Thankful… and the reason, I haven’t been posting as much…

It’s Thanksgiving Day. The day that Americans post their thoughts on things that they’re grateful for.

Two years ago, I wrote an EV Thanksgiving post focused on all the EV choices that we get in California. Since then several other models have been introduced, with the latest one being the Tesla Model X.

Another thing I can be thankful for is the safe, little EV that my mom was drving that met its untimely demise when an SUV merged into her. It did its job and protected her through the whole process and reminds me that i have to re-emerge from the cocoon I’ve been in and help her find a new EV to replace little OB-8.

I’ve been very busy lately and have started, but not finished a few blog posts that have not seen the light of day.

  • Namely a draft of my Tesla Model S 70D experience (it’s what we drove from SoCal to the Bay Area in September for the Model X Launch party.
  • A draft of my month of driving a Tesla Model S P85, P85+, P85D, and 70D in the same month.
  • and so much more… I’ll get to it… eventually.

So, loyal readers, what have I been up to?

A few months ago, I was approached and engaged by EV Connect, Inc. an EV Charging Solution provider [since I started writing this on Thanksgiving Day, I didn’t get formal approval to release my client’s name, so withheld for now] to assist them to manage and file a submission to design, construct, manage, maintain, analyze, and report on the nine electric charging highway corridors that the State of California, via the California Energy Commission (CEC), has decided to fund in its 2012 agreement with the states of Oregon and Washington, along with the province of British Columbia to create the West Coast Electric Highway. It’s been a fun three months of working in a field that I’ve grown into.

As many long-time readers can attest, I really “fell into” this industry and I really enjoy transitioning from a consumer to hopefully a professional in this field. I am thankful for that client and truly hope that we “win” the bid from the CEC for GFO 15-601 (which was due yesterday at 3pm.)

Since, I didn’t get a release from my client, I won’t give out the details of the proposal, but can at least talk about the CEC grant.  I can say that the approach we took gave due consideration to light duty electric vehicle drivers traveling these routes.  It wasn’t that long ago I was driving an 80-100 mile EV with no DCFC capability. (I miss my Active E.)

The CEC identified 9 highway corridors that are in need of additional DC Fast charging (DCFC or CHAdeMO and/or SAE-Combo/CCS.)

The corridors identified by the CEC are:

  1. I-5: Oregon Border to Red Bluff
  2. I-5: South of Red Bluff to North of Sacramento
  3. SR 99: South of Sacramento to North of Fresno
  4. SR 99: Fresno to North of Wheeler Ridge
  5. US 101: San Jose to Buellton
  6. I-5: Wheeler Ridge to Santa Clarita
  7. I-5: San Clemente to Oceanside
  8. SR 99: South of Red Bluff to North of Sacramento
  9. I-5: South of Sacramento to North of Wheeler Ridge

These nine corridors had differing distances, budgets, and preferred number of chargers to install. The first seven were required to have both CHAdeMO and CCS for the equipment to be proposed and the last two were secondary and required CHAdeMO only, though preferred a combo CHAdeMO and CCS, but the budgets were also very tight.

We had several months to find site sponsors, get equipment quotes, find construction partners, obtain additional funds, start the process to participate in the WCEH, and approach other constituents.

As a rEVolutionary, I am glad to see the expansion of the ability of light duty electric vehicles (your approx 80-100 mile range EVs in the parlance of the CEC proposal) to traverse the North-South corridors of California and eventually connect with Oregon, Washington, and beyond, but as a participant in the process, I’m biased. And hope that EV Connect, Inc. [name retracted for now, the awesome folks who hired me to work with them and get our bid in to fruition] win this bid!

I truly am happy and thankful. Hopefully by this time next year, we’re well on our way to having this DC Fast Charge network being completed to get mom in her replacement light duty electric vehicle able to fast charge from the LA Area to wherever North or South she wants to head to… ’cause my input was to ensure that folks like her can travel these distances comfortably without getting stranded… So, fingers crossed.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Charge It! – Great food near public chargers #6 in an ongoing series – Valley Road, Montclair, New Jersey – Nauna’s Bella Casa and ActiveE #1

I still owe you guys my first National Plug In Day experience.  However, to be a little more timely, I figure to update my Charge It! series.

As many of my readers know, I’ve been writing on a series of great restaurants to go to while you charge. Today’s post is a little different. It’s nowhere to be found in the Los Angeles area. It’s in Northern New Jersey, approximately 30 minutes (with no real traffic) from New York city – Nauna’s Bella Casa. No, I didn’t take several weeks to go from Los Angeles to New Jersey to go to lunch with my ActiveE. For this trip, I rented a Nissan Leaf from Hertz on Demand. Hertz car sharing subsidiary which allows members the opportunity to rent either a Nissan Leaf or SmartEV in the New York city area.

Nauna’s Bella Casa can be found at 148 Valley Road, Montclair, New Jersey, 07042.  (973) 744-3232.


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So, what takes me from New York City to Montclair, New Jersey. Frankly, I wanted to meet this guy, Tom Moloughney, aka Mini-E #250 and more importantly to me, Mr. ActiveE #1 and the top mileage leader that I foolishly challenged to try to “catch up” on top mileage use for all of the other ActiveE Electronuts.  As of the writing of this posting (in-flight from JFK to LAX) my ActiveE is waiting for me at LAX Lot 6 with 17,902 and Tom’s listed mileage on wotnogas.com is 27,795…  Needless to say, this is a TOUGH challenge.

Here’s a picture of Tom Moloughney and me in front of Tom’s New Jersey EF-OPEC (AKA Active E #1).

Had a good lunch and great company with fellow @BMWi evangelist @tommolog Nauna's Bella Casa in Montclair NJ

So, how’s the food. It was good, home-style Italian food at a great value. I had the lunch special which was Soup, Entree, soft drink, coffee (or tea, I believe) and dessert for $9.99. As opposed to other posts in this series, I have NO picture of the food. I was too busy enjoying the discussions between Tom and myself on the Active E, EVs, new BMWs, Teslas, Energy Independence, etc.

For my choice of soup, I picked the Pasta Fagioli. There were other choices, but I really like Pasta Fagioli so I had that. For my entree, I went with the Fusilli e Pollo which is the spiral pasta with grilled chicken & spinach. I really enjoyed the Fusilli e Pollo, but since I went out to Nauna’s in Day two of my trip to the East Coast, the meal was biologically breakfast for me, so the portion size was a little larger than I could finish, so I brought the rest to go. I skipped coffee and had ice cream for dessert (chocolate).  The meal was very good and felt home-cooked.

How about the chargers?  Nauna’s has two J1772 chargers, one on Chargepoint and the other on the Blink Network.  If you’re eating here, the charging is gratis, otherwise, the network fees would apply, I believe that the Chargepoint is free, but the Blink is based on your membership plan, so to get that charging at no cost, check in with the restaurant before you plug in.

How did I do getting to Nauna’s.  Well, I picked up the Nissan Leaf (was hoping for a SmartEV, but that will have to be a different post) from Hertz On Demand’s location at 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014.   This drive was approximately 20 miles away, but my consumption is closer to 35 miles from the range.  This was my first time driving a Leaf for ANY extended period and I must say that it was not as fun as my Active E, at least it seemed to perform better than the Coda that I test drove a few months ago.

So, if you find yourself anywhere near Montclair, NJ.  Even if it isn’t that near, give Tom a call and see if he’s available and you can enjoy a tasty lunch and have some fun “talking EV and stuff”.  I’ll probably get around to plug in day 2012 (Part 1, Part 2 to follow) and my Hertz on Demand SmartEV rental fiasco.

National Plug in Day… Pre-event planning.

If you were sent here by this month’s BMW Electronaut Newsletter, welcome to my blog.  I am STILL drafting my Real Goods post and need to come up with how to handle calculating cost per kWh over the solar array.  Since Sunday, September 23, 2012 is National Plug In Day, I figured to write about that first.  I was inspired to look into this event by a post on the Active E Forums by Keith Davidson and so I figured to participate.

