Category Archives: Restaurants

Gallo Blanco Cafe`

Gallo Blanco Cafe’ is actually inside the Clarendon Hotel in Phoenix, it is a fun four star boutique hotel with a retro feel and a ton of character.  Gallo Blanco Cafe is in fact in the top #5 (out of over 2500!) restaurants in Phoenix.

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Partnerships with local farms and distributors ensure everything is fresh and made from scratch daily, this part I love!

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They have a great coffee bar, inside seating and also a little patio… 

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We sat on the patio of course

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The cafe` has various paintings and art hanging around from local artists.  I thought these were cute.

Another fun feature when you walk in the front they have a digital photo booth that takes pics of you and emails them as well… LOL!

 I also happen to be a big fan of the Latin American/Mexican influence on the menu with the owner operator Chef Doug Robson, having parents born in Mexico and also French Vietnamese and English decent, you will see the influence in the menu.  I have had the chilaquiles before which is incredible.  Not only do they serve breakfast all day but the lunch menu is fabulous as well.

 I enjoyed the Ensalada Cortada this salad was truly amazing.  I added the market fish of the day which was the mahi mahi but with the crunch and dynamics I’d recommend it to anyone!

Laili Restaurant in Santa Cruz, CA

Today my mom and I went to lunch at Laili in downtown Santa Cruz.  I have wanted to try it out for a long time now so I was really excited.  It was phenomenal, exceeding my expectations!

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Laili’s restaurant serves a Mediterranean Afghan cuisine that uses fine organic products with traditional Afghan recipes.

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The inside is nice with the kitchen open for viewing

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It is very open and breezy

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The patio is tucked away between buildings with plants growing on all the walls, it’s truly beautiful!

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I’m not really sure if this came with the Mediterranean plate or if this is just something they serve but the flavors were amazing!

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We shared the Mediterranean plate: hummus, tabbouleh, babaghanoush, cucumber yogurt

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Mom had the Moroccan beet salad: turmeric, coriander, marinated beets, wild arugula, goat cheese.  I don’t really like beets but after I tasted this I am going to get it next time, I could’t believe how good it was, it was out of this world!

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I had the Greek salad: romaine, feta, kalamata, tomato, cucumber, onion, lemon vinaigrette.  I enjoyed this salad and the dressing was really good!

Laili Restaurant  101 Cooper St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

(831) 423-4545

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The Red House Cafe in Pacific Grove, CA

My mom came to visit me and Robby.  I really wanted to take her to the very quaint restaurant “The Red House Cafe” in Pacific Grove near Monterey, CA.  We were lucky we had a sunny day to enjoy the outdoor seating.  The food is always incredible and we have never had a bad experience.

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 The “Little Red House” is a local landmark.  Originally built in 1895.  Read about their history here

Red-House They have many little areas to sit

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They are so accommodating, I always want to sit on the sidewalk and it was going to be a while so the very nice host took one of the tables from the deck and brought it down for us.

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 They have two cute rooms inside and a tiny deck in the back

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They make all their own pies

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 I always order the Warmed Tomato Mozzarella opened face sandwich which is served on foccacia with fresh basil, our carmelized sweet balsamic red onions and balsamic dressing.  It is amazing!

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Robby ordered the Cheeseburger,  freshly ground prime beef on a soft brioche roll with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and dijon mustard. It comes with your choice of jack, cheddar or blue cheese and served with french fries

Crab-Cakes

My mom ordered the Dungeness Crab Cake which is served with a large mixed field green salad and lemon basil dressing.  She loved it!

The Red House Cafe

662 Lighthouse Avenue
Pacific Grove, California 93950

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Venice Beach Wines

 My friend Janelle and I met here at Venice Beach Wines and we absolutely loved it!  It is the tiniest place ever which is also what makes it great!  They have so many great tapas and a nice selection of wine.  I highly recommend coming here if you are in the area!

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It is a covered outdoor patio and you know I love any thing outdoors!

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They have tiny tables which is how they can fit a good amount of people

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They serve small plates of farm-to-table cheeses, charcuterie, panini’s, and daily specials.

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They have an extensive wine collection

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 I had the  Sauvignon Blanc, Ribbonwood, New Zealand - passion fruit, grapefruit, herbaceous and mineral.  Just how I like it!  

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I had the Mini Roasted Bell Peppers stuffed with Manchego Cheese and topped with Arugula, served with French Bread.  It was delicious

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Ready to eat!

Located at 529 Rose Avenue - Venice Beach CA  90291

Phone: 310.606.2529

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Honu Seafood & Pizza in Lahina, HI

Christine, Jonnie, Robby and I went snorkeling at Honolua Bay and on our way back we stopped in Lahaina for a late lunch at Honu.  Our friend Maggie told us about it so we knew it had to be good, and boy was she right!  If you are ever in Lahaina make sure you eat here, you will be glad you did!

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Getting our drink on while we wait for our table

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Its a cool little bar area

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We had a great table outside on the deck

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I loved the open and airy atmosphere

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Our spectacular view from our table

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 It sits right on the rocky edge of the ocean

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Robby and I started with this yummy Kale Salad.  It had dates, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, pecorino & preserved lemon vinaigrette

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OMG, this was literally the best Mac & Cheese I have ever had!  It comes with crab but I got it without.  It has a bechamel sauce with white cheddar, pepper jack and a touch of truffle oil

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Robby got the Fish & Chips which were delicious

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Jonnie had the Grilled Fish Burger which he loved

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And Christine got the Fresh Fish Dore Style with capers, lemon, butter, dill pollen with turkish quinoa.  She said it was phenomenal!

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1295 Front Street, Lahaina, Hawaii 96761  

(808) 667-9390   

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Nuka – Japanese Cuisine in Haiku, Maui

 Nuka is located in Haiku on the beautiful island of Maui.  They serve Izakaya style Japanese Sushi.  The restaurant is owed and operated by my friend Moonstar, her husband DeWitt and Yuri.  Hiro Takanashi is the executive chef who is a true artist!  They believe it is a priority and their responsibility to support local farmers and fishermen while serving the freshest and seasonal ingredients available.

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Moonstar and I

We go way back.  We went a school called S.M.A.S.H. in Santa Monica, CA together.  We were also fortunate to go to Jamaica for the 85′ Reggae Sunsplash together along with 4 other close friends.  I hadn’t seen her since 92′ so this was a real treat!

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Our group of great friends enjoying the experience of AMAZING food and conversation.

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Love the cozy atmosphere

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Hiro Takanashi hard at work

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Everything we ate was so incredible

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 Moon and Hiro

nukamaui.com

(808) 575-2939

780 Haiku Road, Haiku, Hawaii

Check out their other great restaurant Paia Fish Market

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Paia Fish Market in Maui

If you have been to Paia Maui chances are you have eaten at the Paia Fish Market.  If you haven’t and you go to Maui you must do your self a favor and go!  I happened to be friends with one of the owners Moonstar, and she is dedicated to serving the best fish possible.  It is incredibly good!

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It is very popular here and there is usually a line to the door but today we went a bit late.  It is worth the wait!

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I lived on Maui in 1988 and left in 1989 when the Fish Market just opened

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 The fish is always fresh, with very large portions and reasonable prices

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Robby and I had the Blackened Cajun Ono, mine was on top of a Garden Salad Which includes fresh organic greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and sprouts.  And Robby’s was on top of the Caesar Salad.

They are on the corner of Baldwin Avenue and Hana Hwy on Maui. 

paiafishmarket.com

(808) 579 8030

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Bittersweet Bistro in Aptos, CA

Bittersweet Bistro is one of Robby’s and my favorite places!  The food and service is always great and the staff are very friendly!  They have a nice outside patio for breakfast and lunch.  They also allow dogs on the patio and have a menu for them too!

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They use fresh organic produce from the local farmers markets

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It is owned and operated by Chef Thomas Vinolus

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We always sit outside unless it is really cold or raining.  They have a small indoor area for breakfast and lunch

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The dogs very own menu

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Love the Sauvignon Blanc

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I often get the vegetarian sandwich on toasted sourdough, I love it!  They serve it with fries but I try to stay away from them

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Or I get the Ultimate Grilled Cheese, it comes on Ciabatta Bread with Cheddar & Jack Cheese Caramelized Onion, Tomato and Mushrooms.  I get it on toasted sour dough without the mushrooms.  It is sooo good

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Robby’s favorite is the Talapia Fish Sandwich

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They have another beautiful patio.  It opens for happy hour that starts at 3:30

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My favorite table is by the fountain

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Love all the Koi fish

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The main dinning room is off the side patio

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They have a nice kitchen with a brick pizza oven

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Inside there is a beautiful bar

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They also have a nice banquet room

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Our friends were in town for New Years Eve and we had dinner here

bittersweetbistro.com

787 Rio Del Mar Boulevard
Aptos, CA 95003
(831) 662-9799

Suda Restaurant in Capitola

Robby and I met some friends here for lunch.  We didn’t even know it existed so it was exciting to try a new restaurant.

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Suda has a retro-modern ambiance

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They have a really nice bar with a lot of great specialty drinks like their guava mimosa and guava margaritas

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They serve local organic vegetables, whole grain pastas and quinoa

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Lots of cool hanging lamps all over

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The wine list is also local

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The fish is fresh and sustainable

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Great booths

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Robby and I

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I started out with the house salad full of great veggies and sunflower sprouts

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Of course I had to try the Mac and Cheese and I’m glad I did

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Robby had the The Bombay Fish Tacos, three handmade corn tortillas filled with Indian spiced mahi mahi, black beans, sour cream, shredded cabbage and mango chutney

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Interview with Sushi Chef/Owner: Nick from Hamakaze Sushi & Izakaya Venice, CA

I first met Nick a few years ago when a friend took me to Hamakaze.  Recently I went there with Robby and our good friends Christine and Jonnie.  It’s a real treat to watch him create his beautiful dishes, not only are they appealing to the eye but incredibly mouth-watering!  Nick took exceptionally good care of us.  If you have never been here before, do your self a favor and check it out!

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At what age and how did you begin your journey into cooking? 

I started at the age of 17 where I worked as a Coffee shop helper in Kobe, Japan.

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How did you decide to become a Sushi Chef?

My friend’s father who is an Executive Chef at a famous hotel in my city also owned a sushi bar.  He just suggested to me that I should learn to make Sushi and help his wife run that bar just in case I can’t find a job here.

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Why did you decide to open your own Sushi Bar?

I always wanted to open a Restaurant like many other Chefs with ambition.  I tried to get investors for over 20 years.  When I got them, no locations.  When I had a location, there were no investors.  This one came to me by luck.  I don’t own it 100%, I have a partner, I’m the operational part and I am the Restaurant.  I still want to do one of my own but time is running out.

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What inspires you, what gets you excited? 

Every other Chef’s invention and work inspires me.  My customer’s smile after they have my food excites me.

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Did you attend culinary school or were you self-taught, and did you have a mentor?

I was self-taught starting from dishwasher, etc.  I didn’t have a mentor.

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Do you have a culinary creation you are most proud of?  What is your favorite thing to make?

 My Sashimi roll was featured on the 1st page of the Dining Out magazine.  I was on Japanese National TV, Channel 11. 9 and several news papers here in California.  I created lots of things and are copied by many places.

Within our Restaurant creating something unique yet people can relate to, like Lobster Hush Puppies and Angels Wing.  Over all I want to make good tasting food to please people not to show off fancy ingredients nor presentation.

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Is there a specific cuisine that you are interested in exploring and what would that be and why   

I can do Italian, French, Chinese, Korean etc.  But my most favorite at this time is a comfort food of the south.  In my opinion, food is not a fashion or trend.  Food is part of everyday life to comfort you.  That’s what I learned over my long life.

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What professional chefs inspire you and why?

When I was young Bruce Marder or Robert Bell but now any Chefs down the street doing it a Lo~~~ng time.  It’s not an easy job you know. My reward is the customer’s smile.

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What was the best advice given to you as a chef and any advice of your own you would give an aspiring chef? 

Keep the knives sharp, keep your cutting board clean.  You never stop learning.  The day you think you master cooking is the day you die.  In other words, if you think you know everything you are over.

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Would you like to own more Restaurants?

Yes I would want one for myself so that I can make good money but also want to expand Hamakaze while we are a happening place.  But my partner doesn’t have the guts, ha ha.  If you know of some investors, I’m open for a talk.  I don’t mind leaving Hamakaze.  I guess I love the challenge and so far for the past 20 years or so, any place I got involved in succeeded.

 

Hamakaze means ‘onshore wind’.  Izakaya is Japanese style of Tapas of small plates “peasant food”.  Nick uses seasonal ingredients, the very freshest fish, and exceptionally prepared rice.  

“Before opening Hamakaze I served as Head Sushi Chef for Chez Mélange in Redondo Beach, Michi in Manhattan Beach, Rebecca’s and Canal Club in Venice, and Chaya in Venice, where I created one of the city’s first Sushi Happy Hours and received praise in Los Angeles Magazine and on Good Morning America.”

hamakazevenice.com

Nick on youtube

HAMAKAZE Sushi & Izakaya
13327 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90066
ph: 310-822-9900 ( Reservation )