Giant Portions, Good Value, The Loft

It had been a long time since I had Hawaiian food, authentic or otherwise. I decided to give The Loft in Torrance a try. The building is a dreary grey. Definitely not what I think of when it comes to Hawaii. Whatever their reason for painting the building like this, I just hoped that the dreary feel ended on the outside of the place.

The restaurant was buzzing with life on a Saturday lunch. The dreariness thankfully went away. However, the lighting did seem a bit dim. I was just glad there were no tacky Hawaiian decorations on the walls. Our server was quick to take our drink order as we looked at the menu which had much of the same line up of Hawaiian food that I’ve seen from similar restaurants including Lomi salmon, kalua pork, and the ever popular loco moco.
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I chose the saimin noodles with Korean beef. Generous portion would be an understatement. There were so many noodles on the dish that if if wasn’t for the rim of the plate, I wouldn’t know what color it was!

If you follow this blog, you know that I point out if a dish isn’t greasy. Well, in this case, it was the opposite. Thankfully it wasn’t stomach ache material but it was definitely there. I didn’t care for the side of macaroni salad it came with in contrast to the rest of the meal, it was veery bland & really didn’t have much flavor at all Between the soft noodles, juicy beef, and yes, the grease, I got full right away!

The good news was that I knew what I’d be having for lunch the next day. The restaurant got even more packed as we were starting to leave so I say we had pretty good timing.

The Loft may not have bona fide Hawaiian food but it was one of the better ones I’ve been to. Also large portions at a reasonable price are a good reason to check it out.

Loft Hawaiian on Urbanspoon

Rice Things Redondo Beach, CA

My husband was the first one to discover Rice Things when he moved to Hermosa 6 years ago. Being the one that was hesitant to try new things, I was happy to hear that he found a Japanese restaurant he was ok with.

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Chefs don’t prepare your meal before your eyes, there’s no sushi bar, so don’t come in with any of those expectations. Rather than any of these things, it’s a no nonsense, no frills Japanese fast food place. The dining area can get quite packed at lunch with guests eating a plethora of reasonably priced Japanese fare from sushi, to sashimi, and bento bowls.

We frequented this place for a while but admittedly stopped going once we moved to Torrance. However, we happened to be in the area of this one time favorite on a Friday evening so we gave it a go.

Chairs were being flipped onto the table tops but guests kept walking in. Sure enough, we were greeted with a “it has to be to go” so we obliged.
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No complaints on my yellowtail sashimi that sat on a bed of rice. Everything was as good as I remembered. It would have been nice to enjoy the meal at the restaurant but there wasn’t much we could do.

All in all, Rice Things is a good place for Japanese food in a hurry. However, their service can be hit or miss. There’s no operating hours posted so their closing time can occur whenever they please, as we found out.

Rice Things Inc. on Urbanspoon

California Fish Grill, El Segundo

I’ll admit it. As much as I spend time in El Segundo, I rarely stop by The Edge at El Segundo Plaza. I really need to do this more often. With that being said, the last restaurant I reviewed there was La Sirena over a year ago. It was clearly time to try something new.

A few weeks after I saw California Fish Grill for the first time on one of my shopping trips, I made a mental note to try it in the near future.

Making good on my promise, I headed back a few weeks later on a busy Wednesday lunch. I thought it would be good to see them at their busiest, it would give me a good sense on how efficient they run.

Once I entered the chaotic dining area, I grabbed a paper menu and perused it a bit. It reminded me of Malibu Fish Grill in Redondo, but with a larger menu.

After the cashier, who appeared to be going through the typical lunch rush motions of “for here or to go?” rather than the more laid back small talk banter took my order, I headed for the seating area. They did have a sauce bar complete with two kinds of tartar sauce & three salsas. All of the lamp shades at the tables were overturned metal buckets Nice touch.

In the craziness that is the lunch rush, I was able to find a table right away much to my delight.

I noticed that the staff was all over their tables, dropping off food & cleaning as they went, a good sign indeed.



After a few more minutes, I received my Mahi Mahi soft taco lunch complete with beans and rice. Each taco was topped with greens & a generous dollop of tartar sauce, so the sauce bar wasn’t needed in this case, unless you were a tartar fanatic of course.

I truly enjoyed my lunch. If I had to be picky, I’d say the fish needed just a little bit more salt on the areas not drenched with sauce. Other than that, it was an enjoyable lunch despite all the loud sounds that accompany a busy restaurant.

California Fish Grill
California Fish Grill on Urbanspoon

Leonardo’s Deli: No Fuss, Just Sandwiches

I’m not sure about you but when I drive on PCH, I get tunnel vision. So many shops on both sides of the street make my brain just go crazy, put the blinders on, and focus on the road ahead. Of course that’s a good thing because you don’t ever want to get into an accident by rubbernecking to see what the newest store is… but it does pay off to be a passenger at times so you can comment on what restaurant, or store you would like to try next.

Enter Leonardo’s Deli located on PCH in the same area as W’s Chinese Bistro and El Tarasco. Already a mix of cuisine right there. However, the day I decided to pick up some lunch & enjoy an afternoon at the Esplanade was a day that I didn’t care for the bells and whistles. I just wanted lunch & lunch alone. I found that at Leonardo’s Deli.

A few patio tables lined the busy street and the menu was taped to the glass window which I would have to refer to since they didn’t have a menu posted up behind the counter like I had gotten accustomed to. Instead, only the daily specials were on the wall overhead as well as prices for the soup of the day that you had to ask a staff member for since that wasn’t posted as well.

The cooler contained prepared food

To the right of the register was a case filled with ready made salad & spaghetti. I personally am not a fan for the latter and found it a bit odd so I stayed away. Like many delis, all beverages were located in a cooler instead of behind the counter.

The large pastrami sandwich at Leonardo's Deli in Redondo Beach

I settled on the large pastrami sandwich that happened to be the special of the day ($6). When I was ready to pay, the cashier told me that they couldn’t take debit payment if it was under $10 which is fine but I wish it was posted somewhere. While waiting, I noticed that they had a special student menu as well that was based on a ticket system. With high schools being in close proximity, I thought that was a very smart move.

Soon my sandwich had arrived. No it wasn’t a pound of meat with a small slice of bread attempting to hold it all together in vain but rather a manageable portion of meat. The bread didn’t even budge as I took my first bite. The taste was fresh & warm with that slightly tart flavor characteristic of the pastrami. The bread, although fresh & actually doing its job by holding everything together wasn’t remarkable. My meal had hit the spot and then some. If you’re someone of my build, one sandwich is all you need. I promise you won’t be full afterwards. I can’t say enough about the “just right” portion. I didn’t even need a takeout box.

Leonardo’s has its own rather large private lot that it shares with its strip neighbors which is something rare in the south bay & needs to be taken full advantage of. So if you’re looking for a no nonsense meal, this is the place to be.

Leonardo's Deli on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Review: Saigon Flavor Torrance, CA

Saigon Flavor was another one of those restaurants that I would frequently pass on a daily basis as I went about my day. They would frequently advertise lunch specials & pho on big banners. I finally decided to check it out this week. Upon entering, I noticed that the place was filled with plastic flowers and shrubbery everywhere. The tables were glass, the dining room was cramped & the restaurant was rather humid. I was actually beginning to wonder if they were trying to recreate the climate in Vietnam.

Several minutes passed before the server gave us magazine sized menus. What helped were all of the pictures of the food. We decided what we wanted to order & the server returned a few more minutes later to take the food and drink order. Once again, several minutes passed before we got our drinks. With only one server running the entire floor with only 2 other tables that had already gotten their meals, I could see we were off to a bad start.

Flank Steak Pho at Saigon Flavor

My food & my husband’s were brought to the table separately. I always feel odd eating before the other people in my party. I had a medium sized portion of flank beef pho ($7). The portion was almost too large for me. I could only imagine what the large portion would look like! I did like my pho. It tasted even better with a little fresh lime juice and basil that was provided on the side. I thought it could use just a little more pepper.

Our server didn’t come back to check on us at all and didn’t even present us the bill. We waited about ten minutes after we were through to find our server. At this point, we were the only table in the restaurant & our server was just doing sidework at a corner table. We got our check but when we asked for a take out box for my husband’s food, we were told that they were out, despite several other take out orders that were presented in the boxes recently. It was an odd thing to run out of early in the evening service.

Needless to say I won’t be coming back here. Such a shame because it’s nearby. One day I hope to find a decent restaurant that’s near me!

Lookin for more Asian restaurants?

Saigon Flavor on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: Hudson House Bar Redondo Beach, CA

Pull up to Hudson House Bar after a long day at work. It looks like a tiny establishment in a small plaza but good things come in small packages. Family owned Hudson House bar with its industrial style chrome and black motif lets one’s troubles slide right off their shoulders the minute they walk through the front door. A favorite with the locals, it is packed from the time they open their doors at 5pm.

After receiving a press kit from Stefani Roberts of Bread & Butter PR that included a menu and information on the bar, it gave me even more reasons to check it out since I heard a lot of buzz on Twitter about it before hand.

Cauliflower Fritters from Hudson House Bar in Redondo Beach, CA

Cauliflower Fritters from Hudson House Bar in Redondo Beach, CA

We arrived at 7pm and sat at the bar since it was so crowded. Club like music filled the room throughout my dinner which definitely allowed me to enjoy myself even more. The bartender greeted us right away. I ordered some cauliflower fritters ($5) with a remoulade like sauce that were very delicious. I felt that this was a very good complement. A favorite with many yelpers & users of four square & I can say they made a believer out of me.

Pretzel Burger from Hudson House Bar in Redondo Beach, CA

Pretzel Burger from Hudson House Bar in Redondo Beach, CA

Up next was the pretzel burger ($10) which was one of their specialties. I liked the pretzel bread. Definitely a new twist on a classic. The meat was juicy & veggies were fresh. My only complaint is that it could have used a little sauce on it. That would have sealed the deal. The burger was of good size and I was definitely stuffed once I finished the meal.

Deep Fried Twinkie from Hudson House Bar in Redondo Beach, CA

Deep Fried Twinkie from Hudson House Bar in Redondo Beach, CA

For dessert we had a deep fried twinkie with fresh strawberries ($4). Sweet and a simple way to end a meal. Thankfully the fried batter wasn’t too overwhelming, in fact it let the gooey filling of the twinkie melt even more which was all the better.

Hudson House Bar is a great place to hang out after work. They have happy hour from 5-7pm with a special menu as well as Taco Tuesday. In addition, they have a wide variety of liquor, beer, and wine. Their parking lot is small but there is street parking available if you don’t mind walking a few blocks. A chic atmosphere and menu, yet retaining its beach casualness that has  great service and food, give this place a try. The average menu price is $12. Many thanks to Bread & Butter PR for suggesting Hudson House Bar to me and forwarding me your press kit.  I wasn’t disappointed!

Hudson House on Urbanspoon

Chinese Food Challenge #2 China Tea House Torrance, CA

“Hi there! Come on in!” said David the manager of the China Tea House the minute I opened the door. He escorted me to a table in the half full restaurant with a smile. Right away I was in a better mood. He handed me the lunch menu which consisted of one page of specials at $5.95 and the other side had an equally impressive selection at $6.95.  All of the lunch specials came with hot tea, a water, steamed or fried rice, soup, & a small salad. With the sheer number of specials available I’d say it was a good deal.

Lunch Special at China Tea House in Torrance, CA

The Lunch Special at China Tea House in Torrance, CA comes with soup, salad, & tea

My server came by with the hot tea, small salad & soup while I perused the large menu. I took a sip of the corn chowder soup which was satisfying but needed just a bit of salt & pepper to give it an extra punch. The small salad served on a small saucer was sugary & had a slight hint of rice vinegar. Once again, satisfying but nothing spectacular. I did like the tea & being an avid tea drinker I’m glad they left me the whole pitcher of tea.

I ordered the Squid with Chinese Greens along with some fried rice ($6.95) it was something I hadn’t tried before so I figured I’d give it a go. While waiting, a woman came by and greeted me with a smile as she cleared my dirty dishes. Again I loved all the smiles. It’s something I’ll definitely remember about this place.

Squid & Chinese Greens at China Tea House in Torrance, CA

Squid & Chinese Greens at China Tea House in Torrance, CA

My entree arrived and although it wasn’t as big a portion as the traditional Chinatown restaurants, it was still a good size considering the price. The squid was nice & chewy and just like the rest of the meal, was seasoned very lightly. Actually, I’ve noticed that Chinese restaurants out here don’t season as much as they did in Florida where the dishes were filled with salt & oil. This food on the other had was healthy but there’s definitely a difference.

As I worked my way through the squid, (with chopsticks I may add!) my server came by with a knife & said “You’re going to need this for the vegetables!” and he was right. There was such a huge portion of greens on my plate that were crunchy with a mild hint of butter. There was so much to get through that I actually got tired of chewing. I couldn’t finish all the greens so I asked for a takeout box.

Fried Rice at China Tea House in Torrance, CA

Fried Rice at China Tea House in Torrance, CA

I moved on to the rice which needed just a little soy sauce as the salty & oily rice that I was used to in Florida had unfortunately rubbed off on me. Nothing too spectacular about the rice which was a little bit of a downer because I’m all about carbs with fried rice being one of my favorites.  I took some of the rice home as well as the portion was a bit big. Throughout my meal, servers & the manager would refill my water. The manager even asked me how I was doing & tried to encourage me to finish my greens too! I did appreciate the silly humor of the staff. My check was presented & the server said “Please take your time” Overall I’d say the meal was pretty good for $6.95 and the warm hospitality aspect was a bonus.

I will definitely return again for another leisurely lunch in the future as the wide selection, hospitality, and service were pretty good. I’m glad the menu is so extensive as it lets the diner try other dishes as opposed to the usual beef & broccoli & orange chicken. The food wasn’t completely out of the world but with it being so close to my house, it’s a good “go to” restaurant in a pinch. So China Tea House, I’ll see you in the future!

China Tea House Chinese Rest on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: Royal Thai Torrance, CA

The Torrance Crossroads shopping center is filled with many shops and eateries. There’s one section of the shopping center that is a strip of many Asian cuisines including Japanese and Thai to name a few. I learned that Royal Thai had a lunch special so I decided to check it out.

Upon first glance, I loved the color scheme of the restaurant. It created a mellow atmosphere. I was greeted and seated right away. The host, who doubled as the server brought me my menu a few moments later along with a glass of water. She did not introduce herself or ask me if I would like anything else to drink.

As she walked away, I perused the menu. There were over 10 dishes on the lunch special that started at $5.99 with your choice of Chicken, Tofu, Shrimp, and Beef. From your usual staple of Pad Thai and other noodle dishes, to rice & curry dishes, the menu covered them all. Included in the price was a soup, and if your dish did not consist of noodles, a side of noodles as well.

I ordered the Noodle Supreme: Stir fried flat noodles with egg, bean sprouts, and scallions, with a small salad. As I waited for my food, I noticed that a lot of carry out orders were being placed and picked up as well. Furthermore, the server, the sole one on the floor, sometimes could not keep up with the mere four tables in the dining area.

Light broth at Royal Thai

Light broth at Royal Thai

Shortly after I placed my order, the server brought a small broth consisting on cabbage and celery. Tasty and light, it hit the spot as I waited for my entrée.

Noodle Supreme at Royal Thai

Noodle Supreme at Royal Thai in Torrance.

My entree arrived within ten minutes of ordering. My first impression was for the price I was paying, it certainly was a good portion that encompassed almost the entire plate. The taste was nice, a bit peppery but not too overwhelming. The noodles were al dente and not greasy either. The salad was a bit small to be considered one but it was alright, I could have done without it.

I cleared the entire plate in one sitting; it was truly a tasty dish. I was ready for the check but the server had headed into the kitchen for a little while. When she returned to the floor, I told her I was ready. She brought me the check and settled the payment shortly after.

All in all the meal was very tasty. It was a great portion for a great price. It does not get any better than that. There are many choices on the lunch menu to choose from. If it’s your first time or fiftieth time eating Thai food, rest assured you will find something to satisfy your hunger.  However, I would order carryout as the service was a bit on the slow side at times.

Royal Thai accepts cash and credit cards as payment. It is also located in a large strip mall with plenty of parking. However, it is close to a number of businesses and tends to get crowded between the hours of 12-2pm. The average menu price is $10.00 for the regular menu. The lunch specials are at $5.99.

Lookin for more Asian restaurants?

Royal Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: Ragin Cajun Hermosa Beach, CA

I’m glad that I’ve found a network of foodies out here. It’s especially good when said foodies take pictures of food just like you do, it definitely makes me more comfortable! Granted I’ve gotten used to bringing my camera places & am no longer self conscious when I take pictures at a restaurant, but just being around other foodies who share your passion is very inspirational to me.

Another great thing about a network of foodies? If your significant other doesn’t like a certain type of food, you can count on a few foodies to go with you instead! This is what happened at Ragin Cajun. My husband & I lived in Hermosa for 3 years but never tried this place out simply because he didn’t like cajun food. When we moved, I forgot about this place but I’m glad a recent suggestion to go occurred & I was finally able to try the place out.

At 5pm on a Saturday, it was already buzzing. The restaurant was strewn with typical New Orleans decor with plenty of prints depicting southern life.

Silverware in Pots at Ragin Cajun

The tables reminded me of a southern style restaurant with all of the silverware & napkins in simple garden pots.

Drinks were served southern style: in mason jars

Drinks were served in a mason jar. Something I hadn’t seen since college. A dressy place this was not. Instead, it’s a place to kick back after a long day at work. If that’s not enough, New Orleans style jazz plays loudly in the dining area creating a vibrant, lively atmosphere.  A little slice of the Big Easy right here in the South Bay.

Jambalaya Combo at Ragin Cajun

Having an aunt that’s a Lousiana native and spending my teen years in the south, I thought that I had cajun cooking down pat. I’d simple stay away from anything labled “blackened” alas I was wrong. The combo platter of jumbalaya, red beans & rice, and crawfish etoufee had a medium kick to it! The portion was very generous indeed. It was amazing that I finished the whole dish. I thought due to the spiciness alone, that I wouldn’t get to finish the dish. However there was something about the mixture of sausage, crawfish, beans, and rice that was very satisfying to me. I brushed the spicy feeling (and tears) aside and continued to eat this cajun classic.

I just loved that I was able to eat crawfish since I could never find it at the grocery store. Just being able to eat it without going back to the south was a huge plus. I also liked that I could just drive to the next town over from me for a po boy sandwich or hush puppies as well. The South Bay definitely could use more cajun restaurants. Just the vibe and atmosphere was enough to make me smile. I will definitely come back again and bring a friend or two. A laid back restaurant with generous portions is hard to find these days!

With Ragin Cajun’s laid back atmosphere, it is best suited for patrons that are not in a rush as the sense of urgency is a bit laxed here. The servers still do a good job checking on their tables, filling drinks & bussing tables as needed but it is a more casual atmosphere than many restaurants. If you have a limited lunch or dinner break, skip Ragin Cajun until you can afford more time to experience a little Big Easy in Hermosa Beach!

Average menu price is $12-$15. As with most Hermosa Beach restaurants, bring plenty of coins for metered parking & allow extra time to park after 6pm.

Ragin Cajun Cafe on Urbanspoon

Ragin Cajun Cafe in Los Angeles

Double Restaurant Review: Lala’s Argentine Grill and Susina’s Bakery

On Saturday, a friend & I braved the rain (read: drizzles) and had a girls night out to catch up over one of my favorite activities: eating! Our first stop was Lala’s Argentine Grill on Melrose. The rain wasn’t really an issue to me, but it was still cold either way you look at it. That’s why I was shocked when the hostess asked us if we’d like to sit outside. That was a unanimous no! Sure the patio was screened in & heated but a cool breeze could still be felt in the restaurant. So much so we requested to sit as far away from the patio doors as possible so as not to catch a cold. We were there to eat and it would be highly more enjoyable if we still had feeling in our limbs!

Our server was very pleasant as she was taking our drink and food order. She even asked us if we’d like the chicken skinless which was a good move considering how health conscious everyone is getting these days.

While we waited for our food, the obligatory bread basket was dropped off at our table. They clearly didn’t skimp on bread, as we both had 4 pieces each. The bread was accompanied with a dipping sauce of olive oil, garlic, and cilantro which I thoroughly enjoyed.

After waiting for close to 20 minutes, one of the bussers dropped off my Pechuga de Pollo which is a chicken breast marinated in an orange and lemon sauce. Alongside that was a very large salad with a citrus dressing. It was a rather large portion of a salad. I’m not used to seeing a restaurant serve a portion so big.

Pechuga de Pollo at LaLa's Argentine Grill

This chicken dish looked highly appetizing and of course very healthy at first glance. Sadly, the taste was nothing like it looked. The chicken breast was very dry and bland. Not a trace of orange or citrus could be sensed at all which was a huge disappointment. Thankfully we still had left over dipping sauce from the bread. Slathering the chicken with the dipping sauce completely saved the dish. The salad on the other hand was very tasty, there were no complaints on that end. This dish was literally hit or miss to say the least. The server barley checked on us during the meal. She did offer us dessert but the menu didn’t seem too appetizing to me.

Average menu price: $10

My rating ** out of 5 stars

Lala's Grill on Urbanspoon

After a less than scintillating dinner, we decided to head somewhere else to dessert. We ended up at Susina’s.

Susina’s reminded me of Porto’s but on a much smaller scale. I liked the warm colors of the dining area and the bright lamp fixtures. Even during the evening hours, the pastry case was chock full with numerous cakes, tarts, pies, and cookies. The selection was very appealing so it was hard to make a decision! I ultimately decided on the Americano cake and a vanilla latte.
The Americano Cake at Susina Bakery in Los Angeles

The Americano cake was made of espresso liqueur, chocolate mousse, and chocolate sponge cake. The chocolate taste was rich but the airy sponge cake balanced that very well.

Vanilla Latte at Susina Bakery

The vanilla latte was a little bit strong for me. It was only a single shot but I felt like it was a double. It could have used a little bit more sugar but it was also refreshing to get a non Starbucks coffee. The latte and the chocolate cake paired very well. After a less than stellar dinner, it was nice to end the evening on such a good note. The bakery stayed pretty busy as the night went on, a good sign.

Average menu price $8.00

My rating **** out of 5 stars

Susina Bakery on Urbanspoon

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