Monday, February 26, 2007

Do you like Indian Buffets? Press 1 for more info

I'll assume you pressed "1" on your keypad and are looking forward to an exciting journey through my memory of Bombay Indian Cuisine in Hillcrest.

First and foremost i want to state that the restaurant itself is very very pretty. The decorations, the large open entrance doors, the comfortable booths, the wonderful arrangement of the buffet are outstanding! It almost makes up for the B grade quality food!


So last week my friends and i decided to venture to a lunch buffet at Bombay Indian Cuisine. Even though i suggested Ashoka the great, their hearts were set on the "glamor" of Hillcrest. (did i mention i dont like Hillcrest at all? pretentiously indy, i think to a fault). The buffet itself clocks in at around 10$ a person.

Before we actually get to the buffet line here, my favorite part of Indian buffet's is the fact that i can have all i can eat Naan bread. I could probably eviscerate the Indian population's (mighty large last time i checked) supply of Naan in one sitting. The good thing about Bombay is the fact that they offer TWO (yes two!!! for freee!!!!) types of Naan bread. Garlic and Regular Naan.
Here we have pictured the Garlic Naan bread. Its good, it has a strong Garlic flavor (plenty of garlic) and its just this giant giant piece. I would have preferred if it was multiple smaller pieces but hopefully everyone washed their hands before digging in =).

The only problem is that the garlic flavor is almost too strong if you eat more than two pieces at a time. So i found myself substituting between the Garlic and the Regular Naan between pieces.

The naan itself is a thinner almost crispier naan. I have a personally preference for the thicker bread like naan but my lunchmates rather enjoyed this version.

The first stop at the buffet was the "salad bar"
There was the basic salad on the left, a lightly sweet cucumber like sauce in the middle, and your typical blend of vinaigrettes and vegetable salad. (Red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers). There was also a yogurt cream that most Indian restaurants have, but my phone camera is only so wide. Everything in this section was easily forgettable. I ate a little of it to cleanseeeee my palette.
Here is the vegetable Samosa, which were very large, i dont have any great love for them so i didn't try them. What i did try were their "sliced" onion rings and breaded califlower. Fried items like that shouldn't be left for so long in the little cooking trays. Horribly soggy, no flavor what so ever!

They also had two types of rice, i'm a big fan of the yellow rice, i like long grain rice, good flavor and you can stuff a whole bunch in your mouth at the same time with just a little bit of whatever curry sauce is handy at the time. haha.

They also had two different types of soup, a chicken lentil soup and a vegetable soup. I didn't try either cause someone forgot to replenish the bowls! Can't drink soup on a plate no matter how hard i try!

Also pictured is a potato blend, not really a curry cause it doesn't have that spice to it. If i had anything other than my 2megapixel camera phone we might be able to read the signs they posted. Since i dont actually like potatoes i'm going to say the flavor was fine but needs less potato =P

Somewhere along the transfer from my phone to my computer was the digital kidnapping of the picture of the meat section in the buffet. LUCKILY i took a picture of one of the desserts and it had some of the dishes on it!

First you will see the Tandoori Chicken on the right. It was sitting there for a little while (lukewarm) but the meat was still tender. It had a good texture to it. I would have preferred if it was a lil more fresh but beggers can't be choosers at buffets.

Pictured on the far left is the Nav Rattan Korma. My favorite FAVORITE vegetable dish in indian Cuisine. It has a slightly sweet yogurt taste to it with a mixture of carrots, calliflower, zuchini, and lima beans. I could eat this all day. In fact everytime i go to the mall and i see Indian food i pretty much always order this. But this version was eh. Very So so. It wasn't sweet enough, and it had a pretty dull taste.

This and the non-pictured chicken tika masala. Your standard indian chicken dish. Think of it as the orange chicken of Indian Cuisine. Not spicy, just a good rich flavor. This was probably the one good dish here, which is kind of sad considering its a buffet =(

Finally the giant thing in the middle would be one of the many desserts. They had rice pudding, strawberries, and this mango creme.

It was surprisingly light, sweet and with a really nice mango flavor to it. If i was a bigger fan of "creme" desserts when there's no ice cream involved i think i would have very much enjoyed this dish.

