Monday, August 23, 2010

Animal, Los Angeles, CA

A very special VIP Dinner that I arranged for some lovely maids in the AniMaid Cafe. Venus and Mio were the lucky ones to join me for a night of culinary adventure. I'll save the chit chat for later, onto the food!

Ricotta Ravioli, Lemon, Basil, Pecorino, Olive Oil

Judgment: The dish came prepared with the olive oil drizzle with a lemon mixture. I thought the Lemon was a bit strong and stole away some of the flavor from the Basil. The herbs give it a refreshing touch but the acidity from the lemon might have been too much. However, the dish was still enjoyable. 7 / 10

Quail Fry, Grits, Chard, Slab Bacon, Maple Jus

Judgment: HOLY CRAP. This is some of the best Quail I have ever had. The bird was well seasoned, cooked to perfect temperature and the accompanying side dishes were exquisite too. The grits were delicious with the maple jus and the bacon was cured very well, high quality. 10 / 10

Barbeque Pork Belly Sandwiches, Slaw

Judgment: This is the iconic food to have at Animal Restaurant. No trip here would be complete without an order of this for your party. In fact, order enough for your entire party so that everybody can have their own and not have to share. The meat is so tender it falls apart and melts in your mouth. The sweetness of the bbq sauce is balanced by the crisp flavors of the cole slaw and the bun just brings the flavors together nicely in a neat and slightly messy little package. 10 /10

Foie Gras Loco Moco, Quail Egg, Spam, Hamburger

Judgment: Here we finally have an official entreƩ from Animal. The dish is a traditional Loco Moco Hawaiian Specialty but prepared in an un-traditional way. The rice is cooked to perfection, even Mio was commenting how great the rice was. The dish is covered in a sweet sauce with small hints of sriracha sauce to give it a little heat. The Foie Gras just melts again like butter, Spam is rich in saltiness, the burger is kind of mellow and hanging out in the dish and the Quail egg just ties everything together. This is one of the few dishes I wouldn't mind eating all the rice. 10 /10

Conclusion: Animal Restaurant VIP Dinner experience was a success for Mio and Venus. They weren't sure what to expect when I told them VIP Dinner, but dress smart casually. Once again, it goes to show that you don't have to go to a high-end $100/person restaurant to enjoy delicious food but this is definitely one hidden gem. All in all, I had a great time with the lovely girls even when the waitstaff asked me to stop taking photos because my flash was distracting other diners, it was still a great time. Will definitely visit again, and hopefully Mio-chan and Venus-chan will join me again. There is street parking in the nearby neighborhoods for this place but I opted for the valet because it was the VIP experience after all. This restaurant gets and S-Rank.

Bonus Material:

Mio and Venus-chan looking lovely

Me with Venus-chan, Photo by Mio

Me with Mio-chan, Photo by Venus

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Clearman's Steak and Stein, Pico Rivera, CA

So last week, my friends and I gathered together to wish a Farewell Dinner for one of our close friends Mr. James Chen. We decided to rendezvous at Clearman's Steak & Stein in Pico Rivera. They are part of the chain that owns North Woods Inn in Santa Fe Springs, CA as well. Seeing today is the day that James left for Philadelphia, it is fitting that I write the entry dedicated to him today. Well, not so much dedicated to him but the meal that was in his honor.

The Sidecar

Sidecar Cocktail

Judgment: You would be surprised how many bars in established restaurants don't know how to make this drink! It is definitely one of the basics when you study to be a bartender, and even my friend Dianne who doesn't drink regularly knows or at least has heard of "The Sidecar"! I'm not sure what the bartender used in this rendition but it doesn't taste like the usual Henessey Cognac that was supposed to be in it but it was still fairly good. Crisp, tart taste and pleasant to the mouth. 8 / 10

Pile of Butter

Literally, they laid out piles of butter for us. No, this was not a dish so I won't be making any judgment on it but I thought it was note-worthy

Garlic Cheese Toast

Texas Style Toast with Garlic and cheddar flavors

Judgment: It is as you would expect. A cheesy buttery piece of toast. Oh and there was some garlic flavoring in there. Over all, I thought it might have been a bit too greasy, but it's to be expected at this kind of restaurant. If you love this kind of flavor, this bread is for you, and feel free to ask for seconds. 7 / 10

Clam Chowder

New England Style Clam Chowder

Judgment: Nothing particularly amazing about this soup other than how WATERY it is. I thought it was a creamy chowder, but the soup runs like water! The cream overwhelmed most of the other flavors in the bowl, there was barely even any clams in it. I say stick with the salad, don't waste your time with the soup. 3 / 10

Ribeye Steak

12oz. Boneless Ribeye Steak with Onion Rings and Baked Potato

Judgment: The steak is plated table side via a hot cart. The cart held hot plates so that the food doesn't get cool while transported from the kitchen to the table. The Steak is a superior cut and my piece was well marbled. Originally I was thinking I couldn't finish the entire steak, but it was delicious. The Onion Rings again, don't waste your time. The baked potato on the other hand, they provide you with that pile of butter remember? They also have a Sour Cream mixture that tastes similar to French Onion Dip, plenty of Green Onions/Scallions, and a Nacho Cheese Sauce to dress your potato. The steak itself is lightly seasoned and I wished mine was seasoned a bit more. I ended up adding a little butter and salt to the steak to give it the flavor it was missing. All in all, as a whole, just have the Baked Potato and the Steak. We'll just ignore the Onion Rings and grade this one. 9 / 10

Chocolate Rum Sundae

Vanilla Ice Cream Sundae with Fudge and Rum? Topped with Whipped Cream and Maraschino Cherry

Judgment: I did not taste the rum in this at all. Generally disappointed. Also, the meal I had was quite filling already so when the sundae came, it was pretty much overkill for me. I gave the old college try to devour it but I only finished about 60% of it. It just tasted like your typical ice cream sundae you can get just about any ice cream parlor or even McDonald's if you add a little whipped cream and a cherry to theirs. 4 / 10

Conclusion: The restaurant is a cozy little place. The parking is a little confusing but the idea is just drive AROUND the entire lot until you get to the front of the restaurant again. My car would've had trouble on the drive way so I was kinda glad I didn't drive. Although, carpooling wasn't the best idea because I ended up having to backtrack a bit to go home.

The Restaurant gets an A-Rank.

Bonus Material:

Farewell James! Oh and look there's a pregnant Joe.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Tsuruhashi, Fountain Valley, CA

So my friend Akina was saying she wanted to eat Yakiniku, and being an idiot, I suggested she go eat Yakitori. So, the conversation lead to me asking her to show me what real Yakiniku is all about. Wow, totally different from your typical bbq places and definitely different from Yakitori. So we went to this small place near my dentist's office called Tsuruhashi.

Beef Liver Sashimi

Prepared Liver Sashimi with Ginger, Scallions and Lemon

Judgment: For the liver lovers, this is an ideal dish for you. The taste is definitely something that the average person may not enjoy and it does not cater to them at all. However, I fancy the dish and I felt that for a starter it is quite decadent. 8 / 10

Salted Fresh Prime Tongue

Beef Tongue with Salt and Pepper, Cube of Fat for grill prep

Prior to cooking on the grill, we used the cube of fat to "oil" things up on the grill and to give that little extra flavor that you can only get from a cube of fat.

Judgment: The fat rendering with all the meat that we cook on it makes it taste amazing. The tongue is fresh and it doesn't have the consistency as typical beef tongue you would find at a deli restaurant or in a tongue sandwich. The seasoning is a little on the salt heavy side but they provide some dipping sauces to even it out. 8 / 10

Short Rib

Top Quality Beef Boneless Short Rib

Judgment: The beef here is so well marbled that it gives a soft consistency to it. The meat will become chewy if it is overcooked but the ingredient is definitely exquisite. The beef flavor is definitely there. 9 / 10

Kobe Beef Ribeye

Prepared sliced top quality beef ribeye

Judgment: The ribeye is amazing. It is definitely something to order when you have a chance and you have never had it before. Although there are even higher qualities of beef out there for beef connoisseurs, for the average joe, this will be amazing. The flavor, the aroma, and the quality of the beef is unmistakable and top notch. 9 / 10

Shochu Break

Japanese Barley Wine -- The interesting part of this restaurant is that we can purchase the entire bottle, and then return anytime within the following 2 months to finish it off. It's like a private collection at your restaurant!

Berkshire Pork Belly

Pork Belly with Scallions, seasoned with salt and pepper

Judgment: The pork belly is just exactly how one would imagine it -- soft, tender, and flavorful. The seasoning is there to accent it and the restaurant also provides lettuce and miso to wrap it so you don't have to be overwhelmed with the oily meat all at once. The miso will take the edge off while the lettuce eases the taste into the mouth. 9 / 10

Family Set

Marinated Beef Kalbi, Short Rib, Rib Eye and Marinated Chicken

Judgment: We ordered the family platter pretty late into the game when we started to get full and this definitely put us in the position of "OK, we definitely ate too much tonight". Granted the meat was delicious and the quantity was a decent amount to feed 2 people easily. 3 People was a bit of a stretch to order just 1 platter, but over all the meat was again of good quality, and everything was delicious. 8 / 10

Orange Wedge

Peeled Orange Wedge, Maraschino Cherry

The orange was just there to act as a pallet cleanser along with the after-dinner tea.

Conclusion: The restaurant is definitely a little gem in Fountain Valley. The meat is fresh, the waitstaff is very attentive, although one of my friends was saying that it was weird that the waitstaff would talk to us in English despite the fact that he pretty much ordered everything for us in Japanese. The parking lot is a bit of a nightmare in the sense that on the way to the storefront from the entry point there is a massive pot hole that I have to avoid for sure. Low cars will have a fun time maneuvering around.

The Restaurant gets an A-Rank

Bonus Material!

The lovely Akina with our bottle of Shochu. Thanks for hanging out with us!