kuidaore v. (Japanese) To ruin oneself by extravagance in food
NAME Gabriel Woo OCCUPATION I ask questions CITY / COUNTRY Los Angeles / USA E-MAIL firstname.lastname@example.org
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|restaurant reviews • 101 noodle express • amy ruth's • auden's kitchen • b-man's • basil thai • big texan steak ranch • burger continental • calbi • campanile • chego! • chicky bbq • choices • church & state • cole's • corner bakery cafe • daikokuya • daisy mint • din tai fung • dish bistro & bar • donut man • euro pane • fab hot dogs • father's office • five guys • forage • ford's filling station • grand central market • grimaldi's • hakata ramen • ham ji park • hash house a go go • haven • el huarache azteca #1 • homegirl cafe||ichima • india sweets & spices • jashn kabab corner • k2 • kitchen 1540 • langer's deli • lawry's carvery • lee's sandwiches • lucky boy • magnolia pancake haus • maki & sushi • mariscos chente • mary & tito's • max brenner • mendocino farms • merry's house of chicken • mr. ramen • newport tan cang • nickel diner • noodles & company • the pantry • pho minh • potrero canyon buffet • rudy's • salathai • siam taste of asia • sinbala • stacked sandwich • starry kitchen • sweetsalt • viva tacos la estrella • wd~50 • wurstküche • yogurt & more • the york • zelo • zingerman's deli • zingerman's roadhouse|
|Did you know you can view more food photos at my Flickr?|
|The Best of the Wurst (I couldn't resist the play on words)|
| Wurstküche. This joint -
located in the Arts District next door to Little Tokyo - arguably
resembles a chain of restaurants that is well-known in the U.S.,
namely, Wienerschnitzel. Like Wienerschnitzel, Wurstküche sells
"hot dogs" and does business under a German moniker. However, the
comparisons between the two dining establishments ends there. For one
thing, Wienerschnitzel isn't known for food that is care-fully
prepared. Wurstküche demonstrates care and thoughtfulness in their
offerings. Also, Wurstküche is far more hip than Wienerschnitzel
could ever be. (And, lest I forget, you can get booze at
Wurstküche. Wienerschnitzel? Not so [Unless you count the alcohol
you'll find on those drunk guys who hang out at the Wienerschnitzel])
If you don't visit Wurstküche at a time where crowds line the sidewalk in front or when the restaurant literally beats with cool vibe, odds are you could easily miss it. It blends in really well in a neighborhood that is intriguingly low-key. It's also a little tricky to get to if you're not familiar with the street layout.
Upon entering, I was confronted with a cold case of myriad kinds of sausage. It was fun to see what was available, like the Alligator & Pork. I placed my order with a fairly gorgeous cashier, then made my way to the dining room. What a nice surprise the dining room turned out to be: high ceiling, rows of picnic benches (very egalitarian), a bar area with a nice beer tap setup.
Today, I ordered a Mango Jalapeño sausage with caramelized onions and sauerkraut (other topping choices are sweet peppers and spicy peppers) - 6.5 USD. To drink, it was Mr. Q. Cumber (cucumber soda), of course!
A friend/co-worker - "F" - treated our party to Wurstküche's Belgian Fries (thanks "F"!). They were pretty good as well.
The roll was of good quality and the cook put grill marks on it - good work.
"A" was really adventurous: He ordered the Rattlesnake & Rabbit sausage. Guess what he said it tasted like?
Peak dining times (think evenings and weekends) at this restaurant are REALLY busy. I went in the middle of the afternoon and the restaurant wasn't at all busy.
Parking here is a challenge.
Take some sausage home. Hence the cold case in the front of the restaurant.
How Much I Paid: 12.63 USD = sausage + drink + tip.
My Rating: out of four stars (good to very good). These sausages are "hot dogs" for "grown-ups". I really like Fab Hot Dogs in THE Valley as well. See my post on Fab. Website: http://www.wurstkucherestaurant.com/
Next time, when I don't have work, I have to try some of the beers on tap.
|When in Ann Arbor, Do as Zingerman's Does|
This past week I had the pleasure of visiting Ann Arbor, Michigan for job training. I knew I was going to be there a month prior to leaving so I naturally did some research on the local food scene and attractions. After searching such websites as the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, I wrote up a list of the most promising destinations: Zingerman's Deli, Zingerman's Roadhouse, Gratzi, Kerrytown Market, South Main Street, and the original Borders bookstore.
The first worthy restaurant I visited during my week in Ann Arbor was Zingerman's Delicatessen. Zingerman's Deli has become the culinary institution in Ann Arbor over the years. The business started as a deli and has expanded to include a coffee house, creamery, bakehouse, a restaurant with a James Beard-nominated chef (more about this later), and even a business school.
After training on Sunday (Oct. 3), I went with a group of co-workers to Downtown Ann Arbor to see the University of Michigan campus. When it came time for dinner, I trekked with "W" to the Kerrytown Market to see if it was open. Unfortunately, it wasn't but Zingerman's Deli - which is nearby - was. The Deli turned out to be a Godsend.
Z's Deli is like a big toy store for those who love food. They have a cheese/cured meats/prepared foods cold case. There is a station where they sell their own breads. Behind the bread station, you can find shelves lined with all kinds of products like artisan olive oils. And the best thing of all: Customers are allowed to sample anything in the store.
For Sunday dinner, I ordered Zingerman's signature #2 Reuben (14.50 USD for the larger size). The sandwich came with the diner's choice of pickle - classic v. new (the difference is in how long the pickle is pickled).
What can I say? The sandwich was quite big, enough for two meals. The great house-made rye bread was perfectly grilled and the filling - corned beef, sauerkraut, Emmentaler, Russian dressing - was wonderful. Add up the parts and the sum is quite satisfying. I had a classic pickle, which was also tasty. Pickling is one of those culinary arts that requires real skill and Zingerman's can proudly say they have mastered it.
Another great thing about Z's Deli is they have a Boylan's soda fountain. If you haven't had a Boylan's, you're definitely missing out.
How Much I Paid: 25.75 USD. Included in that bill was a Potato Dill loaf I purchased (you can't leave without taking home one of their house-made items).
My Rating: out of four stars (very good). Z's Deli seems to have lots of young people working for them. I would have liked to seen some more career people at work, but it was a Sunday night and perhaps they were off. Website: http://www.zingermansdeli.com/
On Monday night (Oct. 4), I wanted to go a bit more low-key for dinner. I heard from some co-workers about a kebab place in the shopping mall across the road from our hotel, which sounded good to my stomach (I think Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food might now be in my top 5 cuisines).
Along with "W" from the previous night, I frogger-ed my way across State Road from our hotel to the Briarwood Mall. The kebab place, which I thought was a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern restaurant, turned out to be an Indian restaurant run by folks from Hyderabad called Jashn Kabab Corner.
Jashn Kabab Corner is located at the southwest end of the Briarwood Mall. It is a casual restaurant with an interior that's either appropriately Indian or a design holdover from the 1970s (significant use of pastel colors): I couldn't determine whether it was one or the other..
I had the Chicken Combo II (8.99 USD) - Chicken Sheekh Kabab, Reshmi Kabab, Chicken 65 (visit their website for more information). To drink, I ordered a Mango Lassi (2.99 USD). For dessert, "W" and I tried the Mango Kulfi (1.29 USD).
Pretty standard fare. The color of the Chicken 65 was a vibrant red - visually striking. The mango lassi was good.
The mango kulfi turned out to be pretty decent. At least it was a lot better than the kulfi I made one time. But, for my tastes, nothing beats ice cream.
How Much I Paid: Altogether, it came to about 14 USD.
My Rating: No stars out of four stars (satisfactory). Website: http://www.wix.com/jashnkababs/jashnkabab
On to the next meal.
Tuesday night turned out to be the best of all. On Monday, I made a reservation at Zingerman's Roadhouse - yet another Zingerman's - for Tuesday dinner. I put together a dinner party and set out for this much anticipated experience.
