Ichiza - (Las Vegas, NV)

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Ichiza is probably one of Vegas's best kept secrets for those that are willing to go off the strip.  A 5-10 minute cab ride (depending on what side of the strip you are on) to Las Vegas's Chinatown.
Along with a regular menu, Ichiza lines their walls with lots of specials.  All the really tasty items are on the walls.
Tako wasabi - raw octopus with wasabi.  Looking at this, you can't see the wasabi but biting into the slimy, crunchy pieces of tako, you definitely taste the wasabi kick. 
Spicy corndogs.  This dish sounded appealing, but actually the batter was a little dry and bland.

Yakitori with chicken breast.  Perfectly cooked chicken with a charcoal smokey flavor.
This is one of my favorite dishes. There is a slight spiciness to this traditional fried rice that comes the jalapeno flavor and the white pepper.
Buta kim chee - stir fry sliced pork with kim chee.  This is a common dish seen at many izakayas, but I think Ichiza makes one of the better ones I've had.
Honey toast is THE dish to get here.  No matter how tempted you get with all the other delicious dishes offered here, you MUST save room for this.  A quarter loaf of white bread that is toasted in the oven, then topped with vanilla ice cream, and drizzled with honey.  The combination may sound a little weird, but its absolutely delicious.  It's possibly something you can easily make at home, but there is something about asian white bread and asian ice cream that makes it that much more delicious.

Address:                        Ichiza
                                              4355 Spring Mountain Rd.
                                              Las Vegas, NV
Type:                                japanese/izakaya/casual

Chomp worthy:        jalapeno fried rice
                                               honey toast
                                               buta kim chee
                                               miso cod

Popular Chomps:   miso cod, honey toast              

Random facts:         open till 3a


Secret Pizza Spot inside the Cosmopolitan

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I love secret eating spots.  My little sister recommend that I try the secret pizza spot while in Vegas.  This place is so secret that most of my friends who are Vegas regulars never even heard of it.  True to form, you cannot find this on the directory in The Cosmopolitan.  All I knew is that it was located on the top floor, take the escalator, and its down a long hall.  Going by these small hints, I sleuthed my way to the top floor of the hotel.  What a tease -  I saw people with slices of pizza and I could smell the pizza, but I wandered aimless around this center area for a bit looking for some other hints.
A small, discreet hallway!  (I actually thought that maybe this place would be so popular I would see crowds of people walking in and out of the pizza place.)
Looking inside you can see that its decorated with various album covers, but its very unnoticeable from the outside sitting area.
After walking through the long hallway, there is a small, very New Yorkish pizza parlor (but cleaner!).
The limited menu lists the basics.
Both slices and whole pies are available to eat there or to go.
Following in Vegas style gluttony, I ordered OOE (one of each).
The most basic slice you can get - the cheese.  The key slice to knowing how well they make a pizza.  Slightly crispy crust with gooey cheese.  Tasty!
Mushroom - which is my favorite to order after knowing that a place can make a proper cheese pizza.  This one had thin sliced mushrooms sprinkled over the cheese sliced.  Delicious.
The white pizza seemed to be the popular slice here.  A slice of pizza with mozzarella and dollops of ricotta cheese.  I wasn't a fan of this one, mostly because I don't really like ricotta cheese that much, especially in huge doses.  This slice was probably my least favorite out of the four.
Of course, lastly the combination slice with chunks of sausages.  I would have to say the slices here are much better than I expected.  My preference from best to least favorite:  mushroom, cheese, combination, white.
After pigging out on four slices of pizza, I was yearning for something sweet - cheesecake.  Apparently not a popular item, the staff had to run to the bakery (?) and pick up some slices for my order.  Nonetheless, it was a well made cheesecake.  Perfectly dense texture with a distinct top layer and crunchy graham cracker crust.

Address:                            Secret pizza spot (Inside the Cosmopolitan)
Type:                                    Pizza

Popular Chomps:       white pizza

Chomp worthy:            cheesecake



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Kare-Ken is a tiny curry spot that just opened in the Tenderloin.  I hurried to try this spot because 1). I love Japanese curry, and 2).  I want to support the new food spots in the Tenderloin.  Its situated in a "hot" area - meaning pretty deep in the Tenderloin and by newly up and coming area (lots of bars/lounges in the area).  I don't usually comment on the decor of a food spot, but this decor is well done - reminded me of Japan.  You can either eat in (there are about 7-8 spaces) or take out.  They have a small to go window, but I was able to walk in and order to go.

A random spur of the moment side order of tempura onion rings.  The crunchiness of these tempura rings survived the to go box and the ride back home - impressive and yummy.
The curry here comes in levels of spiciness - mild, hot, extra hot.  I chose hot just to get a sense of what their "medium" choice was.  I found it to be slightly spicy, which is fine for Japanese curry.  Too hot tends to take away from the flavor of Japanese curry.  One thing to notice about this Japanese curry is that it is very smooth.  There are no vegetables mixed in with this curry.  The taste of this curry is unlike any Japanese curry I've ever tasted.  Although, most Japanese curries served in Japanese restaurants are mixed straight from the box (most people don't realized that).  I think that Kare-Ken makes theirs fresh.  Its a little sweeter and unfamiliar, but its quite good.  I rarely order chicken katsu because the chicken is always dry, but I did taste test it here.  The chicken here is so tender and juicy.  It's not dry at all!  Also, the curry to rice ratio is well done here.  No clumps of leftover white rice that you don't know what to do with here.
After eating some of the chicken katsu, I had no qualms about eating the tonkatsu.  It was fried perfectly and the meat was flavorful and tender.  Their house made pickled cabbage was delicious, but I was a little disappointed about was they did not have the traditional red tsukemono (pickled vegetable).

Address:                           Kare-Ken
                                                 552 Jones St.
                                                 San Francisco, CA

Type:                                   Japanese

Popular chomps:      katsu (pork & chicken) curry

Chomp worthy:           tonkatsu and chicken curry
Random facts:           Their after 10p menu offers curry dogs and katsu sandwiches!


Heidi's Pies Restaurant

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Pies are synonymous with holidays.  Heidi's Pies are a local favorite around the Peninsula area.  A 24 hour diner, but the popular items are the pies. 
The pies varieties include creams, and fruits.  If you don't want to take a whole pie to go, they offer slices as well.  Each slice is pretty generous - a quarter of a pie!
Yup, pies are made fresh here.
Chocolate cream pie. 
Peach pie.  Unfortunately, the freshly made peach pies are
Blueberry sour cream pie. 
Banana cream pie.

Address:                           Heidi's Pies 
                                                 1941 S El Camino Real
                                                 San Mateo, CA
Type:                                   diner, dessert, American

Popular chomps:     Fresh peach pie ( offered only June - September)
                                     Blueberry sour cream pie
                                                  Banana cream pie

Chomp worthy:        Blueberry sour cream pie
                                                  Banana cream pie

Random facts:          opens 24 hours


Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot

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The weather is starting to get chilly in the Bay Area and winter is in the air.  One of the most common things in the winter for me to eat is hot pot.  It can really hit the spot.  Little Sheep is my family's absolute favorite  Hot pot is pretty self explanatory - you are give a list of items: meats, mushrooms, various veggies, and tofu.  Mark the ones you want then dunk, cook, and eat.  
Two types of broths are available for simmering:  spicy and regular.  Little Sheep differs from other typical hot pots because the soup is herbal based with cloves of garlic, green onion, chilis, and various Chinese herbs.  I prefer the spicy broth, which I think they add chili oil to the regular broth.  I don't find it too spicy for my taste, but it does have a nice kick to it.  A lot of people swear by the broth and like to take it home after dinner - my family being one of them. 
Mixed meats platter - I prefer just the lamb slices.  Notice how thin the slices of meat are, like deli meat.  This allows for quick cooking.  Make sure you watch your meat in the pot!  Sometimes it floats away and settles to the bottom only to be scooped up 30 minutes later and its overcooked.
Mmm.. fish balls.  An absolute must when getting hot pot.  This is one of the first items that goes into the hot pot because it takes longer to cook.
I'm a mushroom lover!  This medley of mushrooms covers all my favorites - enoki and shitake.
After you scoop out your food, strain into bowl, and eat!  If you are a true hot potter, you know that veggies and noodles go in last after everyone is done eating up everything else.

Address:                         Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot
                                               215 S Ellsworth Ave
                                               San Mateo, CA 94401 

Type:                                Chinese, Soup
Chomp worthy:      Spicy Broth
Random facts:        they have a full bar


Fried Turkey @ Kentucky Fried Chicken

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For all of us who are a little curious about a fried turkey, but either too lazy or too scared to fry one ourselves, you can preorder one at Kentucky Fried Chicken.  They come one size only (10-12lbs) and are available for pickup Thanksgiving Day.  Supposely frying a turkey seals in the juices and keeps the meat more moist than a traditional oven baked preparation.  Surprisingly, I noticed that the turkey was not oily at all - notice the semi clean tray it came in.
The drumstick was a little smaller than what I expected, but the meat was flavorful and juicy!
After a little tussle with the turkey, the wing finally broke free.  Lots of tender, juicy meat here and some perfectly crackling, crispy skin.


Address:                        KFC
                                              various locations
Type:                               American

Popular chomp:   Deep Fried Turkey

Chomp worthy:    Deep Fried Turkey
Random facts:      only offered during Thanksgiving and Christmas


Big Daddy Ramen Bowl @ Hapa Ramen

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Hapa Ramen has been making quite a stir around the Bay Area, but since its a truck it takes me more time to track it down!  Plus, sometimes I find it more fun to happen to stumble upon food trucks when I'm walking around.  Hapa Ramen happened to make an appearance at the SF Farmer's Market one day so even though the weather was warm I ordered a bowl of ramen.  I can't say I had high hopes for this ramen going into it because I've found through my ramen slurpings in the Bay that ramen is better outside the city.  That being said, the thought of a ramen truck did excited me because it brought back memories of Tokyo when people would stumble out of the bars at night and small carts would open up and sell ramen. 
The Big Daddy Ramen included slow-cooked pork, fried chicken, vegetables, and slow cooked egg.  I'm no stranger to ramen.  I've eaten at almost all the ramen shops in the Bay Area and some in New York.  Even knowing that Hapa Ramen was trying to "evolve" their ramen, I was not a fan.  The broth is much too sweet.  So sweet that you can smell the sweetness when you get your cup.  The taste is like carmelized vegetables and not enough pork or salt flavor, which defines a proper ramen soup base.  It was oily, but not in the pork fatty richness way.  The fried chicken in the ramen reminded me of the ramen at Katana-Ya, but it was soggy and dry.  The noodles were mushy and not al dente.  A poor rendition of ramen.    I just cannot understand the hype.
Address:                      Hapa Ramen Truck
Type:                               Japanese, Ramen

Chomp worthy:      nothing

Popular dishes:     Big Daddy Ramen Bowl with slow cooked egg


Hing Lung

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I rarely go into SF Chinatown these days, but when I do I try to stop by for either a Saturday or Sunday lunch at Hing Lung.  One of the few restaurants left still standing from my childhood.  I think almost every Chinese kid in the Bay Area has nostalgic memories of this place.  A Saturday or Sunday would usually be a family grocery shopping day in Chinatown followed by a stop here for lunch.  It used to be so popular tables would be almost an hour wait, but these days I don't think I've seen it over 30 minutes.  The trick is to go after the lunch rush around 1p or early around 11a.
Hing Lung's famous yau tieu and other fried dishes- I don't even know what it really is called in English.  I've seen it called Chinese donut and fried stick.
The menu in Hing Lung consists of quite a bit of items, but you can see by other tables that there are only a handful of items that people order.  Jook (Chinese Porridge) is one of them.  My favorite, tang ji jook (seafood porrdige).  There is something about the porridge here that is so distinctly delicious.  It has a slightly sweet aftertaste and the consistency is perfect.
Another popular porridge here is the Thousand-Year-Old-Egg porridge.  The salty egg gives a slight contrast to the sweetness of the porridge.
These fried donuts are seen on almost every table.  They are used to dunk in your porridge for a slight soak and then a crunchy bite.  You can see them being made fresh in the front window and they are made to order.  This guarantees they won't come to your table soggy or oily.
Another popular dish and my absolute favorite dish here - ja leurng.  Besides their deep fried items, Hing Lung is also known for making their rice noodle dishes fresh.  This dish combines both!  The freshly made donut is wrapped in a slightly sticky rice noodle and drizzled with a little soy sauce and sesame oil.  One bite gives you a chewy, but crunchy delight with a sweet aftertaste.  As a kid my dad would order 2 plates of these for my sister and I because we couldn't share.

Address:                  Hing Lung Restaurant
                                        674 Broadway
                                        San Francisco, CA

Type:                          Chinese, porridge, noodles

Chomp worthy:  yau tieu, porridge, ja leurng            


Pearl's Deluxe Burgers

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Sometimes you are just craving for a good (cheese)burger... Nothing fancy, just good quality meat and cheese and a side of crispy fries.  The Post street is Pearl's second location - I'm not sure if they were trying for a safer location, but the location on the corner of Market and 6th doesn't seem much safer than their Tenderloin location.   
I mustered the courage to test out this spot, but ordered to go after seeing a couple bums and ghetto people wander in and proceed to hassle the workers.  There are a couple tables here, if you don't mind the eccentric people 6th Street brings.
Besides some beers on taps, Pearl's also offers a wide variety of milkshakes..Pina colada flavored?!  Deciding to stick with something relatively traditional, the mint chocolate chip shake was properly made with a nice, thick consistency.  Look at how the contents of the shake coat the straw.
Twice fried fries! Reminds me of KFC.  Crispy with a nice extra coating of crispiness - addicting enough that I want to eat the whole box, but used strong willpower to remind myself that I would regret it afterwards if I did.
Pearl's also does a two choice mix of sweet potato fries, onion rings, or regular fries.  I chose the onion rings and sweet potato fries mix.  The onion rings were battered in thinner strips (which I'm not a fan of) and soggy.  The sweet potato fries weren't crispy either.  The whole box kinda resulted in a soggy mess.
Regular burger (1/4lb) with American cheese ordered medium rare.  So juicy!  This burger is a solid traditional burger.  You can really taste the freshness of the meat.  The beef must also be grilled with very little oil because you don't get that greasy, nasty feeling you get after you've indulged in a burger.
Kobe beef burger with cheddar cheese, also ordered medium rare.  I'm not sure why one is pinker than the other...  I was thinking that this burger would have more flavor than the regular meat since it was made with "Kobe" beef, but it tasted pretty similar to me.  I probably could have done a blind taste test and not noticed the difference.  Also, in a slight brain fart when ordering, I ordered cheddar.  I'm usually not a fan of cheddar in a burger because I find the cheese taste too be too sharp and overpowering when I'm eating a burger.  This cheddar was a lot more mild and the taste of the meat still shined through.  Also, another plus about Pearl's burger is that the bun still stays intact even to the last couple bites.  No bread falling apart here. The thickness of the bun seems to soak up the juices well without deteriorating the bread.

Address:                     Pearl's Deluxe Burgers
                                           1001 Market St.
                                           San Francisco, CA

Type:                             American, burgers

Chomp worthy:     burger

Pass:                               sweet potato fries, onion rings

Random facts:      Pearl's Phat Burger was featured on Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate