Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Imperial Garden

I'm back suckas, 8.3 lbs lighter! I ate a grip during my pregnancy and am still eating quite a lot now too. Shut it, I'm BREASTFEEDING! But I was way too tired (and lazy) to post during my pregnancy and the first couple months of my newborn's life. I made a new year's resolution to "try" and only eat out once a week. Week 3, so far so good.

Our first meal of the new year was one of my favorites: dim sum. Oh how I love all the variety of mini delicious dishes. Unfortunately, Fresno doesn't have too many yummy options but Imperial Garden does the trick for all the cravings and it's the best in town.

Imperial Garden actually offers dim sum all the time but only serves (meaning the carts wheeling around the tables for you to gawk and choose) on Saturday and Sundays from 11am - 1pm. Dim sum is not only food but an experience so come during the madness of the weekend mornings to experience dim sum at its finest. Get there early because the crowds gather before the restaurant even opens. If you get there too late, you'll get the cold, picked over goodies.

Take a seat, clean off your plate, tea cup and utensils (pertinent only for the fellow germ-a-phobs), pour some tea, and pick the items that seem appetizing as they wheel by. Below are some of my faves:
Har Gau (steamed shrimp dumplings)
This is a dim sum staple. I prefer this over siu mai (pork dumplings) any day. A transparent dumpling dough filled with succulent, tasty shrimp and bamboo shoots. I love the chewiness of the dough and the sea salt goodness of the shrimp dipped in my soy sauce and red pepper condiment.

Glutinous Rice Dumplings w/pork filling
One of my absolute favorites. Deep fried balls of glutinous rice filled with saucy, sweet pork. Think of mochi, Chinese style. At first bite your greeted with the crispy exterior then the warm chewiness sticks to your teeth while the saucy pork hits your tongue. DROOL.

BBQ Pork Pastry
This use to be my all time favorite. I think it still might be but there's a lot of competition. Sweet flaky goodness enveloping chinese style bbq pork. Can life get any better?!

Rice Noodle Rolls with Shrimp
I love rice noodles. I love the chewiness, the light sweet flavor of the rice and the fact that it tastes good with almost anything. Wrap a fat rice noodle around some shrimp and top it with a light soy sauce and you get this delish dim sum dish.

Some other favorites that I didn't picture because I was too busy devouring them are: black bean spare ribs, taro croquette, egg custard tarts, sticky rice. I've gone to dim sum MANY times and every time I find something new to try and add to my list of favorites. I like going with a group of 3-6 people. Any less, it's hard to justify ordering so many dishes (especially to my husband). Any more, you have to more than double most dishes and if the dish is a miss, you'll have a ton left over. And most dishes come with 3-4 pieces; 3 pieced items are usually cut in half.

Imperial Garden has three price levels for their dishes starting at $2.95. Most dishes fall under the first and cheapest category. The pricier items are the big ticket items such as crab. As you order from the carts, the servers stamp your category card. If you've never tried it, go check it out this weekend. Fresno is a great start for a dim sum newbie because everything is on a smaller scale (size of restaurant and menu) and the servers are friendly.

Imperial Garden
6640 North Blackstone Ave
Fresno, CA 93710-3510
(559) 435-4406

YUM Meter: ** (only because there are really great dim sum places in SF & LA, but for Fresno it's a ***)

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Pregnant Lady's Food Journal

I'm pregnant with my second child and I have to admit my pregnancy cravings this time around have been quite bizarre. With my first, I craved very healthy Japanese food and fruit. I love spicy foods and could not stand a tiny bit of spice with my first. Now with my second, I'd like to have a side of habanero peppers with each meal and a cold glass of Pepsi. Huh? I normally can't stand soda, the fizz really hurts my throat. In my current condition, I could down 12 ounces of cold Pepsi without even pausing for a breath. I also do not particularly enjoy chips when I'm not pregnant. I've gotten very familiar with the chip aisle as of late. Did you know they now make Flamin' Hot Lays-AWESOME! I thought it would be nice and funny to journal my latest cravings or meals since I don't scrapbook. So if I'm good about posting, there will be several bizarre food postings from a very pregnant blogger.

Today's lunch:
Doused with
The lunch of pregnant champions!
YUM Meter: ** :P

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mây's Cafe

My favorite phơ combo is tái gân (rare steak & tendon) $4.99
I love Vietnamese food. I think it's my favorite Southeast Asian cuisine. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of good places to get it in Fresno especially compared to Westminster, CA (little Saigon of CA). But I've made due and found a couple of decent places. My favorite dish is phơ but I haven't really found a place worthy of my affection or $$ in town. My bro and his lady like Mây's Cafe so we finally went and tried it. They serve Vietnamese food in typical Asian cafe style with pictures of most of the food on the walls. Compared to the other Vietnamese restaurants in the area, this place is far cleaner, not clean by western restaurant standards but your shoes don't stick to the floor and your chopsticks don't stick to the tables-that's always a good thing. My favorite Vietnamese dish is by far phơ: vermicelli rice noodles in a beef broth topped with your choice of beef cuts. They also serve it with bean sprouts, onions, cilantro, basil, chili pepper, mint, green onions and lime. Some people like to add all, some or none of the things to their soup. I personally add almost everything except basil and mist witch I like to eat fresh on the side. The phơ at Mây's is nothing exceptional but it's not horrible either. The broth is probably a combo of instant and/or packaged broth that they most likely cook with some beef to give it some authenticity. 

