What Charmin Bears Love: Food|Dogs|Sephora

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

Los Angeles: Animal Restaurant

Animal Restaurant @ North Fairfax Ave.

5.27

Animal is a highly rated small plates restaurant for meat lovers.

Animal - Hamachi Tostada

Animal – Hamachi Tostada

Our first course of the night was the hamachi fish, served raw with a fish sauce vingerette, peanuts and herbs tossed with crispy fried shallots and shredded napa cabbage. Light and refreshingly tasty, we both craved for more yellowtail.

Animal - Melted Petit Basque

Animal – Melted Petit Basque

Petit basquet is a hard pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese, originating from the Pyrenees Mountains that forms the border between France and Spain. The cheese is smooth and velvety in texture yet creamy, nutty and mild. Chorizo and toasted bread accompanied the melted petit basquet cheese. I enjoyed it very much.

Animal - Poutine

Animal – Poutine

The first thing off the menu I really wanted was the poutine. Crispy French fries, juicy oxtail meat and gravy with cubes of white cheddar cheese…..it was a piece of foodie heaven in my mouth. So far, the best poutine I’ve had the pleasure of eating. My mouth waters now as I write this entry. Did I mention the plate was HUGE? I had to polish off the remaining oxtail and fries.

Animal - Foie Gras Biscuit

Animal – Foie Gras Biscuit

Luckily, my trip to LA to see Charmin Bear T occurred before they banned the use of foie gras in Cali kitchens. Smooth in texture, the foie bras was delicious. The maple sausage was sweet and savory. The biscuit was soft and fluffy. The gravy helped bind the dish together wonderfully.

Animal - Flat Iron

Animal – Flat Iron

I think by the time we got the last dish, we were stuffed. The flat iron steak covered with a truffle parmesan fondue sat on top of artichoke hash. When we cut into the meat, there was no hassle! The steak was tender and literally melted in our mouths.

Everything about this restaurant was amazing. Great service, delicious food, and a lively atmosphere. Reservations are highly recommended since the venue itself is on the small size. Only 45 seats. Charmin Bear T and I dressed up to eat here. Although it’s not required, it can help to elevate the feel for this trendy place.

– Charmin Bear J

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Los Angeles: Musha

Musha @ 424 Wilshire Boulevard

Continuing on my quest to discover food in LA, I found myself at Musha, a Japanese Izakaya, which basically is Japanese tapas. When I got in the restaurant was hustling and bustling, but the wait wasn’t long at all as we were okay with sitting by the bar/counter.

We started the night with Yelper’s highly recommended Spicy Tuna Dip. I was sorely disappointed. While the fish was fresh and did not taste “fishy” at all, it was bland and lacked any spiciness it claimed to have. And what’s up with the rice cracker? I hate how rice crackers are the new fad in food. I find it everywhere and I honestly don’t think it does much besides add texture. Why don’t you pick something that adds flavor and texture? I would have much rather have a wonton chip to dip.

Musha - Spicy Tuna Dip

Musha – Spicy Tuna Dip

My boyfriend is Hawaiian and always raves about Poke. Last time I was in Hawaii, I didn’t get a chance to try it since I caught a stomach flu and didn’t want to upset it further by eating raw food. I thought this dish was only okay. Nothing too special.

Musha - Tuna Wasabi Poki

Musha – Tuna Wasabi Poki

We decided to add some greens into our meal by getting the Chicken Cracker Salad. Again with the rice crackers! RAWR. I probably should’ve realized that I would find rice cracker in it based on the name, but I was too tired from the long day at work and failed to make the connection. The chicken was good though. Everything else was just what you’d expect from a salad.

Musha - Chicken Cracker Salad

Musha – Chicken Cracker Salad

I decided I wanted to try the lobster roll, as I like lobster meat that has already been taken out for me. I’m not sure how I feel about the soy wrap, but it was okay. Lobster meat was generous. Taste didn’t have much complexity. Quite simple just to accentuate the freshness of the lobster. Probably my favorite of the night, but that’s not saying much really.

Musha - Lobster Roll

Musha – Lobster Roll

Under the suggestion of yelpers again, I ordered the tofu fries. I did not like these at all. The tofu they used aren’t the soft ones I like. I was expecting it to be more like agedashi tofu but in french fry form. The tofu tasted dry and did not fair well on my tongue at all. I don’t recommend.

Musha - Tofu French Fries

Musha – Tofu French Fries

Lastly, we got the pork belly, probably my second favorite of the night. It was super flavorful and the meat was okay. Nothing to rave about but nothing too much to complain about either.

Musha - Kakuni

Musha – Kakuni

I felt that Musha is probably over-hyped. Perhaps it’s more of a place to go with friends for sake and snacks than to really enjoy food. I thought everything was okay, but definitely not the finest representations of Japanese food in LA. The lobster roll and the kakuni isn’t outstanding enough to warrant a second trip, so this will probably be my first and last visit to Musha.

– Charmin Bear T

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Los Angeles: Little Next Door & Harajuku Crepes

Little Next Door @ 8142 3rd Street

The quest for LA brunch continues…

I found Little Next Door on Yelp and decided to give it a try.  We got here during peak hour Sunday and had to wait 30 minutes for a table.  Unfortunately, we were both starving so it felt like an hour.  Then after we were seated, the service was quite slow.  It took forever to just even get water.  Luckily my daddy called, I went off to talk to him, and by the time I got back my food was here!

I got the Smoked Salmon Benedict, which I thought was delish! Portions were a bit cheap, I admit, but the taste of the salmon made up for it a bit.

Little Next Door - Smoked Salmon Benedict

Little Next Door – Smoked Salmon Benedict

Harajuku Crepes @ 9405 S Santa Monica Boulevard

After Little Next Door, I dragged my boyfriend to Harajuku Crepes in Beverly Hills.  I saw green tea crepes and I said, I must go!  When we got here, it was probably around 4pm in the afternoon, there was not another soul to be found in the little crepe place.  All the better though, I get to be indecisive for as long as I want.  Most crepes are made to order, but they have a few on the menu for you to choose from.  I picked the Daifuku crepe, which is basically red bean paste, home-made whip cream and strawberries.  I requested green tea batter and to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  It was yum!  I didn’t take a picture of my boyfriend’s, but he got an earl grey batter with sesame ice cream, banana and mochi layer.  Pretty good too, but I prefer the green tea batter!  I love crepes and am definitely coming back here!

Harajuku Crepes - Strawberry Daifuku with Vanilla Ice Cream

Harajuku Crepes – Strawberry Daifuku with Green Tea Batter & Vanilla Ice Cream

– Charmin Bear T

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Los Angeles: Providence

Providence @ 5955 Melrose Avenue

This week, I chose 2-star Michelin restaurant: Providence.  Needless to say, I was excited.  I’ve only been to Jean-Georges in New York for my 3 star meal, and I thought it was excellent.  My first impressions of the restaurant were the decor, which was so lovely.  I think the theme were calla lilies or flowers that kind of look like that, which porcelain interpretations were all coming out of the walls.  The guy who greeted us did come off a bit snobby in my humble opinion.  He’s either the  maitre d’ or the owner/manager.  I couldn’t tell but he did walk around and ask how people were doing.

The chef started us off with 3 amuse-bouche.  The one shot of soup, I forget what was in it anymore.  Fail :(.  But I can tell you I wish there was more than one shot.  I’ll take 10 shots of those!  It was so yummy.  The little quiche-like thing on the left was forgettable.  I also liked the third amuse bouche on the top right, which was salmon tartar on salmon skin topped with creme fraiche.  Full of flavor and super crispy.

Providence - Amuse Bouches

Providence – Amuse Bouches

For our appetizer, we chose the Maine Lobster.  I actually really like crab and lobster, but hate taking it out of the shell for myself. I dislike using my hands to eat because the smell of your food usually lingers.  I’m really odd.  So I found it lovely that I didn’t have to do it here.  The ingredients were simple and beautiful.  There was a stronger emphasis on the freshness of the lobster.  It was perfectly cooked and not rubbery at all. Nom Nom.

Providence - Maine Lobster

Providence – Maine Lobster

I was told by Yelpers that portions here are small, so I ordered a second appetizer: Foie Gras Ravioli.  This was a super heavy and indulgent dish.  As delicious as it was, I wish there was someone else who loved foie gras as much as me to enjoy it with.

Providence - Foie Gras Ravioli

Providence – Foie Gras Ravioli

The boyfriend got the Chowda as his second appetizer.  He said it was the best chowda he ever had.  The consistency was a bit watery compared to the chowder I’m used to, but the sip I had was infused with flavor.  Having real clams with bacon bits totally helped.

Providence - Chowda

Providence – Chowda

For my main entree, I got the duck.  It was cooked medium rare, the way the chef thinks is best.  I really liked it, but by the time I got to it, I was already so stuffed!  I loved the crispy skin that did not taste at all oily. And the foie gras infused chicken broth sauce.  Yum.  Too bad I didn’t finish it, I tried my best though.

Providence - Liberty Farms Duck Breast

Providence – Liberty Farms Duck Breast

The bf got the steak, which was also pretty darn good.  I’d like to think my duck was better, but he thinks his beef was better.  To each his own!

Providence - New York Steak

Providence – New York Steak

For dessert, they gave us lime macarons, which I surprisingly enjoyed.  I don’t usually like lime flavor things.  The lychee jellies were a tad too sweet for me.  I did not like the lavender caramel.  The lavender was way too strong.

