Thursday, February 22, 2018

Fresh Off The Boat at Sapporo Sushi and Grill

Does it matter where it comes from?

It's a hard question to ask when you basically connects with a specific cuisine with certain ethnicity. You figured if it's not made by the origin, it doesn't count. What I'm trying to get at is that for some people they would like to associate certain dish to a specific country in mind. Let's play a game, shall we?

Pizza: Italian. Tacos: Mexican. Greasy cheesy steaks in a sub: American. Ok, so far so good.

Sushi: Japanese.... not so fast compadre. Apparently, not many people think so and will debate this forever. They probably will go on Wikipedia to change the contents and the story to this. The back story is obviously in that sushi are fast food with assorted fishes that get cut into small slices and topped it on a steamed rice are the stuff of legend. Probably popularized as we know it as a Japanese cuisine that can be sold as a ridiculous high priced fancy meal in some uber posh high priced sushi gallery.

The Premium Boat

However, do you know it's actually originated in southeast Asia near the Mekong River? More importantly as a snack item that is prepared right after the fish are caught on a boat?

This of course brings up my question as many don't associated as a non-Japanese cuisine, which are now popular for many upstarts. Everyone in far east Asia like the Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, and even Vietnamese loves the fish on the rice.

Beef Tataki

With that in mind, I figured trying out a place I always wanted to visit here in Buena Park, north Orange County that is bordered on LA as well. This city is very popular among the Koreans as the suburbia of the central region that have seen surge in dining cuisine outside of the traditional Korean fare.

Pleasantly, the ambiance would be not far off from what you find in most contemporary sushi joints where there are front bar counter seats to watch a few sushi chef slaved over cutting up the fine fishes into thin slice. Craftmanship on these preparation are better than watching slices of beef cooked on grill anyway at your local Mongolian Barbecue.

Interiors consist of a few dining area separating the booth tables with some modern style Asian decor that suggesting a sleeker furnishing, rather than the old bamboo hut style that tends to the butt of joke elsewhere. It's a step up from the other well known Korean owned sushi joints such as Kabuki (an popular chain in LA).

The big attraction here are two dishes that I wanted to get that are popular among users on Yelp. The sushi boat and the beef tataki. The menu options are pretty straight forward with sushi options as the big main courses, some sides that are gear towards the tempura and teriyaki sections, and a few closely related bento styles items (think a protein, a few veggies, and a soup).

The sushi boat was a combination of half order nigiri (fishes on vinegar steamed rice) and sashimi (slices of fish only). The variety of these fishes went from your standard fare of different tuna, yellow tail, sweet shrimp, amberjack, mackarel, and sweet omelet egg. Afterwards, the sweet shrimp's head can be deep fried for you, but I guess I wanted to be put on miso soup.

Teriyaki Chicken

Afterwards, I was informed there is also a choice of either of teriyaki chicken or fried chicken cutlet can complete the meal. Imagine my shock to discover the good news...after I was full from the boatload of fishes.

The greater question: Does it matter who prepared this? In the very end, craftmanship of these fishes being prepared mattered so little on who serves it. I hope the notion get dismissed quickly as we all know the best chefs in Chinese cuisine are pretty much Latinos in LA. Yeah, I dare to say that.

Leaves little doubt as this is a fine sushi establishment when you are eating with disconcerting taste buds.

Sapporo Sushi and Grill 
5491 Beach Blvd
Buena Park, CA 90621

Sapporo Sushi and Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, February 16, 2018

Fast & Fiery Furious at Olio Wood Fired Pizzeria

Funniest part is that I rarely do food court dining.

I wish I can tell you why or why not in wanting to something of this sort. I feel like in a bad sense of deja vu of having a cafeteria food back in my younger days in school. Remembered all those stale pizzas, sloopy joes, or tater tots that barely passed as edible gourmet chow? Yup, the food they feed to youth those days are worse than rations you give to the military. At least the military can use the excuse of there is no working stove in the front line. 

Want to know something so funny? Apparently now, some of the new or old exciting eatery can be found in food hall. Food court dining are making a huge splash.


One of my favorite pizza place can be found in a downtown food stall / Farmer's market called Grand Central Market. It is sort of an exciting time for this venue of a wide open space where they now houses some of the quick eateries of different cuisines, desserts, coffee shops, and breweries.

In the past, all you get a run me down Chinese food or Mexican food as they were catered to the surrounding employees that worked in the office buildings of downtown. Hustle and Bustle as how they do when they need bites on the run as most can walk in and out of the joint within their hour lunch break.

What set this food court apart was having this gorgeous of a square space that houses one of the best personal pizza you'll get. Olio's, a casual and somewhat of a fast, made to order pizza operation. This is the 2nd installment after the popular Santa Barbara eatery. Even though this is not intended to be a food stall, it worked out to be a popular dining destination for many diners of all ages.


Margarherita Plus

Personal Pizza can be had in one size with four slices cut immaculately into equal triangle shape size. Because of the fast pace action here, customization are only available on what the menu will be offered. This will not be like your local made to order pizza operations (ie Pizza Rev, Mod Pizza, Blaze Pizza, etc etc).

Wild Mushroom & Speck

What they do offered are some of the best wood fired pizza you'll get. Especially in a closed indoor proximity such as Grand Central Market. 

This is the type of food court dining most people crave for these days. It's weird to see a farmer's market that predominately sells farmed produces got changed into a fall hall in matter of years. Baked goods are still sold in some space and a few candies shops are left.

Spicy Sausage & Peppers

I guess if this fast paced, made to order pizzeria can be part of the new trend in dining, then I'm all for it. In a way, craving for these terrific pizzas are worth the long search of parking in this surrounding area. That's the only drawback of going to Grand Central Market these days in burgeoning downtown.

One more notch on my food stand category!

Olio Wood Fired Pizzeria
(Inside of Grand Central Market)
317 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Olio Gcm Wood Fired Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Meeting for the First Time at Little Sister

Have you ever met a little sister of any of your friend?

Chances are that you have and will always find something unique about meeting her for first time. That's how I felt about coming to Little Sister in their downtown Los Angeles location.

Going back, I actually went to the original location of the same name at Manhattan Beach. Love the cool beach vibes that serves modernized Vietnamese cuisine to their upscale million dollar neighborhood.

Tom Rang Thit Ba Chi - Caramelized Prawn, Pork Spare Ribs, Lardons in Clay Pot

This new surroundings presents a different challenge. It's now catered the busy buzzy crowd of downtown metropolis.

Going inside of the newer little sister of the Little Sister location, they kept the elements the same. Smaller tight space with open tables by the left side of the wall with open high counter seats on the right side. There is even a matching L shape bar with a few tellie playing sports game.

Identical. Like a Siamese twins. You almost couldn't tell it apart by the looks between Manhattan Beach or downtown.

Funny thing was... I actually like the downtown location better.

The same soft touch on the ingredients on the food was still met. You still get the same intricate touches on the take of modernized Vietnamese food that was made popular when it first came out at the Manhattan Beach location. Some of my favorite involves their Salt & Pepper Lobster, which comes out as a split lobster, which then the remaining meat will then be use as a fried rice prepared for you as the final course.

Beef Tartare

Their other top mentioned dishes besides the noodles dishes were their interpretation of shaky beef (Bo Luc Lac) and their seafood clay dish (Tom Rang Thit Ba Chi), which the latter I enjoyed the most. The made to order spring rolls are also a must order on the location as well.

Nothing in terms of food wise I would noticed different. The big takeaway may have been the ambiance for me. I guess the location here in downtown was geared towards night out on the town crowd, which contrast the locale of the uber suburbia clientele that they get. Make no mistake, it's still gear towards couple night, date night, and the friends get to-gather atmosphere.

A Drink Called Charlize Theron (Yes it's red and should have been called Emma Stone)

Oh here's a funnier part, all night at Manhattan Beach location, I am always stuck in between couples who are out on their first Tinder dates. I guess that's how these couples are now getting hooked up. With the downtown crowd and its location, it's more of the casual friends zone.

