What Charmin Bears Love: Food|Dogs|Sephora

Our foodie instincts take over when we're out and about.

Burlington: L’Andana

10.9.11
L’Andana @ 86 Cambridge St, Burlington, MA
Cousin Tieu and Anne’s Wedding

L’Andana, highly rated on Zagat. 27 out of 30 for food. I believe, this has been the best wedding reception I’ve attended. Mainly because the food was delicious, but the Tuscan farmhouse inspired venue was romantic, quaint, and beautiful.

L'Andana - Bar

L’Andana – Bar

L'Andana - Center Piece

L’Andana – Center Piece

L'Andana - Wedding Cake

L’Andana – Wedding Cake

L'Andana - Seating

L’Andana – Seating

Hors d’Oeuvres

Maine crab cakes w/ smoked chili aioli (no pic). My favorite bites of the night and I forgot to take a picture. Gasp! Smoked chili aioli went well with the flavorful crab cakes.

L'Andana - Shrimp Skewers

L’Andana – Shrimp Skewers

Wood-grilled shrimp spiedini, lemon aioli. Deveined and not overcooked. Shrimp on a skewer was a great idea.

L'Andana - Mushroom Bruschetta

L’Andana – Mushroom Bruschetta

Portobello mushroom bruschetta, balsamic onion conserva, truffle oil. I know I say I hate mushrooms, but these little bruschetta were so good, I helped myself to a few more than I should. That says something about the mushrooms and truffle oil.

L'Andana - Meatballs

L’Andana – Meatballs

Marsala-glazed veal meatballs gratinata. Juicy, moist veal meatballs. Amazing flavors.

L'Andana - Chicken and Salsa Verde

L’Andana – Chicken and Salsa Verde

Wood-grilled chicken spiedini, rosemary glaze, salsa verde. Probably my least favorite of the night. Maybe I’m just bias toward chicken. It wasn’t overcooked, just didn’t care to eat these as much. The salsa verde was yummy though.

L'Andana - Bread

L’Andana – Bread

Gobbled up the toasted flaky bread. It was served warm and had an added touch of herbs and butter on top.

L'Andana - Mixed Greens

L’Andana – Mixed Greens

Mixed greens, balsamic vinaigrette, spiced walnuts. Nothing too special with this salad. Just to hold your belly over til the main entrees. It’s still nice to have greens on your plate :)

L'Andana - Filet Mignon

L’Andana – Filet Mignon

Wood-grilled filet mignon 8 oz, center-cut tenderloin with asparagus, roasted garlic butter whipped potatoes and vin cotto. This steak was tender and juicy. I didn’t even need to cut really hard into it. Melted in my mouth. I usually never order steak, but I’m glad I did. Best one to date. The potatoes were soft and creamy with roasted garlic whipped into it.

L'Andana - Dessert Trio

L’Andana – Dessert Trio

In love with the dessert spread!

L'Andana - Wedding Cake Sliced

L’Andana – Wedding Cake Sliced

Red velvet w/ mocha buttercream, Espresso w/ chocolate truffle and raspberry. Just the extra touch of sauce makes this cake scrumptious. The buttercream was not too sweet, one of my favorite types of frosting.

L'Andana - Fruit Parfait and Creme Brulee

L’Andana – Fruit Parfait and Creme Brulee

L'Andana - Choc Mousse

L’Andana – Choc Mousse

Mini Dessert Trio: Chocolate crema, creme brulee, fresh fruit, sabayon. I’m so glad they gave every a choice on dessert. They had everyone in mind when they had this mini dessert trio. There was also lots of coffee and teas lined up for guests at the dessert area. Fruit parfait and the creme brulee were my favorite of the trio. Wonderful way to end the night of celebration.

Tieu and Anne

Tieu and Anne

Wish you both lots of happiness and good memories in this marriage! Kids soon please!!

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Cambridge: Za

Za Restaurant @ 350 3rd St.
10.13
Catching up with Jimmy at this New American restaurant in Cambridge. This is the second Za Restaurant located in Kendall Square. The original one is located on 138 Mass Ave in Arlington, Mass. We ordered two 10″ pizza pies with our own selected toppings.

Za - Jin's

Za - Jin's


For me, I ordered a roni, homemade sausage, roasted garlic and roasted red peppers pizza.

Za - Jimmy's

Za - Jimmy's


For Jimmy, he ordered a simple chicken and green peppers pizza.

Both were delicious. Service was superb. Atmosphere was casual. Layout looked classy and clean. I would definitely return if I work/live in the area.

– Charmin Bear J

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Boston: Saying Goodbye!

I probably mentioned previously that I’m now not just a Charmin Bear, but I am officially a Californian Charmin Bear.  I moved about two months ago, but have been away in Europe for half of that time.  I’ve been back for a few weeks now and should get back to my bearly duties.

Before I left Boston, I had met up with friends, colleagues, old acquaintances for a farewell meal.  Most of the places were restaurants I’ve been to before and have blogged about, but here are a few new ones.

