Sunday, December 31, 2017

"How My New Year's Eve Plans Have Changed"

To My Dear Readers,

As you get ready to say farewell to 2017, please enjoy this cartoon I did for OC Weekly's Annual Holiday Cartoon Issue last year.

May your 2018 be a good year filled with good food and good times!

And thank you for reading!

Edwin Goei a.k.a. elmomonster

Whealthy - Ladera Ranch

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Cafe Hiro's 2017 Christmas Eve Prix Fixe Dinner

This year, like all years, we celebrated Christmas at Cafe Hiro with its Christmas Eve prix fixe. And this year, like all years, it did not disappoint.

The cost was $49 per person and to us Cafe Hiro regulars, the meal felt like a culmination and retrospective of all the great dishes we've been eating all year.

A lot of lillies were gilded that night. Chef Ohiwa upgraded some of his greatest hits with special add-ons and extra touches. For his usual scallop carpaccio, he tucked uni under the daikon fold. For the uni pasta, he added three sautéed scallops (and as an extra treat for us, shaved black truffles).

And Christmas Eve is one of the few times when he does a roast beef that puts to shame all prime ribs I've ever had before. Succulent, juicy, it was red meat at its most pleasurable.

We swooned at every bite, moaned at every morsel. This year, like all years, Ohiwa had outdone himself.

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

"How My View of Christmas Changed Over The Years"

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Celebrating 25 Years of Honda-Ya in Tustin

Last year, when I wrote about a long overdue revisit to Honda-Ya, it was to praise its longevity.

Next year, Honda Ya will commemorate its 25th anniversary. In a business where most new restaurants are lucky if they survive a year, a quarter century is a significant milestone. But for Honda-Ya, it almost seems inevitable.

As I wrote before, it is a testament to its rock-solid stature as OC's preeminent izakaya that Honda-Ya is still unchanged yet still popular after all these years--like a stone monument in the middle of a city on fast-forward. Every time I step in there, it feels like a victory--not because I've usually just endured upwards to an hour's wait, but because coming into that room feels like I'm being welcomed back into the warm embrace of a loved one. Honda-Ya, more than anything, has one of the coziest and most welcoming restaurant spaces in all of Orange County.

If you sit next to a window, you don't look out to a parking lot; rather, you're lulled by a brightly lit Zen garden, even if it's late at night. And if you sit in the robota bar, you are mesmerized by the curls of smoke that enshrouds the grill master as he squints and flips dozens of sticks of yakitori over coals.

On a recent visit, we ate our usual assortment of Honda-ya favorites, balancing the grilled with the fried, the fried with the steamed, and our small appetites with the enormous feast we ordered. And as we took stock in how long we've been enjoying this food (since 2003), we can't help but wonder where we'll be in the next 25 years. The only thing that's certain is that we know where Honda-Ya will be: right here, in Tustin.

Honda Ya Japanese Restaurant
(714) 832-0081
556 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA 92780

Yamame - Rancho Santa Margarita

Saturday, December 16, 2017

What We Order at Din Tai Fung - Costa Mesa

Last night a miracle happened: The wait at Din Tai Fung South Coast Plaza at 6 p.m. on a Friday was less than 30 minutes.

If you're familiar with this restaurant, you know that its famous for two things: its juicy pork dumplings (a.k.a. xiaolongbao) and the long wait times. It's been especially bad at this location of the franchise. At one point during the month of its opening, it was a 7 hour wait to get a seat, which meant that if you wanted to have dinner, you'd have to check-in before lunch.

But last night, the stars somehow aligned. I was shocked when the hostess said it would be 15 to 30 minutes before we were seated.

We ate all the dishes we always order. Brined cucumber. Wood ear mushrooms in vinegar. Two orders of xiaolongbao. Pork chop fried rice. Braised beef soup. Green beans. Red bean dumplings for dessert.

And as always, we ordered way too much and stuffed ourselves silly. But this time, because we were able to eat at a reasonable hour, we were delighted to able to do some Christmas shopping in the mall afterwards. And for some reason, The Disney Store was offering discounts that made its toys actually affordable, which was an even bigger miracle!

Din Tai Fung
3333 Bristol St. Ste. 2071
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 549-3388

Bosava - Garden Grove

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

El Pollo Inka - Lawndale

One thing I'll never tire of is saltado. To me, it's the perfect meal--a stir-fry with one foot in the indigenous culture of the Incas, the other foot in China. It's probably not the first example of a fusion dish to have been invented, but it feels like it should be.

Besides, how can you not love a dish that has French fries in it. For me it's the gateway drug to the entire universe of Peruvian cuisine. And when I have to have it, it's gotta be at El Pollo Inka in Lawndale, the restaurant where I tasted it for the first time more than twenty years ago.

I went again recently and documented it in the Instagram video you see above. I captioned that post this way:

"If you don’t agree with me that El Pollo Inka in Lawndale has the best and most reasonably-priced Peruvian food in Southern California; I. Will. Fight. You!"

While I do honestly think El Pollo Inka is great and hard to beat, I posed my post that way as a surreptitious way to get recommendations of other worthy Peruvian restaurants.

So far, I've gotten a few great tips from none other than Kat De Angelis (formerly of the OC Register) and Professor Salt (one of the original OC Chowhounds).

So now I'm polling anyone still reading this blog: If you've tried El Pollo Inka and have found something just as good or better, do comment and share!

El Pollo Inka
15400 Hawthorne Blvd
Lawndale, CA 90260
(310) 676-6665

Paper Lantern Dumpling House - Irvine