Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I blame DC! lol He suggested that Đồng Nguyên was known for their Hainan Chicken as well and since Savoy Kitchen was not open Sunday, I decided why not. To be fair... it was not really hist fault since he has never been lol but I won't let him forget that he used me test out the place! lol We headed on over after dinner since it was just in the next plaza. The place was pretty full and I walked up to the counter to place an order for take out. Keep in mind that it is definitely a broken English place. I just ordered 1 Hainan Chicken & Rice for home. Thank goodness I was not greedy that night. It was $7.05 with tax. This style of Hainan Chicken was definitely not for me, but I will come back one day to try their Bo Luc Lac that seems to be popular.
What a waste of my money. I went home and the box looked like there could be potential, but one whiff... and whoooooweeee I can smell the strong pungency of the chicken. I don't like it when the chicken has that stench because it could be a sign that it's not fresh or cooked badly. Looking at the box, I was thinking where was the Ginger Sauce to kill the intense chicken flavor? Sadly this place is very very Vietnamese and they give you a sauce that is a hybrid of their typical Sweet & Sour Sauce with diced Garlic. There was no way that this sauce would help mellow out the chicken flavor like the soy sauce and ginger sauce that Savoy Kitchen gave. I am so sorry that I cheated on you Savoy Kitchen!!! This has taught me not to stray and to think that Hainan Chicken is good everywhere. You do it, just the way I like it! ^_-
Not sure what I was suppose to do with this soup. Instruction manual please! lol

Đồng Nguyên

1433 E Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 300-8618
Dong Nguyen on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ajisen Ramen's symbol is a cute anime Chinese girl in a Chi Pao and winking cutely! lol It was packed for dinner. I actually thought about coming here when Ms. Lin was around with the family but the wait was way too long. Even on a Monday night they were packed and my Aunt & I had to wait about 20 minutes. Luckily there were a few places to walk around in that plaza. The reason it is so crowded is because this is the newest plaza around and everyone flocks to the newest thing... regardless if it is good or not. I have read many mixed reviews about this place and was quite skeptical but I still wanted to check it out for myself. The decor was very simple like a ramen shop yet modern with the pretty lanterns on top. Of course it being the holidays and all, there were many gimmicks plastered across the walls.
I saw pictures of their Fried Chicken on the internet that really caught my eye. Anything fried gets bonus points in my book. ^_^ The taste was better than I thought it would be. There is a slight hint of curry in the seasoning. It is not too salty and the batter was not overwhelming. I would have liked it to be crispier. The portion was not too bad and each piece was pretty chunky. Adding the lemon help give it more of a kick. Still, it is definitely not anything special but a good meat filler since most ramens don't give much meat.
We also decided to try the Beef Enoki Rolls. I love Enoki, which is one of the rare vegetables I actually eat. To have it wrapped with meat, seasoned, and cooked. How can you go wrong? Or at least I thought that... there wasn't much flavor despite the sauce in the plate. I didn't think that the beef paired well with the mushroom and the meat was tough. Even though it is suppose to be a customer favorite, I wouldn't recommend this or order it again. I will give them points for uniqueness but they failed in execution in my mind.
My Aunt ordered the Seafood Ramen with Scallops, Shrimps, Mini Octupus, and Mussel. The soup was not bad and had a strong seafood taste, of course. =9 It is perfect if you are in the mood for a seafood broth. All the seafood was cooked nicely and a great size.
My instinctive choice was the Premium Pork Ramen. I was actually surprised at how much thinly sliced pork they put on top of the ramen. The flavor was a cross between shoyu and miso ramen. It was very nice to have a steaming hot pot of ramen when it has been so cold outside. This may not have been the best ramen in the world but it sure hit the spot that night. I thought the pork was nicely flavored and soft on the palette. The big spoon given was great for me to pack in a thin slice of pork, some ramen, and scoop of soup. Mmm good. O=)
All in all it was better than I expected it to be. I think I would come back for what I got again but not necessarily for any of the appetizers. Keep in mind that going in I had very low expectations. Does it really live up to all the hype? Mehhhh, but don't worry I will be back one day. Sadly, I think this is the best place to grab a bite in that new plaza. I don't think there is any other place that is worthy to frequent. This place is not very authentic but still decent enough taste.

