The 20th Birthday Posts: Lunasia Chinese Cuisine

I am twenty…so what?

Feel the same, look the same and absolutely eat the same (even more I think?). Still can’t help but feel nostalgic but at the same time…good riddance, seriously.

Delayed my highly anticipated, usual Dim Sum feast at Elite an extra hour to do some excruciating forward bends, I ended up haphazardly trying Lunasia Chinese Cuisine right across the street (decided to go with the whole ‘new phase in life’ theme, hence, try a new Dim Sum Place?).

This was probably my first Dim Sum experience back in the day when they were still ‘Triumphal Palace’. They have a very similar menu to Triumphal Palace’s, not too far from Elite’s so, I stuck with some of my usuals, and of course…tried new things.

We were the first guests of day, the three of us (mom, pops & me) were the only ones there for a good hour, service was impeccable. Not even five minutes had passed since we submitted our little dim sum exam sheet (check off, no carts in sight) and our first plate had arrived.

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It was simply translated to Boiled Chinese Green, definitely a close relative to Kai Lan (Chinese Broccoli). Lived up to its name as there was no resistance in the usually undercooked stalk of this plant, came along nicely with some added texture of the chewy bean curd pieces on top. The broth added depth.

Then these babies showed up.

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Baked Turnip Cakes have been making its way to most of these modern check-off establishments. This glorious pastry encompasses that ubiquitous shrimp-pork-rice flour steamed turnip mixture and adds even more of a swoon affect with its luxurious flaky crust. Still, keeping that light touch; not as greasy and rich as in other places.

Next up was the Sauteed Eggplant.

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Eggplant is one tough veggie, literally. To get rid of that bitter, dry mealy raw texture requires a lot of patience, skill and heat. That said, these were good. Texture somewhere between a fried plantain but still a little bit of that raw eggplant stuff left in tact. The accompanying sauce was as expected, a lot lighter on flavors–not as sweet or salty–than most other chinese eggplant stuff.

The vegetable dumplings were standard.

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A plethora of finely cut assorted veggies and bean noodles. Just have to wait a while to cool (which I couldn’t), so they can be chopstick manageable. Since they are done in the Cantonese style of the south, fragile, translucent rice flour is used, not thick pliable wheat flour like in most dumpling/noodle only shops.

Almost done.

pan fried turnip xo

Pan Fried Turnip Cake in X.0 Sauce

X-O Sauce is a concoction derived from brewing the hell out of dried fish, scallops and shrimp then cooked with garlic, chili, onion and oil. Put this on anything and I will eat it. The turnip-mixture spears were satisfying, starchy and hitting the same comfort spot as a devious steak french fry. My dad was convinced it was a potato wedge.

We also got these Purple Rice Wraps due to the exclusivity of it. But they didn’t make the photo room floor (totally crossed my mind somehow). These were the only things that broke that signature lightness that was apparent through out all the dishes. The wrapper acted as a sponge for excess oil. Nonetheless, the obscure forbidden rice delivered its floral savory notes, it was well seasoned.

These though, let me tell you about these.

godfood

Durian Pastry

Absolute godfood. That same buttery, flakey crust but this time enveloping the king of fruits: Durian, in all its luscious, silky divinity. I will admit, it was a bit sissified though to maintain Lunasia’s signature lightness.

Going again with the theme, I opted for Pu-er cha (tea), a fermented black tea associated with old chinese men for it’s digestive benefits, ha. It went nicely with everything, tasting of earth. It kept me rooted and refreshed through out the meal with its fresh soil essence and fat-cutting properties.

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Everything ranged from $1.88 (S) for the smaller vegetable items to 6.88 (Kit). for the meat items. I did get kind of carried away. So, thanks pops.

A nice way to start my birthday, first one since I can remember to start off right.

Lunasia Chinese Cuisine
(626) 308-3222
500 W Main St
Alhambra, CA
91801

The Taste of the Nation, The Taste of Alhambra: A day of Conquest and Passion (not for the sqeamish)

In my goal in life to one day, get paid to eat, today was a milestone.

When people find out how profound my passion for food is, they tend to treat me differently. Most, just brush me off as some sort of weirdo, some reply with the automatic “why are you so skinny!?” and of course, the imminent envious non sequitur of “just wait until you get older…” is sure to follow.

In this case, for the first time ever, it got me on the “comped” list for an event of such massive proportions, The Taste of the Nation.

Can anyone imagine the degree of my anticipation? I almost couldn’t sleep, these were all the restaurants I only dream of eating at, the places where the closest I get are the countless hours spent revering over their online menu’s.

And…oooh, did I seize the day.

I tasted almost every single thing from every single booth, and still went back for seconds after those appalling feelings of utter disgust occasionally popped up.

From my first encounter with Foie Gras in the form form of a “foie gras nutty buddy” ice cream cone from Sunset Restaurant (flavor reminded me of some distant cast-off cousin of bologna) to the ambrosial richnesses of Melisse’s meltingly tender “Liberty Duck Breast” with buttery, creamy polenta and the season’s first sweet cherries, I saw just how beautiful life can be.

I can’t obviously list all of them, so here are some of my most venerated.
(To make sure I got to sample everything, I tasted whatever was offered by the booth at the time I went to them. So, I would swith radically between “entree” and “dessert”, I’m not such a stickler for for that kind of structure yet, but I noticed a lot of people their were):
Simon L.A: An extremely light and refreshing “Jumbo Lump Crab Salad”.
Napa Valley Grille: Niman Ranch “Braised Short Ribs” with Polenta.
Ciudad: Vegan “Watermelon and Ca. Avocado Ceviche w/ Agar-Agar Jelly cubes”
M Cafe: Vegan Carrot Cake, Macademia Nut Brownie, Pistachio Macaroon.
Providence: Luscious “Valrhona White Chocolate Saffron Cremeux, Apricots, Black Olive Nougatine”, oh my god.
Sona: “Braised Pork Belly, Smoked Eggplant puree, Celery Root-Shiso Salad”
Ford’s Filling Station: “Smoked Trout Brandade”, silky.
Joes’s Restaurant/Bar Pintxo: “Passionfruit Tapioca with Coconut Granita”!
Little Dom’s: “Pistachio Cannoli”!
Fraiche: “White Gazpacho with Marcona Almonds and Scallops”,mmmmmm.
Angeli Caffe: “Riccota gnocchi”, voluptious.
K-ZO: “Spicy Tuna on Brown Rice Cracker”, crispy!
AK: “Cognac Salmon Gravlax, Pumpernickel Crostini, Expresso Honey Mustard”
Citrus at Social: “Kit Kat Bar” (Hazelnut Wafer with Dark Chocolate Ganache)
Boa Steakhouse: 12 Hour Smoked Kobe Brisket, dissolving.

These were only SOME of the ones I liked the best, and this was without all the free booze (damn those staunch utopian protestants!)

As you may have noticed, I have still much practice due to merit the art of “pacing myself”. Especially since The Taste of Alhambra happened to also be on the same day, and I was not going to let the little fact of both being on the same day ruin either experience for me, so…I went to both. The black hole which is my stomach had trouble accepting that decision, but like my great guru Jonathan Gold enlightened me with at the event, “you get used to it”.

Since my self-esteem was at an all time high, I managed to get in to this free as well (just said I was on the “press list” and “walked in like I owned the place”) fortunately for me but unfortunate for Alhambra, it was the exact same thing as last year. A corporate, franchise bonanza teeming with dull, bland, pedestrian, flavors biasly aimed for the masses: sickly sweet things from “Tony Toma’s”, “T.G.I.F Fridays”, “Red Brick Pizza”…need I say more.

In fact, the best thing I had was this Phyllo pastry cup filled with whipped goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes, courtesy of the culinary art class at San Gabriel High School, I am serious. Aside from that, the only other thing that really stood out were the Collard Greens from Angelenas Southern Food, just like last year.

If it makes anyone feel better, I enjoyed every single thing I ingested today, oh yeah, and I walked all the way home, to still live to tell the tale (from Alhambra to East L.A: 2 1/2 hrs).

A day full of conquest and fueled with nothing more than cheap, sustainable passion.

Justifying my Alias: The Taste Of Alhambra

Alot of people don’t really realize what my blogname is supposed to mean, “Glut-ster”, as in Gluttony…not Hipster. And yesterday, boy did i live up that!

35+ Food and Wine Vendors, in one event, all ready for my consumption (and opinion). For the first time in a really long time, I was actually excited about something. Yeah, they were mostly all “Main St.” Restaurants which have gotten a bad rep. for being mediocrity traps, but you can’t have everything in life. And I don’t think you’re going to be able to eat flourescent yellow Paella Valenciana (Guitarras Rest.), followed by damn good Collard Greens and Candied Yams (Angelenas), chased down with as much….yeah, as you want anywhere else.

At first I was in a state of dumbfoundment-so much food, i couln’t believe it. But sooner than i knew it, I had already sampled every little thing available and was looking for any seconds that were worthy of my calories. The winner…Angelenas. Their one of those places that you always walk by on your way to anywhere but never actually stop, only to find out what you’ve been missing. Buttery Spiced Candied Yams and Collard Greens, both with a touch of Molasses and an actual Peach Cobbler that actually did give me feelings of “slapping my mama”. One of the best dessert’s i’ve had…ever…seriosly.

Angelenas Southern Cuisine
33 W Main St
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 284-7685

Thai Purple: Not Just Because it's my Favorite Color…

I’ve actually been coming here for a while already, being my first experience with Thai Food and the plethora of options available. Yeah, they have your standard Thai Fare: Pad Thai (which is what i usually have), Pineapple Fried Rice (another usual), and enough stir-fry and curry variations to almost cover all of the primary and secondary color huesl. All, which by the way, still superior in taste than any other thai place i’ve been to. But as you flip through the pages of their picturesque purple menu, you’ll see some unfamiliar faces.

Pork Stuffed Cucumber Soup, literally. Tender Meatballs between pieces of cucumber with a light and clear broth and no MSG in sight, that’s it. BBQ Whole Squid, again literally, served only with this authentically pungent citrus, chilli-fish sauce that’s best eaten….not inhaled. Fried Rice Baked In Young Coconut….can you guess?

Things so simple, so easy but yet so damn delicious somehow gone AWOL at most Thai Restaurants around L.A.
It’s always the simple things in life isn’t it?

And there’s a complimentary warm tapioca-coconut dessert with something different everytime for dinner, not for lunch.
I still bought 16oz. of this stuff and devoured it while watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the theater across the street though.

Thai Purple
27 N Garfield Ave
Alhambra, CA 91801-3545
626 300 9083

San Gabriel: Divine Dumplings, Perfect Pho and the Best Falafel in L.A.?!

…yup, you read correctly.

When i first moved to Alhambra High School and everyone went to Rick’s or “Panda”(panda express) with their friends after school, i discovered this place where the waiters greeted me with a plate of creamy hummus and assorted Mekhalel(pickled vegetables). Where the Falafel was always Crispy and the Baklava was freshly baked. And where i first started to accept my then unaccustomed passion with food.

This place helped me realize i was not your average teenager. When everyone else was thinking what they were going to do after school, i was thinking about what i was going to eat. This is where i was first introduced to then-unknown lebanese foods such as Baba Ganoush(a roasted eggplant dip), Raw Kubbeh(a traditional raw ground lamb dish) and even Baklava(A honey-sweetened Nut Pastry). I even spent my 18th Birthday Dinner here.

Although the menu offers other copious traditional Middle Eastern Delicacies such as Kebabs that are always tastily charred and still tender, the unorthodox Raw Kubbeh-: a dish of raw ground lamb eaten with nothing more than a couple of raw pieces of herbs and vegetables, a drip of olive oil and a paste of raw ground garlic, i always end up getting the same thing-the Falafel Combination: A plate bearing a mountain of their short-grain Rice, some palatte cleansing Tabouli salad, smoky Baba Ghanoush, a fresh Green salad, creamy Hummus and and finally 6 Falafel-easily enough to feed two even three or just one of me. The Falafel is just so perfect! Crispy on the outside, moist on the inside with the perfect of amount of garlic and spices.

They also double as a bakery, hence some of the best Baklava i’ve had also.

Time after time, i’ve always left here happy and have a feeling i always will.

Wahib’s Middle Eastern
910 E. Main St.
Alhambra CA
( 626 ) 281-1006

Wahib's Middle East Restaurant & Bakery on Urbanspoon

Indo Kitchen: The Ultimate Test

Alright, i finally tried this place out. I would of gone earlier but i just hate going to school in Alhambra so much that i just want to get the hell out of there right after school. You would think that i would at least gone to all the places in the Great San Gabriel Valley huh?

Since we came out early, i figured i try it out. It was pretty empty with only some other guy in there. I knew that indonesian food was truly something different with extremely sharp flavors. I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect. It had that notorious fish oil smell that also permeates in some of the other best Asian restaraurants (Golden Deli, Bale Bakery, Lee’s Garden). After a while of looking at the menu, i decided on trying the 2 stars “Longtong Cap Goh Me” (steamed Rice Ptties topped with chicken curry, vegetables, chile egg and shrimp crackers) not too adventureous but not too common either.

I wish i didn’t hear hear the sound of a microwave beeping several times but unfortunately, i did. Damn, was that a highkill. All of my anticipation died. After several minutes we finallly got our food. The curry was different, light. There was some thing in it that i could’nt tell what it was. It was white, cut into chunks almost meaty but lacked that fleshy richness, I’ve never had it before. I thought it might be some sort of vegetable, after a while i couldn’t help it any more and just asked the waitress. “Jackfruit”. Ohhh…..i said. The rice patties were cut up and served along with the curry as opposed to being “topped” by it. They weren’t as chewy as the vietnamese style ones, you could actually taste the grainyness of the rice in these. They were very meager with the chicken too, with a little slab of a some undisclosed part of the chicken. It tasted old, along with the green beans. It was obvious this dish had been microwaved. It just didn’t have that fresh taste that food has when it’s barely made. It was good, but i kept on feeling bad that it could of tasted better.

My friend was brave enough to order the Avocado Shake. This was definetely something i can’t get used to. Think sweet guacamole.

It was good but i know that the food here could be better, i just know it. I’ll come back.

Indo Kitchen
5 N 4th St
Alhambra, CA
(626) 282-1676

Stereotyped Teenage Review About Food (Angelo’s Italian Restaurant)

Today i had Pizza and i don’t care!

And No! It is not my favorite Food!

To save us from my sister’s dreadful cooking, we ordered Pizza from our local Mom & Pop Italian Restaurant, Angelo’s.
I remember i used to always come here. I haven’t had their pizza in a while and managed to convince my sister to order it rather than buying some fake franchise cardboard “pizza” and making the pockets of those greedy assholes bigger, sorry.

I remember this pizza being really good but then again, it was pizza and i was a little kid so…yeah. Sadly, like so many other’s have said before, L.A pretty much sux when it comes to pizza, and this just furthured their argument.

The slice was 85% crust, and 15% toppings.
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I mean, damn… i usually like the crust but this was way too much. Very dry, dense and thick. Almost like a mexican birote One slice probably accounted for 4 or 5 servings of grain. And being that, i still ate 2 slices. Even though, one was more than enough. The ossified cheese did have a nice richness though but I like my pizza heavy on the sauce, not heavy on the dough.(by the way the sauce wasn’t that good neither). kinda made me feel bad since i was the one that suggested

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it. So far around here, the best place to get a decent pizza continues to be Rios Pizza in Monterey Park.

Angelo’s
1540 West Valley Boulevard
Alhambra CA 91803
Ph. (626) 282-0153

Angelo's Pizza in Los Angeles