Monday, October 24, 2011
This place truly does live up to its expectation. You can smell the aromatics walking through Upper Main St. The scene is lively and the DJs spinning the tunes that'll get your heads bobbing. Most importantly, the pizzas are one of the best things you'll find on this street (trust me, I ate pizza all over SF recently).
+ The crust is scrumdiddledeeumptuous - the edges are crispy but fluffy and slightly chewy on the inside; the center is thin but sturdy enough to be the canvas for the amazing market-fresh toppings
+ Really unique toppings - my fave is the crispy Purple Kale & Spinach. It's a light, white pizza with strong, *fresh* parmesean flavor.
++ Our waitress. She was so sweet and attentive, AND she brought Christmas a little earlier this year by surprising us with a bonus sausage pizza just because she wanted us to try the house favorite.
Take it from someone's whose on a "hot by Halloween" mission. I ate ALL my crust and didn't mind the carb bomb. Oh soo good...
Stella Rossa Pizza Bar
2000 Main St
Santa Monica, CA 90405
641 N Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Uber ethnic. Seated in the Mission - next to hipsters I've been told (thank god I brought my b and boat shoes). So many flavors (I sampled 7 - I tipped so shut it). I didn't even bother looking at everything else + condiments because I was so focused on ice cream - I did see there was a pretzel cone (somebody get it and tell me).
So they have regular flavors and then the Filipino flavors. I went exotic, because you know, wild Scorpio. I thought their espresso toffee was really strong - impactful choco chips if you dig that (I don't). I got...
Langka (Jackfruit) - true to the fruit flavor, creamy but light, fragrant but not domineering. It's a good, mild for those easing their way into something non-vanilla.
Halo-halo - Nice mix of everything + texture! They've got beans, jellies, and gummies in it. There were hints of young coconut but then also ube but then pineapple. I've never had a real Halo-halo but I imagined this creamy combo 1-2 punch.
So with that... I've had my share of tubs of ice cream at random Filipino UFC fight parties and potlucks, and I can't say I was that impressed with the ube or avocado. I don't think it was strong or fragrant enough - something very modest about these flavors. I think for avocado ice cream (or milkshakes) to be really successful, they need to have almost equal parts condensed milk like the Vietnamese do...
Aside those 2, I really liked the variety, most flavors I tried, and their risk factor. I'll be back as often as the Fast and the Furious sequels! (sadly).
PS. Getting ice cream at speciality shops on rainy days is really the best idea because you avoid lines that everybody Yelps about!
Mitchell's Ice Cream
688 San Jose Ave
San Francisco, CA 94110
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Speaking of w/e, the thought of Downtown LA makes me cringe. I do visit on occasion to get my fix of concerts and pro ball games. Not this one Spring Saturday afternoon though. I felt relaxed after an easy night of Tivo, and was ready to take on the world, or better yet Syrup Desserts at the heart of downtown.
GAH! I always am amazed by the amount of traffic on the freeway. Where is everyone going at 2pm on a Saturday? You should already be at the beach, or you're a damn fool if you're heading East where the hotness resides. Well I am neither, I just wanted a waffle with a visiting friend. Silly? Not if you know my track record. After over an hour of agony and heat on the 10E, I exited 6th Street and landed at a convenient (but expensive) meter across the street from this place. It has been listed on Yelp's hot list for as far as this year goes and I was ready to verify its high reviews.
Syrup Desserts. What a pleasing combination of words. Waffles. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. Ice Cream. What music to my ears!, and this was just the beginning. They had an intense menu of sweets of all combinations and unique flavor pairings. Strawberry Jasmine Tea and Pistachio Truffle Ice Cream were the flavors of the day - just to give you an idea of the ammo they packed. They stack these over fruit-infused or plain Belgium waffles with a generous decoration of fruit and syrup. I love waffles since I saw my first Eggo commercial during Saturday morning cartoons, so naturally, my eyes fixated on this end of the menu. There were a few that I wanted to try but I decided on one (I am trying to portion control despite how affordable everything was) which was a Blueberry Lemon Waffle with Blueberry Black Tea Ice Cream and Custard topping. Go anti-oxidants!
My friend, as health conscious as she was, knew I was a fan of Mascarpone and ordered the Little Italy crepe which consisted of berries, the cheese, and a scoop of Pistachio Truffle ice cream. Not much of a crepe lover, I actually really enjoyed this – even moreso than the waffle. It must have been the delicateness of the batter and the silkiness of the ice cream. No, really, it was the block of Mascarpone cheese that they layered on top of the crepe. Oh my fat belly this combination was so good! The best part was that you feel less guilty because the crepe was so light and fluffy. In comparison, the waffle was tough. It must be the Belgium-ness in it – it has a resistance to your bite which is ok if I was training for the annual teeth-athon.
