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Las Vegas: Akira Back’s Yellowtail

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The Skinny: One of my favorite Japanese restaurants on the strip.  Akira Back is an amazing chef with his fresh & innovative dishes.  The main dining overlooks the beautiful water fountains of Bellagio Hotel with the Paris hotel’s Eiffle tower in the background.  The ultimate spot for all the movers & shakers of the nightlife industry.  The service itself is enough for me to come back.  If you ever get to meet the GM Young, he is such a wonderful person, tons of energy & he is the epitomy of customer service.  The food is a little of what you expect in a Japanese restaurant and some of it you sort of think to yourself WHAT? No way. This restaurant is definitely for a more complex palate.

The High: My #1 favorite dish of all time at  Yellowtail is the Big Eye Tuna Pizza with truffle oil.  I’ve recommended this dish up and down to everyone I know and not one person has come back to tell me that I was wrong.  Yes, it’s THAT good. My next favorite dish is the Tempura Alaskan King Crab w/ serrano peppers & sweet ponzu sauce.  The texture and flavors of the the dish go well with each other with a little bite coming from the serrano pepper.  The pop rocks roll is always a crowd pleasure.  My friend had never tried this before.  I was nice enough to tell her what it was, but the first time I had tried it, no one told me.  I took a bite of it and it was crunchy and the candy started exploding in my mouth.  It is literally a party in your mouth.   You taste the sweetness of the watermelon poprocks, but it doesn’t take away from the spicy crab.

The Low: Rock shrimp with Korean chili aioli.  It’s not really a low, but once you’ve tasted the tempura Alaskan king crab the rock shrimp’s flavor didn’t really appeal to me.  Either which way, if you’re going to have the rock shrimp or the tempura king crab, choose one or the other and try the other for another day.  I’ve had the rock shrimp before and it was delicious, but tonight I think the crab won.

Would you come back again? Absolutely.  Any day, anytime.  Well ok…..maybe not any day, any time…..it may get a little expensive, but this is definitely one of my restaurants of choice.

More Info: Yellowtail Website : Traditional & Modern Japanese menu;  expect to spend $55+ per person based on a 3 course dinner

Sniper Tam *pew pew pew!*


VTM#6: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Sukiyabashi Jiro.

Sushi Yasuda in Manhattan

by David Gelb

 

 


Salakot – Sizzle & Grill Restaurant

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The Skinny: Salakot is a Filipino restaurant found in the heart of Los Angeles’s own Historic Filipinotown.  The place serves popular Filipino dishes like Adobo, Sinigang, Lumpia, and Pancit.  They even have a 2nd floor dedicated to those who love to eat and party with a karaoke machine.

I actually discovered  Salakot when I went to go see the indie folk-rock band The Steelwells, a great live act with 2.5 kick ass drummers, at the Bootleg Theater. The restaurant itself is about a block away from the venue and I took a mental note of it because one of my co-workers was looking for a Filipino one.  It turns out, he had already discovered the place on Yelp, so we went there for lunch along with a few other colleagues.

The High: Of the 5 things we ordered and shared, the Spicy Sisig and Chicken Adobo were the best.  The Adobe was unapologetic about the strong Filipino flavors and ingredients it had in it. The chicken was cooked on the bone and tender enough to use a spoon and fork to peel the flesh right off.  The smell of vinegar was strong, but it hardly bothered me in terms of flavor.  It did however repel one of my co-workers who couldn’t even hold the dish due to the sour pungency.  I don’t really have a gauge on what is a really good adobe, and although it was complex, the chicken Adobe tasted fine to me.

The Sisig was what I was anticipating but it wasn’t what I was expected.  The first time I saw the dish was on TV during the travel show No Reservations.  The host Anthony Bourdain went to the Philippines and had the popular Sisig at a late night pub.  It was suppose to be made out of crispy gelatinous pig ears and snout mixed with fat and pieces of actual meat and potatoes.  I was hoping to get that but instead received salty vinegary steak-ish pork bits with green peppers and onions.  It wasn’t bad, but if I didn’t have rice to eat it with, I’d have a hard time enjoying it.  It was tasty though, maybe a little bit too tasty.

