Monday, August 23, 2010

Ninja Tacos and the Death Taco from Genkiyaki in Lakewood Get Us All Fired Up!

Late last night I decided to take a quick break from editing Bite Me TV's latest Field Trippin' episode and figured I'd check in on Facebook.  I saw that a friend of mine had posted that he was craving some Korean BBQ, and one of the responses recommended he try Ninja Tacos in Lakewood.

Ninja Tacos in Lakewood?!?!?  (insert screeching tires sound effect here)  You KNOW I had to check that out!

So I did a quick Bing search and found that this little Teriyaki joint in a corner strip mall next to the tux shop where I rented my senior prom tuxedo has been making a name for itself with their $1 Ninja Tacos and their weapon of mass destruction...the Death Taco. A mere 12 hours later, Joel and I were rolling down the road to have ourselves a taste.

Genkiyaki is the name of the place, and it's located on the corner of Del Amo Blvd. and Bellflower Blvd. It's a very casual plate lunch joint with a few tables for eating in and, by the looks of it, a healthy take-out business. The interior is pretty plain, although I took an instant liking to the ninja dude painted on the wall.

Genkiyaki offers a fairly usual array of Teriyaki bowls and plates, and from what I've read they do a better than average job on their plate lunches. I'll have to go back to try one of those out as we were there today strictly for the tacos.

Now you have to understand that Joel has a bulletproof mouth, a lead-lined stomach and balls of steel, while I am a normal mortal without the necessary deflector shields to withstand insanely spicy food. Joel, therefore, was the man to step up to the plate and order himself a Death Taco (as well as 5 Ninja Tacos). I ordered up 3 Ninja Tacos, and ended up going back up to the counter to order 2 more.

Genkiyaki's Ninja Taco is a good quality street-style taco with a twist. A small corn tortilla is filled with a mixture of grilled chicken and ribeye as well as onion and cilantro, and then topped with Genkiyaki's special Ninja sauce. Without the sauce, Genkiyaki's taco is a good, standard street taco. With the sauce, their taco is something special. The Ninja sauce is a spicy sweet sauce that tastes like they sat down one night with some Teriyaki sauce and a bunch of difference chile peppers and spicy sauces and started experimenting until they found a magic combination. Kogi BBQ started the Asian/Mexican taco trend, and while comparisons are inevitable, Genkiyaki’s Ninja Taco doesn’t taste like a Kogi copy. The Ninja Taco is it’s own animal, and for a dollar each you just can’t go wrong.

The Death Taco is a Ninja Taco with the sauce kicked up to maximum power, and it’s also $1 each. That’s Joel’s Death Taco in front of a bunch of Ninja Tacos in the photo above. We couldn’t pry the secret recipe from anyone behind the counter, but it sounds like they add ghost chile (the hottest chile on planet Earth) to their Ninja sauce to turn it into a fiery inferno. Now, I read last night how various customers who have tried the Death Taco have cried, whimpered and even thrown up, and we were able to confirm that, yes, customers have actually found the Death Taco so spicy hot that they have indeed thrown up in agony on the sidewalk outside.

Joel, like the mighty warrior that he is, was not worried at all and faced the Death Taco with a straight face and no fear. And...for the first time, I saw him sweat, sniffle and have to reach repeatedly for the young coconut milk that he ordered with his tacos. There was no sobbing or shrieking in agony (which impressed the staff), but Joel did have blurred vision and a lack of hearing for about 20 minutes. (Uhhh, just kidding…) Yup, the Death Taco proved to be Joel’s match, though I have the feeling that he’ll be back for more.

Word of advice: If you are brave enough to try the Death Taco, do not order a soda to cool your mouth. Water won’t be very effective either. Milk is your best bet. Or bring an iced coffee with milk with you, as that will do the trick.

Genkiyaki is located at 5526 Del Amo Blvd. in Lakewood.


Genkiyaki on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 20, 2010

Food Jammers - The Cooking Show for Guys Who Are Buzzed

Do you remember ever hanging out with your buds, either stoned or kinda drunk, and getting into a conversation that went sorta like:

"Dude, wouldn't it be cool if we built we could...?"

"Man, we could totally do that.  It would be awesome!"

"Yeah, man.  I can sooo see it now.  C'mon, bro.  Let's do it today.  Let's do it right now.  We could have this bad boy working in no time."

"Alright, man.  Yeah, let's do it.  Let me just take one more hit..."

You remember that, right?  Of course you do!  Well, somebody decided to take that basic idea and make a TV show out of it.  It's called Food Jammers.  Three Canadian dudes who have some building skills and a "WTF?  Let's do it!" attitude build these wild contraptions in each episode to cook up some kind of food or make some cool drinks.  While these guys are more beer drinkers than stoners (this is television after all), Food Jammers really is the ultimate stoner cooking show.  The series has been airing in Canada for three seasons, and this year's season 3 started airing in the U.S. on the Food Network's new Cooking Channel.

Here's a video clip from a couple of years ago where the three hosts modify their freezer so they can keep an eye on their chilling beers.  This might have even been shot before they had a proper TV show.

I watched the last episode of season 3 a couple of weeks ago, and the guys built a hot tub during Canada's winter so that they could relax outside and cook Japanese Shabu-Shabu and drink sake while being in the jacuzzi. It was pretty freaking awesome.

So check out Food Jammers on the Cooking Channel.  Here's a link to their show page on the Cooking Channel site.  The show might be a sausage farm without the babe action of our BITE ME! the MAN Cooking Show, and some of their contraptions may not be very practical, but the show is a lot of fun to watch while chilling in front of the tube with a beer in your hand.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Journey Back to the 1990's at Paradise in Gardena

Joel and I decided to have lunch at an old standby one day last week, Paradise in Gardena.  Paradise has been around for about 20 years or so, and is located right where the cities of Gardena and Torrance meet up next to the intersections of the 110 and 405 freeways.  For decades this area has been mostly commercial and industrial, and back when Paradise first opened it was just about the only place nearby for a good business lunch.

So let's go back to the early 1990's.  This part of town was basically devoid of good eats other than very casual joints, and Paradise made quite a splash.  It was cutting edge with a building that looks like a warehouse from a sci-fi flick, an eclectic interior that mixes Asian, tropical and modern styles and a California Cuisine mix of menu items inspired by various European, Asian and Pacific Island cultures.  Their Margherita Pizza has always been one of my favorites, and their Thai Chicken Pasta was another popular and daring dish when it was introduced.  One day as I was leaving the place with friends after finishing lunch, Ice Cube and his crew were walking in to have theirs.  I even proposed to my wife in a back corner of the restaurant years ago.

Ok, so there's some history to the place, and Joel and I returned for another meal in Paradise.

I had one of their daily specials, Blackened Halibut served with a Caprese Salad.  Very nice...  I enjoyed the dish a lot.  The mozzarella and tomato salad went very well with the fish, which was flavorful but not overbearing and cooked just right.

Joel went with his old favorite Thai Chicken Pasta, and his reaction to the dish highlighted Paradise's main weakness.  The restaurant is still living in the 90's and could really use an update.  That Thai Chicken Pasta, which was pushing the envelope 20 years ago is pretty boring today.  They still make the dish the same way, it's just that good Thai food, which wasn't all that accessible two decades ago, can be found all over town today.  Thai Chicken Pasta rocked in 1992, but today we want a more authentic Pad Thai or Pad See Ew noodle dish.  Quite a few of the dishes on Paradise's menu could use a similar review and update.  Same goes for the interior design.  It was too cool for school 15 years ago and looks a bit dated today.  Our tastes and expectations have changed over the years, but Paradise has remained pretty darned consistent.  It's like a time warp back into a Michael J. Fox film.

Paradise is still a pretty good stop for a business lunch, a pleasant dinner close to the office or for Happy Hour.  I'm not knocking it.  But with updates to both menu and interior, I think it could regain some of its former glory.


Paradise on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Curry House Special - Katsu Curry Rice Plate for $5.99

Curry House's most anticipated promo deal is back!  From today through Thursday, they are serving their Katsu Curry Rice plate for $5.99 during both lunch and dinner hours.  All locations, except for their San Diego restaurant and their take-out-only locations, are offering the deal.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Nominations for the 2011 Tasty Awards are Open

Nominations for the 2nd annual Tasty Awards have opened up.  The Tasty Awards recognizes the best in food, drink and fashion programming, and anyone can nominate their favorite shows.  There are television categories as well as web categories, so if there's a podcast, web TV show, broadcast TV show, cable TV show or film out there that you think deserves recognition, click here to see the various categories and make your nomination.

I'm a judge for this year's Tasty Awards, so we are NOT asking anyone to nomination Bite Me TV's 'BITE ME! the MAN Cooking Show' or 'Drink 'n Play'.  We'll make sure our shows are thrown into the hat for next year's awards.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Korean Taco Has Gone Mainstream, but KOGI IS STILL KING

Yup, the secret is out.  What started out as a cool, out-of-the-box food idea has spread like wildfire over the past year and a half...Korean tacos have hit the mainstream.

The New York Times did a recent article on the subject, as did the Dallas Morning News, the Wall Street Journal and the Seattle Times. Food blogs and magazines have written about them and more and more eateries all over the United States are adding Korean tacos to their menus.  I wrote in an earlier blog post about trying them at Hashigo Sushi, I saw them on the menu at California Pizza Kitchen a couple of nights ago and Baja Fresh made news a year ago when they pilfered the original idea for their menu.  Seoul Station in NYC has them.  So does Hankook Taqueria in Atlanta and numerous food trucks in various cities across the country.

But LA food blog The Great Taco Hunt made a great point in their recent posting Korean Taco FAIL.  There may be a whole lot of tacos being served out there using meat cooked Korean-style, but many if not most of them come off as cheap copies of the original.  Chef Roy Choi's Kogi BBQ recipe is still the king!

We profiled Kogi BBQ last year in episode 105 of BITE ME! the MAN Cooking Show, and have been big fans ever since.  Their tacos seriously rock, plus their sliders, burritos, hotdogs and quesadillas all more than hold their own in the yummy department.  Korean tacos might be popping up all over the place, but we know where to go for the best of the bunch.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Going Peruvian at El Rocoto in Gardena

On Artesia Boulevard in Gardena, there are two Peruvian restaurants right across the street from each other. I've always thought that was weird, sort of like finding a MacDonalds and a Burger King on opposite corners of the same intersection, or a Costco and a Sam's Club in the same shopping center. But I've eaten at both restaurants for years, and I'll have to say that there are some big differences between the two.

Joel and I headed out that direction for lunch the other day with Peruvian food on our minds, and decided to go for the restaurant on the south side of Artesia Blvd....El Rocoto. There are a couple of things about El Rocoto that set it apart from most if not all of the other Peruvian restaurants around Southern California. First, it's not strictly Peruvian but rather Chinese Peruvian. A Chinese family from Peru owns the place, and they offer a mix of dishes from both cultures. Second, while most Peruvian restaurants I've been to have been very casual eateries, El Rocoto is nice enough and has enough character to make it appropriate for a business lunch.

Ok, on to the food. First off, let's talk about the aji sauce. Every Peruvian joint serves up this spicy (or semi-spicy) green chili sauce. It's a necessary part of the meal, just like soy sauce at a Japanese joint or salsa at a Mexican place. El Rocoto always serves two varieties of the sauce, the standard green sauce and a slightly more spicy orange version. I still prefer the green, but really appreciate the extra flavor option that they offer.

My favorite dish at El Rocoto is their tallarin verde con pollo. I've tried this dish at various Peruvian restaurants across town, and so far El Rocoto serves up the best of the bunch. It's a breaded chicken breast pounded very thin served with pesto spaghetti and a couple of fried potato pieces on the side. Yup, it's a meat and carb fest that can be a bit heavy for lunch, but it's soooo yummy.

Joel opted for their pescado al ajo, or garlic fish. I know quite a few people who frequent El Rocoto, and this is the dish that comes up most often as a favorite. It's a filet of fried white fish in a garlic butter sauce served with rice. If you don't mind garlic in your lunch, this is a real winner.

Oh, and if you're going to eat Peruvian you might as well drink Peruvian too, right? Since something non-alcoholic was called for at lunch, I went straight for the Inka Cola. It's sort of like a lemon-lime soda, but with more of a sweeter taste, a darker golden color and a smell just like old-time Bazooka bubblegum. The stuff is awesome!

El Rocoto has two locations, the original restaurant at 1356 W. Artesia Blvd. in Gardena and a second restaurant at 11433 South Street in Cerritos.  I've eaten at both, and prefer the Gardena location only because of the decor.  There's a bright and happy tropical vibe at the Gardena restaurant that is bound to make you feel like you've stepped out of a strip mall and into a food adventure cruise.  Find them on the web here.

El Rocoto Peruvian Restaurant on Urbanspoon