Dining on a budget – Orchid Thai Cuisine

By Kevin Felt

Orchid Thai Cuisine in Arcadia wouldn’t be out of place in the trendy malls dotting the landscape of modern Bangkok.

As we thumbed through the long menu, filled with traditional Thai foods and a limited selection of Chinese-influenced dishes, we gazed at the comfortable modern decor and baby blue ceiling, augmented with wispy clouds and twinkling star lights, which would be right at home in the trendier parts of Bangkok.

The annotated menu includes more than 100 items with helpful descriptions, ranging from Satay Chicken, Papaya Salad and Jungle Curry to Panang, Pad Thai and Nam Khao Tod.

For most of the a la carte curries and main dishes on the menu, you can chose between beef, chicken, pork or tofu for $7.95, shrimp or squid for $9.95, or fish or scallops for $12.95. Most lunch specials, served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, cost $5.95.

The generously sized $7.95 a la carte plate of Spicy Orchid Crispy Chicken was especially tantalizing. Small chunks of chicken were stir-fried to the perfect crispness in a tasty garlic glaze with slivers of carrot, green onion and cashews.

Though the menu labels the dish as spicy, the friendly waiter’s warnings convinced me to try a medium version. Although it did little to sizzle my admittedly high-tolerance palate, the dish, atop 50-cent sticky white rice, was delicious.
 
Next was the $7.95 Pad-See-Ewe with tofu.

Thin, inch-wide rice noodles were pan-fried in a sweet soy sauce with egg, firm tofu and Chinese broccoli to create the slightly sweet, slightly salty dish, served on a large platter. It was good, but slightly bland for my tastes.
 
As an added surprise, as we boxed up our leftovers, the waiter delivered small cups of dessert.

Every day, the restaurant provides patrons with a different Thai dessert, he explained. Today’s specialty was a surprisingly tasty soup of chewy green tapioca balls, corn kernels, coconut shavings and iced sweetened milk.

It will definitely be worth another visit to try the Eggplant with Basil Leaves or the Green Curry.

Orchid Thai is at 1311 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia.

Sir, there’s a fly on my salad

I can’t stand the idea of bugs, flies, spiders or any sort of insect near me, much less in my food. Fortunately or unfortunately, diners have no clue and no control of what goes on inside the kitchens of most restaurants. Who knows what the conditions are like behind the swinging doors. At a few establishments, however, the kitchen or prep area is out in the open. I’m referring to places like Subway, Quizno’s, taco stands, and to some extent, Panda Express and El Pollo Loco.

For lunch the other day, I stopped at O Salads, a restaurant in Irwindale that’s basically a large salad bar. The last thing I expected to see was flies buzzing around, but I saw at least three. One was a super plump fly resting on the counter. Another was flying wildly all over the restaurant. The third was crawling on the slices of carrots and cauliflower.

You might say that three flies is no big deal. I’m sure there are worse kitchens and more serious health violations at other restaurants. And really, O Salads seems like a very clean, well-run restaurant. But watching the flies buzz around made me lose my appetite for a salad.

I went next door to Xa Vietnamese Grill and ordered a plate of grilled beef over rice.

Sakura Ichi

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Power lunch, dinner date, happy hour. I tried out Sakura Ichi in Pomona a couple of weeks ago after a few recommendations. It’s a beautiful restaurant in downtown Pomona with good service and pretty good Japanese food.

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The inside of the restaurant is gorgeous. Modern Japanese. Dark wood. Red accents. Bamboo poles. Mood lighting. Large bar. Private rooms, including traditional Japanese dining rooms. It’s a great place for a dinner date or a business lunch.

The service is friendly and attentive. Our waiter explained the different dishes and made some very good suggestions.

While the food isn’t magnificent, it’s still very good. The menu includes pretty much everything you’d expect to find at a Japanese restaurant — chicken teriyaki, gyoza, California rolls, tempura, salmon teriyaki and lots of sushi. There’s even separate page dedicated to Chinese dishes. I also ordered a salmon collar (they also have yellowtail collar) that was soft, fatty and very tasty. I was disappointed by the tempura. The vegetables were a little hard, and the tempura batter wasn’t as light and fluffy as I would like it to be.

Sakura Ichi Japanese Restaurant
101 W Mission Blvd # 101
Pomona, CA 91766
(909) 865-2059

Dining on a budget: Start with the specials

Dining at a new restaurant can be confusing, even overwhelming. With more than 100 different items on most menus, ordering the right dish is like picking the winning lottery number or guessing the exact number of jelly beans in a candy jar.

The problem gets worse when youre trying a new cuisine. The dishes use new flavors, different ingredients and are sometimes in a foreign language.

Offering popular yet simple dishes, Rosie Thai Food in Covina is an excellent introduction to Thai food, especially if youre not familiar with the cuisine.

First, try all-day specials. Youll find familiar Asian dishes, such as Kung Pao chicken and teriyaki chicken, as well as classic Thai favorites like pad Thai and spicy beef with mint.

For $5.95, the all-day specials come with rice and salad, and during lunch, a small cup of soup. For a few extra dollars, the specials include more exciting dishes, such as stuffed chicken wings, shrimp sauteed with black pepper and garlic, and Thai barbecue spareribs.

Keep in mind that Thai food expertly combines sweet and savory flavors, so the beef and broccoli stir fry at Rosie will taste very different than at a Chinese restaurant. The combination of the two flavors creates dishes that will make you hunger for more but not weigh you down.

Once youve graduated from the specials menu, I highly recommend dining family style and ordering more authentic Thai dishes from the second half of the menu. Not only is the food delicious and flavorful, but its also very affordable.

One of my favorites is panang curry with chicken, a sweet and savory coconut-based curry. I also like the Tom Kha Gai soup, which includes coconut milk, lemongrass, straw mushrooms and various herbs. Both sweet and savory, the soup is light enough as a starter or can be ordered as an entree. On a cold night, its especially satisfying.

If you enjoy spicy food, the hot mint leaves and chili paste with chicken is a highly addictive stir fry dish. However, you may want to keep a large glass of ice water or milk close by.

Rosie Thai Food is at 474 E. San Bernardino Road in Covina. It is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and closed on Sundays. For more information, call (626) 339-4935.

By Esther Chou

Red Brick Pizza no more

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Two locations of Red Brick Pizza in the East San Gabriel Valley have closed recently, and I can only guess why. There was one location at the Lakes in West Covina, close to Edward’s movie theaters, and another in Covina on Badillo and Grand, next to Von’s grocery store.

Neither of the restaurants had great business, and I’m not sure why. I have a few guesses.

First, let me start with what they don’t do wrong:
1. The pizzas taste good.
2. The menu offers a lot of a lot of variety and creativity. Toppings included prosciutto, pine nuts, ricotta cheese, sesame thai sauce, arugula, kalamata olives, and all the traditional pizza toppings.
3. They also have breadsticks, salads, sandwiches and gelato
4. They offer coupons and specials
5. Every booth has its own flat panel TV and remote control

Here’s what I don’t like:
1. It is expensive. Small pizzas cost about $7, mediums for $10.50 and larges for $17. Sure, the pizzas tasted good, but they weren’t that good. The pizzas didn’t feel like a good value for the money.
2. The pizzas aren’t filling. A medium pizza feels like a small pan pizza from Pizza Hut.
3. Service is slow. The restaurants can operate with just two people in font — one person making pizzas and another person taking orders and making salads.
4. The casual dining environment feels fast food restaurant, but the menu prices aren’t.
5. The restaurants don’t market themselves as a take-out pizza place, don’t offer delivery nor do they allow customers to order online. They want dine-in customers, but it’s not very enjoyable to dine there either.
6. You can’t control the volume level on the televisions.
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Pike Place Roast

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What do you think of Starbucks’ Pike Place Roast? Is it as good as anticipated? Do you think it’s better than some of their other blends?

My short view – Pike Place Roast is light, nutty and smooth. Starbucks must have listened to the complaints of burnt, bitter flavors in their other coffees because It’s not bitter. Although it could use a little more body, it’s a great every day coffee.

Other takes –

Pike Place delivers a pretty great cup of joe. It’s got
a light fruity and nutty aroma, a smooth feel on the tongue but nice
body and no wimpy finish. This lighter roast (clearly a response to
widespread complaints about Starbucks’s penchant for over-roasting)
allows a broader spectrum of flavors and aromatics to emerge, things
that can sometimes be burnt away in a darker roast. Starbucks might not
like this, but it kind of reminds me of Dunkin’ Donuts’ house coffee.

The Stew (Chicago Tribune blog)

Pike Place definitely went down better than the normal houseblend at
Starbucks. It was smoother and without the bitter aftertaste. Another
barista informed us it is lighter than Starbucks’ usual coffee.

The New York Observer

I’m surprised and pleased that the taste is friendly….there’s no
shock. The flavor may be easy on the tounge, but its also very
full….the boldness of a strong roast is not sacrificed…its pretty
darned good.

Inside KIRO Newsroom

It was anti-climatic.  The aroma was reminiscent of a more mellow
(generic?) coffee, which I think is good – the objective here should be
to provide a more universal coffee experience I think.  The taste is
citrus-like, with less of the bitter aftertaste that has become the
bane of many a coffee aficionado.  Im reminded of perhaps the Casi
Cielo.  Its good, but I dont see it as raising the bar so much: had
Starbucks put the same care into turning over the House Blend brew more
frequently and grinding the beans in-store, I think the flavor would be
close to par.

The Starbucksters Blog

Pikes Place Roast itself is REALLY good. It has some similarities
with house blend but is much deeper. The barista told me that when they
were choosing the beans they really focused on pairing the coffees
flavor with creem and sugar. This is a pretty ingenious, dont you
think?

My Starbucks Blog



the pike place
blend is a medium roast that i wasn’t too crazy about. it had a very
weak after-taste & it just felt to light.

Radar Hill

Strawberries ‘n Cream Pie

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Sometimes, it’s all about compromise.

Some people like fruit pies — apple, cherry, strawberry. And other people prefer cream pies — banana cream, coconut cream, custard.

This pie is a great compromise. I’ll start from the bottom layer:
- Graham cracker crust. (The pie I bought used a darker graham cracker crust, which was crunchy and not super sweet
- Thin layer of vanilla cream. (This is the same type of cream used in the banana cream pies)
- Thicker layer of strawberry cream. (Small bits of chopped strawberry).
- Top layer of sliced strawberries and whipped cream.

If you like Marie Callender’s fresh strawberry pie, you’ll probably like this one too. However, I found the slices of strawberries weren’t as satisfying as whole strawberries in the fresh pie.

For those of you who like cream pies, there’s plenty of cream here to satisfy.

Even better. Marie Callender’s is having a sale on the Strawberries ‘n Cream Pie. $10.99. Compare that to the 13.99 fresh strawberry pie.
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Dining on a budget: Unexpected delicacies at Vons Supermarket

Rarely does one get convenience and quality: Its usually one or the other.

However, at the Vons supermarket in Glendora, I found that these two traits have apparently united at the deli counter.

As a former Azusa Pacific University student, Ive been going to the Glendora Vons deli for years, finding it to be a local, quality meal even on a student budget. In those days, a Vons sandwich was a decadent treat enjoyed during my weekly trips to buy Top Ramen in bulk.

So, for the discriminating eater on the go, this may be the ideal solution.

One of the great things about the Vons deli is their sandwich ingenuity, something you wouldnt expect to find on a toilet paper or dish soap (or Top Ramen) run.

For $4.99, the deli offers a variety of interesting and unique sandwich creations.

In my younger years, I never did branch out all that much, sticking mostly to turkey sandwiches on whole wheat bread. For this review however, I decided to go nuts or at least my version of nuts.

I ordered the Hail Caesar, described as having Primo Taglio pan-roasted turkey, Primo Taglio havarti, green leaf lettuce, garlic spread and tomatoes on rustic Italian bread.

Sounds fancy, right? It tasted pretty fancy too.
 
The combination of the havarti cheese, fresh lettuce and tomatoes was entirely refreshing. And while the garlic spread was a bit strong, it served as a nice counterpoint to the rest of the sandwich.

My only complaint, however, was the rustic Italian bread. Im not entirely sure why a bread that shreds the roof of ones mouth is being widely used on sandwiches, but it shouldnt be. It hurts. I recommend staying far away from the rustic Italian, and instead perhaps opt for a nice sourdough or wheat roll.

While the sandwich alone was $4.99, Vons will make it a meal, which means add chips and a medium drink, for $1.50 more. However, the chips can be substituted for fresh fruit or soup.

California Dreamin is a pan-roasted turkey sandwich with avocado, bacon and ranch spread, also on the painful rustic bread.

These are just a few of the many culinary Frankensteins available for the adventurous palate.

Gourmet soups, rotated from day to day, are also another feature here. For a $3.29 small, or $3.99 large, customers have the choice between broccoli and cheddar, minestrone, chicken noodle or clam chowder. And that was just on Friday. Couple a half sandwich with the small soup and pay only $4.99.

Finally, hot paninis are available in turkey and havarti; ham, swiss and cheddar; pastrami and swiss; three cheese; or philly cheesesteak.

I personally wouldnt touch those greasy nightmares with a 10-foot pole, but for the seemingly ubiquitous price of $4.99, you, too, can look like you were recently dipped in oil.

I guess my favorite part about all of this is that, while theres a Starbucks four doors down from Vons, theres also one about 20 feet from the deli counter.

So, why not substitute that soda for an iced coffee? It goes great with a turkey sandwich!