Chengdu Taste – Honolulu, HI

I am getting a little dizzy with the various name changes of this place already. Didn’t it start as Chengdu and then changed to Mian and now back to Chengdu Taste? Not sure, they are also no longer downstairs…and moved upstairs! It’s okay, I am always down to try some Szechuan food. I tried this restaurant YEARS ago and finally got to try it again last week. And O…M…G…what was I waiting for??

Pork with Garlic Sauce | $10.99

Thinly sliced pork belly drenched in a yummy garlic chili sauce. Tasted great! Great side dish for a big bowl of rice. I would get this again!

Sauteed Tender Chicken with Double Chili | $15.99

Oh boy, did you read this title? I’ll say that the picture in the menu looked more like chilis with a side of chicken but the actual dish is no joke too! Surprisingly not as spicy as I thought it would be or just compared the dishes following this one. Anyway, this is delicious and the chicken is in fact very tender! Would order again.

Mung Bean Jelly Noodle with Chili Sauce | $7.99

Everytime I see this dish on a menu or in videos, I am just automatically drawn to it. I don’t know what it is. The jelly noodles look so delicious (doesn’t help that I just love anything noodle), coupled with the chili oil sauce and all the fixings on top…can we really go wrong? Yes, we can. The first time I had this dish (here at this restaurant in fact!), I remember liking it a lot! This time, I hope it was an off day…but something tasted off. Literally. It tasted like maybe the noodles were turning sour, yes, the whole dish had a very sour taste. I don’t think it was turning bad just yet because I didn’t get sick or anything. Would I give it a try again? Hmm…hard to say. Maybe not at this restaurant.

Wonton with Pepper Sauce (numb-taste) | $10.99

Okay, so…I insisted on getting this wonton dish with the “numb-taste”. I usually get the wontons with the red chili oil sauce which is absolute yum. Did I regret it? Indeed I did. I guess I’m not a big fan of this pepper sauce, it had an interesting taste. Vinegary too. And well, YES, MY WHOLE MOUTH AND LIPS WERE NUMB AND TINGLY. Do you ever wonder about how people figured what is good to eat and not? Like, how did a person think to eat fugu and say…well as long as we clean out some of the innards carefully, we won’t die. How many tries did it take? Why was it okay to keep eating szechuan peppers even though your mouth goes numb, funny stuff huh? Anyway, rambling aside, I would not get this again…lol.

Chengdu Style Fried Rice | $9.99

This dish was a last minute decision because they ran out of another noodle dish we wanted to try…and can I just say HALLELUJAH. If it wasn’t for that, I would never have tried this dish and it was ABSOLUTELY MY FAVORITE DISH OF THE NIGHT. I know, I know…it’s a plate of fried rice. But you guys gotta think, aren’t some of the best dishes out there just the simplest and purest forms of it? This humble little dish of fried rice packed the perfect amount of savory yet in such a simple way. I can’t explain it. I thought maybe it tasted so good due to MSG but I didn’t have the symptoms after eating MSG so maybe not? I immediately looked up the recipe and saw the main ingredient (those little brownish black specks you see) are ya cai. Ya cai is like a preserved mustard cabbage, and you guessed it, I’m going to try to make it. Now, buying the ya cai alone online was $8 so I’m starting to wonder why I don’t just order this dish from them…well, let me live my life. Hahaha, if I don’t succeed, they can always be my back-up. Not that you need to ask, ORDER THIS DISH.

Boiling Point – Los Angeles, CA

Boiling Point is a bit of a trend right now in LA. Hot pot is awesome so I knew we had to try it! It’s a cute concept, each diner gets their very own boiling point. We arrived at a good time, very short wait time. There are so many different options…the restaurant is very dark so it was hard to capture good pictures!

Mala Tri-Beef Hot Soup

Here’s how the dish looks in person. Not exactly the same right? I have to say, I wasn’t a big fan of it. In fact, I traded my dish with my dining companion. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for the mala spices this night? I was not impressed and did not want to return for another meal. Cute idea but I think I prefer Taiwanese hot pots.

Bambu Dessert #10!!!

Here is what made up for the dinner that night. Do you remember Bambu in Hawaii? They were open for a while and specialized in Vietnamese drinks and desserts, I loved them. And I absolutely loved their Dessert #10. I actually customize it and ask for no grass jelly…I’m realizing I only really like the green pandan jelly with the coconut milk. I wonder what kind of looks would be shot at me if I asked for that. Ah…wish we still had one here. I guess I gotta go back to California to get another one…

Ramen Shack Takumiya – Los Angeles, CA

After a long day at Disney (post coming soon!), we wanted to warm ourselves up with some good ‘ole ramen before heading back to the hotel. A lot of restaurants are located in mini strip malls, not something I’m used to but certainly got used to while in California.

Tonkotsu Ramen – Spicy
Ramen Combination – Spam Musubi (!) and Karaage Chicken (3 pcs)

So how was it? I would say it was pretty okay, but not great. I was excited to get the spam musubi as a side dish because it was like a little bit of home in Cali. The musubi was just alright and I think a bit cold, but it was good enough. I think the meal was good but nothing memorable.

Capital Seafood – Los Angeles, CA

Figures my first real meal in Los Angeles would be Chinese food. Not just any Chinese food, dim sum. I think if asked, I would name dim sum as my favorite food. Then again, when I eat dim sum, I order off the regular menu as well (Seafood Chow Mein, y’all!). We ended up at Capital Seafood in Beverly Hills of all neighborhoods. How fancy are we? Not really. We pulled up in our Nissan Sentra and parked on the street, lol.

Not much to explain, it is the same dim sum dishes we can get here in Hawaii. I definitely prefer the dim sum chefs we have here in Hawaii compared to this place. The food was just okay, a bit pricey but considering the neighborhood, I did expect to be helping them pay rent. Good service, good food (good, not great). If you want some Chinese food in a nice setting, this place is it!

Steamed Minced Beef Ball
Shrimp Har Gao
Boiled Beef Tripe
Minced Beef Rice Noodle
Steamed Pork Dumpling

Heavenly Island Lifestyle – Honolulu, HI

Okay, have you folks ever watched Terrace House? I heard about it before but didn’t really start watching it until late last year when I got access to Netflix again (thanks Kyle, lol). I didn’t know where to start so I started on the Hawaii season, out of order I know, but it was kind of neat to watch them go around to local spots. Oh by the way, Terrace House is a reality show much like the Real World, only Japanese so a bit more classy? Haha, is that the word for it? Well, there’s definitely drama up in Terrace House too.

Anyway, Heavenly Island Lifestyle was one of the spots they frequented so I decided to give them a try while I was in Waikiki. The Yelp reviews look great but as I learned in LA, could mean nothing! They seem to focus on healthy and organic foods, so how was it??

Energy Smooth | $7.50

Delicious! This drink includes acai, strawberries, blueberries, banana, and soy milk and it supposed to be good for antioxidant vitamins & good memory. It tastes great so that’s definitely a plus!

Local Eggs Benedict (w/Salmon & Spinach) | $16.00

Homemade hollandaise sauce with lilikoi butter, poached local eggs served with Okinawa purple potato, fresh local salad, and a wheat muffin

Okay, this dish looks too healthy to be good. I get it. Look at the copious amounts of raw kale on the plate. Does one need so much ruffage? Normally I would say no. This time, I must say yes. I usually equate kale as being tough and hard but this kale was so easy to eat. This is the meal I learned about baby kale and boy oh boy, do I love baby kale. The eggs benedict was cooked perfectly as you can see. The kale salad was wonderful with their own dressing. The Okinawan sweet potato was perfection. A little pricey but worth in my opinion.

Heavenly’s Organic Veggie & Beans Loco Moco | $16.50

100% Big Island Kulana beef, local eggs, local ginger soy glaze, and 10 grain rice with local farm green beans, broccoli, organic carrot, organic lentil beans, and organic black beans

Another winner! Not your typical loco moco, no sir. There is no gravy, it is a ginger soy glaze which tastes like comfort home food. Another great dish, I enjoyed it a lot. The veggies was cooked perfectly along with the grains. I enjoyed this new take on loco moco…and Big Island beef? Shoots! I highly recommend this restaurant! They don’t take reservations (for breakfast) and have a bit of a line…but the line moved along pretty quick while I was there.

Bo’s Kitchen – Honolulu, HI

Have you been to Ohana Hale Marketplace yet? I’m still waiting for it to reach it’s full potential! I really hope more vendors jump in and start using that space, it would be like having a craft fair all the time! It’s the perfect venue for new businesses to test the waters, I haven’t had much things to buy the past few visits but they’ve got some pretty cracking food establishments there. The first one I tried is Bo’s Kitchen, I am drawn in by their menu. It’s like Hong Kong street food which we don’t have much of here in Hawaii. I’ve been looking for a restaurant to serve up some good Hainan Chicken and guess who does…

Hainan Chicken

I have wanted to make a homemade Hainan Chicken for years. The chicken you cook is used to infuse almost every element of this dish. You fry up some aromatics in chicken fat to add to the rice as it cooks, you gently poach/cook the whole chicken to get the softest/juiciest meat (even the breast!), use the broth to make a nice little soup to accompany your meal. The sauces for the chicken include a sweet soy sauce, chili sauce and a cold ginger chicken type sauce. Yum.

They do a pretty good job here! I couldn’t eat it right away but it tasted great the next day. I just reheated the rice and kept the chicken cold, didn’t want to overcook it. I would love to return to try their other dishes!

Otoro Hawaii Fusion – Honolulu, HI

When Otoro Hawaii Fusion first opened, I wanted to give it a few months to find it’s footing. I am usually a bit more lenient with new restaurants because I know starting off can be a bit rough. Well, I gotta report the months I waited did not help this restaurant. I think first impressions are everything and my first impressions left a terrible mark. First of all, it’s valet parking. I understand there is not a lot of parking in the area, I also felt bad for the one person valet working that night. I practically parked my own car, and actually retrieved my own car after dinner so…I guess it’s good that it’s free? Still gotta tip the solo worker, he was definitely working hard to get all the other cars parked by himself!

I made my reservations through Open Table and that was great, I wish all restaurants were tapped into an online reservation app. When we arrived in the restaurant, the hostess was a Chinese woman who was noticeably irritated, running around and talking to the other staff in Chinese. Not what I was expecting in a Japanese restaurant, her attitude and demeanor already turned me off from the get go. All the wait staff were conversing in Chinese (don’t get me wrong, I’m Chinese) but their conversations didn’t exactly come off positive which decreases the dining experience.

With the word Otoro in the restaurant name, you’re expecting pretty high-end food and service…
Salmon Skin Salad | $6.50

I kind of expected there to be some lettuce with this salad, like at other restaurants. This tasted okay but would have benefitted with some greens.
Yakitori | $7.00
Tamago | $5.00

Not the dashimaki kind, it’s the sweet omelette
Spicy Tuna Roll | $10.00
Wagyu Beef Fried Rice | $28.00

Let me tell you. Their most popular dishes are their flambe dishes, they bring the dish to your table and light it on fire in front of you. Doesn’t sound scary or dangerous at all, haha. Anyway, they had a wagyu flambe dish but it cost $45 for 2 OUNCES OF MEAT. It’s not A5 meat, so why does it cost $45 for 2 ounces? We didn’t go for it obviously and settled for this fried rice. Well…disappointing too! Most of the “meat” was like the fatty pieces and there was almost no flavor (salt) in this dish. Do not get it.
Otoro Sashimi | $50 (!!!!!!!!!!)

Yes, we ordered otoro. We have ordered otoro from various restaurants and never have we paid SO MUCH for such disappointing quality. Stringy and stingy with the portion. The last bite of the otoro included a bone. COME ON GUYS, GET IT TOGETHER. Especially if this is your namesake and you charge so much. We actually asked the waiter how many slices came in this order and he said 5-6. We got four slices so naturally we asked what happened. He went to ask the sushi bar and came back and apologized that he gave us the wrong answer. All around disappointment.

In the end, I definitely do not recommend this restaurant. They were having a special, if you spent $100 – they gave you a $20 gift card. Wow, that’s pretty nice but we gave that gift card away. Yeah, not worth it.

Ikea – Burbank, CA

Ikea. This store has been a dream of mine to visit for years. We drove out to Burbank to visit this location and I am glad we did. It is a huge store and the street is named after them! I wish I lived in California, I would have bought so much stuff. Not to say I didn’t anyway, I made room for it in my suitcase. I still am holding up hope for it to come to Hawaii one day. Not sure why the this place has such low ratings on Yelp. It’s a nice big store although I’m not a fan of the layout, I guess it’s their way of making you walk through the ENTIRE store. It was a bit of a nightmare for me since I was so unfamiliar with this store, I kept getting lost.

Anyway, my main reason for the visit was also to try the meatballs! Food related, who would have thunk it.

Swedish Meatballs Complete Meal!

I love meatballs, so it doesn’t take much to impress me. I enjoyed it a lot! The gravy was great and the lingonberry jam too! Didn’t need the vegetables or mashed potatoes…give me a big plate of the meatballs and jam and gravy and that would be great. Well, as an Asian give me some rice too, thanks. Something else caught my eye as I lined up…you can see a corner of it in the picture above…

Chocolate Cake

I mean, look at that piece of cake. It’s everything you hope and dream of. It’s like that chocolate cake from Matilda. Mmm yum. I don’t think I need to say much more, just look at it. It looks as it tastes, gooey, moist and delicious. Ikea. Boom.

Ramen Hood – Los Angeles, CA

Ramen Hood is a 100% vegan ramen noodle shop. It is located in the Grand Central Market, which is home to a horde of food shops and fresh markets. Compare it to the Maunakea Marketplace only bigger and possibly cleaner? Anyhow, I tried to plan it perfectly. We would first check out The Broad museum and then grab our brunch/lunch from here. Okay, it kind of worked out. We had to pay for $15 parking for 3 hours of parking at The Broad but the museum took a minimum 1.5 hours to get through. We get to the Market and it is PACKED with people.

I wanted to try two places, Ramen Hood and Eggslut. Eggslut’s line practically wrapped around the market, it was a no go. Ramen Hood was busy too but we were able to order take out. I actually didn’t realize it was a vegan place until I got there…then I got excited, especially about the egg! And let me just say, $2.00 for half an egg…I hope it’s worth it. Let’s check out the food…

Garlic Ramen | $10 (+$2/egg)
Spicy Ramen | $10 (+$2/egg)

Sorry I didn’t get a picture of both bowls with their broths! The broths are great, seriously. Even though there is no meat, there is so much flavor and depth in the broths. A nice kick of umami. We actually drove to Ikea and awkwardly ate this in our rental car in their parking lot, lol. I was also saving my appetite for the Ikea cafeteria so I didn’t finish the bowl of noodles.

If we had more time, we would have eaten it at their bar. That’s the thing about this shop, it isn’t really a sit-down restaurant and they basically have a bar to eat at. So the big question in all your minds, how was the egg? I am coming from a very open and vegan loving place, and with that caveat, I bet you know where I’m heading. I DIDN’T LIKE IT. I really admire their try at a real egg, doesn’t it look realistic? I think the egg white is formed with agar agar and it just…I don’t know, I guess I’m expecting an egg texture and didn’t get it so it just felt odd. Glad I tried it just to know…would I order it again with the egg? Probably not.

Other than that, the ramen is great. Give it a try! And $10 a bowl? What a deal!

Boteaga – Los Angeles, CA

Oh yes, a trip to Los Angeles. Believe it or not, it was my first time to Los Angeles ever. Sure, I’ve been through LAX for connections but never to Los Angeles. It was a last minute booking, limited research and no expectations. I’m glad I went in with no expectations because I had a wonderful time there.

I’ve been through some pretty interesting times in the past few months…including the crashing of my laptop. I was able to restart it but then I lost everything and that certainly puts a cramper on spending time to blog. Some of my entries are long and it takes a bit out of me…so maybe I can try to update with smaller posts. This one is real quick, check out the drink I got from Boteaga:

Pinky Strawberry | $6.00

Isn’t this drink beautiful? I can’t say the motivation for the photograph wasn’t high on my list. How was the drink? Eh….the pink boba balls were much too hard to chew. Other than that, it’s really just a strawberry milk and I am lactose intolerant so I didn’t do myself any favors. Very cute shop located in Japantown Los Angeles. Even the actual cups are cute! But I wouldn’t recommend it.