Delicious Green Juice at Real Food Daily

I’ve been on a juice kick ever since I watched the documentary, Sick, Fat, and Nearly Dead.  I’ve not committed to the Reboot program or anything just yet (that’s the juicing detox diet that successfully reserved the subject Joe Cross’ obesity and other symptoms he once suffered) but the juices that he enjoyed in the film looked so good that I started craving them!

The healthy concoction that I was particularly interested in was the Green Juice with kale, spinach, cucumber, celery, apple, and ginger root. It looked delicious and I like all the vegetables individually (maybe except for cucumber) or in salads, but I was slightly intimidated by the idea of juicing them all together.

Luckily, I was able to try something very similar at Real Food Daily in Santa Monica over the weekend. I ordered Sweet Green, with cucumber, celery, kale, parsley, spinach, and apple (and I added a ginger root) … and it was SO delicious! The sweetness of the apple and the spiciness of the ginger roots cut through the bitterness of kale, making the juice incredibly refreshing and tasty … and sweet!  I’m totally going to start making Green Juice at home now! 🙂

While at our favorite vegan organic restaurant, I had my favorite Tofu BBQ Chopped salad with mountains of chopped seasonal vegetables, cashew cheese, and Romaine lettuce, topped with a generous serving of BBQ tofu blocks. My sister’s Basic Four with Garlicky Greens, Seitan, quinoa, and seaweed salad looked mighty delicious too.

Here’s my previous post on Real Food Daily (the La Cienega location).

Real Food Daily
514 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401

Just Trust It: Sushi Sasabune

There isn’t much that I can say about Sushi Sasabune in West Los Angeles that hasn’t already been said … and pretty much everything I wanted to say was already said beautifully by John Oliver at LAist.  So I’m going to make this post really short and let the pictures speak for themselves.

We all go to sushi restaurants for different things. If you want delicious spicy tuna on crunchy rice, to go Katsuya. If you want non-traditional American-style sushi, go to Yamato or Sushi Dan. But if you want to experience sushi with the highest quality of fish, go to Sasabune, and order the Japanese omakase course.  Don’t even bother with anything else.  And make sure to follow the “soy sauce” and “no soy sauce” rule to experience each piece of sushi at its best.

This place is seriously one of, if not the best, sushi restaurants in Los Angeles.

Pen Fish (tastes like clam), Baby Tuna, and Albacore with ponzu.

Tuna and toro, halibut and clam, oyster and mussel baked in mayonnaise

Aji (Spanish Mackerel) and Anaebi (sweet shrimp), shrimp eggs in ponzu.  There was a fried shrimp head that accompanied them (which I forgot to take a picture of).

Clam and squid, uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon roe), anago (freshwater eel) and I forgot what the other one was. At the end, we all received a simple hand roll with real crab meat.

12400 Wilshire Blvd., West Los Angeles, CA 90025

Huckleberry Fun in Santa Monica

If I were to ever open my own shop, I would like it to look and feel like Huckleberry, this lovely bakery / restaurant in Santa Monica. I’ve only been here twice but I’m already smitten by its nature-inspired decor and high-quality offerings.

My staple here is a dish called Soft Baked Egg. Contrary to the name, this is not a traditional egg dish but rather a wonderful Tuscan soup made from roasted tomatoes and white beans with silky pouched egg in the middle. There’s a cheese in the soup (Parmesan or goat cheese, depending on the availability) that enhances the flavor of the tomato soup. I love the thick slice of bread that comes on the side, especially because you know that it came right out of the oven in the back. This soup is simple and hearty, and absolutely delicious.

I’m curious about other delicious items from its ever-chaging seasonal menu, but it’s hard not to order this amazing soup each time I visit. I’m sure I’ll eventually venture out to something new but until then, I’ll be indulging in Soft Baked Egg.

I also took home a freshly-baked baguette and had it for dinner that night. The bread was crusty on the outside and chewy in the inside – a perfect combination. It was perhaps the best baguette I’ve had in many years.

1014 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 91404

My Sister’s Birthday Ritual: Wakasanchi

I finally decided to join the civilization and purchased an iPhone a few months ago. I am not particularly tech savvy so I’m sure I haven’t even come close to tapping all the amazing capabilities of this smart phone, but I am liking it so far!  And it has certainly made my bag a little lighter. I no longer need to carry my digital camera every time I go out to eat, in case I decide to take pictures. I think the quality of these photos is pretty good!

Here are the photos from me and my family’s recent Wakasanchi outing to celebrate my sister’s birthday, just like last year. I’m glad this day’s omakase menu was packed with seafood. I think my father would have rather had something different but my mother and I, the fish lovers, sure enjoyed the assorted sashimi, salmon, and several types of shrimps!

Oscars and Scones: Tudor House

I think I lied on the last post when I said that February is a bore. February is indeed an exciting month. How could have forgotten that the Academy Awards is on tonight (an entertainment equivalent of Super Bowl for ladies)? I will be popping open a bottle of wine and watching the show from beginning to an end, as well as the pre-shows.

Although I’m not much of a movie buff anymore (when did it become so expensive to go to the movies?), I loved some of the flicks that are nominated for the awards this year – The King’s Speech, Black Swan, and Toy Story 3 in particular. My bets are on Colin Firth and Natalie Portman for Best Actor and Actress Awards respectively, with The King’s Speech taking the Best Picture prize. We’ll see how close I was tomorrow.

In the meantime, in honor of cheering for the gorgeous Brit, Colin Firth, I share with you pictures I took at Tudor House in Santa Monica yesterday afternoon. It was a baby shower for friend Y who is expecting a second baby in a few weeks. What a great place to have a shower (baby or bridal), with delicious English teas, tiny tea sandwiches, buttery scones, and all things lovely about England.  Ta ta!

Tudor House
1403 2nd Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Carb Load Paradise: Torafuku

Last week’s Los Angeles marathon was such an amazing journey for me, perhaps the most memorable amongst the three previous races. The last three were marvelous too, of course, but this one was particularly significant for several reasons.

First and foremost, this was my sister and my first full marathon together. We didn’t run together during the race but we shared the stress before the race, and the celebration afterward. And thanks to her expert guidance, I was able to cross the finish line safe and completely blister free (this was a pleasant surprise, especially after I suffered a blister on my foot the size of Texas after my last marathon). We ran together a lot during our weekly personal training session and she corrected my form frequently. I have no doubt that that was the reason I was able to complete the race completely injury free!  I’m sending a big thank you and an even bigger congratulations to my sister for completing her first full marathon! biggrin

The second reason why this race meant so much was because I met my “marathon angel.” Let me explain. When I was at the starting line at Dodger’s Stadium waiting for the race to start, I met this gentleman and started up a conversation. He was a soft-spoken, kind man, in his 60s. We parted ways when the race began but we found each other at mile 6 and ran together for about seven miles. We pushed each other, cracked a few jokes along the way, and encouraged each other to keep going. At around Mile 16, I got the second wind of energy and he wanted to slow down the pace a bit, so we parted ways, promising to see each other at the finish line. Unfortunately, our paths didn’t cross again but I will always think of him as my marathon angel because I would have never been able to enjoy the run as much as I did without his presence. I searched for his results afterward and saw that he crossed the finish line about 10 minutes after me. I hope I run into him again at other local races someday so I can congratulate him, and thank him for his kindness. 🙂

Last but not least … the carb load!  As you know, the marathon experience is never complete without a proper carb load the night before the race. After we went to the Expo to pick up our bibs, grab some freebies, and drive around the racecourse, my sister, friend N, and I headed over to Torafuku on Pico in Los Angeles (next to Westside Pavilion) to load up on its famous white rice cooked with an iron metal pot called “kamado.” I had not been here before but have heard the buzz around it for a while now so I was very excited to check the place out.

I knew I had to keep the dinner fairly light to be in the best condition for the next day’s race but when I saw the Fried Assortment of shrimp, katsu (pork tenderloin), and croquette, I had to have them (what marathon?).

The white rice was delightful. It was not sticky like the ones I was accustomed to, and each rice grain had a wonderful bite to it.  And the fried shrimp, pork, and croquette were perfectly golden, unbelievably crispy, not at all greasy.  We made our dinners into a combo by adding $6 and got a bowl of rice and miso soup in return.  It’s not a bad deal, considering I had just experienced one of the most delicious rice I’ve ever tasted! 🙂

My sister ordered the grilled Jidori free-range chicken which was flavored very simply with salt …

And N ordered Black Cod Fillet which were perfectly oily and subtly sweet.  Delicious!

We all ended up ordering another bowl of rice each with dinner. My sister and I took a few rice balls to go to eat for breakfast the next day. They were pretty steep in price at about $5 each but I truly believe it was the salmon and mentaiko rice balls that gave me the bust of energy at the latter part of the race!

10914 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles,CA 90064

Hot Pot for All Seasons: Shabu Shabu at Mizu 212

I love Japanese hot pots, especially during cold winter months, or an early spring month like March, when mother nature is quite not ready to let go of the last chilly breeze in the air before inevitably succumbing to spring, waiting patiently in the wings. When I go and visit my parents for dinner, my mother makes us a Japanese hot pot, or “nabe,” for dinner because they are healthy, filling and relatively easy to prepare, and it is me and my mother’s favorite food (although I think my father prefers more “meaty” dish for dinner). The more popular kind of nabe is perhaps sukiyaki, a hot pot with thinly-sliced beef, vegetables, and udon noodle, with soy sauce, sake, and sugar broth, but at my house, when we say nabe, we mean the hot pot with fish, napa cabbage, tofu, and harusame, a clear rice noodle, commonly known as “yudofu” (translates to “tofu in hot water”). Just thinking about it makes me crave the warm comfort of this lovely dish.

Another nabe that seems to capture the American gastronomic curiosity is shabu shabu, that allows you to cook the sliced raw meat and / or seafood and vegetables in boiling water, self-served style. I’ve noticed that there are several shabu shabu restaurants in the Los Angeles area, like Koji’s on Hollywood and Highland, Yoshi’s in Sherman Oaks, and Mizu 212 on Sawtelle’s restaurant row in West Los Angeles. Every time I take relative nabe newcomers to a shabu shabu restaurant, they stare at the pot full of boiling water and ask why they have to pay to cook their own meal. 😆 Although the idea of having to cook your own food may sound bizarre to some, the real fun of this dish is moving your chopsticks from one plate to another and keeping yourself busy while enjoying your company. Perhaps this is an ideal meeting place for a first date (or even a blind date), because when you run out of something to talk about, you can pretend to be busy with cooking the food!

I had no problem keeping the conversation going during my last shabu shabu outing because I was at Mizu 212 with my best friend Maya, who came to visit me from Portland at our old stomping ground en route to San Diego to spend time with her other best friend, lovely Lita. Trying to swish the meat back and forth in the hot water while laughing out loud and catching up took some juggling act but we love the food and the experience so much that we often find ourselves at a shabu shabu joint every time we get together!

The Vintage Natural Prime Rib-Eye was absolutely delicious, but my favorite part of the shabu shabu dining is the ponzu concoction that you create as a dipping sauce. You get two kinds, a refreshing citrus-based ponzu sauce and creamy sesame sauce as a base, with my favorite being the former. I like to add lots of grated garlic and daikon raddish, chopped green onions, and shichimi (seven ingredients) peppers to the sauce for some added flavors. This makes already delicious meat and vegetables even more satisfying!

This was just day one of me and Maya’s gastro vacation. There are more delicious culinary adventures to document here so stay tuned!

Mizu 212
2000 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90189

Birthday Bash (not mine) at Wakasanchi

I grew up not liking my own birthdays much. I appreciated the kind regards I received from friends but I never liked receiving gifts or being in the center of attention … or being consistently reminded that I was one year older than I was yesterday. Now, as I’m comfortably settled into my age and where I am in my life, I can smile and thank them genuinely for their warm wishes … but my birthdays are still usually spend quietly with my close friends and family. I still can’t decide if I’m anti-social or just shy … but for my sake, let’s hope it’s the latter! 😆

My sister, on the other hand, has always cherished birthdays. She’s a real social butterfly and undoubtedly the fun one in the family. Her birthday celebration usually lasts for a week, if not longer, with dinner, parties, and cocktails. I must admit that I love it because this gives me an excuse to enjoy a weeklong fun (usually accompanied by good eats) and get to meet many of her wonderful friends who come together to partake in the festivity!

Tonight, 20 or so of her friends got together at Wakasanachi in Westwood to kick-start the birthday bash over great Omakase dinner and sake. My sister is very blessed to have such wonderful friends around her who are generous, kind, and just fun to be around!

The course started out with spinach ohitashi and assorted sashimi (not pictured as I was too busy eating, as usual), and continued on with tofu with sea urchin and shiso leaf …

fish cake soup with daikon …

grilled salmon and anago sushi …

shabu shabu (how cool is this?) …

fried shrimps crusted with potatoes, tempura bamboo, and shishito …

… and salmon roe with sea urchin and wasabi, and steam rice!

And this adorable mini creme burlee for dessert!

While to some, these food seemed like something that would appear on Fear Factor, everyone seems to have enjoyed each other’s company, even if there weren’t able to pronounce the food they just sampled.

Happy birthday, Saori, and may this year be the best year! I love you so much! 🙂  (And looking forward to Day #2 of the birthday soiree with family dinner tomorrow night.)

Plate Full of TLC: Tender Greens

tender green front

I love the contradiction steak salad brings to the table. A hunky piece of steak on a bed of delicate greens is as interesting as meeting a manly man who enjoys opera. I guess I can say that steak salad is Ronny Cammareri of the food world – it can appear a bit awkward at first but it can turn out to be incredibly sexy, complex and delicious. (If you have never seen the movie, “Moonstruck,” please watch it … it’s tangy, luscious, and bittersweet all rolled up in one, beautifully made flick … and I have a thing for Nic Cage.)

tender green steak salad

I am a serial dater when it comes to finding the best steak salad in town. I try it at every opportunity I get.  Yes, I get around.  Of all the countless plates I’ve consumed in the last several years, I would have to say that the steak salad I had the other day at Culver City’s Tender Greens ranks as one of my favorites. The steak here is not for the faintest of heart – it is a real deal. The thick grilled flatiron steak is juicy and flavorful, and the combination of the tender steak with sweet red and gold beets on the bed of velvety butter lettuce dressed with horseradish vinaigrette would make anyone want to sing an aria. 🙂

tender green cobb

Check out Tender Greens’ selections of “simple” and “big” salads like the Grilled Chicken Cobb my sister ordered (pictured above), as well as “hot stuff” from the grill. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a nice glass of wine.

Tender Greens
9523 Culver, Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
(Other locations include West Hollywood and San Deigo)

No Culinary Blossoms Here: Seed

seed storefrontI wanted to fall in love with Seed in Venice Beach so badly … I really did.

How could I not? This place received an impressive review from the Los Angeles Times, and many patrons also seemed to adore this little join that specializes in organic, vegan macrobiotics choices, with colorful array of dessert selections crafted masterfully by former M Chaya patisserie, Eric Lechasseur, now the owner of Seed. Paired with raves from celebrity fans like Madonna and Leonardo DiCaprio, the place had the pedigree of an ultimate knockout in the culinary rink. Everything was going toward its favor.

seed bowlI would first acknowledge that Saisai Donburi Marco Bowl, a culinary playground of kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), shiitake, kale, sauerkraut, canellini beans and other healthy seasonal vegetables imaginable on the bed of brown rice, that my sister and I ate did live up to all the hype. No doubt. Seitan, a meat substitute made out of wheat gluten, was incredibly juicy and flavorful, it got me, the carnivore, asking, “beef what?” The mixture of seasonable veggies, creamy beans and other pickled vegetables, sprinkled with tangy and aromatic shiso powder and aonori condiments, danced in my mouth, taking me to a happy, gastronomical place. 🙂

With that out of the way, let me begin my rants:

① This place has no restroom in the premise. Seriously, that’s awful. And in front of the join is a small, 1-hour parking … one more thing to worry about when dining here.

② Food comes in plastic container, which cheapened the entire dining experience, especially after dishing out $15 for a rice bowl. Even the desserts are pre-packaged in the clear, plastic box as they sit in the glass case. I saw a threesome that came in to the place, looked at the dessert options, and left. It’s kinda unappetizing, to tell you the truth. This seemed like a strange decision, knowing that the owner is a pastry chef.  And how about the amount of trash that accumulate?

③ I feel like this place belongs in places like Montana Avenue or Abbot Kinney, not in the smelly Venice Beach. It’s just me, but I’m not really a fan of this part of Venice.

④ Bad service. Maybe it was just that day when I was there, but the guy at the counter just stood there even when the food came out of the kitchen. I also had to go up to the counter to get the desserts because he forgot. Granted, my sister and I were the only ones in the restaurant at that time of the day, but we still, we were totally forgotten while staff stood around and talked.

seed cupcake⑤ And the cupcake … let me tell you about the Chocolate Cupcake with Green Tea Frosting that I ordered … disgusting. I know that the cupcakes here are made out of maple syrup and / or brown rice sweeter instead of regular sugar and they use all the vegan ingredients but that’s no excuse. I’ve had plenty of wonderful, non-sugar, non-dairy sweets elsewhere. This cupcake was flavorless and dense (not in a good way), and I had to put it down after the first bite. This was disappointing to say the least because I love cupcakes and I was really looking forward to the much talked-about pastry by Chef Eric who even wrote a book on this topic. 😕 I will say, however, that the Chocolate Mousse Terrine wasn’t bad.  It had a nice combination of sweet and tangy (sounds strange on a chocolate but it works) and aside from being a little too rich, I thought it was very tasty.

seed boardIf this were a dating world, Seed would be someone who’s a really nice guy but other factors, such as his loser friends, are just too much of a liability to take the relationship to the next level. I would definitely like to try its donburi and other delicious food on the menu like Blackened Tempeh Burger with Sauerkraut and Seitan Pepper Steak, but that’s only if someone is willing to pick it up for me, on the to-go order.

I really thought Seed and I would have a wonderful future together but I guess I just have to file away this experience in my culinary “been there, done that” box and put it away. Until I find my macrobiotic and vegan Gastro Mr. Right, you can find me at M Chaya and Real Food Daily, respectively.

1604 Pacific Avenue, Venice, CA 90291