Brodard Restaurant, 9892 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, CA 92844

I’ve been hearing about Brodard’s nem nuong cuon (pork spring rolls) for years and I finally stopped by to try them. First, finding the restaurant was a challenge because it’s not visible from Westminster Ave. Park and walk into the building that’s at the center of the strip mall and you’ll find various stalls and Brodard. The entrance in the mall leads to their café area which has seating and serves drinks and che (desserts). Or keep going towards the back and you’ll find the restaurant and takeout area.

The menu is extensive and includes several kinds of house special rolls, banh xeo (crepes), salads, noodle soup, noodle bowls, rice porridge, rice dishes and desserts (many kinds of macarons).

* Nem nuong cuon ($4.50 for 3 rolls or $6 for 4 rolls): Grilled thick pork sausage, lettuce, cucumber, carrot, daikon, mint and fried egg roll wrappers tightly bound in thin but strong rice paper with a thick, tangy sweet warm secret sauce that tasted like it had fish sauce, ground pork, etc. The rolls were fresh and wrapped well but I didn’t like the crispy egg roll wrappers. I like the light freshness of spring rolls and the abundant fried wrappers made the roll seem heavy. The sausage didn’t stand out. The best part was the mysterious house sauce.

* Bi chay cuon ($6 for 3 rolls,$8 for 4 rolls): Shredded tofu, mushroom, vermicelli, sweet potato strings wrapped in rice paper with lettuce, mint and carrot and a light soy dipping sauce. The roll tasted better (fresher, lighter) than the nem nuong cuon but it didn’t have that special sauce.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Sam Woo Restaurant & BBQ Express, 15333 Culver Dr., Ste 720, Irvine, CA 92604

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I really liked the Sam Woo in Alhambra and was excited to try some non-BBQ dishes at the Irvine location. It’s clear that not all their locations are the same – both in terms of décor and taste of the food. I didn’t look at the BBQ Express side but the restaurant side looks nice – like a dim sum/Cantonese seafood restaurant. It’s big and nice enough for banquets (the Alhambra location looks like a dump in comparison).

The menu includes dim sum (some items are only available weekends though), seafood dishes, congee, appetizers, etc. There are tanks with live fish in the dining area.

Complimentary hot tea is provided. We also received complimentary soup which was thick and bland.

* Preserved egg and pork porridge ($6.95): Quite disappointing, while the congee was thick the stock was bland, the pork slices were okay but also lacking in flavor

* Har gow ($2.95): comes with five pieces, I was surprised to see that they were misshapen and small, the flavor was fine but they looked sloppy

* Shrimp with scrambled eggs: Very nice, good size shrimp, tender scrambled eggs, and scallions, simple but done well, best in town according to my friend who loves shrimp with scrambled eggs

3 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Tastea, 10189 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, CA 92843

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The founders of Tastea had a vision to offer fresh, creative boba drinks. They do things differently with cute names for their tea drinks. Teas and coffee are organic and you can customize the sweetness plus select add ons (boba, red beans, pudding, aloe vera, jellies, fruit bits). The tapioca pearls are green but they taste just like the regular brown boba. For snacks they have fries and popcorn chicken with several dipping sauces.

* Golden milk tea ($3.40 +  50 cents for boba): Organic golden assam tea, milk, and green honey boba. The honey boba balls were super sweet. The balls were pretty fresh but some balls stuck together. They didn’t add too much ice. The drink was very good – rich, creamy and with noticeable tea flavor. The smallest size is called Gigantic but it’s not big – it’s the typical boba drink size. The ratio of ice, tea, and pearls was just right.

There aren’t any tables inside so they really want you to get your drink and leave. They do have a bench where you can sit and wait for your order. It’s also super loud inside so I was more than ready to leave.

Credit cards are accepted and you can order your drinks online. They also have a rewards program.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

FroyoLife, 2301 Honolulu Ave., Montrose, CA 91020

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Fro-yo girl here. FroyoLife Montrose is right on the corner of two main streets in downtown Montrose and it’s a popular spot. Most people were there with young kids and were some of those kids noisy. Eeek. Luckily there is hand sanitizer right by the froyo machines.

FroyoLife carries 12 self-serve froyo flavors a day with 18 refrigerated toppings (fruit, popping boba, cookie dough, brownies), 15 dry toppings (nuts, candy, cereal, mochi) and syrups. The topping bar was neat and toppings were labeled. Cinnamon apples were offered. The mangos were good but the strawberries looked like they had been sitting there for hours. It’s 45 cents an ounce.

