Jun 28, 2008

Pizzeria Mozza

It’s my friend’s birthday last week,
And no doubt that she celebrated it in a very classic way,
Parties (that means clubbing) and drinks,
In a short period of time, she’s down.
End of the night.

After many years of “experiences,”
I decided to skip her birthday party,
What a nice friend eh?
Well, I still made my appearance at the birthday dinner, and immediately, I found toxic drinks on the table already,
At 5:30 in the afternoon.

In order to make up for my absence at the party,
Or should I say my “escape?”
I took her out for lunch few days ago.
At Pizzeria Mozza,
One of the recent hot spots in Los Angeles, owned by Nancy Silverton, Joseph Bastianich, and Mario Batali (and yes, Batali is the guy you see quite often on Food Network channel).

It was quite a journey dining at Pizzeria Mozza.

I made a reservation one week in advance for a party of two at 1 p.m.
The automated answering system put me on hold for 15 minutes,
“You are caller number one,”
How come I still needed to wait for 15 minutes if I were caller number one?
Finally, when a real person answered my phone,
There’re no more tables available for 1 p.m.
So I decided to go with another option - 12 noon – not bad.

One week later,
The day for our be-lated birthday celebration lunch had arrived.
I hopped in my car at 10:50 a.m.
Figured that I should leave early in case I hit the infamous traffic on 405 freeway,
*Usually it takes about 50 minutes from my place to downtown Los Angeles.
……Ergh…11:30 a.m……I’ve been stuck in the traffic for 40 minutes....
Not even half way through….
So I called my lovely birthday girl,
Asked her to give the restaurant a call and let them know that we’ll be late…
30 minutes later she called me back,
“You know what! I’ve been put on hold like forever!
I was caller number 8, then I waited and waited….
And then the lady told me that there were no more tables available until 3 p.m...but we can still do walk-ins…”
Hmm…I already spent one hour on the road….
Let’s do walk-ins, who cares if we have to wait even longer,
I want it I want it I want it!!!!
*Good thing that I was in the car, driving. Otherwise you’ll see an Asian chick shaking her hands and smashing her head against the wall like crazy, shouting “I want pizza! I want pizza!”

Arrival time: 12:40 p.m.
(Yes, I’ve been driving for almost 2 hours just for the sake of pizza.
Oh no, I should say that I’ve been driving for almost 2 hours to take my friend out for a lovely birthday lunch)
Number of people waiting in the line: around 10 (more showed up later on)
Estimated waiting period: 20 minutes for the bar (acceptable)

Time we finally got seated: 1:30 p.m.
It’s more than 20 minutes but hey, we got a table!

While waiting for the waiter,
*We already glanced through all the details on the menu during the wait.
I quickly took a picture of the restaurant,
It’s really hard to get a decent photo because..
First: I’m not that good of a photographer,
Second: people kept moving around, which made it difficult to capture a nice photo without something block in between.

You can see their wide selection of wines in the back,
Mozza also has a small room for those “special” wines on the right (blocked by the hostess).
The wood fire oven is located on the left of the picture,
Once again,
Sorry that I couldn’t captured a nice picture of their pizza making area,
Too many people there and I didn’t want to climb over them for a nice shot,
But...should I just do it anyway in the future??

I also took a picture of my paper table mat-

It’s a recipe for margherita pizza!
My friend's table mat was an old comic strip with Italian language,
And the table mat on the table next to us had some graphics showing common gestures that Italians use from time to time.
Don’t know what the heck I’m talking about?
Check this video on YouTube then you’ll understand my alien language.
*Note that unlike the R-rated video clip from YouTube,
The actual gesture graphics on the table mat were PG-13 only (something like how to express delicious food with your hands)

While we were busy taking pictures here and there,
Our waiter brought over our antipasti that drew people’s attention next to our table,
Bone marrow al forno-

The family on our right gave us this slightly disgusted look with tilted eyebrows,
The guys on our left were way cooler though,
One of them was like “What is that!? It looks pretty damn good!”

This is how I enjoy the dish,
Simply grab a roasted garlic clove, spread it on top of the bread, top it with bone marrow, and sprinkle some sea salt to boost up the flavor.

The marrow itself has a texture like jelly,
Actually it’s softer than jelly,
I have a perfect way to describe the texture but it might shun you away,
It’s like the fat that floats on top of a greasy dish in the fridge.
Despite of my scary description here, the taste itself is fantastic.
You can taste all the condensed beefy flavors in that small spoonful of bone marrow,
But do remember to finish this dish while it’s still hot,
Otherwise cold bone marrow might really turns out like frozen fat in the fridge.

Pizza alla benno: speck, pineapple, jalapeno, mozzarella & tomato-

I was expecting cubes of pineapples on the pizza,
I guess I was brain-washed by America pizza chain stores’ Hawaiian pizza for quite a long time.
Mozza actually used sliced pineapples for this pizza,
And it was amazing,
The pizza was full of flavors and yet each element didn’t over-power one another,
It was spicy too!

That jalapeno definitely gave this pizza a STRONG kick. Good for me! I love spicy food!
I don’t know who started putting pineapples on pizza,
But that person must be a genius,
What a perfect sweet ingredient for a savory dish.

Our second pizza, can’t remember the exact name but some of the ingredients are:
Bacon, fennel sausage, mozzarella & tomato-

Apparently our waiter has a special preference for this pizza,
It contains a lot of meat, I mean a LOT.
But my favorite ingredients here is still the bacon,
It was baked in to perfection,
Crunchy on all sides,
And its smoky flavor combined with the aroma from fennel can almost turn a vegetarian into a meat lover.

Seems like a lot of food for two girls?
Let’s bring on the dessert menu please!-

And we listened to our waiter’s recommendation once again since he did a pretty good job suggesting that meaty pizza,
Strawberry gelato pie with spiced almonds & saba-

I did ask our waiter about saba because I know nothing about it,
The only image that came into my mind when I saw “saba” on the menu was…
Japanese mackerel, yes, you can find “saba” on the menu in a sushi bar..
But of course it turned out to be a totally different thing,
Saba (Italian) is some kind of syrup/essence/condiment made with grapes,
And apparently it’s good with our strawberry gelato pie!

This pie is good for a greedy person like me,
I wanted to order a pie or a cake, but I also craved for something cold like gelato or sorbetto,
Nothing beats strawberry gelato pie at the moment,
I got both goodies in one plate,
Molto buono!

While us two girls were having fun eating, chatting, and taking pictures,
The guys on our left kept trying to squeeze in a few words once a while,
“Want me to take a picture for you?”
“Hey that looks good!”
“Haha it’s Hollywood!” (Me: What??)
*I was too focusing on the food part that I couldn’t understand what they’re taking about anymore.
And what a coincidence,
Both of our tables happened to finish the food and waited for our cars outside at the same time…
One guy shook my hand and hoped that their loud conversation didn’t disturb my lunch time,
Guess what!?
He asked for my number, and he called later that day,
“I should take you out for a drink sometime.”
Hey…..isn’t avoiding alcohol my first intention to dine at Pizzeria Mozza??

End Note:
I didn’t pick up his phone calls after that day.

Overall Rating: 7

Pizzeria Mozza (Lunch and Dinner)
641 N. Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 297-0101

Osteria Mozza (Dinner only)
6602 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 297-0100

*These two locations are actually right next to each other.


Jun 23, 2008

Sapphire Laguna

Went to Laguna Beach with my friend one weekend afternoon,
It was a pretty chill day,
Nice weather, good friend, and most importantly, I was in a very pleasant mood.
Our original plan was having lunch at The Hotel La Casa del Camino,
Sadly, the place was booked for a wedding event,
So we had to find another alternative place to fill up our empty stomachs.

But I was very reluctant to move on to another location because I just found an easy parking space right behind the hotel.
If you've been to Pacific Coast Highway during lunch hours,
You'll know that it's a pain in the as* to find a parking,
And most of the parking spaces are along the street,
Me!!?!! Are you asking me to park on the street!!?!
You know how dangerous that will be?
I'll probably hit like 2 cars, 1 passenger, and drive onto the curb before I can successfully park my car,
What can we do then?
Let's find another restaurant within walking distance,
Across the street, we see Sapphire Laguna.

Restaurant menu-

I've been passing by this place for so many times,
This place has a nice outdoor dining area and it's never empty,
Mmmmmm maybe this meal will be a very good one.

Let's start out with some drinks-

Mimosa and ??,
I can't remember what my friend ordered,
But my mimosa was good, perfect balance between champagne, sparkling wine, and orange juice!
And it's time to dig in!-

This is my order,
"Pan-seared barramundi, truffle frites, Cafe de Paris butter, frisee-haricots verts tossed in citronnade."
I was in love with Sapphire's truffle frites,
Its crunchiness texture together with that wonderful aroma from the truffle oil,
I'll definitely come back for truffle frites again!

My friend's order-

"Sauteed jumbo shrimp, hand-made spinach ricotta tortelloni, roasted artichoke, rosemary milk."
I didn't try it so no comment.

Still have room for dessert? Of course, bring it on!-

"Hazelnut feullitine, Buddha's hand confit, dulce de leche ice cream, citrus praline sauce."
Did I mention that I'll come back for the truffle frites?
I'll also come back for this dessert too!!
Hazelnut with chocolate, God am I in heaven,
Combine a small bite of feullitine together with a small bite of dulce de leche ice cream,
Slowly, yes, slowly put that spoon in your mouth,
Mmmmmmmmmmmmm soooooooo good!

Good weather, delicious food, and wonderful service,
Yes you heard me,
Right at the moment we walked into the restaurant,
The hostess was very polite with a sincere smile on her face the whole time,
She gave us options of eating in the patio or inside the restaurant,
And then elegantly lead us into our table.
In addition,
Our waiter kept coming back and checked on us to see if we need anything,
The table was also promptly cleaned up after each dishes,
Sapphire definitely deserves a high rating from me!

Overall Rating: 8

*Note: Sapphire's brunch entree is about $14 to $17.

Sapphire Laguna
1200 South Pacific Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 715-9888

Jun 19, 2008

Tofu with Ginger and Black Bean Soy Sauce 薑汁燒豆腐

Got vegetables?


1 box of organic firm or extra firm tofu
2 big Bak Choy (chop in half)
1 small carrot (sliced)
8 small shitake mushrooms (sliced)
1/2 onion
1 stalk of scallion (chop into few stems)
1 tablespoon of grated ginger
1/2 tablespoon of minced garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Black bean soy sauce 蠔油
Spicy black bean paste 辣豆瓣醬
Soy sauce


Let's dice the tofu into few large pieces,
Drain out the excess liquid and sprinkle some flour over tofu pieces.
Drizzle some olive oil in the pan,
Toss in tofu pieces and sear till both sides turn slightly brown,
Drain out the oil, set aside.

Once again,
Drizzle some olive oil in the pan,
Toss in sliced onion and sprinkle some salt,
Cook till the color turned transparent,
Add the scallion and continue to cook for about 30 seconds,
Now we toss in minced garlic and grated ginger, give it a quick stir.

Pour in about 2 tablespoons of black bean soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of spicy black bean paste, and 2 tablespoons of water,
Bring to a boil,
Add bak choy, carrot, shitake mushrooms into the mixture,
Combine them well and bring the mixture to a boil again,
Transfer our pre-seared tofu back into the pan,

Taste it and add more black bean soy sauce if desired.

Here you go, one healthy dish with many vegetables!

Cindy's Rating: 6

Jun 16, 2008

Spicy Miso Tofu

I'm getting lazy in this ferocious summer weather.

In the sake of global warming,
I try to resist the temptation of turning on that little tiny switch,
The switch that miraculously releases cold air into my apartment.
The only thing I can do now is open all the windows, I mean wide open,
Maybe smack down a wall of two,
And let the natural flow of air do the job of carrying out the steam from my head.
I'll try not to touch that magic switch till the thermometer turns 90 or 100 degrees.

So I'm meditating at home,
Trying very hard not to move at all in order to reduce my body heat,
But my stomach is grumbling again....
No matter how hot the weather is, I still need to eat,
I have to cook....
Something fast, easy, and delicious,
Something that I can finish in 15 minutes,
Oh yeah I beat Rachael Ray here baby!

Spicy Miso Tofu-


1 pack of pre-fried tofu with vegetables, cubed (or any kind of pre-fried tofu)
4 shitake mushrooms (sliced)
2 tablespoons of spicy miso paste (or any regular red miso paste)
1 tablespoon of mirin
1 tablespoon of sake (Japanese cooking alcohol)
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
2 slices of fresh ginger (cut into threads)
2 cups of water


Combine the water, mirin, sake, soy sauce, and ginger in a pot,
Bring to a boil and toss in the tofu, mushrooms, and ginger threads,
Bring to a boil again and turn down the heat,
Let it simmer for about 10 minutes,
This dish is done,
Yes, stop rubbing your eyes now, it is THAT easy,
It's done!
Preferably served with white rice.

*This summer weather makes me sleepy easily...especially after food..

Cindy's Rating: 7

Jun 10, 2008

Stir-Fried Shrimps with Mayonnaise

One of my favorite places for grocery shopping is Mitsuwa,
They always sell their vegetables and meat products in smaller portion,
Which is ideal for me since I usually cook for myself only.

Let me give you an example here,
If I want to bake something with parsley,
I can just go to Mitsuwa and buy a few stems of parsley instead of a whole box that'll probably last me for a year.
Also because it's a Japanese supermarket,
They always carry extremely fresh seafood, or sushi-grade fish,
And today, I found some fresh medium sized shrimps,
How can I resist the temptation and not bringing them home?

So here they are, fresh shrimps turned stir-fried shrimps with mayonnaise-


20 medium sized shrimps (peeled but leave the shell on the tail, deveined)
8 dried red chili peppers
1 lime
Scallion (chopped)
1/3 of small onion (diced)
2 garlic cloves (peeled, minced)
2 teaspoons of grated ginger
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Sake (cooking alcohol)


Drizzle some olive oil in the pan,
Toss in the chopped onions and sprinkle some sea salt,
Cook till the color turned translucent.

Add the grated ginger, minced garlic, and chili peppers into the pan,
Cook till the aroma comes out,
But be careful here, don't let the garlic get burned,
So toss in the chopped scallion and the shrimps before the scary garlic tragedy happen,
Sprinkle more salt and freshly ground black pepper.

When the shrimps start to change its color,
Add about 1 tablespoon of sake,
(If you don't have sake at home, white wine works fine too!),
Don't forget our main ingredient here, the mayonnaise!
Add about 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise,
Keep stirring and give it a quick taste,
Add more salt and pepper if needed.

Squeeze some lime juice before serving,
Also garnish the plate with a few lime wedges.

Cindy's Rating: 7

Jun 7, 2008

Fukada - A Place for Handmade Soba

Wow, it's been a while since the last time I wrote about restaurant review,
What can I say?
Life's been hectic for the past couple weeks,
A sudden shift in my direction of goals have caused me quite a headache,
There's no time for trying out new places,
Thank god that everything's "kinda" settled (crossing my fingers here),
Food monger is now back into action,
Let's bring on some food!

Inside Fukada-

I like the layout of the restaurant,
Unlike most of the Japanese restaurants,
Fukada provides a very spacious environment with ample sitting area, high ceiling, and semi-open kitchen.

Soba-Making Area-

I haven't tried their handmade soba yet,
That will be my goal next time dining in Fukada,
Handmade soba....
"Grrrrrrr" my stomach is crying out loud for bouncy noodles now.

Tatsuta Age (Fried Chicken)-

Loved Japanese fried chicken,
Every place has its own recipe for the marinade and the dipping sauce,
Fukada's tatsuta age is pretty good,
But so far my favorite is still the one from Shin Sen Gumi in Founain Valley,
Haven't wrote about that place yet,
Guess I just find my excuse here to dine at Shin Sen Gumi again!

Asparagus Tempura-

Even though it's fried, this dish tastes pretty refreshing somehow.

Kakuni (can't remember the actual name on the menu) and Asahi in the back-

Usually I'll take a picture of the menu so I can have the correct name and description on the blog,
But I guess I was busy taking a picture of the restaurant while my friend was ordering the food,
Then our cute waitress took away the menu before I realized that I missed something..
Lesson learned,
Take a picture of the menu before everything else,
The restaurant layout won't disappear in a lightening speed but the menu will.
*Here's our almighty Wikipedia, where you can find more information about "kakuni."

Here's one more item that I can't remember the name,
I do know that it's some kind of soup with organic tofu,
Yes, ORGANIC tofu (FYI, I'm an organic freak!)-

One good thing about Fukada is that this place offers many healthy and hearty dishes,
They strive to use organic and free range items if possible,
For donburi, you also get to choose between white rice or brown rice,
By the way, I'm a big fan of brown rice too!

Fried Chicken Wings-

It has a hint of sweetness in its sauce,
Maybe they marinate the chicken with something sweet too,
Very good, order it if you've decided to give this place a try.

Those are just a small fraction of Fukada's menu,
They also have sushi rolls and a wide selection of hot/cold soba/udon noodles,
But next time I'll try out their special combo,
You can pick between all kinds of donburi, soba, and salads,
It'll be a perfect lunch for my next visit!

Overall Rating: 6

8683 Irvine Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92718
(949) 341-0111

Jun 2, 2008

Griffith Observatory - Memorial Day Weekend Part II

Ok, I know I'm pretty late for this blog entry,
Oh well,
I know it's been many days after Memorial Day weekend,
But I still want to share some pictures I took at the Griffith Observatory,
Wish these pictures will make your Monday a little bit more relaxing.

Griffith Observatory in the afternoon-

Sun dial (around 5:30 p.m.)-

Inside the observatory (eclipse demonstration)-

On the rooftop around 6 p.m.-


On the rooftop at night (probably my favorite picture of the day)-

Pretty Los Angeles night view-