Cha-Bones Steakhouse & Tapas Bar in Lake Havasu City, AZ

Cha-Bones Steakhouse & Tapas Bar in Lake Havasu City, AZ

Popular eatery that serves up refreshing blended margaritas, steaks and array of small plates that allows for one to be able to enjoy a variety of food with friends, rather than to be limited to just one entree.  Another great thing about this place is that they close at 10pm (last seating), which is later than some of the other eateries in the area (if you don’t count fast food and chains like Denny’s and IHOP).  And there aren’t that many options for dining late into the evening.

Food here was satisfying, though I believe the Chicken Lettuce Wrap could be made better.  The chicken meat is cubed and sauteed in a teriyaki/soy sauce based sauce that was a bit on the salty side.  With the carrot slaw tossed in a sesame-based dressing placed inside the top butter lettuce cup (in a stack of 5 lettuce cups), and a sweet chile and a peanut dipping sauces served with the dish, there were just too many flavors that didn’t compliment each other, but contrasted.

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Another Sichuan Feast at Hop Woo 合和 in West LA

Another Sichuan Feast at Hop Woo 合和 in West LA

Came back for a hedonistic feast with a group of about 22.  This time, we wanted to sample more dishes on their Sichuan menu, as well as offering a couple of familiar Cantonese dishes to give our palates a rest from the barrage of spicy, mouth numbing food.  And in this meal we got quite a bit of that numbing quality from the Sichuan peppercorns used in the Boiled Fish with Rattan Peppers, and Rock Cod Fish.

Food was excellent as before, but many in our group enjoyed the shrimp, cauliflower and eggplant dishes a lot.

So glad that the former owner of Meet in Chengdu in Monterey Park sold off the restaurant in order to join forces at Hop Woo, bringing with him one of his better chefs.

Cantonese Banquet Style Dinner at Xiang Yuan Gourmet 湘緣美食 in Temple City, CA

Cantonese Banquet Style Dinner at Xiang Yuan Gourmet 湘緣美食 in Temple City, CA

In celebrating a good friend’s 60th birthday, we ordered the $388 set banquet menu which includes 10 courses, much of them being nice seafood dishes.  And with one vegetarian at the table, we supplemented the dinner with a couple of extra courses of vegetable dishes.

We decided to give Xiang Yuan a try for dinner since we enjoyed their dim sum, and their dinner items, though tasty and solid, were unfortunately not mind-blowing.

The service was excellent, and corkage was waived for our party of 20 that had one of their private rooms reserved.  These two factors helped made the dinner more enjoyable.

If anything can easily be improved, it would be their lobster entree.  For these banquet menus, they should have on hand 2 to 3 lb lobsters to serve.  Instead, we seemed to have gotten two and a half 1-pound lobsters arranged on the plate.  And with the lobsters chopped into tiny pieces, it made it a bit challenging to find the pieces that contain lobster meat.

Another thing that can be improved up would be to balance the menu a bit better.  Outside of the soup and appetizer course, there was no other meat (beef or pork) nor poultry dish on the menu.

The Ultimate in Small Plates: Rock House Sliders in West Hollywood, CA

The Ultimate in Small Plates: Rock House Sliders in West Hollywood, CA

Learned about this place on Facebook and decided to check them out last night after dinner at The Counter nearby was kiboshed when the kitchen staff accidentally killed off the pilot light to the grills, and they weren’t able to restore it, forcing them to shut down early for the night.

I wanted so much to like Rock House Sliders, but as soon as I stepped inside, I hated everything about it:  The somewhat limited menu, the wasted space not used properly for more dining tables and seating, the huge kitchen with so much equipment and so many employees.

With such a large kitchen and large staff, you’d expect them to churn out orders relatively quickly, and well made.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.  My friend’s order of 2 simple sliders plus an order of French fries took about 30 minutes to prepare, whereas my order took over 45 minutes.  I know they have growing pains for being a new establishment, but there was literally no order in the kitchen, despite the manager, running back and forth, trying to serve people their food.

There problems reading and executing orders that appear on that screen.  Unfortunately, a handful of orders, like mine were lost in their system.  One of the grill cooks stepped and took charge in trying to expedite the backed up orders.  It wasn’t until a couple of apologies and 20 minutes later before I got my food.

When things are smaller, the preparation has to be more precise, especially that for the burger patties, fried chicken patties and onion rings.   The onion was thin for the onion rings, so they were easily to overcook and make the breading extra crispy while drying out the onion itself.  I wasn’t able to taste the onion, just the seasoned breading that was dipped into the spicy ghost ranch dressing.

The same can be said about the fried chicken burger.  It had a thin slice of chicken that was breaded night and thick.  The result was a nice and crunchy exterior with a slightly dry piece of chicken.

The Boston Mushroom slider looked impressive as the burger patty extended beyond the edge of the bun.  But the bun itself was a bit dry, giving me that sense that it was not fresh.  That taste and texture detracted my enjoyment of the burger itself.

One saving grace was their ice cream (or soft serve).  It was rich and tasty.  Can easily taste the chocolate hazelnut.  Activated charcoal?  Not so much.

Not a fan of this concept.  I’m one who likes to take a nice big bite into a thick, juicy meat patty.  These sliders just did not satiate my taste buds.

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Full Menu.  Queue up and order at the register. Then grab a table, and your number will be called out when it’s ready, or it may be delivered to your table.  Everything is a smaller size, including the sides and shakes.  You may need to order multiple items in order to satiate your hunger.
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$15 for this spread of 2 sliders and 2 sides.
Original Chicken Slider
Original Chicken Slider with RHS Original Sauce, Cheddar Cheese, Pickles & Shredded Lettuce
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Boston Mushroom Slider with 2 oz. Angus patty, truffle sauce, Swiss cheese, grilled mushrooms, grilled onions and relish
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Cheesy Tots served with Chipotle dip
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Cheddar Cheese inside the Potato Tots
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Crispy Onion Rings served with Spicy Ghost (Pepper) Ranch Dip
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Spicy Ghost (Pepper) Ranch Dip had a good amount of heat but still is not spicy enough to make your eyes water
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My friend’s order of the Original Crispy Chicken Slider, Chipotle BBQ Ranch Slider, and French Fries
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Kind of a sad looking Chipotle BBQ Ranch Slider
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Kind of a sad looking Crispy Chicken Slider
Kitchen
Big kitchen staff. Hope they’ll soon become a cohesive team churning out orders in a more timely fashion.
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Their unique offering of the Red Lava Ice Cream
Charcoal Soft Serve
Charcoal Soft Serve that was comped to us for having to wait long for our food.

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DineLA Restaurant Week Dinner at Farsi Cafe in Westwood

DineLA Restaurant Week Dinner at Farsi Cafe in Westwood

Farsi Cafe sits in the location where the original and famous Shamshiri Restaurant (not to be confused with Shamshiri Grille up the street) operated for years before the original owner closed the restaurant in the mid-1990’s.

Farsi Cafe is participating in DineLA Restaurant Week, which runs from July 13th through July 27th.  They are offering a $15 2-course lunch or a $29 3-course dinner (actually, more like 4 courses as you get to choose 2 items from the appetizer section), and it is a lot of food.  Persian restaurants are known for serving large platters of food:  kabobs or stewed proteins served with a huge amount of basmati rice, and here it was no different.  By the time you finish you appetizers, some lavash bread and the plate of raw white onions, mint, basil and tarragon leaves (used with butter to wrap in the lavash for a pre-meal nibble), you’re almost full.

The food was excellent, and the service was solid.  The Tahdig & Stews were nice and hearty.  The lamb shank was huge and could easily feed 2 or 3 people.  Tachin (crusted rice mixed with yogurt, eggs and saffron with layer of boiled chicken at the middle served with sautéed barberries on the top) is also offered on their DineLA menu, but only until 7pm, that is if they don’t run out of it earlier in the evening,  as was the case during our visit.

The Persian Ice Cream dessert was probably the most interesting of the 3 options, as the ice cream is made with the combination of saffron, rose water and pistachios, sandwiched in between 2 waffle wafer layers.  Unfortunately, the combination of flavors were more muddled than distinct, and the waffle wafer layers were just soggy from being a pre-packaged item.

DineLA Restaurant Week Menu, July 2018
DineLA Restaurant Week Menu, July 2018
Naz Khaton
Naz Khaton – Yogurt blended with grilled eggplant, walnuts and herbs
Olovieh Salad
Olovieh Salad – Chicken and potato salad mixed with egg whites, peas and pickles
Tahdig and Stew
Tahdig & Stew – Default choice was Gheymeh, chunks of beef shoulder cooked in tomato paste with split yellow peas and crispy potato strips.
Tahdig & Stew
Tahdig & Stew are served separately. Here, I poured my Gheymeh all over the crispy basmati rice.
Mirza Ghazemi
Mirza Ghazemi – Grilled Eggplants mixed with tomatoes, scrambled eggs, and sauteed garlic
Soup & Salad
Soup & Salad – Split Yellow Pea
Soup & Salad
Soup & Salad – Side salad.
Chicken Breast Kabob
Chicken Breast Kabob with saffron basmati rice, grilled tomato and grilled serrano chile
Grilled Salmon
Grilled Salmon with Baghala Polo, lima bean and dill infused basmati rice
Lamb Shank
Lamb Shank, served with a side of Baghala Polo
Lamb Shank
Seasoned, Boiled Lamb Shank
Baghala Polo
Koobideh
Ground Beef Kabob (Koobideh)

Tahdig & Stew – Stew choice here was the Ghormeh Sabzi, made with parsley, spinach, fenugreek and chives (vegetarian version) Black Chocolate – Three Layer Chocolate Cake Persian Ice Cream – Saffron, rose water and pistachios Persian Ice Cream (Sandwich)

Beijing  Duck Lunch at Duck House 鹿鼎記 in Monterey Park, CA

Beijing Duck Lunch at Duck House 鹿鼎記 in Monterey Park, CA

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For me, there are only a handful of places in the Greater Los Angeles Area that serves up really good Beijing Duck (aka Peking Duck), and Duck House is one of them.  They have been a staple here for over 15 years, and the quality of their food hasn’t diminished since.  In fact, they’re reaching out to foodies from around the city by participating in their very first DineLA Restaurant Week, which runs from July 13th through July 27th.  In addition, you can now make reservations through Open Table.

After checking out their $25 lunch and $49 dinner menus for DineLA, I thought one can get a better deal buy ordering off their regular menu.  So, for a party of 16 (8 per table), I ordered for each table the $268 set menu for 6 people, an extra half Beijing Duck, and 2 vegetable dishes for each table.  The total for lunch unfortunately came out to be about $20 more per person, tax and gratuity included.

However, for the majority, the food was delicious, and everyone was able to get ample amount of duck.  Shiny, crispy skinned duck, where some pieces had a nice layer of rendered fat on them, giving you more flavor with every bite.  Duck meat is sliced nicely and evenly, making them easy to roll up into a wrap with the raw scallions, cucumbers and a drizzle of hoisin sauce.  Each bite into the wrap was a mouthful of savory, ducky goodness.

The other dishes were solid, and the Baked Truffled Lobster was meaty and juicy, doused in a tasty garlicky and peppery sauce that just screams for a steamed white rice so you can use it to soak up those juices and savor the flavor.

Lunch ended with a plate of Passionfruit Konnyaku Jello, made in molds in the shape of Hello Kitty’s face.  Konnyaku is made from the Amorphophallus konjac and is sometimes referred to as yam, yam cake or yam flour.  It has a firmer texture than agar agar or regular gelatin.  It’s not very flavorful, so you can easily taste the passionfruit flavor.

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Calamari with a spicy and garlicky dipping sauce
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Smoked Flavored Pork
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Beijing Duck with all the fixings
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1 1/2 Orders of Beijing Duck
Shredded Scallions and Cucumbers and Hoisin Sauce
Shredded Scallions and Cucumbers and Hoisin Sauce that accompany the duck
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The Perfect Bite
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Duck Soup with Napa Cabbage and Tofu
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Filet Mignon Cubes with Black Pepper
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Baby Bok Choy with Dried Scallops and Crab Meat
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BBQ Eel with Glutenous Rice
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Sauteed A Choy
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Sizzling Tofu with Basil in Pot
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Baked Truffled Lobster in Black Pepper Sauce
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Passionfruit Konnyaku Jelly

 

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They were made in a Hello Kitty mode!
Sichuanese and Cantonese Food at Hop Woo Restaurant 合和 in West LA

Sichuanese and Cantonese Food at Hop Woo Restaurant 合和 in West LA

I can remember when Hop Woo first opened on the Westside.  It was around 2000, and I was working for a solo practitioner/attorney in Bel Air at the time.  I discovered them when I was running errands in the area.  At that time, much like their sister restaurant in Chinatown, they were serving solid Hong Kong style Cantonese food, as well as offering a deli section with roast pork, BBQ pork, roast duck and soy sauce chicken to name a few.  However, when the interest plateaued over the years, so has the quality of the food.  And with that, the crowds became smaller at nights and weekends.

Recently, noticing the Los Angelinos’ craze for authentic Sichuanese cuisine, a new manager brought in a chef who specialized in preparing popular Sichuan dishes, and the result, from word of mouth, was packed dining rooms full of Chinese expats who work in the area or work/study at UCLA.

When ordering the Sichuanese dishes, ask specifically for the Sichuan 四川 menu, a paper menu, separate from the regular menu.  When ordering dishes such as Mapo Tofu or Kung Pao Chicken, which appear on both menus, indicate you want the Sichuan menu preparation, so that you don’t end up with the Americanized version.

The highlight of the menu is the Spicy Chicken (口水雞, cold chicken in spicy chile oil), where the meat is moist and silky, the type of chicken meat you expect in Hainan Chicken, but only now, it’s drenched in a bath of red chile pepper oil with sesame seeds.  Add Sichuan peppercorns, and you have an amazing dish that tingles you mouth nicely.

Their other dishes are quite good as well, especially when you ask them to reduce the amount of salt used in the preparation of the Sichuan dishes.  Sichuanese and Hunanese restaurants in the US, for some reason, use a lot of salt in their dishes.  Sometimes it enhances the Ma-La 麻辣 flavor (balance of the numbing sensation from the Sichuan peppercorns (or Ma 麻) and the spiciness from the dried red chile peppers (or La 辣).  Sometimes, after the spicy burn settles, it’s just salty.  Asking them to cook with reduced salt seemed to have solved that issue for us, though I wonder with the reduce salt, if it might have altered the flavors somewhat at all…

One disappointment has been the lack of Spicy Cold Jelly (Noodles).  It’s never been available every time I’ve eaten there in the last 3 months.    Oh, and parking here is a bitch.  Arrive early to find parking in the streets in the area.

Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the photo.