Froyo flavors of the day:

  • Raspberry lemonade sorbetto
  • Raspberry NSA
  • Sinful chocolate
  • Peanut butter: creamy, lots of PB flavor
  • Huckleberry
  • Plain tart: Liked the thick, creamy smooth texture and the sourness but it tasted a bit like huckleberry (which actually wasn’t bad because the flavors were complementary)
  • Nutella
  • Fudge brownie batter
  • Dulce de leche
  • Strawberry shortcake: didn’t have cake taste and didn’t taste like real strawberries either, creamy
  • Espresso
  • Heavenly vanilla

Take a pic of your masterpiece and tag it #froyolife – share on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and you could win a prize.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

3 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Bhanu’s Indian Grocery & Cuisine, 7246 Rosemead Blvd., San Gabriel, CA 91775

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Bhanu’s is half Indian grocery store and half restaurant. The restaurant side is quite popular. You can dine there or take out. The menu includes chaat (snacks like samosas, pakora, pani puri, pav bhaji), veggie dishes, curries, tandoori, dosas, idli, Indo-Chinese, meals (thali), desserts and beverages (lassis). Chai is available (it’s extra).

If you want to dine in, let them know on the restaurant side. They have a few TVs showing Bollywood movies.

* Lamb thali ($10.99): The thali comes with roti or naan (50 cents extra for garlic naan), yogurt/raita, 2 veggie dishes (what’s offered varies), rice and the main dish (in this case lamb curry). You can specify how spicy you’d like your food. The food is served on a big compartmentalized metal tray. The garlic naan is hot from the tandoori oven, chewy and covered in garlic. It was good but I like fluffier naan. The spinach with cubes of paneer/Indian cheese was creamy (the spinach had been cooked a long time). The beans were my least favorite (too plain). The lamb in the lamb curry was pretty chewy (not tender). The overall spicing was more mild than I hoped.

* Masala dosa ($4.99, with onions, potatoes, cashews served with sambar and chutney): The dosa is ginormous with a very thin, crispy texture – enjoyed all the accompanying sauces, the soup like sambar, the creamy tomatoey sauce and the chunky coconut sambar

The grocery side has narrow aisles and is relatively small but packed full of frozen goods (parathas, frozen meals), spices, dried legumes, tea, candy, packaged mixes, snacks, fresh dairy and produce. You can get Thums Up and Limca (sodas) and the selection of Kurkure flavors (Indian Cheetos) is impressive. The Indian sweets selection is quite small.

3.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Why Thirsty, 7248 N Rosemead Blvd., San Gabriel, CA 91775

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I’ve fallen in love with Why Thirsty. Both the boba drinks and their Taiwanese food were really good. The tea menu isn’t huge but they emphasize tea quality and brew to order. The rice plates are $6.99 and up and you get a big bento box of food. They also have lo mein, appetizers, noodle soups and shaved ice. They don’t use MSG which is rare for a boba place.

If you want to dine in, sit down and peruse the menu. They have an English menu and a Chinese language menu. I wonder what the tofu tots are.

* Popcorn chicken rice plate ($6.99): Huge! I couldn’t finish – good for two meals. The popcorn chicken was served on the side. The popcorn chicken pieces were really big. Freshly fried and coated in chili and spices (you can specify your desired spice level), the popcorn chicken with fried basil leaves was addictive…some pieces were salty though…rice helps. The sides were really good, even the cabbage and broccoli. 

* Assam milk tea ($2.99 plus 50 cents for boba)

They also have free wi-fi and a few outlets. Parking is easy because they’re in a strip mall (the same one anchored by Trader Joe’s). It’s a small place (about enough room for 30 people), so you might not find seating if you come during a busy time (night time).

Closed on Sundays

4.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Sweet XO, 350 W Hillcrest Dr., Thousand Oaks, CA 91360

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Fro-yo girl here. Wow! It’s like sweet tooth paradise. Sweet XO is almost overwhelming because it’s filled with so many cute things for men, women, babies, and dogs.

Want something sweet to eat? Check out the gelato case, self-serve froyo, candy ($2.75 for ¼ lb), and cookies. Want a sweet gift? They have candles, bath stuff, clothing, books, toys, greeting cards, pillows, cosmetics, plush toys, etc. There’s a section devoted to cupcake themed gift items.

The candy selection is impressive and includes chocolate covered things, malt balls in a dozen flavors, Sixlets in every color, Jelly Bellies, gummy candies, etc. I spotted some candies I hadn’t seen before like Spicy Gummi Bears and Habanero Chocolate Corn Nuts.

Now onto the froyo, they have 12 self-serve flavors a day and over 175 toppings for 42 cents an ounce. The variety of toppings is astounding and includes warm cobblers, several flavors of mochi, popping boba, chocolate covered things, nuts, candy, cereal, chocolate chips, fresh fruit, cookies, etc.

Froyo flavors of the day:

  • Yellow cake batter NSA
  • Pink lemonade sorbet
  • Watermelon sorbet
  • Country vanilla: A good, creamy vanilla with a hint of yogurt flavor, goes well with candy and cookies
  • Euro tart: Pretty sour and icy though not watery, similar to original tart but tarter
  • Fudge brownie batter
  • Salted caramel
  • Coconut
  • Strawberry shortcake
  • Pineapple
  • Chocolate
  • Cookies & cream

Tip: Your froyo might melt while you’re looking at the toppings so decide on the toppings first and then start swirling.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

4.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Fresh & Easy, 2260 E Thompson Blvd., Ventura, CA 93001

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Fresh & Easy’s quality started to decline right before it was put up for sale but the new owners have brought about some improvements. It’s open later now and they have some trendy and specialty items like cretzels (a cross between a pretzel and a croissant), fried chicken and waffle sandwiches, bacon and maple cupcakes, Greenlee’s cinnamon bread, Foxy’s frozen yogurt and Snoqualmie ice cream.

They have plenty of sandwiches, salads, and soups for a quick meal or marinated meats, veggie sides, and quick meal solutions. Plus they just added Wild Oats organic sandwiches, salads and soups. You can also buy a single cupcake or cookie.

* Cretzel: It tasted like a salty croissant, wouldn’t get again

F&E has some good fresh baked bread and private label products – granola, soups, ice cream, cheese, etc. They carry raw, vegan and gluten free items.

When it’s time to pay, you’ll need to use the self checkout kiosks. Sign up for the Friends Card to earn points.

It’s not as large as a supermarket, it’s about as large as a TJ’s.

3.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Taqueria El Tapatio #5, 4705 Telephone Rd., Ventura, CA 93003

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The first Taqueria El Tapatio is located in Woodland Hills. They’ve expanded over the years and recently opened in Ventura. It’s a small space with a salsa bar and multiple cash only signs. They also have complimentary chips at the salsa bar. Refills of sodas are $1.

The menu includes breakfast items (breakfast tacos sound good), burritos ($5.35), quesadillas (several kinds including corn, flour and Suiza), tortas, platters and seafood. Meat choices: al pastor, carne asada, pollo, lengua, pescado, carnitas, cabeza, tripas. They have some really good specials (and the prices are already low).

Monday’s special: 3 tacos, rice, beans, chips, guacamole & a medium drink for $5.75

Tuesday’s special: tacos 99 cents

Wednesday’s special: 2 super tacos, rice, beans $4.99

Thursday’s special: 2 fish tacos, rice, beans $5.75

* Lengua & al pastor tacos ($1.35 each): These are tiny tacos but super packed with meat (maybe the most that I’ve ever seen piled on). Each taco comes with double warm corn tortillas, meat, chopped onion, cilantro and salsa. The al pastor was in small pieces, it was oily but very flavorful and tender though on the salty side. The lengua wasn’t the most tender but was still pretty good. The free chips were thin and crispy.

Cash only.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Tacos Mendoza, 6336 Bristol Rd., Ventura, CA 93003

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Formerly the Taco Solorio space, Tacos Mendoza offers tacos ($1.50), burritos ($5.75), quesadillas, taquitos, flautas, nachos, tortas, tostadas, plates, and menudo on the weekends. Order upfront and they’ll bring you your order when it’s ready. You can fill up your own cup of soda. There is no salsa bar.

Meat choices: carne asada, pastor, cabeza, suadero, tripas, lengua, chile verde, chile Colorado, grilled pollo, chicharron

* Lengua burrito ($5.75): Comes with free thick, crunchy chips. The pieces of lengua were small and chewy (far from being tender) but the refried beans were creamy and the rice wasn’t mushy. The hot salsa wasn’t that spicy.

The décor is simple and pleasant: paintings of Mexico, simple tables and chairs and a  TV. It’s located in the same strip mall as a small Mexican market and most patrons are Mexican. Credit cards are accepted.

3 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.