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I left my heart in San Francisco

13 Mar

Since Blister’s in the Philippines for new year’s eve, we couldn’t go to our annual new year’s trip to Glen Ivy. So this year, Bubby and I went to San Francisco, the city where we fell in love. Our first date was at Palomino in Embarcadero. The food was not particularly good, but I was nervous. We were friends for so long and ate together all the time, but on this January 30th day, 7 years ago, I had butterflies in my stomach. After dinner, he held my hand as we walked along the pier. I was jumping on and off of the stoops, and he held my hand for my “safety” so I wouldn’t fall. It was more like a slicker version of the “yawn and reach” technique at the movie theater. Since that day, we just knew we were meant to be together. No DTR conversations, no “where do we stand?” inquiries, no “it’s complicated” relationship status. We just knew we were together and have never broken up since. Sure, there are times when he’s my greatest enemy and I want to punch him hard in the balls, but most days he’s my best friend.

Going back to San Francisco is always a treat. I love walking down the dirty streets of my old hood, the Tenderloin. Stepping on spit, fecal matter, and used needles never felt so good–kind of like an urban version of Dorothy and her yellow brick road. Although my brick road is stained yellow from urine– both animal and human. I also love going back to San Fran for the food. Always for the food.

Our hotel was located in Fisherman’s Wharf, a tourist trap.  The best part of this tourist trap is Trish’s Mini Donuts.  These fried rings are worth the six-hour drive from LA.  Every time I go to SF, I always try to fight the tourist trap traffic just to get my hands on these fried babies.

They are liberally showered in cinnamon sugar which eventually melts into the super hot fried dough.  I have never ordered a tub of these mini donuts, but one day I will.  Cha-longe!!!

On New Year’s day, we decided to go to Brenda’s, the only Cajun restaurant in the Tenderloin.  As a former Houstonian, I love Cajun food.  We decided to go on New Year’s day assuming the crowd would be hung over in bed.  On our walk to Brenda’s, we noticed some stragglers still partying at noon the next day.

I cannot remember the last time I partied until the sun came up. I feel old.

As we walked towards Brenda’s this is what I saw.

Oh hell no.  That line is not cute.  We had to wait for an hour and 45 minutes.  Bubby had been before, and he made me wait for my crawdads.  And dammit, he had me at crawdads.

After watching every crazy homeless person pass by, some familiar faces and some new, our table was finally ready.  The restaurant is packed with tables only two inches apart from each other.  I immediately ordered the watermelon iced tea to ease my anxiety and claustrophobia.

Sometimes sweet tea outside of the south can be way too sweet.  But this watermelon iced tea was perfectly cool and sweet. It reminded me of a hot Houston day and the smell of fresh-cut green grass.

Crawfish beignets with cayenne, scallions, and cheddar

Brenda’s serves several different kinds of beignets including plain with powdered sugar, apple, chocolate.  I ordered crawfish because I love crawfish.  The beignets are served hot, fluffy, and they collapsed with the pressure from my fork.  As I broke into the dough, the melted cheese oozed out.  Unfortunately, the ratio of crawfish to dough is off.  I expected large chunks of crawfish, but there were probably three small ones swimming in cheese in each pocket of dough.

I ordered the grillades and grits, and Bubby ordered the fried catfish eggs benedict.

The beef cutlets in the grillades and grits was tough and difficult to chew.  The grits were fluffy clouds perfectly buttered and smothered in cheddar cheese.  Nothing makes my belly smile more than buttered grits and cheese.  Bubby’s catfish eggs benedict was not as good as we imagined, but the biscuit was slap yo’ mama good.  That biscuit was it.   Would I wait two hours for it? Probably not.

Bubby and I needed to burn some serious Cajun calories, so I dragged him to Union Square for some serious shopping.  While in Union Square, Bubby and I always have to eat at King of Thai Noodle.  It’s not fancy Thai food, but serves really good roast duck.

Bubby always orders the duck fried rice with a fried egg on top, and I order the duck noodle soup.

Simple.  Duck.  Noodles.  Soup.  Peppers.  Good.
I haven’t tried the other dishes because there really is no need to.  This is the only dish I order every time.

The next day, I dragged Bubby to Hog Island Oyster Co.  I had a serious craving for oysters.  But once again, we hit another damn line.

The wait was not as bad as Brenda’s, probably 30 minutes total.  I ordered fresh lemonade to prep my taste buds.

We ordered both fresh and baked oysters.  The fresh ones included Hog Island Sweetwaters, Hog Island Atlantics, Sand Isle Kumamotos, Chelsea Gems, and Island Creeks.

