Sunday, July 29, 2007

Do you like playing with your food? (OC/LA)

Every child in the world growing up was probably told by their parents not to play with their food. If you weren't... then your parents were probably
1) oblivious
2) the type of parents that believe negative reinforcement is bad
3) the type of parents that don't care what their children do and allow them to run rampant like little hoodlums/wild animals sending them to a clear cut path to juvie and a life of crime. (Just kidding).
4) really really into Teppanyaki!

Since my blog isn't I'm pretty sure you can guess what direction I'm headed toward. (psss #4).

This past summer I've actually had quite a bit of Teppanyaki. We've gone twice for work and once with my family.. which is actually 3x more than I've been the year before.

If you're not familiar with Teppanyaki please read this fine overview .
Its essentially a variety of meats/seafood/vegetables cooked on an iron surface right in front of you. The chef is usually rather skilled in the preparation of the food and is more than willing to show you the delicacies of his craft.
I.e. Ability to spin knives around, toss eggs into his hat, and create giant onion volcano's that make the former residents of Pompeii go "wow that's big".

The location we're at today for our blogging purposes is Kingswood BBQ in Rowland Heights, California. Opened by a former Chinese Actor, the restaurant is lined with pictures of him and a bunch of other famous Chinese stars. The restaurant itself is split into two, one side has hot pot (reviewed here by Kirk from mmmmm yoso) while the other said has Teppanyaki.

Like most restaurants, there is a lunch and dinner menu. The lunch portion is about 25% smaller than the dinner portion but it is 30-40% cheaper, which makes it quite the deal! The best part about lunch is that you rarely have to wait in line. Places like these get PACKED at night. Since every meal is a spectacle it tends to lead to pretty slow turnaround.

The menu consists of an assortment of steaks/beef/chicken/fish/shrimp/calamari grilled in each way shape or form. This place offers you Black Pepper sauce for your meat as well as just plain soy sauce, quite a few places give you zero option so you better love the crap out of black pepper.

After you order the cook comes along with his cart full of magical goodies.
You'll notice there is an ample amount of butter, shallots, lemon, and garlic.. essentials for traditional Japanese food (not).

While you wait for the food to cook, you're served a bowl of soup and some salad!

One of the pre-requisites with every good Teppanyaki restaurant is the freshly made fried rice.
A mixture of white rice, chopped green/white onions, egg, chicken, garlic, butter, and soysauce. Egg is scrambled and mixed in with the rice. After the vegetables, egg, and chicken are mixed in together an ample amount of butter is placed into the rice and then mixed again. Soy sauce is poured in.. and then your lovely chef will do a little trick with the rice. He'll make it into the shape of a heart, stick the spatula under it and pump it like a beating heart.

*applause from all the young women in the crowd*.

End result? a nice decent size bowl of tasty tasty fresh fried rice!
After the fried rice is made the chef usually places all of the meats as well as the Zuchinni and onions that will also be enjoyed in your meal.

After some more dicing and chopping and throwing and tossing and general mayhem that your parents would never let you do with your food your food is served!

My general combo at Kingswood is the mini-steak (no idea what a mini steak is) with shrimp in black pepper sauce. I can't really attest to the quality of the meat, but anything with that much sauce really is bound to taste good.

AFter your meat is served the chef will usually stack the onions up , pour some alcohol down into the hole created by the stacked onions, and set it on fire! Woooo wee, the volcano of doom!
Dice up the onions with freshly grilled zucchinis and you got yourself a tasty lil dish. They mix the vegetables with... you guess it! butter and black pepper sauce! Those japanese sure know how to eat healthy!

After the onions/zucchini's you get yourself a batch of bean sprouts with soy sauce.

The meal itself really is a fun experience. Its nice crowding a bunch of your friends in a semi-circle watching the chef do little tricks. The grand total of the mini-steak + shrimp? A paltry $15 at lunch!

A meal and a show for $15! Medieval Times eat your heart out!

Kingswood Teppan Steak House
18900 E Gale Ave #B
Rowland Heights, CA 91748

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ice on a pan. (LA/OC)

Alright everyone, its time to bear with Uncle Charlie for a little bit. I'm trying to play embedded video in my blog to give it a fresher more techie attitude to match with my newly acquired nerd shirt.

But in my infinite nerdiness i haven't figured out how to get the video to align in the middle with everything else.. Still working on that. If you have some info please leave a comment =)
Edit: figured it out! woot


For my first experimental post we're going to go visit an equally exciting and new place to eat, Icepan. Located next to the Happiest Place on Earth (South Coast Plaza, which actually has more traffic in and out of it yearly than DisneyLand) a mini ice cream shop in a sea of small mall like eateries.
Now what makes Icepan so darn innovate and exciting? Its one of the few places on earth that when they tell you they make their ice cream on the spot, they really mean right in front of you on the spot. In the past year Los Angeles has been caught in a flurry of snack trends and no doubt Icepan is trying to carve its own little niche. We have "designer" cupcakes and fake yogurt being disguised as real yogurt so why not "fresh ice cream"?

Icepan tries to makes its claim to fame by allowing you to pick the ingredients of your ice cream .. all the way down to the type of milk you use to make an unique ice cream just for you! Of course you're uniqueness is only so unique. You are given a choice of Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry, Banana, Kiwi, Mango, Yogurt, Green tea with an occasional special flavor thrown in (cabbage!?). (menu can be found here). Mind you the fruit flavors are all made with fresh fruit, and not just little itty bitsy pieces of fruit, but the portion size your mom used to shove down your throat every morning (or in my brother and my case, still do). If you're mom never gave you fruit, just imagine its quite a bit since mom's never think their kids are eating healthy enough, so they overcompensate.
After you pick out your flavor, you get a choice of Soy Milk, Non-Fat Milk, Low-Fat Milk, Whole Milk. I'd like to think that an ice cream is not an ice cream without the nice fatty thickness of Whole Milk but on my current diet plan I can't be eating those extra 50 Calories. On top of that there are little toppings you can mix in, i like chocolate chip with Strawberry because it tastes like Chocolate Covered Strawberries!

So onto our first video! (i'm so excited!) After you select your flavors the worker will grab a square box that has your fruit inside. She/He takes the fruit and puts it into a tall cylindrical container, the kind you have with a hand blender. They pour a mix of milk into it (depending on what you got) that i'm almost 100% positive has sugar and whatever necessary flavoring. After all that's settled in the container the hand blender comes into play! Please Press play and watch the video =)

After the mix is completely blended they proceed to put the mixture on a metal pan (get it? Icepan?) They allow the mixture to sit a bit on the metal plan which is oddly reminiscent of making scrambled eggs. You know how you let the egg mixture just sit there a little and let it solidify just enough that you can start messing with it? Same Exact Thing.

Now if i may turn your attention to video #2 you can actually see them make the "ice cream"! They viciously attack the mixture from all angles, chipping and chipping away at it till it gets solid enough to scoop and put into your cup. And Wala! ice cream in a cup!

Of course, as innovative as it maybe, it doesn't really matter if it doesn't taste good right? Luckily Icepan isn't a disappointment. This isn't ice cream in the traditional sense of creamy and milky ice cream you might be able to get at Fossleman's or Rite-Aid. Imagine a milk based fruit smoothie but stuck in the freezer. Or if you've ever had those Milk Strawberry Popsicles? Taste pretty much like that, except alot fruitier. I really like their use of fresh fruits in the Ice Cream, you can definitely taste the strong sour/tartness of Kiwi, the sweet tart of Strawberries, and the sugary sweetness of mango with every bite. Of course its rather odd looking at your Kiwi Ice cream and just seeing little black seeds in it.

My one big qualm about this is the price. It costs a little under $5 for the scoop you just saw. On top of that unlike a normal ice cream shop that really packs in your ice cream into the cup they don't do it here. If they packed it in, it'd probably melt way too fast. But you end up getting significantly less ice cream.

I say Icepan is something that everyone ought to try at least once, just for the novelty of it. You may not agree with the price but its something to cool you down after a hot frantic day of shopping at South Coast!

3930 Bristol St. #110 Santa Ana, CA 92704

P.S.EDIT: it takes about 5 minutes for them to mix your stuff together, so try to allocate at least 10-15 minutes in case there are people in front of you.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

South of the border. Very very south of the border (OC/LA)

Its not often you find the first cultural restaurant in Southern California, but luck may have it, next to work we have the first Venezuelan restaurant in Southern California!

Mil Jugos. Right next to the Santa Ana Federal Courthouse the restaurant itself looks very simple. It looks just like a general juice bar (since it says juice) but it actually serves some pretty fresh and pretty authentic (i dont' know what authentic Venezuelan food is but I'll take their word for it) Venezuelan food. The restaurant food is done almost exclusively by the owner's mom so the food actually takes awhile since its done just by her. The restaurant itself is very small, only about 4 tables so alot of people order takeout.

A little background on the Venezuelan food they serve here, Arepas and Cachapas. Think of them as two differing carb fest (Atkin lovers beware) meals. The Arepas is essentially two corn meal buns freshly made right when you order it. Inside you have your choice of meats but unlike a typical sandwich there are no veggies, just whatever filling you decide to......... fill it with.
I actually ordered it with chicken salad since i ordered something else with a cooked meat filling. THis was DELICIOUS. The Arepas itself is not that large, its probably the size of a Mcdonald's cheeseburger, but the bread is like a lighter piece of cornbread. THe chicken salad is what really made the dish. Bits of potatoes, chicken breast, and carrots mixed in whatever ingredients they see fit to make their salad. Very very generous amount of salad. Slightly salty (good) with extremely moist chicken (very good) the salad really delivers everything necessary for a great chicken salad. Each one is about $3.50. They do have a combo where you get one Arepas, a soda, and a side salad (giant) for about $7.
(quick picture of the salad, tons of nice organic green, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions. Mui healthy)

The final part of Venezuelan cuisine and per chance their most popular is the Cachapas. Think of a giant crepe, you know those small pancakes? (ricky bobby!!) but thicker, almost like a thinner pancake but not nearly as thin as normal crepes. The Cachapas is folded from the middle. The Cachapas dough is a little bit sweet, its made with oil, corn, sugar, salt, and water. You can add whatever you want inside, sliced pork, ham, chicken, or just the VERY basic sweet cream with cheese.
Mine was the sweet cream with the cheese plus shredded pork. This mixture was actually kind of weird, the pork is salty yet the cheese and cream are sweet. I actually didn't like the combination. It would be significantly better if it was just the cheese and the pork, or just the cheese and the creme. (btw the creme is so delicious, think of a thick sweet milk and you'll see how great it is!). The pancake itself is very very moist, just separates right when your fork hits it. The cheese is a nice almost Brie like cheese, very soft very "curdlike". $6

Delicious! =)

So if anyone wants to try Venezuelan food here's the place! The food is extremely fresh (made when you order!) but it does take awhile. As well their juices are supposed to be amazing. If you want to check out the menu its right here

Mil Jugos
318 W. 5th Street
Santa Ana, CA

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

$6.95 (OC/LA)

Oh how long has it been my dear blog. I've missed you you know that. All those nights we've spent together, just you and I reminiscing about the meals I've enjoined and the company i've entertained. I'm sorry i've neglected you, work has been so hectic! But don't you worry, I may have neglected updating but i have not neglected eating.

So our entry for today is something i've never had the opportunity to partake in before. Something so uniquely Southern California that i would say even the most veteran of foodies have never come across.

Lunch special, $6.95 Mexican Buffet

In a little restaurant on the Corner of 4th and Main a small sign in Spanish displays a buffet table with the price $6.95. Thanks to my excellent spanish skills i was able to discern this was in FACT a 6.95 Mexican Buffet (and my Mexican coworker Erica).

When walking in the loud blare of Mexican game shows entertain you as waitresses wearing fishnet stockings and short skirts (some which should have not) serve you! They give us a menu which we take a look at. This is more or less a formality since I already know what i'm going for, can you guess it?

DING DING DING 6.95 Mexican Buffet, You ARE smarter than a 5th Grader!

First up in the buffet line is a small appetizer platter.
If you want to wet your appetite with a cold dish, Macaroni Salad, regular salad, Fruit Medley are all there for your perusal. But since... I don't remember the Mexican cuisine being focused into salad i skipped this area.

Ah meats. Oh delicious delicious meats. A large tray of sliced chunks of Carne Asada with giant roasted Peppers.

Surprisingly, it wasn't tough. They meat that is (as well as my stomach). Pretty lean pieces of meat, pretty average through and through. I mean you aren't paying your weight in gold for this stuff so its not expected to be Kobe Beef. The peppers on the other hand have been sitting in the vat for a lil too long. They were mushy to the point i made a visible "yuck" face.

Next is the Caldo De Res. (Aka beef soup)
As Kevin/Matt/Brent may know, i have a liking of Mexican soups. Its pretty much the first thing i sample at any new Mexican restaurant and this was by no means an exception. The soup was beefy, but a little bit watered down. The great thing about vats of soup laying out is that the vegetables have ample time to soak and really get nice and mushy. Which... this did.
The beef was also slighty mushy which is the way i like it in soups.

This is going to be an odd picture. On the top left is what i assume to be Chili Verde Chicken and the bottom left is a red sauce with pork, to our right of course is the cheese enchilada.
The chili verde is filled with chunks of chicken thigh meat. I'm always hesitant to get chicken at any buffet due to the fact that its
A) really dry
B) the crappiest piece of processed "chicken" meat in the world.
Luckily this buffet satisfied neither prongs of the test. THe sauce was decent, sadly forgettable since i ate it, but the chicken made me appreciate the great value of this buffet.

Sadly the pork fell into category A from the test. I think it was a pork mole, but the problem was the pork was so ridiculously dry that the big chunks were flaking off like string.. which is never a good thing.

But on the other side... the cheese enchiladas very much made up for it. Generously stuffed cheese enchiladas with a healthy healthy amount of melted cheese on top. I love it when there's so much cheese and its nice and melted and you pull at it and it just stretches forever and ever and ever and ever.
This was the case! I helped myself to at least 3 enchiladas as the day went by.

Rice and beans.. Woohoo. I know not very exciting. They look as exciting as they taste

(a quick picture of the food)

Missing from this picture is a scrambled egg dish that had green peppers tossed into it. This was interesting because i never knew you needed so much oil to cook a dish of scrambled eggs. I kid you not the thing was DRENCHED in sauce. Of course it didn't stop me from eating it but if you have heart problems and care for your health i'd probably avoid it. (it just taste okay, poorly scrambled eggs make cats want cheezeburgers instead).
There was also a tossed red/green/yellow peppers dish. Since i love all 3 of those peppers, i give this dish an A+. It was cooked in the same "sauce"/"spice" of the egg dish.

Overall i find this to be a great value! I was very full coming out of it and they also serve you corn and flour tortilla with it! (which weren't the best tortillas i've ever had, incredibly dry incredibly fast). I mean you really can't argue with a buffet for 6.95. If this was a chinese buffet for 6.95 i would bring pepto Bismol and watch for stray dog hairs (HEY I KID IM CHINESE I CAN SAY THAT- it tastes like chicken for the curious) (JUST KIDDING JUST KIDDING).

Anyways, when i get to work tomorrow i'll have an update on the name of the restaurant =)