September 25, 2007

Egg Heaven Cafe [Long Beach]

Egg Heaven Cafe is a little mom and pop shop located on the street corner with its unassuming green awnings. I arrived for Sunday brunch and the wait list wasn't long at all -- although, I believe that this is the type of place with a long wait at an earlier time. The restaurant itself offers bar and booth seating but both are rather limited.

Even though it's called Egg Heaven Cafe, there are dishes other than eggs: sandwiches, pancakes, oatmeal. I'm not usually an omelette gal but it dominated a major portion of the menu and compelled me to order one. My Vegetarian Exotic omelette consisted of lentils, rice, cottage cheese, sour cream, Jack cheese. It also came with a size of potatos and toast. The omelette was a little large for me but the hodgepodge of ingredients worked well together and it was rather tasty. Another plus is that I felt healthy eating it. I was extremely surprised with the wheat toast which was unlike any i've had at any breakfast joint. It was thick, and buttered, and even though it was toasted, the center was amazingly soft.

The small fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice is quite a generous serving and topped off my meal quite nicely.

My company ordered the Eggs Benedict but it didn't blow his socks off. Personally, I've had better Hollandaise.

If the restaurant were around the corner of my house, I would stop by occasionally but I don't think it warrants a special drive out to Long Beach.

Egg Heaven Cafe
4358 E 4th St
Long Beach, CA 90814
(562) 433-9277

September 23, 2007

Elise's Tea Room [Long Beach]

After conning Jun into a furniture run in the Valley, she graciously treated me to tea on my last weekend in Orange County.

At 3pm in the afternoon, we were the only patrons still left at Elise's Tea Room. The menu offered a variety of small entrees in addition to the standard tea sets, so we did the smart thing, which was order sparingly to share.

We started with chocolate chip and lemon scones, which may have been a haphazard decision on my part. While I had no objections to the chocolate-flavor, it wasn't the best choice for a tea pairing, let alone a first course. The flavors of both scones were unpronounced, though the texture was right on--served warm, they were crumbly without being overly dry. Jun and I both agreed that yellow food coloring did not make our lemon scone any lemony-er. The Devon cream, jam, and lemon curds were straight from your standard commercial vendor.

Our lunch consisted of two sets of sandwiches. The first was your standard tea fare of finger sandwiches. Our cucumbers were sliced so thin that we couldn't identify the staple at first, the apple-pecan could've been a dessert course for being so sweet, and the remainder were filling, though forgettable. We also opted for an order of the novel Salmon Pate Sandwiches, which would have been better if they were toasted for one minute less. Salmon pate is surprisingly light and un-fishy.

By the time we got around to choosing dessert, we could barely stomach the sight of chocolate cake (they were out of the lemon), let alone consider it for consumption. As such, we opted to try the petits fours and ended up scraping off the sugary fondant dressing. Even then, the layers of sponge cake and buttercream were nothing to write home about.

The tea room itself is large and airy, which has the benefit of keeping you from feeling trapped by the cluttered frilliness commonly found in tea rooms. There was a large assortment of loose-leaf teas to choose from, though you're limited to one selection per pot.

Elise's Tea Room
3924 Atlantic Ave.
Long Beach, CA 90807
(562) 424-2134

September 14, 2007

Leda's Bake Shop [Sherman Oaks]


So I know I've been on quite the hiatus, but I will be going on a blog tirade just after getting settled into my new apartment this weekend. I'm gonna attempt to get some posts up by not being so meticulous. Let me know if you like the style better.

We popped into the vegan bakery after consulting Yelp for places to find snacks in the Valley.

The best part of the cutesy store are the samples of scones, cookies, and other baked goods for your enjoyment. Across-the-board, the scones ranked highest with flavors such as ginger, cranberry-orange, and black currant. They were crumbly and not too dry. The vegan brownies also seemed to be a hot item and I could see why, given that vegan chocolates tend to be very rich (if that's your style).

We couldn't resist the cupcakes, which were displayed as the tour de force of the store. We ordered both the Velvet and the Strawberry (vegan), though both were a bit sugary for being so tiny. The Strawberry vegan cupcake was a bit denser than the Velvet and we were disappointed that the latter wasn't a red velvet cupcake. Also, you have to let them sit for about five minutes, since the icing hardens in the refrigerated case. Five minutes is 300 seconds too long for instant gratification.

Leda's Bake Shop
13722 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
(818) 386-9644

September 12, 2007

Daikokuya [Little Tokyo LA]

Nothing sounded better than a steaming hot bowl of pho after a hilarious performance of Avenue Q at the Ahmanson. Since pho was closed, we visited what some consider the holy grail of ramen in Los Angeles, Little Tokyo's Daikokuya.

The JPop-vintage paraphenilia was complemented by a spattering of alternative LA hipsters and normal people keeping their cool. A refreshing departure from the traditional and a little raw on the edges.

I was surprised that there were only two ramens offered amongst a menu mostly of rice dishes, so of course we opted for the Daikoku Ramen combo with chicken-egg rice.

The broth was salty, mellow, and cloudy in appearance--exactly what I was looking for in a late-night snack. The noodles were thick and chewy and of course, you can never go wrong with an egg. Overall, the ramen was very satisfying and though I wouldn't be that quick to call it the best, it sure was damn good. The chicken-egg bowl didn't fare too poorly either.

327 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 626-1680

September 9, 2007

Fraiche [Culver City]

My first encounter with Fraiche on OpenTable revealed a curious fact: tables seemed to be booked out a week in advance. Though it had recently received a favorable review from LA Times critic Irene Virbila, even restaurants that are heralded nation-wide aren't that hard to get a table at.

My impression was that the restaurant was a humble bistro, but I soon learned the reason for its liveliness: Downtown Culver City. As I walked from the parking lot to the restaurant (no valet, free 2-hour parking), I realized that even lesser known restaurants were brimming with people who worked only a stones-throw away.

I started with a pale Beet Salad that was visually off-putting. I enjoyed the beets' muted sweetness played against the mature bitterness of mache and toasted hazelnuts. The bed of house-made ricotta lent a lightness to the dish and formed a backdrop for the other flavors to shine.

The remainder of the menu is universally pleasing, though options err on the side of tried-and-true classics. Entrees and pastas encompass a wide variety of proteins and preparations, ensuring that there is something for every palate. Both AH and I opted for dishes on the heavier side with him choosing the Steak Frites ($22) and me, the Braised Short Rib Pappardelle (~$15).

Of the two entrees, the steak fared better with a succulent cut of flat iron that was perfectly seasoned, marinated, and grilled. It was well executed, though only exactly as you would expect for steak frites. The pappardelle had good texture and the arugula made for an interesting contrast in the ragu. However, it also added an unpleasant aftertaste that tainted the otherwise fine braised short ribs. The waitress warned me that the dish would be salty and while it wasn't that bad, it was somewhat one-dimensional.

For dessert, we followed the crowd and ordered the Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta. The citrus granita and fresh raspberries punched up the flavors in the creamy panna cotta providing a crisp contrast in both flavor and presentation. Very good, highly recommended.

Overall, Fraiche is a good value, serving up solid food at reasonable prices, unseen in any restaurant that's located in a downtown. It lives up to its name, serving food with flavors that are simple, delineated and distinct.

9411 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 839-6800

September 4, 2007

Some SoCal Updates - Il Chianti, Park Ave, Cream Pan

Thank you Il Chianti for another stellar meal. Our choices this time leaned towards Southern Italian-Mediterranean preparations and seemed lighter on the whole. See the following montage of photos and accompanying descriptions below.

The Caribbean Salad was your standard green salad with a variety of cold seafoods. It was nothing spectacular, though the miso hybrid was a touch more interesting than your average dressing.

The Tuna Tartar initially elicited a sigh of resignation from me. While the concept is quite stale, Il Chianti does a fabulous interpretation, macerating the tuna into a puree and pairing it with fresh green onions and a light lemon-scented olive oil.

The Fried Octopus in a Balsamico Sauce was excellent as well.

The Crab Pilaf was a spin-off of the popular Squid Ink Risotto with the addition of a gigantic crab leg and clams and minus the fancy sizzling clay pot. Without the table-side presentation, the rice is as good as ever with the seafood adding even more flavor and interest.

The Fresh Tagliatelle with Pancetta and Paprika was the star of the night. The chewy tagliatelle was made in-house and easily one of the best pasta choices I've had yet. The sauce was tart with an earthy savoriness from the pancetta.

The Bouillabaisse was a cornucopia of shellfish with a broth spiked with sundried tomatoes and olives. Even after our server told us, we still couldn't identify the fish, which was chewy like calamari and flaked like black cod. The fish didn't work for us, though the rest of the dish was conceivably good.

A last-minute detour sent our lunch club packing and on our way to Park Ave for round two.

The two of us decided on a comfort food favorite: the Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Tomato Soup. The Grilled Cheese was sweetly served in the shape of a heart, though the flavor were nothing to write home about. The Tomato Soup ranks up there with the best. We were surprised the chewy bits of cottage cheese interspersed in the creamy soup broth. It was perfectly seasoned, while the cottage cheese was an unexpected and ingenious touch.

While perusing the dessert menu, our waitress came back to announce the Strawberry Shortcake special. A symphony of Ooohs and Ahhhs followed and we were met by a pretty presentation that had too few strawberries and too much whipped cream. Meh.

Voila Cream Pan's latest addition: the Katsu Sandwich Lunch Box at a hefty $5 price tag. It's a welcome change-up to the usual egg salad, tuna salad, and ham combo and is a great choice if you're looking for something more substantial at lunchtime.

September 1, 2007

Mimi's Cafe [Fountain Valley]

The recent heat wave has taken its toll on my appetite. Last week, I passed up an opportunity to visit the much buzzed about Fraiche in Culver City. Yesterday, I threw away my rice bowl in lieu of gelato for lunch. A few days ago, I was so fed up that I was indifferent about a lunch at Mimi’s Café.

I’ve been avoiding protein, veggies, and generally anything that’s cooked. I feast on Ritz Crackers and to fuel my carbohydrate cravings, I looked forward to Mimi’s bread basket, complete with sweet carrot bread. I hadn’t noticed it before, but the bread is really oily, which does not meld well with the hot weather.

Despite my protests, I opted for the creamy Corn Chowder, which I had also remembered as being better. I figured that though it was a hot dish, at least I wouldn’t break a sweat from having to chew. It was too rich and one dimensional.

The Turkey Pesto Ciabatta was surprisingly acceptable bordering on good. The crispy lettuce and the bite of the pesto kept the melted cheese from overwhelming my already sweaty palate. Regardless, I only managed to eat ¼ of the sandwich before passing it onto my SO.

Lunch for two, under $10. Score.

Mimi's Cafe
18461 Brookhurst St
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
(714) 964-2533