One of the benefits in living in the southernmost city in Los Angeles County is that it is very efficient to go behind the Orange Curtain to Orange County for things.  When I used to drive my Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars more often, I would often fill up at the Costco in Cypress as it is often significantly cheaper in gasoline to buy my gas there than at a Costco in Los Angeles County and the location is somewhat convenient to home.

My gasoline border incursions have gotten to be fewer and farther in between as I don’t often have to purchase petrol as I have taken to carpooling with the better half on many days as I attempt to catch up to Tom Moloughney and his challenging 100 mile a day average (sadly still behind).

This Sunday, September 21, 2012, is National Plug In Day.  What can I say, I’m an Electronut and want to check out others cars and have the opportunity to be an EVangelist for electric vehicles, so I scheduled myself to visit BOTH the Los Angeles and Orange County Plug In Day festivities. (Recap of LA Plug In Day Experience here)

The one in Los Angeles will be held in El Segundo at 610 Lairport St, El Segundo, CA 90245 and this is approximately 25 miles away from home and the one in Orange County is at the Mitsubishi of North America’s Headquarters (a few blocks East of the aforementioned Costco at Cypress) at 6400 Katella Ave, Cypress CA 90630.

The Los Angeles County event goes from 11am to 3pm and the Orange County one goes from 1pm to 3pm.

So, if you wish to come down and say hi, come on over.  I will have sufficient charge to get around and home, so may take a few interested parties out for a spin.  Just leave me a comment and I’ll set that up.  I plan on being at the Los Angeles County event from 11am (the start) until approximately 12:30 pm and at the Orange County event from 1:30pm to 3pm.

See you there!

The Los Angeles County one at El Segundo –


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The Orange County one at Cypress –


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Charge It! – Great food near public chargers #5 in an ongoing series – Mateo Street – East side of Downtown Los Angeles, CA (Arts District)

This update on Charge It! is a case of great food and Leaf/MiEV – CHAdeMO – Level 3 (L3) envy…

Huh?

Well, I love my ActiveE.  It gets me almost everywhere.  However, since the J1772 Level 3 standard is yet to be published, BMW released the car with Level 1 and Level 2 charging capability.  Level 3 gets most L3 capable cars to 80% state of charge (SOC) in 30 minutes.  Yes, you read correctly, you get up to 80% of your range in 30 minutes.  Mitsubishi and Nissan support a Japanese standard called CHAdeMO.  BMW, GM and others all decided to go with extending the J1772 format for L3 and that is not quite done yet.

Lucky for you that the food at Church and State is SO great and the wine selection is SO good that you want to stick around for several hours ANYWAY to wait for the L2 charger to finish.

So, what makes it Great! It’s definitely the food in one of the best French Bistro’s in Los Angeles.

We started our meal with the Beef Marrow and Bread. It was AWESOME.

Moelle de Bœuf - Marrow

Moelle de Bœuf - Bread

You get some of the marrow and spread it on your bread and munch. No need for the butter, also as you can tell, it’s definitely carnivore food for that course!

To go with the Moelle de Boeuf, I went with the Tarte Flambee and it was a very good flat bread.

Tarte Flambée 2

Since we were dining in the summer and it was a nice, hot day, figured a Riesling was in order and the one recommended by the Sommelier was very refreshing.

A nice summer Riesling

For our Mains we went with Scallops and Pork, the other white meat. Both were exquisite! I ordered the Pork, but swapped meals with the better half!…

Scallops, Potato Strings and Asparagus

Roasted Pork and Figs

The scallop was tender and plump. It went well with the wine that we chose as well the asparagus on the plate. The Better half let me take a bite of her, formerly my, pork dish and that was great! The Figs and Pork made great accompaniment with each other.

The dessert was scrumptious. We chose a nice, sweet chocolate tarte and paired it with a glass of the 2005 Prieure D’Arche Pugneau Sauternes that was on the menu.

Tarte for Dessert 2

I would say that Church and State rivals another of my favorite French Bistros in Southern California and gives Bouchon in Beverly Hills a run for its money.

