pierydys: (Default)
Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.

The one with the chicken nuggets.
It all started off, as most mealtimes do these days, with my toddler wanting french fries. While he adored them (what toddler doesn’t?) before he ever set foot in the USA, he discovered an entirely different level of availability while we were in...

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pierydys: (anime)

Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Wow, look what I found lurking in my old to-post folder! The last batch of photos from my London work trip back in spring of 2011. Yeah, the one where it became my mission in life to order steamed dumplings from every place within delivery range that made them. Seriously, I've got the pictures to prove it. It was an obsession. Just thinking about the woeful lack of delivery dumplings here makes me sad. It's almost criminal. Why do you hate me so, Finland?

Stopped by a nice little Thai restaurant after work my first night and… guess what I ordered.
Dumplings in soup AND steamed dumplings.
Shumai from another place on another evening.

Shrimp hargao from the same place as the shumai.
Bonus shrimp crispies! I think this place was my favorite. I have their menu still somewhere.
And one night, I gave in and just got fried seafood noodles. Because they used actual large prawns and not tiny baby shrimps like in Finland.

This is what I get for not making notes — the closest sushi place to where my hostesses lived was also pretty good. I miss ikura :-(
The Warrington, when it was still owned by Gordon Ramsay. Who sold it later that year. Hey, we were curious. It was pretty inside.
The food was… okay. Not memorable, but better than the questionable meat pie from lunch. Which I actually remember better. I guess that says something.

The girls took me to this adorable little fusion dimsum place one evening. I think these are sweet buns?
Fruity drinks. The one on the right even has basil seeds. I can barely find lemonade in restaurants out here.
These might be the duck ones.

Classic charsui bun with barbecue pork.
The squid ink dumplings! So cool. They stopped making these, it seems :-(
Random squid, I think?

Fancy shumai. There were twists on all these dumplings, I wish I remembered :-I
Pretty little desserts. Mine is the mango pudding, of course.
Ping Pong Dimsum! That was the name. That’s why I took a picture of the menu :-)

Thought I’d try some fast food sushi as well, since I’ve never done the conveyor belt thing before. There was a Yo!Sushi at the mall, so I went.
This stuff was actually a half step better than Sushi Boy, the fast food sushi place we went to in Cali. Well, maybe the plates helped.
That, and they did hand rolls on demand. I miss having a sushi place.

Sweet shrimp :-D One of my all-time faves and hard to come by in non-shrimp producing places.
The conveyor belt! All the plates had time stamps on the lids, which probably helped with the freshness thing a lot.

pierydys: (Default)

Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

So, we have a new local sushi joint. “Local” being a relative term, since it’s around an hour’s drive into the nearest large-ish city. But we go there on a fairly frequent basis to visit friends anyway, so it’s just a happy opportunity that we also get a decent sushi fix on the same trip. In fact, the first time I visited this restaurant was with those friends, on what was probably my second trip to Finland. They were telling me about this place that was pretty good, except for the strange sweet mayonnaise that they put in some rolls… to which I responded that Japanese mayonnaise is on the strangely sweet side to begin with, so that was in all likelihood what they were tastiing. We decided to visit and settle the matter in person and I ended up having an excellent mixed sushi plate that would have been right at home in Cali. I then spent the next two years trying to drag the boy to this place, but it didn’t really happen until last month. He ordered their largest plate, declared it very edible, and a consensus was reached that we would have to make this a regular thing.

Kado Sushi is located in the picturesque old Turku kaupahalli (market hall), across the aisle from an excellent fishmonger and wedged into a space — narrow and long — reminiscent of a train car. Simple bamboo decor keeps the room from seeming cluttered and large wall windows let you watch the market shoppers bustle by while you sip soothing green tea (or something stronger from their well-stocked imported alcohol section). The guys in the kitchen are all Finnish, which gave me pause when I first came here since there’s an unspoken rule in Cali that you only go to sushi bars with immigrant Japanese chefs if you want the good stuff. However, these guys were definitely trained well by somebody with a formal Japanese culinary education, because everything that came out of that kitchen was fresh and perfect. This wasn’t some ghetto Todai buffet microwave sushi, these guys are serious. They also get extra points for successfully using local fish, which can be somewhat difficult because the majority of Finnish fish come from brackish water rather than the staple fatty ocean fish.

