Friday, April 20, 2018

Hoping Chimney Cakes Isn't Just a Smoke Screen

House of Chimney Cakes
173 West Center Steet Promenade
Anaheim, CA 92805

After meeting my parents for an epic lunch nearby, we did not want the good times to end, so I did a quick search of nearby dessert places on Yelp and turned up a bunch of results. One of the most promising was about ten minutes away, so we hopped in our cars and headed to the House of Chimney Cakes.

I had not been to this part of Anaheim for quite some time. The closest I have gotten was the Anaheim Packing House, but this Center Street Promenade area, which is situated across the street from the Anaheim City Hall had a pretty cool, big city vibe going for it. There were some restaurants I have wanted to try here; Pour Vida Latin Flavor, Cervantes Mexican Kitchen, and others, but those would have to wait for another day since we had just eaten a big lunch. This trip was all about itching those sweet cravings we were having.

I had never heard of chimney cakes before this afternoon. Looking at the pictures on Yelp, they kind of looked like the cones were made like churros, with ice cream inside of them, and crazy toppings making them Instagram-worthy. After arriving at this small shop I learned that these are not churros, but a Hungarian sweet bread, traditionally called a kurtoskalacs, which is cylindrical in shape, with a crunchy outer shell and a softer inner core. Their website claims that the chimney cake is like a cross between a donut and a churro. I was intrigued.

Opened since November of last year, the House of Chimney Cakes is owned and operated by a Szandra Szabo, a Hungarian fashion model, who moved to the US to share her love of chimney cakes with the foodies in Southern California. Along with her business partner, she serves as founder, CEO, and head pastry chef at the House of Chimney Cakes.

We arrived here at the awkward hour of 2pm on a recent Tuesday, found parking right away in the adjacent parking structure, and ordered our chimney cakes. The menu here features seven signature creations, which are ready-made options like Oreo Overload, Matcha Madness, Apple Pie, and others. These are perfect for people that don't want to come up with their own creations. You can also build your own chimney cake with the ice cream, toppings, and sauces that you desire. You also have the option of forgoing the chimney cake altogether and getting the soft serve in a cup, like my mom ended up doing. Katie and I wanted the full experience, so let's see how our first chimney cake encounter went over.

Katie went pretty basic here, with her Build Your Own Chimney Cake ($7). She opted for the chocolate soft serve ice cream, a cinnamon-sugar chimney cake cone, and some coconut flakes sprinkled on top. She felt this was good, but not great. She liked that it was not overly sweet, and the soft serve ice cream was of a better quality than most she's had. A pretty basic ice cream treat.

I went a little more crazy, getting their Oreo Overload ($7.95). This signature creation starts with a chimney cake rolled in Oreo cookie crumbs and is filled with vanilla and chocolate soft serve, then more Oreo cookie crumbs are added and then finished off with chocolate sauce and an Oreo cookie. This was just okay, as I was expecting a bit more. Truth be told, I'm not really partial to soft serve ice cream, as I like real deal ice cream better. This was better than average soft serve though. The chimney cone was not what I was expecting either. The outside was crunchy, and I thought the inside was going to be softer, but maybe because the ice cream made it too cold, it was a little harder than I imagined it was going to be. The Oreo experience was lessened even more because they do not have cookies and cream ice cream, which might have helped this out a bit. Thanks for the hand modeling mom.

Much like a lot of these Instagram-worthy foods, the Chimney Cakes were very photogenic, but when it comes to eating them, they do not live up to the hype. These were not awful, but this is more of a place you come once, post your pictures online, and then probably don't return to, unless you are in the area again and want to get some extra likes for your IG account. The chimney cake needed to be sweeter, and with more ice cream flavors available. Very decorative, but not much else going on here.

Out of five falcons, (because the Saker falcon is the official bird of Hungary, the country where chimney cakes originated), five being best to zero being worst, the House of Chimney Cakes gets 2.5 falcons.

For more information about the House of Chimney Cakes, head to their website here:

Monday, April 16, 2018

Meatball Mission Continues at Cortina's

Cortina's Italian Market
2175 West Orange Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92804

I know I've hit a winner when I can't wait to write about a restaurant we have just recently visited. Another sure sign of hitting pay dirt when it comes to eating out is when I can't stop gushing about a sandwich, or whatever else I happened to have consumed at a certain place. That's what I have caught myself doing since we ate at Cortina's in Anaheim.

