Wednesday, April 28, 2010

West LA: WakaSan

Omakse? What's omakase? It's a way of dining by the Japanese which you essentially let the chef decide on what you should eat, determined by the ingredients and what the chef felt like making that day. In most Japanese restaurants, a good omakse can run from $65 to even $300! So when I heard that WakaSan in West LA had omakase for $40, I jumped at the chance and went with a group of friends.

That night, Waka-san (the chef!) prepared our 9 course omakase and it was amazing. For $40, the quality of the dishes is fairly high and even though there weren't any crazy or high class ingredients, it still blew away many of the Japanese restaurants that I've tried.

929 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Quite a small restaurant actually, no more than 7-8 tables.

stella rosa
We were able to bring our own wine to celebrate our friend's birthday! $10 corkage fee though!

cold dishes
Cold dishes started out the night for us. The spinach with bonito flakes in broth was so simple yet so full of flavor. Really light and refreshing.

stewed conch & seaweed
The 2nd cold dish was stewed conch with seaweed. Conch isn't something people usually eat but again, light and refreshing.

3rd course: egg tofu with salmon roe in broth. Yea devoured this in a few seconds hahaha. Love the saltiness of the salmon roe.

4th course: Tuna, baby yellowtail, and sea bass sashimi! Fish was fairly fresh and the sea bass was interesting since I never had it raw, but it was good.

5th course: grilled mackerel, bamboo shoots, and serrano chili. Very simple and I love the oily mackerel. The bamboo shoots was flavored perfectly as well.

crab korokke & yellowtail salad
6th course: crab korokke with hamachi salad. One of my favorite of the night. The croquette was fried to a crispy golden brown and the salad was a total surprise. The house dressing is so good that I can seriously just drink it straight up.

crab korokke
Creamy delicious goodness!

hamburger steak
7th course: hamburger steak with egg on a hot sizzling cast iron. I love Japanese hamburger steaks and Waka-san makes one of the best I've had. Once you break apart the egg and the yolk comes running out and it hits the cast iron, seriously music to my ears :]

rice with mushroom
8th course: mushroom rice with miso soup. Really good earthy flavors from the rice.

tofu cheesecake
9th: tofu cheesecake with strawberry jam. Yea, tofu cheesecake. It had such a soft texture and it really felt like you were eating a soft tofu... but it tasted like cheesecake!

sake & beer
Of course, after dinner we sat around and decided to order a bottle of sake and a pitcher of beer. The sake's name literally means "Drunk Whale" hahaha.

Of course, also had to get a snack to go along with the alcohol. Every since I had those chicken meatballs in Taiwan, I've been addicted to them so we got the chicken meatballs. Love the glaze on it. Interestingly, it came with a raw egg yolk on the side for us to dip with. Never knew that it was such a good combination!

I think it's the experience of omakse that makes everything that much better. Waka-san doesn't blow you away with crazy combinations or unique dishes but everything is done in a way that makes it possible to pay only $40 for a 8-9 course meal. Thanks Waka-san, for an awesome meal and your hospitality!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Torrance: BabyCakes Baking Company

BabyCakes is a nice little cupcake bakery located at the bottom of PV on Hawthrone. I've passed by it countless of times but I never get there early enough after work to try it out, but finally last week I got my chance. I usually don't buy cupcakes from these bakeries since they are all so far away from me and I think they are so hyped up. I tried my first Sprinkles cupcake about 2 years after everybody knew about them haha. But just so happens this one is close by, so why not?

Oh and yea this isn't the same Baby Cakes that's in DTLA. This location doesn't have the famous "vegan cupcakes" that Baby Cakes NY is known for haha. I think BabyCakes Torrance first opened then Baby Cakes NY moved into LA.

BabyCakes Baking Company
24205 Hawthorne Boulevard
Torrance, CA 90505

Different logo. Decided to get 3 to try...

red velvet
Their red velvet. Not bad, fairly moist. The cream cheese frosting is definitely the star.

