Category Archives: Soup

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

Cocary Shabu Shabu BBQ, Monterey Park

 

If you’ve never been to a shabu-shabu or hotpot then leave all your preconceived notions at the door, Cocary Shabu Shabu is not your typical BBQ place. A mix of Chinese hotpot and Japanese shabu shabu, Cocary makes BBQ a much more arduous task. Instead of picking your meats and seafood from the menu, they make you stand up and pick the plates off some industrial size window fridges (4 in fact). And for just about $2 to $3 a plate, pick you meats, your seafood, your vegetables, your fruits, your condiments, and desserts of choice. And the rest is all up to you.

This is not where you just worry about cooking the meat to your liking, it’s picking you grilling items plus boiling items too. In the middle of the grill comes a pot full of boiling soup, and with much Iron Chef-like style, go ahead and practice that skill and harness it with the mixing of your ingredients to come up with either a boom or a bust.

Beef, lamb, pork, chicken, salmon, button mushrooms, squid, prawns on the buttered grill? Sure! Tofu, quail eggs, rice noodles, corn on the cob, fish balls, crab, and clams in the hotpot? Why not? The possibilities are endless. In fact let’s not leave Cocary without trying something out of our usual realm of comfort picks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We, and by that I meant I, tried the pork intestines. Chewy, the usual acquired taste, nevertheless I thought it was okay. It was even good when I actually cooked it perfectly. The century egg is actually a favorite of mine, but not to the rest of the group. Although this one was not completely preserved to the black color I wanted but I have missed it terribly so it was a great delight devouring this plate all by myself.

And there’s dessert. The taro flan has always been my go-to here; it’s smooth, creamy, and with light yet obvious taro flavor. I had two, hurray diet.

We were slightly unsuccessful with flavoring our broth but it was definitely an experience I’d love a repeat of. It has been a VERY long time since I’ve had hotpot or shabu shabu so every bite had to linger much longer in the mouth. Whew. I was sweating bullets, but I wouldn’t mind slinging that towel on my shoulder just to come back again.

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Filed under Chinese Food, Japanese Food, Shabu Shabu, Smorgasbord, Soup

Viva Las Vegas Day One- Las Vegas Hilton Buffet

Coming to Vegas,  food is always last on the priority list. But not for me. I know the calories will pile up and exercise will be a necessity after but you cannot blame a foodie for trying to enjoy the pleasures in life wherever I may be.

But first we couldn’t leave LA without a stop at Auntie Em’s Kitchen in Eagle Rock for their delicious cupcakes. Not that we weren’t full yet from the brunch I made. But this is Auntie Em’s people! The red velvet is and will always be delicious. The coconut was a little too sweet for my taste, but the shavings on top were good added sprinkles. The carrot and chocolate I had no more room for, but according to reliable sources they were both delicious. But the star of the show was the peanut butter and jelly, a new flavor. The peanut butter must have been incorporated in the batter as the taste is very assertive in a very good way.

Of course when you go to Vegas you think of the buffets. A linear presentation of gluttony at its peak. So it is but natural for us to go to the first buffet we saw after the many hours of traveling the long and winding road. We happened to have complimentary tickets to the Las Vegas Hilton buffet (also where we stayed) so we just dropped off our luggage and skipped merrily down to the buffet line.

I started with soup. I needed something hot going down my throat. The clam chowder was runny, I missed the thick soup and the generous add-ons. I had no clams and barely some potatoes, but it was not lacking of celery which I do not know if an upside or downside.


Any measure of a good buffet is a test of across the board dishes popular at any location. Meat is always a good starting point. So I went and picked my weapons of choice. The ribs were a little dry. The turkey sausage was actually not as bad as I expected, the casing had a good snap but I doubt that this was made from scratch. The bbq chicken was fine, it wasn’t too sweet nor bland. But nothing exciting to brag about. The New York steak was cooked to medium well, a little too much for my liking but very well-seasoned. The dumplings/potstickers were very oily. But star of the plate was my grilled lamb. Seasoned simply with salt and pepper, and cooked to perfection. It was very tender and needed not much effort to devour inside my mouth.

The savory showed little promise of satisfaction. So I got off my seat and moved towards the dessert section. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. The cherry crepe was too sour. I barely made it to my second bite. I went ahead and tried some more. The wafer roll was hard to bite, if you say wafer hard is the last thing to associate it with. The frosted cookie was killing my palate with sweetness. But the bread pudding was my favorite so far. It was so good that I had to get a separate plate just for my much needed happy place.

Now this is how I make my bread pudding. Top it with chocolate ice cream, whipped cream, a little bit of nuts, and drizzle with hot chocolate fudge. And it was finished to the last morsel without me even batting an eyelash. Now this was a good ending.

Maybe it was a little too much to expect in a buffet. But there is more to come and this food lover will have more chances to love Vegas once again. I’ve been to their finest restaurants with award-winning chefs at the helm of the kitchen, now its about time to really go back and explore Vegas once more. Maybe dimsum tomorrow (or is it today already)? Sounds like a plan, we shall see.

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Filed under BBQ, Beef, Buffet, Clams, Cupcakes, Dessert, Lamb, Related Article, Soup

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.


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

The Orochon Challenge: 3 Men VS 1 Food

On this corner, with an aggressive doubles strategy and a gazelle-like movement on court-Juan “Jolly Green” Flores.


On another seat, with a tested doubles prowess and cheetah -like court speed-Deo “The Coach” Sy .


And on the other side, with a multi-faceted serve and an unconventional forehand power-Joseph “Bebe” Villafuerte.


The challenge: finish the SPECIAL #2 in 30minutes  (the spiciest Ramen in LA and featured in Man vs Food) at Orochon Ramen and get your face and name on their wall of fame.


It seemed like a daunting task for three of our tennis fanatics, but there was no turning back. Reputation was at stake and egos were not about to get hurt easily. YES is a YES, and no chickens were coming out of their coops tonight. The air was thick with testosterone as we took our seats and waited for these fire bowls to come out of the kitchen. The challengers were pumped up; chopsticks on one hand and milk on the other. And it was evident that they were all willing to slurp to win.

The bowls came out full to the brim with a deadly red broth mixed with fiery jalapenos, serranos, and a secret recipe of powdered spices. A side bet was made. Alliances were formed. The crowd was ready to spectate. Strategies began. Ready, set, go!

And into the halfway point we were made aware that these boys were here to battle. The wear and tear started to show, but none owned up to it. The sweats and tears may have come out but losers, we saw, they were not.

Juan-was taking it slowly but surely.

Deo-paced himself beautifully.


Joe-speed was his strategy and began the attack on his chilies.

Almost 30min was up and we were sure of a winner. He was not a quitter, devouring the ramen without even a sliver of doubt and drinking the broth as if it were only water. The rest have stopped, as if to say, “we no longer stand a chance”. The diners started staring, as if in amazement of the surefire achievement. The waitstaff readied to press that button on their camera to capture this expected victory.

Then the body suddenly gave up and fought back with the natural means of extracting the violence inside a very disturbed stomach. The bags came out (and the rest will be left to imagination). With only 2mins left and 2 spoonfuls inside the bowl, we declared a winner between the three, but sadly-no winner for Orochon this very spicy Saturday night.


With maybe a picture of the trials and not of the wins. Surely, this will be enough to be posted on my blog, for now. This is dedicated to those that have tried and failed, for the next picture taken will then be up at that wall, beaming, proud and steady. Just like a passing forehand, an inside-out backhand, or an overhead smash. Joe will have his chance another time to finally finish, as they say his third time might be the charm.

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Filed under Challenge, Japanese Food, Ramen, Related Article, Soup

Daikokuya Ramen (Initial Post for the Examiner)

Comfort food is all about indulging to one’s craving and hunger pain. And there’s nothing more comforting than a big, bowl of hot soup, especially on a cold winter day. Visit Daikokuya Ramen when you feel the need to give in to your comfort.

Daikokuya Ramen in Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, serves one the most delicious bowls around. This bowl is not the typical 99-cent ramen one can get at the local supermarket. The broth alone is a product of hours of boiling pork bones and joints until the flavor becomes intense, but that’s not yet enough. It is then mixed with their special soy sauce based mix so that the flavor is completely embedded in every spoonful. The dense broth and the ramen noodles simply come together in sync. But the soup does not overpower the rest of the players inside this bowl. Each order comes with kurobuta pork belly chashu that is tender enough to melt in one’s mouth. And as if the pork is not indulgent enough, Daikokuya adds marinated boiled egg, bamboo shoots, green onion, and a touch of sesame seeds to complete the offer.

But Daikokuya is more than the bowl of comfort. They also offer a multitude of appetizers; from the crispy gyoza (their version of Chinese dumplings) to Japanese sausages filled with their famous kurobuta pork. They also serve rice bowls and bento box combination if a huge bowl of ramen is not enough for the complaining stomach. Order either a diet coke or Asahi (yes, they serve alcohol) to wash the goodness down and one is set and ready to curl up in bed for the rest of the day.

So when that craving hits, either after a night of over-indulging in the diuretic called alcohol or upon waking up on a cold, rainy day, Daikokuya is a sure fire hit to comfort that rumbling stomach and ease the salivating palate back into a calm with a certain sigh of relief. Just come hungry and ready to slurp.

Daikokuya Ramen is at 327 E 1st St Los Angeles CA 90012. T: (213)626-1680. Don’t worry about bringing cash, they accept all major credit cards.

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Filed under Dumplings, Japanese Food, Ramen, Related Article, Sausages, Soup

Newport Tan Cang Seafood, San Gabriel

I watched way too many Anthony Bourdain episodes last night. This streaming from Netflix jeopardized all that hard work. Any diet is assured of failure post-Bourdain. So a “blogging lunch” was inevitable. I had to keep my sanity before I got to Newport. I was craving. I was hungry. I was salivating. I was told that lunch here was not to be missed. Cheap and good. Two words that entice me endless, bother me continuously, haunt me about a place that only the satisfaction of an experience would suffice.

I entered and was immediately drawn to the tank filled with overweight lobsters calling my name. But my goal today was to prove the validity of this cheap and good premise. The free hot and sour soup came first. FREE…that’s cheap in my book. $5.75 and $6.25 lunch specials. That’s also cheap, considering the recent recession and all; local Chinese food “combo-place” prices inside a very decently designed and appropriately decorated sit-down restaurant. Now to finally taste this GOOD I’ve been hearing about.

Kung pao chicken…it was usual; salty and not even spicy. A taste I would find at any “combo-place” around the corner. Personally, I am not much of a fan of the dish and so the bias has taken over even before I put a spoonful inside my mouth. Salt and pepper fried pork chops, now we’re getting somewheret. Crispy outside with a very tender pork inside. It was breaded ever so lightly and served with salt and pepper on the side for dipping or to pour on top of the whole plate. I can almost see the calories but with complete disregard I forged on bite by bite. But since I am a porkaholic it’s not hard to make a believer out of me. Fish and clams with basil and garlic; both the fish and clams were tender and swimming in a savory, garlicky basil sauce that marries well with either protein. Without the pork chops, I would have been satisfied with a plate of either the fish or clam.

Broccoli with oyster sauce. I know it’s a very typical Chinese dish you can get at Panda Express but I was not the only one ordering at the table. Panda Express is walking distance from my house. If time comes when I would be in dire need of this dish, I would burn calories and would rather walk there and get my fix. Pea sprouts, people said it was good. I say it was pea sprouts. Shrimp fried rice filled with enough shrimp to make it a full meal, which was surprising. I mean, don’t you get tired of ordering this dish and get two or three pieces of shrimp? Shrimp and scrambled eggs, simple, I know i could have easily made this dish at home but something about Newport’s that just made me sigh. Maybe because it was FULL of sweet, perfectly cooked shrimp. Plump and succulent. Ugh, I’m a sucker for excess.

BOBA, they give you a separate menu for this and it comes in a to-go bag. It may have come from another location but when it comes to boba I usually don’t care. I got the durian and it was interesting. Nothing against Newport but my choice of fruit was not exactly the most edible. It tasted like sweetened onions with a very indescribable aftertaste. Go figure me.

I therefore conclude that I have found this place CHEAP and GOOD. For the money you would pay for lunch, this place is indeed an excellent location to satisfy the stomachs of many foodies. Food is good as we did not ask for any to-go boxes even though the portions were considerably larger than the usual lunch plates. The place has either comfy diner booths or large tables that can accommodate a family of many, and all male employees that provide fast and friendly service. I would go back again but maybe only for lunch. I heard the place gets packed for dinner and the prices are double so it may not be worth the drive (especially with Mayflower and Coral Reef around the corner).

So if you’re looking for an Anthony Bourdain moment filled with witty retorts and charming remarks then Newport is not your muse. At least, it was not mine. On to the next No Reservations conquest.

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Filed under Boba, Chicken, Chinese Food, Clams, Fish, Pork, Pork Chops, Soup, Vegetable