Friday, December 27, 2013

S.W. Seafood - Irvine

Sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and eat what you know is probably bad for you.

Fried pork chops so luscious with fat it gushes. Crackling crisp nests of noodle doused with fuming mountains of seafood and mushrooms in gravy so scrumptious it's almost surely loaded with MSG. Plump curls of shrimp, already cholesterol delivery systems now coated in rich mayo.

This is what I ate and ate and ate at S.W. Seafood, one of the most no-nonsense Cantonese restaurants in Irvine that May or may not be affiliated with the Sam Woo Restaurant Dynasty. I loved every artery-clogging, calorically-irresponsible morsel of it.

To offset and as appeasement to my dietary conscience, I also ordered spinach. It may have been too little too late, but at least I didn't order dim sum, which is possible to do here during dinner time.

I'm not positive how much higher those bowls of steamed tripe and pork-laden shumais would've sent my LDL levels, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have helped.

S.W. Seafood
5406 Walnut Ave
Irvine, CA 92604
(949) 262-0128

Seoulmate - Long Beach

Monday, December 16, 2013

Taquitos at El Toro Bravo - Tustin

I’ve been doing it all wrong. Or perhaps more to the point, the fast-food joints where I’ve been ordering taquitos up to now have been doing it all wrong. Why do I think this? Because I believe I’ve finally found the place where taquitos are done right: The new satellite location of El Toro Bravo in Tustin, and by association, the original in Costa Mesa.

Like most people of non-Mexican ancestry, I’ve been used to being offered one kind of taquito: whatever was already pre-rolled, frozen, and ready to be deep-fried. At El Toro Bravo, when I ordered four and the counterman asked me what kind of meat, I was kind of dumbfounded. “What? I can choose?”

And in front of me was a chafing tray array of meats that I thought was just for the tacos and burritos, and now all of them became filling possibilities for my taquitos, including al pastor, or rotisserie chicken, or carne asada!

When I said chicken, he took a wad of chicken meat from the tray, chopped it up to bits with his cleaver, deposited them into a bowl, added a flurry of cheese and then mixed it up with his fingers. Then on it went onto discs of fresh corn tortillas before he rolled it up into fat cigars fastened shut by a toothpick. After that it was plop, plop, plop, plop into a deep fryer. Five minutes later, they were done—the best taquitos I’ve ever had.

Crunchy. Hot. Fresh. Bursting with meat. Best part: the errant strands of crispy burnt chicken meat that had turned to concentrated flavor morsels on the edges. Worth every cent of the buck each they charge…

El Toro Bravo
1450 El Camino Real Ste B
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 665-1400

Oc and Lau Restaurant - Garden Grove

...And check out this EPIC POST that my friend Chubbypanda wrote up on Mag's Donut in Irvine!

Monday, December 09, 2013

That Boba Place - Costa Mesa

If there’s anything that distinguishes That Boba Place from those boba places it’s that this boba place offers popping boba. The difference between these bobas and those bobas? They’re more like gigantic balls of caviar. When you bite into one they don’t chew, they burst, like liquid-filled gel caps.

We opted for it instead of the usual tapioca pearls to inhabit our drinks there a few nights ago, and found them, well, kind of fun. They exist in different fruit-flavors, each one owing its existence to molecular gastronomic processes and an enterprising company that figured out there might be a market for them. That Boba Place charges a mere quarter more to include them in your drink.

Among the choices: ones that explode lychee and strawberry-flavored syrups. The membrane left behind after the bubbles are spent chews like the skin of a pea. It’s frivolous, gimmicky, but hey, so are boba drinks in general.

What’s not? A combo of deep fried chicken and squid, eaten with bamboo skewers and garnished the best thing of all: Thai basil leaves deep fried to papery wisps, the most innovative foodstuff this, that, or the other boba place has contributed to the culinary landscape.

That Boba Place
1500 Adams Ave
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 966-0188

Selanne Steak Tavern- Laguna Beach

Monday, December 02, 2013

$11-Thanksgiving Dinner at American Tavern Eatery & Drink - Anaheim

We all have our Thanksgiving traditions. Ours is lamb satays at the folks for lunch, then dinner at American Tavern Eatery & Drink for their $11-Thanksgiving turkey special with all the trimmings.

I can call it a tradition because we've been eating this turkey meal for the past four years or so, even as the restaurant changed formats last year from k'ya to become this more casual gastropub.

The turkey plate has become the only constant at this hotel restaurant. I wouldn't be surprised if in the days The Hotel Menage was a Holiday Inn, it, too, offered a similar special. And today it still remains one of the better deals outside of Black Friday: this year's meal price is the same as last year's.

If I were an economist and a better record keeper, I'd say the reason the price hasn't gone up has something to do with the consumer confidence index or interest rates. But if my recollection is correct, four years ago, in the thick of the recession, it was $9. And the slice of pumpkin pie was a buck, not two.

The most important thing here is that there are no surprises. There's turkey in slices, brined, probably carved from an actual bird, but more likely from some sort of loaf. There's gravy, a scoop of mashed potato, a dollop of jellied cranberry sauce, a slice of stuffing--all of it served warm and almost within seconds of ordering.

About the only change on this year's plate were the vegetables. Last year they served roasted root vegetables like sweet potato. This year, it was Brussels sprouts, asparagus, carrots, and zucchini--an improvement, in my opinion.

But is it life-changing? The best restaurant Thanksgiving dinner offering in OC? Probably not.

What it is is just enough food to say I ate turkey, at a price that's more than reasonable, at a place that has served it well every year I've had it.

My hope is that they keep doing it this well and at this price next year and the year after that. Our Thanksgiving tradition depends on it.

American Tavern Eatery and Drink
1221 South Harbor Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92805

The Melt - Irvine