The Low: We also ordered shrimp fried rice, Pancit, and Lumpia.  The fried rice, with just 5 pieces of shrimp, was whatever.  I only appreciated it because it helped mellow out the saltiness of the Sisig.  The Lumpia was filled with a rather bland pork filling that only picked up flavors once you dipped it into a sweet chili dipping sauce.  I’m sure it would taste even better during a drunken state of mind.

With Pancit, I’ve always found it a bit bland whenever I eat it.  Salakot’s version of it didn’t make me think otherwise either.  At first, all it’s flavors were found at the bottom of the plate because we didn’t mix the noodles and condiments together well enough.  However, when we did mix it properly, it still didn’t make a difference.  The Panci was just an one note dish of blandness with only a few hints of citrus to break up the monotony of it all.

Would you come back again? Yes! Even though some of the dishes were more misses than hits, the Crispy Pata looks really good.

More Info: Yelp it!

MJ


Boxes by The Steelwells

I think The Steelwells should have named themselves Beards Papa since they all have full on facial hair, well except for the Korean keyboardist who has a peach fuzz pornstache thing going on.  It’s also so they can get sponsored by Beards Papa, the Japanese cream puffs store, and make it rain pastries on the crowd!

Anyways, even though the Rolling Stones magazine did put the ever so annoying Justin Bieber on their cover and asked him douchie questions about rape and abortion, it would be nice to see these  talented bearded kids on it instead.  So rate them with 5 stars at the Rolling Stones website. Link


The Kalbi Burger

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The Skinny: A popular burger hub that’s been voted as one of the top 10 places in Los Angeles by the Huffington Post. Their signature dish is the Korean influenced Kalbi burger.

The High: The Kalbi Burger itself lives up to the hype.  It’s juicy, messy, delicious, and everything The Counter is not. (:-X)  The greens in it had the same vinaigrette at those $19.99 all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ places.  The flame broiled short rib and ground chuck patty was flavorful thanks to the Kalbi aioli; even though it tasted more like Bulgogi.  The toasted bread stayed together well despite my sloppy way of eating it.  It also served as a piece of sponge to soak up all the delicious juices that tried to escape.  The fries were crispy and tasty thanks to them being fried twice.

The Low: I remember the first time I went to Kalbi Burger I made the mistake of getting the Saigon.  I was expecting it to taste like a Bahn Mi….but it didn’t.  The pickled veggies needed more pickling.

Would you come back again? Yes! I got to try the Seoul Dog.

More Info: www.kalbiburger.com – $9.95 for a combo meal that has the Kalbi Burger, Fries, and a drink. $7.95 for just the burger.

MJ

in i


Budae Jjigae aka Korean Military Stew

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The Skinny: I consider Budae Jjigae to be Korea’s stone soup and I love it. It’s a stew that came about during the Korean War when people used whatever they could find to make something with a lot of calories to burn.

I usually go to Toe Bang (3465 W. Sixth St. Los Angeles) in Korea-town for my fix and it costs about 20 bucks an order.  I first started going to Toe Bang at an age where I should have been carded, but never was.  It’s been kind of a Zen thing when I eat this communal hot pot of mystery meats and sodium induced broth.  I really need the atmosphere to be a certain way to really enjoy the experience of raising my own blood pressure through consumption.  When Toe Bang first opened, it used to be made up of a green canopy, lawn chairs, and metal patio tables.  Now it has wood furnishing all over with flat screen TVs and heat lamps keeping customers warm due to the main seating area being outdoors, and outside is where you want to be.  Add some Korean Euro-trash techno music, soju, and some red faced lightweight Koreans yapping in the background…and you have the perfect Budae Jjigae atmosphere.  It’ll make you feel like you’re in another country…like Korea!

However, things have changed a little bit too much at Toe Bang.  Instead of being able to cook the Budae Jjigae at your own table with your own little gas powered hot pot, they cook it before hand and just serve it to you; and that just kills the fun.

So now, I just cook it at home and with my friends….but it isn’t the same as going out and having it in Korea-town where people still smoke indoors.

Recipe:

* 2-3 cans of Swanson’s chicken stock
* half an onion sliced up
* some sliced up spam
* some hot dogs sliced up
* some burger patties rolled up into tiny balls the size of your thumb
* Firm Tofu
* green onions sliced up
* vegis like bean sprouts, cabbage, and enoki mushrooms.
* Sliced rice cakes
* Korean Red Chili Paste
* Chrysanthemum leaves which is a must. They come in bundles.
* A portable Hot Pot, electric or gas powered. The bigger, the better.
* Nong Shim Neoguri Udon – Ramen with some thick ass noodles.
* and Soju!….Chamisul to be more specific.

It’s not really rocket science as to how you bring it all together. There’s no set amount of ingredients because after all, it’s a military stew. You just start heating up the hot pot, add the sliced onions and pour in some chicken stock. When it starts getting hot, take 2 big spoonfuls of red chili paste and stir it into the pot until it becomes thick with red.  When it begins to boil, that’s when you add the mystery meats, tofu, sprouts, and Chrysanthemum leaves.  Then at the very end, add the ramen noodles and green onions.  Serve it with rice, kimchee, and shot glasses full of soju…and you’re set to go.

– MJ


Las Vegas – Monta Japanese Ramen

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The Skinny: This is the ultimate hole in the wall Japanese ramen restaurant in Las Vegas.  Many of it’s predecessors have tried and failed, but here we have standing Monta.  It’s a very simple restaurant, with an even more simple menu.  You have 3 broths to choose from, Tonkatsu, Shoyu, or Miso.  Then you add your toppings:  extra char siu, corn, mustard leaf, extra noodles etc.  Aside from the Ramen menu there are other things for those who aren’t that into noodles.  They have a pork belly rice, kimchi fried rice, gyozas, etc.  a small variety of dishes.  Very limited seating including a counter seating like in Japan.

The High: I always order the Tonkatsu Ramen.  To me it’s the most flavorful of the soups and takes the longest to make.  (I tried making it…..12 hours later, I went to Monta to order instead lol)  The Tonkatsu Ramen comes with 2 pieces of char siu, green onion.  I always add corn, mustar leaf and sometimes the soft boiled egg.  Your first encounter with this broth is OMG WHAT? It’s SO flavorful and delicious you can’t get enough of it.  Every bite has to have enough soup to go with it.  If you get super hungry you can order more noodles, except they won’t give you more soup if you run out.  I also tried the Gyozas which were handmade in house.  I loved them! I’m used to restaurant frozen from the bag gyozas, but these were fresh because we were watching them make it while waiting for our food.

The Low: It IS a large sodium intake if you eat it too often.  It also gets VERY hot in the tiny restaurant during the summer.  Hopefully they’ve fixed it.

Would you come back again? Absolutely! Anytime I’m craving Noodles, Monta is always the winner hands down, even over Pho :O

More Info: www.yelp.com.  Monta doesn’t have a website, but take a look at the yelp reviews and you’ll get the gist of the restaurant.  They do to-go, but you have to cook the noodles for about 3 minutes when you get home.  Still tastes the same.  How often do you do take out and it still taste as if you were eating it in the restaurant?

Sniper Tam *Pew Pew Pew*


Las Vegas – Fuku Burger Truck

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The Skinny: The Fuku Burger Truck is burger heaven on wheels.  I’m not much of a burger eater, but everyone kept raving about it, so I had to try it. The truck is decorated with all these cartoons of the owners and the Fuku Girl.  You’d have to see it to believe it.  When chatting up the owner, he told me that everything is freshly made.  All the ingredients are local.  They go to the meat market every day and season the beef.  Once they’re out, they’re out.

The High: Everyone kept talking about the Tamago burger so that’s the first one I tried.  The first bite into this burger it was an explosion of flavors.  I had a foodgasm eating this burger.  All the flavors just went well together.  It consisted of the fuku burger, fried egg, fried string onions, topped off with teriyaki and furikake. The naga dog is a great alternative if you’re not in the mood for a burger.  It consists of a spicy link topped with home-made pickled daikon relish and grilled kim chee. Drizzled with wasabi mayo and kabayaki sauces then finished with hari nori.  Colin said it’s like the Jap dog in Vancouver.  Makes me miss Vancouver lol.  Another alternative would be the Katsu Burger.  It’s panko crusted chicken with shredded cabbage finished with wasabi mayo, & katsu sauce.  I like to liven up by having the Katsu burger Karai style.  Karai style is everything on the Karai burger replacing the fuku patty with the katsu patty.  The Karai burger which consists of the fuku patty, with sliced cucumber, lettuce, avocado cream, finished with spicy mayo and habanero kabayaki.  This is my new favorite from the Fuku truck.  They’re garlic fries are awesome too.  It comes with a sweet ketchup sauce & crack sauce.  OMG this cracksauce is amazing and IS like crack, you can’t get enough of it. They’ve added new items such as the local moco, it’s like your Hawaiian favorite but with a fuku patty.  Mac salad and special burgers once in a while.  All of it was mouthwatering.  For a girl that can’t sit in a dirty restaurant and eat (cuz we all know the dirtier the restaurant the better the food) , questioning whether these trucks are clean enough to not give me tummy rumbles…this truck gets two thumbs up from me.

The Low: My friend had the buta burger which consisted of the fuku patty, miso-glazed apple wood smoked bacon, american cheese, pickled ginger, + Japanese bbq sauce.  It was a little greasy for me.  My friend seemed to like it, definitely flavorful, but anything with ginger that I can taste will make it a low for me.  The other burger I wasn’t too fond of was the Kinoko burger which is their mushroom burger.  It consists of the fuku patty, grilled shitake mushrooms, ginger……and I’m just going to stop there because again, it has ginger :).  Not the type of mushroom burger I’d like, but I know a lot of other people that enjoy it. So to each their own.  Another low is that they’re not always in the same place every day.  You have to go to website and check the schedule.  Now that they’ve got all the legal stuff together they are a little more consistent in their locations.   My favorite locations are Chinatown & the one on Flamingo + Decatur (they’re all close to my house) 😉

Would you come back again? Absolutely! I try to expose as many of my friends to this truck as possible.  Also the Fuku staff are all really nice and down to earth.  This alone would make me want to keep searching them out.  The Fuku truck is like having a drug addiction, except it’s a food addiction, when they were on hiatis for a week I was having withdrawls.  Horrible right?  Believe me though,the minute I bit into that burger mmmMmMmm my mouth waters thinking about it right now.  If it wasn’t so late in the evening I’d drive the 10 minutes to go get it to go right now.

More Info: www.fukuburger.com ;  expect to pay $5.00 a Burger, $2.00 for Fries; $2.00 for a Strawberry Lemonade; $6.00 for a Naga Dog.

– Sniper Tam *Pew Pew Pew*

Song: After Hanabi – Nujabes


The MGM Grand Food Crawl – Part 1

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The Skinny: I have been blessed to try 9 restaurants on the MGM Grand property seeing what they have to offer for good eats.  This is part 1 of that dine around with 4 restaurants on the board.  First stop:  Joel Robuchon.  This is the one restaurant I’ve been told is a MUST try once in your lifetime. That’s absolutely a restaurant I want my rich husband to take me too. lol   Second stop:  Shibuya, one of my favorites Japanese Restaurants on the strip. Extensive sake selection!  Third stop:  Fiamma.  This is a trendy Italian restaurant equipped with a fireplace in the middle of their lounge.  Fiamma is designed to be seen, so if you want to be noticed, this would probably be the best place to go.  Final stop for the evening:  Diegos. Great place for you and the girls or even you and the guys to go hang out and grab a margarita before going out.  See the high for more details of all these restaurants

The High:

Joel Robuchon: The minute you walk into that restaurant is amazing, with the amazing chandeliers & purple velvet upholstry, down to the beautiful table settings.  For a lot of people I’m sure they’ll feel misplaced, this IS a high end Forbes 5 star restaurant so yes it’s an intimate, elegant atmosphere.  Joel Robuchon is definitely for a more of a sophisticated palate. They came over to the table to show us their bread cart and explained which seemed like a hundred different types of bread, but really it was like maybe 10 or so?  Then he came over with the awesome butter display, I don’t know what they do but the bread + butter was amazing.  I could’ve just ate that all night alone. Then came the “lobster ravioli”  Small bite in the middle of a dinner plate.  It was delicious.  I didn’t see it on their online menu to give you a description.  That mini experience makes me want to go back for the full Joel Robuchon experience…..even if it’s for $400 per person.  Remember:  It’s a once in a lifetime experience.

