Saturday, May 19, 2018

Splitsville - Anaheim

I didn't go to Splitsville, the new bowling alley and restaurant in Downtown Disney, to go to Splitsville. I went because there was a band that was performing on the Downtown Disney stage that I wanted to see. And to see that band I had to park. And to park at Downtown Disney nowadays (lest I wanted to pay a small fortune in fees) I am forced to purchase at least $20-worth of food at a quick service restaurant (or merchandise from a store) to get the 3 hour validation. If I wanted 5 hours of validation, I'd have to go to a table service restaurant.

I opted for Splitsville for three reasons. First, I'd get the maximum amount of parking time. Second, it was an opportunity for us to check out the thing that replaced House of Blues. But third and most important, Splitsville seemed the cheapest of all the table service options. I thought to myself, "How expensive can place that serves burgers and nachos be?"

The answer is very. Splitsville turned out to be one of the most expensive restaurants I've encountered at Downtown Disney.

The taco salad you see above is a whopping $24. Granted it wasn't much of a salad. It was more of a rice bowl. It contained more clumpy Spanish rice and movie theater-style pickled jalapeños than lettuce. Thinking that we needed something else to add to meal, we also ordered the $14 California roll from the sushi roll menu.

That there was sushi here is noteworthy because it automatically makes Splitsville the only place in Downtown Disney or, in fact, the entire Disneyland Resort property, to serve anything resembling Japanese food.

But before you rejoice, the roll tasted as though it came one of those pre-packaged plastic boxes found at airport kiosks or the forgotten deli bin at the local Stater Bros. However, to me, since it cost twice as much, it tasted half as good. The rice was a gummy paste and the imitation crab was as dry as chalk.

Despite the cost and the bad food, I do have a few nice things to say about Splitsville.

It is massive. Constructed mostly of glass, it is two levels of Googie--something out of the Jetsons. And as far as the bowling lanes, there isn't just one big one, there are a whole bunch of tiny ones, scattered throughout the labyrinthian building and encompassing two floors. There are also two kitchens on both levels, each the size of full-sized restaurants themselves.

I also liked our server. When I asked him at the beginning of the meal if there was a minimum purchase amount for parking validation, he smiled and said, "Yes, there is!" as he winked his eye like a vaudevillian.

I laughed.

To prove that he cared more about us than abiding by some arbitrary mininum purchase requirement, he offered to validate the ticket for me on the spot, even before I ordered anything.

"What a charmer!" I thought.

By the end of it, counting a larger-than-usual tip for our server, I paid exactly $50 for that overpriced taco salad and that horrendous sushi roll. I may have been completely wrong about my decision to go to Splitsville, but I know a good server when I see one.

1530 S Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, CA 92802
(657) 276-2440

Bao-N-Baguette - Fountain Valley

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Sawleaf Vietnamese Cafe - Irvine

It's not often that I go back to a restaurant I already reviewed, even if it's been a year. But when I do, it's nice to see brand new dishes like this filet mignon pho in a Hue-style broth, a soup that tastes halfway between traditional pho and Thai tom yum. Not only is it requisitely beefy with whiffs of star anise, it's also sufficiently hot and tangy that I required no additional Sriracha squirts, squeezes of lime, or even one slice of the jalapeño.

It's also nice that they framed and hung my review on the wall. Seeing this always gives me the opportunity to say to whoever I'm with, "Hey, if this guy says this place is good, it must be good!" as I point at it, winking.

The eye rolls I get are priceless.

Sawleaf Vietnamese Cafe
13786 Jamboree Rd C
Irvine, CA 92602
(714) 417-9028

Basilur Tea & Coffee - Buena Park

Sunday, May 06, 2018

How To Do Chanko Nabe At Home

Chanko nabe, a.k.a. sumo stew, is the thing I crave when the temperature dips below 50 degrees and it starts to rain. It is, like all hot pot dishes, cold weather food. But this dish, which is famous because it's what Japanese sumo wrestlers eat to bulk up, is also pure comfort food. The problem is that there’s only one restaurant in OC that serves it: Torizo in Fountain Valley.

I love Torizo's chanko nabe, but not enough to endure the 405 at rush hour on a weeknight.

Fortunately, chanko nabe is not very hard to make at home. The broth can be dashi or chicken broth, flavored with sake or mirin, but the recipe is not hard set. So long as you have lots of vegetables and lots of protein, you can make chanko nabe and, most importantly, make it your own.

Actually, I take it back. To me, there are two things a chanko nabe has to have. One: there must be a tableside stove that keeps your pot simmering as you eat. Two: it must have homemade meatballs.

Typically, the meatballs are made from ground chicken, but I've made it with ground pork. It tastes just as good.

I'm not going to give you my recipe for the meatballs because I basically followed the one outlined by one of my favorite YouTube cooking shows, Cooking with Dog. Also, I don't need to tell you what other ingredients I dumped into my pot, because you can see it arranged in some sort of order in the video I shot above.

I follow the rule that anything that works well in a shabu shabu pot is fabulous in a chanko nabe. As they never overcook, mushrooms are ideal. And for me, tofu is always required. But the most important ingredient of all? Heat. Constant heat. Everything has to be piping hot from the first morsel to the last drop.

Chef Peter Hung - Garden Grove

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Chicken Sotanghon Soup at Jollibee - Irvine

I once had an office mate who'd make a face when he saw me eating cold pizza for breakfast. For him, the first meal of the day couldn't be more complicated than cereal. Anything possessing flavor or was the least bit savory was disagreeable to him. "It's too early!" he'd say.

I thought about him as I slurped this sotanghon chicken soup for breakfast at Jollibee. I'm not sure how often it is eaten for breakfast in the Philippines, which is the country from which Jollibee hails; but I know that soto, one of my favorite Indonesian breakfast dishes, is a soup of similar constitution.

In fact, the components of Jollibee's dish is almost identical to soto. You've got bits of boiled chicken, translucent bean thread noodle, and a hot, mildly-spiced broth that ties it all together. You're even supposed to squeeze a lemon into it, which is also what you do to soto. The only thing missing is the rice.

More than anything, eating this soup brought me back to the last time I was in Semarang, Indonesia. We'd get up at the crack of dawn while the early morning air around us was still cold and dewy. We'd walk to our family's favorite soto stand, a roadside shack covered in tarp.

Inside this ramshackle structure, the soto man would construct his bowls, scooping rice from a pot, ladling the soup from a bubbling cauldron, topping it with all matter of herbs. He'd hand it to us while it was still steaming hot.

We'd slurp and slurp as the warmth and sustenance from the bowl woke us up and sustained our bodies for the day ahead. Cereal ain't got nothing on this.

2180 Barranca Pkwy #120
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 660-1586

Heirloom Farmhouse Kitchen - Irvine