“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

 

Tonkatsu, Black Cod, Shrimp Tempura…

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We read a review of a restaurant who specializes in Tonkatsu, and the picture of that looked really delicious. So we decided to try that out over the Father’s day weekend.

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It turned out that the restaurant Kagura is one that I pass by frequently on the way to Mitsuwa Market. We made a reservation for 11:30am for Saturday, and we were the first ones there. The inside of the restaurant is modern and airy and our waitress was extremely freindly.

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Both of us order the Grilled Black Cod in Miso, and a side order of the Millefeuille Katsu (Deep fried multi-layered sliced Black Pork). The lunch comes with sliced cabbage salad, miso soup, rice which are all unlimited, in addition to small amount Japanese pickled vegetables.

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The Katsu was probably one of the best that we tried. The outer crust was super light, crispy and not at all oily. The flavor is mild, and the meat was moist. The black cod was equally impressive, cooked perfectly, with the fresh taste of the fish not over powered by the miso.

I think that meal started us wanting more Japanese food, so we ventured out to yet another Japanese restaurant nearby the next day. The restaurant name is Matsui.

I had been to this restaurant a long ago, but the inside seemed to have changed a bit. My friend ordered the daily special, while I ordered the black cod dinner.

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The daily special came with about 7 pieces of sushi, a plate of tempura, a bowl of either of soba or udon, and salad. My dinner came with two slices of black cod, broccolli, carrots, and rice. We also had a side order of 5 shrimp tempura, which seemed to be quite popular.

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I really enjoyed the shrimp tempura with its crunchy outer crust. The shrimp was large and moist. I liked my black cod even though it was not as good as Kagura.

Kagura:  1652 Cabrillo Ave. Torrance, CA 90501  Phone: 310-787-0227

Matsui:  21605 S.Western Ave, Torrance, CA 90501  Phone: 310-320-2089

Sunday Bistro

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Hong Kong style cafes have always been one of my favorites because one can order both the western style dishes as well as tradition Chinese favorites, in addition to a wide selection of drinks such as the popular Hong Kong Milk Tea, YuanYang (HK style milk tea with coffee), Red Bean Drink, …

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Instead of going to the same ones over and over again, I decided to visit Sunday Bistro, one that I have not been to for years. It is situated in a strip mall on Valley Blvd in Alhambra. The restaurant is fairly roomy inside with comfortable booths on one side.

The menu is quite extensive just like many of the HK cafes. But the one dish that caught my attention was the Braised Sea Cucumber with Mushroom at the price of $10.95. Sea Cucumber has always been one of my favorites, and the dish is usually rather pricey in restaurants. I did not hesitate at all in ordering that.

I was ready to accept a small plate with just a few thinly slices of sea cucumber at that price. Needless to say that I was totally, pleasantly surprised when the plate came with more than 10 good size pieces of sea cucumber and ample mushrooms and very fresh mustard greens at the bottom. Both my companion and I were incredulous as to how they could serve so much of the sea cucumber at such as price, and the dish was executed really well with everything cooked perfectly.

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The other simple dishes that we had ordered such as the Wonton Noodles and Porridge were all fairly decent. Despite some criticism of poor service at Yelp, I thought the staff was quite attentive, and the waitress actually listened to my request of not adding extra salt to the food.

The only complaint for me would be that the patrons are allowed to smoke in the front outdoor patio area, and the smoke can be smelled even inside the restaurant.

Sunday Bistro: 1032 E. Valley Blvd. Alhambra, CA 91801   Phone: 626-282-0238

 

Marmalade Cafe

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Somehow I have managed to visit this eatery three times already in the past month. Once with my son when they sent us an email for a free entree for his birthday. And the two other times with the Groupon deals that were too good to pass up.