So if you want to overpay a little and bask in the ambiance that is Hillcrest feel free to venture over to Bombay. But you'll find me at Ashoka the Great's Lunch buffet =P

p.s. my friends liked this place alot. So give it a shot and come back and tell me how you felt =)

Bombay Exotic Cuisine of India
3960 Fifth Ave

, CA 92103

Friday, February 23, 2007

The year of the pig!

This past weekend was Chinese New Year (as well as NBA allstar weekend! woop!) and LA became a deadlocked traffic jam with parades, fairs, and crazy amounts of stands.
While visiting my family for this wonderful holiday of eating and receiving money i took a day to venture around Monterey Park (or as i like to call, lil china town).

My initial intentions in the MP was actually to eat Ban Cha at a vietnamese restaurant suggested on Chowhound. But due to certain posters not keeping up to date on what they are suggesting, this restaurant has not served Ban Cha in quite awhile =(

But everything has its silver lining. I read about the Monterey Park Floral Street Fair (as Kirk slightly elaborated on his blog) on the web and i decided to make a trip over! Grabbing the gf and my buddy nick we ventured on to the traffic jam that was Garvey.

Monterey Park pretty much shut off 3-4 blocks of Garvey and threw stands up everywhere. This place was absolutely packed with people. The most notable lines were for signing up for "free TV giveaways". I always find it funny that us Chinese are so gullible and willing to have their address be sold to marketers on whatever slim chance there is to win a TV (if they even actually give one out! dishonest bastards!).

But my main reasoning for coming here was NOT for clever marketing schemes, but to try the different food stands they had available! They had Memphis BBQ, Greek, Thai, Mexican, Taiwanese street snacks, Mainland China street snacks and basic Chinese take out dishes.
I personally made a bee line to the street snacks areas after i could smell the sweet sausages from 100 yards away!
Yummy yummy sweet sausages on the right, Meat/Fish balls on a stick in the middle, and beef kabobs on the left.
Since the beef kabobs didn't look too appetizing, i got myself a sausage ($1), a meat ball kabob ($2), and a fresh mango drink ($2)(It was easily 85+ degrees at this point, the drink was extremely refreshing). Not too bad for a little snack, i wish the meat ball stick was a little bit cheaper since it oddly lacked flavor with every bite. You can tell where the sauce was and where there wasn't any sauce... felt like i was occasionally just eating dry meat.

BUT THE SAUSAGES, OH MAN THE SAUSAGE. this is just like the little street vendors in mainland china that sell these sausages for approx 75cents a piece. Everytime i saw one in China my mom would look at me and shake her head no in fear i would be poisoned. But everytime I left her sight i secretly ran over and bought myself a sausage. And boy they were good.

Every sausage has a sweet taste that you can't even describe. It tastes sweet but not sugary, and just the right amount of fat and lean meat combined together in that delicious delicious link.

After walking around a bit i decided to go check out the taiwanese street vendor stand. They had the meatballs on a stick (yuck), Crispy chicken, Stinky tofu, and pieces of fried chicken. Something VERY surprising that they had (not pictured) was Ma La hot pot in small portions. There were bowls of Napa Cabbage, Tofu, Fish Balls, Pigs blood being dipped into the MA LA soup. Looked delicious! but it was way too hot outside to be eating that!

If i wasn't getting the "glare of guilt for being a fatty" from my girlfriend i would have gotten the Crispy Chicken because it looks so crispy and fresh =( So i just ended up with the stinky tofu.

This was delicious. I bought it right after they cooked up a new batch. I could smell it all the way from the tray *YYUMMMMMMMMMMY*. As my girlfriend and buddy Nick ran away from the smell i gorged myself.

The tofu is covered with a sweet / spicy soy-like sauce (but thicker) and pickled cabbage (not kimchi, its sweet not spicy). The tofu itself is fermented to get the smell. My family always said the smellier it was the better it tasted.

So i put the box next to my nose and took a very very large wiff. Boy oh boy was that smelly! Just how i like it! The tofu soaked the soy-like sauce in, so every bite was heaven when mixed with the cabbage.

IF , big IF you can get by the smell this stuff is delicious. Some people cant eat it or refuse to eat it *cough nick/GF* because of the smell, but its just a wonderful treat.

A very funny thing that we noticed was a police officer trying to find who operated the food vendors. Apparently one person was complaining (a rather large portly gentleman) that his stomach started hurting after eating at one of the vendors. So the cop taking his job much too seriously was on his walkie-talkie issuing dire dire commands

"We need to bring Caution tape, we're going to string it in front of all the vendors so no one can get to them" They finally got health inspectors out, and you can see the cops watching each vendor, silently judging them with their evil cop stares. To my knowledge all of the vendors were still there the next night.

Ummmmmmmmmm maybe the guy was gonna have a stomachache whether or not he ate the food? HUM?????? Apparently most cops dont' go thru these reasonings in their head.

One last note, they had a spam truck. Where a lady was hanging out samples of "single serving" spam packages. I personally dislike spam with a passion unrivaled by the RedSox and the Yankees, but my girlfriend wanted some free spam, so free spam we waited in line for. Chinese people love free.

One old lady who couldn't speak english kept pointing at the other free samples after she received hers already! So greedy!!!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Great balls (logs!) of fire!

As a child i collected comic books.

Okay i won't lie i still read hordes and hordes of comic books now.

I've always read about giant rocks of radiation that could mutate me into a super hero! a super hero that isn't trusted, but has to go through alot of personal struggles to finally embrace the power and responsibility that came with my new life. Ah to lead such a life.

I finally found my rock of radiation, but sadly it did nothing but cook my korean bbq at Chamsutol BbqThey use this little crank system to life the coals closer and farther from your grill. If you're curious like George and like the little monkey you are you play too much with the crank.... the coal splits apart and the fire gets significantly weaker (glare!).

The place serves a very large variety of Panchan which i found very impressive.

The most interesting panchan i saw was the large spinach kim-chee like dish. I'm not even sure if it was spinach, but it was slightly sour and not so spicy. I think it'd be SUPER in a cold soup like dish.

Of course with all these wrap it yourself places, there's salad. The salad here is actually a little bit spicy, especially when you get to the bottom the plate, you can see all the red peppers drenched in sauce. But they use a nice variety of lettuce which is very much like. You see that green leaf lettuce? SEE HOW GREAT IT IS?

yes i'm glad you agree with me (according to my crappy 2 megapixel picture) that the quality of the lettuce is quite nice.

This place is very very different from your regular AYCE korean bbq restaurants. You order different "levels" of meat. You dont just pay 15.99 and get whatever meat you want, they actually have tiers of meat. If you want Kalbi (which everyone i was with is infatuated with) you have to pay 18.99.

With our 18.99 we received, beef tongue, pork belly, Kalbi, and standard sliced beef. The beef tongue was beef tongue like. Has a rich meaty taste, i think its pretty fresh here, the coloring is very nice, but most of my less adventurous friends did not quite prefer it.

Pictured bottom is the standard sliced beef. It actually had a very nice run of white fat thru the beef and was actually defrosted! and not curled into those lil round balls of meat that everyone gets at other places. THis meat was very very tasty.

UNLIKE the Kalbi, which was too chewy yuck. Considering this is what i paid extra for, i'll stick with the 15.99 next time.

The pork belly here is amazing. it has the perfect amount of fat with meat and is oh so delicious! Not too chewy, and just makes you go MMMMMMMMMMm when you swallow it.

They also have Steamed Egg , which doesn't taste like the normal steamed egg but more like scrambled egg. This made me a lil bit sad since i love steamed egg so much. Just give me steamed egg and rice and i'd be a happy little chinese camper.

They also provide the spicy kimchi tofu soup, but............. the waitresses hated us cause we couldn't fluently speak chinese or korean. Haha. Ah........

No but seriously they were extremely rude to us, we'd have to ask for certain things multiple times and with no success. One lady was very nice but then she left and got off work =(. And i knew this was solely our experience with our table... because i heard them talking to the other tables and bringing them extra food before they even asked for it!!!

Would i go here again? i dont know. I'm not as big of a stickler when it comes to service at a buffet style restaurant, so i'd say if i could avoid driving to LA to eat decent korean BBQ i'd do it.

Chamsutol Bbq
18722 Colima Road
Rowland Heights, CA 91748

Sunday, February 18, 2007

expected success for greatest creamy ice in the U S of A

Ever since the first Jurassic park came out i've been taught an extremely important lesson.

Do not mess with fossils. Don't try to regrow dinosaurs, don't try to make interactive video rides about them, and most of all don't leave them lying around for a naive group of students to come and find them and be trapped on an island (unless you leave a raptor vocal canal so you can communicate with the dinosaurs by blowing into the bone like a flute!).

So when i first saw Fossilman's i was very very wary of going in, i didn't want anything to do with recreating Jurassic park 4, "THE PREHISTORIC ERA IN MONTEREY PARK."
wait what? the sign says FossElman's? not Fossilmans?
Sigh ignore everything i've said in the top paragraph and start from here.

Fosselman's is apparently the best icecream on this side of the Mississippi (i actually had to sing that little song where you sing out how to spell Mississippi). Its been rated in the top 10 for pretty much every single Southern California list for ice cream.

They have about 30+ flavors, catering to your standard ice cream fare and an oddly large amount of asian flavors that i assume are done to cater to the large asian community they are located in.

If you want to take home some icecream, they have pre-packed versions of their more popular flavors (get the real mango! its great! milky mango flavor, just tastes so fresh, like you mixed your own condensed milk and mango together in a bright summery dish.) And they are pretty reasonably priced at 6.75$ for each Quart.

There are so many choices this little girl is just overwhelmed. I think she actually fainted from the excitement of having so many delicious treats that she just MIGHT be able to try.

Today i decided not to get the regular mango ice cream that i usually get. (one scoop of any ice cream is 2.15$). In the spirit of Valentine's i ordered the chocolate covered strawberry.

Allow me to take you on a journey on what this flavor tastes like. (please close your eyes and imagine.... uh.... remember what i type in a few moments then close your eyes cause otherwise it might be rather hard =P).

Imagine a scoop of very chocolate chippy chocolate and chip ice cream, with pieces of chocolate chip just trying to gain a majority domain over the rest of the plain ice cream.

Now imagine the creamiest, yet subtle strawberry ice cream you've ever tasted. Not so sweet that the strawberry flavor is overbearing, but not so milky that you don't taste any strawberry.

now imagine me throwing the two ice cream scoops against each other at 500mph (i dont play in the MLB cause i dont want to embarass people) , and while in transit from point A to point B the first scoop of ice cream loses its vanilla flavor, and in need of another host the chocolate chip latches onto the strawberry ice cream.

However they may have created it, its delicious. It tastes kind of like an actual chocolate covered strawberry, where the strawberry flavor is stronger than the chocolate, but with every bite you know the chocolate is waiting there for a chance to overwhelm the strawberry. Its JUST enough chocolate to make it perfect.

My friend got their weekly special, "fresh/real pistachio ice cream". If you like pistachio this has a very strong pistachio flavor, not as artificial as you'd normally get at another ice cream store. But if you don't like a strong pistachio flavor..... try to steer away. (why you'd order pistachio if you didn't like pistachio is beyond me)

They also have a counter where they handspin milkshakes, malts (in a previous visit we found out a milkshake and a malt are the same thing other than malt powder!), and sodas! They make good ol fashion hand pulling cola for you.

And if you're lucky they'll make the Cola for free! (ask idiotically if they have Coke, when they say no have a heartbroken look on your face and say "oh... =(... none at all?" Then they will take pity on you and tell you they will make you a cup of Coke with their mix and carbonated water. Then make sure they conveniently forget to charge you due to the large line behind the counter.

That's how you get it for free =X
They also have salt water taffy (my gf told me to post this picture up). Its a rather large collection of Taffy.

All in all i love this place. Its pretty much crowded whenever there is a temperature spike in Los Angeles (every other week) but the service is pretty quick. I do warn you parking there is horrible, they have a parking lot capable of fitting 6 cars total, so do try to park along the street where there is a large amount of street parking.

