Lazy Ox Canteen – 4/9/10

Lazy Ox Canteen
241 S San Pedro
Los Angeles, CA 90012

exterior 500x335 Lazy Ox Canteen   4/9/10
Lazy Ox Canteen has been a pretty hot restaurant since it opened up a few of months ago. The reviews have been very good, especially from LA Times critic S. Irene Virbila and her three-star review. In it, she had a lot of praise, even boldly proclaiming the “Ox burger, which, to my mind, is now the best burger in town.”

I’ve been three times, and they’ve all been very good. Today, thanks to the tremendous line outside Daikokuya, I came again. Unfortunately, this fourth visit was easily the least pleasing of all of my visits. It wasn’t so much due to the food or service, but their lunch menu is very limited. The chalkboard specials, which comprise most of the available dishes on a given night, are not available. Thus, only the basic lunch menu is available, offering three entrees (one of which was the pork frites, which they were out of).

brick roasted mussels with basil, white wine, house made sriracha & french feta

mussels 500x335 Lazy Ox Canteen   4/9/10

A small portion here, but the mussels were as plump and juicy as the clams had been on my last visit. Some of the best I’ve had in LA. The sauce was nice and a little spicy due to the housemade sriracha.

Lazy Ox Burger

fries 500x335 Lazy Ox Canteen   4/9/10

The burger comes with fries, tossed in fresh herbs and salt. Good. Not great, but good.

burger 500x335 Lazy Ox Canteen   4/9/10

The burger here is beautiful. It’s a great lunch portion as it’s somewhat petite. The meat here was cooked a nice medium-rare all around, topped with arugula, red onions, housemade aioli and carmody cheese. While I probably haven’t tried enough burgers in LA to say which is best – this is definitely a good variation. I might prefer the Father’s Office burger, however.

Other dishes I have enjoyed here on other visits include the salt cod brandade croquette, dashi marinated yellowtail, hand-torn egg pasta, and pork frites (exceptional).

Service has just been ‘okay’ on most of my visits.  Even somewhat mediocre when it gets busy, which is unfortunate. I will definitely be back here, as I am a fan, but probably not for lunch anytime soon.

Haven Gastropub – 4/8/10

Haven Gastropub
190 S Glassell St
Orange, CA 92866

I’ve been meaning to try this place for a little while now, since my friend (who is a regular) has been talking about it for some time. Located just off the Chapman University campus, Haven Gastropub draws a lot of students, as well as locals in the area. As a “gastropub,” Haven offered a very extensive wine and beer list, as well as gourmet foods to pair with the alcohol. We decided to share a number of dishes to sample the menu.

Pommes Frites with truffle oil – house-cut french fries, fresh herbs, housemade ketchup
truffle fries 500x335 Haven Gastropub   4/8/10

I had high expectations for these. I had the Wustkuche truffle fries the prior night, and I love those. These are thinner, and I thought they would have just the right ratio of crispiness:fluffy potato texture.  However, I was wrong.  The fries weren’t too crispy at all, and actually rather soggy. How disappointing! The truffle essence was perfectly subtle, and delicious.

Roasted Spaghetti – spaghetti squash, marinara, cheese
spaghetti 500x335 Haven Gastropub   4/8/10

This was kind of a unique dish. Spaghetti squash is peeled to yield spaghetti-like strands, and prepared to mimic a spaghetti pasta. This was quite good, and really was kind of like a pasta with a crunch. A guilt-free pasta. The marinara and cheese went well with the squash and was not overpowering.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken – jumbo drummettes, orange-habanero BBQ sauce
fried chicken 500x335 Haven Gastropub   4/8/10

I’ve been on a fried chicken kick lately, so we had to try these. The “jumbo” drumemttes (they weren’t that jumbo) were cooked well, but rather bland. They needed more seasoning here, especially when it’s only white meat. The orange-habanero BBQ sauce was not spicy at all, but lended some of the missing flavor.

Pulled Pork Sliders – chipotle aioli, warm apple-cabbage slaw
sliders 500x335 Haven Gastropub   4/8/10

These were delicious. The pork was moist and flavorful, and the slaw lended a bit of texture to the sliders.

Arrogant Mussels – black mussels, tomatoes, fresh herbs, Arrogant Bastard broth with a splash of cream
arrogant mussels 500x335 Haven Gastropub   4/8/10

The mussels, named for the Arrogant Bastard ale that they are cooked in, were a disappointment. A little bitter, a little sandy, and rather small, these were just a letdown. In addition, there were at least 5 in the bowl that were still closed. Not good.

Roasted Neck of Lamb – braised kale, gremolata
lamb neck 500x335 Haven Gastropub   4/8/10

I really enjoyed the presentation of this dish, with the greens brightening up the dish. The gremolata was somewhat deconstructed, with whole leaves of parsley and minced garlic on top of the lamb. Unfortunately, the lamb meat was a bit bland and a little dry. This was quite a surprise, since I’m pretty sure this was braised, and I expected a rich, flavorful sauce. The parsley and garlic were a nice accoutrement, and added some fresh, vibrant flavor.

I had mixed feelings with Haven. Some of the dishes were clear successes (sliders and spaghetti) while some others fell flat (lamb and mussels). The beer and wine list are both great, so I could see why this place is popular. I think you just have to know what to order, as it can be fairly hit-or-miss.

Fukada – 3/27/10

Fukada
8683 Irvine Center Dr
Irvine, CA 92618

Fukada is probably one of the more popular Japanese noodle houses (non-ramen) in Orange County.   I had come a couple of years ago and remembered it being pretty good. Being a huge noodle fan, I had to come back.

exterior2 500x335 Fukada   3/27/10

As it was the first stop of a four-restaurant tour of food in OC, we couldn’t explore the full menu, but stuck to some of the specialties. Below, the hot sansai udon (with mountain vegetables). The broth was light and flavorful, and the vegetables had a nice crunch, adding some nice texture. However, I felt the noodles were a little thinner than I’m accustomed to, and were a bit mushy. I would have preferred them to have a little bit of a chew.

udon 500x335 Fukada   3/27/10

One of the sides we tried was the shrimp tempura and asparagus roll. The tempura was a little soggy, a big no-no. The rice was still a little warm, which I liked, but the tempura was its downfall.

shrimp asparagus roll 500x335 Fukada   3/27/10

Next was the eel don. A nice big piece of grilled eel over brown nice. The eel was cooked well in a nice soy-based sauce.

eel 500x335 Fukada   3/27/10

Overall, Fukada was rather underwhelming. The biggest letdown was the udon and the soft noodles. I will probably try this again at some point down the road, as people seem to love it, but I won’t be craving it anytime soon.