Saturday, January 31, 2015

Orange County: Gen Korean BBQ House

While T was off on her spa date with her friend, my sister and I drove down to Crystal Cove State Park for some beach action.  Before we hit the sand, we did a quick and easy hike...or so it was supposed to be.

The Green Route is a 2.9 mile loop hike.  Not too bad, right?  But because we couldn't find the starting trailhead and ended up doing the loop backwards, what was supposed to be a "moderate" hike with a slight incline and a steep descent became a 0.4 mile nightmare incline and a long, slow descent.  We had to take multiple breaks during the incline just to huff and puff and reconsider our poor life decisions.

After the hike, we recovered from our ordeal by sitting on the beach and eating a simple lunch of clementines.  Now, before you get the mistaken impression that we're on a diet, that couldn't be further from the truth.  The reason why we only packed a couple of oranges for lunch was because we were anticipating an AYCE Korean barbecue feast that night at Gen:

My sister and I arrived before T and her friend.  We put our name and phone number down with the hostess, then went to wait in our car, where T and her friend eventually joined us.

When we got the call, we eagerly took our seats inside:

First came the assorted banchan:

I was excited to see the thin picked radish slices and the paper thin rice noodle sheets.  I love putting them in ssam.

There was also a salad that we barely touched:

Because as we all know, it's all about the MEAT.

For $20 per person, you get to chow your way through this extensive list:

It goes all the way down to 38.  Holy moly.  With so many things to choose from we got a little overwhelmed at first.

We knew for sure that we wanted beef tongue:

T wanted shrimp:

And garlic calamari:

We'd never had pork cheek, so we definitely wanted some of that:

My sister and I made sure we got our large intestine (daechang):

There was a moment of silence as we solemnly put everything on the grill:

And listened to that beautiful sound of sizzling meat. to our ears.

We quickly discovered that we ADORED pork cheek.  I just asked my sister how she would describe the texture and she said, "Elastic!"  Not sure if that's the word I would use, but if elastic equals AMAZING, I'll take it.

For our second round, we decided that we had to be more systematic about how we were ordering.  Instead of picking what we wanted willy nilly, we started at the top of the list and worked our way down.

Number one was the Gen signature prime steak (black angus top sirloin).  Before I could get a picture of it, it had already been placed on the grill:

5 was the brisket (chadol):

And 8 was the beef belly:

To balance out all that meat, we also went backward from the end of the list and ordered spicy rice cakes:

A mistake that we didn't make again.  Blech.

We also got the japchae:

Also on the bland side.

Round three brought Hawaiian steak marinated in teriyaki sauce with a pineapple slice:

Bistra harami, which is hanging tender meat marinated with miso:

We skipped all the chicken and went straight to bulgogi calamari:

And cajun shrimp:

We were a little unimpressed by the large intestine, so we decided to try our luck with the small intestine (gobchang):

Much better.  Especially when grilled to slightly crispy on the edges.

The pork belly at Gen is available in different marinades, but we wanted just straight pork belly:

Sometimes, pure pork flavor is best.  Actually, when it comes to samgyeopsal, pure pork flavor is always best.

After going through the entire list, we started ordering our favorites again and also went back to try some things we skipped the first time around.  I don't know how many rounds we did in total.  I just remember hitting food coma status by the end of the meal.

We walked out of Gen as huge fans.  $20 for that many options?  What a steal!  Just skip all the non-meat stuff.  Not worth it (and not that tasty either).  Meat all the way!  Even after we returned to the Bay, we kept lamenting the lack of cheap Korean bbq buffets in our area.

That is, until we got the surprise of the century.  One day, we were driving past the Ranch 99 plaza right by our house when we noticed something that blew our minds.

Gen.  Is opening.  Right by my house.  What the hell.

First Gong Cha and Sharetea and now Gen?!  Our neighborhood is hoppin'!

Don't know yet when exactly Gen is opening for business and no clue whether it'll also be $20 for dinner, but who cares?  I'm so freakin' excited!

Gen Korean BBQ House
13741 Newport Ave
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 505-1800

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Orange County: Bruxie Gourmet Waffle Sandwiches

On our first night in Irvine, we had dinner at Quan Hy in Westminster.  Since I've posted about Quan Hy before (a must go whenever you're in the area), I'm skipping straight to the next morning.  We had to stick close to our host's house, since T's friend was going to pick her up there for their spa day.

Bruxie was just a quick drive away:

It was pretty early in the morning, so the place was pretty quiet:

Since there was nobody around, we took our sweet time staring at the menu mounted at the front counter.  With some help from the chipper young lady at the front, we finally decided on what we wanted.  We placed our order at the counter, then took a pager to our chosen table.  We thought we had to pick up our own food when it was ready, but instead, someone brought it out to our table, leaving us slightly befuddled.

Nifty GPS pagers aside, let's talk about the food.  We started with the Belgian chocolate Wisconsin custard shake ($4.95):

Three people sharing one shake may seem kind of ridiculous and more than a little miserly, but it really was the perfect portion size.  Though only subtly sweet, the shake was super thick and ultra decadent.  

Especially given how it was breakfast and how we also split an order of Irish nachos ($7.95):

What better thing to have early in the morning than waffle fries smothered in cheese sauce and topped with bacon, sour cream, and chives?

Bruxie is known for its waffle sandwiches.  The buttermilk fried chicken and waffle ($7.50)  was apparently one of its best sellers:

Deceptively simple.  Just fried chicken in a waffle with chili honey and cider slaw.  We snagged our own condiments from the condiment island.

The green eggs and ham ($7.25) was just too cute to pass up:

It came stuffed with grilled ham, cheddar, mayo, an egg, and arugula pesto.

We toyed with the idea of getting a sweet waffle sandwich as well, but thank goodness we decided against that.  We had just the right amount of food for the three of us.  Another waffle would have taken us over into food coma territory.

Don't expect anything at Bruxie to blow you away, but it's good, solid food at good, solid prices.

Before we left, we shadily filled up our water bottles from the water faucet on the condiments island.  I felt mucho self-conscious while doing it, but hey, no shame, right?

Bruxie Gourmet Waffle Sandwiches
14376 Culver Dr
Irvine, CA 92604
(949) 556-4894

Friday, January 23, 2015

Orange County: Meet Fresh

We thought we should buy some gifts for our hosts in Irvine, so we drove to 85C Bakery for some bread.  As we were entering the plaza, I caught sight of something that made me lose my shit.


I might have gone crazy for ten seconds and scared both my sister and T.  But how can you blame me?  It's Meet Fresh!

Meet Fresh may be a dying chain in Taiwan, but I love it.  I love it so much.  I didn't know it'd made it to the States until I saw it in Irvine:

So many Chinese people in one place.  It felt just like being in Taiwan.

Whether in Taiwan or in Irvine, I always get the Meet Fresh signature:

It's all about the grass jelly shaved ice:

It's shaved so fine that it just melts in your mouth.  And once you mix in the cream, it's even better.

Even though I could probably eat the shaved ice by itself, it doesn't hurt to have taro and sweet potato rice balls.  And grass jelly.

Everything in that bowl is just SO GOOD.

$6.50 is a bit outrageous, especially given how you can get the same thing for a third of the price in Taiwan.  But that didn't deter me.  Not at all.  In fact, the very next day, while T was out on a spa day with her friend, my sister and I made our way right back at Meet Fresh.  I figured I should try something new on the menu, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

Considering how there's currently only one Meet Fresh in the entire United States of America, who knows when I'll be able to have the Meet Fresh signature again?

Someone needs to open a Meet Fresh in the Bay Area pronto!  I have a feeling that it's going to happen.  Soon.  Very soon.


Meet Fresh
2710 Alton Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 955-9236

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Orange County: Popbar

In November, my sister had a med school interview in Irvine.  T and I seized the excuse to go along for the ride.  I took two comp days from work and away on a SoCal road trip we went.

Our first stop, as is now our tradition, was Jitlada for lunch.  Then on our way down to Irvine, we swung by Anaheim Packing District:

Also known as LA Packing Company to nobody except T.  T's the worst when it comes to remembering names.  My sister and I spent forever trying to Yelp the place, only to find out much later that T had sent us on a wild goose chase.  Again.

Oh, T.

Anyway, Anaheim Packing District is a hipster foodie paradise:

It's basically two stories filled with food vendors and artwork.  There's a lot going on and even more is in the works.  We saw quite a few spaces that were still under construction.

After walking around, we finally decided on Popbar:

Popbar offers a bunch of different popsicle, oops, I mean pop, flavors.  After you pick one, you can choose how you want to dip and "pop" it.  Dipping options include dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and mint dark chocolate.  Possible poppings include almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, coconut, chocolate sprinkles, caramel corn, and crushed waffle cone.  As if that isn't enough, you can choose to drizzle even more chocolate on your pop creation at the end.

We got two to split between the three of us:

From the popSorbetto selection, we decided on the mango.  Because I'm a firm believer of keeping my fruit and chocolate separate and never the twain shall meet, we kept it unadorned.  The pistachio from the popGelato collection, however, we half dipped in milk chocolate and hazelnut.

The pistachio was my favorite.  Super smooth and yummy.

Popbar is young and hip and as such, it comes with a young and hip price tag.  A basic pop costs either $3.49 or $3.99.  Choosing to dip costs you an additional $0.50 as will deciding to "pop".  So one pop could easily set you back 5 bucks.

Worth it?  Probably not.  But that certainly won't stop people from heading back for more.

440 South Anaheim Blvd
Anaheim, CA 92805
(714) 215-4679

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Berkeley: ShareTea

The real reason why we stopped in Berkeley after my work event was so that we could drop by ShareTea:

Where was this when I was a student at Berkeley?  If ShareTea had been around back in the day, I would've gained my freshman 15 within the first month of school.  No doubt about it.

There were a lot of people at ShareTea that day, but service was quick and efficient:

ShareTea is currently my favorite pearl tea spot for one reason and one reason only...this:

High mountain milk tea.  It's awesome.  ShareTea runs a bit sweet, so make sure to drop the sweetness level down to at least 80% if you want to avoid a toothache.  I also like to have mine without ice.

And here's an extra tip: high mountain milk tea tastes better the longer it sits.  T once bought a high mountain milk tea with grass jelly and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  She claims it was the best milk tea she ever had.

There are multiple ShareTea stores in the Bay Area.  Besides the Berkeley branch, there's also one in San Francisco, San Mateo, Union City, and San Jose.  I've been to all but the Union City location.  Not every location offers high mountain milk tea.  While San Francisco and Berkeley does, San Mateo does not.

The San Jose store is just walking distance from my house.  While high mountain milk tea isn't on the menu (only high mountain crema is), you can still order it.  I know because I've done it.  I had to break in multiple newbie cashiers, but after half a dozen trips, they now all know to punch in regular black milk tea and substitute out the black tea for high mountain tea.

I was super excited when the San Jose store opened.  That excitement has waned a bit since experiencing their inefficient and inconsistent service.  Sometimes the drinks are great, sometimes they're...not.  And just about all of the time, it takes a while for the drinks to be prepared.

Sigh.  Hopefully things will improve over time.

Anyway, one last thing before I stop rambling about ShareTea.  For those of you who live for reward points, ShareTea accepts FiveStars.  It takes 12 drinks to get one free.

Okay, I'm done.

Get thee to a ShareTea immediately.  High mountain milk tea is waiting for you!

2440 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
(415) 734-0525

Berkeley: I.B.'s Hoagies

Continuing down memory lane, I made my sister stop at I.B.'s Hoagies for some spuds:

I wanted to know if they were as good as I remembered.  Being the health nut that I was back in my undergraduate days, I used to get a bucket of curly fries from I.B.'s every once in a while.  Lots of curly fries, freshly fried...yea, those were the good old days.

We couldn't decide between curly fries and tater tots, so we got a mix of both:

In the 5.5 years since I graduated, the menu at I.B.'s hasn't changed and the fries still come piping hot.  One thing is different, however.  There's no longer the "bucket of fries" option.

The old "bucket" used to be a large, heaping square take-out box.  Nowadays, you get to choose between small and large.  The large comes in a dinky cup (shown above).  I was a little disappointed, but the fries were still so good that I eventually got over it.

A little sad, but life goes on, eh?

I.B.'s Hoagies
2513 Durant Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 841-1681

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Berkeley: Gypsy's Trattoria Italiana

Back in early November 2014, I dragged my sister with me to a work event in Richmond one Saturday.  On the way home, to compensate for a day of volunteering without food (it ran out before we could get any), we stopped by Berkeley for late lunch/early dinner.

We weren't in the mood for anything fancy.  Instead, we decided to take the nostalgic route and eat at Gypsy's in the Asian Ghetto:

Back in my Berkeley days, whenever my parents visited me at school, my father always wanted to eat at Gypsy's.  I tried to introduce him to other options, but he always circled back.  I gave up after a while.

Some things never change.  Gypsy's is one such thing.  Walking through its door was like walking into my past.  Besides a shinier menu posted on the wall, everything else was the same as I remembered:

For old time's sake, I ordered my old go-to, Gypsy's chicken ($8.49):

Penne comes together with chicken, garlic, mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, and cream sauce in a lovely Gypsy's classic.  Ah, the taste of my childhood.  Well, college-hood.

My sister got the pollo gorgonzola ($8.49):

Tri-color tortellini, chicken, garlic, gorgonzola cheese, and pink sauce...nothing fancy, but oh-so-good.

Both came with a slice of bread with roasted garlic on top.  The garlic may look disproportional to the bread, but just spread it out.  It's soft and warm and yummy.

Though prices have gone up a bit, Gypsy's still offers solid dishes in generous portions for reasonable prices.  Super fast too.  We barely sat down after placing our order at the counter when our number was called.

Keep up the good work, Gypsy's!

Gypsy's Trattoria Italiana
2519 Durant Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 548-4860

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

South Bay: Cafe Lattea

My ahyi forgot her credit card at her office one night, so we took the chance to get a tour of Apple.  Not that we saw much.  We walked through the cafeteria, giggled at the free apples there, went up to her cubicle, retrieved her forgotten card, and then left.

On our way home, we stopped by Cafe Lattea:

My sister ran into a coworker who lives right around the corner.  While she chatted away, my ahyi and I perused the menu:

It was a hoppin' night at Cafe Lattea.  Being Halloween (yes, that's how far behind I am on my posts), many people including the staff were dressed in costumes.  So many Asians in one place.  Considering how Cafe Lattea isn't really next to anything (besides Apple), I wonder where they all came from...

Anyway, we bought our drinks to go.  My sister got a milk jasmine tea with pearls while I got mine with regular milk tea (both $2.75 plus the cost of the pearls):

Unfortunately, the tea at Cafe Lattea was bland and uninspiring.  Even the pearls weren't that great.

It's possible that their other offerings are much better (the brick toast looked crazy fancy), but if you're just looking for a simple pearl milk tea, I would skip Cafe Lattea.  There are plenty better milk tea places in the South Bay.

Cafe Lattea
19501 Stevens Creek Boulevard
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 255-2393

Friday, January 2, 2015

South Bay: Chutney

Happy New Year everyone!  I can't believe it's already 2015 when I still have so much from 2014 left to post about.  Argh.  But I guess that's not a surprise to anyone.

I've just decided.  My 2015 resolution is to get caught up on all my posts.  And since new year resolutions are all about being optimistic (though not always realistic), I'm going to add lose 20 pounds as well.


Anyway, as a good faith effort to accomplish my first resolution (and proof that I probably won't succeed at my second one), I bring you Chutney:

I first went to Chutney with my coworker during lunch when I was working out of our Fremont office one day.  I bought a wrap to go and didn't get the full Chutney experience until my family and a bunch of my colleagues went there after a Saturday work event.

We actually meant to go to Shalimar, but it was an awkward time between lunch and dinner and Shalimar unfortunately wasn't open.  Undeterred, my coworker HA led us a block down to Chutney.

I was much more impressed my second time around that my sister and I met up there after work one day for dinner a couple months later.

Don't expect to be led to a table or given a menu:

Just head straight to the counter, place your order, get your number, stake out a table, and then head right back to the counter for your table settings and complimentary chai.

While the chai is great, if you check in on Yelp, you can also get a free mango lassi:

My sister and I now have a system down at Chutney.  I order a naan ($1) for myself:

And she gets a side of rice ($2.99) with raita (yogurt) ($1):

Then we split an order of bengan bharta ($6.99):

And an order of, yes, brain masala ($9.99):

If you're an eggplant fanatic like me, you'll love bengan bharta.  It's like baba ghanoush, but infinitely better.  It's smoky and flavorful and amazing with naan.  It's now my favorite Indian dish.

The brain masala is less chunky and more creamy than the one you'll get at Shalimar.  I actually prefer Chutney's even though I'll admit it's less fun when you can't lift up pieces of wrinkly brain matter and moan "braaaaaaaains..."

And while I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Shalimar, I think you get more for your money at Chutney.

3352 Mowry Ave
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 796-6666
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