Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cafe Du Monde

One of the classical icons of New Orleans, Cafe Du Monde has been around since 1862. They are open 24 hours a day except for Christmas. One of the great things about Cafe Du Monde and New Orleans in general is that you get people from all walks of life, and the later you go the more varied the cast of characters you are likely to meet. Go after midnight and you can bet your bottom dollar that everyone is trying to sober up after a long night of drinking.

The beignets come three to an order. Shaped in squares, these fabulously fried pieces of dough are then given a liberal sprinkling of powdered sugar. Cooked to a nice golden brown on the outside, and moist airy and a bit dense on the inside, these are perfect for either filling you up or absorbing some of the alcohol in your system.

After placing our order and taking a seat at one of the tables, our waitress arrived shortly after being seated. The beignets arrived piping hot, fresh out of the fryer despite it being 3 AM. We started talking to her and she told us this story of two guys coming to Cafe Du Monde each with a gallon of milk in hand. They both proceeded to eat 48 beignets (16 orders) each while each polishing off the gallon of milk. Like I said, who knows who you're likely to run into here.

Come for the beignets, stay for the atmosphere!

Cafe Du Monde
800 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 525-4544

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Kuhio Grill

Home of the infamous 1 lb. lau lau. I was so looking forward to Kuhio Grill because it seems like I have been on a quest the last few years trying to find a place that puts butterfish in their lau lau like back in small kid time. Unfortunately Kuhio Grill also did not have any butterfish in their lau lau, but was tasty nonetheless. It's not like a huge piece of butterfish would be in the lau lau, but it helps to add another layer of flavor to the pork and taro leaves, bringing some brinyness and some richness to the dish.

They do have several types of lau lau available such as salmon or chicken, but I was here for the traiditonal one.

The staff is very friendly here although somewhat on local time.

Kuhio Grill
111 East Puainako Street, #A106
Hilo, HI 96720-5295
(808) 959-2336

Friday, June 22, 2007

Leonard's Bakery

We're here! We're here!

"Huh? Where?"

We've arrived at the Temple of Temptation, Leonard's Bakery and their world famous malasadas.

"But, it's just a donut."

Shut your mouth before Pele gets mad and lava suddenly starts spewing beneath your feet. In fact, let me move over a few steps because I don't want any lava shrapnel coming my way in case you really pissed her off.

Leonard's and malasadas are synonymous and go hand in hand, just like peanut butter and jelly, fish and chips, etc.

The malasadas are a hole-less donut akin to a jelly donut, but oh so much more. They are fried to a deep golden brown and dusted in sugar. There is not a hint of oil to be found in one of these magical mounds of dough. They have a slight crunch to the outside and are light, airy and moist on the inside.

The chocolate malasadas are filled with a thick, rich creamy pudding with a deep chocolate flavor. The pudding is not overly sweet but has just enough sweetness to make you stand up and take notice.

The vanilla cream malasadas are similar to the chocolate malasadas but are filled with a vanilla pudding. Again, these malasadas are top notch.

If you are a coconut lover, the haupia malasadas are filled with a intensely flavored coconut cream filling. These tropical delights have Hawaii written all over them.

I'm not sure what makes the malasadas at Leonard's so special. Maybe they employ Menehune in the back to make and fry up the malasadas.

Leonard's Bakery
933 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 737-5591

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tex Drive-In

Tex was regarded as one of the Top 10 donut shops in the US a few years ago. I'm still trying to figure out why. The malasadas came out fresh from the fryer, but was still greasy and had a very heavy texture. The plain malasadas are just topped with sugar, while other malasadas have different fillings.

The plain malasada was less greasy and dense than the filled ones, but had a mild burnt oil taste, like it hadn't been changed for a while.

The custard filled malasada was heavy and greasy. The custard filling was pretty good, and had a rich vanilla flavor. The combination of the two, however, was too much for one person to eat that many.

Tex Drive In
45-690 Pakalana St.
Honokaa, HI 96727
(808) 775-0598

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Chef Mavro

Gourmet magazine writes "Where we would dine if we had only one night in Honolulu," so I took them up on their challenge. I actually flew to Honolulu for a 12 hour juant just to eat here so my expectations were very high. Chef Mavro's has always been on my to do list along with every other founding member of Hawaii Regional Cuisine.

With James Beard award in tow for Best Chef in Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest, George Mavrothalassitis has gained world wide fame for his cuisine. After having his own restaurants in France, while in Hawaii Mavro woke up one morning in Waikiki with Diamond Head looming and the background and proclaimed, "That's it! I'm home!" and has been here ever since.

Chef Mavro's is designed as a tasting course restaurant only with the options of 3, 4 or 6 courses, or the entire table can opt for the Chef's Table's Tasting Menu with a staggering 11 courses.

The Spiced Bigeye Tuna with a salad of Sumida watercress, hearts of palm, red radish, garlic-watercress essence is a great way to start off the meal. Nice seared on the outside, the tuna is rare as can be on the inside to show off its freshness and flavor. The spiciness of the watercress helps to cut through some of the richness of the tuna.

The Hudson Valley Foie Gras Au Torchon wrapped in nori, yuzu kanten, ruby grapefruit, Korean pear, shiso pickles, and brioche crust. The foie gras was rich and buttery and played well with the accompanying elements. The citrus elements help to downplay the heavy mouth feel of the foie gras.

The Poached filet of Hapu'upu'u (Hawaiian Sea Bass) in a sago-coconut nage, thai herbs, lime froth is just a simply wonderful dish. The light and delicate flavor of the sea bass is enhanced with the coconut and lime essence. A Thai inspired type of dish, it shows the versatility of Mavro's cooking style.

The Keahole Lobster a la Coque with Kahuku corn cake with lobster coral is a simply prepared dish that allows the lobster to shine through. The corn accents the sweetness of the lobster.

The Snake River Farm Kobe-style beef roasted bavette and braised short rib, pancetta brussels sprouts, truffle accented celery root pure, pinot noir sauce is one of the best pieces of beef that I have ever had in my life. It had such a rich and bold beef flavor that can only rival the kind of beef raised in Argentina.

The Roasted "Mountain Meadow" Lamb Chateau was cooked to a perfect medium rare. The lamb was not at all gamey but was full of flavor. May have been the best lamb that I have ever eaten.

The Big Island Goat Cheese "Tatin" was a perfect little tart. The goat cheese was rich, creamy and full of flavor. It was very subtle in flavor, just another wonderful dish.

Dessert was a sampler platter of cheesecake, coconut ice cream and a cappuccino bombe. The cheesecake was as smooth as silk, rich and creamy. The flavor was very subtle and just sublime. The coconut ice cream burst with fresh coconut. Although the ice cream was not very sweet, it was well balanced and almost as good as Lappert's. The cappuccino bombe was very light and delicate. Although the coffee flavor could be discerned, this dessert was not at all over powering. The balance of all three dessert worked well together. An extra special dessert, a chocolate torte, was also presented. Like the rest of the desserts, this was subtle in flavor and just fantastic. Home made candy was also presented as well as petit four.

One of the best meals that I have ever had, and will certainly return when in Honolulu again.

Chef Mavro
1969 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 944-4714

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Big Island Grill

As with many restaurants in Hawaii, Big Island Grill is located in a strip mall. Many locals eat here, so you know the food is good and affordable. Many people complain about the slow service, but that's just people running on "Hawaiian time". Fortunately, I did not experience this on my visit. SHAKAS!

The mac nut pancakes are imbedded with macadamia nuts and then topped with crushed mac nut. They are huge, bigger than the plate, and come three to an order. The pancakes are light and flluffy with just a hint of sweetness in the batter. Just add some butter and perhaps some coconut syrup and you have the perfect breakfast.

I have heard that Big Island Grill has seemed to either undergo new ownership or management and some things have changed since I visited. Service is still and issue for some people, but more importantly prices seemed to have risen fairly dramatically, $1-$2 per dish.

Big Island Grill
75-5702 Kuakini Hwy
Kailua Kona, HI 96740
(808) 326-1153

Monday, June 18, 2007

Nori's Saimin & Snacks

Nori’s is definitely a hole in the wall. With address and GPS in hand, I still couldn’t locate this place. I called the restaurant only to find I was next door. Nori’s is in the middle of a little strip mall, and trying to find this place at night only made matters worse. It was definitely worth the treasure hunt though.

The restaurant is small. As you enter, there is a long hallway with a few booths on one side. Pictures and accolades adorn the wall. I noticed a picture of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto along with a few other Hawaiian celebrities.

Noted for their saimin, this was a must especially after going up to Mauna Kea to see the sunset and the incredible view of the stars. Situated at 9,000 feet the observation center gets mighty cold and windy. If you head to the summit at 14,000 feet you will see snow during the winter time. One of the cool things about the Big Island is that you can ski or snowboard in the morning, and drive down the mountain and go surfing in the afternoon.

The Hilo-style wonton saimin is what I ordered. The Hilo-style noodeles are curlier then normal is what I was informed. All noodles are made in house, and they make 16 differenet varieties of saimin. They don’t skimp on the noodles here, as there is little room for broth with the amount of noodles that are given. The saimin is served with the usual char sui pork, komoboko and green onions. The wonton are fairly big and have a good amount of pork filling inside. The wonton skins are thick enough not to fall apart while swimming in the saimin, but delicate enough not to become gummy or overly chewy. The noodles themselves are cooked al dente and have a nice chew to them. As a bonus two chicken skewers are served with the saimin. They are grilled with a nice char on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside.

They also make a chocolate mochi cake and mochi cookies. The mochi cake is sort of like a cross between chocolate cake and a brownie. It is very dense and moist, but has a fairly delicate mouthfeel. It sort of has a dobash (chocolate pudding) texture and taste, but a little chewier due to the mochi.

For the best saimin on the island, go to Nori’s. It’s definitely worth the "hunt".

Nori’s Saimin & Snacks
688 Kinoole Street
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 935-9133

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Chiko's Tavern

Somewhat of a throwback, Chiko's Tavern is an out of the way hole in the wall that locals have been going to for over 40 years. It's a small bar that serves pupus (appetizers) and a place to come and sing karaoke.

The Spam musubi is grilled to caramelize the outside then topped with shoyu (soy sauce). The Spam tops a bed of rice and then wrapped in nori. This is a classic Hawaiian dish and one that is prepated well.

The kalbi ribs are marinated in shoyu, sugar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and then grilled. The kalbi ribs are cut thin and the marinade and char of the grill bring out a wonderful combination of sweet, salty and a little bit of spice from the ginger and some added chili.

The food is not gourmet by any means, but for the people of Hawaii, it's comfort food at its finest.

Chiko's Tavern
930 McCully St
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 949-5440

Merriman's Restaurant

Located about an hour inland from Kona and up in the mountains, Merriman’s Restaurant is a dining destination for just about any foodie. One of the original founders of Hawaiian Regional Cuisine, Peter Merriman, changed the face of food on Hawaii as we know it back in 1991. Along with Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong, Sam Choy, George Mavrothalassitis and a host of others, this group of young, relatively unknown chefs made a commitment to improve the food of Hawaii into something more recognizable than the veritable Spam. They dedicated themselves to the use of locally grown produce and island raised protein as much as they could. This group has developed strong bonds with local farmers and ranchers to use the freshest ingredients possible.

Merriman’s is oddly located in a small strip mall unlike many of the “destination” dining options which are either freestanding or, more likely, in one of the many resorts on the Kona coast. The location does, however, position the restaurant more strategically closer to Kahua Ranch, Hufford Farm and Honopua Family Farm.

The Kalua Pig & Sweet Onion Quesadilla is a take on the classic Mexican dish. The smoky and salty pork is paired perfectly with the sweetness from the caramelized onions. It is served with a Kimchee and Mango Sweet Chili dipping sauce. The sweetness of the mango in the dipping sauce helps to cut the saltiness of the kalua pork, while the kimchee and chili give it a spicy little kick.

The Organic Waimea Greens Salad is a mixture of locally grown baby greens with Kula onions from Maui and Chevre from Mauna Kea in a balsamic vinaigrette. The greens are vibrant in their color and are lightly dressed to retain the texture and subtle flavors of the greens. With these types of top quality ingredients, drowning them in dressing would be a shame. The chevre is soft, creamy and slightly salty, the perfect accompaniment to the salad.

The Kahua Ranch Lamb are several lamb chops cooked to perfection. Charred on the outside to form a nice crust, the inside is a perfect rare-medium rare. The lamb chops are not at all gamey and have a wonderful rich lamb flavor.

The Merriman’s Mixed Plate is a combination of the Ponzu Mahi Mahi, Filet Medallion and the signature Wok Charred Ahi. The Mahi Mahi is marinated in ponzu giving it a nice citrus undertone while allowing the flavor of the fish to come out. Paired with grilled shiitaki mushrooms, hearts of palm and an onion relish this dish is a winner. Several medallions of filet were presented with sautéed mushrooms and an onion jam. The filet was seared on the outside and cooked to a nice medium rare on the inside. The filet was full of flavor and the earthiness of the mushrooms only enhanced the rich beef flavor. The Wok Charred Ahi is simply prepared. It is lightly seared on the outside and rare as only top grade sashimi could be on the inside. The searing brought out a slight nuttiness in the fish as well as bringing out some of the inherent oil in the fish to give it a deep, intense flavor. This is the ultimate surf and turf combination.

The Coconut Crème Brulee is a Hawaiian take on the classic French dessert. The sweetness of the coconut certainly is brought out in this dish, but is not overly sweet. The crème brulee was a looser custard, unlike some places where the crème brulee is really firm. The crème brulee was top with a glassy burnt sugar topping crust.

This is a great restaurant for special occasions and is a great representation of what Hawaii Regional Cuisine is all about.

Merriman’s Restaurant
65-1227 Opelo Road
Kamuela, HI 96743
(808) 885-6822

Beard Papa

This is the second Beard Papa that I have been to, so naturally a comparison is in order. The exterior is very similar, nice and crunchy on the outside, and light and airy on the inside. These cream puffs were a sorta flat, like a French pastry type of UFO. The pastry shell had an off taste though, sort of like rancid oil. The cream had a rather unpleasant gritty texture and not much flavor. Specks of vanilla bean could be discerned in the filling, however, I seriously doubt they used real vanilla beans while making the custard.

Overall, the cream puffs at this Beard Papa location was a huge disappointment.

Beard Papa
301 W Valley Blvd. #105
San Gabriel, CA 91778
(626) 282-3089

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Hualalai Grille by Alan Wong

Pack your survival kit, grab some flares and if you go at night hire a tour guide or a knowledgeable local especially if you haven't been to the Big Island or the Four Seasons Hualalai before. When calling for directions the hostess said to look for the big tree. Not exactly the easiest thing to do as the sun is setting. And after all this searching, the "big tree" was a little bit bigger than a Charley Brown Christmas tree.

Once you finally do find the property, the road to Oz strangely passes another resort and winds through a residential neighborhood. At the end of the road, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, appears the majesty of the Four Seasons resort.

The restaurant is set in a lovely open air space, like a lanai, that overlooks the golf course. It feels like you are on a deserted island that you can call your own.

The tasting menu is a must. It starts with the signature dish of "Soup & Sandwich" but this is no ordinary soup and sandwich. The soup is a chilled red and yellow tomato soup, with each color in its own half of the bowl. The sandwich is a foie gras, kalua pork and grilled cheese sandwich. The combination may sound strange but works wonderfully. The tomato soup helps to cut through the richness of the foie gras while still allowing the flavors of the sandwich to shine through. It also comes with a wonderful seafood cake composed of lobster, shrimp and crab. It is lightly held together with mayo and the sweet, delicate flavors of the seafood to be the star.

The next course is pan seared diver scallops with a pork hash risotto. Huge diver scallops are perfectly seared with a nice golden brown crust and the delicate interior allows the natural flavor of the scallop to rise to the top.

The fish course is ginger crusted onaga (ruby snapper) with a miso sesame vinagrette. This delicate fish is perfectly cooked and the ginger crusting gives it a sharp bite that is perfectly paired with the fish. The saltiness of the miso also helps to bring out the flavor of the onaga.

The meat course of short ribs is nothing short of spectacular. Braised to perfection the meat falls off the bone to give the taster a mouthful of pure beef flavor. The accompanying soy glaze adds a hint of saltiness and sweetness.

The signature Chocolate Crunch Bar is unlike anything Hershey's or Nestle ever made. The chocolate is not overly sweet and the infused macadamia nuts add texture and saltiness, as well as helping to cut down the sweetness of the chocolate.

This is one of the best meals I've had in my life and worth every penny. It's actually pretty affordable compared to some other restaurants.

The Hualalai Grille by Alan Wong
72-100 Kaupulehu Drive
Kailua Kona, HI 96740
(808) 325-8525

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tom's Burgers

Tom's Burgers is an unassuming little restaurant on the corner of Manolia Avenue and Jones Avenue. It is very small, but was busy during the lunch hour. With only a few tables inside and two tables outside it can get packed in a hurry.

The menu is rather small and straight forward but it seems like they know what they do well and stick to it.

The Colossal Burger ($3.49) is a 1/4 lb. burger topped with pastrami. It comes with the usual suspets of lettuce, tomator, onions, pickles and thousand island dressing. The burger had a lot of flavor, while the pastrami was lean but had a few morsels of fat to give added flavor. The combination of flavors was rather good although the flavor of the pastrami was not very prominent as they don't give you a lot of pastrami atop the burger.

This is not a bad little burger joint and a relatively good value for the money. If they put more pastrami on their Colossal Burger it would be more reason to come back. Some of the things on their menu might be worth exploring a little more though.

Tom's Burgers
10737 Magnolia Ave
Riverside, CA 92505
(951) 343-1480

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ohana Hawaiian Island BBQ

As a member of OC Food Blogs, a review has been posted on that blog.

To read the review and view pictures, please go to

Monday, June 11, 2007

Auntie Em's Kitchen

Already being well regarded for their Red Velvet Cupcakes, Auntie Em’s Kitchen gained even more notoriety after spotlighted on Throwdown with Bobby Flay recently. Auntie Em’s Kitchen is known for their moist cupcakes with a sweet cream cheese frosting, but not cloyingly so. They are also known for have cupcakes that are larger in size than most. For their price point, they are definitely a bargain compared to Sprinkles.

Arriving later in the day, I was disappointed to find out that they were sold out of the Red Velvet Cupcakes. I did, however, decide to get one each of the remaining three types of cupcakes that they did have left: Coconut, Carrot Cake and Chocolate.

The Coconut Cupcake is a yellowish cake with a slight hint of lemon flavor to it. The cupcake is topped with a cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with shredded coconut to finish things off. The cake itself is heavy, dense and noticeably greasy. It could be that the oil started to render out after being on display for most of the day. The cake is not sweet in the slightest bit. The cream cheese frosting is sweet, but not cloyingly so. The shredded coconut atop the frosting is not sweetened otherwise this would be a diabetics worst nightmare. The combination of the cake and frosting eaten together changes the whole complexion of the cupcake. Somehow, the cake doesn’t seem as dense, heavy and greasy but transforms into a light ethereal cupcake. The intentional blandness of the cake helps to cut down on the sweetness of the frosting and this turns out to be a delightful little treat.

Like the coconut cupcake, the Chocolate Cupcake was a little dry inside. I attribute this to the cupcakes being left on display the entire day. The cake was not heavy like the coconut cupcake was. The frosting on its own is not too sweet, but sweet enough to put you into a diabetic coma on the spot. The frosting is very light in texture and is made out of dark chocolate which helped to cut down on the sweetness of the frosting. The combination of the two together is a nice mixture of light whipped dark chocolate frosting with the dense deep chocolate flavor of the cake.

The Carrot Cake Cupcake was still moist. The cake was filled with carrots, walnuts and pineapple chunks. The cake itself is not too heavy and had a light cinnamon taste. The spices did not overpower the cake by any means. The frosting is cream cheese based, and like the coconut cupcake was not overly sweet and still had a little tang to it from the cream cheese. The combination of the cupcake as a whole has a nice balance from the sweetness of the pineapple and frosting, spiciness of the cake, the crunch from the walnuts and the zing from the cream cheese.

I would like to get some more cupcakes from Auntie Em’s Kitchen early in the morning at some point in time, so I know what they taste like when they’re freshly made.

Auntie Em’s Kitchen
4616 Eagle Rock Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90041
(323) 255-0800

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Fredo's Phillys

After hearing so much about Fredo’s Phillys on Chowhound, I decided to make the trek over there. I had been in the area previously, but they had just closed. I was very surprised to know that they closed at 8 PM. Very strange for a restaurant to be closing this early, especially on the weekend.

Well, the wait and another journey were well worth it. Fredo’s is a small restaurant with only a few tables inside and one table outside. Pictures, postcards and pennants of Philadelphia adorn the walls, but the most obvious is the pictures of the many satisfied customers of Fredo’s Phillys. Dan, the owner, is super friendly and is very proud of the sandwiches they serve and for very good reason.

The menu is rather limited, but I love places that know what they do well and stick with it, as opposed to restaurants with a seemingless endless menu that does things well but nothing outstanding.

The mushroom cheesesteak ($7.39) comes on a 12” Amoroso roll. It is filled to the brim with thinly sliced beef, grilled mushrooms, grilled onions and your choice of cheese. It wouldn’t be authentic if you didn’t get the Cheez Whiz. The roll is soft, yet has a slight chew to it, the perfect bread combination for this sandwich. The meat is tender, juicy and flavorful without a hint of fat or gristle. The mushrooms are caramelized on the outside, while retaining its meatiness, and onions are perfectly grilled, which renders out all of the sugar. The Cheez Whiz acts as a culinary glue to hold all of the components together while giving the sandwich a nuance of cheese flavor. It certainly doesn’t overpower the sandwich in the least.

If you are looking for an authentic Philly cheesesteak, Fredo’s is you place. This place hits the mark like a Ryan Howard towering homerun right over the center field fence at Citizens Bank Park.

Fredo's Phillys
720 N. Lake Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91104
(626) 798-9905

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Seafood Harbour Restaurant

Fighting the throng of people in the San Gabriel Valley in search of dim sum is never an easy task. First, dealing with traffic is always a test in patience. Second, finding a parking spot among the many restaurants can sometimes be a challenge. Lastly, waiting in a seemingly never ending line to get a table and be seated.

Fortunately, we arrived after the lunch hour rush, so traffic was minimal and parking was surprisingly easy to find. But we still had a 45 minute wait before being seated. The bad thing about arriving that late is that some of the most prized dim sum can be sold out.

One thing that immediately stands out about the dim sum at Seafood Harbour is that the dim sum is much larger than at most restaurants. Each dim sum piece is easily one-and-a-half times as big as most restaurants such as Capital Seafood and Ocean Star. Although the dim sum is higher priced at Seafood Harbour, you do get more bang for your buck. Seafood Harbour is among the “new wave” dim sum restaurants that offer new and creative types of dim sum. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but it’s always fun to try something out of the ordinary.

Stuffed with two to three whole shrimp along with some shrimp paste to help bind it together, the Har Gow (Crystal Shrimp) is at least a two bite affair. The dough is light and has a little bit of a chew to it. The shrimp are perfectly cooked, as it has a little bit of a bite to it as well as being juicy at the same time. One of the bad things about having the dim sum so big is that the skin tends to fall apart a little bit easier. To me, I will sacrifice some disassembly for more filling any time.

The Shu Mai is a dumpling filled with pork and shrimp and topped with fish roe (eggs). Like the Har Gow, whole shrimp are embedded in this dumpling. The pork is minced and helps to bind the dumpling together as well as adding some flavor. The fish roe adds some color as well as some crunch to the dumpling.

The Bean Curd with Oyster Sauce is a loosely filled “dumpling”. The bean curd drapes the filling of pork, shrimp, wood ear mushrooms and other vegetables. It comes adorned with a light broth. The bean curd is a little chewy but adds a lot of texture and a nuance of flavor.

The Fresh Shrimp Dumpling with Chives is very similar to the Har Gow except it has the addition of chives and fish roe. Again, whole shrimp were stuffed into the dumpling and held together with a chive infused shrimp paste. The addition of the chives added a faint onion taste and another level of flavor. The fish roe added both color and texture to the dumpling. The dumpling skin was soft and a little pliable which gave the perfect amount of chew. Like many of the other dumplings it was filled with too much stuffing and tended to fall apart.

The Shark Fin Scallop dumpling is a monster of a dumpling. It’s like dim sum on steroids. The dumpling is filling with two to three whole shrimp which is then topped with a whole scallop. The filling is encased in a soft, slightly chewy dough then adorned with strands of shark fin. With all of the filling involved in this dumpling, unless you can eat it one bite it’s sure to fall apart. The shark fin doesn’t much taste but adds a little bit of texture. If you’ve never had shark fin before, it looks like clear short strands of spaghetti. It has a firm texture much like al dente pasta, except this doesn’t stick to your teeth like al dente pasta sometime does.

One of the more nouveau dim sum is the Durian Pastry. The filling is enwrapped with a gorgeously decorative pastry that is then deep fried. This dim sum was a little disappointing as it had no durian taste. Upon breaking it apart, there is a greenish-yellowish paste that looks like durian, but even that has no durian taste or the ever powerful aroma of durian. The rest of the filling is a whitish paste that tastes like some type of root vegetable, possibly yam. Out of all the dim sum sampled on this day, this was by far the biggest disappointment.

The Egg Custard came right out of the oven and was still hot when presented. The prized custard was soft and creamy with just a hint of egg and slightly sweet. The pastry was buttery and flaky and just fell apart when bitten into. This was a perfect way to end a great meal.

If you can get by the long wait usually associated with Seafood Harbour, it is well worth the journey. If you are also adventurous, this is the perfect place to try some of the new wave dim sum out there.

Seafood Harbour Restaurant
3939 Rosemead Blvd.
Rosemead, CA 91770
(626) 288-3939

Friday, June 8, 2007

Philly's Best

Philly's Best opened in the Chino Spectrum about six weeks ago. I wanted to wait a while before trying it out, in case there were any bugs in their operations, it would give them time to work them out. I have passed by there a few times and have always seen a lot of foot traffic going in and out of the restaurant, always a good sign.

I had high expectations of Philly's Best from the amount of foot traffic and things that I have read about other Philly's Best restaurants on Chowhound. Sadly, I was disappointed in Philly's Best.

The Mushroom Steak is meat and mushrooms on the infamous Amaroso roll. A few thin slices of pre-proportioned meat is grilled to order, while a pile of onions are on the grill, slowly grilling away. The portion of steak per sandwich is pretty dismal and is just swimming in the large roll, and reminded me of the Steak Escape that you can find at most mall foodcourts.

The Philly's Best contains steak, mushrooms, sweet peppers, grilled onions and provolone cheese. This sandwich contains more ingredients so the bread isn't the main player. All of the components meld together more cohesively.

I would probably give Philly's Best another try down the road, but based on this visit I wouldn't highly recommend it.

Philly's Best
4047 Grand Ave., Ste. F
Chino, CA 91710
(909) 464-9911

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Kiku Sushi

Situated in the new Crossroads Entertainment Complex in Chino Hills, Kiku Sushi is not a destination restaurant by any means, but they do serve some decent sushi. A feature that is offered is an all you can eat sushi option for $22.95, $17.95 for lunch during the week. What sets it apart from Todai, Onami or any other “sushi buffets” is that the sushi at Kiku Sushi is made at the sushi bar to order.

The all you can eat feature excludes uni, toro and ame ebi, but otherwise the entire sushi menu is yours for the taking. They do also offer a lot of rolls at Sushi Kiku, for those who are into rolls.

There are also cooked food options included in the all you can eat option. Included are tempura, chicken teriyaki, beef teriyaki, tonkatsu and several other dishes.

Although they don’t offer the highest quality of fish, the fish is fresh, has no fishy scent and is not stringy. The fish has nice color and a nice sheen to it. The rolls here are bathed in a rather sweet sauce, which tends to overpower the delicate taste of the fish. Because the sushi is made to order, it doesn’t sit out for extended periods of time like at other sushi buffets.

For decent sushi, Kiku Sushi is a worthy option. The restaurant is very clean, and the servers are friendly and professional.

Kiku Sushi
3090 Chino Avenue, Suites C&D
Chino Hills, CA 91709
(909) 591-1291

Friday, June 1, 2007


This was my first time trying the ramen at Santouka. I have heard many things about Santouka, almost all of it great. Santouka is the gold standard, the ramen by which all others are compared. Seeming to have engaged in a partnership with Mitsuwa, Santouka is located in their foodcourt.

The menu is fairly limited, a sure sign of a restaurant that knows how do things great instead of restaurants that have an exhaustive menu turning out mediocre food.

Santouka is known for their shiyo (salt) ramen. The shio ramen ($6.49) has a slightly white murky appearance at first glance, but underneath is a rich, golden brown broth with tons of flavor. Even thought the name implies salt, the broth is really not all that salty. An initial blast of salt strikes the palate but then the rich pork broth makes an appearance. Although the broth has a floating layer of fat on top, it does not have an oily mouth feel. The thick, toothy noodles help to cut through the richness of the broth. The noodles definitely add some texture and another dimension of flavor to the mix. Two slices of pork with a nice layer of fat come with the soup. The pork has a rich, deep flavor with the fat just melting in your mouth. The ramen also comes adorned with umeboshi (pickled plum), kamaboko (fish cake), green onions, bamboo shoots and wood eared mushrooms.

The miso ramen ($6.49) is similar to the shio ramen except miso takes the place of the salt in the broth. At first glance, this tastes like miso soup. As the broth reaches the back of the tongue, the deep, rich pork flavor arrives on the scene. The same toppings come with the miso ramen.

If you are looking for top quality ramen, Santouka is definitely at the top of the class.

Mitsuwa Marketplace
665 Paularino Ave.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 434-1101