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Food Crawl

Gaja Okonomiyaki + Ryo Izakaya

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The Skinny:

Gaja is a Okonomiyaki restaurant that allows you to grill up Japanese style savory pancakes for Lunch or Dinner.  It’s located in the City of Lomita and sits in a tiny plaza next to two popular Udon Noodle shops.   Along with the Okonomiyaki and the vast variety of toppings, like Cheese, Seafood, and mystery Meats, you can also get Italian style Pastas, Soupy Noodles, and Beer.  A good time to go to Gaja is during lunch because they have specials where you get 3 personal size Okonomiyaki with 1 topping each, a side salad, and a drink for just about 15 bucks.

Ryo is a Izakaya not too far from Gaja and serves Japanese style Tapas, Sushi items, Ramen, and Yakitori.  It’s located in the Rolling Hills Shopping Plaza in Torrance and sits right in front of an AMC Movie Theater.  The interior has trendy old style wooden furniture and uses empty alcohole bottles as decorations.

The High:

Gaja was an interesting experience and cooking your own savory pancakes with a few friends is always fun.  We ordered their “Sparking Beer” which either has Blueberries or slices of Grapefruits. Both were good and refreshing.  Since I was in a party of 3, two of us ordered the lunch special to share and topped them with Cheese, Mushrooms, Scallions, Octopus, Teriyaki Chicken, and Shrimp.  I ordered some Takoyaki with a Spicy Sauce.  Of the 6 toppings that were ordered and shared, the Cheese was the best one, that is after we finally mastered the grill and made some decent well-done pancakes.    The way the Cheese crisped up on top of the stove was pretty awesome.   It was also fun seeing all the shaved Bonito flakes come alive as you place them on top of each cooked Pancakes.  The Takoyaki balls were decent and the spicy sauce needed more spice.

After Gaja, I went to Ryo Izakaya with a party of 4.  We shared Ramen with Pork, Yakitori items, a whole grilled Quail, Takoyaki, fried Squid Legs, Shrimp in Chili Sauce, Lamp Chops, Unagi, Asparagus in something-something sauce, and stewed Tendon in a spicy broth.  Of all the items that stood out, the stewed Tendon was my favorite.  It was gelatinous, tasty, and left a lovely sticky film on my lips.  The Ramen that one of us ordered had the thick porky broth and it was as good as those specialty places that only focuses on making really good Ramen.  The grilled items we ordered were the Chicken Hearts, Breast, Wings, Liver, Cartilage, a whole Quail and Lamb Chops.  The Chicken Hearts were pretty beefy in flavor while the Quail and Lamb Chops were both juicy, charred, and seasoned just right.

The Low:

I have no real lows about Gaja, it’s a fun place to eat at and once you master the grill, eating rare Okonomiyakis and half cooked seafood won’t be a problem.  You don’t even have to cook the stuff yourself, you can ask the waiter to have the in-house cook make it for you in the back kitchen.  Actually, one complaint I do have is that the Octopus came out raw and after grilling it with the pancake mix, it was super rubbery.  I think they should have precooked or prepped seafood items like that before hand so it’ll be easier to cook later.

At Ryo Izakaya, the tapped Kirin Beer during happy hour seemed to be really watered down.  It also came in a pitcher that has a pint size indent from the bottom for regular water to freeze up and keep the beer cold.  That’s just BS.  I didn’t really like the Chicken Cartliage, but only because it just isn’t for me.  Other than that, no real complaints about the environment or food.  The female waitresses were all friendly and the cook came out once in a while to see if the customers were cared for.

Would you come back?

Gaja: Only if I’m with a group of people. They have a menu that has as many combo items as a karaoke book has songs.

Ryo: Yes!  It’s a fun place to drink and eat among friends.

More Info: www.gajamoc.com | 2383 Lomita Blvd. Ste 102 Lomita, CA 90717 | (310) 534-0153 | Ryo-zan Paku | 2589 Pacific Coast Hwy. Torrance, CA 90505, Torrance | (310) 530-8720

MJ

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Oinkster + Black Boar + Pitfire Pizza Company

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The Skinny: In one night, I went to a gastropub in Eagle Rock called The Oinkster and stopped by The Black Boar, a no frills bar.  Then on whim, I ended my evening at The Pitfire Pizza Company that’s located in between Culver City and Venice Beach.

Oinkster is popular hipster-ish restaurant that got spotlighted by Guy Fieri on his show Drives, Dives, and Diners.  The establishment is known for their Pastrami and BBQ Pulled Pork sandwiches.

The Black Boar is an Irish style pub I Yelped and went to after eating at the Oinkster.

The Pitfire Pizza Company is a relatively new and trendy place that had a live DJ, wooden decor, Sangrias, and really good Pizza Bread.

The High:

The Oinkster: Since I went here with some friends, I was able to trade one half of my BBQ Pulled Pork for his “Oinkster Pastrami.”  The sandwiches came as a combo with Belgian Fries, a nice dill pickle, and my choice of a hoppy Eagle Rock beer on tap.  The BBQ Pulled Pork is described as being brined in Soy and Honey and then slowly roasted and smoked.  It came packaged with a Red Cabbage Slaw, Caramelized Onions and BBQ Sauce.  While my friend preferred the Pastrami that came pretty much built the same way, except without the BBQ Sauce and with Gruyere Cheese, I liked the Pork more.  It could have been because it was the first thing I ate while it was still hot, so all the flavors just felt that much more comforting.  When I got to the Pastrami, it was cold and falling apart and it didn’t have the same flavor impact as the Pulled Pork did.  It was still good, peppery and full of fatty goodness with the Slaw complimenting everything else.  The Belgian style Fries came with Garlic Aioli, and they were pretty addictive.  I also love the fact they have an outdoor seating area where I can drink beer openly during a nice Spring evening.

The Black Boar: The Black Boar is a pub not too far from The Oinkster.  Inside it the interior and vibe is that of an Irish bar, with dart boards, a Foosball table, old Celtic letterings everywhere, and left over St. Patty’s Day whiskey promos still hanging from the ceilings.  I liked the place and the indie rock music they had playing on the jukebox.  It’s the kind of bar I wish I had near my house so I can be a regular.  However their mixed drinks were watered down, but it’s forgivable because my friend had ordered a girly one in a seemingly no frills kind of bar.  Plus, the dark haired bartender girl with a nose ring was hot!

The Pitfire Pizza Company: I wasn’t really expecting to go here, but my friend decided on a whim to try it out for the first time after we talked about pizzas we had and loved in Los Angeles.  When we got there, the atmosphere reminded me of my design school years with the interior being in a big open area and the kitchen in plain view sight.  While we were waiting in line to order, the DJ was playing Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”  as industrial lights guided us to the cashier lady.  It was cool, the atmosphere made me feel young again.

My friend and I ordered a pitcher of Sangria and two small Pizzas, one with Wild Arugula and the other with Pumpkin Squash.  Both were delicious. The Arugula pizza seemed to have very few ingredients, even with the haystack size greens on top.  The Burrata Cheese, Tomato Sauce, Caramelized Onio, Hazelnut , and Pesto Drizzle that were on it, all worked well together (or at least I thought since I was kind buzzed) on the light and airy Pizza Bread.  The Pumpkin Squash Farmers Market special had the good kind of cheese that actually stretched as you pull away from a bite.  These days, in order for Pizza chains to deliver 5 dollar specials, they opt for the cottage cheese kind that is texturely mushy even when hot.   Pitfire Pizza’s seems to be doing it right, with their fresh hippie like ingredients, that delicious pizza dough formula, and their art student music playing in the background.  Oh…and the Sangria was a bit too fruit punchy, but good enough to make me stumble as I walked out.

The Low:

The Oinkster: None really.

The Black Boar: The only thing that doesn’t really bother me is the watered down mixed drinks.  No biggy though, since all I was drinking was Jameson.

The Pitfire Pizza Company: While the Pumpkin Squash Pizza was tasty, the special ingredient was hardly noticeable.  It was a bit too subtle.  I think maybe if they caramelized the pieces of Squash a bit before cooking the pie in the oven, it would’ve tasted just a little bit better.

Would you come back again? Sure x 3.

More Info: TheOinkster: 2005 Colorado Blvd. Eagle Rock, CA 90041 | Expect to pay about 15 bucks for a Sandwich with a Beer and Fries.  |  The Black Boar: 1630 Colorado Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90041 | The Jameson cost me 7 bucks per order | The Pitfire Pizza Company: 2018 Westwood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90035 | Expect to pay 10 bucks for a Small Pie & 15 for a pitcher of Sangria.


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#1: Taco Hunt 2k11 East Los Angeles

Via: Doahshungry