Saturday, November 7, 2015

Burger Stop #1: Pub 1842 @ the MGM Grand

 ** Gastropub in its purest form, Pub 1842 is a casual dining option serving up gourmet pub fare. Decent beer selection. Food was great but prices are inflated due to being inside the MGM hotel.**

1842 Burger served with side of fries

1842 Burger ($17): caramelized onions, mushrooms, truffle aioli. I don't know if my brain went into overload from all the tofu cakes I've been feeding it,  but damn, this was the best burger I've ever had. Bun was buttery, patty was juicy, plenty of mushrooms and onions. It was great. It was served with BBQ flavored fries, which I thought was overkill, next time I'll ask for fries without the BBQ seasoning. You need the fries to cut the salt and grease of the burger.  

Cross section of 1842 Burger

Brian got the DOUBLE SMOKED BACON ($18): smoked gouda, American cheese, lettuce, secret sauce, bacon & bacon. It was really greasy. It tasted good but it was not for me. The double bacon and double cheese was too much and the delicious patty got lost in all the grease. I can't imagine the salt content of this dish with the fries, yuck.

17.5 glass of Guinness cost $10. Ouch.

Overall, I really liked this place, it's a creative menu and my favorite burger in Las Vegas. I want to come back and try all their burgers, such as the Peanut Butter burger and their Korean Salmon burger. Being on the Strip makes it a drag for locals but it could be a convenient stop before a show.

Pub 1842 by Michael Mina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cast Iron Skillet for Deep-frying Wings. Final Answer

Remember this little bit of nonsense? It was a post I wrote back in 2009 about cooking wings in a crock pot. Fail. The taste is fairly good, the chicken come fall-off-the-bone tender, kind of like a buffalo chicken wings stew. But that's not what I want in chicken wings! I don't want moist, I want crispy! No, I want crispy and moist, simultaneously. And I want a beautiful caramelized, crackly skin, none of which can be achieved with a crock pot. How to make this sublime state of chicken? It has baffled me for years. And how do the restaurants get their chicken so tender and crispy? Mine always came out flaccid, limp and too oily. Honestly, I don't know how the chains do it, but for me, the solution has been the cast-iron skillet.

Look how beautifully they're browing

I don't know why cast-irons fry so well. My 1970's kitchen doesn't allow me to do much. I can't really saute, flambe, or bake. Pretty much I can fry and that I do well thanks to my cast iron skillet. I've tried the deep-fryer, I've tried parboiling and I've tried twice-frying. The two latter techniques were good but much too labor-intensive AND they did not achieve optimal results. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, the cast-iron and ONLY the cast iron creates that beautiful crispy caramelization on the skin. See pic below.

And it's so easy and simple. The only drawback is I can only do one batch (about ten wings) at a time. If I do more, the oil get too dirty and it doesn't come out as good. 

So, here's my ten-year secret. Glaze those babies with your favorite hot sauce or ranch and you got some good eating. 

* 8-10 chicken wings, partially frozen is ok. Optimal if they're fresh and cold from the refridgerator. 
* Enough safflower oil to submerge the wings halfway
* Salt, Pepper, pinch of smoked paprika

1. Heat the oil in the cast iron skillet at about 300 degrees. Oil is ready when you throw water in it and it sizzles. Use enough oil to partially submerge the wings, but NOT cover it. 

2. Gently place the wings in the oil. If you have a thermometer, the cold chicken will cool off the oil to about 200 degrees. Perfect! That's what you want. Let the wings cook while the oils warms up. It gives it the twice-cooked results without actually taking out the chicken and changing the temp of the oil. 

3. Cook the wings, 5 minutes on each side, then give it a turn. Cook for 20 mins total or when the juice in the wings run clear. Place wings in a strainer and drain the excess oil. Sprinkle salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to your liking. 

If you want to give it an extra kick, here's the recipe for my dry rub and my hot sauce. But the wings are so good with just a little salt and pepper, it's all I need. 

Dry Rub
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tblsp all purpose flour

This rub is enough for 4 lbs of wings, so I'd make a batch, use some, and store the rest in the cupboards. You can sprinkle the dry rub after 15 mins of frying. Take the wings out, sprinkle the rub, raise the oil temp is need be and fry the wings for another 5 minutes. I don't recommend frying the chicken with the rub for longer than 10 minutes. Cayenne and flour gets burned. 

Hot Sauce
1/2 cup butter, or you can even use the left-over chicken grease. Pretty sure that's what Hooters does, anyways. It tastes great.
1 cup hot sauce that's not too hot, such as Frank's (since Frank's is expensive, I make my own with 3/4 cup Tapatio, 1/8 cup vinegar, 1/8 cup BBQ sauce or use sugar to taste)

Mix together and pour over wings. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Chain Gang: Starbuck's new Vanilla Macchiato and America has the Best Donuts in the World

I'm going to try something new. I got this idea from a blog called Brand Eating. I'm going to start a new series called the Chain Gang. I will be reviewing new menu items from chain restaurants and new food items from popular store brands.  Why review a chain? Well, they're always coming up with new stuff, always changing their menus, so someone needs to report if it's any good. We, the food snobs of the internet, have poo-poo'd chains from our diet. So that's even better! Less noise, less competition.

Let's kick off this series with Starbuck's new Iced Vanilla Macchiato.
Handcrafted one layer at a time, this macchiato promises a tantalizing journey of textures and flavors. Velvety-smooth foam. Sweet vanilla-flavored syrup. A perfectly pulled shot of our bold espresso. And on top, a drizzle of Madagascar Bourbon vanilla mixed with brown sugar, butter and a dash of salt. from the Starbuck's website

Hot version from Starbuck's website

I ordered the Tall Iced Vanilla Macchiato for $4.75. I'll be honest, I didn't taste the Madagascar Bourbon (wow, that sounds so exotic) and couldn't really distinguish the brown sugar, butter, or salt. All I tasted was a sweet, caramelish flavored syrup on the bottom of my cup. When I mixed it with the rest of the espresso and milk, the flavor completely got lost in the strong espresso. If I was to do it again, I'd get it hot instead of cold. The hot isn't as diluted in flavor and they put a generous lacing of the Vanilla on top of the foam. So, I'd say the iced version was a bust. It was good, but almost the same as ordering an iced latte then adding some sugar.

The day was not completely lost! I was still at the ultra-busy New York New York hotel, home to America Restaurant, home to the best donuts in the world!

The day before I ordered the original cronut, the nutella cronut and the bacon maple bar. The cronuts are absolutely amazing. It has that perfect airy texture, with each separate layer having a flaky crispness. Delicious and well worth the $3.50, the cheapest I've seen in town. The bacon maple bar was good too, the smoky bacon flavor was getting lost in the dough, so I just peeled off the top layer and ate it. Their raised donuts were okay but not my thing. 

Of course I had to get up at 5am the next morning to try some more! The next day I got the maple bar, their special (it tasted a lot like a lemon-herb cream-fill), lemon cronut, apple fritter and a glazed twist. 

Best Apple Fritter in the World! 

Their apple fritters is the best I've ever tasted. The actual donut is very light and crispy, the glaze is not too sweet, and the filling tastes fresh, not overly cloying, nor is there an abundance of it.

Lemon Cronut and Iced Vanilla Macchiato

The lemon cronut was great but my favorite was the nutella. The glazed donut and maple bar were great too. Before I knew it, they had vanished!

Glazed Cronuts

In conclusion, go to America for the doughnuts. I haven't eaten at the restaurant but from reading other people's reviews, I'd say, "pass." Looks like an over-priced tourist trap.
But the cronuts are legit!

