The Skinny: Over Labor Day weekend I went to Redondo Beach Pier for some Seafood with my mom. She wanted to get this flat Fish that’s kind of like a small Halibut, (not sure what it is….it could just be a baby Halibut), but the price per pound was ridiculous. At the Redondo Beach Crab House, it was $30 something for a pound of that fish, and each one was no less than 4. So we settled for some Fried Clams with Fries, a $45 Sashimi platter, Nakji Bokum (A Spicy Korean Octopus dish) with cold Somen Noodles, and a bottle of Hite.
The Sashimi Platter comes with Baby Abalone, Tuna, Halibut, Hamachi, Salmon, Red Snapper and some of the Flat Fish my mom wanted. The restaurant also provided us with some Ban-chan (Korean side dishes), fresh Lettuce to wrap stuff up, and some chopped up Sea Squirt….which I didn’t touch.
The Good: The Sashimi Platter was actually a whole lot better than I was expecting. The thick slices of Fish seemed fresh, especially the Salmon, which was sweet and fatty. If the Sashimi selections came prepackaged in vacuum sealed plastic bag from China, I couldn’t tell. The Nakji Bokum was also very good and tasty. The Octopus was cooked just right, which made them very tender and sweet. The sauce it came with was a lot spicier than I was expecting, but the cool Somen Noodles and extra veggies helped balance the heat out.
The Bad: The fried breaded Clams wasn’t really needed but I just wanted something fried at the time. They were a bit dry and only a little bit clamy, but they weren’t awful.
Would you come back again? Not really….but the view was good.
The Skinny: Cha Cha Chicken is a restaurant that was featured on Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate…” for it’s Coconut Fried Chicken. I didn’t know that at the time I was there and just ordered the Jerk Combo. The plate comes with a Jerk Chicken Enchilada, Jerk Chicken Tostada, some Fried Plantains, and Dirty Rice with Red Beans. I also got a cup of Agua de Watermelon and sat in the outdoor area, which is nice on a warm sunny day by the beach.
The Good: Everything tasted fine and the ingredients all seemed fresh to order. The Jerk part of the Chicken components had a sweetness that reminded me of Pineapples. I did especially like the Dirty Rice for some reason and the cold Watermelon Water was refreshing and not overly sweet.
The Bad: When I think of Jerk something, I think of spicy food that kicks your butt. So I was expecting the Cha Cha Jerk sauce to have some heat, but the stuff was hardly mild. I do think they use pineapple in the sauce and while it tasted fine, it was a little bit too sweet for me. I just wanted a little more savory and some heat to balance things out.
Would you come back again? Yup! They do have a large menu and I want to try their other stuff.
More Info: Cha Cha Chicken – 1906 Ocean Avenue – Santa Monica, CA
The Skinny: Went to a Filipino birthday out in Hemet, California. When I arrived, on the dining table was Lechón which is a whole roasted pig that was cooked over an open fire. Like a Rotisserie Chicken, the Pig is roasted on all sides for several hours until finish. The process involves basting it while it cooks so the skin crisps up and the color becomes a reddish golden brown.
Rod Carbajal, the Lechón man of mystery, roasted the pig for us and from the comfort of his own home.
The Good: The skin was crispy on one side and fatty on the other, it was pretty much like eating hard meat candy. I was actually surprised that the crispness of the skin survived 30 minutes in a car as the pig steamed itself up in a closed up box. I guess that’s a testament to Rod Carbajal’s handiwork. I’ve had Lechón at least twice beforehand and Rod’s version was the best so far. He really captured the essence of the pork and maintained the integrity of the skin and fat.
The Bad: The Lechón went from piping hot to cold and then lukewarm throughout the day. Because of that, the meat became really dry as the dinner progressed. Despite that, most of the skin was still crispy by the end of day.
Would you eat it again? Sure! You buying?
More Info: Rod Carbajal is the man that made the Lechón & his house is 30 minutes away from Hemet, which is pretty much in the middle of no where. Other than that, I have no idea who he is and how anyone can contact him for his services, but I’ll find out sooner or later.
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.
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.
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.