Now the negatives, the Sommelier was very good and helpful, however, our server was not as interested in taking care of us.  The restaurant had a lot of people, however, the restaurant also had adequate staff to cover all tables. Our server had a disinterested demeanor about her when she did get around to following up with us. Luckily, it’s a French bistro, so such behavior makes me think of other bistros I have been to in Paris…  Wait, that’s not right, I’ve had better, attentive service in Paris.

However, the biggest negative for me is really the location. It’s on the scary Arts District on the way East side of Downtown Los Angeles. Fine in the summer, really dark in the Fall/Winter. The neighborhood directly between the restaurant and charging station parking lot is well lit, but the rest is really dodgy.

Here is the Google Map to the restaurant


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Here is the Google Map to the Parking Lot, it’s across the street from the restaurant.


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That being said, Church and State does have great food, well-lit blocks between it and the parking spot and charging stations. The parking spot is $5 to park, lots of ample parking on the street for free. Blink Network chargers and this was free to charge at the time that I used it, however, a lot of these have gone to whatever plan you’ve signed up for with Blink!

Coming up next on the blog will be my post on Real Goods Solar and how they won my business from Solar City with the partnership with BMW and good timing on the deal announcement as it related to my Solar City installation.  I’m figuring out my math (and getting a whole new napkin to do that calculations with.)

Charge It! – Great food near public chargers #4 in an ongoing series – Abbot Kinney Blvd – Venice, CA

I’ve been too busy enjoying the driving and eating to have updated the Charge It! series, but here’s a place that I went to a month ago in the Abbot Kinney section of Venice Beach.

The chargers are located in the aptly named Electric Lodge which has five Blink chargers on the wall located on 1416 Electric Avenue, between Milwood Avenue and California Avenue.

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However, after 7 pm, they CAN be ICEd by folks going to the Electric Lodge. The electric only restricted parking is only enforced during the day, 7am-7pm daily.

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Since it’s after 7pm, THIS guy IS allowed to park there:

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This area of town has been a “hip” part of Los Angeles for quite a while and two of the restaurants in the area have been in eater.com’s Top 38.  I liked both Tasting Kitchen and Gjelina, but today’s post is about Gjelina.

A bottle of "dry" Tokaji.  A lot like a dry Riesling, but slightly sweeter

We started our dinner with a nice bottle of a dry furmint Tokaji from Bottpince Winery.  This was the perfect summer wine to complement our meal.  It’s akin to a dry Riesling, but slightly sweeter.

The plates on the menu were categorized between smaller and larger plates and we opted to dine Tapas style and enjoyed two starters, the Copper River Salmon Crudo with lemon Aioli, Horseradishe, and Chive AND Grilled Monterey Bay Squid w/ Melon, Celery, Chili & Salsa Verde.

Copper River Salmon Crudo with lemon Aioli, Horseradishe, and Chive

The Copper River Salmon Crudo was excellent.  The fish was fresh and very refreshing.  It was melt in your mouth good.  The dish went well with the wine and would’ve been excellent without it.

Grilled Monterey Bay Squid w/ Melon, Celery, chili & Salsa Verde 2

The grilled squid salad and melon’s only flaw was the fact that I wanted a bigger dish.  However, as a single starter it would have been better, but having to share it with the better half left me hanging for more of the dish.

Luckily, I had other dishes that were still to come as this is Tapas style, after all people and we ordered more dishes.

Anchovy & Burrata Toasts with Pepperonata, Capers, & Sherry 1

The anchovy burrata toast was yummy!  Nope, not a loss for words, just required ONE WORD – Yummy!

The next several dishes were our warmer ones AND the the restaurant was getting darker, so I have to apologize for the photos having to be touched up to be seen, but such is the challenge of photographs with iOs devices with no flash.

Our next two dishes were both Pork dishes.  Luckily, I’m not restricted from eating pork as both dishes were awesome.  The Pork Meatballs were nicely sauced and very flavorful.  The meatballs were a great contrast to the light seafood that we had to start our meal.

Braised Pork Meatballs with Tomato, Red Wine, Parmesan, & Grilled Bread (Retouched)

After the meatballs, the Crispy Niman Ranch Pork Belly was the piece de resistance.  The pork belly presented the same protein in a different yet delicious way.  The pork meatballs is comfort food with a nice solid bite.  The pork belly was both crispy (as the name implied) and ideally marbled underneath the sauce and chili.

If it had been an Asian restaurant, the pork belly would’ve come with rice, and I suppose that would’ve made the rice that much better, but it would not have gone with the flow of the meal.  So, no fault of the restaurant, but this dish would’ve been great with white rice.  But that’s a matter of personal taste, and the dish was excellent without is.

Crispy Niman Ranch Pork Belly w/ Watermelon-Fresno Chili & Lime Salad (Retouched)

The culmination to this meal was the Banana and Chocolate Bread Pudding with Fresh Cream and Caramel.  The dessert was great.  It doesn’t look great, but it sure tasted that way.  As plain as it looked, the dessert spared no expense in taste.  What it lacked in looks, it made up for in the packed flavor in each bite.Banana & Chocolate Bread Pudding with Fresh Cream & Caramel (retouched)

Oh and Tasting Kitchen was great too…  But I’ll have to write about that at another time.  Just too stuffed after this one.

Charge It! – Great food near public chargers #3 in an ongoing series – Malibu Country Market

Been enjoying going to lunch at the Americana at Brand, but those are my work-day eateries and I will probably write about those later…  However, today’s Charge It! location is Malibu Country Mart.  To recap, Helm’s Bakery and Santa Monica Place were our first two locations for the series.


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The charging station at this location is not on either of the two charging networks that I use (Blink or Chargepoint) and thus its a matter of faith to determine whether or not the charger will be available when getting there.  It’s an Aerovironment charger that Recargo’s notes says requires an RFID card, however, this was not the case when I got there (luckily).  The charger station is right at the entrance to the Malibu Country Mart market area.

Parked at the Malibu Country Mart, by the entrance. 2

Parked at the Malibu Country Mart, by the entrance. 3

Parked at the Malibu Country Mart, by the entrance. 4

It works great (as has been my experience with OTHER Aerovironment chargers.)

The Nobu in Malibu has been in existence for over a decade (1999, I believe).  Being Malibu, have to blend in with the natives and my better half requested that I NOT take pictures of our meal, therefore, a food entry with no pics.  However, seeing that Nobu Matsuhisa has been in business for a while, I do recommend that you peruse the link to his website for the food pictures.

As with a lot of Japanese restaurants, Nobu is best experienced if you enjoy the meal sharing many small dishes with your dining companions.  I did not enjoy the Miso Black Cod at this location, though that is quite a good standby for anyone who  visits Nobu for the first time.

Since this was our first trip to the Malibu location, we decided to try a few of their specialties, so we had the Tai Sweet Shiso with Crispy Shiitake and several of their Mini Tacos.  Additionally, the sushi at Nobu is top-notch.  However, it is also priced higher than other Southern California sushi bars that feature fish at the same quality level.  At the end of the day, a lot of less expensive restaurants feature food at the same quality as Nobu Malibu without the location or the expense.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy myself and the food was excellent.  However, other restaurants have caught up to the quality of meal that Nobu provides at a fraction of the cost.  Charging your EV may be free, but you’re definitely paying for the meal.

Charge It! – Great food near public chargers #2 in an ongoing series – Santa Monica Place


Been meaning to write another of these posts in a while.  I had a good time this past weekend at L.A. Live, and thought to write about that, but decided instead to write about Santa Monica Place/Third Street Promenade first.  MKnoll on the BMW Forums had a quick post on things she does in Santa Monica, which inspired me to go with what I would recommend in that area for #2 in this series.  As a quick refresher, #1 was at the Helms Bakery District for breakfast at La Dijonaise

The EV Chargers that I use in Santa Monica are in the lot corner Broadway and 4th Street (Santa Monica City Lot 7).  It is in the ground level onramp toward the second level. There are four Chargepoint Network Coulomb chargers and One Clipper Creek J1772 charger. These Chargepoint chargers (at the time of my visit) are the older ones that do GFCI trip at times and it may take several attempts before the charge process takes. The Clipper Creek works great, but, as a good EV citizen, I only use those if all the Chargepoints are taken since all BMW ActiveE drivers are provided at least one Chargepoint RFID card to use, and I’m sure not all EV drivers have those.

