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My brother from another mother, Bob, is as much of a food lover and cuisinier as I am, so when he said, let’s go to to Restoration Kitchen, I simply asked him to send me the address 🙂 Restoration kitchen opened as a wine bar, but they got so well known for their food that they are now more of a restaurant than wine bar. The owners know their wine, and when they asked me what I liked, they regretfully said, they used to stock Old World Bordeaux but it did not sell so they offered me tastes of three that they thought I might enjoy with similar flavors. They picked three nice possibilities, and I chose the last offering of a 2014 Colome Argentinian Malbec for $14. They offer flights of red or whites for $12.50-$16.50 of any wine offered by the glass. Their bottle prices are very reasonable for the quality, a 2014 Duckhorn Merlot was only $63 which is only slightly more than if you were to buy the bottle in a wine shop.

I had never been to Old Town Torrance before and I loved the small town feel with all the small businesses on walkable streets. It felt like an old town, with many places to eat, shop, and hang out within a few blocks.

Bob suggested we start with the wild mushroom flatbread, topped with arugula, fontina, mozzarella, lemon zest, and thyme for $12.50. It was a generous appetizer, shareable by more than than two, or easily a meal for one.

I chose the lamb lollipops with a basil pesto, hummus, cherry tomatoes, and flatbread for $12.50 as my main dish. They did not ask me how I wanted my lamb, but it came out a perfectly nice medium rare. I found the meat needed more sear and char, but I like the basil pesto. The hummus and flatbread were uninspired versions, but not bad either.

The hit of the evening was the crispy confit chicken leg with farro and mushrooms for $12.50, which was Bob’s favorite, but he generously shared 🙂

It was a great balance of textures, flavors, and aromas. If you only order one dish here, this should be it!

I usually don’t eat sweet desserts, but Bob could not resist the the chocolate pot de creme with toasted Swiss meringue, olive oil, and sea salt for $6.50 There was also a secret ingredient that added texture and crunch.Bob did some sleuthing with the chef and found out what it is but he was sworn to secrecy!

I think Old Town Torrance will become a regular stop on my eating and shopping itinerary:)

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I do not have a BBQ, so when I crave grilled meat, I either have to go to a restaurant or convince a friend to fire up their (usually gas) grill. Hikari may be a bit out of the way, but every bite of grilled meat I ate was a mouthwatering morsel of tender juicy happiness.

The grills here are not gas powered, so the flavor of whatever you grill has the added carbon component. If you allow you meats to sit on the grill (they provide metal tongs and scissors) until they are properly seared, you will be rewarded with flavors that will make you smile:)

I chose the thick cut beef tongue for $13, which was scored and marinated before being brought to my table.

Once on the grill, the fat dripped into the coals

and resulted in this gorgeous result.

I was still hungry so asked my waiter whether he suggested the ball tip or the hanger and he said hanger for $10, so that is what I chose for my next course. It was a much larger serving than the tongue and it came with a ginger and scallion sauce for the meat to be put on after grilling. Hanger is one of my favorite cuts of meat, and this was perfectly marbled quality meat that may convert any filet mignon lover into a hanger lover.

Hikari was so good, I had to go back with friends, so that I could taste more of the items on the menu. I went back the next week with two non-Asian friends who are foodies (and not intimidated being the only non-Asians in a restaurant). We started with the fried chicken, a nice rendition, nothing exceptional, nothing amiss.

On my recommendation ,we ordered the thick cut tongue and hanging tender, which they loved 🙂

 We had to order a vegetable, so we chose the stuffed mushrooms, and we were glad we had eaten other items because it took awhile for these to cook….

But they were worth the time to get a burst of cheese, garlic, and mushroom in a juicy bite!

 

So many Yelp reviews raved about the carbonara that we had to try it. With pork belly and watercress, this delectable combo was the epitome of great fusion on a plate:)

The last order of the night took the longest to get to our table, but it was worth the wait for the rib fingers. Rib fingers are the pieces of meat between rib bones, so they are the meat you love usually attached to ribs you gnaw, but at Hikari, you get the meat sans bones in their fatty, wonderful moist pureness with a side of minced garlic to enhance the grilled meat.

 

 

I don’t know how we made it out the door, but after 5 orders and 2 large Sapporos for the adults and a soda for the teen, our bill was only $100 including tax and tip. Our waitress came outside as we walked out to thank us for visiting 🙂 I am sure will will be regular visitors!

As much as I enjoyed the places up on the hill in my last two posts, I have to drive down the mountain to get to other places. One of my favorite appetizers is fried calamari, or actually any kind of calamari, but here in the US, it tends to only be offered fried. Portions for appetizers in the US also tend to be big enough to make a meal for me, so when a friend came to visit, we went to Avenue Italy, and shared a salad of beets, roasted nuts, and spring greens, with a fried calamari appetizer and left completely sated. The welcome basket of freshly made focaccia came with a nice olive oil herb dipping sauce to entice our appetites to wake up.

The marvelous service at the Mediterranean style eatery split our $15 salad before bringing it to our table because we had said we were sharing:)

The lightly floured crispy calamari for $15 was very well executed, with just enough crunch, while the squid was still tender. The marinara sauce was very good too, adding a nice zest along with the freshly squeezed lemon juice that we added to the plate.

Blue Salt Fish Grill is next to my Optician, Venice Optical (who offer fabulous prices on eye exams, glasses, and lenses). So when I went to pick up my new glasses, I stopped for an appetizer of….yes, fried calamari! This is a fast casual place, so not at all the ambience or prices of a full scale restaurant. Amazingly, they offered me a free appetizer with my order of an appetizer! Yes, ceviche with chips! And wines by the glass start at only $6 for decent quality and go to about $11 for a very nice pour of a good bottle. I almost felt as if I was in France again:)

Their calamari portion was hearty enough to warrant the $7 price, plus the sides would help make this a meal. I didn’t care for either of the sauces, but I loved the crispy calamari with just extra lemon.

I am so happy to have found places that still serve the tentacles (my favorite part) and that have mastered the art of crispy on the outside, yet tender on the inside 🙂

There are very limited choices up here on the hill overlooking the ocean. There are a few fast food chains, or very mediocre expensive places, but a glimmer of good cooking using organic and farm fresh ingredients recently opened in the Promenade Shopping Center called Once Upon A Table. They are so new they don’t even have a Yelp listing yet (but I am sure that they will after this blog post goes live).

Brenda, the owner/chef, is a caterer who decided to open up a brick and mortar location, and although she is still catering, this set-up allows for a source of new clientele and a place that gives her the space to showcase her talents.

The tomato soup was so good that I came back for a bowl after having a cup with a sandwich on my first visit. It is a nice balance of acid and sweet tomato without any need for the addition of cream. It would be a perfect pair with their grilled cheese sandwich on a cold day (yes, they do have a grilled cheese sandwich on their menu).

I chose the pastrami sandwich for my first meal. Served hot on grilled rye bread, with coleslaw and cheese on rye, this was a bastardization of my beloved NY classic, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, which says a lot about the place that even the pickle was excellent:) Everything on the menu is around $10, so the prices are extremely reasonable for the quality of ingredients.

Another day, another sandwich, this time a grilled vegetable sandwich on focaccia. I liked the way the vegetables still had body and some texture, and the flavor of their essence was maintained. A wonderful choice for vegetarians and vegans.

This hearty and wonderful bowl of cobb salad to go was beautiful, and if the romaine had not been so bitter, I would have enjoyed it tremendously. Unfortunately it is not possible to control the bitterness or peppery flavor of certain ingredients, so they get an absolute pass on that because the other ingredients were superb, from the perfect avocado to the crisp bacon, the moist chicken, and the ripe tomatoes.

My favorite choice (so far) is the turkey sandwich, with moist perfectly sliced breast meat so perfectly balanced with ripe tomato, avocado, and a a thin slice of cheese to add a nice mouthfeel on toasted sourdough. It is a very hearty portion for under $10 including tax and tip.

I think I may have found my go to spot up on the hill for lunch 🙂

The best recommendations for food are from fellow foodies, not matter their age or location. I am grateful to have so many friends who live in the vicinity. They  shared some of their favorite spots, and when they said that they drive up the hill where I live to eat at Pho Hana, I went the next day. And the day after that. And I will probably go tomorrow.

Anyone who has a developed palate appreciates the nuances and difference between a good broth and a great broth. The best pho I’ve ever eaten is at Pho Golden Star, but it is in Chino (60 miles away), so although I will travel for food and pho, I won’t make that drive in rush hour midweek traffic…ok, maybe I would, but only once a week:)

Pho Hana has a good clean broth, they use quality ingredients, and their combination #1, with rare flank steak, tendon, and tripe for $10 is a very satisfying bowl.

Of course I added all of the bean sprouts, basil, jalapenos, and lime, along with a generous squeeze of garlic chili sauce:)

                                       This is the bowl after I mixed in the extras

 This is after adding the garlic chili sauce:)

The seafood noodle version was $2 more and included fresh crab! It was a slow tedious process to get the meat out of the claw, but if you have the patience, it is a rewarding workout.

Pho Hana also offer soon tofu or curry soup, so I tried the beef soon tofu medium spicy (next time I’ll try the very spicy, but always better to level up than be in pain and regret your choice) for $14. It was bubbling when they brought it to the table, so be careful when eating, and remember there is a raw egg in the middle of the pot that you may break into the soup so that it cooks in the bubbling broth. A nice selection of sides come along with the soup, and it was exactly the right amount of food for me on a day when I had not eaten for 6 hours….

 

 

The service is very friendly, and the decor ranges from a Christmas tree, a television set to either the Travel Channel or HGTV, and a bookcase full of old LPs, to a various Western artifacts like a tall wooden Indian. This is truly an eclectic place with menu items from Korea, Vietnam, and China, but you can’t go wrong with the pho, and the comfort of finding a place on the hill that serves palate pleasing broth.

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