I did not even have Cortina's on my list of restaurants that we need to visit. No need to write it down since I knew we would eventually make a trip to this iconic Anaheim restaurant. They have another location in Orange, which is closer, but they are only open on weekdays, and even then they are only open until 3pm. The Anaheim spot is open until 8 and even open on Saturdays, which makes them way more convenient, even though they are farther away from where I live in South OC.

Cortina's has been around since 1963. They had to withstand a fire back in 2013 that saw them close for six months, but they are back and better than ever serving their very ardent supporters. One of those customers just happens to be Gwen Stefani, who has deep roots here, as her brother and sister in law both worked here, and she visits Cortina's when she's back in town to visit her parents.

There would be no Gwen sighting for us on this Tuesday afternoon, but I was fine with that since this was going to be all about the food. Make sure to take some time to visit the market next door, as they have one of the best Italian markets around. I got some Italian baked goods and brought them to poker, and my good friends Cosmo and Carmela loved them, and they are really picky when it comes to Italian baked goods. They know their stuff, and they said the Italian cookies here are legit. Also legit was the variety of Italian groceries that Cortina's carries. If you need an Italian item that your local grocery store does not carry, I'll bet that Cortina's carries it. A pretty impressive little grocery store here, but I really wanted to give their food a try, so we headed next door, put in our order, found a table, and waited for our food to come out. Here's how everything went for us at Cortina's.

My parents ordered before we did, so we'll take a look at what they had first. My dad is really picky about pastrami, always asking if it is sliced real thin. He seemed really pleased with this Pastrami Sandwich ($7.70) from Cortina's. They use Boar's Head meats for their deli sandwiches, and they must have had the pastrami sliced to his liking because we did not hear a peep from him about it being too thick. This sandwich also featured some melted Swiss cheese, mustard, and a sliced pickle on the side. A very solid pastrami sandwich, one that rivals some of the best in OC. I loved the way that the Swiss cheese and pastrami complimented each other. I'm not usually a big fan of mustard, but it did not detract from this wonderful sandwich, although I'd like to have tried this with thousand island next time. It made me happy to see my dad enjoy this sandwich so much.

My mom is a pretty basic eater. She likes to eat simply and does not like a lot of big flavors to contend with. This Turkey Breast Sandwich ($6.90) satisfied her immensely. Sliced turkey, provolone cheese, light mayo, and red onion stuffed into their very good homemade Italian roll. My mom was over the moon about the bread here, which was very sturdy, but yet had a softness to it at the same time. The guts of this sandwich were very fresh, but what made this sandwich for her was the bread.

Here's an overview of what Katie and I got on this early afternoon. I had every intention of only eating half of my three items, and taking the rest home, but that, of course, did not happen since I have no willpower when it comes to food. Just looking at this picture still makes me happy reliving this meal. Let's take a closer look at what we consumed.

Even though my mom only finished half of her turkey sandwich, she nearly ate a whole slice of this pizza by herself. This was part of the Pizza By the Slice Special ($9.40) which also includes a salad and a drink. Sorry no picture of the salad, as I was sidetracked by the spread I had laid out in front of me.  The pizza here is hearty. This is not a thin crust pizza, as it had to support an evenly spaced and hefty amount of cheese, and the pepperoni on this was some of the best I have had on a pizza. It's not that processed stuff we have all become accustomed to at inferior pizza places. I'm surprised I haven't seen this pizza on more top 10 lists in OC.

One of the most popular sandwiches online at Cortina's is this Cortina's Special ($6.50) and that's what Katie went with after much debate. This sandwich came with a cavalcade of Italian cold cuts; Cotto salami, mortadella, capicola, dry salami,  and was finished off with provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and Italian dressing. Katie exclaimed after finishing this sandwich that this was the best Italian sub she has ever had. She loved the fresh produce and bread and called the Italian meats first class. The Italian dressing tied everything together wonderfully, and she would not hesitate to get this again.

The first of my two sandwiches was this Rocky Balboa ($6.80). Just like what the fighter would do to me, this sandwich knocked me out. Sliced porchetta is the star here, tender and flavorful. Then its topped with melted provolone, broccolini, garlic chili oil, and then as if there were not enough flavors included here, they also provide you with an au jus for dipping. If it wasn't for the next sandwich I'm going to share with you, this would have been one of the best sandwiches I've had in years. The insides were excellent, with the melty cheese, the crunch from the broccolini, and the chili oil which gave this a fantastic flavor boost. The au jus added some moistness, even though it was not needed here.

I only took one picture of my Meatball Sandwich ($10.20) because I was very eager to dive into it. After my first bite, I did not want to come back up for air. The menu says this sandwich is world famous, and it really should be. The meatballs here are tender as all can be, taste like an Italian meatloaf, and they provide you with plenty of them, so you get meat in every bite of this. The blanket of cheese is excellent, and they do not over sauce the sandwich so you can taste that the meatballs are the star of the show here. Like the rest of the sandwiches we tried, the bread on this was sturdy and a great vessel for the insides of this sandwich. Quite simply, the best meatball sandwich I've ever had.

If you have read up until this point, you kind of have to know that I am in love with Cortina's. Everything that we had on this afternoon really shined and my quest for the best meatball sandwich in OC might have ended with this visit. Even a few weeks later, my mom is still raving about the pizza here and has already made plans to come back to get a whole pie so the whole family can experience it. That's a big step in the advancement of my mom's food cred. Prices were more than fair, with a sandwich this good I almost felt like I was stealing from them, as I would have paid more for this sandwich experience. My only complaint is that Cortina's is not very convenient for me location-wise, but I will definitely find reasons to come back very soon.

Out of five curtains, (because cortina in Italian translates to curtain, and after trying this restaurant out, you'll definitely think they deserve a curtain call), five being best to zero being worst, Cortina's Italian Market gets 4 curtains.

For more information about Cortina's Italian Market, head to their website here:

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Hoping for the Holy Grail of Breakfasts at Arthur's

Arthur's Restaurant
240 North Tustin Avenue
Orange, CA 92867

It was another date with my sister on a Monday morning. I have loved that she has been available to have breakfast with me recently. Since my schedule at work has changed, I do not have much of an opportunity to try out breakfast joints around OC, and the first meal of the day is usually one of my favorites. As is our custom, we usually pick a place that is centrally located between the two of us, and on this recent Monday morning that meant we would be meeting at Arthur's in Orange.

I had been here one other time, but it was definitely over 20 years ago, well before I started writing this restaurant blog. Arthur's is located not far from the Chapman and Tustin intersection. The building housing this restaurant looks like it was plucked right from the ghost town at Knott's. The marquee above the restaurant, along with a sign on the front of the restaurant proclaims that they serve the best breakfast in town. I know there's a connection between this and Arthur's Coffee Shop in La Habra, but neither of their websites acknowledges the other, even though the signage and menus are basically the same, but with different pricing.

I have never been to Cracker Barrel, but the inside of Arthur's is what I imagine it to be like. Very down to earth, maybe even folksy. Comfy worn booths, plenty of knick-knacks scattered around the restaurant and walls, and servers that know most of their customers by name. I've heard that the wait can be pretty long during weekends, but we got right in when we arrived here for our breakfast date to catch up on all of our family happenings.

We were presented with a rather large specials menu that is available during weekdays. Speaking of large, the regular menu is pretty massive, with lots of breakfast selections offered all day until they close at 2pm on weekdays and 3pm on weekends. For those that are not partial to breakfast, Arthur's Restaurant also offers plenty in the way of sandwiches, burgers, salads, and even a few Mexican inspired plates. Let's see what we ended up with off their menu on this late morning.

Ladies first, so we'll start things off with my sister's breakfast, the Chicken Fried Chicken Special ($9.14 with the cheese added to the eggs). I'm always partial to traditional chicken fried steak because I figure if you are going to eat something that's not particularly good for you, you might as well go all out and eat the real deal chicken fried steak, but apparently, my sister does not feel the same way. I thought we were close. Anyways, she ended up loving this very comforting dish. I got my chance to try a few bites of this and it was very tasty. Arthur's gets a lot of love for their gravy, and it was very good. Thick and peppery, just how I like it, but it kind of detracted from the taste of the chicken fried chicken. My sister did finish all of her scrambled eggs, which had a nice blanket of cheddar cheese covering them. The bread was toasted well and the fruit cup contained nice cubes of fresh fruit. A very solid meal to start our stint at Arthur's.

It's hard for me to resist a scramble, mainly because I don't like to miss out on much. I figure if I get a scramble, I have a better chance to try more of the items they have in the kitchen, and that was the case with this Arthur's Scramble ($15.75). What clinched me getting this was the fact that it came with two kinds of sausage, Polish and Italian, along with onion, bell peppers, three scrambled eggs, and topped with plenty of cheddar and jack cheeses. This plate was massive, and I took half of it home for later. Really filling, and delicious as well. The use of the two sausages was excellent. The balance between the eggs, cheese, and potatoes was spot on. Maybe because the flavors had a chance to mingle more, but this was even better the next day for lunch. With this scramble, you get to pick your favorite breakfast bread, and at Arthur's, they get a lot of love for their biscuits, so that's what I ended up with. This is going to sound like a dis, but the biscuits here look just like the Pillsbury Grands that are so popular during the holidays at my mom's house. They taste like them as well, but fresher and a bit airier. Again, not an insult, because I like the store bought biscuits, but that's what they reminded me of. I also got a Side of the Okie Country Gravy ($1.25) which went well with the biscuits, and also the leftovers of my skillet. This was a meal that kept me satisfied well into the dinner hour.

The marquee for Arthur's proclaims that they serve the best breakfast in town, and in a city that boasts Anepalco's, Orange Cafe, Sammy's Stack House, Paul's Place and more that I'm probably forgetting, that's a pretty big proclamation to make. Not sure they are the best, but Arthur's is in the conversation as one of the most satisfying breakfast joints in Orange. Big portions of food that will keep you full throughout the good majority of your day. Their down home appeal and good, honest food is the reason that they have long wait times on weekend mornings. Another factor is probably the staff here. From the owner on down to our server Rachel, everyone was so nice and made us feel welcome during our stay. My sister and I will definitely visit Arthur's again when we need to catch up with our crazy family. 

Out of five top hats, (because whenever I hear the name Arthur, I think back to the 1981 movie and its lead character Arthur who was often seen wearing a top hat), five being best to zero being worst, Arthur's Restaurant gets 3 top hats.

For more information about Arthur's Restaurant, head to their website here:

Monday, April 9, 2018

OC Restaurant Week and Date Night at Sundried Tomato

Sundried Tomato Restaurant and Bar
31781 Camino Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

Well, this would be the second of our two OC Restaurant Week visits for this year. As is the case in most years, I always have visions of eating out every night at a different restaurant to take advantage of the great deals that happen during restaurant week, but our schedule always gets in the way, so we settle for trying to fit restaurant trips in on our rare off days. On this rainy Saturday, we chose to stay close to home and headed down the freeway to Sundried Tomato in San Juan Capistrano.

Sundried Tomato opened for business in 2003 right next door to Ruby's Diner and across the street from the rambunctious Swallows Inn. With the historic San Juan Capistrano Mission just a couple blocks away, this area is usually packed with lots of tourists and locals looking for a bite to eat. Sundried Tomato also has another location farther south in San Clemente, which opened in 2009, but they closed their Laguna Beach spot five years ago.

To be truthful, I have not really heard too much about Sundried Tomato. I can not recall reading about it on any of the restaurant blogs that I read religiously, and I have not seen it reviewed in any of the magazines and newspapers that cover food in OC. I checked out their website before coming here, and the menu definitely intrigued me. They had a great diversity on their menu which would please almost any of your dining companions. Starters, salads, soups, sandwiches, and larger plates reign here, with many selections offered in each category.

I had made reservations for 7pm, and the restaurant and bar area was packed on this drizzly Saturday evening. After a brief trip to the bar, we were alerted to the fact that our table was ready. The dining area is comprised of probably twenty or so tables, comfortably decorated, and darkened ever so slightly to emote an air of date night ambiance to the scene. Looking around the room, the Sundried Tomato definitely attracts an older, more refined crowd. Enough about the restaurant, let's get to the real reason we came here, the food.

Right after ordering, we were presented with bread service, which was a soft sourdough and a possible tomato spiked butter. The bread came out warm, and the butter spread nicely, with just a hint of tomato to it. They were a little stingy about refilling the bread basket, as this was the only serving we got, but we didn't ask for more since we had quite a bit of food coming our way. 

I was here for the $30 restaurant week menu, which was a three-course affair, starting with the Soup of the Day, which happened to be Lobster Bisque on this Saturday. They nailed the essence of lobster bisque, but I was at least hoping for some lobster pieces or even flakes in this but I was left still wanting. Good bisque though, nice and smooth.

Katie for some reason shied away from the OC Restaurant Week menu once we sat down, she went rogue and ordered off the regular menu, starting with this Mini Rustic Jar ($9.50). She had the choice of either having a goat cheese/sundried tomato option or the one she ended up with, the olive tapenade. I'm not really a big fan of olives, so I found this too salty, but Katie enjoyed it immensely with the provided flatbread that came alongside this.

We might as well stay with Katie's meal, the Housemade Pappardelle with Chicken added ($24). This dish was so much more than just chicken and pasta though. It also contained asparagus tips, prosciutto, mushrooms, goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, and the rare beurre rouge sauce, which is a French sauce made with red wine and red wine vinegar, which gave this a little tanginess. Katie liked this but had a hard time finishing it, because there was so much. I happily obliged her by finishing it off. I thought the chicken was nice and tender, the noodles were done well, but what really made this dish for me was the sauce, which tied it all together.

I had the choice of four entrees on the restaurant week menu; salmon, a pasta-less vegetable lasagna, a chicken dish, and finally what I ultimately ended up with, this All Natural Prime Flat Iron Steak. This steak came with a cilantro-lime glaze, which kind of reminded me of a more vibrant chimichurri. The steak was cooked perfectly to my requested medium rare. It was very juicy, but I did kind of lose interest near the end of my time eating this. Maybe a little extra sauce next time. The shoestring fries were fine, but I prefer a little thicker french fry personally.

Not included in my meal, but I really wanted to try their Gouda Mac and Cheese ($6.50) on this cool and rainy evening. Really this should have been called mostaccioli and cheese because they use a mostaccioli noodle instead of the tired macaroni noodle. Mostaccioli and cheese still has a great ring to it I think. Anyways, this is obviously not you basic noodle and cheese dish. The noodles were done perfectly al dente, and the gouda was pretty subdued but present. Too much in the way of greenery topping this, but a very comforting dish which is just what you want on a damp and dreary evening like this one.

The finale of my meal at Sundried Tomato was this Creme Brulee Duo, which featured both a vanilla bean and chocolate ramekin of creme brulee. I had never had a chocolate creme brulee before, and after this one, I have to say I'm hooked. It kind of tasted like a chocolate souffle, but more creamy of course. The vanilla bean was nicely done, but could not compete with the chocolate version.

Katie did not want to be left out of the dessert fun, so she opted to try the Gelato of the Day ($6) which happened to be Salted Caramel on this evening. I know I'm supposed to be over the whole salted caramel thing by now but I'm still on board with it. These two little scoops of gelato had a good tinge of caramel to them and were boosted with a salty finish topping them. A light portion size which was appreciated after everything that we ate on this evening.

Sundried Tomato impressed us on this restaurant week visit. Everything was above average, but there was not that one item that I was over the moon about that I will have to return here for, with the exception of maybe the chocolate creme brulee. With that being said, Sundried Tomato is a good choice for people who want to experience a great date night spot out in San Juan. There's plenty on the menu to choose from, which runs the gamut from American standards to slightly Italian fare. Even though our server was doing double duty in the bar and in the dining room, he did a great job keeping tabs on us, while keeping things moving along for us. Can't wait for next years OC Restaurant Week to roll around again.

Out of five corks, (because the first wine produced in California was at the Mission in San Juan back in 1783, and no I wasn't there), five being best to zero being worst, Sundried Tomato gets 3 corks.

For more information about Sundried Tomato, head to their website here:

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

OC Restaurant Week at Dory Deli

Dory Deli
2108 West Oceanfront
Newport Beach, CA 92663

It was my favorite time of the year again, OC Restaurant Week, which was held the first week of March this year. For me, restaurant weeks make me feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Restaurant weeks allow us to try a good sampling of a restaurant menu, without breaking the bank, which is always a good thing.

For those of you that are not aware of how restaurant week works, you go to the OC Restaurant Week website, browse the prix fixed menus, and then make reservations. There's no coupons to print, no hassle, and different price points, so you know exactly what you are going to pay before heading out the door. With over 150 restaurants to choose from, I did quite a bit of research, but ultimately just picked a restaurant that was on my restaurant wishlist, and that's what landed us at Dory Deli.

Dory Deli made my list because they got a very good review from OC Register restaurant critic, Brad A. Johnson. He loved the burger and fries here and called this one of the best dining options on the boardwalk. It just so happened that the burger and fries were one of the five options that were offered during their restaurant week promotion, so I knew what I'd be having before even walking in here.

Katie and I arrived at Dory Deli on a rather chilly Friday evening at dusk. For this being a Friday, it was pretty quiet in Newport on this evening. A far cry from what it will be like in a few months when the weather warms up a bit. Dory Deli is situated between a pizza place, and the always busy Seaside Donuts, which feeds the hungry residents of Newport 24/7. Dory Deli recently went through a remodel, which allowed them to build a full bar, and seating that overlooks the always entertaining boardwalk.

Dory Deli comes to us from the same people that run Wild Goose Tavern and Country Club, both of which are in Costa Mesa and Hopscotch in Fullerton. The menu here is geared to the beach casual feel of the place, with hot and cold sandwiches, burgers, poke bowls, fish and chips, salads, and for early risers, they serve breakfast until 11. We were here for the restaurant week menu, so let's see how that all worked out for us.

Of course, with all this build up about the restaurant week menu, Katie insisted that we start with something that was not part of that menu, this Charcuterie Plate ($12). I think she was just a little hungry after our two-mile walk. This chef selected board included three kinds of cheese, toasted bread points, two kinds of cold cuts, grapes, and jam. Pretty good sized for twelve dollars, and it did the trick to help Katie quench her hunger until our food arrived. I'm not really into sliced cheeses, but I did enjoy the salami and the cured ham with the toasted bread.

Dory Deli offered both their lunch and dinner restaurant menus on this evening, with the only difference being that the dinner option included an alcoholic beverage of your choice. So, for only $10 you get a side item and one of the selected entrees. A pretty good deal, especially when you consider that the entrees here all cost over $10, so you are essentially getting your sides for free. Katie started off with the Hummus, which comes with tortilla chips. I really enjoyed this pretty basic hummus. It was fresh and could have used a little more spice, but still pretty solid consistency. I had never had hummus with tortilla chips before, but it actually worked, as these were some pretty sturdy chips. For the main part of her meal, Katie tried the Poke Bowl. This was made up of diced tuna, crab salad, sushi rice, marinated cucumbers, and avocado slices. She was taken aback by how fresh everything was on this. She felt this was just as good, if not better than what you can get at most poke places. She did end up adding too much soy sauce to this, but she still enjoyed it very much.

A burger and fries for $10, I was in. This was the same meal that got Brad Johnson all excited almost two years ago. I was a little less tepid in my love for this though. The Dory Burger sounded really good when I read the description off of the menu; a beef patty, pastrami, a horseradish beet sauce, caramelized onion, and swiss cheese on a brioche bun. The house-made patty was definitely very solid, but the rest of this burger kind of fell flat for me. I think the horseradish beet sauce was the yellow stuff topping this, and it was not what I was expecting. It was more like a dry mustardy texture, without any flavor behind it. There was a nice blanket of pastrami and swiss on here but they both fell flat, only adding saltiness. This burger needed a sauce to make it more cohesive and to bring the salt level down a bit. The fries were good, as they seemed to be twice fried, but they deserved better than the lackluster ranch dressing that I got with them. It tasted like bottled ranch you could get at the supermarket. Fine for the $10 restaurant week price, but nothing about this would make me order this again.

Fortunately for Dory Deli, there is plenty that I would return here for. I hear that their fish and chips are pretty good, but what I am most looking forward to trying soon is their cheesesteak, appropriately named the Rocky Balboa. Even though my burger did not satisfy, Katie was pretty impressed with the meal she got here. Our server Cierra was top notch and made sure our every need was met on this evening. OC Restaurant Week was a good time to experience Dory Deli for the first time, as we got to try it out, and also cross another restaurant off of our restaurant wishlist.

