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Friday, December 5, 2014

Post Thanksgiving in Austin - Gourdough's Public House

Over Thanksgiving break, we went down to Austin for one night to visit my fiance's family. We were doing a second Thanksgiving Friday night and had Saturday to go out and about. I already knew what places I wanted to check out. Time is limited, I had to prioritize! :P

I was excited about both eateries we were going to but I think I was slightly more excited about this one than the next. Just slightly...

I first experience Gourdough's AMAZING donut trailer back in 2009, I think? The BEST donut place ever!! Made to order, gigantic, and all sorts of excess toppings we Texans love. hehe. So when I heard they had opened a restaurant, I was stoked!! I mean... they have donut burgers. DONUT BURGERS! How freaking epic does that sound?!?

Gourdough's Public House
2700 S Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 912-9070
Price: $$

We hit it up for brunch on Saturday. They don't take reservations so we showed up fairly early... around 11:30AM. The place was only about 20% full at that point. We decided to sit outside because the weather was awesome! The decor is very casual, wood tables, chairs, picnic benches and tables outside. They also have one of their trailers in the outside area. There's also a bunch of TVs around us, great for a game day!

I was there with my fiance, his two sisters, and his little sister's husband. They started off with some brunchy drinks.

Craft Bloody Mary $5~ My fiance's bro in law asked them to put a piece of bacon in this. Why not, I say. haha. I've never liked bloody mary's but this was actually quite good! He really enjoyed it.

Michelada $5~ One of his sisters really like this drink. My fiance tried it and decided to get one too. hehe. I love how they put the beer in a mini brown paper bag.

So... are you ready for some SERIOUS food p0rn?? haha

Country Clucker (crispy fried chicken breast, potato pancake, warm cream corn, candied jalapenos; served on a piping hot donut) $11~ 
This was mine! ALL MINE! MUAHAHAHA! :P J/k I shared... I was debating on a few but the creamed corn and jalapenos won me over. I liked everything in this dish. All the food looked so amazing when they brought it out. This was like a small mountain of deliciousness. A perfectly fried (giant) donut, slightly crispy on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside. Topped with a potato pancake, perfectly fried chicken, and SO MUCH CORN! It was so good!!! I loved the candied jalapenos, it added just a hint of heat to the dish. It was as epic as the picture looks. I sooo wanted to finish it all but I was sampling other stuff too so I took about 1/3rd of it to go.

Dirty Plucker (piping hot donut topped with hand battered fried chicken, honey butter and maple icing) $9~ 
My fiance got this. He and his sister were going to go halfsies on each of their dishes. This is their play on chicken and waffles. And this was my favorite out of everything I tried that day... although it was hard to pick a favorite. Again, perfectly fried donut, with a maple icing. Topped with fried chicken, and more maple icing. And honey butter to top everything off if you want it even sweeter. That honey butter was the bomb. I drizzled it over every bite, and some on my Country Clucker too! The general consensus was that it was too much sweet to finish the entire plate, but since we all shared, it was perfect. I would've eaten the whole thing though. The perfect sweet and savory combo.

His sister got the Count Gourdough Cristo (oven roasted turkey, ham, swiss cheese, roasted red pepper, basil, red onion, wrapped in donut dough and deep fried; served with avocado lime sauce; served with fried Yukon chips) $10~ 
So she gave half to him. They both loved this. I was expecting it to be super heavy like a normal Monte Cristo sandwich but it really wasn't. The avocado lime sauce paired with it superbly. And their Yukon chips were great. They both wanted more of it.

Public House Salad (cilantro buttermilk dressing, romaine lettuce, feta, tomato, cucumber, six-minute egg; served with a piping hot garlic donut) $7~ 
His little sister got this since she wanted to try a little of everyone's as well. They were kinda giving her a hard time for getting a salad here. haha. But I'm actually glad she got it cuz I was able to get some green veggies to go with my Country Clucker. The salad was huge! And what was even more O.O was how huge the garlic donut was. And that garlic donut could easily be one of everyone's favorite elements that day. It was just perfection. It was plain (unglazed). Fried perfectly, not greasy AT ALL, and SOOOOO FLUFFY! They really have their donut dough down to a science.

And finally, his bro in law got the El Camino Burger (angus beef, chipotle cheese blend, chipotle mayonnaise, pickled jalapenos, bacon, cilantro, sliced tomato, fried onions; served with fried Yukon chips) $11~ 

At least one of us had to get the donut burger right?? Freaking amazing. So much flavor, I loved the chipotle mayo. It tastes just as good as it looks.

