Sunday, July 19, 2009

Spitz, Eagle Rock CA

I've been a Spitz customer since it opened in 2005. So going there one VERY warm Saturday was a perfect plan to satisfy a hungry belly. My lunchmates did just come from bikram yoga so i'm not really sure if Spitz was a healthy enough pair to 21 sweaty poses, nevertheless we drove on, found parking and made our way to some saucy wraps and sandwiches.
As soon as you walk in, your eyes are drawn to two things (at least mine were). I had to lick my lips constantly just by looking at those vertical meat broilers. Look close enough and you'll see the juices from the meat ooze out and drip down to each tender, protein crevice. My eyes almost popped out by the many choices of gelato they had on display, from the usual butter pecan and double espresso to the indulging white chocolate decadence to the unfamiliar yet inventive blackberry cabernet. 12 choices of flavors brings such a dilemma to the mind and the palate.
Time to order. A classic wrap with french fries. A falafelite wrap with sweet potato fries. A side of their dollar fried pita strips with hummus. Let me elaborate and add to envy. The classic is half lamb and half Doner beef with fresh slices of lettuce, tomatoes, onion, green peppers, and cucumber mixed with a Tzatziki and chili sauce. The falafelite comes with the same base except for slices of falafels. And the pita strips are deep fried and best dipped in their homemade hummus. They've added a new style to your kebab of choice. Spitz has now a "street cart" array of sauces to add-on to your meal. Extra Tzatziki, spicy, Mediterranean, and zesty. I happen to love their garlicky Tzatziki so it was a perfect addition to an already amazing bite. Joe likes anything that resembles fire inside your mouth so the spicy sauce was a must for him.
My classic was, as usual, GOOD. I mean really good. The lavash wrap was soft, chewy, and soaks in all that garlic sauce. The lamb and beef combo inside my wrap were just tender and flavourful despite the onslaught of sauce and vegetables. Note-worthy were the fries. My well-seasoned, deep-friend french fries were crispy, with obvious specks of seasoning stuck to a yummy yellow outside. Each bite were almost enough to convert me into disliking mcdonalds and in&out (well, may be not in&out).
The falafelite was still slightly crispy on the outside, which was a surprising since its been soaking in the Tzatziki and spicy sauce combo. The falafel itself was packed with flavor and it does tend to be dry on the inside, but this time it wasnt. The sauces inside the wrap helped in keeping it soft, warm, and with never a dry spot. The seasoned sweet potato fries were salty on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside. Im not really a fan of sweet potato fries, or anything to replace my Yukon obsession. So this is as much as i am willing to describe it.
The fried pita strips were just crispy and the hummus needed absolutely no adjustments in preparation. They were partners in crime and they could steal away your health-conscious sanity if not careful.
Im really a gelato freak, having had both good and bad ones, i really am very critical of what i call gelato. Spitz' gelato was alright. The flavors were interesting enough to make me want to try them all but not explosive enough to make me buy a big cup with no sharing privileges. I did try the blackberry cabernet, sweet and bitter. The double espresso was just like strong coffee with a sweet finish. The texture was a little too rough, almost sandy for my taste but try one and let me know if i have to change my mind.
The wraps were cut in half yet each are huge portions enough to satiate even the most hungry. I couldnt even get myself to start my other half but it was perfect, 4mins inside my oven toaster for a late snack. Worth it.
Spitz does merit a mention in my blog, or yours. Try out their many other choices...chicken, veg, doner plates, get a wrap or a sandwich and for sure you will come back for more. I know i fact, ive been looking for a lunch spot for a while now. Looks like i have found it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kogi, Everywhere in Southern CA

It started with a mere rumor that became an interest...which became a goal then finally a chase. I didn't really chase the Kogi truck everywhere but i did follow it on twitter...if only to put a notch on my belt and say..."yah foos, i just did kogi".
4374 Eagle Rock blvd., yes , it was in my beb's neighbourhood...and as we pass the "Roja" Kogi truck, all that was running around my tiny brain space was PARKING SPACE!!! But luckily we parked near Rambo's (another famous late night taco truck), got out, and went in line regardless of the 90deg hot hot hot weather. Surprisingly the line was not as bad as i expected. It was slightly a family affair, even mothers taking picture of their kids in line and in front of the Roja truck that just parked. We had a conversation going with a former Korean local that has a Mexican restaurant in Vegas (how ironic, huh). We were both in line to try the hype, to test the popularity, and to taste the fad. So here we go.
