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.

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Hello Sari-Sari Store LA!

Sari-sari stores are very common in the Philippines. They are small convenience stores that can be found in many neighborhoods. Along the top of the sari-sari stores are displays of various products such as candy, soda and beauty products.

Walking into downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market, I spot Sari-Sari Store. Just like in the Philippines there are several displays of common household products and consumables. Unlike the sari-sari stores in the Philippines, however, these products are not for sale. Instead what is for sale is a variety of rice bowls and that is because Sari-Sari Store at Grand Central Market is not a small market but instead a wonderful restaurant.

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Sari-Sari Store is a Filipino rice bowl stall conceptualized by Chef Margarita Manzke with business partner and husband Walter Manzke. If Chef Margarita Manzke and Walter Manzke sound familiar that is because they are the brains behind two other wonderful Los Angeles based restaurants, Republique and Petty Cash. They also are the owners of Philippines based bakery, Wildflour.

The idea behind Sari-Sari Store mainly came from Chef Margarita Manzke who was born and raised in the Philippines. She was exposed to the restaurant life early as her parents owned White Rock Resort, a hotel and restaurant just outside Manila.  Chef Marge wanted to bring to this Sari-Sari Store restaurant something “small, colorful, and casual” just like the real sari-sari stores. Every thing from the restaurant’s look to the menu is inspired by Chef Marge’s Filipino heritage.

The word “sari-sari” in the Filipino language, Tagalog essentially means “variety” and a variety is indeed found in the menu here. There is a variety of different Silog bowls; with silog meaning “singang” (garlic rice) + “itlog” (egg). The rice bowls offered included Filipino comfort food such as Arroz Caldo (rice porridge) and Filipino favorites like Lechon Kawali (crispy pork belly). They occasionally have specials as well such as Bistek Tagalog; the classic beef steak dish.

The day I went, I was fortunate to find one of my favorite Filipino dishes as one of the specials of the day. This was the Beef Tapa.

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Sari-Sari Store’s Beef Tapa bowl had marinated short ribs, garlic rice and pickled Fresno chiles. Served with the garlicky fried rice and sunny side up eggs, this beef tapa truly made my day. It was tender and full of flavor.  The tapa was marinated, to perfection, with just the right combination of soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and pepper.

The other rice bowl that hit our table that day was one of the more traditional dishes folks associate with the Philippines; adobo.

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Sari-Sari Store’s take on adobo is a Adobo Fried Rice bowl. It has Mary’s organic chicken, garlic rice, pickled chiles and fried egg. The chicken at Republique is one of the most popular dishes and it was nice to see it incorporated here Filipino style.

Now speaking of Republique; at that restaurant Chef Marge’s speciality is the pastries. It is therefore not surprising  that Sari-Sari Store’s menu has some amazing desserts. She has not one but two regular sweets on the menu via the halo-halo and buko pie. I could not pass up on trying the buko pie as it is one of Los Angeles’ times top rated desserts.

It is no wonder Jonathan Gold of Los Angeles Times loves this dessert. It is truly one of the best pies I’ve had.  The buko pie consists of coconut, coconut and more coconut. Fittingly so as “Buko” means “young coconut” in Tagalog. All of this meaty coconut is mixed into wonderfully soft custard that is on top of Chef Marge’s famous pie crust. (It’s the same pie crust that is typically only found at Republique!). I’m still drooling as I think about this dessert. My only regret is I only bought one slice! Hehe.
Sari-Sari Store at Grand Central Market is not a convenience store. It is instead a lovely Filipino stall where you can have some hearty and delicious Filipino rice bowls and the best buko pie in town!
For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Sari-Sari Store

Hello Full House BBQ Vegas!

I’ve always been a fan of Full House. I mean I grew up with DJ, Stephanie and Michelle….oh wait not that Full House ;). Hehe, with a similar name to my favorite TV show when I was a kid, you may say I’m a bit bias to loving Full House BBQ in Vegas but I actually quite a fan of this Filipino restaurant with no association to the sitcom.

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I had the pleasure of dining here recently and truly loved each and every dish that I tried. The menu is large and they offer classic Filipino dishes as well as fusion ones.

For my trip here, the first dish that we tried was their Fire Roasted Crispy Pork belly.

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At Full House, they offer 1 pound of this Lechon Belly! It’s a classic favorite and they offer plenty.

Next dish was another crispy plate via the Sisig Milkfish.

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Full House offers several sisig sizzling plates. They have sisig pork belly, beef sirloin, chicken, and milkfish. Each dish comes with red, green peppers, onions, lime, soy, mayonnaise and fresh egg.

We also were served another sizzling dish via their beef sirloin.

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This pinoy bistek was my personal favorite of the whole trip. It consisted of board cracked peppercorn, onions and calamnsi soy glaze. I loved the sauce and it went well with the white rice. It was so savory.

For our soup, we tried their “sinigang” tamarind sour soup.

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This soup comes with choice or pork ribs or pompano fish and a blend of vegetables. The broth of this hotpot was so hearty. It had the perfect hint of sourness and made for a great soup.

Last but not least, we got to try their famous Flaming Halo Halo.

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This halo halo dish was lit! Literally lit! As Uncle Jesse of Full House (the TV sitcom) would say, “Have Mercy!” This halo halo was hot! It was served with a live flame. It was not only unique but delicious as well. It had classic toppings of ube ice cream, jackfruit, leche flan.    It was a gigantic dish of deliciousness.

My trip to Full House was one of my favorite dining outings while I was in Vegas. Maraming Salamat Full House!

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Now Full House is once again a favorite except this time instead of a tv show, it is restaurant. 🙂

For smiles, please see my Yelp review on Full House BBQ Vegas.

Hello Bao Down San Francisco!

Filipino cuisine is making its way to the top of the tastebuds of many foodies. This Hello Kitty Foodie is constantly in awe of all the amazing Pinoy offerings that are popping up every where! On my recent trip to San Francisco, I had the chance to checkout a newly opened gastropub specializing in Asian fusion food with touches of Hawaiian, Thai and Filipino flavors.

Located on Bush Street, next to  Executive Hotel Vintage Court is Bao Down.  It is the former location of Masa’s and All Spice and now is home to this Pan Asian Fusion food restaurant. This is Bao Down’s owners Greg Edwards and Marvin Agustin’s first US location. The original Bao Down is in Vancouver, Canada.

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Walking in, I was instantly mesmerized with the colorful and bright murals that are on Bao Down’s walls. I learned these colored murals were painted by Japanese-Canadian street artist Taka Sudo. He had also created similar murals for Bao Down’s Vancouver locations.

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Just as creative as the murals is Bao Down’s menu offerings.  It’s a traditional Asian food with a bit of pizazz and each dish has unique and flavorful ingredients.

I started off my meal here with one of their steamed baos. This place after all is called Bao Down and it seemed only appropriate that I try one of their signature bao dishes. I chose to try the Big Bang bao.

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The Big Bang bao consists of lechon kawali, carrots, daikon and Filipino sweet and sour sauce. Upon first bite, I could understand it’s name right away. It indeed made quite a bang for my tastebuds. From the soft outside bun to the crunchy lechon inside, it was amazingly delicious. The Filipino sweet and sour sauce brought out so much flavorful to this tender bao.

Up next, I tried one of their popular small plates, the West Coast Lumpia.

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Lumpia is one of my favorite Filipino dishes ever and thus I was quite intrigued to see Bao Down’s take. The West Coast Lumpia was filled with chicken, water chestnut, pickled vegetable and crispy noodles. I love how this starter was served piping hot. It was fried to perfect golden brown. The thin, crisp outside gave a nice crackling crunch at every bite.

For my main entree, I chose the beef rib kare kare.

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Kare Kare, similar to lumpia, is one of my all time favorite Filipino dishes. I have to say though that Bao Down’s Kare Kare makes it to the top of the most unique Filipino Kare Kare dishes I have ever tried. Their version consists of 36oz angus beef short rib, crispy garlic annatto-peanut sauce, crispy shanghai bok chow and XXXO sauce.  The angus beef short rib was gigantic and serving wise this could be good for four people! It was also super tender and one flick of a fork, the meat would come off the bone. The beef short rib was definitely a winner but one of the things I absolutely loved about this dish was the crispy shanghai bok choy! I was such a fan of their tempura bok choy. The buttery batter went well with the other savory sauces of this dish. This Hello Kitty Foodie bows down to this dish from Bao Down. 😉

With the rise in popularity of Filipino food in the United States, it is not surprising to see a place like Bao Down in San Francisco. I am happy to see them offering Filipino dishes with a special fusion flair. With their creative dishes and unique take, Bao Down takes Filipino cuisine to a whole new level.

For more smiles, please see my Yelp Review on Bao Down.

 

Hello Cafe de Cebu!

Once in awhile I get the pleasant surprise/honor of being followed by certain restaurants on twitter. Some time last year a newly opened restaurant called Cafe de Cebu started following me. Located in Las Vegas, Nevada, I placed this restaurant on my places to try in Sin City.

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On my most recent trip to Vegas and looking for new places to eat, I found myself at Cafe de Cebu. After reading several positive reviews and seeing many delicious looking photos, I knew it was time to mark this off of my list of bookmarks and try it for myself.

It is a little, cozy restaurant with made to order dishes. The whole place and menu is very simple. The menu consists of appetizers, entrees and desserts. They also have a special treat for those with a yelp app and who check in via yelp.

With a Yelp check-in, diners can get one free Ngo-Yong. Ngo-Yong is a crispy egg roll filled with spiced ground pork and veggies. This little egg roll turned out to be my favorite of all the items I got to try this day. Freshly fried and made, the egg roll was served super hot. Outside the wrapper was perfectly crispy and crunchy and reminded me of classic Chinese egg rolls I used to eat as a kid. Inside the egg roll was stuffed with ground pork, bamboo shoots, garlic, onions and Chinese spices consisting of star anise, cloves, fennel seeds, cinnamon and Sichuan pepper. All these ingredients combined to make a slight spicy and flavorful filling.
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The entrees I got to try for my first visit at Cafe de Cebu consisted of different varieties of entrees from vegetables to pork.

For our veggie dish, we ordered chop suey. I was a fan of the nice variety of vegetables in this. This vegetable dish had cauliflower, baby corn, snow peas, red bell pepper and broccoli. The vegetables were stir fried and then mixed with a thick, starch based sauce. 20140120-145723.jpg

Another dish that was filled with some yummy vegetables was our noodle dish. For noodles we ordered the pancit bam-i that was made up of canton and vermicelli noodles, veggies, chicken and pork. For the veggies, there were plenty of carrots, cabbage and my favorite, shiitake mushrooms. I really liked the soft shiitake mushrooms mixed in with the equally soft noodles. There was a very distinct, unique delicious taste!
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After the vegetables and noodles, were the more hearty of entrees consisting of protein.

From the specials of the day, we ordered Kaldereta. Kaldereta is a beef stew with a tomato broth base. Their version had bell peppers, green peas and carrots. This dish had a very savory and spicy sauce that went well with white rice

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For our pork dish, we got sugpa liempo which is made up of freshly grilled seasoned pork belly slices. This restaurant specializes in many Cebuano pork dishes and it was very evident in this dish. The pork belly was lean, tender and marinated and grilled just right. It was even tastier when dipped in vinegar.
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The last entree we ordered was the boneless bangus or milkfish. As most of my blog readers know, I do not eat seafood and so I cannot comment taste wise but I did like the nice presentation of this fish. It was served with tomato, green and white onions and mango sprinkled all on top of the fish. It looked very fresh and appetizing (and did not smell fishy 😉
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On our table were various sauces that could be used to compliment the dishes ordered. It was interesting to see a pinakurot sauce. We learned from our waiter that this is their own recipe of pinakurat (notice they used a letter “o” versus an “a.” Pinakurat or pinakurot is spiced vinegar sauce. I also found the ngoniong spicy sauce for the egg rolls nice for dipping the Ngo-Yong.

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A lot of the above dishes were my first time to hear about and to taste. Therefore this dining experience was a tasty learning adventure for me! At the end I found myself with a new favorite egg roll, loving a new style of noodles and informed about different sauces. I don’t exactly know how Cafe de Cebu found me on twitter many months ago but I am very happy and thankful they did because it was the start of my curiosity of this place that led to eventually me trying it out. It was truly a pleasant dining experience of new food.

For more smiles, please see my recent Yelp Review about Cafe de Cebu.

Hello Filipino/Asian Fusion PYE @ La Fang!

Masarap! In Tagalog that means delicious.

Eating masarap or delicious food is just one of the reasons why I like La Fang Asian Fusion Kitchen. The other reason though is it seems every time I dine here, I always have a great experience here with friends!

I first tried La Fang when they first opened about a year ago. I came with my friend and Filipino yelp sis Jamie A.

A month later, also at La Fang I had the chance to meet famous Filipino American chef Ron Bilaro and be a part of his Eat and Ron segment of the tv show Adobo Nation.

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From that show, La Fang received this 2013 Kagat tasted honor.20131124-170827.jpg.

With such happy memories in mind, I was super happy and excited when Jamie decided to do her very first PYE (private yelp event) at La Fang.

The folks at La Fang treated us to delicious eats from the start!
We started off with plates of lumpia or chicken rolls. Lumpia is a popular Filipino dish. La Fang’s take on the dish is mini egg rolls fried and filled with chicken.

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Our kind server John then served us more crispy treats via calamari.

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For refreshments, some of us tried Fresh Buko (coconut) juice. La Fang puts a little twist in their coconut juice by adding pieces of lychee fruit in the mix.

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Next up for us was sisig. Sisig comes from another Filipino dialect, Kampampgan and means sour snack. Typically the dish contains white onion, green chili, lemon juice or vinegar. Here at La Fang, they brought out a fish version and a pork version. I don’t eat seafood but the presentation of the fish sisig was impressive with the large bangus or milkfish. 20131124-165255.jpg

Similarly the pork sisig had a fine mix of pork marinated in the sour liquid and seasoning of various spices.

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Since it was a somewhat, chilly day, the next dish of chicken tinola seemed appropriate. It is chicken broth based soup filled with chicken and chayote.

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John served pork hamonado next. The pork hamonado had sweet pork marinated in beer and pineapple sauce.

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La Fang then gave us is a fusion version of Filipino mechado via their beef pastel. Mechado is a beef stew with tomato sauce and potatoes. Here at La Fang instead of traditional boiled potatoes, they had mashed potatoes on top of the beef.

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Last entree to be served was their #1 special of crispy binagoongan or fried pork cooked in shrimp paste and topped with mangos. Unfortunately I don’t eat shrimp and so shrimp paste based dish is not really my thing but my Yelp friends loved this! I did get to try a little bit of the fried meat and it was good (minus the shrimp paste 😉

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The sweet ending to our PYE was the banana yema pie. Yema is a type of Filipino candy made out of egg yolks, condensed milk and peanuts. At La Fang they mixed the banana and yema, placed it on a crispy pie crust and topped it with whip cream and swirls of caramel to make one delicious desseert
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Thanks to Jamie A for setting up this yummy and fun PYE! It’s always great hanging out with my Filipino yelp sista 🙂 and it was nice to meet her husband Pablo.

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It was also awesome to see all my Yelp friends Jennifer N, Clarence M, Tony L, Craig Y, Antho L and Wan L

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Yay to good times with my yelp friends!

For more happy smiles, please read my very first Yelp review of La Fang when I first came here with Jamie.