Category Archives: restaurant reviews

copa vida in pasadena

I spent part of last Monday at this charming cafe, Copa Vida in Old Town Pasadena. I originally stumbled upon it about a year ago when they had just opened, looking to get some change for the meter, and enjoyed pistachio kumquat croissant. It was so great to see the cafe thriving having just celebrated their one year anniversary and being embraced by locals and visitors alike. With almost 400 yelp reviews (average 4 stars), this cafe is here to stay (yay!).

I definitely need to revisit for brunch (read their croque madame sandwich and kale salad are popular). I was impressed to learn that they bake/make their breads, pastries, and desserts in-house.

What I noticed about this place on both my visits is the airy and spacious feeling. Great place to catch up with a friend or to inspire creativity (I noticed one guest painting watercolors).

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My sister ordered the shakerato, an iced espresso drink sweetened with raw sugar and mixed with milk. I had a cappuccino which was incredibly smooth, no sugar needed.

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Disclaimer: my sister knows one of the staff members (Hi Sam!) and he was so gracious to treat us to a dessert on-the-house. It was a light ‘tres chocolate’ mousse that had a couple layers of crackly bits. Couldn’t put my finger on it, whether it was spun sugar or some other confection. Whatever it was, I had to refrain from licking the bowl clean. Would be perfect with a cup of tea.

This inviting space has plenty of seating with the back room serving as an informal study area during my recent visit but I’ve read that it’s used for hosting special events as well.

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The coffee shop was also featured on a blog, Steamed Not Fried so check out their review. They also feature upcoming classes and events like live music on the weekends on their instagram, @copa_vida and facebook page, so check them out.

Copa Vida | 70 S Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91105

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mornings at republique

My roommate and I enjoy coming to Republique (in Hancock Park/LA) for Saturday breakfast pastries. It’s airy, has unique interiors, freshly baked pastries, and their drinks have me coming back for more. I haven’t been for lunch or dinner (made LATimes’ restaurant critic Jonathan Gold’s top eateries 101 in LA), as it’s on the pricey end ($$$) but breakfast is an affordable luxury. My roommate tried a hazelnut croissant and highly recommends it.

One of my favorite bloggers, Joy Cho features Republique in a recent post w/more pastry case pics! Check it out here. She recommends their Hong Kong milk tea latte.

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almond and carrot cake next to a strawberry-filled cream puff

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market fruit crostata (flaky sweet crust)

 

anima pizza & pasta

inside anima

Anima Pizza & Pasta is a new (opened December 2013) authentic Italian restaurant in the heart of Koreatown (Vermont and 7th). My friend, Julie of LA eats introduced me to this gem in early March and went back with a group of friends a few weeks later.

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bruschette miste (ham, salami, veggies) 8.00

bruschette miste (ham, salami, veggies) 8.00

insalata nicoise 8.50

insalata nicoise 8.50

lobster ravioli 9.00 (daily special, off menu item)

lobster ravioli 9.00 (daily special, off menu item)

capriccoisa pizza (olives, ham, mushrooms, bell peppers) 14.50

capriccoisa pizza (olives, ham, mushrooms, bell peppers) 14.50

gnocchi with ragu

gnocchi with ragu 8.50

spaghetti e polpettine (meatballs) 8.00

spaghetti e polpettine (meatballs) 8.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The food is as delicious as it looks and wonderfully affordable. Where else can you get homemade pasta in LA for under $10 for dinner? Each time, I think I spent about $15 for dinner. The portions are not ginormous so you can share a couple dishes and leave feeling satisfied. They’ve applied for an beer and wine alcohol license so until then, no BYOB but they offer complimentary cucumber water and have non-alcoholic drink options on the menu.

The only challenge about this location is the parking. It’s in the same plaza as Kobawoo and a handful of other eateries. Valet parking (I think it was $2) is available if there’s space, otherwise, street parking is the other option.

If you’re as crazy about Italian food as I am, check out my reviews for Maccheroni Republic and Eatalian Cafe.

eat this cafe in hollywood

My friends and I went for brunch earlier this month on a rainy Saturday. It’s hard to imagine rain when we’ve been getting 90+ degree weather just this past weekend. The weather has been so bipolar lately! Despite the weather, some friends and I checked out a brunch place in Hollywood, Eat This Cafe and enjoyed our experience.

inside

Here’s what we ordered (and shared):

Open-faced egg sandwich w/cranberry walnut bread ($11)

Open-faced egg sandwich w/cranberry walnut bread ($11)

french toast

Grand Marnier French Toast ($12)

Truffle cheese and egg panini ($12.50)

Truffle cheese and egg panini ($12.50)

I think we all agreed that the French toast and truffle cheese and egg panini were the best dishes (corned beef hash not pictured). They also have a popular crab eggs benedict but we didn’t try it this time. LA has plenty of weekend brunch spots but this is one of the memorable ones. Others underwhelmed or seemed overpriced. This one hit the spot and they had decent coffee. I also like that they have a self-serve flavored water.

Since it’s a small place, I would suggest coming w/a party no bigger than 4. I think we waited about 30 minutes but we came around 11:30am. Street parking on adjacent streets.

eat drink americano in the arts district

I hesitate to write about this place because I want to keep it ALL to myself (my true, possessive self shines through). This place feels intimate and the food is locally sourced, globally inspired. Gastropub w/a sophisticated, creative twist which I love. This is a great place to bring your sweetie or catch up w/a few friends. My friend and I were there on a Thursday night and it had a good number of people but not crowded. Btw, they have a special Vday menu if you’re still looking for a place. Reservations accepted on their website.

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Please excuse this beam (beam, take a hike! you’re ruining my shot)

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I came during happy hour before my friend got off work to take advantage of the soft lighting on an overcast day. I tried the Pilgrim (appetizer), which is slow cooked turkey atop stuffing with corn foam and dots of cranberry sauce ($5) and a golden ale ($5). The corn form was something between a foam and puree. Whatever it was, it was light w/a touch of natural sweetness.

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My friend and I shared the oxtail sliders w/red cabbage slaw ($15) and popeye and olive oil flatbread ($9). The flatbread had a flavorful onion and spinach pesto that really popped on a chewy crust. The oxtail sliders look deceivingly small and cute but they’re packed w/meaty goodness. Mmm… getting hungry just thinking about it.

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eatalian cafe in gardena

We had a family dinner at Eatalian Cafe in Gardena last weekend. It’s funny because my mom first read about them in the Korean newspaper (her holy grail). It was a sign when I saw that same restaurant review proudly hanging on wall next to the cash register.

I would rate the food as the one of the top 3 Italian food experiences ever. The dishes were made with a light touch (not overly salty) and allowed the ingredients to shine. My favorites were the gnocchi in ragu sauce and linguine vongole (despite my mild shellfish allergy). Also, I highly recommend the pistachio and cappuccino gelato. OMG! Airy and dead-on flavors. Even though we were full, we really enjoyed our dessert.

menu

The only downside was the ambiance; it feels you’re having dinner in an airport terminal. This warehouse converted into a restaurant means sound bounces everywhere and it seems chaotic inside (well, at least on a Saturday night) but bright enough for decent pictures :).

Because it’s so big inside, they can accommodate larger groups (8 to 12). However, they don’t take reservations on the weekends so expect a wait. We came around 6:20pm and waited for about 30 minutes to get seated.

eatalian collage

From l to r, top to bottom: anchovy pizza, linguine vongole, linguine pesto, gnocchi ragu.

gelato

strawberry and pistachio gelato (always room for dessert)

airport terminalOverall, I would recommend this restaurant because of the high quality of the food. Although I haven’t been to Italy (yet), I can tell it’s very authentic. Not Italian American but authentic as in briny-anchovies-in-your pizza kinda way (owner is from Italy). It’s also an affordable option. Dinner for 5 including dessert and a few beers was about $100 (with tip). I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this place for a romantic date (not the setting for it) but a great place to come with your foodie friends. Maybe on a weeknight it’ll be less chaotic. If you’re curious, check out their review in the LA Times and what 900+ yelpers have to say.

Mission Chinese Food in SF

I was in SF for a wedding last fall and tried Mission Chinese Food (MCF) in the Mission District. My friend was kind enough to treat me to a delicious lunch after church on a bright Sunday afternoon. The funny thing about SF is that summers are overcast/chilly and fall may actually have better weather.  You can tell who the tourists are because they’re usually wearing shorts and t-shirts (and freezing) and the locals are dressed in layers. Thankfully, it was a beautiful Sunday walk-the-dog kinda afternoon in October.

Cupid’s span in Embarcadero; has backdrop of the Ferry Building (my fave)

From the outside, MCF looks like a nondescript Chinese restaurant. Prior to MCF, it was a food cart called Mission Street Food and became so popular they hosted pop-ups at this location. Check out this article for the full backstory.

MCF fascade

MCF dragonWe came around 1:30pm or 2:00pm for lunch and were seated right away. My friend was telling me that dinner can be a bit of a wait. I recommend that you come during the day and avoid the waiting game. Also, there are so many good eateries in this area including Bi-Rite ice cream, Tartine bakery, and Mission Beach Cafe (great brunch spot).

MCF fried rice

salt cod fried rice ($12)

MCF fried wings

Chongqing chicken wings ($11)

MCF lamb dumplings

grandma’s spicy lamb dumplings ($9)

I enjoyed their funky, salty interpretation of Chinese food. Overall, I found the food to be on the salty side but their flavors were very addicting. I particularly enjoyed the chicken wings which were buried under a pile of Sichuan peppers which looked spicy but wasn’t overly spicy (like Southern Thai food). The seasonings were an intriguing blend of salty/sweet hint of brown sugar, spice from the peppers, and vinegar flavors that were dancing in my mouth. The fried tripe was also a nice surprise. The salt cod fried rice was also delicious and very addicting. The lamb dumplings I wouldn’t order again. They weren’t memorable and left me with an oily aftertaste and not much flavor. In the tradition of Chinese restaurants, I appreciated that they provide you with a pot of tea to help wash down the oily, salty food.

Given that I’m not a huge fan of Chinese food, I found this interpretation a good twist (although on the salty side). I would go back to try their pork belly and a few other dishes but it’s a bit on the heavy side.

Check out another blog post documenting my Bay Area visit where I talk about the Ferry Building and other good eats.