Monday, September 29, 2008

Kill 3 birds with 1 stone? (Mastro's Steakhouse, Costa Mesa)

Kill 3 birds with 1 stone? I know that sounds weird, but that's what we did. We were celebrating both my niece's and my wife's birthdays. You may ask yourself "well, where's the third you're talking about?" Well the third one is that I've been wanting to eat a Mastro's Steakhouse for quite some time now. And finally we got to go :) I've heard nothing but good chatter about Mastro's so it's been really tempting me. Was it worth the wait and did it live up to my expectations? The answer to both of those question is an emphatic YES!

Some of my family members have been to the Mastro's in Beverly Hills, so they decided that they wanted to try the Costa Mesa location. Either way was fine by me, it could of been all the way down in San Diego for all I cared, as long as I got to try it. I have nothing to compared it to, but the Costa Mesa location was quite large and very nice. They even had a live band playing some nice tunes as well. My mother took my nephew and niece over to go watch the band perform and they even go to up and play the maracas with the band! They were all excited and had a lot of fun! Another fun thing that evening took place in the restroom. When I went with nephew to the restroom he told me that there was a man in there who opens the doors for you and other stuff as well. Upon exiting there restroom the attendant handed us paper towels to dry our hands and opened the door for us. Seeing the look on my nephew's face was priceless. He was beside himself. He then whispered to me "uncle, they treat us like we're kings" I thought that was cool that he got that much enjoyment from that experience. I'll remember that forever! But the best thing of the night was being there with my family and celebrating two very special girls in my life.

Crab Cakes
I know that I'm slightly biased, but the one served at Alpenrose is much better than the one served here. I should really stop trying crab cakes at other restaurants. Don't get me wrong...the one at Mastro's is definitely very good.

Colossal Onion Rings
Look...I didn't title these onion rings as colossal on my own. That's what they're really called and for good reason. These onion rings are truly Colossal and good. One order of these can definitely feed the whole table.

Shoestring Potatoes

One thing that should be said about Mastro's is that you really get what you pay portion and in quality. This order of shoestring potatoes were absurdly plentiful and scrumptious.

Toasted Cheese Ravioli
I think by the time the toasted cheese raviolis came we knew we were in way over our heads on this one. Our main course had not even come out and we were all saying that we were getting full. These raviolis were delicious though. I still ate two of them :) Everyone was in agreement that the sauce was what made this appetizer sooo good.

2004 Harlan Estate
As if this night wasn't indulgent enough, my brother who should be named "Mr. Vino" brought this 2004 Harlan Estate wine from his collection. For those who are wine aficionados, you will know that this wine is not only good but very expensive as well. Thanks big bro for sharing!

Chilled Crab Legs
Ever since my wife has been pregnant, she's had this food aversion towards red meat. She used to love eating good steak but now she just can't get herself to eating it. Poor soul! So in lieu of eating beef, she opted to order the appetizer portion of the King Crab Legs. The crab legs were excellent. I am not much of crab eater but they really sweet and delicious. If all crab tasted like this I would eat it more often. Another thing we learned that night was that my nephew really likes crab legs. He kept on asking for more :)

Bone In Filet
Unbeknownst to me, the Bone In Filet is Mastro's signature steak and understandably. Lucky me...several people decided on the filet so I was able to sample :) Granted I rarely order filets but I would have to say that this might have been the best filet I've ever had.

"Chef's Cut" Bone In Ribeye with Creamed Corn & Gorgonzola Mac n' Cheese
I was debating whether or not to get the "Chef's Cut" or the regular portion of the Bone In Ribeye. As you can see here, I decided on the bigger cut. I couldn't manage the whole 33oz, but I did take some home and ate it with shoyu (soy sauce) and gohan (rice) the next day :) That was the best! Two of the sides that we ordered for the whole table was the Creamed Corn and the Gorgonzola Mac n' Cheese. I like to call Mastro's Creamed Corn the "Kick Ass Creamed Corn". That was really good! The Gorgonzola Mac n' Cheese sounded better than it actually was :( The steak on the other hand, was just phenomenal! After some thought and deliberation, I would have to say this was most definitely the second best steak house just slightly behind Wolfgang Puck's CUT. I now could see why there is so much chatter about how good the food is at Mastro's Steakhouse.

Creme Brule
The creme brule was really good and plentiful!

Carrot Cake
This carrot cake was the complimentary dessert for celebrating the birthdays. I am not the least the carrot cake fan, but it was okay. And I guess for me to say it was okay, it must have been pretty good.

Warm Butter Cake
This is definitely the best dessert at Mastro's! The warm butter cake is soooo good that you know that it can't be good for anyone's diet. The cake tastes buttery sweet and the ice cream balances the whole thing out. Oh so good!

Mastro's Steakhouse
633 Anton Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA. 92626

Monday, September 22, 2008

A night of excess alcohol (Maggiano's Little Italy, Los Angeles)

Let me start off by saying, I haven't taken that many shots in awhile. On this particular night we were celebrating one of my best friend's birthday and did we ever celebrate. Although I would have preferred that it stayed a celebration of my friends birthday, but it so happened this was the first time that we all got together after everyone hearing that me and "Mrs. Gohan" were expecting our first child (Baby Gohan). So as you can imagine that night was full of celebrations. Even the bartender hooked us up some healthy shots and even gave me a "special" shot. He actually poured me a shot of a more expensive cognac and charged us for less :) Every time I get together with my friends I always leave thinking we should do this more often.....DAMN "adult" life and all of our responsibilities. Perhaps it's all for the better, maybe we'll party too much and we'd all be bums. Lucky for me though, after diner "Mrs. Gohan" and I went home, but my friends continued the party back at home and I guess things got a little hectic. LMAO. Yo G.... remind me that you're not invited to any "house warming" parties anymore. LOL

Maggiano's first of all was really hard for me to find. I haven't been here in years and I got a little lost walking around The Grove. After finally arriving there I was a bit surprised that it wasn't as crowded as I had remembered it. Perhaps the economy pinch is affecting everyone. But the food was decent. Like always it seems like when you get together with some friends, the food somehow takes a back seat to interaction with friends. All I remember is that we ordered way too much food.

We started off the night by ordering some appetizers and decided on this brushetta. The brushetta was very nice. The bread was nice and crunchy and the tomatoes relish was very refreshing and a good start to the night.

Calamari Fritte
I usually don't eat calamari but I tend to eat stuff I usually don't order when I go in large groups. I guess that's one of the benefits of eating in a large group. I don't have to get stuck with a whole order of something I usually don't order. The calamari fritte was very nicely prepared. They were very tasty!

Stuffed Mushrooms
Couldn't they have come up with a better name? Many of the other menu items have nice fancy Italian names for the items. I guess I'll forgive them this time, but they should really come up with a "fancy" name. These stuffed mushrooms which are cooked in white wine and chicken broth are really delicious. They were juicy and really tasty!

Lobster Ravioli
I just love the creaminess and richness of lobster raviolis and Maggiano's is no exception. My biggest gripe with lobster raviolis or lobster bisques is that it tends to be too rich for a whole meal, that's why I like when other people order it or when the whole table orders it to share.

Angel Hair, Coach Joey Z's Pomodoro Sauce
Unfortunately I don't remember too much about this dish other than that it was decent. And who the hell is Coach Joey Z?

Prime New York Strip
I'd have to say that this was the best entree of the night. The New York Strip was very tender and juicy. The steak was perfectly seasoned and I especially liked that they finish the steak off with garlic butter. There are some things in my book that make anything taste better and garlic and butter happen to be on that list.

Braised Beef Cannelloni
I think they need to something with the presentation of this dish. This dish was okay. I love braised beef, but I thought that it was a little too salty and extremely rich and heavy. It just sounded too good to pass up, but I guess was only slightly right.

Maggiano's Little Italy
189 The Grove Drive Z80
Los Angeles, CA. 90036

Monday, September 15, 2008

The elite of dim sum restaurants? (Elite Restaurat, Monterey Park)

Elite Restaurant in Monterey Park is often touted as one of the premier dim sum restaurants around. Those are very high accolades considering there seems to be thousands of these restaurants strewn across the San Gabriel Valley. Almost everyday around lunch time you can see a mob of people waiting patiently to get inside, which is a true sign of an "elite" restaurant. Elite even added seats outside for people to wait.
One afternoon in the middle of the week we decided to have lunch here. Even for a weekday we had to wait 15-20 minutes. I had previously eaten dinner at this establishment when it was called New Concept, but this was my first experience eating at Elite Restaurant. The thought of dim sum conjures up images of people pushing these pushcarts throughout the restaurant offering a variety of different dishes, but at Elite it is not like that. You have to order off of the menu and the dishes come made to order from the kitchen. What a Delight! I was told by one of my best friends, that's how it is served in Hong Kong. He explained to me that pushcarts are totally an American phenomenon. The food is always served piping hot made to order. If you ask me, I prefer it this way. I like my food to come out hot! But be forewarned....they do not speak much English here.

Beef Chow Fun
This dish happened to be one of my favorites. I really love Chow Fun noodles. I actually prefer them over Chow Mein or almost any noodle period. Elite's version was very tasty!

Beef Short Rib with Chili & Black Bean Sauce
Now this dish absolutely delicious! The short ribs are soooo tasty and good, but there's hardly anything to eat on these short ribs. This dish is like 90% cartilage/bone and 10% meat. You basically have to suck the ribs just to taste, forget about chewing.

Crystal Shrimp Har Gow
These have to be my absolute favorite dish at dim sum restaurants. I love shrimp har gow! The Elite version comes with huge shrimps wrapped in the skin and it is absolutely scrumptious.

Dry Scallop Roll Fun
To be honest.... as I am writing this blog, I really don't remember much about this dish. :( Sorry about that. I am pretty sure it was good though, because pretty much everything that comes out of their kitchen is pretty good.

Fried Shrimp Dumplings
These golden fried dumplings were damn good! Crispy golden packages with a great shrimp filling. I could have just eaten those all day and would have been satisfied.

Pork Shui-Mai
Shui-Mai is another one of my favorite dim sum dishes. But unfortunately, this dish did not meet my expectations. Perhaps I set my expectations too high or perhaps Elite has raised the bar so high on other dishes that this dish lacked that special something. Who knows... It's probably just me.

Shrimp with Asparagus Rice Noodle
The consistency of the rice noodle was a little too slippery and gooey for my taste, on top of that I really don't care for asparagus. Nice combination, huh? I am sure most people would love this dish, but it just wasn't my cup of tea!

Jin Dui (Sesame Balls)
Believe it or not. This was the first time I've ever tried these. They came out nice and warm and delicious. The slightly sweet treat was perfect!

Macau Roasted Pork
I've saved the best for last. The Macau Roasted Pork has got to be one the best dishes here. The pork has a nice crisp crust on the outside and the rest is so juicy and succulent. The crust is crispy with a hint of sugar. This dish has a nice contrasting element to the dish. The crispiness of the crust and the succulence of the meat is a match made in heaven!

Elite Restaurant
700 South Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park, CA. 91754

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Best Carnitas & Rice (La Luz Del Dia, Los Angeles)

My in-laws are responsible for my addiction to this place. La Luz Del Dia in Olvera Street is simply the best! I love this place. They have the best carnitas and Spanish rice that I have ever tasted. I guess when my father in-law used to work in Downtown he used to go here for lunch all the time and thanks to him, I'm now hooked :)
We used to only go when we were in the area or we would go and eat there before we would go to Lakers games, but now we even go all the way out there just to eat the carnitas and rice. Despite having to drive 10 to 15 minutes and spending another 5 to 10 minutes driving around looking for parking (I usually give up and pay $5 for parking for only 30 minutes that we spend eating) it is well worth the pain.
The succulent carnitas are hand shredded and cooked to perfection. They are tender and perfectly seasoned. Delicious! For awhile they went to this automatic meat shredder that produced a texture that was unappetizing and seemed too commercialized. I am glad that they did away with that God awful machine and reverted back to the good old way of hand shredding. Another outstanding item which might even surpass their carnitas is their rice. Their rice is sooooo tasty! The rice is perfectly cooked and is light, fluffy, and moist. I don't know what it is, but La Luz Del Dia's rice is so much better than any other place I've been to. Their tortillas are also very good! They can be seeing made by hand right there in front of you, so you know they are fresh and good. Not quite as good as I've had in Mexico, but nonetheless, they are fresh and good. I would recommend this place to anyone in a heartbeat!

Carnitas Plate with rice
Hand Made Tortillas

As if all the carnitas and rice wasn't enough, we head down Olvera Street to get our filling of some good old taquitos. I know a lot of people like eating taquitos at the place on the corner, but it's so damn expensive for taquitos. Besides when you order taquitos there, they only give you one per order. What's up with that? Granted their taquitos are good but, I'd rather get my fix at this small joint. Its called El Rancho Grande. In my opinion their taquitos are pretty comparable and you get the normal serving of two taquitos per order. I love drizzling some of their hot sauce on the taquitos to give it that extra kick. The taquitos almost serve as a "dessert" if you will to the meal at La Luz Del Dia. It caps off my meal perfectly. I could go home full and satisfied :)


La Luz Del Dia
1 Olvera Street
Los Angeles, CA. 90189

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Juicy! (Din Tai Fung, Arcadia)

One word..... Juicy! Din Tai Fung in Arcadia is famous for their juicy dumplings. I remember hearing about this place years ago, but I never had the urge to wait in line to eat dumplings. Those who know me, know that I am not the most patient person in the world, especially when it comes to waiting in lines, but one day I gave it a try... and to be honest I didn't care for it all that much. I didn't get it. I couldn't understand what all that fuss was about. But a few weeks passed and for some odd reason, I had a craving for Din Tai Fung. Ever since then I get these cravings and now I understand why there are so many people eating here. Perhaps the mystique of the place preceded the restaurant at first. My expectations were more than likely too high and there was a slight let down during my first visit. Now that they opened their new location (which I think is the most stupid place to have it) I tend to go more frequently because the wait is not what it used to be. I just don't understand why they would open another location right behind the original. Why didn't they just connect the two and just expand in size? But hey what do I know?

Juicy Pork Dumpling
What's the reason for all the fuss? Juicy dumplings. These dumplings are just Devine. The dumplings are not your ordinary dumpling with some kind of filling. These dumplings have soup inside each dumpling, so when you bite into them, you get a burst of this flavorful soup with the dumpling. Yummmy!!! Din Tai Fung has other menu items, but in my opinion all the other items on the menu can be had at other restaurants. Over the years we've tried many different items and we keep on coming back to the tried and true.... juicy pork dumplings.

Pork Chop Fried Rice
Now when ever we go, we don't even bother to try other stuff. We just order the juicy pork dumplings and we also get the Pork Chop Fried Rice. The fried rice is nice and light in flavor and the pork chop is juicy and extremely flavorful. I just can't help myself. I keep on finding myself wanting to eat here.

Din Tai Fung
1108 S. Balwin Avenue
Arcadia, CA. 91007