Ajisen Ramen

2700 Alton Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 833-3288
Ajisen Ramen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 28, 2008

OC is my home and will always be. Yes, it can get quite boring but I like the tranquility and the option to drive to metropolitan areas. Even though I live so close to The Hat, I have never been. After having the pastrami at Pink's I have been on this quest for great pastrami. It was a glimpse of heaven because it was as crisp and delicious as bacon! So after hearing all the rave reviews about The Hat being the ultimate pastrami place, I had to finally give it a try. Walking through the doors made me feel like I walked into a whole new world. Ms. Lin and I commented that it felt like we were back the Waffle House in TN where we were so out of place and people kept staring at us. At least they didn't stare, but I felt like we were in an old school nostalgic diner.
As I was waiting in line to order my eyes were fixated upon the menu... they have ... ORANGE BANG! OMG! I turned around immediately and told Ms. Lin that I had to get me the biggest cup possible and that we will have to eat some of the food here instead of take out so that I can get more Bang! lol She immediately asked me to get her a drink and agreed to grubbing here a little bit before leaving. They have the machine right by the soda machine and they have a sign clearly advising customers to use ice. Be sure to put lots of ice or the drink will be too sweet and not cold. We took this chance to try Piña Colada Bang that was very tasty and super sweet. Still, my heart belongs to Orange Bang! For that sole reason, I'd go back! ^_-
Everyone talks about their Chili Cheese Fries and the enormous portion. It is true, you can't really finish this alone unless this is your main meal... if even that. The menu says Chili Fries but I didn't even notice and said Chili Cheese Fries when I ordered. It's only 50 cents extra to get a glob of shredded cheese that is well worth it. The chili was not bad but not really my type. I am not sure if there are mashed up beans in it, but it has that mushy thick flavor. Thank goodness they don't have the calorie count posted because I could feel my heart clogging as I was eating this, which didn't stop me. O=9 Since I can't really see the evil beans and there was enough gooey melted cheese atop the massive pile of freshly fried fries... I was willing to overlook it all and just dig in!
Now onto the main dish that they are so well known for... The World Famous Pastrami Dip Sandwich for $6.99. Maybe Pink's misled me, but this was not what I signed up for. The meat was just tiny shreds piled in a sandwich and layered with mustard. I tried to give this the benefit of the doubt and kept eating, but nothing stood out. The bread was plain, the pastrami wasn't that flavorful, and I was left sitting there wondering why I spent $6.99 + taxes on this. I know that a lot of people might not agree with me and maybe this is what real pastrami tastes like, but I don't like it. What I had at Pink's was slices of pastrami that actually looked like meat and not shreds of meat that looks like an ordinary cold cut meat. You would think that it being a dip there were sauces or au jus to use with the sandwich, but nothing. =*(
All in all this place is only aiight in my book. I might come back for the fries and definitely for the Orange BANG! lol Next time I will try some of their different sandwiches out, but no thanks for pastrami. Our drink cups say that they are celebrating their 25th anniversary but it's been waaaaay past the anniversary date and they are still using them. We joked that they must not have met their goal by a lot and had tons of left over inventory to get rid of. lol =9 The original The Hat is in Alhambra on Valley Blvd and it is still standing there. Maybe one day I will give the original location a go too.

The Hat

23641 Rockfield Blvd
Lake Forest, CA 92630
(949) 586-9200
The Hat on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 27, 2008

