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Mmmmm......Fooood......

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Kaju Soft Tofu Restaurant

 5408 Walnut Ave
Irvine, CA
 

Mmmm...Tofu

This is my favorite Tofu House in Irvine (There’s a place across the street but the food isn’t as good). The parking is pretty bad during mealtimes, but the service is good, quick, and friendly, and the food is good enough if you’re craving Korean Tofu Soup. The only thing I don’t like is I keep getting egg shells in my soup, but that’s more due to my ineptitude at cracking eggs.

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Mochilato

 14310 Culver Dr Ste E
Irvine, CA
 

A Mixture of Japanese and Italian Goodness

A couple of months ago my sister took me to a new dessert place that she said her friend’s aunt had opened, and apparently a bunch of her friends were working there (one was the manager). Anyways, I thought it was just another ice cream palce that we were going to because we felt sorry for her friends who weren’t getting any business, but I was WRONG.

The place is large, well lighted, and has big tables. The reason I mention this is because most other dessert places I’ve frequent (Yogurt Land/World, boba places, Guppy’s, etc) are incredibly cramped and you end up walking around the curb outside eating your dessert in a big group like those Asian gangs. Anyways, it’s really nice to have a place to sit, even with a group of 8 people. And there’s a CS Lewis quote on the wall.

The mochi (filled with gelato) are very good, and worth a taste. But what I keep coming back for is the shaved ice. I’ve been to a couple of shaved ice places before (all of them were korean too, btw, dunno why) but this is one of my favorite places. The ice is light and melts easily, as opposed to other places like Guppy’s. Also, there are three options. Japanese style, Italian style, or Mochilato way, which is a mixture of both. The ice is green tea and strawberry flavored, and comes with numerous toppings (including fresh fruits and my favorite mochi bits). The portions are ridonkulously huge like some Korean shaved ice places though, so beware.

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Yogurt Land

 14775 Jeffrey Rd Ste J
Irvine, CA
 

What's Pinkberry Again?

Much better than Pinkberry’s AND Golden Spoon. Period. Well, there have been a couple of friends who prefer those other places, but I’d say 90% of the people I’ve talked to love Yogurt Land. It’s customizable, fun, and cheap, especially relative to Pinkberry’s (which only give you two flavors and limited toppings too). That said, if you like this, try out Yogurt World in San Diego on Convoy. The flavors are even better, although its 38c an oz instead of the 30c here in Irvine, and the place is much shabbier.

My favorite thing to do is to get a bunch o the fruity flavors, and the some fruit toppings, along with the soft chewy mochi bits and some almond flakes. It’s my now perfected combination.=P

Anyways, three months ago I’d have given the place 5 stars, but I’m over the yogurt craze now. I still eat there once in a while, but I’ve lost the craving for it. But it’s definitely a must try for young asian kids of high school and college age who want to hang out in a ridiculously long line for some very good yogurt,

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Maki Maki

 71 Fortune Dr
Irvine, CA
 

Maki Maki

Talk about overrated. Some of my friends were telling me about this place and so I went to try it out. A couple of times actually, but it just wasn’t that great. The sushi is okay, not spectacular, but the prices are. There is a Happy Hour, for which selected sushi (and some drinks!) are half of, but the service was horrible, and the waiter forgot my drink, and when it did come, it wasn’t very good at all. For this price range, I can think of ten other Japanese restaurants that have much better food. I don’t plan on coming here again

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The Melting Pot

 2646 Dupont Dr
Irvine, CA
 

Premier Fondue Indeed

This place is excellent for special occasions. I came here for my girlfriend’s birthday, and they had a card for her on the table, as well as some special dessert. And everyone kept wishing her a happy birthday. It’s like the servers can almost read your mind, that’s how perfect they time their comings and goings, and the atmosphere is fun or romantic, depends on the occasion and the table you get.

The food is delicious, and the format is easy to choose if you’re a first timer (try the pre-packaged big night out), and also great if you’d like to customize your meal a bit more.

The portions aren’t ginormous, but with appetizers (dippers with cheese), tasty salads, amazing entrees, and one of the best desserts I’ve had, the Big Night Out meal was fantastic. Obviously, it’s a little on the pricey side, but it’s definitely worth a shot if you’ve never had it and want to celebrate something special.

The best part is, it’s FUN. An interactive meal where you get to dip/ cook your food, but it still tastes really good no matter what you do. Two thumbs up! =P

Also, a caveat: make your reservations EARLY if you plan on eating here on the weekends (as in three weeks or more in advance), just to be safe.

Chocolate S’mores - Big Night Out at The Melting Pot

Big Night Out

The appetizers came with aple slices, bread pieces, and veggies to dip in a delicious warm cheese fondue, followed by some great salads. The Mediterranean special was new and exciting, and even the Caesar salad was very tasty. The entree comes (depending on the price you select) with lobster tails, filet mignon steaks, fish, ravioli, chicken, and a number of other bite sized goodies. And the stuff that you cook it in is customaizable, as well. The dessert, with fresh, very sweet strawberries, bananas, rice krispy treats, adn marshmallows, was top class. And I am not a big fan of dessert, usually.

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Hakata Ramen - Shinsengumi

 18315 Brookhurst St., #1
Fountain Valley, CA
 

Not Your Regular Ramen Shop

When I usually eat Japanese food, like everyone else I go for the sushi, or sashimi, or even udon or soba if I’m craving noodles. Ramen? I don’t even get that at Japanese buffets. It is, for most people, an inexpensive and quick meal. But Shinsengumi proves that eating ramen can be a fun experience too.

You’re given a menu and a paper form when you sit down. Pretty much everyone gets the Hakata Ramen though, so the menu’s more of a formality than anything else. You can also always get sides or extra noodles, if you’re hungrier than usual. On the sheet you can add a variety of toppings and specify how oily you want your soup base, how hard/soft to cook your noodles, and so on. Also, green onions and red ginger are included in the ramen too, so if you want your noodles without these, or in lesser amounts, you can indicate your preferences on the sheet as well.

The physical location is rather small, however, and if you come during peak hours (mealtimes and late at night) the wait can be up to an hour or more. Rather long for a bowl of noodles, but that tells you just how good it is (and how small the restaurant is). Don’t expect to come here with more than four people and get in immediately, or sit together. The Redondo Beach branch is somewhat larger, but when it gets crowded they’ll make you sit at tables together with random people.

The service is great- typical loud greetings in Japanese when you enter and exit (don’t ask me what they say). They’re friendly enough, if a bit rushed. If you sit at the bar area, you can watch the chefs cook your noodles and soup too, which is always good entertainment while waiting for your food. And you know they don’t spit in it.

Ramen at Hakata Ramen - Shinsengumi

Ramen

The ramen is flavorful, and can be customized to suit your individual palate. Extra toppings range from $.50 to $1.50 extra. The ramen itself is $6.95.

Gyoza

This seems to be the most popular side dish. It does taste good, but to say each dumpling is bite-sized would be an overstatement, as you could probably eat the whole plate in one bite.

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Pho Thanh

 9625 Bolsa Ave
Westminster, CA
 

24 Hour Phon (Fun)

Sorry for the mandatory pho pun. Anyways, if you’re ever bored in Little Saigon or thereabouts, in the wee hours of the night, and suddenly feel hungry, this is the place for you (if you don’t feel like a fourthmeal at taco bell). This place is always crowded (well, last into the night) as it is open 24/7, and is located on Bolsa next to the T&K food warehouse (where a scene from the Fast and the Furious was shot) and the adjacent strip mall. Parking is readily available, and the place is big enough so that a wait is never necessary. The service is slow but the food comes out quickly enough, and the waitresses are never really overworked, so it’s not that bad. It’s good pho at a decent price, but the best thing about it really is the hours. If you ever need to satiate your late night hunger pangs and you’re in the area, you know where to go.

A couple of details:, and this place only accepts cash, so hit up an ATM beforehand if you roll plastic, Also, if you usually like to just order water, be warned- they don’t give free water here, only bottled water.

Pho Tai

This is just noodles with raw beef. The beef cooks in the soup, and is rather lean but tasty (I like my meat lean). The large size is $1.50 more.

Option/hint: My vietnamese friend always tells me to ask for the meat on the side, so that you can put it in yourself. I presume this is so that you can control how well it’s cooked, but he insists it tastes better that way. I’ll leave it up to you on this one.

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Mugen

 17655 Harvard Ave Ste G
Irvine, CA
 

Decent Japanese Food

A typical Japanese type little place. Limited selection, but the food they do have isn’t bad. It’s small but never really crowded. It’s adequately priced, maybe a tad expensive for certain items. All in all, a good eat if you’re short on time and ideas.

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California Beach Restaurant

 3355 Via Lido
Newport Beach, CA
 

Excellent Sushi in a Fun Environment

California Beach serves, quite simply, the best sushi I have ever tasted. If you consider yourself a fan of Japanese food, and particularly sushi, do yourself a favor and try it out. I’ve taken many friends and family here and it has never disappointed. The food, that is. The place itself is, well, perhaps not as appealing to everyone.

But oh, the food. I’ve never tried anything besides the all-you-can-eat here, and I don’t plan on ever trying anything else. I’m sure the other stuff is great, but the reason I keep coming back is to stuff myself full of great quality sushi. Here’s the deal: $21.95 for an hour an a half of sushi heaven. It’s not bad considering the quality of the food and how much other all-you-can-eat places cost. The mode of ordering is the infamous paper method, and the service is a bit slow, so that you’ll average about three rounds. You’re allowed to pick appetizers, rolls, and sushi. Most of the appetizers are good, but the sushi and hand rolls are outstanding. In fact, almost everything on the all you can eat menu is worth a try (you might have to go with a lot of other people though, or come back a few times, to do that). And the sake is delicious.

I’d give the food five stars, two thumbs up, whatever cliche you want. The controversy lies in two other things: the ordering method, and the setting. As stated before, you’re given the paper strip on which the menu is printed, and each person is allowed to pick two types of sushi and two appetizers. Your waitress will bring it out on a large plate, and after you polish that off, you’re given another paper form. Simple enough, right? The problem is that you only have an hour and a half (an hour if you sit at the bar). They don’t exactly kick you out, but they’ll remind you firmly when it’s time to give up your seat. This time limit, coupled with the slow service, means that on average, you can fit in three rounds. But, it’s not as bad as it may seem. By this time, you should be pretty stuffed, if you’re an average person. If you eat a lot more, however, or just want to show off to your friends/get your money’s worth, then check out the menu online before you go, so you can order quickly. And ask for the paper form WHILE you’re eating your food, not after. Nice waitresses will do this without being asked (I gave her a deserved extra tip). My friends and I have managed to squeeze in four rounds this way the last couple of times. Another side note: they claim to charge you 5 dollars extra if you waste food, but only if it’s in excess.

The place is a medium sized locale, with extra friendly service and loud music. The thing is, some people have complained that the service is a little TOO friendly and the music a little TOO loud. It’s true that you’ll have to shout to be heard here, but if you don’t mind that, it’s actually pretty fun. The people who make the actual sushi at the bars are loud and friendly, and every hour and a half or so the rock n’ roll music will stop, and they’ll blast their theme song. The employees will all have wooden blocks (if you’re lucky and sitting at the bar, you might be given a pair too) and clap them together in a deafening rhythmic pattern. And then afterwards everyone (including the sushi chefs) toasts everyone else with a mug of beer and carry on eating. It’s a weird mix of traditional Japanese cuisine and western style rock n’ roll atmosphere, but it’s definitely worth a try, for the first time at least, and a great place to get together with a bunch of rowdy friends.

Other details: it’s only open for dinner, but the all-you-can-eat price is the same every day of the week. Also, parking may be a bit hard if you’re unlucky, but there’s a lot around the back-it’s just a bit more of a walk.

All you can eat

Very, very good sushi. Cut down on the appetizers if you’re not a big eater though, they’ll just take up valuable space.

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Chopstix

 4633 Convoy St
San Diego, CA
 

Chopstickssss

I love Japanese food. Of course, I’m not Japanese so I don’t claim to be an expert, but I probably go eat at new Japanese restaurants at least a couple times a month. And of all the Japanese restaurants in San Diego, Chopstix is my favorite, by far. At first glance, it seems like just another typical Asian place on Convoy with an all too small parking lot. But step inside and you’ll see that the quality and variety of food (multiple types of Ramen, Udon, Soba, etc.), the reasonable prices, and the quick and friendly service makes this a can’t miss eatery if you’ve never tried it.

I’ve been here three different times, for both lunch and dinner, and the place is always reasonably crowded, but never intolerably packed (my uncle, who judges the quality of a restuarant by the length of its wait, would be pleased). Inside the atmosphere is one that gives off a Japanese feel, without the formal setting of more elegant restaurants. There are bar type seats as well as regular tables, and a tv in th corner. It’s not so quiet that you have to whisper and not so loud that you have to yell to be heard. In other words, great for family or friends type of a gathering.

There are a couple of cons, though. The sushi selection is rather limited (compared to sushi specialty places), and the place isn’t huge, so you can’t expect to sit together if you have around ten or more people. And the parking is a pain. But I consider these to be minor inconveniences.

So order a green tea, try something new, and hit up the Yogurt World or Tapioca Express across the street afterwards. What more could you ask for?

Mabo-Katsu-Don

A Mix of Chinese style Mabo-tofu sauce on top of chicken katsu on top of rice. This was recommended to me, and it did not disappoint. The unique flavor and generous portion offsets the rather bland miso soup and salad accompanying it. You might think it’s weird, but I like it.

Crunchy Roll

I’m usually against California rolls and Crunchy rolls, but these are served in big portions, and has just the right amount of crunch in them. Plus, on the menu it has a big 5.95 crossed out and 4.95 written next to it. If that’s not effective advertising, I don’t know what is.

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