Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gardena: Mottainai Ramen

I truly believe that there's nothing better on a cold day than a big bowl of ramen. Not hot chocolate, not chicken noodle soup or chili, but ramen. Of course now that winter is finally here, time to head off to one of my favorite ramen shops!

Mottainai Ramen is actually fairly new in Gardena, a city known for many Japanese eateries. It's even featured in the LA Times (here) since their ramen is unique when you compare it to others, and is slowly becoming or already a legit contender for the spot of top ramen shops in LA.

Mottainai Ramen
1630 W Redondo Beach Blvd Ste 9
Gardena, CA 90247

Menu. Very simple.

Don't know which of the 3 soup-base to choose from? You can ask for samplings of all three!

Gyoza. Limited to 20 order per day.

At Mottainai, you can order these flavor "bombs" to enhance your ramen!

red bomb
"Red Bomb" is essential lard and chili paste. It's how they make it "spicy ramen" and it's a must for me.

white bomb
"White Bomb" is pork fat + garlic. Yes, pork fat. If you like your soup base to be really porky, then bam, that's the best thing in the world. Is it healthy? Who the hell cares?? Just get it.

Sapporo ramen, my favorite, is miso + pork broth. I like the pork broth here a lot, and when they add miso to it, it really adds another layer. Same toppings for all three types of ramen but with Sapporo, you get ground pork in your ramen as well besides thick cuts of chasu. Egg ramen noodles also very delicious.

soft boiled egg
Marinated soft-boiled egg. Done perfectly :]

The Yokohama is essentially the same pork broth but without miso & the ground pork. Same type of noodles but the chasu is thinly sliced.

The Tokyo ramen is essentially shoyu at most restaurants. Using a chicken broth, the soup base is lighter and you can really taste all the toppings without having the soup overpowering it. Ramen noodle is different from the pork broth-based ramen, and chasu is a different cut.

If I could and had a big enough stomach for all three, I would.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Culver City: Gyenari Korean BBQ & Lounge

Back to posting about food in the States :P

Right after I came back from my trip to the Far East, I checked my Groupon and realized that I had one expiring soon so I dragged Leonard out after work before a Clippers game and headed towards Gyenari. It's a Korean BBQ restaurant located right in the heart of downtown Culver City, it totally reminds me of a Korean version Gyu-Kaku. Inside, very upscale and modern decor, and the grills here are smokeless. The surprising thing is that it works so damn well too!

Price-wise, there's no AYCE here, but they do have these sets called the G sets, and it is for groups of people so that's what we went for.

Gyenari Korean BBQ & Lounge
9540 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232


Nice decor
Nice clean upscale decor.

Kimchi & potato salad
Banchan: kim chi & potato salad. Very standard items.

Soup & broccoli
Beefstock soup & broccoli

Salad & rice/seaweed
The salad and of course, seaweed wraps for rice. They also give you cold rice on the side.

Cucumber. Awesome marinade.

Traditional bean sprouts.

Our G1 set for two also came with japchae (noodles), and wow it is goood. I wouldn't mind just ordering that and eating it all.

The amazing smokeless grill!

Our G1 set. Comes with bulgogi, kalbi, chicken, and pork belly.

Yum :]

The sauces they provide. Very different from your typical sauces at KBBQ spots. The one on the left has a very heavy tomato base so it's almost like a salsa.

Grill hard at work. Favorite was definitely the aged pork belly. Very tender and not overly fatty!

Surprisingly, it was a lot of food and we both left pretty satisfied. For $80, it is a little steep for two, especially when AYCE spots are only around $16-20. Go on a weekday since it's around $50. We couldn't get that price since we had the Groupon. If it wasn't for the Groupon I probably would've just left but the place does have high quality meat and the service is top notch. They also have a happy hour menu that I wouldn't mind taking advantage of next time around.

Friday, November 19, 2010

As I'm On the Way Back

The Hunan restaurant marked the end of my trip as I prepared myself for the trip back home the night before. Just getting back is an adventure all by itself. First, since Huizhou is fairly deep in Guangdong Province, we had to ride for about 2 hours just to get to Shenzheng. From there, cross the border through "buses." The buses are essentially small vans for about 4-6 people and you sit in the van while you get checked by customs, both Chinese and HK. It's pretty convenient since by foot it'll probably take forever. Not exactly cheap though at 300rmb. After you cross, the van takes you directly to HK Airport so it's a convenient way of traveling in and out of mainland through HK. It took about 4-5 hours after lunch for the whole process.

Of course, from HK, had to fly to Taipei, and then back to LAX. Never really have much time to really sit and eat since you're always on the move, but luckily I was able to join others in the VIP lounge (they flew business while I flew economy back :P).

