Tag Archives: Foodie

Tom’s Foodie Blog 2012 “Must Try” Restaurant Bucket List

6 Jan

2011 was a great year for http://www.tomsfoodieblog.com, I logged in a couple new pounds from the great tasting food and made a couple new friends along the way. This year I tried over 40 different restaurants and about 25 different food trucks.

That is me, Tom, on New Years vowing to try more new restaurants in 2012

Believe it or not my fellow foodies, I am really behind in trying new foodie friendly restaurants. My Wife’s group buying obsession has led us to discover some really nice restaurants, some featured in this blog;  but at the same time, we have experienced some really big disappointments.  The true downside of this group buying experience is that I yet to experience some foodie centric restaurants that have been open for several months.  

My New Year’s resolution is to make up for lost time by dining at all the new foodie centric restaurants in the O.C. and providing you my loyal readers detailed reviews. See I am a giver, I am doing the hard work, so you dont have to gain the extra pounds from bad food.

 This is my 2012  restaurant bucket list, if you think I am missing anything good,  please leave me a suggestion! Also if you think one of these restaurants is a waste of my time, please let me know.  Please take the poll on the bottom of the page and let me know which of these restaurants look the best to you:

Former Food Trucks Going Brick and Mortar

  • The Playground – Former part owner of the Lime Truck, Jason Quinn, struck it out The Playgroundon his own using his winnings from the Great Food Truck Race to start-up this brick and mortar. The restaurant has been open for a couple of months and has already created a loyal following by offering chef centric and foodie friendly dishes. The menu tends to change daily as well, so all dishes are very seasonal. The Playground’s website 

 

  • SeaBirds Brick and Mortar Shop – One of my top 10 food trucks of 2011 is going at it in a brick and mortar style, sometime in the first half of the year.  I have nothing but good expectations for this restaurant, as owner Stephanie Morgan makes Vegan food extremely enjoyable to eat, even for non-vegans.  I will be posting details when an opening date is announced. Rumor has it that a location has been picked in Santa Ana. OCWeekly article on the new restaurant 
  • Short Stop BBQ Brick and Mortar Shop - This Southern BBQ truck, opened their Brick and Mortar restaurant  last week. I read the menu and they were offering duck on the menu…my ears perked up. It is located at 711 N. Placentia Ave. in Fullerton, just east of the 57. Their website doesn’t give the address or hours, so I suggest you call or check their Facebook page if you plan on visiting. www.shortstopbbq.com
  • Slap Fish Truck’s Brick and Mortar – Chef Andrew Gruel’s sustainable seafood truck is opening a brick and mortar establishment somewhere in Huntington Beach. If the restaurant is anything like his truck, expect extremely fresh and seasonal seafood that you can feel good about. I think a brick and mortar restaurant will give him a little more room to show his flair for the dramatic. I’m looking forward to seeing what he will pull off. No word yet on the restaurants format. OC Weekly Article on anticipated restaurant opening.

 

Pizza and Italian

  • Pizzeria Mozza - –This is Los Angeles eatery that is the brainchild of Mario Batali, Nancy Silverton and Joseph Bastianich. This restaurant features authentic rustic and sophisticated Italian Cuisine. this restaurant has already attracted large crowds in it’s first couple months. It is located at 800 Coast Highway Newport Beach.Pizzeria Mozza Website
  • Cucina Enoteca – A new Italian restaurant in the Irvine Spectrum which opened in December 2011, with positive reviews from my foodie circle.  This restaurant represents an expansion from it’s San Diego sister restaurant Cucina Urbana. I have heard they serve upscale Italian with dishes in the mid $20’s price range for foodie friendly choices. Cucina Enoteca Website 

