Category Archives: Comfort Food

PHOlling for Pho, Los Angeles

‘Tis the season after all for the cold and the warm, and by that I meant the weather and the soup.  Recognizing the many Pho places in Los Angeles that are popping up, maybe it’s time to crawl towards the comfort it brings.  Although, there are many better bowls out there, I can only go to so many and therefore may have to pick and choose considering proximity and necessity.  Let’s explore the hole-in-the-wall, the chain, the upscale, the popular, and find out which one we love best.  (For the sake of comparison, I am willing to sacrifice myself and eat combination Pho at each location. )

Pho 2000

“The Hole-in-the-Wall”

Walk along the Western Ave and you’ll find many Pho places.  This one was introduced to me by an aunt a long time ago.  It was my first Pho experience in Los Angeles some *ehem years ago.  Therefore a revisit to this place is a must.  It’s nothing fancy, mismatched chairs you’ll find at any second hand store, tables covered in their menu with plexi glass on top which definitely saves on reprints, and a small counter.  Don’t get me wrong, they do have several of them everywhere in the Koreatown area, but nothing spells authenticity than the confusing and clearly “un-thought” (if that is even a word) of decor and the very humble style.  Their service is fast but not the best of the four: NOT A SMILE IN SIGHT.  Oh well!  The Pho is not as good as I remember, there was a time when I thought it was the most comforting thing I have ever put inside my stomach.  The noodles were mushy and glued together (if that makes sense in your imagination) and the meatballs had a very weird aftertaste that was reminiscent of (spoilage).  The squid and tendons were cooked well, surprisingly.  The broth was on the blander side and so a dash (or aplenty) of sriracha will help the bowl a lot.  In these parts onions are served in and out of the bowl, on the side with plenty of hoisin and sriracha and the winter nights were becoming much much better.  Maybe the chef was on Holiday vacation.  But with the disappointments in the meal, we had to move-on. And so…moving on. 

PhoCiti

“The Chain”

A new 24hour location just opened up in Glendale, thus aiding towards the need for something open late at night after going around Glendale getting slightly “almost sober”.  No further explanation needed.  The service was fine, I suppose.  You order at the counter and the food comes in less than 5min when there are not many customers around.   Oddly enough, it was winter and there were not many customers around.  We do need some help with tougher cuts of meat.  With just chopsticks and a spoon, it was hard for me to cut and gnaw at the huge pieces of meat, it was short of bringing out the cannibal and primal in me.  But the meatballs and noodles here were a sure improvement.  The broth was “fine” (for a lack of better word than boring).  I still needed a little bit of help with my condiment friends but without would have been just as “fine”.  The place and decor stepped it up a little bit, coming from one chain to another.  But even during the cold winter nights, it was lacking in activity (during dinner???).  Maybe that was a sign to move on.  And so moving on once more.

Lemongrass Vietnamese Restaurant 

“The Popular”

Watch out for this one when you crave for Pho.  It can get packed and tables always get full come dinner time and  parking is close to non-existent (NOTE: 2 spots in front).  Not really my favorite but really close to being my go-to.  The broth is actually better than the first two and the rice noodles have this delicious bite to it, not too hard and not too soft.  The meat and cuts were at par, perfect bite-size pieces and tender enough.  The decor was much nicer than the first two, and by far slightly more upscale (and they even offer alcoholic drinks).  If you are a Pho connoisseur then do not come here.  If you’re doing a Pho crawl (just like I was) then definitely try this place.  But for $8 a bowl, I was expecting a golden delicious broth that will blow the rest of its competitors out of the water.  Damn the good service for tipping the scale towards their advantage.  Nevertheless, it was really necessary to seek perfection elsewhere.  Let’s move on.

Indochine Vien

“The Upscale”

I say upscale for several reasons: the location is much better than some of it’s predecessors, the decor and styling is definitely an upgraded version of the other Pho places I’ve ventured in, and the prices are UP UP UP(scale) compared with what  a bowl of Pho is usually valued as.  But for the record, this is ranked as high UP there versus the other three.  The broth is slightly on the sweeter side but at least had enough flavor for the sake of recognition.  The meats were plenty and cooked well that no tutorial on utensil usage was necessary.  Was it worth the $8.50?  I would say it was not quite, but will suffice.  They had ample parking in the back, service was fast and efficient, it was not crowded, and the food was bordering slap-me-silly delicious (interpret/imagine however way you want). 

