Hello Rakkan Ramen Redondo Beach!

After visiting Tokyo late last year, I truly found an appreciation for all things “umami.” What exactly is umami you may ask? Umami is actually one of the five basic senses. The other four being sweet, sour, bitter and salty.  Rakkan Ramen is all about umami and offering dishes that are full of flavor. There’s five locations in Japan; four of which are in Tokyo. No need however to fly all the way to Tokyo however to get a taste of Rakkan Ramen because there are actually three locations in the USA and they are all in Southern California! The three locations are in downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Redondo Beach. The latest one to open is the one in Redondo Beach.

I recently had a chance to visit the Rakkan Ramen in Redondo Beach and my senses were instantly transported back to Tokyo.

My meal here first started off with their Rakkan Buns.

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There are three offerings of Rakkan Buns; pork, chicken and vegetable. My choice was the chicken buns. This starter indeed was a definition of sensory overload. Two steamed buns were filled with crispy chicken, milk, sesame, baby mix greens with teriyaki sauce and mayonnaise.  I loved the melt in your mouth softness of the steamed buns followed by the delightful crisp of the deep-fried chicken. A mix of the mayonnaise and teriyaki sauce was delightfulness to the palate.

After such a savory stater, next on the table was the star of the meal; the ramen. Here at Rakkan Ramen; they have four different types. Amber, Pearl, Garnet and Ruby. The ramen are just as special as the names of the gemstones they are named after.
Amber is their soy sauce ramen and their most popular at Rakkan. Pearl is the salt sauce ramen that uses specially selected Japanese salt and white soy sauce. lt is Rakkan Ramen’s “healthy” ramen. Garnet is the miso ramen that is well-known in Hokkaido. While ruby is the shrimp miso ramen made with shrimp paste and shrimp slowly boiled in olive oil to concentrate the umami flavor.
Upon my visit, I tried the Garnet ramen.

 

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The Garnet uses original blended miso and has vegetable broth, sesame paste, grilled pork, green onion, bamboo shoots and seasoned egg served with thin noodles. I instantly became a fan of the vegetable broth! I love that they used vegetable broth to help keep the dish healthy yet tasty. This in itself makes it a winner in my book. The seasoned egg along with the tender pork were superb. With an addition of their chili sesame oil; this ramen dish made for one hearty meal. The umami flavor was evident throughout the whole meal.

I am very happy to see Rakkan Ramen in Southern California. It’s a little taste of Tokyo here at home.

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Rakkan Ramen Redondo Beach.

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Hello 189 by Dominique Ansel!

Chef Dominique Ansel is known world-wide as the inventor of the cronut; the delightful sweet treat that is a hybrid of a croissant and donut. His culinary expertise however goes beyond the sweet as he does savory as well as can be seen in his first ever restaurant venture, 189 by Dominique Ansel.

189 by Dominique Ansel is located in  The Grove Los Angeles; a popular shopping and dining destination. The Grove is the perfect location for Chef Ansel’s first savory undertaking as it a beautiful and bustling place located right at the heart of LA. As special as The Grove is, the name of his restaurant is also very special and unique. The number 189 is the bakery address of Chef Ansel’s original bakery address in New York (189 Spring Street) and also happens to be same street address for this restaurant in LA (189 The Grove Drive).

I recently got to dine at 189 by Dominique Ansel and it truly was a beautiful and special evening. The restaurant itself is located on the second floor above Dominique Ansel’s bakery. From tables that overlook The Grove’s famous water fountain to intimate booths with backgrounds that resemble Chef Ansel’s famous croissants; this restaurant is lovely.

The dinner menu consists of “Small”, “Medium” and “Large” and all dishes are meant to be shared family style.

We started off our meal with the Butternut Squash and the Hand-mixed Acorn Squash Gnocchi.

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The Butternut Squash was a beautiful plate with long pieces of butternut squash in Vadouvan coconut curry, treviso and orange fennel salt. The soft butternut squash was full of flavor from the coconut curry. I loved the sweet and slight spice of the curry.

Equal in delight to the tastebuds was the Hand-mixed Acorn Squash Gnocchi. These small and soft dough dumplings simply melted upon first bite. I loved the brown butter taste. Garnishing this dish were young radishes and sage. These little touches added a nice crunch to the gnocchi.

For our next dish, we tried another “Small” plate; Seared Organic Hen of the Woods Mushrooms

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This was a very unique, earthy dish. The hen of woods mushrooms were topped with shaved parmesan and dipped in fresh egg cacio e pepe sauce.  The egg sauce was thick and popped out the flavor of the mushrooms.

For our main dish, we had the Grilled Lamb Chops.

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The lamb chops were phenomenal. They were perfectly grilled with a nice char. Dipped in mustard seeds, they made for a great savory dish. The meat was sweetly offset with pickled farmers market black plum.

No trip to Chef Ansel’s restaurant would be complete without a sweet treat. Each savory dish we tried was excellent but we couldn’t leave without trying one of his special desserts.

To wrap up this special evening, we tried “On the Half Shell.”

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This has to be one of the most beautiful and special desserts I’ve ever had. On top of rocks were dark chocolate molded in oyster shells. These dark chocolate “oysters” were topped with lime sorrel gelée, mango jam, sea salt ice cream, oat crumble and one edible crispy pearl made out of chocolate. This dessert was truly exquisite and a must try!

The evening ended up not being over quite yet because post dessert we were delightfully surprised to an invite to a small room where there is a “granola bar.”  Each guest is invited to fill a bag with the restaurant’s housemate granola. There are toppings such as golden raisins, dried pineapple and sweet meringue. It’s the restaurant’s way of saying thank you the guests as well as giving guests “breakfast on the house” for the next day. This was a wonderful surprise and a lovely souvenir for the evening.

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Visiting 189 by Chef Dominique Ansel made for a fantastic evening out feasting on excellent dishes full of flavor and unique touches. I have been a fan of Chef Dominique Ansel since he created the cronut. Now I am not only a fan of Chef Ansel’s sweet creations but his savory ones as well.

 

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on 189 by Dominique Ansel.

Hello Thai Hub Torrance!

Thai food is one of my favorite types of cuisine and I’m always on the lookout for a good place to find some great Thai dishes. This 2019, there’s a new “hub” in Torrance just for that!  Thai Hub Torrance Street Food and Dessert Cafe just opened up this new year and is quickly becoming a go-to Thai place for those in the South Bay (and beyond).

Thai Hub Torrance says that their love for Thai food is “infinite” and this is evident in the menu consisting of a large variety of Thai dishes. One can find authentic dishes such as  E-Sarn Rice Sausage, Tom Zap Baby Pork Rib soup, Thai Papaya Salad and Ka prow Grounded beef.

A good way to try out their different offerings is through their lunch set. The lunch set is offered daily from 11am through 3:30pm. I’ve found that these are great deal to get a glimpse of their variety.

Their Pad See Ew lunch set is one of my favorites.

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The Pad See Ew comes with egg, wonton soup and two chicken wings. The chicken wings happen to be one of their appetizer offerings too! The Thai style breaded chicken wings are scrumptious! Served piping hot, each bite gives a delightful crunch. Not to be outdone is the wonton soup that consists of  fully stuffed chicken and shrimp wontons, tender BBQ pork and bok choy. The star of this lunch set of course however is their  Pad See Ew. The fact rice noodles have a good mix of eggs, Chinese broccoli and chicken.

Another popular lunch set and one that I also really like is their Yellow Curry Chicken.

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Yellow Curry Chicken is a staple in Thai cuisine and here at Thai Hub they really know their curry! The Yellow Curry is full of flavor! There is tender chicken breast, potatoes, onions and carrot. It’s great over the white rice and mixed with hard-boiled eggs that comes with the set. On the side is their Spicy beef Salad. This salad has a bit of kick to it because of the spicy lime dressing. There is grilled beef, cucumber, lemongrass, tomatoes and mint.

I am happy to see this new “hub” for Thai food in Torrance! It’s one amazing new addition to the South Bay this 2019!

