BurGR

 

burgr burgr2

Went to Las Vegas this weekend and tried Gordon Ramsey’s famed BurGR restaurant. (Capital GR for Gordon Ramsay!)

We were much too excited to take photos before diving into the burgers, but from the service to food, we thoroughly enjoyed our experience here.

The display of flames were quite impressive and we ended up buying a copy of the photos they took of us at our table. We weren’t about to buy them but as a last ditch effort to sell them the photog offered 2 for $10. She framed them well with the flames and restaurant logo behind us, so we took her up on it =)

Now for the important part: the food!

Maui Onion Rings: DELICIOUS – especially as they came out first and we were quite hungry. The onions were juicy, not dry and stringy as is the risk any time you order onion rings. The batter was well seasoned and nice and crispy. Comes with a truffle aioli and house ketchup (curry, I think).

Hell’s Kitchen Burger: asadero cheese + roasted jalapeño peppers + avocado + oven roasted tomato. Cooked medium – had the perfect amount of heat to pick up the taste without being too spicy. Roasted peppers and tomato gave it a smokey taste that complimented the heat and rich cheese/avo flavors too.

Gordon Ramsay Burger (not on the menu, but the award winning entree here): avocado + cheese (I think it was the english cheddar) + option of beef or pork patty (pork is recommended, and what I got). Juicy and delicious, think of the basic flavors in a burger, take them to the next level and this is what you’ve got. I loved the pork patty, it gave a slightly different and tender texture here that seemed even juicier than beef.

Truffle Parmesan Fries: Disappointing, would not recommend these (would try the sweet potato fries next time, or even TWO onion ring dishes instead!). Same aiolis came with these as did with the onion rings. Seasoning was good, but when paired with the truffle aoili was a bit too truffle-y. The fries were overcooked. Dry and lacking the fresh fluffy feeling fries should have when you bite into them.

We also got a few drinks. The waitress had a drink menu on an iPad for us to flip through. I had some sort of berry spritzer which was tastey. I liked the mixed drink Jon selected with a shot of whisky in it though – it was sweeter than I expected (which helped balanced the normally dry taste I’ve experienced with whisky). They were a good strength and did their job.

Tip: If you’re a Total Rewards member, you can save $1 off the entrees and apps!

tatsu ramen

ramen

This review is years overdue. Tatsu Ramen is THE BEST – and my absolute favorite restaurant in the Little Osaka neighborhood.

Both Jon and I have had bouts where we’ve stayed home sick and had Tatsu ramen every day for a week. I’ve taken many a friend and family there for an impressively delicious meal and converted them into fellow Tatsu lovers.

First thing to do when you get to Tatsu: place your order on iPads near the door. Explore the menu, select your broth, level of spiciness, garlic, onion, protein (pork, free-range chicken, or organic tofu), and any add-ons or sides. Then pay, and take your receipt to the wait staff who will seat you before sending your order to the kitchen. Your food is always steaming and fresh. The owner and creator of Tatsu Ramen modeled this after what he experienced in his native Japan where they order on a vending-type machine, and collect a ticket with their order on it to present for their food. I like that Tatsu takes a modern twist on this, and more importantly it’s not pre-packaged ramen broth or anything. It’s all made fresh for Tatsu.

Tatsu might not have the most traditional ramen, but in my opinion, it beats traditional ramen. The fried garlic topping makes for a healthy(ish) and delicious flavor profile along with the 10 other bold ingredients in their Bold Ramen, my favorite item on their menu. The eggs are perfectly seasoned and soft boiled. The yolk, still gushy, provides an even richer mouthful with your noodles and broth.

Their fried rice is also pretty damn good.My 1-year-old niece couldn’t get enough of it. I like to think I have high fried rice standards, but this restaurant meets my demands. Not too greasy, a bit of stickiness to hold it together, plenty of aromatics (green onion), flavorful meat (char siu), and egg (the best part!).

Tatsu is there for your sick days, your hangovers, the precursory night to your hangovers, cold grey weather, lazy Sundays, lazy anydays, really, any occasion. It’s open ’til 2am every night but Th-Sat it’s open until 3am.

UPDATE – Dec. 2015:

The above is for the food ONLY. The service, sorry to say, is subpar. In many recent visits, it’s taken much too long to get seated. I can only say it was “much too long” because there were a few separate occasions in which groups who ordered much later than my group got seated and FINISHED their food before my group was even seated. I was only ever in a group of 2 or 3, so it couldn’t be attributed to needing a big area to seat a large group. Service has been pretty disappointing, but their food is so addicting I still manage to crave it and go! (Getting items to go is pretty much our standard now so we don’t have to deal with the service)

spicy pork sandwich from seoul sausage company

spicy pork sandwichSeoul Sausage Company started as a food truck – I remember first encountering it years ago in K-town at a food festival in a small parking lot. I somehow managed to have too many tickets to redeem for food and ended up eating TWO sausages from these guys, on top of full meals from other trucks. Incredibly, they were still enjoyable.

Now they have a more permanent location in Little Osaka: a storefront off Sawtelle that’s poppin’ even on weekdays. They’re a down to earth spot with great staff; even though I’ve only been inside once (so far!) I remember how nice the guy was behind the counter when we couldn’t decide what to get. I’m pretty sure he gave us free drinks when we realized we forgot to order them.

seoul sausage coJon brought me take-out from Seoul Sausage Company last night – a Spicy Pork Sandwich. He’d eaten there and ordered the Poutine, which he described as a creamy french fry dish.

The sandwich buns threw me back to earlier childhood days, when burgers were a simpler affair. My first bite was actually quite spicy – much hotter than any other bite into the sandwich. I think I may have bitten into a rouge and substantial chili or something since none of the other bites had the same amount of heat. In fact, aside from the echo of that first spice, “sweet” is how I’d describe this sandwich.

The apple cabbage slaw provided a creamy respite to the heat of that first bite, but I’m not the biggest mayo person, so as I continued to eat, it was a bit much. The patty is the star of the show here, and I made sure that for my last bite, I savored it alone—sans bun or slaw!

I’d recommend it as a new blend of flavors to try, but think that next time I’d like to try one of their balls instead =D

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jury duty and grand central market


20150115_124617 copyI got pretty lucky yesterday. Sure, I didn’t get selected to serve Jury Duty after being called in to court, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I got to visit the Grand Central Market during my lunch break!

They gave us a generous 1.5 hour lunch break, plenty of time to explore Grand Central Market, savor a sentimental meal, and enjoy the sun at Grand Park.

I used to visit Grand Central Market as a kid with my grandma. Back when bus transfers were free, we’d stop by on our way to/from Chinatown and buy produce. Dragging a rolly cart along would help us to take advantage of major sales like taking home half my weight in tomatoes. At 8 lbs for $1, I’m not far off from the truth!

It’s sure changed a lot since then. As with the rest of downtown, it’s re-invented itself as a go-to spot for lunch and other foodstuffs. Stands like Olio Wood Fired Pizza, Press Brothers Juicery, or The Oyster Gourmet draw new, younger life in this historic building. The line for Eggslut wrapped around the stand. I was tempted to join in because who doesn’t love egg–centric food? 😉 Still, I felt nostalgic for old comforts instead.

Sarita’s Pupuseria has been around since before the eggsluts and fancy juices got there. I’ve had their pupusas many times before. Of course they’re handmade to order – I can’t think of a time I’ve ever had a pupusa that wasn’t handmade. But I can’t give a recent review of their pupusas because I ordered platanos fritos con frijoles y crema.

20150115_122620 copyThis dish isn’t anything particularly special, nor is it specific to El Salvador. However, I can say that it is traditional (perhaps mostly for breakfast) and when done right, hits the spot like nothing else. At Sarita’s, the platanos were certainly ripe enough and the natural sugars had crystallized into the perfect crispy-yet-chewy, sweet crunch on the edges. Plantain ripe-ness can be a big problem when ordering, which is why I usually like to see them before ordering. A darker color and seemingly limp texture are signs of delicious and sweet platanos that compliment the savory rich beans and sour cream. Underripe plantains will lead to a dry and tough meal, missing the sweet compliment to the beans/cream.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t try anything new. I stopped by the Booch Bar by Better Booch to try the Kombucha. I was looking for a healthful drink that might have a bit of caffeine in it to keep me from falling asleep in the juror’s waiting room. I sampled every flavor they had on tap. That’s right, they have tea on tap.

Daily Revival was my first sample and it was a clean and refreshing flavor. Simple and appropriate for a drink if you weren’t afraid to shell out about $6/16 oz. drink on a daily basis. I’m a huge fan of ginger in general and particularly love ginger teas. The Ginger Boost here, however, was much too sweet for me. Same with the Morning Glory, although a fellow sampler filled a growler with it, claiming it had a taste of coconut (I didn’t taste any coconut).

Snow Day - Better BoochI ended up with Snow Day. Living in Los Angeles, this is a dream the kombucha somehow achieved. Light, not too sweet, the chilled drink managed to warm and refresh me. I’m a sucker for ciders and almost anything remotely related to holiday treats. The ingredients listed only: rooibos tea, honeybush, evaporated cane juice, kombucha and other probiotics—all organic. I could have sworn it had notes of cinnamon and cloves, but maybe Better Booch’s specialty is to make you taste what you desire. It was served in a bottle and the guy serving it warned me it wouldn’t quite be as fizzy as what was on tap. True, but it didn’t take away at all from the delicious and refreshing drink.

eating at sun palace, cancun

anniversaryWe spent a week at Sun Palace, Cancun: a couples-only all-inclusive resort right on the beach. All the food and drinks you can imagine, with impeccable Service. That’s right – Service with a capital S. They surprised us with a bottle of wine upon arriving and one night we came back to our room to find champagne and chocolate cake waiting for us for our special occasion (see pic above!). Room Service never disappointed – they even made a small pot of thyme tea at our request (we got sick while there and found online that thyme tea is a popular German remedy for cold/sore throats). Knowing it was a healing/herbal remedy tea, they brought it up on a tray with a lime, cut in wedges, and honey too!

They have several restaurants, and over the course of our stay we tried most of them. I’ll say that the most impressive part of each was the presentation of the food. It was lavish and clear that each plate had individual attention (even when it’s in the buffet!). When going to an a la carte restaurant for dinner, each spot has a house appetizer they serve to all guests. It was a neat surprise for each meal.

El Alamo:
This was the main eatery, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It had a buffet that served international foods for breakfast and lunch along with 2 made-to-order areas. Can’t ever go wrong eating here.
Breakfast: Daily, the buffet had cold cuts, a selection of cheese and cream, scrambled eggs, bacon and more. They changed up the preparation for beans (sometimes black beans, sometimes pinto, whole or fried). They also served a variety of other foods which were different depending on the day including Mayan style tamales, platanos with honey (or without honey some days, which I preferred), grilled pineapple, breakfast potatoes/hash browns, and bacon (which was definitely there daily). An omelette station on one side and a waffles, pancakes, french toast, eggs station on the other. They also had hot oatmeal and hot chocolate, an assortment of fruits, yogurt, cereals and sweet breads.
Lunch: The cold cuts are here again, as well as assorted fruit. There is also a selection of salads that changes daily. The made-to-order area on one side had burgers, flank steaks, chicken, a roast or some sort of carved meat, and on the other, seafood (salmon, really fresh/thickly-sliced calamari, white fish (not sure what kind), shrimp, scallops, one day they had a whole grouper available for pieces too!), sopes, huaraches, tacos, tostadas, cochinita pibil, and more. The seafood was cooked in white wine and seasoned really really well. The cochinita pibil was succulent and flavorful too!
Dinner: This place turns into an a la carte restaurant serving Mexican regional cuisine. I ordered the duck, served with squash and a pipian sauce (small green pumpkin seeds). Pretty good – I liked that the dishes weren’t the expected tacos, burritos, and tamales. We ordered a yummy fondue-like dish as an appetizer (queso fundido con chorizo). But I am a cheese fiend, so I may be biased.

