Cook’s Tortas [SGV]

Not many people know Mexican cuisine features sandwiches. This combination of old and new world influences can be seen directly with theses sandwiches – the Torta. Bakeries and flour was brought over and developed by the French in the early 1800′s. Then by using locally cured and marinated meats, the Mexicans produced wonderful sandwiches.

The Torta Ahogada is a great example of a Mexican torta – with fried pork on a thick baguette, similar to the French ones. They layer and smoother the sandwich with a thick and spicy dried pepper tomato sauce. This great, but messy sandwich is from Guadalajara, from the state of Jalisco. I have no idea how to eat it without a knife and fork, but I’ve heard people there, just pick it up and eat it, in all its glory, with messy hands.

Anyways. . . enough about the history. I was reading about different twitters, bloggers, and foursquare’rs going to this little spot in the suburbs of Los Angeles, called Cook’s Tortas. And at that time, I was going through a sandwich craze, going to Langer’s Deli for Pastrami’s, Porto’s for the Cubano, anything from Mendicino Farms, and the Beef Barchetta from Stacked Sandwiches, with disappointments from Bay Cities Deli. So I knew, I had to go to Cook’s.

I didn’t realize that Cook’s took over for the old Aloha Cafe spot on Atlantic Blvd in Monterey Park, till I got there. But oh well, restaurants come and go. After pulling in and walking in, the first thing you notice is the large ceiling to floor black board menu. I liked the coffee/cafe menu on how they explained how the coffees were made. There must have been over 20 different sandwiches. Yet I knew what I was going after . . . something pork related.

Pork . . .. pig . . . ham . .. . were the key words I was looking for on the menu. The Mojito, #151, was my pick, with roasted pork, garlic mojo, and slow cooked onions. This large sandwich with pork, garlic, and onions oozing all around was stupendous. As I consumed this bad boy, I had to be careful not to get the rich goodness on my clothes and hands. The bread was crusty on the outside, but not too hard. The inside softness soaked up the juices and grease to provide the moist base need for each bite. Not overly salty, the Mojito was just right. But after thinking about it, I could have added a little spicy pepper or sauce to enhance this experience. But actually, I was really thinking about the Ahogada, before I arrived, but I realized I only had one stomach, and the Mojito was great – so next time.

I think I remembered I had a drink and an appetizer from the menu . . .but I don’t remember it at all. . . Besides, you wouldn’t care if I didn’t write about it. The sandwich was the star. Hopefully one day, I will find a torta place in Taipei or Shanghai worthy of Cook’s.

What to Order: Mojito
What not to Order:

3 Pigs
Price Range 1 $/¥/NT

Cook's Tortas on Urbanspoon

Cook’s Torta’s
1944 South Atlantic Boulevard, Monterey Park, CA 91754-6302, +1 323 278-3536

Phenomenal Shanghai Skyline Views at Strip Prime Steakhouse [Jingan] – closed

I couldn’t help but think of the Standard Hotel or Silk Lounge in Los Angeles when I first walked out on the large spacious patio. You might, also think of Plunge at Hotel Gansevoort in NYC, Club 50 at Viceroy Hotel in Miami or the Bespoke Hotel in Tokyo, when you envision great outdoor lounges. This outdoor rooftop lounge is what every large metropolitan city has or needs.
One might argue the bars on the Bund might have better views, though the views only point toward Pudong, while Strip Prime offers views of Shanghai proper. Bar Rouge and Jean George offer great vantage points to see the Pearl Tower, the waterfront, as well as the historic architecture. But Strip Prime, situated in the center of Puxi, gives, in my humble opinion, a better view. With the dark color hues, you get a less tourist feeling, you can almost feel like you’re in a real lounge club atmosphere and environment. The space is huge. The Bund has loads of tourist strolling around and potentially more foreigners or people passing through. Yes, I know Shanghai is full of foreigners. While serious party goers, in comparison to the Bund goers, would more likely select something like Strip Prime.
Though I didn’t have dinner, our private gathering had an array of appetizers and drinks flowing throughout this early night. In fact, I have another private event to attend soon, also at Strip Prime. With the large outdoor bar, Strip Prime is made for large gatherings. Though I didn’t like the only bathroom situated up some stairs.
Thank goodness there was a breeze that night. Or was it that we were on the roof, that there was always a constant flow. Its my first Shanghai summer, and I can’t believe how freakin’ hot it is. Though I hot summer nights easier to take with the views from Strip Prime Steakhouse.
What to Order:
What not to Order:
2 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT
Strip Prime Steakhouse
(Ascott Service Apartment)

Late Night Noodles 沪上一家辣肉面馆 [Jing’an]

I found this little late night eatery, by sheer chance. I was going home from a late night of drinking with some friends and my stomach was taking over. My mouth started to moving, in probably, the best Chinese (since being intoxicated improves your language skills) to my taxi driver about food and such. I might have told him that I was a connoisseur of food and had a food blog. Or maybe he didn’t understand and just saw my size therefore figured I liked to eat.
I do remember him rambling about something about a local favorite (or perhaps his own) of this particular nearby noodle shop. I was excited, but also a bit worried. Since I was hungry, I was looking forward to it. But hesitate, since I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Well, 1. I was going alone, 2. I had no idea what kind of noodles they served or served with, 3. I hoped it wasn’t too crowded, and 4. Were there taxi cabs nearby to bring me home afterwards.
Heading to new restaurants is always fun. But when you are in a foreign country, on a late night, it might be smart to go with a friend. But, since I am about 6’1″ and 200+ lbs., I realized that people might fear me in China. Another fear I had, was exploring the unknown delicacies that China had to offer. I confess that I don’t like to try strange meat parts and funny looking sea creatures. In China, people crave, not only tastes in foods, but texture as well – from the chewy to the mushy. (eww) Not only was I hungry, but I was tired. I didn’t feel like fighting a crowd to wait for a table or for food. Irritated I potentially was feeling, but more hungry I really felt at that time. And lastly, being new to the city, and still learning the roads, I had absolutely no idea where I was. Unfortunately still, after almost 3 months, I am at the mercy of the taxi cab drivers. I hope that I would find a cab afterwards and get home.
After arriving, I saw the little shop, just off a big street, which featured many cars and cabs. Inside I saw, since I hadn’t gotten off the cab, I saw a brightly lit place, with 6 small tables and with about 4 customers. So . . .I got off and started my little adventure – and prayed for something yummy and palatable for me.
The place was clean with a couple of customers outside smoking and a three young punks messing with their laptops with music videos. I saw a little corner counter where someone was counting cash – so I figured that’s where you place your order and pay. I saw everyone was eating noodles and slurping soups, yet I still asked what was the typical and popular dish everyone ordered. A waiter suggested to me that I should get the spicy noodle dish with pork. And that’s what I got. I paid 10 RMB, which is about USD 1.20. Yup – a little over a buck. Now, I hoped I was getting something good.
I found a small spot near the front counter. Above I saw this huge plack above. I was told it was a story of how they got their name. Since the name of the place literally translates into – a Spicy Meat and Noodle Shop in Shanghai from 沪上一家辣肉面馆. After taking a couple of snapshots, my noodles arrived.
The large plastic bowl of noodles were swimming around in a reddish broth. Diced chunks of pork were clumped at the top. I didn’t notice, thank goodness, for any funny looking meat organs. I dove in, trying the soup first. The spicy broth was spicy, which I would assume is more of a Hunan or Northern style style, rather than a mouth numbing southwest Sichuan flavor. I would also think that the noodles are more of a Northern China influence, since they prefer noodles over rice. The noodles were cooked al dente, which I realize is more of my personal preference. Each bite of noodles was hard and not chewy. I happily slurped up all the noodles, eat the pork, and tried to finish the spicy broth. I failed at finishing – which is rare for me. Another good thing about this place is that I think westerners and American can easily have this great noodle dish, if they can take the spiciness. One interesting note, I saw these straw dispensers, like the ones you find at McDonald’s or any fast food joint, on each table which dispensed chopsticks. That was cool.
At the end of the night, on the cab ride home, I realized I could do this again. I could visit this place and enjoy noodles for only 10 RMB or I could also venture out to check out other cool interesting places.
What to Order: the spicy noodles with pork
What not to Order: didn’t try anything else
3 Pigs
Price Range 1 $/¥/NT
Other Posts
沪上一家辣肉面馆(成都北路店) 上海静安区凤阳路535号 021-62185443
A Spicy Meat and Noodle Shop in ShanghaiShanghai Jingan District Feng Yang Lu 535号021-62185443