KFC in China
Before I found out I got food poisoning from the night before, decided to go to KFC for breakfast. KFC is everywhere in China, and most are open 24/7!

breakfast chicken sandwich
No breakfast burrito or sausage & biscuit here. Instead you can get, breakfast chicken sandwich!

chicken patty
So what makes it a breakfast chicken patty? I guess they add veggies to it haha.

chinese donut
You can even get 油條 Chinese donut at KFC!

hk airport
In HK Airport they got this cool model of an old school plane.

fried rice
Was lucky enough to be able to go into the 1st VIP lounge for China Airline so took advantage of it. I actually still had food posioning... but once in a lifetime chance to eat in the 1st class lounge! Ordered me some fried rice! It's made fresh for you in the back.

tea egg
茶葉蛋 Tea eggs! I heart tea eggs.

Good dark colors on the egg.

Even dark colors on the yolk means that the flavors have been fully absorbed :]

sticky rice chicken
糯米雞 Sticky rice chicken. It's actually really really legit and delicious here!

dessert plate
Wanted something sweet so got an almond croissant, jelly donut, and oranges.

It's actually pear preserves inside the donut!

food provided from HK-TPE
In-flight meal provided from HK to Taipei. I didn't eat much... since my stomach was starting to hurt again. Boo.

Taiwan's Taoyuan International Airport has come a loooong way compared to a few years ago.

1st class VIP lounge
1st Class VIP lounge in Taiwan. HK's had the exact same decor.

beef noodle soup
Of course had to get more beef noodle soup. My stomach was hurting for the whole flight after I ate this but it was worth it.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to take a picture of what China Airline served on the flight back to LAX. It's actually really good too since now China Airline works with 鬍鬚張 Beard Chang to incorporate 魯肉飯 minced pork rice into their menu now.

In the end, this trip to the Far East, I definitely got to try a lot more newer things. Just sucks that I had food poisoning towards the end. Hopefully more trips to come in the future that I can take advantage of. There's more to be eaten out there!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Huizhou: Some Spicy Hunan Cuisine

I actually didn't know I had food poisoning until right after breakfast, when whatever I ate came straight back out... both ends. It wasn't fun at all. During the a meeting, our colleagues decided to take us to this restaurant that's famous in Huizhou for authentic 湖南 Hunan cuisine, which was the worst thing for my stomach.

Now, Hunan cuisine is all about spicy food. Typically people think of Szechuan as the province with all the spicy food but Hunan cuisine can hold its own. They differ from one another in that Szechuan cuisine is more about a numbing spiciness, with the Szechuan peppercorn, while Hunan is all about the heat from dried chilies.

magical chinese herbal medicine
Prior to setting off, one of their guys went of and bought me 保濟丸 baojiwan, which is a Chinese herbal medicine that.. cures everything haha. It says it is for stomach aches, upset stomach, cramps, pains, cold, fever, chest pains etc etc. It listed at least 20 different things that it can be used for.

one serving
That one whole bottle... ONE SERVING. Smells exactly like Chinese medicine... but whatevers, at the time I have no Pepto, so no choice. The funny thing is... it actually worked! My stomach didn't hurt as much and I figured that this is a once in a lifetime chance to be eating some legit Hunan food, so as soon as I got to the restaurant, I went for it.

湘妃樓 Xiang Fei Lou
Heng Jiang 3rd Road
Huizhou City, Guangdong Province

wet napkins & logo
Xiang Fei Lou. Really popular restaurant in Huizhou. Many people that travels to this city ome here as one of the main stops. Funny thing about this restaurant is that on the outside it says "Absolutely no Japanese will be served." I guess his family suffered greatly under Japanese oppression back in the days so the owner refuses to serve Japanese patrons.

soy beans
They started off by giving us a few side dishes. Marinated soy bean. This was actually pretty damn spicy. Only ate 2 beans since I didn't want my stomach to go crazy already.

Seaweed. Yea. Spicy too.

lotus root soup
Lotus root soup. I haven't had lotus root soup in awhile so this was really refreshing.

spicy stir fry beef
Stir-fry Beef Skin. YES, beef skin. It's actually the part of the meat that's just before the cow hide so it has this weird crunchy texture for some pieces while some was like jerky. Extremely spicy...

Eggplant. I hate eggplant so I only took a bite. Still can't stand it.

spicy teppan glass noodle
This was my favorite dish: sour cabbage glass noodle. They take sour cabbage, stir fry it with glass noodle and all sorts of aromatics like garlic and chili, then plated on top of a teppan plate.

chinese sausage
Stir-fry chinese sausage. Very typical to order Chinese sausages for Hunan food.

fried fish
Fried fish in spicy sauce. Yea sorry for the horrible name but I don't know what kind of fish it is. I just know that it was specially imported from Hunan cause it's only eaten there or something. Has a real fishy taste so it's a freshwater fish, but the spicy sauce totally drowns it. Would be super good with rice.

red bean pancake
Ended the meal on something sweet, 紅豆餡餅 red bean crepe. At the restaurant they actually called it Indian nan. Semi-sweet red bean filling in between the crispy sheets of "crepe."

I was actually really surprised I went through the entire meal with me being food poisoned and all, but I did pay for it after a few hours. Of course I didn't eat much but I was glad I got to try it out.