Monday, July 25, 2016

Torizo - Fountain Valley

You've may have hot pots before. Orange County has a menagerie of them, from nearly every country in Asia you can name. But have you had the one from Japan that feeds its sumo wrestlers? It's called chanko nabe, and it's essentially a stew of sorts, filled with all manner of lean protein and fistfuls of vegetables, all roiling and sputtering over a lit stove set up at the table.

Torizo, a barely-there slip of a restaurant that opened about a month ago in Fountain Valley, does the dish as its speciality and does it so well, it would stand out even if the county was full of other chanko nabe specialists.

Its soup is pure, unadulterated chicken broth; the vegetable plentiful; but oh, those proteins! There are chunks of chicken and pork, sliced, black pork sausage, shumai, shrimp, scallop, octopus, kuzukiri, and the best of them all: two kinds of homemade chicken meatball called tsukune, one of which has the refreshing citrusy flavor of yuzu that made me wish I could have either a whole entire pot of it with nothing else, or the recipe.

And once you've fished out all the goodies from the pot, the exceedingly friendly owner--who bows when you enter and holds the door open when you leave--will offer either ramen or a grilled onigiri rice ball to cap off your meal.

As of this writing, the chanko at Torizo is $26.99, but one order is usually enough for two normal humans...or one medium-sized wrestler.

17900 Magnolia Street #A
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Sichuan Impression - Tustin

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Pie Hole - Orange

How good does a slice of pie have to be for it to be worth $7? The slice of Mexican Chocolate pie I tasted at Pie Hole was sublime--very chocolatey, satin-smooth, and with a hint of spice (was that cinnamon and cloves?) at the back-end. But was it worthy of its $6.50 sticker price?

The Maple Custard slice was excellent, too--one of the better custard pies I've ever had. And I could actually taste the maple. But would I come back to pay the $7.25 to do it again?

All told, with the money I spent, I could've gotten a whole pie at Marie Callender's (which does a very good custard pie, in my opinion), or an entire meal elsewhere. And then there was where this outlet of the hip LA chain was located, in Old Towne Orange, where I imagine 50 years ago, you could get a slice of pie and coffee at Watson's Drug Store for less than a dollar.

I suppose it's pointless to revel in the past or to lament inflation. But was it good enough to be worth that much? Right now, I'm not so sure it is. But ask me again in 20 years or when I've won the lottery--whichever comes first.

Pie Hole
177 N Glassell St.
Orange, CA 92866
(657) 236-4100

Anchor Hitch - Mission Viejo

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pineapple Float at Jollibee - Irvine

The Irvine branch of Jollibee can be uneven. There are times when my order comes out lickety-split, but there are other times when the employees can be as comically disorganized as Keystone Cops fighting a fire. And then there's the food: while Jollibee's version of pancit palabok remains a favorite of mine, when I'm looking to eat a traditional Filipino breakfast, I'm much better off at the Grill City counter across the way, where I'll pay nearly half the cost for twice as much garlic fried rice and tocino.

Despite the unevenness, I've been to Jollibee twice in one week now. It's for our current obsession--a special drink that's not only cheap ($2.79) but surprisingly good despite that most of it comes out of one of those recirculating beverage dispensers that I always equate with artificial flavors and colors.

The drink is their Pineapple Float, and to make it, an employee scoops ice cubes into a cup, pulls a lever on that dispenser to fill it near to the brim with the chain's pineapple punch, then on another lever to plop a squiggle of vanilla soft serve on top of that. Finally, to finish, he adds a few spoonfuls of chopped up canned pineapple.

If you think it sounds like it would be a wretched combination, you'd be as wrong as I was. It is, in fact, refreshing, but also ice-creamy, and not as sickly sweet as I initially imagined. And unlike Dole Whip, which I've always thought had an artificial aftertaste, Jollibee's pineapple float finishes clean--a summertime icy drink/dessert that, in the two times I've had it, was consistent, not only in the way Jollibee's employees have made it, but also in my enjoyment.

2180 Barranca Pkwy #120
Irvine, CA 92606

Irenia - Santa Ana

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Yonaka Modern Japanese - Las Vegas, NV

If you're planning to go to Vegas any time soon, avoid the craps table, skip the buffets, forget about that Cirque Du Soleil show which will only put you to sleep.

Save your money for this: Yonaka Modern Japanese--a restaurant that, so far, only locals seem to know about, and is so off The Strip, it's actually in a strip mall.

This is a dinner I would drive 4-hours across the Mojave Desert to eat; a dinner that proves that Las Vegas is truly one of the greatest food cities in America and great sashimi with impeccably fresh fish in landlocked Nevada is possible.

What follows are pictures of the eight-course omakase we ordered and the menu's descriptions. This meal, as of this writing, is $146 for two people (note: ordering each dish a la carte would also sum up to that exact amount).

"Hongmaguro Yaki"

Grilled soy-glazed Bluefin tuna, lemongrass mocha, Asian slaw, white balsamic

"Sake Orenji"

Scottish salmon, orange supreme, yuzu tobiko, orange oil


Bluefin tuna belly, walnut, cranberry, negi, piment d'espelette

"Machi Ringo"

Yellowtail, apple, fennel, sweet chili zu, negi oil

"Meat Candy"

Twice-cooked caramel-glazed Kurobota pork belly, kimchee apple, smoked tofu peanut butter

"Kobe Parsnip"

Grilled Japanese 2.5 ounce Kobe Beef, poached quail egg, parnsip puree, pickled radish

"Gyu Kaki"

Shigoku oysters, A5 Kobe beef, ceviche topping, ikura

"Mango Cotta"

Mango, pistachio, coconut

Yonaka Modern Japanese
4983 W Flamingo Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89103
(702) 685-8358

Quan Mii - Westminster