 
Chef Centric & Farm to Table

  • Paul Martin’s American Grill – This “Farm to Table” and “Chef Centric” restaurant  that recently opened in the Irvine Spectrum in late 2011, under the Guidance of Chef Paul Martin. This restaurant has turned into a favorite among Orange County foodies. This restaurant features sustainable seafood, all-natural meats and organic produce. Paul Martin’s American Grill Website
  • Tamarind of London – This is a London-based restaurant that opened an O.C. version in the Crystal Cove Promenade in Newport Beach.  I do not know much about this restaurant except reports that the London restaurant earned several Michelin Stars and features “Indian Cuisine and cross-over dishes.”  I checked out their online menu and sides range from $7-13 and mains range between $16- 22 for most items. The menu looked yummy! Tamarind of London Website  Link to Yelp Reviews
  • Charlie Palmers – One of the restaurants that helped put Orange County on the Foodie Radar. I am very embarrassed to say that I have never dinned at Charlie Palmers, even though it has been open for a couple of years. This restaurant had amazing reviews, although they have recently started taking a hit on yelp (perhaps due to Chef Santana’s departure?).  I will let you know the results of my investigative eating.   It is located at Bloomingdales in South Coast Plaza.  Charlie Palmers Website Yelp Review for Charlie Palmers Yelp Review for Charlie Palmer
  • The Ranch – This Anaheim restaurant is the creation of Disneyland’s two culinary geniuses and also highly respected members of the foodie community, Michael Jordan and Michael Rossi of Napa Rose fame. I have no doubt that the food will be amazing with these two at the helm.  The restaurant is part Country Western Saloon and Part Fine Dining. Does this concept remind anyone of an upscale Crazy Horse Saloon? Website for The Ranch Restaurant and Saloon   Yelp Review for the Ranch
  • The Eatery – This upcoming restaurant featuring “upscale and nutritious comfort food” according to the “Kick Start Funding Website”. The restaurant will be operated by three award-winning chef’s including Anahita Naderi. This restaurant will open in Anaheim in 2012. Not much is known about this restaurant , but I will be reporting when I get more details. News from the Eaterys KickStarter Investor’s Page
  • Three Seventy  Common – This Laguna Beach restaurant occupies the former Sorrento Grill locationand is another Chef Centric restaurant that features bold menu choices that are chef centric and wine friendly. The menu appears to have everything from steak to Foie Gras, something for foodies and the timid eater.  Three Seventy Common Website  Yelp Reviews 
  • Broadway by Amar Santana – Amar Santana is the former Chef at the Arnold Palmer Restaurant and his new restaurant Broadway offers a Chef centric menu,  featuring “Classic Modern Cuisine of the Americas.”  This restaurant looks very promising and a has been doing a brisk business every weekend.  Broadway by Amar Santana Website  Yelp Reviews for Broadway by Amar Santana

Something Eclectic

  • Bruxie – A Quick Service Restaurant that specializes in savory and sweet sandwiches stuffed in WAFFLES! Yes you read that right. Some of their offerings include a Chicken and Waffle sandwich to a banana and Nutella dessert offering.  This restaurant has gained a cult following on Yelp / Urbanspoon and is another restaurant that I am embarrassed that I have yet to try. There are two locations one in Brea and the more popular one in the Old Town Orange. Bruxi Website   Yelp Review for Bruxie
  • Anaheim Food Hall   - This is an upscale food center based inside a Spanish Revival Architecture building that was originally used as a citrus packing center, dating back to 1915. This venue will house 25 food concept vendors. Early committed restaurants include Pitfire Pizza. This concept is an experiment for Orange County, but similar ventures have been successful in places like New York’s “Eataly”, by Mario Batali.  OC Register Article on the planned venue:

Chains that have put on a big flashy bet on Orange County

  • Saddle Ranch Chop House – This chain restaurant is known for being

    a flashy “rock-western” chop house that prides

    itself on the rock and roll attitude of its staff. I tried one of the restaurants at the Universal City walk and it had good food and a fun vibe. Rumor has it that they will even have a mechanical bull.  This will their 5th restaurant, but their first in Orange County located at Triangle Square in Costa Mesa. Saddle Ranch Chop http://www.srrestaurants.com/

