Friday, June 25, 2010

Eating My Way Through Memorial Day Weekend

The H.o.P. strikes again! We did what we do best, EAT! Here's the quick rundown:

Holiday weekend plans in my house always seem to revolve around food, especially when my sister is running the show =)

On the way to running some errands, we stopped by a papuseria, or maybe it was just an El Salvadorian restaurant in Costa Mesa or Newport Beach that served papusas. First time I've eaten a papusa, but according to wikipedia:

"A papusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish made of thick, hand-made corn tortilla (made using masa de maíz, a maize flour dough used in Latin American cuisine) that is filled with a blend of the following: cheese (queso) (usually a soft cheese called Quesillo found in all Central America), cooked pork meat ground to a paste consistency (called chicharrón, not to be confused with fried pork rind which is also known as chicharrón in some other countries), squash (ayote), or (pataste), refried beans (frijoles refritos), or queso con loroco (loroco is a vine flower bud from Central America)."

It was definitely not a light eat, but it was served with slightly pickled cabbage slaw that really took the edge off the heaviness. We got 3 varieties, queso, chicharron, and shrimp. The shrimps were so punny, you could barely taste them. Really, they all sorta tasted similar. Not something I'd seek out but interesting to try for the first time.

We headed over to Mitsuwa for their 2010 Umaimono Gourment Food Fair. Apparently Ippudo Ramen were one of the many vendors in attendance. New Yorkers stand in line for hours to have a bowl of this famous ramen. Why it is so famous? I don't really know. What was so special about it? I don't really know. Was it really as good as the hype? Certainly not! It was tasty I suppose, but I like my Santouka ramen easily over this bowl. Especially since I don't have to stand in a huge line, not just waiting to get a bit to eat, but also to find a place to sit! Man was Mitsuwa teaming with foodies. People were stalking near empty tables in hopes of snagging some food court real estate. I think my brother actually got in a little confrontation with some lady who came out of nowhere and took the table he'd been waiting for.

Anyways, on to the food. The ramen was definitely flavorful having that richness from stewing pork bones for hours, but nothing out of this world. Maybe New Yorkers have lower standards when it comes to ramen? I don't think they have Shinsengumi or Santouka out there. Maybe if they did, Ippudo wouldn't be all that.

The fair also had various sorts of fish and squid cakes, as patties and on sticks. I don't know why, but I love all sorts of mystery meat concoctions. Fish balls, shrimp balls, sausage, hot dogs, meatballs. You make it, I'll eat it! I won't say that all the fish and/or squid cakes were that good, but I happily devoured them.

My brother and Triple T had already tried the takoyaki balls at another Mitsuwa and said they weren't that good. Despite that, the H.o.P. had to try it.

These guys were so cute, posing in the picture, when really all I wanted was pics of them making the takoyaki. Poor guy got his head cut off =(

I guess a major complaint was that the balls are just mush pills slathered in sauce. I would agree. The chunk of octopus in the middle was mostly flavorless, but at least it wasn't chewy. This was my first time having takoyaki that I could remember so I guess I don't have a basis for comparison. I would still be up to trying takoyaki in the future.

So after we were stuffed silly we proceeded to do some light shopping in the Mitsuwa market and found some interesting creations.

Who would eat that?!?! A croquette is already fried, and now you go wrap it in bread and slather it in mayo?? Not as bad as a deep fried Twinkie but I think it belongs in that food category of totally unhealthy and unnecessary!

To continue our Japanese food festival, we went to this place in Costa Mesa called Kappo Sui. My brother heard of it from his very Japanese friend. This place is so Japanese that they have an English menu and a Japanese menu with entirely different items. We tried to order a bit of everything from both menus. I apologize at my poor descriptions because I don't even know what I was eating half the time. The waitress would try to translate items off the Japanese menu and as long as the main ingredient didn't sound like something awful or weird we were willing to try it.

We started off with a refreshing octopus salad. It was probably one of my favorite dishes of the night being citrusy with tasty pieces of octopus.

Of course we had to get aegdashi tofu. I guess there was something different with this one cuz there was all this extra junk on top. I'm not quite sure what all that white mush was but it was sorta slimey like maybe they took a grated daikon and added something to it to make it so slippery. It was a good aegadashi tofu but not the best. The best aegedashi has this gelatinous batter on the outside. So strange but soo good.

The sushi was pretty standard. Good quality. Can't remember much more than that. I don't think the place is necessarily special for sushi as it is for all the small dishes.

A delicious croquette!

Miso cod.

Amberjack. Fishier than I would have preferred, but with a nice grilled smokey taste.

Chawanmushi. Did I spell that right? An egg tofu custard. Freaking HOT as hell, kept burning my lips and mouth trying to get some. It had this wonderfully silky smooth quality about it. Also a flavorful dashi broth surrounding it.

This was a surprising favorite. Amberjack cheek, which I had never had before. I'm not sure what the pickled thing on top was, but it had a refreshing citrusy taste, that complemented the taste of the raw fish very well.

We weren't sure what sort of noodles were. It sounded something like Inanie? Inaninani? It was served ice cold with a dipping sauce on the side. Sorta like how soba is served, but the side sauce was different and the texture of these noodles was much more on the al dente side. We also ordered these noodle hot like udon. It was also very enjoyable and so clean tasting.

This was probably one of the more expensive dishes of the night. Grilled prawns. Oddly enough the tastiest part was the head, which I usually avoid. Sucking brains out of poor sea animals is not so enjoyable to me. In fact most of the time its the nastiest tasting part, but for some reason, these suckers had good brains, hahaha. The body of the shrimp was overcooked and mushy, what a shame! I wanna say 2 shrimps costs $18? I could only guess at what the japanese menu was advertising.

All in all, I felt like I was a real Japanese person after eating here! It also helped being surrounded by buncha Japanese Japanese people, haha. Oddly though the crowd was either Japanese Japanese or totally American, ordering chicken teriyaki and sushi. It would be nicer if the restaurant made the place more welcoming to foreigners instead of having a totally non English menu that hides away all the good more authentic things. I'd definitely come back again, maybe with a Japanese speaking person in tow to avoid the whole awkwardness.

Kappo Sui
20070 Santa Ana Ave.
Costa Mesa, CA 92707
(714) 429-0141

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Friday, June 18, 2010


So to celebrate my birthday which was well-forgotten by the majority of my family, especially my mom who didn't even remember to call me the day after like my brother and sister-in-law, but like a whopping 2 or 3 weeks later! Safe to say I was annoyed and unreceptive to her apologies. Anyways, my brother wanted to take me out, but I had to share my celebration with Mother's Day. Boohoo I said, but I did want to try out a restaurant off my "to-try list" which includes Osteria Mozza, Hatfields, The Bazaar, Melisse, and Jiraffe. My brother had already tried Melisse and was not that impressed and Osteria and Bazaar were booked, so Jiraffe it was.

The restaurant is located in Santa Monica, very close to 3rd street. It's two stories which is interesting with a very relaxed decor. It doesn't have that poshy weho or BH air, but still feels clean and nice. The menu was pretty straight forward, no tasting menus which disappointed me. I love tasting menus so I can get a variety of dishes to try from. They did have a pre-fixe menu which didn't appear all that exciting.

Amuse bouche - some chilled bell pepper soup
It tasted like bell peppers but not in an enhancing way. It did not excite my mouth.

For my starter...
Sautéed Wild Pacific Shrimp - baby arugula, white beans, shaved fennel, and lemon vinaigrette

I apologize for the blurry pic, but I was still trying to fiddle with the camera...unsuccessfully obviously =( Anyways, this was probably the most delicious dish of the night. I am a HUGE fan of shrimp and these shrimp were PERFECTLY cooked, sweet, and tender. The little salad of arugula, white beans, and shaved fennel was a great accompaniment. The sweet savoriness of the shrimp was well complimented by the tang and crunch of the salad.

Unfortunately I cannot remember what this dish was =( It was given to us by mistake tho, and the waiter kindly let us have the dish on the house while we waited for the dish we actually ordered. I remember that white blob in the middle was burrata and it had such a smooth delicious creaminess which I've come to enjoy in this cheese now.

Purple Peruvian Gnocchi with rock shrimp, pearl onions, Mandarin tomato concassé, and herb-infused tomato nage

This what we actually ordered and it was soo good! The gnocchi were pillowy and soft and the cream sauce was not super heavy and the shrimp, well you know me and shrimp! All in all, light, creamy, flavorful!

On to the main courses!
Prime Caramelized Pork Chop served with long grain wild rice, smoked bacon, spiced apple chutney, and aged cider sauce

This This was definitely a reinvention of a classic american dish...i think. What do I know of classic american fare? Not like I ate that growing up! But I here about pork chops and apple sauce or apple something and I imagine this was supposed to be a take on that. The pork chops were so tender and juicy. I was not a fan of the wild rice as it usually is all hard and "full of texture." I like my rice white and texturely homongenous. Overall, a solid entree.

New Zealand Lamb Rack served with yellowfin potato samosas, vegetable moussaka, and thyme-scented lamb jus

Some people don't like lamb because of its gamey-ness, that particular "lamb" smell. I like that lamb taste. Lamb is also something special since I don't cook it at all because of its priceyness over beef, chicken, and pork and because I'm not too familiar on how to prepare it. So when I get the opportunity to go out, I'll usually order lamb over the more mundane beef and certainly over chicken. As you can see, the lamb was cooked perfectly medium rare and didn't have too much fat on it. The side dishes had much to be desired. The vegetable moussaka was made of eggplants and squashes I think. It wasn't that good. And the potato samosa was like mashed potatoes rolled like egg rolls. They were a better accompaniment, but not all that impressive.

Some halibut dish? Part of the special pre fixe menu for that evening. It was very moist, maybe too moist. I think it was undercooked in the center and my mom requested it be sent back to finish cooking. They graciously took it back, no questions ask. I forget if they gave us something on the house for such an egregious error.

We definitely went overboard with the dessert. Triple T (Terror from Toronto & Taiwan) and my mom ordered the pre fixe menu which came with a pretty simple but solid rasberry tart. I wanted something more decadent of course.

So I ordered Brioche Bread Pudding with chocolate chips, cranberries and homemade white chocolate ice cream. It wasn't that impressive and frankly not that memorable.

Dumpling Man did not want bread pudding, so being the Dumpling Man he had to order some version of a molten lava cake. Behold! Chocolate Truffle Cake with tahitian vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate, raspberry sauce. Tasted pretty standard, and not that memorable.

Triple T and RCM (Root Canal Man) had to have the Duo of Crème Brulee tahitian vanilla and manjari chocolate served with fresh baked cookies of the day. It wasn't the best creme brulee in my opinion. Not smooth enough, but it did have the perfect brulee, crispy and caramelized.

So although my reviews on the dessert seemed lackluster, I found the desserts pretty standard, neither bad nor out of this world but definitely a good way to end dinner.

As you can see the portions at JiRaffe are sizable, the quality is seasonable and fresh, and the taste is solid. I highly recommend this place for a nice occasion, especially if you hate small portions and feeling like you need to hit up the Kogi Taco Truck after dinner to fill up your still empty stomaches.


502 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401

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Friday, June 4, 2010


Long ago, someone amongst my foodie friends decided "Let's eat Ethiopian food!" The excitement soon simmered into a hot mess of complaints and excuses ranging from "That lemony bread is kinda weird" to "I don't feel like having GERD tonight" to "I don't like eating with my hands" to "I want something soupy instead" to "Let's wait until [insert any friends name who happens to be busy or out of town] comes back." But FINALLY we went! At the recommendation of an Ethiopian friend, we traveled a whole 5 minutes over to Fairfax where Little Ethiopia makes its home to try a place called Messob. Now, I find myself quite conversant in the cultural diversity of food, but when it came to ordering off Messob's menu I was like "jigga wat?!" Luckily the waiter recommended The Super Messob Exclusive which included:
-Doro Wot
-Siga Wot
-Yebeg Siga Alitcha
-Yater Alitcha
-Yatakilt Alitcha
-Yemisir Wot
-Collard Greens

Don't ask me what any of that means. I cut and pasted it from the website menu! We also ordered another meat dish on top of all that for fear our tummies would revolt in dissatisfactory hunger.

For 4 adults with large appetites, this was plenty.

I don't know which mush pile was which dish, but they all sorta blended together with no dish really standing apart as far as flavor profiles were concerned. I was glad there was some salad on that plate as it served as a good palate cleanser for all the spicier foods.

BEHOLD! Sour bread!!!!

It wasn't as sour as I had anticipated. It went well with the food, and I think it served as a main ingredient in some of the dishes in the combo plate. The downside was the gritty sandy texture left on our hands after touching the bread. I was working really hard to avoid touching any of the food so my hands would stay as clean as possible, but alas, the bread won me a trip to el bano to wash my hands.

I enjoyed my first Ethiopian food experience. I think the other members of my party were also satisfied but we all agreed that Ethiopian would not be a food we would likely crave anytime soon. None of us can really explain why, as the food was delicious!

1041 S Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 938-8827

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