Archive for February 2008

Juicy dumplings!

February 27, 2008

I had heard about Din Tai Fung for years since I have a friend who was born and raised in Arcadia.  It was intruiging to hear about these dumplings that squirt out soup when you bite into them.  How do they capture soup in the dumplings when making them?!?

We invited a couple other friends along for this Saturday morning brunch.  I was told to get there right when the restaurant opens at 10 AM otherwise, we’d have to wait at least an hour to get a table.  This place is THAT popular.  We had a straggler in the group who arrived 10 minutes late so we did end up waiting a few minutes before we were seated. 


 My mouth was watering before we even sat down because I looked at what other people had ordered.  We ordered the juicy pork dumplings (a MUST HAVE), the mini juicy pork dumplings (a weekend special – they were oh-so-cute!),  chicken dumplings, vegetable dumplings, rice and pork shu mai, chicken noodle soup and red bean dumplings for dessert.  Needless to say, we were stuffed at the end of the meal.


I loved the rice inside the shu mai.  It made it very flavorful and filling.

I did a little research and even found a recipe for these steamed soup dumplings called Xiao Long Bao.  Inside the dumpling are little pockets of gelatinized broth made from chicken, pork and cured ham. When you steam the dumpling, the broth melts.  Genius!!

It was unbelievable how crowded this restaurant was when we left and the parking lot was madness too.  I would definitely like to go again in the near future but this time, get there right before the restaurant opens or at least right on time!

1108 S. Baldwin Ave.  Arcadia, CA (locations in Taipei and Tokyo as well)

Cupcake Craze

February 26, 2008

Jill brought over cupcakes for Boyfriend and I the other day… not from the ever-so-popular Sprinkles but from Dots Cupcakes in Pasadena!  I’ve been to Sprinkles a couple times now so it is now time to expand my options.  Sprinkles is good but something about the long line at all hours of the day gives it an elitist feel and the sign on the door is semi-snobby  err, somewhat cute. “Please keep door closed… this helps us maintain the freshness of our cupcakes.”

She took our order over the phone:  I chose Strawberry Shortcake and Boyfriend chose Apple Pie with a caramel swirl on top.  Jill kept stressing how cute the packaging is over the phone so when she brought it over, I got to see how cute the little dots are!



Overall, I might’ve liked the Dots cupcakes better than Sprinkles. *gasp*  I don’t really like overly sweet frosting and sometimes I scrape off some of the Sprinkles frosting because it is just too much.  *double gasp*  Sprinkles are $3.25 a pop and Dots cupcakes are $2.75/EA.  If you’re in the area, perhaps you can judge for yourself and decide which you like better!


400 S. Arroyo Parkway  Pasadena, CA

Mmm, mmm good.

February 20, 2008

When it’s cold outside, I feel like warming up with a nice bowl of soup.  Campbell’s might hit the spot sometimes but I love noodles, especially udon.  We trekked on over to Sanuki no Sato for lunch… it’s just a few blocks south of where I live so very convenient.


Sometimes I feel like I stepped into Japan when I go into this restaurant.


I ordered the nabeyaki udon… it comes with shrimp tempura, egg, an abundance of sansai vegetables, chicken, shiitake, and bamboo to name a few.  I love the hot iron pot nabeyaki udon is served in because it stays hot for that much longer.


Boyfriend ordered the “Sanuki Special” which is really just hot tempura udon and zaru soba.  It was definitely tasty and filling!  (I’m assuming)  Both of our orders were $12.95 each off the lunch menu.  I would say lunch at Sanuki no Sato was “Mmm, mmm good.”

18206 S. Western Ave.  Gardena, CA

Finally, Father’s Office burgers!

February 19, 2008

We took our chances on Father’s Office on a Saturday night before meeting up with friends on Main.  I’ve gotten a seat rather quickly each time I’ve been and this time we got lucky with counter seats before we ordered.  I don’t crave burgers often but this one paired with some sweet potato fries and a cold beer really hits the spot.


There are absolutely no deletions, substitutions, or modifications to anything on the menu at Father’s Office.  They don’t even have your traditional ketchup or mustard for your burger here!  It comes with carmelized onion, applewood bacon compote, gruyere, matag blue cheese and arugula. 


We had to order a basket of sweet potato frittes “a la cart” with roasted garlic, cabrales and blue cheese aioli for dipping.  “A la cart” via shopping cart.  How cute is that?!?  Good thing we shared because one order of frittes was plenty for the two of us.

The place is loud and crowded… definitely not your place for a romantic Saturday night dinner for two.  It’s an experience to try this burger and definitely worth going at least once!  If you go during the day, you can always hit up Di Dio’s down the street for some good Italian ice if you’re still hungry. 😉

1018 Montana Ave.  Santa Monica, CA

I heart sushi!

February 14, 2008

Boyfriend took me to one of my favorite sushi places for a Valentine’s lunch today.  I used to frequent Katsu in Manhattan Beach once or twice a week when I worked in the area.  Although I quit about a year and a half ago, the waitress still remembered me and exactly what I used to order!  The fish is so fresh and I love their lunch menu…


Old habits die hard and mine are no exception.  I ALWAYS order the chirashi.  This plethora of sashimi comes on a bed of sushi rice and is served with miso soup and salad.


Boyfriend ordered the lunch bento box of the day which came with sea bass, tempura and spicy tuna roll.  What can I say, we know how to eat well!

Katsu has happy hour from 5:30 to 6:30 PM with 99 cent Kirin draft beer and half priced hand rolls.  I think we’ll be going back in a couple weeks!  The waitress gave us free kuro goma (black sesame) ice cream because she said she missed me and was glad to see me.  Awww.

302 Rosecrans Ave.  Manhattan Beach, CA

I love me some good Korean BBQ.

February 12, 2008

We attempted to go to Father’s Office in Santa Monica for some good burgers and sweet potato fries the other night.  Bouncer: “I don’t know if this makes a difference to you but we ran out of burgers.”  WHAAAT?!?!  I didn’t even know that was possible.  We left immediately.

Since we already had our heart set on cow, we decided we might as well drive over to Koreatown to my favorite Korean BBQ place, Soot Bull Jeep.  It definitely hit the spot.  We ordered a plate of kalbi and a plate of gyu-tan (tongue for you non-Japanese speakers) and it was perfect!  I love all the pickled side dishes at Korean restaurants… kimchee and garlic everything and I’m in heaven. 



The only downfall to Korean BBQ is that you end up smelling like your food when you leave.  Soot Bull Jeep has charcoal grills so in lieu of smelling like kimchee and meat when you leave, you smell like kimchee, meat AND smoke for the rest of the night until you shower.  Everytime I’ve gone to Soot Bull Jeep, it’s been super crowded.  Parking is hard to find at dinnertime, sometimes the wait is long and there is somewhat of a language barrier between us non-Korean speakers and the waitresses… but I keep going back because the quality of the meat is good and I’ve never left disappointed.  I think whatever downfalls there might be are outweighed by the happy stomach in the end! 

February 11, 2008

We went on a hike up to the Hollywood sign this past weekend to soak up the sun and great weather.  What better way to work up an appetite than to exercise!  After our 2 hour hike, we decided to treat ourselves to one of our favorite foods: sushi.  I’ve been going to CA Roll Factory for a few years now and love the menu choices they have there.  They have every roll imagineable at this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. 


There are about a gazillion rolls with names that do not identify what is in the roll at all.  These are the Tootsie and Woody rolls.  (Actually, I can’t remember what the top roll was called.)  I ate them so fast I can’t even remember what was in them!


Boyfriend had to closely examine the rolls to determine which was which.


I was so ravenous that I ate a “crispy roll” before the picture was taken!  The soy paper is a nice alternative to the traditional nori.  Boyfriend chose the Tootsie Roll which was a fancy salmon skin roll.


After our lunch, we headed over to Di Dio’s in Santa Monica for Italian Ice.  It was the perfect dessert for our upper 70’s weather we had over the weekend.  Even though we were full from lunch, we managed to fit in dessert since it IS only frozen, flavored water… the green apple flavor was delicious and mango is a close second favorite!

Chaya Brasserie – dineLA

February 8, 2008

Our first dineLA experience was at Chaya Brasserie in Beverly Hills.  I was intrigued by the description of the restaurant on their website, “distinctive East/West cooking by Executive Chef Shigefumi Tachibe, who first introduced Los Angeles to Franco-Japonaise cooking.”

We were thanked for arriving a few minutes early for our reservation and seated immediately.  The first thing I noticed about the drink menu was their title for cocktails.


How adorable!  I ended up ordering a glass of wine though. 🙂

Our server was very helpful and informative about the menu and wine choices.


Boyfriend chose the grilled asparagus with parmesan cheese as his appetizer.  That is exactly what he got:  grilled asparagus with parmesan cheese on top.  No frills.


I chose the lobster ravioli with basil pesto sauce.  Each of the two ravioli were stuffed to the brim and it was obvious they were going for quality and not quantity.


We were excited about the entrees.  Boyfriend went with the pan-roasted New Zealand White Sea Bass, braised greens, sweet bell pepper, Andouille sausage, with basmati rice.


My entree was wonderful.  I chose the slow braised short rib with champignon truffle oil risotto.  The meat was incredibly tender and the risotto was amazing.  Boyfriend loved my risotto too, as it probably would’ve been better paired with his fish than the basmati rice they served.


There were only two choices for dessert (one being a VEGAN option that our server advised against) so Boyfriend and I both chose the chocolate ice cream sandwich.  There were no complaints here but I couldn’t help but think that this cookie/ice cream sandwich was probably five times more expensive than the ones I get at Diddy Riese in Westwood…

While I was impressed with my appetizer and entree, Boyfriend was left wanting a little more.  He probably could’ve made the grilled asparagus at home and we both would’ve chosen another starch to go with his sea bass.  I enjoyed the Japanese bamboo garden decor in the center of the restaurant and the staff were all very friendly.  I wouldn’t mind trying out Chaya San Francisco once we move up north!

Final rating: three and a quarter stars

Table 8 – dineLA

February 7, 2008

Last night we had the pleasure of partaking in our second dineLA experience. We were thoroughly impressed with the food at Table 8 but not so much the service.

Upon entering the restaurant, our hostess took my name and told us we were the first in our party to arrive. Somehow, my reservation for two was mistakenly entered as “party of four.” We were seated as soon as we cleared up the misunderstanding and looked over the special dineLA menu we were handed.

Warm bread and olive tapenade

We started out with warm bread and olive tapenade.


My appetizer was actually much, much better than it looks in this picture. Roasted baby broccoli with prawns and herbed hollandaise topped with toasted breadcrumbs. Exquisitely divine!


Boyfriend went with the warm boucheron with roasted balsamic onion soubise, flageolet beans, arugula and herb salad. The cheese (boucheron is aged goat cheese as we learned) was pretty salty.


My entree: grilled prime beef shortrib with potato gratin, crispy bacon and creamed swiss chard


Boyfriend’s entree: Duck Confit with braised savoy cabbage, beluga lentils and quince marmalade


My dulce de leche chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream was super rich. Luckily, Boyfriend wanted something rich to eat.


So he traded my chocolate cake for his vanilla panna cotta with honeyed blueberries. It was perfect!

We were both so impressed with the food that we had decided to give Table 8 four and a half stars out of five. However, we did have to wait for our water glasses to be filled on more than one occasion. Our server actually came to the table next to us with the water pitcher but skipped our table even though my glass was practically empty. We also had to wait quite awhile for our check. The restaurant was fairly busy but we did notice our server standing around talking for a bit. Our dessert plates had been cleared but our check was not brought to us for quite awhile.

Final rating: four stars

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