Tag Archives: Calorie

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.


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 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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Tonights Cooking Experiment – Greek Style Rotisserie Boneless Leg of Lamb (600 calories )

21 Jul

I had a craving to eat a nice hunk of rotisserie lamb after looking at my vacation pictures from Greece. What does a good foodie do when he has a hankering for something?  Go make it! This  blog post about making a boneless leg of lamb on your gas grill’s rotisserie. I know the rotisserie may be a sore point for some people out there. After all you probably paid extra for your gas grill,  because you insisted on having this functionality. Most likely you were having fantasies of  rotisserie chickens dancing in your head. But in reality, how many times have you used it? once or twice? Maybe not at all? Don’t worry you are not alone. This recipe is relatively easy and a great excuse to start using that rotisserie again, or for the first time.  

Here are the ingredients that you will need:

  • Boneless leg of lamb (this item can be obtained from Costco)
  • Olive Oil
  • Lemon Juice
  • Red Wine
  • Italian or Greek Salad Dressing
  • Garlic Powder
  • Dry Basil
  • Dry Mint
  • Cayenne Pepper Powder (just a tad)
  • Onion Powder
  • Dry Basil
  • Dry Oregano
  • Mustard Powder
  • Paprika

For the Side

  • Brown Onion
  • Feta
  • Pita
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Greek Olives
  • Humus

Step 1 – Take the lamb out and let it rest at room temperature. The goal is to get the lamb’s internal temperature as close a possible to the exterior temperature, about 60 minutes.

Step 2 –  Make a liquid mixture of the oil, dressing, lemon juice and red wine and either soak it for 30 minutes for give it a brush down with the liquid mixture. I personally prefer to work a drier cut of meat, so I simply brush it on. 

Next, combine all the dry seasonings and coat the lamb liberally, so that every inch of the lamb is covered in dry seasoning. The lamb will have a pasty look from the liquid and dry seasonings combining.  This paste will create a nice crusting on the meat that will lock in the juices.   I have not provided proportions on the dry or wet seasoning,  as you should cook to your personal preferences

 Next, insert the rotisserie rod through the meat and secure with the rotisserie hooks.

Step 3 – Place a cookie sheet wrapped in foil under the burner.  Next,  connect the rotisserie skewer to the rotation motor  and turn the motor on slow. Set the  rotisserie burner to high for the first 20 minutes,  this technique will  sear the meat and  ensure the moisture is locked into the meat.  The heat should stay at medium.  Be sure to also baste the rotisserie every 15 minutes with the drippings and a the liquid marinate. Be sure to close the hood when you are not basting!  

Step 4 During the last 30 minutes, place cut up brown onions with yogurt butter in aluminum foil pouch next to the heat source. The onions will brown from the heat while the lamb cooks.

The lamb should cook on the rotisserie for 20 minutes per pound. When it is done it should have a dark brown exterior and internal temperature of 150 (Somewhere between medium-rare and medium).During the last 10 minutes (assuming the meat is not too dark), crank the burner to high; as a result, the exterior will turn slightly crispy and crusty.

 Note: Please use a thermoter to cook your lamb, every gas grill is different so the 20 min per pound is NOT full proof. Check the temperature often, as it may reach 150 without warning.  You MUST avoid cooking lamb to “well done” as it will be very tough and dry.

Step 6 – Remove the meat from the flame , extract the skewer (use caution the skewer is hot) and wrap the lamb up in heavy foil.  Let the lamb rest in the foil for 10 minutes, allowing the temperature to settle and the juices withdraw back into the muscle of the meat. After 10 minutes, remove the foil carefully as the button section will have a puddle of meat juices you will retain for au juice or sauce.

Note: The meat will continue to cook in the foil, so if you wish your meat to be a little more rare, then I suggest taking it out at 145 degrees.

Step 7 – Place the meat on the cutting board and cut it against the muscle grain into half inch slices, be sure to retain the juices from the cut.

Step 8 – Finally, assemble a toasted pita with taziki, feta, tomato, Persian cucumbers and thick cuts of lamb and drizzle with the collected juices. Next wrap it over and shove it in your mouth. Yummy! (600 calories as shown).

I recommend a California Central Coast California Zinfandel with this dish as it handles the gamy lamb and pugent garlic well.  I tried this wine with the meal and it was excellent.

Candor Zinfandel ($19)” from Paso Robles and Lodi exhibits a boatload of fruit, plum, blackberry, pomegranate, nearly a syrah like nose. In the mouth this version is lush and viscous with deep spice notes and carry the soft fruit throughout the mouth. This wine has soft tannins making it easy to drink and a nice touch of oak to round it out. At this price, you can’t find a better quality zinfandel, and one which has several tricks up its sleeve” (wine review from http://www.intowine.com/best-zinfandel-money)

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Review of Kogi Truck – “Confessions of a Kogi Truck Virgin”

9 Jul

Like any Friday at 11:00  in the afternoon, I am already thinking about what food I am going to eat for lunch.  So what does any good foodie do when he has a hankering for a Friday afternoon guilty food pleasure? The answer, scour social media for food truck met ups. My friend Alex was bragging, on Facebook, how good his Kogi calamari taco was and how much he enjoyed eating it. I’ll admit, I got a little jealous and I even wrote that response on his wall. You see, I am a food truck stud and have nailed most of the food trucks in Orange County and even some in L.A., San Diego and Santa Barbara. Although the one truck I have not been able to tap is the Kogi truck. Why you may ask, has your blogger yet to nab the Kogi truck?. Because Kogi plays so hard to get and then when you find it there is always a big group of guys waiting to throw a couple singles in her window. This elusiveness has made it the stuff an urban legend. 

 But I digress, at about 11:15 Alex sends me a response on Facebook,  indicating that the Kogi truck will be in Irvine during lunch. My ears perked up at this news and I canceled my 11:30 meeting. When I arrived, the line was already 30 people deep. From the looks of the crowd,  they were also food truck studs and have already experienced the pleasure of the Kogi Truck. I came to the conclusion that I was a Kogi truck virgin and was getting a little nervous about my first time.  As per my normal routine, I chat with the people in line and ask them what is good. A couple of them gave me a little smirk that communicates, “we have a Kogi truck virgin on our hands”. Another guy whispered to me, “You can’t go wrong with any off it’s dishes….just bring some protection if you are going to eat it in your car”.

I ordered the Kimchi quesedilla, the short rib taco and the calamari taco, based on recommendations in line . The total for all three dishes came out to $11, not bad for a lot of food.

The Kimchi Quesadilla

The Kimchi Quesadilla was made from a giant flour tortilla that is filled with Kimchi and cheese.  The tortilla appeared to have been dipped in sweet chilli sauce and grilled to make the exterior enameled with the sauce. The seasoned tortilla are then stuffed with the Kimchi (fomented Korean cabbage) and cheddar cheese and then grilled again to melt it all together.  The tortillas were crispy, as if they had been deep friend, but they were just grilled on high heat with lots of oil.

The Kimchi Quesadilla

 The dish was extremely messy with the oil, chilli sauce and Kimchi juice and it saturated the cardboard container.  The dish was sweet on the first bite; although within a few seconds, the spiciness caught up and moved to the front of the tongue.  

Lifting the skirt of this quesedalla to show it's tangy and spicy Kimchi and cheddar cheese

This dish was unique and had some really good flavors. My only complaint is that it was too salty and left me craving for a tall glass or water (a beer would be better).


Calamari Taco

The calamari tacos are served in the traditional street style, small corn tortilla stuffed full of ingredients and served overflowing. Inside the tortilla was grilled calamari, onions, Korean radish and Kogi’s secret Korean bbq sauce.

Beware of the squid, she bites back

Although the recipe of the sauce is a secret, I think it contains Korean hot pepper paste, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, hot oil, sesame oil and a dab of fish paste. The flavor was sweet, tangy and had a delayed spicy sizzle on your tongue. The spiciness was not overpowering,  but enough to let you know it’s in charge. The calamari protein had a sweet flavor; when paired with the sauce, it provided a nice balance of flavors.

The Short Rib Taco

The short rib taco was the last dish I ate because it is the sweeter of the dishes. I needed something to cool my mouth after eating two rich and spicy dishes in a row. The short rib taco is also constructed from corn tortillas and filled with a nice helping a slow stewed short rib in a sweet tangy Korean BBQ sauce.

The sweetness of the short rib taco cools down the taste buds

 The sauce was not the same as the squid taco, it was a little more sweet and subtle. The taco was topped with a sweet and tangy salad. The vinegar in the salad helped to cut through the protein and opens up the taste buds.  This dish was a perfect happy ending that helped calm the tongue from the heat and relax the palate from the salt.

My Final Thoughts

Although Kogi has obviously been over-hyped in social media,  there is no doubt that the dishes do live up to the lore. I am glad that I have managed to finally try the Kogi truck  and experience is Korean-Mexican fusion dishes. The Kogi trucks are masters of social media, using twitter to update their loyal followers. They have also managed to thrive lone-wolf  style by jilting the trend to congregate in herds of other food trucks. This unpredictability and difficulty finding a Kogi has given it the mystic of the hot high school hot girl that everyone want to meet. I give the Kogi truck a 4 out of 5, meaning I will come back often and recommend it to my friends. The dishes were creative and amazing, but by no means any better than some of the other food trucks out there. I would highly recommend that you try their food at least once and make your own decisions. Even if you don’t like spicy, there are plently of dishes you may like.

Kogi BBQ Truck http://www.kogibbq.com/

Find truck locations on Twitter @kogibbq
Kogi Korean BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Review of “The Vintage Steakhouse”

27 Jun

The Vintage Steakhouse

26701 Verdugo Street, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675-3146 (949) 661-3400 ‎

Located in the historic downtown of San Juan Capistrano, adjacent to the train station and a short stroll to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The Vintage Steakhouse is nestled in a thriving restaurant district on this historic railway stop. The Vintage can be found just off Verdugo street, right next to the AMTRAK station. When you look at the Vintage Steakhouse from the outside, it looks like a line of vintage Pullman Train Cars. Part of the restaurant dinning area is actually in the train car and the other portion is the original train station building. The interior decor is upscale turn-of-the-century railroad baron theme. The ambiance is  dark with red curtains , dark woods and gold accents like an upscale cowboy brothel. When you looked out the window you could see and hear the train passing, it almost made me feel like I was in a moving train!

When we arrived, the restaurant was extremely busy and even with a 8:00 reservation, we still had to wait 30 minutes in the bar. The bar itself  was very ornate, with the same dark woods and dim lighting. The bar was very loud with lots of merriment coming from the dinning room, the bartender told us that there was two engagement parties there that night. The parties were very loud but added something to the overall vibe of the bar.

After 30 minutes, we were seated in the railcar room. The room was cozy and almost reminded me of the Napa Valley Wine Train. We sat waiting at our table for 10 minutes for service. It was a very busy night and it was obvious that the restaurant staff was stretched thin. I couldn’t blame the waiter has he was obviously working hard to satisfy all his guests needs. When the waiter arrived, he greeted us with individualized attention and took his time. He explained the menu and answered our questions about the wine list. It was obvious he was a professional waiter, as he was extremely knowledgeable about the menu. He explained in detail how the food was prepared and what ingredients used in each of the dishes. Based on this conversation, we learned that the Head Chef was classically trained French Chef and has an affinity for mushrooms. You can see on the menu that there is a “Mushroom of the Day” featured on the menu. The menu also  features a selection of fine-cut steaks, seafood and pork chops.

We  first ordered the mushroom special, a  long-stemmed Japanese mushroom called Enokita in a white wine sauce.  I have never tried this type of mushroom, nor have I tried mushrooms prepared in a traditional French technique. The mushrooms had a creamy rich flavor that exploded with a nuttiness when I chewed on the firm flesh. We paid $12 for the mushroom of the day, but I am very happy i tried it.

We also ordered the halibut special and the prime rib eye steak, which was listed as one of their specialties.   While we were waiting, the hot bread came out. I have read that a restaurant’s  bread can foreshadow the overall quality of the meal, because if a Chef neglects the bread, he will most likely neglect other details. I love restaurant bread and The Vintage Steakhouse has some of the best.  The bread was very hot, with a thin crunchy shell and a soft and fluffy interior, in true French Bakery style. It was as if I stumbled into a  Parisian Bakery at 5:30 in the morning and the bread had just come out of the oven.  

The Halibut was firm, moist and was a respectable sized portion. The beurre blanc sauce was rich, sweet and had a whole mouth flavor.. The lemon and wine broke through the richness of the cream and butter in the sauce to give it a little turbo to the taste buds.  It looks like the fish was pan seared with butter, locking in the juices and providing a very slight crispiness to the exterior.    Overall, a very well thought through dish in terms of flavor and texture layers,  excellent flavors and a pleasure to eat.   It was served with a twice- baked potato what was soft and creamy on the inside and crusted over on the outside.

The grill prime rib eye was a beautiful 16-ounce cut of meat cooked over a mesquite grill. The steak had a large basis of solid meat and fat clouds around the perimeter just like an oven roasted prime rib. The steak was grilled to perfection and I could smell a gentle waft of mesquite. When we ordered, the waiter suggested the steak cooked medium. He explained that medium is the right temperature to bring the flavors out of the meat and fat, but hot enough to drain out the natural juices. The waiter was on the mark, the exterior of the steak was slightly crusted over and had ornate grill lines. When the steak was cut open, it was beautiful pink throughout with lots of juices pouring out. When I bit into the steak,  it was tender, flavorful and the juices rushed out of the meat and into my teeth. It was a glorious experience. The side selected was sweet potato fries, they were fantastic, but after eating the steak I had a hard time filling up on more carbs.

The meals were served with a trio of sauces, a demi-glaze, a mushroom and wine sauce and a béarnaise. The sauces were all fantastic in flavor and it was obvious that they were fresh. We tried all the sauces on the steak, but the mushroom wine sauce was the clear winner.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed my visit to this restaurant. The Vintage has a great atmosphere, remarkable food and a professional wait staff making you feel like you are the most important guest in the restaurant. Stepping into restaurant you feel like you are stepping into a by-gone era and transported away from your daily life for a couple of hours.  My experience was excellent give this restaurant a rating of a 4 out of 5, meaning I would come here often and recommend it to friends and family. I highly suggest you try the mushroom of the day!

Vintage Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Visit the Restaurants Website: http://www.thevintagesteakhouse.com

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Review of “Sea Birds Food Truck”- Vegan Girls do it Fresher

17 Jun

 Review of “Seabirds Food Truck”- Vegan Girls do it Fresher

I tried most of the regular trucks at the teller cluster truck step, but had yet

Sea Bird Food Truck

to try “Sea Birds Truck” because it is Vegan …I know very short sighted of me. I actually really do enjoy vegetarian and vegan dishes, although it is hard to go vegan style when the carnivore trucks are calling my name into the rocks of high cholesterol.

As many of you have read from my posts, I spend a lot of time in restaurants eating and as result spend a lot of time at the gym. I do feel a little guilty after eating a 1 pound burrito sometimes and then slipping away into food coma at my desk at about 2:00 p.m. So what is

Seabirds Truck Menu - Some good looking menu items

the alternative? Give up food trucks? Never! Work out more, yes…but that will only get you so far. The middle ground is eating something a little more healthy at the food truck lot (sometimes). Today I decided to dabble with the healthier side of food trucks and went with “Seabirds Truck” a Vegan “Plant Based” food truck. I really liked the concept of this truck which bases its menu on “healthy, local food that is convenient and fairly priced” (from Seabirds Website). I also like their affinity to sustainability of their ingredients and patronage of local Farmer’s Markets / Orange County organic farms. This food truck offers a seasonal menu and can cater to gluten-free customers.

