#MauiChefsLAX: A Taste of Aloha in Hollywood

Maui & Los Angeles Chefs' Collaboration Luncheon

I recently attended a delectable eight-course “Aloha Friday” lunch prepared by a trio of Maui-based chefs using prime ingredients from the Hawaiian islands. Held at Acabar Restaurant, the event was hosted by the Hawaii Visitors Bureau to give local food writers a literal taste of Maui’s vibrant culinary scene. From start to finish, I was seriously impressed by the flavors, techniques, and of course, aloha spirit.

Maui & Los Angeles Chefs' Collaboration Luncheon

Making the trip from Maui was Michael Lofaro (bottom row, right) of Humuhumunukunukuapua’a at Grand Wailea, Riko Bartolome (bottom row, left) of Cane and Canoe at Montage Kapalua, and Kyle Kawakami (top row, left) of Maui Fresh Streatery food truck. Oscar Torres (top row, right), executive sous chef of Acabar, rounded out the stellar line up. Each chef was tasked with preparing two courses this afternoon.

Maui & Los Angeles Chefs' Collaboration Luncheon

Chef Michael Lofaro kicked off the good eating with a pristine ahi tuna tartare dressed in a ginger-lime vinaigrette and punctuated with cucumbers, shiso, and parsley.

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Super Burger – Pasadena

Super Burger - Pasadena

Everyone loves to hate Yelp, but I have a confession to make: it’s the most used app on my phone. While individual restaurant reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt, I have found the “Hot & New” and “Nearby” functions surprisingly useful for discovering under-the-radar spots like Super Burger.

Super Burger - Pasadena

With 300 glowing reviews and a very respectable 4.5 star rating, Super Burger kept appearing whenever I searched for notable restaurants within a mile radius of my home. Once I perused the bevy of burger-licious images and skimmed through the write-ups, Super Burger’s charms could not be denied—I needed to eat here immediately.

Super Burger - Pasadena

Super Burger, which is located on the corner of Altadena and Villa in Pasadena, has been around for years. However, it wasn’t until Jean and Ben Khe took over the al fresco stand in 2009 that word began to spread about their incredible burgers.

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Boston Lobster – San Gabriel

Boston Lobster - San Gabriel

If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, than the folks at Newport Tan Cang Seafood must be absolutely tickled about the opening of Boston Lobster.

While the restaurant’s name might lead one to expect lobster rolls served on split top buns and towers of gloriously fresh oysters, the focus here is seafood prepared with a Vietnamese-Chinese bent. From what I hear through the grapevine, a former cook from Newport opened the restaurant, hence the similar bill of fare.

Boston Lobster - San Gabriel

The Astronomer and I, along with the Astronomer’s fabulous sister Rosalind, dropped in for dinner on a recent Friday night. While the wait at nearby Newport would’ve been painfully long, we were seated straightaway at the peak of dinner hour. Score one for Boston Lobster.

Boston Lobster - San Gabriel

To compare apples to apples, we selected a slew of dishes that we would normally order at Newport. The clams with Thai basil ($11.95) were just as good as their Newport counterparts, brilliantly briny and fragrant from plenty of fresh herbs and garlic.

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Tết 2015: Not Your Grandma’s Bánh Chưng (Sous Vide Edition)

Tet 2015 - Banh Chung Making Party

For the third year running, Chef Diep Tran spearheaded a bánh chưng making get-together in preparation for the Lunar New Year. What began as a cultural and culinary experiment of sorts, has become a beloved tradition that I eagerly anticipate each year.

Tet 2015 - Banh Chung Making Party

Since our initial foray into bánh chưng making, Diep has continued to refine our ingredients and techniques. One element that has remained unchanged over time is the size and shape of the bánh chưng. The smaller parcels make for shorter cook times (and unparalleled adorableness).  

Tet 2015 - Banh Chung Making Party

This year, Diep made two types of pork filling—smoked belly using Red Boat fish sauce and cured bacon using Red Boat fish sauce salt.

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