Monday, August 17, 2009

Crustacean

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      I really can't complain because I got a $75 lunch gift certificate from the blogger prom to come here! After reading through everyone's review, we decided to get one dish from the secret kitchen, and a few lighter options.

      We ended up getting the colossal royal tiger prawns that came with the garlic noodles ($39.95), the traditional vietnamese salad (13.95), and the crispy rice paper roll ($9.00). We also got green tea ($7.00) and two desserts - the coconut cake with creme anglais, and the pineapple brioche with vanilla bean ice cream (both $9).

      the garlic noodles were definitely tasty. panida r. mentioned it contained parmesan cheese. i could def taste it now. i was wondering what the smell was. the garlic and butter was heavy handed but definitely crack like for the first 3 bites. after that, it's a little too heavy to continue consuming without feeling your arteries clogging. the prawns were aiite. a little on the dry side. next time i'd prob get the garlic noodles as a dish and maybe get the coconut prawns instead. the crispy rice paper roll was delish and according to my vietnamese dining companion, a little less heavier than at his fave place that serves the same dish. glad that was the case since the garlic noodles were on the heavier side. the vietnamese traditional salad to me, was effing delicious. i could have prob had more of that, as it was something new and delightful. however, according to my companion, his mother can make it better and would have yelled at him if she knew he spent over $13 for it.

      the tea was incredibly expensive in my opinion. the food was actually not that bad for a $$$$ restaurant. i expected it to be a lot more expensive but i see that the dinner menu is where they rake in the dough cuz the lunch menu's pretty affordable. they even had a three course pre fixed menu for express business lunches for $15.95. I used to spend that much for lunch at the fashion district working with koreans, eating korean food that wasn't as good as my dad's home-cooked meal.

      their desserts were also kick-ass. nothing so transformational but we were full by the time dessert came out and we devoured the whole thing.

      only gripe was the tea. stick to the tap water and save yourself some money!

      the decor was awesome. there were a lot of very traditional items that mimicked old vietnam and i almost had a heart attack when i thought i was going to step into the "river" that was in the middle of the restaurant cuz i didn't see the glass casing protecting it. the fans are made of bamboo fans and it looked like a two story restaurant like in martial arts movies right before people come barging in and messing up the entire place. very quiet and enjoyable. didn't want to leave.

      servers in the costume was a bit too much but at the same time, a bit hilarious. KEKEKEKE. it's better than those corn on a stick costumes though.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

1st Annual Korean Barbeque Cookoff

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Oh Em Gee.

I cannot believe the success of this event. I mean, I know how much people love Korean barbeque but this was ridiculously successful - so successful it was almost annoying. If you wanted to eat something, the lines were at least a 20 minute wait. Some lines moved faster than others because the restaurant owners were more efficient and set up some sort of cracked out assembly line. Other restaurants took too long to cook and then even longer to distribute. A lot of people were walking around with corn because they were cheap ($3) and fast. Next year, I hope they have a lot more sides featured. Korean bbq is awesome but Korean banchan is also a staple as well as a crowd pleaser. Apparently, there were 10,000 people who passed through the doors that day. That's so incredible. It's amazing to see how people come together for food. To organize this massive crowd to come to a charity event would be much more difficult, I'm sure.

At $10-$15 a plate, the bbq plates were not the cheapest. Hell, you could have driven to the restaurants and eaten their AYCE bbq in less time than eating here. But people still came in droves, paid $5 in parking, another $10-$15 in food, and stayed for the contests to spot the likes of Jonathan Gold, Evan Kleiman, Russ Parson as the judges. Of course, there were politicians there too, as well as comics and hordes of newscasters and media.

I sported a media badge as well. I was there filming some stuff for Yong, the organizer's brother. I was allowed to keep my footage for my doc so I thought it'd be a mutually beneficial gig. I wish I got more footage though, but we only started filming from 5pm. H.C. was my host, and asked some splendid questions to the judges. We even got an interview with Jonathan Gold and Evan Kleiman.

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This is not part of the interview, but just a shot of J. Gold thinking hard about the dish he just had. It was pretty intense watching the judges eat and then evaluate the dishes. The one that won (Mu Dae Po) was actually the only restaurant we waited in line to eat at since it seemed short and popular enough. Were they really the best? Actually, I'm not sure. I don't know what kind of meat the judges got but I thought what I ate was just okay, and it could have been because it was already so cold by the time I sat down and ate it but then again, the judges were saying that by the time they get to eat and judge it, the meat is always cold.

