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Sometimes I crave beef….and since I like my beef grilled (who doesn’t?) I’m always looking for a place that serves up either perfectly grilled rare meat, or which provides the ingredients and utensils for me to grill it myself. Hikari was so perfect that I was hesitant to try another Japanese BBQ place. Whereas Hikari is the old school Japanese style, Tamaen BBQ is the modern US influenced style. Different flavors fit different people, so depending on your taste and budget you might opt for one over the other. The service at Tamaen was excellent, as in keeping with the American style of fast, efficient, and friendly; my waiter had worked there for 10 years and was an expert in both service and knowledge. They even have take away meals for those who wish to grill at home!

They have built in table grills and use the good (expensive) charcoal, added with gas underneath.

I got there early, but by the time I left, the place was packed.

Since many of their choices were for 2+ people I chose the beef heart small portion to grill. The also offer grass fed beef versions of some cuts of beef for slightly more $. They offer American Waygu and some offals like liver, as well as sushi and Korean pickles, so you can create the fusion meal you desire here. Their drink selection is very diverse as well, offering an entire menu of drinks from different countries and grades. I chose the beef heart  with salt instead of  miso based on my server’s recommendation, but it didn’t have enough salt for me (I really should carry my own in my purse), so I asked for more and they obliged with a small plateful. The heart was tender, but the flame was a bit too low, so my server adjusted it to give it the perfect sear. The small order was about 100 grams and just enough to be an appetizer to my oxtail ramen.

The oxtail ramen was the reason I came in because it was a special and I love oxtails. The soup was full of vegetables, and the oxtail was very tender. A good portion for the small price under $10, but I would have preferred a larger price with a larger portion. The flavor was well rounded, but I would have appreciated a bit more oomph of seasoning or spice, but that is me, I know many people who would love this soup the way it is.

I loved this logo (also on the server’s hats) and that their tables all had bibs/aprons (I thought it was a napkin at first until I saw the napkins on the table). so that you don’t splatter your clothes! Even walking in, you can check in electronically, and every table has the call waitstaff button so you don’t have to try to flag someone for a condiment or your bill. For service and variety alone, I would recommend this place!

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Sausal means Willow in old Spanish (before this area became part of the US, this was Alta California, as opposed to Baja California which is still part of Mexico). The old styles of ranch cooking over flames and wood are now used with fresh local ingredients to create the cuisine that epitomizes the best blending of the old and new world sensibilities.

Since The Yelp Elite event, Experience El Segundo, I’ve been wanting to come back and enjoy the small town hospitality and flavors. As fate would have it, I am moving here! I will now be a local in a town that is literally midway between my South Bay friends and my Valley friends! While I was sitting in both Sausal the the local cafe, Blue Butterfly, the people who walked in were ALL greeted by name (none of them were named Norm)! I am very much looking forward to becoming part of this community 🙂

Happy Hour at Sausal is EVERYDAY from 3-6pm and their margarita was one of the tastiest and strongest I’ve ever imbibed for only $6. It was brilliant to serve it with a half salt rim because drinking from the midway point gave me just enough salt!

One of the Happy Hour Specials was the batter fried shrimp taco for $4 that was piled high with crunchy slaw. I had to cut it in half to get a bite into my mouth!

Since I had not eaten lunch, I ordered the chorizo quesadilla for $7, that was big enough to share.

Did I mention, I had not eaten lunch? I also ordered the short rib empanada, perhaps my favorite $4 happy hour bite, filled with tender tasty beef, and surrounded by a perfect crunchy pastry.

My first Happy Hour experience was so good, I had to repeat it a week later, with a beef mole tostada, loaded with so much tender, delectable chunks of shredded beef that every mouthful made me smile:) Even more amazing than the flavor was the quality and quantity of the serving at Happy Hour of only $4.

I could have easily stopped eating after the beef tostada, but I wanted just one more bite, so I chose the wild caught crispy ling cod fish taco off the regular menu for $6.50. Served on a blue corn tortilla, with charred tomato crema, and lots of grape tomatoes, this may be one of be best fish tacos I’ve ever eaten!

For vegetarians or vegans they offer a cauliflower taco $6

The margarita was so strong, that I stopped by Blue Butterfly for an Americano before driving away. I think I’ve found two places where I will become one of the regulars they know by name:)

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 🙂

Since my first visit in 2009, I’ve been enamored with Rock Sugar. (For those of you who missed my previous posts, here are #1#2, and #3) I wrote my first back to back posts on Rock Sugar because I just couldn’t wait to go back to eat more and share the beautiful space and excellent food.

It’s always comforting to go back to a favorite and find that it is still a favorite; as I found with A Food Affair recently 🙂 Even though the Westfield Century City Mall was literally torn to the ground and rebuilt into a completely modern chic mecca of food and shopping (Eataly is now here), some of the older restaurants and stores remain in the same place and still draw their loyal clientele.

This water wall on the patio was a soothing sight on a busy week-end.

The most soothing of all is eating comfort food like Singaporean noodles with shrimp, done so perfectly that you have no desire to even attempt to recreate it at home. The balance of spices, textures, and seasoning was so completely satisfying that somehow we finished the plate even though we said we were full halfway through it.

