Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Diamond Jamboree Weekend: BCD Tofu House, 85C Bakery and Cafe, and HMart

Like I stated last week, I said I would write a post on our visit to the OC that was made several weeks ago. This purpose this time was finding a place close to UCI for their welcome week to eat, and so after I proposed the restaurants that I wanted to visit to my dining companions and they disagreed on it (like Brodard as it was 15-20 minutes away and we had to go back again to UCI), I randomly thought about Diamond Jamboree after reading a boatload of posts on it from Eileen's blog, Eileen Likes to Eat. Diamond Jamboree as a whole sounded awesome. Not only was there plenty of restaurants to choose from (and so we randomly picked one that sounded familiar looking at our phone), there was also a chance to restock on some items we wanted for home and for one of my dining companions. Thus, Diamond Jamboree it was for our lunch destination.

After a five minute drive, we arrived at Diamond Jamboree and drove around the area. It seemed quiet and looked like a business and housing area. Our perceptions changed as we entered into Diamond Jamboree.

Quiet? Who said that? No, there were people walking all over the place to visit retail outlets. There was a Super HMart with its parking lot full. Parking looked like it would be a hard task. Busy, busy, busy! So, we split up into two groups so that we could multitask: get a table at a restaurant, and park.

BCD-Tofu-House

In this case, the restaurant we chose was BCD Tofu House. It sounded very familiar from my previous readings on blogs, and since we were wanting for some Korean food we all agreed on it. Gamble? Yes. Especially since I did not remember anyone writing about this place.

When we went in, there were people waiting for a table, and so we wrote our names on their waiting list and waited. In the meantime I walked around outside and found 85C Bakery and Cafe. Only word I can say: it was shocking! However, our table was soon ready at BCD Tofu House and so I went back.

Interior

The interior was a bright interior with two large flat panel TVs (tuned to a news show where their salad was being talked about- this never changed, so I guess it was on a loop), and plenty of wood, metal, and glass accents around the place. It was mainly very modern and sharp. In the doorway, there was also a small fridge dedicated for their premade items which were made by their subsidiary BCD Food. Interestingly, they charged more than the next door supermarket, H Mart, for some of the items, like the larger jars of kimchi.

(Click for a larger view- looks blurry now as it is uploaded to Blogger. The real photo is not blurry!)

We sat down and right in our faces was a placemat which had all the menu items on it. As you can see, it is a fairly simple menu, with a section for soon tofu, combinations, a special menu (Korean BBQ and some other items), and lastly the "in house items", which are the items in the fridge at the door. We decided to order two items from the combination menu and the waiter circled our items on one of our placemats according to who ordered them. Shortly afterwards, the banchan arrived, unlike at Young Dong Garden where we would wait for at least another five minutes for the banchan.

Panchan

The banchan consisted of five dishes, including napa cabbage kimchi, radish kimchi, spicy clams, fishcakes, chilled yellow pickles, and spicy cucumber. As you can see, several of the items were from their "house made" menu, such as the napa cabbage kimchi, clams, and pickles. I enjoyed the all the kimchi dishes which had a nice snap from the vegetables, and also were very spicy in comparison to my local Korean restaurants. The spicy clams included multiple pieces of minuscule clams which were very "clammy" in terms of flavor which were then marinated in gojuchang, and served atop on pieces of cabbage. One of my favorite dishes of banchan, sliced fishcakes, were warm and had plenty of soy sauce and spicy flavors, along with the pieces of previously fried and sliced tender fishcake. We as a group also enjoyed the spicy cucumbers which also were tossed in gojuchang and still retained a nice crunch. However, we were not too fond of the yellow pickles which were bland.

Yellow Covina Fish

We also received a yellow covina fish for every combination we ordered, which meant we had three. These were easy to split apart and I did not have much trouble with the diminutive bones. Everything was edible except for the backbone, and the tail was fried to a nice crisp crunch. The covina fish meat had a pronounced flavor and its flaky and firm texture matched well with the crunchy exterior.

Rice Pot

In addition, we received three stone pots worth of steamed rice, which then one of the waitresses then scooped into three bowls with a large rice spoon. Immediately after, she poured tea into each of the pots for a rice soup. I was hoping to scoop out more rice as there was plenty of rice on the edges still, but my hopes were shattered as our waitress without asking poured the tea into each stone pot. Still, I was able to fetch some pieces of rice.

Soon Tofu

I am sure though that you would much rather now look at the main dishes from the combination sets now after seeing all the free components. And first off is what BCD Tofu House's main dish is: Soon Tofu. With a pretty much two thirds of the menu contaminated with the words soon tofu all over (this includes combination), you would expect a good soon tofu from BCD Tofu House. Most certainly, they do not disappoint. The soon tofu pot above is the Assorted Soon Tofu which comes with any combination (you can also ask your server to substitute with a different soon tofu- we did), and has beef, shrimp, and clams. Plenty of meat! The tofu they use is House Silken Organic Tofu, and in the soon tofu, the tofu was slightly firm but not as tender as what silken tofu usually is like. This allowed the tofu to still be soft, but it did not break apart as easily. Pieces of shrimp were tiny in terms of shrimp meat, but each shrimp also had a load of shrimp roe which was yummy. In terms of flavor, the soon tofu was spot on and flavorful. Much better than Korean restaurants in Arcadia.

Teriyaki Chicken

I do not think I have showed you such a blurry picture for quite a while now right? Anyway, the photo above is the Teriyaki Chicken, not the typical BBQ Chicken that you would find in a Korean restaurant. As you can see, the meat was burnt pretty heavily- not to our liking at all. However, the chicken was moist with hints of ginger and soy, as well as a light sweetness from the teriyaki sauce. Overall it was okay, but there were better things that we ordered. Such as the....

Kalbi

...kalbi, which was very tender, had great marbling of fat, and had a great flavor from the marinade. Tastewise, it was better than Young Dong Garden and Han Yang Garden. However, what brought the dish down completely was again, the burnt chunks from the grill. We dipped the kalbi in water, and what came out was darkish brown/black hues. This means they did not clean the grill very well. However, there was a dish which had no problems with burning.

Bulgogi

Which was the bulgogi, which had small thin slices of beef which were not clumped up together. Nothing was burnt, and the marinade flavors of the kalbi were here too. In addition, the bulgogi was not oily compared to the kalbi, but was still juicy and tender. As you can see pretty much by my description, my dining partners and I enjoyed this dish the most out of the meat dishes. This and the soon tofu were the favorite dishes of the visit!

Overall, our experience at BCD Tofu House was very good, only let down by the burnt pieces of meat which were substantial. If I were you I would tell the waiter to tell the chef to not cook the meat as long/cook at a lower temperature so that there is less char on the meat. In addition, the combination dishes were smaller compared to the dishes for a single item of a item from the combination set, at least for the meat dishes. We saw kalbi piled up high, but our dish had probably about 6/10ths of the larger dish.

Service was fast but friendly, and the employees sometimes came with refills of some dishes of banchan without us asking. I think we will definitely come back again here to BCD when we are in the OC, but of course, we still have a list of restaurants to try.

BCD Tofu House
2700 Alton Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92606
Tel:
(213) 382-6660
www.bcdtofu.com

BCD Tofu House on Urbanspoon

Anyway, now full from our meal at BCD Tofu House, we wandered down to the 85C Bakery and Cafe as I and a dining companion had gone to visit it earlier while we were waiting for seats at BCD Tofu House, and also I had read a post about it on Eileen's blog. Now, it was really busy, similar to JJ Bakery in Arcadia (10+ people waiting in line, et cetera). However, 85C appeared to look exceedingly busy due to these reasons:
1. The area where you pick out the bread is extremely small, unlike at JJ Bakery in Arcadia.
2. The major walkways are crowded due to the fact that the bread picking area and the cashier area is smushed together. Plus, the kitchen doors are right in between, and the employees need to constantly go in and out of the kitchen to respond to customer requests and replenish the bread in the bread area.
3. 3/4ths of the space is used as a sitting area, while the rest is used as selling. Not a good proposition for where people are constantly buying things, not sitting down eating.

Interior

See? I told you. The area where I am is the bakery area. Where the person in green is the sitting/coffee area where very little customers go to. Everyone else is looking for bread. The line that you see below goes out the front door, which is also very close to the cashiers desk. Lastly, yes, that lady who is pointing upwards is actually pointing at me NOT to take this photo. However, by the time the sound of her voice went into my ears, I had already snapped the photo and closed the camera. Too late.

Actually, I was amazed at how watchful the cashiers were. They were busy already enough. Not did they have to toy around with their touchscreens for each customer's purchases (what I did for a year as a volunteer job last year for the school cafeteria- this was not easy with 150 students clamoring in...and then finishing the job in 12 minutes), they also had to PACKAGE each bread in plastic wrap. Talk about time that could be saved if other employees already had packaged the items.

Anyway, you probably want to hear about the food. So, we first looked around and saw items like the Calamari, which was a piece of black bread. However, we then saw a lady holding 6 large pieces of an oblong bread. Why so much? So, we asked an employee what it was, and it was a piece of brioche- their bestseller according to her. So, we requested for four loaves. While that was happening, we waited in the line.

So, I went around outside and visited ceFiore which Eileen had talked about in one of her posts. Unlike ceFiore in Arcadia, ceFiore in Diamond Jamboree was self-serve. However, no employees were outside, and no sample cups were apparent. This was yet another negative which I experienced at our Arcadia location at the Westfield Mall. The employees seem to be nonexistent! So, I left. CeFiore, you need to think about hiring better employees.

Brioche
Photo taken at home after the one hour drive from Irvine

After my escapade to ceFiore, the rest of my group had already come out from 85C Bakery and Cafe, and so we immediately tried out the brioche to see how good it really was.

Interior of Brioche

As you can see, it was definitely not like a regular brioche like what I had at Rossio at the MGM Grand Macau. 85C's brioche was light, slightly sweet, and fluffy, with a light sugar crust. This was almost exact to Breadtalk's Hokkaido Dome which we tried in Beijing. However, in the bottom of the brioche, there was a thin layer of vanilla cake which crumbled easily. By far this was addicting (same reaction as what we had with Breadtalk's Hokkaido Dome), and by the time we arrived at home we had polished off one and a half of our four loaves. Yum, yum, yum. After you eat these types of bread though for more than a week, it does get tiring (reference: Breadtalk).

85C Bakery & Cafe
2700 Alton Parkway, Suite #123
Irvine, CA 92606
Tel:
(949) 553-8585
www.85cafe.us

85°C Bakery Cafe on Urbanspoon


Now, we headed off to our last stop in Diamond Jamboree: the Super HMart for restocking of items at home. Yes, the layout was interesting. In front was all the produce and it seemed like that was the borderline of HMart. However, to the further right, were restaurants, bakeries, and a prepared food section. Behind that (and the produce) was the refrigerated sections, housing kimchi, meats, seafood, et cetera. After that to the left were dry goods, and if you went further straight in the aisle with seafood you would reach a frozen food area. Now, going left you would see the appliance section, and if you turned left again you would see check out. Confusing most definitely.

Anyway, we did get plenty of items at HMart, like the kimchi we saw at BCD Tofu House. We also tried multiple samples and got items like beech mushrooms which were cheap at only 1 dollar per pack (our local area: 2 dollars when not on sale). Seasoned sheets of seaweed were particularly cheap. However, there was one item which we found which was enticing and too good not to not put on the cart. Seaweed salad!

Packaging

Or as they call it, Japanese Seaweed. Why am I hyping it? Well, as you may have read through last week's post on Maki and Sushi, this stuff doesn't come cheap in my area. 15 dollars a pound?! Too much for me. But HMart has it for 8 dollars a pound. Much more manageable.

Seaweed Salad

However, although the price was low, the seaweed salad tasted just like Full House's Seaweed Salad, but fresher (as it wasn't sitting out in a dim sum cart!). Crunchy pieces of seaweed with a hint of seaweed and vinegar. Nom. Nom. Nom.

Aren't people in the OC so lucky to live around such places like HMart and Diamond Jamboree? This was a eye opener for us. It was amazing to see how busy and active this mall was, and plus the offerings were excellent and of good quality. We'll definitely be back at Diamond Jamboree if we ever come to the OC again for a UCI reason. :)

Diamond Jamboree
2700-2750 Alton Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92606

9 comments:

Mochachocolata Rita said...

wow, tofu house isn't exactly an appetizing name eh? but when i saw that it's korean, then i trust that it must be tasty.

i wanna try the soon tofu, kalbi and bulgogi yum yum yum...hv to go to TST's korean village soon...

Wandering Chopsticks said...

I used to go to the Garden Grove BCD a lot when I lived in OC since it's open 24 hours. Diamond Jamboree seems to be doing well because there's nothing else around that area. You'd have to drive into Little Saigon or Garden Grove to get similar eats.

Thanks for nominating me for the Foodbuzz award. :)

EatTravelEat said...

Mochachocolata Rita,
TST's korean village? Haven't heard of that. Another place to put down to visit on our next HK trip :).

Wandering Chopsticks,
You're welcome :). It is true that DJ seems to be alone out in the area, with other shopping centers at least a mile or two away. I want to go to Garden Grove/Little Saigon but that will cause a change in our driving habit to the OC. Still...plenty of places to try out over there!

Selba said...

The food in tofu house looks delicious! I'm really craving of Korean food *sobs*

KirkK said...

Hey ETE - Very nice post! I like to pick up the sliced lamb at H Mart on my way home, it is usually is of very high quality, and works well in my almb stir fries.

EatTravelEat said...

Selba,
Yeah, it was pretty good!

Kirk,
HMart's sliced meat does look excellent. They have so many varieties of sliced meat available! Almost scares me. I did get to try their seabass and it was very good :). I'll remember to try the lamb next time.

Hungry Huy said...

Diamond Plaza is insanely crowded! I was excited when BCD decided to stay open 24 hours... but now it's kind of scary going there. The banchan was a lot better at the BCD in Garden Grove about a year ago, but that place is supposedly going down the drain too.

I'm looking to try Kaju Tofu in Garden Grove. Any takers? :)

EatTravelEat said...

Hungry Huy,

Hmm...Kaju tofu sounds interesting. But I do not go to UCI every day or live there :). I do have visited dorm rooms and eaten a meal at Pippin.

Dskco said...

I love that shopping center! I was just there a few weeks ago and hit up Guppy House, 85C and Yogurtland.