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Monday, April 25, 2016

Ichimi-An - Torrance

I've been so fixated on ramen that I've burnt out entirely. I can barely appreciate kotteri beyond a few bites, though it's still hard to turn down a good bowl of chashu.

What I really can't turn down is a good bowl of soba. The small, modest Ichimi-An serves the best soba in town, savior of my noodle-palate. Ichimi-An's housemade buckwheat noodles are as chewy as Sour Punch Straws, and they drip and dip in a simple cold broth. Add a side of Mochi Tempura too, and the combination of crispy, rice-y, and al dente is all you'll ever need. With soba so good, I never want for more...except I can never resist throwing in a rice bowl. The Spicy Tuna is fun, fresh, and sophisticated with just a bit of burn.

The Oyako bowl is a hot and hearty contrast to a light and refreshing Cold Soba. The chicken and egg both came first for a fluffy omelet-feel.

Tempura Oroshi is heavier but a classic not to be missed. Crispy shrimp and beautifully battered slices of sweet potato and kabocha go just as well with Zaru.

The zaru soba is a startling reminder of just how much I've underrated soba. The dipping noodles are heavenly, with or without a highlight of broth. Simple yet simply perfect...a perfect summary of Ichimi-An. Ichimi-an Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Beachwood Brewing & BBQ - Long Beach

I'm getting married in Long Beach, and I can't think of a more fitting place.  Long Beach exudes an effortless happiness with a side of calm content, which is exactly what I hope for in our easy-breezy life together.

The wedding wouldn't be complete without an open bar, and I'm hoping mine can feature a Beer Flight like this. That's What She Said is my tagline so I had to try it. It errs close to the classic Belgian, not memorable but really, really pleasant. The LBC IPA is a hippy hoppy pale ale, also classic but really, really well-done. The Hop Vader is far more memorable, dark and bold. And holy Wholly Smoke! A dark punch of porter shoots smoke right up your nose.

My wedding will be simple, but I hope it will have touches of character, classic with a personal edge. Like the Scotch Pickled Eggs. Now THAT's a classic with character. The eggs have a touch of brine neutralized by a crust of duck sausage breading and tangy mustard dip.

The Tater Tot Casserole is tried-and-true, but few casseroles ring truer. There is an optional duck confit add-on which shouldn't be an option. These savory, fatty shreds of duck mesh with softly smoked cheese curds for a creamy gravy emulsion that soaks through every crispy tot.

I've always dreamed of a barbecue wedding, and I hope the ribs taste like Beachwood's. That full slab of smoky and saucy Baby Back Ribs was finger-lickin' good, and I want some of whatever they're smoking. The side of Smoked Asparagus was incredibly dense with a delightfully lingering taste of ash and charcoal.

For a preview of my wedding, look no further than Beachwood Brewing. Beautifully breezy, casual and calm, hopefully how our day will go. The high ceiling and bright decor are energetic without being overwhelming. I'd get married in this very brewery if the Earl Miller Burns Japanese Garden weren't so pretty.
Beachwood BBQ and Brewing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Jitlada - Los Angeles

Some places never change. Jitlada has achieved fame and acclaim for the best Thai in LA, but by their attitude, you would never know. Thanks to a tucked-away, strip-mall location bustling with soft-spoken staff, Jitlada preserves an ambiance of cultured calm, a dark-lit dining room that feels casual-without-trying.

The Papaya Salad is cool and crisp, with clean, even shreds flanked by festive carrots and a cashew kiss.

The Crispy Catfish Salad is an effortless cloud of crunchies, catfish and batter so fine it finishes like wispy cotton candy. The shredded mango beneath is the sweetest surprise, carrying on long after the catfish is gone.

The catfish is a hard act to follow, and the Honey Crispy Duck did not. Not at all crispy, the soggy skin was dripped with uneven dots of sugary paste.

Fierce tears over the Crying Tiger. The sweet n' spicy marinade soaks through every slice of cracklin' grilled beef.