Lesson for the winter: Pho is as individual as we all are.  Just because it is as seemingly simple as broth, noodles, and meat does not mean they will all comfort you the same way.  Depending on your need for the moment, may it be location, occasion, budget, etc, there will always be a bowl that can satisfy your craving for warmth amidst the cold.  Don’t just take my word for it, you will have to crawl on your own. 

*FYI: I did not have pictures of Golden Deli as it has been a long time since I’ve been (note: pre-blog).  I did not have the means to revisit for the purpose of this post.  But it is by far still my favorite bowl compared with all that I have tried so far (written about or not).  But if you have your own suggestions, please let me know. I’d love to find that best slurp of Pho I want to keep dreaming about and devour even in the middle of a heat wave.

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Filed under Comfort Food, Noodles, Pho, Soup, Uncategorized, Vietnamese Food

The Fix Burger, Los Angeles

Finding the perfect, juicy burger amidst the hype and mushrooming of burger joints in Los Angeles is like finding a needle in a haystack, well maybe a perfect needle in a pin cushion. Most of these burger joints are okay, some are good, and only a few really are just perfectly delicious.

Having passed by The Fix Burger on Hyperion more than a few times, I realized it’s long overdue to try their certified humane burgers. So one day when traffic had me arching one eyebrow more than once, I stopped by for dinner.

The Fix with Seoul: 1/2 pound of meat, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, button mushrooms, Korean slaw, jack cheese, Korean sauce and Mayo. It was one messy package. The beef was thick, medium inside, and actually pretty good. It was simply seasoned that the beefy taste shone through with obvious ease and such impact. The Korean slaw and the sauce was actually almost the same beginning of a typical coleslaw with a twist of a Kimchi. I was hoping for a more spicy kick but was not delivered to my tastebuds. The meat was juicy and the sauce was slightly watery that my buns had no fight at all. It was falling apart as soon as it hit the table and became a knife and fork burger dinner.

Joe had the Veggie Ono: veggie burger, mushrooms, teriyaki sauce, pineapple, jack cheese, and mayo. It was, as explained to me, just “Okay”. Sadly, it was nothing special. The burger itself was fine, it had good texture but on the bland side. The pineapple was sweet and the teriyaki was on the sweeter side as well, this made the flavors slightly off. It’s hard to envision a savory, juicy burger when you can clearly tasted dessert.

The garlic fries were a perfect side dish, in fact, another order and it would have been my main dish. The fries were crispy, and the garlic was embedded in each bite and even in the burnt after-fried bits at the bottom. The garlic basil mayo was not necessary but with each dip added an elevated taste that bordered fried food indulgence. It was just fried comfort food that can make anyone feel good.

The homemade breaded shrooms were actually also pretty good. It was panko breading and fried to a golden color that made it crispy but not burnt. The button mushrooms inside were perfectly cooked and still juicy, with a combination of oil and its own juices. It was a progression of addiction with each bite.

Surprisingly, in a burger joint, the stars were the side dishes. Although the meat on my burger was delicious the rest of the players made it difficult for me to enjoy each bite. It was too cumbersome to savor each bite with ease. I would love to give it a second chance, I heard they do not have ostrich anymore but the buffalo burger sounds promising, and a talk of a lamb burger is encouraging such cravings that are becoming too hard to control.

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Filed under American Food, Beef, Burger, Comfort Food, Fries, Side Dishes, Uncategorized

Absolutely Phobulous, Los Angeles

Coming from the many twists and turns of X2, Tatsu, and the Riddler (AKA Six Flags), we all decided we needed something to soothe our stomachs. And so we came to a conclusion to go ahead and eat pho. But with the proliferation of many Vietnamese places serving this staple, it might be hard for the wandering tongue to pick and choose a place. Where to? Where to pho?  Someone said Absolutely Phobulous, I thought it was joke. Only until we parked, did I realize it was not. It is called Absolutely Phobulous. So  then by all means I should take the road less traveled and be enticed by a name that says gimmick written all over it.

Small space with very confused decor strewn all over the wall, with busy wait staff that will unfortunately not wait for you. Look long and hard, decide without doubt and swiftly or you will be passed by without any regret. Fact: he passed by many times without regret.

The menu has more items than the usual Vietnamese pho places. With appetizers, salads, vermicelli and even baguettes and dessert. Fresh spring rolls, vegetarian vermicelli (rice noodles served cold), pho beef combo, baguette sandwich, and Thai iced tea for everyone. Done.

The fresh spring rolls come fat (and I do mean about 2in in diameter each). It was filled with huge shrimp and plenty of vermicelli noodles to easily become an entree vs just an appetizer. The carrots, bean sprouts, and cilantro were crisp and fresh. And instead of the peanut sauce, this time it was served with hoisin which lent it a different sweetness, much different from what you’ll get from the shrimp and vegetables.

The vegetarian vermicelli came with both crystal noodles (clear noodles) and vermicelli which for $6.75 is a big, heaping bowl of satisfaction. It comes with mushrooms, tofu, the usual vegetables, and even a vegetarian egg roll. It’s finished with peanuts on top and drizzled with their “house” sauce (which, by guess, was a mix of soy sauce, vinegar, and maybe a little hoisin). It was a delicious combination of ingredients that a lack of protein was never an issue.

The baguette sandwich was just a simpler version of banh mi. Instead of plus the pickled carrots, daikon, and a pate, this one came with spicy chicken, just the cucumbers, fresh carrots (which on the menu said marinated), slices of jalapeno, and the usual cilantro. Although the baguette was a little too hard, scraping the roof of your mouth (that kind of hard), the fillings were actually a good merry mix of fresh, spicy, and flavor. The chicken just had enough amount of spices to still taste like chicken, until that little kick comes in towards the end.

But we must not forget the purpose of this visit. Let us see if this place lives up to its name. The beef combo came with rare steak, beef meatballs, and brisket. It’s served in beef broth with vermicelli, green onions, and bean sprouts, jalapeno, and basil on the side for your mixing pleasure. The meat balls were flavorless, the brisket was hard (AKA tough), and the rare steak was huhum. The beef broth was not as resounding, meaning many of bullion in lesser time (at least that kind of taste). I was hoping for that thick flavor you get from hours and hours of boiling those lovely bones, but was disappointed. Although pho broth is not as dense as some ramen broths but at least give more love into it. A little bit of hoisin and chili sauce helped enhance the taste a little bit or a lot.

Soon we will find that perfect bowl of Vietnamese chicken noodle (not literally). For now I’ll just be satisfied at their attempt at delivering a delicious bowl; whilst failed, it was still able to provide that sigh of comfort when that warm broth started traveling from my mouth to my stomach (and the rest of the menu were not  that bad either). And that is good comfort food in my book.

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Filed under Beef, Bread, Chicken, Comfort Food, Noodles, Pho, Roll (non-bread), Uncategorized, Vegetable, Vietnamese Food

The tale of two: Rick’s VS Oinkster

Yonder the green foliage and paved gray of 2S, tucked in a corner says “Voted the Best Food in LA“. O’er the bridge and a block beyond sees the blue sign and a drive-thru that entices the curiosity of any foodie alike. Rick’s, aren’t you famous for your pastrami? Oh, doubt was not in will and in mind when it was time to voice thy need. Pastrami sandwich and a veggie burger; please, oh please. Do add some zucchini and chili fries so mine heart and belly shall rise in adornment of thy morsels.

Oh let me SHUT UP! Let’s get down to business.

I was in need of a pastrami fix but I was still in my pajamas and over-sized shirt. What’s a girl to do? Dig into my foodie memory bank and be a blogger once again. Rick’s Drive In & Out? Yes! Let’s see if it’s really the best food in LA. Well, looking at the prices, it may be the best deal in LA but I need to taste it first before I even do my happy frugal dance.

This was a very simple, no-hype sandwich. There weren’t really any add-ons, it had pickles and mustard, and the rest was all meat. Beat that! The meat was a little tougher and saltier than I’m used to. I understand that I’m eating pastrami but I still have standards and preferences regardless. The bread was one tough carb though, it held up to all the juices and sauce, which was a plus for me. I want to hold my pastrami sandwich, not fork and knife it.

The veggie burger was a little dry, and the veggies were not as fresh. Maybe they didn’t have much need for it for days now? I do not know the answer, really. Honestly, I’ve had better. Blah, on to the next.

The zucchini was deep-fried to a golden crispy. Those I loved, but weren’t mine. Ugh. The chili fries were ok. It was a bad idea to do salt with salt. Salty pastrami, salty chili, salty cheese, and salty fries. No relief at all.

I had half my sandwich wasted  and was later given to my Aunt’s dogs. I felt bad, not only are they supposed to not have human food but this salty of a sandwich?  Sad, indeed. The chili fries are still in the fridge, I think? Oh well, woe is me. But I had hopes, I hoped that dinner would go ahead and redeem itself.

Lemongrass had no parking spot anywhere near it. So as we turned back, it hit us like a light bulb. Oinkster. I still had the taste of salty pastrami and chili cheese fries, so it was definitely genius that I now have the perfect opportunity to do a VS blog.

Having read many blogs about this place, I came in without expectations. Many opposing opinion from Wandering Chopsticks, Inuyaki, Sinosoul, and Burnt Lumpia, I had no choice but eat with no preconceived notions. And so we ordered.

The Oinkster pastrami had more complex flavor and additional ingredients than Rick’s pickle and mustard. Other than the tender, house-cured meat, it had a red cabbage slaw and caramelized onions that partnered well with the pastrami. The meat itself had obvious specks of black pepper and seasoning, not as salty as Rick’s. Poor bread, it could not hold up to the onslaught of meat and juices. At the second half, I had to eat the rest of my sandwich with a knife and fork, which is the opposite of what I want in my pastrami.

The veggie burger was the perfect size. Big enough for a big appetite. The vegetables were crispy and the sauce did not overpower the patty, which was not dry at all and packed with flavor. A good substitute for its meaty counterpart.

The piggy fries reminded me of In-N-Out’s animal style fries. I apologize, but it was a poor knock-off of the original. This came with caramelized onions (vs. the grilled onions), thousand island (vs. the spread), and shredded cheese (vs. the slices of cheese). It was good enough to take another bite, and another, and another. But after a few, the taste became too heavy to the tongue and overwhelming that after a while, it became untouched on the table. It didn’t help that the fries became too soggy to enjoy.

I needed reprieve from the oil and grease, so the ube shake was the right choice post pastrami and fries. It was good, with a great taste and chunks of the purple yam. But I will not give the credit to Oinkster, they use outside ice cream for their shakes (Fosselman’s).

The clear winner was Oinkster, only between these two. Ahead in taste and portion, but not by price. Compare $16 vs $33 (with tax and tip), I would be ok with a $16 lunch/dinner just to take the hunger away. Not to say that I won’t be back to either one. I love giving people and places a second chance. But a few more miles, I would’ve been at The Hat, devouring my pastrami and gravy fries with a vengeance.


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Filed under American Food, Bread, Burger, Comfort Food, Drinks, Fries, Ice Cream, Pork, Sandwich, Shake, Uncategorized

Savoy Kitchen, Alhambra

Full house. There’s about 5 or so names written on that stand outside the door. No maitre de, no hostess, no welcoming smiles. Paper without even lines on it. Write your name, how many in your party, and wait. Savoy Kitchen in Alhambra may not have the biggest dining room, or the most posh of furniture, or the most elaborate menu. But, since 1982, Savoy has been serving the best Hainan Chicken Rice you will ever find in anywhere (at least for now).

The place is small, with only a bar with limited stools, a dining area and a patio to assist the crowd that may form outside, especially during lunch time. The service is fast and efficient, with food coming out of the kitchen after a few minutes of ordering. They serve free pizza bread that can get you addicted if not careful. The sweet iced tea is unlimited, so are the condiments that come if you order their chicken, and you should.

The menu is full of enticing appetizers and entrees. Their baked escargot with herb butter is glistening with indulgence. Their pizzas are made with original potato dough made fresh daily, and comes with toppings such as butter herb shrimp, smoked beef, and smoked duck. Their pastas are also as unique, with pairings like conch and prosciutto mixed with fettuccine and your choice of tomato or garlic (garlic, white wine, olive oil, and butter) sauce. They’re also famous for their curry; Malaysian style with herbs, spices, coconut milk, and a dozen different fruits and vegetables. Pick your meat of choice; chicken, beef stew, pork chop, fish, tofu, and more.

But this place is Hainan chicken rice heaven. When people tell you to get the Hainan chicken, when Yelpers tells you it’s famous and it’s HIGHLY recommended, or when you see almost everyone inside eating the Hainan chicken, THEN for crying out loud GET THE HAINAN CHICKEN. It is cheap heaven on a plate. For $6.75 (plus $2 for dark meat) you get this huge plate of addiction. The chicken has been poaching in their special broth until it is just fall off the bone tender and infused with such amazing flavor. Dip it in ginger and chili sauce and it is elevated to another level. I mean it is something so simple on a plate. It looks just as plain as chicken and rice, but do not underestimate my friends. This plate is love inside your mouth. Simple yet so complex in flavor, a wave of warmth and comfort on your palate: sweet, salty, savory (SSS-triple threat). And of course, let us not forget the rice. The same poaching liquid for the chicken is used as the cooking liquid, lending such a light, savory flavor to the fluffy rice. I just can’t get over it. Uhuh.

Unfortunately, it is CASH only so come prepared. I would like to try the curry; it comes highly recommended. But when people tell you to get Hainan Chicken Rice…what do you do??? This foodie will not be told twice…this foodie WILL get Hainan Chicken Rice.

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Filed under Chicken, Chicken and Rice, Chinese Food, Comfort Food, Malaysian Food, Pasta

Young Dong, San Gabriel

I still think that soon tofu or soondubu is almost the best hangover soup. Pretty close runner-up to bulalo nilaga (beef and vegetable soup) and instant cup ramen (yes, in 3mins and it’s bye bye hangover). So after a night of over indulging in Sapporo and Nigori Sake, Young Dong was the perfect late lunch spot.

Friends were running late so we finally went in and sat down at around 3pm and immediately an array of Korean side dishes or “banchan” were placed on our table. Kimchi (fermented vegetables with chili peppers and salt), kongnamul (cold, boiled bean sprouts with sesame oil), pajeon (thin Korean pancakes with green onions), japchae (translucent noodles with garlic sauce and vegetables), Korean-style potato salad and a green salad were all served before we even ordered our dishes.

We ordered beef and octopus soup, the scallop sizzler, and two combination soons; one with bulgogi (thinly sliced beef with garlic and green onion served on a sizzling plate) and the other with bibimbap (mixed rice bowl with vegetables, beef, and egg with a sweet and spicy sauce on the side).


The soups came in little pots, almost boiling, perfect for the uncooked eggs they serve it with. Crack it directly on the soup and it will cook itself in almost no time. The steam coming out of these pots were almost comforting. I guess it’s knowing that as soon as my tongue can actually handle it, I can start stirring and feeding my stomach with much needed reprieve. My soup was almost perfect, next to Beverly Soon Tofu, Young Dong’s soon tofu was also flavorful and filling. The broth was not too spicy, the tofu pieces were silky and just melts in your mouth, and the portion was neither too big nor too small. They actually do not skimp on beef and octopus, which were both surprisingly tender. For those that know me well, arise and rejoice in the fact that if you take me here you will actually get to smell, sip, eat, and enjoy the food; silence is indeed golden. The sizzler plate however was an expected let down. It came with very little scallops and a mountain of fillers, AKA bean sprouts. The bulgogi was huhum. No, it was not get off your seat, standing ovation amazing, but tender enough for chewing. They actually give you a big portion, enough for 2-3people according to my “Einstein calculations”, but only because I don’t really care for more add-ons when you have your soup to focus on. The bibimbap was a big portion as well, very generous with their vegetables, beef, and rice. Although by the end of lunch, it was the to-go meal. Not that it was not good but after the spicy banchans, the amazing soup, the tender meat, the heavy carb known as rice, I doubt that anyone can really finish anything to the last morsel.

Although this late lunch was really, really, really LATE, I would not even bat an eyelash and do it over again. Comfort foods are personal, although most would say it’s the chicken noodle soup mom makes or the southern style cooking you crave every now and then. Well, this is my chicken noodle soup. Hmmm, although my mom’s molo soup is very much missed right now, tofu soup will have to do. So next time I get my hangover headache and stomach upset or for no preconceived reason at all, I definitely know where to go. And it didn’t really matter that it was probably 80deg outside and not exactly soup day, we traveled regardless, towards my idea (of the moment) of comfort food.

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Filed under Comfort Food, Korean Food, Soup