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Friday, September 26, 2008

Ssam Korean BBQ-Shik Do Rak-House of Duk Bo Sam-Irvine

14775 Jeffrey Rd
Ste H
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 653-7668

SSam Korean BBQ? Shik Do Rak? House of Duk Bo Sam? I'm not exactly sure what the name of this restaurant is, since I saw all of these names on and in the restaurant. The banner sign outside says SSAm Korean BBQ though. It's a temporary banner, so their permanent sign might be different. I'm pretty sure it's the only Korean BBQ place in Arbor Village Center off of Jeffrey and Walnut though.

My wife and I were invited out to dinner by her boss, "M" and her husband, "H". M & H picked the restaurant. I've driven past this place before, but have never given it a second look. To me, it was just another Asian restaurant in a shopping center full of Asian restaurants and stores.

We were seated at a large table with a hot grill in the middle. There were eight of us including H&M's kids and another couple. They brought a single menu to the table that was picked up by H. I never looked at it so I'm not sure of the variety and prices at this place. H ordered in Korean. Since I don't speak any Korean, I'm not exactly sure what he ordered.

Almost immediately, the waitress started bombarding our table with tons of tiny dishes containing a lot of unfamiliar things. The only thing I recognized was the kimchi. I was told that some of the items were rice paper, turnip paper, some kind of fish cake, a hot and spicy sauce, some pickled vegetables and a sesame, salt and pepper sauce.

Then the waitress brought the biggest bowl of frozen, raw, shaved beef that I have ever seen. It was like a Mongolian BBQ bowl on steroids! I started to think, "How are we going to eat all of that meat?" Before I could finish that thought though, the waitress pulled out another large plate of meat and dumped it on the grill on the middle of the table. That's a lot of meat!!! (Please hold back your "That's what he/she said!" jokes.) There were also large plates of green onions and mushrooms to grill up with the meat.

We grilled up the meat and slapped it into the turnip paper or rice paper. I preferred the rice paper. It kind of reminded me of a cooked won ton wrapper but a little stickier. We then dipped the meat and wrapper into the sauces. DELICIOUS! One sauce was basically sesame oil with salt and pepper in it. The other was a spicy puree of hot red peppers, garlic and vinegar. It had a very good spiciness level and a nice tangy flavor. I enjoyed dipping my meat into both of the sauces at the same time. (Don't say it.)

Halfway through our meal, the waitress brought a giant bowl of soup and a bunch of smaller bowls to serve it into. The soup looked like a bowl of bright red liquid with large chunks of fish and tofu in it. From what I understand, the main ingredients of the soup were kimchi and fish. The soup was interesting. It was a little too fishy for me though. We also got a little scared to eat it when M got a fish bone stuck in her throat. She was happily enjoying her soup when her eyes suddenly opened wide and started watering. She started drinking water, eating rice and eating various other things to try and force the fish bone down. She said, "I can feel it! It's like two inches long!" (Stop giggling!) It took a few minutes of what looked to be a very uncomfortable situation before she finally started to feel better. The chunks of fish in the soup had tons of bones sticking out of it. If you ever order this, make sure to eat it VERY carefully.

In the end there was actually a little meat left over. The eight of us couldn't finish it off. Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy their meal, except for the whole "bone in the throat" incident. The meat was tender, juicy and delicious. This was a nice little restaurant with a broad range of clientele. I'll have to go back to this place and sample some of the other items on their menu.

Shik do Rak on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Cheesecake Factory - Anaheim Gardenwalk

Anaheim GardenWalk
321 W. Katella Ave. #100,
Anaheim, CA 92802
(714) 533-7500

Various Locations Nationwide

After standing in line for a long time to experience the new Toy Story ride in Disneyland California Adventure, we were hungry. We decided to leave the park and find someplace nearby to eat. I remembered that we had not yet been down to the new Anaheim Gardenwalk, so I suggested that we go down there to see what they had.

We parked in the large garage and walked around trying to find the entrance. This place really needs more signs telling you where to go. We wadered around lost for a few minutes but then finally found the exit from the garage into the mall and located a directory. Gardenwalk seems to be mostly filled with large chain restaurants that aren't that exciting. After a few minutes we all decided that we would just go eat at The Cheesecake Factory. We walked through the front door and were greeted by the hostess. It was almost 7:00 PM on a Friday night, but they were able to seat our party of five immediately. We were taken to a nice table out on the patio.

We looked over the vast menu and as always, had a hard time deciding. For those of you that have never been to The Cheesecake Factory, their menu is quite large. The menu is so large that they actually have advertising pages throughout the menu just like a magazine would. While we looked over the menu, they brought us some sourdough baguette and dark molasses bread to munch on.

I finally decided to order an appetizer and a side dish as my meal. I ordered the Buffalo Chicken Strips appetizer ($7.95) and a side of Mac and Cheese ($5.95). V ordered the nightly fish special of Grilled Mahi Mahi ($19.95). S ordered the other nightly Salmon special ($18.50). J decided to go with the Miso Salmon ($19.95) and R went with the Hot Turkey Supreme Sandwich ($11.95).