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Thai Hub Torrance.

 

Hello Calo Kitchen and Tequila!

Ever since Apollo Landing opened up in El Segundo, I have eagerly awaited for what restaurants would be added to the plaza. They were already home to my favorite Philz Coffee El Segundo and Shake Shack; and I was excited to see what other delights would be coming. I’m happy to say that the new Calo Kitchen that opened up is now on the top of my favorite restaurants ever.

Calo Kitchen just opened up this Fall 2018 and it is already one place that I really love and enjoy dining at. It’s a beautiful two-story restaurant with the bottom floor dedicated to an open kitchen and bar and the second floor dedicated to a more private setting with a view. Not only is the restaurant modern and chic; the service and food is top-notch.

I love anything “From The Grill.” My favorite is  their Short Rib Enchiladas. This is the entree that they have me wanting to come back here again and again.

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The Short Rib Enchiladas are topped crispy onions and home-made creamy short rib sauce. Their short rib sauce truly makes this dish a winner. It brings so much flavor to the dish. I also liked the touch of crispy onions as it brings a nice pleasant crunch to the enchiladas. The short rib inside itself is perfectly tender. This dish comes with rice and their fabulous black beans! (Note: The black beans are also served complimentary with their chips and they are simply to die for. They are made with pork broth and definitely one of the tastiest beans I’ve ever had!)

Another favorite dish of mine is Carmelita’s Ribeye Tacos.

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These are no ordinary tacos! The ribeye comes in small skillet. There are tender strips of ribeye baked over melted cheese, mushrooms, and onions. It comes with your choice of flour or corn tortillas as well as guacamole, rice and beans. It reminds me slightly of a fajitas yet is different because of the melted cheese. It’s tasty, unique and just simply delightful!

The savory dishes are a winner but one shouldn’t pass off the sweets either. Save room for dessert folks!

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The churros here are special. They come with a surprise in the middle and as you bite in, dulce de leche filling oozes out. These hot and crunchy churros are then topped with vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate. It’s a dessert lovers dream come true!

Even the cappuccino at Calo Kitchen is amazing.

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The cappuccino has hints of dark chocolate and a perfect way to end a meal here.

Overall Calo Kitchen is one of my favorite places to open up this 2018 and I cannot wait to be here again!

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Calo Kitchen and Tequila.

Hello Avenue Italy!

I recently a wonderful birthday dinner at Avenue Italy.

Located in Rancho Palos Verdes is Avenue Italy; a restaurant offering authentic and delicious Italian cuisine by  Chef Mario Zanetti. Chef Mario was previously Lead Chef for La Stada Restaurant in Los Angeles and now he heads up this wonderful restaurant. Avenue Italy is also the sister restaurant of another favorite South Bay place of mine, Yellow Vase.

Having my birthday dinner here was truly a wonderful experience. The place transports you right into the heart of Italy with its beautiful setup and decor as well as their amazing Italian cuisine.

We started off our meal here with  Caprese e melanzane.

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This starter came with three lovely tomatoes stacked with grilled eggplant and fresh mozzarella. It was then topped off with pesto. This simple Italian dish was a perfect first course. The grilled eggplant was nicely grilled and not charred. The spread of pesto was just right and not overwhelming. It gave the right amount of flavor to the dish.

Our second course consisted of the Beet salad

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This salad was one of my favorites of the night. It had mix greens topped with oven roasted beets, candied walnuts, dried cranberries and feta cheese. The dressing was a house balsamic vinaigrette. I am a big fan of beets but in many other restaurants, I have noticed beets tend to be large pieces that end up becoming the star of the plate. Here at Avenue Italy, they made their salad so that the beets would mix perfectly with the other ingredients. Small square beets were mixed in with the candied walnuts and dried cranberries and the feta cheese was sprinkled on top. Together these ingredients made of a sweet lovely salad.

