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

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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

The Hummus Factory

Oy…it’s been over a month since I updated!  Apparently, t’is the season for nasty little bugs to infect me…  Also, the Husband and I have been tied up with buying a house!  Exciting times.  It’s got a HUGE kitchen and I’m looking forward to buying a new stove and fridge.  Well, minus having to dish out $$$…

Anyways, where have I been eating?  Not a lot of places since we are about to see a huge deduction in our accounts and trying to cut back on costs.  But I did try some place new, The Hummus Factory on the Manhattan Beach/El Segundo border.  I’ve gotten takeout from this place twice so far and, sadly, I just can’t get inspired by the food.

The first time, I ordered the combination kebob entree. The meat was moist and okay in terms of taste and seasoning but it was nothing that made me go wow or left me happy and satisfied. The Lula kebob (minced meat with spices) was the best, I think.  It had the most flavor; I ordered the entree portion of this on the second visit.  The rice they serve here is just plain white rice.  I think their dishes would benefit if they seasoned the rice a bit.  The hummus is surprisingly tasteless though the texture is nice and creamy. The stuff I buy from Trader Joe’s has more flavor. However, I do like the babaganoush appetizer. Pureed eggplant with garlic and a nice smoky flavor.

The portions at The Hummus Factory aren’t overly huge but they are filling.  Entree dishes come with your selected kabob, rice, salad (romaine, tomato and dressing) and hummus with flatbread.  The service has always been superb, quick and friendly so they get extra points for that. The interior is small but clean. The prices are affordable, the menu simple.

It’s an okay place but I don’t think I will come here anymore as the food leaves my taste buds feeling unsatisfied and wanting something more.

The Catty Critic gives The Hummus Factory 3 NOMs….one extra NOM for the affordability, wonderful service and decent babaganoush.

The Hummus Factory
1570-L Rosecrans Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA 90245
(310) 725-0005
www.thehummusfactory.com

Beef at The Counter – El Segundo

Since my first visit to The Counter in Marina Del Rey, the place has really grown on me.  Over the weekend, the husband and I went to the El Segundo location for dinner.

I tried their beef burger again, opting to use an English muffin as the bun and topped it with mixed greens, tomato, grilled onions, Gruyere and peppercorn sauce.  I have to say, this time around, the burger was better and tastier.  The peppercorn sauce is a real winner.  I am also a fan of the horseradish mayo.  It has a good kick to it and is a great dip for the sweet potato fries…or regular fries!  Considering I’m not a huge mayo fan, that says a lot.  I think I’ll be using the English muffin again.  It’s just the right amount of bread and the toasted state gives a nice crunch texture-wise.

I also got a shake.  I wasn’t in the mood for apple pie so I combined peanut butter and banana.  A classic combo and oh so tasty!  The peanut butter was a little heavy and masked the banana a little; the PB hit your taste-buds first but once that went away, you could taste the banana.

I have to say, a 1/3lb burger, shake and fries is really filling.  Two burgers, an order of fries and two shakes set us back about $36 and change.  It sounds a little steep but these aren’t fast food burgers.

And as extra incentive to go visit this place, every Wednesday night, this location offers 4 slider-beer pairings for $12.  I haven’t tried this as I’m not a big beer person.  However, if they ever offer up slider-shake pairings, you can be sure I’ll be there!

Apologies for the lack of pictures but I was starving and it was either die or eat.  I chose to eat….

The Counter – El Segundo gets 4 NOMs.

The Counter
700-A Allied Way
El Segundo, CA 90245
(310) 524-9967
http://www.thecounterburger.com
The Counter on Urbanspoon

So where’s the good Mexican food in LA?

The Mexican places in LA that I’ve been to so far have nothing on what you can find in San Diego. I miss my *bertos…

I went in, ordered a bean n’ cheese burrito for the husband and a Burrito Especial (meat, cheese, guac, pico de gallo) for myself….none of this rice n’ beans filler crap. I had the option of steak or chicken and went with steak. They got it wrong and put chicken in.

I was curious as to why my order was in a styrofoam container vs. being wrapped in paper like most other burritos. The reason – this was a wet mess. It literally fell apart when I picked it up and I ended up using a fork n’ knife. Um, drain the pico de gallo next time before throwing it in, m’kay? They didn’t skimp on the filling, obviously, since the tortilla barely wrapped around it but I don’t think there was a lot of chicken. At least not that I could taste due to the overpowering pico n’ guac.

It wasn’t bad but damn, I do miss my carne asada burritos from Roberto’s. And don’t even get me started on breakfast burritos. I don’t know what Chile Verde is thinking putting beans in theirs but from where I come from, it’s bacon, egg, cheese and shredded hash browns. And a whole lot of hot sauce….

Also, where’s the fish burrito on the menu? Do I really have to go to Rubio’s for that?

Would I go back? Probably…though I might stick with rolled tacos next time or get a bean n’ cheese burrito since that looked okay and the husband didn’t complain. Besides, it’s not like I have many options, atm…

P.S. I pronounced “Especial” the Spanish way and the Hispanic guy behind the counter looked at me funny and asked “What”? Is my accent really that bad?? So I had to repeat it, this time pronouncing it “Eh-speh-shawl”.

Chile Verde earns 2 1/2 NOMs.

Chile Verde
630 N Sepulveda Blvd
El Segundo, CA 90245
(310) 640-7666
Chile Verde Mexican Food on Urbanspoon

Marmalade Cafe – El Segundo

The husband and I wandered here on Sunday for a late lunch (2pm-ish).  It was our first visit.  The place was packed but luckily there was no wait for us.

There were two menus – the regular menu and their brunch menu.  I’m notoriously bad at trying to figure out what to order when I don’t have a particular craving.  Having two menus did not help.

Our server promptly arrived and took drink orders.  Husband was feeling the need for some alcohol and asked for a Captain n’ Coke.  Strangely enough, our server came back saying that they were trying to locate their bottle of Captain hence the slowness in delivery.  But the fact that he came back and explained the wait was just one sign of the great service we got.  I never had to ask for a refill on my water; our food arrived quickly and our waiter was attentive without hovering.

The other half decided on the country fried steak and I opted for the seafood risotto.  While we were waiting, a basket of nice warm rolls arrived.  Nothing special about them other than the fact that they were warm which is great for melty buttery goodness.

The country fried steak came with mashed potatoes and a medley of squash, carrots and broccoli.  I stole a bite of everything on Husband’s plate.  The potatoes were quite rich, creamy and buttery and also skinless.  It seems like a lot of places nowadays are doing “smashed potatoes”, leaving in the skins and not really whipping it up to the right consistency.  Marmalade Cafe did it right, thankfully.  The gravy was super thick, a little too thick, I think, but was okay flavor-wise.  The chicken was a little dry for my tastes.  It was breaded with Panko crumbs which had a nice crunch and wasn’t super-saturated with oil.  As for the veggies, they were cooked perfectly; they still retained a little crunch of freshness.

The risotto was a bit disappointing.  It was too soupy and thin, almost as if they didn’t spend the time to stir it to the correct thickness.  The dish looked more like seafood and rice mixed together with a little pool of broth at the bottom of the bowl.  The broth was tasty and the flavors simple.  There was a generous amount of seafood given which was a plus.  But it wasn’t really risotto in my opinion.

The cost was a bit on the high side.  The risotto was around $20 and I think the country fried steak was around $15?  But the portions were filling and we were both stuffed with our meals.

There were many things on the menu that were tempting, especially in terms of brunch items.  I think the other half and I were happy enough with our first experience to go back again.  I just don’t think I’ll be ordering the seafood risotto again unless I’m craving shellfish.

I give Marmalade Cafe 3 NOMs.

Marmalade Cafe
2014 E Park Pl
Plaza El Segundo
El Segundo, CA 90245
(310) 648-7200
http://www.marmaladecafe.com/