Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day 12 - Porto's Bakery, Glendale & Burbank

Porto's Bakery is an institution. If you haven't been here, oh I feel sorry for you. You, my friend, are missing out on some killer goodies. Good for you? Nope. Irresistible? Yes!

Parking: The Glendale location on Brand has metered parking in front and a medium-sized lot in back, also metered parking. The Burbank location has a small & tight lot in back of the store, but it's free.

Ambience: Porto's is not known for its romantic interior. The inside is more like a cattle herd - crowded, unorganized and limited visibility. You order at the counter after waiting in a long queue (the staff is efficient, so the wait is bearable) and staring at long displays of baked treats.

The food: They have a veg sandwich of roasted eggplant and hummus spread, but the regular food really isn't worth filling your stomach. Why not save a little more room for another pastry? The prices are light on the wallet.
When it comes to pastries, I suggest the following:
- The potato balls (dubbed "Heart-attack balls" by my co-workers and I) - fried little goodies from what I've heard, but they have meat inside so the taste will remain a mystery to me.
- Guava strudel - I hate guava. My mom used to force me to eat them as a kid since we had a guava tree in the backyard. Guava strudel from Porto's on the other hand, I can totally sink my teeth into. I crave these things! Their guava and cheese strudel is the most popular strudel, but I prefer my pure guava ones.
- Napoleon - Good stuff! The dulce de leche on top gives this creamy and crunchy treat the extra sweetness it needs. It's fantastic.
- Mango mousse - Although I haven't had it, it's listed on their website as one of the most popular items. Too bad it's not vegetarian friendly. =(
- Opera & Chocolate Raspberry Mousse - tried, but not impressed with.

Wedding cakes: Porto's is a popular choice for wedding cakes for two reasons: price and taste. Their cakes are most, and they offer a wide variety of flavors and frosting. Price-wise, it's one of the best wedding cake deals in town. They also do a great job on decor, although I've yet to see one in fondant.

My friends Jess & Arin's gorgeous wedding cake from Porto's.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day 11 - Gyu-Kaku, West Los Angeles

I was SO close to dining at Gyu-Kaku when I was in Waikiki, just because I was craving it so. If you thought Korean bbq was good, you haven't tried it Japanese style. I was (un)lucky enough to come here before I became pescetarian.

Gyu-kaku has multiple locations throughout LA county, New York and Hawaii. I've been to the Sherman Oaks, Pasadena & WLA location, but WLA is still my favorite quality-wise.

Parking: At the WLA location, there is a parking lot adjacent to the Starbucks a few stores down, monitored by a permit machine. There's also metered street parking, and of course the Westside Pavilion's ample free parking across the street.

Reservations: Recommended on the weekends

The Food: I love the food here, although the menu has changed in recent months. They used to have an amazing butterfish, but that has since been replaced by salmon. For you meat lovers, I absolutely recommend the harami miso(picture below).

The proportions are small, but packed with flavor in the marinades. Every table comes with one or two charcoal grills and tongs for you to cook your meats and veggies. I absolutely love the Japanese sweet potato, which comes wrapped in a foil packet with butter inside for you to throw on the grill. What makes Gyu-kaku irresistible for me is the Spicy Avocado Tuna Salad, but you HAVE to get it with the Gyu-kaku dressing. The menu dressing just doesn't cut it. The house dressing is a creamy, spicy splash of heaven. Normally, the salad comes with a vinagrette that doesn't compliment the flavors as well. I could eat this salad all day, heck, I could eat one right now!

Day 10 - La Bottega, West Los Angeles

If you're ever in the mood for just a quiet evening at the neighborhood trattoria, then La Bottega Marino is your place.

Parking: Street parking and a lot in back with meters, free after 6 or 7p (double check the signs!)

Reservations: Not required

Ambience: You feel like you're inside a deli, a wine shop and grandma's kitchen all at once. You sit among crates of wine, shelves of fine Italian imports and a glass display of fine cheeses, cured meats and tiramisu.

Food: The pasta's fantastic. I recommend the Linguine Bottega, sans chicken for those who don't eat meat. It's a classic Italian menu, but everything is prepared with quality and passion.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Day 9 - The Apple Pan

I've never had banana cream pie before. I've never really had cream pies. Period. I'm not even a pie person (except for Harvest Pie from Coco's, which unfortunately is not vegetarian!). I'm also not a whipped cream person. I just think of it as added fat I am not willing to do extra crunches for. OK, let's just say I'm a wee bit picky, but I digress, so let's get back to the goodness known as The Apple Pan.

10801 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064

I lived just down the street back when I had my apartment in WLA, oh what a luxury it was to be within walking distance of one of my all-time favorite desserts. This is a local treasure that's been around since 1947, according to Wikipedia. You bring CASH, and you stand in the little room hoping that there will be a free seat at the counter. That's all they've got - one L-shaped counter with high stools, and a team of men standing in back to serve you.

Parking: A tiny, tiny, TINY lot in back. There's some street parking, but be wary of parking signs. You can always park free at the Westside Pavilion across the street and walk on over.

Reservations: Ha! This is what you do: 1) You walk into the room 2) You scope out empty seats at the counter and sit down or 3) You stand in there inhaling burger smoke until someone else gets up.

Food: There's not much on the menu - just burgers, fries, potato salad and pie. Burgers are exactly what burgers ought to be - a fresh hunk of meat grilled to juicy perfection. I had the pleasure of having one before becoming a pescetarian, but sadly I would choose In-n-Out over the Apple Pan. So, I tell everyone to go for the pie! The banana cream pie, that is! It's around $20 for a pie, but that's because they make them from scratch everyday. The darn thing is heavy, it's so loaded with goodness. For a girl that's impartial to bananas, cream and pie to speak about a BANANA CREAM PIE, now that's telling you something.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Day 8 - El Cholo, Santa Monica

I've got one word for you: tamales. I admit, I'm not an expert on tamales by any means whatsoever, but I know what tastes good in my mouth and what just doesn't cut it. El Cholo makes the list.

There are several locations in LA, and even in Irvine. I've visited the Santa Monica & Pasadena locations thus far.

Reservations: A must on a weekend (unless you get there right when they open), but even with reservations you may have to wait.

Parking: Valet at both the SM & Pasadena location. You'll have much more luck at actually finding street parking in Pasadena.

Ambience: I love the ambience. It's fun, but not over-the-top cheesy. Nope, not in the least bit!

The Food: Green Corn Tamales. I love those little puppies. They're sweet, I like to lather them with that darn good green salsa, and best of all, it's not greasy. Man, I want one now. They only peak their heads around April through October, then I'm left weeping in the corner through the winter until their return. I've also had their quesadillas, which are recommended. They're no substitute for my tamales though, no sir!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Day 7 - C&O's Trattoria, Venice

Nothing beats great Italian food than an Italian eatery with character. That's why I love C&O's Trattoria. This is your typical kitchen filled with mouthwatering carbs in gargantuan proportions, located next to the beach and has a quaint outdoor patio (always ask to be seated in the patio) that reminds me of the 24 hours I spent in Venice, Italy.

C&O's also has a second location in Venice, but further east on Washington Blvd.

Parking: Given that the location is in prime Venice Beach location, there's little chance of avoiding the valet.

Reservations: Definitely recommended.

Ambience: The inside of the restaurant is poorly decorated, not to mention crowded and quite drab. The place to be is in the outdoor patio with string lights and adorable murals painted on the walls. You almost forget the outside world of LA.

The Food: I've got two words: garlic rolls. Have I mentioned that I have a thing for bread? I could eat bread all day if they didn't go straight to my waist. These little garlic rolls are addicting, and it sure doesn't help that C&O's will give you an endless supply. I could just sit there all day eating those rolls. C&O's has all your typical Italian dishes, all in generous proportions. I loved their chopped Italian vegetable salad, and I don't think I ever appreciated whole garbanzo beans until that first bite.

Day 6 - Sushi Zo, West Los Angeles

I've saved the best sushi for last, and ok maybe the most pricey as well.

Sushi Zo
9824 National Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Reservations: Highly recommended.

Parking: Large lot in shopping center & free.

Ambience: Nothing romantic, or even nice. Just bare walls, a sushi bar and a few tables. But we all have an understanding that the only art you care about is the one sitting on your plate.
The Food: Oh, the food... There really isn't a menu, you come here for the omakase and sit at the bar. You simply tell the chef what types of fish you do not like, although in my case he still insisted I try the mackerel! And if you want to eat, you do not say no to the chef! I love uni, oh how I love uni. I've always wanted to try it, and I am so glad that I saved my virgin tastebuds for Sushi Zo's uni with squid noodles. Now that is pure heaven. The pieces will continue to flow until you tell them to stop, of course I couldn't stop without at least trying the blue crab handroll. You will not be disappointed in this one! Expect to spend about $100/person, depending on your appetite.Uni with squid noodles.

Pretty AND delicious!