America on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Being Bored-dain: Vila Algarve, My Doorway to Portuguese Cuisine

It's been a while since I've done anything for my being bored-dain series. Bored-dain is a pun on Anthony Bourdain, a writer and eater I occasionally despise but envy as well. He gets to travel all over the world and eat. What a life! Well, I don't have the resources to travel but I do sit around and eat. A lot. Although I no longer live in Los Angeles, the melting pot of the world, Las Vegas has culinary adventures too.

My latest culinary discovery has been Portuguese food. Some background info on Portugal, the Portuguese Empire was the longest-lived of the modern European colonial empires, spanning almost 600 years. It is located on the Iberian Peninsula, and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the West and Spain on the West and North. (from wikipedia)

I have never tried, or even heard of Portuguese food. So when a new Portuguese restaurant opened up (the ONLY Portuguese restaurant in Las Vegas) the four of us decided to give it a try.

Haloumi Cheese Appetizer

We left all the ordering to Mike, as the rest of the party was befuddled about Portuguese food as I was. We started with several appetizers: the Chorizo, which beared little resemblance to its Mexican cousin, was served flaming tableside. It tasted a lot like kielbasa. Next, we had grilled Haloumi cheese (pictured above), Haloumi cheese is a cheese made from sheep's milk. It was very mild in flavor with a slight rubbery texture.

Snails in Thick Garlic Cream

My favorite appetizer of the meal was the Snails in Thick Garlic Cream. I love this dish. You can't go wrong with cream sauce, melted cheese and garlic. The snails added a meaty umami flavor to it. Of course, you can find this dish in French restaurants around town but Vila's Algarve's was decent, if not unique.

Chicken Trinchado

Our last appetizer was the Chicken Trinchado made with red wine, cream sauce, olives and served with toasted bread. It tasted a lot like a mild curry.

The main dish was the Bacalao (pronounced bak-a-lau). Bacalao means dried cod fish and is a staple of the Portuguese diet. There are many recipes and versions of it. This version had the bacalao mixed in with potatoes, onions and garlic and served with a salad. The owner gave us a short history on bacalao, it used to be poor people food and salting the cod was a way to preserve it. Now, it's a delicacy because of the amount of work needed to make the cod edible. The salted cod is soaked in fresh milk for a week and every day the milk has to be changed. The soaking makes the fish pliable and gets rid of the salt. The result is a very soft and mild tasting fish, which was served shredded. 

For dessert we had house-made tiramisu that was light and delicious. In conclusion, Vila Algarve was a culinary experience, worthy of being bored-dained. I don't know if I'd go back, but I'm glad that I got to get out of my comfort zone and try Portuguese food.  If Portugese doesn't excite you, the place has conventional pizza, burgers and pasta dishes too. And they're working on their liquor license and what looks to be a nightclub/dance floor. 

Vila Algarve on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sambalatte on Jones: Now you can steampunk your coffee!

Being a woman of leisure has its challenges. Such as, now what am I going to do for forty hours a week? Smiley

First world problems, I know, I know. Well, I decided a good way to pass the time was to join a traveling book club. Wow, how esoteric, you say? Not really, I have ulterior motives. Now I have an excuse to go to quaint coffee houses and guiltlessly drink and eat the night away.

I was surprised to find out that while Las Vegas may be the mecca for food and drink, it is NOT the mecca for coffeehouses. But there were a few that have been on my radar for awhile, so I decided to give them a try.

My first stop was the newly opened Sambalatte on Jones. Its sister store, Sambalatte Torrefazione in Summerlin, has become a Las Vegas sensation. It was voted 2012 Best Coffee by the Las Vegas Review Journal and Huffington Post's declares it's one of the best coffee shops in the country!

Picture from Las Vegas Review Journal
The Sambalatte on Jones still has some growing pains. The first time I went, they were still training their cashier. The second time I went, they were closed at 8pm. For the outrageous prices they charge, I was expecting nothing less than impeccable, perfect service. Not even close, but the upside is it has that mom-and-pop feel in a kitschy sort of way. (sidenote: on my third visit here, I saw one of the owners, I believe her name was Sheila. So obviously, Sambalatte is still a family-run business).

Onto the coffee... I am by no means a coffee expert. Honestly, I stopped drinking coffee when I stopped working. But I was intrigued by Sambalatte's Steampunk press. The Steampunk brews the coffee four ways: it acts like a old-fashioned drip, a french-press, a slow-coffee pour over and a siphon. You can read more about it here.

Picture from
In essence, what it does is heats the water on the bottom, then siphons it up to the top, and acts like a fast-acting french press and finally the coffee is pressed out through the bottom. Words can't do it justice, you gotta see it. It's a cool little contraption.

Does it make a better coffee? It's suppose to. The hot water is in contact with the oils from the coffee grinds and its suppose to make a better tasting cup. Although a siphon brewer can do this too, the Steampunk regulates some of the x-factors, such as temperature of the water and time to make a good press.

Mumbo-jumbo? Honestly, to a non-coffee connoisseur, it's more for show. I ordered the Sumatra blend and it was far from the best tasting liquid to pass through my mouth. It still tasted like coffee, even a bit too acidic, but that could've been the Sumatra blend I chose (I picked it because the name sounded cool). I will say it was a STRONG cup of coffee and it had me jiving all day. Pic is below.

Steampunk'd coffee, Sumatra blend

The FOOD... amazing. Nothing short of amazing. This is where Sambalatte shines and why I'm a frequent visitor. I've tried their Quiche Lorraine, Nutella bomb, Tiramisu and their man-cakes. The Quiche Lorraine and their Tiramisu were heavenly little pillows of yum. Their Nutella bomb was interesting but their man-cakes were meh (they're in the sandwich refrigerator, they're fancy protein bars).

Honorable mentions are their loose leaf teas, which are brewed in a french press. And my bf had the blended mocha, which he thought was just ok. It's not very sweet, which may appeal to a lot of people.

Egg-white Frittata

In conclusion, Sambalatte is a great overall sensory experience. Sip. Savor. Enjoy. is their motto and they have nailed all three. Their prices are ludicrous but Sambalatte isn't Starbucks, it's not an everyday coffee stop shop. It's more a special occasion place, to go on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and idle the day away reading about faraway lands with mysterious dark-headed men.

Sambalatte on Urbanspoon

The fascinating book that I'm reading for my traveling book club is called Anatolian Days and Nights

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Welcoming the Year of the Horse at Wing Lei

Photo from

2014 ushers in the year of the Wood Horse, a year that is to be filled with conflicts and energy, at least according to this article. So what better way to welcome the horse than with a grand dim-sum brunch at Wynn's Wing Lei.

Wing Lei is a fascinating place. It's the only Chinese restaurant in North America that has received a Michelin star. The restaurant's decor is gorgeous. It is decorated in gold and green, plates are plated in gold and the servers wear white gloves.

I suggested going to their bi-annual dim-sum brunch so that we could taste a variety of dishes, thereby getting a good overall flavor of the place. At $68.88 (yes, that's the price, Chinese love the 8) I assured my gastro-superior dining mates that it would be worthy of their palates and we will not be getting the leftover scraps fried with chop suey. And the quality of the food did not disappoint. Actually, we agreed that the brunch is a veritable bargain, as one could go to town at their seafood bar alone and easily eat $100 of lobster tails and king crab claws.

As much as the high quality seafood was around and plentiful, I only reserved a small portion of my stomach for it as there were so many other fascinating dishes to try. Their dim sum was exceptional, none of it was overly creative or extraordinary, just the best of old favorites. 

Lobster dumpling, scallop dumpling, pork bun and pork dumpling

Pineapple pork bun
My favorite dish were the pork belly with the top layer of fat cooked to caramelized perfection. Two other memorable dishes were their sea bass and their Peking duck. Michael and I had eaten at Blossoms the weekend before and both of us were ecstatically telling Shawn that it was the best Peking duck we ever had. Low and behold, the Wing Lei version was just as good. It had the perfect crispy skin, fatty duck meat, and the most amazing five spice seasoning I've ever tasted. 

Tummies full, we wandered over to their decadent dessert table where the three of us went to town. My favorite dessert of the night was the caramel coffee crunch and their salted caramels. 

Sidenote: the executive chef, Ming Yu, was visibly standing by the tables but seemed shy, so I didn't ask for a photo-op. Besides, I can't stand foodie groupies. 

Overall, it was an amazing experience. I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves dim sum, buffets, or the Wynn. The service was exceptional, even though it was partially self-serve. And being buffet-style did not take away from the overall experience. 

P.S. If you want to read a very detailed description of all the dishes we samples, click on Michael's blog here

P.P.S. Wing Lei is a Michelin star restaurant but they don't seem to enforce a dress code. You can wear shorts, but please don't. 

Gong Hei Fat Choy! 

Wing Lei on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mo-chica at the El Mercado La Paloma

El Mercado La Paloma is the epitome of LA diversity. This colorful food court is located in a less desirous neighbhorhood near USC. Inside is some of the best homestyle eats to be found in LA, and home to one of my favorite restaurants, Mochica.

"Mochica is a language from a pre-Incan civilization from the Northern coast of Peru known as the moche" from Mochica's website. Interesting, but it doesn't tell much about the food, which I will describe as a fusion. It doesn't resemble any Peruvian food I've tasted (i.e., Pollo Inca) instead Mochica has a Japanese influence, food is more refined, much care is put into the presentation.

I've enjoyed everything I've eaten here, not least their colorful beverages, which are laid out in huge plastic barrels out front. My favorite is the eye-catching Chicha Morada, a deep purple drink made from purple corn. It is surprisingly tart and refreshing. My second favorite is their Chebada, a drink made of barley, reminiscent of Korean teas I drank in my youth.

Appetizers are a must here, I recommend their sashimi grade Ceviche Del Dia. The raw pieces of fish, which changes seasonally, is prepared like a ceviche, but the size, flavor and quality of the cuts are much better. Another popular appetizer is the Causa Del Dia, a fancier version of potato salad.

Ceviche Del Dia, photo courtesy of Mo-Chica

Causa Del Dia, picture courtesy of Mo-chica

For entree, I highly recommend their Quinotta or the Lomo Saltado. Quinotto is a play on two words, quinoa and risotto. The dish is made from quinoa grain but served risotto-style, with creme fraiche and wild mushrooms. It is creamy and delicious, probably my favorite dish of all. If you're craving protein, the Lomo Saltado is the way to go, it's a generous portion of beef.

Prices are reasonable, the atmosphere is cozy, but the food is great. The unusual location makes Mo-Chica more interesting, like a secret location found by following back roads on an archaic map. The neighborhood needs improvement but I never felt threatened at La Paloma during the day and there's ample parking. It's a short drive from downtown LA and definitely worth checking out!

Mo-Chica on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 1, 2010

L'Atelier De Joel Robuchon

Ahhhh Las Vegas.... there's so many Michlin stars sparkling like diamonds along the Strip, a foodie paradise. Chris and I decided to up my foodie credentials and go to Sin City for a foodiefest. The highlight of our weekend was L'Atelier De Joel Robuchon. This place was amazing, I must say a few paradigms were shifted after my dinner here. Joel Robuchon, touted as one of the world's greatest chefs, did not disappoint.

The cuisine was Cal French, rather then classical French and the L'Atelier was not as formal as the Mansion. The seating is casual, similar to a sushi bar, and interacting with the staff and other diners was encouraged. Chris loved this arrangement but I did not.  I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with a fellow foodie next to us but I found it hard to relax. However, the uncomfortable seating did not diminish the quality of the food. Food was spectacular, we both got the Club Tasting Menu for $75 per person. It comes with five courses and choice of main entree.

