Restaurant Review: Ortega 120

Yes yes, I’m probably one of the last people to try out three year old Ortega 120. I’ve heard so much about their margaritas, their selection of 120 tequilas, yes that’s where that number comes from. Most importantly to me, I’ve heard good things about their food.

So we decided to check it out very recently. The layout was very spacious with red as their main color on the walls which were adorned with eclectic decor. Sculptures, paintings, photos, you name it, it was there. So it was a cross between a sophisticated restaurant and a cozy house at the same time.

Earlier in the day, I commented on Twitter that the menu looked so good that I wasn’t able to decide.

One of my “tweeps” suggested the queso fundido. From the moment I ladled some onto my tortilla chip I could see why. The cheese just oozed onto the chips. It was still pretty hot. A mixture of the mild cheese flavor, the savory chorizo, and just a hint of spinach & mushrooms was perfect. A nice way to start for sure. We loved the queso so much, we finished it up really quickly!

Another Twitter follower suggested I try the duck confit chilaquiles. Let me tell you, the last time I had chilaquiles was when I worked for a major hotel chain. The chilaquiles we served were simply a sunny side up egg on a tortilla with refried beans underneath.

 

Well let me tell you, this right here blew my preconceptions right out of the water. These chilaquiles were in a class of their own! The tender meat fell off the bones, the cheese covered tortillas were warm and comforting. I can see why this is one of the house favorites.

Thanks to all that suggested this place to me! Ortega 120 is a great place for happy hour, traditional Mexican food, and Mexican dishes with a twist. Be sure to check em out if you’re in the area!

Ortega 120 on Urbanspoon

Teriyaki to Go

I’ve always enjoyed quick service Asian food as far as I can remember. The first chain that I frequented as a little one was Yoshinoya. It still holds a special place in my heart with the steamed rice, pickled ginger & all but a girl needs some variety too.

Yogi’s Teriyaki isn’t too far from me but I always seemed to forget about it. I finally decided to give it a try. I walked into the small restaurant at noon on a weekday so needless to say, it was pretty busy. The menu consisted of small and large bowls of teriyaki chicken and beef. I couldn’t decide so I just got a small combo to go since the restaurant was pretty full. Fortunately, I barely waited at all for my lunch.

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When I opened up the container, the charred smell straight off the grill wafted through the air. Both the beef and chicken were very tender and generously basted in a teriyaki glaze. I picked up some extra teriyaki sauce but I really didn’t need it since the meat was so tender and juicy. The order also came with a generous serving of warm & fresh rice. There was so much that I didn’t finish it all but that’s ok since the meat was the star. Yogi’s definitely reminded me a lot of The Flame Broiler, another teriyaki chain. However I’ll be going to Yogi’s more since it’s closer to home. If there’s one near by, try it out!

Lookin for more Asian restaurants?

Yogi's Teriyaki on Urbanspoon

Sushi on the Go

In college, I’d treat myself once a week to grocery sushi. When you’re living on practically nothing, grocery sushi is a big deal. I still grab grocery sushi every now & again when I’m in a pinch but I crave fresh sushi more than anything. However, I don’t want all the pomp and circumstance of a full on restaurant sometimes.

So I used to frequent California Sushi & Teriyaki in Hermosa when I wanted a quick sushi lunch. However I’m in Torrance now & while the trek to the beach isn’t too bad, I’d like something close to home when I’m super hungry.

That’s where Sushimon comes in. It’s not the best sushi in the South Bay let alone Torrance but if I’m craving a small snack, it does the job & doesn’t hurt the wallet either. I first became intrigued by the place when I saw that it was busy on most evenings. On this particular afternoon, it wasn’t too full. We were seated & waited on right away. As we waited on our meals, we were served complimentary miso soup which tasted like every other I’ve had. I’m not complaining though, it was free!

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Like many of its fast food sushi counterparts, there was quite a selection to choose from. I settled on the 10 piece Osaka ($8.99) which was colorful and very refreshing. No complaints on the taste front. The sushi was fresh, the rice, warm, nothing wrong there. The only issue I had was the settling of the bill. After we finished eating, we couldn’t find our waitress. A few moments later, she pulled up to the bar & started having a meal which was a bit awkward. We finally got her attention and got the bill.

An awkward way to end the meal but I wasn’t expecting anything fancy when I walked in. So I’m glad to have some fast food sushi in the area.

Lookin for more Asian restaurants?

Sushimon on Urbanspoon

Have you gotten shaved?

If you recall a few months ago, I talked about authentic Hawaiian ice and how good it was. Well thankfully, a friend of mine told me right after that post went live, that theres a Hawaiian Ice place right here in the South Bay, Torrance to be exact.

Calling Get Shaved popular was really one of the biggest understatements. The line snaked around the outside of the store. It wasnt really a hot day either but nonetheless we decided to brave it out. After 20 minutes in line, we made out selections. I chose Monkey Brains with banana strawberry syrup generously poured over the smooth ice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream underneath.

