Saturday, December 14, 2013

Old Skool Chinese Food - Lunch

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I grew up eating chop suey, egg foo young, and bbq pork.  There aren't too many old skool places that serve this kind of food anymore.  I've passed this place many times and one night on my way home decided to stop in, saw a lot of people eating here, wanted to try their won ton soup.

See What Jay Eats
at Chinese Garden Restaurant

Wor Won Ton Mein

Won tons, noodles, vegetables,
bbq pork, and shrimp

It was just OK

I came back for the Lunch Specials,
which I love at these old skool places.

Lunch Specials
Tuesday to Saturday
11:30 am to 3 pm 

Crispy Nooldes with Egg Flower Soup
(part of this lunch special)

 Shrimp with Lobster Sauce
and rice
with an egg roll.
(including the egg drop soup, tea, and fortune cookie)

Not a bad lunch deal for $7.50
and it brought back memories.

Wasn't a fan of the egg roll tho,
was more like a brick filled with meat.

They have 20 different lunch specials
or you can order from the main menu.

Fortune Cookie Time!
With an upcoming lotto jackpot of over $500 Million,
if this is my last post, you'll know why...

Chinese Garden Restaurant
856 N. Garfield Avenue
Montebello, CA 90640
(323) 722-6484

Closed on Mondays

Read my post on another old skool Cantonese style restaurant
 Paul's Kitchen

Photos by Jay Terauchi
Jay Eats

My Favorite Soba!

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I was watching one of Anthony Bourdain's Japan episodes the other night, he and Chef Morimoto were eating soba at a well-known soba restaurant in Tokyo.  It's been awhile since I've had good soba, not many soba places make their own noodles.  It's hard to explain how good soba is if you haven't had a fresh noodles.

I stopped in my favorite soba shop, Otafuku in Gardena.   I was introduced to this noodle shop about 14 years ago, when their menu didn't have a lot of English descriptions and I usually ordered blind.  Today is a different story, the dining room has expanded into the next store front and the menu now has English descriptions and some pictures.  Regardless, the noodles are made fresh each day and they know how to cook them.  For me, the perfect noodle is cooked al dente.

Otafuku is hidden behind a plain store front with a nondescript sign.  Most of the regulars know that they have a small parking lot and entrance in the back of the building.

See What Jay Eats...

Tsukemono (pickled vegetables), 
tsuyu (dipping sauce),
and condiments (wasabi and green onions) 
brought to the table.

The dipping sauce served here is made from scratch,
not the typical hondashi that others use, 
which is mostly MSG.

Ready to eat...

Mini shrimp tempura bowl
(two shrimp, slice of red bell pepper, and potato) 

It was just the right size for today's lunch.

Seiro Soba Noodles
with dipping sauce

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat
and usually brown in color.
A special white buckwheat flour is used for 
the seiro noodles, made from a polished down 
buckwheat seed.

I do a better job slurping than Bourdain...

at the end of the meal

A square pot arrives at the table.
It's filled with the starchy water used to cook
the soba noodles.  It's to be used to thin out the
tsuyu and to finish off the meal. 

I enjoyed my noodle lunch
and was happy that I got my soba fix. 

Read my previous soba post, click Here
I just realized, I'm a creature of habit, you'll have to read why...

16525 S. Western Avenue
Gardena, CA 90247
(310) 532-9348

Closed on Sundays

Photos by Jay Terauchi
Jay Eats

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bento Box Bargain - At Home Kitchen

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One thing that I don't see much anymore is good simple Japanese food.  It's hard to find a restaurant that does combinations with the classics, like tonkatsu (fried pork) and grilled salmon (without the teriyaki sauce).  

A friend introduced me to At Home Kitchen in Gardena, it's at the old Bob's Okazuya on South Vermont, between Artesia and Gardena Blvd.  For my friend to go twice in one week, I knew I had to try it.

I have to admit, the menu is a bit confusing, everything is a la carte.  The menu starts off by telling you about the set, but to go with what?

The set is an additional $3, which includes miso soup, rice, and @Home Salad, your choice of mixed vegetable tempura, seafood poke, or a 4 pc. sushi roll. 
The "@Home Salad" is actually two salads, a dressed green salad with a Japanese potato salad, it's more like a mashed potato salad on top.

See What Jay Eats...

Grilled Salmon (a la carte $6.60)
ordered with the $3.00 set. 

I opted for today's spicy tuna roll 

The salmon was cooked perfectly,
the $3 is truly a bang for the buck!

Chicken Katsu $5.00
with the set
On this day, the 4 pc sushi was a California Roll

Usually the chicken katsu or tonkatsu (pork)
is thin and dry, they know how to cook a katsu here.

Agedashi Tofu $3.00
(Fried tofu in tempura sauce)

You add a $3.00 set and not a bad lunch for $6.00.

Orange Slices
for dessert

Haven't cut oranges like this
since working at a sushi bar.

It's good Japanese food AND at bargain prices!  BTW, they have a daily Bento Box.  Check the board to see the daily special, it's a bargain too at $7.80.  The service was attentive and they cleared the table of completed dishes.  They have a few small tables, I don't suggest going with more than 4 people.  

I enjoyed it and will be back to try the bento box.

16814 South Vermont Avenue
Gardena, CA 90247
(310) 965-0804

Monday - Saturday
10:30 am - 9 pm
Closed Sundays


Photos by Jay Terauchi
Jay Eats

Monday, October 28, 2013

Chengdu Taste - San Gabriel Valley

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Every time I've driven by this San Gabriel Valley restaurant, I've noticed the amount of people outside waiting.  It doesn't matter what time of the day or night, there's always a line.  This tells me something must be really good AND people are willing to wait for whatever it is they're selling. 

My friend Bill mentioned that he wanted to check it out and organized a group dinner, he even went early to get in line.  Before heading over to the restaurant, I took a look at Yelp to see what people were ordering.  One of the comments I saw the most, is the wait.  Be prepared to wait an hour or two, cause they only have 50 or so seats.  The dish most talked about or ordered was the "Boiled Fish in Spicy Soup."   

While we waited for our table, we decided on which dishes 
to order and had a plan of attack when we were seated.

None of us had been there before and I'm sure 
there are other dishes we should've tried, 
but this is what we ordered.

Part of the appeal of this Chengdu-style
cooking is the spicy dishes.  

NOTE:  Although they have a lot of spicy dishes, 
they also have non-spicy dishes too.

See What Jay Eats...

Mung Bean Jelly Noodles with Chili Sauce
1 Chili Pepper icon on menu

This was a nice appetizer to start.

It was a nice combination with the noodles and
chili sauce, but there was something a tad sweet.

Kung Pao Chicken
1 Chili Pepper icon on menu

It was good, not really anything special tho.

Toothpick Lamb with Cumin
1 Chili Pepper icon on menu

Not sure why it had 1 Chili Pepper on
the menu, I didn't think it was that spicy.

I did see this dish on a few other tables as
we were leaving the restaurant.

 Twice Cooked Pork
1 Chili Pepper icon on menu

Loved the pork belly and leeks.

 Boiled Fish in Spicy Soup
1 Chili Pepper icon on menu

This was our "must order" dish that we
saw on Yelp.  It was one of my favorites
of the evening.

It reminded me of fish poached in hot sauce.
This one was served in the chili sauce it was
cooked in, lots of bean sprouts and other
vegetables at the bottom of the pan.

This is a must order dish!

 Flavored Pork Ribs
1 Chili Pepper icon on menu.

This dish reminded me of salt & pepper pork chops.
Although cooked with chili peppers, didn't think it was
spicy enough to rank 1 Chili Pepper on the menu.
But by this point of the meal, I've had a lot of spicy.

House Special Tea Smoked Duck (Half)
No Chili Pepper icon on menu

I love smoked duck, this one has the crispy
skin on it.  Not sure why it was served with
steamed buns?  No sauce was served with it.

I really enjoyed the food, each dish that we
ordered was solid.  Didn't have anything that I 
wouldn't order again in the future.  I can see why
everyone ordered the fish, it's very good.

I was glad to be able to go with a group
of friends and to try different dishes.  I'm not sure
if it's worth a wait of an hour or more tho.

I would go back and have the
boiled fish in spicy soup!

Service needs improvement, nothing major.
In order to turn tables and get people served
in a timely manner, it's the little things that will
keep the flow and get people fed and on their way.
Things like refilling water glasses, removing
empty plates, and packing leftovers 
will help to turn tables and reduce the wait.
BUT there's more to it than just these things...

Give me a call, I'll train your servers
to give exceptional service , serve more customers,
and make more tips in the process.

Chengdu Taste
828 W. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91803
(626) 588-2284

Photos by Jay Terauchi
Jay Eats

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mutual Trading Co's Annual Japanese Food Expo - 2013

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The 25th Annual Mutual Trading Co.
Japanese Food & Restaurant Expo
Pasadena Convention Center
October 19. 2013

I've been going to the Mutual Trading Co Show almost every year since 2000, I even attended their show in the NY/NJ area.  Mutual Trading is one of the oldest Japanese food distributors in the U.S.  Based in the Los Angeles, MTC has sales offices in Honolulu, San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Boston, New Jersey, and New York.  Mutual Trading has beautiful showrooms in Los Angeles and New York City.  I should do a post on their showroom one of these days...

Ready for the breaking of the 
sake barrel to open the expo

 Once inside, lots of food, beverages,
equipment, knives, and products of all kinds.

With 88 vendors, 30 from Japan,
this event had over 2,000 registered attendees.

At the entrance, I ran into my friend 
Tommy Kosaka (chef/owner - Sushi Dragon
and Mr. Kosei Yamamoto (President & CEO, Mutual Trading) 

I look forward to seeing Mr. Yamamoto each year at the show
and around Los Angeles at various food events.

See What Jay Eats...

 A yakiniku sandwich

It was actually a good sandwich

Katsubushi - shaved bonito flakes.

Dried bonito (smoked and dried solid) is
shaved (like wood shavings) and used to make dashi,
the mother of all Japanese stocks, soups, and sauces.

This is how to do it old school and 
still the best way...

with square noodles 

Not the typical round noodles

For some reason, I now prefer the square noodles
over the round ones.

My kind of toy store

Masamoto-Sohonten Ltd is a premiere
Tokyo knife company and
has been family-owned for
six generations, dating back 150 years.

If you visit Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market,
look for the Masamoto knife stall

 Every year I look at the sushi knife at the top,
it's for cutting multiple sushi rolls.

I wouldn't even know how to sharpen it

The 30 cm yanagi was added to my
Christmas list, but I think Santa would
say that I'm about $2K over budget.

A really nice knife... 

Mr. Masahiro Hirano
Masamoto-Sohoten LTD.

Hirano-san engraving knives
for customers.

He engraved two of my knives
many years ago.

Food Safety Seminar

I'm always interested in food safety and wished
more restaurant owners and kitchen staff
would too.

At the Zojirushi booth

I'm not used to working with rice cookers
that aren't at least 20 cups. 

Binchotan - Japanese charcoal

Now I want yakitori

New product, not sure how I would use it...

So many vendors to meet
and lots of samples to try.

Scallop with Yuzu Kosho

A citrus flavored Japanese chili pepper paste,
one of my favorite Japanese condiments.

 Sun Noodle was here and so was the line.

They have an array of noodles
for almost every kind of dish.

 Along with their Ramen Lab broths,
one stop shop for noodles and broth
for ramen menus.

 Fish broth ramen

My friend Tommy Kosaka negotiating 
the price of a yanagi. 

My favorite yuzu juice 

Yuzu is a Japanese citrus 
with a clean taste

Matsuri Brown Rice

Wasn't the typical brown rice
that I'm familiar with... 

One of the reasons why I attend these shows,
to see new products.

This one is a frozen takoyaki product,
not bad for a frozen item.

Tuna Cutting Demo

I ran into friends and missed the demo

But I did get to taste it.

Not just food and equipment,
but they also had dish and glass wear on sale

Mr. Hirano giving a demonstration on knife sharpening. 

It's now audience participation time 

One of the best imported Japanese beers.

I'm surprised we don't see more of it around town...

Time to head over to the crowded
beer, sake, and sochu tasting area.

Sorry, my pictures of the beer and sake area
didn't really turn out too well.
They were really out of focus, not sure why...

It's not that I attend these shows only to see all of the new products
or to fill up on free samples.  But to see friends in the industry,
run into chefs I've worked with or vendor reps I've met in the past.
Unfortunately, this is a trade show and only open to those
in the restaurant industry, otherwise I'd say to attend next year.

You'll just have to check back with me next year on what's
new in the Japanese food arena...

Mr. Kosei Yamamoto

Photos by Jay Terauchi
Jay Eats