Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Frenzy & Dami Sushi

A new, placid restaurant called Dami Sushi & Izakaya arose within a newly developed plaza in northern Buena Park--at the intersection of Beach Boulevard and Malvern Avenue.

Perhaps it's perceived as the black sheep in this Korean-dominated vicinity--for instance a Korean BBQ and a Korean supermarket named H Mart, which is close to ending construction.  With assertion and an open zeal of raw fish and seafood at its gastronomic finest, owners Thomas Shin and Brandon Lee teamed up with skilled chefs, Executive Chef Jun Kim and Executive Sushi Chef John Yoon, will satiate your hunger while placing the other competitive Asian restaurants in the back of your mind.

Their extensive menu features a camaraderie of Japanese and Korean eats to balance off the traditional Japanese elements and the atmosphere towards the Korean-dominating community.

Aptly beginning with Starters include the enticing Jawanmmushi: a savory Japanese steamed egg custard topped off with shrimp, a gingko nut, shiitake mushroom, and half of a swirly fish cake.  Your mind might have been pre-programmed "custard" belonging to the sweet continuum, but let's adjust that culinary assumption.

Jawanmushi (sample)

Jawanmushi as how it's regularly executed

Their Salads are more enriching than how it's verbally pronounced, such as the Sashimi Salad, Tuna Tataki, and the continental, earthy-feeling Whole Grain Salad--a protein and fiber delight full of black rice, Indian millet, lentils, kidney beans, mozzarella cheese, and baby mesclun dressed with soy vinaigrette.

Whole Grain Salad

If a mix of adventure and familiarity is more comfortable and pleasurable--while simultaneously pursuing for an aphrodisiac--they have fresh Oysters either coming from the Eastern U.S. zone or Pacific zone.  Pictured is a Shooter containing the Blue Point Oyster (from NY) with quail egg, masago, & yuzu sauce.

[Blue Point] Oyster Shooter

Or, on the next picture, you can opt for double the whammy as an aphrodisiac and a fried delicacy under Dami's Deep Fried section of the menu.  However, if a milder sensation suits you, their Shrimp Tempura conveys the safer bet.

Oyster Tempura with Enoki, Grated Radish, and Ponzu Sauce

Perhaps the prominently healthier substance stubbornly adheres to your eating lifestyle.  So besides the salads Dami provides Grilled entrees, such as Teppanyaki Beef, Grilled Yellowtail Collar, and the subtly sweet and inconceivably floral Chilean Sea Bass--marinated in miso and sake.

Center is a sample of Miso Chilean Sea Bass

Also within the menu comprises of their Signature creations, such as the tender and delectable spicy pork belly with rice, and ssamjang sauce, and lettuce to wrap around the aforementioned ingredients encompassing the Ssambab.

Ssam Bab

The Lettuce Wrap

If eating within comfort zone frightens you, step your gastronomic game way up towards dishes like the Golbang Yi Muchim, roughly translated as Sea Snail salad with dried pollack and hot chili pepper sauce, alongside two small, slithery scoops of rice noodles.

Golbang Yi Muchim (Sea Snail Salad)

Or possibly dive into a more proportionally diminutive amount yet slightly intensifying Siragei, which is a rice bowl of dried radish greens slowly cooked with special soy dashi and baby anchovy, topped with masago and ginger.

Siragei (Dried Radish Greens) Rice Bowl

When deliberately tossed altogether, the sauce gradually soaks the blanched-looking rice into a more inviting, light orange hue, at closer look with the masago mixed in--i.e. the sample in the picture below.

Perhaps a smokier touch, plus that adventurous trait in you, will tingle your gustatory senses.  The Saewoojang may as well excellently tailor you--a rice bowl full of raw shrimp preserved with special soy sauce, followed by dried pollack and jujube.

Saewoojang (Preserved Shrimp) Rice Bowl

If for some reason bowls and plates are not your forte of the day, on a separate, checklist menu contains Yakitori, which are mini skewers to nibble joyously while imbibing their beer and/or sake--which by the way poses a reason of the "Izakaya" inscription in their moniker.

Two of their featured skewers boast the Enoki (Mushroom) Maki and Asparagus Maki, both wrapped in savory, slightly crunchy, and tantalizing Japanese pork belly.

Enoki Mushroom Maki

Asparagus Maki

Perhaps none of the above can betray that nitpicky pescatarian brethren of yours, and thus Sushi answers to its loyalty.  On another separated, 2-paged checklist menu spotlights these fresh delicacies as both commonplace rolls and traditional cuts--i.e. sushi and sashimi.

Easily available in the rolls are the low-to-zero carb specialties, such as the zesty Dami Special, which packs up tuna, salmon, albacore, and crab meat with avocado wrapped in cucumber.  If soy paper appeals to personal texture, you might become enraptured with the Love Roll, which hugs around salmon, tuna, yellowtail, albacore, avocado, and cucumber.

Sample of Dami Special (left) & Love Roll (right)

Otherwise go for my personal preference in ordering raw fish: assorted sushi and sashimi by means of 2-piece ordering and 5-piece ordering, respectively--e.g. 8 dishes of fresh and conscientiously cool seafood in a Dami Seafood Box for $40--for 2 customers total.

Assorted Sushi: (from counterclockwise top right) Halibut; Salmon Belly; Red Snapper; Tuna/Maguro; Yellowtail Belly; garlic, ginger, and wasabi; Tuna Seaweed Roll; Abalone

My All-Time Favorite Fish: silky, smooth, and flavorful Sake/Salmon

Ending the night--or possibly commence the evening--can be gradually sweetened with their seductive yet mellow Matcha Green Tea Creme Brulee as a way to both titillate the sugar tooth and eliminate the opposing, savory remnants.

Green Tea Creme Brulee

If you particularly can't bear the wait or the excessive portions of red meat at the Korean BBQ next door, please do not hesitate and eat your heart out at Dami Sushi & Izakaya.  As another approach to enliven that hankering heart is their everyday Happy Hour, offering $1 oysters.

Happy Hour

Dami Sushi & Izakaya
5151 Beach Blvd, Unit A
Buena Park, CA 90621
(714) 739-2537

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Foodie at Afters Ice Cream

Pertaining to the sweet category of food trends, my fragile metabolism and taste have been hyperactive for indulgences like macarons, red velvet everything, decorative waffles, pumpkin spice delectables, and the familiar hybrid of a croissant and a donut.

Another potential food fad could emerge, after getting sweetened with a combination of artisan ice cream and the old-fashioned, simplistic donut.  This is what Afters Ice Cream has been screaming out since February 15.

Off the 405 freeway in Brookhurst Street and Talbert, accessibility of parking is a breeze--assuming that you don't mind an opportunistic walk.  It is sandwiched between Pick Up Stix and the flashy Hallmark store, however mentioning this was pointless because the lengthy hour long line of sweet teeth of all ages gives the location away.  Making the establishment more attention-grabbing were the previous businesses that left their namesake scars behind the "Ice Cream" signage.

Took This Pic When We Were in Line

My friends and I arrived on a Wednesday afternoon, and we were lucky taking a parking spot very close to the ice cream store.  Still, that couldn't defeat the odds of waiting the same amount of time as the Splash Mountain ride.  At least you'll have more time to gossip uninterrupted--without those bouncing noises in sit-down restaurants--catch up on Instagram photos, or even study some terminology on your note cards from StudyBlue (or another academic app on your smartphone).

Even inches from the entrance line you'll see Afters displaying their logo attire almost as if they were literally chilling in the see-through fridge.  Then you'll notice the plastic crates deliberately stacked to take role as the velvet rope at Haunted Mansion, but instead of feeling red you'll see (and likely feel) almost randomly stocked items, indicating ingredients used in their handcrafted ice cream.

Note: Not All Ingredients Are Avail Every Day

In actuality, one of my aforementioned friends and I retrospectively drove to Fountain Valley Plaza for that undying glimpse of the number of customers anticipating for what my friend informed me that Afters "put ice cream inside the donut."  After denied access of our own consent, a few days later I phone-talked to another gal friend describing this why-hasn't-been-thought-for-so-long ingenious culinary phenomenon, and she insisted that I indulge wholeheartedly with these 2 sweet sensations packed together, suitably called (and possibly trademarked) the Milky Bun.

Hours after our phone conversation, my friends and I nabbed that lucky parking spot that Wednesday afternoon for that and the artisan ice cream--moment involving roughly 15 flavors.

How the Milky Bun is Created Before Consumed

If you do dare order the Milky Bun, you can choose to have the donut plain or glazed.

Unglazed Donuts

With the $5.00 double the trouble comes with one free topping--or sauce.  Otherwise pay up an extra half dollar.

One of my friends gladly took the classic approach by going Single Scoop plus the 50-cent topping, much more specifically the Vietnamese Iced Coffee Ice Cream with Fruity Pebbles.

If you demand a tolerable dose of caffeine, but would rather embrace on a more luscious, thicker texture, this version of Cafe Sua Da could hype you up.  This would have been my request, had I visited Afters as a solo adventure.

However, after tackling other flavors to sample, I ended up having a serious date with the Jasmine Milk Tea Miky Bun, Glazed, with Afters [Cereal] Flakes, handsomely served on parchment paper as if folded as a bulky ice cream cone.

A Friend's Milk and Cereal Milky Bun

Just like my infatuation for certain milk teas for its impacted sensation, I contained the same emotion for Afters' extravagantly flowery and gorgeous punch.  Perfume-like level could be a more candid way to interpret this, so this tone could vary widely on individuals' taste, all thanks to genetics.  For a vivacious crunch, I chose the Afters flakes, which simply reminded me of those corn flakes made by a famous brand starting with the letter K.

Yet, I put myself at palatable and dietary risk to have this periwinkle-colored creaminess into this absurdly yet undoubtedly rich, overwhelmingly saccharine glazed donut.  If you dare rip off a little piece of the fried dough alone and bit into it, it's like eating from the proverbial, local mom-and-pop shops on your way to a 9-to-5 shift.

Nonetheless I pushed myself already to my limit of consumed sweetness that I managed 90% of the Milky Bun.  So if I were to reorder it, I don't mind at all sharing this with a friend or foodie partner.

In addition, the mental and physical sugar concentration, plus a lively conversation, of this afternoon treat led me to a slight oblivion on the texture of the ice cream, resulting in a second visit (barely a week later) with one of my friends from the previous rendezvous.  Those few days curiously showed notable upgrades, such as giant refrigerator (pictured below) next to the fully stacked plain donuts, plus a new ice cream flavor, the "Churro."

Plus we arrived at an amazingly short wait, on a Monday.  So, here's my bonus, 2 cents to you, lucky reader!

You're New

No pun intended (again), but after sampling the "Churro" flavor, the essence of cinnamon was taste-wise slightly shimmery, but it could attain a heavier kick--though I can imagine many other customers falling in love with this more instantaneously.

Then I asked one of the servers if half scoops for my Single Scoop is permissible, and joyously I got to enjoy 1/2 a scoop of likewise magnificently rich, chunky, and scrumptiously intense Cookie Butter and 1/2 a scoop of that consistently divine Jasmine Milk Tea (for a total of $3.50).  Meanwhile, my friend ordered the Milky Bun, this time unglazed--thank goodness--and filled with a nostalgic-sensing Peanut Butter & Jelly Ice Cream.

Now concentrating on the meaningful frozen texture in my scoop, it was slick, thickly whipped, and indubitably smooth.  Issues of air embedded within were close to zilch, though like the typical frozen brands, such as Ben & Jerry's, our ice cream melted easily during a chill post-rainy weather.

Bottom line: if you must endure a line analogous to popular park rides, a middle-profile concert, or even the original Pink's Hot Dogs, I'd say go after the uncommon yet grand flavors, i.e. Jasmine Milk Tea, Vietnamese Iced Coffee, and Cookie Butter.  Other likable flavors of mine include Cookie Monster and Almond Cookie, and I have yet to get refreshed with Afters' sorbets.  Outdoor seating is prepared to take on the dairy spillage coming from that 4-step sweet process!

Grade: B+

Afters Ice Cream
18030 Brookhurst St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Foodie at Habana, Revisited

Last April I arrived to hidden Habana for the 1st time, curiously hungry and thirsty for their healthy fish sandwich and sinfully sounding Sangria Roja while sitting solo their relaxing, gorgeous, and eye-catching patio.

The 2nd time was a social opposite.  This was during a chilly Saturday night getting warmed up inside with a lively party of 13 to toast a friend's birthday.  Embracing the candlelit, romantic-calling ambiance, we dominated the peripheral, communal table where half of the group could easily get distracted to people-watching, while the other half could pay close attention to the gazers.

The common tie between these 2 endeavors was the look of indecision thanks to their appetizing, mealtime-appropriate menus.

Because of this slightly large gathering, all my following food encounters reflected on my side of the table.  However, I heavily apologize for not naming some of these platters verbatim and not knowing their prices, so to my best extent we commenced with...

These Seasoned-Fried Avocado Slices tasted average in my book, in spite of the evened breading and flawless creaminess.  The mildly spicy yet effervescently smoky chipotle dip enchanted some oomph that these fritters deserve.

If intense citrus with a nudging robustness of sherry wine sound truly appealing to you, order up the delectably nibbling Marinated Olives.

In a cutesy, mini cast iron pan, the beautifully breaded and peppered Stuffed Pork Croquettes are aptly amazing. Expecting to be a traditional meatball, I was however dumbfounded that, after slicing part of the ball, the inside was a sublimely succulent, phenomenally and consistently juicy shredded pulled pork (i.e. not grounded) clearly being rolled up lovingly to likewise wrap around the gooey and ambrosial manchego cheese.  Its tomato sauce upped the ante by its slight tang and sweetness, with a meaty undertone that I shamelessly scooped some for the fried avocado slices.

Oh, that cheesy goo

Whatever mealtime you've stepped in, obviously assuming you take pride in your omnivorous digestive system, these croquettes must be at the top of your personal order list at Habana.

Quarter of the dinner hour passed by right before our main courses took the center stage...

I may not had a chance to take even a bean out of these chromatically appealing & abundant Roasted Seasoned Vegetables, but please take my vegan friend into consideration.

But on the other gastronomic spectrum...

One of my friends nonchalantly allowed me to sample the Ropa Vieja--thrice.  Out of the few other dishes I've eaten, both the aggrandizing, savory, and tactfully garlicky tomato-based sauce and the hearty, equitably tender and easily falling apart pot roast made the night's dinner and my eating life into what felt like a soulfully eternal bliss.  Unless you're virtuously vegan/vegetarian, if you're coming during lunchtime and first caught glance at this menu item, trust your darting eyes; I mentioned the daytime interval because I do remember it being priced slightly more inexpensively.

Meanwhile, I was leaning towards either of the 2 chicken dishes served that night.  Go for (another) breaded chicken entree, or for the one that has one of my favorite everyday ingredients--garlic.

But while you've tried figuring out, my plate happened to be executed separately by offering me first the black beans.

Eating this alone, the level of flavor was lighter compared to stews in other Hispanic restaurants.  I decided to place this dish aside for my chicken.

Few minutes later the plate with the poultry was the evident reason for the legume segregation.  I eventually chose the one with garlic mojo sauce...

Marinated Roasted Half Chicken

Both my friends and myself were dazed at this massive showstopper that I initially thought the menu was too timid to admit that the chicken may be whole.  But in reality the meat, the sauce, and the sweet and sweaty onions covered the fluffy white rice. What's even more blatant was that the scent of that dainty, harmless-looking rosemary garnish was unexpectedly potent--as if a woman hoarding the treadmill spritzed several mists of the White Diamonds Eau de Parfum--thus, might have affected my approach to this behemoth.

Just as strikingly, the sauce proved more vinegary and pungent than I thought, like about the same level of aromatics as the Ropa Vieja.  I did manage to bite off one drumstick, yet both my taste and olfaction had been overwhelmed with the infiltrating dish that at 1st impression I told my friends, "It's tasty, but it may not be my personal favorite..."

Or, maybe I had altogether wolfed down one bread roll, one--and a half--Pork and Cheese Croquette, the vegetarian appetizers, the chicken leg, and double my guzzling of water that I had to take 2/3 of my main course in a plastic takeout container.

My Leftover Breakfast

Interestingly, the overnight fridge treatment was optimizing and mellowing the blend of the intense flavors of the garlic, onions, and vinegar--satisfying my hungry hopes.  More impressively was that all my leftover meat was therefore more reveling, attaining the same tenderness and tantalizing chicken skin to eat with the same rice and with salad (from my fridge) as the night of the birthday dinner.

But back to the restaurant.  Our section's sweet selection was Coconut Sorbet, appropriately stuffed in a soft, half football-shaped shell.

Unusually dense for how a sorbet is traditionally concocted that one hand must hold onto that shell in order to scoop it with another, I stubbornly believe that coconut milk was the binding pizazz for a more stealthy coconut taste.  This even gloated generous shreds of coconut, and the melting factor for a sorbet was curiously slothful and sturdy.

It was indeed an overall light finish for such an exemplary, heavy-feeling eating celebration.  I have came to realize that Habana is still one of the OC gems to treat yourself or a loved one to a delicious feast at any time of their opening hours.  And still, a parking spot at its LAB Antimall is a nasty game for me to snatch.

Grade: B+

2930 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 556-0176

Habana on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Foodie at Beach Break Cafe

When coasting through Oceanside (which was rare for even SD-borne me had traveled to), whatever itinerary you may have already settled, I hope you would save at least an hour break for some bulky food, nestled right along Coast Highway.

Front Signage

Entering from the parking lot's side, I happened to take a step on the patio, i.e. the opposite side of the main entrance, or the storefront.  Over there every wall and ceiling are washed with beach photography, framed accolades, local memorabilia, and innumerable surfboards at various sizes, from the legitimate to the replicas hanging atop the restaurant waiting room like organized Christmas ornaments.  Virtually as equal as the number of boards are the number of customers devouring their breakfast entrees, lunch items, or both at the same time.

This is just 1 out of hundreds of ocean wave grinders

If the waiting period took longer than my actual experience--at closing hour on a Sunday--famished and/or fatigued customers could consume and serve themselves a cup of coffee, complimentary style that has an understandable condition...

I ended up taking a seat at the counter, where I was secretively elated to observe the diner window that divides the cooks from the servers.  A better way to word this description is that I had an awesome opportunity gazing and awing towards the enormously portioned food, priced within the range of $7-$14, at incredibly high and unwavering turnover.

One of the ways of looking at the order tickets is that screen on the top left.

Out of the lengthy, laminated 2-sided menu--where one side offers breakfast and the other displays lunch--I conscientiously picked the dish not because of the amount of leftovers I would be having, but because I pried on a dish that included this alluring Coffee Cake that my friends went temporarily insane for when they went on their own, personal break.

So in order for me to intake this brief insanity without this despicable extra charging, I aimed for a breakfast item, which obviously I'll be expatiating shortly.  Otherwise, a standard lunch item would monetarily segregate this satisfactorily portioned coffee complement by $1.95.

Right away, the encompassing warmth and aroma pierced me.  Easily crumbly with light pressure on my fork, in just one bite and I felt this moist, lightly buttery, soft vanilla, and invigorating cinnamon essence without torturing my gustatory senses like some of those spicy candies of the like.  But I believe the ooze of the sugary glaze might have been the catalyst of my infatuation of this cubed sweet starter of mine.

Amusingly, after one bite of this warm cake, this plate was quickly yet contently served directly in front of me...

Corned Beef Hash with Eggs Sunny Side Up ($9.95)

Leftovers, coming right up!

Teasing aside, meaty chunks of tasty corned beef provided the superficially charred texture and consistent tenderness, cooperating with the softness of Beach Break Cafe's home style potatoes while also donning their slight browning, as well as their sweet, gingerly sliced grilled red onions.  Like all traditional corned beefs it had a salty undertone, especially when my appetite was meeting in the middle of the plate.

If a crispier thrill is more of your forte, these choppy, diced potatoes can easily be substituted for their hash browns.  That was certainly my responsibility for not telling my waitress to opt for the other starchy classic I personally preferred.

Additionally, I purposefully asked my evidently fresh eggs to be cooked sunny side up for that glossy, rich, and wickedly delectable yolk to softly cascade on my manly meat and potatoes.

That Yolk

I was planning to save the remaining coffee cake for perhaps the next day's breakfast.  Strangely, although the sugary level was honestly a tad over the threshold of sugar concentration, I let go of the pre-diabetes fear and ravished it entirely, leaving only the edges since the colder the cake, the harder its cornered texture--and the more hardened that glaze.  Bottom line is that you are absolutely permitted to consume the cake firsthand; really, the only person obstructing the choices of what time to eat this deliciously extravagant indulgence is yourself!

So now, how about placing your surfboard aside and get your teeth grinding at Beach Break Cafe, genuinely displaying their motto "Great Food, Great Friends, Great Service."  Despite the seemingly antsy environment on Sunday, all the workers considerably checked up on me, ensuring I'm finishing the cake blissfully before a longing siesta.  To find this diurnally run eatery, it is virtually between the bustling Interstate 5 and the rarely thrashing Pacific Ocean.

And if the minuscule parking lot is not in your odds that day, residential parking should be fine, unless you arrived on street sweeping day.

Grade: B-

Beach Break Cafe
1802 S Coast Hwy
Oceanside, CA 92054
(760) 439-6355

Beach Break Cafe on Urbanspoon

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