Category Archives: healthy eating

A mountaintop experience at Central Grille in Glendale, CA

Monster burger and tortilla soup Central Grille GlendaleAfter climbing Mount Watermen, we three men were hungry. “Monster” burgers were the order of the day.

As famished as we were, probably anything would have satisfied. But instead, we pulled into one of those destination restaurants that you drive miles for because it’s that good.

Monster Burger Central GrilleMy serendipitous discovery came as it usually does, by way of a local. Wanna find good grub without Yelp? Ask a local.

Andrew had lived nearby when the hipster joint was an oldster joint called Shakers. The owners smartly revamped it for the changing demographics of influx of professionals. Not only did they update the interior and exterior, they crafted a new menu that combines traditional classics with enticing twists: white America cheese on the burger with sweet caramelized onions to offset the salty burger and house aioli.

Central Grille Glendale hipster restaurantCrispy asparagus fries. Deviled eggs with bacon. Truffle fries. Fish and chips with jalapeño tartar. Chilled gazpacho. Burrato-tomato caprese. Sesame-almond crusted salmon. Short rib street tacos. Popcorn curry chicken.

Central-Grille-2-82(Whimper. I’m growing hungry as I write.)

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Like heaven yeah! When can I get an excuse to jet over there again?

Central-Grille-2-15I’m normally a fries guy, but Nathan Williams was from Salt Lake City where soup is the thing, and he had a picture from the last time. He showed me. That was that. It looked more mouth-watering than the fries.

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Central-Grille-242Mercifully, the menu is one large page. Just one. If it were more, I would probably need to go this restaurant for the rest of my life to sample all the goodies.

central grill saladCentral Grille has one-upped the competition. They’ve shown that you need to do more than just an “e” to the end of “Grill” if you want first-timers to become faithful.

Central Grillle Glendale CA exteriorWaterman Mountain in the Angeles National Forest, about an hour north of Glendale, was an exhilarating hike with snow and ice. I won’t need to be a famished mountainman to seek the eatery again.

hike Mount Waterman

Nathan Williams on Mount Waterman (not the peak)

Final tip: Grab some zucchini bread on your way out at the cash register. Goes great with butter on it and a cup of coffee for breakfast.

Central Grille
801 N Central Ave
Glendale, CA 91203
818-246-4994
$$

Central Grille menu Glendale, California

After a mountaintop experience on top of the mounain, we had a mountaintop experience at the base of the mountain in the restaurant.

Central Grille Glendale dinner specials menu

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Greek for lunch in Downtown LA at George’s

George's Greek Grill downtown Los Angeles

An Athens painting adorns the wall giving a cool feel to the hipster/professional lunch place.

The gyro made my tongue do cartwheels. It was that good. There’s nothing like Greek food to excite your tongue.

I met my wife for lunch in Downtown at George’s Greek Grill on Figueroa. This place is definitely the lunch spot for professionals.

chicken gyro at George's Greek Grill downtown los angeles

Chicken gryo

Greek food combines frequently with tzatziki — yogurt spiked with cucumber  — that provide an intriguing offset to the spicy and salty lamb and beef.

Roasted-Pepper-Hummus-2

Fried pita chips with roasted pepper hummus

I got the chicken. I wish I had gotten the beef and lamb, which my wife got.

lamb and beef gyro at George's Greek Grill in downtown Los Angeles

Lamb and beef gyro

George’s takes the traditional Greek and puts hipster twist on it. Hummus gets zipped up with jalapeño and cilantro. Fries come with feta cheese and protein.

Calamari_019

Calimari salad

There are salads and falafel. There are wraps and pita chips. The menu is pretty long for a mostly lunch place.