Providence - Dessert

Providence – Dessert

I really liked Providence.  I have to say it’s probably the best meal I’ve had in terms of fine dining.  I thought some dishes at Jean Georges were a bit lackluster, while here it was pretty impressive all around.  Although I enjoyed the service at Jean Georges much more.  It’s unbeatable how they manage to make you feel like you belong even though you’re in an expensive restaurant.  In short, I loved it and will revisit!

– Charmin Bear T

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Los Angeles: Sasabune Revisited

Sushi Sasabune @ 12400 Wilshire Avenue

My boyfriend and I came back to Sasabune for some major sushi craving after seeing “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.”  If you’re a sushi lover, I recommend watching that!

We went with a few of our old favorites, such as seared baby tuna.  I didn’t enjoy the fish as much this time.  For some reason it wasn’t as flavorful.

Sasabune - Seared Baby Tuna

Sasabune - Seared Baby Tuna

The Salmon was great. Fresh.  I love the little clear seaweed on top, which I thought helped bring out the taste of the fish.  The sesame seeds were a bit much, but didn’t really bother me.

Sasabune - Salmon

Sasabune - Salmon

Yellowtail is another one of my favorite fishes. Look how nice and shiny the fish is!

Sasabune - Yellowtail

Sasabune - Yellowtail

We decided to try the sweet shrimp.  Not my favorite.  The texture was really gooey and weird.  I’ll pass on Amaebi next time.

Sasabune - Sweet Shrimp

Sasabune - Sweet Shrimp

Sasabune cooks the shrimp head separately.  This was pretty darn good.  It was so crunchy and perfectly seasoned.  Next time, my boyfriend can eat the body and I’ll munch on the head haha.

Sasabune - Sweet Shrimp Head

Sasabune - Sweet Shrimp Head

The green mussels were only about $4.50 per order.  SushiStop is $3 and the quality is much lower.  Shockingly, this is a really good deal here!

Sasabune - Green Mussels

Sasabune - Green Mussels

Mmm.  My favorite. Fatty Tuna.  Sasabune’s quality is definitely one of the best in all of LA.  I’ve order it elsewhere and it doesn’t melt in your mouth like it does here.

Sasabune - Fatty Tuna

Sasabune - Fatty Tuna

My first time ordering the butterfish and it was delish!  It’s cooked and doused in something similar to eel sauce.

Sasabune - Butter Fish

Sasabune - Butter Fish

I normally don’t like Salmon Skin, but it was good here. I liked the crunchy skin a lot.  The tuna was also fresh.  I was pretty full by this point but still ate my fair share.

Sasabune - Salmon Skin & Tuna Roll

Sasabune - Salmon Skin & Tuna Roll

Last but not least, the Eel handroll.  You’ll never find any of my sushi meals missing Eel :)

Sasabune - Eel Roll

Sasabune - Eel Roll

Another solid experience.  It was quite busy this time.  Last time we came there were only a few other tables.  This time, it was packed full and some people were waiting as we left.  Maybe word got out.  At the end of the night, we  thought we over ate a bit, but we couldn’t help ourselves.  Service was excellent.  Definitely a restaurant I’ll visit again and again!

– Charmin Bear T

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Los Angeles: Spago

Spago @ 176 N Canon Drive

The new restaurant we visited this past week was Spago in Beverly Hills.  Don’t assume it’s snotty just because it’s in Beverly Hills.  I actually didn’t feel too out of place here.  The restaurant had a much more low key vibe than Nobu.  The hostesses were friendly and inviting.  Our waiter was a short and to the point middle-aged man.  He has this awesome ear, I swear he hears everything I say or he knows how to read minds.  Every time I say something I want, after he leaves, he comes right back with what I wanted.  The bread guy is also pretty cool.  He comes around with a selection of bread and I picked the meh ones, so he came back and made me try another one he insisted was delicious.  And he was right, it was.  I munched on that while waiting for my food.

I picked this restaurant because my boyfriend’s aunt worked at the Spago in Maui.  He used to go often and get this appetizer called the Spicy Ahi Tuna Poke in Sesame Miso Cone (that name is the length of a short novel!).  He once told me that if it was the end of the world and he could only eat one more thing, this would be what he’d eat.  It’s not on the menu in the Beverly Hills location, since it’s a Maui creation, but you can still ask for it and they’ll make it for you.  Expectations were pretty high for this and surprisingly it did not disappoint.  The Ahi Poke marinade was so good!  It had a real kick to it, but something at the level that I could handle.  The cone was sweet and crunchy.  All the ingredients married so well together.  Must try if you’re ever here.  Oh another example of how the waiter could read my mind.  The conversation went a bit like this…

T: “This isn’t on the menu, but can we get…”
Waiter: “The Ahi cones? I’ll put that right in for you.”
T: GASP.. How did he …

I know, I know, it’s probably very popular and that’s what people always ask for.  But I had no idea what it was called so I was really relieved he knew what we wanted.

Spago - Spicy Ahi Tuna Poke in Sesame Miso Cone

Spago - Spicy Ahi Tuna Poke in Sesame Miso Cone

Next, under our waiter’s suggestion, we got the Blue Fin Tuna Sashimi appetizer.  It looks like a work of art, huh?  I think, don’t hold my word against me, it was different cuts of the tuna.  There wasn’t a lot of sauce involved.  It was mostly just enjoying the fish’s natural taste.  The little one wrapped in cucumber with the flowers on top was quite delicious.  There’s actually sushi rice wrapped inside the cucumber.  The rice was soft and had the right amount of vinegar flavor.  I really liked it.

Spago - Blue Fin Tuna Sashimi Appetizer

Spago - Blue Fin Tuna Sashimi Appetizer

I should probably get something light.  Fish is light. I also love mushrooms.  Oh there’s something with both! That was my thought process for choosing the Slow Roasted French Turbot with Perigord Black Truffle.  At first I thought the fish was a bit bland and was totally eyeing my boyfriend’s Veal Chop, but the more bites I took, the more I just wanted to keep eating it.  The pungent truffle taste finally hit and it  became addictive.  The fingerling potatoes could’ve been cooked a little longer for me, but it was still good.  I eventually ate the entire plate including the endives the fish was sitting on :).  I didn’t take a picture of it, but my boyfriend’s Caramelized Veal Chop was also really amazing.  I really liked the sauces they used.  The bacon, sage, onions, celery and apple puree complemented each other really well.  It definitely has much more flavor than my fish.

Spago - Slow Roasted French Turbot with Perigord Black Truffles

Spago - Slow Roasted French Turbot with Perigord Black Truffles

For dessert we decided on the Mille Feuille, which translated means 1,000 sheets.  I thought this was a solid dessert, but not my cup of tea.  For one, I’m not big on kiwi and there was kiwi all over it.  Second, the cream filling they used was infused with honey and I just tasted too much of it.  I prefer a more vanilla tasting cream.  Third, I felt that instead of being 1,000 sheets, it was 3 thick sheets, which was still good, but it doesn’t achieve the flakiness I generally like.  My favorite is still the Mille Feuille made by Lady M in New York.  In all fairness, Lady M specializes in desserts and devotes a lot of time to each of their creations.  Their mille feuille is much easier to stick a fork in because the “sheets” break off easier.  Also at the bottom, there’s a layer of sponge that makes it feel more like an actual slice of cake and helps it stick to your fork.  My boyfriend called me snobby for comparing the two, but I can’t help it!  The heart feels what it feels!

Spago - Mille Feuille

Spago - Mille Feuille

Coming to Spago was a great idea.  Pat on my back.  I really enjoyed the dining experience there.  We got to sit near the patio, but not outside because I would’ve froze to death.  I just wish we weren’t surrounded by giant buildings that blocked most of the night sky.  But at the end of the night, what mattered was that my boyfriend got to eat his favorite appetizer and we both had a delicious meal.  Mission accomplished.

– Charmin Bear T

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Los Angeles: Nobu

Nobu @ 903 N La Cienega Boulevard

My boyfriend and I decided that we should try new restaurants in LA at least once a week.  This week, we chose the infamous Nobu, a popular multi-location restaurant  throughout the US.  We drove our way over to West Hollywood and found ourselves in this upscale area with tiny streets.  My boyfriend and I could not walk side by side. We found the valet, but we couldn’t find the restaurant.  We circled the corner and came back and asked the valet.  He directed us to this giant black gate, which I can only presume is to keep the poor people out.  I think it’s a bit much to have a 10+ feet metal gate as a door.  We proceeded in and was quickly seated since we had a reservation.  The waiter asked us if we wanted flat or sparkling water.  Flat, of course!  He comes out with a liter of Fiji water. Whaattt?! I wanted tap!  When did paying for bottled water been an opt-out policy? Whatever.  On to the food.

Under the direction of our waiter, we started with the cold appetizers.  We ordered the Toro tartar because my boyfriend and I both love toro.  He introduced me to it and I eventually fell in love as well.  I felt the tartar had the nicest presentation of all the dishes.  It was soaking in a spicy ponzu sauce and topped with a scoop of caviar.  I personally could use less kick, but my boyfriend thought it was just the right amount.  I can’t handle spicy as well as him.

Nobu - Toro Tartar

Nobu - Toro Tartar

We then continued with the Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno due the the large amount of suggestions from Yelpers.  It was quite disappointing.  Although I admit the fish was fresh, I didn’t really see what was so special about it that I couldn’t get it somewhere else for less.

