Friday, February 27, 2015

Pho PCH - Redondo Beach

Redondo is pretty lacking in ramen, and it definitely needs more pho. Pho PCH alone comprises a whopping 50% of the pho in Redondo Beach.

The Grilled Chicken Bahn Mi is fine bah me. The chunks of chicken are rolled in a decent serving of spice, and the baguette is a decent, not-too-blah texture.

The Spring Rolls aren't goi-ng to change your life, but the shrimp and pork combination is right on. They seem to be thinner than most spring rolls I've had so they're stuffed with a lot less lettuce filler too.

It would be rare to be blown away by the Pho with tendon and rare steak, but the flavor is right on, and it definitely hits the spot if you have a craving.

Pho PCH is a pho-sho kind of place if you're craving Vietnamese staples, but it won't win any awards. I'll be back pho more if the craving really hits me, but don't let it replace a trip to Garden Grove!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ramen Izakaya Ajido - Torrance

Appropriately advertised as "Japanese fast food ramen", Ramen Izakaya Ajido's steaming, quickly-served ramen is best enjoyed with a shot of friendship and a pitcher of beer.

The Fried Squid Legs sizzle when they're set before you, and the oily breading numbingly fizzes like a sip of bubbly beer.

The Spicy Miso Chanpon is a solid bowl of red-slightly-hot broth, with not enough fat to float and just enough flavor to pass.

The Black Garlic Shisen Ramen is ramen with just the tiniest bit of an edge. But once the garlic oil mixes in, that edge begins to dull. The Karaage is an interesting addition, but the light bread-flakes soak up the soup and will shortly start to sog.

I'd come to Ramen Izakaya Ajido again, but only if I wanted a quick bite and my favorite places were too full or too far. The ramen does hit the spot, but it leaves a little to be desired.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Crestfallen at Craft - Los Angeles

Women have fantasies too, and lately social media has been pounding that point to death. Starting with the sultry smut that shuffles the pages of Fifty Shades of Grey, the world is becoming more and more aware of women's not-so-subtle wants.

My fantasies are not so violent, and when I dream of satisfaction, it doesn't come in the form of pain. My g-spot is located just a little bit anterior to my palate, and it constantly begs for stimulation.

My palms sweat and my heart races with desire every time I dreamt of dining at the Colicchio flagship called Craft. My knees got weak, and my insides melted at the thought of succumbing to culinary touch.

It always starts with a tease, and the parmesan brulee Amuse Bouche was the smallest sliver of anticipation for what was to come.

The Beet & Avocado Salad got me pretty hot and bothered, with sweet beets that banter on the tongue, creamy avocado that caresses, and a smooth creme fraiche that seduces the senses.

I shivered and I shuddered when my lips touched the Wild Mushroom Toast, a soft paste of ricotta spackled with soft, juicy bits of Honshimeji mushroom.

The Red Russian Kale is sharper with a sting of vinaigrette, a break from the smooth and sweet, a sensitization of the senses for the main events that are to come.

The Texas Quail is juicy under the skin, and few things are more tantalizing than unwrapping layers of flavor. The flesh is moist and smooth, with texture added by a soft, savory farro. But the blend is a little too smooth, and together the flavors are a little too vanilla to excite.

It was a girls' night so we thought we needed some sausage to spice things up. Unfortunately, this generic, grocery-store Andouille Sausage didn't nothing to improve our night.

The Mugifuji Pork generated a lot of excitement, but the execution was a bigger letdown than the writing ability of E.L. James. The pork was pink and impossibly soft, but not much flavor got in and the grits were a bit bland.

The Whole Wheat Orecchiette was a mood-killer, much like when someone accidentally tries something I don't like. The pasta was cooked just right, but using whole wheat turns a firm, plump al dente into something harder with a flavor that's limp. The beef brisket would have been better if its juices weren't being held in bondage by the watery liquid that restrained the dish.

There's nothing worse than nearly falling asleep when you're supposed to be stimulated. The Banana Bread Pudding was a bland banana-hinted nap with a smear of stifling chocolate and a boring bit of cream.

With so many letdowns after so much build-up, even the Meyer Lemon Sherbet Pie wasn't enough to redeem my disappointment. The spicy meringue reverberates with a breathtaking citrus, but after five dishes that disappoint, it isn't enough of a finish. If this is supposed to be the climax, I won't be inclined to try it again with Craft.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ichimiann Bamboo Garden - Torrance

If you looked up "hole in the wall" in the dictionary, you'd probably find a picture of Ichimiann. Tucked away on a random Carson Street off-shoot in a quaint, quiet corner of old Torrance, you'll find low-cost, high-yield bowls of steaming soba and unassuming udon.

The "Best Seller" combo seemed like the best of both worlds. The classic Tanuki hot soba is a sampling of chewy soba taking a light, soupy swim. The Cod Roe and Bonito Bowl is a blend of concentrated fishy-flavor grains and crunchy bonito flakes with only hint of fish.

The Unagi hot soba is topped with a full-sized slab of eel, warmed and softened by the soup. Just try to eat it before it loses all its sauce.

The Niku hot soba is the same thing with a side of thinly-sliced, slightly-marbled beef that savors it up.