Stephanie’s @ 190 Newbury Street

Stephanie's - Mac & Cheese with Proscuitto and Truffle Oil

Stephanie's - Mac & Cheese with Proscuitto and Truffle Oil

Stephanie’s is a popular restaurant located right on Newbury Street.  I ordered the Mac & Cheese and opted to add proscuitto and truffle oil for an extra $3, making my meal $19 pre-tax.  It’s quite steep for lunch, but it’s expected for a popular restaurant in Boston’s most frequented outdoor shopping area.  The macaroni was baked with 3 cheeses, so it was quite heavy even without the truffle oil.  But I couldn’t resist.  I love the smell of truffle.  The bread crumbs were nice and crunchy.  I liked the dish, but definitely had trouble finishing.  Besides the food, I really liked Stephanie’s because of the exceptional service.  I sat outside and had brought Ted & FM.  Without me even asking, the hostess went and grabbed a bowl of water for the doggies.  Also, if you ever get cold sitting outdoors, they have blankets!

Anh Hong @ 291 Adam Street

I come to Anh Hong a lot with my Vietnamese friends.  It’s one of the many Vietnamese places in Dorchester aka Boston’s Little Saigon that serves up some good authentic Vietnamese food.  I usually eat the Bo 7 Mon, seven dishes of beef (sometimes I opt for fish instead), but today I’m going to write about some of my other favorites.

Anh Hong - Com Bi Cha Suon Trung Chien

Anh Hong - Com Bi Cha Suon Trung Chien

Translation: BBQ pork chop (suon), julienne pork (bi), steamed pork cake (cha) & fried egg (trung chien) over rice.  It’s really hard to find people who make this right.  I’m really picky about my bi and cha (my parents both grew up in Vietnam and are well versed in Vietnamese cuisine), but this was totally acceptable.  The bi was aromatic, the cha was flavorful and juicy.

Anh Hong - Canh Cua

Anh Hong - Canh Chua

Canh Chua is sour fish soup!  If you like sour stuff, you’d like this a lot.  Canh Chua is usually made with fish, but can be made with chicken or other meats as well.  I used to hate fish, but as I got older, my taste buds have changed dramatically and I now love fish.  The broth is clear, sweet and sour, a bit spicy and definitely helps open your appetite.  The two main ingredients that really make this soup is taro stem (some people replace this with celery, but I hate celery) and tamarind.  Yum!

Anh Hong - Che Dac Biet

Anh Hong - Che Dac Biet

It’s really a Che Ba Mau (tri-colored drink) that they added some additional ingredients too.  Dac Biet just means special.  All it translates to is “Special Shake.”  So like the tri-colored drink, it has red bean, mung bean, coconut milk and jelly.  Anh Hong, however, added some crushed peanuts, sesame and boba as well.  Surprisingly, it makes a delightful difference.  Well, I also liked that their red bean tasted fresh and soft.  The boba was chewy.  I always get it when I come here!

Papagayo @ 283 Summer Street

I came to Papagayo with some coworkers for lunch.  It’s relatively close to the downtown area, but across the bridge towards the waterfront.  It can be kind of a walk for some.

Papagayo - Chili Dusted Calamari

Papagayo - Chili Dusted Calamari

We started off with the Chili Dusted Calamari appetizer.  It had pickled jalapenos, tomatoes, and drizzled with chipotle crema.  Sounds like it would pack a kick right?  It was actually quite bland and didn’t leave me wanting more.  I decided after a few bites that I would save room for the other stuff.

Papagayo - Table Side Guacamole

Papagayo - Table Side Guacamole

We also ordered the Table Side Guacamole.  It’s called that because they prepare it right in front of you.  Oh how inventive!  Please note the sarcasm.  I guess Boston’s a bit behind.  I’ve seen this done many times at restaurants in other cities like DC and NY.  I was so not impressed.  I couldn’t care less if they prepped it in the kitchen.  If anything, prepping it in front of my face made me kind of cranky.  It’s such a tease.  I was hungry and all I could think about was “are you done yet!?”  It was good guacamole though.  Fresh and full of flavor.  The chips they give you though was amazing.  You can tell it just came out of the deep frier rather than a Tostito’s bag.

Papagayo - Fish Tacos

Papagayo - Fish Tacos

I mentioned earlier that I’ve developed a liking for fish, so I got fish tacos.  The fish they used was tilapia.  The sidekicks were avocado, picked red onions, a garlic cream sauce and I asked for them to leave the cabbage slaw on the side.  I don’t like cold slaw or any kind of slaw for that matter.  I’m not sure if the slaw was what was suppose to make this taco yummy, but it was quite bland and only okay tasting.  I wouldn’t recommend it.

Pomodoro @ 319 Hanover Street

My group, not the entire department, wanted to go out to eat one last time together.  We chose Pomodoro since Little Italy isn’t too far away from work.  Giacomo’s is always really busy, so we decided to go a couple stores down to Pomodoro, who also received rave reviews on Yelp.

Pomodoro - Calamari

Pomodoro - Calamari

They gave us a free appetizer, which seems to be the general practice here.  The calamari was good.  The batter was really light and the seasoning was just right.

Pomodoro - Tiger Shrimp Pasta

Pomodoro - Tiger Shrimp Pasta

One of my coworkers ordered the Tiger Shrimp pasta, which is tiger shrimp (obviously) tossed with linguini in a white sauce with garlic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs.  I didn’t have a bite, but she said she really liked it.

Pomodoro - Seafood Fra Diavolo

Pomodoro - Seafood Fra Diavolo

A majority of us each ordered our own Seafood Fra Diavolo, which featured an assortment of fresh fish and shellfish tossed in a spicy marinara sauce over linguini.  I forgot to ask for penne.  I’m not a huge linguini fan.  Although this was delicious, I think Giacomo’s is definitely better.  This was also $24, much more expensive than Giacomo’s.

Pomodoro - Seared Chicken Breast

Pomodoro - Seared Chicken Breast

Another one of my coworkers got the Seared Chicken Breast.  It’s chicken with a marsala scented wild mushroom ragu, tossed with papardelle noodles.  I didn’t try it.  I normally would think anything with mushroom tastes good, but my coworker informed me that it was not.  Pass on this one!

Pomodoro - Tiramisu

Pomodoro - Tiramisu

Another freebie.  Pomodoro likes to serve its customers a small slice of cake after their meal.  It meh.  Nothing spectacular but it was “free.” Or was it?  My theory is that places like Pomodoro jack up their prices and give you all these “free” things to make you think they’re a good value.  In actuality, you already paid for it by paying for an entree that you could’ve gotten cheaper somewhere else.  I will stick to Giacomo’s!

Fóumami @ 225 Franklin Street

I met up with a high school friend for lunch during work hours.  She works right across from Fóumami and has been meaning to try it, so we met up here.  I was always reluctant because I thought prices were a bit steep ($8 + tax), but I wouldn’t mind going for a friend!

Fóumami - Grilled Ribeye Steak Sandwich

Fóumami - Grilled Ribeye Steak Sandwich

I ordered the Grilled Ribeye Steak Sandwich, which included soy garlic marinated ribeye steak, sautéed onions, romaine lettuce.  It was really good.  Mouthwateringly good.  After eating with my friend, I came back for lunch again on a different day.  Instead of regular slices of bread, they use shao bing instead.  What is shao bing?  Think scallion pancake texture.  I love how crispy it was on the outside yet warm and slightly chewy on the inside.  It’s my favorite type of “bread.”  Is there a food truck that serves this in LA?!

Kingston Station @ 25 Kingston Street

For my goodbye lunch, I chose Kingston Station for the department.  I figured everyone eats sandwiches and burgers, and I’ve been meaning to try this place out.

Kingston Station - Station Burger

Kingston Station - Station Burger

I ordered the Station Burger, which has a sunny side up egg (the big seller for me), bacon, gruyere cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, house cut fries and a pickle.  I hate pickles so I passed it on to one of my coworkers.  I thought this was pretty tough to mess up.  All you really needed to cook was the patty.  I was pretty disappointed because I thought it was overly oily.  My hands were drenched in grease every time I picked the burger up for a bite.  That’s just disgusting.  I don’t know how many napkins I actually needed.  I like my fair share of grease and fat, but this is too much!

Well, this is probably going to be my last Boston entry for a long time.  My new territory is LA and I can tell you I’ve already found a few gems!  Will update soon!

– CBT

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Boston: Union Oyster House

Union Oyster House @ 41 Union Street

Union Oyster House boasts of being the oldest restaurant in all of America.  I’m not sure how true that is, but there’s history written all over the restaurant.  When you walk in, it looks pretty old and crummy, but don’t be fooled, the menu is probably as pricey as a nice restaurant.  There are oyster bars dispersed around the place, and that’s where it usually is most packed.  No one cares to sit at the very normal tables and booths.  Tourists! Tch!  We were still full from lunch, so we didn’t eat much here.

The cup of clam chowder was good.  It was creamy and flavorful.  Ingredients were fresh.

Union Oyster House - Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder

They ran out of steamers, so we settled for mussels, which were prepared basque style (steamed with garlic and white wine).  I actually thought that might come out bland since I normally prefer it steamed with a tomato sauce, but it was quite delicious!

Union Oyster House - Mussels

Mussels

I don’t really care if Union Oyster House is the oldest restaurant.  Gimmicks like that don’t work on me.  I do think the food is decent.  I’m not quite sure if I’m willing to pay for their food though.  There are so many other good restaurants in Boston, it probably doesn’t make my list of places to go when I visit.

– Charmin Bear T

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Boston: Brandon’s Food Experience – Desserts

I totally forgot I never finished this series of restaurants!  Whoops!

Mike’s Pastry @ 300 Hanover Street

*Ahem* Tourist trap alert *Ahem*  I think this place is totally overrated.  I don’t really get why they’re so popular.  I much prefer Modern Pastry than Mike’s, yet the line at Mike’s is always ridiculously long.  Since Brandon was visiting, I thought I’d take him here after a visit at Giacomo’s.