Nobu - Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno

Nobu - Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno

Next for our palette, per our waiter, we should continue onto hot appetizers and we did just that.  We, again, under the influence of Yelpers, went with the Rock Shrimp Tempura.  The shrimp was cooked perfectly and had a great chew to them.  However, the sauce left a lot to be desired.  I much prefer Chinatown’s Honey Walnut Shrimp.  But we might have just selected the wrong sauce to go with this dish.  Perhaps the butter ponzu sauce would’ve been more impressive.

Nobu - Rock Shrimp Tempura with Creamy Spicy Sauce

Nobu - Rock Shrimp Tempura with Creamy Spicy Sauce

We also tried the Black Cod with Miso on Butter Lettuce, an updated version of Nobu’s Black Cod with Miso creation.  I really liked this one.  Fish was cooked well and easily fell apart in your mouth.  The crunchy fried radish on top added a nice texture to each bite.  I was happily fooled by the lettuce that I’m eating slightly healthier.  I would definitely order this again.

Nobu - Black Cod with Miso on Butter Lettuce

Nobu - Black Cod with Miso on Butter Lettuce

My boyfriend and I were dying to try the Wagyu beef.  For those snotty meat eaters out there, no, it’s not Japanese Wagyu, just Australian.  On the menu, you can order 4 oz. (minimum) of Wagyu beef and have it prepared 4 ways:  Toban Yaki, New Style, Tataki and Steak.   But the waiter suggested we tried a style not on the menu, Flambe.  He said it was the same price, so I thought, why not!  They brought our meat out on a hot stone, poured brandy on it, and set the entire thing on fire.   What a flashy, but unnecessary display.  I thought my eyebrows were going to get burnt.  This is a good dish for people who like attention.  Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people.  I just felt awkward when the entire restaurant looked over.  However, despite all that, I fell in love with the fatty tenderness of the Wagyu.  Do I still crave it?  Yes, sometimes.  The sauce was also a great complement.  The veggies that came with it were addictive.  If I could figure out how to cook vegetables like that, I don’t think being a vegetarian would be that hard.  But then, I’ll probably eventually remember the addictive Wagyu it came with and throw that idea in the trash.

Nobu - Australian Wagyu Beef Flambe Style

Nobu - Australian Wagyu Beef Flambe Style

Last, but not least, we ended the night with the 18 Hour Niman Ranch Pork Belly.  I actually had my doubts when my boyfriend first said he wanted to order this.  I usually only get pork belly in my ramen, so I have this impression that it’s going to be super salty.  To my surprise, it was quite light and did not feel heavy at all.  The meat was very tender and not tough.  I really liked this one too.  Props to the boyfriend.

Nobu - 18 Hour Niman Ranch Pork Belly with Miso Anticucho

Nobu - 18 Hour Niman Ranch Pork Belly with Miso Anticucho

I thought the food at Nobu was good, with a couple dishes being a bit overrated. The atmosphere was a little awkward for me because of the type of people they obviously want to attract, i.e.,   people who generally prefer a $9 bottle of fiji water that costs more than a beer, extravagant displays for food, entering through a flashy big black gate. I don’t think the atmosphere of the restaurant is right for the 99% like me.  Fun experience nonetheless and worth having at least once.

– Charmin Bear T

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Los Angeles: The Sweet Life

85c Bakery @ 2700 Alton Parkway Suite 123

J & I are both major sweet tooths and we like a variety of different things.  For our more Asian side, we can’t deny ourselves of Chinese baked goods.  One of my favorite bakeries in the SoCal is 85c Bakery in Irvine.  The line is usually ridiculous (there’s a line to get in, a line to pick up the goods, and a line to pay), but if you come during off-peak hours, you may be lucky enough to avoid the non-locals who act like they’re picking up food for their last meal on earth.

One of my favorite things at 85c is their Mochi Egg tart.  You can’t see it, but there’s a thin layer of mochi underneath the custard.  The crust is also super flaky and crisp.  I love the creamy custard to crust ratio here.  It’s best when fresh, but still super good a couple days old.

85c Bakery - Mochi Egg Tart

85c Bakery - Mochi Egg Tart

My other favorite is the custard bun.  As you can tell, I really like their custard stuff.  The filling is really light and creamy.  Nothing about this bun feels heavy.

85c Bakery - Custard Bun

85c Bakery - Custard Bun

My friend who introduced me to this place told me they’re famous for their Taro Marble bun, which they keep in the back so it doesn’t sell out immediately.  I had the good fortune of getting one one day.  However, the bun did not live up to the hype.  The taro in the bread itself is really subtle.  The filling was thick and gritty.  I didn’t care for it much.

85c Bakery - Taro Marble Bun

85c Bakery - Taro Marble Bun

I probably will just stick to my custard favorites from now on.  They also have these sea salt drinks that are quite popular, but not my cup of tea.

Sprinkles Cupcakes @ 944 Avocado Avenue

There’s a Sprinkles in Beverly Hills too, but I was in Orange County for work and picked up a dozen of these at the Newport Beach location instead.  I bought a variety for the office, but only had a chance to try the red velvets.  These’s cupcakes are pretty expensive at almost $4 a pop after tax.  They’re quite simple in decor compared to other cupcakes, but I guess you don’t have to dress up when you’ve got inner beauty.  The cupcake was really moist and not too sweet.  I, not a cupcake fan at all, actually enjoyed it.  I think it may have been the best I’ve had!  But hey, keep in mind, I’m no cupcake expert.

Sprinkles - Assorted Cupcakes

Sprinkles - Assorted Cupcakes

Jin Patisserie @ 1202 Abbot Kinney Boulevard

For the more refined side of me, I went to Jin Patisserie on Abbot Kinney, one of the cutest streets in Venice Beach.   Unfortunately, by the time I sat myself down here, most of the desserts were sold out.  We ended up getting the leftover.

Brandon got the Mascarpone Banana.  I generally don’t like artificial banana flavor, but this was a very light taste and my love for the mascarpone made up for it.

Jin Patisserie - Mascarpone Banana

Jin Patisserie - Mascarpone Banana

I ordered the Serene, which is basically a pistachio mousse.  It was my favorite of the three, but those who know me well know I have a soft spot for pistachio flavored things.

Jin Patisserie - Serene

Jin Patisserie - Serene

My other friend ordered the inspiration, but it wasn’t very inspiring.  I’m not a huge dark chocolate fan.  It was just too rich.  I needed something else to complement the depth and heaviness of the cake.

Jin Patisserie - Inspiration

Jin Patisserie - Inspiration

Service here is only okay.  I thought it was a bit painful to find and sitting outside during winter  wasn’t exactly ideal.  I will still come back when J visits so she can eat at her namesake.

Milk @ 7290 Beverly Boulevard

I found out about ice cream macarons and thought the idea sounded amazing!  Boy was I wrong.  I came to realize, macarons aren’t really meant to be the “bread” of an ice cream sandwich.  The cold temperature made the normal light fluffy cookie part hard and difficult to bite into.  I was quite disappointed. And at $5 each, they’re unnecessarily expensive for something so mediocre.  I tried the strawberry, the vanilla, the coffee toffee (shown below) and the salted caramel (shown below as well).  The strawberry lacked any real sweetness and tasted quite sour.  The vanilla was partially coated in chocolate, which made it too sweet.  The coffee toffee and salted caramel were okay, but as I mentioned earlier, the tough macaron really ruined it for me.

Milk - Coffee Toffee Macaron

Milk - Coffee Toffee Macaron

Milk - Salted Caramel Macaron

Milk - Salted Caramel Macaron

It wasn’t until after I left that I realized Milk is actually famous for their blue velvet cake.  Oh wellers.  I have very little desire to try the blue velvet.  I feel like it’s just a gimmick to attract people.  How different can it taste from a red velvet?  I don’t want my poop to turn blue.  So alas, I bid farewell to Milk.  I probably won’t be returning.

– Charmin Bear T

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Los Angeles: Sushi Goodness

I’m a self proclaimed sushi lover.  I generally like maki, but have recently developed more refined taste and am really beginning to appreciate just plain sushi and it’s freshness.  Traditional Japanese sushi isn’t fancy nor complicated.  Most of the time, it’s about quality and simple flavors that accentuates the fish.  Two of my favorite places when I feel like eating more traditional sushi are definitely Sushi-Gen in Little Tokyo and Sushi Sasabune in West LA.

Sushi-Gen @ 422 E 2nd Street

Sushi-Gen, unfortunately, is well-known by many.  As such, it is always packed.  We had to wait over an hour when we came here. It’s always hustling and bustling around dinner time, but the service remains above average and waiters are kind.  The food is quite simple, mainly sushi, and you’d be dumb to get something else anyway.  I decided to go with the sashimi dinner because rice is just filler in my opinion.  I’m going to get my money’s worth!  As you can see below, you get a large variety of fish, including toro!  It may be lower quality toro, but it melts in your mouth nonetheless.  Everything was delicious.  My friend, who’s a Japanese snob, even said it was on par with what he  has in Japan.  Wow, what a compliment that is!

Sushi Gen - Sashimi Combo

Sushi Gen - Sashimi Dinner

Sushi Sasabune @ 12400 Wilshire Avenue

If you don’t feel like waiting in the long line at Sushi-Gen, you should head over to Sushi Sasabune.  Surprisingly, this place isn’t usually packed.  However, it also has a very limited menu, even more so than Sushi-Gen.  They literally only have sushi dishes.  You can order them a la carte or order the omakase and have the chef decide for you.  My boyfriend started out with the omakase, but decided near the beginning that it was a better idea to just order a la carte since he doesn’t like every kind of fish.  I was having issues with my phone that night so my pictures are kind of crap, please bear with me.