One of the first things I noticed about the food truck is that it was staffed by an all-girl crew. It also appeared that they were all very fit and living the same life-style that the food truck was promoting. Their appearance lended some credibility, as I would never get a haircut from a bald barber.

As is my usual routine with food trucks, I chat with the people in line and ask them if they have tried the truck before and what is their favorite dish. Everyone in line with me had never tried the Seabirds truck and all shared a similar story of trying all the other food trucks and decided to give this one a try. When it was my turn I asked the friendly order taker, who was standing outside the truck greeting customers, “So what is good here?” . She told me that the “Beer Battered Avocado Tacos” where really good and where even featured on “Good Morning America”. So I ordered the Avocado Taco and then also went for the inexpensive side item the “Truffled Cauliflower” . My name was called and the dishes are placed in some high quality “box lunch” containers, I was impressed already.

Beer Battered Avocado Tacos

Beer Battered avocados Tacos in a really nice box

When I opened the first box, I found the Beer Battered Avocado Tacos. The smell wafted up and it was very pleasant aroma of hot avocado, breading and cabbage. The tacos themselves consisted of two corn tortillas, the beer battered avocado quarters, an avocado soy-cream sauce, diced red onion and topped with red cabbage.

Let me first speak the star of this dish, the Avocado. This was a popular

Nice chunk of avocado

dish,so I watched them preparing it through the window. The first peeled the avocado and quartered it. Next, they coated it in a wet beer-batter and then quickly deep fried it (it smelled great from where I was standing). I almost felt like I was at a healthy version of the O.C. Fair! The soy-based cream sauce was very good as well, I just wished there was more of it. I think it was made by blending avocado and soy-based cream , with a little kick of chili peppers in it to brighten up the flavors.

When I bit into the taco, the light batter was crispy on the tongue and quickly transitioned to creaminess from the warm avocado. The batter was very light on the avocado, just enough to provide a contrasted mouth feel and flavor profile. I am not sure what type of vegan-oil they use in their deep-fryer, but it was definitely light and didn’t weight down the dish. This dish came with two tacos and they were in my stomach in minutes. This dish gets a 4 out of 5, it would get a higher rating if there was more sauce.

Truffled Cauliflower

Truffled Cauliflower

The second goodie box held the Truffled Cauliflower. This dish contained small florets of slightly green cauliflower that appeared to pan fried in a truffle oil on high heat for a short period. The result was a soft yet crunchy cauliflower florets with beautiful toasted marks. In addition the cauliflower was tossed with onions, Italian parsley, garlic and salt. The execution of the cauliflower was flawless. As I finished off the box of cauliflower, I did detect a little bit of vinegary flavor to the oil on the bottom of the box. I know I am missing a couple ingredients, but I will try to reverse engineer it later in the week as I would like to eat this at home. This dish gets a 4.5 out of 5, a very impressive score considering I am a non-vegan eater.

My Final Thoughts

Overall, I was very impressed by the freshness of the ingredients and the creativity of the dishes. The truck was very clean and the staff did a good job at managing orders and delivery times. This is a tough task when all the food is made fresh to order. My only comment to them is that they should reconsider their use of plastic bowls they use for to-go cupcakes and burrito bowls. After watching the documentary “Bag-it”, I learned that this bowl probably won’t make it to the recycling plant and I am sure they can find an alternative. Although I am not a Vegan, I would come back to this truck often especially when I want a healthier option. I would also challenge the carnivorous dudes to give these food truck ladies a chance, because Vegan Girls do it fresher! I recommend The Seabirds Truck.

Seabirds Mobile Truck on Urbanspoon

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