Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Bollywood Break for Lunch at Royal Kabob in Hawthorne

Every once in a while, Joel and I find a need to head over to Fry's Electronics in El Segundo during lunchtime. Being proper tech geeks, we have gadgets that need replacing, fixing and upgrading on a fairly regular basis, and Fry's is one of the best places around for techie instant gratification. Now on these little field trips, the fellas have gotta eat. We've tried a lot of the places that line Rosecrans from the 405 freeway to Sepulveda, and our favorite stop is a little Indian restaurant right next to the freeway called Royal Kabob.

Royal Kabob is tucked into a compact strip mall literally about 50 feet west of the 405 on the north side of Rosecrans, right next to a liquor joint that specializes in providing kegs of beer. 20 years ago, the keg shop would have probably been my stop of choice in that strip mall, but that's another story... Royal Kabob is a narrow restaurant that has tables and seating along the right side of the place while the kitchen takes up the left. Above the kitchen, up on the wall are two flat-screen TV's that are always playing either musical scenes from Bollywood flicks or Indian music videos. It's a casual place that offers only a few dishes over $10, but it's decorated very nicely, the food is yummy and watching the Indian dance routines with all the bright colors and scenery while waiting for your food is bound to make you happy.

There are two things that I simply have to order whenever I eat in an Indian restaurant...mango lassi and garlic naan. Lassi is a cool yogurt drink, and I'm 100% stuck on the mango version of the drink. Naan is a classic Indian flatbread that's baked in a tandoori oven, so garlic naan is sort of like the garlic bread that I used to scarf down like a maniac whenever my parents took me out for spaghetti as a kid. 

I usually order one of the kabob platters whenever Joel and I stop in for lunch.  On this particular afternoon I went with the seekh kabob platter, which included both ground chicken and ground beef kabobs, basmati rice, aloo palak (potatoes cooked with spinach, tomato, cream and spices), dall (a delicious lentil side dish), kachumber (cucumber salad) and raita (yogurt with either grated or chopped cucumber...sort of an Indian version of Mexican pico de gallo).  Now I realize that you might be looking at the picture of the seekh kabobs above and thinking to yourself, "uhh...they kinda look like poop", but trust me.  They're delicious.  Think of them as spiced up hamburgers in the shape of hot dogs, and you'll be fine.

Royal Kabob is located at 5245 West Rosecrans Avenue in Hawthorne and can be found on the web at http://www.kabobtogo.com/.

Royal Kabob on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cafe Camellia

I've been going to this place for about 20 years. It's a real gem located in old town Bellflower. It's not where you'd expect to find a nice French restaurant, but the food and service rivals the high end restaurants of Beverly Hills and West LA. These folks are so accomodating, I remember a few years ago, my cousin had some folks come in from the Philippines and these guys stayed open until 2AM, even though they closed far earlier.

Jen, Robert and myself had a hankering for some French Cuisine at an affordable price: So we found ourselves at Cafe'Camellia. There's nothing over $15 on the menu during lunch and $27 for dinner. They have a great wine selection and fabulous desserts.

I started off with the Lobster Bisque, both exquisite and hearty.

Jen had the Cobb Salad that she thouroughly enjoyed.

I had the Combination Seafood plate with filet of salmon, scallops, prawns & mushroom in a scampi cream sauce served with vegetables and scalloped potatoes-It was awesome!

Robert had the halibut with spinach. He said it was one of the best he's ever had.

Chef Ken knows his food and his staff knows how to take care of their customers. They also have another location called Arte Cafe in Cerritos. It's great food at a great value. Check out their website for more info: artecamellia.com

Cafe Camellia on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 9, 2010

Back to Hashigo in Fullerton for Happy Hour

Last month, I wrote about the experiences my wife and I had at Hashigo Sushi in Fullerton.  That night, we had just missed Happy Hour and figured that we would have to return on another evening to try some of their Happy Hour goodies and specials.

