Food Review

Archived Posts from this Category

Gin Sushi

Posted by on 10 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

Given its uniqueness and narrow ethnic origin, it is impressive how widely spread and adapted sushi has become. In the states it can be found nearly everywhere in various forms, from the close cousin of Russian roulette that is the roadside sushi booth, to the lawyer-approved cooked version in the supermarket refrigerator.

It seems impossible to do sushi wrong in any non-health-related way. That is until one has tasted it done right. Gin Sushi has all the classics, such as rainbow rolls and California rolls, and several more obscure creations. All of them are fresh and flavorful.

Along with the standard uncooked fish, there are cooked shellfish dishes including rich, creamy dynamite. Appetizers include salted soybeans and soft, seasoned seaweed.

Not all options will appeal to everyone. Some people balk at the idea of eating eel, or find its natural teriyaki-esk flavor too strong, while others will find a few items too spicy. There is nothing on the menu, however, that is not an exquisite specimen of whatever it is.

Gin Sushi is best experienced in a group, so that each member can sample a wider range of things. Checklist menus allow for easy group ordering. I give it five stars out of five.

The Monrovian

Posted by on 10 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

The Monrovian can be described simply as a restaurant, with no preceding qualifiers. If more specificity is required, it is one of the thousands of American diners that run into one so easily in one’s memory.

It has established itself as a local favorite with its reasonable prices and sizeable menu, which emphasizes the deep-fried classics, but includes sandwiches and other lighter options. There is no official particular specialty, but breakfast is the nearest thing to one in effect.

The Monrovian does have atmosphere on its side. It is itself cheerfully old-fashioned and wholesome, and is set in the midst of Old Town Monrovia, a town that positively oozes this same sentiment, making for a dining experience that harkens back to a time that may never have existed, but that most people think they can or wish they could remember.

Despite its conventionality and consequential forgetability, it would border on unfair to call the quality of the food mediocre, so I give it three and a half stars out of five.

Recommend this page to:

Tokyo Lobby

Posted by on 03 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    Subdued lighting and dark wooden furniture carry with them, for some untold, mystical reason, the promise of excellent food.

    Tokyo Lobby builds on this atmosphere with a promisingly vast menu of sushi, tempura, and other Japanese delights. The prices that accompany them seem only natural given the classy feel of one’s surroundings.

    Apart from the sushi, which is served in traditionally sized rolls, the portions well exceed expectations, especially the “boats,” enormous assortments designed for groups but able to feed even more people than the menu recommends them for. This is fortunate, because all other attributes of the food are disappointing.

    The tempura and various sauce-smothered animal parts are greasy and flavorless. The sushi is just par and, as previously mentioned, does not have the quantity-to-money ratio on its side that the inferior dishes do. Part of the reason the boats feed more people that they appear to is that even the hardiest appetite could not last long in battle against such armies of oil.

    The light of the sun, if it is still shining, or the openness of the sky if it is not, is like a breath of life upon emerging from darkness of Tokyo Lobby, which slips almost imperceptibly during the meal from quaintly cozy to oppressively claustrophobic.

    In acknowledgement of the impressive array of passable traditional sushi and the absence of anything dangerous or instantly repulsive, I give it two stars out of five.

Hurry Curry of Tokyo

Posted by on 03 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    When Americans think of curry, we invariably think of India, and of accompanying naan bread and tandoori chicken. But curry is also a fast-food staple of Japan. Although far from a fast food restaurant in price, quality, and atmosphere, Hurry Curry of Tokyo specializes in the best of Japanese-style curry.

    There are many varieties including chicken, beef, pork, and many seafood and vegetarian options, all available in hot, medium, and mild. The sauces are rich and flavorful, and escape from the machine-made soup tradition of small, processed, perfectly cubical ingredients. They are instead tangibly fresh in flavor and texture.

    The mild version carries just enough of a kick to keep with the spirit of the place, and every curry dish is served with rice, but for those with more delicate palates there is an equally large selection of pastas.

    The appetizer menu alone is fairly impressive, and includes perfectly seasoned croquette and traditional Japanese salted soybeans. The only dessert is green tea ice cream, but those who try it will not find it disappointing. I give it five stars out of five.

Orean Health Express

Posted by on 01 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    For vegetarians and vegans who tire of finding one or two available options in each restaurant they visit when they are lucky, Orean Health Express is the perfect place to go for a little variety.

    Along with high quality meatless imitations of American fast food favorites, the menu includes original vegetarian dishes such as the African Tostada, similar to the Mexican version but with black-eyed peas instead of pinto beans and a unique African salsa.

    The fries are thick, not too greasy, and never burnt. There is also a Mexican menu, a small breakfast menu, and a variety of desserts including soy ice cream. Instead of traditional soft drinks there are several flavors of “natural soda,” which is very flavorful, but served with so much ice that there is hardly any of it.

    Orean Health Express is primarily a drive-thru. There is no indoor seating and very little outdoors. No meat is served whatsoever, so it is well suited to vegetarian purists, less so to groups of people with varying tastes and lifestyles, but it is everything it attempts to be, so I give it four stars out of four.

Zankou Chicken

Posted by on 19 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    There is not quite enough competition in the market of Lebanese-inspired fast food to label one example of it “average,” but “par” will do just as well.

    Zankou’s falafels, arguably the best thing on the small, simple menu, are better then most, but even they cannot escape the all-pervasive dryness of the place.

    The chicken, Zankou’s professed specialty, is as good as fresh rotisserie chicken inherently is, but no more so. Little is added to it but excessive salt. The hummus is only fair, but the garlic sauce can give flavor and moisture to the chicken if one requests extra.

    There are also equally parched steak options, and the steak, chicken, and falafels are also available as wraps. Everything is accompanied by pickled turnips, which, although not suitable for all palates, are good for what they are.

    For a similar style of food of a much higher quality, Daphne’s Greek Café would be the way to go, but its prices also differ from Zankou’s accordingly. For an alternative to fast food hamburgers within the same price range, Zankou Chicken does well enough, and I give it three stars out of five.

Daphne’s Greek Cafe

Posted by on 15 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    Halfway between sit-down and fast food, Daphne’s serves top of the line Greek food in a casual atmosphere. The kebabs are fresh and substantial, and the gyro exemplifies the full potential for flavor of the right blend of beef and lamb.

    Of the two sides that accompany most of the items on the menu, the rice pilaf, although good in its own right, is overshadowed by the Greek salad, thick with olives, vinegar, and feta cheese.

    The falafels are decent, but because they are flat instead of spherical, they have too much surface area, which has a negative effect on their texture as a whole. The calamari, on the other hand, is the ideal texture, solid but not rubbery, and is cooked in just the right amount of batter.

    There are several Greek sauces including authentic classic hummus, which can cause one to make short work of large stacks of pita, and on which there need be no improvement. Baklava is the only dessert available, but it makes for a highly enjoyable experience as long as there are napkins readily available.

    Although Daphne’s’ prices are more sit-down than fast food, so are its portions and quality, and I give it four and a half stars out of five.

Golden Palace Mongol’s BBQ

Posted by on 13 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    By far the best of the Mongolian style restaurants that I am aware of, Golden Palace allows the customer to fill a bowl with his or her choice of several kinds of meat and vegetables, including bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and, although not strictly speaking a vegetable, pineapple chunks.

    He or she can add a custom combination of sauces, and then see the work of art stir-fried to perfection in a few minutes in plain sight. Meanwhile, fresh steamed rice and sesame pocket bread that complement any meal are brought to the table.

    Before this main course, each customer is served rice flour chips and egg soup that is very good as is, but can be improved with a little soy sauce, which included in the table setting, next to the salt and pepper.

    At dinnertime, prices are higher, but the customer may fill as many bowls at the grill as he or she wishes, and is also served an egg roll and a pot sticker with sweet and sour sauce as appetizers. Green tea is available at any time of day as well as soft drinks, but since it has been made with teabags instead of tealeaves as it once was, it has ceased to be worth much mention.

    For before the meal, after, or both, there is a small salad and dessert bar with fruit, greens, and several flavors of Jello. The strawberry, orange, lemon, lime, and even almond varieties are each at least par, but the grass Jello is even less appetizing than it sounds.

    One drawback to the procedure of cooking everything on the same grill is that there can be minimal mingling of flavors, which can be an issue for militant vegetarians and parties with varying spice level preferences. In most cases, however, its simplicity is perfection, and I give it four and a half stars out of five.

Mandarin Garden

Posted by on 10 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    Many businesses share the name Mandarin Garden, but the one to which I refer is on North Fair Oaks in Pasadena.

    In terms of quality, it is a run of the mill Chinese-American fast food restaurant. The orange chicken is adequate, if a little runny and bland. The white rice is on the dry side, and the fried rice is mildly greasy, but available with beef, pork, shrimp, or chicken cooked in.

    The selection, on the other hand, goes well beyond the norm for similar places. There are more flavors, including almond, cashew, curry, and sweet and pungent, and more different kinds of meat are served with each one. The range of seafood is excellent. There is sweet and sour shrimp, cooked much the way sweet and sour pork or chicken traditionally is and with just as much success, scallops done many different ways, and, for the more calorie-conscious, shrimp with snow peas or a number of other vegetables. There are even a few duck and lobster options.

    The building itself is in a rather uncomfortable area, but free delivery is offered. Par in many ways and above in a few, I give it three and a half stars out of five.

In-N-Out Burger

Posted by on 10 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    A California favorite in fast food, In-N-Out Burger has one of the shortest menus in existence, which somehow seems to suit it best. There are hamburgers and cheeseburgers (single, double, triple, or quadruple), fries, soft drinks, and milkshakes (chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry), and they are all perfect in their simplicity.

    There are no veggie patties, but there is a “grilled cheese,” not listed on the menu, that is simply a cheeseburger with extra cheese but without the burger. Grilled onions are added to any burger on request.

    The fries are always fresh, and one can often see them being made from scratch through the kitchen window, but they are sometimes in need of extra salt.

    The staff is cheerful and courteous. Most In-N-Outs are simply drive-throughs with a few outdoor tables, but some of them have indoor seating as well. In accordance with the needs of the customers, the food can be packaged in a box for eating in a car, or a bag for taking home.

    With its low prices and high quality, In-N-Out projects the feeling that it need not be any more than what it is, and I give it five stars out of five.

Next Page »

Bookmark this page to: