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Steeles & Warden - Best Restaurant For Take Out Dinner - Any Scrumptious Cuisine

I'd say that my aforementioned recommendations still apply. A new takeout place that's been really popular in the area is in a food court at the Denison/Kennedy mall where Oriental Food Mart is (1661 Denison St). I don't know the English name but it's the biggest food court shop closest to the Shoppers Drug Mart (walk in through the main doors closest to SDG and it'll be on your immediate right). They've been having some absurdly cheap 4 person dinners that include four dishes (you choose), rice, soup, and drink for around $24 incl. tax.

Mar 06, 2014
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Budget-conscious visitor to DC

Hi all,

So I'm coming down from Toronto for a week of gluttony and the occasional conference session. I was in DC for my first time last year and enjoyed my meals at Oohs and Aahs and Rasika (this was our big fancy meal of the trip), though I preferred the atmospheres of Busboys & Poets and the area around the Eastern Market the most. I already have a reservation with a friend for Toki Underground, and am looking to pick y'alls brains for other interesting low to mid-priced restaurants that I should try out (about half my meals will be by myself, and the other half will be with a friend who's also not rolling in the Benjamins, so the cheaper and the less formal, the better). I lean much more towards ethnic and hole in the wall than fine dining, but can pull myself together if necessary.

From my research, I know that I missed out on Ethiopian food last time. Of Ethiopic/Zenebech/Etete/Dukem, which one would you choose for someone who's had Ethiopian before, but wasn't particularly wowed by it? Which place do you think would change my opinion on the matter? Toronto has a terrible Thai scene, so I'm looking to satisfy some of those cravings - how would you rate Thai Square/Bangkok 54/Nava Thai/Ruan Thai? At Eden Center, are there any particular standout restaurants and dishes that I should try? If you had money for only one pricier meal (~$30-40/person incl.), where would it be? Jaleo/Zatinya/Le Diplomate/Blue Duck Tavern/Birch & Barley/Estadio?

During the daytime, the conference I'm attending is centred around the Woodley Park-Zoo to Dupont Circle Metro Station corridor. I've read that there's a Crispy and Juicy location further north on the red line, and that Afghan Grill and Lebanese Taverna are both good informal lunch options?

My list of other places to try include Teaism, El Pollo Rico, Moby Dick, Granville Moores, 2 Amy's, and Sibarita. What am I missing that I most definitely should eat at?

Looking forward to your responses. Thanks a lot!
Tim

Jan 10, 2014
timeo in Washington DC & Baltimore

Visited Pittsburgh for a weekend - trip report

Went down to Pittsburgh from Toronto for the last weekend of the year. We've heard it's cool. It was cool. In chronological order of meals:

Fri dinner: Tram's Kitchen
Fri 2nd dinner: Franktuary
Sat breakfast: Pamela's Diner
Sat dinner: Salt of the Earth
Sat 2nd dinner: Tram's Kitchen
Sun breakfast: La Gourmandine
Sun lunch: Union Pig & Chicken
Sun dinner: Nicky's Thai Kitchen
Mon lunch: Kaya

By far the standout meal was Salt of the Earth, where afterwards, the mere mention of pork made me salivate uncontrollably. Definitely the best pork tenderloin I had in 2013. Unfortunately, the rest of the meals we had were only okay to good (but not great) but the excellent beer and friendly locals made up for it all.

FRIDAY
My friend and I arrived in Pittsburgh after a long drive, ready to knock back some cold IPAs and get some pub grub. Instead, our guest house directed us to Tram's, solemnly declaring it to be the best restaurant in Pittsburgh. We get some decent Vietnamese in the T-Dot but we went with the recommendation anyways since we're always interested in the immigrant experience in other cities (being children of immigrants ourselves). We each got one fresh spring roll (#2, $2) which we both felt were delicious and packed a lot in for its size. My friend ordered the Special Vermicelli (#16, $9). Good bún (not too thick or clumpy) but the chef clearly loves fish sauce - the dish was practically swimming in it. I got the Pho Hanoi (#15, $9). Light and flavourful soup. Somewhat busy on Friday night but our waiter was friendly and helpful ("Ah, yes, you have never been here before! I would recognise you! Let me suggest some dishes..."). Second dinner because we hadn't had lunch and were still hungry after Tram's happened at Franktuary. I ordered the Underdog (NZ grass-fed beef) with sauerkraut ($4.5) while my friend got the Underdog Texan-style ($5.5). The hot dogs themselves were decent, but the bun was sadly untoasted. We both agreed that we prefer the street hot dogs at home where it is toasted and the meat charcoal grilled over a flame, thus ensuring oily goodness. Good beer selection at Franktuary, and hip casual atmosphere at the next-door Round Corner Cantina.

SATURDAY
We headed off to DeLuca's for breakfast and some post-meal strolling in the Strip, but after getting there at 10AM, were stunned to see a pretty long line running along Penn Avenue waiting to get in. The line at the nearby Pamela's was no better. Since we didn't have enough time to wait (we had to get to Fallingwater for an afternoon tour), I just got a coffee at La Prima Espresso at 21st/Penn. Thought La Prima would be one of those third-wave coffee places but it was more of a traditional Italian watering hole which was neat since I don't see those very often. Really busy and nice lively atmosphere, though my latte didn't seem particularly extraordinary? It looked like the biscottis were a must-get since everyone else had one, but I was saving my appetite for something more substantial. The market building farther north on Penn Avenue had some cute shops including a rather enticing booth by East End Brewery. We headed off to Pamela's in Oakland since we figured it was kind of on the way to Fallingwater and also because it would probably be less busy than the Strip branch, and were rewarded for our faith with an immediate seating. My friend and I split our breakfast - she got the The Morning After Breakfast Special with the Chocolate Chip Banana Hotcakes ($10), and I got the Ham & Cheese Omelette. ($7) Both delicious - especially enjoyed the omelette and the hotcakes which were thin and crispy compared to the thicker regular-style American pancake. Comparatively ungreasy for a diner which was nice. Big portions too! After FW (which was BEAUTIFUL), we got back to the City and arrived at Salt of the Earth for our 6PM seating. This was by far the best meal we had. We started off with the waitress-recommended beets dish which came with furikake and beet chips ($11). Good, but not mindblowing. The pork main however was incredible ($28). The meat was really tender with a good ratio of fat to meat. Dressed with carrots, spaetzle (really nicely done too, slightly crispy!), mustard sauce, and just overall a very satisfying dish. My friend got the black bass which was also excellent ($29), though we both preferred the pork. We shared a persimmon ice cream with panna cotta dessert ($9) which I thought should have been a little sweeter, but which she thought was just right. Since she wasn't full (there are two pork pieces vs the one fish filet), we ended up at Tram's again for 2nd dinner. I tried the Saigon Soup Noodles (#10, $8) which came with a fried wonton, shrimp, and pork slices. I'm not a fan of celery so it was a little annoying that the soup was liberally doused with it. Prefer the Pho Hanoi that I got the night before. She got the Mixed Vermicelli with Coconut Milk (#17, $9) which I didn't try. We ended the evening with visits to Sharp Edge Emporium (low-key neighbourhood joint with friendly locals, thanks for getting our tab complete stranger!), Church Brew Works (great space, questionable beer, though the RPA is good), and Remedy (shame about the indoor smoking, but awesome bar, cheap prices, great microbrews, hilarious second floor dancefloor).

SUNDAY
Wanted a less heavy breakfast after Pamela's, and went to La Gourmandine at the suggestion of a friend. Great smell as we entered the place. Wanted to like it, but the pastry I got was rather unremarkable and the almond croissant that my friend got was no better. La Prima coffee was okay. Sweet ladies. After a hilariously long tour at the Cathedral of Learning (the Lithuanian and German rooms were baller), we went over to Union Pig & Kitchen for lunch. We got a 1/2 chicken ($12), 1/2lb brisket ($14), mac&cheese ($4), and collard greens ($4). Lots and lots of food for two people! The brisket had a nice sweet outer taste to it and was moist. Fried chicken was also moist. Didn't have a favourite, though I think my friend liked the brisket more. Sides were done well. Solid meal. Seating and dining area reminded me of Wurstkuche in LA - could be really hip and cool at night when it gets full, though UP&C is all assigned seating unlike Wurstkuche. After checking out Mt. Washington and the inclines (what a view!), we went to Nicky's Thai Kitchen in downtown. I got their Spicy Noodles aka pad kee maow ($12) while the friend got the Green Jungle Curry with chicken ($13) - both medium heat. Spicier than I expected, which was nice. My ho fun noodles had very good 'wok hai' as characteristic of all good stir fried dishes - ate that up quick even though the serving portion was massive! Friend didn't really like her curry all that much, which did seem a little overly sweet for my taste as well. Good service here in terms of refilling of water. Abstained from appetizers and desserts because we went down to East Carson St. for an attempted pub crawl. Unfortunately, we couldn't seem to find a single bar that didn't have a damn TV with a sports game on, so we eventually settled on Fats Head Saloon which I'd heard was good. Pleasantly surprised that they had Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and Founders Double Trouble DIPA on tap. Didn't eat anything there, which I'm glad since the people beside us ordered a giant plate of heart-stopping poutine-like decadence that made me feel fat even just by looking at it. The area wasn't really our scene though since it felt way too fratty and bro-y, so we went back to Lawrenceville for quieter drinks at New Amsterdam (really friendly bartenders and chill place), and Remedy (a lot quieter on Sunday night now).

MONDAY
We had originally wanted to have Yo-Rita on Sunday night and then go to Nicky's on Monday for lunch, but the fact that Yo-Rita is closed on Sundays meant that we had to choose something else. We ended up at Kaya in the Strip, which was okay but not anything memorable. I got the Jamaican Green Curry Vegetables with a side of jerk chicken ($15), and the friend got the Tropical Paella ($13). I felt like the jerk chicken didn't taste anything like jerk chicken, but was more like just grilled chicken served over curried vegetables and rice. It wasn't bad, but it didn't feel particularly Jamaican in any way. The curry vegetables were also not spicy and were possibly a little too acidic for me as well. The friend's paella was better, though she didn't think it was noteworthy either. Nice waitress and interesting eclectic interior design.

Anyways, just wanted to report on our time in Pittsburgh and the hits and misses we had in the city! Thanks for the recommendations everyone!

Jan 03, 2014
timeo in Pennsylvania

In Markham tonight - Markham Museum area or on the way?

Depending on where you're coming from, and by what mode, you could potentially get dinner at Peachtree Centre plaza at Highway 7 and Kennedy. BlogTO just realised it existed:
http://www.blogto.com/eat_drink/2013/...

Oct 11, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

good food around midland/sheppard

+1 to both recommendations. Maple Yip is more formal and in my mind, more dinner, but the Old House is definitely lunchable. Their pan-fried beef bread sandwich dish is brilliant.

Also, not really quite a Chowhound sort of place, but there's a food court on the other side of Glen Watford Drive from the Old House that's totally hidden in the plaza but has a number of Chinese stalls inside (primarily HK). The first time I went in, it was packed to the brim and I mentally slapped myself for not knowing about the place until then. It's more quantity than quality but some of it is actually pretty good. The roasted meats shop has great char siu.

May 09, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

It's Indian Now?

Just went to LTH tonight with the fam for the first time in a year or two. The place is still rocking it (and possibly might be even better than before). We got the usual: vegetable combo sizzler (lentils, chickpeas, cauliflower, potato, spinach), chicken tikka and chicken kebab rice sizzler, beef nihari, and whole wheat chapatti.

Beef nihari is still succulent, the meat cooked just right so that there's a gelatinousness to it. The combo sizzler was very well-seasoned and cooked. Unlike previous ventures when the vegetables were a bit overcooked, we didn't find that to be the case this time. The folks commented on how greatly improved this dish was compared to previous visits and my dad pretty much wolfed the whole thing down (saying a lot since he's nearly a carnivore). Chicken tikka was moist, and the chicken kebabs were delicious as usual (though that was probably the weakest thing on the table).

While I thought the dinner was a tad better than previous times, my parents thought that it was a vast improvement over a restaurant that has always been pretty good. From what we could gather from the staff, they hadn't changed chefs, but had learned to make some of their dishes more mild (which we all agreed ended up being better though we all love heat). And of course, the true litmus test: there were tons of Indian/Pakistani families waiting for tables. $48 with tax/tips.

Apr 14, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

2013 Alphonso Mangos

Possibly! The box of alphonso mangoes that I bought are from a company called Alisha Mangoes, exported by Three Circles Exports of Mumbai, India. None of the mangoes have individual stickers, and they're all placed in a box with confetti. I went to another grocery store and they also only had this brand and sold it only by case.

Apr 14, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

2013 Alphonso Mangos

Thanks for the heads up! After reading your post, I went down to Little India and picked up a box myself at BJ Supermarket. $26 for a case of 12. They only have 2 boxes left with shipments every Friday.

Also peeked into Kohinoor Foods just around the corner and they say they'll have the smaller Anwar Ratol mango from Pakistan in late May/early June. Just as sweet if not more so!

Apr 14, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

You have $10 for a meal, where do you go in Toronto?

Mei Do at the mall on the southwest corner of Kennedy and Denison (beside the Shoppers Drug Mart) has been a staple in our family for years now. It's Hong Kong diner food, with specials that change every day. Usually $6 or so with a drink and a soup. The specials are only written in Chinese but you can ask them to translate. Fantastic deal and real homey. Can get really busy at lunch time.

Mar 09, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Icelandic Cuisine in Toronto

The Drake Hotel is having an icelandic cuisine prix-fixe from March 21st to March 24th:
http://www.thedrakehotel.ca/blog/2013...

Mar 09, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Sinhalese food in Toronto?

I'm not well versed in Sri Lankan food but isn't Hopper Hut more Tamil Sri Lankan than Sinhalese Sri Lankan? Not that I know the difference.

BlogTO has a write-up about best Sri Lankan but I don't know how much you should trust it: http://www.blogto.com/toronto/the_bes...

Mar 05, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Sabai Sabai - Church & Dundas

It's also called "pak boong" in Thai.

Mar 05, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Toronto Ramen Roundup?

I agree with the love for Santouka - still the benchmark for ramen in the city.

1. Santouka
2. Sansotei
3. Raijin/Kinton
5. Kenzo/Ajisen/Momofuku (all kind of bad, but for different reasons, the first two being oily insufferable messes, the last for tasting like nothing)

Still haven't been to Ryoji or A-OK yet though. Has anyone tried Guu's lunch-time ramen? Where would that fit in here?

Mar 05, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

T&T Supermarket - First Visit - Any "Must Trys"?

Oh my bad. Upon investigation again it was black sesame tofu ice cream. It's made by Kowloon Dairy from Hong Kong and distributed in Canada by King Tower Holdings Ltd.

Mar 05, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

T&T Supermarket - First Visit - Any "Must Trys"?

The tofu soybean ice cream. Whoever invented it deserves a medal.

Mar 04, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

All-night or super-late food Markham / Scarborough?

Does Owl of Minerva stay open 24 hours? The Koreatown and NYC locations do but check out the one at First Markham Place?

Mar 04, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Steeles & Warden - Best Restaurant For Take Out Dinner - Any Scrumptious Cuisine

I wish Chowhound was like Reddit so I could upvote this comment.

That restaurant has been around for at least a decade, and probably more since I remember it from my teenage years. Along with the Taiwanese restaurant in the food court, these two might be my favourite most consistent go-to's in the area. They are great value and absolutely delicious. The pork chop rice at both are especially good, though I also love the shrimp fried rice at the food court restaurant (yes, do yourself the favour and get the spicy stuff).

Another good bet in the Metro Square plaza is Hunan Garden. At lunch time, it offers $4.99 lunch specials that includes a soup or soya bean drink. The best dish is the "Farmer's Stir Fry" (農家小炒) which has hot chili green peppers and pork. Another great dish is their spicy beef (辣子牛肉). White rice tastes best I find, but their salted fish and chicken fried rice also goes well (and costs $3.99 since the rice cost $1 already anyways). The dinner menu is an entirely different ball game and you can spend a lot of time figuring out what you want with what (there's a stir fried 3-types of mushroom dish that's a delight, and I've been finding the vegetable/tofu soup to be surprisingly fortifying in the winter cold, but I don't know how you'd get that to go). You should just bring the other people to sit down instead. You won't regret the food. Or the $7 pitchers of beer.

Other great things in the area, let's see. Dayali as recommended by Chris N-S in the Globe has really improved since it first opened last fall (@ Gibson/Warden) though it's not really a take-out kind of place and the lines are ATROCIOUS (like worse than Grand Electric). You could get some stuff at Keung's Delight in the T&T Plaza but their most famous dish, the pork bone soup (no similarity to the Korean kamjatang) would be hard to transport home. Aside from that, I'd maybe look into the food court plaza at Silver Star Blvd and Steeles (south of Steeles, east side, in the plaza south of No Frills) where there's a number of Cantonese food court places duking it out. Good value, good taste. If Dong Yi is still open (not sure if it JUST closed up), get their curry beef brisket.

There aren't really that many other places that I'd consider good enough value or delicious enough to purposely get takeout from in the area. The other places are more sit down, plus the nature of the food makes it more difficult to get to go...

edited to add: If you go later at night (I think after 10?), you can get some delicious "Happy Hour" food at Sam Woo (not the formal one but the one closer to the McD's).

Mar 04, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

What does Toronto excel at -uniquely- compared to other cities in north america?

You might want to check this thread out:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/860342

My personal feeling on the matter is that Toronto probably has some of the best Cantonese Chinese in North America, though that might not be helpful since all the good stuff is in Scarborough/Markham/Richmond Hill. I like Maple Yip for dinner but you can only really get a feel for it when you have multiple people so that you can order multiple dishes.

Feb 22, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Westmalle, Orval or other Belgian imports in GTA?

I haven't had the Orval yet, but I recently tried the Gulden Draak and the Nostradamus, both Belgian Strong Darks. Would you place Orval in a similar category taste-wise? I wasn't wild about either of the GD or Nostradamus - tastes too much like coke for me...

Feb 06, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Westmalle, Orval or other Belgian imports in GTA?

Just wanted to comment that Orval is currently at the LCBO.
http://lcbo.com/lcbo-ear/lcbo/product...

Feb 05, 2013
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

ISO Flour Torillas

Last time I was at Rowe Farms on Roncesvalles Ave, there was a samples booth set up selling organic tortillas (both corn and flour). The sample person and I both agreed the flour one was actually fairly good. Don't remember the name of the brand but you can get it in the fridge on the left side when you enter the store FYI.

Nov 27, 2012
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Dayali Peking Duck Markham - detailed review with pics and prices

Our family went on the 2nd day that it opened (about 3 months ago) and found that like your experience, service and dish quality was all over the place. We tried ordering the duck but it was all sold out (at 7:30PM, seriously). The water boiled fish in oil was okay, while the tofu with crab fat was strangely almost soupy (though I did enjoy it). Service was slow but apologetic. The manager talked to us for a while about some of the issues that they were facing and apologised profusely for how slow things were (it was a 2+ hour dinner for 3 people). He also gave us a discount which was nice.

Like you, we also got the VIP card but haven't been back yet. We're giving it a bit more time to sort out all the problems before we go back.

Nov 12, 2012
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Hainanese Chicken (and all its variations)

Just came back from a trip to SE Asia and was blown away by the regional variations of Hainanese Chicken I had. I'm wondering where I can find some of that here in the GTA?

I'm familiar with the Cantonese-style (with the mashed ginger/green onion/oil dip), but am looking for something more similar to Singapore's Boon Tong Kee with its spicy sauce and "oily" ginger rice (mind-blowing), as well as any Thai restaurants that make khao mun gai.

It seems like the most-discussed places on this forum are Lion City in Mississauga (Singaporean), Hawkerbar on Ossington (Australian-Singaporean), and Bagahon (Singaporean). Any other good places?

Thanks in advance!

Oct 21, 2012
timeo in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

penang - recommend hotel near street food places

Thanks penang_rojak! My family and I are flying to Southeast Asia tomorrow and getting this information now before we leave is very helpful!

Sep 26, 2012
timeo in China & Southeast Asia

Visited LA for a long weekend - long-ish report from SF hound

Wow! Thanks a lot for all of this info. My friend lives in Culver City and since all of the things I wanted to see were south of the Santa Monica Mountains, I figured it would be a little onerous to drive into the SGV just for food (though if it were my car, I'd probably do it lol). I'm also originally from Toronto's suburbs so I know something about decent Chinese food and didn't feel the pressing need to eat cuisines that I'm familiar with (though Taiwanese is not necessarily ubiquitous at home).

The Indonesian and all the Peruvian recs sound delicious and will be included next time I'm around. I tried Mo-Chica a year ago when it was still at its Mercado Paloma location and the ceviche that I had there was stupendous.

Jun 27, 2012
timeo in Los Angeles Area

Visited LA for a long weekend - long-ish report from SF hound

I find that hipsters are more fun to dismiss than downtown types. ;)

Jun 27, 2012
timeo in Los Angeles Area

Visited LA for a long weekend - long-ish report from SF hound

I just got back from a long weekend in LA, stuffing my face (as usual) at a bunch of your restaurants. In chronological order, with further details below:

Thursday night: Father's Office
Friday breakfast: Bob's Coffee & Donuts
Friday lunch: Loteria Grill, Singapore's Banana Leaf, Short Cake/Single Origin
Friday dinner: Bottega Louie
Saturday lunch: Cafe Brasil
Saturday dinner: Soot Bull Jeep
Saturday late-night: Tacos Leo
Sunday lunch: Pa Ord Noodle
Sunday dinner: Best Fish Taco in Ensenada

Of the bunch, I think the only food that I didn't enjoy at all were the fish tacos at BFTiE. I wish I had gone to Yoshinoya or Versailles Cuban or something, anything, instead. What a profound disappointment, and a terrible way to end my trip to LA! Regardless, it was generally a solid trip food-wise.

THURSDAY
I arrived on Thursday night, prepped to eat. After drinks at the Los Angeles Brewing Company in downtown (incl. a free one, check their twitter @ labrewingco), we went to Father's Office in Culver City for dinner. I'd just had Umami Burger's namesake for the first time a few weeks earlier in SF, and to be honest, I think I prefer Umami's to Father's Office's burger. The medium-rare was undercooked, and the meat as a result, rather than slightly crumbly, was almost mushy in a raw meat way. The arugula was a good touch for cutting through the intensity of the cheeses and the caramelized onion though. Glad that they cut the bread in half so that it was much easier to eat. The fries and aioli were also good but nothing special to write home about. At $15 for the burger & fries, and $6 for my Racer 5 though, I don't feel like it was a good use of either my caloric or monetary budgets. Plus the place is a scene and even though I'm a 20-something, it was a little much.

FRIDAY
On Friday morning, I wandered over to the Grove because I had a Craig Ferguson taping to go to at CBS later that afternoon. I had intended to caffeine up with a CHer-recommended Aunt Nancy's Shakerato at Short Cake/Single Origin but I couldn't find the stall so I decided to go to Bob's Coffee and Donuts instead. There were a fair number of patrons sitting around chatting with coffees already and a small line waiting to order. I got a sublime sugar doughnut and a small coffee with cream. The doughnut reminded me of all the great things that I love about pastries, soft yet chewy, sweet but not excessive, satiating but not overly-filling. And for $1, not about to break the bank! The coffee (American Blend) was very old-school tasting, almost the type that you'd get at a pre-second wave Italian cafe. The closest I can describe it to is the coffee you can find at Zabar's in NYC.

I went back to the Grove for lunch later, getting the chicken mole poblano and chicken tinga tacos at Loteria Grill. They were both delicious - the first a silky concoction of chicken, mole, and diced white onions. The chicken tinga had less of an impact on me, though it was by no means bad. Slightly pricey at $3.50 given that taco trucks are a dollar. At Singapore's Banana Leaf, I ordered the chicken curry with rice and sat across from a sassy old Indonesian lady who had travelled up from San Diego to visit her kids. She had ordered the beef rendang which she thought was a little bland (she asked for salt) and the colour of the sauce seemed too red and not brown enough (in my uneducated eyes). She suggested that I check out a place called Ramayani further west on Westwood Blvd. My own curry was good enough but a little soupy. The employees were very pleasant and if I were in the area again, I'd like to try the laksa or the mie goreng. A little expensive ($10.xx incl. tax) for fast food-ish al fresco dining. As a treat, I got the Aunt Nancy's Shakerato which was incredible - not too sweet yet just sweet enough, coffee flavours pronounced but not dizzying, creamy yet not unhealthy-tasting. Possibly one of the best coffee-based iced drink I've had in the past few years. I just wish the cup had been larger....

Dinner at Bottega Louie's elbow-people-in-the-face/free-for-all space was great. I ordered the trenne pasta at our waitress' suggestion, and was pleasantly greeted with a slightly seared (not the right term) pasta with succulent chunks of rib eye and kale along with a tomato sauce and shaved parmesan. My friends were both impressed by their calamari appetizer to the point they scrounged up all the crumbs even though one of them doesn't even like squid all that much. For about the same price as Father's Office ($16 w/o tax or tip), this was a substantially better meal in a much more beautiful space.

SATURDAY
At Cafe Brasil's Venice Blvd location, I ordered the Skinless Boneless Chicken Breast plate which came up with fried plantains, rice, black beans, salsa, and a vegetable soup. Everything was good, though I think the secret ingredient winner in all of this was the hot sauce that came with the table. It was the typical Brazilian hot sauce, the liquidy one that is both sour and piquant and a mesmerizing addition to rice. The chicken was slightly dry but the soup and hot sauce compensated. The fried plantains were appropriately moist on the inside and crispy on the outside. My friends enjoyed their breakfasts as well but thought that the "fresh squeezed" passionfruit juice may have had sugar added. I noticed that they also have feijoada, which I'd like to try their version some day. I thought it was well-priced ($12) given how full I was by the end.

After doing some exploring in downtown (Pete's Cafe at W 4th/S Main has Horny Devil Belgian Ale!!!), we got dinner at Soot Bull Jeep in Koreatown. The options were down to Hamji Park for gamjatang, So Kong Dong for soon dubu, and Soot Bull Jeep for charcoal BBQ, having removed Park's given how expensive it was. We decided on the last, and ordered beef galbi, as well as spicy pork bulgogi. My friend, who isn't a huge fan of pork, surprised me by saying that she preferred the pork more, while I preferred the galbi more. The charcoal was nice, lending the meat a smoky charred character. Service was good (unlike some other reports), though that might have been the result of them thinking I was Korean. The banchan was decent, though I was surprised by the kimchi in water, which I thought was more of a winter kimchi??? The meal cost as much as I expected it to, $50 w/o tip for the 2 of us. I would go back, though I'd like to see if Park's is well and above beyond Soot Bull Jeep.

Late-night dinner at Tacos Leo after partying in WeHo was brilliant. I got 6 tacos - 3 al pastor, 1 carnitas, 1 carne asada, 1 pollo. Got there about 1AM, and there was already a line. I enjoyed the pastor the most. Sublime, just sublime. You guys are all lucky to have something so great so close to you and for so cheap too.

SUNDAY
A hang-overy morning later, we went for noodles at Pa Ord Noodle in Thai Town. I had originally wanted to go to Pailin, but it's closed on Sundays, so we settled for Pa Ord. Small space, but efficiently-run and fairly-fast seating. While waiting, we got the sugarcane/coconut juice/coconut flesh "smoothie" from its plaza next-door neighbour which was good, though I preferred the sample without the coconut flesh. Once seated, we shared a medium-spicy papaya salad and I got the #1 tom yum noodle soup while my friend got the pad kee mao. Let me just say that this was definitely the spiciest meal I've had in YEARS. I regularly eat Thai, Szechuan, and Korean, but this was unbelievably spicy. My friend resorted to picking out little pepper flecks, while I tried in vain to swallow my noodles smothered in hot chilis. It was kind of ridiculous, though I guess that's one way of making you not as hungry! The soup flavour (what I could taste of it at least) was not bursting with the hot or sour as I know it, but had a very mild sourness to it. The dish also had some Thai char siu, bean sprouts, beef balls (not beef tendon), clumped ground pork, and liver. If it wasn't so spicy I think I would've loved it, but as it was, I couldn't even eat it without taking forced water/drink breaks. From what I could taste of my friend's pad kee mao, the noodles were just bursting with flavour and 'wok air'. I ordered a hibiscus drink afterwards to settle my upset stomach, and though good, it had sugar added. I'd like to explore the menu more, asking definitely for the not-spicy option.

Afterwards, we got fish and shrimp tacos at the Best Fish Taco in Ensenada, which was the most disappointing meal of my trip. Like the methods of preparation, none of the ingredients seemed to meld together in its final incarnation. While I liked the fish more than the shrimp, they both tasted really sloppy and the result of just clumping random ingredients together. The fish didn't have any of the creaminess or smoothness of other fish tacos I've had, and I didn't enjoy the batter that came with it, nor the tortilla that it was placed on (too crunchy). The shredded lettuce tasted old, and the cream didn't make it any better. The tamarind drink that I got was not all that hot either. The only redeeming thing about the place was that the horchata was good. My friend said that she thought they made it with pumpkin seeds like her mom does. Sadly, the owner is kind of a riot and super nice, so it makes me a little sad to have to speak so unfavourably about the place.

Anyways, as usual I had a fun time exploring LA's budget culinary scene. Looking forward next time to exploring more of the Peruvian mom and pop restaurants (are there any?), as well as all the great Chinese restaurants out in the SGV. Thanks to everyone for their insights. They helped me pick and enjoy the meals I had!

Jun 27, 2012
timeo in Los Angeles Area

Great beer bar in SF?

Plus you get the benefit of being really close to Oakland Chinatown and the incredible pairing of the Trappist followed by Spices!3.

Jun 26, 2012
timeo in San Francisco Bay Area

Public Service Announcement: Golden Gate Bakery is NOT open.

That's incredible.

Is there a general consensus of the best egg tarts in the SF Bay?

Jun 14, 2012
timeo in San Francisco Bay Area

In town for US Open- rec's for casual Asian in the city? We really enjoyed Slanted Door and Yank Sing last trip..

Yank Sing and the Slanted Door are not exactly next door either, nor did OP specify walking distance only. Plus, given the fact that the aforementioned are $$ rather than $, I'd say that Burma Superstar is a better fit in terms of decor and atmosphere than some of the other Burmese suggestions (though not necessarily food-wise depending on one's tastes).

Jun 14, 2012
timeo in San Francisco Bay Area