Cha Cha Cha! A San Francisco Delight

You know sometimes when you have a delicious meal... not just good - amazing?! The kind where you keep thinking about the food later on that day... and the next day... and the next week? Well, this meal at Cha Cha Cha on Haight St. in San Francisco was one of those meals! I only post on Los Angeles restaurants, but I had to make an exception to showcase this fabulous food. I didn't have my nice camera with me, so these iPhone pictures will have to suffice, ugh. This happens to be one of my father's favorite restaurants and because I don't eat Cuban food too often (actually, like not at all) I was eager to try.

When you sit down, order a pitcher of sangria. Just do it.

Side of rice and beans. Man - did these pack some flavor! We ordered two of these for a table of 5 and there might have been one kernel of rice left...just maybe.

Who doesn't like calamari? Well, being the picky eater that I am - I don't! But the rest of my family does and they devoured this plate in a few minutes.

I'm a huge fan of fried plantains so I was quite happy when my sister ordered these for the table to share. FYI - the menu consists of individual dishes and tapas. We did a combo of both - no complaints here.

Simple cheese quesadilla. Like... how can you go wrong with a tortilla and melted cheese? Always good, always a fave.

Now, ladies and gentleman... this one dish was so outstanding, I just don't think I can put into words just how good it was. This is the chicken paillard AKA, my new favorite dish. This tapas dish that was supposed to be shared became MY dish. To show you how cray I got, I mixed in some rice and beans to soak up all that delicious sauce.

Empanada with a side salad. Yum.

Specialty lamb dish that my father got. Incredibly tender and the garlic mashed potatoes were quite delicious as well.

So, anyone who knows me knows... that I love tres leches cake! If you have never had it, I recommend trying it ASAP. See that missing bite? Yeah, that was me. 

1801 Haight St.   San Francisco, CA (415) 386-7670

Red Lion Tavern: A Silverlake Gem

Who doesn't want to sit outside on a Saturday and eat German food...right? Well, I'm always down. The Red Lion Tavern serves classic German food...and it is delicious.

This picture doesn't really do this pretzel justice. It is crispy on the outside and doughy on the inside...baked to perfection. This is no theme-park rubber pretzel. The mustard has a bit of a kick...but, is a must try.

This is how the pea soup arrived at the table. Let's ignore the hilarious presentation and let me tell you that my father was raving about the flavor. Apparently, the bread tasted great dipped in it.

A huge piece of smoked pork, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. Stand out dish.

2366 Glendale Blvd.   Los Angeles, CA 90039   (323) 662-5337

The Time Has Come...To Try a Cronut

Although my large sweet tooth is evident and I usually jump at the chance to satisfy it, I found myself slacking on the ever-popular cronut trend. I've seen hundreds of pictures on Pinterest and other blog posts and trust me, they've all caught my eye, so I'm not sure why I haven't hunted down this infamous treat yet.

Apparently in Manhattan, there are hour-long wait lines wrapped around the block (are you kidding me) and limits on how many you can purchase (uh, what). So when I stopped into my local bakery, walked up to the counter and saw, to my surprise, a tray of cronuts glistening beneath the glass case, you can sure bet that my eyes lit up. I didn't have to hunt down a bakery in Los Angeles, I didn't have to wait in line for an hour and I didn't have to limit my order. Since I was picking up some breakfast treats just for my mom and myself, I decided to show some constraint and purchased one, solitary cronut...and a bear claw and some donuts too, woops.

I wish I could say I was blown away and all of my expectations were exceeded, but I am saddened to report that my cronut experience was sub-par. Perhaps my too-easy acquirement of this pastry robbed me of the "magical" experience. Maybe, this local bakery was jumping on the trend band-wagon and didn't take time to perfect it. Whatever the reasons, I don't see myself entering the cronut-obsessed world anytime soon. I guess everyone will be happy to hear this - one less person they have to wait behind in line. You are welcome.

 [Cronut Time]
 [Close Up]
[Can You Spot the Cronut?]

Bike 2 Brunch: Axe on Abbot Kinney

I love Abbot Kinney in Venice, but what I don't love is the parking situation. Living close by and owning bicycles can easily fix that bad situation. So we took off on a dreary Saturday morning, biking through the canals - which, by the way, was quite the work out - and ended up at Axe on Abbot Kinney. With bare walls, sparse decoration and modern furniture, we surveyed the scene--hoping the food would be as innovative and unique as the restaurant.

[Chai Tea Latte]

Now - I'm not a huge fan of chai tea lattes, but after my mom was raving about the flavor, I had to try a sip. Served with your choice of regular or almond milk and fresh, thick honey, this one drink was enough for me to want to come back time and time again. Absolutely delicious.

[Amazing Honey... So Thick & Flavorful]

Okay - here is the housemade made almond milk in all its glory. For $8 a glass, you might consider pressing those almonds yourself, but when my father downed it with a smile on his face, I could tell he was thoroughly impressed.

This is the vegetable soup with a poached egg on top. I'm not much of a soup-for-brunch type of gal, but my dad was raving about this dish. As he licked the bowl clean, I took this as a testament to the deliciousness of the dish.

Axe is famous for this 9-grain pancake. They even sell the pancake batter! This was the standout dish by far. Even though it doesn't look huge, it was incredibly filling and my boyfriend who ordered this dish, was ready and willing to share towards the end of the meal. You might be wondering what 9 grains are in this pancake, and so were we. However, when we asked the incredibly informed waitress, she was only able to tell us 6. Interesting...

[Oatmeal Raisin Scone]
[2 Eggs Scrambled with Melted Onions & Goat Cheese]

Here was my mom's one, lonely poached egg. Everything comes a la carte here so if you looking for a plate stacked with extras, you might want to steer clear. But if you want to enjoy fresh and great-tasting food, pop into Axe and enjoy.

1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd.   Venice, CA 90291   (310) 664-9787

Tinga: Modern Mexican

I have this "thing" that I despise - when restaurants make you work for your meal. To me, going out to eat should be a calm, relaxing and enjoyable experience. Example #1 - no waiters... stand in line, fight your way to the counter to order, then fight to find a table and wait for your meal to be delivered. No thank you. Example #2 - A restaurant that is so small that you either have to wait forever for a seat/table and then you end up sitting practically on top of the person next to you. Once again, no thank you. (I told you I was picky, right?) So apparently, when my mom, dad and sister went to Tinga the first time, it was incredibly small inside. They had a few issues with it, but couldn't stop raving about how tasty the food was. 

When they heard the restaurant had expanded and had an additional room added, they couldn't wait to take their fickle daughter to try it out. I happily obliged - I do love me some Mexican food. The service was prompt, the food was outstanding and I didn't have to bump elbows with the person next to me. Tinga, I shall be back.

Mexican corn on the cob happens to be one of my new favorite dishes - not that it's this revolutionary new dish or anything. It just a new addition to my list of faves that appeals to my picky palette. They do the hard work for you here - which is actually a good thing because who likes corn stuck in your teeth (aftermath of eating from the cobb). I think this bowl was consumed in less than a minute by everyone at the table. A must get. 

 [Braised Short Rib Tacos]
 [Mushroom Quesadilla]

I am quite the fan of rice and beans and this dish did not disappoint. The rice was creamy and delicious and the beans had a nice flavor and texture. The pickled red onion on top was a great touch. My only complaint was that the portion wasn't bigger, so I could eat moreeeee.

142 S La Brea   Los Angeles, CA   90036   (323) 954-9566

Lady M: Mille Crepes S'il Vous Plait

Mille crepes...those are the only two words you need to know at the moment. My high school French class skills allow me to still remember what mille means -- a thousand. A thousand crepes... who wouldn't want that? A mille crepe cake might not contain an actual thousand crepes, but there are a lot of layers upon layers of crepes filled with cream and sugar and everything delicious. As of now, Lady M is one of the only places who sells this amazing dessert.

 [Treating this box as if there were gold inside]

Oh yes, like any "new" or "trendy" thing in Los Angeles, there will be a line. I'm not sure if it is simply due to the dense population in this city, or people's obsession with trying the latest and greatest. I'm guessing it's more the latter, but I can't make fun since I was right there in line with 'em. Here's a hint -- the line outside is to sit at a table inside. If you want "to go" you can simply walk inside and line up by the counter. Much quicker.

 {Admiring the goods]
 [Banana Cake - def getting this next time]
 [Full green tea mille crepes]
 [Full red velvet cake]

The Lady M employees carefully slice each cake with a hot knife in order to keep this delicate confection in place. I understand the precision is necessary, but -- this is not a quick process.

We decided to try all the mille crepes flavors they had that day which were lemon, coconut, original and green tea. As expected, the price seemed a little steep for a such a small slice, but these babies pack in some rich, fantastic flavor well worth their hefty price tag.

This close up of the green tea mille crepes really shows you just how many layers of crepes are in there! The texture is very almost don't even taste the crepes as they blend together with the delicious cream.

 [Close up of the original]

I expected the original flavor to be the most boring of the four, but boy, was I wrong. This was by far my family and my personal favorite. The top has a crunchy texture--almost like a creme brulee and the overall flavor was spectacular. If you haven't tried a mille crepes cake, you are truly missing out.

8718 We. 3rd Street   Los Angeles, CA 90048   (424) 297-9495

Sweet Lady Jane: Dessert Extravaganza

Even after a gigantic dinner, I can never pass up dessert. The restaurant we were at on a summer Saturday night had a less-than-impressive dessert menu and that simply wouldn't do! I closed my eyes and pictured what would be my ideal dessert at the moment and all I could think of was fresh berries, whipped cream and cake that melts in your mouth... the only place that has a dessert this magical is Sweet Lady Jane...

This is the sea salt brownie. When it was placed on our table, the size threw me off - I could eat that in one bite! But... after having one bite, the richness showed me why it is doled out in miniature size. If you have read some of my previous posts, you will know that I'm a sweet/salty fanatic so this dessert was right up my alley. dear friends, is the berry cake. Pictures actually don't to it justice because you can't eat a picture and nothing compares to a bite of this cake. Although it looks rich and dense, it is actually incredibly light and airy.

 [About to clean the plate]

8360 Melrose Ave   Los Angeles, CA   (323) 653-7145