A True Gem – Simple, Elegant

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Not that I do not enjoy eating raw fish – I had actually worked in a very nice Japanese restaurant many sushi ago. Yet, over the years, due to increasing amount of phobias, I have lessen my consumption of raw fish.

Nevertheless, I do ocassionally indulge myself just a tiny bit in what I believe to be higher quality sushi/sashimi. Just like the time I had dinner with my boss and the uni in her platter of sashimi was just too tempting to resist. And of course, during my recent trip to Japan, it would be regretable if I did not try the raw delicacy there.

What prompted the visit to this gem in the old town in Torrance was started with a conversation about finding fresh uni. Someone had mentioned that a restaurant in this part of town offers fresh uni and quality raw fish. So I began to search, and found the restaurant in this very quiet part of town.

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I was instantly impressed with the simple, airy and minimalist look of the interior, and that the Japanese sushi chefs gave the impression of seriousness about their craft. There is no turning back now, there is no doubt that I will be eating raw fish today.

 

 

I also realized that day, that I will not be having fresh uni in shell as I cannot bare eating them while the flesh would be still moving. We did order the “Uni Aglio e Olio” (Garlic, olive oil and red chili spaghetti with uni – cooked). The dish was simply and elegantly prepared with just the right flavor.

Between the two of us, we ordered the “Lunch Miyabi Kaisen” and “Chef’s Select Sushi”. I don’t recall having tasted such fresh fish and such exqusitely prepared sushi in recent years, even better than what I had in Japan near Tokyo’s famous Tsukji fish market.

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As I looked wishfully above our table where there was a menu displaying their “Prix Fixe Six Course Dinner with Pairings” on certain nights during each month, I realized that I can indeed truly enjoy great sushi when quality, freshness, and excellent preparation are part of the key ingredients.

Miyabi Uni – 1231 Cabrillo Ave, Suite 101, Torrance, CA 90501  Phone: 424-376-5135

 

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Cold and Spicy – Hangari Bajirik Kalgooksoo

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I was yearning for a bowl of Korean cold noodle, after much searching and looking through hundreds of photos of noodles on the net,  three places stood out.  I proceeded to try two out of the three, and concluded that the Bibim Milmyeon at Hangari Bajirik Kalgooksoo is perhaps one of the most addictive and satisfying cold noodle I have tried.

After tasting the Bibim Milmyeon a few weeks ago, I could not get it out of my head. I have been thinking about how good it was almost daily, and I would play back my memory of eating the noodle over and over again. I told myself that I needed to go back soon. I could not wait any longer. After finishing an errand with my son, I more or less told him that we are heading Koreatown to have some noodle. Quite surprisingly, he did not object (he usually does not like to go too far for food).

The first time I was there, I waited for quite a while even at 2pm on a Sunday.  This time, around 4:30 in the afternoon, there was no wait. Hungry from not having breakfast nor lunch for the both of us, I ordered the cold noodle for myself and the Chicken Kalguksu for my son.

The bachan here is simple but yet one of freshiest –  what it lacks in varieties, is more than made up with the perfect flavor that was not overly seasoned. I mixed all three of the kimchis into the little bowl of barley – so good!

The milmyeong is just perfection for me. Chewy strands of noodles, mixed in a slightly spicy sauce with hips of sliced radishes, and a bit of julienne cucumbers and egg and a slice of meat.

The Chicken Kalguksu, according to my son, is very good, especially on this chilly day. Though I did not try it myself, the abundance of squash and daikon inside was quite appealing to me.

I would probably order a bigger bowl of barley to go with the kimchis the next time. The dumplings, though decent, were probably the only thing that did not stand out for me.

Hangari Kalguksu – 3470 W. 6th St. Los Angeles, CA 90020  Phone: 213-388-2326

Patina

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Have read some good reviews about this restaurant,  so finally decided to visit since it was DineLA few weeks ago. The five courses that the menu offered seemed enticing enough, especially the course with the maine lobster.

We chose Sunday for the dinner because of the lighter traffic to downtown, and partly because I was determined to find street parking there. I did circled around a few times before landing one of best spot about 1/2 block from the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Was early, got seated at a table near the window. The decor is very simple and casual. I asked for some bread and an elder gentleman came with a tray of about 5 different types of bread. The brioche bread tasted decent even though they were not warm.

The amuse bouche was an artistically presented smoked salmon cone, very light and tasty. The first of 5 courses was a Dungeness crab, delicious. Followed by Hamachi, scallop, octopus crudo which were all extremely fresh and had just the right flavor. Then came a pasta course which was not on the menu, probably one of the best I’ve had. The maine lobster was delightfull. Finally the Wagyu beef, oxtail, potato were all excellently prepared. The oxtail was tender, the beef was just the right size for me, even though some might feel that it was a tad small. The potato looked more like a dessert than a side of potato.

 

The dessert was an “Ivory Chocolate” with persimmon. Again, presentation was exquisite, but because I personally prefer dark chocolate, I found the white chocolate to be bit too sweet.

A tray with some candies came with the bill, however, I found that the candy had the taste of the raw rice since they were sitting on a bed of rice.

Patina – 141 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012  Phone: 213-972-3331

 

 

 

 

Fun in Eataly

Wow! That is what came into my mind as I strolled through this food lovers’ “Disneyland” (as my friend had called it). It is rather like that of an amusement park in that there were lines everywhere.

Not sure that I really wanted to fight the crowd when my friend mentioned this place that had just opened less than a few weeks ago. I was told the wait would be more than an hour to get into the restaurants. I finally relented since I did not have much to do that Saturday, and had plenty of time for waiting in lines.

My friend got there around 10:30am, and me around 11:15am, so we did not need to wait outside in order just to get in. However, there was a line already for “La Pizza, La Pasta”. The food looked really good at “La Piazza” while we were waiting in line, and I was told that the “ll Pesce Cucina” serves very good seafood. I noticed that for people who came later on that day, there was a line just to get inside Eataly.

First of all, I was glad that I registered online for “Smart Parking” which allows the car to enter straight into the garage without having to get a ticket, and that it also automatically bills the credit card on file without having to pay at the station before leaving (there is a 50% discount from now until end of the year for parking once registered).

It was exhilarating for me to walk around such a wonderful, happy place with lots of fresh and quality food. There is a station where fresh mozzarella is being made, another where doughs for fresh bread were being kneaded, and another where a lady was making fresh pasta.

There are lots of cheeses, beautiful cuts of meat, and seafood, produce, fruits and all different food products form Italy.

We were finally seated after lining up for over an hour for La Pizza, La Pasta. The hostess was telling me how much she enjoys working there since she loves food. I would not mind working there part-time as well, especially at the “Venchi Cioccolato” where one can purchase individually wrapped chocolates by the pound.

The pizza that we had ordered, “Tartufo”, with porchini mushroom puree and black truffle was quite light and flavorful, not salty as most other pizzas tend to be. The “Tagliatelle al Ragu” with brasied brisket was tasty, with the pasta being made daily on premise. I also liked the housemade mozzarella with a choice of 3 side accompaniments.

I was not full after those 3 plates, but my friend was stuffed. So instead of getting a Panigacci(a flatbread imported from Tuscany)as we had wanted to, we decided to wait, and get some sweets instead.

We purchased these 3 small bite size pastries at the “Venchi Ciocolate”, and the pastries were put into a beautiful box with ribbons which in itself looked rather fancy and expensive.  I really wanted to keep the box, but it got a bit soiled by the pastries, so I had to let it go. I exercised strong self control when I only picked two pieces of the individually wrapped chocolates that one can purchase by the pound. One of them was probably the best piece of chocolate I had ever had, with depth of flavors that were complex and rich. The other 3 pieces of pastries of which I ate all by myself were not as special, probably because I had them very soon after having a medium gelato (hazel nut and pistachio flavors), and an Italian hot chocolate with whipped cream!

We finally made it outside Eataly several hours later. The “Disneyland” of food was quite a fitting analogy and it certainly was a happy place for me.

Eataly: 10250 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90067  Phone: 213-310-8000

 

 

 

 

Pastries Galore

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I had wanted to get together with a friend over tea or coffee and perhaps some pastries as well. I suggested a place that I have been to for years, but my friend came up with a place in Hermosa Beach that has opened recently called Kirari West Bake Shop. 

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I must say I was just a tad unsure whether I wanted to go because I wanted something that I will definitely like. My friend said the place has very good reviews, so as much as I was skeptical, I decided to give it a try.

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The shop is located inside a somewhat unremarkable looking strip mall, close to a Vegetarian restaurant that I had been to long time ago. The decor inside is very simple and  yet cozy and inviting. There are a few tables outside as well. There is a big black board with drawings of different types of coffees and teas. The Matcha Latte grabbed my attention. The latte, though good, had a bit too much milk in it, thus diluted the taste of the matcha. On the subsequent visit, I requested less milk, and the Matcha Latte was perfect.

