How big is your wok? Mongolian BBQ at Big Wok

Husband is a big fan of Mongolian BBQ.  When we discovered an all-you-can-eat place in Manhattan Beach during one of our exploratory drives, he was ecstatic.  Big Wok has now become one of our “go to” places for when we don’t feel like cooking and want something inexpensive and filling to eat.

Wok me, Amadeus

This place is pretty popular, especially during the dinner hours.  We usually try to get there  earlier so that we don’t have to wait in lines to get our food and have it cooked. We’ve never had to wait to be seated and are always greeted quickly by a smiling waitress.  Service here has always been great.  Parking on the other hand…

Meat, meat, meat

Just some of the veggie offerings

Big Wok operates like any other AYCE Mongolian BBQ.   You grab a bowl, fill it with semi-frozen slices of meat, vegetables and noodles.  Then you top it off with various sauces and hand the dish to a cook who gives you back a plate of steaming hot yummy eats.  The selection at Big Wok isn’t as big as other places I’ve been to but it has enough variety to make for interesting combinations.

The meat section offers turkey, chicken, pork, beef and lamb.  I usually do a  combo of chicken, beef and lamb, sometimes pork.  There’s also tofu for the vegetarians.

As for veggies, there’s your usual culprits – zucchini, green onions, celery, mushrooms, chopped green and red cabbage.  There’s also spinach, tomato, water chestnuts, baby corn…well, you get the idea.

Pick your sauce

There’s a good variety of sauces.  Regular BBQ oil, spicy BBQ oil, garlic water, ginger water, curry sauce, lemon water, chili oil…  There’s a card with a few combinations but, like all other Mongolian BBQ places I’ve ate at, I find it best if you at least double the number of spoonfuls.  Otherwise, you end up with a bland dish.  I like to use the spicy BBQ oil, garlic water (be sure to add in the garlic chips), a little ginger water and a spoonful of chili oil.  I think I may have to add in more chili as it never comes out as spicy as I want.

There's meat under all that...

Mmmm mmmm....

I don’t usually do noodles as I prefer rice.  I’m not sure why.  I do like noodles but I never get them at Mongolian BBQ places.  Maybe it’s because I don’t want to fill up on them when I know I’m also going to get “mana biscuits”.  Husband, on the other hand, is the opposite.  He loads up on meat and noodles.  Completely skips the veggie section…*sigh*

Oodles of noodles

Hey, where's the greens?

Mana Biscuits

Back to the “mana biscuits”.  What I’m talking about are those Chinese flat sesame-crusted bread thingies.  Husband and I used to play a lot of WoW and talked about having a guild party at our place and doing a WoW themed menu.  We decided that these bread items would be perfect “mana biscuits”.  I know, we’re dorks…  I love these things, though.  Husband doesn’t eat them since he’s got oodles of noodles on his plate so I always gobble them up.  There’s a nice crispness on the outside; the inside is warm and a little chewy.  I like to wipe the plate with them…so good!

Our total bill, tip included, ranges from $25-30 depending on if we get drinks or not.  Big Wok also offers some sides like fried shrimp, kimchee, soup and wontons but I’ve never ordered them and never seen anyone else with those dishes on their table.

I give Big Wok 3 1/2 NOMs!

Big Wok
250 N Sepulveda Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 798-1155
Big Wok Mongolian BBQ on Urbanspoon

Subway, eat fresh for breakfast

If you watch TV or follow food news, you may have heard that Subway is trying to break into the fast food breakfast scene.  Earlier this week, they offered up free English muffin melts as a promotion.  I stopped in at one that was located in a gas station before work.  I had to fill up…

Muffin melt

Egg whites, ham, cheese and tomato

Subway’s approach to breakfast is the same as lunch – Eat fresh and eat healthy.

Their muffin melts use light-wheat  English muffins which aren’t bad but like other wheat breads, a little dry and rough.  Subway offers several different meat options – ham, bacon, sausage – or you can just do a plain egg melt.   Egg whites can be substituted for no extra cost which is something I don’t think other fast food chains offers and a definite appeal to those trying to be more health conscious.

Like their subs, you can add on toppings and dressings and specify the type of cheese you want, if any.  And if you don’t feel like a muffin, you can get a 6″ or flatbread (different cost).

