Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Kasen: Fountain Valley, CA

A while back, Robert suggested that I try out this joint if I were ever in the OC and found myself craving some sushi away from home. He told me it was a small, unassuming joint in a strip mall that served up no frills, traditional sushi. I then remembered watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservation: Tokyo earlier this year and was in awe at how such a lovely meal was served so fast. He was served a 15 course sushi dinner in 20 mins at Sukiyabashi Jiro!!!!

I'm usually very hesitant about trying new sushi joints... its just one of those things I feel that once you've found YOUR place, stick with it! So it took quite a bit of back and forth, an on the whim day trip up to the OC and both Setsy and Robert not working at Sushi Ota for me to give this place a shot.

I called the number I had on hand and was greeted graciously over the phone. The woman than made it very clear that this was a sushi only place and not to expect teriyaki or California rolls. I assured her I was very aware of what they served and we set a time. Arriving at the location, the same woman who took my call earlier sat us down and we discussed what we wanted. There definitely weren't many seats in the house... I think 8 seats at the bar, then a few tables off to the side and a private room closer to the back.

My dinner at Kasen was not as fast as Anthony Bourdain had experience but I did feel like it was marathon sushi eating. I'm used to leisurely eating at my own pace at Ota's and taking bout 2-2.5 hrs for a sitting. I was in and out of this place in under an hour! It was quite amazing what a machine the chef was with keeping a piece of sushi in front of us when we were finishing up the last piece. There were 2 other parties in the restaurant at the time and they were also siting at the bar so I could see it being manageable for the chef to be attentive. The waitresses were also on top of their game as I never saw the bottom of my cup, dirty bowls/plates were promptly taken away, sauce bowls were changed out at appropriate intervals and I was asked from time to time how my meal was going.

Towards the end my meal, I saw a raggedy looking teenage couple straggle in. The waitress gave them a loathing look and then told them only sushi was served at the establishment. The couple played it cool and said thats what they were there for. Then just as they were being seated, the waitress said the magic words "no California rolls"! The couple looked stunned, said what the heck were they gonna eat and made a B-line for the door. I'll admit that I could really go for a California roll or spicy tuna roll at times but this definitely was not the place to get it at.

My meal was overall wonderful though I wasn't a fan of the sea urchin roe or salmon roe. I've had sea urchin roe several times and it always hits the back of my throat the wrong way. Am I just eating it wrong? Nevertheless, being the only blemish of the meal, this was truly a delightful sushi experience. The following are photos of my meal:

9039 Garfield Ave
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
M-Tu, Th-Sa: 12pm- 2pm & 6pm-11pm
Su: 6pm - 11pm

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Boiling Crab: Garden Grove, CA

NCT is my connection to the OC. A trip to visit her always involves lunch at some awesome little hole in the wall or a joint with a real cult following. This time was no exception! I was totally craving some seafood so she suggested The Boiling Crab. There were quite a few patrons all with their sleeves rolled up and shamelessly wearing tacky plastic bibs. All around me I saw customers loudly sucking away at crevices of crawfish shells and conversing happily over the blaring speakers spewing out some local radio station... it was quite a site.

We were seated at a table close to the front, handed some modest small plastic menus, a large roll of paper towels and those lovely plastic bibs everybody else was sporting. I glanced over the menu but since this is NCT's regular haunt, I let her take over the ordering.

Cajun Fries: I noticed this side on quite a few tables and NCT said she always orders a side of these when she comes. I can see why. Theses fries were perfectly fried and seasoned with savory spicy Cajun seasoning. I'm constantly on the quest to find great fries and its always a treat to find something more than satisfying.
Raw Oysters: NCT isn't such a big fan of the consistency of raw oysters so I had these babies to myself. They were quite fresh though not as sweet and meaty as the ones I've had at Blue Water Seafood.
Crawfish: The waiter came by with a giant metal pail and pulled out a large plastic bag filled with these steaming critters along with two small ears of corn and sausages all tossed in "the whole sha-bang" seasoning". I understood why there was a sheet of butcher paper over the table very quickly. Indulging in these crustaceans requires a bit of work and can be quite messy for so small a harvest. NCT says she often brings a bag of these to her mom's and they'll gorge but I honestly think it'd be way too messy to eat at home and would rather eat it out where the cleanup is taken care of by somebody else.
The Boiling Crab
13892 Brookhurst St.
Garden Grove, Ca 92843
M-F: 3pm-10pm
Sa-Su: 12pm-10pm

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sonoma Chicken Coop: San Jose, Ca

On a recent trip home, my siblings and I decided to venture into Downtown and check out what was new. Not so long ago, Downtown San Jose was not really a place that people wanted to hang out. However, Downtown has been revitalized over the recent years and now its a hip happening place.

We parked our car and started wandering around, ending up in San Pedro Square which is doted with several restaurants and hosts a weekly farmers market.We finally decided on Sonoma Chicken Coop. The name caught my attention and it seemed quite busy. People are always a good sign right? Its an order and pay type of place like Panera. So we checked out the menu, placed our order and was handed a buzzer that would notify us when our food was ready.
Fried Calamari: I personally was fine without but DV wanted it. It was cooked very nicely... not too chewy. The batter had a nice flavor but it could have been more crunchy. The sauce was a little ... ketchup-y tasting.
BBQ Chicken Pizza: I'm such a crust fanatic. If the crust is great, you'll find me tearing the crust of the pie and leaving the rest for whoever is eating with me. I didn't really find myself doing that with this pizza. I found the pie a bit saucy... the sauce was bbq sauce and the chicken was drenched in the sauce as well. Sauce overkill!
Lime Grilled Chicken: I'm dark meat girl but was pleasantly surprised by the moist juicy tenderness of these boneless chicken breasts. The seasoned rice was very flavorful and a nice compliment to the chicken. Didn't care so much for the leek mashed potatoes or the slice of pizza. Penne with Marinara Sauce: I can't really say anything bout this as CV totally commanded and destroyed it. Hah! I guess it was good?

The one thing that really annoyed me was that a slice of pizza came out with each entree. If I didn't know the name of this place... I'd think they were trying to sell pizza and not chicken.

Sonoma Chicken Coop
31 N Market St
San Jose, CA 95113
(408) 287-4098
Sun-Thu: 11 AM - 9 PM
Fri-Sat: 11 AM - 10 PM

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Aki's Bakery: San Jose, CA

I had heard of Aki's Bakery years ago as it is quite a fixture in San Jose, serving the community since the 1960's. My Honor's World History/ AP US History teacher in high school would rave about and of course I remembered to add it to my "to visit" list. However, I never mentioned it when I was living at home since I figured nobody at home would be down for venturing away from the Chinese style cakes they were so familiar with. Recently I felt my family became be more open to venturing into new styles of cakes so I suggested it and it was an emphatic go.
DV and I arrived bright and early before opening but as you can see... there were others anxiously awaiting to grab some goodies. Parking is very limited in the front to street parking so we decided to park in the back where there was plenty of parking since we were driving the parents' shiny new car.
Once we were in, we were overwhelmed by the choices. Look at all the cakes! All so pretty and yummy looking. We managed to be first in line and considering there were several patrons waiting behind us, we decided it'd be wise to not step out and wave people on. So we stepped up to the counter and the attendant was great at helping us to find the cake we were looking for. Specifically we wanted a cake low in sugar yet wasn't plain tasting and the signature guava cake was recommended to us.
This pink treat consists of two layers of guava chiffon cake, filled and iced with guava whipped cream and topped with a light guava puree. The attendant said it was imperative that we put the cake back in the fridge if weren't going to eat it within the hour so we did as we were saving it for after lunch.
Check out that slice! The cake layers were light and fluffy... and had a delicate guava flavor. I'm such a fan of whipped cream as it is airy...making it less of a guilt trip to consume than butter cream or cream cheese frosting. This whipped cream icing was no different and again lightly flavored with guava. When I first saw the guava puree, I was a little skeptical that it wouldn't be overly sweet. But it really wasn't and provided a lovely different texture to the cake.
Aki's Bakery
355 Meridian Ave.
San Jose, CA 95126

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chino Farms: Rancho Santa Fe, CA

Thanks for bearing with me :). I sit in front of a computer all day at work so the sight of my laptop at the end of the day kind of disgusts me. I'll try my best to get on here more often... I owe it to you readers.

These photos have been sitting on my computer for a little while but they should still be inspiring since I took them at the end of June and there's still time to enjoy the summer bounty! The first time I heard of Chino Farms was when I visited Mille Fleurs. The name was tossed around so much I got sick of hearing it but the meal was incredible so I decided I'd visit the farm to pick up some produce myself. Lucky for me... the farm is just a hop, skip and a jump away.

Growing up at home I was very used to freshly laid eggs daily and seasonal organic grown fruits and veggies. So it was quite a pleasure to visit the farm stand in the middle of quaint Rancho Santa Fe. I love that you get your own shopper here who will follow you around and can help make suggestions on what to get. The stand looks a little small from the street but there really is a lovely variety of seasonal treats picked that morning! My personal favorites at Chino Farms are the corn, melons and strawberries YUM! Check out my latest catch there:

Green Romanesque cauliflower, yellow cauliflower and some white and yellow ears of corn.

A basket of multi colored cherry tomatoes.

Green and red leaf lettuce.

A basket of French strawberries.

A basket of raspberries.

Sorry no photos of the meal created with this catch but you can use your imagination :). Please visit to see a feast for the eyes yourself.

Chino Farm
6123 Calzada del Bosque
Rancho Santa Fe, CA
Fall/Winter: Tu-Sa: 10-4 & Su:10-1
Spring/Summer: Tu- Sa:10-5 & Su:10-1

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chicken Fried Steak at Harry's Coffee Shop: La Jolla, CA

I think you can't possibly like driving to the village of La Jolla unless you live there. Its not the easiest destination to get to in SD county, its always so congested and parking can be a bit tough to find when fighting for spots with tourists. Nevertheless, I still make my way down there to grab some breakfast and hang out at the cove or watch the seals at Children's Beach.

LH introduce us to this place a while back ago and it still stands as my most favorite place to get chicken fried steak. We usually wait till ML is in town and then head on down there but this particular weekend, EK and I had a monster craving so we made the trip down ourselves. The drive wasn't bad and parking was pretty good for a weekend- I got a spot in front of the shop!

There was however a wait as usual but it was short and we were seated promptly with menus when it was our time. Did we really need menus? We already knew what we were here for but we read the menu anyways. We both ordered chicken fried steak with hash browns, biscuits and gravy on the side. Only difference in our orders were the eggs- I like scrambled and EK usually gets easy over or sunny side up.

The chicken fried steak was almost everything I had hoped for as usual... moist, flavorful, crispy and crunchy on the outside yet tender on the inside. However, I feel that the portion size has been getting smaller every time I come back. The first time I came it was a gargantuan thing that dominated half the plate... kinda hard to see in the picture but now its like a third of the plate. Notice the gravy on the side- I like to cut up my chicken fried steak and biscuits and dip it into the gravy. Love the combination of textures- crispy, crunchy, tender, smooth and creamy! I think the chicken fried steak here is so tasty that it doesn't need the eggs, hash browns and biscuits as fillers if only it were slightly bigger but that's just me speaking.

The biscuits were very warm and buttery but a little on the soft side for me. I don't remember them being this soft before- maybe they were day old on this visit? I think next time I'll ask to get them toasted as I like it nice and crispy on the outside.

Harry's Coffee Shop
7545 Girard Ave.
La Jolla, CA 92037
6am-3pm daily

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Chicken Fried Steak at Ramona Cafe: Ramona, CA

Currently in San Jose and today's weather is slightly gloomy but really not that bad for late May weather. I'm just really glad I wasn't here last weekend when it was an oven. I had initially intended on writing about 2 places to compare their chicken fried steak but it was getting kinda longish so I'll just give both places their respective posts. I've been sitting on this post for a while so here goes the first place.

The weather in San Diego has been rather funky... chilly and rainy one minute, warm and sunny the next. A while back ago, I was watching Food Network during my job hunting months. I rarely watch Food Network anymore as it has become filled with with Rachel Ray $40 A Day type shows. I really feel the quality of programs available on that network has gone down hill. I like the original Iron Chef where chefs actually had to use their creativity to make something awesome out of a main ingredient that was totally exotic like fish heads. New Iron Chef... blah! How hard is it to make something when the main ingredient is steak!

Funny thing is that I was watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives(one of those $40 A Day type shows) and they were featuring Ramona Cafe in Ramona in the episode I was watching. Turns out one the cafe's specialties is chicken fried steak which piqued my interest in giving the place a run. Who doesn't like chicken fried steak?!? Well seasoned, moist, tenderized cube steak breaded and fried like fried chicken with sausage gravy on the side to maximize the longevity of the crispiness and a side of home fries/ hash browns + biscuits. OMG! I don't eat this all the time or else you'd need to wheel me around in a wheel barrel but I do relish a well made chicken fried steak when I give into cravings.

So one weekend, EK, LH, ML and I packed in LH's Fit and we headed on out to the sleepy little town of Ramona. Upon arrival I thought service was a little rude. We weren't even handed menus!!! I saw several other tables receive menus shortly after being seated and eventually got fed up so I asked EK to grab us a few menus only 3 ft away from us. Even then it took some time for the waitress to come take our order.

So the orders were taken and the chicken fried steak arrived! I totally forgot to order the gravy on the side and regretted it as the crispiness of the breading soon went away. I found the chicken fried steak to just be ok... definitely not worthy of being mentioned on a nationally televised cable TV show. It was a little on the dry side- tasting like a not so juicy hamburger patty and I think lacking in flavor. Breading wasn't bad but uneventful after the dry meat. Gravy and home style potatoes weren't bad but my eggs weren't at all fluffy.

We spotted some cinnamon rolls that looked tasty and were also featured on the show but unfortunately arrived too late to claim them as two ladies at another table just finishing up their meal nabbed the last two. Maybe the cinnamon rolls are the real show stopper of the cafe?

Overall I felt kinda... blah about the visit. I definitely wouldn't go out of my way again to visit this place. Maybe if I was in Julian for some apple pie or randomly in the area. I think I felt more bad about dragging the group there. It's one thing to go out of the way and find a gem with other people another to find a dud.

Ramona Cafe
628 Main St.
Ramona, CA 92065
6am to 8pm daily

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's Been A While! & Blogger Mixer At Eclipse Chocolat: San Diego, CA

It's been a while since I last updated. Sorry! I just started my new job up in Carlsbad last Monday and though I'm still in "training" mode... I've been putting in on average 10+ hours each day. I've been drained each day when I get home at night but its so invigorating and exciting to be working at a company currently in sort of a hiring craze despite the current state of the economy and with coworkers that constantly strive to better themselves intellectually. YAY!

It was quite a treat to meet up at Eclipse Chocolat with fellow event that Will, the proprietor organized for us. Thanks Will! Hopefully this gets the ball rolling as I do admire and follow the blogs of these fellow foodies and have been looking for an opportunity to meet them. We got to sample desserts on Will and discuss matters ranging how to to better your blog down to what's on your ultimate black list of restaurants. It was a tad early in the day for dessert so I wasn't able to finish my tasting. I did really like the Carrot Gâteau though. It was slightly buttery, with little specks of carrots and there was a nice crispiness from being toasted. Roger already beat me to the review of the event so you can read the lovely review on his site and live vicariously through the pictures.

Eclipse Chocolat
2121 El Cajon Boulevard
San Diego, California 92104
M-Th: 9am-10pm
F: 9am-11pm
Sa: 10am-11pm
Su: 10am-6pm

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Recipe: Roasted Bone Marrow w/ Parsley Salad

Ever watch Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations- New York episode? There's a segment where Bourdain, Eric Ripert and Scott Bryan head over to Prune to chill out and indulge in some of their favorite comfort foods. A plate of roasted veal marrow bones arrive and immediately the boys descend upon it. Bourdain proclaims this as his death row meal. The scene looks rather gross and enticing at the same time. Gross in that here were these men going to work sucking and making slurping noises to get the last bits of marrow out. Enticing because I could picture the delight of gobbling up the rich morsels. I've had bone marrow before since my mom used to make a soup for wonton noodles out of beef bones by stewing it with peeled onions and various spices then let us gleefully suck out the marrow when she was done with them. So I could picture the texture in my mind but not the flavor as I've not had bone marrow this way before. I had to try it!

First a stop at Siesel's Old Fashioned Meat & Deli to pick up some marrow bones. Now they unfortunately don't carry veal bones w/o the meat which was what I was looking for. They'd be willing to order some but there's a minimum order of 75 lbs of bones if you really want it. I'd love to try the veal bones one day so if you and some of your friends want to go in on an order let me know. So I picked up some beef bones and asked them to cut it to size for me(3''-4'').

Check out part of the meat selection. LH picked out some Berkshire (Kurobuta) pork chops to grill for us one time. DE-LISH! Perfectly moist and tender... didn't even need a knife to cut it.
Getting back, I found the recipe Fergus Henderson uses at St. John's on this site.

Roasted Bone Marrow w/ Parsley Salad Recipe
from UKTV Food


  • 12 x 7-8cm pieces of middle veal marrowbone
  • 1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, picked from the stems and chopped
  • 2 shallots, very thinly sliced
  • 1 modest handful of capers, (extra-fine if possible)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground salt and black pepper
  • toast, to serve
  • coarse sea salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC/Gas 5. Place the bone marrow in an oven-proof frying pan. Roast the marrow for 20 minutes until the marrow is loose and giving, but not melting away.
  2. Mix together the parsley, shallots and capers. Make the dressing by mixing together the lemon juice and olive oil.
  3. Just before serving toss the parsley mixture with the dressing and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. Scrape the marrow from the bone onto the toast and season with coarse sea salt. Serve with a pinch of parsley salad on top.

note: I found the marrow too oily for my taste the first time I attempted the recipe so the second time I raised the temperature 25 degrees F and roasted the bones for 30-40 minutes instead of 20 minutes. I'd recommend eye-balling and jiggling it till you get the consistency you want. I also didn't cook 12 pieces so I adjusted the salad portion to the amount of bones I was roasting.

The parsley salad did a nice job of cutting the richness of the marrow. EK enjoyed it so much that he ate the leftover salad.
Look at the masterpiece! I really liked the combination of the toast, marrow and salad. I don't think I could eat the marrow by itself as it was incredibly rich so the toast and salad did a nice job of not making the marrow too overwhelming. I much rather prefer eating marrow this way over the stewed method now!!!

Siesel's Old Fashioned Meat & Deli

4131 Ashton St.
San Diego, CA 92109
619- 275-1234
M- Sa: 9am-7p
Su: 10am-6pm

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cupcake Challenge in Los Angeles, CA

NCT just forwarded me an email about an event happening in LA during the middle of May. Its the Cupcake Challenge!

what: sample cupcakes from various LA bakeries and keep the glass flowing with wine
when: Sunday, May 18th 1-4pm
where: Playa Vista Center Point Club, 6200 Playa Vista Dr., LA
why: crown the best cupcake in LA and a percentage of proceeds go to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
how: $60/ticket gets you in to sample all the cupcakes and wine

You can check out more info on details and tickets here.

I feel a little iffy about the price. Yes I've spent more on food but I wouldn't be drinking any wine and it is still just cupcakes... and they are mini! If anyone finds what percentage is going to the foundation please let me know. I'd feel more comfortable going if I knew a major portion were going to such a wonderful cause instead of getting pocketed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

San Jose Japantown Paper for California Pioneer's Essay Contest

So a few weeks ago I was tagged by Andrea from Stones and Starlings and completed the 6 little facts/trivial tidbits about myself which you can read here. Foodhoe from Foodhoe's Foraging asked to see the prize winning essay that I mentioned in one of my facts/tidbits which you can now download here. Sorry it took a while to get this up. I wrote this on the family computer way back when and lost the e-copy when something happened to that computer. EHK helped me convert the hard copy I had retrieved when I visited the family to PDF so I can share it with all of you. Many thanks to him!

A little background before reading this paper. I wrote it when I was 16... several years ago so please forgive the writing style of a young aspiring writer. Most of my sources are local so if you would like to check up on them please check out the California Room at San Jose's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library(aka Main Library). I hope you enjoy reading the paper and that it sparks up an interest to visit the community or a small chat with me. :)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ma's Restaurant: San Jose, CA

My parents are so cute. They LOVE Chinese food and eat it for practically any occasion. Whether it be a casual day or celebration- it's never really a debate over which type of cuisine we will eat but rather what type of Chinese restaurant we will be hitting up.

In usual fashion, my parents chose to celebrate their wedding anniversary by have lunch at Chinese restaurant. The place they had intended on going to was closed that day so they looked around in the same shopping plaza and Ma's Restaurant caught their eye. This places serves up Islamic Mandarin style Chinese food which they had never tried before so they decided to give it a shot. Turns out they really liked it and the whole family went out to lunch there the next time we were all home.

I was actually surprised that my parents had chosen this place to celebrate their anniversary. I should have taken a picture but the decor doesn't exactly scream romantic as do most Chinese restaurants. It was clean but very plainly decorated and terribly loud with the lunch crowd pouring in. We were seated, glanced over the menu and agreed that getting a set family dinner/meal would work best for us. We ordered a family meal meant for 3-4 people($48.00) and it turned out to be more than enough food. The meal also comes with steamed white rice in case you're wondering.

1st course: lamb(or beef) with pickled cabbage warm pot
We chose lamb for this dish. The soup arrived promptly and the waiter portioned it out into soup bowls for us. He was a little sloppy- there was soup dripping down the side and noodles hanging over the sides of the bowls. Oh well, I won't be too picky... a multi course lunch for 6 people at $48.00 isn't bad at all. The lamb was very thinly sliced and tender. The cabbage didn't taste too pickled at all. It had been stewing in the broth which tasted lightly acidic probably from the pickled cabbage. I could have used a bit more tofu wrapper and a little less rice vermicelli.
2nd course: beans with salted vegetables and tofu wrappers
There's that tofu wrapper again. Despite the name this dish didn't taste very salty at all. It was a nice medley of flavors but didn't really stand out to me. Not a star but was a nice back up to the other dishes with some rice.
3rd course: lamb or green beans
The lamb in this dish was quite tender like in the first dish. I thought this dish could have used a little crushed black pepper and a little less green onions. Nice job on cooking the green onions though... I didn't find it slimy tasting like I usually find cooked green onions to be.
3rd course: fish with chili sauce
I didn't really taste any chili but I found this dish very enjoyable. The breading on the fish remained quite crispy despite the sauce. I found myself picking at the dish very often. Didn't care very much for the mushrooms but the zucchini and carrots went very well with the crispy, slightly sauced fish nuggets.
4th course: house special dough slice chow mein
Turns out they make their own noodles here. The noodles looked rustically cut and had a nice bite as well as flavor to it. I didn't find the dish too oily ... overall a very balanced dish not needing any additional seasoning.
5th course: scallion pancake
I had really high hopes for this dish. I saw several tables ordering this and I enjoy it very much myself. The 5th item in the meal was actually suppose to be scallion pie but I was very interested in seeing how this would pan out. I unfortunately found this too dense and lacking in the scallion flavor. What I was looking for was something less bread like... more crispy and a little more oilier. More oilier? Yes... I felt that the sesame seeds were robbed of their natural oiliness and thus the outside of the bread tasted terribly dry. My family agreed with my disappointment of the pancakes...we didn't even get through 1/4 of the serving.
dessert: soft serve ice cream
Ma's offers a complimentary soft serve for dessert. I thought it was a cute idea.
However, as you can see ... they weren't kidding about the "soft" serve. It was terribly drippy right after I took this photo and couldn't really enjoy the vanilla soft serve for fear most of it would end up on me instead of in me.

Ma's Restaurant
1715 Lundy Ave. #168
San Jose, CA 95131
(408)437-2499 or (408)437-1683
M-Th, Su: 11am-2:45pm and 4:45pm-9:30pm
F-Sa: 11am-2:45pm and 4:45pm-10pm

Ratings and Recommendations by outbrain