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Fresco II

Fresco II

1983 W. Avenue L

Lancaster, CA

Rating:

Price per person: $15 – $25

Initially, I got a bad impression because of our initial service, but let it slide after realizing they took a large party while being understaffed.  The dining room itself is medium size with an intimate setting.  There is a large Fresco on the wall with a movable water fountain in front that is replaced by live bands during the weekends; tacky, but to each their own. 

Back to the food, for starters we had the Spicy Calamari and the Steamed Mussels in marinara.  The mussels were very good as was the sauce. The Calamari was ok, but not quite sure the lemon mayo dipping sauce belonged anywhere near the calamari. I do give credit to Fresco II for having available an authentic Italian calamari appetizer (sans breading).

For entrees, we ordered the Eggplant parm, the Lasagna and a custom ordered vegetarian dish, which goes a long way in showing how appeasing the chef is.

All entrees were excellent especially being parmed on top like olden days. After our meal, the chef/owner, Lea, paid our table a visit and chatted us up. This action is always worth an extra star in my book.

After having a nice conversation with Lea, which included getting the scoop on the business split creating a “Fresco II”, we capped off our meal with an order of canolies which were delicious.

Definitely recommend a visit.

Fresco II on Urbanspoon

Orochon Ramen

Orochon Ramen

123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St.

Los Angeles, CA 90012

(213) 617-1766

RATING:

I ventured to Orochon Ramen to make a go at the Spicy #2 Challenge.

There was quite a line for a table when we got there, but it moved fairly quickly.

Although I knew I was going for the challenge, I took a moment to peruse the menu, which consists of various appetizers & sides on the right side of the menu and the 3 steps to order a noodle bowl.

Step 1: Choose a soup base (Miso, Salt Water, Soy Sauce)

Step 2: Choose Spice Level (1 – 7)

Step 3: Choose Extras or toppings

I went with the Spicy #2 (which is what the challenge is called despite the previously mentioned 7 spice level options), with a miso soup base, no extras.

My witness also went with a miso base, no extras but dared not try the challenge and went with spice level 4: Orochan.

The noodles came out surprisingly quick.   Along with a sweeping hush of awe as other patrons got wind of the heat packed into my approaching bowl of fire.

The server started the clock and even gave me a 3 minute grace period. The first few gulps weren’t as bad as I expected but then all of a sudden I found my lips searing from the heat and my face drenched in sweat!

The Jalapeno peppers no longer welcomed colorful ingredients, but minature grenades awaiting to explode within me.  The miso broth, which was at first delicate and fulfilling, now run over my tongue like sand.  Despite this, I struggled though the majority of the bowl.  At the very moment I was assured the broth had begun to eat my innards, I threw in the towel with about 3 cups of death remaining.

After about a gallon of milk and some ice cream, I can now subjectively look back at my meal.  I found that the miso broth bland and quite grainy. The noodles were undercooked having a tough pasty texture. I would’ve given it a free pass this time considering the novelty nature of my meal, but my companion found his meal just as disappointing.

I will give Orochon another try eventually, but I have a feeling that Orochon’s popularity is based on the challenge and mystique location to non-locals as opposed to their food.

Orochon Ramen on Urbanspoon

The Best Pho House

The Best Pho House

430 West Pender St.

Vancouver, B.C. V6B 1T1

(604) 568-7976

www.thebestphohouse.com

Rating: 

 I’ve been a Pho aficionado since my first bowl many moons ago.  It satisfies so many cravings; Carbs (clean tasting, thin, white rice noodles), Protein (Rare slices of beef, beef tendons, tripe, meatballs on occasion), a soul-warming beef broth (oxtail or bone marrow base if done proper), Vegetables (Fresh mint, cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, sliced chili peppers), Heat (drops of Sriracha or a dollop of fresh Garlic Chili Paste if available) and last but not least, its inexpensive.

 If I visit a new city for an extended period of time, I always make it a point to seek out the best Pho place in town so to establish my go-to Vietnamese eatery.  I am such a fan that I find it difficult to pass a Pho establishment without giving it a try.  

 That being said, upon resuming my travels through the streets of Vancouver after enjoying a small snack for brunch, the self-proclaimed “The Best Pho House” and I crossed paths.

 I took a place in their dining room, which consists of three four-tops and two three-tops, quaint but not too intimate.  I was quickly greeted then served tea and a menu by the co-owner; a true mom and pop operation, mom being the chef, pop my server.

 Pops won’t delve into the menu much as it is apparent that he speaks only enough English to get by, but the menu is pretty self-explanatory with pictures of every dish and appetizer.  The makeup of their selections is quite simple; 11 variations of Pho available in a small or large size, 4 Vietnamese vermicelli and 4 rice dishes with three appetizer options to top of their bill of fare; Nothing out of the ordinary here; all items typical of the normal Vietnamese Pho House.  Expect to spend around $10 – $15 a person.

 They do have daily lunch specials, which I decide to take advantage of:  Choice of Pho (Large), 2 spring rolls and a drink for $8.50.

