Monday, January 14, 2019

Crispy Pork & Char Siu Rice from Seasons Kitchen USA

On most weekdays, my lunch would not consist of flavors from my Southeast Asian childhood. But today was not a typical day. Today, Seasons Kitchen USA--which has been travelling from office park to office park serving Malaysian dishes for food-barren corporate complexes--was in my neck of the woods.

So my lunch had a lot of the ingredients I grew up with: sambal with whiffs of belacan, the crispy head-on fried anchovies called ikan bilis, and the sumptuous aroma of rice cooked with coconut milk.

The protein was char siu and hunks of fatty pork belly still attached to its crispy skin, which, when I think about it, I probably would’ve been better off consuming when I was 30 years younger and 50 pounds lighter!

Seasons Kitchen USA
641 N Euclid St
Anaheim, CA 92801

Edwin Goei's Top Drinks and Restaurants of 2018

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The Dim Sum Co. - Westminster

Whenever I want instant dim sum gratification, The Dim Sum Co. does the job. Since it’s a walk-up quick-service counter located inside My Thuan Market in Westminster, you point, pay, and eat. There’s no hour long waits, no tipping, no splitting up the bill at the end. There’s usually a queue, but it last minutes compared to the hours you might spend waiting at a real dim sum restaurant on a weekend. It’s been this way since it was called Yum Cha Cafe back in the day.

But there are differences in quality to a proper dim sum palace, mostly due to the travel time. By the time I got it home, a lot of the dim sum cooled and hardened. Also the delicate skin of the har gow got torn up when they packed into its togo Styrofoam container. But the taro balls were greaseless and crisp, shedding its shredded-wheat-like fur in crumbles when I bit into it. And the egg custard tart was, as always, luscious and perfectly sweet.

As I took my last morsel and sipped my home-brewed tea, I looked at my watch. In the time I took to drive, pick up, and eat this food, I would still be standing in line, waiting to get a seat elsewhere.

The Dim Sum Co.
8900 Westminster Blvd.
Westminster, CA 92683

Davios - Irvine

Monday, January 07, 2019

Farewell to Stricklands

Stricklands Ice Cream served its final cone last week, one day before New Year's Eve. It was forced to close after 15 years in business. Its landlord, The Irvine Company, chose not to renew its lease earlier this year.

I went on that last day and although all the ice cream was sold out by the time I got there, I was able to get one last treat: handspun milkshakes, which were being offered at half-off.

A rush of competing emotions came over me as I took a drag of the thick strawberry milkshake from my straw. I was happy and grateful that I got to be there on the last and final night of service. But then, as soon as the sugary surge melted away, the feelings of profound sadness and loss set in.

Stricklands represented a physical, brick-and-mortar connection to countless fond memories of my past. And it seemed like an injustice that it was being taken away. I would’ve had different emotions had the owners, Randy and Donna Nettles, decided to close up on their own terms.

But then, my feelings turned to hopefulness. The fact that they aren’t closing voluntarily actually provides a real possibility that they will reopen elsewhere–somewhere where Stricklands Ice Cream can make new fond memories in perpetuity.

Farewell Stricklands...for now.

Kashiwa Ramen - Costa Mesa

Friday, December 28, 2018

Cafe Hiro's 2018 Christmas Eve Prix Fixe Dinner

Yes, it's another Christmas Eve Dinner at Cafe Hiro, a meal I write just about every year. The price was the same as last Christmas: 4 courses for $49. And like all years, my favorite continues to be the roast beef with garlic soy, served with buttery mashed potatoes that would be soup if it were any creamier.

In case you missed it, here's the rundown.

Scallop spring roll w/Sautéed Spinach, Yuzu-Vinegrette and Curry Oil


Beef Tataki w/Black Truffle Burrata Cheese, Roasted Red Bell Pepper, Ginger, Garlic Chips, Basil, Balsamic Reduction and EVOO


Seared Ahi Tuna w/Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, Cherry Tomato, Avocado, Roasted Eggplant, Red Bell Pepper, Ginger Miso Sauce


Breaded Monkfish w/Sautéed Mushrooms, Daikon Salad, Tonkatsu Sauce


Roasted NY Steak w/ Mashed Potato, Garlic Soy Sauce


Roasted Miso Marinated Norwegian Ling Cod w/Sautéed Vegetable or Mushroom Risotto


Sea Urchin (Uni) Spaghetti w/Sautéed Scallops (3pcs), Wasabi, Nori


Cafe Hiro
(714) 527-6090
10509 Valley View St
Cypress, CA 90630

Flights & Irons - San Clemente

Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Farewell to Yen Ching - Orange

If you didn't already know, Yen Ching in Orange is closing after New Year's Eve. Check out the article I wrote for OC Weekly where I visit this institution for the first and, actually, final time.

574 S Glassell St
Orange, CA 92866
(714) 997-3300

Mr. Taco Nice - Anaheim

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Boiling Noodle's Mi Dac Biet - Westminster

It's probably easier to list what's NOT included in The Boiling Noodle’s mi dac biet (house special noodle) than name what IS included, but here goes. This dish contains:

Quail egg
Baby octopus
Fish ball
Squid ball
Chinese BBQ pork
Ground pork
Pork cracklings
Imitation crab meat
Bean sprouts
Pickled chile peppers
Deep fried onion
And a partridge in a pear tree

I'm kidding about the partridge, but this meal, which is available as take-out, costs about $6--considerably less than Five Golden Rings.

The Boiling Noodle
9081 Bolsa Ave., Ste. 105-106
Westminster, CA 92683

Soba Izakaya Minami - Laguna Hills

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Dim Sum at China Garden - Irvine

Today I witnessed three co-workers who were dim sum virgins get deflowered at China Garden. It was a good day.

Irvine China Garden
(949) 653-9988
14825 Jeffrey Rd
Irvine, CA 92618

Vua Oc - Garden Grove

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Hunter Bros' H3 Ranch - Fort Worth, TX

H3 Ranch is a steakhouse located at the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, an epicenter of meat processing back in the Wild Wild West. I wrote about this place tangentially while reviewing Malibu Farm in Newport Beach for OC Weekly.

In the review I said that it was exactly what I wanted to find while I was in town. It looked like the Texas out of my imagination: a time-capsuled cowboy saloon with at least half a dozen bison heads mounted on the wall and floorboards that creaked under spurred boots. On the menu were steaks cooked on steel grates over a hickory fire that blazed in an open kitchen. And all around me were cowboy-hat-sporting customers eating those bloody hunks of meat with nothing but a baked potato and a charred jalapeño as sides.

But as I said in my review, I didn't end up liking the rib eye steak I ordered. It was chewy and didn't have much flavor. Most disappointing were the special house skillet potatoes I got instead of the baked potato. Despite being advertised as deep-fried and finished with bacon, onions and peppers, it was gummy and lukewarm, no better than the potatoes the Hampton Inn I was staying in offered for free at its daily breakfast buffet.

Here I share the pictures from that dinner in case you ever find yourself in Fort Worth Texas and are interested in repeating my experience...or not.

Hunter Bros' H3 Ranch
109 E Exchange Ave
Fort Worth, TX 76164
(817) 624-1246

Malibu Farm - Newport Beach

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Shrimp and Grits at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen - Anaheim

To me, an Orange Countian, Downtown Disney has become like The Strip to Las Vegas native or Hollywood and Vine to Angelenos--I don't go there unless I absolutely have to.

Not only is it overcrowded and overpriced, there's now the added inconveniences of the long line at the TSA-style security checkpoint and validated parking that needs at least a $20 purchase from a table service restaurant.

It didn't use to be like this. There was a time when locals could enjoy a leisurely night out--maybe catch a movie and then eat at somewhere better outside Disney property, which, come to think of it, is probably why Disney instituted the changes. They know locals don't eat here.

But now, since I’m forced to spend every time I come, there really is only one option: Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, one of the original Downtown Disney restaurants.

This last visit was for a birthday party. I ordered the shrimp and grits. And even though it was still expensive for the portion size, at least it was well-made, reminding me of shrimp and grits I’ve had in the actual South--comforting, saucy, spicy, and blubbery.

I’m not recommending you go there and get it, but if you’re going to park at Downtown Disney, you’re going to have to eat at Downtown Disney, so you might as well eat this.

Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen
1590 S Disneyland Dr
Downtown Disney District
Anaheim, CA 92802

Terrace by Mix Mix - Costa Mesa

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Capitol Market - Charleston, WV

I’ve been traveling a lot lately. A lot of it for pleasure and some for work. But the real reason we racked up a lot of miles and travel points was that we had a goal to visit all 50 states before the year's end.

I'm happy to report we achieved that goal last week. We flew into Cincinnati, Ohio; drove up to Indianapolis, Indiana; drove down to Louisville, Kentucky; and finally crossed over to Charleston, capital of West Virginia. These states were our Final Four.

There isn't much I can say about Charleston, though. There’s a river in front of the Capitol Building, but as far as attractions, Charleston is not exactly Travel Channel material…at least from what we saw.

We went to Capitol Market, advertised as a hip, new gathering of grocers and food vendors who all moved into a converted train station now made into something that wants to be something like Seattle’s Pike’s Place. It was, however, about a tenth the size, no bigger than a Los Angeles area Whole Foods. And around the neighborhood, we saw rows of boarded-up houses.

Upon looking online to see what food West Virginia was known for and what we could buy while we were there at Capitol Market, we found that something called “pepperoni roll” was on the top of most lists.

A pepperoni roll, it turns out, is basically a hot dog bun that's stuffed with wads of rolled up pepperoni slices and mozzarella before it's baked. We saw it in factory-wrapped plastic as though it was destined for a truck stop vending machine.

We bought it anyway. Not quite a calzone, not quite an Italian sandwich, it wasn’t what I was expecting to eat in a state I knew nothing about, except that it was the last one on our list--a list that is now complete!

Capitol Market
800 Smith St.
Charleston, WV 25301-1213

Ocean Snack