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The atmosphere of this place is casual and relaxed. The outside of the restaurant actually looks more modern than the inside. My son, as well as my dinner companion all had the Filet Mignon and Shrimp all three times that I was there. The filet mignon was executed really well every time, tender and flavorful.  I tried the Lobster and Shrimp Linguine during the first visit, but found the portion size to be small and without much lobster. For the subsequent visit, I had the Braised Petrale Sole which was served in a deep elongated dish covered with a pear tomato sauce. This dish had so much sole inside that I was not able to finish the entire serving.

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The Roasted Mushroom and Bacon Flat bread that we ordered as appetizer was a tad salty for our taste, but quite ample in portion size. We tried the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes during our third visit, and found that to be moist, tasty and not too heavy. Our dinner came with cocktails of our choice so I tried the Cadillac Margarita, and Raspberry Lemon Drop during two of the visits. Being that I am not a frequent drinker, I felt buzzed after just a few sips, and did not finish the drinks.

Marmalade Cafe: 2014 East Park Place, El Segundo, CA 90245  Phone: 310-648-7676

 

 

A Very Filling Afternoon – Ganache and Coffee Zone

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Had a pretty good lunch at Tasty Garden in Alhambra before going to a job.

The job finished quite a bit earlier than expected so I had some time before my other assignment in Chinatown. So I decided to have some coffee at the Coffee Zone in Monterey Park. I wanted a quiet place to sit and relax, and I remembered that Coffee Zone offers such an option. I ordered the Cappuccino while my friend ordered an Americano.

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The cappuccino came with a little frozen cream puff on the side. I must say that the cappuccino was one of the best that I have had for a long time. Even though the espresso was not very strong, I found that the overall presentation and taste to be excellent, especially with the fine chocolate powder sprinkled on top.

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Although the time was around 5:00pm, we decided that perhaps we should have an early dinner. We chose a place called Ganache Patisserie and Cafe by Nicol on Atlantic since it was close by, and one that I have not tried before.

The restaurant is small and empty since it was not quite dinner time yet. The menu has numerous pasta options. The wall had photos of delicious looking desserts even though the waitress said that some of the desserts were not available, and that some did not really look like the photos.

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I chose the Vegetarian Pasta with a tomato base sauce, while my companion ordered the Seafood Pasta. The servings of the pasta were not huge, but given that I was not that hungry, it was just the right size.

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The chef did a good job on the pasta itself since it was still al dente. The taste was a tad sweeter than I would have preferred. The pasta came with sun dried tomatoes and mushroom, but I did not get too many mushrooms.

I wanted to try the desserts but was too full to do so. Overall, it was a decent place to try if one is not in the mood for Chinese food in that area.

Coffee Zone: 328 S. Atlantic Blvd. Ste. 107, Monterery Park, CA 91754  Phone: 626-521-5880

Ganache Patisserie and Cafe by Nicol:  141 N. Atlantic Blvd. Ste 102, Monterey Park, CA 91754  Phone: 626-943-8688

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Special Brunch at Tres

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Last year on New Year’s Day, there was a special brunch at Tres with the best roasted pig. I was so looking forward to that at the beginning of this year. To my dismay, there was nothing special on New Year’s Day, in fact, there was not even a brunch, just a regular breakfast buffet.

So when it was suggested that we go to Tres for V-Day, I was really ready for a special brunch buffet.

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Tres did not disappoint on this occasion, there was a special Roasted Lamb in addition to the regular Roasted Prime Rib. The Smoked Salmon was great as usual, and I enjoyed the small, but fine selection of cheeses, and caviar.

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I finally tried their Aguas Frescas, which was truly refreshing and tasty, and not too sweet. I especially liked the little plates of salads with beets and varieties of root vegetables. The Greek Yogurt Parfait was my number one favorite of everything in the buffet – so creamy, and amazingly delicious.

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There were also the freshest shrimp and crab claws in addition to the regular items. The croissants were not as incredible as I remembered them to be, but the desserts were still the best among all the buffets that I had tried in the LA area.

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Tres:  465 S. La Cienaga Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90048   Phone:310-247-0400