Hello Gaja Japanese Restaurant!

I have a fascination with Japan and it’s a travel destination that I hope to one day visit. I won’t deny it that the biggest factor is Hello Kitty, my favorite Japanese kitty of all time. ;) It’s my dream to one day take that Hello Kitty plane to Japan, go to Sanrio Puroland, buy Japan Hello Kitty exclusives and eat delicious Japanese cuisine. Ahh yes, Japanese cuisine, another reason why I would love to go to Japan one day. For now however I am lucky to bask in Hello Kitty happiness here in California and eat a different places that specialize in Japanese cuisine.

Just recently I tried out a great Japanese restaurant named Gaja Japanese Restaurant in Lomita, California. Gaja Japanese Restaurant specializes in various Japanese dishes of okonomiyaki, monjyayaki, pasta, udon and risotto.

On my trip here I got to try a variety of some of their various specialities. My meal first started off with fresh and healthy salad consisting of spinach and nice sweet dressing.

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After the salad, I got to try their Chinese style pork and egg udon.
This was a huge bowl filled with soft and long udon noodles, tender strips of Chinese style pork and scrambled egg. It’s a dish that reminds me of home cooking. It has a nice broth that just gives some comfort and warmth.

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On this day, I also got to try their Japanese style shimeji carbonara pasta. I’ve always been a fan of carbonara pasta and when I read they had shimeji, I was quite intrigued and excited. Shimeji is a group of mushrooms found in East Asia. I love mushrooms and found this a great addition to carbonara. Their carbonara is rich cream based dish with little strips of bacon. Their carbonara is more like a soup dish versus a pasta dish.
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Last but not least I had to try their okonomiyaki. This is what Gaja Japanese Restaurant is famous for. Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake. The name comes is a combo of two Japanese words, okonomi and yaki. Okonomi means “what you like” or “what you want”, and yaki means “grilled” or “cooked.” Here at Gaja you have the option of making and cooking your own okonomiyaki or having them cook it for you. Since it was my first time here ever, I had them cook it for me. I decided on the pork okonomiyaki.

When my okonomiyaki came out, I was simply in awe with the huge pancake that was presented to me. It was a giant okomiyaki made out of eggs, shredded cabbage and pork. Drizzled on top was the okonomiyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed. I chose to skip the bento flakes since I am not a fish flake person.

Taste wise, it was amazing. I loved the crispy outer edges of the okomiyaki and was such a fan of the freshness of the whole pancake!

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It was my first time trying this type of Japanese cuisine and I was very impressed. This restaurant introduced me to another flavor of Japan and only further inspired me to one day visit the land of the rising sun.

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Gaja Japanese Restaurant.

Hello Comfort Food from Crispy House Inc!

Comfort food!

Definition (according to Wikipedia): Comfort food is traditional food which often provides a nostalgic or sentimental feeling to the consumer, and is often characterized by a high carbohydrate level and simple preparation. The nostalgic element most comfort food has may be specific to either the individual or a specific culture.

Every one has their own comfort food and often times it can be the ones not necessarily the healthiest yet the ones that you can treat yourself once in awhile. Two comfort foods that are associated with the Filpino culture are the crispy pata (fried pork dish) and kare kare (peanut butter stew with oxtail, vegetables).

In Artesia, California, there is one restaurant that offers both of those dishes. Crispy House Inc.
The restaurant is newly named Crispy House for it was formly known as Magic Wok. It’s a place many people flock to for their many Filipino comfort foods.

It is the crispy pata here that they are well known for. Reasonably price, made fresh and oh so wonderfully crispy, the crispy pata is the trademark of Crispy House Inc. This dish is one that is often served at special occasions. It is comfort food at it’s finest because it definitely reminds the consumer of happy memories of parties and celebrations. It is also one that is for those once in awhile treats. With the crispy and crunch outer skin and tender pork meat, it is a tasty but only once in awhile treat!
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Pairing well with the crispy pata is the kare kare. Similar to the crispy pata, Crispy House Inc does an excellent job with this stew. It is a savory dish with thick peanut butter sauce that is perfect over white rice. The oxtail meat is simmered to make a rich, flavorful broth. More than the oxtail though, I am a fan of the vegetables that are in this dish. There is bok choy, long beans, and eggplants!
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Magic Wok and now Crispy House Inc. is a place where once can simply enjoy traditional Filipino favorites that remind one of the comfort of family and the comfort of home. Eating their comfort food, can simply make one person smile.

For more smiles, please see my recent Yelp review on Crispy House Inc.

Hello Easter Egg-licious lunch at Nice China Cafe!

For today’s Easter edition of the Hello Kitty Foodie blog, we have special little tale.

Once upon a time, there was a cute little egg Kitty. She was a bright and happy kitty who always wore a smile and a pink bow in her hair.
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One day she met a friend, named Daniel. He was a dear friend and hence his name is Dear Daniel (egg). Similar to kitty he also wore a bow but it was blue bow tie.
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On Easter, they had nice lunch at Nice China Cafe. Nice Cafe is a perfect place to celebrate happy days like Easter. Like Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel, it’s a small and cute. It is a cozy cafe specializing in cusine from Hong Kong.

Lunch specials at Nice China Cafe include a small hot and sour soup.

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There are various different entrees to choose from in the lunch specials from traditional chicken dishes to special Cantonese beef entrees.

For today’s Easter lunch, these two eggs err kitties err kids chose to get the kung pao chicken and the sesame beef.

The kung pao chicken was a mix of chicken, white and green onions, bell pepppers and peanuts. There were lots and lots of peanuts in this dish. Unlike other kung pao dishes, this one was not to spicy.

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The sesame beef was sweet dish. The beef was nice and crispy. There were lot of sesame sprinkled on top of the beef.

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Both dishes were excellent and full of flavor. This place really specializes in traditonal Cantonese cuisine. No frills, no fusion but simple and cozy cooking. It’s good food that is perfect for a nice little Easter lunch between two little easter (egg) kitties. 😜

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Hello Kitty Foodie and Dear Daniel love Nice China Cafe! There food was egg-licious!

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Hello Birthday Cake Frappuccino! Β 

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Last year Hello Kitty turned 40 and this year Starbucks Frappuccino is turning 20! My oh my both Hello Kitty and Frappuccino don’t look that old. It is a fact that Hello Kitty is (forever) in the 3rd grade but Frappuccino sure has grown up through the years.

It was in the summer of 1995, that Starbucks changed the world of iced coffee forever when it introduced the very first ever Frappuuccino across all of its stores in the United States and Canada. The only two flavors back then were Coffee and Mocha! They created the first frappuccinos from iced double-strength brewed Italian Roast coffee. Shockingly, the very first frappuccinos did not even have whipped cream!

Fast forward 20 years later and the flavors of frappuccono sure have evolved. We now have green tea frappuccinos, caramel ribbon crunch frappuccinos, strawberries and creme frappuccinos and the list goes on and on and on. The top five Frappuccino flavors in the United States are actually Mocha, Caramel, Vanilla Bean, Java Chip, and Double Chocolatey Chip. Deliciously dreamy, there seems to be a flavor for everyone! Now for in honor of Frappuccino’s 20th birthday, Starbucks is offering another flavor to their flavorful line up. It is the limited-time Birthday Cake Frappuccino!

Now I won’t deny it, I am sucker for cutesy drinks and the color pink and this limited offering has Hello Kitty Foodie cute written all over it. The drink is a vanilla bean and hazelnut beverage topped with raspberry-infused whipped cream. (Yeah, yeah they had me with the pink whipped cream on top!)

Here’s the Hello Kitty Foodie verdict on the drink: It is indeed worthy of the birthday cake name not because it necessarily tastes like birthday cake but more because it is uber sweet as your sweetest birthday cake! The taste of sweet vanilla is in there (think white cake base) and the pink whipped cream acts as the sweet frosting of the cake. It is sensationally sweet and a treat but not one for every day drinking more for special occasions like birthdays! ;) Starbucks is making sure this drink is for specials occiasions too because they are only are offering it up until March 30, 2015! (Hello Kitty Foodie tip: half off frappucinos tommorrrow, March 30, from 2-5pm if you pay with a Starbucks card!)

Happy 20th birthday Frappucino! Hello Kitty Foodie loves that you celebrated with pink! I can’t wait to see what happens when sweet Frappucino turns 21; :) Hmm  how about a Vegas (hot pink) Frappucino? Hehe! :)

Hello Catalina Kitchen @ Terranea Resort!

It is truly like stepping into a whole new world when entering Terrenea Resort. With it’s breathtaking beautiful views, Terrenea is a wonderful place to simply get away and enjoy life’s beautiful moments.

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I was truly blessed with a beautiful day with friends recently at Terrenea and on this day we got try Catalina Kitchen, one of Terrenea’s eight oceanfront dining restaurants. Catalina Kitchen is at the heart of Terrenea resort. Entering the restuarant, I fell in love with the beautiful flooring, the wooden interior and unique lighting. The outdoor patio is equally as beautiful. Stepping outside, one instanly feels the comforting ocean breeze.

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Catalina Kitchen menu is an array of delicious Spanish, French, Greek, Italian, American and Meditterenian cusine. I chose to get their pappardelle bolognese. It’s a very savory pasta dish with ricotta salsa, mushrooms, rich tomato sauce and braised beef. I was a fan of the big mushrooms and sprinkls of ricotta salsa on top. It really brought a lot of flavor to the dish. It also had a good ratio of tomatos and braised beef.

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Accompanying the pasta dish was red pepper and parmesan cheese. I loved Catalina Kitchen’s presentation of these. They were both in mini pans. It’s such a cute mini representation of the “kitchen” in Catalina Kitchen.

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I chose to end my meal with a nice cappucino. It’s no secret I simply have a coffee crush and perhaps I wanted to experience having sips of coffee oceanside and by the fire. Strong at first sip but sweet towards the end, the cappucino was a good way to end a delcious meal.

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Dining with friends at Catalina Kitchen was very nice and spending time at Terrenea was so relaxing. It was truly a blissful day. A delicious meal in a gorgeous setting and time with friends, I could not ask for a better day.

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It was a beautiful day with my beautiful friends and I am so very thankful.

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For more smiles, please see my recent Yelp reviews on Terranea Resort and  Catalina Kitchen

Hello Lido di Manhattan!

Lido di Manhattan is a place that my friends have frequented through the years. It’s been the perfect place to celebrate special occasions such as birthdays. With their menu consisting of various delicious appetizers, flat breads, pastas and sandwiches, their beautiful classy indoor setting and their pretty outdoor garden, it is hard not to like this place.

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They always start off the meals here with complimentary fresh, warm bread with garlic dip, olive oil and balsamic vinegar dip. A crispy outer crust and a soft base, the bread is a wonderful starter.

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For the entrees, my favorite is their homemade potato gnoochi. It consists of pan fried pesto, roasted tomatoes, carmalized onions garnished with crispy sweet potato. It is perfectly creamy, rich, smooth and oh so savory. The gnocchi has melt in your mouth softness. It is simply divine.

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For their drinks, my new favorite consists of their new flavored iced teas. The strawberry lemonade is so refreshing and sweet. Pleasantly fruity, this sweet iced tea matches nicely with their savory pastas.

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Best part of all, they served their flavored iced teas with these cute mini carafes for re-fills
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Lido di Manhattan is a favorite for my friends and I through the years and for very good reason. From their breads to their pasta, everything is delicious. All our visits here, end with a smile.  For more smiles, please see my Yelp reviews on Lido di Manhattan through the years.

Hello Myung In Dumplings!

If Myung In Dumplings sounds familiar it’s because the K-town restaurant was featured by Anthony Bourdain is show “Parts Unknown” 😊. Since it’s feature on the show, numerous foodies have flocked to the restaurant in K-town. It was even part of LA Weekly’s “99 Most Essential Restuarants of 2014.” Because of it’s popularity the restaurant has opened up a branch in Garden Grove, California and just recently in Torrance, California. I recently had a chance to check out the newest branch.

Similar to other Korean restuarants, Myung In provides complimentary banchan with their dishes. On my trip here, I got to check out two sides. The first banchan I got was a nice and spicy side dish with pickled daikon, cucumber and jalapeΓ±os.

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The other complimentary side dish I tried was the traditonal Korean favorite kimchi.

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I found both banchan to be very flavorful but the pickled daikon was my personal favorite. It had a spicy kick that was a perfect match with the main entrees I got to try.

The first main item I got to try was the Dumpling beef soup. This soup was packed with flavor and packed with ingredients. It came with eight dumplings and glass noodles. With it’s warm broth and fresh dumplings, this soup was so heartwarming for the cold day.

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I also got to try another soup via the Beef short rib soup or Gal bee tang. Similar to the dumpling soup, this also had glass noodles. There are no dumplings in this soup however. This soup came instead with three pieces of beef short rib. This is also a good soup for chilly times. The broth is same flavorful broth in the dumpling soup and the beef short rib enhances the flavor even more

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Last but definitely not the least was the King steam dumplings that I got to try. True to it’s name, these dumplings are “King.” It’s huge in size and filled with plenty of pork and vegetables. I was actually pleasantly surpised at how much meat was packed in these dumplings. They are like Chinese steamed buns or Filipino siopao but I found the main wrapper to be so much softer.

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Overall, I enjoyed trying out Myung In Dumplings. Everything is made fresh and I found it all to be so fulfilling. I can’t wait to try out other items here and it makes me smile just thinking about future dumpling tastings.

For more smiles, please see my recent Yelp review on Myung In Dumplings