A few nights ago, we were able to make that happen.  Hashigo offers Happy Hour specials every evening between 5-7pm which include drink specials such as 50% off well drinks as well as discounted appetizers and a few items not on their regular menu.

We started off with their spicy tuna tartare.  As you can see, the presentation was groovy and the tuna was served on crisps of some sort that didn't really add much flavor but did add a pleasant crunch.  Thumbs up.

I had heard about Hashigo's kalbi tacos and had to give them a try.  They were yummy, but I'll have to admit that they didn't quite meet my expectations.  Kogi BBQ set the bar when they launched their first Korean-Mexican fusion truck and created the kalbi taco, and Hashigo's version doesn't reach that level.  I think it mainly has to do with the sauce and the various ingredients used.  Hashigo's tacos taste like a regular taco that has had its meat substituted with Korean barbeque.  That's fine and good, but I was really hoping for more flavors like Kogi's version has that really make it a new and special dish.  The tacos are offered only during Happy Hour for $6 per plate of two tacos.

One special we missed on the evening we visited Hashigo was their $2.95 sushi handrolls.  I think that price might only be available Sunday through Thursday.  We didn't get the discount, but we did have a couple of handrolls.  Their spicy yellowtail handroll was fairly standard fare, but yummy.  Sweet potato fries are also offered during Happy Hour, and I can't seem to pass those things up whenever they're on a menu.  Hashigo's fries did not disappoint and managed to disappear within minutes.

All in all, Hashigo's Happy Hour specials provided us with an enjoyable meal.  Other places might have more menu options or slightly lower prices, but Hashigo's food is good, the service is attentive and the atmosphere is pleasant.


Hashigo Sushi on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Curry House Gardena

Got a hankering for some Japanese Curry? Well, Curry House is the place to go. I've been coming here for years, and always leave having a great experience. Japanese is not all sushi and teriyaki, it's a little Indian, American, German and Italian, all with their own twist. Curry House gives their own interpretation of Indian and Italian . The staff is friendly and the place is clean and bright and also kid friendly. The food is amazing and their prices are reasonable with generous portions. I went with the wife and kiddos to the Gardena location and their kids' plates come with toys.

My wife and I had the Dry Curry which was similar to the Keema Curry, another Curry House Favorite.

I ordered it with a fabulous house salad.

She ordered her's with a awesome corn chowder.

The kiddos had the Chicken Teriyaki.

Food is $10-15 and there are monthly discounts and specials. Sign up for coupons at their website: http://www.house-foods.com/CurryHouse. They're all over SOCAL, so check out a location near you.

Curry House on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 5, 2010

Breakfast with the Locals at Garrett's in Santa Barbara

If you're ever in Santa Barbara and find yourself in the mood for a good, hearty neighborhood diner breakfast, then make sure you stop by Garrett's Old Fashioned Restaurant at the corner of State Street and Mission.

My good friend, and Bite Me TV contributing photographer, Ernie Uy first introduced me to Garrett's years ago when he was finishing up his degree at U.C. Santa Barbara.  Garrett's was this little local joint that drew a constant crowd of loyal regulars for breakfast and lunch, and all these years later the same is true today.  The place is small, often crowded, and serves up some excellent grub.

During my recent visit, it seemed like the folks running the place knew about every third or fourth customer who walked in the door.  The two cooks above were rocking and rolling in the tiny kitchen area, preparing eggs, pancakes and the rest for a diner full of hungry folks.

Garrett's is open from 6am-3pm on weekdays and 7am-3pm on weekends, so don't show up looking for dinner.  This is a breakfast, brunch and lunch outfit.  And don't expect a fancy menu of gourmet treats.  Garrett's serves quality diner food...honest and simple fare.

The blueberry pancakes are my favorite, hands down.  Garrett's might just serve up the best pancakes in town, and their blueberry pancakes are bursting with fresh fruit flavor.  I just couldn't get enough of them.

Garrett's Old Fashioned Restaurant is located at 2001 State Street, just north of downtown Santa Barbara.


Garrett's on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Fine Lunch With a View at Ristorante daVinci in Long Beach

Our good friend Eric joined Joel and I for lunch today, and we decided to head over to Ristorante daVinci in Long Beach.  Ristorante daVinci takes up the top floor of a 3-story building that sits next to the runways at the Long Beach Airport.  Joel had eaten there a couple of times before and had recommended that we try it out for lunch.

Considering that daVinci is in an industrial area next to an airport, it's a pleasant surprise to step out of the elevator and find yourself in an elegant and spacious restaurant.  This is definitely not your everyday airport diner.  We were seated next to the huge windows looking down onto the airport runways, which made for a very pleasant atmosphere on a sunny Friday afternoon.

We started out with daVinci's affettato misto, which is a selection of various types of salami, prosciutto, candied pecans, marinated olives, figs and a couple of very light and airy pastries.

Eric is keeping himself at optimum fighting weight, and so opted for the Napoli insalate, a salad of mixed greens, grilled ahi, garbanzos and other mixed veggies with a citrus vinaigrette.

Joel went with the salmone di vegetale, wild Columbia River salmon served with sauteed pea tendrils, young potatoes and oven-blistered cherry tomatoes.

I wanted a sandwich, so I picked their bistecca pagnottelle.  They start with beef brisket which has been slow roasted for 12 hours, mix in some carmelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, mozzarella and a horseradish cream sauce and serve it on a ciabatta roll.  The sandwich was delicious, the meat melting in my mouth, but I think I would have preferred a crunchier bread than ciabatta.  A French-style roll that's crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside would have really taken that sandwich over the top, but that's a minor quibble.  I seemed to be the only one at the table with anything critical to say, and we were all happy with the food.

Ok, so the food is yummy, the atmosphere elegant.  The prices are a little on the high side, but reasonable for what you get in my opinion.  What else should you know about daVinci?  Helicopter rides!  On Friday and Saturday nights, daVinci offers helicopter tours over Long Beach paired with drink specials for $60 per person.  On Fridays, you get a flight of three wines to give you a bit of liquid courage before your flight.  On Saturdays, its daVinci's hand-crafted martinis.  In addition, they periodically offer airship rides over Long Beach.  Check daVinci's website for their schedule.  You might also be interested in their Happy Hour specials, which are offered Monday through Saturday 4-7pm and include cocktail, wine and beer selections for $5 as well as $7 appetizers.

I'm definitely heading back sometime soon for a helicopter ride!


Ristorante daVinci on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Our Adopted Cafe in Paris...Cafe L'Atelier

In April, I took my wife and kids on our first European vacation. Our first stop was Paris, and I was determined to explore Paris' cafe culture. We decided not to stay in a part of the city overrun by tourists, and instead opted for one of the historical centers of the cafe scene, Montparnasse.

Le Select, Le Dome, La Rotonde and La Coupole are probably the most famous cafes in the area. Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso frequented these establishments decades ago. We ended up adopting a cafe right next to Le Select called Cafe L'Atelier as our neighborhood cafe of choice during our week-long stay. It pulled us in with it's bright red exterior and less stuffy atmosphere than the more historical cafes nearby, and the good food and free wi-fi connection kept us going back daily for either a meal or simply an espresso and a croissant.

We had our first lunch in Paris at Cafe L'Atelier, and I opted for their signature sandwich. It's a delicious combination of sliced beef, aioli and crusty baguette served with pommes frites (that's what they call fries). I'm not sure if it was the sandwich itself or because I was enjoying it during my first lunch in Paris, but that was one of the most satisfying sandwiches I've ever eaten.

My wife went the salad route, with a mixed green salad served with a vinaigrette and poached eggs served on little toasts cut to be perfect little beds for the eggs. It was also delicious.

Want to do it like the locals do? Save money by bypassing the tables and standing at the bar. Everything is a little cheaper at the bar.

Cafe L'Atelier is located on the north side of Boulevard du Montparnasse, just west of Boulevard Raspail and is open 24 hours.  Oh, and they make a pretty awesome omelette for breakfast, too.