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A Few Days in Los Angeles — Report

A Few Days in Los Angeles — Report
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  • Post #151 - January 7th, 2014, 7:07 pm
    Post #151 - January 7th, 2014, 7:07 pm Post #151 - January 7th, 2014, 7:07 pm
    My fiance and I spent the holidays and New Year with her parents in and around Torrance, CA, a suburb of LA just south of the city and east of Redondo Beach that has a large community of Japanese immigrants and their American-born offspring, which include her parents. Torrance is a quiet place, accessible by the 405 and near the 110, so it's pretty easy to get to from nearly any major hub in or around the city, except maybe Glendale/Pasadena, and the San Gabriel Valley, all wonderful food destinations for Armenian, Thai, Chinese, etc.

    But boy does Torrance have some great Japanese food. Obviously, there's a Mitsuwa, bigger and a bit more tidy than the one in Arlington Heights, but more or less the same. We ate ramen there on numerous occasions, turning down popular places like Mottainai and Hayatemaru and Daikokoyu, which we've heard are spectacular (my fiance's parents disagree on all three), and have been covered on LTH by the likes of Pigmon. In any case, I don't need to tell you that Mitsuwa's ramen stall, Santouka, is excellent, but here are some photos anyway:

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    Shoyu (salt) and Miso Ramen combinations. Rice bolls of shredded salmon/salmon roe and scallion/bonito shown. Marinated eggs remain overcooked and a bit disappointing.

    While not known for it's Mexican food (Torrance ain't no EasLos), being populated mostly by white and Japanese folks, this is nonetheless LA, and we were able to snag some top quality tacos. Similar in style to those cooked at La Chaparrita in Chicago (but not cooked in a charola), the tortillas are fresh, but small, and the meats skew toward offal and long cooked cuts like cabeza and buche. Their tripas were particularly good, stewed and then served lightly griddled (suave) or fried until crispy (doradito). In this case, I took mine crispy, and they were f'ing spectacular - a nice contrast of chew and caramelized edges, with just enough funk to excite the palate without overwhelming it. I believe these were beef tripas and used the small intestine. Unlike Chaparrita, they only offer two salsas, a brick red, and a pale green, both of which were damn spicy, but not terribly flavorful. Cabeza, lengua, and particularly asada tacos were also good. This isn't a destination restaurant, but definitely your best choice if you find yourself in Torrance and craving Mexican (and the prices were ridiculously cheap - 8 tacos and two horchatas for less than a twenty). Also, all the cut-up radishes and escabeche you can eat are available at a small buffet table.

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    Our great Japanese dinner (we ate Japanese mostly at home because my fiance's mom is a helluva a cook, and we were all drinking too much to be driving) came at a nondescript sushi place in a strip mall where my father-in-law is a regular. Again, nothing fancy, just pristine fish, prepared by skilled (and engaging!) Japanese sushi chefs, who have been doing this forever. In my experience, it's hard to find a neighborhood sushi joint in an LA area where at least some Japanese live that will disappoint. No weird rolls, or overuse of mayo or god forbid, cream cheese. No Thai/Japanese fusion. Just tradition. You won't find such quality and quantity in Chicago, or even New York. I think it makes LA truly special. Here are some pictures from our meal. Again, everything was a bargain, massive pours of sake and schochu included:

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    Braised mackerel.

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    Raw octopus marinated in wasabi with seaweed.

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    Hamachi collar, broiled.

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    Finally, we did manage to have some meals outside of Torrance, notably Persian on Santa Monica boulevard in an area full of Persian (both Kosher and not) restaurants, groceries, and other establishments. Our meal at Javan Restaurant was simple and absolutely packed with flavor. Two kabobs - split lamb chops, and minced beef sirloin, over zereshk polo - steamed basmati rice with saffron and dried sour barberries, formed a perfect lunch. The kabobs were moist and not-overcooked as in some Arabic restaurants (Persians restaurants seem more consistent at not overcooking kabobs), and the rice was some of the best I've ever had and clearly prepared with care. Some of the grains were nearly an inch long - a sign of good product - and they were perfectly moist without clinging to another one bit. The flavor was buttery and the did not skimp on the barberries, which add a beautiful, sour note as well as textural variety. The barberries played very well with the slightly gamy meats. Starters were a near perfect kishk e'bademjan (stewed eggplant topped with preserved/aged yogurt) and most e-khiar (cucumbers in thick yogurt with dried mint). The flatbread, however, not so good. And the "Persian" tea? Likely cheap black tea no different from Lipton. Good deserts though. Prices a bit high (think Reza's). I think with a little walking up and down the strip, one can find smaller, more informal joints serving similar cuisine. But for a nice sit-down with a full bar, Javan seems like a good choice.

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    Finally finally, we had some excellent home-style Korean at a popular hole in the wall in K Town. Reminded me a lot of Cho Sun Ohk in Chicago, still one of the most underrated restaurants in our city. The place felt like it had been around for at least three decades before Jonathan Gold or whomever discovered it and people started forming lines to get in. We waited a bit, but boy was the food worth it. We ordered their famous braised short ribs, tender and bathed in a thick, sweet soy sauce, a rice porridge with abalone and raw egg (subtle but beautiful texture and very comforting), a simple grilled fish (yellow croaker?) with salt and lemon that came with a simple kimche jigae (stew), and a plate of kalbi (cross-cut short ribs) cooked in the kitchen. The last dish was the least interesting, but everything else was on point. A wonderful alternative to Korean BBQ, which seems to be all many non-Koreans eat when it comes to Korean food, and a glimpse of the diversity and simplicity of home-style Korean cuisine. This is a destination place.

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    So I need to find the names and addresses of these restaurants, which I'll do when I can consult the fiance, who has a better memory than I. I'll update the post then.

    Hope everyone had a great holiday and new year.

    H.
    Last edited by Habibi on January 8th, 2014, 9:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #152 - January 8th, 2014, 2:19 pm
    Post #152 - January 8th, 2014, 2:19 pm Post #152 - January 8th, 2014, 2:19 pm
    Habibi, I really enjoyed this and i am glad I did not read it before my recent, brief trip to LA where I was largely stuck dining with people from work in Santa Monica and Pasadena. Best I could do was a lamb dip and a drink at Cole's downtown and a decent cup of coffee at Dogtown in SM. (Stella Barra down the street looked like as much of a relative waste of time in SM as here, but then I saw TonyC likes it so maybe next time.) You are right to focus on Japanese and Persian/Armenian when pimping LA places to Chicagoans. Korean and Thai too, but there's less of a gap in that regard, IMO.
  • Post #153 - April 14th, 2014, 4:16 pm
    Post #153 - April 14th, 2014, 4:16 pm Post #153 - April 14th, 2014, 4:16 pm
    I'm going to be in Los Angeles for, well, a few days. In May. Anything new or exciting or interesting or generally worth sharing pop up in the last three years?

    *Ha, I just noticed I was on an earlier page when I replied. Didn't realize the thread was relatively up to date!
  • Post #154 - April 15th, 2014, 12:39 pm
    Post #154 - April 15th, 2014, 12:39 pm Post #154 - April 15th, 2014, 12:39 pm
    Vitesse, I was in LA in October, and had some great meals. I was still riding a Bestia high when I wrote this, and while it may or may not be the best meal I've ever had, it WAS the best meal I had in 2013.

    Father's Office - I really liked the vibe here, and the beer list was good. The flavor of the components of the burger were great, but the burger was unevenly cooked (perfect med rare in parts, well done in others). I can see myself coming here quite a bit if I lived in the area, but I wouldn't take this burger over my favorites in Chicago. Still a great place.

    Drago Centro: This place was great. Decor, ambience, and food all were very good, and I didn't find it stuffy at all. The garganelli was a dish I'd drive an hour for. Lasagne also good, although a pretty basic lasagne. The one disappointment was the special, a pasta with dried tuna, which lacked any flavor whatsoever. I didn't get too upset, however, as the other dishes were great, and the pasta itself had a great texture.

    Ink: I was actually kind of disappointed with this place. I thought the cocktails were a bit too "unique" (trying to be nice), and the food had several misses. We ordered the charred avocado (awesome), little gems (not great in separate parts, but very good all together), hamachi (way too sweet), la quercia berkshire ham (can't go wrong with la quercia, so this was also good. beets very well prepared), corn (the doritos were an afterthought, but the corn was well executed, although not that impressive), gnocchi (very good when eaten with the mushrooms), cereal (i couldn't get my head around this - way aggressive flavors, but perhaps this was too late in the courses for me to enjoy it), branzino (thought this was a complete miss - dry, flavorless fish), and beef cheeks (good, but not great, although was a beautiful dish). I just didn't care all that much for it.

    Rivera: A hiccup service wise with it taking 20 minutes for our cocktails, but other than that an enjoyable experience. The duck enfrijoladas was awesome - a huge portion that could easily be split, I'd order this again and again. Cocktails interesting and well balanced, for the most part. A bit of a downer vibe.

    Bestia: Best meal I have ever had, and I've had some good ones. From the atmosphere, to the service, to the food, just hit after hit after hit. no misses at all. Ordered the salumi, veal tartare, margherita pizza, 42 oz. 28 day dry aged ribeye (bone in), cavatelli, plum crostata, chocolate budino, zeppole. Just an amazing meal. Lots of good looking people, energetic vibe, personable staff. Go here if you haven't been.

    **Also, for a cocktail, you can't beat Seven Grand. Great spot.
  • Post #155 - April 15th, 2014, 6:56 pm
    Post #155 - April 15th, 2014, 6:56 pm Post #155 - April 15th, 2014, 6:56 pm
    Alternatively, Bestia (the third time around) eff'd up every single pasta dish they served by over-salting, and felt so bad they redid the dishes they goofed without being asked, and sent out some gratis ones to patch up the wait. A good dinner marred by nasty delays and a sous who mis-measured the pasta water that night? Who knows. In the area, I much prefer Factory Kitchen for the quietness, the affordability, the approachability.

    Lacha Somtum has been serving out banging Issan dishes since opening. Sometimes they have ant eggs, usually they have tub warn liver. No one's talking about the kaengs and the Issan food beyond the somtum there. It is a shame as outside of Cancoon, this is best Issan restaurant in LA.

    Chengdu Taste is probably the best Chinese food in the country right now, despite Pete Wells piece on Peter Chang today.

    El Coraloense just won taco madness, and is doing inventive mariscos in 2 divey neighborhoods.

    Shunji is on fire for those looking for kaiseki.

    This all really depends what you're looking for, where you're looking to stay. I mean, I had some really solid margaritas at a beautiful vegan restaurant in West Hollywood. Who would've thunk?

    Enjoy our weather.
  • Post #156 - May 15th, 2014, 11:36 am
    Post #156 - May 15th, 2014, 11:36 am Post #156 - May 15th, 2014, 11:36 am
    I headed to Tsujita LA for their highly touted tonkotsu ramen the other day after getting some solid thumbs-up reviews from Team RAB/REB awhile back.

    Wow. This broth is a true beast! As I was shooting a photo of my bowl, within seconds a fatty sheath had formed on its surface. This is easily the richest/fattiest tonkotsu soup I've ever tried anywhere. Nuclear, really. If you eat an entire bowl like I did for lunch, be prepared to skip dinner.

    Initially, I really wanted to dislike this effort as the broth was so completely over-the-top flavorful. But as I slurped along, its beautifully toothsome elegant hakata-style noodles, succulent chashu, and perfectly molten honjuku egg coupled with this intense broth made for a notable noodling experience. In the end, I came to the conclusion that you just had to respect the soup itself as it had both power as well as nuance.

    Tsujita offers two kinds of tableside condiments: Beni-Shoga (red pickled ginger) and Karashi Takana (hot mustard leaf). The pickled mustard leaf being absolutely phenomenal but a completely unnecessary addition to an already aggressive ramen.

    I'm really looking forward to returning to Tsujita and trying what seemed to be the crowd favorite there - the Tsukemen or dipping ramen. With the Tsukemen, you're more apt to regulate how much of this intense broth you really wanna take on.


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    Note the fatty film starting to form at the bottom of the bowl. Tsujita makes claims of boiling their pork bones for 60 hours.


    Tsujita LA
    2057 Sawtelle Blvd
    Los Angeles, CA 90025
    (310) 231-7373
    Last edited by PIGMON on June 10th, 2014, 7:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #157 - May 15th, 2014, 2:41 pm
    Post #157 - May 15th, 2014, 2:41 pm Post #157 - May 15th, 2014, 2:41 pm
    Alright, so it begins!
  • Post #158 - May 15th, 2014, 4:21 pm
    Post #158 - May 15th, 2014, 4:21 pm Post #158 - May 15th, 2014, 4:21 pm
    I'll admit I have some difficulty with the rich tonkotsu broths - I just feel close to keeling over as I near the bottom of the bowl. Love the flavor though and that one looks so damn rich.

    I would think that the pickled hot mustard leaf is there to cut some of that richness, no? Pickled ginger too. At the very least, another dimension to a rich ramen . . . nothing wrong with that.
    I find the pastrami to be the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats. (Seinfeld)

    Twitter: brbinchicago
  • Post #159 - May 15th, 2014, 6:10 pm
    Post #159 - May 15th, 2014, 6:10 pm Post #159 - May 15th, 2014, 6:10 pm
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    Niu Rou Mian at Kingburg Kitchen (San Gabriel, CA)

    For some reason or another, I've had this long-term fascination and love for niu rou mian even though after multiple tries over the years have only found one example of it that made my obsession seem justified: Mei Nung Beef Noodle House in Markham, Ontario outside of Toronto.

    But after being provided with some outstanding NRM intel from TonyC, I made my very first meal here a stop at Kingburg Kitchen for a hot bowl, even though the temperature was somewhere in the 90s. I'm glad the heat didn't discourage me because I was immediately rewarded with some of the most marrow-y, well balanced spiced broth ever (Note: salt sensitive folks may have an issue. But that's probably the case for just about every bowl of NRM out there) along with some luscious pieces of unspent beef; highly unusual from my experiences. I'm not sure if the noodles are made in-house but they were cooked to perfection and were more than enticing.

    One of the features I enjoyed most about this bowl, however, was the addition of some super pungent yet lovely zha cai (pickled Chinese greens), giving it a lovely counterpoint of acidity.

    Now we're talking!

    Kingburg Kitchen
    715 W Las Tunas Dr
    San Gabriel, CA 91776
    (626) 282-2386
  • Post #160 - May 16th, 2014, 11:52 am
    Post #160 - May 16th, 2014, 11:52 am Post #160 - May 16th, 2014, 11:52 am
    BR wrote:I'll admit I have some difficulty with the rich tonkotsu broths - I just feel close to keeling over as I near the bottom of the bowl. Love the flavor though and that one looks so damn rich.

    me too.

    which is why Jidaiya's ramen is now only an once-a-year offer for me:

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    FYI PIGMON, Torihei owns Jidaiya.
    Last edited by TonyC on May 16th, 2014, 12:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #161 - May 16th, 2014, 12:03 pm
    Post #161 - May 16th, 2014, 12:03 pm Post #161 - May 16th, 2014, 12:03 pm
    You know you're getting old when you think "too rich" may be possible.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #162 - May 16th, 2014, 12:11 pm
    Post #162 - May 16th, 2014, 12:11 pm Post #162 - May 16th, 2014, 12:11 pm
    Last week I had a good meal at Animal (very L&E, also they excitedly brought up the tragic closing of Hot Doug's with me). An OK meal at Red Medicine (which was more Elizabeth than anything else). Great tacos at Guisados. Had a not very special more or less pan Latin dinner at a friend of a friend's friend's place in Koreatown. Super burger at Father's Office. Perhaps the best croissants I have ever had at Proof. That was my trip.
  • Post #163 - May 16th, 2014, 12:42 pm
    Post #163 - May 16th, 2014, 12:42 pm Post #163 - May 16th, 2014, 12:42 pm
    BR wrote:I'll admit I have some difficulty with the rich tonkotsu broths - I just feel close to keeling over as I near the bottom of the bowl. Love the flavor though and that one looks so damn rich.


    Me three. Slightly off topic, but I had a recent bowl of Yusho's new "Tomarrow" ramen at their Sunday noodle brunch and their broth was, literally, reduced to a gravy consistency. Making matters worse they plopped a wad of salty-as-all-get-out tare dead center in the bowl. Almost inedible, a waste of gelatin if you ask me.
  • Post #164 - May 18th, 2014, 8:29 pm
    Post #164 - May 18th, 2014, 8:29 pm Post #164 - May 18th, 2014, 8:29 pm
    Had an overall lovely Persian meal at Shamshiri Grill in Westwood last night with the standout item being the "Ash-E-Reshteh", a hearty and boldly flavored soup made with noodles (reshteh), beans (chickpeas, lentils, and red beans?), parsley/spinach/mint, onions, and then topped with whey (kashk). It didn't cross my mind until today that this may be one of the most perfect vegetarian options I've ever run across.

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    ***

    I also quite enjoyed their Kashk-E-Bademjan, a dense appetizer (dip) composed of sauteed eggplant, carmelized garlic & onions and topped (again) with kashk.

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    From what I heard and could readily see all around us, the entrees served here are generally enormous. Most of them can easily feed two hearty fressers. Shamshiri Grill caters to a large diversity of diners but is also clearly popular with the large local Persian population residing in and around Westwood/Beverly Hills.

    I'm no expert on Persian cuisine but I found this meal to be highly enjoyable compared to what I've tried in Chicago over the years and should be considered well worth investigating while visiting LA.

    Shamshiri Grill
    1712 Westwood Blvd.
    Westwood, CA 90024
    (310) 474-1410
  • Post #165 - May 19th, 2014, 4:43 pm
    Post #165 - May 19th, 2014, 4:43 pm Post #165 - May 19th, 2014, 4:43 pm
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    I've been on a soup terror here the last week and have had some outstanding slurps - Soondubu at Beverly Tofu House, niu rou mian at Kingburg Kitchen and Ming Wa (Alhambra), and tonkotsu ramen at Tsujita Ramen. I also had tonkotsu at Men Oh Tokushita in Little Tokyo but that was total shit and not even worth a mention. But I knew TonyC wasn't messing around this time when he said something like the pork bone soup or gamjatang at Yangji Gamjatang was almost as good as his Korean mother-in-law's.

    The most notable thing about this gamjatang, besides its almost absurd quantity, is the high ratio of luscious pork to potatoes, giving the base broth a serious concentration of pork essence instead of having to derive its flavors largely from chili powder, fish sauce and/or other spices as most other places tend to do with this dish. I usually love when there's a large amount of perilla leaves in this dish but Yangji doesn't lean on that function to create a highly credible rendition.

    You're not going to do much better for $8.95 in Los Angeles than this. The banchan here is notable as well.

    Yangji Gamjatang
    3470 W 6th St
    Ste 6
    (Koreatown)
    (213) 388-1105
    Los Angeles, CA 90020
  • Post #166 - May 21st, 2014, 3:15 pm
    Post #166 - May 21st, 2014, 3:15 pm Post #166 - May 21st, 2014, 3:15 pm
    After burning off about 300 calories hiking the beautiful upper stretches of Eaton Canyon above Pasadena, I immediately attacked this gotta-be 1200+ calorie behemoth double cheeseburger at Super Burger also in Pasaadena. Surprisingly, these patties were cooked, unsolicited, to medium rare and were twice as thick as the usual found at your typical burger shack. The obligatory paper wrap used to stabilize the hamburger was rendered completely useless simply because of its girth. And yet, I haven't enjoyed a burger more in LA, which so far has included Father's Office, Fusion Burgers, Troy's Burgers, the Original Tommy's (Beverly Blvd.), Bob's Big Boy (The oldest existing BBB located on Riverside Dr. in Burbank. Ugh.) and, of course, the In-n-Out (See tagline below).

    This double was a glorious sloppy mess and had I known that this thing was big enough to feed the entire neighborhood, I would have opted merely for a single. The commercial fries are as bad as they look so If you make a visit, keep it streamlined and just get the single burger.

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    How did LA's love affair ever withstand the slathering of Thousand Island dressing on their burgers through the years?

    Super Burger
    458 N Altadena Dr,
    Pasadena, CA 91107
    (626) 449-8818
    Last edited by PIGMON on May 27th, 2014, 9:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #167 - May 21st, 2014, 3:41 pm
    Post #167 - May 21st, 2014, 3:41 pm Post #167 - May 21st, 2014, 3:41 pm
    Going to have to change the thread title to [Quite a] Few Days in LA!

    LA: I'll take the burgers, but they can keep their fries. The 1000 island is what makes it an LA burger, no? Even stranger: how did Salt Lake City convince itself that the 1000 isles/fry sauce is their "thing"?
  • Post #168 - May 22nd, 2014, 10:02 am
    Post #168 - May 22nd, 2014, 10:02 am Post #168 - May 22nd, 2014, 10:02 am
    They wanted retribution after LA ripped off the pastrami burger from them.
  • Post #169 - May 23rd, 2014, 3:54 pm
    Post #169 - May 23rd, 2014, 3:54 pm Post #169 - May 23rd, 2014, 3:54 pm
    It doesn't surprise me at all that the owners of one of my favorite restaurants in the LA area,Torihei, has opened a noodle shop called Ramen Jidaija and are making what has to be some of the best tonkotsu ramen in LA.

    Making viscous, nuclear-powered tonkotsu bombs has apparently become the rage here over the last few years, along with ramen burgers and tsukemen (dipping noodle ramen). Tonkotsu is intended to be potent stuff. But the ramenyas these days have taken it to a whole new level and for the better ramen places I’ve tried recently like Ramen Tsujita and Ramen Jidaija, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    I was initially disappointed when I walked in around noon and saw the sign saying that their tsukemen service started at 2pm. But, fortunately, my disappointed was completely unwarranted. Upon the bowl's arrival, Jidaija’s beautifully fragrant miso tonkotsu threw off pleasant hints of fresh veggies such as snow peas, sprouts, bamboo (manma), corn, along with subtle wafts of pork funk. I actually took a few moments simply to take in the enticing aromas. The round nama noodles were perfectly toothsome while the broth had tremendous depth. Although the Chashu was ever so slightly dry, the quality of this subtly marinated pork coupled with its delicious outer layer of fat probably made it the highlight of the entire bowl.

    This is an outstanding bowl of ramen and is, overall, an equal if not better effort than Tsujita.

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    Ramen Jidaija
    18537 S Western Ave
    Gardena, CA 90248
    (310) 532-0999

    NOTE: Rumor has it that Mottainai Ramen in Gardena, one of my old LA ramen favorites, has changed ownership and is now a shell of its former glory.
    Last edited by PIGMON on May 29th, 2014, 11:31 am, edited 2 times in total.
  • Post #170 - May 26th, 2014, 1:30 pm
    Post #170 - May 26th, 2014, 1:30 pm Post #170 - May 26th, 2014, 1:30 pm
    There were three reasons why I decided to base my extended stay in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles located in the far northeast corridor of the city between Pasadena and downtown LA:

    1) Because Comedian Marc Maron lives in this largely Hispanic, up and coming neighborhood and for years has frequently talked fondly of it on his WTF podcasts.

    2) It is an easy shot to the San Gabriel Valley (SGV) and its huge Chinese community.

    3) The large number of food trucks that are based in and around the area (including Eagle Rock).

    After spending a bit of time digging in to Chicago’s well established Tacos al Pastor de trompo scene this past year, I was looking forward to seeking out this active al pastor de trompo street vendor scene here. A “trompo” is a meat cone (Rene G is also looking to responsibly call it a “frustum” at the right moment!) constructed of raw slices of pork that are commonly marinated for several hours or even days, with achiote, chili peppers, garlic, onion and sometimes tropical fruit juice, usually pineapple. I was told by some longtime locals in Highland Park that the city has been hunkering down on these outdoor raw pork cone vendors of late due to concerns about obvious sanitation issues.

    I couldn’t have had a better day driving around the city yesterday looking for any sign of one of these outdoor trompo street vendors.

    The following photos were all taken between 5pm and 6:30pm yesterday when these trompo street vendors were just setting up shop for their ensuing nighttime business. As you can see from the photos below, all trompos are in raw form at this early hour.

    Hobart Blvd & Pico Blvd
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    36th St. & Pasadena Avenue, (Taqueria de Primo)
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    58th St. & York Avenue
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    The woman located just behind the trompo is making handmade tortillas.

    66th St. & Figueroa Avenue
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    All of these vendors sans 58th & York Ave. were also utilizing a bubbled/bumped comal or "charola" to cook off items such as carne asada, chorizo, cebollas, and sesos.

    None of these street al pastor de trompo tacos I tried here could hold a candle to those found at either Rubi’s or Manolo’s in Chicago’s Maxwell Street Market who are also utilizing an outdoor trompo. Besides the fact that the 58th & York operation was making handmade tortillas on demand, every one of these tacos was almost a complete bust, with the pork being grossly underseasoned and inadequately flame charred and/or griddled - at least at that early hour. All four of these L.A. street trompo operations used an electric cooking apparatus unlike the two Maxwell Street operations in Chicago that work with live coals.

    Regardless, I would still strongly recommend checking it out to see this wonderful street food culture and its importance to the local population.
  • Post #171 - May 29th, 2014, 9:16 am
    Post #171 - May 29th, 2014, 9:16 am Post #171 - May 29th, 2014, 9:16 am
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    LA is well known for their vast Mexican culinary offerings. But if you expect to find carne en su jugo there, a dish that can be readily found throughout Chicago, you're going to have to dig a bit. For some reason or another, the dish has taken on significant importance within Chicago's Jalisciense population but has not occurred within LA's. Likely, it's a population density issue as Chicago has a higher percentage of their Mexican population originating from Jalisco. Although CESJ can be found throughout Central Mexico, the State of Jalisco is ground zero for the dish.

    I was lucky enough to meet the decorated LA food writer (LA Times) Jonathan Gold last week (Thanks, TonyC) and told him that after many culinary visits to his city, I have yet to come across any sign of the dish. I knew immediately that it wasn't for lack of trying on my part as when I asked him if he could suggest any places that just might carry it, I had to jolt his memory a bit as to what exactly CESJ was. After he recalled what it was, he could come up with only one place in the San Gabriel Valley where he had tried it - Valenzuela's in El Monte. Of course the next day, I immediately headed over there and it had unfortunately permanently closed. Not to be discouraged, I followed up with another seemingly promising lead and headed to La Minerva in the town of Pico Rivera just SE of LA.

    The most interesting thing about the CESJ I've tried out West is that the dish is served in a deep plate and not in a bowl even though it's a brothy soup. Why? I don't know. No place I'm aware of in Chicago serves it in this plated fashion unless you're talking about carne apache.

    The CESJ found here at La Minerva contains your usual chopped/sliced asada, crispy bacon (thicker cut), and pinto beans and differs from Chicago style in terms of lime being the only garnish offered (no avocado, radish, or chile de arbol) - a big disappointment. Both chopped and grilled onions were already added to the bowl. Also interesting was, upon order, the server asked how spicy I wanted the soup instead of being able to add and regulate its spiciness tableside yourself. The broth is definitely on the salty side and a tad muddy but there is little doubt that this is a fully homemade effort. Strangely, the dish was served with twice as many beans as found at your typical Chicago CESJ place.

    I liked this CESJ just fine. But eating a soup off a plate and not in a bowl makes it a completely different dish and is, frankly, a bit askew.

    La Minerva Restaurante
    9545 Telegraph Rd
    Pico Rivera, CA 90660
    (562) 949-8123
    Last edited by PIGMON on May 29th, 2014, 11:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #172 - May 29th, 2014, 10:39 am
    Post #172 - May 29th, 2014, 10:39 am Post #172 - May 29th, 2014, 10:39 am
    PIGMON, your reports have been great. The Asian stuff (especially the Ramen posts) have me ready for a trip to LA. It's always been interesting to me that despite their vaunted huge Mexican population and culture, the Mexican food I've tried in LA, going back some 40+ years now, never seems to stack up to what we routinely get in Chicago. They have some fine examples of specific dishes here and there, and there's decent tacos, etc. to be found, but the overall level of the cooking seems to be several notches higher here in Chicago, a fact that constantly amazes me and causes looks of disbelief among the Angelenos and Texans with whom I've shared that fact. Keep up the good work!
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #173 - May 29th, 2014, 11:56 am
    Post #173 - May 29th, 2014, 11:56 am Post #173 - May 29th, 2014, 11:56 am
    PIGMON wrote:LA is well known for their vast Mexican culinary offerings. But if you expect to find carne en su jugo there, a dish that can be readily found throughout Chicago, you're going to have to dig a bit. . . . The most interesting thing about the CESJ I've tried out West is that the dish is served in a deep plate and not in a bowl even though it's a brothy soup.

    If you use Yelp to find carne en su jugo near Los Angeles, you get dozens of hits, more than in Chicago, whatever that may mean (granted, many aren't in LA proper). Looking through the photos (I didn't have the patience to look at most), many places serve it in plates or shallow bowls but some use deep bowls.
  • Post #174 - May 31st, 2014, 4:40 pm
    Post #174 - May 31st, 2014, 4:40 pm Post #174 - May 31st, 2014, 4:40 pm
    Image

    Wexler’s Deli opened a stall in late April at the Grand Central Market and has been getting some serious praise for their in-house cured fish and smoked meats. I've heard from a few people here that their pastrami sandwich will hold its own against Langer's but I couldn't verify that as we opted instead for their sturgeon sandwich.

    The tasty homemade sesame bagel is inoffensively lighter in style than most traditional NY bagels yet still has an excellent tug/pull to it while the cream cheese is gracefully lighter than most other legitimate efforts and is also outstanding. Although the sturgeon was marginally less moist than optimal on this occasion, the overall sandwich is first-rate and absolutely worth seeking out...especially with its extremely reasonable pricetag of $8.50. The sturgeon sandwich at Barney Greengrass in Beverly Hills (the self-designated "Sturgeon King") runs $23.

    Wexler's Deli (Grand Central Market)
    317 Broadway (Stall D5)
    Los Angeles, CA 90013
    (213) 624-2378
  • Post #175 - May 31st, 2014, 7:05 pm
    Post #175 - May 31st, 2014, 7:05 pm Post #175 - May 31st, 2014, 7:05 pm
    Loving all of your reports Pigmon, and appreciate the Wexler's report. But . . . please return and report back on the pastrami. :wink: Looking forward to checking it out one day.
    I find the pastrami to be the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats. (Seinfeld)

    Twitter: brbinchicago
  • Post #176 - June 1st, 2014, 4:49 pm
    Post #176 - June 1st, 2014, 4:49 pm Post #176 - June 1st, 2014, 4:49 pm
    So today I learned that Barney Greengrass has a location in Beverly Hills. And some Yelping reveals that they offer a "grilled salmon and quinoa salad". Well, of course they do.
  • Post #177 - June 1st, 2014, 5:26 pm
    Post #177 - June 1st, 2014, 5:26 pm Post #177 - June 1st, 2014, 5:26 pm
    cilantro wrote:So today I learned that Barney Greengrass has a location in Beverly Hills. And some Yelping reveals that they offer a "grilled salmon and quinoa salad". Well, of course they do.

    LOL, I learned it yesterday when Pigmon posted above. Never knew.

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #178 - June 1st, 2014, 6:11 pm
    Post #178 - June 1st, 2014, 6:11 pm Post #178 - June 1st, 2014, 6:11 pm
    Wait, and it's in an actual Barney's???

    Or was? :?
  • Post #179 - June 2nd, 2014, 12:13 am
    Post #179 - June 2nd, 2014, 12:13 am Post #179 - June 2nd, 2014, 12:13 am
    Fairly recent Barney Greengrass in CA development.
  • Post #180 - June 10th, 2014, 12:37 pm
    Post #180 - June 10th, 2014, 12:37 pm Post #180 - June 10th, 2014, 12:37 pm
    Image

    When I first took a look at the menu while at Shamshiri Grill in Westwood, I noticed that they offered dishes called Lamb and Chicken Tahchin. But without much thought, I simply assumed that they were Persian renditions of something cooked in a North African tradition using a clay pot or Tajine and moved on. It wasn’t until later that “Old Eagle Eye” Rene G noticed these Tahchin dishes on their online menu after I raved to him about the unique and splendid meal I had there and was struck that this was something he’d never seen in Chicago.
    A Persian tahchin is a saffron-infused baked rice made with eggs and yogurt and is typically stuffed with chicken (Morgh) and is then usually topped with barberries, adding a lovely sweetness as well as tartness to the rice.

    I opted to try the chicken tahchin a few days later at the Farsi Café which is also located on Westwood Boulevard in South Westwood near UCLA and is commonly referred to as “Little Persia” or “Tehrangeles”.

    The dish is served as a large wedge of baked rice cut from a baking sheet and is easily big enough to feed two people. And though the internal chicken was a tad dried out, the overall dish was fantastic, having lovely savory and marginally sweet complimentary elements to it. I also found that eating the tahchin along with some masto mousir, a shallot and yogurt dip, was a really nice accompaniment to the dish.

    This dish was a highlight of my LA stay.

    Farsi Café
    1916 Westwood Blvd
    Los Angeles, CA 90025
    (310) 475-4500

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