#283: Mochinut

2PM, 9/18/2022

https://www.mochinut.com/

I set out yesterday for sushi at Tang’s at Foothills & Blue Oaks, only to find they are only open for dinner on Saturdays. For a quick backup plan I switched to Mochinut, located near Top Golf on Washington. Mochinut is a Korean donut / corn dog chain (an odd combo, but ok). I’ve been excited to try the dogs here since I heard they were coming to Roseville, however I had to wait a while as they were only doing donuts (or the dogs were very limited) for a while after opening.

I pulled up and snapped some photos before heading in at about 2PM. Inside it’s a very simple, very pink space. The counter shows off one of each donut flavor and ordering is mostly a self serve situation, very similar to Local Kitchens. However, if you want to pay cash you can ring a bell and someone will come ring you up. Interesting to note that they charge 4% on all non-cash transactions. A couple of benches offer a place to sit while you wait for your order to be called out. I only ever saw any staff when they were bringing out an order. Other than that it very much felt like an unattended lobby.

The website shows a sizable selection of interesting donut flavors. Today there were 7 options available (plain, original glazed, milk n’ cookies, funnel cake, maple pecan, passion fruit, and churro).

The corn dogs have six variations to choose from (original, potato, cheddar cheese, crispy ramen, hot Cheetos and crunch cereal). Most of these are essentially a coating over the crispy battered original. The cheddar cheese appears to put a layer of cheese between the hot dog and the batter. On top of this, you can get this with a hot dog or mozzarella cheese, or even a half and half.

I wanted to try a little bit of everything, but that was going to quickly add up. I settled on a 3-pack of donuts (Milk N’ Cookies, Maple Pecan, Original Glaze)[$10.35] and two half & half corn dogs (Original [$5.95] and Hot Cheetos [$7.54]). They do also offer some milk-based drinks (milk tea, Thai tea, use, matcha, etc) but I didn’t order anything from this part of the menu today. According to the website some locations also have some soft serve options, however I don’t recall seeing that here. My order came out in twelve minutes and I headed off deep into a nearby business park to find a quiet spot to eat.

I started off with the corn dogs. First thing was that I was expecting the mozzarella and hot dog pieces to be separate (so basically 4 sticks with half the stick used). Instead I had what appeared to be two full sized dogs each on a stick. Diving right in I discovered that the mozzarella was at the top of this, followed by half a hot dog further down the stick. The original had a really fantastic crunchy texture. The batter was more bread-y than a corndog type of batter. I just read on their website that the batter is a rice-flour batter, rather than a traditional American corn dog batter. The mozzarella was super soft and much like a mozzarella stick it stretched way out with each bite. I should take this moment to note that there were a bunch of sauces available to order but I completely spaced on those. I think they would enhance the mozzarella half of this quite a bit. The hot dog portion was fantastic. They use a good quality beef dog that reminded me of the good ones you get at a ball game (or even Costco’s cafe lol).

Moving on to the Hot Cheetos one, as I picked this up I wondered how the Cheetos dust was sticking on it so well. It become clear as soon as I looked at it closely. There was a layer of something, mayo I think, used to stick the bright red coating on it. This was a much, much messier dog to eat. Thankfully I was standing in a parking lot, so I left the local birds some spicy treats. Actually, beyond the initial few bites as they hit my tongue, this wasn’t that hot. That layer of mayo, or whatever it was, really carried a lot of weight in the flavor of this whole thing and drowned out the hot Cheetos almost entirely. When I got to the flavorful hot dog in the last half the dust was nearly undetectable. This was a really interesting and tasty item, though I think I preferred the original a bit more just for it’s simplicity. I fully intend to come back and try all the other options in due time.

For dessert I cracked open the donut box. All of a sudden I wasn’t sure if I needed to reevaluate my donut categories. Does this fit into my long standing slots – Standard, Krispy Kreme or Fancy? Ultimately, I think I can safely group these with Krispy Kreme. The dough is similar, yet a bit chewier than KK’s original glazed donut, . I found the original glaze and the milk n’ cookies to be very close. Milk n’ cookies had a bit more longer lasting, extremely sweet flavor. Other than the bits of cookies stuck to it (which tasted similar to Chips Ahoy), it seemed not that much different than the glazed. The maple pecan had a good maple flavor, just like every other maple donut I’ve had. The pecans were a nice little touch though, I only wish there had been more on it. As with the milk n’ cookies donut, the crunchy toppings on these two donuts were seriously lacking. The display donuts on the counter had toppings on 50-100% of these two flavors . Mine had more like 25-50% coverage.

While the donuts were good, I find myself thinking about the corn dogs so much more. That’s what I’ll be returning for. The donuts didn’t really stand out apart from all the other donut options we have around, aside from the slightly chewy property of their dough.

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#282: Flame-N-Chickz

12:50PM, 9/5/2022

https://flame-n-chickz.com

For Monday’s 111º scorcher I decided to kick it up a notch further with some Nashville Hot Chicken. A while ago I saw Flame-N-Chickz pop up, as I was scrolling Yelp or something, and already had a pretty good guess at what this place was. You’re probably aware of the huge boom of Nashville Hot chicken that’s been going on for at least a couple years now. Even the fast food joints have made a bit of a competition of it. Nash & Proper was my first introduction to this type of chicken, and around mid-2020 I noticed a new joint open on Sunrise in Citrus Heights called The Angry Chicken (now changed to Angry Chickz, I assume for trademark reasons). It quickly became a favorite of mine. Between then and now I’ve noticed a handful of virtually identical chicken shops opening up all over the Sacramento area. The only difference seems to be what they name themselves. The menus and execution are extremely similar. As far as I can tell It’s sort of an Adelberto’s/Carolina’s/Roberto’s/Etc. situation.

I headed over here just after noon. It’s located on Foothills @ Baseline in the Bel Air shopping center. Before I even approached, I could tell the inside was very spartan from the glimpses I caught through the windows. Of the other places I’ve been to, they do tend to be on the bare-bones side, but this one took that to an extreme. The space is divided into two sides. The dining side is about 2/3s the space. The remaining 1/3 is a gigantic, mostly bare counter with the register (actually now that I look at my photos closer I see there is a single table on this side by the window). The red and white color scheme is in line with the others I’ve been to, although most of those others had some kind of art painted on at least one of the walls. A geometric design with red lines on the back wall passes for it here, I suppose.

I was immediately greeted by two workers near the counter when I entered. During my visit they were mostly in the back, but would pop out to check things out and clean tables here and there. Other than the 1-2 other customers at the time, I nearly had the place to myself.

Stepping up the the menu I quickly realized I already knew it well. The main difference on this one is that they don’t seem to have Mac & cheese, which all the others do. Another difference, at the other locations you can get loaded fries or Mac and cheese, which basically adds a chopped up tender and some of the special sauce (and pickles, etc depending on location. One loaded mac & cheese bowl I enjoyed had literally every ingredient they offer in it). These do seem to vary a bit from one location to the other. The main combos are just three possible form factors of 2 pieces of chicken with fries – 2 sliders($14.99), a slider and a tender($13.99), or 2 tenders($12.99). For heat level you can choose from No Spice, Mild, Medium, Hot, Extremely Hot, & Flamin (waiver required). Regarding the waiver, it sounds kind of funny but at another location they definitely do it. I once overheard a woman ordering for her party and she had to call someone over because they needed him to sign it. From across the dining room he backed the heat down one notch instead.

I picked out the #2, both seasoned Hot, and a fountain drink ($2.50).

In about 10 minutes I heard my number and collected my food, which was prepped in a to go container. They don’t seem to have an “in-store” setup with trays/baskets. I’ve noticed this a lot more since the pandemic. I grabbed a fork for the tender, checked to see what condiments were included in the box (1 cup of Chickz Sauce) and was off to my table.

I got started with the fries, which were warm and could have been a lot crispier. Crinkle-cut fries tend to be bland and hard to do right. Roostarz (another one of these type of places in Rancho Cordova) has found a way to make them crisp and golden to perfection. The spice on them was very noticeable (mostly in how easily it turned my fingers red) but heat-wise they are nothing next to the chicken. As with most places the fries have room for improvement, but I don’t come for the fries.

The chicken was great, as has universally been my experience at each and every one of these places I’ve been. It has a crisp, thin to medium thin batter that is not very greasy. Generous cayenne pepper seasoning give the tenders a bold red color. The chicken is always juicy and tender within. As for the heat, I tend to order whatever value has 1 or 2 more above it, which has been a safe bet so far. It’s quite hot, and usually gets my nose a tiny bit runny by the time I’m done. I dipped the tender in the Chickz sauce, which is the same mayo-type sauce they have everywhere. It really tempers the heat well and is tasty, though I’ve never quite figured out what the flavor is. The slider comes with a little bit of this sauce, which together with the slaw and pickles does good work to mediate the heat. On my next visit to this location I might bump it up to Extremely Hot to see how intense that is.

While the space is a bit empty feeling here, they certainly have the chicken on point. I’m glad we have one here now. It’s not always easy finding a really satisfying place that can scratch that heat-seeking craving.

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#277: Bonsai Japanese Cuisine

12PM, 5/14/2022

Today I headed to Cirby & Sunrise to check out Bonsai for lunch. I’ve been driving by Bonsai nearly daily since it opened in mid 2019 and always wondered what it was like inside. Previously this was Moe’s, a Chipotle-like fast food spot. Bonsai has converted the make-line, where you once worked your way down as your burrito got built, to a sushi counter. Although no-one was sitting there, the chairs and soy sauce were there and ready to go. The rest of the space definitely had a paint job to mute down some of the bright yellow-painted walls. Much of the rest, including the booth seating remained mostly the same.

I was greeted right away upon stepping inside and beckoned to a booth near the center of the restaurant. I was handed a nice looking bound menu and started to go through it to see what I would be ordering. The inside was more worse for wear with the thin plastic sleeves coming apart in places, but it did the job. My server came by to introduce himself, drop off a glass of water, and take my drink order. Having just made it to the back page where the beer was I hastily picked a large Sapporo before flipping back to confirm my other choices before he returned.

Bonsai’s offerings are pretty on par with the general sushi-focused restaurants we have in the area. Sushi, bento boxes, rolls, ramen, etc. Check out the menu below, as it appeared during this visit.

Once I had ordered I had the pleasant surprise of a complimentary edamame delivered. It’s been a while. I thought most places stopped doing this. At the very least, the spots I frequent have long stopped this practice. They were a nice, cool and refreshing snack to work on for a few minutes until my food started coming out.

I had started with their Wakame Seaweed Salad (Marinated seaweed salad/lettuce)[$6]. This is something I’ve been ordering a lot lately wherever I see it. If miso soup is my winter appetizer, this is certainly my summer appetizer. This was very nice and came with a little Lemmon wedge that I squeezed over top which brightened up the flavor a bit.

I was only a few bites into the salad when my 2nd app arrived, the Sun Shine (4pc salmon wrapped with crab meat and fish eggs)[$9]. First off I will say that I really enjoyed this. The description gave me a very different impression of what I would receive though. Instead of 4 separate pieces of salmon wrapped inside crab, two bite-sized clumps of rice were wrapped by two pieces of salmon each and topped with a slightly smaller ball of crab meat and thinly sliced avocado with the roe perched up top. I’ve always wondered if there was any money to be made in a menu-consulting gig.

Right around when I was polishing off the last of the Sun Shine my roll was delivered. I had picked out the Spicy Rainbow Roll🌶 (spicy tuna and tempura shrimp with avocado and assorted fish)[$13]. I love how this is presented on a long and thin dish with every piece carefully arranged in a row and topped with a thin slice of fresh, crisp jalapeño. This roll had a little bit of everything I was craving. Plenty of fish, tempura shrimp at the center of every bite, the aforementioned crisp jalapeño, and a tiny little dollop of a spicy sauce to top off every single piece. There was plenty of sauce on the platter around it if you wanted it, with a bit over top each bite to start you off. When I had finished this I was delighted by the lingering heat that was left on my tongue. This had an appreciable amount of heat to it without distracting from the rest.

I went in to this with virtually non-existent expectations and came out very satisfied. It may lack a nicer atmosphere but the food and service were both on point and the prices felt fair. Solid 4/5 here.

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