Tuesday, April 28, 2009

El Taquito Mexicano Truck in Pasadena

My family and I have been on a Mexican food eating binge lately. We've been wanting to try out this taco truck in Pasadena for the longest time after my cousin heard good things about. Finally, after a nice day of hiking in Altadena, we stopped by this place on the way home to grab some tacos. Food trucks are always in my mind risky business in terms of health code adherence, but that's never stopped me from eating at any establishment. This truck is located in a small parking lot, so park on the side street and walk there.

Once you get there, you'll be greeted with the nicest servers. We ordered some tacos al pastor (marinated pork tacos) and some tacos carne asada (beef). The cousins also ordered some lengua (tongue). We asked for red sauce, which is the spicy version.

These tacos are authentic and bare bones. They were on the small side, so I'd say we had to eat 3 or 4 to get full. Still, four tacos come out under 5 dollars, so this is still a good deal. Our carne asada tacos were delicious, the meat being quite tender and cut up nice and small. This made it easy for the kids to eat. I will have to say that I was expecting real salsa, and not hot sauce. Although I love fire, the hot sauce was a tad too spicy and there was too much on each taco. This overwhelmed the tacos somewhat. Next time, I will go with the milder green sauce or order the sauce on the side. And don't think I made the kids eat the hot sauce. I left it out for them.

The tacos al pastor has more flavor since they are marinated, and again, the hot sauce overpowered the meats. But the meat was nice and tender. The cousins like the lengua too. By the way, the servers asked us if we wanted radishes with the tacos, and we declined.

This taco truck opens up towards the evening hours until the wee party hours, so don't try to come here for lunch. Do come for solid quality, back to basics tacos.

El Taquito Mexican Truck is located at 510 S. Fair Oaks Ave. in Pasadena, CA (626) 577-3918

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ostioneria Colima in Hacienda Heights

Do you sometimes get food cravings that last weeks and weeks and you can't just kick them until you satisfy them? Well mine recently was for any kind of ceviche, and although I tried ceviche at Taco Nazo and thought it was good, I wanted to try another place. With Yelp to the rescue, I found out about Ostioneria Colima.

We missed the parking in front when we drove by, so we kept going and parked in the large plaza just down the street and walked over. As soon as we got inside, we felt like we were in Baja.

The menu on the large board was in Spanish except for the "Order Here" sign. The TV's on the ceilings were all in Spanish and the servers spoke Spanish to me. It was a good thing my Spanish skills are quite good. We were the only non-Hispanic folks there, so we felt like how non-Asians might feel walking into a Chinese restaurant, but at least it's a good sign because then I knew this was the real deal here. Let's play a game. Can you spot R's bald head in the photo above?

The inside seating is quite cramped, but there are seats outdoors too. Out came some chips and salsa. This was very good and spicy salsa, and the chips were excellent.

Reading the reviews, I decided I had to get the campechana, which is a seafood cocktail. Mine came in a huge glass cup with large shrimps and fresh avocado, octopus pieces and I believe abalone cubes. Believe it or not, the cup I ordered was the small. I'm wondering how big the large is. This campechana was a little on the sweet side, but nothing that a little Mexican lime juice and some Tapitio hot sauce couldn't fix. You know Tapitio makes everything taste better, and I'm not just saying that because the owners' children were C's classmates in preschool.

We also ordered a shrimp ceviche, which came out on a tostada. Again, some Mexican limes and Tapitio were called for, but it was loaded with shrimps and was excellent.

I forgot to warn hubby about the size of the tacos, so he ordered five fish tacos, and that was way too much for our small family. The fish tacos above are not the kinds I normally like. The fish itself was tough, resembling more of the Vietnamese fried fish (Ca Chien) than the lightly battered and fried kind that I like in fish tacos, and the cabbage and white sauce added a bitterness to the tacos that I didn't find enjoyable.

Same with the shrimp taco I ordered. Too chewy. I looked around and was tempted by the oysters on the half shell, and the price on that was not bad, but since we ordered too much food, I'm saving it for next time. I also heard good things about their spicy shrimps (Camarones Diablo) and am looking forward to another trip to taste those too. If you're in the mood for some good Mexican mariscos, I highly recommend Ostioneria Colima. For tacos, go elsewhere. Oh, by the way, make sure your kids don't keep pressing the little black buttons on the windows and tables, because those buttons call the servers over, and they'd be angry if they have to come over for nada.

There are some other Ostioneria Colima's sprinkled around the Southland, but this got the best reviews.

Ostioneria Colima is located at 1136 S. Hacienda Blvd in Hacienda Heights, CA (626) 333-8017

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Vietnam House in San Gabriel

When my Danish cousins were about to fly away from us, we decided to take them to Vietnam House in San Gabriel so that we could tentalize them with this one last memory of a good Vietnamese meal. My family and I go to Vietnam house regularly whenever we crave some good Viet grub, and since it's roomier than Golden Deli across the street, it's a little easier to find a place to sit here for our large groups, and the food in my opinion is almost as good.

Because my parents are creatures of habit and hang on to a good thing when they find them, and since I usually go get pho' in the Alhambra area only with their company, we have yet to try Vietnam Restaurant, not to be confused with this one. As fellow blogger Wandering Chopsticks has explained in depth the relationship between all three restaurants mentioned above, Vietnam Restaurant should be quite good and I'm looking forward to going there. For now, Vietnam House is not too shabby for pho' and when we crave it, Vietnamese 7 course beef (Bo Bay Mon).

Parking is rough here. Just circle and circle until you find a space.

My cousins ordered the Com Thit Nuong (rice with grilled pork), pictured above, while my brother ordered Com Cha Thit Nuong, which is essentially the same as the above but with some Vietnamese quiche added. I've had both here before and have always loved them.

They make their Suong Sa Hot Luu, pictured on the left, the way I like it, with lots of mung beans, tapioca strips and mock pomegranate pieces, and the juice is not overly sweet. The Soda Xi Muoi (Salted plum in soda) is always perfect here.

Their Cafe (or Ca Phe) Sua Da. Have never tried it here but my husband liked it.

I ordered the Pho Tai Sach Bo Vien, which is actually not on the menu. The 4 meatballs were huge, halfway split, and a little chewy but still good, with the noodles being on the skinny side. The broth looks a little murky but was bursting with flavor as always from all the herbs. It's a very good broth. Lots of rare steak in this bowl and not too much tripe, which is how I like it.

No sawtooth herb is offered here, but you order bean sprouts cooked already like my dad does. I don't like bean sprouts either way, cooked or raw and often leave them out in my bowl of pho'.

Mom ordered the Hu Tieu Tom Kho (Vermicelli with Shrimp without soup). Actually the soup is brought out in a separate bowl. Mom gobbled it up. Their hu tieu here has never disappointed.

The service I've noticed was not on par as it has been in the past. They actually messed up my mom's order intially and brought out Hu Tieu Tom Cua instead, but they took it back. You can see from the photo above that we were very tempted to eat it anyways. I also noticed they messed up an order for another table next to us, but that other table was not as forgiving. Can't stand rude customers. Even though they messed up the orders, the food comes out lightning fast. You can't complain.

Hubby order Pho Dac Biet as always. Their special bowl of pho has a good balance when it comes to ingredients. Not too much tendons, a good amount of rare steak.

Vietnam House never fails to disappoint our appetite for things Vietnamese.

Vietnam House is located at 710 W Las Tunas Dr. in San Gabriel, CA (626) 282-3630