Before you bash on my poor spelling skills, cannolo is the singular form of cannoli.  The chocolate filling was a bit jelly/gooey like.  I did not like that.  It’s probably the ricotta, but I prefer creamier fillings.

Mike's Pastry - Chocolate Cannolo

Chocolate Cannolo

I like limoncello, but I did not really care for the limoncello cannolo.  Again, it probably has to do with the consistency of the filling.

Mike's Pastry - Limoncello Cannolo

Limoncello Cannolo

I also got a Boston Cream Puff.  Boston Cream is my favorite donut, I figured I would like this.  Whipped cream center was pretty yummy.  Overall, it wasn’t bad, but nothing I must have again.

Mike's Pastry - Boston Cream Puff

Boston Cream Puff

Mike's Pastry - Boston Cream Puff Center

Boston Cream Puff Center

Next time I return to visit Boston, I wouldn’t care to go to Mike’s for dessert.

Finale @ 1306 Beacon Street

After a very filling meal of Korean BBQ, Brandon decided he wanted dessert.  We made our way to Finale.  Instead of getting individual plates, my greedy bf decided we should try the 9-piece sampler.  For another $6, I could add a molten chocolate cake (one of my favorite desserts), which is normally $11.  How could my belly turn down that deal?!

The 9 piece sampler included: crème brûlée, manjari mousse, hot fudge sundae, cheesecake, apple spice cake, apple cranberry tart, sorbet, boston cream and whoopie pie.  I really liked the crème brûlée, hot fudge sundae (the brownie was amazing) and whoopie pie.  I didn’t care for the flavors of the sorbets (passion fruit and raspberry).  The manjari mousse and boston cream were okay.  I could’ve passed on the cheesecake, apple spice cake and apple cranberry tart.  From what I heard, you can replace desserts with others.

Finale - 9 Piece Sampler

9 Piece Sampler

My molten chocolate cake was delicious as usual.  I didn’t replace the coffee gelato with vanilla this time like I normally do.  This has to be served fresh and hot, or else it loses it’s essence.

Finale - Molten Chocolate Cake

Molten Chocolate Cake

Finale is a Boston thing, started by Havard Business students.  I don’t know if it’ll ever make its way to the west coast or if there’s even a market for them, but when I visit Boston, I’ll be sure to visit Finale.

– Charmin Bear T

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Boston: Max Brenner

Max Brenner @ 745 Boylston Street

Another relatively new restaurant in Boston that’s not doing so well on Yelp.  A lot has to do with service again, I’ve noticed.  I made it to Max Brenner’s once before my move and I actually had a pretty pleasant experience.  When I first walked in, the hostess was ready to seat me, but I decided to browse around the chocolate shop up front while waiting for me friends.  Also, one of my friend has food allergies and the waitress was super patient dealing with her.

Before I got to the chocolate, I decided to go with the Unforgettable Spicy Tuna Salad Sandwich.  It came one a cute long oval wooden plate with two pickles and a few waffle fries.  Yes!  I don’t have to order sides on top of my burger (I’m poking fun of 5NB because none of their burgers come with anything).  I thought the sandwich was only OKAY…definitely forgettable.  I don’t like cooked tuna, I thought it was going to be raw.  The waffle fries were delicious.  Don’t be fooled by the small portion, it was actually quite filling.  If you like cooked tuna or tuna salad, I recommend this burger.

Max Brenner - Unforgettable Spicy Tuna Salad Sandwich

Unforgettable Spicy Tuna Salad Sandwich

For dessert, my friends and I got the Classic European Chocolate Fondue Tasting.  You can’t go to Max Brenner’s and not get something with chocolate in it.  This was delicious!  We got three pots of dip, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and toffee sauce.  It comes with bananas, strawberries, chocolate chunk cookies, marshmallows and brownies.  There’s also a small bonfire for you to toast your marshmallows.  I highly recommend replacing the brownies, it’s really not that good.  The cookies were yum though!  My favorite sauce was the milk chocolate!

Max Brenner - Classic European Fondue Tasting

Classic European Fondue Tasting

I want to come back and try all the desserts they have.  Everything sounded so delicious.  It was so hard to decide on the fondue.  They have an abundance of choices, such as: churros, profiteroles, ice cream, chocolate cake with gooey chocolate center, waffles, crêpes and so much more.  I am a major sweet tooth.  I’m totally going again when I’m in Vegas!

– Charmin Bear T

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Boston: 5 Napkin Burger

5 Napkin Burger @ 105 Huntington Avenue

Let me start off by telling you that this restaurant’s location is cursed. CURSED! It was once an Applebee’s, then Daily Grill. Restaurants here just never last long. I thought: Oh! A NY chain moved in! Maybe they’ll have some success. Well, probably not. A lot of it has to do with the quality of service here. The food is okay, nothing to rave about. The waitstaff are the real problem. If you read the Yelp reviews, there’s a slew of complaints all relating to rude service. The service then leads back to quality of food. I went here twice. The first time, I had a sarcastic annoying snotty man for a waiter who poked fun when I asked for fries as appetizers, “but they’re SIDES.” No sh*t Sherlock! I asked if you could bring it out as an appetizer for a reason, you jerk face. Anyway, lets talk food.

Creamed Spinach Side: Bland and cold (from first visit with the rude man).

5NB - Creamed Spinach

Creamed Spinach

Tuscan Fries: flavorless and soggy (1st visit).

5NB - Tuscan Fries

Tuscan Fries

Tater Tots: a lot of people say good things about this but my impressions was – giant balls of very buttery mashed potato deep-fried (1st visit).

5NB - Tater Tots

Tater Tots

Sweet potato fries: the sweet potato fries actually came out at the right time. It wasn’t soggy. Solid side (2nd visit).

5NB - Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

I tried two sushi rolls on my second visit under the duress of my friend. Honestly, I’m not sure why there are sushi rolls in a Burger joint, but it’s probably their attempt to be trendy. Anyway, the Double Tuna roll is just spicy tuna and cucumber maki topped with tuna and avocado. It was not spicy at all. I barely tasted the mayo, I had to look to confirm it was there. For $14, go next door and get something from Haru, an actual sushi place. What was 5NB thinking, seriously?

5NB - Double Tuna

Double Tuna

The Spicy Salmon roll was worse. I mean, it wasn’t bad. Both were edible. It was just a sad attempt to be original by adding “crunchy rice” to the side. If anything, that crunchy rice just made the texture more annoying. I spent a good amount of time trying to pick off as much as possible. $13 for an avocado roll topped with salmon and some frustrating tiny rice crackers is just a waste of money. Actually, I’ll go as far as to say that this was an insult to sushi lovers like me. It’s not creative, it’s just plain stupid.

5NB - Spicy Salmon

Spicy Salmon

Bacon Cheddar Burger: “10 oz. fresh ground chuck, sharp cheddar, bacon, raw onion, lettuce & tomato, soft white roll.” That’s copied from their website. Nothing spectacular. My bf said it was okay.

5NB - Bacon Cheddar Burger

Bacon Cheddar Burger

Ahi Tuna Burger: The first time I ordered this, my tuna “patty” came out well done rather than medium rare like I asked for it to be. The waiter wasn’t helpful so I didn’t bother trying to get a new one. Second visit, it came out right and tasted much better. I liked the wasabi mayo. I don’t really care for the onion rings they placed on top. It made eating the burger more difficult. I can’t really write much about this since it was a slab of tuna steak with some decent sauce. My friends tell me you’re better off getting the Ahi sandwich at Parish Cafe.

5NB - Ahi Tuna Burger

Ahi Tuna Burger

The Original 5 Napkin Burger: Dun! Dun! Dun! I had a taste of the “5 Napkin sauce,” pretty good. My friend told me it was drier than she liked, despite asking for medium rare.

5NB - Original 5 Napkin Burger

Original 5 Napkin Burger

I didn’t take a picture of it, but they also have these pricey milk shakes. It’s actually quite delicious, but I’m sure it’ll clog up your arteries pretty quickly.

This restaurant might be doing well in New York, but it’s got a lot of work to do if it wants to survive in its current location in Boston. 5NB is located under the Pru, one of the busiest malls in central Boston. The food is solid when it’s done the way it is intended to be served and delivered at the right time, but from what I’ve noticed, that doesn’t usually happen. Who is doing the interviews for the waitstaff? I can’t believe that these are NY standards.

On a side note: you might wonder why I came to this place twice after the first crappy experience. I was invited back by the manager for a free meal. I’m not one to turn down free food. I also knew I’d be treated better the second time around, so I gave it a shot. My second waitress was nice, but she seemed pretty new and didn’t really know everything on the menu. That didn’t bother me because she tried to be helpful in any way she can. I still don’t recommend going to this place. If it survives another year or two, maybe pay a visit then, after they work out all the kinks.

– Charmin Bear T

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Boston: Anh Hong

7.16
I went back to Boston for a short visit at the end of July! So I wanted to take daddy out for lunch in Boston. I drove up to this Dorchester native restaurant drooling since I miss their food and had wanted him to try the Viet food too.

Anh Hong - Bún riêu cua

Anh Hong - Bún riêu cua

I knew what I wanted to order the minute I woke up. Bún riêu cua. Bún riêu is generally a meat vermicelli soup dish. Bun Rieu Cua is one of the many types and flavors of the Vietnamese soup. It has a tomato based broth and is usually topped with crabs or shrimps. Other ingredients include shrimps or prawns, fried tofu, a variety of greens, and congealed pig’s blood. I enjoyed this soup for its complex, yet light broth.

Anh Hong - Pork Chops Over Rice

Anh Hong - Pork Chops Over Rice

Daddy wanted the fried pork chop over rice. I had a piece of the pork chop. Thumbs up for me, but for him…he said it wasn’t as good as expected. I’m sure he has eaten better, especially living in Vietnam himself.

Definitely coming back if I visit Boston again. Can’t get enough of Vietnamese cuisine!

– Charmin Bear J

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Boston Food Trucks

I don’t know if I’ve been oblivious, but I recently noticed an insurgency of food trucks in Boston.  I’m sure we always had some trucks that sold snacks, simple sandwiches or Chinese food, but these ones prepare the food on the spot.  Everywhere I turn I see a decorated truck promising some deliciousness.  Although I prefer a place to sit and eat, I do love the idea of street food.

Bon Me @ 460 Harrison Avenue (Summer Sundays @ Sowa Open Market)

Being a banh mi fan, I purposely went to the Bon Me food truck once I arrived at Sowa Open Market.  Sowa is only open Sundays over the Summer.  You’re not missing out on much though.  There were only about a handful of trucks and fewer vendors than expected.  Not much too see and  a bit lame if you ask me.  Anyway, I wanted to see why Bon  Me has 4 stars when their prices are ridiculous.  $6 for a “Vietnamese inspired” sandwich is robbery, but I’ll give it a shot.

Bon Me’s baguette is slightly longer than the traditional Vietnamese banh mi, but also skinnier in width.  I couldn’t really taste their pate.  Their mayo is a bit different, it’s much more orange and has a bit of a kick.  I don’t care much for it though. The pork was tough to eat and quite dry.  It’s really hard to believe that this is their best seller.  It’s probably healthier than my $3 traditional banh mi, but I’ll pass next time I see Bon Me.

Bon Me - Barbequed Pork Sandwich

Barbequed Pork Sandwich

Clover Food Lab @ 460 Harrison Avenue & Dewey Square

Another popular food truck that’s been making it’s name in Boston is Clover Food Lab.  I tried this truck at two different “locations,” but it’s probably the same truck.  I included Dewey Square because once Sowa Open Market closes after summer ends, you won’t be able to find the truck at 460 Harrison Avenue.

The first sandwich I tried was the Egg & Eggplant, a Middle-Eastern-inspired sandwich.  I love the fluffy easy-to-bite-down-on pita bread.  The eggplant was perfectly fried.  Surprisingly, I enjoyed the hard-boiled egg (I normally prefer mine scrambled, over-easy or poached).  The hummus was thinner than usual but yummy.  However, I hated the cucumber tomato salad tossed inside.  This has more to do with my dislike of cucumber than the sandwich’s taste.  But it still somewhat ruined it for me.

Clover Food Lab - Egg & Eggplant Sandwich

Egg & Eggplant Sandwich

Next I tried the Chickpea Fritter.  What is a chickpea fritter? It’s basically just a falafel (quite a few Middle-Eastern inspired items on Clover’s menu).  The falafel was delicious, arguably better than Falafel King.  It’s much lighter and you won’t feel guilty eating it.  The pickled vegetables were good.  The same hummus from the Egg & Egg were here, and the annoying cucumber and tomato salad as well.  I really just don’t like cucumbers, so if you are a cucumber fan, you might not mind it as much.  I didn’t know it’d reappear and just asked them to leave out the pickle (I don’t like pickles either).

Clover Food Lab - Chickpea Fritter

Chickpea Fritter Sandwich

Another one of Clover’s most popular items is undoubtedly their  Fries with Rosemary.  I’ve tried this on two separate occasions.  I don’t really understand the hype.  I thought the rosemary was too subtle to make a real difference for me.  The potato was fresh, but  it was quite oily.  They boast that their food is healthy and their fries are actually suppose to retain the least oil compared to many competitors.  The only explanation I can think of is the persons making it messed up, but I have no intention of going back for this anyway.

Clover Food Lab - French Fries with Rosemary

French Fries with Rosemary

Clover Food Lab - French Fries with Rosemary

French Fries with Rosemary

My overall impression of Clover Food Lab is that it’s affordable, healthy food.  Too bad I will be a hard one to win over with a no-meat menu.

Momogoose @ City Hall Plaza

Momogoose is probably my favorite food truck out of the three because 1) it offers the most variety and 2) there are items with reasonable prices.

I started off trying their baguettes.  It was a huge disappointment for $5, only $1 cheaper than Bon Me.  The baguettes were the same size as my $3 Vietnamese sandwiches from Chinatown.  There was no sauce whatsoever.  They pride themselves in fast service, but it’s really not that hard if you’re just slicing bread in half, scooping some pre-made meat in and tossing in some scallions, is it?  I had the signature pork and the bulgogi hogi.  The meat itself had a nice flavor, but it was very difficult to eat since the overall baguette was so dry.

Momogoose - Suon Nuong (Pork) Baguette

Suon Nuong (Pork) Baguette

Momogoose - Bulgogi Hogi Baguette

Bulgogi Hogi Baguette

What really sold me about Momogoose are their lunch bowls.  There’s a laundry list of flavors to choose from and you also get to pick your carb (white rice, brown rice or rice noodles).  My first lunch bowl was the Korean BBQ Chicken with brown rice.  They use white meat, so it was drier than I expected.  Healthier though!  I thought it was okay.  It tasted like home cooking from your beginner-cook girlfriend.  It’s not made from an iron chef.  Simple flavors, nothing as complex or thoughtful compared to the other two trucks.  What I liked about it was the price, $5.  It’s difficult to find a place that sells you a filling lunch for $5 nowadays.