Azul (the truck-in-training) pulls up, parks, and the prep time begins. Roja did start taking orders first and the menu was simple enough. If you have twitter, they do post the specials of the day including dessert. Yum. I was surprised that parking to prep to order and service was not a wait at all, in fact we did wait longer in line than to order and get our food. Short rib tacos, spicy pork tacos, kimchi quesadillas, and tofu burrito. I will come back in line for the Kogi sliders (short rib burgers with a spicy sauce) and the Kogi dog (hotdog, mexi-korean style). Those made my mouth salivate and my tummy rumble a little bit. But I wanted to try their popular and more interesting dishes first.The food comes unpacked, if you want it to-go (as we did) pull a couple of pieces of foil, get a bag, take your utensils...which are all available at the front of the truck and bag the food yourself. I didn't really mind. They were nice enough to give us extra radish, lime, orange wedges. So off we went.
The short rib tacos were tender, a little spicy with a little bit of tang. It was a little too much on a tiny piece of tortilla but i didn't mind. I picked up fallen pieces of short rib on my plate and enjoyed the moment. The spicy pork taco was not spicy at all, given the mexi-korean style i was expecting explosion and an immediate need for a diet coke extinguisher but...was disappointed. The pork was tender and mild at best. Both tacos came with the same veggie slaw and sauce, which were alright. Slightly different from the original Mexican flavor but did work well with the meat. The kimchi quesadilla was a nice surprise. Interesting but in a very, very good, delicious way. The tortilla was perfectly cooked, the kimchi was excellent, the sauce was a little spicy but not to complain about. But my best bite so far was the tofu burrito. Silky tofu, melted cheese, a sweet yet somewhat spicy sauce inside a huge tortilla, definitely worth more than the 5bucks i paid for it. I can't wait to go to Costco one day to find these in the frozen section, ready for my microwave.
The tacos did under deliver, probably because the hype made me expect so much that the disappointment was very apparent. I would order the short rib again, but only because i waited in line for Kogi so i better get a taste of it anyway. But the highlights were the quesadilla and the burrito. So next time i wait in the heat, i know what my purpose would be. Not for the rumor, the interest, the chase, or the hype...but to try those dogs and to get more of my new found truck favorites.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Full House, Arcadia CA

Chinese ladies in red, peddling hot carts with tiny, steamed pieces of heaven...AKA dim sum. If i were to specify in only 3sec ONE thing i love to eat and would eat everyday...i wouldn't even bat an eyelash, would not even hesitate one's dim sum. It has been one of those rituals or routines that i have down to a peg. Whenever i get a day off during the workweek...i have to have dim sum. They have dim sum Saturdays and Sundays but slightly more expensive and a little bit more crowded than i actually prefer (not that i would say no to your invite...if you want to go, i'll be right behind yah). I've been to several dim sum places and hundreds of times at Full House, the slow wait staff, the nice ladies offering me goodies, and the huge variety of food are all not new to me. To change it up, every time i go to any dim sum place i have to order something new, unique, or "something different". This time i had tito with me to share that something "interesting". We'll get to that soon enough...for now let us begin our dim sum feast.
We never waited more than 3min here at Full House, except that one holiday called Memorial Day, when everyone was off and seemed to want to dim sum with me...aarrgghh. There was no hostess at the door, she's usually standing there taking you to your tables, but not to worry one of the waiters flagged us down (yes, like a cab) and just pointed to "that" direction. We found a table for four at the very front of the bustling kitchen, and sat down. Another waiter gave us the "ticket" (were they stamp corresponding letters/numbers according to the price of the item you ordered), tea, and hot sauce and mustard (a traditional dim sum dipping sauce). We have the best table in the soon as these carts came out of the kitchen, we knew we had first pick at everything. Our first attempt at gluttony were lollipop shrimp with sweet and spicy sauce (think meatballs but its shrimp rolled in breadcrumbs, poked with a sugar cane stick for easier handling then fried to a golden orange goodness), sausage pastry (hotdog wrapped in dough), fish cheong fun (rice noodle roll filled with anything from bbq pork to fish to beef), and fried salt and pepper tofu (salty fried tofu bites with green onion on top). Nice.
My first bite was the tofu and it was delicious, with a crunchy, salty outside and a silky, melts in your mouth inside. In fact, one plate was not enough, we had order one more to satiate our salivating palates. I thought the sausage pastry was an interesting concept, reminiscent of the hotdog pastry topped with ketchup i used to get in the mornings at a Korean bakery when i used to live in ktown. Tita wanted to save it all for herself and i did not complain, in fact i was smiling deviously from the means i had more room in my tummy for more note-worthy dishes.
Here comes the next parade...chinese broccoli with oyster sauce (a very staple dish whenever Filipinos gather around "Chinese" tables), our second helping of fried tofu, shrimp balls with sticky rice (same base as the lollipop shrimp but instead of bread crumbs and fried, it's rolled in sticky rice and steamed), shrimp and pork "siu mai" or shaomai (small steamed dumplings inside a thin wheat flour wrapper filled with many different ingredients and combinations, from pork to shrimp to sharks fin). We also had turnip cake.Turnip cakes are mashed daikon radish filled with bbq pork bits, steamed, cut into squares then pan fried to yummy goodness. This dish was introduced by a friend and a fellow foodie, it was also at Full House when he said "this could be your something different for today" and i was hooked. We both agree that the turnip cake at Empress Chinatown is much better, only because its really fresh off the carts instead of served on trays, but i don't really mind. It has a unique, salty (from the bbq pork) taste you want to keep going back to.
Another cart came rolling out of the kitchen and this time it was the "gow" lady...SHRIMP har gow (shrimp wrapped in white/translucent rice flour skin and steamed) is one of my favorite plates at any dim sum place. You would rarely disappoint me except maybe if you serve me mushy shrimp and inedible wrapping, otherwise keep feeding me. Other than the fact that it is super delicious, it also showcases the artistry of the chef if handmade and from scratch. The skin is hard to make and the pleats or folds are just delicate and beautiful. I can just imagine making hundreds of these by hand...amazing.
We also added another plate of shrimp cheong fun and started our round II "rocky"ish battle. It was quiet, we were all digging in and enjoying the goodness of steamed bites of indulgence...until the roasted cart came by. She was offering us roasted pork and was easily denied by tita. I secretly wanted it to be my "something different" for today, but i guess the crispy skin and glistening meat will have to wait until another day off. She did insist on something much more interesting, at least for her taste. She was pointing at "noodles" and everyone around the table looked at her in amazement as she kept asking for it. Lo and behold...pig ears julienned thinly on top of sauteed bean sprouts. Now i would have eaten that, not a problem, but as soon as i translated to tagalog the poor Chinese lady's attempt on explanation, tita waived the plate no and onward she goes. Come back...i say, your cart has two of my "something different" picks...what to do, what to do.
I did not have to wait that long before i found my "interesting" dish for today...blood cake. It's coagulated blood squares boiled/stewed in a soy sauce base with radish, button mushrooms, and green onions. I would have loved it with tripe and chili oil, as i was expecting, but this time she did serve it as is. The bowl was dripping with sauce and the blood squares were over flowing. I had to hold my breath and started to pick one off the bowl. I am used to blood as an ingredient, in fact we Filipinos have dinuguan or "chocolate meat" which is meat with a blood-based sauce. I just am slightly picky as to who cooks it and how it is cooked. Full House's blood cakes were normal (if you can call it that), the usual, very mineral or iron-type with a very interesting after taste. The texture was much like tofu in its pure form, silky yet firm enough to be picked up even by the most inexperienced chopsticks user. Regardless, i found it ok...between tito and i, we finished the whole bowl...and if he's coming to our next adventure i would order this again (this time with the tripe please).
I have two more days off that is owed to me...i would like to try the chicken feet or "Phoenix Talons" next time, or maybe the roasted pork, or i think the pig's ears are calling my name...or i could just simply retreat to my comfortable shell and order my staples. It does not really matter to my taste buds, all they care about is to be satisfied. And when i come back to full house i will expect the wait staff to be slow (almost ignoring), place to be packed (as always), the Chinese ladies to speak to me in their language (not a popular non-Chinese location), the bill to be cheaper than any in Chinatown (adds to the place's popularity), and the food to be satisfying as some are interesting (can i say yummy again?). I do look forward to Savoy (Malaysian Cuisine) and their Hiananese chicken, but we can have an early dim sum brunch and a late Savoy rice dish snack...restraints please, i need to not pretend to cough and fake a stomach ache just to get a taste of my indulgences again...MANTRA says: i will work tomorrow, i will work tomorrow, i will work tomorrow.