Some of the dishes from the other restaurants looked amazing! Mu Dae Po's wasn't bad either but just in terms of presentation, I think So Hyang's was the prettiest. What do you think?







Doesn't it look amazing? These dishes elevated Korean bbq to a whole other level. Not only was this event successful, but everyone felt this to be true: this ain't the last time they're having it! I hope next year, they feature not just Korean bbq but also a lot more other meat dishes like spicy pork, and maybe even Korean fried chicken, bool dak (fire chicken), and a host of banchans. If the corns were any sign of success for the carb lovers, they should have a few more cheaper finger food options like that. The beer garden was a huge hit and the VIP tent was pretty cool.

Yes, the wait was long but in the end, I think people didn't mind going to an event that would introduce them to the world of Korean bbq. For the veterans, you might be surprised to find a new place. I've never been to Mu Dae Po and am willing to try them again since I don't think my plate was a good representation of what they have to offer and obviously, they're good for a reason since they won.




Tuesday, August 11, 2009

7th annual Plate by Plate

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On August 1st, I drove to the California Science Center for the 7th Annual Project by Project Tasting Benefit. Every year I've wanted to go but couldn't make it for one reason or another. I finally got to go this year and I'm so glad I did!

Plate by Plate is not just for foodies. I mean, obviously foodies will be more willing to pay up for tickets to a tasting event but it's really all about helping out the Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program which in turn helps out micro businesses in Los Angeles, especially those of low income immigrants of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, and Filipino communities. So yes, not only do you have to have the stomach for this event but also the heart (cheesy, I know but it's true).

I ended up bumping into so many people that I knew from the past, people who I fell out of touch with, and people who probably would not have recognized me even if I had introduced myself to them. It's amazing how food can bring people together. I really felt like I was part of this larger network of Asian Americans who really cared about the community.


Once inside the large open space, I saw that there were as many drinks and dessert options as there were savory dishes. I already knew I couldn't try everything. I started from the back, hoping to go against traffic but I think a lot of people had the same idea. I started with Mendocino Farms' heirloom tomato and arugula with bacon and mayo (aka BLT on crack) and Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi. Both were generous in portion and quite tasty. I'm totally going to be a regular at their dtla location.





Once I started my way through, entertainment was well underway with celebs like James Kyson Lee of Heroes (Ando) and Jinah Kim hosting (newscaster). Debbie Lee from the Food Network's The Next Food Network Star was there, as well as actors like Lynn Chen (Saving Face), Dante Basco (Hook, The Debut, Take the Lead ), Jimmy Tsai (Ping Pong Playa), Archie Kao (CSI: Las Vegas), Aaron Takahashi (Yes Man, Balls of Fury), Ruthie Alcaide (Real World, Road Rules), Jessica Yu (Ping Pong Playa, Grey's Anatomy). Oh, and Aziz Ansari, aka RAAAAAAAANDY was also there. Ted Chen (newscaster), Jerell Scott (Project Runway), Eliot Chang (comic), Lara Avengoza (Recording artist, The King and I) were also all there to help out as sous chefs for the night. Entertainment was provided by DK Denkym, J-Ricz, Oak & Gorski, Daion Taiko, and Esna.

I never found XIV by Michael Mina. I wonder if they were in the VIP section with The Bazaar. My favorite dish of the night was from Mo-Chica because it reminded me of home.


Japan Bistro's Salmon Ceviche was a great way to whet my appetite.


Moonshadows had this interesting dish. Possibly the prettiest of the night though I wouldn't necessarily say it was the tastiest. It was the truffled cauliflower panna cotta, lobster gelee & butter poached lobster, and american sturgeon caviar all in one dessert looking dish.


Scoops & Golden State had the beer floats, Matt from Mattatouille working the station.


BottleRock Downtown had green papaya salad avec oreille de cochon (pork ears).

Katsuya's line was too long, so I skipped out on it.


Citizen Smith had jalepeno mac and cheese.



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Cicada, where Dante was helping out, had these fritter-like things with a kimchi topping.





Roy's had great dishes with noodles and skewers. I really enjoyed the taste and presentation of their dishes. I might check them out, since they're also in the dtla neighborhood.