Momogoose - Korean BBQ Chicken

Korean BBQ Chicken

My favorite to date was the Thai Spicy Fish with brown rice.  The fish was battered.  The sauce had good flavor.  I really enjoyed eating this for lunch.  Unfortunately, the second time I came back for it, they no longer offered fish.  I had to settle for chicken instead with the Thai spicy sauce and it just wasn’t the same.  Fish > Dry Chicken any day! Sigh!

Momogoose - Thai Spicy Fish

Thai Spicy Fish

After trying these three infamous food trucks, I decided that Boston’s food trucks just aren’t that special in terms of taste and what they offer.  Instead, they are usually selling 1) healthy alternatives, 2) convenience, and/or 3) affordability (with the exception of Bon Me).

Unfortunately, my food truck chase in Boston has been cut short.  I’ve recently moved to LA.  Instead, I will truck on in the West coast, where I bet it’s yummier anyway!

– Charmin Bear T

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Boston: Brandon’s Food Experience – Asian (Fusion)

Together, my boyfriend and I are 75% Asian, so of course, we eat a lot of Asian food.  This post in particular will include Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Asian Fusion cuisines.

BonChon Allston @ 123 Brighton Avenue

I’m going to start off by saying that this location has had many many bad restaurants, probably because it has been the same owner that keeps trying again and again.  The first attempt was a shabu restaurant that failed utterly.  Then it was a ramen place that again didn’t taste that good.  The smart guy, after Privus closed, decided to open up a new restaurant selling BonChon chicken.  Seeing that no other place in Boston sells it, it’s a pretty fool-proofed plan.  The restaurant is hip with modern decor.  The service is well above average.  And of course, BonChon has been doing well thus far because the lack of other BonChon options.  The place is always packed at night on weekends.  I came here various times and tried various things.

Since the restaurant is called BonChon, lets start with the Soy Garlic BonChon chicken.   The chicken is average.  I like the sauce, but I don’t like how dry the meat is.  I know they deep fry it multiple times, so the skin becomes crispy.  Nonetheless, it’s a bit disappointing.  NY definitely has it perfected.  Boston, not so much.

BonChon - Soy Garlic BonChon Wings

Soy Garlic BonChon Chicken Wings

Okonomiyaki is their attempt at making a Japanese pancake.   Think Korean seafood pancake texture with bacon, shrimp and squid instead.  They also top it with bonito flakes, which I love the taste of.  When it’s hot the super thin bonito flakes wave back and forth on top, it’s really cool to look at.  They also douse it with barbecue sauce.  The chef needs to know that sometimes more is less.  This is a really inconsistent dish.  One time I ordered it, all I cold taste was barbecue sauce, nothing else.  It was quite disgusting.  When they go easy on the barbecue sauce and there’s a more even balance with the mayo, it is actually quite delectable

BonChon - Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki

I love sushi.  If I see sushi on the menu, I’ll want to order it even if it’s not a restaurant specializing in it.  I have an affinity towards eel, so I ordered the Allston Maki.   The maki’s center was made up of spicy tun and tempura flakes, topped with eel, avocado and tobikko, and drizzled with spicy mayo and unagi sauce.   This was pretty good.

BonChon - Allston Maki

Allston Maki

We also tried the Geisha Maki, which has a spicy salmon, asparagus and mango center, topped with white tuna, black sesame and miso sauce.  This was okay.  I wouldn’t care to try it again.

BonChon - Geisha Maki

Geisha Maki

Then there are the regular basic rolls such as Una-Avo Maki and Spider Maki.   One more special maki was the Big Boss Maki, which included tuna, salmon and yellow tail in the center, drizzled with sweet chili sauce.  I particularly like this one since it combines all of my favorite raw fishes.

BonChon - Una Avo Maki + Spider Maki + Big Boss Maki

Una Avo Maki + Spider Maki + Big Boss Maki

My overall experience with BonChon has been very inconsistent.  One time it actually sent me to the shop, by shop I mean toilet.  I got food poisoning after eating their chicken and sushi.  I’m not sure which was the cause.  I also noticed that they use a lot of rice in their sushi rolls compared to other places like Fish Market, Genkiya or Fugakyu.  I don’t like filler like that.  I probably won’t be returning again.

Umami @ 1704 Beacon Street

I purchased a gift certificate off Restaurant.com during a sale.  They had a special for Umami, $5 for $25 worth of food.  Why not!  I’ll do it.  When I came with my boyfriend the first time, I had forgotten to print the certificate.  I figured most places now will accept it if they see it on your phone.  But alas, she required a paper copy, so I had to come on two separate occasions, which I just lumped together below.

Umami is a quaint but classy little restaurant located on Beacon, one of the streets that run through the heart of Brookline.  Both visits though, there were very few other people around, which I feel says something about the food here. Anyway, I still had to try for myself (the first time), then I had to come again to use my gift certificate.  So I’ll explain everything, starting with appetizers.

One of my favorite things to eat are fries, and ones made out of sweet potato is even better.  It’s one of the few dishes I actually liked here.  The outside had a very nice crisp and the center was filled with soft yummy sweet potato.  It was lightly salted and provided enough flavor on its own without the use of their house special ketchup, which in my opinion isn’t very special.

Umami - Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

I got the Black Tiger Shrimp as another appetizer.  I felt that this dish lacks complexity for an “Asian Fusion” restaurant.  It’s nothing too impressive.  Tiger Shrimp generally come in larger sizes also.  These were quite dinky.

Umami - Black Tiger Shrimp

Black Tiger Shrimp

One of the specials the waitress listed was Tuna Tartare.  I normally would love this, but felt the ingredients were lacking.  The corn, for example, was bland and not sweet.  Besides adding filler and unnecessary texture, I wasn’t sure why they put it there.  Seasonality is quite important when choosing ingredients.

Umami - Tuna Tartare

Tuna Tartare

The Steak au Poivre, aka Pepper Steak, was dry and tasted nothing like the high quality beef it should be made with.

Umami - Steak au Poivre

Steak au Poivre

The Hoisin Glazed Duck Breast was suppose to come with mango chutney and not green tea soba.  The waitress failed to mention this to us and I didn’t even notice until I got home.  The duck itself was tender and had enough flavor, but it didn’t make up for the tasteless soba.  I know soba is suppose to be pretty bland, but the “green tea” version was even worse.

Umami - Hoisin Glazed Duck Breast

Hoisin Glazed Duck Breast

This is probably only other dish I enjoyed.  The Chilean Sea Bass had a nice sweet miso flavor to it, which is actually how a lot of Japanese restaurants prepare it.  The sweet potato puree was also addictive.  I guess it’s really hard to mess this up for me since I love Chilean sea bass and sweet potato.

Umami - Chilean Sea Bass

Chilean Sea Bass

I feel like Umami is going through some kind of identity crisis.  If you really think about it, sweet potato fries tossed on a plate doesn’t exactly line up with Steak au Poivre.  So are you a casual dining restaurant or an upscale Asian fusion restaurant?  Some of the items on their menu also seems like a weird marriage to me, such as the alfredo udon.  They basically just pick a protein and put it with a random “asian” starch like soba, udon or rice.  Although, many Yelp reviewers rave about the drinks there, I’m much more of a food fan.  If it wasn’t for that gift certificate, I wouldn’t have gone back a second time.

Asian Garden @ 28 Harrison Avenue

Okay, so it’s just another Cantonese restaurant in the midst of a crowd of Cantonese restaurants in Chinatown.  But what it all comes down to is, do you know what to order at what restaurant?  In my humble opinion, Asian Garden has one of the best Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings ever!  When you eat it fresh, the outside is crispy, the meat inside is juicy and tender.  It’s full of flavor.  You can taste the spice, the jalapeno peppers give it a great kick.  For $7, you get 6 full wings, that means 12 pieces.  That’s cheaper than American wing places like Wings Over or Wing Works.  It’s also cheaper than BonChon.  I don’t sit down and eat here.  I always just get it to go and hurry my way back to eat it!

Asian Garden - Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings

Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings

New Jang Su BBQ Restaurant @ 260 Cambridge Street

My boyfriend is part Korean and grew up eating home-made Korean food.  Every time we see each other, we have to eat Korean food at least once.  I decided to take him to New Jang Su in Burlington rather than any of the places in Brighton.  It’s a lot further, but this has always been one of my favorite go to places.  The place is much better ventilated than Korean Garden in Brighton.  On top of that, the old Korean owner is super nice and so is all the staff there.

We started off the night with Seafood Pajeon.  I actually really like it here because it’s soft and chewy.  He prefers it crispy, so he’s not a huge fan.  I also like that they don’t put weird gooey oyster in the pancake here.  Some places do it and it absolutely disgusts me.

New Jang Su - Seafood Pancake

Seafood Pancake

Since we came for Korean BBQ, how can we not get Kalbi?  Another reason I like it here is that they bring out the two strips of meat and cut it right in front of you.  It’s kind of them telling me “I’m not cheating you with meat from another part of a cow.  Here, I’ll show you by preparing it right in front of you.”  Sorry, but you know some Korean places do do that.  One time, I ate at Koreana, the beef comes out pre-cut and the meat definitely did not taste as tender as regular Kalbi.

New Jang Su - Kalbi

Kalbi

We also got an order of Spicy Pork.  I actually didn’t really like this.  The pork was dry and hadn’t been marinated as long as the Kalbi, which had much more flavor.  I just keep having to remind myself, get two orders of Kalbi next time.  No more variety at Korean BBQ!

New Jang Su - Kalbi + Spicy Pork

Kalbi + Spicy Pork

If I had a car, I would probably visit more often.  Burlington is also the home of H-mart, the giant Korean supermarket.  But I have a feeling that this will probably be my last meal at New Jang Su since my time in Boston is limited now :| Sigh!

– Charmin Bear T

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