Sunday, January 27, 2019

Summer House - Corona del Mar

This weekend is the last weekend for Newport Beach Restaurant Week until it happens again next year. And for me, it meant there was now a very good reason to revisit Summer House, a Corona del Mar sleeper of a neighborhood restaurant/diner that has so far escaped notice from everyone except the locals.

But with every subsequent Newport Beach Restaurant Week, this may start changing. At $20, Summer House has one of the cheapest prices for a three-course dinner at a full-service restaurant. So it’s only a matter of time before the rest of OC discovers it.

This year, I opted to try a mahi mahi smothered in a tomato wine sauce, served with horseradish mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. It was glorious: the fish was perfectly cooked, the spinach silky, the potatoes blubbery and sharp—a dish that’s worth $20 in and of itself.

My lovely dinner companion took the restaurant’s signature dish of ginger-crusted baked fresh Hawaiian ono with orange beurre blanc and jasmine rice, which was as good as the first time we had it two years ago. It was then that I, myself, discovered Summer House from their old Newport Beach Restaurant Week deal, which, by the way, hasn’t changed in price. The fact that it hasn’t makes it an even better value today.

Summer House
2744 East Coast Hwy
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

Bwon Shabu & BBQ - Fullerton

Monday, January 14, 2019

Crispy Pork & Char Siu Rice from Seasons Kitchen USA

On most weekdays, my lunch would not consist of flavors from my Southeast Asian childhood. But today was not a typical day. Today, Seasons Kitchen USA--which has been travelling from office park to office park serving Malaysian dishes for food-barren corporate complexes--was in my neck of the woods.

So my lunch had a lot of the ingredients I grew up with: sambal with whiffs of belacan, the crispy head-on fried anchovies called ikan bilis, and the sumptuous aroma of rice cooked with coconut milk.

The protein was char siu and hunks of fatty pork belly still attached to its crispy skin, which, when I think about it, I probably would’ve been better off consuming when I was 30 years younger and 50 pounds lighter!

Seasons Kitchen USA
641 N Euclid St
Anaheim, CA 92801

Edwin Goei's Top Drinks and Restaurants of 2018

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The Dim Sum Co. - Westminster

Whenever I want instant dim sum gratification, The Dim Sum Co. does the job. Since it’s a walk-up quick-service counter located inside My Thuan Market in Westminster, you point, pay, and eat. There’s no hour long waits, no tipping, no splitting up the bill at the end. There’s usually a queue, but it last minutes compared to the hours you might spend waiting at a real dim sum restaurant on a weekend. It’s been this way since it was called Yum Cha Cafe back in the day.

But there are differences in quality to a proper dim sum palace, mostly due to the travel time. By the time I got it home, a lot of the dim sum cooled and hardened. Also the delicate skin of the har gow got torn up when they packed into its togo Styrofoam container. But the taro balls were greaseless and crisp, shedding its shredded-wheat-like fur in crumbles when I bit into it. And the egg custard tart was, as always, luscious and perfectly sweet.

As I took my last morsel and sipped my home-brewed tea, I looked at my watch. In the time I took to drive, pick up, and eat this food, I would still be standing in line, waiting to get a seat elsewhere.

The Dim Sum Co.
8900 Westminster Blvd.
Westminster, CA 92683

Davios - Irvine

Monday, January 07, 2019

Farewell to Stricklands

Stricklands Ice Cream served its final cone last week, one day before New Year's Eve. It was forced to close after 15 years in business. Its landlord, The Irvine Company, chose not to renew its lease earlier this year.

I went on that last day and although all the ice cream was sold out by the time I got there, I was able to get one last treat: handspun milkshakes, which were being offered at half-off.

A rush of competing emotions came over me as I took a drag of the thick strawberry milkshake from my straw. I was happy and grateful that I got to be there on the last and final night of service. But then, as soon as the sugary surge melted away, the feelings of profound sadness and loss set in.

Stricklands represented a physical, brick-and-mortar connection to countless fond memories of my past. And it seemed like an injustice that it was being taken away. I would’ve had different emotions had the owners, Randy and Donna Nettles, decided to close up on their own terms.

But then, my feelings turned to hopefulness. The fact that they aren’t closing voluntarily actually provides a real possibility that they will reopen elsewhere–somewhere where Stricklands Ice Cream can make new fond memories in perpetuity.

Farewell Stricklands...for now.

Kashiwa Ramen - Costa Mesa