My favorite dish of the night was from Mo-Chica, a peruvian restaurant. They had a ceviche with hominy. I loved it because it reminded me of my childhood in S. America. I'm going to use the 20% coupon I got from them. It expires in October so I have to go soon.


These were milky, yogurty alcoholic drinks. They reminded me of yogurt soju.

Pinkberry was there, introducing new flavors. I think I got the coconut.

It was too hard. I think they overfroze it to make sure it wouldn't melt but it was so hard I had to add some liquid to it. I chose to follow Scoop's example and added some alcohol in it.


I finished the night with Sno:LA. This fro-yo tasted really healthy and the toppings were really interesting and healthy-sounding. I'm glad I tasted it because I can't wait to go back. It's like Pinkberry for green people.

I also had Brazilian mojitos from Sagatiba, a shot of Courvoisier, a toffee from Valerie Confections, some dessert from Good Girl Dinette, and then I got really full so I just took pictures of the beautiful concoctions. There were a ton of desserts. I wish they had more savory things because I don't particularly have a sweet tooth but for those who do, it would have been heaven for you.







There was a silent auction for attendees to bid on the unique experiences from exclusive cooking lesson, special dining package, airline tickets to chic products but I was too busy trying to taste everything. Some places ran out of food so I had to drink instead. It's very hard not to get buzzed at this event. Next year, I need to bring a DD so I can drink more.

The event was from 7 PM – 10 PM and ran $150 per person. Thanks Abby, for the hookups. Maybe next year, I will come back and be willing to pay for it. It's for a great cause and I was only able to try half the things. It's like going to Disneyland for the first time. You have to come back to get the full experience. I'm glad so many people have benefitted from this event.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Paella!

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In the spirit of trying to cut down on meat, I decided that chicken broth is a good substitute for actual chicken in my dish. You get the flavor without the meat. Yes, one can argue how that it's better because you still kill a chicken for the broth, blha blah blah but dood, I'm making baby steps here. I already cut down my meat intake to like once a day vs. three times a day and this carnivore is feening.

Anyway, the other day, I got this in the mail:

I made some veggie paella at work the other day so I remembered some of the ingredients. Since I had to make some food for the fam, I decided to go cheapo and went to TJ's to get some ingredients to recreate veggie paella - but with an Asian twist.

Instead of Arborio rice, I opted for the basmati rice at TJ's that has some wild rice in it as well as some seasoning. I thought the seasonings would give it more of an Asian kick to it, which is important if you live in a house with parents who will not eat things that are not suited for the Asian tastebud. I also grabbed myself some precut vegggies (the kind you sautee - the one I got included onions, carrots, broccoli, red, green, yellow peppers, etc.), potatoes (I got a bag full of different colored potatoes to give my paella color). Some green onions were in order as well as some garlic cloves and heirloom tomatoes. I had bay leaf at home and the most important spice, SAFFRON, was already chilling (seeping) in a bowl of water. DO NOT FORGET THE SAFFRON. Without it, the paella will look and taste bland. Saffron not only gives it the yellow color but it also gives it a dimension that is impossible with other spices. Yes, it's expensive, and that's why you seep it.

Anyway, so I got a huge wok pan and splashed some olive oil in there. I added the onions, garlic, then potatoes, the veggies. When it started browning a little, I added 4 cups of Emeril's Chicken Broth, some of Emeril's Original Essence, the whole bag of basmati rice, and let it simmer. Then added a few bay leaves and the saffron and its juice (try to seep it for more than 2 hours for more intense flavor before using it).

40 minutes later, this is what you get (pic was after we ate 75% of it because I forgot to take a pic of it):

It was delicious and I have none left so I'm sorry I couldn't share it with you. What I would do differently for the future is NOT to add the potatoes. It made the dish a little more starchy. My mom and bro liked the potatoes, though so maybe I'd just add a little less.

Next, I will attempt to put Emeril's Chicken Rub on some of my veggie dishes to see if it will make it taste like chicken.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Way Proms Should be: Blogger Prom 2009

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Prom sucks. Luckily, I moved down to South America to finish high school in tenth grade and never had to deal with the horror of prom (I was in the clear with the quinceanera's as well)- trying to find a date that doesn't suck, a dress that doesn't suck that is affordable, the pressure of being cool when I should really just be studying for my SAT's. Plus, all those dumb high school movies that treat prom like it's some huge transformative event in teens' lives only add fuel to melodramatic teen angst.

So, when I got an invite to attend the Blogger Prom I wasn't jumping up and down shrieking like I won a million dollars. Instead, my brain just went down the checklist to see if there might be any reason for me to not want to go to this thing. Date - can ask the bf. Dress - oooh, it's an 80's theme which means I can wear whatever is in my closet and just punch it up a little. Transportation - carpooling and valet is less than $10. Location - ROOFTOP of the Andaz West Hollywood. Food - free. Booze - free. Wait, did someone say free booze? Needless to say, after reading all the "fine print" I realized how even if this prom may be the only prom I'd ever go to in my life, it was already so much better than the way prom is conducted in high school. Plus, it's so easy. What do I have to do but to dress up in costume and show up to party?

Waiting in line, watching H.C. do his thang.


At the rooftop of the Andaz West Hollywood.

I finally felt like I got my bf's nod of approval for my blogging antics as he looked around at the hawtness of the hotel lobby, of the ridiculous outfits flowing in and out of the elevators, the free flowing food and booze on the rooftop and omg Pauly Shore saying hi to me by mistake.

With my hawt date, living proof that men love to dress up.

The players.

First thing we did was to go to the bar outside as a tipster said the lines outside were much shorter and faster. Thank you, tipster. We got all the awesome concoctions by The Liquid Muse - a Pinky Vodka cocktail and a Rosangel tequila cocktail calle dthe Flor de Maria. I preferred the Flor de Maria but the bf liked the sweetness of the other one. It was candy heaven for people with sweet tooths.

Then we decided to get our grub on to soak up some of the booze.

Danny from Kung Food Panda chatting it up with his peeps.


We went inside cuz they had more food there and I bumped into Abby from Pleasure Palate after she won her raffle!Finally got to meet Pat from Eating LA.


We sat next to Michelle from Weekend Suppers who won 2 raffles!

I totally knew we were sitting in the hot seats and I had a feeling I was going to win something.

Me with my $75 gift certificate to Crustacean
(note cheesy pose to maximize my outfit)


Very excited that we get to FINALLY try a restaurant on our way too expensive list. After the raffle and bumping into Pauly Shore, the party officially got started with some random dancing and more drinking.



With Christine and Cathy from gastronomy. Pic courtesy of Christine.

With Christine and Pam, my lovely ladies.

Nanciful and her hubby.

It was nice getting to know new people. Thanks to Tony from sinosoul, I met quite a few new foodbloggers I will be following.




The desserts were starting to be devoured and of course my sweet toothed bf goes to get a plate full of them even though we have no more physical room in our stomachs.

Two awesome doods in probably the top ten tackiest outfits that night.

It was fun hanging out with Tony from Sinosoul, Pam from Rants and Craves, Abby from Pleasure Palate, Danny from Kung Food Panda, Josh from Food GPS, Cathy from Gastronomy, Christine from Choisauce, meeting Nanciful, and Sam Kim from LAist. Afterwards, Javier came to say wassup and I was sad we couldn't party with him.

I don't know how we did it but we drove to 8 oz. burger bar and actually ordered the $8 special for blogger prommers. It included their Melrose burger, fries, and a drink.



Our bill to prove how much it cost us. Dood, it was cheap but we couldn't finish it. I took it home and fried the entire thing for my bro. It looked like a burger panini. The burger was good for $8 but I'm not sure if I would have paid more than that for it. It doesn't compare to some of the other burgers out there in the double digits.

First thing we did when we got home was to unpack the shwag bag and see what we scored!


Omg we got so much stuff. If you're curious, you can find the entire list on Kevineats. I did, however, like this one so I'll share with you.


That's right. I'm here to stay.

Thank you to the blogger prom committee. I don't know how the heck you guys did it but if you ever want to switch industries and want to produce movies, gimme a call.

The awesome ppl behind the blogger prom 2009:
  • H.C. of LA and OC Foodventures
  • Lindsay of LAist
  • Marni of Happy Go Marni
  • Maya of Shop Eat Sleep
  • Natalie of The Liquid Muse
  • Tara of When Tara Met Blog

  • We are all waiting for the next winter formal.
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