What Charmin Bears Love: Food|Dogs|Sephora

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

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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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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New York City: Latin Cuisine

Flor De Mayo @ 2651 Broadway

10.1
Known for their Chino Latino fusion food, Flor de Mayo has been a very popular restaurant in the Upper West Side for quite some time. They are almost on a wait, especially on a rainy day. After volleyball, I had the pleasure of dining with Anu and Charles. Since I was a newbie in the area and on the volleyball courts, they showed me a few favorites from this local spot.

Flor de Mayo - Beef with Watercress

Flor de Mayo - Beef with Watercress

Beef was tender and seasoned correctly. Watercress is a very common vegetable used in Chinese cooking. Portion size was pretty large. Delicious simple dish.

Flor de Mayo - Shrimp with Oyster Sauce

Flor de Mayo - Shrimp with Oyster Sauce

Yum. Shrimps stir fried with onions in oyster sauce. Another dish done well. I love how the shrimps weren’t small in size. Each was juicy, plump and cooked right. One can easily overcook shrimps if added too early.

Flor de Mayo - Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken

Flor de Mayo - Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken

One of the best rotisserie chicken I’ve had since moving to NY. Skin was seasoned, crispy. Chicken was tender, moist, juicy. No wonder why everyone raves about the Peruvian style chicken! Must try if you ever visit Flor de Mayo.

Marisco Centro @ 1490 Saint Nicholas Ave
10.5
B.Chu came to visit me at work. We went to a local seafood joint, on recommendation from my co-worker.

Marisco Centro - Fish Soup

Marisco Centro - Fish Soup

This bowl of soup was not specifically ordered by us. I think they gave it to their customers for free. I didn’t really like it. There was bits and pieces of fish, scraps and bones in there. Who knows what else was thrown in!

Marisco Centro - Calamari

Marisco Centro - Calamari

Disappointing. This dish of calamari was hard to stomach since it was tough to chew and lacked any type of seasoning in the batter. The red tomato/marinara sauce was bland and watery. Shakes my head!

Marisco Centro - Stuffed Fish with Shrimps

Marisco Centro - Stuffed Fish with Shrimps

I really thought this dish had potential. I was thinking, what a great concept! Again, it fell short with seasoning. Fish was cooked right and shrimps was deveined nicely. I just wished it had some kick to it.

Maybe it was us ordering the wrong things on the menu, but if you’re going to specialize in seafood, at least keep everything seasoned! Service was okay. They were helpful in recommending items, but I will not be heading back here. EVER.

Prohibition @ 503 Columbus Avenue
10.21

After a day of volleyball, the folks went over to eat at Prohibition, a very popular bar and lounge restaurant with free live music. They offer American style fare and since I ordered the quesadillas, I decided to include them in this Latin cuisine post. Prob one of the best seasoned quesadillas and steak I’ve ever had since I’ve moved to NY. I love the sour cream and hot sauce presentation on top. Servers were also attentive and friendly. I will definitely return to try their other dishes.

Prohibition - Steak Quesadilla

Prohibition - Steak Quesadilla

Q’Kachapa
1552 St Nicholas Ave (between 187th St & 188th St)
10.26

Cachapa is a traditional Venezuelan ground corn pancake filled with cheese and meats, similar to arepas and yo yos. The little restaurant just opened recently and have been doing well. Fresh, homemade, and seasoned well, the place offers many types of pancake sandwiches for your taste buds. My co-worker Will helped me out with the food descriptions. So many choices! So many questions! In the end, I ordered the yo yo with grilled chicken. It was delicious! Included was a sweet plantains fried dough batter sandwich with lettuce, chicken and a spicy mayo type of sauce. I’ve eaten arepas before, and this yo yo doesn’t even compare in terms of taste. Messy to eat, but is simply amazing. Definitely need to come back to try a different sandwich. The workers were nice, but the food took a little longer than usual to cook.

Q' Kachapa - Grilled Pollo YoYo

Q' Kachapa - Grilled Pollo YoYo

Washington Heights and the Upper West Side offers a sea of choices for anyone willing to explore their palates. Everywhere you turn, there is an eatery. Can’t wait to sample other types of new cuisines!