 I was one of three occupied tables, so as expected my food came out fairly quickly. 

 Their “Large” is probably a medium size at restaurants with three size options as opposed to their two.  Accompaniments included bean sprouts, lime, and mint leaves; No cilantro or peppers….disappointing.

The two spring rolls are thin and fresh, but the contents could only be summed up as soggy vegetables.

 Back to the Pho, which I would rate as ordinary; nothing off, but nothing special.

So to sum it up, The Best Pho House does not live up to its title, but at their prices with a homely feel, it has found a place in my repertoire.

 

The Best Pho House on Urbanspoon

Petite Soo Chow (Cliffside Park, NJ, USA)

Petite Soo Chow
607 Gorge Road
Cliffside Park, NJ 07010
(201) 313-1666

RATING:

LOCATION

October 7, 2010

Amongst the various Asian restaurants in Cliffside Park, but quitely hidden off the main thoroughfare is the unassuming Petite Soo Chow Chinese Restaurant. The tiny parking lot is always full and nightly, at some point in time, you’ll find a line out the door waiting for a seat within its crowded dining room.

I’ve had a pleasure of eating there on multiple occasions giving me a chance to try out their wide range of Chinese cuisine; from banquet style to dim sum. The food is decent and quite authentic, there are even a few dishes you probably wouldn’t find anywhere else besides in Mainland China. However, I will suggest, especially if it is your first visit to stick with orders of their now famous steamed pork dumplings.

I find that their dumplings are by far one of if not the best steamed dumplings that I have ever had. Again, their food is decent, but if you are looking for exquisite entrees, I could think of a few other places I’d rather go to.

It is quite inexpensive to dine here and if you are claustrophobic, this might not be the place for you because you are almost literally seated on top of your fellow diners. Servers speak English and the menu contains English translation.

Petite Soo Chow on Urbanspoon

Rating Scale

EXCEPTIONAL CUISINE, MUST VISIT

       EXCELLENT CUISINE, WORTH VISIT

              GOOD CUISINE IN ITS CATAGORY

                     OK CUISINE, UNMEMORABLE

Garden Villa Seafood (Vancouver, B.C., Canada)

Garden Villa Seafood

127 E Pender Street, #200

Vancouver, BC V6A

[Chinatown]

RATING: 

LOCATION

One of the first things I do when I visit a new city is to search for reviews on the best Dim Sum restaurants in town.  Now, in my opinion, a Dim Sum restaurant isn’t just a run of the mill retailer of the cuisine, but a full out Yum Cha (English translation: Tea Tasting) experience with the ladies with push carts peddling their products relentlessly through the tight lanes of free space separating the overcrowded dining room.   The dim sum must be rooted in classic Cantonese style dishes.  Variations are accepted only to the degree that my dim sum meal still have the traditional options and is still reasonably priced. 

Upon my habitual search when I came to Vancouver, I found that the best rated Dim Sum places are located outside of the downtown area.  Since I am staying downtown, I specifically narrowed down my search to the downtown / Chinatown area which resulted in two hits:  Garden Villa and Floata Seafood. 

I flipped a coin and the chance decision directed me towards Garden Villa.

Despite having a sign on the building and a wooden display sign directly on the street, the restaurant itself is only accessible by staircase slightly beyond the building entrance leading to the second floor which undoubtedly leads to the allure some people experience of this place.

I’ve read some negative reviews about the service and cleanliness, but as I was not present during those I can’t attest for those experiences because the service I received from the moment I entered (which was during prime time) was quite friendly.  All servers seemed to understand and speak English and Cantonese despite other reviewer complaints.  The dining area won’t impress any Michelin guide critics, but for Chinatown standards, Garden Villa is cleanlier than the norm.

Food carts flew up and down the isles during my entire dine-in, but at one point there did seem to be the identical items on every cart.  The dim sum we had where the staples; Shrimp Rice Noodle Rolls, Lotus Leaf Rice, Taro Dumplings, Turnip Cake, Shrimp Dumplings and Chicken Feet.

Presentation and service was on par with traditional expectations, but in my opinion the taste was average and in some instances slightly below par. 

Prices for dim sum are $2.50(S), $3.50(M), $3.90(L) and all other menu items you can expect a range of $10 – $15 a person.  Besides the servers knowing serviceable English, the menus have english translations and pictures, so for those who can’t read Chinese, you’ll be ok. 

Would I go back? Sure.  Would I ever crave dining here? Doubtful.

Garden Villa Seafood on Urbanspoon

Hello world! I am Chefucius.

After years of experimenting with various other blogsites and food review sites, I’ve decided to create my own blog.  I plan on discussing my restaurant reviews in depth here, discuss food in whatever aspects that come to mind and share  recipes that I’ve come across that strike my fancy.

I am a chef specializing in Asian cuisine which is close to my heart as it is my heritage.  I have had a fascination with food my entire life from its history to its inner workings, but I’ll never claim to be any kind of expect on the subject matter.  I rather define myself as a food handler that has an innate passion for what I do.

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