Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Quaint & Charming! (Briganti, South Pasadena)

Quaint and charming feel with big dollar taste. In the beautiful small town of South Pasadena, Briganti serves up fabulous Italian fare. While many people complain of the service here, I have yet to have a bad experience. The owner and waiters are always pleasant and food is always excellent. What else could one ask for?
The owner of Briganti tells it like it is. One would expect to have a generic answer to what has to be one of the most asked questions in restaurants.... "how is this dish?" or "which dish is better?" Most waiters or owners will generally become politician-like and not take a stand, but Ignazio Mastromatteo does not hesitate to steer you in the right direction. Every time I come here, I'm torn between two dishes. And every time the owner will tell me which one is the better dish. And as of now, he's hit a home run every time. This past time that the Mrs. and I went to Briganti, we ordered the Rigatoni Amatriciana and the Fettuccine Bolognese. The Rigatoni Amatriciana is a rigatoni served in tomato based sauce with onions and pancetta. The rigatoni was al dente and the flavor of the pancetta is what made this dish, although it was a tad bit too salty. The Fettuccine Bolognese was also excellent. There was something about this dish that made it feel like a good old homemade meat sauce. I really enjoyed this dish. For dessert, we ordered the Pere Cotte al Vino Rosso (poached pear served in a red wine sauce served with a vanilla gelato) and the standard Tiramisu. Both of the desserts were excellent! For the charming feel, proximity to my home, and reasonable prices, Briganti has quickly become one of my favorite Italian restaurants. Briganti is excellent anytime of the year, but in my opinion, the best time to go is when truffles are in season. Briganti offers an excellent truffle menu for a very reasonable price and should not be missed.

Rigatoni Amatriciana

Fettucine Bolognese

Perre Cotte al Vino Rosso


1423 Mission Street
South Pasadena, CA

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rolling the Dice (Foo Foo Tei, Monterey Park)

There is hardly an occasion where I crave ramen, but when I do, I like to get my fix at Foo Foo Tei in Monterey Park. You see, I am not the type of person that's going to drive very far to go eat ramen. I much rather go somewhere local to get my fix. Years ago, I actually lived in Tenri city in Japan for a short period. In Tenri there were a couple of places that only opened late at night that served GREAT ramen. Tenri is famous for a ramen called sutamina ramen. This was the only ramen to date that I'd actually walk miles to eat. Ever since then, I really haven't had a ramen that I feel that's worth the drive. That's the reason why I like to go Foo Foo Tei. Another thing I like about Foo Foo Tei is the variety of other dishes I could order along with my ramen. For the most part the food here is pretty decent. Their katsu curry (pork cutlet curry), mabo tofu (spicy tofu and pork dish), chicken wings, and gyoza (dumplings) are all pretty good. If I had my choice I'd much rather eat ramen at places like Koraku or Orochon in Little Tokyo or Hakata Ramen in Rosemead, but the convenience of Foo Foo Tei makes this place more enticing. Eating here is like rolling the dice. You never really know what you're going to get. For the most part it is pretty consistent and occasionally really good. But the last time I was here, I rolled the dice and crapped out. I ordered the mini katsu-don (pork cutlet rice bowl) and miso ramen. The katsu-don was just okay, but my miso ramen was terrible. The noodles were over cooked and soggy and the soup was lifeless. Luckily for my wife, her yasai ramen (vegetable ramen) was decent. Will I come back and try my luck? For the fact that it is really convenient and that I had many good meals here, I think I could forgive them this time.