– Charmin Bear J

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New York City: Hillstone Revisited

Hillstone @ 153 E 53rd St.

10.18

For Mund’s birthday dinner, a bunch of his friends had a tradition of going to Hillstone to eat, bringing a few bottles of select wine and just enjoying the night with close friends. I was just happy I got to tag along. The servers were attentive and complimented on the group’s selection of wine, saying how often she sees people bring cheap bottles of case wine =X. I know they’re ballers and that wine was expensive.

Hillstone - Caesar Salad

Hillstone - Caesar Salad

Started off the night with Caesar salads. It’s ribbons of romaine lettuce tossed with a creamy Caesar dressing, rustic seasoned croutons, and grated Reggiano cheese.

Hillstone - Flying Tuna Salad

Hillstone - Flying Tuna Salad

The flying tuna salad, pan seared tuna, field greens, mango, and a miso vinaigrette. I think presentation would of been better if the vinaigrette was left on the side. The plate looks a bit messy with it drizzled over. For the price of $26, you’re getting what you paid for – quality chunks of seared fresh tuna. I’m not even sure we finished the salad part.

Hillstone - Crab Cakes

Hillstone - Crab Cakes

Two sauteéd crab cakes, at $34…I’m starting to think it’s too overpriced. However, when you get two large crab cakes full of meaty lumped crabs, very little binder, seasoned with a popular French Pommery mustard sauce, you won’t regret paying every penny. It even comes with a side of shoe string fries too.

Hillstone - French Dip

Hillstone - French Dip

Ahh, my Famous French Dip sandwich. Hands down the best shaved prime rib sandwich. Tender, juicy beef sandwiched in a buttery French roll. I want the secret recipe to this au jus!

Hillstone - Sole Fish

Hillstone - Sole Fish

Fish special tonight was a sole fish on top of mash potatoes made with olive oil and chives. The fish was coated with bread crumbs and pan fried, dusted with parsley on top. Firm and flaky on the inside, crunchy on the outside. Overall, it was a light, tasty fish.

Hillstone - Hawaiian Rib-Eye Steak

Hillstone - Hawaiian Rib-Eye Steak

The Hawaiian Rib-Eye Steak is marinated with soy ginger. It was a popular choice amongst the crowd. Tender, cooked on the medium rare side and served with your choice of side. We ordered a few of these just so we have enough to go around. It’s what they order every year!

Hillstone - BBQ Ribs

Hillstone - BBQ Ribs

Finger licking good! These BBQ Ribs was also one of the first dishes to be cleared. The meat was flavorful and fell off the bone. Served with shoe string fries and coleslaw. A definite recommendation if you’re ever here.

Hillstone, formerly known as Houstons has been one of my favorite NYC restaurants. There are two locations, the other one on 378 Park Ave South. I’ve been to the E 53rd location a few times. I love the French dip sandwich so much, I had ordered it to go. A delight to my taste buds. Definitely go back again!

– Charmin Bear J

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Bristol: Beehive Cafe

Beehive Cafe @ 10 Franklin St

10.14

Tommy and I stopped by a local cafe after our trip to the farm. We ordered banana bread and orange passion cake to eat. We slurped down the pastries with a honey pot expresso drink and caramel latte. Upon ordering our pastries, I noticed a few flies and mosquitos inside the bakery window – landing and flying around the baked goods. I told the server and she said, “well it’s a humid day and the door is open”…like it happens all the time…I was pretty much appalled, but still ordered. We came to this cafe because of stellar reviews on Yelp…but, I’m afraid I will have to pass up on the next opportunity to dine here. Who knows what else is lurking in the kitchen. We snacked upstairs. It was quiet, relaxing and overlooked the waters.

Beehive Cafe - Carrot Cake and Banana Bread

Beehive Cafe - Carrot Cake and Banana Bread

The banana bread was dry, but really… I think I make a better banana bread. The orange passion carrot cake was good though. A little on the sweet side, but expected of the frosting. It meshed well with the moist cake. The honey pot expresso drink was a concoction of espresso, milk and honey. According to Tommy, way too sweet!! He had the lady remake it. My caramel latte was perfect. Frothy and yummy :D

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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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