Monday, April 27, 2009

What a great import! (Beard Papa's, Little Tokyo)

In Japan Shu-Cream (cream puffs) are really popular. It's almost like donuts here in America. I never really got into cream puffs, but years ago I remembered hearing about this place at the Gardena Marukai store where people would line up just for cream puffs and often times would sell out. The place was called Beard Papa's and it was a franchise store from Japan. Why would people line up just for cream puffs? But then again, when Krispy Kreme first opened it was a mad house as well. I figured it's probably the same thing, so it piqued my interest. Now you can find Beard Papa's everywhere. What a great import! From the moment I first ate a Beard Papa's cream puff I was hooked. Hook, Line, and Sinker. I'm glad that they've grown but I'm afraid that they are over saturating by growing too fast and that they will end up closing up shop. They just need to look at Krispy Kreme and learn from their mistakes. I do like that they created a new cream puff. The cookie crunch cream puff. I absolutely love it!

The eclair is just like the original cream puff except that it covered in chocolate. Anything dipped in chocolate is good!

Strawberry Cookie Crunch Cream Puff
This was the first time I tried the cookie crunch with the strawberry filling. And I fell in love with the strawberry filling although I still think the original is better.

Vanilla Cookie Crunch Cream Puff
The original vanilla filling is still my favorite. If you look closely you can even see specks of vanilla bean in the picture :)

Beard Papa's
333 S. Alameda St.
Los Angeles, CA. 90013

Monday, April 20, 2009

Always a crowd (Shabu-Shabu House, Little Tokyo)

Many, many, many years ago I used to work in the heart of Little Tokyo and I always wondered why does everyone wait outside for so long to eat at Shabu-Shabu House? Like clock work, people would start gathering outside right around 5pm or so as I watched in amazement. I couldn't get over the fact that people would wait such a long time and pay money to eat shabu shabu (Japanese Hot Pot). Shabu Shabu was always a type of food that we would eat at home, never at a restaurant. Next thing you know shabu shabu style restaurants were all the rage. The first time I ate here was years after I had worked in Little Tokyo. Again it was my wife's family that got me hooked to this place. Soon after my first experience, I too, was one of the many who would endure standing in front of the restaurant like a bunch of salivating wolves ready to pounce.
The quality of the food is really good, but what makes this restaurant so good is their sauce. Their sauce is truly unlike any other shabu shabu restaurant sauce. Oh, and I can't forget....they don't charge for extra gohan (rice) :) You got to love that! And we always end our meal with an Iced Coffee, which by the way, used to be free :( But I won't hold that against them. I still love this place!

Shabu Shabu Set Up
In my opinion, what makes this place so special and worth the wait is the sauce. The sauce on the left is some sort of peanut/miso dipping sauce. Add a little minced garlic and this sauce defines deliciousness! The other dipping sauce is regular ponzu (Japanese citrus sauce). Nothing too special about it, but the peanut sauce is something else!

The quality of beef is really good at Shabu-Shabu House. In fact, the owner's wife actually attends the same church as my mom and for awhile we used to order big slabs of the ribeye from them. We then used to slice it ourselves and eat shabu shabu at home or cut it thicker and make steaks.

Shabu-Shabu House
127 Japanese Village Plaza Mall
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Monday, April 13, 2009

My third favorite (Hakata Ramen, Rosemead)

You know, I would have to say that Shin Sen Gumi's Hakata Ramen in Rosemead is probably my third favorite ramen-ya (ramen shop). But due to its proximity to where I live, I frequent this ramen shop more than any other now. I used to go to Foo Foo Tei in Monterey Park, but since we moved I really haven't gone back there. And having eaten at Hakata Ramen, there really is no comparison to that location. Hakata Ramen truly serves a better ramen anyway.
There are times when you go to Hakata Ramen and you may encounter a line and other times you can go there and get a seat right away. I don't think there is any rhyme or reason. I think you just got to be lucky. But as far as the food goes, I really enjoy there ramen a lot. I love the fact that you are able to pick how your noodles are cooked (hard, medium, soft), how much oil in your soup base, and how strong of a flavoring you would like have your broth. Another thing I like about this Shin Sen Gumi compared to the Monterey Park location is that they are not as boisterous.

Although these gyoza (Japanese dumpling) are quite small, they pack a big punch of flavor. I have to say that Hakata Ramen's dumpling is quite delicious. Although nothing compares to my mom's home made gyoza!

Hakata Ramen
Hakata is actually a city in Japan in Fukuoka prefecture and it is renowned for ramen. And this ramen definitely does not disappoint! Like I stated before, I love that they allow you to pick how you like your ramen cooked! I always order my ramen noodles hard with strong oil and flavor.

Hakata Ramen
8450 E. Valley Blvd
Rosemead, CA. 91770

Monday, April 6, 2009

SoCal's best Ramen! (Santouka, Torrance)

After reading countless reviews of all the different ramen-ya (ramen restaurant/shops) around SoCal, one shop is always mentioned as one of the best. Santouka ramen is consistently rated as the top ramen shops, but unfortunately for me, Santouka is only located in the Mitsuwa Markets on the West Side, Torrance, and Costa Mesa. Living on the east side makes it difficult for me to justify driving all that way for ramen. Like I've stated in previous blogs, I'm not the biggest fan of ramen. The only ramen I actually really love is in Tenri Japan. But having said that, I think I might have found another favorite ramen-ya in Santouka.

The first time I actually tried their ramen was when I was coming home from watching my nephew play basketball at Venice High School. I had to pick up a few things at the market and I remembered that I passed a Mitsuwa on the way. So when I went into the market I had totally forgotten that there was a Santouka there. So needless to say I was ecstatic and anxious to try Santouka. What I ended up ordering was the Tokusen Toroniku Shio Ramen (Special Pork ). I was completely blown away. The texture and of the noodles and depth of flavor in the broth was just exquisite. Not to mention that pork. The pork is so tender and delicious it almost melts in your mouth. If you really want an in depth review, you should read Rameniac's blog. After having tried the ramen at Santouka I became a believer!

On this particular occasion, I found myself at the Torrance location. And again I was coming home from seeing my nephew's basketball game at South Torrance High. Wow, I should thank my nephew for having games in locations where it is close to some good food :) Personally, I felt that the location in Los Angeles was actually a little better than the Torrance one. Perhaps it was just my imagination, but regardless it was spectacular!

Here it is....the special pork. I like that Santouka serves the accompaniment on the side for you to put in by yourself. The pork is so tender that it probably would disintegrate if it was put in there for too long. Just thinking about this is making me crave some Santouka ramen.

Here's the picture of the Tokusen Toroniku Shio Ramen. The noodles have a very nice texture to them unlike many typical ramen restaurants around. They have a nice bite to them and the soup is soooo good! In my opinion, its the best ramen in SoCal!

21515 Western Ave.
Torrance, CA 90501