Tuesday, March 31, 2009

File This Under "Weird Themes"

Image via Fun Fever

I just ate a hearty meal of Pizza Hut's pasta for lunch. Nothing special, but it was worth eating.

In a very surreal instance and unlucky chance, I stumbled upon a site that has 15 of the most weirdest themed restaurants. Two of them grossed me out immediately. There is one with a Taiwanese restaurant with a restroom theme and using a toilet bowl seat as your chair, while another Japanese restaurant had a cannibalistic theme of using a disemboweled body as your "deboned" protein meal.

Image via Weird Asia News

If you want to check out this site, go to Weburbanist for more of these interesting dining options around the world.

As for me, I'll have to get started on my Urasawa and La Casita Mexicana reviews so that I can be reminded on how good food don't need offbeat themes to attract people into the restaurants.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Quarterly Report on the 2009 New Year's Resolution List

Baby Abalone at Sushi Zo

Remembered the silly list I compiled late last year? It was my New Year's Resolution list of places I have wanted to visit in 2009. It was a daunting task because of weird variety of places that set them apart anywhere from being a hole in the wall place to a fine dining place I have yet to visit.

Funny story.... I had visited three of those places this past week and the list is about one-fourth of being done. Some people try to lose weight unsuccessfully for their new year's resolution. I think this list was much more manageable for me as I can eat my way out without feeling guilty.

My reviews on some of those places includes Mom's Burgers, Sushi Zo, La Casita Mexicana, and Urasawa will come out soon. Now, I just need to be put in a Jenny Craig diet.

Wanna join me?

Breakfast Closed @ Daily Grill Downtown (Downtown L.A.)

When you get back in the office on Monday, there will be a new change on the old Daily Grill Downtown. I guess it's the sign of the times when recession hits a place like this would closed for breakfast and cut down hours. It is sort of sad for me because I can remembered fondly of the swinging carousel doors and their diner food that is opened in the heart of downtown LA. It's not like they have the best food or the cheapest price. It was just that they are the most convenient for downtown transients within walking distances to their offices.

Oh well, I guess it is BLD here I come. Unless they got rid of their breakfast and now called LD. Now, that would be a sign of the apocalypse.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Revising the Best Noodle Question @ Ichimian Bamboo Garden (Torrance)

Last night, I get a chance to meet my hero, Eat Drink & Be Merry at a social function hosted by our man Teenage Glutster. For some time, I have been using his "other" noodle site for reference guide in my noodle adventures. For an unforeseen turnabout, ED&BM decided to ask me what was the best noodle I had recently and where at.

I fluffed and gave him an answer of Monterey Park's Daikokuya. The ramen-ya was actually very good and much better than Little Tokyo's branch, but the best noodle I had recently belongs to the cold soba from Ichimian Bamboo Garden.

Last month, a group of us decided to do a whirl wind tour of Japanese eateries around South Bay areas in Los Angeles County (ie Torrance, Gardena, Redondo Beach, etc.) hosted by Burumun of Gourmet Pigs. Members of this illustrious group also included Choisauce from Folie à Choisauce, Aaron from Food Destination, Kung Food Panda, Mattatouille, RumDood, and Teenage Glutster.

After a brief stop for an Okonomiyaki meal and pastry place, we decided to make soba as our noodle dining stop before ending the trip with an Izakaya meal. Yes, I can feel a heated question coming up about our soba destination choice.

Tea Station

Why or better yet, how come come we chose to come here instead of Otafuku for soba? To make a short answer, we tried to go to Otafuku on Saturday afternoon for lunch, but we didn't check ahead of time so that we may discovered that Otafuku does not open for lunch on Saturday. Yikes!

Another respected foodie blogger, Exile Kiss had mentioned about this tiny shop that have also hand made their noodle every day. This tiny delightful little shop only opens for four and a half hours every day (Monday-Friday at 11am - 3:30pm) or until they ran out of noodles. They are open on Saturday (11am-5pm) and closed on Sunday.

Ichimian (translation to Bamboo Garden in Japanese) specialized in these hand made noodle that are made from Buckwheat mixed with certain types of flour. The little noodle house is part of the franchise owned by the famed Ichimi Group who is trying to usher in soba as the new healthier product and market soba as the best Japanese fast food choice (as oppose to Yoshinoya?).

Soba can be offer in two ways: cold served with chilled dipping sauce or hot in a soup. The most popular option for cold soba to be served on was on top of a zuru plate (bamboo sieve-like tray) and provided with a tsuyu dipping sauce that closely resembled a sweetened soy sauce. To fully enjoy soba, it was often suggested you dipped it in the tsuyu sauce, swish it like you would in a shabu shabu, twirl the soba noodle like a yarn, and enjoy it cold as it was meant to be.

Uchiatate Zuru Cold Soba - $5.90

The soba noodle was firm, chewy, and elicited strong rich flavor when you dipped into the tsuyu sauce. The aforementioned sauce contains dash of dashi, mirin, and sweetened soy sauce. The tray also included fresh green onions and wasabi to enhance the flavor profile of the sauce. One big advantage to this cold noodle was that even if it was served cold, the noodle was not stiff like it was al dente style cooking. That was quite pleasing to me when the noodle was tender.

I decided to share and get the cold soba noodle with tororo on top. It resembles a soft puree made of Japanese Yam with a dash of seaweed. The soba noodle is already in its bowl of soup with a big spoon for your scooping needs.

At the end of the meal, if you still have left over tsuyu sauce, you can go to the tea station and add in hot or cold tea to the leftover sauce for your drinking consumption. That was actually not bad and a refreshing drink to boot.

Tororo Cold Noodle - $6.90

One of the interesting segment was that our entire group almost unanimously picked cold light colored enriched soba as the choice. Mattatouille decided to go against the grain and went with a hot soba instead. I think he chose the Tanuki, where the soba was accompanied with deep fried tofu. Not quite sure if that was it, but you can see that below along with a bowl of Negitoro Rice ordered by Choisauce.

Hot Soba Bowl

Negitoro Rice - $3.55

Here's the answer to the question most people will want to know. How is this place compared to the other handmade soba place in town, Otafuku? Since, the Panda and I had soba from both places on the same day, I would say my answer is that I preferred Ichimian's soba noodle over Otakfuku.

I thought the texture of the soba at Ichimian was much more firmer and had a better flavor profile. The flavor tasted less doughy comparing to Otafuku, but I think it was very small of a margin in that regards. This doesn't mean it ends the soba battle discussion, but for one night I did tasted a clear difference in which place has a better soba noodle.

If you are tired of ramen and Neu Ro Mein, the buckwheat soba from Ichimian can satisfy your craving needs for fresh and enriching appetite without being heavy. It in fact was trying to position itself as the prefer choice of best Japanese fast food. Good luck with that versus Yoshinoya.

So ED&BM, to withdraw the previous answer and inserting new one to the noodle question: this would be my place for the best recent noodle I have had.

Ichimian Bamboo Garden
1618 Cravens Ave
Torrance, CA 90501
(310) 328-1323


Ichimian Bamboo Garden on Urbanspoon

Ichimian Bamboo Garden in Los Angeles

Monday, March 23, 2009

Once In a Lifetime Steak Dining @ The Cut (Beverly Hills)

Restaurant is in the Four Season Wilshire Hotel

Last Month, I sent out a S.O.S. distress signal in wanting to dine at the steakhouse of the other Wolfgang. Mr. Zwenier's Wolfgang Steakhouse on Canon Dr. wasn't that bad as the decor and ambiance of the place was stellar, but the food did not quite live up to the beautiful standard of the place.

Immediately my bat signal was able to reach to Burumun of Gourmet Pigs, Kevin from kevinEats, and Tangbro1 of Only Eat What Feed Your Soul. With some nifty date searching, I was able to get a 6pm dining reservation on a Saturday. Too bad that the daylight savings didn't start until the following day as we did not get too much natural lighting in a dimly lit room. This restaurant is very practical for a place to impress your clients or a natural place for a romantic dinner. Either way you'll score major points for taking your most important person to this much buzzed restaurant, which gather One Star from the popular Michelin Guide.

Our service was excellent throughout the night. They were at our table at the precise moment when we needed them, but yet not too overbearing as they give you a room to breath. Our server for the night was a lovely young lady who was fantastic for the handling of our table, even at to face of four tourists busting out their cameras (kidding guys!). There was another server assisting in our table that had a slight resemblance to Adrian Grenier of TV's "Entourage". He was a total dead ringer to the young TV star and the young man even admits that he gets mistaken for Vincent Chase.

Before anything comes out, our server brings a tray of various types of meat for display of demonstration. She was showing us the difference in the cut for Sirloin, Filet Mignon, Rib Eye, and Bone In steaks. It was fascinating to see the inside of the meat and at the same time I was just salivating by looking it.

We were also quickly served with our choice from their baked pantry for starters while we get to take in the atmosphere before we wait for our meal to begin.

Five different selections of pantry bread

Our first dish to come out of the kitchen was the Kobe Steak Sashimi with Spicy Radishes. I felt this dish had a nice spicy flavor to it without overwhelming the rare beef. It was beautifully presented and I think it was good start to our meal.

Kobe Steak Sashimi with Spicy Radishes ($22)

The next four dishes required a little bit of imagination as I was awestruck by the how beautifully the plates were laid out. Luckily, I'm not jaded yet as I don't see too often on how wonderful a dish can look, but taste delicious at the same time.

In the past, I did described on how I love the blue fin toro at Hama Sushi. It was beautifully cut with the fat maintaining its beautiful appearance and flavor signified by its wonderful streak. Even though my photo does injustice as the low lighting started to kick in big time (as they dimmed down the light even more), I felt lost by blue fin toro at this place. I think the blue fin toro at a sushi place that is handled by the right sushi chef can display the fatty part of fish with its original intent. The other components in this tartare dish destroyed what I liked about the raw fish. The ginger was overwhelming, but nonetheless I thought it's still a very composed dish. I got the impression my table mates liked this blue fin toro dish much more than I did.

The Prime Sirloin tartare did played wonderfully on the satire of a steak and egg. As we stirred the aioli on the ground beef tartare, I was briefly trying to imagine a dish of spam coming right out of the can. Thankfully, it tasted nothing like the fake product as the flavor was fresh and the small amount of quail egg provided more tangy texture to the beef. Wonderfully played on the presentation of this dish.

#1 Grade Blue Fin "Toro" Tartare, Wasabi Aioli, Ginger, Togarashi Crisps, Tosa Soy ($32)

Prime Sirloin Tartare with Herb Aioli & Mustard ($22)

The next two starters will complete our appetizers before our meal. The Warm Veal Tongue was my favorite of the night for the starters. I appreciate the complexity of the tongue mixed in with other flavor profiles such as sweet and tangy. Obviously playing fusion and while maintaining the tenderness, I was satisfy in that the sauces didn't masked the taste of the veal tongue. I was looking at this dish with so many things going on the plate, luckily the tongue still stood out.

The maple glazed pork belly was an odd choice for me because the name already sounded as if this dish still needed sweetness. In fact, I was right, it was too sweet. This dish badly needed to be more tender and slow cooked more like the short beef ribs we're about to be served. Best part of the night, we had a champagne of 2002 Jose Dhondt Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Mes Vieilles Vignes, which set us back about $122. The champagne ran out about now, but I was able to save it and wash down the pork belly and the blue fin toro tartare with no regrets.

Warm Veal Tongue with Marinated Artichokes, Cannellini Beans, and "Salsa Verde ($17)

Maple Glazed Pork Belly with Asian Spices, Watercress, Sesame-Orange Dressing, Rhubarb Compote ($16)

The two non-prime steak dishes were the 8-hour slow cooked Short Beef Ribs and the Tuna steak were a hit in my eyes. The chef took the liberty of evenly distribute the main courses into 6 pieces for each of us. Very thrilled about that so that we can get evenly cut meat and presented with no fuss.

The tuna steak I thought it was nicely cooked. In the menu, it stated that it qualify as a sashimi quality, which explains the rare feature on the inside. I felt mellow about the short ribs, but it all changes with the sweet pea puree surrounding the beef along with a touch of garam masala (mixture of spices) that gave it a hot, but not quite spicy taste. I felt a little pepper on the hotness as worked pretty well into dish.

8 Hrs Slow cooked Kobe Beef Short Ribs "Indian Spiced" w/ Curry Sweet Pea Puree, Garam Masala (R) - $39
Sashimi Quality Big Eye Tuna Steak (L) - $42

The moment of the night came when our steaks have arrived. We decided to take all four versions of the medium rare New York Sirloin steaks in the menu. There was a tasting sampler listed, but Kevin advised against it as he calculated based on his last visit that the value is not worth it with that order. The fact that we have six people gave us a chance to order variety of items and also drive down the per cost in the steak dishes. The four dishes of steak we ordered was a much better saving and value than if we had ordered the steak sampler.

(From R to L) Dry Aged 35 Days, Bone In, American Wagyu, & Japanese Wagyu

Let me preface before we start on the steak, I love all four steaks we have that night. The New York Sirloin is part of the many names for the cut of top loin steak. Think of it like a porterhouse steak that has being stripped of choice portion of the tenderloin. Because of the balance in flavor and tenderness, the top loin can be very expensive of a cut.

My two favorite cut of the night were Bone-In New York Sirloin and the 35 Days Dry Aged New York Sirloin. Throw in a little controversy, those two were the least expensive than the wagyu beef. Was there's a big bruhah? Let's break it down:

All of the steak were grilled over hard wood & charcoal before finished in a 1200 degree broiler. The bone-in steak was fantastic with the bone in to add in more flavor than without a bone. One of my dining mate asked me why I thought a cheaper priced steak like bone-in was better. Most people don't realized that bone-in steak or chicken tends to be cheaper and taste better with the bone kept in tact. Plus it aged well at 21 days than without. The Illinois corn-fed bone in steak was probably my 2nd favorite of the night.

U.S.D.A. Prime, Illinois Corn Fed, Aged 21 Days - Bone In New York Sirloin (20 oz - $56) *1/6

The 35 Days Dry Aged Steak was my favorite of the night. Out of the four cuts, it was the most rich and distinguished flavor out of the bunch. As the picture showed below against the bone-in steak, it has some marble patterns. Not quite as much as the wagyu obviously, but a distinguished feel that separated from its Midwest counterpart. The dry aged sirloin melted in my mouth with its juicy medium rare meat. No way of describing it as it hit the height of ecstasy in my mouth.

U.S.D.A Prime Nebraska Corn Fed, Dry Aged 35 Days (top) - New York Sirloin (14 oz $59) *1/6

We are now heading towards the Wagyu territory and it really become the testament on whether or not wagyu at its price was worth it. Keep in mind of all the stories you might have heard of the cow being fed with beer and beer mush while being massaged with sake. This type of beef is often refer to as the "foie gois beef". It's often the most expensive steak to purchase and it's not easily cooked as many have tried to imported and cook it themselves at home. Failure will be theme of that story.

I do think both of the meat comes off very gamey. As you can see the texture of the meat, both of them are incredibly marbled and very high amount in unsaturated fat. The American "Kobe Style" which uses similar method as their Japanese counterpart. Because of the fact it's not raised in Kobe Japan, it's not considered a Kobe beef.

True Japanese 100% Wagyu Beef from Saga Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan
New York Sirloin (6 oz $120) *1/6

The Japanese Wagyu was the 100% real McCoy as it was very fatty. The rich aroma gave off a strong smell, while the steak may had been known for its marbling appearance, it's often times very gave out a dull color (compare it to the bone-in steak on the top picture). The juiciness and the strong rich flavor was very evident. For some, it's an acquire taste and I can see a lot of doggy bag taking the Wagyu beef home in that fancy "The Cut bag" I have noticed popping in every table that has the Wagyu beef.

The American version of Wagyu is not as rich or bold in flavor like their Japanese counterpart. Even though it's not my favorite, I still enjoyed the subtle tone of its rich flavor profile, but it lack the juiciness I thought it would had. Some of our dining mates thought this was the best, so it can be the sheer difference in the cut as I missed my luck.

American Wagyu/Angus "Kobe Style" Beef from Snake River Farms, Idaho
New York Sirloin (8 oz $75) *1/6

Seeing on how overall we enjoyed our meal, we tempted our faith in desserts as at this point I was getting full. Since we all wanted to share the desserts, we decided to cut in half and go ahead to order three desserts. Our Vince Chase look-alike server made an educated guess that we all wanted the Soufflé and crumble. Somehow someone in our table thought we should get the "donuts". For $14, that better be an orgasmic donuts.

Brooke Cherry Toasted Almond Crumble, Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream ($14)

It was a sweet surprise to see how much I enjoyed all three of the desserts, especially the crumble. With Ice cream mixing with the cherry toasted almond crumble, it was a delightful dessert. As in for the donut? Somebody mentioned it was better than French Laundry. I'm going to keep that in mind and skipped that when I decided to make my visit to Yountville.

Warm Brioche Doughnuts, Huckleberry Compote, Butter Pecan Ice Cream ($14)

For the souffle? Someone need to tell Notorious P.I.G. to mix in the ice cream first before crumbling the souffle. I might need to revoke her dessert credentials before she destroyed another dessert.

Just kidding!

Dark Chocolate Soufflé, Whipped Crème Fraîche, Gianduja Ice Cream ($14)

Overall, we were treated to a very good service and a very excellent courses. Not all of them were a hit, but was a winner in my book. Two wines, six starters, six main courses, and three desserts added up to a grand total of $185 for each foodie. Definitely not cheap and more of a luxury. I can safely say that I'll never look at Ruth Chris's or Outback the same way again.

I'll definitely will be back there soon. However, only for that real special occasion!

The Cut
9500 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 276-8500


Cut (Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons) on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 20, 2009

Grand Preview: Corkbar (Downtown L.A.)

This past week, I decided to visit my old stomping ground that has seem some revitalization that was not imaginable back in the 90s. Often disregarded and only would be seen as other side of the neighborhood that is far away from City Hall and its fancy tall building neighbors, this part of downtown was slumming it for quite a while.

Just as I had made a recent visit to D-Town Burger Bar that was about eight blocks away, I was happy another new place had opened up in downtown that is a short distance away from LA Live, Nokia Center, and the Staple Center arena.

Before we hit off to the Varnish Bar, I convinced Kung Food Panda to stop by here at this new wine bar that I read about which had its grand opening opened on March 12. We wanted to drop by and see how this new wine bar was coming along and what they have to offer.

We were quite impressed with the decor and ambiance of the place. The place have two outdoor patio areas and a several tall bench counter tables as well as a grand dining room. The place has a nice slick modern look with plenty of natural lighting to give it a warm inviting feel when you sit down. Behind the beautiful crafted bar is a tall elegant collections of wine bottles that is being offered here at an aptly named place called "Corkbar".

I would have wrongfully assumed this place would have been a stuck up or pretentious about wines, but I was quite very surprised by their welcoming friendly faces and services they offered here. Let's face it, me and the Panda are not going to look like a wine connoisseur at any stretch of imagination. It was great to see that great care of service happened.

We knew that they held a little private wine tasting for some club of sorts that was visiting this particular night. It was quite interesting to see them taking notes on each of the wine that was served here at this establishment. All of the wines and beers that are served here derived from California.

Our meal have included an order of their 6-Hour Braised Short Ribs that was served on top of cheese polenta. This was one of their two main dishes served so far as I am figuring they would be adding more down the road (since they were opened less than a week when we visited them).

The short ribs was actually pretty good. It was spot on with the Melville Syrah red wine that I have that night. That was another nice touch in their menu was their recommendation of wines that would be appropriate to go along with each of the dishes that was on their menu.

6 Hour Braised Short Ribs with Cheese Polenta ($16)

Charcuterie (7 meat for $19)

We have also ordered an array of different meat served with sliced baguette, dijon mustard and pickles. It was beautifully displayed on top of a presentation board. The seven different meat were Prosciutto, Speck, Soppessata Salami, Toscano Salami, Smoked Chorizo, Bresaola, Bündnerfleisch.


One thing I love besides the presentation was the freshness of the meat that was served here as well. Beautifully presented, I was glad that we chose this over cheese as I would normally done, but my lactose intolerance coupled with wine would not worked that well.

FYI: *cough* cheese don't go well with Pepsi either.


Toscano Salami

Smoked Chorizo

Soppessata Salami


For a new place like this to exist in downtown L.A. is just marvelous because a place that is unpretentious, but yet classy is a breath of fresh air that is needed here. With the food being served here that is made fresh from farmer's market, it's quite remarkable that we should have more wine bar here in downtown. This place serve as a good start and hope the revitalization continues.

403 W 12th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 746-0050

Corkbar on Urbanspoon

CorkBar in Los Angeles