Hello Bahay Kainan/BaBoys!

October is Filipino 🇵🇭 American 🇺🇸 History Month and Bahay Kainan/BaBoys is the perfect place to celebrate. Their menu brings classic Filipino favorites with an American twist.

Bahay Kainan first started off in 2001 as a catering business by Philippine immigrants. Elizabeth and Guillermo Ferido. The served only traditional Filipino food and hence the name Bahay Kainan; Tagalog for “Home Cooking”. In 2016; they added the name BaBoys when their son Guilbert Ferido; a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena; took over as head chef. He added the name “BaBoys.”  The name “BaBoys” has a special twist as in Tagalog it means “Pork” while the “Boys” can is a reference to American young men.

The new name, “Baboys” with a Filipino American twist was perfect for the new Filipino fusion menu that Guilbert Ferido created. Inspired by his Mom’s cooking of lumpia he incorporated the popular Filipino appetizer into a burger and made the Lumpia burger.

The Lumpia Burger consists of a Lumpiang Shanghai Patty in between two Hawaiian buns and topped with slices of cheese, Asian slaw, tomato, scallions and smothered with garlic aioli and banana ketchup. Filipino classic lumpia is often dipped in the popular Filipino condiment banana ketchup and even that is creatively incorporated in this burger.

Alongside the Lumpia Burger; are other Filipino fusion items such as fries topped with Sisig (Filipino minced pork, chopped onion, and chicken liver),  Tocino (Filipino sweet pork) Burrito and Bistek (Filipino beef steak) Onion Rings.

The Bistek Onion Rings are a favorite of mine on the menu. Filipino Beef Steak is a dish I’ve loved growing up. The traditional way is thin slices of beef with lots of onions stewed in soy sauce and lemon juice. Here at BaBoys; they have lots of beef and lots of onions but the onions consist of fried onion rings. There is also garlic parmesan cheese and cotija cheese. It’s Filipino and American cuisine paired perfectly.

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With it’s Filipino American cuisine, Bahay Kainan/BaBoys is the perfect place to eat this Filipino 🇵🇭 American 🇺🇸 History Month.

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Bahay Kainan/BaBoys

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Hello Napa Rose Surprise Birthday Dinner!

This year my birthday was a extra special as I got to celebrate at a very special place; Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel.  For weeks this was a surprise and I did not know until the actual day of my birthday that this would be where I would be celebrating. It’s without a doubt I was so excited to find out I would be dining here.

Napa Rose is a flagship restaurant of Disney that has gotten many awards since it opened in 2001. Just this 2019 Napa Rose was honored their eight AAA Four Diamond award. Napa Rose has also been recognized by Wine Spectator, the Orange County Register and Southern California Restaurant Writers Guild. They are consistently recognized as a top food ranking Orange County restaurant.

Napa Rose consists of both a lounge and a main dining room. Both spots are quite lovely and I was fortunate enough to spend some time in both. We started off with at the lounge where we had some celebratory cocktails for my birthday. The lounge has a classic yet comfortable ambiance perfect for some summer cocktails. It is filled with mini wooden tables and comfortable chairs. The lounge is filled with Napa Rose’s staple rose.

Our choice of cocktails at the lounge were the Summer Kiss and Napa Passion.

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The Summer Kiss consists of Hendricks Gin, Combier, fresh Lemon Juice, St. Germain, and Absinthe Rinse while the Napa Passion had X Fusion, Parrot Bay Rum, Pineapple Juice, and Strawberry. Both drinks were refreshing and great for a summer evening.

Soon after we were off to the beautiful main dining room. Napa Rose pays tribute to California’s wine country as well as the rose that are in the vineyards of Napa. This was truly reflected in the main dining room. Each table in the restaurant has roses  and the image of the rose is seen in the restaurant’s carpeting, lighting, handrails, chairs and even the staff uniforms. In the main dining area there are murals with showing Napa’s vineyards. There is an amazing wine cellar with over 600 bottles and there is a wall adorned with signed, premium wines by winemakers and vineyard owners.

Napa Rose’s menu changes seasonally and it’s entrees are made from the freshest ingredients of California. Currently their menu is for the Summer 2019 season in the Wine Country.

We started off our meal here with a complimentary bread basket.

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The bread basket included  sourdough, cheese bread, and cracker bread covered with parmesan cheese. My favorite was definitely the cheese bread. It was so soft and delightful.

For our appetizers we chose  the Zucchini Blossom.

