Kikis Japanese Casual Dining (Denver, CO)

asian, japanese, noodles

Came here on a recommendation of a fellow foodie. 

I don’t really know what I was expecting since I saw that it didn’t have as great of a review as I would’ve thought, considering it came highly recommended. But I know that sometimes the ratings don’t really match how I ultimately feel about a place – positive or negative. 

It’s a cozy little eatery. Wish there were more images to get an idea of how some dishes are. Coming from a big metro area (LA) w/ a wide variety of noodles (that’s what I was craving), I was slightly concerned that I was going to be disappointed. Fortunately, the BF and I were not! Yay!!

I ordered the TEMPURA UDON. If you like tempura and you like udon, you will definitely enjoy this dish! The broth and noodles were on point; and the shrimp and veggie tempura batter and sauce were terrific! The tempura was much better than many others I’ve had in LA – that’s sad to me :-/


The BF ordered the BEEF CHA-PU-RU. It’s a mix of some veggies, slices of beef, and rice. It’s diff than what he’s used to but said it was okay (as are most dishes w/ him -_-) lol! 


So, w/ this restaurant, don’t let the rating fool ya! And check out their drink menu! 

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COD Seafood Restaurant (Beverly Grove, Los Angeles, CA)

asian, seafood

WOW, WOW, WOWZA!!!

Do I know somebody w/ a birthday coming up or is there something I need to celebrate?? I’m just looking for an excuse to return, hehe! This place practically has the perfect integration of DELICIOUS food, chill atmosphere, fantastic service, and yummy drinks!

As I type this, I’m trying to recall the last time I had such a satisfying meal with such flavorful and decadent food… nothing comes to mind immediately. So, as of now, COD Seafood is the winner of… hmm… let’s just say dining, in general, haha!!

When first arriving, headed towards the bar (wines and spirits) to join up w/ ma’ peeps πŸ˜›

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I wasn’t feelin’ the wine this night… well, actually, saw somebody with what looked to be a tasty drink–turned out to be their Jala Pina. As soon asΒ anybody says jalapeno or anything of the like, it’s an immediate “I’ll take one of those, please!” πŸ˜€ If you like drinks w/ a kick to them, this is a definite try–I love how the flavoring was balanced… not too little or too much of any one ingredient! The bartender, Sidney, is friendly and knows how to make them drinks!! And it was just fun watching him mixing the drinks… thumbs up, Sidney!

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From this angle, looks like a shot, but this is a usual cocktail sized drink… say ‘hi’ to Sidney in the background there πŸ˜›

The good thing about dining with multiple bodies is that I get to sample a few drinks w/o having to actually order a whole one πŸ˜€

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More of a fruity, sweeter drink; but don’t think it’s overly sweet. Just enough sweet to let you know that it’s there w/o making your teeth hurt, LOL!

The ‘stache (the name alone kind of made me want to order it) was yummy, too; but I’m not so much a fan of sweeter drinks. If I were, though, this would have most likely been my fave! Plus, the presentation is simple but just enough. Oh, and I didn’t catch this till after 3 other people ordered this same drink… the white topping is a softened whipped cream–gotta love their presentation here!

 

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Wha???? Only 86 calories???

I know… it looks like the Jala Pina… but it’s not. This is definitely for the one that loves their basil! Though there’s a sweetener in the drink, it’s not sweet-tasting–always a plus for me πŸ˜€

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Sidney, the great bartender, in action πŸ™‚

Onto the food…

Oh… where to begin…

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Japanese Mackerel SashimiΒ – I don’t think it gets any fresher than this and just the perfect amount of flavor without any one overpowering another. The sliver of ginger on top completes it!

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Santa Barbara Sea Urchin (Uni) –Β I’ve only been introduced to Uni in the past year or so… can’t believe what I’ve been missing. The texture is definitely not for all since it can be described as slimy… but I guess I like slimy…? πŸ˜› This was so buttery and just lovely… I don’t know how else to really describe it, haha!