Zingerman's Roadhouse is located on the west side of town at the corner of Jackson and Maple. The chef - Alex Young - has been nominated for a James Beard award and for good reason. He obtains his ingredients from the best sources and his dishes are thoughtfully prepared. The Roadhouse has the added advantage of support from its sister industries like the creamery and bakehouse. I would describe the food and style of the Roadhouse as being refined American comfort food presented in a casual environment with fine-dining elements.
Before I forget, Z's Roadhouse has this cool little trailer outside that sells to-go items that they call the "Roadshow."
I decided to abandon all restraint for this special opportunity. I ordered the following dishes in order: Fried Green Tomatoes (9 USD - Anson Mills' cornmeal fried Cornman Farms' heirloom green tomatoes, housemade ranch and hot sauce), Pit-smoked BBQ Beef (22.50 USD - Cornman Farms' front quarter of beef, pit-smoked and braised until tender. Served with Alex's Red Rage Tomato BBQ sauce, substitution of Roadhouse Macaroni & Cheese, and Southern-style braised greens with bacon and ham hock), and a Doughnut Sundae (7.5 USD - warm chocolate-glazed doughnut topped with ice cream, whipped cream, and peanuts and served with a caramel sauce). To drink, I had a pint of a locally-brewed IPA called Sacred Cow (Corner Brewery, Ypsilanti, Michigan).
Totally awesome. There was a lady in our dinner party - "S" - who ordered a cheese board worth mentioning. I think she ordered a couple of goat cheeses from Zingerman's own creamery, which were tasty. One of the accompaniments was roasted grapes on the vine - grapes marinated in balsamic vinegar, roasted in the oven, and chilled. The roasted grapes were genius.
I pretty much loved everything I ate, from the fried green tomatoes to Zingerman's signature mac 'n' cheese (bechamel, two-year old raw milk Vermont cheddar, Martelli family artisanal macaroni from Tuscany). But the best, most memorable item of all was the doughnut sundae. It was an ecstasy-filled symphony of flavors, temperatures, and textures. If you visit the Roadhouse, be absolutely sure you get the sundae if it's on the menu.
I really liked the Sacred Cow IPA as well. It had a rounded flavor I rarely find in IPAs.
One improvement I would suggest is polishing the look of each dish: The chef could twiddle a bit with presentation.
How Much I Paid: 60.41 USD including tip.
My Rating: out of four stars (excellent). The Roadhouse is a special place. Website: http://www.zingermansroadhouse.com/
Finally, I just wanted to write up a restaurant I first experienced during my time in Madison, Wisconsin. It's a chain restaurant, which I don't usually write about, however, since we don't have any outlets in L.A., I'd like to let Angelenos know about it.
Noodles & Company is a chain of casual noodle shops. The menu covers three cuisines - Asian, Mediterranean, American.
On Wednesday night (Oct. 6), I headed back into Downtown Ann Arbor with "W". We visited the U of M campus again and bought a few souvenirs. "W" said he had a craving for noodles and I recommended Noodles & Company based on my previous experience.
I ordered a Trio meal (7.50 USD): Bangkok Curry with shrimp - sweet coconut curry, broccoli, carrot, red bell pepper, onion, mushroom, rice noodle, cabbage, black sesame - and a side soup of Tomato Basil Bisque.
The Bangkok Curry might have been better had there been more sauce. It was on the bland side and I didn't really like the spice powder they threw on for garnish.
The Tomato Basil Bisque was like eating a bowl of marinara. The flavor was perhaps overly acidic. Overall, it was a miss.
A better bet might have been the Pad Thai or a selection from the Mediterranean or American list.
How Much I Paid: 10.60 USD, which includes a fountain drink. They insist that customers not leave any tip - sucks for employees.
My Rating: No stars out of four stars (satisfactory). Website: http://www.noodles.com/
Whew, I'm still tired from this very eventful week. I'll try to upload some pictures not shown here on my Flickr soon. Thanks to all my new friends and dinner partners - especially "W" and "T". There was one restaurant in Ann Arbor that I'd like to steer diners away from: Damon's. It's not totally horrible but I think your money could be better spent elsewhere.
|Bravo Sawy ... er, I mean, Josh Holloway! I just read the news on Yahoo! that one of my favorite actors from my all-time favorite TV show "LOST" has signed on to play a part in the next Mission Impossible film - M:I4. Good luck!|
| This week is pretty much over and
now that I look back on it, I have to say that I had a fairly eventful
week foodwise. Considering yesterday's outing, I am five for five -
five weekdays, five new experiences.
To punctuate the ending of the work week, I found myself having lunch at the Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles. If you've never been before, the Grand Central Market can be part of a fun downtown excursion. It's not as big as I first perceived but it does stretch from Broadway to Hill just south of 3rd Street. The first time I visited the market was a couple of months ago with some co-workers.
The Grand Central Market is L.A.'s oldest market, in operation since 1917. There are stands selling produce, spices, meat, and seafood. There are even stalls where you can get a massage and acupuncture. And, like any good market, there are vendors selling freshly prepared foods that represent cuisines from around the world.
I arrived at the Grand Central Market at midday, and the first thing I did was cruise the market to take stock of what was available to eat. A couple of taco stands looked good, as evidenced by the big crowds in front of them. The Chinese food looked like the Panda Express variety. There was Vietnamese pho, even. I finally decided on the one vendor offering Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food: Kabab and More.
For lunch, I ordered the #4 Lamb Shank - turmeric braised lamb shank with two types of basmati pilaf, grilled tomatoes, salad, and a pita. To drink, I had a salty yogurt drink.
I liked the lamb shank. It was perfectly cooked. The lamb flavor was clearly discernable but not overpowering - just how I like it.
The basmati pilaf was great. I got the plainer version and the one spiced with dill.
The food was piping hot, like it should be.
The salty yogurt drink turned out to be really salty. The bottle contained 50% of the daily recommended intake! I could see that such a drink would be helpful in coping with the hot climate of the Middle East but I don't recommend it for casual drinking during a meal.
How Much I Paid: 10.50 USD.
My Rating: out of four stars (good). Actually, for my tastes, the Grand Central Market is more about the experience than the quality of the food. I'm not saying that the food is bad in a roundabout fashion, I just think you can find better versions of the food offered at the market elsewhere. Website: http://www.grandcentralsquare.com/
|Quite Possibly the Best Pastrami Sandwich Ever|
| Now I understand why J. Gold
declares that when he has "to go," there'll be Langer's pastrami at his
wake (see the LA Weekly article
This morning, I had another early shift at work and afterwards, there was only one place in the world that could serve as a reward for my having woken up before the sun did. I'm referring to Langer's Deli at the corner of Alvarado and 7th Street in the Westlake district.
I wish this restaurant had a squawk-box beside the entrance so that it could tell stories: it has stood at the southeast corner of MacArthur Park for over sixty years. On one hand, Langer's looks so out of place in this neighborhood of businesses that cater predominantly to Latin Americans, it makes you wonder how and why the restaurant stayed. On the other hand, Langer's looks very much at home, surviving, defiantly owning its presence despite being the odd-man out. The delicatessen is a vital reminder of the L.A. that used to be.
Langer's has such a classic feel to it, which manifests in the decor, booth and counter seating, and, especially, in the people that work at the restaurant. The FOH employees practice the manners of a different era. They exude the kind of bonhomie that you can only find in old restaurants.
Since it was my first time at the James Beard Classics Award-winning restaurant, I naturally had to order the No. 19 - Pastrami, Swiss Cheese, Cole Slaw, and Russian Style Dressing on Rye (14.45 USD). I wanted something on the side so I got a potato salad (2.50 USD) per my server's suggestion (she very kindly informed me that french fries and soup were not available until late morning).
Absolutely the best pastrami sandwich I have ever eaten. It's perfect. Composed of soft rye with the trademark hard crust, thick slices of pastrami, and house-made coleslaw, it's like a virtuous symphony, a textbook example of a balanced creation. This is definitely Al Langer's magnum opus.
