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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Really Good Hippie Food

Typical hippie cuisine is heavy on bulgur and low on flavor. The guiding principals seem to be ethical rather than aesthetic, and the result tends to be a sort of vegan, organic, fair-trade plate of barely-edible crap.

Not so with Feel Real Caf

At Falai, Eye-Opening Profiteroles for Profiterole Skeptics

Those unmoved by profiteroles–and it takes all kinds–find them too often messy and cloyingly sweet. If that’s you, try the ones at Falai. “What a revelation!” swoons hardcore. “Small, simple, beautiful balance and textures…just incredible.”

Falai [Lower East Side]
68 Clinton St., between Stanton and Rivington, Manhattan

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profiteroles at falai!

Yakitori – Breaking It Down

Before we get to yakitori, a brief etymology lesson, grace of cls:

teppan–iron plate

So we have yakiniku, yakitori, teppanyaki, and so on. But even though yakitori means grilled bird, it’s not just chicken–the term is used in general for charcoal grilling using skewers.

If you’re looking for strict yakitori, Kokekkoko is the place to go. Salted or with a sweet soy sauce, their chicken is fab–meatballs, liver, crispy skin, every last piece of the bird. Don’t miss the seasoned ground chicken appetizer. This place can hang with the best of Tokyo, swears ronnie_gaucho, who recommends calling for a reservation to get the VIP course.

But Torimatsu, a low-profile spot that’s part of a Japanese chain, is better, contends rameniac. It’s certainly a bit more refined. Go for dinner rather than lunch, because then everything is made to order.

Japanese salarymen flock to Shinsengumi, another chain whose branches have various specialties (ramen is also a fave), the Gardena and Fountain Valley branches have kick-ass yakitori.

Yakitori-ya also does justice to its name, with everything chicken and some duck bits, too. It’s not as affordable as it used to be, notes yinyangdi, but it’s worth every penny.

There’s more than yakitori at Sakura House, but you’d do well ordering anything grilled there, says goodetime, who worked there for years and still prefers it to the competition. The bar is a great place to sit and order skewers–it seats about 15, and there are 10 tables. Tomato-maki skewers and enoki-maki skewers are delicious, says Bon Vivant. One order equals one skewer (some restaurants do two), and costs about $2.50-4.25 per skewer.

Nanbankan, too, does more than yakitori–we’re probably talking more like kushiyaki here. You’ll see entire Japanese families here, four generations chowing down happily on their grilled meat. What more can we say?

Kokekokko [Little Toyko]
203 S. Central Ave., Los Angeles

Torimatsu [South Bay]
1425 W. Artesia Blvd. #28, Gardena

Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori Restaurant [South Bay]
18517 S. Western Avenue, Gardena

Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori Restaurant [South OC]
18315 Brookhurst St. #1, Fountain Valley

Yakitori-ya [West LA]
11301 W. Olympic Blvd. Stuite 101, at Sawtelle, Los Angeles

Sakura House [Culver City-ish]
13362 W. Washington Blvd., at Glencoe, Los Angeles

Nanban-Kan Restaurant [West LA]
11330 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

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Confused about Japanese grilling places… not Benihana
LA Yakitori Recs

Good for Goat

Excellent goat stew can be had at Mi Rak, says badseed, who tried the first item on the menu–there are several other goat dishes, but the menu is only in Korean. Stew is milder than at Chin Ko Gae, another goat-stew specialist. Bibimbap is also good. Goat stew, $13.

Mi Rak [Koreatown]
1134 S. Western Ave. # A2, Los Angeles

Chin Ko Gae [Koreatown]
3063 W. 8th St., Los Angeles

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good goat at Mi Rak in K-town

Rock Shrimp

Rock shrimp are a particularly delectable shellfish, with shells much thicker than ordinary shrimp, but with a delicious lobster flavor and great texture to make up for it. They can be boiled, steamed, or fried, saut

Korean Food Translation Guide

This primer, from our collected wisdom, will get you started:

Bap: cooked rice, the main course.

Panchan: the many tiny pickled dishes that accompany the meal.

Kimchi: the central panchan, fermented napa cabbage.

Guk, tang, jjigae and jjim are all soupy, stewy dishes. Tang and guk are thinner, and jjigae and jjim are thicker: Kalbi tang is beef rib soup, haemul tang is spicy seafood soup; soon dubu jjigae is a very spicy tofu stew, and galbijjim is beef rib stew.

Bibim means mixed, so bibimbap is mixed rice, or rice with various toppings. Bibim baengmyun is cold noodles mixed with toppings.

Japchae is yam noodles, almost always served cold, in a sticky sauce.

Pa Jun is a savory pancake. With seafood mixed in, it’s called haemul pajun. Dduk is a savory or sweet rice cake.

Das Ubergeek says that, unlike in Chinese cuisine, the default meat of Korean cooking is beef. Daeji is pork; dak is chicken; haemul is mixed seafood.

Don’t forget Korean barbecue!

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Korean Food Primer

Where Does the Thermometer Go in My Bird?

When using an instant-read or probe thermometer to check for doneness when you’re roasting a chicken or turkey, it’s important that the thermometer not touch bone. Bone will give you a false reading.

Push the tip of the thermometer deep in the center of the thigh, since dark meat takes longer to cook than white.

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Where do you put the Meat Thermometer?

Jerusalem Artichokes: Not Israeli, Not an Artichoke, but Good Eating

Jerusalem artichokes, also called sunchokes, are the mild-flavored root of a particular type of sunflower. They’re crunchy and good raw in salads, sliced very thin or grated. They’re also good roasted or mashed in combination with other root veggies like potatoes, parsnips, and celery root.

junglekitte peels them and roasts them with whole peeled shallots, tomatoes, olives, and a bit of stock at 500F, stirring often.

Ida Red likes to to slice about them 1/4-inch thick, blanch in salted boiling water for a few minutes, then shock in an ice bath to stop the cooking, and saute them in butter and olive oil, finishing with a sprinkle of Parmesan, a squeeze of lemon, and salt and pepper.

Marge bakes them into a gratin: Boil peeled sunchokes until just tender. Drain well, cut into 1/2-inch slices. Layer in a buttered gratin dish, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan, dot with butter, and bake at 400F until the top is crusty.

If any parts have turned pink or red, then the sunchoke has gone bad, notes Robert Lauriston.

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Jerusalem Artichokes

Thanksgiving, Southern Style

Thanksgiving, Southern Style

All the good stuff, plus how to fry a turkey without burning down the house. READ MORE

Just One Instrument in the Orchestra

Tagging in at what may be the tail end of the umami craze—if indeed a basic form of sensory input can be considered a “craze,” as opposed to, say, an unalterable fact of life—The Art of Eating presents “A Taste by Any Other Name.”

An elegantly written exploration of the so-called fifth taste (beyond the more familiar palette of sweet, salty, sour, and bitter), the article delves into the chemistry of amino acids, the culinary history of Japan and ancient Rome, and the much-maligned mysteries of MSG.

It also hooks into the wave of grassroots interest in the taste (as expressed by a number of bloggers) while doing an admirable job of advocating restraint to those who would cook for sheer unrestrained umami impact:

The interplay of taste, aroma, texture, and visual appeal is irreducible. Umami is just one instrument in the orchestra; it sounds lousy in solos but improves the rest of the orchestra. Understanding how an oboe enriches a symphony is important knowledge for any composer, but it would be absurd to choose your music based on minutes of oboe time.

An enjoyable and informative story, to be sure—but it dodges what may be the most important fifth-taste mystery of them all: why umami causes dogs to eat absolutely terrible things.