>Tacos Y Mariscos Sinaloa — serves its purpose

>The sign says ‘grand opening’ and while the owners may be new, the restaurant has been here for a while. It used to be Reyna’s and shared its space with the Tamale Queen, but now, with a new coat of paint, a new menu, and voila, a new restaurant emerges.

When I visited, they had only been open 3 weeks and didn’t even have the agua frescas set up yet. The guy said soon, but who knows when soon will actually be.

The menu now is slightly different to before….. with breakfast items being offered such as pancakes, American-style eggs, bacon. The name of the restaurant suggests that the restaurant leans towards tacos and seafood, but unfortunately, what I used to order here, the camarones a mojo de ajo and camarones a la diabla are both no longer to be seen.

Salsa and chips were brought to the table and it was nice that they brought out one mild and one spicy salsa. The chips were thin and was a nice start while we perused the menu. I decided to order some tacos, and my friend, the barbacoa plato. I wanted to try a few of their meats so I opted for al pastor, carnitas and lengua since I’m sure I could get a taste of my friend’s barbacoa.

It didn’t take long for the food to arrive and when it did I was pleased to see that the portions were generous. My friend’s barbecued beef plate (pictured above right) was filled with chunks of meat swimming in a sauce accompanied by frijoles, arroz and a side salad. Corn tortillas were also provided. I thought the barbacoa was flavorful even though it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve never had it so ‘wet’ before either.

My tacos were decent enough, although, the al pastor was texturally wrong as the meat was mushy and grainy reminiscent of ground pork rather than sliced pork. Carnitas was flavorful, but again, average when compared to other taco places. Surprisingly, the only thing I found better than what I’ve recently encountered was the lengua.

The meal was cheap, it was quick, service was good, water was refilled several times and the lady even refilled our chips and salsa. Honestly, it was decent enough and if I had to stop somewhere for a quick bite and was in the area, I will have no hesitation in coming here again.

Tacos Y Mariscos Sinaloa, 1620 E 1st Street, Santa Ana, CA 92701. Tel: 714-835-6227

Tacos Y Mariscos Sinaloa on Urbanspoon

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>A Shanghai lunch in Brisbane

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I remember when we first moved to Australia from Hong Kong in 1987, the choices available to us in terms of Chinese food was more than dismal. In fact, it made us all very sad when we would go to a restaurant and found that everything tasted less than acceptable to our very picky palates, which made it all the more difficult to accept this new country we were to call home.
My mom would go to the grocery store and found nothing comparable to what she was used to, so it was virtually impossible to re-create dishes even if she wanted to. Eventually, through the years of Asian immigrants coming to the land Down Under, the variety of Asian products, groceries and restaurants have flourished and so have the quality and quantity of Asian restaurants in this third largest Australian city.
I still feel my mom makes the best dishes I loved as a child and no one compares to her home-cooked meals, however, on those days she doesn’t feel like slaving over a hot stove to cook, it is not impossible to drive out to a neighboring suburb and enjoy a few meals at a restaurant.
Sunnybank Hills, a suburb which in the last decade, has become highly populated with Asian-folk houses some of the better Asian restaurants around. My parents are very discerning when it comes to food and if a restaurant isn’t up to par, they will not re-visit, leaving it a highly daunting task when it comes to eating out.
A few days ago, we met a childhood teacher of mine and her husband for lunch in Sunnybank Hills, to a place strangely named Shangpaigne Kitchen. The restaurant specializes in Shanghai-style cuisine and the fact that my parents felt it was good enough to deem several prior visits meant the food was somewhat decent, at least, decent enough for my dad to feel worthy of him spending money at.
My family is originally from Shanghai and naturally, we love this sort of food, namely starchy dishes such as buns, dumplings, noodles and rice. One of the most popular dumplings commonly known as XLBs are the xiao long bao, which are little steamed dumplings with a pocket of soup which bursts into your mouth once you bite into them. In southern California, the most famous ones are from Din Tai Fung in Arcadia. I was highly skeptical when we came to Shangpaigne Kitchen because even in southern California, seriously good XLBs are hard to find. I was literally blown away when I tasted these ones, at how thin the wrappers were, but still able to encase that pocket of delicious soup inside. Essentially, these were as delicate as the ones at Din Tai Fung!
Sheng jian bao are another type of buns filled with meat. The buns are cooked in a frying pan with oil and steamed in the pan itself creating a puffy steamed bun on the outside while keeping the bottom crispy. I didn’t like the ones here! They were way too large in size with almost no filling and too much doughy bun.
Another item was guo tieh or potstickers and these were quite delicious actually! These fat, round dumplings were pan-fried to perfection on the bottom and the pork filling was seasoned perfectly. Slightly on the greasy side, but I was pretty impressed with the quality — seeing how I’ve never thought Chinese food in Brisbane was all that!
Cumin chicken served in a bamboo cone was just okay. It didn’t taste like cumin at all, in fact, it was just like regular fried chicken pieces tossed with a few sprigs of cilantro and a couple of chilis. Some chicken pieces had bones and all in all, it was very average.
XO sauce fried rice sounded really delicious, but unfortunately, the rice was really greasy and one could hardly detect the XO sauce at all. If you were lucky you could catch a hint of it. Otherwise, it was very lacklustre.
Service is just like one would expect in any Asian restaurant in any country one would go to — passable and not all that attentive. They refilled tea pots when they caught wind of its half mast lid, but otherwise, not attentive at all. Prices were moderate — in the end, the total was AUD$65 for six people — best of all, no tip required!
Shangpaigne Kitchen, Centro Pinelands Plaza, Shop 24, 647 Beenleigh Road, Sunnybank Hills, QLD 4109. Tel: (07) 3345-9975

Shangpaign Kitchen on Urbanspoon

>home cooked meal in Australia

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It’s always wonderful going home to see my parents. I don’t have to cook for almost the duration of the visit and on top of that, the meat and produce in Australia is second to none, especially these days when you can find even the most exotic of items in the regular grocery stores. I arrived yesterday and immediately mom and I went to the grocery store to pick up some stuff to make for dinner. I noticed that duck, kangaroo were all on the shelves alongside the chicken, beef and lamb. Yes it was expensive, but it was readily available and one did not have to go to a specialty grocery store to pick those things up.

My family moved to Australia 23 years ago and back then the variety of food was still quite limited to the Anglo-Saxon variety. There were middle eastern restaurants and of course Indian, Chinese and of course, Vietnamese restaurants, but trying to buy ingredients at your Coles or Woolworths (similar to Safeway and Albertson’s) was pretty much standard fare. These days, the abundance of Asian vegetables and spices sit comfortably alongside the lettuce and parsley.

Last night, my dad made steaks for dinner, while mom put together a simple salad. I made garlic mashed potatoes. I love steaks here! The meat is grass-fed and has full beefy, meaty flavor. This is the only time I am able to eat my meat medium-rare to rare — when the quality of meat is so outstanding that I am able to eat  a 14oz slab on my own. At first I told my parents I will share a piece with someone — it looked HUGE! — but after I got through the first quarter, I changed my mind and said I think I can finish it after all. Even my 10-year old polished off an entire steak on his own which was quite amazing a feat!

I can’t wait for my 2-weeks filled with awesome food, especially the home cooked ones my mom makes! Once I leave, I will have to wait another year before someone cooks for me again.