Maybe it's why I'm a bit more comfortable with the younger sis of the Little Sister. It's the kinda feeling you would have at meeting your friend's little sister... the trusting feeling that makes you more relaxed.

Little Sister
523 W. 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Little Sister Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Asian Brunching at Xian Yuan Gourmet

Personally I rarely do brunch. Especially getting up early on a weekend.

I can't lie, I don't think I ever get to see a sunrise or even have three square meals a day as breakfast is foreign to me. Brunch might be a doable because it's partially breakfast that gets lumped into lunch. Something light, but fulfilling enough at a late morning to early afternoon time during weekend. 

Har Gaw - (Crystal Shrimp Dumplings)

Hence, you can tell my brunch time is always during weekend for the late risers who really can't do early breakfast.

Dim sum for me is always the go to "breakfast of champions". It's the Chinese tapas for the uninitiated. If you think about it, instead of wine, you get morning hot tea and more importantly,  the small bites of various Chinese essential imperial items that goes well with the tea. It's funny, Chinese do not do mimosas or champagne cocktails. Tea leaf is the essential hot herbal remedy for all bodily functions.

Steamed Turnip Cake (not pan fried)

Steamed Bean Curd

Rice Roll Noodles

Chicken Feet

When you go to "Yum Cha" (I loathed the phrase "dim sum"), the staples included dumplings, noodle covered proteins, parts of chicken or beef in presentable manner, and cute bite size desserts. Apparently, it's a win for the whole family.

Steamed Taro Buns - Close up of Hedgehog

There are so many options in the West side of San Gabriel Valley, but the trek to Xian Yuan Gourmet was not for the typical fare of Cantonese brunch, but we're in it for the cutesy steamed taro bun that was crafted to a hedgehog shape. It's weird, but that's how it is now in the foodtography world of Instagram where we needed to get good pics of food and a cute shape of a steamed dessert buns was the go-get item of the day.

The inside of the bun

Other typical items you can find at a local Yum Cha places included Chicken Feet, Shrimp Noodles, Shumai (pork dumplings), Crystal Shrimp Dumplings (light wrap skin), Beef Tripe, and Egg Tarts for dessert.

Being fair and honest, I was quite astound to find that this place already was consider the best Chinese brunch place in all of LA by a few well known publication, albeit one of them writing it for that site had recommended other restaurants I have disagreed in the past. I would probably say that the staple of food is on par what I am used to.

Not a bad way to get you out of bed for a dim sum brunch.

Xian Yuan Gourmet
9556 E Las Tunas Dr
Temple City, CA 91780

Xian Yuan Gourmet Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

New Addition to the Family at Stonefire Grill

There seemed to be something amiss when we talk about home cook meals.

For the older generation like the boomers, they tends to think of cooking in the kitchen with the dining taking place at the table near the stove and oven. For the forgotten crowd of X and Y, our dinner consists of dining in front of the television. What does that leaves the millennials who don't even stay at home?

Mesquite BBQ Chicken Pizza

Surely they gotta eat? That's the conundrum that faces the gathering of three generation gaps in the ever changing time.

The Stonefire Grill, which is now celebrating its grand opening of their 10th location today in Torrance, California answers an age old question of how to gather three different generations for a sit down for a meal, but agreeing on a place to eat as well.

Beef Tri Tips

SFG which was started by two sisters, Mary and Maureen Harrigan who grew up in a huge family of eleven children who both pretty much love the ideas of having family members gather at the big family table with a simple approach to the classic dishes that are valued, wholesome, but more importantly appetizing to the belly.

It also can be healthy, but at the end be delicious as it was meant to be. Food and Company tends to be the theme. It carries over to the restaurants as well.

Fresh Seared Salmon

There are plenty of options to go from in the menu. Anywhere from the light and nutritious salad that are being offered, to the handsome offerings of chicken, salmon, barbecue beef tips, and not lastly pizzas!

