Tag Archives: Tuna

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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Review of “Slapfish” Truck- Slapping the Food Truck Trout

14 Jul

I really love fresh seafood. Although if I want really fresh seafood, I have to go to an expensive restaurant where they call me Sir and scoop up my breadcrumbs between courses.  I like fancy smancy restaurant service, although I dont always want to sit through the two hour dinner experience to get a nice piece of fish. Another issue I experience with local seafood restaurants is their lack of knowledge and commitment around sustainable fishing practices.  

There I was innocently sitting at my desk contemplating lunch, thinking that I could totally go for a fresh  piece of fish. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want a greasy fast food filet, nor did I feel like a $20 tab at a local restaurant. I went into Twitter to investigate the location of local food trucks and noticed a tweet from my friends at “SeaBirds Truck”. Their tweet indicated they will be at a new location with 5 other trucks, including a seafood truck called “Slap Fish”. I automatically loved the name because it reminded me of a 6th joke about self-gratification…but I digress.   

Before I left to the food truck lot, I visited their website and learned that they specialize in purchasing fresh seafood “directly from well-managed, family run suppliers of sustainable seafood” . I also learned that they take their sustainability pledge seriously by submitting their menu to the Aquarian of the Pacific’s sustainable seafood program for review. They had me at “fresh seafood”, but the rest was a big bonus…I’m having fish for lunch!

I asked the girl taking order what was their best item and she responded back with the standard response “everything is good” followed by “it depends how hungry you are”. I said “…blah blah ..just tell me two items that I really need to try”. She recommended the “PBLT” sandwich  (Pork Belly Lobster Tomato) and the “Fish Taco”. The whole menu looked good, the next time I will have to try the “Losticle” ( small lobster tail on a stick!)

The Pork Belly Lobster Tomato Sandwich (PBLT)


This sandwich starts with a toasted brioche bun and stacked with crisp lettuce, generous portion of lobster in a sweet mayo sauce, tomato and topped with crispy pork belly.This dish was “Food Porn!” This sandwich was so stuffe, I had a hard time getting my hands around this big boy. When I took a bite, the bread was fluffy, crunchy and guey all at the same time.

PBLT Sandwich (Pork Belly Lobster Lettuce Tomato)....you will make the O face too when you try it

When I bit further into the sandwich, the lobster and mayo gushed forward into my mouth and it was sweet. When I bit down and chewed on it, I tasted the savory and saltines of the pork belly and the freshness of the produce. It was a little bit of ecstasy in my mouth…I think I even pulled a little bit of an “O Face”. I would highly recommend this dish to anyone. I even liked how they garnished the paper bowl with a lettuce wedge and roasted red pepper, classy touch.

“Fish Taco”

Fish Taco with crispy fish, cabbage and two types of salsa...Amazing

When I received the fish taco I was like “Woahhhh that’s big!”  I noticed that he used a standard size flour tortilla to hold in all the ingredients and a toothpick to hold it all together. The fish  (Hake) was lightly battered and flash fried, giving its crust a light and crunchy exterior. The fish itself was  firm with a mild white flesh and a sweet and savory flavor. The taco was also stuffed with cabbage,cilantro, salsa verde, chunks of mild green chilis, and their slightly spicy tomato sauce”. My tongue was doing the happy dance in my mouth as the  sweet, spicy and savory all mixed together in a symphony of flavors. This was one of the best fish taco I have ever tasted,  It will be hard going back to a Rubios or Wahoos after this!

My final thoughts

I am very happy to discover the Slap Fish Truck.  I was eating high-end restaurant quality seafood at fast food prices, I paid only $10 for both dishes. This was an amazing price for extremely fresh seafood, made to order and using advanced cooking techniques. On my scale of 1-5, The Slap Fish Truck receive a 4.5 out of 5, a rare score on my scale. The food was amazing and even platted nicely. It is obvious that Chef Andrew Gruel and Jethro Naude take their craft seriously and bring the same professionalism to their food truck .  I will definitely recommend this Food truck to my friends and family. Good job guys…I will be back for more!

Visit their Website: http://slapfishsocal.com

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Review of The Uva Bar in Downtown Disney- Your Adult Disney Adventure Begins Here

6 Jul

Many foodies ask, is there a culinary pulse in the Disneyland Resort? The answer is a resounding Yes!  Many of my friends ask isnt Disneyland just for kids? I say NO! you havent learned how it make an Adult Disney Adventure. In this blog post, I will be providing one possible route to have a fulfilling  adult experience at the Disneyland Report..  You will find out by the end of this post how to feast like a suckling pigs and pull off some adult style shenanigans at the Disney resort.

Although the Disney Resort  has six noteworthy restaurants, this blog post will focus on a slightly more budget friendly experience, The Uva Bar. Like all good restaurants at the Disneyland resort, the only noteworthy restaurants are outside the Disneyland Park and inside the hotels /Downtown Disney.

The Uva Bar's Art Deco Theme shines the brightest at night

The Uva Bar is located in the middle of Downtown Disneyland, adjacent to the Build a Bear store.  If you were to casually read the menu, you might not give the Uva Bar a chance due to its limited menu. Although limited, Uva’s offering are seasonal, vibrant and perfect for a high-end casual meal. As a major plus, Uva bar serves up some really nice adult beverages 🙂

The Uva Bar is a  circular courtyard, with the Art Deco bar at the center and dining tables radiating out. Seating is on a first come basis, with a check in line at the entrance. On a non-holiday and non-convention weekend, you can expect a 5 -20 minute wait. The shortest wait I ever experience was 30 seconds and the longest was 40 minutes during the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) convention.The Uva Bar is the little brother of the Patina Group. It’s o.k. sitting at the kids table can be fun

The menu is seasonal and features “Bar Smacks”(appetizers), Entre Salads, Sandwiches and Burgers, Specialties and Deserts. The appetizers can vary widely in their portion size, so if you find something that attracts your eye, be sure to ask the waiter. We ordered two seasonal items (Tuna Tartar Tacos and the flatbread) and two semi-permanent menu items (Grilled Crostini and Manchego Cheese Salad).   Uva also features a very nice selection of  micro and craft beers, that also rotates seasonally. I ordered the “North Coast Blue Start Wheat” beer and Daniele ordered a glass of Zaca Mesa cuvee wine from their respectable wine list.  I did mention that we were doing an Adult Disney, which means that you eat well and develop a very nice buzz before entering the park (No adult beverages are served in the park 😦 … ).

Crostinis - Wonderfully executed flavors and textures

The first dish to come out was the Crostini, which was fingerling bread rolls coated in olive oil and roasted on an open flame. The crostini is then topped with a whipped ricotta, which had a lovely guey and viscous consistency. Attop the whipped ricotta was a series of oven roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes and drizzled with balsamic.. The dish had very nice aromatics from the roasted tomatoes and balsamic. When I took the first bite, the crostini was extremely crunchy and firm, although when I bit down , it was very chewy at its core. This combination of chewy and crunchy was a nice texture counterbalance.  The combination of the sweet savory of the whipped ricotta  paired  against the sweet acidity of the tomatoes and balsamic. I give this dish a 4 out of 5 on my scale,I would order it again.

Flatbread - Overall great dish with an excellent balance of flavors

The Flatbread’s seasonal flavor was a tomato base, with grated parmesan cheese, roasted yellow corn, grilled red onion, goat cheese and center cut bacon. The bread itself  was very thin in true flat bread style. The edges and parameter where very crispy and crunchy and the center was both crunchy on the bottom and steamy soft on the ingredients side.  This dish is also a study of opposing flavors. The sweetness of the grilled red onions, corn were opposed to the richness of the goat cheese. Additionally the saltines of the cheese and bacon was opposed by the sweetness of the corn, tomato sauce and canalized onions. The flatbread was excellent in flavor, but  the ingredients were spread a little too haphazardly such that each bite was like eating a completely different flatbread. This dish gets a 4 out of 5 on my scale, I would order it again and I will recommend it.

I purposely left this image rotated sideways, as that's what my blood pressure was like after eating it

The Manchego Cheese Salad was comprised on arugula lettuce, thinly shaved slices of Manchego cheese, apples, dates, walnuts and a walnut vinaigrette. I also added chicken to the dish.  Overall the presentation was well put together, although when I took my first bite, I had a hard time tasting any other flavor but salt. Sadly, it appears that the kitchen  double salted this dish on accident? My other complaint  is that the dates were too large and should have been at least quartered instead of served whole.. The walnut vinaigrette was lite and had subtle hints of walnut;a great dressing, but yet again the flavor was overpowered by the salt. I think this dish could have been fantastic, as the flavors in the recipe theoretically should taste good together. We ended up just eating the chicken off the salad, which was cooked and seasoned flawlessly. This dish was a shame.  If I had to go for a physical I would blow my blood pressure results as a result of eating this salad. I ordered an extra North Coast Wheat beer to purge my system of the salt and add a little accelerate to my adult Disney experience. This dish gets a 2 out of 5 on my scale, I should have sent it back.

Tuna Tartare Tacos– This was my favorite dish of the meal. It consisted of three crispy wonton pastries and quick fried into taco shells.The shells were light, with a clean flavor that didn’t take away from the star of the show, the tuna tartar. The shells  and stuffed with a seasoned Tuna Tartare and topped with fresh guacamole and micro greens. The tuna tartare, as per its name, is served raw. The consistency was partially cubed and partially macerated.  The Tuna and guacamole and had a very cool and smooth texture in the mouth. The flavor was fresh and light, with a slight hint of soy sauce.  After eating the three tacos I wanted to eat more; this is a sign that I really enjoyed it. This dish was a 5 out of 5 in my book, great culinary idea and execution.

My final thoughts

Overall eating at the Uva bar was a pleasant experience with good service and excellent food. With the exception of the Manchego Salad, the food  was extremely enjoyable and prepared with a lot a of thought placed on balancing flavors and textures. The location in Downtown Disney is a great place to meet with friends for a drink and a bit of food before heading into the park. After eating great food  you will feel be stuffed like a suckling pig; after downing several adult beverages you  will walk with a little swagger in your step. Next,  I recommend jumping on the monorail station located near the Rain Forest Cafe to make a quick jump in the park. Note, the monorail shuts down for about an hour after the fireworks show, so you may have to hoof it to the main entrance #epicfailure.

Overall I give the Uva Bar a 3.5 out of 5, meaning I will come back here again especially if I want something casual and with outdoor seating. Although a 3.5 also means that I might look at other options including going to some other restaurants in Downtown Disney. The only thing keeping me from giving the Uva Bar a 4 rating was the epic failure of quality control on the manchego salad.

Addendum: The Best Places in the Disneyland Resort to Eat and Drink like a Suckling Pig Before Going into the Park


  • Trader Sams (located adjacent to the Disneyland Hotel- near the pool)- great for tropical drinks. Hint: Order your food in the adjacent quick service restaurant and they will deliver it to your outdoor patio table
  • Uva bar (Downtown Disney)-  I think you read enough to get the drift

Formal Dinning

  • Jazz Kitchen (Downtown Disney) – Order a mint Julip and try the Catfish
  • Catal (Downtown Disney) –  Seasonal menu and consistently great Mediterranean inspired dishes Perhaps a nice bottle of a Central Coast California Meritage will put you in the right footing.

if you are feeling ritzy:

  •  Napa Rose (connected to the Grand California Hotel) – A foodie’s Nirvana a bottle of wine is a must with this meal. You will leave with a smile
  • Steakhouse 55 (next to Goofy’s Kitchen and inside the Dreams Hotel)- Order the rib-eye with a big red wine. You will leave fat and happy.

Catal Restaurant & Uva Bar (Downtown Disney) on Urbanspoon

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The Royal Cancun Resort Food and Wine Review: Tom’s Foodie Blog Goes on Vacation

13 Jun

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Yama Sushi on the Lake – Fresh Fish Tastes Better with a View

23 May

Yama Sushi on the Lake – Fresh Fish Tastes Better with a View

Yama Sushi and Grill
27782 Vista Del Lago
Mission Viejo, CA 92692
(949) – 716-YAMA (9262)
Let me make a statement…I LOVE SUSHI! Fresher the Better. I have eaten at most sushi restaurants in Orange County and many in L.A. and San Diego Counties. I have come to the conclusion there are a couple of types of sushi bars of out there and for the most part most sushi bars fit into these stereotypes. The first type is the hard-core sushi bar with no menus and it helps to if you know the Japanese names for your sushi you are ordering. At this type of restaurant don’t look at the sushi Chef in the eye and never order a baked salmon roll or the Chef will chase you out with his kataba knife. You will definitely have extremely fresh sushi, but you will leave with PTSD.  The next type of Faux cool fusion hispter sushi bars where you are likely to see the crew of the real housewives of the OC patronizing. These sushi bars are usually more concerned about classy appearance and their fusion sushi menu then actual good food. This kind of place is good for a classy time and you may even try to creative rolls, but you will have to take out a second mortgage or sell your first-born to eat there.  At the other end of the spectrum is the high-energy fun rock and roll style sushi bars. These sushi bars are definitely fun with rock music, sushi Chefs eating sushi on a woman’s boobies and overall good vibe. The downside is that the sushi is usually an after thought and the only thing fresh behind the sushi bar is the Chef as he stares down your shirt.
Now I believe there is a sweet spot in these extremes that I mentioned above, that can take small elements of each of these sushi bar styles and make it fabulous.  This food blog review is about one of my favorite sushi bar finds in Southern California, Yama Sushi. I think the Owner Don Lee has found that sweet spot of sushi restaurants styles by combining subtle elements of these extremes.
Yama Sushi is tucked in a small corner the Vista del Lago shopping center, which faces Lake Mission Viejo. From the outside Yama is very unassuming and you might not see it right away if you weren’t looking for it. Although as you walk into the front door, you realize that the restaurant is actually very large with a 20 seat sushi bar, 15+ booths and about 15 tables on the heated/covered patio.
The decor is tastefully done traditional Japanese and even features a Tyko Go to fullsize imagedrum in middle of the restaurant. The wall by the front door even has pictures of the regulars. Behind the sushi bar are two flat panel televisions, very important when your favorite team makes it to the playoff and convenient to order extra Sake when they choke it in the playoffs. I love eating at the sushi bar, but this place has the most amazing patio area with a panoramic view of Lake Mission Viejo. I have eaten on the patio before and it is pretty breathtaking at sunset. But I digress ..we are here to talk about sushi, this is a food blog not better homes and garden.

 I have been here a couple of times and the fish is always very fresh and there is always a good selection of fish on hand. We were seated promptly at the sushi bar and our drink order, Nigori Sake and a large Ashahi, was placed within minutes of sitting down. The people who come here are friendly and laid back, so it is always easy to strike up a conversation we the people at the sushi bar…overall good vibe. We ran into some regulars who we actually made friends with here during a previous visit.

Sushi Chef "Iron Chef"

Once we were settled in to our seats, the Chef made eye contact, greeted us with a “konichiwa”  and patiently waited for our first order. I started the evening off by trying something new

Unagi Shooter!
and quickly tried to find the craziest item on the menu, short of conch or fermented makeral.  Looking through the menu, there it was in the appetizer section, an “Uni Shooter”.  Judging by the number of ingredients and contraction of ingredients I knew it was going to be good. 
The Chef first poured a quarter cup of sweet sake into a cup, added green onions, Ponzu sauce, tabasco and the dropped in the Uni (sea urchin), Masago (fish egg) and then the yummy quail egg.  I gotta admit I was a little intimidated by it at first, as it was practically staring back at me. I knocked it back and it was fantastic!  The flavors were balanced and it even took a few chews before swallowing, yummy uni and quail egg…great combo! 

Salmon Skin Handroll- I got hungry and took a huge bite before I remembered to take a picture

The next item I ordered was a favorite of mine, salmon skin hand-roll; this item is the beef jerky of sushi to me. The Chef toasts the freshly removed salmon skin and wraps it up in the hand-roll with veges. The Chef toasted the skins just right and balanced the load of veges and rice. A fun factoid, eating salmon skin is really beneficial for encouraging soft skin and shiny hair …but you already know that, don’t you gorgeous!  

 The next item that we ordered was the Crazy Yama, which is seasoned and

The Crazy Yama

lightly search slices of Ahi, propped up by shred dedaicon,  with the Iron


Chef’s super secret sauce poured over it.  The dish is then topped with a little ponzu, massago (orange fish eggs), bento flakes, thin slice white onion and green onion. This one of our favorite dishes here as it has a sweet, vinegary and slightly spicy finish. If you like seared Ahi definitely try this dish. 


Another one of my favorites is Octopus Sashimi and I can usually tell if a sushi bar is good,  by the quality and freshness of the octopus. The Chef grabbed a fresh leg of octopus for me and created some nice slices of octopus. Good octopus should be firm but not rubbery.

Octopus Sashimi

It should have a slight brine flavor but overall very mellow.  The friendly cephalopod on my plate hit the mark.


My wife prefers baked rolls and has an affinity for cream cheese. Her favorite  is a baked salmon roll stuffed with cream cheese.  You Baked Salmon Roll with Cream Cheese...as you see a couple pieces are missing before I got to take the picturecan think of this dish a Philly Roll on steroids. On the inside is california roll (crab, mayo and avocado) and don’t forget the cream cheese! On the outside is fresh slices of salmon and then topped with a sweet and creamy sauce (mayo base…I think). Then he bakes it until it is served hot with a drizzle of ponzu.  This roll is good, but you have to be carefull, at first you cant get enough of it  and then you get regret when you each too much of it. Fortunately for my wife, I am known as “The Cleaner”, because of my skill set of finishing her plates. Sometimes my skills are invited if she taps out from getting full. And other times,  my chopsticks cross the DMZ  line for a  raid onto her plate to capture or kill any remaining food. Usually forays onto her plate sparks diplomatic protests; but secretly, I think she is grateful for removing the food. Honey if you are reading this now, you know it’s true.  😉

So at this point I am starting to get full from all the food, but I had to order a little more. It is a complimen to request a off-menu, Chef’s choice dish from your sushi cheff

Chef’s Choice Mystery Roll

Our Chef was good and I like surprises, so I was excited to see what he would make.  The sushi Chef came back with a hand-roll stuffed with like six different ingredients. I figured out that it had soft shell crab, scallop, langoustine, crab and then there where 2 other ingredients I couldn’t figure out. The blend of flavors was delicious and the opposing textures gave it a nice mouth feel. Our sushi Chef did a great job.


I asked owner Don Lee to strike a pose with his Samurai Sword

restaurant, high-caliber and friendly Chefs. Don was very excited when he told me that his restaurant recently won the “OC Hot List’s Best Sushi in Orange County” and business has picked up since. Yama sushi has a lot of special events including Sake Tasting (paired with sushi), sushi making classes (kids and adult classes) and has even hosted a wedding.

On my scale of 1-5, I would give Yama Sushi a 5. This is a very rare score for me to issue. A 5 on my scale means that I would tell everyone I know about it and would actively try to eat there as often as I can afford.  If you have not eaten here, I suggest you do. I also suggest stepping outside your normal comfort zone by ordering something different or even ask the sushi Chef to make you a surprise. I just voted for Yama Sushi on the ” Best Of OC” contest, because I found my favorite.

Yama Sushi on the Lake on Urbanspoon