Eat This Now: Hummus at Gogo's Pizza and Kabab

Categories: Eat This Now

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Photo by Charles Lam
Hummus in its natural habitat

Pizza gets top billing at Gogo's Pizza and Kabab, which is a little weird to me because their pizza is just so-so. No, if you ever find yourself at that weird little take-out counter in Costa Mesa, you want to be ordering from the "kabob" [Gogo can't decide on their preferred spelling] half of the menu.

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Eat This Now: Octopus a la Plancha at Broadway By Amar Santana

Categories: Eat This Now

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Dave Lieberman
Those curls on top are impossibly crispy potatoes.
Most octopus served in Orange County is so rubbery you could use it for dodgeball. It's like the chefs of OC fell asleep the day their mentors talking about the 3-30 rule (you either have to cook octopus for three minutes or at least thirty, otherwise it's rubbery).

Broadway by Amar Santana, however, is the home of the best octopus in Orange County, and we've said so many times before. There was never, however, photographic proof until now.

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Eat This Now: Confit & Carmelized Pork Belly at Marché Moderne

Categories: Eat This Now
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No doubt, pork belly and Brussels sprouts will be on many critic's lists of "Tired Old Restaurant Trends 2014." It's understandable. Little did we know during the bacon craze of 2011 that we'd need bigger, thicker pieces of pork to satisfy our cravings. Nor did we realize when we discovered our love for sprouts that we'd eventually move on to shishito peppers out of sheer Brussels boredom.

Sometimes it takes seemingly passé flavors to remind us that "classic" combinations are classic for a reason--like with the simple, albeit perfectly executed Confit & Carmelized Pork Belly at Marché Moderne in South Coast Plaza, which comes off like the fanciest ham dinner this side of a Newport country club.


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Eat This Now: Soft Tofu Soup & Bulgogi Combo at Dae Myoung Ok

Categories: Eat This Now

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Edwin Goei
It's tofu time!
In one sprawling Irvine shopping center, there are three Korean restaurants that serve soondubu jjigae, the Korean soft tofu soup that comes out in a boiling cauldron. All of them are worthy. All of them are good. But Dae Myoung Ok Korean Restaurant might just be its Methuselah. The walls are plain save for a few scuff marks. The servers are getting towards retirement age. But the customers are loyal. And when you go, you get a hot, tall glass of barley tea for free.

It's been here for as long as I can remember. Before the recent remodel of the center, its marquee simply said "Korean Restaurant", which should tell you it came from a time when there weren't as many Koreans in Irvine as there are now.


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Eat This Now: Monkey Balls at Chapter One: The Modern Local

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Photo by Gabacho Jeff
Insert teabag joke here...

I spend so much time at C4 Deli in downtown SanTana that I've neglected its big sister, Chapter One: The Modern Local. So I swung by the other week to have myself a full meal: crunchy jalapeño poppers, a gigantic hamburger (make non-Sriracha hot sauce available, Argie Jeff and Gabacho Jeff!) and more Friscos that a healthy liver should be able to support.

Dessert seemed impossible, but then I noticed a new item: Monkey Balls.

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Eat This Now: Tuna Musubi at Cream Pan

Categories: Eat This Now

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Edwin Goei
Tuna in; Spam-a-lot

Cream Pan has been and always will be known for its strawberry croissants. Many have pondered how three simple ingredients--custard, croissant, and strawberry--can come together and become the stuff of legend. If you've not tried it, you should go now and wait in line. It's the reason people go there in droves, and it always will be.

While you're there, you should know they do other things well, and not all of them sweet. Some items are savory, such as the onigiri we wrote about a few years ago. Also great: the crustless finger sandwiches stuffed with cucumber, tuna, and egg salad that are begging to be served at a tea party.

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Eat This Now: Coconut Strawberry at It's Boba Time

Categories: Eat This Now

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Edwin Goei
To the left, to the left; Coconut Strawberry in the cup to the left.
If you've been to any new boba shop or Asian drink/dessert shop lately, you've probably noticed that they like lists--Top Tens of their most popular items, to be exact. "It's Boba Time" (yes, that's the whole name), the new outlet of the drink chain that recently opened at The District in Tustin, has such a list, and when you go, you'd be foolish to choose anything outside of it. I did once and was stuck with a nearly $5 artificial-tasting and too-sweet smoothie that I had to force myself to finish.

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Eat This Now: Beef Murtabak at Roti Mama

Categories: Eat This Now

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Edwin Goei
Roti Mama's Beef Murtabak
No, another Malaysian restaurant did not just open in Huntington Beach. We still have the one, and it's essentially the same as Old Malaya Grill before it. The owner remains Nur Digiovanni, an ex-mortgage banker who used to moonlight as a caterer for the consulate general of Malaysia in LA. When she decided to open a Malaysian restaurant here a few months ago in the corner spot in a mini-mall Thai Gulf moved out of, Old Malaya Grill became only the second eatery in our county to serve the food of Malaysia.

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Eat This Now: Pork Chop Rice at Popcorn Chicken

Categories: Eat This Now

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Edwin Goei
Pork pork. Chop chop!

The new restaurant called Popcorn Chicken doesn't serve just those spice-dusted morsels of fried poultry you chomp in between sips of boba milk tea. The popcorn chicken is just a springboard to all manner of fried things the restaurant has behind its glass display case--things that include calamari hoops, fish, yam fries, fish cake, but also good ol' corn dogs.

If you want chicken, you can have just about every part--leg, skin, wing, butt, gizzard, heart, cartilage--some already skewered on bamboo sticks, the rest eaten by spearing them with one. To the Taipei transplant, these are snacks and quick bites common Taiwan's lively night markets, but Popcorn Chicken is essentially the equivalent of a county fair vendor like Chicken Charlie setting up a permanent, year-round shop.

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Eat This Now: Pho at Saigon de Pho

Categories: Eat This Now

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Dave Lieberman
Decent Vietnamese inside a mall? Are you phở-king kidding me?
It was with great trepidation that I sat down at a table at Saigon de Pho, a new Vietnamese restaurant in the Santa Ana Mainplace mall. It had all the hallmarks of a mistake in the making: the location in a mall so soulless that it could literally be in any city in America; the fancy décor with the wall of running water; the IKEA-chic tables and chairs; the American-style service.

I very nearly abandoned the effort to attempt it; I had already composed a snarky introduction to this place, this soup den in the extremely non-Asian wolf's lair.

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