Dami Sushi & Izakaya now open in Buena Park, CA

Wikipedia defines izakaya as “’I’ (to stay) and ‘sakaya’ (sake shop) – a sake shop that allows customer to sit on the premises and drink.” If you’re going to stay and drink, you’ll need some food too. In Japan, yakitori or kushiyaki (both words used for “grilled skewered meat”) is the food of choice. Since old times, yakitori was made with the lesser desirable parts of the animal – intestines, heart, liver, stomach, etc. Nowadays, you’ll find chicken breast and filet mignon. There is artistry to making the skewers. The meat is dressed and artfully skewered, basted with a sauce or just salted, and then grilled over hot coals.

Thomas Shin and Sylvia Lee wanted to bring authentic Japanese cuisine, craft sake, draft beers, and people together in a trendy and casual atmosphere. On March 28, 2014, they opened Dami Sushi & Izakaya http://eatdami.com/   in Buena Park’s new Village Circle on Beach shopping center. The shopping center is similar to Diamond Jamboree in Irvine – lots of Asian restaurants and shops. The restaurant space is cozy with booths, tables, and sushi bar. The menu was created by Executive Chef Jun Kim and Executive Sushi Chef John Yoon, along with culinary experts Chef Yoshihiro Matsumoto (owner and head chef of Sakura House in Marina Del Rey) and Joanne Chung (international menu consultant and food stylist).

Miso soup is a traditional Japanese soup with clear stock called dashi. Miso paste is mixed in with green onions, seaweed, and cubes of tofu. Dami’s version is served traditional-style in a chawan. I would add a couple more cubes of tofu for texture, but the flavor is on par. Thumbs up!

Dami Sushi & Izakaya on Urbanspoon

FIG & OLIVE highlights Southern California’s seasons in Newport Beach, CA

Laurent Halasz grew up in Mougins, in the South of France. Mougins is also known for the annual event called “Les Étoiles de Mougins”, an international gastronomical gathering of the world’s leading chefs. Together with his mother, Francine, the “Cuisine of the Sun” inspired them to create the foundation of FIG & OLIVE. Executive Chef Pascal Lorange continues the philosophy to create inspirational dishes combining Southern California’s freshest seasonal foods and the cuisine from the Riviera and Coastal regions of the South of France, Italy, and Spain. Olive oils are integral part of the dishes at FIG & OLIVE, using in place of butter. The cuisine also inspired the elegant coastal décor of limestone stucco walls, terra-cotta ceiling, green rosemary, olive trees, and a wall of illuminated bottles of olive oil next to the open kitchen.

Burrata, Tomato, Herbs, Balsamic Crostini has beautiful, sweet, juicy tomato paired well with creamy burrata. The herby balsamic on the toast adds a refreshing flavor to the combination. Thumbs up, way up!

Fig & Olive on Urbanspoon

Rance’s Chicago Pizza feeds your craving in Costa Mesa, CA

The idea started years ago when Rance Ruiz visited his older sister in Chicago, IL and fell in love with the Chicago stuffed pizza. Stuffed pizza is a thin layer of house-made dough pressed into a 2-inch deep-dish pan. The pie is filled with cheeses and ingredients and topped with a thin layer of dough. It is covered with sauce and baked until golden brown and the fillings are bubbling hot. At the age of 18, Rance made his first pie in his parents’ kitchen. In September 2013, Chef Rance began sharing his beautifully crafted Chicago-style pizzas with Orange County with the opening of Rance’s Chicago Pizza. This is a scratch kitchen, meaning that all items from the sauces to dressings to dough are all made from scratch.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip is jalapenos, bacon, and spices blended together with savory cheeses. The jalapeno adds a refreshing zing, not too spicy, to the creamy, gooey cheese. The artichoke flavor is really great but, sadly, the spinach flavor disappeared. The green spinach adds a nice color contrast. I love the bacon, adding a salty, smoky flavor to the mix. Thumbs up!

Bruschetta is topped with freshly diced tomatoes, sliced red onion, a hint of garlic pesto, sprinkled with French feta cheese, and dressed with house-made balsamic vinaigrette. It could use more punch from the garlic pesto as it is too mellow. The feta and onions brightened up the flavor a little. The tomato was piled a little too high making it very hard to eat.

Garlic Cheese Sticks are house-baked dough with an herb and garlic blend, topped with mozzarella and served with marinara sauce on the side. The bread is garlicky, buttery, and crispy which pairs well with the sweet marinara sauce for dipping. Thumbs up!

House Salad is leafy mixed spring greens, red onions, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, covered with shredded mozzarella cheese, and served with your choice of house-made dressing. My favorite dressing with this salad is the house-made Ranch. It tastes like homemade and is very creamy. The herbs from the dressing complement the ingredients in the salad. Thumbs up, way up!

Veggified (Thin Pizza) is topped with artichoke hearts, black olives, green peppers, mushrooms, and onions. I found this pizza to be a bit bland. The crust is actually the star as it had more flavor that the actual toppings. A sprinkle of garlic salt or dried basil & oregano might punch up this pizza.

Spicy Hawaiian (Thin Pizza) is topped with Canadian bacon, pineapple, and jalapenos. The sauce is good, not too heavy. The crust has a great flavor and texture (like a good loaf of sourdough bread, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside) and doesn’t overpower the toppings and sauce. Canadian bacon and pineapple are always a good combination and the jalapenos kick it up a notch. Thumbs up, way up!

Rance’s Favorite (Pan Pizza) contains meatballs, bacon, and jalapenos. The meatballs were a little bland. Bacon was visible but undetected on the palate. It was definitely missing something, maybe some salt. The jalapenos helped a little, but it still needed something to bring the meat flavor forward.

Tomato Basil (Pan Pizza) is a delicate blend of crumbled feta and mozzarella cheese topped with thinly sliced fresh tomatoes and fresh basil. This pizza is light and refreshing. It’s really cheesy (in a good way) and the feta adds a salty flavor note. Thumbs up, way up!

If you’re craving Chicago deep-dish pizza, look no further. Rance’s Chicago Pizza is ready to feed that craving.

Atmosphere: 4 out of 5 stars
Décor: 4 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 4 out of 5 stars

For more information:
Rance’s Chicago Pizza
1420 Baker St Ste B
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Hours: Sunday through Thursday from 11am to 9pm, Friday and Saturday from 11am to 10pm

Eureka! opens 12th location in Huntington Beach, CA

In March 2014, Orange County foodies discovered American Craft food and drinks when Eureka! opened its doors at the Bella Terra in sunny Huntington Beach, CA. Eureka! opened its first location in Redlands, CA in 2009 and has expanded to a dozen restaurants in 5 years. Their motto is EATertainment with focus on elevated, all-American comfort food. The one special thing about the Huntington Beach location is the selection of craft beer on tap and small-batch whiskey, the largest selection among the 12 locations. The interior reminds me of a wharf or cannery row restaurant, lots of wood from the walls to the tables. With Huntington Beach being so close to the ocean, you almost feel as if a seagull or two will be walking around to beg for food. Since Eureka! is built into the residence buildings inside the Bella Terra, residents can also pick up food to-go along with provisions from wine to beer to whiskey. I also found that one of my favorite whiskeys, Breaker Bourbon from Ascendant Spirits, is also featured at the bar.  

Eureka! Truffle Fries are a “generous portion of signature hand-cut fries, tossed in creamy havarti truffle sauce and garnished with fresh green onions.” There is a nice truffle flavor, not too light and not too strong. The skin-on fries are crispy. The harvarti is creamy and melty. It actually reminds me of poutine. Thumbs up, way up!

To read more and see slideshow, please visit: http://www.examiner.com/review/eureka-opens-12th-location-huntington-beach-ca

Eureka! on Urbanspoon

Melissa’s Deluxe Pantry Box Recipe Series: Quinoa Cranberry Pudding Parfait

Melissa’s Deluxe Pantry Box in this post was provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.