>The Lime Truck — healthy decadence on wheels

>I know what you’re thinking — not ANOTHER food truck! Well, yeah, as a matter of fact, it IS. I’d been just as curious about the Lime Truck after hearing various friends rave about it, but from previous experiences with food trucks, I decided not to go chasing them down, but rather, wait until they are in my neighborhood and then pay them a visit. As luck would have it I’ve now visited them twice! I’ve been following them on Twitter and with some friends eagerly in tow, it was an excellent way to get some grub and share.

The bright green truck stops outside the parking lot of Blackmarket Bakery‘s on Thursdays and that was my first encounter with them. Second encounter was the :Food Truck Extravaganza” which happened with just 24-hour notice at a parking lot in Irvine near the John Wayne Airport. Amazingly, tons of people showed up to sample food from five trucks and it wasn’t surprising that The Lime Truck had the most people hovered around it.

The menu had a good mix of items, and I was told that it changes daily. Salads, sandwiches, tacos, Asian fusion, the ingredients are as fresh as can be and utilizes whatever is in season. For instance, the agua fresca of the day may utilize Thai basil, from chef Jason Quinn’s parents’ garden! Or the lime, mint and jalapeno agua fresca I had the pleasure of trying on a hot sunny day — refreshing with just a little kick, or so I was told since I didn’t get the kick at all due to my high tolerance for heat.

Some of my favorite items were the beet salad which had diced beets, orange wedges, mint, walnuts, goat cheese, although at first, I wasn’t able to detect by sight the goat cheese, but it was in there — I could taste it, subtly, but couldn’t see much. It was refreshing and very reflective of what healthy, light Californian cuisine is made of.

The carnitas is a 10-hour process of slow roasted pork, and Jason uses this on the carnitas fries (pictured right) as well as the Ultimate tacos. Fries topped with a heaping portion of the carnitas, sour cream, homemade guacamole, cotija cheese and a chipotle honey drizzle was just sinfully good, and if you probe deeper you will find some sweet corn kernels hidden underneath.

The carnitas in the Ultimate taco was also very generous and topped with cabbage slaw, cotija cheese and the same chipotle honey drizzle! The taco wasn’t at all greasy and the best part was, you get all the flavors of the carnitas minus the heaviness. However, if you’ve got a few friends to share, I highly recommend going with the fries instead of the taco.

Those vegetarians or those wanting a healthier option, Organic tofu taco is good for vegetarians since it only consisted of kimchi slaw and organic tofu, or the wild rice salad (pictured left) with nuts is another delicious choice.

Carnivores, if you see filet mignon taco on the menu, GET IT! It is well worth the price! Chunks of tender filet mignon, perfectly cooked and so flavorful was nestled alongside homemade guacamole, cotija cheese, cabbage slaw and chipotle honey. Personally, I would’ve been happy with just the meat, cheese and a sprinkling of onions and cilantro, but hey, it’s healthy remember, so you get the cabbage slaw — eat your veggies!!

Cuban sandwich is also great if you love Cubanos! But The Most Interesting Sandwich in the World (pictured right) is what you want if you’re into decadence and have absolutely not concern for your weight! This grilled cheese sandwich is stuffed with mac n cheese and just the most narcissistic thing you could do in terms of food. Holly tells me that The Lime Truck’s is far better than the Grilled Cheese Truck’s version — I believe her!

The Lime Truck guys, Jason and Daniel are very personable and if they have time, are happy to talk about their concept and food with you. First time customers always get a warm welcome and repeat customers, well you know who you are and you know how you are greeted! I’m already looking forward to my next visit!

The Lime Truck, in and around Orange County. Follow them on Twitter or Facebook. Contact: Jason Quinn 949-292-6282 or Daniel Shemtob 310-710-6413

The Lime Truck on Urbanspoon


>Pretzel Crisps — rethink your pretzel!!!


I got a tweet recently from Pretzel Crisps who had found me on twitter and wanted to know if I’d like a sample of their pretzels as a late night snack and to let them know where I was and they’ll drop off some for me. At first I thought it was a joke, a hoax even, maybe it was a scam, so I simply replied I was in south Irvine and waited. Very soon after I got another response and they asked me for my address. I rolled my eyes and replied “I’m not posting my address for all to see on twitter”. Evetutally we sorted things out and as it turned out, Pretzel Crisps is a company first started in New Jersey and they are now trying to promote it on the West Coast.

I met Stacy from Pretzel Crisps with her friend Aaron, who, true to their word delivered bags of pretzel to my door. There are currently 10 varieties of pretzel crisps, its thin size is perfect for dipping or snacking alone. My son hogged a bag the minute they were dropped off and wouldn’t let go of it so I know they’re pretty darn tasty, because they were! There’s hardly any fat, 0g saturated fats, 0mg cholesterol, 0g of Trans Fats and only 110 calories per serving. Available at Whole Food Market and Ralph’s.

For more information, go to Pretzel Crisps or find them on Facebook and Twitter

>Haven Gastropub — introduces happy hour menu


Orange County isn’t exactly the mecca of great food, nor is it boasting a host of super trendy eateries worth going to time after time again. In terms of gastropubs there are only a few, and Haven is one of the few which stands out. I’ve been here several times before and the food had always been a hit and miss, but on a recent trip, my friend and I came to try their newly installed happy hour which runs between 3pm and 6pm Monday through Thursdays and features selections from their regular menu at discounted prices.

The happy hour menu features some favorites from their regular menu including one of my favorites, mac and cheese (pictured above left)! The portion is exactly the same as the one you’ll get at lunch or dinner, but during happy hour it will only set you back $6. This sinfully cheesy and totally delicious bubbly plate of yumminess is probably too fattening to have regularly, but once in a while I like to spoil myself and order a plate to share with a friend, it’s definitely not something you’ll want on your own because there are so many other things to sample and one portion of this will fill you up immensely.

Chile relleno ($6 on the happy hour menu) is another item worth trying and is a variation of what a traditional chile relleno (pictured right) encompasses. Haven’s version isn’t stuffed with only cheese, dipped in egg batter and fried, but instead is stuffed with chorizo, rice, pepper jack cheese, and roasted. A pecan crema is drizzled over the top and around the plate and is served with a sprinkling of their roasted corn salad. While I found it interesting in taste I wasn’t so sure I liked the pecan crema all that much, it really didn’t do much for me in terms of enhancing the flavors any.

Another dish we ordered was the grilled octopus cabernet pasta (pictured below left), not from the happy hour menu, but can be found on the blackboard against the back wall was $16. I was impressed by the presentation of this dish and its overall execution. Grilled octopus were served whole and cooked to perfection! They weren’t chewy or tough in any way whatsoever and the cabernet pasta was also exquisitely al dente with subtle hints of cabernet throughout. I especially liked the diced tomatoes and olives tossed in alongside with the latter presenting a significantly saltier difference to the freshness of the tomatoes. My friend and I were in unison when we say we absolutely loved this dish and would come back especially for it in the future!

Being a pub of sorts, on top of the good fare, there are also many beers to choose from and you can take your pick, from drafts to bottled, there is one to suit every palate — you can even pair a different beer to accompany each dish if you so choose. For me, I stuck with Guinness Stout on tap because, well, I’ve always been a Guinness gal and I like my beers dark and strong. I did however ask for a sample of several beers — ask if you’re interested, they’re really good about it — just out of curiosity but neither of them really piqued my interest to order a goblet’s worth.

We were also enticed by a house-made ‘twinkies’ dessert which sounded interesting, but alas, the $8 two twinkie plate failed to impress. I don’t eat twinkies to begin with due to its unhealthy factor, but I’d have to say these in comparison were drier and weren’t as tasty as the real twinkies although I’m sure they were a hell of a lot healthier. My twinkie didn’t even have cream filling and our server took it back to the kitchen and later was kind enough to take it off our bill.

