Friday, April 28, 2017

Porto's - Buena Park

Can we all agree that Porto's is the greatest bakery of our generation? The cheese rolls are ethereal and crisp; the potato balls, soft and fragrant of cumin. But let's admit it: The real reason everyone waits in that line at the new Buena Park branch (or heck, every branch) is because of how low its prices are.

Where else can you get a whole 9-inch birthday cake that serves a dozen people for less than $25? And that actually tastes good? I mean, have you seen the tiramisu cake here? The top is so packed tall of shaved chocolate, it doesn't even fit in the box!

And when I tasted it, it was like I was tasting tiramisu for the first time--light but rich, fluffy but decadent, a masterful balance of marscapone, coffee, moist cake, and chocolate. It's a benchmark for other things that might call itself tiramisu just as Porto's is a benchmark for anything that might call itself a bakery.

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

Meizhou Dongpo - Irvine

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

LaCroix Now Sold at Costco - Tustin

As always I'm late to the party when it comes to hip food trends. It wasn't until late last year that I got wind that all the cool kids were drinking this flavored fizzy water called LaCroix, which has since gotten so popular, analysts point to it as one of the reasons soda sales are plummeting all over the country.

Like everyone else, I love the lime, which tastes like 7-Up after it's been diluted with lots of melting ice--the only way I tolerate sodas.

Purely for irony, here's a picture of the can I drank with a slice of Marie Callender's banana cream pie--something hip paired with something tragically unhip. A great combo, by the way.

But the reason I'm devoting a whole post to LaCroix is because Costco in Tustin now carries it by the 24-pack, just as I'm getting addicted. Not only is it cheaper by the double dozen, it's quite nice not having to compete with Millennials and hipsters at Target and Sprouts for sixpacks of the lime! Now what do I do with the excess lemon and pamplemousse?

Costco Tustin
2700 Park Ave.
Tustin, CA 92782-2708

Plumeria Cafe by Stacks - Laguna Niguel

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Taco Tuesday at Holé Molé - Tustin

Ah, Taco Tuesday. If it's not the best alliterative excuse to eat food on a particular day of the week, it's the only one that means anything to anyone. Meatless Mondays? Is that even a thing?

Of course, the reason Taco Tuesday is so great is that taco joints have taken it upon themselves to offer discounts on the day, even if it's the measly 20-cents that Holé Molé takes off its normally $1.39 asada, carnitas, chicken, and al pastor tacos, which is, when you think about it, like a "Buy 7, Get 1 Free" deal.

You could take them up on it--which I did--but I've discovered that it's the fish tacos that you actually want here. Not only are they individually hand-dipped in batter and then freshly fried into the crispiest and most delectable fish tacos in OC, they're actually discounted 50-cents from their usual price.

But you know what's even better than that? The crunchy-shelled bean-filled tacos, which are sold for 59-cents, and not just on Taco Tuesday, mind you, but every day of the week. And to complement them, they have a self-serve trough filled with hot-from-the-fryer, spice-dusted, deep-fried yellow chiles that's free for the taking, any time of day.

Who needs alliteration when you got tacos for fifty-nine and fried chiles for free. "Fifty-nine and free for the foreseeable future" just doesn't have the same ring to it anyway.

Holé Molé
14430 Newport Ave.
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 505-2502

MFK by Aysee - Anaheim

Sunday, April 09, 2017

The Service At Kang Hodong Baekjeong Is As Cold As Its Grilled Meats Are Hot.

Last night at Kang Hodong Baekjeong, I discovered that the pork is better than the beef, but the food is better than the service.

Don't get me wrong, the servers did everything we asked of them. They brought as many refills of the panchan as we wanted, especially the corn cheese, of which we requested three additional helpings. They also obliged our request to take a picture of our group. And most importantly, they cooked all the meat.

But I got the feeling that, to them, we were just another problem to be dealt with--an obstacle to getting the next set of customers in and out.

One server got visibly annoyed when I asked him to repeat how many guests the combos fed. Another reprimanded us sternly when she saw a kid in our party was standing in the aisle briefly. And when I asked a third server to bring out the birthday cake we asked them to store, he just handed me the box without offering to help us clear the empty plates to make room for it.

I suppose I shouldn't have expected more than the bare minimum here. Generally speaking, no group of people I've ever met who wear ear pieces like Secret Service agents have an incentive of being friendly or accommodating. Kang Hodong Baekjeong's servers were as cold as its grilled meats were hot.

What makes all of this so ironic is that Kang Hodong himself, the restaurant chain's owner and namesake, is supposed to be a famous comedian, host, and entertainer back in South Korea. Life-sized pictures show him laughing and in good cheer.

So is it due time for the host-in-chief to record a new training video? Perhaps, especially as the chain gets ready to open a new branch in Irvine.

But despite it all, I still think Kang Hodong Baekjeong has some of the best Korean BBQ pork around. So what I said about the food in my two-year-old OC Weekly review still stands. The meat is as sweet as meat could be--it's just that it's served by sourest people on Earth.

Kang Hodong Baekjeong
5171 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90621

LSXO - Huntington Beach

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Cava - Irvine

Let's face it. Nearly everything these days follows Chipotle's operational model. If it can be dumped into a bowl, wrapped in some form of flatbread, or otherwise assembled from disparate components that make up a whole, chances are that slick new Chinese place around the corner is the Asian Chipotle, the spaghetti place is the Italian Chipotle. And let's not forget the proliferation of the poke bowl shop, which should all be called Poke-potle.

Still, the concept works better on some cuisines than others. Cava's Mediterranean food Chipotle is one of those that works.

At first I didn't think it would. It's the ingredients. There were so damn many of them. To build one of their signature "grain" bowls, I didn't have just a choice of rice, I had two. And there was the black lentils that also counted as a grain. For dips and spreads, I had the option of choosing three out of the six available, which included hummus and harissa. But the kicker was the dressings and toppings. There were 20 in all that could be added to my bowl. And I wouldn't be who I am if I didn't say yes to all of it, especially when there's no additional charge.

As I sat down to eat it, I braced myself for a traffic jam of flavors. Yet, upon my first forkful, a strange thing happened: the two dozen plus ingredients somehow managed not to run over each other. Instead the sauces became lube to the proteins I choose while the various vegetable matter contributed tang, crunch, and freshness. As for the grains, the rice was scrumptious, and I loved those black lentils most of all.

I also have to mention that the meatballs--which did not get lost in the morass--were tender, full-of-flavor, and still slightly pink in the middle. And the falafel was craggly and crisp, with a few garbanzos left whole for texture.

If Chipotle is the pace car in the assembly-line restaurant race, Cava is the supercharged muscle car ready to overtake them.

3972 Barranca Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 200-7998

Three New Spots for Korean Fried Chicken