242017Mar

Happy Hour at Roka Akor

Need a place for a quick bite and drinks after your tough work week in the FiDi? Well, if you don’t mind spending a little for some high quality bar food, we found such a place for happy hour. Roka Akor, once Michelin recommended, has been on my list for quite some time. Given that it was Friday afternoon with no plans made and a few friends ready to start the weekend, we decided to check out their happy hour.

The restaurant was huge in comparison to most Japanese restaurants in the city and that was only the upstairs. We headed downstairs to the bar, where I’d like to think we all belong. I mean we, as in us soon to be drunks. Away from the public eye and away from the classier patrons in the dining room. Okay, I may be going overboard. The downstairs was setting was still pretty nice and large. Plenty of small tables surrounded by lounge seatings with one bar stealing the center stage. We found seating easily and had plenty of attention from the wait staff.

Although the full menu was offered, their happy hour selection gave you a good sampling of their menu. We had to order at least one thing off the dinner menu. Not to say the discounted selection was bad, it wasn’t. It’s just their dinner menu looked pretty damn good. I couldn’t pass up trying at least one thing. You won wait staff. Now I have to come back for dinner.

Roka Akor

801 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
+1 (415) 362-8887
rokaakor.com

Verdict: For happy hour food and drinks it’s a great deal. If you’re looking to mingle, you’ll have larger crowds elsewhere.

252017Feb

Magal BBQ

You should have seen it coming. What makes it a trip to Los Angeles for us was finding a Korean BBQ joint to kick off the night. This time around it was Magal BBQ. A place full of energy that’s powered by its young and sometimes inebriated patrons. What that really means was that this was a place friends come to eat and drink. Because that’s exactly what we did.

There was a modest wait, although we had a seat if every happened to be there. Too bad this happened to be one of those rare cold as hell LA nights. We were really hating our unorganized selves. But within 30 minutes the host came out and let us know our table was ready. Needless to say we rushed in and got our menus.

We opted for two large Beef Combos, priced at $98.99 and meant to serve 3-4 people per combo, that included:

  • Beef Skirtmeat
  • Paper Thin Sliced Brisket End-Point
  • Prime Beef Boneless Rib or Prime Beef Rib Eye (we had one per combo)
  • Marinated Prime Short Rib
  • Assorted Grilled Items (king mushrooms, shrimp, and some vegetables)
  • Boneless Short Rib Sushi
  • Soybean Paste Soup with Beef Brisket

There were 9 of us so of course, we we ordered more a la carte. I did miss a couple things in my photos, such as the pork belly, assorted grilled items, and the sides. Well, there weren’t too many sides to begin with. There was a cold soup which left us scratching our heads, a small plate of pretty good kimchi for the four of us, a couple bowls of salad to share, pickled celery, and some sauces and condiments. That was pretty much our banchan. Yikes. I think that’s why we left a bit hungry. Or maybe it was the fact that we were planning to end the meal with the Volcano Fried Rice only to find out that they ran out. Double yikes. How could they run out of their signature, yet gimmicky, dish? Oh the horrors of an amateur foodie.

Overall though, the meat quality was good. They focus on unadulterated meats, as in, not too much seasoning. We were fine with that. There were a couple of stand out cuts that made us look to one another with that “Oh yeah, that’s the stuff.” And the service, even for a hectic Saturday night, was attentitive. They made sure to come by and check on the grill, which was changed at least six times. Pretty good.

Magal BBQ

3460 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005
+1 (213) 383-1909

Verdict: Although it’s good in terms of quality of meats and service, I’d only go here to change up my Korean BBQ fix. I blame competition.

252017Feb

Lao Tao

We headed to Far East Plaza early on Saturday for an early lunch, as in 11am early. There’s so many places opening shop in this plaza that I had to come back to check it out. This time it was to try out a Taiwanese restaurant recommend by a friend, Lao Tao. Yes! I’m so happy that I don’t have to drive into San Gabriel Valley to satisfy my Taiwanese craving. The shop is located upstairs on the second floor of the plaza. It’s pretty easy to find.

It’s a casual spot. Order, take your number, and pick a seat. Your food and drinks will be brought out to you while your chopsticks, forks, and napkins, well, you grab those yourself. No stress in that. The place feels like the local shops you run across in Taipei, unpretentious and very inviting. We chatted with the staff for a bit and picked our seats. Plenty to choose from.

The food came out quick. Of course, no one else was there. Still, glad to get our food quickly so we could start our day. The spicy foods we happen to pick used Sichuan peppercorns. The kind that numbs your mouth. Although, it’s not over the top to the point you can’t taste the food. I’m so happy about that. It let me taste the ingredients and daydream about being back in Taiwan. I think I’ll be back here again. The pork belly rice is on my next list.

Lao Tao

727 N Broadway #207
Los Angeles, CA 90012
+1 (213) 372-5318

Verdict: A place to try if you know your Taiwanese foods and need a fix, a good fix.

052017Jan

Korean Italian at Moyo

That’s right, imagine your favorite Korean dishes with an Italian influence. At MOYO, they are bringing people together within SoHo to enjoy these creations in an intimate environment on the streets of Aberdeen. Unlike its neighbors around the corner, this place was less about just getting sloshed and more about the quality eats… while you’re getting sloshed.  What can I say, they do have a good range of drinks here.

Inside this easily overlooked restaurant front, you’ll walk into the dining area with tables suitable for groups of two to four. There’s an area toward the back for larger groups, but for the most part this caters to smaller groups. There’s a bar, but again it’s not made for your company happy hour hangout. Not like that’s the atmosphere we wanted. We only wanted to eat.

Our server was great, taking our order and being attentive and all. But the awesome part was that, we were a group of three and it happens that the menu was made for binary groups. That was, things came in two. However, they decided to bring out dishes like the corn and the bruschetta in servings of three. How nice was that. Of course, pricing was adjusted accordingly, but it meant we didn’t have to double up on orders. That’s paying attention to your customers, right then and there.

Overall, it lives up to its reputation. There are times they’re taking big chances with the flavors that it’ll make you wonder if you are in fact eating at a Korean restaurant.

MOYO

36 Aberdeen St
Central, Hong Kong
+852 2858 2777
www.facebook.com/moyohongkong

Verdict: Interesting place to expand your Korean taste buds. If you’re looking for a change, give this place a try.

042017Jan

Kwan Kee Claypot

Walking along the streets of Sai Ting Pun, your eyes will be drawn to all the new buildings popping up. Some occupied by fancy restaurants others by Western hotel chains. If you happen to come by the glitzy Best Western, you might just notice people eating on the side street between the hotel and the neon lit McDonald’s. When you see that, you are in the presence of Kwan Kee Claypot Rice. An institution that’s been around for ages serving the classic claypot rice bowls.

What makes this place different from the ones over on Kowloon side of Hong Kong is the atmosphere. The people working here have a sense of humor. It’s not all about getting people in and out the fastest by streamlining the food prep. No, this place was sit down, joke with the host, order and wait for your food as it’s being prepared to order.

There was a wait for our claypots, but I didn’t mind at all after tasting the food. It was good! You can read about it more below.

Service wise, it’s typical local Hong Kong. That was, you’ll need to flag people down if you need anything. And don’t worry, they can speak English and have an English menu. They do get a fair number of tourists, but we did notice a good amount of locals. They’re the ones who make up most of the wait. Surprisingly not the tourists. I think it’s because Sai Ying Pun isn’t a tourist hot spot. Mainly a place to stay for most visitors, while Mong Kok attracts all the foreigners looking for that “local” vibe. Awesome. Stay over there while us local foodie explorers find gems like this.

Kwan Kee Claypot Rice

263 Queen’s Road West (entrance off Kwai Heung Street)
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
+852 2803 7209

Verdict: Up for a little adventure into the local eating? This would be your introduction with its good food and foreigner friendly atmosphere.

022017Jan

Little Bao Lovin’

Thanks to Instagram I was drawn to Little Bao. At first it was for its desserts. These colorful bite sized ice cream sandwiches were all over my feed and people made them look so tempting. But once I looked further and did some reading, I had to check out their take on the gua bao, which looked more like a sandwich. But it still has that soft moist bun we all know and love. So this place warranted a visit.

You may get discouraged by the amount of people waiting to get in. Don’t be. It can move pretty fast. And if the wait is like an hour long, you can leave your number with the host and go get some drinks down the street. When seating comes available, they’ll call. In our case, they called us about thirty minutes earlier than they predicted. We still had more than half a beer left and needed to settle our bill before we could head over. I let them know it would be about five to ten minutes, and guess what, it was okay. They held our place until we arrived. Awesome!

Inside, it’s mainly counter seating. Don’t expect party sizes greater than four to be easy if at all possible. They don’t take reservations either. It’s first come first serve for seating and we got seated alongside the wall.

There are dishes for sharing which I do recommend doing. They explicitly state on the menu “no bao cutting” which is understandable. I’ll give you a bite, but no way am I sharing any more than that. =) You’ll know what I mean when you try them. And of course, you can always order more. Just make sure you leave room for dessert. We ordered a plate for sharing, a couple baos, and their lovely ice cream bao’s. The server timed everything well and made sure we were stuffed and done before handing us our bill. There was no rush, even with the hordes of people outside waiting to get a taste.

I should also add that I loved the vibe here. You can’t go wrong with old school hip hop setting the tone. And they were good smooth tracks that make me wonder if you can even call this a hipster hang out. I mean you got an old guy like me enjoying this place. Just sayin.

Little Bao

66 Staunton St
Central, Hong Kong
+852 2194 0202
little-bao.com

Verdict: This place is worth the wait. If not only for the food, but for its music.

312016Dec

Omakase at Yoinn

New Year’s Eve brought a great omakase experience in both the food and the atmosphere. With so much competition in the realm of high end Japanese restaurants in Taipei, what I find rare are those places that add in a bit of character to their restaurant. That’s exactly what we were given at Yoinn Japanese Cuisine.

There are three price points for their omakase $1880NTD, $2380NTD and $2880NTD. We went with the middle $2380 option thinking this would be a good sampling of the foods offered here. What I didn’t expect was the amount of food we got. It was pretty much a feast. And that was even before the chef decided to celebrate New Year’s Eve with us. With what he added to our meal, the price would have been well over what the top price had to offer. I mean, aged otoro, how’s that for an extra!

As for the service and décor, it was versatile and very attentive. Even with our ever changing courses, the servers kept our drinks filled and our area clear of used dishes. This while tending to other tables in this intimately lit restaurant. There are curtains for separators hanging from the ceiling. What’s really cool were the mobility of the curtains. They were made to be moved around according to the size of the party and table configuration. Pretty neat. Then there was the chef who was busy preparing dishes for everyone. However, he took the time to explain to me what fish we were being served. Though we had a language barrier, he was very patient.

After everyone left and only the people at the bar was left, Chef Isao opened up even more. We learned that he was the chef at several Japanese restaurants before opening up this one on his own. Those included a restaurant in Japan and one renowned one in Taipei – one of them acquiring a Michelin star. I forgot the names of them but after having his food, it was obvious we were dealing with an artist. One who doesn’t hold back sharing in his creation and gifts. We sat there through closing sampling his whiskies and scotches while having cured mullet roe “because it goes well with whiskey.” Yeah, this guy is a cool cat in my book. We will be coming back here.

Yoinn Japanese Cuisine (余韻日本料理)

Lane 366, Section 2, Bade Rd, 49號
Songshan District
Taipei City,, Taiwan
+886 2 2740 1088
www.facebook.com/yoinn168/

Verdict: Yes! For quality sushi and a full stomach I recommend coming here.

 

302016Dec

Wagyu Experts at Moe Yakiniku

We were able to get last minute Friday reservations at Moe Yakiniku 3. It’s the third expansion of the restaurant. Known for it’s selection of wagyu and it’s service, we were more than excited to check it out. It’s located in the Da’an district along a street of other restaurants. Inside, the eating area were divided into more intimate sections. Our area had four tables with seating for four. There’s ventilation suction valves at each table and the yakiniku grill was heated with charcoal. Already a lovely sign.

It was all about wagyu here, Australian to be exact. All of our cuts were A5 wagyu with a B.M.S. score of 9. If you want to know more about what that means, read wagyu.org/breed-info/meat-grading/.  I sure had to because I’m used to only hearing A5 until our server told me it was “A9”. So much more learning to do with this wonderful cattle. Anyways, as I mentioned, they are serious about the beef here. And even though I insisted on cooking it ourselves (cuz you know, that’s all the fun in yakiniku) they soon took over. I have to say, they did a much better job than I did. The server knew how to cook it just right, to get that small sear without overcooking, or in my case, undercooking the meat.

A serious place for high end yakiniku where they also focus on service. No wonder there are now three of these restaurants. I’m looking forward to trying this place again.

Moe Yakiniku 3

No. 24, Ln. 116, Guangfu S. Rd.
Daan Dist, Taipei, Taiwan
+886 2 2731 1750

Verdict: Yes, check this place out. It’s on the expensive side but for this grade of wagyu, it’s worth it.

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