Shibuya: Inspired by Tokyo’s Shibuya district, this is a the ultimate Japanese dining experience.  Aside from the sushi bar, and regular dining tables they have 3 teppanyaki tables in the back of the restaurant.  They also have an extensive Sake list.  I tried the KANI SALAD (King, Snow and River Crab, Pickeled Cucumber, Seaweed, Lotus Chips).  This dish is definitely unique as it is served on top of a fish bowl….yes! with a live beta fish swimming around while you’re eating the goods placed in a cone shaped bowl on top.  I also tried the AUSTRALIAN KOBE BEEF TATAKI (Lemon Tamari Soy, Garlic Chips, Red Onion, Tarragon Oil) I LOVE beef tataki if it’s made right.  This was good, I’ve definitely had better, but still great nonetheless.  The sake I had to accompany all these good eats was the Junmai Ginjo.  When I first took a whiff of it it had a fruity smell to it, and when I took a taste it, it was one of the best easy to drink sakes I’ve ever tasted.  Definitely recommend having this with your dinner.

Fiamma: Traditional Italian recipes in a trendy fine dining atmosphere.  This is my kind of place.  I had tried their food at this event I went to called Wet Your Appetite during Restaurant Week and it was my favorite.  I had the GNOCCHI ALL’ARAGOSTA (Soft Potato Dumplings With Maine Lobster Mushroom and Black Truffle) This is everyone’s favorite out of the whole night, but then again you can get me to fall in love with anything that has black truffle.  The gnocchi was just the right texture, some restaurants make it too chewy or too mushy.  Fiamma did it just right.  We also had a vegetarian dish that had a spinach stuffing in these little handkerchief pastas w/ marinara sauce.  I liked this dish too, but the gnocchi get the trophy for the evening.  The restaurant has a very “sexy” feel to it.  The restaurant is pretty open and faces the restaurant row so everyone that walks by sees you.  You definitely don’t want to look broke eating in that restaurant.  The lounge area is pretty nice too, has a nice big fireplace right in the middle of the lounge.  If you’re tired of the nightclubs in Las Vegas, this would be a cool place to hang out, people watch and have a few drinks.

Diegos: Your traditional mexican recipes with a twist.  The table side guacamole is THE BEST!! I LOVE Guac and I’m very particular about my guac.  By far Diego is the best.  All fresh ingredients prepared table side.  Diegos has 125 different 100% agave tequila lables…..need I say more?  If tequila is your friend, this is the place to be.  They have this unique waterfall slide right in the middle of the restaurant.  It’s definitely a fun non traditional atmosphere.

The Low: Shibuya: The last dish I tried was YELLOWTAIL SASHIMI (Shichimi Pepper, Garlic Ginger, Yuzu Juice). This wasn’t the most memorable dish that’s why I put it as a low.  It really isn’t too much of a low because it was still good, it’s just not something I’d order at a hotel Japanese restaurant.  I like to try something I can’t get anywhere else.  Give me something different, something unique…..like the fish bowl Kani 🙂

Would you come back again? I loved all 4 restaurants and only having a taste of each restaurant, I absolutely want to go back and try the full experience.

More Info: Joel-Robuchon-French-Restaurant // Shibuya-Japanese-Restaurant //  Fiamma-Italian-Restaurant-Bar //  Diego-Mexican-Restaurant// Diego’s has a happy hour! Available at Bar & Lounge Area Only: Sunday through Thursday 4:00 P.M. – 5:30 P.M.  They also have Latin nights Friday & Saturdays.

– Sniper Tam *Pew Pew Pew*


VTM#3: Food Crawl in Los Angeles

Starring… “Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal restaurant, Aziz Ansari, Michael Rapaport, Ethan Suplee, Giovanni Reda of http://www.theberrics.com, Jeff Miller of http://www.thrillist.com, and Zach McGowan of many fine things related to Hollywood.”

See the more at VBS.TV: Animal – Munchies | VBS.TV


VTM#2: Beef Noodle Soup MV

Starring married Food Bloggers Noodlewhore and Oishiieats. Made by Joel Kuwahara.

Song is “Place To Be” by Nick Drake