1824 W. Main St. Alhambra, CA

Saturday, February 10, 2007

In Partnership we trust! (get it! In-cahoots? in a partnership? hehe)

Two weeks ago my friend Dan told me about a bar/restaurant that had a Steak, baked potato, and a beer from the tap for 5.99 tax included.

I'm usually pretty weary of any steak at a restaurant that is cheaper than 10$, especially if it comes with an alcoholic libation. But the poor law student in me was just as intrigued of this deal as the sensible man in me wasn't.

But...... money wins over common sense most of the time so last Thursday my friends and i decided to travel to In cahoots.

Located off of Mission Center road in between Fashion Valley Mall and Mission Valley Mall (why are those two malls so different like night and day? it just perplexes me, a whole different world subsides in these two malls) , In Cahoots is that odd looking building with the Christmas lights dangling off of it.

The place is actually a Country Music club, where instead of shaking and grinding your booty to the hippity hop, you kick and spin to the sounds of Carrie Underwood and Fleetwod Mac.

Their steak special is only on Thursday nights from 5-9pm and they also have $2 well drinks if you're so inclined to partake. After 8PM they charge 3$ cover so watch out!

SO when i got there i realized that these weren't Made to Order steaks. They are actually sitting in a catering tray (with a warm fire underneath it to keep it warm) with all its other steak brothers covered in a warm bbq sauce.

But don't fear, people go through them so fast they actually replenish them rather quickly so they haven't been sitting out for too long (hey its 5.99$ who are we to complain).

So they fish you your steak, grab you your potato wrapped in foil and pour you a beer. They have a bowl of A1 Sauce, Sour Cream, Butter, and Scallions (not all in one bowl of course but i'm sure you knew that... right? right???).

The steak itself is actually pretty decent. Of course i've had better, but i've also paid 30-45$ for a better steak. Does eating 6 of these steaks equate to one great steak? that's for you to decide! But the steak isn't bad, you can cut through it pretty easily with the provided steak nice, its a LIL bit chewy as it ought to be, considering its been sitting in a warming vat for the a bit of time.

The steak itself is actually pretty thick, i was pleasantly surprised by the size of it. It also has a nice red to it. The lady will ask if you want it more well done or not, but apparently her only indicator of which is which is by pinching the steak with tongs (its not an exact science yet).

The baked potato is just a baked potato, the more sour cream the better. And the beer is an 8 oz Miller Lite.

We sat at the top portion of the restaurant and the DJ was giving line dancing lessons to the crowd. So i snapped a picture from the top level of their dance floor.

We arrived around 6:30 and it was moderately full, but by the time we left around 7:45 it was getting very very packed, no more seats available to sit at.

So if you're in the mood for some cheap steak and some line dancing then head on over to In Cahoots.

In Cahoots
5373 Mission Center Road
San Diego, CA 92108

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Crabby boys and girls

My buddy Matt was baptized a few weeks ago in downtown La Jolla, and with every great event in someone's life, there must also be a great meal that goes along with it.

Since we were in La Jolla already, we took it upon ourselves to enjoy a nice sunday brunch. After much debating (or me pointing and saying "how bout XXX") we decided to go to CrabCatcher.

Crab Catcher has a menu Brunch unlike some of the AYCE brunch's in La jolla. The standard fare of champagne and fresh breads are provided.

If you've never been to Crab Catcher its actually a very pretty restaurant. Its split into an outdoor eating area so you can see the ocean and an indoor area.... where you can also see the ocean. PERSONALLY i like to sit inside, who wants to spoil a 30-50$ dish with excess salt from the ocean eh?

The service here is very very good, much like every other "higher" class restaurant. The waiter continuously refilled our champagne glasses when they weren't even 3/4th done! And.. water. Uh hum water and champagne! combination for champions.

This is bread basket 1 of 2 that they gave us. You can see by this sparse selection of cinnamon raisin muffins, fresh croissants, and rasberry muffins that its not enough for our five ravenous appetites. So imagine a second basket. OH BUTTERY CROISSANTS HOW I <3 style="margin: 0px auto 10px; display: block; text-align: center; cursor: pointer;" src="" alt="" id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5028674512521185762" border="0">The next dish is the ABC Omellete served with veggies and house potatoes. (14$)
The ABC omelet consists of Avocado, Bacon, and Cheese. What a clever name for the dish! I personally would never have thought of Avocados in an omelet but it turned out pretty well. As you can see there's a very nice flush to the egg, of course you'd expect that from a 15$ omelet.

Next we have the Big Island Salad ($18)
A delightful combination of panko crusted chicken, with wasabi peas, papaya, grapes, and a light peanut sauce. I didn't have the opportunity to try any, but it was another great review.

Next we have the "star" salad at this eatery, the Salmon Salad ($22).

A combination of spinach, big chunks of grilled salmon, artichoke, and a light balsamic vinaigrette. I think of this dish more as a grilled salmon dish with vegetables on the side. I personally really like eating any chunk of meat with a bite of vegetables, so this actually works very well.

The next dish is one of their signature brunch dishes, Poached Eggs La Jolla (16$)

Combination of Poached eggs, Blue Crab Cakes, and remoulade sauce. This is DELICIOUS. I've had it on a previous occasion and i love it. The egg mixed with the blue crab is just amazing. Their cakes are stuff to the brim with blue crab and the mixture with the slightly tangy remoulade sauce just makes it so much better.

Finally my dish, the Grilled Prawns (20$)
A combination of four grilled prawns with tomatoes, garlic, and white wine. The noodles i've never had before, they were thick and heavy (physically heavier than yoru standard linguini type pasta) and shorter. I can't say i really like them very much. Also the sauce from this dish could have been cooked a little bit longer, the wine wasn't reduced all the way so i tasted a little more wine than i would like to. But the shrimp were wonderfully grilled, just sad to say there were only four pieces =(

All in all a great experience. Good times with good friends.

If you ever find yourself there during dinner time they have amazing King Crab Legs, just this monster legs, if i saw this crab walking down the beach i would walk the other way.

Yes, thats how big the crab would need to be to have legs this thick (i bet they work out).

They also have a crazy crazy dessert menu tray. Simple cakes and creme brulee but they all look amazing!

Crab Catcher
1298 Prospect St.
La Jolla, CA 92037

Saturday, February 3, 2007

i dont have a title, but here's some food!

In Los Angeles there are alot of chinese "take-out" restaurants. BUt when i tell you take out, i'm not talking about Panda Express style takeout with Kung Pao Chicken and Beef and broccoli, i'm talking good ol home style chinese food.

THe great thing about these places is the fact that they have SO many choices and they give you so much food!

Rolling Wok in Rowland Heights gives you Boba Milk tea, soup, rice, and three dishes for 4$ flat after tax. There are 8+ types of cooked veggie dishes, whole fish, shrimp, pork, beef, chicken, and everything you can ever think about eating. (they seem to always have tomato and egg)

But this style of food in LA actually started in Monterey Park (to the best of my knowledge) in a store called Shau Mei. Its about 4.50$ for the same thing sans the drink, which a much oilier selection (that's for you to decide if its better or worse). You get in line, and BAM BAM BAM your food is at the counter waiting for you.
Right here i ordered, Chicken and Mushroom, steamed Egg with minced pork, and Wintermelon with wintergreens. My girlfriend and i actually split this meal cause its quite large!

The egg is a lil bit salty, it'd be significantly tastier if they didn't put so much salt in it (funny part is, it was in the "low sodium" section). But i do like this style of egg, just something about the silkiness like tofu that really gets to me.

Chicken and mushroom is pretty standard fare, its good just nothing amazing.

The wintermelon was super good! the greens really added a different element to it. Wasn't quite salty, but it did have that extra kick of taste (its actually my favorite vegetable in soup noodles!). Very delicious!

The only bad thing about these places is how bland the soup is. But i rarely get around to drinking the soup since i'm so stuffed after eating everything!

This place actually has a much larger selection of food off the menu, noodle soups/rice dishes and the such if you want to order it, but i rarely have seen a single person order from the menu.

Shau May Restaurant
104 N Garfield Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754 (thanks!)