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This year for my mom’s birthday, she actually didn’t pick sushi! It was a mom’s birthday miracle! Not that I would have minded, but I was excited to mix it up for once. She got to pick, and this time she decided on Buddakan. Can you believe that I’ve never been? So we were all excited to check it out. I was quite surprised at how large the restaurant was inside. When all you get to see from the outside is a big door, you can’t really see what’s happening on the other side. There are a lot of tables here, and several levels. image_2 - CopyWe tried the spicy rock shrimp bao buns. These were like the pork ones, but without the oink, and included pickled slaw and jalapenos. These were nice and spicy and zesty with a sour and sweet crunch. Let’s face it, I love anything with crunchy slaw on it. For those of you non-pork eaters, this is a great way to enjoy a bao experience.image_5 - CopyThese are the General Tso’s Dumplings, which were filled with chicken and a hot & sour broth. M really liked these, and ate most of them, but I only thought they were ok. If I want dumplings, I’ll stick to dim sum garden!image_6 - CopyI’m a sucker for Mao Po Tofu, so I got that as my main entree.  Oh this was really great guys, one of the best mao po tofu dishes I’ve ever had. I have no idea if this is genuine or authentic or whatever, all I know is that I thoroughly enjoyed everything about the way Buddakan made their’s. I would come back here just for this dish in a heartbeat.image_7 - CopyThe birthday lady got the miso black cod served with bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, and a unagi sauce.  I tend to think that ordering miso cod in an asian restaurant is always a safe bet, and this one was no different. It was also a good sized portion, not too small, not too big, perfect for my mom.
image_8 - CopyM is a sucker for seared tuna. If it’s on a menu, any menu, he’s bound to order it. And of course he did here. This is the wasabi tuna tataki with ginger somen noodles. First of all, look how beautiful the tuna is. It was like looking at stained glass or something. Second of all, M said this is the best tuna he has ever eaten. EVER. IN HIS LIFE. He’s not one for such hyperbole, so for him to say such a thing, he meant it.
image_9 - CopyEven though we were all beyond stuffed, we had to get some dessert, specifically the dip sum doughnuts, which were five spice doughnuts with blackberry jam, chocolate sauce, gingered cream cheese dipping sauces. Oh my word. And the best part was that they’re served in a typical chinese takeout container, so it was super easy to take home, which we definitely did! All in all, this was a delicious and fun meal. I’ve been to a number of Stephen Starr restaurants and had positive experiences at all of them, so far. I’d have to say Buddakan is now my favorite! 
Buddakan on Urbanspoon

Zama – Another Birthday

Whenever my mom gets to pick a cuisine, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s going to be sushi. So for her birthday, we headed to Zama. If you’ve ever been to Zama, or even walked past it, you know how cool it looks on the inside. The main theme seems to be wooden slats. And there are light-colored wooden slats everywhere. It’s pretty sweet. We were actually seated all the way in the back in an adorable room, with lots of amazing japanese textiles depicting various creatures from the sea. I want them for my house!
photo (1)I’m in love with agedashih tofu, so of course, I ordered it. When it came out, we were all confused. Having it come out like this is pretty and all, but there was only a bit of sauce in a tiny bowl and it just wasn’t enough. And I feel like part of what makes agedashi tofu so good is having the tofu pieces kind of soaking in the sauce. It’s not a dipping sauce, it’s more like a bath, and I feel like it comes like that in all other restaurants for a purpose. A delicious purpose. If presented normally, I would have been able to enjoy it more.
photo (2)The fried eggplant with ground chicken sautéed in white miso. Ooh baby. This was clearly the best dish of the evening. Super savory chicken topped on soft scoopable eggplant, garnished with pickled cucumber. I should have gotten this as my entree! It would have been great with some steamed rice.
photo (4)My mom and M both got sushi combos, of course! Here’s where things start to go downhill. They both enjoyed their sushi, but they found some pieces of sushi were served on top of dried and crunchy rice, as if they had been refrigerated, or had been sitting around for a long time. Considering the price points at this restaurant, it was beyond disappointing. Going to Zama and expecting some of the best sushi in the city, and ending up with sushi rice akin to refrigerated supermarket sushi, was beyond sad. It was very early in the evening, but there was no excuse for it at all. Just none. 
photo (3)I got the Hamachi Tataki, which was seared hamachi over crispy a tempura battered avocado roll with a red yuzu pepper sauce. This was amazingly delicious, in every way, but so teeny tiny. I expected small portions here, but I didn’t necessarily expect this small.

Overall, the sushi as disappointing, but the rest of the food was good. The service was ok. We ordered a miso soup, but it never came out. And even when we asked about it again, it still didn’t come out. At that point, M didn’t want the soup anymore, so it didn’t matter. But still, it was a bad oversight. With the plethora of sushi options in the city, I doubt that we’ll ever be visiting Zama again. Rittenhouse setting, Rittenhouse prices, with supermarket sushi. 
Zama Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Young Dong Tofu – Arcadia

For my last night in LA, we took a short drive to Arcadia for some soondubu. Man alive, what I’ve realized about soondubu joints is that there is so much food. And you can never eat it all. And you will leave the place feeling like you’re going to explode. 
Here’s the banchan that we got, which included a really nice variety of stuff. My favorite was the cucumber kimchi. My friend S asked me why I kept eating it. Because it’s freakin delicious! She was eating the regular kimchi, which I didn’t care too much for. There were raw oysters in it and it was too oystery for me. So I asked her why she kept eating the regular kimchi. Because of the oysters! To each his own kimchi! 
We each ordered our own soondubu, seafood for me and oyster for S (there’s S with the oysters again), which is so much food that we could have just shared one, but we also ordered a stir-fried octopus rice dish, because we’re crazy. What were we thinking? Like I said, so much food! And it felt like it just kept coming and coming and coming! They also gave us seaweed soup with the octopus. Needless to say, there were lots of leftovers for S to take home, possibly several times over. Everything tasted good and we had a great time. Service was friendly and attentive.
Young Dong Garden Korean BBQ & Tofu on Urbanspoon

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