Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Soon Tofu SmackDown: BST vs SKD (Yes, Again)

Aye, it's the old time question: which is better, Beverly Soon Tofu or So Kong Dong? Well, I finally made my way to SKD and so now I have to try and figure this out.

1. First, the location and parking. BST has valet parking for a nominal fee, while SKD has free, probably easier parking. Location-wise they're pretty much the same: Right across the street from each other, in a strip mall, and both right below a billiards/pool place (why??)

2. The ambiance. BST wins hands down here. SKD is clean and bright, but is your typical joint and sterile. BST's unique wooden furnitures really add to the ambiance.

3. OK, now on to the food. The banchan. I have to say BST wins here again. SKD does have spicy raw crab, but I can't eat spicy anyway . The bean sprouts here were a bit musty. The only item I liked was the fish cakes. BST on the other hand has that amazing cold tofu, and their bean sprouts are also much better.4. SKD does not have combos like BST does. If you want bulgogi, you'd have to order it separately for $12.99. They also don't have kalbi, but they do offer either beef or pork bulgogi.
The mushrooms in the bulgogi added a nice flavor and the meat was lean and good.

5. The rice. SKD serves your rice in the hot earthenware pot - this means they'll add water to what's left in the bowl later for you to cool down your palate with! I always enjoyed having that at BCD Tofu House but Beverly never does it. Upon trying SKD's rice though I have to say, it was amazing! Never thought I'd say this - but this rice was really really good. It was firm yet had a nice stickiness. SKD wins rice hands down.
6. The soondubu itself. Now this may be due to the fact that "mild" at SKD is not as spicy as "mild" as BST and so I was able to enjoy the whole bowl without that slight pang of pain. It might be due to the fact that I had a cold when I was at SKD, and seriously, soon tofu tasted soooo good. At any rate, upon this first visit, I really, really liked SKD's soondubu.
I ordered the beef soondubu. I thought the quality of the meat was great (although BST gives more meat). The seaweed they put in added a nice flavor. The tofu was also good, and you're eating all this with that amazing rice too.

At the end, you cleanse your palate with the cool rice+water (what do they call this anyway?)
I will be going to Beverly Soon Tofu to compare once more, but I definitely left So Kong Dong a very happy camper. It was the perfect meal for this cold.

So Kong Dong
2716 W Olympic Blvd
Ste 104
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 380-3737

So Kong Dong on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 15, 2009

NYC: Pre-Theatre Deal at Center Cut Steakhouse

I decided to go to Center Cut since:1) it also happened to the OpenTable Stimulus Week when I was in NY and wanted to take advantage of the deal, and 2) it was right next to the Lincoln Center where I was going to see the musical South Pacific (AWESOME, btw).

It turned out though, Center Cut has a $39 pre/post-theatre prix-fixe deal all the time anyway! Oh well ...
The $39 deal is called the "Center Cut 4^2" so as you can deduce, it comes with 4 items: Soup, Salad, Entree, Side (and bonus cookies at the end).

First came the bread - which looked like a popover. It had a different texture and taste though (still hollow in the middle, however).For the soup I opted for the Golden Potato & White Truffle Cream w/ crispy shoestring potatoes
Nice texture (rich, creamy), and pretty aromatic with both the white truffle cream and the sliver of black truffle on there.

I also tried the Five Alarm Wagyu Chili Soup corn bread crisps and sour cream, that someone else ordered.
This tastes great, except that it was somewhat spicy for me - I had to finish it off with the rich, creamy potato soup to calm my tongue down.

For the "salad" I got the Mozzarella Compression opal basil and virgin olive oil
A great and simple appetizer. The tomatoes were amazing: sweet and juicy. All four of us ordered this dish and are glad we did.

For the entree I ordered the Steak Au Poivre: 6oz brandt beef filet, red peppercorn crust and braised belgian endive
This is actually a great steak! Well-prepared (I asked for medium rare), tender and juicy - it wasn't at all overcooked! The peppercorn crust really adds a nice flavor.
Really enjoyed it over all.

The other ppl on the table got:
Hot Smoked King Salmon poached asparagus, morel mushrooms and dried cherry butter
Jumbo Pink Shrimp Scampi basmati strudel
They seemed to be enjoying these dishes too.

Some of the sides were pretty interesting, like these Eggplant Fries:
All the food was good quality and well-prepared. While not mind-blowing, they were very solid and enjoyable. Plus with the prix-fixe deal, we believe this was the best deal we got in NY this trip!

The $39 meal also came with cookies and milk (!) which you can take to go (to take to the theatre with you) or eat there. What we didn't know before was how big these cookies were going to be!
This huge stack was for ONE person. They were WARM, right out of the oven, and moist.