After a not too long wait, our food arrived. Everything looked delicious. I was impressed by the amount of chicken strips that I got. There were at least 10 of them in my bowl. The buffalo sauce was very tangy and spicy, just the way I like it. I was actually surprised that I found it spicy. So many buffalo sauces these days are weak watery jokes. This sauce had a good flavor and a good spiciness level. The mac and cheese wasn't bad. I wish that the cheese flavor was a little sharper though. I prefer a nice sharp cheddar, bleu or swiss flavor in my mac and cheese. This would be good for someone that likes mac and cheese, but isn't a fan of really sharp cheeses.

V seemed to like her Mahi Mahi. Her meal was served with steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes. She liked the fish and also thought that the mashed potatoes were really good and full of flavor.

R was happily eating his Hot Turkey Supreme, open faced sandwich. His sandwich started out with a piece of grilled brioche bread and it was topped with spinach and turkey, then smothered in a white cheddar cheese sauce. Slices of tomato and crumbled bacon are then placed on top. The sandwich was served with french fries. I asked R how he liked his sandwich. He looked up and said, "It's really good. This is probably the best thing I have eaten all year!" We were all shocked to hear how much he liked his sandwich. It must have been insanely good for him to make such a bold comment. I almost asked to try some, but I figured that if it was that good, he wasn't going to want to give any up. I'm going to have to go back soon to try this sandwich really soon.

J's Miso Salmon was a nice piece of miso marinated salmon on top of white rice. It was supposed to be served with snow peas, but J asked to have some steamed spinach instead. She seemed to enjoy her meal.

S had a little problem with her salmon dish. It wasn't really cooked all the way and was actually completely raw in the middle. In the end she decided to just go ahead and eat it though since she often eats salmon sashimi and sushi anyway. She seemed to think it was about average for a basic grilled salmon meal.

Overall, everyone was pretty happy with their meal. I feel that The Cheesecake Factory is a step above most large chain restaurants because they offer large portions for reasonable prices. Their food also tends to be pretty good. This new Gardenwalk location seems to be a good option if you're ever in the area.

The Cheesecake Factory on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 19, 2008

Orange County Restaurant Association Launch Party

I was recently invited down to the launch party of the new Orange County Restaurant Association. The party took place at the gorgeous, new Orange County Art House in Ladera Ranch. The Orange County Art House is a nearly 9,000 square foot mansion that houses artwork from Southern California artists in every room. The house will be used as a private venue for parties, but will also occasionally be open to the public.

As my wife and I walked through the large front door, we encountered a martini bar that was serving Kai Vodka martinis in plain, kiwi and lychee flavors. Kai vodka is distilled from rice. They were serving the martinis with these huge ice spheres that looked like crystal clear, glass orbs. These amazing ice cubes were made by Glace, a specialty ice company in Canada, that FedExes their ice all over. We tried both a kiwi and a lychee martini. They were both very good and went down very smooth.

Lychee Martini

Super Rad Ice Spheres

We ventured further into the party and saw stations set up by a bunch of different vendors. Some of the beautiful presentations we saw were...

Baked Goods from Solomon's Bakery

Produce by Melissa's

Chocolates by Downey's

Sole Water debuting their new bottle design

Cheese, Nuts and Fruit by Champignon

Dirty Steak Martinis by Steer Crazy BBQ (These look kinda gross, but they were SO YUM!)

We sampled a few of the delights and they were all very good. We then wandered around the ginormous house to look at all of the artwork.

The party was absolutely amazing. A good time was had by all. I would like to extend a special THANK YOU to Pam Waitt and the Orange County Restaurant Association for hosting such a wonderful event!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Red Brick Pizza - Tustin District

2455 Park Ave, Unit 1
Tustin, CA 92782

Phone 714-258-3500

Various locations across US, 21 within 50 miles of Irvine

Always looking for the next great pizza, I decided to try Red Brick Pizza at The District in Tustin. I looked over their menu online and was immediately impressed with the number of options that they had. At Red Brick, you can not only choose your toppings, but you can choose your sauce and crust as well. Red Brick Pizza boasts that they bake your pizza in a 1000 degree oven so that your pizza only takes 3 minutes to bake.

After looking over their menu, I decided to get a large Pepperoni Suprema ($18.00) and a Medium Pizza with Chipotle sauce, Canadian Bacon and Jalapenos ($15.00). I ordered my pizza online using LiveOnTheGo.Com (Use code "GRIFFINEATS" to get $5 off your first order-Many other restaurants to choose from). I asked them to have the pizza ready at 7:00 PM. I drove down to the District and had quite a difficult time finding parking. I finally found a spot and walked over to Red Brick. I walked in at 7:00 PM on the dot. The pizza wasn't ready, so I stood around for about 10 minutes until it was.

I took the pizza home and opened my large Pepperoni Suprema. I was shocked to see that this "Suprema" hardly had any pepperoni on it at all. The pizza was also pretty small. This did not look like an $18.00 pizza. I grabbed a slice and took a bite. My tongue was immediately attacked by oregano. I am a HUGE fan of oregano, and I even sprinkle it on my pizza sometimes. This tasted like the cook had accidentally spilled an entire gallon of it on to my pizza though. The taste of the oregano was so strong, I couldn't even taste the pepperoni or the cheese. The crust was also a little dry. I was annoyed that I had paid so much for this pizza. I have had $5 large pizzas that were much better than this.

The second pizza was to be shared by "I" and "V". They opened their pizza box and found a tiny pizza inside. This "medium" pizza would barely pass for a small at any other restaurant. The pizza was about the size of an individual pizza that you would expect to get at a casual dining restaurant. Both of the girls liked the pizza, but said that the Chipotle sauce was not spicy at all. They also didn't think the pizza was worth anywhere near the $15 we had paid for it.

Overall, we were all very disappointed with this pizza place. We paid $35.56 for these two pizzas. We would have been much better of going to Pizza Hut, Pacino's, Ameci or many other pizza places, and we would have spent a lot less. I would not recommend Red Brick Pizza to anyone. The only way I would even consider trying it again, would be if they cut their prices in half...or maybe even by 75%...

Do you like Red Brick Pizza? Please leave me a comment and tell me why. I'd love to hear from you.

Red Brick Pizza on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 5, 2008

Jack in the Box - Breakfast Bowls and Cinnamon Rolls

It seems like every time I walk in or drive through a Jack in the Box, there are signs touting a new menu item. The newest additions to the Jack in the Box breakfast menu are two new breakfast bowls and a Cinnamon Roll. I went down there today and got one of each. The breakfast bowls ($2.99) come in both "Hearty" and "Denver" varieties. The Hearty breakfast bowl comes with hash brown sticks, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and shredded cheese. It is then all covered with a white cheese sauce. The Denver bowl has hash brown strips, scrambled eggs, ham, bell peppers, shredded cheese and white cheese sauce. I ordered the Denver bowl without the bell peppers.

Hearty Bowl
Calories: 779.6
Fat: 60.3 g

Denver Bowl:
Calories: 719.5
Fat: 53 g

Cinnamon Roll
Fat: 18.9 g

The bowls start with a layer of hash brown sticks on the bottom. The next layer is scrambled eggs that are reminiscent of eggs from a hotel breakfast bar. They then sprinkle on a little bit of meat and cheese and then cover it all with the cheese sauce. The bowls were ok, but nothing spectacular. Without the cheese sauce, they would be really dry. I think I would rather consume less fat and calories by having a Sausage McMuffin and Hash Browns from McDonalds. The cinnamon roll was quite good. It was warm, gooey and very cinnamony. It might also be a little too sweet. Unfortunately, the cinnamon roll gets cold really fast and quickly becomes dry and hard. If you buy this, make sure to eat it right away.

Jack in the Box on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Go Roma - The District at Tustin Legacy

2453 Park Avenue
Tustin, CA 92782
(714) 259-8646


I recently went down to Go Roma at the fairly new Tustin District. Go Roma is a fast, casual, counter-service restaurant. This place kind of reminds me of Panera, but with Italian food. I looked over the menu and decided to get the Spaghetti and Meatballs ($7.89). This is such a classic dish, that I like to judge new Italian places on how well they can make it. I also order a cup of the Tomato Basil soup to start ($2.69). V decided to get the Oven Roasted Vegetable Sandwich ($5.99). J ordered the Chicken Limone ($8.99) and R got a Pepperoni Pizza ($6.99) with a side salad ($3.29).

We were given a number and told that our food would be out shortly. My cup of soup came out almost immediately. I forgot to take a picture of it because it looked so good. It tasted about as good as it looked. The soup was very creamy. I was told that it was made with cream cheese. I would give it a 7 on a scale of 1-10.

The rest of our food arrived shortly after my soup. All of the food looked pretty good. My spaghetti came with one large meatball on top. I cut up the meatball and mixed it in with my spaghetti. I took a bite and was disappointed. I did not care for this spaghetti at all. The sauce was extremely bland and the meatball had a flavor that I didn't like. The meatball seemed to be seasoned very similarly to Italian sausage, so it tasted more like spaghetti and sausage, than spaghetti and meatballs. I added a lot of parmesan cheese, salt and crushed red pepper. I still didn't like it. I ended up taking most of it home, and then throwing it away a few days later.

V seemed to like her sandwich ok. It came with a thick layer of sauteed spinach with oven roasted red peppers, mushrooms, red onion, tomato and provolone cheese. She thought it was bland though and added a lot of salt and parmesan cheese. The fries that were served with the sandwich were pretty darn tasty.

J's Chicken Limone' came with a side of sauteed spinach. She seemed to like it a lot and ate it all.

R didn't have much to say about his pizza. He thought that it was ok, but for some reason reminded him of an appetizer pizza. The pizza was very thin and not substantial at all. The side salad was just a side salad.

Overall, the food here was decent, but not great. Everyone thought that the food was a little bland so a lot of salt and parmesan cheese was used. Since the prices are very reasonable though, I would recommend this place to anyone that was looking for a fast, cheap, Italian meal. I will probably go here again sometime, I just won't order the spaghetti again.

*Prices may be slightly off as they are pulled from the restaurant website and may vary by location. They're pretty close though.

Go Roma on Urbanspoon