Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Balcony Grille & Bar, Irvine, CA

Randomly got a call from Taylor saying she wanted to meet up in the plaza with 85C Bakery. I had just finished bowling so I was down since it was on my way home. We met up with one of our ex-coworkers for a light meal. Well, it was a meal for them, for me it was a snack.

Lychee Mojito

Traditional Mojito with a Lychee Twist

Judgment: The drink is refreshing with fresh mint and Lychee flavors. The drink was pretty much what you would expect from a typical Mojito. 8 / 10

Taiwanese Sausage with Garlic Slices

Sliced Taiwanese Sausage with Garlic

Judgment: The sausage is mildly sweet and well prepared. The garlic is there to give you a break from the sweet flavors and gives you a slight kick from the flavor. The garlic is definitely fresh and aromatic. As a whole, it's a very traditional dish you'd find in a Taiwanese restaurant. Similar to Dolphin Bay and Class 302. 8 / 10

Strawberry Banana Shaved Snow

Milk Shaved Snow with Chocolate Sauce, Strawberries, Banana and Peanuts

Judgment: The dessert is a great end with all the bar food and drinks. The dish as a whole was pretty good. The sweet flavors were not overwhelming and the fresh fruits definitely mellowed out the sweetness quite a bit. The interesting part was that their snow while good, was pretty plain on its own when it didn't have the condensed milk or chocolate helping it along. 9 / 10

Conclusion: The bar is hidden in the corner of the plaza but it's a nice place to hang out and enjoy some Taiwanese food. Service is a little slow because there aren't too many waitstaff around but for the most part, they are pretty responsive. Parking does get crowded thanks to 85 C bakery and other local businesses so that might be an issue sometimes.

The restaurant gets a B.

Slater's 50/50, Anaheim, CA

After a long day of photoshoot and starving the model so she can look good in her shoot, a fitting end is a gourmet burger. Kchan, Kyosuke and J-Kun decided to join me in heading to Slater's 50/50. This place has a signature in which their 50/50 burger consists of 50% beef and 50% bacon. Yes, you heard me, 1/2 the meat patty is bacon.

Tangerine Wheat Beer

Tangerine flavored beer

Judgment: The restaurant is also a sports bar so enjoying a beer here once in a while is a nice change of pace. Typically I don't drink much when I go out to eat. Mostly because it's expensive, but when I looked over the beer list, I found this little gem hiding in the menu. I HAD to order it because it's named after one of the Maid Cafe girls that I work with. Lovely miss Mikan (Tangerine). The beer itself was really fragrant with the scent of citrus and the taste kind of lingers in your mouth after you drink it. 8 / 10

Pick-3 Sampler

Sweet Potato Fries, Onion Straws and Artichoke Hearts covered in Gruyere Cheese

Judgment: A typical fried appetizer platter. The sweet potato fries definitely compliment the pumpkin sauce. The Onion straws were lightly seasoned and fried to a crisp golden brown. The Artichoke hearts were delightful and yielded when you bite into them. The addition of Gruyere cheese really brings the flavor together. 9 / 10

Peanut Butter and Jellousy Burger

1/3 lb. Beef Patty, Thick Cut Bacon, Peanut Butter, Strawberry Jelly on White

Judgment: OH MY GOD. Where has this been in my life?!! Who knew that cows and pigs went together with Peanut Butter and Jelly??! The sweet subtle tastes from the jam did not overpower the saltiness of the bacon or the burger. Be warned though, about 70% of the way through, I had wanted milk to go with this. Order yourself a shake before you dig in for sure. 9 / 10

Conclusion: The place really redefines what a burger is all about. The location is kind of hidden away behind a giant realtor's building but when you know where it is, you won't miss it again. The beer selection is quite extensive with a really good selection available. The service can get a little slow because it does get packed in there.

The Restaurant gets an A-Rank.

Shin Sen Gumi Hakata, Fountain Valley, CA

Got a phone call on Friday night to meet up with Pei for dinner. Haven't met up with her in a while so of course I agreed to it. That and I was hungry myself. We went to Shin Sen Gumi Hakata, not to be confused with Robata because this one strictly sells Ramen instead of bbq.

Chikuwa with Cheese

Deep fried fish cake stuffed with cheese

Judgment: Basically it's a rolled fish cake stuffed with cheese, then battered and deep fried. The cake almost feels like it was slightly over cooked because it had this rubbery texture to it that I found a little odd. The cheese was really mild in the dish so it didn't stand out too much. I wish they had used a stronger cheese so I might have enjoyed it more. 6 / 10


Octopus in batter

Judgment: I have not eaten Takoyaki in quite a while. The takoyaki here at Shin Sen Gumi was a little under cooked. The ball itself kind of collapsed on itself when you pick it up with your chopsticks. As a whole though, it was still tasty. The sauce and the mayonnaise comes together nicely when you eat it. The ginger I did not care for but everything else was good. If the Takoyaki was cooked a bit longer it might not have collapsed on itself. 8 / 10

Ramen in Pork Broth

Ramen with BBQ Pork, Egg, Corn and Spicy Miso

Judgment: I don't think they added the Spicy Miso into my noodles because I couldn't even taste it. The noodles were cooked to perfection, corn was sweet, bbq pork was well seasoned and the egg was good. As a whole the ingredients compliment each other well but I am still wondering if they had forgotten about the miso that was supposed to be in there. I think that was the missing ingredient of the night. 8 / 10

Conclusion: As a whole the restaurant is tiny, and there is typically a wait for meals there. Neighboring the Yakitori place makes me yearn for that instead of noodles. Personally I would've chosen the Yakitori over the Ramen. However, Ramen is always a good change of pace from the usual zoo of animals that I eat.

The Restaurant gets a B-Rank.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lawry's The Prime Rib, Beverly Hills, CA

So this past Wednesday it was our friend Joe Woo's birthday and he wanted to go to Lawry's because he had never been there. Rallying together Marc, Daisuke, Jenkin, Tony and I we were on our way there at 7. Tony and I even ran a red light to "Stick to the schedule".

So the entire dinner course just surrounds the fresh roasted prime rib with Lawry's seasoning mix. I had never known that there was a Pepper Seasoning Mix. I've only seen the seasoning salt.

The meal includes a salad course. Just a fresh green salad with their own dressing mix. I don't think it was really noteworthy especially from a restaurant of this caliber.

The Fresh Mixed Greens salad with Chopped Eggs, Beets, Croutons and their own special dressing.

The Bowl Cut - A double sized cut with the rib bone, as served to the Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl teams

Judgment: The Prime Rib was Exquisite. The entire meal is just amazing. The Creamed corn that I had accompany the meal was a nice sweet flavor to kind of take a break from the salty flavors of the beef, potatoes and spinach. The creamed spinach was made with bacon and other seasonings. The Prime Rib itself was massive and as a matter of fact, I couldn't even finish it. I pictured that scene from the Simpsons where Homer tried to eat a 96 oz. steak and he starts hallucinating that the cows were talking smack about him. There was more food in front of me and I couldn't finish it no matter how hard i tried. Well, I could have tried harder but I wouldn't have made it out the front door. 10 / 10

Conclusion: The valet parking here is a little steep at $6/car but it is in a prime location in Beverly Hills. Located across the street from The Stinking Rose and Fogo De Chao, both very good restaurants as well. I didn't get to try this because my group decided to just sit in the waiting area in front of the restaurant instead of going to the "official" waiting area but they have a mini-buffet setup where there is bread and meatballs for customers to nibble on while they were waiting.

This restaurant gets an S-Rank. (Yes, S ranks higher than A)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Daikokuya, Monterey Park, CA

After a fun photoshoot with Chiyo-chan, I met up with some of her friends and tried to suggest to go to Shin Sen Gumi. However, they had their hearts set on Daikokuya and I can see why. I was accompanied by Angela and Ridori for this interesting experience.


Pan Fried Dumplings with Scallions and Ponzu

Judgment: The dumplings here were pretty good. Granted I think Din Tai Fung's dumplings are way better, but this is pretty good compared to most other dumpling places. The dumpling is rolled rather than wrapped at this place and the filling is pretty meaty. The Ponzu adds a nice touch to the taste and I wished it would stick to the dumpling better, but it is just a liquid. 8 / 10

Sliced Kurobuta Pork Belly

Sliced Pork Belly with Sweet Glaze & Scallions

Judgment: The pork belly was amazing. It reminded me of Animal's Pull Pork Belly Sandwiches. The meat was fatty, soft and extra tender. The glaze I could use less of, but as a whole, the dish was GREAT. 10 / 10

Conclusion: The location of this particular branch was a little hard to find because the building didn't have a sign for it on the directory but we were shown the way by the guys at Shin Sen Gumi. The parking lot is quite steep for lowered cars so definitely have to exercise caution. The roads surrounding it also is not the best so again, use caution. The food looks and tastes top notch and hopefully next time, I'll order a bowl of Ramen.

This restaurant gets an A.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Stinking Rose, Beverly Hills, CA

The Stinking Rose had been a restaurant that I had wanted to try for a long time, but never found the time to. Lucky for me, I was able to go with Kchan, Kyosuke, Mikan and Mio! Definitely good company to have a delicious dinner with.

Dinner Rolls

Italian Cheese Dinner Rolls and Garlic & Herb Rolls

Judgment: The rolls were fresh baked and very soft. It has a nice pillow-like feel to it and the flavor was heavenly. I had enjoyed this with our appetizer, the Bagna Calda. 8 / 10

Bagna Calda (Garlic Soaking in a Hot Tub)

The Dinner Roll with the Banga Calda - Whole Garlic Cloves baked in Olive Oil with a hint of anchovy

Judgment: The garlic was cooked to the point that it literally spreads like butter on bread. This was the finishing touch to make the bread one of the best forms of garlic bread I've ever tasted. It also went well with my dinner entree mainly because I love garlic. 10 / 10

Garlic Roasted Prime Rib

Garlic Roasted Prime Rib with Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Spinach. Accompanied with Au Jous and Horseradish

Garlic Roasted Prime Rib 13 oz.

Judgment: The Prime Rib was cooked Perfectly. Mio commented that it was well marbled and I have to agree. The crust had a good amount of seasoning and it was not overly seasoned at all. I was afraid that the garlic would be too overpowering but I think it was subtle enough to be just a good hint. The one thing I didn't like about the Prime Rib was those roasted pieces of garlic. If it had been the same garlic as the appetizer, it would have been perfect. 9 / 10

The side dishes were another story. The Creamed spinach was actually really tasty and I actually enjoyed it a lot. However, the Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes were kind of average for me. I was hoping to have a good creamy garlic potato experience but it lacked the garlic and cream kick. 7 / 10

Gilroy's Famous Garlic Ice Cream

Garlic Ice Cream with Mole Sauce

Judgment: The ice cream was rich creamy, and had the distinct after taste of garlic that lingers on your tongue long after you had already licked your mouth clean. It is a bit overwhelming to top off a meal that is already heavily covered with garlic but in the end, this is one of those things that is made for people that really love garlic. I thought it was pretty good, but the garlic is overpowering. Mikan said she didn't taste much of it. I wonder.... 7 / 10

Conclusion: This place is not for super low cars like mine. I had the wonderful experience of scraping going in and out of the parking lot. They have a valet service for $4.50 and of course being VIP I opted for it. The restaurant is located in a busy street of Beverly Hills and is surrounded by some notable famous restaurants as well. Such as Fogo De Chao and Lawry's.

This Restaurant gets an A.

The Counter, Irvine, CA

I was in the mood for some burgers, and as we all know, everyone can be picky of what kind of toppings they want on it. The Solution? Go to a burger bar and customize your own! I had the opportunity with the lovely ladies and gentlemen of AniMaid cafe this weekend to go back to one of the nicer burger places I've been to. The Counter is actually a chain of restaurants and we happened to be a the Irvine location because it was near our shoot location.

Customized Burgers!

2/3 lb. Turkey Burger with Bleu Cheese, Lettuce Blend, Dill Pickles, Bacon, Grilled Onion on an English Muffin with Garlic Aioli on the side

Judgment: The burgers here, like usual, are massive. The 2/3rds lb. weight is the AFTER
cooking weight. For turkey burgers, they are cooked to well done mainly because they don't want to risk you getting salmonella or other forms of food poisoning. The ingredients are top notch and fresh, and it all just depends on your imagination. As with this combination it is a very typical build for other burger places such as Red Robins. I particularly enjoy the Garlic Aioli a lot here so it really tops off the meal. 9 / 10

Conclusion: The burgers here are always a different experience every time because you can always change up the build and experience. There is plenty of beer and other drink options here as well because it doubles as a mini sports bar. Although there aren't too many TVs around for that.

The Restaurant gets an A.