These fresh oysters were thick and smooth as they slid down my throat.  The kumamotos had a slight “oceany” tang which I let Bubby enjoy.

The baked oysters were actually as tasty as the fresh ones to my surprise.

The Casino and Tarragon oysters were so flavorful.  The only bad thing about them was that there were only four.

The clam chowder

The clam chowder is not your typical clam chowder.  It’s not thick, but light and milky.  I added a splash of fresh lemon juice which really brightened the taste of the clams.  I loved dipping my grilled cheese into the chowder broth.

The crunchy sourdough bread and the stringy cheese dipped into the milkiness wonder of the clam chowder felt like a perfect hug from the inside on a cold January San Francisco day.  The pickled vegetables, cauliflower and carrots, added a nice acidic note to the entire meal.

As we walked back to our car to head home, we picked up some road trip treats in the Ferry Building.  Miette’s macarons and Blue Bottle Coffee Co.’s cappuccino.

The vanilla was way better than the chocolate.  Even Bubby, chocolate lover, agreed.

And for the last damn time, a San Franciscan line at the Blue Bottle Coffee Co.

Good strong caffeinated drinks.  Too bad it wasn’t strong enough to keep me awake during our car ride back to LA.  I always fall asleep in the car like a behbeh.

Goodbye, San Francisco.  I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for this beautiful city.  Where else could you find an Asian family all dressed in matching puffer jackets?

Trish’s Mini Donuts
Embarcadero Pier 39, Bldg B
San Francisco, CA

Brenda’s
652 Polk St
San Francisco, CA

King of Thai Noodle
184 O’Farrell St
San Francisco, CA

(duck noodle soup only)

Hog Island Oyster Co.
1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA
   

Miette Patisserie
1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA
   

Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA
  

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Providence

11 Mar

Last year for annual mistress day, Bubby took me to Melisse. And if you remember, Melisse did not deliver the 2 Michelin stars as advertised. This year, Bubby took me to Providence– the other LA restaurant with 2 Michelin stars. I’ve heard wonderful things about Providence, except that contrary cunt Nibs was the only person who didn’t rave about the food.

SPOTTED: Rich, older lonely boys and the young gold diggers who love them. (Can you tell I just watched a marathon of Gossip Girl recently?) I tried to look for wedding rings on the fingers of both parties and spotted none. Bubby and I tried to discretely turn our backs 180 degrees just to find our favorite couples. Note to self, twisting at that exaggerated angle is never discreet.

Bubby enjoyed a beer while I enjoyed a glass of a delicious medley of juices including lychee, guava, passion fruit, and other exotic treasures that the bartender could muster. It was as delicious as the welcome juice given to the guests at Phuket’s Dusit Laguna Hotel — the most delicious standard for all juices.

This juice was so refreshing but cost more than Bubby’s beer.  Seven dollars of juice.

The amuse bouche

The spoon on the left was a yellow egg-yolk-like version of a screwdriver.  Refreshing and a nice burst of cold alcohol in your mouth.  The square jello on the right was a mojito.  The screwdriver was definitely better than the mojito.

The second amuse bouche

This trio was not as good as the first amuse bouche.  Sipping a luke warm soup from a straw is not a great way of starting a marathon of courses.  I hoped this was not an accurate representation of what was to come.

The bacon brioche

Bubby ate like 8 of these. He described them as bite size wonders that tasted like Jack in the Box’s sourdough jack burgers. He doesn’t even love bacon as much as I do, and he couldn’t get enough of these. I even caught him checking out the size of my purse to see how many miniature wonders I could confiscate safely from the premises. Unfortunately, I carried my small clutch.

Tai snapper sashimi, sake, caviar, salted cherry blossom

The sashimi was fresh and tasted more like yellowtail than snapper. It lacked that chewy consistency that sometimes accompanies snapper sashimi. The snapper’s texture was soft and the caviar, salty. There was a gelatinous layer that I didn’t even mind. In fact, I liked it. But I really loved the yellow rice cracker balls that added the perfect crunch.

Santa Barbara spot prawns, nori bread crumbs, spring herbs

That prawn looks like it’s on roids. It was perfectly cooked and succulent. I did not care for the random herbs, the bread crumbs, or the cat spit foam. In fact, I hate cat spit.  Why do these upscale restaurants find the need to add cat spit? Stop with the cat spit!  It’s not creative, and it’s no longer cool. But most importantly, it looks like the bile that Miso vomits.

Main lobster, charcoal grilled, smoked black truffle butter

This dish looks like Valentine’s Day. The arrangement of the lobster, the colors of my wedding, is perfection. And it tasted the way it looked. Thick pieces of fresh lobster made me want to cry like Homer did when he ate Pinchy.

I, too, felt that I loved Pinchy the most and should respect him by eating him all by myself. Piiiiiiiinchy!!!!!!!

Foie gras ravioli – a la carte

We ordered this dish separately because of the amazing reviews. Also, I’m trying to eat as much foie gras possible before they ban it in California in July. The waiter even recommended making reservations for a foie gras exclusive menu. I’m seriously considering arranging a small dinner party called a Farewell to Foie Gras. These raviolis made me want to cry.  It was like looking at a boyfriend knowing that it won’t last.  It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday…. Boyz II Men.

The pasta was perfectly thin, the foie gras rich and decadent.  I will have to cross some state lines to get my foie gras kick.  Trust.

Wild New Zealand john dory, foie gras, white port, spring vegetables

By the time we reached this course, I was busting out of my skirt.  The courses were separated by 15 minutes, and it only takes 7 minutes for my stomach to tell my brain, “Bitch, you full.”  I was fighting the good fight, and I had to have a bite of each dish.  The john dory was tender and flavorful, and I really enjoyed the crispy and crunchy skin.  I really regretted wasting stomach space on the amuse bouche trio.  Rookie mistake.

Duck breast, petit pois, pea greens

I love duck.  One of the perks of marrying a Chinese man is having Peking duck on the regular.  I literally sing my song of joy when the Chinese waiter brings that huge plate of crispy duck and its soft pillow friends.  It is on point just like the duck at Providence.  The duck at Providence melts in your mouth.  It felt like buttered bread that melts on your tongue.  I had to chew like three times before it was ready to be swallowed.  And to seal the deal, the fried ball of foie gras.

I love fried balls of anything, but fried balls of foie gras takes the cake.

Fennel, yellow chartreuse, Angelica root, yogurt

The yogurt was enjoyable and provided a great palate cleanser.  The plate in its entirety was just okay.

Chocolate surprise

The Valentine’s day menu included a dessert that was basically chocolate served with chocolate.  Earlier in the meal, I told our waiter that I wasn’t a fan of chocolate, so he brought me a special dessert that was completely chocolate free.

My surprise dessert

This plate of heaven was more than I could ask for with ice cream, meringue, and hints of lemon.  The fact that they substituted the chocolate madness with the perfect treat for me, I couldn’t be happier.  Well played, Providence.  Well played.

Our farewell treat

I left this box as is.  I could not eat another bite.  Bubby had to roll my fat ass out of that restaurant at 11:30 p.m.  Yes, the entire dinner took longer than 3 hours.  I was feeling a mix of emotions … full, sleepy, tired, happy, drunk with food.

Providence is exponentially better than Melisse.  I could also tell the difference of an All Star Chef and Top Chef based on my experience at Ink recently (review soon to come). If it wasn’t for the liberal use of cat spit, I would have given Providence a perfect rating.

Providence
5955 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA

Araki’s Japon

12 Apr

Work has been so hard these days.   Sometimes work can be fun, like the best work day of my life. What’s the best work day of my life? Well, Cellmate and I went to our local snack shop and asked if they had Smirnoff Ice so we could “Ice” Nibs.  To “ice” someone, you have to secretly present a Smirnoff Ice and the recipient has to get on bended knee and chug it.  If the recipient has an Ice and blocks you with his, the original Icer has to down 2 Smirnoff Ices.  Not only did our snack shop have Smirnoff Ice, they had Mango flavored Smirnoff.  Gross.  So I hid one of the Ices in Nibs’s tissue box and another in the spine of his legal reference guides.  I walked into Nibs’s office and pretended like I had to sneeze, and instantly he grabbed his tissue box for me and … ICE!  He chuggged it in his office right then and there.  NICE!

For the second Ice, I had the file clerk go into Nibs’s office and ask for his reference guides for updating.  Nibs grabbed the reference guide and felt the unusual heaviness of it and muttered, “Fuck.”  ICE!  He chugged his second Mango Ice of the day.  Now, we were hoping for 3 Ices but the third didn’t work out as planned.  We had Nibs’s boss hand him a file with an Ice in it, but Nibs refused to accept it because he knew an Ice was in there.  I think he owes us a Mango Ice.  What a sore loser.

But that’s considered an awesome work week, and last week was not awesome so Bubby said we should have sushi for dinner because I’ve been so busy with work and billed a record of hours for the month of March.  He always uses food to reward/manipulate me.  He suggested we go to Araki’s Japon.  A small sushi restaurant in a strip mall with neon lighting located next to a Coldstone Creamery in Foothill Ranch, California.  I’m sure I was in for an authentic Japanese treat.

The restaurant was full of white people and the only seats available were at the sushi bar.  Usually in LA, when an ethnic restaurant is full of white people, my natural instinct is to leave.  But this is South OC, all restaurants are filled with white people so we walked towards the sushi bar.  The menu is like a Japanese Cheesecake Factory menu, never ending.  Right when you think you know what you’re going to order, you look up and notice more writings on the wall.  Bubby loves to analyze the menu and asked, “Honey, what’s sylup?”

What a smartass.
My expectations of this restaurant were pretty low and since I was starving, I was slightly annoyed when they “ran out” of a lot of my favorites like fatty toro, aji, scallops, hama hama oysters.  So instead of fatty toro, we ordered chutoro, a medium fatty tuna.

Chef Araki instructed us to dip the ginger in his homemade soy sauce and brush the sauce on the fish.  Wow.  This is fantastic, even better than fatty tuna because sometimes fatty tuna could be a little too fatty.  But chutoro was a perfect amount of fattiness.  Amazing.  But fatty toro is pretty hard to fuck up, right?  It doesn’t mean this restaurant is good.

Yellowtail in yuzu sauce with cilantro and jalapenos.

These slices of yellowtail are so thick, like two inches thick, fresh and tender.  With the crunch of the cilantro and fresh jalapeno bathing in a yuzu sauce, this dish is ridic.

Wagyu beef seared sashimi.

Chef Araki prepared the thin rare slices of wagyu beef with thin slices of green onion and ginger.  He poured sizzling sesame seed oil and olive oil over it to lightly sear it.  Praise Him.  This is amazing, and better than the wagyu sashimi at Matsuhisa.  In fact, Chef Araki trained with Nobu for 9 years before opening his own restaurant.  The student has become the master.

Ikura with quail egg.

One of the quail eggs busted, but it was still creamy and cold.  I love cold, fresh ikura.  Both for me, Bubby hates ikura.

Pork belly “kakuni”.

Kakuni is thick cubes of pork belly simmered in dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and sake. This broth is so light like a soup.  I expected it to require rice because it seemed salty, but it’s not.  The pork belly flaked off with my fork, and Bubby devoured the layer of fat.  I would throw in spoonfuls of rice and a fried egg on top, and mix the shit out of it.  Good comfort food.

Chef Araki: What are you doing?  Why are your eyes closed?
Me: I’m praying for your hands.  May they be strong and never get carpal tunnel.

Sushi.

Left to right: Albacore, Spotted Shad, Yellowtail

These were Bubby’s fish.  He ordered a lot more, but they never came out.  I asked him to use one word to describe each.
Albacore: Solid.
Spotted Shad: Interesting.
Yellowtail: Good.

We couldn’t stop calling each other a shad.  It just sounded funny.

I was waiting for my sweet babies, my sweet shrimp.  Here are my friends swimming in their fresh tank.

Chef Araki asked me if I wanted the live shrimp sashimi style or if I wanted it “his way.”  Uh, “his way” please.

Live sweet shrimp “his way.”

“His way” means there’s a sprinkle of yuzu, cilantro, chili sauce, sprinkled with sea salt.

The yuzu slightly cooked the top of the live shrimp and when I popped this baby in my mouth, a tear fell down my cheek.  I stood up and slow clapped.  He thought I was crazy but this was it.  This is the dish that pushed this restaurant from 4 clap-territory to 5.  This was it.  And the heads were lightly fried that every bite was crunchy and delicate like tempura.  Dissolved in my mouth unlike many fried shrimp heads.

BEST LIVE SHRIMP I HAVE EVER HAD!

Salmon Kami Shabu in Miso Butter.

Chef Araki:  Dip the salmon in the miso butter for 10 seconds for the perfect medium rare.

The perfect medium rare.

Holy butter.  If you love butter like Paula Deen and I do, miso butter is like butter on Asian steroids.  It’s not too oily but still coats that perfect buttery flavor all over the salmon.  This was so fantastic that we had to share with our neighbor at the sushi bar.  She was so grateful.  Good food should always be shared and I hope one day someone else will pay it forward to me and let me eat their food.  One day.  But we weren’t done.  Chef Araki dropped sweet white rice into our miso butter.