The parking at the Santa Monica Place lots are Free for 2 hours 8 am to 6pm ($1 ea additional 30 minutes; $9 maximum daily) and $5 flat rate after 6pm.  Zengo provides free valet parking, but that defeats the purpose of great food by public chargers.


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I figure #2 should be a place for brunch… namely Zengo.  This place has a highly rated brunch and though I’ve been there for brunch, I prefer the dinner service.  Additionally, next door to Zengo is it’s sister restaurant La Sandia, I’ve only had dinner at La Sandia and I was not as fond of the food there.

As I like to leave the better option last, I will cover La Sandia quickly here.  Basically, the food was interesting, but I felt that it was somewhat overpriced and really a better bar experience than food experience.

The Kiwi Margarita was very good –

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As was the Mango Margarita

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This was the Guacamole Sampler that we tried… And yes, they had the edible insect on it on purpose (I ate these, the better half skipped on it)

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I went with the Chili Relleno, which was top-notch, but I felt that it was a bit over-priced.

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And the better half decided to go with the Carnitas Tacos. Again, tasty, just over-priced.

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More La Sandia pictures.

All the photos that I have included in this article will be from dinner service that I had there earlier in the month.

So, brunch at Zengo is very popular aside from great food also provides unlimited drinks in its weekend brunches.  The fine print on the menu states – that the unlimited brunch has a 2 hour time limit per table, the entire table must participate in it, it includes unlimited small plates & brunch cocktails- bloody mary / bacon bloody mary / mango mimosa / traditional mimosa / sake sangria / lychee bellini for $35 per guest.  Thus if you like the things listed, it makes for a great deal.

When we went for brunch, we opted A La Carte as not everyone in the party would have made full use of the brunch deal.  However, I do intend to take them up on that deal one of these days.

As I previously mentioned, I actually prefer the dinner at Zengo. The servers are very good at explaining that Zengo translates to Give and Take in English, I boil down Zengo’s dining experience as Latin-Asian Tapas.  Their menu is split between smaller and larger plates and the mainstays stick around in the dinner menu and every month and a half to two months, they add a special “tasting kitchen” menu inspired by one Asian location and another Latin location, such as Hanoi and Havana (April 9 – June 30, 2012) or the previous menu of Shanghai and Sao Paulo.

On our third trip to Zengo, we had some dishes that stayed with us from the previous trip and we felt compelled to order again, and the Peking Duck-Daikon Tacos stood out from our previous experiences, and it was, once again, excellent.

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Here is the Peking Duck-Daikon Taco ready to eat on my plate:

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and another one

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We decided on pairing our dinner with a Malbec that we found to be light in tannins, smooth, and very good with meat and duck.

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We decided to go to the Pork Belly Steamed Buns next. I was expecting Char Shiu Bao, but got this instead:

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And it was wonderful.

One thing that through us off was the next course, which I did not expect to be in a soup/broth form was from this Hanoi and Havana test kitchen menu of Morcillas.  I had no indigation that it was in a soup/broth format and was my least favorite in the meal, but it was still very well executed.

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We ended our mains with the Wok Fried Rice and it was excellent. It’s a main on it’s own, though normally a side in many Asian restaurants.

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We did get dessert, but did not quite make the photo gallery.  If you want to see more Zengo pictures just head over to my flickr gallery.

After a fun dinner like we had that evening, and since the parking is paid for the rest of the evening, a nice stroll down 3rd Street Promenade or some shopping at Santa Monica Place is quite easy to do from this location.  Additionally, the Santa Monica Pier is also very close and navigable at this point.

For this particular evening, we opted to go to a nearby AMC Theater to catch the Avengers again.  It made for a great date night with the better half.

After dinner and a movie, we got back onto our fully-charged ActiveE to head home.