The Bomb at Ton-Chan (San Gabriel, CA)—CLOSED

Before the crush of food preparation for osechi ryori, five of us headed over to Ton-Chan for lunch. A previous review of it is here. Instead of the usual Sapporo miso tonkotsu ramen that others ordered, I went for one appropriately called The Bomb, basically a miso tonkotsu ramen with spicy ground pork. As noted before, the addition of chile paste, optional with all three kinds of tonkotsu ramen (shio, shoyu and miso), is a modern introduction to appease the public’s growing appetite for spicy dishes. The Bomb is another departure, a synthesis of Japanese and Chinese styles. Even without adding the chiles, the ramen is lustily hot, though not anything approaching Ton-Chan‘s six-chile noodles. The same rich tonkotsu broth is here, along with slices of baby bok choy, slivered green onions and half of a perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg (firm whites, runny yolks) that Ton-Chan does so well. In short, this is a tasty alternative to the standard soup noodles.

The Bomb

The Bomb

Ton-chan (**NOW CLOSED**)
821 W Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776

Lunch at Ten Ten (West Covina, CA)



Recently, after completing our shopping at Marukai Market for osechi ryori ingredients, we’d typically have lunch at Rutt’s, a restaurant inside the market near the southern entrance. This was the branch of Rutt’s doing business in Culver City. For some reason, it shut down operation since I was here last December and has been replaced by Ten Ten, a Japanese restaurant.

It took us a little while to adjust to the look of the new place. The dearth of food pictures, which were plentiful when the spot was Rutt’s, didn’t help us decide if we wanted to stay. What few pictures were displayed seemed to suggest that their specialty was donburi, bowls of rice with various savory toppings. As it turned out, it was probably more for marketing purposes because the menu leans more toward sandwiches (with Japanese fillings) and curry rice.

So after overcoming our initial hesitation, we figured we’d give this place a shot. Continue reading

Osechi-Shopping at Marukai (West Covina, CA)

Every year, our family celebrates the New Year by preparing osechi-ryori, the traditional holiday food served in Japan and continued here in America by Japanese immigrants. My mother used to spend two whole days before the new year to make all the goodies, as did my wife’s family. There are certain dishes that have come to characterize osechi over the years. Being third generation Japanese-Americans, we no longer make some either because of their effort to make or because we’ve long since lost an appetite for them. Still, we are trying to make a few that we remember eating when we were much younger, thanks to cookbooks and the internet, a sort of mini-revival, you might say. Then, there are other dishes that are not traditional at all, crossovers as a consequence of living in a cultural melting pot, that sort of mirror our own contemporary family that extends beyond our Japanese roots. Foods like teriyaki chicken, char siu, Chinese salad, wontons and tamales are more of a reflection of where we grew up than where we came from.
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Dinner at Monsoon East (Bellevue, WA)

I’ve reviewed Monsoon East in a previous post. Located in Old Bellevue on the Eastside, it (along with the original Monsoon) is the best Asian fusion restaurant in the Seattle area. If there is any single reason why we don’t come here often, it is that the restaurant seems more appropriate for a special occasion or a mecca for the after-work happy hour crowd of professionals who work in the downtown Bellevue core. Not that there is anything wrong with either. After all, Monsoon East’s happy hour menu is pretty darn good.

Our special occasion tonight was to celebrate two birthdays.

I love hot pots. Not only do they look cool, simmering in attractive earthware vessels, but are relatively healthful as they don’t rely on fats for cooking. Monsoon’s hot pots are excellent, such as their one with caramelized catfish whose virtues I extolled in the past. On the appetizer list tonight was Clay Pot Manila Clams. The thick, complex tomato sauce, flavored with pieces of pork and shrimp sausage, was not only terrific on perfectly cooked clams but lip-smacking, slurped directly from the shells. The clams were garnished with sliced jalapeño chiles, ngo om and lime aioli, more like a citrusy yogurt than an emulsion tasting of garlic. There was nothing left of the sauce after we spooned the rest of it over steamed rice. Simply wonderful.

Clay pot clams

Clay Pot Manila Clams

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Dinner at MokSHA Indian Cuisine (Bellevue, WA)

Lamb Karaikudi with naan (photo taken at home)

Lamb Karaikudi with naan (photo taken at home)

After an enjoyable afternoon at the movies (we saw “Silver Linings Playbook”), we were trying to think of a place to eat around Bellevue Square. The thing is, there hardly are any appealing restaurants in what is arguably the hippest shopping complex in all of western Washington. I know people who live in Seattle who drive over THERE to do serious shopping, in no small measure attracted by the free parking. But a destination restaurant? Hmm.

As we were heading back to our car, we noticed MokSHA, an East Indian restaurant that opened recently.

MokSHA took over the space previously occupied by Luciano Ristorante on Bellevue Way, virtually underneath the skywalk that connects Lincoln Square to Bellevue Square. The formality conveyed by the linens, floor-to-ceiling curtains of white, gauzy fabric and black minimalist interior quickly disappears when the friendly wait staff greets and serves you, though the service was somewhat pokey tonight with less than a full house of customers.

We started off with Arugula Salad, a generous portion of baby arugula mixed with feta cheese and toasted cashews on top of pappadum. The curry-garlic oil was barely detectable on an underdressed salad. On hindsight, tamarind and mint chutneys, accompaniments listed on the menu, failed to appear.

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Dinner at Shanghai Café (Bellevue, WA)

We’d been going to Shanghai Café for a long time, shortly after it first opened in (I believe) 1998. So that’s almost fifteen years that we’ve patronized what has become our go-to Chinese restaurant. Over the years, we’ve brought friends here. Almost without exception, they too have enjoyed the food. My daughter and son-in-law, both vegetarians, love this place, though their visits unfortunately (for them) are limited to when they’re in town. So, for inexplicable reasons, it’s surprising that I haven’t submitted a post on this restaurant until now. To make up for sins of past omission, this review will be longer than most.

The interior is not very large, an L-shaped dining room that seats no more than 50 people, I’d say, located in a strip mall in Factoria that has limited parking space. It is a family-run operation.

If available, we will often start off the meal with an appetizer of Spicy Cucumbers (☆☆☆½), thinly sliced and marinated in a sweet vinaigrette with red pepper flakes. The cucumbers are addictive, a nice balance of texture, sweetness and tartness.

Spicy Cucumber

Spicy Cucumbers

One of their specialties is hand-shaven noodles (dao xiao mian), of which there are two kinds: wheat and barley green, the latter which has never registered a “green” taste to me and therefore more of a novelty than a distinct flavor. Chalk it up to my unsophisticated taste buds. Thicker than pulled noodles and irregularly shaped, shaved from a block of dough with a sharp knife or cleaver into boiling water, these noodles take center stage with their girth, chewy texture and wheaty taste. The hand shaven chow mein, in various combinations of meat and/or seafood, with generous amounts of vegetables, is really good. The vegetarian version (☆☆☆) is surprisingly savory with two kinds of mushrooms, eggs, napa cabbage, green onions, carrots and snow peas.

Vegetables with Hand Shaven Chow Mein

Vegetables with Hand Shaven Chow Mein

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