Category Archives: Noodles

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

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

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.

Leave a comment

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

Viva Las Vegas Day Three- Carnival Buffet at the Rio

So after a night of over-indulging of many, many, many, never-ending diuretics, we definitely needed some carbs and protein in generous variety. We failed at agreeing as to where to do Sunday Brunch Buffet so with the help of friends already waiting in line we moved on to the Carnival World Buffet at the Rio.

After waiting in line for an hour we finally made it inside and didn’t even bother to warm the seats. Here comes plate #1.

I proceeded to chew. The chow mein were hard and cold, an expected disappointment. The shu mai were also hard and cold. The turkey sausage from the breakfast line was salty and cold. The har gow was a better bite as they just came off their steamers, were still hot, and filled with plump shrimp.

Seeing as my plate looked nowhere near empty, I knew I needed more than a taste here and there. So I went for plate #2. The fried catfish was actually pretty good. The batter was light and crunchy, with a touch of Cajun seasoning as well as salt and pepper. The fish inside was still warm and flaky. I also wanted eggs with my mimosa to complete the brunch’s plated environment. This was not egg. And no, I do not consider boxed, diluted eggs ideal. The pork sausage was a little too salty even for sausage standards, but had a good snap and was surprisingly still warm on the inside. But the best part of my plate was the prime rib. With a perfectly salty crust on the outside and a tender, medium rare meat. I needed no assistance from my knife as my fork did the job just fine. I thought two slices were more than enough but I was proved wrong. But there were more to come so I had to make room for plate #3.

I was really on my way for desserts but for some reason I wanted to walk around some more. I saw a friend waiting for the roasted duck that’s still sitting on the chopping board waiting for the butcher’s knife to strike. I had to try it. Feeling the plate so empty with just one piece of duck, I had to get some more carbs with it, and pasta seemed to be the untried dish of the whole vacation. The pasta was overcooked but the bolognese was well-seasoned and packed with flavor; subtle hints of thyme, garlic, basil, with a touch of spicy-most likely cayenne. The duck was unexpectedly good. It was glistening with the good oils, crispy skin, and the fat in between melted in my mouth. The meat was cooked perfectly with a balance of salty and sweet. Delicious.

I knew I had room inside my stomach for sweets. After all, their spread looked so enticing I felt my feet flying effortless towards their display. The cheesecake was sour. And it wasn’t a lime cheesecake. The gelato had to be tried. The tiramisu was actually bland, and did not taste a tiramisu at all. It had a very indescribable after-taste. The coconut gelato was actually ahead of both, although the coconut tasted like the syrup vs the fresh one, but an artificial taste more comparable to the real one. Moving on again.

But of course, I will not leave without my own version of my bread pudding. Bread pudding, topped with vanilla ice cream this time and hot chocolate fudge drizzled all around. Their pudding is less dense as the Hilton’s but with more cinnamon and vanilla flavor. And the chocolate fudge was still warm and sweet, elevating this humble plate to a masterpiece inside my mouth. Delicious indeed. I’m sorry, I really can’t help but brag about my sugar overload.

Whew. I didn’t think I would survive outside of the buffet. The mimosas were overflowing and the food was gluttony at it’s worst. But the prime rib, duck, and bread pudding were all worth coming back and waiting in line for an hour. In fact, I would get multiple servings of each, and even with only these three I would chew without regret. Ignoring the rest of the hundreds of dishes will not be a painful undertaking.

Goodbye Vegas. Until I see you again, which will be soon. After all, over-indulgence is a magnetic pull hard to resist. And everything in Vegas is evident of excess.

 

2 Comments

Filed under American Food, Beef, Breakfast, Buffet, Chinese Food, Dessert, Drinks, Duck, Dumplings, Fish, Gelato, Noodles, Pasta, Sausages, Shrimp

Palermo’s Italian Restaurant, Covina

I rarely go to Italian restaurants nowadays unless a very strong craving hits that only long thin noodles can satisfy. Italian dishes tend to be heavy, and almost the same taste and consistency.  If you like their marinara then it’s enough to assume you’ve tasted every single marinara dish in the house or marinara paired with a pasta; spaghetti, fettuccine, ravioli, penne, etc. And so when given an invite to change my mind, why not? But driving all the way to Covina? IDTS. For some reason I was convinced that this place will not disappoint me. It might have helped when my friends said we can bring in our own wine. So I starved for about a few hours and got ready for an assured boredom.

This place is easy to miss, if not vigilant. We passed it twice before we found the place. We waited for about 20min before we got seated. It’s a fairly small place and so I was still on the fence when I saw a packed house. Either the place is too small or the food is really that good.








 

 

 

The menu is simple and the prices are reasonable. The wait staff were very helpful, opening our wine bottle and giving us wine glasses even though this place does not serve alcohol (that’s a plus-knowing your customer’s needs and wants). We saw some more promising specials on their menu board and proceeded to salivate.

We ordered a large half cheese and half sausage pizza, the shrimp scampi special, spaghetti with meatballs, cheese ravioli with meat sauce, and an antipasti salad. And we were expecting the garlic knots to come soon, as we’ve been eying our neighbor’s table for a few minutes now. They were glistening pieces of buttery and garlicky goodness.

Tap tap tap. The sound of my fork hitting the table seconds only after we ordered. The smell inside the restaurant was a killer, it was so euphoric, so good, that my stomach started complaining loudly.

The crust was neither too think nor thin, more like confused between a Chicago and a New York pizza. It was a little oily but what can you expect from pizza? And for the same calories you can actually get this one hand-made with house-made sauce and sausages. Beat that delivery boy. Good, good, goodness.

The salad came glistening with their house vinaigrette. You would think a chemist carefully measured this today, a good combination: sweet, sour, and peppery. Best part were the rolled cold cuts of salami, ham, and turkey. How can you say no to that?

The garlic rolls came and they were oily, garlicky, crunchy outside-soft inside, balls of perfection. Calorie-laden rolls,  I am guilty as charged. We were right, these were goodness, gracious, great balls of garlic fire.

The shrimp scampi came, and we awed in the aroma of the garlic. Sauteed fresh vegetables with plump, juicy shrimp. The noodles were cooked al dente, which gives it that extra bite I look for in good pasta. This was a good promise of the next pasta dishes to come.

When I think of Italian food I immediately assume spaghetti with meatballs, just like what mom used to make. It was my favorite pseudo-Italian memory. And so I was giggly when this plate came out. Again with the perfectly cooked pasta, and a huge, fist-sized meatball. You know you’re in the midst of “bene” chefs when the pasta is infused with so much flavor from the marinara. This only happens when the pasta is sauteed in the sauce for a couple of minutes before serving VS just dumping the sauce onto cooked pasta on a plate. This plate rivals that of my mom’s, my own, or even of my favorite go-to places. Delicious.

Now this plate was just okay. We already had so much marina from the spaghetti and the pizza that we made poor choice of ordering this with meat sauce as well. Bright side is the sausage, with a good snap from the natural casing, and a well-seasoned filling of meats.

Voyaging this way just for Italian food is worth it.  It may not be often, but every now and then should do the trick of satisfying even the most over-used foodie/blogger palates. In fact, I’m already planning my next visit. If you would like to come with me, go ahead and post your comments. As I did, wipe away your doubts and lower down your raised eyebrows. You will not be disappointed.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Bread, Italian Food, Noodles, Pasta, Pizza, Salad, Sausages, Shrimp

Mayflower Seafood Restaurant, Los Angeles

Spring is in the air on Spring St in Chinatown. It may be time to smell the roses but dinner must be first priority for now, after hearing multiple complaints from an empty stomach. Inspired by the recent win of boxing great Manny Pacquiao in Texas, I was told that he frequents Mayflower for one of the best Chinese food in the area.  And of course, being a Filipino, I was more than excited to go. With the rows and rows of places to choose from, hearing of the best must not be missed. And so when it was time to pick a place, Mayflower was first in mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It did not look like one of those places one would pass by and immediately want to try. The front needs a major overhaul, seriously. But a fan of hole in the wall places, this was a perfect dinner destination. The place is deceivingly bigger than its facade, with even an event hall on the side that fit 100-150people if need be.

The menu had over 400 items to pick from. But having help choosing from two regulars, the orders were flying out of the kitchen in no time.

First came the soup, lobster and fish maw soup. It needed a little bit of help from the chili oil. After a few drops and the soup was almost perfect. It came with chunks of lobster (I had a whole claw-lucky), and the fish maw was chewy but cooked perfectly. The pan-fried fish came next. It was crispy sole that came with a soy and vinegar dipping sauce. It was almost crispy enough to eat the bones; very enjoyable and clearly not enough for four people.

We had to return the house special seafood chow mein, it had a “long and black” unwanted ingredient. We suggest shaving or hair nets please. They were apologetic enough to deliver a new, clean plate (but did not take this off the bill, which I think is more than appropriate since we already started eating the noodles). Moving on, the sauce was a little bland. Understandably, it is usually thick and underseasoned, but this one really had no hand at all. The vegetables and seafood were overflowing, and were well-cooked. A very typical, unspectacular dish. Next, please.

The salt and pepper squid were overly breaded and over-cooked, chewy to the point of no return. We were excited at first glance as this dish is a staple of any Chinese restaurant, and they rarely miss the mark. Today was one of those days.


The fried pork chops were a favorite. They were lightly breaded and perfectly fried, not to oily at all with a little taste of salt that did not overpower the dish (I kept coming back for more that I felt bad for the rest of the table). Having had Newport’s and Coral Reef’s plenty of times now, I admit, I am a salt and pepper pork chop snob, but Mayflower’s was a decent plate of pork. Not as good, but holds its own very well.


At the end of the meal, they bring your dessert. A warm sweet coconut milk soup, filled with tapioca balls and bits of sweet yam. Now this was a good, much needed ending to the meal. The tapioca balls were tiny, chewy jewels that added a surprising bite, and the soup was sweet but not overly, delicious.


Inside, Pacquiao’s pictures were hanging all over the place. He wasn’t there but he was pretty much a part of the decor, therefore part of the place. No proof though, whatsoever, if he liked this place or which dish he would never leave without a taste of. But after a full stomach, it was hard to really care about that.

Outside the restaurant, spring calls once more. All four on the table needed to stand up and smell the flowers, otherwise the rest of the 395 items on the menu would be tried and tested. Giving credit to the place, it does make you want to try every bit of interesting item on the menu, even the usual fried chicken and beef and broccoli. Being so busy, it was easy to have table envy even though disappoints came one after another. The brisket over rice looked good, the house special noodle soup smelled fantastic, the house special lobster looked spicy yummy, and even the snow peas smelled garlicky addicting. Soon, spring needs to be revisited more frequently now.


2 Comments

Filed under Chinese Food, Dessert, Fish, Mixed Seafood, Noodles, Pork, Pork Chops, Soup, Squid, Vegetable