Category Archives: California Restaurants

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

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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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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 )

Casa Blanca Mexican Restaurant & Cantina in Santa Barbara

Robby and I rented bikes and rode around on the bike path and in town.  We saw this restaurant with an outside patio so of course I wanted to eat here.  The food was really good and I loved the ambiance of the whole place.

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View from the sidewalk

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Our table

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Got to love an outside fireplace with the rabbit head

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The kitchen

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Love the colors

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Inside

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What a great floor

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I had, you guessed it, a Bean Burrito with red sauce and Queso Fresco. Mmmmm…

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Robby had a Chicken Enchilada and a Chicken Taco with Tomatillo Sauce

www.casablancasb.com

330 State Street
Santa Barbara CA, 93101

tel  805.845.8966

Olio e Limone Restaurant in Santa Barbara

After eating at Olios Pizzeria, which was amazing we thought we should try Olio e Limone and am I glad we did! The service, ambiance and food were all impeccable!

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Chef Alberto Morello (runs the kitchen)and his wife, Elaine, (who runs the front of the house) launched Olio e Limone Ristorante in 1999.

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 They serve an authentic Italian cuisine and they make fresh Pasta made to order

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They have a fantastic wine selection

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I had a glass of Soave Classico, Pra, Veneto, 2011.  Mmm… mmm… good

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We both started with the

Insalata di Lattughe Novelle - Mixed field greens, tomato wedges; Olio e Limone dressing

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I had the Fiorellini di Melanzane
Housemade ravioli filled with roasted eggplant & goat cheese; fresh tomato sauce,
basil, ricotta salata (aged ricotta cheese) .

 It was truly amazing!!!

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Robby had the

Cavatelli con Salsicce - Hand-shaped pasta, sausage, tomato, pecorino cheese

Which he loved

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And last but not least the Tiramisu, which was to die for!

www.olioelimone

11 West Victoria Street, Suite 17, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805.899.2699

Foreign Cinema Restaurant in San Fransisco, CA

A couple of friends and I went to San Fransisco for the day and we had brunch here at Foreign Cinema.

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This place is so great they even play foreign and independent films in their covered outdoor courtyard

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You can sit indoors by the fire, or upstairs in their semi-private mezzanine overlooking the dining room or on the patio outside

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They have a huge selection of wines from local to all over the world

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The atmosphere is a bit of industrial and rustic all rolled into one

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They offer a California/Mediterranean inspired menu that changes daily

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They serve dinner nightly and brunch both Saturday and Sunday

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The chefs are John Clark and Gayle Pirie, a husband and wife team

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Of course I had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc

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I had the Lacinato Kale Caesar: Radishes, Sibley julienne, Croutons & Pecorino Sardo.  I enjoyed every last bite!

foreigncinema.com

2534 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 648-7600

For a reservation you must contact Foreign Cinema directly at 415-648-7600, extension 0 or online at Opentable.com

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Carlitos Cafe Y Cantina in Santa Barbara

Robby and I love this place!  The food is pronominal!

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Carlitos was Established in 1978 by the Lopez-Hollis Family

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This lovely fountain is a nice feature; I especially like the tranquil sound of the running water

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Love the outside seating!

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They have a huge collection of 100% Blue Agave Tequilas inside the small and quaint cantina

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I had a Black Bean Burrito with Red Sauce and Black Bean Salsa

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Robby had Verdes Enchilada with Chicken and Roasted Tomatillo Salsa which he absolutely loved!

1324 State Street
Santa Barbara CA 93101
(805) 962-7117

www.carlitos.com