Monday, November 12, 2018

Brooklyn Style Sicilian Grandma Pie Found at Milana's New York Pizzeria










There is one thing in LA I have a hard time finding.

Apparently, Sicilian pizza in square form is almost non-existent, but what's harder to find? Grandma style Pie pizza. Nooooo, not talking about Little Caesar's pizza or some thick deep dish, but a square form that is considered Grandma's style, which is more simplistic, but yet not too many places would carried it.

Front Entrance

Think of a pan style pizza with thin layer of cheese on top of bucko layers of tomato sauce, where the crust would become crispy around the edge. Instead of thick stuff style pizza, it's more of thin layer with crust being more flat layered with the huge amount of sauce over the cheese.

I think a lot of people are familiar with Pizza Hut's pan style pizza where the pizza pie would be cook in a pan and the outer crust would be baked to crispy style oily perfection. Think of Grandma's style pizza of that nature, but with olive oil on the crust with the pie being tomato-ized with the sauce.

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Milana's New York Pizzeria was the one restaurant I can find in Los Angeles area that served that kind of pizza... Brooklyn style Sicilian. Being frank, most people associated with thin crust with new york pizza. You can pretty much guessed the conflict of people surmising that Sicilian pizza is pan style thick, but also getting New York pizza crust to be thin.

Can it be a combustible mix? Believe it or not, This type of pizza is a rarity in this part, but very cherished.

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Let's break it down a bit, Sicilian pizza's dough will be riser and thick. Whereas in the Brooklyn style Sicilian, it's a grandma pie where this is coated with olive oil in the pan to make the dough soft and chewy. You can see the dough for yourself on how thick it was. For some, it looks thin slice, but was very deliberately crispy and not a riser as some expected like a midwest style Sicilian pizza (square or rectangle) based on the preference.

Based on Bon Apetite, apparently Grandma Pie such as this thin style Sicilian is getting more popular in the east coast, so that's why I was hankering to find any place that would carried it. Hard to find such an unique style pizza out here on the west coast unless a transplant can bring it over. As you can guess, Milina from New York is bringing it over.

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Oh, what else is impressive in this non-descript shop along 4th street in downtown Long Beach that would make me come back for more? It's their bread sticks! No kidding on that one. With their marina sauce, this was divine. Love the soft chewy texture over the hard thick ones you get from the other bakeshop that offered these. You will love it baked out of the oven where the breakdown on these sticks are just like breaking open a muffin.

Great to have something like this exist. You can have always have a grandma to bake a pizza like this for you, but it's always great to find a place that does make this type of pizza.

Milana's New York Pizzeria
165 E. 4th Street
Long Beach, CA 90802

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tunisian Kosher Found at Harissa Restaurant













I had an eventful night in good south of Beverly Hill.

Usually, avoiding the glitzy, shopping area of this part of the town was a must. Imagine if you will, there is a more upscale, posh part of the town that attracts big spenders to those high end boutique shops you have seen in the movie "Pretty Woman" and "Beverly Hill Cops". Going two blocks south, you'll get more of the intimate restaurants without the cost gouging.

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Seafood Board

Harissa is an hybrid Tunisian and French restaurant that is in the heart of the less intimidating area of Pico Blvd, that is more for the humble crowd. The restaurant started by Alain Cohen was an addition to the space next to his Kosher deli aptly named "Got Kosher".

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Charcuterie Board

A select group of influential "influencers" and I got invited to attend a diner hosted Mr. Cohen in his Tunisian influenced Kosher restaurant. It was delight to see Alain go in depth about his upbringings and family background that inspired into opening up a deli. In no time, it also led him to open up his very own restaurant after Alain tried every hands in every possible positions in restaurant world to understand the inner workings to operate an establishment.

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Alain's Tuna Sandwich

I researched it where Mr. Cohen decided to go all in by transferring to a restaurant from a casual Kosher cafe where he offers the upmost Jewish cuisine of Shabbat provisions with anything from challahs to vegan dishes that holds to the Jewish traditions. By transferring to a full fledged restaurant, it opened up more room to accommodate diners with tables and a patio seating just outside of the space.

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This happening dinner hosted by our esteemed host Alain, where he regaled us with his upbringing in France where the influences of some of the dishes can be shown through, with the Tunisian fare that dazzled in display. First came the epic Seafood board that consists of gravlax with bouhka and salmon terrine. That itself would be highlight if we didn't get more to come. Learned from Alain on that some of the importing of these exquisite item like gravlax can be hefty. So worth savoring for.

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Lemon Raisin Chicken Couscous

Next up are the charcuterie board. This highlighted some of beef prosciutto, lamb pancetta, and chicken pate with cognac. The two most defined North African dish of Tunisa I was about to experience came right after the boards. The Alain's Tuna Sandwich and the Lemon Raisin Chicken Couscous.

First off on the couscous, this would be my 2nd time ever in experienced this unique small steamed balls of semolina. I know, I am ashamed in admitting that fact. Fortunately, Harissa can right this wrong by showing us their version of this timeless North African dish with cauliflower version of couscous. My other experience was from an Algerian restaurant who showcased this dish.

The tuna sandwich named after our host/owner was bundled with hard boiled egg in a bun flavored with mechouia and hot chili paste of Harissa (now you know restaurant was name after the popular chili paste of Tunisa).

This unforgettable meal sets off all sorts of possibilities of what Tunisian fare can be and we also were informed of what it takes for the meal needing to be Kosher. Yes, this restaurant obviously observes the requirement of Jewish dietary regulations.

If you ever hit up Beverly Hills, forget the glitz on the northend, and hit up south for a memorable humble meal of this spectacular cuisine. More importantly, it's Kosher!

Harissa Restaurant
8914 Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Top Notch Pollo a La Brassa at Higo Chicken










In a world where we don't often get the best of both world, we often tend to get the poor imitation.

That's where the word "fusion" get the bad rap.

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Causa Rellena - Whipped Potato with Aji Amarillo, filled with Shredded Chicken

How did we come with this poor misconception? Pretty much I can think it was originated from people who wants to mix two different things together and hoped the mashed-up works. I still think the worst idea in the world are the durian pancake or ube latte. You just can't pleased everyone by mixing some stuff.

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Higo Chicken is a brainchild of the owners who started up Higo Sushi that had opened down the street from this Pan-Latin Cuisine place. It's a Peruvian cuisine that had a hand with some Japanese influences, especially with the ingredients. Higo Chicken obviously can obviously be Pollo a la Brasa (Rotisserie Chicken), but they do a bit more than what the name suggested.

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The famed Rostierrie Chicken with SpinachTallarin with Basil Sauce and Cheese

First, I pursue some of the items on the menu where I was curious about the ingredients on the dishes. Especially the potato being a popular ingredients on both the apps and the mains. Pasta is also another item reign supreme in the menu as well. I especially love their version of the tallarin (think spaghetti, but in this case spinach spaghetti with basil sauce!).

Crazier thing is that we all need to try the Causa Rellena, which is like a whipped potato puree with a shredded chicken in the middle. This is a sight to be hold when it was presented.

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Their dessert is also another worth checking out. One of the offering was a lucuma flavored ice cream, which the fruit itself is a native of Peru. I could best described the taste like durian minus the smell. For ice cream, it's bearable and worth the experience it is given.

My plan coming here wasn't to compared authentic Peruvian with Latin fusion food. Far from it. In my pleasant dining experience here, I founded in that even though the owners who dabbled with the artistry of Japanese cuisine in their other location with a few Peruvian dishes in that sushi joint. Having them to decide to invest fully on a separate location to dedicate Peruvian dishes was a great call. With no regrets, I can honestly say this should be an authentic Latin fare everyone can enjoy.

Just like my deal with Urban Cup review, I'm still hoping fusion cuisine thrives in my area.

ps. I have placed this restaurant as one of my go to place for chicken in Los Angeles / Orange County. Check out my other chicken dishes related restaurants on this Top 10 List.

Higo Chicken
722 E Whittier Blvd
La Habra, CA 90631

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Southern Way to Dine at Preux and Proper









Here's one for the books. What's the best way to have a gin or a southern tea? The preux thing to do is to serve it with fried chicken. The proper thing for the southern tea is to have with biscuits.

In no time, people put it together and have biscuits and fried chicken. Don't get me started on the waffle business mixing with fried chicken... never understood it. Butter goes better with biscuits than syrup on a waffle.

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Punk Evans - Beluga Vodka, Lemongrass, Thai Basil, Watermelon Balls

Preux and Proper is an unique dining experience of having an upscale Southern comfort food that locates at the heart of the fashion district in downtown LA. If you ever seen the Triangle shaped restaurant that is in the middle of two converging streets that overlooked on the "A" shaped corner of the street, you'll know you hit the spot.

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Honey Lavender Earl Grey Old Fashioned

This Cajun and Creole hot spot didn't always attracted the crowd that they have right now. I think it was the fact it was trying to cash in on the New Orlean's burbon street atmosphere crazy of the Mardi Gras. In my recollection, the frozen daiquiris with the happy hour crowd was a big reason I didn't think much of coming here, but it was a big hit. So never had a good reason to dine here.

Out of the blue, I swore... something changed overnight.

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Maybe it was the fact a new chef who  came in two years and decided to overhaul the concept of this southern comfort food restaurant and make it a dining destination. Why not take advantage of the place having the piazza that oozes comfortable chic vibe. It's a gorgeous view from the patio seating (fight for that table spot for reservation should be an Olympic sport). Revamping the cocktail menu, abet the frozen daiquiris get to stay.

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Upscale dining on a fried chicken and corn on the cob with some amazing drinks? You'll be amazed  how some of it actually paired up and worked to the right tone. The biscuit that comes with the fried chicken works great with the Old Fashioned I had. Although I think I should have gone with an ice tea at the time.

The menu consists of everything you would have gladly ordered down at the Louisiana like po boys, grits, cornbread, hush puppies, jambalaya, catfish, and gumbo. It does bring a perspective on how a simple comfort food can be re-imagined. Remembered about my post on Taiwanese food (Kato) ?

Thoroughly unexpected as I was trying to imagine a Mardi Gras crowd with the frozen daiquiris, but it's much more of mix of middle aged and younger hipsters. No where near the USC students I was expecting. A classier vibe I guess than a rambunctious chaos of party zone.

My big take on this over is to try their catfish next time. With all the great cocktails and other southern influenced drinks, it's hard not to come back here for dining. Who knows? Maybe I'll be adventurous and get the frozen daiquiris.

It's the Preux and Proper way to have a southern dance.

Preux and Proper
840 S Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014

Preux & Proper Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, October 26, 2018

The One Stop Food Hub at The Gallery Food Hall









It's been a while since my visit to Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade.

I was both astoundingly fascinated and excited to see how much have changed since my yesteryear's visit here in this hip trendy area of the town. The city still attracts beach goers and world wide tourism, but they still kept much of its bohemian charm in many part of the city.

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Gallery Food Hall on the popular Third Street Promenade presents a new hub for food lovers looking for the one stop everything dining options. Think of Costco for bulk buying or your local mall for everything and anything shopping.

The Gallery Food Hall surprising also has some of the most well known chefs coming here to set up shop for their stands. Here are some of the dining options available.


SUMO DOG (1st Floor Rear)
29945137487_4e6c494b96_zComplete line up of the Banh Mi Dog and Wasabi Tots
29945136577_52e4017370_zBanh Mi Dog - Daikon, Jalapeno, Cucumber, Lime, Fish Oil, Spicy Mayo, Wasabi
44161320554_6c9327bee9_zFurikake Spiced Rice Tots
Sumo Dog was popular among the vendors in the Coachella Music festivals in many years. Now with a new brick and mortar location in Santa Monica's Gallery Food Hall on the popular touristy attraction area, anyone can enjoy the offerings without going to the music festival.

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Their big attraction is obviously their hot dogs infused with many of their popular condiments, but also their unique takes of infusing some of the ingredients from Asian influences. Their take on the rice tots (not potato) is a must get if you wanted something new. Their former location was at a Koreatown place along busy stretch of Vermont Avenue I have visited before. This location is much better suited for the clientele and fans they are hoping to attract.

Oh, one big addition amidst the current time, they are also offering burgers now.


STRFISH (2nd Floor)
43187460390_3978f5c333_zStrFsh Swordfish and Salmon sandwiches with fries
43970392975_36dd829621_zTasty Fries
29945171957_a6a3a32972_zSalmon Sandwich with tartare sauce
43970393785_09f83159cd_zSwordfish Sandwich
One of the offering at Gallery Food Hall on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade. Strfsh is from Voltaggio Brothers who are Top Chef Winner and Finalists in Season 6. Michael and Bryan Voltaggio are introducing this fast casual fare on the 2nd floor of the Third Street Promenade's newly remodeled food hall. The best ones I got was the Swordfish sandwich and Salmon sandwich.

I also wanted to point in that these fries that accompanied the fish sandwich combo are probably the ones I would get by itself if needed. Go to the balcony patio tables and enjoyed the view of the happenings on third street. People watching have never gotten this good.

Sloan's Ice Cream (1st Floor Front)

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This is one of the best attraction for a dessert place. It's perfectly situated right in the front facing the street. The fact that it automatically attracts the walk-in foot traffic and makes visitors visit other part of the Food Hall will be a benefit to everyone.

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Sloan's Ice Cream has other delightful desserts that a whole family can enjoy. It's worth mentioning in that the type of crowd on the first floor tends to give the family atmosphere with their own outdoor veranda. While the 2nd floor has an unique situation where the dining fare tends to skew towards on the sophistication side.

Interestingly, there are other future dining options plans to open in The Gallery Food Hall. That also includes a pizza place next to a gourmet taco place I mentioned earlier (Azule Taqueria) and an open space next to Sloan's Ice Cream.

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Click "Play" to see the 2nd Floor Patio View

Oh, here's a kicker, the fine dining tasting menu oriented restaurant Dialogue opened by the Alinea alumnus Dave Beran is opened there too. So you can see, this food hall has a bit of everything for anyone who just wants to eat.

There are just so many options to choose from and many exciting things happening at this particular hub center for dining options. Once it complete the space, this will be the one stop for the dining area for all foodies alike.

Best part for any tourists from out of town? It's only only 12 minutes walk to the beach and minutes from all shopping stores. Can we say "win win"?

The Gallery Food Hall
1315 Third Street Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A Toast to Asian Fusion at Urban Cup








Here's a fascinating thing about the word "fusion", it sometimes get people riled up when you hear that word. Pretty much it meant mixing two or more entities together into one.

For the culinary world, it often meant combining two types of cuisines into one. If you ever heard of kimchi taco, oxtail pho, or even Orange Chicken (super popular), then you automatically assumes Asian Fusion. This gets all umbrage started. Why? Perhaps, people like it simple on how they remembered.

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Short Ribs with Garlic Rice and Fried Egg

One of the cool aspects of visiting behind the Orange curtain, south of Los Angeles, was the fact Asian Fusion dining options have multiplied in recent years. It got to a point where a quota was basically needed for every corner. Kidding...

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Loaded Fries with Filet Mignon Cubes and Fried Egg

The newest of this Asian Fusion establishment is Urban Cup, which situated to the ever growing presence of the newer aspect in Cypress College area, where students have better dining option. This establishment will attracted a few things that college students and residents will love about: options.

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Cauliflower

Think of the poke craze where you choose your protein (from filet mignon cubes, salmon, and ribs) with the choice of sides (garlic rice, noodles, and fries), you get your own customizeable meal. For some of us, this reminds us of combining what we love of our American fare and maybe with the sides of what we love in our Vietnamese cuisine.

Imagine you can get anything you wanted and customized to your liking, this would be a fantastic fast casual place anyone ever wanted and can enjoy this any time.

Now, if only we can do something about the stigma with the word "fusion"...

Urban Cup Cafe
9515 Valley View Ave
Cypress, CA 90630

Urban Cup Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

There's LA Pizza Finally at Superfine Pizza







Is there such a thing as "Los Angeles Pizza"? If other cities gets a distinction, why poor ol' Angelenos down here never gets a special pizza?

Many pizza lovers associated thin fold-able pizza as New York style. If you ever seen pizza stuffed with toppings and cheese in a pan like a shepherd's pie, we automatically assumed it as Chicago's style or Deep Dish, which again associated with that city. Fear not, we might actually have something for the City of Angels.

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The menu for their six pizzas are on the right hand side in large display

Superfine Pizza, from the fantastic team that gave us Angelenos some of the finer restaurants in Los Angeles such as Rossoblu and Sotto. Those two places already serves some of the finest Italian cuisine, which dazzles many fine dining crowd here. You can bet pizza will be one as well.

If that's the case, why opened up another one in LA? More importantly, foot steps from their critically acclaimed winner Rossoblu? Oh, did I also mentioned in that Superfine is more of a take out window, than a sitdown restaurant?

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Press "Play" to check out the courtyard in front of the place


Several observations off that bat on my few visits. I noticed in that you can ordered a few ways. Either an entire 18 inch pie cut into slices or by the slice which average out to $4 each. If you are in big party or have major hunger, the 18 inch would be better deal. If you want to try one of each or just want to take photos of the entire collection, then be my guest on ordering per slice.

Secondly, it's credit card only. Not saying most dining establishments are looking towards electronic payments over cold, hard cash. Based on what I read, it basically protect the place from carrying cash as they do opened towards late of the night. Not surprisingly, they do get the fallouts from people who just left the bars and cocktail lounges nearby. Pizza would be great to soak things up.

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Salami Honey Pizza

To my initial thought, this place has something to offer that may give a distinction of a LA pizza. Initially Superfine named a combination of buckwheat honey and spicy salami as Spicy Honey Pizza. This pizza's two star attraction ingredients on top of provolone and Grana Padano cheese makes it an absurdly mouthwatering pizza. You have to imagine on how the crust is being appreciated. If you love a Neapolitan style dough, you definitely will love this.

I have heard they might integrated other style pizzas. My best hunch was that a thinner crust will be easier and faster to churn out if the idea of fold-able pizza is in play for customer who are looking for something simple. So far, the menu are kept in manageable numbers of items with some sides in their repertoire. There are plenty of sodas selections in stock as well for that quench of thirst.

Several thoughts on opening up a take out joint near there flagship would be the fact that the staff can be interchangeable.. for now. More importantly, I can see them opening something similar to this stand at other venues/food hall. This would be an easy cinch when it catches on.

Here's one down of this Salami Honey pizza for LA. Spicy Honey is the bet for LA pizza. It may not be a square or fold-able, but it is spicy and sweet that we can't forget.

Superfine Pizza
1101 San Pedro Street Unit F
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Newest Gourmet Tacos Discovered at Azulé Taqueria









Have you ever had cactus before? Being honest, I never thought the desert plant can be edible. To make it as tacos was quite something else.

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Santa Monica has evolved in recent years where it used to be a tourists attraction because of the beach along the coast line to mega shopping mecca in the heart of the downtown area. In recent years, it started to make comeback as a culinary destination as it once was back in the late 1990's where some of the finest dining would be settled in this hotbed.

One of the newest entry to formidable dining scene was a food hall enacted on the busy Third Street Promenade called Gallery Food Hall.

Azulé Taqueria is the newest venture from an established restaurant group K2, which also introduced StrFsh in the same food plaza. Located on the 2nd floor in the Gallery Food Hall, was this exciting casual fare that introduced us to many gourmet tacos.

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As I promised a grilled Cactus is used as protein for a taco. Fascinating as it sounds, for me I had to get used to the big chunk, as I was never quite sure this plant can be digested. For some reason, the perception was pins on skins. Eventually I got over it and did wound up loving the fantastic flavor.

The more I pursue the menu, the more I discovered many of the tacos have some elaborated elements to their tacos components that would make a great tapas for some. A fantastic place to grab an elevated casual food and enjoy the atmosphere of a fine surroundings.

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As you decided to spent time to look around the food hall, you'll discover a great balcony view overlooking the third street promenade. In a way it was a hidden oasis as I discovered not too many people had ventured out this far yet. Great for now, but will be busier once news gets out.

As I was writing this, Azulé Taqueria are having their promotional sales of Buy one get one free of their tacos until 10/16/2018. It's a great way to try out many of their fine selections.

Azulé Taqueria
1315 3rd Street Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Best Sushi Omakase In Orange County at Sushi Noguchi








I often get a suggestion on where are the best sushi places people ever gone to. Not surprisingly, it often led to a massive letdown.

Fear not, this one tip pays off as someone suggested that I hit up Sushi Noguchi. Be warned tho...it's in Yorba Linda.

This sushi location strangely enough would not be in some fancy plaza or some upscale locale, but at a strip mall with a supermarket close by. The only reason I would go on a trek to this suburban abyss was that a few friends' families have a gathering in their million dollar community that is far from the busy streets of inner cities. Good thing brand new homes are popping up in droves on this forgotten desert zone.

Sushi Gnocchi
The First platter

The nondescript sushi place may not looked very much on the outside, but incredibly I think the sushi being presented here speaks for itself.

Several things I noticed right off the bat in this place was there are different tiers menu on which type of omakase were being offered. They have several preset meal sets that are somewhat considered a modify omakase. Small scale version if you will, but i decided not to do that and go for the real deal.

Here is a question I'm sure that will get asked... is the chef a sushi nazi like other famous/well known chefs that are out there in needing to be a control freak? Probably not, when you get a modify omakase as a value meal in the menu. More importantly, probably will not be off putting like certain ones that are out there.

Sushi Gnocchi

Second, you'll probably asked is how a traditional omakase works? There are no price set as it is determine by how much you ate and which type of fish that night are being offered. You pretty much handing your wallet over to the chef, but you'll be guaranteed the meal will be served to your absolute satisfaction. Definition of omakase: "I'll leave it to you" (literal translation).

Sushi Gnocchi

You are getting some well known established sushi (the ones with vinegar rice) and some sashimi (which is no rice) that are on the menu on the a la carte to start off, but then gradually you are moving towards to the fantastic fishes that are not being offered in the standardized menu. It'll commingled back and forth between the established dishes and the hard to get dishes.

Often times, you got to take that chance and hope the chef really know what he's doing. I'm quite pleased on this being one of my most fond sushi place that I absolutely enjoyed.

Often times, it's not price that determines the worth or whether or not it validates the proclamation of the best sushi. For this case, I will say Sushi Noguchi is one of the only three places I can totally put my wallet in the chef's hand and know I will not regret at the end.

I don't even trust my father with that!

Sushi Noguchi
18507 Yorba Linda Blvd
Yorba Linda, CA 92886

Sushi Noguchi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, September 28, 2018

Top 10 Dumplings Served in Los Angeles





I love all kinds of dumplings. Boiled. Fried. Steamed. Oily. Slippery. You named it!

Lists of Top 10 Dumplings for Los Angeles is in order. There should plenty to choose from. Not all of them belongs in the same region at Monterrey Park. In fact, you'll find it interesting to know, most are moving towards east on this list.

Pretty much you can treated this scrumptious feigns as a meal itself, an appetizer for some, or anytime snack for most people if you can burn those carbs.

Here is the fun fact: You don't necessary needs meat to put it into dumplings. Nor does it needs to be savory. So a lot of people have precognition in thinking it needs to be in rice wraps as well.

To come with this list, I'll keep this simple. It will be strictly dumplings. Not super sized baos (as in big donut buns size) or pie. I will exclude any shu-mai or anything like rice noodle dishes from dim sum items. As always, keeping it simple with hidden spots as the bigger plus.


Kingburg Kitchen
715 W Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776

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San Gabriel is awash with waves of possibilities for dumplings galore. Pretty much every street corner has a dumpling restaurant at their plaza. Kingburg Kitchen is pretty much known for two types of dishes: their jiaozi (pan fried dumplings) and Shen Jiang Bao (pan fried juicy buns). Think of crispy brown bottom and juicy soup on the inside.

There's something about this little bite size starter perfect for their beef noodle soup as well. It's glorious coming here when you know you can ordered everything from pork to vegetarian version, those will still come out perfect.



Ding's Garden
18922 Gale Ave
Rowland Heights, CA 91748

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There are so many version of this place. Too many rumors and innuendos to list here. Pretty much was that there was an original one on Valley Blvd in San Gabriel. After an ugly divorce mess, the business was sold. Then a few pops up in Pasadena, Irvine and here in Rowland Heights. I'll keep this simple in that Rowland Heights location does better on the potstickers variety which is like the jiaozi I posted above.

Ding's is also known for their cold dish appetizers on the menu and their fabulous beef noodle soup. What sets apart from the other locations of Ding's was their pan fried version of their dumplings. They do wonders on the boiled versions as well.



Q Noodle House
18930 Gale Ave
Rowland Heights, CA 91748

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Short distance walk in the same plaza as Ding's Garden is this very low key Noodle house that serves up some of the best boiled dumplings you can find. The fish dumplings with right amount of vinegar and soy sauce can liven these simple, but yet delicious treats. Don't let the pungent fish smell fool you, it's an absolute delight.

Q Noodle House is situated in a very popular plaza that includes the best pho place in town (Pho Rowland), Two popular Korean joints (Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong and Sun Nuong Dan), tourist trap of Boiling Crab, an extremely popular Sichuan hot pot (Lameizi) and the previously mentioned Ding's Garden. Be warned: it's crazy traffic jam on Friday nights.



Mama's Lu
153 Garvey Avenue
Monterrey Park, CA 91755

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I wrote about this place in one of my earliest blog post. This place still holds the standard for most dishes for the Shanghai cuisine. It used to be very popular for the locals, but then you know... first the blogs, then the media hype (most notably Jonathan Gold) and now social media from the youngsters. It can get crazy in here with long wait for dinner.

Their specialty is the juicy soup dumplings we like to call Xiao Long Bao (XLB). Its hint of a sweet taste often gets imitated it by many other competitors around town. However, I would like to showcase their boiled dumplings as that tends to be underrepresented in their establishments.

This flagship was so successful, it sprang a new shop down the street. In a weird site note, the Mama is run by the daughter, while the mom runs a successful supplier operation of dumplings, xlbs, and other pre-packaged dishes. It gotten so successful, family opened up a new front in south OC called Paper Lantern.



101 Noodle Express
1408 E Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801

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For the very longest time, this place rivals Mama's Lu as the place to go for all Shanghai related cuisine in the hotbed of Asian cuisine. Probably less than 5-10 minutes drive for one. Pretty much a slam dunk if you need something fulfilling. This place get the same kind of hype from the social media crowd as Mama's for the same exact dishes. So be warned when you find out there's a big wait for those dumplings and beef roll. Oh, one big difference: CASH ONLY.




New Golden City
1015 Nogales St #128
Rowland Heights, CA 91748

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They just got featured last week for top chicken dishes place and now they're back in this dumpling rendition. This place has been around for quite awhile since the golden days of the 90s when Rowland Heights was awash with newly arrivals from Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants. Along with the Supreme Dragon Restaurant (old school colleagues will remembered this beloved shuttered place) was the go to place for dumplings. The only drawback is the tight parking spaces in the plaza that houses Ranch 99 supermarket.

If you can get over this small mishap, you'll enjoyed many of the fine Chinese dishes that many people come to love. The traffic is rough in this area because of road construction since 4 years ago for tunnel road they will eventually finish, but it's worth the trek for this surround area.



Hwang To Kil HTK
18732 Colima Rd
Rowland Heights, CA 91748

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Whoa! A Korean restaurant entry. You probably never get to see that happened, but it's only right when there's a place like this only happens once in a while. Korean Military Stew which was popular among ex-patriots of the cold war days from our Southeast Asian neighbors. A dish that incorporate rationed food such as cheese, sausage and spam into soup. This restaurant serves some of the best stew and spicy noodles soup you'll find in this area if you don't wish to travel to hectic Koreatown.

Don't sleep on their version of kimchi dumplings, which incorporate the salted and fermented vegetable into pork dumplings. It's already popular in commingled with fried rice, but with the steamed dumplings and a bit panned, these are simply superb.



Pine and Crane
1521 Griffith Park Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026

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Hipsters can rejoice! There is a place for them on the eastside (sensitive topic for region gatekeepers). This well known, uber popular Taiwanese influenced housed some of the more aesthetics pleasing dishes for the uninitiated. As many are still not treating Taiwanese dishes as a finer cuisine until this place opened up in a busy stretch facing Sunset Blvd.

The Chili won tons are the popular side dish many would get to accompany with their beef rolls or something less challenging to be nibble. Without a doubt, this was an mistaken item on their menu. Whenever I showed this photo, people knew where these won tons are from. Go figure!



