Sweetsalt Toluca Lake, CA

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I like a great lunch. I think lunch can be overlooked and underwhelming a lot of the time because we don’t put much effort into it. I can understand that because I do it myself.  My normal lunch is probably some leftover something that I made for dinner the night before, so on this particular occasion I felt like having a nice lunch on a beautiful summer afternoon with my boyfriend, Brandon. Normally we debate where we should go and if we’re out by me, I usually have to pick because he’s not too familiar with the area (though I must admit that he’s getting much better).  I remembered my brother mentioning that Sweetsalt was good so we decided to check it out. We went in around 11:30 for lunch, which is early to beat the crowds, because that place seems to pack them in.

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The décor is antique and rustic with larger communal tables at the back to seat larger parties and smaller seats in the very small café-style restaurant. Sweetsalt is an order-at-the-counter style restaurant and they bring the food out to your corresponding number. We looked over the very fresh and trendy salad and sandwich choices, which all looked interesting and delicious. We picked the pear and pomegranate salad with chicken and the short rib brioche sandwich with a side of truffle potatoes and an iced soy latte. The pear and pomegranate salad was really refreshing and lite. The chicken was chopped and tossed into the salad and nicely complimented the sweet dressing that allowed the bitterness of the arugula to disappear a bit. Our sandwich was delectable; the short rib was tender and juicy. The meat had a very pronounced bourbon or whiskey flavor and was a little heavy on the black pepper, but the buttery brioche bun helped to mellow those flavors. They put a little side salad of mixed greens lightly dressed, which added freshness to the sandwich. Our truffle potatoes were again a bit on the heavy black pepper side, but cooked well. The café is really a very sweet and dainty place to have a bite to eat, enjoy coffee or pastries, and friendly company.

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

Hook Burger Burbank, CA

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In a very commercial shopping center in Burbank is this little burger joint: Hook Burger. I haven’t had a hamburger in a long time and something seemed to be calling me to have one at this particular time. Hook Burger, whether they like to admit it or not, is part of the whole gourmet burger places popping up all over the place but they say they’ve been in the burger scene for 35 years on their website, claiming to have the best burger. I don’t necessarily think they have the best burger, but it’s pretty good.

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The style of service is order at the counter casual, which is nice for a quick bite to eat at lunchtime. I had a salad there before, which was pretty delicious, but I decided that today I’d have the burger and see what it was all about. I chose the hickory bacon burger, which was topped with bbq sauce, crispy fried onions and bacon on a very fluffy, yet still crusty white bun with shredded lettuce, tomato and mayo with a couple of pickles on the side. Visually, the burger was beautiful and it tasted pretty great as well. I think it had just the right sauce to bun ratio, which is something that I look for in a burger, so it’s neither too dry nor too wet. The beef patty was very juicy and cooked well, but the beef wasn’t extremely flavorful. I had a side salad to accompany my burger. It had balsamic dressing and was extremely simple with just cubed cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and a few slices of raw red onion served over mixed greens.

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The service was very friendly, both at the counter and when they bring you your food. For $6.25, the burger is a good value for the money and a deliciously heavy lunch that I’m glad I had the rest of the day to burn off.

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

Yoga in Santa Monica, Ca. and 17th Street Cafe

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I know I really shouldn’t spend money on lunch. I’m a yoga teacher (Kimberlyfujitakiyoga.com) for the most part and a personal chef here and there with odd jobs, caterings, and a million other ideas brewing away. If anyone is interested in my personal chef, private dining or personal grocery shopping please click on Unrivaledkitch Wellness for more info! It’s working out slowly, but surely because I’m living my dreams and it takes patience to make them happen, and it makes for me being on a pretty tight budget.

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I don’t know about you, but the only thing I really spend money on is food. I was just talking to my sister about this. If my stomach wasn’t so curiously hungry, I would probably have more money in my pocket, but a less happy stomach, which makes for a less happy yogi, so I’ll keep eating. Let’s call it research and development and in this salad, it was just that because I have a feeling I’m going to be making this delicious lunch I had today at 17th Street Café  in Santa Monica, sometime very soon.

It’s the simple things in life. On Thursdays, I teach a mini yogis™ baby and me yoga class at UCLA Family Commons in Santa Monica. It’s an amazing establishment that fosters good social skills for children and family support for all types of situations involving children. They have summer camps and winter camps, as well as yoga and martial arts for children of all ages. My Thursday classes are baby and me yoga sessions, which consists of children ages 0-3.  We have tons of fun in class testing limits, singing songs and being present. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to teach at UCLA Family Commons.  After the baby and me yoga class, I have a couple of hours to kill before I teach a really awesome group of kids in a private home in Santa Monica.

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Between classes I have some time to explore Santa Monica, which is nice because I’m not very familiar with the area, but it’s just buzzing with delicious cuisine and amazing shops to look at.  I made a quick trip down Montana Avenue where there were so many little places trying to make themselves stand out amongst the others.  I walked down the block just viewing all the ambitious eaters in the area looking at menus and pondering if I was honestly hungry or not. Eventually I settled on 17th Street Café. This charming little café is not very prominent amongst the other places, but I indecisively decided, after peeking in, that an afternoon salad wouldn’t hurt my next class and that I better hurry and eat so I could keep up with three, six and seven year-olds. I was seated right away, very warmly by a man standing at a bakery counter. I kept my eyes away from the pastries, though they did offer a second glance. My waitress was pleasant, but very busy and overall, the café was doing a high volume for its small dining room.

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I ordered a passion fruit iced tea that was amply refilled. On the table came fresh hot bread that was delicious with some butter on it. After looking at their extensive menu, I found myself choosing the Oak Smoked Salmon Salad. I ordered a half portion because from the look of everyone else’s plates, the portions were quite abundant. The salad was lightly dressed with a sweet sesame vinaigrette, had chopped button mushrooms, radishes, daikon sprouts, feta cheese and oak smoked salmon. I really liked that the salmon was smashed up finely and mixed in with the feta. It made for a very salty, but refreshing flavor taking out some of the fishiness that is often associated with smoked salmon. I was rather impressed and completely satisfied with this simple and interesting salad, which made for a delicious beautiful lunch in the California sunshine. I’m grateful to 17th Street Café for replenishing my strength for the next adventure in kids’ yoga!

1610 Montana Ave. Santa Monica, Ca 90403

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

Spencer Makenzies Fish Company in Ventura, CA

DSC04723 DSC04727This little fish shack is a Ventura staple of food. If you pass by at 12, you’ll see the parking lot full and maybe even some people waiting outside to order their food to go. We’d passed by quite a few times and I always like to find a nice fish taco somewhere, so one day Brandon and I decided to stop in to Spencer Makenzies Fish Company.  The atmosphere is very casual, just like most things in Ventura. We were able to order at the counter or there are a few tables in the back where you can sit down and eat. Loud TVs with the Sunday afternoon football game were on and many people were turned to watch what was happening.

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We sat in the corner and decided on a couple of appetizers and a fish and shrimp taco. Brandon really wasn’t feeling good at all that day, but he humored me as I ate. The food was a little heavy, especially the tartar sauce they use, which I would ask for on the side if I went back. They had a variety of different delicious sauces that made the tacos really interesting. The shrimp taco we had was good, but nothing fantastic. We had some tempura fried vegetables, ceviche and a small clam chowder. I think out of everything, I liked the clam chowder the best. They have lots of different items to order. I wouldn’t mind coming back to try something different.

806 E Thompson Blvd, Ventura, CA

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

Cafe Nouveau in Ventura, CA

One beautiful Ventura afternoon, Brandon and I were out and about and decided to go into Cafe Nouveau , which recently opened back up after suffering from a kitchen fire last year. The dining room and whole restaurant is very quaint and cute. It looks like a perfect place for breakfast or an afternoon patio lunch.

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Brandon and I decided to dine inside this afternoon. The restaurant is set up into smaller rooms instead of a large dining space. It’s almost like eating in someone’s home, if their home had a bunch of other strangers in it. Our service was very attentive and we enjoyed our meal very much.

Brandon had a really delicious salmon salad and I decided to get a bacon cheese burger, which sounded perfectly wonderful at the time. Both the salad and burger were good; not the best burger I’ve ever had, but still satisfied my craving. The salmon was very fresh and the plethora of fresh and roasted vegetables was a perfect lunch. Our meal concluded with complimentary mini chocolate cupcakes, but what we enjoyed the most was their delicious blueberry corn bread muffin. It was definitely more food than two people need!

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497 E Thompson Blvd  Ventura, CA 93001

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

 

Himalaya in Ventura, CA

In a very commercial strip mall on the corner of Ventura Avenue and Main Street, just a bit away from downtown Ventura, is a very delicious find. Himalaya is an Indian restaurant with the perks of just being a couple miles away from Brandon’s house. We found ourselves there one afternoon for lunch when another place we were going to try was closed. As we walked in, we were greeted warmly by the waiter and promptly brought water and asked if we had any questions about the menu. As we looked over the menu, the lunch specials looked particularly delicious.

Since we hadn’t been there before, I opted for the more traditional Chicken Tikka Masala. The lunch special came with soup, mango chutney and rice. The chicken and sauce was appetizing and the service couldn’t have been nicer.  We also had an order of potato and pea samosas, which were fried to perfection—the dough was crisp and delicious. They were accompanied by a sweeter sauce and one spicy herbaceous sauce, both of which had really amazing flavor. Brandon had the lamb curry, which was really spicy, even for just being the middle level of spiciness. All the food was really flavorful and they had other dishes from Tibet and Nepal as well. A very delicious and affordable lunch find for Ventura. I’m sure we’ll be back soon.

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

Original Thai BBQ

One 100 degree afternoon, the three Fujitaki children decided that it’s been long overdue that we have lunch.  I’m very lucky to be close to my brother and sister— I love them very much, even if we want to kill each other sometimes. We decided to have some Thai food at Original Thai BBQ over by where we grew up. The lunch specials are very affordable and come with a good amount of food. My brother frequents another location in Studio City, which he says is better, but we found the food to be pretty good.

My sister ordered the Yellow Curry lunch special, my brother ordered the Pad Thai, and I ordered Pad See Ew, and we shared an order of Drunken Rice. We enjoyed our food and chatted about a bunch of things that we needed to catch up on and Maleeya ate some Thai food and rice with us too. I enjoyed the rice a lot. It had very good flavor from the garlic and bell peppers. My Pad See Ew had good flavor, but it needed those Thai chiles, the ones that you have to ask for on the side, to perfect it.

Overall, I think we had an enjoyable outing with a little brother and sister time, which is always fun.

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

The Stove; Mammoth Lakes, CA

Mammoth has some quintessential eateries that frequent visitors are sure to know about, one being The Stove. The Stove is known for its country-style old ways and is almost always packed, no matter when or what time it is. They have homemade pies, large waffles, scrambled eggs and every other breakfast thing that you’d normally see, but this time we didn’t eat breakfast there, we opted for dinner.  Sometimes I have qualms about eating at breakfast places for dinner, well most times, but my brother insisted this is where we needed to go, probably because the $14.95 prime rib dinner was definitely calling his name.

Because we knew this place would be crowded, we arrived a little before the restaurant opened for dinner at 5 p.m.  We made the correct assumption because three other cars soon followed us into the lot and as we stood in line, we took a couple of pictures of the beautiful surroundings to pass the time. As five o’clock quickly approached, the line began to grow steadily and we were sat by a nice hostess. Our waiter came over, got drinks and brought us a crumby mess of dry cornbread and muffins to the table; not my preference, but somewhat rustic.  We glanced over our menus and decided on prime rib being the ideal dish for me, my brother, mom and dad. My sister-in-law had chicken fried steak and my grandma had liver and onions. I don’t know who orders liver and onions when they go out, but that was a mess of a dinner if I ever saw one. Lesson learned: don’t order liver and onions again, Granny. Our prime rib came out tender and juicy. I had red potatoes and mixed vegetables with mine and we also got a dinner salad.

As the restaurant continued to fill up, we were glad we came in early. For the most part, our food was pretty good and a hefty portion for anyone to put down. My sister-in-law loves desserts so she ordered an apple bread pudding with whiskey sauce and ice cream, on the recommendation of our waiter. It was really delicious and a very large piping hot portion.  Dinner at The Stove with the family was home-style and comforting, one of those stick-to-your-ribs meals you enjoy every now and again.

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

An Early Mother’s Day Celebration at Summer Canteen

Wednesday afternoon, we decided to celebrate Mother’s Day a little early because of my brother’s work schedule. So all of us (me; my sister, Kristen; my niece, Maleeya; my brother, Kyle; my mom, Trudy; my dad, Mark; and my boyfriend, Brandon) decided to meet up and enjoy some delicious Thai food in Toluca Lake, where Kyle lives.

We chose a neighborhood favorite of Kyle’s, Summer Canteen; a lovely little Thai inspired modern eatery. Kyle and his wife, Viet-Linh, have been going here since it opened and we’ve frequented the place many times since then. For some reason or other, I guess it’s eluded my blog, but with such a large group and a variety of dishes, I thought this would be a nice sampling of what Summer Canteen has to offer–wonderfully fresh and well done Thai food at reasonable prices with a modern and chic atmosphere.

 

Kristen and Brandon ordered Curry Noodle: a delicious yellow curry broth with chicken and vegetables, along with both crunchy noodles and soft rice noodles, sitting in a large bowl. Curry Noodle is definitely a dish that is always on our table at Summer Canteen. It’s not like any other curry that just comes with rice; the combination of crunch and rice noodles with the spicy mouth-watering curry, makes for a delicious and filling meal.

My dad ordered Thai Sukiyaki. The noodles were small cellophane noodles with an array of vegetables in a spicy sirracha sauce. This dish is a very different interpretation of Japanese sukiyaki, but appetizing nonetheless.

My mom ordered Pad See U with tofu and shared a bit with Maleeya. This dish is made of delicious flat noodles sitting in soy sauce and egg with tofu and broccoli, a perfectly scrumptious dish for the less adventurous pallet to enjoy Thai food.

Kyle ordered Pad Thai, a classic dish that never seems to fail here. I love the peanut sauce and noodles that are always cooked to perfection.

I ordered the Panang Beef with extra sauce and brown rice. The brown rice that they use here is fantastic. It’s not your usual cardboard tasting brown rice and it’s a beautiful, almost purple shade of color. The deep spicy and sweet flavors of the Panang beef with fall-to-pieces tender large pieces of beef, topped with some steamed bok choy, was the perfect meal. It’s something that I’ll definitely order again. I was completely satisfied and had plenty left over, even as a lunch portion.

Our service was kind and attentive, without being overly intrusive, which gave us plenty of time to converse and talk about what’s been going on and what’s going to go on. I love my family very much and this was a wonderful experience to have with all of us together, which doesn’t happen as often as I would like, but when it does it is always a great time.

This is my sisters second Mother’s Day. It’s so different when your sibling becomes a parent, I’m truly amazed by the transformation and strength it takes to raise such a beautiful little life.  I love my mom so much, shes always been such a great support of myself and my dreams. I love you both and a special thanks to all the amazing moms out there doing one of the hardest jobs on the planet.

How are you spending your Mother’s Day?

Cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

Afternoon Lunch with a Sweet Friend; Happy Birthday Jo!


Joanna is my Asian sister from another mother. We have high adventures including copious amounts of flowing mimosas or wonderful bottles of wine, delicious food, lots of life chats, and plenty of shit talking. We’ve grown and changed along with one another and made it fun and sometimes difficult, but we always know we’ll be there for one another. Joanna’s birthday was at the beginning of the month and because I have so many Pisces around me, this month I wanted to dedicate a blog to one of my favorite fish, Joanna.

A little while ago, we decided to take an afternoon off from life and share in a good meal. We met up half way between where the two of us live, in Westlake Village, and went to The Grill on the Alley http://thegrill.com/locations/the-grill-westlake-village-california.  This restaurant is beautiful, not to mention glamorous, interesting and classy, but not overly pretentious for an afternoon lunch. The large, glass, open-kitchen showcases an immaculate spectacle of many cooks doing just what they do: making delicious food.  With a spacious outdoor patio for additional seating, this large restaurant provides many different styles of dining from casual to elegant.
 
Our waitress was kind and attentive, but without over inquiring and allowing us to enjoy an afternoon of chatter. We started with a delicious plate of fried calamari that was well fried, delicate and delicious. I ordered a steak salad, which came to the table towering and could easily be shared between the two of us. The portions are very generous here, so next time I think we’ll share something instead.   Joanna enjoyed a French dip sandwich with thinly sliced beef and a nicely toasted roll. Both of us were happy with our choices and our bottle of wine nicely complimented our lunch. We spent the rest of the time overlooking our choices for the future and being extremely full.  A delicious afternoon with a best friend. What more could someone ask for?
cheers
-Unrivaledkitch