Tag Archives: Versus

PHOlling for Pho, Los Angeles

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

Pho 2000

“The Hole-in-the-Wall”

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

PhoCiti

“The Chain”

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

Lemongrass Vietnamese Restaurant 

“The Popular”

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

Indochine Vien

“The Upscale”

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

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

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

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

The 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