced – arguably the fastest racket sport – and very challenging. It’s unfortunate that most people think of it as a backyard sport. If you still have doubts, check this out.

Anyway… back to food. On the first night, we tried Cafe Spot.

Cafe Spot, located on W. Valley Blvd in Alhambra

The menu is pretty extensive – they serve many variations of the typical dishes you’d find at HK cafes: baked pastas, rice casseroles, curry, and some traditional rice and noodle dishes. I was a bit lost at first, but my friends suggested that I choose something from the dinner specials, which comes with a drink (lemon tea, Chinese herbal tea, or HK milk tea) and cup of vegetable soup.

Red wine rib steak (short rib) 紅酒燴牛骨扒

Friends ordered the red wine-braised short rib. The meat was really tender – definitely had been braised for quite a long time (or pressure cooked, I suppose.. haha). I couldn’t taste much of the wine in the sauce. Instead it was quite the traditional soy sauce-based Chinese flavors. Side dishes were two veggie medleys – stir-fried cabbage, and steamed frozen veggie mix. Not the most impressive sides, but considering all this was about $10, it was really worth it.

Grandma’s braised pork belly 外婆家紅燒肉

I can’t ever seem to stay away from pork belly. This actually reminded me of something my grandmother used to make, with dark soy sauce and five-spice flavoring. The pork belly had good texture, tender but not mushy. It was just a tad too salty, though – I was surprised since dark soy sauce is usually very mild, but they must have also added some of the saltier light soy sauce to add flavor. This was about $8, I believe.

S also ordered a baked spaghetti bolognese, which I didn’t get a chance to photograph. It was decent but not too memorable.

The next night, we ventured to ABC Cafe, located down the street, technically in Monterey Park. Their late-night specials were even cheaper than Cafe Spot. Our friend recommended the $7 rib steak.

Grilled ribeye steak, with black pepper sauce 香煎牛扒(配黑胡椒醬)

I didn’t expect much from a $7 steak, but this was actually some pretty good stuff. I requested the steak cooked to medium (not too sure about the quality of the meat so I had it cooked a little more than what I usually do), and it arrived just past medium, but not too tough. Again, two of the sides comprised of steamed frozen veggies and a scoop of mashed potatoes from an instant mix. But I also got 2 fried eggs (you could choose them any style), which was awesome.

Portuguese-style chicken casserole 焗葡國雞飯

S chose another baked dish. This time, he picked the Portuguese-style chicken casserole, one of his favorites from Shooting Star. The chicken is cooked with coconut and curry – actually reminds me a bit of beef rendang, but less heavy on the spices. Here, the dish is served with rice on the side, whereas at other places there is a layer of rice at the bottom of the dish. The curry was all right – I still prefer Shooting Star’s version, which was less oily and more flavorful.

After the meal here, I had an egg puff craving, so S and I actually drove back to Cafe Spot, which is supposedly famous for the egg puffs. I bought an order to go, which meant it was all wrapped in a small pouch and I couldn’t get a good photo :( But they were super delicious – crispy on the outside, and fluffy and chewy on the inside. I’ve been thinking about them ever since leaving LA. So if you’re in the area, definitely hit up Cafe Spot for their egg puffs! Best way to spend $4.

I wish I had gotten to eat more things in the LA trip, but I was very satisfied with these late-night meals. It’s too bad that we rarely have the time or opportunity to go to LA, but I do hope to to try out as many new and yummy things as I can!

Cafe Spot
500 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA
(626) 308-3233

ABC Cafe
100 N Garfield Ave, Monterey Park, CA
(626) 573-0718

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