Thursday, May 27, 2010

Road to Seoul (Los Angeles, CA)

1230 S Western Avenue
Los Angeles, California

Two nights before the wedding, Cathy, aka the Gastronomer, and her then fiancé, Vern, aka the Astronomer, hosted Frenz Nite for all their friends from out of town! For the occasion, we went for all you can eat Korean BBQ ($16.99).

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We were first served banchan, including the Korean staple kimchi, pickled Napa cabbage. Going through the wikipedia descriptions, I think there was also dubu-jorim (tofu), as well as different dipping sauces and coarse salt. There was also Korean potato salad (not pictured) which I thought very amusing!

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Banchan (including kimchi at the bottom).

They also brought complementary gyeran-jjim (steamed egg) and pajeon (scallion pancake). There's nothing like freshly fried jeon dipped in soy sauce!

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Gyeran-jjim (steamed egg) and pajeon (scallion pancake)

For the BBQ part of the meal (gogi gui), Cathy ordered galbi (short ribs), bulgogi (beef), pork belly, squid and the long tubes you see on the grill below were intestines. They tasted like they looked, quite chewy and we preferred them more on the well done side, and in fact verging on charred!

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BBQ meats in their uncooked and grilling state.

My favourite was taking a thin rice (I'm guessing) sheet, filling it with pork belly, lettuce and kimchi and dipping it in sauce. What can I say? I'm Vietnamese and I always prefer rolling my food!

My perfect little meat package!

I had great fun grilling my own meat even though I came out of the restaurant smelling like a piece of meat! I was quite full and was worried whether I would still fit into my bridesmaid dress...!

Road To Seoul on Urbanspoon

For my other California posts:
* Bánh Mì Chè Cali & Tea Station
* NYC Seafood Restaurant
* Nem Nướng Ninh Hòa
* Quang An Duong Herb Store & Kim Ky Noodle House
* Oomasa Restaurant
* Fish tacos at Señor Fish
* Mario Batali's Pizzeria Mozza
* Crawsfish at The Boiling Crab
* Rehearsal Dinner at La Grande Orange Café
* Wedding Banquet at Capital Seafood Restaurant

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Boiling Crab (Alhambra, CA)

742 W Valley Boulevard
Alhambra, California

At the end of the street where I was staying with my uncle was the Boiling Crab. Supposedly, the Boiling Crab is a chain specializing in Cajun food, owned by Vietnamese people. The idea of trying crawfish was so exciting to me! I had crawfish in Louisiana, but it was in an étouffée or fried. I had never had it just boiled in massive quantities and this idea really appealed to me. But have you ever been so excited about trying something and the experience disappointed you? Unfortunately, this did.

I forgot to take a picture of the exterior even though I saw it every day!

As you can see from the picture above, this place was packed. In fact, on every evening, there were lines waiting outside the restaurant. If anything, this heightened my excitement. I called in for my order: 2 lbs of crawfish with medium spicy rajun cajun seasoning and an order of fried catfish ($8.99). I was warned that the medium spice level was quite spicy. Being confident in my heat tolerance, I decided to stick with medium. Big mistake!

Crawfish with the complementary piece of corn for every 2 lb order.

When I went to pick up my order, I saw tables covered with plastic and big piles of crawfish shells. I came home and was so excited to start chowing down crawfish. My aunt showed me how to eat a crawfish. First, you need to break off the head and then you pull out the tail. Unfortunately, after all this effort, I was rather disappointed to see the small amount of meat I would get. In addition to this, the seasoning was so spicy that it was really hard to enjoy. I couldn't even tough the corn. Finally, it was such a messy endeavour that I just lost all of my excitement.

Fried catfish and cajun fries.

The catfish wasn't as disappointing. However, by the time I got to the fried fish and fries, it wasn't quite hot and crispy enough to fully enjoy. I think this is a better dish to order when you're at the restaurant. My disappointment had nothing to do with the restaurant. I just don't think eating boiled crawfish is for me.

Boiling Crab on Urbanspoon

For my other California posts:
* Bánh Mì Chè Cali & Tea Station
* NYC Seafood Restaurant
* Nem Nướng Ninh Hòa
* Quang An Duong Herb Store & Kim Ky Noodle House
* Oomasa Restaurant
* Fish tacos at Señor Fish
* Mario Batali's Pizzeria Mozza
* All-you-can-eat Korean BBQ at Road to Seoul
* Rehearsal Dinner at La Grande Orange Café
* Wedding Banquet at Capital Seafood Restaurant

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pizzeria Mozza (Los Angeles, CA)

641 N. Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, California

Another day in California and another great meal! This time, my lovely friend Cathy (aka The Gastronomer) took me and her mother for lunch after we went to pick up her wedding favours - very pretty chocolate truffles from XT Patisserie. Cathy had previously suggested going to Pizzeria Mozza for dinner, but she couldn't snag a last minute reservation, and we had Japanese instead. Even when we arrived for a late lunch, it seemed doubtful that they could find a table for us. They finally found a table in the wine cellar area.


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Cathy thought I was such a tourist for taking a picture of Mario Batali's picture!

Did I mention that Mario Batali is one of the owners of Pizzeria Mozza? This is very exciting for a foodtv (and Iron Chef America) fan! I remembered reading Cathy's posts on Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza next door. I was excited that I'd get to experience some of the food I usually only get to salivate over! I also remember reading her post at Mozza 2 Go where she tried the chicken livers, capers, parsley & guanciale bruschette ($9) and being very curious about this dish. Luckily, Cathy was willing to have it again and I was able to enjoy creamy chicken livers on crusty bread topped with guanciale. (Cathy also reproduced the dish at home!)

Chicken livers, capers, parsley & guanciale bruschette

On to the pizzas. After the appetizer, we decided to split two pizzas between the three of us. Miss Cathy picked the squash blossoms, tomato & burrata ($23) that was featured on Saveur magazine's cover for the LA issue - including an article written by Cathy herself on Koren Fried Chicken! My favourite part was definitely the hot, soft and gooey burrata. I will definitely have to find this cheese for homemade pizzas!

Squash blossoms, tomato & burrata pizza.

I picked the speck, bufala mozzarella, olive tapenade & oregano ($16). This pizza was after my own salt lover's heart! Between the speck and the tapenade, there was enough saltiness to make me very happy! The pizza was then topped with fresh herbs. Because of the slices of speck, this pizza was a bit difficult to eat but well worth the effort!

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Speck, bufala mozzarella, olive tapenade & oregano.

We went all out and ordered dessert. Cathy's mom T and I shared gelato (espresso and Gianduia for $8). I really enjoyed the Gianduia flavour. I was quite amused by Cathy asking for the two flavours of gelato being served in separate bowls, and being refused by our waiter because it was kitchen policy to not serve it that way! It was such a nonsensical explanation!

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Cathy rocking my new hat and photographing the photographer!

Cathy ordered her favourite dessert, one that she had previously ordered, the butterscotch budino, Maldon sea salt & rosemary pine nut cookies ($9). Although I'm not sure I could have eaten it all on my own, I have to admit that the sea salt (salt again!) and butterscotch was a winning combination! It was quite the decadent treat!

Butterscotch budino, Maldon sea salt & rosemary pine nut cookies.

Our great lunch was followed by stuffing little Chinese food take-out boxes with chocolates. Thanks for a super lunch Cathy! I wish I lived nearby in LA!

Pizzeria Mozza on Urbanspoon

For my other California posts:
* Bánh Mì Chè Cali & Tea Station
* NYC Seafood Restaurant
* Nem Nướng Ninh Hòa
* Quang An Duong Herb Store & Kim Ky Noodle House
* Oomasa Restaurant
* Fish tacos at Señor Fish
* Crawsfish at The Boiling Crab
* All-you-can-eat Korean BBQ at Road to Seoul
* Rehearsal Dinner at La Grande Orange Café
* Wedding Banquet at Capital Seafood Restaurant

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Señor Fish (Alhambra, CA)

15 W Main St
Alhambra, California


One of my goals on this trip was to try fish tacos. I had seen them on foodtv and read about them on California blogs (The Gastronomer put together taco task force!). The idea of fried fish in a taco sounded like a great combination to me! I searched for a restaurant near my uncle's and found Señor Fish.

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Salsas and accompaniment.

My uncle drove me at 11 am. I think I was the first one there. Along with the fish taco ($2.50), I was intrigued by the scallop taco ($2.95), and also ordered a fish and scallop burrito ($6.95). While I waited, I filled out containers with different salsas ranging from mild to very spicy. My uncle insisted that pickled radishes and peppers were necessary for the burrito.

I couldn't wait to dig into my fried fish taco. It consisted of two layers of soft tortillas topped with fried fish, cabbage, tomato and coriander. I put generous amount of sour cream and salsa. The restaurant does offer to grill the fish instead of frying it, for the more health conscious. However, I was willing to splurge for my one and only chance at fish tacos!

Fish taco.

The burrito was stuffed with seafood, lettuce and rice (my uncle didn't want the beans). Although I was really excited at the prospect of having scallops in my burrito and taco, I preferred the fish. I'm not sure that the scallops were fresh and were overcooked to my liking. I would just stick with the fish tacos next time.

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Shrimp & scallop burrito and scallop taco.

I was really curious about the horchata ($1.25 for a small drink). Horchata is a Latin American drink made of rice. It was strongly spiced with cinnamon. I really enjoyed it at the beginning but I was unable to finish my drink - the cinnamon was a bit too strong for my taste. I would definitely add ice next time to dilute it a bit.

Sweet horchata.

I loved my first fish taco experience and wish I could enjoy such things here in Canada!

Señor Fish on Urbanspoon

For other taco posts:
* in Montréal, La Taqueria Mex
* in Chicago, Cemitas Puebla

Monday, May 10, 2010

Oomasa Restaurant (Los Angeles, CA)

100 Japanese Village Plaza Mall
Los Angeles, California


After spending the weekend with my family, I got to meet up with Cathy and Vern, aka the newly married couple, aka The Gastronomer & The Astronomer on Monday. We went out to a Japanese restaurant in Little Japan, in downtown Los Angeles.


We had not see each other since my trip to Vietnam in 2008 so we had to catch up on what's going on in our lives.

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It was great to see my old friends!

I don't remember much about the menu, but they had good dinner specials. It included a miso soup, tempura and sushi. I was rather surprised by the macaroni salad but I did really like the cucumber salad. I ordered the chicken teriyaki I believe...

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My dinner special.

The food was good, nothing too memorable. I'm sure if Cathy writes a post about this restaurant, she will have much better pictures! Let's just say I have major camera envy! More meals to come with my Cathy in California!

The combo also included green tea ice cream.

Oomasa on Urbanspoon

For my other California posts:
* Bánh Mì Chè Cali & Tea Station
* NYC Seafood Restaurant
* Nem Nướng Ninh Hòa
* Quang An Duong Herb Store & Kim Ky Noodle House
* Fish tacos at Señor Fish
* Mario Batali's Pizzeria Mozza
* Crawsfish at The Boiling Crab
* All-you-can-eat Korean BBQ at Road to Seoul
* Rehearsal Dinner at La Grande Orange Café
* Wedding Banquet at Capital Seafood Restaurant

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Quang An Duong Herb Store & Kim Ky Noodle House (Rosemead,CA)

Quang An Duong Herb Store
9014F Garvey Avenue
Rosemead, California

After lunching on bánh bèo, my aunt and cousin took me shopping in Old Pasadena. After shopping to our hearts' content, my aunt asked me if I wanted some sugar cane juice. My first time drinking sugar cane juice was in California and so every time I've visited subsequently, I request getting the sweet, fragrant drink. Luckily, my aunt knew of a Chinese herb store that also sells a very generous portion of sugar cane juice for $3.

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Beautiful green-coloured sugar cane juice.

Kim Ky Noodle House
9014H Garvey Avenue
Rosemead, California

As we were waiting for our juice, my aunt commented that she was hungry. So we rushed next door to order more food. My aunt and cousin shared a large bowl of noodles. When it came for me to order, my aunt put me on the spot by telling the Chinese waitress that I spoke Cantonese. I quickly looked at the menu and ordered fish porridge (cháo cá in Vietnamese). It sounds like "chook yu" - my Cantonese vocabulary is pretty much limited to words related to food.


I also got a serving of crispy yau ja gwai to go with my fish porridge. I love dipping the crispy savoury "doughnut" into soup. Perfect combination! At the bottom of my bowl were large chunks of fish. Fortunately, since I was still full, I got to take most of my soup home with me! I didn't write down the prices but everything was quite affordable. Just keep in mind that it closes relatively early, around 5 pm on the Sunday we were there.

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From top left (clockwise): noodles, yau ja gwai, and my fish porridge.

For porridge recipes to make at home:
* Cháo Ca (Fish Porridge)
* Cháo Gà (Chicken Porridge)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nem Nướng Ninh Hòa (Rosemead, CA)

9016 Mission Drive
Rosemead, California

One of the reasons I love visiting California is the Vietnamese food! Nothing compares to it (other than home cooking and actually eating in Vietnam of course)! It seems in California, you can find anything your Vietnamese heart (and mouth) desires. There are so many choices; any Vietnamese dish you can think of can be found here. How timely then that I get to submit this post to the new blogging event Delicious Vietnam, founded by A Food Lover's Journey and Ravenous Couple (whom I got to briefly meet!). This month, Anh of A Food Lover's Journey is hosting!

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During my last few visits to California, I have always visited Nem Nướng Ninh Hòa. Obviously, I had to order the dish that is the namesake of the restaurant. My bà ngoại (maternal grandmother), aunt and cousin shared an order of nem nướng cuốn, Vietnamese rolls with pork meatballs and shrimp spring roll. The four rolls came with a sweet sauce for dipping.

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Nem nướng cuốn.

Although nem nướng (pork meatballs) may be their specialty, I remember this restaurant for the bánh bèo (rice flour cakes) that comes in individual dishes. Each cake is topped with ground shrimps, green onion and a crouton. You just need to ladle some fish sauce on top and enjoy! My sister and I still talk about these bánh bèo with fond memories!

Dishes of bánh bèo.

I also ordered a portion of tàu hũ ky, which comprises of ground shrimp wrapped in bean curd skin and deep fried. It came with a third dipping sauce. I really liked it but really felt quite gluttonous eating this as the first two dishes were quite sufficient.

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Close-up of bánh bèo and tàu hũ ky.

I had my fill of food but this just the start to my week in California! Enjoying Vietnamese food is always a highlight of my trips to California and I'm lucky to have friends and family who let me indulge!

Yes, that's my stack of empty bánh bèo dishes...!

Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa on Urbanspoon

For my mom's recipes for:
* Bánh bèo
* Nem nướng cuốn
For more Vietnamese recipes:
* Vietnamese recipe index