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

The menu seemed to encompassed all of the traditional helpings of a family comfort food. It rightly deals to the heart of getting everybody under one roof where selections would be great for both nit pick eaters, health conscious gourmand, to the hearty munchers. Everyone and anyone are welcome in this table.

Grilled Salad

With the popular expansions of the 10th location here in Torrance to the brand new 11th and 12th locations due to roll out in the future. It's no wondering it is very popular among the family crowds looking for hearty casual meals.

Fresh Pesto

Here's the question that I do beg of many.... is there's a room for desserts. Of course! Plenty of options here as well. I had been told the carrot cake was renowned at all SFG locations. Not just dining in, but with take outs and their event catering services as well. I was also been informed in that they have a test kitchen at every location in trying out new items they may introduced in their menu.

Lemon Garlic Chicken

I think the roasted cauliflower is one of the finer introduction as I may recalled from my past visits at other locations.

Heavenly Blueberry Cheesecake

Speaking of which, if there is ever a chance to get everyone in to friendly and attentive service, then this brand new location should be visited for all fantastic offerings you can get. From the private cozy booth, to wide open center dining room, to the fresh outdoor patio space, it is a good time to go.

Carrot Cake

Grand opening is today at February 6 with a special promo of 50% on their famous carrot cake. Don't missed out..

Stonefire Grill
25352 Crenshaw Blvd
Torrance, CA 90505

Stonefire Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sitting At The Cool Table at Blacksmiths

OutKast asked an interesting question... what's cooler than being cool? Ice Cold!

Funny about this, but I still think being cool is cooler. And there's no place cooler to be in, just to be cool, than at one of hottest trendy place in town called Blacksmiths.


Downtown LA has seen its share of revitalization within the recent decade. The progression has been marked significantly through the seedier part of town from the so-called art district, fashion district, and now the old bank district which this restaurant resides at.

Hamachi - Citrus Vinaigrette, avocado, mango, sliced breakfast radish, micro greens, and red jalapeƱo.

Blacksmiths is another cool hip trendy place that pretty much sums up about LA: the need to be seen kind of place.

You can't just have another place with good food, or vibes that matches with people who are willing to shell big bucks. Apparently now it has to be buzz worthy, exciting to be in, and more importantly place that is needed to be jibe with the right kind of crowd... aka non-hipster, classy, but yet will welcome anyone wants to be in it.

Nothing says it better than a place where ballahs are at.

Grilled Spanish Octopus - okinawa puree, caramelized pineapple, pickled red onions, sour tomatillos crispy fava beans, tangy sweet sauce

This brunch spot in the weekend also happens to be a posh busy nightspot for dinner. It rivals my other favorite dinner spot at Rossoblu as the it place to be at this moment in downtown. The restaurant took over a former hot spot in a 1st floor of a loft building in the Golden Triangle section of Alameda Street (between 4th Street and 2nd Street).

Drunken Love

This American cuisine style hot spot has some of the best elements going for them was their open seating and spectacular space that utilizes as a trendy club spot if they ever decides to remove the area next to the bar. Oh, since we're broaching the topic of bar, this elegant chic style bar is one of the beautiful crafted area I have seen.

Several dishes I have ordered that seemed to grabbed a much publicized attention was their Hamachi dish and their grilled Octopus entree. Both are elegantly presented with thoughts of the look to please to capture the allure of your taste buds. I have to say that high recommendations seemed to be spot on as the aforementioned entree and starter are able to draw in the foodie crowd.

It's A Vibe!

The drinks menu program here are also a big plus. I do like the selections of many crafted cocktails that were offered. The big attractions is the ambiance and decor of the interior for excellent dining experience. The price point might be exorbitant for everyday folks, but this location was always geared towards toward the power players or the special occasion crowds. With the food, drinks, and service being top notch, the price would probably be a moot at that point when the check arrives.


If this is such a cool place, do you need reservations for brunch on the weekend or at dinner at any night. You betcha! You can catch a few on the bar area as well, but it's too chic to missed out on a cushy table.

117 Winston St
Los Angeles CA 90013

Blacksmiths Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato