Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Seasons Kitchen USA - Anaheim


Finding Malaysian food that I like in Orange County usually involves driving to Anaheim on the weekends for Seasons Kitchen USA (@seasonskitchenusa), which I reviewed last year for OC Weekly.

But sometimes its Malaysian food finds me, especially now that Seasons Kitchen's Khim Teoh has set up a traveling pop-up lunch shop at certain Irvine, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, and Tustin office parks during the workweek.

And that's good news, because let's face it, for us Malaysian/Singaporean/Indonesian working stiffs, the workweek is when we need this food the most!

Seasons Kitchen USA
641 N. Euclid St.
Anaheim, CA 92801
(714) 608-1375
www.seasonskitchenusa.com

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Icy Cream Roll - Buena Park


It’s trendy. It’s overpriced. It’s rolled ice cream and liquid-nitrogen-dipped cereal that causes you to huff and puff white vapor like Pete’s Dragon. And where I got it, Icy Cream Roll, is one of the latest in a slew of eclectic eateries to open at The Source in Buena Park, which is quickly becoming the epicenter of eclectic eateries in Orange County.

Rolled ice cream isn’t new to OC. Other vendors offering the made-to-order frozen delicacy has been around for a couple of years. And the concept of freeze-from-scratch ice cream—whether smeared on a freezing pan or poured into a liquid-nitrogen-filled mixer—has been around for longer than that.

It’s all about the gimmick. In the case of these specimens, the ice cream is so cold, it’s hard as a rock for the better part of ten minutes. And those cereal balls add nothing but special effects.

In the end—after you realize you can get two pints of Haagen-Dazs for how much you spent— it’s still ice cream. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t fun. And what is ice cream if it’s not fun?

Icy Cream Roll
6980 Beach Blvd H-118
Buena Park, CA 90621
(714) 202-0303

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Monday, September 10, 2018

"Pulutan" by Marvin Gapultos


This is a shout out to my old school food blogging comrade from way back: Marvin Gapultos. He’s the creator of quintessential Filipino food blog, Burnt Lumpia. And when the rest of us were still writing about food trucks, he went out there and started actually started food truck, Manila Machine, LA’s first Filipino food truck.

He followed that with “Adobo Road” one of the most adroit, well-researched cookbooks on Filipino cuisine. Now he’s about to drop his newest cookbook. It’s called “Pulutan”, in which he focuses on Filipino bar bites, appetizers, and street food--basically stuff that goes well with beer. It’s on Amazon pre-order now and will be out this week.

Marvin sent me an advance copy and I can tell I’m going to have a lot of fun trying the recipes from this book, especially his corn-dogged kwek-kwek (quail eggs), a fun Filipino street food merged with a fun American county fair food. The cookbook is full of why-didn't-I-think-of-that inventions like this, which I guarantee will be copied by trendy American restaurants who are already realizing that Filipino cuisine is awesome, underrated, and here to stay.

THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
KoJa Kitchen - Tustin

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Sweet-and-Sour Pork Ribs at Din Tai Fung - Costa Mesa


If I had to guess the secret to Din Tai Fung’s recipes, it’s this: get quality ingredients; do only what it takes to let those quality ingredients shine.

This is why, I think, the pork chop tastes the best a pork chop can taste; and the green beans always snap as though it’s at the peak of its season.

But even when the kitchen uses a heavy sauce, such as in their newest dish of sweet-and-sour pork ribs, no single ingredient outshines the other—everything is in perfect balance. Behind the shellacking of sticky glaze made with Shaoxing wine, rock sugar, and black vinegar, I can still taste the pork—which was itself sweet and soft where it wasn't covered in that caramelized lacquer. It’s easily one of the best things I’ve had at Din Tai Fung, and that’s saying a lot!

Din Tai Fung
3333 Bristol St. Ste. 2071
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 549-3388

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

$1.50 Banh Bao at Banh Mi Che Cali -


I think I've mentioned how awesome I think Banh Mi Che Cali is. It's one of OC's best bargains for not just banh mi sandwiches, but also boba. But in case that’s not enough to convince you to go, here's another reason: the $1.50 banh baos.

Larger in girth than an In-N-Out burger and with three times as much meat, these steamed buns are packed full of pork, Chinese sausage, and a quail egg--all tucked inside a sweet and fluffy bread. You get one these for lunch and you needn't anything else, except maybe a bottle of Sriracha.

Banh Mi & Che Cali
15551 Brookhurst St
Westminster, CA 92683
(714) 839-8185

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Monday, August 27, 2018

Porto's Cup o' Tres Leches - Buena Park


When I saw her nametag, I thought to myself how perfect it was that she works for Porto's.

Speaking of sweet. Have you tried their individual tres leches cup? Baked in the foil cup in which it's baked, it's drenched in dairy and topped with a fluffy meringue. You eat it with a spoon, scooping out this "cupcake" directly from the container into your mouth.

Though it doesn't feel much like you're having a cake, I'd argue it's a much better way to eat Porto's tres leches than their full-sized cake. The latter is not just completely soaked with the "three milks" it leaks out into puddle, it's also very, very rich, and very, very massive.

So no matter how sweet, and efficient, and polite I found Dulce and her fellow crew members are, there's only so much sweetness I can take with their tres leches--and it's this cupful.

Porto's Bakery & Cafe
7640 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90620
(714) 367-2030

THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
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Monday, August 20, 2018

My Thoughts and Video on This Years' Pacific Wine & Food Classic



As I said in my last post, I'd been looking forward to this for months: the second year for Pacific Wine & Food Classic, the annual all-you-can-eat-and-drink food festival put on by the OC Restaurant Association at Newport Dunes Waterfront.

We ate, drank, until we couldn't anymore.

I realized after I was so full I could barely walk that it was like a giant block party--that is, if I lived near the beach and half my neighbors were restaurateurs, professional caters, and chefs, and the other half were vitners, brewers, and mixologists.

As there was an excess of sun and heat, a lot of the restaurants smartly went with cold seafood. There were so many variations of poke, ceviche and tartare, I lost count.

The organizers also seemed to have thought of everything. There were waist-high coolers stationed every hundred paces filled with ice and Evian water. This year, they provided cozies for your wine glass so that you can strap it onto your wrist and let it dangle hands-free as you move from booth to booth. Even the music they picked was perfect.

Michael Jackson's “Don’t stop ‘til you get enough!” was the song my GoPro captured. It seemed appropriate.

Pacific Wine & Food Classic
Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort
1131 Back Bay Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
http://www.pacificwineandfood.com

THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Pacific Wine & Food Classic in One Week!



Infinity War didn't disappoint. And Disneyland's 4th of July fireworks were spectacular. But you know what I'm really looking forward to this summer? The Pacific Wine & Food Classic. It's happening less than one week! I'm going Sunday, August 19th. If you didn't get your tickets, they're all sold out now.

But there's always next year. In the meantime, please enjoy these pics from last year's inaugural event, which I managed to take while drinking and eating myself silly as I walked from booth to booth on the sand with sandals. If I have a free hand, I might even take more pictures this year. See you there!

Pacific Wine & Food Classic
Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort
1131 Back Bay Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
http://www.pacificwineandfood.com

THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
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Monday, August 06, 2018

"Istanbowl" from Doner G - Irvine


This is the Istanbowl from Doner G, a Turkish joint in Irvine. I ordered it for two reasons. The first is obvious: the name. I'm a sucker for puns, especially ones that are as perfect as this. Second, the Istanbowl comes with almost every protein on the docket. Beef doner, shaved into petals; chicken doner, cut into spears; and falafel, fried into crispy craggles.

Everything is piled into, yes, a bowl, or rather, a round foil take-out container. The base is a rice pilaf nutty and moist--flavorful enough to eat by itself. There are pita triangles you don't necessarily need. And piles of pickled cabbage, a cucumber and tomato salad, and sliced onions, which you do. It's a meal so complete, I don't know why anyone bothers with anything else on the menu. Plus, when you order it, you get to say "Istanbowl".

DönerG Turkish & Mediterranean Grill
3800 Barranca Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 861-2626
donerg.com

THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Saying Goodbye to the Polish Dog at Costco - Tustin


My heart burns for Costco’s Polish sausages.

It literally does. It gives me heartburn. I used to favor it over their regular hot dogs, but then I had to stop because…well, the heartburn.

So today, when the news broke that Costco will discontinue the Polish, I wasn’t as sad or outraged as others. I mean, the $1.50 hot-dog-and-soda deal isn't going away.

The news did, however, convince me to try the Polish again before it gets the ax because nothing makes you want something more than when you know you can’t have it for much longer.

But going there has also made me realize a few things. First, it has been a long time since I’ve eaten at the food court. Usually, when I eat my meals at Costco, it’s free (thanks to repeated helpings of all those food samples). Second, there are entirely new items on the menu, including an acai bowl, which would’ve been the most California-hipster thing I’ve ever seen at the food court if there weren't also the vegan “Al Pastor” salad with “banh mi” vegetables. Third, the new line-busting order kiosks at my local Costco is an astronomical improvement over ordering with the cashier. There are enough lines everywhere else at the store; I don't need one when I want my $1.50 hot dog lunch.

This brings me to my lunch. It’s more filling than any other food I can buy for that amount of money. In fact--and I don't think I need to say this--it’s so cheap, it should be immune to criticism of any kind, even if it sucked.

But the thing is: it doesn't.

The skin has snap; the sausage has a hint of hotness; the bun is soft and supple. If you’ve never had the Polish, you might be wondering: Does it taste that different from the regular hot dog? Yes, but it's very nuanced. Like a 4K versus an Ultra HD TV, you really have to either concentrate or compare it side by side before you can really tell. For now, at least at the Tustin II Costco, you can do just that. Both are still available. So get the Polish while you can.

I, for one, intend to have it again this week and maybe a few more times before I can't any more. Pepto Bismol, don't fail me now!

Costco
2700 Park Ave
Tustin, CA 92782
(714) 338-1933

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