Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Always A Great Catch at Fishing With Dynamite




Sometimes you get entertainment out of the blue for no reason.

This seriously just happened when I am dining here at Fishing With Dynamite.

It's a very small comfy, cute little oyster bar a few steps from the beautiful sandy beaches of ultra rich community of Manhattan Beach. This location is on a good stretch of trendy restaurants and boutique shops that only the rich dreamers can talked about. This is not like Santa Monica or South Beach of Miami. Try to think people who can afford to live in Malibu, but would prefer the less traffic of this community.

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This seafood eccentric restaurant was the brainchild of the chef David LeFevre, who also operated the super popular Manhattan Beach Post (MBP), a more focused seasonal California fare located a few doors down from FWD.

The MBP is more buzzier with casual brunch crowd during the weekend while FWD tends to be more favorable with the eclectic crowd who just wants to dive in to experience their seafood fare. I wouldn't say it's more subdue at this quaint little cafe versus the bigger gastropub, but there is no subtlety about the difference.

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Their famous fish tacos

Two things I was told to always ordered was a platter of the fresh oysters and a plate of their famous fish tacos. Those were indeed an excellent advice. I don't think anyone should skipped their fabulous deep fried battered yellowtail. If I had chance to come here every time, it's to get this excellent soft shell tacos.

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Selections of Oysters

The oysters selections can changed, depending on the season and availability. As you can see from the photo of what was being ordered, I was able to get almost every one of them on the menu. Probably my favorite are the ones in Washington state and New Brunswick, Canada.

As in for my entertainment at this establishment. Every single time... really, I do mean.. every.. single.. time, there's always seemed to be coolest pick-ups at the bar. I think the Girls Brunch dates include a pack of gals sitting at the bar. In no time, I get to witness some of slickest come-ons, dopest openers, and maybe even a finalization concluded with phone numbers exchanged.

No lies, they even swapped Instagram names or add each other on Facebook. This never ceases to amaze me. So please, do sit at the tiny bar section of this awesome seafood bistro. You don't want to missed out.

True story, one of their ice breaker actually works on one of my dates!

Fishing With Dynamite
1148 Manhattan Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Fishing With Dynamite Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, August 10, 2018

Meal Inspires You To Say Here's Looking At You




Don't you love it when an inspirational quote you just heard from a famous movie becomes the name of a restaurant?

The possibilities are endless: "Go Get'em Tiger", "Some Like It Hot", and "Here's Looking At You".

Some are just too corny and will never stand up to the test of time, but there are quite a bit that wound up sticking in the long run. Wouldn't you believe it the last choice actually is now the name of a popular restaurant in Los Angeles? Go figure, right?

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Frog Legs

Years ago, I had an acquaintance that raves about this exact place when it first opened. I remembered vividly in which everything about coming here was an absolute must, but the reservation when it first opened was difficult because to score, just like any new place was at that time.

If you happen to like the restaurant Animal from Fairfax district, then you will definitely love the team behind this venture here. Interesting thing about this cozy restaurant was that when I first came in, I was coming in exclusively for their cocktails. I think that was my passion (every restaurant must have good drinks in order for me to enter the door). After trying all almost their entire cocktails menu, I was a repeat visitor just for these type of sessions for me to wind down after work.

However, as mentioned, it's the food that would get me to join the chorus in raving about the place.

Particularly it's the seafood and vegetables that entrances to me love coming here. I can't get enough of some of the starters. The one dish I am hoping everyone gets to try is their frog legs that is as big of chicken leg. I usually think something like this is grimy, but with the right amount of spices, it is better than a buttered chicken or Tikka.


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Pork Belly

My other favorite dish was their pork belly dish as well. Those two originally had a test run, but I was pleased they kept both of them. The other interesting thing was a I didn't think I would like was their Shishito peppers. Somehow I was made into a believer and tested out their other vegetable starters in over time. Again I was glad they kept this dish in the rotation.

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I'm thinking that they kept the popular sellers like the ones I mentioned above and swap out other dishes in the rotation. One of which was a sweetbread dish I liked in my earlier visits. That got taken out and another dish rotating in to replace the sweetbread. I guess it's always good to keep the diners on its toes with new favorites. Who knows it might be the superstar in its course.

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The cocktail program here was what draws me to this fine restaurant in the first place. I believed that most people come here for the drinks early and leave once the dinner crowds arrive around 7pm. It's always the cue for me back then to leave before the elbow room is gone. Majority of the time, it's wise to get in at 5:30pm and go for a few quick libation. Or come back before it close when the dinner rush hour dies down.

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There are so many dishes to try here and sometimes they do go for the jugular. I remembered a $25 Mai Tai was offered for a short time and a big dry aged Holstein steak was once offered for a big ticket amount. Not saying it's out of price range, but it does give you thrills that maybe a high roller would buy it just to say they got it. I'm still trying to latch on to one of those guys for a sip.

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The desserts have come and gone through transitions as I have noticed, but they can be stellar at all times when you wanted something to end this awesome meal. One of the big reason I liked to sit at the bar at that time was to sample a slice of pie that was offered daily. Since the former p√Ętissier decides to move on, this was one thing I missed.

The team that runs the show here are the veterans from one of my favorite restaurant Animal are dynamic duo of Jonathan Whitener and Lien Ta (who I learned is the wife of my old past acquaintance). With all these fantastic dishes rolling out from a stellar service being displayed, you can imagine I'm here quite often.

Now my hope is someone will be bold enough to name their restaurant "May the Force be with You" or "Go Ahead, Make My Day". 

Here's Looking At You
3901 W. 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90020

Here's Looking At You Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, August 6, 2018

Even Hipsters Love Taiwanese Food at Pine & Crane



Has anyone ever thought Taiwanese food can appeal to the masses?

Neither did I if I think hard. I was thrilled with the fact that Kato have re-create some of the most popular far East Asian dishes with local farm to table ingredients. Still.... I am somewhat skeptical on how this cuisine that is more geared towards street food and home cooking can succeed to the general masses that only looked at the dishes with greasy food impressions.

I am a huge fan of any type of interpretation of Taiwanese food, just not a fan of Silverlake area. Yet, I just couldn't pass up a chance to visit one of my favorite Taiwanese joints in all of LA, which is in the heart of the hipster zone.

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Press Play to see the interior

A few years back, I visited Pine & Crane due to my shopping excursion in that area for some hard to find indie label that was considered hip and dope. You are not going to find it at some mall or even upscale boutique store. This area always fit the bill for the people living there with the nonchalant and nonconforming attitude of what's cool with no care in the world.

Which shocked me to no end on how some entrepreneur wants to open up a Taiwanese joint in the middle of that bloated arrogant zone... and succeeded in convincing that populace that Taiwanese food are the bombdigitty meal that they have been missing out. Maybe it's that it's not popular or cool, but the reverse psychology of the not so trendy cuisine make it cool.

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Potstickers - Kurobuta Pork with Cabbage

I'm somewhat stunned that this place that looked like other cafe style restaurants with great aesthetics. Even more shocking, in town that serves a few crafted drinks, abet mixed with Taiwanese alcoholic beverage can worked as well. There were many soda drinks imported such as the popular sarsaparilla HeySong and a few of the Taiwanese beer brands were available on this spot.

A very straight forward place where you placed an order in the register, then being shown to an open seating area (a lot of long communal table and a few open tables by the wall) with high ceiling and good open window facing the main street of Sunset Blvd. Perfect lighting brightens out the room during day time with nighttime scene emulating from the street at night.

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Chili Wontons

As in for the food, it was the most cleanest Taiwanese dishes I have ever seen. You'll find it funny that people will order pig's ear to cold cucumber to seaweed can be had. Tea smoked egg can be had as well as they rotate the small plates of cold appetitizers on the counter next to the cash register.

Pretty much of the standard noodles, dumplings, green onion pancakes, to rice dishes you grew up can be had here. What probably stand out is the chili won tons that is popular among the local crowd here in Silverlake. They can't stop raving about this. It's actually funny to me.

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Green Onion Layered Pork Pancake

We also gotten the famous beef roll onion cake they have, except... they replaced with kurobuta pork. Maybe the strip of weird parts of cow might be a turn off for this disconcerted crowd who prefer the presence of Berkshire graded pork. This was the first time I have the beef roll becoming a pork roll. Subtle change, but I still immensely enjoy this.