Don't expect high-impact innovation when you go to Ichimiann. The sobas won't be sweep you off your feet or set you raving like ramen, and the flavors are as obscure as the restaurant is recondite. But there is something to be said about a more subtly satisfying soba, and so far, I'm a fan.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Bambibu - Redondo Beach

There was almost nothing I regretted about leaving commercial Torrance for beachy Redondo. The sea breeze slips through your hair, the sand glows by the light of the moon over the surf, and every breath is one of fresh, briny air.

But one thing I can't inhale is the ramen, Bambibu stands sadly solo as the only ramen place within a several-mile radius, and judging by the blah broth of the Tonkotsu-Shio Ramen, I'll be taking the high road back to Torrance.

The Spicy Miso Ramen is their best-seller, and this so-so miso will do, but the tonkotsu base is barely cutting it.

Bambibu is better known for their gyoza, and theSpicy Gyoza are a strong claim to fame. A simple dumpling with a firm, chewy wrapper, filled with moist ground pork. The pork is balanced by cooked cabbage and onion, and a hint of chives with their special seasoning adds a splash of sass. Every bite made me wonder why they bother making anything else. 

It's a shame Bambibu only has four types of gyoza on their menu or I'd suggest they simplify. Cut the ramen-fat and become a house of gyoza, Bambibu, and I may never need Torrance ramen again.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ruen Pair - Los Angeles

I'm not a writer, I'm an editor. Which is a nice way of saying I don't have a creative bone in my body. Unfortunately, I only have critical bones in my body. 

I don't know how to build things up; I only know how to deconstruct them, in a way that can be constructive. (My logic makes even my own head hurt). My constructive criticism can be as sweet and mollifying as a perfect, sweet Thai Ice Tea or it can burn with all the happy wrath of a perfect Papaya Salad. Crisp green papaya soaks up the chili burn, with a surprising element of strongly-salty, briny black crab.

My critiques are usually either acerbic or effusive, but I occasionally find a middle ground. I have no strong feelings toward the Tom Yum Goong, for example, a standard hot n' sour soup with a comfortable ratio of juicy mushrooms to soft shrimp.

The Spicy Beef Salad is a solid starter as well. The chewy-yet-tender beef is enriched with lime and chili and enhanced with a kick off red onion.

I'm not a cook, I'm a foodie. It's a nice way of saying I can't come up with a remotely meaningful culinary creation of any kind, but I'm happy to appreciate yours and just as ready to tell you what I think is wrong with it.

Except there's nothing remotely reproachable about the Sauteed Morning Glory, a simple stir-fry of fresh, crunchy green stalks in soy.

The Roasted Duck Curry is not so immune from my criticism, however. The red curry is watery and lackluster, and even chunks of pineapple and duck couldn't save it.

The Pork Jerky isn't what I would call creative, but it's just the right combination of chewy and moist. The dipping sauce gives it a kick, and despite riding on the bottom rung of the innovation ladder, it's a solid step if you're trying to climb up.

I love the tried-and-true, and I'm a sucker for the classics, but as an utterly un-creative person whose cooking prowess is limited to a slow cooker and a microwave, I do also value creativity and appreciate chefs who take a risk.

The Pad Thai is the most risk-less classic there is. Ruen Pair performs one of the better reiterations I've had, almost as good as what comes off a street cart. The rice noodles have the perfect chewy, slightly-sticky texture, tempered by egg a sweeter peanut crunch.

The Spicy Catfish is quite the creative risk, and it's on a wavelength of its own. Deep fried slices of catfish smeared with curry paste and sweet chili made me cry tears of joy...Okay, fine, so they were tears of spice intolerance, but I swear there was joy mixed in.

The Nahm Dtok Mhu is a risk every time they make it, and when it comes to the seasoning and sauce of fermented rice, Ruen Pair has Isaan Station beat.

To say I'm creatively impaired would be putting it mildly - even my stick figures need a label. It seems I was destined to provide unsolicited and usually unwanted critiques for others. Unfortunately, places like Ruen Pair are not where my calling lies. I tried so much and could hardly say one thing against it!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sea Empress Seafood Restaurant - Gardena

It was Christmas day, we were wearing cat tights, and we really didn't want to cook. We tried going to our local Buca di Beppo, but they told us they were full for hours while they stared. You should always be prepared for stares if you venture out in cat tights, but seriously never underestimate the staring ability of white people. #tryingtofitin #dontjudge

We were too hungry to wait and made the drive to Sea Empress in nearby Gardena. We listened to the wait staff's exclamations of delight over our cat tights, and I think someone was wearing the bunny version at the next table over. Clearly we were in the right place. #soasian

The dim sum makes a strong showing at Sea Empress. The classic Shrimp Hargow are better than any gift under the tree. Their crystal-clear wrappers hold a whole lot of fabulous. They don't skimp on the shrimp in the pork and shrimp Shumai, and the Seafood Dumplings come in a tasty-textured rice-wrap that unwraps into salty little scallops. The Roast Pork Bao are soft and fluffy with a sweet BBQ filling in festive Christmas red.

I was more all over those Shrimp Rice Noodles than a couple under mistletoe, and the Sesame Balls were shining like ornaments on a decked-out tree. These perfect spheres have a satisfying outer crunch, coating a chewy layer of starch, filled with soft, sweet red bean paste. 

If I were Santa, my motto would be " Will work for dim sum". I would take tasty tidbits like these warm, flaky, beef-filled Pastries over cookies and milk any day.

Forget white Christmas, I want mine to glow Asian. I love the holiday, and I love the lights, but move all that to Gardena because Sea Empress, #alliwantforchristmasisyou.