Thursday, November 27, 2014

Lemongrass Express

So I'm finally getting around to my Big Island vacation eats from the summer.  I didn't really plan on any specific places to hit up.  In fact, I did very little planning for the whole trip.  Thanks to Fat-Skinny-Fat-Less Fat and Dairy Queen, I just hopped along for the ride and kinda played the fooding by ear.  It's a pleasant surprise when you just stumble upon delicious gems.  I really feel Lemongrass Express was a fortuitous find.  It was close by.  It was well rated.  It was reasonably priced.  There was no wait.  I guess it helps when you eat at 3pm.  Maybe it was so delicious because we were all so frickin' hungry.  A day at the beach, snorkeling and boogie boarding can do that to you.  Of course, everyone (The Mexican Manchild, FxGf/FW, Fat-Skinny-Fat-Less Fat, Sleepy Snoozer, The Cat Whisperer, and Ho-Bag) kicked back and let me do the ordering.  The waiter was really helpful in guiding me to their most popular specialties.

Papaya Salad chili, garlic, lime
Ho-Bag and I were really starving for some fiber during our Hawaii trip.  I learned that Hawaiian food is rather unhealthy and unbalanced, heavy on the starch, protein, and oil.  This was bright and refreshing, just what I craved.  Not particularly special but necessary to balance out the lunch.
Thai Beef Salad sweet onion, pepper, cucumber, fresh herbs, lemongrass citrus vinaigrette
I just had to throw in another salad.  More brightness and crunch.
Crispy Pork Belly fresh market greens, garlic, dry chili sauce
Sometimes the leaves of morning glory can get mushy while you're trying to get the woody stalks cooked through.  But when you have nice tender greens, everything gets cooked perfectly.  The pork was crispy and maybe a tad dry.  Overall, great dish.
Singapore Drunken Noodles udon noodle, onion, pepper, curry, garlic, chili sauce
They showcased some fusion aspects here using udon noodles instead of the traditional wide flat rice noodle.  Texturely, it made for some unctuous slippery noodles.  Normally this dish is more on the pan fried side, but this version was saucey and watery.  I loved the variety of vegetables here.
Garlic Sambal Beef onion, pepper, garlic, chili sauce
Delicious and so well balanced with spice, sweet, salt.
Orange Chicken pineapple, onion, pepper, kaffir lime orange gastrique
Nobody does a better orange chicken than Panda Express.  I'm just gonna put that out there now.  This was a tasty showing though.  The orange and pineapple flavors were obviously fresh.
Sake Mirin Jalapeño Braised Oxtail kimchee fried rice
This was an amazing fusion dish.  A big hunk of tender oxtail in a Japanese style sat atop a generous helping of Korean kimchee fried rice.  There was an overall sweetness to the dish that was all Hawaiian.  This is a must get.
Fried Ice Cream panko crusted hawaii sweet bread crusted sweet potato-taro ice cream
I was incredibly impressed with crunchy exterior, the soft sweet bready interior that encased the taro ice cream.  I don't even like taro that much but man this dessert was probably one of the most unique takes on an old classic.
I really loved Lemongrass Express as did the rest of the gang.  They have a bigger location in Kona with a more extensive menu. I think this outpost is just fine.  Their menu seems to have only their best dishes anyways.  I'd call it fusion, but it leaned heavily Thai which I didn't mind at all.  The Hawaiian influences were not obvious in your face.  There was no spam, poi, or loco moco.  The overall feel of the place definitely felt Hawaiian in some way still.  I can't imagine stumbling upon a restaurant like this on the mainland for sure.  I wish I could come back to this place, but I probably won't be back to the Big Island anytime soon.  *Sadface*

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Saturday, November 22, 2014


Who doesn't love lobster anything?  Slapfish serves up lobster rolls and other seafood themed eats just steps away from the beach in the heart of Laguna Beach.  The original location is in Huntington Beach, which, for people like LoMa-Linda and BigHead Talks-A-Lot, would be like hiking it to Mongolia on a camel.  Since moving to OC, the driveable radius for these guys has like shrunk to 5-10 miles.  Laguna Beach is actually outside of their limits, but the temptation of lobster outweighed the inconvenient drive. 

Chowder Fries house cut fries, chowder, bacon
No surprises here.  It's fries with chowder and bacon.  I think they need to work on their fries, which were a little lackluster, the same way In 'N Out fries leave me wanting more.
Traditional Lobster Roll 100% real lobster meat, warm butter, lemon, mayo

So much potential!  Alas, their "100% real lobster meat" was 100% crappy legs and claws.  If you've ever broken down a lobster, you'd know how difficult it is to extract any meat from those 8 scrawny legs.  In the end, that meat is not worth your time and effort.  At Slapfish, it's very much worth their time and effort to charge you almost $20 for meat that would normally get tossed in the garbage bin.  I'll give it up to them for keeping the dressing pretty light and not dousing the whole thing in mayo.  The roll was soft and buttered to a crisp.  It was my favorite part.  I really wanted to know where I could get some for myself.  I tried making lobster rolls once, but the hot dog buns really killed any potential my 100% tail meat lobster roll was going to have.  The side slaw was quit enjoyable and brought a little bit of crunch and some nice acid to the plate.  Those chips coulda been crispier.

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Monday, November 17, 2014


I'm coming realize that Orange Country has some pretty darn good sushi at an amazing price point.  While I've never been to LA's high end sushi places like Sushi Zo or the bang-for-your-buck joints like Hama Sushi, I have been to the ever popular Sushi Gen.  I was quite impressed with the omakase at Sushi Gen, but I was a bit miffed by the price tag.  I was kinda hungry after $75 worth of sushi.  So I've been pretty happy to find a place like Ohshima, where $50 gets you about 8 pieces of high quality sushi.  It's key to sit at the bar to enjoy the best fish because I was unimpressed with my dining room experience.  This applies to ALL sushi restaurants.  If you haven't been sitting at the bar when you eat sushi, you are doing it all wrong.  I liked that Ohshima serves many of their pieces as-is meaning, no extra soy sauce for dipping is needed.   Some people might find the put off by the nazi-like style, but I don't mind being told how to eat my food.  I guess they embody the true meaning of omakase, "to entrust."  Keep in mind, the following is a mix of 2 separate meals at Ohshima so it's more pieces than $50 will buy you.

Sea Bream
Light.  Clean.  Always a good way to start.

Blue Fin Tuna chu toro
Particularly delicious without being overly fatty and lingering on the tastebuds.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014


My experience with Szechuan cuisine is pretty limited.  I've probably eaten it only a handful of times and I was never impressed or filled with a desire to go back for more.  I think people always mistake Szechuan food for being particularly spicy, which it's really not.  Though, my spice-O-meter may not be representative for the average person.  I can handle the heat.  Szechuan food is spicy in that numbing tingling Szechuan peppercorn spice.  It's a very specific kick to your tastebuds.  And it's hard to avoid it when your food is swimming in these peppercorns.

After Ho Bag and company (Crack, CrackBaby, Crack Baby Daddy, Bang Bang, Ever-Knee, Tall Steven, Short Steve, Always-Makes-Me-Laugh)  were sufficiently "pumpkin wasted" from pumpkin carving and noshing on awesome spiced pumpkin muffins, we chowed down like royalty at Chuan's.  We bypassed the crowd, waved to the manager like we were old friends, and ordered almost everything on the menu like we were starving Africans.  And when were still hungry after round 1, we ordered more.  It's like we owned the place, but really we were just a bunch of nobodies tagging along with a somebody, Tall Steven who had the hookups for this place.  

I actually didn't get to try it.

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