Let me preface by saying that even though I hate coming to Silverlake for various reasons (hard to navigate, lousy parking situation, traffic can be a mess on a busy street, etc etc.), the only saving grace was this Taiwanese restaurant that catered to let's just say residence of this northeast side LaBeau. For all the clean presentation, I still think it captured the essence of Taiwanese food. Not every dish needs to be stylish, but they can presented beautifully and still have that eclectic taste.

Do I still think Taiwanese food appeal to the masses? Just as I writing this blog post, I found out that the owner of this establishment opened up a 2nd different Taiwanese joint not far from here. Heck, there is even another Taiwanese food restaurant might open up in Silverlake as well.

I am lost at words at that tidbit, but let's keep Taiwanese food train rolling. Shall we?

Pine & Crane
1521 Griffith Park Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Pine & Crane Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Another East Coast Burger Presented by Wahlburger




There's a obscene debate going on between east coast versus west coast that go beyond the rap wars of the 90's. Can you guess what's the big bruhah lately?

Who has the best burger? In-n-Out or Shake Shack?

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I want to say neither just to spite both of the over-hyped wannabes. For some devout followers that swore by them, it can get more religious or political at times as a hot button issues that can't be resolved with a vote of a taste test. Biased opinions tends to take over when we discuss such sour topic that can divide a nation.

For the west coast, it's the team In-n-Out with their fresh meat patties and fresh veggies that are from the source of their carefully chosen farm distributors. Never frozen, always fresh is the model. You can taste the difference so said the believers.

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Then, you got the east coast pushing the rhetoric of Shake Shack down your throat with their meatier version of the burgers with the variety that can beat the slim down menu of their westside counterparts. Both have their strong points, but someone else wants to get in on the action.

Apparently, Wahlburgers from a famed actor and his hip hop family also wanted to enter this battle royale. It's not just Shake Shack have come on strong in the past few years, but Raising Cane and Five Guys have also started to make the march toward the west coast.

What seemed to be a major difference between Marky's burger versus the other funky bunch? For one, I think their patties are bit more thicker because of the 1/3 lbs portion. In a a weird way, you can get the pounder by ordering their triple patty.

They are very generous with the servings of their vegetable add-ons of lettuce and tomato. Almost like getting a salad with the patty and buns. Coincidentally, the buns may or may not be from the local bakery as it was posted on the website. This seems to be something I would get from my local market for that burger cook out.

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How does this Boston transplant of a burger do compare to the New Yorker (Shake Shack), DMV (Five Guys) or In N Out (good ol' Cali)? In my humble opinion... here it goes.

In order from best to worst: In N Out, Five Guys, Wahlburger, Shake Shack.

In reality wise, I think the price may play into a bigger hindrance as it was the 2nd most priciest with In N Out being the cheapest. Made to Order burgers, my top 2 choices are the ones I prefer, though Wahlburger is not far from them where Shake Shack is so far back, I don't even know what the fuss was in the first place about them being the best.

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Another big plus was the choice of tator tots instead of fries. Yes, I know... they are both potatoes, but I just love the crunchy crispy tots that is in here.

On the flip-side, after this review, I had a whole new appreciation for Five Guys after I shredded them to pieces when I first encountered them many years ago. I had to say it's not as bad as Shake Shack was. One of these days, I might need to add White Castle and Whataburger in my burger comparisons battle.

As in for now, I give Wahlburger a passing grade, but the price of $10 for a single patty may be a deterrence for repeat visits.

Wahlburgers
835 W Jefferson Blvd #1710
Los Angeles, CA 90007

Wahlburgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, July 23, 2018

Top Ten Burger? at Carnitas' Snack Shack




This past week was a big gathering of convention goers to the ever popular Comic Con, where all the comic book geeks, cosplay dressers, and weird sci-fi fantasy lovers convene in one big spot to express their love for all that is great with their world.

For me, I'm just waiting for the brand new movie or TV show trailers to pop up online after their conference. No lie.

I was careful to avoid all of them, so I made a rash decision in a quick pilgrimage down to SD as fast  as I can as I know traffic around convention center will be rough.

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The menu by the one of ordering stations

One of my pit stop in San Diego was make a bee line to Little Italy where all the hip dessert places or well known eateries are at (see my Extraordinary Desserts review). Alas, I found no quick parking and needed to park near the train station parking lot.

Using my little quick map guide, I totally forgot that a brand new(ish) Carnitas' Snack Shack opened up a few block down near Little Italy joints I wanted to visit. Probably the best decision I had made in what was a regrettable trip down so far that day.

Personally, I didn't knew much about this little snack shop, other than a search of what's the best burger or hottest place in San Diego. This place always seemed to pop up on the search engine. Kudos to the web guy that is able to figure out the dynamics of SEO. To call it a snack shack is also somewhat misguided as well on my part because I found it to be a full course meals on hand as a standalone restaurant.

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The tracker to find where you sit

In what disguised as a fast food take out place on a food stand near embacardero region of the city was a place-to-order restaurant with a full service bar attached to this quasi stand. It's a pretty much an order to go, where there are many benches and tables set up in a quad area for you to sit and dine. They pretty much handed a tracking buzzer after you ordered where the tracker is for them to bring out the tray to you if you wish to dine in near the stand (pretty sure it's only close proximity).

It was after I sit down at one of the communal table, I realized they are also a full service restaurant with menu to order in as well. Well, I'll be darn and learned that for next time.

Well, what's so special about the place that makes me wanting to come here out of the blue moon? Apparently this place was mentioned by USA Today as having one of the best 10 burgers in the USA.

Blow me down! This got my attention.

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Triple Threat Burger

The Triple Threat burger with all its porky glory consisted of Pulled Pork, Bacon, and Pork Loin Schnitzel to confound anyone's imagination on how to proceed this eat this ginormous monstrosity. To put it mildly, it was insane to think you can gobble this down without the need of a drink, but I devoured this within a short amount of time as it was too good to stop and contemplate anything else.

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Pork Belly

As I mentioned earlier, it's not just a fast food, but they also served some fine dishes with their careful salads to unique starters. One of the more popular requested order was the pork belly that was probably the best companion to the Triple Threat burger. It glistened on the hot sunlight, but melt tenderly right in your mouth when you tasted it. With some homemade cornbread and a side salad, this would have been perfect as a dish by itself.

This establishment had came a  long way and blew up in what I remembered from earlier this decade. I was quite impressed by my visit and wanted to try other pork oriented dishes that they may have in stock. I have heard they have other creations as well such as their beet dish, but has since taken out of circulation in the menu. Pretty much have to look out for the menu for any new additions in the future.

In what was a dreadful day getting stuck in traffic for me coming down from LA area. I probably can go to Las Vegas for the same amount of time to go to San Diego on that fateful afternoon. If there's a redeeming value, this place was it. Glad that I get to finally get my hands on that triple threat.

And yes... you won't catch me coming down for this crazy chaotic storm otherwise known as Comic Con. No shot! (unless I want to get stuck for 4 hrs of driving again)

Carnitas' Snack Shack
1004 N Harbor Dr
San Diego, CA 92101

Carnitas’ Snack Shack  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Treasure Found at BlueGold




Interesting of a thought. Not long ago I mentioned that I stumbled upon a back up option by chance.

Here we go again.

This time around, it was by mistake. Did I get lost and went to the wrong place? Yes and no on this. Let me somewhat explained on this.

Basically I wanted to go to a posh southeast Asian cuisine place called LSXO that was situated in a trendy shopping center/open air mall called Pacific City. This is where there's a huge food hall that is not far from this space (will touch that later). The restaurant itself was located on the 2nd floor in this mecca that included other restaurants and eateries, where first floor included casual fast food and shopping stores of all kind.

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Jimmy Utah - Jim Beam, St. Germaine, Oregat, Citrus, Strawberry Shrub

What I didn't know was that LSXO's space was occupied with another restaurant called Blue Gold. Apparently it was two restaurants in one, which space split in half and have its own service staff. It's somewhat unique in that you walked in to the hostess stand and tell the host/hostess on which restaurant you plan to visit. LSXO is like a hidden speakeasy restaurant while Blue Gold faces the open space with an ocean view of Huntington Beach.

It didn't take long to see which place most people gravitate to if they just walked in to this restaurant space.

Since I skipped LSXO and wound up at Blue Gold. Why the different in two restaurants? Was there a different owners. How do they work the kitchen space?

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Octopus Tonto - Slowed Egg and Pickled Veggies

First thing first, from what I can see and later discovered, the restaurant shared the same kitchen space and pretty much run by the same operator and chef. Whereas I had mentioned that LSXO is more geared towards Southeast Asian variety of Vietnamese, Blue Gold is more towards New American fare.

With the posh intimate setting for LSXO, Blue Gold has more of a look of a classier version of a contemporary seafood restaurant and also getting wood tables and bar to set up to make you feel that a hunch of a classy steakhouse if you dive right into it.

I decide to gather myself towards Blue Gold because the cocktail bar is situated on that side of the room whereas LSXO is more hidden. I know I know... pretty sure they share the same drink menu from the same bar.

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Gin Blossom - - Damrak Gin, Apricot, Chamomile Tea, Citrus

Once I am at the bar, they only give you the Blue Gold menu, which I pursue the menu and found that anything from seafood (obviously with being faced with the ocean view), pizzas, pastas, and steak are prominently featured. There was no turning back now if I wanted to try the fame chef Tim Vuong's Vietnamese dishes.


Smoked kurobuta pork chop, Tokyo turnips, cracklings, tarragon jus, apricot mostarda & honey

Personally I am fine with my choice of this side of the room, as I was looking forward to brunch that day anyways and gotten a few items that matches with it. I was recommended to try the Octopus Tonto, which resemble a grilled octopus with Egg Benedict with a few greens on beautifully presented plate. I am sucker for octopus dishes these day and I actually love how this dish play out. Everything on this plate just screamed for you to have fun by poking this egg, but delicious at the same time.

The main course I chose was their interpretation of Smoked Kurobata pork chop, with just right amount of cooking and seasoning, was perfect for this satisfying meal. I was tempted to test out the pizza, but I'll save that for my next visit.


BlueGold Chocolate Pave - Candied Sour Cherry Syrup, Cocoa Crumble, Kirsch Vanilla Ice Cream, Chocolate Shaving

The one dessert I have noticed get tons of play here was a blue-goldish donut looking piece that pops up on both Yelp and Instagram caught my attention. I then realized it was a chocolate pave that playfully utilizes to match with the name of the place. With its vanilla ice cream and chocolate shavings and crumble, it rightfully ended the dining experience on a high note.

In a weird thought, why the name of Blue Gold you may ask. I did too for a moment. From a search it was mentioned in that the place was named for a point when the sunset hit the Pacific Ocean, you will see a beautiful blue gold.

Just like that view it was named after, the restaurant itself is elegantly beautiful as well. I am curious how the 2 restaurant operations can worked in a kitchen if both sides are busy. That's where I saw some of the past comments on various review oriented websites/blogs have mentioned. I lucked out that day on a slow late afternoon (before early dinner). I will test that venture when I come in for dinner on LSXO one of these days.

As in for this dining misadventure... lady luck is on my side again!

BlueGold
21016 Pacific Highway d200
Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Blue Gold Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, July 13, 2018

Another Hainan Chicken Contender in Cluck2Go




Here we go again.

We got another situation at best age old question of where to go for that steamed chicken rice we recently talked about. I hated to do a similar cuisine post so close to each other, but I was done in by the request for that a better place for Hainan Chicken rice can be had locally near my work on the eastside.

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The sign to let people know it's the same owner as Man Chan (down the street)

Since I did a post on Red Chicken which was a popular hang out among the nuevo cluck crowd that didn't want to go a high traffic dating place of Savoy that is down the street, I was recommended to try out Cluck2Go.

Why here you asked?

Apparently, for many years, a lot of Chinese compadres living on the east SGV (any Asian community east of 605 freeway) hated going to west SGV that consists of Monterrey Park to El Monte. Reminds of you transients that lives in West Hollywood not willing to venture out east of 405. In their mind, they found a groovy place for their fixings for this Hainan chicken....

The place they all have a hard on for the steamed chicken that I described in the Red Chicken post was a restaurant called "Man Chan". Not really a hidden gem as I remembered it fondly before and would recommended to people who stopped by here. 

However the good news was they decided to open up a scale down restaurant that focused only on their chicken dishes (steamed or fried) with a few sides. Hence, the Cluck2Go was conceived as Man Chan can be a full pledged Chinese restaurant with other rice dishes and different array of proteins than just poultry.

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Hainan Chicken Rice

This location was a bit of a curse as i can remembered. In the beginning of the decade was a Flame Boiler outlet that gave way to a Korean Fried chicken joint. Sadly I never went to the latter and go to the former because of my co-worker fascination as a fancy healthy meal. 

I kid you not.

With this scale down version of the main flagship, Cluck2Go still maintained a fantastic juicy chicken that we come to expect for a good Hainan chicken that we all can craved. The minimalist vibe here gave it a Subway dining room kind of feel with a to-go mentality to match with it.

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Fried Chicken Wings

I don't really know if this was a short term extension  or maybe this place can catches on where they can expand like Green Zone (another chain that catered to the nuevo cluck crowd). It's worth the quick meal like Flame Boiler? , but yet served the chicken rice dish on the fly.

*post note: I found out the answer after I wrote this*

To answer that question, this is the best Hainan Chicken rice I had on the eastside. The best thing about Man Chan or Cluck2Go was their tender juicy chicken. I do like the ginger dipping sauce for the chicken, but the spicy sauce needed a bit more kick to it. I also highly recommend to get the wings as well. That is better than the fried chicken as a meal.

This is good for work area meal, but I think I can travel farther distance for this dish if I am willing to be patient.
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*ps. I found out that it is an expansion as there is another Cluck2Go in Pasadena. That location apparently was the first one.

Cluck2Go
17110 Colima Rd
Ste A
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745

Cluck2Go Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Excellent Interpretation for Phat Birds




Let the debate begin!

I think it was done many times before, but the question often tiredly get asked and always a new answer is given every so often. Let's ask it again shall we?

Where can you find the best fried chicken in LA?

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The Front

You get that question a lot, don't you? Probably more times than you can remembered and I obviously changed my answer every few months when I visited a new place for fried chicken. One of the best spots that stuck to my mind since my initial visit sometime last fall was this quiet little place near a metro rail station in East LA called Phat Birds.

Pronounced like "fat", but slang translation meant "excellent" or "cool". Luckily they went PC and not called themselves Phat Chicks or a riot would have started for sure.

I think I have done a few chicken shack like Crack Shack and Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken. This unique spot was I discovered from a list belonging to a traveling "advisor" site.... ie Yelp for travelers. Pleasantly, it actually exceeded even my wildest imagination.

Usually on a boring weekend, I can make a trip and park it near residential area as parking lot does not exists. Keep on that in mind if you decide to come on a weekend evening where a party can happened and takes up all of the neighbors space as well. 

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Outdoor Seating

Cute little remodeling of this shack where it showed what might be an older food stand that reworked into a subtle outdoor picnic patio for the masses. Another sure sign this is legit is the cooker in the back of the stand where I can see where the fryer are being kept for churning out these fried chickens.


The famous Honey Dipped Chicken

To the point, they offered three offers of flavor with two size orders. The flavors are either be traditional (original for most people), Honey Dipped, or Nashville Hot Fried. The sizes comes in a quarter size (legs and thigh / breast and wing) or half size (which include all four parts).

My favorite among what it was offered was the Honey Dipped flavor fried chicken. I think it's like traditional, but then dipped in their special honey with a side of fries and pickle with a slice toast. At my last trip, I was able to get their traditional without any sauce and still enjoyed this juicy tendered fried chicken that was in store for me. If it was up to me, I would choose the honey dipped.


Traditional Chicken

Somehow I liked the fries so much and got that again for the half chicken. If I get adventurous enough, Nashville hot would be next. That required gutsy move on my part.

There are also new items being introduced since my initial visit last year that made its way this year was the housemade chicharrones and corn fritters. Both of the items needs to be explored next time along with the Nashville hot version of their fine fried chicken.

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East LA is a burgeoning area that is getting more popular as hipsters are making its way east past downtown and Silverlake. Not surprisingly.... you can guess a lot of people who don't live in this area are making a trip to get these chickens just like I'm doing on that warm afternoon.

One observation I have noticed is that many of the chicken places tends to be in a parking lot of a pre-arranged agreement with certain property owners to operate a limited hours schedule. We can named a few fried chicken specialists are doing this. This location gave a good blue print on how to grow the business without the need to have a brick and mortar retail space and still thrives.

Is this debate settled? This place is right up on the discussion and probably will outlive many others for the near future.

Phat Birds
4701 E. 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90022
Phat Birds Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Get Extraordinary BLT Instead at Extraordinary Desserts

Is there ever a ballsy way of bragging than using the adjective "extraordinary"?

Apparently so.

You know only the naysayers and the pessimists would do the extra leg work of trying to debunk any hype. Ever seen restaurants maintaining a five stars rating on Yelp? Never. Because it will abruptly fail whenever people wanting to knock down a few peg.

I guess this was about to be the case at Extraordinary Desserts in Little Italy area of San Diego.

To be straightforward honest, I didn't have high hopes for cake or pastries at this place. A little birdie suggested to me to go for their underrated panini or their BLT. Their cafe supposedly has the perquisite to be a fantastic brunching experience on a warm weekend.

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The Tea Set

Arriving hours later than planned was bound to get people riled up. Especially unhappy guests I was with. My colleagues and I were stuck in the 5 freeway for better part of 3 hours where the trip supposedly would be promised 96 minutes according to Google Map. Not their fault, but accidents do happened...... as in like 8 times.

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Press "Play" to see the look of the crowd outside


Getting inside, we were looking at different cakes and pastries. For whatever reasons, maybe the cakes get changed quite often or selections are made on the fly, there was a sign posted said there's no printed menu for cakes or pastries. So they suggested you looked around and jotted down in the notes on a clipboard provided by the hostess stand.

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Looking at the display for ideas on what to order


Of course, people wandered off like a mad men looking at cakes on the glass display. As we are looking at the name tags in front of each cake or pastries, people are just standing there blocking. No traffic control and no real organization as it was sh!tshow in the worst possible way. Yup, no happy campers in our group by the time we sat down.

Did we ever get calmed down? Fortunately yes. Once we gotten cooler and away from the heat, things started to simmer down a bit. Once we get over the silly things about looking for the cake we wanted, some of us started to enjoy the festive creation.


The famous Strawberry Shortcake

Some of those cakes were nicely presented with an eye for the roses. Thing of the movie "American Beauty" when these things come out. You can take a look at my Strawberry Shortcake to marvel at how it came out.

Oh, I had a running debate with some others when I posted the BLT on Instagram, I still think that was what separate this place from a few dessert places nearby was their cafe offerings. Especially the BLT. It didn't failed and was probably the saving grace for me on this visit.

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BLT

In retrospect, looking over things after we got out, I think this place deserved some credit on what they were serving. Beautiful, creative, imaginative desserts. Do they tasted great as it looks? We had a split decision on that, but we did love the coffee, tea, and other sandwich servings.

Yes, the place should have been called "Extraordinary Cafe", just to be on the safe side. As we walked out the door, the chaos still persist on the glass displays and people lounges to block the view.

This place needs to militarized this line. Quick! Someone get the soup nazi from Seinfeld. He can solve this dilemma.

Extraordinary Desserts
1430 Union Street
San Diego, CA 92101

Extraordinary Desserts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Hawaiian Food Closer to Home at Coconut's Fish Cafe

Hawaiian food tends to stay with you even after your vacation is over.

Here's a thought, why aren't more transplants opening up more island influenced restaurants here in the southland? It would be a gold mine! ha

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In front

I'm going to hear about there are few places in town and yet people will recite the same list over and over. Heck even a famous chain with the same two letters will get recited as well. Here comes the funny part: once you named it on one hand, it all becomes obvious that it's the same easy spam and eggs that get mentioned. Don't kill me, but I know people will quickly point to me about the massive headway that POKE has made in the mainland over the years.

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Click on "play" to view the tables and interior


But when it's time to name a place that served seafood or moco loco, boy do we get a head scratcher because of specific this question.

By some luck, an establishment originated in Hawaii is coming over to LA to serve some of the best fish tacos and the ever popular coconut shrimps. Coconut's Fish Cafe that was started in mid 2000's in Maui quickly gain popularity with its island's signature ingredients of coconut, mango, pineapple, wasabi, and ginger that can be incorporated in part of their dishes. 

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With its local feel and vibe, the cute island decor with surfboard as a table top, this place has all the elements of inviting place.


The feast!

I was instructed not to eat these fish tacos with a fork, even though it was provided to me. The idea was to gobble this thing with your free hands and take it all in. I'll be straightforward honest, it took me about a good 20 minutes to finish one of these ginormous tacos. Yeah, it's hungryman sized tacos.



The famous Fish Taco

With this fish grilled to perfect and added in some of these tropical flavors like the mango, I can see how or why these fish tacos were a hit. The nicely battered coconut shrimps were a major winner as well. I especially love the tangy sauce that goes with the coconut shrimp, it was fantastic!

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The Famous Coconut Shrimps

As in my question, was these well known cafe started by a transplant? Apparently, the founder was a northern California native who retired to the islands. Supposedly, I was given a story of this gent buying out a local restaurant when he found out his favorite Hawaiian restaurant was closing down, so he apparently he was learned from the closed establishment on how those ingredients worked and recreated them in his new restaurant in Maui he just bought.

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Pineapple Upside Down Cake


Soon enough, he took it back and opened up new restaurants in Sacramento and Scottsdale, where it was also highly received as the ones in Maui. With hits on his hand, it obviously in no time get to downtown Los Angeles as well.

Fish Tacos and coconut shrimps doesn't always required a plane ticket.... it might comes to that if our urges for Hawaiian food stretch long after our return from vacation.

Coconut's Fish Cafe
809 S Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014

Coconut's Fish Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Classic Dish That Is Now Hip at Red Chicken

There's a dish that is making a major comeback.

It seemed not long ago everyone can only named one place to go for the steamed chicken we all tend to love ... Hainan Chicken. The place people would suggest is name of an Italian specialty cafe that can served out this southeast Asian favorite poultry dish.

What's Hainan Chicken and why is it so special?


Hainan Chicken Rice - Steamed Chicken with sauces

Let me break this down. In order to get this dish right, you pretty much have to cook this chicken to be moist and have a silky texture feel. The skin would needed to be in this texture of a taste (it's a blasphemy not to include the skin!). On top of that, the rice need to be steamed with the chicken stock to have that flavor.

Oh, let's not forget about the sauce! That's probably the most important, but yet more ignored part of the whole dining experience of Hainan Chicken. You got have that chili, soy, and ginger sauce to separate the sweet, spicy, and savory taste for that chicken.

It's used to be only south part of China specialty named after the island where it was famous for. However, it was grown be loved by most of southeast Asia like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and any big Chinese populations. For marketing purposes, most Chinese restaurants just simply named it "Hainan Chicken" because people will understand you wanted steamed chicken with all these pou pou involved.

Getting back to it, there used to be only one place that serves in the whole LA as of 2002. I know because that Italian place (Savoy Kitchen) was named the #1 date place for Asian community in LA. They served pizza and pasta, but was ecstatically known for this steamed chicken. I for one, are not a devout follower of this place and was on the look out for a better one.


Singapore Fried Chicken with Rice

Flash forward to present day and time where there is Yelp, Google, Instagram and other online presence that can get you to survey the land for that offerings. There are places like a food court in a supermarket, a hole in the wall restaurant, or even places that is known for other specialties dishes, but serves a bang up chicken like this.

How did I ever wind up in Red Chicken? Long story short, it was because someone I know complained about the service here, but mentioned how good the place was in having this dish. Service be damned.... I would not miss out if this is one of the better steamed chicken I am going to see.

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Fried Chicken Wings


It basically looks like family run restaurant where I can see kids are there too during dinner time. I guess people don't mind if the food is good and can ignore this simple fact. My best guess also was that the owners running it has some sense of social media as they keep their taps on it and also update their website regularly. How savvy they are? We'll find out if they can find this post online.

My initial thought about this no frill, limited menu item place was that they are specialized (the name of the place, Red Chicken) was actually pretty good. I do love their wings and their fried chicken rice dish. The one that is where the dish people craves for... the steamed chicken was spot on. All those prerequisites I posted earlier have all been met, so I really am excited for the place to challenge the Italian place a few miles away.

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Pink Milk - It does a body good?


This is a pretty straight forward place with not much to entice people to make the long trek for. People usually settles, but I think with the steamed chicken getting more popularized as I have noticed a sizable list was circulated by a few publications... it may be a good alternative finally.

For once, I can honestly say that popularity is catching on during the new Millennial era of SnapChat or Instagram. It was forgotten and underappreciated by the Gen X era of bloggers. Let's hope it doesn't get too crazy as more of these red chicken are popping up. I am noticing they are catering that crowd with those crazy milk drinks. Instagramable?...hardly, but you get the idea.

We all love a good comeback stories, but we also remembered the fizzled forgotten. Xiao Long Bao.

Red Chicken
1001 E. Las Tunas Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776

Red Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato