Tag Archives: Los Angeles

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

Artisanal LA 2010, Downtown LA (Savory Edition)

And so man cannot live with desserts alone. After all, the sweets often come after the savory. So as not to saturate and kill my palate and appetite with too much sugar, I also had to make my way towards the salty, bitter, meaty, and even the “hoppy”. At the Artisanal LA Fall 2010, I didn’t need the salt over the shoulder to have good luck, I had no problem finding the best savory had to offer.

Enjoy my sumptuous finds:

I had to buy Damn That’s Good’s curry sauce for a dinner idea I immediately envisioned after I tasted their sample. It was not a simple sauce to make, and the taste showcased its complexity well. It had a perfect amount of spice, very well-balanced with a spicy taste towards the back-end without overpowering the combination. Their risottos were actually okay. I must admit, bias set it when I had to taste it cold, it didn’t really sit well atop my tongue but I’m sure it would have been better received had it been at least a little warm. Their pastas were also cold. But all had a good promise of flavors.

Winner of the KCRW 2nd Annual Pie Contest, The Flying Pie Man shared his savory creation only during this event. Yuichiro Sato unfortunately does not have a means of selling his product yet (store or online), but we were blessed indeed that he has shared and we have tasted. It was more like a Shepherd’s pie or also called Cottage Pie. The seasonings in the ground beef had strong flavor (almost too overpowering for my taste), the mashed potato at the bottom was creamy and buttery, and the vegetables were actually still crunchy despite having been marinating with the juices from the meat, the mashed potato, and steam within.  The pie crust was actually the best part; it was flaky, salty, buttery, and just crunchy delicious. So here’s a plea: get your site together Yuichiro, the line at your table said it all.

This table was packed with visitors so I barely had a chance to take a decent photo, my apologies. I was about to leave when I was asked to go ahead and taste the meat, so over the shoulder of a stranger I reached out for my sample of healthy, grass-fed steak from Open Space Meats. It was decently cooked, I didn’t expect it to be like a restaurant serving me my medium rare cut, but the meat had a much stronger beef flavor. And of course, lower in saturated fat and higher in Omega 3 fatty acids, which means a healthier option for you.

Of course, I wouldn’t think of leaving without visiting a local brewery. Eagle Rock Brewery showcased two of their Artisan brews. Addicted to my caffeine, I had to choose the Stimulus (Belgian Amber with Ethiopian Coffee). It did not have a strong coffee flavor, but it was definitely present in each sip. The citrus created a fine after-taste that it was a little sad that it only came in sample cups.

I had just enough time to peak in at the most popular demo of the event: Pig Butchering by Lindy and Grundy’s Erika Nakamura. Skilled with a knife, Erika wielded with ease and cut down the half-pig in no time at all. Lindy and Grundy will soon serve Los Angeles just like the forgotten times, with a local, sustainable butcher shop selling organic and grass-fed meat.

Whew, the tasting extravaganza ended there. But it was not only the samples that shined during this Artisanal LA event. The owners and chefs that continue to pursue the healthier, organic side of cuisine and produce showed to us that healthier does not necessarily mean tasteless. And that handmade with the finest ingredients are sometimes a much better and not necessarily a more expensive route to take. So don’t deprive and cheat yourself of the finer and healthier things in life, Artisanal LA proves that they are definitely worth it.

Please support our local farmers and business owners. Click on the links to check out their websites and also how to order.

 

 

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Filed under Alcohol, Artisan, Beef, Event, Occasion, Pork

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

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 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

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