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I was going through the photos from my most recent trip home and I discovered a bunch of food pics that I totally forgot about! (Uh-oh, obvious signs of senility!)
In this post, I'm going to go over more of those places/foods that make home, home for me, plus throw in a couple of new places.
First up is Intelligentsia Cafe in Old Pasadena. I dropped by on a Monday to meet up with a dear mentor and friend, PY. I suggested the meetingplace having previously visited Intelligentsia in Silver Lake multiple times. The cafe in Pasadena opened during the past year and has been a boon to the local foodscene. It's a popular coffeebar.
Intelligentsia started in Chicago. Their raison d'être is to provide the "absolute best" Direct Trade coffees. They do this by working alongside the growers that supply them. In addition to developing great coffee, Intelligentsia is committed to their growers' prosperity. In a nutshell, it's carefully crafted coffee with a conscience.
What I Drank
Iced Chai (around 4 USD). It was a good iced chai. Intelligentsia's version had a unique taste to it since they use their own spice blend, of which cardamom is a primary ingredient. I recommend it.
PY had a Chemex brewed single origin cofee that he seemed to enjoy. It's pictured above, next to the iced chai.
One thing I didn't like about the cafe was how loud it was - definitely not my kind of scene. I'd rather lounge and relax in a lively yet muted atmosphere.
Parking: Park in one of the ramps found throughout Old Pasadena. The first hour and a half or two hours is free.
My Rating: out of four stars (good). Open Sunday to Thursday, 7 AM to 8 PM, and Friday and Saturday, 7 AM to Midnight. Credit cards accepted. www.intelligentsiacoffee.com
After having one of the most important conversations in my life with PY, we met up with another dear friend of mine, PP, and went to dinner at Tokyo Wako in Pasadena's Paseo Colorado.
Tokyo Wako is a Western-style teppanyaki restaurant once made popular in the U.S. by the Benihana restaurant chain. At Tokyo Wako, guests are treated to a kind of cooking demonstration where the chef cooks the food they eat right in front of them with flourish.
Now, I'll be upfront with this: I think the quality of food and ingredients at eateries like Tokyo Wako isn't the best. In fact, I shy away from these places because food isn't really the star, the show is. That being said, what makes teppanyaki restaurants worth the trip is the entertainment provided by the chefs. Their skills are both admirable and breathtaking.
What We Ate
PY, PP, and I ordered one protein each from the "Complete Dinner Teppan-yaki" menu (17.25-25.95 USD) - Hibachi Chicken, Filet Mignon, and Hibachi Salmon. We shared each protein so that each of us could enjoy a variety of meats.
1. Sliced Mushrooms and Green Onions in Dashi Broth. A nice starter. The broth based on fish stock was hot and tasty. The mushrooms didn't add much to the soup, though.
2. Salad. Quite standard. The dressing was tangy and umami laden.
3. Fried Rice. I had a dubious feeling in regards to how the chef made the fried rice (I am very specific on how it needs to be done), nevertheless, the results turned out fine. Here's a picture of the chef doing his thing:
Just watch those fists of fury!
I failed to take photos of all the proteins and vegetables we ate that night. However, I remember the disgust I expressed as a result of some off flavors in the proteins we ate. For example, the shrimp (provided as a generous extra) tasted like salmon. Shrimp should not taste like salmon! The two ingredients must've shared space in the same container. Maybe the shrimp were free because the kitchen was trying to get rid of them (old product).
As I mentioned previously, it's all about the show at Tokyo Wako. The highlight of the evening was an onion volcano that spouted flame at the chef's urging!
Bravo to the chef who took care of our table that night! He did a fantastic job and we tipped him generously in return.
I don't know if you notice the lady forlornly looking over at the pyrotechnics happening on our table in the photo above. My friends and I had the best show going that evening. I felt sorry for the rest of the envious guests in the vicinity. Just so you know, not all the chefs at the restaurant pull out all the tricks in the bag.
Parking: Park in Paseo Colorado's underground garage. Make sure you get your parking ticket validated before leaving the restaurant.
My Rating: out of four stars (good). Tokyo Wako in Pasadena is open Monday to Friday, 11:30 AM to 2 PM for lunch and 5 PM to 10 PM for dinner. On weekends, Saturday from Noon to 10 PM, and Sunday, Noon to 9:30 PM. Credit cards accepted. www.tokyo-wako.com
PY, PP, and I wrapped up our evening at Temple City's Tea Station. Over some boba, tea, and this treat -
Butter and Sugar over Toast
- we waxed poetic over the vagaries of life (not really, we were just talking). The drinks were good (I had a honeydew smoothie with boba - around 4 USD) and the toast was quite an indulgence.
Parking: There is free public parking behind the tea house and neighboring shops. Enter from Temple City Boulevard.
My Rating: No star out of four stars (satisfactory). The high cost and slow speed of service are too much of a negative distraction to the good drinks and snacks. Open Sunday to Thursday, 11:30 AM to Midnight, and Friday and Saturday, 11:30 AM to 1 AM. www.teastationusa.com
While I was in L.A., I endeavored to spend time with my cousins. On Christmas Day, I met with JY to watch "Les Miserables" at Pasadena's ArcLight. We got there early, so I suggested that before the movie started, we grab a bite at a local favorite of mine - Euro Pane. Sumi Chang opened a new location of Euro Pane right across the street from the cinema/Paseo Colorado and I was interested in checking it out.
What I Ate
1. Croissant (around 4 USD). What a thing of beauty! Not many folks out there make croissants right, but Sumi Chang and the folks at Euro Pane sure do. Crispy on the outside, flaky and buttery on the inside. I wish I had one ready to go in my mouth right now!
2. Salted Caramel Macaron (around 2 USD): Garnished with fleur de sel. Bar none, this is one of my all time favorite macarons out there. It's made with buttercream, which I prefer to ganache, and the flavor is just so rich, sweet, and rapturous.
Parking: Hard to decipher. There are some spots on Colorado Boulevard but your best bet might be the underground garage across the street at Paseo Colorado. There might be a lot in the building itself or out back, too.
My Rating: out of four stars (very good). Open Monday through Saturday, 7 AM to 5:30 PM. Open on Sunday from 7 AM to 5 PM. Credit cards accepted.
I met my other cousin - HY (JY's brother) - on a separate occasion. He has been such a blessing to me and a BIG help when I needed it that I just had to buy him dinner one evening. He works late so I told him we'd go wherever he wanted. He chose BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse in my neck of the woods - Arcadia.
What I Ate
Build Your Own Deep Dish Pizza (individual sized pizza, 8.50 USD): BJ's signature blend of five cheeses, seasoned tomatoes, and anchovies. Yes, I like anchovies! They're usually very salty and can wreck a pizza, but in this version, there was just enough to finish the pizza without a problem.
I also drank a couple of housemade hefeweisens. Garnished with a slice of lemon, they were good drinkin'.
No, we didn't get a Pizookie. Cookie Monster fail!
Parking: Plenty of it in front and along the sides of the restaurant.
The Bill: 46.71 USD.
My Rating: star out of four stars (good). The food's not bad and I like hanging out here (tons of sports channels) with one of the housemade beers. Open Monday to Thursday, 11 AM to Midnight, Friday, 11 AM to 1 AM, Saturday, 10 AM to 1 AM, and Sunday, 10 AM to Midnight. Credit cards accepted. www.bjsrestaurants.com
And finally this time around, Tacos La Bufadora in El Monte, CA.
I am a huge fan of Baja style fish tacos and, in particular, the ones from Tacos Baja Ensenada in East L.A. But more and more, my heart is being stolen by Tacos La Bufadora, which is a heck of a lot closer to where I live in Arcadia. Bufadora has pretty much the same product and offers the same kind of $1 deal for fish tacos on certain days of the week.
I went to Bufadora with my nephew, The Original P, one morning for an awesome breakfast of fish tacos.
Fish Tacos (around 2 USD a pop). Crema Mexicana, pico de gallo, battered and deep fried fish wrapped snugly in a hot, fresh corn tortilla - it's the stuff dreams are made of!
Tacos La Bufadora's chiles gueros don't take no backseat to those at Tacos Baja Ensenada either.
Parking: There's enough parking in the little strip mall that Tacos La Bufadora is located in.
The Bill: Along with a horchata, I don't think the bill exceeded 10 USD, really.
My Rating: out of four stars (very good to excellent). Call for hours. Credit cards accepted. www.tacoslabufadora.com
The Last Word ... Geez, I'm so behind in blog posts! I haven't decided what's next, but I might switch gears for a while and present the stuff I've been eating since I returned to Chicagoland from California. In any case, stick around because there's a lot of good stuff coming up!
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