La Estacion: Awesome First Meal in Puerto Rico

I’m trying to end 2016 with a bang. My friend and I decided that we both needed some fun and relaxation so we planned a trip to warm Puerto Rico. This would be my second time to Puerto Rico, but it’s been almost a decade since my last visit. I have never been to Fajardo, which is the small city we would be staying at. It’s located where the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea meet. We spent the afternoon having a pina colada and a snack and trying to get acclimated around El Conquistador, the large resort we were staying at.   
It was time to find a place to have dinner so it was a good thing that I struck up a conversation with an employee while riding up on the funicular from the beach to the hotel. We wanted local food so he suggested an offsite restaurant across the resort called La Estacion. Not only is the resort large, but it isn’t well lit so we would have to pay a driver $10 each way to take us. As my BFF always says “YOLO,” (You Only Live Once).  

The menu at La Estacion had a good variety of appetizers and entrees and meats and seafood. It seemed to specialize in BBQ, but not quite the same definition as what we are used to in the mainland. We had outdoor seating and we could smell the lovely scent of grillIng meats and seafood. After discussing the menu with my friend, we decided on ordering a few things. We would get the ceviche which is mahi mahi marinated in local citrus, onions, chilies, and fresh herbs. It came with arepa de coco, which is Puerto Rican bread with a hint of coconut flavor. The ceviche was fresh and delicious and a good match for the tasty fry bread.
My friend and I both like chicken wings so we ordered the Caribbean chicken wings. I think we were expecting something more like jerked chicken, but these were great. The chicken wings had a nice honey glaze with a subtle coconut flavor. It was paired with three sauces – tabasco-like, spicy passion fruit, and ranch. My favorite was the spicy ranch which was a mix and spicy and sweet.
I was eyeing the churrasco for an entree which is a sofrito marinated skirt steak, grilled with a guava BBQ sauce, and topped with a cilantro lime chimichurri. It came with a cole slaw and sweet corn bread. The meat was tender and flavorful. Every bite blew me away. This was also a generous portion so we were glad we only ordered one entree.
We were quite full but shared the tembleque for dessert. Tembleque is a coconut based dessert resembling a pudding topped with toasted coconut and a hint of chili flakes. We were able to scoop clean this light dessert.  
The meal at La Estacion was wonderful and it was just the first stop. I am looking forward to eating my way through Puerto Rico.  

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Teni East Kitchen: Fresh California Burmese

Teni East Kitchen is a newish Burmese restaurant located in North Oakland that opened this past May.  With a focus on Burmese, it has a California twist.  I had my first lunch here in October and went back for dinner in November. It can be fun to be one of the first to discover a new restaurant, but I also think that there is great benefit to give a restaurant some time to work out any recipes or kinks.  
During my two visits, I sampled a good variety of the menu and want to highlight my favorites. The pea shoot salad was quite extraordinary. I loved the use of fresh raw pea shoots with peanuts, shallots, chickpeas, garlic, lime, and fish sauce. The fresh ingredients plus the variation of textures made this an absolute winner.  


I enjoyed the roti with curry dip. It is very similar to Malaysian roti which incorporates fluffy layers that soak up the spiced sauce.


The cumin pork belly had a pleasantly surprising preparation. The pork belly is sliced thin and wok tossed with fresh basil, shallots, and spices. It had an abundance of flavor.


The restaurant serves a coconut rice which is really tasty and goes well with the entrees I had. The rice is soft and fluffy, but has a hint of creaminess. If you aren’t opposed to coconut, I highly recommend it.


My favorite dish at Teni East Kitchen is the crispy spicy catfish with tamarind and dried shrimp relish. This is the one dish responsible for my return visit and future visits. With the catfish perfectly battered and deep fried and spiced, I just can’t get enough of this dish.  


All you need is to save a little room for dessert at the end your meal. The only offering is ice cream and your flavor choices are ube (purple yam), buko (young coconut), pistachio, coffee, and chocolate.  


Overall, I would consider Teni East Kitchen as one of my new favorite spots. The restaurant space is very warm and inviting and the food is excellent. It’s a place I can dine at for a casual weekday dinner or a celebratory dinner. I might even order the catfish as “take out.”  

Follow me on Instagram @510foodie to see what I’m eating next.

My birthday in Los Angeles

I feel a little behind in blogging, partly because I skipped last week and partly because I wanted to share some of the things I ate on my birthday, which was exactly a month ago today. My best friend and I spent my birthday in Los Angeles and aside from traffic, it was perfect.We started the morning with donuts. Sidecar Donuts originally opened in Costa Mesa and opened its second shop in Santa Monica which is where we went. I was charged from friends well in advance to get the Country Ham and Egg donut. The plump savory donut was filled with a poached egg, ham, and a house made basil hollandaise sauce. Sharing half felt lighter than I expected and was like eating a soft airy sandwich. 

We also enjoyed a salty caramel donut which had a nice caramel glaze and topped with sea salt. The lemon donut gave us the texture of cake similar to what you would get from an old fashioned. I was happily satisfied with my 1.5 donuts.

From there we made our way to the Getty Villa in Malibu. It has been about two decades since I had last visited this museum tucked away off Pacific Coast Highway. The Greek and Roman art is housed in the incredible re-creation of a Roman country house. We spent a few hours exploring the architecture, the antiquities, and the gardens. The museum is free, but you need to make reservations in advance.

Since we were still on the west side of town, we made our way to Venice Beach to grab a bite and geocache. We wanted something light for lunch so we discovered Poke Poke. We both got poke bowls, a Hawaiian delicacy. Poke bowls are actually quite popular these days. It’s a pretty healthy option, especially next to Muscle Beach. The original flavor at Poke Poke has ahi tuna marinated in onions, green onions, shoyu, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. I substituted the ahi tuna for salmon and got it over rice.  
We spent some time geocaching not only in Venice Beach, but also in Santa Monica. After quite a bit of walking, birthday drinks were calling my name at Shutters on the Beach. The hotel bar here is very popular, but we were lucky and got a table within a few minutes. With a blender in tow, we ordered pina coladas. Something about pina coladas make you feel like you’re on vacation.
Dinner reservations were for Hinoki and the Bird, which is located in Century City. The restaurant has a cool vibe and the cuisine labeled as American has a Japanese twist.  
The food is served family style, so we shared several plates. We started with the kale salad which includes both raw and crispy kale, spiced cashews, pecorino cheese, and a red wine vinaigrette. I loved the duo of prepared kale.
We ordered the Jidori chicken dumplings. There were five pan fried dumplings stuck together which is something I have never seen before. Crispy and succulent, I could keep eating this deliciousness.
I usually go for anything with uni in it. The uni carbonara with guanciale and pecorino was no exception. The creaminess and depth in flavor of this dish left me extremely pleased.
The crispy suckling pig was served with accoutrements like butter lettuce, a variety of herbs, and sauces. It’s meant to be eaten like a wrap or a taco which I found to be fun. The pork was moist with crispy skin.  
One side dish we ordered was the sake steamed mushrooms with sea salt and soy sauce. This was cooked and served in parchment paper which prominently infuses the flavors in the mushrooms.  
The other side dish we ordered were the brussels sprouts with lemon and furikake. These were a generous portion and could not have been roasted any better.
For dessert, my best friend eyed the mochi green tea affrogato. It was cool to watch the server prepare the matcha from a powder and water with a brush.  
We also ordered matcha donuts which were warm and fluffy. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the sauce that came with it.
The restaurant also provided a complimentary dessert to wish me a Happy Birthday!
I had an incredible birthday dinner at Hinoki and the Bird which made my already awesome day even more special. Thanks Jeannette!