La Tratto:
A restaurant with a dress code. Guys have to wear a button up shirt and nice shoes. I wonder if this is to make sure the woman gets her opportunity at a nice dinner where her man must dress up (most women like to dress up right?). Italian food is usually a pretty safe bet and it’s a safe bet here too. I ordered capellini (one of my favorite types of pasta) with the restaurant’s recommended sauce (a garlicky oil sauce) and shrimp/lobster. It was pretty good, but nothing out of this world. My mom makes a mean garlic shrimp scampi, so I’m a bit spoiled when it comes to quality.  Jon got a steak stuffed with I forget what. It had an amazing presentation on the plate but if you’re looking for a meat dish go to The Steak instead.

Oriental Lounge:
If you’ve ever had any Asian food in your life, I’d skip eating a full meal here and choose to try a new dish at any of the other restaurants (or your favorite dish you already had again!). This restaurant is on a 2nd-level rooftop, giving the location a pretty cute feel and view of the ocean below, but it’s not worth going to outside of that. They started us with edamame and a chef’s soup (which were both pretty good actually). But for claims of sushi, pad thai, and thai curry, the food did not live up to our expectations. The salmon sashimi I ordered was razor thin and doused in soy sauce before it got to the table (making it much too salty). It was a fairly large plate of 16 pieces that looked more like smoked salmon than the one or two thick pieces of fish I am used to getting when I order sashimi. Jon’s pad thai used thick chow-fun style rice noodles instead of the thinner ones I’m used to seeing in pad thai. The Thai curry I ordered wasn’t bad, but just came with the smallest serving of rice I’ve ever seen given at an Asian eatery.
Best items on the menu here were the edamame and chef’s soup (the house app).

The Steak:
A must-eat-at spot. The view alone is reason enough, overlooking the pool and beach in the nighttime. There’s a salad bar and dessert bar and an open grill where you can see your meal being cooked for you. We both wanted a New York steak when we ate here, though they had plenty of other options (rib eye, t-bone, lobster, salmon, and more). The steaks was tender and though I thought they were a little salty, they were still VERY GOOD. The mashed potatoes were mouth-watering delicious, and the bread was super fresh. The house appetizer here were chicken fingers (which were really chicken tenders) and a house dipping sauce which turned out to be one of Jon’s favorites. Would’ve eaten here again to try a seafood dish if we had another chance.

kale chips

Kale Chips

This started when I’d bought a 10 lb bag of organic carrots from Costco. At about $5, the price certainly wasn’t a problem. No, the problem became that I had to figure out what to do with so many carrots. This shouldn’t have been too much of an issue since they’re one of those all-around vegetables, tasty in so many things and cooked every which way: roasted, steamed, soupified, muffin-ed, caked, and more.

BUT I recently completed the Les Mills 21-Day Challenge, a diet that restricts your consumption of grains, dairy, fruits, and processed foods in favor of animal protein and leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables. I’ve since been trying to follow a diet similar to what was prescribed during this challenge. One sticking point is that if you eat carrots, they should be RAW.

I do like raw carrots, but there must be something more creative to do with raw carrots than simply eat them 5 lbs of them as raw sticks. Or raw cubes. Or raw disks. Searching the ‘raw’ category to find raw carrot recipes I found lots recommending using a dehydrator for all sorts of goodies, one of them being carrot chips.

Now why would I be telling you a story about carrots when this post is titled “kale chips”? Because I didn’t end up getting a dehydratorthey’re expensive yo! I couldn’t make the investment just yet on the basis of a 10 lb bag of carrots from Costco.

Anyway, let’s make a long story slightly less long. Among the recipes for dehydrated carrot that popped up on my searches, were recipes galore for KALE CHIPS, including how to make them in the oven. This, I did try.

There is a lot of variation as well as lots of unnecessarily intimidating pieces of advice. Some recipes recommend high temps of 350 degrees and a quick 10 minutes in, with which you must be vigilant, lest they burn in their 11th minute. Others recommend your oven’s lowest possible setting: 175 degrees, “or as low as your oven goes” (makes me think of the limbo… “how low can you go?”) for about an hour, with instruction to turn the oven on and off every 15 minutes. There were those advising you to make sure none of the kale leaves touchif they could fit on two racks instead of one, you surely wouldn’t regret it. At the very least you should toss the leaves halfway through the oven roasting process.

I disagreed with all of it. Surely, I thought, none of that can be absolutely mandatory. More importantly, this would be too much kale babysitting for a lazy Sunday.

I kept searching and found a recommendation posted in a thread on Chowhound that referenced Jacques Pepin’s kale chip instruction: 250 degrees for 25 minutes. Perhaps this wasn’t the whole recipe, but this was all I needed to read in order to decide the course I’d take for my kale chips.

And this is what I did.

The Kale Chip, Uncomplicated

Ingredients:

  • Kale
  • Oil
  • Salt, or other flavoring agent (optional)
  1. Rinse/clean the kale. I used dinosaur kale, also known as Tuscan kale or lacinato kale.
  2. Dry the kale. This can be somewhat laborious because kale have lots of little crinkles and hiding spots for water droplets and humidity. Paper towels, however, are pretty good at soaking up the soggy.
  3. Cut the leafy green part from the tough stems, then into manageable pieces. Kitchen scissors make these cuts clean, but you can use your hands too.
  4. Massage oil onto both sides of the kale pieces. Enjoy the added bonus of moisturized fingertips. (I used coconut oil for this, but you could use olive or another oil)
  5. Optional: Sprinkle with salt/other flavoring agent (I used Hepp’s black truffle salt in one batch and parmesan cheese in another)
  6. Pop these chips-to-be in a 250 degree oven for 20 minutes*

*I recommend you use the 250 degrees and 20 minutes as a starting point. Find out what works for your oven and your tastebuds.

Ok, so the reality is that I popped these chips-to-be into TWO ovens. I did this to try and be more efficient, but it ended up being a great experiment with oven variance.

Oven 1: The oven that comes with my stove, preheated to 250 degrees. I used one aluminum cookie sheet on the top rack and a glass casserole dish on the lower rack. After 25 minutes the chips on top rack/aluminum cookie sheet ended up much crispier than the ones in the glass casserole dish. Not quite sure if this was a result of the glass side walls of the casserole dish or the fact that it was on the second rack.

Oven 2: My smaller, countertop convection toaster oven preheated it to 225 degrees. I used the small aluminum toaster tray that came with it. These kale chips became crispy much more quickly! They start being ready-to-eat chips at around the 15 minute mark but aren’t burnt if they’re in there for 25 minutes either. No one will judge you if you can’t wait and want to start eating them early. Nor will anyone judge you if you forget and leave them in an extra 10 minutes either. I certainly won’t because I was on both ends of the spectrum (yes, in a single cooking episode).

Again, take the liberty to experiment with your oven temperature, timing, and flavoring for your kale chip creations. Perhaps you like your kale chips at the point where they just start to become crunchy. Or maybe you prefer that they crisp up until they nearly dissolve at the touch. I didn’t flip them over halfway through the cooking process and they still turned out great! I also have a tendency to burn myself when I need to reach into the oven, so I try to avoid it when possible. I still managed to burn myself when removing one batch of kale chips from the toaster oven, as small and shallow as that appliance is. Sigh.

Have lots of kale ready (it shrinks tremendously). And be warned: they’re addictive.