Service here is good, perhaps a little too conscientious when it comes to clearing your table of dirty dishes, but I didn’t mind. In my book, over-zealousness trumps nonchalence anyday!

**Happy Hour prices at present is limited to food only**

Haven Gastropub, 190 S Glassell Street, Orange, CA 92866. Tel: 714-221-0680

Haven Gastropub on Urbanspoon

>One more item to add to my belt

>I’m now the Examiner‘s Orange County’s Asian Restaurant Reviewer, and this means, most of my Asian restaurants reviews will be posted there. The format is different, a little more formal and I think sometimes, I’ll post the same restaurant here just so I can give it more of a personal touch. If you’re interested in following my Asian restaurant finds, you can click on to my page at the Examiner, and remember, more clicks mean more exposure for me, so thanks in advance!


>Rae’s — old school at its finest

>On the topic of diners, here’s one of my favorites — Rae’s in Santa Monica. I first came here with a friend who has been dining here for years — decades maybe — and he swears by the breakfast here. The first time he brought me here he was a little afraid that I wasn’t into this type of establishment, but I had to set him straight! I absolutely LOVED these old school places, the mom and pop style restaurants which have been around for god knows how long and is still churning out food like they did when they first opened. Rae’s is such a place.

At Rae’s the most popular breakfast item is the 2+2+2 which basically gives you two pancakes, two eggs and two meats of your choice. For about $5.50 that’s the best deal around! That is always my friend’s choice, not mine. To be quite honest, I don’t like pancakes, never have. I’m more a toast kind of gal but I’m not opposed to trying these pancakes my friend’s been raving about. The first time I took a small piece of pancake just for tasting purposes, but was so delightfully surprised at how bouncy its texture and how light and fluffy they were I had to take a second bite. After the first visit, I’d been thinking about these pancakes, yet on the second and third visits, I still couldn’t bring myself to order these pancakes and instead, took a few bites of my friend’s portion. As much as I love these pancakes, I just can’t eat two huge pancakes on my own.

For me, Rae’s has other delectable things to offer, namely the chorizo and eggs breakfast (pictured right). This plate comes with frijoles con arroz (refried beans and rice), corn or flour tortillas (or toast if you so wish) and potatoes. Also, don’t forget to ask for salsa, it goes really nicely with everything! Portions are large and you will definitely feel more than satisfied when you leave. If you’re a fan of orange juice, do not leave here without having some freshly squeezed OJ with your meal. YES people, it’s freshly squeezed! None of that orange concentrate stuff here and it’s so refreshing — if I wasn’t diabetic, I would totally have a glass of my own!

The older staff here have been with Rae’s for 20+ years — as my friend tells me — and you get the feeling that this is a family owned and run restaurant. They have a lunch menu as well but I’ve never had anything off of that so I couldn’t tell you what’s what, but breakfast is what I come here for! My only gripe is every time I leave this place, I smell like breakfast for the rest of the day but then again, there are worse things I could smell like!

Rae’s Restaurant, 2901 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Tel: 310-828-7937. Find Rae’s on Facebook

Rae's on Urbanspoon

>Royal Khyber — a feast fit for kings

>Growing up in Malaysia, Indian food was a regular staple for me, but little did I know that what I ate as a child was south Indian food and there was a host of Indian regional food that I was unfamiliar with, until that is, I was a teenager and had a good friend from Gujurati. Later on, I met other Indians while working in Hong Kong who were from northern India and hence began my foray into the vastness of what Indian cuisine had to offer.

On a recent visit to an Indian feast hosted by Royal Khyber restaurant in Santa Ana, my blogger friends and I, along with my 10 year old son, were presented with a meal like no other I’d ever had in a restaurant before. This was the type of food I had only experienced in the homes of my Indian friends, food that was lovingly prepared using the best ingredients and not in the least bit greasy and heavy like that I’d found while dining at Indian restaurants in America.

We began our meal with a series of appetizers including smoked lamb cakes, spicy calamari, paneer couscous cakes (pictured left) and olive naan. I always know when something tastes exceptional because my son, who has a very adult palate, will ask for a second helping — which he did with all the appetizers. Lamb cakes were well seasoned patties of ground lamb served with a tamarind, ginger, basil honey sauce — these were wonderful because you can really taste the gameyness of the lamb, but it didn’t overpower the whole dish due to the blend of spices used to season them.

Spicy calamari (pictured right) at Royal Khyber is an Indian take on calamari fritto in that the calamari is dipped into a chickpea batter and fried, similar to the vegetable pakoras, giving it an exotic and luxurious element than its Italian counterpart. Paneer couscous cakes tasted neither like couscous nor paneer, (an Indian “cheese”, but more like a solid milk cube and does not utilize rennet in its solidifying process) but rather a very healthy rissole. Serrano chiles give them a nice little kick.

Dal (lentil) soup (pictured left) was absolutely fantastic! I’ve always been a fan of dal and to have it in a soup that is completely vegetarian and tasted so rich and complex was incredible. This is something I would definitely order again!

Curried seafood (pictured right) wasn’t very strong, in fact, the broth was so subtle it never overpowered the seafood in any way. Like a bouillabaise or cioppino , this beautifully presented stew if you will, consisted of shrimp, salmon, mussels, calamari, scallops and lobster tail swimming in a light broth of Chardonnay, dessicated coconut and a touch of Karahi sauce — traditionally containing onions, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes. And if you thought Indian food wasn’t healthy before, you’ll change your mind when you hear that olive oil is used in this dish. This is Arun Puri’s — owner and innovator of this creative menu — vision, to bringing healthier Indian cuisine to southern California.

Our entrees soon arrived and the spread seemed never-ending. One of the house specialties is the Kyber nectar (pictured left) a slow braised lamb shank which combines a stash of secret spices — and no, they won’t tell you what they are — and the intricacies of this dish includes a 14+ hour slow cook to achieve the lamb shank’s fall-off-the-bone texture. The sauce is richly decadent and you will fall in love with it at first bite!

The use of brown mustard seeds and Sarson Ka Tel (mustard oil) is prevalent in Bengali cooking and it is no wonder that the Bengali mustard fish (pictured right) consists of both these elements. Catfish, usually not one of my favorites due to its muddy after taste was perfect in this dish as the strong sauce, which included turmeric and red chiles, would have overshadowed a milder fish. This was one of my favorites.

Kashmiri Dum Aloo is a potato dish generally cooked with ‘pressure’ — dum means pressure in Hindi and aloo is potato — is a Kashmiri delicacy and the dum method of cooking is said to have been brought by the Mughals from Central Asia. At Royal Khyber, the dum aloo is given a crowning glory by topping them with silver paper.

Methi Punjabi chicken (pictured left) is a mild curry-like dish prepared using fenugreek (methi), but here, it is spiced up some with Serrano chiles, perfect for my obsession with spicy foods! For those who aren’t as savvy with the heat as I am, you can omit the chiles and still enjoy the chicken immensely.

I’m not a big fan of sweets due to my diabetes, but Mr Puri sold me on how he’s been experimenting on lowering the sugar content of his Indian desserts to suit customers just like me who have to watch their sugar intake, but still, wish to enjoy traditional Indian sweets after their meal. I’ve never liked Indian desserts purely because they’ve always been way too sweet for my palate, but I was open to sample these new-age desserts.  
Gulab jamun has always been something I’ve shunned from because to me, they’d always been balls of dough soaked in a sweet syrup and nothing else. I was surprised that these gulab jamun weren’t sickly sweet, nor were they super heavy in texture. These were gulab jamun I could eat on occasion. There was also a rice pudding as well as rasmalai (pictured right) a dessert using ricotta or cottage cheese as its basis — I believe paneer is used here — and soaked in sweetened condensed milk. I tried them, but honestly, I could just take it or leave it. The meal on its own was more than enough to satisfy this gluttonous blogger and the best part was, I didn’t slip into a food coma like I usually do after an Indian meal!

Royal Khyber, 1621 W Sunflower Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92704.  Tel: 714-436-1010

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