It's been a long time since I have last seen a C rating posted outside a restaurant. When I saw the sign, I was a little hesitant to come in but why not. Heck, I am in San Gabriel... it just means more flavor ^_- lol Just take it with a grain of salt. Battambang Restaurant caught my interest because it was a Cambodian restaurant and had great reviews. There isn't much to the decor that differs from your everyday Asian restaurant in SGV except the huge picture of Angkor Wat on the wall. Ms. Lin immediately whipped out her Blackberry to pull up her website to show us all her profile pic.
We must have came during a down time as all the people working there were sitting around chilling and eating. They have a karaoke area/stage set up that probably could be live entertainment as well. It's actually a pretty big restaurant with lots of seating. The menu is pretty big and with lots of pictures, which compelled us to order more. Sadly, they were out of the Venison dish that Ms. Lin wanted. On the table there are a lot of sauces to choose from to boost the flavor of the dishes.
I had to have a Durian Shake after I saw it on the menu. The flavor was only so-so and really sweet. It was a little too sweet for me and too little funk. I wished there was a stronger Durian flavor. The one at Newport Tan Cang Seafood is a lot more flavorful and pungent. Yes, Durian is an acquired taste so don't try a drink as your first time because it tends to be more funky than the fruit itself.
With the lunch specials they bring their daily soup, which is a huge Pork Bone Soup. It was actually pretty flavorful and the meat was tender. The simplistic flavor of the pork bone resonates in the soup and brings out the natural flavor.
Since the prices for lunch were very reasonable, we ordered a ton of dishes to try. Ms. Lin ordered the Salt Fish Chicken Fried Rice for $4.95. It wasn't what she thought it would be, but I thought the flavor was fine. The seasoning was light but still tasty and I couldn't taste the salted fish, which is probably why I thought it was okay and Ms. Lin didn't like it. =9 The portion is not bad and it's a great add on dish to everything we ordered.
I ordered the Fried Pig Intestine on Steam Rice for $6. This was just so-so in taste. You really need the extra sauces on the side to give it that extra click. They really don't have much flavor by themselves and are dyed a brightly color. Don't worry this will not deter me from trying fried intestine everywhere since I am a huge fan of pig intestines. **I know it sounds gross, but don't knock it until you try it and if you still don't like it, don't worry I will finish it for you ^_-**
People on the internet recommend the Beef Stick, $7.00, and we decided to try it. Ms. Lin thought they were a little dry and wasn't what she expected. The meat was a bit chewy. I thought the flavor was good and it wasn't too tough that I couldn't finish it. They glaze the meat so it is on the sweeter side. It is very similar to the Thai Satay but bigger chunks and a sweeter glaze.
For my choice of lunch dishes, I chose the Salt & Pepper Fish for $5.75. Every dish here was heavily colored. The fishes had a yellow batter that was not too thick but not as light as I normally like. There wasn't really much flavor in the fish except the outside seasonings. What really saved this dish was the side sauce of Lemon Salt & Pepper that was extremely tangy.
Since they were out of Venison, we had t make a last minute decision as our final dish. I just chose their House Special Chicken lunch, $4.95. It's marinated, battered, and fried chicken. The flavor was decent. This really reminds me of Beijing Chicken. It is probably a light soy-based marinade and pretty easy to make at home.
All in all the food was not bad and for the price... sure why not. *quoting Ms. Lin* I feel that the food is decent and they do have a huge menu to try but you can't beat the lunch special. Some of their dishes can get quite pricey so I recommend coming at lunch so that you have the option to pick some cheaper dishes and order 1 or 2 dishes off their regular menu.

Battambang Restaurant

1806 S San Gabriel Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 307-3938
Battam Bang on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 26, 2008

I know it's hard to believe but I have never had Hainan Chicken before nor heard of it. So what do I do when I see rave reviews about it? I asked Ms. Lin about it and she told me that it's a sort of bland chicken but when done right it can be very good. Of course I lowered my expectations because I am not that big of a chicken fan. We decided to stop at Savoy Kitchen for lunch on X-mas Eve... unfortunately with all the traffic didn't get there until late afternoon around 4PM. Lucky for us that we got there in time because they were only open until 5PM that day. There was an open seat inside and we sat down immediately. The ladies there were very friendly and cheerful. There is also a side area/patio dining area.
We decided to get 2 orders of the Hainan Chicken. If you look around the room you will notice EVERYONE is eating that. It is a definite sign that Hainan Chicken would be the right choice. The flavor is light but tasty and only enhanced by the grated salted ginger. For those of you who know me, I HATE ginger. So for me to actually use it and like it... has the world come to an end? lol What I really like about the chicken is that it is almost completely de-boned, which is a huge plus. I like dipping the chicken in the soy sauce slightly and slather on a thin layer of the ginger to balance all the flavors. The rice itself is very tasty because it is probably cooked in the chicken broth and fat. Everything comes together wonderfully in a simplistic yet flavorful palette.
Since it was our first time here, we thought that we should at least try one thing different... next time just stick with what they are known for! We ordered the Curry Beef Stew. The flavor was decent but in comparison to the chicken... it would be an insult to compare. It's not really beef but more like Asian cuts with tendons. There was a hint of Coconut. There isn't much flavor in the Rice except the shredded Coconut and Garlic Chips. The curry flavor is not bad but not for me.
All in all I really enjoyed the Hainan Chicken. I was surprised by the taste and I am now addicted! Note that they are not open Sunday. I was shocked and saddened that they were closed. Don't worry, I went back enough times that I have some in my fridge and I ordered one that night too! lol I think the portions are better when you take it home. At first I thought it was because I got the last batch on X-mas Eve but when I got the newest order the portion was just as good. I feel that when you dine in it's just a little bit less quantity. Since they are supposed to be busy quite often, save yourself the trouble and get take out! ^_-
Savoy Kitchen

138 E Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 308-9535
Savoy Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 25, 2008

As many of you know, I am not actually a fan of ramen... until recently ^_^ I have opened my eyes to hot steamy soup only enhanced by noodles cooked to perfection and lets not forget the yummy slices of meat on top! What do you do when you have no idea what you would like for lunch? I think Mitsuwa's food court is always a great suggestion and allows everyone to order what they want while still eating together! Ms. Lin and I both chose to order from Santouka Ramen.
I ordered the Large Miso Ramen with Chasu. Darn my greedy heart! I should have ordered a medium at most because it was just way too much food and you don't even get extra meat for ordering bigger! Shenanigans! lol I wanted more sliced Chasu so I thought ordering a bigger size would reach that goal. Alas, that was utter failure. Still the soup was piping hot and topped with your traditional Ramen accompaniments. The soup became a bit salty towards the end but still tasty. I try to proportion every ingredient into each delicious bite. Of course there is more noodles than anything else so there will have to be bites where you just consume the ramen noodles that have soaked in all the flavor. Mmmm Mmmm good!
Of course I was greedy and ordered the extra Chasu Rice. It looked so beautiful and shiny in the case ^_^ Inside is chopped Chasu and Green Onions with a light sauce atop White Rice. This had plenty of meat. They were well marbleized and tasty. A great side dish or even a dish in itself. I would recommend that you ask for more sauce or sprinkle some soy sauce on for more flavor.
Ms. Lin ordered the Small Spicy Miso Ramen with Chasu. Her ramen was the perfect size and just as tasty. I felt her soup was not as salty and had a slight hint of spice. The soup went great with the noodles and I was sad to see that we had the same amount of meat despite mine is bigger. Still we were both happy campers in drinking our piping hot soup with ramen noodles.
Ikura and White Rice looked so pretty and tempting in the case that Ms. Lin succumbed to its teasing and ordered a bowl. The presentation and color was great. I think the picture I took makes it look better than it is. Yes, it came out like the display but boy it was bland. I guess it's a good thing that there is no fishy flavor but I would like a little more Ooomph from the Ikura. It was fresh but it just tasted like gelatinous water. Still, it looked very pretty. Ms. Lin wished she ordered the Chasu Rice I got. ^_^ Don't worry I gave her my Braised Egg to help ease the pain. lol
All in all I really enjoyed the broth and side dishes. Everything was flavorful and tasty. It's great for the cold weather and doesn't drain your wallet at the same time. I need to come back soon to get my fill! Mmm Mmm goodness. ^_^

Santouka Ramen

665 Paularino Ave
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 434-1101
Santouka Ramen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Today's photo has a special appearance of PK ^_^ at Givral Bakery. She's too cute to put on the site so I chose a backside photo. PK recommended this place along one of our food runs. We ended up parking really far away so we had to walk a bit to reach our destination. Since it had her stamp of approval, I had to give it a try and the cakes looked really pretty and inviting. Beware that they don't speak much English. Point and order, it's almost pointless to ask questions.
I picked up the Pate Chaud because they looked tempting and I haven't really had one in a Vietnamese bakery. There wasn't much flavor in the meat. The crust was flaky but bland as well. It's only 75 cents so you can't expect that much, but I wouldn't get them here again.
The cakes came highly recommended so I picked up two mini cakes, Mango and Mocha. Maybe I had too high of an expectation, but they were mehhhh.... The cake was fine but the frosting... OMG! It is just lard and no flavor. I didn't finish the cakes and put it in the fridge... the next day it was as hard as a rock... You could peel off the frosting and feel the immense grease on your hands... I am sorry but that was just gross and vile. Imagine that inside your heart clogging it up AND not even tasting good to top it off! Luckily I peeled it off and just ate the cake, but gave up on that too.
My sister was awestruck by the pretty cakes while we were there. Since we always delay celebrate her B-day I bought her any cake of her choice. She chose outer beauty versus what is inside! lol She wanted the pretty purple cake but didn't want what was inside... tsk tsk Inner beauty is more important than outer beauty! lol The cake was a Mixed Berry with tons of Blueberry. I didn't like the filling. For some odd reason it just didn't work for me and made me nauseous. Everyone else thought it was alright but I just gave up my piece to someone else. The cake was moist and light. They do make pretty cakes, if only the inside reflected their outer beauty.

