Sunday, March 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom! (Chosun Galbee, Los Angeles)

A week late, but we finally made it out for my mom's birthday last night. It's been years since my family has gone to Korea Town and since my mom wanted to eat good Korean BBQ, my brother decided on Chosun Galbee. After hearing about all of the rave reviews about Chosun Galbee, we were all anxious to try this restaurant. Unfortunately my brother-in-law was not feeling good and couldn't join us, but the eight of us still had a nice night out. Initially driving up to Chosun Galbee I was impressed by the looks of the outside of the restaurant and also the crowds of people. First of all, the restaurant was much larger than I had imagined and secondly, the building was beautifully overtaken by shrubbery which gave it a nice feel. Once inside the contemporary style struck a chord with all of us and was also a pleasant surprise. Luckily we were able to secure a private room which made our dinner more intimate and comfortable. After looking over the menu and struggling with the language barrier we decided on: the Chosun Galbee (house special marinated short ribs), Seng Galbee Gui (non marinated short ribs), Bulgogi (thinly sliced marinated beef), Dak Bulgogi (marinated chicken), Daeji Bulgogi (thinly sliced spicy pork), Sam Gyup Sal (Bacon style Berkshire pork), Galbee Dolsot Bibimbab (sizzling rice pot with meat & vegetables), Yook Hwae (raw beef) and Job Chae (stir fried sweet potato noodles with beef & vegetables). One side note about the menu; After looking at the menu, I wanted to take a picture of the menu so I could remember what we ordered. At that time, one of the waitresses came up to me and started speaking Korean to me which I didn't understand but I could tell she didn't seem too happy that I was taking pictures. Minutes later another waiter came up to me and asked me "why are you taking pictures of the menu?" Needless to say I didn't feel too comfortable about taking pictures afterwards. Hence, the poor quality of pictures that I took for this blog. I felt that I had to take pictures like a spy. As far as the food goes, everything was very delicious. One interesting thing that took us by surprise was that we didn't have to do the cooking ourselves. We were all accustomed to doing our own cooking at Korean & Japanese BBQs. On the one hand it was nice, but on the other we couldn't cook the meats to our liking. As far as the food goes, the one thing that stood out to all of us, was that the meats were not heavily marinated as some other Korean BBQ places. The flavors were bold yet subtle. Nothing was overwhelming. My favorite was definitely the marinated short ribs.

Assorted Appetizers

Noodles with beef & Vegetables

Short ribs, Chicken, Spicy pork, Bacon style pork

Meat cooking on the grill

3330 W. Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Irashaimase! (Shin-Sen-Gumi, Monterey Park)

Irashaimase (Welcome)! Unlike other Japanese restaurants, Shin-Sen-Gumi takes welcoming patrons to another level. I was startled the first time I ever went to a Shin-Sen-Gumi restaurant. This particular branch in Monterey Park is no different, in fact, I think it's even more deafening than the other branches. Other Japanese restaurants will welcome a patron with the typical irashaimase, but what separates Shin-Sen-Gumi, is that they even bring out the taiko drum and start banging it. The first time I ate here I felt awkward as we were walking to our table. The attention was almost embarrassing and conversations were hard to maintain as the noise level was at a premium. Besides the boisterous atmosphere, the staff was very courteous and polite. At this particular branch of the Shin-Sen-Gumi chain serves Shabu-Shabu and Yakitori. Shabu-Shabu which is a Japanese version of a hot pot in which thinly sliced meat and vegetables are cooked in a dashi (Japanese broth) and served with dipping sauces. Yakitori on the other hand is typically different parts of chicken on skewers cooked over some type of charcoal. The term yakitori can be broken down into two parts: Yaki (grill) and Tori (Chicken/Bird). Although the term yakitori literally refers to grilled chicken skewers, other types of meat and vegetables can loosely be referred to yakitori as well. Luckily for me this restaurant serves both which happen to be some of my favorite types of food. I could kill two birds with one stone. I would have to say that the shabu-shabu here is pretty good. The beef and pork is beautifully marbled and really scrumptious. My one gripe with Shin-Sen-Gumi in Monterey Park is that the rice is absolutely Terrible! The rice is dry and hard, but I still ate it :) I love rice too much to pass it up. Personally, I still prefer to eat shabu-shabu at Shabu-Shabu House in Little Tokyo. I just hate waiting that long just to eat something that I could eat at home. Also dinner here is a bit pricey for shabu-shabu although its cheaper than Kagaya in Little Tokyo. The yakitori here is pretty decent as well. My favorite skewers are the kawa (chicken skin) and the bara (pork belly). They are super delicious. The chicken skin is perfectly cooked to a crisp and drizzled with teriyaki type sauce. The pork belly is perfectly seasoned and the taste of the charcoal really comes through. These are definitely two items not to be missed.

Shin-Sen-Gumi (Monterey Park)
111 N. Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park, CA. 91754

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Taste of Heaven! (Anjin, Costa Mesa)

Purely Divine. If there was a yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) place in heaven, Anjin would definitely be the place to eat. One catch... Even God himself would probably have to wait for a table. This super crowded joint is one of my all-time favorite restaurants Ever!!!! I am what you would call a regular. I've been coming here ever since it opened years ago, so believe me when I tell you, expect a long wait no matter what time you go. If you don't know where this place is, just look for the hordes of people salivating, waiting outside and you will have found the spot. The meat at Anjin is comparable to any top tier restaurants anywhere. I've been to some of the top steak houses and restaurants in the country and Anjin's meat is just as good and I get to eat my gohan (rice). This no frills restaurant is simply the best yakiniku place that I have ever been to besides in Japan . Beautifully marbled, the prime grade kalbi (short rib) simply melts in your mouth and should not be passed up. Also not to be missed is the prime grade rib-eye which is also super delicious. This is a carnivore's heaven! The sauces is also another element which separates Anjin from other yakiniku establishments. You have two sauces to choose from. Decisions... Decisions... Decisions... Which one to pick? I tend to like the more traditional tare (shoyu based sauce that is slightly sweetened) sauce and my wife tends to favor the sesame sauce. And we always add the freshly minced garlic into our sauce to add a little more flavor. mmm... mmm... mmm!!!! Besides the meat, we always order the miso chicken and assorted vegetables as well. For dessert I usually order the cappuccino ice cream and my wife always gets the almond jello. Since my wife's family has known the owner for many years, we sometimes get to sample things before anyone else and before they become regular menu items. This time it was the pineapple sherbet served in a tiny pineapple. It was very refreshing. Hands down this place is worth the wait and is by far the best yakiniku restaurant!

Prime Kalbi

Prime Rib-Eye

Miso Chicken

Da Grill

Pineapple Sherbet

3033 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA. 92626

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Allez Cuisine!

Day 4 (Morimoto NYC)
Allez Cuisine! Let the eating begin. I was thoroughly impressed when I entered Morimoto's for the first time. Everything from the entrance of the restaurant, to the dining area, and even the restrooms was very aesthetically pleasing. The large sliding glass doors opened the way to the ultra clean architecture of Morimoto's restaurant. In the Japanese culture there is a significant emphasis on presentation and quality and these characteristics are evident in Morimoto's restaurant and cooking. An interesting fact about me and my wife dining at Morimoto's is that we don't really care too much for seafood. Because we have been long time fans of the Original Iron Chef and the American Iron Chef shows, we've always wanted to try his cooking. I have to admit that we were both hesitant on ordering the "Omakase" for dinner. The ironic thing is that we are both Japanese/Americans that don't really eat sashimi. My wife likes to eat all other types of hardcore Japanese food, but I on the other hand tend to stick to meat and rice. So for us to go to a place like Morimoto's and ordering the Omakase (Chef's Choice) was stepping way outside the box. Luckily for us, we went on a Wednesday night and they allowed us to share the Omakase and order other ala carte items. We started off with amuse-bouche which was a bite-sized deep fried rice ball with a veal reduction sauce. We both thought it was delicious, but after having thought about it, it did not have the quality of a typical amuse-bouche. It did not have the explosion of flavors to awaken my palate. But I definitely could have kept on popping those in my mouth all night. They were delicious!
My wife and I were waiting in anticipation for what was about to come. Nervous? Maybe.... Excited? Most definitely. Finally the time arrived. The Omakase started off with the hamachi tartare. What a presentation! The hamachi tartare was served with Osetra Caviar, wasabi, creme fraiche, squid ink, and little rice crackers. My favorite element besides the hamachi was the little rice crackers which gave the dish a nice crisp texture. I never knew that raw fish could be sooo good! The second course which was a tile fish and shiitake dish served with some kind of citrus soy sauce was just an explosion of flavors that amazed us both. The third course was the stripped jack mackerel. I don't even like mackerel but this was good. The sesame sauce that it was served with was excellent. The fourth course was my least favorite, but let me put a disclaimer on this statement, It was still excellent. The lobster ravioli with ikura (salmon roe) served with some kind of foam was tasty. What came out next scared us both. The fifth dish was the sushi portion of the dinner. But if all sashimi could taste like this, I'd definitely be eating more sushi. Thank God not all sushi tastes this good, cause I'd be even more poor. This dish had clam, ama-ebi (sweet shrimp), aji (Spanish mackerel), red snapper, and bluefin tuna sushi. My favorite had to have been the ama-ebi and the bluefin. Everything was so fresh and delicious. Then came the beautifully presented intermezzo which consisted of green tea and a macaroon with azuki bean. Whew! Could it get any better than what we just had? Yes! In my opinion one of the best dish in the omakase was the surf & turf portion. And being a meat eater, one would think that I liked this dish for the kobe beef, but in fact, the lobster that was cooked with the Garan Masala spices was my favorite. It was to die for. The lobster was so tender and succulent. Another surprise of the night was the dessert course of the omakase. When the waiter presented the satsumaimo (Japanese sweet potato) souffle cake with azuki beans, I was a little reluctant. I don't really care for sweet potatoes, but this dessert was great! I couldn't stop eating it. Now for the ala carte portion of our dinner, we started off by ordering the Kakuni for an appetizer. The Kakuni (pork belly) was braised for 10 hours and was served with Okayu (rice porridge). The Kakuni was fork tender and not overpowering. It was excellent! Then for my main entree, I ordered the Sea Bass cooked in a sweet sake and miso broth served with Japanese eggplant and avocado tempura. Initially I thought the tempura was some kind of green bell pepper, but to my surprise it was avocado. The Sea Bass melted in my mouth and the sauce was subtle and savory. By far the best Sea Bass I've ever had. For dessert, I ordered the "hot & cold" tofu. The dessert consisted of a soy milk souffle, tofu cheesecake, and maple ice cream. The souffle was a bit on the sweet side but nonetheless good. The ice cream was just OK. Nothing worth noting. On the other hand, the cheesecake had an interesting story behind the concept of this dessert. It was explained to be that the concept for this dessert was supposed to resemble Hiyayako. Hiyayako is a Japanese dish which is basically a cold tofu with shavings of bonito flakes and green onion served with soy sauce. The chocolate shaving was to resemble the bonito flakes and the maple syrup was supposed to resemble the soy sauce. Very clever. This was my favorite of the three.
All in all, the experience at Morimoto's was a mind altering. We stepped outside our comfort zone and tried something new which may have opened Pandora's box. Sushi is pretty expensive and having been spoiled by having our first true sushi experience at such a good restaurant may cost me dearly in the future :)

88 10th Avenue
New York, NY
(212) 989-8883

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Finally I arrived @ Babbo!!!!!

Day 3 (Babbo)
Just when I thought our trip couldn't get any better, it did. I've wanted to go to Mario Batali's restaurant Babbo ever since I heard about this place. I made the reservation exactly a month to the day of our reservation. They weren't kidding when they said that you'd better have their number on speed dial. I called as soon as they opened and still could not get through. Finally after being on hold for a good 10 minutes I finally acquired a reservation. Now I just had to wait for a month. Man was that a long month. And as the date approached I was waiting in anticipation. I didn't want to get my expectations too high so I just tried to quell my excitement. Finally, the day had come, and me and my wife were excited as can be. The atmosphere was a lot more lively than I had envisioned and also more casual. We both decided to get the pasta tasting menu. The course consisted of five pasta courses and three desserts.

The Pasta Tasting Menu:

1. Black Tagliatelle w/Parsnips & Pancetta

2. "Casunzei" w/ Poppy Seeds

3. Garganelli w/ "Funghi Trifolati"

4. Domingo's Pyramids w/ Passato di Pomodoro

5. Pappardelle Bolognese

6. "Fritelle di Caciotta" w/Figs & Honey

7. "Fior di Latte" w/Raspberry Vincotto

8. Chocolate Chestnut Budino w/ Chestnut Gelato

9. Pineapple Tart (bonus dessert)

When people ask how I liked Babbo? My answer is an emphatic Yes! The first course was so delicious it's beyond explanation. I think this dish was the one of the best of the night. The texture of the pasta was outstanding and the harmony of the pancetta and parsnips was just exquisite. I definitely was Wowed. At this point, I didn't want to get hopes up too high for the upcoming courses, but I told myself if it's anywhere near the taste of the first dish, we were in for a treat. When the second course came out and the waiter explained that it consisted of roasted beets, I was a bit hesitant. As I stated in my introduction to myself, I am pretty picky. When I took my first bite,all of my reservations went out the window. It was outstanding. Like I told my wife, if beets taste like this, I'd eat them every day. The third course was the mushroom dish with the rolled pasta. The texture of this pasta is what really intrigued me. It was al dente and silky. Yet another home run. The fourth dish, which happened to be my wife's favorite dish was the pyramids. These were superb! Inside each of these bite-sized pyramids were braised beef. And the sauce on this dish was delicious. In my opinion, the previous dishes were more about the texture of the different pastas along with delicate yet savory flavors. This fourth dish seemed to be more about the sauce. The fifth and final savory dish was the bolognese. I was looking forward to this dish ever since I looked at the menu on Babbo's website. When it came out, it looked and smelled great and tasted even better! Now it was time for the desserts. Good thing they weren't too big. I don't think we could have walked out of the restaurant without assistance. We were completely stuffed, but like I said, there's always a little room for dessert. The first of desserts was the ball shaped fried dough with cheese with figs and honey. They were surprisingly light and scrumptious. The little seeds in the figs added another element of texture to this dessert. The next dessert was the fior di latte. This custard along with the raspberry vincotto sauce was a perfect balance of the tartness of the sauce and the creaminess of the custard. The chocolate cake in my opinion was just okay. I thought that the pineapple tart was much better. The entire meal took approximately 3 hours, but did not seem that long, perhaps because the food and company was that good.
110 Waverly Place
New York, NY
(212) 777-0303

Peter Luger the Holy Grail of Steak Houses

Day 1 (Peter Luger)
The trip of all food trips. The one that motivated me to start my blog. We flew 2475 miles from L.A. to NY just to eat! On our itinerary, Peter Luger's, Sparks, Babbo, and Morimoto, not to mention all the lunches that we squeezed in. Barely off the plane, we checked into our hotel and went directly to Peter Luger. With months of anticipation, we were finally here. We started off with the Luger's sizzling bacon. It was definitely not what I was expecting. It was much thicker than I had anticipated. Almost ham like, but it was good!

Finally, the Piece de Resistance....We ordered the porterhouse steak for three. It arrived perfectly seared on the outside and pink on the inside. All of us agreed that the filet portion of the steak was to die for. Mmm... mmm... mmm! Melt in your mouth tender and delicious. Peter Luger, what a way to start off our food journey!

Peter Luger
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 387-7400

Birthplace of a Godfather

Day 2 (Sparks Steak House)
This was the last night that my cousin would be joining me and my wife on our food journey. The site where the infamous John Gotti became the new head of the Gambino family by ordering the assassination of Paul Castelllano. I've been here numerous times and to this day it remains one of my all time favorite steak houses. The handful of times that I've been to Sparks I have yet to be disappointed. Everything from the service to the food has always been exceptional. We started off by ordering a bottle of the 04' Lewelling Cabernet and let me tell you.... It was a great start! My wife and my cousin then ordered a Caesar salad and some salmon to start. I was just waiting for my meat. The three of us shared some hash brown potatoes and sauteed spinach as our sides. The hash brown were perfectly seasoned. The chunky potatoes were fluffy and crunchy at the same time. One of the best hash browns I've ever had. The spinach was sauteed with some garlic that was neither spectacular nor was it bad. But what we really came to eat was their steaks. We all ordered the sirloin steak, which in New York they call a shell steak. I've never heard this term until coming to New York. The steak was superb! The steak was perfectly seasoned and was very juicy. No steak sauces necessary here. And the portions were very generous. Just like back in the 80's when Paul Castellano the head of the mafia was having a dinner meeting. The three of us were having a meeting of a different kind. This was serious business. We were here to find out which steak was better. The verdict was that we all liked Spark's steak better than Lugers. I know that there's going to be hell to pay for saying this, but it is what it is. Not taking anything away from Peter Luger. Trust me when I say, I know good steaks. I've been to a lot of good steakhouses and both Luger & Sparks ranks amongst the best. Like the saying goes, "there's always room for dessert". We finished the night off with the Mixed Berries Romanoff. This is the perfect ending to dinner here at Sparks in my opinion. It's not too sweet and it hits the spot.

210 E. 46th Street
New York, NY

What an afternoon!

Day 2 (afternoon)
We started the second day off by heading down to Greenwich Village. Straight off the E Train, we spotted Gray's Papaya. Boy was that good. The dogs were crisp and the buns were perfectly toasted. And I can't forget the delicious papaya drink. They were right when they say they perfected this drink. I don't even like papayas. That should tell you something. Two dogs and drink for under $4. What a deal!!!

Literally minutes after having consumed hot dogs at Gray's, we found ourselves at our second destination... Joe's Pizza on Carmine St. The minute I spotted this place, I knew it was going to be good. I saw all these locals standing outside eating. My mind raced with anticipation as we approached. Though I have to admit, my first impression after seeing the pizza deflated my enthusiasm. I just saw what appeared to be an ordinary slice of pizza and boy was I WRONG. The pizza was anything but ordinary. The dough was the perfect consistency and crisp. It was not too cheesy or saucy. It was a perfect balance of pizza heaven.

There's always room for dessert right? Right down the street from Joe's, we made our final stop @ Amy's Bread. This beautiful red velvet cake with the cream cheese frosting was oh sooo good! I was just praying that we saved room for dinner at Sparks Steakhouse. Whew! What an afternoon!

Gray's Papaya
402 6th Avenue
New York, NY

Joe's Pizza
7 Carmine Street
New York, NY

Amy's Bread
250 Bleecker Street
New York, NY

Monday, March 10, 2008

Introducing Mr. Gohan

After months of contemplation, I've finally decided to start a food blog and introduce myself to the rest of the world.... Hello world! Let me first start off with the reasoning of why I've decided on the name Mr. Gohan. I decided on this name because in Japanese, the word "gohan" means rice. Since the last time I looked in the mirror I looked like a Japanese/American male and since I REALLY LOVE rice, I've decided on the name Mr. Gohan. In fact, I think I am only one of two people who eat rice with spaghetti. The other person being my brother. Another interesting fact about starting a food blog is that I am one the most picky eaters you'll ever meet (a habit I've learned from my sister). But I do enjoy eating good. So here I am.