Friday, April 30, 2010

Zelo Pizza

For a unique pizza experience, go to Zelo Pizza where their pizza base is made from cornmeal. The corn pizza is topped with roasted red peppers and of course corn. There is also supposed to be sausage, but I couldn't taste it. Mostly I tasted mozzarella cheese. They put too much mozzarella. This is my second time at this place. My dining partner did not appreciate the lack of marinara sauce.

The place does not offer ketchup. I give it extra points as a non-ketchup lover. Instead it has the Chinese rooster chili sauce and the Mexican Hot Sauce- Tapatio.

The first time I also got the wild mushroom pizza which was very tasty. It is also one of the few places to have Orangina and Pelligrino if one is into those European drinks instead of American sodas.

I don't know what they did to the corn pizza or not did, but it tasted rather bland this second time around. Of course, the first time is always the best. It has a fairly thick crust, but not doughy. The price is a bit on the high side, but it is a different type of pizza and the place is family owned, not a chain restaurant. I'm all for supporting your local business. For two people, there were still 2 slices leftover.

I do recommend it as something different to try. I would like to try their pastas next time. They don't have a wide variety of desserts. Just the homemade Zucotta made from layered ladyfingers.

It is a quaint place; parking could be a problem. There is some parking in the back, but barely any. Street parking may be the best way to go, although some idiot honked us when it was pretty clear we were trying to park.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Donuts To Go

The Donut place in the same plaza as Taipan is also definitely worth a visit. The owners are friendly and very accommodating to your sweet tooth needs.

One evening, I wanted the lemon jelly donut which they ran out of. However, the owner offered to transfuse some lemon jelly into a plain donut. She stuck some dessert needle thing into the donut and attached a tube of lemon jelly which got pumped in. Amazing! The donut was completely overflowing with lemon jelly!

Ocassionally, they throw in some freebies like donut holes or an extra donut in, but that is usually if you buy a lot.

If you tell them you want the ham and cheese, they may end up giving you a frozen one though.  I don't mind it too much as it tastes pretty good once it has been heated, but those who stick to only freshly made stuff may mind.

My sis doesn't like the man that works there because one time he called her Mommy!  lol.  He thought she was my mom.  I thought it was funny.

Taipan Bakery

Don't let the lack of long lines fool you. Taipan Bakery on Baldwin Ave is a great little bakery with fresh breads, cakes and pastries. Like most other bakeries, visits are best in the morning than evenings, in which the scant leftovers are all that you can choose from.

Additionally, this bakery is the only one I know of with curry bread.

They also have egg tarts, mini chicken pies and curry pies.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dumpling 10053

I had Dumpling 10053 for lunch with mom.

We ordered the steamed pork dumplings, a mixed dumpling plate, and a beef tendon noodle soup.

The steamed pork dumplings has a thicker skin than Din Tai Fung and possibly more meat as well. However, I prefer the taste of DTF more. There is a "freezer" taste, but maybe it's just me.

The dumplings were Emerald spinach flavored skin with pork and cabbage, Golden carrot flavored skin with pork and spinach, and Gochi flavored skin with chicken and spinach. Very colorful and not too bad. The meat is well cooked but not pink on the inside.

The beef tendon noodle soup was really good, full of flavor. Noodles tasted fresh, possibly hand made and the beef was a wonderful tender texture as well as the tendons, naturally.

They present you with mint chocolates when you're ready for the check.

Another nice thing is that they also offer sesame oil in addition to soy sauce and vinegar! However, they don't have fresh ginger, like DTF.

Restaurant atmosphere is pleasant, doesn't stink like some typical Asian places. Staff is friendly, patiently answering questions and explaining the dishes. And the County Public Health Department rates it an A!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sunday Bistro

I went to Sunday Bistro for dinner. The food was good as well as the price the first time I went. I had ordered the Portugese seafood pasta then. They were not skimpy about the shrimp and seafood at all.

However, this time I ordered the Salmon Alfredo pasta with "creamy mushroom sauce". However, it lacked flavor. They make it creamy by putting in starch. It was just bleh, like gruel.

The first time there, the servers kept coming to our table with food we didn't order. And when we asked what it was, they didn't know. That happened at least 3 times before the food we actually ordered arrived. This time, we sat at a corner, and were ignored unless we waved our hands. Maybe it is a typical Asian thing- to ignore unless waved at. Not a big deal if you don't need anything; inconvenient if you are dying from thirst or something.

Despite the cold demeanor of the staff, the food arrives relatively quickly. They seemed to have left the flavor in the kitchen though.

Do I recommend this restaurant? Yes...but steer clear from anything that describes itself as "creamy". I have learned that many Cantonese- Euro fusion styled restaurants that try too hard to be fancy have foods meaning to be "creamy" but is really "starchy" and instead of creamy, looks and feels more like a clear slug slime or sticky saliva.

The nice thing about the restaurant, as is typical of most Cantonese-Euro type are the free drink refills including iced teas and coffees.

Yard House

After the free Screenwriting Workshop at the Newport Beach Festival, located at Fashion Island, my friends and I had lunch at the Yard House. I got the Macaroni Cheese squared. They got the BBQ Bacon and Cheese Burger and the Crab Cake Club Sandwich. No complaints, so I assume all the dishes were good. Maybe because all the dishes had bacon. Service is excellent, as usual with friendly staff. One friend wanted steamed veggies instead of french fries that come with the sandwich so they were happy to make the substitute with no extra charge.

The Mac and Cheese had thick slices of bacon and chicken with truffles. It is one of the best Mac and Cheese I've had. However, this time around, I felt they might have overdone it with their truffle oil.

I don't approve of their Creme Brulee. It is mushy, but not very creamy and not brulee'd much, with bananas and chocolates, a combination I'm personally not too fond of.

Yard House never gets old. There are chains all over including Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Rancho Cucamonga and Pasadena, so you should have no excuse to not have dined at one.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

85 Degrees Cafe

The first time I went to the 85 Degrees Cafe, the line went out the door. This time there weren't that many people, and for a good reason too. None of the bread I got was hot! I went at around 2:30pm on a weekday.

I got the Hawaiian Pizza bread. I am typically wary of breads that call itself a pizza but there were several suggestions for it on yelp. Unfortunately, it was not fresh and not even warm at all. It was tough and chewy, not soft like I'd expect. I only took a bite of it; it wasn't very tasty either. I decided to save the rest to be nuked in the microwave at home.

The garlic bread was good even when not warm and fresh. How can bread not be good when it's full of garlic buttery goodness? It had a decent enough texture as well, slightly crunchy, but not hard and stale.

The coconut cream bread was the best out of the three I chose. It definitely does not need to be warmed up to be enjoyed. The bread was wonderfully soft like a sponge and the coconut cream was not too sweet. However, it would have been nice if they put more coconut flakes or coconut milk. The cream kind of just tasted like whipped cream otherwise.

There were advertisements for their iced sea salt coffee, so I ordered a medium of that. It's decent enough for a typical non-coffee drinker. Reviews on yelp had been good for the sea salt coffee. It's a bit bitter for me. Added a pack of brown sugar.

My major complaint was that you have to wait for the drinks to be made. They call out your number, but they don't call it very loud. You have to stand right next to the counter, staring into where they display the cakes and sweets, where a lot of other people are standing around (some waiting for drinks, some just staring at the sweets). So, someone had called out some numbers and a guy had asked me what numbers they had just called and I repeated "122, 123". And he asks me "they said 123?" and I said "yes". Well, then he asks the guy at the counter again the number. I hate it when people do that, makes you feel all self-conscious, like your answer isn't good enough for some reason. And on top of that the girl he was with pointed to the label stuck on the cup which also had the number. It's like how many sources do they need to check their numbers.

The cakes look pretty good as well. Coffee creme brulee anyone?

The Chocolate Marble cake isn't very tasty by the way.

A curious thing is how come the branch in Taipei has bread and pastries that are always piping hot and the crowds don't act quite as crazy as those in the US?

I have also realized that there really isn't a wide selection of breads. It's just garlic bread, multi-grain bread, that black squid inked break, the blueberry cream one, coconut cream, some Danish, Pizza, pork sung, some French cheese bread, hot dog, and that is it! That is what they have one one wall and they have the exact same thing spread out on 2 other sides! Why is there such a freaking long line on the weekends? How is this place different from Cloverleaf or JJ Bakery?? Is it because they don't have the traditional red bean paste bread! They also don't have curry bread, one of my favorites from other bakeries.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Burger King Steakhouse XT Burger

Used the coupon for a buy one get one free Steakhouse XT Burger at Burger King.

I rank it higher over KFC's Double Down, but it still doesn't beat Carl's Jr's Western Bacon Cheeseburger.

It's got lettuce, tomato, cheese and even bacon on top of a very thick patty. It costs about the same as the Double Down, and it has all that and buns! The buns aren't as soft as the WBC. It seems large, clumsy, and a pain to eat and the sauce gets all over the place with each bite.

There are three types of sauces to choose from. I couldn't hear too well through the speaker thing what they were exactly. I think it was original, BBQ and smoked cheddar. So I ended up getting original and the smoked cheddar. So both were in the bag, unlabeled and the one I happened to bite into was the smoked cheddar, with a very distinct smoky taste. I don't like feeling as though I've smoked a pack of Marlboro's when I eat my food. Mom took the original one; not sure how that fared. She said it was ok, but definitely wasn't as excited about it as the Double Down.

Not great; not horrible; it does the trick to satisfy hunger.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Din Tai Fung

Mom and I went to Din Tai Fung today for lunch. We got there around 1pm and it was about a 45 minute wait. So we went around the corner where the 2nd establishment is at and only had to wait 10 minutes for a seat. We sat on the 2nd floor.

I have been to Din Tai Fung plenty of times. The first few times I had it, I was fairly impressed, but now it's just kind

They are known for their Juicy Pork Dumplings which are petite and delicately wrapped in thin dough. The first bite you take in squirts out a hot liquid like an incontinent pig pissing inside your mouth.'s that good.

The Pork Chop Noodle Soup came rather quickly after that. It has a light flavor with chopped green onions, good for those who don't like heavy oily stuff; not good for those who do and don't like onions. I would have prefered that the pork chop be put on another plate instead of soaking inside the soup like a wet soggy kitten.

Next came the Shrimp and Pork Shiaomai. It is decent enough, not too shrimpy, like some places whose dishes reeks of dead fish with any seafood related foods.

Mom ordered a 2nd Juicy Pork Dumpling. It was much hotter and fresher than the first one that came out.

Service was overall pretty fast and efficient until then. We still had a dessert dish. Mom had to ask at least three times if it was coming and they kept saying they were checking on it. Mom went to the bathroom and the dish still hadn't arrived when she got back.

At first I was thinking how efficient the service typically is. They give you a menu to fill out while you wait so that by the time you're seated, your food is being made; and hence is brought out fairly quickly. I think this may be an illusion though considering that the first set of dumplings that were brought out was mildly warm, not really piping hot. They would have to constantly make the dumplings because that is their most popular menu. Virtually everyone gets it; so that in fact that dumplings aren't really custom made. And if they ran out of something, then they've ran out and the chefs aren't going to bother making them just for you.

Therefore, for dessert items, which aren't as popular, does require a longer wait as we had experienced.

While we waited for our dessert, mom wanted to inform me that normal urine color is the color of tea. Maybe a little lighter. I had told her earlier normal urine color should be clear. If it's too yellow, it means you're dehydrated. Mom doesn't like drinking water or tea, so naturally I was a bit concerned.

Our dessert arrived eventually. It's the Red Bean Rice Cake. It's a white spongy cake with red bean inside. They tried to cheer it up by adding red and green jelly dots on top. It tastes ok. Those who have a serious sweettooth wouldn't enjoy it though. It is not sweet at all. I like the fact that it was made fresh, even though we had to wait awhile (I think they forgot about us), soft and dry on the outside...and soft and oozy (but not too oozy) on the inside.

I've noticed that at this new establishment, the servers are not as friendly and attentive as the first. The table next to us were a couple with two young daughters. The couple wanted water and kept trying to get the server's attention. They finally succeeded by waving their hands frantically and calling out "hello!" The server turned her head, said "hello" back and walked off. The couple gave each other a "wtf" type of look. The server then walked back to the table and they said they wanted water, that they had asked for it three times already with nothing. I think they only get the male server to get the waters because I didn't see any of the females serve water. There were like 3 female servers and 1 male server.

All the servers except one (maybe she's the head manager) are all equipped with microphone head sets. I'm assuming this is to communicate with the cooks in the back and with each other to see if people's dishes are ready. They didn't do too good of a job with checking on our desserts though.

This place doesn't provide water unless you ask. They do provide a pot of tea though which I do enjoy. They don't offer to pour it for you though.

Look who makes the dumpling dough!

The restaurant attracts all types of people. Screaming babies are not my favorite type of people though. I noticed that the baby that was screaming was screaming out of satisfaction. He didn't look angry or upset or anything, so that is what I'm concluding. And I've realized that happy screaming babies are the worst because the more you appease them, the more they will scream and there really is nothing you can do in public about that. Whereas, if they were screaming out of anger and hate, there is hope you can quiet them down by bribing them and such. Just thought I'd share that bit of baby insight as I'm on the topic of babies in resturants.

Overall, the food is ok. However, for food that is just ok, it is a tad bit pricey. They could attempt to improve the flavor by mixing spices in or something to justify the cost.

They give you all the soy sauce and vinegar you need. However, they are stingy with salt and pepper- there are none to be found.

The decor consists of some framed Chinese pictures and characters. The only plants are some cat nip looking grass in pots.

My initial thought was that DTF is a convenient place to eat out at because it's local and so close to home. But because of the crowds, it is not that convenient due to the long wait. And the only time when there isn't a crowd is when it's not during peak hours (ie lunch time between the hours of 10:30 am and 2pm; and between 5pm and 7pm is packed!) which means you would have to wait until everyone's eaten first, not a problem if you're not hungry; but if you're not hungry, why would you be eating? What a Catch-22.

I think during the early days, DTF was worth going to because there wasn't another dumpling place like it around. Now, with all the crowds and other restaurants with decent food popping up as alternatives, it is definitely overhyped.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Haiku Kitchen

Haiku Kitchen provides a variety of different dishes (as opposed to just chicken) for those who like to choose instead of being influenced by a condensed menu with only one type of meat (like KFC). It has a good selection of appetizers, ramen, salads, sandwiches, curries, and rice bowls. The only type of soup is the traditional Japanese miso soup.

Sesame chicken wings (4) and chicken ramen

On this occasion, I went for the seaweed ramen with a side of musobi. My dinner partner had the chicken ramen with a side of sesame chicken (ahh not chicken my mind couldn't help silently scream- I had KFC's double down and 10 piece hot wings the day before).

Seaweed ramen

The seaweed ramen tasted ok. The broth wasn't particularly flavorful, compared to that of ramen I had at other places. Their website says the broth is made from homemade chicken stock (not chicken!) That may be why; my gustatory sensation is numbed by too much chicken for the week! The noodles were good, tender and elastic or al dente as the Italians would say. The bowl is topped off with red ginger, green onions and of course pieces of kelp seaweed.

musobi (2)

The musobi was good. I had it just once in Hawaii. Someone had brought in a homemade kind on a Friday at work. Again, like most of my comments, it wouldn't have hurt if they had made it bigger, because the homemade version I had was larger than the one at this place. But it was tasty with spam and lightly seasoned with Furikake and what looked like either light soysauce or terryaki sauce.

As for the sesame chicken wings- it was a bit sweet and tangy, like they had marinated it in honey or sugar to it, topped with sesame seeds. I wasn't thoroughly impressed with it.

I saw an ad for Japanese tacos. They had salmon, steak and chicken topped with onions, tomatos and cilantro. It looked pretty good, but I will have to come back for that next time. I also noticed Thai Iced Tea on the menu, but I don't like ingesting hot and cold liquids in one sitting so I didn't order it.

It is a small place with just a few tables. A family of four were the only other people eating there. It is clean with friendly staff.

Overall, the place is not bad and is worth another trip for a quick snack.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

KFC Double Down

The new KFC Double Down sandwich is real! This one-of-a-kind sandwich features two thick and juicy boneless white meat chicken filets (Original Recipe® or Grilled), two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and Colonel's Sauce. This product is so meaty, there’s no room for a bun!

Sandwich Calories Fat (g) Sodium (mg)
KFC Original Recipe® Double Down 540 32 1380
KFC Grilled Double Down 460 23 1430
If you are looking for a well balanced diet, steer clear away from the Double Down. It is essentially goopy cheese with bacon bits enclosed between two slabs of chicken meats. Dr. Atkins might approve considering it is free from carbs. However, it is not for vegetarians!

Mom was craving burgers today. She saved a bunch of Carl's Jr coupons and I informed her of the new KFC's sandwich. She is a crazy fan of chicken so without me telling her much, she wanted it. Two double downs was a whopping $9.98.

Double down commercial version

Real take-home version

It looks small, smaller than you would expect for the cost anyway, but it is very filling with two thick chicken filets. My double down doesn't look as neat as on the picture. The Monterey Jack cheese had melted all over the place, but I suppose that's what you can only expect with melted cheese. It was steamy hot and plenty flavorful. However, I am not a huge fan of spicy foods and it is a bit spicy. Not spicy spicy flaming hot, but spicy in the sense that it's got some wierd jalapeno picklish taste to it. I would have preferred it without the colonel's special sauce. Another disappointment was that the bacon was thinly sliced. You couldn't taste much of it as it was buried between the chicken pieces and the strong taste of the sauce, the bacon might as well not be there. In this case, bacon does not make it better.

Apparently there are two versions. It is not yet on the menu so I didn't know and the guy I ordered from didn't ask if I wanted grilled or the original recipe. I think I got the grilled version. It was somewhat soggy on one side, the side that sat in the box.

I couldn't finish my sandwich, but mom gobbled all hers up. She loved it! I think I prefer Carl Jr's Western Bacon Cheeseburger though. I like bread too much for it to be replaced with meat.

It is a unique idea but I'm not sure if it's something I'd order again.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Extraordinary Desserts

To top off the evening, we headed towards Little Italy for dessert at Extraordinary Desserts. The place was mad packed, even at 11pm! We had to wait about 10 minutes to get seated.

While waiting, we browsed through some of their products and fine decor.

the white pyramids are macaroons;
and the bottom is the Macadamia Nut Pie

wonder what kind of magic the tea does

big Buddha head statue

They sell an assortment of exotic teas, some claiming to be "magic", books, lotions, bags, and other non-dessert products. That's the way to make big money in a successful business.

We finally got seated and ordered. I got the Macadamia Nut Pie and my buddy got the Gianduia.

Gianduia - chocolate cake with rasberry filling and
chocolate cream between the layers, encrusted with nuts,
with rasberry sauce on the side

Macadamia Nut Pie with whipped cream

The desserts looked gorgeous. As you can see, my pie was topped with yellow flower petals and sat on top of some caramel sauce. It was warm and tasted heavenly with the whipped cream, even though I'm not much of a cream type of person. My buddy enjoyed his Gianduia, but I felt it was too sweet for my taste. To each his own.

We shared a pot of green sencha tea. The water was piping hot; the taste unexpectedly bitter, even for me. If not for the bitterness, it essentially is would have no flavor, rather disappointing to the traditional Japanese sencha, not at all what I had expected.

There is also a non-dessert menu with paninis and the ilk for those who are afraid of sweet overload.

In all honesty, I'm not sure if this place is really my cup of tea, but everyone should go to Extraordinary Desserts at least once to experience the exciting atmosphere of energetically happy late night-diners and just to say you've tried something extra-ordinary...and that includes the price!

Osteria Romantica

I went down to visit my Rice University buddy down in San Diego. It's been about a year since we caught up with each other. He invited me to dinner at the Osteria Romantica, carefully chosen by his fellow post docs.

2151 Avenida de la Playa
La Jolla, CA 92037
Ph/Fx: +1 858 551 1221

They made reservations, so we got seated very quickly. Right away, the waiter, a lithe fellow with a pleasant Italian accent, asked if we were ready to order, but there was one more person we were waiting for. Time passed and again we were asked what was our gustatory pleasure, but we were still waiting for the missing postdoc. Alas, it turned out he was not coming and the waiter was more than happy to take our orders whenever we were ready. Some places pressure you to order as soon as you are seated to get their jobs out of the way.

Everyone was happy with their orders. In fact, there began a swapping tasting match with the dishes between two post docs, one who had ordered the linguine mare and fond of seafood.

One post doc from Finland ordered some eggplant dish that was heavily covered in tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. We were then asked if we would like more cheese.

I had ordered the salmon ravioli which sat on a bed of asparagus and delicately topped with black caviar. I had never seen pasta so gorgeous. It passes the aesthetic appeal test. And now for the taste test- there was something somewhat disagreeable to my palette; it might have either been too salmon-y or maybe it was the bitterness of the asparagus. I do appreciate the fact that it was not too cheese-y like many Italian restaurants.

salmon ravioli topped with black caviar

After we ate our meals...that is most of us, we were asked if we would like some coffee. And a few moments later asked if we needed anything else, more coffee perhaps. The post doc that was still eating had said he hadn't managed to start on his coffee, which had in fact cooled, as he was still eating and finishing up his glass of wine, and the waiter insisted on getting him another hot cup.

One of the post docs, the one from Spain, began to choke...I don't know if it was the food or if she was overcoming an illness, but the waiter was kind enough to bring some honey with water without ice. She did, however, complain that the water was not "room temperature" enough as in it was still too cold, even without the ice.

The staff was highly attentive, but not in the way that they are constantly in your face. You feel that you are being well cared for and that your comfort and satisfaction is top priority. The service and ambiance of the restaurant was excellent as was the food; conversations at the table were intriguing with topics such as getting lost hiking in the San Joaquin mountains, learning colorful Spanish words, and eating reindeer meet in Finland. Of course, meals are only as good as the company, which was exceptional.