July 31, 2007

My Vi Mi Gia #2 [Garden Grove]

As the name would suggest, My Vi Mi Gia specialized in mi, or Chinese-style egg noodle soup. While it is owned and operated by Vietnamese people out of Little Saigon, it is no less authentic or lip-smacking good.

My Vi Mi Gia's Mi Hoanh Thanh (Wonton Noodle Soup) comes piled with meats, fish balls, and wontons for your enjoyment. The soup is a straightforward brew of chicken broth, green onions, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil and is well balanced without being greasy. Mi nuoc (soup noodles) is often eaten with dau chao quay, which are deep-fried breads that are similar to croissants on the inside without the flaky exterior. They are also known as Chinese doughnuts.

Who in their right minds would want noodle soup in the sweltering heat, you ask? The solution lies in mi kho, which literally translates to "dry noodles" and includes everything you'd get in your mi nuoc with the nuoc leo (soup) brought on the side. The other distinguishing mark is that the noodles are mixed with dau hao (oyster sauce) for flavor.

My Vi Mi Gia #2 serves nothing out of the ordinary and though the food may not blow your mind, it is a solid choice for mi noodles. Oh yeah, and it's pretty clean to boot.

My Vi Mi Gia #2
10141 Westminster Ave, Ste J
Garden Grove, CA 92843
(714) 537-3386

July 30, 2007

Sprinkles [Newport Beach]

Luckily, there wasn't a long winding line when I arrived and I was only subjected to about 5 minutes of wait. But, that doesn't mean these cupcakes weren't selling like hot cakes. With each order, the number of cupcakes left waiting for purchase seemed to fall quite speedily. The cupcakes are featured behind a glass wall in perfect row, and the menu includes a long list of flavors but only a few are selected for sale each day, save the popular ones like red velvet or black and white, which are attainable every day.

milk chocolateThe milk chocolate had a delicious milk chocolate cream cheese frosting that spread over your tongue with a lick. The cake itself was advertised as a dark chocolate cake which I did not get a hint of. The cake was light like that of a flourless cake. For once, I thought that I may have liked frosting over cake but further contemplation made me realize that too much cake would definitely be better than too much frosting.

lemon coconutThe lemon coconut cream cheese frosting was equally smooth and although I enjoyed the subtle lemon flavor of it, it was overwhelmingly sweet. The shredded coconut was topped with sparkling granulated sugar, adding a crunch. The vanilla cake was almost indescribable; it wasn't moist, but it wasn't dry either. I think it can best be characterized as slightly dense and soggy. But whatever the description, it was unmistakeably a bland and imperfect cake.

red velvetI had high expectations for the red velvet as it has drawn the adoration of the public. The red southern-style cake was divinely moist and the cream cheese frosting matched the excellence of its base. However, it must be mentioned that I had managed to catch the red velvet right after it had been produced from the bakers oven, giving it an advantage over the other cupcakes. Toward the end, I started to get a headache from all the sugar consumption and I left some of the frosting untouched. Warning: the cake will make your tongue fuchsia as if you had just finished a cherry Blow Pop.

At $3.25 a pop, these are expensive cupcakes for the true addicts. Buying a dozen at $39 will save you $3 (almost one free cupcake). And while the decor of both the store and the desserts themselves are charming, the taste fails to impress me and I'm forced to conclude, from my first visit, that the accolade is near puffery. However, I'm curious about the other flavors and everybody deserves a second chance.

944 Avocado Ave.
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949) 760-0003

July 29, 2007

Cham Sut Gol [Garden Grove]

My friend made reservations for a table of approximately 10 and we all got the dinner special of all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ at $16.99 per person. It came with short and thin skinless pork belly, thin sliced beef brisket, pork BBQ, beef BBQ, chicken BBQ, egg pot, bean paste stew and thin rice cake wrap. There are more choices on the menu but we didn't heed the other pages.

Our table was immediately covered with an assortment of tapas from potato salad, to radishes, to chap chae, to broccoli. Then the waitress brought out a mountain of meat and just dumped it all on the steaming grill. She left us to cook it but would return occasionally to add more stuff. The egg pot was very much like that of chawanmushi except it wasn't as light and there were less "surprises" (I've always thought of chawanmushi as a treasure hunt where you find a shrimp here, and a vegetable there). The other dishes weren't unique.

All the meat just started to meld together and eventually they just all started tasting the same after I subjected them to this sweet soy sauce mixture. I had wanted more chap chae but it was reported that there was no more and the message was delivered with another helping of meat.

At the end of the the meal, you can help yourself to the self-serve ice cream cart, where you'll find big tubs of bubble gum, butter pecan and chocolate ice cream. It station itself doesn't look so sanitary, especially the bowl of water where the scoops are left. And the cone is the absolute worst ice cream cone I've ever had in my life; it tasted like cardboard.

diy ice cream box o' cones

Cham Sut Gol
9252 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92842
(714) 590-9292

July 28, 2007

Delicias de Mexico [Santa Ana]

Driving north on Harbor, you'll see NEVERIA in big pink letters announcing that you've arrived at Delicias de Mexico. It's right after Trask before you see the freeway entrance, so keep your eyes peeled for the neon green lights and painted glass windows.

Neveria is Spanish for ice cream shop with the suffix "-ria" indicating that it is a type of food shop. Carniceria (butcher), panaderia (bakery), pasteleria (cake shop)--you get the point. At Delicias, there are an assortment of helados (ice cream), paletas (popsicles), licuados (fruit smoothies), y agua frescas (fruit juices) to cool you down on a hot summer day.

Fruit flavors are mostly found in the paletas, which are either water or milk based, while the ice creams are paired with sweeter flavors such as coffee, vanilla, and chocolate. The ice creams are rich and creamy, though they were out of the chongos, which is a distinctly Mexican-flavored ice cream with milk candy chunks and cinnamon in it.

The paletas were too pretty to eat and filled the case with every color in the rainbow. Some of the more exotic offerings were yam, corn, and pico de gallo, though our taste buds weren't up to the challenge on this particular night. We opted for the pineapple, watermelon, and guava paletas, which were all a little on the sugary side. The water-based paletas are essentially frozen slushies, though the fruit chunks and seeds found inside give them a nice homemade feel. Eat fast because the bars start melting pretty quickly after you get them.

Maybe she was having a bad day, but the owner was extremely rude and trite with us. She rolled her eyes at our curiosity and sighed impatiently while we asked questions. At least all of the signs are in English, so you can easily avoid communication if the environment seems hostile...can't we all just get along?

Delicias de Mexico
13466 Harbor Blvd
Garden Grove, CA 92843
(714) 590-0031

Porto's Bakery [Glendale]

Although we were right next door at Damon's for June's Yelp Elite event, we arrived five minutes after Porto's 7 o'clock closing. I wasn't about to let that happen a second time around and popped by on my way back from the Kwik-E-Mart down the street.

The demure storefront hides the megalithic 2-story party supply and cake shop that lie behind Porto's doors. Designed to handle downtown Glendale's lunch traffic, the bakery is divided into two sides with the left counter serving lunch orders for sandwiches and popular bakery items and the right being the full-service bakery. Just queue up if you're in line at the lunch counter, but remember to take a number if you're waiting on the bakery.

We started with a trio of strudels (guava cheese, apple and guava) whose pastry shells were slightly cookie-like and crumbled more than they flaked. The apples were generously dusted with cinnamon spice, though we couldn't taste the cheese in our guava-cheese strudel. The guava tasted firstly of sugar, but left a refreshing tart aftertaste in our mouths. We also tried one of the new Raspberry Kisses, which reminded me of the Verona cookies filled with raspberry jam. They're a little on the dry side, which begs for tea of milk and I will definitely go back to try the dulce de leche version, which I bet tastes like alfajores.

The Pan con Lechon, a roasted pork sandwich with garlic mojo and onions, was incredibly moist and flavorful, though there was too much meat and too little of everything else. When I did manage to get a bite of onion, the contrast was sublime. If they had used red onions marinated in lime, it would have been heavenly.

And lastly, the legendary Potato Balls, which lived up to the hype and so much more. The fluffy mashed potatoes are lightly fried and filled with a flavorful taco meat. I was already raving even before I discovered the seasoned ground beef, hiding like a buried treasure in the depths of the ball. At $.80 a pop, they are the ultimate comfort food.

Whether its breads, cakes, pastries, empanadas, sandwiches, or tarts, there are certainly enough options at Porto's to keep you coming back for more.

Porto's Party Store & Cake Gallery
315 N Brand Blvd
Glendale, CA 91203
(818) 956-5996

July 27, 2007

Kasen [Fountain Valley]

My SO turned me onto Kasen describing it as one of the few Fountain Valley Japanese restaurants he's been to where there were only Japanese patrons dining. He raved on and on about the sushi, but my experience at lunch wasn't so spectacular.

Perhaps it was because I ordered the Regular Sushi Combination ($12), instead of the deluxe set which would have cost me $6 more. There wasn't much to choose from, given that Kasen's only lists two sushi combinations, two chirashi bowls, and one eel plate on its menu for lunch.

I found the sushi unremarkable, though it was fresh and unfishy. And while I'm not the type to turn my soy sauce into a wasabi paste, there was hardly enough wasabi in the sushi rice. The flavors on the fish would have much crisper with it. My sushi combination came with albacore, toro, salmon, ebi, eel, and another chewy fish which I couldnt identify. The plum rolls were good. All lunch orders come with a bowl of miso soup.

The Eel Roll ($10) wasnt the broiled saucy stuff you normally get, but rather a light and fleshy sea eel with only a touch of sauce for sweetness. At best, the rolls were nice to look at and not unpleasant to eat.

I wouldn't call the food bad and I wouldn't venture to deem the sushi mediocre--just nothing special. Kasen definitely warrants a revisit for dinner.

9039 Garfield Ave
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
(714) 963-8769

Kawaii Bakery

Kawaii Bakery has been serving cakes, sweet buns, breads, and other pastries in the old Alin's Party Supply Plaza for over two years now. I suspect that most people heading on Warner in that direction are on a single mission to get on the freeway and often overlook the obscure location.

Though the breads and buns looked good, the three of us were looking to cash in on the promotion, which advertised three slices of cake for $6.49. The single refridgerated case housed mostly fruit-based mousse cakes, though there were a few classic chocolate and sponge cakes thrown in for good measure. I was told the most popular cakes are the Sweet Tasty, a heart-shaped raspberry mousse, and the Opera, a chocolate mousse cake. For our choices, we opted for the Pineapple, strawberry-yogurt mousse, and "Japanese-style cake," which was a cheesecake made with cream cheese.

The presentation of the cakes was simple with light fruit garnishes serving as the only embellishment, although the cake wrappers were cumbersome and difficult to remove. There seemed to be more air beaten into the egg whites than normal, which led to an almost weightless mousse cake that melted in our mouths. The strawberry and yogurt combination was tart, while the chocolate and vanilla sponge cakes acted as a counterbalance.

The Pineapple Cake was a sponge cake topped with pineapple jam. It was nice and light. The Japanese cheesecake was the only disappointment since the cheese was neither sweet nor sour and the crust incredibly dry. A good dousing of raspberry sauce would have done it good.

Though the cakes were simple, they tasted good, came in large portions, and were relatively cheap. No complaints, but no rave reviews either.

Clockwise: Tuna + ham&egg sandwiches, assorted cakes, chocolate cake toast, banana bread, vanilla sponge cake, wintermelon pastries

As we wandered around the store, we kept discovering one treat after another, until I walked away with a laundry list of items to check out the next time I'm there. On my list: ham and egg sandwiches, banana bread, and chocolate cake toast.

Food update July 31, 2007

This time, I came for the buns and sandwiches for a light lunch. Overall my choices weren't bad, though I've had better.

I picked up the only two sandwiches they had available. The ham and cheese on white bread was a little manufactured tasting with the brick of unnatural-looking cheese being what put me off most. The bread was expectedly fluffy, though a tad sweet. Not bad on the whole, though Cream Pan's are better and feel a bit more homemade.

The potato and tuna salad stuffed buns deceptively looked like baguettes, but were more like Hawaiian bread rolls. Potato salad is too starchy for an already carb-loaded bun and the tuna salad tasted more like mayo than it did tuna.

The pastries below come with the same buttery bun casing, though they're packaged in different shapes and sizes. The buns are sweet and doughy on the inside.

The Pork Sung and Green Onion Bun was overloaded with sweet pork sung and didn't have enough of the green onions for a fragrant contrast. The corn in the Corn and Ham Bun didn't have much sweetness of its own and as far as I could taste, the ham was almost absent altogether.

The only real winner was the Banana Bread, which would have rivaled any great grandmother's family recipe. It's everything you expect homemade banana bread to taste like.

Kawaii Bakery
17020 Magnolia St
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
(714) 596-6178

Try: Strawberry-Yogurt Mousse, Banana Bread
Skip: Japanese-style Cake, Pork Sung and Green Onion Bun, Ham and Corn Bun