All in all the cakes are pretty but I don't know about the taste. I still think the cake I had for my B-day was better. It could have been a fluke that day where they actually made a delectable cake, but none have come close lately ^_^ Still it was nice to try the place out and hang out with PK... and of course Ms. Lin. I am always up for a food adventure!

Givral Bakery

9525 Bolsa Avenue
Westminster, CA 92683
(714) 839-9711
Givral Bakery on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 22, 2008

As food adventures go, we had to continue to 2nd lunch! lol FoodGPS had done research about Cơm Tấm Trần Quý Cấp for their broken rice dishes. It is pretty big location in a shopping center with plenty of parking. We were seated immediately and given our menu that was full of pictures showing you what you'd be getting. The menu has both English and Vietnamese. With 2 food bloggers there, of course there was a lot of photo shooting happening. I noticed some odd behavior from our server. He was friendly but I noticed that he kept looking down at my chest and up again. Ever so OBVIOUSLY! Then he asked questions about if I was a critic... and more... and what race I am... He obviously was very curious about me or interested with the stares... that kind of put a gross spin to the meal...
TL and I both ordered an Vietnamese Ice Coffee. When they say ICE coffee.. they truly mean it. If you look at the picture you will notice the ice is crushed and filled to the brim. There really isn't much space left for coffee since the structure of crushed ice can fill in any spacial opening. As for the taste, it was your normal Vietnamese Ice Coffee.
We started off with Chả giò, Fried Vietnamese Egg Rolls. How can you say no to fried goodies? I can't, but I should have here! Traditionally you are given an array of Vegetables and Sweet Fish Sauce to eat the egg rolls with. There were a lot of air pockets caused by the fryer. The skin they used was a bit different from the other Vietnamese restaurants that I have been to. I was not fond of the filling and meat used inside the egg roll. The meat tasted like a very low quality meat and egg cake, more egg than meat, that they serve with the broken rice. Lets just say that most of us didn't finish an entire egg roll.
Another common appetizer we ordered was the Nem Nướng Cuốn, which are Spring Rolls but the English description they used was Pickle Pork Rolls. Hmmm, maybe I should have paid attention to how it was described. Normally I love Spring Rolls because they are so refreshing and tasty. The color of the meat was a little put-offish, the roll was thinly strung together, and there was no crisp to each bite. I think we were all quite disappointed from the taste and texture of their Spring Rolls. My favorite Spring Rolls are still from Cơm Tấm Thuận Kiều.
As the meal did not seem to be promising, the main course came... at first glance I knew it was going to be a DISASTER! I ordered the Combo #6 Tàu Hũ Ky, Tôm, Lạp Xưởng, and Bí Chá. It's Rice with Fried Shrimp Cake, Shrimp, Vietnamese Sausage, Shredded Pork, and Egg Cake. The main thing I was looking forward to was the Shrimp Cake wrapped in Tofu Skin and fried.... unfortunately it looked like it was fried to HECK! It looked dry and overdone. The grilled shrimp skewers was flavorful but way over grilled as well. I thought the Vietnamese Sausage was very similar to Taiwanese Sausages. The dish as a whole was a huge let down and just bad. To put it simply, I took everything home because I refuse to shove another bite in my mouth. It is just not worth the caloric intake.
To finish the meal off, the server brought over a Pear Gelatin. I guess you get this for free at the end of the meal to balance everything off? After one bite, I put the spoon down and made a mental note... no more adventures or Vietnamese for a while... lol

All in all this place was a huge let down and nothing was done right. To top it off, I have a guy looking at my chest the whole time I am ordering... hmmm no thanks. There are so many places with great food in this area and this isn't one of them. I think it is my fault for not being more loyal to
Cơm Tấm Thuận Kiều! Don't worry baby, I won't cheat on you again. They were the original Vietnamese restaurant that introduced me to great Spring Rolls and an awesome Shrimp Cake wrapped in Tofu Skin. Lucky for me that I had a bunch of pastries from Cream Pan to wash the nasty taste out my mouth. =9

Cơm Tấm Trần Quý Cấp

16175 Harbor Blvd
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
(714) 418-1333
Com Tam Tran Quy Cap on Urbanspoon

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