Dean Sin World – 4/10/10

Dean Sin World
306 N Garfield Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754

Dean Sin World is a sort of hole-in-the-wall Chinese spot in a Monterey Park strip mall specializing mainly in baked goods and dumplings. I wouldn’t say it’s yet in the collective conscience, but is well-known among food bloggers and Yelp.

The interior is spartan, as you can see below. Hey, an A rating!

The menu has a pretty wide array of baked goods, noodles and dumplings. You can also buy many of their dumplings frozen by the bag of 50.

After our order, we were served complimentary peanuts with seaweed. I think this simple dish is actually pretty good, and would make good snacking.

Another complimentary dish that came out was this fried tofu and bamboo shoots. I didn’t really care for this dish.

The first dish of our dishes that came out was this spicy wonton. This is the same wonton that is served in their ge-chai wonton soup, but served with a chili oil instead. I wouldn’t call this spicy, but the chili oil provided some nice flavor.

The next has to be one of their most popular items, the xiao long bao. These juicy pork dumplings are quite delicious, and quite a bargain at 10 for $5.

Another popular dish is their beef noodle soup. It’s a heaping bowl of egg-y noodles in a very rich beefy broth. A generous portion of tender braised beef shank is added atop.

The bowl is filled pretty much to the brim with a lot of noodles. I tend to prefer the noodles a bit more al dente here, but they’re good nonetheless, and held up well even when sitting in the soup for a while. I tend to prefer brisket in my beef noodle soup, as the meat is easier to separate from the tendon (with shank, the tendon is interspersed throughout the meat).

Next was the pancake with beef.

This is a crispy pancake/crepe wrapped around layers of beef and greens. Pretty good.

This was my third trip here, and it was as satisfying as the last couple. There’s some really great food here, comforting to the soul. The owners are very warm and hospitable, and the prices can’t be beat. I’m surprised this restaurant has not really caught on yet, but I figure it’s only a matter of time until this small restaurant has lines out the door.

Lazy Ox Canteen – 4/9/10

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.