Monday, July 28, 2008

Delay

Sigh, my laptop crashed last night =( I'll have a post up once it's fixed! (hopefully wed!).

I got Spago in Beverly Hills and Market in San Diego lined up. Maybe even Providence in LA!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Plum Cafe and Catering (Orange County)

One not so sunny summer morning my friend and I decided to go out for brunch at Plums cafe and catering in Newport, California.

Located near Newport Blvd off the 55 freeway, the restaurant is clean, bright, well appointed... and BRISTLING with people. My reservation was for 11am and there was already a crowd of at least 15 waiting outside to get a seat. Luckily they seated us quickly!

You have two choices on where to sit, the inside of the restaurant

or the outside patio.

The brunch is your "standard" brunch fare, omelette's, french toast, waffles, etc but with a more refined twist.

To start off our meal (and seemingly every other table's meal) was a glass of Ginger Peach ice tea. One of the most refreshing glasses of tea I've had in a long time, a crisp bite of ginger with the background of infused peach. Yum yum!

Me amiga ordered the Coconut french toast.

Three thick slices of Brioche baked with coconut shavings. The toast is thick yet crispy on the outside. Just the right amount of powdered sugar on top. The toast is then covered in fresh strawberries, papaya, and bananas. Also served with a side of orange butter and maple syrup. This dish was great, the flakiness of the Brioche allowed the toast not to be as heavy and the syrup was very rich and flavorful.

My dish was the dungeness crab and asparagus omelet.

The omelet is lightly cooked with large chunks of crab and asparagus and topped with a dill Hollandaise. The sauce is creamy but light to match with the fluffy omelet. I couldn't have asked for a more well prepared omelet. A perfect ratio of egg to filling where you aren't overwhelmed with either flavor with each bite.

So if you have a morning to spare drop by Plum's Cafe in Newport. Make sure to make a reservation cause it does get busy.

Plums Cafe
369 East 17th Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92627


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Friday, July 11, 2008

Benley: A Vietnamese Kitchen (Long Beach)

I have had the best bowl of Pho in my life.. and it wasn't in Westminister, Alhambra, Los Angeles, San Diego.. it was in Long Beach, California!

Benley is one of the better Vietnamese restaurants I've had the pleasure of going to. This isn't one of the "typical" pho joints with spring rolls and all that.. this is more like Slanted Door in San Francisco... fancier dishes, some traditional Vietnamese dishes with an enhanced twist , and some more "American style" dishes. It's also a wine friendly restaurant with low corkage.

I came with a very large party, so they set together some dishes for us that they thought we'd enjoy. We had two of each dish for a table of 8-9.



First dish wasn't part of the set menu, but the organizer said this was one of his favorite dishes! Fried Calamari.

Nice salt and pepper on the flour. Light batter , good ratio of batter/ calamari. My only problem was the use of cilantro, a bit too sharp.. I think I'd prefer basil with this.

First appetizer from the menu were Eggrolls with sliced beef.

The eggroll is stuffed with sliced marinated beef, cucumbers, vermicelli, and mint. The wrapping was fresh and soft, the right blend of chewiness and firmness. The beef itself was a little bit overcooked. The peanut sauce was very rich almost soupy. I liked it a lot!

Next dish is more "traditional" Vietnamese food, Banh Beo.


Banh Beo is pressed rice cake with ground shrimp on top with a generous amount of green onions and fish sauce. The Banh is soft and foldable, you can get one piece in per bite. The sauce is just the right amount, sometimes fish sauce gets overwhelming but this was a good balance. This is the best version of the dish I've had, all the ingredients were well done and worked together perfectly.

Next dish was a Cabbage salad with sliced chicken.

I'm not a fan of raw cabbage, it tends to be too bitter. As well they used too many fried shallots. The chicken was tender and the fish sauce was flavorful. If you ate small bites of this, it'd taste good, but if you took too big of a bite you get too much of the shallot and cabbage.

Next dish was fried Texas Shrimp

The shrimp were frozen shrimp, which kinda sucks... but the batter was nice and crispy. The mustard sauce was overwhelming, it was just far too strong... Kind of a Eh~~~ dish.. but you don't really go to an asian restaurant and order plain old fried shrimp do you?

The next dish was stir fried filet mignon with potatoes and red onions.

Look familiar? Looks like Lomo Saltado Beef @ a Peruvian restaurant! But it looks the same but tastes very different. * In a good way*.

The potato is well cooked, not too mushy. The beef was of good quality, but the very best part was the sauce they used to cook it. A combination of fish sauce, pepper, soy sauce, and some other things. Creates a sweet and salty mixture. I give it an A!

Sorry for the fuziness of this picture, this is their "flattened" chicken.
A spicy chicken dish cooked with lemon grass, red wine, and other spices. A bit of a crisp exterior, the inside was still moist and flavorful. A delicious dish, when I come here again I will definitely get it.

The next dish was the bass cooked with mushroom and ground pork.

The fish itself is a bit too bony for me and the pork really overpowered the fish. The fish itself is a "meaty" type of fish, so if that's not your style you'd definitely not like the dish.

And now.. the star of the night.. the Pho!


This bowl is the "sample" size bowl.. it's $6. They have a larger bowl for 8.50. The soup is INCREDIBLY rich with beef and spices. I have never had a bowl of pho with such concentrated flavorful soup. The owner said the broth is simmered for over 40 hours to get the dense beef flavor.

The noodles were also of good quality, al dente!

Like my usual self, I order my meat on the side to dip.

Look at that beef. So shiny and pink. Great quality! All Pho meat ought to be eaten lightly cooked. I really can't gush more about the quality of this bowl of pho.

The restaurant itself is very small, probably 6-7 tables.. I suggest you make a reservation.

Benley: A Vietnamese Kitchen

8191 E Wardlow Rd
Long Beach, CA 90808

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Friday, July 4, 2008

Wolfgang's Steakhouse (Los Angeles)

Steak, magical steak. One of the mighty staples of any "classy" restaurant is a big chunk of meat. Of course the problem is that restaurants tend to overcook, undercook, under-season, and over-season steak like a bunch of noobs who have never seen a piece of cow in their lives (HERE'S LOOKING AT YOU STK).

In LA we really haven't been graced by a good steakhouse. We have celebrity hang outs but I'm almost positive that the more celebrities you find at a restaurant, the less likely the food will be good and the more likely the food will be expensive (for what you get). This has become so bad that I've taken to not having steak at any restaurant, but buying my own from Bryan Flannery.

Our fair city isn't as blessed as NYC with quality steak... until Wolfgang's Steakhouse came along.

Now I know you'll say "Wolfgangs? don't you mean CUT?". No I don't mean cut, I mean Wolfgang's Steakhouse.. a Peter Luger wannabe from NYC. Style of cut, preparation, and service is near identical to Luger. Of course.. this stems from the fact that the owner, Wolfgang Zwiener was head waiter at Peter Luger for over 40 years. I'm not sure if being a waiter at a restaurant for 40 years allows you to suddenly cook magnificent beef.. it seems to work in this case.

I will quickly set the stage for you. Wolfgang's is a classic steakhouse, you got some steak, you got some cheesecake, you got some salads and that's about it. If you're looking for something else I'd suggest you visit one of the many other fine restaurants in Los Angeles.

First up the bread basket.


Boring, I was completely uninterested in the selection.

First appetizer onions and tomatoes.

As you notice I didn't include a picture for this. But let me walk you through it. Imagine slices of large beef-steak tomatoes and large sweet Texas onions, and that's your dish. No garnish, just slices of tomato and onion. It was actually pretty tasty, the sweetest onions I've had in awhile.It tastes pretty good with their steak sauce too.

Second appetizer is their bread and butter, Canadian bacon. $2.50 a slice.

We're seriously talking about a pan seared piece of bacon. This is half of a piece.. so imagine the size of one. Delicious in its fatty meatiness. A perfectly seared thick chunk of bacon. What more can a man ask for? Other than another piece of course!

Our first side dish was the German potatoes.

These potatoes are essentially home fried potatoes with onions. I like it because of the "char" on the potatoes. It's a bit crispy on the outside and then soft chunks of potato underneath it. I can imagine people not liking it tho, it almost seems burnt.

Now on to the steak! They have Filets, NY steaks, rib-eyes.. but any good Luger fan knows that porterhouses are the way to go.. and Wolfgang's doesn't disappoint. They have porterhouse for 2, 3, and 4.

Since we had 7 people we had a porterhouse for 3 and 4. The picture above is a 3. A porterhouse is essentially a NY steak and a Filet combined together, so imagine the size of this puppy. In classic Luger style, they serve the steak on a sizzling plate. The plate allows for the steak to keep on cooking while you eat (not sure what the point of this is). They put a small bowl below a side of the plate so that the plate is lifted to one side. The juices then collect at the very bottom. I'm not actually sure why they do that... but shrug.

But the steak is 30 day dry aged USDA prime, high end steak. Perfectly cooked to medium rare, where the fat melts like butter. The outside of the steaks are crusted a beautiful brown and flavored with salt and pepper. Great steak! I'd say it's the best steak I've had in Southern California.

Finally dessert... cheesecake
Like the steak this is imported from New York. Served with a thick glop of fresh German whipped cream, the cheesecake is light and flavorful. The cream is also light and sweet, a perfect blend for a great dessert.

If you find yourself looking for a steakhouse, this is definitely one of the best in Southern California.. and I whole-heartedly suggest it!

Wolfgang's Steakhouse
443 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

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