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The signature pastry would be the Almond Butter Brioche. It seemed like everyone was getting this particular pastry. My friend got one, and I tried it. It was really, really good! Somewhat crunchy on the outside and soft inside,  especially since they had warmed it up for her.

I was so impressed with this place that I had been back about 3 times in a just a few weeks. I managed to try a very fresh tasting and not-too-sweet Mango Tarte, and a Sweet Butter Brioche. Everything were delicious and top quality.

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I found out later that their products are gluten free. The original Kirari was opened in Japan in 2011 by the father and the older brother. This new “Kirari West” is a collaboration between the younger brother who has been living in the US, and the family.

Kirari West Bake Shop – 707 N. Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach, CA 90277   Phone: 310-376-5313 Continue reading

“That little restaurant”- Bistro Na’s

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“That little restaurant” was what I originally thought is the English translation of the name of this fairly new Peking restaurant in Temple City. However, I read somewhere  that “Na” is actually a Manchu surname, so therefore, literally, the name translates to “Na’s little restaurant”.

Enough about the name. I stumbled across this place after finishing dessert at “Meet Fresh”, which is just a few doors down. The outside does not reflect what one would expect to find inside. It is actually quite a large restaurant. The decor is very elegant, since the cuisine is focusing on Chinese “Imperial court” cuisine.

I was told that I would need to make a reservation even for lunch. I did some research at home regarding the menu and its prices. The price did not seem too extravagant, so we made a reservation for lunch on a weekday.

I arrived when the restaurant just opened, so I was pretty much the only one there. So I had a chance to inquire about the food with the waitress. The main dining room was open and comfortable, while the decor is classy and not overly opulent.

We ordered the highly recommended “Crispy Shrimp”, the “Stewed Fish Combo”, “Traditional Beijing Noodle”, the “Vegetable in the Box”, “Dry Cooked Stuffed Mushroom”, and “Stuffed Lotus Root”.

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Originally, I did not want to order the shrimp, but it turned out that the shrimp dish was the best overall dish. The flavor was very distinctive, and the shell was fried to perfection, and I ended up eating a lot of it.

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However, all the rest of the dishes did not impress me. I did like the “Stuffed Lotus Root”, it is more like a dessert since it was a bit sweet.

I have mixed feelings about this restaurant. While I really enjoy the atmosphere of this place, I wish the dishes can be as good as one would expect given that it is supposed to be “Imperial Court” cuisine.

Bistro Na’s: 9055 E. Las Tunas Dr. #105, Temple City, CA 91780  Phone: 626-286-1999

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Fresh

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After walking around for a couple of hours at the Lunar New Year Festival in Monterey Park a while back, a friend and I were trying to decide where to go for dinner. However, since it was still quite early, probably around 4pm or so, my friend suggested maybe dessert first before dinner. She mentioned that there is this really popular place in Temple City, and that there is usually a long line of people waiting. Being it was still early in the day, we figured that the line might not be as long. So we decided to head over to check out the place.

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This eatery is located in a fairly new strip mall at the corner of Las Tunas and Rosemead Blvd. The dessert revolves around Taro Balls, Herbal Jelly, Shaved Ice, Tofu Pudding, and Teas. 

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After trying to decipher the menu on the wall, we decided to share one order since it was quite big of a bowl. It was Herbal Jelly with kidney beans, rice balls, boba. It took a long, long time before it was finally ready. I did enjoy what we had ordered, though. Everything tasted fresh and most importantly, the items were not that sweet.

Subsequently, I had gone back one more time a week or so later. I made a special order that was not on the menu. I ordered the Taro ball with taro, barley, beans, and rice balls. For some reason, there was shaved ice at the bottom. It was quite huge, and tasted even better than the one last time. It was not cheap, more than $9 for that bowl.

I do really like this type of dessert, I like the chewiest of the rice balls, taro balls, and slightly bitter taste of the grass jelly. I just wish that it was not so expensive.

Meet Fresh: 9055 E. Las Tunas Dr. #100, Temple City, CA 91780  Phone: 626-537-1715

Din Tai Fung – Chinese Food at its Best

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wp_20161215_004While this is not the first time I have eaten at Din Tai Fung,  it is, however, at this Torrance location, that I finally gave more attention to the food. I was able to truly appreciate how well the food is being executed at this famous eatery.

This particular Din Tai Fung has just recently opened at the Del Amo Mall in Torrance, The decor and atmosphere is outstandingly different than the one that I had been to in Arcadia.

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The interior is modern and airy, which is rather different than the traditional Chinese restaurant. Perhaps somehow that enabled me to appreciate the food even more.

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The dish that started my appreciation for this restaurant was the Sauteed String Beans with Garlic.  I had ordered it because they did not have the Bok Choy that I had wanted on that particular day. I am not a big fan of string beans, but the plate of string beans was perfection at its best. Every single strand of bean was cooked evenly and impeccably. Not one of them was charred, as it is with most of the string beans that one gets in other Chinese restaurants. Not one of them had a black spot on them. To me, that is the mark of attention to details that distinguishes itself as a great restaurant.

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Another detail that I noticed at this particular Din Tai Fung is that the food is not salty, as most restaurant food tends to be. To be honest, the food hinges being a tad blander than what one would expect from a restaurant. However, it is precisely because of this, that I find so appealing about this place.

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The chef has enough confidence, control, and belief in the freshness of his food that he does not feel it necessary to add extra seasoning. It allows people like me to feel that I am eating somewhat healthier, instead of the usual heavy tasting restaurant food.

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I tried the Sticky Rice & Pork Shao Mai for the first time. It was well executed and quite filling. The Fish Dumpling, though good, did not have much fish taste. The Noodles with Sesame Sauce was extremely flavorful, but the serving size was rather small. The Wonton with Spicy Sauce was quite good as well.

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I like anything made with sticky rice, so I ordered the Eight Treasure Sticky Rice. Being that my friend does not care too much for sticky rice, I ended up eating the whole dessert. Fortunately, it was not too sweet.

Din Tai Fung:  21540 Hawthrone Blvd.Unit 519, Torrance, CA 90503  Phone: 310-214-1175

 

 

Apple Logo Mugs and Beyond…

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While visiting family up North, I was asked to buy an authentic Apple Logo Mug at the Apple Headquarter Store in Cupertino, which is supposed to be the only Apple store on this earth that one can buy this mug. I decided to go on a Sunday since I did not want to deal with traffic.

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I anticipated more tourist there, but maybe because it was late in the afternoon, so the crowd was not too bad. The store itself is not too big, aside from the usual merchandise one sees at a regular Apple store, there are mugs, water bottles, T-shirts, pens, …

 

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The small mugs cost $25 each. I asked why it is so expensive, and the guy told me in all seriousness that the mug is handmade in Japan, and it is made with porcelain! “Oh”, I said, he seems to truly believe that it is really worth that price. At least the little shopping bag that came with the mug seems to be of quality material.

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One is not allowed to visit the inside of the office building, which is quite understandable. So the trip was a short one. I took a few pictures, and off we go.

Apple Headquater:  1 Infinity Drive, Cupertino, CA 95014  Phone: 408-996-1010

Wonton Noodle and a Day in Downtown

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My son had a project in downtown LA, so I got to be the chauffeur and tourist for the day. I thought it would be a good idea to have lunch in Chinatown beforehand since the sights were very closed by.

I remember that there was a Sam Woo BBQ in Chinatown from way back, and I figured that my son might enjoy a nice bowl of Wonton Noodle. We found parking not too far from the restaurant.

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The place was not too busy, and service was brisk. I did not see Wonton Noodle on the menu, so I asked the waiter whether they serve that. He said that the Wonton Noodle is their signature dish. Great!

It must have been less than 3 minutes from ordering to getting the 2 huge bowls of noodles to arrive at our table –  that was the fastest delivery of food that I had ever encountered from a sit down restaurant (probably even faster than any fast food order)!

What was even better was the fact that these wontons were BIG, and there were at least seven of them in the large bowl, with very thin noodles at the bottom. My son commented that the noodle tasted a lot like his favorite place in Milpitas, so he was quite happy about that. And I was delighted that there were ample fresh Chinese vegetables floating on top.

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Afterwards, we visited Olvera Street, the Chinese America Museum, and Union Station. I had never even known about the existence of Union Station – such a grand structure.

I did not realize the amount of walking I was going to be doing after years of minimal walking in Los Angeles. I did not have the right type of shoes and there was a blister at the back of my foot when I got home.

Sam Woo BBQ: 803 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012  Phone: 213-687-7238