Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Izayoi's Sashimi Orgy On A Plate

I SAID, "Eat me!"

Look what you get for 24 bucks at Little Tokyo's
Izayoi (f.k.a. Hollywood's Sushi Ryo): an artfully presented super FRESH-fest that includes toro (fatty tuna belly), hamachi (yellowtail), shiro maguro (albacore), sake (salmon), tai (red snapper), red salmon, conch, crab claw meat, ika (squid) and ama ebi (raw sweet shrimp).

I'm not totally sure yet, but I think I might like Izayoi's deluxe sashimi platter just a tad more than
Sushi Gen's. Whatever the case, it was absolute food euphoria--I mean, the eyes rolled to the back of the head and everything.

That's all I have to say.

132 S. Central Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 613-9554

Monday, August 29, 2005

I'm Ga Ga For Gumbo Ya Ya: The Gumbo Pot

Call us crazy but my friend and I drove out from NoHo to WeHo on a sweltering lunch hour (more like hour and a forty-five) to run an errand at the Grove and ended up ordering piping hot gumbo from The Gumbo Pot at The Farmer's Market. As if our body temperatures hadn't already risen past 120, we just had to. There's an obvious lack of good Cajun/Creole restaurants in the East Valley, and we had already made the trip out there, so why not?

I wish I liked their Po'Boys more, because they would have been more hot-weather friendly, but I've tried them before and was not at all impressed as they're dry and bland. So I was left with no choice but to order something out of one of those hot crocks: the Gumbo Ya Ya took the cake in spite of the heat. There's other stuff on their menu--fried or blackened seafood, crabcakes, jambalaya, red beans and rice, salads--some that I've tried and have liked, some that I've tried and have disliked, and some that I just haven't tried at all. They're just not my favorite.

There's been some
discussion on Chowhound lately as to the decline in their food's quality with a recent change in management, so I was a little wary after placing my order. And I had a lot of time to think about it, too, because my debit card had jammed their machine and the service was a bit slow. But when I finally got my food (I got it in a to-go bag by the way since I knew we wouldn't be able to finish the whole thing in the heat), I breathed a big sigh of relief *phew!* The gumbo was good as it's always been, thick and hearty, with good amounts of andouille sausage, chicken and shrimp, okra that's of the perfect bite, and just a nice scoop of rice at the bottom. The Ya Ya, as opposed to the "regular" gumbo is the spicier of the two, and though it did have a kick, I always thought that it could be just a teeny bit spicier. But oh well, this'll do just fine!

My side of vegetarian collard greens was out of this world. It's the first time I'd had them here since I usually get the green salad with pecans and definitely NEVER get the bland-as-hell creole mustard potato salad. The dark, leafy greens had the perfect amount of bitterness, sweetness and tartness to them. Perhaps it was the addition of tomatoes that made them so tasty; whatever it was, they were good and I could hardly believe that they were vegetarian, no ham hocks needed.

The corn muffin that came with the meal, however, was dry and crumbly. I just couldn't keep up with it, so I waited 'til I was almost done with the gumbo and used the corn muffin chunks to sop up the rest of the sauce! Keep in mind that this part of the meal was done back at the office in air conditioned comfort. My friend and I had taken a few bites of our gumbo back at The Farmer's Market and thought that we were gonna melt!

The Gumbo Pot at The Original Farmer's Market
6333 W. 3rd St. #312
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 933-0358

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Daily Gluttony Goes Nautical: An Evening On Board The Queen Mary

I am truly grateful to my dear friends M & H, not only for being such good friends, but for providing us one helluva time at their wedding reception on the Queen Mary last night.

Having ducked out of the post-ceremony church crowds early, we arrived about an hour and a half before the reception started. It was about 600 degrees outside, even in coastal Long Beach, so we quickly sought air conditioned shelter in the ship's Observation Bar which was once the ship's First Class Lounge. Back then, home to snobs dressed in ballgowns and feathers who'd have access to life rafts if the ship hit an iceberg. Nowadays, home to guys and gals in tank tops and short-shorts donning fanny packs, or older women wearing glittery Vegas mu-mu's.

We sipped a few slightly watered down vodka tonics to help the time pass.

Isaac had stopped off at a sketchy taco stand down the street from the church to get a bite to eat before the ceremony. The taco stand was run by Asians who spoke perfect Spanish. (Sorry, no pictures!) Anyways, the rest of us had not eaten anything and were starving. There was over an hour to go until dinner, so our friend grabbed a cup of snack mix from the bar. I've always been kinda scared of bar snack mixes, plus they were kinda stale, but it didn't stop us from munching.

Ahh, 6pm and the Queens Salon, the very posh art deco reception area, is finally open. Isn't it bee-yoo-ti-ful???

We ate fruit, cheese and crackers and crudite along with a variety of passed hors d'oeuvres with our pre-dinner drinks...

Our group of friends were strategically seated by the bride and groom at Table 5, a table kind of off in the corner and closest to the bar. Open bar was only on for another couple of minutes, so each one of us at Table 5 got up and grabbed a few drinks for the "table stash." We are high class.

Afraid that the beers would get warm, our friend got up and asked the ballroom host if we could please have a bucket of ice. The host asked why. Our friend told him that we needed to keep our beers cold, and the host gave our friend a dirty look. They brought one anyway.

We also had a stash of about 20 vodka tonics at the table that we sipped all night long. Mmm, watered down vodka...

These are the balls of butter that came on the table. I passed them to a friend and his partner who were sitting next to me. "Balls?" I asked. "Why yes, thank you," they answered.

Now for the relevant stuff. We were served a romaine hearts, bacon, red cabbage and croutons. The romaine hearts were cool and crispy but the bacon was obviously Bac-O's and the croutons were stale. I simply swept that stuff to the side and ate the romaine hearts and red cabbage.

Dinner was chicken breast, rice pilaf and asparagus. A little generic upon first glance, yes, but I was pleasantly surprised that the chicken was so juicy for a mass produced meal for 200 people. Paired with some mushroom reduction sauce, a pile of buttery rice pilaf and a few stalks of tender asparagus, it made for quite a satisfying meal.

The lovely and lightly luscious cake, sexily adorned with dark red roses, was from Chinatown's
Phoenix Bakery. I definitely have more of a liking towards "Chinatown Cakes" (as I used to call them growing up) now that I'm older because they're not sickeningly sweet--they're made of fresh fruit (strawberries in this case) and cool whipped cream amidst layers of light-as-air sponge cake. This stuff doesn't make your cavities hurt.

And of course no Asian wedding is complete without Remy. Which I never understood. It tastes like rubbing alcohol.

Though our hosts had fed us quite well, Isaac and I still needed something to soak up all the watered down vodka in our systems. We made the trek back downtown and stopped for izakaya at
Haru Ulala, open extra late (3am!) on the weekends. A perfect end to a perfect evening!

Friday, August 26, 2005

That's Some Pig--Kobawoo House

Many thanks to a reader who sent me an email the other day whose subject line read "holy crap you are a piggie" and whose message read "OINK OINK OINK OINK OINK OINK."

"How mean!" the rest of you might be saying. Not at all. See, not only did this email make me laugh my ass off, but it also reminded me of one my favorite
Flintsones episodes. Remember the one where Fred was forced to join Food Anonymous (F.A.) because of his laughable appearance as the Before guy in the Fat Off weight loss commercial? There was this little guy who followed Fred around town and everytime he tried to eat, the little bugger would somehow yank his pteradactyl drumstick or bronto-burger away from him (via a fishing pole or an arrow tied to a string or what have you) and then yell "Oink Oink Oink Oink Oink!!!!" Classic.

So to my reader, for the chuckles and the nice trip down memory lane, this one's for you!

After a rough week, four or my friends and I decided to go make pigs of ourselves the other day over at Koreatown's Kobawoo House. I was about to flake because I had given myself a sugar- and caffiene-induced headache when I slurped down a Thai Iced Coffee earlier in the afternoon, but I left work early so that I could go home and take a nap, get rid of my headache and still make it to the night's glutton fest. I felt better, so I got ready, and in an almost comatose state, made like a sloth towards K-town.

I finally arrived and the other swine were already waiting for me at our feed stall (a.k.a. table) located in the back of this crowded eatery. We caught up with each other, oinking away about our lives for a litle bit, then we put our order in for our nightly feed. Our panchan arrived shortly thereafter: baechu (napa cabbage) kimchi, some type of soft sliced radish, cold marinated cucumber, and shredded pickled daikon (sorry, don't know the names of all of them!). Though not too impressed with the sliced radish, our other panchan was tasty, the baechu kimchi being especially impressive--a good balance of spiciness, saltiness, sweetness, crunchiness and softness. But wait...only one, two, three..only FOUR plates of panchan??? What happened to the close-to-ten they give you at other places? We're pigs dammit, and we want QUANTITY.

Not enough for gluttons, but good: Kobawoo's panchan

In order to satisfy our craving for gnawing at, chewing up, and ripping through meat, we ordered a portion of kalbi, or short ribs. Although Kobawoo's not a Korean barbeque-type restaurant, there's still a good selection of grilled meats available, but the lack of quality in their barbecue item shows. Our kalbi was a bit on the dry side, perhaps from lack of tenderization from a proper marinade. We ate the whole thing regardless. Oink oink.

Not so oink-worthy kalbi

The restaurant's hae mul pa jeon, or seafood pancake, was of much better quality. Thick and fluffy, chock full of scallions and seafood like squid, oyster, krab, and shrimp, grilled to a nice golden brown, we'd take a chunk of hae mul pa jeon, dip it into the lip smacking ponzu-like dipping sauce, and then shove the sauce-laden chunk into our hungry mouths. We repeated the process over and over--tear off a piece, dip, eat, and so on and so forth--chewing and snorting away, until the 12" diameter pancake was finished.

Golden brown and oink-worthy hae mul pa jeon

Aaah, nothing beats the feeling of mixing different kinds of food up into a virtual feed, and nothing could be more perfect than the different vegetables and ingredients of a sizzling dol sot bibim bap mixed up into a flavorful medley. We squirted some gochujang, red pepper paste, onto the ingredients in the big stone bowl, or "trough" in this case, and watched as the gochujang, rice, grilled egg, shredded toasted nori, bits of grilled beef, shreds of seasoned zucchini, carrots, and bean sprouts, and garlicky spinach became a unified, heavenly mass of tasty goodness. Our snouts took in the wonderful smoky aroma of garlic, sesame and red pepper. A generous scoop of the spicy, texturally-appealing rice mixture was rationed for each one of us, and we tore through it like hogs tearing though slop at feeding time.

Perfect trough food: dol sot bibim bap

The highlight of the evening--the piece du resistance--however, was none other than a PORK dish, daeji bo sam, that the restaurant is well known for. A dish that for some reason, perhaps because of a mix up in the kitchen or because of a short staff that evening, we waited for long after getting our other three dishes. We squealed and squealed, grunting and growling, that our favorite dish had not arrived yet. One of my fellow swine resorted to squealing to the waiter in Korean and the waiter whined something back that none of the rest of us swine could understand, but next thing you know, our pork nirvana was on the table. We slobbered at the platter arranged artfully with tender slices of pork belly, crisp napa cabbage leaves, crunchy thin rounds of pickled daikon , spicy radish and a scoop of a salty shrimp paste for a second and then dug in. The napa cabbage or daikon rounds are used to wrap up the slices of pork that you can top with the spicy radish and dot with a little bit of the shrimp paste if you so desire. Biting into the porky little bundle, you get a little crunchy, a little garlicky, a little salty, and a little tender--we were eating our own kind, but it was well worth it.

Wins the trophy for oink-worthyness: daeji bosam

So this little piggy left happy and cried "Wee, wee, wee"--all the way home.

Kobawoo House
698 S. Vermont Ave., ste 109
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 389-7300

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

T.J.'s Taste Test, Part 7 of Many: Traditional Tiramisu

Trader Joe's wins the Daily Gluttony award for Best Prepackaged Foods In Reusable Packages.

I've already given props to their frozen
Cremes Brulees that come in a handy terra cotta ramekin you can reuse as a petri dish and their Dolmas in Olive Oil that come in a cool hexagonal jar you can reuse as a candle votive.

Packaged in a brown plastic container that's a cheaper, smaller version of a 70's casserole dish, Trader Joe's Traditional Tiramisu easily joins these ranks. Okay, so the container's a little flimsy, but it's got this neat-o lid with a handle that even snaps in place!

Advantage No. 1: It keeps the thaw-and-eat tiramisu inside moist while it's sitting in the fridge waiting for you to finish it. And it shouldn't be long before you finish it either, because for frozen tiramisu, it's not bad. A couple of layers of marscapone cheese amidst the espresso and marsala soaked sponge cake are cool and creamy. And surprisingly, its espresso and liqueur flavors do come through, though mildly. Trader Joes also added an artistic touch: this quick and easy dessert is topped with cocoa-powdered peaks, resembling little brown mountain tops in your new plastic container!

Advantage No. 2: Finish your tiramisu (and hopefully you liked it!), and you've got yourself a new plastic container, complete with lid, for storing whatever your little heart desires! A word of advice though: I wouldn't recommend putting it in the dishwasher or microwave.

It's not that cheap at about 6 bucks, but considering the gift with purchase, it gets my thumbs up. The only disadvantage: because you have to let it thaw, you can't eat it right when you get home!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Anyone For Chicken Balls?

Check these out.

After noticing that my home-brought romaine, red cabbage and gorgonzola salad was just not gonna cut it, I picked these up at my latest favorite snack shop,
Bhan Kanom Thai, to add some substance to my lunch.

According to the sign, they were simply called "Chicken Stuffed Tapioca Balls." Looking like little shiny eggs on a bed of lettuce in their plastic container, a pack of 7 of these little buggers set me back 2 and change.

Back at the office, I got ready to dig in. They have this white pearlescent "skin" with a slightly granular texture, a little reminiscent of rice paper wrappers on the Vietnamese spring rolls, goi cuon. I poked and prodded at one, then picked it up and squished it around in my fingers a little, and came to the conclusion that it feels kinda like a miniature version of a...well, never mind.

These "chicken balls" are fantastic though. Stuffed with a mixture of seasoned ground chicken, peanuts, minced radish and garlic, the little morsels are full of flavor and are just enough food to make the perfect snack! You can also use the green leaf lettuce, cilantro (phooey!), and green chiles that come in the package if you want. It even comes with a little cup of finely ground peanut and radish for dipping in case you need more flavor.

A bit of an odd compliment to a romaine, red cabbage and gorgonzola salad, these "chicken balls," but I liked 'em!

Bhan Kanom Thai
12714 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA 91605
(818) 255-3355

Monday, August 22, 2005

Be Rachael Ray For A Day: $40 A Day Goes To L.A!

If there's one thing my family and I bond over it's the Food Network. We'll sit in front of the TV and critique the shows, praising the food that looks delicious or chefs that have smart things to say and rag on the ones that are that are annoying or full of themselves. Though it's only entertainment, we're a tough crowd; my parents are the most difficult of the bunch to please because they tend to judge everything from the older generation Chinese perspective. Their comments are usually something to the effect of: "They throw away all the broccoli stalks? What a waste!" or "She doesn't chop fast enough. I can chop that faster with my cleaver."

So when I found out that the theme of
Sarah's monthly Dine and Dish was to Be Rachael Ray For A Day, a theme so cleverly conjured up by this month's guest host, Sam, of Becks and Posh, I couldn't help but remember something my parents once shouted at the TV when we were watching $40 A Day. "$40 is a lot of money for one person! They think that's cheap???"

Over the last few days I brainstormed ideas as to how I could get myself to get into character for my big day. I made sure I called extra virgin olive oil "EVOO." I made sure I had a garbage bowl at my side in the kitchen. I practiced my "Mmmms" and "Yums" and giggles and eye rolls.
I started undertipping and underpaying at restaurants. I even started wearing my shirts tucked into my waist-high jeans. (Just kidding!)

But in remembering what Mom and Dad said about $40 a Day, I decided to do a little self improvement and see what $40 could do on a lovely Los Angeles day not for one person, but for two! Mom and Dad are right, Rachael Ray could use some cutting back--money doesn't grow on trees, you know. That coupled with the fact that I am too chicken shit to eat out by myself like Rachael does anyways. So I grabbed my trusty fiancee Isaac and with 40 bucks in hand, we set out to prove just how easy it is to feed the two of us all day without having to resort to drive-thru's.

(Money, money, mon-ay...)

Our first stop: Breakfast at Gilbert's El Indio, Santa Monica.

Being in Los Angeles, we're lucky to have so much cultural diversity around us. Having practically every type of cuisine under one smog-covered roof, we would not have bacon and eggs or a blueberry muffin and coffee this morning; instead, we would do breakfast the Mexican way.

Gilbert's is a small, divey joint next to a car wash on Santa Monica's Pico Blvd. Its decor looks like a truck carrying Mexican tchotchkes and a truck carrying a shitload of cheesy family photos from the 80's collided and things flew everywhere. But weekend mornings are lively, with lots of local families having breakfast to the sounds of ranchero and mariachi music blasting from the jukebox.

Gilbert's Kitschy Interior

Though Gilbert's has a regular menu, we always go for the breakfast menu if it's anytime before 2pm. Five dollars and eighty cents (used to be under four bucks a few years ago!) lets you choose from a list of about ten breakfast specials, ranging from authentic Mexican: huevos con chorizo, chilaquiles, menudo, to more Americanized: bacon and eggs w/ hash browns or breakfast burritos. Plus you get rice and beans, warm tortillas, homemade chips and salsa, spicy marinated carrots, and a choice of iced tea or coffee. The huevos con chorizo Isaac ordered were near perfect in my book--more on the dry side, but moistened and flavored with that spicy chorizo oil. The rice and beans were fluffy and salted well. De-LISH!


Huevos con chorizo

Oh, by the way, Isaac ordered a coke, which I yelled at him for, saying that he was going to put us over 40 bucks with crap like that! He said he didn't care.

Now since I'm being Rachael Ray, there's no doubt that I drank too much last night, so I went for the infamous Mexican hangover remedy, menudo. Here, tripe and other cow parts are bathed in a spicy red broth with hominy, onions and peppers; condiments such as diced raw onion, dried chiles, oregano and lemon are added to taste. The heat of the broth helped me sweat the alcohol out of my system and forget that I was such a lush last night. I loved the chewy texture of the honeycomb tripe, though I saved my favorite part of the dish for last...I sucked the pata, part of the cow's hoof, dry: its tendons fell easily off the bone to become gelatinous goodness in my mouth. YUMM-O!

This will cure your hangover fast

The total for our breakfast?

Huevos Con Chorizo $5.80
Menudo $5.80
Coke $1.70
Tax $1.10
Tip $3.60 (see, Rachael can leave tips for great service!)
TOTAL $18.00
Dollars Remaining $22.00

We had a great start to the day, but with only twenty two dollars remaining, will both of us get to eat, or will one of us starve?

(Money, money, mon-ay...)

Our second stop: Lunch from Lee's Sandwiches, Alhambra

Like I said before, there are so many ethnic cuisines to explore in Los Angeles, and there's certainly no shortage of Vietnamese food here in the southland. Lee's specializes in the bahn mi, a Vietnamese style hoagie filled with a choice of meats, usually Vietnamese cold cuts or maybe grilled pork or chicken, and topped with pickled daikon and carrots, cucumber, jalapenos and cilantro. Their small, bright shop located on a busy strip of Valley Blvd, always seems to be packed, but the folks at Lee's work with factory-like efficiency--order a sandwich and it'll be ready within 3 minutes. They also bake their own baguettes, make a variety of French-Vietnamese appetizers and desserts, and can make you an iced coffee or smoothie drink if you so wish.

Lee's Sandwiches: fast food but not really

Since Lee's doesn't really have seating except for a couple of small tables outside which were already occupied, we had to take our sandwiches to go, which fortunately for us, saved us a few bucks in tipping! (Now that's more Rachael style!)

Order a Vietnamese-style sandwich at Lee's like I did and the most you'll pay is $2.20. Order a European sandwich like a baguette or a croissant like Isaac did because he didn't feel like a bahn mi today, and you'll pay up to $3.75. Despite my nagging that he's gonna ruin our game if he keeps his expensive habits up, he enjoyed his 10" turkey and cheese baguette, filled with a good amount of deli-style turkey, cheese, and tomato. The best part, however, was the bread, which was crusty on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. Lee's European sandwiches come sliced in half, held together with one of those fancy frilly toothpicks in a clear take out container; red onions, pickle spears, lettuce and a packet of mustard sit on the side. I think it's the packaging that makes it so much more expensive, but funny enough, their European style sandwiches rival those at "regular" Western delis, and at $3 and change, they're still a bargain.

This cost a whole dollar more!

My bahn mi dac biet (Special Combination) sandwich, however, did not come in a box although it was of the same size as Isaac's turkey baguette. Instead, my sandwich came as all bahn mi sanwiches should be: wrapped in paper that's held together by a rubber band. I'd always procrastinated at going to Lee's for the first time, always choosing the independently owned bahn mi shops over this massive chain, but I'm glad we finally tried it. The cold cuts in my bahn mi dac biet--head cheese, ham, liver pate--were of a quality that blew me away. The sliced meats, particularly the headcheese, were snappy, and of the perfect saltiness. The pate had that certain pate smoothness and funkiness that went perfectly with Lee's freshly baked baguettes. And the pickled daikon, carrots, cucumber and jalapenos added some refreshing yet pungent flavors to round the sandwich out. mmm-MMM!

This cost a whole dollar less!

So how much did our lunch cost us?

Bahn Mi Dac Biet $2.20
Turkey and Cheese Baguette $3.20
Tax $0.45
TOTAL $5.85
Dollars Remaining $16.15

It might be kind of a stretch to have dinner for two with only $16.15. Did our Vietnamese sandwich lunch help us, or will it put us over budget? Find out after this...

(Money, money, mon-ay...)

Our third stop: Dinner at Sam Woo BBQ, Los Angeles Chinatown.

A Cantonese greasy spoon is the best way I can describe this branch of the popular Southern California Sam Woo chain. There's a BBQ shop out front where you can buy roast duck or BBQ pork by the pound, or you can eat in like we chose to do. Sam Woo's menu is extensive, with the usual categories--soups, noodles, rice dishes, fowl, beef and pork, seafood. There are fancier dishes you can get like clams with black bean sauce or salt and pepper shrimp (with the heads and tails on!), but with only $16.15, we thought we'd better keep it simple, which is actually how we like it anyways. The two dishes we got, a bowl of rice noodles and won tons in soup and a plate of rock cod and bok choy over rice, are the "greasy spoon" versions of some of the simple meals my parents cook at home.

Sam Woo's rice plates abound with food, and the rock cod with bok choy over rice is no exception. Sitting atop a pile of white rice (literally!) are rock cod fillets, stir fried with crisp and refreshing bok choy in a gravy like sauce. True, the sauce sometimes gets a little thick on these dishes (as is the case with many Cantonese restaurants) but Sam Woo's version is nevertheless tasty, perfect for sopping up with all that rice! There was so much food here that we only ate half.

Rock cod & bok choy with rice

Our won ton noodles are typically made with egg noodles, but tonight we felt like the more slippery bite of the wide rice noodles, so we opted for those instead. The soup is strong with shrimp flavor, and the won tons, containing plump ground shrimp and pork flavored well with white pepper, have an almost crunchy texture. The crispness of a few stalks of napa cabbage are the perfect textural compliment to all the other wonderful things in this dish. Uh-huh, yum-MY!

Won ton noodles in soup

Oh and drinks? We opted for a pot of tea, so they were free!

Now let's see if the $16.15 was enough for dinner...

Won Ton Noodles in Soup $4.25
Rock Cod with Bok Choy over rice $5.50
Tax $0.80
Tip $2.00
TOTAL $12.55
Dollars left: $3.60

Wow! We did it...only $36.40 for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the two of us...no golden arches or drive thru's needed! Living in Los Angeles, we have so many options available to us, so getting cheap, quality food is a cinch. And with leftovers??? Mom and Dad are going to be proud!
(Money, money, mo-nay...)

Gilbert's El Indio
2526 Pico Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 450-8057

Lee's Sandwiches
1289 E. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 282-5589

Sam Woo BBQ
727 N. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 687-3763

Friday, August 19, 2005

For A Good Time...Search Chowhound!

Some guy named "Same Dude" put a post on Chowhound's Los Angeles Board today asking if anyone knew where he could get some tricks after his meal. Pretty funny thread that got a slew of responses ranging from the appalled to those egging him on to those wondering where on earth the Chowhound moderators were. Here's what the original post said:

"i'm new in town and love to eat good food. i will be dining in the hollywood area and am looking for a prostitute after a good meal to unwind. looks/race not an issue. Can anyone help."

He's prolly just some jerk looking to get a rise out of people, but what I think is even funnier is that it's been a good hour and the infamous Chowhound moderators haven't deleted this thread yet. Yesterday, I put up a couple of links to this blog in a post to try and help out a fellow hound with izakaya options and my post was deleted within like 30 minutes. I think that "Same Dude" is a Chowhound moderator.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Come Aboard The Totally Tubular Express: Krua Thai

Like, this is not the Galleria

Next stop on the North Hollywood
Sherman Way Chow Train: Krua Thai. All aboard!

Once again, my friends and I chuga-chuga-chuga-chuga-choo-choo'd down Sherman Way in search of some tasty, cheap eats. Our destination is a popular one: its dishes have gotten praise on Chowhound and even more impressive, it's been named one of
Jonathan Gold's 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants in a recent issue of the LA Weekly.

Krua Thai's interior reminds me a little of a mall food court in the 80's: clean, formica'd surfaces, neon lighting, rows of neatly lined up tables, geometric chic logoed plates. Only there were no people donning mullets, skin tight waist high jeans or leg-warmers carrying Contempo Casuals or Merry-Go-Round shopping bags. Yeah, that would have sent me on a time warp in a totally tubular way, but we were safe and sound in our own world--just regular folk slurping noodles and enjoying their Thai lunches. (Though I think I may have spotted a few mullets and tight jeans--this is North Hollywood after all.)

The restaurant serves two kinds of Pad Thai: the regular kind, which is simply called Pad Thai on the menu, and a special kind, the Pad Thai Krua Thai, described as "The Real Deal...The very spicy version all Thai love!" Without a second thought, we opted for the Real Deal. Because it was different than any pad thai I've ever had, it took me a little bit to decide if I liked it. Upon first bite, the first things I noticed were the intensified tamarind-y tartness and the funkiness of chewy dried shrimp. But mouthful after mouthful, the plate of noodles, bean sprouts, egg, chicken, shrimp, fried tofu and scallions got tastier as well as spicier. It was a tad on the saucy side, so I ended up liking it alot rather than loving it.

Uniquely Krua Thai Pad Thai

Having loved the Chinese broccoli with crispy pork so much at
Swan Thai down the street, we decided to give Krua Thai's version a whirl. We were hoping for the same eyes-roll-to-the-back-of-the-head-I-don't-care-if-I-get-fat-from-eating-so-much-pork-fat effect as Swan's, but it didn't quite live up to the standards. Don't get me wrong; it was good still, but the pork chunks had a little too much stringy meat on 'em and the way the garlic-fish sauce-bitter greens-fried pork melded together wasn't quite as euphoric.

It had some big shoes to fill and couldn't quite do it

The definite hits of the afternoon, though, were Krua Thai's fried shrimp cakes and their pad kee mao noodles. For $6.75 you can order 3 shrimp cakes, and for only $1.75 more, you get four (that's a savings of $0.50 when you order four!) Since we were four very practical people, we took advantage of our savings and ordered the four. The shrimp cakes were fried to such crispy perfection that they almost sizzled when biting in to the patty of ground, juicy shrimp. Dipped in the accompanying sweet and sour sauce, they were even better.

Perhaps this is what Spongebob's Krabby Patties would be like, but these are shrimp

Not so much in looks but in flavoring and texture, our order of pad kee mao noodles was downright sexy. I don't know if one can describe a plate of Thai noodles as sexy, but I don't think there's any other way that can describe the way these pad kee mao noodles seduced the senses. Its wide rice noodles were bouncy and smooth as silk, fried to perfection with sweet Thai basil, salty bits of ground chicken, and green chiles. Its spiciness and heat didn't come up and slap you silly, but instead crept up slowly and subtley, actually intensifying the other flavors, making for pure pleasure.

Spicy and sexy pad kee mao noodles

An essential L.A. restaurant? Maybe. But I'll have to hop on and off this chow train a few more times before I can decide. In the meantime, Krua Thai's open long and late hours every day--11 am 'til 3:30 am--which gives me plenty of time to try the millions of other things on the menu. Not that I'm ever in North Hollywood at 3:30 am.

Krua Thai
13130 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA
(818) 759-7998

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Question Marks And Happy Faces: Sushi Go 55

If the world were a comic strip, you'd be able to see the little question mark that floated over my head as I decided on, traveled to, and finally entered Sushi Go 55 in Little Tokyo's Mitsuwa Shopping Center. I didn't really have a huge reason to have that annoying question mark following me around. After all, it is owned by the same people as one of my favorite haunts as of late, Izakaya Haru Ulala. Maybe it's because I'm just too much of a follower, and the fact that there were mixed reviews on Chowhound made that question mark linger like an annoying fly no matter how hard I tried to swat it away. I think the biggest factor for all my iffy-ness, though, came from the fact that my sushi was going to come from a place located in the Mitsuwa Shopping Center, a virtual ghost town of a shopping center. It might be busier during weekday lunch hours, but I wouldn't know. I never see the lunch crowds that probably fill up this three story mall with what seems like less than a fifty percent occupancy rate. What Pam sees are the weekend Mitsuwa shoppers that pretty much stay on the first floor of the mall to shop the market, maybe to go to the Yuki dollar store or to the Mikayawa sweet shop, and never even reaching the desolate second and third floors.

Hence the question marks, which were soon accompanied by a series of those bubbly cartoon clouds that if you could read my mind, would say "Who goes here??? Does anyone go here???" "How fresh is this fish gonna be???"

As we walked in to the clean space on the so-quiet-you-can-hear-a-pin-drop third floor of the Mitsuwa Shopping Center, my head was abuzz with question marks and cartoon clouds. "There's only two other people here. They can't possibly turn their goods that fast." "I hope this is gonna be good." "This BETTER be good." But I kept my thoughts to myself since this was a nice dinner date for me and Isaac and since the restaurant's host greeted us with such friendliness. And at least we didn't have to wait. We were seated immediately at the beautiful-hunk-of-blond-wood sushi bar and greeted by our sushi chef, an short older man with a smile that crossed from ear to ear. As we decided on our fish, rectangular platters of wasabi and ginger were placed in front of us which was followed by an amuse bouche of delicious marinated octopus salad. We hadn't tried the fish yet, but the atmosphere was extremely pleasant so far...the question marks were starting to fade slowly.

Marinated Octopus Salad

We requested orders of various nigiri sushi one by one from our smiling friend: albacore, yellowtail, bonito, tuna, to name a few. A statement on the restaurant's website certainly holds true: "Our cuts are thicker than most sushi bars." A question mark, combined with an exclamation mark floated over my head as our chef plopped the first pieces of nigiri on our plates. There they were, long slices of glistening fish draped over smallish pieces of rice like a petite girl donning one of those long shawls. The iffy-ness came back: this fish couldn't possibly be as fresh and tender as the more delicate cuts I'm used to! But I was wrong, and the question mark once again faded, replaced by a smiley-face with an exclamation mark. OK, so I still think that
Sushi Gen and Izayoi are a teeny cut above, but the goods here ranked high on the quality and freshness scale. Our teeth seemed to melt away the fish before biting into the small, tender mound of vinegar rice.


A muy bonito bonito

A giant caterpillar, or tuna nigiri?

Tender to the core albacore

I couldn't help it; I had a big bottle of Kirin in front of me, and though the sushi was doing the job, I needed some oysters to help wash the beer down! Why? 'Cause there ain't no better combination than fried oysters and beer! Sushi Go 55 uses plump, juicy hama hama oysters breaded in panko and fried to a light golden brown. A tiny mesclun salad with ginger soy vinaigrette sits off to the side, looking and tasting pretty. More smiley faces.

Frahd Ahw-Sters

We gave many thanks to the staff, our sushi chef (damn, I didn't get the fellow's name!), the host whose family just happens to own the Sushi Go 55/ Haru Ulala empire. "Oh, so you're related to the lady who works at Haru Ulala?" we asked. "Yeah, that's my mom," he replied. "Awesome--we love her!" He was extremely gracious as well as proud of his family's achievements, explaining that his family opened the second sushi bar in the U.S. back in the 60's and that they'd recently been given awards and recognition for achievement in sushi! With the extremely pleasant expereinces we've had at both their restaurants recently, I can tell that the Morishitas are just wonderful people.

The question marks are back though. As well as the cartoon clouds. I'm wondering, "How the hell is this place being so quiet and all able to serve such fresh fish???" I guess I'll just have to let it go for now. But the smiley faces? Those are staying! =)

Sushi Go 55
333 S. Alameda St. #317
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 687-8474

Monday, August 15, 2005

Gay Paris, Ce N'est Pas: La Creperie Cafe, Long Beach

(Whatchu smiling at, asshole?)

Someone please explain something to me.

What is the appeal of spending a weekend morning waiting an excruciating amount of time for a table at brunch?

I have rules for a pleasant Sunday afternoon which are simply to relax, unwind and spend quality time with friends and loved ones. After all, it's back to the stressful grind the day after, right? So there are certain things I try to keep in mind in achieving Sunday satisfaction.

1. Avoid crowds and long waits.

Seeing the huge crowd outside of La Creperie Cafe in Long Beach's Belmont Shores area, I would have normally turned around and walked away. But Isaac and I had already made brunch plans with a friend, so we decided to stick it out. Our friend had tried making reservations earlier but found out that they don't take them. Yeah, of course they don't. They want a crowd of people outside to show passers-by, "Hey! Look how popular we are! We know you wanna do what everyone else is doing and eat here too!" I think I was in denial when I approached the sorority-girl looking hostess at the podium thinking that maybe the wait would only be 10 or 15 minutes; nope, 30-45 she said. Then sorority girl hostess wrote only our party size down without my name when she was sidetracked by other conversations. I stared at her but she didn't notice. I kept staring. Finally she made eye contact. "Uh, are you ever gonna write my NAME down?" I asked her. "Oh, hee hee, yeah, uh...whats yer name?" OK, this is going to be fun.

Tick-tock, tick-tock, 30 minutes passed....
...then 45 minutes passed...

By this time, the three of us were starving. The friendly, happy conversation that took place in the first 20 or so minutes of waiting had turned into silence, watching everyone that came in and out of the restaurant like a hawk, the only words coming out of our mouths being, "Oh my God!!!! How much longerrrrrr????" or "I'm soooooo hungry." The funny thing was that as we were about to faint on the sidewalk, other parties that were waiting for tables who had been there just as long as we had seemed to be chatting away, laughing it up, having a great time letting their Sunday afternoon waste away standing outside a restaurant. Why???

It was about to be an hour and there was still one party of three ahead of us. Couples were whizzing by us as it seems the restaurant has an excess of tables for two, and as luck would have it, no adjacent tables seemed to have become available at the same time, making it impossible for them to push two together. Determined to find out what the story was, I walked into the restaurant and cased the joint, walking by all the people dining, determining if they had just started eating or if there was a check on the table. I'd look at the people, then down at the table, then back at the people. Seems like a lot of them were certainly done eating; they just weren't leaving and continued to talk and laugh and enjoy each other's company. Fucked up for us, but do I blame them? They'd probably waited over an hour for a table too!

Finally my name was called after what? An hour and ten? The food had BETTER be good.

It was decent. But not mindblowing by any means. And definitely NOWHERE NEAR worth the hour-plus wait. Or the lame service we got. Which brings me to the #2 thing to keep in mind to fully enjoy your Sunday afternoon...

2. Avoid stupid people.

We were seated near the back of the Parisian muraled dining room in a booth that was covered with crushed dark blue velvet. She came and took our order, our Sorority girl #2. My friend ordered mimosas for us then ordered her crepe. Isaac ordered the chili omelette. "Oh, we don't have chili today." Ooooh-kay. So he picked another omelette. She proceeded to walk away. "Uh, excuse me. You never took my order," I yelled...

She turned around. "Oops, duh!" *giggling* "I'm sorry, what would you like to order?"

Our mimosas couldn't have come soon enough. Made with fresh O.J. and who knows what kind of champagne, they were good, and helped to take the edge off for maybe a minute or two.

Some much needed mimosas

But then our orders came and the edge came right back. I looked at my crepe which was supposed to contain chicken and artichokes and instead got something that had bell peppers and sausages in it. My friend and Isaac could have started eating their plates...IF there were silverware on the table. Sorority Girl #2 came back to the table. "Is something wrong?" she asked, looking at us as if we were the crazy ones. Already irritable and hungry, I wanted to say, "Yeah, your face," but I held back.

While I waited for my replacement crepe, I snacked on our basket of garlic fries which were tasty but seemed like they'd be sitting under a heat lamp for a little too long. I took bites of my friend's Le Salmon crepe with fresh and smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers and a lemon dill sauce. Its wheat flour based crepe was a little more doughy than I'd liked it to be, but it tasted good. Well it's the least they could do, right?

Salmon omelette

My French Riviera crepe arrived soon after and I immediately tore in, tired of snacking on garlic fries. It tasted OK, but was a little generic in its use of pre-made chicken breast. I couldn't decide if I was crazy about the cherry-basil cream sauce...was the cherry flavoring really necessary? Probably not.

My corrected crepe. Duh.

"Hmm, this is a pretty good veggie omelette," I thought, as I picked at his omelette while waiting for my crepe to be re-made. "But that's odd of him to go from chili to veg..."

Wrong omelette

I noticed that he started moving his fork more feverishly through the omelette. "I didn't order this! There's no HAM in this!"

Sorority Girl #2 was back at our table. Again. Which brings me to the #3 thing to note...

3. Avoid stupid people that try and make you look stupid.

Minutes later,
Jon Favreau looking manager guy comes to the table. "Is something wrong with the food?" We explained to him that this was the second order that they'd screwed up on. Turns out that Isaac actually got two of the omelette names mixed up. Jon Favreau manager guy agreed to fix the order for him, but made it a point to point his error out. Oh yeah, guy, like we're the stupid ones. Fucker.

The right omelette

As Isaac scarfed down his new omelette, this time containing the correct but average tasting blend of ham, onions, and potatoes, my friend and I did something risky and ordered more food. We hoped that some sugar--chocolate in particular--would help lift the spirits as it does with PMS. And trust me, this situation was starting to rival that time of the month. This time, fortunately, our Latin Lovers crepe of Nutella and banana arrived without a hitch and WITH silverware. I do have high standards on dessert crepes as I tend to compare everything to this heavenly Nutella and banana crepe I ate a few years ago in Paris's Latin Quarter. La Creperie Cafe's version didn't even compare, but it was quite yummy still, despite the beef I had with the crepe part not being quite delicate enough.

Even Nutella couldn't save this place

I broke all my rules, which with the exception of having a great time just being with Isaac and my friend, ended up ruining my Sunday afternoon. I certainly hope that this was an off day for them at La Creperie, but I don't think I'll ever go back to find out. Don't take my word for it though. If this is the way you like to spend your Sundays with your friends and loved ones--almost three hours combined of waiting and jacked up service from not too intelligent people--then this is the place for you!

La Creperie Cafe
4911 E. 2nd St. (BTW, they moved and have not updated their website with the new address)
Long Beach, CA 90803
(562) 434-8499