San Antonio Winery and Maddalena Restaurant


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When the idea of going to a winery in the heart of Los Angeles downtown was brought up, I was rather excited. I had been wanting to go wine tasting and I thought I had to travel at least a little bit more in order to get to one such as those in Temecula. Honestly, although I have been living in the south bay for over 20 years, I did not even know of this place even though it is so close by.

I was then told that there is also a restaurant inside this winery that serves good food for a reasonable price. At this point, delighted and eager, I went online as I always do before going to a restaurant to do my homework and research.

As much as the winery side seems promising, I must admit that I became rather skeptical and a bit deflated when I found out the restaurant is cafeteria style… I tried my hardest to find more photos and reviews to try to gain some assurance that the food will be decent. But I was not able to find enough stars to build the confidence.

But at least, I will be able to do some wine tasting and perhaps a tour of the winery –  an excursion of sort.

It is true when they say it is better to have low expectation, because I was thoroughly impressed after taking a few steps inside the establishment! There is an area to the right as you entered that sells chocolates, cookies, various food items, souvenirs, … and as you go further in, you reach Maddalena, the restaurant. This cafeteria style restaurant is not at all what I had imaged. I had images of school cafeterias, or at best, the image of the cafeteria at the Getty in my head. This place is warm and welcoming and not at all the stark and bare appearances of cafeterias that I had been to.

Though not elegant, the tables have tablecloths. There were wine barrels and probably left over decor from Valentine’s day that exuded warmth and comfort. The fact that the whole place is clean and well taken care of added to the overall comfort.

Display of all the dishes were right next to the order line so one can see exactly what  the food will look like. There were enticing desserts right at where one orders so it was hard not to choose one.

For the entrees, we chose the homemade Lobster Ravioli, and the Rack of Lamb, with the dessert being Creme Brulee. The raviolis were good, though not a tremendous amount of lobster, but nevertheless enjoyable.

After the delightful meal, we headed over to the wine tasting room and opted for the Artisan Flight featuring 4 wines from the estates vineyard. We leisurely took seats at a nearby table and sipped on what I deemed to be rather good tasting wine.

I am hoping to go back in the very near future and try their sweet and semi sweet selections and perhaps try the lasagna that looked really enticing at the display table. Definitely one of the most pleasurable experience so close to home.

San Antonio Winery and Maddalena Restaurant:  737 Lamar Street, Los Angeles, CA 90031  Phone: 323-330-8737 (restaurant)


Banana Bay – Thai Food in an unlikely location


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I have been disappointed numerous times even when I did venture out to such location as Thai Town to try to find what I would consider good Thai food. Of course, not at all an expert in Thai food, I am only qualified to judge based on what my taste buds conveyed.

Aside from President Thai of which I find to be better in quality and selections, Banana Bay has been consistent in allowing me to enjoy Thai food whenever I want to just stay in the temple city area so that I may either get some Asian dessert afterwards or buy breads from bakeries nearby.

I must also confessed that I have concluded that my favorites in Thai cuisine are so far limited to Pad Thai, Papaya Salad, and a good Mango Sweet Sticky Rice dessert. Not to say that I had not tried other dishes, but in the end, I still find that those are the ones that I fancy the most.

The Pad See Ew that I had tasted here did not leave me wanting for more, perhaps because I tend to always compare that with the Chinese style of stir-fry rice noodles. I do like the fresh coconut juice here, goes well with the Pad Thai.

Another reason I like this restaurant is the amount of space between tables and the comfortable booths. The large glass windows offer me the view of people walking by which adds interest and amusement to my meal.

Banana Bay Restaurant – 5747 Rosemead Blvd, Temple City, CA 91780  Phone: 626-593-5155

Lunch Buffet at Trinity Restaurant at Hilton


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Surprisingly good is what comes to mind while eating the lunch buffet at the Trinity restaurant at the San Gabriel Hilton. The fact is that most buffets in big hotels are usually very decent, so I really should not be surprised. But due to the fact that this particular one was usually rather empty most of the times when I happened to pass by, I just somehow did not think to try it.

What I really enjoyed here the most was one of the Chinese dessert – White and Black Fungus soup with Gogi berries.  Aside from the belief that these fungi are good for the lungs, skin, and cholesterol, the best thing was that the soup part was not very sweet, so I did not feel like I was eating dessert. I probably ate at least 3 to 4 bowls until my friend started worrying about me eating so much of that.

The other tasty and well prepared options were these made-to-order wonton noodles and Dan Dan Mian (this version has some bites of minced pork on top of thin egg noodles along with half of a soy egg, chives, and bean sprouts) I preferred the Dan Dan Mian out of the two. The chef behind the counter took the time to make each bowl of noodle special and delicious.

There were pigs feet (another favorite of mine), bok choy with vermicelli, beef stew with radish, a nicely done Chinese Herbal Tea, some baked yams, shrimp dumplings that were better than some famous dim sum restaurants, in addition to salads, western desserts, fruits, and even my beloved red bean soup,…

The waiting staff was very attentive and exceptionally friendly. The seating was spacious and extremely comfortable. With a price of under $20 for lunch, it was a totally worthwhile and enjoyable experience.

Trinity Restaurant – 225 W Valley Blvd. San Gabriel, CA 91776  Phone: 626-270-2700


Lovely buffet at Culina at the Four Seasons


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Through the ups and downs of life, one thing that seems to offer a small respite from the sometimes harsh reality is the blessing of a good meal in a very comfortable,  elegant setting, which for a brief instance, enables one the chance to forget and escape.

There was a very enticing deal for the “market buffet” at Culina at the Four seasons in Beverly Hills, so we decided to give it a try. It had been quite a number of years since we were there for dinner.

The restaurant looked a bit updated since my last visit, and we were seated by the window next to the patio where there was a bridal shower party, so the mood became very festive and fun.

The food was beautifully laid out across the bar area in big platters, amongst striking floral arrangements. Even though there were not an enormous amount of offerings, the selections were solid and good.

There were fish tacos on blue corn tortillas, flank steaks and chicken for the protein, and lots of varieties of salads. Being that I love avocados, I was totally content with the big bowl of guacamole next to all the cheeses and charcuterie.

Since it was a Saturday, there was a cook-to-order omelette station as well as savory crepes. I ordered a crepe with smoked salmon and cheese, and it was really good!

I did not find the dessert to be exceptional, so I only ate a small amount and opted to have more of the very fresh fruit selections which included dragon fruit, kiwis, blueberries, pineapples, …

I really enjoyed my time there because of the overall setting and ambiance. I would highly recommend going there not just for the above average food selection but also for a time to relax and escape.

Culina at Four Seasons: 300 Doheny Dr. Los Angeles, CA 90048 Phone: 310-860-4000




The best duck – Meizhou Dongpo


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To be able to dine in great restaurants and then to be able to write about the experiences are just some of the many blessings that I am immensely grateful for. The joy of eating is so much more than just the satisfaction of  an empty stomach, it is to me a fulfillment of desires, a obtainment of precious moments, a comforting of the heart, an enjoyment shared, the lifting of spirits, and an escape to different realities.

“these days”, I told my son, “I am feeling that I almost do not want to eat unless it is truly what I enjoy eating and what I really want to eat”. So there had been many days where I would just stay hungry until I can decide what it is that will give me the most pleasure to eat.

I have been blessed with the opportinity to eat in Meizhou Dongpo four times within the last two months. I like roast ducks, and the roast ducks here are truly the best that I have ever tried. The duck is carved in front the patrons’ table, and then put on a white ceramic serving plate with a carving of duck at one end.

The slices of duck meat is served with very thin pancakes, and slivers of green onions that can be added along with the sauce. The first bit of the duck was quite incredible with the perfect crispiness of the skin, the moistness of the fat, the tenderness of the meat, and the delicateness of the taste – a true harmony of flavor and texture!

The Pea Tips is what I reccommend to have along with the duck. This vegetable was seasoned perfectly and went well with the meat.

Although most of the other dishes that I had tried at Meizhou Dongpo were fine, I would suggest going there solely for the duck, it is truly excellent, and to me, the best.


Meizhou Dongpo – 10250 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90067 Phone: 310-788-0120



President Thai


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Before jumping right into my post tonight, for those of us who are struggling with the uncertainties of life, a friend had so kindly sent me a post from Morgan Harper Nichols of whom she follows on instagram, hopefully that and many previous posts might serve to ease the struggles and pains of the heart.

Now Thai food has always been a hit and miss for me. The only Thai restaurant that I remember really liking was from such a long time ago, a place in Thai town with a Thai Elvis performing while I enjoyed favorites such as papaya salad, steamed fish, and pad thai.

Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when I visited the President Thai. We got there early on a Saturday evening. The outside of the building is rather impressive with a pair of elephants on either side of the front entrance. The inside of the restaurant was elegantly decorated.

I had my mine set on the papaya salad even before arriving. The other selection was also easy since we both like pad thai. The third order was a yellow curry that one of the waitress recommended.

Pad thai is a dish that I have always had issue with. I am not sure why some Thai restaurant make the noodles a bit sweet, of which I totally dislike. So I am always a bit anxious when I take that first bite, hoping that I will not be disappointed.

Very fortunately, the pad thai here did not surprised me in a negative way. It had a good flavor and not sweet! The papaya salad was tangy and crunchy as I envisioned it to be. The diappointment for the night was the yellow curry which tasted a bit bland. I regretted not ordering the green curry which I usually prefer. Nevertheless, I truly did enjoy the evening with the pleasant ambiance as well as the other two dishes, and I hope to come back soon to have my favorite dishes again.

President Thai – 498 S. Rosemead Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91107     Phone:626-578-9814

Simply San Diego


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While life can certainly be filled with many different surprises, the unexpected can at times really throw us off  –  some are good surprises that give us joy, hope, comfort, and happiness, and some…can hurt, really really hurt, and leave you hanging with uncertainties, and disbelief…

The days before, during and after my relatively short trip to San Deigo encompassed a mixture of these surprises which left me to ponder how truly fast and sudden events in life can change from one moment to another.

The month leading up to the trip was the beginning of a revelation, a test of  tolerance, and love. First of all, the trip itself was somewhat unexpected, but very welcomed. I was to accompany my boss who wanted to cheer on her daughter who was going with her school on an athletic competition.

Aside from her attending some of the games, the daily activities were to take photos at scenic locations, and look for good places to eat. The food was of course the best part for me. I searched and read reviews and looked at all the Yelp’s photos to decipher which would be the best choices for her and me.

Most of the ones we did try turned out to be excellent and delightful. The first place we stopped at was lunch at a restaurant named Baci Ristorante.  The restaurant was totally empty when we got there, which made me feel a bit uneasy, but we were told that the reason was because it was the day after Christmas.  Since we were there already, we decided just to stay and try. Being the only customers, the waiter was naturally attentive,  even the owner came over to greet us, and shared with us the history of his restaurant. Later on after the meal, took us on a tour of the whole place and explained to us the stories behind all the artwork, which turned out to have been created by a relative of his who had since passed away. Some of his work were in fact quite distinguished. And after that, he even took us next door to a much more casual restaurant run by his son.

The food turned out to be so much better than expected, in fact, they were excellent in taste and preparations. We started with a white wine reccommended by our waiter. The steamed black mussels in wine and garlic was exceptionally fresh, plentiful and perfect in flavor. My Veal Chop Lamberti topped with roasted garlic, appeared simple, and yet was outstandingly executed, and my boss enjoyed her Swordfish Oregonato, cooked also with white wine and garlic. Everything, the food, the wine, the ambience, the encounter with the owner,  made for a very special and magnificent afternoon.

Elegant yet unrestricted was how I woul describe  Mister A’s, one of San Diego’s finest restaurant on the twelth floor, minutes from downtown offering a spectacular view of San Deigo’s skyline. It had been a while since I felt the sophstication and polished attentiveness of the staff in a restaurant, “classy” would be the suitable word. THe restaurant offers modern American cuisine with influence from the French and the Mediterranean.

My Duck Confit with Fingerling potatoes and sauce Quercynoise was without a doubt the best that I had ever tasted. I usually choose not to eat the potatoes, but the ones on my plate were so different in taste and texture from other potatoes, that I ate them all with glee. There was not one thing that I could criticize about this dish!

The others at the table order the Surf and Turf , which included a Filet Mignon that was truly exceptional, as I was told.

I was again thinking of how very blessed I have been as we dined at George’s at the Cove, Ocean Terrace. The atmosphere and the view would certainly qualify this restaurant to be representational of the sun and fun of a beach town. Situated on the top level of a commercial building admist the bustling shops at the heart of La Jolla, we enjoyed our lunch overlooking the beautiful Pacific ocean with a gentle breeze and warm afternoon sun. I think this was what “being on vacation” is supposed to feel like, all the unpleasantness of life seemed to have disappeared if only for those moments.

The Spaghetti with Clams was an excellent choice for my boss, with ample amount of clams and huge shavings of parmesan. My Prosciutto and Fig Panini, though tasty, was just a tad disappointing because of the heavy bread. However, the ambience and the beauty of being there more than made up for whatever was lacking with the dish.

Foodwise, it definitely ranked amongst the top out of my recent trips, with the exception of Hong Kong. However, because of an incident that happened toward the end before returning to LA, I was reminded that with everything wonderful, there would be things to offset that a bit. The lesson taught me to try to be much more careful in all that I do as I move forward in life’s journey with God’s mercies.

Baci Ristorante – 1955 Morena Blvd. SanDiego, Ca 92110  Phone: 619-275-2094

Mister A’s – 2550 Fifth Ave, 12th Floor, San Diego, CA 92103  Phone: 619-239-1377

George’s at the Cove – 1250 Prospect St. La Jolla, CA 92037  Phone: 858-454-4244

Delicious Food Corner – The Name Says it All


After discovering the opening of this already quite popular Hong Kong style restaurant in another part of town, we have since gone back there no less than five times within the span of one month.

It is puzzling how so many people already know about this third location when the place was only so recently opened. There were usually quite a bit of people waiting even though the actual wait time had not been very long – tonight was the only time that we did not have to wait to get seated. The waiters and waitresses were all very efficient and some were especially friendly toward us. I was told that a few came from a restaurant that I had liked, and that the place has been closed recently.

The inside seating are comfortable though some of the tables are a bit closed to each other. This particular branch offers some Chef’s Specialty dishes that are not in the other locations. The one dish that attracted me originally was the Lobster stirred fry with rice cake. However, they did not have it the first time, nor the second time we were there. Instead, the waitress suggested the Sea Cucumbers with Mushrooms which turned out to be the best dish so far. The Pork Ribs was excellent too, with a tangy glaze that was absolutely delicious. There was a Stir Fry Milk with Seafood dish that was decent, and the vegetables in the Bok Choy with Mushroom and Dried Beancurd was fresh and crunchy. As it turned out, my most anticipated dish –  Lobster with rice cake, was probably our least favorite due to the overly saltiness of the dish.

So when we were there last week for the fourth time, we decided on the two dishes that we enjoyed the most – the sea cucumbers and the pork ribs, and it was not difficult at all cleaning off everthing on those two plates.

Delicious Food Corner – 545 W Las Tunas Dr. San Gabriel, CA 91776  Phone: 626-325-8838


Belvedere at The Peninsula – Simple and Elegant


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It had been so manys years since I had the good fortune of dining at the Belvedere, before the restaurant was renovated to its current state.

I remembered the food to be superb, service excellent, but most of all, I felt really comfortable and at ease in its elegant surrounding. When DineLA came along, I was very thankful that Belvedere was brought up as one of the option – it was a little answered prayer.

The updated version of the restaurant looked not too different from what we remembered the place to be. Seemed a little bit more airy, perhaps due to the fact that I was seated facing the large windows with a very serene view of the garden-like setting.

This time, however, I did not feel as at ease as the previous. It might had been that the table was a smaller one situated in between two other tables that were placed rather closed to ours. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the people watching part since I could see very much of the whole dining room area from where I was.

The food was as good as I had hoped. We both ordered the French Onioin Soup to start. It was probably the only version that I had tasted that was not too salty – I do not understand why every single one I tried in the past had always been extremely salty. It was rich and flavorful with the largest piece of cheese topping that eventually filled us up so much that I was not even able to finish my entree.

The Duck Confit Orecchiette that I picked, though tasty, had a bit too much pasta in proportion to the duck. I actually found the Pork Belly with the Sweet Breads to be more enjoyable and satisfying, with the pork reminiscent of the Chinese roasted pork that I so adore.


Dessert was a perfect looking Chocolate Souffle of which I did not try since I was not having chocolate for that day. I opted for a simple Vanilla Ice Cream which did provide a soothing finish to a most pleasant and gratifying afternoon.

The Belvedere at the Peninsula Hotel: 9882 S Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212  Phone: 310-975-2736




71 Above


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Blessings come in many different forms – to have my birthday celebrated in such a georgous setting was certainly one, and to be able to watch the sky changed its colors slowly and leisurely was another.

Having a birthday close to Christmas does have its perks of always being in the midst of festivities and an air of celebration and joyfulness. Even though the days leading up to the dinner had been challenging, soul searching and filled with heart wrenching revelations, life moves ahead and one can only look at the moment and decide how to live that moment, while wondering if ignorance is indeed sometimes better.


I was told that the food is good here despite the beautiful interior and exquisite view. Skeptical but full of anticipation, I was thankful that the dishes exceeded my expectations. The “Duck”, a roasted breast was done to perfection, with accompaniments and sauce that heightened the dish to the top level. The “Garganelli”, with mascarpone and Pecorino butter was hearty and enjoyable. My grilled Maitake mushroom came out exactly as I asked for, not a least bit charred. The poached “Oyster” with uni and caviar looked incredibly luscious even though I did not try it. The ribeye, though tasty, was the only dish that needed improvement due to a bit of chewiness of the meat.




Suprisingly, we were somewhat full after the three courses and the amuse-bouche.



The second blessing took place within two weeks – same location but at different hours of the day. Arrived at around 3pm, the bartender reccommended a riesling from Germany (Weingut Robert Weil), fruity and refreshing, just the way I like my wine. The “Dates” wrapped with bacon, and blue cheese was the star of that afternoon. The photography enthusiasts in us took shots of the still life (the sumptuous bar offerings),  the elegant interior with the best lighting that one could ask for, and the unparalleled view of the sunset that adorned the sky with a multitude of reds, oranges, and yellows. If one can focus only on the simple elements in life – food, beauty, and art…….




71 Above – 633 W 5th St. 71 Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90071  Phone: 213-712-2683