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When I got my order, it was already blatant how this dish got its name. Personally I thought it was pretty cool looking. The syrups did retain that fruity flavor I tasted while in Kihei, Hawaii but they were a bit high on the sugary side. The consistency of the ice was the same and the scoop of ice cream was pretty sweet. The one thing I really didnt like was the long line. I know thats a good sign for the business but I dont think Id like to wait in it like that all the time. Also the floors were really sticky which sadly couldnt be helped with such a long line snaking around the corner, heavy foot traffic is inevitable. This was probably why everyone took their shaved ice to go.

We did go back a few weeks later on a school night and there was no line, maybe thats what we need to do in the future. So go ahead and try Get Shaved. Try going on a weeknight, maybe there’ll be no line.

1790 W Carson St
Torrance‎ CA‎ 90501
USA

Get Shaved on Urbanspoon

Ocean Diner

Yes, Ocean Diner was yet another place I’d mean to visit but never got a chance to, until a few weekends ago. The line stretched out the door as I had grown accustomed to seeing. However, the wait wasn’t too long though.

What attracts me to diners is that they seem so comforting. All the nostalgic decor just made me wanna randomly hug someone!

The flip side to diners? The food is pretty greasy… however here at Ocean Diner they do feature a section for those like me who like the diner atmosphere but may not necessarily like the greasy food, or like the greasy food but don’t have the time to run it off!

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Along with my fresh cup of coffee, I had their new menu item, the High Protein Breakfast ($11.50) with a buttery teriyaki glazed salmon, egg whites, brown rice, and corn tortillas. Talk about a good way to start the morning. I couldn’t get enough of the salmon. My other favorite part of the dish was the warm corn tortillas. It was one of those meals that I finished so quickly because it was just that good.

So needless to say, the Ocean Diner didn’t disappoint. Next time I’ll have to try something from their pastry case!

Ocean Diner on Urbanspoon

Old Torrance Coffee

I like supporting local businesses. It just gives me a good feeling. I stumbled upon Old Torrance Coffee & Tea a year ago and I remember really liking it, but sadly I kept forgetting to go back. I was in the area so I of course walked on in.
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And they had a cute and colorful menu board

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a comfy couch…

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of course the obligatory coffee shop bongo drums…

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and all that jazz.

It was pretty busy on that sunny afternoon. Most of the patio was full. However, I decided to take full advantage of the comfy furniture as I curled up with my iced vanilla latte. ($3.70)

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It was pretty sweet already but not to the point where it felt like it was rotting my teeth thankfully! Not too strong either, just the way I like it. I enjoyed my drink as well as the free WiFi. I did like the old feel of the small shop, the brick walls providing some ambiance. It was a very chill vibe. The staff didn’t make me feel rushed or anything. I’ll have to try their specialty drinks and teas soon. Maybe even their sandwiches.

The prices are fairly reasonable and the parking is free, and they have live music on the weekends sometimes so that enough gives me reason to come back.

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I was surprised they’d only been around for a year! With how busy it was you’d think it was an old local favorite. However, I’m glad they’ve been successful especially at a time like this & I wish them many more years to come.

Old Torrance Coffee & Tea on Urbanspoon

Cupcakes Couture is Cupcake War Champ

I’m not participating in Muffin Monday this week so I decided to post on its more flamboyant cousin, the cupcake. Let’s face it, we’re lured to these decorative beauties. We ogle at them in display cases. We don’t care if we have to run an extra mile after we’ve devoured a few. It’s worth it.
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The good news for us folks in the South Bay bubble is that we don’t have to go all the way to Sprinkles or Crumbs to get our cupcake fix. There’s quite a few contenders here in the South Bay. One of those is Cupcakes Couture in Manhattan Beach. I didn’t know it was a participant in Cupcake Wars on Food Network when I walked in. For me it was simply a cute little store that I’d walk or drive by when I was in the area. They have an open kitchen where you can see the bakers hard at work assembling these little beauties. For many, that and the display case are worth the trip alone. For me, I wanted to try one of these pretty treats that are available on a rotational basis so I suppose you could come in every day to try them all.

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So of course I had to get a Lady in Red which is the obligatory red velvet cupcake which was very moist. Its cream cheese frosting was sweet and creamy.

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If you’re like me and a whole cupcake can seem like too much to finish in one seating, they have mini versions that calm that sweet tooth of yours. I could really taste the banana in the Nutella Banana one. There were no holding back on the flavors. I would like to see the larger version.

This little shop definitely packs a punch although their cupcakes are a bit on the pricey side. They are standard sized cupcakes but are priced comparably to those found in Sprinkles. However it’s a nice treat every now and then if you don’t want to leave the bubble.

Cupcakes Couture of Manhattan Beach on Urbanspoon

A trip to the strand

If there’s one thing I miss about living in Hermosa, it’s literally seeing the ocean the minute I walked out of the apartment. I also miss the walks on the strand, just steps away from my house. This is why I jumped at the chance to try The Strand House thanks to an invitation from BWR PR.

I was taken on a a tour of the multilevel property. The views were stunning. I learned the lower level has a dance floor that would no doubt be packed by night’s end. The bar and dining area were also slightly separated that helped out with the noise level. The place was already filled to the brim with the beautiful people of Manhattan Beach that admittedly made me revert to my high school self but thankfully that didn’t last long due to the friendliness of the staff.
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This was the view I saw from my table. Not bad at all if you ask me!
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I enjoyed the strand house margarita ($14). The smoked salt and tamarind infused tequila gave it a nice kick.

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The grilled peach salad ($14) wasn’t your average bunny food. The peach was wrapped in ham that surprisingly went together fairly well along with the goat cheese that was just an interesting medley of flavors.

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Balancing out the heavy salad was the hamachi crudo ($18) which was very light and fresh. The buttery avocados and the alea salt added some good textures to the dish.

There was a short break between the starters and the next courses which I didn’t mind too much. It was a little sensory overload for me so I didn’t mind the downtime.

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Up next was a margherita pizza ($13) with a thin but crispy crust. I could still taste some flour on it which made it have even more of a homemade appeal to it.I appreciated the fresh basil but I do wish that it had just a bit more seasoning to it.

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Finally it was time for the bacon wrapped pork loin ($26). I was given a steak knife but I honestly didn’t need it. The pork was so tender, I could probably cut it with a dull butter knife with little effort. I was also a fan of the creamy mashed potatoes.

The meal didn’t end there. It was time for dessert. This next picture doesn’t do this any justice…just a reminder that I need to pay up for the big guns but I digress…
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These are the butterscotch donuts ($10) the pastry was light and fluffy and the butterscotch literally exploded in my mouth. It really gave the sweet fry bread I tried the day before a run for its money. My only complaint is that I didn’t want a munchkin, I wanted the whole donut!

All in all I had a good time at The Strand House. The appetizers, drinks, and desserts were definitely the stars. The pizza and main were good but needed a little more oomph to them. Yes there is no question that the menu is put together very well with a casual elegance to it and the dishes were spot on. However, I ultimately hope that The Strand House succeeds not just as a glitzy bar, but as a great place to eat as well.

117 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

The Strand House on Urbanspoon

Crush Bistro El Segundo

Yes I took you all back to 1999 with the title. I didn’t mean to, it was just the first thing that came to mind when a fellow foodie suggested I should try The Crush Bistro in El Segundo. If you’ve ever been to Main Street in El Segundo, you know how “Mayberry” like it can be. All poised, manicured lawns, walkable streets, the sun shining, the birds practically singing Zip a Dee Doo Dah… get my drift?

Well the interior of Crush is the opposite of all that. Mellow, chic, laid back. It could be downright sexy if it wanted to at night. It’s a small spot. In fact I was the only one there that afternoon. They had a small wine bar, and also a small menu. Despite that, it did take me a few moments to order.
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I decided on the pulled pork sandwich that came with a small macaroni salad that was al dente. The bread, crusty and chewy. The meat was tender with a mild heat that lingered with each bite. After I finished my lunch, I felt rather full. I’m glad that the side of macaroni wasn’t that huge because I already had a lot of starch with the bread. With low key service in a laid back atmosphere, Crush has a lot of potential. I hope it does well and adds a nice vibe to sleepy downtown El Segundo!

403 Main St
El Segundo, CA 90245

The Crush Bistro on Urbanspoon

Petros Manhattan Beach

We were looking for a place to eat in Manhattan Beach. We decided to go to the plaza that houses Sashi, a Cold Stone, and a Color Me Mine since it’s a high traffic area. There we found Petros. A restaurant who’s Greek name poses as its reflection on the sign.Perhaps it reflects its Greek & Californian fusion. At any rate we liked the menu and went to the host stand.

I admit I was taken aback at first when the hostess immediately asked me “where’s your reservation?” and then proceeded to appear flustered that two walk-ins showed up. I knew we weren’t the first walk-ins and we wouldn’t be the last. After a five minute wait, we were seated outside.

Our server was very touch and go but another server at an adjacent section helped her out with bussing when she wasn’t around. A busboy also was on hand for drink refills. So despite our primary server not being around all the time, we were taken care of pretty well thankfully.

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We started off with figs wrapped in prosciutto as suggested by our server. I for one am glad for this selection. It was sweet yet salty, like a mini dessert with half the calories. It was only a special but it would be a welcome addition to the menu.

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The swordfish followed shortly after our appetizer. A large portion that was very mild in flavor yet quite filling. I liked the nice and creamy mashed potatoes, my favorite vegetable, as well as the bell pepper, squash and of course the mushrooms. While I enjoyed my dinner, I really wasn’t feeling the Greek influence of my dish. All of that went to the appetizer.

I enjoyed the ambiance Petros had to offer. If you want to check it out, remember that reservation!

Petros on Urbanspoon

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