Haaaaallelujah!  Halleluhah! Halleeelujah!  Are you fucking kidding me?!!!!!  This is the ultimate comfort food in a paper coffee filter bowl.   It’s warm, subtle, buttery, savory and rich.  Chef Araki said he was going to take it off the menu because summer is approaching and I insisted he keep it on his dinner menu.  You’re welcome, everyone.

I told Chef Araki that I was giving him a perfect rating on my blog because it was obvious I was into him.  Little does he know that like 3 people read my blog and 2 of the 3 are vegetarians, but he gave us free desserts.

Creme brûlée in three ways.

Left to right: Yuzu, green tea, ginger

The creme brûlée was ok.  Nothing special.  But the cooked pear in chocolate sauce and ice cream was amazing.

As Bubby rolled me out of this place, I couldn’t believe I found such a gem in Foothill Ranch.  Where did this man come from? Why is he in Foothill Ranch?  Is he lost? Why is his food so amazing?  Why am I in love with him?  Even days later, I kept thinking about his food, his hands, his well-being.  Is he thinking of me?  I’m obsessed with him, his hands, and his food.  Urasawa is still one of my favorite restaurants in LA, but Araki has caught me by surprise.

Araki’s Japon
26612 Town Center Dr, Suite E
Foothill Ranch, CA

Anjin

30 Mar

Japanese bbq is similar to Korean bbq without the spice and heat.  The taste is more subtle in every way.  No charcoal, no peppers, no soju.  Between the two options, I prefer Korean of course.  But meat is meat, and I ain’t gonna deny it.  Bubby and I went on a double date with Oliex (the combined names like Brangelina).  We don’t really go on double dates.  I just don’t like to go out.  The other day Bubby and I were having a conversation in the comfort of our queen bed and down comforter and he said, “You’re a social person and can have a conversation with any stranger but you don’t like to go out or hang out with people you know.”  So true.  I don’t like to hang out.  I’ll attend the obligatory birthday party, wedding, and celebration, but I don’t like to hang out for fun.  I prefer to hibernate in my room with my DVR and order take out.  If I’m feeling really exotic and dangerous, I’ll take an afternoon nap.

I can’t remember the last time we were on a double date.  I don’t think we’ve ever been on a double date so Bubby was surprised I had set one up.  The four of us decided to go to Anjin.  Well, 3 of us decided Anjin because the “ex” in Oliex is a vegetarian.  Majority rules –also there were several vegetarian options.

We ordered marbled prime rib eye, marbled prime boneless short rib, pork belly (not pictured), and tongue.

All marbled meat is pretty fantastic, but the best in show was the tongue.  Crispy edges and tender texture dipped in the yuzu sauce (bottom sauce in picture below).

The pork belly was really tasty, more so than at a Korean bbq restaurant.  Wrapped in lettuce and kimchee, it was quite fantastic.  I was too busy eating that I forgot to take pictures of it.  That’s how good it was.

A major difference in Japanese bbq restaurants and Korean ones is that they charge for side dishes like the lettuce wraps and kimchee.  You have to pay for these.  At Korean bbq restaurants, you only have to pay for the side dishes if you’re a white person.  I always tell my two white friends to make sure they take their Korean passport, me, when they’re traveling to Ktown because they will be charged for ice water.  Sorry, but it’s the truth.

I ordered the egg soup for the table and it tasted like the egg soup Blister makes from a packet. Boo.

But the bbq is legit, and I like Anjin.  I would definitely go again and try the other types of meat they offer.  They’re open until 1 am which is awesome for my lifestyle because sometimes my afternoon naps last until 9 pm which is the exact time all Rancho Santa Margarita restaurants close.  The meat was really good quality.  It’s definitely not as good as Totoraku –the small hole in the wall Japanese bbq restaurant where reservations are taken by personal invite only (Thanks to T-Face and her brudda, T-Money).  But it’s still good.  Expect a line.

Anjin
3033 Bristol St, Suite N
Costa Mesa, CA

Young Dong

29 Mar

I was introduced to Young Dong by an old co-worker, Garfield (he loves lasagna).  Garfield asked me to go with him to a really good suh lung tang joint.  Suh lung tang is a Korean dish where you boil beef and beef bones to create a milky rich broth, and this place used to be my favorite restaurant for suh lung tang.  I would crave some Young Dong.  So I invited my family to Young Dong to celebrate El Ninja’s new job.

When I walked in, I immediately noticed a difference.  No one was there.  The place was empty.  Usually, this place is packed especially since it’s so small.  No one was there except for a few older Korean men and my family.

I ordered the Number 1: Beef brisket, drop flank soup

I was already digging into my soup when my mom yelled, “WAIT!  You didn’t take pictures!” Crap. The soup itself lacked the rich milky bone flavor and the meat in the soup is scarce.  My entire family agreed that this place has changed.

In fact, it has gone down hill.  It is not the same Young Dong I remember and love.  This Young Dong is now an Old Dong and nobody likes Old Dongs.   There’s one woman running the entire show running around like a chicken with no head.  I asked for cold water like 3 times before she even realized I was dying from salt overkill.  The kimchee and turnip kimchee used to be served in huge containers where the refills were plenty.  Now, nothing.  My dad had to give her side eye for her lack of attention to his empty kimchee bowl.  The green onions were still plenty and readily available.

Young Dong is no longer young, it’s just a plain old dong.

The best part of the dinner was my mom.

El Ninja:  Yeah, I went to Miami for my bachelor party and it was so fun but …
Mom: You have a gap between your teeth.
El Ninja: I know, when my wisdom teeth were removed my teeth shifted.
Mom: *Looking at El Ninja thinking how much money she wasted on his braces.
Blister:  Ok, so what were you saying?
Mom: *Looking at Blister.
El Ninja: So in Miami …
Mom: You really should draw your eyeliner in an upwards fashion, when you draw it downwards, you look really tired and old.
Me: Bwahaahahahahahahahah
Blister: Dang, she is scrutinizing all of our looks.
Me: Why do you think I’m sitting next to her so she can’t see me.

Young Dong
3828 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA

Din Tai Fung

7 Mar

For the next few months on every Sunday, Bubby and I will attend pre-marital classes.  Our classes are very educational and provide insight to our relationship and upcoming marriage.  We recently found out that we have the two personality types that are the most compatible.  After hearing that, Bubby and I mentally high-fived each other during the lecture because we’re awesome.

As an after-school treat, we decided to go to Din Tai Fung.  Before meeting Bubby, I never had xiao long bao (steamed soup dumplings) before.  He introduced me to these wonderful pockets of delicious meat and soup.  We have had them at several different places, but the best, juciest, and handmade ones are at Din Tai Fung.

Din Tai Fung has 2 back to back locations in Arcadia.  The original is smaller while the newer one has 2 floors.  I prefer the original, it seems the food is fresher.  When we arrived, this was the line outside the restaurant on a Sunday at 1:30 pm.

I like to go to the store next door where they sell a lot of Asian goods like really good black eyeliner.  They actually changed the store and there’s a huge section of several different “claw” machines.  You know the machines that have stuffed animals you grab with a claw? But this store has really good prizes in addition to the stuffed ones.  They have a PS3, an Ipad, a Louis Vuitton purse.  In order to win these expensive prizes, you have to pick up a rubber ball with the claw.  I’m really good at this game but unfortunately lost $5 trying to win the damn Louis Vuitton bag.  As a consolation prize, I almost won a stuffed “Toad” from Mario Brothers.  I just needed 4 more quarters to push it over the edge.  I had prepped it and was ready to go.  As I walked to the counter for change, this high school punk lurked my machine, and stole my Toad.  Fuuuucker.  He totally  swooped.  I was so pissed, but by that time, our table was ready and I no longer cared about the pre-pubescent punk.

On our way to our table, I noticed the hard working Latinos making my authentic handmade dumplings.

We ordered our food, and the waitress said, “That’s a lot of food for the two of you.”  How dare she judge us.  As my response, I told her to add a Sprite.

I love the chopsticks at Din Tai Fung because these chopsticks have instructions on them.

Bubby immediately said, “I don’t agree with these instructions, specifically step 4.”  Step 4 says to “Take a nibble on the dumpling skin and sip the juice.”  (Click on photo to enlarge) Bubby disagrees with this step because he believes that step 4 should be blow on the skin of the dumpling to cool the soup inside slightly and pop the entire dumpling in your mouth to enjoy the dumpling skin, pork, and soup all at one time.  I agree with Bubby, this is the best technique. But we burned the roofs of our mouths on several occasions to perfect this technique.  You’re welcome.

Look at these bad boys.  Pork dumps.

These pork ones are the juiciest.  We usually order 4 trays of them.  I always forget that the pork ones are the best and order the shrimp and pork ones, too.  Damn amnesia.  But I dip my dumps into my sauce consisting of soy sauce, black vinegar, ginger, and chili sauce.  Bubby hates the black vinegar … BUBBY, DON’T FORGET TO BRING YOUR RICE VINEGAR WITH YOU WHEN WE GO TO DIN TAI FUNG.  YOU ALWAYS FORGET.

These shrimp and pork dumplings taste like har gow that you order at dim sum. They don’t contain as much soup as the pork ones.

We also like the noodles here.  The noodles with minced pork.

These noodles are really flavorful.  You don’t need to add chili sauce or anything which is a surprise because I add chili sauce to everything.  Once you add it, you can’t taste the minced pork.

The beautiful string beans sautéed with garlic and soy sauce.

Crispy. Crunchy. Goody.

And finally, our egg fried rice with pork chop.

Bubby says that the best fried rice is when every kernel of rice has an equivalent egg bite.  This fried rice is like that.  Totally eggalicious.  And do you see the crispy fried pork chop?  I gnawed on that pork chop bone like a ravenous beast.  Definitely not my most attractive moment, but totally worth every bite.

I give the pork dumplings 5 slow claps out of 5.  A perfect rating is given when that dish sets the standard or when a dish redefines what I previously thought about a particular dish.  And for me, Din Tai Fung’s pork dumplings is the standard for all future xiao long baos.

Din Tai Fung
1088/1108 S Baldwin Ave
Arcadia, CA

Gordon Ramsay at The London

26 Jan

I’ve been to London before, and it was one of the scariest vacations of my life.  The food is obviously bad.  The people are not so friendly.  One time, I whistled for a cab, a cab pulled over, I opened the door, and the fuckface inside of the car slammed the door shut as he pulled out his pounds out of his wallet.  After handing the money over to the cab driver, he walks out of the cab and gives me the stink eye from hell.  I looked at him and said, “Fuck you” with the harshest American accent I could find in my accent bank.

In London, I stayed with my friend, Maymay, who was living in London at the time.  She had invited another friend for some New Year’s Eve debauchery.  That friend had a mental breakdown, and I ended up stuck in the attic like a bad V.C. Andrews novel.

For my birthday dinner, Bubby made reservations for us at Gordon Ramsay at The London.  Interesting choice.  One Michelin star, I agreed to go.  Coincidentally, this week is Dine LA.  Dine LA Restaurant Week allows you to explore new restaurants with a prix fixe menu for a fixed price.  They are excellent deals and usually offer the best off of the regular menu.
http://discoverlosangeles.com/play/dining/

The Dine LA menu seemed tasty so we opted for that.  Bubby and I selected different appetizers, entrées, and desserts.  We are very competitive in our ordering skills.  We try to select the best meal and sometimes Bubby is super awesome at ordering and sometimes not.  Let’s see who ordered best.

Appetizers:
My choice: Prawn and Lemongrass Soup with mint, basil, and udon noodles
Bubby’s choice: Braised Shortrib Risotto with root vegetables, mascarpone cheese

vs. 

I definitely expected some fat prawns in my soup.  No prawns.  Not even skinny ones.  Bamboozled!  The broth was nice and was Thai-inspired with the lemongrass flavor. The udon noodles were like the instant packaged kind that Blister loves to buy at Ralphs.  I did not touch the mint or butter lettuce, which was completely random.

Bubby’s selection was amazing.  The risotto was rich, creamy, and full of mascarpone cheese.  The shortribs were soft, tender, and glazed with the perfect amount of sauce.  This would be the perfect dish for a cold rainy day.

For the win: Bubby.

Entrées
My Choice: Caramelized Sea Scallops with Saffron and Manila Clam Chowder
Bubby’s Choice: Braised Pork “Osso Buco” Style with Cheddar Cheese Polenta, Trumpet Royale Mushrooms

vs.       

The sea scallops were nicely seared.  I couldn’t stop laughing while eating them because of Fabio’s comment to Jamie on Top Chef, “Dees eez not Top Scallup, deez eez top chef.”  Jamie totally sucks.  The scallops were fresh and the clams were soft and well cooked.  I really enjoyed the deconstructed clam chowder.  The braised pork was slightly gamey and needed more sauce to glaze a lot of the dry pieces of meat.  The polenta needed more cheese, a lot more cheese to be considered cheddar cheese polenta.  I definitely thought my dish was better until I bit into sand.  Yes, sand!!!! I don’t know if it’s from the clams or the scallops but there was sand in my mouth.  And when I told the waiter, I had sand in my dinner, his response was, “Oh, that’s weird.”  What?!!! You better take something off my bill for that sand, give me another dessert, or at least give me some more bread.  Nothing, but a “Oh, that’s weird.”  Ass.  Fuck the discount, dessert, or free bread.  Give me your Michelin star.  Are they just giving these stars away like condoms outside an RA’s room???  For shame.

For the Win: Bubby.

Dessert
My Choice: Raspberry Vacherin and Vaniila Bean Ice Cream
Bubby’s Choice:  Valrhona Dark Chocolate Crunch

vs. 

My dessert was fantastic.  The cream and the hidden vanilla bean ice cream inside with the fresh raspberries felt like summer in January.  The crisp meringue was a little too hard and I expected it to soften from the ice cream.  The meringue was the only thing that remained on my plate.  Bubby said his dessert was the “best dessert I’ve had in a long time.”  He said it was a great interpretation of Ferrero Rocher chocolates on a plate.  He slow clapped it after he was done.

For the win: Bubby.

Bubby won this round in the fine art of menu selecting.  But we’ll see who wins in Vegas this weekend.

Although the food was mediocre, the restaurant was nicely decorated –modern chic.  A lot of Asians were dining on this night which Bubby so astutely observed.  Bubby said it’s because Asians know how to find a good deal.  True.  And there was this Dbag seated at the table next to us.  The tables are placed so close to each other that I could hear everything he was saying.  Instead of discreetly taking pictures of his food with his phone like I do, he busted this out:

It was hilariously ridiculous.  And then he upped his douchebaggery by passing out his business card to his two female companions.  He had a body shot of himself on his business card.  Bubby said, “He looks like a real estate agent, why would he need a body shot?”  What profession would require any kind of body shot on a business card?  And then, he started making bullshit comments about the wine and his knowledge of wine.  He is so fucking LA, I want to punch him.

After conferring with my attorney, Nibs, he informed me that none of the 11 people who read my blog will sue me so here is the photo of Dbag.  Enjoy.  And if you know him, tell him his pretentious ass makes me want to pull every single hair out of his Fu Manchu goatee.


I’ll give Gordon Ramsay 3 slow claps out of 5.  I’m feeling generous today.

Gordon Ramsay at The London
1020 N. San Vicente Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA

Mom’s Pork Neck Bone Kimchee Soup

22 Dec

My mom’s signature dish is her pork neck bone kimchee soup.  The pork necks were and still are the most affordable part of the swine so we had it all the time growing up.  Sometimes she cooked her dish with pork neck bones, and sometimes she cooked it with pork fat.  Straight up fat.  80% of the pork slices was fat and the rest white meat.  My sister would always cut the fat off the meat and discard it.  My parents never gave us rules or disciplined us, but my dad would give her the look of death when she wasted pork fat.  You could see the disappointment in his eyes.  He would always lecture her for wasting the best part of the dish.  He still lectures her for wasting pork fat.

It’s been raining for days in LA.  After viewing several outdoor wedding venues in the rain, I came home to a big bowl of this.

My mom loves to put potatoes in her soup.  I hate the potatoes and never eat them.  And like clockwork, she tells me to eat the potatoes.  And my dad always chimes in, “Eat the potatoes, they’re good for you.”  And it doesn’t have to be potatoes.  He thinks everything is good for you.   “Eat the pork fat, it’s good for you.”

My mom’s soup is so hearty.  She boils the bones for hours and the meat shreds off the bone with a spoon.  And the tendon-like, cartilage pieces break off and are so juicy and soft.

Now this dish is special to me for many reasons:  (1) It’s my family’s favorite dish; (2) I’ve eaten it my entire life … before I even had teeth, sucking on the bones; (3) This dish was waiting for me after landing from the airport for every visit from college; and (4) This is the dish that made Bubby fall in love with me.

During law school, I made this soup with sliced pork, silken tofu, and squash for Bubby.  After he ate it, he wanted to be more than friends.  I made this soup for Bubby with pork neck bones.  He started talking about marriage.  I then made this soup with pork neck bones and pig’s feet.  He proposed.  He thinks I, the student, have surpassed the Jedi Master, my mom, with this recipe.  But I think he’s trying to butter me up so I will make it for him everyday.  He even tried to nonchalantly ask me what goes in my recipe and how to bring all the ingredients together.  I’m no fool.  This dish is Bubby’s Kryptonite, I’m not going to hand it over to him.  I know how much power is in this recipe.  If he had it, he may leave me.  Nice try, Bubby.  Nice try.