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Blue Fin Tuna Poke –Β with all the new poke shops popping up all over town, this was the least eventful to me but it was still tasty! And gotta love the simple but sophisticated presentation πŸ˜€

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Oysters –Β Pretty obvious what these are, haha… but just in case πŸ˜› These were superb… but coming from somebody who is involved w/ EMC restaurants (same owner as COD), it’s no surprise these would make an appearance on COD’s menu and would be just as wonderful.

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Kale SaladΒ – not all are a fan of the taste of uncooked kale but I can’t imagine somebody not enjoying this plate. If I didn’t know it was kale, I would’ve never guessed.

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Crab ToastΒ – in all honesty, I wasn’t expecting much at all from this. It looked plain and bland to me for some reason… but (!!) it was not! This is my fave way to eat crab–not having to dig it out, haha!! The toast underneath was just the right amount of crispness… not too crunchy/hard.

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Pork Belly – THIS WAS ONE OF MY MOST FAVE DISHES!! I wasn’t expecting this to be as good as it was (hmm… I’m beginning to see a pattern here… I didn’t have high expectations? Don’t know where that came from…). From the looks of it, I thought it was going to be overpowered by the sauce; but, boy, was I wrong! The pork belly had just the perfect crispness and sauce that made my taste buds beg for more, haha! πŸ˜€ This is a MUST!!!

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Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice –Β I’m not a huge fan of crispy rice; not that I dislike it but it wouldn’t be something I would choose to eat. But, being the true foodie that I am, I had to try this (especially since EVERYTHING else has been nothing short of delicious). I enjoyed this but wouldn’t personally choose this again since there’s so many others that I prefer. For those that enjoy spicy tuna and crispy rice, I can almost guarantee that you will LOVE this! The crispy rice did complement the tuna very well!

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Wild Sea Bream –Β who doesn’t enjoy fried fish?? I can’t imagine it! I’ve been brought up on fried fish and always have room for such tasty protein πŸ˜€

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What’s the next best thing to fried fish?? DE-BONED fried fish, haha!! Obviously our servers are skilled at de-boning if it still looks pretty similar to the before picture :O

Truffle Uni Pasta –Β I am not usually a fan of restaurant pasta that’s not red (because it’s usually not flavorful, just oily :-/ )… BUT, THIS!!!! HOLY SCHMOLY!!!!! I don’t know if I’ve ever had a better non-red pasta EVER in my life… and if I have, I can’t even remember when that was O_o Mixed the uni in with the pasta so there could be love ALL over, haha! I know that I’ve mentioned that some dishes at COD are a must… but this one is THEE TOP MUST-HAVE once you sit down! So much so that you should just order this BEFORE anything else, even before drinks, even water!!! HAHA!! In all seriousness, though… don’t even just think about it… just order it… NOW!!!! Actually, if you haven’t had dinner today… GO. RIGHT. NOW!!!! I am not ashamed… my love for this dish runs deep, haha! I ❀ you, Truffle Uni Pasta! πŸ˜€ XOXO

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Slow Cooked Beef Cheek w/ Mushroom QuinoaΒ – so…. I don’t eat beef (haven’t since I was 7-years old). I didn’t taste this one but from ALL that did taste it (I’m the only one that didn’t), this was AMAZING!!! All I heard around the table were satisfying “mmmmm’s” – so much that I could hear it melt in their mouths, haha! I suppose this is equivalent to how I feel about the Truffle Uni Pasta πŸ˜€

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Chocolate Bread Pudding w/ homemade whipped cream –Β uhhh… WHA?? YES, PLEASE! I was a bit apprehensive about this only because chocolate is not a go-to for me (rare that I eat it, I know… uncommon… I’m reminded all the time o_O) and bread pudding can be a bit tricky since it usually ends up getting doused in so much sauce. Oh… but not this one, my friend. This dessert, just like ALL the dishes that came before it was nothing less than superb… yes, I just said superb. That’s gotta say something if I would never have ordered this dessert by my choosing.

And that’s it… time to work out, HAHAHAHA!!!

My longest blog post to date πŸ˜€ So grateful to have visited during the soft opening. Thank you to Marcus (owner of COD, Wokcano, and EMC) and Gogobot for having our group! And cannot end this without extending thank you’s to our servers and bartender… THANK YOU!!

Now, get off the internet and head over to COD NOW!!! ;P

Extras…

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ShopHouse Kitchen (Beverly Grove, Los Angeles, CA)

asian, healthy

Wish I had a better experience here. Seemed like a good concept. Unfortunately, the taste didn’t match the inviting concept–the food didn’t taste as good as the place looked :-/

Got their salad bowl w/ all the sauces and even added my own fixings… STILL tasted not good :-/ On top of that, my friend got their mango parfait dessert and that was a couple dollars down the trash–it didn’t have any flavor… What is going on here??

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I hope the other locations are better considering there are multiple locations o_O

On the upside, the staff are friendly and helpful!

With LA exploding w/ plenty of tasty eateries, I won’t be spending my hard earned money here again.

Pot on Fire (Chino, CA)

asian, noodles, soup

Went w/ a group of friends. Upon stepping in, it was obvious it’s a popular place even considering it’s still in its infancy. The shopping center it’s located in is pretty big so it felt like I was searching for a Pokemon 😜 (I don’t even play but have been in a group of hardcore players, I digress 😳 HAHA).
They have an extensive drink menu and they encourage you to customize to you liking (i.e. lessen or increase sweetener, add boba, etc). Customization is always nice πŸ™‚ I got a green tea with boba, unsweetened, thank you! 😁
We ordered some apps–fried chick filet, takoyaki, mini fried tofu, and popcorn chicken (my fave out of the 4). 


As for the main course, I got the Thai inspired hot pot–similar to tom yum soup in Thai cuisine. I’m used to having intense flavors so I asked for additional sauces to intensify the base πŸ˜„ My friend got their kimchi hot pot–HIGHLY RECOMMEND!! It wasn’t too spicy at all! Good for those who aren’t a fan of spicy flavors but enjoy kimchi πŸ‘ 


As a note, each hot pot can be shared by at least 2 ppl–even better! πŸ™ˆπŸ‘―

The PokΓ© Spot (Rowland Heights, CA)

Hawaiian, healthy, poke, seafood

Though this was a bit a way’s from my home, taking a bite out of the pokΓ© burrito made me forget about the distance! πŸ˜‚ I know it’s going to sounddramatic but there was an explosion of flavor and freshness simultaneously partying in my mouth, HAHA!! (Note: not sure if the burrito is on their menu yet.)

This place also have their own house sauce–DEFINITE MUST HAVE!! What’s cool w/ this joint versus others is that they have pre-marinated tuna and salmon in a sauce–delish. That’s another plus… Healthy choices of sauces to flavorize your pokΓ© to your desire!

Yes, it gets better! 

Duane (sp?), the owner, is AWESOME, friendly, personable, open to customers’ comments/suggestions (I would think this is commonplace, but it’s not), professional, and I can tell he’s a hustler (hardworking) 😁 With a demeanor/attitude like that for a boss, you know it’ll trickle down and we, the customers, will get awesome service along w/ our yummy food!! πŸ‘

Seriously, what more can you friggin’ ask for??? 😁

Oh… Dessert! Does it end?? Thankfully not! Hehe! πŸ˜† I guess it could also be a “snack” if you weren’t looking to eat a meal of PokΓ©–but that’d be ree-donk-culous! 😜

DO. NOT. LEAVE. THIS. PLACE. WITHOUT. TASTING. THE. ACAI. BOWL!! 

Did I make myself clear? πŸ˜‹
Acai bowl – not too sweet, just perfect! 

That’s it… I swear! Just go and you’ll be glad you did!! πŸ˜„

USA Donuts & Croissants (Panorama City, CA)

Breakfast, Dessert / Sweets

Dropped by in here because a friend was craving something sweet. 

Been to other USA Donuts but don’t recall them serving Hispanic related drinks (i.e. Chamango)… What??? 

I was too full from just have late lunch and couldn’t consume that big of a fruit drink at the time, but I am looking forward to going back for some Chamango!! 

Another awesome thing about this place is that it had a TV and it was set-up in a way where ppl could be there hanging out and catch a game while having their doughnuts and and juice 😜 Reminded me of a bar but instead of alcohol, it’s doughy goodness! πŸ˜‚

We ended up just getting a glazed twist and a couple donut holes… I know, nothing special but it satisfied the craving 😁🍩

On top of everything else, the Latin/Hispanic girl that helped us was SUPER friendly and nice!! What more can one ask for in excellent customer service?? THUMBS UP!! πŸ‘πŸ‘

Kobee Factory (Van Nuys, CA)

mediterranean

Unexpected pleasant surprise!

The BF and I were just looking to grab lunch after he got a hair trim. And, of course, I jumped on Yelp and started searching (having no idea what I was in the mood for). 
When I came across Kobee Factory on the list of nearby eateries, I noticed the high rating, low pricing, and yummy looking pics… So, unsurprisingly, I was now in the mood for Mediterranean/Middle Eastern/Syrian 😜


It’s pretty much a family owned biz. Cozy and clean (bonus for the latter!)! The place is situated in a more industrial area (think, auto repair and such). There’s parking in the very front but it’s kind of snug. Might be better parking on side streets–depending how good of a parker/driver you are πŸ€“
As for the food…

FALAFEL WRAP w/ salad & hummus


FALAFEL WRAP w/ salad & hummus – that’s my meal. It was good and became better after I added more hummus to it and topped w/ chili 😁 I could do without the salad. Hummus was creamy and tasty! 

SHAWARMA BEEF w/ fries & hummus – the BF’s dish. He enjoyed his wrap. Fries weren’t anything special–reminded me of the ones from the grocery store’s frozen section. Hummus was “simple” to him (hmm, not exactly sure what that means, haha). 


BAKLAVA – um… I’ve never seen them shaped like this 😳 Looks weird to me, haha! I know, it’s silly but it doesn’t make it look appetizing. If I were to go by presentation only, I wouldn’t have touched this. But for the sake of this review, I grabbed one… It was okay, not that sweet (which says something since I find most desserts to be too sweet for my taste). I’ve definitely had better–in taste and looks πŸ˜•

As for service… They were friendly and answered our questions w/o an attitude. Came to check on us once (which is fine). 

Btw, this is the kind of place where you order and pay beforehand and they bring the food out to you.
Took a bit longer than I would expect for a couple wraps but I’m assuming that’s due to them making the food as its ordered. Yes, I prefer fresh over speed πŸ™‚
Overall, check out this place for an economically priced meal that’s fresh!!! Can’t beat that combo!!! πŸ˜πŸ‘πŸ˜

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Sam Woo (Van Nuysο»Ώ, CA)

asian, Chinese

One of our go-to’s! Not only do you get more authentic Chinese food (vs the Americanized version) AND the service to match!! πŸ˜‚ Just kidding! It’s not that bad. But maybe they’re a little nicer to us because we’ve been regulars for years. If we were to go to another one of their locations, I can almost guarantee we would get that strong, cold Chinese server kind of service–they want you to eat, pay, and get out! πŸ˜³πŸ˜‘ Oh, yes, I have had that experience before at a Sam Woo in Las Vegas, NV. A group of my friends and I had dinner; we were chatting after our meal for a bit when a server came over with the bill, threw it on the table, and said “You pay! You pay now!!” πŸ˜’ Yep… (sigh)…

Anyhow, that’s not the case anymore and that was the only time–which occurred at the Vegas location where they were  generally cold and unfriendly anyhow πŸ˜‘

Back to the Sam Woo located in the San Fernando Valley in SoCal…

I’ve tried a good variety of dishes there but since having gone w/ Eli, he likes to stick to the things he knows. So, whenever we go there now, there’s not much variety. Two of our usual are the String Beans w/ Minced Pork and the Fish Filet w/ Spicy Salt. 


String Beans – not much to elaborate on… It’s tasty and healthy, period! Even my daughter loves it! I love how it has the perfect crunch to it! 


Fish Filet – I once ordered this on a whim, had an itch to try a different plate. As you might have guessed, Eli was not excited and even went about making a stink face πŸ˜’ The irony?? We’ve had it during our last 5 visits there because Eli asked for it 😳 I’m beginning to get that itch to try something different again. I’ve grown tired of this even though it’s good. 