Sasabune - Seared Baby Blue Fin Tuna

Sasabune - Seared Baby Blue Fin Tuna

I still think about this Seared Baby Blue Fin Tuna.  It’s soft texture and fattiness reminds me more of salmon than your typical tuna. I couldn’t stop eating this.  Next time, I’m just going to order two of these!

Sasabune - Green Mussels

Sasabune - Green Mussels

The mussels were definitely quality.  They were big and did not taste sandy at all.  The sauce was a good amount, no overkill here.

Sasabune - Assorted Sushi

Sasabune - Assorted Sushi

This includes white fish, mackerel (yuck! I hate mackerel), salmon and scallop.  No complaints here, but after this we decided we’re just going to keep ordering a bunch of toro.  We ordered quite a few and it was all amazing.  My boyfriend and I liked different types of toro that they brought out.  However, every time they arrived, we ate immediately and I totally forgot to take pictures of them.  -_-” fail.

If you’re ever in the LA area and you’re looking for delicious high quality fresh sushi, head over to Sushi-Gen or Sushi Sasabune.  It won’t disappoint!  But prepare your wallet for a hit.  These are 3 and 4 $ signs on Yelp.  It’s worth it to treat yourself to some amazing sushi every now and then though!

– Charmin Bear T

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LA County: Battle Boba

Happy New Year everyone!  J and I have been quite MIA due to personal reasons.  I’ve been busy with my new job, tending to visitors, studying and what not.  I probably won’t be updating as often as I used to, but did feel like a post was way over due for our invisible imaginary readers out there.  J & I are huge boba fanatics, so I took the liberty of having a boba tour in LA.  I’ve literally tried over 10 boba places, but only listed 9 below because I can’t remember them all.  I wanted to taste test places and figure out where I should frequent.  Here they are!

Boba Loca @ 10946 Weyburn Avenue

One of the first places in LA that I had boba at was Boba Loca.  It’s located conveniently near my apartment.  It’s a small cafe catered to the nearby UCLA students.  It’s not hip or happening.  The atmosphere is much like any other coffee shop near a college town.  It’s quite small and cramped.  Luckily, most people study at the Starbucks across the street and surprisingly, not much people come here.  I came here to study quite often in my first couple months in LA.  They offer drinks at very reasonable prices and do not charge extra for boba, other flavors besides milk tea,  like most other boba joints.  $2.95 for a small and $3.45 for a large, tax already included for most drinks.  The milk tea itself is a bit watery and the boba is too soft.  It doesn’t have the chewiness/bounce that some other more notable boba cafes have, but it’s not too over cooked to the extent where it’s mushy.  It’s pretty decent.  I actually prefer their almond milk tea, which has the flavor of almond I like.  The downside is that you can taste that they obviously use powder.  Overall, Boba Loca is okay, but nothing spectacular.  But beggars can’t be choosers.  I choose convenience any day.

Boba Loca - Boba Milk Tea

Boba Loca - Boba Milk Tea

Volcano Tea House @ 2111 Sawtelle Boulevard

Volcano Tea House is another small cafe catered to mostly the younger crowd.  It tends to get very busy, but the girls usually get the drinks done quite quickly.  Everyone who works here seem to be taiwanese and speak mandarin.  Good sign, right?  I have to say I like their boba the best.  It has great chewiness and tastes like they soak it in honey.  That is probably why they charge a bit more.  My boba milk teas usually range closer to $4-$5.  My favorite here is the Honey Milk Tea, but any of their drinks is pretty solid.  My boyfriend also tried their milk pudding, which I found to be a bit too sweet, but he liked it a lot.  It’s located conveniently on Sawtelle, where there’s a couple blocks of Asian restaurants.  It’s all too easy to come by after dinner to grab a boba!

Volcano Tea House - Boba Milk Tea

Volcano Tea House - Boba Milk Tea

Four Leaf Tea Room @ 318 E 2nd Street

This place is a very cute, clean (more so than the previous cafes) and modern looking cafe.  They use real tea leaves, which is very noticeable in their drinks.  I thought the boba was horrible though.  It was too hard and lacked the normal bounce I like.  The drink itself was almost $5 for a SMALL.  It’s quite pricey, but I guess that’s expected when they don’t use powder.  I definitely don’t have a desire to come back since the boba itself was such a disappointment.

Four Leaf Tea Room - Boba Milk Tea

Four Leaf Tea Room - Boba Milk Tea

Boba Time @ 701 S Vermont Avenue

Boba Time was the first boba place I visited in LA.  I came here after having a hearty meal in KTown.  I can’t say that their milk tea or boba is spectacular.  It was solid.  The boba wasn’t gritty or hard like Four Leaf, but it didn’t have the perfect chewiness and sweetness as Volcano.  What really sold me here was shaved ice in a cup!  Yes, in a cup!  Most other places serve it to you in this giant bowl.  Dude, it’s an Asian dessert and most Asian people are tiny.  I don’t want to always have to find someone to share it with me in order to eat it.  Anyway, enough ranting on my part.  I decided to stray from boba and got the red bean shaved ice in a cup and it was amazing!  The ice itself wasn’t snowy like Hawaiian shaved ice, but the delicious stuff is the fresh fruit, red beans, vanilla ice cream, mochi bits and the peanut powder.  I’m drooling just thinking about it.  Sigh. 

Boba Time - Boba Milk Tea

Boba Time - Boba Milk Tea

Boba Time - Red Bean Shaved Ice Cup

Boba Time - Red Bean Shaved Ice Cup

Tea Bar Starry @ 1108 S Baldwin Avenue

Tea Bar Starry is unfortunately super far from me.  It is located in Arcadia, right next to Din Tai Fung.  It’s quite smart to do so, since I was waiting in line for DTF and decided to get a drink from there to quench my thirst.  I don’t know if I was just super hungry, but I thought their milk tea and boba was amazing.  Their regular boba tasted like it was soaked in honey, much like volcano.  They also offer crystal boba, which appears to have a more brown sugary kind of taste.  If you ever come here, bring your student ID.  They offer student specials where a small milk tea with boba is only $2 and a large for $3!  Quite a steal!

Tea Bar Starry - Boba Milk Tea

Tea Bar Starry - Boba Milk Tea

I Love Boba @ 534 S Western Avenue

I did not take a picture of the boba here.  It’s not even worth taking.  This place is horrible.  The fact that they call themselves “I Love Boba” is blasephemy!  They do not love boba.  They disgrace boba!  The boba was disgustingly soft and the milk tea tasted super watered down.  I went to the one in Ktown and the girl behind the counter looked miserable.  She took my order and did not offer me a boba card, but offered it to the Korean couple who came in after me.  No, they were not friends, because she looked just as miserable taking their order.  And no, they did not tip, but I stupidly did!  On top of that, that Korean couple got their drinks first when they ordered the more complicated slushes and fruit drinks.  All I ordered was a boba milk tea, which they already premade tons of that are visible from the counter.  I was quite offended by their bias treatment, then the bad boba was a double whammy.  The service did not flavor my boba.  I’m very fair.  I’d bit my tongue and go back if the boba was good, but it was not.  Never again!

Lollicup @ 2700 Alton Parkway

Lollicup is quite a big chain in the west coast.  We also had one in Boston, MA.  I didn’t take a picture of it because I didn’t feel that it was anything special.  It’s basically the same as the Super 88 location in Boston, expect it is it’s own store and is slightly cheaper. 

Tastea @ 10189 Westminster Avenue

I came to Tastea after a gluttonous Vietnamese meal at Ngu Binh.  My boyfriend wanted to go get a massage, so I decided to go to Tastea to get some studying done.  I had never been there before.  When I walked in, to my dismay, there were no tables inside, just two small ones in front of the store.  This is mainly a take out place.  One of the notable things I remembered was that the people who worked here were super friendly.  Most of the other places, the girls seem quite cold and robotic.   They also offer kid sizes, which is convenient for those with small boba appetites.  Not I, though.  I went for a large.  To differentiate themselves, Tastea makes green boba, which was decent.  Overall, I felt that it was pretty good, but not amazing.  Considering the distance and the fact that there’s a nearby Volcano, I probably won’t be coming back.  Sorry!

Tastea - Boba Milk Tea

Tastea - Boba Milk Tea

Half & Half @ 141 N Atlantic Avenue

I’ve heard a lot of hype about Half & Half, so expectations were high.  When I got here there was an insane line.  I was informed by my friend that this is always the case.  I waited 30 minutes for a boba milk tea.  I admit, the tea did taste freshly made, not one bit artificial.  My biggest gripe – those tubs they call cups!  This is basically a to-go location (only two tables out doors), so perhaps they should make better to go packaging.  Sure, it’s cute and different, but it’s not practical! These tubs do not fit in my car’s cup holder.  I wasn’t too impressed by the boba.  In Half & Half’s defense, the boba probably lost it’s freshness since I had to wait til I got home in LA to drink it since I wouldn’t be able to place it anywhere in the car -_-“”  As much as I love boba, I will not go through all this trouble again.
 
Half & Half - Boba Milk Tea

Half & Half - Boba Milk Tea

 
Final conclusions?  My favorites, cup sizes aside, were Volcano, Half & Half and Tea Bar Starry!  Unfortunately, I probably won’t make a reappearance at Half & Half despite it’s high marks in my books.
 
– Charmin Bear T
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