>I’m not supposed to eat a lot of carbs. Normally, I try not to and even if I do, I’ll stick to the good carbs such as whole wheat, grains and other healthy options. However, when I come to Noodle House, all of that goes out the door and what I am left with is refined white stuff everywhere I turn. I know it’s bad for me, I know I should be eating it in moderation — in my case, very moderated! But once those baos (buns) and dumplings hit my mouth, I just can’t stop at one, or two, or three for that matter. Noodle House is known for its Tianjin style steamed buns which are smaller than what you ordinarily will see at dim sum, and what is different is that these buns have the fluffiness of the regular buns, but the outside is a lot thinner, less dense. The encased filling is really juicy and succulent leaving a small pocket of soup when you bite into it. The beef and green onion buns are excellent as are the pork with leek, and while they are famous for vegetarian buns as well, they aren’t as tasty as the meat-filled alternatives. For me, what is better than the baos are the dumplings, namely the ‘sui jiao’ — you can choose from sui jiao (boiled dumplings), zheng jiao (steamed dumplings) and guo tieh (potstickers). I always go for sui jiao because to me, this typifies what a good dumpling should taste like. I like the shrimp and pork filled dumplings (pictured) as well as anything with leek in it. We always end up ordering a lot more than we can possibly finish, but then that means there will be leftovers for the next day and maybe the day after. I only wish they would open one closer to me — but then again, maybe not!
Noodle House, 18219 Gale Ave, Rowland Heights, CA 91748. Tel: 626-839-8806
Who knew that such a lunch buffet existed inside a Holiday Inn of all places. The Holiday Inn in San Diego Mission Valley is home to Rayo Grill, and Rayo Grill is home to an $8.99 buffet lunch which is really rather good for its humble price. Your meal starts when you sit down and they bring out salsa, guacamole and tri-colored chips. The guac is really good! I probably ate too much of it before I even made it to the buffet, and the buffet wasn’t shabby at all for its reasonable price. Carne asada, enchiladas, shrimp fajitas, a salad bar, beans and rice and two soups: chicken tortilla and tomato bisque. I was quite impressed by the carne asada — tasty and not tough at all. I’m not partial to enchiladas and the one here is dry, I’d pass on that. I was pretty happy with the soups — both very good — the carne asada and rice, but on top of that they bring out warm flour tortillas and chipotle butter. Service is good, drink refills are promptly taken care of and empty plates removed as soon as you are ready for your next round. This place is a hidden gem and if you live or work in the area, I’d say — definitely give it a try!
Rayo Grill at the Holiday Inn, 3805 Murphy Canyon Rd, San Diego, CA 92123. Tel: 858-278-9300
>Lao food is heavily influenced by its neighbors Thailand and Cambodia, and while some aspects differ, you will find that a lot of the dishes are also prevalent in Thai cuisine. Vientiane (named after the capital of Laos) is a really small hole-in-the-wall place which offers some really delicious fare. The crying tiger here consists of really nicely grilled beef, like one would find at a Thai restaurant, but the dipping sauce here leans towards the salty. That’s what I like! I often find Thai food a little too sweet, but Lao food is more on the savory. Stir-fried frogs legs is also nice here, the meat is tender and not overcooked. Curry catfish is another winner, that is if you like catfish! I don’t mind it when cooked with something strong and flavorful to mask the muddy remnants of the catfish. But by far, my favorite is the nam sod (pictured), a salad if you will, of ground pork, mint, julienned ginger, just to name a few of the ingredients. Vientiane does this well and offers it on the menu — at many restaurants you have to pre-order this dish — so when I come here, I can order it without planning ahead. Laotians eat sticky rice with their meals instead of regular steamed rice, but there is steamed rice for those who prefer that. Come with a few friends, order at least 3-4 dishes to share, that way you get a good variety for a mouthwatering experience!
Vientiane, 10262 Westminster Ave, Garden Grove, CA 92843. Tel: 714-530-7523
>It is really sad that the Costa Mesa Omelette Parlor will be closing its doors in 6 days — Memorial Day is their last day after 27 years in business. I came here with a friend today to experience it one last time, just for old times sake and to just be supportive of this OC institution. Since it was close to lunch time I ordered their French dip. Usually, I’ve had breakfast here, but today I really didn’t feel like it. Omelettes are what they are really famous for — huge hunking portions worthy of even the biggest appetites. They have a house-made apple butter which is also really yummy, not too sweet so it appeals to me. Even as I write this I am saddened that big corporation (Vons namely) is kicking them out to make room for an expansion which tragically doesn’t include the Omelette Parlor. So for this posting, I will not accompany it with a photo of food, but rather a sign at the entry way I took a photo of. For all you fans out there, follow them on Facebook and be the first to know if they find a new location, or decide to close all together. But until the 31st, I hope those of you reading this will go and eat there one last time — it’s the right thing to do!
Costa Mesa Omelette Parlor, 179 E 17th Street Costa Mesa, CA 92627. Tel: 949-645-0740
I’m not a fan of burritos — there I said it! But when I got to Taco Mesa and saw the lobster burrito (pictured) something inside screamed “get it”. I had read somewhere that this is what they are famous for and when I brought it up to my friend, he said “get it, we can split it”. I thought “okay, if I don’t like it I can maybe grab some tacos too”. So there we were with the lobster burrito which comes with rice and black beans, and it had some cream sauce over it. I cut and took a piece and put it into my mouth. Oh my GOD! It was delicious! There were bits of ‘lobster’ — I don’t think it really was lobster but rather some crustacean which resembled it — spinach, and some other things in there. There was no beans and rice inside the burrito and thank God for that because that’s the reason why I despise burritos so much. I hate having everything crammed into a wrap. Naturally, the one burrito wasn’t enough for the both of us and so we ended up having to get a couple of tacos and some pozole as well. I didn’t care for the pozole too much, it was the red version and the pork was very gamey. The taco al pastor was flavorful, I would get that again, but the carnitas pibil was really tasteless and bland. Their salsa bar has a bunch of salsas but what I loved were the pickled veggies! There is no doubting that when I return again, I am headed straight for the lobster burrito and this time, no sharing! I’m eating it ALL myself!
Taco Mesa, 647 W 19th Street, Costa Mesa, CA 92627. Tel: 949-642-0629
In one word: disgusting! There are so many things wrong with this place. For a restaurant which claims to be a noodle cafe, the noodles are really vile! I ordered the ‘chow fun’ with beef and it was absolutely and positively some of the worst I’ve ever tasted. The noodles, though freshly cooked to order was swimming with grease that the entire plate was glistening. There were 4 pieces of beef in total and one was completely grisly and fatty that I had to spit it out. I have never tasted chow fun so miserably mangled in all of my life. The other thing which is mind-boggling is that for an eatery on UC-Irvine’s campus (which incidentally has a high percentage of Asian students) how do they think they can get enough business if they whip up stuff that tastes like this? And it’s not cheap either!! My advice? Skip this place! It’s not cheap, it tastes like crap and at the end of the day you will be disappointed, you won’t be able to eat your meal and you would’ve wasted money because now, you have to go somewhere else to be fed, and fed well!
Asia Noodle Cafe, 4187 Campus Drive, Ste M171, Irvine, CA 92612. Tel: 949-854-8826