     
  • Wood Ranch BBQ and Grill – This upscale western themed chophouse that has a very strong presence in Southern California, including Rancho Santa Margarita. The new restaurant is located in the Irvine Spectrum is reported to have good food and ambiance.  Wood Ranch BBQ Website      Yelp Review for Wood Ranch BBQ at the Irvine Spectrum
  • P.F. Chang – Already reviewed this place but putting this on here as a reminder that you should try it as well. Great open floor design and awesome revamped menu. My blog Post on the revamp:  Tom’s Foodie Blog Review of P.F. Chang’s:/
  • Pitfire Pizza- For anyone who has lived on the border of Newport and Costa or even hung out at Peirce Street Annex, this new restaurant occupies the old Marie Calendars location. This restaurant features rustic pizzas that are cooked in a pit wood-fired pizza oven. This venue will have a large patio and fire pit, perfect for getting some food before hitting up my favorite dive bar across the street. I wonder if they will deliver to Pierce Street. Pitfire Pizza’s Website  Grub Street Los Angeles Blog Post about expansion to the O.C.

Gourmet Burgers

  • 25 Degrees – A upscale Burger and Wine Bar, that also serves alcoholic shakes, in a swanky French bordello ambiance. This Huntington Beach restaurant has an ideal location, just on Main Street to attract their target audience. Initial reports indicate this place has, “Giant and Juicy Burgers that will make you Tap Out half-way though.” Yelp reviews are mostly high with a couple bitter reviewers in the mix.  25 degrees website Yelp review of 25 Degrees.
  • Unami Burger -This upscale version of Fuddruckers is opening two locations in Orange County, Anaheim and Laguna Beach,   and is generating a good deal of buzz. According to their website the ground their own beef, process their own cheese and pickle their own vegetables. I admit I am curious about this restaurant, despite the gimmicky name. Unami Burger Website Nancy Luna’s Article about Unami in the OC Register
  • DG Burger – The sluttier side of Charlie Palmers Bloomingdales restaurant that features gourmet burgers that will make you salivate. Yelp and Urban Spoon reviewers are giving it either very high or very low reviews. The DG in its name stands for “Dam Good”, I will have to bring back a report. DG Burger Website  Yelp Review for DG Burger

 

Gastro Pubs

  • The Side Door - A gastropub attached to the Five Crowns restaurant in Corona Del Mar. Each time I visit the Five Crowns for dinner, I secretly want to go The Side Door instead.  This is a British themed Gastropub and there is a heavy emphasis on chartuerie, cheese, sandwiches.   The Side Door Website   Yelp Review of The Side Door
  • Lola Gaspar - A Gastropub in the Santora building of Santa Ana Artist’s District. This Gastropub that has generated a solid buzz among the foodies in my circle of friends. Rumor has it that this venue has great food and a nice craft beer selection. I am told this place might remind you of visiting a tapas bar in the alleys of Barcelona  Lola Gaspar Website Yelp Review for Lola Gaspar
  • Haven Gastropub – I am been here but never written a review, I will be back to take pictures and get a feel for the quality, service and seasonal menu on my return visit. Their food is spot on and always has a great craft beer selection. I have never been disappointed by a meal here, although recent Yelp reviews have seen complaints about the price to quantity ratio. I will do my due diligence and eat here to write a blog; again I will make the sacrifice for my readers ;)  Haven Gastropub Website Yelp review for Haven Gastropub
    • Bru – New establishment in Lake Forest attempting to blend chef centric and craft beer in a Gastropub setting. Bru has an interesting  wholesale wine purchase / Corkage  system as well. Does the concept work in the bedroom community of Lake Forest? Let’s find out.  Bru Website Yelp Review

McDonald’s McRib is back! The Culinary Gutter or Hot Culinary Love Affair? You decide

25 Oct
Temptation basically sums up the McRib

I recently read some food blogs with unconfirmed reports that the McRib would be back on October 25th. When I read these words my blood pressure spiked, my face got flush and I became awkward like a 13-year-old boy with sweaty palms at his first boy-girl dance. I had memories rushing forward of its toasted fluffy bakery bun, tangy bbq sauce, pressed federation of sweet and tender pork meat into a boneless “rib” shape and topped with pickles and sweet brown onion.

You may ask, why does Tom, and other loyal McRib lovers, get so excited about the return of the McRib? I think there are two answers:

First, the McRib returns only comes to visit once  every couple of years. When it returns, it is like having a torrid affair with a long-lost lover. At first, you just cant get enough of each other, but then the excitement goes away and  you can’t stand looking at it anymore. Then the McRib disappears overnight,  and then you regret not spending more time together at the end.

 Second, I think many foodies have a strong emotional connection between the McRib and their Childhood.  I remember my first time with a McRib in 1984, when I was a young boy eating my first McRib while watching the Los Angeles Olympics on the television. Even then, I can remember biting through the fluffy and slightly toasted roll and tasting the sweet tang of BBQ sauce. When I bit further the awesome flavor of the fake rib meat mixed with the tart flavor of the pickle, savory flavor of white onion and tang of the BBQ Sauce coming together. When I chewed these ingredients together for the first time,  the flavor and texture profile left me breathless and my pupils dilated. I was just a young boy, but that late summer day, McDonalds made me an addict and lover to their McRib Sandwich.

 

From this description, the McRib may sound like over processed fast faux food, although this sandwich genuinely has great flavors and textures.  So the question I present to you my fellow foodies, does the McRib represent low-brow table fare that should be ignored or should the McRib be appreciated on its own merits and within the context of its own genre. I will let you make that decision.

To you my fellow McRib lover, it is o.k. to be a full-fledged foodie and still appreciate the McRib. It is o.k. to visit the culinary ghetto, because the ghetto still  has some charm.

To you the foodie haters out there who raise your nose at the McRib, it is more popular than you might realize. When I visited McDonalds during lunch, every single table had ordered the McRib including men, women and old people….even a Priest. I interviewed a couple at McDonalds about their experience with the McRib and the  best quote I received was, “I fed my Son his first McRib today and I am very proud.” LOL

The McRib does not need a star rating as it is already in Emeritus Status on my rating scale.

 Aside: Some funny and interesting pictures from this years packaging. It’s obvious that I am not the only one who has these feeling for the McRib, as McDonalds is actively marketing to people like me. I think it’s pretty funny and marketing genius.

They should have written, "Your old LOVER is back...", but this is a family restaurant so you can't use too many sexual innuendos

Ok I get the pig picture...but what the heck is in that scooper? Lard? Sugar? I'm baffled on this one

This pretty much sums up some of the main flavor profiles.

Review of “The Bungalow” in Corona Del Mar – Does this revered restaurant still live up to it’s name?

2 Sep

Our group buying adventure led us to The Bungalow restaurant in Corona Del Mar, a revered South OC establishment.  The Bungalow is known for aged prime steaks and a quaint setting on PCH. The entrance of the Bungalow is a dimly lit bar area which is decorated with dark wood and leather. The bar area was obviously the local watering hole, as I noticed many sophisticated ladies giving me the lioness eye as I walked in the door. This front bar area is relatively noisy, as it is packed full of people mingling and socializing over one of the Bungalow’s signature martinis. I did not have the opportunity to order one of their Martini’s, although the word on the street is that they are really amazing in flavor and kick.

The restaurant has both a main dining room and a covered patio space. The patio featured an elegant patio cover, fireplace and candles, as well as a cozy outdoor setting.  Once we were settled in, the waitress greeted us and guided us through the menu offerings. This restaurant employs a professional wait staff that is well versed on the menu and a variety of cooking techniques. Our drinks and appetizer came out promptly and our water glasses were always full.  We were never looking for the waitress, she somehow had E.S.P.  and knew when we needed something. We ordered a bottle of wine, a cheese plate,  the chef’s special, which consisted of a 22 ounce porterhouse, a 10 ounce filet and the double pork chop.

The Cheese Plate – The Cheese plate featured five types of cheeses and five condiments. The cheeses included a cheddar, manchego, brie, camembert, and Humboldt Fog. The sides were pretty amazing in their own right and consisted of unleavened fig bread, oozing honeycomb, dried cranberries, and toasted bread points. All the cheeses were amazing, especially when paired with the sides. The cheese plate was actually one of the high points of the meal and nicely complimented the wine we ordered.

The Porterhouse - This was a 22-oz behemoth of a steak that came with baby asparagus  and  garlic mashed potatoes. The steak was a little intimidating in size when it arrived at my seat and the waitress joked around that this was the Fred Flintstone Cut and it was suitable for sharing.  A porterhouse steak is a composite steak with two different cuts of meat (tenderloin and  New York) separated by a T-bone. In fact, the porterhouse is the over-sized brother of the T-Bone, just thicker and has a much larger section of tenderloin. The steak had very nice grill lines across the steak and had a nice color from the char. I started on the tenderloin side of the steak (smaller side) and easily cut my knife through the flesh to reveal that the steak was pink throughout and full of juices, cooked medium per my order. The tenderloin side of the steak was extremely juicy and full of natural prime steak flavors from cooking on the bone, which was an amazing experience. Although, as I cut into the New York side of the porterhouse, the results were disappointing and my plate became the tale of two cities. The New York side was tough to cut with the steak knife and the knife actually became snagged several times as I cut through. I inspected the steak for evidence of being overcooked, but the flesh was nearly pink throughout, but not juicy. As I bit into the steak, I noticed that the meat was stringy and I had to chew through excessive connective tissue. The New York side of the steak was also a lot tougher than similar cuts that I have previously eaten.  I wanted to ensure that I was not spoiled and overly critical after eating the tenderloin sides, so I had the other members of my party try the steak. Their reactions to the steak were identical, with reactions like “that’s a little stringy” or “it is a bit tough for a loin cut, there must be something wrong there.” I am not sure if the steak was a bad cut of meat or potentially overcooked, but it was not up to the standards of a restaurant who claims to specialize in aged prime steaks. In addition at a $55 price tag, I was expecting a steak that was tender on both sides of the T-Bone. Based on the composite quality of both sides, I would expect to have paid much less for this porterhouse, perhaps $30-$35. Based on both sides of the steak and the price point, this dish got a 2.5. If I had not eaten the entire tenderloin side first, I would have sent it back to the kitchen.

The Filet Mignon - The 10 ounce filet was served with a garlic mashed potatoes and broccolini. The steak had a nice appearance with even char lines and glistening brown color. When the steak was cut open it was pink throughout and slightly runny with juices, and was very nicely cooked a medium rare. This steak had a good natural beef flavor and was for the most part tender and juicy.  Daniele indicated that it was a very good steak, although not one of the best filet mignon she had ever tasted. Daniele noted that for the price point, this dish received 4 out of 5.

The Double Pork Chop- The double pork chop was served on the bone and served with parsnip mashed potatoes , grilled pineapple and broccolini.  Due to the size of the double pork chop, the plating of this dish was impressive. The pork chop had a nice char and caramelization from the sugars used in the marinade.  The pork chop rested on a thick cut of grilled pineapple, which added even more sweetness to the pork chop.  On the side was a gently cooked serving of broccolini which retained its crunch and bright green color. The pork chop was cooked nicely and was extremely juicy when cut open. Peggy’s main issue with this dish was that the pork chop was too sweet. She indicated that the sweet flavor infused into the pork chop had overpowered  her palate, thereby reducing her ability to taste the natural flavors of the pork. This was a shame, especially since pork already has a sweet and savory flavor that should be enjoyed naturally. Peggy gave this dish 3.5 out of 5 because the sweetness was a distraction. This dish should have been 4 out of 5 if it were prepared differently.

My Final Thoughts

The Bungalow has it’s share of extremely positive ratings on a variety of websites, such as yelp.com and urbanspoon.com, although my investigation was confirmed by some of the negative reviews read from less than fully satisfied customers. The main issue I have with the Bungalow is their high price point for imperfect dishes. For example, I would not expect to pay $55 for a stringy steak.   In addition, the wine we selected from the menu was sold out and we had to pick a wine at a higher price point than we were originally willing to spend.  Phenomenal service would have provided us another bottle of wine at the same price point as the one we originally requested. Also the wine list lacked middle tier priced wines. I am usually willing to spend $25-45 on a bottle of wine, although the Bungalow had very few wines within this price range. They only carried $40 wines and above and the $40 bottles were what most restaurants would call their house wines. The Bungalow did many things right including impeccable service, great ambiance, an extensive menu, a great execution of the filet mignon and the cheese plate.  Based on our mixed feelings of the overall experience, I  am giving The Bungalow an overall score of 3 out of 5. This is not a bad score, although for this caliber of a restaurant a 3 is lackluster and indicates opportunities for improvement. At the price point, I would more likely go to Banderas or Five Crowns just down the street to ensure a quality meal. I am willing to give this restaurant another chance, as it is possible we encountered a series of uncharacteristic issues. I will be posting an addendum to this review when I return.

Bungalow on Urbanspoon

Link to The Bungalow Website: http://www.thebungalowrestaurant.com/
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Would You Eat Fresh Live Oysters from a Food Truck? See what happened when I did…

30 Jul

Would you eat oysters from a Food Truck? This is the same decision I faced when presented the opportunity to eat live shell fish at a food truck lot.  But let me back up for a minute, I was on my way home and had a serious hankering for Gourmet Food Truck Fare. To my luck, it was Wednesday night and the OC Din Din A GoGo at the Irvine Lanes was in full swing with 7 trucks present. I discovered that The Lime Truck was serving full on platted dinner dishes, I was intrigued! Then learned that the platted dish for the night was Live Fresh Shucked Oysters! Holly Crap I thought!…..Fresh Shucked Oysters served from Food Truck!!! I gotta get some. But then I thought to myself, will I get sick?

So the question I present to you my readers…. would you eat raw oysters  from a food truck? For me, it is a conditional YES!, IF the truck can pass my decision analysis. (see my decision analysis below)

Decision Analysis: Should I order raw seafood from a food truck?

    1.  Is this a sketchy lunch truck ?
      1.  If yes, RUN!!!   This is a roach coach, stick to their deep-fried burritos
      2.  If No proceed to #2
    2.   Is it a gourmet food truck?
      1. If no, beware it is probably a roach coach dressed up in a fancy wrap to look like a gourmet food truck…stick to their fusion tacos
      2. If yes, proceed to #3
    3. Does the  Gourmet Food Truck have a strong reputation for serving extremely fresh food?
      1. If no, stick to the fully cooked gourmet dishes and  buy some Pepto Bismol from eating too much
      2. If yes, order raw fish!!!

I ran through this decision analysis and came to the conclusion that the The Lime Truck was not only a safe place to eat oysters,  but they would bring creativity and flare to these tasty bi-valves. I also came to the conclusion that there are only a handful of trucks that I would eat raw seafood, The Lime Truck was in that elite circle.  

Before I give you a description of each of the special “flavors”  topped on the oysters, allow me to talk about the oysters themselves. The oysters presented were the “Pacific” variety, which are caught in the Pacific Northwest. The flesh of these oysters is a creamy white with a dark ring around the mantle.  The texture of this yummy bi-valve is plump, firm and slightly crunchy. The flavor is mild, sweet and has a subtle ocean brine taste in the nose.  These oysters were extremely fresh in smell, texture and taste. The quality of the oysters were akin to those found in a high-end seafood restaurant, except I picked these oysters from the side of a food truck!

The “Special Platted Dish of the Day” as a quintet of  “Pacific Oysters”, each with their own special topping. The oysters where served over a bed of ice  and plated on a china. The themed oysters where as follows:

  • Yuzu Miso with Scallion
  • Yellow Curry with Jalapeno
  • Honey Gastrique with Lime Supreme
  • Black Berry Gelee with Lemon Supreme
  • Hatch Chili Salsa with Cilantro

Yuzu Miso with Scallion Oyster

This Miso base sauce  has a Japanese fruit called Yuzu (flavors are a mix of grapefruit and mandarin orange)  mixed in during cooking. This combination gives the normal rich miso paste a little citrus kick which brightens up the flavor and adds citrus overtones to the aroma. When the sauce combines with the oyster flesh, the sweet and briny flavors of the oysters are accentuated by the citrus and balanced by the savory of the miso. The scallion on top added a little punginess to the entire mouthful, adding a little more balance to tie the flavors together.

Yellow Curry with Jalapeno

The light layer of yellow curry had both a pleasant musk and bright aromas. The flavor was rich, pungent, sweet and slightly spicy. The flavor of the curry was complex, no doubt to it’s 20+ ingredients including curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, chili and pepper. With this dish, the oyster flesh played a supporting role by providing a stable structure to taste the curry.  Dont get me wrong, I could taste the Oyster perfectly and in its own glory, but it served as the Paxil to the multiple personalities of the Curry.   

Honey Gastrique with Lime Supreme

Gastrique is a sweet-and-sour sauce at its simplest. This sauce is made by caramelizing sugar (in this case  honey) and combining it with equal parts vinegar. The mixture is then slightly reduced over heat to  make a sweet and tart, thickened syrup. This sauce was poured over the oyster and topped with a Lime Supreme (lime segmented with all white pith and rind removed). This is a French cooking technique complimented the natural flavors of the oysters. When chewing the oysters,  I tasted salty, tart, sweet all in the same bite. It was very pleasant to eat and I wanted more. This flavor was a good transition after the heavy curry flavor.

Black Berry Gelée with Lemon Supreme

Black Berry Gelée is essentially fresh black berries mixed into a gelatin. This gelatinized toping provides a very sweet topping and gelatin texture to the oyster. The sweetness and brine flavors played well off each other, creating a good balance. The black berry flavor also complimented the sweet flesh flavor of the oyster. The acidity from the lemon balanced the sweetness of the berry gelee and accentuated the oysters sweet flesh.  The Berry created a subtle nose aroma, which sweetened the nose flavor of the oyster’s brine. This combination was elegant.

 Hatch Chili Salsa with Cilantro

The Hatch chilli is a variety of chile from the Hatch Valley in New Mexico and is a close relative of the elegant Anaheim chilli. The Hatch chilli is known for providing sweet and medium spicy flavors with a crunchy flesh.  The chilis appear to have  been first roasted and then ground into a course salsa. The flavors were smokey, spicy and slightly sweet. This spicy smokey flavor was intense, so it required that I chew the oyster throughly to really get a good flavor combination. In this dish, the oysters played an equal role in the flavor profile with the sweet brine coordinating an attack on my taste buds with the sweet and spicy chilli. This was the most intense of the flavors, so I am glad finished on this oyster.

My Final Thoughts

By the time I finished this “oysters of the world experience”,  my taste buds were feeling a little jet lagged but happy from visiting the flavors of Japan, India, France and North America. Although the oyster dish was much more expensive than a standard food truck meal, the dish passed the “WOW! test”, meaning I enjoyed the food so much I didn’t care how much I paid for it ($18).  This dish was a great experience and was a showcase to the culinary skills of the  talented dudes of the Lime Truck. I am giving this Oyster Dish and The Lime Truck a very rare 4.5 out of 5 on my scale. This score means I will compulsively seek out The Lime Truck and order  the Oysters every single time it is on the menu. This score also means I will be  rabidly tell my friends that they have to try it.

Note: Many times my readers will have questions about my rating scale and ask me how can I give a fine dining restaurant a low score and give a food truck such a high score. It simply comes done to this , does the food and service rise to the price tag of the final bill? A fine dining restaurant better WOW! me with their dishes if I am going to pay $30-40 for a dish. A fine dining restaurant better offer dishes that are outstanding in terms of flavors, technique and presentation in order to receive a 4 or 5 rating. In the same vein if I am reviewing a food truck, I am expecting very unique dishes, novel ingredients, use of  fresh ingredients,  use of professional cooking techniques,presentation and making the food accessible to eating standing up. Any food truck can make a “fusion taco” or “pulled pork sandwich”, but the question is can they make this dish stand out from their competition and make me say WOW! I got that for only $6?

Link to The Lime Trucks Website: http://www.thelimetruck.com/lime/Home.html

The Lime Truck on Urbanspoon
 

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Review of “K’Ya Bistro” at the Casa de Camino Hotel: Upscale European Hotstel Meets a Fusion Gastropub

28 Jul

I think I have mentioned this in a couple other food blog posts, but my wife has a serious obsession with buying Groupons. The one big advantage is that they are good for trying new restaurants, this is the case for the Groupon for the Rooftop Lounge/K’Ya at the Casa de Camino Hotel. This location is a boutique hotel that was originally built in the late 1920′s and was a getaway for Hollywood stars. The hotel retains the roaring 20′s glamour and has the ambiance of a upscale European Hostel. The Clientel at the hotel and restuarant is a 30 something hipster crowd.   The overall ambiance was provided by the guitar performer,  a group of L.A. style hipsters hanging out over cocktails in the lobby and old school  decor. Since the Rooftop Bar was closing, we tried K’Ya Bistro. K’Ya Bistro is connected to the hipster lobby of the hotel, so the good vibes were flowing.

The menu at K’Ya reminds me of a small plate gastropub, with seasonal  Asain-Fusion and Modern American Comfort food dishes. We ordered the Ahi Burger, Cheese Plate, Shrimp Cocktail, Calamari and a couple of their Signature Mojitos.

Mojitos

Flavored Mojitos

First thing to come out was the Mojito’s. I ordered the Berry Mojito and the standard. We both agreed that the mojitos had the right balance of sugar to rum and mint. These drinks were actually quite strong;  although since the bartender has some skills, we didn’t even notice until we stood up. The berry muddled into this drink added a subtle freshness to the flavor and made me want to order another.

Cheese Plate

 

Cheese Plate

The Cheese Plate was pretty standard as it included the usual suspects of  brie, camembert, blue and gouda. accompanying the cheese was  toasted bread, water cracker, dates, dried cranberries, green apples, nuts. Some of the noteworthy cheeses were the double cream brie and the highly marbled blue cheese. This cheese plate lacked a liquid topper like a fruit chutney, honey or vegetable jam, which is a real shame. The addition of this extra component could have tied all the individual parts together into a dignified cheese plate.

Ahi Burger

Ahi Burger on Brioche

The Ahi Burger was my favorite dish of te night. It consisted of a fluffy brioche bun, lightly seared tuna, tomato, arugula, and wasabi mayo dressing. The bread was fluffy, light and squishy to the touch. When I bit into the burger, the texture was soft and pleasant. The slightly firm texture of the tuna complimented the soft and lightly toasted bun. The flavors of the tuna was extremely fresh and vibrant and stood out in the dish. The wasabi-mayo dressing and arugula added a little kick to the gentle flavors and helped tie the dish together.  I would highly recommend this dish and it is one of the better ahi burgers I have tried.

 Shrimp Cocktail
 

Shrimp Cocktail

The Shrimp cocktail was also pretty standard. Not much to say about it, besides the shrimp tasted fresh. The dish came with two sauces, a red cocktail sauce and a mystery green sauce, which was pretty unexciting. No need to dwell on this dish…it was just shrimp on haphazardly assembled on a plate. This dish would benefit from a more artistic plating.  

Calamari

Calamari in a Kung Pao type sauce and dressed with veges

The Calamari was an interesting and tasty dish. It consisted of deep-fried calamari (rings and tentacles) that was wok’d in a slightly spicy Kung Pao sauce. This dish was also served with fresh shredded carrots, green onions and sprouts. When all the ingredients were mixed together, the vegetables created harmony to the flavors of this dish by balancing the salt of the sauce and the oil from the deep fry. Great textures and great flavors.  I recommend this dish.

 My Final thoughts
This restaurant was a nice discovery for dinner and as a hangout. This restaurant had a good vibe and some really good food. Two of the four dishes were amazing and two were just above standard.  I would come back here for a small plates dinner and some drinks with friends. I am giving K’ya Bistro in Laguna a 3.5 of out 5 stars. The restaurant almost got a 4, but the appetizers didn’t impress me enough. I will be back in a couple of months and will report back if I was WOWED by ALL the dishes. I think this restaurant is a gem and the staff appeared to be very engaged and friendly. I predict that my next experience will be even better.  
 

k'ya Bistro Bar on Urbanspoon

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