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This was one amazing appetizer with golden fried zucchini filled with lemony ricotta cheese on top of zucchini pine nut relish. The litter batter was perfectly crisp and the ricotta would ooze our with each bite. It was a great way to kick off a a meal here.

For our main courses we tried the Pomegranate-glazed Veal Osso Bucco and the Quail Stuffed with Prosciutto Wrapped Summer Peach.

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The Pomegranate-glazed Veal Osso Bucco  was served with Apple-Orange Relish and Sautéed Gnocchi. The Quail Stuffed with Prosciutto Wrapped Summer Peach was complimented with Nectarine Relish and Cornbread Stuffing.

Both dishes were excellent and perfect with Pinot Noir. They were plated beautifully and wonderfully prepared. I loved the unique touches of each dish with their respective sweet relishes to compliment their meats. The quail which was stuffed with a peach slice was amazing. It was savory with a hint of sweet. It was also very light.

For dessert I was surprised with a very sweet treat via a Pineapple Streusel Crumble Crunch Bar.

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The Pineapple Streusel Crumble Crunch Bar. what a coconut vanilla sorbet on top and a coconut creme on the bottom. It was very tropical and was a lovely way to end a wonderful meal here. I loved how it was not too sweet but yet had the nice hint of both pineapple and coconut. There were also some little bits of strawberry dollops on the side

Dinner at Napa Rose was everything I could ask for and it really made for one memorable birthday experience for me. The venue was beautiful, the food was of excellent quality and the memories made were priceless.  I’m so thankful and blessed to have had dinner at such special place for my birthday.

Hello Shiok: Asian Street Food!

Shiok: Asian Slang to express awesome, delicious, very tasty, cool, wow! It conveys a feeling of pleasure, happiness and pure satisfaction.

Shiok also happens to be the name of the new restaurant at Rolling Hills Plaza in Torrance, California. The new eatery is appropriately named as they bring to the South Bay some delightful and tasty eats!

Their menu is inspired by Asia’s legendary markets and among their offerings one can find bao, bahn mi and bowls.

I recently got a special sneak peak and was amazed with their bold and bright flavors.

Their baos are my new favorite!

I love the Cripsy Golden Bao.

The outside is a crisp golden brown bun and inside is steamed pork with egg. This is one tasty triple treat.

The Hot Fried Chicken Bao is another fabulous bao that I really enjoyed.

The Hot Fried Chicken Bao is a steamed bun filled with a gigantic piece of fried chicken smothered in sriracha. The fried chicken is topped with Asian slaw, cilantro and jalapeño. I loved the crisp chicken with a fiery kick. This was very fulfilling.

The Nightmarket Bao is another winner.

This savory bao has a large Kakuni-style braised pork belly topped with Taiwanese relish and roasted peanuts! I love how it has crisp roasted peanuts. It gives a nice, crunchy touch to the bao.

Aside from the baos; Shiok has other delights that are part of their “Cravables” menu.

The Veggie Crunch is a great starter that is perfect for vegetarians!

I have always been a fan of taro and this cravable has taro, yam, tofu, mushrooms in fried rice paper. It’s crunch and love at first bite.

Another good starter is their Shrimp Crisps.

Growing up in an Asian household; shrimp crisps were a favorite snack of mine to bring to school. Shiok’s Shrimp Crisps remind me of me of the delightful chips that were once part of my lunch bag. Shiok makes their own house fried shrimp chips and they are amazing!

All of Shiok’s cravables are great but make sure to save room for some of the entrees.

Shiok’s Signature Bahn Mi is a must try!

I tried the bahn mi with grilled lemongrass steak. The lemongrass steak combined with Bourbon pate, sriracha aioli, Asian slaw, cucumbers, pickled daikon, carrot, papaya and cilantro made for a tasty sandwich. This was paired with some Shrimp Crisps.

I also got to try some of their bowls. First up was the Asian Street Bowl.

For the Asian Street Bowl one can choose their protein. Among the choices are lemongrass steak, spicy satay chicken or soy ginger chicken. The protein then comes with peanut sauce, shallot ginger rice, baby lettuce, street side corn, Asian slaw, cucumbers, pickled daikon, carrot, papaya, cilantro and fried shallots. It’s an explosion of flavors in one healthy bowl.

The second bowl I tried here was the Zen Bowl.

The Zen bowl is a vegetarian delight consisting of bbq pulled jackfruit, coconut ginger chickpeas, shallot ginger rice, streetside corn, Asian slaw, pickled daikon-carrot-papaya, cucumbers, fresh shallots and cilantro. I love how the jackfruit is tender just like shredded chicken. The bowl is wonderfully healthy and truly does bring some zen ;).

Equal in deliciousness to the bowls is their drinks. They’ve got freshly made teas with fruits and boba. For the special private event; they had the Blue Lagoon and Boba Milk Tea.

I loved how colorful the Blue Lagoon was. It made me feel like I was in an Asian tropical island. The colorful blue and green floral tea was pure paradise. It has a refreshing and exquisite flavor.

The boba milk tea was a classic drink with soft honey boba pearls.

Shiok! I truly was saying Shiok by the end of my meal here.

Shiok: Asian Street Food will have it’s soft opening starting September 7, 2018 and they will have their grand opening on September 28, 2018.

For more smiles; please see my Yelp review on Shiok: Asian Street Food!

Hello El Barrio Neighborhood Tacos!

Located on busy Aviation Blvd in Redondo Beach is the equally busy El Barrio Neighborhood Tacos! The taco shop just opened up this summer and officially had it’s grand opening today, September 1. Ever since it’s opening one can see the hustle and bustle of folks coming in and out to enjoy the taqueria.

The brains behind the new eatery are actually two culinary personnel very familiar with the South Bay scene; Ulises Pineda-Alfaro and Jesse Duron. They both work at Umi by Hamasaku, a sushi restaurant located at The Point in El Segundo. Pineda-Alfaro is the chef and Duron is the general manager of the sushi restaurant. Both thought it was time to bring some good tacos to the South Bay and good tacos they indeed brought.

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The menu primarily focuses on eight tacos: Gobernador (shrimp), Carne (mesquite grilled hangar steak), Birria (stewed US Wagyu beef), Al Pastor (split roasted Beelers pork), Pork Belly carnitas (crispy pork belly), Chicken Tinga (Mary’s chicken), Cauliflower con Mole (roasted cauliflower) and Nopal (Roasted cauliflower)

The tacos are all served on housemaid corn tortilla and you can actually see them make the tortillas right there. They are made using masa from heirloom, non-GMO corn raised by a collective of family farms in Oaxaca, sourced through the Sawtelle masa company Masienda. I will have to say these tortillas are the best. Fresh and warm; they’re excellent no matter what meat you choose.

Speaking of meat; each of their meat is perfect topped with sauces or cheeses that truly compliment their flavoring. The Birria; US Wagyu beef brisket comes with oozing tomato salsa emulsion while the Pork Belly Carnitas have tomatillo salsa and cilantro. They’re simply delightfully delicious.

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Aside from tacos they also have Mulitas which are served on two if the housemaid tortillas and come with melted cheese, escabeche and salsa. You can choose one of the eight meat offerings.

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They also have Tortas which are served on artisan Telera roll, shaved lettuce, onion, tomato, guacamole crema, salsa and pickle escabeche. These tortas are gigantic. They’re not only big on size but big on fillings and taste!

No matter whether you want a taco, mulita or torta; you will sure to love this new neighborhood taqueria. The grand opening today is offering 50% off all taco, mulitas and tortas. Adelante on over to El Barrio Neighborhood Tacos!

For more smiles, please my Yelp Review on El Barrio Neighborhood Tacos and check out the El Barrio Neighborhood Tacos website.

Hello Sweet Rice Gardena!

Thai Food is definitely one of my favorite types of cuisines. I love angel wings, pad thai and more. I’ve never ever tried Thai breakfast however and thus I was so excited to hear about Sweet Rice; a new Thai breakfast and dessert spot that recently opened up at Pacific Square in Gardena. (Random Hello Kitty fact: Pacific Square is home to the oldest Sanrio store in the US. 😉 ) Sweet Rice also happens to be run by another popular Thai spot in Gardena; Bowl Thai.

I visited Sweet Rice recently and a very pleasant Thai breakfast experience.

First up for my breakfast here was trying out the Jok. Jok is popular in Thailand is a Thai porridge.

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It made by boiling rice until it dissolves and becomes a porridge. At Sweet Rice; they serve it piping hot and it consists of ground pork made into a meatball, century egg, scallions, ginger, crispy noodles, poached egg. They also have patongo a side. Patango is a crispy Chinese donut.

I loved the Jok and am not surprised to see it as one of the most popular dishes at Sweet Rice. The porridge is nicely thick and they put in a lot of ingredients. It had eight tender meatballs. The century egg was also a nice touch!

The other breakfast dish I tried was their Kao Kai Jeow or Thai Omelette.

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Kao Kai Jeow is a common street food in Thailand and here at Sweet Rice; their version is 3 egg omelette with onion, scallions, cilantro.  Customers have the choice of getting it with chicken, pork, shrimp or crab. I chose to get it with chicken.

The omelette was great. It was fluffy with a bit crispiness in some of the edges. It went well with the ketchup and white rice.

Overall I really enjoyed my first ever Thai breakfast experience. Breakfast at Sweet Rice was a “sweet” time.

For more smiles; please see my Yelp review on Sweet Rice.

 

Hello Urban Plates Torrance!

This August 12, 2019; Torrance will have the grand opening of Urban Plates; a restaurant that specializes in real food made from scratch. The location is perfectly situated at the newly revamped Del Amo Crossing; that is also home to newest 24 Hour Fitness in the South Bay.

There are various Urban Plates locations in California and Washington DC and with each grand opening they pair with a charitable institution that supports the local community. Urban Plates Torrance paired up with  The Volunteer Center; a local South Bay center that has core programs such as Food for Kids. Food for Kids by The Volunteer Center helps provides low income families in the South Bay with healthy meals over the weekend; helping kids be energized and ready for school on the weekday.

I was so fortunate to be a part of a pre-grand opening celebration this weekend courtesy of Urban Plates Torrance and The Volunteer Center. Not only was this event for a good cause; it truly showcased Urban Plates wonderful scratch made meals. Each dish is made out of some of the best ingredients such as grass-fed beef, sustainably sourced seafood, free-range chicken, and fresh produce.

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The first items I got to try during this sneak peak were some of their seasonal soups. First up was the Green Lentil. The Green Lentil has a nice variety of vegetables and spices. There are carrots, bay leaves, garlic, thyme and paprika. All of the ingredients come together for a nice, flavorful broth. I also tried their Tomato Basil. Here at Urban Plates; I loved that they added some coconut milk along with some pesto to make their tomato soup.

The next dish I tried was from their Greens section. The Greens section of their menu consists of hand tossed salads served with scratch made dressing. My choice of salad was their Asian Chicken Salad. This salad was quite a treat. It had lettuce, arugula, organic carrots, green onions, spicy peanuts, large orange slices, red bell peppers, cilantro, crispy wontons and grilled cage free chicken. The dressing was a spicy peanut dressing. This salad definitely had a unique spicy kick to it. It also had a nice crunchy texture thanks to the crisp lettuce, peanuts and wontons.

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For our main dish; we went with one of their hand carved sandwiches. Each of their sandwiches are served on grilled rustic bread and comes with kettle chips. We got to try the Grilled Grass Fed Steak. This was truly one of the best sandwiches I have ever had. It was so meaty and the steak was wonderfully tender. There was a delicious chimichurri aioli smothered on the bread and the meat was topped off with slow roasted tomatoes. Urban Plates definitely knows how to make a good sandwich!

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Last but not least, I had the Urban Cowgirl Cookie for dessert. This cookie is Urban Plates version of a trail mix cookie and had sunflower seeds, oats, dried cranberries, shredded coconut and a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon. It was one yummy cookie that was a perfect ending to one yummy meal!

I am definitely looking forward to trying out Urban Plates again in the near future. I was impressed with their scratch made meals and I could really taste the freshness. I also was an instant fan because they chose to celebrate their opening with helping out the community via The Volunteer Center. Urban Plates Torrance is a true winner.

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For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Urban Plates Torrance.

Hello Mix Mix Kitchen Bar!

Just this May 2019; Michelin released the first ever California statewide list of Bib Gourmand selections. The list highlights “exceptionally good food at moderate prices.” One of the restaurants listed was Mix Mix Kitchen and Bar.  Located in Downtown Santa Ana, Mix Mix Kitchen Bar is the global inspired restaurant concept by famed Chef Ross Pangilinan. The restaurant is not new to earning recognition. In 2017; they also Orange Coast Magazine’s 2017 Restaurant of the Year!

Chef Ross Pangilinan was previously the executive chef at Leatherby’s Café Rouge at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. In 2017; he opened up Mix Mix Kitchen Bar. Since it’s opening; the restaurant has earned both awards as well as the hearts of foodies from all over.

Chef Ross Pangilinan’s dishes have a hint of Filipino flare and European touch. The menu is filled with unique and tasty dishes and one of the best ways to go while visiting is trying out their “Oui Chef” tasting menu. For $65; diners get to partake in 5 dishes personally picked by the chef himself.  I got to try the “Oui Chef” tasting menu recently and had the most amazing time!

Our meal first started off with Chicharrones and spicy vinegar.

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Chicharrones; a classic Filipino snack; was the perfect starter for our big meal.  The Chicharrones were thin and crisp and great when dipped in the Datu Puti vinegar; a well known Filipino vinegar.

Next up; we were presented with several of Mix Mix’s famed snacks..

First was the Seared Albacore Tostada & Filipino ceviche.

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The Seared Albacore Tostada came with avocado, seaweed, Japanese dressing, sriracha aioli, radish on top of a round crisp tostada. On the side was the Filipino ceviche with coconut lime dressing, tangerine, avocado, Thai chili and bits of pork crackling.

One of the nicest things I liked about the Oui Chef tasting menu was it was customizable to guests. One guest can have a different dish versus the other if the other guest has different dining preferences (non-pescatarian, vegetarian etc).

Since I am non-pescatarian; I was presented with a lovely plate with Chorizo & Potato Croquettes and Bacon Wrapped Date.

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The Chorizo & Potato Croquettes came with jalapeno lime aioli, Oaxaca cheese while the Bacon Wrapped Date came with harissa yogurt, Marcona almonds. Both were lovely and full of flavor! I loved the softness of the croquettes and sweetness of the date.

The snacks did not end there as next was a plate of Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon salad to share.

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This had watermelon, tomato, candied pistachio and white balsamic gastrique. Pieces of crisp toast were placed on top. I loved how they made this seasonal dish with watermelon. It was so refreshing for a summer night.

Next up were several selections from Mix Mix Kitchen Bar’s small plates menu.

The first was Short Rib Bao Buns.

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It is rare to find bao buns at restaurants and I have to say that this is one of the best that I’ve ever had! It was packed with braised short rib topped with pickled onions and cilantro. It also had ”pho” cream which gave a pho like taste to great small plate!

Pork Cheek Adobo was followed as our next small plate.

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Adobo is a famed Filipino dish and one knows a Filipino restaurant is good based off their adobo! I am happy to say Filipino Chef Ross definitely knows his adobo. This small plate was delicious and was accompanied with tasty garlic fried rice and chimichurri. It reminds me of home.

The dish served with the Pork Cheek Adobo was the restaurant’s Market Fish selection dish.

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The Market Fish was a lovely looking plate. The fish was roasted barramundi and it was accompanied with Spanish beans, Spanish chorizo, zucchini and pickled chili emulsion. Healthy and delightful are two words that come to mind.

Soft Egg Raviolo awaited our palates next.

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The Soft Egg Raviolo had a soft cooked egg in the middle of a large disk of stuffed black pepper pasta, topped with herb ricotta,  guanciale, parmesan and brown butter. The egg yolk oozed out of the middle as I sliced this delectable dish. The ravioli itself was so soft and cooked perfectly.

Our following starter plate was a surprise. It was the Rabbit Guitar Pasta.

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The pasta itself is representative of guitar strings and hence the name “Guitar Pasta.” On top was shredded meat that at first we were debating whether it was chicken or pork. It turned out to be Fryer Rabbit; a lean young rabbit with fine-textured white meat. This dish is not on the menu but a special of the restaurant. It was definitely one of their more unique dishes!

At this point; we were getting quite full but up next was the main entree; New York steak and Lamb.

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Once again; Mix Mix Kitchen Bar got it right! Both meats were cooked medium and were so tender. Accompanied with brussel sprouts and potatoes; it felt like we were at high end steakhouse. The lamb was another off the menu special.

The desserts were a sweet ending to a very special tasting menu. We got not one but two of their famous desserts.

First up was the Chocolate Fondant.

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Our waiter described this as a lava cake like type dessert with passion fruit cream, salted caramel on the side. The chocolate itself was so rich and smooth. It was dark chocolate at it’s finest. The passion fruit cream gave a nice, sweet offset to the dark chocolate.

Our last but definitely not the least dessert was the Tropical Verrine.

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Once again; Chef Ross Pangalinan pays homage to his Filipino roots with this dessert that is a twist on the Filipino halo- halo. It had coconut panna cotta, macadamia nuts and tropical fruit and mango sorbe and ube ice cream. Definitely save room for dessert as this sweet treat is pure heaven!

Oui Chef experience at Mix Mix Kitchen was the most amazing culinary experience. I can definitely see why this restaurant won Orange Coast Magazine’s 2017 Restaurant of the Year and is on the list of Michelin Guide California 2019 Bib Gourmand. Chef Ross Pangilinan along with Chef de Cusine; Ross Harris came up with some of the best dishes ever and provided us with a dining experience we will never forget! Oui Chef!

For more smiles; please see my Yelp review  on Mix Mix Kitchen Bar.