CHOMP! Views

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Trip to the OC! Cali-for-ni-a!

Last weekend I went to the OC for my cousin's wedding at Tustin Ranch. It was a beautiful wedding on a beautiful day and they are such a cute couple! Best wishes to them!

But being in a different city means trying new foods! :P I was traveling with family so didn't do the usual food fest like I normally would, but still got some yummy stuff.

Lunch on Friday started with dim sum. My parents and I were walking around this Asian shopping center and decided to go into this place.

Capital Seafood Restaurant
2700 Alton Pkwy #127
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 252-8188
Price (lunch): $$

Turns out they were doing dim sum at the time. Sure! I haven't had it in a while.

Chinese Broccoli $4.25~ We got 2 orders of these. Always a favorite of mine. Super tender... even the stalks. Better than Dallas. 

Pork Shu Mai (4) $3.25~ Giant shu mai. My dad wanted them. My mom and I don't really care for it, but I have to say it had pretty good flavor. 

Deep Fried Shrimp Dumplings (3) $2.25~ My dim sum favorite. Theirs was good. The outside was crispy with chewy mochi-like texture and slightly sweet. With the savory shrimp on the inside. I approve!

We initially went in this restaurant because my dad wanted some Cantonese soup noodles. Unfortunately they didn't have any. So we got some Singapore Seafood Vermicelli (thin vermicelli noodles, shrimp, BBQ pork, onion, cilantro, curry powder) $12~ Pretty big portion for lunch. Good flavors. The shrimp was tender and plump. Not bad at all.

We also got Preserved Egg and Pork Congee $9~ It was a pretty big bowl. But too much soup/rice, too little egg and pork. We basically scooped out all the eggs and left the rest. The pork was super salty. Tender but too salty. I've had way better.

Good start to the trip. My parents took my sister and her bf there again on Sunday after I left for the airport.

Overall Experience:

In the same shopping center was 85°C Bakery Cafe. The main reason we were there. haha. Love this place!!

85°C Bakery Cafe
2700 Alton Pkwy.
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 553-8585
Price: $

From bottom left. Mocha Walnut bread, Bolo, Bread with dried shredded pork, Red Bean bread, Taro filled bread, Baked Custard bread, and Milk Custard bread (top right)
All together under $11.40~

The place was packed. Not a lot of different selection but good enough. You can't find most of these in Dallas. All delicious. The milk custard bread was my favorite.

Overall Experience:

My sister and her bf flew in Friday night. She had specifically requested Japanese ramen while we're in Cali... so I wanted to take her to my favorite place in the whole world for ramen! I picked them up and went straight to Mitsuwa Marketplace. Can you believe that my favorite place is in the food court of a Japanese supermarket? It is amazing.

Mitsuwa Marketplace
665 Paularino Ave.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 434-1101

Santouka Ramen
Shio Ramen (Salt ramen with special pork; Large) $11.40~ 
The pork is Toroniku, which is pork cheek. It is so tender with just the right amount of fat. It's like buttah!! The pork makes this my favorite. But the flavor of the broth and the texture of the noodles are also spot on. I went to the Santouka in Osaka, Japan and had the same thing and the ones in Cali were pretty damn close. Talk about consistency! So jealous of people who have access to a Mitsuwa. My sister approved. She can be quite picky sometimes. So yay! Win for me.

Some other vendor...
Her bf got a Katsudon (fried pork cutlet on rice) $7.50?~ It usually comes with egg on top but he said he didn't want it. Not very good... The pork cutlet was not crispy at all, and it was just over rice and some onions. Not very satisfying.

Overall Experience:

After dinner, we decided to go check out the OC Night Market. A friend of mine told me about it right before I flew to Cali. We love night markets, so definitely wanted to go check it out.

OC Night Market
OC Fair and Event Center
88 Fair Dr.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Parking $7~
Admission $5~

It sucks that we have to pay for parking and admission. Normal nightmarkets are free in Asia. But since this is more of a special festival.... AND we're on vacation. Let's do it!

We were all kinda full but I had a few places I wanted to check out. I had done some research online before going. Duh! :P

The main one I wanted to go to was Crunchy Boy. I wanted the Ube Lumpia (with green tea creme fraiche) $2.50~ 
Ube is basically purple yam. And lumpia is like a Filipino egg roll. It was so freaking amazing. Best thing ever!! Well maybe not ever, but definitely the best thing I had in the night market. I should've just given them all my money instead of trying other stuff. Still regretting it now. The green tea creme fraiche made the dish. It was like a mix between whipped cream and melted ice cream. It paired fantabulously with the crispy lumpia and sweet ube. Don't judge, but I totally licked the container to get the rest of the sauce... Just take all my money and gimme more!!!!!!!!

My sister wanted grilled squid. It's one of her favorite night market foods when we go back to Taiwan. We found Calvin's BBQ.
Grilled Squid on Skewer. Looked good and smelled even better. But the taste was meh. The seasoning wasn't what we expected. It was disappointing...

Hugo Foods
Fried Stinky Tofu (with sweet pickled cabbage) $5~ 
It sure smelled stinky! But good stinky tofu can be really tasty. My sister and I wanted to give it a shot. While waiting we heard someone say it's not as stinky as it should be. After trying it, we both agreed. Neither the smell or the taste was strong enough. I think the pickled cabbage should've been more sour than sweet. It was also meh.

The other place I was looking for was Belly Up because they had listed a green tea ice cream. Turns out it was a Coconut Slushy with Green Tea Ice Cream $6~ 
It sounded pretty cool so I gave it a shot still. It was an actual coconut with shaved ice and coconut water and then topped with green tea ice cream. They were packing up shop when we found them because they were pretty much sold out, but they were able to get one out for me. Presentation is great. A little messy to hold since the water down the sides of the coconut. The green tea ice cream was good. I wanted more tho. The ratio of the coconut water to the ice cream was off, and once I've mixed it all inside the coconut, it didn't have enough flavor.

I really should've just taken all the money I spent and gotten a bunch of the ube lumpias. [sad face] But oh well, at least I tried different things.

Overall Experience:

Saturday night, after the wedding we had a big family dinner since a lot of my aunts, uncles, cousins are also in town. We also wanted to celebrate another cousin of mine who recently go married too but didn't have a reception.

Shanghailander Palace
1695 S Azusa Ave.
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745
(626) 839-7777

We had 2 large round tables. The food came family style on a lazy susan. My dad was the one that ordered for everyone. The food was pretty tasty! We all liked it. But according to my mom, it was laced with MSG. She's allergic so she really couldn't eat much of anything...

Shanghai Style Braised Pork. Supa fatty pork. No other way is better! :P

Eggplant in Clay Pot

Black Pepper Beef

Sweet and Sour Short Ribs

Tofu and Seafood Soup

Crispy Chicken

Xiao Long Bao (pork soup dumplings)

Mixed Veggies and Rice

Sauteed Eel

Tempura Fish. The tempura batter had seaweed in it. Added some unique flavoring. It was good!
Black Sesame Ball in Wine Soup

Overall Experience: 

We were all stuffed after the meal. It was really great to see all my relatives. Most of whom I haven't seen in over 6 years!

Overall a good trip! Just too short! I flew home Sunday morning...


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pepper Smash

I went to a friend's bday lunch this past Saturday. They chose to try Pepper Smash in the Shops at Legacy. It's been open for awhile now and I still haven't been, so I was looking forward to it. It seems like they're known for their mixology, the drinks all have interesting names and looked fun. I was hoping the food would be good too.

Unfortunately we had another event before lunch so we were going to be about 45 minutes late. Everyone else was meeting there at noon. I told them don't wait up.

Pepper Smash
7200 Bishop Rd.
Plano, TX 75024
(972) 943-0499
Price (brunch): $$

We arrived around 12:50PM. We had 2 tables close to the patio. It was such a nice day to sit outside. We joined one table and it seemed like they were almost done eating. However, we realized that the other table hadn't even gotten their food yet... eh?

We asked around the table to see what was good... We got responses of what NOT to order... :-/

(Sorry I don't have pictures of other people's food since they either ate them or were at another table... )
Chicken Mmm' Biscuits (real deal buttermilk biscuits, secret recipe fried chicken, habanero honey butter) $10~ Was strongly advised not to get this as it is super dry. I saw him take the last bite and it did look really dry. And coincidentally he coughed when he was answering us... haha. Like swallowing dry crumbs or something. :(

Black & White - BLT (blacken'd white fish, crisp bacon, pepper aioli, shredded romaine, tomato on focaccia) $10~ I was told this was super salty. She only ate half of it. But the fries were good.

They said the flatbreads are good though. One guy ordered one. Either the Mediterranean or Spiced Lamb Sausage.

We finally got around to ordering for ourselves. And this is also when the other table's food started arriving... wow.. that really took a long time.

Spicy Beef Katmandu (ginger, lemongrass, Thai chili, cilantro) $9~ This was really tasty. The beef is flash fried and it's really got a kick in flavor. And it's spicy for those who like spicy. I almost ordered this, but I asked the waitress if it came with anything... rice? bread? naan? and she said no. So I nixed it. I don't know how you can eat a dish like this with out some sort of carb to go with it. Or maybe some lettuce wraps??

Ceviche Tostadas (shrimp, crab, mango, jalapeno, cilantro, red onion, lime) $10~ This was a joke. And the guy who ordered it didn't try to cover up his disappointment. It was 4 little triangles of corn chips topped with a tiny bit of ceviche. $2.50 a pop eh?? That's just ridiculous. He ended up ordering a burger cuz he was hungry.

Hummus & Naan $8~ Was told this was good.

Oh... something cool that they did when the group first got there was pour liquid nitrogen on popcorn. It's all smokey and cold and when you eat it, smoke comes out of your mouth. Since we got there late, I asked if they could do it for us. It was a fun experience. :) 

Oh-M-P (fat stack of three cakes; choose 2 ingredients; maple syrup, whipped butter) $10~
I chose blackberry and bacon. Sweet and savory baby! Our food took about 35+ minutes to come out. Kind of ridiculous. But I was happy with my selection. The pancakes were crazy big and fluffy. I have no idea how they made them this way. Maybe a special pancake maker or mould or something. It fell apart pretty easily.. the consistency was more like a cake than normal pancakes. But yummy! It wasn't too heavy. There were large chunks of bacon throughout, could've used more blackberries though. I noticed the middle layer was burnt on the bottom, but it didn't affect the flavor much so I didn't mind it. The pairing with the whipped butter and maple syrup was delicious. My bf realized that he didn't like bacon mixed into the batter. But I do! hehe, that means more bacon for me! :P Apparently a girl from the other table ordered this when they first arrived. When it finally came, her pancakes were undercooked in the middle, so she had to send them back. Her new pancakes didn't make it out until we got our food...

Whiskey Chick Stack (grilled chicken marinated in house smoked whiskey white cheddar, caramelized onions, chipotle mayo) $10~ 
My bf ordered this. Tiniest piece of chicken on a sandwich ever!! But the flavors were good so we kinda overlooked the size. Fries were good, not the greatest, but yummy when dipped in the chipotle mayo.

Triple M's Explosion (pineapple and strawberry infused vodka, frozen with liquid nitrogen) $10~ 
He also got a drink, since this place seems to be known for their cocktails. It's pretty cool cuz it's made with liquid nitrogen and comes smoking when served. Aside from the cool assembling process, it was ok. It was like a strong strawberry daiquiri, not really worth the money.

So I'd say this place was a bust. They didn't have much business while we were there. We were 2 of maybe 4 tables and the wait for food was just ridiculous. Our waitress was good though. At least we got frequent refills on our water. And it's not her fault that the kitchen was slow or messing up orders... I'm glad I enjoyed my food, but just seeing how everyone waited almost 45 minutes to get the food, and the overall quality was just sad. Needless to say, we won't be returning. That location hasn't lasted long in the past. So they better shape up!!

Quality of Food:




Overall Experience:


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Las Vegas - Holsteins

Last (half) day in Vegas. Long enough to get in some lunch before heading to the airport. I HAD to go to Holsteins, my absolute favorite place to eat in Vegas. And I wanted to take my friends too because none of them have been!! Gasp! :P

Holsteins Shakes and Buns
(in The Cosmopolitan)
3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 698-7940
Price: $$$

I come here every time in Vegas.. The food is slightly pricey but it's Vegas... when is the food not expensive? haha. And it's soooo good. I've never had anything I didn't like.

We started with some Bam-Boozled Shakes. Alcoholic shakes where you can't taste the alcohol. And the combinations are unique and over the top.

One friend and I shared the Banana Cream Pie (bananas, vanilla custard, nilla wafers, caramel, creme de banane, licor 43, white chocolate covered nutty banana) $13~ 
They gave us the excess milkshake in the metal cup too which was pretty much a whole 'nother glass! This was the first time I tried this flavor and it was amazing! You get chunks of banana and nilla wafers in every sip. I love the added texture and it was soooo banana-y! I think one of my new favorites here. Although after a while it got a little too sweet, I think next time I'd get it without the caramel sauce.

One friend got the Red Velvet Cake Shake (zing red velvet vodka, red velvet cake, cream cheese mousse, mini whoopie pie) $13~ 
This was also really good. Never tried this one either. I liked the crumbled cake bits throughout the shake. This also came with the excess, and another friend got it mixed up with her strawberry shake and downed the whole thing before we all realized she drank the red velvet one. She doesn't drink alcohol at all, so that's really proof you can't taste it! haha. :P

Strawberry Shake $9~ Non-alcoholic. I think they use fresh strawberries because it tasted that way. Legit.

We all ordered burgers (Big Buns):
The Classic (lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, ketchup, pickles) $15~ All the burgers come with regular fries unless you want to pay extra to sub.

"Meat Ball" Burger (beef, pork, veal, pecorino, provolone cheese, basil walnut pesto, arugula, herb foccacia roll) $15~ Sub Onion Rings +$2~ 
I wanted to try something new. And it was a great choice. Very impressive looking with the biggest meatball ever! I loved the different layers of colors between the meatball, cheese and pesto. Quite Italian! hehe. The meatball was tender and juicy and full of flavor. The pesto was great too. I love basil. And the slight bitterness from the arugula complimented everything well. I also liked the baked cheese on the bun. Now to the onion rings. One of the best onion rings ever. I usually pay the extra to get it. So crispy on the outside... just awesome.

Gold Standard (dry aged beef sirloin burger with smoked bacon, aged goat cheddar cheese, tomato confit, baby arugula, garlic-chive aioli) $18.50~ Sub Sweet Potato Fries +$2~ 
I've had this before, aside from the goat cheddar, it's really really good. I just don't like goat cheese. My friend really liked it. The sweet potato fries were good too.

Nom Nom Burger (kobe beef, cheddar cheese, potato chips, 1000 Island dressing) $17.50~ Two friends shared this. I tried a bite but wasn't memorable. One friend said it was a little bland... she would've liked more sauce.

I saw a picture of this displayed on our table. At first I showed it to my friend and said "hey, here's your Gold Standard burger", but then we both thought the picture looked kind of odd. After a double take, we realized it was "cold" standard and it was a dessert!! We had to get it. Cold Standard (vanilla ice cream patty with a chocolate wafer glaze, cronut bun, lemon shortbread fries, berry ketchup) $15~ 
Not only does it look like burger and fries but it comes on a cronut bun? Cronut?! I HAD to get it now! haha. I have to say it looked pretty dang realistic. From the presentation (like the checkered paper wrapping) to the "cheese" and green "lettuce". So cool. I was taking a bunch of pictures when my friend decided to try a bit of the cheese. Then she said it tasted like a mango gelatin or something. Mango? That wasn't listed on the description.. and I'm allergic. :( So I had to send it back. They gave us a new one without the cheese. I felt bad because my other friends never got to try it with the mango.. It was still good though. I really liked the ice cream patty with chocolate glaze. The "lettuce" tasted like green tea white chocolate shavings. However, the bun was totally NOT a cronut. More like a sweet biscuit/roll. It still paired with the patty well but they really shouldn't call it a cronut. And no one really liked the shortbread fries. The flavor and texture was a bit off. But it really did look like fries. The ketchup was strawberry sauce which went really well with the "burger".

It was an expensive lunch. But hey, it's our last day, and we're at my favorite restaurant so I'm going all out! Again, it did not disappoint. The service was a little slow at the end, but they did replace our dessert with no complaint. I very much appreciate that. They should list the mango on the description though... Anywhoo, a success as always. Until next time!!

Quality of Food:




Overall Experience: