Manhattan, NY: Inside Kaikagetsu, A Lower East Side Restaurant

 

Front of restaurant

The Lower East Side never ceases to amaze me, rich in the spirit of immigrant histories.  Known for hosting art galleries, nightlife, variety in eateries and fine dining restaurants representing cuisines from around the world, I was pleased to discover one of the latest additions to the community, Kaikagetsu.  The picturesque restaurant is located at 162 Orchard Street.   Passersby peak into the inviting dining establishment complete with white curtains draped over gargantuan open windows.  Meanwhile patrons savor bites and people-watch.

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Kaikagetsu strikes a balance between upscale and a rustic lodge feel, lending to a sense of calm and relaxation.   The romantically dark ambiance further accentuates a warm environment quietly whispering in your ear to get comfortable and enjoy what Japan has to offer.   Menu items are influenced by cuisine in Japan’s Hida Region.

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The superb service began with my guest and I given a choice from a wonderful set of sake glasses to drink from.  What I enjoyed the most was a particular sake. I asked the server to choose for me. He chose the Tenryo Hidahomare.  It is a junmai ginjyo sake crafted from Hidahomare rice local to the Hida District as previously mentioned the menu reflects cuisine from the region as well.   I found it to be divinely light and crisp just like I like it.

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Let’s get down to the food which included no shortage of scrumptious surprises.   The restaurant graciously provided a five course meal.   Lotus root chip showed up in my appetizer and entrée , adding incredible texture to my dish.  Honestly, I’d devour the chips with everything.   Quietly, I wrapped my brain around eating sashimi, usually I am no fan of sashimi when it comes to  Japanese fare; however, this selection was very fresh and really paired well with their homemade soy sauce. The tuna topped my list out of the three types of fish offered to me.  I sampled whitefish and salmon too.

sashimi retouch

Japanese curry is one of the most popular dishes in Japan.  Never have I had a curry at a Japanese restaurant so I didn’t know what to expect. The rich bold flavors and the different textures from the vegetables didn’t disappoint, pleasing to my tongue more and more with each mouthful.   My guest ordered the beef rice pot, a dish more on the sweet side and lacking contrasting flavors.  The artist in me, appreciated the artful and exquisite presentation of our dishes.   All and all, even down to the coffee tiramisu  drizzled with pear sauce, we enjoyed our experience at the Lower East Side’s Kaikagetsu.  I’d go back and I’d definitely order the beef curry again with extra lotus root chips please!

*Reservations placed at least 48 hour ahead, strongly suggested.

Written by Nataki Alexander-Hewling

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Phone(646) 590-3900

Click Here to Visit Kaikagetsu’s Website

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Malibu, CA: Neptune’s Net

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Photo by Crystal A. Johnson

Neptune’s Net is a unique seafood spot with a clear view of the Pacific Ocean, surfers and surfing in the not too distant view.  It’s favorite spot for motorcyclists riding up the Pacific Coast Highway.  It’s located at the Malibu County Line Beach area.

What’s on the menu?

Expect a lot of friend seafood served over fries and with a side of coleslaw.  The calamari is tender and delicious.

There are also a number of non-fried items on the menu such as clam chowder and ceviche.

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View from the deck at Neptune’s Net

 

Dining is available both indoor and outdoor.  It’s a casual spot and you can enjoy the beach before or afterwards.

Website

https://neptunesnet.com/

Nov-March Hours:

Monday-Thursday: 10:30a-7p

Friday: 10:30a-9p

Saturday-Sunday: 10a-7p

April-Nov Hours:

Monday-Thursday: 10:30a-8p

Friday: 10:30a-9p

Saturday-Sunday: 10a-8:30p

 

A Taste of Nigeria in the San Fernando Valley- Toto’s Restaurant

In major city like Los Angeles it may be hard to believe how rare it is to find African Cuisine besides Ethiopian,  Toto’s offers a the West African country of Nigeria

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There’s an interesting strip mall which hosts a taste of the world from Thai to Ramen to Middle Eastern to Mexican to Nigerian.  The African cuisine is the rarest to find in the area.   I got a chance to experience Jollof Rice, Moi Moi (Moin Moin) a spicy preparation of goat and my friend ordered Pounded Yam. 40530028_10156169188571865_4940957736260075520_n

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Manhattan Beach, CA: Homie Restaurant

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Homie is a restaurant I want to root for but there are some shortfalls in one major area…the food.   The cuisine by no means is bad or offensive but blah.  It doesn’t have a wow factor.  And a restaurant’s decor should not overwhelming exceed the core, the actual culinary dining experience.  My friend said his sandwich was bland and he would never dine here again.   So why would I want to root for this restaurant?   The location, location is great and the decor is eye-catching with the menu on the wall that even a 90-year-old could read the bold big letters.   The menu ideas are as ambitious as the beautiful decor and warm environment.  But no matter how chic the restaurant may be or how friendly your staff may be, the food has to be the best thing going in a restaurant.  Homie is riding in the mediocre lane. If you want a basic salad, a healthy sandwich and if you think healthy means no flavor then Homie is a safe choice.

