Monday, March 31, 2008

Say good-bye to the same ole same ole. While we were in LA on Friday we decided to have some Ethiopian food in Little Ethiopia. Tofu chose Ethiopian since he has never been, he's so sheltered! I will have to keep taking him up to LA to show him what the world has to offer in food! Next time I will bring Mango & Coconut up so we can all go to Moroccan.
We went in a group of 6 to Messob. For half the group, this was definitely a first time experience for them. Earlier in the day we called ahead and reserved a table, but it didn't do any good. We arrived at 8:30PM and the place was packed. More and more people came in after us. The interior was very dimly lit. There was a lot of traditional settings and furniture. It's a very quaint atmosphere. One good thing that people might not know about this place was that it offered free valet parking.
One of my friends decided to try the Honey Wine upon my recommendation. I have had it at other Ethiopian restaurants and it really reminds me of the Hungarian wine, Tokaiji, but stronger. At Messob they offered their own homemade mead and it was different from what I had the first time. I agree that it tasted more like a honey rice wine, closer to Asian wines. I wouldn't recommend their honey wine.
We ordered three combination platters from the dinner menu and we all chose the same thing. The three items were Doro Wot, Siga Wot, and Yebeg Siga Alicha. This also includes a salad and Tomato Fit Fit, which I believe was tomatoes tossed in Injera. There are no utensils given and everything is eaten by hand. All of these dishes come with the Injera, which you use to pick up and eat all the food. It's a spongy flat unleavened bread that's usually prepared from Teff (Ethiopian grown grain), barley, corn, and millet. This was a very typical bread, but I have had ones that resemble a pancake that tastes much better. I am not a big fan of the spongy texture and sour flavor, but it's extremely useful in picking up the food. Having the texture of a sponge prevents the sauces from immediately soaking through.
The Doro Wot was chicken stewed in red pepper sauce with an assortment of spices. It was very difficult to eat the chicken leg since you can only use your hands. I felt it was kind of bland because the sauce was mostly on the outside and there wasn't much flavor on the chicken itself. I don't think it's because of the restaurant, instead I think that's how the dish is normally. For Siga Wot they use strips of beef braised in red pepper sauce with assorted spices. Since the beef was in smaller pieces it was able to absorb the sauce and flavor. The best thing of the night was the Yebeg Siga Alicha! It's a lamb stew delicately spiced with garlic, ginger, and other spices. This was not spicy at all and packed full of flavor. You can taste the aromatic flavor of the lamb along with all the spices that complimented the natural taste of the meat. Sadly there wasn't that much on the platter, next time I plan to just get this!We all ordered one more dish to share amongst one another. Tofu and I shared the Tibs that was cubes of beef with onion, tomato, garlic, green chilies, and spiced butter. At first we ate the lamb and though that we should have ordered more lamb. Luckily we stuck with the Tibs because it was much more flavorful than the other lamb dish we were looking at. The meat was semi-tender and had a light flavor. Avoid the green chilies if you don't love spicy, I ate a piece touching the it and boy did it pack a punch!A&K decided to share the Awaze Tibs. It was cubes of beef with onion, tomato, hot red pepper, and spiced butter. They thought that this dish was the best part of the platter. The other three dishes from the combo were nothing compared to the Awaze Tibs. A insisted that it was much better than the Tibs we got. =-P
Burumun and her friend showed up SUPER late! So they asked that I order for them and I ordered them the same combo along with the lamb dish that Tofu & I were debating on trying. I told Tofu later on that luckily we didn't get the Kikil. It's cubes of lamb with onion, green pepper, garlic, and collard greens cooked Ethiopian style. There wasn't really any flavor to this dish. I believe the collard greens probably masked the natural flavor of the lamb and absorbed all the savoriness of the spices.
After reading some reviews online I was very curious in trying the Authentic Ethiopian Coffee served in traditional Jebaen, clay percolator. One order served 2-5 people and believe one order was more than enough. They brought out the coffee beans to let us smell them as they were roasted, heated. At first it was very aromatic, but quickly turned into a burning smell. The coffee was sooooooooooooooooooo BITTER and the burnt flavor seeped in through your nose as well as your taste buds. I drank one full cup and Burumun tried to dump her cup into mine but I refused! Yipes, I don't know if that was how their coffee normally tastes but now I will be too frightened to try this in other places. I don't think any of us liked it. All I have to say is that I miss my cafe au lait from Paris!All in all the food was good and I loved the Yebeg Siga Alicha! The service was friendly, but very slow. I think that happens at all Ethiopian restaurants. There's a lot of time from when you order the dish and when you get it. Tofu and I were the first there and slowly the rest of our friends started to arrive. Our meal lasted from 8:30 PM to past 11PM, but we still made it to Pinkberry! I think I would come back here, but not before I finish trying all the other Ethiopian restaurants next door and right across the street!

Messob

1041 S Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 938-8827
Messob Ethiopian on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Yay! I am glad I finally got to go to Cream Pan! It was definitely worth the trip! I am counting the days when I return for some more yummy pastries.
The service was extremely friendly and the decor inside the place was a wooden furnish. It was very clean and inviting. If I lived around there I would come by to get some delicious pastries a hot drink then just sit and relax there.
There was a lot of different choices, too many to eat in one day! They had a variety of breads, pastries, cakes, sandwiches, salads, and more. It's definitely a great place to get breakfast of lunch. They are only open 'till 4PM.
While we were there I had the Cheese Boule first. I love cheese and it looked really delectable so I picked one up. Even though it was warm, the bread was crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. There was a generous amount of cheese distributed from the center that oozed out onto the bottom and still attached. It's like a volcanic explosion of cheese from the bread. Sadly the whole thing was not filled with cheese, but nonetheless fabulous in both taste and texture! It had just the right amount of flavor, taste, and salt. After a few bites, I knew I had to get more!
Word to the wise, I had it the next day and it was still delicious! The trick was to put the bread back in a toaster oven. Keep the temperature low and pop it in. Depending on the temperature and how fast the bread absorbs the heat, watch it carefully so it does not burn. Take it out after 5 or so minutes and let it cool off a little. That will allow the outer crust to crisp again and dig into the bundle of joy!
Luckily I stuffed my face with a superb Strawberry Croissant while I was there. Even though they kept in a cool area, the flakiness texture was perfect. The cream inside was light and sweetened to perfection. They must pre-soak or glazed the strawberries, they were all sweet and firm. Each bite was a heavenly delight. I am not a fruit person, but this was a great combo. If they were closer, I'd be there every day to pick this treasure up!
Today I had the Yakisoba Bread. Again, I toasted it in the oven for a little bit to crisp up the bread and heat up the Yakisoba. The presentation was very nice and desirable, but I was not a big fan of the pickled vegetable on one side. I think overall it was good and definitely a lot of thought was put into the sandwich. It tasted even better when I topped it with some sauteéd beef I had at home.All in all this place will definitely be on my mind! It's definitely one of the better bakeries I had in the OC. It might even be one of my favorite bakeries. I'll definitely be recommending this place to all my friends and for those of you who haven't been there I will take you there myself ^_- so I can get my fill cheese bread and wonderful pastries! Lets do lunch!

