Category: Restaurants

Hakata Ramen

In a previous post I wrote about the delicious-ness that is ramen. Today, I return to talk about ramen add-ons.

Hakata Ramen

Beyond the basics of ramen, the soup base, noodles and pork, there are other components that restaurants put in. What the other components are vary from restaurant to restaurant. I’ll elaborate on my favorites, sometimes these add-ons are optional, and sometimes they come with. At Hakata Ramen, they provide the eater with options not always available at other ramen restaurants.
Ramen Lunch "Menu"/Options
However, for lunch there is only one type of soup base (I didn’t mention before the wide array of soup bases. To learn more go to Rameniac’s site.).

I always get a hard boiled egg, which is my favorite type of egg, bold or strong soup base, and some of the extras if available, like mushrooms (mushrooms should be in every meal), and bamboo shoots. While the ramen would be excellent without all of these extras, these additions just add a bit more texture and flavor to the soup. Mr. T loves spicy food, so he usually opts for the spicy soup base, at Hakata Ramen you can order the spicy sauce on the side, so he was able to try the soup as it normally comes to see what the broth tasted like, then proceeded to add a lot of spicy miso to the mix.

Good stuff! This may be Mr. T’s favorite ramen place to date!

Hakata Ramen Shinsengumi
2015 W Redondo Beach Blvd
Gardena, CA 90247
(310) 329-1335
www.shinsengumiusa.com

Mendocino Farms

4724 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey, CA 90292, 310.822.2300
http://mendocinofarms.com/

Mr. T and his co-workers have a great tradition, once a week they go to lunch together and try out a restaurant in the area. Sometimes it’s a new restaurant that someone has heard or read about, sometimes it’s just a random restaurant in the area. The benefit for me, is that Mr. T tries out various restaurants and then takes me to the good ones! Win, Win!

Mr. T talked about Mendocino Farms for a few months and said it was a really good sandwich shop. Normal people would think that sounded like a great idea, but I’m not a big fan of sandwiches. I would rather that my carbs come from rice or pasta and for my foods to be much more flavorful than typical sandwiches. Bread, mayo, mustard, cold deli meat… bleh! If I do decide to eat a sandwich I would prefer that it have a lot of flavor and be hot.

So, the idea of going to a sandwich shop wasn’t really tempting to me. However, since Mr. T was so excited about it, I of course was willing to try it as a good wife.

I was a bit confused at first by their menu and structure. When you enter the restaurant you get into a line where 1 or a few people are waiting to take your order. However, I had to step out of line a few times because I was secretly hoping there were other items than just sandwiches. The lady who was taking our order was very helpful, but I quickly realized I was only going to get a sandwich.

So, I decided to eat the most flavorful looking sandwich, the Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi, and Mr. T ordered the Prosciutto & Roasted Chicken sandwich, a sandwich he hadn’t tried before.

Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi

Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi

I was pleasantly surprised by my sandwich. There were a lot of textures and various spices, the ciabatta was soft and chewy, and the meat was tender and flavorful. I’ve never eaten a real Banh Mi, so I cannot speak to the authenticity of flavor, but I would suggest this sandwich to others. In fact I did! Right after eating at Mendocino Farms we walked a few stores down to Sees Candy, and ordered a little “basket” of chocolate… an enjoyably, simple dessert.

Prosciutto & Chicken Sandwich

Prosciutto & Roasted Chicken Sandwich

Another surprising element was the soda, Mr. T usually orders Diet Coke to try and cut down on sugar, since he drinks so much soda. I hate the taste of fake sugars and usually only sip the Diet Coke if I’m choking necessary. I was desperate for something to drink so I sipped the diet soda he had and it was pretty good! I don’t remember the name of the soda, but if you like/don’t like diet sodas you’ll notice a difference in the taste of this soda.

Would I go again to this restaurant? Maybe. I’m still not very keen on sandwiches, but I did discover that they don’t only serve sandwiches. At the back of the restaurant, by the cash registers are various salads and other “sides” and soups that would make a great meal. I would probably try that next time.

Tar and Roses

602 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA
http://www.tarandroses.com/

Every Friday night Mr. T picks a place to eat for our date night, it gives me something to look forward to each week! Our schedules are busy, especially Mr. T’s so our Friday date nights are the highlight of my week. This week we went to Tar and Roses, a restaurant I’ve been eyeing for a couple months now. Using the Chefs Feed app I discovered that the Chef’s name is Andrew Kirschner.

The vibe of the restaurant is trendy and dark had great mood lighting. We ate in the back room, which was cozy, especially since we shared the room with a large party of about 20 people (an office party I think, wish my office did something like that!).

The hanging lamps in the room were large glass blown lamps with Edison light bulbs (if I remember correctly). The walls were (faux?) brick, which gave the room style and warm. I like brick in buildings, it just makes a building feel old and comfortable.

The service was good, especially considering the one server had about 4 tables, and 1 large party!

When looking at the menu I always look for a few things. 1. Food I’ve never tried before, 2. Something unique to the restaurant, 3. Something popular at the restaurant (I always ask the server what their favorite dishes are and what is popular) and 4. Anything with mushrooms!

So what caught my eye at this restaurant were the crispy pig ears. They satisfied 2 of my criteria, though Mr. T was a bit skeptical, but he’s used to my methods and is willing to try new foods with me.

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The crispy pig ears were not at all what I was expecting. They were in strips like French fries and were not as crispy as I thought. I was secretly hoping for chicharones… My secret, guilty pleasure. The pig ears were very flavorful, and the dipping sauce of aioli and saffron was very disappointing. Since I love spice and flavorful food I asked for a side of rooster sauce and used that instead. It tasted better after that!

Interim Cafe

Mr. T and I recently moved to Santa Monica to help with our daily commute. Our previous community was gorgeous, surrounded by mountains and lots of hiking trails. It was a quiet city, which was my desire after growing up in “The Valley”. “The Valley” has many benefits including lots of diversity in cultures and foods. However, there were also too many people and cars and TRAFFIC!

We moved to an area that is a compromise of sorts. We have a lot of stores within walking distance, which is a big change from our previous community, there’s a bit of diversity, but a lot of good restaurants within walking distance. Tonight I decided to walk to Interim Cafe, a little cafe within an office/apartment-like building.

I initially walked by it, because it didn’t look like a restaurant. But when I doubled back I realized that it was the cafe I was looking for. I was skeptical, but decided to try it anyway. I ordered the “Woodsy’ Mushroom Killer Quesadilla, I will order anything with mushrooms!

The quesadilla came with a side salad made of mixed greens, jicama, strawberries, some type of nuts and seeds, something that tasted like corn nuts, and a very flavorful, light dressing. The salad was very tasty with a lot of different flavors and textures mixed in. The salad had a lot of spice and left my mouth with a slight burn.

The quesadilla was topped with a corn, tomato, avocado salsa with green chile, cilantro and Cholula. The quesadilla was made from a wheat tortilla with, possibly, mozzarella cheese, sautéed, and possibly pickled, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes. The menu said the quesadilla was made on a pizza stone, which attributed to the crispy edges of the tortilla.

I was impressed with the food and the flavor of the meal. I’m not sure if the men who made the food and took my order own the cafe, but they were nice. I heard the customer in front of me say that their soups are amazing. Next time I’ll have to try them!

Starry Kitchen

Starry Kitchen

I love looking for restaurants, especially ones that are close to me. It’s fun to discover good places to eat, and to have a map of places I want to try someday. When most normal people plan trips they look for museums and historical locations to view, and I do look for those things.. for Mr. T. who loves history and can actually remember all the things we see and read. However, I am more interested in the food and discovering more about the local culture through the restaurants and markets.

When I had a conference in Downtown L.A. I decided to look at my map and find someplace to eat. I had to find a place within walking distance, and so came across Starry Kitchen. It is a fun restaurant with interesting food, atmosphere, and people. The menu is listed on the board, and you order your food first, then find a table. It’s in a business district and there were many people in line, so I felt a bit anxious to quickly decide what I wanted to eat. The menu is interesting with items like garlic noodles and crispy tofu balls.

While the food wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, the atmostphere was fun.

Sushi Nishi

Recently a new sushi restaurant opened up in the neighborhood. I’ve been looking forward to a new restaurant opening for a few weeks since I saw the “coming soon” sign. There are some good sushi restaurants in the area, Shibuya and Hanami, but there can never be too many good sushi places!

 

 

Mr. T and I went out to Sushi Nishi one night hoping that the restaurant would already be open. We were greeted very kindly and energetically by the staff.

 

 

Library Ale House

Library Ale House

I’ve only been to the library ale house a few times, but I hear about it often from friends. When I talk about restaurants in Santa Monica, on main street, people always ask if I’ve been to the Library Ale House. We stopped there before going to the airport, and enjoyed some good food. However, more than the food, I love the back patio, it’s just peaceful.

Barrafina

www.barrafina.co.uk/
54 Frith Street London, Greater London W1D 4SL, United Kingdom
020 7813 8016

Barrafina

Ramen Jinya

Ramen has a cult following enjoyed by those in the know. Many people around me think of ramen merely as the dry, plastic packaged noodles that are rehydrated by hot water and flavored with salty dry seasonings in silver foil. When I ask people to go to ramen, they politely say ‘ok’, while inwardly wondering if I’m crazy. Why would you go to out eat ramen at a restaurant? Then there’s a minimum 30 min wait to get into the restaurant and they think, is this really worth it? Can’t we just go get a hamburger instead?

The answer is always, “it will be worth the wait”. Especially on a cold night and the long wait simply builds up your appetite for the large bowl of goodness we’re about to consume.

Good ramen is soothing, soul warming, and multi-layered. I’m constantly on the lookout for new ramen places and read food blogs like Rameniac to read about these hidden gems. My list of ramen restaurants to try is always longer than the ones I’ve been to simply because the good ones seem to be more than an hour away. So, unfortunately, or trips to the highest rated ramen in town are far between. Which is probably for the best, since eating too much ramen would mean gaining a lot of weight.

Things I look for in good ramen are the soup base; is it flavorful? I prefer a thick pork broth with intense flavor, that’s not too greasy. There’s a difference between something with oil (like the Tankotsu Black Ramen from Ramen Jinya, which adds great flavor) and something that’s greasy. I don’t want my mouth to have an oily film after I’ve tasted the broth.

Ramen Jinya

Noodles are another factor, my palate is not as refined in this arena, but I want the noodles to be tender with a little bite, and not be gummy, like overcooked spaghetti. I think it’s difficult to imagine the differences in noodles until you’ve had a lot of ramen; it really can make a difference in the taste of the soup. The noodles make up a large part of the ramen; unlike other noodle based dishes you may think of where there is some sauce smothering the noodle and covering the noodle flavor. Ramen noodles are eaten almost alone, with a slight hint of the soup base it lies in. When you eat spaghetti or other italian pasta dishes the noodles are generally covered in the sauce, so you only get the texture of the noodle, but taste the marinara. In chicken noodle soup, the noodles are typically small so when you take a bite you get broth, carrots, celery, onion, chicken and noodle with every bite. In ramen, you have a spoon to take a taste of the soup base, then you use your chop sticks to get a taste of the pork, then you take your chopsticks to get a taste of your noodles. Everything you eat is in separate bites, allowing you to taste and enjoy each component separately. This brings up the pork. I’ve had a wide range of pork, many times it’s not very good. In ramen there is typically 1-2 thinly sliced round cuts of pork. What you get here also makes a world of difference. Some pork is a flavorless blob, with no texture and bits of fat, when I get pork like this I set it aside. However, good pork is tender, smoky, and flavorful.

Be on the look out for good ramen; and when someone asks you to go out to ramen, say Yes! You may be in the for a great and filling treat! If you want to find some ramen suggestions check out my “restaurants to try” page or go to Rameniac, he does a fantastic job of categorizing and rating the various components of ramen.

 

Coffee Experiences

Recently we’ve started a quest to find good coffee in whatever city we visit. When we ask people for coffee recommendations people always seem to point us to Starbucks, they must be have thought we said convenient coffee, not good coffee.

About a year ago my husband and I bought a Groupon to learn how to roast coffee at Javatinis. That was our first adventure into really good coffee, and the art of making good coffee. Thus began our search and appreciation of coffee.

glazers_coffee

glazers_coffee

Our next great coffee find was in Oahu. We were looking for a coffee to go with our yummy Malasadas, our iPhone pointed us to Glazer’s Coffee. What a great find! We went there everyday for 4 days because it was so incredible, the lattes were smooth, and foam was creamy and the coffee art was beautiful.

Now in San Francisco and I found another great coffee place just a few blocks away, Blue Bottle Coffee. There was a line out the door and worth the wait. The decor was cute and simple, and the coffee was great.

It’s always fun to search for coffee and come across companies who take the time to learn how to make coffee correctly.