Tag Archives: Eagle Rock

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

Casa Bianca, Eagle Rock

Pizza, pasta, and more. Casa Bianca prides itself with the best and freshest of ingredients handmade and always made to order. And so when given a few tips before I dared investigate, I went with much gusto to this location where the long line  have always tickled my curiosity. It must be that good, eh?

Italian food and chefs are sometimes defined by how good your red sauce is, but I went in with a better plan of attack: spaghetti carbonara with pancetta, eggplant parmigiana sandwich, cheese pizza with anchovies, and a side salad. WHEW! And only for two people. I called it in and opted for pick-up. After all, I want to experience the food and not the wait. Still, it would take them almost an hour because of the massive orders they have, and probably the reason why they only open at 4pm, and even closed Sundays and Mondays.


The spaghetti carbonara was (hold the boos and the hatred) “disappointing” (currently at my nicest). The pancetta was hard and dry, clearly overcooked. I missed the salty, fatty, yet ironically somewhat tender bite to it. There was salt, believe me, but the rest were simply on vacation. The spaghetti was al dente, hard to accomplish when it’s on a to-go container, steaming continuously until released from its vessel. There was absolutely no creamy aftertaste, which I was expecting from a carbonara. NO, not like an alfredo, but theirs tasted more like oil and rendered bacon grease than anything else. AND let us not forget the overly GENEROUS helping of basil. I know it is a staple Italian herb, but it was fresh and all from a former life. Laying on top of my pasta was a lifeless, limp, and almost BLACK shreds with absolutely nothing to add but an assault of basil taste that overpowered my tongue. It might be good, I guess, to hide the disappointments in the dish. But still, one hopes to turn this frown upside down.

From the confused to the aggressive we go. If my pasta didn’t know what it wanted to be (salty, bland, herbaceous), we come to the pizza: SALTY.  But I slightly understand, I do have a heart. Their regular style is thin crust, and with only salty cheese and salty anchovies as my toppings, of course the SALT ASSAULT was a given. But I did not expect it to be this much of a kidney battery. Thank you Casa Bianca for giving me so much anchovies, I appreciate the heavy hand but I am sure that my kidneys do not. Let us move on.

And so we come to the clear winner of the night: Joe’s eggplant parmigiana sandwich. A forgotten part of their menu, the lesser popular item, the unexpected order. The eggplant was breaded lightly but the batter clung to it like there’s no tomorrow. The cheese was melted and stringy, not wanting to let go of the rest of the team. It was really all for one and one for all, on flavor and texture. The bread held up well and so it was not hard to devour the savory and crunchy goodness.

Being my own critic, it might have been my fault having veered away from the spaghetti and meatballs, or the fettucine alfredo. But Italian food is more than the red, green, or white sauce. It should be made more famous to the masses for other dishes it can offer. But even the pizza was a “disappointment”, at a PIZZA PIE place. But I will not stop trying this place over and over again. So maybe I will a find a dish I would love to go back for, and maybe even wait in line for an hour.

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Filed under Italian Food, Pasta, Pizza, Sandwich

The Bucket, Eagle Rock

Since 1935 The Bucket in Eagle Rock has been serving humongous grilled burgers to LA fanatics. Burgers that are big and reasonably priced, therefore a review is but germane to the cause of keeping this old legend alive and kicking.

I was a customer a few times but was never really impressed. On its new owner, it is but time to give it another go and see if there’s an improvement that may assist to its waning viability. The 80’s music, high stools, wooden tables, surf boards, neon lights, and flat panel TVs looked like hybrid of a Manhattan Beach joint/a Rock and Roll club/a Sports Bar. Guard against the wooden tables and high stools, crossing your legs may leave you with a few scratches here and there. But then isn’t it all about the food? Let’s leave the facade behind and dig further inside The Bucket.


Burgers come in different styles (no veggie burgers here though). The Bucket Burger is a 1/2 lb. plain Jane, just with the usual lettuce, tomato, pickles, etc. There’s the mushroom burger with, well, grilled mushrooms. They also have a Freddy, their green chili burger. The Julio (name of former owner) comes with grilled onions, cheddar cheese, added with Julio’s sauce (a tangy cayenne, garlic, and mustard concoction) and it becomes dinner on your shirt. Then there’s the Mild Cardiac or Cardiac that is indeed heart attack waiting on a plate: two 1/2 lb patties, shaved ham, grilled onions, sauteed mushrooms, and the usual burger partners.

Their burgers have always been a dilemma. Sometimes dripping juicy, sometimes cardboard dry. Sometimes they go overboard with the seasoning, sometimes you need to ask for the salt and pepper shakers. Common ground though is that they’re all messy. Genius is the one that put rolled paper towels on each table.

The Julio sauce is always overly mustardy, if you can describe it as that.  I didn’t like the overuse of it on my burger, my fries, or my shrimp. Damn this Julio. The fries were reinvented from the usual strips to the potato chip topped with cabbage and smothered in Julio sauce, but also inconsistent. Soggy or crispy, I understand they’re hand-cut  and it takes a while to fry but if you make people wait then make sure you make the wait worth it. The fried shrimp were crispy, breaded lightly, but tiny (size and portion).

A little more consistency will definitely make this place live up to its legend again. Because during the times when they were good, they were really really good. Maybe the next few visits will be a different experience, and this place will lend itself a new reputation for good comfort burgers.

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Filed under Beef, Burger, Fries, Sandwich

Blue Hen, Eagle Rock

Organic living correlates with healthy living. Supposedly “health is wealth”. Blue Hen prides itself of eating and drinking organic, so try it out if you must for organic food that is hopefully healthy because it will not leave you wealthy after you walk out the door.

This place is Zagat and Citysearch recognized, amongst many others. But with the coming paragraphs, it makes me doubt myself as to what I did a couple of hours before i tread to this Vietnamese place. Was this karma, I asked. Its menu is somewhat authentic and fairly small, but considerably larger than most Vietnamese places. There are additional specials on the wall, next to the many 8.5 X 11 customer artwork.

The imperial rolls ($6.75) were stuffed with chicken (or tofu) and were fried crispy, not too oily as they may tend to. But they were the highlight of the meal. The hand-cut turmeric fries ($4.75) were a mix of soggy and oily russet and Japanese sweet potato, served with diluted fish sauce dip and organic ketchup. The vegetable Vietnamese crepe ($8.95) with tofu was the special of the day. It was filled with fillers; more bean sprouts and carrots, not enough tofu. They all came disassembled on a plate, too much work for something unremarkable. The caramelized ginger and organic chicken and tofu ($9.50) was served with brown (or jasmine) rice and market greens, which at that time happened to be Chinese broccoli. The caramelized ginger was misleading as it did not exist on this dish, maybe it was the “aromatic broth” that tasted more like concentrated fish sauce. It was too salty, failing anything else on the dish to come through. The warm organic banana pudding, although ordinary, was a welcomed taste after the salty onslaught.

Maybe it was my fault to not have their Pho, after all this is a Vietnamese place. But LA does have a lot more really good Pho places and lesser organic Vietnamese restaurants. The better choice might have been to try the soup regardless, but too late now. And their prices question sustainable offerings if one needs to save up for a bruising kidney after. Sad to have such a frowning experience in a promising location. But Blue Hen did make the rest of my day blue.

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Filed under Chicken, Chicken and Rice, Crepe, Dessert, Organic Food, Vietnamese Food

Spitz, Eagle Rock

As soon as you walk in to Spitz, your eyes are drawn to two things. One: the vertical meat broilers; look closely enough and you’ll see the juices from the meat ooze out and drip down to each tender, protein crevice. Two: the gelato display, from the indulging white chocolate decadence and the staple butter pecan, all the way to the unfamiliar blackberry cabernet. 12 flavors that is certain to confuse your cravings, surely the savory meal time is not enough to decide which gelato to pounce on first.

But looking will not make any tummy happy, so we  moved on up to the counter and ordered. A classic wrap with french fries. A falafelite wrap with sweet potato fries. A side of their dollar fried pita strips with hummus.

Let us elaborate and add to envy. The classic is half lamb and half doner beef with fresh slices of lettuce, tomatoes, onion, green peppers, and cucumber mixed with a Tzatziki and chili sauce. The falafelite comes with the same base except for slices of falafels. And the pita strips are deep fried and best dipped in their homemade hummus. They’ve added a new style to your kebab of choice. Spitz has now a “street cart” array of sauces to add-on to your meal. Extra Tzatziki, spicy, Mediterranean, and zesty.

The classic has always been consistently good. The lavash wrap was soft, chewy, and soaks in all that garlic sauce. The lamb and beef combo inside the wrap was just tender and flavorful despite the onslaught of sauce and vegetables. It does get messy, but sometimes sauce on your shirt is worth the trouble. Note-worthy were the fries. The well-seasoned, deep-fried french fries were crispy, with obvious specks of seasoning stuck to a yummy yellow outside. Each bite was almost enough to convert me into abstaining from anything else on the menu.

The falafelite was still slightly crispy on the outside. The falafel itself was packed with flavor. It does tend to get dry but not this one. The sauces inside the wrap helped in keeping it soft, warm, and with never a dry spot. The seasoned sweet potato fries were salty on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside. (I’m not really a fan of sweet potato fries, or anything that threatens to replace my Yukon obsession. So this is as much as I am willing to vouch for it.)

The fried pita strips were oily and crispy, a very deadly combo. And the hummus was chunky and obviously made from scratch. They are like partners in crime and they will steal away your health-conscious sanity if not careful.


The gelato was unremarkable. Although enticing to the eyes and the flavors were interesting enough to make one want to try them all, they were not good enough for a big cup with no sharing privileges. The blackberry cabernet was sweet and bitter. The double espresso was just like strong coffee with a sweet finish. The dark chocolate was milk chocolate in disguise. The texture was a little too rough, almost sandy but try one and let me know if I have to change my mind.

The wraps are cut in half yet each are huge portions enough to satisfy even the most hungry. Take the half home if you can’t finish and 4 minutes later in the oven and you have the perfect midnight snack.

Spitz is the spot for unique comfort food. Try out their many other choices: chicken, veg, doner plates, get a wrap or a sandwich and for sure you will come back for more. Be careful though, you might be wrapped in their yum and fail to leave.

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Filed under Dessert, Fries, Gelato, Hummus, Ice Cream, Mediterranean Food, Pita, Wraps