The sauteed Morning Glory finishes light, a bed of sauce-saving straws of watercress. A wake-up from the downer duck and a welcome break between the thick dishes of meat.

They warned us. They really warned us. The Jungle Curry is one of the spiciest items on the menu, and there is no adequate way to warn of its effects. The first bite of this earthy, fragrant curry swamp is a river of elation followed by a searing, punching burn that leaves you senseless. Your head will spin, your tears will flow, and you will chug your Thai iced tea and go back for more. Those pieces of thoroughly-soaked, flavor-burst eggplant will grab you the hardest, but they'll still keep you coming.

There are no words to describe the modesty and humility of a place so spectacular. Signs are scattered throughout the restaurant, humbly apologetic; "Our kitchen is small, forgive us for the wait". It's a moot point, really. Once you get your food, I assure you, the first thing on your mind will not be the wait. Jitlada serves up some of the best Thai food I've had to date, and every bite is enchanting.
Jitlada Thai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, April 11, 2016

Mastro's Steakhouse - Thousand Oaks

It is really hard to find a man who is okay with me eating more steak than him. Good thing I'm marrying him next August.

Okay, fine. So maybe it's not a sexist thing. It's not unnatural for a woman to eat a 24-ounce Porterhouse in one sitting; it's unnatural for ANYONE to eat a 24-ounce porterhouse in one sitting. But this porterhouse is perfect, a steak the way a steak should be, the god of all cuts. It sizzles seductively on a hot plate, cooking just the tiniest bit while you eat to end at a barely medium rare.

It would have been way more acceptable if I'd had just the steak. But I had two rolls of their freshly baked bread on top of those creamier-than-cream, breath- busting Garlic Mashed Potatoes and brightly bitter, palate-cleansing Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

It takes a confident man to eat his 22-oz Ribeye while I put away that porterhouse. Size matters when it comes to meat, and every morsel of that toe-the-line-between-marble-and-gristle cut is too good to be true. Every bite floats in your mouth and barely touches your tongue before melting and spreading the gooey fat across every nook and cranny inside your mouth.

The taste of meat may linger sweetly but not nearly as sweetly as the special occasion Chocolate Layer Cake. Each layer is rich and moist, brushed with citrus vodka and Frangelico to keep it light with the subtlest bite. It must be laced with crack because it's addictive no matter how much steak you've had.

So my ability to consume steak may be just the tiniest bit disturbing. But give me some credit - No one in their right mind would let a steak sit in a take-home box, and anyone who throws a good steak away is dead to me. And honestly, so is anyone who can't appreciate the quality of the steak at Mastro's.
Mastro's Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, April 9, 2016

RockN' Fish - Manhattan Beach

I can't get enough of the exotics. Tasting the forbidden fruit, following the new frontiers of food is a roller-coaster rush as the taste buds toil between love and hate, challenge and confusion. But some days I ache to go back to basics. I long for a swig of something staple, a bite of nothing bold.

Restaurants like Rock'N Fish rock the classics, starting with an approachable wine list served in triple-size glasses and culminating in a couple of cute Crab Cakes and a solid Surf'N Turf. The crab is simply perfect; sweet, barely-breaded shreds that are surprisingly filling next to Shoestring Fries and a side of Spinach.

The Surf'N Turf combines the cravings of starving surfer and ravenous landlubber alike, with a dense sirloin and juicy Maine lobster tail side by side. The Grilled Asparagus is a sure thing, and the Creamed Corn is a guilty pleasure.

But not nearly as guilty as the fluffy pillow they call Sticky Toffee Pudding. Not even the slightest bit sticky, but sweet as sugar and lighter than air.

I love the classics, but a really good classic will cost you. You pay a Manhattan Beach premium at Rock'N Fish, but the seaside prices are far from outlandish. The ambiance has the buzz of casual-yet-fun sophistication, the service is irreproachable, and bank account aside, there's really no good reason not to go.

Rock'n Fish Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato