If Anyone Asks…You GOT an Alibi!

This post is dedicated to the gal above because on a bittersweet day, she was the sweet accompaniment to a couple of bitters and tacos with more-spicy-than-sweet chili sauce. Thanks, grl!

While tons of dishes out there are “amazing”, “SO good”, and “o.m.g. delicious” to me, I am quite selective when it comes to using the phrase: “this is my favorite…”Alibi Room, however, has won me over.

This is, currently, the place that serves up my favorite Calamari Tacos. Literally, just a handful of ingredients: white corn tortillas, onions, cilantro, sweet chili sauce and grilled calamari (and sesame seeds!), the difference is in the calamari. They’re not fried, which means no over-battered mess and only extra juicy, chewy squid chopped up and lathered in sauce, leaving you with a lasting, SPICY impression. Lose the fork, dive right in—this is where a big mouth and sturdy hands come in!

The bartender will constantly monitor your napkin needs. They’ll even swap used ones for new ones after every few taco bites. Hospitality points!

Old Cuban reminds me of a brighter, better cousin of the Mojito: rum, fresh mint, lime, sugar, bitters and prosecco. My favorite part in this is the bundle of fresh mint, lime and prosecco. Extra refreshing with some hot tacos.

If you’re in a more exotic, fruity and sweet mood, go for the Cuban Mistress (yes, it’s girly): rum, hibiscus, strawberry, rhubarb bitters, lemon and ginger beer.

It was definitely a cocktail + tacos kind of night. The Kogi Three Taco Combo is probably the most fail-proof item on the menu (although nothing on there really is). It’s recognizable to what’s offered at the Kogi Truck: white corn tortilla, onions, salsa roja, cilantro, and your choice of the following proteins: short rib, BBQ chicken, spicy pork or tofu.

Korean spiced fries are the most popular side order and the condiment is superior! Sirarcha, ketchup and sesame mayo…need I say more?

Lastly, chill out at the triangular bar surrounded by cool lighting and drink bottles. It’s a poppin’ atmosphere even on a seemingly random Tuesday evening. Bartenders are always friendly and it just feels like you’re in a different world…a part of Culver City that you just never expected to find.

Plan [to] Check [it out!]

Harbored on Sawtelle’s strip of superb Asian eats (aka Little Osaka), Plan Check s a vintage, architectural, industrial, rustic, fresh and hipster place that makes a branded burger and fries taste as good as its spatial expression. PC has been on my Bookmarks for a lengthy time, so when friends were in town visiting, I suggested to check out a cool spot on a hot day.

 

4pm on a Saturday is not your typical lunch hour, so we had pretty much the entire interior space to ourselves.

I actually got to meet and hear Terry Heller, owner of Plan Check, talk about his business at a recent Career Synergy event.

Terry purposely built Plan Check to be different than its neighboring businesses. It’s an American comfort food driven restaurant with a full bar service in a hub of many ramen, sushi and Japanese-inspired shops. To be different is a risk worth taking, especially if it proves to be successful like this!

Every ingredient is crafted in-house as much as possible and some things are just so specific like: miso mustard, ketchup leather, pig candy, spicy pickled okra.

Extra crispy fried kale on top of Swiss cheese and steak sauce, on top of portobello mushroom, on top of cheese, on top of mushroom. That’s what constitutes the Stuffed Mushroom—I wish they’d have a burger version, perfect for that vegetarian alternative.

If there’s ever a sweet potato french fry option, it’s my instinct to order it. A+ for these Sweet Potato Waffle Fries! It’s adequately crispy, mealy and toasty and I love that there’s still so much sweet potato left after the frying process. For a little more oomph, maybe some cracked black pepper and sea salt or dried parsley.

*Tip: go for the peach ketchup (top right in the photo). It’s slightly tart, kind of pulpy, and such a fun, innovative condiment.

Another weakness of mine is beet salad because it’s never really your normal tossed salad. At PC, it’s more of a worthwhile side that’s as punchy as its counterparts on the menu. Their Pickled Beet Salad is a trio of personalities: super tart and juicy beets are tamed by fresh peppercress and whipped goat cheese accessorized with pomegranate molasses and olive oil.

*Tip: dip your fresh cut fries and sweet potato fries (yes, I ordered both) into the smooth, tangy cheese along with some of that peach ketchup. Mixing and matching never tasted so good!

PC doesn’t use your average sesame bun, instead, these guys have crumbled bread crumbs on top—makes life more interesting.

Overall, a fun and retro place to hang with the gang.

Kitchen is to Bar, as Food is to Friends!

Nostalgic Noodles and Tom Yum Soup

Even for a family that doesn’t emphasize greatly on traditions, we still have our tendencies when it comes to food options. They seem to sprout and trend throughout the years. Good becomes great and then a stapled fall-back; this has especially been evident during visits back home.

For my brother, Gum Kuo Restaurant (always referred to as that small wonton noodle, Hong Kong BBQ shop in the Oakland Plaza) is his most cherished spot since junior high. Not exactly in the hippest location, but there’s something about the raw, rugged concrete building with hanging pork and weird animal parts before a glass window that screams: good, authentic and trustworthy (at least in taste). They did remodel and spruce up the rustic look in the recent past. Walls are saturated in color, menus aren’t peeling apart. Their wonton noodle soup? Still the same, brother-approved.

{Filler image until I can find one from Gum Kuo. Brother, send me one!}

Photo credit: Hoishan Chan

Curly egg noodles, juicy pork and shrimp-stuffed wontons quickly boiled in good ole’ dumpling broth is nothing short of a classic.

Photo credit: Joey L.

Most people on Yelp rave about their Jook or Congee (Chinese diluted porridge), which looks undoubtedly scrumptious.

Photo credit: Daisy T.

Second best, in my opinion, would be the Rice-wrapped Chinese donuts. The rice noodle-based wrap is sticky, chewy, wiggly because it’s so hot and fresh. Swaddle a Chinese donut (long fried dough) with it and it’s carb on carb perfection.

For my mom and I, specifically when we’re in San Francisco, it’s Tom Yum Soup and glass noodles or with rice or as is from Bangkok Noodles. A small, narrow piece of real estate on one of the city’s busiest sidewalks filled with tourists and local shoppers, Bangkok Noodles is supreme because it’s quick, sit-down Thai food made by lightning-fast chefs crafting each dish on over-exposed flames and bowl-sized ladles. The kitchen is almost half the size of the entire space vertically. Seating is congested and service is concise but for these kinds of places, the taste of food overrides all.

{below} A lighter version with clear broth, hockey puck-shaped soft tofu and glass noodles.

Paper or Plastik

As industrial as it is organic and beautiful, Paper or Plastik in Mid-City’s Pico-Fairfax district would never have been an expected destination.

My cue to visit first came from a friend who said I would definitely appreciate the space. I had inkling she would be right!

Paper and Plastik

Paper or Plastik is part of what I consider the New Age coffee shop defined as: modern, artistic, adaptively-reused type of space meant to integrate creativity and quality all to trigger visitor inspiration.

Architectural element

Starting from the outside, the architecture is exuberant enough to stand as its own outdoor exhibit or even the backdrop to a photo shoot.

Upon entering, you can’t help but feel a little different in a space so mindful of textures, architectural elements and specifically-sourced, quality coffee – a creative experience indeed!

Upstairs view

The mezzanine level offers some seating that overlooks the central area of the cafe downstairs and a dance studio called Mimoda Studio next door. If you sit near enough to the wall, you’ll hear some soft Classical music.

Pastry counter

Pastries and other carbohydrate products are composed of a careful selection from places like Cake Monkey, Rustico, Sweets for the Soul, and Sweet Lady Jane. Deli baguette sandwiches, quiches and crostinis are available for savory tooths, too.

Rapini

I had something called Rapini: broccolini, burrata and shaved parmesan on crusty bread. Certainly a delicious 8$!

They serve up teas and coffees elaborately prepared like those you’d get from Intelligentsia. It’ll probably seem like everyone who steps in knows what to order without the aid of a menu; if you have no idea, you’ll never go wrong with something classic like a mocha, cappucino or latte.

iPade register

Technology plays its part in the creative space of course! (All part of New Age coffee shops.)

Lighting

Evening ambiance

Plenty of window space and a high, arched ceiling makes the shop super airy. Seating maybe kind of cozy-crowded, but when you snag a comfortable seat, relax, work, converse and watch the sun pour in and out as you sip in the local culture brought to you by P or P.

Little greenery

Coffee counter

My Heart goes out to Eggs Benedict

I grew up on take-out…and now, I just eat out a lot! A lifetime of being served ready-to-eat (or easy to heat) meals in commercial packaging, my appreciation for The Prepared Meal has been refined and elevated in creative and tasty ways.

Eventually, I’ll share with you my walk in becoming a Foodie—everything’s so interesting in hindsight—but for now, I’ll just say: the occasional hearty, healthy, most likely Smoked Salmon or Spinach and Mushroom Eggs Benedict weekend brunch won’t ever make me nostalgic for my over-microwaved pancakes and soggy Eggo waffles in the rush of early, weekday mornings.

Eat in (if you can master the Hollandaise) or eat out, but just make sure to eat up! #Onethingweallhate is a day that’s not starting off on the right plate–BREAKFAST!

Grilled focaccia, generous amounts of boiled spinach and mango citrus-inspired Hollandaise creates a healthier adaptation. Creativity exceeds classic at Larchmont Bungalow. Vegetarians, I think you’ll find something interesting in this piece!

BLD’s Benedict is memorable for the following reasons: buttermilk biscuits in place of English muffins and mix and match flavors provided by the fingerling and sweet potatoes. It tastes just like how it looks—divine!

With the addition of capers, tomato and sliced red onion in this dish, I think it’s safe to say that St. Michael’s puts a classy and classic balance to this concoction. Pinches of essence on top makes these Benedicts celebrity-worthy. Dry-roasted potatoes and handmade, extra flaky buttermilk biscuits on the side? Approved!

My favorite part about Eggs Benedict is getting a little bit of everything in every bite. Bru’s does such a wholesome job at layering flavors, starting with the waffle. I love the innovation of using waffles in place of English muffins—a Bru’s expectation of course. The waffle’s notes of cinnamon and subtle sweetness come through the sauteed mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach, runny yolk and fluffy Hollandaise spiked with hints of citrus.

Cafe Verona dresses their Benedicts with extra sauce, which invites the lightly-fried potatoes to be eaten together with the rest of the dish—this evens out the saltines. You could even eat the honeydew with each bite, weird but good!

Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict the rustic way, most evident in the crusty, artisan bread. With slightly-cooked and thick smoked salmon, organic eggs, yuzu Hollandaise tops the dish off with a creamier and butterier consistency than the average sauce. Pan-fried herb potatoes and ketchup go flawlessly as an accompaniment.

Urth’s house-special brioche serve as cushions for the medium (or well-done) poached eggs and smoked salmon-wrapped baby arugula. Bonus: the Hollandaise alternative is their lemon crème fraiche, chopped tomato and basil oil—such a refreshing and lighter twist!

Tomo means “Friend” in Japanese

Coffee Tomo Logo

Situated in a tight-knit neighborhood of Sawtelle where little ramen shops, sushi, shaved ice, and other Asian eateries reign the adjacent streets, Coffee Tomo is a small and amiable spot fit for study sessions, coffee breaks or that after-dinner destination when you just aren’t ready to go home yet.

Order up an artistically-crafted latte, experience Tomo’s great hospitality, and stay awhile, so as long as you can find a seat around your friendly neighbors. Make friends; this space is for sharing!

Barista

Wall decor

The interior is reminiscent of Coffee and Tea Conservatory in Downtown Culver City, but cozier. When I’m here, I feel like I’m parked at my own dining room table being more productive than normal.

Coffee bean gradient

Coffee gadgets, cups, mugs and jars of espresso beans organized in gradients dress up the furniture, giving off an authentic and earthy ambiance.

Coffee beans

I found myself sipping away the stressful day with a Green Tea Latte so smooth, creamy, frothy, fluffy, velvety and warm. It’s got just enough sweetness, fit for a dessert alternative.

Green tea latte

If you’re the classic latte type of sipper, Tomo Latte is espresso kissed with sweetness and the same milky, frothy, velvety complexion! I love both these drinks equally.

For a bite to eat, go for the one of a kind stuffed pretzels in sweet and savory varieties.

Red bean & cheese pretzel

My tastebuds root for their Sweet Potato Cheese Pretzel filled with yellow sweet potato and white cheese, warmed up to a soft, chewy and lightly-toasty state. Slightly unconventional, but, the sweet and cheesy actually go quite well together!

Butter brick toast

They also have Brick Butter Toast: super thick brioche, toasted on all sides, sliced 3×3, and drizzled with light honey. Chances are, it tastes just like how you’re imagining it right now.

Toast and tea

Here’s to tea and toast for two!