Monday, August 29, 2016


Mandarin Noodle House
701 W Garvey Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Mandarin Noodle House
Tel: 626.570.9795
Cuisine: Chinese
$$ ($15-$30)
Sat, 08/13/2016, 5:30pm walk-in
    (3.5 Piglets)

I crave Chinese food every so often, especially living on the Westside when good Chinese food seems to be lacking. There is a plethora of Chinese food in Monterey Park. It's sometimes difficult to choose from the many and somehow, on a day when Tokyo Fried Chicken was too long of a wait, we turned to Mandarin Noodle House across the street. 

Upon arriving, the place was pretty empty and we were able to be seated right away. The interior looks like a very standard, simple Chinese restaurant in the SGV: red, Chinese paper writing on the wall, the standard Chinese calendar and the old school Chinese paintings. The place seats a fair amount of people and by the time we finished our dinner, the restaurant was starting to fill up.  

The Interior
Another part of the interior
The condiments
MY FAVORITE DISH. NOODLE WITH BLACK BEAN SAUCE-DRY ($8.95): This dish was really good and very flavorful. The bowl is quite large and we shared it amongst four people. First thing, you gotta mix it pretty well. It is thick like gravy and the sauce coats the noodles to the perfect consistency. I loved every bite and I liked the fresh cucumber and bean sprouts that came along with it. I would come back just for this dish. 
COLD NOODLE WITH SESAME SAUCE-DRY ($8.95): This was a good dish, but I've had better sesame noodles elsewhere. It's a great summer dish if you want something hearty without it being hot in temperature. The vegetables were refreshing. 
CHICKEN FRIED RICE ($8.95): I actually had leftovers to take home and I thought the fried rice was better the next day. It's straight forward; nothing special but good flavor nonetheless. 
THIN ONION PANCAKE ($4.25): At first bite, I didn't really like it. It wasn't as flaky as I was hoping. Then bite upon bite, I started to like it more and more to the point of addiction. It's actually pretty good. It's different than other pancakes in terms of texture, but the flavor is still spot on. 
PAN FRIED MEAT DUMPLING AKA POTSTICKERS (8 PIECES- $7.95): These were some pretty big potstickers. They were crispy on one side and soft on the other parts. The filling was pretty good. I had these as leftovers as well and pan fried the other parts to the point of perfect crispiness. I liked it better that way. It was good, but I didn't think these were amazing. 
Overall, Mandarin Noodle House is a decent restaurant that serves typical Chinese cuisine. I thought most of the dishes were flavorful, but I wasn't wowed by any means. It's a good go-to restaurant if you want some good noodles and a few fried items, i.e. thin onion pancake. The place is cash only. Would I try this place again? Sure! I actually do wanna try their beef noodle soup cause it looked good when others ordered it. 

Notable Dishes: Noodles with Black Bean Sauce and Thin Onion Pancake

Friday, August 26, 2016


Au Cheval
800 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607
Au Cheval
Tel: 312.929.4580
Cuisine: American
$$ ($15-$30)
Mon, 08/08/2016, 11:45am walk-in
     (5 Piglets)

Au Cheval is known for their burger. It has been ranked the best burger in the nation by the Food Network. InStyle states that Au Cheval is worth the flight to Chicago just to get a taste of it. So, does it really live up to the hype and is it worth the 2-4 hour wait? My friends in Chicago don't think so, but I had to go judge it for myself...

When I first arrived 45 minutes after opening, Au Cheval was already packed. There were people already waiting. Luckily, I was eating alone and the host said the wait would be 15-20 minutes (it was actually 45 minutes, which was kinda annoying). They sat me at the counter where you get a first hand glimpse of the kitchen. To be honest, I think these are the best seats of the house versus the nice leather seats that surround the restaurant. 

Counter seating

The restaurant itself is pretty small. The decor is simple and very "midwest" with exposed brick, dim lighting, and very rustic. The menu consists of a lot of rich dishes, so if you're not into delicious, robust flavor, then this isn't the place for you. 

The interior
The kitchen
Cooking the meat
Toasting the buns with an open flame
Look at these amazing fries!!! 
FRENCH FRIES ($5.95): These fries are freakin amazing!! They're probably one of the best fries I've had. It's twice fried, so it's super crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. It comes in this tall container filled with deliciousness and a side of garlic aioli. The fries are kinda a lot if you have it with your burger, so it's a good idea to share. 
The garlic aioli the fries come with are amaze-balls! 
MY FAVORITE DISH. SINGLE CHEESEBURGER ($10.95) +FRIED EGG ($2.00) + THICK CUT PEPPERED BACON ($8.95): Ok, so this is my personal take on the burger (although some may disagree). This burger is probably my favorite burger of all the gourmet burgers I've tried. Yes, it's heavy. Yes, it's rich. So, don't be discouraged by those things. The single burger is actually two patties and the double is actually three. I topped it off with a fried egg (cause who doesn't love a fried egg on top?) and some bacon which was thick like pork belly. The burger itself was juicy with nicely melted cheddar that oozed out onto the bun. The sauce and the onions bring sweetness to showcase its complexity upon each bite. It seriously is a match made in heaven. It comes with a pickle on the side and you can ask for lettuce and tomato like I did as well. 
Look at this amazing burger when you top off the bun! 
Overall, Au Cheval is pretty amazing. Is it the best burger in the nation? So far, with the burgers I've had in the past, I would say so. Is it worth a 4 hour wait? Probably not. The best thing to do is to show up when they open or put your name down and grab a beer across the street while you wait. The burger is big and packs in tons of flavor. Even without the egg and bacon, the burger is pretty good. 

