Ming Wa Noodle House – Alhambra

The time leading up to Father’s Day came and went as fast as news of another politician or executive was being caught in some form of a technology-oriented scandal. In my family, holidays have less and less become about the glorified images of what should be done to celebrate but more about focusing on the point of celebration on each day. In this case, it was to make my father happy for being… my father!  He is a man of simple needs so I went up to him a few days ago and asked, “What do you want to do on Sunday?” He simply replied, “Let’s get lunch at Ming Wa” to a response that was most likely a wide smile from ear to ear on my face.

Sometimes the best food comes from places of a simple demeanor.

Ming Wa Noodle House in Alhambra is a Cantonese eatery situated in a nondescript strip mall on Valley Boulevard that my family has been eating at since I was born over 22 years ago. The owners, a lovely married couple, have been consistently churning out memorable food with a large customer base and, on days like Father’s day, lines out the door. I cannot even describe what else is in the parking lot with over 10 tenants because every time I park, my eyes and body go straight to the door to score a table. Ming Wa is a place where I can call up my brother who works nearby or a friend and get a bite while catching up without having to deal with reservations, pompous employees and a strict dress code. Here’s what we ate that day, from soup to noodles to fish, everything was just as we always expect: delicious!

Easy-to-read menu at some easy-to-swallow prices.

Tasty & Cheap! Hot & Sour Soup w/ water chestnuts, egg & tofu ($6.25, 6 cups)

Their famous Sauteed String Beans (sans pork) ($6.25)

Fresh, festive & full of flavor: Three Ingredient Vegetable Chow Mein ($6.25)

Delicious & Spicy, not-your-Panda-Express Kung Pao Chicken ($7.55)

A 1st for me, spicy & crunchy w/ a great sauce base! Hot Braised Fish Fillet ($9.75)

Not pictured is the $2.25 scallion pie, a turnover-esque fried patty with freshly chopped scallions inside (you can, however sneak a peek at this Yelper’s post here). Every table was full at lunch and each had that pie on their table as a quick, hot appetizer before their food arrived.

Before arriving to Ming Wa, some arrangements must be made. Firstly, the shop is not open on Tuesday and secondly, they only accept cash. I know that my readers (like most people today) carry little to no cash on a day-to-day basis. This place is so worth a trip to your local bank or ATM, however, so put some effort into getting down to Alhambra and enjoy your meal!

For more pictures from my dinner, check it out here (link also on sidebar): Ming Wa Alhambra

Ming Wa
1227 W. Valley Blvd, Unit #105
Alhambra, CA 91803
(626) 458-8338

– gmangoman a.k.a. hemang

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Patina Restaurant- Los Angeles (Downtown)

Talk about a wonderful dining experience in one of the most recognizable locations in Los Angeles. As the flagship restaurant of the Patina Restaurant Group (PRG), Patina has been serving up wonderful dishes under some notable chefs since 1989 (when I was just a wee lad of 1). Age being placed out in the blogosphere, I was, for a lack of fancier words, excited to be eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant for the first time. Pulling up to the world famous Walt Disney Concert Hall, I noticed that the facade of Patina blends seamlessly with Frank Gehry’s expressionist design that has enthralled Angelenos and tourists alike since 2003.

The simple, yet balanced exterior right off of Grand Ave.

It was my father’s birthday and I decided to take him somewhere special and out of his comfort zone. The minute we stepped in the door, we were treated to amazing hospitality and a celebrity spotting of highest caliber. Dame Judi Dench herself was finishing up a meal before watching the LA Philharmonic play in the concert hall with what seemed to be her extended family. Born into a family of James Bond fans, I waved at the Dame and we “appropriately” smiled at her as she walked out. If this were any other restaurant, location or event, I would have been in crazy paparazzo mode. Alas.

The staff were very helpful in guiding us to a delicious meal, always checking in on us to help answer any questions we might have about a word in a description. Mind you, Hindu families are not usually known to venture out into California-French restaurants, so many a question were asked to our hosts. Those questions were answered with ease and no embarrassment. I took Spanish in school, not French, so 1/3 of the menu was a blur to my brain.

Amuse Bouche: Lentil Truffle Oil Soup

Loaf 1/3: Green Olive

Loaf 2/3: Pain epi

Loaf 3/3: Seven Grain

Seasonal Glazed Vegetable Mosaic: Jus De Cuisson & Lemon Oil ($22)

A quick Yelp search for Patina and one can instantly notice that the “Vegetable Mosaic” is a winner with just about every “critic” on the site. It was the first thing my strictly vegetarian mother noticed and wanted, so without hesitation we ordered the dish. Each item on the plate above was meticulously prepared and plated, so that the diner had an interesting kaleidoscopic view in front of them. The lemon oil added enough tart to make the flavors pop. In this case, my picture is not worth a thousand words at all. There was one issue I had while photographing out plates: the lighting. After checking out some older posts from other bloggers, it seems to be an issue that has lasted for many years. The almost butter-yellow lighting in the ceiling tended to inflict a warm hue to almost everything I documented.

Parsnip Agnolotti with Sweetbread Meunière,  glazed pearl onion, chlorophyll jus ($25)

I will admit I am a novice when it comes to “California cuisine” and that I had never eaten a sweetbread dish, which apparently is one of the classic items that come to mind when one speaks of this cooking style. The Agnolotti was muted but delicious as the sweetbread pieces and the chlorophyll jus made my tastebuds work for the flavor. This plate was definitely something I had never tried before so pardon my amateur description.

The Art of Truffle Shaving

Black Truffle Risotto with Crunchy Celery & Shaved Black Truffle ($50)

Originally I had planned on booking reservations for their black truffle pairing night but was unable due to my travels in India. Lucky for me that they still had one truffle item on their menu.  I was always a fan of truffle oil, which according to critics around the world, is a cheap imitation. Cut to my eating Chef Tony Esnault’s interpretation of a classic Italian dish covered in shavings of pure black truffles and tears rolling down my cheeks (if only). The art of risotto is in the preparation of the rice and the Patina team had no problem perfecting that art. Each morsel was soft and fluffy and the shavings of black truffle added a rich flavor. I was impressed.

Seared Day Boat Scallops with contrast of cauliflower, crostini, capers ($40)

My first scallops dish ever. I had restricted seafood from my diet since birth due to my strict upbringing and fear of mercury poisoning. Growing up in LA, however, makes it difficult for me to get by without friends wanting to hit up the local boiling-crab shack-schmick’s eatery and my interest soon began to grow. Each scallop was caramelized and seared to (what I think is) perfection. The melange of cauliflower and crostini added for a nice visual and flavorful combination with the scallops. Consider me sold on scallops from now on!

Prime Beef Tenderloin Glazed Short Ribs with Contrast of Celery ($44)

Hazelnut Panna Cotta meyer lemon, gianduja sablé ($14)

Like mixing the richness of ferrero rocher, nutella and pure chocolate into four small pieces of dessert, the hazelnut panna cotta was by far one of the most memorable desserts I have ever had the opportunity to consume. It looks cold and heavy but in actuality it was lightly whipped and had just the right amount of sweet.

Warm Brioche Beignet with creamy banana, espresso mousse & almonds ($14)

I never thought bananas and beignets would work well together, but Chef Esnault brought it to my attention that it can with this hot/cold dessert. Add a spoonful of the espresso mousse and I felt as if I were on a patio of a Parisian cafe drinking coffee and having breakfast.

Mandarin Glacée vanilla crème, salted butter crumble tarragon meringue ($14)

Light Milk Chocolate Mousse cocoa nib cake, sassafras ice cream ($14)

Green Apple And Yogurt Battera Crispy Meringue ($14)

Happy Birthday Mignardises for my Dad: Chocolate brownie mini-cups w/ gold leaf, Meyer Lemon Gels, White Chocolate Coins w/ fruit & nuts

With over a dozen dishes devoured from amuse bouche to the array of desserts (with some amazing wine pairings by the sommelier of course), my family and I could barely get up and walk out the door. A few weeks later, I had attended a release event at the Willliams-Sonoma store in Beverly Hills where Patina was catering. It goes without saying that the food and desserts served at the event were just as satisfying and scrumptious as the ones my family enjoyed at the restaurant.

Definitely visit Patina if not for dinner, then for a pre-orchestra drink and snack. They have a separate bar area and the drink menu does not disappoint. Patina has raised my expectations of similar restaurants in California and anywhere else I may venture.

The rest of my pictures from this family affair are here (link also on sidebar) : Patina Restaurant

Patina Restaurant
141 S. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 972-3331                                                                                                                      Twitter: @PatinaDTLA

– gmangoman a.k.a. Hemang

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Pita Jungle: Pasadena – 5/19-5/20

First and foremost, I apologize for my lack of posts these last few months. Unemployment is tough and seeking that perfect job takes more time and energy than ever before. I decided to revive my blog (with a whole new redesign coming soon) on a local eatery that just opened up near home.

The entrance is sleek & colorful with a helpful hostess at the counter.

Arizonians love this place. With over 12 locations throughout the grand canyon state, I was pleased that the Pita Jungle family decided to place their California flagship in Pasadena. There seems to be a new phase of restaurants hitting Old Town Pasadena in the last year or so, with Pita Jungle being the latest. To me, it’s an eclectic take on Mediterranean food with dishes from similar regions that can please many palettes without hurting the wallet and the waistline. Situated on Colorado Blvd a door or two down from Intelligentsia, where I wrote about their soft opening many months ago, (click here to read up on that), Pita Jungle has a brightly-colored sign and outdoor seating that make the community notice it’s there and that it’s not kidding around.

Over two nights, the folks at Pita Jungle gave a carte blanche, that is to say, free choice as to what guests would like to drink from the bar and order from the menu. Needless to say, I was ecstatic. Growing up eating Gujarati and Marathi food (from regions of West India), there has always been a Mediterranean undertone to the dinners consumed at my home. From pita bread to tzatziki sauce, the cuisine is anything but a stranger to me and I was thrilled to have a restaurant that brandishes the motto “the art of eating healthy” so close.

Russ, the GM, graciously attended to each and every table both nights, making sure that his guests and customers were attended to and brought attention to their needs or concerns. It was nothing short of excellent service on his part and that of his many servers, busboys, hosts and waiters throughout the evening.

Over both nights, my friends/family and I tried eighteen different and delicious plates. Therefore I will just showcase the few of the many that I loved devouring. From a Mediterranean-inspired quesadilla to a monstrous piece of sweet baklava, Pita Jungle has a myriad of appetizers, entrees and desserts to keep every food enthusiast full and satisfied.

Delicious Margarita & a look at the Tapas Happy Hour Menu! Nothing over $3!

 Roasted Bell Pepper, Tahini & Cilantro Jalapeño Hummus Platter ($6.59)

Gambas Con Ajo – Sauteed Shrimp w/ Pesto & Cheese Pita Slices ($8.99)

Spinach Four Cheese Lavosh Bread Quesadilla ($7.99)

Pesto Lavosh Turkey Wrap w/ Greek Salad ($8.89)

Roasted Garlic & Portabello Wood-fired Pizza ($9.19)

Wood-fired Mahi Mahi w/ fresh pita chips ($9.99)

Seared & Wood-fired fresh salmon w/garlic mashed potatoes ($14.59)

Amazingly fluffy and sweet Baklava ($2.89)

Like I had written earlier, this is literally only half of what I sampled at Pita Jungle. The other nine dishes are just as wonderful and creative, but I found these to be the most memorable and tasty.

The Arizona-based chain has gotten me hooked and they will see me frequent their outdoor seating on warm summer days in Pasadena, margarita in hand with some good grub on my table. I hope you find this appetizing enough to head down there soon because the jungle is hopping with people after only being open five days! Remember there is free 90-minute parking throughout Old Town, plenty of time to stop by Pita Jungle for a drink and some food!

The rest of the dishes I tried and more (link also on sidebar): Pita Jungle Pasadena

Pita Jungle: Pasadena                                                                                                                   43 East Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91105
626-432-7482                                                                                                                               Twitter: @PitaJungle

– gmangoman a.k.a. Hemang

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