Cream Pan

602 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 665-8239

Friday, March 28, 2008

For some reason I am just sick of a lot of food these days. I am regressing back to what I ate in the old days. I keep going to all these chain restaurants that I haven't been to in a long time. I guess it's a cycle, after a few more chains I will probably be back to trying everything new! Today for lunch we decided to go to CPK, California Pizza Kitchen. I mean these chains are there for a reason, they must be doing something right to be craved by others. Most CPK's have the same outer and interior decor, a classic earthy atmosphere. It was super busy for lunch, definitely a family restaurant.
I heard a woman say that the Shrimp Scampi Pizza was to die for, and I thought to myself that I should try something new some time. Unfortunately, I don't think I should listen to the opinions of others unless I trust their taste! The menu was different from what I am used to, and they keep changing the types of pizza they offer. They no longer offer the yummy Peking Duck Pizza and Rosemary Chicken Potato Pizza that I loved. =*( The Shrimp Scampi had shrimp, mild onions, roasted garlic, Mozzarella cheese, fresh oregano and parsley in a white wine lemon-garlic butter sauce. It might sound good on paper, but I think it fell short in taste. I asked for extra garlic and they did put a lot, but I didn't feel any wow factor and it was a little bland. Their was a lot of shrimp, but I felt it was a little rubbery.
Luckily I decided to stick with one of my old favorites, the Santa Fe Chicken Pizza. It's grilled chicken marinated in lime & herbs, caramelized onions, Mozzarella cheese, and cilantro topped with salsa, sour cream, & guacamole. I love the mix of flavors! Before I eat the pizza, I smother the toppings evenly so that every bite is packed with a kick. The chicken was tender and flavorful. All the ingredients perfectly complimented each other.
All in all the food was good and consistent. I really like the honey wheat crust that's not too soft and moist. The service was decent, I wasn't too thrilled about the hostess. We went to the location at Laguna Hills Mall, I think it's better than the one in Mission Viejo. The pizzas range from $11 to $13 and they fill you up. I don't know if they are quite worth the price, but once in a while I will have a craving and stop by for some pizza.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I have never seen or heard of an all you can eat Persian restaurant. Low and behold there is one in Aliso Viejo called Kassra Persian Cuisine. When I went to Sango Sushi, I happened to pass by it and chalked it down as a place I will have to try eventually. By coincidence my friend suggested to do lunch there one day, so of course I jumped on board. We went last Friday around 1Pm and the place didn't seem too busy. A very simple interior design and it was clean. They have all the food set up towards the back on tables heated by hot water under the tray.
There wasn't that many choices but definitely enough for me. I believe there was about 12 or so choices, which includes added condiments and canned fruits for dessert. For meat choice it was either Koobideh or Chicken Kabob. There were two types of rice, the regular Basmati and Adas. They also had flat bread. There were some other hot dishes that resembled Ghemeh Bademjan, which was eggplant cooked in a flavorful tomato sauce with different vegetables. As for me, I started out by trying a little bit of everything to see what I would like. After the first plate, I decided it would just be meat, rice, and chopped tomatoes & onions.
All in all the food was decent. The choices were very limited. I liked the chicken more than the Koobideh because it was more tender and flavorful. My friend liked the Koobideh more. We didn't know how much lunch was, it's $12 per person. Based on that, I would have to say I'd rather order my own dishes than pay for the all you can eat. I don't think it's that great of a deal because Koobideh dishes with rice and all usually costs $10. So if you don't like the limited choice then I would order what you like versus taking a chance on what they served. The service was iffy. At first it was acceptable, but towards the end they just never came out of the kitchen so we had to put in a lot of effort to get the bill. I haven't decided if I'd ever come back, but my friend said she wouldn't ever come back.

Kassra Persian Cuisine

27261 La Paz Rd
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
(949) 362-2500
Kassra on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Yummy chocolate and at a great deal! Since I was at the Mission Viejo Mall on Monday, I decided to stop by Godiva Chocolatier. For those of you who know me, I used to work there when it first opened up. When I am at the mall, I usually stop by for a yummy drink. I already had a refreshing drink so I decided to get a nice snack for later. They always have a sell after a holiday to get rid of the leftovers. They usually range from 30-60% off. I decided to pick up a box of 5 chocolate eggs for a nice price of $3!
Since I needed something sweet after my meal tonight, I popped open the box to treat myself today. The box comes with 2 milk chocolates, 1 dark chocolate, 1 milk chocolate with almond paste, and 1 milk chocolate with coconut. I have always loved the delightfully smooth texture of Godiva chocolate. You can only have a few pieces a day because they are so rich. The chocolate with the coconut reminded me of Mounds, but a higher quality. I really wanted to eat the chocolate with almond paste, it was delectable but not what I expected it to be. I am debating on buying another yummy box. O=P

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Got to love Claim Jumper for their huge portions for a reasonable price! Of course the best part was to spend a nice meal with your friends ^_-! After a nice long day of shopping, what better way to unwind than with a wholesome meal. I haven't been to Claimy's **my special nickname for the place** for a long long time. Usually Ms. Lin DRAGS me there when she comes back home to get her Blackened Prime Rib, bleh.
I got one of our ultimate favorites, the Corn Muffin with Honey Butter! It's a huge steaming hot muffin that you can cut into smaller pieces and glaze on a huge goop of wonderful honey butter. The muffin just melts in your mouth and a party begins in your mouth. I know it's hard to pass up their awesome traditional Garlic Cheese Toast, usually when I eat with Ms. Lin we get both and share!
Coconut's meal came with the Garlic Cheese Toast. It's a sourdough bread that's layered with globs of garlic & butter with crisp cheese atop. Just the smell or thought alone makes me drool! I couldn't even stop myself from sneaking a yummy bite from Coconut's bread O=P. Two of them also ordered the Clam Chowder soup. It was thick and flavorful, personally I like the Chicken Tortilla Soup there.
I ALWAYS have to get the ever so blissful Chicken Tenderloins, but don't be greedy like me and order anything else! Unless you share this appetizer with some people, you will be soooo full. I spent the entire meal eating this because it's the best part of the meal! Gigantic tender chicken light battered and fried to perfection. The portions were extremely generous and it's just pure meat, my favorite! I always ask for the Spicy Buffalo sauce on the side, along with Blue Cheese and Ranch to balance the spice. I know Ms. Lin is jealous that I got to eat this YUMMY appetizer without her!

Little Bel got the Strawberry Lemonade. She said it was decent. I bet it's nowhere as good as the strawberry banana smoothies she makes for me! ^_- She decided to get the Clubhouse Sandwich with turkey, sweet ham, bacon, Gouda, Muenster, garlic mayo, tomato, and greens. It was a HUGE portion. The entire plate was covered with the sandwich and fries, definitely a meal for days. I only wished that there wasn't so much bread, it's a triple decker sandwich. You really get what you pay for in quantity!

Her beau ordered the Sausage & Pepperoni Pizza with mild Italian sausage and pepperoni with fresh mozzarella and marinara sauce. They have a mini size of this dish in their Happy Hour menu. I have been there many times for Happy Hour, but it's not that great of a deal. Their pizza was flavorful and packed full of toppings. The crust was just right, not too think & not too thin and not too dry.
Coconut ordered the Rotisserie Chicken made with their original recipe, half a chicken slowly barbecued and basted in its own natural juices & herbs. For her side she chose the Cheese Potatocakes. It's made with Parmesan, cheddar, monterey jack, cilantro, onion, dill, & mashed potato that's lightly breaded then fried and topped with herbed ranch. Always a favorite of Ms. Lin. I think I have had it way too much to say I would order it, but it's still delicious. A crispy texture outside and a soft flavorful center. The chicken looked a little dry but flavorful. Coconut said it was tender, moist, and delicious.
I shouldn't have been so greedy! For my main course I decided to get Baby Back Ribs on the Junior Jumpers menu, no not a kids meal. The appetizer and main course almost came out at the same time so I had to choose which dish was more important to me. Did you even need to ask? Of course it's the appetizer! So I barely touched the dish and just let it sit. I felt so guilty that I should have ordered more than just an appetizer. I asked to substitute my fries for the corn muffin, but they still gave me the fries. Eventually I took a small bite of the ribs, it was only okay. This could be due to the fact I was getting full from the chicken tenderloins or because I ate it as it was getting cold. Their ribs do vary in taste and texture a lot. Sometimes you get a great cut that's moist and packed full of flavor and sometimes you can get a piece that's over cooked and dry. It's really hard to say, but their flavor is usually good.
Bel & beau got the World's Smallest Sundae with vanilla bean ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, sliced almonds, & a cherry. There's no such thing as small in Claimy's, their portions are always enormous! Just look at the Chocolate Motherlode Cake! Coconut decided to get the Red Velvet Cupcake. I never knew they had that there. It was decent, the outside was chewy and the inside was moist.
All in all the food here is pretty consistent. I grew up eating this place so you know I keep coming back. Despite running into a lot of server issues before, I still come back for more. The server this time was nice. She basically gave me the corn muffin and I think either she messed up my order of the Junior Jumpers by putting in the kids meal instead or she just charged me wrong. Either way my meal was cheaper than what I thought it would be so I can't complain! Of course I will come back, hopefully with Ms. Lin!

Quick & Easy

Monday was hot! The weather was nice but the temperature has been rising. I am going to miss the cooler days! As you can see from the picture that the sky was beautiful and clear. If it was only cooler, it would be perfect! I came around 2pm to Albertaco's and it was packed! This place is like home to me. When I used to attend Capistrano Valley High School, I'd come around 6AM for breakfast or to study or I'd come after classes. The food has always been good and inexpensive! To be honest this is NOT the cleanest place, the kitchen was within view and that looked decent but dining was another story. They don't really have anyone come out and clean the tables, so the dining area can be quite unkempt please keep that in mind.
Food is always great and the best deal in town. This place is why I criticize all those supposed "Mexican" restaurants. It's more authentic than those places. I love my Carne Asada Burrito! Their prices have increased, as did everything else in the world. One huge burrito for only $3.77 with taxes! Can't be that price! It's packed full of meat, guacamole, and salsa. Mostly meat actually, even better! It's packed full of flavor and you always grab the fresh salsa to load onto the burrito, which I count as my daily dose of vegetables! The burrito was truly huge too, I would say at least 1ft, and filling. If you are really hungry, then I recommend the ever so yummy Carne Asada Nachos! I pack it FULLY of salsa and it can feed almost 3 people for around $5!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tofu should be happy reading this review. Lakeside Chinese Cuisine is one of Tofu's favorite Chinese restaurants, if not his favorite. I finally decided to try this place out even though I have probably passed by it a hundred times. Although, I might have been here a LONG time ago and just don't remember. We went for lunch on a Friday and they weren't that busy. The inside decor was your typical Chinese restaurant and it was very clean. There was nostalgic paper mats with Zodiac signs. Service was friendly and the people who worked there were Chinese. The meal started off with your typical Fried Noodles with sauces to nibble on as they prepare the meal.
I opted to get one of the lunch specials. Their prices for the lunch specials were around $1-$3 higher than Irvine's, but then again with the unrelenting high gas prices it's more reasonable to stay close to home. Of course it came with soup or salad, as usual I chose the soup. It was an Egg Drop soup. Despite the chopped water chestnuts, I actually liked the soup. It had a nice subtle flavor and was tasty with the fried noodles.
I decided to give their Mongolian Beef a try. Tofu said it was good, so I went out on a ledge and gave him the benefit of the doubt O=P. The meat was more like sliver slices rather than the flat slices. It was a little crisp on the outside but tender on the inside. It definitely had a lot of flavor, almost borderline salty. Personally I like salty foods, so if you want it more bland I'd advise you to say something. I bet my SALTY sister would like it O=D. The fried chicken and wonton that came with the lunch was only decent, not very flavorful.
Tofu's favorite dish there was Shredded Pork in Special Dark Sauce, sorry if I remembered the title slightly wrong it's been a while. Sadly, they didn't make it the way he liked it. It's suppose to be sweet but the dish overall was bland and not sweet at all. The good thing about the dish was that it was almost all meat with tons of green onions on the bottom. If only it was more flavorful, I would have ate more.
We also ordered the Orange Chicken to share since we had a minimum to hit. The chicken was crispy yet tender on the inside. It's a very Americanized dish, but it was good. The flavor wasn't too sweet, although I wished it was a little more orangey. I also like that this dish was mainly meat and no veggies.
All in all the food was good, especially since I had a coupon for $5 off of $25 that is why we had to order more. Why not, it was basically free. The service was good, they came back once in a while and not too often that I'd find them intrusive. I found this place better than I suspected, it's definitely decent enough for me to come back. Of course I would have to use my coupons again!

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