Dublin 4: Gastroburger

On the menu, it’s called the Prime Gastroburger or Gastro Prime Burger or something like that. I haven’t actually read the menu since my first of many visits about 6 months ago, but the simple phrase “gastroburger and a pint of Smithwick’s” is all one needs to say.

This burger is, in short, one of my all time favorite burgers. The pairing of this burger and Smithwick’s is also one of my all time burger-and-a-beer pairs. Always perfectly cooked, even when the chef has left the kitchen, with an excellent balance among all the elements. The richness of the meat and cheese is cut by the arugula and pickle, and bacon is always a nice touch. The bun is sturdy, and, in terms of the flavor profile, yields appropriately to what it contains. The skinny fries with truffle oil and parmesan are also always fried and seasoned well. It is available as a lamb burger, though I prefer my lamb in chop form.

I like the presentation too.

I like the presentation, too.

TJ’s Woodfire Pizza: Pepperoni Pizza

I could be considered a pretty boring person. I like my ice cream chocolate, my pizza pepperoni, and potatoes beside my meat. What I’m always looking for are places that elevate things that people might call “boring” to a level of quality that transcends novelty and trendiness. TJ’s Woodfire Pizza is such a place. Well, it’s many places, in a way, as it’s a fully mobile trailer, but you know what I mean.

I’m still not over how cool it is that TJ’s Woodfire Pizza has an actual Neapolitan pizza oven in a trailer, along with a full prep area and the rest of the usual trappings of a food truck. The oven cooks pizzas in about 90 seconds, or a little longer if you specify well done and, of course, all pizza assembly is done right there to order. The pepperoni is tender, even after baking at that extreme temperature, and the cheese is always perfectly melted. TJ’s uses Carmelina tomatoes for their sauce, the same tomatoes we use at home, so that part of the pizza is always good.

The dough, though, deserves it own paragraph. Hand prepared and aged to get that wonderful chew and tang, and just slightly charred by baking, the crust is almost the highlight of any pizza one gets from TJ’s! The crust is always crisp enough to support the weight and add textural interest, even on pizzas with more toppings.

I ate a slice during transit.

I ate a slice during transit.

Gyutan Tsukasa

I’ve been going to the Costa Mesa Mitsuwa since I was a very small child (well, more like taken there most of those times). I can recall at least two renovations and various changes in the restaurant lineup―I do quite miss the big Zen rock gardens from my childhood―but it’s always remained a fun place to eat and shop. Gyutan Tsukasa is the most recent addition to the food court, taking over a spot that seems to change a bit more often than the others, but I have high hopes for it.

Gyutan is Japanese for beef tongue (it literally translates to “cow tongue”), and Tsukasa means something along the lines of “chief” or “government official.” The rest of the name on their sign roughly means “grilled specialty store.”

So a place that specializes in grilled beef tongue. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

The menu at the Costa Mesa location is more limited than the regular menu at their locations in Japan, but there were several items labeled coming soon, and I imagine the menu will further expand over time.

I needed something fast and portable so I opted for the lunchbox. I loved it! Just tongue, mixed grain rice, and two types of pickles. They do have pre-made ones if you’re really in a hurry, but I had time to wait for a hot one. The preparation is simple, but its origins are anything but, the tongue coming all the way from Australia and grilled over Japanese charcoal. The grilling method obviously yields a chewier result than, say, lengua, and the char flavor is a great complement to the rich and tangy tongue. The portions of each component were all well balanced―I didn’t find myself with lots of rice left over after everything else was gone―and I liked that there were both spicy and just pickle-y pickles.

I like a nicely assembled lunchbox.

Also, here’s the Yelp page for this location, as the official site doesn’t seem to have anything about this new US location.

Early Bird: Real-Deal-Holyfield Steak and Eggs

This here was actually the first time I ordered any sort of steak and eggs. I’ve been to plenty of places where one very well could order such a dish, but this time was the same old story of going to a new place, trying a new thing, etc. I figured Early Bird was a good place to branch out.

And what a first time it was!

I’ll just start off by saying that everything was perfectly cooked. Everything. The ribeye was a beautiful medium rare, the potatoes had a nice pan-fried crisp on them, and the sunny side up eggs were great. The steak coming out at an actual medium rare is quite a feat given that it was so thin. The tomato, asparagus, mushroom, and caramelized onion sauté sort of thing was a great complement and the smoked tomato béarnaise tied the whole plate together, as a sauce should.

Also of note are Early Bird’s single-origin coffees, craft-roasted for Early Bird right in Placentia. During my visit, they were brewing a wonderful El Salvadoran coffee that was just my kind of coffee―pleasantly bitter, with just a hint of chocolate, and nicely aromatic. I ended up having 4 cups, about 4 times my usual coffee consumption in a sitting.

A very well presented dish, on top of everything else.