Sherman's Food Adventures: October 2014

Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta (Disney California Adventure Park)

For the love of...  Really?  Really really???  Despite my pleas to leave California Adventure for some better eats outside the park, it fell on deaf ears.  This trip was beginning to outright destroy any interesting eats for the foreseeable future.  I might as well start blogging strictly about fast food and free restaurant bread because theme park food ain't much better.  Egads!  We couldn't even find a place without a lineup to eat at in the park!  Everything was conspiring against me!  Finally, we found a quiet place in Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta.

Now just because we "found" a place to eat didn't necessarily solve anything in terms of quality eats.  But at the very least, we had something green that wasn't a boring Chicken Caesar (see Disneyworld).  The something green happened to be the Italian Chef's Salad consisting of salami, capocollo, fresh mozzarella, pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, marinated olives, cucumbers, tomatoes and fresh greens with a red wine vinaigrette. Although not attractively put together, the salad wasn't bad.  There was no shortage of meat nor cheese.  The vinaigrette was sufficiently tart and impactful which made the dish appetizing.  Although the kiddies were already enjoying their mini-sized version of the Spaghetti & Meatballs, we got an adult one anyways.  Not to be confused with a gourmet offering, this was acceptable with al dente pasta (actually a bit dry) and a bright-tasting pomodoro sauce.  Meatballs were not too dry and meaty-tasting.

Costanza tried out the Campanelle Pasta with chicken and tossed in sundried tomato pesto cream.  This one was so-so as the pasta was soft.  Furthermore, soft pasta plus creamy sauce equals heavy and mushy.  Flavor was alright though with a slight zestiness as well as the taste of basil.  There was a decent amount of chicken, but it was a bit stiff.  Lastly, we tried out the Cheese Flatbread Pizza partly because the kiddies didn't want pepperoni and certainly didn't want vegetarian.  Yah, we didn't like this as the flatbread was stiff and dry.  However, they did deliver on the promise of tomato sauce and lots of cheese.  This ate more like cheese bread with a touch of tomato.  Yah, I bet you had as much fun reading about this as we had eating it.  Well, at the very least, it wasn't shockingly expensive and was a better value than the $8.00 hot dog...

The Good:
- Decent kid's meals with drink and 2 healthy sides
- Better than the $8.00 hot dog

The Bad:
- Not as good as the smoked turkey leg nearby
- It's the usual "meh" theme park stuff

Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta on Urbanspoon

Claws Restaurant

Another day in Anaheim meant another visit to the happiest place on Earth...  Yes, I guess we were happy most-of-the-time (when not in line, when the kiddies weren't whining about something or when I wasn't paying $8.00 for a hot dog).  As we were discussing our dinner options for the night, I went on about my visit to The Boiling Crab back in San Jose.  Then, it donned on me that Costanza and Elaine had never been to a seafood boil before.  With all the available options in the OC, we decided that their Seafood Boil virginity would be lost at Claws (somehow that didn't sound right...).

We decided to go for their $40.00 deal which included 2 appies, garlic fries and 3 lbs of seafood.  We tacked on 3 more pounds of seafood for good measure. Our appies arrived pretty quickly and we dug into the large basket of Fried Oysters first.  These were crunchy while not too greasy.  Inside, the oysters were of a fair size and still juicy.  We weren't that impressed with the Fried Butterfly Shrimp as they were dry and didn't exhibit any shrimp texture.  They were crunchy though.  We liked the crispy Garlic Fries as they dumped a whole head of garlic on top.  The kiddies had the Chicken Strips and Fries which were decent.  The seemingly house-made strips were comprised of breast chicken tenders that remained moist while crunchy on the outside.

As for the seafood boil, we had 2lbs each of Crawfish, Clams, Mussels and Shrimp with the addition of corn, sausage and potato.  Initially, we wanted crab and lobster, but they didn't have any.  As for the seasoning, we had the mild Cannonball and it was plenty garlicky and gingery with only a slight spice.  This was greasy, but not as much as The Boiling Crab.  The clams were remarkably large and plump while the Kiwi mussels were pretty typical (as in the frozen, precooked variety).  We would've liked to see honey mussels (hard to come by I suppose) instead.  The crawfish were quite small and we gave up trying to eat them while the shrimp were plump and large.  On the overcooked side, but still sweet, the corn segments soaked up quite a bit of the seasoning.  The cuts of potato were soft, but still firm enough to retain their shape while the sausage was meaty and slightly spicy.

For good measure, Costanza added a Garlic Butter Pasta with shrimp, baby scallops and calamari for his kiddies.  For a non-pasta joint, this was actually okay.  The noodles were a bit past al dente, but not remarkably so.  It was indeed garlicky and buttery with properly cooked seafood including meaty shrimp and buttery scallops.  The side of zucchini and carrots were not overcooked.  Overall, we thought our visit to Claws was pleasant.  We liked how the sauce was less greasy than The Boiling Crab while the prices were okay.  I personally still like The Boiling Crab more, but Claws is still a decent option for a seafood boil.

The Good:
- Okay pricing
- Decent eats
- Spacious

The Bad:
- Service was okay, but a little indifferent
- Wasn't a huge fan of the Green Lip mussels for the purposes of a seafood boil


With Costanza and his son out-of-commission due to illness, we had to change up our eating plans (no fried stuff for them!).  As if my taste buds hadn't already suffered enough from expensive mediocre theme park food and even more expensive sub-standard Downtown Disney food, I had to think fast on my feet.  Hence, I went back to the well and remembered our 2 visits to Sweet Tomatoes in Florida.  It was an out-of-body experience where I saw things that are not normally seen during Theme Park vacations - vegetables and lots of it.  Sure, the food was standard fare, but it was healthier, inexpensive and all-you-can-eat.

So that was the plan, eat something lighter and cheaper in the likeness of Sweet Tomatoes.  Well, it was if we planned it all along as we were only minutes away from a location of Souplantation.  To my son's horror, the sight of endless veggies almost made him turn around and run.  He, of the "I love junk food" variety, had to suffer watching us stack our plates full of salad before we even hit the other options.  And really, the selection was impressive, fully stocked and fresh.  We could choose from pre-made Salads, made-to-order Caesar and build-your-own.  He ended up taking a few croutons, so to not be left out.

With the same setup as Sweet Tomatoes, we paid at the end of the salad bar.  There, we added drinks to our bill which was quite reasonable ($9.00 for adults and $5.00 for the kiddies over 5).  After that, I headed straight to the Soups which included Big Chunk Chicken Noodle, Deep Kettle House Chili, Santa Fe Black Bean Chili, Yankee Clipper Clam Chowder, Split Pea & Potato Barley and Seven Vegetable.  Although nothing was particularly awesome, they did the trick while not being super salty.  Right beside this section, there were some pastas including the kid-friendly mac n' cheese.  Directly across, there was a selection of flat breads, baked goods and baked potato with all the fixin's.

Off course there was also a dessert section consisting of a few simple items that included fruit gelatin, grapes, rice pudding, oranges, chocolate mousse and soft serve ice cream.  As you can clearly see, the food at Souplantation ain't exactly gourmet nor exciting.  But for a family on vacation that hasn't seen much in the way of vegetation (other than in the park), it is a great way to get a relatively healthier meal at a great price.  Naturally, being kid-friendly is another draw as well.

The Good:
- Kid-friendly
- Inexpensive
- Healthy options

The Bad:
- Limited selection
- Food is average

Souplantation on Urbanspoon

Sushi World

A vacation at Disneyland is not really a vacation at all, at least for the parents that is.  All the walking, all the complaining, all the whining and all the crying...  There is only so much one can take...  and we're only talking about me here!  I think Viv really wonders why she married me!  Well, after another long day at "the happiest place on Earth" (happy for who?), we decided to do the "eat-at-a-restaurant-outside-our-hotel" strategy.  So right beside our other "convenience" restaurant (Curry House), we tried out Sushi World.

Starting with the Nigiri, we had 2 each of maguro, salmon, seared albacore and hamachi.  We found the sushi rice to be quite good with a balance of chewiness and moisture.  It was seasoned with sugar and rice wine vinegar (being on the sweeter side).  The fish on top had a nice sheen as well as a fresh taste.  Next up was the Beef Tataki which appeared to be sliced too thick and sinewy.  Alas, it wasn't true as the beef was really tender and nicely seared.  It was flavorful with the ponzu and rub on the outside.  However, it was a bit too peppery, which dominated the flavor profile.

For our 2 specialty rolls, we had the Black Dragon (spicy tuna with tuna, onion and pepper on the outside) and Crunchy Roll (ebi tempura, imitation crab and cucumber with tempura dust on the outside).  We liked the black dragon more as it had effective flavors, in particular, the spiciness from the hot pepper.  There was enough tuna to stand up to the heat though.  With the crunchy roll, it was crunchy more or less, but it was a glorified dynamite roll. As part of the Karaage Combo, we had an appetizer portion of Tempura as well as miso soup, salad and rice.  The tempura looked a bit dark and overly smooth in texture (in terms of the batter), yet it was ultimately crunchy.  

The Chicken Karaage was also crunchy and a bit spicy on its own even without the equally spicy dip. Although it looked dry, the meat was actually juicy and fatty inside. For the kiddies, we had to get them the obligatory Tempura Udon.  It was a little strange looking with only 2 ebi shrimp (and ultimately soggy since it was sitting in the broth).  The soup itself was quite salty with lots of shiitake mushroom flavor. Overall, we were satisfied with the food, especially from a random Japanese restaurant nearby.  I guess our expectations weren't very high due to convenience, but nothing was really amiss.  We concluded that Sushi World is in fact, decent.

The Good:
- Decent eats
- Friendly service

The Bad:
- A little pricey

Sushi World on Urbanspoon

Earl of Sandwich

Okay, it is pretty much impossible to eat well for under $10.00 at any theme park.  Take a look at Disneyland where a hot dog and chips will set you back $8.00.  And we're not talking about a jumbo dog either.  Unless you want to live on smoked turkey legs for the whole time, your wallet will be a lot lighter while your stomach might hate you for consuming food only in the shade of golden brown.  However, we had a decently inexpensive meal at Earl of Sandwich at Downtown Disney at Disneyworld last year.  Hence, we took a page out of that playbook and paid their location at Disneyland a visit.

Like last time, we got the Earl's Club with turkey, bacon, Swiss, sandwich sauce, lettuce and tomato.  Of course, my son conveniently offered up the lettuce and tomato up for grabs.  I'm not sure if there is a vegetable that he actually likes.  Nicely toasted, the whole wheat bread held up to the ingredients without being overly dense.  There was ample filling including a healthy portion of thinly sliced turkey along with crispy bacon.  For myself, I went for the Italian consisting of salami, capicola, roasted ham, mortadella, mozzarella, tomato and Italian dressing.  This was a zesty combination of meats which were salty, sweet and spicy.  The tang from the dressing was a nice compliment, yet made the sandwich a bit wet and drippy.

Viv decided on the Holiday Turkey, but unlike the last time, it was totally devoid of gravy and stuffing.  Instead, there was double the amount of turkey (which wasn't necessarily a bad thing|) and cranberry sauce.  Hence, the whole thing was essentially a turkey sandwich with the addition of sweetness.  We were pretty sure they screwed this up.  Elaine ended up with the Chipotle Chicken Avocado consisting of grilled chicken, bacon, cheddar, avocado, lettuce and chipotle sauce.  This was pretty tasty with an effective spiciness from the sauce.  The ample chicken was sufficiently moist while the avocado added a smooth creaminess to go with the crispy bacon.

And for heaven's sake, Elaine's son didn't stick with the program and opted for the Mac n' Cheese...  This at a sandwich shop?  And I thought my son was a picky eater!  Anyways, it was okay with soft noodles in a creamy sauce that wasn't necessarily all that cheesy.  But it did the job for him...  Hey didn't he just have this the day before???  Well, if we focus on the sandwiches only, Earl of Sandwich does it right and for a reasonable price.  Basically it was a good break from all the crappy expensive theme park food. 

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced
- Lots of ingredients (in particular the meat)
- Plenty of choices

The Bad:
- Somewhat of a wait usually

Earl of Sandwich on Urbanspoon

Lee's Sandwiches

After a unsatisfying amount of food at Pho Lu, we were still aching for more eats.  I guess all those large portion sizes from all the other restaurants expanded our tummies.  Or at the very least, we were suffering from "eyes bigger than our stomachs" phenomenon.  Whatever the case, we made the short drive down Westminster to Lee's Sandwiches.  Costanza had heard about the popular Vietnamese Banh Mi joint from some friends and really wanted to check it out.  So we did.

I tried the Combination Sub (commonly referred at the Banh Mi Dac Biet) and it felt like something was missing (well, other than the cilantro that we omitted).  One look and yes, the light streak of pate meant it was essentially a non-event.  Hence, we could only get the faint meat flavor from the modest amount of meat. Furthermore, the bread was a bit too firm for my liking. I got the Chicken Sub for my daughter as she was whining about being hungry as well (thus, no peppers or cilantro. It was okay with plenty of sweet chicken chunks.  It wasn't dry per se, but not overly moist either. Of course since it was missing 2 components, it was more mild that it should've been. 

Lastly, I got the BBQ Pork for my son (yes, he was hungry too!). It was also not completely moist, but it was flavorful though with a sweet caramelization.  The pickled daikon and carrots were sufficiently tart and sweet with a good crunch.  And again, we omitted the peppers and cilantro, so naturally, it would've tasted different without them.  Despite what was omitted or not, the bottom line was that we were not impressed with the sandwiches.  We found the bread too dense and not crusty enough while the meager amount of ingredients affected the overall impact. Bottom line - we've had much better elsewhere. 

The Good:
- Cheap
- Large selection
- Meats were tasty

The Bad:
- Skimpy with the ingredients, especially the pate
- Bread too dense for our liking

Lee's Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Pho Lu

As much as the heat outside was not conducive for slurping on a bowl of hot Pho, that was my wish for lunch.  Tired of all the unidentifiable chunks of fried food eaten in the past week, I had to get something soupy.  Costanza wasn't too hot (sorry for the pun) for the idea, but really, don't they eat Pho in Vietnam in the scorching heat anyways?  He stated that majority ruled, and yes, he was in the minority... So off we headed South of Disneyland over to Pho Lu.

Viv had the large Phở Đặc Biệt and it was a modest portion size with "just enough" rice noodles.  They were effectively firm enough while being slippery and not clumpy.  Again, there was "just enough" meat that was mostly tender and fatty.  As for the broth, it was quite mild with some meatiness, equal sweetness and a strong licorice hit from the star anise.  We thought it was an "okay" bowl of Pho. I went for the Dry Noodles and the meat sauce was mostly sweet (in fact, too sweet).  The fried shallots added both texture and aromatics while egg noodles were chewy and nicely al dente.  I found the modest amount of seafood was prepared properly where the shrimp exhibited a snap while the squid was not overly chewy.

I added an order of Spring Rolls (since I wasn't full) which were pretty good with a firm crunchy rice wrapper.  The meat was moist and flavorful from the fish sauce and onions.  The side of lettuce, mint, perilla leaves and pickled carrot were a nice addition.  Wrapping the spring rolls in the lettuce made us feel healthier...  LOL...  Overall, we thought the dishes we tried at Pho Lu to be "okay".  It did the trick, but we've definitely have had better.  Now the one thing that really left a lasting impression was the lack of service.  Yes, Asian restaurants are famous for that, but we really couldn't even flag down anyone for anything.

The Good:
- Open late
- Food comes out fast

The Bad:
- Modest portions
- Service, what service?

Pho Lu on Urbanspoon

Pho Thai Luong

Here we go again...  The turnstile of restaurants, otherwise known as that hidden location inside the plaza on the Southwest corner of Nordel and Scott Road, has continued turning.  With yet another Pho joint (the 3rd in the past half year), Bookworm and I decided to try it out, like all the other ones so far.  Now named Pho Thai Luong, there was at least a few tables filled unlike the other times. Maybe they might last more than a few months???  I surely hope so, for the sake of the owners!

We decided to both try out the Pho on this visit. On my first sip of the broth, the hit of saltiness and extreme flavour was an indication of MSG.  Despite being too salty, there was a natural meat taste that is more often than not missing from most Pho in the city.  I found the noodles to be toothsome and not in a clump.  The meats were rustically cut as they were jagged.  Hence, some where not as tender as it should've been.  Furthermore, I found the amount of meat to be sparse.

On a repeat visit, I decided to try a few more items including the Grilled Lemongrass Chicken & Pork Chop on Rice.  This was a substantial amount of food that sported 2 large pieces of meat.  I found the chicken to be lightly charred while well-seasoned with a definite lemongrass hit.  The meat itself was sufficiently moist and tender.  Unfortunately, the pork chop was dry and chewy which could probably be attributed to its thickness.  It was well charred and seasoned though.  Fluffy and chewy at the same time, the rice underneath stood up to the moisture.  I also tried the Grilled Pork Banh Mi and it was fantastic.  Crusty, airy and nicely toasted, the baguette held up to the considerable amount of pork inside.  The pork itself was well-charred and fatty.  Hence, it was smoky, flavourful and succulent.  To be frank, Pho Thai Luong isn't much better than the previous 3 Vietnamese restaurants at this location.  However, that doesn't mean the food isn't acceptable.  My hope is that they stick around.

The Good:
- Friendly people
- Okay eats
- Okay prices

The Bad:
- A bit heavy with the MSG
- Pho needs more meat

Pho Thai Luong Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Roland's on 4th

When I first got an invite to try out Roland's on 4th, I immediately Google mapped it.  Oh okay, it took over the old location of Hell's Kitchen...  Honestly, my memory of Hell's Kitchen was vague at best (probably not memorable at all), so I guess the changeover was inevitable.  With a different approach that stresses the importance of things made-in-house, Roland's tries to offer a little of something for everyone as exemplified on their diverse menu.  For this food adventure, I enlisted the help of both Miss Y and Whipping Girl. 

Of all things, Miss Y wanted something with vegetables to start (curse you Miss Y!), so we began with the Oven Roasted Beet Salad with slices of red beets, arugula, feta cheese, and mango onion salsa.  The tender slices of beets were slightly tart, smoky and sweet.  However, to change things up a bit, there was an acidic spiciness from the salsa that livened up the flavours significantly.  With the saltiness from the cheese, there was a good balance.  Next up we tried the Braised Beef Poutine consisting of home-cut fries, true Quebec cheese curds and beef in a red wine demi.  We really liked this dish as the demi was flavourful and rich with a definite red wine essence.  The beef itself was super tender and moist.  Although the fries were a little dark, they were crispy and starchy.

Next, at the insistence of Whipping Girl, we tried the Mussels in a red coconut curry served with a French baguette. I swear she could eat mussels everyday and be happy...  Anyways, the "broth" was more like a thick sauce meant for a side of rice.  That wasn't a bad thing though as the abundance of coconut milk ensured that it was creamy and aromatic.  There was no absence of spice either as the flavours ended off with a lingering kick.  The honey mussels were buttery and plump where they exhibited their own natural sweetness.  Trying to sample something from every section, we got their 5-Spice Duck Pizza with spiced duck breast, red pepper, red onion, crushed wonton, mozzarella, ketjap manis, sweet chilli sauce and cilantro.  We found the crust to be thin, chewy and a touch dry.  The combination of ketjap manis and sweet chili emulated an almost hoisin effect except not as sweet, rather with more tartness.  The duck was meaty and 5-spiced as advertised with a hint of anise and cinnamon.

Onto an interesting concoction, we sampled the Showbiz Burger consisting of an in-house made 8oz beef patty, jalapeño bottle caps, crispy prosciutto, mac n’ cheese patty, aged cheddar, onion tanglers and roasted garlic aioli on a fresh baked bun served with a deep fried pickle.  Although the patty was not overcooked, it was still on the dry side (possibly being too lean).  We liked the idea of the fried onions, but they were a bit hard.  The spicy tart pop of the fried jalapeños was memorable and probably the most impactful ingredient.  For me, I had to get the Braised Lamb Shank slow roasted in red wine and herbs with potato anna, red cabbage and lemon wilted kale.  The meat fell-off-the-bone and was gelatinous and moist (except for some exterior portions).  The red wine jus was impactful and was unmistakably wine tasting (with no alcoholic aftertaste).  Although only a side, the kale was really good being bright and acidic.

Lastly, for dessert we tried the Cookie Sliders and Moochie Banana.  Up until this point, the food was pretty decent, however, the desserts were quite pedestrian.  The cookie sliders were almost an afterthought with in‐house baked chocolate chip cookies topped with ice cream that were drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauce. Not bad, but not something anyone could do at home.  As for the banana fritter, it was okay with a crunchy exterior and a combination of banana and chocolate on the inside.  It was pleasant and not overly sweet.  Overall, the meal was pleasant enough at reasonable prices.  The only weak spot was the desserts.

*All food and beverages were comped excluding gratuities*

The Good:
- Okay portion sizes
- Well-priced
- Decent eats

The Bad:
- Desserts need to be elevated

Roland's on Fourth on Urbanspoon

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