Little Shanghai Restaurant
18457 Colima Road
Rowland Heights, CA 91748

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Unusual, but not really. This tiny little restaurant is a very old food court that probably seen more turnovers than a French bistro on Melrose Ave or Third Street on the westside of LA. The only constant in that fool hall (we called that now?) is this Shanghai restaurant that outlast most take out joints in this sleepy hallow of a plaza.

Extremely popular for their pan fried dumplings over the juicy soup version. I probably would choose Mama's for that version. If you ever settled into this table service corner spot (the only one in that food hall that does not have a stall, but an open space), go for their dan dan mein as well.



Tasty Noodle House
1611A Azusa Avenue
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745

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This place was bestowed upon me because of the fact I had to work late one night. My former boss who at the time decided to treat me to a dinner because I needed to finish some project. Apparently this hybrid of a Shanghai/Taiwanese/Northern Chinese cuisine place was a popular spot among the vast residents of east SGV. I didn't know how popular until I realized most chose this over another popular place in this plaza (checked it on Yelp, it got more reviews for that rival).

Regardless in the lack of exposure, I'm pretty certain most residents is keeping this place on the down-low for their Shen Jiang Bao (pan fried) and many vast array of fried rice and fried noodle dishes. It's probably a good idea in not letting out-of-towners on this hot tidbit. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Love Affair Continues at Ar Cucina








In a city I want no part of, it's amazing I still coming here every other week.

Not quite sure if was by design or by accident, I think this part of the area was more of tourist trap than any other city on the westside including Santa Monica or Venice. It fascinates me that a portion of the city is right dab smack in the heart of many hollywood types who have a studio nearby.


Believe it or not, I love coming here for dinner or brunch. To AR Cucina, I definitely love coming here.

While north portion of Hollywood gets starlets wannabes, I started to notice the industry workers tends hang out here in Culver City. People might not know them, but their credits on IMDB tends to rival the performers/actors anyway.

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This brings up the interesting thing about AR Cucina in  a busier section of the street that caters for industry types, that are busier than Canon Blvd up in Beverly Hills or Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood. AR Cucina was a restaurant I followed closely back in the day when it used to be an Indian restaurant called Sambar. It abruptly changed to an Italian focused restaurant sometime in early last year.

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Steak Tagliata - medium rare grilled steak, salsa verde, pickled cipilloni onion, travioso radicchio

I can tell you in that the setting almost remains the same with the cocktails serving here remains roughly the exact posh presentation as well. The restaurant always had a big wood fire oven that was seemed out of place I guess for tandoori chicken, but works great for pizza. So the transition went very smoothly.

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Polipo - Grilled Octopus, Arugula, Fingering Potatoes, Fresno Chili

Speaking of which, many of the naan reminds me of either a pita bread or pizza dough. Of course, I was thinking Indian fine cuisine was somewhat in style for the trend a few years back, I can see why this place wants to catch that hot trend of the moment.

Back in the day, I loathed coming to this area because of the high pretentiousness of certain industry types I have to hang around with, but love the potential of cool vibes of certain part of the city. This restaurant along with its sister restaurant Akasha always gets me in a good mood.

The other selling point was their outstanding happy hour nibbles and creative drinks that can soothes the wary naysayers such as myself. These drinks often inspires me to check out the other creations they might have and reduce me to a happy go lucky person by the end of the night. Luckily, this tends to be ever changing menu with different specialty based on the main components.

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Tagliatelle - Pork & Beef Bolognese, Tomato Strattu, Paraigiano-Reggiano

Oh, let's not forget about the pastas. It's probably the saving grace in this fine establishment. Especially the Tagliatelle, the Pork & Beef Bolognese version is the best I have encountered here. I also recommend any of Steak dishes they served that night. They do anything beef right in here. With so many Italian repertoire, it would be amiss if the steak is not present.

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One Crazy dessert...

Overall, I just love coming here to AR Cucina. I haven't really formally go to the flagship restaurant Akasha as I thought it was more of a date place during evenings where ARC is more of a cozy bistro. You will get the feeling of having the urge to check out the newer spots in downtown Culver City as there was a revolution of new places popping up along Culver City Blvd, Santa Monica Blvd and Jefferson.

Now, I may want to come here for meal... living here in this city is still a love/hate thing for me that is hard to get over. People needs to live here to find out.

Ar Cucina
9531 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

AR Cucina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato