Eat Chow - Costa Mesa

1802 Newport Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Orange County is a place with many, many chain restaurants so it's nice to find little gems here and there.  Eat Chow is a quaint and hip little restaurant that doesn't serve your typical fries, but serve you truffle Parmesan garlic fries; or it doesn't have just regular hamburgers with ketchup and mustard, but burgers with housemade sauce, crispy onions, bacon, gouda cheese on a brioche bun.  There were many interesting items on the menu and I would probably just have to come back again to try them out.

Truffle Parmesan Fries
These fries were wonderfully crispy with minced roasted garlic and Parmesan cheese with, of course, bold hints of the truffle oil. Yum!

Spanish Style Roasted Chicken Salad (7.50 for a small) - Romaine, Shredded Cabbage, Avocado, Sweet Corn, Goat Cheese, Marcona Almonds, Medjool Dates, Peanuts with Smokey Tomato Vinaigrette
This was a nice fresh salad with all the ingredients I wanted. Minus the sweet corn. They forgot to add in the corn! And I knew the salad wouldn't be complete without the taste of that sweetness. All the components went well with each other, making this not your usual order of green salad. 

Chow BBQ Burger (10)  - Housemade BBQ sauce, smoked gouda, crispy onions and bacon on a toasted brioche bun
The height of this tasty burger can be intimidating at first, but just pressed it down and take one big bite to indulge in all the wonderful flavors at once. Call me crazy but whenever I see a burger with bbq sauce, crispy onions, and bacon, I always compare it to my beloved Western Bacon Cheeseburger from Carl's Jr. Yes, you heard me right. One of my favorite fast food burgers next to In-N-Out. This burger could have been excellent but the bbq sauce wasn't bbqey enough. I wanted more of that boldness that comes from bbq sauce. 

After dining, we ventured into the connected hipster clothing store, The Closet. There seems to be a hipster-ish theme at the restaurant so it makes sense for the two to be connected. And I think there's a discount at the clothing store if you dine at Eat Chow.


Thai Nakorn (Garden Grove, CA)

12532 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92843

Ask pretty much anyone in Orange County where the best Thai restaurant is and invariably the majority will say Thai Nakorn. Being a self-professed Thai food lover and coming from a family that once owned a Thai restaurant, I'm with the majority on this one.

Thai Nakorn has two locations, one in Garden Grove and one in Stanton. Both restaurants are large with ample seating for large parties. Come to think of it, every time I come here I always see some type of celebratory meal going on.

Thai Beef Salad 
Thai Nakorn isn't one of those restaurants that really tones down the spice level, although they can if you want, but they can also "kick it up a notch" (sorry Emeril). The Thai beef salad is always a great beginning to the meal. I love the interplay of flavors and textures in Thai food - crunchy, sweet, spicy, and sour.

Chicken Satay - $8.45
Who doesn't like grilled meat on a skewer? Chicken satay is no exception. The satay is marinated in curry and other spices and then grilled. To top it off, literally that is, is the simultaneously sweet, spicy, and peanutiness of the peanut sauce. The slightly pickled onion and cucumbers add a crunchy coolness to this dish.

Pad See Ewe
I never go to a Thai restaurant without ordering Pad See Ewe or Pad Thai. Thai Nakorn has a delicious Pad See Ewe. Just the right consistency on the noodles and perfect ratio of noodles, meat, to veggie ratio.

Nam Sod with Crispy Rice - $8.45
For those of you who aren't familiar with Nam Sod, this dishes' ingredients are ground pork, onion, ginger, peanuts, lime juice, and sometimes with or without the crispy rice. I prefer ordering with the crispy rice because it gives the dish an added texture and flavor. This is a "sod" after dish anytime I come here. 

Fried catfish with mango salad/sauce
The catfish is battered and then golden-fried like a fish and chip without the chip. The dish is to be eaten together with the mango salad. Any fish dish with the mango salad is always a good thing at Thai Nakorn.

I have been going to Thai Nakorn back in the days when it was located near Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park. The restaurant has been in business for many years, a testament to how good Thai Nakorn is. Ask me where the best Thai restaurant in Orange County is and I'll answer with Thai Nakorn too.


Langer's Delicatessen - Los Angeles

704 South Alvarado
Los Angeles, CA 90057
Mon-Sat 8am-4pm

Situated across the street from MacArthur Park, you don't really want to cruise the streets at night or hang out here too long. But step inside and it's a whole different world with a nostalgic feel of a mom and pop coffeeshop back in the 60s, but more on a larger scale with about 7-8 cooks behind the counter, piling on the meat on top of the sliced breads.  And many, many waiters and waitresses running around the restaurant to serve the hungry customers.

Langer's is always crowded, especially during lunch time.  Lines out the door is pretty common. The huge menu could get overwhelming with different selections of sandwiches, steaks, and salads. Even grilled liver is on the menu if you dare try.  But whenever I come here, I just order their most popular item: #19. 

Pastrami sandwich with swiss cheese, cole slaw, and Russian style dressing served on rye bread (14.95)
The outer crust of the rye bread is crispy while the inner part of the bread is quite soft.  I love sinking my teeth into the generous portion of the smokey flavored pastrami and swiss cheese.  I would think the cole slaw would come as a side, but piled atop of the pastrami just completes this delicious sandwich altogether. Every bite is scrumptious!

The famous #19 pastrami sandwich is a pricey $14.95 but really worth it for the hefty pile of meat. I wouldn't share this sandwich with anyone, don't want to be giving death stares at each other. This delicatessen is a place worth coming back to over and over again.  Langer's is notably THE place for the pastrami sandwich in the West Coast; Katz's being THE place in the East. I would say that Langer's beats Katz's in the battle of East coast and West coast. (The parking lot is on 7th Street and Westlake.  Get your parking ticket stamped for a 1 hour validation).


Mo-Chica - Los Angeles

3655 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Chef: Ricardo Zarate

Mo-Chica is a contemporary Peruvian restaurant that has gained quite a following over a very short period of time with every blogger and their mother having blogged Mo-Chica. Ricardo Zarate is the talented chef and owner and is also about to open a new restaurant called Anticucho. 

Located near USC, the restaurant is in the Mercado La Paloma.  The inside opens up to a warehouse that houses an eclectic assortment of restaurants, gift shops, a florist, computer supply store, and an alterations shop. Among this random mix, Mo-Chica is definitely what I would call a hidden gem.

The menu is small and concise. They know what they are good at and for the most part, they do it very well.

Toasted Corn Nuts - complimentary
To start off, diners are given a small bowl of toasted corn nuts. These aren't the corn nuts that normally come to mind in the ranch, chile picante, and barbecue flavored, but real large corn kernels that are toasted and salted. I personally prefer the flavored ones. 

Mo-Chica has an assortment of non-alcoholic beverages to choose from such as Maracuya (Passion fruit juice) Cebada (barley iced tea) and the Chicha Morada (purple corn iced tea). I chose the Maracuya, which was sweet, refreshing, and definitely passion fruity.

Ceviche del dia - 5
Mo-Chica is probably best known for their ceviche, with some proclaiming it as the best Peruvian ceviche in all of LA. The ceviche del dia was a sea bass on this dia. Included with the sea bass dish were red onions, seaweed, sweet potato, corn, and toasted corn. The sea bass was definitely very fresh and the flavors of all the components came together very nicely, texturally and flavor-wise. I can't say I am a big fan of the white corn pieces, not much flavor. 

Here is a close-up of the sea bass. Beautiful. 

Lomo Saltado - 13
Mo-Chica serves its lomo saltado with prime beef filet, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes. I've had this dish quite a few times, but never with prime beef filet. Being a huge fan of lomo saltado, I was really looking forward to this dish. Although the dish was good with tender pieces of filet, I wished there was more sauce to be eaten with the rice. Plus, the portion size was quite small for $13. I guess that's the price to pay for the prime beef filet. 

Not having a whole lot of experience with Peruvian food, with the exception of a few restaurants and food courts, we enjoyed our experience at Mo-Chica. Not everything was a hit, but the hits outweighed the misses. Do I want some mo' Mo-Chica? Sure, give me some mo'!