All posts by la_gregory

Pho-king Alright


Silverlake has recently welcomed a new restaurant into the fold, in walking distance from almost anybody who calls the eastside neighborhood their home. Located at the corner of Sunset and Silverlake Blvd, Pho Cafe (2841 W. Sunset Blvd.) opened up a few months ago with relatively little fanfare. But the noodle house has become an instant hit, its minimal and clean design glowing thru the restaurant window during the night with a noticeable orange glow thanks to the mod seating (and check out those keen fishbowl lamps!). And like the mosquitos pulled in by the entrancing glow of your bugzapper hanging from your trailer home, the folks (with an undeniably noticeable high indie hipster count) come out in droves to get themselves a bowl of pho, cha gio (vietnamese egg rolls), or goi cuon (spring rolls). Everything is freshly made, with a visibly genuine vietnamese cooking staff, with a simple to navigate menu for those making their maiden voyage on the high seas of vietnamese cooking. Highly recommended is the banh xeo. An appetizer which could easily be a light dinner in itself, this is a delicious pan fried crepe (the pancake is made of rice flour, turmeric, coconut juice and spring onion) filled with meat or tofu, mushrooms and beansprouts, served alongside paper thin sliced circular sheets of rice paper, translucent like damp tracing paper. Throw in some sliced cucumber, a piece of crepe, julieened carrots, and some vietnamese herbs, then dip into a tasty peanut sauce, and what you experience is a delicious combination of a crunchy and soft, clean and starchy. I could easily and happily eat two of these in a sitting…and likely will one day in the near future.

What is disappointing is the pho, mostly because the broth is a flat note in flavour. Where an excellent bowl of pho is initially a simple flavour, with each spoonful its nuanced character begins to become more evident, and next thing you know you’re pushing the bowl upward to get every last drop of the beef broth. The pho here seems to be missing something that’s holding it back from being memorable. The rare beef is served too well cooked and is perhaps too lean to offer that tantalizing first bite that I look forward to enjoying with a bowl of pho. Also the portions are smaller than what I’m accustomed to, and the noodles were clumped together too much to enjoy in the hurried noodle eating fashion I practice. Next time I’ll try the chicken stock version, which comes with a garlic-ginger seasoning that might add a bit more complexity in flavour.

Overall, I give Pho Cafe a thumbs up for introducing a good alternative for late night dining within the borders of Silverlake/Los Feliz/Echo Park. There are a few better pho houses and vietnamese restaurants, but you won’t find a cleaner more aesthetically pleasing to the eye than this joint. Despite the overabundance of Converse All-Stars and Death Cab crowd attire, I’ll be back to give it another go next time I get a hunkering for some Vietnamese eats, especially since its vegetarian friendly for my Emily. And best of all, in walking distance of our flat!

Big Trouble in Little India


About half an hour away from Downtown Los Angeles, right off the Imperial Freeway in Artesia is an enclave of eateries, markets, and stores known as Little India. Pioneer Blvd. starts off the freeway as a street dominated by korean businesses, then just two blocks later it morphs into a predominately chinese/vietnamese locale where the allure of fried fish from 99 Ranch Market beckons and Sam Woo’s roast duck almost pulled me off course from coming to my intended destination. Before your eyes realize it, it will be your nose that will inform you that you’ve crossed into Little India. And from the smell of it, the community promises a good meal.

Jay Bharat Restaurant(18701 Pioneer Blvd., Artesia, CA 90701) is an Indian sweets and farsans shop, that also serves meals representing a southern Indian palate. The menu was nearly overwhelming, everything reading like a promise for a good time like that found on a high school bathroom wall. Fortunately there are two combinations platters, one offered only on weekends, that seem to include a good array of what their menu has to offer. The Gujarati Thali combo comes with basmati rice, dal (soup), pickled ginger in red pepper paste (which remarkably resembles a kimchee in both taste and appearance), two vegetable curries, kathor, two farsans, a plate of papdam (crisp breads), puri (fried bread), and raita. Emily got the Kathiyawadi Thali combination, which shared many of the same dishes as mine, but instead of the puri, it comes with eat-every-grain-good basmati rice and a couple pieces of unleavened whole wheat bread that has been slathered with the gastronomic glee maker, ghee (clarified butter). At $8.99 for a healthy portion of food, its a reasonably priced meal with an unreasonably delicious effect on your palate. If it wasn’t for the seducing allure of trying out a nearby dive specializing in spiced mutton next time (I could only liken the effect of the odours wafting outside the doors of this restaurant as how blood my smell like to a shark), I’d go back to Jay Bharat on my return visit.