Service – the servers are awesome! Friendly and personable as an older Chinese man can be πŸ˜‚ 

Interior – they’ve updated the place in the last couple years… Has made such a difference! Not a huge renovation or anything, just upgrades. I feel better and cleaner eating in there πŸ™Š

Overall, this is a MUST if you’re wanting Chinese and w/o the cold service. We’ll always go back… Let’s hope I’m successful in getting a different plate, haha! 

Firehouse Restaurant (Tarzana, CA)

greek


I can’t believe how long it’s taken us to eat here after driving by it so many times!!πŸ˜‘ All this time, we’ve been missing out!! 😫 Oh, well, better late than never! 😊


The interior is suiting and adds to the experience. I love how the chairs and tables are of quality… They’re heavy and sturdy! πŸ‘ I don’t come across that much these days–most tables and chairs all look the same and/or came from Ikea (nothing wrong w/ that, just nice to see something different ☺️). 

What we ordered: hummus w/ pita, fish gyro, Greek salad, and traditional gyro plate. 

All was delish! You won’t be disappointed! 


Hummus & Pita – I wish I could get this kind of hummus and pita at Trader Joe’s, but it’s never the same. Guess we’ll just have to come back sooner rather than later 😜


Fish Gyro (Sandwich) – my dish… All I can say is “YUM!” It’s probably not the first type of gyro ppl would normally order but it caught my eye. Actually, I didn’t know it was going to be battered fish–I was hesitant when server dropped it off since I don’t usually come across good battered fish. Glad this did not disappoint! The batter was pretty good, so good that I wanted to eat the batter and not picking out the fish 😜 The tahini sauce was tasty, too! I always thought I didn’t like tahini sauce but I think it’s just because I haven’t had good tahini πŸ˜πŸ‘


Greek Salad – Eli’s plate included their salad… Pretty typical. I forgot to ask for peperoncini beforehand. 


Traditional Gyro Plate (mix of beef and lamb) – Eli truly enjoyed his food! Even though it’s just fries, he mentioned how good the fries were (that doesn’t usually happen). Of course, the pita was delish! 😁 Eli liked the meats but said the lamb was a bit fatty. 

Service: server was professional and efficient, just not necessarily friendly–just straight to the point and done! Lol! I’d take this over bad service any day. 

Overall, if you couldn’t already tell, we’re definitely going back!! Writing about it now makes me want to go get some hummus! πŸ˜‹

Pho Huynh (El Monte, CA)ο»Ώ

asian, noodles, Pho, Vietnamese

When stepping in, I was expecting for a typical pho setting–white walls, minimal investment into the interior and tables/chairs. To my surprise, it was a couple steps up from that–had the restaurant name by the register on the wall in script writing (ooh, so fancy 😜), tables and chairs were decent, and interior was actually given some thought! 

From that, I assumed the food was going to be a couple steps up from the typical hole-in-the-wall pho places… It was not. It took 1 1/2 steps back 😞 NOOOOOOO! Why???

Ordered – fresh coconut, Spring Rolls, Shrimp Pho, and #2 Combination Pho (steak meat, filet mignon, and brisket). 


Fresh Coconut – tiny, took 10 sips (if that) and it was gone 😣 the meat was too tough for my liking. I prefer the coconuts from a Thai restaurant. 

Shrimp Pho – lacked flavor. There’s usually various spices and bottles of sauces that are on the table to personalize your bowl of pho. I felt I was adding too much and working to hard for it to get to where I wanted–still didn’t end up where I wanted, just settled at a point because I had put in so much already and didn’t want to overload my bowl w/ sodium 😳


#2 Combination Pho – the BF ordered this dish. Says soup was okay. He was expecting the meat to be good (especially after our intense hour of bubble soccer, I digress), but it was disappointing to find out that it was mostly too fatty for his liking. Nothing special here for him.

Spring Rolls (no pic 😫) – wasn’t tasty, tasted like nothing (kind of how I would image air to taste like). Even the mix of peanut sauce and chili paste didn’t do much. Ate only 1 of the 3 rolls πŸ˜’

Service – was okay, maybe a tad less than okay; comparable to other pho places. 

Overall… No, we won’t be coming back πŸ™ One can get better tasting food w/ the same service elsewhere, around the same amount of money.