Monday, March 30, 2009

Old faithful (Curry House, Little Tokyo)

I've been coming here ever since I was 8 years old when they first opened their doors in Little Tokyo back in 1983. I remember when they first opened on the second floor of Weller Court and then they moved up to the third floor and then back down to the second floor. That's how long I've been coming to Curry House in Little Tokyo. And every time I get the same great tasting curry. I remember when my family first came to eat here, we were all excited to see that a new restaurant specialized in curry. Although curry is originally from India, the Japanese have adopted this dish and tweaked it to appeal to the Japanese palate. Curry has truly become embedded in Japanese culture has become a type of comfort food to many Japanese.

Curry House is like Old Faithful. I can always count on having good consistent curry, fast service, and a relatively inexpensive meal. Curry House has been there since my childhood all the way up to my adulthood. And now I'm a father myself. Crazy! I'm getting old.
There is a funny story about Curry House. Years ago, me and my friends used to work in Little Tokyo. Man...those were some fun times, but anyways...It was one of our best friend's birthday so we all decided to go take him out for dinner after work, so we decided to go to Curry House because it was good and within walking distance. His birthday happens to fall in the month of June, which unbeknownst to us at that time, also coincided with Curry House's special Anniversary special. The Katsu-Curry was only a few dollars. So our friend was like "thanks guys for splurging on me". Laughing our asses off, we told him he could order as many as he liked :) I think we only chipped in a couple of dollars each. To this day he won't let us forget how cheap we were by taking him there for his birthday dinner. And because of that incident I will never forget that in the middle of June is when Curry House has their Anniversary special.

Corn Potage
Curry House's corn potage (from the French, meaning a thick soup) which is the fancy way of saying corn chowder is one of the best corn soups I've ever eaten. The corn potage is creamy, savory, and absolutely delicious.

Chicken Katsu Curry
Notice anything different here? That's right there's no salad on my order. For those who know me, know that I'm an anti-salad type of guy. I always opt for more gohan (rice) in lieu of the green stuff. Curry House's chicken katsu curry is consistently good and is what I ALWAYS order.

Curry House
123 S. Onizuka St. #204
Los Angeles, CA. 90012

Monday, March 23, 2009

In Memoriam (Regent China Inn, Los Angeles)

With a sad heart, I write this entry. Long before I met my wife, her and her family would always make it a point to eat with their "Granny" at her favorite restaurant in China Town.... Regent China Inn. And this tradition continued all the way until her passing about a year ago. At least once a month, my wife's parents would come pick us up and we would drive together to go pick up Granny at the Tokyo Towers in Little Tokyo. And we would always have to eat by six o'clock. She didn't like to eat late :) Like a well oiled soon as we got off the third/fourth street exit and crossed over the bridge, my wife would make the call to Granny on her cell phone and say "hello (in a broken English accent mimicking Granny) come down stairs" And as we would approach, she would be eagerly waiting outside for the car to drive up. I truly believe that her joy in life towards the end was seeing her grand kids. Her face would lighten up and you could see the pep in her step. It would have been her 93rd birthday just last week. It's just a shame that she was not here to see her other great grand gohan. She is sorely missed!

Spicy Salt Shrimp
I just love these shrimps. They always come out piping hot and perfectly seasoned. My wife and I would always tear the head off and give it to Granny. She would always end up with ton of shrimp heads to eat :)

Egg Foo Young
Not until recently did we start ordering this dish. My father in law started to have a craving for the egg foo young and I'm glad he did. I never really tried egg foo young until this time, but I'm a big fan now. I just love the onions and bean sprouts in the light airy egg batter smothered with a type of gravy. yummm!

Chicken Chow Fun w/ Black Bean Sauce
I am a sucker for carbs. Anytime I see a rice dish or a noodle dish, I am like white on rice. I am all over it. I really enjoy Regent's version of Chow Fun as it is slightly spicy. And besides, doesn't it seem like anything cooked with black bean sauce is delicious? But in all seriousness....Regent's version is really good!

Crispy Chicken
Who doesn't like crispy chicken? Especially when it comes out hot and crispy. Sprinkle a little bit of the salt and you are good to go. And after all the years of my wife's family requesting to get extra chips, the waiters don't even have to ask and always serve our chicken with extra crispy chips. You can barely make out that there is chicken underneath heaping amount of chips :)

On this particular occasion eating at Regent was our first dinner there without Granny. When she was alive, we would always order the lobster with black bean sauce. And once that dish came out, you would not hear a peep from Granny. She would have her head face down working hard on getting every morsel out from the lobster shells. She absolutely loved that dish! On a regular basis her appetite was average, but when it came time to eat at Regent she would almost eat as much as me. And trust me....I can eat a lot! You can bet, every time we go to Regent we'll be thinking of Granny. We'll miss you Granny!

Regent China Inn
739-747 N. Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Monday, March 16, 2009

Small plates, big appetite! (Honda-Ya, Little Tokyo)

I remember hearing about a place out in Orange County on ChowHound for quite some time and when I got wind that it was opening up here in Los Angeles I was pretty excited to give it try. Honda-Ya always got good reviews from everybody so naturally it piqued my interest, but unfortunately never got the chance to go until recently. For a while it seemed that Izakaya (Japanese Tapas) restaurants were all the rage. Everyone and their grandmas were opening up Izakaya restaurants. My only gripe with these style restaurants is that there is more pictures for me to take. Although I really enjoy photographing all my meals, sometimes it gets tiring. Occasionally, Mrs. Gohan has to remind me to take a picture. Once in awhile I get ahead of myself and I want to start eating before snapping....a photograph.

On this occasion, me, "Mrs. Gohan", and "Baby Gohan" joined a very good friend of ours to have a nice dinner. Knowing that it can get a bit crowded at times I was a bit worried when I called earlier in the day to procure a reservation. Sadly I was informed that they did not take reservations for small parties, but the person who answered the phone revealed something interesting to me. The person stated that for some reason that they did not have a single reservation for the entire evening, so it should not be any problems getting a table. Even with that knowledge I was still worried. I hate waiting with a passion! And when we arrived we were one of the few patrons in Honda-Ya. What could be wrong? Has the food quality gone bad? Or could it be the sign of the economic times where people are eating out less? Regardless I was both happy and skeptical. Happy that I finally got to try Honda-Ya and I didn't have to wait, but skeptical because the place was so empty.

Regardless of the reasons why it was so empty, the quality of food was quite nice! To be honest I still feel that Musha is better. The amount of choices that were available to us was mind blowing and a bit confusing. I wanted to try so much but only had limited amount of stomach room. Perhaps sometimes offering too much of wide variety compromises food quality. I would have to say though, not a single dish served was a bad dish. Every thing was at least average, although some dishes that sounded absolutely delicious underachieved. All in all, Honda-Ya was worth the try, but I don't feel that it lived up to the hype.

Age-Dashi Mochi
One of my all-time favorites is eating fried mochi (Japanese rice cake). So I was super stoked to see this variation on the menu, but unfortunately this dish failed. For one the dashi (Japanese broth) was just okay and the mochi was not fried enough and lacked a textural difference between the softness and crunchiness that can be accomplished with frying mochi.

Garlic Spinach
This particular dish was slated as one of Honda-Ya's specialties. If they are going to boldly highlight such items as being one of the specialties they should make sure that they are really delectable and delicious. Again I was slightly disappointed with this dish. By no means was this inedible, on the contrary, this dish was not bad but it lacked proper seasoning in my opinion.

Buta Kakuni
I usually love this dish. Everything about Buta Kakuni (Japanese braised pork belly) is comforting. I just love the rich flavor and the melt in your mouth quality that buta kakuni can achieve. Honday-Ya's version was satisfactory but does not even come close to other places like Musha for example.

Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab
Now this dish was a hit! Finally something that thoroughly satisfied all of us. Like I said before all the dishes served that night was definitely satisfactory, only a couple really stood out and the deep fried soft shell crab was one of the stand outs. The crap was nicely fried which was crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside. Very nice!

I just can't help myself. Every time I see yakitori (chicken skewers) items on the menu I have to order some, especially kawa (chicken skin). I just love fatty foods, but this version was very disappointing. It was dry and lack luster. As much as I love kawa I would not order this again.

Miso Nasubi
One of the few healthy food that I actually love....nasubi (Japanese eggplant). Another hit for Honda-Ya. The miso nasubi was actually one of my favorite dishes of the night. The nasubi was nicely cooked and still preserved some of the firmness of the texture of the eggplant and was nicely marinated in their miso sauce.

This dish was also a big disappointment. The sasami (chicken tenderloin) was over cooked and too dry. Not to mention the wasabi that was on the chicken skewers. The wasabi was a bit overpowering.

Pork Belly
Yet another dish that I must order..... and again was I disappointed. Shinsen gumi's version is much better. Honda-Ya's pork belly was again to dry, tough, and lacked proper seasoning. I guess I should have known not to order yakitori dishes here, I should of just ordered off the menu and if I felt like eating yakitori I should have gone to a yakitori restaurant.

Sadly again I should have to stuck to the main menu....and leave yakitori items to a yakitori restaurant. The tsukune (chicken meatball) was poorly executed and can not even compared to other restaurants. I guess you live and learn! or in this eat and learn!

Sesame Fried Chicken
The sesame fried chicken was pretty good. I was expecting a more bold flavored chicken marinated in some type of sesame sauce but what came out was a surprise. This was more like a traditional karaage with sesame seeds. It was very delicious and I would definitely order this again.

Although this was an ordinary tonkatsu (deep fried pork) it was actually one of the better dishes of the night. The panko crust provided a nice crunch and the pork was nice and tender.

Although the zosui (Japanese porridge) was serviceable, I wouldn't recommend it. Perhaps it's just me, but I felt the zosui lacked a depth of flavor which is usually associated with a zosui.

Sesame Ice Cream
Finally after all that food, we still had a little room for dessert. I decided on the sesame ice cream. I just love sesame ice cream because of the intense nutty flavor. It almost has a hint of coffee as well.

333 S Alameda
# 314
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Monday, March 9, 2009

Chicken Man (Rotisserie Chicken of California, Pasadena)

My family likes to call him Chicken Man and so do a lot of people, but actually his name is Yoshi. Chasing him around was like chasing a chicken. The main thing is that I'm glad he has found a new home. Rotisserie Chicken of California is located right next to Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena and still serves one of the best rotisserie chickens around. And did I mention they serve rice! Any place that serves rice is good with me. It so happens that my sister is really good friends with Yoshi's nephew who also is one of the top chefs in Mammoth Lakes California. One day we were dining at Chicken Man's restaurant and we got around to talking about how we know his nephew and so on, Yoshi was kind enough to cook up some special items. Delicious! Yoshi then told us that he used to train in Japan and then went to study in France. He said his true love of cooking is actually French cuisine. Lucky for us he found his niche cooking chicken. The chicken is so delicious and the sauces are great too. The chicken skin is perfectly seasoned and crisp and the chicken is moist and delicious. There is a myriad of different sauces that are available but I always order the garlic chicken. Sorry I don't have a picture of it though :(

Rotisserie Chicken with Rice
On this occasion we dined here for lunch and unfortunately during lunch time they do not offer the garlic chicken. But the chicken was still outstanding, although I wish Yoshi would use regular Japanese rice instead of what they serve. But beggars can't be choosers....I'll take any rice that I can.

Rotisserie Chicken with French Fries
This was Mrs. Gohan's chicken with french fries. Although Mrs. Gohan likes gohan (rice) she LOVES french fries and Rotisserie Chicken of California's french fries are really good!

Rotisserie Chicken of California
26 N. Los Robles Ave
Pasadena, CA. 91101

Monday, March 2, 2009

Glad she didn't take that bet! (Rio's Pizza, Monterey Park)

I remember when Rio's Pizza first opened, I said to "Mrs. Gohan", "there's no way this place is going to stay in business. I bet $100 that it won't last a year" Man, am I lucky that she didn't take me up on that bet! For some reason I didn't think that it'd do that good. Fast forward 8 or 9 years now and there still going strong. I forgot to factor in that East Los Angeles Community College is right next to Rio's. I'm sure the college accounts for a lot of their business as well as the decent pizza that they serve. If you like thick crust pizza with oozing melted cheese, than Rio's Pizza is the place for you. On a side note....For some odd reason I love eating left over pizza the next day and zapping it in the microwave. I know it sounds weird but that's what I like. Oh, and I can't forget, you can't eat pizza with out drinking something carbonated. Whether its soda or beer. It's just standard operations :)

Fat Tire
Fat Tire was my choice of weapon to wash down the pizza this time. Fat Tire is one of my favorite beers.

Pepperoni Pizza
Well here it is....the slice of pizza that ALMOST costed me $100. The thing I like the most about Rio's Pizza is their crust. It's nice and crunchy without being too heavy and doughy. I've really come to like Rio's Pizza.

Rio's Pizza
2223 S. Atlantic Blvd
Monterey Park, CA. 91754