But the eating didn’t stop there. Oh no…we just unbuckled our belts a few notches further and continued on down the boulevard to Bombay Sweets and Snacks where a colourful selection of indian sweets and fried pastries greeted us. Listening to the advice of a sweet, old gentleman who was in there grabbing lunch, we narrowed down our choices to five sweets. In a very froggy, deep accented voice, he recommended a couple of barfi (dense and dry cakes), a very rich and delicious pastry called habshi halwa (reputed to be good for a “man’s performance”), a saffron tart, and a tangle of fried dough coated in honey-sugar that was like a churro gone wild. We were only disappointed we could not stuff ourselves further, since there were milk-dough desserts amusingly called chum chum and gulab jamuns dipped in sweetened rose water that seemed to beg some porntastic mouth on dough action. Next time.

I am pleased to say that I did not have one unwelcome flavour touch my tongue that afternoon. Thanks Little India!

The Only Quake I Like Is One with a BFG

This is an excerpt from a Slashdot post about the prediction of a large earthquake near Los Angeles by September this year. Considering Los Angeles is due for a big one, earthquake prediction months in advance would be godsend.

“A UCLA seismologist named Vladimir Keilis-Borok claims earthquakes can be predicted months in advance. In the article at the University of California Newswire, he claims that the “team including experts of pattern recognition, geodynamics, seismology, chaos theory, statistical physics and public safety … has developed algorithms to detect precursory earthquake patterns.” It also says “the team’s current predictions have not missed any earthquake, and have had its two most recent ones come to pass.” They predict “an earthquake of at least magnitude 6.4 by Sept. 5, 2004, in a region that includes the southeastern portion of the Mojave Desert, and an area south of it.” We’ll see if they’re right.”

Ramen Around Town

Considering I just returned from ten days of eating quintessential San Antonio/Texan cuisine, I came back to Los Angeles a few days ago with a burning hunkering for meals neither fried, barbecued or smothered in cheese. As much as I loved the Lone Star State onslaught of puffy tacos and sour nachos (both being highlighted in a past issue of Saveur highlighting tex-mex cuisine), prime grade angus beef steaks, roasted quail, pecans pies (so good!), and a deluge of Texan style BBQ that could only be compared to a carcass in sheer amount, I was happy at the prospect of dining somewhere the food wasn’t cause for buying a new larger-sized pair of jeans before suppertime to accomodate for the expected increase in girth around the midsection (which I really did!). What I missed while away on holiday in Spurs country was the sheer diversity of foods Los Angeles offers the hungry soul. And continuing the sentiment of my previous post about venturing out during the wee hours away from typical late-night haunts such as Denny’s or Norm’s, I made my way to Little Tokyo last night to quell the hungry grumblings of a near empty stomach with some food that I definitely did not see offered amongst the Whataburger’s and Taco Cabana’s in Texas.


1st Street in Little Tokyo is a foodie’s dream come true. Alongside this quarter mile stretch of Los Angeles are about 10 restaurants offering an assortment of many things japanese, all seemingly delicious. My dining buddy and softball teammate Bill and I, after losing a heartbreaking one run loss at our weekly game, decided to drown out our sorrows last night at a new destination amongst the late night restaurants we’ve set out to all try. And let me tell you, nothing helps wash away the agony of defeat like a big bowl of ramen. DAIKOKUYA is ripe with character in decor, patronage and staff, and we discovered they serve an extremely delicious bowl of noodles. Tatted up ramen cooks and friendly snaggle-toothed waitresses give the small restaurant an air of authenticity. The assortment of vintage movie prints from japanese cinema of yore and the red diner-styled barstools and booths make this seem like a prime candidate as a set location for the next Tarantino flick. Daikokuya translates into “Big Black Family, not in reference to the Eddie Murphy Klumps, but a particular black swine that the restaurant uses to flavour their incredibly rich and complex broth. If God was to ejaculate into your mouth, this is what it would taste like. So open up and say ahhh! Each sip of broth was a small sensory reward, the rich stock hiding in a liquid fog a cache of fresh bamboo shoots, chewy noodles, a handful of diced green onions, and succulent pieces of sliced chasu pork that bordered on divine. Fuck the chicken soup for your soul avenue, and take a detour to get yourself some Daikokuya ramen on these chilly LA winter nights instead. And ask for an extra side plate of the roast pork to add to your noodles. I sure will next time!

DAIKOKUYA
327 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: (213)626-1680

Late Nights Eats


What to do when Officer EstÛmago Grumblelito comes knockin’ on your door with a warrant for your arrest for the crime of negligence of your hunger pangs, and all you have is a Alexander Hamilton to post bail? Most Angelenos think of late night greasy spoon diners or fast food joints after the clock ticks past 11pm on weeknights, serving the same fries, burgers and pies found throughout the city. So what is one to do when the blue plate special ain’t cutting it? Just a hop, skip and a jump from most anywhere in Los Angeles is a multitude of korean restaurants, almost all planted within tightly packed minimalls along Vermont, Western and Olympic in Koreatown. Quite a few open to the wee hours of the night, offering the night owl gourmand a place to take roost for an hour or two and take care of the stomach rumblings. In the late night hours, kids are coming back from noraebang (karaoke bars) or big clubbing venues strewn throught the amorphous confines of Koreatown, and are often looking to satiate their hunger on the cheap. Korean food is as downright comfort food as asian food can get, and places like Hodori offer late night patrons an assortment of popular and decently executed home-style korean dishes for prices comparable to Denny’s. Two could share a heaping sizzling plate of korean bbq beef with onions (bulgogi) with rice and the accompanying panchan (think korean tapas) for about $6 per/person. A personal favourite is dolsot bibimbap, literally “mixed up rice”, a sizable serving of rice topped with an assortment of vegetables, roots, mushrooms, meats and a cracked egg on top. Its all served in a scorching hot cast iron bowl (I know, cuz I burned my finger accidentally touching one tonite) that crisps the rice and cooks the egg. You mix it all up with a dollop of hot red bean paste (for those who fancy themselves down with the caliente), and eat yourself silly full, until the near end when you reach a layer of crisped cooked rice which is meant to be scraped off after soaking with added cold water. Yes, some of this sorta dining can be a bit culturally insider in nature. But don’t worry, any dining mistakes are more likely to be greeted with grins than disapproving glances from the waitstaff, and they will make efforts to point your way to becoming a hardened veteran in K-Town dining. Other newbie friendly menu choices include dduk bokee, a slightly spiced cylindrical rice cake that is a favourite amongst children for its soft-chewy texture. Bite-sized mandoo are steamed dumplings that taste delicious with a dip of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. And if you’re feeling a bit chilly, give a bubbling pot of soon tofu(tofu hotpot) or yook gae jiang(korean spicy beef soup with noodles) a gander. More adventurous diners can taste the spicy korean version of calamari and realize tentacles can taste delicious even when not fried. Just be sure to have some Altoids ready afterwards….korean food stays with you, literally, for hours afterwards.

Hodori 1001 S. Vermont Ave, just south of Olympic Blvd. 213.383.3554

TERRIED SAKE HOUSE


A westside hole in the wall that could easily be overlooked on the busy Santa Monica Blvd, Terried Sake House is one of the more authentic japanese restaurants you’ll find in greater Los Angeles. We decided we’d meet there for supper this evening before catching The Triplets of Belleville at the Laemmle Royale, since the two are in walking distance from one another. This is the sort of restaurant where the diners are split between japanese born kids with the fashion sense that’s halfway “runway” and halfway “runaway”, and the sorta Americans who know that mixing your wasabi into your soy sauce is akin to covering a Peter Luger’s prime porterhouse in A1. Not fanciful cooking at all, but not typical fare when most Americans think of japanese food. Rather than the run-of-the-mill menu of california rolls and teriyaki, you order an assortment of small portion dishes that are meant to be shared while also sharing sake. Seasonal japanese vegetables and roots making for tasty pickings for all to share (and the best thing to do here is order an assortment of items so everyone can possibly try something new/different). Karage, japanese fried chicken, is one of my favourites on the menu and a pretty good choice to ease the unitiated into japanese bar foods with. Lotus roots, though exotic sounding, are crunchy and extremely addictive. An assortment of skewered meats (yakitori) are a favourite here, with my personal favourites being eel liver (yes, they have livers, and they’re surprisingly delicious), chicken with green onions, and chicken breast, presented with a smudge of mild wasabe and on wooden skewers for easy handling. Broiled fishes, such as smelt, japanese mackerel (saba), and anchoives all make for good eats with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and you wouldn’t be mistaken if you ordered some of the broiled tofu dishes here either (just be sure you vegetarians ask for the bonito flakes to be withheld). Don’t let the humble exterior fool you. By 7:30pm every night, the place is filled with foodies and you’re guaranteed a 20 minute wait. Worth every damn minute.

TERRIED SAKE HOUSE
11617 Santa Monica Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA 90025, USA

Dipping my meat and biting into hot buns!

Of course, my first post for Blogging.la would be about local eats.


The memory of Saturday’s beautiful sunny and warm afternoon was washed away by the downward deluge of cloud piss known as LA rain today. Yeah, yeah…this H20 stuff is good and all, but not when I’m lifting heavy furniture and climbing up stairs, veins bulging in the same way my Levis look when I watch that lesbian scene in Mulholland Drive. Considering the great possibility one of us would slip and fall, injure our gonads or other precious body parts, we decided to postpone my friend’s moving plans for a less aquatic condition. Instead we headed over to Little Tokyo to dry off and warm our dampened spirits and Hanes His/Her Way at the shabu-shabu house, Zakuro. For those who haven’t had this japanese culinary experience, shabu-shabu (which is a Japanese onomotopoeia for “swish-swish”) is basically a hotpot where vegetables, noodle, tofu and thinly sliced meats are quickly cooked in boiling kombu (seaweed) infused broth, then dipped into a citrus-infused ponzu sauce or a sesame-peanut sauce. Its like a fondue party of sorts…but there’s no cheese or funny dressed swiss folk. We ordered five plates of thinly sliced beef that probably could be run thru and printed upon with my HP printer, alongside a small plate of udon (thick) noodles, rice noodles, cabbage, carrots, and tofu. A central hotpot bubbles and boils for all to dunk in a communal free for all. Fortunately everything cooks in increments of tens of seconds, so gratification comes quicker than in a Hollywood backalley. Overall the meal was quite delicious and satisfying, but I did note that there was not a piece of kombu in the broth, nor yuzu to squeeze (a japanese citrus that makes all the difference between good and sublime). Considering the meal was free, as a token of my friend’s gratitude for lifting more wood than John Holmes that afternoon, I wasn’t in the mood to complain at all. And of course, the rain had stopped when we finished our meal.

You would think after stuffing yourself silly with plates of beef one would be too full to consider dessert. But being in Little Tokyo means making room at all costs, because there’s just too damn much in terms of foods that make you go yummmmm. Since I was the most seasoned of Little Tokyo diners, I decided to forgo the more typical mochi ice cream route and take my friends to get some imagawa-yaki, japanese pancakes with sweet red beans inside, at Mitsuru Cafe in the Japanese Village Plaza. I was raised as a wee lad staring thru the front window while these japanese old world treats were poured, flipped, and sandwiched right before my enamored eyes. They’re thrown into a foil lined bag which is meant to keep them hot and toasty, but usually the pastries don’t last long enough to be stored away. For $1 these are an amazing treat to finish your meal with, and I haven’t met one person whose eyes haven’t grown rounder and in approving fashion when they take that first virgin bite into those buns (oops, this is sounding like a post for another sorta blogging community). We left Little Tokyo this afternoon happier and more round in the belly, and that’s always a good conclusion to a rainy afternoon.