The short rib banh mi was a nice counterpoint to the noodles, with slightly sweet beef, crunchy pickled vegetables, and a side salad with crispy taro strips.

 Even the bathrooms are every bit as delightful as the food 🙂

The saddest part is leaving, but we must leave in order to return again 🙂

A song may say that it never rains in Southern California, but there was a torrential rainstorm which not only soaked the dry landscape, but also chilled the temperatures enough that I caught a cold 😦 Since I was too sick to make my own chicken soup, I asked my local friends where I could get some and without hesitation, they said Brite Spot. A Mexican spot focused on seafood, for chicken soup?!?!? Yes, it turns out good cooks, cook well no matter what their specialty may be. Knowing I was too sick to eat there, I took my soup to go, but I was very impressed by the assortment of condiments on the tables and counter; when three of the choices are habanero based and all have been used, it’s a good sign!

My to go soup included a very nice baggy of limes, onions, and cilantro, all of which I added to my soup, along with my own garlic habanero sauce.

Their “medium” sized container of soup for $11 held nearly half a chicken, carrots, cabbage, zucchini, corn on the cob, fresh parsley and a clear broth.

A side of rice came with the soup, as well as a choice of tortillas for those who want starch with their soup. I added some of the rice to my soup.

And found there was enough for TWO meals. I also felt much better the next day, so I ate the even more flavorful leftovers for lunch.

Since they are famous for Mexican food, I went back for a lengua loaded taco and at $6 this was not only a full plate, but a full meal loaded with tender succulent morsels and topped with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, and cheese.

I will be back for the whole flash fried fish….who wants to join me?

Chan Dara was my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles, but sadly the location in West Los Angeles is now gone, and after hearing wonderful things about Jitlada, I took the metro and found my new favorite Thai restaurant.

On my first visit, I ordered the softshell crab with rice noodles and somehow I managed to finish this enormous plate. I kept eating just one more bite until there were no bites left to take home 🙂

They serve BEST oxtail curry I’ve ever eaten in my life! The curry was so fragrant, complex, and layered, that I wanted to drink it after eating the meat and vegetables. The meat was falling off the bone tender, and the vegetables were still a bit crunchy, so the combination was truly perfect.

The portion of rice was enough to soak up most of the curry, but seriously, I could have drunk the curry without anything else! The mild heat version is good for those who want to experience the flavors without pain, but I like the medium level for a bit of sweat and burn 🙂

The glass noodles with pork belly may be deceivingly  simple, but the chunks of pork, the raw vegetables, and the flavor of the noodles, make this a great choice to order as a mild dish accompaniment for a spicy curry or just as a dish for pork lovers.

The menu is so extensive, I will just *have* to go back a few more times and sample more:)

I don’t know many people who are vegans, but many of my friends don’t eat meat, or in some cases fish, so finding a good vegan place allows for more choices for them than trying to pick out an item or two from a menu that is geared towards omnivores.

Sage has several locations; the one I went to in Culver City has an enormous tree growing in the middle of the outdoor patio, naturally providing shade and atmosphere to the wooden tables.

The menu has many options for drinks, from smoothies to mixed drinks. For a boozy brunch, you can even order bottomless mimosas for $25.

I opted for a glass of wine.

Since I met my friend for brunch, I chose the tempeh sausage florentine for $15 with three biscuits topped with tempeh sausage, heirloom tomato, spinach, avocado, and hollandaise sauce with roasted potatoes. I enjoyed everything except the doughy bland biscuits.

One one visit the man sitting next to us offered us one of his jackfruit “crab cakes” saying it was his favorite thing on the menu and the portion was too big for him to finish. We took one and tried it, but neither one of us enjoyed it enough to order it.

My friend ordered the hot wings for $14. Tempura fried cauliflower with a buffalo sauce that was the most addictive thing on the menu! It was a large portion, easily enough for a meal or for two to share. If you only order one thing here, order this! The ranch and crudités that come on the side make for a nice fresh contrast to the spicy “wings”.

On another trip, the wings came with more sauce and were even more delicious.

The fried brussel sprouts with lime and salt were also a great item to share for $11 and if you order the cauliflower wings, this is the perfect compliment for a full meal.

Whether you want to try some non meat based dishes, or simply want to enjoy some tasty plant based variations of menu classics, Sage is a great place to start a year of healthy meals:)

My name is Elaine and I am addicted to Armenian food. I wish to remain a very happy addict, so no interventions please 🙂

Monta Factory is a SIX seat place in East Pasadena that will serve you their creations hot or frozen to go so you can make it at home. Think of it like ordering a pizza hot to eat soon or there, but also having the option of taking a frozen one to make yourself at home later. Monta are tiny dumplings made by hand that is a very labor intensive food. Unless you have a grandmother or great grandmother who is dexterous enough and who loves you enough to make a batch for you, your best hope for a taste of this wonderful food is to go to Monta Factory. They are the only place anywhere outside of someone’s home where you can eat these. They tell me people travel from out of state to buy several trays, pack them in ice, then drive or fly home.

The marvelous family here are so warm and welcoming that whether it is your first visit or thousandth, they will treat you with a gentle disposition and broad smile 🙂

The family here makes everything from scratch daily, so they may be the hardest workers in the city. I can’t even imagine the repetitive, laborious, and exacting labor of love this requires every morning as they hand make each tiny piece for the day. I love their spicy version as well as their regular version. As long as you have an oven or toaster oven, any leftovers can easily be reheated in 10 minutes.

I took a large frozen tray for a picnic to go and took a picture of the directions to make sure I followed them correctly:)

This is how they turned out with the yogurt garlic cream poured over the entire tray. An Armenian friend said he was going to get a tray to take home to his elderly parents because it was something he had not eaten in decades.

They only sell a few things on their menu, the Monti (or Monte), that everyone knows about, but also the best Wild Salmon Sandwich I’ve ever eaten. It is made with a special tahini sauce, that was so good I went back twice in one week for it, and the serving was such a generous portion that I ended up with two meals!

I heard a customer order the salmon over salad, so that is what I tried on another day. Depending on how hungry or carb conscious you are, their salmon over a salad is an equally delicious alternative.

Be sure you get a slice of their freshly made (daily) su beoreg. This is a cheesy crispy slice of indulgence that will make you crave another one of the soft interior with a crackling top as soon as you finish your last piece.

Now that I live 37 miles away, I will be making the trip with an ice pack and an insulated sac for a tray or two of their frozen Monte, a few salmon sandwiches, and some slices of the su beoreg so that I will never be more than a few minutes from great Armenian food #addicted 🙂

Tao Thai in Upland is tucked away next to a huge Sprouts Farmers Market, so if you don’t want to shop while hungry, stop in to this tiny place for a quality meal at very affordable prices. You can accent your noodle, rice, soup, salad, or curry with the protein of your choice, including tofu. They give you free crispy egg rolls with a nice veggie filling, but the wrapper was too thick for my taste. I asked for spicy with my rice noodle and shrimp and was very happy with the flavors and heat on my plate. For less than $15 with tax and tip, the quality and quantity were noteworthy.

On a subsequent visit, I chose the chinese broccoli with shrimp, and again chose spicy for my level of heat. The sauce was slightly sweet which balanced out some of the heat from the SEVEN dried peppers at the bottom of the serving dish!

You can always add more spices and condiments from their trays 🙂

Pho Golden Star in Chino serves one of the best bowls of pho I’ve eaten in years. This is their first year, so if you check in on Yelp, they have added a bonus tea and egg roll if you order is over $9, but the bowls are so good and filling, I had no room for either. There is easy parking in the large lot, and the clean, well lit space fills quickly during regular meal times with take out orders and diners, so I’m sure this place has already become a regular spots for locals.

I ordered the brisket, steak, and tendon and spiced it up a bit with some of the tableside chilis. It was hearty and rich without being fatty. I added all the extras on the plate of accompaniments and ended up with a marvelous mix of textures and aromas.

I tried their oxtail soup because I rarely see oxtails on any menu, and after asking the server if I should get the combination or the oxtail, the server immediately said, “Oxtail”. Out came one of the best bowls of broth I’ve tasted in a long time, with tender falling off the bone oxtail, and an unbeatable price of around $10. This bowl is calling me to make the 30+ mile drive again, so next time I may get one order to go 🙂

There is a small altar tucked into the corner of the counter; I may create my own in gratitude for the skills of the woman in the kitchen of this place who made me love pho 🙂

Coffee roasters usually serve better coffee than those who buy their beans already roasted; that is why I love The Conservatory in Culver City, and Jameson Brown, in Pasadena. Demitasse is now my go to spot on Wilshire mid-city, or Little Tokyo.

They stock some vegetarian friendly meals like rice stuffed grape leaves, quinoa salads, and flakey with butter pastries, so if you want a snack with your free wifi, you’ve got sweet and savory choices to either eat on the patio or take to go. I enjoyed the ham and cheese bite I chose to go with my cappuccino; it was tasty and filling enough to tide me over until dinner several hours later.

The menu at Mercado is based on the Mexican roots of chef José, so we started with the tacos pescado for $15, skillet seared white fish, Mexican slaw, avocado salsa, and chile de arbol aioli. Fresh clean flavors, but we found the homemade tortillas disappointing. The pickled vegetables were a welcome surprise, adding zest to the plate.

The enchiladas for $19 made with Mary’s free range chicken, Oaxacan mole, Mexican rice, queso fresco, crema fresca, red onions, and sesame seeds was beautifully presented, but we found it lacked enough character or depth of flavor to warrant ordering it again.

Our server said the carnitas for $25 are a crowd favorite and one bite of this tender Salmon Creek pork with guacamole, Yxta salsa brava and cauliflower with escabeche made me want another, and another, and another…This is a HUGE serving that could easily have served two, or you could take half of it home for another meal.

With a wide selection of drinks and tequila, and a happy hour M-F from 5-7pm, I’m planning to return to try more.

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