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2011 already???

I have been in and out of so many diets that I may have slowed down quite a bit on my visits and blogs, but never to fade away into non-existence.  This is for the year that was…

– Thank you Castle Korean BBQ…you may not be the best but I have been your staple customer for so long that it is your squid and your brisket have been our saving grace countless times.  I have been hungry, and you have been more than willing to feed to poor and needy (thank you inexpensive Korean BBQ).

– Thank you Senor Fish…because when we have no where else to go, you are but a block away of goodness on a plate.  Loving all the more that we do not have to walk with alcohol in hand, your sangrias make you such a popular cheerleader.

– Thank you Yogurt Haven…I have been hooked with your delightful Taro enticing me to the core that even through the coldest of winter I will never tire of you.

– Thank you Starbuck’s on York…for our many nights of hanging out and playing our card games and providing us with such great service every single time.

– Thank you to the many Happy Hour places offering solace after 10pm: Burbank Bar and Grill, Octopus Glendale, Coffee Table Lounge, Red Lion Tavern, Wokcano Pasadena, and the many Korean cafes within reach.

– Thank you Boiling Shrimp…you may not the same as Boiling Crab, but you have never let us wait more than 5minutes, whether for our seats or our food.  It is a plus that you are sans liquor license and have a store next door. Picture this, ready seats and cheap drinks that we can bring in to your establishment.

I am still thankful for my 2009 findings, add to them are the 2010 gems and hole(s)-in-the-wall that will surely be revisited and never forgotten.  I may find more in 2011, but it is not to say that you will be unnoticed and untouched.  Let’s do this 2011.  Pardon the diets I may have, after all…a foodie will live on food alone.

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Filed under BBQ, Crab, Dessert, Drinks, Happy Hour, Korean Food, Related Article, Seafood, Squid

Viva Las Vegas Day One- Las Vegas Hilton Buffet

Coming to Vegas,  food is always last on the priority list. But not for me. I know the calories will pile up and exercise will be a necessity after but you cannot blame a foodie for trying to enjoy the pleasures in life wherever I may be.

But first we couldn’t leave LA without a stop at Auntie Em’s Kitchen in Eagle Rock for their delicious cupcakes. Not that we weren’t full yet from the brunch I made. But this is Auntie Em’s people! The red velvet is and will always be delicious. The coconut was a little too sweet for my taste, but the shavings on top were good added sprinkles. The carrot and chocolate I had no more room for, but according to reliable sources they were both delicious. But the star of the show was the peanut butter and jelly, a new flavor. The peanut butter must have been incorporated in the batter as the taste is very assertive in a very good way.

Of course when you go to Vegas you think of the buffets. A linear presentation of gluttony at its peak. So it is but natural for us to go to the first buffet we saw after the many hours of traveling the long and winding road. We happened to have complimentary tickets to the Las Vegas Hilton buffet (also where we stayed) so we just dropped off our luggage and skipped merrily down to the buffet line.

I started with soup. I needed something hot going down my throat. The clam chowder was runny, I missed the thick soup and the generous add-ons. I had no clams and barely some potatoes, but it was not lacking of celery which I do not know if an upside or downside.


Any measure of a good buffet is a test of across the board dishes popular at any location. Meat is always a good starting point. So I went and picked my weapons of choice. The ribs were a little dry. The turkey sausage was actually not as bad as I expected, the casing had a good snap but I doubt that this was made from scratch. The bbq chicken was fine, it wasn’t too sweet nor bland. But nothing exciting to brag about. The New York steak was cooked to medium well, a little too much for my liking but very well-seasoned. The dumplings/potstickers were very oily. But star of the plate was my grilled lamb. Seasoned simply with salt and pepper, and cooked to perfection. It was very tender and needed not much effort to devour inside my mouth.

The savory showed little promise of satisfaction. So I got off my seat and moved towards the dessert section. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. The cherry crepe was too sour. I barely made it to my second bite. I went ahead and tried some more. The wafer roll was hard to bite, if you say wafer hard is the last thing to associate it with. The frosted cookie was killing my palate with sweetness. But the bread pudding was my favorite so far. It was so good that I had to get a separate plate just for my much needed happy place.

Now this is how I make my bread pudding. Top it with chocolate ice cream, whipped cream, a little bit of nuts, and drizzle with hot chocolate fudge. And it was finished to the last morsel without me even batting an eyelash. Now this was a good ending.

Maybe it was a little too much to expect in a buffet. But there is more to come and this food lover will have more chances to love Vegas once again. I’ve been to their finest restaurants with award-winning chefs at the helm of the kitchen, now its about time to really go back and explore Vegas once more. Maybe dimsum tomorrow (or is it today already)? Sounds like a plan, we shall see.

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Filed under BBQ, Beef, Buffet, Clams, Cupcakes, Dessert, Lamb, Related Article, Soup

Crabby and Crappy Service at Captain Crab

NO, NO, NO. Never have any two words in the dictionary become a source of annoyance, repugnance, and loathing more than the word NO. This is true for any very hungry, willing, and able paying customer. Well, maybe these words may be a little strong, but you be the judge and let me know after you read the last sentence.

When given the opportunity to beat the line at The Boiling Crab for dinner after work, then with much gusto, I go for it. After all anything that comes close or beats the flavor plus being able to lick your fingers and drink your brew is a plus for any Cajun spice fanatic. This is comfort food indeed, just imagine yourself with your bag full of delicious spicy seafood, ready for peeling and biting. So if asked once to try a shorter wait at a newer location called Captain Crab, then Captain Crab it is.


The inside looks like you never left loyalty for Boiling Crab. And so the premise of an alternate or better place is somewhat converted to a promise. Parking is as tight and limited and seats are almost the same quantity. There is no waiting area, if you come during a busier time then leave the 4in heels at home and wear your flats. Even less than an hour wait does take a toll when waiting standing up.

We found out that every last Wednesday of the month, crabs are 50% off. Bonus! Score! Yeehaw! The drinks came and the ordering began. Minimum order of two pounds for any item-not a problem. For seven hungry people, two pounds barely skim the surface so to speak. Four pounds of Captain’s Choice shrimp, four pounds of crawfish, and seven pieces of crab.

Here comes trouble. No. There is a three-piece limit on crabs. What do you mean three? For seven people? Does it even make sense? Well, maybe we can change it to at least 5pcs for 7 people, some were willing to share. No. The limit is three only. It sounded so ridiculous to the table that  voices were raised and rang one on top of the other. The manager stopped by to better assist our hungry bunch.

No. This time the limit went down to two per table. Now, that sounded more ridiculous. Two measly pieces; no matter how heavy these crabs are, these will not satisfy seven hungry people. And so half of us offered to move to another table so we can get at least two each. No. Apparently “I already know that you’re all together so you can’t. We won’t give you another table”. But to feed two pieces for seven? Well “we only have 50pieces of crab so we have to limit so we can serve the next customers?” But having such bad service, what gives you the assurance that you will have next customers? Besides, we are also paying  and already sitting customers, and we were here first. What if the next onslaught of people do not order 50 crabs? Then where will the rest of the unsold crustaceans go but stay in the bucket untouched. There is no disclaimer written anywhere to say that there is a limit of two crabs, even on their 50% off Wednesdays piece of paper. Nor did they put a “while supplies last” note to remind us that they may be running out. We would understand if they just said we ran out of crabs. We would graciously accept the consequences of our cravings and move on to the next target. Frustration was apparent but we were already hours and hype invested in this endeavor. And so let us move on.

In all fairness they gave us three, and we halved them to feed 6, one agreed to sacrifice and concentrated on the crawfish. Seeing as the crabs were not enough, I dared order one more pound of shrimp. No. there is a two pound limit on every order. Looking around, no one wanted to share another pound with me and so that too was disappointing. Yes, the two pound limit was on the menu but after all that selfish teasing, the least they could’ve done was give me my one little pound so I can bring my raised eyebrows down.

The food was remarkably mediocre. Not as spicy with only a slight hint of garlic. The shrimp was cooked well, a little over-cooked but not to the point that it’s inedible. The half of the crab was left barely touched. It was the bane of our dinner, it carried such a powerful stigma that first taste became my last. The crawfish were a little undercooked. Some were a little sashimi on some parts while some were perfectly cooked. Although sucking the head was a plus to most, that too became such a tedious task to the group. May be because we started this dinner with such negativity that we were eating “just because” and not out of wanting with passion. There was not much to say about the food, all eagerness left the door as soon as we heard the word NO.

No. When restaurants from the top tier to the bottom are fighting for the best customer service to gain and retain a following, some just do not believe in it. Because when they understandably value their future customers, they have overlooked those that have been standing and waiting for almost an hour, or those that are already seated on their tables craving for more than their food, but also for some good old customer service. Sadly, the wait for Cajun spiced shrimp and crab shall begin again. We were not able to find a better replacement for our staple Boiling Crab, instead we found a place never to be seen again. So to you Captain Crab, we say NO.

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Filed under Cajun Food, Crab, Crawfish, Mixed Seafood, Related Article, Shrimp

The Orochon Challenge: 3 Men VS 1 Food

On this corner, with an aggressive doubles strategy and a gazelle-like movement on court-Juan “Jolly Green” Flores.


On another seat, with a tested doubles prowess and cheetah -like court speed-Deo “The Coach” Sy .


And on the other side, with a multi-faceted serve and an unconventional forehand power-Joseph “Bebe” Villafuerte.


The challenge: finish the SPECIAL #2 in 30minutes  (the spiciest Ramen in LA and featured in Man vs Food) at Orochon Ramen and get your face and name on their wall of fame.


It seemed like a daunting task for three of our tennis fanatics, but there was no turning back. Reputation was at stake and egos were not about to get hurt easily. YES is a YES, and no chickens were coming out of their coops tonight. The air was thick with testosterone as we took our seats and waited for these fire bowls to come out of the kitchen. The challengers were pumped up; chopsticks on one hand and milk on the other. And it was evident that they were all willing to slurp to win.

The bowls came out full to the brim with a deadly red broth mixed with fiery jalapenos, serranos, and a secret recipe of powdered spices. A side bet was made. Alliances were formed. The crowd was ready to spectate. Strategies began. Ready, set, go!

And into the halfway point we were made aware that these boys were here to battle. The wear and tear started to show, but none owned up to it. The sweats and tears may have come out but losers, we saw, they were not.

Juan-was taking it slowly but surely.

Deo-paced himself beautifully.


Joe-speed was his strategy and began the attack on his chilies.

Almost 30min was up and we were sure of a winner. He was not a quitter, devouring the ramen without even a sliver of doubt and drinking the broth as if it were only water. The rest have stopped, as if to say, “we no longer stand a chance”. The diners started staring, as if in amazement of the surefire achievement. The waitstaff readied to press that button on their camera to capture this expected victory.

Then the body suddenly gave up and fought back with the natural means of extracting the violence inside a very disturbed stomach. The bags came out (and the rest will be left to imagination). With only 2mins left and 2 spoonfuls inside the bowl, we declared a winner between the three, but sadly-no winner for Orochon this very spicy Saturday night.


With maybe a picture of the trials and not of the wins. Surely, this will be enough to be posted on my blog, for now. This is dedicated to those that have tried and failed, for the next picture taken will then be up at that wall, beaming, proud and steady. Just like a passing forehand, an inside-out backhand, or an overhead smash. Joe will have his chance another time to finally finish, as they say his third time might be the charm.

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Filed under Challenge, Japanese Food, Ramen, Related Article, Soup

Rob Eshman’s Bashing of the LA Food Scene

Rob Eshman, “Foodaism” food blogger from the Jewish Journal, says “It is not a great food city. It is an almost-very good one.” This remark in his recent article is answer to Saveur’s #127th  LA issue featuring the best of LA. Although the famous magazine showcased the most interesting, popular, and hungered for cuisines of LA, it seemed that to convince Eshman would be a feat impossible to achieve. Let us deviate from the usual food reviews and delve deeper into this interesting premise.

First let’s see what Saveur prides as LA at its best. A few of these places are: Pizzeria Mozza (a collaboration between Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joseph Bastianich) that Eshman describes as an “idea of the ideal”, Koreatown as described by LA Weekly, Gourmet Magazine, and Pulitzer winner Jonathan Gold, Thai town in the eyes of Saveur editor James Oseland, Wolfgang Puck as the “King of LA”, Little Saigon and its exotic offerings, San Gabriel Valley and its many unknown locations for amazing Asian food (happy to say my personal favorite, Savoy was featured, but Din Tai Fung was unnoticed), deli giants Langer’s, Nate ‘n Al’s, Canter’s, and many more places most of us die hard foodies cannot live without.

But even when most of us know how these places and many more satisfy our most discerning palates, the critic in everyone will always have something to say-good or bad. That is the very reason why Eshman’s article tickled the very critic inside me. Is it really true? Are we jaded by the glitz and glamour that we are blind to the many deficiencies of the LA food scene? Are we so into the fads and hypes that we have forgotten the essence of food? Here are Eshman’s 10 reasons why Saveur is wrong about LA, and my 2-cents with it.

1. “Restaurants close too early”. Oh My! What time do people really eat then? There are always places anywhere in LA that will serve you good food with a smile 24hours a day/7 days a week if you suddenly wake up at 4am craving for anything from the usual grease to a salad.

2. “Much of LA is a food desert”. To a point, yes. But only because some of the better places are not necessarily within the reach of everyone. Think-my preference may not be within my geographical location.

3. “Angelenos eat to live. They don’t live to eat”. But isn’t it true for everything else in life? We work to live within our means, not live to work. We keep healthy to live longer, not live longer so we can eat healthy. Besides it’s better to curb our eating habits, what with the recession and all.

4. “Supermarkets and cars ganged up to strangle LA’s food culture”. Driving doesn’t seem that bad when we need to get what we really want, believe me, people will go anywhere for anything they desire. Besides that I agree, Trader Joe’s is a gift to LA.

5. “The Coffee culture is below average”. Depends where you get your coffee, because mine is as strong as it gets, and the culture is as burgeoning and even better than any city I know, and NO, I do not mean Starbucks. It’s more like Insomnia, the Sunset row, etc.

6. “Driving makes for a mediocre bar scene”. I agree about our public transportation, but do not agree with the mediocre bar scene. And I am an expert on this “bar scene”. Take a cab, Yellowcab- (800)200-0063.

7. “There are too few outdoor dining options”.  I agree.

8. “We have the best beaches and the best weather, and some of the worst beachside dining in the world”. Except for Santa Monica Pier and it’s gastro hubs, I agree.

9. “No one comes to LA for the food”. But who does anyway? If you want to go anywhere else beyond your square footage, do you not come for the attraction, and the food comes secondary?

10. “The fresh, local food scene has not permeated beyond the precious”. I agree to a point, the market has not been proven to be supportive of this cause, therefore not many entrepreneurs pursue this route.

LA is such a colossal mecca of gastronomy that it is impossible to know and feature all of its best, and that makes it also easy to feature its mediocre and its worst. I may sound a little biased because I am in love with my LA, but it is but a fact. To have so much places and so little time to scour and devour everything in LA, one is sure to miss the best dishes while assuming what is on the plate is already the ripest of the crop. I am not one to battle against Eshman as his tongue is different from mine, his experience may be more extensive than mine, and his palate may have tasted more of LA than mine. But I say before we judge, let us completely and with abandon explore LA as far and wide as possible. Because, as it is true for any city, the best may sometimes be stuck in the hole in the wall, obscure, unassuming locations. LA will need more improvement as it is not perfect, and I will never claim it to be. But I know it is a great, diverse, and delicious melting pot that can satisfy any hunger, even the loudest, and harshest of critics.

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Pampa’s Grill, Farmer’s Market

(I had to put this in my blog. One of my favorite examiner articles so far-maybe because I love me Pampa’s.)

Nothing is more enticing than the smell of grilled meat. It is the ambrosia that turns heads, tilts noses up, and puts people in a complete stand still. Experience the aroma that spells meat at Pampa’s Grill at the Farmer’s Market and leave your taste buds completely tickled fancy.

Beware of the line, it will be your first obstacle. Know your hours, dinner is the worst so come prepared. Bring your most talkative friend or fully charged phones with your Facebook app in place.


What to pick? The dilemma that is choices is the next hurdle to overcome. As you take your to-go “plate” (as it is likely to not finish, better avoid the hassle and be ready to take it home) and move along, the onslaught of picks might overwhelm you as this is paid by poundage ($8.95/lb). You wouldn’t want to go heavy on the sides as the meat weighs much more but you also wouldn’t want to miss out on the entrancing colors and tastes that lay before you. The garlic rice is a must carb pairing for the salty proteins, the collard greens are garlicky, the chicken stroganoff is unremarkable but a popular choice, the eggplant salad is a refreshing side to the savory, and the Pao de Queijo (cheese bread) is a personal favorite and is always stocked to the top of the plate.

But these are only reminiscence compared to what is the ultimate comfort food here, meat-Brazilian style. Spinning all day on a rotisserie grill, their choices rival the best tailgates and backyards anywhere. And so here comes the next predicament, the meat. You may be forced to try them all, but what with the weight limiting you then pick the ones you think you’ll enjoy the most and move on. Out of the many choices of protein the Picanha (sirloin cap) is the most popular, the Carneiro (lamb leg) is highly recommended as it is both flavorful and tender, the garlic chicken and beef are personal favorites and both salty, garlicky addicting, and the Brazilian sausage is slightly spicy, well-seasoned,and a must-try.

As you hit the end, pick either their Goya coconut water or a Guarana drink to complete the experience. But coming here comes with another warning. You may think that you haven’t put enough on your plate to compare to a sit-down restaurant. This can get pricey, even though it is super fast food. And no, it’s not the plate or the container.


With the many halts Pampa’s brings to the dining table, it is hard to give them a perfect score. The crowd that forms at the blink of an eye, the wait made by fellow confused diners, the price that better suits a restaurant, and the impasse at the line of wondrous food make one wonder if it’s worth it to try. But the many upsides make it then all the more difficult to decide to go or not. Taste over lines? Meat over prices? Comfort over choices? If the craving hits then live a little. Go meat and meatlovers unite.

Pampa’s Grill is at the Farmer’s Market at 6333 W 3rd St LA, T: (323)931-1928. They accept major credit cards.

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Filed under BBQ, Beef, Brazilian Food, Bread, Chicken, Drinks, Lamb, Pork, Related Article, Sausages

Post-Valentine’s Day

I thought I should just share.

February 13- We had a couple’s massage at Barai and it was really, really good. This is not your usual “Burke-Williams” experience. They swing you around, break your bone, bend your body, pop your joints to your limit. Dinner was at AFloat Sushi in Pasadena. It was good. I mean, the sushi was unspectacular but for the price and the fun of it-it was actually worth it. I had a very nice time.

February 14- We had lunch at my favorite hole-CORAL REEF. We may not have had the best lunch conversation but the food was amazing (and cheap) as usual. His fish with black bean sauce and my pork chops were finger licking good as always. Yummy, indeed.

Reviews to follow. I need to get better pictures.

It just goes to show, you really don’t have to spend a lot to make the most out of the day. Sometimes, simple and cheap is as good (or even better) as elaborate and expensive.

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