Now on a more decadent menu item, dessert.   I ordered an $8 ice cream sandwich called “The Buddy”.  This classic treat takes on a not so classic spin covered in bacon and chocolate sauce.   Vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two perfectly soft chocolate chip cookies.    The dessert did not fail visually but the bacon choice needed to pop it didn’t offer much to the dessert but calories.   Perhaps a more smokey or salty bacon might have added to the flavor profile.   39501077_10156137043491865_6786184868985307136_n.jpg

The next item I tried was the Lavender latte.   The latte had a perfect foamy heart but the lavender notes didn’t shine through so the beverage came across as no more than an unflavored latte.

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If I wanted to simply hang out and pass the time then Homie is a great spot.   But if I wanted to dine on great food, I would go somewhere else.   I hope the restaurant can elevate their flavor and seasoning to help Homie be an amazing experience.   I haven’t met more obliging and friendly staff than the people there so I hope they continue with great servers.

The website for Homie: https://homiemb.com

Open for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.  They also have a coffee bar.

OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK

1140 Highland Avenue, Manhattan Beach

310-546-4663 (HOME)

A Comic-Con​ Foodie Pass

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A Comic-Con, Foodie Pass, don’t we wish? Because after all, you gotta eat.   After those long lines and people watching those varieties of ambitious costumes of caped crusaders or out of this world heroes, it is time to sit at the table with a friend for some delicious bites of food from the city of San Diego.

My friend and I debated whether the self admittedly described, “Comic Book Nerd” would dare leave downtown to hit the beaches in the surrounding area and dine out.  I said yes they would.   My friend said no that wouldn’t.   You be the judge.  Nevertheless, whatever the answer, I have a go-to plan for you for dining and drinks.

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Let’s start with the downtown area cuisine, what is central to Comic-Con and San Diego visitors.   The Water Grill is where we sat down to dine.  Our tall, long and communal style table creates an opportunity to chat with strangers or pretend you don’t notice them.  A friendly bearded waiter greeted us and took our orders.

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I picked out the Manilla clam dish cooked in a saffron broth and chopped nuggets of chorizo.  It burst with flavor and a hearty French Baguette accompanies the dish it to sop up all the juice.  Each clam was a tender.    The other dish ordered, was the crab cake.  Unfortunately, with the experience of living in Virginia and Maryland where crab cuisine rule, the crab cake didn’t win us over.  It wasn’t offensive in taste.   Nor did it suffer from filler.   For many people in the area, the representation may be all they know.  Thus, I will simply say it was for me and I’ll venture to say not for any with a taste for east coast crab cakes.  This crabcake may be California typical.

Later in the evening, we caught the end of happy hour at a San Diego staple for brews, Karl Strauss Brewing Company.   Albeit small, the appetizer menu ranged from the run of the mil to innovative.   With items like Duck Fat pretzels.  I was so tempted but not in the mood for a bready carb.   For my friend, I ordered the classic boneless buffalo wings and for me,  I opted for a unique concoction of watermelon and feta, topped with peppers, pickled red onions drizzled with olive oil and Tajin seasoning.   37582223_10160511220930368_9134781580391219200_n

In the morning my friend to me to the Broken Yolk, which he told me is a San Diego breakfast staple.  I absolutely did not enjoy my breakfast.  The best item ordered was the messy caramel latte.  I ordered standard blueberry pancakes, eggs, and sausage.  I took one bite into the sausage and the oil splashed on my arm.  The eggs had no flavor.  The hash brown was more like hash burnt and the pancakes were flavorless.    The Broken Yolk clearly have people who love the establishment as it started in 1979 in Pacific Beach and has spread to locations throughout the area.   In fact, we walked past one near the Water Grill in downtown San Diego.   My experience is a subjective take.  I found the food flavorless, greasy, and cold.   My name is Crystal Jay, MCCN’s Food Scene Editor.

Escape Downtown

Where to dine outside of the downtown area when you visit San Diego:

 

 

MCCN Interview with La Nina del Mezcal interview

Interview from 3rd Annual Taste of Mexico:

Dave Miller: How did you get into doing Mezcal?

Cecilia:  Well um, kind of a long story but just to put it short… It was a trip that I took to Oaxaca about four or five years ago and the it was the first time I was there taking in the culture, taking in the people and the taste of Mezcal.  It occurred to me that people in Mexico were not appreciating it as they should so I started going back to Oaxaca and learning about Mezcal.  It is very extensive.  And then I started writing about it.  And that’s how the blog started and people started calling me la nina del Mezcal.  (Watch Interview for more)

 

Newport Beach, CA: Lighthouse Bay View Cafe

Newport Beach, CA – November 3, 2016 – Newport Beach’s newest waterfront culinary chef-light-housedestination, Lighthouse Bayview Café, is pleased to debut new winter menus for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, incorporating fresh flavor profiles and unique interpretations on classic dishes. The winter dinner menu also welcomes new nightly specials, courtesy of Executive Chef Ryan Sumner. The new menus unveil as the restaurant nears its milestone one-year anniversary in December 2016.

The Lighthouse Bayview Café winter dinner menu highlights Chef Sumner’s newest creations including a seafood ceviche with a “virgin mary mix,” sautéed brussels sprouts with Spanish chorizo, cioppino in a spiced tomato lobster broth and red wine braised short rib with parsnip puree, oyster mushrooms, horseradish and gremolata.

Each night of the week, Chef Sumner presents a menu of select specials starting at just $7.95. Features include an all-night happy hour to take the edge off of Mondays with brats and beers, crispy fish taco Tuesdays, burger and beer Wednesdays, linguini and clams on Thursdays, fresh catch of the day on Fridays, rosemary roasted prime rib Saturdays, and Chef’s special BBQ dinner on Sundays.

“Growing up in my parents’ market in Costa Mesa, I experienced firsthand the seasonal change of fresh ingredients,” commented Executive Chef Sumner. ”My inspiration for the winter menus came from that early education and the beach and boating culture here in Newport. And the nightly specials are for the locals.”

The winter lunch menu features new items like the “all grown up” grilled cheese with melted muenster, smoked gouda and parmesan on sourdough paired with creamy basil tomato soup. Brunch goes big with decadent offerings like the banana pecan bread pudding French toast topped with a salted caramel drizzle and whipped cream. The menu’s newest cocktail, the Buddy’s Bloody, is an oversized mason jar bloody mary with all the fixings, inspired by a legendary Newport Beach Lifeguard whose decorated career spanned 47 years.

Newport Beach welcomed Lighthouse Bayview Café to the new Marina Park on December 9, 2015. Since opening, the restaurant has offered breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week with happy hours Monday through Friday and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. The waterfront destination boasts outdoor dining, breathtaking views, dock ‘n’ dine capabilities for boaters, and full service catering year round.

Lighthouse Bayview Café is uniquely located on the waterfront of Balboa Peninsula’s Marina Park within a 24,000-square foot sailing and community center that encompasses a park and multiple picnic areas adjacent to a 23-slip marina. The Café features a dock space for boaters to access the park from the water. Offering guests 180-degree harbor, mountain and city views, access to the sand, the Café’s modern beach ambiance and innovative menus are distinctive and unmatched on the Balboa Peninsula.

Located at 1600 W. Balboa Blvd, Newport Beach, CA 92663.

Web: lighthousenb.com
Facebook: facebook.com/lighthousenb/
Instagram: @LighthousecafeNB

The Lake House – LA- Is Not Just Par for the Course Dining

Evchef-geore-and-chef-pauler had a meal so good you had to meet the chefs, I just did. The Lake House – LA – Nice to meet you Chefs George and Chef Paul.   This is not an obvious choice for dining as it is situated at Woodley Lakes Golf course but if you are golf,  work up an appetite  then crave a meal, you won’t be disappointed with this restaurant.   Check their schedule of Facebook for hours and events because even if you don’t golf, this restaurant is worth the trip.   Eat indoors or outdoors.   I dined outdoors and found it soothing to look out over the golf course as I sat at the nicely shellacked and rustic picnic table.

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This was an inadvertent dining selection.  After walking four miles on the golf course, we were famished.  I wasn’t expecting much more than to extinguish my hunger.  Yet, quite the contrary happened.  I  took two bites of an incredible pulled pork sandwich brimming smoked flavor, my taste-buds totally impressed.  I offered a bite to my dining companion.  I could tell by his facial expression which spoke before he did that he had just eaten something more than ordinary.  He instantly mentioned how good it was.   I once review a bbq place where the made a simple statement, “If it is good you will not need sauce.”   If you ask for the sauce, it’s a crutch or habit because the flavor of this sandwich stands on its own.  You don’t need sauce.  Chef Paul knows a thing or two about BBQ.  It is a passion of his.  If you come to visit his restaurant, he confidently suggests that you try the tri-tip.   Now, I learned this after having no more room in my stomach to eat but I did devour the delicious pulled pork sandwich.

Van Nuys, CA: Colombian Cuisine at Meson Criollo Grill Restaurant

On a Sunday afternoon, I walked into joy my friends at Meson Criollo Grill Restaurant.  The husband is from El Salvador and his wife a Colombiana.  She would order for me and plate could have been three dinners for me.   We started with these piping hot crisp empanadas.   I would go back for those alone.   Then my hearty meal of steak, egg, rice, beans and plantains were the feast.   When in pseudo Colombia you drink as they do so I order a Colombian soda.

As for the decor, it seem casual.   I was so into my food and company that I barely noticed.  The restaurant is located in a strip mall.

– Crystal Johnson, MCCN Editor

Meson Criollo Food