Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Best In Town (Saga Japanese Cuisine, Monterey Park)

Hands down... No Contest... Absolutely the Best in Town. Well... the best hirekatsu (filet portion of pork cutlet) in town at least. For those people who are familiar with Japanese food, hirekatsu is basically the same as tonkatsu (pork cutlet), but it usually comes in smaller portions and is much more tender. So tender that there is no need for a knife. Just bite into it and enjoy. The menu here at Saga Japanese Cuisine is limited as well as the seating. At first thought, I wished that they had a more diverse menu, but soon realized that it is much better this way. This is what makes this restaurant special. They don't have much on the menu, but what they do have, they do really good! Everything from the hirekatsu, tempura, sukiyaki, and from what I hear, the butter salmon, is excellent. My sister raves about their butter salmon. She swears that its the best salmon. The hirekatsu is so crispy, light, and tender. Most other restaurants that make a tonkatsu, make it crunchy but it tends to be heavy and greasy. Saga Japanese Cuisine really knows how to deep fry. Their dishes are all light and crispy. The sukiyaki is also one of the best that I've tasted, besides eating at home. Especially when my father was alive. My father's sukiyaki was the best. Even years after he has passed away, we still talk about it. Most dinners come with a Chawan-Mushi (steamed egg custard), entree, and some sort of dessert. Although I don't like the chawan-mushi, everyone says that Saga makes a real good one. As far as their desserts go, I could take it or leave it.


Saga Japanese Cuisine
122 S. Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park, CA

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Delizioso !!! (Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles)

Simply put... Delizioso !!! Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton's restaurant Osteria Mozza was absolutely fantastic. Having just been to Mario's other restaurant Babbo in New York, it made me want to compare restaurants and the perfect time had arose. It was "Mrs. Gohan" and my 10 year anniversary. I can't believe that it has been 10 years already. What a way to celebrate such a milestone!
Walking into the restaurant, the aroma was mouth watering and expectations soon began to make my stomach growl. My initial impressions of Osteria Mozza was that it was much smaller than I had envisioned. If there was any correlation of the mood of the patrons and the food, I knew that we would be in for a treat. Similar to Babbo, the noise level was definitely boisterous. The obvious visual difference between the two restaurants, besides the fact that one is in New York and the other in L.A., was the style of the decor. Babbo had more of homey feel where Osteria Mozza was definitely more contemporary.
We did not have high expectations of Osteria Mozza since we had just been to the renowned restaurant Babbo in New York. We figured that Osteria would not even come close to Babbo but, we were pleasantly surprised. After reviewing the menu we were tempted to order off of the menu, but we stuck to our original plan and ordered the pasta tasting menu along with the wine pairing. Come to think of it, there was really no other choice. Since we ordered the pasta tasting menu at Babbo, it only made sense to also try it here at Osteria so that we could compare the two restaurants.

Amuse Bouche

After our deliberation, we couldn't wait for the food to come out. The waiter first brought us the Amuse Bouche, which was a bruschetta with ricotta, olive tapenade, and basil which was very good and made me more anxious for the tasting menu to start. Sitting there I couldn't help but think of what was about to come. When the first course came, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed. The Farfalle with green garlic, fave e noci , did not have the Wow factor that I was expecting from a Mario Batali restaurant. By no means was this course a bad dish, aucontraire, it was delicious, but it just did not WOW me. The second course of the pasta tasting menu was a deviation from what was listed on the menu. The second course was supposed to be a mussel and saffron dish. We had asked the waiter if we could make a substitution because we don't like mussels, so the waiter said that he would just tell the chef that we were allergic to seafood. Exactly what I was thinking of doing, I just didn't have the cojones to do so. The second course ended up being the Butternut Squash Mezzalune with Amaretti. This dish was delightful. The pasta was perfectly cooked and had just the right amount of sweetness. The third dish which was the Tortellini burro di Luigi Guffanti e Parmigiano was absolutely devine! The filling in the pasta was what the waiter explained to me as a gourmet type of bologna. It was ground up chicken and pork wrapped up in the Tortellini. Although I felt that the waiter could have come up with a better analogy, simply put, you could call it what ever you would like and it would still kick ass. The fourth course was the Francobolli di Brasato with passato di pomodoro. These were absolutely delicious. Basically, this dish was a type of ravioli stuffed with a savory short rib served with a pomodoro sauce. Babbo and Osteria both serve a pomodoro pasta dish, but I felt that the one here at Osteria was much better, although 'Mrs. Gohan' disagrees. The fifth savory course was the Pici with wild boar ragu which was my favorite dish of the night. Just the thought of wild boar conjures up feelings of repulsion, but this dish was anything but repulsive. All in all, the savory dishes were absolutely delicious and lived up to all the hype. In my opinion, the dishes got progressively better as the night progressed, but 'Mrs. Gohan' and I both agree that the savory dishes were slightly better at Mario's restaurant Babbo in New York.

Farfalle with green garlic, fave e noci

Butternut Squash Mezzalune with Amaretti

Tortellini, burro di Luigi Guffanti e Parmigiano

Francobolli di Brasato with passato di pomodoro

Pici with wild boar ragu

As far as desserts go.... There is no question. Hands down Osteria Mozza was far superior! The first dessert course was Gelatina di Frutta della Passione e Sorbetto di Mandarina. It was a passion fruit gelatin served with a mandarin sorbet. The passion fruit gelatin portion of this dessert was one of the most tart desserts I've tasted in a long time. Just thinking about this dessert makes my mouth water. The sweetness of the mandarin sorbet perfectly counter balanced this dessert. It was Very Good! The last dessert was definitely a perfect ending to a perfect night. Cannelloni di Gelati, yogurt, pistachio & espresso. The trio of cannelloni was absolutely perfect. The outer crust seemed like a fried wonton skin which was perfectly crisp and the inside gelato was was simply devine. My favorites was the yogurt and pistachio. Although I totally thought that I would've like the espresso better. I could have eaten those all night if I wasn't so stuffed and buzzed from all the wine.

Gelatina di Frutta della Passione e Sorbetto di Mandarina

Cannelloni di Gelati, yogurt, pistachio & espresso

The comparison between Babbo and Osteria will be debated, but I feel that they are both unique in their own way. Babbo's pasta dishes were better but Osteria's desserts were better. Either way you can't go wrong! Our 10 year Anniversary was a very special occasion and I was glad that we got to eat a terrific meal to help celebrate the special day. I can't wait for the next special Anniversary. All in all, Osteria Mozza was everything that I had hoped for. Despite hearing some stories that Osteria was over hyped and not worth the wait or money, we enjoyed ourselves tremendously. What could be better? Spending time with a special person that you love on a special day eating terrific food. I couldn't ask for more.

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA. 90038

Monday, May 12, 2008

Eat and get your tires fixed? (Noodle Planet, Monterey Park)

How many places can you have new tires installed on your car while you are next door eating? Another local eatery that I love to dine at... Noodle Planet. I don't know what it is, but I crave the food here so much that I feel like eating here every week. We'd probably eat here every weekend if it wasn't for the Mrs. not wanting to eat at the same place every weekend. Thank God someone has some sense.

Don't let the location of this place fool you though... It amazes me how busy they are considering the location. The brave souls that get beyond their reservations of eating next to a tire shop will be pleasantly rewarded with savory dishes. The concept of Noodle Planet is very simple. They serve noodle dishes from all over Asia. If you are in the mood for either Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, or all of the above, Noodle Planet has what you are looking for. I've tried many different dishes here and I have yet to be disappointed. But my favorite dish has to be the Hong Kong Pan-Fried Noodles and the Chicken Fried Rice. The Hong Kong Pan Fried Noodles is served with beef, bean sprouts, and Chinese broccoli, stir fried with a type of soy sauce. This dish is absolutely delicious. I always add one my favorite sauces, Sriracha, to add that extra kick. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. The Chicken Fried Rice is also delicious. The main reason I order this dish is because its a rice dish. Like my blog's namesake "Mr. Gohan" I love rice and I can't go without eating rice especially with Asian food. Noodle Planet does a very job at serving good food despite their location.

Chicken Fried Rice
Hong Kong Pan-Fried Noodles

Noodle Planet
1935 S. Atlantic Blvd
Monterey Park, CA