I added tomato to my ham, cheese and egg white melt.  I think the sandwich would have benefited from some sort of sauce to balance the dryness of the English muffin.  It didn’t fill me up but paired with fruit or yogurt, I think I would have had a decent, well-proportioned and balanced breakfast.

The muffin melts range from $2-3 and at a 160-170 cals and 3.5-4g of fat, are a heck of a lot healthier for you.

3 NOMs for Subway’s breakfast melts.

Subway
Various locations

Alice in Wonderland tea set @ Royal/T

Yes, I’m going thru my backlog of pictures…*phew*….

Back in March, I heard that Royal/T, the Japanese maid cafe in Culver City was offering an Alice in Wonderland tea set for the month.  Since Husband works down the street from the place and he worked on the movie, I insisted we go one day for lunch.

I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking..er…writing?

Outside Royal/T

Wall o' tea canisters

I know what I'm ordering...

Anime-ish Alice n' friends

Maid to order

It said "Drink me" so I did...

The complete tea set

Canapes were cut up into card suite shapes

These canapes were pretty good. The bread was a little crispy from toasting and all the toppings were flavorful. I’m always a smoked salmon fan. There was also an egg salad, tuna salad and one other thing I can’t quite recall.

I adored that little mushroom...and the macaron

The sign did say purple macaron but, as you can see, I ended up with a green one. It was vanilla flavored and really good.  There was a mini chocolate cupcake with a small “Eat me” sign, just like the big one on top.  The mushroom was a meringue, I think, and so cute.  They even painted the bottom with little stripes to make it look as mushroom-y as possible!  I was hoping for a Caterpillar to come along, sit on top of it with his hookah and ask “Whooooooooooo are yoooooooooooooouuuu?”

Why yes, I think I will...

This cupcake was vanilla flavored with a cream cheese type frosting and cinnamon. Looking at another version of the tea set someone else had ordered, they ended up with a chocolate one and a mini vanilla one. While the cupcake was moist, I found it had too much frosting.  But then again, I’m not a huge frosting person to begin with…

Husband ordered one of Royal/T’s beers and the Kobe beef burger sans the veggies.  Apparently, the burgers have gotten juicier since our first visit.  My little slider dribbled down my hand and Husband had a slightly messy time.  His coworker ended up having some juice fall in his lap.

beer

Kobe beef burger

I’ve always had a great meal at Royal/T and this time was no exception. I really enjoyed the tea set and admired the attention to detail that was paid to the decoration and execution of it.  While it did satisfy my hunger, the amount of food didn’t fill me up. $25 was a little bit pricy for what I got, I think, but for the novelty and fun I had working my way thru eating it, I was okay paying the price.

Service this time around was a little better but still, lunch here can run over an hour due to waiting around for your order to be taken or food to be served.

4 1/2 NOMs for an awesome special tea set!
Royal/T gets an upgrade from 3 NOMs to 3 1/2 NOMs.  Service here can still improve and the prices, while not unreasonable, do fall on the high end for what you get.

Royal/T
8910 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 559-6300
http://www.royal-t.org/
Royal/T Café on Urbanspoon

La Sirena Grill

On Sunday, Husband and I were running around doing errands for the new house.  Since neither of us had breakfast (bad habit), we decided to try out La Sirena Grill in El Segundo since we were in the area.

Dining area

Bar Area

Salsa

Pomegranate Margarita

When we walked in, the place was about half full.  We were quickly seated and presented with a basket of just-made tortilla chips and some spicy green salsa which I enjoyed.  The heat was enough to make my lips a little tingly by the time our meal was over.

Husband, about to face a few hours of shopping, went straight for some booze and ordered a pomegranate margarita.  Since one of us had to stay sober to drive and make wise purchases, I just stuck with my usual water.

La Sirena’s menu isn’t very extensive and lists items that sound more fusion than your classic Mexican fare.  They claim to use fresh and quality ingredients like grass-fed beef; the prices reflect the use of better quality ingredients.  There were also advertisements on the table touting happy hour specials throughout the week as well as tequila tastings.  A menu listed quite a few varieties…

On the appetizer menu, I spotted a porcini and truffle quesadilla served with a salad of baby arugula ($9).  Sold!  Asking about the size, I decided that it wouldn’t be enough for a meal so I also got the cerviche ($10).  Husband went for carne asada enchiladas with red sauce ($14-ish, carne asada was extra I think…).