750 S. Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park, CA

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Take me out to the ball game (Dodger Stadium)

"Mrs. Gohan" was able to buy Dodgers tickets from her work, so we decided to go and enjoy an evening at the ball park. But what an ordeal! The Dodgers game started at 7:45pm on a Friday night. Mind you, I only live about 20minutes away from Dodger Stadium. We left at 7:00pm and it took us about TWO HOURS to get there. The parking at Dodger Stadium is a complete nightmare. I could not believe it. But it didn't stop there. Before we sat down, we decided to get some food first. We were not only here to see the game, we were also here to eat some Dodger Dogs. That too was an ordeal! It took over THIRTY minutes just to get our food. By the time we sat down it was around 9:30pm and we missed half the game! Unbelievable. I was so frustrated! Another thing that frustrated me that night was the fact that my favorite team, The Lakers, were playing one of the biggest games of the season that night, and I had to be here waiting and waiting and waiting. On top of that, the food like any other sporting event is expensive. I don't mind paying for the food, but when I have to wait that long just for a hot dog. Forget it! I was literally sweating with frustration. As far the Dodger Dog is concerned, it was just OK. It might have been better, but I just couldn't get over all the frustration. Even writing about this is making my blood pressure rise. I hope the next time I go to a Dodgers game it will be better.

Dodger Stadium
1000 Elysian Park Avenue
Los Angeles, CA

Monday, April 7, 2008

Aloha! (Roy's, Downtown LA)

Chef Roy Yamaguchi is considered to be one of the pioneers in Pacific Rim fusion cuisine. As a child, I was fortunate enough to dine at his first restaurant which was called 385 North in Beverly Hills. Although I don't remember much. I've been to several of Roy's Restaurants, but I've never been to the one closest to me. I've dined at Roy's in Waikoloa on the Big Island of Hawaii and the one in Pebble Beach California, and finally the Downtown Los Angeles location. Recently, my wife received an email informing us that Roy's was celebrating their 20th Anniversary and they were having a special dinner menu. The menu was celebrating some of the original dishes from the past that has made Roy's famous. It was a four course dinner with a wine pairing. And the price tag for this dinner was pretty reasonable at $75. Because the dinner did not include one of my favorite desserts, we opted to order the set menu along with other dishes too. This way we were to able sample even more dishes. As far as the atmosphere, I was surprised to see how big it was. And the majority of the people seemed to be the after work crowd. On a side note, not that I consider Roy's to be a super fancy establishment, but I was surprised to see a few people dressed really casually in baseball caps, T-shirts, and jeans. Not that it bothered me or anything, it just caught me off guard. Overall, the food here was just as good as all my previous experiences at a Roy's Restaurant. The service was very friendly and the food was excellent.

The anniversary menu consisted of a crispy shrimp spring roll served with a sweet and sour black bean dragon sauce. These were very scrumptious. It had nice contrast between the crispiness of the fried spring roll skin and the tenderness of the shrimp and the balance of the sweet and sour sauce. The second dish was the Japanese braised short rib cassoulet. The short ribs were so delectable. Tender as can be. In typical fashion, Roy's Restaurant displays their uniqueness by serving the short ribs with a salsa on top. One wouldn't think that salsa would go together with a Japanese styled braised short rib, but it melded perfectly together. The last of the entrees was the Hakone-style seared Hawaiian Ono. This dish was a perfect end to the entree portion of the set menu. This dish was definitely on the lighter side. The warm macadamia nut tart for dessert very delicious, but not my favorite dessert served at Roy's Restaurant. For this particular reason we composed our own three course tasting menu.

Crispy Shrimp Spring Roll

Japanese Braised Short Rib Cassoulet

Hakone-Style Hawaiian Ono

Warm Macadamia Nut Tart

As far as our own three course dinner creation. We started off by ordering the Crunchy Golden Lobster Potstickers served with a spicy togarashi (Japanese spice) miso butter sauce. These were absolutely delicious. The potstickers were perfectly crunchy and tasty, although it didn't seem like there was any lobster in the filling. The filling of the potstickers tasted more like a pork potsticker. I hope they weren't trying to rip me off. For the main course, we ordered the Hawaiian Style Misoyaki Butterfish. This has got to be my all time favorite dish at Roy's Restaurant. The misoyaki butterfish is cooked perfectly and seems to melt in your mouth. The delicate sweetness of the miso blends perfectly with butterfish. This dish is pure perfection! And to top this all off we ordered the Chocolate Souffle. Which is also my favorite! After waiting quite awhile, our waiter informed us that they were having problems with the souffles breaking and that it was going to be an additional wait. In the meantime, our waiter brought us a Panna Cotta on the house. Although this was good, we were here to eat the souffle. After our bellies were already full, the souffle arrived. And it was definitely worth the wait.

Crunchy Lobster Potstickers

Hawaiian Style Misoyaki Butterfish

Bonus Dessert!!! (Panna Cotta)

Chocolate Souffle

800 S. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA

Friday, April 4, 2008

Honey Toast (Tokyo Table, Arcadia)

Two words say it all. Honey Toast and also Mochi Cheese. Or is that four words? Anyways... There are certain times when you crave something so bad, that you are willing to throw out any intentions of staying on a diet out the window. But more on that a little later... The first time I went to Tokyo Table, I was thoroughly impressed with the menu. All the way from the cocktails to the desserts. Tokyo Table's twist on Japanese cuisine is very unique and appetizing. The first time I went to Tokyo Table was about a year ago at their Beverly Hills location and it Wowed me. This was unlike any other Japanese type restaurant that I've been at that point. Very modern and contemporary in the decor and in it's cuisine. And the Arcadia location is no different. Lately, when I've been having that craving in my stomach, I've been going to the fairly new location in Arcadia because of the proximity to where I live. This time we went with my mother, who has been craving the Honey Toast and Ishiyaki Garlic Shrimp. Every time she had plans to come here, her friends have flaked out on her, making her crave it even more. The best way to sample the cuisine here is to come in a larger group and order a plethora of items. This time we decided to try some different items along with some tried and true items. Unfortunately we did not have room in our bellies to order one of my favorites... Mochi Cheese :(

Yukari French FriesWe started off with the usual Yukari French Fries. These are not your typical seasoned fries, they have a distinct flavor of furikake (Japanese style of dried seasoning) which is so tasty and the fries are always perfectly cooked to a crisp without being too dried out.

Braised Pork Cha-Siu
Another usual suspect is the Braised Pork Cha-Siu served with Tokyo Negi (Japanese Green Onion). The thinly sliced pork is succulent and savory. Although it was delicious, from what I recall, the one served at the Beverly Hills location was superior to the one in Arcadia.

Rock Shrimp Tempura
Our next dish was something that we have not tried before. The Rock Shrimp Tempura served with a Garlic Aioli and Creamy Wasabi dipping sauces. These little shrimp tempura were like little poppers. Bite size and crispy. This dish was decent. Let's face it, anything fried is good, but this was a bit too greasy and the sauces didn't quite mesh with the tempura in my opinion.

Grilled Chicken with Yuzu
Another dish that I've wanted to try for awhile was the Chicken Breast with Yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit). Similar to other dishes that come out on hot skillets, this particular dish's aroma is what stands out the most. The aromatic fragrance of the yuzu instantly awakens my senses and makes my mouth water. The chicken was executed exceptionally well. The chicken was juicy and seasoned well.

Ishiyaki Garlic Shrimp with Rice
Now this dish is one of my all-time favorites here at Tokyo Table. The Ishiyaki Garlic Shrimp with Rice is excellent and should not be passed up. This dish is a type of fried rice cooked in a ishiyaki (Japanese hot stone bowl) with shrimp and some peppers. The longer that it is kept untouched in the bowl, the crispier the outside becomes. This is known as okoge. A word to the wise, you better not try to steal my okoge!

Honey Toast with Strawberry
I saved the best for last. The HONEY TOAST. The first time I saw this dessert on Tokyo Table's website, I knew I had to try it. It looks Sooo Good and tastes even Better! The one thing I miss about visiting Japan is their bread. The bread in Japan is thicker than what we are used to here in the States, and in my humble opinion, it is far superior. This dessert uses a similar type bread and is drizzled with your choice of topping. Oh... And I can't forget.... Ice Cream. Everything is better with Ice Cream. Our favorite Honey Toast is the strawberry honey toast. Trust me, it is good!

Tokyo Table
400 S. Baldwin Ave
Arcadia, CA