Sunday, March 27, 2011

Roy's (Pasadena)

StarStarStarStar



Face of the restaurant.



Fred & Ginger - Hennesey Cognac & Canton Liquer.  Spiced Edamame in the background.



Crunchy Golden Lobster Potstickers with a Togarashi Miso Butter Sauce.



Citrus Taragon Grilled Salmon with Sweet Potatoes, Daikon in a Saikyo Miso Broth.



Roy's Trio (Blackened Ahi, Misoyaki Butterfish & Hibachi Salmon) served with Steamed Rice.



Misoyaki Butterfish with Baby Bok Choy in a Shoyo Vinaigrette.




Roy’s Original Hawaiian Blackened Island Ahi in a Wasabi Soy Mustard Butter Sauce.




Hibachi Style Grilled Atlantic Salmon with Fresh Ponzu Sauce and Pickled Cucumbers.




Wednesday, March 23, 2011

5 Guys Burgers & Fries (Cerritos)

StarStarStar




Face of the restaurant.



My meal.



Close-up of my Bacon Cheeseburger.



Saturday, March 19, 2011

Traxx (Los Angeles - Downtown)

StarStar½


I've been to the LA Union Station over 30 times in my life and not once have I stepped inside Traxx.  In the late 90's, I used to take the Metrolink to and from Irvine when I was attending UCI.  In the early morning hours, the restaurant was closed so I had no shot of having a meal.  I suppose I could have tried having dinner at Traxx when I would return to LA on Friday evenings, but by then, I was more eager to go home and to see my girlfriend.  Good times.  Either way, I wasn't the food junkie back then, that I am now.  So, Traxx was never really on my radar to begin with.

Having almost forgotten all about this place, Groupon brought Traxx back to my attention several months ago.  I was happy to finally check it out but truthfully, I was happier to visit the station again.  The edifice is absolutely gorgeous to me and although I don't have oodles and oodles of fond memories of the building, LA Union Station is near and dear to to me.  - 5 stars for the place.   




Located inside of the historic LA Union Station.



Signage.




Duvel Ale.


Uninspired by their draught selection, I ordered a couple of bottled brewskis that I thought I would enjoy better.  I've had a couple of Duvel's beers before and this ale is another I can add to the list of Belgium beers that I like.  For $6 and almost twice the alcohol content as their other beers, this was a no-brainer.  - 4.5 stars   




Grilled Asparagus with CaraCara Orange Mayo, Tarragon & Crushed Hazelnuts.


We wanted to try several dishes so we ordered strictly off of their "Small Plates" portion of the menu.  We started off with the Grilled Asparagus.   It was decent but nothing to write home about.  It could have been seasoned better and for $13, I'd pass on this -  if there were a next time.  - 2 .5 stars   




Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Chipotle Remoulade.


Next up, we had their Crab Cakes.  I liked everything about them except the price.  Wowzers!  $17  for some of the smallest crab cakes I have ever had.  - 3.5 stars





Spinach Salad with Fried Oysters & Bacon Vinaigrette.

Our favorite small plate of the night was their Spinach Salad with Fried Oysters.  The oysters were huge! The breading on them had a wonderful crunch and the oyster inside was meaty and briny.  The Bacon Vinaigrette could have been aided with a little bit of acidity to cut through the....well, grease.  - 4 stars  




Chilled Cappelini with Basil, Grape Tomatoes & Mozzarella Cheese.


We were going to order the Prawn Louie but they were all out.  Instead we went with the Cappelini dish.  Our least favorite plate of food was this chilled noodle salad.  The whole thing was rather bland  and the fresh mozzarella tasted and had the same mouth-feel as the white part of hard boiled eggs.  Fine for boiled eggs, not for mozarrella.  - 1.5 stars    





Black Butte Porter.


For my 2nd round of beers, I went with a Deschutes Porter.  Not a knock on the Duvel I had to start my meal, but I liked this beer better.  Then again, I do have a proclivity towards darker beers.  - 5 stars.
     



 Rosemary Brioche Bread Pudding with Raspberry Chocolate Sauce & Whipped Cream.

It's not often that a dessert dish fails me, but this one did.  If it weren't for that noodle salad, this would have been the worst dish of the night.  The Bread Pudding was way too eggy and I didn't care much for the sauce either.  No bueno.  Sadly, the best things on this plate were the blackberries and whipped cream.  - 1 star    


Normally, when I dine courtesy of a restaurant that is nice enough to participate in discount programs (i.e. Groupon, Living Social, BBE, etc), I issue a 1/2 star upgrade on my review.  My logic is simple; because participating restaurants afford people the opportunity to dine at an establishment where they might not go otherwise, I feel they deserve a bit of kudos for taking the financial risk that non-participating restaurants do not face.  Basically, I save a few bucks and they in turn get my thanks in the form of a free 1/2 star.  They are hardly paying for my review, as evidenced by this review.  I mean, not everything I had to say was pleasant.  Let's not confuse my discounts for comped meals!

Anyway, I am not going to add any additional 1/2 star in this case because our server was one of the worst I've had in quite some time.  She asked if I wanted a beverage when she first took our order and later, despite having an empty glass in front of me for about half an hour, it was me that had to flag her down for another drink JUST PRIOR TO ORDERING DESSERT.  She also mistakenly brought some other parties drinks to our table and it took an entire half hour to get our pasta salad and spinach salad from the time that we placed our order.  30 minutes to get salads out is unforgivable.  Oh and since when is it proper to wait on a table by asking or shall I say, declaring, "You guys are okay, right?"  Maybe if she had waited on the other diners similarly to how she waited on us, I would have at least felt treated equally?  But no, she spent double or triple the time waiting on tables with parties similar in size.  Our service flat out sucked.  - 1/2 star                          

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sazon Latin Fusion (Culver City)

StarStar


Should I really knock a restaurant for serving bland food - especially when they tell you up front, that they use little to no salt in the preparation of their meals?  You betcha!

I'm okay with the health-conscious concept.  I get that.  I mean, all is fine and dandy if you want to cut back on the sodium.  Where I take issue, is not when I am served salt-free food, but rather, when I am served flavorless fare.  You should at least incorporate more herbs and spices to compensate for the lack of salt.
  
We started off by ordering 2 aguas.  One was a hibiscus beverage and the other pineapple.  For starters, the pineapple juice had a greenish hue.  While I didn't ask, why this was so, I imagine that it was a blend of pineapple juice and some vegetation.  Odd, but okay since it falls in line with the healthful theme.  I didn't mind the flavor of it.  I just wish I had been told that the Agua De Piña had other stuff in it.  The Agua De Jamaica didn't have an off-color or off flavor but it was more tart than I'm accustomed to when it comes to this drink.  Maybe this restaurant also cuts back on sugar. I can only surmise.  - 3 stars

We had a threesome of empanadas to start with.  The chicken empanada was dry and had little flavor.  The spinach and potato pastry had a filling that looked unappetizing. It reminded me of silly putty - flavorwise too (I imagine).  The last of the less-than-formidable three was their picadillo empanada.  It was our favorite of the sorry bunch.  I was hoping for some spice and while it did have a touch more flavor, it was still pretty weak.  The only saving grace was that this empanada did have more fat in the filling.  Did someone forget to drain the grease?  Probably not. I'm sure the beef was cooked in healthy extra virgin olive oil. :o)  One thing I did like about the pastries was the dough - moist n flaky.  Overall though, a miss.  The worst threesome I have ever had.  - 2 stars                    

The Tacos Dorados de Papa y Res were dreadful.  Again, bland food.  I doubt these tortillas were fried as the name of the dish suggests.  I'm pretty sure the "shells weren't even tortillas to begin with.  The beef filling was tough and chewy - almost as if it had been boiled.  The rest of the minutia inside and around the taco was devoid of flavor.  Not even the red salsa they provided was able to salvage this doomed dish.  These were the worst tacos I have ever had.  - 0 stars.

I ordered a pupusa to see how they could muck that up.  Surprisingly, the pupusa was not half bad but the curtido was as flavorful as a bag of confetti.  How do you get the pupusa right but mess up the curtido?  The black beans on the side were good.  They were more toothsome than beans are usually cooked but I quite liked these.  Too bad the beans were the side and not the pupusa.  - 2 stars. 

The last dish we ordered was the best.  I had never eaten mofongo and after trying their's, apparently I still haven't had a traditional mofongo.  One of the key ingredients to an authentic mofongo is chicharrones - an ingredient Sazon decided to omit.  Grrrr!  Authenticity and porky goodness aside, I still enjoyed this dish well over the rest I tried here.  The predominant flavorant was garlic and if there was one dish that made me forget that they didn't cook their food with salt, it was this one.  I just wish more of the dishes here were prepared in the same manner.  -  4 stars                  




Back of the restaurant.



Shredded Chicken Empanada.



Spinach & Mashed Potato Empanada.



Picadillo Empanada.



Mofongo de Pollo - Green Plantains Mashed with Bacon and “Mojo.”  Topped with Chicken Stew in White Wine Sauce.  Garnished with Plantain Chips.



Pupusa with Curtido.  Served with Black Beans.



Tacos Dorados de Papa y Res.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gonpachi (Beverly Hills)

StarStar




Cocktail Menu Cover.



Garlic Soy Edamames.



The Old World - Yamazaki 12 Whiskey, Honey Syrup, Fresh Lime & Muddled Blackberries.



Calpico - Non-Carbonated Japanese Soft Drink.



Yellowtail Jalapeño - Yellowtail, Avocado & Jalapeño with Yuzu Soy Sauce.



Sesame Miso Salmon.



Crispy Rice Tuna Tower - Crispy Rice Patty topped with Tuna, Albacore & Avocado.



Hot n Spicy Tuna Roll - Spicy Tuna served with warm Miso-Shichimi  Sauce.



Robata of Ebi (Tiger prawns with sweet chill sauce) & Bacon Wrapped Asparagus.



Pumpkin Zenzai - Sticky Rice Balls in a Pumpkin Kubacha Pumpkin Custard Sauce, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Red Bean Paste & Slivered Almonds.



Visage.