a hot new gastropub named Simmzy’s

If you’re looking for a new gem of a place to dine in, then look no further than Simmzy’s, a very sexy gastropub which opened recently in Belmont Shore. The restaurant is beautifully designed and has that open-patio feel about it especially if you’re sitting street-side and the windows are open. An impressive array of beers are available and your server will school you on all of them if you’re not a connoisseur.

Before we started eating, we ordered a flight of 4 beers including ($12) Allagash White, New Belgium Cocoa Mole, Duchesse de Bourgogne, Black Dawn. Apart from the Allagash White, everything was incredible especially the Cocoa Mole.

We began our meal with the most delicious Caramelized Brussels Sprouts ($8.50) you will ever taste. Simple ingredients such as butter, garlic, lemon, anchovies and capers are just mouth-tingling good and will make your mouth pucker for more.

If you’re sipping on your beer, then Blue Cheese Haystack ($6) is the perfect accompaniment. In fact, these shoestring fries tossed with homemade blue cheese dressing, garlic and a touch of spicy sauce will make a perfect snack with your beer at the bar while watching the game, or, as a shared side like we did.

15 Minute (but worth the wait!) Wings ($10.50) weren’t as spicy as I’d like, but they were good. I love wings and  with a side of blue cheese dressing, these just gave us another reason to go ahead and order another beer to go with ’em.

I couldn’t resist trying the Bacon Blue Deluxe ($11.50) burger because lately, I’ve been trying out all the burger joints which have popped up and honestly, wanted to see how Simmzy’s own Angus beef patty, topped with blue cheese and candied bacon fared among the others.

Well, it certainly mustered the scrutiny because it was quite delicious. Served with lettuce, tomato, garlic aioli and frizzled shallots, the latter not only added a textural component but also, a flavor burst.

The pizzas were tempting too and our server recommended the Arugula Salad Foldover Pizza ($12.50). This is a perfect pizza of something baked and something fresh. Basil pesto, Drake Family Farms goat cheese and mozzarella are baked on flatbread and then topped with a salad of arugula, red peppers, olives and oven roasted tomato. Each mouthful has the crisp freshness of the greens and is perfect for vegetarians and meat lovers alike.

We finished our meal with dessert and if you are a child at heart, then you will love Chocolate S’mores Pudding ($7.50) a bittersweet chocolate pudding with crunchy graham cracker crumbs and torched campfire-style marshmallows.

What was surprisingly good was the Apple Filled Donut ($7.50). I’m not a big fan of apples and even I loved it. Cinnamon apples, salted caramel, vanilla ice cream, doughnut glaze and pistachios — what’s NOT to like?

I’m telling you, Simmzy’s is the place to be at and I’m giving you a chance to try them out. Simmzy’s has VERY generously donated a $75 gift certificate for one of my readers to win. Just leave me a comment telling me what your favorite things to eat with your beer for a chance. Don’t forget to leave your FULL name! Entries end Sunday June 3rd. Good Luck!

Simmzy’s
5271 E Second Street
Long Beach, CA 90803
Tel: 562-439-5590

Simmzy's on Urbanspoon

easy going brunch at Lazy Dog Cafe

Listen up brunch aficionados, if you want me to come eat with you, find a place which serves more than just your typical breakfast or lunch items. I recently visited Lazy Dog Cafe with The Hungry Dogg — how appropriate huh? — and found some awesome items on their brunch menu. There was something for everyone!

Bellinis and Mimosas are $5 a pop during brunch and we ordered a beautiful cranberry bellini to start.

Okay, breakfast lovers, for under $8 you can have delicious Wild Blueberry Pancakes & Maple Bacon Butter — three buttermilk blueberry pancakes topped with blueberry compote, house-made maple bacon butter (sinfully delish) and syrup on the side. The whole thing is a salty sweet gooey mouthful after mouthful.

When I saw Hawaiian Fried Rice ($7.95) on the menu, I just HAD to order it. Dotted with bits of hickory-smoked bacon, pork sausage, cabbage, veggies, topped with a fresh egg omelette, it was good, but needed a squeeze of sriracha which they were more than happy to provide.

Sunny Side Up Pizza ($9.25) a white pizza with spinach, sun dried tomatoes, bacon, green onions and assorted cheeses, topped with three fresh eggs and baked golden brown is a MUST. I was a bit skeptical at first but upon first bite, just absolutely fell in love with it. OK, c’mon, who doesn’t love runny eggs? And on a pizza? ‘Nuff said!

If you’re looking for an omelette, Mediterranean Omelet ($8.25) is a made-to-order omelette filled with mozzarella cheese, roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, onion, basil and tomatoes topped with feta cheese. I’m not a huge omelette fan but this was pretty tasty. Served with toast and your choice of hash brown potatoes or fresh fruit.

There are a number of Lazy Dog Cafe locations all around southern California. Find one near you and stop by for a weekend brunch with friends and family. You won’t be disappointed and it won’t break the bank either.

Lazy Dog Cafe
13290 Jamboree Road
Irvine, CA 92602
Tel: 714-731-9700

Lazy Dog Cafe (Irvine) on Urbanspoon

a perfect little spot to Eat Chow in

Those of you who are fans of the original Eat Chow will be delighted to find its second location now open for business off the Pacific Coast Highway. The Hungry Dogg and I paid them a visit to see what the new place is all about.

I was immediately attracted to the beachy feel, the aqua colors, and just the overall relaxed and casual surroundings in which to dine in.

We started with Beer Battered Onion Rings ($4.50), my choice, served with a Point Reyes blue cheese dip. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve had really good onion rings as most places can’t seem to batter the rings correctly. The ones here are simply perfect with a crispy coating surrounding soft sweet onions.

Our server suggested Truffled Parmesan Fries ($5) as well, and I was glad he did because these did not disappoint. I like my fries thin and crispy and these were exactly the way I love ’em. The sprinkling of Italian parsley and cheese gave them added flavor which they didn’t need as they were so good on their own.

I love clams and when I saw something entitled We Love Steamed Clams ($11) on the menu, I was like “SO DO I” and yep, they were definitely exactly how we like them. Steamed with garlic, white wine, pancetta, fresh parmesan, lemon and served with pesto toasted baguette, this was indeed the highlight of the meal. Delicious!

If you’re looking for something lighter for lunch, Ribeye Thai Beef Salad ($14) might just hit the spot. Although the marinated ribeye were sliced a tad too thin and was a little dry, the lime ginger dressing, as well as the lemon grass, basil, cilantro, mint, mixed greens, carrots and daikon, helped alleviate that issue. Crispy onions were a great addition creating a lovely textural contrast to the dish. There was also red pepper roulli drizzled on top, but I didn’t feel it needed to be there.

Austin saw Steak Diane ($17) on the menu and wanted to try it. I’ve had this as a child and wanted to see if it was similar to what I remembered. Seared tenderloin is topped with a sauce of shallots, mushroom, bordelaise and, dijon. Accompanied by cauliflower mashed potatoes and garlic pernod sauteed spinach, it was certainly a more sophisticated version of my childhood dish. A nice generous portion with to-die-for acoutrements.

The most surprising item was the Vanilla Lavender Pot Du Creme ($8) with fresh berry compote topped with whipped cream. Yes I know, I’m not a dessert fan, yet, lately, I’ve found some awesome sweets tempting my palate. This is one of them. Needless to say, I ate my half — ravished actually — and will be back to have it again!

Eat Chow 2 has graciously donated a $25 gift certificate for one of my readers to win. Leave me a comment telling me what you will most likely be ordering there for a chance. For an extra chance, “like” Eat Chow’s Facebook page and leave a comment telling me you’ve done so. Entries end on Sunday, May 27. Winner will be announced on Monday 28. Good Luck.

Eat Chow 2
211 62nd Street
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Tel: 949-423-7080

Eat Chow on Urbanspoon

the Ra Pour with Rancho Cucamonga

I don’t think I’ve ever been to Rancho Cucamonga, apart driving through it on the way somewhere. So when I was invited to a blogger event out there, it was an opportunity for me to experience it once and for all.

The event was a visit to one of the newer restaurants to the area, something different to the usual chain offerings which made up the culinary topography. Upon entry, I immediately felt like this was a restaurant reminiscent of LA, with a chic interior and trendy decor, rather than out there in the desert.

Ra Pour is the brain child of the Webb family who has been in the business for quite some time, and with Chef Greg Stillman at the helm. Stillman’s resume reads The French Laundry and The Patina Group — impressive for one so young.

We were invited to try the dinner menu with a reprise the next morning to sample the brunch menu. The first evening, the group of bloggers from all around southern California gathered for a shared tasting of appetizers and desserts with our choice of first and second courses.

Lobster pops were everyone’s favorite, with chunks of lobster hidden inside.

Tempura mushrooms was another favorite and the accompanying dipping sauce nicely enhanced the woodsy flavors.

If you’re in the mood for pizza, or if you have kids with you, the wood oven pizzas are decent. We sampled the Asparagus, Shrimp and Pesto, which is good if you like shrimp on your pizza.

For me, the Wild Mushroom pizza was a better choice for me since I love fungi.

Next came the first course and there were two to choose from. Luckily, I sampled some off my friends’ plates so I can tell you between the pork belly with greengage plums, rhubarb, marcona almond…..

and the ahi tuna in ponzu with rice crisp, avocado, sesame, toasted nori and togarashi, I definitely preferred the latter. First off, I’m not a big fan of pork belly, so you shouldn’t take my word for it anyway. Second, I love ponzu and togarashi, so the verdict was an easy one.

Entree choices included a lobster “mac and cheese” seemed a favorite among most of the bloggers, perhaps due to the lure of lobster. The butter poached lobster chunks were generous but the mascarpone enriched orzo threw me off. I had my mind set on mac and cheese and the orzo gave it a risotto consistency rather than mac and cheese.

Grilled duck breast was slightly overcooked for me as I like mine rather pink in the middle. The accompanying Japanese sweet potato, hedgehog mushrooms, passion fruit, micro cilantro and duck jus was interesting when combined into one mouthful.

The restaurant turns into a night club of sorts later in the evening. The music is louder and there are bouncers at the door controlling the crowds who enter. My little group at the end of our table decided to call it a night and returned the next morning for brunch.

We ordered off the menu this time so the portions reflect menu pricing.

We started with platters of Fresh Fruit of the Season ($9) at both ends of the table. Melons pineapple papaya, mango, splashed with champagne and sprinkled with freshly chopped mint made for a refreshing start.

Yogurt Parfait ($7) with blueberry compote, mixed fresh berries, yogurt, granola was another item we tried.

I think most of us were excited when we saw Chicken and Waffles ($14) on the menu. The chicken was nicely fried, tender and moist on the inside. A tabasco reduction with candied jalapeno was lovely, but I didn’t care for the malted waffle which was a bit overcooked and hard.

Biscuits, Fried Chicken and Gravy ($16) has the same delicious chicken I loved, but I didn’t like the sausage gravy because it was sweet — maple syrup perhaps? — but I’m not a fan of sweet in savory dishes. The buttermilk fried chicken was perfection though.

I’m an eggs Benedict ($15) fiend and this was definitely on my radar. Unfortunately, the poached eggs were hard and the truffle did not add anything to the final dish. I was disappointed with this item.

Duck confit hash ($16) was our favorite. Great complex flavors, albeit a little salty, but I like salt. The poached eggs on this was a hit and miss — one egg was runny while the other hard. 

A leisurely brunch is always a good way to start the weekend and Ra Pour manages to offer something different to the mix out there in Rancho Cucamonga. Whether you’re dining or brunching, if you’re out in that area, this would be the place to go. It is eclectic and definitely a breath of fresh air in comparison.

Ra Pour
7900 Kew Avenue
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91739
Tel: 909-899-7999

Ra Pour on Urbanspoon

this brunch definitely TAPS my interest

I’m not a huge fan of buffets because I can never eat a lot in one sitting. I get full very quickly and generally, I leave feeling like I didn’t get my money’s worth. So when I visited TAPS for its Sunday brunch buffet, I was surprised to find over 100 items among the choices for a mere $35.99/adult and $12.95/children age 3-12.

The restaurant is packed and after a quick walk-through to peruse the vast array of food, I decided what I was going to pick for round one. An antipasti platter offered an array of meats including salami, ham and mortadella.

There is also charcuterie of prosciutto, speck and salami, served with cornichons, olives and whole grain mustard.

A fresh station comprising oysters on the half shell, crab cocktail, shrimp and ceviche enticed and I enjoyed the latter with relish.

My son loves smoked salmon and I found him with half a plateful upon his return one trip.

Eggs Benedict lured me into the hot food area and these perfectly poached eggs atop pillowy muffins were so immensely popular that a tray lasts barely five to seven minutes before it is completely wiped out.

TAPS’ luscious cinnamon rolls sit in another tray next to the eggs Benedict and these were soft and gooey just waiting to be eaten.

There is a pasta station with cooked-to-order combinations of your choice. I ended up getting clams in wine sauce without the pasta and they were delicious.

In order to not inundate the already sprawling buffet spread, TAPS has made it a bit more fun by adding some items you can order through the kitchen at no extra cost, such as the Chorizo and Eggs.

Or, the Huevos Rancheros are pretty good too if you want a meatless option.

Beignets are on the same menu for $1 extra and you get seven of them. These tasted more like profiteroles than beignets and what we loved was stuffing them with whipped cream and eating them that way. SO GOOD!

I’d be lying if I told you I tried everything, I don’t think I even got through half what was offered. This is the kind of buffet I like — an abundance of items I actually want to eat, with a price tag that is affordable and very reasonable. I didn’t walk away feeling like I didn’t get my money’s worth. I started with this plate and went back several times after.

The price of the brunch includes mimosas, sparkling wine or two TAPS hand-crafted award winning beers — my favorite was the coffee one (can’t remember the name) — as well as tea or coffee. Do note that items on the buffet change from time to time so don’t get upset if you can’t find the things I’ve listed.

TAPS Fish House and Brewery has generously offered one of my readers the opportunity to try this awesome Sunday brunch. Leave me a comment with your FULL name and your thoughts about buffets by Sunday, May 20 for a chance to win. One lucky reader will be announced as the winner on Monday, May 21.

TAPS Fish House and Brewery
101 E Imperial Hwy
Brea, CA 92821
Tel: 714-257-0101

Taps Fish House & Brewery on Urbanspoon

Tabu Shabu opens in Costa Mesa

I’m not really sure what the appeal of hotpot is to kids, but my son sure loves it, and he’s not even fussy what kind it is. Between Chinese, Japanese, and what we do at home, he will even eat it when it is scorchingly hot outside.

This time, I didn’t bring him along, but instead, lunched with my friend Brenda. We had heard that a new place had opened up in Costa Mesa and went to check it out.

Like all the other shabu places, you get your own pot with your choice of cooking broth and there are three types to choose from: traditional, spicy miso, and sukiyaki.

There is a variety of proteins to choose from and we decided to try an array of everything. Certified Angus Ribeye ($14/$18/$24) was of very good quality and I like my meats cooked no more than medium. The best way to do this is to wait for your broth to come to a rolling boil, then swish your meat in there about four to five times, lift it up, dip into sauce, and enjoy!

For a few bucks extra, the Prime Marbled Rib Eye ($16/$20/$26) is even better than the ribeye with even marbling throughout. The same goes with this meat, a quick dip into the water, dip and eat.

Or, if you prefer seafood, I particularly enjoyed the Brown Mexican Shrimp & Jumbo Scallops ($16/$26). Don’t cook the scallops too long as these are so fresh you can practically eat them raw. You don’t want to ruin them by overcooking them.

There are two sauces which come with the meal, a goma (sesame) and ponzu (citrus soy), which you can add the different condiments to, including garlic, grated daikon, and scallions.

If you prefer poultry, Jidori Free Range Organic Chicken ($14/$16/$22), is available…..

….. or Kurobota Pork Shoulder ($14/$16/$22) as another alternate.

I’m usually not a fan of cooked salmon, but the Scottish Loch Durant Salmon ($16/$26/side dish portion pictured) served here is so tender (again, DO NOT overcook) that it melts in your mouth.

Your regular entree comes with a veggie plate comprising udon noodles, napa cabbage, carrots, broccoli, enoki mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, onions, tofu, spinach and bok choy.

After your initial entree, you can order the proteins as a side — if you need to — and trust me when I say this, they are very generous portions. A bowl of white or brown rice accompanies and at the end, with the remaining broth, I like to make a porridge with the rice — I’m not a fan of udon noodles.

If you still have room, try Kakigori ($7) — shaved ice with red bean, condensed milk, syrup and fruit cocktail. It reminds me of Filipino halo halo and is a refreshing finish.

Tabu Shabu
333 E 17th Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Tel: 949-642-2660

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