Parking is located in a pay lot one block east on 7th at the northeast corner of 7th and Westlake. It's free with validation.
They take credit cards.
This place opens at 8 AM and closes at 4 PM so you'll have to plan on having either breakfast, brunch, or lunch. Closed Sundays.
How Much I Paid: For the food, I paid 21.84 USD. I left a tip of 5 bucks because my server (older caucasian female - hope you get her) was so sweet. I felt like giving her every bill I had in my wallet.
My Rating: out of four stars (outstanding on every level). Food, service, ambience - everything was just right, like singing the right note. Website: http://www.langersdeli.com/
|My Latest Forays in L.A.'s Dining Scene|
| When I was working with the Census
back in June, I had lunch in town (that'd be Arcadia) at Maki &
Sushi with a co-worker. After that lunch, we went for a stroll and
noticed another restaurant nearby called Basil
Thai. We went inside to look around and to check out the menu.
At that time, we were always canvassing the area for potential lunch
spots and one of the things that caught our attention there was the
lunch buffet. Since it seemed like a good deal and Thai is my
second-favorite cuisine (after Korean, of course), I decided,
yesterday, to finally give that lunch buffet a try.
Before I discuss the food, I think the space that Basil Thai occupies deserves a few words. The restaurant's exterior is unremarkable; in contrast, the interior is quite intriguing. It's unique when compared to the rest of the neighborhood. It seems to have been professionally designed by a serious artsy-type person. I think the designer's goal for the interior was modern and chic. However, I got a different vibe: I thought the interior was obtrusive and brooding. Maybe it looks better at night.
Now, on to the food. The items I ate yesterday were: An egg roll, pad thai, pad see eew, a bowl of cabbage soup, pork laab, fried rice, fried chicken, chicken curry, and fried banana. I wished there was some sort of appealing vegetable offering, but all they had was what looked like stir-fried cabbage.
I would describe the buffet as being the kind of food your Thai grandmother (if you had one) would cook for you on a Saturday morning while you watch cartoons: in other words, it's not very polished. Also, the quality of the ingredients used in the buffet items is not top-notch, and, in some dishes, key ingredients seem to be missing. As a result, the overall effort is lacking.
I would rate the lunch buffet as satisfactory. For 7 bucks, it's a "you get what you pay for" situation. Would I go back to Basil Thai? I might if I brought a friend along to try their a la carte dishes. But the a la carte better be steps above their buffet fare or I might be inclined to verbally trash the place.
This morning, I got a chance to try a brand-new restaurant that was still in its "soft opening" phase. It's called K2 and it's located in Silver Lake just steps away from Intelligentsia. A friend and co-worker - "T" - invited me there for breakfast.
The cuisine looks like it's New American/Modern American/Contemporary American and the menu is full of promising dishes. Breakfast, brunch/lunch, and dinner is served.
Unfortunately, since the restaurant hadn't officially opened yet, the kitchen wasn't at the top of its game and the cook was unable to crank out my first order which was their version of Eggs Benedict with a Meyer lemon hollandaise (it really sounded delicious). So, I ended up ordering your basic bacon and eggs plate with potatoes and coffee cake.
It's really nice that they use fingerling potatoes for their hash. The potatoes were nicely done with rosemary and red bell pepper. I also liked the bacon. Each slice was thick, crisp, and not greasy. "T" thought the bacon was too dry for his taste, like it had been held over.
I just read some favorable comments about the coffee cake online. I ate a couple of bites and felt like I've had better (I like the coffee cake at Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego). Anyway, the coffee cake was moist.
Thanks "T" for the invite!
Based on K2's rendition of the standard breakfast and taking into account the "soft opening" status, I'd rate them at one star (good). Including coffee, tax, and tip my meal totaled 15 dollars. Website: http://www.kokomo.com/
Like to learn more about this restaurant? Here's a link to an article in the L.A. Times that printed in early August.
|Gam Ja Tang!|
| I have absolutely no self-control
when it comes to food cravings: I succumb all too easily. (I've penned
this line before, haven't I?)
This past weekend I was nursing a craving for a Korean dish I hadn't eaten for a very long time: Gam Ja Tang! Gam Ja Tang translates into English as 'Potato Stew', however, it is more than the name belies. Gam Ja Tang is a spicy red stew of potato and pork neck bones that is usually garnished with green onion.
I searched the 'net for K-town restaurants that specialize in Gam Ja Tang. I came across several, among them Yanggi Seollongtang and Gam Ja Gol. The restaurant I decided on was Ham Ji Park, which is renowned for its pork dishes.
On Monday, I arrived at Ham Ji Park in time for what I thought would be the peak lunch rush - around 12:30 PM. I was surprised to find the restaurant almost empty: there was only one six-top that was occupied by a bunch of old Korean ladies. Hmm, when a restaurant is empty at a time like this, it usually means the food must not be good or something else is wrong with the restaurant. I decided to ignore this warning signal since Ham Ji Park was positively reviewed by so many diners, including a critic I absolutely trust - Jonathan Gold. Not being packed turned out to be a good thing: I got my food quick-fast.
Yea, gangsta, check out the Gam Ja Tang (16 USD):
Yummmmmm. The Gam Ja Tang was soooooo good! It had a good spicy pork flavor along with a supporting flavor of ginger: it totally hit the spot for me. The stew was the right consistency, too. Make a spoonful of rice, dip it into the stew, put it in your mouth, and you're in heaven! I did have one complaint, though. There was only one small potato in the hotpot, which, I believe, is designed to be shared between two eaters. I happen to like potato in my Gam Ja Tang.
One of the best things about Korean cuisine is banchan - the small side dishes that accompany every good meal. Banchan is like tapas: there are many cultures with the same concept (think mezze, dim sum, etc.). On this occasion, there was (see picture, clockwise from bottom) mool kimchi, ?, kkakdugi kimchi, marinated soybean sprouts, pickled cucumber, and spicy pickled peppers.
How Much I Paid: After tax and tip, 20.56 USD.
My Rating: out of four stars (very good to excellent). I must return one day for the BBQ pork. Website: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Los-Angeles-CA/Hamjipark-Restaurant/135440236468934
Looks like my next project will be my own version of this venerable stew.
I'm already nursing my next craving: You might catch me tomorrow morning eating a breakfast burrito at Lucky Boy.
|Lawry's The Prime Rib LITE|
| For the longest time - ever since my
high school days - one of my food fantasies has been to eat at the
renowned Lawry's The Prime Rib, which was originally confined to
Beverly Hills but now has locations around the world. There was also a
time when I thought Lawry's Seasoned Salt was the best condiment ever
As you might know by now, I've been spending quite a bit of time in Downtown L.A. for my job and I've slowly gravitated over to L.A. Live during my off-hours. One day, I was walking along Figueroa on the east side of the entertainment complex and poof, there was Lawry's Carvery. The sight of the restaurant immediately reached out to something deeply embedded in my consciousness and my brain's food center sprang into action. I remembered reading about the Carvery on Lawry's website, that it was a place to get prime rib sandwiches and other Lawry's favorites in a casual setting. It seemed appealing enough at the time, so yesterday, I set aside some time for dinner there, thinking that Lawry's prime rib was way overdue.
How the Carvery works: Upon entering the restaurant, you begin by placing your order at a cashier. After paying for the meal, you find a seat in the dining room and get a drink while you wait for a runner to deliver your food.
I ordered the 8-oz Roasted Prime Rib (complemented by au jus and creamy horseradish) with Carvery Coleslaw and Baked Macaroni and Cheese (19.99 USD)
Now, I can't remember the last time I ever did this: I sent my food back to the kitchen for a second effort because it just wasn't up to standard. The prime rib and mac 'n' cheese were lukewarm (I would say the prime rib was actually cool), as if the cooks kept pre-composed plates waiting on a shelf. The food arrived at my table way too quickly. The second effort was better - as if this time the cooks deigned to give some attention to my meal - but not by much.
Ugh! Double ugh! In both the first and second efforts, my food arrived on cold plates! How hard is it to have hot plates for hot food? I mean, come on! These guys should know better!
The prime rib was tasty, but overall, it was somewhat of a let-down.
I think the mac 'n' cheese would be better if it comes in a ramekin and is gratinéed with shredded cheese a la minute.
Lawry's has gone too fast food with this concept. I recommend that they rework the menu, slow down a little, and give each creation more TLC. Doesn't Lawry's have a reputation to uphold?
The best parking is available in one of the two garages at L.A. Live. Ask the cashier for validation and I think you get two hours free.
How Much I Paid: 24.94 USD, which includes tip.
My Rating: No stars out of four stars (yep, just satisfactory). I don't recommend getting the platter meals here. Hopefully their sandwiches turn out better. I saw a plate of the Carvery potato chips, which are served with the sandwiches, and they looked homemade and delicious. Website: http://www.lawrysonline.com/carvery_lalive_gen_info.asp
Lawry's Carvery is NOT "a cut above," as they say.
After dinner, I went back to the L.A. Live Starbucks for another cup of Clover. I selected the same bean as I had yesterday but my drink wasn't as good as before: I think the barista (a different person) over-brewed my coffee. The flavors were muddied and the drink was very slightly rancid/bitter :(
|My First Cup of Clover-brewed Joe|
| I was killing some time at L.A. Live
in Downtown L.A. this afternoon and while I was there, I decided to get
a drink at the local Starbucks. I was delighted to discover that this
particular Starbucks had a Clover machine.
Now, it's been some time since I first heard about the Clover machine, and, specifically, about how it brews the perfect cup of coffee every time. And this is exactly what the machine does: it brews one cup at a time. The process begins with the machine dispensing and heating water to a precise temperature in a brew chamber. When this is complete, the barista adds the coffee grounds to the water and gives the mixture a good whisk. Next, the machine brews the coffee for a specific duration. Finally, the Clover pulls your drink through a 70-micron filter into your cup. To sum it up, the whole process is based on science, precision, and perfection.
Since it was a warm day (not to mention that I needed something to jolt my brain) , I decided to get an iced coffee. I'm not a connoisseur of coffee (just one who appreciates it) so I let my barista pick which beans went into my drink. She recommended a Guatemalan coffee because she thought it made the best Clover-produced iced coffee they had available. I watched as she - in tandem with the Clover - made my drink. The Clover is absolutely facinating. At the end of the manufacturing process, the machine produces a neat puck of spent grounds.
The verdict? In a sense, I feel like I've never really tasted coffee before, after having experienced the Clover-brewed joe. What struck me about the Clover-produced Guatemalan coffee was the pronounced oils from the bean and its fruity flavor profile. Strangely, the coffee wasn't really bitter: the pronounced oils might account for this phenomenon, with bitterness in coffee resulting from burned oils. On the contrary, it was sweet enough not to require any sugar or other additive.
I heartily recommend this experience, which drinking Clover-brewed coffee really is - an experience. If Starbucks at L.A. Live isn't convenient for you (and it's the only Starbucks location in SoCal with a Clover right now), LAMILL in Silver Lake is more well-known in regards to the Clover (I used to know the guy who runs LAMILL!).
There's a good chance I'll be back at L.A. Live tomorrow to try another cup!
Click here for Starbucks' page on the Clover.
|Merry's House of Chic|
| ken. I was in West Covina last week
for a job fair and afterwards, I felt that I just had to have something
good to eat to salvage a not-so-productive morning. Thanks to the
sleuths working for the L.A. Times, I learned there was a restaurant in
the area worth going to: Merry's House of Chicken.
Javanese (not a typo - think Indonesia) fare is the name of the game at this unassuming restaurant located in a strip mall at Nogales and Amar. Here you will not find the ubiquitous skewers of satay as at most run-of-the-mill Southeast Asian restaurants. What you will find is an interesting array of real Javanese dishes with the odd item of Dutch influence.
The restaurant's name comes from Merry Istiowati (Is that a fun name or what?), the owner and former proprietor of a culinary school in Indonesia.
Now, I am nowhere near to being an expert on Indonesian food but I know what I like and I liked the food at Merry's. Compared to the other Indonesian restaurant I am familiar with - Chicky BBQ in Duarte - this restaurant is on a level above.
I arrived a little before noon and found the restaurant almost full and busy with activity - a good sign! I got a four-top to myself (I don't remember there being any two-tops) and immediately got down to business studying the menu.
I ended up ordering the House Specialty Ayam Goreng Kremesan (half order 6.25 USD) - marinated deep-fried chicken topped with what I call rice flour crispies - and Rissoles (1.25 USD) - fried minced-chicken pasty rolled in breadcrumbs and filled with carrots and green peas.
The chicken was, in a word, perfect. It had the most delicately crisp skin and the finished krispies on top of it left my teeth wanting to crunch some more. The bowl of soup the order came with was intriguing. It was like a Korean doenjang-gook or chigae but it had a predominantly sweet and tangy flavor profile instead of the straightforward salty, soybean flavor of the Korean version.
The minced-chicken pasty rolled in breadcrumbs was just okay. I think I liked the sauce it came with more than the rissole itself.
The experience was a bit lacking in service because the restaurant was full and there was only one server.
How Much I Paid: If I remember correctly, I left around 12 USD at the table.
My Rating: Hmm ... I'd have to give Merry's an on-the-threshold out of four stars (very good). I would really like to try more food here before I can be comfortable with the rating I've given. Noteworthy is the fact that as I was eating, a troop of firefighters came in and sat at the table opposite mine (firefighters usually know how to pick a good restaurant). Website: http://www.facebook.com/pages/West-Covina-CA/Merrys-House-of-Chicken/108594552500625
You can read the L.A. Times article about Merry's House of Chicken here.
Deserving some mention is Sam Woo BBQ at the corner of Broadway and Alpine in Chinatown. I remember eating at this place more than a few times during my youth, so when a co-worker mentioned that he was in the mood for something ethnic for breakfast yesterday, my mind snapped to this place.
We had a nice meal of crispy chow mein, sauteed snow peas, bo luc loc (Vietnamese French-style beef), and egg rolls. The total cost with tip came to 41 USD. Yummers!
| Talk about a pleasant surprise.
Located on the eastern fringe of L.A.'s Chinatown, the Homegirl Cafe is
a restaurant with a contemporary, culinary arts-conscious menu that -
as far as I know - is entirely staffed by former gang members. One of
my co-workers recommended this restaurant and I went there with another
co-worker Friday morning for brekkers. (Thanks "F" for the
The Cafe began under the auspices of Homeboy Industries, which was founded by Father Greg Boyle, S.J. Homeboy Industries consists of various businesses and programs designed to empower those coming from gang backgrounds so that they can become positive and productive members of the community.
I had the Chilaquiles - crisp tortillas simmered in Gabrielle's morita salsa and topped with red onions, cotija cheese, sour cream, and cilantro - with sides of black beans, Homegirl potatoes, and eggs (8.95 USD). To drink, I had Angela's Potion, a spinach and mint limeade (2.75 USD).
I thought the Chilaquiles was excellent. Crispy yet softened from simmering in morita salsa, the tortillas were delightful. The combination of cheese, cream, cilantro and cooked tortillas was flavorful.
The beans were perfectly cooked. Tasted like ... black beans!
I didn't think much of the potatoes. It would have been nice if the flavor was more intense and if the potatoes had some fried crispness to them.
The Chilaquiles filled an entire platter! It was so much food, I had enough leftover for another meal.
Angela's Potion was refreshing and cleansing. You mostly taste mint and lime while the spinach provides backbone. The drink was slightly gritty.
Thanks for sharing so many meals with me "A"!
How Much I Paid: About 14 USD, including tip.
My Rating: out of four stars (good). I felt the service could have been friendlier. I might have antagonized my server when she first approached the table. Website: http://www.homegirlcafe.org/
|Father's Office - Finally!|
| What a day. I spent so much money
this afternoon, my head is still swimming!
This morning, I drove over to the Santa Monica Airport to check out the exhibition and auction for the TV show "LOST", held at Barker Hangar. I signed up to bid and now I am the proud owner of one of the Season 1 costumes for Walt!
I left the auction after two hours had passed and I needed to celebrate (or hunker in remorse - it depends on what mood swing I'm currently experiencing). I've wanted to try F.O. for a long time and so I headed over to the new location in the converted Helms Bakery building near Culver City (I couldn't recall the location of the original or I would've gone there instead).
I ordered the Office Burger with frites (15 USD) and a Saison Dupont (9 USD for 11.2 oz bottle).
The onion marmalade was really something special. Smoky, slightly tangy, sweet, and full of umami, it is the marquee component in the burger. The beef was top-notch and the peppery arugula and noxious bleu cheese rounded out the overall flavor of the burger. The Office Burger is a masterpiece.
The frites were true shoestring potato fries. In addition to having great flavor and being perfectly cooked and seasoned, the garlicky, creamy sauce it comes with is lovely. The cook didn't skimp on the portion either.
The Office Burger definitely ranks at the top of my list.
Unlike most burgers, which are bun-based, this burger is ensconced in a roll.
How Much I Paid: 28 USD.
My Rating: out of four stars (very good). The servers/bartenders pretty much sucked. I was mostly ignored the entire time I was there. On the other hand, cheers to the bussers. They were hard workers and did a good job. Website: http://www.fathersoffice.com/
"Dae han min gook! Go Korea!" (The chef/owner of F.O. - Sang Yoon - is Korean) Check out this video on Hulu.com - After Hours with Daniel Boulud at Father's Office.
|The Perfect Meal / My First Four-star Rating|
| Today, I returned to Newport Tan Cang in San Gabriel to give
their lunch specials a try. I'm so glad I did because I experienced one
of the most elusive things in life: the perfect meal.
I was seated right away (1:30 PM arrival) and quickly ordered because I was famished: I hadn't eaten anything all day. In about five minutes (!), my order arrived from the kitchen: Salt and Pepper Fried Shrimp (6.25 USD) and Sauteed Peashoots (5.75 USD). The meal included soup (Hot and Sour) and steamed rice.
This is a restaurant where you can depend on good food: Consistency is a key element in great restaurants. The shrimp and peashoots were perfect.
The price point for this meal was also perfect.
There was plenty of food, enough for a second meal. I'm going to dig in on the leftovers after I post this review.
How Much I Paid: 16.17 USD, which includes tip. Note: If you want to pay by credit card at this restaurant, you have to charge at least 15 USD to your card.
My Rating: An effusive out of four stars (outstanding on every level). Service was spot-on today. My server was helpful, attentive, and personable.
To top it all off, when I was driving home, I tuned in to K-Earth and my favorite song - "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys - was playing. I am all smiles right now =D
|A Weird Restaurant|
| Trying to reflect on my experiences
at this restaurant, I'm having a hard time figuring out why I stayed
the first time and why I went back for seconds.
In the South Lake district of Pasadena, near the campus of Caltech - a neighborhood containing locally-known burger joints like Pie 'n Burger and Hamburger Hamlet - Burger Continental has got to be the oddest restaurant. Where else would you find a restaurant that proudly proclaims that they specialize in hamburgers and kebabs? Take a look at their menu and you will even find pizza, steakhouse items, and Mexican food to boot!
The restaurant's architecture matches its eclectic menu. There is sidewalk seating, an initial dining area, a food counter, an enclosed patio, and an air-conditioned section. Like the menu, it's take your pick.
I had lunch at Burger Continental both yesterday (Wednesday) and today (Thursday). On Wednesday, I ate from the AYCE lunch buffet (8.99 USD) and today, I tried the Continental Burger "House Specialty" (7.89 USD) - bacon, lettuce, tomato, blue cheese sauce - which comes with salad bar and French fries.
As for the lunch buffet, I'd have to say "pass on this one." It only reinforces the idea that buffets, in general, are a terrible food-option. I have no idea why I even went for the buffet in the first place. Blame it on old, bad habits, I guess.
The burger turned out to be fairly decent. On the plus side, the beef was flavorful and the bun was a nice brioche-type one. On the minus side, I couldn't taste any blue cheese whatsoever. The French fries were lackluster.
The only items I liked from the salad bar were the hummus and the parsley and tomato salad. Today they had falafel with tahini, which was okay too.
Apparently, there is live entertainment during the evening hours. On Wednesday between 6:30 and 9 PM there is live jazz. Thursday until Sunday, from 7:30 PM - close of business each day, the main attraction is Mediterranean music with belly dancers.
How Much I Paid: For each lunch, I paid about 12-13 USD depending on how much tip I left.
My Rating: No stars out of four stars (satisfactory). However, the servers are great. I'd give them a star (in lieu of which I tipped generously). Website: http://www.burgercontinentalpasadena.com/home.html
Back to the beginning of this review, I think what kept bringing me back was my friendly server (I had the same one on both days).
|A Three-star Wednesday|
| This past Wednesday turned out to be
a really good food day for yours truly. First, I enjoyed my first-ever
meal at Daikokuya in Little Tokyo, then I met my aunt and cousins for
dinner at Newport Tan Cang Seafood in San Gabriel.
Daikokuya. Practically everyone raves about this ramen-ya on 1st Street. From broth to noodle, the ramen is talked about as being the best in town. After having tried it myself this past Wednesday, I have to agree with that verdict.
After one of our shifts at work, four of us - "J", "A", "T", and I - had a considerable amount of time to kill before the next shift. Little Tokyo is the closest commercial district to where we work so we hoofed it to Daikokuya. Daiko's interior conspicuously hails from a different place in the world and even a different era. There are vintage signs advertising various Japanese products and framed vintage Japanese movie posters.
There is only one ramen on the menu and that is the Daikoku Ramen. As I understand it, the only variant would be the ramen kotteri-style, which is extra back fat from the Kurobuta pork used in the dish. I'm all for specializing in one item: I prefer small menus over gargantuan menus (that means you Cheesecake Factory!) because when you concentrate on just a few items, it means you it's more likely you will execute them at a high and consistent level.
I had a full lunch that day and I was expecting a full dinner later so I ordered a small Daikoku Ramen (5.95 USD).
The broth has such depth and complexity to it that there is a beginning, middle, and end flavor to it, which elevates it above its competitors. First, you experience a dense/intense meaty flavor, then a round, multi-faceted flavor, and finally, a sweet finish.
The noodles are cooked to perfection: al dente in the strictest sense.
Kurobuta pork. Need I say more?
Perhaps the only thing I would change in the dish is the egg: I would switch chicken for quail or maybe duck. My reason? Better size and flavor.
This has got to be one of the best meals ever available for under 10 USD.
How Much I Paid: I actually paid 10 USD because the server mixed up my card payment with "A's". I intended to pay only 7 USD.
My Rating: out of four stars (excellent). Definitely the best ramen I've had thus far. Website: http://www.daikoku-ten.com/dk_home.html
Newport Tan Cang. I remember reading quite a bit of press about this restaurant earlier this year but since then, I completely forgot about it. Fortunately, this restaurant has been on my aunt's mind since I told her about it months ago and so there really wasn't any other place she wanted to go for her birthday, which our family celebrated this past Wednesday.
The restaurant has a fresh and contemporary look to it. It used to be a Marie Callender's, which is evident in the exterior, but the interior has been completely transformed to reflect a modern Asian feel. As usual at Asian seafood restaurants, there are aquatic tanks in the foyer containing crabs, geoduck clams, and lobsters.
It seems the restaurant is always filled with patrons, so you know that the food must be good. Forget about finding parking in their lot!
For my aunt's b-day dinner, we ordered the Newport Special Lobster (market price), Crab Baked with Salt and Pepper (market price), Beef Loc Lac (11.95 USD), and Kong Pao Chicken (9.95 USD).
The food here is so YUMMY! My favorite items were the Beef Loc Lac and the Crab Baked with Salt and Pepper. Whoever the head chef is, I love his (maybe her) sense of flavor and seasoning.
A lot of times a restaurant will either do seafood very well and land dishes terribly or vice versa. Not so at Newport Tan Cang!
The crab might have worked better with soft-shell crab - less work cracking exoskeleton for the diner.
Newport Tan Cang is a Vietnamese chain with another location in Rowland Heights.
For five of us, the bill came to 145 USD, or about 30 USD per person - great value. And I assure you that we all ate to our fill.
My Rating: out of four stars (excellent). I look forward to trying some lunch specials, which I hear are excellent as well. Website: http://www.newportseafood.com/
I can't believe how many three star meals I've had lately. I hope it continues!
|My First Truck|
| Too bad it wasn't Kogi! :b (ouch! Harsh, I know)
Time and place: Midday Monday in Santa Monica. At work, I had just finished a few delicious slices of Ameci Pizza but I was still hungry, so I headed over to Main Street to see which food trucks had opened shop for lunch. There were only two that I could see: Calbi and some other unidentified truck. One of my co-workers said he liked the food at Calbi so I decided to try it.
I ordered a Spicy Pork Burrito Combo (combos come with drink) and a Shrimp Taco.
Between the burrito and shrimp taco, I enjoyed the taco more. The taco filling was generous (a lot of vegetable - healthy) and the flavors were quite pleasing. I didn't like the burrito. It was bland. Even the pork lacked flavor and it wasn't at all spicy.
I thought the server of this particular truck could have been friendlier, been more of a people person. I watched him handle a particular customer and I was cringing inside.
It's really interesting how these food trucks are configured. Everything has it place: drink icebox, water & coffee dispenser, counter, kitchen.
How Much I Paid: 8.75 USD.
My Rating: No stars out of four stars (satisfactory). I'd only come back for the tacos. Website: http://calbi.com/
|Oh, the letdown!|
| I confirmed that, indeed, the
kitchen at Haven had problems with my Tarte Tatin. In fact, it appears
that half the pâte brisée shell was missing. Maybe it got
burned? God forbid, but perhaps someone dropped it (yikes!)? For some
reason anyway, it was missing. How did this dish ever make it at the
pass? I wish I was told about the error and offered a redo. I wasn't in
a hurry to leave so I would've been amenable to a delay. At the very
least, Haven could have discounted the price of the dish.
Having learned of this, I am now wondering if the City of Orange is some sort of nexus for screwing over customers. I'm not encouraged to return to this city in the future.
I have to downgrade Haven from three stars to one star. I think this is actually generous because presenting a subpar dish to a customer is NEVER acceptable or "satisfactory" (meaning a "poor" rating might actually be more appropriate).
|The Best Dish I've Had in Quite Some Time|
| I had to drive to Toyota of Orange
this morning to take care of some business. I hope I never, ever, have
to go there again in my lifetime. I won't go into details but I'll just
recommend to you, my readers, NEVER, EVER, buy or service a vehicle at
Toyota of Orange.
I had to find a way to redeem the morning, so, like I usually do, I identified a reputable restaurant in the area. Also located in the City of Orange, Haven Gastropub is one of Orange County's top gastropub destinations. The gastropub occupies a spot in Old Towne Orange on South Glassell Street, a block south of the traffic circle. The neighborhood is historic and charming, a great place to walk around and admire local culture.
I arrived early - about seven minutes before opening - but the hostess was pleased to seat me regardless (1000 point score for that). I liked where she seated me: at a two-top with banquette seating, which was very comfy (add another 1000 points). Looking at the menus she handed me, I quickly noticed that Haven had a beer flight program (the alky that I am). This is where I started my lunch.
The beer flight: So you get a choice of four drafts, 5-ounce pours of each. I chose the Whirlwind Witbier, Saison Dupont Farmhouse Ale, and Mission IPA. I allowed my server to choose the fourth beer: Summer Solstice Cream Ale. How did they taste? Of the four beers, the Whirlwind was the most unspectacular, yet it was still a good, solid beer. The Saison Dupont had an awesome floral quality with a timely citrus finish - my favorite. I thought the Mission IPA was one of the best IPAs I've tasted: it was well-rounded. Finally, the Summer Solstice had good ale flavor and a nice cream finish. In the end, I was thoroughly impressed with what these craft beer makers had achieved.
On to the food. I went straight for an entree and ordered the Cabernet Crusted Escolar (18 USD) - cabernet powder, chilled lobster salad, popcorn shoots, duck fat roasted fingerling potatoes, cabernet sauce. This was the best dish I've had in quite some time. Each component was flavorful by itself and also worked in harmony with the others: the dish made a lasting impression. The escolar (fish) had a nice crust of (what I assume to be) cabernet powder and was perfectly cooked. The fingerling potatoes were perfectly cooked and seasoned and served hot. The lobster salad provided a nice temperature contrast and helped cut some of the richness of the fish and potatoes. I couldn't get enough of the cabernet sauce. It was buttery and had a hint of caramel sweetness.
For dessert, I had Haven's Tarte Tatin (8 USD) - pâte brisée, gala apple, Maytag bleu cheese ice cream. The presentation of the dish was a bit of a mess (see the caramel spots?) and made me think that the chefs had some trouble executing the dish. The Maytag ice cream was strong but a pleasure. When eaten together with the apple and pâte brisée, the effect was quite nice. The tarte was piping hot and the ice cream blizzard cold: perfect.
Next time I'll have to try the tobacco ice cream that comes with the Café y Cigaro. I asked my server about it and she told me the chef steeps a vanilla-flavored cigar in their ice cream base. Non-smokers can usually feel some effects of the nicotine leeched from the cigar!
I don't think I've ever been offended by the title of a dish but I find the name of one dessert - Irish Car Bomb - very insensitive, especially to those who might have experienced the conflict in Northern Ireland.
There is plenty of parking in the lot behind the gastropub. Yellow and white spaces available.
How Much I Paid: A total of 47.15 USD.
My Rating: out of four stars (good; revised 08/08/2010). Website: http://www.havengastropub.com/index.html
|Not the Fab Four but Fab Nevertheless|
| I was out in THE Valley today for a
job fair and afterwards, I needed to find a spot to have lunch.
Somehow, I remembered last week's food section of the L.A. Times and a
story about Fab Hot Dogs' new location in Reseda. So, having
made my decision, I found Victory Boulevard and drove over to
Loehmann's Plaza, which is located at Victory and Tampa Avenue.
Fab Hot Dogs is next door to the Pizza Hut at the southwest corner of the shopping center. Usually a positive omen, there was a line at the order counter (Keep the door closed!) when I arrived. Once inside, I began scanning the menu. There are quite a few intelligent creations like the Mexicali Dog and the Ruben Dog and classic favorites like the Chicago Dog and Coney Island. Toppings? Fab Hot Dogs has a cornucopia of them. The sides menu is quite satisfactory with items like Garlic Ranch Fries, Tater Tots (!!!), and - prepare yourself - Frito Pie!
What might set Fab Hot Dogs apart from its local competitors is something called "The Ripper". "The Ripper" is a deep-fried frankfurter that has its origins in northern New Jersey. The poor frankfurter is immersed in HOT oil until the casing rips open and turns into a crunchy shell encapsulating the "meat" (<smiley face>) within.
You might be able to tell from the picture above that I ordered a Chicago Dog (3.5 USD) with a "Ripper" frankfurter and Tater Tots (1.5 USD). I adore Chicago Dogs for the poppy seed bun, dill pickle, and - most of all - the unholy neon green relish. The "ripped' frankfurter tasted fine, although I would have preferred it to be more crunchy, more cooked. The Tater Tots were PERFECT. Crunchy on the outside, piping hot and soft on the inside, the Tots were seasoned expertly. The Tots made my meal today.
I didn't get the Frito Pie but, definitely, next time I will.
How Much I Paid: 6.59 USD, which includes sales tax.
My Rating: out of four stars (good to very good). Some lady waiting in line told me to keep the front door of the restaurant closed. Yeah right! Isn't it annoying when unauthorized people tell you what to do? Website: http://www.fabhotdogs.com/
| Another day in Downtown L.A.
It seems like a bunch of us at work have gotten into a rhythm of eating out at new restaurants in downtown once we finish a shift or when there is some down-time between shifts. After a fairly productive morning, "A", "J", and I trekked to Bunker Hill to try a restaurant I had heard some buzz about: Mendocino Farms. We took a ride up the Angels Flight funicular for a quarter-dollar per person to avoid the strenuous hike to California Plaza.
Mendocino Farms has two locations in Downtown L.A.: one is at Weller Court next door to California Plaza (300 South Grand) and the other is on Flower, a block over and south from the Grand location (444 South Flower). Also, Chef Judy - the owner - recently opened a new Mendocino Farms in Marina Del Rey. "A", "J", and I ate at the Grand location today.
I must say, Mendocino Farms has an impressive menu. Every item on the list sounds delicious, which is probably due to how the ingredients of each sandwich are listed (provenance is included) and how the Chef combines ingredients in each sandwich. The selection of breads is also impressive. Like most sandwich places, Mendocino Farms has salads and soups (not to be overlooked!) in addition to their sandwich creations.
Ordering is done at the door with attractive and friendly hostesses. After ordering, the customer is invited to try samples of salads from the deli case and the various flavors at their Boylan soda fountain - in other words, have fun and "play" in Mendo's food wonderland - while waiting for his or her order.
For lunch, I had The Ultimate Fourth of July Feast (8.75 USD) - sweet spicy boneless pork ribs, Gloria's Farms corn salsa, potato salad, and baby arugula on rustic white bread.
I love it when great ingredients work together to make something even greater, which is how I would describe the action in this sandwich. I am a total sucker for pork: Doubtless, I enjoyed the ribs component. The bread was very tasty and evidently made with care. Potato salad as a spread? I wish I had thought of that!
Deserving special mention are Mendo's Boylan-brand sodas. The sodas are made with 100% cane sugar (thanks for saving us from the high fructose corn syrup J). The flavors are SPOT ON: cola, lemon, orange cream, black cherry, and root beer. My favorite was the lemon soda. It had such a bright lemon flavor. "J" and I left Mendocino Farms with a refill of orange cream as our "dessert."
How Much I Paid: For a Boylan's soda (1.5 USD) and sandwich, I paid 11.25 USD
My Rating: out of four stars (very good). I like how the customer is invited to "play" in the restaurant (and don't forget the attractive hostesses :o). Chef Judy's food is both inventive and inspired: the love for her craft is obvious. Website: http://mendocinofarms.com/
P.S. I made another stop at Huarache Azteca (because it was JUST THAT GOOD) this afternoon. This time, I tried the huitlacoche quesadilla a mano (3.5 USD) and had another chorizo taco. The chorizo taco never ceases to amaze me. Hot off the grill, the chorizo (and its oil) has this fierce candy red color to it and just tastes incredible. The quesadilla was also satisfying. FYI, huitlacoche is a type of corn fungus and is often called Mexican truffle for its rich and complex taste. I drank Azteca's jamaica (hibiscus tea), which was tasty, but I liked the agua piña more.
Another three stars for Huarache Azteca!
|A Lotta Love for So Little Lire|
| "Lire"? Remember the Italian Lira
before the Euro was adopted? I couldn't think of another cognate for
money/dollar that started with the letter 'L'.
ANYWAY, after work today, I hungrily made my way to Highland Park, using Figueroa and Ave 50 and passing by The York gastropub, so that I could try the food at El Huarache Azteca #1 (which is just down the street from The York gastropub). This hole-in-the-wall has been covered by the food press for many years now, but today was the first time I dined at the venerable restaurant.
El Huarache Azteca #1 is known for - naturally - their huaraches. A huarache is a long oval of masa that is grilled and dressed like a tostada (meat, onion, cilantro, crema, finely powdered cheese). The crew at El Huarache also makes their own aguas frescas, which are fresh fruit drinks.
For dinner, I ordered a Huarache with adobada (marinated pork; 2.5 USD), a sope with chicharrones (fried pork rinds; 2 USD), and three tacos - al pastor and chorizo (1 USD each). I chose a large agua piña (fresh pineapple juice; 2 USD) to wash all that food down my gullet.
Oh my Good God! Everything was SOOOOO delicious! The huarache is genious and the tacos - especially the chorizo taco hot off the grill - were some of the best I've had in a while. And the prices are simply amazing. If all you had was 5 bucks in your pocket, you could still get a decent bite to eat here.
The agua piña was also fabulously delicious. I loved the little particles of pineapple that I would get with every suck of the straw.
Parking: On the south side of York, street parking is limited to 2 hours. I parked at the Super A across York from El Huarache but there's a security guard there, so I'm not sure if I could get away with it next time.
How Much I Paid: Including a tip of 2 dollars, I only paid 11 USD!
My Rating: A heady out of four stars (excellent)! Yes, you got me right, THREE STARS! For value and satisfaction, you can't find anything better.
El Huarache Azteca #1, you're Number One in my book. I'm already on my way back for more :)
| I discovered The York gastropub
while reading some blog or other and it seemed good to me, so after my
shift today, I headed on over to Highland Park and York Boulevard to
give the place a go.
The York is fairly close to Occidental College (Pres. Obama used to go there!) and I could imagine the place being packed with students. When I was there, however, the crowd seemed to be mostly composed of post-college young adults. The York sits in the middle of a block that has probably never seen a good day in its existence: The York was the only business with any life to it. Granted, most of the stores are of the daytime-only variety but they still didn't look very prosperous.
I arrived at the gastropub just as it was getting dark. After entering, I ran into a gob of people and was initially confused because there was no host to greet me. I eventually sidled up to the bar (finding an opening took some doing), which occupies most of the space, and asked how things worked at the gastropub. I learned that all the ordering is done at the bar with one of the bartenders (there are no servers) and you can either take a seat at the bar, at one of the small tables along the walls, or at a booth in the rear. The menu is written on a chalkboard, which is posted on one of the walls. After the bartender takes your order, he or she will ask if you want to open a tab. If you plan on hanging around to engage in some grazing, you ought to open a tab. If not, the bartender will bill you up front for all food and drink you order - something different from most restaurants.
At this point, I have to tell you what I didn't like about The York's setup. First, The York is very dark! There are Edison bulbs for decoration and other than that, there is what seems to be low-wattage lighting. This darkness makes it hard to see things like the menu or your food (or take food photos!)! On the other hand, I guess the darkness is good for bar ambience. Second, the only menu available is the chalkboard menu, which is hard to see. I might have ordered more food had I been able to figure out what was on it! Third, seating is a challenge. You definitely have to stake your claim or else you might lose your seat like I did! These are all things that management can fine tune so that The York can be more user-friendly to newbies.
I ordered the Cheddar Burger (13 USD): spicy harissa aioli, pickled onion, rocket, fries. For beverage, I had a pint of the Stone Brewery (San Diego) Pale Ale (from the tap, about 6 USD).
Overall, I liked my meal. I wish the burger had more flavor in terms of the cheddar, spicy harissa aioli, and pickled onion. I could still catch glimpses of these flavors from bite to bite, but it wasn't enough for me. The burger patty was generous in mass, cooked perfectly, and had good beefy flavor. The fries were cooked to my liking - nice and crispy.
A nice touch: They play movies (no audio) on a screen right behind and above the bar. When I was there, there was a Marlon Brando classic (motorcycle gang?) playing.
This is one of those places that requires you bring company with you: It's not as enjoyable going solo.
Parking: There's a public metered lot (ugh!) in back of The York (entrance is off Lincoln Avenue). I parked on the street (Lincoln) adjacent to it. Check out the graffiti in the alley connecting the parking lot to York Boulevard.
How Much I Paid: With tax and tip = 22.76 USD
My Rating: out of four stars (good). Somehow, this gastropub rubbed me the wrong way. In this genre of restaurant, I like how Ford's Filling Station does business. Value at The York? I actually think it's okay. Website: http://www.theyorkonyork.com/
|A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Ramen|
| I'm really living the high life -
foodwise anyways - these days! (Having just written "high life" I feel
like downing a Miller right now!)
So, I had a break between shifts for my job yesterday and I went with my co-worker "T" for some down-time to Little Tokyo. He said he wanted to get some udon so we looked around for a noodle place. I wanted to try out a ramen joint that I heard was the best around: Daikokuya. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find it so "T" and I ended up choosing the closest noodle shop to us at the time. (It turns out Daikokuya was only a few hundred feet further on the same street as Mr. Ramen. It just proves that you've got to be persistent!)
I ordered the Combo #6: Pork Bone Ramen with a half order of curry rice and four gyoza.
I liked this ramen better than the one I had a couple of months ago at Hakata Ramen in San Gabriel. The broth was rich enough in flavor and the accompaniments to the ramen - egg, seaweed, pickled ginger, pork slice - were pretty decent. The curry was pretty good too.
Even though I ordered the small size, the Combo #6 turned out to be a lot of food: I couldn't finish.
I'd imagine parking would be a pain in the butt with only metered parking in sight, but my car was elsewhere so I didn't have to worry about it.
How Much I Paid: Plus tip, I paid about 12 USD.
My Rating: out of four stars (good). A better rating than this? Hey, it's just ramen, after all: no revelations here.
Now, more than ever, I've got to eat at Daikokuya to see what all the fuss is about. It's a good thing I'll be around in the area for the foreseeable future so that I'll probably have more opportunities to do so.
| Yesterday, I had to drive out to
Santa Monica for my job and I thought, "Wouldn't it be a good idea to
eat something good while I'm out there anyway?" So I began to think of
places that I've been dying to try. I hadn't had much fish lately so I
made fish my starting point. Then I remembered a restaurant I recently
told a friend about: Mariscos Chente. Mariscos Chente - located in the
Mar Vista neighborhood of L.A. - is renowned for its Nayarit and
Sinaloa-style seafood (they only do seafood; there is also an
inordinate amount of different shrimp dishes listed in their menu).
"A" - one of my fellow downtown explorers from last week - joined me for lunch. I ordered the specialty of the house - pescado zarandeado (22 USD per kilo) - and "A" ordered a special of the day - 3 fish tacos for 6 USD (good meal for a good deal). C. Thi Nguyen of the L.A. Times describes the pescado zarandeado this way:
A whole fish, carefully butterflied, marinated in soy sauce and chile, topped with a chipotle-mayonnaise sauce and slices of tomato and onion, and grilled into sublimity. The edges are crisp, the fish is moist, and the chipotle sauce caramelizes into a thin crust. Beneath the crust, it's melted, succulent creaminess, half-fused with tender fish.
The flavor profile of the fish reminds me of ja jang - a Korean-Chinese dark soy-based sauce eaten with thick noodles - but the dish is Mexican! The most memorable part of the meal was the first bite: fresh off-the-grill fish with onions and sauce ensconced in a warm tortilla! Along the backbone of the fish was an almost jerky-like section of meat - Flavor City!
This meal was an eye-opener for me. I never thought Mexican food could taste like this.
The restaurant is profusely painted with beach/ocean scenes and a big marlin leaping in the air.
Thanks "A" for your fabulous company! I think I've been dragging you to too many restaurants lately!
How Much I Paid: 11-12 USD for the fish plus a couple of bucks for tip.
My Rating: out of four stars (good to very good). I have a feeling this place would easily move up to two stars if I made a return visit (there's the ceviche to try, after all).
P.S. I ate the emping pedas I purchased on Saturday. Mmm, I didn't like it. I think some foul flavor got mixed in during the packaging process. The tofu item from the 3-item meal wasn't good either. It had an icky taste of bondegi - Korean canned silkworm larvae - which I can't stand (bad memories, you know?).
|Tastes of Asia: Saturday Morning in Duarte|
| I've previously written about a
restaurant called Chicky BBQ in Duarte. In that blogpost, I
mentioned a weekly Indonesian bazaar held every Saturday at the Duarte
Inn, which is located at the same plaza as Chicky BBQ. Today, after I
picked up my car from the shop, I drove over to the Duarte Inn to
investigate the bazaar for myself.
According to sources on the Web, the Saturday Indonesian bazaar lasts from 10 AM to 2 PM. I arrived a bit after noon and found around 4-5 stalls still open plus some old timers playing music under a canopy (I can't believe they played the song "Give Thanks", which is an old Christian favorite). At first glance, it seems that each stand is the same, selling the same food. But after carefully observing what each stall had to offer, each stall has at least a few items that the others don't.
The first stall I stopped at, I bought a chip snack called emping pedas - padi oat (emping), chili, sugar cane, salt, garlic (3.5 USD for a 3 oz package). I haven't tried it yet, so I have no idea whatsoever what it will taste like. But, I'm guessing it'll be spicy/salty/sweet from the ingredients listed on the package. I'll let you know how it tastes :)
Next door to the emping pedas stall, I bought a three-item meal of yellow rice (turmeric, coconut milk), beef rendang, braised kale, and something with tofu in it for 7 USD. I'm saving this for dinner later.
All in all, I'm fairly impressed with the food available at the Saturday Indonesian bazaar at the Duarte Inn. I've barely scratched the surface there so I hope to return and try some more food.
I really came over to Duarte this morning for some Indian food. In the same plaza as the Duarte Inn and Chicky BBQ is India Sweets & Spices. I come here to buy Indian ingredients and exotic foodstuffs hard to find (I need to remind myself of the Horlicks and garam masala). I also come here for the good food: In addition to the market, there is a restaurant that serves delicious vegetarian Indian food at low prices.
For lunch, I got the Combo #2 (plus tax, totals 4.91 USD) - raita (yogurt), two entrees (I got the matar paneer and some sort of yogurt curry), pickled veg, basmati rice. It comes with your choice of chapati or puri, a samosa, and veg fritters (GREAT sauce on the samosa and fritters). There is complementary chai (milk tea), or you can purchase a mango lassi (Indian yogurt drink; I believe Combos 3 and 4 come with a lassi) which is oh-so-good.
The cooking is pretty consistent, which means you can count on a satisfying meal. Just be sure to ask about anything you're not sure of or feel dubious about.
My Rating: out of four stars (good).
|Open 24 Hours a Day, Every Day, and Never Without a Customer Since 1924|
| What other business in L.A. could
lay claim to this feat other than The Original Pantry Cafe
located at 9th and Figueroa in Downtown Los Angeles?
This morning, I had the Steak & Eggs (9.75 USD) served with hash and a split biscuit drowned in sausage gravy.
Review: The cook burned the hash a bit and didn't completely cook all of my egg white - passable. The steak had a strong, beefy flavor to it and was cooked to my liking - YUM. The biscuit with sausage gravy was PERFECT.
This was the best meal I've ever had at the Pantry. "J" and "A", you're partly responsible for that!
When you arrive, you don't have to leave your name and number in party with a host. Just find the end of the line and get hungry. If you're solo, you can walk right inside and wait for an opening at the counter located to the right of the entrance.
Warning for all you maple syrup purists out there: There's only table syrup offered at the Pantry.
Don't forget to take your bill with you when paying at the cashier in front. Duh me!
Parking is 2 dollars with validation across 9th Street from the Pantry.
There are no locks on the doors!
How Much We Paid: About 36 USD for three of us, including tip.
My Rating: out of four stars (good to very good). It's cool that some of these waiters have been working at the Pantry for 20-30 plus years! Tip them well! Website: http://www.pantrycafe.com/
I hope I never live to see the day when the Pantry closes its doors or even has locks installed in them :)
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This page was updated on 04.26.2011