The “big plate”. The piece of salmon nigiri on the far left got cut out because the boy couldn’t pull the camera back far enough :-P This area is known for divine Atlantic salmon, so I needn’t go on about how generous the piece was nor how perfectly buttery it tasted. Moving along. There was also arctic char, tuna, shrimp, squid, burnt salmon, octopus, pike perch, whitefish, surf clam, eel and sweet egg. And the obligatory California roll across the top, of course. Really, the only thing that could make me happier is if they had uni and raw sweet shrimp. However, I have a feeling that sea urchin and amaebi might be a bit too delicate for any but the most expensive restaurants to ship and serve. Sigh.

More pictures of the interior and menu behind the cut…

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pierydys: (Default)

Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Right. So I can probably count the number of times I’ve been to a McDonald’s in Cali over the past several years on one hand. Usually when I am craving soft serve and there’s no frozen yogurt place nearby. The last time I ordered actual food from there, I can’t even remember. Not that 99-cent Chicken McNugget Tuesdays don’t bring back very fond memories of university roommates and scrounging in couches for spare change, but… let’s face it, there’s a stigma attached to eating at McD’s if you’re not a cheap student or a parent of rugrat-aged children. They cater to a very specific crowd and anybody who wants a decent hamburger is better off going to Carl’s or In & Out… or, if you have the time to sit down, Fuddruckers or Fatburger. Burger chains are numerous and stratified to fill certain niches, and there’s little room for them to step out of the customer range they’ve boxed themselves into. Not so much the case hereabouts, either in Finland or Europe in general (from what I’ve heard).

McDonald’s has only one major competitor here, the nation-wide (Baltic-wide?) chain Hesburger, known for its creative use of rye buns and tasty range of sauces. And here’s the thing, if you’re a local and you’re told to choose between buying a burger from a locally-owned chain or one run by the Americans, you’re probably going to buy local unless the other guys are offering something different and interesting. So fast food evolution happened.

Despite having visited Finland several times before moving, it never occurred to me to have lunch at McD’s until earlier this week, when I figured it’d be good to try out, if only for comparison’s sake. I avoided the place like crazy back home, so what could be so different, right? Let’s see…

This is our local McD’s. There is not a jungle gym or giant hamster tube in sight. Everything is pristine. The building is surrounded by these picturesque, well-tended planters of flowering shrubs. There is a meeting courtyard in the front (which doubles as an outdoor cafe area on nice days, I bet) and decorative wooden lattices break up the light coming in through the plate glass walls. But what’s inside…?

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pierydys: (Default)

Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

I last wrote about Spinner’s about this time last year and at the time, I didn’t do much justice to their food presentation. Which really is a shame on me, because the way they set things up when you dine in is much closer to a restaurant than most places with a walk-up counter. To be fair, this was because we lived so close that we often wanted to eat at home and so would get everything to-go. We did take the family in to eat a few times, though, and I remembered to bring my camera with me when I did. So here are the pictures I promised to put up, way back when.

Apologies for the partially eaten appetizer photo — some hungry tablemates got to the dish before I could whip the camera out in time! :-D More often times than not, when you sit down to eat, the kitchen sends out free sample appetizers for you to pick at. I’m a huge fan of their baba ghanoush (eggplant dip) in the foreground there — which is saying a lot since I usually hate eggplant in my food. I forgot what that finely-chopped spicy tomato dip is called (I think it has nuts in it), but it was really good  as well, though a bit too hot for me to have more than a few dips.

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pierydys: (Default)

Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

There’s a certain hierarchy of breakfast restaurants.

On the bottom, in great profusion, you have the mediocre chain pancake places that serve dependable-if-slightly-rubbery plates of fried batter coated in flavored corn syrup. You don’t feel bad about going to these in your dumpiest t-shirt and PJ bottoms because — let’s face it — if you’re there, it’s either an ungodly hour when nothing else is open or you’re desperately hungry with nothing else edible in the fridge and the laundry’s probably not been done either. Kind of the same reason you’d be at a McDonald’s, come to think of it. My friends and I mostly found ourselves at these places during finals week, for example. These places serve their purpose, but never venture off the breakfast menu unless you want reheated, reconstituted pain on a plate.

Somewhere in the middle, you’ve got independent waffle houses. These are great for going to with a group of friends, usually to celebrate the end of finals and the return of laundered clothing. They are fewer in population but you’ve probably passed a few in your locality, if you just stop and think about it. It’s worth the small drive to find a place that can poach eggs without delivering you a fresh bowl of salmonella.

Then, on the top of the heap, you’ve got the glorious omelette parlor. This is a destination breakfast. People go to omelette parlors for Sunday brunches, often wearing pretty little chiffon tops that bespeak a weekend free of cares. They are usually decorated with homey, rustic touches like metal pitchers and crafted wooden roosters. They usually offer you free coffee if you have to wait for a table. I have only come across three omelette parlors in my wanderings across California, and had to do a fairly extensive Google to turn up the one we now frequent. It requires a 20 minute drive and the occasional pileup in the waiting room, but neither we nor the sometimes large groups queueing to be seated are there because there’s only year-old mustard left in the fridge. You only take people you genuinely like and enjoy the company of to an omelette parlor.

chester drawers

This is the Costa Mesa Omelette Parlor. You wouldn’t know it from the outside, though, because it’s got a giant sign across the top saying “Chester Drawers Inn” thanks to the now-closed bar it shares a lobby with. You have to stop and look closer to see the colorful lettering in the windows that point you towards one-stop breakfasty goodness. They apparently never felt the need to put up bigger signs or otherwise advertise because they’ve already got as much business as they can handle from word of mouth, thankyouverymuch. And with friendly service, generous plates, and reasonable prices, you can kind of see why they’ve been around since the early 80′s being as inconspicuous as they are.

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pierydys: (Default)

Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

The boy has been bemoaning the lack of proper kebab places in Orange County for years — pretty much since he first arrived on our shores. We do have a few, but they’re spread sparsely and often of a very fast-foody quality. Just about the only other alternatives are fancy Persian restaurants, which are more plentiful and very good, but with equally higher price tags. I didn’t really understand what the fuss was about until I started going home with him on the holidays and went to the Turkish kebab place that his family frequented. I was completely puzzled by how something like that could manage to not show up back home in such a purportedly ethnically diverse area. Then earlier this year, one did!

Literally just one block away from us. I was just driving down the street one day and had to do a double take because the sign was brand new and I couldn’t really believe what I was seeing. It was like they were psychic. We went into Spinner’s Turkish Kebab shortly thereafter (okay, practically the first weekend we saw it) and have been regulars since.

The first time we walked in, they were weeks away from having their grand opening and were in the middle of taking pictures of their plates for the menu while we ordered. The place had served kebab in its previous incarnation as well, but had undergone a change in ownership with the newly arrived Turkish chef manning the kitchen. The boy happily recited what few Turkish phrases he knew and got a glowing reception from the pair behind the counter.

We’ve met many members of the extended family that staffs it over the months, and everybody has been immensely kind and welcoming — far more than you’d expect at any restaurant, let alone one with a lighted menu posted above your head. The place is sparkling clean and has surprisingly classy and accommodating seating for a corner fast food retail slot. We are unfailingly offered yummy cardamom scented hot tea whenever we visit. When you eat in, they arrange everything on pretty plateware, a nice change from styrofoam picnic platters at the mall. We were very delighted and immediately worried for their survival in such a mediocre location, especially since their prices were a little higher than fast food fare.

Happily, they have been around for several months now with no lowering of quality and an increasingly larger stream of customers coming and going. There’s even a review from a guy who drove up from San Diego on Yelp. Pretty darn cool. What we typically order, behind the cut.

Read the rest of this entry »

pierydys: (Default)

Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

The boy has been bemoaning the lack of proper kebab places in Orange County for years — pretty much since he first arrived on our shores. We do have a few, but they’re spread sparsely and often of a very fast-foody quality. Just about the only other alternatives are fancy Persian restaurants, which are more plentiful and very good, but with equally higher price tags. I didn’t really understand what the fuss was about until I started going home with him on the holidays and went to the Turkish kebab place that his family frequented. I was completely puzzled by how something like that could manage to not show up back home in such a purportedly ethnically diverse area. Then earlier this year, one did!

Literally just one block away from us. I was just driving down the street one day and had to do a double take because the sign was brand new and I couldn’t really believe what I was seeing. It was like they were psychic. We went into Spinner’s Turkish Kebab shortly thereafter (okay, practically the first weekend we saw it) and have been regulars since.

The first time we walked in, they were weeks away from having their grand opening and were in the middle of taking pictures of their plates for the menu while we ordered. The place had served kebab in its previous incarnation as well, but had undergone a change in ownership with the newly arrived Turkish chef manning the kitchen. The boy happily recited what few Turkish phrases he knew and got a glowing reception from the pair behind the counter.

We’ve met many members of the extended family that staffs it over the months, and everybody has been immensely kind and welcoming — far more than you’d expect at any restaurant, let alone one with a lighted menu posted above your head. The place is sparkling clean and has surprisingly classy and accommodating seating for a corner fast food retail slot. We are unfailingly offered yummy cardamom scented hot tea whenever we visit. When you eat in, they arrange everything on pretty plateware, a nice change from styrofoam picnic platters at the mall. We were very delighted and immediately worried for their survival in such a mediocre location, especially since their prices were a little higher than fast food fare.

Happily, they have been around for several months now with no lowering of quality and an increasingly larger stream of customers coming and going. There’s even a review from a guy who drove up from San Diego on Yelp. Pretty darn cool. What we typically order, behind the cut.

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pierydys: (Default)

Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

A little over two years ago, the boy and I were driving to the supermarket when we noticed a new sushi place had sprung up across the street from it. The slot used to be a quiet little Japanese lunch place, but apparently it underwent a change of ownership and reopened as a cute little sushi place decorated with bamboo and tasteful swatches of purple fabric. We like Japanese food of all persuasions, and were still looking for a local restaurant to frequent, so in we went. They haven’t been able to get rid of us since :-)

The unassuming but increasingly well-known Sushi Murasaki of Santa Ana. Housed on the bottom floor of a nondescript business center in a quiet and not-too-inhabited part of the city. Unrelated to any chain places by the same name, owned by the chefs behind the counter and managed by a very nice lady who now can afford to hire hostesses to do the job we’d gotten to know her from. We usually drop in every other week or so, almost always sit at a table for two across from the bar (so we can wave to the chefs), and most of the staff knows our “regular” order before we have to say it. It’s like the local diner, only much less greasy. If there’s one thing that can be said for our dining habits, it’s that we’re quite loyal.

Recently, we saw something new pop up on the menu. While we typically order a pre-set selection of sushi, we do occasionally order omakase when we can afford it. It’s always fun to see what the chef comes up with and I’m willing to believe that they have a better ideal of what’s good that day than anybody else. So now they’ve started doing a five-course meal option for $35ish that’s best termed as “beginner’s omakase” — it’s not as pricey as the real version, features a lineup of the “greatest hits” and still gets mixed up a bit depending on what’s in stock. We’ve done this twice and are quite fond the variety it presents. Some piccies behind the cut of our latest trip there ordering this item.

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pierydys: (Default)

Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

A little over two years ago, the boy and I were driving to the supermarket when we noticed a new sushi place had sprung up across the street from it. The slot used to be a quiet little Japanese lunch place, but apparently it underwent a change of ownership and reopened as a cute little sushi place decorated with bamboo and tasteful swatches of purple fabric. We like Japanese food of all persuasions, and were still looking for a local restaurant to frequent, so in we went. They haven’t been able to get rid of us since :-)

The unassuming but increasingly well-known Sushi Murasaki of Santa Ana. Housed on the bottom floor of a nondescript business center in a quiet and not-too-inhabited part of the city. Unrelated to any chain places by the same name, owned by the chefs behind the counter and managed by a very nice lady who now can afford to hire hostesses to do the job we’d gotten to know her from. We usually drop in every other week or so, almost always sit at a table for two across from the bar (so we can wave to the chefs), and most of the staff knows our “regular” order before we have to say it. It’s like the local diner, only much less greasy. If there’s one thing that can be said for our dining habits, it’s that we’re quite loyal.

Recently, we saw something new pop up on the menu. While we typically order a pre-set selection of sushi, we do occasionally order omakase when we can afford it. It’s always fun to see what the chef comes up with and I’m willing to believe that they have a better ideal of what’s good that day than anybody else. So now they’ve started doing a five-course meal option for $35ish that’s best termed as “beginner’s omakase” — it’s not as pricey as the real version, features a lineup of the “greatest hits” and still gets mixed up a bit depending on what’s in stock. We’ve done this twice and are quite fond the variety it presents. Some piccies behind the cut of our latest trip there ordering this item.

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