Out of five escalators, (because the nearby Dory Fishing Fleet at the Newport Pier was established in 1891, the same year that the first moving staircase was patented in Wales), five being best to zero being worst, Dory Deli gets 2.5 escalators.

For more information about Dory Deli, head to their website here:

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Bowled over at Yang's?

Yang's Braised Chicken Rice
13824 Red Hill Ave.
Tustin, CA 92780

I used to have a rule that I would only review restaurants after they had been around for a year. I had a few reasons for this. One was that the success rate for a new restaurant making it a whole year was actually really low, and I did not want to have a lot of closed restaurants listed alongside the right-hand side of my site. Of course, after almost nine years of writing this blog there inevitably ended up being a fair amount of restaurants that have boarded up their windows and moved along.

Another reason I choose to stay away from new restaurants is the crowds who want to experience things first. These people, who line up at restaurant openings, want either free stuff or they do it because they want to be one of the first to try something new. My course of action is to let these people experience a place first, and once the fervor dies off, then I give it a try. That's the reason we are just now trying Yang's Braised Chicken and Rice.

Yang's was all the rage when they opened their first US location just six months ago in Tustin. The lines were crazy long, with reports of people waiting up to two hours to get their food. Adding to the chaos was the fact that they only made a certain number of their bowls during each meal period. To me, it seemed like more of a hassle than it was worth, but I'm not really a big fan of waiting in lines and crowds in general. I decided I would jot this place down and save it until now.

Yang's has a pretty epic story. In the 30's in the Shandong Province of China, Yang's founder, Xialou Yang opened up a traditional restaurant, but he soon learned that people were only ordering his grandmother's chicken dish, known locally as Huang Man Chicken. So, he scraped the rest of the menu and focused on this chicken bowl, which only features chicken thigh meat, mushrooms, grandma's secret sauce, and depending on which bowl you order, a varying amount of peppers, all of which is served in clay pots. Yang's has grown very quickly in a relatively short amount of time. Since they opened their first restaurant in 2011, they now have over 6,000 locations spread throughout Asia and Australia and look to become just as successful in the US.

We got here at just before half-past six and arrived at a pretty busy restaurant. A good majority of the twenty or so tables were occupied, but most did not have any food on them. We ordered at the counter and snagged one of the freshly cleared tables. A good majority of the people waiting here, especially the family of four to our right really seemed like they were pretty angry with the amount of time that they had to wait for their meals. The father got up at least two times to complain to the girls at the counter. We were more patient, but it did take us about a half hour to get our food, from the time we ordered. Not as quick service as we expected, but no biggie, we had no other plans for this evening. Let's see what all this hoopla was all about.

They offer three kinds of Yang's Braised Chicken Bowls ($9.99), regular, authentic, and spicy. The top picture is a shot of Katie's regular bowl. Notice the absence of the sliced serrano peppers, as she was a little nervous about the spice level. I was also nervous about the spice, so I only went with the authentic one which had the sliced peppers added. The peppers added just a tinge of spice, and I'd probably go with the spicy version next time. This was a very comforting dish. Kind of like a chicken stew, perfect for the slightly chilly night we were eating this. The chicken was nice and tender, and the ratio of the chicken to rice was right about on point. The sauce is what made this dish a winner though. It tied the rice and chicken together wonderfully, with a hint of ginger detected. Do be aware that when this comes out of the kitchen it is extremely hot and will burn your mouth if you do not let it sit for a few minutes.

Yang's is the type of place that I can see us returning to, but with only one dish it will have to be when we are craving it. It would also have to probably be a pretty cool night for us to make the trek back here, as this is definitely colder weather food. I can't see myself eating here in the heat of July. The bowl was good though, and I can see why Yang's has gotten so popular in Asia and Australia. I think they still have some work to do in getting the food out of the kitchen a bit faster, or maybe they were just having an off night. Glad we had the chance to give Yang's a try without having to brave the crowds and risking them running out of food like they did when they first opened.

Out of five springs, (because one of the most visited tourist spots in the Shandong Province, where this restaurant got its start is the 72 Famous Springs), five being best to zero being worst, Yang's Braised Chicken Rice gets 3 springs.

For more information about Yang's Braised Chicken Rice, head to their website here: