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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Salo Salo: It Had Me at Pork Ribs, Calamari and Fresh Coconut Juice

Behold this massive platter with five different kinds of meat at Salo Salo Grill, a Filipino food joint with four locations throughout Southern California and Las Vegas (I went to the Artesia location). I was initially faced with the carnivore's dilemma, so to speak, but quickly went for the pork ribs and after trying all of the skewers, anointed the ribs my favorite. They were tender, sweet and savory all at the same time.

 The glaze on the skewers were a bit too sweet for my taste but the meat tasted good enough. The piles of pork meat that also came with the platter was on the dry side but still flavorful. But I was very focused on the ribs.

The platter also came with a side salad of tomatoes, onions and salted duck eggs that had been hard boiled. I must say I didn't care for the duck eggs too much. I think they're an acquired taste and I just didn't acquire it this time.

The sauces for the meat included a barbecue glaze and a vinegary sauce with some chilis floating but I didn't use them too much because after tasting it, I didn't think any of the meats really needed anything more as they were already packed with flavor.

Another winner was the fried calamari that we had as an appetizer. They were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and well seasoned. I'd definitely get that next time.

To balance out the strong flavors and sodium in the meat and fried dishes, we got the garlic fried rice, which was studded with little specks of fried garlic and tasted delightfully garlicky (although not as good as I remembered it from my first experience tasting my friend ET's leftovers she brought a while back).

The butterflied milkfish (never had milkfish) martinated in garlic vinegar was a bit on the bland side but a healthy alternative to the meatfest.

We also got the Beef Canton Guisado, which was a stir-fried noodle dish with beef, shrimp, fish balls and vegetables. It was ok but nothing special, as was the vegetable fried rice.

The lumpia sampler, similar to deep fried egg rolls with shrimp, meat and vegetables, was not my favorite. I'm not a big lumpia person.


Another treat was the fresh young coconut water, called buko, which hit the spot for this coconut water addict.

You can work your arms to scrape the flesh from inside the coconut too. It was ice cold and delicious.

We were all looking forward to the halo halo dessert of red beans and shaved ice with flan and ice cream but it disappointed. It wasn't all the sweet and there wasn't enough ice. What's up with that? I craved Korean patbingsu...

But I digress. I'll definitely be returning to try the lechon and other dishes recommended by the peeps who frequent this place. Just be prepared for some serious food comma.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Scoops: Any Flavor of the Best Ice Cream Your Heart Desires

On a hot summer day like this, there's only one answer: SCOOPS!

I naturally found myself in front of that tiny shop on Heliotrope off of Melrose, wondering what wonderful flavors awaited me.

I was pleasantly surprised the line wasn't too bad and I quickly browsed the flavors at hand, including brown bread, Chai, Guiness chocolate and chocolate baileys.

As enticing as those sounded, however, I first tasted the hazelnut banana, raspberry lychee and non-dairy Thai iced tea. And I ended up with two scoops: a deliciously creamy hazelnut mix with subtle banana flavor and a super refreshing raspberry lychee, delivering an almost-sorbet-like coolness in my mouth.

Just what I needed in this scorching weather. I heart Scoops, big time. Apologies for not having an image. I pretty much swallowed the two scoops in exactly five bites. What can I say? The ice-cream was melting and I couldn't wait.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cooking: Spinach, Catalan-Style by Jose Andres

I have sung the virtues of Chef Jose Andres and his restaurants over and over again here, but I can't help it. His recipes are simple and delicious and the food served at his restaurants is nothing short of stellar, whether in LA or DC (haven't been to Vegas but may just go for that).

Tapas, a Taste of Spain is a great cookbook, and here's a simple spinach recipe from it that is good as a side dish to more elaborate dishes like paella or a main dish. It's savory and sweet from the apples and raisins, with a little nuttiness from the toasted pine nuts. Delish.

Buen provecho!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Spice Table: Decent but Needs Some Spice, Good Kaffir Lime Custard

You know how I feel about anything Asian Fusion, so I did enter Spice Table with some skepticism. The verdict is that it's ok and I should probably have more dishes on my next visit but I wasn't blown away like at Son of a Gun most recently.

The fact that I can't pinpoint the best dish is a problem. They were all good to above average but short of fantastic. Take the very promising-looking Kon loh mee noodle bowl with its egg noodles, choy sum green, ground pork and delightfully glistening char siu slices. The pork tasted decent enough, but there was wow factor. No punch of flavor and all the ingredients weren't melding altogether to great effect.

The fried cauliflower was good -- crunchy and well-fried and mildly flavored. I wished it had some punch. I asked for sambal sauce. They brought me some and I had overlooked that it would cost me $1. That's like charging for kimchi. Dislike.

The lamb belly satay was interesting and very tender. I had to punch up the peanut sauce to add some flavor.

The soft-shell crab toast was also so promising and the deep fried soft-shell crab was indeed good but didn't have the wow factor. Think it didn't help that we got too many fried dishes but wouldn't the few strands of greens in the noodles balance out the heaviness?!

The best thing, if I thought hard, would have to be the kaffir lime custard with lychee, which I don't usually go for but tried at our server's suggestion. It was creamy and tasted tart and sweet, dotted with small pieces of lychee.

I may return but can't fight the feeling of many reviewers, which is that it's food I could get at a fraction of the price in San Gabriel Valley. If it offered something different and new, I'd pay the premium but am not convinced it does yet.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cooking: Fried Chicken Fingers and Blue Cheese Salad

I usually don't deep fry stuff from home because it uses up so much oil and it makes a mess. Oh, and it's not good for you so that's an added disincentive to deep fry at home.

But one day I wanted to have chicken fingers. So I went to my trusty Everyday Food roster and found this cool combo of fried chicken fingers and blue cheese salad. Everyone knows fried chicken goes well with blue cheese. Remember all those cheesy dips for buffalo wings?

This one I found online (the old one I used is no longer available) has a "buffalo" twist where it's smothered in that sticky sweet and spicy sauce. You can skip the sauce and just deep fry the chicken and have it with the blue cheese salad. It's fine that way unless you're a hard-core buffalo sauce fan.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Square One: Great French Toast, Plum Topping and Ham

I ventured into the thick of hispterland for brunch at Square One, a solid breakfast and lunch joint smack across from a bright blue art deco building with an imposing sign that reads "SCIENTOLOGY." The wait is bad (20-30 minutes) unless you go before 10 but the line moves somewhat quickly because it has quite a bit of tables in its patio, which are the best tables in the house anyway.

I was torn on whether to get the French toast or baked eggs but I settled for French toast with a plum and almond topping and smoked ham on the side (gotta have my protein).

The brioche bread was delicious and the plums were super sweet and interesting since I'd never had it with French toast before. The French toast was browned just right with some crunchy edges.

The only thing I would have liked better was that the egg batter covering the toast be less sweet. I liked the crunchiness from the almonds but a tad sweet.

The prices are definitely on the higher side but it's obvious the cooks use fresh quality ingredients so it's worth it. The ham was  juicy and very salty, just like any ham should be. It was thick enough to satiate my craving for something meaty and savory to balance out the sweet carb I was having.

The outdoor patio is the perfect place for a Sunday brunch on a nice sunny LA day, which is pretty much any day.

The breakfast quesadilla with squash blossoms, feta cheese, jalapenos and scrambled eggs was ok but nothing fantastic. I liked the tomatillo salsa that came with it. The quesadilla came with a green salad (or choice of potatoes).

The restaurant also has breakfast tacos and I would definitely like to try the baked egg dishes.

The freshly squeezed orange juice was good, as was the service.

Besides the wait, most everything was positive.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cooking: Rossejat, a Noodly Alternative to Paella

I love paella but I must say, I have yet to make what I consider to be the perfect paella, so when I ran across this paella alternative, rossejat de fideos, a Catalonian dish that uses angel hair pasta noodles instead of rice, I decided to try it. I was surprised at how easy it was to make (especially compared with ric paella) and how good it tasted.

I used a recipe in Jose Andres' Tapas cookbook but this one I found online is basically the same except it uses lobster and carrots while mine used monkfish and shrimp. 

The recipe in the book I used also called for fish stock and used sofrito, that onion and tomato mix that you stew forever as a base for paellas and such.

I'm sure you could substitute fish stock for water in this recipe too, if you'd like the noodles to have more flavor.

It's fantastic with some refreshing white wine and some green beans with jamon serrano (then again, hard to go wrong with jamon serrano). Buen provecho!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sherman's Deli & Bakery in Palm Springs: A Pastrami Oasis

When I headed to Palm Springs, the last kind of food I expected to have was juicy, piping hot pastrami on rye with pickles at this local institution, Sherman's Deli & Bakery. The sun was so hot that there were few people walking on the streets so the place looked somewhat deserted from the outside. But once inside, it was hopping. Pastrami is my litmus test for delis, ever since I fell in love with the meat at Katz's in New York City way back when.

The pastrami meat was good with just the right amount of saltiness but while the first half of my sandwich was pretty good albeit having some difficulty biting into the massive heap of pastrami. This sandwich was taller than any other pastrami sandwich I've had, perhaps with the exception of the one in Carnegie Deli in New York, although if you've ever seen that place's cheesecakes on display, that place seems to pride itself in ridiculously large portions.

One thing I didn't like once I bit into my second half was that the pastrami suddenly got super fatty. I hate biting into stringy fat because it doesn't taste good to me. So I had to deconstruct the sandwich and try to eat only the lean parts. The pickles were good too, complementing the meatiness with its tanginess.

Hence the mess you see to the left. I did have a beef with the rye bread though, which I thought wasn't as fresh on the edges (that's what happens to days-old bread). That's why I left those on my plate.

There were several options for mustard and I had the grainy one, which was good. The potato salad that came with it was mayonnaise-y with just the right amount of tartness from the vinegar. It was good.

My companions got a roast beef sandwich and a french dip sandwich with fries and while I didn't taste the sandwiches (the fries were fine but nothing special), they looked decent. I wouldn't really order those anyway because I'm a loyal pastrami-ite. While decent, Langer's remains my favorite deli in LA.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cooking: Easy Chicken Roast with Baked Potatoes and Arugula Salad

I like to make a pit stop at Mitsuwa Market every once in a while to stock up on their excellent seafood and meat selection. Just for shabu shabu beef, it has like five different kinds. It has sushi grade sashimi that's much better than what's sold at fancy markets in the ready-to-eat sections. Anyway, I had bought a full leg and thigh with skin on and wondered how best to eat it.

I had a hankering for a western-style meal so I seasoned the chicken leg with salt, pepper and thyme on both sides, got the pan really hot (it's important not to use a non-stick pan here because it will not brown your chicken nicely) and when it begins to smoke, place the chicken leg in the pan. There should be smoke coming out of the pan and a sizzling sound. Otherwise, the pan isn't hot enough.

Sear and brown the chicken in olive oil for about 7 minutes without moving it and flip it and cook for about the same time.

Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to about 425-450 degrees. If you want to have baked potato chips, check out the recipe here. Toss a salad of baby arugula with some tomatoes and light vinaigrette.

Once the oven is hot enough, stick the pan with chicken in the oven and cook for about 15-20 minutes.

When done, the skin should be super crispy and go swimmingly well with the potato fries and salad.