Friday, May 29, 2009

The Promenade @ Westfield Santa Anita

As I hoped, we were able to visit the mall last weekend. I decided to bump this post up, just because I am always behind posting with what is new onto this blog! I haven't even talked about our visit to Encore during its second day of opening. That was about 6 months ago. And the Promenade has been opened for several weeks already, but not everyone knows about it yet. So, not wanting to be behind, I am posting them today rather then later.

Contrary to what I had thought, the parking was STILL not enough during the weekend. When we visited during Mother's day, the new parking lot was not very full. Now? Completely filled up. Tons of cars were moving around, looking for a space to park at. Disaster. Luckily though, we found a spot, and using their escalators (or elevator if you want to), we were able to get out of the parking lot and right into the Promenade.

Board

What is very interesting is that the Promenade still isn't fully completed. And so there are tons of billboards right now near the Macy's side of the project, which are advertising about new shops, such as Bose, Dolci Mango, Red Robin, et cetera, which have not been opened yet. This one advertised about the many shops available.

Architecture- Near Nordstroms

The Nordstrom's side of the project though is fully running. If you are wondering about the layout, it is basically the space between Nordstrom's and Macy's, running downward from Nordstrom. Some shops switched places from their spot in the existing mall so that they could be here. You'll find Talbots, Gap, and Williams Sonoma here now instead of their old spot in the mall.

Teavana

There is one shop that is particularly interesting though, and that is Teavana. I remember seeing this at the Glendale Galeria, and now it is here. It's pretty busy with free samples at the door (see the jug next to the lady with the magenta purse), but their tea is actually not as good. It seemed to be sweetened with added flavors!

Entrance with Fountain

With the expansion, Westfield also attached their older entrances to the project. It makes the mall much more accessible. Plus, if you get tired of walking in the sun, you can always rush into the mall easily (or go into the sun). But what is that fountain you see there?

Fountain

It's actually a pretty big fountain which also produces mist! And mist is a very popular attraction with kids. It also attracts many people to see the fountain. Which is why I was never able to get a shot of the fountain without any people in it.

Audi Car Display
(yes, blurred on purpose)

Remember what I told you about Rusnak and Audi having many ads at the mall now? Well, they also managed to put several Audi models at the Promenade. They seemed to attract many people- as I was looking around, I would hear people say things like "I love Audi's!" or "This is that car!". Haha...seemed to be a good attraction for some people. It was worth the company's expense of 700 dollars (per car I think).

Promenade area near Macy's

By the time you were at those two Audis displayed above, you would already be near the end of the project, which is near Macy's. This portion has many interesting things.

Photos from top left clockwise:
Left top corner- the car area. Walk a bit further and it branches out to a big circular area.
Right top corner- the round area (a portion of it)
Right bottom corner- Chicos. The project doesn't just end there. There are more stores to the outside of Chico's, which don't get too much attention as they are pretty much hidden from the walking person (you'll see those shops in a car though). There is a stopping ramp area too nearby which you could use do pick up or drop off people.
Left bottom corner- Two small stands which are fully air-conditioned. Beard Papa finally found a permanent spot (which you can go indoors to buy the cream puffs), and the Surf City smoothie place which has a location in the center of the existing mall also has a small shack (to the right of the photo).

This is also where you'll see a ton of billboards talking about the new stores. But there is also something interesting nearby, and that is some landscaping.

Landscaping

There is a another water feature near the Macy's area which you can see at the two photos to the left. Although it looks like it is all greenery which is planted, it is not! It is actually a small pond which has things like lily pads in it. I don't think there are any fish though.

Landscaping in general seems to be a bit tropical. There are tons of aloe vera plants everywhere, as well as palm trees. They do have a special plaque on who did the landscaping, but I didn't take a picture of that.

Architecture- Facing towards Norstroms

Being near the Macy's area also gives you a fantastic view of the project, as well as the mountains nearby. Do you like it?

Hope this gave some good insight on this place :). Have you been there yet? How was your experience?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Banana Milk

Banana Milk

"Get some of this energizer drink too!", said the lady at a breakfast buffet while I was in Beijing. I had just gotten some milk, and now she hoped for me to get the energizer drink. What was it anyway? I decided to get some too. After all, if I didn't get it, the rest would go bye bye into the drain; the buffet was almost over, and that meant the leftover food (well most of it) would have to get discarded.

Going back to my table at the buffet, I started to drink the beverage. It was very familiar- a blend of bananas and milk (and maybe some other added ingredients too). And that is when I noticed this "energizer drink" was something I had made at home for many years. This so called "energizer drink", or banana milk, was a great way to use up ultra ripe bananas which were on the point that they could have been already thrown away (in a school cafeteria, that equals when black dots form on the banana). At this point, the banana was very sweet, which was good as it would make the final product sweet and flavorful.

How can a simple blend of banana, milk, and sometimes vanilla be so popular? I really don't know. When I recently searched about it, there was a multitude of pages of results. Some showed banana milk as a mass produced product available in grocery stores. Some showed it handmade, where the person would mash the banana by themselves.

Personally, I like it freshly blended with milk and banana. Why freshly blended? Well, the banana milk seems to have a chemical reaction as time goes on. Look at the product after a day, and the result is something you can not drink anymore. Plus, at the freshly blended point, it is ultra creamy with lots of foam on top. In other words, that means delicious.

How to make it? Simple. See the recipe below:

Banana Milk

You'll need:
1 medium to large banana
2 cups of milk (which milkfat is your preference)

*if you have a small banana, make it one banana to 1 cup of milk*

Equipment: A blender

Directions:
1. Prep your blender ready for use.
2. Peel the banana, and separate it into chunks with your hands. This should be very easy to do as the banana is ripe. Or, if you don't like getting your hands dirty, you can use a knife too. Do this over the blender so that the chunks automatically get into the blender cup.
3. Add two cups of milk to the blender.
4. Blend for about 30 seconds. If you don't like a very creamy texture and would rather like a chunkier and thinner texture, blend it for about 5-10 seconds. If you like creamy and smooth textures though then blend it for 30 seconds.
5. Pour into a cup, and enjoy!

You can double the recipe if you want to for 4 people. If you find the final product to be too sweet to your liking, you can add more milk and blend again to make sure it is incorporated well, or just splash some in and serve!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Thai Paradise

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Before I start even talking about Thai Paradise, I think you probably already have a question about this place. And that is, what is that plaque in the photo above?

Well, what it says is "Certificate for Quality Thai Cuisine- This is to certify that Thai Paradise Restaurant is a restaurant approved by Thai Select- December 15, 2003".

Nearby President Thai also has this type of distinction. But both restaurants seem to cater to a different crowd.

You see, President Thai mainly has coupons and ads in your local magazine. However, Thai Paradise looks more for the Asian community- putting commercials on the Chinese TV Channels, et cetera.

Certainly, there are some differences too other than the crowd. The food is slightly different in terms of ingredients and preparation.

Which place we have been to longer? Well...about the same- we used to only just visit here, but then we then started only visiting President Thai over this place due to that Thai Paradise usually had problems with their meat (off tasting). But recently, we went back to Thai Paradise to check out how things were now.

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Right when we entered the restaurant, we could already see many decorations in the restaurant. This cabinet was right next to the door and housed many cups, jugs, and things of the like. Very pretty too- and very detailed. You can also see that plaque that was in the first photo too.

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The cabinet is not just the only special thing about the interior. Right ahead from the entrance is this sculpture, which President Thai also has. Again, it's another piece of detailed work- does anyone know what it mean's though?

Interior

Still, there is more. There are small figures and decorations, as well as exceedingly large and intricate U shaped sculpture. It looks like a ship to me. There's even details about it (a plaque was made for it) which you can read if you plan on visiting here.

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Our table was also very pretty. A set of menus were already fanned out across the table when we sat down. There were the plates which you also saw in my President Thai post. And there were also ads on their food products.

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Dinner started out with a hot pot of Tom Yum Seafood soup. Although we had asked for mild, this was not really that "mild". It was probably even spicier than the Tom Kah Chicken Soup at Lotus of Siam, which we had also ordered to be served mild.

The soup had a great abundance of flavors from the giant amount of lemongrass, spices, and other ingredients that were put into it. There was also plenty of button mushrooms, as well as a variety of seafood like crab, imitation crab, shrimp, squid, fish, and more...

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What arrived next was a plate of their combination fried rice, which had plenty of different meats like shrimp, beef, and chicken, as well as several different veggies. It was very flavorful, but it was also a tad oily.

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In addition, we also ordered a fishcake and bamboo stir fry. The serving was plenty, and it was a bit spicy too. There were many pieces of the bamboo shoots as well as the fat pieces of fishcake which were very tender and also had a bit of young soybean in them. Scattered around the dish were also some bell peppers. As you would expect, this dish was a perfect match with some rice.

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Lastly came a plate of Rad Na, which at first looked like an exceedingly tiny portion. Although it was spread throughout the whole dish, the noodles were not piled up as one would expect- it was a very flat layer. However, when eating it, it started to feel more like a big portion. The noodles were very good- they were not mushy or overcooked, and were also not burned as well. It went well with the gravy which was very flavorful and also had some fermented soybean in it for some savory flavor (other restaurants also do this too- including President Thai and Sampan Thai Cuisine).

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To end the meal, everyone also got a complimentary bowl of a dessert soup which had coconut milk, black rice, and corn. It was a very creamy and sweet soup, and it was pretty thick as well. You don't just get it for dinner only; they also give it out at lunch. It is a great way to end a meal here at Thai Paradise.

Overall? A great experience. Every item was as good or better than we expected. Plus, there were no problems with the meat (which happened often with this location). We have no hesitation to not go back again now.

Thai Paradise
909 W. Las Tunas Drive
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 570-8887

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fresh and Easy's Ice Cream

Fresh and Easy Ice Cream

Can store bought ice cream be better than some ice cream from an ice cream shop or soft serve? Can it be better than some frozen yogurts which are very popular these days?

My opinion? Definitely. Fresh and Easy's Ice Creams are a tasty option in the store-bought category. It's more expensive than the competition at $3.99 a tub (but now it is on sale for the price of 2.99 until May 26), but there are definitely things that are special about it.

Due to the fact it was recently on sale (and even once mistakenly put on sale as 1.99...which they then had to retract), we stocked up, getting the two tubs of ice cream you see above. Previously, we had tried the Neapolitan ice cream which allowed us to sample three flavors. We liked the vanilla and chocolate flavors the best though. Strawberry, the third flavor, actually has real pieces of strawberry in it, but there is only a hint of strawberry flavor in it. I wish they can some more strawberry juice or strawberries into the ice cream for more strawberry flavor; otherwise, it tastes more an ice cream base with only a hint of strawberry.

An interesting thought on scooping the ice creams: after getting the ice cream, we went to another place for about 15 minutes until finally opening the ice cream. The vanilla ice cream was easy to scoop; it was creamy, and the scoop was able to handle the ice cream easily. (unusually, the vanilla ice cream can also be quite easy to scoop straight from the freezer) However, with the chocolate ice cream, one will still need to apply some more pressure in order for the scoop to scoop ice cream.

F&E Ice Cream Scoops

After scooping we put both scoops in one bowl for a comparison test. Do you see how the chocolate looks more firm with more of the ripples, while the vanilla ice cream has very little ripples?

Vanilla Ice Cream

The vanilla ice cream this time had much more vanilla bean in it this time- there were a multitude of specks, which we did not see that much of before. Fresh and Easy also claims they use bourbon vanilla extract for the ice cream, but on the ingredient list it just lists it as vanilla extract. No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives too, which is not too common among most store bought ice creams. Many use artificial colors and flavors, which is a bit unusual.

With so many specks this time in the vanilla bean ice cream, the ice cream definitely had a very vanilla-y flavor. It was also very creamy with a milky flavor too. We have eaten the vanilla ice cream with some warmed-up nutella before- a tasty topping.

Chocolate Ice Cream

Fresh and Easy's chocolate ice cream uses dutch cocoa as well as no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

What is interesting about Fresh and Easy's chocolate products is that they are all very, very chocolate-y. It's not just this product; their dark chocolate gelato is almost as flavorful as eating real chocolate! This was definitely chocolate-y, but it was toned down a bit compared to the dark chocolate gelato; it however used to be just as potent (probably toned it down due to high cost). Fresh and Easy's chocolate cream tends to be firm and a bit creamy, but not as creamy as the vanilla ice cream.

Overall, these two ice creams are excellent frozen treats. With prices at five to seven cents an ounce, it is certainly a good deal compared to eating at places like Yogurtland or Pinkberry. Feel free to put whatever your heart desires onto your frozen treat!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Knott's Berry Farm's Angel's Diner

Angel's Diner

I recently went to Knotts Berry Farm along with my school for a "scavenger hunt" (aka graded assignment) for about 5 hours last week. And so, within that 5 hours, we decided to eat too at this place which never really showed it's real name at all in the exterior.

From the outdoor signage it just said American burgers, shakes, etc. Nothing about the name of the place! Only the map and the receipt mentioned Angel's Diner. What is also very interesting is that they say they have milkshakes (as shown in the photo) but do not. You have to go to another restaurant for shakes.

Mainly, we decided to eat here as part of the scavenger hunt. One of the rides which we needed to look at was really close by. And if you were wondering what some rides/things were nearby, they were: Perilous Plunge, Sky Cabin, Wipeout, Supreme Scream, Log Ride, and the Xcelerator.

Angel's Diner Menu

We lined up in to the line which was pretty empty considering that it was an amusement park. And right in front of us, there was the menu. At first, it was hard to choose something. I was debating whether I should have a burger or a salad. But then, I saw a burger, and it didn't look appetizing- the meat was not browned. It definitely was not as nice as Disney's catering. The so called "American fries" were basically just a big bowlful of crinkle cut fries. And so I started debating about the salads; what came out from my mouth is what I chose. I was still debating at the counter!

After I ordered, it seemed like the staff got worried. They suddenly were asking, "Do we have any salad???" It seemed like they didn't, and so I asked the cashier again and she just told me to wait. By the time my salad came, my friends who ordered later than me already were eating their burgers at the outdoor shaded sitting area!

I then saw (after about 5 minutes waiting) the chef trying to smash the lid down onto a crispy chicken salad which is how they are supposed to serve it as. However, she could not close it up at all! And so she gave the crispy chicken salad to me, with the lid open, saying that she added so much chicken that she couldn't close the lid anymore! How nice :). We exchanged happy greetings.

Crispy Chicken Salad

As you can see, the crispy chicken salad was HUGE! There was a thick bed of iceberg lettuce, shredded red cabbage (just a bit), some shredded carrots, and tomato slices. On top of the layer of veggies was a layer many freshly fried, crispy cubed pieces of their chicken tenders, and on top of that was a covering of shredded cheese.

Crispy Chicken Salad Detail

Served alongside were packets of Hidden Valley dressing (I picked Thousand Island, but I could have picked Italian, Ranch, or Caesar dressing), and 2 bags of croutons by Fresh Gourmet.

The taste of the salad was pretty good. The chicken, being hot (and the amount basically the same as an order of chicken tenders), started to melt some of the cheese in the salad. I liked the combination between hot and cold, and the different textures from the hot crispy chicken pieces which had tender meat to the crisp greens. Although one probably could make it at home, the salad was a good deal when eating it at places like Knotts. Looking at the menu, the crispy chicken salad looked like a order of chicken tenders and the tossed green salad. If I had ordered separately, that would have been 12.75. I got it for 9.50. :)

What was surprising to me was that the crispy chicken was actually freshly fried and hot! I was expecting the chicken to be cold, but I was wrong. Eating the salad was a bit of a task, and after eating the salad, I was really stuffed. My friends said they could have shared it by half and they would be full! I probably was eating for another 10 minutes after my friends had finished- luckily they were kept busy by the Knott's assignment of Scavenger Hunt.

When asking other students who had also came with me for the California Adventure trip, they said they thought the food at California Adventure (Taste Pilot's Grill) was better compared to here. One of my friends complained about their chili burger not having the chili ON the burger but instead being poured basically onto the side. I pretty much agree with their complaints. The food at Disney was more fresh looking compared to at Knott's, but the salad was pretty good; however the burgers and sandwiches seemed so-so. Pizza looked pretty good- the map even said, "best pizza in the park", but I decided not to pick pizza.

Overall? An okay place. Other than the salad and pizza, the other items didn't seem to be too good. There are however, other choices in Knott's Berry Farm, such as Panda Express, a Mexican Place, chili/chicken places, and more.

Writeup, photos, and videos of Knott's Berry Farm will be coming up soon!
----

Technical issue: Sorry for those who wanted to leave a comment on this post within 4 hours ago (currently 8:43 PM Pacific Time, May 19, 2009). I accidentally made the post have no comments; but now I have switched it and it is now open for comments again :).

Mochachocolata Rita did leave a comment which is at the Mother's Day at the mall posting (click here to view). I am putting it here too. Here is what she wrote:

"maybe it was my technological stupidity.. ^_^ i couldn't manage to leave a comment on the Knott's Berry Farm's Angel's Diner post...the crispy chicken salad...WOWWWWWWWWWWWWW i wish hk's kfc or mcD's serve this. it's no secret that i lovee anything involving crispy chicken :)"

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mother's Day at the Santa Anita Westfield Mall: The New Promenade and Lunch at CPK

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I always like to go visit any new thing in town, if I have time that is. A few years ago, I was able to at least drive by the new "Restaurant Square" expansion, and that was very amazing at first. The blue lights, modern architecture, and huge parking structure amazed me. It was very different than what one would expect.

Westfield recently these years then started to make a plan for "The Promenade", which seemed to be a counter arguement for Caruso's "Shops at Santa Anita". They fought for at least a year or so. Westfield made a group called Arcadia First! to stop Caruso.

Caruso won- they received building rights from the Arcadia City Council. But what happened? Nothing happened. The south parking lot of the Santa Anita Racetrack is still...the same.

Meanwhile, the Arcadia City Council seemed to be frowning at Westfield at the Promenade. Parking was already a pain during weekends. With the expansion, things could only get worse right?

NOT. Westfield responded by building a huge 2 level parking lot UNDER the expansion, and made the expansion go to the second floor to attach to the existing mall. Smart idea! And before opening, we had already parked in the area. Very nice- cool and shady. No need to leave the car out in the sun anymore.

And on the week where Mother's Day weekend would follow, Westfield opened the Promenade. Unfortunately, I couldn't go. But we did on Mother's day!

First things first. Right when we entered, what did we see at the parking lots? HUGE Rusnak Audi (where we had went for the Audi and Porsche "Launch Event" a few months ago) posters were placed on the walls. They must have paid a lot for that ad.

We found a space quickly and luckily, it was right next to Nordstroms too! We went up the second floor, and what I saw was the Promenade.

As I was walking around, I saw many families holding potted plants (as shown above). But where did they get them? How did they get them? Was it from a store?

Nope. It was Westfield's herb farm giveaway for moms during Mother's day. And we were able to get a plant too! The plant was basil, and the pot was actually ceramic and not some flimsy plastic pot.

After getting our plant, we decided to go to eat at CPK. The people definitely were very friendly today. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Our server served up water with lemon and honey, which is not very typical now these days at CPK, and served bread when we ordered. And since our server saw my camera, she decided to ask if we wanted to get a group photo. We happily said yes :).

Soon, the food came, and we started to eat. One of the items we ordered was the Jumbalaya Pasta.

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According to the menu, the Jumbalaya Pasta has "Blackened chicken and shrimp in a spicy Jambalaya sauce with crawfish, Andouille sausage and Tasso ham served on linguini fini and topped with fresh green onions." And it was just that, except for that the chicken did not seem to be blackened at all. We like that anyway.

There was plenty of properly cooked shrimp and andouille sausage as well. Overall, the dish had lots of flavors from the many different ingredients and it was slightly spicy with a hint of tomato. The linguini was cooked to a al dente state and was very tasty.