Bún Thit Nương with Egg rolls $7.25 
My husband's favorite Vietnamese dish is bun: cold vermicelli rice noodles mixed with fresh cut greens (lettuce, cilantro, bean sprouts) served with your choice of BBQ meat and/or egg rolls with spiced fish sauce. My husband enjoys BBQ pork with egg rolls. Too bad none of the Fresno places we visited serve bun with thin vermicelli noodles because it tastes a whole lot better. Instead it's served with more spaghetti like rice noodles, too thick in my opinion. Like their phơ, their bun is nothing exceptional. Their egg rolls are made with the flour won ton skin and not the traditional Vietnamese rice paper which makes them heavier and sub-par. 
Combination Fried Rice $6.99
My husband and I really enjoy their combination fried rice, the Chinese sausage make it yummy and special but other than that it's your standard cafe style fried rice with all the meats and canned vegetables (veg-all is it?).  

Cơm Sươn Bí Trưng (Sauteed Pork Chop, Mixed BBQ Pork, Skin Style Pork, Steamed Egg w/steamed rice) $6.50
I normally really like pork chop with broken rice because it's filling, tasty and cheap but this one was bad. It was served with steamed rice not the special broken rice the skin style pork had no flavor and the steamed egg was way over cooked. Very disappointing. 

Mây's Cafe is not the yummiest but it works when we need a Vietnamese food fix with our toddler because the food is decent, the place is clean and the service is fairly friendly.

Mây's Cafe
2327 N Fresno #102
Fresno, CA 93703
(559) 225-7990
M-Sat: 7am-9pm

Yum Meter: *

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck

YAY! I think my morning sickness is over and I'm finally able to finish my Hawaii entries and then I'm back to food blogging about good ol' Fresno. This post I'm most excited about it. This meal was so good and I remember it so fondly, too bad the thought of anything from the sea was nauseating the last couple of weeks. If you love shrimp, garlic and butter this is a MUST. This place is definitely worth the drive to the North Shore. It's approximately an hour drive from Waikiki and is located in the town of Kahuku.  There is only one road so keep your eye out for this sign.  
This is what all the commotion is about, the scampi. OH MY!! We were bummed we wasted $12 on the hot & spicy once we took our first bite of the buttery, garlic goodness of the scampi. Even if I was on my first date with Adam Levine, I would still order this and make him suffer through my garlic breath and kisses. This is SO dang good that I'm bummed it's only available in Hawaii. The shrimp is cooked perfectly, not over cooked and rubbery. And the sauce, they're generous with the sauce but I could have seriously had a gallon of it but my heart thanks me everyday that I didn't. Giovanni's, I miss you!
Giovanni's Shrimp Truck
83 Kamehameha Highway
Kahuku, HI 96731

Yum Meter: ***

Friday, January 16, 2009

Waiola Shave Ice

I've been stalling on finishing up my Hawaiian food journey because I honestly haven't been able to stomach much of anything lately let alone write about it. But I'm finally back and feeling pretty good. Let's hope the chapter of morning sickness is behind me.
Sweet azuki beans and chewy rice balls are smothered in "I could never get enough" condensed milk. This is an Asian dessert dream. This is also a sweet, easy snack for the birds who anxiously wait for the next sucker to order this beauty so they could swoop in for the kill. I'm not kidding. These birds are aggressive and will do whatever it takes to get their beaks on as many azuki beans as they can. By the looks of their pudgy, fluffy bodies, they're doing quite well for themselves. So once you order this: duck, cover and run as fast as you can to your car to enjoy in safety (leave the windows up). We went with some friends and all ordered something different and all combos were good but mine was exceptional. I'm normally the type that likes to try new things all the time but I'm sticking with the azuki bowl. I could try the fruity flavors from my hubby and toddler.

Waiola Shave Ice (2 locations to serve your shave ice needs)
2135 Waiola St.             525 Kapahulu Ave.  
Honolulu, HI 96826         Honolulu, HI 96815
808-949-2269                808-735-8886

YUM Meter: ***

Monday, December 8, 2008

Yakiniku Hiroshi

So I've been stalling to post about this place because every time I look at the pics to post my mouth and body yearn to eat it again. If you're staying in Waikiki, you DEFINITELY need to hit this spot. A bit pricey but worth every penny.

A Korean style BBQ restaurant done the Japanese way. The Korean part: order your desired cuts of meat and cook it on the grill in front of you. The Japanese part: you pay for all the additional fixins such as rice, kimchee, and salad.  The other special Japanese component of this restaurant is the quality of the beef. By far the best beef I've had in the United States. The beef is fresh, never frozen USDA prime. I didn't know US beef could be so marbled; I thought that only existed in Japan.

For dinner they offer two chef's dinner which includes various cuts of meet and some fixins for a set price. We chose the cheaper (if you can really call it that) dinner. I should have wrote down all the cuts but I was starving and had a cranky baby who wanted nothing to do with this yakiniku house. But I think I recall most of the reasons why we picked our dinner besides the price: beef tongue, rib eye, kalbi short rib, Hiroshi's salad, kimchee, daikon kimchee, namul, rice and dessert.  Honestly, I think I recalled the full dinner (see mommy-hood doesn't kill all your brain cells). The set dinner cost us $50 per person, which was a really good deal considering that price included tax and tip, and there was no way we could get all those cuts and the sides for that price a la carte.  

Our meal was orgasmic. Since enjoying Kobe beef in Kobe, Japan, I have not enjoyed beef this much. It made me appreciate why I'm not a vegetarian and why I could never be one. The meat had enough fat for it's juicy goodness to be enjoyed even if you over cooked it (easy to do with a toddler). My baby is not too fond of beef but she got one taste and the whole restaurant could hear her say, "MORE pulease!" Maybe that's why I was still hungry. I believe there were two dipping sauces which is more than a Korean joint. One was a ponzu type and the other I think was a ginger based sauce. Both sauces were good but I love ponzu. Hiroshi's salad was good and refreshing but the portion was only enough for one person so the salad didn't make it past the first cut of beef which was the tongue. OK, I know, you're thinking GROSS, but seriously the Japanese know how to cook and use beef tongue to where you would never know you were eating it unless you were told or are familiar with it. Seriously, don't knock it till you try it.

For a Japanese restaurant, the namul and kimchee were not bad. They even served us kim (toasted seaweed) which my daughter enjoyed. Back to the beef, I was gobbling and enjoying this stuff so much that I hardly touched my rice and was seriously contemplating ordering another dinner and throwing our budget out to sea. The beef was seasoned with salt and after grilling it however you like, you put this hot piece of juicy meat in your mouth and lead your taste buds to ecstasy. Each bite releases more juice and some delicious fat. It's so tender you're teeth hardly have to work then you swallow and let your tummy enjoy a bit of what your mouth just did.

Hiroshi also serves other items to be grilled that I've never had grilled before. Ddeok was a pleasant and tasty surprise. The kabocha was good too. After the beef love making, we were served a dessert mochi ice cream and homemade candy wafers. I didn't think anything could properly conclude this meal but those wafers were DANG good. It was a thin crisp of toffee with various nuts. They sell them for a hefty price tag and I so wanted them but hubby said no, they're too expensive, which they were. A small bag of maybe 6 pieces (about the size of a nilla wafer but square) cost $12. I wish money grew on trees so I could eat as decadently to my mouth's content. They give you a small bottle of water on your way out which was a nice and memorable ending to our fabulous meal.

Side dishes: kimchee & daikon kimchee

Beautiful rib eye & kalbii seasoned with salt. Check out the marbling!

They had high tech grills that sucked up the smoke pronto.

Yakiniku Hiroshi
339 Royal Hawaiian Ave.
Honolulu, HI 96815

YUM Meter: *** (off the charts yummy!)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ono Hawaiian Foods

OK so November was a bust for blogging but definitely not for eating. My family went on a vacation to Oahu in November and Hawaii has some good eats. First YUM-O spot hit was Ono Hawaiian Foods. A girlfriend and I stumbled on this place the very first time I visited Hawaii back in '98. We were drawn to hole in the wall eateries which are hard to find along the Waikiki beach with all the beach front hotels. This state treasure is a quaint little hole in the wall that serves up Hawaiian dishes like kalua pig, lau lau, chicken long rice, haupia, etc. I stop by here every time I'm fortunate enough to visit Oahu. This post is a little light on the pics because I was too hungry to snap pictures before I devoured my meal which consisted of: chicken long rice (pictured below), pipikaula (Hawaiian dried beef), lomi salmon, poi, and haupia. I really need to stop blogging on an empty stomach during my lunch hour. 

Chicken Long Rice Plate $12
My chicken long rice was as good as I remembered but everything else didn't live up to my previous visits. Not even the haupia which is my FAVE. Everything was over salted and my haupia lacked coconut flavor, actually it lacked flavor period. Maybe it's because I ate a haupia malasada from Leonard's right before we sat down to eat. Or maybe it was just a fluke night. 

Ono Hawaiian Foods
726 Kapahulu Ave.
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 737-2275

YUM Meter: * (but usually ***)