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

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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 Corner Bakery – Manhattan Beach

Like most people out there, I needed to hit up the mall/grocery store on Christmas Eve for some last minute items.  What a nightmare…but it did give me the excuse to have lunch at The Corner Bakery in Manhattan Beach.

I’ve seen this chain around and heard good things but never tried it.  It reminded me a lot of Panera, another bakery-restaurant chain. When I walked in, the setup was quite similar…big board with the menu and baskets of breads behind the register.

Corner Combo

I ordered the Corner Combo – half a sandwich/panini and a cup of soup or salad.  I opted for the chicken pesto sandwich and tomato basil soup.

My first impression when my food was delivered was mixed.  The soup looked quite tasty with chunks of tomato but the sandwich looked a little wimpy filling wise.

Tomato Basil soup

I tasted the soup first.  Lots of flavor.  The tomato chunks were soft but not mushy and there was plenty of basil pieces.  It seemed a little thin, not as creamy as other tomato basil soups I’ve had, but then again, the menu did say soup, not bisque.  Definitely a nice filler for a chilly winter day.  I’d come back to eat this again but in a bread bowl.

Chicken Pesto Sandwich

As you can see in the picture, there doesn’t seem to be much in the sandwich…bread, tomato, a thin piece of chicken and some arugula.  The bread was good, soft inside, semi-crunchy crust.  The dressing gave the sandwich a little bit of a sweet flavor.  The ingredients were fresh and the chicken was moist but bland.  I appreciate the use of good quality ingredients but there was nothing about this sandwich that made it memorable or interesting.  I think I’d try a different sandwich next time.

The portions of this meal were just right to fill me up but not uncomfortably stuff me.  I also thought the price was decent but a little on the high side.  With a regular fountain drink, it cost me around $12 for everything.

I give The Corner Bakery 3 NOMs.

The Corner Bakery
3208 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266-2454
P: (310) 545-2596
F: (310) 545-3295
http://www.cornerbakerycafe.com
Corner Bakery Cafe on Urbanspoon

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