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And the Wild Mushroom Pizza was just as good. The crust was particularly airy and pillowy feeling this visit and was very tasty. As usual, there were plenty of mushrooms which gave the pizza a lot of flavor.

After finishing lunch, we set off to look at the mall- and it was busy with lots of special events. But, we couldn't partake in it as we had to go somewhere else.

I'll be back to visit though soon so I can snap some photos of the Promenade!


California Pizza Kitchen
400 S Baldwin Ave Ste 115
Arcadia, CA 91007-1902
Tel: (626) 445-2610

And this is the 110th post on Eat. Travel. Eat!

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Here are all the posts on California Pizza Kitchen.

Arcadia Location:
Mother's Day at the Santa Anita Westfield Mall: The New Promenade and Lunch at CPK
Arcadia's California Pizza Kitchen

Irvine Location:
California Pizza Kitchen- Irvine


California Pizza Kitchen in Los Angeles

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sesame Grill- Another Early Bird Visit.


Special deals are always a good reason to revisit a restaurant. And so, during a weekend which we got hungry earlier in the afternoon, we decided to visit Sesame Grill again for their Early Bird Specials, which they have been promoting for a while now. Want to see the menu again? Well, here it is:


This time, the manager was also around and was very happy to see us as we constantly visit her place. She was exceedingly busy on that day, taking orders, offering suggestions, and more, and she still even managed to talk to us.

The dining room was also pretty filled up, but still not as much as before. At least it wasn't empty; that would be pretty unfortunate! It was also fairly bright with the good sunshine. They didn't even need to light up the candles this time!


Like usual, the meal started off with some of their freshly baked bread, which was warm, crispy on the bottom, and soft on the inside. Butter was served alongside. We dipped some of the bread in this:

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This was the "French Vegetable Soup", which was one of the two choices we had for soup. Two of us picked this, and it was a lightly creamy puree of different vegetables. The flavors were similar to minestrone, but more muted and more creamy tasting. As you can expect, the bread was scrumptious paired with the soup.


I decided to go healthy and order the fresh seasonal greens which were pretty much the same as the last visit (the photo is also from last visit). As usual, a big blend of greens which are then tossed in some oil and balsamic vinegar.

For the main courses, the manager made suggestions, and we followed along- after all she is the manager! There were 2 of them which were her suggestions. The first one was:

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...Linguine with Salmon and Shrimp in a Red Bell Pepper Cream Sauce. According to the manager, lots of Asian people liked to order this dish. We personally liked it too! There were plenty of salmon "nuggets" all over the dish, and there were many pieces of big, flavorful, and properly cooked shrimp distributed in the linguine. In addition, a variety of vegetables were put in to the dish- you can see some red bell pepper, asparagus, and mushroom. The cream sauce was very light but also flavorful, which we liked. We usually do not like ultra thick and rich cream sauces (like Alfredo), but this was excellent as it was flavorful but not thick and rich.

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And this dish was the Sandabs with Lemon Caper Sauce. This was okay, but you definitely had to eat it while it was there! If you took it home, the dish would taste bad. The fish was definitely not a mild flavored fish like tilapia- it was more heavily flavored like salmon or seabass. Unexpectedly, the lemon caper sauce was actually pretty thick, as well as flavorful. Usually lemon caper sauces at seafood restaurants are all thin and made out of butter, but their version was very different.

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We also ordered a New York Steak which was cooked perfectly to what we had wanted. There was a bit less sauce this time than normal, but this allowed the meat's own flavor to shine even more. This time, the steak was much larger than last time (you can compare the 2 photos).

I am especially happy on how this photo turned out this time around! Do you like it?

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And lastly, I ordered the Filet Mingon Medallions which were cooked to a nice medium and melted into your mouth. Again, there was less sauce, but it allowed the meat's own flavors to be highlighted even more so.

Overall? Another great experience at Sesame Grill. We'll definitely be back.

Sesame Grill
308 E Huntington Dr
Arcadia, CA 91006-3746
Tel:(626) 821-0880

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