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.

Umami Burger’s Manly Burger

Again, another place that’s been popular for a long time but I’m only just trying.

Still, a great burger! It hit all the major points: well formed and cooked patty, good balance between components, and it paired well with a good dark beer, which happened to be Bootlegger’s Black Phoenix (it was the darkest available). For me, a good burger, regardless of where it’s from, always has umami in its flavor profile. At the very least, a patty prepared with good meat and cooked correctly should be a little umami by nature. The beer cheddar is an excellent burger cheese with enough sharpness to be noticed in the mix, and the smoked-salt onion strings impart a pleasant flavor that is between that of raw and grilled, as well as an always enjoyable fried flavor. And of course nothing needs to be said about the benefits of bacon lardons, house made ketchup and mustard, and a good bun. I though the “U” burned into the top was cool too.

Beer-cheddar cheese, smoked-salt onion strings, bacon lardons, umami ketchup, mustard spread. Taken from my Foodspotting profile.

Seventh Tea Bar’s Alpha Dominche Steampunk

I was happy to be invited to Seventh Tea Bar‘s unveiling of their new piece of tea-making machinery, Alpha Dominche’s Steampunk. The AD Steampunk was originally developed as a new tool for quickly producing consistent cups of coffee, but it turns out that the same machine can put out a great cup of tea, too. No single drink takes more than two minutes, and most don’t even take one minute.

As an avid fan of science fiction, I love the Steampunk. It’s a great example of technology and artistry aligning to both benefit and enhance each other. The Steampunk actually looks pretty steampunk itself, with its glass cauldrons, wood details, and integral touchpad. It’s quite entertaining to watch while you wait, too. I tried two teas from Mountain Tea steeped in Seventh Tea Bar’s Steampunk, FengHuang GuiFei Oolong and Dragonwell. The FengHuang GuiFei oolong has quite a story behind it, involving disaster, a triumphant return, and remembrance, but my favorite factoid about this tea was that a rare species of leaf hopper (or “tea hopper) is allowed to bite the leaves to begin the oxidation process on the actual plant! As for the Dragonwell, the first infusion had a rather distinctive taste. I loved the sour and bitter notes, and it was by no means short on aromatics and richness. Multiple infusions dulled Dragonwell’s initial edge, of course, bringing it down to a a flavor one usually expects from this type of tea, but I’d drink it at any number of infusions.

The machine itself and the two teas I tried.

The machine itself and the two teas I tried. Taken from my Instagram.