The milk came in individual ceramic bottles - CUTE.

Being stuffed and happy (and happy for the bill too), we ambled to the Lincoln Center - just across the street pretty much.

I would definitely recommend Center Cut's theatre deal for people who are in New York. It's no Jean Georges but it's very solid food and quite a deal. The restaurant is also not loud, allowing actual conversations, with very courteous servers.

Center Cut
(at The Empire Hotel)
44 W 63rd St, New York 10017
Btwn Columbus Ave & Central Park W
Phone: 212-956-1288

Center Cut on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 12, 2009

Simpang Asia to Stay Open Until Midnight, Plus 20%Off

Starting on Friday, January 16th, Simpang Asia will stay open until midnight everyday!

Also, between January 16th-31st, you can get 20% off food when you come in between 10pm-midnight :D

This is going to be awesome for my late night cravings!

Simpang Asia Groceries
10433 National Blvd #2
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Sunday, January 11, 2009

S-S-Spicy Dumplings!

Disclaimer #1: I can't really eat spicy foods and don't normally eat spicy (that is to say, I'm no authority on anything spicy -- if I am on anything at all).

Disclaimer #2: I tried these dumplings in chili sauce at YunChuan garden after Kat's disclaimer that she can't really eat spicy yet she loves these dumplings.

I now also loove these dumplings, despite my disclaimer #1.
Give me a bowl of these and a pitcher of ice water (or two) and I'm a happy camper.
It's really the chili sauce that makes this soooo good. The dumplings themselves could be better - with better dough and better meat.
But alas, they don't just sell you the chili sauce! You can try to bring home leftovers and throw the chili sauce with your own homemade dumplings. Mmmmm.

YunChuan garden serves a variety of other (spicy or non spicy) dishes as Pleasure Palate has tasted on her visit there, but these li'l babies are what I eat there!! Actually, they're the only reason I go there :P

YunChuan Garden
301 N Garfield Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(626) 571-8387

Yun Chuan Garden on Urbanspoon
Yun Gui Garden on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 9, 2009

Pondok Kaki Lima Reopens!!!

Great news! Pondok Kaki Lima, the Indonesian Food Fair in Duarte Inn will reopen on January 17, 2009 !!!

They are going to open every Saturday start at 10:00am - 02:00pm except on January 31, 2009. On Jan 31, 2009 PKL will be at the Chinese New Year Bazaar in Hacienda Heights.

We've been waiting for this day! Can't wait to go there :D

Duarte Inn
1200 Huntington Dr
Duarte, CA 91010
10am- 2 pm

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Girls' Day Out: Scarlet Tea Room

Did the girly thing. English style afternoon tea. Exchanging christmas presents.

We went to the Scarlet Tea Room in Pasadena - you can see the red glass door on Green St when you're driving or walking by. Once inside though, you're greeted with a gorgeous english style dining room with shiny chandeliers.
Since our other friend didn't want to be eating sandwiches that day, she opted for a steak salad while Kat and I went with the afternoon tea menu ($32).

The tea selection is quite extensive and interesting. Kat and I decided to share our teas and we got the "Once Upon A Tea" (infusion of chocolate bits, vanilla, mint & a secret) and the "Fiji" (Flavored green tea w/ papaya and wild pineapple).

The tea is served still steeping with the leaves inside the pot, but you're given a strainer.
They will refill your hot water indefinitely, but I still don't like this style of serving tea - this way will cause you to 1)oversteep your tea and 2) diluting the tea when you continuously resteep it.
True that it's 'cheaper' if you want to drink a lot - but it won't be as good as a properly steeped pot of tea like they do at Jin Patisserie.

I did like the "Once Upon A Tea" quite a bit! Has a nice rich, slightly sweet taste :)

They present your scone/sandwich/sweets on this gorgeous tower of plates:
I like the tower presentation, as compared to just plates laid out on the tables like at the London and Jin.

Among the two of us they gave us two scones to share: blueberry and cinnamon.
The scones are not bad but nothing special. This just reminded me of the oh-so-buttery-delicious scones at The London.

For the sandwiches I got Olive tapenade and roasted red peppers, chicken tahini, salmon & chive spread, and prosciutto.
I did like the olive tapenade (I think I liked this the most) and the chicken tahini, but the smoked salmon and the prosciutto were unfortunately a bit dry - not enough salmon/meat slices and spread.

Next was the petit fours plate (split between two people). Chocolate, cream puff, etc. Pretty standard stuff.
The sweets were okay. Not bad, but nothing special either. The sweets at both The London and Jin Patisserie are better.

The afternoon tea is finished off with some Strawberries Romanoff
This is actually a pretty small dish, not as big of a deal as we were expecting.

Scarlet Tea Room has a much more extensive tea selection than The London, and the space is also beautiful. Food-wise though The London still wins out, and sweets-wise Jin Patisserie is winning hands-down. Still, tea at the Scarlet Tea Room is a nice experience with a nice atmosphere and presentation.
Next ... Four Seasons Tea Room? :)

Scarlet Tea Room
18 W Green St
Pasadena, CA‎
(626) 577-0051‎
Scarlet Tea Room on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Don't Forget to Reserve: DineLA Restaurant Week

Before I forget again, dineLA week is coming up January25-30, Feb 1-6, so make your reservations soon!

This year's setup is a bit different as restaurants are classified into three price tiers.
Check out the prices and participating restaurants+menus on their website:

The ones I have my eyes on this year is BLT Steak, Water Grill, Dining Room at The Langham, and also perhaps Citrus on Social and The Foundry on Melrose. Royal/T's menu for lunch would also be a good deal.

You can check out my review from last year on Asia de Cuba, Grace, Red Seven, Luna Park, Chaya Brasserie, Noe at the Omni, Circa55, and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Beverly Hills (they're all participating again this year).
Man I went to a lot!!

Rustic Pre-Bday Dinner at Saddle Peak Lodge

Happy New Year (belated x5) everyone! My 1st post this year: last month's dinner at Saddle Peak Lodge!Dining at Saddle Peak Lodge seems more like a mini-getaway than just dinner. First, there's the drive up the quiet and lush Malibu Hills. Once you get there, you enter the rustic lodge, with animal head trophies along the walls and a warm fireplace.

We went with the 8-course Chefs Tasting Menu ($135. hey it's my birthday).
I didn't want to drink too much so I opted out of the wine pairing and got a glass of the Silver Oak Cabernet 2004 instead (though this is probably almost as much as the wine pairing would've cost).

We started with a warm chestnut soup as the amuse bouche.
It's warm and slightly sweet, a very nice intro and made me warm and happy after walking in the chilly Malibu hills air.

Wild Fijian Albacore sashimi, melon cilantro vinaigrette
The albacore is fresh and flavorful and the combination with the citrus is great. I'm usually not that big a fan of albacore, but I really enjoyed this dish.

Sautéed Maine day boat scallop
Relish of scarlet corn, peach, cucumber, lime and green zebra tomato broth
The scallops were on the small side, but was fresh. Loved the peaches in this dish.

Artichoke agnolotti
Morel mushroom and fava bean fricassee, topped with ricotta cheese.
A great dish, perhaps my favorite of the night. The agnolotti goes very well with the morel mushrooms and the ricotta cheese is a very nice touch.

Seared line caught salmon
Blistered cherry tomatoes, vegetable “papardele” and saffron zucchini blossom butter
The vegetable papardele were superfluous IMO, but this is a nice wild salmon that's cooked very well! And delicious, delicious cherry tomatoes.

Seared La Belle Farms foie gras
caramelized apricots, brioche toast, meyer lemon duck jus and ginger infused apricot purée
The foie gras had a nice melt-in-your-mouth consistency and the apricots were a nice pairing. I didn't like the brioche toast with it since I thought the soggy toast didn't pair well with the foie gras but my companion liked it a lot -- to each his own.

Wood grilled California squab
Medjool date, brown fig, heirloom tomato, basil compote and leek chip
Not particularly meaty, but it's a nice, lean, gamey meat. Liked it with the fig.

Roasted New Zealand elk tenderloin
parsnip mousselin, braised bacon and brandied cherry ragôut
*sigh* I unfortunately am so so stuffed at this point. The elk was gamey and tender. I love the parsnip mousselin. I had to take it home since I couldn't finish it though.

Warm farmers market peach beignets
caramelized whipped cream and toasted hazelnuts
A nice warm dessert for the wintry weather. The beignets are fluffy, filled with nice peach chunks that aren't overly sweet. A bit heavy though as an ending to the heavy meal that preceded it.

Dining at Saddle Peak Lodge is very enjoyable, with a unique, cozy atmosphere (as far as LA restaurants go) and great food. Their game meat selection alone is a reason to go.

Saddle Peak Lodge
419 Cold Canyon Rd
Calabasas, CA

(818) 222-3888

Saddle Peak Lodge on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The 2009 Michelin Stars

Los Angeles
Melisse **
Providence **
Spago **
Urasawa **
Cut *
Gordon Ramsay at The London *
Ortolan *
Osteria Mozza *
Sona *
Sushi Mori *
Sushi Zo *
Water Grill *

San Francisco/Napa Valley
Coi **
The French Laundry ***
Chez Panisse *

New York
Jean Georges ***
Le Bernardin ***
Aureole *
Eleven Madison Park *
Fleur de Sel *
Gramercy Tavern *

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NOLA: The Beignet Hunt

I stopped at almost every cafe on the streets of the French quarter featuring beignets, hunting for the best ones and encountering disappointments.

In the end, the best beignets are that of the well-known commercialized brand. I guess there was a reason for its commercial success after all (sorry mom and pop shops).

Cafe du Monde's beignets are puffy, fluffy precious things, "lavishly covered", as they say, (shake the bag with the beignets and powdered sugar to cover em up) with powdered sugar. Their beignets are nice and fluffy, while the other places' beignets are too dense for my taste.
They're perfect, really.

Cafe du Monde
Various locations in New Orleans, LA

Cafe Du Monde on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 29, 2008

Getting My Ramen Fix at Santouka LA

The Santouka in Costa Mesa has garnered quite a bit of fame, but when the LA outpost opened I was still skeptical whether or not it will be quite as good. However, as the reviews come flooding in, it seems like the LA Santouka is pretty good after all, and even more consistently so than the other outposts.

I've tried both the miso (pictured below) and shio ramen, which were both good, but yes, the shio ramen's broth stands out.
The noodles themselves were nicely done, although compared to the broth and the meat, this is not Santouka's strongest point. Pork slices were nice, tender and flavorful. The meat was actually quite sweet. There were only two pieces, alas ... I think three would've been perfect :)

The broth at Santouka is very flavorful without being as fatty as Daikokuya - and indeed has more 'depth' than daikokuya or chabuya's. You can actually still see some of the spices they've put in. All in all I loved it and won't mind going there every other day!

They also have ramen sets which come with hardboiled egg and either natto or ikura with rice.
The only bad part about Santouka is that because it's inside Mitsuwa it closes fairly early (7:30 pm) :/ I rarely can make my way there in time if it's not the weekend.

Santouka (inside Mitsuwa)
3760 S Centinela
Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 391-1101

Friday, December 26, 2008

Matsuhisa: Overpriced "Omakase"

I suggested Matsuhisa to my friend Kat for a lunch get together once, because she wanted to go to a sushi place she had never been to before.
I previously had a good experience at Matsuhisa when I ordered their upper-priced omakase, but alas, our experience this time around felt like such a ripoff and none of us has been back since then.

I ordered a la carte this time around and started with the crab taco.
This was good as the crab was fresh and meaty, and the crunchiness of the taco shell made a great combination.

I also got the eggplant dynamite as it seemed interesting.
Interesting and pretty enjoyable, though nothing special.

I also got the mushroom buckwheat risotto (since I wasn't full)
Risotta is al dente and mushroom tasted good, but to eat by yourself this dish gets boring.

But enough about my meal, let's move on to my friend's disappointing omakase meal.
She had chosen the least expensive omakase, which I believe was about $70.

They started off the omakase with some hamachi tartar
Kat enjoyed this and the hamachi was pretty fresh - so far the meal is starting off decent.

Second item was salmon carpaccio.
Again, fresh salmon. My friend was complaining a bit that salmon is pretty cheap, though.

Then they served the hamachi salad. Wait. Hamachi, again?
Okay, so the hamachi sashimi was actually good, but two hamachi dishes in an omakase? It seems to be pretty poorly planned - or they just didn't really care at all.

Next she got the oyster fried in filo dough.
Although my friend did enjoy this, the dish was only $5 on the regular menu, so getting this as part of a $70 meal is kind of ... a ripoff :(

The other cooked item was the miso cod.
The cod was good and well prepared, but this dish can be easily found at many japanese restaurants.

I didn't even bother to take a photo of her sushi plate, as it was quite disappointing. She basically got the most ordinary, cheapest selections such as salmon (yes, more salmon), ebi (no, not ama ebi), unagi ...
$70 would have gone a loooot further at Sushi Zo. And he definitely wouldn't keep repeating hamachi and salmons throughout the meal!

The dessert they had for this "cheapest" omakase is pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. My friend got fried bananas with vanilla ice cream.

I won't argue that the food at Matsuhisa is of good quality, but the omakase she got that day was such a ripoff and disappointment. We really don't think all the items she got are really worth (or even actually added up to) $70, and the repeated fish just suggested that they put very little thought into planning the omakase!

Neither of us has been back ever since, and probably never will.

129 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 659-9639

Matsuhisa on Urbanspoon

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