For my main course, I chose to get the waiter’s recommendation, Pollo e prosciutto

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It was chicken rollatini with prosciutto and rosemary and vodka sauce. It was served with seasonal vegetables and roasted yukon potatoes. I originally was afraid that the prosciutto may overpower this dish but it did not at all! In fact there was just slight hint of prosciutto and the chicken was main star of the dish. It was tender and perfectly flavored with the rosemary and vodka sauce. I also loved their flavorful roasted yukon potatoes. This was great dish paired with their white chardonnay.

What’s a birthday without a birthday cake or dessert? Our last dish of the night was Avenue Italy’s tiramisu.

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Tiramisu is a classic Italian dessert and here they really did this Italian delight justice. The coffee-flavoured Italian dessert was delightfully light. Wonderful flavor of cocoa with just the right hint of liqueur-spiked espresso and sweet mascarpone and whipped cream. This was truly a perfect ending to a wonderful birthday dinner.

Avenue Italy was simply lovely and I loved celebrating here.

Hello Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Syracuse!

Dinosaurs are often associated with big and bold and thus it just seems appropriate that one of the biggest restaurants as well as one of the boldest in terms of making a name for itself in Syracuse is named Dinosaur Bar-B-Que!

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que first started off in 1983 as an idea among three friends at a motorcycle gathering in Albany, New York. Founder John Stage and his friends wanted to offer good bbq to their fellow bikers and made a mobile concession that they brought to various motorcycle shows, fairs, and festivals throughout the Northeast. Fast forward to 1988, where the mobile concession stand became a full-blown restaurant in downtown Syracuse, New York. Through the years Dinosaur has been making bold waves via being showcased in various magazines and the Food Network. Now Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has eight additional locations: Rochester, New York, Harlem, New York, Troy, New York,Newark, New Jersey, Stamford, Connecticut, Brooklyn, New York, and Buffalo, New York.

Traveling to Syracuse, I knew instantly that I had to try this iconic bbq joint and did not hesitate to go to the original location on one of my nights there. Known for super long waits, I was pleasantly surprised to have no wait when I arrived! (Can we yell success and yay!!) The place was definitely crowded with eager foodies like myself but it didn’t take long for me to start of my savory meal here.

To start off I tried Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s famous Fried Green Tomatoes.

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The Fried Green Tomatoes come in either 3 pieces or 5 pieces and are served with a side cayenne buttermilk ranch. This was the perfect starter to my meal. I loved the juicy green tomato that was fried to golden perfection. The Pecorino Romano cheese on top was a nice touch and the cayenne buttermilk ranch was a great dipping companion.

For my main meal, I decided to try a variety of some of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s best offerings by getting a combo plate.

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My chosen combo plate consisted of St. Louis ribs, chicken wings and bbq brisket with jalapeños along with corn bread, simmered turkey neck collard greens and mashed potatoes. This was one hearty and very fulfilling plate! The St. Louis ribs are dry rubbed and slow smoked and lightly glazed with Dinosaur’s original bbq sauce  It was no surprise to have the meat fall off the St. Louis ribs. Very tender it came off with one flick of my fork. Equal in tenderness was the bbq brisket. The BBQ brisket is also slow-smoked and then hand sliced and flavored with pickled onion & jalapeno relish. It is topped with sliced jalapeno and just has the right amount of spice. The chicken wings were also delightful and had very good flavoring. These chicken wings are spice-rubbed, pit-smoked and grill finished. I loved dipping it with the original BBQ sauce as well as blue cheese dressing. All of the meats went well with the side of collard greens and mashed potatoes.

Dinosaur’s meats are already quite tasty by themselves but if one wants even more flavor; there is a variety of sauces and rubs that you can smother and sprinkle all over.

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Sensuous Slathering is more of their traditional BBQ sauce that has just the right amount of sweet for my palate. The heat starts with the Garlic Chipotle Pepper Sauce and the Mango Tango Habanero Hot Bar-b-que Sauce. Dare if you can handle the heat with the oh so hot Devil’s Duel Habenro Hot Pepper Sauce. Lastly there is the Cajun Foreplay Spice Rub for a little more heat. (How hot can you go?_ 😉

If it does get a lot hot…have no fear because aside from savory meats, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que also has some sweet treats! They’ve got Chocolate Ice Box Pie, Peanut Butter Pie, Dino Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie and Sweet Potato Pecan Pie.

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The Sweet Potato Pecan Pie was my dessert of choice and I fell in love with at first bite. The sweet potato itself was so soft and practically melted in my mouth. I loved the toppings of pecan pie. Both the sweet potato and pecan were the perfect pair for one another.

Just like Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s namesake of dinosaurs, this place definitely is big and bold in terms of their offerings. Their foundation is fresh, homemade and high quality and as they say they “WFDA” or “We Don’t F** Around.” Big and bold indeed. It was one intense and delicious trip here.

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Syracuse.

Hello Joey’s Italian Restaurant!

Whenever I travel, I try to find the best eateries that the town has to offer. My Hello Kitty Foodie adventures wouldn’t be complete without it. On my first night in New York; I’m so happy to say that I found what has to be one of the best Italian restaurants in the town of Syracuse.

Joey’s Italian Restaurant is located in Syracuse, New York at Carrier Circle. They’ve been serving up fine Italian American cuisine since 1982 via two restaurants under one roof. Upstairs lies Pronto Joey’s which offers a casual Italian American fare. Downstairs is Joey’s Classic Italian dining that has a more formal fine dining setting.

I had the pleasure of dining at Joey’s Classic Italian and was mesmerized by the beautiful setting the moment I walked in. With its cherry wood furniture, dim lighting and perfectly set tables; the place is intimate and beautiful.

Their menu is equivalent in exquisiteness and filled with an array of fresh made pastas with veal, beef, poultry and seafood. Each of their sauces is handcrafted right in the heart of New York.

Each meal here starts off with a fresh-baked basket of bread that is accompanied with their housemade garlic butter and an olive oil and balsamic dip.

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Joey’s housemade garlic butter is reason enough to go here as it definitely one of the tastiest garlic butters I have ever had. The velvety butter perfectly melts on the warm bread and is quite addicting. It has just the right hint of garlic to it.

Each pasta speciality also comes with Joey’s house salad.

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The house salad is a delightful starter filled with a good variety of vegetables. There are tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, chick peas and mixed greens. Dressing choices include honey mustard, ranch, raspberry vinagrette, balsamic vinagrette, Caesar and parmesan.

Though one can easily get full with the warm bread and crisp salad; one definitely needs to save room for Joey’s homemade pastas. The pasta menu consists of homemade dishes such as lasagna, cannelloni, ravioli, fettuccine and lasagna. There is also house specialities.

One such house speciality is the Tortellini Carbonara.

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The Tortellini Carbonara has pork and beef filled pasta with sautéed Italian prosciutto. The sauce consists of asiago cheese, egg and cream. It’s one creamy dish and the tortellini will practically melt in your mouth.

Another house speciality is the Chicken Tetrazini.

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The Chicken Tentrazini has Joey’s housemade noodles topped with a breast of chicken sautéed with mushrooms, roasted red peppers and peas. The sauce is a light cream sauce. The mushrooms, red peppers and peas bring so much flavor along with the tender chicken breast. The light cream sauce is just right. This dish is definitely one of my favorites at Joey’s.

Not only are the pasta dishes homemade, the desserts are as well! The sweets menu is equally is an impressive and consists of favorite Italian sweets like tiramisu and cannoli along side classic desserts; carrot cake, cheesecake, citrus cake and creme brûlée.

It is very had to pass on a good creme brûlée and decided to try Joey’s version.

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Joey’s creme brûlée was indeed a wonderful ending to a wonderful dinner. On the bottom of the soft creme brûlée is rich Bailey’s chocolate. This creme brûlée is finished off with fresh cream and a fresh strawberry. The creme brûlée is silky-smooth. The rich Bailey’s chocolate is a sweet surprise and brings another depth to the dessert.

In my quest to find some of the best eateries in town, I think I succeeded in my first night in New York with the charming Joey’s Italian in Syracuse.

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Joey’s Italian.