Notable Dishes: Single Cheeseburger and French Fries

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


953 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
Cuisine: Global-Themed (Ours was South American)
$$$$ ($50+)
Sun, 08/07/2016, 9:00pm reservation
    (4 piglets)

Next is another one of chef Grant Achatz's restaurant (yes, I did an Achatz weekend in Chicago). As a James Beard winner for Best New Restaurant in America, Next is an interesting conceptual restaurant. The restaurant takes you on a global journey, with a prix fixe menu changing every four months. Lead by Executive Chef Dave Beran, the themed eatery attempts to bring dishes that highlights the realm of cuisine of each part of the world.

Next itself is linked to Achatz's bars The Aviary and The Office. The interior is sophisticated and modern. The décor reminded me of Alinea, but with a more casual feel to it. I loved the fact that they offer a table near the kitchen, which obviously my friends and I took it upon ourselves to reserve.

COURSE ONE: MERMELADA CON HIELO: Mote Con Huesillo, Black Cardamom. Course one started outside the restaurant, where a server made a drink with some shaved ice and alcohol. It reminded me of horchata, but in shaved ice form. It was good, refreshing, light and a good way to start the meal.
A closer look at course one.

After course one, you're taken through the dining room
We were the lucky ones to dine in the kitchen with simply a glass window separating us
COURSE TWO: CEVICE: Banana and Passionfruit. I thought this was a good dish. It's not the typical ceviche I'm used to, but it had good flavors, acidic, and well-balanced.
COURSE TWO: CORN AND CHOCOLATE. I thought this dish was good. Who doesn't like corn and chocolate? Unfortunately, I felt like the chocolate and corn were too subtle for me. I really want to get a strong taste of the corn and chocolate, which lacked in this dish.
COURSE TWO: AJI, LIME AND ORANGE. This was good, and I felt the flavors were getting better as the dishes were moving on. The lime and orange was light and refreshing.
COURSE TWO: This was an extra dish that wasn't on the menu. Not sure what it was, but it was my favorite out of the ceviches thus far. It was light and refreshing with the perfect amount of balance and acidity. It was what I pictured a ceviche to taste like.
COURSE THREE: CRUDO: Lubina, Cashew, Cachaca, Tomato. I'm always a big fan of crudo! Who doesn't like a piece of fresh fish lightly cooked in some acidity? Anyway, this was a good dish. I thought so far, most of the dishes were pretty light at this point.
Some corn nuts, beer and salad. ..
I'm not sure what this was but it was hanging from the ceiling. Knowing that it's part of the Alinea was meant for something later.
  COURSE FOUR: PASTEL DE CHOCLO: I forgot what exactly this was, but it was good and crispy. There was a hint of spice to it, which I enjoyed.
COURSE FOUR: TOMATES PEBRES. The tomatoes were fresh and delicious. I loved every bite and it was a gorgeous dish.

COURSE FOUR: CROQUETAS DE ATUN: This was a good dish if you like tuna. I'm not the biggest fan of cooked tuna, so it wasn't my favorite. I did enjoy the crispiness of the croquetas though.
MY FAVORITE DISH. COURSE FOUR: Chica de Manzana. This was my favorite dish of the night. It was a South American shepard's pie. The topping was almost soufflé like. I loved the richness of the dish. It was comfort food at its best.
COURSE FIVE: ALPACA WOOL. Escabeche del Pez Espada. This was a good dish. The dishes corresponded to the color of the wool. My favorite of all four was the last one of the color purple. It was a beet something or the other. It was delicious!
COURSE SIX: SUDADO: Wait for it....
COURSE SIX: SUDADO: Salmon, Cochayuyo, Esparragos, Cacao. This was a good piece of salmon. It was encased in parchment paper where the smell was alluring once you ripped it open. The broth was delicious. The salmon was cooked perfectly. It was a good dish.
COURSE SEVEN: CURANTO: Puerco, Chorizo, Fig, Chapalele, Clam and Rhubarb. This was one of the better dishes of the night and very hearty as well. There was a lot of food and it was shared family style. 
COURSE SEVEN: This was the clam salad...just ok for me. 
COURSE SEVEN: Garlic Rice. I thought the rice was good and so was the flavor, but many of my friends thought it was a bit too salty. 
Scissors and tweezers...I wonder what it is for?
COURSE EIGHT: DULCES: Guava and Picarones. This was their version of a donut. The sorbet it came with was guava. It was good and reminded me of Porto's guava and cheese roll, but without the cheese. that thing that is hanging...they're gonna cut it with those scissors and tweezers....very Alinea like...
Ah...she's placing it in the second dessert...
COURSE EIGHT: DULCES: Chocolate, Blackberry, Dulce de Leche. This was my favorite out of the two desserts. I thought the dessert was well-constructed. It wasn't overly sweet, which I appreciated. 
The work that goes into cleaning the kitchen after service. 
Overall, Next is a good restaurant that allows you to experience food that is global while being innovative like Alinea. I wasn't wowed by the food, but the service was spot on. It was a long dinner service and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting near the kitchen and watching the chefs cook. I think it's a good restaurant to experience something like Alinea, but paying slightly cheaper for it. 

Notable Dishes: Chica de Manzana