Fried Brussels Sprouts $4~ I also saw this on the menu so I had to order it. Pretty dang good. :)

This meal was amazing. It exceeded my already high expectations. I loved everything I tried and so did everyone else. Just looking at these pictures again makes me want to pick up and drive to Austin right now. It's a good thing I don't live close though...I'd be there ALL THE TIME! If gluttony is your middle name, then this is the place for you. Although, surprisingly, I didn't feel like any of the dishes were super greasy or heavy. Nothing oozed with grease even though everything is fried. Impressive. I will definitely make this a required stop any time I'm in Austin.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Okawa Japanese Cuisine

We recently found out about a new Japanese restaurant that opened up in Rockwall. There's not too many interesting places to eat in Rockwall (and we've been to all the good spots) so it was nice to have something new! Looking at the online reviews, the place seems like it has a lot of potential! Great reviews, nice looking food pics, so we decided to go check it out.

Okawa Japanese Cuisine
2927 Ridge Rd Ste 105
Rockwall, TX 75032
(972) 722-2888
Price: $

It's located in the same shopping center in Kroger (just around the corner from it). There was only 1 other table when we got there, it was pretty slow on a Sunday night. It's a small place, not much on the decor side. The front of house was an Asian lady. There didn't seem to be that many people working there. My guess is 1 person in the front and 2 in the kitchen? She was pretty friendly but I could tell immediately that her English was somewhat limited.

We ordered some hot teas since it was freezing that week. And she took our order.

Crunchy Beancurd (deep fried tofu with special sauce) $6.95~ 
I ordered this purely based on the picture from yelp. It looked pretty awesome and different from other fried tofu at Japanese places I've seen. However, it was exactly like all the other places -___- haha. Basically Agedashi tofu, the name usually used on Japanese menus. It was piping hot. The tofu was soft on the inside and lightly fried on the outside. I thought it was a little light on the flavor but I was ok with that. So... it was good, but pretty standard.

Okawa Salad (mixed greens with house dressing) $7.95~ 
I also wanted to try this because of the picture cuz it had sprouts in it! I love sprouts. We were wondering why this salad is more expensive than the others. It is topped with white wood ear mushrooms. I'm guess that's the reason. The ginger dressing is light. The salad is pretty good, but I wish it was bigger in portion.

Unagi Don (grilled eel with eel sauce over rice) $9.95~ 
It's rare to find Unagi Don for under $10 so we each ordered one. However, the waitress only put in order for 1 even after my fiance double checked with her that we ordered 2. I think it was language barrier there. So we waited around for them to bring the 2nd one and it never came. Finally I asked her and she thought we only ordered 1 the entire time. However, while eating, I overheard her talking to the kitchen. She was Chinese, so I started speaking Chinese to her and she seemed like she relaxed a little. She quickly put in another order and I got my own unagi. :) It's a good portion. The dish came with ginger and some pickled vegetables. The unagi had good flavor, but the skin on the bottom was quite tough. And there were some bones so watch out. I'd say it was ok. Not sure if I would order it again. But I took half of it to-go for my lunch the next day! We also reserved some of the sprouts from the salad and mixed in with our rice.

Chicken Yakisoba (stir fried noodle) $6.50~ 
We also ordered this so we'd both have leftovers for lunch the next day. I thought this was tasty. I liked all the veggies in there. I think because we also ordered this, she thought we only got 1 Unagi.

I had some small talk with the lady. She seems really nice. They'd only been open for about 2 months at that point... so maybe almost 3 months now. The food is decent. For the price point we'll probably go back. There's some other stuff on the menu I'd like to try still. I've heard that's not the greatest location, so I hope their business picks up!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gang Jung Chicken Cafe

Last Friday I had a hair appointment in the H-Mart area in Carrollton. I rarely venture over there anymore so I got some of my friends to meet up for dinner in that area. There are so many new places to try!

I wanted to go check out Gang Jung Chicken Cafe. They specialized in Korean fried chicken, which I love!! I never got to try BonChon in Dallas, although I was told it wasn't good anyways. Now, I've had BonChon in Korea and it was sooooo good.

Gang Jung Chicken Cafe
2680 Old Denton Rd # 156
Carrollton, Texas 75007
(972) 306-3100
Price: $-$$

This place is pretty new. Opened in the fall of 2013. It's located in the same corner as Spa Castle. It's a cute place. Not very big. Wooden tables and benches, a very typical Korean look. You order at the counter and pick up the order at the counter.

5 of us got there around the same time so we went up to order. The guys behind the counter were very nice and tried to explain the menu to us. There were 2 sides to the menu: Gang Jung and Fried Chicken. From what I could understand, Gang Jung is still fried but the sauce on the chicken is more sweet and comes with rice cakes. Spicy Gang Jung is spicier than Crazy Spicy Chicken which confused us. Because if you call something craaazy spicy, I expect it to be hella spicy. haha. I found the menu a bit confusing but the guys were patient and gave us recommendations (despite a little lacking in English). They also let us taste the different spicy sauces. They said we should get 4 mediums to share between the 5 of us. And that comes with 4 sides.

Here are the sizes and prices:
Small (Chicken breast or wings; with 1 side) $8.99~
Medium (Chicken breast or wings; with 1 side) $13.99~
Large (Chicken breast or wings or whole chicken; with 1 side) $17.99~

So we took their recommendation and got a mix of spicy and non-spicy flavors.

Spicy Gang Jung (garlic, red chili, soy sauce, capsaicin, hot powder). We chose Chicken Breast for this. 
This is supposedly the spiciest of them all. It was just spicy enough for me, but I eat pretty spicy in general. My friends that don't eat spicy couldn't handle it. I didn't think it was insanely spicy though. The chicken breast was amazingly juicy and tender. The chicken pieces were quite large. The batter was a little thick, but was crispy and partly softened by the sauce. I liked the batter but some friends didn't care for it. This also included fried rice cakes which was awesome! I loved the added texture after it's fried. The sauce flavor did have a certain spice/flavor that was interesting. The whole night I was trying to decide if I liked it.

Crazy Spicy Chicken (corn syrup, soybean sauce, garlic, hot sauce, capsaicin, hot powder). We got these in Wings. 
This was my favorite. It was also spicy and sweet like the Spicy Gang Jung, but it didn't have that extra spice. The wings were pretty large and juicy. I will definitely get this again. With the different sizes, the number of chicken breast pieces and wings are different. You get fewer wings to chicken breast per order.

Soy Garlic Chicken (soybean sauce, soy sauce, potato starch, onion, garlic, garlic powder, soybean oil). We got these in Wings. 
One of my friends wanted sweet, so they recommended this. This was my second favorite. It was definitely sweet, but worked very well with the garlic. Again, the wings were nicely fried and very juicy.

Green Onion Chicken (deep fried chicken with green onion in creamy green onion sauce; soybean sauce, onion, garlic, mustard, garlic powder, caramel syrup). They said this is their best seller and is very good with Chicken Breast. So we took their suggestion. 
The bottom is basically regular fried chicken and topped with a ton of shredded green onions. Probably my least favorite out of the bunch. The chicken was fried well and very moist but it was lacking in flavor, especially when it's next to all these awesomely sauced other flavors. The sauce comes on the side. It's a little sweet, slightly creamy and has a mustard-y, horseradish-y flavor. The sauce is much needed for this and was able to make it more unique. I'd skip this next time. I wonder why it's their best seller?

French Fries $2.50~ We also got an order of fries. They made some extra so they gave us another order for free! How nice! :) The fries were good. Paired well with the chicken.

Daikon Radish. Pretty standard. The radish is a little sweet, a little tangy and helps cut the spiciness and greasiness from fried chicken. It's quite refreshing.
Corn Salad. It was like coleslaw with corn in it. I liked it with the chicken. It was good to have some veggies with all this meat!
Rice. Steamed rice. Pretty standard. haha.

So while we were deciding what to order, another friend showed up and ordered before we even noticed. :P He got a medium Parmesan Chicken (deep fried chicken covered with parmesan powder). He chose Wings. 
We all shared. These were quite popular at the table. I feel like it was the first to disappear. I thought it was ok. I prefer the Korean sauces and stuck to the other ones more.

OMG. We killed it all. There was nothing left. I just kept eating, and eating, and eating. Anything fried is always so addicting. It was a lot of food too... I'd actually say we'd be ok with 4 mediums among the 6 of us... I really enjoyed our meal though. I hope to go again soon. :) I'm so happy that we have good Korean fried chicken in Dallas again. Just a warning... if you don't like sweet and savory, this is not the place for you.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pho Bay

A new Vietnamese restaurant opened in Plano about 2 weeks ago. I heard about it from some friends on Facebook. They are half Vietnamese and were raving about the pho. They said it tastes like how their dad makes it.

I love pho, but I'm definitely not an expert at it and I don't know what's authentic or not. However, I do know that most of the pho places in Dallas are not bad, some are not good and usually pretty dirty. So when someone says it's authentic, I wanted to try it. Last week we had the freak cold front where it was 70s on Monday then Tuesday was in the 40s. Great time for some hot noodle soup though!

Pho Bay
3933 N. Central Expy, #100
Plano, TX 75023
(972) 422-5152
Price: $

My friends and I decided to go check it out last Wednesday. It was sooooo cold, and the winds were insane that night. Brrrr. Pho Bay is located in front of Main Event on 75 and Spring Creek. Personally, I don't think that's a good location for business but I hope they can persevere. It's a small place, but everything was clean and bright. And hopefully it stays that way!

The waiter, which I assumed was also the owner, was super friendly and very enthusiastic. You can tell he's very proud of his food. He told us that the (grand opening) special for that day was free egg roll for everyone, so he went ahead and brought out a plate of it for the 7 of us. 
A normal order of Egg Rolls (2) is $2.50~ just FYI.
Vietnamese egg rolls are the only ones I like to eat. The Chinese versions are usually vegetarian and I don't care for that. The egg rolls here was ok. It was fried well and wasn't too greasy. I also liked the plate of veggies it came with to wrap the egg rolls. But I felt like it needed more flavor. The fish sauce helped with that.

2 of my friends also ordered a Thai Iced Tea $2.75~ which the owner recommended. It looked so pretty. hehe. And it was very good! We all thought so. Even me and another friend that don't really like Thai tea. He said they make it from scratch, so none of that powder stuff. It wasn't too sweet either, which is good.

So my friends who told me about the restaurant says the owner said their Bun Bo Hue is really good. I've never actually had Bun Bo Hue, but it sounded amazing. Spicy broth with different kinds of meat. The rice noodles are thicker than pho noodles. And it's flavored with lemongrass and a bunch of other spices. 4 of us ordered the Spicy Hue Noodle Soup (Bun Bo Hue) $7.95~ Served with a side of bean sprouts, jalapeno, basil, cilantro, lime. 
I have been craving this for awhile and it totally hit the spot. The noodles were cooked well, it had really nice texture. There were different types of meat in there: beef, what looked to be meat around pig's feet, and pork cakes. I liked them all. All the veggies and herbs on the side were really fresh. I piled those in my bowl. Here's where the verdict splits... out of the 4 of us, 2 were Vietnamese and have had authentic home cooking, my other friend is Chinese but has had a lot of Vietnamese food. And me, who's never had this dish before. haha. So me and another Vietnamese friend liked this. I REALLY liked it, I couldn't stop eating. But my other 2 friends said it was ok. There was a slight sweetness to the broth which was throwing them off. Apparently that's not how it's supposed to taste. But you know me, I love sweet/savory so it didn't bother me. And it wasn't like it was loaded with sugar, it was just a hint. I actually thought the sweetness helped balance the dish so it wasn't too salty or heavy or spicy. It was also not too greasy. I ate EVERYTHING, and although I was super full, I didn't feel disgusting with loads of sodium or grease. I thought that was great. So I will definitely have this again. I can't say the same for my friends...

2 other friends got the Pho a la carte $5.50~ Add meatball +$1.50~ Add brisket +$1~ 
It basically starts as the basic broth and noodles and you can add in what types of meat you want. I only tried a sip of the broth and I thought it was really good. My Vietnamese friends thought it was good too. But I think as they ate more, there was also some sweetness so one friend didn't like it at all. I will still go back and try their pho though, since I didn't mind the sweetness.

And lastly, one friend got the Pho Bay Ultimate Rice Plate $9.95~ It was nicely presented and looked really good. He said it was ok... a standard rice plate, nothing special.

So I guess the opinions were across the board. From one person not liking it at all to me, who really enjoyed it. To each its own. But I do appreciate the energy from the owner and the cleanliness of the space (so far... since it's still so new. haha). I'll take my fiance there some time. I think he would really like it. Now I'm on a Bun Bo Hue kick, I want to try it at other Vietnamese places. My friends said their favorite is still at Pho Tay Do... so that's definitely on my list!

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Tineo Peruvian Cafe

Last week, some of my co-workers treated me to lunch to celebrate my recent graduation. How sweet of them!
I chose this Peruvian place that's close to the office but I've never heard of before. I just found it online.

I can't say I've had much Peruvian food before. I know La Duni does some Peruvian stuff... but I don't think they are specifically Peruvian. I always want to try it more. I do love Latin food.

Tineo Peruvian Cafe
525 W Arapaho Rd.
Richardson, TX 75080
(214) 256-4535
Price: $$

This is definitely a hole in the wall, although it was a pretty big space. It's at the end of a nondescript shopping center. It was pretty bare when I walked in. No decor to speak of. There were a few people in line to order at the counter. And not only is it a restaurant, it was also like a mini convenience store. They had some Peruvian snacks and drinks for purchase. Oh, and some good looking bakery goods too!

I was the first to arrive so I waited in line to ask the guy if I can pull some tables together. The service is pretty slow. Even though there were only 2 people in front of me, I waited quite a while. I realized that they only had one guy manning the register and front of house, and I think one person in the kitchen.

We thought we had to order at the counter but the guy finally emerged with menus and said we can sit down and order. He was very friendly, although not so good in English. It was a little difficult to ask questions about the menu (which I always end up doing.) :P Yes, yes.. I'm the difficult customer. haha.

We finally all ordered. We waited quite a while to get our food since it seems like there's only 1 person cooking in the back. None of us really minded though, we weren't in a hurry. However, they didn't really turn on the heat in there so we were all freezing to death. Definitely go when it's warmer or bundle up!! Finally the food came out one by one. We told others to start eating so the food doesn't get cold. Every plate looked yummy and huge! I thought the prices were a bit expensive but then you see the portions and it was better.

Tallarin Saltado a la Criolla (flamed beef or chicken with sauteed onions and tomatoes; served with noodles) $10.99~ 
3 people ordered this. 2 got beef, and 1 got chicken. It was on a large plate and was overflowing. The noodles came out steaming hot too. Looked amazing. I was starving by then. They used spaghetti noodles which my mom uses at home when she makes stir fry noodles because they hold their texture well. It was very good. All of them loved it. And 2 of them cleaned their plates! Impressive.

Seco de Carne (beef, potatoes, and cilantro stew served with beans and rice) $10.99~ 
2 other co-workers got this. It looked really good too! Definitely a great choice for such a cold day. The beef was nice and tender. The beans were an interesting pairing but worked well. They said the rice was flavored with something and kinda threw them off a little. But overall they loved it.

Tallarines Verdes con Bistec (Peruvian style pesto on spaghetti; served with a thinly sliced steak) $12.99~ 
Last but not least, I got my dish. I really didn't know what to expect with this when I ordered it. I just know I like pesto... but I had no idea what Peruvian pesto is. haha. It was a pretty green color. TONS of noodles topped with a seared steak on top. The steak was pretty flat but I liked how the edges were seared and a little crispy. The noodles and pesto was good too. The pesto was slightly different than an Italian pesto. There was another spice/flavor that I couldn't really identify. I enjoyed it a lot. I only wish that there was some veggies in it as well. It would've been nice to have some freshness.

My co-workers all loved it and were already saying they were going to come back. I want to say that the food here is more "homey", maybe something people would cook at home for their families instead of restaurant cuisine. However, don't believe everything I say because I am really not an expert in Peruvian food/culture. I CAN say that I've never had Peruvian food like this before.

I took half of my dish to go because I wanted to save room for dessert!

Flan $3.25~ Like a typical Latin flan, it's much heavier/denser. It was good. Not the best I've had, but I would definitely eat it again.

Bread Pudding $3.25~ Some others wanted to try this. It was cold, since it was prepackaged and put into the fridge/display case. They loved it. The raisins were nice and plump. I thought it was ok. I personally like warm bread puddings with a little bit of a crispy edge. And I would've loved a rum sauce or creme anglaise or something.

Chocolate Cake $3.25~ I caved and also got a chocolate cake. From the display case, it looked soooo gooey and moist. However, after I opened it up, I realized they just drizzled some chocolate sauce on the top of the slice so it looks really moist. It was a pretty generic chocolate bundt cake. Compared to the other two it wasn't anything special.

What a great new find! The service is quite slow but the guy was super nice. And the place isn't anything fancy, but we all loved our food. I'm sure most of us will be back there again at some point. I can't believe they only had 2 people running the place! So go on a day you don't have much going on. hehe. And thanks so much to my co-workers for the great lunch! I feel so loved. :)

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