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foodzings: March 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ginza of Narberth

Remember a year ago when there was all that mom is turning 60 hoopla? All the crazy meals? All the shenanigans? All the to-do? Well, it's a year later, and that time again, but only 61 this time, which basically means nothing. Well, nothing other than I took my mom out for a birthday dinner. And without fail, what does she pick? Sushi. That's what she always picks. Seriously, she's a creature of habit.

The place is small and next to the vet. That's just how I've always known it. Oh, Ginza, next to the vet, right? You get complimentary edamame. I love anything complimentary.

Moms went with sushi regular. The food came out nice and quick and everything was fresh.

I got a paradise roll, which had crabmeat, avocado, cucumber, eel, and salmon. Quite tasty.

I also got a tempura udon. It was a good sized portion and simple. It wasn't too salty or too sweet, it was quite plain, but in a a good way. The shrimp tempura were a good size (not too huge) and nicely fried.

The service is pretty good. The host (owner, I think) is just about the nicest man ever. Strangely enough, during our visit, there were tons of kids there, and I mean young kids. It was as if it was family night at Ginza. I don't know about you, but I'd never seen so many kids at a sushi place in my life. On a cute note, there was a little girl you was trying to eat edamame. It was hilarious, ad the slippery little suckers kept flying all over the place! Ginza is not cheap. In fact, it'd been a few years since I'd been, and while the food stayed the same (still good) it really did seem like the prices went up. That was a disappointment, but the food itself was great.

Ginza Japanese Restaurant

801 Montgomery Ave
Narberth, PA


Quick Stop at Pei Wei

On Saturday night, we made an unexpected quick stop to the Pei Wei on City Ave. It's a good thing too, I was f'in starving. I'd been trying to recuperate from all the lack of sleep, and really was too tired to eat all day. So by the time this meal came around, I was ravenous!

C got the honey seared chicken with white rice. Nothing exciting here, but it was good. A little plain, completely palatable, I could see many people liking this.

I went with my standard pei wei fare - chicken teriyaki bowl with brown rice. And like I said before, here, it's all about the brown rice. As usual, it was good. But it's a bit hard to eat with chopsticks, as the brown rice is really flaky and separated.

Kudos to Pei Wei this evening... they didn't charge for drinks. Is this a new thing? Not sure, but I was a fan. And we were there past the 10PM closing time, but they in no way tried to shoo us out of there, and didn't even try to give us any hints to leave. I thoroughly appreciated not being hurried.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Santa Monica Pit Stop

Thursday night was my last meal in LA... then I was heading on home to good ol Philly. To laze the early evening away, we headed down to the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica for a bit of the old beach time. After walking around a bit to all the shops and such, we stopped for some eats at Cafe Crepe. The place is pretty cute, inside and out, and very euro.

S went with the thincrust pizza with eggplant and squash. It was pretty good... seemingly healthy. The veggies had a bit of a smoky flavor to it.

Mmmm... a giant side of $2 fries. Simple, hot, salty. Pretty good stuff.

I went with a savoury crepe - ham and cheese, nothing complicated here. It was good. Nothing too thrilling, but perfectly acceptable. It was quite a lot of food, even though it doesn't necessarily seem like it.

The service? Eh... not too hot. We sat there for an extremely long time before anyone came over and gave us a menu or asked what we wanted to drink. And the food took even longer. Everyone else was getting their food except for us. And the servers aren't exactly the nicest. They're a bit loud and rude, but honestly, I don't know that they don't realize that that shouldn't be the norm. I think they need a bit of a lesson in customer service. I bet the sweet crepes were good, but we just didn't have room.

Cafe Crepe

1460 3rd Street Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 576-0499


Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Great Burger Taste-Off of 2008: In-N-Out Burger

We don't have luxury of having In-N-Out Burger out here in the east coast. It's a shame really, you hear everyone talking about it. So I knew I had to get my fix at least once while I was in California. There's nothing like a shopping center with an In-N-Out burger, check cashing place, and a back cracker. Sounds like a perfect afternoon...

The concept is mad simple here, either a double cheeseburger, a cheeseburger, or a hamburger. If you want onions on it, you can get onions on it. Fries? If you want. Then some sodas and shakes. That's IT. No chicken sandwiches or nuggets or fish sandwiches or anything. Just a burger, fries, and a drink.

K got the double-double combo and I got the cheeseburger combo with lemonade... pink lemonade too! Whoo hoo! I tell you what, these fries are delectable... really fresh, not at all greasy, and not at all salty. Folks, it's just the way I like em. I could have eaten... oh, 5 helpings of these! The burger is also pretty good, but my onion was a little bit too huge and overpowering. I thought it would be little bits of onions, but it was a huge ass entire slice. Next time, I'll nix the onion. All the burgers automatically come with a "spread", which I think is basically a thousand islandy type of sauce. It's probably not for everyone, but I like it. If you have a chance to visit, I highly endorse a visit to In-N-Out.

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Gorging in Koreatown

Witness a dream come true - a 24 hour tofu house! Why can't we have things like this in Philly? S took me to Koreatown, well, not exactly in Koreatown, but I think on the fringe... for some good old fashioned soondubu (korean tofu stew) at BCD Tofu House. And did we ever strap on the old feedback and gorge ourselves silly!

The place is run like a well-oiled machine... you order, and everything shows up, like clockwork. Everybody knows what the hell they're doing here. You get plenty of banchan... the kimchi was a little weird, strangely sweet and fresh. I was surprised that everyone gets their own little grilled fish. This thing was so good.... so simple and perfect.

S got the bulgogi and tofu combo, so obviously, we got a bunch of bulgogi, which was a bit on the sweet side, but still good, and some delicious soondubu. You get to pick the spiciness of it, and we picked medium. The egg? You crack it and put it into your tofu.

I went with the spicy pickled crab and tofu combo. So yeah, it sounds crazy, but it's raw crab that's marinated with a spicy sauce. It might not sound appetizing, but my oh my, I love this stuff. I guess you kind of just need to grow up with it. And the soondubu? Yeah, this was good too. If you don't get the combo, you can pick whatever kind of soondubu you want, but with the combo, it's just the "premium tofu" which has a little bit of beef, shrimp, and clam, and of course, tons and tons of soft tofu!

Ok, so the best thing about this place? The rice comes in individual stone pots that are individually cooked. So it's not like they have these industrial sized rice cookers and then they just scoop the rice into these cute little pots. No, it's actually cooked in the pots over a big ass fire. I saw the video that they kept running, it's for real!

What's great is that the waitresses come around and scoop out the rice from the stone bowls and then put em into regular bowls for you so you can just eat. Then they fill the stone bowls with water so you can eat the burnt rice mixed with water later. Yes, this also probably sounds strange, but believe me, it's one of those weird traditional Korean things, and I love this stuff!

Yeah, that bowl just has burnt rice with water in it. But you can't imagine just how good this really is. And I could eat this as a meal.

S insisted that I take some pics of the aftermath. Put two little korean girls together, throw tons of food at them, and what happens? They eat it all up, and leave nothing but empty bowls and crab carcasses in their wake.

Seriously though, this soondubu was freakin delicious. And I ate it all up... If I lived near a place like this, I'd be here all the time!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chaya Venice

The whole reason I was in LA was for work, so on Tuesday night, we had a work outing for some good ol fashioned team bonding, over food and drinks. Really, that's the best kind. We headed out to the Chaya in Venice. It's on Main Street, which is an adorable strip of cute shops and restaurants, all incredibly walking friendly. I wish I'd had some time to walk around a bit.

The place itself is pretty big, decorated kind of crazy with crazy pictures, crazy flowers, and weirdly-shaped paper lanterns. But it's all kind of cool. You don't have to dress up, but there were lots of fancy people there. The food is rather varied... there's sushi and seafood, but also regular food that does not necessarily have an asian bent. There was a big group of us, and hilariously enough, it ended up being a girls table and a boys table. Like the middle school dance! Ha! There are tons of pictures from this Chaya visit, so hold on to your food porn horses...

Cheese plate. You get a bunch of complimentary bread here, which is a nice touch.

Shrimp and alaskan snow crab vietnamese spring rolls with spicy peanut sauce, a nice twist on a vietnamese classic. Freakin beautifully prepared, and good too. Wished there were 20 more of these!

Deli at the boys table got some kind of sushi. Looks good, but I heard he got sick that night... so this may have been the culprit!

K and I were eying up the shrimp and blue crab jalapeno fritters with homemade guac on the menu, and decided we had to go for it. Well, it turned out to be a jalapeno popper with some shrimp and blue crab stuff inside. It wasn't exactly what we expected... we expected a fritter in the more traditional sense. We weren't too impressed.

On to the entrees! Grilled tilapia. I got a little taste of this, and it had a wonderfully smoky and grilled flavor.

A giant ass pork chop with port wine sauce, served with a side of mac and cheese. Poor C, this chop ended up being extremely fatty, like seriously, I saw all the fat she had cut off, and there was a honkin 1/2 inches of fat all around this thing. Ugh. The mac and cheese wasn't that great either, and I love mac and cheese.

Sea scallops wrapped in new york steak and sauteed in dijon pommerey mustard sauce. They really like to throw the green beans all over their plates. K got this, but she also ended up not feeling good later in the night, so again, possibly shady scallops?

Miso-marinated white sea bass... I was eyeing this up, but passed on it. And you know I love me some miso marinated fish!

N went with the filet with black truffle sauce. Apparently, she always orders filet. She cleaned up her plate! It really did look pretty damn good, and I'm not really a steak eater.

As for me, I went crazy and got the paella with mixed seafood and half grilled maine lobster. It was pretty good, and pretty hot. Not spicy, but temperature hot... burned half my mouth off. There was tons of seafood in my paella, but I didn't get sick that night... lucky for me! But I rarely get sick from food. It pays to have a cast iron stomach!

Onto the desserts! I think this was butterscotch flan? It was pretty good.

K was raving about the bananas bananas bananas (her sister is a food blogger by the way!!!), a warm banana tart with banana ice cream topped with a chocolate covered banana. If you like bananas, then this is the dessert for you!
Chocolate croissant bread pudding with caramel ice cream... really tasty.

Flourless rich brownie with vanilla ice cream. I'm not all that into choocolate, but this was good.

Me? I went with my usual dessert suspect - creme brulee. Pretty good here. The service was pretty good that night, especially considering one dude was waiting on 14 of us. Overall, the food was good, most everyone liked what they got. Aside from a few people getting sick, it was still a good time. Hey man, I didn't get sick, so no complaints from me! This definitely is not a cheap place though, so it's especially nice if work foots the bil!


West LA Vietnamese

I told K that I wanted him to take me out to eat 7 course of beef the next time I was in LA. Since the office is in West LA, there weren't any vietnamese places around that actually offered this. Dammit! So we had to settle for just going to eat plain ol vietnamese food, sans the 7 fantastical course of beef. So off we went to Le Saigon in West LA. There were only 3 options for vietnamese on the west side, and K had been to this one and liked it, so it was a safe choice.

I ordered some limeade, which is a fave of mine whenever I eat vietnamese. K got the grass jelly drink, that mysterious brown goop you see above you. My limeade was ok, nothing exciting. The grass jelly drink? Didn't like it. It just tasted odd.

We got the thit nuong cuon (fresh rolls) with charbroiiled pork. Totally dug this. It was simple, and insteade of having vermicelli on the inside, it was mostly cucumbers and some other veggies.

As entrees, we went for the bun saigon dac biet (vermicelli with pork, shrimp, and a fried roll) amd the bun bo xao (rice with sauteed beef, caramelized onions, and peanuts). The pork and the shrimp in the vermicelli were very plain. There was essentially no flavoring, it was kind of sad. We doused it with nuoc cham and sweet chili sauce and sriracha, but it was still seriously lacking in flavor. The sauteed beef dish wasn't anything to write home about either. It was ok, but the flavor was kind of boring... it definitely lacked something. It's a shame because typically, vietnamese food is so full of fresh and wonderful flavor, but here, they just kinda forgot.
Luckily, at least the service and the rolls were good. The place is cash only, which is a bit annoying! It's small, but cute, and everything comes out fairly fast. If you need a vietnamese fix in West LA, you might want to try Phoreign or Pho99, which are the other choices.

Le Saigon

11611 Santa Monica Blvd


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Hotel Angeleno Room Service

After having to get up at an ungawdly hour to catch my flight, by the time dinner time ran around, I wasn't feeling too with it. Instead of going out and schlepping all over town for a sit-down meal, I decided to revel in my laziness and do room service. And I love room service! I was staying at a really cool hotel, the Hotel Angeleno, so I knew I wouldn't be disappointed.

The room service menu itself was quite limited in choice. The soup of the day was yukon gold potato soup with scallop. I think those may have been some sliced truffles on top? I'm no truffles expert, so you tell me. But I am an expert on how freakin good this soup was! It was thick, creamy, sweet, with a huge honkin scallop inside. So good! Surprisingly good!

I also got some sea bass, which came on top of a lobster ravioli, and was drizzled with a chive oil. The fish was simply prepared, just pan fried. Absolutely no frills, but quite good. The lobster ravioli was good too, but a bit strange, as it had chunks of crunchy veggies inside, including corn. I still liked it, but I didn't expect it to crunch. The foamy stuff in the little bowl? No idea what that was, other than being gross. I didn't touch it after my initial taste. Blech! The hotel has a restaurant up top that everyone raves about. If the room service is any indication, I'm sure it's got to be great. I'll be sure to have a proper meal there on my next visit.


Within Walking Distance - West LA

I arrived in LA on Monday, after taking an ungawdly early flight. Oh yeah, $5 breakfast box on United... blah. I wasn't feeling particularly go-getter for lunch, but it was unbelievably warm outside (or even hot) so I decided to go for a stroll and grab some vittles near the office.

I stopped by Lemon Moon, which is in this big office space nearby, because I'd been there before and liked it, and because I could easily walk to it. The place is big and bright and airy and very happy. They have a proper menu of hot foods, but they have tons of cold salads to-go, which are easy and quick.

I've never eaten inside or outside of this place, but I think the best thing is the outdoor dining. Even though it's on a busy street, there's plenty of foliage strategically placed to make you think that you're in some woody sanctuary, and not off the street in West LA.

I got some vermicelli salad and a kiwi lemonade. The lemonade didn't taste very kiwi-y. It had the faintest hint of kiwi. In reality, it was just plain lemonade.

I like this rice vermicelli quite a bit. It's light and fresh and has big simply cooked shrimp... and is loaded with veggies, eggs, and a light sauce. I'm a big fan. I want to figure out how to make this. They also give you two honkin pieces of some sourdough bread, which was also quite good. It's a quick, simple, and tasty lunch.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Peep peep!!!

Easter Weekend at Triumph

I continued this lazy Easter Weekend with a quick stop in Old City at Triumph Brewing Company. This place is a local chain, and I'd been to the one in Princeton years ago. I didn't remember it very much. I guess it wasn't that memorable!

The spot in old city is surprisingly big. The downstairs has a big bar that takes up the whole right side, there are a good number of tables alongside the bar. On the other side are a bunch of booths. There are several large sections that are "lounges". And upstairs there's even more dining and a small bar. There have many large tables to accommodate large parties.

The place looks pretty cool... lots of clean lines, dark woods, some mod decor. It wasn't very crowded (which was nice!) and when we first got there, it was pretty chill, and they were playing some classic rock on the speakers at a decent volume.

We sat in the lounge area which had tables on wheels that looked like a surfboard. There were some barcelona-esque style chairs with retro fabric, which looked cool, but didn't really make for the best seating. It was nice to be tucked away from the general bar noise and crowd.

We didn't eat dinner, but pecked on some appetizers: edamame with maldon salt and lime, calimari, and crab cakes with shitake and asparagus. The edamame were good, if not a bit too overloaded with the salt. They also could have been cooked a wee bit more. The calimari was ok, certain bites were a bit too spicy. The crab cakes were good, especially with the asparagus.

We tried the honey wheat, amber beer, and schwarzbier. The honey wheat smelled funny, but it was alright. The amber was pretty good, and the schwarzbier was my favorite of the night. The service was pretty good, they were attentive and quick to get rid of used plates. As the night progressed, the music changed and got about twice as loud. Also, more people showed up so it got even more noisy. That was a sign for me to skidaddle. Old City is not really my scene (but then what is really?) but it's not a bad spot. If it's crowded and loud it would be just as terrible as any of the other spots, but earlier on in the evening, it was fairly nice and relaxed and casual. It's all about the company anyway... and watching your friends get drunk. That's fun any time and anywhere!