Kale-Salad-1280x1071-1

Kale salad with mango chunks and cranberries

George’s Greek Grill
735 S Figueroa St #131
Los Angeles, CA 90017
213-624-6542
$$

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

 

My wife swears by Go Greek, and I’m pretty convinced too

Go Greek Santa MonicaIf I were a frozen yogurt sommelier, I could tell you why Go Greek is superior. But since I can’t place my finger on it, I’ll just say Go Greek tastes healthier. Supposedly the ingredients are all imported from Greece. There’s no corner cutting. And yes, it tastes a bit more tart, a bit more yogurty, a bit healthier.

My wife swears by it.

Go Greek toppings naturalActually, I’m a bit of a cuisine curmudgeon. Just because something is more expensive does not mean it tastes better in my book. Hence, I frown upon her notion that Menchie’s (more expensive) is better than Yogurtland. They taste exactly the same to me.

Go Greek convinces me, the cynic.

Go Greek natural yogurtThey have nontraditional flavors: peanut butter and jelly, passionfruit, rose, hazelnut, carrot. Greek honey is a perennial. They have rotating flavors.

The toppings are noticeably different from your traditional frozen yogurt joint. Chocolate goes in the form of dark chocolate cacao nibs, dark chocolate espresso beans and unsweetened carob chips. There are raw, sliced almonds and fresh fruit. No sprinkles, no whipped cream, no other cheap American unwholesome frills.

Go Greek Santa Monica interiorThey don’t offer chocolate syrup, which apparently is too sugary for their healthy pretensions. Instead, they have sour cherry syrup, which is spectacular; Greek honey and rose petal sauce (which I haven’t tried).

Go Greek yogurtThere are three Go Greeks in Los Angeles and one in Las Vegas. No doubt they will expand across that nation, at least to places where sophisticated tastes prevail. They need more in L.A.

Go Greek frozen yogurt toppingsIf we are in Santa Monica, we usually stop in there.

1431 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 310-2167
$ (more expensive than the average frozen yogurt place)

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Hot! Hot! Hot!

bizmati rice Pakistani style Nihara House Arleta Los AngelesNihari House is pure fire — and it’s not a rap flow.

No, it’s spicy, spicy, spicy.

Nihari House ArletaIn my quest to try all the most exotic ethnic food in Los Angeles, I wound up in Nihari House in Arleta (in the Central Northern San Fernando Valley.)

Never having sampled Pakistani food before, I asked the waitress, who runs the joint with her husband, the chef. She was very personable and welcoming. Instantly, I felt part of the family.

Nihari in San Fernando ValleyBecause of her no-non sense recommendation, I tried the nihari, the house specialty. It is beef shank slow-simmered in chili oil for seven hours or so. The gravy is hot, hot, hot. There was no need to throw in the chopped jalapeño on the side. To squeeze in lemon juice would have pushed the acidic levels into radioactive. (Excuse the hyperbole, but I’m 52 and can’t take too much spicy anymore. Fortunately, there was a remedy.) It was delicious.

Lamb Karahi Pakistani food Nahari House ArletaMy wife got the lamb Lamb Karahi, which came in its own Pakastani wok (I didn’t know they had their own woks!). And that was just as hot. It wasn’t until the chef, an affable slightly overweight guy, came out to check if everything was up to our satisfaction. He explained that we could have ordered a less spicy version. It certainly gives me confidence in a restaurant if the chef himself comes out to check on our enjoyment.

mango yogurt Pakistani drink Nihara Arleta Los AngelesFortunately, there was an answer to the chili power. It was the mango yogurt drink to neutralize acids in the stomach. Even if you don’t need to chill the heat, this drink is absolutely worth the experiment. It’s delicious and different.

If you are tired of ho-hum meat and potatoes like me, then Nihari House is a hotspot to excite your palate.

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Nihari House restaurant menu Arleta Los Angeles page 2

Nihari House restaurant menu Arleta Los Angeles page 1

Here’s a big tip: try to hit the Sunday buffet 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. That way you can sample so many different flavors for one low price. Unfortunately, I missed the buffet because it didn’t coincide with date night with my wife.

nihari house Los Angeles pakistani foodI thought that Mexicans were the hot chili pepper-eating champions of the world. (I remember in Mexico City seeing a 4-year-old eating a jalapeño all by itself as if it were a banana. He didn’t cry until he accidentally wiped his eyes with his fingers.) Now I know that the Pakistanis are right up there competing.

pakistani buffet in LA

Nihari House
13920 Van Nuys Blvd.
Arleta, CA 91331
818-302-6291
$$

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Hop Li in LA’s Chinatown, the hot spot for locals

Hop Li Chinatown LA

My lovely wife, at the restaurant she grew up most eating

Forget about the big fancy expensive Chinese food restaurants in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. Locals get their authentic grub at Hop Li, an unpretentious eatery that would necessarily stand out as a hot spot.

Peking Duck Hop Li Chinese restaurant Chinatown LA

Peking Duck in super-white flour buns with sprig onion, parsley and plum or hoisin sauce.

I was introduced to Hop Li, when in the 90s I was dating the lady who is now my wife. It was the most frequent place we went to.

spicy pepper beef Hop Li restaurant Chinatown LA

The pepper beef was my favorite of the day.

I’ve learned to ignore the worn-out red carpets that lead to the bathroom. They look like they were new in the 60s. I’ve learned to ignore the dust on the exit sign. People don’t

stocking stuffer mini

come to Hop Li for its immaculate interior. The decorating looks like it hasn’t updated

since the 70s.

Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

hot and sour soup Hop Li Chinese restaurant Los Angeles

Hot and sour soup is a traditional favorite.

Nobody cares about that. They only care about taste. When it comes to authentic Cantonese food, there’s nothing better in Downtown LA (Chinatown is just northeast of DT).

sweet and sour chicken Chinatown Los Angeles Hop Li restaurant

The kids always love sweet and sour chicken

Having married American-born Chinese, I learned you always start with soup. My in-laws used to honor me (many many years ago) by ordering shark’s fin soup, which cost $100 and tastes fibrous (nothing special for my American taste buds, or bitter melon soup (which they cherish but tasted to me like the name, bitter). But on my recent visit we were treated to the more American-friendly hot and sour soup.

Hop Li restaurant in Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s decor is traditional old style.

Next, if the meal is special, you get Peking Duck. I like the dunk meat best, but the true stocking stuffer miniChinese way, apparently, is to eat mostly fried duck skin with plum sauce, onion sprigs and parsley.

Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Chinese crab restaurant

Crabs in the fish tank assure you you’re getting really fresh seafood.

Then the entrees start coming out to be served on the white rice: honey garlic spare ribs, asparagus, baby Spinach, fish in black bean sauce, pepper chicken, spicy beef and bell peppers, noodles, sweet and sour chicken. There is more than we can finish, which is the Chinese way for a banquet.

Chinese asparagus Hop Li Restaurant Los Angeles Chinatown

Delicious asparagus, one of my favorites.

There are a lot of exotic items for the truer Chinese taste buds, deep fried squid in light crunchy batter, crab and fried tofu in creamy curry sauce, whole steamed fish (my in-laws, to honor me years ago, offered me the fish eyeball, which is a delicacy, and which I dutifully ate. It was mushy like a pea, though harder.)

Chinese noodles Hop Li restaurant Chinatown LA

Chicken and vegetables in the noodles

Chinese like fresh, fresh, fresh food, so you can get the fish live and placed into the pot.  So Hop Li has tanks of living crabs for you to enjoy.

Chinese fish in black bean sauce

The black bean sauce is the bomb on the fish.

I always liked the orange pepper chicken but through the years of eating with my in-laws stocking stuffer minihave learned to go along with whatever they order. Another favorite of mine was kung-pao chicken.

Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

honey garlic spare rips Hop Li Chinese restaurant Chinatown LA

Honey garlic spare ribs

You can come here for a quick lunch, simple dinner or a full-on banquet.

At some point, Hop Li, which started in Chinatown, expanded with two restaurants on the West Side of Los Angeles, aiming to capture the well-heeled crowd. Reportedly, even the best chef moved there. But here in Chinatown is where the legend began, so I’m not following the best chef.

historical map of chinatown Los Angeles

A historic map of Chinatown

Hop Li is part of Chinatown’s history. They even have a historic map that traces the beginnings of the section in Los Angeles. Some of the history is a stain because racial violence against Chinese is why the Chinese moved out of Downtown and quartered up near Dodger Stadium (which, of course, wasn’t there at the time).
whoa

Hot mustard sauce to add some zing to vegetables. Alternatively, oyster sauce makes the veggies delicious.

Chinese spinach Hop Li restaurant Chinatown LA

Baby spinach, savored for being tender

The Chinese apparently appreciate the baby vegetables, such as the spinach above. They say they are more tender. Not hailing from Chinese descent, I grew up learning that stocking stuffer minitoughness was roughage, which was good for your digestion, so I don’t think I savor it quite like they do.

Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

The menu is extensive.

Hop Li menu page 1 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 1

Hop Li menu page 2 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 2

Hop Li menu page 3 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 3

Hop Li menu page 4 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 3

Hop Li menu page 5 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 4

Hop Li menu page 6 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 5

Hop Li menu page 7 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 6

Hop Li menu page 8 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 7

Hop Li Seafood Restaurant
526 Alpine Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213-680-3939
$$

stocking stuffer miniAdvert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Urban Plates, a notch above prepare-in-front-of-you concept restaurants

urban plates sandwich makingsThe secret to Urban Plates, a new concept chain exploding in Los Angeles, is not the taste, the natural ingredients, the decor or the super friendly staff. The secret is the food’s preparation.

urban plates wild line caught ahi tuna sandwichLike pioneer of the concept, Tendergreens, Urban Plates has all the food out in front of the customers. There is no need for menus hardly, no need for pretty pictures or enticing words. The enticements are right there in front of your eyes.

urban plates sandwich menuYou get in line with your train and pick the most succulent, the most inviting items you see. It’s not prepared in the back. Right there, in front of your eyes, the foods are put together in what you order.

urban plates interiorYour hunger grows as you wait AND WATCH.

I went to the Urban Plates in Thousand Oaks. It’s a new concept restaurant like Tendergreens and Lemonade. But it transcends these in its depth of menu and attractive interior decorating.

urban plates grilled grass fed steak sandwichI ordered the “Grilled, grass-fed steak sandwich with slow-roasted tomatoes and chimichurri aioli.” I had loved chimichurri in Latin America as part of the parrilladas, but wondered how it might be added into a sandwich.

The menu items use all the right key words for health and woke culture (there is “anti-oxidant” salad and “line caught” ahi tuna, not farmed or fished in nets).

urban plates fruit juicesI was quite taken aback that the steak was cut into thick slices for my sandwich. It was steak, like it could have been served on a platter with asparagus and mashed potatoes for $19.95, and here generous slices were being cut before my eyes to go into the sandwich.

stocking stuffer mini[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

urban plates dinnersNo ordinary bread was used, but baked in their own oven.

urban plates soupsOnce you get your sandwich, salad, soup or entre, you pass by — and are inevitably tempted by — a display case of pastries and cookies. Nothing is ordinary or regular. Everything could have come from an expensive hotel or pricey restaurant for the well-heeled.

urban plates teasThere are exotic teas and wines. Forget about going to the local juicery. You will get natural juice mixtures here with no added sugar to pique your palette and keep you slim. I got the acai apple beet & carrot while my buddy got passion fruit coconut lime. His was too tart for me.

urban plates makings of dinnersUrban Plate Thousand Oaks took pains for their interior decorating. No corner cutting, everything is done by a pro, impressive and attractive.

urban plates acai apple beet carrot and passion fruit coconut limeBy the team we received our sandwiches, “Chef Rosendo” showed up at our table and chatted friendly about the decoration (he noticed I took pictures). “I will do anything to make sure your experience here is enjoyable,” he said.

urban plates cakes and pastriesOur eyebrows rose.

urban plates desserts cookies pastriesOf course we knew about Chik-Fil-A’s custom — and Wahoo’s Tacos’ — of sending personnel around to proactively make sure customers enjoyed their meal. But this was “the chef” — and he took the welcoming to a higher level.

urban plates thousand oaksWhich is Urban Plates does. It takes others’ successes to a higher level.

urban plates menuOn another date, I will have to try to the dinner platter, the soup, the salad and the tempting desserts.

urban plates saladsurban plates thousand oaksurban plates decor

Urban Plates
162 W. Hillcrest Dr #100
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
$$

stocking stuffer miniThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

Falafel Corner, an undiscovered gem in Koreatown

falafel
Falafel Corner has all the makings of an undiscovered sensation. It’a a tiny hole-in-the-wall hawking Lebanese food in Koreatown Los Angeles. It is so small and unassuming, hidden away in a not-so-prosperous corner mall, that people would be sure to overlook it.
beef kebab
But people discovered it and starting giving it great ratings on Yelp. The undiscovered restaurant gem had been discovered. Word got out, and so we came. It is good.
Falafel Corner Koreatown los angeles menu
Naturally, I ordered the falafel, since I hadn’t enjoyed that for quite some time and since it was the very name of the joint. This was a mistake because my daughter ordered the beef kebab, which was astonishingly tender and seasoned to perfection. Henceforth, I will stick with meat. The hummus was very good. We will be back.falafel corner korea town los angeles menu 2
And it is cheap. This is the place to get really good food at a really affordable price.

I also discovered why it is so good. It turns out the Armenian owner was neighbor in Lebanon and friend with the owners of Zankou Chicken, a veritable sensation in LA. They seem to bring with them a taste for deliciousness. I’m going to have to tell Trump to grant visas to all Armenians from Lebanon because they know how to cook!)

Falafel Corner
689 Irolo St. #103
Los Angeles, CA 90005
213-252-4435
$

stocking stuffer miniThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

When in WeHo, do Joey’s Cafe

california burgerI have never been fuller with a hamburger than at Joey’s Cafe in West Hollywood.

I picked my buddy up from the airport, so he treated me. There’s nothing like a local to take you to the best spots.

joeys cafe west hollywoodJoey’s offers omelettes, burgers, salads, Mexican food. It’s continental casual cuisine. The setting is slightly upscale. The servers are friendly.

My California burger was super juicy. It had fresh avocado, bacon and cheddar and jack cheeses. Burgers should NOT be served with American cheese. There ought to be a rule that burgers should be served with cheddar, or some real cheese.

omelette avocado joeys cafeMy coffee was decent, and my buddy enjoyed his peppermint tea. The eggwhite omelette was great.

weho eateries

Joey’s Cafe
8301 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA  90069
323-822-0671
$$

stocking stuffer miniThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #7

o (1)It’s all good House of Kebab –

6800 Reseda Blvd.
Reseda
$$

Want to visit Iran? You don’t need a visa. Don’t worry about the State Department’s travel ban. You can go to Iran simply by visiting It’s all good House of Kebab. The decor covering the wall of the small eatery comes from old Persia, such items as license plates, old style shoes and even some scourges used by fanatics to punish themselves to appease Allah (not exactly appetizing, but legit).

But what’s really good in this restaurant is the food. I had the The bread, or nun, is crisp on the outside and chewy and warm on the inside. Had it not been for some Iranians with me when we went, I never would have ordered the deezy, a stew of beans, lamb chunks, cinnamon, lemon, pepper, salt and who knows what else magic goes into it. The Persian have imported and toned down from Indian Beryani, an outstanding curry dish. The rice all comes with saffronRead the rest: Best restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #4

oChio’s Peruvian Grill –

7755 Sepulveda Blvd.
Van Nuys
$$

To live in LA is to enjoy exotic food. Now that Mexican food has spread across the U.S., Angelinos are now in a quest for new tastes from the remotest parts of the globe. Apparently over a 1,000 Peruvians call Van Nuys their home, so you can find a cache of Andes-styled eateries. Among them, Chio’s stands out. The restaurant started on Sepulveda Blvd, the grubbery is opening restaurants elsewhere in the Valley.

I can see why they are expanding. I had the Lomo Saltado, which dares to put the French fries right in the savory beef slivers with liquidy sauce. There’s a healthy dollop of white rice too. I was impressed that the serving size was generous for the price — no leftover hunger. The inadequate parking reflects the humble immigrant beginnings of this gem. Let me assure you, it’s worth the trouble to get parking once you’re inside the cozy restaurant watching flames leap up in the kitchen grill. They have Peruvian beer, but being a teetotaler, I can’t opine on its craftsmanship.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #3

crave cafeCrave Cafe –

14505 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks
$$

Does your husband want a burger and you want sushi? No worries. There’s a place that caters to both.

No, I’m not kidding.

Crave is definitely pushing the outer limits of the envelope of “eclectic.”

There are actually two Craves because the owner sold them to two different buyers. I’m talking about the one at Van Nuys Blvd. in Sherman Oaks is the one that has the Crave sushi house right next to and with a door between the two so that you can order from. So it’s easy to savor both sushi and hamburgers at the same table (not in a Food Court).

As a kicker, Crave has gourmet coffees and pastries. I’ve spent a nice evening spooning in a smooth and creamy cheesecake while watching American Ninja with my wife. The ironies were not lost on me.

And it’s open 24 hours, which is good to know because your options for a late, late dinner are few and far between in the Valley. Read the rest of Best Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #2

korean mexican tacosCorner Grille –

8261 Sepulveda Blvd.
Panorama City
$

I had a hard time believing this store front eatery — in modest digs, and in not the best of neighborhoods — had 976 reviews on Yelp with a 4-and-a-half star rating. I wouldn’t say it looked from the outside like a dive. I just never would have ventured in had it not been for the ratings on Yelp. That caught my attention and made me want to give it a try.

Good thing.

The place features fusion Mexican tacos made with Korean barbecue beef. The exotic mix sounded enticing and the delectable morsel did not disappoint. You might expect such audacious fusion food from a Michelin-ranked chef at a five-star hotel. But no, it’s right here in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, at the crossroads of Nowhere and Anonymity. This is definitely a hidden gem. There’s also Korean barbecue beef fries to die for.

And it’s cheap.

The Corner Grille is now my go-to for a quick and cheap meal whenever I’m in the neighborhood and hungry. What’s more, it’s the place I surprise my Westside friends with when I take them. Read the rest of Best restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #1

Pita Pockets Northridge mediterranean foodPita’s Pockets –

9127 Reseda Blvd.
Northridge
$

Don’t be put off by the unpretentious name or the low price. For exotic Mediterranean, this joint’s the real deal. For starters, the proprietor Fatin Elmor is a friendly Palestinian Israeli. He speaks a half a dozen languages and combines cultures for some of the most audacious and tangiest fusion food creations.

You’ve got to try the feta fries, which are other-worldly delicious. The lamb gyro transported me to other side of the planet for a lot cheaper than a plane ticket. He bakes his own bread right there on the spot, which means it’s crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Try the dessert with Nutella, which is a Mediterranean approximation to a churro.

The joint is located to cater to the students of CSUN. College students are usually looking for good, cheap, exotic food — and Pita’s delivers on all three. The good news is you don’t have to be a college student go there and enjoy the concoctions dreamed up by Fatin.

Read the rest best restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Simple steamed fish Chinese style

simple steamed chinese fish filetsIngredients for 4 servings:

  • About 2 lbs white fish fillets
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3 pinches sugar
  • 2 green onions, cut into slivers
  • 3 TB cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • 1 TB fresh ginger crushed
  • 2 TB cooking oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 3 TB soy sauce

Marinade ingredients:

  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp sugar
  • 1 TB sherry
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger cut into slivers

Visit our website for directions to Simple steamed fish Chinese style.

Bamboo steamer: be careful what you buy

jolie1Bad news for the unsuspecting bamboo steamer-purchaser who’s recently come under the illusion of tasty, healthy food:

Not all bamboo steamers are equal.

Some are rather flimsy, cheaply put together to be priced more competitively. Regrettably but understandably the poorer quality lasts a shorter time.

When you look to buy a steamer, make sure the outer rim is thick and round. Since the rim is the chief support of the steamer, it is the critical structural component for longevity:

jolie2When you buy a steamer, study gaps between the slats. The curved cuts provide maximized steaming AND support. This intricately assemblage takes longer than the flat slats with gaps between them. This is fine craftsmanship.

When you look to buy a steamer, look at the thickness of the slats. Obviously it’s cheaper to put thinner wood for the supporting slats. And yes, the thinner wood will work… for a while. But then it will break, and you’ll have to get another steamer. The thicker slats lasts longer. The snugly fitted assembly, not tied with flimsy strands (which some brands do), also contributes to the overall sturdiness and longevity of the steamer. For the rest of the useful tips for buying a bamboo steamer, click on the link. If you’re shopping for a bamboo steamer, check all the quality points.

Here’s a good one:

best bamboo steamer

Basics to start cooking Chinese at home

Everybody loves Chinese food. But can you do it at home? What special cookware and ingredients do you need? Is it too hard to set up for Chinese recipes at home?

Mike Ashcraft — aka The Klutzy Cook — shows you the basics you’ll need to get started. Get some quality recipes, these essentials to start, and you’re on you’re way. Cuisine Natural sells a killer 10″ steamer for $21.95 on Amazon click here.

I forgot to mention cooking sherry. Get cooking sherry also.

 

How to steam fish fillet in bamboo steamer

steamed fish bamboo steamerFor piping hot yet tender delicious fillets, a bamboo steamer is ideal! The trick is to line the basket trays with lettuce leaves (Romaine works well). I put lemon slices in with the lettuce so that the juices can saturate the fillet. Try 1 ½ lb of cod, halibut or salmon. Depending on the thickness of the filet, it will take 4 to 12 minutes; the flesh should whiten and lose its translucent appearance.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and your favorite herbs. Or try the Chinese way with sprinkled fresh ginger and scallions on top. Find out the basics for use of bamboo steamers, including steaming broccoli.

Steaming broccoli with a bamboo steamer

steamed broccoliIt’s easy to want to eat more broccoli because it’s a superfood packed with nutrients and fiber for digestion. But broccoli is either too tough raw or wilted if boiled. This is where a bamboo steamer comes to the rescue! The steaming takes off the tough edge of the broccoli and keeps in the nutrients you crave. The bamboo basket brings a subtle authentic touch from China and keeps molecules from the metal steamer baskets from contaminating your food.

IMG_9533Here the steps to perfect steamed broccoli:

  1. Cut into bite-size florets. I like to use pre-cut florets from Costco because they save me this time-consuming step. Most people prefer not to eat the stems anyway, but if you do eat the stems, that extra roughage is a windfall for your digestion.
    You can use wax paper liners or parchment sheets, which you can use by loosely wrapping around the vegetables.
  2. Bring water in wok to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Let the steam filter through the cracks between the bamboo slats for 3 to 4 minutes. If you like the broccoli crisper, steam for less time. If you prefer tender florets, then steam for a bit longer.
    Add some pizzazz by adding bullion into your boiling water. Alternatively, cook the broccoli on the top basket with fish or chicken on the bottom. NOTE: If you cook a protein on the bottom, it will take longer, so you may want to remove the broccoli sooner and place the bamboo lid on the bottom basket.
  3. A lot of people put butter or olive oil with herbs on their steamed broccoli. But I like the Chinese oyster sauce for a rich, appetizing flavor that will make you want more of this most healthy of vegetables.

Read about other tips for bamboo cooking.