The Asian Persuasion

Great Asian restaurants, and the Asians (and Chuck Devore) who love them

DIAMONDDOG
FOODBLOGGER
Orange County has a small-but-lively food-blog scene, from the stately ruminations of Weeklycontributor Professor Salt (professorsalt.blogspot.com) to Elmo Monster's search for the perfect tortilla chip (monstermunching.blogspot) and the exclamation-heavy posts of Mealcentric (mealcentric.blogspot.com). But we find ourselves returning to the writings of Diamond Dog (eatoc.blogspot.com), not only for his stellar writing but also for the photo on his home page featuring a Rottweiler about to lunge at his padded arm. That cute pup is Vasko, and Diamond is part of a team that trains the Rottweiler in the art of Schutzhund,a Germanic dog sport that rates pooches on tracking, obedience, protection, retrieving and temperament testing. But Diamond does more than prepare Vasko for the canine gold. "Vasko is a registered pet therapy dog, and we enjoy volunteering our time to work with children and the elderly," says Diamond. Yeah, but can Vasko eat poop without throwing up? ETHNICEAT(CHINESE):"After people tell me about their Chinese food experiences, I usually try to get them to go to SeafoodCove," says Diamond. "When you walk in, you may think it's a pet store, as all the random sea critters are alive in tanks." He recommends the salt and pepper crab, steamed stripped bass in black bean sauce and the fried live freshwater prawns—"hopefully, you'll get the female ones fat with tons of roe." The service isn't too attentive, he says, "but you know what they say about Chinese restaurants: if the service is good, the food usually isn't." 8547WestminsterAve.,GardenGrove,(714)895-7964.AMAZINGASIAN:It's not weird for Diamond Dog and his pals to spend three to four hours at Uoko, and it's all because of Tomo: "Sit in Tomo's section. He's the young Japanese surfer on the far right of the sushi bar. He likes to tell eaters about the different tastes and preparations of various sushi items. Ask for what he recommends for that night or look at the special board." 23600RockfieldBlvd.,LakeForest,(949)837-7231.

JASONLACSAMANA
DIRECTOROFYOUTHPROGRAMS,OCAPICA
Jason Lacsamana is the youth program director for the Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA), a longtime activist in Asian-American affairs and all-around great guy. But we only had one question for him when he took five minutes from his hectic week to talk: Why is nearly every Filipino restaurant in Orange County turo-turo("point-point" in Tagalog, meaning buffet)? Lacsamana laughed, then sighed. "I've been to Filipino restaurants in Chicago and New York where I'm the only Filipino," says Lacsamana. "They're sit-down places that cater to a more multi-ethnic audience. I'd love to see it here." But due to exorbitant rents in Orange County, Lacsamana says, "it's easier to maintain a turo-turo joint. Also, you have a lot of the clientele on the go—working-class people who can only stop in for lunch." Lacsamana is working on a proposal for OCAPICA youth programs, but here's hoping someone gives him the cash to open a serious Filipino eatery. ETHNICEAT(FILIPINO):Lacsamana was a big fan of Tustin's dearly departed Mangga Grill; he now haunts Handaan. Besides the traditional sides of vinegar-spiked rice and pansit bihon (tiny, tasty noodles cooked with cabbage, celery, carrots and baby shrimp), Lacsamana enjoys the chicken adobo, a garlic-marinated cut of the bird. For dessert, he picks up a couple of turons—banana fritters. 9777ChapmanAve.,GardenGrove,(714)636-8431.AMAZINGASIAN:Lacsamana's favorite food right now is Cuban and Brazilian, but he also likes BangkokBBQ. "The service is friendly and affordable," he says. "I get the tom kha gai soup—I like the coconut flavor to it. I order it with some pad thai and the chicken satays—they're always juicy and huge." 12541HarborBlvd.,GardenGrove,(714)534-4490.


Photo by Heather X

AIMEEBUCK
PRODUCEMANAGERFORTANAKAFARMS
Nineteen years ago, Aimee Buck shuttered her bookstore to help friend Glenn Tanaka run Irvine's Tanaka Farms for a couple of months. She's still there. "I quickly discovered I didn't like sitting in the office," says Buck, whose Japanese parents owned farms in Fresno and Torrance. Nowadays, Buck helps coordinate Tanaka Farms' business side, but county kids probably better know her as the friendly lady who helps out on the company's beloved strawberry, watermelon and pumpkin tours (starting Oct. 1.) "Farming is becoming obsolete, and there's not that many open places anywhere," Buck says. "It's sad in a way, but I'm glad we can do it. We want kids to know how it really is. And they have such fun." And when the kids prove too rambunctious or the sun too sweltering, Buck likes to hike up Tanaka Farms' highest hill. "From there, you can see Fashion Island," she says. "It's simply breathtaking." ETHNICEAT(JAPANESE):"I'm biased because my cousin owns it, but I like SanKai," says Buck, laughing. "It's a hole-in-the-wall. The fish is fresh in the sushi and the beef teriyaki is really tasteful." 3940S.BristolSt.,Ste.112,SantaAna,(714)241-7115.Buck also likes the venerable Taiko: "The atmosphere and the people are really friendly even though the wait is so long. The shrimp tempura is especially good, especially with the dunking sauce." 14775JeffreyRd.,Ste.K,Irvine,(949)559-7190.AMAZINGASIAN:"We've [the Tanaka Farms folks] gone out to eat almost every Wednesday for six years and we go to different places, but we end up at Soup Plantation," Buck confesses, laughing again. "But I also like ChinaOlive. It's a good buffet that has a variety of everything from seafood to chicken and beef. I like the orange chicken, and they also have this mixture of chow mein with baby octopus, snow peas, onions and carrots." 3420S.BristolSt.,SantaAna,(714)957-2688.

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