The two desserts were pleasant but those two alone would not be enough to draw me to this place. Enter the décor. Syrup Desserts has that real downtown vibe. It is the blast of culture you'd expect in LA as you appreciate its sights from the top level of the loft. There's a rough black coldness to it – industrial – as you think downtown should be, yet there's a sophistication and chicness echoed in the white couches and tabletops. Being here took me away from LA for a minute. I almost felt the livelihood of NY and it was, ironically, refreshing. I really do need to find more places like this or just get out of West LA. There are so many different experiences and they are usually just a 20 minute (or 1 hour+) ride from me.
611 South Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The lunch bentos come with a ponzu-inspired salad, their signature Kamado white or brown rice (refillable), miso soup, little potato salad & picked vegetables sides, and a decent serving of protein. I got the ginger glazed thin sliced pork and it was ok. It had a good sauce but the flavor didn't fully absorbed into the meat, and I was not so much a fan of the fattyness on the meat. I was a little jealous of my friends' chicken which pretty much looked like a full chicken's breast.
Their signature Kamado rice is basically rice cooked the old style way and I don't know if it's because I heard the story but their rice is pretty damn tasty, especially given I had the brown rice instead.
Like I said, dinner is what sets them apart other Japanese restaurants on this side of town. Their tapas-style menu allows you to try multiple dishes without over-indulging since it is light Japanese (and expensive) fare after all. I highly recommend their miso cod and braised pork with stewed potato in broth. The fish is perfectly cooked and just classy. It looks simple but there's a myriad of flavors that goes into it. The braised pork is just fantastic, especially as you soak it in some of the broth and eat it alongside their old-style white rice. You can find this same dish at Musha in Santa Monica, but I feel this place does it a lot better (less fatty too).
I would stay away from the spicy tuna crispy rice. It's not Katsuya or Koi style. I am also pretty sure I had the overly-crunchy rice pieces stuck in my teeth. I highly advise that you save some stomach area for dessert. I was a little pissed at dinner because I had to pay $4 for a small bowl of non-refillable rice and was disappointed by the crispy rice (despite their stated wins), BUT their redeeming quality that brought up my expectations is their traditional red bean mochi and black sesame ice cream. They flambe the mochi a bit so you get that textured crunch, and its filled with that good-for-you red bean as traditional mochi should be (none of that Americanized ice cream stuff though that is tasty too). The black sesame ice cream is probably the best version I have ever had in Los Angeles. It stays true to the black sesame flavor, not too sweet, and satisfyingly creamy. It would be my Christmas wish to have a carton of this at home, hint.
Overall dinner is a little pricey but I do highly recommend it over lunch - eat light, it is good for summer beach bods! The decor is intimate and sweet. The service is not bad, probably a little more attentive than you'd like but you get things quickly. Did I mention they have awesome black sesame ice cream?
10914 Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
424 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Décor – ultimate 80s appeal. The restaurant is easily missed if you are not actively looking for it. The main entrance on Main St. is very unpretentious. The inside keeps the same consistency with faded plastic aqua chairs, common of elementary lunch cafeterias. There are trinkets of Chinese culture via the red dragon, Buddha, and other pieces I have missed. The interior is a little on the tacky side, but again, think 80s retro. Not knowing what the restaurant looked like when it first opened, I am pretty sure it has kept the same look. My favorite part about the whole place is that you can see the actual kitchen and its many ducks hanging, which is uber exciting for a Chinese American on the West side – tell me where else can you see such things?
The place serves mediocre Chinese food at best but I am glad I have crossed it off my "to eat" list. Nobody can be great at everything, and it's fair to say that this is not Puck's forte.
I also ordered a Sizzling Calamari Salad with Chinese chili paste served in a Won Ton cup, which was fantastic. The Calamari was perfectly fried, and there was a really great flavor to it greens. The Won Ton cup also added a very nice texture to the soft salad.
Whole Sizzling Catfish with ginger & ponzu sauce - There was nothing sizzling about it, so the dish name was misleading. I was more than impressed that they served an entire fish, head and tail, on this side of town but did not think it was anything to write home about. I did love the ginger and ponzu sauce, which I generously lathered over my Duck Fried Rice for additional flavor.
What really surprised me was the Stir-fried Chicken with cashew, pine nuts, and Chinese vegetables. It sounds like a boring dish but Wolfgang did update this dish with his mix of nuts and savory hoisin sauce. There was a bed of white rice in the center that absorbed all the good sauce that just made it even more appetizing.
We also ordered the Cantonese Duck with fresh plum sauce and I hated this rendition of it. The plum sauce was so tart and inconveniently drizzled all over the duck that I could not even avoid it if I wanted to. It was like Wolfgang was trying to turn it into a Thanksgiving turkey with cranberry sauce, which some people can appreciate had they not loved Chinese roast duck with hoisin sauce. Even Mr.Chow stays true to this dish with his minor twist. Boo on you for messing up a traditionally good dish!
Dessert was somewhat impressive because of its spread of cookies. Our curiosity was piqued by the "Confections of Good Fortune" and we found a tray of French Macaroons, almond-paste bar, and chocolate chocolate cookies at the end of that rainbow. Not the best FMacs I've had (and I am a FMac whore) but it was nice to see. It is a fun spread and none were overwhelmingly sweet.
I may be spoiled by good Chinese restaurants growing up, but I have never knocked upscale Asian cuisine if done right. I am still a fan of Mr.Chow and Crustacean in Beverly Hills, and would love to have them in my take-out boxes MWFs. Hah! BTW, funny how all these Asian restaurants start with C? Guess it makes it more authentic Chinese. Oh and this is a bit of an after-thought, but their Jasmine green tea is amazing. I don't know what brand they use but it is so fragrant and delicious, it melts all the fat I ate this meal.
2709 Main St.
Santa Monica, CA 90405
344 N. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
9646 Santa Monica Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Quaint, cute place. It's very subtle and easily missed on this busy street - it's actually right across from Tavern, fyi. The place is small and not bougie or snobby by any means, especially after hearing all the rumors of celebrity sightings. I guess this place is like Fritto Misto for the stars? Good ol' hearty Italian cooking with a lot of yum.
I had the grilled calamari to start and it was unique since it wasn't deep fried like most places. It tasted fresh and I loved the char on the tentacles (don't be a prude). I also had the prosciutto pizza to start and it was amazingly thin. It was really light - no heavy cheese or tomato sauce. I'm glad I had this as an appetizer rather than my main lunch entree because I would not have been full because it was so snack-like (even though it was 16" in diameter).
As for my main, I got greedy and wanted to try both the Spaghetti Pomodoro (most popular dish) and their Daily Special Brisket Bolognese Shell Pasta AND they were surprisingly able to accommodate. Oh I was so glad I asked because they were both SO GOOD. Both pasta were cooked perfectly al dente - it had a good elasticity. I was already more than happy with the texture, but the sauce! I never order anything simple because it's just not me but after strong Yelp reviews on the Spaghetti Pomodoro - just tomato and basil sauce - I went against my grain. Boy was I glad because this simple dish had so much depth and flavor that it made me want to keep eating it despite how full I was. The tang gave me good stamina to power through my pastas and dessert. Next, the Bolognese Shell was oh so tasty too! Perfectly seasoned, very meaty, and comforting. My taste buds tangoed with the two pastas while my feet tapped to the rhythm of the sizzling wood grill in the visible kitchen.
As a dessert surprise, they brought this crispy sugar puff pastry pro bono. It was a delicate sugar crisp - perfect after a carby meal. It reminded me a bit of a butterfly pastry but lighter. They didn't have many desserts for lunch but I didn't mind because I rather eat more pasta, which is quite a statement from me.
I left a pretty happy (hefty) camper. I can't wait to come back... I'm like in love! Italia! Sorry mom, I'll save my next Cut steak for you instead.
11633 San Vicente Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90049
PS. The pictures are of my leftovers - Toscana doesn't really serve on Chinese plates. Haha.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Truck events are just no bueno. I attempted the LA Food Truck Festival in Downtown mid-February and that was just a hot mess (the sun was scorching that day!). I tried again at the mini-truck festival at the Americana this past Tuesday thinking that it was a school day and it is so 'effin far that less people. To my dismay, everyone + their moms were there, literally. The only reason I went was to try the Grilled Cheese Truck because I heard it was amazing. Unfortunately it also had the longest line and I unhappily stood there close to 3 hours before finding out that they ran out of macaroni and cheese. Ok… the Coolhaus line wasn't terrible in comparison but many of their flavors were out after my 45 min wait. I was left with the sorbet (pineapple, coconut, pear, lemon, blood orange) flavors and no brioche - all things that made them interesting were gone. I couldn't not get anything after such a long wait so I sucked it up and had the pear sorbet on chocolate cookie. My world was not rocked by any means, nor was I satisfied after my yearlong anticipation. If you've read any of my previous posts, you know that I am pretty particular about a "good" cookie and I don't feel Coolhaus delivered.
Fast forward to 1st Friday on Abbot Kinney and I had a MUCH BETTER food truck experience. The Grilled Cheese Truck line was still the longest of them all but I was happy to finally succeed in trying the monster Mac-N-Cheese, BBQ Pulled Pork, and Caramelized Onion in a Grilled Cheese sandwich. It made me so happy. One bite reminded me of a BBQ plate lunch from a backyard summer BBQ with The Dove Shack's "Summertime In the LBC" playing in the background. This truck is so worth all those fail attempts at trucking. I wished I had gotten my 5 sandwich per person limit…
Coolhaus at 1st Friday – The lines were still long but I was more than happy that most of the flavors, minus pistachio truffle, was still available. I finally got to try the brioche bun, which I paired with the brown butter and candied bacon ice cream. Yummy… The Brioche was ingenious - pairing such delicate, eggy bread with ice cream. It was nice and soft, and the portion was suitable to the focus of the sandwich - the ice cream. I thoroughly enjoyed the Brown Butter & Candied Bacon Ice Cream - I ate it so fast I didn't even have any thoughts for it. You'd think it'd be odd because bacon is so salty but it was subdued from the caramelized coating. The ice cream was such a dynamic combination of sensations. Crunchy. Savory. Sweet. Creamy. Cool. Softness from the brioche.
I had a bite of my friend's dirty mint chip and that was a pleasant surprise. I expected your run of the mill mint flavor, but it tasted like actual mint leaves. Very refreshing and very surprising - I would have polished one of these off myself too if there had been a shorter line!
The obvious bad thing about these trucks is that they're limited in their resources and staffing, and their schedules are rather inconsistent. I like the idea that there are festivals where they are all in one spot, but I guess everyone else feels the same way. It is much better to catch them on an off-night when they're just rolling to your local hot spot for late night snacking. One thing I hate most is when everybody waiting for their food or in line to order complains the heck out of their experience because of the slow service and long lines. It's a food truck people! Save your bad energy for home or get Chinese takeout if you wanted a convenient, smooth experience.
With the abundance of trucks these days, it's hard to keep track of them all. One tip is to use an aggregator site like www.findlafoodtrucks.com. This will list all trucks in the LA area and where they are along with any specials of the day.
I have not had the chance to try them all but these are/were the ones I am/was most excited about and recommend trying:
Kogi BBQ – The originator of the LA Food trucks. Korean tacos and burritos. My faves are the spicy pork and chicken tacos. I would avoid the kimchi quesadilla and sliders, which I found underwhelming.
Komodo Truck – Uhh only the sexiest truck around! They've been on KTLA morning news and Tasting Table. They use only the finest ingredients and are not restricted to a food genre unless unique is part of the descriptor. I've only had their fish 'n grape taco, and can say they know how to perfectly fry a fish which can be difficult in a truck!
Grilled Cheese Truck – If you've read my post, you know my stand on this. Get it. I wouldn't get a plain grilled cheese here though – go big and get the one with the mac 'n cheese and bbq pulled pork. You only live once right?
Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwich Truck – If they're nearby, have most of their flavors still, try it. They are good in that they do have some inventive flavors and will surprise you with their take on the classics but their lack of appearances and incognito schedules really piss me off. I would much rather go to The Milk Shop who is there when I need them to be.
Frysmith – French fries with melted cheese and meat on top? Sign me up! It's a pretty hefty meal on its own, which can be surprising since this carb is usually a side accompaniment. I recommend the kimchi chicken – unique and the pickled vegetable keeps your appetite up when you think you can't go any further.
Don Chow Tacos – Chinese Tacos and one of the longest standing trucks which popped up soon after Kogi. This truck is made up of one of the nicest people in this industry. Their special chow fun is bomb, their char siu is damn delicious and not a fake red, and they serve horchata. See any flaws? They'll also be on on Guy Fieri's Dives, Diners, and Drive-Ins later this year.
South Philly Experience – Very low key and under-rated. I stumbled upon them on Pico Blvd. after Kogi ran out of my favorite tacos. I've never been to Philly so I can't compare but I really liked their bread. It was soft and buttery, which is more than I can ask for. The food is just more pricey than I figured for a food truck at $8-9 average.
Buttermilk Truck – I have not tried but I saw someone with Red Velvet mini-pancakes… Next mission…
Chasing cars is an exhausting task. My patience for them is shot. Can they just be in a restaurant already so I don't have to find you? I'm a lady and I enjoy being catered to.