Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Thai Nakorn - Garden Grove

Trekked to the new Thai Nakorn in GG yesterday for lunch. Spacious and clean restaurant, flat screen TV mounted on one of the walls and smaller screens placed strategically for tables without a clear line of sight to the larger TV. Large square windows and bright lighting gave this new dig a nice sparkle. The tables are set farther apart than the Buena Park branch and the decorations are less "woody". We ordered the following dishes:

1. Pad Thai with Shrimp. Every bit as saucy and delectable as the Buena Park version. Fresh bean sprouts and a small mound of sugar and pepper flakes came on the side, as usual. I do notice that the portion is a little bit bigger than the usual serving at BP.

2. Pork Fried Rice. A little on the dry side, but the pork morsels were tender and tasty. The rice grains were a bit loose. I prefer having a more moist dish of fried.

3. Chinese Watergrass with Bean Sauce. Crispy, fresh, and good -- very good actually, but lacked the smoky note and the "umph" from the salted soy beans that the BP location seemed to always get right.

4. Thai BBQ Beef. Awesome tender slices of marinated steak, grilled just right. The accompanying sauce was sour, hot, smoky and savory (with lots of red pepper flakes swimming in it). Perfect. A hit at our table.

5. Deep Fried Fish with Mango Salad. This was the most expensive dish at $15.95, but was the best thing we ordered. The fish, butterflied without the head had a golden brown crispy, salty outer coating and moist firm and flaky white flesh. The skin was an especially tasty compliment when eaten with steamed white rice. The mango salad condiment had fine slices of red thai chili (gutted of the lethal seeds, of course), red onion, mango, cilantro and dried shrimp. My mouth waters as I think of all the hot, sour, salty, and sweet flavors this dish brings to your mouth. Perfect!

6. Tom Kha Kai Soup. This was a flawless rendition. Essentially a carbon copy of the dish served at BP. The hotness of thai chilis and the sourness of the soup was balanced perfectly by the richness of coconut milk. Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass give this soup an ethereal aroma and flavor. The chicken and button mushroom pieces swimming in it were tender and juicy.

7. Desserts. Choosing from the glass display case, we sampled several of their offerings.
a. Thai cookies - these rolled up thin wafer-like flutes were crispy and sweet, with a hint of a coconut and nutty flavor.
b. Fried Banana - this was banana, wrapped in what seemed to be green-colored shredded coconut which was then deep fried. It was a bit of a disappointment, largely because it didn't come straight from the fryer and tasted a little stale.
c. Coconut Custard - egg custard cooked in a whole coconut shell. A bit ambitious, but not as successful as I would have liked. The custard was a bit dry, but still very rich.

I can't wait to go back!

12532 Garden Grove Blvd
Garden Grove, CA

Monday, January 12, 2004

Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse

Tried Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse on Saturday night with a few friends. Driving up to the place through the blackness and the windy forest road, I got a few "are you sure you know where you're going?". "Yes, trust me," I said, in the back of my mind thinking, "this place better show up soon, or else I could have a mutiny." But what would we do? There's nothing but blackness for miles. But just as quickly, we arrived. A fella waved us into the gravel parking lot with a flashlight. We walked out into the night, our breaths curling in the cold, crickets chirping, pebbles crunching beneath our shoes, rustling trees in the dark, as we made our way toward a lantern light on the lone building. "Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse" the dangling wooden post read. Wooden planks lead up to a creaky door.

Inside, it was warm and colorful. Cut neck ties dangled everywhere; on the walls, along the ceiling. Newspaper clippings pasted here and there too -- glowing reviews. Nixon apparently ate here. I wonder where his tie is.

We were seated right away. Again, ties surrounded us. It was like being in a cramped overstocked garment district storage room, or an old cozy attic. Very charming and unusual. You wouldn't think "steakhouse" if you saw it. Our place mats were denim, with pockets sewn in to hold the utensils. On the table was a old flickering lantern, salt and paper shakers, and a squirt bottle we later discovered contained a nice sour BBQ sauce.

The salads came out first -- iceberg, purple cabbage, grated carrot dressed in a house Italian. No choice was offered on the dressing, but our table loved it. Each of us sopped it up with the homemade garlic toast.

The steaks came out next. I ordered the Kansas City Rib. It was a Bone-In Rib Eye, fired up medium, served on a metal/tin plate set on wood. Cutting up the steak on my dull tin plate evoked memories of Westerns, where the cowboys would rake their spoonfulls of beans on such a plate around a campfire. The meat was good with a nice smoky note, although a bit chewy for a rib eye. The squirt bottle of BBQ sauce went well with each bite. Baked potato came with the usual fixings; green onions, butter, and sour cream, which were brought out on on a rack of pint sized sauce containers. Also on the metal steak plate was a small ramekin of beans. The beans were an afterthought, no taste whatsoever in its vaguely watery broth. Our table left all of our beans virtually untouched. The shoestring fries my friends ordered were good, crispy and crunchy. Repeatedly ramming a fork through the pile was the best way to eat them.

Our bellies stuffed with beef and potatoes, we sauntered outside into the night; the dark forest lit dimly by the moonlight.

Trabuco Oaks Steak House
20782 Trabuco Oaks Dr
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679
(949) 586-0722