My favorite, the Zesty Lemon. I love how the cupcake has the lemon flavor played out pretty well, in the cake itself, and in the frosting. Definitely added that extra oomph.

triple chocolate
This was one of their "specialty cupcakes" so it costs $3 instead of $2.50, the Triple Chocolate. A chocolate cupcake with chocolate mousse in the middle of the cake and dark chocolate frosting on top. It wasn't as moist as the others but the mousse in the middle was definitely a nice surprise when you bite into it!

They also started to offer ice cream sandwiches, just like Baby Cakes NY. Don't know who is copying who there haha. They rotate the flavors of their cupcakes daily so I might go back and try a few others. It's just so damn expensive :[ $8 for 3 isn't that bad but shoot... $8 can get me 20pcs chicken mcnuggets, fries, and a drink at McD hahah.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Downtown LA: Drago Centro

Happy hour is such a beautiful thing.

Drago Centro is a popular downtown Italian restaurant opened by Celestino Drago, who also owns several others around LA. Came here for happy hour with a group of about 15 on a Thursday, so we were able to reserve the outside patio for our use. It was nice, had small tables and chairs outside, and heat lamps (fortunately it wasn't freezing that day). Since Thursdays for Drago is all-day-happy-hour, we certainly took advantage of it.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to take a picture of everything since it got dark pretty quick but did get a few good ones!

Drago Centro
25 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071

happy hour
Free valet doesn't hurt at all when it's downtown!

amaziness on a plank
The house selection of charcuterie. Different cuts of cured meat is always good when sipping on some wine.

quiche with amazing crust
Quiche with pork belly, artichoke, and parmesan. It has the.. best crust ever. No joke. Better than any pies. The creme fraiche helped cut the heaviness of the quiche.

happy hour
Nice glass of the Di Majo Norante Sangiovese. Drago is also known for the wine tower that sits in the middle of the restaurant. Totally forgot to take a picture.

sliders & pizzas
Kobe beef burger sliders & 2 different types of pizzas. The sliders were amazing. Sauteed mushroom and fontina is such a great combination with the juicy kobe beef.

La pizza margherita & la pizza alla salsiccia. The margherita had a perfect crust and definitely good mozarella. The sausage pizza was just as good, since the sausages are nicely spiced and seasoned.

Sooo that's all the pictures I was able to take. Next time, must try go back and try the happy hour again. There's a few other things that I didn't get to try! Let's go!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Torrance: King's Hawaiian


Am I missing anything else from the bakery?

Most of the people know King's Hawaiian as the company that bakes those delicious sweet rolls that is being sold at markets and Costco. King's Hawaiian is definitely one of those spots that everybody knows about in the South Bay, for their paradise cakes, baked goods, and just plain good Hawaiian food paired with great service.

So after coming here almost at least once a month a few years back, finally went on a Friday night around... 8 just to see if it's still as awesome as I remembered. I still had to wait about 30 minutes. Just too popular, but it was well worth it.

King's Hawaiian
2808 Sepulveda Boulevard
Torrance, CA 90505

king's hawaiian
A shot of the bakery side.

king's hawaiian
Donuts, muffins, and puffs :]

king's hawaiian
Assortment of muffins.

king's hawaiian
Different kind of cookies.

king's hawaiian
The infamous Hawaiian Sweet Bread Roll!

king's hawaiian
Geez... the Apple Coffee Cake looked so good... but when I saw the ingredients.. whooo hella fatty hahah

king's hawaiian
Finally got seated for dinner and complimentary Hawaiian Sweet Rolls! Must've ate like a whole basket by myself :P

king's hawaiian
Paradise tea. Pretty much just tropical tea that's hella sweetened, but it's the only place I'll get my iced tea sweetened!

king's hawaiian
The roll.

king's hawaiian
My combo plate: teriyaki beef, kalua pork, & grilled marinated chicken with salmon poke and macaroni salad. They have one of the best teriyaki sauce ever!

king's hawaiian
Diana's combo: kalua pork & grilled mahi with macaroni salad. Some people might think kalua pork in general is too salty, but it's suppose to be like that if it's prepared correctly!

king's hawaiian
Usually not a big fan of macaroni salad, especially L&L's but I can make an exception for King's haha.

king's hawaiian
The extremely salty salmon poke.

After haven't been here for so many years, nothing has changed, and that's definitely welcomed. I gotta find a chance to come back and try their brunch. I can't believe I lived here for so long and never had it haha.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Little Tokyo: Wurstküche

Damn who doesn't like homemade sausages, especially when grilled and placed on fresh rolls with beautiful toppings. Wurstküche is a gastropub that specializes in grilled sausages of all sorts from hot links to buffalo and rattlesnakes. They also have a HUGE selection of European draft beers to go with your order. Everybody go to the dining area and you just sit at long tables which offers you a really friendly environment.

Just so happens a friend of mine came from Boston and someone suggested Wurstküche so we went on a Thursday night around 10pm and I only had one goal, and that was to eat their white truffle oil fries. Ever since Bouzy, I've been addicted to them and anywhere that serves truffle oil fries, I must get haha.

800 East 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013

At Little Tokyo, part of the LA Art District, inside a brick-warehouse look-alike, resides Wurstküche.

The open kitchen. You can see everything that's going on.

The magnificent fridge full of sausages... I need one at home..

My duck & bacon with jalapeno sausage topped with caramelized onion and spicy peppers. Of course being Chinese I had to get something related to duck ahaha.

You can see little bits of jalapeno :]

Ray's orders: bockwurst (veal pork & spices) topped with carmelized onions & sweet peppers, and rattlesnake & rabbit with jalapeno sausage with same toppings. Oh yea and the white truffle oil fries to share :]

Damn... what a beautiful thing... fries with white truffle oil glaze. We ordered another one after this haha.

Wurstküche has officially become an LA institution because of its unique concept, good beer selection, and because their food is just damn good. If you live in LA or are just visiting, definitely try it once!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Taipei: The Legendary Beef Noodle Soup Among Flyers [Day 5]

What's the legendary beef noodle soup that's well-known among international travelers??? It's the beef noodle soup at China Airline's VIP Lounge in Taoyuan International Airport.

Why is it so well known? Well for one thing, for all the businessmen or foreigners that used to fly to Taiwan first before landing in China, they never set foot out of the airport since the city is about a 40-50 minute ride by taxi. Naturally they spent most of their time at the airport waiting for transfer flights. China Airline's lounge offers many types of noodle dishes such as beef noodle soup or dan dan noodles. Many businessmen always rave about the beef noodle soup from China Airline that eventually word spread and now the beef noodle soup has gained quite a big following, including me haha.

Beefo noodle soup. Good broth, subtle heat, and the fact that it's unlimited is definitely a good thing! Many people will come way early than required just so they can eat and try many things at China Airline's lounge.

Few selection of dim sum: dumpling, shumai, meat bun.

Yogurt drink! Not the famous 養樂多 Yakult, but 統一多多 is just as good haha.

Getting ready for takeoff. Thank goodness for free upgrades on a packed flight.

Dinner was this amazing looking strip steak with peppercorn sauce. It was a little bit too well done though. Can't exactly have it medium rare when the food's prepared prior to take-off. The dinner was definitely not as fancy as the flight to Taipei.

As for breakfast, I opted for the Chinese-styled breakfast again and got pickled daikon and pork song...

... as well as egg omelette and stir-fry preserved veggies for my side dishes to go along with the porridge.

As the plane was preparing to land, I couldn't help but to wonder how many pounds I had gained on this trip and that how am I gonna deal with the withdrawal that's sure to come. However, as soon as I landed, I swung by the In-N-Out and immediately I'm thinking, "I think I'll be just fine."

Definitely an awesome trip and hopefully I'll get to go back again sometime this year!