To feed your body and soul in San Diego and all over the world

coffee

Continuation of Valentine’s Weekend

To continue and wrap up the last segment of the Valentine’s Day weekend with CP, on the morning of the end of our weekend in Vegas, I had planned for us to go to my new favorite restaurant in Vegas: MoZen Bistro.

The restaurant is tucked in the elegant Mandarin Oriental Hotel and getting there was a little bit a discovery.  However, since I have been to the restaurant it was not so hard to get to the second time around :).  CP on the other hand thought it was quite hilarious on: 1. how hard it was to get to the restaurant (unlike other restaurants in Vegas) and 2. the door men and women were wearing full coats and top hats. Anyways…on to the food!

It was Sunday early afternoon when we arrived at the restaurant at 11:30am, which is actually my standard lunch hour anyway, so it was perfect!  I had read about their brunch menu and wasn’t sure what to expect exactly:

“Chef Rawat has prepared internationally inspired dishes that include a variety of limitless passed items as well as your selection of a main course and a full dessert and cheese buffet to finish.”

So I was wondering what I would really get…turns out: it was a buffet style for appetizers, first course(s), main course is menu ordered, and buffet style again for dessert.  It was definitely unique and once I saw the layout, I was excited!  I wish I had taken a picture of the layout, but I can recall it by memory.

Starting from the left and moving to the right as it wraps around restaurant: a fresh sushi station with pre-cut rolls made in small batches (2-4 rolls at a time) and cut to order sashimi.  Next to that, was the salad and antipasto station with a wide selections of cold cuts, grilled vegetables, salads, and cheese.  Following that was a table of fresh fruit from melons, pineapples, mix of berries.  Last but not least, was a table spread of cold breakfast items such as pastries, cereals, yogurt, and such.  Finally, the dessert station was actually off to another side of the restaurant that wasn’t as apparent since it was tucked away in a corner.  However, you can never hide desserts from me!

With so many choices, I had to be really discerning.  For my first plate…

Almond Croissant, Spicy Tuna Roll, and Seaweed Salad.  I know, I know…Why did you get an almond croissant with sushi!? Ok, look…I LOVE almond croissants and I could NOT resist when I walked by.  I had to get one, but rest assure…I did not mix the 2 together while chewing :).

The tuna was so fresh, nice and spicy to the way I like it  and the sushi rice was perfect.  The salad was a nice crisp, refreshing palate cleanser for me and I moved on to the croissant.  My, my, my…so fabulous!  The pastry was flaky and crunched each time I bit into it.   Inside was the ever delicious almond paste to add to the decadence of this pastry.

I also got myself a plate of yellowtail and salmon sashimi.  My only complaint with the fish was that I could tell it was fresh, but it was TOO cold.  Sashimi should be chilled, but this was TOO cold and it made me a little sad because I really liked it and the temperature just ruined it for me.  Still…I enjoyed this little plate of fish goodness.

OH! By the way, part of the brunch experience of MoZen includes random little “additions” to the meal that comes as little taster dishes.  They were all different and I’ll just let the pictures do the talking!

Caprese Salad Bite

Shrimp Cocktail with Thai Chili Cocktail Sauce

Har-Gow (Shrimp Dumpling)

Ceviche

There was also steamed mussels and fresh oysters.  Insane right?! And this was just additional dishes that acted like bread and butter that would be passed at other restaurants.  MoZen really knows how to make their diners feel like they’re a million bucks without necessarily spending a million bucks!  Love, LOVE it!

I could not leave without trying a few more items:

This was a mini cinnamon bun lollipop with edible gold leaf!  In the background is a mini mason jar with plain yogurt and fresh berries.  I did not particularly like either of the two taste-wise, but I do like the presentation.

Moving onto CP and my main entrees:

Not a surprise right?  Especially if you know me or have been reading my rants – the Pan seared scallops with tapioca pudding, fried buttermilk chicken liver, bacon & poultry jus.  I was very hesitant on the chicken liver because I have had chicken liver in this rice dish my mom used to make for us during the winter, and I did not like it.  However, once again by battering and deep frying will always make everything taste 10x better!  I really loved the liver surprisingly.  The scallops were seasoned just right (unlike the over salted ones I had the following day at Mister A’s), but it was over cooked.  If only I could take the seasoning of these scallops, with the scallops from Mister A’s, I then would have the PERFECT scallop!  Still the dish was really enjoyable with the tapioca pudding, which made the dish fun to eat even more.

CP went with the following:

The Tekka Don – Marinated big eye tuna on a bed of warm Japanese rice with nori, served with miso soup.  Basically, the marinated tuna was like poke-style marinade, but sashimi sliced.  CP had a dried out, sore throat so this was perfect for him.  He lapped up both bowls and loved every bite of it.  I smiled as I watched him go at the food, reminding me of how his enthusiasm for food has grown so much in the last 3+ years we’ve known each other.

However, the one food group that I have still yet to fully bring CP over is…DESSERTS!

Coffee Creme Brulee

Strawberry Panna Cotta

Housemade Marshmellow with Berries

Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding

I tried 4 of the multiple options which also included cheesecakes, mini cupcakes, etc.   My favorite: the INTENSE coffee infused creme brulee!

All in all, this restaurant has done me well again!  I’ve been here for dinner and now brunch and both times were amazing.  Thank you to the cooking and waiting staff for an great afternoon and delicious food!

MoZen Bistro
3752 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89158

 


Cafe Hue – Quaint Dessert Stop

Thank goodness Cafe Hue came and took over that other froyo place.

Cafe Hue is next to the Nijiya market and is a nice little dessert cafe.  It serves coffee, tea, milk teas, and snacks.  What you really come here for is their snacks: waffles and crepes!

Although you will see froyo machines as you enter, I urge you to step past them and head to the counter.  From there, you will see displays and pictures of the possibilities: freshly made waffles and crepes!

I was initially worried that they were buying pre-made waffles and crepes.  However, my worries soon disappeared when I saw the batter for the crepe and the tray of dough to make the waffles.

My friend, her little brother, and I ordered the following (respectively):
– Red bean crepe with green tea gelato
– Nutella and banana crepe
– Dark chocolate dipped waffle w/ vanilla bean gelato

I tried my friend’s red bean crepe and it was good.  However, I think I am still partial to my favorite crepe combo (nutella, banana, and coco).

Red bean crepe with green tea ice cream

What really rocked my world was my chocolate dipped waffle.  The waffle was nice and soft, not quite like the Belgium waffles that I’ve had, but still delicious.  Since it was freshly dipped, the chocolate was still soft and melted in my mouth.  Once the chocolate harden, it added a nice crunch to the bite.  And the gelato was a very nice complement to it ($1.50 extra).

Dark chocolate dipped waffle w/ vanilla bean ice cream

All of our desserts came out to be about $5-7 each.  I would definitely add this to my quick, cheap dessert stop.

Cafe Hue

3860 Convoy St, Ste 106
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 571-7947



Eating around….Part II-B: Noshing around downtown San Diego (cont.)

The last I left off in my downtown portion of my noshing, I was saying how despite the high prices, Café Zucchero’s eggplant entrée is so much better than Petrini’s. That wrapped up my savory meals in downtown. Continuing in Little Italy, it’s time for the best part of the meal: dessert!

Cafe Zucchero has been the place I’ve gone to for gelato, if I’m in Little Italy, for awhile now. And each time I go, I always looked at their dessert case, thought about trying something, but never bought anything because I figure the gelato was enough. Anyway, their gelato is so meager compared to my new found love that gives me my gelato fix: Pappalecco.

1104723929_2f7c608b78.jpg

I first heard of Pappalecco in a post on Chowhound and it made it onto my ‘to visit’ list this summer. It took some time before I finally got there and the first time I went to look at the place, I didn’t even get anything! So not too long after the first visit, I went back for my first cup of their signature flavor and namesake of their gelateria – pappalecco (chocolate, hazelnut, and biscotti pieces). Intense, rich, and oh so smooth.

Pappalecco’s gelati taste exactly as the nametags describes. When you get the chocolate, it actually tastes like a fine chocolate bar. When you get the pear (or any fruit for that matter), it actually tastes like you’re eating the fruit itself! Pappalecco is the first place that gives me this experience when it comes to fruit gelati. Most gelaterias’ fruit flavors either taste artificial or they use very little fruit and load up on the sugar. Nothing’s worse than getting a sugar loaded gelato.

1065378170_05aa73435c.jpg

This was my medium cup of half pera and half mela verde (pear and apple). Since there are no artificial colors in their gelati, you can’t really tell the 2 apart by looking at it, but you can definitely TASTE the difference. It was as if I was eating a frozen pear and apple…delish! So far, the flavors I’ve tried (and loved) are: pear, apple, pappalecco, chocolate, amaretto, mixed berry, banana, caramel, strawberry, tiramisu, coconut, vanilla, and pistachio.

Speaking of which, when you go, you will notice their pistachio gelato lacks a certain something…a green color perhaps?? Do not be alarmed by its gray-ish color! That’s how REAL pistachio gelato is supposed to look like. If you see neon or any kind of green, know that it’s been artificially colored and you should back away immediately!

I find it sad and funny that most people would be turned off by the sight of non-distinguishable green pistachio gelato. During one of my trips to Pappalecco, a lady behind me commented with a tone of slight bewilderment and disgust, “Look at their pistachio! It’s a weird color…not green.” I couldn’t help myself and turned around to tell her, “That means there is no artificial coloring and it’s a good sign when it’s that color. Also, it tastes very good, you should try it.” Was that snobbish of me? I was telling the truth, so if does seem like it, whatever!…

Now that you know where to get good gelato, I will direct you to our final destination in Little Italy for sweets other than gelato.

Think “Mom and Pop.” What’s the first thing that comes to mind? For me, it’s “homecooked and homemade.” There is nothing more welcoming and warming then to see little old Italian ladies working behind the counter, making sandwiches to order and piping fresh cannolis for you. In the hustle and bustle of the touristy Little Italy, you will find this “homey” feeling at the Solunto Baking Company.

This little unassuming bakery is situated near some fancier restaurants that probably serve desserts too, but I would pass on the desserts there and head over to Solunto instead. They have a variety of Italian butter cookies and desserts (as well as savory breakfast and lunch items). I’ve tried the cookies…melt in your mouth buttery goodness:

1104724059_87f9a7b3e4.jpg

And their cannolis both in the traditional form and their cake:

1065378492_5312119216.jpg

The traditional cannolis are filled when you place your order and never pre-made. This way, the shells don’t get soggy from sitting on the shelves, waiting to be bought. No, Solunto has trays of empty mini and large cannoli shells in their dessert case. Order one and a lady takes the shell, goes over to the back counter and fills it with their sweet and smooth, tangy ricotta filling. Garnished with chocolate sprinkles and finished off with a light dusting of powdered sugar. Absolutely to DIE for…and after having that cannoli cake version (which they call a ricotta cake actually), you probably would die from the overload of sugar. I would suggest sticking with the traditional crunchy little tube of ‘just-enough’ deliciousness.

Now let us travel to a different country for the pièce de résistance of our noshing adventure in downtown. From Italy to France, there is nothing better than to end with a good cup of coffee and maybe some small, but unforgettable desserts, no?

I’ve made already two postings on Opera Patisserie here and here, but I had to make yet, another because there is just so much to rave about this place! I had the pleasure of meeting the man behind the desserts last week and I’ve noticed something. Good chefs, I mean truly talented chefs, are some of the nicest and most wonderful people to talk to. Theirry Cahez, I would say, is one of them.

 

1065378618_6acecd38e8.jpg

That day, I tasted their flourless chocolate cake along with a cup of Cubano (Thierry ordered it for the both of us, so I’m not quite sure if this was what I had). It has been a long time since I’ve had a good cup of coffee that was silky and rich but not too strong. Coffee can taste terrible, whether it’s too watery or burnt or flat, but prepared rightly and with great beans, it can even turn a non-coffee drinker into one. Screw Starbucks and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, if that is your experience with coffee, I urge you to go out and try small coffeehouses or cafes that brew fresh, organic coffee and TASTE the difference!

 

1065378894_ea393f4ec8.jpg

1064516403_0a9fc129b7.jpg

With my coffee, we shared the flourless dark chocolate cake that oozed out warm ganache when broken into. It was fudgy on the inside and soft on the outside. By looking at it, it would look like death by chocolate, but it’s not. Yes, it is rich in chocolate yet it didn’t feel like as if you just had eaten a 10-pound boulder. Probably because the portion is small and all of Opera Patisserie’s desserts are, yet you are never left unsatisfied.

To take home with me was a box of their assorted, large macaroons. The flavors in the box are not those that you can buy individually as minis at the café unfortunately because they were absolutely spectacular!

 

1064516869_c9d75fdfbf.jpg

I couldn’t wait until I got home to try them and when I tried the passionfruit & coconut one…my palate was sent to a tropical paradise. The sweetness from the coconut paired wonderfully with the tangy passionfruit. And as always, the macaroons were light and soft with a crispy outer shell that broke easily when bitten into. It was tropical party in my mouth, at my desk.

 

1064516979_907201d3fe.jpg

I’m not forgetting the other five flavors that were in the box! There was chocolate & cappuccino, pistachio & raspberry, pecan caramel & cinnamon, dulce de leche & eggnog, and margarita & key lime.

There is no clear favorite among the six. They all stood out individually and I loved some of the flavor pairings that you don’t usually see. The dulce de leche & eggnog is one, which I found works rather well even though I’ve never had eggnog before. But if there was eggnog that tasted like this macaroon, I would down it in a second!

The chocolate & cappuccino was good, a very traditional and delicious pairing, but not as fun. The pistachio & raspberry combo was a first for me. I’ve had pistachio with strawberry and cherry, and I now also enjoy raspberry with my pistachio. The pecan caramel & cinnamon was so-so, probably my least favorite. The margarita & key lime was very tangy, more so than the passionfruit, and loved the citrus.

And you already know how I feel about the passionfruit & coconut. On their website, in the pastries section, there’s a cake called the ‘Sapho’ and it has the same flavor profiles as this macaroon. I wonder what if it tastes the same, but I’ve never seen it at the café to my disappointment. I would love to try it if I ever see it. And I would like to extend my thanks to the creator of these wonderful and delightful treats! Heck, everything so far has been quite delectable and I hope his cafe will succeed because these rare establishments are true gems in the sea of mediocrity.

Well that wraps up our eating adventure in downtown. I always knew that downtown had a lot to offer but I rarely got the chance to be down here to try as much as I have this last couple of months. This will be the summer that I will remember most vividly because not only has my palate been delighted by so many flavors; it has also been pleasantly surprised many times. As many people have told me (as did Thierry, in fact) when I go to Europe next summer (hopefully), nothing will ever taste the same again. And here I thought my palate was already spoiled, well…it has seen nothing yet.

>> Part III: Unassuming Jewels

Pappalecco
1602 State St.
(619) 238-4590
 
Solunto’s Bakery & Deli
1643 India St.
San diego, ca 92101
(619) 233-0595
 
Ópera, Patisseries Fines
1354 5th Ave.
San Diego, ca 92101
(619) 234-0425

Thai Cafe buffet

My family and I decided to try the only Thai Buffet that I have ever seen anywhere. Thai Cafe in Clairemont has been there for many years, yet I’ve never set foot in it much less try it. So finally today, with a coupon for 75 cent Thai tea/coffee, we gave this place a try.

522652801_3424c79389.jpg

522645200_ab173f86a9.jpgWe tried both their Thai tea and coffee. The Thai tea was pretty good, not too sweet nor too watered down. The Thai coffee was decent, but it lacked some of flavors of a true Thai coffee. The best one that I’ve had is still a Thai restaurant in Rowland Heights.

Now as far as the food goes, one must remember that this was a buffet. And we all know how buffet food tends to lose what potential it might have had if it had been fresh due to it sitting on the steam table for some time. That was why I insisted that if we were to try this place out, we go during the weekday lunch rush. This way, the turnover rate is quite high. I was able to sample several items as it came straight out of the kitchen. Here were my plates…

522653061_27e45c5fe0.jpg My 1st plate had: (I don’t remember the actual names) spicy beans, tofu with a peanut sauce, fried spicy squid, and spicy noodle. The tofu and spicy noodle was hands down, the best tasting items, followed closely by the squid. The noodles had just the right amount of spice and the noodles weren’t sticky and cooked al dente. The tofu was good due to the sauce. I love peanut ANYTHING. Had it been fresh, it probably would’ve been even better. And during the course of the meal, I saw a new tray of spicy noodles being brought out, which I quickly went to retrieve some!

522645540_4170d8cd82.jpgHere was my 2nd plate: red curry, krab salad, some mushrooms, and more of the tofu. The red curry was very tasty. I didn’t get any of the chicken because I find that thai restaurants tend to over cook chicken til they are bone dry, but I did get the eggplant, which was delicious.

522653383_6814105e1f.jpgHere’s a plate of fresh pad thai that everyone shared. Even tho it was fresh, it lacked any flavor and just not worth eating, but my dad finished it off. According to him, it was one of the best…I guess we really do have different tastebuds.

522654279_7eb258967b.jpg

They had fresh spring rolls (as well as fried). On the buffet line, they were out so we asked one of the waiters if there was going to be anymore, the waiter went and asked the cook in the kitchen. Who then came out and told us that he’ll make us some right now and asked us how many we wanted! Wow, now that’s customer service! Well, as promised, the cook made the rolls and BROUGHT it to our table! It was so nice of them to do that. And the spring roll?…It was really good! The rice wrap was so fresh, and inside contained: cucumber, rice noodle, minced chicken, carrots, and cilantro. Yummy!

So my overall impression of Thai Cafe?….I would definitely come back, but only during their rush hours. When fresh, the food is fairly good. And at $6.99 for lunch, plus 75 cent drinks (w/ coupon from SDreader) it’s a steal! Give it a try!

Thai Cafe
4722 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, Ca 858-270-8303