Wednesday, February 29, 2012


After only a short time in Portland, I feel like I've eaten at most of the big name restaurants, Beast, Andina, Paley's Place, etc.  With Valentine's Day approaching, I was worried there wasn't going to be a restaurant special or fancy enough to truly celebrate the occasion.  Dumpling Man and I don't like to repeat restaurants.  We always like new stuff, new house, new furniture, new food.  It's amazing we haven't ditched each other for new significant others.  My first choice, Le Pigeon, was all booked up.  So I went with Noisette which is a relatively new restaurant in the Portland dining scene.  It's only been open for 2 years or so and only has about 7 reviews on Yelp.  So it was definitely a gamble, but their menu looked appetizing and after my good luck with Blue Hour, I was hopeful.

It's not a great way to start off your Valentine's day being 45 minutes late, so you can't blame me for being a bit miffed when Dumpling Man asked if we could move the reservation back a bit since he was "overworked" and running late.  Fortunately, the restaurant was totally accommodating.  I can see why, because as a restaurant with only 30-40 seats, we were really part of the last seating.  So it really made no difference if we showed up at 7:45 or 8:30pm.  Once the food starting rolling in, my unhappiness quickly evaporated.  I don't think Dumpling Man could be any luckier being with someone who's mood can be so easily brightened just with good food.

For Valentine's Day, Noisette was offering a special 8 course pre fixe menu for the whopping price of $125!  Uh, yeah that's what I said, but the life we live before we have kids is too short, so better live it to the fullest before it's overrun with drooling screaming rug rats.  I'm gonna be an auntie soon, and a great one to boot, can't you tell?!  

Housemade Brioche
These were quite dry and disappointing.  Not a good start.

Shigoku Oyster sautéed sweet pea tendrils, warm lobster creme
It's rare to have cooked oysters, but these were quite delicate and still maintained the sweet brine you get when it's raw.  The lobster creme was a bit salty but it packed a ton of lobster flavor, which was wonderful.  I soaked up the creme with the dry brioche and I loved it.

Dungeness Crab avocado salad, shallots, assorted radishes, frisee, citrus vinaigrette, extra virgin olive oil
This was a wonderful next starter.  Every element was bright and refreshing.  The radishes were crunchy.  The avocado was smooth and buttery.  The crab was light but meaty.  It was all so simple but delicious.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I will rarely eat somewhere if the Yelp rating isn't above 3 stars, but for Blue Hour I made an exception.  I think I read somewhere that they got a new executive chef, and the menu looked really tasty.  It didn't hurt that it's walking distance from my apartment too.  It made for a nice date night dinner.  It's a pretty large restaurant for Portland standards, like over 50 seats? and the space just feels large and elegant.  Portland restaurants tend to feel more homey and comforting. 

Tuna Tartare
When you've had one, you've had 'em all right?  This was actually a pretty nice bite, albeit a taaaaaad fishy, but it had a bit of ponzu sweet soy asuce which was nice.

Hamachi Sashimi ginger, serrano chili, wasabi, hijiki seaweed salad
We wavered on the appetizers because there were many choices that looked good.  I like deferring to the servers when this happens because they usually know better than us what's special or delicious that day.  He said this was kind of a specialty of the chef, so it was an easy decision after that.  It looked like it was drenched in sauce, but it was actually a good balance of flavors.  The seaweed salad was actually really tasty and had Chinese inspired flavors.  I wished there were more of it!

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Monday, February 27, 2012


Big Spoon has been raving about DOC for sometime, so finally there was an occasion to celebrate.  I took Dumpling Man here for his birthday.  We were quite surprised by the "quaint" or "humble" design of the restaurant, which feels more like you're eating in someone's house.  Walking into the restaurant puts you immediately in the kitchen of the restaurant.  It's a really awkward feeling because you feel like you're in their way.  Burners and ovens on one side, prep and counter space on the other.  Walking 8 feet further puts you into the dining space.  Seriously, there's only like 10 tables, so max capacity is like under 50 for sure.  For some reason, the way Big Spoon was raving, I thought this was gonna be an elegant upscale fine dining experience.  It was more like humble, solid, delicious.  We opted for the tasting menu, which ended up being SO much food.  I don't think it was tasting portion sizes, so for just $60, it was a fantastic deal.  We got 1 wine pairing which they so graciously split for us with 2 different wines with each course, just half pours each time.  It was a pleasant surprise to say the least.  I guess they understand people like to share and taste as much as possible and they really facilitate this.

Pane bread, olives, butter
Pretty standard.  The olives were salty and oily.  I dunno why people like olives, they're just ok to me.

Kumamoto Oysters blood orange, aqua vit mignonette
Briney and sweet like the ocean.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Otafuku Noodle House

Otafuku is just another one of the MANY Japanese restaurants populating the South Bay.  They call themselves a noodle house serving udon, soba, and the like but then they also have dons, skewers, sashimi.  It's confusing.  We came for lunch and I would have been pleased had I followed the cardinal rules of restaurant dining set forth by Anthony Bourdain: NEVER order the "Monday lunch special."

Pickled Cucumbers
Your standard accompaniments.

Pork Don
This was the lunch special.  It would have been tasty if the pork didn't taste old.  I should have known better, but it was "the special" and isn't "the special" supposed to be special?  I think they should rename it "the ESpecially old."  The flavoring was nice, probably a combination of miring, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, sake.  Triple F especially liked the side of spaghetti.  That pile of green was just a pile of cabbage with no dressing.  I guess you can say I was slightly disappointed.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shabu Shabu Bar

Orange County seems to have more tasty food options these days.  We decided to try a different shabu shabu place because we usually just go to California Shabu Shabu which typically has quite a wait, but this other spot in Santa Ana seemed pretty popular on Yelp.  It was a Saturday night but there wasn't much of a wait for a spot at the shabu shabu bar.  What we had to wait a long time for was our meat!  Apparently, they had a newbie back in the kitchen slicing the meat.

Goma Sauce
It's kinda cool that you get a bowl with an array of toasted sesame seeds that you grind yourself.

After that, they add the sauce and give you the option of a drop or two of capsaicin oil.  I've never had this before so I lightly dipped my chopstick in the middle of that oil spot to taste it.  FUUUUUUUUUUDDDDGGGE!!!!!!  I wanted to DIE after that.  A smarter person would have MIXED in the oil before tasting it.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I'm a Top Chef and less so a Top Chef Masters fan. I've been watching from the beginning.  I've experienced some of the contestant's culinary talent (here, herehere, here, and here) , but never have I been able to taste the food from a winner.  Ink has finally changed all that for me.  It's the new restaurant from Top Chef season 6 winner, Michael Voltaggio.  Season 6 has to be one of the best seasons because the contestants were all REALLY talented, while other seasons has some pretty mediocre talent.  The competitiveness that season was insane.  Anyways, I'm really glad Michael Voltaggio won becausethe man is talented.

Since it's opening, it's probably been the hottest ticket in LA.  Reservations are TIGHT.  Seriously, the best we could do for a Friday night was a 9:45pm reservation.  Let's just say we all had a 2nd or 3rd lunch that day.  Once we got to the restaurant we actually had to wait maybe 15-20 minutes for our table.  There's not much standing room, and as a group of Asian people crowding the entry way, I can imagine we stood out, at least to Mr. Voltaggio we did, but more about that later.

Fluke caesar tempura, tiny romaine, fennel pollen, togarashi
We kind of wanted to order almost everything, but we were limited because Triple T and Triple F went and got knocked up.  Damn them.  So no raw stuff for them, but luckily that didn't stop Running Man, Smooth Obturator and myself from getting some goodies.  The fluke was refreshing, but I can't remember much else.  It was

Shishito Peppers house shaved bonito, tofu mustard
I don't know why Triple F likes shishito peppers so much.  I see that she orders it a lot when she goes out.  They're like bell peppers but more concentrated and softer in flavor and texture.  The tofu mustard was interesting, but more creamy and light than pungent and sharp like mustard.  The bonito added some nice saltiness but overall, it's just shishito peppers.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Class 302

Anyone who's anyone knows about the new shaved ice craze.  When you think about your traditional Chinese shaved ice, you think of a bowl of crushed ice doused in condensed milk, topped with a scoop of red bean goop.  Then there's the Korean version, which comes with all of the same plus a scoop of ice cream, maybe some canned mixed fruit, fresh strawberries if you're lucky, topped with some fruity pebbles.  Then there's the Guppy House version, that improved on the whole concept by using really fresh, and really good (especially when its in season) fruit like mangoes and strawberries (my fav!).  The wait and crowds at Guppy House are just unbelievable sometimes, and the immaturity of the high school kids that frequent this place gets on my nerves sometimes.  So the next reinvention of shaved ice, comes in the form of Class 302.  I'll admit that those Taiwanese people are a crafty bunch.  First boba, now this??

What's so special about the shaved ice here?  Apparently, its more than just ice.  It's almost like a block of icey ice cream thats been frozen and then shaved off into sheets of folded fluffy soft creamy sweet deliciousness.  The standard toppings apply.

Strawberry & Mango
The strawberries were just ok, but it was the middle of January so what do you expect.  The mangoes were super ripe and super sweet and kinda too soft so I wonder if it came from a can or something.  I'm pretty sure if you had this version at Guppy House, the fruit would be 10x better.

Green Tea & Mochi
The green tea flavor was nice, but I'm not a huge fan of green tea flavored things.  Triple T was really hoping this would taste as good as the version she had at Boiling Point.  Unfortunately, it feel a little bit short of her expectations because it wasn't creamy or sweet enough.  Essentially it didn't taste like shaved ice cream.  The mochie here were ginormous, really dense, and way too filling.  I never had the Boiling Point version so I'd still say this was tasty.

Now don't think Class 302 is the OG when it comes to this new fandangled version of shaved ice.  Many years ago, I first tasted this at the now closed 85 Degrees Tea House in the SGV.  It was amazing.  It was like heaven in my mouth.  I thought to myself, if I opened up a place and sold this stuff with fresh fruit toppings, I'd be a millionaire!  Well it looks like Class 302 beat me to it.  Their dinky, and frankly run down little cafe in Rowland Heights has now expanded to Irvine, and all I can think is "Ka-Ching! Ka-Ching! $$$$" for whoever owns Class 302.  Despite Class 302's success, I still believe there's room to take it to another level.  The fruit toppings were limited and disappointing because I expect Guppy House standards.  And the shaved ice could have been smoother, creamier, and sweeter.  All in all, the stuff is still good, but damn we had a to wait an hour for the stuff!  There's seriously only 10 tables or something and it was frankly miserable eating the stuff because the door would constantly open and the cold night air would swoosh on in.  I hope the joint in Irvine is big spacious shiny and WARM!

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

MB Post

What do I consider "LA"?  I get irritated when people say they live in LA, when really they live in Sherman Oaks or Pasadena or Redondo Beach.  I've lived in LA my entire adult life up until now, and I really only consider LA to the area bordered by the 110, 10, 405, and maybe Sunset.  I'm a total snob, what can I say?  And truly truly truly, the real LA, the LA you see on TV is only the area of Vine up until La Cienega going east/west and Hollywood down to Wilshire going north/south.  That was my hood for the past 3 years, and only in that time did I feel the real action of LA's dining scene because that area is packed with some of LA's finest and most noteworthy establishments.  There, you'll find restaurants like The Bazaar, Grace, Hatfield's, Providence, Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza, Urasawa, Animal, Son of a Gun, AOC, and more recently Ink, just to name a few.  So once you leave this square, or even the larger LA I described, dining options that peak your culinary curiosity and find worthy of spending a little extra dime become slim.  That is until MB Post.

MB Post was recently opened by the former executive chef at Water Grill, which for all intents and purposes is your typical boring, albeit high end, high quality, American seafood restaurant.  Granted, I was only there for dine LA and my favorite thing of the night was dessert, I would still stand by my assessment.  Knowing that coming in, I was pretty surprised at how different, and particularly, how Asian-influenced MB Post turned out to be.  I don't know why Triple T and Smooth Obturator hadn't ventured here yet since they only live down the street from the place, but I guess it made for a funner experience since we all got to try it for the first time together.

Bacon Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuit maple butter
The biscuits came 2 to an order, so I sadly did not get my own.  Luckily Triple T doesn't eat for 2 like she should, so I still got plenty to try.  It was butter, bacony, and not too cheesy.  The butter was delicious and just a touch sweet.  It was good, don't get me wrong, but I wish I had those biscuits at Lucille's Smokehouse to devour right about now.

Jamon Serrano 12 month aged, redondo iglesias, assorted pickles
I sorta laughed at Smooth Obturator as he proceeded to tell me MB Post was known for its charcuterie. Pssh, the cured meats section of the menu only had 4 choices.  If you want to be bombarded with charcuterie, please come to Portland, namely Olympic Provisions.  It's on every menu, unless the specialty of the house is Beef Chow Fun or Pad Thai.  Anyways, I thought the jamon was just ok.  The assorted pickles didn't actually come with the ham; it was an additional order.  Man oh man were those pickles SOUR!  Like seriously my eyes were twitching and my tongue was writhing.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012


As I've said before, Portland's dining scene can be summarized as seasonal local ingredients prepared deliciously without the frills, gimmicks, and pretention as you might experience in LA.  It's just good food that makes you feel really warm and comforted inside.   Castagna doesn't really fit the mold of your typical Portland restaurant.  It's modernist cuisine with techniques that are far beyond simple prep, braising, stewing, grilling, etc.  It's the kind of complex preparation, presentation, and plating that makes you think twice about whether what you're putting in your piehole is actually going to be tasty or not.

Zhu Zhu Hamster made reservations for Castagna but did not realize it was a pre fixe menu and tried to make a last minute switch to Castagna Cafe, its next door, more casual sister restaurant.  Unfortunately, there was a wait, I was too hungry, and the menu looked pretty uninteresting.  So Zhu Zhu Hamster, Little Pet, Dumpling Man, and myself walked back over to Castagna and we actually had to wait while the staff chose from the one of MANY open tables to seat us at.  I was like, "SERIOULY?! SERIOUSLY?!"  Ok, maybe many of those open tables were reserved for a later seating...they were NOT.  Anyways, it was not a big deal, just something comical.

Amuse Bouch chicken liver pate on house made rye cracker
I should have taken a wide shot of the presentation of this.  It came as 4 little cracker bites perched precariously on long branches.   The pate was quite smooth, almost mousse like, while the rye cracker presented a contrasting crunch.  A nice bite, but the cracker had too much texture.  A little too "multi grain" if ya know what I mean.

Cauliflower Mousse pickled orange, parmesan truffle granola.
Talk about a complex treat from the kitchen.  The mousse could have been smoother, but tasted very distinctly of cauliflower.  It had a very savory vegetal taste.  The pickled orange packed a punch of course.  Now that granola was different if not strange.   It was a bit on the dry side, kinda like how the rye cracker was dry.  The parmesan and truffle were just subtle hints.  Overall the bite was nice, but I couldn't find the harmony in it.

Beignet gruyere, mustard
The kitchen was quite generous that night! Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans ignited my love for beignets, over 15 years ago.  Since then, I've never been able to find a beignet that could match up, sweet or savory.  I wish these beignets were served hot, if not just a little warm, but these were room temp.  Texture wise they were light and airy.  Flavor wise, the gruyere was interesting, but the mustard was out of left field.  It was like the beignets were rolled in a powder form of mustard.  It had that sort of heat that goes straight to your nose with a mild sweetness.  I can surely say I've never had mustard take this form.  Dumpling Man was a fan, but I just couldn't get over the room temperature nature.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Michelle's Pancakes

Michelle's Pancakes is a restaurant that's been around for a few years I think, but the reviews on Yelp were never that impressive.  It's located in the same plaza as Luscious Dumpling, so maybe it gets some overflow from them.  When I attempt Luscious Dumpling, I just make the commitment to wait and wait and wait and wait.  It was only after being smacked in the face by the hour long wait for dinner at Din Tai Fung on a Sunday night when Luscious Dumpling is closed that we decided to go for Michelle's Pancakes.  Lo Ma-Linda and Big Head Talks ALot, being "anything Asian-philes" graciously joined us for our first meal of the new year.

Pickled Cabbage
Spicy and sweet.

Pickled Cucumbers
I'm not sure if you can tell, but these were some sad limp cucumbers.  Flavor was ok.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Like all the other Jews and Chinese people, we found ourselves looking for any open restaurant to celebrate Christmas Eve.  I originally was planning to make dinner, but Verde was orphaned for the holiday so we decided to make a night of it at Aviary.  This restaurant had the unfortunate luck of burning down shortly after its opening, but has reemerged like a phoenix from the ashes.  The menu certainly looked interesting, but a little too off beat to be appealing.  I'm glad Dumpling Man made the executive decision to eat here because it was DELICIOUS.

We started off with the most amazing bread and "butter."  I say "butter" because there was something else in here that made it ohh soo tasty, but too bad I don't remember what it was.  All I know is that I kept sopping it up with every teeny bit of bread.  Just go there and try it!

Spiced Duck Leg and Broth slow poached egg, daikon, dates, brioche persillade
This was another tasty dish.  The downside was that it was so tiny.  It probably could have been eaten in 3 bites so between Dumpling Man, Verde, and myself we pretty much only got a small niblin' each. The duck was tender, the egg yolk was runny and rich, the dates brought the sweetness, and the brioche added buttery crunch.  It was like a dish you've never had.

Oxtail Croquettes tomato jam
Have you ever had chinese beef stew?  Well this tasted like a bite of that with a slight crunch on the outside.  It was a neat take on a traditional dish.  Super small though!  I could have fit 3 in my mouth if I tried.

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