Porcini and truffle quesadilla

Cerviche

The quesadilla was fantastic.  The porcini mushrooms were earthy and the chewy texture went well with the crisp tortilla.  I really enjoyed the flavor of this and would totally order this plate again.  Yes, it’s not very “Mexican” but tasty is tasty…

The cerviche was a little disappointing.  While it had a generous portion of scallops, shrimp and avocado,  I was hoping for a more tangy flavor, more acidity.  I got that when I reached the bottom of the plate but the top was just…meh.  Perhaps mixing it up to get the juices from the bottom to coat the top may help next time.  A little hard to do on such a small plate but worth a try.  I could always ask for a bowl, I suppose.

The service was great.  I never once had to ask for a refill on water; the waiter was very ninja about keeping it filled.

Overall, a positive first dining experince at La Sirena Grill.  I’m sure Husband and I will be back as the Happy Hour specials piqued our interest.

3 1/2 NOMs for La Sirena Grill!

La Sirena Grill
710-D Allied Way
El Segundo, CA 90245
(310) 640-6170
La Sirena Grill on Urbanspoon

BLT kick

I’ve been on a BLT kick lately.  It’s a pretty simple sandwich but when done right, can be all kinds of yum.  I think what I like best about it, besides the bacon, is the crunchy texture.  Toasted bread, fresh lettuce and crispy bacon all combine to give it this snap when you bite into it but it’s balanced with juicy tomatoes and mayo for moistness.

On Tax Day, we took our friend, artist Tanya Bjork, and her man to The Counter in El Segundo.  They had never been but had heard Husband and I sing its praises.  They ended up happy with it.  Another convert!

BLT

I decided that I wasn’t in a mood for a burger and opted for the BLT instead.  The bread was nicely toasted and, while thickier than normal store-bought bread, wasn’t too much.  The amount of bacon was perfect to get the flavor of it in each bite.  The tomatoes were juicy and the (Romaine?) lettuce was chopped which made for a slightly messy sandwich.  Instead of mayo, The Counter uses garlic aoli which definitely is tastier.

Fries smothered with a ton of Tillamook Cheddar

On a side note, Tanya ordered the grilled cheese which ended up being a monster of ooey gooey 3 cheeses.  They put so much cheese that it was just oozing out from between the two pieces of bread.  I bet it would be awesome with bacon and tomato added…  😉

We ordered some cheddar fries to share between us and these were demolished, though I think I did most of the nomming.  Eeks.  As an avid lover of french fries and cheese, cheddar fries are to me what fish treats are to kitties…  The cheese was nicely distributed but by the time we reached the end, it had solidified into a mass.  Which I promptly devoured with a fork.  *sigh*

The next day, Tanya and her man got hitched at the courthouse (CONGRATULATIONS!!!) and we all, along with other friends, celebrated with dinner and drinks at Tompkins Square in Westchester.

I ordered the grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and tomato.  Okay, it’s not a true BLT but it’s a close cousin.  T2, as we call it (it’s owned by two brothers), has a darn good grilled cheese which only gets better with bacon and tomato.  Two slices of thick white bread, Tillamook cheddar, American and Gruyere…pretty classic.  The nice thing is that they put in a good amount of cheese to offset the thickness of the bread.  This time around though, the kitchen didn’t keep the sandwich on the grill long enough to melt the cheese completely.  Forgivable since the place was packed and the kitchen was probably trying to get out orders as quickly as possible.  Next time though…

Classic BLT at Johnny Rocket's

Last night, Husband and I ate at our local Johnny Rockets.  Once again, I went for the BLT.  This was textbook – sourdough bread, bacon, iceburg lettuce, tomato and mayo.  While it was good, it wasn’t really anything above average.  And for the price…almost $9 (includes a side of fries), it seems a little overpriced.

Overall, I think the best BLT I had this weekend was at The Counter…

The Counter – El Segundo is rated 4 NOMs.
Tompkins Square is at 4 NOMs, as well.
Johnny Rockets is at 3 NOMs.

The Counter – El Segundo
700-A Allied Way
El Segundo, CA 90245
(310) 524-9967

Tompkins Square
8522 Lincoln Blvd
Los Angeles, CA90045
(310) 670-1212

Johnny Rockets
1550 Rosecrans Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA90266
(310) 536-9464

K-Zo

I must be missing something…  According to the reviews on Yelp, this place is supposed to be a great sushi restaurant.  But what I found was okay food for a high price…

Husband’s work was showing “Shutter Island” for free so we decided to take a break from packing and catch a flick as well as dinner.  He suggested K-Zo which was around the corner from his office in Culver City.

K-Zo sushi bar

When we got there, it was pretty empty as they had just opened for dinner.  The interior is very stark and modern.  I was amused by the one table that was hidden behind a curtain of beads/chains.  Guess that’s for customers who really want their privacy…  There’s a bar right by the door for cocktails, a row of tables along the windowed wall and a very long sushi bar with 3 chefs working when we were there.

Cocktails and an Asian Parmer

Since the Husband doesn’t do sushi, we sat at a table.  Cocktails were ordered first.  I opted to try a peach sochu cocktail as well as their “Asian Parmer” (green tea and lemonade).  Husband had some sort of cosmo drink.  The Asian Parmer (hahahaaa…) was actually pretty good, with more lemonade than green tea.  I liked my peach drink as well and had a slight buzz going.  What can I say?  I’m a bit of a lightweight…

First thing I noticed when looking at the sushi form and the menu were the prices.  The cheapest nigiri on the list was the Gyoku (egg) and the smelt roe at $4/2 pieces.  Most of the common types like salmon, tuna (maguro), yellowtail (hamachi) and freshwater eel (unagi) were $5-6.  A little bit more than what I am used to paying…  The standard menu is comprised of salads, appetizers and what they called “small plates”.  Think Japanese style tapas.  There are 2 prix fixe options at $58 or $78/pp – hors d’oeuvres, sashimi salad, entree, sushi, dessert and premium tea/coffee.

Salmon, Hamachi, Monkfish liver

I ordered some salmon, hamachi, scallop and monkfish liver (ankimo) nigiri while the other half went with the braised pork belly and popcorn shrimp “small plates”.  The salmon was okay but came out warmer than it should have been…almost as if the rice hadn’t quite cooled down enough.  The hamachi slices looked somewhat mangled and one piece was heavy on the wasabi.

Monkfish liver (ankimo) nigiri

I had never had monkfish liver before; this was my first time seeing it on a menu so I had to try it.  The liver is cooked via steaming.  Layered on a bed of rice and wrapped with seaweed, the ankimo was topped with a little ponzu and scallions.  It was very light flavor-wise and had a velvety smooth texture, sort of like tofu.  Overall, this was a very lovely piece of nigiri…  Not sure if I would order it again, though, due to the endangered nature of monkfish but I had to try it at least once since ankimo is considered a delicacy.

Braised pork belly

As for Husband’s dishes, I found the braised pork belly a little on the dry side.  This piece was chopped up into smaller pieces and the ones more towards the inside were a little juicier.  The flavor was okay, maybe could have benefitted from a touch more salt.  I think what I had at Wa Okan in San Diego was better and easier on the wallet.  The Husband liked it, though, and protested when I took more than one bite.   Hasn’t he heard that what’s his is mine?  Hehehe…

Popcorn shrimp

The popcorn shrimp ($8.50) was great.  The batter was light and really let the shrimpy taste shine thru.  The coating could have been crispier but otherwise, this was awesome.  I didn’t even bother using the aoili dressing they served along side since the nuggets alone were had a lot of flavor.  There was a good amount of shrimp in this basket, also, making it worth the price.

I do not think "fondant" means what you think it means...

Since we were still hungry, we opted to get dessert.  Husband went for the chocolate fondant – a chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream.  I selected the K-Zo purple potato specialty dessert thingy, a glass with ice cream, sweet purple potato puree, red bean, mochi, almonds and 2 strawberry Pocky sticks.

Husband liked his chocolate fondant (odd name for a pudding-like cake dessert since fondant is something else in the pastry world).  The bite I had was okay.  It was chocolate-y and slightly bitter.  But overall, it was really just an average chocolate dessert.

Purple people eater

I enjoyed my dessert as it definitely had an Asian flare to it with the red beans and mochi…sort of reminded me of the ices you find at the tea shops.

Service was great and our food arrived quickly, though I could see that potentially slowing down the more crowded the restaurant is, especially for sushi orders.

For what we got, quality-wise, I thought K-Zo was overpriced.  While everything tasted okay, I didn’t think it was worth the $100 bill we were handed.  I think I’ll explore other sushi options in the area first before coming back here.

3 NOMs for K-Zo.

K-Zo
9240 Culver Blvd.
Culver City CA 90232
(310) 202-8890
K-Zo Japanese on Urbanspoon

Hawaii – part 1

Last October, Husband and I took a trip to the Big Island (Hawaii) to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. On our 2nd day (first day was recouping from the flight after an afternoon arrival), we drove to the East side to visit Hilo. I used to live here when I was a little kid and wanted to see how much had changed (or not) since I left.

Due to a big breakfast and the fact we were going to a luau later that night, we didn’t want to fill up on a big lunch. Plus, the humidity was killing our appetites. Living in Southern California has spoiled me, apparently. I don’t remember Hilo being –that– humid but then again, it had been almost 20 years since I moved away.

Anyways, I insisted we had to eat something “local”. I had no idea of where to go, though. The only places I remembered food-wise was a cafe next to the Woolworth’s at the mall and a small mom n’ pop market that served shaved ice. We weren’t a family that ate out a lot when I was a kid.

Driving around the downtown area, Husband and I came across Cafe 100. I had seen this place featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” show; they served up loco mocos and plate lunches. Perfect…local cuisine with things Husband would eat.

Cafe 100 isn’t really a restaurant; it’s more like a stand. You walk up to a window, place your order and pick it up at another window. There are tables set up outside along the sides for people who want to eat there.

Halloweenie loco moco special

Little sausages

They were advertising a “Halloweenie” loco moco special (rice covered with gravy covered with a fried egg and topped with several pieces of small weenies). I had to do a little convincing to get Husband to agree to this as he was iffy about the combination. Gravy on rice…with egg? Trust me, it’s actually really good.

This ended up being smaller than I expected but worked out perfectly as a snack split between the two of us. I would have liked more of a crisp edge on the egg but the yolk was nicely runny. A little more gravy would have been preferable as well since there wasn’t enough for all the rice. The weenies were plump and juicy. Taking a little bit of everything for each bite resulted in salty yumminess. However, the gravy alone was a little lacking in the salt so once we ate all the weenies and egg, the rice and gravy was a little bland. Husband was quickly won over by this dish, though.

I wish we had more of an appetite because I would have loved to try their plate lunches and grab a Spam musubi. Oh well…next trip!

3 NOMs!

Cafe 100
969 Kilauea Ave
Hilo, HI 96744
(808) 935-8683
Cafe 100 on Urbanspoon

Banh Mi & Che Cali Bakery

It’s been a while since I’ve eaten Banh Mi…literally years.  Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich comprising of a french baguette, meat, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeño, mayo and sometimes, pate.  Mmm-yoso had several posts on this Vietnamese sandwich which started a craving.  Then I spotted someone at work chowing down on one a few weeks ago.  After reading Gastronomy’s post about Banh Mi in St. Louis, my craving got pushed into “must have one NOW” territory.  A quick Google and Yelp search revealed several places near my work.  Banh Mi & Che Cali Bakery (also referred to as “Banh Mi Che Cali”l) seemed to be a popular spot so I decided to go there on my lunch break today.

Located on Brookhurst and McFadden in Westminster, this little shop looks like an old Taco Bell that got taken over.  Inside are numerous Vietnamese ladies making sandwiches, taking orders and spooning various porridges into to-go containers.  The counter is overflowing with all sorts of things – leaf wrapped mystery items, rice with chicken, spring rolls, noodles, bread-y things….  It’s a very small space so most people take their order to go but there are several tables with chairs inside and outside in case you do want to dine in.  Also, they bake their own bread and sell long baguettes for $1/piece.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of order to ordering.  Basically, you just charge up to the front, kicking all concept of a line to the curb.  Little old ladies will cut in front of you without even giving you a glance.  The lady at the register quickly writes down your order, takes your money and moves on to the next person.  They don’t ask for your name or anything.  Somehow, they just know what order goes to which customer.  I wonder how many orders they’ve messed up.  In the time I was there, I never saw anyone come back in complaining of receiving the wrong items…

The next thing I noticed was the banh mi menu prices.  The sandwiches only cost $2.50 and they advertised a “buy two, get one free” deal.  Wow…that’s some cheap eats.   I decided to go with the 3 for 2 deal.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat all 3 sandwiches despite the fact that I was starving (no breakfast, bad me) but it was too good a deal to pass up.  I could always save the other sandwiches for later…  I ordered the BBQ pork (Thit Nuong), BBQ beef, and ham and meatloaf (Dac Biet Thit Cha).  $5 even at the register because they don’t charge tax for the sandwiches, apparently.

BBQ Pork Banh Mi

Inside the BBQ Pork Banh Mi

Back at work, I opened the first sandwich.  Nothing was marked so I had no clue which one I had picked.  It turned out to be the BBQ pork.  I chowed down.  The bread was soft on the inside and had a ok crust on the outside, though I wish it had a little bit more crustiness to it.  The bbq pork was good.  It wasn’t dry but some pieces didn’t tear easily.  The pickled vegetables added a delicious sour note but I noticed they don’t use cucumbers like other Banh Mi places I’ve been to.  There was just the right of amount of cilantro in each bite.  However, there was only one long slice of jalapeño which was disappointing.  Overall, this was a decent banh mi as far as I could tell and it satisfied my hunger.

Inside the ham & meatloaf Banh Mi

Ham and meatloaf Banh Mi

A couple of hours later, I was starting to get hungry again so I went for another sandwich.  I pulled out the ham and meatloaf.  Now, the meatloaf isn’t really “meatloaf” but more like a steamed pork patty.  This sandwich had pâté on it as well.  It was a little more sloppily put together as the pâté wasn’t evenly spread on the bread and oozed out of the side sometimes.  And they really skimped on the jalapeno…one lonely little slice.  The bread was even less “crusty” than the previous sandwich.  But the ham was nice and salty and overall, this was a good sandwich.  I don’t think it’s as good as the ones I remember getting from the little place in San Diego’s Ranch 99 but for $2.50, it was great.

I haven’t gone for the BBQ Beef yet as I’m still full so that may have to be saved for another time.  Hopefully, it keeps well…

Overall, these were decent Banh Mi and you can’t beat the price.  It did satisfy my craving but I was hoping for something more mouth-watering in flavor.

On a side note, driving from work to this place nearly cost me my life.  There was a section on Bolsa around Magnolia that was INSANE with the stereotypical Asian driver.  It looked like a lot of people were out gathering supplies for the Lunar New Year.  Either way, craziness…  I felt like I was on the road with clones of my mom and dad behind the wheel of the other cars.

Banh Mi & Che Cali Bakery gets 3 NOMs from the Catty Critic.

Bahn Mi & Che Cali Bakery
15551 Brookhurst St
Westminster, CA 92683
(714) 839-8185
Banh Mi & Che Cali Bakery on Urbanspoon

Westside Tavern

A few weeks ago, the Husband and I tried to make it to a free showing of “Up in the Air”.  Unfortunately, we arrived too late to get a spot in line.  Since we were already out and about, we opted for Westside Tavern for dinner since it was right there.

Walking in, you get the feeling that the space is a swanky restaurant…a bit out of place considering you’re at a mall but then again, we are in Los Angeles.  The restaurant is fairly large and has a spacious bar area with a large selection of alcohol and wines.

Near where we were seated was a large chalkboard with the day’s specials.  I noticed a butternut squash soup with almonds and pumpkin oil, and scallops with spinach, blood orange and persimmon listed.  Both sounded enticing so I got a cup of the soup for an appetizer and the scallops as my main course.  The husband ordered the clam chowder, another board special, and the Niman Ranch flat iron pepper steak with a Béarnaise sauce.

Butternut Squash Soup

New England Clam Chowder

The soup was amazing.  The butternut squash flavor enhanced with the pumpkin oil and seasonings like nutmeg and cinnamon was simply rich and delicious.  The almonds gave it a nice texture contrast.  I couldn’t stop eating this and wanted more after I was done.  This was a soup that is craveable.  I hope that Westside Tavern adds this as a regular item one day.  Or maybe I don’t…  If they did, I’d be in trouble.

The clam chowder was good with lots of chunks of clam.  The only complaint my husband had was that it was a bit gritty, as if they didn’t wash the clams well enough.  I agree; the bites I had all contained grit.  Not pleasant and took away from the overall enjoyability of this dish.

Scallops with spinach, blood orange, persimmon

Niman Ranch steak with Béarnaise

The scallops dish was great – nice sear and not rubbery (overcooked), with the exception of one of the scallops.  The spinach was sauteed with garlic and packed a lot of flavor.  The blood orange gave a nice citrus note and the persimmon a sweetness to each bite.

The steak dish was alright but not spectacular.  It could have benefited from some seasoning like salt and pepper.  The Béarnaise sauce was served on the side, fortunately, because neither my husband nor I liked it.  I haven’t had Béarnaise before so I’m not sure if it was made badly or if I just don’t like it.  The fries served with the steak were decent, nothing spectacular or noteworthy.  I did steal quite a bit from Husband, though, since those fried potato pieces are a particular weakness of mine…

Half-eaten S'mores Parfait

Since this was our first time to Westside Tavern, my husband deemed it necessary to try a dessert in the interest of this blog.  I think he just wanted an excuse for dessert.  We decided on their S’mores Parfait – chocolate pudding with a crumb topping and toasted house-made marshmallows.  This was really delicious and a nice ending to our meal.  The crumb topping provided a nice crunch to offset the smooth and chocolate-y pudding.  And the toasted marshmallows….mmmmmm.

Our service was excellent.  The prices were a bit high; dinner ended up costing us about $100 (tax and tip included) though we did have a carafe of wine with it.

I would have to give Westside Tavern 3 1/2 NOMs for our first visit.

Westside Tavern
10850 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90064
310.470.1539
http://www.westsidetavernla.com/
Westside Tavern on Urbanspoon

The Gumbo Pot

Just part of the menu...

A few weeks ago, my artist friend, Tanya Bjork, and I paid a visit to the Farmers Market at The Grove.  We decided to have lunch at one of the many eateries there.  Since we had been talking on and off for a while now about how long overdue we were for a trip to NOLA and how much we missed The Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter, The Gumbo Pot called to us.

Located in a back corner of the Market, The Gumbo Pot boasts a menu featuring Creole and Cajun specialties like gumbo (of course), jambalaya and red beans & rice.  There’s blackened catfish, po’boys, muffelatas and even alligator!

Muffelata

Cornbread Muffin

I opted to get a muffelata and a side of the cornbread.  The Gumbo Shop’s version of this sandwich consists of a thick sesame crusted bread, ham, salami, some other meat that I forgot the name of, provolone and an olive tapenade.  The bread was a little dry and the olive tapenade was quite strong and a little salty.  The bread to filling ratio was leaning towards a little too much bread.  While the flavors were good, it wasn’t quite up to what I had when I was in the French Quarter.  The cornbread was good though – moist and speckled with bits of pepper for a little bit of kick though for my tolerance, there wasn’t much heat.

Tanya went with a blackened catfish sandwich.  It was massive.  She decided to take the filling from one half and double up the other half so she wouldn’t fill up too much on the bread.  I didn’t get a taste but she seemed to like it. Looking around at other customers, I could hear chatter about how good the gumbo and jambalaya were.  Those, along with alligator, will have to be ordered on my next visit…

Beignets

The Gumbo Shop also serves up beignets and cafe au lait.  We couldn’t resist and got an order of those yummy fried dough bits.  The beignets here were a little denser and oiler than what we got at Cafe du Monde but our memories could be a little biased since we were, um, intoxicated when we were there.  We noticed that the chicory coffee was courtesy of cans from Cafe du Monde, though!  Maybe the beignet mix was from there as well…

Over all, I wasn’t blown away by my meal.  I guess the muffaleta isn’t their specialty.  But there were many other things on the menu that I would come back for sure to try them.  I’ve never had alligator and my curiosity is piqued…

The Gumbo Pot gets 3 NOMs for the Catty Critic’s first visit.

The Gumbo Pot
6333 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90036-3190
(323) 933-0358
http://www.thegumbopotla.com
Gumbo Pot on Urbanspoon