Sunday, August 30, 2015

Strawberry Shortcake at Plaza Inn - Disneyland

Plaza Inn at Disneyland has the best meal in the theme park in its fried chicken.

But it also has, in my opinion, the best dessert in its strawberry shortcake. Just like the fried chicken, there's nothing particularly revolutionary or innovative about it--it's just good.

There's just four components: the moist cake cut into two rounds, thick whipped cream, strawberry sauce, and the strawberries.

Surrounded by a lake of sauce, one of the cake rounds becomes the base. All around the sides, sliced strawberries climb a Matterhorn of cream in an expedition to the summit.

Plaza Inn
1313 Harbor Blvd.
Disneyland Park
Anaheim, CA 92802
(714) 781-3463

Centrál Coastal Peruvian - Laguna Beach

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Garlic Shrimp Poke at Costco - Tustin

If you haven't noticed, Costco has become a significant player in the proliferation of poke in Orange County. They started testing the waters way before any of the current wave of copy-cat poke entrepreneurs even noticed that Pokinometry in Anaheim existed.

This was way back in May of 2014. It was then that I noticed a lonely booth in one of their main aisles one afternoon. I bought a pound of ahi limu poke, then wrote about it on OC Weekly's food blog. Soon after, the post went viral. The next few days, people swarmed that Costco for the poke and they reportedly ran out of stock. But at the same time the unexpected demand overwhelmed them, it made Costco realize OC was ready for poke. And boy, was it ever. Since that time, a new poke joint opens in these parts just about every other week.

Costco, recognizing the poke frenzy, has also expanded their selection to other Costcos, even if only on the weekends. They've also widened their poke offerings beyond just the ahi.

My favorite right now is the Garlic Shrimp Poke, which isn't technically poke, but then that definition has been stretched so far these days that I think this now actually qualifies. It's cooked shrimp, tossed with onion, scallions, sesame seeds, sesame oil, crushed kukui nuts, and garlic. It's a delicious meal in and of itself, slicked with the nuttiness of sesame oil, permeated with the garlic---but even more perfect eaten cold on top of warm steamed white rice. And it's also the thing that finally merges two distinct Hawaiian delicacies into one dish.

What's the other delicacy I'm talking about? Well, garlic shrimp from those garlic shrimp trucks, of course, which is the thing other than poke I crave as soon as I get off the plane in Hawaii.

The District at Tustin Legacy
2700 Park Ave, Tustin, CA 92782
(714) 338-1933

Grits - Fullerton

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sushi Noguchi - Yorba Linda

For us, the omakase to top all omakases at Sushi Noguchi started with a bowl of raw tuna, sliced into crimson bevels and climbing a hill of mountain yam covered in its own mucus. It's crowned with a trembling lobe of uni and a cracked raw quail egg on the side--everything sliding down our throats as though it was lubed.

After that, our itamae constructed a platter of various bits and pieces he said would be good to nibble with our sake flight. He was right. There were livers of giant clam--the size and shape of almonds--cooked in soy and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Next to it, a fat section of crab meat, freed from its shell and looking like a roulade. Next to that, on a shiso leaf, strips of what appeared to be clam shellacked in miso that I ate like a taco.

The "amuse" plate came after, one of the few things that came from the kitchen. On it, there was a single clam with a stewed cherry tomato tucked into it like a bookmark; deep fried scallops nuggets tenderly coated in tempura; and a pair of marinated shrimp over wilted cabbage.

Next came a sashimi plate with cuts so precious and fresh it wriggled. The best of them: bluefin ootoro from Boston, the costliest piece of tuna on the menu, scored with a meticulous diamond pattern. There were other jewels, like a mackerel steak so symmetric and precisely sliced it looked machined, and a creamy salmon cube with its fatty edges barely seared--all of it presented so artfully it could be sculpture.

After that it was down to business. The nigiri. Sublime and sparkling fresh, it went like this:

- Halibut fin so soft its texture melded with the rice.

- A rich and oily Spanish mackerel dabbed with ginger.

- Cooling amberjack sprinkled with salt and a spritz of yuzu.

- A gunkan maki of sweet blue crab meat mixed with crab brain cuffed in a belt of crispy nori.

- A lobe of uni dusted with a pinch of coarse salt.

- The return of the diamond-scored ootoro, as meltingly dreamy as it was in the sashimi plate that came before.

- Scallop and foie gras torched together, fused as one.

- A sexy piece of salty sardine, its silver skin reflecting the light.

- A big mouthful of broiled sea eel brushed with sauce.

Then dessert, the item Sushi Noguchi is known for as much as its sushi: the crepe cake, a wedge from the whole that someone patiently constructed from at least 50 individually-made crepes, stacked in layer after layer, slathered whipped cream in between, and served with drizzles of reduced balsamic vinegar on the plate.

How much did this omakase to top all omakases cost? About $100 per person give or take. And it was worth every cent.

Sushi Noguchi
18507 Yorba Linda Blvd.
Yorba Linda, CA 92886
(714) 777-6789

Padre - Long Beach

Sunday, August 09, 2015

$3.95 Filipino Breakfast at Grill City - Irvine

How much would you pay for a Filipino breakfast consisting of char-kissed tocino, two fried eggs and two heaping scoops of garlic fried rice? $6? $10?

"Sure, that sounds reasonable!"

No! You're paying too much! How about $3.95?


Yes, for a measly one-time payment of $3.95, you get this much food, right now, at Seafood City's lunch counter, Grill City.

"Wow! You can't get an Egg McMuffin and hashbrowns for that price!"

No you can't! But wait! There's more!

"What? How much more could there be!"

I'll tell you! You get coffee with unlimited refills!

"No! You're joking!"

I am not joking. And you know what else is unlimited?

"Alright, I'll bite. What else?!"

Unlimited refills on rice!

"Unlimited refills on rice? Is Seafood City trying to lose money? Is this some kind of loss leader like IKEA's $1.99 breakfasts and Costco's $4.99 rotisserie chicken?"

Who knows?! Who cares! It's $3.95, for eggs, proteins like longanisa, SPAM or two kinds of tocino, and all the fluffy fried rice festooned with crispy garlic you can eat! This has to be the best deal in all of Irvine.

"I'll say! So how does it taste?"

Like someone's nanay (that's Tagalog for "mom") made it. And if you want an upgrade with other meats, it's $5.50 for not one, but two butterflied baby milkfish with a tangy flesh akin to yogurt; and only $4.95 for the sugary beef tapa. If you need something deep fried this early in the morning, you can add a crispy Jeprox as a side dish for a buck. As with all silogs, be sure to dribble the supplied thimbles of seasoned vinegar on everything. That's the Pinoy Way!

"Vinegar? Fish for breakfast? That sounds exotic! I'm sold! Thank you Monster Munching!"

You're welcome!

*Terms and Conditions: Offer valid 7 a.m.-10 a.m. Monster Munching is not a paid endorser; just a sharer of good food and great bargains.

Grill City inside Seafood City
2180 Barranca Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92606
(310) 834-9700

El Mahroosa Cafe - Anaheim

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Cafe Hiro's Pork Cutlet Curry - Cypress

If you read this blog, you know I've been a regular at Cafe Hiro for more than a decade now. This is why I have at least half a dozen posts like these, if not more. Yet you should know that I actually eat at Cafe Hiro more than I blog about it, and in my most recent visits, I've been rediscovering the wonder that is its pork cutlet curry--a dish I've not yet mentioned before here.

So I'll mention it now: Café Hiro's may be the finest tonkatsu curry I've had since Tokyo.

First, there's the pork, cut as thick as the first Harry Potter book, then fried under a light panko-crust and with a small quivering piece of the fat still attached. The cutlet is great in and of itself--the perfect ratio of juice-bursting pork chop to golden-brown breading. And then there's the ocean of curry lapping onto the white beach head of rice--a flavorful sludge almost as thick as the peanut-sauce for Indonesian satay.

Though the spicing level is customizable all the way to scorching, I always go for mild. This, I've discovered, is where all the curry flavor, sweetness, and richness exist in perfect balance. And since curry has been fully adopted into Japanese culture as pizza has to ours, Café Hiro offers it with the required condiments of pickled shallots, fukujinzuke (pickled radish), and rehydrated raisins, all of which I use as prodigiously as red pepper flakes and parmesan on a slice of pepperoni.

Speaking of Japanese curry, have you seen this documentary by NHK's Begin Japanology? It's really excellent.

If you have a half-hour, watch it, be educated, and then be prepared to drive out to Cypress when you suddenly have to have it for dinner.

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

Yogi Yogi - Buena Park