Thursday, January 21, 2010
Despite numerous trips to LA in the last few years, I've never actually visited Little Tokyo before. It's always been on my to-do list. When I stumbled upon Fugetsu- a store in Little Tokyo selling fresh mochi, the need to visit Little Tokyo became immediate! Originally, the plan was to spend the day in Little Tokyo with Boyfriend: exploring the bookstores, stuffed animal stores, restaurants, supermarkets, mochi stores. Unfortunately, our plans got quite delayed due to some more important matters to take care of. Those matters ended up taking most of the day…It was so late by the time we finished that it really wasn't even worth making the trip.
But we made the trip anyway. Because both Boyfriend and I had been really set on going. So we went, and ended up having to make it a really quick trip. We were able to do some brief browsing, and will definitely return to try some of the restaurants we passed. Here is what we did have time for:
315 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
This little shop is a lot like Hogetsu. Except they have a lot more fresh mochi offerings. In addition to fresh mochi, they also sell prepackaged mochi and some other japanese snacks. Since I had traveled so far, I decided I needed to try almost every kind of fresh mochi offering they had. I ended up with a lot of mochi…The fresh mochi are so beautiful! And they are available for purchase online!
However, I think I prefer the taste of the mochi offerings at Hogetsu. The mochi here were really sweet..the mochi dough layer was very thin and the filling was the majority of the mochi. I like the opposite: more dough, less filling.
My favorite one is the white with pink in the middle. It's called "kiki" which means chrysanthemum. There is also a pink one of this.
The yellow one with a leaf was mango flavored, which I liked too. And I always like the pink mochi called "gyuhi" which have a white bean filling.
118 Japanese Village Plaza Mall
Los Angeles, CA 90012
We also had a chance to check out Mikawaya, which is across the street. Mikawaya is one of the main brands that sell ice cream mochi. At this store, you can buy individual ice cream mochi and gelato ice cream mochi! They also sell just ice cream and gelato, shaved ice, drinks, mochi and japanese snacks.
There were so many flavors to choose from for the ice cream mochi. I chose to buy gelato ones, since I can't usually get them in the grocery store. Boyfriend and I sampled six: hazelnut, pistachio, green tea, coconut, plum, and toasted almond. I was slightly disappointed. If you really love gelato, this is not great gelato. The consistency isn't right. And the ingredients aren't real. One of my favorite things about gelato is the use of natural ingredients, creating a very intense taste. There was definitely a lot of artificial ingredients in these gelatos. Also the skins weren't very chewy and I like my skins to be chewy.
Little Tokyo Galleria Plaza
333 S. Alameda St.
Los Angeles, CA
We also stopped by this shopping center, which has an hour of free parking in the lot. There's a supermarket, quite a few restaurants, and some dessert places like Beard Papa's. Outside of the supermarket, there is stand where they were making tako-yaki and tai-yaki.
I haven't had fresh tai-yaki ever! I've only had frozen ones which I've reheated. So we had to get some. I've always wanted one right off the grill equipment because then it is really crispy and hot. I got a red bean one and it was piping hot.
It tasted just like how I imagined. We also got an order of tako-yaki. They sprinkled benito flakes on top and sauce. These were delicious. Lots of different flavors in the bread with a large chunk of tako (octopus) in the middle. Boyfriend liked them even though he doesn't like octopus.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Oceanaire Seafood Room
400 J St
San Diego, CA 92101
So it's finally happened. After enjoying countless wonderful meals at Oceanaire in the past, and glorifying about the restaurant to all those who will listen, Boyfriend and I finally had a not-so memorable meal. Of course it wasn't so bad as to stop us from going back, but it did put a little damper in our mood and made us realize that our perfect restaurant is not so perfect. The food was as good as usual, but the service was not. I've stated before in the past that service can really make or break your meal.
Oceanaire is a favorite restaurant for Boyfriend and me. It's been our go-to restaurant for all sorts of celebrations and special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, and "just because." Until this last visit, it's been such a dependable place for us. The fish has always been fresh, the crab cakes always as mouthwatering as we remembered, and the service has always been some of the best service we've ever received.
It just so happens that restaurant week falls during our anniversary. So for the last several years, we have always made sure to visit Oceanaire during Restaurant week, so that we can both celebrate our anniversary and enjoy the prix fixe menu.
Oceanaire is a great place for celebrating anniversaries and birthdays because they print a menu with the words "Happy Anniversary" or "Happy Birthday;" they usually give you a nice cozy booth, and they present you with a baked Alaska at the end, with all the hoopla of lighting it on fire and adding some sparklers for special effects.
When we arrived for our reservation, we were surprised to be seated so quickly. We've grown accustomed to how busy Oceanaire is during restaurant week and there always seems to be a delay between reservation time and seating time. However, there was no wait that night.
We were seated at a regular table, which I was slightly disappointed with. In the past, for our anniversary, we've always been seated at one of the nice booths. But we figured all the booths must be full and we would rather be seated immediately then have to wait around for a booth to open up.
Shortly after we were seated, we were greeted by our server, whose name I won't mention. We were given our "Happy Anniversary" menus, which we like to keep a copy of for a souvenir.
We were then given the customary sour dough bread, pickled herring and vegetable platter. I didn't take any photos of it this time. I was actually debating whether to photograph at all. I feel like my little point and shoot camera doesn't do the food justice, but I also didn't want to carry around my dslr camera.
All the menu items in bold are part of restaurant week. You get to choose one appetizer/salad, one entree, and one dessert. As you can see, there are quite a few choices, whereas a lot of other restaurant week participants only offer three choices.
Boyfriend and I both started with the crabcakes. The crab cakes always taste wonderful. I've talked and raved about them before, so I won't bore you. What makes the crab cakes so special to me is the use of large chunks of crab meat and very little use of fillers like bread crumbs, etc. It's like eating the best portions of a crab without having to get your hands dirty. The sauce it is served with really enhances the taste of the crab.
For the main cours, I ordered the tomba tuna. It was seared a medium rare, and put on a bed of greens and king crab chunks with lobster sauce. I loved the subtle sweetness of the lobster sauce. The king crab chunks tasted like lobster chunks and nothing like king crab, as they were much harder in texture than crab. I didn't mind though because I like lobster even more than I like crab. The fish was seared perfectly and had such a pretty shade of pink.
Boyfriend ordered the black and blue shark, which is a staple on the Oceanaire menu. While Oceanaire's menu changes from day to day, the Black and Blue is something we always see when we visit. Boyfriend really loved the fish and all the spices. I thought the cheese on top was a bit overwhelming, but I did like the fish without the cheese.
Throughout the meal, we got our waters filled by someone, but our server did not pay us much attention. I realize that it is restaurant week and that they are busy but we've been to Oceanaire for restaurant week so many times now, and the service has always been excellent even during this busy time.
When our desserts arrived, the server put a candle in the ice cream and told us "Happy Anniversary" and then plopped down our check. There was no inquiry into whether we were finished, whether we wanted some coffee. And what were we supposed to do with the candle? Do you get a wish on your anniversary? And where was the Baked Alaska? I knew that they still served it because I saw it served at three other tables while we were eating.
Boyfriend and I looked at each other in surprise. Boyfriend thought he could ask someone about it. But I didn't want to do that. After all, there is nothing that says Oceanaire has to serve you the Baked Alaska. It's just been a special touch that we've always received. It felt weird requesting it. I told him it was fine, we would just eat our desserts.
I ordered an apple raisin crisp. The apples were a bit too tart for my taste, but it was warm and enjoyable.
Boyfriend ordered the white chocolate parfait. It basically tasted like white chocolate yogurt (though more liquidy than normal yogurt), with fruits and granola. Boyfriend really liked it.
While eating our desserts, Boyfriend tried to rectify the situation (Isn't he sweet?). With the excuse of needing to use the restroom, he went and talked to the manager. The manager was great and told us that we should be getting a Baked Alaska since we had informed them it was our anniversary when we made our reservations.
Soon, our Baked Alaska arrived. While I'm glad that the manager corrected the situation, I also hadn't wanted to go to the manager. Because when you complain about the service or your server, it comes to the server's attention while they are still your server. Which makes thinks quite awkward. It was obvious the server had been told what had happened and while she wasn't rude, she did the bare minimal in serving us our dessert.
She placed it before us like we had ordered it off the menu, rather than presenting it like it was a treat on the house to celebrate our special day. She lit it on fire, but there was no fancy presentation. Then she didn't even have any plates to serve it to us on. It took her quite a while to get some plates, and we wondered if she would be back. Finally, she reappeared to serve us the cake.
We left that night without feeling as joyous and satisfied as we usually do. Perhaps next time we will specifically request a server we like in order to not have such a disappointing experience again.
Normally, Oceanaire extends restaurant week another week. I don't know if they are doing that this year because the server didn't tell us, and usually they do. I don't know if it's because it isn't happening or because the server just didn't do her job. You can read about my previous Oceanaire experiences here and here. You can also see my other 2010 restuarant week review of Island Prime here.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Last weekend I made Hello Kitty waffles– because waffles taste better when they are shaped like Hello Kitty! =)
I've loved Hello Kitty for as long as I can remember. Ever since getting my first set of Hello Kitty trinkets: a hairbrush, coin purse, and mini notebooks. I don't remember who gave me the gift, but I still have them to this day. My obsession with Hello Kitty was recently renewed when I attended the 35th Anniversary of Hello Kitty exhibit at Three Apples.
After discovering that there is a Hello Kitty waffle maker that makes perfectly shaped Hello Kitty waffles, I had to get one! The waffle maker makes four small waffles at a time: two Hello Kitty ones, and her friend My Melody and Tenorikuma (I think that's the bear character). I purchased my waffle maker from ebay. This is what the waffle iron looks like:
On one side is the face, and the other side is the traditional gridmarks of waffles. I originally wanted to make an original waffle batter to test out my machine, but didn't have enough time to whip any up. So I used a Belgium waffle mix.
The waffle iron works great. Each set of waffles came out perfectly (except for the first batch, shown above, when I was still trying to figure out the waffle maker). The only thing was that they were hard to remove, so the faces sometimes got squished when I was prying them off the waffle maker. I sprayed the grids with oil, but they were still hard to get off.
Now there are so many possibilities. Perhaps I'll make some Hello Kitty moffles next?