The amuse bouche was foie gras with parmesan cheese foam. It was argueably the best bite of the night.

I loved the presentation of the amuse bouche and the bread. It was on pieces of finished stone, for the amuse bouche, the stone was hot, but for the butter it was ice cold. Butter had the texture of a soft cheese, I was told it was because it was imported from France.

First course was pumpkin and ginger cream with crunchy seeds, followed by crispy langoustine fritter with basil pesto.

Main entrees were the beef rib eye and the scottish salmon with aromates and cripsy potatoes. They were both good, the beef was very fatty and the salmon perfectly cooked. The Club entrees were more standard fare, dishes that would not offend anyone. While I liked the entrees, I wished I didn't order the Club menu and wished I tried something more exotic from their regular menu. Both entrees came with a side of Robuchon's famous mash potatoes, 50% potato, 50% butter.

From the regular menu we ordered the maine lobster in a tomato sauce with green asparagus. This dish would be excellent for anyone who loves lobster.

The highlight of the evening was the dessert. I ordered the traditional tartes while Chris got the ice cream and sorbets. They were scrumptious.

After dinner we saw Zumanity at New York, New York, it was a fantastic night. However the highlight of the night was the food. What a great way to start a great night out in sin city!

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (MGM Grand) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Asia De Cuba: Not Asian, Very Californian

I really admire people who can blog once a week. Kudos. My love to eat should match my love to write. Two months to produce a post isn't too bad? Or is it?

Here it is, two months later, my Asia De Cuba review. It will be my first BOB review. BOB stands for Bloggers on a Budget. Asia De Cuba is far from a bargain, but I went during DineLA Week (yes, two months ago, shhhh) and it was a bargain. I tried two appetizers, three entrees and three desserts for $57. Wow! Talk about celeb dining on a pleb budget.

Asia De Cuba is located inside the posh Mondrian Hotel, which is located on the ulta-hip section of Sunset Blvd. It's rumored to be Britney's favorite hotel. Celebrity sightings are common here. The food is okay, it's suppose to be "fusion". It's more about the ambiance than the food. Also, I went during DineLA week, so I'm not going to be too harsh. 3 for the food, 5 for the ambiance, Asia De Cuba gets a solid 4.

Onto the food! Appetizers were the Tunapica, a tuna tartare prepare picadillo style and Lemongrass Skewered Chicken in a coconut chili marinade, served with grilled pineapples and lychees. A+ for presentation (pictured below), the chicken was my favorite dish of the night, very flavorful. Tunapica was nothing special, I've had better tuna tartare elsewhere.

The food got worse from there. I was disappointed with the main courses. First was the best, Miso Cured Alasken Butterfish atop black beans and edamame salad with Tempura shisito pepper (pictured below). The miso cured white fish (in this case, Butterfish) is so overly done, it's not special anymore. I felt I could've found this dish at a dozen other places, just down the street. Edamame does not taste good to me out of the pod. I don't know why, I love picking them from the pod, but they taste like lima beans when served this way.

The next two entrees were utterly forgettable and better versions could be found at Black Angus. They were the Grilled Strip Steak with calabaza melon slaw in citrus ginger soy and Cuban BBQ Chicken, served with coconut sticky rice, tamarind sauce and fruit salsa. Both were bland, both were boring. Chicken was well-cooked but the marinade could've come from a jar, as far as I could tell. Pics are below.

The dinner took an upturn for dessert. Wow. Desserts were fabulous to behold and not bad to taste. My favorite were the Mexican donuts (only because the presentation was beautiful and they came to the table warm) but the Cuban Opera cake and fruit sorbet were good too. Next time, I'll order the appetizers and dessert and just enjoy the ambiance.

Here's the happy group of foodies outside the hotel. :)

Asia de Cuba on Urbanspoon


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