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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Syrup Desserts – 3/25/10

Syrup Desserts
611 S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90014

Syrup Desserts is a relatively new dessert shop located in the arts district of downtown LA. After our meal at Wood Spoon, this was a convenient walk for a dessert stop. Known largely for their waffle creations, Syrup also serves a variety of ice creams, crepes, pastries and even grilled cheese.

The waffles are the most well-known item on the menu here. Below see the chocolate banana liege waffle.

Below is the Syrup Signature, strawberries and banana.

The waffle was fairly inconsistent from bite-to-bite. Some bites were crispy, sweet and sugary, some were doughy and bland.  The strawberries were sweet, bananas good, and the ice cream and whipped cream solid. However, the showcased waffle was a little disappointing this time around.

My trip to Syrup Desserts this time was a little underwhelming. On my first trip, I thought the waffle was pretty good, but it didn’t live up to expectations this time around.



Wood Spoon – 3/25/10

Wood Spoon
107 W 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015

I first heard about Wood Spoon on “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” probably my favorite show on TV today. On it, Giada De Laurentiis talked about the best chicken pot pie she’s ever eaten, at a place in downtown LA. I had never heard of the restaurant before, so I was shocked to hear about this place in my own backyard. Recently, the restaurant has gained a lot of buzz on Yelp as well. Being a fan of chicken pot pies, I had to try this one out.

We started out with the Mix Plate – Coxinha (chicken-filled dumpling), Potato Croquette, Portuguese Croquette (potato with salted cod), Pastel Portuguese (dumpling stuffed with shrimp) & Kibe (dumpling of bulgur wheat, mint & ground beef).

These were delicious and a great way to start the evening. The Pastel Portuguese, filled with shrimp and coconut sauce, was my favorite. The Coxinha was rather disappointing, as I found it rather dry.

Next came another dish highly recommended on Yelp: Pork Burger – roasted cabbage, onions on toasted potato bread and yam fries.


Pork Burger. Not something you see every day on any menu. I thought this had potential to be like  lot of turkey burgers – tough, dry, flavorless. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Tender and moist, the burger had a lot of flavor as well. The potato bread was very soft – the whole bite was great. Definitely eye-opening.

Next is what I was anticipating most: Brazilian Chicken Pot Pie – hearts of palm, olives & roasted corn.

The pie came out hot from the oven with a simple side salad to go with it.

Breaking over the pastry crust, it was filled with a creamy gravy, chunks of white and dark meat chicken, corn, hearts of palm, potato and a subtle olive flavor. Comfort food at its finest – it was rich and savory, full of flavor. I love a bite of crispy crust with savory gravy.  The best pot pie I’ve ever eaten? Quite possibly.

Wood Spoon did not disappoint in the least. The Pork Burger may have been the most surprising dish of the night, but the pot pie lived up to my very high expectations. I am very often disappointed with the pot pie I get at restaurants, but this one really fit the bill. I’ll definitely be back.

Sushi Sasabune – 3/15/10

Sushi Sasabune
12400 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Spontaneously, my friend and I decided to get our sushi fix at Sushi Sasabune on the westside. I’d never been here before, and it was a good opportunity to try something new since I had gotten off of work early.

The interior was surprisingly large, with dozens of tables, a long sushi bar, and an open kitchen.

As with most well-regarded sushi restaurants, we decided omakase was the way to go in order to sample a lot of the restaurant’s specialties and freshest fish. Amusingly, we were offered the ‘American’ option or the ‘Japanese’ option. The ‘American’ option is directed towards that exact clientele, with more typical sushi. If you’re not averse to eating anything, the waitress recommended the ‘Japanese’ option. So, we told the restaurant to give it all to us and went for the ‘Japanese’ omakase.

First, housemade pickled ginger and fresh wasabi was presented.

The first course was ono sashimi, marinated in soy. This was very tender, and the soy was not overpowering.

Next up was a sashimi of Japanese razor clam (Tairagai). The flesh was pretty firm, kind of chewy, and a little sandy. Not my favorite dish.

Next began the sushi, and what better way to start than with tuna and fatty tuna, toro. The tuna was good, though not melt-in-your-mouth tender. The toro was a little disappointing as it was very tender but a little mushy. Both had good flavor.

Snapper and halibut came next. Both of these were quite good.

Baked green mussel and oyster.

Salmon and yellowtail were next. The salmon, topped with marinated kombu, was tender and flavorful. The yellowtail was just as good.

Next came what was likely my favorite dish of the night: two kinds of sweet shrimp, the large one from Alaska, and the smaller one from Boston. The larger shrimp had a great bite to it, was a little juicy, and mildly sweet. Very good. The shrimp from Boston was a little bit slimey, and didn’t have the great bite that the larger one did.

Spanish mackerel and regular mackerel were next. The regular mackerel was topped with the marinated kombu, while the Spanish mackerel was topped with a ponzu sauce. I thought the Spanish mackerel was much better here, tender and more flavorful.

Uni and salmon roe – a great pairing.  The uni here was delicious, very fresh and not fishy at all. The roe was also tasty.

Next, we were served jumbo clam and orange clam. Clams aren’t my favorite sushi options as I find them too chewy or dense for my liking. These two were no exception.

Next we were served a fried fish head and marinated fish roe served in its body – definitely not featured on the ‘American’ menu.

The fish head was great, as it was perfectly fried and had a nice shrimp flavor. The shrimp roe is definitely an acquired taste. I don’t think I’ve had it before, but it was marinated in a citrus sauce that was a little overpowering.

Seared monkfish liver and golden snapper were the final nigiri preparations. Both of these were quite good, especially the monkfish liver. It had a fantastic melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Lastly, we had blue crab and toro cut rolls. The crabmeat was sweet and tasty, and the toro was good as well.

Lastly, we finished with an assortment of mochi: green tea, mango, and strawberry. I’m pretty sure these were not made in-house as the strawberry one tasted particularly artificial.

Overall, the meal was a pleasant experience, and a little cheaper than anticipated. I wouldn’t say the best sushi in the city is here, but there is a lot of high-quality fish that is more than suitable for a sushi craving.

Steak – 3/14/2010

To me, there aren’t many things better than a good steak. A couple of months ago, a new butcher shop opened up in the Los Feliz area called McCall’s Meat and Fish Co. Owned by a husband-and-wife team with experience at restaurants such as Sona in LA and Daniel in NYC, it appeared to be a very promising place to get some gourmet meat and fish. I finally went, and was not disappointed. They offer a pretty good selection of meats (dry aged steaks and roasts, quail, kurobuta pork cuts, and anything else they find that’s good) and a vast selection of  fish. I came away with a 21-ounce dry-aged Angus ribeye. The whole roast is shown in the display, and it’s cut and trimmed for you upon order.

As usual for a steak, I kept the seasoning simple, with salt, pepper, garlic powder, a little rosemary, and olive oil.

I got my cast iron pan as hot as possible, and seared the meat.

On both sides, in order to develop a nice crust.

I finished the steak in the oven to an internal temperature of 130 and let it rest. Beautifully browned, the steak really developed a nice crust.

While it rested, I blanched some broccoli and finished it in the cast iron pan in the meat drippings. As the pan was still really hot, I was able to get some good caramelization quickly.

Time to eat! I was happy to see I got a very nice juicy pink with the steak, and a crusty, seared exterior.

The steak was very tender, as I expected. Even better, it had a nice beefy flavor, no doubt enhanced by the dry-aging process, which draws moisture out, and condenses the flavor of the beef.  This process had the effect of a noticeably more-developed flavor to the steak. At $27 per pound (bone-in), it wasn’t cheap – but I do think I got what I paid for. The quality of the meat, including the dry-aged process, really separated this steak apart from the common supermarket variety, and was also better than what many steakhouses serve.

In all, I was very pleased with my buy. Likely the best steak I’ve ever cooked, I can’t wait to get back to McCall’s to try out more of what they have to offer!