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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kobe Teppan and Sushi

13741 Newport Ave
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 544-4055

3 more locations in Plano-TX, San Marcos-TX and Tempe-AZ

I visited Kobe Teppan and Sushi around 7:00 PM on a Friday night as a party of five. We were seated immediately. I'm a pretty big fan of teppanyaki restaurants because the food is usually pretty tasty and it's always fun to watch the chefs do their tricks while cooking in front of you.

We looked over the menu and tried to decide what to order. After a few minutes I decided to order my standard teppanyaki meal of steak and chicken with fried rice ($24.95 + $2.50 extra for the fried rice). I then noticed that the menu said it was $2.00 extra if you wanted them to use fresh garlic when they cooked your food. I have never seen this on a teppanyaki menu before. Most of the teppanyaki restaurants I have been to use garlic on everyone's food unless you specifically request "no garlic." I decided to just try my food the way it came instead of paying the extra $2.00 for garlic.

J ordered the NY steak ($22.95), R ordered the Hibachi Chicken ($17.95) and S ordered Teriyaki Beef ($20.95). S also ordered the Fuji Roll ($9.95). V decided she would just have sushi for dinner and ordered a Philly Roll ($7.95) and a Kiss of Fire Roll (Price Unknown).

A few minutes after we ordered, they brought everyone (except V since she only ordered sushi) a salad and some soup. The soup was an onion soup with mushrooms that was pretty plain, but pretty tasty. The salad had a standard gingery dressing on it. It was also pretty good.

The chef arrived, confirmed everyone's order and started cooking. He seemed to have pretty low energy. He started off cooking the fried rice. The fried rice was your basic recipe of carrots, celery, onion, chicken, rice, oil, butter and soy sauce. He added some salt, pepper and sesame seeds as well.

He then made the classic onion volcano with a little twist. He made the volcano and then made an inverted one on top of it. This unfortunately was the extent of his "flair" cooking. Watching the rest of his "show" was about as exciting as watching a short order cook working the grill at a diner. There were no tricks with the eggs for the fried rice, no twirling of knives, no strobe lights. It was basically just some guy cooking.

He finished up everyone's food and then realized that he had given the wrong meat to people. He apologized and said that we should just eat what was on our plate and he would go get more steak from the kitchen. He returned with a couple more steaks, quickly cooked them up and served them out. Our chef said that he had been doing this for 10+ years so he must have just been having an off night.

I started to eat my food and was really disappointed. It was extremely bland. Everyone else seemed to agree. I asked the waitress for some salt and pepper. I don't think I have ever had to do this at a teppanyaki restaurant before. Everything, including the fried rice, had no flavor. At this point I was thinking that maybe it would have been a good idea to pay the extra $2.00 so they would have used some garlic when they cooked my food. S said that since her food was covered in teriyaki sauce, it tasted ok. Everyone else though took turns using the salt and pepper shakers.

New York Steak and Hibachi Chicken

Teriyaki Steak

V's sushi arrived around the time the chef started cooking. The Philly roll contained salmon, cream cheese and avocado. She liked the Philly roll and said it tasted about the same as any other sushi place. Then she tried the Kiss of Fire roll. This roll had albacore and avocado on the inside and was topped with spicy tuna and green onions. She said that the albacore tuna inside was really fishy. She also got a fish bone and some fish scales in her mouth. She was not enjoying this at all. We informed the waiter of the problems with the roll and requested a spicy tuna roll ($7.95, not pictured) instead. The waiter apologized and took back the Kiss of Fire roll. He brought back a spicy tuna roll a few minutes later. V enjoyed this roll a lot more. S's Fuji roll was basically a California roll topped with fresh salmon. It was also covered with some kind of sauce that was similar to soy sauce. S liked this roll a lot. J tried it and liked it as well even though she doesn't usually like raw salmon.

Overall, everyone was really disappointed with the teppanyaki at this restaurant. It was just really bland. The sushi seemed to be decent though. The prices are high and the show wasn't any good. Most teppanyaki places can justify the high prices because you are getting an entertaining show with your meal. This place didn't really provide much of a show though so I think I will avoid this place in the future and just go to Koki's whenever I want sushi and teppanyaki.

Kobe Teppan & Sushi on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

La Vie En Rose - Brea

240 S. State College Blvd.
Brea, CA 92821


I was looking for a place to go for dinner on New Year's Eve. I wanted to go to a place I had never been before. I was looking around the internet and stumbled upon La Vie en Rose in Brea. I had been wanting to try this place for years. Since I'm also a big fan of French food, this seemed like the perfect choice. I booked a reservation for 5 people at 7:00 PM a few weeks in advance with no problem.

We arrived at La Vie en Rose and it looked beautiful. The restaurant was built to resemble an old fashioned French farmhouse. The restaurant was elegantly decorated with tons of Christmas decorations. I was a little sad that there wasn't a single "New Year's" decoration though. We arrived about 30 minutes early since there wasn't any traffic. Luckily they were still able to seat us a few minutes after we arrived.

We looked over the menu and saw that they offer both a 3 course Prix Fixe (Price Fixed) menu for $39.75 as well as an a la carte menu. They also have a very reasonably priced wine list. Myself, S and R decided to go with the Prix Fixe meal while V and J ordered a la carte. V ordered one of the nightly specials which was Mahi Mahi covered in an orange beurre blanc sauce (Sorry, can't remember the price). J decided on the Medaillons de Veau Sautés, Sauce Crème aux Cepes (sauteed veal tenderloin $28.75). She also ordered a Soufflé au Grand Marnier ($11.00) at the same time because they need to be ordered 40 minutes in advance.

For the first course of our prix fixe meal, S ordered the caesar salad, R ordered the French onion soup and I ordered the gnocchi with basil and brie cream sauce. I gave my gnocchi to V though because I wasn't that hungry. V said that the gnocchi was pretty good but that it was lacking a little in flavor. J and S also tried the gnocchi and agreed that it didn't taste like much. V put some salt on it and said that it was a little better. She also said that the gnocchi was really light and fluffy. She really liked the consistency. R said that his soup was good but nothing special. He said it's about what he would expect of French onion soup. It wasn't bursting with flavor, he said, but he still enjoyed it. S said about the same thing of her caesar salad.

Caesar Salad

French Onion Soup

Gnocchi with Basil and Brie Cream Sauce

Next up were our entrees. S and I both ordered the Sautéed Beef Tournedos & Lobster Tail with Béarnaise Sauce. I was really excited because I really like lobster. I decided to take a bite of my lobster first. I tried to gingerly cut a piece off with my steak knife but quickly realized that I was going to have to actually saw through the lobster meat with a lot of force. I looked up and saw S having a hard time cutting through her lobster as well. S looks up and says to me, "This is only the second time I've ever ordered lobster. Is it usually this hard to cut through?" I assured her that it was not. The lobster was extremely overcooked so it was dense, dry and as tough as leather. It was so dry that I tried spreading some butter from the bread basket on to it in hopes that it would make it better. It didn't. I was also disappointed because the menu said "beef tounadoes," as in multiple pieces, but S and I only received one small beef tournado on our plate. The beef was surprisingly hard to cut through as well. However, when we ate the steak it was pretty tender, so that was odd.
Keep in mind that the plates at this restaurant were pretty small. Therefore, the pictures make the food look bigger than it actually was. I would estimate that the lobster tail was 2 to 3 ounces and the steak was probably no more than 3 ounces as well.

R picked the Duck Breast Sauteed with Orange Sauce as his entree choice. He thought the duck was pretty good but felt that the sauce was a little too sweet. J tried his sauce and disagreed. She thought that the sauce wasn't sweet enough. So I guess there must be another category of people that think the sweetness is just right.

V liked her fish but seemed to get sick of the sauce pretty quickly. She said that the fish was moist and tender. About halfway through the dish though, she stopped eating and said she just didn't feel like eating any more of it.

J thought that her veal tenderloin was tender and juicy. she said that the sauce that came on it was also very good. She said that the meal was very much in the traditional French style.

One of the things that I didn't like too much about this place was that every single entree served here comes with the same side dishes. They may or may not change, I'm not sure. On this particular night, the side dishes were potatoes au gratin and sauteed vegetables. Neither one of them were very good. I like it when a restaurant offers side dishes that are unique to each dish. When every dish comes with the same side dishes, it makes me envision a cafeteria style kitchen in the back where someone is just scooping out portions from a large buffet of chafing dishes.

For dessert I chose the chocolate mousse with white chocolate shavings. R decided upon the cheesecake and S chose the creme brulee with fresh berries. I thought the chocolate mousse was pretty good. It was nice and rich and had a velvety consistency. I thought there was a little too much white chocolate on top though so I dumped it out. S said that her creme brulee was good. It came with three blackberries on the bottom of it. R seemed to like his cheesecake as well. The dessert portions were pretty small as well. The creme brulee was probably 3 ounces and R just got a sliver of cheesecake.

Chocolate Mousse

Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce

Creme Brulee

J's souffle came out and looked fantastic. The waiter punched a hole in the top and poured some sauce into it. J really liked her souffle. V tried some of the souffle as well. The portion that she got didn't have any sauce on it so she said it just tasted like hot, whipped egg whites. She got a little more with some sauce and said that it tasted a little better, but was still really eggy.

Overall, I really liked the feel and atmosphere of this place. It has a really warm, inviting feel to it. The owner was seen walking around and greeting people. He even stopped at one table and had a conversation with them in French. The food I had just wasn't that great though. I really want to like this place, because I love French food. I think I'm going to give this place another chance and hope that whatever I order is better than the lobster I had on this occassion.

La Vie En Rose on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gen - Irvine

3957 Irvine Blvd.
Irvine, CA 92602

Alternate Location:
4143 Campus Dr.
Irvine, CA

I recently went down to the new Gen in Irvine to take advantage of some of their grand opening specials. This seems to be the second location of Gen, the first being in UCI Town Center. Gen is a casual, counter service, Japanese restaurant. They have a large selection of hot food and sushi. They also serve beer and sake.

I went down to Gen around 6:00 on a Wednesday night. The restaurant was fairly empty. V and I met R and J for a quick casual dinner. J and I both ordered a Sesame Chicken bowl ($3.99 on sale $5.99 reg price). R ordered a combo plate with teriyaki chicken and shrimp tempura ($7.49). V and I also ordered a spicy tuna roll ($2.99 on sale $5.99 reg price). R and I also decided to each get a large hot sake ($1.99 on sale $6.00 regular price).

J and I both liked our sesame chicken. The chicken was fresh and crispy and had a pretty good flavor. Of course it wasn't as good as the sesame chicken I had made a week earlier for New Year's, but it was still good.

V and I also liked the spicy tuna roll. It was about what you would expect from a spicy tuna roll. There was nothing special about it but it was definitely better than a lot of spicy tuna rolls that I have had from fast food Japanese places. I would definitely order this again.

R liked his combo plate and said that the teriyaki sauce was pretty good.

Overall, I think that Gen is a great place to go for a quick, casual Japanese meal. The food is pretty good and the sushi seems fresh. Since this place is really close to my house, I have a feeling I'll be stopping in here a lot.

**********UPDATE 1/14/2009**********

I stopped by Gen for lunch today because I forgot to take a picture of the sign. This week they had regular udon on sale for $2.99. I ordered that for lunch and added a 4 piece spicy tuna roll ($1.50 extra with purchase of entree). The udon was pretty good, but nothing special. I still enjoyed my spicy tuna roll. My only complaint about this restaurant is that both times I have been there, it has been extremely hot inside. My first visit was on a chilly evening, so maybe they might have had the heater on. Today it was about 92 degrees outside and I don't think they were using their air conditioning. Therefore, if you're going to get food at Gen, I'd recommend you get it to go.

Gen Sushi on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Togo's helps your pocketbook and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

For a limited time, Togo's is offering one sandwich variety per day for $3.99. For every sandwich that is puchased at this reduced price, a portion will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Below is the press release and details:

San Jose, CA – January 06, 2009 – Togo’s Eateries, Inc., purveyor of delicious, handcrafted sandwiches that are freshly prepared for people on the go, today announced the New Daily Special promotion starting January 7, reducing the price of one featured sandwich each day of the week to $3.99. With consumers tightening their belts in an uncertain economy, Togo’s provides customers a great deal without compromising quality. Each day of the week will feature one of Togo’s ‘Greatest Hits,’ like the famous No. 24, Turkey and Avocado. Not only will Togo’s offer their customers a great value but will donate a portion of each purchase to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

“The New Daily Specials promotion offers Togo’s customers some of Togo’s most famous and delicious sandwiches at budget friendly prices,” said Tony Gioia, Chairman and CEO. “We know that times are getting tough for many people and feel that it’s imperative to give back to all those who have supported us throughout the years. We’re excited to offer our fresh and delicious sandwiches at this promotional price.”

The New Daily Special promotion will begin on January 7. Every day of the week will feature a different Togo’s ‘Greatest Hits’ sandwich. These include many of the long-time, top selling, favorite sandwiches of its customers. The promotion is available at all participating locations for a limited time only. For more information about Togo’s and the wide selection of sandwich, salad and wrap selections, please visit or stop by your local Togo’s today.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Macy's Culinary Council Signature Kitchen/Cat Cora's Que/Marc Samuelsson's Burger/La Brea Bakery - Costa Mesa

Macy's Home Store South Coast Plaza
Level One
333 Bear Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

714-708-3333 x3601

For months I have been waiting for this place to open. Every time I went to south Coast Plaza I would walk through the Macy's home store to see if it had opened yet. The construction wall just teased me with the promise of a CCQ-Cat Cora's Que, Marc Samuelsson's Burger and Nancy Silverton's La Brea Bakery all as part of one restaurant. I waited and waited. I was most excited about Cat Cora's Que. The sign said that it would be Cat Cora's take on traditional barbecue foods. I recently heard that my wait was finally over. I decided to head on down there for lunch with J.

As I walked into Macy's I was greeted by a large, bright space that housed these eating establishments. Large posters and signs with the faces of Cat Cora, Mark Sammuelson and Nancy Silverton were everywhere. The entrance to the restaurant also sported large menu boards that were categorized by each restaurant.

My eyes quickly went to the Cat Cora's Que menu. I immediately decided on the CCQ platter ($11.95) with the "Low and Slow" Brisket as my meat choice. J was in the mood for a burger so she chose off the Marc Sammuelson's burger menu. J went with the Classic Burger with white cheddar cheese ($8.50). We went up the the counter and ordered our meals. I was told that my meal came with a madeleine and I had my choice of cheddar and scallion or blue corn jalapeno. I decided to get the cheddar scallion and I also ordered an extra side of three blue corn jalapeno madeleines ($1.95).

We were given a number and we went and found a table. The unique thing about Cat Cora's Que is that you pick your meat and you then have your choice of eight different sauces that you can put on top. The sauces were Mississippi Mop, Southern Red, Asian Hoisin, Green Gaucho, Carolina Mustard, Mediterranean Fennel, Ancho-Apple and Spicy Orange Peel. I strolled up to the bar with the serve yourself sauces and noticed that the sauces were all in plastic bottles buried in ice. This just didn't make sense to me. Why would anyone want to pour ice cold sauce on to their hot food? Wouldn't that just make their food instantly ice cold? I asked the guy behind the counter if they could heat some of the sauce up for me. He said he was happy to do so. I asked him to heat up some of the Mississippi Mop and some of the Southern Red. After he walked away, I decided to also serve myself a small portion of the Green Gaucho sauce. I didn't want to be a pain, so I didn't ask him to heat it up for me.

Our food arrived after about a ten minute wait. I looked at my plate and was a little surprised. This did definitely look different than traditional barbecue. On my plate I received two thin slices of brisket that kind of resembled bacon. It appears that they slice the brisket and then possibly pan fry it or something because it was all crispy on the outside. I was really hoping that for $12.00 I was going to get more meat than the two thin slices I received. The meat was served with barbecue beans that were made with kidney, pinto and mostly garbanzo beans as well as a vegetable slaw. The meat wasn't horrible, but I wouldn't exactly classify it as good either. It wasn't too tender and was a little dry. The mississippi mop sauce tasted just like tomato soup to me. The southern red sauce tasted almost like straight vinegar with a slight hint of tomato. The green gaucho sauce smelled fantastic. It smelled like a freshly made pesto sauce. Unfortunately, it tasted like nothing. I got up and went to go get a side of the Carolina mustard sauce and some barbecue sauce that was supposed to be for the people with burgers. The carolina mustard sauce tasted like watery hot mustard sauce from McDonalds with a little vinegar. The third barbecue sauce probably had the least amount of flavor of all. I finally gave up and ate the last few bites of my meat plain. The beans were made with molasses and were really sweet. I didn't like them at all. The vegetable slaw was just blah. Both the cheddar scallion and corn jalapeno madeleines also tasted like nothing. J sampled all my sauces, the beans, the slaw and the madeleines as well. She didn't like any of it either.

J said that her burger was pretty good. She said that it was about on par with a Red Robin burger or similar. She did say that the burger was really well done though so if you like your burgers with a little pink in them, you should ask when you order if they can do that for you. She really liked the french fries that came with her burger. I tried them and thought they were really good as well.

To say that I was disappointed with my food here would be a huge understatement. After this experience, I don't think I can ever bring myself to try anything from Cat Cora's Que ever again. I will most likely return to Macy's Signature Kitchen but I will stick to Marc Samuelsson's burgers or La Brea Bakery.

Signature Kitchen on Urbanspoon