Thursday, January 27, 2022

Skyworks Cafe - Irvine

If you managed to find Skyworks Cafe, it’s because you work in or nearby the office building where it happens to serve as the employee cafeteria for Skyworks, a semiconductor firm. The only other reason you’d know it exists is because someone in that office building told you it was there. 

Despite being named after the NASDAQ-traded company it services, Skyworks Cafe is the kind of hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop that defines hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pops. 

A skinny Korean woman takes your order and in the back, someone who is presumably her husband makes the food. The regular menu consists of the usual sandwiches, salads, and wraps. In the morning, they offer omelets and breakfast burritos. Nothing is over $8. By 3 p.m. they call it a day and close up shop. 

But the reason I’m writing about them is their daily entree specials of Korean dishes. 

They rotate the entrees weekly, but you always know what’s coming up because they update the calendar on their website ( every Monday. 

For $8, their Korean spicy fried chicken, crispy morsels of white meat fried and shellacked in a sticky-spicy-sweet sauce, is one of the best in the area. Served with rice and a scoop of mac salad, it’s the kind of plate lunch you’d pick up before going to the beach in Hawaii. 

If you want a more substantial meal that feeds two, wait for the day they serve the Korean spicy pork, which is as generously seasoned in red pepper as it is generously portioned. 

Though the bibimbap lacks the sear of a hot stone pot, that’s a minor complaint. And on the days the chicken cutlet curry is served, expect lines. It’s, by far, their most popular dish. 

On any other day, the cafeteria is deserted, hidden, and undiscovered, except for those in the know, and now that you’ve read this: you!

Skyworks Cafe
5221 California Ave
Irvine, CA 92617

Friday, January 14, 2022

Thai Beef Noodle Soup at Thai & Chinese Express - Irvine

This Thai beef noodle soup from Thai & Chinese Express surprised me. Not only did it contain three times more beef than a typical bowl of pho, it had five times more flavor. Though I didn’t ask, I am almost positive it’s a rendition of Guay Tiew Ruea, the dish also known as Thai boat noodle. 

If you’ve never had boat noodle, think of pho, then add soy sauce, vinegar, galangal, sugar, garlic, and chilies to the broth. And that’s an oversimplification, because boat noodles usually also involve pork blood, which is used to enrich and thicken the soup. 

This bowl, from what I can tell, did not use pork blood. But it still exhibited the punchy, balanced flavors that pervade Thai cuisine. 

No additional squirts of Sriracha were needed. 

But what surprised me most is that this food court stall has had it on the menu for years and I never noticed it before, ignoring it in favor of their pad see ew. 

I guess the dish is a fitting metaphor for the place, which is itself hidden in plain sight deep inside Irvine’s business district, known primarily by only those who worked within a mile of it. 

Now that those workers transition to remote or hybrid schedules, the place has seemingly been forgotten. And that’s too bad because this soup is good and comforting and just the thing you want to be eating right now. 

And they have outdoor seating!

Thai & Chinese Express
2540 Main St. Unit J 
Irvine, CA 92614 
(949) 724-1813